Tone Roses: Five Influential Fuzz Tones
Fuzz. The first frontier.
There’s a plethora of different sonic effects out there these days that allow guitarists a wide palette to choose from when making noise—but nothing changed the landscape like FUZZ. Seems like every guitar legend had a fuzz pedal (or two, or three) in their arsenal that became a signature sound and that influenced generations of guitarists to come. Today in Andy’s Corner, we’re looking at 5 influential fuzz tones—the tones that have shaped rock and roll itself.
MAESTRO FUZZ TONE FZ-1
You’ve heard it your whole life: the Maestro Fuzz Tone FZ-1 was used perhaps most famously on Keith Richards’ intro lick to “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)” – a song that you probably hear at least 200 times a year. Pete Townshend is another known Fuzz Tone user, famously using the pedal at Monterey Pop Festival (the pedal, unlike his guitar, was NOT set on fire!). The Fuzz Tone was one of the first commercially produced fuzz pedals and widely regarded by fuzz gurus to be the pedal that started it all.
ELECTRO HARMONIX BIG MUFF
Seems like there are a hundred variations on the Big Muff – and deservedly so. Mike Matthews’ legendary fuzz pedal has been a mainstay of several iconic guitar rigs, notably David Gilmour’s rig. The solo in “Comfortably Numb” that gives you chills every time you hear it? Yep—that’s the Big Muff. The Muff’s creamy, rich sustain made it a legend that continues to be featured in epic rock tunes- Smashing Pumpkins and Dinosaur Jr carried the Big Muff torch in the 90s and Jack White carries it today.
DALLAS ARBITER FUZZ FACE
Known for its killer tone and its funny looks, the Fuzz Face is an icon in its own right. The round enclosure of the Fuzz Face is instantly recognizable and made appearances in countless guitar rigs, but none so famous as Jimi Hendrix’s rig. If you have a favorite song off of Are You Experienced, it’s got a Fuzz Face on it. More recently, the pedal has been favored by modern players like Joe Bonamassa and Eric Johnson, whose soaring “Cliffs of Dover” has become an iconic song in the guitar canon and is now forever associated with the Fuzz Face.
The Tone Bender has a long semi-convoluted history, with several versions of the pedal being used by guitar icons. Jimmy Page used the Tone Bender in the early days of Led Zeppelin; it was a key component of Eric Clapton’s sound in Cream; Mick Ronson used one with Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust era; and Jeff Beck famously used them with the Yardbirds. The Tone Bender was built by many different companies at different times: Sola Sound, Colorsound, and Vox all produced Tone Benders throughout the years. Today it seems like every pedal company produces a pedal that is their nod to the Tone Bender.
Z. VEX FUZZ FACTORY
Though the Fuzz Factory wasn’t around in the 60s and 70s, it has become a modern classic since it arrived on the scene in the mid 90s. Zachary Vex’s most famous pedal has a fuzz circuit that is initially modeled on a Fuzz Face style circuit—but the pedal takes a radical detour, introducing self-oscillation and feedback loops to produce a distorted tone that sounds similar to circuit-bending. Since its introduction, the Fuzz Factory has been embraced by a variety of your garden variety guitar hero: Matt Bellamy (Muse), John Frusciante, Nels Cline, and Billy Gibbons are all known users of the Fuzz Factory—with Bellamy taking the cake somewhat with his custom built Hugh Manson guitars that have the Fuzz Factory circuitry built in to the guitar. In the aftermath of the Fuzz Factory, a plethora of fuzz pedal companies have popped up offering their take on the unique characteristics of the Fuzz Factory.
We got into a lengthy discussion in the office today over which 5 pedals to highlight here. Obviously there a million fuzz pedals and several that we didn't get to (Octavia, Scrambler, Fender Blender, Bueller?!). What fuzz pedal/performance inspired you and what fuzz pedals are you using on YOUR boards these days and why?! Until next time, keep yer gain cranked!