Do you want decking?

Apart from a brief sojourn to see a couple of bands (more later) I’ve spent most of this weekend getting decked. Almost finished, just a bit of tidying up to do.

(No, that’s not my decking – mine is a much more humble affair!)

Afric Pepperbird

Some great photographs of Durham and South Africa, some great jazz album reviews too – if only there wasn’t all that bike stuff! (Just joking Fred!) Another colleague who has a secret life I never knew about – sax playing, CD reviewing, blogging. Excellent!

Mountain Bike Durham

I’m far too old and far too unfit to get on a bike of any kind these days. Luckily for me, there are younger and fitter people to do it and write about it. That way I get to have a vicarious bike journey without leaving the comfort of my cubicle/pod/workspace/desk. Here is just such a site, written by a colleague. I hope he manages to get the routes up using Google Maps – then my mind can wander like the wild geese in the west. Nice work, Phil! And please do write about music too!

Mountain Bike Durham
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I used to have one of these

And, yes, I wish I still had it! Mine was in original condition, I wasn’t worried about any of these problems:

Don’t buy an air guitar that has been burned down by Jimi Hendrix. It won’t work.
Don’t buy air guitars that have been used to demolish a stage. Air guitars are very light, and
you need to shake them very strongly, many, many times in order to tumble down just a
single cymbal.
Don’t buy air guitars that have been used as sex toys.
Don’t buy air guitars that you can actually see. If you can see an air guitar, it’s very, very
Don’t buy air guitars made in high-lying areas such as Nepal. The thin air makes the quality
very low.

pedal board

Another photo from the studio. I had this piece of ply as an offcut from another job, and it seemed just like the right size to put my pedals on, so the other week I gathered together my stuff and set to. I got some super heavy duty adhesive velcro from B&Q (What does that stand for?) That velcro is super strong – once I had everything in place I was able to lift the board to head height and turn it upside down without anything falling off.

I sent for some jack to jack connectors to do away with the need for cables. They come in two types – straight jack to jack or angled jack to jack. I got a few of each, ‘cos my pedals aren’t all made by the same manufacturers. You can see that the Marshall pedals are joined by 2 jack to jack connectors and the Behringer compressor is connected to the Marshall by an angled connector. I had to use cables for the others due to the placement of in, out and power sockets. I added a handle to the top edge of the board to make it easy to carry.

I had done some research into the optimum placement of pedals for the best outcome with regards to sounds. (Here’s one set of advice)

Here’s how my signal chain runs:

Guitar>Behringer Tuner (this has a mute option – silent tuning – very useful)>Behringer Compressor (cheap as chips and useful for adding clean sustain – I mainly use it for slide solos to help the notes ring out, but I also use it as a different sound for a lead break or fill)>Marshall BluesBreaker (this can be used as a clean boost or switched to a blues overdrive – I generally use it as a boost for solos, but for some songs I’ll switch it to the blues setting – sounds great in front of my Laney valve amp!)>Marshall Vibratrem (my latest purchase – I use it sparingly for some classic tremelo effects – I haven’t yet explored everything that this pedal has to offer – I’d like to get a classic Leslie rotating speaker sound – this may not be the pedal to do that)>Marshall SuperChorus (Lots of choice here too – and it is very easy to overdo it)>Nevada Delay (looks for all the world like a handmade boutique pedal, but it cost me £19 new from ebay. I use it when playing slide and it is great for moody effects – I use it when “violining” in a couple of tunes)>Laney VC30 valve combo (the best amp I’ve ever had and I don’t feel that I do it justice). You’ll notice that the board has plenty of space for another four or five pedals! I currently use a mains adaptor with a 6 way spider of connectors, but if I got any more pedals I’d probably go for a proper power block – or maybe two. More pedals? Well, our recent live recording reinforced to me what I had suspected, and what I have hinted at earlier – it is easy to use too much of these effects. Since hearing the recording I have adjusted all of my levels, because it was obvious that my guitar didn’t sound to the audience the way that I thought it sounded. Because of this I’ve also bought a proper angled stand for my amp – it now points at my ears, not at the back of my legs.

But I’d certainly get some more pedals – I have a broken volume pedal at home so I’d like one of those. I have a broken Danelectro envelope follower too (autowah) and that certainly added some useful sounds, so I’d have another of those. I’ve considered getting a noise gate to manage any spurious noises that come from this mass of pedals – though actually they are fairly quiet.
To the right of the board is a two way footswitch from my Gallien Kreuger 250ML combo – I use this for channel changing and reverb on/off on my Laney.
I’m thinking of adding a 4-gang mains plugboard to this too. And then I’d like to build (or more likely get somebody else to build!) a box for all of this, where the part that you see now becomes the lid of a box with lift-off hinges. We’ll see.