I love using effects to alter the sound of my guitars. In the past, I’ve tried many of the digital multi-effects units but the sounds that move me most always seemed to come from “old school” analog effects pedals. Keeping my signal path from guitar to effects to amp to microphone seems to give me the most organic guitar sound. When my guitar starts to sound like a living breathing organism, I know I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m a big fan of the boutique pedal builders because I like the idea of supporting these mad scientist musicians experimenting with different circuitry in their basements. It’s obvious that they care about their products in a very personal way and I’ve been really happy with the pysical quality of these pedals. Many of these pedals have managed to capture the classic sounds I’m after while at the same time reducing background noise and increasing durability.

Over the years, I’ve gotten into doing some of my own modifications to my pedals and I’ve even built two from scratch – a tonebender clone and an electra distortion variation I call the Electric Church. The pedals that live on my pedal board are the ones I turn to every day. I also have a few others that I use for recording from time to time as well as a few that I’m still in the process of bonding with. It takes time to develop a relationship with a new pedal because every modification of your sound requires adjustments in your playing style to find the sweet spots.

Below, I’ve presented all the pedals on my board (seen to the left). I’ve included audio samples of each effect so you can hear how it affects the guitar’s sound. I begin each clip with a quick sample with the effect turned off so you can hear how the pedal changes the sound. In all the clips, I’m playing my Fender Stratocaster guitar through my S2Amps Micro Plexi Amplifier on all of these clips.

Stompbox: MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay

The MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay is very inexpensive and provides a nice warm analog delay sound which does a decent emulation of an old tape echo for the price, which can’t be beat.

It has a switch at the upper left which activates some modulation of the delay which you can adjust to add some warble to the sound. There are trim pots inside that allow you to adjust the depth and speed of the modulation. I have mine set fairly deep but not too fast.

There are a lot of other trim pots inside which you are not supposed to adjust but I did anyway. I managed to get the delays to sound more crufty and distorted which was more the sound I was looking for.

I don’t like when the delayed signal sounds too close to the original since they tend to step on each other and sound like crap. I play with this pedal turned on most of the time with a medium delay at a low volume which helps to fill up the sound and create a little bit of depth without becoming a distraction.

Have a favorite delay pedal? Tell me about it in the comments!

Stompbox: Homebrew Psilocybe (rehoused)

The Homebrew Electronics Psilocybe is a phase shifter pedal is made by  and it can produce several different trippy sounds. I rehoused the pedal in a smaller box with the jacks on top so that I could fit it on my pedalboard.

It can sound similar to a Univibe pedal at some settings, though a little more phasey and a little less liquidy.

The two switches allow you to change the sound pretty dramatically with some settings yeilding almost a wah-wah effect.

Interestingly there is no knob to control the intensity of the effect so it’s always pretty much full on. Slowing down the sweep can make it seem less obvious, though.

Stompbox: Cusack Tap-a-Whirl Tremolo

Tremolo pedals change the volume of the guitar signal in a rhythmic way. The Cusack Tap-a-Whirl Tremolo has a bunch of different settings which allow you to set up different rhythmic patterns in addition to the usual sine wave tremolo sound that you hear on many classic tube amps.

I’ve only had this pedal for a short time but it’s a lot of fun to play with. My Fender Deluxe Reverb is the only amp I have that has built in tremolo, so having this pedal allows me to get that sound on my other amps – plus a whole lot more.

Have a favorite Tremolo pedal? Tell me about it in the comments!

Stompbox: Lovepedal Kanji Eternity Overdrive

The Lovepedal Kanji Eternity Overdrive is one of many available variations on the original Ibanez Lime Green Tube Screamer circuit. The Tube Screamer pedal is an overdrive pedal that got really popular after Stevie Ray Vaughan started using it in the mid-80s. The main characteristic of these pedals is the mid-range hump which really helps the guitar cut through in the mix – especially for soloing.

The thing I like most about this variation is that it manages to preserve the low end. I got really turned off to using my old one because it was all midrange and no highs or low which made the sound very two dimensional. This pedal, in contrast, sounds much fuller and is very sensitive to dynamics so the sound really jumps out at you when you dig in.

Have a favorite Tube Screamer Style Pedal? Tell me about it in the comments!

Stompbox: Electric Church Pedal

I built this pedal from scratch. It’s a variation on the Electra distortion circuit which was a circuit added to some Electra guitars in the 1970’s and provides a soft clipping sound. The schematic I used was designed by Fred Briggs which he calls Clock of Tone since it was based on the lovepedal COT50 (Church of Tone) circuit, yet another Electra distortion variation.

I added a master volume and a control for increasing the headroom of the circuit. It has a sweet warm sound and called it Electric Church because the sweet warm clipping sound of this pedal reminds me of Jimi… but then again most things do!