november 2009

Chad Weaver explains the full rig Brad Paisley uses on the road

Click here to read this month's interview with Brad.
Now that we've been introduced, I thought I would give you a quick rundown of Brad's rig. This way, I can talk about some things that I've had to tackle over the last few years, how to correct them and hopefully prevent them from happening again.

The original guitar rig was built by Brad and his first tech, Zac Childs. It's gone through many configurations over the years, but the basis has stayed the same. Brad and I have taken it apart twice and I've done it at least three times on my own, but the latest version was assembled by David Friedman of Racksystems in Los Angeles. I had been having a lot of noise issues and David was able to correct them all and give us back a guitar rig anyone could be proud of.

The 'brain' of the rig is Digital Music's GCX and Ground Control system. I have two GCXs, giving me a total of 16 loops for both effects and amp outputs. Each loop has an ‘in’, ‘out’, ‘send’ and a ‘return’. David internally wired the 'ins and outs' of the GCXs in series so there's no need to jump from one loop to the next on the backside of the units. You only need to 'send' and 'return' to each of your effects pedals, which makes the view in the back of the rig a little cleaner with fewer cables in there.

We use a Shure UR4D wireless to start the chain, but unfortunately it doesn't have an internal combiner for its two channels, so I send them both into a 4-channel Shure mixer. This also allows me to make sure my wireless signal is equal to that of plugging a guitar with an instrument cable straight in. The mixer output hits the front end of GCX 1 and from here the effects begin.

There have been articles written about what Brad uses, but pedals and amps change in and out of this rig quite often—I'm confident that by the time this article goes up online, it will have changed again. The effects as of now are a Boss CS-2 compressor, Hermida Zen Drive, Keeley-modded Ibanez 808 Tube Screamer, Line 6 M13, Way Huge Aqua Puss, Boss DD-2, Empress Super Delay, Wampler Analog Echo and a Real McCoy Picture Wah. To further the possibilities, I can use any of the Empress’s eight delays in its single loop. I can also trigger any of the Line 6 M13's expansive modeling effects by assigning a midi channel in the Ground Control. All of the M13’s effects can be had while only using one loop in the GCX.

The last five loops are amp outputs, one with a Hermida Mosferatu in line so it only hits that amp. The amps (as of last Saturday night) were a handwired Vox AC30, Dr. Z Z-Wreck, Bruno Underground 30 and a Dr. Z Remedy. The fifth output is used only as a spare.

By using the Ground Control I can program any effect with any amp on any channel, and it keeps the signal path to a minimum. All of the loops in the GCX are true bypass so it helps keep noise down and also gives a truer guitar-amp tonality without a ‘processed’ overtone. 95% of the time when Brad is playing, you’re hearing a single pedal and a single amp. That’s all. And with the ability to switch amps like we do, I can either use an amp with a Tube Screamer in front of it or just dial up the Remedy. All of the tones that were created in the studio can be mimicked and effectively used live.

I’ll manage all of the effects and amp switching in a show from the stage area we call "guitar world," but Brad has a Ground Control at his feet on stage if he decides he wants to hear something different. On TV and at awards shows, you won’t see me but I’ll be laying on the floor behind the drum riser, hiding behind a piece of the set or truly being the ‘man behind the curtain’ doing the same thing.

Now that you have an understanding of the way the rig is set up, I'll be back next month to walk you through a frustrating grounding issue we encountered, and the fix I found.


Pedal addict Peter Stroud shares four of his go-to effects: EH #1 Echo, Janglebox Compression/Sustain, Pigtronix Attack Sustain and Red Witch Pentavocal Tremolo

… the endless streams of ‘em. Can’t get enough it seems, always in search of new and cool effects, and there never seems to be a shortage of new innovations, as well as improvements on sounds we’re already familiar with. Many that I come across aren’t always new to the market, but rather ones I’ve just come around to discovering and spending time with. Here are four current notable pedals in my collection or on my pedalboard well worth sharing.

Electro-Harmonix #1 Echo
A simple, all-around and great-sounding 3-knob delay that tucks firmly in your tone. But it’s even more of a pleasant surprise to find that that’s not all it has going for it. Turn the feedback all the way up, and it creates an infinite repeat that does not regenerate and amplify into an exploding racket. It’s a great effect to have, but the Deluxe Memory Man already does that trick splendidly. Instead, the #1 Echo allows you to keep stacking riffs on top of each other, “sound on sound” style that will stack and repeat indefinitely. If you want, screw with the repeats by giving a quick twist to the speed knob, and it’ll repeat that action as well. But again, the key thing is that it sounds good—a digital delay with analog warmth. It has become a mainstay on my pedalboard.

Janglebox Compression/Sustain
This compressor has been out for a while, but I’ve just discovered it in recent months and have been using it quite a bit. It seems you can never have enough compressors, and this one has inked out a spot of it’s own. If you’re looking for the super jangly tone à la the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker 12-string, this stompbox will be all you need (along with a 12-string Rick, of course). Also think “Ticket to Ride.” It compresses hard with plenty of gain and perfect amount of pick attack, and has a three-way tone switch that I leave on Bright the majority of the time. It sounds like your bestrecorded, super-compressed guitar, without any weird, cruddy compression artifacts. I’ve noticed they’ve come out with the JB2, with additional controls for tone, gain and attack. Added extra fun.

Pigtronix Attack Sustain
Pigtronix is no doubt one of the most cutting-edge effects pedal companies out there, and this box will have you dialing up amazing sounds for hours—from smooth, long compression to aggressive lead anger. Completely analog, and designed by yesteryear Electro-Harmonix legend Howard Davis, the control is very reminiscent of ADSR synth attack/decay setting. You can slow down the attack to create a reverse effect, ramping attacks with a sharp or slow drop off on decay. Also, the Decay control will create unique tremolo effects. There is a Harmonix control that dials in the overtones and distortion. Sit this control on top of an already powerful amp distortion, and you can create a galactic space battle from the year 3000.

Red Witch Pentavocal Tremolo
One of New Zealand’s greatest treasures and exports comes from Ben Fulton, who offers an extraordinary line of pedal designs. I’ve been hearing about Ben’s pedals for years, in particular his Deluxe Moon Phaser (which I’ve still yet to hear but understand to be the bomb.) Eventually, I met and spent time with Ben while touring New Zealand in 2008 and bought one of his Pentavocal Trem pedals, which has proven to be quite versatile, practical and excellent sounding. The key standout feature of his tremolo is the 5-way Rotary Selector—from subtle trem shapes to deep, pulsating tremolo. The Bottom control allows it to range from a full trem to merely pulsating the lower frequencies and keeping the top end of your signal clear and unaffected. Also, there’s a Volume control to recover any level lost with the trem affect. This one is very useful and another mainstay on my pedalboard.

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The L.R. Baggs Venue DI is a user-friendly way to go direct without losing your tone

The Venue DI from L.R. Baggs is a superhandy expanded version of their famous Para Acoustic DI, which I’ve had in my rig for over a decade now. In addition to the 5-band EQ, the Venue includes a Garrett Null anit-feedback notch filter, a tuner and a truly useful clean boost. I’ve plugged into enough PA systems over the years to prize highly a piece of gear that lets me take control of my sound, bust the feedback for myself (almost instantly) and be heard clearly the way I want to be heard inside a mix. The Venue is a powerful weapon in the fight against those frightening creatures known as “Soundtechs From Hell”—you know the ones. They think acoustic guitars are for girls and old people, and have usually burned out so much of their hearing that they can’t tell what you sound like anyway.

Take a Tour of the Venue
The Venue is a sleek-looking piece of gear that will be immediately familiar to users of the ParAcoustic DI or the Baggs Core 1 Reference Monitor. The 5-band EQ section is responsive and powerful, with Bass, Lowmid, Hi-mid, Presence and Treble controls, with the mids controls being particularly robust, allowing you to choose the specific frequencies to cut or boost—from 100Hz– 500Hz in the lows and 500Hz–2.8kHz in the highs. The Bass, Presence and Treble controls are 12dB boost/cut at 90Hz, 3kHz and 10kHz respectively. There is the customary 1/4" instrument input, an XLR out and a line out. The unit requires a 9V battery or a standard DC power supply, and cannot be phantom powered.

The proprietary Garrett Null anti-feedback control is easy and quite effective. The knob allows you to sweep through all the usual suspects (that pesky 60Hz–320Hz range) and eliminate just the offending frequency while doing virtually no damage to your tone. The knob clicks off when you turn it all the way counter-clockwise. When you hear feedback starting to blow up, simply sweep the knob slowly from left to right; when the knob reaches the problem frequency, the feedback just ... stops. That’s it. I’d call that an idiotproof solution that’s tone-friendly, too.

The Venue has Gain and Volume controls, which gives you yet more control over your tone. The Gain should be set so that the LED clip indicator is flashing up to orangeconsistently, and only occasionally into the red. This is important—not enough gain and your tone is wimpy and there’s a danger of generating the dreaded “self-noise.” Too much gain and you may overdrive whatever system you are plugging into. Once the Gain is set appropriately you can bring up the Volume accordingly. According to the manual, “The XLR output is not affected by the volume control, but is affected by all other controls.” Good to know.

Another Gain control, located on the back, works with the Boost, and this is my favorite part. You can set the Boost to make you from 0dB to 9dB louder when you stomp on the switch. I tested it with my bass player and drummer at a recent gig and it just about made me giddy. When it was my turn to solo, stomp, “Wow!” We could all hear every note I played (fortunately, I was having a good night). You can boost a little or a lot, and a little is a lot more than you might think. Frankly, it’s darned impressive.

The pedal also includes effects send and return and a ground/lift. According to the user manual, “The transformer-coupled DI provides full isolation through the DI output when the switch is in the “lift” position to help defeat ground loops that can occur when more than one connection is made to the DI.” Handy.

My only quibble with the tuner is that it’s a little slow to respond and seems to lock up once in a while. This just isn’t okay when you’re trying to keep momentum going during a set. The tuner is really cool looking and brightly lit with big letters (which is a huge plus), and when you activate it the signal to the board is muted, which is a very smart feature. I wish it were quicker to respond, though, because the ease of use makes it a highly desirable function.

The Final Mojo
If you frequently plug into PA systems, this can be a tone-saving device that can give you the option to control your sound completely. The clean boost and feedback control are simply fantastic, and combined with the EQ, Gain and Volume controls, this could become essential gear for acoustic players everywhere. Those crafty elves at Baggs have done it again!
Buy if...
you like the ease of going direct to a PA system, but want more immediate and user-friendly control.
Skip if...
you use a high-end guitar amp as a DI/monitor, or you only want one of the things this pedal can do.

Street $299 - L.R. Baggs Co -