Why Effects and Rigs are Necessary Part 2: That Rig

You know that rig. It doesn’t matter if it has different pedals on it, or if the amp has a different faceplate. It’s the same rig. That hideously huge one with two amps, three pedalboards, five guitars with a multi-stand, and a double-decked keyboard stand, that just oozes pretentiousness. On the 10×10 stage in the 50×50 church playing for 14 people, of course.

Oh wait, that’s me. ;)

Well, not that bad. Anymore. I’ve only got one pedalboard now……it comes apart into two so that I can move it, but that doesn’t count. (Nope, doesn’t count. I don’t want to hear your logic.) I do bring two amps, though. And as much joy as it brings me (mmmmmm), it can be daunting at times. So, last week, when I brought the riglet pictured in part 1, well……I must admit that there was a part of me that thought I just might sell everything.

I take the riglet to my car a half an hour before I have to leave, as that’s usually how long it takes me to pack my stuff up, make the 9 trips to the car, and load it all in. So I take the amp and the head, and then the guitar and mini pedalboard. And I still have 25 minutes left. It was so weird. And what’s more, the little board runs a much lesser risk of slamming into a wall, and then me having to run over and patch the spackle back on while it’s still kind of wet. Or, whatever. I don’t know how it works, but there are parts of our apartment that have cracked off spackle because of my pedalboard, stuck back on somehow. Then, when I said goodbye to my wife, I wasn’t sweaty. And driving down to the service, I promise, I felt my little truck riding better without all that weight in the back. And then I loaded in so quickly, that I even had time to go across the street to a music store before the rest of the band got there. Bonus round.


(For those of you who lived through glamrock, I understand that you have an automatic repulsion towards gear because these are the types of images it brings back to your mind. I know it must be hard to differentiate in your mind between spandex and rackmount effects. I understand. It’s not your fault the ’80′s have been responsible for so much damage. So much awesome, tiger-striped, friendship-bracelet damage. But just so you know, you can rock effects and big amps without rocking……that. Even though this dude is my new hero.)

So really, I’m thinking of doing this all the time. It pains me to admit almost succumbing to the ultimate musical temptation: ease over tone. But that is exactly what was happening. Luckily, tonal reality (sounds like a bad prog-rock album title) set in with the sound of…well, with the sound of no more sound. Yep, that’s right. The one time in years that I don’t run my rig off of a power conditioner, the church blows a breaker. Fortunately, everything recovered fine, except my shaking nerves after hearing that terrifying and all-too-familiar-for-us-unfamous-musicians-playing-in-small-churches-and-local-dives worst fade-out ever sound as we watch our brilliant blue led’s slowly fade into oblivion. Too dramatic? In some ways, yes. But in another way, a way I like to call ‘the right way’, absolutely not. Either way, it reminded me why I have a huge rig: to fit a power conditioner it. So:

Reason #1 for having That Rig: protection of your gear.

So we start playing the set, and at first it is so liberating to have that small of a setup. And then we get to a really driving part. And I already have my Tim’s drive and boost on, my guitar’s volume up, and I need somewhere else to go. Of course, I could walk over to the amp, or do the awkward trying to turn pedal knobs with your pointy rockstar shoes, but it’s kind of too intricate of a passage to do that at the same time (at least for my humble skills), and it will sound too awkward to stop and do it because I don’t have a second delay pedal or reverb to hold the sound decay for a bit while I make on-the-fly adjustments. And I realized that I could really have used another boost, and another drive. Hence:

Reason #2 for having That Rig: always having another intensity level with the click of a switch.

Not to mention, that in those times when you do need to change a setting on-the-fly, it’s nice to have a second delay and/or reverb to decay while you are changing settings, changing guitars, changing sheet music, improvising the next passage in your head, and just general flowing of the music without sounding blocky. Brings us to:

Reason #3 for having That Rig: fluidity of the song.

So first two songs end, and now it is time change keys while the worship leader talks. And having played with my pads for so long, it was unbelievable to me how awkward the transition felt. It sounded like deafening silence. And I wished I had at least brought an ipod and a volume pedal for my pads. This is the first time in a long time that I have played without them when there is no keyboardist. Of course, you could do it by holding the last note with a compressor, looping it, reversing it, and then fading it out on one delay/looper while you swelled in with a pad sound on another delay, and that’s probably an even bigger rig. And I realized:

Reason #4 for having That Rig: fluidity of the overall set.

Reason #5 for having That Rig: bending down and knob-twisting is awkward. (No need to explain, right? Presets, or a second pedal, although maybe not as ‘old-school rockstar I don’t need no stinkin’ pedals’, can sure be a lot less distracting; especially if the set is particularly diverse in the sounds it requires.

And then I start to tear down. During the ending prayer (as I had that plane to catch). And the opening video. And the beginning of the message. It was so time-consuming to undo cables, and extension cords, and try to stuff them into the pedal board case, which then wouldn’t fit, and I had to do it over. And I realized that part of the reason my rig is big is actually for ease of use and professionalism. It’s large, but it’s that way so that I don’t have to connect any extra pedals, or cables, or jerry-rig anything, and I can actually set it up and tear it down faster than I can the riglet.

Reason #6 for having That Rig: swiftness and professionalism.

And this isn’t even mentioning little things that you know are going to happen with a smaller rig, such as…I wish I had brought a rack to set my amp on because all I can hear is low-end rolloff even though I know I’m probably killing the drummer with my high ‘beam of death’ blowing by my knees, thinking it sure would be nice to have trem on a certain song, or not being able to look down after flubbing a passage and be instantly comforted by the fact that since I have all that boutique gear, I must by definition still be a great guitarist. ;) Okay, that last one is a bad thing. But overall, it was a brilliant evening for me, as it really solidified in my mind the reasons for having to deal with the looks of ‘there’s another jerk musician’ when I walk in (on multiple trips to and from the car) with ‘that rig.’

So for those of you who have that rig, own it. Play it. Love it. If you don’t have a wife (or a husband for the lady rockers out there) yet, keep it under the covers next to you. For climate control of the NOS op-amp chips, of course. Not because our rigs are just gorwn-up and more expensive versions of the G.I Joe helicopter I had to cuddle with every night.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Some of these are probably wrong conclusions, because subconsciously I probably can’t bring myself to admit that there are ways to get good tone without breaking my back carrying gear for the last 7 years. Or maybe I just like gear. Mmmmmmm……gear. Ya, probably that one.

48 thoughts on “Why Effects and Rigs are Necessary Part 2: That Rig

  1. Love this… “or not being able to look down after flubbing a passage and be instantly comforted by the fact that since I have all that boutique gear, I must by definition still be a great guitarist.”

    I cannot even remember how many guitarist I have seen with incredible gear but really cant play music. Good at guitar but not music which is what all the gear is for right? ;-)

    Just when you think you got it all figured out… the world shifts…

  2. It seems to me like a good sound guy could take care of some of these issues.. not that they are any easier to find than good gear. just sayin.

  3. Favorite GL solo is on “Dream Until Tomorrow” What a smooth chop…I think I will wear that spandex on Sunday. What could possibly go wrong?

  4. The only thing keeping me from having “that rig” is my inability to play. But it takes physical effort to maintain this kind of self control (that and my wallet…and my spouse, neither of which really require a lot of self control on my part since neither of these are really subject to my self control).

    Anyway, this gear junky will continue to live vicariously and enjoy your ability to be that guy with that rig!

  5. while I do agree with your reasons for having the “rig”, i myself tend to get lost on twiddling the knobs and having to worry what OD or effects should I use next instead of focusing on just playing. don’t get me wrong, I do love gear and I will always do (but not the spandex) … LOL

    having said that, I just cut down again to 5 pedals (not including tuner & volume pedal) recently again. we’ll see how long that takes ;)

  6. All good reasons for the rig. I might add ” the rig is a great way to create arguments with my wife.” Just kidding, but for those of us who are married and want to stay that way, it does temper things a bit.

    The “rig” can also generate “gear-needs” of it’s own. Got buzz? Buy an expensive cable. Running two channels to the PA and getting hum? Buy an ABY box with isolation transformer. Playing in places with questionable power or grounding? Buy a power conditioner ( maybe a generator ? LOL )

    Or how about when the smallish church has no clue and throws your guitar stand, amp stand, etc you leave at church into the back of the storage closet. If you’re lucky the janitor doesn’t ram his vacuum cleaner into the PA power amps in that closet and set their volume to 99, or zero. Ah the joys…. :-)

  7. Sam–lol That was awesome!

    John–haha Sad to say that I found that picture searching ‘worst 80′s metal’, and had no idea it was George Lynch. ;)

    Andrew–haha Nice!

    Sal–ooh, great stuff!! Ya, good at guitar but not good at music doesn’t mean very much in the long run. Excellent comment, sir!! :)

    Jason–hehe Hey, he’s my hero now!! Even if it was the ’80′s, it’s gotta take some guts to pull those pants on in the morning. lol

    Zach–ya, I think a sound guy could take care of the volume intensity shifts, provided it’s a really good and really hands on sound guy. :) But I’ve come to the point of putting my rig together as if there was no soundguy, and as if I had to get a post-edited sound with the recording software. hehe I’m probably way to much of a perfectionist, but those mindsets have really helped my tone in the long run.

    Especially when I play places that literally don’t have anyone behind the board. lol ;)

    Mark H–lol Comment of the day.

    Gtr1ab–haha That was fantastic. Yes, my wallet gets in my way, too. My wife, however, is surprisingly supportive…provided I only buy good-sounding things. hehehe

    Rhoy–wow, 5 pedals! I admire your resolve, my friend! :) As for the knob turning, I get more distracted by that with small rigs, because I have to change knobs to get a lot of different sounds out of a few pedals. But with a few more pedals, I can set each to a different sound and not have to twist knobs so much.

    Randy–that’s a great point! That rig can make you want more gear. More, lovely, lovely gear. hehehe

    And about the folks throwing your gear around, I actually had a dream about that last night! hehe Sound guys were ripping my amp off stage and throwing it in a closet. hehehe

  8. so, i got that billm moded blues jr and i love it. i think the main difference was that they changed out the speaker and put in a webber speaker(idk what kind). and he put in some JJ’s for me at not extra cost so i’m really happy

  9. Nope. Not buying it. I’ve heard way to many guitarist sound really really good with a tiny rig to believe that you need a big rig to deal with all those issues you brought up.

    Not saying there’s anything wrong with a big rig. I’m all for it… for other people. That way I can laugh as I watch them make trip after trip to the car like they’re a drummer or something, while I sit and drink my coffee.

    For me, it’s one trip and one trip only. (Not including the coffee of course :) )

      • Well, I would even question whether one can be a Christian on the worship team without 9 delay pedals. I mean, maybe that’s a personal thing…I admit…but still.
        ;)

        hehehe Kidding, kidding, of course. :D

      • Maybe a fellow Christian wouldn’t have let him spend all that money on gear when everyone knows that tone is in the hands.

        Also a fellow Christian would give his brother the benefit of the doubt and assume sarcasm. Which is what I’m going to do. :)

        • Does it count that my tone comes from my hands being the fastest to type ‘I’ll take it!’ on the Gear Page emporiums? hehe ;)

          And I’m pretty sure there’s been a lot of sarcasm in this thread, and you’re right…we should all give each other the benefit of the doubt. And those little winking smilies can go a long way when no one can see our facial expressions. ;) hehe

          • Sorry Keith if that came across a bit snotty. Sarcasm doesn’t convey its self properly in print and…I should never type anything before I’ve had my coffee.

            I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I practice and play at home pretty much straight in. My practice area is sound proof so volume level is not an issue. However, church is different. For a lot of reasons that you mentioned above Karl. I do use my volume control for some gain control but nothing beats stacked overdrives for going from big..bigger…to biggest. So…I’ve kind of found a happy medium. My board is setup to move effects on and off as needed. I learned a long time ago to never say never. I used to play in a hair band…so…there you go.

          • lol At the hair band thing. And I like the never say never part. There’s plenty of things I’ve played through that I said I never would, and plenty of things I’ve not played through that I said were ultimate tonal goals. haha

          • Karl, you should really post about those little smilies … even surprise us by linking it back to tone & U2! and here’s my wink ;)

  10. Necessity is the mother of invention.
    While a big rig (no not a semi) is cool and good, you’d be amazed what you can do with a small rig when thats all you have.

  11. i see where you’re coming from Karl, having a pedal dedicated for what each song might need and not to worry about re-adjusting on-the-fly. i tried to have that sort of setup, maybe because I can do that with a, gasp, multi-FX before. But later on, I figured life is too short to be worrying about that and just set my pedals to have slight variations in tone & gain. really having fun with my guitar tone/volume knobs these days ;)

    oh yes, I might be cheating with the 5 pedals coz 1/2 Gainer has 2 channels and my Brigadier has a Favorite switch :lol:

  12. Funny, relevant story over here on the Telecaster forum — disclaimer, my board is perhaps half the size of Karl’s, so I do use gear:
    http://www.tdpri.com/forum/bad-dog-cafe/226463-ive-had-gearhounds.html

    Quote: “The next time I’m asked to join a band by a guitarist whose rig rivals an airplane’s control panel, I will not accept until said guitarist sets up his gear in under an hour in a place that’s not his basement, and has it all work perfectly the first time.”

  13. Nater2–haha Nice!! :)

    Keith–haha Well, I’m the guy bringing in trip after trip of gear, envying you as you’re eating your donut, but too deep into sickness to get a smaller rig. hehe :D

    Dan W–too true. It’s just that sometimes for me, that invention can look really awkward too everyone else…i.e. me trying to hold the sustain pedal on a keyboard with one foot and then jump stomp on a delay pedal with the other. Which used to happen. ;) So, having a big rig that can do keyboard and guitar sounds at the same time saves me some embarrassment. hehehe But I do love when I’m able to use a small rig!! You’re right, it helps your creativity a ton!!

    Rhoy–’multi-fx.’ I don’t understand this word.
    ;)

    hehe And ya, when I play my riglet, I’m cheating with the Timeline. hehehe

    Randy–nice!! haha

    And actually, having my board work the first time and have no trouble, is part of the reason it got so big. I have failsafes for my failsafes. But I completely understand where that guy is coming from. I’m sure I’ve made many a coffee-shop owner angry when it’s taken bands I’ve been in half an hour to set up because of me. ;) lol

  14. Now, sticking to the topic of pedal boards ( novel idea eh? ), here are some shots of mine.

    http://s145.photobucket.com/albums/r232/2020indianrock/Pedalboard/

    I know, I know, there’s an mfx on there, and some questionable pedals no doubt, plus some patch cables I didn’t have to auction off a child to buy :-). Aside from all of that there are really only 2 problems, well 3. One is a sound guy who wants monitors at a whisper, 2nd is questionable grounding in a building never designed for sound ( did you know the coffee pot in the other room creates a hum in F# just above middle C? ) and 3rd “fizz” above 60hz that I don’t get at home.

    The fizz is only showing up on one of the two PA channels, maybe only in the monitors. Both channels are fed from my board via direct boxes on phantom power. So I know I need to run guitar direct to DI on that channel first as I begin my Sherlock Holmes saga. etc etc etc I’d just run guitar to tube amp to mike to PA but for church I don’t like that sound.

    Both DIs and the ABY have ground lifts. The ABY also has an isolation transformer with phase switch — none of that helped.

  15. Randy–that board actually looks great, even with the multi-fx on it! ;) haha No seriously, it looks awesome.

    As for the hum, well…if the coffee pot’s humming, nothing you can do to your rig is going to get rid of the hum. haha Maybe a noise supressor, although they suck tone. Maybe a power conditioner, but you’ll probably still end up with hum in the building.

    With the fizz sound, ya…it’s probably the house system. I’d suggest trying passive direct boxes, like Whirlwind’s. I’ve always had better luck with passive ones. The fizz sounds like a phantom power problem to me. I’d suggest using ac adapters on the direct boxes, but you probably don’t want to plug anything else in in that building. hehe As a side note, I played at a camp recently, running everything off of generators. So, lights, ac, sound…all off the same circuit. And I was running my pads through my powered tube direct box, and bad hum/fizz, no matter what. Asked the sound guy if he had an extra passive direct box, and voila. Quietness. :)

    KennyG–haha Nope, doesn’t count. You’ve got so many sounds in that thing! But, I guess it does count, because it does allow you to carry your board with one hand, and still have tons of sounds. :)

  16. The coffee pot was a joke, but it’s not really far-fetched. I think I’m going to run the second channel off the pedal board ( the one with no mfx ) into the tube amp on stage and not send that to the sound board at all. So only the mfx channel on the pedal board would go thru DI to sound board. Hopefully that will lick it — two channels is troublesome enough without adding phantom power on two direct boxes. That would still use the Aphex acoustic Xciter which is also a DI — we’ll see how it goes.

  17. All right, I couldn’t put it off any longer. In short, stick with the small board.
    1. The Furman can be put in a small 2U padded rack with a shoulder strap. Done.
    2. You have a dual volume knob guitar, right? Do it like the old days, set the amp a little dirtier than normal, roll the volume back on one pick up, keep the other at 11. Bam, instant 2 channels, then throw your Tim on top. Done.
    3. & 4. Silence is your friend. It is the cousin of the anti-solo you love so much. I know it is hard for the hardcore worship players to realize but EVERY SONG DOES NOT HAVE TO CONNECT. U2 does not link every song (ha, bet you never thought I would pull a U2 reference did ya?) so neither do you. Get your drummer to break up the silence with the tempo for the next song on the ride. Trust me, it works. Done.
    5. Adjusting knobs is a part of life. Well, for those of use without 6 delay pedals (not pointing any fingers or anything). It may not look cool but Jesus was not trying to look cool, right? (jeez I hate that argument; apparently I am okay with using it though)
    6. Kind of a cop out, honestly. Your mini-rig was thrown together, expect thrown together set-up and break down. With my board it is 2 plugs and 2 cables, put it in the case and done. Practice, grasshopper.

    Extra (this one is free). The good thing is you can rotate pedals in and out of you small board often. Also, you will have to actually play more since you cannot Fred Astaire the night away. When I say “you,” I actually mean a broad version of the word and nothing personal. You are most definitely a better player than I. Granted, that is probably nothing to brag about.

    Wow, done, I feel better. Back to lurking now. May the small board be with you, and bring peace to you. Good night.

  18. +1 on the volume knobs, i’m just figuring out how to use those. ;)
    You can get four gain levels out of one pedal with a little planning.
    1. Neck p/u, volume and/or tone rolled down, strum softer
    2. same but strum harder
    3. Volume and/or tone rolled up
    4. Bridge p/u, with some tone adjustment depending on how close you want it to sound to the neck p/u.

    and thats not even using the boost side of the Tim/Fulldrive/KOT/etc.

    Granted that is more of a slower worship song (i.e. Mighty To Save) type strategy though. On more up-tempo songs the whole “strumming softer” thing doesn’t usually work.

    I’m with Karl on the “awkward silence” thing. I hate it. It feels like it just kills everything. I’m always getting on my team for taking too long to start the next song :) .

    As the worship leader one of the things that i’ve found that works to keep the breaks form getting awkward is to keep worshiping (I know I’m a genius for coming up with this), but seriously if i keep praising God instead of turning around and trying to figure out why the next song hasn’t started yet then #1 it isn’t silent anymore and #2 usually the congregation takes the hint and keeps worshiping as well.

    And just to be fair to Karl if i had the money and could justify it i’d have a board that looked more like his. ;)
    (although by “more like his” i mean a pt-pro instead of a pt-2)

  19. Randy–good call. And some nice, warm stage volume should only help the house sound. :)

    Nater2–sorry, I need to figure out why it’s not allowing embedding in comments. And that was an awesome video! I have no idea why, but I watched the whole thing. I must admit, as much as that style doesn’t do anything for me, seeing his hand blur on the camera as he was going above and below the neck, was pretty impressive.

    Oh, and the Spinal Tap interlude to a classical piece was the absolute best part! lol Thanks for that!!

    Jonathan–whew!! Love the passion, bro! And I definitely see your points; if the small rig works for ya on all that, then fantastic. :)

    For me personally though, there are some advantages to having a larger rig. I don’t quite understand how strapping a mini-rack over my shoulder is any smaller of a rig…either you’re carrying something over your shoulder or you’re carrying a bigger pedalboard. Makes no difference to me, except that since I’ve already got a few pedals, why not stick the Furman on there and cut out the mini-rack? Plus, everything stays plugged into it.

    I actually do the volume knob thing as well as use pedal drive. So, I gotta concede to ya on that one. I’m just a straight-up junky for different sounds! The amount of stuff you can get with pickup selection, volume adjustments, and then add od pedals on top of it? Mmmm. :)

    As for U2 using silence, that’s all well and good if you’re going for an audience applauding in between songs, or for some playful banter, or what-not. For a worship service, I’d like the atmosphere to be a little different, and personally, I like to do that by looping some constant sounds. If that’s not your deal, no worries! :)

    Personally, I think adjusting knobs looks really cool!! And I’m all for it at a concert. But it just draws too much attention for me personally in a worship setting. Especially when I’m singing. Has nothing to do with trying to look cool, and everything to do with being as little of a distraction as possible and trying to focus more on worshiping God and less on pedals. And if buying a second pedal to click on instead of bending down to turn the knobs, helps me so that I can keep my hands raised and my voice leading the folks in worship, then I’m buying a second pedal.

    Lastly, you’re probably right on that one. With enough time putting together a small rig, I could probably get it set up and torn down pretty quickly. But I would probably still need yet another case for the cables, and then it’s like…add another case, or make the board bigger. Either one is bigger. I’ll go with the board being bigger, so that I can show off how awesome I am! ;) That last part is a joke.

    I love your idea of rotating pedals. My problem is that every time I do that, I end up wanting that one effect that night that I didn’t put on. That right there is a personal problem, and has nothing to do with the rest of you probably. lol I must admit, I think gear is pretty cool. I thought your comment was great, and you made some awesome points! I’ll try to mull over them, and see if perhaps I should take some of them to heart. And if a whole worship set of giving praise to God and leading people to do the same all works for you on a small rig, then great!! For me, maybe I’m just not good enough, but a having a slightly bigger rig does the job for me. At the end of the day, we’re glorifying God, right? Cheers, and have a wonderful evening!

    Dan W–that’s a great point on using the guitar’s controls for volume adjustments in the song. The thing is, I do that too, and use od pedals. Means even more sounds!! haha So, I guess I’m just a sounds junkie.

    And ya…I’m not a big fan of awkward silence either. And I like getting the congregation to sing in between, but only if it feels natural and Spirit-led. Which often times, it does, and how can people praising God be a bad thing? :D I’m totally with ya there!

    Only thing with that is, when I’m in the congregation, every once in a while it feels funny to me if the worship leader says, ‘You sing!’ and then goes and twists the knobs on his pedal, or walks over to the drummer and reminds him to start, or changes guitars. While we’re worshiping, but he’s not. Although, sometimes it’s all you can do, and I’ve definitely done it before. haha ;) I’m just always trying to come up new ways to try!!

    And I always, always try to convince those with Pedaltrain’s that their boards are basically just as big as mine. Most people say I’m lying, though. ;)

  20. One thing I always remind myself of when I notice things from the congrigation is that I’m far more critical of things like having the WL have us sing while he changes guitars (etc…) and pretty much everyone doesn’t even notice.

  21. Very interesting. See, maybe I just used to take reeeeaaally long to do it, because I’ve had folks make it a point to come up to me and say how awkward it felt. lol Or maybe I was just in a church with very honest people! hehe ;)

  22. So is there a rule as to how many pedals one must procure before one procures a power conditioner and pedal board to mount said pedals and power conditioner? I’m up to 4 pedals now… just curious :)

  23. I wouldn’t say there’s a specific number. I have my power conditioner in a small 2 space rack that sits on top of my amp and I run my whole rig off of it. I guess it depends on what you’re power needs are. I was having all kinds of ground loop problems and the conditioner solved that all for me.

  24. I would always use a power supply but that’s just me. I don’t like the idea of being stuck with no batteries. Plus, a power supply will pay for itself pretty quick even if you only play once or twice a week (like say, rehearsal and Sunday service for instance…)

  25. Ben G & KennyG–I agree on the power supply. The Voodoo Labs is great, and totally pays for itself with not buying batteries. And I’d get a power conditioner for the amp alone. hehe But that’s just me. ;)

    Matt P–that’s totally why I said it, too! hehe ;) j/k

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