Friday, October 28, 2005

Guitar Gear Philosophy

I have always been a big believer in two things where guitars and guitar gear are concerned: 1] There is no substitute for the finest possible quality, and 2] Small is beautiful.

My first electric guitar was a Les Paul, and my first guitar amplifier was a MESA/Boogie MK I. The guitar was a top of the line model and, of course, MESA/Boogie amps are legendary. The cool thing about that original rig was that it was small (But, admittedly heavy): The guitar was just a guitar in a rectangular hardshell case, and the amp was a 100 watt combo model with a single 12" Altec speaker. The whole enchilada fit inside my old 1969 VW Beetle, and the sound quality (And - ahem - volume) was second to nothing else out there at the time. I could even cram it all into the back seat if I had to make room for a girlfriend.

Even when I was a professional rock guitarist, I kept the original philosophy I started out with. By those days I had discovered stereo rack-mountable effects devices, so my rig had grown, and of course, I was a Synclavier guitarist in those days, so I had that monster to schlep around (It was at this time that I realized that pickup trucks with shells or bed covers are the last word in musician's vehicles (Unless you are a fan of vans, which I'm not)). But, discounting the Synclavier, the electric guitar part of the rig was still quite small: I had a Steinberger GL2T-GR guitar - which was positively miniscule - a pair of 1-12 combo MESA/Boogie MK III's, and a ten-space Calzone effects rack on wheels. It was still smaller that an 8-12 Marshall stack, and it sounded far superior to any Marshall-based monophonic rig ever could. And yes, it was ridiculously loud when it needed to be. I have never owned a full stack: The closest I ever came to that was having a pair of matching 1-12 cabs for my combos that made 2-12 mini-stacks. And, frankly, that was never necessary: It just looked cool (Hey...).

Fast forward to today, and the only thing that has changed is the equipment, not the philosophy: I play an electric nylon string Godin Multiac Grand Concert Synth Access guitar now, the Boogies have been replaced with a Bryston 2B-LP solid state stereo power amplifier, their EVM-12L's I used to love so much have been replaced by Yamaha AS108-II 8"/1" mini-PA speakers, and that ten space effects rack has now shrunk down into a Lexicon MPX-G2 Guitar Effects Processor, which I use in stand-alone mode as the rig's preamp also. The only other piece of gear in the rig is a Furman AR-1215 A.C. Line Voltage Regulator (Not a cheap "Power Conditioner": A real honest-to-God voltage regulator with isolation transformers and everything. Using super-expensive gear without a voltage regulator in various places where you don't know what the electricity is like is exactly for your gear like having unprotected sex with a series of strange chicks would be for you: Could prove fatal).

Since each piece of gear is a single rack space, I only need a four space ultra-lightweight SBK molded rack to house it all (If you don't allow for an empty vent space between your power amp an everything else, you are an idjit, pure and simple).

The only remaining things are the speaker stands, an Ultimate X-Stand for the rack, and a guitar stand. I got one of those nifty Gruven collapsable guitar stands that actually fits in my gig bag, and am getting a custom made ballistic nylon bag that will hold all three of the other stands.

Even at "cozy" gigs I have concert-quality stereo sound and I don't get in the way:

Those bags in the background are hops and barley! Playing at a brewery rocks: I drink for free (After the gig, of course: That's Diet Cola in that mug on my rack).

And, the whole PA fits on a single handtruck:

I believe in small guitar gear, but not in small pickup trucks!

The locking bed cover gives me the worlds second-largest trunk (It's only a 6.5" bed), and means my small venue PA and hand truck never leave the vehicle. I love that! I practice on my large venue rig in my studio, and both systems will fit into the truck if I have a larger gig. It's... perfect.


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