Chad Boston’s “Family Style” Approach to Nerd Nirvana

That tech wizard Chad Boston prizes his status as a “family guy” is probably no big whoop. Lots of fathers would say the same thing. But Boston has a rather expansive definition of family—one that encompasses the nearly 35,000 members of the Helix Family Facebook Group he started with his friend Chris Saraga in 2015.

He’s no absentee parent, either.

Boston’s Helix group is committed to helping everyone from rank beginners to pushing-the-envelope types achieve their vision of creating truly wicked tones, presets, and music using Line 6 Helix products. He also wanted a “safe zone” for those seeking knowledge. Every nugget of counsel offered within the group is nurturing, non-judgmental, and comprehensive.

The familial embrace of the community hasn’t gone unnoticed by Helix users. In the last year, the Helix Family Facebook Group welcomed 5,466 new members (14.9 per day), logged 19,569 posts (53.6 per day), witnessed 253,581 comments (an astounding 694.7 per day), and charted 449,615 reactions (an equally astounding 1,231.8 per day). Those are pretty remarkable statistics for a home-grown project kicked off by two virtually unknown Helix zealots. In an alternate universe, the success of the group would almost be like having your debut album go multi-platinum, and then winning so many Grammys, People’s Choice Awards, and other honors that you try to purchase the Smithsonian to store everything.

All of that would be more than enough accomplishment for scores of happy and satisfied creators, but Boston appears to have a need to overachieve.

His YouTube channel has nearly 5,000 subscribers, and he has garnered 1.5-million collective views of his video productions. It’s a potpourri of content that spans gear shootouts such as “Helix vs. Fractal,” various how-to’s, a gallery of his daughter’s photography, and even his cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by the Animals. Furthermore, his GearByCEBA company makes hardware and custom skins for Helix devices and other processors. He’s even featured on the Line 6 Marketplace selling his “Helix Diatonic Chords SynthPad Preset Pack,” and he has other Helix presets and content listed at HXInsider.com. You may also find him contributing to various other user forums that have nothing to do with his own group. Oh, and he also manages to practice his guitar chops now and then.

In the current gearscape, it’s true that influencers and demo darlings are as close as an IG or YouTube link. But it’s also true that some of those social stars are building their own brands, rather than communities. The marvel of the Helix Family Facebook Group is that after all the aspirational and inspirational services it provides, the whole shebang always comes back to, you guessed it—family.

How did you first become seduced by music, and what instruments did you start out playing?

My childhood was less than stellar. My dad and mom were volatile, and after their divorce when I was seven years old, they were absent most of my life. My grandma became my de facto mother figure. For a year, I lived at my aunt and uncle’s farm in the backwoods of Sherwood, Oregon, in a tent outside of the one my mother and her boyfriend were living in. Well, that’s just part of the story, but I always tried to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.

My love of music comes from my dad—as absent, abusive, and drunk as he was—and my musical tastes are diverse and eclectic. Simon and Garfunkel, the Smothers Brothers, the Limelighters, Hank Williams Sr., the Beatles, Elvis Presley—who my dad resembled—all played a part. But my love for rock and roll started in 1975 with the birth of Oregon’s album-oriented radio station KGON.

When I was about 12 years old, I received a Les Paul as a gift. I wanted to play guitar, but as I have ADHD, the dyslexia part of my condition can really make it tough to learn. Ultimately, I gave up and traded the Les Paul for something of far less value. Oh my, I regret this stupidity as I look back.

Do you play now?

Yes, I do. The financial crash in 2008 was rough, and my ADHD was hitting me hard. I thought playing the guitar would help me through the tough times, as music has always been my passion. I began to learn to play again, and although the ADHD is not helpful—to say the least—I keep trying. On the upside, at least for me, I found that gear does not make you a better player—practice does.

When did the music-tech world come into the picture?

I’ve run my own computer-repair company from 1996 to the present, so I’ve been tech savvy for a while. Because of my love for tech, I started down the path of digital modeling and modelers around 2010—first with DigiTech products, and then with Line 6. I love it all! YouTube was instrumental in my learning about all of the cool stuff. Then, I discovered some tech forums. Yikes. What a landmine of snobbery! I got treated so brutally for asking simple questions. I had to do something different.

Is that what inspired you to start the Helix Family User Group?

Yes. It was those online bullies. There were many forums I had been following, and if you asked a simple question, you would get treated mercilessly. I thought, “How many people are like me who want reliable, unopinionated information on what was then the newly announced Line 6 Helix. It just so happens that I had sold my TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 to Chris Saraga, and we connected over our love of gear. We talked, and we felt there was a big hole we could fill for “no attitude” information and discussion about Helix, so we started the Facebook group.

Chad’s popular Helix Set Up for Best Tone video.

I understand that your Helix journey started off with a bang.

When the Helix was announced, I immediately pre-ordered it. When the Helix arrived, I decided to livestream my unboxing of the product along with an initial play-through. I think it was the first “in the wild” unboxing video of Helix. Unbeknownst to me, the whole Line 6 crew was watching me unbox that thing. I was very humbled, of course, and I was so taken aback by the family spirit of the whole Line 6 team that I modeled the Facebook group and my business upon that family approach.

Initially, how did you manage the conversations in the group?

Well, between two members and 1,000 members, we started adding rules. When the members grew to between 1,000 and 5,000, our experience to that point prompted us to edit and alter the original ten rules. Actually, there are 11 rules. Yes, our group goes to 11! But these rules are what I credit for the family feeling of the group.

Do you want to share the group’s rules?

The Golden Rule—which I also call the “11th rule”—is to respect each other. It means treating people as you would like to be treated, or to “Be excellent to each other.”

Rule one is no profanity, nudity, sexually harassing comments or images, hate speech, political talk or memes, or religious discussion. Why? These are very divisive topics, and the goal is to bring people together.

Rule two: Be supportive and not negative. After all, there are many people new to this sort of tech, so help them out. There is more happiness in giving, than in receiving.

Rule three is that disagreements are okay and a natural part of any discussion forum, but to be sure to follow the Golden Rule and rules one and two. Musicians are passionate, but also opinionated. Disagreements happen—even as we attempt to counsel members not to take themselves so seriously—but feuds with other family members are not tolerated. Feuding parties may be subject to temporary or permanent removal from the group. Moderators decide what constitutes a feud.

Rule four states that troll-like behavior will not be tolerated. There’s no making fun of anyone for anything—especially on the basis of nationality, race, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. Sarcasm and text-based communication are not really compatible, and things are often lost in translation—even within the same language, and we are an international group. Sarcasm is defined as “tearing at flesh like dogs,” and it has no place here. We ask that members use caution and clarity to get their points across.

Rule five is to have fun. Discussion doesn’t need to be confined to Line 6 or Yamaha products. Legitimate concerns, constructive criticism, and product/tech support questions are all welcome, as long as they follow the other rules.

Rule six: Do not argue with the moderators or administrators. We are all gear heads trying to make this the best group on the planet, and the moderators are here to prevent bullying as much as possible. We are a family, and families squabble at times, but blocking an admin or a moderator who is trying to moderate issues will get you banned.

Rule seven is “scroll past” if you don’t like a post. There are no dumb questions. New members come here all the time, and they are just as much part of the family as any of us. If long-term members are annoyed by a question that has been discussed before, they can scroll past or answer politely. If you don’t have something nice to say—don’t say it at all.

Line 6 Marketplace.

Rule eight is that illegal activities will not be tolerated—including, but not limited to theft, piracy, requests for or distribution of copywritten materials, or requests for or distribution of purchased IP (intellectual property) such as impulse responses (IRs) and professionally-made presets. People work very hard and spend many hours creating these products, and they deserve to be compensated fairly.

Rule nine states that the selling of any products or personal gear—as well as any GoFundMe campaigns or any other fundraisers—must be approved by an administrator before posting. It’s a simple request, actually. We are a help group, not a sales group, and we ask those who want to sell presets and gear to limit those posts to no more than one per week.

Rule ten is not to spam the group with your YouTube videos, websites, presets, or other links. Sharing a new tip is always encouraged, but over-posting is very selfish and very much an activity of self-interest.

A lot of people start user groups that don’t bring on nearly 35,000 members. What were the strategies you deployed to grow the group?

I have a great business partner in Chris, we have outstanding and tireless moderators, and we have the 11 rules. Oh, and passion! Also, we try to be flexible, yet firm. I don’t take myself too seriously, either.

What do you feel are the main reasons that users support the group?

Helix is an awesome product, so people want to share their experiences with it, and, again, this is where the group’s feeling of family comes in. We also have incredible support from Line 6, and, specifically, from Frank Ritchotte, who is the company’s Senior Director for Supply Chain, Customer Support, Sales Operations, and Logistics. There’s that family spirit I mentioned, and it’s from the top—Yamaha and Line 6—down to someone like me at the bottom.

How much personal study and “hands-on” time does it take with Helix products for you to keep super up-to-date on the tech and user apps?

A typical day starts with me wiping the sleep out of my eyes at 5:30 am or 6:00 am. I grab my glasses and my phone, and I look at all the notifications I have from eight email accounts, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. I help with or outright manage around 40 Facebook groups, and I participate in about 220 groups.

Then, I head to the GearbyCeba shop. My duties there are marketing, ordering, manufacturing, customer service, shipping and fulfillment, vendor wrangling, designing products, designing custom prints, research and development, prototyping, and maintaining industry connections.

All of this is going on, and I have a family, too. I’ve been married for almost 20 years, and I have two adult kids at home, and two adult kids out of the house. I have two grandkids. My youngest son, Isaiah, runs our huge ten foot by 20 foot industrial laser cutter, and he is now my number-one helper at GearbyCeba. Each day, we pack the orders in the car to take to the post office and UPS.

As I work throughout the day, I have many distractions—phone, text, messages, YouTube, and so on—and my ADHD flairs. Squirrel! Then, there’s eating, studying, taking my wife to the store, meetings, study, and maybe sneaking in a guitar-playing session. Rinse and repeat. I sleep six hours a night.

Custom Helix skin.

Can you tell us more about GearbyCeba?

GearbyCEBA.com was formerly L6Gear.com, and it was born out of the same spirit in which I modeled the group. I turned my love of gear—my hobby—into my business. I actually don’t recommend this path, as it usually takes some fun out of the hobby [laughs]. But I saw a need, and I endeavored to fill it. My first product was a screen guard with a water-resistant cover. The promo video evoked the shower scene in Psycho. When the shower curtain is pulled back, you see my Helix powered up and running with water spraying all over the cover. Don’t try this at home [laughs]. Then, we added skins and footswitch toppers for Helix and other brands.

Almost every product is conceived and designed—in full or in part—by me. It was all too much to handle completely on my own, so I sold the company to a close friend, Ethan Clark. CEBA stands for Charles, Ethan, Becky, and Annette. Charles and Becky are Ethan’s parents, and Annette is Ethan’s wife. I want to make GearbyCEBA.com the number-one gear accessories site. In addition to the skins, custom prints, and other hardware, we are about to launch a custom, modular-aluminum pedalboard system that you can get in any width.

It sounds like you’re still doing a lot.

I have been self-employed since I was 16 years old, and I am now 53. Work is what I do. My brain is always active.

What are some of the common questions posted to the Helix Family group?

Which full-range, flat-response (FRFR) speaker is the best? When is the next Helix update? How do I get the tone that I hear in my head?

What are some of your own perceptions about the Helix Family as a user yourself?

Family is key. There are also a few mottos I live by: The speed of the group is the speed of the leader; if you do the very best to help people, it gets paid forward; and answer posted questions faster than Google. Also, I hate “read the manual” answers. We discourage those at the Helix Family. In most cases, it’s just as easy to provide the answer to someone’s question.

Do you feel that guitarists in general are savvy about tech innovations, or do they require a certain amount of handholding to get hip to the benefits and applications of Helix?

It’s complicated. Lots of players are capable, and lots are not. But this is actually the perfect storm, and it’s why the group works.

Could you please elaborate on that thought?

Thanks to the group and those who come to it to seek information, I have been able to help literally thousands of creators—as well as hundreds with one-on-one assistance—to love their gear, fire up their creativity, and get out there and help others. I firmly believe that if you remove selfishness and sarcasm from your way of life, you will inspire others to do the same.

Does it really work that way?

Listen, there will always be real unhappy folks who seem to get enjoyment from other people’s misery. Inset group “Ban Hammer” here. But I think those individuals simply haven’t found the secret of giving.

I actually find that musicians—and guitar players, in particular—are some of the most giving people. It’s really no issue to help them, but it’s all about giving without expectation of reward. I feel the onus is on me to give and to help others. This is only part of an adventurous and eventful life, and every day that I wake up, I have nothing but joy and gratitude—no matter what troubles come my way.

More about Helix HERE.

Michael Molenda is the longest-serving Editor-in-Chief of Guitar Player (1997-2018) and founder of the content sites GuardiansofGuitar.com and NowGenDrums.com. He is also a frequent content contributor for Line 6 and Yamaha Guitar Development.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Sign up to get news about Helix Products.

By submitting your details you are giving Yamaha Guitar Group informed consent to send you a video series on the Line 6 HX Stomp. We will only send you relevant information. We will never sell your information to any third parties. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time. View our full privacy policy