If you play the electric guitar, you likely have a stompbox or two — a “stompbox” is an electronic device that sits between your guitar and your amp to change the sound of your guitar in dramatic and subtle ways — and I have a whole drawerful of stompboxes that I bought, tried, and put away in my drawer. 


If you know anything about stompboxes — or Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedals or Tube Screamer amp attenuators with hand-hewn Mogami wiring — you know that drawer is full of a lot of spent money and wasted hopes.

While I love playing around with the sound of my guitar, I don’t like stompboxes right now because they make me sound better than I really am — and I consider that a cheat.

I need to know that what is coming out of my pants is what gets out of my guitar and into my amp

Here’s an excellent example of a stompbox in action from the movie “It Might Get Loud” starring guitarists Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge.  In the movie they call a stompbox an “effects unit” or a “food pedal” — but you know better now — watch at 1:20 when The Edge reveals how his guitar really sounds without all those chained stompboxes changing his sound:

Without the protection of a stompbox, every mistake and whimper is heard — and that’s the way I need it to be so I can actively correct my mistakes in slowness, buzzing and mishandled fingerings.

One day I will dip back into my stompbox drawer to help me chase “that sound” in my head — but until then — I will just have to rely on the perfecting of my ear against the imperfect performance of my hands.

Oh, and here’s my Line 6 FBV Express board:  

There wasn’t room for the FBV in my stompbox drawer, so it’s sitting atop my unused 75-watt Line 6 Spider III modeling amp that is gathering dust over there in the corner.

9 Comments

  1. Are you familiar with the shoe gazing genre of music?
    It was so called because the musicians spent much of their time tapping on their different pedals — in effect, gazing at their shoes 🙂

  2. Right! “The Shoe Gazers!” It’s an unfortunate and common artifice when it comes to playing a live guitar, Gordon. Your comment inspired me to go back and edit the article to include a scene from “It Might Get Loud” — that demonstrates just how The Edge’s guitar REALLY sounds without all those effects.