3 Guitar Pedals that Shaped Music Forever
And while the amplifier, the player, and the guitar itself may be the foundation that any electric guitar sound is built on - effects pedals are also an important part of that equation. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the three guitar pedals that have altered the course of musical history!
Let’s face it - there’s no list of truly influential guitar pedals without the Boss DS-1. Before this pedal came out, distortion pedals gave buzzing, harsh tones and a muddled sound at, particularly high gain settings.
But Boss engineers changed all of that in 1978, by completing their work on an exceptional distortion circuit, implemented in the DS-1. Consequentially, this pedal managed to produce a hard-edged, tightened gain, featuring pleasantly rich harmonics.
But at the same time, the pedal retained the uniqueness stemming from different play styles and guitars. The specific tone produced by the DS-1 had a genre-defining influence on punk, hard rock and metal during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Even to this day, players from around the globe keep seeking out the classically recognizable DS-1 sound.
DS-1 remains an example in innovative pedal design, giving players far more range than usual tone controls do by only cutting highs. Notably, turning the knob on the DS-1 clockwise decreases lows and increases highs, with a counter-clockwise turn having the opposite effect. This function enables guitar players to dial in everything from sleek lead voices to tight, sharp rhythm sounds. And this sort of tone control proves especially effective when the DS-1 is used to maintain low-end definition with vintage amps; as their sound can often appear muddled with other models of distortion pedals.
Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone
Our next pick of the draft is the famous Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone; the pioneer among fuzz distortion devices on the mass market for basses and electric guitars. Although it has a few precursors in this department, these were only device prototypes.
On the other hand, Maestro FZ-1, and it’s virtually indistinguishable update FZ-1a definitely achieved massive popularity back in the 1960s. Famously, Keith Richards utilized the FZ-1 in “Satisfaction”, a massive Rolling Stones hit from 1965. Seemingly overnight, it became a favorite of many psychedelic and garage rock bands of the era. Many years later, Gibson re-issued the updated FZ-1a during the 1990s, only to discontinue the model some time afterward.
The history of the FZ-1 is by no means the beginning of guitarists’ experiments with distorted tones. When it became commercially available in 1962, musicians had been dabbling in distortion for over a decade. However, the Maestro Fuzz-Tone was the first fuzz pedal you could actually buy in a store. Before its inception, fuzzy guitar tones came from a custom-built circuit designed in a studio, a broken preamp, or a ripped speaker. But the appearance of mass-market guitar pedals such as the FZ-1 allowed artists like Jimi Hendrix or Jeff Beck to pioneer the musical use of fuzz, which would become synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll.
Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 Wah
Not unlike the origin of the fuzz pedal, musical wah-wah effects were already in existence in the 1950s, thanks to the experimentations of guitarists such as Peter Van Wood and Chet Atkins. But the first mass-market wah-wah pedal became commercially available in 1966 - the Dunlow Cry Baby GCB95 Wah, produced by the Thomas Organ Company.
The first wah pedal was, in its essence, a resonant band-pass filter; soon to become world-famous for its extremely expressive, almost ‘weeping’ tone. You can already see where the name comes from. And after its inception, the Cry Baby pedal became a usual staple of a wide variety of sounds; from metal guitar solos to funk rhythms. There aren’t many guitar effects which are as applicable for such a great range of genres - but the wah pedal managed to find its way into the performances of all kinds of different guitarists.
Since its origin in the late ‘60s, this pedal helped produce some of the most ageless sounds in rock music. Artists like David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Jimi Hendrix all relied on the wah pedal. Its musical character is also palpable in timeless soundtracks, such as the music from Shaft, or The Streets of San Francisco.
Every single one of these three guitar pedals has had a huge effect on what we’ve come to know as the essence of the electric guitar. And the sounds created with these classic pieces of equipment have inspired an innumerable count of guitarists, directly influencing the sonic textures of modern music. When it comes to spots in the hall of fame of musical equipment, these three have definitely cemented their positions!