This guy eats, sleeps, and breathes guitar effects...
Harmony Central has always been proud to be a part of the online world of musicians, sharing both people and information across multiple sites. One of our most conspicuous cross-polinators is Bart (DiscoFreq) from Guitar Effects Database. You can regularly see links through to the Guitar Effects Database site every trade show, and it makes for a great one-stop shop to see everything in the world of effects pedals that has been announced, as well as a valuable resource to looking up anything that's been released in the last decade or so. We asked Bart, its owner, to take a few minutes to talk guitar effects, running an effects database, and what gets him excited.
What is your personal relationship with Harmony Central?
I think I started visiting the site and forums around '98-'99, when I had my first internet connection. The Effects forum was both interesting and fun, I'm still in touch with some of the other people from that time.
What inspired you to begin the Effects Database?
Around April 2003 I was looking for information about envelope filters (to use on my bass, analog synths and drum machines), especially about the different models and their options. When I googled I mostly bumped into the same few models and the longest list I found had less than 20 models on it. After a few evenings I already had a much longer list, so I dediced to make a very small and very basic site about it: DiscoFreq's Envelope Filter site.
When I moved to a different appartment (to live with my girlfriend) I lost my provider and had to move the site from the provider's free hosting account to a "real" hosting account (at filters.muziq.be
because I planned to make several music-related websites) where I installed a CMS (Content Management System) and started adding filters for modular synthesizers (in Eurorack, MOTM,... formats), after that I started adding synth pedals and ring modulators because there was not a lot of info about those either, then flangers, phasers,... until I decided I couldn't keep avoiding the huge amount of distortion and overdrive pedals... In 2008 I renamed the site to Effects Database.
A few years later I also registered modulardatabase.com
with the intention of moving all "module" info to a separate site, but I never had enough time for that, a shame given how that market blew up 🙂
How many people are involved in the maintenance and updating of the Effects Database?
I do it all by myself. The last 2 years it became really hard to combine with job and family (2 young kids) and the constant stress to get the costs covered.
Since a while manufacturers can submit info and pictures for their pedals, which I still process but it definitely helps. But so far that's only a small part of the new additions.
For reviews and demos I use local guitar players (including Bieke from HCFX), but I'm also working on something to make that more uniform and improve the quality of the videos.
About how many people visit your site a month, and what do they do while they are there?
It used to be more than 100,000 unique visitors per month until a new Google algorithm changed the ranking quite a lot. Earlier this year I was around 70,000 unique visitors but since a few months I'm being punished for not being "mobile friendly", so it dropped to around 50-60,000 now. There have been a few designers who were working on a new (and mobile-friendly) design, but so far they didn't deliver...
Since August 2006 there have been more than 26 million pageviews.
Why share content? So many sites do everything they can to pretend they are the only places musicians can get information, yet you generously point your users to the best place for a given piece of content and regularly participate in Harmony Central during trade shows.
My first site was a kind of directory site based on my bookmarks. For the effects site I also wanted to link directly to the manufacturers to make it easier to find the small manufacturers. I also linked to review sites and schematics as I didn't want to do the same, just link it all together.
What are some of the hottest effects at the moment?
I really like Chase Bliss Audio: analog pedals with a LOT of (digital) control possibilities and very useful for almost everyone.
Also Drolo, Alexander Pedals, Hologram Electronics, Meris, Lightning Wave, HomeNoise Effects,...
What are some of your favorite effects companies?
D*A*M: classic pedals of the highest quality, especially for those pedals the matching of the components makes a big difference. The price makes it hard to afford them though (I should have bought them when I discovered them on eBay
), but that doesn't mean they're not worth it...
Spaceman Effects: high quality, lots of attention to detail,... Just rather expensive as well...
Chase Bliss Audio (as mentioned before ;-))
Electro-Harmonix: big company, but they still dare to put out "weird" new pedals.
And a lot of others, like EarthQuaker Devices, Smallsound/Bigsound,... They make great pedals, I know a lot of them for years and they're great people to talk to. I wish I had the same "bond" with newer companies, but I'm so busy that the personal contacts suffer from it and there are so many new companies popping up that it's hard to get to know them all personally. They often grow faster thanks to social media, so they often have their own community and focus on that.
What effects are you most excited about that have yet to be released?
I'm looking forward to what Rose Pedals will be doing... That's the new brand by Tom Cram, who was responsible for all the recent DOD and DigiTech pedals until Harman "reorganized" the brand.
What’s your take on the musical instrument industry? Where are we at?
I think the financial crisis combined with the trend towards crafts and trades (probably also boosted by that crisis) was responsible for the boom in new small brands from all over the world. The last few years there were also a lot of very innovative small brands (as mentioned in the question about "hottest effects"), so even "high tech" pedals are not only coming from big companies anymore.
What’s your dream effect that hasn’t been invented yet?
I keep a list of ideas about pedals that "should" exist (often a twist on existing pedals which miss a certain feature), but I can't think of a real "dream effect" right now...
What’s your personal favorite effect?
It depends a bit on what I'm doing, but in general envelope filters are still my favorites (closely followed by fuzz). And both for its history, sound and response I'll choose the Mu-Tron III or the Micro-Tron.
How do you make better music?
Not sure how to read that question 😉
How do I improve my own music? Because of the site I don't have time for my own music anymore, but what I always did was trying to combine a lot of interesting sounds and keep working on the sounds of each instrument. More than working on the song itself, so I only have a number unfinished projects and a few songs that were about ready.
How do I improve music in general? Sounds pretentious if that's a bad interpretation of the question, but I know that in those 15 years I helped quite a lot of people find sounds they needed and also helped several brands get their first exposure (some are aware of that, others probably never noticed ;-)). I received mails and messages from some very famous musicians as well and pointed them in the direction of a pedal/brand they were looking for. And I helped Vernon Reid by bringing him in touch with the maker of the Pefftronics Randomatic pedals because his was broken and nobody could repair it. When I met him last NAMM he remembered and was still very grateful for that (a bit later he introduced me to Doug Wimbish when I saw him again at the Pigtronix booth :-)).
Thanks to DiscoFreq for taking the time to talk pedals! -HC-
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.