“I HIGHLY RECOMMEND WRITING AS a means to find what effects work best for you,” says jazz-rock vanguard Oz Noy. “When you write music in your own voice—only you know what sounds will fit. Players look at all the effects on my pedalboard and ask, ‘How did you get there?’ The answer is through composition and orchestration.
“Dry sounds are fine for groove-oriented stuff, but I prefer a wet signal for melodic material. Chords sound bigger, and the additional sustain can add meaning. I’ll often use echo or tremolo to add depth and vibe to a slow song. That vibe can lead you where you want to go. ‘Underwater Romance’ from my latest CD, Schizophrenic [Magnatude], is a good example. I was checking my pedals. I had a long delay, and a light tremolo. The sound led me to the open-sounding chord melody that begins the song.
“Another effect-oriented inspiration on that song is less obvious, but it was equally important. I had been meaning to record a ballad with a slow, ethereal loop in the background. I played a part through an Xotic RoboTalk into the looper on a Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler, and then I halftimed it, which lowers the part by an octave. You can hear it adding texture when the band comes in about a minute into the song. I don’t think I would have been able to write ‘Underwater Romance’ without the effects.
“When I first started writing my own material, the ideas came from grooves and harmony, but I wanted to fill out the sound once I started applying them to the trio concept. That led to using effects for orchestration. Certain licks or rhythms can lead to effects ideas, and I’ve come to use specific effects in specific ways. To me, the Leslie is a very important effect. I use it as a color to orchestrate specific parts. It’s like adding an organ to accentuate certain hits. ‘Jelly Blue’ is a perfect example. Nearly a minute into the tune’s bluesy head, you can hear me turn the Leslie on and off whenever the melody doubles up with the bass line, or whenever I play a chord. It comes and goes very quickly, but that’s what makes it for me because it divides the melody and the harmony.
Oz Noy’s newest release Schizophrenic
“Such orchestration requires some serious dexterity in your footwork, and it took me a while to develop. I don’t recommend practicing with effects in general, however. They can be confusing if you’re, say, running scales. It’s more efficient to try to get the sound from your hands. Effects need to have a reason to be. I don’t tweak pedals all day. That bores me. I use them for musical purposes only. I have certain concepts in my head, and I try to find the best pedal for the job. It only gets a space on my pedalboard if it works to help deliver the songs, otherwise I won’t waste time with it.”