PLUG IT IN: The Top Pedals Named After Musical Genres
Even more than bloggers, instrument companies love subgenres.
Because more than sonic signifiers, scenes, and influences, those subgenres require specific pieces of gear. What would Thurston Moore be without his Jazzmaster? What would the Strokes be without the vintage Ludwigs? What would Steve Vai be without his guitar with the inexplicable handle cut out of it?
Guitar brands love selling merchandise to the kids lining up for the latest musical trend. If Miley Cyrus played guitar in her songs, I guarantee you there would be a Twerk Tone pedal on the market right now. The funny thing is, other than the companies that actually made the instruments these icons used, there's not a lot to sell—unless you start inventing products for genres.
Hence, the spectacular field of guitar products known as the "genre pedals."
Instead of selling "distortion" and "overdrive" and "delay" to guitar players, these companies decided that they could make money making pedals dedicated to "metal," "grunge," "rawk" and "punk" to the Guitar Center-attending masses of the world.
These are our top pedals made for music fans who just want to sound like their heroes, but only have about a hundred bucks.
DIGITECH DGR GRUNGE PEDAL
Grunge was all about vintage thrift shop gear, married to extremely loud Marshall power amps. If you were in high school when Gish was released, you likely had access to neither. Digitech released this in 1993, meaning this pedal was released in the same year as "In Utero," and considering the less-than-inspired post-grunge rock that dominated radio via Silverchair and grunge-leaning Nu Metal, probably was almost as influential.
Note: one of the knobs here is labeled "Butt." Not sure how this is grunge, but I would pay good money to hear a member of Pearl Jam talk at length about how they really needed to turn up the "Butt" on "Jeremy"
These are really the #1 offenders of re-selling a musical genre to the masses. People want to play blues rock so badly that the Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar—complete with his initials—has been a top-seller for Fender for over a decade. Think about that: there are bar bands literally all over the world with some dude named Dirk flop-sweating a Blues Rock Solo, with SRV broadcasting from his midriff.
Unsurprisingly, there are dozens of different pedals claiming to have that "Blues" sound, packaged in a small metal square. Again, like grunge, these pedals have absolutely nothing to do with the instruments used to make the classic tracks from the genre, and will make you sound like "Blues" in the same way drinking Gatorade makes you "athletic." Your uncle likely owns one of these pedals.
Remember that chapter of Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me where all the members of Black Flag go out and buy DOD Punkifiers? Changed music forever, maaaan.
Okay, these kind of get a pass. Most distortions don't have the graphic EQs and "scooped" mids that make you sound like a tiny James Hetfield. That said, their egregious font choices as well as unusability for anything other than M-E-T-A-L make them a curious choice for anyone looking to play outside of your local headbanging bar circuit.
Let's consider the drugs that inspired the great psychedelic hits of our age. Syd Barrett more or less lost his mind through LSD (that wasn't always taken intentionally) but also produced the spiraling, childlike guitar tones that define high psychedlia. Jimi Hendrix took wild, explosive trips through the history of blues but churned it up in a post-modern demolition derby of noise that sounded like everything but guitar. The Beatles used the entire studio as an instrument, creating the first 16-track recording by linking two eight-track machines.
None of them—none—ever owned a guitar pedal that was branded as "psychedelic."
Tyler McCauley has owned at least one of these pedals before. He's on Twitter — @tylernotyler