Gear Demo Posts
I’ve just turned in my resignation to Gear Page. It’s an unwritten rule that to resign as a gear junkie, or from any one of many flavor-of-the-month-my-boutique-tubescreamer-clone-slays-your-slightly-different-boutique-tubescreamer-clone-hands-down gear message board clubs, all you have to do is sell your Dr. Scientist for a Danelectro. Or your Tim for a Fulltone. Or your Subdecay for an Arion. Or the kicker…your Timeline for a DD20. Since I have now done all three (edit…four…huh, guess counting poses a bit of a problem for me), I don’t see any real way back. I’m an outlaw now.
No, not really…that was just to serve as an (ultra-cheeseball) segway into the background for that gorgeous scene from Braveheart of the silhouetted mourners and Uncle Argyle says, ‘They’re saying goodbye in their own way…playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.’ Well, this is my goodbye to my gear. And it’s being played on some very much outlawed gear. Where has it been outlawed? Why, on my blog, of course! hehe But this has been more or less my gigging board for the last couple of weeks. There’s more coming in, and unfortunately it’s not going to stay this small, but it has been a surprisingly wonderful couple weeks.
I give you…’Outlawed Tunes on Outlawed Pipes’…or ‘Sounding Good with Cheap Gear’. You may also choose ‘Ode to a Prairiewood’ or ‘Eh…I liked the Timeline better.’
So there you have it. Now if I may be so bold as to venture an opinion, I am actually quite pleased. That Godin strat? Found it used at Guitar Center for dirt cheap. And it is now my strat sound, even when the Prairiewood comes back. I’m blown away by that thing. The amp…well, those of you who have ever asked me for advice on a cheap amp know my answer all too well: Blues Junior with a tube swap and speaker change. Well, the speaker is changed on this, but I haven’t yet gotten a chance to buy new tubes. Still…diggin’ it.
Now here’s where the trouble starts. Because sides form. There’s the ‘DD20 slays the Timeline!’ side, and then there’s the ‘DD20 isn’t even in the same league as the Timeline!’ side. And, as usual, the real answer is far less extraordinary than either of those camps. Does the DD20 slay the Timeline? No. But does the Timeline sound better than the DD20? I have to say, yes it does. But does the DD20 sound good? Absolutely. So, this post is not to say that boutique gear is a sham, but merely to say that if you don’t have the money for boutique gear (or, if your Prairiewood gets decapitated), there is still a chance of sounding good with cheaper gear.
But, wait! No, seriously wait. Please, please, please do not go to Guitar Center and start buying everything up going, ‘I can sound good with cheap gear! I can sound good with cheap gear!’ The operative word there is ‘can’; not ‘will’. In fact, with both boutique and mass-produced gear, expensive and cheap gear, you are far more likely to sound bad. The point is that with a little research, some ear-training, practicing, taking the time to try things out and learn how to dial in proper settings, and studying what to buy and what not to buy, there is a chance of sounding good with cheaper gear. (‘So you’re telling me there’s a chance! I read ya.’) For instance, DD20: only other multi-setting delay besides the DC Timeline (and if you want to include the Strymon Brig and Cap as they have 2 settings) that does not run your dry signal through AD/DA converters. Beautiful, and sounds incredible for its price. And the bpm readout? Ahhh!!!! Heaven these last couple weeks. But the MXR Carbon Copy? Ya, stoked it has 600 milliseconds…but it’s basically unusable at a higher mix after 300 milliseconds because of the added noise on the repeats. So, do your research for sure and try a lot of stuff out. And just for the record, I think the Carbon Copy sounds absolutely lovely…just noisy at the extreme settings, which are its major selling points.
Here’s the chain:
Godin fat strat (I’m sure Godin will call it something else, but it’s a basically a fat strat with a maple body…I’m using neck pickup for swells, and going between bridge humbucker and neck/middle position for melodies)–>
Fryette Valvulator buffer–>
Loop-Master bypass strip–>
(Loop 1–>Ibanez TS7 in hot mode
(Loop 2–>Fulltone Fatboost v1 at 12 volts
(Loop 3–>Fulltone Fatboost v1 at 12 volts
(Loop 4–>George Dennis volume pedal
(Loop 5–>Boss DD20–>MXR Carbon Copy
(Loop 6–>Arion SAD-1
Fender Blues Junior (Celestion V30…and it says it’s some special edition Blues Junior…but I think that’s just code for ‘green tolex’)
Oh, and the reason for the cheap gear. You may want to ask your children (i.e. other guitars and pedals) to leave the room on this one:
Yep. And it’s actually worse in person, not to mention the electronics being all freaked out, too. Seriously a blessing to find a Godin used for so cheap the same day I desperately needed a guitar. Although I am typing this in a separate room…she doesn’t need to see her older sister like that.
So, I’m an outlaw now. Desperate times call for desperate measures. (lol So cheesey, but just so much fun!) As was (and is) actual Outlaws:
Three different posts that have been suggested to me: how to construct an anti-solo, how to layer in a part that adds to the song when there’s already a full stage of instruments playing, and showing how each of the five overdrives tested in the recent Community Shootout, sound in the context of a song. And, as per the usual for me, just general minimalism. That’s what all my posts tend to turn into. Well, that and the band that shall not be mentioned.
But those three things really do fall under the overarching theme of minimalism. As musicians, we tend to use that term loosely; and it is really more of a misnomer. Minimalism, when used in a musical context, does not necessarily mean playing a minimal amount of notes, or a minimal amount of the song, or (heaven forbid) at a minimal volume. (hehe) It simply means playing with a higher regard for the overall musical context of the song, rather than the musical context of your particular instrument. The reason we use the term minimalism, is because in order to play for the musical context of the song, for 99% of us, and for 99% of melodies and sounds that reach people……that means playing less. And for 98% of us……WAY less. And I am definitely included in that percentage!!
So I am going to break down these three categories a bit. And before I begin, let me first apologize to those of you who perhaps may be already thinking that all this is somewhat ‘beneath you.’ That may actually very well be true, and if so, just skip to the part that interests you. I just thought this might be of interest or helpful to some, and in no way do I mean to be condescending with this article. Tongue-in-cheek disagreeable, yes…which is why I say things like the POD sucks, Eddie Van Halen played too much, and Hillsong United is just Death Cab and Sigur Ros thrown in a blender. None of those things are entirely or probably even halfway true, but they are the things of which wonderful Dumblesque (yep, I said it) conversations are made. And those conversations are what make us better people. That, and listening to……not gonna say it.
Overdrive Shootout Addendum
Recently, I staged a Community Shootout of five different overdrives lent to the cause by four different folks. You can see that whole post here. And a few folks said that they were curious how each of the drives sounded in a musical context, rather than just isolated. Hence, the first part of each section of this video is related to the different drive tones. They will be, in order:
–Clean (Prairiewood into Matchless HC30, both pickups)
–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire (bridge pickup)
–Tone Monk Seed of Life (top setting, or what I call ‘vintage’ setting, bridge pickup)
–Analogman King of Tone (12 volts, overdrive setting, neck pickup)
–Paul Cochrane Tim (12 volts, overdrive side only, bridge pickup)
–Analogman King of Tone (12 volts, clean boost setting, both pickups, back one split coil)
–Lovepedal Eternity (bridge pickup)
–Paul Cochrane Tim (12 volts, overdrive side and boost side engaged, bridge pickup)
Each overdrive is in a separate track, recorded individually. Hearing how well or not well each one cuts through the mix is essential to minimalistic playing, as the better a sound cuts through and sits in a mix, the less hacking you have to do, and the less volume you need to have. It always amazes me that a well-tuned 5 watts can sometimes be heard more distinctly than an overgrown mesh of 40 watts. It’s about a focused tone that can both cut through a mix and sit nicely in it. I used each overdrive where I thought it shone the most after hearing what they could do in the original shootout post. That’s in more detail in the next section.
Layering is huge, and unfortunately, many times overlooked. In most musicians’ minds, you’ve got chords and then you’ve got leads. And that’s it. So, normally, you get an acoustic, an electric, a keyboard, and a bass playing chords, and then 2 electrics and a piano playing leads. Gets real muddy, real quick; not to mention the fact, that no one is really thinking about the through melody the song is naturally calling for, or the vocal melodies. Knowing how to layer properly (or at least how to layer ‘well’…there really isn’t a ‘properly’ in anything artistic) allows the song to be a holistic piece made up of many parts…rather than just, well, made up of many parts. This can be accomplished by finding within the spectrum of octaves what range is not being played, and playing there. Or by figuring out what section of the eq is not being played, and playing there with either pedals, or choice of guitar or amp. It can also be done by trying to hear if the song is calling for any certain understated counter-melody. Or a certain harmonic structure no one has gone to yet. Or if there is an effected texture that could be useful. Maybe a pad, or a spacious delay…a rhythmic trem…a synthy reverb. Or…even not playing at all if you take the time to listen and realize that things seem pretty perfect how they are.
So in this little song piece, I recorded a base layer, and then seven more on top of it. And normally, you don’t usually want eight electric guitar layers. (A little Smashing Pumpkins-ish.) But I wanted to make the point that with a little thought and listening to what’s going on around you, even eight electric guitars at once can be at least passable. Here’s the layers and what was done with each in order to try to separate them in the sonic space, as well as allowing them to sound good together:
Clean tone, middle pickup setting, so both pickups are selected. This gives it a nice clean and warm tone. One rhythmic delay in quarters at a low/medium mix, and one spacious delay at a low mix. Sets the tone of the song. A lot of times the electric does set the tone in songs that otherwise could sound exactly the same as the song you just played…and the song before that. For this one, I chose a bit of an ’80′s vibe with less chorus. Okay fine, I just ripped off The Cure.
This layer adds a bigness underneath the base layer. Traditional chords, with a low mix spacious delay, and an overdriven sound on the bride pickup. The easiest one to find in a band setting, but sometimes…the one that no one thinks to play. And it’s usually pretty important.
Kind of an ambient layer. Couple delays, one being a long swell one, and swelling in on the volume pedal. This is creating a backdrop or a bed for everything else. I went a little more rock-ish in this song, and used a grainy overdrive for its harmonic spreading effect, still on the bridge pickup.
More of a bass line. Light drive, neck pickup, and the most strumming of all the layers. No delay. But rhythmic strumming just on the 8th notes…nothing too much. Simplicity is the poetry…or, at least…simplicity was the only thing I could think of.
Starting just a bit to add a melodic element. Still on the chords, but higher parts of them, kind of a mix between rhythm and melody. Not hitting the notes very much at all. Decent low drive, no delay, and back to the bridge pickup for a cutting effect.
Really going towards melody now. But not creating a new one, just working off of the home key. This layer starts the very important process of masking the chord changes. It sounds weird, but you need a strong harmonic structure……and then you need to try to mask the changes so it doesn’t sound so blocky, but rather sounds like one sound coming through. Our ears are picky. We want both structure and flow. That’s not to say that you can never have an entirely ambient piece or an entirely chordal piece, but this is just in general, and definitely for the purposes of the little song riff here. Dotted quarter delay, and both pickups elected, with the bridge pickup on split coil.
This is the first of two anti-solo layers. High gain, bridge pickup, a little background untimed delay, single notes mixed with high two note chords. That can be a great structure for anti-solo’s. They’re melodic, but also follow the chords…so you can be sure not to distract. Not useful in all cases, but a very safe and good way to do a ‘solo’ guitar line in a lot of instances.
Full anti-solo. Dotted quarter rhythmic delay, medium to high gain, bridge pickup, tracing a melody, stringing a melody between chords, and a couple one note singing stuff. Should feel like the natural actualization of the song. Should feel inevitable if you do it right. (And I don’t think I’ve ever done it quite exactly right. hehe)
These are absolutely not the only layers to choose from. But they can be a good start. Mix and match, sure. But most importantly, trying to get what the heart and soul is behind each one of them, and then do that. And the heart and soul is to both structure and inject tasteful interest into a song for the purpose of the song reaching out and pumping people’s hearts for them for maybe just a few minutes of their life.
As the name ‘anti-solo’ suggests, it’s really, really broad. Pretty much any time you choose to play something that’s best for the music or song as a whole, rather than ‘that riff you know’ or ‘look what I can do’, I’d argue that it’s an anti-solo. So, each layer could be constructing some type of anti-solo.
This layer really sets the tone for the whole song, so it could be argued that this is the layer most like a solo. It’s just taking the progression of G D Am Em and using chords that have good voice leading so that it sounds like both a song and a group of structured chords at the same time. And by ‘voice leading’, I mean that very few notes are changing in between the chords. And the ones that do, change as little as possible. This is huge for writing parts.
Basic traditional chords. There’s a reason everybody knows the basic chords. Not because they are easy to finger; I mean, if you were to go up to someone who didn’t play guitar, they would probably be able to play the chords in the first layer easier than these traditional chords. Rather, everybody knows them because they work and they sound good. Same progression here, and resisting the urge to do more.
Sort of a mix of the traditional chords, with bass notes that have better voice leading. I was using swells and delay for this one, so I made sure that I used few enough notes to where it did not get muddy, but just filled in. This is one of my favorite ways to add a depth to a song rather than a riff.
Used the same voice leading to make sort of a bass line to give some more structure to the song. Chords would be G(no5) D/F#(no5) A/E(no3) Em(no5). So we’ve got one of the melodies that the chords naturally feel: G F# E E. A great way to add a dimension when everyone’s expecting a solo.
Same chords, but jumping higher and playing very little of them. Almost more traditional in that it highlights the guitar because you’re high up in the register, but still stays with the song very nicely. It will also add nicely underneath vocals, but when you want to do something a little more than chords or ambient stuff.
Harmonic interest. Really it’s just creating some sustaining melodies off the key of G, and letting that start to mask the chord changes and add interest. Technically, it changes the chords to G D Am7sus(add9) Em7, but there isn’t a lot of sense in trying to work out in chords what a sustaining melody is doing. The fact that the last harmonic is so high in the register allows this to work.
First anti-solo. Still staying right with the chords, just using high versions of them and creating new rhythms in the strumming. Sometimes the strumming can set things apart enough so you don’t have to play new notes. With enough parts or instruments underneath you, sometimes these few notes is all the song needs.
Second anti-solo. First 2 measures are a melody that sounds to me as if it was always there within those chords. Anti-solo’s are tough because you want to stand out in order to take the song to the next level, but you also want them to not draw so much attention that the song fades into the background. Basically, you want people to feel that soaring feeling as the song realizes what seems to be a piece of itself; as opposed to the guitar giving the song a dimension that doesn’t seem to have been necessary. ‘Necessary’ is subjective to everyone; but by ‘necessary’, I mean what the song itself naturally takes you to. There are those musical lines that make you feel as if the song would be incomplete without them. Those are good. And then there are those lines where it really detracts from the overall feel and emotion of the song. Those are bad.
Then it builds into the next 4 measures, which takes you back into the chords, but really high and singing, and the changes are masked by passing notes. Then a quick noise/slide into a pedal tone anti-solo. Just using the key as the pedal tone. So a high G turns the chords into G D11 Am7 and Em. It masks the chord changes more, and for a second starts to take on its own life. Then right back into the chords so as not to take away too much, but hitting those chords harder…it’s the high point of the song, so you increase in intensity, but make sure you’re giving the song it’s integrity. And then back to the little melody to close…so hopefully it’s as if that melody was always there.
And finally, here’s the video. After all that text, this is probably going to be a bit of a letdown, but…hey. hehe
(EDIT: Totally forgot to say……obviously, I was not recording those layers live in that video. I recorded each track separately, edited it, and then ran it back later while I video’d myself playing each part as it was introduced, in order to show visually the different voicings and such. Should’ve said that earlier; I wasn’t trying to pretend to be magic…or Phil Keaggy…same difference.)
So there’s the overdrives cutting through a mix, 8 layers of electric guitar, and some anti-solo construction. Obviously, this post was a little bit too in-depth for the small amount of stuff that actually went on in the song. Many times, just use your ears and you won’t have to think through all this stuff. But one, I didn’t know exactly how much explanation folks wanted; and two, it’s not a bad thing to know what’s going on when you hear and play things. In fact, for myself personally, the more I learn, it seems the less I play. Usually, when I play something really fast and technical (and my ‘fast’, by the way, is probably ‘half speed autopilot’ for most of you, hehe), it’s usually because I can’t come up with anything better. So…well…can’t go wrong with pentatonic. So, apologies if this was incredibly boring. If it was, just point and laugh at my biting of my lower lip guitar face in the video. I even made it a point to try not to do that! haha
And lastly…I said I wasn’t going to mention them, but you didn’t really believe me, huh. How dare you. But…uh…you would also be right. I’m gonna let the father of anti-solo’s explain in 2 minutes what just took me like, 2 hours to say:
I’ve posted that before, but I don’t put a limit on how many times you can post gorgeousness.
Play for the good of the overall music. It’s even more important in a humility aspect for those of us trying to play in worship services, but that’s for another post. For now…whether you choose 37 notes or 1 note, choose it for the actualization of the song and music as a whole. Choose it to wrench people’s imaginations of things they didn’t know they remembered. And pour your heart into each note. Unless, of course, those notes are reverse-hand finger-tapped whilst trampling Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ghost with your genius. There is no possible way to pour your heart into that. And somewhere, right now, John Mayer just played a solo that makes that last statement a complete lie.
As in, a shootout of pedals donated by various people…not like, the community is shooting each other. Like in The Mist. Which was on the other day. And afterwards, I wished it wasn’t. What a terrible movie! And the conjured attempt at tragic irony in the end? Shameful. And Tom Jane is…uh…not good. (‘I’m Tom Jane.’ Name it, and you get one million points…towards the imaginary tally I keep up in my head for something that I don’t know.) I’m hoping this shootout will be much better.
Well, as is my custom (and it was definitely kept up in that last paragraph), I start every pedal shootout with the worst intro you’ve ever read. Don’t blame me. Blame The Mist. Hey, if they didn’t keep making these movies, I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, right? Except more U2, delay, and anti-solos…so maybe you should be glad they keep making movies with Tom Jane in them. Anyway, shootout time. And community shootout time. Three very gracious blog readers here have donated overdrive pedals to this endeavor, making this Guitar for Worship’s first ever, community shootout. And I keep saying ‘donated’ to hopefully trick them into letting me keep the pedals forever instead of shipping them back. I don’t think it’s working, though. So, we have five low gain, transparent overdrive pedals, from four different folks, myself included. And everyone has been very open and gracious, and donated (hehe) these pedals in the hopes of hearing how they compare to other drives; meaning, this wasn’t like, a contest where you submit you’re top fighter and hope to beat all the other drives. It’s just to hear how they compare. Hmm…that sounds anti-climactic. Okay! It’s a fight! Give me your top fighter, and gather around the school yard, folks! Three o’clock high!! Shootout!!
If you’re still reading, I thank you…dearly. This ended up being one of the coolest shootouts I’ve done, at least for me, because of the quality of pedals involved, and for the chance to hear some pedals that I otherwise may never have gotten around to trying out. And they all ended up excelling in their own ways, which was really cool. And I want them all.
–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire
–Tone Monk Seed of Life
–Paul Cochrane Tim (running at 12 volts)
–Analogman King of Tone (side 1 on clean boost most of the time, side 2 on overdrive most of the time, and running at 12 volts)
–Lovepedal Eternity (1 of the 18,050 versions of this pedal…it is a PCB version, but beyond that, it just sounds good. )
The Gracious Community Benefactors
–Donator of the Seed of Life and King of Tone. You can check out his site here: Les Paul Player Doctor.
–Donator of the Eternity.
–Donator of the Holy Fire. (Pedal, that is.)
The Clean Tone and Signal Path
Prairiewood Les Paul (Wolfetone Dr. V pickups at various times, bridge, neck, both, and both with the back coil-tapped)–>
(the five overdrives)–>
Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel)–>
65 Amps birch cab (Celestion Blue and G12H30; in second video, the Blue is the one mic’d)
The first video is laid out much like most of my demo and shootout videos. The second is a little different, with no talking, and the sound recorded through a dedicated mic and into a tube pre, and then my computer. I did it this way because I wanted to be sure that I did the best videos possible (well, with my current equipment), as everyone was so kind to lend their pedals.
–I’ve owned the Tim for a long time, and have it set right where I like it with my amp.
–I did not get a definitive answer as to whether the Eternity or Seed of Life could be run at above 9 volts by the time I shot this video, so I played it safe and ran them at the listed 9 volts; which may have put them at a disadvantage if in fact, they can be run at higher voltages and hence, higher headroom.
Possible Personal Biases
–The Holy Fire’s led changes color according to the gain input!! Splendid.
–The Seed of Life’s blue led literally attacks your face. I haven’t decided whether this is good or bad yet.
–I’ve tried two other Lovepedal models that I really didn’t like.
–I love the Tim.
–Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire
Easily my new favorite pedal. There really sounded like there was a second parallel path of my clean tone under the drive sounds. Hate to say it, but transparent as all get-out. Also loved the extra knob to add distortion in to the sound. Just wish it could be controlled by a second switch or an expression pedal. That would be awesome! Also, best led ever. Not sure if I’m too hot on the name, and it does need its own adapter. But whoa…killer sound with this thing!
–Tone Monk Seed of Life
This one seemed to get a bad rap in the videos, because even though the website describes it as being able to do transparent low gain sounds, I think it really shines at higher gain sounds. And at higher gains, it still seems to maintain the sound of the clean tone, which is rare. It had a different flavor than most overdrives, which was refreshing. The tone-shaping switch was really useful as well. The top setting, giving it that vintage-y growl, was really cool. Again, I do wish that switch was two separate footswitches. But it did have an led that was brighter than the sun, so it’s got that going for it.
–Paul Cochrane Tim
What can I say that I haven’t said already? Not only does it keep your clean tone intact, and sound like it’s just driving the sound you already love, but it also has a great saggy feel and sound to the drive, as well as a great decay. Very touch-sensitive too…it’ll do the sound you want depending on how you play. Gotta love the Tim. Thus far, in years, no pedal has surpassed it in my rig. I always go back to it. The Holy Fire is giving it a run for its money, but in a different way. I think I will always have a Tim.
–Analogman King of Tone
Definitely a great sound. A really nice controlled drive sound that really lends itself to rhythmic tones. Not sure if it lived up to the massive amount of hype it has gotten, but really…no pedal ever has. It was very transparent, and the drive sound was focused and had a great shape to it; as in, very few errant and random frequencies, even when stacking notes. The best thing about this pedal though, is the versatility and tweakability. Both sides can be used together, or independent of each other. And each side can be switched to clean boost, overdrive, or distortion. I really didn’t even really scratch the surface in the two short videos of how many options are available with this pedal. And I don’t have any royal purple pedals yet. It’s a wonderful color.
Score! Finally a Lovepedal I like. Honestly, I really thought this pedal’s ‘happy place’ was at higher gain sounds. But yet, it still did a really good low drive sound. Very, very saturated. Seemed like it was just oozing harmonics. As a lead pedal, I think this thing is fantastic. Has that saturated, glassy lead sound that would probably glide right on top of the other frequencies in a band situation. And how do you not adore the brown sunburst…on a pedal?! Great touch.
Yikes, I wish I didn’t have to give these back. And I might be getting a Holy Fire. Huge, huge thanks to Jeff, Brian, and Larry for the contributions to this. It’s incredible how many great overdrive pedals there are these days. I had resolved to be completely honest, and hate a pedal if I hated it, but they were honestly all fantastic in their own ways. If I could keep them all, I would. But that would constitute stealing.
First community shootout…over. No casualties. Just fabulous pedals. Go buy all of these.
Once again treading those frightening and uncharted waters of sounding good without the luxury of being able to tell yourself that even if you don’t sound good, people will think you do because you just spent $1200 on a brand new original circuit boutique overdrive (i.e. tubescreamer clone). Last time it was the Keith Brawley stratocaster (link to that post here) for around $400. For the next most important piece in the tonal hierarchy, the amp, we’re gonna go with the Frenzel FM-5E1SS Champ Super Sportster. Ya, okay, basically a Fender Champ. But here’s the thing…it’s a handwired, point-to-point, all tube, tube-rectified Champ. To get a Champ like that, you have to go on a serious (and seriously fun) pilgrimage to find like, a 1959 one that’s still in at least working condition, and you’ll be spending right around $1200. This Frenzel here is under $600 right now, brand new. And…it doubles the wattage of the original Champ’s from 5 to 10, has a direct out with line level, has Jim Frenzel’s own mods and upgrades on the Champ circuit, and is self-biasing. Meaning, you can throw in 6L6, 6V6, 6550, EL34, KT88, etc…all without re-biasing. Just plug and play.
So, a good friend of mine and guitarist who posts here every once in a while, Mark Holstein, told me about these amps. And when I saw all the features, but yet with that incredibly low price point…I realized that something has to give somewhere; so they must sound pretty bad. Well, they don’t. They sound, really, really good. And I can’t figure out how the guy is building these for so low a price. And he’s got higher powered ones too, and Vox style ones; lots of different models. Ya, sorry that this is reading like an infomercial for these amps…but seriously…it’ll probably clean your carpets, too. Anyway, on to the demo.
Frenzel FM-5E1SS Champ Super Sportster with KT88 tube (Hiwatt, D13 RSA23 sound)–>
–>RAWoods solid pine 1×12 cab with Weber 12A150b (Weber’s take on a Jensen with a bit of Brit thrown in)
–Prairiewood Les Paul with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups (you can actually hear the switch going out a little bit in the guitar…why can’t things just last forever…now my weekend is going to be spent soldering…lol)
–Keith Brawley strat
Most of the demo is just guitar plugged straight in to amp. However, I also wanted to show how the amp takes effects. So, as various points, all of the following are used:
–Diamond Memory Lane
–Damage Control Timeline
–Hartman Germanium Fuzz
–Paul Cochrane Tim (12 volts)
I also test it against a Matchless later in the video. Now, price-wise, that’s not very fair; but I was attempting to show that though it does not sound as good as the Matchless, that it’s definitely close enough to cause you to take a second took at it for under $600.
–>65 Amps birch cab with a Celestion Blue & G12H30
And the video. I talked an exorbitant amount in this thing, so you can see where I edited out my own asphyxiation with hearing my own voice:
When I first plugged this in, I was incredibly surprised by how good it sounded. I honestly did not expect that. Obviously, not quite as present as the Matchless, but still really pretty good!
–Self-biasing 6L6 style. That’s rare, and a huge plus. So without having to worry, you can just swap tubes to your heart’s content, hearing all the little nuances. Personally, I love KT88′s. And they make this thing sound not too far off from my old Divided by 13.This amp sounds really, really warm and full…without the usual mud from cheaper amps.
–Presence knob. Yes.
–The two channels, with the ability to jump them.
–The ability to run a direct out if you need it.
–Great master volume control. No sudden jumps or cuts.
–Just an all around great sounding amp for not a ton of money.
–The front panel really should be recessed. Those knobs are just out there waiting to be broken off. If I end up keeping this, I may get a custom headcase made.
–They used a red jewel light instead of a blue one.
So now we’ve got a guitar and an amp, with really good tone and build quality, and both can probably be had together for under $1,000. Add to that the RAWoods cab and Weber speaker, which together were under $400. Not bad for a better quality and better tone than almost anything you’ll find at Guitar Center. On a side note, you can unfortunately hear the difference between the Prairiewood and the Brawley, and the Matchless and the Frenzel. Not a world of difference, but definitely there. So, as usual, the truth is far less fantastic than we would like it to be. Almost always, we want to say that cheaper stuff is just as superior as expensive stuff and there’s no difference whatsoever, or that expensive stuff is always superior and you shouldn’t even waste your time with cheap stuff. Whereas in reality, the truth of tone is somewhere in between. Yes, you do get what you pay for most of the time, and there is something to be said for expensive gear. Not for all of it, but for the stuff that’s expensive for good reason. But at the same time, can you save money and sound great with a $400 guitar and $600 amp? Yes. With a little research into what exactly it is that makes things sound good, you can definitely sound really good without a ton of money.
Click here for tone you might actually not have to put on your credit card:
This is the coolest pedal you can’t find a use for:
It brings the sonic territory a guitar can cover to a totally different place…it’s just that that place can never be on stage. Well, I shouldn’t say never. Like in American Tail. (Okay, now there’s a reference that can’t be hipster-cool, retro-cool, indie-cool, underground-cool, or even dorky-cool. But seriously, go watch the opening title to that thing and tell me those violins don’t make you want to re-tone your rig.) I have used this pedal live before, and for untimed stuff, it can create some very sonically interesting sounds. However, as it’s doing that, it is robbing your original tone. And the timing sequence is so odd and cool in this pedal, that in order to get it to stop sounding messy, it really needs to dictate what you play. So I can see this thing being an amazing tool for keyboards, or to lay on top of a sequencer, or in the studio. Somewhere where you are creating a song, and that song is based on what the Murf is doing. It really is a self-centered pedal in that way; very difficult to have it add to music in a good way. You think you’ve done it, and then when you listen back you go, ‘Oh. That was cool, but it probably would’ve sounded better without the Murf.’
Now there is a new Midi Murf out, and the rumour is that it is much more controllable and usable in live situations. Hopefully, as that one is even more expensive, and it’s difficult to justify expensive pedals on your board that take away your main tone and that, even if you are okay with that, you can really only use a-tempo, use it once every couple months, or dictate every song with it. Now again, if you’re in the studio and you’re planning to base songs off of this thing, then awesome. And I’m guessing that’s what Moog was probably going for. The incredibly tinny buffer though, and buffer that is only on when the pedal is engaged…I’m not sure what that’s about. That’s the reason I sold the original Murf I owned. And then I bought one again. Sold it. And again. There is something very wrong with me. Or maybe, very very right. (No, it’s the other one.)
And if the Murf were three times as small, and cost about 4 times less, then maybe you could justify keeping on your board in a parallel looper to try to take care of the tin in the dry signal, as a pedal you turned on for ambient step filtering every once in a while. But as it is, that’s a lot of pedalboard space and money for a step filter…that could be spent on delays. Well…more on the current delay backlash from guitarists who badmouth their ‘unoriginality’, but yet still use them, in the next couple days.
(I gotta be honest…Bridget may have possibly been my first crush as a kid. And Bridget’s the one on the left. I did want to be Tony, but only because he’s kissing Bridget. And he had a cool New York accent and could get cheese out of trap just by tapping it with his ultra-cool Brit cane. Why in the world am I quoting a cartoon? Oh ya…this is why:
…For those of you who are into it, that’s James Horner…of musical fame from Braveheart, Enemy at the Gates, Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, etc. And for the rest of you…yes, I did have a heavy metal arrangement of this song worked out for my high school hair band ‘Requiem Mass.’ And yes, that was really our name.)
So there’s my Murf review. I’m very curious to see if they fixed the buffer issue on the new Midi Murf; but I’ve yet to see one for sale used. And it needs to be used so that I can resell it…because knowing me, chances are, I will. And for what it’s worth the Moog MF103 phaser is the most brilliant phaser I have ever played, and makes almost no difference in your dry signal. So…maybe the Murf was meant to do this, as like for use as a filter/studio preamp? Or keyboard preamp? At least you could use it that way with the new Midi Murf as then you can midi select back to preset one all the time as your base tone, leave the Murf always on, and then you’ve got a preamp, too…providing you like the sound of the preamp.
This has been a rambling, unrhythmic post, with not a lot of use. Hey, kind of like the Murf. Alright, that was just bad.
(Don’t watch this one first! You gotta watch the test first, and then write down your predictions, to see if you’re right. Blind Overdrive Shootout–the Test )
No intro. Hopefully the world doesn’t end.
Very, very surprising how close they all were. The Gainster was definitely the most transparent. Fabulously transparent, actually. Unfortunately, I didn’t like its decay. Its drive tended to choke out a bit on the sustain. The Tim, while perhaps actually the least transparent, also had the most amp-like sag, and really influenced your playing the most. The Fatboost was actually a lot like Tim, but a little bassier and with a little less give.
If there were a way to change the clipping characteristics of the Gainster, that might be the one. As it is now, the Tim still might have had the best, most colorful, and most amp-like sound. However, I am giving serious thought to selling the Tim and getting two $60 Fatboost’s to take its place. Really surprising results, at least for me personally. I guess it’s good to hear with our ears every once in a while; because they can’t see blue led’s.
So did you win? I didn’t, actually. With my own blind tests (meaning, hitting random buttons with my eyes closed until I forget which is which…and that doesn’t work very well on video, hehe), I kept switching the Tim and the Fatboost. And with all that you read everywhere (including on this blog, lol) about the transparency of the Tim, had I never played these pedals, I would have switched the Tim and the Gainster. Actually, I’d love to hear a Gainster where you can change the clipping section a little bit. As it is, I was wrong. Wow, those words are almost as hard to type as ‘I like Line Si–’…nope. That’s still harder.
(EDIT: Here’s the link to ‘The Reveal’, where all the answers are given: Blind Overdrive Shootout–The Reveal.)
Let’s see how tone sounds without our eyes. This is gonna be the first in a series of blind shootouts (like the wonderful Johnny Depp towards the end of the regrettable Once Upon a Time in Mexico) that hopefully I’ll stay current on. The pedals are going to be in loops, and then I’ll engage the loops to engage the pedals. But I won’t tell you which pedals are in which loops until next week. And the rat’s nests of cables on my board will actually work to my benefit for once, as you literally cannot trace cables on my pedalboard. hehe
(How rad is it that he’s just making fun of his role in the movie. And if you don’t see it…wait for it…yep. There. He’s reading a ‘Judy Garland’ book in the movie. Classic. He’s also one of those guys who looks so good that he makes you want to hurt yourself, but I won’t say that out loud.)
–Paul Cochrane Tim (at 12 volts)
–Clark Gainster (original discontinued hand-wired version…because of course, ‘rare’ equals ‘tone’)
–Fulltone Fatboost (original version…again…except this time pretty much just because the color is better than the subsequent versions)
The Base Clean Tone
–Prairiewood Les Paul (Woletone Dr. V’s…using neck, bridge, and split coil on the middle position)–>
–Fryette Valvulator buffer–>
–Loop-Master bypass looper–>
(Loop 1–>nope, not until next week
(Loop 5–>I’ll never tell
–Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel)–>
–65 Amps cab (Blue and G12H30)
–None! It’s a blind test!
Possible Personal Biases
–Well, I did know which loops were which. So…let’s just say that they all probably evened out because the Gainster is gold and hand-painted, the Tim has a blue led, and the Fatboost has that cool ‘fits in the palm of my hand’ thing going on. Why is that so cool in pedals? Like, I feel like I could just grab it in my hand and show up to the gig like a rockstar with a pedal in one hand, amp in the other, and guitar slung over my back. When in reality, I’m hobbling in under the crushing weight of a pedalboard so big that I have to turn down gigs without double doors. (No, not quite…well, yet. The world is full of gear that is not yet velcro’d to my pedalboard. A fact that haunts me in the deep parts of the night.)
Why These Pedals
I subscribe to the theory that pedal overdrive sounds best when you keep your amp on the verge of breakup for its clean tone, and then use transparent-sounding overdrive pedals to ‘push’ your amp into its own natural breakup. Of course, some of them have better flavors of their own than others, even though the theory makes sense to me. So I thought I’d throw my favorite actual boost pedal into the mix, along with two pedals which are supposed to have great transparent, low drive sounds.
And the Blind Shootout:
So…which is which? If you want, post your predictions here, as well as which one you think sounded best. And next week, we’ll see who was right……so, post at your own risk. hehe And, just for the record, I did know which was which obviously, but whenever I do shootouts, I usually close my eyes and click random buttons, and I was definitely wrong a few times on this one. With two pedals in particular. So there ya go. And, because it’s ‘awesome’ (meaning, ‘not at all’):
(You cannot explain to me why Enrique Iglesias is in this movie. Nope. You just can’t. And he’s obviously ‘posing’ for some Calvin Klein commercial in his mind, rather than ‘acting’. Which, may be a good thing for us all. Oh, and one of his guns has two barrels. Maybe it’s some sort of boomerang gun to suck the bullet back for re-use later? I do not doubt that that could exist in this movie. It hurts me. It physically hurts me.)
So…what’s your choice? And if you choose ‘Enrique’, you’re fired.
Ah, the internet. Humility and entertainment, all in one. See, on this blog, I think people feel the need to at least be somewhat civil when I give a bad review to your favorite pedal or make fun of that solo Lincoln Brewster knows. ( ) Yep. I deserve all that I get. lol And on youtube, that’s exactly what happens. So, from my youtube gear demo videos, here are a few of my favorites:
On ‘The Truth About the Digitech Bad Monkey’:
- um… okay. A $40 stock mass-manufactured pedal, versus a $100 pedal that’s then been modded by one of the best in the business, and another handmade pedal running at a higher voltage… with “close to the same settings”… FAIL
- you dont know what the **** you`re talking about
- NO PEDAL BEATS THE TS-9
This is a great pedal it loves my Marshall 18 watt.
Billy G. just phoned for a stand in gig, ;-)) but really it is an overdrive NOT a metal **** pedal
Push it hard with a LP and just listen… (50 Euro’s, come on)
2e you talk to much, thanks for the demo anyway dude.
- maybe if he actually played something we could get a better idea. The only time you actually played any licks is when both pedals were combined.
- Your settings on the Bad Monkey are way off. You really need to have the low and high knobs at 9:00 or higher. The way you have them you’re getting a boxy mid hump….which you really only would want if the amp is cranked more. The truth is that you haven’t figured out how to use the Bad Monkey with that extra knob and all…unless you’re just dialing the Monkey not to sound good to justify your boutique pedals.
On ‘Tubescreamer Mods: Are They for Real?’:
- so boring saying “heuuuu” “heuuu” all the time !
- You can do this all you want, but I’ve OWNED all three. The only one I still own is the Analogman silver modded one. it’s worth the money. FOR SURE.
- I’m wearing the same pair of shoes right now. (Karl’s edit: Okay, that one’s just awesome!)
- A $40 Digitech Bad Monkey sounds better than all of them
- You need to do this again without linking the pedals. The individual tones are bleeding into one another ever so slightly…but they are.
- If you honestly think you can tell through low quality youtube camera videos, you’re fooling yourself.
This next one was on a joke demo I did of a simple amp channel switching footswitch:
On ‘Boss FS5L Demo’:
On ‘Matchless Hotbox Demo’:
- You realize you never turned the treble control at any time in the entire video right?
Way too much talking
- Sorry didn’t realize that turning the other of only 2 tone knobs qualified as some esoteric “standard”.I wonder why no one else noticed…Also I guess I was mistaken about what was being demo’d it does say “Matchless Hotbox Demo”not “listen to me talk about about a Matchless Hotbox Demo” There,there.
And my personal favorite, because I really do admire the wit on this one:
On ‘Fender Vs. Melancon’:
- Is it possible to switch guitar players ?
hehehe You just gotta love it. What in the world did we do before the internet?
Although, I have to admit…a lot of those comments were very, very true. hehehe When someone rails you, you have a choice. You can either get indignant, or you can go back and actually listen to the video in question and go, ‘Oh ya…I did just say random nonsense words until about 3 minutes into it before hitting the first chord.’ lol Ah, splendid.
It’s been about two years since I’ve been asked to do this. Yep, I like to stay on top of things. The crazy thing is, that these pedals are still on my board after 2 years. It actually frightens me a little…as if these pedals sound so good that they are literally stealing from me my status (and when you say that word, make sure you pronounce the ‘a’ long, as in ‘Larry Mullen Jr.’…it sounds more British that way) as a gear junkie. So then you have to ask yourself, what is more important: good tone, or the sad qualifications you’ve chosen to give yourself in order to feel as if you have some sort of identity and purpose in life that revolves around shiny metal boxes which exponentially increase your self-worth the more rare and expensive they are (i.e. ‘gear junkie’). And since the answer is obviously the identity-in-expensive-little-boxes one, the only logical conclusion is to sell the Damage Control Timeline’s, and then buy them back. (So many times on this blog I literally wish these were jokes. But no. I’ve owned the Tim pedal 3 times.) And I would probably do that, were it not for the saddest news in the guitar gear world since last month when we all ran out and bought $2,000 Klon’s because they were ‘being discontinued’, only to learn the next week that they were not being discontinued, but were only being revamped into smaller and more usable enclosures. We are so awesome.
Yep, the best delay pedal the world has ever seen has sadly been discontinued. (And if you disagree that it’s the best delay pedal in the world then, well…you’re wrong. hehe Little joke there. Which I won’t tell you how much of is true in my mind. ) And I actually heard that news the same day I was recording these demo’s that people have requested of how to control the Timeline via the Rocktron Midi Mate. And at first I wasn’t going to post them…why add insult to injury for people who now can no longer find these pedals? But then I started to think…what if we can keep raising the awareness on these things, and perhaps convince Damage Control to come out with I don’t know…maybe…the ‘Damage Control Timeline 2: The Alternate Reality’? Because, ‘timeline’, so…another timeline would be like, an alternate reality…ya, I know…that was cheesey and very Battlestar Galactic-ish, which is always a bad thing. Oh no, wait! The ‘Damage Control Timeline 2: ‘The LOST edition.’ Ya! Stupid LOST, man. It’s making a geek out of me. First it gets me addicted to a show about alternate universes, which is way geeky, and then it gets me reading Isaac Asimov short stories online, which is even geekier! I don’t know what it’s doing to me…and I like it. ………… Okay…where in the world are we? Oh ya! The best delay ever hopefully having a part 2. Maybe with the exact same tone, exact same build quality, exact same midi capabilities, but slightly smaller and with a beats per minute readout? Oh. I literally just got the chills.
So, I’m off. Going for it. The Damage Control Timeline Telethon. Just need a couple celebrities on board. Edge will do. Maybe Johnny Buckland. You out there, bro? (I like to pretend I know them.) Raising awareness for the most noble cause of them all: healing our world. With delay. Oh ya, and for all those of you who requested it, the demo of how to program your Timeline with the Midi Mate.
And for those of you who just don’t care, because you don’t own a Timeline, so hence have no reason to program a nonexistent Timeline via midi, I recorded a special video for you, that’s another piece written to be looped, and that’s in the third video. For your listening pleasure, sure, but mostly just part of the telethon so that I can get a Timeline with bpm readout. hehe
The Clean Tone
Prairiewood Les Paul (with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups)–>
Fryette Valvulator (JJ gold pin)
Damage Control Timeline–>
Damage Control Timeline–>
65 Amps cab (with Celestion Blue & G12H30)–>
And I’m running through my pedalboard, but no other loops are engaged except the Timeline loops, until the last video.
None, it’s not a shootout. I just wanted to say that I love delay.
Things to Notice
How long it takes me to form words.
And, at long last, Controlling the Damage Control Timeline with the Rocktron Midi Mate:
That’s just the beginning of the Telethon. We’re gonna make this happen! And in that last video, for those of you who might be interested, there was a Dr. Scientist Tremolessence used, my shimmer section consisting of the This1smyne parallel looper, Boss RV3, and EH POG, and a George Dennis volume pedal. And one Timeline was being used solely for looping, and then the other was used for a couple different delay settings. Oh ya, and then I used an Arion SAD-1 delay at the end, to help the loop fade out.
I really hope that wasn’t too boring, and that it made it a little easier to understand how to program the Timeline’s via midi. The thing about it is, that it’s so incredibly simple, that you end up questioning yourself if you did it right. Because it almost seems too simple. At least, that’s what I did when I was first learning to program them. But I hope this helps!
P.S. Thanks for being patient as I work on this new site. I am completely tech illiterate, so little things like putting a picture behind your blog, become hours of painstaking…uh…clicking. Wow. Drama queen. But I’m gonna try it out for a while, because of honestly, financial issues; but if it doesn’t work, I’ll jump back to the old one.
(EDIT: I received some feedback from people, wanting to know why it looked like I wanted to hurt them in the demo video. I apologize. I have one of those faces where, if I don’t make it a point to smile, I look very angry. Top that with this being recorded post-Easter week, meaning tired, unshaven, and a little crazy, and yes…when I re-watched the video, it did make it look disturbingly like I wanted to hurt you. So there is now an edited version of the video, focusing more on the much more important guitar, and less on me inadvertently using my ‘angry face.’ And as a bonus, now it looks more like a movie! )
I’ve been sitting on this Ooh Wah for a while now. See, this is one of those pedals that sounds really cool in the shop or on online demos; and then you stick it on your board to play it out live, and it’s like, ‘Wait…what do I do with it?’ So I was confident that after a couple weeks of alone time with it (yep), I would emerge with victorious new ways in which to use this effect. Ya…uh, no. I emerged victorious in only elevating my opinion of myself as a sucky and unoriginal musician. That’s the ironic thing about trying to emerge victorious. It doesn’t…well…work.
The Ooh Wah is 8 auto wah’s in one, and the pedal sequences through them in different patterns over which you can choose to control, or choose to have play at random. So the sound, no matter how you splice it, is a step filter. Which is a really rad sound…for like, one half verse of one song…in one set…once every two months. For those of you who haven’t heard a step filter, it’s like a filter pedal combined with a hard trem. So it breaks up your sustain into computer sounds that go in and out at different intervals. Again, very cool; but use it more than once in a set, and you’re gonna start to get glares. Just one of those odd effects that when you use it once, everyone pats you on the back for your innovation; so you try to use it again, and you’ll get immediately railed for your overuse of effects. And they wouldn’t be wrong, either.
And the ZVex is really good at what it does. I’ve tried a few other step filters, including the Moog, some Line 6 stuff, Copilot FX…and the ZVex is by far the warmest, and sits in the mix the best. So well, that you can even use it as a regular auto-wah…but you have to really think while you play it, and be careful not to let the sequencing sound come through. Which makes it kind of like, ‘Then why wouldn’t I just get ZVex’s actual wah?’ And you would be correct in thinking that. So I thought that if this pedal rocks at step filters, then that’s the demo I’ll do of it. But then I realized that that demo would be of me hitting a G chord, and then turning the pedal on to step filter it. And I don’t care how awkward I am on camera, even that wouldn’t have kept a G chord demo from boring your mind off.
So in the end, I guess I just ended up watching Brazil and Blade Runner, and thinking about the end of the world (as the ’80′s would have it), and then recording the only other valid and workable live use of the Ooh Wah that I was able to find. And that is to stick it behind delays and trem, and then use finger dynamics to play it in a way that colors all the other effects. And apologies that you have to see me in this video. I try really hard to keep that from happening, but I’ve been getting a lot of requests to show some of the chord voicings I’m using in these demo’s, rather than just the blinking lights of my pedalboard. I much prefer the blinking lights, and in fact spend far more hours per day staring at my pedalboard than I do staring at the mirror (hmm), but this is the only way to show chord voicings. And you’ll want to listen with something other than laptop speakers (just anything with some bass, really) in order to hear how the Ooh Wah works, as this piece hinges upon a subtle bassline underneath the sound of the Ooh Wah behind the effects:
And there ya go. The only other use besides step filter sounds, that I have found for the Ooh Wah. Incredible step filter, and when played consciously, can be used for regular auto wah sounds and, as in this case, for a color under your ambient effects. And for those interested, the signal chain here was my normal Prairiewood into the Matchless HC30, and effects were Ooh Wah–>Dr. Scientist Tremolessence–>Damage Control Timeline (swell settings)–>Diamond Memory Lane–>Damage Control Timeline (low mix infinite reverse settings)–>Arion SAD-1. And a couple quick notes on the Ooh Wah. One, there are two versions. Version 1 starts at random points in the sequence when you turn it on. Version 2 holds at the first step of the sequence in bypass mode. Personally, I prefer version 1. And secondly, it does not have an adapter jack, so it needs to be powered by a battery or a ZVex power plate, which unfortunately costs a good $30 on top of an already kind of expensive one-or-two-trick-pony pedal. But the batteries do last quite a while in this thing, and it is handpainted of course, so that more than makes up for it. So sad that I’m serious right now.
Oh, and each new actual piece or composition will be posted in the Music section above with a link to my Soundclick site, not necessarily as a new post here, as that will again, probably start to bore everyone. They’ll only be posted here in cases such as this…when I’m not original enough to think of any other way to demonstrate an effect. But come on…when they’re handpainted like that, and have 8 led’s (absolute score of ever right there), you’ve just gotta find an excuse to keep them on your board. Once again, all tone is reduced to cool blinking lights. And that would not be wrong.