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Riding the pedals -- it ain't about your bicycle


Guitar Technique Sessions... Your Weekly Strength, Stamina and Dexterity Exercise

Week Number Fifty    September 23, 2005


Phase the flange? Echo the chorus? Chorus the echo? Where is my distortion pedal? Oh no, there's still a wah!

You've got enough stomp boxes (external effects pedals) to mimic just about every guitarist from Segovia to DImebag Darrel. What so few guitarists realize when they buy all these toys is that they are going to have to chain them all together. If you only use one pedal at a time, then you only need to worry about the aesthetics of the floor at your feet. If you want to use any two simultaneously, then the fun begins!

The Daisy Chain of Death

The order in which you place guitar -- all your pedals -- amplifier will make all the difference in the world. You'll either sound like a pro using all the colors of your sonic palette to create a masterpiece of tone, or you'll sound like little Tommy Pimple scaring the neighbor's cat out in his garage on any Saturday morning.

We all know the guitar goes next to you, everything else goes in between, and the signal ends at the amplifier. How does one go about making the decision as to where an effect sounds the best in his loop? There is trial and error, but one can go about this whole thing in a logical manner. How?

Think about what each effects pedal does. If the effect is one that should be used to color all your sound, then that one should be placed closest tot he amp. Think of a reverb unit (yeah,  they're all inside the amp these days, but there was a day of external reverb tanks.) The reverb makes your amp sound like it's playing in a large room or a cave. If you take this fact and work logically with it you see that it is at the end of the chain -- it makes the amp sound like it's in a bigger space. It works with the final sound. You wouldn't want to add a distortion pedal between the reverb and the amplifier because you'd be distorting the end product. You'd have a sound like a bad amp in a bad room. You want to sound like a distorted guitar in a large room, so the guitar gets distorted, then the resulting signal gets the reverb. Guitar + distortion pedal + reverb + amplifier = good natural sound. Make sense?


Logic should tell you that a phase shifter is something that you want to use late in the chain, closer to the amplifier, Why? Well, you want the guitar plus certain other effects to be phase shifted, you don't want to take the phase-altered signal and then distort that! Your distortion pedal would then take all the signal changes the phaser makes and add it's own odd-series harmonics and clipping to that. Result? Wall of Muck.

How about that Wah Wah. Think of it this way. The Wah is nothing more (most simply) than a foot-activated tone control. Where is your tone control? ON your guitar! The wah pedal goes first in the chain after your guitar. BUT MY AMP has a tone control!!??!!! Well, no it doesn't. What did I just write? Your amp has an EQ stage, simple as it is, to modify the tone for variations in the room. Don't think of it as a high frequency roll-off, which is what your tone control on your guitar is. The wah modifies your guitar's basic output signal -- just like a tone control -- then all your other effects modify that basic signal.

Okay, so where does the distortion pedal fit in? Just after the wah pedal and before your signal modifying pedals such as a flanger, phaser or chorus. You want to distort your basic signal, then process it. You don't want to process your signal than distort the process!

Understand what each device does. I consider certain devices organic -- they are a reproduction of a naturally occurring phenomenon. I consider those effects that do not exist outside a pedal to be inorganic -- they are a new phenomenon, one not found in the natural interaction bewteen guitar and amp. A processed signal -- anything that is desgined to process the signal -- EQ, echo, etc. is a processor, not an effect.


Basic rule:

These devices are 'organic'

Wah -- an outboard tone control.

Distortion -- emulates the natural sound of an overdriven amp.

Fuzz -- trashier, but same as above.

Octave Doubler -- creates an extra 'unprocessed' note either below or above -- treat it like a natural signal.

Acoustic Emulator -- a gray area here, but I liken it to an inorganically generated organic signal.


These devices are processors:

Flange -- adds a bit of generated pitch, altered to fatten and widen the resulting signal.

Phaser -- swirls the sound to fatten it by messing with the phase of the signal

Chorus -- beats me, sounds like a mix up of a phaser and a flanger.


Where does an echo unit fit in? It does generate a new signal and it is a generation of the natural signal. Does it go in close to the guitar? Nope. You want to echo all your effects, not effect all your echo. It goes dead last, right before the amp.


Okay, let's look at my mess. It functions in all permutations and combinations. It ain't like I have a million pedals, but I have at least one each of the organic, inorganic and extraneously processing effects!

Here's the rig: (L to R) Dunlop 95Q, Blues Driver, DOD Chorus, Dan Echo. I also have a in-line tuner, that can go anywhere. BUT not if you run one of your effects ALL THE TIME. Then you want the tuner just after the guitar, before your other effects.

The guitar plugs into the wah then the signal goes right down the line from left to right, then into the amp.

You can a use this as a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule, but experimentation is critical. Remember -- unless you're making really horrible noise, if it sounds like what you are aiming at tone-wise, it's right -- at least for you!




Be well, be back!



What's New? The Two New Albums!





Hey, the new albums are out! That's right, finally a follow-up to the reissue of my old album from the late 1980's and its sequel as well.

Reflecting Pools is a departure for me as it is totally keyboard. Well, the guitar did show up on one track... Reflecting Pools is an ethereal journey into the realm of relaxation. In That Zone is a more classically structured exploration of mood and personality.

Available through

...And containing nine tracks that are relaxing, inspirational -- sounds like a snooze. Not really, this is great stuff to listen to on a rainy afternoon, while with your significant other (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?) Please visit the Reflecting Pools page on this site or


LOW END What's new with the book that came out over a year ago? After being on back-order at for what seemed like a century, it is my understanding that copies are once again shipping. Barnes and Noble's website stocks new coipies of LOW END in an on again/off again mode.

DEEP END, the exciting sequel, is being shopped by my literary agent even as we speak.

The Guitar Sessions: Weekly tech tips and exercises to help the guitarist improve. This feature has really taken off. Each week a new page is posted with either an exercises to get the left and right hands moving more efficiently and effectively or an interesting piece from the standard repertoire , demonstrating a necessary technical ability. Judging by the hits these pages receive, you guitar players love this feature!

The page is updated every Thursday. Visit the 2004 Archive as well!




My Mission, My Policy

In my opinion, the murder mystery genre reached its zenith in the 1930's and 1940's. The novels penned in those decades were taut, no nonsense stories of people in life and death crises, people who did not flinch when confronted with overwhelming odds or overwhelming emotion. Some of these tales could be hard-edged and hard-boiled, but the heroes invariably had a soft side as well.

I believe that over the years, in an attempt to mimic real life, the writers of murder mysteries--and most other literature, for that matter--have lowered the standards of excellence set by such authors as the gritty Raymond Chandler and the sophisticated Dorothy Sayers. Many authors misinterpret smut for romance and brutality for strength.

My novels aspire to the standards set by the 1940's mystery writers. My tales are as real and grimy as the mean streets that spawned them. Even so, and though they deal with modern issues, you will not find gratuitous sex in my characters' relationships. Sex may be alluded to, but it is never allowed out from behind closed doors. You will find that my books are entertaining to a broad audience--I have had positive comments from teens to grandmothers. One reader was surprised when I told him that there were no obscenities in the book he'd just finished. He hadn't missed them! A good story doesn't need such unnecessary 'embellishment.'

I have conducted book signings at churches, country clubs, libraries and even a street corner (don't ask!) and I've never been called to task for, or ashamed of, my work. Pick up a copy of my latest novel and see if it isn't a good read!

Harry Pellegrin


As a native New Yorker and an American, I am still angered by the cowardly attacks of 9/11. Unless we restore New York City's skyline to its condition prior to September 11th, 2001, the miserable scum who attacked us will have won! Visit and rebuild America!



About My Site:

This site is a way for me to commemorate and celebrate a life and lifestyle that is now extinct. Why extinct? Is it that Thomas Wolfe " You-can't-go-home-again " thing? Is it because life is so much different now that what we experienced in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's is no longer relevant? Yes. No. Yes and no? Definitely maybe ! Why do I always start these little essays with questions?

At first, the main thrust of this site was to promote my book. It is a worthy goal; the book tells a good tale and everyone who has read it finds it entertaining and thought-provoking. With that sole goal, I went live with this site back in August of 2003. What happened next is what makes this site truly valuable.

There are people I grew up with, attended school and with whom I played in bands -- neighbors, friends, good family -- who I hadn't seen since I moved from the Bronx in 1986. Divorce had forced me into exile, time and distance conspired to seemingly turn this into a life sentence. Thank the muses for the internet! This site wasn't live for more than two months before I was reunited with Paul Silvestro , a childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in seventeen years. His brother Larry , the guy who had turned me on to playing guitar and taught me the things about music that matter the most, now with him I had no contact since 1983. Twenty years! Too long. I felt as if a part of my soul had been restored -- a part that had been missing for ages and had long ago been written off. But more was to come.

Anthony Pernice, Art Clement , Mike Moretti -- all reunited to me.

The 1960's weren't good to a number of us -- many of us had our personal demons to exorcise, be it substance abuse or the insidious hedonism of the times. but through it all, we were instilled with a vibe, cast in an artistic mold--call it what you will--but unless these same environmental stimuli are exactly reproduced, there will never be another crop of people quite the same.

This page delves into what we experienced and how we incorporated these experiences into art, music, literature and life . I've paid tribute to my neighborhood, the Wakefield section of the Bronx. The Discords -- Larry Silvestro and Artie Clemente's first band in the early mid-sixties-- they're here with their matching outfits, Fender, Hagstrom and Gretsch guitars plus those impeccably precise five part harmonies.

Of course, there is an homage to Leo Fender and his magnificent designs, the Telecaster © and the Stratocaster ©. I officially declare C.L. Fender an honorary Bronxite. These instruments have literally changed my life and the way we all hear music. Check out this page on my site.

Rory Gallagher, whom I saw play in 1973 and who has influenced me ever since--he has a page here as well. He has gone on now, but the impact he made is still rippling outwards, changing how we interpret the blues.

Untermyer Park in Yonkers and Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx are included on this site. We were kids interested in a good ghost story and both these places were terrific for providing a few innocent and fun goosebumps. Of course this was during the same period of time that Son of Sam was using Untermyer and Pine Street in Yonkers for his own uses... And we didn't know!!!

...and of course, my book!

Please enjoy this site. Nose around. Anyone can find something here to read and get a chuckle.





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