2021 Review: Gigging Gear

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what gear we started with and what gear we ended up with – along with a discussion of why.

Previous posts in this series: [2019][2020]

tl;dr

Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been a second year of no gigs and no rehearsals for us. 2022 was looking hopeful, but at the time of writing, we’re waiting to see what happens with the latest variants.

Decision Made: Goodbye Acoustasonic

Back in 2019, I sold my Taylor T5z, and picked up an Auden 45 Bowman to be my main gigging guitar, with my Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster as its backup. This year, I sold off the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster too.

There were a couple of things that made this an easy decision:

  1. I kept struggling with the string tension on the Acoustasonic. I don’t know what it is about the Acoustasonic, but I’ve always found that the string tension felt high for its scale length. I ended up finding it much easier to play an actual acoustic guitar than one emulating one.
  2. At the start of the year, I picked up some new recording mics and did a straight head-to-head. Even with my lack of engineering skills, the mic’d up Auden sounded much better than the Acoustasonic did.

That’s not to say the Acoustasonic is a bad guitar. It isn’t. I’ve got a friend who plays one (hi Adam!) and he absolutely loves his. And, like the Taylor T5z before it, it was an important bridge guitar for me. The Acoustasonic enabled us to get out and gig, and help me realise what I want from an acoustic instrument.

Next Contestant: B&G Guitars Little Sister Crossroads

During the summer, before the Delta variant emerged, it was starting to look hopeful on the rehearsal and gigging front. That’s when I realised that I needed something to do what I used to use the Taylor T5z for.

The Taylor had been my main writing guitar for our little duo: loud enough to use unplugged, but quiet enough that I could work on arrangements well into the small hours without disturbing anyone at all. After I sold it in 2019, we started writing the arrangements together during our weekly rehearsals instead. Arguably a good move, just one that didn’t work once we couldn’t rehearse together.

Mid-2021, with the success of the vaccination programme, it was looking hopeful that we’d be able to get back to live music in 2022. It was too soon to start rehearsals again, but we did start talking about which songs we’d like to add to our set list. We agreed that I’d start learning to play the songs, so that I could start working on new arrangements for them.

As much as I love my Les Paul, it’s not the right guitar for me for this kind of thing. So I picked up a B&G Little Sister P90 Crossroads to do this on.

I’ll write up a short-term review of the guitar in the new year.

My Next Backup Guitar?

Once we’re back out gigging, we want to land more decent-length slots. We did a 30 minute opening slot for Ariana Spina in April 2019, and it gave us a taste for more. I’m going to need a backup guitar for those. There’s no way I’m comfortable doing a ticketed gig with just one instrument to hand.

I need to spend time with Merrang! to see if she’ll work as a backup guitar. I honestly doubt it – P90s into an acoustic amp?

Another possibility is Vox’s new Giulietta range. Kristi bought one this year, and my first impressions are that I’d happily gig one. Again, I need to spend time with one to help me decide (probably need to try a full rehearsal with one).

Any Plans For 2022?

I’ve no idea if we’ll be able to safely rehearse or gig in 2022.

I really hope that we can. My week used to be built around our music, and I’m missing that just as much today as I was at the start of the pandemic.

Just in case, I’m going to continue picking up the bits and pieces I need to build a pedal board for my acoustic guitar. I’m up to three items: Fender Smoulder Acoustic Drive, LR Baggs Align Session and Reverb pedals. I want to pick up the other pedals in the LR Baggs Align series, especially the Active DI and EQ pedals.

Studio Diary #23: Exploring How To Record Finger-style Acoustic Guitar

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2021 is to finally record some music. I’d like that music to be Phase One – the songs I originally wrote back in the early 90’s. Although they were all written on electric guitar, they’re all finger-picking pieces. I think it’ll be cool to record them on acoustic guitar.

Before I can do that, I need to learn how to record acoustic guitar. I haven’t done this before, and I have a lot to learn.

Read on to see what I’ve tried so far.

Continue reading “Studio Diary #23: Exploring How To Record Finger-style Acoustic Guitar”

My Gear For The Acoustic Gigs

My mind is on the upcoming acoustic gigs we’re doing. I haven’t gigged since 5th May 1992 (funny how that date has stuck in my mind). That’s so long ago, I’m effectively gigging for the first time.

I thought it’d be useful (both for me and anyone else looking to move out of the bedroom and onto any kind of stage) to talk about the gig, the rig, and any lessons that come out of actually doing it.

The Act

We’re starting off as a two-piece semi-acoustic act. Tess is on vocals, and I’m on guitar. Why have we gone for this format / approach?

Long and short of it … we’re hoping that it’ll be much easier to gig regularly as an acoustic act. It’s an act that scales down nicely to small venues / bars / cafes and the like. There’s a lot more of those than venues that can accommodate a five-piece rock machine with a live drummer.

The Guitars

The main guitar for our set will be my Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster. I’ll also be using my Taylor T5z during the set.

Originally, my Taylor T5z was going to be the main guitar for this band. I bought it back in 2017 exactly for that purpose. Then the Acoustasonic Tele came out, and that changed everything.

The AT simply sounds much better at the acoustic thing, thanks to the onboard Fishman modelling. And it’s eminently more replaceable should the worse happen at a gig.

But the Taylor isn’t completely out of the picture.

Seeing as I already have it, it’s coming along to be my backup guitar (just in case). And we’re using it for one song in the set. One of the songs requires an alternate tuning. During rehearsals, we decided that it’s too much faff to retune the AT, so we’re going with the T5z already retuned for that one song.

If we manage to land more gigs, I’ve already decided to get a second Acoustasonic Tele to be the backup / alternate tuning guitar. The set list and arrangements are all built around how the AT sounds and plays. It just makes sense to be able to have a like-for-like as the backup guitar … eventually.

The Amps

Here, I need to give a huge shout out to the wonderful folks over at AStrings. They let us come in for a couple of mornings and audition every single acoustic amp in stock, using our own gear. I’m so grateful that they did, because there was one amp in particular that stood out as perfectly suiting our sound.

We’re using a pair of Acus One 8 acoustic guitar amps.

These are 4-channel solid-state amps. Each channel has its own separate preamp controls. I’ve set one channel up for the AT, and a second channel up for the T5z. All I’ve got to do during the gig is remember to zero the channel volumes when switching guitars 🙂

We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll run Tess’s vocals through the same amp (which does sound great), through the 2nd Acus One 8 amp, or straight into the venue’s PA. We’ll sort that out on the night.

The main reason for having two Acus One 8 amps is to make sure we’ve got a spare with us.

Other Items

There’s a few other things I need to take along with me to the gigs: tuner, capo, and guitar picks. Oh, and instrument cables!

Atm, I’m using TC Electronic Polytune headstock tuner. I need to put a fresh set of batteries in before the first gig. And a spare wouldn’t hurt at all. If only they weren’t out of stock right now …

In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if I should be using a floor-based tuning pedal as well or instead? A floor-based pedal would also give me a kill switch. That might be useful.

Things I’m Not Using

For now, I’ve decided against putting together a pedal board for acoustic gigs. There’s a couple of reasons why.

My instinct is that I don’t want to be worrying about power-related problems at gigs. I just want to plug straight into the amp, and not be worried about finding somewhere to plug in the pedal board – or be worried about someone somehow unplugging it during the gig.

I’m open to the idea of using a small board with all the pedals running off batteries. Unfortunately, I haven’t found many pedals that run off battery and work with acoustic guitar tones. Especially compressors, which is the main effect I’m interested in.

With Brexit looming – and the likelihood of supply chains being disrupted for months afterwards – I probably need to make a final decision on this in the next couple of weeks. I might be better off getting the pedals that I can whilst they’re available, and then selling them on if I end up not needing them.

A pedal board that includes an acoustic DI box might also come in handy for travelling light – just guitar and nano pedal board.