Category Archives: tone

gear, tone, secrets, etc

Amp rigs

P&HrigMy frighteningly awesome sounding amp rig circa 2000-2. There have been many such combinations, but this one, taking elements of both Neil Young & Ry Cooder stage set ups, was one of the best. Certainly the most…robust.

signal chain:
60s Vox wah (modded)->80 Dyna Comp->Matchless Hotbox->Memory Man (modded)->Boss Tu2 trem->70’s EP3 echoplex (with volume pedal mod to control mix)->

1965 Princeton Reverb. The heart of it all and remains my favorite amp ever. Onstage it gets mic’d for house and has a custom made instrument level tap that comes off the speaker and travels->

1971 Hiwatt 100. Unbelievable headroom (this one rated 120 watts clean, 170 full up) and responsible for whatever stage volume needed. It fed either 2 or 4 Bell & Howell 1×12 movie cabs, often set at an angle or backwards depending on the room.

Analog world

I am so loving the sound of this stripped down, all analog set-up. There’s almost always a vintage something-or-other involved in my set-up, but this is my youth all over again. As in: the sound that got me into this thing, have always loved, riffed on, tinkered with and occasionally strayed from – usually for the sake of convenience and weight/transport considerations. There is benefit in this and tone comes from the heart and fingers, but somethings can get lost in translation. All those 0s and 1s…


My new Goodsell Custom 33 amp is one of the most complex, touch sensitive amp I have played (among many). I pretty much can’t stop playing it. And there is simply no replacement for the sound of my 70’s EP3 Echoplex. Every digital emulation fails – and I have tried them all. Toss in some overdrive and fuzz for color and we’re off.

Digital is useful. But good analog? Nothing touches it. As my friend Rance (Lawrence Fellows-Mannion) says about audio gear, “it’s in the iron – if it weighs a lot it probably sounds good”

it’s in the fingers

20060319-fingersTone matters for everything – not just guitars. Voice, drums, organ, etc. Most important, it has to work for the moment and for the composition.

I often get asked about my guitar tone. My usual response is, it’s in the fingers!

Most musicians who understand this concept don’t really need to talk about the basis of someone’s tone. Others seem to think this response is some kind of inside joke and that if they just use the right piece of gear…

Listen. The gear you are using is but a small part of the formula. It’s one thing to talk about different textures one can create by using a particular piece of gear, but far more important is how you play through and respond to that gear – the connection between your heart, your fingers, the instrument and the sound you are producing.

I have experimented with many guitars and with many amp and effects setups – vintage, non-vintage and combinations in between. It is an ongoing process. I tend to gravitate towards things that are built to last (often over-engineered) except if it provides ridiculous functionality or fucked-up sound. As Les Paul once said, “You’ve got to constantly mess around with things.”

I don’t change my basic setup around much, but little things are always in flux and there are always new discoveries!