Reminder about this weekend’s holiday show!
I love to geek out about equipment that I’m using, and if you’re into that sort of thing, then this post’s for you. If not, come back next week.
TLDR: Here’s my signal chain. Gretsch Boxcar Resonator –>Aura Spectrum DI–>TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster–>Aura Spectrum DI–> FOH. All receivers and pedals mounted on a Pedaltrain Nano using 3M Mounting strips (the ones that you use on your EZ Pass). Power provided by a T-REX Fueltank Jr. I carry the pedalbag in the soft case that it came with. I carry the guitar in a Travelite Case.
Ok, some operating principles with which I work.
1) I don’t want to have to think about gear once I’m up on stage.
2) I don’t want to have to think about gear while I’m writing new material.
3) I don’t want to have to think about gear while I’m using it.
4) Pattern recognition is an important part of being a human being.
That’s right, for all my obsessing over equipment, drooling over catalogues, etc. Once I’m actually using an instrument, a microphone, an effect, a stand, a cable, etc, I don’t want to be any more aware of it than I am my own neck while I’m singing. I want the things I use to support, without getting in the way, what I’m working on at that moment. Now, if the instrument makes me smile when I’m playing, and looking at it makes me want to play more, that’s a plus.
Ok, so the instrument I use most often with Black Horse Motel is Mary Kate. She’s a Gretsch Boxcar Resonator from their totally awesome Roots collection. Now I got the boxcar and had a Fishman Nasvhille Pickup installed because I just liked the reddish brown more than the brown sunburst. Let’s put this guitar through the list of criteria above. This guitar is about as inexpensive as a good quality instrument gets, so I don’t worry about it being on stage, knocked over, etc. I can breathe easily. Also, it has no onboard controls so I’m not worrying about accidentally bumping the midrange into honk territory or suddenly losing all the volume when my arm knocks into the preamp. You can’t possibly understand how much nervous energy used to be generated just fretting over this (GUITAR PUN). The guitar sounds great, and doesn’t have tuning issues. As a result, when I pick it up in the mood to write, it’s ready to go. Also, it’s not overly large, or overly loud, so it can be played in the house. The resonator cone does give it enough of a volume spike to give the guitar a bed time to match the baby’s, though. This guitar is just comfortable. For some reason, strings and frets feel like they’re right where I expect them to be. It’s a 12th fret neck joint, so the scale is a little shorter and the bridge a little further back, and in all, it’s just great. Also, the v-neck (which on paper would have killed it for me) is just what I’ve been looking for. I carry the guitar around in a Travelite Case. I don’t understand how, but the guitar feels outside of the case than when it’s in the case. It’s magic, I love it.
Next in my usual signal chain is a Line 6 Relay G30 wireless system. I don’t have the same working relationship with the wireless system as I have with Mary Kate. It’s not Line 6′s fault; I just haven’t been using it long enough to really trust it yet, so I’m still spending energy on stage listening for it to drop out and thinking about where I have the backup cable stashed, etc. This is a trade-off though, because now I don’t think about which cables are trying to launch themselves under my feet. I feel it as an improvement overall.
For a while I was using a Line 6 POD HD500x. Some people really don’t dig digital effects. That’s ok. I get where they’re coming from. It’s just not me. I originally got this board as a minimalism experiment. (Whoa, Galen, you can’t have that many effects at your disposal and call it minimalism) I can if what I’m talking about is actual physical things in my life. I play electric guitar too, and the constant buying and selling of amps in my fruitless search for “dat sound” was killing my budget, my back (tubes only baby, and those things are heavy) and my relationship with my wife. (I’m not good at decluttering. Ever.) So I sold the Peavey Delta Blues, and the Fender Deville 4×10, and the 1970s Fender Bassman that introduced me to the problem with ungrounded plugs and I got the HD500x. I loved it. There I said it. But sadly, I loved something else more. So now my setup is stripping itself down even further. Just a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI and a TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster. A big part of why I was using the POD was a great octave reverb, but lately venues just haven’t gotten it to sound right. When we recorded some songs without it, I didn’t miss it. Now my whole setup fits on a Pedaltrain Nano, so it’s teeny tiny has it’s own soft case and it’s easy to carry. Win!
Now, it should be specified that this is a different setup than what I use playing solo. Playing solo, I take much more responsibility for the final mix and EQ so I bring my Ibanez Spalted Maple with the 5 knob preamp along. That way I can change things up at a smaller venue without needing to get someone’s attention. With the 5 members of Black Horse Motel, though, I figure if the sound engineer doesn’t know where my guitar should be sitting in the mix, then my monitor mix is probably pretty bad too, so what do I know about the audience’s needs at that point.