SESSION DIARY Going Live
session guitarist Adam Goldsmith’s micro pedalboard proves its worth in a live tV finale
For those of you who read last month’s column (pay attention at the back), you may remember that I was testing out a new bit of gear, the Boss MS-3, which I’d had integrated into a custom-made pedalboard. If you missed its arrival in the market, it’s essentially a three-loop switching system to integrate pedals, with all of the Boss effects onboard. This gives you the ability to either use it to switch effects on and off like a stompbox or – and this is the way I’ve been using it – to set presets, each involving multiple effects while only hitting one switch and avoiding the tap dance.
The BBC series Pitch Battle, for which I’ve been in the house band, reached its climax with the live final last weekend as I write this, and that was the first big test for my new setup. A good proportion of my work over the last 20 or so years – starting with the first Pop Idol series – has been in TV house bands. There are essentially two methods of recording these kind of shows: the pre-record and the live show. I imagine the fundamental difference is pretty obvious, but the reality of recording the two formats is very different. Pre-records can be pretty tedious to make, with a lot of listening to the warm-up guy’s‘ jokes’ and re-taking things for camera shots, possible mistakes in delivery by presenters, scenery problems, etc, etc.All of this usually results in plenty of time to faff around with guitar and effects changes, and an hour’s show can easily take up to five hours to record.You also have the luxury of knowing that should any significant gear or musical failure occur, you can probably either do it again or fix it ‘in the mix’ before broadcast.
The live show, on the other hand, is much more exciting and fun in my opinion, because no matter what happens, you have to get it right – if you don’t, potentially several million people will see and hear you get it wrong. It’s one of my favourite ways of working as it’s quite a buzz.All the departments (sound, props, cameras, presenters, and so on) are running round on full alert and concentrating hard for the full hour or so.
So with this in mind, I used the MS-3 and a combination of my trusty Gibsons, a 1967 335 and a 1972 SG. For overdrives I used a Strymon Sunset, aJ Rocket t Archer, and for tape delays aS try mon El Cap is tan. Any‘ St rat’ parts were played my colleague Paul Dunne (from the Strictly Come Dancing band) on guitar two.
We had two days of rehearsal, so I had plenty of time to program patches. This feature really came into its own when we played aU 2 song (I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For) very close to a medley centred around the them of‘ Believing’, which involved The Monkees’ I’m A Believer , R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly and The Darkness’s I Believe In A Thing Called Love in a drop D tuning.
I used the SG for all of this, and, through past experience on The Voice, I’d already decided to program a patch entitled‘ Edge’ for any U 2 songs. This involves the use of two delays (a dotted eighth note and a quarter-note with the effect level set fairly high) and a touch of boost from the Archer. Obviously, when you’re playing to a click you need to be precise about tempo, so the very easy - to - use ‘bpm’ function on the MS-3 delays was essential. I’d set up some other commonly used generic sounds as patches. Firstly, a totally clean sound with the El Capistan loop on so I can add delay easily if required. Next a classic, glassy Strat patch with a touch of chorus, digital delay and plate reverb (I Believe I Can Fly), followed by a patch with the Archer and the El Capistan loops engaged (I’m A Believer), and lastly the Sunset Loop engaged for the big Marshall sound for I Believe In A Thing Called Love. As I didn’t have to worry about too much tap dancing, the 12 bars’ rest I had to tune to drop D on the SG were more than enough.
I’d heartily recommend the Boss unit and I’ll be using it for quite a while, although maybe a version with more loops might be nice?
Adam with his Pitch Battle crew (L-R): drummer Neil Wilkinson, musical director Chris Egan, bassist Phil Mulford, fixer Paul Spong, engineer Trystan Francis and guitarist Paul Dunne