Cover band guitar rigs

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by medwards1969, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. medwards1969

    medwards1969 Member

    Dec 24, 2006
    Palm Harbor FL
    For you experienced musicians who have spent quite a few years playing live in successful cover bands, what are the elements of your rig that have proven to be important to help you to do a good job to cover a wide variety of pop songs? Is it particular pedals, and/or possibly particular combinations of guitars, pickups, pedals, or amp types, etc. ? What are the key elements of a successful cover band setup? (besides chops and a good voice!) :)

    Thanks in advance. Mark
  2. C-4

    C-4 Member

    Mar 23, 2009
    Here for now, Europe when I die. Am I dead yet?
    I have been playing in bands since 1957. I change up my gear based on the needs required for the work I am hired to do.
    Right now, I am in a commercial cover band playing 60's, 70's and 80's blues, rock and dance music.

    I use either a Diezel Einstein 50 watt combo, or a Marshall JMD-1 50 H head through a Marshall 1912 bottom, mic'd with a front-end only p-board. The Marshall has onboard effects, but when using the Diezel, I have a TC Nova System in the loop for time-based effects.

    In a couple of months, I will be updating to a new amp, new speaker cab, and hopefully, by years' end, an Eventide H9 and more next year. I was going to try a Kemper or AXE-FX, but after reading about them, I'd rather do my own thing.

    My current front-end board is tuner>volume pedal>Vox wah> Empress compresssor> Tim> Simble>Palmetto Boost> buffer to amp input. It's nice to switch between saturated amp tones, saturated pedals or a mixture of both.

    I use for guitars, an XOX Handle with a blend control and 2 mini toggles which go separately to each pickup doing series/parallel/single coil wiring, Tele, and Vigier S-type. I mostly play the Handles as they are more then versatile enough, and they only weigh 5 pounds.

    I've used refrigerator sized racks in the 80's and early 90's, large pro made touring pedal boards, and smaller boards. I have now been using smaller, less complicated gear only because the audience isn't there to see me. They are there to dance and drink. Also, I like to try to keep up with new gear when it is applicable to my needs, and/or allows me to shrink the size of my current gear.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
  3. chrisjnyc

    chrisjnyc Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2009
    I am not in a cover band... but the ones I have seen usually have a rack\presets type rig

    Axe FX
    Line 6 M13\POD HD
    Boss GT8
  4. dpgreek

    dpgreek Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2013
    I do a lot of cover songs with a band from pop, to classic rock, to some metal.... Fender Hot Rod Deluxe is working good. I also go direct to PA with a great tube pre/Torpedo CAB combination which works pretty well. Use that more often than not due to portability and also the ability to change the power section/cab sim to match up with systems and bassists. I love using my amp, but sometimes hauling it around and adjusting it in hostile environments (crappy rooms crappy sound guys) can be a pain. I'm looking to get something different.

    I use a humbucking guitar with with split coil feature to multiple sounds. Mobius for modulation one stop shop (and has pre/post loop to easily move effects to be pre or post dirt), empress tape delay with multiple presets (slap back to long ambient), reverb pedal, and multiple drives with different flavors really cover my needs (I have a TS variant, Klon variant, Marshall variant, muff, boost). Those combined give me great coverage.
  5. Birddog

    Birddog Member

    Nov 9, 2007
    For me it's simplified pedal boards that work well live, knowledge of the gear, a good guitar (agree with the above post about a coil-tapped guitar) and a great amp. My biggest problems have been when my pedal board swelled too include too much modulation and/or too many overdrives. I'm back down to no modulation, and two good drives that are stackable (and somewhat redundant in case one dies!).

    Being able to concentrate on playing rather than gear is a huge asset, especially when you're singing backup, or lead.

    I have a lot of pedals and enjoy playing with them, but I mostly leave them at home.

    Keep it simple.
  6. 8len8

    8len8 Member

    Dec 25, 2010
    1- a good 2 channel (clean, distorted) amp.
    2- a pedalboard with the usual assortment of effects (wah, volume, OD, modulation, delay).

    I usual don't try to get the exact tone of each song. In my experience the audience doesn't get that much more out of the show from that. I just try to play the parts 90% note for note, and have energy and fun on stage.
  7. jota

    jota Member

    Jun 1, 2005
    I play in cover bands for about 15 years.
    My gear changed a lot during this time!
    There was a time were I tried to match the tones on the songs but it never worked.
    For me, I have to have my sound and I can make it work for every tune!
    I have to add some effects I wouldn't normally use, like harmonizer when the song asks for it, or bit more drive than I would normally use but, other than that it's just a good guitar, a nice amp and a few effects.
    Right now I'm using a fuzz and a KoT, a Nova System for effects and a Flashback delay just because I like it but, I've made a gig with only 1 overdrive with boost and a delay and nobody noticed any difference!

    So, if you got the chops in place and nail the riffs/chords, do a good job on the leads and sound acceptable, nobody cares if you don't have the same tone as the record!
    You need to be versatile. The rig, not so much.
  8. GCDEF

    GCDEF Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2005
    Hey, I live in Palm Harbor too.

    Anyway, for me a good amp is by far the most important piece. I prefer at least two channels that do clean and distorted sounds really well.

    Second I like to have a good Strat and something with humbuckers.

    I prefer multi-effects pedals just because there's less to worry about when something isn't working.
  9. FenderBigot

    FenderBigot Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Tampa Bay
    I agree with most of this... I will add that some songs require 100% note for note and others require catching the "hook" and then having your way with the rest of it, it just depends on the song.

    I have been playing in a mostly cover band for about 20 years. I have had a pedalboard with as many as 12 pedals (including wah & tuner), I have used a rack multi-fx and I have also done just a wah/tuner/amp set up without any other pedals. It really depends on the overall band's approach.

    I think the key is a good amp with a really good OD/dirt pedal, plus a quality delay and one mod pedal. Start there and grow as needed. I think a Strat is the best weapon for guitar, it covers so much ground.

    (I also live in Palm Harbor)
  10. cacibi

    cacibi Member

    Mar 21, 2007
    My buddy plays in a long-standing, successful, local cover band. He just switched over to an AxeFX rig and I don't think he's looking back. In fact he's selling a ton of gear after the fact. I've seen a lot of people unload before to pay for the Axe but he has the means to buy first and I've been surprised at how much he is unloading in favor of the Axe. I think if I was in a similar situation, this is the way I would go. He also takes it really seriously in that he studies the tunes, reads what he can in the way of studio notes about the recording of the songs they cover then builds his modeled presets accordingly.
  11. rummy

    rummy Member

    Jul 12, 2008
    Mark IV. It gives me the flexibility to assign loop to different channels. With a tube screamer, I get four different types of sounds.
  12. ChampReverb

    ChampReverb Silver Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2007
    Slightly west of Boston
    Everyone is different in terms of gear preferences and every band is different in terms of stage volume, song lists, how closely you're going to try to repro the original versions of the songs, etc.

    I think you need to go through enough equipment to find out what works well for you.

    The more you can eliminate downtime between songs the better, usually.

    I prefer to use small single channel amps (mic'd) for a good cleanish tone and then I use pedals to add different flavors of dirt and modulation.

    We play jangly, twangy, electric/acoustic folk rock that's heavy on vocal harmonies.

    -bEn r.
  13. KoskineN

    KoskineN Supporting Member

    Jul 22, 2010
    Levis, Quebec.
    I do the same, but with my Roadster.
  14. RockStarNick

    RockStarNick Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2005
    North NJ
    Well, it totally depends on the band, but:

    My last band played to a lot of backing track sequences (to a click, of course).

    So having the Timeline and Mobius on my board was incredible, not only for the variety of tones, but the ability to program in presets for tempo. I almost never had to use my tap-tempo, because I'd have it preset. That was really convenient.
  15. flatnine

    flatnine Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    Northern California
    I've been doing covers at the corporate level for many years and whats most important for me is a rig that will store the multiple sounds I need for the 5-8 groups I might find myself on stage with. You probably won't need this elaborate a rig but for me I love the sounds I get. Having the Black 65 and the Flint on the board allows me to use a back-lined amp when needed as well.


    Add to this either a Port City Pearl for a loud group, or a Custom '68 Princeton for a quiet group and I'm good to go.

    Also crucial for me is an e609 Sennhieser side address mic. I don't know how many times I've had the sound co put up a full size boom and run the cable right across my gear when I have 2 square feet of space. That or they hang a 57, which of coarse points right at the floor picking up all sorts of extra noise not to mention a "side View" of the sound from my speaker...
  16. Chris McKinley

    Chris McKinley Member

    Apr 15, 2012
    I've played live since '84, but I've never had an experience that so brought home the points of this thread as last year. I played just shy of 100 shows where every night was a continuous game of stump the band. The other musicians were so good that we would take on literally anything at all. We played rock, blues, country, metal, polka, jazz, New Age, ragtime, gospel, medieval lute music....I mean anything. As 8len8 mentioned, it's more important that you play the song the way the audience remembers it.

    As for gear, if I were to design a rig from the ground up for such purposes, I'd say have a couple of guitars on hand, single coil and humbuckers both. Have a couple of amps if possible, one that runs from pristine clean to medium gain and one that overlaps from there on to high gain hard rock/metal. Maybe a Fender DRRI and a Marshall half-stack, for instance.

    For pedals, I'd have a clean boost, a low-gain OD, a Tubescreamer or other higher-gain OD, a graphic EQ, a delay, and a reverb. Wah is optional since percentage-wise, very few songs in recording history actually have wah, though some just aren't the same without it. Chorus can be omitted altogether, though a phaser can do double duty for flanger parts, and like wah, some songs have phase effect as an essential part of how the song is remembered.

    Finally, I'd REALLY like to stress the absolute importance of learning how to ride the volume and tone controls on your guitar. If you're covering a truly wide array of covers, you WILL be riding the volume at least on your guitar constantly.
    GordL likes this.
  17. eddie knuckles

    eddie knuckles Member

    Feb 14, 2012
    worcester, ma
    Back when I was 16 and cool, a LP copy, Deluxe Reverb and Big Muff and cry baby was all I needed to cover Funk to Punk.

    Now, many years later and playing pop and country covers, I need a clean 40W 2-12 combo (although I gigged with my Vox Pathfinder for the first time Saturday night), Compression, Wah, Fuzz, mild OD, Trem, chorus (or flange), 2 delays, reverb, and a looper.

    Go figure....
  18. eddie knuckles

    eddie knuckles Member

    Feb 14, 2012
    worcester, ma
    and yes, volume pedal and volume control on the guitar are just as important as Chris McKinley points out above
  19. Kitten Cannon

    Kitten Cannon Member

    Sep 27, 2010
    It depends on your approach I guess. I don't understand some of these responses. A good drive channel? Why?? You're going to need a few colors on the palette to paint with, in my opinion. I play mainly country, but that's totally more challenging than meets the eye, because old country was really clean and spanky, and 80s country was really wet and Stratty, 90s country started bringing in some drive here and there, but the modern stuff can be anything from clean U2-ish stuff to wall-of-Marshalls drive.

    For me, the solution to covering that broad a range of tones is to have an amp that takes pedals well at both high and low volumes (not all stages/gigs are created equal) and then use a handful of levels of overdrive on the board, each set up for a minimal volume boost so they can be combined with one another to create a ton of extra options. I don't really try to match tones exactly from the records, but I also wouldn't play a clean section overdriven or vice versa.

    The biggest mistake I see people make is playing this stuff with waaaaay too much overdrive, which makes a mush of the sound and you can't really tell what they're doing. That goes for rock cover bands too, and most other genres.

    Anyway. All of that said, my board is:
    Tuner > Dyna Comp > Archer > Nobels ODR-1 > SL Drive > EP Booster > Maxon Phaser > Diamond ML2 > Strymon Flint.

    Most nights it's running through a cleanish amp. Morgan SW50, Jackson Newcastle 30, Deluxe Reverb, Longhorn Texas Tru Tone, Carr Vincent, or sometimes a 68 Twin.

    Preeeetty versatile. I haven't happened upon a gig yet that I couldn't use this board for, although like I said I mainly play country.
  20. dirk_benedict

    dirk_benedict Supporting Member

    May 29, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    This is as minimal as I could get:

    Fenderish clean amp.
    1 Low gain 1high gain dirt.
    Mobius (or 1-2 mod pedals).

    For my gig I also used a loop station to trigger samples (often times the hook of the song), so that was important too.

    Optional: Wah/envelope filtery thing. Fuzz.

    Guitars: 1 strat, 1 HB'er. Or even better, something with a piezo on it and a separate output for acoustic sounds. A HB strat is probably the best single option.

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