Gear, tone, rig, sound: four words that we guitarists hear all the time. These four words can be just as important to creating a musical identity and personality as the music you play. Your gear and your rig are part of what makes your tone and your sound, and there are countless famous guitarists who have gone to extreme lengths—and a few who have done very little—to achieve their sound. I recently had the priveledge of getting a walk-through of the Edge’s setup by his guitar tech, Dallas, during the Saturday Night Live season premiere this year. The amount of thought and detail that have gone into it is miraculous. I’m someone who has always been more of a “plug and play” kind of guy; his setup seemed to me like something straight out of NASA. But as Dallas explained to me, every little detail matters and has extreme significance to the Edge, right down to cable length.
Now, on the other side of the coin, take some famous tone-men like Slash, Keith Richards or Eric Clapton. Their sound and tone are equally legendary, and typically pretty straightforward. Keith’s Tele through a vintage Deluxe, or Cream-era Clapton with his SG and Marshall combination, Slash’s Appetiteera Les Paul and Marshall Jubliee. No matter how any of these guitarists got to their signature sound, the minute you hear a note, you know it’s them. There is also a flip side, typically, for the sonic adventurists, and the session player. For the session player, part of the job is to create a variety of sounds and tones to fit any musical situation. My role as the guitarist in the SNL band is more like this. The SNL band covers a wide variety of music and styles, including funk, soul, rock, a touch of jazz, and pop covers. All of this takes place within a one-and-a-half hour show.
I knew the best way to tackle all of these things was to have a versatile pedalboard and few different guitars. For SNL, I have a Bill Nash Strat, a Fender Strat, a James Trussart Steelcaster, a KLH Custom Relic Tele, and my latest addition, a Fano JM6 (jazzmaster body). All of these possess a different flavor. For the entire month of December and the SNL season opener, I used the Fano JM6. It’s like a modern version of a Jazzmaster but plays more like a Gibson-Strat hybrid. It has P-90s and is probably the most versatile of all the guitars I use on the show. The Trussart Steelcaster has a very distinct sound, which I like to use for funk style strumming, while the KLH Tele is a great workhorse. I use that a lot for the Steve Cropper-style soul guitar riffs, funk, and some of the rock stuff as well. The strats are mostly used for rock and anything with a lot of leads for me to do. The Bill Nash Strat has Lollar pickups, the best single-coil pickups I’ve ever heard, and my Fender Strat has a Seymour Duncan Lil’ 59 humbucker which shreds for solos and rock stuff. So, all in all, these guitars provide a ton of tone options.
Pedalboard, Effects and Amp
As far as pedalboards, I armed myself with a Pedaltrain 2 and started researching pedals. I chose Pedaltrain because I liked the flexability it provided to change and reconfigure pedals very simply. I should say that there are so many pedals out there that I love, own and use often that I couldn’t include them all on my SNL board. I had to cover the basics and not take up the entire stage with a massive rig— although it would be fun to throw a Whammy pedal, looper, and an EH POG on this gig. I’ll get some of those in there at some point.
My plan was to use the amp for clean tones and pedals for everything else. Currently, I’m using a 65Amps Monterey for both clean and dirty tones. Some of the pedals that have been a part of my board and in the rotation are: T-Rex Replica delay, Xotic Effects BB Plus (for highest gain sounds), Keeley-modded Ibanez Tube Screamer, Keeley 2-knob Compressor, Line 6 Verbzilla, Home Brew Electronics Uno Mos (for boost), Home Brew Electronics Medicine Bawl Wah, Jon Cusack Tap-A-Whirl trem, Sweet Sound Ultra Vibe, Analog Man Peppermint Fuzz, Sun Face fuzz and Mini Chorus. These are the bread and butter of my board. It took a lot of time to find the right pedals, I tried out so many. I also changed my amp setup this year (I originally used a Bruno Super Lead 100) and had to re-dial in all my pedals. It was interesting to see how different the pedals sounded and reacted to the Monterey versus the Bruno.
So, it’s always changing. Do the homework, play everything and see what you vibe with. At the end of the day, true tone is about what will get you to play the best. These pedals give me what I need to cover SNL duties. Find the sounds that you need for what you’re doing. Anyway, who says you can only have one pedalboard? See you on the tube.
Jared Scharff has been the house guitarist for the legendary Saturday Night Live band for the last two 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 Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Kid Rock, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Roger McGuinn and Debbie Harry. For more information on Jared, go tomyspace.com/jaredscharffmusic.
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