Guitarist's pedalboard is out of control

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by famousbirds, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    I need to vent. Any advice is appreciated.

    I play in and direct a Motown-era soul and R&B cover band. Our current guitarist joined up a couple months ago. He's a great player and has excellent tone, Strat into a Deluxe. Nice guy and professional enough but pretty typical ADHD lead-guitarist type.

    The issue is the pedalboard. He showed up to the audition with a PT-1 full of pedals, he's since gone to a PT-2. Three overdrives, a fuzz, big EQ, a univibe, compressor, clean boost, delay/looper pedal, custom switching strip, wah and volume pedals. It takes him at least 20 minutes to get set up at each at practice, with constant fiddling throughout practice adjusting levels and tones. This is EVERY practice - seems to be starting fresh getting his stuff dialed in every time.

    Shows are worse. He's got to sit on stage noodling and tweaking for 20 minutes, then needs a soundcheck, and is STILL riding his volume pedal all night (and not always doing a very good job of that). A lot of the venues we play at, that's just not acceptable - he can't be blasting away by himself while people are eating dinner, and if there's three other bands on the bill we might not get a soundcheck. He needs at least 30 seconds between every song to get his sound dialed-in, and misses changes during the set trying to hit pedals mid-song.

    We played a show last weekend at a very cool club with very bad acoustics (concrete box), and it took him half the set to get his volume under control, and even then.

    And remember, we're playing old-school soul and R&B, a genre recorded almost entirely guitar -> amp. He could handle every tune with one overdrive and a volume pedal. FWIW, I play a G&L straight into a Markbass head for this group and get all the sounds through pickups and volume knob.

    While I run pretty strict rehearsals, I typically don't bother people about their gear if it sounds ok. I'm not looking forward to talking to him about it - he's a gear nut and is going to hate leaving all his toys at home. But it's gotta change. His rig is not appropriate, and he's putting it first at the expense of the rest of the group.

    Alright, rant over. I'm either going to ask him out for a coffee to discuss it like adults, or I'm going to steal his power supply at practice. Advice?
  2. No fun ahead for you! Try to emphasize the style of music you are doing, to keep it as impersonal as possible. If the guy is worth keeping, a discussion is worth it.
  3. lwknives


    May 6, 2012
    How long has he had this board? He may be just getting used to new stuff and needs more time to learn it. You said his tone was good so he is doing something right.

    I would tell him he needs to figure out his board so that he can use it more efficiently not tell him to get rid of it. The problem isn't the pedal board!
    If he is a gear nut he wont be as happy without his board and if he isn't happy he wont play as well but if he Isn't willing or able to learn his board it may be time to look for a new guitarist.
  4. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    He's adding and removing stuff every week. Every paycheck he's buys a new pedal to play with.

    Yeah. This pedalboard is the child he never had, but his kid is loud and annoying and I wish he'd leave it at home.
  5. It's never going to stop crying.
  6. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Rather than trying to dictate his pedal board, which really isn't the issue, Talk to him about the problems it's causing, which IS the issue. If he can use his pedal board without disrupting the band, then who cares how many pedals he has?

    If someone tried to tell me how many pedals I could use, I would definitely take offense and it would be an unpleasant conversation. If they talked about how I was disrupting the band, it would be harder to dispute that.

    Just tell him what you expect out of him and tell him it's his responsibility to figure out how to operate within those parameters.
  7. Yeah that's sad. FWIW: I’d talk with him right away and give him 7 days tops to nail it or I’d fire him. Seriously, I’ve been down that road to many times before and it never gets better, never!!!
  8. lwknives


    May 6, 2012
    Parents shouldn't leave their kids at home, they should learn to control their kids. If they cant control their kids then they need to be at home teaching them manners. Same with your guitar player.

    Again the board is not the problem, lots of guitarists use large boards and sound great. Your guitar player needs to learn to control his board just as much as he needs to learn the notes to the songs you do, if he cant do that he needs to be replaced.
  9. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Thanks, I needed to hear this.

    Yeah. I'm going to give him a shot, but TBQH I seriously doubt his abilities to manage his bedroom dream board in a live situation.
  10. +1, No doubt.
  11. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Every new pedal is going to be the one that fixes everything and makes it perfect. He's way down the GAS rabbit hole.

    Part of what bothers me is I'm a big believer in creative constraints. I don't need any 50 different tones from him, I need two of them, and I need them to be instant and bulletproof. I love a good tone, but pleasing the one guitar nerd in the audience in the audience who can tell a difference between three different Tube Screamers is just not worth the overhead.

    Truth. I have serious doubts whether he can pull it off consistently without majorly paring down. It's frustrating, we run really tight rehearsals, arrangements, choreography, warddrobe, all that, it's tough not being able to be a dictator for gear too ;)
  12. You are free to dictate the amount of noodling at gigs, zero, and the amount of time taken up at rehearsals, limited.
  13. Hi, I'm new here.

    I'm a guitarist and just recently started playing bass in a band. Knowing what I know about my own pedal buying habits, I can honestly say that this is 100% normal behavior for guitarists. That doesn't make it any less stupid, but at least it's not out of line.

    Personally, I use the Spaceballs method of pedalboard building. Bring only what you need to survive. On guitar, I usually bring 4 to 6 pedals, depending on the gig. Some variation of phase -> dirt -> more dirt -> delay -> tremolo.

    What most guitar players don't realize is that they don't have to sound exactly like the record. Or that the audience isn't paying attention to the subtle nuances of their overpriced boutique Tubescreamer. The guitarist in this band I just got into brought an Axe-Fx to rehearsal, where we proceeded to play Elvis Costello and The Jam. He could get by with a Wah -> RAT -> DD3 -> CE2 -> and maybe a tremolo pedal. Maybe.

    Tell him for the next rehearsal he should ride his Strat's volume knob along with the fuzz. if he absolutely must have the compressor and a slapback delay, that's fine too. Let the keyboard player handle the univibey/swirly stuff. The switching strip isn't such a big deal, but I find they're more hassle than they are worth. Tell him you really want to hear him play instead of turning knobs and that you think he should bring it down to basics. Tell him you told this to the entire band, so he doesn't feel singled out. Then see what kind of monster industrial strength hair dryer he actually brings. (see, Spaceballs :D )
  14. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Agreed. Want a gig?

    His head might explode.

    My favorite guitarist in the scene out here plays a Tele with humbuckers into a two-channel Vox, no pedals. He pulls off some 50+ covers a night with this rig, along with originals. Always sits perfectly in the mix. He also works every night. *sigh*
  15. Sure, come to NYC. Alternatively, help me relocate. :D

    You are not a guitarist on a boutiquey pedal forum. Had you been a guitarist on a boutiquey pedal forum who could post videos on how to use a strat volume knob, he may listen. Maybe.

    I like dirt pedals instead of multi-channel amps. They allow me to find an amp with a great clean sound and then find the right dirty sound to go with it. Channel switching amps, in my opinion, are always a compromise. So pedals aren't inherently bad. It's just that people abuse them.

    I've been known to abuse them from time to time too. But I always try to have at least one rehearsal a month with only a dirt pedal. It lets me know what parts really need effects and what parts don't. In my last rehearsal with my original band (I play guitar), I found that my delay's buffer imparts a chimey-ness to the sound that isn't there otherwise. The delay's absence made one song sound completely flat. But I didn't miss it in another song, so there's no delay in that one now.

    People get caught up in buying stuff and the sonic capabilities of electric instruments. That's not the problem. It's using them as a crutch that's the problem.
  16. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Thing is, I used to be! Then I played 50 shows, had every possible thing go wrong on stage, and learned the value of embracing the bare essentials.

    Difference is, when he boffs it on stage, it's because he didn't get enough time to sound check, or because he needs to buy this MagicTone compressor, or because the sound man is an *******. There's a broken feedback loop.

    Oh, for sure. Unrealistic to expect him to take a ripping solo through a clean Fender amp. But four gain stages before the amp?

    Those four pedals always happen to be the *unnamed-boutiquey-guitar-forum* flavors-of-the-week, too.

    Ah, guitarists ;) This made me smile. But I get it, helps to have empathy for the lengths guitarists go to for tone. I've been playing bass through a good amp for too long.

  17. GlennW

    GlennW Inactive

    Sep 6, 2006
    You're the director.

    Tell him to stop wasting everyones' time while learning how to use pedals he doesn't need. He can do that at home.

    Then he'll say he needs to figure out the stuff in a "live band situation."

    At this point, re-emphasize the "wasting everyone's time" and "doesn't need" parts.

    He's an addict, that's what you're dealing with.

    If he persists, can him.
  18. famousbirds


    Aug 3, 2009
    Thank you.
  19. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    It doesn't matter how many pedals he has, he should be able to manage his volume(s). I probably have as many pedals as he does (octave divider, fuzz, two overdrives, tremolo, evelope filter, delay, volume pedal). I always make sure to figure out ahead of time how to switch effects without massive volume changes. I am also always prepared to switch out the whole board if a problem arises.

    My guitarist has similar problems to yours. We don't have a leader really, but I rag on him about it, telling him to get the basic sound first, then layer on the favoring as needed. Sometimes he listens, but then once again he gets distracted by shiny pedals with bad input jacks etc. :atoz: I think a lot of guitarists get so enamoured of their tone, they lose sight of the big picture...

    I don't have a solution for you, other than telling him to play with no effects for a rehearsal to get used to it, before adding effects. If an effect makes the sound worse, he needs to learn to use it better, or lose it.
  20. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA

    Would you put up with him showing up at gigs every week with a new instrument on which he's marginally competent? ("Hey, guys, I found an accordion!"; "I thought these bagpipes will be awesome on that ska tune!"; "I can't wait to fire up the new theremin on the ballads!"; "But I think adding musical saw to our arrangements will really give us an edge in the local scene!")

    If he can't dial his pedalboard in quickly without disturbing the flow of rehearsal (or gigs!), then it's a distraction, not an instrument he yet knows how to play.