Music November 28, 2020
In 1967 at The Californian Monterey pop festival The Jimi Hendrix Experience were introduced on stage to 90,000 people. Jimi, Noel and Mitch played a set which immediately won over a huge number of new fans, using a basic rig played through the legendary Monterey sound system. The crowd were spellbound by Jimi’s guitar performance and the press were hugely impressed by Jimi setting fire to his Fender on stage (an obvious publicity gimmick which clearly worked, perhaps too well). Over 50 years later guitarists are still trying to replicate the Jimi Hendrix sound.
Keeley have produced the Monterey Pedal as a ‘Jimi Hendrix in a box’ product to give any guitarist a chance to get close to the Hendrix tones in one hit. If you do not already have a basic old school Fuzzface with vintage semi-conductor transistor plus a uni-vibe pedal and an auto wah pedal, then this pedal will give you all three in one and with more besides.
Straight out of the box and I am old enough to have owned a shirt with the same colour scheme and pattern as the pedal, however, the guitar effects have remained popular much longer than the shirt pattern of the time.
Keeley have included a lot of options in this pedal which will please most people and annoy others, as there is a need to explore the pedal carefully to find the tones you are looking for.
The foot buttons are standard right for fuzz and left for moderation. Starting with the fuzz side as this is the easy part with only two controls. The top right knob adjusts the amount of fuzz while top left is the output level. No tone adjustment or any other tweaks because in 1967 these did not exist. This transition-based fuzz effect will give you the Hendrix type clean tone which is more awkward to achieve with a modern digital fuzz. The trick is to not turn down the fuzz on the pedal but to set it towards the max, thereby rolling off the volume on your guitar until it sounds just right for a Hendrix clean tone which is warm and just a little bit dirty when played softly but starts to fuzz if you dig in harder. This way you have control at your finger tips rather than grovelling on the floor. To adjust the level simply up the volume on the amp to compensate, remember louder is always more gooder! You should then have a good approximation of a Hendrix clean tone which can instantly be rolled into full fuzz by using the guitar volume knob.
The modulation side is more complex. It includes a central mini 3-way toggle switch, presumably chosen to keep it protected from the user’s wayward foot. The downside of this being that it is difficult to see where it is set from above. The switch engages the rotary effect left, vibe effect centre and wah effect right. Three significantly different effects which work well individually and are adjusted with the two knobs immediately to the right for depth and rate of modulation and the far-left knob adjusts the level of modulation. The final knob, marked octave, is essentially an additional effect which works well with the wah and vibe setting but acts more as a tone control in the rotary setting. At 12 o’clock the octave knob is off, by turning it to the left a loco octave will be gradually added to your sound, turned to the right and a higher octave will be added to provide another Hendrix option.
The vibe setting gives a whooshy-swooshy effect and the rotary setting is the more subtle Leslie speaker effect. The toggle right engages the auto wah, which is another Hendrix tone, this fine on its own but to fully control the wah effect you will need a separate expression pedal plugged into the back of the unit. Playing this side with the fuzz pedal off you have a good selection of interesting tones, kick in the fuzz button and you should be able to find a reasonable match for the Hendrix songs you wish to play.
As with other Keeley pedals, they have included a bonkers button at the rear to choose between normal Hendrix set up fuzz into modulate or reverse this pressed in, from modulation into fuzz. This later option tends to have a mind of its own and produces some wild effects, which I guess have a novelty value.
It will take time to set up the tones you are looking for and remembering where to find them again but then all that is required is to spend a lifetime trying to lean to play all the licks and tricks which Hendrix made famous. Alternatively, you may find a sound to make all your own, which is better still.
I use a standard American Fender Strat to get my Hendrix tones but any reasonable guitar will work well. Hendrix could have used a basic tube amp (Solid State amps will not respond as well to this driven sound) and an expression pedal into the back of the unit would be a good investment. Restringing your guitar with the special Hendrix strings gauges is probably not worth the faff. Although Hendrix was left-handed and played a right-handed Strat upside down with the strings reversed, I suspect this has little influence on the sound. Try not to become too obsessed and definitely stay away from setting fire to your fender in your bedroom, or anywhere else. RRP £299
- Excellent collection of effects
- Good value for money
- 4 Hendrix effect pedals in one
- Brilliant sound
- Robust build quality (pretty too)
- Multi effects will need to be set up for each song
- Three jack sockets, power input and bonkers button all at the back of the unit