I was talking to a buddy recently who's out there doing that thing. He does it on the side, and he's not getting rich from it, but it gives him enough scratch to pick up the gear he wants. He's a little different from me in that, I feel compelled to play and make music. He feels compelled to play, make music, and do it for someone else. The difference is that I do it to make me happy. He does it to make others happy. He's been doing it for years. At this point, he's retired. So he's been doing the weekend warrior thing longer than I've been alive.
He and I had an interesting conversation about making money playing. His opinion is that, unless and until you get to the point of being a big band like <insert the name of any really big band here>, your bread and butter is probably going to be doing covers.
I think he has a bit of a point. I can think of several friends and acquaintances that play in local bands. Music is their business. A couple of them supplement their weekend business (playing music) by having real jobs. Yes, they have those jobs, but they don't consider them their real jobs. The ones that don't have a "real" job, either teach lessons (which is sort of a real job) or they play in multiple bands so that they can be sure that they're playing practically every night.
The ones that seem to be making the most money and playing in the fewest bands are the ones that play more covers than originals. They play the wedding circuit. The VFW Hall circuit. Whatever circuit has people dancing, they're playing it. They play songs that the people know and gets them up out of their seats and on the dance floor.
Quite a few of them still play in an "our original work" kind of band (or two), but those bands play maybe once a week, have small followings, and, by their own admission, are never going to get them rich. I have seen a couple that have broken out a little bit, but they have managed to get on not just the local circuit, but the regional circuit as well, playing not only here in the Metroplex, but also in Houston, Austin, San Antone, OKC, and all around the ArkLaTex region. A couple of them have even managed to get those gigs that take them all over the midwest. They're doing their original stuff, but they've managed to get enough of it out there that people recognize it and want to hear it.
So what do you think? To make money in the business, especially as a weekend warrior, can you do it as an original band or do you have to do the covers thing so that people will get up and dance?
I've never been a real big fan of multi effects. At least not in the past. It seems that, as time goes by, they're just getting better and better. And, when I talk about multi effects, I'm not talking about the pedals that have a couple of actual pedals in one housing like the ElectroHarmonix Turnip Greens or TrueTone Route 66. Those are a different breed of multi effect and don't really count. I'm talking about the boxes made by Zoom and Digitech and even Boss and Fender that have LOTS of effects in them.
My opinion is probably a little jaded because the old ones are small, in plastic cases that, face it, weren't really made to withstand much abuse, and generally sounded (to my ear) pretty crappy. Back in the day, I'd look at the Zoom offerings from time to time at the local guitar shops. I really wanted to like them. But in my not so humble opinion, they seemed like they would break too easily and weren't very intuitive.
Don't get me wrong, I've always like tech. I work in and around tech, and have done so for nearly 20 years. I just think there's a lot to be said about making tech easily understandable and easy to use for everyone...even the lay person. When I install something on my computer (especially these days), I want it to be plug and play and not have to install a bunch of obscure drivers for it to work correctly, and I want to be able to look at its interface and get a good idea of what I need to do to get it to do what I want it to do. At least on some of those earlier multi effects that I always looked at, this totally didn't describe them. You had to dig for most of the settings, and it was an all or nothing thing. On your preset you either got everything you originally programmed to it or you had to re-program it. If you had some OD and reverb on it, and you wanted to drop the reverb for a bit, well, you couldn't. The preset had OD and reverb so you either got both or neither.
I eventually broke down and bought a Digitech RP50. I really, really tried to like it. Kept it for a couple of years playing with it and trying to get it to a point that I thought it was usable. To do that, I created a bunch of presets and then grouped them. The first would be a completely clean sound against an amp sound. Then I'd add some drive to it on the next slot. Then the next slot would add chorus to that. Then the next would add reverb. Then the next would be the reverb added but without the chorus. And so on.
The sounds coming from it weren't really good. They weren't really bad. They were just sort of ok. I eventually tossed it in the closet where it sat for several years. I found it, pulled it out, and a buddy offered me $20 for it. I just gave it to him. Not like I was using it.
Then along came the GNX3 and GNX4 and some of the other units that did what I had wanted them to do before. You could setup a preset, but turn parts of it on or off. I knew a guy that had one of those (a GNX3 I think). He never actually let me play around with ("you're gonna ruin my presets, dude!"), but it seemed like they tech was finally getting to where I wanted to try it again.
Fast forward a few years after that even, and I eventually picked up a Fender Mustang Floor. I had a couple of buddies that were using the Fender Mustangs, and their amp models seemed really good. That tech had finally come far enough that, even though it still wasn't tube amp good, it's believable enough that most folks aren't going to know the difference. Especially when run though a PA in an environment where there are LOTS of other instruments playing at the same time.
I also like that it's pretty intuitive. You can change the settings pretty easily through the on-board interface or you can use the Fender Fuse software. The on-board interface is easy to understand and use. You do have to go several levels deep on some of the settings to change them, but the basic settings are right there. I prefer the Fuse option though because the settings are all right there.
I actually picked it up for when I'm doing the worship band gig. Nobody but the other guitarist cares if I'm using a tube amp or what my pedals are. The Mustang Floor not only does a good enough job with the amp models and effects that it doesn't sound bad, and it has enough outputs that I can give the sound person whatever kind of line out they want. In a situation like that, it's always been my experience that you either don't get an amp or you don't get an amp on stage with you, so you can't hear it anyways. So the Mustang Floor gives me a sound that I can live with, and makes the sound tech happy too.
The Mustang Floor was discontinued like 3 years ago, and Fender hasn't done anything to replace it. Because of that, I'm waiting on the day that the Fuse software doesn't work anymore. At the moment, it doesn't seem like it's supported at all, so, when it breaks, I guess it'll be done.
However, as multi effects and modeling tech get older, they're still getting better. Nowadays you have the Kemper amps and rack units like the Eleven Rack. I don't know if you can truly consider those multi effects or if they're more profilers, but their amp models and effects are good enough they have been known to fool even some of the diehard cork sniffers.
Looking back on multi effects, if they continue to move at the same pace they have the last 15 years, there'll be no reason to ever lug an amp and board anymore within just a few years.
And, yes, I stole the pics below from Sweetwater because I am too lazy to try to take pics of mine, and couldn't find any stock pics from Fender.
I haven't actually used a pedal board in a while...several months probably. I've gotten to where I just go straight to my amp. If I feel like I need a pedal in the mix, I'll stick a pedal in the mix, but it's just one pedal. No board. But I decided to put a bit of a board back together the last few weeks.
Being a gear-a-holic, even if I haven't been using a board or even many pedals, that hasn't stopped me from continuing to pick up pedals and other gear just because whatever it is catches my eye and looks interesting. On the board the I put together recently, I have two pedals that are two of my most recent acquisitions and two that I have had longer than probably any others. Here's what I have at the moment. The signal chain goes like this. Guitar goes into...
Boss TU-2 Tuner. This was the 5th pedal I bought (I think) and the first pedal tuner. Back when I bought it, I was playing in the worship band at the church that I attended. Playing there, I had a wall immediately to my back with the sopranos in the choir behind me. To my left was the horn section of the orchestra. To my right was the bass player who was using an 8x10. In front of me was an 8' Steinway grand. My music stand pretty much rattled against the piano all the time. I realized pretty quickly that, in all that noise, clip-on tuners were pretty useless. So I got the pedal tuner. Built like a tank, and has never given me a problem. The tuner goes into...
The Tone Bakery Creme Brulee. I forget where I first heard about this one, but it's another one of those pedals that goes into the Klone camp. I've got several of this type of pedal, but this I picked this one up back the end of summer, and have enjoyed playing around with it since then. I have the gain just barely cracked open, and the volume set to about 2 o'clock. I have it on most of the time and use it as that clean boost to just push the amp a little more. Same way I use any other Klone I've got. The Creme Brulee goes into...
The Visual Sound (now TruTone) Route 66. This pedal is the 4th one I ever got. It's probably the pedal that comes the closest to staying on my board all. the. time. On the occasion that I pull it off, it doesn't stay off long. To my ear, it can get a little dirtier than a regular TS pedal. It can pull off that throaty growl better than anything than any pedal I have. I run this one just the opposite of whatever Klone I have on the board at the time...volume not too high and the gain turned somewhere between noon and 3. When I first got this pedal, I used it much like I use a Klone nowadays. Funny thing was, when I used it like that, had never heard of a Klon or of folks using it like that. These days, it gets used more as that gainy OD pedal. When I don't have a Klone on my board, I typically use this one in conjunction with a TS. The Rt 66 pedal runs into...
The TC Electronics Flashback X4. I picked up this delay pedal on the cheap from a buddy like 2 or 3 years ago, and never used it. It's too complicated. However, when putting a board together, I always feel like I need to have a delay of some sort on it for some slapback. So, rather than my usual delay, I pulled this one out and stuck it on. I figured I'd play around with it for a while and see if I could figure it out a little better. It's probably not going to last long, but we'll see. I always fall back to that whole, keep-it-simple-stupid thing when it comes to pedals. As I was playing last night, I was already thinking that I needed to go ahead and switch it out. SO we'll see how long it lasts. The delay runs into...
The TC Electronics Hall of Fame 2. I picked it up the first of October. I had sold a bunch of stuff on Reverb, and was trying to spend the Reverb Bucks I had. Didn't have a reverb pedal (never been a big fan of them), but decided I'd spend some of the earnings on either this pedal or an ElectroHarmonix Oceans 11. I ended up with this one only because it was cheaper. Other than that, like I said, I've never been a big fan of reverb pedals, so I'm giving this one a shot just to see how it does. The reverb pedal goes into...
The Morley ABY. I used to have an ART ABY, and it always seemed to be giving me problems. As often as anything, it buzzed. Made me think something wasn't soldered quite right. So I opened it up, but couldn't find anything that would be causing it. It would buzz today, and be quiet tomorrow. Never could figure it out. So I finally ditched it and bought the Morley. Haven't had a problem since. It's been rock-solid. The B side of it goes to one of my Blackhearts. The A side of it goes to...
The Boss RC-20xl looper pedal. This is the third pedal I ever bought. I picked it up less than a week after the pedal hit the market. It's old school looper tech, but it was state of the art when I bought it. 16 minutes of recording, which was like triple what anything else had at the time. These days, depending on the looper, you can get hours of looping fun, save to an SD card, send it to your computer via usb or any number of things like that. This one has none of that. Heck! Memory cards weren't that advanced and nothing had usb back when this one hit the market. But it's been another mainstay in my arsenal (for practice anyways), and I don't see it going anywhere. I've never upgraded it because I like the simplicity of it. This pedal runs out to my Fender SuperChamp set on the clean channel.
Now keep in mind that I'm not currently playing out. This setup is mostly to keep all my pedals in one place, and to keep the music room floor from having pedals strung all across it. If I were playing out, I'd tailor the board to whatever the gig needed. This just works pretty well for what I've been practicing the last few weeks. It'll change I'm sure.
Since I've mentioned the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pedals that I ever bought, I feel like I should mention the first two. The 1st pedal I ever got was the obligatory Boss DS-1. I got it from eBay for like $15. Had no idea about pedals back then. Didn't realize there was a difference in distortion and OD. Bought it, used it for like a week (because I honestly had no idea what I was doing with it), and then quit using it. I have no idea what ever happened to this pedal. Did I sell it or trade it off? Is it stuck in a box out in the garage somewhere? I honestly couldn't tell you. The 2nd pedal I got was the Danelectro Cool Cat chorus. Kind of like the DS-1, I got it off eBay because it was cheap and I thought it looked cool. The surf green colored one that is built like a tank. It's still my go-to chorus pedal.
I had the Cool Cat and looper for like 5 years before I bought the next pedal (the Rt 66). After the Rt 66 and tuner, I have no idea what pedals I got in what order. At this point, I've got a closet full, and have given away, traded, or sold off quite a few others to either finance others or just to get rid of them because I never bonded with them.
What's on your board right now? Any of these pedals that you like or think should never have been made?
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 5 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.