A hot topic of conversation whenever two guitarists meet are their Rigs. “What Rig?” I hear you ask – the guitar rig of course! The combination of instrument, effects and effects pedals and amplifiers. The Rig is a source of constant joy, irritation, hard work and worry.
Joy, for all the wonderful noises it can make and the potential for artistic expression it holds.
Irritation, for when something stops working and the sometimes very long signal chain has to be gone through. Again.
Hard work, because with guitars, pedalboard, amplifier or indeed amplifers, possibly an effects rack and all the wiring the weight of the Rig grows exponentially.
Lastly worry, because the conservatism in the guitar world is absolutely monumental. “If it was good enough for Jimi, it’s good enough for me” is something you come across more often than I care to think about. This leads many to worry constantly about keeping their tone “pure” and can cause a certain amount of machismo bullshit – “look at me, I don’t need all that stuff to sound good, I just play and sound good”. Not a very useful attitude when you are doing U2 covers let me tell you.
Obviously things can get out of hand (for one high profile example, see John Frusciante’s 2006-2007 pedal boards on this page) but I think the important thing to remember is that there is nothing inherently bad – or good – with guitar effects pedals. It is entirely up to how, and when, you use them.
This all leads me to the topic of my own rig, as if by pure coincidence! I have been working on it in earnest for a few months now, and it is really starting to come together. Generally my approach is that if it sounds good, it is good. I do not have an unlimited budget and my pedalboard is quite small so I am forced to consider any additions carefully.
The guitar is still just my trusty Hagström Swede. It is entirely stock right now, but next week I am having the electronics replaced and the neck looked at by my friendly neighbourhood luthier at Gitarrist. While the pickups and the general quality is very good for the price this guitar really shows its price point in the volume and controls: they are pretty much rubbish at anything but full on. The truss rod (controls the curve of the neck) has become stuck, making seasonal adjustments impossible – wood moves with the change of seasons!
On my pedalboard sit, in order of signal path, a Moody Fuzz, a Way Huge Pork Loin, a Subdecay Liquid Sunshine and an old 18v version Danelectro Cool Cat. These are all powered by a T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon.
The signal is fed into a Vox AC15C1 amplifier. I usually play through the Top Boost channel on a clean setting and set the master volume about halfway up – I get a very dynamic sound that I really enjoy, but I could still use a little bit more push. The reverb and tremolo are controlled by a Lead Foot FS2 that sits on the pedalboard. I have a Stonecastle amp cover for protection/amp stand.
Plans for the future? A new guitar – more on that next year, hehehe! -, standalone reverb and tremolo pedals as well as delay and volume pedals. I have an interesting solution to the amplifier situation.
More on this subject as budget allows!