Stomp 01: Pedalboard overview.

pedalboard 4

Love me some pedalboard. I really do.

For decades I refused to use any effects on my bass guitars, being strictly fingers–only when it came to dressing up a note. I can’t deny that self–imposed deprivation helped me master my instrument early on without distractions, and taught me volumes on restraint and articulation I wouldn’t have learned had I jumped right into the effects world. However, after 20-odd years my tone had started to get a bit routine, my phrasing uninspired, and I found myself looking for ways to break out of the rut. Salvation came by way of a critical, distorted bassline I needed to cop for one of my fill-in sessions with a Bay Area electronica band – but cranking preamp gain in my painfully-clean SWR SM–900s was a non-starter. So I grabbed a friend’s Big Muff Pi for the gig, and the rest is history.  Years later, I’ve worked and gigged through so many effect combinations, sizes and themes to my pedals and pedalboards that I’ve got my preferences and sounds down to a pretty solid philosophical, aesthetic and ergonomic art.

Philosophically, it’s all about having *the right* assortment of tonal choices when I need them, easily accessed, with as little impact on my basic tone as possible. I still prefer a tone that’s piano-clean yet asskickingly fat via mostly 18v active basses- any effects are simply additive to my primary fingers/instrument/amp sound.  That way they stick to their role as the spice in my steady diet of groove, never the main course.

Aesthetically, my effects have got to allow me to enhance my normal tone gracefully (compression, EQ, and chorus), distort the signal six ways from Sunday (boost, distortion, overdrive and fuzz), and filter/add to it (envelope, pitch & synth effects).  Efficiency is also a factor (wireless receivers, digital tuners).  And it’s simply got to look clean and usable, not some random tangle of wires and boxes that could be kicked astray with a errant toe.

Ergonomically, my pedalboard has got to be playable like an instrument, portable and reliable, and fast to set up & tear down at gigs.  It needs to be laid out in common pairings/groupings of pedals in close proximity to one another so I can trigger the more complex, multiple effect settings with a single ‘stomp’ (or at least without signficant tap-dancing onstage).

Tall order, but well-filled now in my current pedalboard. Lets take an overview of my main groups of effects.

Continue reading Stomp 01: Pedalboard overview.

Cans

Yeah, all the cool kids call them ‘beats’ now, but I never got down with the shoe/kicks vibe either. To me, headphones will always be cans (thanks for that, studio life), and an integral part of my life both personally and professionally. Obviously a clear, uncolored set of cans/headphones are great for studio work so you can translate your mixes/etc to the real world more effectively, but I’ll admit for recreational listening I tend to go for a little more ‘oomph’ in the low end. Having tried a TON of headphones (and headsets) over the years, I’m slowly settling down to three pairs (plus one ‘wildcard’). Here they are, why I still use them all regularly, and their pros/cons from my perspective.

Beats by Dr Dre - Wireless

Beats Wireless – General Listening
Somewhere between the Pro & Studio and the Solo models, the Beats Wireless cans have a great balance of fidelity with some fat low end for a rich listening experience. Although the Studio model is much more accurate, there’s just something about the sound of these that I’ve come to love, they tend to warm up the bass guitar range (my personal focus area of the spectrum) and have a pleasing high end, not too brittle or crisp. But the convenience is the best part, they’re so comfortable and easy to use without the connecting cable that I often forget I’m wearing them, or need to stay within range of my phone/tablet/laptop.

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