In an effort to encourage Guitar Moderne readers to submit their rigs for the new Reader’s Rig section, I proffer my own basic board. I thought it also might be educational to explain how I arrived at this particular configuration. It involved decades of experimentation with dozens of effects, as well as the knowledge gained by being in the lucky position of reviewing and writing about pedals for many years. That said, I am as neurotic as any other guitarist, so rest assured the experimentation is not over, nor ever likely to be.
The idea of this board is to cover the greatest degree of sonic territory, suitable for the widest variety of gigs, using the highest quality sounds I could find, on the smallest footprint I could manage. For example: though I love wah-wah, both as a rhythmic and a filtering device, I decided not to add it to the board itself. For many gigs it is not necessary, and on those that require it I just place it on the floor in front of all the other pedals.
Xact Tone Solutions assembled the board to be bulletproof. They also constructed my other board built around the kinds of quirky pedals one might use for a more modern gig. You can see it and read about that one here. For this article, however, I will concentrate on my meat-and-potatoes pedals, used to cover the majority of gigs.
First in line is a Trombetta Feederbone. You can read the full Guitar Moderne review here, but basically I chose it for the board because it offers a Fuzz Face style fuzz on the right and a Big Muff type fuzz on the left. Even more important, it plays beautifully with the Jetdrive that follows it. For fizzier tones I use it alone, but if I want fat, fat, lush full range fuzz, I combine it with either the right or left side of the Jetdrive. For complete meltdown madness I add the Feederbone to Jetter with the right and left sides stacked. The pedal is not listed on his site, but I am sure he will make you one if you want it.
Next comes the Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing—a true Swiss Army Knife of pedals. It lets me pre-program nine effects that I can step through with the left footswitch. I use it for:
1) one octave up
2) One octave down
3) a fifth down—for baritone guitar effects
4) an octave up added to the original signal, for twelve-string sounds.
5) an added 4th
6) an added 5th
7) a ring modulator
8) a fast univibe
9) and a slow univibe
That is a lot of effects for one pedal and they are largely effects I would only use for one or two tunes at most. This gives me access to all those sounds without having to have a minimum of three different pedals to create them (ring modulator, harmonizer, Uni-Vibe).
The Ring Thing feeds the aforementioned Jetter Jetdrive. Pitch and univibe effects generally prefer going into a distorted sound over being driven by a distorted signal. As with most rules, this one can be broken, so I am not shy about occasionally feeding the Ring Thing with the Feederbone.
Brad Jeter (he added a “t” to the company name) is possibly the most criminally underrated boutique pedal designer around. My full review of the Jetdrive pedal is here, but essentially the right side offers everything from a warmed up boost to a Fender-y drive, while the left side is more full range and with a slight British inflection and the same kind of grit scope. Both sides are amp-like and dynamic. There may be drive pedals with equal or even “better” sound, but I haven’t found another one that lets me sound so much like me. The two sides stack perfectly and each, in its way, sounds great with the Trombetta. The combination of these two pedals gives me a spectacular variety of boost to fuzz through any amp.
I use my guitar volume to dial in various levels of dirt with the first two pedals, but if I want to change volume without changing the drive level, placing the Ernie Ball volume pedal after the two drives allows me to do so. It also makes it easier to do volume swells while manipulating a vibrato arm—a difficult trick to pull off with the guitar volume unless you are Jeff Beck and, trust me, I am not.
Then we have the Cusack Tap-a-Whirl. I have tried numerous tremolos, but this one offers: tap tempo, various waveforms, ramp up and down and silent switching—and, oh, yeah, it sounds great.
From there we enter the MXR Carbon Copy, a rich analog delay with optional modulation that can add just a bit of fattening or gorgeous ambience, while staying out of the way of the note articulation. Combined with the TC Hall of Fame Reverb, I can get an amazing array of ambience. I am still playing with the TC editor, searching for the perfect personalized sound to put in the last slot of the Hall of Fame.
The classic BossTU-2 tuner rounds out the board. I tried the Peterson pedal for a while and though it was easy to read and accurate, the footswitch made such a loud mechanical sound that I found it hard to use backing singer/songwriters on quiet semi-acoustic gigs.
For most gigs the self-contained pedal board suffices, but I occasionally add the ubiquitous Line 6 DL-4 delay with or without an expression pedal for more delay options (tap tempo, extra long, reverse, etc.) The whole rig is mounted to a Chandler Pedaltrain board and powered by a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power.
Check out the video (ignore the playing and focus on the sounds) for some examples of the multitude of effects I can get with these six pedals, and please feel free to comment and/or send in your own rigs.