We’re always searching for The Best, The Ultimate — The Perfect Blues Guitar Rig — and today, I’m going to share with you the center, and the chained core, of my most golden Blues playing experience. It all starts and ends with wood: I’m currently loving on my mahogany Les Paul.
When I first started writing this article I was all-in on my Gibson. This week, I’m hotter on my Stratocaster. I suppose it’s good I don’t play favorites with my guitars — but sometimes that movement between muses can be seen as waffling by some. If you have more than one guitar, I’m sure you understand my point.
Next in my Blues Chain are the strings. The Gibson Vintage Reissue strings have that ancient warmth that matches the sound of “The Old Blues” you hear singing in your head. They are magical and magnificent strings.
Your guitar and strings aren’t going to sound good without the proper connection to your amp. That’s where Evidence Audio enters with their incredible Lyric cable.
It might sound silly to spend over a hundred dollars on a guitar cable — but once you experience the pureness of sound you get from Evidence Audio, you won’t be able to go back to using any other cable. I gave up all my Mogami cables for Evidence — so you know there’s some serious money being waged and won in this ongoing battle for tone.
If you’re any sort of serious Bluesman, you know you can’t play clean all the time. Sometimes you need a little crunch. You need to get dirty.
I use the Ibanez TS808HW Tube Screamer to dial in my biting overdrive. This Tube Screamer is all hand-wired and it brings forth that gnawing sound you cannot manufacture from fingers alone.
It took me some time to figure out the best settings for low-level Tube Screaming apartment playing with my guitar at around a five volume — Overdrive pinned full; Tone at One O’clock, Level at 9:30 — and now that the Screamer is dialed in, all I need to do is tap on the footswitch and I’m growling!
If you’re going to crunch — you’re also going to need to add some sweetness, too — and I use the Holy Grail Plus from Electro-Harmonix to bring me just an ounce or two of reverb: Blend at 1:30; Amount at 3:30, Reverb on “Spring.”
I love reverb because it adds just a touch of an ethereal presence to any rehearsal or performance. My Fender ’65 Princeton Reverb Reissue does reverb really well, but I don’t always use that amp when I’m cranking out The Blues.
We started this review with mahogany and we’re ending it in solid pine.
Yes, you cannot live without the ’57 Champ because it is my amp of choice — I leave my volume set at just under four for apartment playing — because it instantly gives you that earthy, luscious, honesty of the classic Blues recordings.
All you do it turn it on, plug in your guitar cable, and you’re propelled back in time when music was authentic and moving. You’re playing into a time machine and it sings with nostalgia and replies with melancholy.
I’ve taken you point-to-point through an inside look at my Perfect Blues Guitar Rig — and I hope you’ll be able to make a similar journey of your own.
If you have a Blues Rig that works for you, be sure to give us your thoughts in the comments to lead us down another avenue of expression in the perpetual human search for unachievable, Blues, perfection.