Your Board: Joe Coombs’ go anywhere session pedalboard

The session player and touring guitarist for Americana sensation Yola, Jaime Wyatt and Lynne Hanson tells us about his long road to building his perfect portable pedalboard.

Coombs Pedalboard

Hi, Joe! Tell us about yourself as a guitarist.

“I have been totally obsessed with the guitar ever since I first heard The Shadows track FBI at the age of seven. I got so inspired that my parents organised for me to have lessons at school and subsequently at home in Yeovil, Somerset with a local guitar teacher called Mike Church.

“I had grown up listening to my Dad’s music, ranging from Eagles to Led Zeppelin and everything in between. That 50s to 70s era of music has stayed with me to this day and completely informed my guitar style. My main influences are Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and John Mayer although the list could go on indefinitely…”

Do you have an artist website or some music to shout about?

Yes I do, my session guitarist website is joecoombsguitarist.co.uk.

Tell us about your pedalboard and how it’s changed over the years.

“It has been through quite a few changes over the years. My first board was basically a double tube screamer-style overdrive and a tremolo as I began my guitar journey as a Les Paul and Marshall player, so the board was small. Then I morphed into a Fender guitar and amp person and it was then that I could start utilising pedals the way I wanted to. Now I use my pedals for all my drive tones as well as all my delays, reverbs modulations etc.”

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What sound/tone are you aiming for with this board?

“This board has been a project of mine over the last year to basically create a small, travel-sized board that I can fly with or take anywhere with me, and it not be too heavy or imposing. A big part is having a selection of tones that can work into pretty much any backline amp that comes my way, as well as different guitars.

“I tour with a lot of Americana style artists, a lot in the blues and country realm, so what I aim to have always is first a solid clean tone and the utterly magical Origin Effects Cali76 is always a part of that. Also essential is a wide range of drive sounds on tap, a good dynamic/low gain and a mid gain overdrive that both stack well together.

“Delay and reverb is very important to me, too and Strymon are one of my favourite companies in this area. The El Capistan and Flint are incredible and are the industry standard for so many guitarists, especially with the favourite switches – meaning I can have a slapback sound and a big reverb saved and ready to go without having to adjust anything on the fly. I wanted to have it so using a smaller board wasn’t a compromise on tone and versatility, and I think I have really got there with this set up.

What’s the one pedal you can’t live without and why?

“I think I would have to go with the latest pedal I have acquired recently which is the Browne Amplification Protein. If I can get a good clean tone out of the amp, and it happens to have reverb, then a good drive pedal is all I would need for a gig and this is my choice. It is a dual pedal and features two of my favourite drive circuits which have been heavily tweaked, the result is one of the BEST overdrive pedals I have ever owned.”

What’s your ‘holy grail’ pedal?

“If I’m honest a lot of the pedals I currently have are really the end of a long journey I have been on for the past seven years. A while ago I would have said many of the pedals that I am grateful enough to now own, So really there are not a lot of stompboxes that I’m still gassing over. Well not right now at least…

“However, even though it isn’t strictly a ‘pedal’, the GigRig G2 is a pedal switcher that I have had my eye on for a very long time. I am a huge fan of what Dan is doing, and I just think he is making some of the very best quality pedalboard-related tools out there.

What amps do you use?

“My go to amp for the last six years has been my 2004 Fender ‘59 LTD tweed Bassman. It has the most wonderful clean tone that has a natural compression which I haven’t found in a lot of other amps. The 4×10 Jensen speakers sound really balanced and sweet and it’s an amp that takes pedals incredibly well.

“I have just ordered a Rift Amps PR35, which should be ready for me to use on some tours I have coming up, where something smaller in size is going to be just the ticket. Chris [Fantana] is building fantastic stuff there, and I am going to be really honoured to be part of the Rift family!”

Do you have any advice for beginners who are building their first pedalboard?

“I would say first of all the internet is a truly wonderful thing. With the likes of yourselves, That Pedal Show, Andertons and Reverb putting out incredibly high quality video demos of some wonderful pedals it takes a lot of the guesswork out of whether you might like a pedal or not, as opposed to 10 years ago.

“With regards to your first board I would recommend you get a board that has a little room to expand on, so you don’t fill it up within a week of buying it! If you can invest in some sort of good power supply, even a Truetone OneSpot would do a good job. Once you start upgrading your pedals, get a proper isolated power supply. I currently have the Cioks DC7 on mine.

“I would say the same with regards to patch cables – don’t skimp too much just because it is your first board! MXR, Hosa or Mogami make a great range of pre-made soldered cables that are of a high quality and won’t break the bank. The cables I am using on my board are from PedalPatch, which is a brilliant make-it-yourself solderless kit.”

Finally, what guitars do you use with the board?

“I have a great Gibson ES-335. I had been searching for a good 335 for a while and I found this 2018 Anchor Stud with Bisgby model and it was one of those moments where you know this is the guitar for you. My number one is my Fender ‘64 American Vintage Reissue Telecaster. This one has done so many gigs with me and even now when I play it it’s beyond inspiring. It’s one of the most simple yet versatile guitars on the planet, and still one of the best. Leo got that design right!”

Joe Coombs is currently on tour with Yola. Read our interview with Yola here.

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