A few months ago, I was in a rush to get to a gig. I didn’t keep good track of time running errands beforehand, and had to make a mad dash home to pick up my gear. Once home, I frantically loaded up my mini-SUV with my gear, took a quick “make-sure-everything’s-there” look, hopped into the driver’s seat, and sped off.
Now, as many gigging musicians know, rushing to a gig is a recipe for disaster: You’re stressed when you get to the venue; that stress in turn makes you rush even more once you get there; and when you’re rushing, you tend to forget things. That gets you even more pissed, and the net result is that nothing goes very smoothly.
Such was the case on that fateful day of rushing to my gig. In the corybantic state I was in while loading my car, I had overlooked loading something that is central to my setup: My gear bag where I carry all my pedals, cords, extra picks and my tuner. While unloading my vehicle, I didn’t even notice that it was missing. I felt rushed, yes, but I also felt confident that I had all my stuff, and could just set up, go through sound check, and be ready to perform. It was when I went to set up my gear that I suddenly realized my gear bag was not present. Talk about being pissed! I had to leave the building to regain my composure.
Once I calmed down, I went back inside, gave a small chuckle of futility, and asked my band members to help me out. Luckily we always have extras of stuff, so I borrowed a couple of cables, plugged in my amp and guitars, then went outside to lock up my car. As I was closing the tailgate, I looked inside the cargo area of my mini-SUV, and lo and behold, sat two of my pedals: my trusty Boss Chorus, and my TS-808 Tube Screamer. I had taken them out to jam with a friend the night before, and laziness kept me from putting the pedals plus my power snake back into my gear bag! All was not lost. I was still missing three pedals, but hey! Two are better than nothing.
With glee, I returned to my setup and inserted the pedals into my signal chain, and we got ready for sound check. I was a little dubious about how things would sound without my full array of pedals, especially my BBE Sonic Stomp that really helps contour the lows in my amp, but once my amp warmed up, I couldn’t believe the clarity of sound that was coming through my amp! I was in absolute heaven! Granted, I had to tweak the EQ a bit, but I was beside myself with how good my amp sounded. So what started out as a potential gig-breaker, turned into a blessing in disguise.
Now, I only play with the chorus and tube screamer in my signal chain, though I may add a tube reverb in the near future to get different reverb effects in addition to the stock spring reverb in my amp. But I’m in no rush (excuse the pun). In any case, I’ve learned a couple of valuable lessons:
- Always give yourself a lot of time to prepare for a gig.
- More is not necessarily better with respect to effects. This is a point I need to discuss a bit…
With respect to item 2, I bought all my effects when my amp was new. While I loved the way it sounded out of the box, I felt that it had some rough edges, so I smoothed them out by adding pedals to my signal chain to compensate. But after playing with this amp for over a year now, I think the reason it sounds so good without the pedals is because the speaker cone is broken in from frequent use. So a third lesson can be gleaned from all this: Spend the time to break in your amp. Depending upon how much you play, this could take weeks, or it could take months.
A final lesson I’ve learned is this: So much of your tone comes from your fingers – how you articulate the strings on the fretboard. Trust your fingers!
For me, I probably could’ve removed half of my pedals months ago, but didn’t know any better. Now I do. At this point, my tone has really evolved to a place where I’m absolutely happy, and that just drives me to get even better as a guitarist.
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