The Wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald


I don’t necessarily write up all of the pedals that I make. Which is good because the last one went so poorly. Although I leaned into the “wreckage” angle with naming this one, it was a mild attempt at redemption.

I have long been under the impression that I lack the technology to make a pedal that is painted black with white decorations. My enclosures are mostly done with laser-printed graphics on transparent decal paper, and I can’t print in white, so I thought that I’d need silk screening or UV printing to pull it off. Then I ran across someone online who is making great looking pedals with white decal paper. I’d never tried, thinking that it wouldn’t be opaque enough to hold up to a black enclosure, but here we are. It works fine.

I’ve also been holding out on solid-core wire this whole time. I greatly prefer working with solid wire because it will stay bent for clean routing and there’s less risk of a single hair of stranded wire getting out of line and shorting on something. But it’s not as resistant to repeated bending, and will break like a paperclip if fatigued too much. I’ve been sitting on some stranded silicone-insulated wire for a while, and finally switched to it for this pedal to see if it would be more durable. The silicone is nice because it won’t melt as easily, but I had amassed a reasonable amount of skill for dealing with standard PVC insulation and now feel like I’m starting over at keeping my wire runs neat with this springy stuff that obnoxiously requires manual tinning.

So far, it’s been all skiddily-biddily-boop (i.e., fine) with The Wreck of the Ella Fitz. We’ll see how it holds up over the long haul.


The Wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald is in the style of an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi. The second pedal I ever made, the Dubious Distinction, is also Muff-ish, so I already had a representative from that family of pedals, although that one was a kit and my build was not pristine. The kit designers put a lot of effort into making it exactly like a specific variety of Muff (a “Triangle”) in some ways, and in other ways deviated with some additional tone control options. While Dubious Distinction sounds great, and has been permanently on my board since I made it, I’ve only ever liked it with the tone controls completely bypassed and have always wondered what it would sound like (and if it would be quieter) if I knew then what I know now about making pedals.

The Fitz uses dylan159’s Bigger Muff circuit, released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. A traditional Muff has four transistors (one in the input buffer, two in the clipping stages, and one at the end for makeup gain/output buffering) and has a passive tone control between the clipping and output. This one still has the transistors in the clipping section for that classic “toan“, but replaces the input and output stages with a dual op-amp and tacks on an active tone control. The op-amp input should provide better input impedance and less noise, and the continuously-variable mid control should let me precisely dial in the EQ.

Vital Stats

Gustave Doré
Knob Uniformity


I’m a huge fan of this style of pedal in general. They’re commonly categorized as fuzz—in fact, a primary reason that the Big Muff comes with an adjective is because it followed a pedal called the Muff Fuzz (although the circuit is unrelated, as far as I know). They sound more like heavy distortion to me, at least the way that I tend to use them and with my subjective definition of fuzz, but I think they sound great, and this one delivers in all of the right ways.

The following sample is the Coronacaster with The Wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald into a clean Fender Deluxe Reverb (with other assorted nonsense).

Add a Comment

Mind your tone (this is a pedal joke)