Ever since Jimi Hendrix first pushed his guitar towards the amplifier in order to create a feedback loop, guitarists have always looked for ways to enhance and alter the sound of their instruments. And while other artists have looked to break away from the conventions of guitar playing, such as Tom Morello swiping his hand across the fret board and Peter Frampton connecting a vocoder, guitar pedals have quickly become the source of how to achieve these otherworldly sounds.
But as the popularity of these additions become evermore in demand, brands such as Aclam Guitars are realising that guitar pedals are not simply an add-on, but a critical component of every ammeter and professional musician right now. To buy effects pedals have become an integral part of the performance element, which begins to beg the question, where can we go from here?
For years, guitar pedals have usually been used to add distortion and reverb to an already existing hook. But with the influence of Pink Floyd’s psychedelic experimentation, we have realised that guitars don’t even have to sound like guitars anymore. They can be transformed into a whirling vortex of abstract soundscapes that can sometimes take away from the element of “playing” a guitar, and simply “using” a guitar instead.
Although the idea of “using” a guitar goes back to when Jimmy Page first placed a violin bow on his strings, we can clearly see that the effects that we can integrate into guitar hooks, during or even in the post-production stage, are so transformative that the organic sound of the guitar itself can be completely distorted and deliver a completely new sound in the process.
But while there will always be the puritans of the world. Those that say adding too much to a guitar will ultimately remove a lot of its power, there is no denying that effects pedals have completely altered the landscape of popular music. The rise of genres such as post-punk, psych-rock and drone have their entirely aesthetic thanks to effects and sonic tweaking. The warm and rich tones that these genres are able to deliver would not be possible without adding and building upon the traditional guitar sound, leading us down a path of musical self-discovery like we have never seen before.
But where will this end? Guitar brands and pedal makers are forever looking to impress their customers with evermore bold and outrageous innovations, leading musicians to experiment more and more. Which means that simply writing a hit record is no longer enough to make it sound good. Artists have to be just as proficient and engaged with how their records sound, as well as their commitment to writing good music. An impressive single is no longer about lyrics or content, but the feel as well, moving us further towards tracks with a solid sound rather than lyrical connection.
Irregardless of genre, guitars have a prolific place at the heart of popular music. Pop, rock, hip-hop and everything in between have their sound because of the guitar, and with technology growing ever stronger, these directions will always be evolving and the effects pedal will be at the root of that next step.