Gear Musings, Part II

I played a Friday happy hour gig with my band from work last week. It went okay. I'm pretty rusty at playing live so despite the decidedly low-key nature of the gig, my nerves still wind up a bit. I blew chunks on a couple solos, but most were okay and a couple were actually very good. I wasn't exactly in The Zone though and to be brutally honest I know that I over-relied on my stock licks. And that's fine. It's a good goal, but it's hard to be inspired every time.

This band practices at low volume and my usual approach to tone has been to set my amp up for a good clean sound, then use pedals for all the dirty sounds. That's a really compromised way to do it because for this band I rarely use clean tones, so I'm optimizing around the exception scenario. But after the previous gig I realized that we play loudly enough at gigs that I could use my preferred approach: Crank the amp to get the ideal crunch tone (somewhere between Keith Richards and Malcolm Young), then use my guitar volume and picking attack to get different variations of clean and overdrive, and hit a boost pedal when I need a little extra gain/volume for solos. So that's what I did. I used a little bit of my amp's master volume along with an Air Brake to tame the volume a bit, but it was honest-to-goodness cranked amp tone. It's always a treat to be able to play that way with a band!

Because I was playing a guitar with singlecoil pickups, it wasn't quite as gainy as I'd prefer for some of the songs. But all things considered, I like the way it worked out. My sound was nice and crunchy and organic. The lead tone was maybe a little bit boxy though. I think that's because I used my old blue Fulltone Full-Drive for my boost, which is a little bit nasally. I think I'll experiment with some of my other overdrive pedals to see if one of them might be a bit more transparent as a boost.

The Pedal Power that I mentioned in part I of this thread worked flawlessly. That's great because I didn't spend any time testing it out before the gig. I just threw together a small pedalboard consisting of a Vox wah, the Full-Drive, a Digitech DigiDelay, a Digitech Polara reverb, and the Pedal Power. I wired everything up, plugged in the Pedal Power to make sure everything was getting juice, then threw the pedalboard into my gig bag before hustling to Durham for the gig. I never soundchecked it so I was taking a risk, but I did have batteries in the pedals as backup in case the Pedal Power gave me any problems. As it happened, the Pedal Power worked just fine. No glitches and no noise. I could have left the DigiDelay at home since I never actually used it at the gig, but normally I like having a little bit of slapback for soloing.

After the gig, I'm now second-guessing my previous need for a smaller amp. I love my current amps except that they're all fairly bulky and heavy. I've been lusting after the new Vox AC10C1 because tone-wise it's similar to my Ceriatone but it's very small, lightweight, and low-powered so it's easy to carry and I can use the cranked amp method more often. But if this band gigs at volumes high enough to use the Ceriatone, then the need for an AC10 isn't quite as strong, although the size and weight of the AC10 would still be a tremendous advantage. Especially since I have to schlep my stuff down from the 3rd floor of the house!