This page is dedicated to the gear I use to make music. Chances are, you don’t need to buy new gear, and buying new gear won’t make you sound like me or anyone else, and you, I, and the rest of the world need to turn on a metronome and practice. But gear is handy and fun. If you wondered what I use, here it is. If it’s on this page, I like it.
I use a Kemper Profiling Amp. I bought this one in Summer 2014 and haven’t looked back. I’m able to get a lot of different amp sounds and have spent time finding top quality profiles that fit me well. The ability to do silent direct recording at any time of day or night is nice, and when I’m on the road there is no variability to my guitar sound. I know it will be exactly the same and if something sounds off, it’s not the amp.
Common question I get asked: Do you like your Kemper? Should I buy a Kemper?
Yes, I like my Kemper. I don’t know if you should buy one or not. It isn’t for everyone. There are ~31 buttons/knobs on the front of it. There are menus and submenus. You need to read the whole manual. If you’re down for that, then you’ll unlock almost infinite guitar tone potential. If you want to plug in and play and not worry about details, then a tube amp is much more up your alley.
THIS LINK is my Amazon affiliate link if you feel like buying a Kemper and want me to get a kickback for influencing that decision.
Alright, let’s move on to the profiles I use.
1. Dr. Z Stingray, serial #001. A guitar amp enthusiast in Michigan with a mini museum of Z’s and Marshalls let me come over and profile some of his amps. You can see that happen in this video. My favorite thing to come out of that process was this Stingray profile. I used to have a Dr. Z Stang Ray (same thing) when I was playing in a bar band in high school. It was the first good amp I ever owned, and it helped shape how I play. It can get harsh if you aren’t on top of your game, but it fights you back when you dig in like a good tube amp should and has the highest rewards in store for accurate, intentional playing. This is the profile I go to when I want to sound like me.
2. Carr Slant 6V (MBritt profile). This is a Fender style amp that J.T. Corenflos uses. He’s a big influence on my playing, so I checked it out and loved how clean, articulate, and bassy it was. It has a totally different frequency balance than the Stingray, but both have plenty of low end and they couple really well. I’ll use this for a lot of rhythm parts and Fender amp sounds.
3. Matchless SC30 (MBritt profile). In the early 1990’s Matchless amps were designed by Mark Sampson, and the DC30 (2×12 combo), SC30 (1×12 combo), and HC30 (head) amps were meant to be more road-ready and durable versions of early 60’s British Vox AC30’s. At some point Mark Sampson parted with Matchless and the quality declined, so every top studio guy in Nashville has a “Sampson Era” Matchless because they record so well. This profile is one of those. It has less bass than the Z and Carr, and has some amazing sparkle to it.
4. 1965 Fender Bassman (MBritt profile). This is the only overdriven profile in my main bank, because it sounds really freaking smooth and great. This is a delicious rhythm sound. When you make the open C chord with the G note on the low E string included, this profile makes it sound like the greatest sound that’s ever been made.
5. 1967 Fender Deluxe Reverb (MBritt profile). This is a really clean profile with a lot less inherent character to it than the other 4 amps in this bank. I put it in this lineup because every now and then I need to be in the background and just execute a part that sounds smooth and good without being distracting. This profile is for when I want to be mature and generous.
1, 2, and 3. 1970 Marshall Super Lead 100 (MBritt profiles). Aside from Vox and Fender, Marshall is the other big amp style used in country music. It’s a rock amp, but a lot of country songs have rock guitar sounds now. I have 3 of them because they all sound awesome and are a little different from each other. This is my go-to for AC/DC, Slash, or Lynyrd Skynyrd inspired guitar sounds. It’s big and crunchy.
4. Dr. Z Z-Wreck (MBritt profile). This is based on a Trainwreck Amp made by Ken Fischer, which is a type of amp all its own. I tried a couple Trainwreck profiles and liked this one better. There’s more bass and the mids are clearer, even though the frequency balance of this style of amp doesn’t lend itself to clear mids. It has a low midrange thing that most amps don’t have and might benefit the mix.
5. Bogner Ecstacy (MBritt profile). I’m a fan of Joe Don Rooney’s Les Paul sounds and I’ve seen him use a Bogner Ecstacy live, so I decided to check out this profile and I liked it a lot. It’s a bit more compressed and modern than the Marshall Super Leads, and has the unique ability to get the pumpy palm muted sound without having that much bass, so it’ll fit into a mix really easily and not sound thin.
1. Dumble Overdrive Special (MBritt profile). I went through a lot of Dumble profiles and found the one that sounds best on the neck pickup. It’s the bluesiest sound I’ve ever made come off my fingertips. I don’t use the neck pickup a ton, but when I have a track that calls for it, this profile sounds incredible.
2. Mesa Lone Star Special (MBritt profile). The main reason I have this profile is because I used to own a Lone Star Special (it was the 2nd good amp I ever owned) and it has a place in my heart. It’s a great sounding amp, and a best-case scenario backline amp. It’s here in case I need it, though it hasn’t ended up on a recording yet because I have so many other edge-of-breakup amps to pick from.
3. Little Walter 22 (MBritt profile). This is a twangy clean profile that sounds Vince Gill-ish. I’ll usually opt for the Stingray or Carr for twang, but I could see a situation popping up once in a while where I’d want this flavor instead, so I’ll keep it around.
4. Budda SD30 (free on Rig Manager). I have a soft spot for heavy guitar sounds and this one is a really modern heavy sound that I enjoy. I keep it totally dry and only use it once in a while for really exaggerated stuff, but I’m glad I have the option.
5. 1956 Fender Twin (MBritt profile). I plan on trying this for steel. I had a free Twin profile I’ve used in the past and felt like giving this a shot, even though it’s a little earlier than the sound I’m aiming for.
For a long time I used the Kemper without a pedalboard, because it’s greedy to have a nice pedalboard and a modeling amp that can do anything. But I got greedy. The quality of sound produced by overdrive pedals is a little better than the modeled stompboxes in the Kemper. If I wasn’t planning on having a career in music, I might not bother with the added stress and expenditure of a pedalboard, but there is a few percentage points worth of function I get by having “real” gain pedals vs. not having them.
1. Line 6 Relay G70 Wireless. I need a wireless for live shows. This one is digital, low latency, built better than the initial line of Relay units, and fairly small. That’s pretty much all I need from it. The option for multiple packs/inputs is cool, too, but that’s not how I’ve used it so far.
2. Creation Audio Labs Redeemer Buffer (back of board). It’s a buffer. It keeps me from losing high end and clarity even when I go through a ton of cabling and true bypass pedals. Not super complicated, it works well.
3. Keeley Tone Workstation. Everything I have to say about this pedal is in this video. I like it a lot. It has a compressor, boost, and Tubescreamer overdrive.
4. Xotic RC Booster. This pedal is the most common pedal to find on an A-list session player’s board. It’s a great clean boost, the gain always sounds natural, and you can really easily change the shape of the sound with the bass and treble knobs.
5. Wampler Tumnus. This is a clone of a Klon Centaur, which is a really hyped up pedal that has become an internet meme among guitar players. It sounds cool, though. It has natural amp-like overdrive and a distinct upper-mid thing going on. It pairs well with the Marshall style profiles (not all pedals do) if you need “more”. Works on the other amps, too.
6. ZVex Box Of Rock. I shot out Marshall style crunch boxes and this won. It responded the most dynamically to my playing.
7. Hermida Audio (Lovepedal) Zendrive. When I play my Anderson Tele through my Stingray profile this pedal sounds best. It’s midrangey and compressed in only the good ways, but still doesn’t overlap with a Tube Screamer sound. It’s its own thing, based on Robben Ford’s Dumble sound.
8. Wampler Paisley Deluxe. The right side of the pedal is based on a Nobels ODR-S, and this is the one overdrive I keep set really high. I step on the button and it transforms the sound into a compressed, saturated, liquidy thing that smooths everything out without at all limiting me creatively or trapping me in a dynamics-less box. Also, it’s perfect for playing electric with a slide. Perfect.
The left side of the pedal is the original Paisley Drive, based on a Trainwreck sound. It adds some of the same low mid frequencies that most pedals and amps can’t make sound good. The Paisley Drive makes that awkward low mid area sound good. I’ve used it on some rhythm guitars in recordings, to make sure it pairs up well with other instruments that scoop out this frequency area.
9. TC Electronic Flashback Mini. I use this for my slapback sound. It goes into the front of the amp and frees up an effects space on my Kemper. The pedal doesn’t inherently sound like anything, but you can hook it into your computer and adjust all the parameters you want, so I made this pedal into my ideal slapback echo pedal. Disclaimer: TC’s toneprint software has a disappointing user interface and I couldn’t get everything exactly how I wanted because of a bug that didn’t let me enter in the numbers I want and lack of fine control on the sliders, but I got it 95% of the way to where I wanted. Hopefully TC improves the software user interface, because the pedal itself is capable of anything and it’s a bummer that the GUI is the only thing getting in the way.
10. Kemper Remote. This is the controller for the Kemper. Buttons 1-5 switch profiles in a bank, the up and down arrows scroll through banks, the tap button is for tap tempo, I-IV buttons are for effects (I have it set up for 8th note delay, dotted 8th note delay, 1/4 note delay, and reverb), tuner turns on the tuner, and looper is originally meant for looping but I re-mapped it to turn on a tremolo. If the song calls for it I can pretty easily swap out tremolo for any other effect like phaser, chorus, vibrato, etc.
11. Custom Mini Kemper Expression (bottom right). I used a Mission Engineering EP-1 KP for a long time and it was great, but it was big. I bought a Hotone Bass Press, took all of the guts out, and put in parts to make it electrically equivalent to the Mission pedal. I use it as a volume pedal, but when the toe switch is clicked it turns into a wah pedal. Click the toe switch again and it’s back to volume. Saves a lot of space, and no audio goes through this pedal, it’s only telling the Kemper what to do (the wah and volume changes are happening in the Kemper).
I’m using a Truetone One Spot CS-12 to power the board. It’s quiet, has isolated outputs, and mounts to the bottom of the board easily. Best power supply you can buy.
This is the Creation Audio Labs buffer I mentioned. And you can see my Best-Tronics I/O panel on the side of the board. In my home studio I only use the input because the layout puts the Kemper on my left side, but it’s nice to have the option of a right-side output.
Swamp Ash top on Swamp Ash back, Hard Rock Maple Neck, 10-52 strings, TD series pickups, 5-way switch that’s hum cancelling in positions 2 and 4 (I’m usually on position 2).
This is my first great acoustic guitar. Martin dreadnaughts are the acoustic guitar sound on my favorite albums and in my head. Every time I strum it, it makes my ears happy. I’ve got Elixir Nanoweb strings on it, which makes a big difference in the clarity of the guitar.
1. Thru-Tone Steel Mod Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. Justin Butler mods volume pedals and my EB VP broke during a show, so I took it to him. He fixed it, souped it up, and added a buffer.
2. Peterson Strobostomp Classic. This is a pedal tuner with built in tuning offsets for steel. It can also tune straight up and down if you’d rather do it that way.
3. Wampler Mini Ego Compressor. Steel sounds good with some compression.
This is a EBS Multi-Comp (set to tube mode) into a Cable Factory DI Pro. It’s a small, inexpensive, easy way to shape the electric bass sound before it gets to the DAW.
This is the model of mic used for Dierks Bentley’s vocals on his first 4 studio albums. Mostly out of superstition, I use it, too. It sounds good to me.
The one Dierks used has a piece of tape with “DB” written on it to distinguish it from the other Solid Tubes at Station West Studios. I put a “JL” on mine for narrative strengthening.
Every guitar player loves gear, and I’ve been lucky enough to build a relationship with some of the people that make gear that I use every day.
I have a Hollow T Classic Tele style guitar that I use for everything I do. Semi-hollow, swamp ash body, maple neck, Tom Anderson TD series stacked humbucker pickups with a 5-way-switch. Translucent blonde finish. It’s a perfect guitar. Tom only makes perfect guitars.
I’ve liked Wampler pedals for years. The Analog Echo was my favorite pedal for a long time, and now I have their souped up Faux Tape Echo V2. One of my favorite pedals is the Ego Compressor. The Hot Wired V2 is one of the best overdrive pedals I’ve ever played. Now they have the Paisley Drive Deluxe which is sick (see video above), and I’ve been digging the Euphoria and Tumnus. They know how to make pedals sound great.
Bad, mismatched cables were the bane of my existence for a long time. Random drops in treble or even level with one cable vs another, some cheap cables in my chain and some okay cables in my chain, and I didn’t want to spend $80 per cable to fix it. Now PCNS cables are my secret weapon that I’m more than happy to tell people about. Every mic and instrument cable in my studio and rig is custom made by PCNS and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an instant reduction in stress level knowing that I don’t have to worry about cables anymore.
When I got the aforementioned Tom Anderson tele style guitar it came with Elixir strings on it. I played them and liked them better than the random sets I used before, so I’ve used them ever since. I’ve tried other strings and I don’t like them as much. Nanoweb coating feels great and lasts a long time. Uncoated strings don’t make sense to me anymore. I use 10-52 Nanowebs for electric and Medium gauge Phospher Bronze Nanowebs for acoustic. I also have their strings on my Bass, Banjo, and Mandolin, plus custom packs for my Pedal Steel and Dobro.
These mics are made in Nashville a few miles from where I live by some guys that graduated from Belmont and they sound great. They’re way less expensive than super high end names and I picked Miktek in a shootout against a ton of great mics. I’ve got the C7e for acoustic instruments, the C5 for acoustic instruments, and the PMD7 set for my drums.
I was running low on picks for all of college. Toward the end of college I asked a friend where he got custom picks for his band and he introduced me to the artist rep at Jim Dunlop. I got a bunch of custom picks made and by clicking around their site I started to notice how much of their stuff I already used. I gravitated toward the Mudslide, slide/pick holder, Straploks, and some more accessories over the years and when I figured out they were all made by the same company I thought it was pretty cool.