The Influence of Analog Synthesis on the Stompbox
Greetings fellow tone freaks and gear the late Bob Moog, founding father of the
geeks, and welcome to another exciting modern synthesizer, is also responsible for
installment of “Stomp School.” This month producing a number of effects – there was
we’ll be discussing how early synthesizer the fabled Moog 12-Stage Phaser, a rack-design has influenced a lot of what’s on our mount studio-quality effect manufactured
pedalboards now. I’ve been thinking about in the seventies by Moog Music. The large,
this quite a bit lately as I’ve been working wedge-shaped Maestro effects of the same
on setting up a vintage keyboard studio era were made by Moog Music as well.
as a side project. Alas, my lust for gear is Moog Music continues to make effects
not strictly limited to the stompbox. This is devices today with the Moogerfooger line
another thing I found I had in common with of effects.
Analog Mike when we first met – in
addition to guitars, amps and pedals,
we both share a love for vintage keys
and analog synthesizers.
for interesting sounds and put a disclaimer
on the albums, ‘No Synthesizers!’ to drive
home the point that it was his guitar playing
you were hearing. He often used the Foxx
Foot Phaser along with other boxes and
studio effects. The Electro-Harmonix Micro
Synth pedal was one of the most popular
ways of making a guitar sound like a synthesizer, with cool attack delay settings and
filter sweeps; they are still available today in
a smaller package.
Did you know that many effects most
often used by guitarists were actually derived from analog synth technology? Not only that, but a good
number of the effects that guitarists
take for granted (such as the Univibe)
were originally intended for use on
keyboard instruments, and Bucket
Brigade Delay chips (BBDs) were first
used in electronic keyboards before
appearing more commonly in effects
pedals. In fact, the whole field of
musical effects is inextricably linked to
electronic keyboard technology. The
electronic designs of synthesizers and
effects pedals have much in common.
Envelope modifiers, ring modulators
and low-frequency oscillators were all
synthesizer elements that ultimately
found their way to stomp pedals. In
fact, certain types of effects are really
nothing more than an individual synthesizer element that’s been isolated and
packaged to be used as a stand-alone
device. So in a sense, a guitarist’s pedalboard can be viewed as a kind of modular
synthesizer for guitar.
“The square wave effect was popular in
the sixties and seventies for a fuzzy, buzzy
guitar tone. DeArmond made a pedal
called the Square Wave, but it was actually more of a fuzzy distortion pedal. A
square wave is one of the oscillator output types on most synthesizers. A guitar
signal can easily be converted to approximate a square wave just by using clipping
diodes to chop the top and bottom off
“Another popular synthesizer effect was
the vocoder, which allows the sound of
the synth to be modified by a player singing or talking into a microphone, making
the synth appear to talk (ala ‘Mr. Roboto’
by Styx or ELO’s ‘Mr. Blue Sky’). Electro-Harmonix made a vocoder for guitar but
they are very complicated electronic circuits. A much easier and better solution
for guitarists was the talkbox (Hello, Mr.
Frampton, we love your Geico commercial, and Mr. Walsh you still rock!).”
The sound of analog synthesizers was often
referenced as a starting point for many
effects designs. Analog Mike recalls:
Thanks Mike! Well, that’s a wrap for now.
Check back with us next month when we’ll
discuss “The Truth About Bypass.” Until
then, keep on stompin’!
Some of the most well known analog syn-
thesizers were actually designed by the very
same engineers who created a number of
stompbox classics. As we discussed last
month, Musitronics co-founder Mike Beigel
also started out by designing a synthesizer
for Guild, and the Mu-Tron III was taken
directly from this design. Electro-Harmonix
engineer, David Cockerell, began his career
at EMS building synthesizers. Synth pioneer
Tom Oberheim started off making some
of the early Maestro effects. And finally,
“Some of the coolest recorded guitar
sounds can fool people into thinking they
were synthesizers. Ernie Isley’s lead tone on
the Isley Brother’s 1973 smash hit ‘Who’s
That Lady?’ comes immediately to mind.
It was inspired by Santana and Hendrix,
but took on a new twist by allegedly running an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff and a
Maestro Phase Shifter together. The Roland
Jet Phase was one pedal that combined the
fuzz and phaser and can get a similar sound.
Brian May of Queen used guitar effects
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For
Musicians Only ( formusiciansonly.com) and author of
Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. For Musicians
Only is also the home of the FMO Gear Shop.
Questions or comments about this article can be sent
( analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects
manufacturers and retailers in the business, estab-
lished by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be
reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.