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.


  1. 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

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