I have been working out my sound and building my rig seriously for about four years now. Here is a rundown of the gear I use on stage, beginning with my effects pedal board.
Homemade powered pedal board. Power supply taken from a Musicians Friend pedal board, added plywood and carpet. I transport the whole board in an ATA flight case I bought used. The pedals are placed in a specific order to achieve the sound I desire.
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone (Keeley Modded)
Guitar signal is fed into the metal zone distortion/overdrive pedal first. This pedal is true bypass. The Keeley mod boosts the signal for increased volume, as well as tweaks to make the guitar signal sound ‘meaner’ and more responsive. It’s technical stuff that turns this pedal into a tone and distortion monster. More info on the mod can be found here. It has taken me a little while to work the MT-2 into our songs as it is such an aggressive and ‘metal’ sounding pedal. When I need to reach the back row, I know this pedal will do the trick. And then some.
Dunlop Cry Baby 535Q Multi-Wah
Signal next enters the Wah. I put the Wah after the OD for a couple reasons. Since the modded MT-2 is true bypass when it is turned off the signal being fed into the Wah is not being effected. But when the metal pedal and the Wah are engaged, the Wah is being distorted and I think the Wah is more pronunced and has a great, cutting tone. This particular Wah is very versatile, with a built in boost button and dials to select the frequency center and range of the effect. More info here.
Boss Super Chorus CH-1
Next comes a Boss chorus pedal. Used to shape and modulate my sound, this pedal sounds great on solos and when I want to “soften” my sound up a bit. As with all Boss pedals it is solidly built, easy to use and can be powered with a daisy chain power supply. Tech specs here.
Dunlop MXR M101 Phase 90
Next the signal enters my phase shifter. The MXR 90, ‘orange brick’ is a classic effect used widely by guitar players. Adds a swirling and swooshing sound that can be increased to sound like a tremolo bar being flexed rapidly. Really good for ‘spacey’ sounds, adds good shape to notes or chords. I like to use it with the dial turned to about 8 or 9 o’clock to add a subtle swirling sound. More info here.
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano Reverb
Next into the Holy Grail reverb. This pedal is versitile with a toggle switch that can be moved between hall (small to huge) and true spring reverb, as well as a setting for ‘Flerb” which with a turn of the knob goes from echo, to warble, to all out synth/organ trip out sounds. Small size, great tones and easy to use. One big knob for adjusting the level/amount of three reverb settings. Info here. I use this when I want classic reverb, haunting echo and when we are freaking out.
Ibanez Tone-Lok DE-7 Delay/Echo
Next into the Delay. This pedal can give digital delay sounds as well as analog echo sounds. Easy to use, the knobs can be locked into place once adjusted, a good way to keep levels in place. Can go from simple echo and slap back all the way in too Deep Space 9. This pedal can communicate with aliens. Handy, front mounted switches are present for adjusting time of delay and choosing between analog echo or digital delay. While this is not a true analog pedal, the echo sound is a good reproduction of a true tape delay. Info here. I use this during jams and some solos. Still exploring its many applications.
Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer
Next into the Tube Screamer. I use this as a boost as well as to add overdrive. A classic, easy to use pedal that can take a lot of abuse. I use two TS-9’s in a row, the first being a ‘stock’ model. I like to use this one to boost a clean channel and add a bit more edge. This pedal was once owned and used by legendary rocker Charlie ‘Chuck’ Nilan of the rock band “Eugune’s Axe.” Check it here.
Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer (Keeley Mod)
Same unit as the stock TS-9 with a few upgrades. One improvement is the drive knob has been modded to increase its range three fold. 3x the goodness. This is a true bypass pedal, it sounds so crisp and clean, makes the guitar responsive, increases harmonics, and I love using it. Can be used as a boost, or with a turn of the ‘level’ knob can be used as a pretty gritty overdrive. I use it for many of our songs and in conjunction with other pedals. I set it to dirty, the other TS-9 to clean and then sometimes turn them both on. It sounds great, and is sonically invisible when it is turned off. I adjust it on the fly during gigs a lot and couldn’t envision my rig without it. More info here.
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal Jr.
-Used to mute entire rig for tuning, used for swells, can be used as an amp footswitch and a tuner can be run off this pedal. Great way of having a master volume control for you rig. More info here.
Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
World renowned guitar and bass tuner. Can power other pedals (I run a daisy chain off mine to several other pedals) can be used as a mute, and is built for battle. Everyone knows of this tuner weather they own one or not. Here.
I also have my Fender and Marshall amp selector boxes mounted on the pedal board. More on amps in a bit. I currently have my entire pedal board running into an amp switcher…
Lehle Dual SGoS
This allows me to run up to three amps, or two amps and a tuner, in which the tuner can also act as a mute. I can also run into an input dedicated to channel ‘A’, in order to have two instruments inline (one into ‘A’ and one into the main ‘A/B/T’ input) and two amps and multiple wives. And a whole lot of other, midi programmable options. The buttons can be reprogrammed to any configuration needed in seconds. Super bright led’s for each channel. This thing can beat you at chess. Two of the amps can be run simultaneously, aka stereo, allowing me to have a clean guitar sound and a dirty guitar sound at the same time. It is like opening a portal to the other side. Independent gain controls on top for channel ‘A’ and ‘B’ make it easy to balance the levels of the two amps you want to run in stereo. The first time I switched on two tube amps hooked to the same guitar I wept. I wept from joy and the realization that from that day forward I would be able to melt minds. Minds and faces. It is a burden of power I am still coming to grips with. Ground lift switch to cancel hum, and a switch that will put two out of phase amps in phase. The Dual can however be run with out of phase amps. It’s what you need. So depending on the amps, guitars and effects used, this box helps the guitar sound go from A to Zepplin. Worth the price. Lehle is a German company that solves the riddles. Learn about the Dual, here. Check Lehle out here, you will be glad you did.
So Guitar to pedal board to Lehle to amps. Amps:
Fender Blues DeVille, USA 1998, 60 watt all tube, 2×12 combo amp
Great for cleans, good spring reverb, and a bluesy gain channel that can get a good growl going. It has more overall power than I need, hence the THD Hot Plate on top for Attenuation. The Hot Plate allows me to turn the amp level up to get the broken up tube sound, then attenuate the sound down to a level appropriate for the room we are playing. A foot switch on my pedal board allows me to switch between clean, gain, and a ‘more gain’ option that works well as a boost for leads. I am always adjusting the knobs, but I tend to gig with the bass, treble and gain up pretty high, mids and reverb fairly low and the presence a bit over half (or +1 on some amps).
Marshall JCM 900 MkIII, UK 1990, 50 or 25 Watt All Tube, 2×12, Hi Gain Master, 2502
Had the luck of finding a great used Marshall combo to add to the setup. I had been keeping my eye open for something beefier than the Blues DeVille, since it is not really made for harder rock, and we often rock harder. The JCM 900 is in great condition for being as old as a college girl. As young as a college girl. Its well aged. This one has no issues other than these are prone to overheat, something I plan to remedy with a simple mod from M.A.R.S. Amp Repair, in Englewood. The Fender and the Marshall run great together in rehersal, I am gigging with the setup Sept. 3rd, Scruffy Murphy’s, Downtown Denver. Should be a hoot. If all the chords are in the right order.
When we rehearse I run a third amp in the setup, mainly because I have other amps and the Lehle Dual allows it. The Lehle Dual is like having more fingers. That means good. Other amps I use:
Fender Princeton Chorus, USA 1988, ‘Red Knob’, 2×25 Watt Solid State, 2×10 Stereo Combo
I use this a lot in practice since it is easier to tolerate in a 12×12 room. Great cleans, o.k. gain channel, good chorus. Foot switch for the OD and Chorus. I have had this since about 1999. Traded a Takamine GS-330S for it. Got it from a friend who got it from the original owner. I like it. Good for an acoustic as well. Two Inputs, Stereo Effects Loop, Headphone Jack. Good condition.
Black Heart ‘Little Giant’ BH5H, China 2007, Class A, 5 or 3 Watt Head, 1×12 Eminence in the cabinet.
This amp is well made, it’s small and simple and it is affordable. I run it in the third channel of my Lehle Dual and although it makes the whole rig hum a bit when it is engaged, it’s not noticeable when playing at volume and it is a nice third tube sound. Good when just cranked on the 5 watt setting, with a lot of bass, treble and mid.
Amps and pedals are mostly utilized on stage with the following guitars.
Fender Telecaster, USA Custom Shop 1999, Maple neck and body. Custom saddles and bridge plate.
First Tele I have owned, thick, solid body with good sound from twang to snarl
Gibson Les Paul Studio Deluxe, USA 2010, 490R Neck and Burstbucker Pro bridge pickups, Coil Tapped Humbuckers.
Great tone, slim taper 60’s neck, hot pickups
2002 Fender Stratocaster, USA, Highway One Series, Trans Red
2001 Gibson Les Paul Studio, USA, Wine Red
2008 Epiphone Les Paul, Slash Custom Shop, China, Tobacco Burst