GEAR: About my rig on the Satch ‘how to’ video

I’ve had a few people ask me about the gear I used for the ‘How To Do Satch-Style Harmonic Squeals’ video I posted on the weekend. Here’s an edited version of a response I wrote to a user on Jemsite.

* Ibanez RG550 20th anniversary reissue with stock pickups.
* Marshall JCM2000 DSL50 amp
* AxeTrak isolated speaker cabinet
* MXR/CAE Boost/Overdrive pedal
* MXR Carbon Copy analog delay.

If you’re interested in buying any of this stuff, there are links at the bottom of the post.

About the guitar: A lot of people change these pickups straight away without even giving them a chance, but I think they’re great. There’s a little 30-second shred video on my YouTube channel which is the same exact amp and effect setup but using the neck pickup instead. The neck pickup reminds me of Andy Timmons.

I fully expected to change out the stock V2 pickups, but after playing them for a few days I decided they were fine (although the single coil is a bit microphonic so if I’m using that I turn the boost pedal off). I never really liked the V8s – too barky for the sound I’m going for. The V2s sit very nicely in the mix and they’re great for either alternate picking or legato. They seem to emphasize everything you do, so if you have your phrasing together it really shows.

About the amp: The guitar is recorded directly from the AxeTrak into my Digidesign M-Box with no processing. For the recording I used the amp’s lead channel (in normal mode, not ‘Ultra’). Gain at 5, master at 6, through an AxeTrak isolated speaker cabinet. All of the tone controls on the Marshall are turned up to 10, although when using a regular Marshall cabinet instead of the AxeTrak I reduce the treble and presence to 5 to get the same sound. The AxeTrak sounds great but you just have to learn to compensate for its natural tone a bit. Once you do it sounds very similar to a Marshall 1960A cabinet. In the interests of full disclosure, I bought my amp on endorsement terms by arrangement with the distributor. I shopped around and tried out a bunch of different amps by many different brands, but the DSL50 was the one for me. I bought the exact amp that I’d been using at World of Music to test guitars when I was working there.

I’ve found that the balance of a medium amp gain, combined with a cranked boost, seems to make all these cool harmonics come out which would otherwise be squashed with too much preamp gain. My theory is that when you increase the amp’s own gain, you increase the harmonics so much that they all start fighting for attention. Doing it the way I do seems to emphasize only the best ones. Think of it like increasing the contrast and brightness controls on your TV, where the boost pedal is the contrast and the amp gain is the brightness. If you turn them both all the way up, you’ll just get a white screen, whereas if you turn up the contrast and find the sweet spot with the brightness, you’ll get that glowing, David Lee Roth video kind of look. I also use the boost on the amp’s Rhythm channel. I set the channel’s gain at about 6, then use the pedal to increase it to around the same level as the lead channel’s halfway point. It sounds a bit Nuno Bettencourt like this, and gives me just the right individual gain levels for rhythm and lead, while allowing me to set different volume levels for each channel. The end result is that it pretty much sounds like I’m on the lead channel all the time, but increasing the gain and volume when switching channels. If I want a clean sound, I just turn off the boost when on the rhythm channel, and maybe roll the volume control on the guitar down a little if I’m using high output pickups.

About the boost: For the recording I had only the boost side engaged, turned up to full volume. This pedal is designed by Bob Bradshaw of Custom Audio Electronics, and his amps have been used by guys like Steve Lukather and Eddie Van Halen, who used a CAE preamp on ‘The Dream Is Over’ from Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album back in 1991. The overdrive part of the pedal sounds cool too but I don’t use it very often.

About the delay: The Carbon Copy’s repeats are a little muffled, which seems to add a little bit of warmth to the overall tone, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of the key elements. I’d say the biggest contributing factors to the tone are the stock Ibanez bridge pickup and the effect of using a clean boost to increase the gain of the Marshall, instead of cranking the Marshall’s own gain.

For more how-to videos see I Heart Guitar site sponsor WonderHowTo

MXR Custom Audio Electronics MC-402 Boost/Overdrive Pedal from Guitar Center for $139.99.

CLICK HERE to buy the MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay from Guitar Center for $149.99.

NEWS: Ibanez RG550MXX – awesome

I recently got my Roadflare Red Ibanez RG550MXX out of its case after a few months locked away, and I was immediately reminded how freaking awesome this guitar is. I could never use it live with my band because our singer was a bit of a firecracker on stage, and my stage guitars (Ibanez RG7620 and RG7420) took a few chips here and there in the chaos. So this one remained safely stashed away and is yet to see live use. But that will change soon.

The RG550MXX was released in 2007 to mark the 20th anniversary of the RG550. They were available in three colours (Desert Sun Yellow, Roadflare Red and Black), and only 1,987 were produced. Each was individually numbered.

Specs include:

Slim, fast Wizard neck (with Titanium strengthening rod)
Maple fretboard (rosewood on the black model)
Jumbo frets for easy leads and chording
Lightweight basswood body with upper edge sculpted for comfort
Floyd Rose-licensed Edge tremolo with die-cast saddles
Pickups include V1 and V2 humbuckers and a high-output single coil
5-way switch
Special RG20th hardshell case, special strap, picks in colors matching the guitar

There’s a website called devoted to these guitars. Owners can upload photos, rate their guitar, and register it on a chart of who has which number.

These guitars pop up on eBay from time to time, and the price seems to fluctuate a bit. You might luck out and get a bargain, or you might be caught in a bidding war with someone who’s wanted a Roadflare Red RG550 since 1987. 

Check out this video of Paul Gilbert demoing the RG550MXX for Ibanez.