Too Many Pedals?

If you have been playing guitar for longer than six months, you have begun to look at effects for your sound. What do they do ? where do you buy? what do you need how do you get “that” sound? A quick search on Guitar Center’s website or reveals the, literally, thousands of options guitar players have for pedals. But, recently blues guitar guru Joe Bonamassa, who has no shortage of pedals with his name on them, said that pedals are in effect (pun intended) a waste of time. To top it off he claimed that players that use guitar pedals are “lazy” and “untalented”

Here’s the quote from

“I’ve really gotten over pedals. I can’t keep up with this craze of boutique pedals that make you sound like everything but your guitar. I can’t get my head around it. So you don’t want to play a guitar [properly] so you buy a box that makes it sound like an algorithm, like you just fired up your computer and you can spend the night staring at your f*ckin’ shoes? C’mon man…

I know I’ll get sh*t for saying this, but it’s f*cking lazy. It’s insulting to people who spent 35 years playing and learning, like a lot of players. And we continue to work at it! These guys can barely play a chord but call themselves soundscapists. Get the f*ck outta here! It’s bullsh*t. There’s so much masking and spin going on there. Can we get real for a minute? What do you actually play? Pick up an acoustic guitar… try that!”

Lazy or Just Different?

Now, anyone who plays guitar or teaching music lessons, is going to feel the hairs rise on the back of their neck at this. But, stop for a minute and legitimately ask yourself if he has a point. Is it lazy? Does it mean that you can’t play guitar? Or perhaps, Mr. Bonamassa has a very narrow view of the guitar as an instrument of sound not just a collection of vintage tube amps (impressive though they may be).

I believe this attitude goes in line with what I perceive as grumpy old men complaining that the guitar is dead (see my article on the death of the guitar). It’s an instrument and it takes hours to dial in a tone on pedals. If what he is saying is true than Eric Johnson is lazy (check out his pedal board run down here). Steve Vai is lazy. It also means the guys from the post-rock guitar-heavy band And So I Watch You From Afar ( with  whom  I have personally talked about practice and work ethic) are directly insulting to people that have been retreading the same blues licks their entire career (eh-hem Mr. Bonamassa).

Just Make Music

I simply can’t believe that such a vast array of guitar players from the last 30 years can be that easily dismissed. Perhaps not all of us are a fan of Sigur Ros or God Speed You! Black Emperor but that does not mean they are not creating music. The guitar is an instrument used to make music. Not everyone is a virtuoso, but, that doesn’t mean those people can’t make beatutiful music. Erik Satie was thought of as simplistic when it came to his piano playing. However, his Gymnopédie No.1 influenced a whole generation of pianists and demonstrated the technical aspect in simple music done well.

Maybe that’s really the lesson here. Make music and do it well. That in and of itself is work. With all due respect, it doesn’t matter what Bonamassa thinks because the rest of us will keep moving forward with new music and trying to find new and interesting ways to have fun with a guitar. I’m not selling any of my pedals over this. If anything, EarthQuaker Devices is likely to get a bit more of my money (they didn’t pay me to say that – but they could send a free pedal if they want)


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