I’m a gear and pedal addict, and I’m always scouring the internet for whatever is catching my eye at the moment (Gibson SG’s right now in fact). I find it interesting when I see magazine articles or YouTube videos about someone’s rig rundown (or when you see some big name artist like Prince or countless others) and their pedal board was comprised of almost all Boss pedals.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it led me to thinking; do we obsess too much over gear? Why do some obsess over “boutique” gear while others are just fine with Boss or some other more budget-friendly brand pedals? Is our pursuit of tone out of necessity to achieve “the sound”? Personal enjoyment? Acquiring the latest and greatest gear? Is it a culmination of all of the above?
I tried to narrow it down to three types of players, in a very broad sense. This is a generalization, so in many scenarios it isn’t quite that static but more of a general observation than anything.
“If it’s not broke don’t fix it” – These are players that love their tone just the way it is and has always been since they found “their sound” years ago. They have no desire to change it at all. Many times the players that fit this idea have great amps that they’re accustomed to and know every nuance about them, and every tone they can produce. There are likely a few base effects, maybe a boost or OD, delay, chorus, wah, or fuzz (among other things). In many cases it’s not a massive pedalboard, but in many cases the player has learned to coax the tones out of a smaller board of older pedals, and they don’t need any more than that. There’s nothing wrong with this mindset, because it allows the player to focus solely on playing the instrument instead of twisting knobs and they know their tone and utilize every piece of gear with precision that fits the moment and what sound they need.
G.A.S. Hounds – (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) – These are the players that love to buy gear and search for new tones. There hasn’t been any official proof of why GAS sets in, but millions of players are stricken with the insatiable lust for “new” gear (new can consist of new-to-you, which is why the used market is massive right now). It could be the newest DSP delay that has been released with MIDI input, or a Distortion with active EQ controls and multiple gain stages, or a new Fuzz that’s supposed to be identical to one of the classic fuzzes Hendrix or Gilmour used. In many cases, it’s solely curiosity that drives players to want to try out the new gear.
New gear also can greatly inspire a player to try new tones and thus new ways of playing, which can be advantageous in growing their skill and finding their own sound. This works really well when a player is stuck in a rut with their playing, feeling like they aren’t progressing no matter how hard they try. There are many factors that could be discussed at a later date, but in general the GAS hounds are consistently on the chase for a new sound.
This leads to “flipping”, where a player purchases something (new or used) and in turn after playing it, “flips” it by reselling it in order to replenish the funds to put towards more gear. This is a major advantage to buyers and sellers in the used market, which is why it’s thriving so well. There are a lot worse things to do with your time and your money. Some people like to go bowling or play golf; G.A.S. hounds like to try new gear.
They just don’t care – There are a lot of players out there that don’t care what brand of pedal they playing, or whether it’s true bypass or buffered or if a pedal has the extra fancy functions. To them it is just a tool that they use to create music. It is like a carpenter who goes out and buys a hammer. He doesn’t necessarily need a certain brand name, just a good hammer that gets the job done. A lot of artists fall into this category. They know they need a certain sound, but they really don’t have the time, or care to compare delay pedal A to delay pedal B. They just need a solid functioning pedal that will get the job done and let them get their music out to the world.
So where do you fit in? Have you achieved your sound and are happy with what you have? Or are you the player that just likes to check out the newest offerings from the gear world out of curiosity? Or do you view pedals as just another tool in the toolbox, and it doesn’t matter what brand it is as long as it makes the sound you were hearing in your head?
The funny thing is, like most things in the guitar world, there is no right or wrong way to be. It really is about what makes you happiest, and what makes you want to pick up your axe and head to the woodshed.
Now that 2016 is coming to an end, we’d like to take the time to thank all of the tone chasers out there for all of the support this year. It’s been an interesting time to say the least, with one of the longest dry spells between releases that we’ve ever had (it was excruciating for us!). During that time we took the opportunity to buckle down and reformat our brand to make it a bit more cohesive across the line-up, with many of our pedals receiving a makeover, either cosmetically with graphics, or the conversion to soft relay switching and top jacks. The goal with this switchover is to increase the longevity of the life of the pedal by reducing the amount of pressure needed to activate the pedal, along with the highly requested top jack feature for squeezing more onto the board.
Along with the aforementioned upgrades, we also released the Mini Ego compressor, Pinnacle Deluxe v2, and the Faux Tape Echo v2. The Mini Ego is something that we announced back in January due to high demand and consistent requests for it, but finally got out to everyone after overcoming a few hurdles in production. It squeezes (pun intended) the great tones from the Ego Compressor standard into a mini enclosure, and has been met with great response so far. The tone and attack knobs have been converted into 2-way switches which are common tones that we've honed in on for maximum versatility in conjunction with the other controls, especially with the Blend knob.
The Pinnacle Deluxe v2 was something Brian had been working on for awhile, and he wanted to step outside of the “Brown sound” box and provide something insanely versatile and tweakable to achieve a plethora of great tones, potentially becoming the only distortion you could possibly need! He added a 3-band EQ, along with multiple gain stages that range from light gritty overdrive with the volume on your guitar rolled back, to a full on soaring wall of sound with both the gain boost and the footswitchable boost engaged. He also addressed a common issue where there was too much sag on high output guitars, so a SAG switch was included to accommodate those as well.
The Faux Tape Echo v2 expanded on the predecessor by adding one of the most requested features we’ve ever had, which is for subdivisions to go along with the tap tempo. The modulation section was updated with streamlined controls for depth and speed, deciding to forgo the switch for activation. We’re VERY proud of these new pedals and glad that they’re making it into the hands of the tone chasers that can put them to good use!
Finally, we released the Bravado 40w pedal platform amp. It’s an all tube, handwired on turret board design that is made specifically for the pedal addict who uses their pedals for dirt and that are looking for the perfect canvas to create their own tonal work of art on. Along with being the perfect platform for dirt pedals, the FX loop was also designed with Dave Friedman to have zero tone loss and make your time-based and modulation effects sound pristine and fantastic.
Going forward into 2017, we’re VERY excited about some of the things we’re working on. There will be something new at Winter NAMM, and many more things in process of being developed for our 2017 release schedule. We’re so thankful for the support and the feedback, and we’re looking forward to an even more exciting 2017!
There’s honestly nothing worse than the feeling of going to jam, and something isn’t working correctly in your chain. It’s a mix of emotions, from sad to angry to just generally a “What the heck?” moment. The next process involved is troubleshooting or searching on the internet for the answer. First and foremost we suggest contacting the manufacturer of the pedal for help. This cuts to the chase by going direct to the source, especially in terms of warranty and beginning the process for repairs (if necessary).This is just a helpful guide of sorts to narrow down areas to troubleshoot on your own prior to moving forward. These are common ways to troubleshoot that apply to nearly every pedal out there.
The first thing to try when anything is acting wacky with a pedal is to isolate it for testing. This removes any other variables and focuses on the cleanest and simplest signal path to troubleshoot. Start with your guitar going out with a confirmed working cable to the input of the pedal, with the pedal having a fresh 9v battery (if applicable, not with minis) and disconnected from your power supply, straight into the amp. If the pedal behaves correctly, then you know the problem was somewhere else in the chain. If the issue is still occurring, document everything you can to better help identify the problem for the tech. If there’s no output, try cutting the footswitch off and on several times, if it comes on occasionally, it could be a bad footswitch. If you turn a knob and the sound seems really odd or has no effect at all, it could be a bad pot. Does the LED cut on? Any small detail will help when you’re going to have it repaired.
Batteries – Some companies ship their pedals with batteries, some do not. Leaving a cable plugged into the input of a pedal will drain the battery, even if it’s not being used. One good idea to practice is if you’re using a power supply to power your pedals, remove the battery to prevent corrosion over time. If you do use a battery, be sure to use a fresh, unused battery
Power – Digital effects especially are more prone to be noisy if you’re not using a dedicated, isolated power source to power the pedal. Daisy-chaining digital effects with analog pedals or other digital pedals will create substantial noise. Isolated power supplies can be a bit expensive, but they’re worth the investment in the long run. If you’re concerned it’s a power issue and you’ve tried it isolated with a battery, then there could be an issue with the cable from the power supply, or with the power jack. Note: Using the wrong power supply can render a pedal useless, and that is not covered under most warranties. Our pedals in particular require a barrel-type (Boss style), center-negative power supply cable. Some pedals have the ability to run anywhere from 9v to up to 18v (and anywhere in between), where some will be rendered useless if run above 9v. Check out this blog for an in-depth detail of which of our pedals can be used at 9v and 18v: http://www.wamplerpedals.com/news/blog/talking-about-gear/power-9v-or-18v
Footswitch popping during activation – If your pedal has recently started an excessively loud pop when you first activate it after moving pedals around on your board, there could be an issue with the impedance the pedal is seeing. For starters, try the first step and isolate it and see if that is taking care of it. If it’s no longer popping, then another pedal in your chain is causing an impedance issue, so try swapping positions on your board could fix it. Bad cables can be the culprit as well.
Crackling Pots – This would signal dirty pots, which can be solved by using an contact cleaner, which is discussed more here: http://www.wamplerpedals.com/news/blog/talking-about-gear/cleaning-the-pots-on-your-pedals
There are a multitude of different things that can go on based solely on the fact that you’re stepping on electronic devices repeatedly, so despite every builder’s best efforts things do fail. This is exactly why we personally offer a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee and return policy when purchased directly through our website.
Scenario time: You’re at a gig and the show is going well. The band is tight, the crowd is loving the music and the bar owner is loving the way you your group have packed the house. You bend over to adjust the gain on your overdrive pedal, and you hear it… and the room hears it. That noisy, scratchy and crackling sound of a dirty pot. It isn’t a gig killer, but it definitely brings the joy down a notch. Resisting the urge to throw that pedal across the room in disgust, there is a way to resurrect it and get it back into full operating order once again. To get started we’ll visit Amazon.com to search for Deoxit Contact Cleaner. (Note, this is available at multiple different outlets, including some vehicle care places, and I’ve even seen it at Guitar Center before. We just chose Amazon out of simplicity).
Deoxit is designed to clean, lubricate and preserve contacts and conductivity, by dissolving the dirt and grime, and it does a great job of it. Though it’s in a liquid form, it is quick drying and will not hurt the pedal at all. Deoxit is effective, but it is also quite strong so some precautions are in order before using it. Being an abrasive substance, you want to use it outdoors in a well ventilated area and not on a windy day. To be extra careful it wouldn’t hurt to wear a face mask to prevent breathing in any of the fumes. The same goes for your eyes, you don’t want this getting into your eyes by accident, so some glasses or other form of protection wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Once you get done with the following steps, be sure to wash your hands as well to prevent some from accidentally getting where it shouldn’t.
Take the pedal apart to access the pots. Remove the back cover to expose the inner pots and circuit board. If you’re uncomfortable with this process, it’s best to take it to an experienced tech that is familiar with electronics.
Each potentiometer has a small opening that will allow the cleaner to get inside and loosen the dirt that has collected in there. As you spray liberally turn the knobs back and forth quickly. This will work the dirt loose and restore the contact needed for clean transitions in your adjustments.
Put the pedal back together and test it out. That scratchiness should be gone. This method can be used on switches as well. Just work the switch as you spray to ensure they are free of dirt and are well lubricated. Deoxit can also be used to clean your inputs and outputs, and even your AC adapter jack can be cleaned this way. Just don’t do it while attached to power. It could void your warranty and/or seriously hurt you.
Now, this is a technique that works most of the time, your mileage may vary but it could save you some time instead of having to go through process of submitting it for repairs.
Brian covers this more in depth in his latest vlog: How to clean dirty & crackling pots (potentiometers) on a pedal...
The day that we felt would never arrive is finally here! As you all know, we announced the Mini Ego along with some other pedals in January of this year at Winter NAMM. From that point it has been a metaphorical rollercoaster trying to get the final product out to the players.. Admittedly the announcement was done a bit prematurely, and it was an exercise in frustration trying to get the Mini Ego’s into full release.
In the process, we’ve also had a lot of things going on in the background, with the eventual goal of wanting to convert the entire line to top jacks and soft switching. This is a set of features that players have been requesting for years, and we wanted to make good on our promise to eventually make that happen. With the delay in production for the Mini Ego, we decided to go ahead and pursue the process to make those conversions a reality.
Today, we’re very pleased to announce that our entire line-up has converted over to top jacks and soft relay switching (with the exception of the mini pedals), with several pedals receiving a graphics facelift to signify our next step in evolution. Rest assured that NONE of the tones have changed whatsoever, it’s merely switching to a more advanced, reliable switching system with the added space-saving factor of top jacks. You can check out our website to see the newest versions available. These will be available world-wide (ask your local dealer) as well as direct from our site.
Along with the line-up overhaul, we’re happy to announce that we’re also releasing a new version of the Pinnacle Deluxe, as well as a new Faux Tape Echo! The new Pinnacle will feature an 3-band EQ, Modern and Vintage tone selector, a Gain boost switch, and a footswitchable pre- volume/gain boost (yep, 2 different boosts!). The boost operates by the volume and gain going up simultaneously and despite being standalone, is made to really kick the Pinnacle to the next level of clipping and distortion. The Pinnacle was originally designed with the “Brown sound” in mind, but with this new version Brian wanted to take it a step further and make it one of the most versatile distortions he possibly could. He also decided to include a SAG switch. Players with active pickups or extremely hot pickups sometimes experienced enhanced levels of compression and sag, often requiring the player to lower their pickups. This switch helps solve that issue quickly and effectively.
The new Faux Tape Echo will feature 4 subdivisions, 1/4 note, 1/8th note, dotted 1/8th, and triplets. Along with the graphics and subdivision overhaul, the controls have changed up a bit too. There’s a Delay knob that sets the amount of delay time (up to 600ms of clean repeats, but maxed out around 800ms with some grit added to the notes), Delay Mix that lets you blend in the delay with your dry signal, Repeats lets you select the number of repeats, from one repeat to self-oscillation past the 3pm range. The modulation on/off switch has been removed and we now have dedicated Rate and Depth knobs that let you adjust quickly without having to mess with a switch. Turning these knobs fully counterclockwise will result in no modulation on the repeats. The Tone control controls the repeats only, from darker aka warmer to brighter and a bit more of a digital feel.
All of these products are now available to buy, in store or direct from us via our webstore, which is right here!
After the new shots of the Paisley Drive were posted, we received a lot of messages through Instagram and Facebook regarding the bridge configuration on my Crook Custom Telecaster (pictured above). I just wanted to run through the configuration and mindset behind the bridge setup and give an insight into it after using it for a decade now. I love this guitar dearly, primarily because it’s my father’s. He and I both ordered a Crook at the same time, and they’re identical in terms of pickups and wiring and hardware, but he chose a red paisley with silver flake underneath and a rosewood fretboard, where I chose to pursue a new prototype paint job with a green paisley and the silver flake underneath with a birdeye maple fretboard (pictured).
Let’s start off with low E and A strings. This compensated saddle is made of aircraft grade aluminum. Bill Crook was telling me during the development process that he uses this type of saddle because it provides and extra bit of bite and snap to the lower strings, which can sometimes flub out and sound a bit too undefined (especially using dirt pedals). Next up is a single saddle for the D string, which is also stainless steel. Again, it provides a great bite and twang without being offensive or ice-picky. We’ll skip to the high B and E strings for now (the G string will be discussed in a moment). For the high B and E, Bill decided to go with a brass compensated saddle. He mentioned that after extensive testing that the brass would retain the killer tone without the ice-pick sometimes associated with teles and those strings. The bottom two string are very warm and have loads of sustain going on, but never get muddy.
So the big question is, what’s going on with that funky looking saddle on the G-string? That’s a McVay G-bender mechanism from Charlie McVay. Charlie is a lap-steel player by trade, so he was naturally very affluent with the bending systems in those instruments. Brad always preferred a G-bender to a B-bender because he felt it was more musical in nature based on what bends you could accomplish. It’s Brad Paisley, so who am I to disagree? Being the superfan that I’ve always been, I got one installed too. Essentially what is going on is a level system that’s installed into the body, with an small “arm” lever that you attach your straplock to instead of directly to the guitar. The way it works, when you pull the guitar neck down towards the floor, the level actually raises the G-string by one who step. This is incredibly fun to include in your regular playing because it allows you the ability to do open string bends to really get twangy. I’ll be the first to admit that I abused it when I first got it, and had to train myself not to rely on bending the g-string with that at not my fingers too. There are two distinct tones between using the bender and manually doing it.
As an example of using a G-bender, I wanted to take a look back at one of my favorite country tunes that’s not too technically difficult, but incredibly fun to play and a great introduction to Brad Paisley’s playing style and the idea behind the bender. (There are two versions of the tab, one without a bender and one with). I loved Brad’s song “Old Alabama” from his album “This is Country Music”, so at the time of release I sat down and tabbed out the intro. In regards to the tones, I use the Ego Compressor for a light squish (sustain at 10:30) but with the blend low(Noon to 2pm) and the attack fully clockwise (slowest). This helps adds that feel of your amp compressing and also smoothes out the notes without that heavy squish on the initial not attack. Next I ran into the Paisley Drive, with the gain said relatively low (10am) and treble to taste. I was using a bright amp (Dr. Z RXJr) so my tone was set at 10:30. The key for me was using the mids in the UP (medium mid hump) position, which is closely based on Brad’s Z-Wreck tone. The volume you want set right above unity. Following the Paisley Drive I went into the Faux Tape Echo set to a light slapback, set with the mix knob just below unity, (repeats fully counter-clockwise, time knob at 9am). This gives the perfect slap that adds the depth and feel to the note to complete the full tonal package.
And here’s Brad discussing his G-bender (and he’s actually using his prototype Wheelhouse Delay that Brian created for him!)
I had a lengthy post regarding all of the things I’ve learned since starting with Wampler over a year ago, but after reaching over 2,000 words, I decided to just condense it into a list of myths about the pedal industry I feel every person should know now that I’ve seen the other side:
- The builders aren’t any different than any other person. They all put their pants on one leg at a time in the morning. In general, all of the builders I’ve had to honor to meet have been nothing short of amazing, speaking as if they’ve known me forever. The key thing to remember? Most of them usually don’t WANT to be thought of any different. They’re tone chasers just like us. They’ve all just found their niche in the trade, just like skilled workers in other areas. When I met Brian and Jason and Max, I was sweating and nervous as could be. I tried to keep a straight face despite screaming on the insane, but they treated me as equals and like it was another day at work. It was all just a blur at the time, but looking back it drastically changed my perception. They don’t want to be famous, they just happen to be in front of a camera or on social media more than other people!I was nervous the first time I walked up to Robert Keeley, but he came up and gave me a hug and we talked like old friends. The pedal industry is by far one of the friendliest groups I’ve ever seen.
- Despite pedal costs, there isn’t a load of money in the pedal business. The big thing is that from the process of concept to having the pedal on your board costs a lot of money to create. Research and development, prototyping, PCB changes, mass quantities of parts (we’re talking thousands of a single part per order), building in the United States, paint (thousands of gallons of one particular color, per pedal), printing the graphics, boxes and instructions, and free shipping. All of it cuts off of the bottom-end of the money made. Dealers like to make a little on them as well, so you have to account for that cost too. You’d probably be surprised how little we actually get to take in! That being said, it’s more about the experience and the process than the money. Like Brian told me when I started “If you’re in it to make money, you’re better off outside of the music industry.” It’s a rewarding job though, helping people find the tone that they’ve been hearing in their head.
- Working NAMM is VERY different than attending NAMM. It’s mind-boggling. I’ve only been to one NAMM (Winter in Anaheim) and it’s a full sensory overload experience. There’s a noise ordinance at NAMM so vendors and patrons won’t go over a certain dB, and that threshold is usually exceeded as soon as people cut the amps on. If you get too loud, the NAMM police come around and give you warnings. If you get too many warnings for violating the noise level….not good (fines, etc). People are everywhere, where you have to scream over the noise of neighboring booths to talk to tone chasers that walk up to your booth. Working the booth can be very repetitive. You get the same questions over and over again, but luckily if you enjoy it you won’t mind answering them. There’s really no time to sit down, eat, or even go to the bathroom sometimes. At the end of the day when NAMM closes, your ears are clogged like you’ve entered an isolation chamber, and your voice is typically hoarse from talking so loudly all day. Rinse and repeat for the next few days. Some big name guitarists stop by, many of which are just insanely nice people who just excel at their chosen instrument. The same premise applies as the builders; MOST just want to be treated like normal people. It’s a balancing act to meeting your business contacts and creating relationships with new customers, so it’s always hectic. After NAMM is done you break down (several hour job) and head home. There’s one interesting fact I didn’t know existed. Inevitably if you work NAMM, you’ll end up with NAMMthrax. You’re literally shaking hands and talking face-to-face with hundreds of people every day, and everyone ends up catching some kind of head cold or otherkind of sickness that lasts for a few weeks after you get home. In my case, I ended up with a sinus and ear infection, where some people ended up with the full blown flu. It’s just the nature of meeting with so many people in a public space.
- You’d be amazed how hard it is to find an original name and color for a pedal. This process is often overlooked because the end result is what everyone sees. The process involves checking trademarks, and ensuring that no one has a pedal or music instrument out that already has that name or something extremely close to it. Each name has to be applicable to what the pedal is, and has to be able to have imagery to use along with it. There are loads of names that sound great, but there’s nothing graphically that’s feasible to put onto the small space the graphic takes up on the pedal. The goal is to make all of the pedals flow together visually and stylistically with names, so you have to be wary of that too. To give you an example, the cataPulp was originally going to be called the Pulp Friction…but after some searching it was a 90’s porno. Strike that one off!
- Social media content isn’t as easy to find as you might think. Being an international company sounds like it would be a breeze to find content to post every day, right? Not so much. With that many viewers, you have to take into account the varying ages, gender, ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, political views, and any other thing that might trigger someone to be angry. With so many varying opinions in the world, your list of content gets whittled down before you know it. Content has to be relatable, provide something to the viewer, not tick anyone off, and still be relevant to the brand. So when you see those pictures and posts, give them an extra like :-)
- Guitar pedal companies don’t have days off generally. It’s a 24/7 business. We have customers around the globe, so there are constantly messages submitted to the main page at all hours of the day and night. When most people are on their holiday break, we’re working because the load increases due to people being off and having time to send messages. That’s not to say that we don’t relax some, but most days still maintain a consistent level of work at minimum. Closer to the end of the year and the holidays, it gets a bit crazier. I stepped away from my family getting ready to open presents on Christmas so I could take care of a couple of things. But if you love it, you do what you have to do!
- There’s nowhere near as much guitar playing happening as you’d think there would be. As much as I’d love to say it’s trying prototypes all day and getting to jam on free pedals, it’s not the case. It’s spreadsheets, statistics, insight tracking, blog writing, message responding, email typing, and general businessy stuff. I think we’d all go out on a limb here at Wampler and say that we play guitar LESS because of working, but it’s a tradeoff. We’re not playing, but we’re facilitating other players to play more.
- Just because there aren’t a load of steady new releases, it doesn’t mean they’re sitting idly. New releases take a lot of prep work (see 2nd bullet point). There are many pedals that will reach prototype phase and never see the light of day. There are also some pedals that have just been released that have been ready for years and it just didn’t feel like the right time to release until then. Pedal builders are always looking ahead, whether it’s their planned releases for months down the road, or researching new technology for something they have planned for a few years ahead. It’s all a chess game that requires patience and planning on the whole teams’ part to bring something to the public in a cohesive manner.
- Competitors actually like each other in most cases. Just because various companies are trying to reach the same demographic of players with their pedals, it doesn’t mean that they’re cutthroat and despise each other. Many times builders help each other directly, whether its needing help with a particular issue in a design, or just general chit-chat. The pedal building community is unlike any other I’ve seen. It’s a network of family in a sense, where in most cases they all look out for each other and are friends, and share stories of success and heartbreak. They also discuss customers, ones that are known to have fraudulent activities or sketchy dealings. You’d be surprised what builders have helped out on various releases over the years for other companies as well ;-)
As I wrote this list, I hope it didn’t seem negative, because it isn’t intended that way. I’ve been a tone chaser my entire life and my dream has always been to work in the pedal industry (specifically for Brian). These are myths that I had built up in my own head over the years that I had my eyes opened to and learned along the way. It’s an amazing business that requires quite a bit of work, but it’s unbelievably rewarding. Release day for new pedals is like a breath of fresh air, and is exhilarating to see the work that’s been done reach the people it was created for.
I started out as a pedal addict from the time I started playing guitar at age 14, listening to Mike Einziger of Incubus, and his massive pedalboard made me intrigued at the number of sounds someone could produce just clicking on a little box on the floor. The pedal addiction lasted on through the years, starting with cheap pedals and slowly upgrading over time. I loved how with a relatively cheap (compared to amps or guitars) investment could radically change my sound on the fly. My first introduction into the boutique world was a modified Boss TR-2 tremolo from Robert Keeley. Getting that pedal made me realize that there were more choices out there than the standard Digitech, Boss, Electro Harmonix’s of the world. This lead to a spiral and me driving my girlfriend (now wife) crazy.
I learned about Wampler in early 2010 when I was on a hardcore Brad Paisley kick, dedicating all of my free time to learning his guitar tricks and solos. I stumbled on a thread from TDPRI that said something about a Paisley signature overdrive, and I immediately looked up the website. It was going to be a few months before its release, but I literally checked back to the Wampler site every day for months hoping to glean some more information on the tones it could produce and what features it had. I decided to go the Christmas route and ask for it from my Wife, who again is very patient with my pedal addiction. The minute I plugged into the Paisley Drive I fell in love. It was precisely what I had been looking for, and it covered way more than just Brad’s tone. At the time I was playing through a Marshall AVT150 or through a Hot Rod Deluxe. I found with the Hot Rod Deluxe paired with the Paisley Drive that I could get closer to the tone I was looking for, and quickly moved on from the AVT150. That was the tipping point for a long relationship with Wampler that is still ongoing today.
As mentioned above, I was highly active on TDPRI (the Telecaster forum) at the time, and somehow or another I made a cheesy graphic that expressed my love for the Paisley Drive, and I was recommending it to everyone under the sun because it was just my end-all be-all favorite OD. I received a message from someone, and at the time I didn’t know it was Jason Wilding, head marketing and graphics guy for Wampler Pedals asking what my favorite parts of the Paisley Drive were, and discussing graphics and all other sorts of nonsense. It turns out that the Paisley Drive was his first graphic design for Wampler, so there was a kindred connection metaphorically because the Paisley Drive was both our first introduction to Wampler and what created our friendship. We chatted back and forth pretty regularly, and eventually became friends on Facebook a few weeks later. We talked occasionally, and he quickly became my source of GAS for all things Wampler. After getting the Paisley Drive, I had to get the Faux Analog Echo (come on, BP was using one!). After that came the Pinnacle and the Ego Compressor. The addiction just grew from there, and any spare money I had would be diverted to getting whatever new Wampler was coming out at the time, or one that I hadn’t acquired yet. The best way to describe it was that Brian was creating pedals that produced the tone that I heard in my head, and the controls were easy to dial in and self-explanatory, so I could find a useable tone within seconds of plugging in.
I became a true addict, eventually having an all-Wampler board, and still waiting and lusting for the next release. I frequented TDPRI still, and discovered The Gear Page in late 2011, early 2012. That’s what did it for me. I went into a trading and flipping frenzy that was borderline insane, at one point having one pedal going out and another coming in on the same day. I enjoyed the flipping and learning about each pedal and the trends brands took and what tonal secrets were enclosed in each box. My wife and I had just had a new baby, so time was limited playing so I spent most of my time learning and reading TGP and the ins-and-outs of various pedals. What worked, what doesn’t work. How pedal X was similar or different than pedal Y. I was on dialysis at that time (20+ years total, long story for another day). Essentially I had 5 hours of dedicated time where I was tied to a machine with needles in my arm that prevented playing guitar, so the next best thing was learning and absorbing everything pedal and amp related. I would scour the web for hours just reading and absorbing everything I could find. During this whole time however, I still maintained my love of Wampler, and I was the first person to suggest one of Brian’s pedals to any thread I could contribute to. Over time I got to know Jason better and even talked to Brian some on Facebook messenger, along with making friends with some Wampler artists along the way. My intent was that if I couldn’t work for them (only a faraway dream at the time) that I’d do everything I could to help and facilitate building the brand that I love so much.
Fast-forward to April 15th of 2014, my life changed more than words can express. That morning as I was heading out for work I received the call that there was a deceased donor that arrived at the hospital and and his kidney was the closest match they could find after me being on the transplant list for 14 years (and having 2 previous kidney transplants). I got the call, we dropped what we were doing and rushed to the hospital. Within 24 hours I had a brand new kidney, and I had been given a new medicine designed to treat my blood disease specifically (which to this day, has proven it works). April 17th of 2014 was my last dialysis to date. I preface this because it was the start of a shift in life towards the positive in every way.
Starting in late 2014, I had contacted Brian about a “Wampler Fan Club” on Instagram, and luckily he was open to the idea. I started posting pictures of players pedalboards featuring Wampler gear, basic GAS-inducing stuff that came to mind and just overall showcasing my love of the brand. During this time Brad Paisley had received a lo-fi delay prototype (The Wheelhouse) that I saw on Facebook and other social media outlets along with The Gear Page, and of course I bugged Jason to death with questions, including trying to bribe and bargain and being a general pain in the ass. I finally got the hint that it was still a prototype and that Brian wasn’t a fan of giving out protos because he prefers the pedal going to the players to be perfect. Luckily Jason had a tremendous amount of patience and knew I was just an over-excited tonechaser with a tendency towards addiction, haha. I continued growing the “Wampler Pedals Street Team” fan club Instagram account, and was attempting to coordinate with Jason to help the best I could (learning later on the other side that it was a double-edged sword, more on that later).
On my birthday in April, I woke up that morning and my wife had a surprise for me, and had my 3 year old little boy bring me a box. I had been asking for a Clarksdale (after having one and foolishly lending it out to someone and never getting it back) and I thought that’s what was waiting inside. The outer box looked familiar, and as soon as I opened it that familiar white cardboard box was staring me in the face. At the same time my wife pulled out her phone and started filming me opening the box, and I had no idea what was going on. I was shaking and nervous as could be (I have a love/hate relationship with surprises). I opened it up and lo and behold it was my very own personalized Lo-Fi delay, identical to the one custom made just for Brad Paisley, with the words “Special limited edition lo-fi delay prototype for Alex Clay”. On the inside was a handwritten note from Brian thanking me for all that I have done for the brand, and his signature on the bottom. I was speechless, and could feel my face getting redder and hotter by the minute as all of these emotions started bubbling to the surface. I somehow choked out a “Thank You” as I started tearing up a little bit, and luckily my wife stopped filming before I burst into tears of elation. I was beyond floored and couldn’t focus the rest of the day. I found out later after talking to Jason that he reached out to my wife and wanted to do it as a thank you and to celebrate my kidney making it to one year post-transplant. I think I told Brian and Jason and the team “Thank You” at least 1,000 times, and it still doesn’t seem like enough to this day. I plugged the proto in and it was EXACTLY what I was hearing on the Wheelhouse album. I’m still in shock thinking about it, and it is one of the kindest and heartwarming gifts I’ve ever received, and I’m eternally grateful to call Jason and Brian and everyone at Wampler close friends.
As the year carried on, I continued working with Jason, with him allowing me to help “reveal” some new product photos for new releases and helping to share the news of impending releases. Mid-June came along and with it a conversation with Brian that would set into motion things I had only dreamt about...
When it comes to pedals, there are endless possibilities of combinations to create the perfect tone for the scenario that you’re in, whether it’s just jamming at home with a jam track or in a live band setting in front of a packed venue.
One secret to finding that elusive perfect tone is to use two dirt pedals stacked together to cascade your gain structure instead of just running a single drive pedal with the gain all of the way up, or running a dirt pedal into a cranked amp. There are several advantages to doing this, including extra control of the nuances of your EQ to how the gain reacts in terms of the bloom of the notes. Here are a few tips when configuring your stacking setup to maximize tone:
- When stacking 2 dirt pedals together, the key thing to remember is that the 2ndpedal in the chain dictates the overall tone of the stack. What does this mean? Let’s use a tubescreamer and the Plexi Drive (JTM-45 style overdrive) as examples. If you run the TS before the Plexi Drive, whatever signal is leaving the TS is going to use the Plexi as a “gateway” of sorts. This means that the EQ and the clipping on the Plexi Drive will change the way the TS sounds. By nature the TS is mid-heavy, which is great for cutting through the mix. Once it reaches the Plexi Drive, the circuit itself will take that signal and adjust the frequencies it sees according to the knob position treble and gain positions. So if you have the mid hump from the TS, but have the natural light mid-cut from the Plexi Drive, that mid-hump will be less pronounced and the gain will just add to the overall level of saturation. This will give your gain a larger, “wall of sound” effect, while placing the TS AFTER the Plexi Drive, the TS will impart that more noticeable inherent mid-hump. If you have a favorite pedal that you like as your “base tone”, you’lll either want to put that last, or put a very transparent boost (even just a clean boost) after it.
- Cranking the volume on the first pedal in the stack will not raise the volume, but will increase the clipping (gain) in the second pedal. When stacking 2 pedals, remember that volume before dirt = more gain, where volume after dirt = more volume. Again, the 2nd pedal acts as a “gate” and dictates the overall volume. Cranking the output of the first pedal will push the input higher and clip the signal harder. This will make a big difference, because if you want a volume boost for a solo, you’ll want to put it 2nd in the stack.
- Using an EQ pedal after your drives can help better sculpt your dirt tones. When you add an EQ pedal into the stacking equation, your options open up tremendously, especially based on what EQ pedal you’re using. We live in the golden age of effects pedals, so there are loads of great EQ’s out there, some that just adjust basic 3-band EQ (Bass, Mids, Treble) and there are some that let you fine tune the exact frequency of the signal to add or cut whatever you want in your tone. Getting lost in the mix using a big muff? Crank up the mids a bit. Want a little bit of added depth in a smaller venue? Adjust up the bass frequencies to fill out the sonic canvas. This also applies when using the amp for dirt, by sticking the EQ pedal into the FX loop of your amp, then you have access to a boost and can adjust your amps gain tone to the closest detail to get that perfect tone.
- Stacking dirt pedals into an already distorted amp can add a depth and level of saturation to your tone only capable from stacking. Players have been using this method for decades to achieve their signature tones on classic records. A favorite of many people has always been a Plexi paired with a TS, which is used to boost the mids for solos. Another stack that happens often is using a Fender amp on the edge of break-up, and a Klon-style boost/OD to kick it into the stratosphere. One of the most popular and widely known stacks revolves around running a cranked fuzz face into most any type of amp (especially Plexi-style amps). The fuzz face provides a thick, wall of sound that’s great for fat sustaining leads or for chunky rhythms.
The main thing to remember is there are no wrong ways to stack your gain! Some of the most surprising stacks may lead to the coolest tones. Don’t be afraid to experiment and create unique combinations that can fit any scenario you need, from two low-gain drives to provide a base tone that you can stack on more gain for solos, or a boost hitting a distortion for sustain and saturation galore.
A few fun Wampler-related stacks that work really well together:
- Tumnus into the Pinnacle Distortion. It adds a low-mid presence that just punches through the mix and sustains for days.
- Clarksdale into the Plexi Drive. Reminiscent of cranked Plexi tones that have an added presence and depth from the EQ shape on the Clarksdale
- Velvet Fuzz into Plexi Deluxe.From tube driver-esque tones to full on Hendrix, this is the go-to combo for great classic fuzzy blues.
- Tumnus into the Euphoria. The perfect yin and yang. The Euphoria sounds like your amps natural OD with a D-style amp feel, and the Tumnus’s low-mid presence and warmth creates a 3D tone that works for a plethora of styles of music.
There are a lot more out there. What are some of your favorite stacks?
When you think of tone, what comes to mind? For me it is all encompassing, from the wood the guitar is made of, the pickups, what type of wiring is setup, the string brand and gauge, to the cables, to each pedal and what it does to the signal, the pre-amp and power amp, the speaker, the wood that the speaker cab is made up. For me tone is the culmination of the effort you’ve put into selecting each part of your signal chain, and factoring in the tonality of your individual playing style and how it reacts to different gear.
I’m also 30 and a total gear nerd, and I love that stuff. My thought processes have changed over the years. When I was 15 and learning and playing punk rock and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine and Incubus covers, my friends and I always had the same frame of mind: Hottest pickups and amps you could get in your hands, and ALL KNOBS ON 10! Our guitar volume was either on 10 or 0, and there was no in-between unless by accident. At that point we didn’t even see the need to have a tone knob, because it was never below 10 (and we dreamt of custom guitars that included no tone knobs, just volume). This served me well for many years until I grew up some and learned the subtle differences just those two knobs make on you overall sound and some of the amazing tones you can get by adjusting them in small increments.
Today, I set my amps pretty neutral EQ-wise to be pedal-friendly, except for the fact that I add a touch of extra treble and cut the mids a bit to use pedals and my guitar to fill in those tone frequencies. I normally roll the tone knob back on my guitar to about 7.5-8 depending on the guitar at all times (more with Tele’s than my Les Paul), reserving that extra bit of top end for when I really need to get out front in a hurry, or if I’m in the middle of playing and it sounds too muddy I’ll roll it up without having to change anything other than my guitars. This works on the other viewpoint as well, so if I’m changing guitars and something is too bright (my Strat bridge pickup) I will roll it down a bit more. That’s how I approach the tone knob when playing personally, but it’s definitely not a hard fast rule.
When talking with Brian and Jason, they both still keep their tone knobs on 10 and never roll them down, though they do use their volume knobs pretty heavily. How do you use the Tone knob on your guitars?
For the sake of discussion, here’s Joe Bonamassa discussing how he uses the knobs. He forgot to add that the interaction with the pedals is a thing of tonal beauty as well: