Happy New Year, pedal stom- pers! Welcome back to a
new season of Stomp School. This
month’s column will probably raise
more questions than it answers,
but that can sometimes be a good
thing—especially when they’re questions we can only answer ourselves.
The start of every New Year
tends to fill some of us with a
certain measure of self-reflection
and introspection. We may look
back and assess the events of the
previous year while considering
our aspirations and ambitions for
the year ahead. Whether that’s
due to human nature or cultural
conditioning is a topic for another column in a different magazine. For the time being, we can
probably all acknowledge that it’s
a well-known recurring phenomenon, one that often results in
the pledging of lofty, idealistic,
such as losing weight, quitting
smoking, or something similarly
dramatic and life-altering. Since
we’re in this mindset of contemplating major changes anyway,
why not apply it to something
that will give us instant gratification and guaranteed success—I’m
talking about gear!
This is perhaps as good a time
as any for us gearheads to evalu-
ate our current setup, see what
works and what doesn’t, and
decide what we want to do about
it. Let’s start by considering what
goals we may have with regard to
tone, and what we would need to
pursue those goals in the upcom-
ing year. I’ve found that having
a specific goal in mind helps
keep me in check when it comes
to impulse buying and lusting
after every new piece of gear that
catches my eye.
You can save a ton of money—
and derive beaucoup pleasure
—by learning how to do your own basic guitar setup and amp maintenance. Adjusting an electric’s action, working a truss-rod to control
neck relief, tweaking intonation, fine-tuning pickup and pole-piece
height, cleaning the fretboard and pots, and keeping the tuners and
hardware tight and secure are all activities many guitarists can handle
on their own. John Levan’s excellent book Guitar Setup, Maintenance
& Repair (above right) has detailed photos and explanations. Dan er-lewine also has many books and DvDs available at stewmac.com, and
Richie Fliegler’s The Complete Guide to Guitar and Amp Maintenance
(above left) belongs on every serious picker’s shelf.
“I’ve found that having a specific goal in
mind helps keep me in check when it comes
to impulse buying and lusting after every
new piece of gear that catches my eye.”
mind. Maybe you have only a
few vague notions.
Or maybe it’s the reverse. It
occurs to me that more than a
few of you whose resolutions are
more along the lines of spending less time and attention on
gear and gear-related activities.
That’s okay. You may still find it
helpful to develop a specific goal
for your ideal situation—even
if it simply means reducing and
Are you happy with how yours play
or do they need a setup? Check
the frets to see if they’re level. Is the
neck straight? How’s the intonation?
If you’ve wanted to try a different
string gauge or another set of pickups, now’s the time.
Is there anything you’d like to change
about your go-to amp? You can
change speakers or try different
preamp tubes without the assistance
of an amp tech. And if you have a
tube amp, why not have it re-tubed
Does yours need a complete overhaul? Or maybe you’ve never had
a proper pedalboard and need to
finally get one. Perhaps you’ve outgrown yours and need to upgrade.
Or maybe your goal is more specific—like needing upgrade the patch
cables. (See “The PG Pedalboard
Survival Guide” on p. 138 for a ton of
tips on all of these.)
Targeting Your Rig’s Resolution Needs If you’re stumped about where
to get started on your New Year’s gear resolutions, here are a few areas to consider.
streamlining your current setup.
The bottom line is that setting a
deliberate intention and having
a specific goal in mind is much
more likely to get you exactly
what you want, which is the reason we make resolutions in the
That’s all for now. Next time,
we’ll take a look at the word
“boutique” as it applies to musical
instruments and equipment, try to
determine a standard definition (if
there is such a thing), and consider
how the criteria may have changed
over the past few years. Until then,
keep on stompin’.
ToM HuGHeS (aka
Analog Tom) is owner
and proprietor of For
Musicians Only (
author of Analog Man’s
Guide to Vintage Effects.
If you have questions or comments for
Tom, email him at email@example.com.