Watch the Rig Rundown online guitar lesson by Andy Timmons from Electric Expression
Let's talk about my rig a little bit, it looks very complicated, but it's extremely simple when you get down to it. The basic part of my rig is just having an amp that has two channels and for many years I've used the mesa boogie lone star. It's been my go to amp, and I've been so happy with it live and in the studio. Never had a recording session where the engineer didn't just put the mic up and say that sounds great. Never have to EQ. That's really your job as a player to have your tone dialed in before you get to the gig or before you get into the recording studio. It shouldn't be the job of the engineer to make you sound good. You should come in sounding good. So for me that amp has been the mesa boogie lone star. I'm basically utilizing just the two channels. I've got one channel set up for clean and one set up for fairly dirty. The lone star has a lot of gain, but not too much gain. When I think about distorted guitar tones, sometimes the more distortion the harsher and more brittle the sound can be and that's a sound that for many years I've tried to avoid and having less gain is one way of doing that. But of course the more gain the easier it is to play some of the faster lines. So it's finding that happy medium. But I'll step through just a couple sounds. Now the cleaner tones, I'll always have one tone set up with a compressor. Now here's the clean channel of the lone star with nothing in front of it. So that's just clean lone star. But I'll usually hit the front end pretty hard with the compressor pedal. Not necessarily adding a lot of compression, but just using it as a boost. Just gives it that nice sparkly kind of tone. So right there, that's the clean channel with just a compression and a chorus before the amp. Now I usually also have some kind of a time based effect in the effects loop, and I'm using the strymon timeline which I've got set for a couple different echo times. Essentially set to a dotted eighth quarter note setting, favored by David Gilmore back in the day. It's just a nice way to get the aura around the notes. I'll switch now to an EP exotic boost in front of the clean channel still. Not really distorting it, but just boosting it.
Now the course is off. On the timeline I've got it set up like my old deluxe memory man electro-harmonics pedals that I used for many years. So on the repeats of the echoes themselves there's modulation. There's not chorus in front. The initial guitar tone is preserved, yet the repeats in the echoes have the modulation and that to me is what gives it the nice aura, or halo around the note. It de-tunes it just enough to give it that really beautiful spread. Now I'll also add some gain pedal occasionally. Right now I'll put on an old blues driver that Keeley modified, and it's set, it's for a mid gain tone and a lot of times the neck pick up stuff I'll do like Electric Gypsy. So again, that's straight up clean channel with a gain pedal in front of it, one of my favorite tones for sure. Then I've also got another gain pedal that's higher gain, so if I need to I can get a lead tone, a full on lead tone from the clean channel with this distortion pedal. So even right there, even without the lead channel, just that one channel I'm getting plenty of sonic variety to where I could do just about any gig. Just with that many pedals and that clean sound. But of course I love the gain channel on the lone star and what initially attracted me to the amp was this channel. Now that's just pure lone star now, just the gain channel and to me it was just a really nice fat warm, not sizzly bright wonderful beefy low end and again, enough gain to where it's nice to play but it's not too buzzy. But I've got an old Ibanez TS808 tube screamer. Trying to switch back on here and this just kicks the front end a little harder to give it just a little more sustain and that's essentially the sonic part of it. This is all tied together with a great switching system by Gig Rig called the G2 and it's basically just a switching system that allows me to bring different pedals in and out of the chain. But you can also switch channels on the amps, so I can have a different channel, different pedal, however I preset it. It's got midi so I can control whatever midi effects I have. I usually have an expression pedal hooked up to the timeline so I can raise and lower my effect level. Usually in a softer section of a song I'll lower the delay considerably. When things really get raging I might have the echo up really loud, just because I love the ambience that it creates. I love the energy that that can put with it and that's essentially it. I mean, my pedals are always changing. I use everything. Us guitar players, we love all the pedals and it's just fun to experiment to find ways of getting your music to sparkle in different ways. So the tone quest continues, but I hope you have a great time on your musical tone quest journey.