Written by: Freddy Demarco
I play in different bands, in fact, they are extremely different from one another. In the first band, I play the Angus Young role in the AC DC tribute band, “Dirty Deeds”. The second band I play in is a blues/classic rock trio called “Humbucker Blues”. Finally I have a fusion band called the “Juxtaposers”, where we play funk/ fusion/shred original instrumental music. Each of these bands requires a different amp rig and pedal setup.
If I were to try to implement each of my three bands with the same guitars, pedals, and amps, there would be a massive compromise to having the proper tools with which to authentically pull off each gig. For example, if I tried playing my fusion songs with my AC DC rig, I would be missing essential filters, high gain distortion, crystal pure clean tones, and combinations of gain stages, that are not available with my more organic signal path toward emulating Angus Young’s tone. It is not just the gain and effects – it is also the volumes at which each act typically performs.
Loud and Louder are the two volume settings for Dirty Deeds, the tribute band. Ear shattering volume levels are expected in big theaters, outside fairs, and concerts. The powerful stage volume emits a sonic combustion around the venue that makes the audiences really feel the suspense of the music. However, my blues band is typically in a small club where a lower wattage rig sounds better at a lower accommodating volume, so I can have authentic tone, but at a manageable level.
Dirty Deeds Amp Rig
The first rig I will discuss is the “Dirty Deeds” tribute band set up. I have two Gibson SG guitars, one is a reissue and the other is a signature Angus Young model. I play two heads, and depending on the gig, they can go through two full stacks, or strip down to smaller cabinets. The first is a Blackstar Series One 50 watt head with EL34 power tubes. The amp is set on the clean channel with its gain all the way up. The second amp might be one of several different Marshalls. Sometimes it is a 1974X handwired combo through 4X12 cabinets, or a 100 Marshall Plexi Super Lead, or a Marshall JVM410 set on a semi-clean channel cranked up.
The two amps really compensate for each other and combine to produce an authentic power amp crunch reminiscent of Angus Young’s tone. I split the two amps with a Radial Twin-City ABY amp switcher pedal. All of my gain comes from the power amp of the head being cranked, and like Angus, to clean up my tone, I simply lower my guitar’s volume knob and play with a lighter touch.
Humbucker Blues Amp Rig
With “Humbucker Blues”, I also use two amps, but smaller watt rigs. I split out of the pedal board to the two amps, with my stereo Boss delay. One amp is a Blackstar Club 40 combo and the second amp is a VOX AC30, both set fairly clean and not turned up very loud, since the two amps, together at medium to low volumes, have strong power and punch. I simply can raise or lower my master volume on each amp to match the room and audience size. With the amps set somewhat clean, I rely on an MXR compressor for sustain, and a little extra bite at low volumes. I also run an Ibanez Tube Screamer into the Boss Delay. For more gain, I sometimes reach back to the amps and dial in more “front end” amp distortion. I can also add my compressor with the Tube Screamer.
I love combining a touch of reverb from both amps. Since “Humbucker Blues” is a trio, I like to get a lush tone from my amps. As a one guitar band, I need a versatile rig, so that, in an instant, I can go from modern to old school organic blues. Besides using a combination of two amps, this is really a simple rig, with the delay going to the input of both amps. Typically, I do not run effects through the loop for the blues and vintage classic rock stuff. For the blues, typically, I will play Telecasters and Stratocaster guitars.
Juxtaposers Amp Rig
My most complex rig is dedicated to my fusion and shred material for when I play with the “Juxtaposers”. This rig, as you may have guessed, also involves two amps. I love the combination of my VOX AC30 and my Fender Twin Reverb amp.
The Twin is a 1975 that I had rebuilt and voiced like a blackface mid 60’s style Twin. I use the reverb from both amps. The delay I run is on my pedal board, which is a Korg SDD3000. I run this pedal to the effects loops in both amps. I had a tube loop put in my Fender, so I can take advantage of the Korg SDD3000’s killer stereo delay and modulation effects in the amp’s loop.
During these gigs I will use a variety of guitars for this gig. Sometimes, I like to use a guitar with a tremolo bar, whereas at other times, I like using a Telecaster. There’s no telling what guitar I may feel like using on a given night. The signal chain of my pedal board is as follows: my guitar passes through a Korg Pitchblack Mini tuner, Whirlwind compressor, Good Buzz overdrive, two Ibanez Tube Screamers, Blackstar LT Distortion, MXR Phase 90, MXR EVH Flanger, MXR Uni-Vibe, Boss Super Chorus, Digitech Harmony Man harmonizer and finally split to both amps from a Radial Twin-City ABY box. The ABY box acts as a buffer for a cleaner tone and has a phase switch. When running two amps at one time, there could be phasing issues. The phase switch will put the amps back into phase.
Choice of Amp Rig
It is great fun to be able to express the art of guitar playing through a variety of styles and amp rigs to compliment each style. I look at my pedals and amps as the color and brushes with which to paint many musical landscapes. To me, the variety of pedals and amps is very motivating and gives me incentive to practice every chance I get. I can become more capable of commanding all the wonderful gear and electronic inventions.
Want to see these Amp rigs in action?
I have video of the “Juxtaposers” on YouTube, under the band name and my name, “Freddy DeMarco”. You can find Humbucker Blues on YouTube and Facebook. My AC DC tribute, “Dirty Deeds”, has an interesting site I suggest visiting at www.dirtydeedsusa.com