TONE TIPS FROM THE ROAD
A Board Introduction
PAUL “TFO” ALLEN
have to go back and forth between the two guitars a couple times to make the volumes equal.
Once you have found the sweet spot, put a
small sticker next to the setting of the Boost
knob, or use a permanent ink pen to mark your
setting, so you can easily see where to set the
knob in the future in case it gets moved.
Over the last year, I have made a point of taking different guitars, amplifiers, and pedals to
shows. I do this for a couple reasons. The first is
that I am always looking for ways to improve my
tone, and using a variety of equipment allows
me to increase my knowledge of equipment
options. Playing live shows is a great way to
see how a piece of gear works in the mix with
loud drums and booming bass. Some tones
that sound great when you are playing solo
guitar get buried onstage by all of the other
frequencies flying around, so it is important to
make sure that a tone works in a band setting.
The second reason I change my rig a lot is so
that I do not become too dependent on certain
pieces of gear. Using a variety of equipment
keeps me on my toes and forces me to get the
best sound out of whatever I am using.
Allen’s tour pedalboard contains a Line 6 Echo Park, Line 6 MM4, Z. Vex Box of Rock, Xotic BB Plus, Korg Blackout Tuner, Vox
V847A wah, Samson Airline Wireless, and two Keeley True-Bypass Loopers. The board is powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power
Of all the pedals on my tour board, one of the
most versatile is the Z. Vex Box of Rock. It performs many roles in shaping my tone throughout a show. The pedal has two buttons—the
left button controls the boost side of the pedal
and the other button turns the distortion side of
the pedal on and off. The boost side comes in
handy when you have two guitars with different
pickup outputs. For instance, let’s say you have
been playing a guitar with humbuckers for the
majority of the show and you switch to a guitar
with single-coil pickups. When you plug in the
single-coil guitar, you will notice an immediate
drop in volume. You can compensate for this
by matching the instruments’ volumes with the
Boost knob on the Box of Rock (or any other
clean boost pedal).
Now that you have your volumes matched on
your guitars, simply step on the boost whenever you use the lower-output guitar and you
will have the same volume as you did with the
louder guitar. The soundman will appreciate you
taking the time to do this because he will not
have to adjust your volume at the front of house
every time you change guitars. The volume in
your monitor will remain constant as well, which
will save you the trouble of having to get the
monitor guy’s attention every time you need a
volume adjustment due to varying pickup outputs. There are dozens of clean boost pedals
on the market, and any of them will work fine
for volume matching. I prefer the Box of Rock
because I can also use it for a great Marshall-style distortion sound while playing rhythm, and
use the boost to increase my volume for solos.
Another pedal I use very frequently is the
Xotic BB Plus. The BB Plus complements the
Box of Rock nicely because the two pedals
reside in different tonal spectrums. For solos,
the BB Plus provides tons of gain and sustain
for single-note playing. I usually add a touch
of delay from a Line 6 Echo Park for solos
as well. This helps add length to bends and
sustained notes. On the Echo Park, I typically
will have the Mix and Repeats knobs set to 8
o’clock. Having the knobs set this low adds
a nice ambience and fullness to the sound.
Setting the Mix and Repeats higher can start to
obscure the definition of your notes.
Recently, I have been taking my small Trailer
Trash pedalboard—which I call my tour board—
to gigs. I had this board built because I needed
one that covers all of the major food groups
of effects. It is also built in a fashion that
eliminates the constant maintenance caused
by Velcro losing its adhesive hold over time.
There’s nothing like opening your pedalboard
case after it has been knocked around by a
commercial airline, only to find a messy heap of
unplugged pedals and wires!
To do this, plug in both of your guitars, one at
a time, and listen for which one is louder. (Be
sure to have all of your effects off when you do
this. Sometimes certain effects will change your
volume a little bit.) Once you have determined
which guitar is louder and which guitar is qui-
eter, plug in the quieter guitar and turn on the
boost function. Adjust the Boost knob until you
think you have reached the same volume as the
louder guitar. Then, turn off the Boost function,
plug in the guitar that was originally louder, and
see how close the volumes match. You might
Next month, we’ll discuss how to control your
tone without any effects at all. Please drop me
a line if there is any topic you would like to see
covered in an upcoming Tone Tips column!
See you then.
Paul “TFO” Allen
Paul “TFO” Allen is a multi-instrumentalist who has
worked with Big & Rich, Sebastian Bach, 112, Jake Owen,
Montgomery Gentry, Larry the Cable Guy, and many others.
He also has his own project called Ten Finger Orchestra,
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.