The Sound of Silence
Babies—we have them and we love them, but anyone that enjoys the noise of a cranked electric guitar finds out very quickly that some new tactics are required if one wants to maintain a happy household. For some of us, playing loud guitar isn’t just a luxury or indulgence, but a therapeutic necessity. So, how do we alleviate the stress of keeping everyone fed and clothed without causing more of it? As any parent quickly finds out, the right tools are required to get the job done. In this case, I am not talking about a hammer and a set of wrenches, I am talking about pedals. Yes . . . pedals are essential for parenting.
I am old enough to remember the early days of headphone amps—terrible buzz boxes that stung the inner ear with electro-zaps from an angry hive of harsh clipping square-waves. It was more like archaic shock treatment than playing guitar. I remember destroying my Walkman headphones with these horrid devices in a flappy, crackling sputter of distortion destruction . . . okay, so I sort of enjoyed that bit in a sick way, but I am glad those days are behind us. Here are some awesome pedals that enable one to enjoy being loud in silence.
GFI System Cabzeuss
This is perhaps the most essential and most exciting pedal for parenting that I am aware of. I can’t imagine how many hours went into the research and design process of Cabzuess and the CabsLab supporting software. It is essentially everything post-power-amp in the signal scheme: stereo ins and outs with independently assignable speaker types, mics and distancing, millisecond delays between the left and right channel and hyper-realistic room simulation enable one to attain special awareness in their tone. It’s like having Hansa Studios or Abbey Road in a box.
There are many plug-ins and cab sim software options out there, but the beauty of this beast is the headphone jack built right into the pedal. We can turn our amp-like stompers into full stereo rigs or make our favorite fuzz boxes into crazy faux-amps for experimenting with straight into our skulls. I am eagerly awaiting this box to arrive for a full review, so keep those eyes and ears peeled.
Roger Linn Design AdrenaLinn III
This isn’t so much a pedal as it is a creative beat-step effects dream machine—a box that contains endless inspiration for sketching or actually laying down a track without a mess of cables or noisy amp. The 'verbs, modulation and percussion elements are all rendered in stereo, so when you have the cans on, everything sounds huge and three-dimensional. The amp sims are a little dated by today’s standards, but still great sounding considering they were created so many years ago. This is of little consequence by the time one rigs up a grid-snapping automated filter that latches onto the built-in drum machine. The sounds and schemes on board the AdrenaLinn III are exclusive to the device.
All these years later, it is still as addictive and inspiring as ever and I can’t wait until Roger takes this creative lab of tone and rhythm to the next level. This old dog is full of new tricks for anyone who hasn’t yet experienced it. Mr. Linn, if you are listening, can we please have an AdrenaLinn IV with circuit-modeled amps and whatever other surprises you wish to throw in? We are ready for you to take our money.
Singular Sound BeatBuddy
Here is another rhythmic stompbox that could change the way one practices, writes or even performs live. Sticking the BeatBuddy at the end of the pedalboard and plugging in some headphones enables silent practice with realistic, dynamic drums. This is a game changer for those suffering from riffer’s block or parents who need to rock out with drums while the kids are sleeping. The simple act of adding a rhythm to practicing automatically makes us better players. Phrasing, groove, tightness and dexterity are all improved by playing over a beat and I don't know of a better dedicated device for this purpose. Riffs come from rhythm and BeatBuddy brings rhythm and riffs together in one easy-to-use, compact stomper that won’t look or feel out of place in the signal chain.
DigiTech Trio Band Creator
This oddball stompbox is a truly innovative one-off concept pedal that is a real riff generator. By simply reading the face of the pedal, the Trio might put players off by suggesting that everyone wants to play in a specified genre. Some might be offended by a robot suggesting what style they should play within, but that is all rubbish. This pedal is all about providing us with a platform from which our imagination can jump off with minimal planning. When inspiration hits, I can plug in, hammer out a couple of riffs and the Trio listens, learns and returns with some quality backing of both bass and drums.
Admittedly, this isn’t a device I would rely on for gigging or tracking alone, but more like a sketch pad for song outlining on the fly. Like the BeatBuddy, the Trio has the all-important headphone output, but also includes speaker cab sims and effects built right into the pedal itself, making it a fantastic option for a parent struggling to slot in a creative riffing session.
Noise Pollution Solutions
Hopefully, now that we know where to get the tools, we can start building our next masterpiece without upsetting the delicate balance of domicile relations. There are many fantastic amps and modelers for this purpose as well—the Yamaha THR, Line-6 Helix, Roland JC-40 and Blackstar ID Series come to mind—so choose a preferred platform and start rocking in silence without rocking the boat of your relationships. With circuit modelling software solutions and plugins, the laptop or desktop are great assets as well for in-the-box rocking, but with more and more of our lives behind spent in the screen, I wanted to showcase some stompbox solutions for this purpose. Plus, this is the world’s premier pedal publication, so it only seemed appropriate.
If one is looking for a good way to justify the acquisition of a new pedal, they can play the “wouldn’t it be cool if I could rock out without waking the baby” card. It’s a good angle to work around the holiday season as well. A gift for the whole family indeed . . . if you are a rocking mom or dad, you need a portal to your own private world of noise—it’s essential.