I don't use my pedal board as often as I could these days. Truth is that I often find myself just running straight into the amp I'm using. That means that sometimes I get a pretty clean tone, especially at the house, because you can't really turn up loud enough to get good overdrive on some amps. However, I do use it occasionally. Used it last weekend in fact. Ran my guitar through the board and then straight to my mixer to do some recording.
Now the board itself is pretty small. I saw some of those ads for the Holeyboards that Chemistry Design Werks makes, and really liked them. So, being the cheap dude that I can be sometimes, I headed down to the local Home Depot and picked up a couple of 2'x4'x3/4" boards. The first board I made was about 18"x36". Painted it surf green, and then loaded it down with pedals. That one lasted until the first time I moved it. That's when I realized that it was just too big and unwieldy. That's when I made the next one. Didn't paint it or anything, it's just a piece of raw wood. This second one is about 10"x15" and seems to be about the perfect size for what I need. Like the Holeyboards, I've got it drilled up so that the pedals attach with zip ties. Unlike the Holeyboards, I don't have room for a power supply on it so I use a TrueTone One Spot with it.
I actually had disassembled it for about 6 months, but recently put a board back together for what I wanted. Here's the path. Guitar > TU2 tuner > Wampler Tumnus > TS9 TubeScreamer > GarageTone Axle Grease Delay > Danelectro Big Spender Spinning Speaker > Mooer Acoustikar > whatever amp I happen to be using. Now here's why.
I've got the TU2 tuner for a couple of reasons. First, everyone seems to be using a Snark or some other clip on tuner. I do too. But, when you're playing out, sometimes the clip-on is a bit awkward, and, the tuner, when turned on, will immediately silence the guitar. Who hasn't been in a situation when you wanted to be able to do that for some reason. In my head, between the guitar volume and the pedal, that solves that problem. Plus, it tunes accurately and is bright enough that you can see it in most cases.
From there, signal goes to the the Tumnus. It's pretty much an always-on pedal. I use it as that magical boost. In my head, it just makes whatever amp I'm using sound a bit better as it hits it a little harder and adds a bit of sparkle (how's that for a one of those meaningless guitar player adjectives). Like I said, it's almost always on. At the moment, it's the Tumnus because I'm a huge Chronicles of Narnia fan, but it just as often is my Soul Food. To my ear, using them as just a boost, they do about the same thing.
From there, it's into the Tube Screamer. I use a TS9 just because it was the least expensive Tube Screamer that the store had when I bought. I kind of like the Tube Screamer sound...mid boost and all. I use it to get a little overdrive when I'm not quite getting as much as I want. It doesn't really add a lot of drive. It mostly just pushes the amp a bit more.
From that, it goes to the Axle Grease delay. These were made by Virtual Sound (now Truetone) several years ago. The GarageTone pedals were budget-priced and great pedals for the money. For a simple delay (I have it set for just a touch of slapback), this pedal is the best bang for the buck (imho). I wish they hadn't discontinued this line.
Then to the Danelectro Spinning Speaker. It's supposed to do the Leslie thing. Mrs Snarf got it for me for Christmas, and it's been a ton of fun. It replaced the tremolo pedal I had been using. This is another one of those pedals that, bang for the buck, you just have to try. It's a great little pedal.
From there, to the Mooer Acoustikar. This pedal does a good job of simulating an acoustic. I've got it set on the piezo setting rather than the unplugged acoustic sound just because, in a worship setting especially, you're always plugged in using the piezo. Got this one used off of Reverb, and, for what I paid, it does the job well.
Now there are a whole bunch of other pedals in the closet, but these are the ones that currently make me happy. The others will eventually get rotated out I'm sure. Just not at the moment. Maybe I'll do a more thorough review of the pedals later.
I started playing when I turned 16. Since I was brought up in a pretty conservative home, that meant that I started off playing (or trying to play) hymns and Scripture songs from church and maybe the occasional Michael Card song. Now that's not bad, but that just meant that I played very little beyond big, open, cowboy chords. After a couple of years, I fell in with some friends from work that introduced me to bluegrass and country gospel. So I started playing that. Actually learned a few major scales on the neck, but still never played much beyond cowboy chords.
In one of the little bands I played in, another guitar player and I would swap off between playing some melody lines and chords. In retrospect, I can only imagine how bad we sounded, because, other than the occasional "leads" we were both playing big, open, ringing, cowboy chords. Maybe it wasn't as bad I I think it may've been. Back then though, we were having a ball.
I played in another little duo (me and a harmonica player) that played about twice a month at a weekly fellowship group. He and I also played once a month at a church that liked what we were playing. About that time, I managed to get in with a group of "real" players. And, by "real" I mean that I considered them actual musicians. They played out most every weekend somewhere, and they let me sit in with them every couple of months. Because of them, I was also introduced to a flute player who formed a trio out of herself, a violin player, and me. We put together some hymn arrangements and played at a couple of churches in our area three or four times. I was slowly learning to get away from cowboy chords, but it was a very slow process.
Then I moved. I became the worship-leaderish-person-by-default for my singles group at church because I played the guitar. So I was playing once a week at a minimum for that. Then I got a job that, for all intents and purposes, kept me from playing for probably 5 or 6 years.
Moved again, and started going to a local BBQ restaurant. it was at this restaurant that I first heard some music that just reached out and grabbed me. The buddies that I used to go with would sometimes laugh at me because I didn't really care about the BBQ (it was good - don't get me wrong), the whole time we were there I was keyed in on the music being played coming out the speakers above our heads. And then, when we left, we would head to the Borders not too far up the street, and I would search the cd section trying to find what I could remember hearing while we ate.
The blues had reached down and grabbed me. BB King, Stevie Ray, Robert Cray, Albert Collins, Howlin' Wolf... What was this music and why had I never heard it before?? So I decided I needed to learn this music.
Over the next few years, I half-heartedly tried to learn on my own. This wasn't pre-internet days, but it was back when video was just beginning to get a useful foothold and social media was limited to your personal blog and maybe a forum or two. No one had heard of Tom from MySpace yet, and Facebook was still several years away. You could order stuff online, but it was still a hardcopy that was sent to you in the mail...digital content wasn't nearly what it is today.
So I picked up the occasional lesson book from the local Guitar Center or Amazon and tried to learn from them. For the most part, unsuccessfully. I managed to learn the pentatonic scales, but couldn't figure out what to do with them. Sometimes I can take a concept and run with it. For some reason, this time, I'd be given the concept, but then couldn't translate it into something useful.
Fast forward a few years, and let youtube gain its foothold into all things instructional, and at the very end of 2009 while I was between having been laid off and the start date at my new job, I discovered Griff Hamlin and his 4 note solo video. It looked like a simple way to take some of what I had managed to teach myself and turn it from something scale-y into something musical. So I signed up for his emails. After receiving a few of them and actually being able to put what he was talking about into practice, I ordered his course, Blues Guitar Unleashed.
Back then, he only had 2 courses. A beginner course, and BGU. Since I had already been playing for a long time, I started with BGU, and it has set me on the blues path I've been traveling for several years now. At this point, I consider Griff to be my teacher even though he and I have only ever actually spoken on a couple of occasions. He now has a LOT more than just the 2 courses, and each one that I have picked up, I have learned a ton from. His teaching style is simple and understandable. If you purchase his courses, he invites you to join a forum that he works hard to be sure is a welcoming place full of friendly guys and gals where you can get answers to your questions (not like a LOT of internet guitar forums where, if you ask a question, everyone that knows the answer makes you feel stupid for asking since everyone else already knows the answer). He is also active on his forum and interacts with a lot of the discussions that are there.
Because of Griff and his courses, I have progressed beyond cowboy chords and being a pretty one-trick-pony-player to being a confident guitar player that knows I have a whole heck of a lot to learn but knows enough to have a good time in almost any situation. I'm now like a two-trick-pony-player. :-)
Griff has since updated his 4 Note Solo and his flagship Blues Guitar Unleashed course, and, like I said, he's gone from just 2 courses to having an entire catalog. But if you're looking for a good, solid course of instruction, I can't recommend him any more highly. If you're that struggling player that needs a shot in the arm to get your playing jump started, take a look at his material. He's probably got something you'd find useful.
I may do a more in-depth review of his BGU V2 course later on.
The Strat that has been my main go-to for nearly 10 years is my Hwy 1 Strat in 3-color burst. You know how you always seem to grab the same guitar or two in the end? This is one of those for me.
I got it back in 2010. Prior to that time, I had played primarily acoustic, and didn't play it all that well (I only had 1 electric at that time). I was really good at cowboy chords, and could play some bluegrass-y, sort of country-ish leads, but that was it. I had decided a couple of years before that I wanted to learn to play the blues. I had picked up a couple of book/cd combos, and worked my way through them, but was having trouble finding my way outside of their canned solos for some reason.
The end of 2009, I found myself laid off from work. While I was sitting at the house looking for work one day, I came across an internet teacher that seemed pretty good. So I bought his course (more on this in another post later). He was actually making sense to me, and I was progressing through his coursework. I had decided that, once I finished the course, I was going to reward myself for sticking with it and buy myself a nice Stratocaster. It was several months later, and I was about half way through the course (and actually back to work by this time), and had already showed Mrs Snarf the guitar I had picked out. She walked in from work one day, nice little bonus in hand, and announced to me that I needed to go ahead and order the guitar that I had picked out. So I did.
Since then, no matter what other guitars I may pick up for a while, they always end up back in the closet, and the Hwy 1 stays out on the stand. I've talked off and on about upgrading her a bit, swapping the pups for a good set of Zexcoils or putting some locking tuners on her. Somehow, though, she always makes me happy just like she is, and has remained bone stock. And, yes, she's a her, and her name is Cali because she's the first MIA Strat I got.
When I got her, she was the entry level MIA Strat Fender made. Rumor has it that she's half MIM, but, I actually asked someone at Fender once, and they assured me that she was made in the factory in Corona. Not that it matters...I'm of the opinion that if it plays easily and sounds good, it can be made where ever it came from and I'll be happy with it. Regardless, just like any guitar, after I got her, I gave her a good setup, and she played as well as any guitar I have picked up.
As a Hwy One, it has the Greasebucket tone control. I can't say that I'm unhappy with it. According what Fender used to advertise, it rolls off the highs without adding any lows. Ummmm...a tone control pot can't add any lows. It reduces the highs which accentuates the lows. But it doesn't add them. To my ear, it just cuts some of the lows with the highs. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It sounds good to me. I have heard of people that got Hwy Ones and immediately changed that circuit. I'm not sure why.
The pups are a bit hotter than any other Strat that I've got. Again, not a bad thing. It just gives it a different voice. And a nice one at that. In one of my other Strats, I've got a set of CS 69s dropped in that I really like. I never really understood "that glassy Strat sound" until I heard those. The pups in the Hwy One aren't super glassy. Don't get me wrong; they still sound like a Strat, but they've actually got more growl and drive a lot quicker than the 69s. Iv'e also been told that I'm a but odd because I seldom use the neck pickup which some of my buddies tell me is the only way that God intended a Strat to be played. I prefer a bit more of that Robert Cray-ish treble, and almost always have it in position 2 for that bridge/middle sound. That's the one that makes me happy. I've also got it set with 5 springs to keep the bridge flush on the body.
It's nothing short of a great guitar, and a total player. Mine has more bumps and bruises on it than my other electrics, but that's because it's the one that I play more than any single other electric. When I got this one it was because I wanted a MIA Strat, and this was the cheapest on the block by about $350. In retrospect, imho, these guitars were total sleepers. Or maybe I just got an outstanding example of one.
So why another blog about guitars, gear, and whatever other crap I talk about? Mostly to feed my need to write and talk about stuff. Over the years I have found that I really like to write about stuff, and this will let me continue to do that. I really don't expect this to take off and be read by more than a couple of people, and, when I say a "couple of people" I actually mean me when I write it and me when I read it after it's posted. That counts as two right?
I'll probably try to post something once a week. Or at least once a week until work gets in the way because, with my line of work, it always does. The posts will mostly be about guitars and gear, but I might occasionally post something about my other interests like Moab or my little patio garden.
If anyone stumbles upon the blog and happens to actually read it, I hope they enjoy it. I don't care whether their enjoyment comes from it being smart and informative or they find it the rantings of a crazy person and walk off thinking better of themselves for being the superior person. Either way, I hope it makes them smile, and it'd be nice if they left a comment and let me know they like what I say or think I'm an absolute and total idiot.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.