A Glossary of Basic Stompbox Terms and Concepts
Season’s Greetings pedal people, and welcome
back to Stomp School. Well, the holidays are
upon us and I thought I’d help spread some
good gear ... uh, I mean good cheer, by offering this lighthearted list of popular pedal lingo.
Note: readers may want to give this magazine
page to give to their wives, girlfriends, family
members, or anyone else who may be interested in attempting to understand what on earth
we’re talking about. Who knows, it may even
give them some holiday shopping ideas for you.
Okay, let’s get started. If you’re going to have
any meaningful discussion of guitar effects with
your average, everyday pedal head [or aspire
to be one yourself], then you’d better familiarize yourself with some of the terminology that’s
commonly used in such conversations. Although
we’re relating them in the context of effects pedals, these terms may also be applied to guitars,
amps, and most other music related gear.
GAS: An acronym meaning “Gear Acquisition
Syndrome,” which describes a condition
whereby one engages in an overtly excessive accumulation of musical equipment in
an obsessive/compulsive manner. Originally
attributed to Walter Becker of Steely Dan in
reference to “Guitar Acquisition Syndrome,”
the term has been broadened to include all
forms of musical equipment and accessories.
The phrase has become so popular that many
have begun using it in the form of a verb, i.e.,
“gassing.” Example: “Dude, I’m totally gassing for that new $400 Tube Screamer clone.”
Unobtanium: A condition arising out of the fact
that a certain piece of gear is no longer available or is otherwise difficult to procure, resulting
in said gear becoming a priceless commodity
worth an untold fortune, which will most certainly
be paid by someone who simply must have it.
Blues Doctor [see also Blues Lawyer]: A
highly paid professional of substantial means
who buys the most expensive top-notch boutique gear … because he can. The stereotypical
Blues Doctor, or Blues Lawyer, is an amateur
player who has a strong interest in imitating the
styles of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix or
Bluesbreaker/Cream era Clapton, and has a penchant for posting on certain online guitar forums.
56 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009
Cork Sniffer: A player who collects and uses
only the most expensive and sought after boutique musical equipment, regarding with contempt and derision anything that he considers
common, cheap, or mass-produced.
To have any meaningful
discussion about guitar
effects, you’d better
with some of the
terminology used in
Waiting List: A situation wherein the demand
for a certain builder’s product ostensibly exceeds
the builder’s ability to provide the product,
resulting in the builder’s decision to create a
“waiting list” for prospective buyers to subscribe
to. Buyers may wait several months, or sometimes even years, before having the opportunity
to purchase the product in question. Usually, the
perceived value of the product is directly proportional to the length of the waiting list.
Pedal Scalping: When a person subscribes
to the waiting list of a highly desirable pedal
with the sole purpose of obtaining it to sell at a
substantial profit to an eager buyer who would
rather pay extra to have the pedal immediately
Transparent: A nebulous and somewhat overused term often employed to favorably describe
an overdrive or boost pedal that operates without
altering or coloring the original tone of the amplifier with which it’s being used. Since there is no
established method of measuring and/or
quantifying the degree of this state, the term
when thus applied is largely subjective and can
mean any number of things, including “I like this
pedal and so should you.” It should be noted that
transparency is not everyone’s ideal when considering the merits of a particular guitar pedal.
Dumble: A reference to the rare and expensive
amplifiers built by legendary amp maker Howard
Dumble. Favored by L.A. session guitarists since
the 1970s, the current market value of a Dumble
amp is over $25,000, which has lead to the
popularity of the “Dumble Clone” in the boutique amp market. Certain pedal makers picked
up on the idea as well, attempting to voice their
overdrive pedals to sound similar to a Dumble
amp, thereby creating a “Dumble-In-A-Box.”
Players will also sometimes attribute qualities to
their favorite overdrive pedals that they deem
“Dumble-Like” or “Dumble-Esque.”
OD Stacking: The act of using more than one
overdrive pedal at the same time in a deliberate and calculated manner to achieve a desired
effect. This can be a valid practice for driving the
input of an OD, or creating a thicker, more complex overdrive tone. Frequently, however, it is
just a rationalization that allows a player to justify
collecting and owning an inordinate number of
This is just a sample of some of the lingo currently in vogue with today’s typical tone-obsessed
player, but it should be enough to get you started in making sense of the incessant ramblings of
the favorite gearhead in your life.
Here’s wishing you glad tidings and, of course,
good gear. We’ll see you back here in the New
Year. Until then, KEEP ON STOMPIN’!
(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. Questions or
comments about this article can be sent to:
( analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique
effects manufacturers and retailers in the business,
established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993.
Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com.