Gig Gear: My Live Setup
We are truly spoilt when it comes to gear. With so much variety and cool tech available to us as guitarists it’s hard to know where to start!
Before we dive in, there is no right or wrong answer to what gear you should use. When it comes to deciding what to buy for your rig you should think about what tones you are after and how practical you want it to be.
When I started playing guitar I knew nothing about gear. I played through a 10 watt unbranded practice amp which had a volume and a tone dial along with a weird luminous 80’s ‘metal fuzz’ stomp box. At the time it sounded great to my inexperienced ears and I happily noodled away on this setup for the first few years. This was the start of my gear journey.
I soon learnt about all the great pedals, rack effects and valve amps that were out there and started putting together various setups. I went from giant Marshall stacks with rack effects (the size of a small fridge!) to minimal combo amps and a handful of pedals. This never-ending cycle of changing setups is what allowed me to figure out what I liked and disliked. It’s quite helpful to have stuff recommended, especially if you are starting out, but you only discover what really works when you try out gear yourself.
It takes a while to develop a good understanding of what tone you like and even then this changes over time. For me, tone always comes from you as a guitarist. Gear is just a way to augment your sound and shape it allowing it to become a musical tool.
My Live Setup
I have found over the years I always reverted back to maintaining a small but versatile setup. Not only does this mean less gear to carry but also keeps your cost down too! Below is an outline of my live setup that hopefully gives you some insight and helps you build your own rig.
Tuner – TC Electronics Polytune 2 Mini
This is the most used pedal on my board. It’s first in the signal chain and has a cool feature that detects all the strings so you can see which ones are in tune at a glance.
Wah-Wah – Jim Dunlop Mini Cry Baby
One of the classic pedals that I use for some solos or funky rhythm work. The mini version means it sits comfortably on the pedal board.
Pre-amp Gain – Xotic Effects BB Preamp
I use this as a lead tone when the amp is on it’s crunch channel. As it’s a gain boost it doesn’t change the amp tone too much but gives you a smooth gain boost for playing solos.
Boost – Tone City All Spark Boost
This is used on both the clean/crunch channel and also gives you an extra nudge when used with the BB preamp. It’s handy for moments you need that extra boost.
Delay [FX Loop] – Mooer Ana Echo
Delay is normally added for any solos to give the tone a bit of depth and sparkle. I normally set it to short echo (around 300ms) with few repeats to give a more subtle effect.
Reverb [FX Loop] – Electro Harmonix Nano Holy Grail
The reverb adds a bit of room to the sound (depending on the venue). It just helps soften the tone and gives it room to breathe.
Power Supply – Dunlop DC Brick Multi Power Supply
A solid, reliable, compact unit that powers most 9v and 18v pedals which sits neatly on the board.
Pedal Board – Pedaltrain Nano
This is one of the smallest pedal boards I could find that still manages to fit what I need on it. Great for portability and when you don’t have much floor space!
Valve Amp – Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Head
It’s a great mini valve head with 2 channels (with a switchable boost) and FX loop. It can run between 18w, 5w and 1w which makes it great for loads of different uses. It also has a Redbox D.I out along with silent operation, not to mention the blue lighting looks cool too!
Speaker – Palmer 1 x 12 Cab
A portable 1 x 12 cab with a Celestion vintage 30 speaker. This is ample for most gigs and handles the volume if you need to wind up the amp!