Guitarist Pete Zeigler tweaks the sound for The Rationales

Guitarist Pete Zeigler has been on the Boston music scene for years. He has been noted lately for his work with Worcester band Hey Now Morris Fader and the Boston band The Rationales. As they are two completely different bands, Zeigler uses two completely different live rigs for each. The guitarist gave plenty of detail about how he gets the sound he seeks with the use of his favorite gear.

For Fader, from whom he is on hiatus, Zeigler played a Gibson SG through a Vox AC-30 with a whole lot of pedals. At the time, he used more effects with Fader than any other group he had ever worked with. It was just the nature of the songs that required he do a great deal of sound tweaking. Eventually, it became a part of his playing style.

Zeigler now focuses most of his attention on The Rationales. For the Rationales, he uses a very different set up. The Rationales is geared more toward an American flavor whereas Fader was louder and British leaning.

Zeigler uses two primary guitars. One is a fairly beat up American Fender Telecaster. “It’s kind of a mutt,” Zeigler said. From the Fender Telecaster’s Highway One Series, it was a less expensive version of the standard telly. Made in America, it isof better quality than its Mexican counterpart. Zeigler has had the guitar for years.

“It’s got a lot of wear on it,” he said. “I’ve replaced a lot of different parts on it. It’s definitely a guitar I feel very comfortable on. I’ve used it for the majority of my work with The Rationales. I’ve got a couple of other Telecasters that I also sometimes swap into that. That really has been traditionally integral to the sound of those guys. The Telecaster itself is part of The Rationales branding symbol on the stickers.”

Lately though, as The Rationale’s newer material is being pushed in a more progressive Radiohead influenced direction, Zeigler has been using a 1996 American Standard Stratocaster with DiMarzio pickups. Wilco and their guitarist Nels Cline are also big influences on Zeigler’s sound, as well as British late 1980s/early 1990s Manchester-based bands like the Stone Roses and The Charlatans.

“That sound has always percolated in my head, that certain jangly shimmerin sound,” he said. “That’s something I try to get out of my fingers first and foremost, but the gear can definitely help get that sound. I couldn’t get that sound out of my Fader rig.”

Along with his two guitars, Zeigler uses two 15 watt tube amps. One is the Egnater Tweaker head with a one by 12 cabinet with Celestion speakers. His second amp is a Fender Blues Jr., which is a combo. The Fender is the one Zeigler takes on the road because it is small and easy to carry around. David Mirabella, The Rationales singer and rhythm guitar player, too uses a Fender on the road.

“We can get a better stage sound out of them. The stage volume seems more consistent,” Zeigler said. “We’re able to have a much more balanced sound, particularly as the songs get more intricate.”

For effects, Zeigler begins with his custom pedal board that he put together after two years of finding the right stuff. First, he has a Tc Electronic tuner. That Tc goes into possibly the most interesting pedal on his board, a clone of a Klon make by JHS pedals. The original Klons were made in Somerville, Massachusetts.

“Those pedals are overdrive pedals so it gives sort of a soft overdrive sound that I pretty much leave on all the time,” he said. The original pedals sell on E-Bay for $1,200. Zeigler’s is a reverse engineered version of the Klon built in Kansas.

Zeigler uses a second overdrive pedal called an OCD. He adds a boutique booster pedal called Ascend, made by Heavy Industries, to boost his signal up for a solo or to jump out in front of the mix.

From there, Zeigler’s signal goes into a rotating cast of chorus pedals, an MXR, a Ibanez, or one from the Hardwire series. The guitarist said the chorus pedal can be very easily overused if a player is not careful.

“It’s that chorusing sound that can be easily abused but if used tastefully, I think, it gives a nice feel to stuff,” the guitarist said. “I think in the 80s, it got a bad rap. Rush used the hell out of them. Alex Lifeson from Rush used a lot of chorus pedals. The Police, Andy Summers used them a ton. Stone Roses used them a lot, and that’s really where I come from wanting to use it. That sound is really still in my head. John Squires from Stone Roses always had the thing on. It just became part of that sound.”

From the chorus pedal, Zeigler’s signal goes into another boutique pedal called the EKKO made by a company called Malekko. It is a delay pedal that Zeigler likes because it has a really wide range of delay so it can stretch things out indefinitely. It also has a treble boost and analog sound.

The Malekko EKKO is a key component to The Rationale’s new single, ‘Radio.’ A noise section in the middle features a lot of heavily effected warbling guitar sound. That is Zeigler working with Producer Ed Valauskas at Q Division studio who was manipulating the delay pedal to change the pitch and stretch out the noise section of that song.

“If you’ve seen us live recently, when we do that song, at the end of that song, I drop down on the floor and stop playing my guitar and start playing my pedal board like an instrument,” Zeigler said. “It’s just to keep the sound going and to keep the tone shifting. It becomes like an old fashioned, really primitive synthesizer at that point.”

Zeigler’s signal then goes into a Supa Trem tremolo pedal. Its multiple options range from a hard edge tremolo to very fast to very slow. Zeigler leaves it on an extreme edge so listeners can hear it when it’s there. “It gets anything from a Beatles sound to a David Gilmour, a sort of trippie tremolo. It’s not gentle. All that goes into a volume pedal.”

Zeigler used to use his volume pedal for volume swells and for when he was trying to make his electric sound like a pedal steel. “You hit the note with the volume pedal off,” he began, “then you fade into the note with the volume pedal, so you’ve eliminated the attack. It sounds like the note’s coming out of space.”

Zeigler’s Rationales counterpart, rhythm guitarist Dave Mirabella, runs his Fenders more directly into his amp, sending his signal only through an overdrive pedal, a tuner pedal, and a delay pedal. Mirabella has a huge Ibanez over drive pedal and Boss brand for his other two pedals. From there, the rhythm signal goes into a Vox AC-30 or a Blue Jr. amp.

With such a large of bag of tricks at his disposal, Zeigler can probably keep tweaking The Rationales’ sound for the next 20 years.

The Rationales’ new single “Radio” is available at

2 responses to “Guitarist Pete Zeigler tweaks the sound for The Rationales”

  1. Boston music fan

    This article is so riddled with typos, grammatical errors, misspellings, and a clear void of music knowledge (the wilcos?), I should just track Pete down myself to ask him how he gets his sound.

  2. Bill Copeland

    Now, now. Let’s not have a temper tantrum about something so trivial. I actually own the Wilco CD A Ghost Is Born. I think that “The Wilco’s” came from Pete referring to their guitarist as “the Wilco’s Nels Cline,” I.e., the possessive form and I didn’t catch it when I paraphrased. I hope that makes you feel better Mr. Anonymous Complainer. If you’re not satisfied with that explanation, then why don’t you have me tarred and feathered? If that is not enought, then just tie me to a fence and pelt me with stones.
    Seriously, if you see a misspelling or a grammatical error, then why don’t you point it out? That way, I can correct it and then other readers can enjoy the article better than you did. Yet, I don’t get the sense you want to be helpful and want to make constructive criticism. It sounds like you just want to beat up on me.
    It’s funny that some people are so infuriated with me of late for spelling and grammar issues. I get the feeling that those people are really angry with me about something far more important to them than a mere spelling error.
    Really, people. Get over it! Let it go! You’ll feel better. In fact, some day you might be able to post a commen that you won’t be afraid to sign your name to.
    Thank You,
    Bill Copeland