Here we are on the fourth consecutive month of this topic. For those of you just tuning in for the first time (perhaps like those who recently watched the series finale of Lost), I’ll do a tiny recap. This series has been about recording in today’s studio world, which has become a completely individualized place. With most professional studios going out of business, we are left with a few pro operations and any number of concoctions that people call studios (today, that means anyone with a laptop and a recording program). When doing any session work, you never know what you are walking into, so I have been giving my two cents on what I think are some safe guidelines and smart ways to look at these situations. We covered guitars, accessories, and amps. Now, we can dig into what has become another massive industry with too many options: pedals.
Where do we start? All I see these days are ads
for pedals in magazines, 50 pedal companies on
sites like Pedalgeek.com, and racks and racks
of boutique pedals at places like Guitar Center.
So, what to bring to sessions? Again, one of my
former points in this series is that we must first
know what type of session we are going to do.
However, considering that pedals are smaller
and more transportable than amps and guitars,
we have a lot of options.
When I go to a session I try to cover a few areas
as my baseline, then work past that. If you have
favorite pedals and a board already wired up,
you should bring all of that. Personally, I have a
few PedalTrain pedalboards because I love the
ease of use and that I can swap out pedals on
them very easily. However, I am a bit of a tone
snob and when recording, I like to use as few
pedals in line as possible. This means pre-wired
pedalboards are fantastic, but aren’t so fantastic
if you can’t unplug and make plug switches. No
matter what power supply you are using or how
true you think your bypass is, anything in line—
to my ear, at least—changes the sound. We
could spend hours on this topic but my point
is, if you can be flexible with routing and pedal
chains, this is your best bet for the purest tone.
Nothing sounds better than a guitar straight
into an amp, and with that in mind, try to use
only the pedals necessary for the part instead of
going through your heavy-duty pedalboard.
When I show up to a session, I make sure
that I bring a delay, overdrive, fuzz, booster,
and some “fun” pedals (whammy, tremolo,
etc.). For me, these are the essentials. I also
always bring more than one option for over-
drive, fuzz, and booster. When recording, the
idea is to find the right sound for the right
moment. All pedals are not created equal and
have their own sound, even booster pedals.
For example, I have tested the Z. Vex Super
Hard-On, the Keeley Katana, HomeBrew
Electronics’ Uno Mos, and Xotic’s RC Booster,
and they all bring a different sonic imprint to
your sound. So depending on what amp, guitar, song, and part is being played, you should
listen and choose what sounds best.
I like to bring a vintage Electro-Harmonix
Memory Man and a Keeley-modded Ibanez
Analog Delay for delay-type effects—I also
like the T-Rex Replica as well (it’s on my SNL
pedalboard). For overdrive, I bring an Xotic
BB preamp and AC plus, a Keeley-modded
Ibanez TS9 and a HomeBrew Electronics
Power Screamer. This really covers a lot of
terrain. For fuzz, I bring an Analog Man Sun
Face and Peppermint Fuzz, a HomeBrew
Electronics UFO, and a Cusack Screamer Fuzz.
I used to love bringing my SweetSound Pro
Bender, but I lent it to my friends in Maroon 5
and they lost it. Dang.
For boosters, I bring the Xotic RC Booster
and a Keeley Katana. I also love HomeBrew
Electronics’ Uno Mos but that lives on my
SNL pedalboard. Then, as far as pedals for
flavor and more interesting effects, I bring the
HomeBrew Electronics Germania, a DigiTech
Whammy, a RMC Wah (I just got a custom-
made one that rips), a SweetSound Ultra Vibe,
any tremolo, and a volume pedal.
I know this sounds like there’s a lot of the same
thing, but these are some of the best effects I
have found out there. There are simply too many
companies, like Z. Vex and Death by Audio,
making great stuff to go through them all. For
recording, I have found the above-mentioned
pedals to be the most practical, and when you
have a good assortment of basic and “fun”
pedals, the combinations can be pretty endless.
Better yet, when you find yourself getting bored,
bring in a new pedal. I just brought this old EH
Micro Synthesizer into the studio and have been
using it like crazy because it’s the new guy in
town. (It also sounds rad).
It’s good to change it up and keep it fresh for
yourself, but find some of those pedals you love
and work with your ideal sound. The idea is
eventually you’ll get hired for that sound. What
would the Edge be without his delay? When
you think of Jimi, how do you not think of wah,
fuzz and Octavia sounds? Certain people have
styles and go-to pedals. If you find yours, and
also have a versatile arsenal where you can make
the producer and artist really happy by being
diverse, they will love you.
Good luck out there!
Jared Scharffhas been the house guitarist for the legendary Saturday Night Live band for the last three years. A
native New Yorker, Jared is also a recording artist, producer,
songwriter, and highly sought-after session player, and has
shared the stage with Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John,
Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Kid Rock, Debbie Harry, Roger
McGuinn, Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga and more. For more
information on Jared, go tomyspace.com/jaredscharffmusic.
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