Category Archives: Tone tips

Visual Sound Videos

I stumbled upon a series of videos that Visual Sound released a few years back. They basically got Nashville (but not only) studio guitarists in a studio and asked them to show how they used their pedals.

There are tons of creative ideas in those videos, for every style.

My two favorites are probably Kenny Olson…

… and Michael Elsner, who uses his guitar and Visual Sound pedals in a series soundtrack context, creating all sorts of atmospheres:

The Visual Sound Youtube channel has a lot more, including big pedal shoutouts.

Updates: BB Preamp, Satriani’s Boss DS-1 and Pickup Heights

I have a few interesting updates for existing blog posts:

First of all, about the demo of the BB Preamp I did way back, here is an interesting piece of info that came out following the release of the BB Preamp-comp by the Xotic custom shop: the standard BB Preamp was modified to have less compression after serial number 3643. My BB Preamp has a serial number of 526 so my demo shows the “compressed” version. Interestingly enough, the limited Andy Timmons edition of the BB Preamp featured the extra compression of the early BB Preamp. In order to please everybody, The BB Preamp-comp features a toggle switch to go from no compression at all, to a bit compressed (current BB Preamp) and to more compressed (early BB Preamp and Andy Timmons models). You can read all the details here.

Secondly, about my “Joe Satriani Tone” post, I have found this awesome interview on It answers a frequently asked question about Joe Satriani’s Boss DS-1, a distortion pedal he used for a good 20 years before collaborating with VOX to produce the Satchurator. The question is: was his boss DS-1 completely stock or altered? The answer in Satch’s own words: “Well, I would use clean channel of the JFX. I’d get a slightly altered, vintage Boss DS-1. I can’t tell you the alteration, though, that’s a secret!“. That settles it but as far as what the alteration is, the question remains.

Finally, a few months ago, I wrote a piece about the relation between pickup height and tone. This piece was missing detailed height guidelines, I have now found some for Fender Telecasters, Stratocasters and Gibson style guitars.

How to Tame a Fuzz Face Type Fuzz Pedal

First of all, happy new year to everyone! I thought I would start the year with a hot topic, that is hot for guitarists: to fuzz or not to fuzz?

Fuzz pedals can be difficult to master and most of us who have tried one thinking it would sound like Hendrix on ‘Band of Gypsies’ were disappointed. I thought a bit of knowledge and a tip I have recently discovered would come in handy.

It will probably be my last “video” post for a little while as I am busy with a lot of personal and professional projects at the moment. I will of course continue to post about The Tone and will come back with video demos some time in 2012.

Fuzz or fuzz?

What is a fuzz tone? For a lot of us guitarists, Hendrix exemplifies the Fuzz tone, or rather tones: warm, rich, with lots of sustain as heard on ‘Band of Gypsies’, or edgy as heard on the famous outro of ‘Axis Bold as Love’. Subsequently, the Fuzz Face pedal, still made today by Dunlop (and made in the 60s by Dallas Arbiter) served as a basis for countless clones. It is thought of as ‘the’ fuzz pedal to get.

The Fuzz Face is still made today by Dunlop - Note it only has a Fuzz (gain) setting and a Volume setting - Picture courtesy of Dunlop USA


Let’s dispel a bit of myth here, the Fuzz Face was not the first fuzz pedal, the Maestro fuzz sold by Gibson and heard on ‘Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones is an example of alternative design that was also available in the 60s.

Anyway, the tips I will share here are more directed towards Fuzz Face type pedals, they might not work for other types of Fuzz.

Choosing a Fuzz Pedal: Silicon or Germanium?

I have spent hours trying to decide which to get. At the heart of Fuzz pedals lie transistors. Early Fuzz Face pedals were based on Germanium transistors before switching to Silicon transistors, mostly for reasons of stability. Germanium transistors tend to be affected by the ambient temperature.

The consensus on the sound difference between the two is that Silicon transistors are brighter than their Germanium counterparts. As a matter of reference, it is thought that Hendrix used Germanium fuzz pedals on his first three studio records but switched to Silicon later on, which means that the fuzz pedal heard on ‘Band of Gypsies’ is probably Silicon based.

As always with a true master, the sound is mainly in the fingers and less in the equipment chain: wether using Germanium or Silicon, Hendrix has produced some of the best Fuzz tones ever.

So I would say don’t focus too much on the transistor type if it is your first fuzz. I chose to go for a Germanium based Z.Vex Fuzz Factory as it can do “normal Fuzz tones” as well as completely whacky ones, thanks to some extra settings.

Not so easy

So here you are with your brand new Fuzz Face, or Fuzz Face clone, you plug it into your amp set clean, at a reasonable volume and… it does not sound like Hendrix at all. It might sound thin, aggressive, not at all full like it does on Jimi’s live and studio recordings.

The main reason for the difference in tone resides in the fact that Hendrix often plugged his Fuzz Face into a somewhat really loud and cranked to the max overdriven Marshall amp. These amps can be quite dark to start with, especially the old ones. This”darkness” made up for the aggressiveness of the Fuzz which, by the way, did not come with any tone or eq settings, just gain and volume.

It is hard to emulate this sound at bedroom or practice level with a clean amp. There is a way though…

Using an overdrive placed after a Fuzz to alleviate the Fizziness of the Tone

Without further ado, here is a little trick you can use if your fuzz is too, well, fuzzy or rather fizzy/aggressive. This might happen with bright amps such as my 74 Fender Champ. Just place an overdrive pedal after the fuzz in your effect chain. For this video, I have used a Digitech Bad Monkey, it is rather cheap and has a bass and treble control. I have used the least amount of gain I could on the Bad Monkey and rolled off the “Treble” knob a bit (the same trick can be achieved by rolling off the tone knob found on other overdrive pedals):

About me using a Z.Vex Fuzz factory as my fuzz pedal in that example, you will think it has nothing to do with a Fuzz Face. Well, at “normal” settings where you keep “stab” on max and “comp” on low, it is close enough. The Fuzz factory is a modern take on the Fuzz pedals of old but it is still a fuzz.

I will feature a selection of fuzz pedals in one of my very next posts. Until then, have fun fuzzing away!

Dunlop Jazz III Picks

There was much talk about the Jazz III picks by Dunlop with the recent release of an Ultex 2.0 version. I have purchased a 6 pack of the original version and let me tell you: they are awesome. I was skeptical at first as they are quite small, but they are very precise.  Here is a photo showing one Jazz III next to a more regular sized pick:

On the right handside, a jazz III pick (top) next to a regular pick (bottom)


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