Archive for August, 2008
Awhile back, I posted a blog about mine and Justin’s trip to my amp tech to get a half power switch put into my Holland, so that I could drop it to 15 watts when necessary and hence be able to better enhance the worship music by not….. well…… let’s face it, if we’re honest we think our instrument is the most important and should therefore be the loudest. So, trying to get out of that, I got a half power switch.
(“But these go to 11.”)
And it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Because now, in almost every venue I play in, I run at 15 watts with the master volume dimed. And it’s a much purer sound with the master volume all the way up, even though the Holland has a very, very decent master volume control.
But a few nights ago, I’m playing at a church, and my monitor was so loud I couldn’t hear my amp……. eh, at least not as much as I like. I mean, I could hear it, but I want to hear it…… you know what I mean, some of you are smiling right now. So I go over to my amp as we’re rehearsing and flip the switch to 30 watts.
Oh, sweet mercy.
I haven’t played at 30 watts for a while. There are a few venues I play where I need more than the 15, but I have not played at them lately. And I have forgotten how sweet it is to push the speakers like that. I was in heaven for the last half of the song we were rehearsing (I think it was Brooke Fraser’s ‘Hosanna’). And then I realized that the rest of the band could now not hear. Well, they could hear me. And tempted as I was to say that hearing me was enough for them, I called back to the sound guy to turn my monitor’s volume in half, and then I sadly (and not without a few tears, I must add), walked back to my amp and flipped it back to 15 watts.
And that was the best decision at the moment to help the worship music the most……. I think……. there’s still some deranged part of my brain that says that 30 watts would have helped the worship more, no matter whether people could hear anything else or not.
Remember that scene from Amadeus when Saliere is trying to get the king to play the musical piece on time, and he just can’t? And finally Saliere claps his hands on the correct beats and in time with those same beats states, “Tem-po!”
Ya. Absolutely imperative. I’m almost at the point where I’d rather someone play an E chord over my Eb chord than play out of time. Not really. But close.
This last Sunday was a mess music-wise. Not so much worship-wise….God’s gonna do what He’s gonna do, with or without us……… and it was definitely without us this Sunday. And it wasn’t my team’s fault….. it was just one of those days where all 8 of us just were not jiving together.
My wife (who is an incredible musician) asked me after the service, “Were you guys on a click?”
I answered, “There was a click going in our ears……. whether or not we were on it is another story.”
But, oh well, life goes on, and we learn. God still had his people worship Him, but as long as my team and I are up playing the worship music, I’d like to help the worship experience a little more than we did last Sunday. And props to my team, especially our drummer and the singer I had lead all the songs this last weekend, for recognizing that things were not clicking, and just going with it and worshiping anyway. Killer team at this church.
So, I’d just like to say…… tempo, people………… TEM-PO!
In keeping with the theme of changing mindsets from ‘look how cool my rig is’ to ‘how best can my rig help the music (and in turn, glorify God) in tone, versatility, reliability, and playability’, it’s rig posting time. It’s been about a two year process for me, but I am finally close to finishing…….. well, I’ve been around long enough now to know that a guitarists’ rig is never finished. Nope, never. I’ve thought I was finished about 37 times in the last 5 years of tone journey (more if you include the first 5 years of playing where I would inform everyone that pedals were cheating, and good guitarists’ didn’t need them, and then proceed to try to emulate phase and rhythmic delay sounds without pedals while botching immensely some Eddie Van Halen solo….. oh ya….. those were the days.) So, probably not finished, but the closest I’ve been in a long while.
So, first off in the Rig Update Series is the pedalboard. If tone is made up of Mind–>Hands–>Guitar–>Pedalboard–>Amp–>Cab, the board is probably the least important of all of these. It’s important, but not as important as the other factors. But I’m starting with it, because, you gotta admit, the boards are the coolest. That’s what people ask you about after the show. They’ll say, ‘Hey, which pedal gives you that great clean sound?’ And you’ll say, ’Actually, this bypass box takes all my pedals out of my signal for my clean tone, so that’s just the sound of the guitar and amp.’ And they’ll say, ‘Ya, but which one of these pedals is your clean tone?’ So…….it’s the coolest part.
Here’s my current board, as of today:
(Big, unfortunately, but relatively simple)
(I meant this to be a cool angle shot, and failed.)
(And of course, the obligatory space ship shot. The lights on the two Timelines flash, and I missed most of their lights when I snapped the picture. Blast.)
So, yes, it’s still big, but only because I have the unfortunate fate of liking big pedals. Every time I try out pedals, it’s like……you gotta be kidding me. My favorite sound came out of the blasted biggest one again. Oh, well. But if you count ‘em up, there’s only 11 effects including the volume pedal, 2 bypass loops, 2 midi switchers, a tuner, and the pedal power-er underneath the tier.
It’s simple, quiet, versatile, playable, and lets my guitars and amp do the tone work. See, my mindset has come to be (for now) that the best tone you can have will come from the guitar straight into the amp. However, in a lot of modern music, you need some effects. So, you try and place them into your chain as inobtrusively as possible. So, the bypass loopers (grey ones in bottom left) allow me to take all my pedals out of the signal chain, so there is no excess cable length and circuitry to bog down my guitar signal. Currently, I’m not using any buffers or clean boosts either.
Compare that with my board two years ago:
(Scary……fun, but holy tone suck, Batman!)
There’s a Memory Man delay/chorus under the orange and black boxes at the top left of the board that split my signal to go into two amps. So, in this one, signal went into the fuzz (little electrical box), into the blue looper, down into the grey looper on the lower tier, into the Fatdrive clean boost, into the grey looper on the upper tier, and then into the Memory Man. Not so simple, and some definite tone suck.
So, here’s how my current board lays out.
Signal goes into:
Loop-Master 4 bypass loop box with tuner mute and master bypass–>
Loop-Master 6 bypass loop box with master bypass
And all (except like, two, that I still need to change out) Lava ELC cables. Very nice cable with no tone suck, but not adding their own highs to make up for tone suck. Transparent…..yikes, I use that word way too much.
And that’s it. Much simpler, cleaner, and more toneful. The first Loop-Master box is the grey one at the bottom middle. It’s my overdrive loop box. I have fuzz, overdrive w/ switchable boost, heavier overdrive/distortion, and a solo boost. The master bypass is quite useful if I’m stacking overdrives….means I can switch them all off in one click. And the tuner mute keeps the tuner out of my signal chain, and also allows me to mute my guitar, as I don’t keep the volume pedal in my chain anymore.
The second Loop-Master box takes care of my effects (as opposed to drive pedals). I have phase, tremolo, volume pedal, rhythmic delay & ambient delay (in one loop), modulation & recording loops (one pedal does both), and chorusy delay. And loops four and five have very little to no tone suck, so I leave them on most of the time, and use one of the delays as an always on, low in the mix, sound. Really adds some warmth and depth.
And I power everything with a Furman Power Conditioner Pro in a rack. Really important for some of the high powered delays. The Diamond Memory Lane and both Damage Control Timeline’s liek their own power. And the rest of the pedals are powered by a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2+ underneath the rig. I had to sell some pedals to to get the power taken care of, but it quiets your rig so much. It’s definitely been worth it.
So, this is the part where, if you don’t want gross tech specs, you can just jump to the ‘splendid’ part below. ‘Cause I’m gonna list my whole chain and their purposes. Yikes.
Signal from guitar–>
Loop-Master 4 loop bypass box–>
–>Tuner out/mute–>Peterson Strobostomp 2 (this my mute switch, and I tune on it, too. I have learned to never, ever underestimate the beauty of being in perfect tune at all times. Just my opinion, but you should always have a tuner easy to tune with silently and at a moment’s notice. And the Peterson, though expensive for a tuner, is extremly accurate. I’d sell a delay if I had to to buy this and stay in tune)
–>Loop 1–>homemade (but not by me) Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face clone (germanium fuzz for nice, sweet, modulated and harmonic, saturated dirt sounds…… I use this for a lot of swells and such, as well as some just classic dirt and some weird stuff. It really takes on a life of its own, especially in providing feedback. I don’t completely ‘get’ this pedal yet. Fun to experiment with.
–>Loop 2–>Paul Cochrane Tim overdrive (light, indie overdrive with solo/distortion boost switch….. my main overdrive…..really transparent…… sounds like your guitar’s and amp’s tone, just overdriven)
–>Loop 3–>Hermida Mosferatu (beautiful, harmonic heavier overdrive/distortion….. clean, glassy, and full….. I use this for really driven sounds, as well as leads)
–>Loop 4–>SIB Varidrive with ECC81 tube (my solo boost…….. I leave it on the high gain setting and it just sings for solos…… cuts through the mix beautifully, and sounds really clean but still saturated…… has some compression to it which makes it not as desireable for me as an overdrive, but very desireable as a solo boost high on the neck….. the ECC81 tube is important, because the stock ECC83 has too much grain and grit in my humble opinion……. doesn’t really matter what pedal is on when you stack this, it just kinda takes over)
–>Loop-Master 6 loop bypass box–>
–>Loop 1–>Subdecay Quasar phaser (warmest and most useable phase sounds I’ve found in this small of a box….. sounds good fast and slow, and will go really slow, too…… also hasa mix knob which is very useful to hide it in the background of layers……I use it mostly for ambient stuff, though….. sometimes for vibe-ish chords)
–>Loop 2–>Guyatone Vintage Tremolo (probably the cheesiest pedal I own as far as name and color goes, but best sounding trem ever. I’ll use it for slicing sounds, rhythmic tremolo at moderate speeds to sit in the background, and for nice, slow throb)
–>Loop 3–>Ernie Ball volume pedal junior (best volume I’ve found, but it does suck some tone, so I stick it in a loop…..I only use it for swells and builds…..some sets it will never get turned on, but some sets I need it constantly…..good throw to it)
–>Loop 4–>Damage Control Timeline (my main delay…… I have to do a separate post on all the stuff this thing can do, but it’s got everything you could want…… and 128 presets that I control with the Rocktron Midi Mate at the bottom right…… I program my whole worship setlist into this thing…… dotted eighths, reverse, swells, multi-tap, modulation, whatever you want….. love this delay)
–>Diamond Pedals Memory Lane 1 (same loop as the Timeline) (I use this for ambient delays that need huge, deep modulation sounds and also for rhythmic playing or solos that just need something more….. the tap tempo is invaluable…….works great for single strummed chords, too……. amazing analog delay)
–>Loop 5–>Damage Control Timeline (I use this Timeline for recorded loops as it has a really, really good and touch sensitive phrase sampler in it…… I also use it for modulation effects….. reverb, chorus, ambient delays…….seriously, an amazing delay…..and again, 128 presets that I control with the Tech 21 Midi Mouse)
–>Loop 6–>1985 Arion SAD-1 analog delay (I use it sparingly for washy, chorusy sounds on swells, and also to be able to switch the Timeline’s loop recorder off a little less abruptly)
So that’s the long of it. There’s a ton of information here, and I only delved slightly into the mindset stuff, so hopefully you can skim through it and glean whatever you want. If you read the whole thing, you’re probably a guitarist as crazy into gear as I am.
More worship music mindset stuff to come, as well as a post on Guitars, and Amps in this series.
I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation…… you’ve got the most killer sounding piece of gear you’ve ever owned, but it’s a money pit. It just keeps breaking down.
I used to fall absolutely and completely on the side of tone. I had vintage pedals whose metal housing were being held together by like, one single solder connection on the battery connector wires. Sounded great…… for the one song per gig they actually worked for before eating it. Then I’d come home and re-solder, or re-tape or re-glue more than likely…… and make sure I stepped on them much more lightly the next time. Well, after a few years of this, I came to the brilliant conclusion……. ‘Wait…… what good is good tone if there is no sound coming out of your amp?’ I mean, it’s like, ‘Hey this pedal is the best you’ve ever heard! Okay, now listen closely, because it only makes sound for about a half a second.’
So, I moved out of that. And even further than that, I’ve been on a ’toneful, reliable, versatile, functional,playable, and toneful, toneful, toneful’ rig overhaul the last year. (More blog posts on that tomorrow.)
But, I still have some remnants of ‘Tone over Reliability.’ Like this one:
This is my Mondo Amps bassman clone. Amp sounds fabulous, for straight guitar–>amp playing and for ambient loops (which are basically the two things I use it for). And it has a cool, vintage ‘found it in my grandpappy’s basement’ thing going on looks-wise. But I’ve had it for four months, and it’s already broken down twice past what I can fix.
See, I should never have bought it…….. but I wanted an ’American-blusey-6L6′ style amp, and I (for once in my life) actually stayed in budget by buying this. (Ya, the whole ‘staying in budget’ thing lasted for all of about two weeks…….. silly me…….. good gear means in debt……. that’s all there is to it.) And I should have sold another pedal or something or been more patient, but……hey. And the funny thing is I sold it to replace my ’other amp’ (a little boutique company whose name I won’t say to protect the innocent) that broke down more than this one. Great sound……could never stay working. I think maybe I’m done with combos. The constant vibrations of the speakers just seem to be death for the amps.
So…..I’m curious…..doesn’t matter what instrument you play, but where do fall in the ‘tone versus reliability’ issue? Or are you on a journey like me trying to find the perfect balance? And anyone else have the same problem with combo amps?
Alright, as promised here’s the review of the Fulltone OCD. If you’re just joining this blog, I really like gear. I mean, really like it. Sometimes I just hold the pedals in my hands. I go to gigs with extra pedals just in my bag……no, like, they were sitting on my desk waiting to be sold, but I feel better when they’re with me, so I put them in my bag to take to the gig, knowing full well that they will not be taken out. Ya, it’s bad.
(See? That’s the happy gear look on my face every time I play guitar or touch an amp or pedal. But…….without the cheeseball fans blowing up at my hair to make me look rockstar. And yes, he does have electric fans plugged in on either side of his monitor blowing up at his hair. Sorry Steve Vai people. Now, I’m not very big into his playing, but I do admit the dude can jam. But the fans on his hair and the giant cardboard cutout of an MXR Dynacomp behind him on stage? Someone needs to tell him no.)
So craigslist is awesome. (Like my transition? Oh ya.)
You can buy things without paying paypal or shipping fees, and most of the time you can try out awesome stuff, and then sell it off again without losing any money.
We meet the craigslist guy in the El Torito parking lot at The Block in Orange. (Do you know they have a gelato place there where you can pack gelato into cookies? That’s like the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.) So, we meet the guy, and here’s the coolest thing about guitar people……there’s no, ‘Here’s the money, here’s the pedals.’ It’s like, 30 minute conversations about every incarnation our rigs have ever gone through. And I love it. Why is talking gear so fun?
‘Oh, that has the 4pdt switch?’
‘Ya, man, Mike special made this to have more presence in the depth knob.’
‘So, how does it compare to the Fulltone Chorus?’
‘Well, back in ’97, when I was playing with Mike from Fulltone, we designed….’
And so on and so forth. But note that earlier, I said ‘we’ met the pedal guy at The Block. It’s date night for my wife and I , and she so graciously just sits in the car and laughs at us as we can’t help but share our gear’s life stories. She’s so awesome.
So, I really wanted to try out an Analogman Chorus and MI Audio Crunchbox, and the OCD just came in the package. I had tried version 1 of the OCD years ago with a completely different rig and musical mindset, and hated it. And that view has just kind of stuck, so I just figured the OCD would be the one I would flip without listening to it.
(And it has a bright blue led. Have I mentioned how much I adore blue led’s? They change the tone of the pedal……no, I’m serious…..they really do. Not just in my mind.)
Well, as fate would have it, I sold my Zendrive 1 for a Zendrive 2 (because the higher the numbers, the better they are, of course), and then the Zendrive 2 didn’t work for the application I wanted it. Incredible blues overdrive, but couldn’t cop the higher gain distortion sounds like the Zen 1 could.
So while I’m in high gain pedal limbo, I throw the OCD on my board for a night service at a church. And I don’t know if there’s just been huge changes between versions 1 and 3 (supposedly they increased the mid sweep, which takes out some harshness), or maybe it’s the running it at 12 volts now, or maybe the changes in my gear and mindset, but wow, that’s a good pedal. Nice and high gain, but with a cool glassiness in the upper registers that just sings in a very original way. Awesome pedal. The knobs are very responsive, too, making it versatile, and the switch from low to high gain is very cool.
And then I bought a Hermida Mosferatu and sold the OCD. Ya, as Jason says, it’s a sickness.
So, I haven’t blogged in a while, and it’s been because God has brought me to an impasse in my life…..where you look at yourself and don’t like what you see. And it’s change, or keep fading.
And I wrote a whole blog about this impasse, and then just saved it as a draft and decided not to publish it. And that’s because I promised myself when I started this blog that I would not delve into personal junk. I couldn’t care less when others post it on their blogs. I sift through it until I find something about God, music, or gear. It’s like, we all get our kicks in when we hit ‘Publish’ on our blogs, because the mere fact that our blog gets on the internet, means that millions of people can access it. Do they? No. But somewhere in our minds do we feel special because we don’t know, maybe they do, and we’re more popular than we know? Yep. And if you’re saying that’s not you, that’s cool. But hopefully, then, it’s so not you that you won’t be thinking about this paragraph later on tonight wondering why exactly it is that you blog about some of the things you do. (hehe….Sorry, not meant to be harsh….just a real question to ask ourselves.)
So, I created this blog to talk about using music for God’s glory. I think that’s something a lot more people want to read than the random junk in my life that I think people love to read because I’m so witty in my writing style. Uh…..right. I’ll just stick with the gear. So, as for what’s going on in my life to make me not post for a couple weeks…..maybe I’ll post it someday.
But as for today, this blog here serves as the place-holder for informing everyone reading of why there was a gap in blogs.
And not only that, but an impasse in my life of course automatically means an impasse in my gear, so that’s been keeping me busy as well. :-)
Lots of gear reviews to come: Damage Control Timeline (with clips), Hermida Audio, Mojave Amps, OCD, Analogman, & Lovetone.
And apologies that this entry had a bit more of a serious and, I admit, cynical tone to it. I’ll try to change that with this picture:
(Understand, that I have more respect for Mick and Keith as musicians than almost anybody. They are incredible, and they’ve been coming up with new catchy and melodic grooves and hooks for over 40 years. But should they be wearing what they are wearing? No. Not by any means you can possibly explain to me.)
Promising to get back to gear tomorrow,