Refreshing your rig
The new TC Electronic G-Major 2 takes its place underneath my trusty Roland GP-8.
I’ve never been one to change out gear for the sake of changing out gear. If I find something that works for me I stick with it and learn it inside out. That way, when I need to make program changes to an effects unit I don’t have to stare at it like a chicken watching a card trick. I can approach it with confidence, knowing what it can do and how to scroll through the various menus to make it happen. Having said that, I have to confess I’ve recently made some changes to some effects processors I’ve had in my rack for over a decade.
As anyone who deals with signal processing knows, technology moves fast, and by the time you get home and take a new piece of gear out of the box it’s practically obsolete. But hey, a good piece of gear is a good piece of gear, and you don’t have to have the newest, shiniest processing to sound good. For example, I’ve been using my Roland GP-8 multi-effects processor since 1986 and it has been a big part of my sound.
After losing some of my gear in the recent Nashville flood, I found myself in the uneasy position of having to replace some of the equipment I had gotten to know so well. Two of the units that I lost were vital to my sound. One was a Boss SX-700 Studio Effects Processor that crackled and popped a little when I turned its knobs. Fortunately, it had really great reverbs and delays, so I gladly accepted its eccentricities. The other was a DigiTech IPS-33B Harmonizer—a very smart unit that allows you to select harmonies by key and modes. You could also tell it what pitch to sound as a harmony against your melody note. That allowed me to go smoothly into key changes, do odd parts by harmonizing a minor second (half-step), or jump parts rather than having to accept only an interval of a third of fifth. I could shift from a major third to a sixth or octave by assigning different intervals in a custom harmony mode. I could also replicate a sort of synth-like string pad orchestra effect, which I’ve heard on many of Allan Holdsworth’s early recordings. The DigiTech also included a great detune feature, which I used as a sort of pseudo-Leslie effect. I could bring the effect in and out with a standard Ernie Ball volume pedal, which I controlled from my pedalboard downstage. The SX-700 and IPS-33B received their changes via MIDI through my Roland GP-8.
Finding a really good multi-effects processor for guitar that doesn’t also include preamps and amp modeling is getting increasingly difficult. Companies tend to make their new rackmount multi-effect models all-inclusive. (“It slices, it dices!”) It’s great to have those features, but to me it seems a bit like buying a Ferrari and never driving it over 55 mph. I like the natural drive of my amps, especially on the cleaner sounds. Real tube drive is so much fatter than processed distortion.
After much searching, the unit I found that was able to cop everything I needed without the additional preamp or speaker simulations was the TC Electronic G-Major 2. This multi-effects unit offers everything any guitarist could possibly need, including a variety of reverbs, delays, phase shifters, choruses, and even wah. Since it has a harmonizer built in, I was actually able to replace both the old SX-700 and the IPS- 33B processors in one fell swoop. There was a slight learning curve at first—I had a hard time figuring out how and where to store my presets—but once I sorted that out, the unit was quite simple to program.
Fortunately I was able to write down the parameters from the old processors before they passed away. Once I transferred all the settings into the new unit—about 20 programs in all—I still had the arduous task of tweaking and fine-tuning them. Some programs needed slight adjustments, but most fell right into place and sounded even better with the G-Major 2 than they did with the old unit.
One of the most beautiful advances I noticed with the new TC Electronic unit was how much better the EV-5 expression pedal responds to the commands. The old harmonizer always worked great but the one problem I had with it was that when I went to my pseudo-Leslie setting, I could still hear some of the effect bleeding through, even when the pedal was in the downward “off” position. To remedy this I had to create a duplicate patch without the effect then switch via MIDI to the same setting with the Leslie on. With the new unit, I just have the one setting and can bring the effect in and out, saving me from having to do the pedal dance in the middle of a song.
It’s often said that things happen for a reason. I was perfectly happy hanging on to my old processors like a comfortable pair of shoes. When they were damaged I was forced to upgrade to new gear, resulting in the best tone I’ve had in years. Lesson learned? I’m not sure, but it is all about the tone! Until next time, keep jammin’.
Rich is a highly sought-after Nashville guitarist who has performed with singers ranging from Steven Tyler to Shania Twain. He currently plays lead guitar for Toby Keith, and also works as a spokesperson for the Soles4Souls charity (soles4souls.org). His new album, Cottage City Firehouse, is available at richeckhardt.com and CDBaby.com.