TONE TIPS FROM THE ROAD
The Start of Something New
Hello Premier Guitar readers. My name is Jared
Scharff and you’ve seen my mug on NBC’s
Saturday Night Live for the past three seasons.
Besides the SNL gig, I’m also a songwriter/
producer, and a session guitarist splitting time in
both New York and Los Angeles.
But enough with the intros. Let’s get into it!
One of the best things about playing in the SNL
House Band is the diversity of the music we play.
It certainly makes it challenging, yet incredibly
fun to find the appropriate tones and styles to
use. I have always loved a wide variety of tones
and gear, but the truth is that until I got the SNL
job, I only owned two Fender Strats, one Fender
Stage 112 amp and a few pedals. I know that
seems crazy. But whenever I would do session
work, including my previous band’s debut album
[Carbondale, RCA records], I used whatever
amps and guitars were at the studio (or I would
request). At any rate, after borrowing a Fender
Blues Deluxe 1x12 combo for all the local NYC
gigs these past few years (thanks, Craig), I
thought SNL was as good a time as any to buy
my first tube amp and some new gear.
The first amp I purchased was a Bruno Super
Lead 100. It has a Fender-meets-vintage-Marshall vibe, 100 watts and 6L6 tubes, which
have always been my favorite. I used that amp,
along with a bunch of pedals, for the first two
seasons, and it covered all the terrain I needed.
For the new season, however, I wanted to try a
new sound and went to 65Amps. I’ve used them
for numerous recording sessions, and my stint
as one of the guitarists for Pete Seeger’s 90th
birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden
this past year. 65Amps co-owner Dan Boul and
I spoke at length about what I could use that
would be right for SNL.
This summer while working in L.A., I drove to the
65Amps factory in North Hollywood. Dan set
me up to play through a variety of combinations
with the Monterrey, Soho, London and Lil’ Elvis
heads, as well as two different 1x12 cabinets.
The winning combo for my SNL duties was
the Monterrey and the Soho. The Monterrey
was going be the mainstay. It was perfect for
American-style clean tones, but also had a delicious, chewy break-up when pushed. The rock
tones with the Bump circuit engaged sounded
36 PREMIER GUITAR DECEMBER 2009
phenomenal. To me, it evokes the sound of Pete
Townshend. I knew this amp would cut-through
the 10-piece SNL band and still have its own
body and vibe. I set the master volume at about
6 ½ for all clean tones, and hit the bump switch
for all the dirtier stuff. For a more British vibe I
have the Soho.
Use what sounds good
to you, what inspires
you, and what allows
you to create freely. I’ve
used so many different
amps, guitars and
pedals throughout the
years, but I still always
sound like me. Granted,
some versions of meare
better than others, but
it’s still me.
Dan and I re-connected for the first SNL band
load-in/soundcheck in September at NBC
Studios. He helped me put the rig together
and stayed through rehearsals to make sure
everything was OK. We also went through a
bunch of microphones on the cabinet to find
the best tone. My cabinet lives behind the
stage in a very dark iso cab, so the microphone choice/placement was a key element.
The first show was on Sept. 26, and I was
excited to get the season under way. Now that
everything was settled, it was time to focus on
the show and the music. U2 was the first musical guest of the season, and I had the chance to
meet Dallas, the Edge’s guitar tech. I was super
stoked because I got to check out his rig! The
Edge is so particular about his sound, and it was
pretty inspiring to hear all the hard work that
goes into it.
Seeing the Edge’s rig, and thinking about what
I went through to get ready for this season, I
had a few thoughts I wanted to share with you.
First, when dealing with tone, there’s never just
one solution. It’s all about what you like and
what gets you excited. Yes, all these details like
Iso cabs, mic choices/placement, cable length,
pedal placement, which amp and guitar combo,
etc., do make a difference. But at the end of the
day, use what sounds good to you, what inspires
you, and what will allow you to create freely. I
have used so many different amps, guitars and
pedals throughout the years, but I still always
sound like me. Granted, some versions of me
are better than others, but it’s still me. Find your
voice on the instrument; that’s the most important thing. You can spend a lifetime on getting
the “perfect tone.” But remember, the tone is
there to serve your music.
Tune in next month and I’ll you how I landed the
SNL gig, and all the things I had to do to get
ready to jump in. Later …
Jared Scharff has been the house guitarist for the legendary Saturday Night Live band for the last two years. A
Native New Yorker, Jared is also a recording artist, producer, songwriter and highly sought-after session player,
and has shared the stage with Justin Timberlake, Beyonce,
Kid Rock, Rihanna, Mary J. Blige, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie,
Roger McGuinn and Debbie Harry. For more information on
Jared, go to myspace.com/jaredscharffmusic.