My Desert Island Guitar Pedal? The smallsound/bigsound Mini Overdrive.

Desert Island Guitar Pedal

I got an email the other day asking me what my #1 favorite guitar pedal was—if I could only pick one. It got me thinking, so I thought I’d talk about why for me personally, it’s got to be the smallsound/bigsound Mini overdrive. No, I’m not being paid by smallsound/bigsound or anything like that, I just really, really like this pedal…

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Today we have a fun one for you. Somebody emailed in and asked me what my desert island guitar pedal would be? Which by the way, thank you to those of you that will email in questions; it can be hard sometimes to come up with new ideas for what we should talk about, so it makes life a lot easier to have suggestions.

I thought long and hard about this. I have a pretty full board, I’ve got probably eight or 10 pedals on it at a time, and I use a little bit of everything, from chorus, to phasers, to flange, to delays, and reverbs, and drives and all that sort of cool stuff. So it was pretty hard to try to whittle it down to just one single pedal.

I debated a bit about this. Do I just go all in on fuzz and just be able to do J Mascis style riffs and nothing else? That was actually pretty tempting. Do I just get a phaser and stay really funky like this Apollo II from SolidGoldFX? I thought about that too, but that seemed kind of weird to have one pedal on a board that was just a phaser…

I also thought about going with just a delay like the Strymon El Capistan—which is definitely my favorite tape delay and probably my most used delay in general. That was a really, really close one because I do love delay—it really shapes the way that I play certain parts and it can be hard to play things just a certain way without it.

Then I even kind of had a weird thought, do I just be like DEVO and pick a the Ring Modulator just to be as awkward as possible and make the most alienating sounds? This one actually, I thought would be a pretty good idea considering the fact that in this example I’m on a desert island and what I need to do most is to make screeching sounds that will be noticed by boats or passing aircraft. For that, I thought the Ring Modulator could be pretty good, especially if I had like a full stack with me, I could definite.y make some good distress signals out of a ring mod…

But no, when it really boiled down to it, I went with a pedal that I’ve talked about before—right now it’s my favorite pedal, that could certainly change in the future but I sure do love it a lot—the Mini Overdrive from smallsound/bigsound. If you haven’t heard of smallsound/bigsound before, Brian’s the guy who does it, it’s just him as far as I know. He is the keyboardist in Cymbals Eat Guitars, which is an awesome band as well.

The Mini is a JFET Overdrive, but it can do so much more than what you think of when you hear that. It’s really small and it packs a ton of punch. It’s got five knobs, bass, treble, a bias switch we’ll show you, gain and a volume. Everything you need.

Ultimately when I thought about it, if I’m on a desert island and I want to play the most riffs to keep myself entertained, drive is just like the sound of the electric guitar. Reverb is really important, delay is important, all those things can have a big effect on your tone, but ultimately like just an overdriven or a crunchy guitar, is to me the classic sound of the electric guitar. I think if I only had one pedal to go with it would be one that could do that.

The reason I chose this particular one instead of all the other overdrives I own, is it can do so much across the drive spectrum. I can get everything from like a really light high biased breakup, like an even cleaner Tube Screamer or something like that. I can also get really, really fuzzy. I can also get some awesome like old, dirty Silvertone sounds.

Check out the video above to hear all of the different tones this little pedal can put out, and skip to the 4:00 minute mark if you want to jump straight to the demo portion.

32 Responses

  1. So if you were stranded on an island like Tom Hanks on Castaway there would not be any electricity so I would opt for an accoustic guitar and a flair gun. But if you put a flair gun to my head I would take an Electro-Harmonix Memory-Man. Big box version

  2. The ss/bs mini would be my pick too. I currently own 2. 1 is an older circuit with a little more mids and a little less gain and the other is a brand new one. I had 3rd mini that I gave to a friend because I knew he needed a mini in his life

  3. I would take my home made looper, compressor, delay, fuzz pedal that is solar powered and can be used indefinitely while you poor schmos run out of power.

  4. My favorite “pedal” is my Line 6 POD HD500X, though it may not qualify as a pedal, it is pretty much all I use anymore. I have a pedal collection of about 18 – 20 different pedals, mostly Boss. I’ve retired the vast majority of them in favor of the POD. It has a learning curve, but once you have the hang of it, IT’S THE BOMB!

  5. Surprisingly I copped a Digitech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal and thoroughly love it! Basically it’s like 6 pedals and amp simulator all in one! Very happy to know that ultimately all I need is that one pedal to cover a gig

  6. My #1 would be my Rodenberg GAS LR I (Official Lee Ritenour Signature Model). Built like a German tank! I’ve been using it for over ten years now, for Rock, Blues and Jazz (and everything in-between). Here’s a selection of some of the features:
    three totally independent GAS units in one pedal
    GAS-909 (switchable to 808)
    GAS-707 More Alive! Clean Boost
    GO! Switch – momentary On-Off for short Fill Ins or single notes
    3 positions switch for Pre-Selection of the momentary GO! switch
    Rocker Switches with LED indicator
    Three bright JEWEL Leds for GAS-707/808/909 on/off
    Each GAS pedal has a BASS Boost rocker switch and Tone control
    Added Bolt/Serial – switch for two different working modes
    Specially dimensioned and selected components = overdrive at its best!
    True Bypass
    Good value for money, three pedals in one with features that would be impossible with 3 separate unless three or four legs and still pedals must be coordinated.
    Unfortunately this killer pedal has been discontinued…

  7. I would have a Boss Rc-3, so I could play with some backing, and multi-loop. I would never notice that I was alone on this desert isle.

  8. The Tone Concepts “Luke” model Distillery.
    It’s like a Klon with an EQ/Shaping section.
    I replaced my Klon when I got this!

    Its intuitive in that the controls are laid out ‘like’ a guitar player would lay them out, not an engineer. There are subtle levels that appear but don’t get muddled in with the mix that are controlled with the Contour and Edge (Which actually ARE Contour and Edge!!). The Bleed allows for how subtle the newly identified tones are without altering their impact.
    At the other end of the spectrum, the boost section seems to widen the headroom and not just slam into it like so many others do.
    Very useful tool for everything. I use it in blues, jazz and rock. An essential pedal.

  9. I would go with tuner. Apart from it I would take some delay monster. Boss DD500 though.

  10. Basically, none. The guitar and the amp. If I had to pick one. An MXR Phase 90. An original from the 70’s.
    One other, a Jangle Box with the 12.

  11. I never heard of the Mini but sounds cool. I just might check it out. You should check out the DOD Carcosa fuzz. It’s supper versatile which is a huge understatement. It also has a switch to adapt it to clean or dirty amps. This adds even more versatility depending on if you use it “correctly” or “wrong.” It also cleans up so well with the volume knob I really don’t need an overdrive unless I want to add punch. I’m a total fuzz lover so I also have the Deluxe Big Muff (which adds some cool options to the classic Muff sound if you want). I usually keep both on my board with one set on low gain and other other on high gain. However you do it, I think these two cover the entire range of fuzz anyone could ever want. I currently throw in a Mojo Mojo (an unsung hero) which stacks well with both, giving me innumerable options. I tend to like to mix things up with different songs.

    1. I’m going with my new Wampler Paisley Deluxe. That’s the pedal I’m into right now. Plus, it’s big, so I can use it to crack coconuts open. Gotta eat something if I’m stranded on some island.

  12. Has to be my Xotic BB Plus overdrive. Can go from SRV to screaming crunch and all points in between. It’s fat and smooth and there isn’t a bad tone anywhere in it.

  13. I have recently discovered pedals. I learned how to play guitar on a 1947 Gibson arch top acoustic guitar that my Uncle Bill lent me (for 8 years!). I am largely self taught having had a few months of lessons with a former lead guitar player for Celtic Frost. Anyway, I discovered pedals when I got a small Vox valve amp with no frills last fall. My favourite pedal (now, I do love my tuning pedal, but I can live without it) is the Supro Tremelo pedal (maybe I was born to play surf rock). What I like about the tremelo pedal is how it gives a nice, subtle shimmer to my playing when used at low settings. As, primarily a folk musician, subtle use of effects fits my music. I do like my Ibanez tube screamer, delay and reverb pedals, even my ring modulator and a few other odds and ends. However, I tend to stick to a less is more approach and use pedals sparingly. I play primarily an Ibanez JP-20 hollowbody or a G & L Asat Classic. For acoustic a Guild orchestra sized guitar or a Little Martin acoustic electric (because it is so fun to play and out performs its modest price). In the end, though, I can live cheerfully without pedals and would rather only have a few on hand that I can use well. Instead of adding to my modest pedal collection, I’d rather acquire another guitar, perhaps a G & L Legacy or a Sawchyn acoustic with on board pickup.

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