Hello and welcome to my first blog post! Today's subject, (and every subsequent one), TONE... Those of you who know me personally will know just how much time I dedicate to this particular area of being a guitar player. I spend, hours, days, weeks etc etc. After many requests I have finally succumb to the pressure to write a tone blog. As tone is a subjective and personal area for all players I will be discussing the equipment and approaches that work for me, as opposed to trying to give advice to others with such such sweeping statements as "doing this will make you sound like...". That is not what this blog is about and I welcome any and all comments on the posts I will be putting up in the future. There will be gear demos as well as a tone diary that I will be adding to when on tour as and when points of interest arise on the road specific to the pursuit of tone...
Today's post is centred around the rig I have been using when playing in the Sean Webster band. Anyone who has been to any shows I've appeared at will have not doubt seen and therefore experienced two amp set up I've been employing along with the 'bigger than it should be for blues gigs' pedal board.
I often get asked these two questions:
1: What are you using tonight Ash?
2: Why are you using all of that Ash? Surely you don't need it all...
Well, here goes...
Here is a run down of my main gigging rig...
1999 Fender Stratocaster '62 reissue
2008 Gibson Les Paul VOS '58 reissue
Pedals (in order from guitar to amp):
Fulltone Deja Vibe (mono)
King Tone Fuzz
Xotic BB Preamp
Keeley TS9 Mod+
Zotic EP Boost
Korg Pitch Black Tuner
Strymon El Capistan Tape Echo
Strymon Flint Reverb/Tremolo
All of this then goes into a Gig Rig 'Humdinger' (an active signal splitter), and out into the amps,
1974 Marshall Artiste 2040 combo
1974 Fender Quad Reverb combo (into a THD Hotplate)
I have been using this rig now for around two years and have been very happy with the sound. I use the different drive pedals and boosts because of the output difference between the Les Paul and the Strat to try and even out my level on stage volume. This is also why I have employed two amps rather than one. Because both of the guitars respond so differently to the EQ stacks on each of the amps I have found that using a Fender and a Marshall at the same time evens out the mids and effectively fills the frequency discrepancies I complain about when forced to use just one amp for a gig. Essentially, the better Strat tones come from the Fender amp and the better Les Paul tones come from the Marshall, (who saw that coming?). This is in spite of the Marshall being a very clean Marshall, not like a JMP 50 for example. I have found that by using a combination of drive pedals with these two amps I have been able to approximate the tones, (certainly on the Marshall crunch side of things), I have been aiming to achieve. Another positive to using two amps has been fine tuning. The venues I play in vary greatly in size and shape and although some rooms have been troublesome shipping containers with no soft furnishings whatsoever, there is usually a work around between the two guitars, amps and variety of pedals.
I would explore anyone who has not worked with a multi amp set up to do so if they get the chance as it really does give you a great sound with plenty of versatility. A rig like this is pretty common in the Blues world and you'll generally find the most of the more well known players have a multi amp rig.
However, all of this comes with a few negatives, the main one being volume... The sheer amount of power that the Quad alone is capable of is enough to make the most hardened sound engineer quiver in their boots, and that's with an attenuator! Also, the amount of lifting myself and the rest of the band have to endure in order to get all of this to and from the van. Couple this with smaller venues that cannot accommodate the space on stage for both amps and my pedal board I have become increasingly envious of the 'guitar into medium wattage amp' folks. Now in all fairness Sean's material requires me to have a myriad of guitar tones: cleans, dirt, boosts, varying reverb amounts and delay settings to name a few but it has still made me wonder if it is possible to get all of this out of one amp with less pedals and a more sociable volume level...
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