Post-NAMM Show (and what are all those many-colored pedals for?)

What is the NAMM Show, anyways?

It is the annual business conference for the National Association of Music Merchants, which has become the annual center of the universe for all things music gear. It embodies all aspects of the music retail business world, but suffice it to say, guitar dominates the many booths at the show. It is indeed about the music retail business, however, you can bet that there’s plenty of fun & games, especially in the surrounding hotel lobbies in the evening. There are a ton of live performances going on throughout the evening & there are a ton of people partaking in the craziness. About 90,000 people attended the four day conference. I’ve gone every year but one since 1979.


Namm 2015 crowd








Namm 2015 triple neck guitar









I understand if you are new to the world of guitar that you might not be so interested in such things. But this might be a good time to clarify for yourself just what your intentions are with your guitar playing in terms of what equipment you’ll need to perform the music you want to play. I just walked through miles of aisles of different brands of guitars, amplifiers, effects pedals & more. I realize that just like anything there seems to be infinite choices & it can be daunting to figure out where to begin.

People love to get into toys, whether it be with cars, or sports, or electronics, and music is no different. And wow are there a lot of toys to play with in the world of guitar. Besides the guitars themselves, you get to get into amplifiers & effects, maybe even eventually getting lost in the world of recording technology, which is extremely accessible now with personal computers being the main tool to record the music you create (or recreate).

As always, you first want to clarify your goals. If music is a hobby for you, then keeping it simple in terms of equipment would make sense. All you need is an acoustic guitar, or an electric guitar with some kind of amplification…. and it doesn’t have to be loud. A small practice amp can be sufficient for your needs, or you can now use your smartphone with some headphones, if you have the right kind of cable to hook your guitar up.

However, if you want to really dive into the world of musical equipment, it is almost inevitable that you will immediately become overwhelmed with all there is to explore with every single aspect of the gear world.

So I suggest you take it slowly and educate yourself with each component in an organized fashion. You will find numerous resources online for how to shop for an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, an amplifier and effects pedals. There are myriad demonstration videos on Youtube that show different brands of different types of gear. Just type in the name of the product & “demo”. Then you get to hear how they sound to the extent of a video can show.

The world of effects pedals & rack-mount effects can be extremely conducive to feeling like your lost in sea of sonic possibilities. I suggest you start with studying what the main groups of effects are and then take on each category on its own & learn about the basics.

Here’s a way to look at what are the main categories:

• Time-Based effects – this includes reverb, delays, echoes, chorus, phase shifters & flangers.

• Gain based effects

This includes distortions, overdrives, fuzz & boosts

• Spectral or Tone equalizer effects – these would be your wah wah pedals & equalizers.

(I’ve seen different variations of these kind of explanations but this is a good start)

It always amuses me to think of what it must be like for a non-musician to figure out what all those little different colored boxes on the floor do because their appearance has not much to do with their function. So the uninformed just see a guitarist stomping on the buttons and sometimes the sound changes drastically and sometimes the sound changes subtlety… how could anyone make sense of all that?

There are numerous websites that address all these things and finding the best website to help you learn can be overwhelming in and of itself. Again, just take it slow and keep at it and things will all start to become clearer for you. I was raised on guitar magazines (you know, like actually paper magazines that you held & turned the pages with your hand when you were ready to continue reading?) and that was a huge source of information about everything in the world of guitar.
And now we have this…

Remember, first take time to figure out what you want to do with your music & then this will help you decide on what would be the best gear for you.
Also, listen to the recordings you love & try to hear the different guitar sounds and their characteristics. If you Google the name of the track & the guitarists, I’ll bet you find information on what equipment was used to create that sound.

Please share what you found on your gear reconnaissance journey in the comments below & we’ll create a nice source of information resources right here on this blog.


trombone shorty

Trombone Shorty on the main stage.

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