We occasionally get asked why a guitar temporarily sounds the way it does (perhaps wonky is the term) or how we have briefly channeled the soundtrack of old Dr. Who episodes.  Many listeners appear inquisitive but have difficulty articulating their questions.  For instance: "In the middle of 'Take Me to the River,' how'd you make the guitar go 'weedlee-weedlee-woo?'"  

Below are some of the various effects and iPad apps used in a typical performance:

The Digitech Vocalist Live 3 is a pre-amplifier and effects processor. While John uses it for some light reverb and compression, it mostly makes its presence known by creating vocal harmonies based on the chords being played on guitar. Pretty nifty.

Ahh yes, the Boss RC-20XL Loop Station.  If you aren't familiar with loopers, they allow you to record something on the fly, using your feet.  The audio then continuously repeats (thus, the "looping").  You can then play over these loops.  It's fun to see the confused expressions of faces as two guitars suddenly come out of the speakers. You can also play long (looonnngg) sustained notes and hit the reverse button.  It can create an almost tanpura-like drone.

Can't think of a more aptly named device than the Digitech Timebender Delay. Beyond normal digital, analog, and tape delays (with a fantastic Echoplex sound), it has a 20 second looper, rhythmic delay patterns, and modulation on the repeats.  It's fun to turn the original signal off and use the reverse delay...instant Jimi Hendrix.  The external footswitch allows you to cycle through 4 presets, but Bruce uses it mostly because the number of pedals he has tends to irk John.


Bruce's love of trippy Beatles and the early Gov't Mule period of Warren Haynes led him to a Leslie rotating speaker cabinet emulator (Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble).  The button on the left is on/off, and the button on the right switches between fast/slow modes.  Volume swells with this unit on the fast setting creates some unusual timbres.  This device has a decent Uni-Vibe emulation as well.

The Ernie Ball Volume pedal below seems odd to add here, but it allows for silent tuning as well as the aforementioned volume swells (when used in conjunction with the Timebender delay pedal). Since the vocal harmonizer mentioned previously derives its harmonies from the input guitar, we feed the guitar into that unit first, and the "guitar thru" goes into the volume pedal before the other effects. This allows for a capella vocals with harmonies (if Bruce plays with the volume pedal off). Pretty nifty.

The Irregulars...not a very flattering name but appropriately labeled. These would be the devices thrown in the gig bag at the last moment, completely dependent on the mood for the day. The TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb is used for ambient moments.  There is a church setting on it with a decay so long, you can actually do swells with the volume pedal. The Boss TR-2 Tremolo is a solid-sounding tremolo/vibrato unit reminiscent of the swampy goodness of an old Fender amp. The BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter graced a tease of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" only once, but you never know when it will appear again. The MXR Auto Q is an envelope filter, used to cop that Jerry Garcia/Steve Kimock "quack." The BOSS SL-20 Slicer pedal is one of those wacky effects Bruce pulls out every so often just to freak folks out. It will rhythmically divide the sound that is inputted. Strike a chord, and you suddenly have a wacky syncopated pattern, which you can then hold and solo over. 



In an ideal musician's world, a good microphone placed off the soundhole would recreate the guitar accurately.  This can be done (with trial and error) in controlled studio situations.  The noise associated with ordering pizza and clinking glasses, however, are not very conducive to plopping a microphone in front of a guitar.  To combat this issue (and the potential ear-shattering feedback that comes with the territory), most acoustics guitars have an under-saddle "piezo" pickup. If you were to pluck a guitar close to this spot by the bridge, you would find a tinny, unpleasant sound, yet ever-so-oddly, this is the part of the string where the pickup is placed.  Beyond basic EQ, compression, and anti-feedback, the Fishman Aura Spectrum attempts to remove the "quack" and restore some of the missing natural resonance found with guitars who have this pickup configuration. Nobody knows the device on, but it's easy to notice the deterioration in the tone when clicked off.

AniMoog is a polyphonic synthesizer for the iPad. All those old Dr. Who and Pink Floyd sounds are in there.  There's a feature where you can determine a scale, and it will remove the keys that aren't relevant.  Perfect for the keyboard-challenged among us.  Loads of sound-tweaking is housed under the hood.

Thumbjam is another synthesizer.  Whereas Animoog is great for trippiness, this app is wonderful for its realistic sounds.  Cellos, pianos, harps all sound pretty authentic.  Allows user-defined scales, minor tweaking of sounds, and iPad tilt-based effects such as vibrato.

iTabla is a tanpura and tabla drum machine.  Unbelievably authentic sounding.  John and I have a vision of doing "Within You Without You > Tomorrow Never Knows" while using this app. Unfortunately, this would require us to schedule a practice session.

AudioZoo is an app that has loads of animal sounds.  Okay, we haven't really used this yet, but Bruce longs to play "Dogs: Part II" by Pink Floyd complete with barking dogs.  Some day (sigh).