Your First Great Sounding Guitar Rig

Posted · 11 Comments

istock_000003894159xsmallIf you have been playing electric guitar for a while you have probably been asked by an aspiring electric guitar player what gear they should start with. I have been asked this question enough times that I felt it warranted a post.

You aspiring electric players, here is one man’s opinion. For the guitar players who have been around a while let me know what you think and what you would change, add-on or take-away.

Criteria for Selecting Gear

1. Reasonably Priced. Nothing really boutique here. No gear on this post will be $500.00 delay pedals or overdrive pedals with hand-drawn paintings on them.

2. Still Quality. Sometimes ‘reasonably priced’ means cheap and you will want to get rid of it in a year. The gear on this post is meant to be something that would last guitar players at least five years if not the rest of their guitar-playing life.

3. Easy to Find. Some of the best gear is made in some guy’s basement, but it isn’t easy for us to get to. The gear listed can be bought at a Guitar Center or even some Best Buys (I know, weird).

4. No Multi-Effects Here. In choosing gear a player could play for a very long time I decided not to include any multi-effects for the reason they go out of date so fast and need to be upgraded about every two years.

Let it begin, let it begin!

AMP: Epiphone Valve Jr.valvejr

Amps play a huge part in your sound. They determine how good of quality your sound really is.

There is one constant truth about amps: No matter how much Axe you spray on it, a solid state amp stinks. They just don’t sound as good as a tube amp.

The one I recommend for beginners and really any player on a budget or otherwise is the Epiphone Valve Jr. I play through a Rivera R-55 and a 1985 Mese Boogie Mark III. I love high-quality boutique amps, which is one of the reasons why this amp shocks and amazes me. It pumps out the volume (I push the volume with my pedals so the amp doesn’t break up) and it sounds great. At around $300.00 it’s a steal.

OVERDRIVE: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-9

This overdrive pedal has smooth sounds and is as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife. You can use it as your core sounds or as a clean boost with other pedals. No matter how you much you upgrade your pedal board you will find a place and a use for the TS-9.

DELAY: MXR Carbon Copy or Boss DD-7

Delay is a necessary effect for playing worship guitar. There are two different types of delay. For lack of better terms we will call them atmospheric and U2ish (these terms are seriously lacking for sure).

For ‘Atmospheric’ delay the MXR Carbon Copy does a great job with it’s warm analog sound and additional modulation button.

For ‘U2ish’ stuff the Boss DD-7 is a great way to go. Boss has always done a great job with segmentation such as dotted eighth notes and triplets and with the additional controller, tap-tempo can be made easy.

TUNER: Boss TU-2
Pedal tuners are another necessity to a guitar rig. You never know when a string will go out of tune and you need to be on top of it. With a good pedal tuner you can tune up during the song without anyone knowing it.

TU-2 is built like a tank and has a great daisy chain feature for powering pedals so you can use it to help expand your board in the future.

The biggest piece of advice I can give in purchasing your first rig is don’t buy junk. Buy something you can use five or ten years from now.

Keep sharp.


11 Responses to "Your First Great Sounding Guitar Rig"
  1. JamesD says:

    Thanks for the useful info. It’s so interesting

  2. Zeb says:

    Good stuff. I think that the Digitech Bad Monkey is a more than suitable replacement for the TS-9, though, for about half the money. Also, there are a few other tuners for similar money (or less) than the TU-2 that do a better job. I use the Planet Waves Strobe Tuner, which is available for $85 new. It is more accurate than the boss, has an easier to read display, and has true bypass. The Korg PitchBlack is another popular option.

    Good call on the tube amp thing, though. I think the worst thing is the world of music is cheap, digital modeling amps. Line6 Spiders make me wish I was deaf.

  3. Quentin says:

    Line 6 X3 + Lincoln Brewster patches.
    Also, Blackstar HT-5 is a great little tube amp. It is available in a head or combo version as well.

  4. admin says:

    Thanks Q. If you are going to use a POD get the Lincoln patches. There are so many good little amps out there. I have been thinking about getting the Fender Blues Jr. (Tweed of course). If any one else has any tips on great little amps, let us know.

  5. GarykPatton says:

    Hello. I think the article is really interesting. I am even interested in reading more. How soon will you update your blog?

  6. admin says:

    Thanks. I update it about once a week.

  7. admin says:

    Zeb, thanks for chiming in. I’m always interested in your opinion on gear. I have heard people say some great things about the Bad Monkey. Personally I have never been able to get past the Digitech label. I’ll have to work on that. The only really bad thing about them (from what I have heard, I have never used them myself) is that they can be tone suckers and so for best use should be placed in some type of loop pedal.

    I haven’t used the Planet Wave Tuner; I’ll have to check that out.

    Ditto on Spiders.

  8. rhoy pamparo says:

    i actually find that starting from MFX is better before getting into other gear. my thinking is that you can hone your sound and figure out what your tone is before shelling out cash for separate pedals and amps. but, the list above are still very good options :)

  9. Zeb says:

    I used a Bad Monkey on bass for about two years-ish, and I liked it a lot. The EQ is pretty handy, and gives you a lot more versitility than just a tone knob. A friend of mine, who is an absolute gear nut uses one too, and likes it a lot. I haven’t noticed much tone suck with mine, but that is something that you’ll run into when you use anything that’s not true bypass, especially if you’ve got a long chain. I ended up swapping it for a Homebrew Electronics Hematoma, which is another Tube Screamer clone that’s tweaked for bass and has a symmetrical/asymmetrical clipping switch and a clean boost function. For $40, though, the Bad Monkey is a ridiculous deal.

  10. admin says:

    rhoy- Thanks for the perspective. I know a lot of people who feel the same way. I have never had any personal luck doing that. I think I’m just digitally inept. I feel like the way a tone might work in “digital model” world never quite crosses over into “analog real’ world. It always shames me when I find someone who produces a great tone from MFX because I know I can’t.

    Zeb-Do they still make that pedal? I heard they discontinued it. After the great feedback that pedal has created they will probably come out with a reissue in ten years and sell it for three times the cost.

  11. Zeb says:

    As far as I know, they still make the Bad Monkey. They discontinued their “X” series pedals, I believe, in favor of their new Hardwire series, but the cheaper distortion pedals are still available. I think they might have bumped the price up to $50.

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