A few years ago, I wrote about gear that has changed my life. I wrote that at a time when I was in the midst of a buying binge, as I was discovering new gear. But in the ensuing years, as I’ve found the “sweet spot” of my personal tone, while the gear that I mentioned certainly changed my life, there are other things from the more recent past that have helped solidify who I am as a musician. So I thought I’d share those here. These aren’t necessarily in order…
- Gibson 1958 Les Paul Standard Historic Reissue (R8).
Getting this guitar helped me nail down my electric tone. Up to that point, I had been using all sorts of different guitars from Strats and Telecasters to even a hand-made, custom guitar. It wasn’t until I started playing that Les Paul that I truly felt that felt completely comfortable with my tone. With my other axes (which I still have), I felt compelled to keep searching. There’s a certain “magic” about the R8 that I’ve never been able to capture with other guitars.
- Marc Culbertson 1959 Les Paul Replica.
Like the mask in the Jim Carrey movie, “The Mask,” this is a guitar that I’ve tried to get rid of, but it keeps coming back, so I’m keeping it. Or it’s like the ring of power in the Lord of the Rings; this guitar has adopted me, and will not leave. This is a special, special guitar. It has a brighter tone than my R8, but with the old-growth mahogany and the Brazilian rosewood fretboard, the sustain on this guitar is even more than my R8. Up until two weeks ago, I was trying to sell it, but after gigging with it last week, I realized that selling it would have been a mistake. As a game-changer, it drives home the point that there is some gear that you should never get rid of.
- Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (hand-wired).
This pedal changed everything for me with respect to delay. I had been using digital delays for years, and was never fully satisfied with them. I was always after that subtle, ambient tone, and digital delays just wouldn’t cut it for me. I really didn’t like the analog delays I had tried because they just felt to gloomy and dark. Then I played this delay. It was warm, and the ambient feel was more dreamy than dark, and it was totally inspiring. Yeah, I paid $325 for the pedal, and had the PCB version come out, I probably would’ve gotten that, but there’s no way I’m trading this now that I have it. It’s a permanent fixture on my board!
- Paul Cochrane “Timmy” Overdrive. For years, I dismissed the hype surrounding the Timmy and Tim overdrives from Paul Cochrane. Hanging out on The Gear Page made me jaded. But then I got to see and hear the pedal up close and personal at a “Luce” concert at the Little Fox Theatre in Redwood City, CA. Dylan Brock, Luce’s guitarist at the time, played one, and I just couldn’t believe the tone he was getting, so I put one on order, and six months later, I had it, and it hasn’t left my board since. Sound-wise, I’ve been able to achieve something similar with other overdrive pedals. But with the Timmy, there’s a certain feel to the pedal that I’ve never been able to duplicate. From a pure sound standpoint that might not make a bit of difference, but from a performance standpoint, “feel” equals expression.
- The Aracom PRX150-Pro Attenuator.
Still a game-changer for me. I use this unit everywhere; in the studio and live. Being able to control my output volume and still crank my amp has been a boon to performing. In the studio, it has saved my ears. I can keep my headphone volume at a reasonable level, and still get my power tubes working. And no, a master volume just doesn’t cut it because to me, there’s nothing like the sound of a fully cranked amp where both the preamp and power tubes are saturated. Joe Satriani, Steve Miller, and Mark Knopfler are among big-name artists who are using one of these. The PRX150 is simply the best attenuator out there.
- TC Helicon VoiceLive Play gtx.
It doesn’t have as many voices of harmony as my venerable Vocalist Live 4, and you can’t control the intervals of the harmonies either. But the sound quality of the vocal processing, combined with the fantastic built-in guitar effects simply blow away anything I’ve used in the past. Whether I’m plugging into a house PA or plugging into my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp PA, I can feel confident that my sound will always be great. So what if I don’t have as many voices of harmony? All that is nothing if it sounds lifeless and dry; and in comparison, especially with the guitar processing, the VoiceLive puts my old Vocalist Live 4 to shame.
- Fishman SA220 SoloAmp.
This self-contained guitar amp/PA has made solo gigging SO much easier for me since I got it a couple of years ago. I chose it over the Bose L1 Compact – even though they were similarly priced – purely for convenience: It has as built-in two-channel mixer with 3-band EQ, independent passive loops, it has a rollered gig bag for easy transport, AND it literally takes less than a minute to set up! As a solo artist, convenience is HUGE and the SA220 just keeps on delivering on that!
- EWS Little Brute Drive.
Until I played this little monster, I never appreciated distortion boxes. Part of that was due to relying on my amps to provide the distortion that I needed. But this pedal produces such sweet distortion, and it has become a critical tool for when I’m playing songs that go from totally clean to super-driven. And for playing leads, the sustain this pedal produces is incredible!
- Wegen Picks “Fatone” Pick.
Finally, a pick that I could comfortably play with ANY guitar. I’ve been using this pick for less than a month, and I will never switch to another pick. I have a collection of expensive picks (probably a few hundred dollars worth), and I used to use different picks for different guitars and styles. With this pick, all that has changed.