…to use less gear.
Yup, gear slut that I have been, I’ve been focused on using a lot less gear when I gig. Tonight at Mass it was just my acoustic plugged into one of the church’s Genz-Benz amps – though I hate the modulation effects on that amp so I run a chorus, delay and reverb in the effects loop. And even when I bring my electric, in the recent past, I’ve only brought my amp, cab and guitar – well, plus my attenuator. But no effects.
A primary reason for this choice was because I felt that I was relying a bit too much on effects; especially reverb and delay to get some sustain. I felt that I wasn’t using my fingers enough to eek out as much tone as possible from what I was playing.
This had two results: 1) I slowed my leads way down and concentrated on making my guitar sing with bends and vibrato, working individual notes as much as possible; 2) playing with no effects meant that I couldn’t hide my mistakes, so in addition to slowing down, I focused on being precise – not boring, mind you, but hitting notes and chords much more precisely.
Oh I struggled for awhile with the barebones approach, but once I became comfortable with playing that way, just like anything else in life, the repetition just made me better. In fact, in my latest songs, the modulation effects you hear on my guitars were applied in the mix post-fader. I didn’t want to rely on effects applied at the front of my signal; again, challenging myself to only rely on my fingers to get my sound.
So why have all this gear, and why not get rid of all those pedals?
I don’t think I’d ever get rid of them – maybe some that I’m not using. Pedals are great to help sweeten my sound. I like a slap-back delay at times, and as the great Doug Doppler once said, “I always use a little reverb to add a little grease to my tone.” But having challenged myself to not rely on them, I’ve actually turned down the levels of my modulation effects so more of “me” comes through in what I play.
I’m no virtuoso by any stretch of the imagination, but for what I do know, I want to sound good, and that starts in my fingers.