Guitar Archives

John Mayer’s Crazy Stage Rig and the Helix

John Mayer and Isaiah Sharkey at Madison Square Garden

Just saw this picture on John Mayer’s Instagram from last week’s show at Madison Square Garden. Take a look at his crazy floor rig in this shot.  It’s so big, it stretches across three pedal boards in an arc in front of him. And a lot of the pedals are hidden offstage in a Bradshaw rack (shown in this 2010 rig rundown video with his guitar tech).

Now take a look at Isaiah Sharkey’s setup to John’s right. Boom! That’s a Helix right there- with a lot of the same flexibility as John’s rig, but in a tiny stage footprint. And it’s sounding pretty sweet- listen to his solo in this video of Stitched Up.

John Mayer is a serious pedal junkie. You can see part of his amazing pedal collection in this “One Song, One Day” video, from 2005.  Read the rest of this entry

Making Song Presets on The Helix

Helix Song PresetsAfter preparing my basic Pedal Board preset, I’ve spent the last week learning my way around the Helix, preparing presets for our setlist

I’m loving this thing! I’ve been waking up early to craft song presets before work, and staying up super-late every night.

Yes, I’m obsessing, but there’s a lot to prepare if I’m going to pull this off at Friday’s gig with the Drop Daddies.

It’s so liberating using the amp / cabinet models in the Helix, rather than only using my Blackstar.  I can use a Marshall amp for Weezer, an AC30 for Stone Temple Piltots and U2, a Fender Bassman for Stray Cats, etc.

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Helix vs Blackstar

Blackstar vs HelixI mentioned last month, as I awaited the Helix arrival, that I was considering going ampless- completely replacing my entire amp and pedalboard rig with a single device: the Helix.

So, once I started learning to edit on the Helix, the first thing I did was try to make a preset to match the sounds of the channels on my Blackstar Stage 60. This was surprisingly easy to do.  Very quickly, I had a Pedal Board preset in which I could switch between Clean, Overdrive, High Gain, and blistering Lead, all of which sounded close enough to my Blackstar.  And bonus, no more pause/delay in the sound when changing channels on the Blackstar. Changing snapshots on Helix is totally seamless.  Beautiful!

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Helix Has Landed

Line 6 Helix Has LandedMy Helix arrived last night.  Sweet! I lost myself for a couple hours, going through the presets and getting familiar with the unit.

I borrowed a JBL EON 610 full-range powered speaker for the occasion, and the combination sounds amazing.  I haven’t even tried plugging it into my Blackstar Stage 60 yet.  It sounds soooo good through the full range speaker.

The Helix is a beautifully built machine- solid as a tank! The footswitches, knobs and wah treadle are seriously next-level quality, compared to my HD500X. And the huge display, scribble strips, and colors are all just glorious.

Did I mention how amazing it sounds?!

I haven’t even started editing yet, but I’m super-excited to delve into it. We have a gig in less than 2 weeks and thinking about whether I’m crazy to switch my whole rig up, this close to a gig.

Line 6 Helix Line 6 Helix Wah Treadle

Helix Is On Order

Line 6 HelixThe Helix finally came in stock today, and it’s on order!  While I’ve been waiting over the last couple weeks, I’ve been obsessing about my big rig transition to the Helix. I’ve come across a couple of new video demos which just blow me away how good the Helix sounds.

These demos have me seriously considering going ampless. While I love my Blackstar Stage 60, this would be amazing simplification in my rig, and a serious boost in flexibility.  We’ll have to wait and see when the Helix arrives.

Meanwhile,  take a look at these videos – two very different styles, two compelling arguments:

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Sunglasses for the HD500X

John at a Sunny GigMy band plays a number of outdoor gigs every year, and I usually need to wear sunglasses to survive the gig.

Aside from the sunlight-triggered-wah-freakout issue I wrote about last year, the HD500X works fairly well in the sun. The light rings around the footswitches tend to disappear in bright light, but the main display seems to maintain reasonable visibility.

HD500X screen distortion through polarized sunglassesHowever, I usually wear sunglasses (and a hat!) at sunny gigs.  My sunglasses are polarized, and this causes the HD500X display to show weird discolored bands, obscuring the display.

The picture at right was taken holding my sunglasses in front of the camera lens.  As you can see, weird stuff happens in the corners of the display.

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DIY Guitar Pedal Building Series

125-Enclosure-Model_thumb.jpgMy 2012 series on DIY Guitar Pedal building continues to draw visitors to planetz. I just went through and updated a few stale links, and I noticed that I never really posted entire table of contents for the series. So here it is. I also added these links to the top of each page. Better late than never!

  1. Intro to DIY Pedal Building
  2. Beginner’s Course in Sketchup, Modeling a 125B Guitar Pedal Enclosure
  3. Drilling a 125B Guitar Effects Pedal Enclosure
  4. Pedal Enclosure Finishing: Surface Prep, Priming and Painting
  5. Using GIMP to Create Pedal Artwork
  6. Printing and Applying Waterslide Decal to Pedal Enclosure

I also made a youtube playlist: DIY Guitar Pedal Building

Ultimate Guitar Stand

Ultimate Guitar Stand

Classic A-frame OnStage stand I’ve used the classic A-frame OnStage stand forever, but its time to upgrade to something better!  There have been too many near misses, where my guitar nearly fell off its stand. And, these strange reactions between the foam and the guitar finish are just not worth it.

This is the Ultimate Support GS-1000 Pro. It has a very unique design with a sturdy asymmetric tripod base and telescoping top yoke that basically guarantees that the guitar won’t tip over. 

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Line 6 Helix at NAMM

Line 6 HelixI had a chance to see a live demo of the Line 6 Helix at last week’s NAMM show, and I was blown away. 

They’re really taking modeling to the next level. The Helix sounds amazing, looks amazing, feels amazing.

The Helix addresses all the issues that I have with myHD500X – the legibility/visibility of the small screen, solid tuner, clean boosts, scribble strips over the buttons so I don’t need to remember what’s what.  And editing on the Helix looks so simple and natural, compared to the HD500X.

And it sounds like they’ve resolved the HD500X wah sunlight issue I wrote about last year – they told me that they specifically designed the Helix wah treadle to eliminate as much sun getting into the optical sensor as possible.

Time to sell some old gear and turn that cash into a Helix!

Strap LOXX

Strap LOXXStrap locks are an indispensable investment for any guitar. There’s nothing worse than having your strap twist free, and your guitar drop to the ground.

On my Les Pauls, I used the Dunlop Dual Design strap locks. They worked fine for a Les Paul, as they attached on the guitar horn, rather than on the back of the guitar.  But on my new SG, I needed something different.

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