Gear that will help your gigs!.
I’ve decided to write a small article about gear that will make life easier if your a working musician who freelances a lot. Originally I was going to talk about all my pedals and set ups over the years and what I’ve learn but I think that’s a bit boring and besides, there’s so much information about this online by serious gear nerds I’m not sure how much I could add to this. But……I have grabbed a couple items over the years that have saved me a buncha times on gigs. I’m talking about things that will really benefit you if you’re a musician who freelances a lot. They’ve helped me so much over the years that I thought I’d share and it could maybe help you as well. Here’s a list below as well as why I like them. In no particular order.
-A great amp simulator and effects unit.
It’s good to have an amp simulator. The most classic is the POD by line 6 but I think there’s better options out there now. Basically, you use this for situations where you don’t have an amp and have to go direct. Ever try to plug straight into a PA system or recording interface? It sounds terrible. Even worse with pedals! This situation happens more than you’d think. Often I show up to a gig where they say I don’t need an amp. Then they tell me I’m going direct or there’s a REALLY CRAPPY AMP THERE. Oh no! My tone is ruined and my pedals are useless! I’m not saying an amp simulator will sound just like a 1960′s tele going into a vintage tube amp but it’ll get you as close as you can get. If you do it right you will be quite happy with the tone. This situation is very common in recordings, theater gigs, cabarets, small group private gigs, clubs that don’t often use guitar, religious gigs, school gigs, ect… Often times the sound guys at these venues don’t work with guitar a lot or don’t care too much about a good guitar tone. They just wanna get the job done efficiently and easily. So it’s up to you to take care of your sound.
Make sure you get a small one. No need to lug an amp simulator around that’s as big or heavy as a small amp. Obviously that defeats the purpose a bit. The best one out there is definitely the Fractal by Axe effects. but…..it’s really big/heavy and expensive. The fly rig by tech 21 is my fav cause it’s light, super small. has a great amp simulator, a decent distortion, a great TAP “analog delay” and reverb. A lot of times if I don’t know whats at the gig or what to bring I throw a buncha stuff in my bag and always bring this just in case! It’s also pretty cheap! We all wish we could afford and bring a fractal every time we had to go direct but it isn’t practical. Often I use this with pedals on my board. I like this option the best cause it makes me feel at home still having all my pedals on there. Just make sure you check the pedals with it first. Some work better with it than others. A number of times I’ve brought this thing to musical theater gigs and the sound designer says “what is that small thing you’re using? It’s sounds great!” There’s also just a small “San Amp” pedal by tech 21 and a bunch of line 6 POD type of units out there. Shop around a little. When you go to the store to try them make sure you don’t try it through a good amp. Use a crappy keyboard amp or speaker or something similar. Some of them have a headphone jack and it’s def worth seeing how it sounds just straight from the unit.
- A small, cheap, digital, multi effects pedal. (Zoom multistomp)
This is the kinda pedal that everyone makes fun of. It’s corny looking, a one trick pony and totally digital. I like the ZOOM multistomp effects pedal. I got it used on Ebay for 40$!!! This thing has every effect in it. delays, amp simulators, distortions, pitch shifters, ect… A lot of these sounds are pretty bad or corny. But, some are totally useable. Maybe a little more than half. Here’s where it’s useful. Suppose you have a gig where someone tells you to bring a bunch of effects. They don’t really know what they want or what they’re talking about. They say they might want phasor, maybe flanger, maybe octave pedal, maybe an echo blah blah blah. You don’t want to bring everything you own or revamp your pedal board. You also don’t want to show up unprepared or buy a buncha crap you’re only going to use for that one gig. So, bring the multi effects! Of course you could bring a floor pod and go that route but maybe you want to use all your pedals and a real amp sound except for the couple of effects that are in question. I had this problem on an off broadway show one. It worked great! I used the echo delay, equillizer and phaser on it. It sounded totally fine, was easy to use, reliable and got the job done with no hassle. It also has a tuner which is always great! Get a cheap one and keep it in the drawer. It’ll come in handy more times than you think!
-acoustic guitar preamp (Zoom A3)
This is similar to the last pedal but for acoustic guitar. I have had a buncha really nice acoutic instruments over the years that also plug in. If it’s a special gig where they sound guy is stellar then you may have the pleasure of having a nice acoustic mic. But…..most of the time they will plug you’re acoustic instrument into the DI. boooo! No matter how sweet your guitar sounds acoustically it will sound totally different plugged in. As soon as you plug it in it’s not an acoustic instrument! remember that! Now it’s using a pickup and is an electric guitar trying to imitate as much of the acoustic sound it can. This can be a real drag. While some guitars are better than others plugged in it’s always good to have something that you know will give you your sound!
Ideally, once you’re plugged in you would sit at the board with the sound guy and tweak everything until you were happy with the tone. Maybe add reverb, take off the high end, add more mids ect.
That’s where this pedal come in to do magic! At home you can dial everything in. There’s settings for you’re type of guitar and the pickup if uses. You can add a great natural reverb sound and tweak all the frequencies. You can save the settings to all you’re separate instruments as well. So when you show up to the gig with you’re steel string, mandolin and nylon you have all these settings saved and just with the click of a button it’s all dialed up. Usually the sound guys love this if they’re involved. I just tell them I have this magic box and all they need to do it plug me in and put everything in the middle. No hassle and a great sound right off the bat. The big pluses is there’s a tuner and anti-feedback button. The tuner is pretty good and also acts as a muter for when you’re switching instruments and don’t want cable sound. The anti-feedback option is stellar! If you hear any feedback you just hit the button and BOOM it recognizes the bad frequency and cuts it out. It’s worth the pedal for that alone. I’ve have mine for years. It’s super rugged and use it every time I plug in. Unless of course, the sound guy is stellar and we get a long proper soundcheck.
-Zoom handy recorder (H1)
This is a no brainer must have for me. I’ve learned more by recording myself than I have from any lesson. Sometimes you want to record a gig or rehearsal just to hear how you sound. Sometimes you want to record a rehearsal or gig so you can go home and practice it for later. Or maybe you’re using headphones into a mix and what a recording just like you’re hearing from the headphones? This does all that. It sounds good and is cheap.
It’ll run you about 90$ new. The mic is great quality so you don’t have to worry about a crappy phone recording anymore. Which I actually find useless now that I have this. You can choose from a super high quality WAV file or a lower quality MP3. You can also go direct in if you want a recording from the board of your headphones. It’s small and discreet so nobody will notice. Hours or recording time as well. You won’t have to worry about running out of data or something. It’s pretty damn simple and easy to use. After the recording I go home and dump it on my computer then use it how I want. Also, a cool bonus feature is you can use it as a USB mic if you want to plug it into your computer for garageband or logic or whatevers. A must have! Just don’t drop it a lot. It’s made of plastic. Make sure you’re battery is always fresh. Nothing more disappointing then losing the recording cause the single AA battery died. Also, make sure you set the recording levels or use the auto-level feature. Annoying if you get home and realize everything is too quiet or so loud it’s distorted or clipping. I bring this to all new gigs and have learned so much from recording myself. You will too.
So there you have it. I could go on and on about great distortion or delay pedals but like I said. There’s tons of info on that and you should really use what you like for those things. The gear above I think anyone can benefit from.
Let me know if you liked this article and I’ll write more instructional type articles. Just testing the waters here.