Guitar techs love to talk gear. As we talked with our panel of expert techs to get the inside scoop on what it's like to be a touring tech [you can read last week’s feature “Gear Nannies – Life of a Guitar Tech,” here], the conversation inevitably shifted back to equipment. Thankfully, these purveyors of gear and repair are in a position not only to help artists reach sonic nirvana, but have agreed to share some of their wisdom to help in your pursuit of tone.
In the following pages, the techs share tips, tricks, and cautionary tales of repair and troubleshooting to help you avoid being at the mercy of the gear gods in the middle of your next gig. While you may already be familiar with some of the tips, we hope this gentle reminder can help you get back to the basics and remember that sometimes your tone and onstage comfort is made in the smallest, most miniscule things in your signal path.
Let's start by meeting our team of experts:
Years of Service: 28
Past Gigs: Joe Perry, Steve Vai, Puddle of Mud, Izzy Stradlin and Gilby Clarke [Guns ‘N’ Roses], Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes
Current Job: ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons
Years of Service: 20 years, last 11 full-time
Past Gigs: Neal Schon of Journey, KD Lang, Styx, The B-52s, and Peter Frampton
Current Job(s): Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Rush’s Alex Lifeson
Years of Service: 24
Past Gigs: Blondie, Megadeth, Cold, Fuel, Clutch, Godsmack, Meatloaf, Extreme
Current Job: Bill Kelliher of Mastodon, Weezer
Enrique “Henry” Trejo
Years of Service: 14
Past Gigs: At the Drive-In
Current Job: The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez,The Raconteurs
Years of Service: 32 (’79–’10)
Past Gigs: Eric Clapton
Current Job: Off
Years of Service: 23
Past Gigs: Marty Stuart, Johnny Cash, Allen Woody
Current Job: Warren Haynes/Gov’t Mule
Years of Service: 17
Past Gigs: John Petrucci and John Myung of Dream Theater, Vernon Reid, Stevie Nicks, Chris Chaney [Jane’s Addiction/Alanis Morissette]
Current Job: Maroon 5’s James Valentine
1. Minimize string breaks and maintain intonation.
2. Respect the recorded tones and keep the tone consistent from room to room.
3. Prepare your toolkit for any scenario.
4. Have a backup plan.
5. Network for tonight’s gig and beyond.
6. Protect your tone—and your investment—with amp maintenance.
7. Mind your mics—or trust someone to do it for you.
8. Pay attention to pedal order.
9. Check the simple stuff when something goes wrong.
10. Whatever you do, don’t forget the most important part of setting up a rig…