Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Eve of Distortion

Photo: Dr. M. with the Keeley Fuzzhead on the right and DigiTech's Artist Series, Scott Ian pedal on the left. Rolling Stones promotional "Shine a Light" tee courtesy of Fender

Guitar Pedals Part II: Distorted Ideas & Wah-ing for fun & profit...

Distortion is by far one of the most distinguishable sounds of rock and heavy metal. It's what gives us the soaring leads we've come to identify with killer guitar solos and riffs. If you are into these styles, distortion and overdrive are going to be your best friends next to a decent electric guitar and amp. I play a Fender Strat coupled with a Crate GX-20M which is a very tough box, (I'm actually standing on top of it in this photo!), and has built in overdrive, chorus, reverb & eq. Another essential effect you'll want to include is a wah pedal. As the name implies, it gives your guitar a "wah-ing" or crying sound made popular by funk and other styles.

Keeley Electronics Fuzz Head

List: $250.00 / Street: $209.00

This is an amazing distortion pedal which is very unique in its design. In fact, it won Guitar Player's Reader's Choice Award for best effects pedal with good reason. This box sounds incredible! It couples a serious sustain and unbelievable boost for your leads with a rich blend of fuzz and overdrive. It will also drive other modulation pedals such chorus, phasers, flangers and tremolo which follow in your effect chain. Add another distortion pedal and it will sing forever. Keeley's trademark blue light and custom paint job assures it will stand out on your pedal board.

Internal Gain Control offers additional tone customization not found with other pedals. Externally you have a two knobs, "no waiting" approach with the Fuzz controlling the amount of distortion and the Head for volume control. The Si/Ge switch offers even more access to transparent tones and increased sustain. Built in the USA, Robert Keeley stands behind his equipment with excellent customer service and product reliability. Sound and quality wise, this is the best distortion pedal I've used. Prepare to be rocked!

DigiTech's Artist Series - Scott Ian Pedal

List: $166.65 / Street: $ 99.99

Do you have a cover band or are you just into a certain artist's tonal vibe? DigiTech's genius with Audio DNA2 & Production Modeling has produced a series of pedals which can offer the same "flava" of effects used by Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Dan Donegan and Scott Ian as shown here. These pedals allow you to dial in the lead guitar sounds on these artist's top recordings.

The Scott Ian pedal we tested featured the tones from Scott's Black-13, (Anthrax), recordings. Seven settings on the fourth knob offer the lead guitar sounds for: "I am the Law", "Madhouse", "March of the S.O.D.", "Protest & Survive", "Room for one More", "What Doesn't Die" and "Finale". Metalheads, needn't only apply. I've found these distortion settings to be seriously fired up and off the hook. I especially liked the phaser on Model #7. Very cool!!! A beautiful pedal in shiny metal, (of course!), but built like a brick. Definitely roadworthy and a great addition to those who want to pull off those blistering leads heavy metal is known for thanks to legendary artists like Scott Ian. Thanks Scott!
Ibanez WD-7 Wah Pedal
List:$179.95 / Street: $99.90
The WD-7 by Ibanez is a revolution in freeing your feet to control your wah and not the other way around. The WD-7 has a large sideswitch and is built to avoid the usual "clicking in" required of most other wahs. The Auto SW mode allows the wah to automatically turn on when you depress the pedal slightly. A spring tension adjuster controls the return of the pedal. It also sports an Auto Off Delay and a true bypass with no hum added to the signal chain.
Perhaps the best additions to the WD-7 are the most over-looked by manufacturers. That is the depressable control knobs. Dial in your settings, depress the knobs and no worries about your values being altered! Even without using the Wah pedal, the preamp on the WD-7 is fantastic. Suggested settings are included such as Vintage Wah, Funky Rhythm, Fat Lead and Bass Wah. My pick is the Fat Lead which offers just enough spank to the mix of my other pedals. Extremely well built, (I've seen flimsier tanks, really), this pedal is very heavy and would need serious Velcro-ing onto your pedal board. Also you might want to use an adapter as this thing eats 9 volt batteries like popcorn. Still, it offers a great quackin' - funk sound and is truly a gig worthy pedal.
Next Issue: Part III is going to pull it all together for you! We'll show you how to build your own concert-ready pedal board for the road. We'll also show you the latest in floor multi-effectors that prove you CAN take it with you!

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