For my first contribution to PG’s State of the Stomp
column, I want to celebrate a
common love we all share—
gear! Whether you’re a bedroom
player on a limited budget or
touring the world in a major
band, we’re all in the same
boat: We love gear. It makes
us happy. We’re passionate and
emotional about it. Because our
gear offers an almost indescribable joy from the moment of
acquisition, we’ll defend it in
the face of criticism (join any
gear forum for proof of this).
Why do we like gear so
much and how does this affect
Of course, I can only speak
from my own experience, so let
me rephrase that: Why do I love
gear? Well, the first thing that
springs to mind is ... the smell.
Yes, that’s right, the smell.
Particularly of old gear. I admit
it—I’m a kook. Whenever I
open an old amp or pick up a
vintage acoustic guitar, I always
take a good, long sniff. Part
of it probably comes from my
childhood—buying old stereos
and TVs and pulling them to
Vintage instruments often exhibit the
bending-end technology of their day. In
1886, this pump organ was an antique
equivalent of today’s portable keyboard.
Notice the handle on the side.
Our musical forebears used these stops to create and shape their
tones, much as we do now with EQ and effects.
restoration. It came from a
small church, where it had been
since it was shipped to New
Zealand 120 years ago.
How many joyful occasions
has it provided musical accompaniment to? Weddings, christenings—hopeful, wonderful
times. And how many countless
times did it provide musical
solace to people grieving? I love
these thoughts and consider
I admit it—I’m a kook. Whenever I open an
old amp or pick up a vintage acoustic guitar,
I always take a good, long sniff.
bits. All the gear I got to tear
apart as a kid had been made
in the ’60s and ’70s, so there’s
some connection to an early,
enchanted time, and the smell
triggers those memories.
I also love the idea of some-
thing having a history, of it hav-
ing passed through the hands
of players who’ve cherished the
object before me. For example,
I have an old Canadian pump
organ built in 1886. This thing
is wonderful. It sits quietly
in a corner of our warehouse,
waiting for that sunny week-
end when I’ll start the full
myself extremely lucky to be able
to sit down and run my hands
over the same keys. The history
has an impact upon the way I
play it. It also smells amazing!
All right, so we’ve established that there are many
reasons to love gear (even odd
odor-related reasons), and each
one is completely valid. But
how does this affect our playing and creativity?
Remember when you were a
kid at school and you opened a
new exercise book and wrote on
that first page? Were you one
of those kids who tried to write
really carefully on those first,
fresh pages? I was. I think it’s
a little of the same thing with
gear: We get a new acquisition,
and it causes us to be a little
more focused, and we take a
little more care with what we
play. This is a great thing! Why?
Because anything that inspires
our creativity is good and
should be embraced.
Take the guy that gets
carbon-comp resistors retrofit-
ted into his Tube Screamer
pedal: If he feels the mod has
improved the pedal’s sound,
he’ll feel better about his tone
and he will play better. And this
applies even if the mod makes
little or no change to the sound.
This takes us into the world of
psychoacoustics—the effect the
mind has on our perception of
sound. But what really matters
are the notes coming from the
guitarist’s fingertips. If scoring
a piece of gear lifts his game,
that’s what counts. The end
result is tangible.
BEN FULTON designs
Red Witch analog ped-
als, which are heard in
arenas, studios, and
bedrooms around the
world. Andy Summers
and Reeves Gabrels are
pleased he ended up doing this instead
of going to prison. His mum is relieved
about this, too.