Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gear Junkie (Updated)

(Updated April 17, 2013, as I have changed my pedal board layout. K-Dub)

Being a musician, I am a gear junkie. I want to know what everyone else is using and want to try it in my chain to see how it affects my sound. So, for all you gear junkies out there, here is my current guitar rig. 

Amp – Moreland BluesTone 50-H 

Custom built by Rick Moreland of Moreland Amplification, the BluesTone 50-H is, in my humble opinion, the best sounding tube guitar amp ever! It is a 50 watt, single channel tube amp with absolutely no frills, just pure tone. It features 4 knobs (Volume, Treble, Mid, Bass), one 12AU7 preamp tube, one 12AT7 phase inverter tube, 2 EL-34 power tubes, and a 5AR4 rectifier tube and has the perfect tone for anything this side of Screamo. It takes pedals excellently, and has enough headroom to be heard over anything. It is also the quietest tube amp I have ever come across. I run this head through a mid-1980's Marshall 4x10 slant cabinet with stock Celestion speakers. 

Pedal Board 

These are the pedals I use, from first to last in the chain: 

• Boss TU-2 Tuner – I use this pedal to power my pedal board, in addition to its tuning duties 

• Xotic Pedals BB Preamp – The best sounding overdrive pedal I've ever heard, the BB is turned on and never turned off. It behaves just like the front end of the amp: hit the strings softer for a cleaner tone, harder and it growls like a wildcat. Gain at 4, Volume at 5, Bass at 6, High at 4 (tones adjusted for each room). 

• Dunlop Crybaby Wah 

• Xotic Pedals EP-Booster – Clean boost. +3db boost switch on, bright switch off, knob pointing to the top left corner.

• Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe – UniVibe clone. Used whenever we do Hendrix or Pink Floyd

• DOD VibroThang – A gift from Johnny Wiginton, used for the Ry Cooder tremolo-slide sounds. 

• Boss DD-3 Digital Delay – All knobs set at 5 for a short delay with a slight repeat. (Rarely used)

An unorthodox layout, I know, but it works for me. I like the Wah between the BB Preamp and EP-Booster because I can kick it on and get a volume boost from it without having to dance around stepping on pedals. 


• My Number 1 - A stock 1998 Fender American Standard Stratocaster, 3 color sunburst with rosewood fingerboard and Delta Tone Control System. The only modifications to this guitar were the bone nut and the 4-ply tortoiseshell pick guard (to replace the original 3-ply white). All 5 springs in the back, bridge adjusted to sit flat on the guitar body, strung with .011 gauge D’Addario strings. Tuned to standard pitch. 

• Red – A stock 2000 Mexican Standard Stratocaster, Midnight Wine with a 4-ply pearloid pickguard. Replaced the bridge pickup with a Seymore Duncan JB Junior humbucker and added a mammoth bone nut. Slightly higher action for playing slide guitar, all 5 springs in the back, bridge adjusted to sit flat on the guitar body, strung with .011 gauge D’Addario strings. Tuned to Open G. 

• Johnson Swamp Stomper Resonator – A stock Johnson Swamp Stomper Resonator, black, with a mini-humbucker in the neck. Strung with .012 gauge D’Addario electric strings (plain 3rd). Tuned to Open D. 

• Blondie – A cheap Strat knockoff (New York Pro), this guitar belongs to drummer Chris Fooshee and is rarely used anymore. 

Picks – Dunlop Totex 1.00 mm (blue) 

Slide – A Dunlop Chrome slide cut down to a shorter size.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Songwriting

I don’t consider myself a songwriter. I don’t write songs, I just write them down. God, the Universe, whatever is out there pulling all the strings sees fit occasionally to throw me a bone, and within 10 minutes, it’s on paper for the whole world to see, for good or bad. The songs I actually “write” (meaning agonize over for months or years before they are considered finished) tend to pale in comparison to these “Gems from the Universe” as I like to call them. I’m thankful for these nuggets, for without them, well, you know what I mean. 

There is an art to songwriting that has almost been forgotten. People seem to think you can just throw a few words together over a mediocre piece of music and it’s a song, but there’s just more to it than that. For me, a song is like a short story, a brief glimpse into the life of the writer at that precise moment in time. Most of the best songs follow this formula. 

I prefer writing with a partner, someone I can bounce ideas off of and get feedback. A songwriting partner can inspire you to write by saying just the right thing at the right time. A partner can also help fill in the blanks in the storyline and polish off the rough edges, help with music, etc. I don’t get to write with a partner that much anymore, and trying to find my way alone has been an uphill climb. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost a song sent by the Universe because I didn’t have a pen and paper handy. Now, I keep a scratchpad on my iPod Touch for jotting down ideas as they come to me. I keep a notepad and pen in every room of my house (yes, even the bathroom) so that I always have something to write with and on in the event I become “inspired.” Most of the things I write down never see the light of day, but I have them if I’m ever looking for a line. Many times I have pulled out old notebooks and flipped through, only to be inspired by something I had written years ago and presto, someone fills in all the blanks for me. 

A good song will make a connection with you; make you feel what the writer was feeling at the time. Love, joy, pain, sadness, anger, all these emotions can be triggered by a good song. A good song can take you places you’ve never been, make you see things you’ve never seen, and you never have to leave your seat.