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Tom Scholz And The Effects Evolution
Boston's Innovative Guitarist Impacted Today's Audio Effects
By John Foxworthy, Garage Radio
(more articles from this author)
2005-04-03
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I remember listening to music in my early years, basically what my parents listened to. Some songs I liked, some I didn’t … we’ve all been there, eh? Years later, as a musician, I noticed the differences in the way the signals were processed. I looked at music a different way … from the back end, not the end product. This would ruin music for most, enhances it for me.

Everyone must remember the old coil reverb and vibrato knobs on amps like the Sears Silvertone (classic stuff). Nowadays we process through mini nuclear plants … a long ride from our roots. From the old “Fuzz” box and Cry Baby to the digital harmonizer, effects processing has evolved by leaps and bounds since electric instruments were first introduced. Tom Scholz, best known as the guitarist of Boston, helped to spearhead the advancements present in today’s audio effects.

Scholz graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo, Ohio, in 1965, where he went on to maintain a 4.8 GPA out of 5.0 at MIT. Being 6’ 5” he was known to be a skilled basketball player rather than a killer guitarist. Tom graduated MIT with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and went on to become Senior Product Designer for Polaroid.

His strong interest in classical music, coupled with innate talents in the physical sciences and mathematics, resulted in his creating a rock-n-roll sound that was technically and artistically unlike anything anyone had ever heard. He finally got a record contract with Epic in 1976, and the Boston debut album sold over 16 million copies, making it the biggest selling debut album in history (sixth biggest selling overall!). Every Boston album has been certified platinum.

Tom is the main creative force, producer, and engineer on all the Boston albums, and he plays lead and rhythm guitars (acoustic and electric), bass, piano, Hammond organ, and percussion. In 1980 Tom started his own firm to design and manufacture signal-processing devices for musical instruments. This company, Scholz Research & Development, first created the Rockman line of products to help achieve that trademark Boston guitar sound (which had previously required extensive vintage tube circuits) using solid-state electronics.

The first device Tom manufactured was the Power Soak. This device, a little box that allows your amp to achieve great sound at low volumes, quickly became a hit among big-time guitarists. In 1982, Scholz Research & Development released the Rockman headphone amp, a small gadget the size of a peanut butter sandwich, which has a sound as big as a wall of amplifiers (and won't wake the neighbors!).

Since then, Scholz Research & Development has manufactured an extensive line of analog signal processors for guitar. Ultimately, the Rockman products revolutionized the way guitars were to sound and were to be recorded; Rockmans can now be heard on hundreds of commercial albums and hit records. Over the years, Tom has received some two-dozen electronic, mechanical, and electro-mechanical design patents. Tom sold the Rockman line to Dunlop Manufacturing in 1995, and subsequently closed Scholz Research & Development.

Because of the advancements made by Tom Sholtz, audio processing improved by leaps and bounds over the next ten years allowing companies such as DOD, BOSS and Digitech to provide new options to musicians. Now there are limitless possibilities to create any ambience imaginable. Rock on!

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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