Tips and Tricks: Advice From 4 Pedal Builders and Designers
Let’s face it: there is no lack of women playing music—we are everywhere—but we at She Shreds couldn’t help but wonder, “What about women gear builders?”
We reached out to a few boutique pedal companies, owned and/or operated by women, to ask about their experiences and to offer advice to demystify the world of designing and building.
Louise Hinz / Dwarfcraft Devices
Ben Hinz started Dwarftcraft in 2007. He couldn’t afford his own gear, so he took the DIY route and engineered his own. The company exploded as guitarists caught wind of their flagship product The Great Destroyer, a heavy fuzz pedal with rhythmic oscillation. When Ben couldn’t keep up with building, his wife Louise stepped in.
Gear forums were particularly helpful to Louise when she began. “The problem for a woman is that forums are tremendously unfriendly,” she says. “It’s really hard to not be intimidated, because the place you go to learn is intimidating all on its own.” She says that new boutique companies are way more supportive and want more women involved.
Advice: “Read forums about building. Get kits and schematics and keep trying. If you want to design, work on an idea that is original, because that is how you rise to the top. You need armor with the bullshit that is going to come at you. ”
Adrienne Wisok / Red Panda
Red Panda may not be owned by a woman, and the pedals may not be designed by one either, but this company is all-lady. Curt Malouin, founder, is currently the only male. “We joke around that we should do reverse sexual harassment, like putting up Playgirl calendars,” says Adrienne Wisok. She mentions that there are a lot of women in the music industry who work behind the scenes and always have, but you just don’t hear about them as much.
Adrienne was initially hired to do the final assembly—after the circuit boards were programmed she would assemble them into the metal enclosures, attach hardware, and make sure they were ready to go—but she has since started taking on more extensive roles, including prototype soldering. Red Panda’s most notable pedal is the Raster, a digital delay with a pitch shifter integrated into the feedback loop.
Advice: “If you want to know what a pedal does, crack it open, take it apart, and look up what the parts do. People are going to assume that you don’t know what you’re doing, but being underestimated is really valuable.”
Tara Pattenden / Phantom Chips
In her solo noise project Phantom Chips, based in Bristol, UK, Tara Pattenden builds all the devices and wearable instruments she performs with. She also works as an assistant for the audio device company BugBrand, and has built her own drone pedal, the Lerango, that she sells on her website.
In 2014, Pattenden co-hosted the workshop Infinity +1 for teen girls alongside multimedia artist Kate Geck. Participants developed many things, including a soldered oscillator, knitted stretch sensors, and a costume-based instrument. The workshop was developed when the two were brainstorming ways to get girls more involved with electronics and sound. “I think there are often less expectations for girls to become good at certain technologies,” Pattenden says. “It’s just part of a much bigger picture, but one we wanted to change by demystifying electronics.”
Advice: “Ask lots of questions! Take some workshops to get hands on experience soldering. Learn to read schematics and experiment with a breadboard. Take a practical approach.”
Carissa Spatcher / Snatchtronics
Ten years ago, Carissa Spatcher started taking apart broken pedals. She found herself fixing them and learning what all the components did. Shortly after, she started doing repairs for a local music store in Massachusetts and someone asked her to clone a very popular boutique pedal at the time—she did, and realized that building was something she could do.
Spatcher started Snatchtronics in 2004. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, the company is known for its Ovadrive pedal and it’s bass brother Bluballer. As far as women in the pedal business go, Spatcher says, “I think the more women who follow their technical inclinations, the more there’ll be.”
Advice: “Find someone who knows a little about electronics and have them show you something they know. Then you can build your confidence and know that it is possible to build your own effects or fix your own gear.”