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Troubleshooting during a live performance


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A couple of times recently I've had problems with my live rig during a performance.  The first time it turned out to be a failed switching FET in my Victory V4 preamp.  The second time it was a failed short cable in my pedalboard.

Problem is, I don't have time to troubleshoot these things so I end up staring at the rig and ultimately freaking out.  Do any of you have an effective method of troubleshooting your rig fast during a live performance?

One idea I had was for someone to create a product that plugs into each pedal in the board and shows via LED that signal is being passed.  That way you could rapidly determine where the problem is in the signal chain.

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I used to run two amps, one crunch, one clean, but mostly for this reason. If something pops, I had a "spare" to go to. If something would fail in the pedal board, I would just bypass it and go direct to amp. 

I had an amp fail during Sultans of Swing at a gig. I moved over to the other amp, set the dials  and I was back live. Only missed one lick in the process. Band didn't even know I was gone. : )

Had a pedal fail once, and same. Wasn't gone long enough for the band to stop.  We took an early break 4 or 5 songs later and I found and bypassed the offender. 

Overall,  have a plan and don't panic. 

Edited by veatch
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I had a tube fail during a performance once. I ran out to the car, grabbed  the spare amp head and was back in biz within 3 minutes.

I am a total pedalboard klutz live…,stepping on cables, unplugging crap, etc. I do so much better with just a cable or by set and forgetting one or two pedals on the amp.

That said all my amps sound good alone….so anytime something has failed and my rig goes silent or starts making bad noises, I unplug at the first pedal and plug my cable straight in to finish the song or set. 

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Bad cord or pedal: Starting at the amp end, pull cables one-by-one working back towards your guitar. When it stops making that horrendous noise, you found the bad one. Not necessarily the quickest way, but it is functional. Might wanna turn your amp down a bit first. I keep a couple of spare short cables velcroed to my pedalboard  in case of a failure.

Bad amp: Again, keep a spare handy. Quilter makes some pretty powerful tiny amp heads that take up no space and weigh practically nothing. Keep the proper 'emergency' cables ready to go with it and you're up and running in no time.

Basically, just have backups for everything. And know where they are. It doesn't help much to have spares that are buried somewhere in the back of the van. It also helps to practice switching stuff out. That way when the time comes you're not so likely to panic.

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I have one similar to this that I use when I'm setting up for show's. Test's every kind of cable, input,output,midi, 1/4", XLR....ect....

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/mackie-mtest-1-cable-tester/l00384000000000?cntry=us&source=3WWRWXMP&source=3WWRWXMP&msclkid=a33812cef614110e3d567022a5190eb3

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I saw a guitarist's rig fail for an opener.  Dude went to hit a chord - nothing.  He fiddled with his pedalboard - nothing.  Back to the amp, played around - nothing.  Back to the board.  Check the guitar.  Back to the amp.  Went behind the amp - still nothing.  About the end of the first chorus, he found the problem and was back in business.

He forgot to step on his tuner after he was done tuning.

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+1 on the tester and check to see that it is working once in a while.

My experience has been that the problem most often lies in that demon spawn of wires and gizmos between the guitar and amp.  Not to say that it isn't the amp or guitar and a spare of each isn't a good idea.  But, bypassing the board is a more or less instant fix, but doesn't solve your problem.  Go direct then troubleshoot later.  My technique over the years has been to go to the approximate middle of the signal chain, see if it's working from there, then move forward or backward in the chain as the circumstances dictate.  And yeah, don't forget to turn your tuner off.

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I have a mini-toggle on my pedalboard that does a hard bypass of the whole thing.  If I still get nothing, it’s down to two cables, the amp, or the guitar.  I always carry extra cables, a second guitar, and a Vox MV50 mini-amp as backup.

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460683B5-A2AC-49F6-9FAF-1499FACECB56.jpeg
 

Big proponent of the cable-tester method for pedalboard safety. It really saves a lot of aggravation in the long run. I’m pretty much done with solderless cables, and am going to wire up my two boards with custom-made (by me), soldered cables. 
 

The VoodooLabs board has a Dingus box. Input1/Output1 goes to tuner/chorus/delay and buffer out to the amp input. Input 2 is sort of a reverse run, with amp FXsend to reverb pedal input, reverb output going to output two->input two->FXreturn. This has proven to be a rock-solid rig. Nice thing is that it can all be bypassed in seconds if needed. 
 

*Just realized the above signal path is, “the 4-wire method.” Hey…I could be a TGPer!!*

Edited by RobB
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If your sound is mostly crunchy from the amp, plug straight to the amp and finish the song or set, that's the priority.  

If you have a clean amp and a a dirt pedal, have like an SD-1 that's battery powered ready to go and you can at least have clean/dirty.  Then on break, use the tester to check things out.  

Then troubleshooting, plug into the last pedal before the amp and your guitar into that and add each pedal back until you find the culprit.  Write a checklist down if you need to so it's there if you run into this again, then you don't have to think, you can just go by the list. 

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6 hours ago, scottcald said:

If you have a clean amp and a a dirt pedal, have like an SD-1 that's battery powered ready to go and you can at least have clean/dirty.  Then on break, use the tester to check things out.  

This is exactly what I do. 

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