I have played guitar now for about 12 years and touring the local gig circuit with Alpha Tide for 5 years. Over the years of playing with different musicians both in Alpha Tide and in Church worship groups I have had to adapt my sound to compliment different arrangements. This has helped me to explore what sounds I like and what sounds feel right for me to play. I don’t want to assimilate someone else’s sound; I want to express me, and my equipment helps me do that. So here’s a blog on “Mark’s Equipment Rundown.”
When you speak to someone you know down the phone you can identify them by their voice. I think this is the same with music, we can identify the individuals playing their instruments. For example, if you listen closely to different guitarists you know who’s playing because of their signature tone or style, think of Mark Knopfler’s pickles twangy strat or The Edge’s perfect dotted-eighth delay.
As a musician, the choice and combination of your equipment can help to form your musical identity. Some guitarist are very specific to the nth degree whilst others will have any amp and a guitar that looks good right?
I started my guitar journey with a deep blue Encore Stratocaster accompanied with a 10-watt B.B. blaster and a neon green cable. At the age of 11 this was the dream; the neighbours didn’t quite think the same…
After taking a few lessons and getting better, I upgraded. In 2009 I got myself a cherry sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Standard and a better amp too, a 30-watt Line 6 Spider 3 Combo. My sound had changed too, from the overly distorted and squealing strat I was now playing a throatier solid body guitar with some mean grunt! I became more popular with the neighbours…
I actually started playing with Alpha Tide in 2014 with my Les Paul and Line 6 amp. However, I was having issues with my Les Paul, it was really heavy and started giving me a painful back, it was even heavier than my sisters Dean Razorback bass and that’s a big bass!
After a year of using the Les Paul with Alpha Tide I started looking at guitars that would be lighter. I also had a bigger budget and I had dramatically improved my playing since 2009 so I could upgrade once again. Searching the internet one day I came across a limited-edition Fender Telecaster Cabronita which I instantly fell in love with. It was very simple in design and only had a volume pot, this was a workhorse guitar! It came in three colours: black, red or white. Here’s the catch, the white guitar was made of Ash which is a much lighter wood than maple or alder, so I had to get one of these!
Eventually I found a white Tele Cabronita for sale and I bought it! It differs from a normal Tele because it doesn’t have the single coil or bridge humbucker with the Tele chrome plate. The Cabronita uses Fidelitron humbuckers which you would find typically in a Gretsch guitar (which I was also looking at) and has a smaller cut scratch plate with no Tele chrome plate. I loved it, and still love it now. My Les Paul went into retirement and I was now using my brand-new Fender Telecaster Cabronita.
No Amp Lives Forever
After a few months my Line 6 amp blew up, well it didn’t turn on. I took it to the shop, and they said it would be cheaper to buy a new amp. So, not having much money after shelling out on my new guitar I bought myself a cheap Vox tube amp there and then, a VT20+ combo. This was so much better than my Line 6 amp and I now had the legendary combo of a Fender Tele and Vox amp!
I used all the built-in effects available on my Vox amp and they were good for what they were, I struggled to quickly change settings for different songs in live shows. Tom kindly bought me a bank selector for my amp so I could pre-set some sounds and then simply select them as needed using my feet, he also gave me a Duncan Seymour pickup booster pedal for solo’s and riffs. Isn’t he nice?
I finally reached the point where I wanted to get myself into the pedal game and assemble my own rig. Here’s my rig rundown:
- Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster
- Digitech Hardwire HT-6 Polyphonic Tuner
- Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal
- Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Re-Issue Overdrive Pedal
- TC Electronic The Dreamscape John Petrucci Signature Modulation Pedal
- Digitech Obscura Altered Delay Pedal
- LovePedal Hall Mod Reverb Pedal (Discontinued)
Of these pedals, my favourite has got to be the LovePedal Rever: it’s insane! It sounds ethereal and majestic. Whenever I’ve recorded with it, a pleasant comment has been made about how gorgeous it sounds. I always add a dose of this reverb on most of my guitar sounds and for this reason has become a signature tone of my guitar playing since I’ve owned it.
To compliment my reverb and delay combo I purchased an e-bow. This bit of tech creates a magnetic field which vibrates the strings and sustains notes, producing lush padding sounds and single note decorations. The soft reverb and delay edges accompanied with the tube screamer produces a really distinct and clear big sound! So, this in essence is my signature guitar sound!
Now I’ve beefed up a bit, I’m going to resurrect my Les Paul and take on the weight. Its going to undergo some cosmetic and hardware refitting first before it is drafted into Alpha Tide’s arsenal of instruments. Hopefully it will become core to Alpha Tide’s sound, after all Tom did write the riff to Wheels on it, there’s another story.