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Special FX: Guitar & Bass Stompboxes Take Center­Stage

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • Survey
• Created: March 23, 2017

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While the overall tally wasn’t as clear­cut as some recent MMR dealer surveys have been when it comes to shedding light on the overall “health” of a particular market segment, this month’s poll regarding guitar and bass effects pedals did indicate an overall positive assessment: more than 68 percent of participating retailers indicated that sales of these stompboxes are currently either level with or exceeding numbers from this same time in 2016.
Some trends that were repeatedly cited as being significant are an increased interest in “boutique” pedals, a preference for stand­alone (rather than multi) effects units, and a move towards pedals with a smaller footprint. Additionally, many remarked at the increased participation of bassists in this area. As Tom Dube of Dube’s Music in Freeport, Maine observes: “More bass pedals are being sought.” Backstage Music’s (Starkville, Mississippi) Allen McBroom agrees, noting that, “More guys are asking for bass pedals.”
Read on to learn about what’s hot – and what’s not – in guitar and bass effects pedals so far in 2017…
What larger trends have you been noticing in the guitar and bass effects pedals market?
“Pedals are in and multi­effects are out. More and more people are looking to going ‘amp­less.’ Especially in churches where players want to get all of the sounds they hear in contemporary Christian music and still not use an amp.”
Ken Cefalo Main Street Music, Inc. Tracy, California
“Effects pedals are the hard candy of the music retail world! They are eye­catching, fun in a slutty and superficial way, and ultimately if you buy one you will end up wanting another and another et cetera thereafter. I have noticed that our customers are increasingly informed when it comes to selecting the right one for them. Some of them are hip to the component level qualitative superiority of a lot of vintage pedals. They can talk transistors and diodes and will educate you too given the chance. They are also into modded pedals. It is how I learned about the ‘Keeley mods’ for the BOSS distortion pedal and so on. Beyond this looping pedals are the wah wah pedal of this generation and continue to attract interest and money. It’s a great space for us and we try to stock both vintage and new pedals of all types…I personally like to sell value and feel that the $100+ price point for pedals demands either innovation, tone exclusivity, or breadth of features in order to represent positively. Throwing out a fuzz pedal at $200 and expecting it to fly off the shelf is unrealistic and lazy. The same goes for reverb, flange, tremolo and chorus et cetera.”
John Middle ACME House of Music Oakland, California
“People Are pretty sick of the multi­effect, no­life sounds of the digital age. They want simple again.”
John Donavan Yin Yang Music Wilburton, Pennsylvania
“The staples are still staples. Everyone still wants the standard BOSS pedals, Crybaby, Phase 90. The top sellers include loopers and delays. Trending right behind that is some of the newer companies like Wampler and Earthquacker. Graphics and sounds are interesting and, as always, we’re listening for something new!”
Philip Leitz Leitz Music Co., Inc. Panama City, Florida
“Even though multi­effects units out now are incredible values and sound better than ever, we still seem to be in the midst of the trend toward individual stomp boxes. I think players are drawn to the idea that their setup is unique to them and can be tailored to any particular gig from night to night.”
Tony Harrison The Cape Fear Music Center Fayetteville, North Carolina
 “We tend to sell a lot of high­end pedals… heavy emphasis on the word ‘sell’. We don’t just throw a bunch of pedals on the shelf and hope somebody buys something… and that’s exactly what a lot of retailers do. We treat would­be pedal customers the same as guitar, amp, et cetera, buyers. We have had customers spend in excess of $1,000 at a time on pedals because we took the time to qualify them properly and we had the product knowledge to help them achieve their stated goal.”
Tim Bascom Morgan Music Lebanon, Missouri
“Newer players seem to like the simpler ‘singles’ effects (overdrive, distortion, et cetera) They also show interest in ‘classic’ effects (Rat, et cetera) Advanced players seek out boutique pedals, as they are looking for a specific sound to match their amp and guitar.”
Frank Karnes Lynchburg Music Center Lynchburg, Virginia
“One trend is the downsizing of the physical dimensions of pedals as guitar and bass players try to cram more effects into a ‘carry­able’ pedal board. These pedal boards can often be one of the largest and heaviest pieces of gear the guitar player carries to gigs as amplifiers become smaller, lighter and more powerful. I see effects companies putting more effort into making pedals that are small, but that may do more than one effect at a time. It makes me wonder how long it may take before we go full circle back to multi­effect racks. Maybe something that combines a more intuitive pedal­like, guitarist­ friendly interface with the power of a pro rack unit. ‘What’s old may become new again’ someday.”
Joe Chiappone Northfield Music Pittsford, New York

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