ALL ABOUT NEAL SCHON'S GUITARS AND AMPS:
(From Guitar Player Magazine, November 2008)
During the more orchestral segments of the Journey set, you'll find Neal Schon playing his 18.5"-scale Veillette Gryphon High 12 acoustic-electric. ("That guitar is tuned really high and has lots of unison strings, so it rings beautifully," says Schon's tech, Adam Day). And when it's time to play "Lights" or other Strat-powered Journey classics, a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster finds its way into Schon's hands. But for the bulk of a Journey concert, Schon's main guitar is a cherry sunburst flametop Gibson Neal Schon Signature Custom Les Paul. And if you think the Floyd Rose locking bridge and nut are the only custom features, look a little closer.
The only truly standard features on a Neal Schon Paul are the tuning machines and the Gibson BurstBucker Pro bridge humbucker. The neck heel has been heavily sculpted—almost erased—to grant easy access to the high frets, and the fretboard is angled more parallel with the body than those on standard Les Pauls so that Floyd bridge sits flush. The neck pickup cavity is occupied by a single-coil-sized DiMarzio Fast Track 2 humbucker and a Fernandes Sustainer Driver. The knobs are widely spaced and have been rewired to include a master volume, a push/pull master tone (the pull position activates a Vari-Tone-type circuit that gives Schon wah sounds without a wah pedal), and a master Sustainer volume. The mini-toggle switches behind the tailpiece control the Sustainer settings. And if you take an MRI of Schon's cherry sunburst Paul, you'll discover it has been chambered for weight reduction. "Its taken many years to develop this guitar with Gibson, but it was worth it," says Schon. "It just works."
Resonant with lyrical, B.B. King-style vibrato and ornamented with R&B trills, Schon's guitar playing is still very much alive with the simple blues mojo that gained him notice in the Bay Area clubs when he was still in his early teens. Its the delivery medium thats gotten more complex. When Schon's tech, Adam Day, is asked if he can think of a more complex stage rig, he can only cite the Edge's famously elaborate U2 rig.
Schon's setup starts a Lectrosonics wireless. ("Neal had been on the wire for a while," says Day, "but when he heard this system, he liked the sound enough to go wireless again.") From the receiver back in his amp racks, Schons signal passes through 45-foot Mogami cables to and from his pedalboard, which includes a Dunlop Buddy Guy Wah, a Boss compressor pedal used mostly for Strat solos, and Xotic AC- and RC-Booster pedals. ("Lectrosonics systems tend to run a little bright, so the extra capacitance created by all that long cable actually serves to balance out the sound a bit.")
A TC Electronic G-System controller at Schon's feet handles all MIDI-implemented effects and amp channel changes, an expression pedal controls the overall delay level (the delay time seems to work nicely for most songs when set to 600ms), and Schon uses a Gibson Digital Echoplex to create the loops he solos over during instrumental interludes between songs.
Thats the simple part.
Things get more intricate back at the amp racks where Schon's signal is split five ways courtesy of Framptone Amp Switcher and 3-Banger pedals. One signal feeds a drawer-mounted Boss GT-6 processor that runs through a Demeter tube preamp into a Roland M120 line mixer feeding Schons in-ear monitors as well as a Marshall Dual MonoBlock power amplifier driving two 1960B 4x12 cabinets. Schons signal is also split between two Marshall JVM heads with G-System effects in their loops, and two Diezel VH4 heads running in stereo courtesy of an Eventide Eclipse processor in their loops (used primarily to fatten things up with a little detune). Each amp drives a separate 4x12. And because one of the Diezels is run flat out to get a full sound, its cabinet is turned backwards and miked up behind the stage, thus keeping Schon's stage volume down.
—Jude Gold, August 2008
(Filmed at Sound Check at the Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord, California, September 24 2008)