Travelling With An Electric Guitar

Back in the day, way back in the day now, touring with my guitar rig was relatively straight forward. I had a flight case and I either hauled an amp in the truck or used backline gear at the venue. Pedalboards were not much of a thing when I was touring. I had 3 or 4 pedals with me: an MXR Phaser, an MXR Flanger, an MXR Distortion+ and a Cry Baby wah pedal. We used to tune up during sound checks.

I know, I know. So primitive.

Now retired, I like to spend the winters south where the weather is not so harsh as it is in Canada. This year I travelled to the southwest driving roughly 3,500 miles over the past three weeks. Frequent stops in major cities from the east coast all the way over to the west coast.

Before the trip I pondered how I should bring an electric guitar with me. Or should I even try? I was debating on renting gear once we arrived at our destination. After considerable deliberation this is how I decided to travel with my electric guitar.

If you have checked out my guitar gear you will see that I have a few electrics in the collection. Some new, some old. Most are very expensive instruments and I was reluctant to bring any of the top tier guitars with me. I settled on my Sire Larry Carlton T7. It is a Tele style guitar that plays really well.

Here is a picture of that guitar in the condo we have rented in Nevada:

I carried the guitar in one of my Mono gig bags.

I was bringing my MacBook Pro with me and thought it would be a good idea to see if an amp sim would be good enough to use for practice during my three-month journey away from home.

I auditioned dozens of different amp sims and settled on the Neural DSP Tone King. What an amazing sound! I found myself wishing that my physical rig sounded as good as this virtual one.

To get the sound in and out of the guitar sim, I needed a compact audio interface. I have several interfaces in the studio, all mounted in racks. Definitely not portable. But I found the Universal Audio Volt 1 to be the ticket for the trip. Small, inexpensive, and bus-powered. Sounds good and connects easily to the MacBook Pro with a USB-C cable and no obnoxious software drivers. The Neural DSP Tone King does require an iLok but since I am doing some audio work during my time south, I needed to bring my iLok for my Pro Tools rig so that wasn’t an issue. I did find that I needed a high-speed USB-C cable for the Volt 1. The cheaper USB-C cables introduced audio glitches.

Aside from having to bring the guitar into the hotel room at every stop, the rest of the gear fit easily into a backpack. I brought along my AKG K702 headphones for the Pro Tools work I am doing down here as I do not have any external monitors with me.

The rig — guitar, Volt 1, Neural DSP, headphones — sounds amazing and it is inspiring to play through it. Best of all it is lightweight and it allows me to keep my chops current.

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