Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gear Really Can Change Your Life (Ok, Mine)

This is definitely more of a gear-related post, so skip this post if you're bored already!

When I was growing up, I always wanted to know about my favorite guitarist's gear... so if there's even one person out there that is interested in learning about how I get the sounds I do, then it's worth it! (Actually I geeked out looking up Stu G's current setup just the other day, so that habit has not gone away!)

In the past week or two, I've gotten some gear that has really changed the game for me.... the BIGGEST life-changing gear purchase I've made is an amp.... I came across a '93 Matchless Clubman 35 (Mark Sampson Era), and it is AMAZING.

My new toy - This is probably what frankenstein would play if he played guitar. Lovin' it so far!

It's pictured here with my Heritage 2x12 cabinet which I keep at home. On the road I'm playing it through a standard Marshall 4x12.

When I got this amp home last week, I seriously just sat and played it in my studio for 2-3 hours. I haven't done that in YEARS. There's just something about it.... it's kind of magical. It's super responsive to your playing.... the EQ is incredibly effective... and it just sounds CLASSY. It's a joy to play.

Every guitar sounds different through this amp... and while that may sound like it should be a given... it's not. For the most part, when you plug into a Marshall, it sounds like a Marshall. You can plug in different guitars, change the EQ, and fuss with the settings, but it always kinda just sounds like a Marshall. Nothing wrong with that, it's a good sound... Just not terribly versatile. This Matchless almost has multiple personality disorder in comparison. You can go so many places with it... and all of them good.

Anyways, I digress.

I also re-worked my pedalboard this week. I removed a few individual pedals I had, and replaced them with a Line 6 M9.

If you're not familiar with the M9, it's a pretty amazing pedal. They basically took all the sounds from ALL of the Line 6 modelers (DL4, MM4, FM4, and DM4), along with the Verbs from the Verbzilla, and put them all in one pedal.... one not much bigger than the DL4 was. Amazing. It allowed me to clean up my setup a TON. I got rid of an overdrive, a delay, a phaser, and a tap tempo switch. Runs on standard line 6 power, and comes with an adapter... but I was able to use the "red barrel plug" cable that came with my Voodoo Labs Power supply to power it just fine!

I also replaced my volume pedal. I switched from an Ernie Ball JR Volume Pedal to a Visual Volume pedal from Visual Sound.

I've always loved the way Ernie Ball volume pedals feel, but they're such an outdated design. It's basically a volume pot on a string attached to a pedal. The pot gets scratchy, the pedal kind of sucks some of the higher frequencies out of your tone, and that "tuner out" always seems to cause problems... not to mention if you break that string, you're HOSED. Replacing it is like performing open-heart-surgery. Ugh.

I switched to the Visual Volume more for reliability and tone than the lights. The status lights on the side show you visually where the volume pedal is currently set.... that could seem a little gimmicky but the build and design of the pedal is such that it easily wins you over. It's a buffered pedal, so it requires power (boss compatible), but it's smooth as butter, and CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN sounding. Thanks, Visual Sound, for hookin' me up!

So, here is my setup now.

The signal comes into my Boss TU-2, then Dyna Comp, then Visual Volume, then Tubescreamer, then M9, then Carbon Copy... and out to the amp.

I like my Compressor in front of my Volume, because then I can hit the compressor hard, and still control the output of the compressor with the volume pedal, in a sense.

I've used an Ibanez Tubescreamer for 7+ years now and I've still never found an overdrive I love more. I've tried MANY, and always come back to this one. Mine is one of the very first reissues, with the "holy grail" JRC4558 chip in it (if you believe in the value of such things.... this video from visual sound made me question it!).

The MXR Carbon Copy is one of the most amazing bang-for-your-buck delays I've ever used. It's the closest thing I've found to an EHX Memory Man, but in a much smaller footprint, and for much less money. The Memory Man is still my favorite delay of all time.

The Pedalboard itself is a Pedaltrain JR. I love this thing. Rock solid. I chose to travel with it in a 1560 Pelican case. The size of the pelican case limits the size of my board a bit, but it's a LIFE SAVER in airports. It's got wheels, and I never have to carry it around by hand. It's also deep enough that I've foamed myself out a section below the board for tools, cables, strings, soldering iron, picks, in-ear monitors, an extra cable, and a mini marshall practice amp.

All within airline weight and size restrictions. Boom!

So that's a little run-down of my pedalboard setup. Feel free to email me or comment with any questions - if you comment with a question make sure you leave a way for me to contact you, or check back to see if I comment back.

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did!



Ida Lou said...

So like I don't understand a lot of what you say but I read it anyways because that way if I hear someone else mention it I know what they are talking about! It is interesting tho. Everytime you post something like this it makes me want to play guitar even more.

K[R!ot] said...

I agree with Ida,
I really don't understand all of this but it's very interesting to read.. I haven't picked up my guitar in so long...I might reconsider :)

Anonymous said...

do you still have the lights on the pedal board?
i ttly wish i understood all that... it sounds really interesting
i "play" bass and that sounds sooo very confusing!

Anonymous said...

I totally understood everything. I play guitar too and i'm a total music addict. Sometimes my friends groan when i start talking about guitars.

frothezone said...

What Anonymous said! I'm a total gear nerd as well. i also use the visual volume and i love it. and i ordered a Way Huge Aqua-Puss reissue from ebay, that should be coming soon. i'm still trying to figure out how i'm going to work the beginning of the signal chain though, because i'll be running a stereo cable from my guitar into a Y splitter. one of the ends will go into either the voume pedal or the tuner, depending on whether or not the tuner "preserves" my stereo sound. if not, then i'd just plug the tuner into the tuner out on the volume. but the way the jacks are laid out on the volume isn't very convenient. after that, i'll be running the signal through a soon to be purchased visual sound route 66, then the aqua-puss, if i don't put that in the effects loop of my egnater rebel 30. i also want to get a Custom Audio Electronics Wah. my pedalboard is a pedaltrain pt-1 (lightweight hardshell case included).


Jonathan said...

frothezone -

the visual volume's stereo ins and outs are discreet... and the tuner out should work great, because the pedal is a buffered pedal. in Ernie Ball pedals, which are not buffered, the tuner out is technically still attached to the chain, in a somewhat "parallel" fashion. the buffered visual volume should be superior to the passive ernie ball method (in theory for sure.... and in practice so far for me).

if I may ask.... why are you splitting the signal so early in the chain? where do those two signals end up? are you trying to do a stereo rig? if so, it's unusual to split the signal so early in the chain.

Shane said...

What did you do with the Bad Cat head?

Aaron said...

I just heard yall tonight in San Angelo Texas and thought you had some great tone!So when I came home I had to look up what you were using as far as amps and lo and behold I found your blog. After the show one of the roadies took a picture of your board for me haha, and I was surprised to see a tubescreamer and not a Klon or something of that nature. You have a really good sound and playing style I like it, keep it up! I was wondering what do you run off the m9? Just delays or do you also use overdrives on it?

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the compliments Aaron! I enjoyed the show tonight quite a bit!

As for the tubescreamer - I've tried a ton of other overdrives, and I just keep coming back the TS-808. I am just used to it I guess. The other thing to think about is that it's only part of the overdrive picture. I run the overdrive fairly light, and use it to hit the front end of an amp.... in this case, my Matchless Clubman 35. This amp breaks up incredibly. It sounds AWESOME. The TS-808/Clubman combo works great.

As for the m9... I'm using it mostly for delays (when tempo is a factor), tremolo, and a comp-boost for solos at the moment... but it can do so much. I haven't had a chance to fully explore all it can do yet!

Thanks for coming to the show - I'm glad you enjoyed it!


Aaron said...

Thanks for answering my questions its cool that you take your time to show us your gear. Yeah i really liked the solo tone too! I guess thats what you're talking about with the comp boost on solos, it just had great sustain and clarity. I just had one more question haha sorry. What tuning do you play in, Drop D or something lower, or standard? Thanks again :)


Jonathan said...

Hey Aaron -

Thanks for the compliments! That was actually my first show with the m9, so I was kind of getting used to it. The switches are pretty sensitive, so I accidentally hit the wrong one once or twice... haha! At one point, I meant to turn on a delay, and hit a boost instead, and it made a pretty loud hiss during a break between songs - embarrassing!

Yes, it was the comp boost I used for most solos. There are a few exceptions, I use a "classic distortion" (which emulates a RAT) for the lennykravitz-solo in Let's Dance, and I use only delays (no boost) for the solo in Meaning of Life.

As for tuning, I have a couple guitars in different tunings. My goldtop is in standard, so anytime you saw me playing that gold guitar.... that was standard tuning. Then I have a CH model PRS which is in Drop C# (so drop D, and then half a step down). I have a few other guitars on the road with me, but they're all in one of these two tunings.

Basically, when I joined Hawk Nelson (2004), they were already playing everything in Drop C#. I wasn't thrilled about that tuning, but I had to adjust. Letters to the Prez was all Drop C#. When we recorded Smile It's the End of the World, I recorded guitars in Drop C# and even some songs in Drop C. Crazy.

When we went to record Hawk Nelson is my Friend, I made the decision to move back to standard tuning, because I think guitars just FEEL better in standard. It just so happened that the songs at that point got a little more workable in standard. Live Life Loud was recorded almost entirely in standard also.

So, for live shows, I have guitars in both tunings, and I mostly play songs in the tunings they were recorded in. There are a few exceptions, because I like to switch guitars as little as possible, and play one guitar for 4-5 songs before switching... So, in the set the other night, I play The Job in drop C# (originally standard), and I play Everything You Ever Wanted / Zero in standard (originally Drop C), and I play California in standard (originally Drop C#).

Crazy, yeah?


Aaron said...

Haha crazy is right!
I get a little confussed switching from one guitar in drop D to a standard tuned one. And that CH model was pretty! And thats crazy about playing in drop C, I noticed during the end of one of the songs (toward the end of the set) I heard you down tune, i guess you didnt hit the mute button on the tuner and thats what I told my girlfriend that you must be playing in some crazy low tunning. Thanks again man for taking the time to answer my questions its hard enough looking for pictures of pro's gear online so its really cool you actualy explained it all.

Thats really cool how you have to take in account the tunings and the way the guitar feels when making and album. Hitting the road and playing shows has always been a dream of mine its neat to hear someone from the "inside" talk about it.

I heard yall will be coming to midland, hopefully I can make it! God Bless you and keep up the good work! I'll be checkin out this blog now :)

p.s. I'm emailing you the pic I took of your pedal board haha, it looks pretty cool

Jonathan said...

aaron - haha actually the sound i made with down-tuning was kind of for fun.... at the end of "is forever enough" i generally just turn on all my drive pedals and just make tons of noise. detuning my lowest string even lower is part of that sometimes. haha. i haven't done that in ages... it's fun that you picked up on it!