Tools Of The Trade: My Acoustic Pedalboard

Sometimes I play solo acoustic gigs. Usually they’re in a restaurant where I’m just a bit of background music while people are eating and conversing with friends and loved ones. A gig is a gig, and part of ensuring the best possible gig and being booked again is realizing what your role is in the situation. As much as I like being the center of attention when I have a guitar in my hand, that’s usually not the case with solo acoustic gigs.

When I first started playing solo acoustic gigs, I had an acoustic/electric guitar into the original Digitech Jamman looper pedal, then into the PA. I would use the looper pedal to create a rhythm track to solo over. I developed this strategy pretty much so I can spend more time playing guitar and less time torturing patrons with my singing. The acoustic guitar I used was somewhat easy to solo on, not the easiest, but I could make it work. But, the preamp in that acoustic/electric stopped working one day, so I needed to find another method.

Enter the Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator. I picked it up for a bargain on Reverb.com to give it a shot. For live purposes, it really does a realistic acoustic sound, or at least sounds as good as the preamp I had in my acoustic/electric guitar going direct into the PA. When using an electric guitar with the AC-3, I found the best sound is with a middle or neck position single coil pickup. A bridge pickup just sounds too bright and thin no matter how you EQ it. The other great feature is it has 2 outputs: one to go to the PA, and one to go to a guitar amp. When you have both outputs utilized it toggles between the two.

Enter the next secret weapon for my solo acoustic gig: the Digitech DF-7 Distortion Factory pedal. It has 7 different distortion models that sound pretty decent with some powerful EQ control. But the best feature of this pedal is it has 2 outputs as well: one with cab simulation for going to a mixer and one without cab simulation for going to a guitar amp. I use this pedal for soloing once I create an acoustic rhythm loop, usually with the Proco Rat distortion model on a lower gain setting.

To tie it all together, the Digitech Jamman Express is a must have for my acoustic pedalboard because it’s what allows me to create the rhythm loops so I can solo over them and create a one man duo. I used to have the original Jamman for this function, but it never played nice being daisy-chained with other pedals. It always had to have its own wall-wart supply or else it would add a ridiculous amount of noise into the signal. The Jamman Express, however, can be daisy-chained with other pedals without adding noise, and it’s stereo!

Although there are only 4 pedals on this board, the signal routing is a little unorthodox due to the multiple output options of the AC-3 and the DF-7. It goes:

Tuner -> Boss AC-3 -> Mixer Ouput to one channel of the Jamman and Guitar Amp Output to DF-7 -> DF-7 Mixer Out to the other input of Jamman.

What this signal flow allows me to do is have two signal chains coming out of the Jamman; one for the acoustic simulation and one for an amp simulated electric sound. Each of these will get their own channel on the mixer to EQ properly.

I rarely buy any guitar gear new and it took some hunting on Reverb.com and eBay to maximize the frugality and functionality of this board. Here is what it cost to put the board together:

Behringer Tuner: $20

Boss AC-3: $40

Digitech DF-7: $35

Digitech Jamman Express: $50

Mooer Pedalboard: $25

One-Spot Power Supply: $15

Grand Total: $185.

Being able amp to cover the role of two guitarists by myself: Priceless

Cheers,

Chuck.

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