Create a wall of distortion with the Fender Shields Blender guitar pedal

Even some diehard music fans might not know the name Kevin Shields, but you’ve probably heard his style of guitar playing. 

The brains (and vocals, and guitar) behind the band My Bloody Valentine, Shields created a distorted, sweeping, and almost chaotic tone that reverberated not just in concert halls but through many of the best 90s alt-rock bands. While I’d probably make the case that the band itself is not as well known unless you know your musical canon, Shields certainly invented a sound that is one part shoegazer and another part a wall of distortion. 

Fender deserves some kudos for creating new products that don’t just add to the already well-stocked list of guitar pedals. What they’ve been doing lately (or maybe I should say for many years now) is creating products that help you recreate classic sounds, and then augment, enhance, and build upon that legacy — quite literally.

The Fender Shields Blender is a fuzz machine for people who want to create inventive sounds that no one has ever heard before, just like Shields. I used a Fender Telecaster Vintera II with this effects pedal and was able to create some weird looping sounds just by adjusting the dials and then trying some strange chords I read about on the web. Is that all it takes? Not at all. But I was impressed that I was hearing something that sounded unique to my ears, and that’s what it’s all about.

For starters, you can really get some weird crunch out of this pedal that is not possible if you just use a distortion pedal or a setting on your amp. In the product description, Fender makes a similar point — you can take the basic fuzz sound Shields invented and augment it even further. I loved trying to imitate a shoegazer drone with this pedal, a low metallic hum that is not at all like heavy metal or even mainstream alternative rock.

The pedal made me want to experiment more, and then listen to bands inspired by My Bloody Valentine to try to emulate what they were doing as well. As a fan of the band Television back when they were indie rockers and no one ever talked about them, I also tried to emulate their sound. I like the analog nature of it all; plug in your 9-volt battery and start rocking. The experience didn’t seem digital to me, but something far more cathartic and analog.

Once you have the basic sound you want, you can also use the foot switches (all four of them) to add and subtract tones while you play, which is much easier to do that using some sort of digital effects or an amp. You can keep right on playing like Shields did back in the day, without stopping to adjust your tone.

My only slight complaint here is the price. I know guitar pedals have not maintained the same low price as when I was first learning guitar, but at $299 this is a fairly specialized device. Here’s the thing =– I’m okay with that. I like that these products are more narrowly focused and give guitar players like me a chance to experiment more. Heck, I might even write a song again.