Kirk Fletcher: A New Pedalboard Build and the Future of Blues

A little blues, a pedalboard build, and some unreal live jams. This week, TPS accomplished all that and more as Dan & Mick hosted next-gen blues pioneer Kirk Fletcher. Not only did we get to hear Kirk’s story as a guitarist—from his early days as a budding blues player in Compton to meetups with gear legends like Alexander Dumble—we had the opportunity to glimpse into where the blues are going with his brilliantly stylish playing that is a blend of old time inspiration and innovative vibe. The blues are in good hands in 2018.

What brought Kirk to the TPS shed, however, was a gear problem. In fact, it is probably a quite common on for many guitarists, myself included. See, Kirk has a handful of pedals that sit at his feet night-in-night-out. Yet, he lacked a pedal board. His pedals were orphaned, connected only by an organic constellation of patch cords and power supplies. Before each gig he’d show up, string them together, trouble-shoot, and do his best to ensure the gear wasn’t sliding around underfoot. At the end of the gig, it’s disassemble time. A full set-up and teardown every, single time! Thankfully, Kirk is friends with Dan and Dan knows how to knock out a pedal board.

With that in mind, here’s a few hints and hacks that came up along the way for building a board fit for the pros yet possible on a budget.

Pedaltrain: An Ideal Landing Pad for Any Board

Regular viewers of TPS will note that most of the pedalboards built, whether for Dan, Mick, or touring musicians, are housed in custom tour cases. Hefty, heavy-duty, and not easy on the pocket book. For Kirk’s board, however, Dan opted for a rock-solid and more economical version by Pedaltrain. With sizes from the grab-and-go Metro line up of boards through the larger format Classic and Novo series, Pedaltrain is a proven platform for both casual and pros alike. And if you don’t have Dan in the room to help map it all out, check out www.pedalboardplanner.com to help envisage your board and determine the size you need.

For Kirk’s build, having everything locked and loaded in one place meant both the front and tail end of gigs was as smooth as his playing and his gear on the floor was set in a logical layout and ergonomic location.

The Assets of a Switching System

Each week when I watch TPS, I’m equally transfixed on the guitar pedals featured as I am on Dan’s GigRig switching systems. Switching systems give the best of both worlds. You get to keep the curated sound of your independent guitar pedals yet you benefit from the all in one switching capability that has the feel of a multi-effects unit. In terms of sound, however, Kirk’s build also highlighted some real benefits for the quality and caliber of tone brokered.

The first thing everyone in the room remarked at when Kirk took his first few strums with the new board was how quiet it was. No background hum, no lingering foggy noise, no unwanted hiss. As Kirk turned up his volume pot to begin playing he instantly remarked, “Wait, that was already on? Wow! That’s already on, there’s no noise at all and it’s louder too, way cleaner.” As Dan explained, with a switching system, there are less variables and distractions in the signal: when a pedal’s not in use, it’s not in the chain.
This means a more direct and unobstructed sound. Added to this, he highlighted how a switching system enables experiencing and deploying certain effects differently. For example, with wah pedals “you don’t have to lean in to turn it on anymore, it’s always on, which is also cool because you can leave in a cocked wah position.”

If Kirk’s experience with a switching system had you sold, check out the newly released options like the Boss ES-5 and ES-8 Effect Switching Systems.

Finding Space for More On Board: Beaming in Options with Tone Print

As Dan tagged out with Mick to continue the tour through Kirk’s new board, the topic of Kirk’s dual delay’s came up. Kirk remarked that he has a regular TC Electronic Flashback alongside the little brother version, the Flashback Mini. The reason for this is to allow for stacking of sounds as well as to enable a dedicated pedal for a preferred Tone Print. In this case, Kirk was after an effect designed by Josh Smith. “It’s kind of like a slap back type of thing,” he noted.

Whether the pedal board build is a massive one with endless routing options using a switching system of a streamlined “desert island” type board, Tone Print means you’re not locked in to any one sound. It means expanding without rebuilding, exploring without having to buy another pedal.

With Kirk Fletcher’s guest spot being the first of the New Year for TPS, things are off to a great start in 2018. Be sure to check out the full episode, not least the last stretch to hear an on air jam that points the way forward for blues.

TPS Rig Rundown

Guitars: Collings I-35LC, Fender American Vintage Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop 1963 Telecaster.

Amps: Fender Super Reverb combo, Victory Sheriff 44 with Marshall 2061 cab.

Pedals: Vox V847-A Wah Pedal, TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Mini, Lovepedal Tchula, Vemuram Jan Ray, JAM Pedals Tube Dreamer, Electro-Harmonix Small Stone EH4800 Phase Shifter, TC Electronic Flashback, TC Electronic Flashback Mini, Catalinbread Topanga, The GigRig QMX8.

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