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Keep It Simple: Better Guitar Tones With No Pedals?

Published 17 Sept 2021

Welcome to the show! Here’s a cat for your pigeons, then. One of our favourite kinds of humans is that particular individual who, though either mind-numbing ignorance or universal enlightenedness (or maybe somewhere in between), has decided that they don’t like guitar effects pedals.
While I wanted to make a six-hour video exploring the psychological and philosophical reasoning behind such disbelief-suspending, didactic absurdity, Dan suggested we might be better off exploring: a) a handful of pedals that just might appeal to the haters; and more interestingly b) some of the concepts that They Who Only Like Amp Distortion might face while they’re, erm, liking it.
Now, it’s a long video so we expect the True Non Pedalers will turn off in the first three minutes. For those of you who make it further, we hope you’ll agree there’s some super interesting stuff to explore here. Gain staging, headroom, boosts, EQ – basically all the really important stuff about electric guitar tone before you start spoiling it all with pedals. We do that right at the end with a reverb. Ha!

We look forward to all the comments saying we didn’t mention a tuner (we did), a looper (that too) or a compressor (yup). Also quite hoping for at least one ‘pedals are cheating’ cry and plenty of ‘if you can’t do it with just your amp and guitar, you need to practise more’.
If I sound weary, it’s the internet’s fault.

Meantime, do try to enjoy the video, even though it’s long and you almost certainly have something far less important to do that is way more fun.

Pedals & stuff in this episode…

• TheGigRig Three2One

• TC Electronic PolyTune 3 Mini Noir
UK & Europe:
USA Sweetwater:

• MXR Ten Band EQ
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

• J Rockett The Majestic
UK & Europe:
USA Sweetwater:

• JHS Series 3 Reverb
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

• Tone King Ironman II Precision Reactive Power Attenuator
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

* Why do we have preferred retailer links? Find out here:

Interesting bits and go-to sections…
0:00 Intro playing
2:30 Housekeeping
3:05 What are we doing today?
5:45 Doing it old school – essential to today’s vid
6:50 Amp settings, crunchy and attenuated
7:41 No pedals, 5 guitars served straight up
10:10 Common 'problems' of the old-school approach
13:10 Boost, volume & headroom discussion
14:40 When boost DOES NOT make the amp louder
15:22 When boost DOES make the amp louder
17:07 Shape that EQ
18:46 EQ pedal and Strat
20:30 MXR 10-band EQ and Les Paul
22:30 Tips for setting your EQ pedal
24:50 Freq out, bass to treble slider demo
28:50 Boost in the amp FX loop?
30:20 JHS Colour Box in the FX loop
31:35 What about the amp attenuator?
32:20 Amp at various attenuation & boost in loop
35:08 The problem of attenuators & headroom
36:47 ‘More’ upside down. Try ‘less’
39:20 Using attenuation for headroom
44:40 ‘Clean’ or ‘clear’?
44:58 What is underdrive?
47:50 Setting the underdrive pedal
50:19 Underdrive vs simply turning down
51:45 A small reverb
55:35 Reverb, Collings, Marshall. Mmmmm
56:45 Reverb pedal order with underdrive
1:00:07 Closing thoughts and honourable mentions

Guitars in this episode:
• Collings 290 DC S - Mick’s video here:
• Fender Custom Shop ’52 Heavy Relic Telecaster - Dan’s video here
• 1965 Fender Telecaster - no video yet
• Gibson Custom True Historic 1957 Les Paul Standard, Murphy Aged – no video yet
• Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster - Mick’s video here:
• Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster - Dan’s video here:
• Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard - Dan’s video here:

Amps in this episode
• Marshall 1987x and 1960A with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

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