Although I pride myself as a multi instrumentalist, at my core I am and probably always will be a guitarist, and that’s where I focus my attention as well as a great deal of my pocket book.
As far as what I play, I’m very particular about my instruments and what sounds I can conjure from them. I’m very much a purest when it comes to gear, but I also make a conscious effort to avoid the trends that develop in guitar circles.
My main guitar and prized possession is my 1994 Gibson Les Paul Standard.“Les” is more in my opinion, and I’ve made it a point to keep it as close to stock as possible, as I do with any guitar with a decent amount of value, though I plan on keeping this guitar for as long as I live. I use this guitar for almost all of my solos. The true essence to my playing is the versatility of sounds and at the core of that will always be my Les Paul. Another Les Paul, which is now relegated to backup duties, is my 2007 Gibson Les Paul Studio, and it’s wired after Jimmy Page’s pickup configuration.
My guitar upbringing was very typical: the first two riffs I learned were Smoke On The Water and Iron Man, and my first guitar was a Squire Strat. As a kid, I grew up with an old school and immensely talented guitar player for a dad who despite owning a gorgeous 1977 Les Paul Custom, is a Strat man through and through. I decided quickly though that I was not and instead gravitated to Les Pauls, my first of which was an Epiphone Les Paul Custom now owned by Kaleb. Despite this I still found myself playing a number of Strats and as I grew more musical matured and began desiring a clearer sound, I finally discovered the joys of Fenders. Up next is a very beautiful looking and sounding guitar: my 2006 American Fender Stratocaster.
My Strat is one of my go to guitars for when I’m writing music because it’s probably my most playable guitar. It has a brilliantly clean and classic tone that really makes me think of the sound on The Beatles’ Nowhere Man. From time to time my Strat finds its way onto a lot of rhythm tracks, but for one reason or another I never can get the right sound playing lead guitar on a Strat and rarely will it be used for any sort of heavy distortion. It’s strictly for my “pretty sounds”.
My newest acquisition and the guitar that has risen in the ranks quickly to become possibly my second most relied on guitar is my 2015 Fender Telecaster Plus which I bought brand new from Guitar Center last year, the first time I’ve ever done that.It’s “crafted” in China, and the amount of bang for your buck in this guitar is simply unreal. However, differing from my more valuable guitars, I’ve deemed this one to be my mod guitar and so far I’ve had a blast with it. So far I gave it locking tuners and changed the pick ups to Lace Sensors. My goal was to model the sound of one of my musical idols Jonny Greenwood. I have to say, I’m very pleased with the results and this guitar does exactly what I intended for it to do: be a combination of the big Les Paul tones and the sweet Strat sounds. This is the true workhorse of the litter.
Kaleb handles most of the acoustic guitar duties so I don’t worry too much about them. All I have is a cheap Washburn 12 string and a really cheap student model gypsy jazz six string. I’d love to have an old Gibson Hummingbird one of these days though.
Amps and Guitar Pedals
There has been a big change in my all around sound in the past year and a half or so. Gone are the days when my tone revolved around full blast gain and little else. Those days were defined by Marshall amps, two of which are still used now just in a limited capacity. At the beginning of this year I set out on a quest to find an amp that could produce sounds of subtly and delicacy as well as be versatile, something that Marshalls often lacked, despite their brilliance, I was led to Fender amps.
My dad had a couple of Silverface Twins back in his youth that he still swears by to this day. After finding that a lot of indie rockers that I now appreciate seem to use them extensively and hearing jazz guys like George Benson sing praise to the tune of the Fender Twin, I was sold. After months of saving pennies and weighing options, I stumbled on a nearly pristine 1974 Twin. Collectors crap on most any guitar equipment from the 70s, which is fine by me because online prices stay low so I got this baby for like $700.
The amp is so essential to my sound and really opened a new realm of sonic possibilities. The tremolo does leave something to be desired but the spring reverb is spot on and more than makes up for it. It’s as loud and heavy as they come but I love it. Plus it came casters already on so that was a huge victory for me. It sounds sublime with my Les Paul or Strat going straight through but effects are becoming a bigger and bigger aspect of my sound.
My board is an SKB that currently has this signal path: TC Electronic Chromatic Tuner (I like to be in tune once in a while) – Rothwell Hellbender (higher gain distortion, comparable to a Marshall tone) – Ibanez Mini Tube Screamer (light distortion, tone enhancer really) – Dunlop Crybaby Wah Wah (even your grandmother has one) – DigiTech Whammy (used extensively in creating soundscapes and strange noises. Love this thing) – Marshall Echo Head (used a lot for a lot of different reasons) – MXR Phase 90 (mainly used to enhance rhythms) – Ditto Mini Looper (Rarely used, hard to master but what a cool little gadget).
I also use an eBow quite often and when the opportunity lends itself I use a brass slide.
For strings I use mainly use Ernie Ball strings .9-.42 and for straps Franklin and Fender work great.
This has been a run down of my gear. Later there will be more detailed blogs reviewing the specifics of each one.
– Jack Cage