Gear is a lot like life and the things we have or accumulate. Sometimes you’re in abundance, sometimes you’re not. With gear, sometimes you need a lot of it to make your “tone,” sometimes you’re just happy plugging straight into your amp.
Up until a couple of years ago, I used to use a lot of gear at my gigs. My pedalboard had a tuner, two overdrives, a distortion, a wah, chorus, delay, overdrive, reverb and booster. But as of late, I’ll use a single overdrive, a wah, chorus and delay. And sometimes, I just use the overdrive and wah, or just the wah by itself, and let my amp do all the overdrive sounds for me (really depends on the amp).
I think what has happened is that I’ve become comfortable with my sound after playing so many years that I don’t feel the need to adorn it with a lot of pedals. It’s not that I didn’t trust my sound all these years. What it boils down to is that no matter what guitar or amp I’m playing through; no matter what pedals I bring, I still sound like me. More stuff isn’t going to change that.
Granted, there’s nothing like the sound of a liquid chorus with a touch of slap-back delay. I dig that tone, and use it A LOT in my acoustic rig. In fact, my very warm Homebrew Electronics THC chorus smooths out the harsh highs that my acoustic can produce at times, so it’s always on, as is my Hardwire Reverb. For acoustic, it’s all about shaping a natural tone to compensate for the dryness of being plugged directly into a PA. I also add about 2.5 to 3 to 1 compression to fatten the tone so it carries in the room I play (which has very high ceilings).
But for electric, I’m down to a pretty barebones setup. My latest board is a my little PedalTrain Nano board. I don’t even use a tuner pedal any longer, having gone to a clip-on. So I hook up my chorus, delay and reverb, stick those in my effects loop, then run my wah into the front of my amp. Sometimes I use my Timmy or Soul Food in place or in front of my wah.
Is it laziness? I don’t know. But then again, as I mentioned above, I’m comfortable with my sound, no matter what I’m plugged into, and hey! Less gear to lug to a gig is always good.
But looking back on all the gear I’ve acquired got me thinking – do I need all of this? Maybe. Maybe not. But there may come a time, where I want to do some major tone-shaping, and it’s good to have that gear on hand. I don’t think I’d ever get as obsessive about my rig as someone like The Edge, but there may come a time when I want to hook everything back up. Like life, you just never know…