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.