Why'd you go and make things so complicated?

There was a knock at the front door. ‘I’ve come about the guitar for sale?’. I showed the young couple into the front room. We made small talk for a few moments and it turned out the guitar was for the female half of the duo. She lifted it off the stand and played a few chords, then nodded to the male who pulled out a small bundle of banknotes. Just before they left, he turned and pointed at the Boss BR864 on the table in the corner. ‘Do you get on with that thing?, he asked, pointing at the device. “Yes’, I said, ‘Up to a point’. The girl laughed, ‘We had one for a week. He got so frustrated with it, he threw it against the wall!’

Things are dramatically different from just a few years ago. There was a time when all we had were effects pedals, a simple little box that you plugged into and turned a dial and off you went. Now we have gargantuan racks of effects, great leviathans of all-in-one floor processors, modelling amps and guitars, drum machines, recorders, you name it. I admit it, I absolutely love all that stuff, but today was a turning point for me;

I have piles of associated guitar ‘stuff’. I remember reading about the new Boss multi-track recorders and I ordered one before they were in stock. I rocked up at the store on the day of delivery and asked for a demo before parting with the cash. Apparently the rep had been at the store a week or two before and had given the guys a tutorial. The assisant selling me mine had been off on that day and had convinced himself that a quick whiz through the manual and he’d be up to speed. Two hours of head scratching later should really have warned me of things to come.

There is no question that I have spent countless weeks reading instruction books and it has been more by trial and error than well-written tutorials that have helped me muddle through. The Boss BR864 multi-tracker was a complete nightmare, I learnt just enough to do what I wanted and never picked up the manual again, but nothing like the ‘easy and intuitive’ way it was described. The Boss GT6 multi-effects processor was somewhat easier, but the Boss DR670 drum machine, well, I have to look at the book literally every time I use it. I have a full electric kit now which is so much easier – I sit and play the part, no fiddling with dials or menus. I can’t even begin to get into what sleepless nights I have had over the Korg D3200 32 track recorder I have in the basement, it must have been designed by a woman.

Of course the other thing I learnt is to have a dymo label maker to hand. This morning I counted the mains adapters I have that just power my guitar kit = fourteen. I have every one clearly marked with what it is for.

So why exactly was today a turning point?

Well, I wanted a small notebook style recorder for my attic office. I have a few guitars up there and very often get a riff, in my head or a line, or something that just gently wanders through and off in the ether, so I needed something to get it down quickly. I ordered a Korg D4 four track and I opened the box and was confronted with by another instruction manual seemingly written by Dostoevsky. After two hours of flicking first one way, then another, pressing buttons and turning dials, I was really no further than when I started. Bear in mind, I was building and programming computers in the eighties, I’m not a complete numpty. I’m simply not going to buy another damn box of tricks.

Of course, you can’t beat the basic combination of a guitar plugged straight into a good old valve amp, but the stuff that can be achieved with that AND a GT6/8 in between that combination is astonishing.

The point here is this, there must be loads of you who have stories to tell about getting to grips with certain bits of kit, what you hate, what you love, what you could never understand and get to work, your favourite items you’d never be without.

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I really don't get along with multi-effects, though I am a bass player so my role tends to be watching guitarists twiddling with their knobs for hours. I did have the 'Bass Pod' inflicted on in my previous band but I got the guitarist (who owned it) to set it up so I could plug in and play.

Piece of kit I couldn't do without: my PC (fitted with a Terratec DMX 6Fire) I sample drums on it (with a full visual display/timeline etc...much easier) record bass and guitar straight into it, for both songs and as an audio 'notepad', and can store as many tracks as I want, combine them remix them, change levels etc etc.

To plug my bass into the PC and for playing live without monitors ('fallback' in Ameriland?) I tend to use an LMB-3 Limiter/Enhancer to cap my output.

I'm after an overdrive too, but that'll be it then. Probably.

Nice post, youngwasp.

I think all this technology can stifle creativity. Sometimes I yearn for the days of a guitar, a couple of effects pedals, and a cassette-multitracker. At least we got things done that way.

I had a Boss bass mFX (can't remember the model) that I do regret giving away. The noise limiter was rubbish (actually increased noise) and the EQ I didn't use but it had a chorus/flanger and an OD/distortion that were useful. What I like was that each bank had their own slider/knob section and f/switch. So I just set it up how I liked and could kick them on/off as required. The OD was tricky to get right and often lost me the bass end (a common prob with SS/digital - now solved, see below) but very gig-simple.

I let it go soon after I bought a Peavey Max100 for cheap. It's not something I use and I'll have to offload it. The Transtube gain/crunch is nothing like valve, and loses me even more bottom than the Boss (admittedly, it's a guitar mFX). It's slightly noisy, too; not too bad for gigs but not something I'd record with. I was impressed with all the DSP stuff until it came to a gig. 99 factory presets, 99 user-defined presets but just an A/B f/switch and a C override f/switch to up/down through patches. Either I spend the night before dialling everything in, or I just have three setups and leave it at that (kindof wasted all the stuff available).

I've now got a valve OD to boost my standard valve amp (none of which is a clean/dirty modern type). If you've seen the DHA pedals on eBayUK and wondered if they're worth having, I can confirm they very much are. I bought the VT1 and it's excellent in front of a valve head; the twin 12AX7 versions must be insanely gainy. My Fradan Echomatic amps give me the Copicat thing (tape echo is a great thing to have) but I would like a good standalone Flanger. That'd do me, and just three switches to on/off each of the effects. Have to say, the DHA switch does have quite a loud thunk, though.

It's back to the source for me; excellent tube amp, excellent guitar, very little between the two --- a boost, a delay, perhaps an OD. That's it. No more racks, processors, MIDI, etc. Vintage vibe with modern appointments all the way.

Been there done that! I bought a Behringer V-Amp Pro and when it arrive I thought to myself WTF are all these knobs! Then I discovered MIDI. I hooked this thing to a laptop and making adjustments is a snap. w00t!


I still hanker for a Roland V-bass but they're still darned expensive. Has anyone tried the guitar equivalent (VG88 or something) with the add-on piezo bridge thing?

1bassleft wrote:
I still hanker for a Roland V-bass but they're still darned expensive. Has anyone tried the guitar equivalent (VG88 or something) with the add-on piezo bridge thing?

Behringer makes the BASS V-AMP PRO

Even more expensive. I did ask Bob Gollihur (upright Bob) what he thought of a fretted bass on the piezo using the V-bass upright bass (URB) setting and he said "not too bad" which I take as a fair compliment considering. I might get one in a decade when they're old hat...

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