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Editorial: Finding Your Own “Geartopia”

Contributor Bradford Wolfenden II believes that in order to find the right mix of equipment for your guitar set-up, sometimes you need to keep it simple, sometimes you need to think outside of the box.


Gear is nothing without you, the player. Your preferences, or lack thereof, determine the entire path your expressive desire travels from the piston-fire of your synapses to the ears of your angry neighbor. One could be just as happy playing through a multi-effects processor into a set of headphones as Gene Simmons feels dripping blood from his mouth in full costume as the fireworks go off. There are may ways to split the wig but it starts with the wig. There may be computers composing sounds for the motherserver somewhere but to my knowledge there is no robot currently destroying a 12-string in front of an audience of discarded kitchen appliances. It takes flesh and blood, a will to play, and the means to acquire the equipment necessary to do what you want to do.

I’ve had state of the art $2000 rigs blow up on standby. I’ve walked into a bar and had a proprietor assume I can plug 70’s amps and gear into the white and red Aux-In cables of their “totally legit” jukebox sound system. I’ve wielded said 70’s gear onstage fully mic’d in a giant theater, living the actual dream, and damn near scrambled my own eggs when my beer moistened beard connected with the microphone as I ignored the ground switch on the back of the amp. Switches matter. Gear matters. The situation governs all. Start planning now on where you want to be and build that bridge step by step. Ask every single question that comes to your mind and talk to as many people as possible about what they play, and why, and why not.

We are almost 90 years from the Hawaiian lap-steel craze that brought us electronic amplification and centuries from the most primitive strings-across-sound-hole contraptions and we have a lot to show for it. From the guy on Venice Beach with the Pignose and roller-skates to Anne Clark’s simulation rigs you can go as large or small as you like but planning is key. If Rollerbro’s batteries die and Ms Clark’s presets reset they both will end up sitting on the wall outside a university jealous of the guy strumming his acoustic for the ladies and gentlemen strolling by. The best advice is to start simple but at the same time going one step further than you assume you need. The second pack of strings at home or the extra cable in your bag at the gig could solve and lead to more things than you’d think. You may want to record yourself on your computer but if you buy the single-input box you are going to have a bad time when you get the band together for the demo recording. Explore your options and use the ocean of the internet to research and contrast ideas and setups.

Lastly, don’t lock the mad scientist in you away but do use caution. Just because you can remove every screw on your amp and see the impossible cities of capacitors and tubes and power boxes doesn’t mean you should cut away like a haircut or pet around like it’s the kiddies section at the zoo. Use discretion in combination with imagination. Put your cellphone up to your pickups sometime. Find an inexpensive pedal and a modification kit and call your best bud with the soldiering iron. Unplug your turntable from your stereo pre-amp and run it through your guitar rig. Check out circuit bending and instead of throwing out the kid’s Fisher Price My First Keyboard turn it into the noise-glitch reverb machine of doom. Run your sister’s flute thru a chorus pedal. The pieces you’ll need to acquire to scratch these mad itches will come in handy another day in a most crucial way. Just keep the volume low while checking the seeds you’ve sewn in the mad lab. It’s a long week when your flanger mod pops off the circuit board and temporarily converts your melon to mono.