Never-ending Pedalboard Quest

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Gear
Apr 302014
 

For those of you who’ve followed TGM for awhile, you’ve no doubt seen more than your fair share of pedalboard posts from yours truly. I can’t deny it, I LOVE pedalboards and find that I’m constantly rebuilding and swapping in (and out) pedals in search of that elusive “perfect tone.” Now that I’m an old(er) guy I’m pretty sure that I’m off the road for good, so last year I decided to downsize from the gigantic touring board to something a lot more manageable. Now that I have to cart this thing around myself in the back of my wagon, the old board just didn’t make sense. I’ve definitely had to give up a few pedals that I liked, most notably the EHX Micro POG. But in the grand scheme of things, I have everything I could ever need and then some. So I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how the pedalboard has evolved over the last year. I’m still playing a mix of traditional and modern country up here in the  Northwest and that definitely influences what you’ll find on my board. You’ll see three pedals in every picture and they’re the ones I
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Mar 052014
 

When it comes to gigging, the one thing all musicians can count on is that things can and will go wrong. Cables die, tubes fail, strings break, drum heads tear, and singers bleed. Most musicians are prepared for the common problems like a broken guitar string or drum stick, but being ready for crazy and unexpected mishaps is what separates the pros from the wannabes. So, when heading out to a gig it’s always good to bring everything, and prepare for anything. Trying to predict potential glitches isn’t always easy, but it’s the goal when packing gear for the gig. I’m not saying you need to be a modern-day Nostradamus, but a little forethought goes a long way. For example, if there’s even a remote possibility you might need a tool or a piece of gear –just bring it. You’ll be glad you did when you actually need to use it. In addition, history is a great teacher so it’s good to prepare for everything that has gone awry at past gigs. I bring everything I need to perform, plus back-ups for all of my gear, and the tools needed to repair anything that fails. I’m also a big fan of
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Feb 242014
 

The goal of every guitarist is to get better. We all strive to be better players, technicians, and musicians. And even though improvement is the common goal, most guitarists have only a vague idea of the difference between playing and practicing. They often think that just picking up their guitars frequently will equate to making great strides in their skills and abilities. Unfortunately, it’s simply not true because there is a big difference between just playing your guitar, and actually practicing. In my experience, the biggest difference between playing and practicing is intent. Practicing involves the dedicated intent to acquire a new skill, and/or the achievement of a specific musical improvement, while playing lacks a specific intent, and is the act of running through material that has already been thoroughly learned (therefore, easy to play). Don’t get me wrong -both are important to growth and improvement. Playing is essential for maintaining your current skill level, morale, and helps improve your muscle-memory through reinforcement, but practicing is the path to growth because its’ intent is the commitment to an organized and specific evolution. As a teacher, I commonly meet seasoned guitarists looking to start lessons because they feel their playing has become
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Feb 202014
 

Mike Lull Custom Guitars of Bellevue, WA has added a new model to their line-up for 2014 -the TX Chubby. I had the privilege of checking it out at Mike Lull’s shop before the guys debuted it at the 2014 winter NAMM show, and it’s a pretty great instrument. It plays beautifully, sounds great with the P-90s, and is super light. The one in the pic has a rosewood fretboard, gold top, and Gibson style bridge/tailpiece. The TX Chubby is a great new take on the classic Tele shape, but with a few twists. The first thing you’ll notice is the extra body thickness (hence, the name “Chubby”), but it’s hollowed out to give it great light weight and tonal quality similar to the Thinline Teles. As with all Mike Lull guitars, you can personalize this bad-boy by choosing your options, such as; body material, pickups, and finishes. For more info on the TX Chubby, check out Mike Lull Custom Guitars.

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Feb 192014
 

Choosing the right guitar teacher can be challenge. It’s important to find a good match for your personality, musical direction, and someone with great teaching skills. The wrong fit can cost you time and money, and possibly even discourage you from wanting to play guitar at all. Here are 5 steps to help assure you are getting an instructor who will be a good fit for you. 1. Know what you want. If you aren’t sure of your own goals, take a few moments to figure it out. Knowing what you would like to accomplish, and being able to articulate it, will help you get there. Ask yourself: “What kind of music do I want to play?” If you want to play jazz, find a jazz teacher; if you want to play classical, find a teacher who specializes in classical; or if you want to be a versatile player, take lessons from a versatile teacher. This sounds obvious, but a lot of potential students just assume all guitar teachers are experts at everything. The key is to figure out what you want to do first, the find a teacher who matches up. 2. Ask around. Friends and family are a
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Inside 65 Amps

 Posted by at 11:45 pm  Gear, NAMM
Jan 252013
 

To anyone who follows The Gigging Musician, it will come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of 65 Amps. If you haven’t tried one of their amps yet, you really owe it to yourself to give them a listen. While they can be a bit hard to find depending on where you live, it is definitely worth the effort. I use an original 65 London and it’s hard to beat the tone I get out of it. When we’re out on the road or in Nashville it’s amazing how many of these amps you see on stage. For the show this year they are introducing the Producer and a Red Line SoHo. While the Red Line series is their lower-priced “players” amps, some would argue that the new SoHo beats out its more pricy sibling. The Producer features EL-34s, but with a new design and specially designed transformer from Mercury Magnetics that allow the tubes to literally last for years, saving you the cost of re-tubing and re-biasing every year or so. Another added benefit is a great clean tone that is not common with the EL-34 tubes. The following picture is very similar to what my dream
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New Martin Acoustics

 Posted by at 11:32 pm  Gear, NAMM
Jan 252013
 

One of the guitars I really wanted to check out was the new version of the Martin John Mayer Signature guitar, the 00-42. Much like the very limited edition 00-45 Stagecoach guitar released last year, this new model is going to have much wider distribution and come at a bit lower price-point. While this is a really small guitar, the sound is anything but small! The notes literally jump out of the guitar and it’s a dream to play. The embellishments and detail work on the guitar are beautiful and it’s the perfect guitar to grab and go anywhere. Also worth noting are the guitars in the new Retro Series. Based on some of the best examples of each model, these guitars have all the modern conveniences and are perfect for the gigging musician who is looking for that combination of tradition and ease of use. With a D-18, HD-28, D-45, and 00-28, I played them all and would have a very hard time choosing my favorite. Let us know which on you like best!

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Jan 252013
 

Hands down my favorite guitar of the show has been the Hahn Model 1229 all mahogany guitar. This is the very same guitar recently reviewed by Premiere Guitar Magazine, and shown below. Chihoe also told me that he recently sent the guitar off to Joe Perry to try out and since Joe wanted humbucking pickups, in went a Duncan stacked Tele in the bridge and a Lollar mini-humbucker in the neck. That turned out to be a great choice as the pickups are perfectly balanced and tone is amazing in every pickup position. The first thing you notice when you pick up one of his guitars is the attention to detail and how well setup they are. It’s amazing how many guitars you pick up at the show that have had very little attention payed to playability, and in this respect the Hahn is noticeably different. Fret ends are perfect, fingerboard edges are comfortable, and he has totally nailed the neck shape. These are guitars you can’t wait to pick up and play. Chihoe’s guitars have been highly rated since his original model 228 came out just a few years ago. While there is no shortage of people copying this
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Score of the Day at NAMM

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Gear, NAMM
Jan 252013
 

First day at NAMM and we were lucky enough to score passes to the best party of the show! Put on by 65 Amps, Deusenberg and Tone Pros, the featured band is the Dirty Knobs lead by none other than Mike Campbell from the Heartbreakers! We’ve always heard amazing stories about this party and it’s only taken us four years to finally score an invite! We’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and post them here!

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Jan 212013
 

So Ray and I are off to NAMM again this week and there’s a ton of things I’m already looking forward to checking out! But more importantly, what would you like us to check out and report on here? I think we’ve realized over the last few years that there’s just too much stuff in Anaheim for the two of us to cover, so if there’s something you’d like to see us cover that we may not be aware of, just let us know and we’ll try to get to it. As for me, here is just a sampling of some of this things I’m looking forward to checking out this week (in no particular order):

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Nov 282012
 

Mesa Boogie has joined the ever-growing boutique pedal market with four new overdrive pedals, and given their 44 year history of writing the book on amp overdrive, these should be something special! I suppose it’s only fair to state right up front that I am a huge fan and have used Mesa amps for more than 25 years, so I’m really looking forward to putting these new ODs through their paces as soon as possible. In the meantime I’ll include what Boogie has to say about the pedals, as well as include some inside info direct from Boogie on how their ODs compare to other models you may be familiar with. From Mesa insider: Tone-Burst – In same family as most clean boosts. Xotic RC Booster, Xotic EP Booster, Keeley Katana, etc. Grid Slammer – Same family as overdrive pedals. Tube Screamer, Xotic AC Booster, King of Tone, OCD, etc. Flux-Drive – Same family as higher gain overdrive pedals. Xotic BB Preamp, OD1, etc. Throttle Box – High gain distortion. Definitely NOT a Recto, but it’s in the modern high gain family. MXR Fullbore, Super Distortion, Metal Zone, etc. Good lead sounds, and lo gain is versatile.   From the
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Jul 262012
 

One of the highlights of Summer NAMM for me this year was getting to spend some time with Alex Aguilar from Alairex. Best known for his legendary bass amplifier designs, Alex has once again turned his attention to us 6-stringers as you may remember from our recent story on the incredibly touch sensitive HALO overdrive pedal (you can have another look at that article here). Touch sensitivity seems to be a trend with Alex as he debuted the prototype of his new Alairex Select-o-drive amplifier at the show featuring remarkable touch sensitivity throughout it’s range. The model at the show was a 2×12, 3-channel combo, though the amp will eventually also be offered as a 1×12 combo and head version. The most unique thing about the amp though is that the preamp is 12ax7 tube driven, while the power section is solid-state. Alex said the idea came from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get those great, old tubes like the venerable Sylvania 415 anymore, so he wanted to recreate that tone and feel in a bullet-proof, solid-state package. And from what I could tell from the prototype, he’s nailed it! The amp sports the standard Clean, Crunch and
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Summer NAMM in Nashville

 Posted by at 6:08 pm  Free
Jul 192012
 

So we’ve now been back home for a few days, are just starting to catch up on some much needed sleep, and have a surprising number of cool things to write about from the show. This was my first trip to Summer NAMM and when people said it was much smaller than Winter NAMM in Anaheim, they really weren’t kidding! I would guess it’s about the same size as the lower level in Anaheim, so if you’ve been there, you know how small we’re talking about. That being said, there were some interesting things on display there from folks like our friend Forrest Lee Jr. at Forrest Custom Guitars, Bluesman Vintage Guitars, Wampler Pedals, Little Walter Amps, Benado Effects, Alex Aguilar’s Alairex, Long Hollow Leather and Pete Schmidt Straps. To buy myself some time to get these stories written I thought I’d leave you with a cool video of Brent Mason at the Wampler Pedals booth. Audio isn’t great, but man can that guy play! Enjoy!    

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Jul 092012
 

Ray and I are off this week to see how the Music City does NAMM! We got snowed-in back in January trying to get to Winter NAMM, this week it’s high temperatures and thunder storms, but nothing is going to stop us from bringing you the latest and greatest in new gear news. And if you’re in the area, Saturday at NAMM is open to the public. They have stopped doing this in Anaheim, so if you’ve always wanted to see what the show is all about, here’s your chance. Below is the info from the NAMM offices:   SUMMER NAMM COMES TO NASHVILLE JULY 12-14 AND WILL OPEN THE DOORS FOR “PUBLIC DAY” SATURDAY, JULY 14 FROM 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. EVENTS – The Summer NAMM Show – one of the world’s largest music industry trade shows, produced by The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). This is the chance for media to explore what’s coming up next in the music products industry. Not open to the public. Summer NAMM “PUBLIC DAY” – a unique look inside the typically trade-only show for master classes & seminars, live performances, shop talk with industry insiders, interactive opportunities to play music,
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Jun 192012
 

Finland’s boutique pedal maker Mad Professor has just announced an interesting new pedal that combines singing, cello-like overdrive with a vintage tape delay sound to give you that classic Eric Johnson tone in a single box. Okay, so they don’t (can’t?) say that it’s Eric’s tone in a box, but hey, one listen and you’ll know exactly what they were shooting for. One thing not mentioned in the press release is that there are internal trim pots that give you more control over delay time and sounds, as the front delay knob only let’s you vary the effect level of the delay. The pedal is supposed to be available this Friday the 22nd of June and I know it’s one that I can’t wait to try out. Following is from the Mad Professor press release and website: Mad Professor Amplification Introduces the Golden Cello Pedal Mad Professor, the Finland based Boutique pedal effects manufacturer, in partnership with Guitar Center’s Director of Merchandise, Barry Mitchell, announce the new co-developed Golden Cello pedal available exclusively at Guitar Center stores, Guitar Center online and Musicians Friend online. The new Mad Professor Golden Cello pedal delivers one of the most sought after lead tones
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May 142012
 

So for those of you who’ve followed this site from the beginning, you already know about my compulsive fascination with all things pedalboards. It seems that no sooner do I have one finished and working perfectly, I either start in on another one or revamp my existing setup. For the last two years we have been touring and doing a lot of bigger shows and I put together a board that would give me all the sounds I needed for any show that might come along. I also put together a smaller fly-board as we were having to fly to enough dates that I got tired of tearing apart my big board every time we traveled. As I begin to wind down the touring (I am old after all!) I thought it was time to simplify and put together one reasonably-sized board that I could actually fit in my car and carry around, and would cover most everything I have coming up this summer. I blame this craziness on John Bohlinger’s latest article in Premiere Guitar about how he was simplifying this summer too. It’s seems a lot of people are heading in this direction as I’ve seen several great
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May 112012
 

I’ve recently had a number of fellow musicians approach me asking about how my band runs backing tracks for our live performances. I know that the use of backing tracks is a hotly debated topic in some circles of musicians, but we’ll leave that debate to another time. These days it seems to be more and more a fact of life for a lot of musicians that gig on a regular basis. So, if you do need to use backing tracks the video above can provide an overview on one way in which to achieve success in a live environment. Our setup involves the use of a MacBook. We use the older white version as they’re cheap to find on Craigslist and are pretty durable (don’t ask about the time we were in Montana and our singer drove over the laptop with an SUV – no it didn’t survive and we ended up doing the show sans tracks that night).   For software we use Ableton Live to run the tracks. We either trigger the tracks directly from the laptop using the arrow and enter keys or we sometimes use the Novation Launchpad which has 64 small trigger pads. This
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May 012012
 

Do I need a compressor pedal? I’ve asked myself this very questions many, many times over the years, and until fairly recently the answer was always an emphatic “No.” While I’ve tried many compressors over the years, I play fairly percussively and always felt that they took away some of the natural dynamics of my playing (which of course is exactly what they’re designed to do, right?). A few years ago I started playing modern country music and it seemed that every country guitarist I saw was using a compressor on their pedalboard, sometimes even more than one pedal! Now I’m no ace chickin’ picker, but I figured if I was going to play country I needed to find a compressor that worked for me. After trying more than a few pedals I happened onto the Barber Tone Press pedal, and the beauty of that pedal is that in addition to the regular compressor controls of Sustain, Attack, Tone, etc., it offered up a Blend knob that allowed me to add in just enough of my original, uncompressed signal that I didn’t lose all of my dynamics. Pretty cool, but I find that I still don’t turn it on all
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Mar 212012
 

Just announced today at Musikmesse in Frankfurt Germany, Bogner‘s new line of pedals. The Uberschall is like…..an Uberschall, while the Red Ecstasy features hotter tone and the Blue Ecstasy is crunchier/bluesier. There is rampant speculation on pricing flying around the web today, but since it’s quite apparent no one knows at this point, we won’t add to the frenzy here. Needless to say, these will be worth checking out once they are available. Check back here for more info as it becomes available!

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Jan 302012
 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but even with all of the guitar straps available today, it still seems like it’s hard to find great straps! Maybe I’m too picky, but to me your guitar strap says a lot about your personality. I’ve gotten great straps from Jeri Designs and Red Monkey, and I picked up a really nice, simple strap from Gruhn’s in Nashville by Long Hollow Leather. I’ve even started making straps from new and vintage belts that have turned out pretty well. One of the big problems with the great custom straps though is their high cost. Straps from Moody, El Dorado, and Anthology are really nice, but set you back the price of at least a couple nice effects pedals! That’s why we were happy to find Pete Schmidt Straps at NAMM this year. You always find great stuff on the bottom floor of the convention center where most of the smaller guys have booths, and this year was no exception. Pete’s straps are some of the highest quality we’ve seen and the prices are super competitive compared to straps of the same quality. I picked up a Black Iguana strap with creme stitching
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