The First Ever Guitar Effects
Todd Simpson
Jun 1 2021, 03:24 AM
Posts: 22.842
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Tremolo was the first ever stand alone guitar effect. It started the wave of innovation that later created delay and reverb. The first Tremolo was in 1964 by the DeArmond Research company from Toledo Ohio. They called it the “Tremolo Control”. It was small enough to be carry around for gigs and tours and gave the guitar a unique sound. DeArmond is the same guy who created the first ever electric guitar pickup and he built it from parts out of a Model T Ford. That’s innovation for ya. When he created the tremolo, there were no printed circuit boards. He had to find a way to make this effect with the limited technology of the day. Inside the tremolo unit is a can shaped bit that is about the size of a soup can. It’s full of liquid and has a little electrode in it. A small motor moves the can back and forth and when the liquid hits the electrode, the signal is cut and creates the tremolo effect. The rate knob just speeds up the rate at which the can moves and thus the speed of the tremolo effect. It’s about as basic as it gets but it worked and it gave guitar a brand new sound. People loved it and it became a stape for guitar players all over the world.

When legendary guitarist LES PAUL decided he wanted to replicate the sound of a large space with a guitar amp in it, the world was about to be changed forever. He hooked to reel to reel tape units together, sent the first signal to the second unit and it created a time “delay” it was the first “echo” effect which later became what we call “delay”. Another musician named RAY BUTTS then took the idea further and created a combo amp with a built in tape echo machine. Effects were now part of the gear that would change tone forever. This amp was called the “ECHO SONIC”. It became a hugely popular amp.

Following this, standalone tape echo units became available. Technology progressed and the echo effect became a staple across genres. Guitar players loved it and embraced it. The effects kept improving over the years but it all traces back to Les Paul experimenting with new sounds.

Then in 1939 a man named Laurens Hammond created “Spring Reverb”. Yes, it’s that Hammond, of Hammond Organs. He sold them to churches primarily and they wanted the organ to sound like it was in a big cathedral. So Hammond modified an invention by Bell Labs and came up with Spring Reverb which made the Hammond Organ sound HUGE.

Before long mr Dick Dale came along and put his guitar and vocals through a Hammond Spring reverb unit and created his own unique sound. However, the unit was too big for easy transport during a tour so Dick Dale partnered with Leo Fender to create a smaller more portable unit just for guitar. Leo licensed the spring technology from Hammond and created the Fender Spring Reverb Tank.

These articles were very helpful in writing this piece.

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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Jun 1 2021, 03:26 AM
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