The Beatles FX Pedals Guide
The Beatles were musical pioneers, so it’s no surprise that when artists started to use FX pedals, the Beatles were also on top of this trend. Here’s a look at some of the pedals the Beatles have used…and what similar gear you can get to achieve similar tones!
One of the first FX pedals invented was the fuzz…which is not to be mistaken with overdrive or distortion. It’s much harsher! Though, at low volumes (as it was probably most used by the Beatles to start with) it can add a little extra “kick” on your solos without distorting too much.
One of the first fuzzboxes invented was the Maestro Fuzztone, and the Beatles have used it. It can be seen on some photographs that seem to be dated from the 1063-1964 days:
Beatles and Maestro Fuzztone (click to enlarge)
Photographs showing the Beatles and the Maestro Fuzztone
Another fuzz pedal the Beatles have used was an WEM Pep Rush, reportedly used on the Paperback Writer recordings. The photograph below, taken around that same era, shows Lennon fiddling with the Pep Rush fuzz pedal:
Lennon and a Pep Rush fuzz
It’s important to note that even though there’s photographic evidence of the Beatles using fuzz pedals from as early as 63/ 64, it doesn’t mean they used them live.
Other fuzz pedals the Beatles are said to have used include the Vox Tonebender, and a Fuzz Face, during the later, Let It Be era. All those pedals are very basic, harsh effects with no tone control. If you want to get a “Beatles fuzz” then, you should get something similar…like the aforementioned Fuzz Face, or maybe the Electro-Harmonix Double Muff, which is very basic and raw – perfect for vintage tones! Though the new Boss FZ-5, thanks to its COSM technology, is said to nail vintage fuzz tones (like…the Fuzztone!) pretty well.
Beatles with a Vox Tonebender – sitting bottom right, on top of amp head
The Beatles also used Vox Conqueror amps which at the time had in-built fuzz, and this may be the sound you hear in some Sgt. Pepper recordings.
The most basic FX pedal the Beatles have used, was a volume pedal. It was famously used in their b-side “Yes It Is” Apparently, according to legend, George Harrison wasn’t quite able to play his guitar part and use the volume pedal at the same time, so John Lennon was controlling it instead, with his hand! If you want a volume pedal, you can get some pretty good ones now, such as the Dunlop Hi-Gain Volume or the vintage-style Fender Volume pedal.
For one of the Beatles’ loudest records, the ‘Revolution’ version found as the b-side of ‘Hey Jude’, no FX pedals were used – to achieve the piercing fuzz sound, John Lennon’s guitar was plugged directly into the mixing desk, with the channel’s gain right up. They did this in order to get a really distorted sound but avoiding unwanted feedback.
Those were pretty much the only fx pedals the Beatles used for most of their career…but in 1969, during the Let It Be sessions, George Harrison started to experiment with more sounds, and besides the Fuzz Face, he also used a Wah Wah pedal. A Vox Wah or a Dunlop Cry Baby will be perfect for any fans of Let I Be-era Harrison. However, if you want vintage Wah authenticity, the best options are the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Signature Wah or the Dunlop Classic Wah-Wah with Fasel, which are even more faithful to the sixties sound.
Another effect George Harrison explored in those final days of the Beatles, was the Leslie Rotating Speaker. Of course, Leslie cabs are incredibly rare and expensive now, but some really good pedals replicate that sound. Try the Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotosphere (by far the best one), or the Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble. They don’t come cheap…so the best introduction to Leslie sounds is probably the Behringer RM600 Rotary Machine, which sounds really good, too.
This is the original wah-wah pedal used to create many classic rock sounds. Relied on by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, Buddy Guy, Slash, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde and many other greats. A fast-reacting effect for unmistakable tone bending. Who's Using It: Eric Clapton Joe Perry - Aerosmith Lenny Kravitz Billy…
The Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah pedal gives guitarists a wide range of classic auto-wah and dynamic wah effects, plus a new "Humanizer" effect which can simulate human vowel sounds. A Bass input provides a variety of funky wah sounds for bass guitar.
Compact pedal creates a variety of classic "wah" effects …
Electro-Harmonix did it again! Introducing another original innovation for the discerning guitarist and musician... The Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker is a great distortion/sustainer pedal that will remind you of the classic Pi with new capabilities. The distortion out of this box will expand your tonal palette to new areas. Freedom to flick the switches will result in…
Roland was one of the first companies to bring chorus to guitarists with it's legendary 70's effects, that legacy continues with deep swirling hues and rapid, space gun oscillation from the Boss CH-1. This is the chorus pedal used by artists such as Chris Shiflett (Foo Fighters), Zakk Wylde and Joe Satriani. Now you can extend your enjoyment with the…
Electro-Harmonix Stereo Polychorus
The Stereo Polychorus provides the lushest stereo chorus, rich chiming flange, and the over the edge effects that made this versatile pedal legendary.
24DC-100 power supply included
The first wah-wah al designed by bass players for bass players. Incorporates a new proprietary potentiometer and custom EQ circuitry, specially optimised for bass frequencies. Applies wah effects to midrange, highs and overtones, while leaving a strong fundamental to hold down the bottom. Used by Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rex of Pantera, Danny Saber and more. …
Availability:Call 0844 815 0888
And now the most trusted name in wah pedals is also the new worldwide agent for Fasel, and so Dunlop has introduced the Original Crybaby featuring ‘Fasel Inside’. This wah faithfully recreates the vowel-like sweep and lush harmonic sparkle heard on so many classic recordings. If you want that vibe, you need Fasel Inside And the Original Crybaby has…
Availability:Call 0844 815 0888
Electro-Harmonix has recently released a collection of new guitar FX pedals for NAMM 2014. Read our article about the new products, here The guitar effects pedal that started it all The distortion countless musicians such as Hendrix, Santana and Jack White relied on for its rich, creamy, violin-like sustain. A timeless piece, the Big Muff has been defining the…
Availability:Call for availability
Modulation madness! All-analog multi-effects processor featuring Phaser, Tremolo, Vibrato, and a Neo-modulated Wah. At the heart of The Worm is a specially designed tone-bending engine that creates groundbreaking oscillatory effects. Features: True bypass Mode selectable analog modulation effects: wah, phaser, vibrato, tremolo Manual mode removes the modulation so the effects can be swept by hand …
Availability:Call 0844 815 0888