While people’s attitudes towards their own equipment and what it does can often psychologically influence how they play, it doesn’t mean that the equipment does exactly what they think it does. Lill jokes about a friend whose game, note, Lill insists that he loves and learned a lot from, who uses Two rock amps on a digital amplifier to get the sound he calls “that John Mayer thing”. The thing is, when Lille asked a friend what Two-Rock amp model John Mayer was playing and what amp was in the modeler, he didn’t know.
“It’s just funny,” he says. “It’s like saying, ‘Oh man, I love Dale Earnhardt. That’s why I drive a Chevy like Dale does.”
Perhaps the thing that strikes me most about Lille is that in a world of influencers who are actively growing on social media, he does not seek to turn his videos into a livelihood. Instead, he’s just a musician who shares his knowledge with those of us who don’t have the time or resources to do the same experiments.
When asked why he started making videos, he said, “I’ve noticed that knowing the answer without any proof doesn’t always work the same as when you actually videotape it. So I try to film as much as possible.” They have a surprisingly large production value for a man who admits that he did not actually have a camera in the beginning.
Instead, Lill gave me a free gift—the knowledge that speaker cabinets and tone settings mattered more than a piece of wood and strings in my hand. This is valuable information considering the amount of time I spent hunting guitars and No fiddling with tone controls.
“I’ve seen many different approaches to how people communicate online, and the path I’ve taken is as impartial and kind as possible,” he says. “It really doesn’t matter if anyone believes me or not. It’s just a guitar.”
Jim Lill’s current signal chain
Given his experience and his experience in testing, what does Jim Lill actually use? Here is the sound equipment you will find in his studio.
Lill says, “Anderson Tele has been my number one since high school.” Other guitars and basses are designed for specific sounds but are not used as often.
Tom Anderson’s telecaster is equipped with 2018 Seymour Duncan Vintage Stack bridge pickup, 1980 Bill Lawrence Black Label S2 medium pickup and 2009 Seymour Duncan Mini Humbucker neck grip. Lill notes that he only uses a bridge pickup in a telecaster. All other guitars are equipped with standard pickups.
lil uses 2001 Boss CS-3 compressor pedal to equalize the different volumes of different guitars. This is included in Xotic RC Booster for solo volume and 2020 Nobles ODR-1 overdrive (painted black) and 2017 Paul Cochrane Timmy V2 (white ribbon added to read “Jimmy”) for a bit of hardness in his tone. The signal then hits the 1990s Ernie Ball Volume Pedal and 2018 Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini for volume control and tuning. For the last steps in his chain, he adds Boss TR-2 Tremolo (painted black) and uses 2020 Line 6 HX Stomp, mainly due to outdated delay algorithms. “The most commonly used are the tuner, CS-3 and delay,” he says. “Tremolo is usually for Bass6. Everything else just in case.”
lil owns 1966 Fender Bassman head (standard AB165 scheme), heavily modified 1965 Fender Bassman head, and 2001 Carr Tilt 6V combo 1×12. “Now I’m working on finding out the situation with my amplifier,” he says. “I’m guessing one of those three will end up being my main amp.”
Lill pairs his homemade 2022 2×12 with a 2001 Celestion Vintage 30 (side-closed rear) and a 1967 Fender Utah (side-open rear). “Mostly I use the one I made myself,” says Lill, “but I also have two booths that JT Corenflos used in sessions and a booth that Tom Bukovac used in sessions.” Impulse responses of Jim’s cabinets available for sale on his website.
lil uses Shure SM57 (one for each speaker). Of placement, he says: “At my favorite studio, I was taught to place the microphone with two fingers of grille fabric, straight on the axis, pointing at the line between the dust cap and the cone. That’s where I start.”