As makers of custom pedalboards we come across the occasional case of somebody trying to be funny or ironic by commenting negatively on the size of an artist’s pedalboard, and wondering why anybody would need so many effects. We could of course simply brush away such comments, while trying to feed those poor, clueless people’s gear lust, so we can make ever larger pedalboards.
But one of the most important steps in building a Custom Boards pedalboard is making sure that every pedal placed on the board is there for a reason. Sometimes a musician turns up with every effect they could find in their cupboard, asking us to use them all on the pedalboard we’re about to start making. We wouldn’t recommend this approach, though. Each effect should have a purpose, a reason for being part of the signal chain, otherwise the pedalboard will become much too unwieldy, and the bypass tone will suffer as a result.
If I’d have to name one guitarist, who uses the most effects, it would probably be U2’s the Edge. At least this is the picture you get by looking at his bulging collection of rack and pedal effects. Over the years I have tried to get an in-depth look at the Edge’s effects and amp setup, by watching all the available You Tube-videos, many of which several times over. I’ve tried to find out which effects he uses in certain songs. Does he use many effects simultaneously? How come the Edge’s guitar tones never sound over-processed or one-dimensional?
My musings on the usefulness and sensible application of guitar effects was truly galvanized when we started to work with one of Finland’s busiest guitarists in Finland, Mr. Tuomas Wäinölä. He plays in the live bands of national stars, as well as on various TV shows and recording sessions. Tuomas naturally wanted to get each and every job done in style, which is why he ordered a whole row of pedalboards from Custom Boards. One for the touring rig, one to keep in the TV studio, one for his project studio, and a fourth one for freelance jobs and so on.
When we designed his 6th pedalboard, Tuomas went out of his way to explain all the details of his pedalboard use. What we found out was that he uses many of his effects only for a single song – or even only for a single riff – during the live performance or a TV session. This approach is very similar to Edge's or actually to anybody elses who have massive pedalboard, maybe exluding the great Omar Rodríguez-López from Mars Volta.
There is a reason for Edge's huge effects selection on U2 live shows. The band is one of the biggest acts on this planet, and it has been playing for decades. Even though the Edge started out with only an EHX Memory Man pedal at his disposal, the man has used a truckload of pedals and rack effects on the band’s records to come up with his amazing, and often idiosyncratic, guitar sounds. After 35 years of making records, it’s no wonder that the man has managed to accrue a effect huge arsenal.
I’m quite sure that the Edge could play a successful show with any modern multi-delay pedal on the market, and still sound like himself. But thanks to being the Edge and having the luxury of the band’s massive production, he is able to schlepp an eye-watering amount of different effects around the world with him. The Edge wants to use the exact effects he used in the studio to create each song’s signature tones. The same holds true for his guitars and amps. The Edge’s highly inspiring guitar technician, Dallas Schoo, has confirmed this on many occasions, like in this recent Premier Guitar Rig Rundown video that is a real treat for us gear heads.
Like our national guitar star Tuomas, The Edge doesn’t necessarily use any given effect more than once during a show. Very often he also doesn’t use many effects at the same time, even though some internet forum users and Punk-inclined detractors will claim the opposite.
Legendary studio engineer and producer Eddie Kramer, who was Jimi Hendrix’ right hand man, has said that Jimi liked to find one special sound for each song. But only one special effect, never two. This way each song was given its own, distinctive sonic universe that underlined that song’s mood and lyrics.
In itself this way of thinking isn’t really new, as we’re talking about effects (as in special effects) that are meant to add their own special ingredient to proceedings. A little something special can go a long way in touching your audience’s hearts, conjuring up a unique bond between the listener and your music.
I hope this explains why your favourite guitarist has to rely on such a large array of pedals for her shows.
If you have purchased all the parts and components but get a feeling that you might not be up to the task after all, we can make your pedalboard for you, using the components you have bought from us. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything go to waste.
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