I was just peeking through the mountain of “Fanbridge” questions that I have, and I came across a recurring theme…
Question: “Adam what guitar/strings/gear do you use?”
I get asked about this 10 times a week.
With the “mountain” of gear that one sees in catalogs & stores it is easy to get confused.
Since I carry most of my stuff myself (no car – yep, I’m a New York guy), it has to be portable, easy, and sound great.
All of what I am listing fits in a backpack (except the guitars), and I am ready to play any size concert hall or festival.
Keep in mind, this list WILL change, and “there is more than one way to do it” – but this has been working for me.
In this post, I’ll cover the following the 6 most important pieces of gear I use:
- DI Box
I’ll also talk about:
- Amplifier (optional)
- How to secure pedals to the floor
2 Maton Michael Fix model guitars
I usually only play my main guitar, but if something goes haywire with it, I can continue & finish the gig. They do sound different, but they are close enough that there is hardly any adjustment I need to do. Physically they feel the same.
Imagine playing at a really important festival, and the pickup dies during the set. It never has, but hey – you never know. It’s not the promoter’s problem – it’s my problem. So that’s why I pay all those extra baggage fees to the airlines – to have a backup guitar.
Here’s an online review that I just did recently of the guitar:
I use Martin SP Phosphor Bronze strings (.012 gauge) not the 80 / 20. On the main axe, I change strings 20 minutes before I go on stage – every time. They sound crisp and ring perfectly in tune.
Is this extreme? Nope – I can hear the difference. It’s a gig expense.
It feels like a shower, shave and splash aftershave before going on a date, but for my guitar.
Dunlop Medium – no filing, sculpting, etc – I use them as they come.
I use the Boss TU-3 floor pedal. East to read, built like a tank, and I love the fact that I can mute the guitar signal on stage. I have a few clip-on tuners for backstage – but on stage, I use the floor pedal so that audiences don’t have to listen to me tune-up.
Nothing fancy – but it has a tube so it warms things up a little. I use reverbs 2 & 3 only – a short & a long one. It ain’t cheap.
I used to use an LR Baggs para acoustic DI but the input got “crackly.” When I wanted a replacement, the RADIAL was recommended to me.
I love it – there are NO knobs, it’s crystal clear, sound men love it when they see it because it’s not adding more color, hiss, or degrading the sound. It gives a straight, clear signal.
In the case of the J48 – less is more. I love it.
Lock it Down:
Once the tuner, reverb, and DI box are on the floor – I use gaffer tape to secure every patch cable and a power strip to the floor.
I especially secure the patch cable going from the guitar into the tuner (I’ve unplugged that on gigs with my feet.) An effects box or pedal train would only make my bags heavier – remember I am flying!
If possible AER alpha or Super 60 direct out, and then I’ll use no DI box. An amp is not always provided, but if it is, I’ll use one instead of a DI box. I have learned to do gigs with or without an amp.
I own an AER Compact 60 but I’d need a 3rd arm to carry it around, so I often just use a DI.
Putting it All Together
This is like a simple Italian meal with good ingredients – olive oil, tomatoes, bread, cheese, pasta, and wine. Each piece of gear is great, so it’s just then up to me to play well.
I don’t bring my own PA. I am a total pain in the neck regarding demanding subwoofers – I need them for depth in the guitar sound, guitar percussion and human beatbox. I can sleep on a park bench if they can’t afford a hotel – but I INSIST on subs.
Monitors are required, as is a sound man. The worst sounding gigs were when I showed up and the PA is onstage, and I have to do my own sound. I will never do those again!
I don’t know the brand but I have lots of extra cables. Don’t buy cheap cables. I usually go middle of the road, price-wise – about $25-30 USD per cable.
(STAY AWAY from Monster Cables! – Their 1/4 endings are just a little too big – and will wear out your input jack.)
I even bring a few XLR mic cables in case the soundman is a rookie and is not prepared.
Embarrassing – but yes, it happens, and then it’s “one hour until showtime and he can’t drive to his place and back to get the extra cable.”
Yes, the extra XLR cables have come in handy in this situations!
FYI – It’s in Your Ears and Fingers
Make sure you practice properly & warm up. Playing acoustic through a PA is not the warm fuzzy feeling of playing a guitar through a tube amp. It puts you under a microscope – it is a different beast.
This gear will give you a great sound – but then the rest is up to you!
That’s it y’all – I hope this gives you some insight. Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions!
RELATED: 10 Tips for Healthy Guitar Practicing
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Misha Sakharoff says
Thanks again Adam for the inspiration. And for wrapping up – It’s in Your Ears and Fingers. Actually, you can’t really do it enough – it’s the hardest piece to understand for the guitar gear freaks. THANKX, LOVE 😉
Adam Rafferty says
great guitar pickups says
I really agree to that is the ‘hardest piece to understand for the guitar gear freaks.’ This post is so useful to me and I bookmarked it. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope you can keep writing on!
Thanks for your comment and sorry for the late response! – AR
Rick Jennings says
I prefer to change strings the day before the gig. Do you ever have a problem with strings stretching or tuning, playing a gig so soon after a string change?
Thanks for this info. Also loved your short video on gear used to record youtube stuff. You Rock. Hope to see you this Friday night in Clearwater with Shaun Hopper. Yay! rj
Adam Rafferty says
Rick – sure I do. I’m tuning all night…but strings (steel) lose brightness after 24 hours…L:-)
Kirby EaslerElmo says
Interesting read. I also listened to your version of “Dancing Queen”. Nice going. Good sound and playing 🙂
Kev'n George says
Thanks for the ABC’s… it makes ALL the difference.
I have not gotten to your level however, I will not rest until i do. Currently apart of the armed service and during deployments I’ve brought my guitar with. Chapel service is better with music (kinda like campfire singing).
I’ve stepped outside that comfort zone and did a coffee shop (WOW). After i get those needed supplies i’ll try again but have to ask….?
Did you start out flat picking?
How hard / long did it take to convert?
Want it bad but my fingers seem to have a mind of their own LOL.
Thanks for your info. I just ran into the issue of monster cables- causing noise (like a bad cable) thru the amp when moving the guitar . Repair guy said the same thing you did!! Will get another cable and eliminate the issue. — thx
Hey man. I always love getting these mails, very informative AND inspirational! Cheers!
Hey Adam, i’m actually preparing for my first gig on a PA. This will surely come in handy, thanks man :)))
How did your gig on a PA go?
Thanks for the Info: Question?? What do you use for your fingers? Your own nails, fingerpicks or acrylic nails? Thanks, Pete.
Thanks a lot!!!
I love the sound you produce with your Maton guitar. Is that do to the way you EQ it? Would you describe the guitar as naturally bright or warm sounding when not EQ’d?
Ed I use as little EQ as possible, I’ll do a post on mixing…thanks for your comment and sorry for the late response! – AR
Alessandro Tesser says
Hi Adam I’m a fan of your since a lot of time. Can You please suggest me the best pedal reverb for acoustic guitars? I play a Martin 000 42 on an acus amplifier. Do you think I can improve the sound using a pedal reverb instead of using the amp reverb? I play all the time at home (no live performance), but I take a lot of care of my sound.
Alessandro Tesser says
Adam thanks for your answer. Do you prefer the ” hall of fame” or the t-rex if you should choose one of the two? Did you try also the strymon blue sky reverberator?
Thanks for your kindness. Alessandro.
Adam, how do you pack your guitar for airline shipping. I always bring one as a carry on thinking it gets a little less tossed around. I would be frantic actually shopping one as luggage. That hard shell case only provides so much protection.
I have often wondered how it would work without a vehicle. My gig’s are much smaller than yours and I need to bring sound reinforcement for most of them. It would be great to see (although I’ve no idea how you’d do it) a ‘day in the life’. Just to show how you can get to your gigs on a train, bus, cab however you do it. That would be great.
I’ve always wanted to do a tour on bicycle with a trailor for the gear. I think that would be a terrific way to spend the Summer or heck your whole life.
Wishing you all the best
Juraj Ruppeldt says
Hi, Adam, you have a bad link under text “https://www.juststrings.com/cfm-msp-4100.html” in this article – after clicking it shows https://maton.com.au/product/ebg808c-micfix page 🙂
great report! always helpful to know the inside workings. regards
Sean Huddleston says
I’m working on assembling my live sound, but the guitars I want to use don’t have pickups and I don’t know much about installing my own. Do you happen to know what some of the best pickup systems are?
David Keary says
Ben Singer says
Yes man! All still relevant in 2018. Thanks for sharing!
Chris Kalafus says
Thanks Adam!! Thorough as always!!!
I’m curious, when you play at home… either working out a new arrangement or simply staying current on your rep., do you ever plug in?, or is it just the guitar to your ears? Obviously you don’t NEED to amplify sound when you’re alone in a room, but do you ever choose to do it when you are by yourself to add the tube warmth you spoke of, or for any other reason? Thanks Adam.
Adam Rafferty says
Bob I am late in replying…sorry! I usually practice no amp, but when I go back on the road I will revisit my amp and make friends with it again 🙂
Jack Loganbill says
Check links, strings link, trex link, etc