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.


  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.

  3. Thats a ton of stuff just sitting in a drawer, David. So funny. I hope you get a use of it pretty quick.

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