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.
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.
- Live Ambient Looping, Studio Recording Tips, & Tone Walkthrough (Wexford Carol)
- Christmas Album, Charity, & a New Addition
- Baring My Soul in Music
- Twelve Things I Believe about Worship Music
- The Future of Christian Music is That Band I Listened to in Junior High While Playing Wolfenstein
- My Worst Deals on Gear
- Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 8)
- When God Says…Something Else
- A Guitarist’s Answers to Life’s Questions