Musicians, it seems like, have always wanted to modify the sounds with their instruments. Throughout centuries, strings are already included in guitars for a fuller sound. The composition of these strings is different from animal gut to steel to plastic, each with their own unique sounds. Drummers have tried different shaped pots and kettles for the bodies in their instruments to get different timbres.
However with the arrival of electronics, the possibilities for tweaking the noise of one instrument exploded. As well as perhaps nobody has been doing more tweaking than electric guitarists.
Relaxing in his Bethel, Conn., workshop, pedal maker Mike Piera plugs in stomp box and demonstrates exactly what a fuzz box can perform by playing a part of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.”
“Without having the pedal, you just kinda get a dead sound,” Piera says. “Pretty boring.”
The package helps to make the guitar sound fuzzy by distorting its sound. This can be something musicians have been intentionally trying to do because the earliest events of amplification. Many credit the 1st deliberately distorted electric guitar to Johnny Burnette’s Rock ‘n Roll Trio in 1956.
A couple of years later, Link Wray claimed he’d stabbed a hole from the speaker of his amp as he challenged listeners to a “Rumble.”
Others said they got the sound by dislodging a tube with their amps. Then, in 1962, a Nashville engineer named Glen Snoddy invented the package that came to be called the Maestro Fuzz-Tone, marketed by Gibson.
An ad for that Fuzz-Tone proclaims: “It’s mellow. It’s raucous. It’s tender. It’s raw. It’s the Maestro Fuzz-Tone. You have to hear this different sound effect for that guitar to imagine it!”
The idea was simple: fuzz pedal into one, tap it with the foot, and presto, your sound goes from squeaky clean to downright dirty. Guitarist and historian Tom Wheeler says Keith Richards was after something very specific as he took the Fuzz-Tone to the very top of the charts together with the Rolling Stones.
“If you’re Keith Richards and you’re doing ‘Satisfaction,’ you might play that line on the clean guitar, nevertheless it just will not have that in-your-face, gnarly, dark quality that has a lot attitude with it,” he says.
“I started dabbling with the electric guitar at age 11 or 12, and one thing I needed to do was enjoy fuzz,” Cline says.
Why? “To get away from the inherent sound of the guitar,” Cline says. “To change it, and also go back to it after i planned to by simply pushing on some control on the ground.”
To satisfy the growing need for sonic manipulation, engineers started coming up with new effects, like the wah-wah and the talk box. For guitarists like Cline, the explosion allowed for greater experimentation.
“I started thinking about effects pedals for being such as a palette with some other colors – using delay, volume pedal, sometimes distortion however, not a whole lot, in order to sound like many different guitarists and many kinds of voices in the music,” Cline says.
Today, stores like New York’s Ludlow Guitars carry an ever-changing selection of effects pedals. Ludlow sells nearly a thousand varieties, which are the cause of about half its overall sales. Co-owner Kaan Howell explains the enduring appeal.
“It’s all really operating out of tradition, I find,” he says. “If you love rock ‘n’ roll, and you also such as the Ramones or maybe you like Led Zeppelin, they don’t play clean. If you want to emulate and 20dexkpky something along the same vein, you must start checking out effects pedals.”
Simultaneously, Howell says, effects pedals also allow guitarists to experiment.
“It’s a true type of fuzz pedal in trying to make a sound,” Howell says. “The things you like will probably be slightly diverse from how many other people like. And so when you do take the time to try stuff, the sound you’ll create will probably be just a little distinct from items that are available.”