Who doesn’t love effects pedals? From the simple to the complex, to every shade of overdrive and modulation... they’re so much fun and can be endlessly inspiring. But not everyone feels the same way. Many guitarists are asked why they don’t enjoy them and the answer is almost always the same: I can’t get them to sound good with my amp.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: EVERY AMP IS PEDAL FRIENDLY.
Any amp can take just about any pedal you throw at it. But it does take some deep knowledge of your gear in order to get the best tones out of your pedals. Over the course of the next few blogs, we’ll take a look at popular amp types and how you can make just about any pedal sound great through them. Fair warning: there will be some exceptions...but we won’t hide them and we’ll offer some explanation as to why they might not work. Let’s start by looking at the amp most considered to be “pedal friendly”: the “American” style amp.
Although there are many variations, players often consider the “Blackface” or “Silverface” to be the pinnacle of the “American” amp tone. Chances are that you know the sound: loud and clean with big bass, glassy highs and a scoop in the midrange. As a matter of fact, the X1 preamp pedal captures this tone beautifully! These amps tend to make great “pedal platforms” because of the midrange scoop. Why? The bulk of the guitar’s midrange rests somewhere between 800 Hz to 4.5 kHz and it’s these frequencies that distort most easily. One strategy you can use to combat this is by applying EQ or filtering to those frequencies. This decreases the “level” of those frequencies and prevents them from overloading and thereby distorting. Having that absence of midrange helps keep your tone clean and provides for an excellent canvas for playing with. So what sounds best into these amps? Pretty much anything!
Overdrives like the Screamer (with its mid bump and low end roll off) sound great! Centaur-style drives add a warmth to the tone that these amps often lack. Overdrives and distortions emulating British amps are awesome and the high end of these amps helps the detail of modulations, echoes, and reverbs come out. But have you ever plugged a Muff-style fuzz into one of these amps? Yeah, it’s not great.
The Muff-style fuzz is known for its scooped midrange. If you put scooped midrange into scooped midrange you’re left with a guitar tone that’s fit for the void! To counteract this try running your Muff into a Screamer-style overdrive. You’ll get back some midrange and even tighten your low end. You can achieve similar results by using an EQ or preamp pedal coupled with the Muff. If you use these amps and want a good fuzz pedal stick to options that have a good midrange presence in their sound...Fuzz Face-style pedals are a good starting point.
The American-style circuit is possibly the most flexible “pedal friendly” amp but it doesn’t sit in a class by itself. Next time, we’ll take look at the popular British amps and how they are just as usable with your pedals.
Until next time my friends...wishing you all great tone!
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