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Posts Tagged ‘Guitar Tone’

…is sometimes far greater than tone itself. That’s one of the reasons that gear is so cool. You can look at my rig, see a Tyler strat, and assume I sound good. (And I don’t own a Tyler strat right now…just a dream i have. ;) hehe) Without ever actually hearing any art. Which isn’t necessarily bad…as long as the art, and in the highest form, art for the glory of the Creator, does follow at some point. Which is why after a very lengthy post on tone and a new pedalboard, without ever showing any sounds, it is most likely a good time to try to start grabbing emotions again. The emphasis, of course, as always, being on the ‘try.’ But we do want to make sure that we always maintain the focus that the gear, although wonderful (oh so wonderful), is a wonderful tool. Just a pallet and a paintbrush.

So, definitely waxing a little too poetic here, without the benefit of the ‘poetic’ part. But couple that with the many requests I received to hear the pedalboard actually being played (novel concept I’m sure…ya, apologies for not including that in the first pedalboard post, hehe), I give you the world premiere of the brand new song, ‘Awake…or Turning Random Knobs on a Pedalboard I Don’t Know What to do With’:

For those of you interested, that’s a Timeline doing the looping, another one doing the swells, and then a Memory Lane and an SAD-1 for warmth. Subdecay phase for, well…phase, and a Hartman Germanium Fuzz for the bowish swells, with a Mosferatu for the feedback holding-ish stuff. Oh ya, and the octavey shimmer was provided by an RV3 into a POG, mixed politely by the Dan Burgess parallel looper. George Dennis volume pedal, but who cares about the volume pedal right? It doesn’t delay anything! hehe ;)

So, I hope at least some type of emotion was conveyed by that. Come on, something to help me justify the board! haha But I am going to be trying to record different pieces like this quite often, and offering them for download here:

Soundclick Downloads

I do apologize, but since these are pieces, rather than backdrops for ministering through worship music, they’re not free. But the ambient pads in the 12 keys are and will always remain, free. But that should be all academic, as I doubt most of us who frequent this blog spend our money on anything that doesn’t have strings, a tube, or a true bypass switch. ;) Nevertheless, I’ve gotta pay for my gear habit one way or the other. Hey, at least I’m honest.

So that was a bit of the new pedalboard doing pedalboard stuff. And what do you know! No dotted 8th delay anywhere to be heard! I almost feel a little bit dirty.

Splendid.
Karl.

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Splendid.
Karl.

I told you they were coming. You can just feel the presence. Gear…that was not made in Iceland. Nor by a guitar-carving, rare Icelandic tree-chopping hermit. And no magic pixie dust. Doesn’t even look cool. Just having it in your close proximity makes you feel like you don’t know a thing about guitar; that you just walked into Guitar Center one day, and bought something to try to look cool. (Of course, the irony is that most of us don’t play Boss pedals because we think boutique pedals look cooler. Curse stupid logic!) But maybe in the end, that’s exactly why we like gear. Whether our thing is Boss or boutique, we just like what certain pedals seem to say about our talent and level of commitment to the guitar. To the Boss players, it says, ‘Look at me. I can sound good with anything.’ And to the boutique players, it says, ‘Look at me. I sound so good that I need gear that will match me in quality.’ Wow. I was trying to start off with something at least mildly humourous, and I waxed serious right off the bat. Eh, at least I spelled ‘humourous’ like I want to be British, which I of course do. That’s gotta be worth something.

Which is why I bought the PS3. I’ve played both the PS3, and the current version PS5. The PS3 went out of production in 1999. And somehow, I was able to convince myself that that meant vintage. Yep. And it most definitely doesn’t. The PS5 sounds better. Well, if you want just straight pitch-shifting. It sounds like all the digital effects from Boss’s ‘3’ series used the same digital processing. Because both this pedal and the RV3 seem to fail a bit at what they’re supposed to do…but sound very cool to add weird digital artifacts buried in your sound somewhere. Interesting. Anyway, here’s the demo of it:

The Good

–The detune effects. Very clear, and sounded decidedly much more modulation-like than most of the detune effects I’ve played. It had that older digital sound that it able to be crisp but lo-fi at the same time. I really liked that. Actually the overall sound of this unit was very good.

–The delays were nice. I mean, highly untweakable, but they sounded better than I thought they would.

–The dual settings were a cool option.

–Surprisingly, the buffer was not bad. The difference was so subtle that I didn’t film it, but sounded good enough to mention.

–Thank goodness it had a mix knob. I see a lot of effects these days without those, and it just doesn’t make sense to me not to have one.

–It’s a Boss pedal. It’ll survive the apocalypse, zombie or no. Boss has always had a great track record of being these little mini tanks.

The Bad

–The actual pitch-shifting was not very good, in my humble opinion. Glitchy, and for the two octave up stuff, which is why I was after this pedal in the first place, you can hear the processing working. Stuttery-sounding. However, I think this pedal’s, like the RV3’s, shortcomings are part of the reason it’s sought after. I can see those sounds being very cool if used in certain parts of songs sparingly, and for a lo-fi, glitchy effect.

–Even though the overall sound of the unit was very good, it excelled most at some short ambient modulation sounds…for which analog pedals tend to sound better. If this pedal had been able to take those good sounds and transfer them into more useable options like the actual pitch-shifting, it would have been much better. I have high hopes for the PS-5…which thus far I’ve only played through whatever amp Guitar Center has bolted to the ground below the little Boss Kiosk thing, and running through then like, 40 buffers. Nothing like tone at Guitar Center.

The Me

–Obviously, I have no idea what to do with a whammy. ;) Ah, it keeps ya humble.

The Verdict

–Nope. Maybe as a glitchy novelty effect every once in a while, but there is cheaper gear that does what the PS3 does well, much better. In my humble opinion. And hopefully this is not just a knee-jerk reaction to having a Boss pedal in the house.

And apologies for the short review. (Ya, stop cheering, some of you.) Gonna try to make it to NAMM tomorrow, and I need some hours tonight to prepare mentally. (That means, think about U2, for those of you who were wondering. And I’m guessing most of you already knew that.)

Splendid.
Karl.

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Splendid.
Karl.

 

I’ve been getting this sickeningly frightening feeling that were I to actually practice, and practice with a click track, and practice with a click track and a tuner, it just might make more of a difference to my tone than whether I play a Timmy or a Klon.

Oh, wait. I haven’t tried out all the different op-amp chips in the Timmy yet. Never mind! Sweet mercy! That was almost quite dangerous. And just in case it needs explanation (which it doesn’t), ‘quite dangerous’ in its literal translation means, ‘almost giving up on the idea that tone comes not from hard work, but from magic boutique-ness.’

And for those of you who may be new to this blog, and actually found this post while searching what would be the ‘hands down tone for days nails David Gilmour best op-amp for your Timmy’, and are thinking that I’m just making fun of people who don’t plug straight in to the amp……just take a quick look at the archives on the right, and the scores of pedals that have been my ‘I didn’t know tone until the month I didn’t eat to buy this pedal’ pedal, and you will quite sadly realize that zero of this post has been tongue-in-cheek. Yep. In some deep part of my brain, I truly believe that the Klon Centaur renders practice obsolete.

But I’m recovering. With a click track. And a tuner. And a Timmy overdrive pedal? Perhaps…just perhaps…and I realize that by saying this I am now alienating both camps, and creating my own camp, a camp called ‘Loneliness’……that perhaps these things can coexist. Maybe tone can be in the hands and in the delay pedals? I’m starting to think so. But only if it’s a Damage Control Timeline.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Oh, and ‘B’ is up in the free ambient pads section.

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Splendid.
Karl.

If an amp looks like this, it sounds good.

Vero Amp 2

Vero Amp 1

Vero Amp 3
(And please note that to afford an amp like this, you probably need a house like that, too. Hardwood floors, leather couch, amps and guitars that look so good they can double as furniture. I think the linoleum in my apartment is about the same, right? ;) Hey, at least they just come out and tell you in the marketing: ‘Ya, you gotta have some money.’)

Nope. Don’t even need to bother plugging it in. And if you do plug it in, and people come up to you afterwards and say they didn’t like the tone, you just say, ‘Here, look at my amp.’ And then they will say, ‘Whoa! That sound guy sucks!’

Which is of course the point; to have tone without ever actually having to have tone. My pedalboard does this for me. Because it’s unfortunately large. It could be smaller, but then I’d have to custom order one that would refit my pedals better, and that would cost dollars that could be spent on delays. But people see it and just naturally assume that because it’s bigger than my amp (which is incredibly sad…and there aren’t that many pedals on it…it’s just that every time I do a pedal shootout, the one I end up liking the best is without fail, the most giant one…it’s terrible), that it must just mean ‘tone.’ And then they say, ‘Whoa! Which pedal was doing that thing at the end?’ And I’ll say, ‘Actually, they were all off. That was just switching pickups on the guitar and pushing the amp a little harder.’ And then they’ll look at my amp for a few seconds with a blank expression on their face. And then back at my pedalboard. ‘Nice! So this thing must sound awesome!’

Yep. Doesn’t matter how you actually sound. Just have a huge pedalboard. Oh ya. And a Vero Amp. Because those pictures sound amazing!

Splendid.
Karl.

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Splendid.
Karl.

Don’t worry. After you read the post, you’ll hear the sarcasm in the title. All in the span of one weekend, I managed to:

Forget what an E chord was.
Have one of my ultra-cool stellar-hip indie low rise boot cut pant cuffs (ya, they’re bell-bottoms) hit one of my midi switches as I turned an overdrive switch on, setting one of my Timelines from ‘Dotted Eighth Mix’ to ‘Medium Swell’. And then I wondered why the drummer couldn’t keep tempo. I realized my error. But not immediately. It took me an…uh…unfortunate amount of time to figure out.
Pull lights up in the middle of a video. I have no idea why I did it. I just did it.
Sing the wrong lyrics in the first verse of ‘Blessed Be Your Name.’ In two separate services. And in one of them, I literally just made random vowel sounds to the tune. It was awkward.
Feel self-important.
End the big solo on a G. The song was in E. Major.
Try to convince myself that the G thing above didn’t actually happen. And it definitely actually did.
Totally space while following the pastor on the camera (and if you haven’t noticed, I also run the media at my home church…which means that when I suck at staffing the positions, I have to fill in on them during the message, rather than surfing Gear Page in the tech booth) because I was wondering if someday someone might invent an amp with parallel power sections, one with EL84 tubes and one with KT88 tubes. And then you could choose via footswitch whether you wanted EL84 out of one speaker, and KT88 out of another, or a mix in one, and one in the other, or visa versa, or vice versa from that. Sounds like a biasing and impedance nightmare. But it also sounds like sweet, sweet, tone. I suppose you could just get two amps; but this is beside the point.
Flex my musical knowledge by saying into the microphone to the sound tech during practice that the hum he was hearing was due to a reverb tube starting to go bad. Except that I said, ‘Starting to go microphonic.’ Which is wrong. I could have just turned my reverb knob down and said, ‘Sorry. I’ll go without reverb on the pad tonight, and have it fixed by next week.’ But I decided to sound smart. And sounded very dumb. The best part is that I even thought that anyone on the team would have actually been impressed by my knowledge of tubes.
Feel self-important some more.
Rail into the team for forgetting a break in a song during practice. We start the song over, get to the break, and…yep. I don’t even have to say it. The worst part is that the team probably thought I just wanted a complete solo of myself right there.
And lastly, managed to turn my volume knob half way down while doing the ‘Don’t-you-wish-you-were-on-stage-like-me pickup switch’ into the big chorus, and then spent the last half of the song wondering what was wrong with my amp since the volume was half-way down, rather than thinking about worshiping God or the leading of worship.

Ya. I’m definitely a rockstar. Especially on the times that I think I am. Yikes. To quote from a band who shall remain nameless so that I don’t feel stupid about quoting my man-crushes for the probably 879th time on this blog, when I already feel like I’ve probably reached a level of honesty bordering on stupidity in this post……’some days are better than others.’ Ever wonder why God chooses to use us? I’m not complaining; just recognizing that He could definitely do a better job on His own. Kind of humbling (in a really good way) to realize you’re not necessary.

Splendid.
Karl.

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Splendid.
Karl.

A couple words I’ve hated on a couple different levels over the years. ‘Touch’, because during the dark Tourniquet-infested days (and if you’re not sure what style of music Tourniquet is, just read their name again), ‘touch’ was used to mean ‘feel’ on guitar. And of course to a neo-drama-metal kid, ‘feel’ is used to describe guitarists who just can’t hack the speed thing. So I hated the word. And then in my next stupid stage, the wanna-be-Mum-feel-is-all-you-need-and-solos-give-me-the-same-feeling-as-the-spandex-that-was-worn-when-they-were-first-played stage (wait…I’m still in that stage), ‘touch’ is just the words used by all the ‘Tone is in the hands’ guys who refuse to buy even a Blues Junior or get decent strings. And ‘responsiveness’, I thought was just a made up word. I mean, it’s a circuit…how can it respond. Then I heard a friend’s ’66 Bandmaster; and then I hated the word ‘responsiveness’ simply because I knew my Crate and Fender PA didn’t have it. Yep. I ran those in stereo. It was beautiful. Except without the beautiful part.

But these two words seem to have more and more meaning in my tonal life (or just, ‘life’) as my journey for tone continues. And they go hand in hand. See, I’m still not into the whole ‘tone is in the hands’ thing. Of course, your sound and tone do originate from your hands, but anyone who ever says the phrase almost always has the unspoken but understood and oh-so-implied tag, ‘…so gear means nothing.’ And I don’t agree with that. Sure, Eric Clapton could sound better than me, even with a 5 watt Fender Frontman, Digitech Bad Monkey, and an out of tune guitar. But sounding ‘better than’ isn’t really the point. The point is to make the best music possible. So with Eric Clapton’s already toneful hands, just imagine how he’d sound through something that responded to them; like say, a ’59 Bassman and a Grosh…that’s in tune. Hands without gear sounds like Itzahk Pearlman playing on a Samash violin. And gear without hands sounds like my youtube videos. ;) You need both. The proper touch, and gear that responds to that touch.

tourniquet_90
(This is Tourniquet. I can’t make fun of them too much, because I still have a bit of a soft spot for them; they were unfortunately a huge part of my coming of age. Explains a lot, I suppose. Very metal. Except for the one on the far left. Looks like what a little girl would wear to visit Disneyland.)

And as I am learning, that is not the same for any two people. I’ve been going through amps (my current gear kick), and I’ve turned down some great ones because of how they interact with me. I was a/b’ing two amps for like, ever, and I finally realized that they both sounded great……just that one responded to my particular touch in a way that simply felt right to me. And to another guitarist, with different touch, the other amp may have been the keeper. And to still another guitarist, maybe neither amp would work. Of course, if you start to go through 25 amps or so, and none are responding to your touch, well…it may be your touch. hehe But just as a Two Rock won’t make you sound like John Mayer, John Mayer might never sound as good as you through your rig (although that’s like, a huge ‘might’ right there). But you have a touch that is all your own. And for some of us, that’s a bad thing, and we need to practice. Because touch can kill an incredible sounding rig. For instance, when I listen back to recordings of myself, I can tell the times I couldn’t hear myself right, or was self-conscious because of no congregation or audience response, or I’m angry because the band is slipping off the click track…lol Because my tone gets bad. My touch is killing it, as I cease to feel and use the guitar as an extension of my body, and start to hack at it. Suddenly the tone that I’m usually able to lie to myself about and believe it sounds like Johnny Buckland but better, now sounds…well…so bad that even someone who loves themselves as much as I do can’t even lie to themselves over anymore. Or like Good Charlotte. Either one. Touch is essential.

But yet that touch doesn’t mean a thing without a rig that responds well to that touch. And one that responds well to my touch, may not respond well to your touch. Delay is an exception. That doesn’t really apply here, but it is true nonetheless. But your tone needs your touch. Why? Because it is responsive. I just threw out old tubes for the first time ever yesterday. There were about 200 of them. I’ve saved them for years because I couldn’t bear to hurt those that had given their very being for the sake of tone. And if you think that’s crazy, try explaining to yourself how something that sounds so beautiful, could have no feelings. Nope. Couldn’t do it, could ya. Tubes have feelings. And yes, I did have a little moment of silence next to the dumpster when I threw them out. And no, I’m not trying to be funny. There was a moment. And there was silence. And I was thinking about tubes. My point is to touch your tone. Practice that touch, and become one with your rig. It will respond to you; it has feelings. And if it doesn’t respond to you, throw it out and get a new one that does.

Splendid.
Karl.

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Splendid.
Karl.


I like to think of Tone as its own entity. (And from here on out, ‘Tone’ shall thereby be capitalized, as it should be.) It is living, breathing, is all around us, and we are just trying to tap into it with our rigs, hands, and minds. We’re trying to hear what it tells us, in essence (which is usually ‘more mids!’…and in my case, ‘you do know that sound will still go through your rig if you turn the delay pedals off, right?’). It is leading us to this nirvana of sound, and we just have to figure out how to listen to it. And this started off as tongue-in-cheek, and now I am frightened by my how much I actually believe in what I just wrote. So here is what my Tone has told me lately:

Big muff pedals and all their many ‘cleverly-named’ clones sound fantastic at home…get ’em in a live situation anywhere where you can’t absolutely just crank your amp over the band, and they’re pretty much expensive mute switches.
Why does it seem like 99.72% of Christian bands have yet to discover that thing we like to call ‘melody’?
Chords are important.
I need to be broken of some deep-seeded self-righteousness…especially when I’m being self-righteous about all the self-righteousness in other people (not sure it was my Tone that told me this one).
The electric guitar means absolutely nothing without a solid rhythm section in a band situation.
Sometimes we blame the church for not worshiping when it was the band who screwed up.
I might have to start wearing a cheeseball ‘I love the ’80’s’ wristband when I play if I want there to be any finish left on my guitars in the next few years.
What am I saying? I’ve never kept any gear for a few years in my life! (Hey, that’s what my Tone tells me to do!)
Not so much into attenuators.
I don’t think the half power switch on the Divided by 13’s is actually a half power switch.
I like to think I know a lot more than I actually do.
Life is really weird not owning any Holland amps.
If the I-IV progression works, please don’t feel the need to ‘spice it up’…only musicians care, and even most of them can’t tell the difference beyond, ‘What’s that terrible sound?’
I’m not sure anymore if I’m actually chasing Tone. I think I might be chasing like, 50 Tones, and I want them all at once.
Grace.
My insecurity sucks.
Tone exists somewhere in that tiny area between mud and ice-picks.
Did I really just say ‘this morning’ and ‘in this place’ when I welcomed people to the service? I am a loser.
I love bass players. (Take that how you will; but not the gay one.)
Ever listen back to a recording of your service and go, ‘Oh. No wonder people weren’t worshiping.’
When looking at sheet music in the wrong key and trying to convince yourself that you’re good enough to just pick it up on the fly………write it down.
And lastly, love may be all you need, but that song never could have been written without George’s Vox AC30. (Because, of course, without that toneful solo, the song would cease to exist.) So…paradox. The only possible explanations are that either love and tone are all you need, or that love=tone. I’m good with either one.

    Splendid.
    Karl.

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