Throughout the history of rock, pop and jazz, one of the most popular musical instruments for sale has always been the guitar. The electric guitar can make incredible sounds, but when you strip away all the jazzed-up studio flare, it really just sounds like an amplified version of an acoustic. That’s because it is. Fuzzy distortion, spacey noises and reverberated tones all come from either the amps the musicians use or the guitar multi effects pedals they choose to filter their instruments through.
Effects pedals are the most important pieces of sound equipment a guitarist can utilize and they come in all shapes and sizes. Manufacturers like Tortuga, T-Rex, Pigtronix, Walrus and others fashion their pedals — also sometimes called “stompboxes” — into miniature powerhouses of sound that color even the most rudimentary technical skill. But pedals haven’t always been the norm in the guitar world.
From the 1940s until the middle of the ’60s, effects were all added to basic tracks laid down inside the studio. For live shows, musicians typically relied on their amps to provide that special sound or they simply just didn’t sound as good as on record. That all changed with the British Invasion. Bands like The Who, The Kinks and even The Beatles began using newly minted stompboxes (especially fuzz pedals) to create diverse textures in their recordings and in front of live audiences. One of the first popular tunes to feature a fuzzbox was The Rolling Stones’ seminal 1965 hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
As the guitar remained one of the top musical instruments for sale, the wah-wah pedal followed shortly after and gained a large following among psychedelic rock guitarists for its ability to turn musical notes into wet, bending swirls. Jimi Hendrix, one of the great purveyors of the wah-wah style, gave every aspiring guitar player something to shoot for with his masterful 1968 track “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”
Since the ’60s, there has been plenty of innovation in the realm of guitar pedals. The 1980s brought with it a movement toward dreamier guitar tones, and pedals that could provide echo and delay effects skyrocketed in popularity. In the ’90s, grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden led a return to louder, harsher tone through the use of distortion pedals.
Though today’s musical instruments for sale often feature built-in pickups for added fuzz and whammy bars for natural tremolo, those effects are quite easy to replicate digitally through the use of modern stompboxes. Pop into your local guitar shop (or better yet, look online) to see the complete options available for replicating your favorite artists’ tones. Or if you’re feeling audacious, try to blend different ones to create a sound that’s entirely your own.