Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gear head

We played an acoustic gig at a rooftop party in uptown Manhattan last night. It was a lot of fun and, since we had unlimited time, we threw in a couple of covers which shook us out of our routine.I got to bring out the 12 string Renee bought me last Christmas and it sounded fantastic but I missed my regular rig.

First and foremost in my signal chain is the 2001 Les Paul Standard I got three years ago. The balanced sound and the ease of playing totally pushed my 12 year old Telecaster out of the spotlight.

Playing in this band has softened my stance on effects and I've spent a few months building a pedalboard. First in the chain is the Vox V847 wah modded for true bypass. I got it for its deep vocal sweep but I think that tone is getting swallowed in the mix. The switch is starting to fail too. I may go back to a Crybaby for a higher treble sound rather than repair it.

From there is the newest acquisition; the Digitech Whammy reissue. I've needed a good pitch shifter for a while and this is it. I love that you can hit notes that literally do not exist on a guitar with this pedal. It's the most versatile thing in my board.

The next is the oldest piece; an MXR Phase 100 Eddie Klinger once gave me. I found it in his studio and asked what it did. He said, "I don't know. Take it and find out." Three years later, our drummer dropped out of a gig and Eddie filled in for us. Afterwards he said he loved the tone on one solo and how did I get it? I said it was the phase box he gave me. I was afraid he'd take it back but he just smiled. It's not a true bypass box which means when you turn it off, it's not completely off. I don't mind that.

Last is the Deluxe Memory Man. When I first joined this band we did some demos and I used a multi effects processor using any sound that fit the song. When I listened back to the songs I realized how much delay and tremelo I employed. So live I needed this. The lush analog echoes are right from early U2 records and the chorus and tremelo features mean I don't need two more pedals on the board.

So I got my sound about where I want it but it meant a lot of little boxes sliding around the stage. Luckily, Electro-Harmonix made this pedalbag. Velcro strips keep the pedals down and a three dollar extension cord runs the whole shebang into an outlet.

Three days before my audition with the band I picked up an eBow. I brought it with me and within ten minutes it was on the song. The sustain on this little handheld device is fantastic, ranging from a violin to a 'backwards' sound to pure feedback.

On the back end I bought a Marshall JCM 900 50 Watt head on ebay. Fortunately, it came with a 2X12 cabinet which sounds great in the house. Clubs usually have their own 4X12 cabinets so the head can travel with me and blast those speakers just fine. An old Marshall combo sits in the living room now for practice.

That's where it stands now. There's lots and lots of equipment I'd love to sample but the trick is to find the right sound, not just keep collecting. Because collecting isn't about perfection. It's just about the next thing.

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