I've always tried to challenge myself, to restrict myself to just the few basic things that I need rather than bringing out a giant pedalboard full of stuff I might only use once or twice in ten songs. When it comes to guitar, I've been a minimalist longer than I've even realized.
Sure, there have been times when I've carried a board much larger than needed, but I always come back to five basic ingredients: Soft compression, a Tube Screamer, short digital delay, long analog delay, short reverb. I can conquer the world with five pedals.
For a year or so, I left the big pedalboard at home and just carried two guitars, a compressor, Tube Screamer, DD-5, and RV-5 in the Mono Dual and Tick on my back, with an amp in one hand and coffee in the other. On my way to church.
As simple as I like to keep it, some of you who have read my blog for awhile might be thinking I'm a total hypocrite. That's because in the last three years, I've owned and sold eight amps. Eight amps in three years. I'm insane.
That's the thing about being an indecisive person. I don't know whether I like a big board or small best, whether I like a Strat or Tele best, whether I preferred my Matchless over my vintage Fender amps more. I can tell you what qualities in each that I've loved, but you'd be so cruel to make me pick any one over the other.
Enter the Kemper Profiling Amp. The Kemper is my vintage '66 Fender Super without needing maintenance. It's my old college Dr. Z Maz 18 when I'm feeling nostalgic. It's my Matchless cranked to levels no church lady would ever allow before. At the flip of a switch I can have any amp I've ever loved.
To add, the Kemper Remote effectively gives me a Pedaltrain Nano stocked with effects on the roman numeral switches. On my Kemper Remote, I can have five patches per bank (called performances), and up to eight effects on each patch.
Each song can be a separate performance so that all I've got to do is bank up to the next song to have my patches for each section of the song. For instance, I can bank up from 'Ever Be' to 'Relentless' and suddenly I've got five new amp sounds with as many as 40 pedals.
It's like having five different amps and five different Pedaltrain Nanos for each song. As cool as all that capability is, that's not how I'm using my Kemper. Let me explain my workflow and how the Kemper is perfect for the minimalist.
On my Kemper Remote, switches 1 – 3 in each performance are my rhythm guitar sounds in varying levels of gain. Patch 1 is dead clean. Patch 2 is lightly driven. Patch 3 is medium gain, about as heavy as I care to get for church. I'm using a profile of a buddy's Chieftain with my Klon and his vintage Tube Screamer in front of it.
That's another cool thing about the Kemper: You can profile pedals in line with the amp to capture their sound with the amp. So my overdrive sounds can be part of my five primary switches. Clean rhythm 1, rhythm 2 (Chieftain/Klon), rhythm 3 (Chieftain/Tube Screamer).
The footswitches on the Kemper Remote's top row are labeled in roman numerals, "I-II-III-IV." Those are your effects. You could program in a compressor, a boost, a modulation effect, and a reverb (that is how I have my clean Patch 1 set up).
Or you can program an EQ to come on with the compressor to tighten up the amp a bit and dial back the mids in your gainy sound. With a Tube Screamer on the second switch, a delay on the third, and a reverb on the fourth. That's how I have my Patches 2 and 3 set.
Here's something that's cool: Each footswitch can double up on effects, so you can have a Noise Gate and Compressor on one switch, coming on together (you can also have them built into the patch, coming on by default when the patch is selected and not mapped to an effects switch).
You could make a footswitch so that it's a slow tremolo when the patch is engaged and a solo boost on the B side of the switch. So I hit numeric "2" and I'm hearing a tremolo with my rhythm sound, then I hit roman numeral "II" and the tremolo disengages and gives me a solo boost.
Another thing I like to do is have a footswitch that has a short delay on the A side and a long delay on side B. Or a Tube Screamer in a low gain setting on the A side and a Tube Screamer in a high gain setting on the B side.
Using the Remote is like having someone to turn the knobs on my Matchless for me in the middle of the song, with five different pedalboards at my disposal. It's the same amp, but I get to roll it back or push it or change the brightness at the click of a switch. I love that.
Then, in my workflow, my Patch 4 is my lead or solo sound. It's the same Chieftain, with EQ always in to tighten things up a bit, much less subtle compression, a Tube Screamer pretty full out, a very soft tremolo and very subtle flanger paired together if I need them for like a B section of the solo, a short analog delay, and a bright reverb.
Up until this point (Patches 1 through 4) all my reverbs are short, bright, and tight hall sounds, but my solo patch's reverb has just the tiniest, most subtle hint of shimmer in it. Just a pinch of upper octave. It's a super tasteful solo sound to me—it elevates the guitar, as the guitar should be elevated for a solo.
Lastly, my Patch 5 is my ambient preset. It's basically all-on and full-out with the effects. EQ, comp, boost, slow tremolo, stereo ping-ponging digital delays into long washy quarter note analog delays, with a long modulated "cloud" reverb setting. I can swell with the volume knob on my Telecaster or bring along an expression pedal.
Here's what's so cool about this: In my head, it's five presets. That satisfies my need for a simple, minimalistic setup. In reality, though, it's an amp in five different settings (or five different amps), with some 40 or so effects on tap between each setting.
I am at different churches nearly every Sunday now and I often lack the time to program exact presets for each song that's requested, so this is a way to cover all of my bases, to get close to every guitar sound you might hear on a live praise and worship album.
Exactly one year ago today, I tried out a Kemper. I didn't have a lot of good things to say about it. But they didn't have the Remote then and I didn't spend as much time dialing it in. I got a few great tones but not enough to want to ditch amps and pedals altogether.
I came back to the Kemper give it a second try mainly because I'm playing for two churches that have a zero stage-volume need and were a bit wary of me bringing a big amp. I decided to try to let it simplify my workflow on guitar and I'm so happy with my choice.
Here are a couple of pics of my setup at my dad's church last Sunday. It's a sandals church.