The Best Guitar Rig?
The best guitar rig is a rig that works for you and what you are trying to accomplish. Different styles of music require different pieces of gear. Since there is no real best guitar rig, we are giving you a starting point. With a sea of gear ahead of you on your quest for tone, you have to start somewhere and here is where we would start.
The Heavy Metal Guitar Rig
Speaker– A pair of EVH5150 III 2X12 cabinets
The reason for choosing the EVH head is that its most high gain channel has plenty of distortion for the metal style, and also the clean channel is perfect for clean guitar parts in the Metal genre. The noise suppressor is necessary to combat the unwanted noise inherent with high gain channels. The compressor works great in conjunction with the chorus pedal for a rich, lush, clean tone with plenty of sustain.
The compressor also can serve as an extra gain stage to drive the overdrive channel into an even more exaggerated saturation and sustain. The phaser and flanger pedals are good to have, by which both rhythm and lead parts occasionally can be embellished with modulation if so desired. In metal, the lead and rhythm guitar is the main harmonic sound present, and the Line 6 Delay provides many options to enhance the guitar with ambient delays, delays with modulation, and even stereo options if you were to add another head.
The Modern Rock Guitar Rig –
Guitar– Gibson SG
Speaker– Orange PPC12C 2X12 Cabinet
For the modern rock guitarist, there needs to be a rig that can dial in sounds that are retro but also reach tonalities that are beyond the classic tones and have a modern appeal. The above gear recommendations were chosen for just that reason. For modern rock guitar, we do not want any remnants from the 80’s hair band tones. However, in many cases, we still need high gain, which is why the Orange head is perfect. It can achieve high gain, but not necessarily commit the tone to that distinct 80’s sound.
The wah pedal has made its way back to modern rock guitar and the VOX has a nice throaty tone to complement the Orange amp head. The fuzz pedal opens doors to the misbehaving tones that are so often used today, but the fuzz will not be mistaken for a super focused tight distortion eminent in 80’s metal guitar music. The Electro-Harmonix chorus has a retro sound that will work well when wanting to dial in that modern wet sound, but like so many modern rock artists are doing, still employ a bit of old school to the flavor. The carbon copy delay, having a nice warm tone with artifacts, has brought about another resurgence incorporated in modern guitar tones.
The Classic Rock Guitar Rig –
Amp– Marshall DSL100 Head
Speaker– Marshall JCM1960A
There is nothing more traditional to a rock band than a Les Paul through a Marshall amp, and the DSL100 model can really pull off those classic rock tones. The VOX wah is a classic and a “must have”, as is the DS1 Distortion pedal. The DS1 is a good alternative to using the amp’s natural distortion when you want a classic rock sound but with more intense gain. Simply use the Marshall’s clean channel and kick in the DS1. Flangers, phasers, and chorus pedals are all effects commonly used throughout the classic rock era and should be included. Experiment in the order that you’ve chained your modulation pedals. The DD7 will cover all the types of delay sounds you will want, and since it’s very clean, it will compliment all the old school stomp boxes in this setup.
The Country Guitar Rig –
Guitar– Fender Telecaster
Amp– Fender Deluxe Reverb
The Fender Tele through a Deluxe Reverb amp is the quintessential traditional country tone. In modern times, the country guitarist often needs to cover a fused variety of styles mixed with the traditional flavor. This is why the choice of a Tube Screamer is included. As in many modern country songs, the guitarist will need some good overdrive for bluesy type playing. The compressor is a must for pedal steel licks and helps to even out notes in the vigorous “Chicken Pickin” style. The Dual-Fusion overdrive is great for more boutique and less common types of overdrive used for the snappy drive tone in modern country rock. The MXR delay works perfectly when set as a slapback delay, and the Boss delay can be used for pristine longer delays.
The Cover Band Guitar Rig –
Guitar– Fender Stratocaster, with a humbucker pickup in the bridge position and a single coil in the middle and neck positions. (American Deluxe or Deluxe)
I make mention of the Kemper system, because all your sounds, amps, and effects, would be present in this one piece of gear. Upon researching, you will find there is a powered version that can go into a speaker cabinet or direct to the PA. This will involve the least amount of fuss at a gig, and since you will not need an amp or pedals, simply purchase the pedal board proprietary for the Kemper and you’re good to go. Or get the non-powered unit and run it through the FX return or front end of an amp. This will have everything you need, built in, for a cover gig.
Some players insist on a traditional amp, and for that reason, I’m offering a suggestion of the Marshall combo for its legendary tone, but also for its versatility. Combined with the pedals, you will cover any style of music a cover band can do. Use the DS1 for heavy distortion stuff, and then switch to the Tube Screamer for classic rock or power blues. The modulation boxes listed will work for most styles, and the whammy pedal will cover you for harmony leads and more filter effects. The Line 6 delay is loaded for bear and is programmable, making it convenient to switch delay programs during a cover gig.
Building your guitar rig is a personal and long journey. It is something that will take time and is something that will change over time. New pedals and new amps will hit the market. Keep your ears open to hear about the latest, and keep your mind open to try new things. Gear isn’t always as it appears and might work for you in a way you haven’t thought of. The quest to find the ultimate guitar rig might take a few days, weeks, months, or even years, so be ready, willing, and able to enjoy the long haul.