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?
The Dallas Guitar Show. I usually try to go to it most years, and actually make it every 2 or 3 years. I hadn't been in 3 years (maybe 4 now that I think about it), so I took the day off from work and headed over this year.
I always try to go on Friday, and be there when the doors open, just to miss a lot of what can be the insane Saturday and Sunday crowds. I got there about 15 minutes after they got the doors opened, but still early enough that I had to stand in line to get in the door.
They really need to do something different about the way they handle tickets. All tickets bought online have to be picked up at will call. That's actually been the bottle neck the last couple of times I went. The ticket is cheaper (they say) if you buy your ticket online, but then you have to stand in line to get your wrist band to actually get in the show. I, also, would've waited and paid cash at the door had I known that they were giving a cash-at-the-door discount that made the tickets even cheaper than getting them online. And gotten in about 15 minutes quicker because there was no one in that line.
I didn't get any pictures this year, but there was a lot of amazing and fun stuff there. There were guitars that were brand spanking new and barely on the market yet. There were super expensive vintage guitars (and some that were being called vintage that were just plain old). There were guitars for every budget. There were parts of all kinds and all prices. There were pedals and straps and slides and pickups and every imaginable accessory you can imagine at some location in that big room. Here are some of the more interesting things (I thought) that I saw while wandering through.
A Les Paul truss rod cover that had a price tag of $500 on it. The price tag also gave the year it was supposed to be from (early 60s as I recall), but it was a truss rod cover for crying out loud. I can head up to my local GC and get one for $10 I'm sure. If the guitar I buy isn't period correct when I buy it, I'm not looking to make it original (because it never will be). 5 bills for a truss rod cover. I totally don't get that one.
Lots of acoustics this year. They were predominately Martins, Gibsons, and Taylors. A handful of Santa Cruz. I think there were even fewer Epiphones. Outside of the a couple of Taylor 8 and 9 series, a couple of Martin D-42s, a couple of Gibsons (not quite as familiar with their price point), and the Santa Cruz, there were no high end acoustics that I saw. In the past, I've seen some McPhersons and even an Olson one year. They may've been bringing those in on Saturday, but they weren't there on Friday.
A couple of vintage acoustics that I saw. Both Martins. Both pre-war, but both D-18s. One was a player (although still out of my price range), and the other had a mid-5-figure price tag on it and was in really nice condition.
I don't remember seeing any really expensive electrics while I was wandering around. I saw a mid-5-figure Les Paul at one booth, and it had several signs on and around it that basically said look but don't touch. There were several early 60s Strats and Teles around the room. There were some really cool looking guitars too.
I noticed a lot more of those old, at one time cheaper guitars. It would have taken both hands and probably at least one foot to count the number of Kay guitars that probably wouldn't have even made the show a few years ago, and, if they did, they would've been priced at $100 or below. They were sitting around with prices closer to $500 - $750. Maybe the seller was wanting to be sure they had negotiation room. Maybe they figured some sucker was going to walk by and grab it. Either way, these old, generally entry-level guitars, in my head, are the beanie babies of this generation. Folks slap a "vintage" tag on it and charge a ridiculous price for them. Give them a few more years and the buyers will realize that they waaaaaaay overpaid for them. They weren't real good instruments when they were new. Thirty or forty years of sitting under a bed didn't make them any better. It just made them older.
That was probably my biggest eye-opening moment of the show. Realizing that this all-things-vintage craze has just gotten out of hand. There was a lot of just plain old gear there with a "vintage" tag on it that had been marked up by 500%. Another example (like the truss rod cover). I passed a parts table. They had a box of screws sitting there (I forget what to) with a price of $2 a piece. I can see almost see that. Guitar show, guitar show prices. You need a specific screw to fit a specific application, pay a couple of bucks and get the exact one you need rather than going to Home Depot and getting $5 on a handful of screws only to get home and none of them quite fit what you need. Anyways, sitting right next to that box was another box with about 20 screws in it that were all rusted, but they had a price of $12 a piece on them. Looked like the same screws to me...just rusted. At a 600% markup.
Wandering around, I saw Greg Koch sitting at one of the booths playing quietly on an electric that wasn't even plugged in. I saw Seymour Duncan at his booth (at least I'm pretty certain it was him). I think I saw the Truetone (formerly Visual Sound) guy at his booth. I was actually hoping to see TV Jones at his booth, but, if he was at the show, he wasn't at his booth either time I wandered past.
I didn't stay for any of the festival part. It had been raining up until the doors opened, and, since a couple of the stages were outside, they were just ramping up a couple of hours after the doors opened. Eric Johnson was playing Saturday night, and I didn't get back for that. Just spent a few hours wandering the aisles on Friday afternoon before heading back to the right side of the Metroplex (the west side for those of you wondering).
I ended up picking up another strap from Lakota Leathers. They always have a table full of 2nds for cheap, so I always have to pick one up. They make the best straps in the business. I found an NOS VIsual Sound (now Truetone) Open Road overdrive that I picked up. That's the only non-Tubescreamer OD that I tend to like and use. Then I saw some cool leather gig bags that weren't insanely expensive back in the back. I spoke with the guy that I think owns the business, and ended up getting myself a Probag leather gig bag. Got it home and it'll fit my Strats, Tele, LP, or 339. So it looks like it's going to be a pretty versatile bag.
I'm including a pic of the gig bag. I totally dig its look. I haven't had it long enough to see if it'll stand the test of time, but, so far. it looks like it probably will. I think I had the 339 in it at the time of the pic.
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.
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.