There is a lot of great content on YouTube. I can easily spend an entire lunch break watching various people demonstrate, review, analyze and abuse guitar gear. At home, I tend to consciously avoid the Tube, simply because once I start down that path, I don’t let go until it’s way past my bedtime. That Pedal Show is the most interesting discovery I’ve made on the site in recent years. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon them, probably a Google search about something pedal-oriented that led to one of their clips, most likely the one about Uni-Vibe “before or after distortion”. Anyway, I was instantly hooked by the excellent guitar playing of Dan and Mick, the wonderful tones they are able to coax out of just about any combination of guitar, pedal and amp, and their humor and on-screen chemistry. There are many great guitar players out there, but not everyone can combine that with TPS’s warm, informal conversational style and encyclopedic knowledge of all things Pedal. Some play well but the talk is very stilted and scripted, still others also play well, but try so hard to be funny they just wind up looking pathetic. What I find so great with TPS is how much I get out of the show and on so many levels. On one level it’s two great guitar players. On another, it’s good entertainment. But above all, it is massively educational. Guitar technology is one of those areas where the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything about it. I’ve learned a ton since I started watching TPS, and every time, it inspires me to pick up my guitar the minute I come home from work.
More to the point, Those Pedal Guys have made me think of my own effects collection in a whole new way. For gearheads like us guitar players, there is a surprisingly big need to feel validated. I suppose it is an essential part of marketing to associate a big name with a product to drive sales, and that is especially true in the guitar world with its plethora of signature equipment. And when you do invest your hard-earned money into something, you want others to feel the same way you do about it, alleviate any buyer’s remorse or simply compliment your good taste. You don’t want to hear that your new delay pedal is a tone-sucker, on the contrary you want Mr. Star Player #1 to endorse it, like it suddenly sounds no good unless a name player has affixed his seal of approval. I’m no different. I like the fact that TPS seems to rate the MXR Carbon Copy highly, since that’s my delay pedal of choice. But I am aware of this shortcoming of mine and try to work around it. With that in mind, it was even more instructive to hear all the other delay pedals with the same guitars and amps, recorded using the same mics and pre’s during the same session. Then I could actually make up my own mind about what I heard. I don’t know how much of the verdict is due to confirmation bias, but I really did think that the Carbon Copy was the best of the bunch. Although the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man came a close second!
One of the deeper truths that TPS has made me realize is that no pedal has its own sound. It all depends on what sort of guitar you put into it, and what sort of amp everything comes out of. This is perhaps less important with modulation and delay pedals, but essential for drives and boosts. Damn, there is going to be a lot to think about the next time I buy an amp or a dirt pedal! But on a less profound level, I’ve learned a whole bunch about how to test pedals and what to listen for. You would not believe the level of ignorance I’ve been on, so I’ll go right ahead and tell all. When I was a kid, I used to set all knobs on 10 and switch the pedal on. If it made a wild effect, it was a good pedal, if it was more subtle or even inaudible to my non-discerning ears, I didn’t like it. Thankfully, I’ve picked up a thing or two since then. But I am not known for my patience with tone-sculpting. I plug in and play, and decide immediately whether I like something or not. I generally do not sit down and tweak and test and tweak again. TPS has shown me that you do need to force yourself to be patient. Make small adjustments, and more often than not, even the tiniest nudge of a knob can make an audible difference. That’s how I learned to dial in my compressor, and that’s how I learned how to play with delay. (More on that in reviews to come, by the way.)
What I don’t like about That Pedal Show is that they’ve made me GAS something terribly for boutique amps and vintage pedals! I might not (yet) be at the level where I can tell the difference between an original Klon and Electro-Harmonix’s knockoff, at least not enough to decide that the original is worth 2500 dollars on Ebay. But when Dan dusts off his original Boss CE-1 chorus, man, that’s the sound I’m always looking for in a chorus pedal! I have been lusting for a JHS Angry Charlie basically since I started following the show, and for some reason, I’ve developed this very weird fuzz addiction. Not to mention that I’ve started to persuade myself that I need a pedal loop switcher. And I especially don’t like that Mick has a Sonic Blue Stratocaster whereas I have not.