Paul TFO Allen: Erasing Your Comfort Zone

April 08, 2011
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  I like to change my rig around frequently, mainly so that I don’t get too used to a particular setup.  The majority of the time, I play one guitar during a set and I don’t use any pedals.  I also never utilize a guitar tech.  I just got back from Alabama, where I was doing a show with Gretchen Wilson and Trace Adkins. For that weekend’s show, I decided to venture further outside of my common routine and take three guitars, a tech, and a bunch of analog effects.

I didn’t have a tuner on my pedalboard so the pitch accuracy of my instruments was entirely in the hands of my tech.  Not knowing if my guitar was in tune before each song started was a strange feeling, but the tech did a great job and everything went off without a hitch.  This is going to seem like a trivial nugget of information, but I utilized a useful trick this weekend.  Normally, I would use a tuner to mute my signal to avoid pops and buzzes when unplugging guitars to swap axes with a tech.  Since I didn’t have a tuner on my board, I set one of the overdrive pedal’s outputs on zero and used that to mute my signal to the amp.  Sometimes what a pedal doesn’t do can be useful.

I’m a big advocate of changing string gauges, action, guitars, amps, picks, speakers and any other components of a rig on a regular basis.  We’ve all had that gig where we couldn’t find a pick and had to play the entire show with a quarter or a credit card.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’ve heard that Jeff Beck stopped playing with picks once he had the epiphany that he couldn’t drop his finger! 

Using a variety of different gear teaches you a great deal about what you like and don’t like, but more importantly, it teaches you how to always rise to the occasion, no matter which factors have changed.  A player’s comfort level should not be dependent on their equipment.  In my opinion, always being prepared by knowing the material paired with experience equate to having the confidence to be comfortable in any playing situation.  I challenge you to change something about your rig for your next show.  Every time you do that, you’ll be one step closer to erasing your comfort zone. —Paul “TFO” Allen

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