- Try not to panic, and keep following the labels and markings. If you manage to stay calm and focussed while looking for the cause of the problem, you will get a lot done in a short time.
- Try to home in on the most likely cause of the problem. If you’re looking for you car keys at home, you won’t start by turning over every vase and looking beneath every carpet, either. Instead, you will try to backtrack your last steps in your mind. When and where did I last have the car keys? What has happened then? Apply this type of thinking to your signal path. Did the problem occur out of the blue, or is the fault due to something that has happened? If the latter is the case, try to undo the last steps you have taken.
- Don’t look for the broken piece of equipment, find out what works instead! This is my most important piece of advice. By finding out what works, you will soon find the faulty piece of gear or bad connection.
- Keep an open mind about all possible scenarios. Don’t assume anything, or discard any possible option, until you’re absolutely sure. If you’re looking for the fault in the wrong place, because you settle on a specific assumption early on, you will never find it.
- It’s a very good idea to have the whole signal chain drawn on paper, as well as memorized in your head.
- Think about fail-safe “insert points” in advance. Try to think about different emergency scenarios, that allow you to break a faulty signal chain quickly and get through the gig. This might entail running the guitar straight off a single stompbox into the amp.
- Go back to front. Start looking for the fault at the amp and then follow the signal chain in reverse!
- Only change one variable at a time. If you suspect a faulty cable, try swapping the cable only, without changing anything else at the same time.
- Don’t dwell on a problem. Once you’ve found the fault and corrected the situation, try to forget about it as quickly as you can. If you keep going over the last tricky situation in your head, you might miss the next problem that might just be about to happen.
- Get as much sleep as you can. A rested brain is a much more efficient problem-solving device.
30.7.2014 Kimmo Aroluoma (translated by: Martin Berka)
The author is one of Custom Sounds’ owners, and an incorrigible guitar and gear enthusiast