At Toby and Nita’s house concert the other night, I used my looping box for a crowd that favors acoustic instruments and no frou frou on the sound. But they ended up really enjoying it and commenting on it after the show. It made me realize that perhaps we should do some talking about gear and how to use it.
I carry an ME-50 and a looping station as my only effects units. I have seen musicians carrying a ton of stuff, but I find that this suits my solo shows and my shows with John Batdorf or Peter Tork.
The ME-50 has ten banks of effects three in each bank, as well as a distortion, chorus and delay section separate from the banks. It also has a volume pedal, a tuner and octave boxes, compressors, reverb, noise reduction and tons of presets.
You have to experiment with them to find what works for you. I don’t think that I’ve ever used the distortion live, tho I have used it some on various recordings.
I like it for the road because it’s just one unit. Peter has all these separate pedals that must be hooked up and adjusted and battery powered and it always takes a long time at sound check to get it to the proper place. The ME-50 just sits there and does it all and sounds great.
As for the looping station, it is the Roland Looping Station and it has 12 channels that you can record stuff onto and save and it has twelve minutes or so of sampling. I always use one channel for live and the other channels for things that I’ve come up with that I want to save in case I want to use that particular lick on a recording.
For those of you who don’t know, a looping station is essentially a little sound on sound recorder, similar to the old echoplex. You can start it recording by simply stepping on the pedal and stepping on it again to take it out of record, then the same process allows you to record with what you just recorded over and over again. It is a very fun tool, but does require some serious rehearsal before you can bring it out on stage. The biggest hurdle is the one of time. You must punch in and punch out precisely or you get a piece of music that is not of an even number of beats and will lurch like a sailor with one short leg. I practice with a drum machine to keep my time precise and so it became not so difficult for me to accommodate the looping station. But if your time is a little sloppy you are going to have to work on it before you can use the looping station effectively.
I like to create a motif and then play over it and keep adding things until there is a whole new thing happening. And I think the audience enjoys seeing a recording taking place before their eyes.
You’ll have to go to a music store and fool around with everything to see if any of it serves your muse. And you never really know til you take it home and then take it on stage, so you have to bite the bullet and buy something before you’re sure of it. That’s a hard part for us working stiffs, but it is necessary if you want to include effects in your show. However, here is the thing about effects. They are effects. They are not the whole show. Yes there are some people who have made using the effects their entire show, but I derive enormous satisfaction from demonstrating all that one guitar can do and then perhaps at the end of the first set, demonstrate the pedals to the audience and then do something with them. That way, even someone who is resistant to this kind of technology is engaged. You’ve included them before you blow them away. But I don’t use the effects more than once or twice a set. I like being able to create a complete arrangement with one guitar. We’ll talk about that tomorrow.