Every tour new material requires programming new sounds. I always try to start off using what I aleady have in the rig but many times new gear is needed to get the right sound and perhaps more importantly the right feel while playing. This is a time consuming process as every layer of detail must be examined. Setting levels and basic tones actually take a lot of the initial time. Then what order for the effects? How will it be used on stage and what will need to be automated? Where do the presets need to be stored on the pedalboard. Make sure to back it all up and document the best combinations and pedal settings. Another consideration is the difference in level between guitars. That messes things up quite a bit. So separate presets regained for specific guitars is necessary. Tedious but worth it. Did I mention I am considering playing a telecaster for some of this material?
This time around the challenges were different because not only do I have to create sounds for the new Frank Zappa material we are learning which is drastically different from the sonic palette necessary for the previous Zappa material, I also have to recreate many world famous Jimi Hendrix sounds as well. The Experience Hendrix tour starts very soon after my ZPZ tour so it all has to be done in advance, or at least as much as I can possible do in advance.
While the Fractal Axe EFX II can do an enormous amount of things exceptionally well it does become sluggish when it's asked to do all of it at once! I found myself running out of DSP while trying to make multitasking presets that will work for both tours. Certain textural combinations were easier to create by using some extra stomp box pedals to bolster the complex details I was going for and it allowed the Fractal room to breathe.
Another consideration is that I also wanted to maintain the smaller real estate profile of the rig for shipping and set up ease. It is very important to maintain that to keep weight down and shipping costs down.
The new problem was, which pedals would make the cut and how many would truly be necessary? How to plan for future changes? Could there be a way to have one part as in insert that could be left behind if need be? All things to really consider before building the new changes.
Back to the pedals, there are so many great ones out there in the market. I was fortunate in that a friend from DZW recommended a few to me that were from his company. I hadn't heard of them prior but I really found them to be very impressive and exactly what I was looking for. The company is located in Athens Greece and is called JAM and the sister company is Crazy Tube Circuits. Many of the pedals are made with old stock parts that retain the vintage sound and feel.
This made my job easier and more difficult at the same time. Now there were many options to create sounds I've wanted to make but have only been able to get close to. Now I can get all the way there! But how would I be able to do this in a limited space/time/budget situation?
On a side note there are several friends on DZW who make guitar pedals and I have made plenty of good use out pedals from Freekish Blues and Greenhouse Effects. I wanted to mention them because they make great stuff that I like to use all of the time. Some of it may be in the latest version of the rig too.
The results are almost in and it has been a real eye opener doing this testing! I've stumbled on some great gain structure combinations that allow fantastic natural fundamental feedback with quite minimal hiss, even without noise gating.
I'll post the new rig diagram when it's done. It will allow me to easily switch some pedals in the future to tailor a new assortment of sounds, should I need to.
I don't really like having to recreate the rig for each tour but I care about the sound and about finding the right tonal inspiration for each tour. I think I have reached a happy medium with the architecture of the rig and a solution for making limited changes moving forward.
Satndby for photos and a new diagram soon...