I’m not a big gear collector. It’s not important to me to have a bunch of stuff that I don’t use or no longer use. Sure, some things have sentimental value, but in the end they are just conduits for us to tell our story. Amazingly, George Benson once sat in and used my Roland and sounded just like …… George Benson! No matter what gear you play through, you can only sound like you with it.
I tend to think that instruments choose us. Read on and I think you’ll see what I’m saying.
Roland 505 Synth and guitar controller (3 of ‘em!)
I got my first one back in ’82, a red one with a maple neck. Billy Cobham wanted me to play a synth guitar for the live recording at Montreaux called “Smokin’”. So, that recording is the first time I ever used synth guitar. Love these guitars and continue to use the one that many of you know as “The Blue Guitar”. The synth is analog pitch to voltage.
I was given this guitar back in the mid 90s from Korg, who were distributing Parker at that time. They wanted me to use the guitar for a series of concert/clinics with Tome Coster’s group featuring the late , great Bob Berg(miss him dearly), Alphonso Johnson, and Steve Smith at Franfurt Musik Messe. I took a liking to the guitar because of it’s versatility and light weight. It provided me with a warm, unique sound until recently when the preamp gave out. It is featured on a few tunes on all of my CDs. I would love to get it fixed, but apparently Parker has discontinued the old style pre amp configuration, so it would have to be retro fitted with a new one. The problem for me is that the peizo has no tone control on the new one. A deal breaker for me. Parker has recently informed me that the older style pre-amp is being made available again, so hopefully I will get that guitar back to duty soon.
Fender gave me this guitar to use with MM around 2004. I love the way this guitar feels and looks. I heard a guitar with the new version of the Bill Lawrence noiseless pick-ups that Bill designed for Fender, so I called up Fender and asked them if they could hook me up with some. That’s what is on the guitar now and I love ‘em. I have been using this guitar on the road and in the studio as my “A” guitar recently.
Guild X-170 hollow body electric
I love this guitar. I mainly use it for single note groove stuff to get that James Brown feel, but it’s also great for chunky comping. A funny story involving this guitar happened on a Dave Sanborn session for the record “Songs From The Night Before”. I had borrowed an X-170 for the session from my friend, and great guitarist, Mike Barnett, who owns a music store in Freeport, LI and deals in high quality, vintage instruments. We did a nice track at Electric Ladyland and I figured I was done using the guitar, so I brought it back to Mike. A few days later, we were recording another tune and we were listening down to the track that was recorded earlier. I happened to notice that the guitar dropped out about half way through the take. I asked, “where is the guitar?” and the engineer replied, “what guitar?” At that moment we both realized that half the track had gotten erased. I figured, “no problem, I’ll just call Mike and get the guitar again”. “Hey, Mike. Can I borrow that Guild again?” “Sorry, Dean. I sold it! … but.. I have a black one that’s pretty nice”. I went to Mike’s and checked out the black one. Even though it made me feel like Johnny Cash when I saw myself in the mirror with it, the guitar sounded and felt great. I bought it, and used it on the track. All’s well that ends well.
Sears Silvertone Danelectro (I still have the amp/case)
This was my first electric guitar and the guitar I started gigging with. I have used it a number of times in the studio when I needed a raw bluesy sound. One example is “Where is Paco” from Victor Bailey’s “That’s Right” CD.
Fylde Calaban steel string acoustic
This is an unusually warm guitar with cedar top and a D hole. I bought it in the late 70s. A wonderful guitar to record with as evidenced on the tune “Gemini” from my “Here” CD featuring Marcus Miller on fretless bass.
Pedulla/Orsini solid body electric
I purchased this guitar in Boston, after my ’68 Les Paul Custom got stolen. This was my “A” guitar for years until I went on a winter van tour with Tiger’s Baku in Canada. It was so cold that when I opened the case after a long ride, the finish cracked and for some reason the guitar never sounded the same. I used it on my first big recording with Billy Cobham called “Observations+”. I also used it on “Mudd Cake” Tiger’s Baku and “Vital Information” which was Steve Smith’s first record with that band featuring Mike Stern, Tim Landers, the late, great Dave Wilczewski and yours truly.
Gibson Chet Atkins nylon string solid body electric
I used this guitar in the past, when someone needed nylon string for their music. It’s a nice guitar, but I am not really into the nylon string guitar sound. Maybe I’ll change my mind and pull her out of retirement one day, but that day ain’t today.
Cort Steel string acoustic electric
This is a good solid road guitar, but I used it for most of the acoustic stuff on “Groove Warrior”.
Fender steel string acoustic electric
This is the guitar that I used on MM’s “M2″ and “Silver Rain” tours. Another solid road warrior.
Music Man Silhouette Special
Steve Lukather turned me onto this instrument at a time when my Roland was in need of some tlc and not doin’ it for me. Ernie Ball/Music Man was nice enough to give me this guitar, which I used for a while on David Sanborn and George Duke tours.
Singletouch DB level custom solid body electric with hollow chambers
This is a really beautiful sort of experimental guitar built by Mark Singleton. It has PAF style and peizo pickups. I’ve used it on gigs a number of times.
Fender Jazz Bass (active)
Schuyler Deale “loaned” me this bass 15 years ago! I’m not a bass player, but I have played bass on quite a few recordings and this is the bass I always use. “Plan B” on Dennis Chambers’ “Outbreak” and Mauri Sanchis’ “Groove Words” CDs come to mind.
Custom made 6 string oak fretless bass
Used to belong to my friend, Chris Lakas who passed away a few years back. We played together when we were kids. His family wanted me to have it. Heavy as hell, but beautiful tone. Best played while sitting down.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul Custom ’68
This was my first “real” guitar. I bought it when I was 14 years old with money that I had made from gigs with my first band (Yesterdays Souls) and loved it. This picture is from Korea with my band, “Rush”. That’s right, it was my band first! Later, I was living in Cambridge, Mass, going to Berklee and had left my apartment for an hour and a half one afternoon. When I got back, the Les Paul, along with my Sony television, stereo system, and a quarter oz. of you know what (it was the ’70s) were gone. Like I said, instruments choose you and sometimes you just have to let them go.
Fender ’71 Telecaster
I bought this guitar on a trip to Hong Kong. I was living in Korea at the time. When I went up to school in Boston (74), funds were pretty tight and I sold this guitar to my girlfriend’s room mate on the condition that I could one day buy it back. It was stolen the next day! What are ya gonna do?
Fender ’78 Strat ash body 3 bolt with a maple neck
Nice sounding guitar, really light. 3 bolts suck, though. Lots of problems with the neck moving around. I bought the guitar in ’91 for a tour with Japanese saxophonist Takeshi Ito. Great band- Poogie Bell, Phillipe Saisse, Mino Cinelu, and Anthony Jackson, Norihito Sumitomo . We did a live laser disc, just in case you want to see that guitar. Well, I had a bunch of work done on the guitar and the neck was finally acting right. I was touring with David Sanborn and it was stolen from the bell closet at a hotel in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I used the insurance money to get my X-170. Everything seems to be interconnected.
My pedal board is an ever evolving living organism. However, it has some elements which have remained the same for quite a while. So, I will try to describe it loosely according to signal path.
Overdrives or distortion pedals are generally the first in the chain.
I have used the Boss OD-3 since the late 70s, then started using the Xotic pedals a few years ago. I really love them. Very transparent. I still like the Boss. It’s a real estate problem to keep everything on the board, which is right at 45 lbs(the limit before it is considered overweight by most airlines).
If you are interested, you can check out my Xotic Reality Web Video channel, where I demo some of their products.
Effects such as envelope filters
I love the MXR, but they don’t make it anymore and most of mine are broken. The Robotalk II is a pretty cool alternative.
I used the Boss for years. One day while I was on the road about 15 years ago, it broke and I “borrowed” this one from MM. ;^)
If you set this just right and control the attack, you can get it to sound like a Fender Rhodes.
Check out the comping on the version “Camel Hump” from DBIII.
Classic Cry Baby ’69
This is what mine looks like on the inside. The casing and pot have been replaced many times. I had Keeley Electronics mod it to make it true bypass as well as adding an LED to be able to tell if it’s on or off.
Cry Baby BB535
The knob on the side controls the voicing of the pedal. Mine is broken at the moment, but I’m gonna fix it, because I like the different sounds it gets. I have used it a lot in the studio.
Exotic EP Booster
This is a great pedal designed to emulate the front end of an old Echoplex. It’s not an echo device, but rather a warmly voiced clean volume booster. It makes bad amps sound decent and good amps sound great. I love it!
I typically put it right before the volume pedal in the chain.
I’m not a big fan of compression, but this is a good one. There is a certain “hit the wall” thing that you can only get with a compressor. Generally,they tend to reduce the subtle differences in attack that are such a big part of my playing.
Ernie Ball mono w/attenuator
Mine is an older one that I had modified to include a tuner output.
I’ve used the Boss since the 70s. When I was playing the Roland 505 guitar, I used to put it first in the chain, because it loaded the signal in a way that seemed to work with my other pedals and amp. Eventually, I started using other guitars and found that it didn’t work well in the chain with them, so I would just hook it up to the tuner out on the volume control pedal. Then, two years ago I was playing at the NAMM show with Chris Minh Doky, David “Fingers” Haynes, and George Whitty at the TC booth and the guys at TC turned me on to the Polytune. It’s a total game changer. The deal is you can hit all the strings at the same time and it will tell you which ones are in or out of tune!
Delays and Reverbs
Ibanez Analog Delay
I got mine back in the late 70s and did the true bypass mod on it.
This was my main delay for years until I found…
The TC Flashback Delay which is by far the best sounding and most variable delay that I have heard.
TC Hall Of Fame Reverb
It’s hard to believe this a pedal. It really sounds like a much more expensive rack unit.
I like to put reverbs and delays after the volume pedal. A cool trick is to switch from a lead sound to a clean sound with the delay on. It gives the illusion that the lead sound is overlapping the clean sound for a moment. After I play the last note of the lead sound, I turn the volume pedal down, switch my overdrive off, and start playing rhythm. The overlapping repeats were generated from the lead sound, so it sounds very seamless. This would be impossible if the delay was before the volume pedal. Also, swells are particularly nice using this configuration.
Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2
I have three of these for use in either the U.S., Europe, or Japan. Batteries sound the best, but this is the closest thing if you don’t want to spend your rent money every gig buying them. Clean, stable power is a must.
Last but not least… the first and last line of defense
Xotic instrument cables
Reliability and good signal are really important. These cables provide both. My only complaint is that they don’t make them with right angle plugs at both ends. Not the “end” of the world.
As I’ve mentioned, I tend to change things around from time to time, so I like to use George L solderless cables on the board itself. If I need to change a length, I just keep some cable handy, cut it to length and re use the ends.
Someday, I’m going to get someone who really knows what they are doing to fix up a nice board for me. That way my fans won’t get so grossed out at gigs when they come up to look at my board.
Check out the pix below to see some of the various incarnations of my pedalboard. It’s usually pretty messy, because I’m always changing things around.
Now that you’ve read all about this, I want you to know that the lions share of what I do during a gig involves just straight guitar signal into the amp, without effects. So, I really concentrate on making sure that sound is a good one. If so, then the pedals and effects tend to respond better. The trick is to get them all sounding good at a proper level to one another. One of my pet peeves when I hear some guitarists is that they use a warm, distorted or overdriven sound at a very low volume. Being a child of the 60s, that just seems so unnatural to me. I’m not big on super sustain distortion either. Even though it’s effective for tapping and shredding, all the attacks become compressed and tend to sound the same to me. It’s just a very limited palette for expression in my opinion. When it comes to sound, you’ve got to do your own thing and hope that you can find gear that allows you to tell your story in a free flowing way.
I think that the most important piece of equipment for an electric guitarist is his amp. That’s right, even more important than the guitar. For the most part, electric guitars use a primitive magnetic pick-up system to deliver the signal to the amp. Of course, the guitar needs to feel good to play and the pick-ups have to be the type that you like (i.e. humbucker, noiseless humbucker, single coil, paf, tec.), but it’s the amp that shapes the tone. Some people prefer tubes, others solid state. For me, it’s never been scientific. When I plug into an amp, I can tell within a few minutes whether it will work for me or not. I have owned a number of amps over the years. Sears Silvertone, Kustom, Fender Bassman, Vibrolux , Delux, Twin, Marshall 1×12, Peavey Artist, Ampeg, Acoustic 4×10 are all part of my story.
This looks just like mine. Did the trick for a short while until I got my Kustom. I love the way this Acoustic 134 sounds. Solid State, but very heavy. Back in the day, Mike Stern used to use two of these bad boys with an MXR stereo chorus. The jazz sound of the late 70s!
Peavey Stereo Chorus 400
As I mentioned, I think gear tends to choose us. I was doing a NAMM show back in the mid 80s with Steve Smith’s Vital Information. Tim Landers was the bassist at that time and a Peavey endorser, so Peavey supplied the back line for the performances. They brought in a Peavey Stereo Chorus 400 2×12 combo for me to play through and it was love at first sound! Peavey was nice enough to supply me with two of them and up until last year I have used those amps on most of my gigs and recording sessions. There are always times when you are going for a particular thing in the studio where you need to use an special amp to get it, but for the most part, I used the Peavey in the studio as well. After many years, my battle worn Peaveys spend as much time in the shop as they do on the road. Don’t get me wrong, they are very durable, but also very old. The amp is also very heavy, so I cut one up to use as a head for the road, but it’s still 70 lbs in the case. Fast forward to NAMM 2010. I was there to do a performance for TC Electronic with Minh Doky and I ran into Hadrien Feraud, who is a Mark Bass endorser. He asked me to come and play with him at Mark’s booth. So, I plugged into their new DV Mark 2×12 40 watt combo. Again, love at first sound! This is a tube amp that weighs 35 lbs., but I don’t want you to think the weight is the big thing for me, it’s all about the sound. I have been using this amp on tour and in the studio ever since. It has a very warm, smooth sound for a tube amp and some really cool features, such as a tube driven spring reverb, and continuous power control which allows you to actually reduce the wattage of the amp. I’m not a big fan of overly distorting the preamp, so this is a great feature to help you control your overall levels.
So, you see, it’s all about the relationship between the amp, guitar, and me. The Peavey is old technology solid state (which I far prefer to newer solid state amps, many of which are designed to be cost effective) and the DV Mark is a tube amp.
The problem I have found with “high end” tube amps is that it’s hard to control the high end. Pun intended. Most guitarists I know get great sounds from them. They just don’t work as well for me.
One last thing about one of my Peaveys. I was touring europe with Marcus Miller back in 2005. I used to keep one of my amps at a studio in Bonn, Germany, so when I went to Europe I would have my sound. A year later, I called the studio and told them that I would be needing it and they told me that it never made it back. These things happen to gear on the road. Things sometimes get lost , misplaced , or stolen. It’s in a silver case with my name on it, so if you are in Europe and you happen to see it, give me a shout!
DV Mark 212 40w combo
Check out this link to DV Mark, if you are curious about their stuff.
The DV Mark Multi Amp –
This amp is a real game changer for me. Now I can travel with my own amp again. It’s versatile and light with a super fat, warm sound.