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Builder <===> Player; where do you fall?

Started by Rich_S, May 13, 2010, 01:43:10 AM

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I'd like to take an informal survey about youze guys' reasons for building pedals.  Are you a pedal builder, or a guitar player?  Is building pedals a hobby in and of itself, or just a means to further your guitar tone-chasing?

Me, I got into modding first, because I wasn't getting the tone I wanted out of stock pedals. Then, I progressed to building because I couldn't afford the boutique overdrive I wanted to achieve "my" tone.  So, I think of myself as a player, who mods/builds pedals to improve my tone.

In all honesty, though, I've played exactly two gigs in the last year; both 25th reunions at my college.  Looking forward, I have no prospects for gigs.  On the other hand, in the last 4-5 months I've built three Nutrinos (one for me and two for friends). Also for friends, I've built a custom amp-channel switcher and modded two Boss compressors.  I have a half-finished Rat clone on the bench for myself, with a loop switcher and a Fat Pants in the planning stages.

So, circumstantial evidence indicates I'm a builder, not the player I believe myself to be.  So much for self-awareness.

What about you?
I am using you; am I amusing you? - Martha Johnson


Hey Rich,

Fun topic.  There is nothing like a bit of introspection to make yourself feel uncomfortable :-\

Up until about 8 months ago, I went through a stretch (about 4 years long) where I was playing out almost every weekend, and practicing with the band once a week on top of it.  That ended and I went through a period of about 8 months where I didn't play at all.  Now I'm back to playing out about once or twice a month.  Somewhere in there before our band broke up, I started wanting some tones I couldn't get from my 18 watt or my AC15 so I started building amps.  I built a 5e3 Deluxe, a 5e5a Pro, a Trainwreck Rocket clone and modded my Deluxe Reverb. 

Just in the past few weeks I've come to the conclusion, that I can't afford to build any more amps for a while.  I also came to the conclusion, that much of the time I used to spend practicing the guitar, is now spent on building amps ::)  Anyway, I love to build things, so I figured I'd try to build some pedals since they're a lot cheaper then amps, and they look like they should go together in a few hours instead of days.

Anywho, back to the question.  In all honesty, I think of myself as a player, and I still do play, but an honest assessment brings me to the conclusion that building has made serious in-roads on my playing and practicing time.  My reason for buiding amps and pedals is to obtain gear I couldn't otherwise afford, and also because I love to learn new things.  Bottom line: I find the buiding to be as enjoyable as the playing. 


I am definitely a player. I play in the Denver area with Able Archer ( I have always like making things, and finally took the plunge to pedal building in the last month. I had known of BYOC for a year or so, but stumbled onto the Wampler books, and they gave me the courage to try pedal building. Then happened onto, and have been hooked ever since.


Here's my story:

I play both guitar and bass. Started playing guitar in the third grade, picked up bass in high school because I wanted to be in the jazz band, but was late to auditions and they already had filled in the guitar spot. No one played bass so the jazz band director threw one in my lap, gave me a sheet of music and said "The spaces are A C E G. Give it a try." I was hooked, but guitar was still my main instrument.

Fast forward to college. I was playing guitar in a band with a bunch of buddies. Then one day my sophomore year ALL of my gear except my beloved '79 Kramer DMZ2000 was stolen: amp, all my pedals, cables, etc. So needless to say as a poor college student, I couldn't replace my things and relied on borrowing gear from friends to play gigs. Shortly after, my buddies and I decided to stop playing together since 2 members decided to not return to school, and I started playing bass for another band ( Was with them for three years and rarely picked up a guitar in that time and spent all my money on bass gear.

I still play bass on a fairly consistent basis, but last year I got the itch to really start playing guitar again. Knowing that I couldn't afford to buy all the gear I wanted, I looked into building some of my own and stumbled upon the freestompboxes forum last year, and now I'm addicted.

So I guess you could say I'm a builder so that one day I can be a player again.  :)


Definitely a player. Have been a gigging bassist since I was 14, and I turn 44 on Saturday.

Started DIYing in January 2009, because I am too cheap to spend $$ on a rack compressor, and there is not a  perfect stomp for bass, IMHO. So I have been teaching myself basic electronic theory (and annoying the heck out of a few mentors I have been blessed to meet along the way).

I have a steady gig in my church (I gave up bars/clubs a few years ago). Still a bassist, but I will sub on the little guitars when they need one. Started mentoring our youth worship team, lead them once from the bass chair, and then started getting serious about guitar. You cannot lead inexperienced musicians from the bass chair. :P

SO.......except for my TECH 21 BDDI, my tuner and my EB VP Jr., all processing before sending to FOH (my main gig is in a 400 seat auditorium) is DIY. Kits, Boards from Madbean and others, perf, stripboard, whatever. If I hear it in my head, I get on my computer and find a project and source it out and build it. If I like it, I keep it. If it's not for me, I sell it. I build custom order pedals on request, and the requests keep coming. I spend more time building for others than I do for myself. I use the markup to fund more pedals.

I am a player that is becoming a builder, so things like eating and sleeping are becoming secondary, because I can't do it all............but I'm trying. ;)


Quote from: CRBMoA on May 13, 2010, 04:01:17 PM

I have a steady gig in my church (I gave up bars/clubs a few years ago).

Me too.  We recently moved, and I've started helping out at our new church.  I've started helping the other guitar players out with amp issues and talking to them about their rigs.  The church I left was progressive music wise.  In other words, totally retro in tone and arrangement.  We had non m/v Marshall half stacks, 18watts, AC15's, etc on stage, and there was very little digital equipment.  Many of our arrangements were reminiscent of AC/DC, Allman Bros. even old school country western with a rock bent, think Johnny Cash meets the Black Crowes. 

In our new church the other guitar players are playing POD x3 lives into solid state amps or straight into FOH.  I'm having to tread lightly, but man those things sound like S%&t to my ears.  I've talked one of the FOH guys into trying one of my tube amps and I've offered to build him some pedals.  So, I never really intended to build for other people, but in this case it's got to be done.  I'm just amazed at the power of marketing.  It even over-rides a persons ability to hear how their gear sounds.  I'm sorry if I've offended any POD users.  This is just my personal opinion, for what it is worth.


Player first, builder second.  Just about finished a serendipity.  Works but have to paint and box it up.  It's my first scratch build (except for the pcb layout and awesome diagrams/parts lists).  I did etch the pcb which was fun (or not).  I'll probably just buy em from madbean as it was time consuming and trial/error.

Not to hijack the thread, but I too play a church gig every week.  The acoustics are really bad in the church (echo, echo) and we use an aviom system to monitor the band and digital drums.  I'm not required to go direct but was told the last player tried to bring his amp one time and it made things worse.  I tried the boss gt-10 and pod x3 live with poor results.  Right now I'm pedals to a tech 21 blonde to direct box.  It's better but I'm having a hard time getting a tone I'm happy with.  When at home I plug into a Blues Junior (w/Jensen) and it is so easy to get something I'm happy with...(same pedals into amp)  Any suggestions?
Contract PCB designer


We oughta break this off as a new church thread.  By the way, there is a dedicated "room" on the TDPRI (Telecaster forum) specifically for worship players.  It's a good resource, keeps to the music and gear, and stays away from religious debates.

Anywho, in my experience, there is nothing wroung wioth small tube amps in church.  I used my 13-watt, 1x12" baby Marshall clone for a year with no problems.  I used a silverface Vibro Champ a couple time4s with pretty good results, too, although it might have been a tad underpowered.  The Blues Junior is just about perfect in size, IMO.

I think the best way to use an amp in church is to choose the right size (anywhere from 5-20 watts, depending on room size, band volume, and the amount of clean headroom you need for "your sound").  Put it on an amp stand, and point it directly at your head.  This guarantees that you will hear yourself clearly, which is the most important thing.  If the congregation can't hear you, it's the job of the soundman and the PA to make it so.  If the rest of the band can't hear you, that's a job for monitors (whether in-ear or wedges) although some compromises in the position, direction, and volume of your amp can help.

My personal preference is an amp that gives me a good clean-to-crunch sound (by dialing in the guitar volume) augmented by an overdrive stompbox to kick up the dirt (though not necessarily the volume) for solos or very dirty rhythm parts.  Some people might prefer getting all their dirt from the amp, some might like channel switchers.  It's a matter of personal preference.  The important thing is not to show up with an amp that's too large.  Don't bring a non-master half stack and expect folks to deal with you reasonably.
I am using you; am I amusing you? - Martha Johnson


Quote from: gtr2 on May 22, 2010, 10:18:46 AM
When at home I plug into a Blues Junior (w/Jensen) and it is so easy to get something I'm happy with...(same pedals into amp)  Any suggestions?


I agree with Rich_S whole heartedly and would add this.  Become Allies with the sound man.  Let him or her know that you are trying to make your contribution be as good as it can be.  Most sound reinforcement folks in church have little or no experience playing electric guitar so they tend to be suspect of the only instrument (other then the grand piano) that can't be plugged directily into the board without a microphone.  Educate yourself on the issues the sound person has to deal with and do what you can to not contribute to those problems.  If your room is very live and you have echo problems, get a plexi glass or foam shield for your amp, and or point it backwards off stage, or even locate it in a back room of the church.  I've put mine in a closet in the hallway before and run a mic cable to it.  That wasn't ideal but it allowed me to crank my AC30 in a relatively small church. 

In other words, don't compromise (too much) on bringing the best tone that you can to the game, but at the same time be the guy that will bend over backwards to make the whole thing work.  That's what is important anyway.  It's infectious too.  It's a cool experience when the individual musicians get over the "how do I sound" phase and start to see the much bigger picture.  In my experience, you can't get there without the sound man and the rest of the band as your allies. 

The last suggestion I have is get a good attenuator especially if you like amp overdrive.  Even an 18 watt Marshall or AC15 is REALLY LOUD cranked.  I run both of these amps dimed and control the amount of Overdrive with my guitar volume.  There is no way I could do this in my current venue without an attenuator.  I use the Weber Mini Mass, but a THD Hotplate is a good option, and there are some other spendy options out there as well like the Ultimate Attenuator.

Rock on.....


Hmm, Player...builder?  I guess I went to tech school before I ever picked up a guitar. That makes me a builder. 

Yet my new band, The Rockweilers

We are going on tour with Down By Law

in Europe in June so that makes me a player. ;D\



I've become a builder primarily. I was a player for 15 years and I enjoy both. I do want to get back to writing and recording. I think I've got one more rock record in me!

I've played bass, drums and guitar in bands over the years. I like all of them pretty equally.


I have only been playing a year now, I have 2 SS amps (PEavey Bandit 112 and LIne 6 Spider 3 30w). I run my guitar through a Zoom G1XN Multi effects unit to vary my sounds but I wanted to try out individual effects now I've have chance to learn what effects I think I will need for the kind of stuf I will be playing.

The Spider sounds to me to be artificial when the non clean channels are selected, and does sound at all good with the Zoom. I prefer the Peavey to be honest.

I'll be getting a valve amp later this year (Bugera 333XL or maybe the new Trirec or Magician when its available).

I'm on a tight budget so building my own pedals makes my money go further.

I guess I'm both player and builder.


I'm definitely a player first, builder second.

I teach a Music Industry course, which not only covers performance and composition, but also little issues like copyright, management, and the like. I also play at a minimum three nights a week- not necessarily paying gigs, but in groups or social clubs in the local area. For example, despite not being too interested in the genre, I even go to a country and western social club, just to keep my hand in and my eyes open, if you get my drift.

I've played for over 30 years  :o  and about 5 or 6 years ago, I found that I was getting increasingly unhappy with the sound I was getting. So I started off building little amps then big amps (thank you, Tino Zottola). Having survived tube amp voltages, I started on my effects. I learned as I was going, but also by referring to a lot of forums and exposing my stupidity!

I found that I ended up with a whole lot of gear I was trying out, but through natural selection narrowed it down to a set of good, solid pedals.  Every pedal has either been DIY'd or DIModded, except for a Digitech Brian May I use at some gigs- but I did make a FS3X for switching.

I don't hunt for new FX like I used to, but from time to time some little circuit will catch my eye, and I enjoy not only building it, but playing with it until I decide if it stays or if it goes.

And of course, I find it's wise to have two or three of each pedals. If someone comes up at a gig and offers me $$, I'd be a fool to not hand it over, right?  :D
- dMac

Making his own pedals since 1998!


Another church player here. I've been playing at the guitar since childhood, in my late 40's now. Should be a much better player for the length of time playing, but whatever. I got into building amps when the Marshall 18 watt craze hit, and I've built 7 or so different amps (18w head, Deluxe Reverb and Tweed Deluxe, Brown Note D'lite 22, Trainwreck Express, and a couple custom creations), and modified a couple others. Like Cap'n says, that gets pretty expensive so I've starting working on pedals. I've done a BSIABII and Guv'nor from GGG, and a Klone from buildyourowntone. I also modded a cheap Belcat overdrive to Eternity specs. I'm grateful to Brian for this resource, and have purchased several boards to build to add to the collection.


The past year or so, mostly builder. I want to be playing more, so I've taken up practising again. Amazing how much my skills have slid...

I've been playing in church since I was a teenager though, pretty regularly the past years. I drum and play various guitars and sing lead.

But building is definitely the active hobby for me. It started that way, as something to do. I have waaay more pedals than a player would really need. If I were a player who built I would have built maybe 3 or 4 pedals to fill out my pedal board, but now as I'm approaching 30 builds in the last year I have to figure I'm really more of a builder these days...

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