Originally published on dolphinmusic.co.uk Thu December 11, 2008
Find out what fx pedals the Fab Four used with our complete Beatles effects 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 pedal...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
Here's some really cool photographs showing the Beatles and the Maestro Fuzztone!
The bad news for Beatles fans is that an original Fuzz Tone is very rare and expensive - you'll probably have to sell your house to afford one! But the good news is that it's very easy to find pedals that catch that same tone!
The Maestro Fuzztone has been recently recreated in the form of the Electro-Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz Pedal. It is named after the most famous song ever to feature a Maestro Fuzztone... by that other great band from the sixties! The Electro-Harmonix pedal doesn't look like a Fuzz Tone, but the circuit was based on it, so it has exactly the same sound!
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:
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!
The Beatles also used Vox Conqueror amps which at the time had in-built fuzz, and according to some experts this may be the sound you hear in some Sgt. Pepper recordings, which has lots of fuzz guitar sounds. We suggest getting hold of an AC30 and throwing a cool fuzz pedal through it though - much cheaper and easier to get your hands on!
OTHER BEATLES FX PEDALS
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 Volume X Mini or a Boss FV500H 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.
LET IT BE
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 V845 Classic Wah-Wah or a Dunlop Cry Baby will be perfect for any fans of Let It Be-era Harrison. For even more authentic, vintage sounds, the most expensive wah pedals such as the Vox Handwired Wah and the Clyde McCoy Cry Baby are the best options. If you're on a budget, though, the affordable Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah Pedal will do a great job and weighs a lot less!
Another effect George Harrison explored in those final days of the Beatles, was the Leslie Rotating Speaker, which the Beatles used a lot during their psychedelic days, including many tracks on 'Magical Mystery Tour' and on John Lennon's vocals on 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.
Of course, Leslie cabs are incredibly rare and expensive now, but some really good pedals replicate that sound effectively! In fact, it's hard to tell the difference between a vintage Leslie cab and these pedals! Try the Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble or the Strymon Lex Rotary for those classic 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds' sounds. Another great pedal that provides great Leslie sounds is the Electro-Harmonix Lester K Stereo Rotary Speaker.