We often spend all our money on guitars and pedals but tend to forget about the little details. The small things that will take your tone to a new level. In this guide we’ll look at a few tips and tricks for making sure that your rig is at its full potential.
The Buyer’s Gear Guides I’ve presented on this site, are packed with guitars, amps and pedals. All with David Gilmour’s tones in mind. Each of the items are recommended based on their quality, performance and tone. It would be a shame if your next purchase ends up in a mess, rather than a neat and tidy setup.
Noise, in all its forms, is often the result of faulty cables, bad powering and pedal combinations that are less compatible. A good tone isn’t just about how much gain you can squeeze out of your fuzz pedals but rather the combination of every cable, string and screw, as well as, of course, your superb playing. Regardless of its size, a rig should be designed with some thought towards quality and performance.
It’s easy to associate quality with expensive but in most cases, that’s a misconception. Quality should be the best you can afford. Expensive custom shop gear doesn’t matter much if you don’t know how to set it up properly. A modest budget rig can sound, killer with the right approach.
Have patience and build your rig over time. That will allow you to get the best items for your budget and you also get the time to familiarize with the stuff that you’ve bought. This is important because it can change the way you experience tone – good and bad.
Experiment with the settings on your pedals and amp and try different setups on your guitar to match your technique. Finding the right balance and sweetspots will be much more rewarding than owning a fancy guitar that doesn’t suit your playing.
We’ve pretty much covered guitars and amps so let’s focus on pedals and pedal boards. Check out the Buyer’s Gear Guide for guitars and amps for more on all the do’s and don’t, as well as a presentation of recommended models for your Gilmour tones.
A good tip is to always keep your pedals arranged and fastened on a board. It doesn’t matter how many pedals you got. Be selective and set it up neatly, with short patch cables between the pedals and proper powering. This will save you a lot of hassle and ensure a long life for your pedals.
You don’t need anything fancy. A small piece of flat wood will do nicely. There are lots of tutorials out there on building your own pedal board as well. Try to make or buy a board that fits your needs and the way you want to arrange the pedals. Keep the board as small as possible but with enough space for all your pedals and powering. Also, keep in mind that as much as a huge board is impressive, it will cost a small fortune to travel with.
There are lots of different models and brands to choose from. I have a couple of boards from Custom Pedals Boards. They make sturdy boards and flight cases on request. You get to design your own board based on your exact requirements, whether it be a flat board, a tier for the back row, custom routing or switch systems. All boards are hand made, super light and the mounting surface is covered with velcro. Check out custompedalboards.co.uk for more information.
Whatever you do, do not use those cheap multi coloured patch cables. You might think that as long as the pedals are connected, that should be enough but it’s not. It’s a shame to buy a great sounding pedal and use cheap cables that suck the living shit out of the circuit. You’ll lose tone, characteristics and almost certainly get a lot of noise. It’s also important to keep the patch cables as short as possible to ensure the shortest and cleanest path for your signal.
Brands like George L’s and Lava Cable offer a cheap and reliable solder less system. You buy the length and plugs you need and measure up for your board.
Evidence Audio’s SIS cables have a similar principle. Measure up the lengths you need and fasten the plugs without any soldering. Like all EA cables, the quality is superb and you’ll never have to worry about plugs loosening (which can be an issue with George L’s). EA custom dealers also offer Melody patch cables. This is not for a tight budget but if you have the chance, I strongly recommend checking out these options. See evidenceaudio.com for more info.
Proper powering is crucial for an optimal operation of your pedals and for eliminating noise. Never run your pedals on cheap non-brand adapters and always make sure that whatever powering you use, must be able to deliver the right voltage and ampere for your pedals – especially when you’re running daisy chains.
A good quality multi power supply is one the best investments you can make. Brands like VoodooLab, TRex, Carl Martin and One Spot offer different models for different setups. You can run daisy chains off these as well but some pedals prefer to have a direct feed. Make sure the model has enough ampere and, if needed options for 12V and 18V, as well as 9V, and that all outputs are isolated.
It may be obvious but a tuner is a must and it should be the very first pedal you buy. Nothing sound as bad and unprofessional as a guitar out of tune. There are lots of different models on the market. A Boss TU-3 can be placed either first or last in your chain and double as a buffer and power supply.
My favourite, the TC Electronics Poly Tune Mini, is super fast and its small foot print is perfect for a cluttered pedal board. Be sure to check out the PolyTune Clip as well!
A buffer may not be on the top of your list but it should definitely be something to consider. True bypass is being hyped as the right way to design pedals, which is correct to some extent. True bypass doesn’t colour your signal. However, it doesn’t do anything to drive it either and the more true bypass pedals you got, the longer the signal chain gets and the more tone you lose. Simple as that.
I’m using buffers from Pure Tone Pedals. These are small compact units that fits underneath a tier or at the back of a cramped pedal board. Acknowledging the importance of good quality buffers has done wonders for my tones and I never play or record without one.
Some pedals do have a buffer, like Boss. However, these vary in quality and blending true byapass and several buffered pedals may cause impedance conflicts.
A dedicated high quality buffer will restore and balance the signal. It’s usually placed first in the chain but you can also have it last. One buffer pedal is enough to drive the signal through aprox 100 feet of cable. Read more about buffers VS true bypass in this feature.
A fresh set of strings is crucial for getting the tones you want. You might think “mine are fine and how many times do I need to restring anyway?”
Old strings makes everything sound flat and dull. If you’re not aware of this, you’ll end up turning up the gain and treble on your amp and pedals, which means more noise and a whole bunch of other issues.
Your playing frequency, amount of corrosion and preference, determines how often you should restring. Obviously, the more you play the more worn they’ll get and the more your fingers sweat, and the more acidic the sweat is, the more they’ll corrode.
Personally I restring as often as I can but I do prefer the strings to be broken in, so I always restring a couple of days before a show or recording session. Others like the crisp tone of strings right out of the box.
Obviously, your budget will also have a say in the matter but at least keep it in mind. Old strings will make your tone less dynamic and less powerful.
Understandably, this is not an overly exciting topic but the way I see it is that anyone can create impressive tones and learn how to play really well but take your tones further than that. Being able to hear all the nuances in my playing is much more inspiring to me than just listening to buzzing fuzz. A huge part of David Gilmour’s tones is the attention to details and knowing how to make the most of what you got.
Feel free to use the comments field below and share your experience, recommendations and tips!