224 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 www.premierguitar.com
It started in ninth grade when the dealer
at our local music store sold me something
that changed my world: his used, gray ROSS
compressor for $50, (a king’s ransom for a
14-year-old). I plugged it in and suddenly
everything sounded better. Like a crackhead’s
first hit, that’s all it took to ensure my lifelong
dependence on those magic little boxes. I
still have that Ross, and about 50 other pedals, some working, some long since dead,
yet I can’t part with any of them. I’ve spent
thousands of dollars and hours experimenting with different combinations, models and
manufacturers. Every gig or session I do, I
study the other players’ boards, even the
gear belonging to underwhelming opening
acts. I seek out web photos of celeb boards
the way normal men web search for celeb
skin. This obsession stems from the fact that
a well-placed pedal can save me—has saved
me—and many of my brethren from bad to
About three years ago I was playing acoustic
on a master session for Ray Scott, an artist on
Warner Brothers. Dan Dugmore was on electric. When it came time for a solo, Dan kicked
on his flanger and hit a big chord at the head
of each bar. That was it. It was perfect; so
simple, yet I would have never thought of it.
This lesson reinforced my pedal dependency.
Pedals are like beer: they make everything
better until they make everything worse. If
you’re on a gig and not getting any sound out
of your amp, it’s probably your pedalboard,
not the guitar, nor the amp. If your guitar
sounds distant and weak, again, it’s probably
your board stealing your tone. Your amp and
guitar are fine. These are the lows of pedal
dependency. I’ve learned to live with, and
adjust for, pedal pitfalls. Here are a few tips to
help if you’re suffering the same affliction:
Switching, or FX loop systems help. Not
only do they prevent the pedals you’re not
using from sucking your tone, but more
importantly, when a pedal or jumper cable
dies, the loop lets you cut it out of your path
and keep playing. I’m an optimist by nature,
so I tend to run my compressor and dirt
straight from my guitar, then use switches for
my delays, tremolos and swirly stuff.
Everything breaks. If you find a pedal you
truly love, buy two or three of them. After my
Homebrew Power Screamer died at a dusty
state fair in Colorado, I sent it back to the
company to be fixed and purchased three
more, so I’d never be without at least one.
Currently, I use three of them in different
boards and leave a brand new one in the box
at home, waiting on deck should one of the
others go down.
Good connecting cables are more important than your pedals. When I switched out
all my assorted jumpers for DiMarzio braided
jumpers, I gained a whopping 7dB in my signal, plus a ton of crisp highs.
Velcro does not hold pedals in place for
very long. Zip ties do.
The perfect pedalboard is not attainable.
I have four pedalboards and am currently
working toward the ultimate pedalboard.
Here’s the rundown:
The Big Tour Board has power and wireless hidden under the board. The top of the
board works as a guitar rack, holding two
electrics, a mandolin and an acoustic. The
switching system takes effects out of line;
comp, boost and overdrive are in line.
The Small Tour Board has neither wireless nor
loop; the case top holds two electrics and a
mando. I chose smaller pedals.
The Studio Board has effects in a switching
system that run to the effects loop in the
amp. I plug my head into the board’s Furman
power (even though the manual says not to).
The Club board is made out of the back panel
of my Kustom 12 Cab and fits in my guitar gig
bag. One Hot Spot powers it. Every pedal on
here is missing a knob or a switch.
The Ultimate Board is a work in progress. It
will have everything without being too big.
My Name is John, and I Have a Pedal Problem
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who works primarily in television, and has recorded and toured with over
30 major label artists. His songs and playing can be heard
in major motion pictures, major label releases and literally
hundreds of television drops. Visit him at: youtube.com/
user/johnbohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger