Your Board: Mitchell Strauss’ rig for country blues
Residing in Iowa, this retired university professor has recently got into the pedal craze.
Hi Mitchell! Tell us about yourself as a guitarist.
I am a serious guitar ‘hobbyist’. While I dabbled with acoustic guitars on and off since the late 1980s, I became very serious about my playing after spending an extended time at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota attending to health matters. I take lessons weekly and practice hours every day, so my playing is coming along to the point of playing solo at local coffee houses here in Iowa.
Since I am now a retired university professor, I plan to spend even more time in this pursuit. My genre of interest is fingerstyle country blues that I play on a range of guitars, including acoustic, electric and resonator.
Tell us about your pedalboard and how it has changed over the years.
My pedalboard is a relatively recent phenomenon measured in months not years. Actually, I purchased my first pedal, an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food overdrive to throw some dirt into the sound of my Gretsch Silver Falcon; however, I decided that I am mostly a ‘clean player’, so I set the pedal aside.
Nevertheless, the technology interested me, and so recently I decided that I would like to build a board so that I could make my own country blues sound that differed a bit from traditional. I think I was impacted initially by the rows and rows of cool-looking pedals on display when I entered Bob’s Guitars in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
I built a small Pedaltrain Nano board with a Boss Loop Station, Electro-Harmonix Delay, and Boss Chorus pedals, as well as my original overdrive. Then later I added an Orange Detonator ABY switch so I could easily shift between an acoustic and electric amp.
Shortly thereafter, I had to toss aside the single pedal row Nano and expand to a double row Pedaltrain Classic (pictured above) so that I could add a Boss tuner and a JangleBox compressor, and then over a period of weeks I added a Boss Tremolo, Boss Reverb, and finally a Boss Equaliser.
The board is now full and has what I consider the basic pedals for a balanced board. I think I will stick with this configuration for a while as I learn how to best ‘dial-in’ the various guitars I play!
What sound/tone are you gunning for?
With country blues, the selection of pedals I use depends on the tune. I always use a compressor with chorus and reverb to ‘fatten’ the sound. Depending on how I wish the tune to finally sound, I may choose to add either a tremolo effect or a delay. Mostly, I just want to add my own aesthetic/ethereal effects to what was initially a straight forward acoustic sound when first played decades ago. I do really like to boost the delay when I play bottleneck on my resonators as it adds a haunting echo and really attenuates the sustain.
What do you not like about your setup?
My board can be a bit fiddly, which I understand is not an uncommon issue with a long sound chain setup. I use George L patch cables that I hand-built and unless you do it just right, they can cause minor problems. I am currently trying to hunt down the source of a ghostly whistle noise that transients in and out in a random manner. I did add a Pedaltrain Spark to offer isolated power to the various pedals to help reduce unwanted noise.
Any advice for beginners who are building their first board?
If you can, go with a large board and grow into it. I quickly outgrew the smaller one. Watch Youtube for advice on how to build a board and select its key components. Google for advice on how to order your pedals. Do not only trust the guys at the store.
What guitars do you use with the board?
I am currently playing two electrics: Taylor T3 with a Bigsby and a Taylor T5C. I threw my Gretsch Silver Falcon under the bus for the Taylor T3, which I really like. I felt like a poseur with the Gretsch.
I also run my acoustic guitars through the board, though I am light with added effects. Those guitars are: Taylor 812ce, 12-fret slot head and Taylor 914ce. Both are Indian rosewood back and sides with Sitka spruce top – I love those woods in combination.
Finally, I play two resonators through the board: A National NRP ‘B’ steel body and a National Reso Rocket WB (wood body).
What amps do you use?
The board is simultaneously connected, through an Orange Detonator ABY switch, to both a Fender Princeton Reverb (Blackface) and a Fishman Loudbox Artist Acoustic amp.