Electro Harmonix POG Review & Demo

Continuing my search for a simple synth sound to be able to have in my rig when necessary. And by simple, I mean, I don’t need another amp to run synth into and then having a stereo rig plus the ‘pads’ amp. Wanting another amp…well, that’s different. The moment you cease to ‘want’ another amp, is the moment you cease to be a guitarist. And I’ll leave that up to you to decide whether or not I’m kidding. ;)

But the Verbzilla just didn’t do it for me. That was the most simplistic route…it’s got the reverb, octave up, and pre-delay all in one pedal. But I’m a snob (or so I’ve been told…and every time someone says that, I try desperately to pull my old junky Arion SAD-1 off my board and hold it up in triump……but I’m either too late, or no one cares, or they just continue to stare at my other gear……I’m working really hard to get a good-sounding Boss pedal, or Ibanez, or something, to show people I’m really not a tone snob……it’s just hard because even the good-sounding Boss pedals don’t have blue led’s, true bypass, killer paint jobs, and even better bragging rights…so……hehe ;) ), and didn’t like the digitally tone. So then I decided to go the all-analog route, and get the POG.

It’s an octave generator, complete with a couple detuned (adding modulation) octaves. Has a sub-octave, and both one and two octaves up. And it’s all analog. So, add some delay, and you pretty much have a ’70′s or ’80′s analog synth. And all the wondrous warmth that goes with it. And, unfortunately, the noise. And the unpredictability. And the overdrive when you don’t want overdrive. Aech. So here’s the demo.

Clean Tone 

Prairiewood Les Paul with Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups–>
Loop-Master bypass box–>
Loop-Master bypass box–>
                (–>Electro Harmonix POG–>)
Holland AC30–>
65 Amps birch cab with Celestion Blue and Celestion G12H-30

You’ll notice that I did run through my whole pedalboard this time so that I could demonstrate how the POG reacts with delay and reverb both before it and after it. Also, I did power it through the courtesy outlet on the PP2+, but it was still a bit noisy. (Understandable, as it is actually creating fully trackable octaves completely analog and without fuzz.) And please note the awkwardness when I try to show the first upper octave, and there is no upper octave, so I really hit a couple high notes to make the upper octave sound, and there’s still no upper octave, and then I remember that the filter mix has to be up for the upper octaves to sound, and then I unsuccessfully try to pass it off as ‘demo-ing’ what the filter mix slider does. Very sad. 

Here’s the POG:

Some pretty cool sounds, and amazing that all this is happening in the analog realm. The tracking of the octaves to what I’m playing dry, is incredible. If you want an octave pedal, or a complete organ synth sound, I’m not sure there’s a better pedal for it.

But you can tell it probably wasn’t meant to be used as a synth low in the mix underneath the guitar. It still does it quite well, but it’ll start to overdrive itself. Which is a really cool feature of some of the old analog synths, and one we’ve come to love and expect. However, when putting that sound underneath what you’re already doing with the guitar sound, it takes away clarity. So perhaps a little too warm to be following the same notes as the guitar sound. Might be back to digital synth for that. Not the Verbzilla. hehe Or maybe the POG also needs a second amp for it to come out of. And I’m not going to go there until Coldplay calls. (And if you’re new to this blog, that sounds like I’m on the backup list for when Johnny Buckland gets sick or something. And that’s how I want it to sound. Makes me appear ‘cool.’ But in reality……well, let’s just put it this way: I’m not.)

Overall, a great sounding pedal that is still tripping me out as to how it does what it does so well. It’s just that I’m looking for something different. Plus, it is big and it takes up my whole pedalboard. No. That last part was a lie. But it’s looking more and more as if my snobbery is going to cause me to never get my synth effect without getting a completely separate rig dedicated to it split from an ABY box. However, on the plus side, this does give me the chance to try out the Boss PS3; and if I like it, then good-bye tone snobbery! I’ve got a Boss pedal on my board. How do you like them apples? Which is of course, exactly what I will say. Unfortunately, that quote is from ‘Good Will Hunting’, which is a good film, and rather difficult to find anything to make fun of in it. Hence, the unfortunateness as it relates to the way my mind usually works in these posts. 

Splendid.
Karl………

 

………..Okay, I just can’t seem to help myself.

How did an actor who started here…

good-will-hunting

…end up here…

daredevil

…and here…

survivingchristmas11

…and here…

National Theatre

…oh ya…and here…

paycheck

If it’s from the director of Mission Impossible II and Face/Off, you know it’s good.

Splendid (again).
Karl.

So it Begins

The unhappiness with my tone. And it’s about that time. It’s been…almost a year since I got my base tone right where I wanted it to be? 10 months, maybe? Right about the time for me to get restless. Last night, at one of my normal venues, the ‘guts’ were gone from my tone. Same tone, just no 3d effect. I even took it apart to see if one the speakers had come loose from its solder, or if a tube was starting to go. Doesn’t appear that way.

Maybe my picks are getting worn down, maybe the speaker cable is going. Or maybe I’m just bored and accidentally ran across this picture again:

jason-orme

Jason Orme with his lovely KT88-tubed Divided by 13 RSA23, run in combination with an unfortunately not-pictured Matchless DC30. And if you’re thinking that the ’4Alanis.com’ in the bottom right of the picture is referring to Alanis Morissette, you would be correct. But before you bash, check her out live. Orme and the rest of her backing band are absolutely amazing. His tone and melodic sense are to die for; I do wish he wasn’t wearing the ‘I-want-to-be-Eddie-Van-Halen’ wristband, but hey……guess you can’t have it all.

So is it an awakening of my ears, or just plain boredom? Should I just be happy with my tone and cure my boredom by just playing my strat exclusively or something like that for the next couple weeks? Definitely. Will I? hehehehe If I gave you one guess……

Splendid.
Karl.

The Postscript: Apologies for the decidedly uninformative posts as of late. Life is……well, let’s just say that life is definitely happening right now, and all that that entails. Gear reviews, demos, musicianship articles, and stuff that might actually be useful (imagine that!) are hopefully on their way.

A Simple Question

No observations, judgments, or commentaries. I dig the huge stadium productions and huge guitar rigs (mmmm) just as much as the intimate acoustic sets. Just a simple question that I think may be a good thing to ask ourselves every so often. And this question has to do with the heart, not how any one individual chooses to express that heart.

There’s a fine line between giving our absolute best performance to God, and between living out our repressed musician fantasies because we couldn’t hack it anywhere else but on the much more forgiving worship stage. Are we flirting with that line?

Splendid.
Karl.

Line 6 Verbzilla Review…Sort Of

I was all plugged in and had the camera ready to do the demo of the Line 6 Verbzilla……and then the more I played it, the more I realized how unfair it would be to do a video demo of a pedal I just absolutely cannot jive with. Now, I have no problem calling a spade a spade, and I wouldn’t mind calling the Verbzilla a bad pedal. The problem is, it’s not a bad pedal (although definitely a strong contender for worst, cheesiest, and most ‘what were they thinking’ name for a pedal ever). A lot of people get really great sounds from this pedal; and that is why I cannot call it a bad pedal. For me though, it killed my dry signal, and the reverbs sounded too digital to get real spring sounds, but not digital enough to get those cool artifact fade-outs that digital delays are famous for. Best setting was the ‘Octo’ mode, of course, which turns your guitar into a synth with very little work on your part. Or, turn down the mix a bit and you can have the synth effect ‘behind’ everything you play. I thought the idea behind this genius. I know of precious few pedals that will give you both the octave up and reverb at the same time. Huge props to Line 6. However, I felt the execution to be lacking. And it’s not just a boutique effect thing. I tried the Boss PS5 into the Boss RV5 and liked it better. (*Gasp!* I know, absolute heresy.) I tried the Line 6 live for a practice, but ended up taking it off my board for the service. It did seem to react better on my acoustic. Maybe the dryer tone of the acoustic fits better into coldly digital effects. I know I do like my delays much colder and dryer on the acoustic. 

verbzilla

But here’s the thing…I do not want to do an entire post on the Line 6 Verbzilla review because of one very simple reason: fear. I’ve already weathered my fair share of…I’ll be nice and just call them ‘differing opinions’…because of my less than stellar review of the beloved Digitech Bad Monkey. ;) So I can only guess what this review of the cherished provider of the famous U2 shimmer effect is going to get me. And I suppose I could preface it all with saying that ‘I could be wrong.’ That approach, though, hasn’t seemed to work with the Bad Monkey. So I figure I’ll do just that quick, unfortunate, and somewhat poor review of the Line 6 Verbzilla, thereby retaining this blog’s objectivity; but then say something really quick that’s totally off of the subject, but so incredibly…um…frightening, that no one will ever remember the poor review of the Verbzilla. Thereby sidestepping all of the nasty side effects of the afore-mentioned objectivity. :)

So here it goes. Be prepared to forget all about the Verbzilla review. In looking at what keyword searches have brought people to this blog, and sifting through the usual ‘effects’, ‘tone sucking’, tube versus solid state’, and ‘which blog’s author is better than the Edge’ (okay I made that one up), I ran across: ‘Orlando Bloom with his shirt off.’

Now, let it be known, first and foremost, that Orlando Bloom has never appeared on this blog in any other form than for me to poke fun at his unique brand of ‘constant surprise’ acting. Let alone Orlando in any form less than fully clothed. In fact, I believe in my heart of hearts that Orlando Bloom only exists in the ‘clothed’ state. Start to go one step towards the more naked side of ‘fully clothed’, and Orlando ceases to exist. How do I know this? Because the alternative is unthinkable.

orlando-bad-acting-21
(This is Orlando, appearing in the proper amount of clothes. Also, showing his ‘concerned’ face.)

Nevertheless, there has been at least one person in the world who has viewed this blog from searching for ‘Orlando Bloom with no shirt on.’

Close runner-ups were ‘Tom Cruise with a monkey’, and, I quote, ‘Crapest pedalboard ever.’ So I guess I got that going for me. Ya. Rockstar. Guess it serves me right for giving the Verbzilla a bad review. 

Splendid. (If you cut out the whole part about the Line 6 pedal and the Orlando Bloom with less clothing than I care to think about part.)
Karl. 

P.S. Oh, and I know there’s a bunch of you out there who dig the Verbzilla and get great tone out of it. Just don’t think of the review……think of Orlando with his shirt off…wait, that’s not going to work either. Okay. Just please accept my apologies and prove me wrong with some stellar demos! :) And of course, I’m sure I’ve got some gear that you can’t stand, either. hehe

Musical and Not-So-Musical Findings This Weekend

  • The Cure was on to something. Definitely rip them off.
  • There is much rejoicing inside the MJM Foxey Fuzz. Albeit, kind of ’80′s Van Halen rejoicing, but still rejoicing. 
  • It is possible to forget the lyrics to ‘Heart of Worship.’
  • When you forget the lyrics to ‘Heart of Worship’, always make it seem like you’re too overcome to sing, rather than copping to the fact that you screwed up. Ya. There’s the heart of worship. 
  • Delay. You’re welcome.
  • Sometimes God uses what you don’t expect.
  • I love fuzz.
  • The bass guitar is what makes everything the electric guitar does possible.
  • 90% of all hum issues can be solved with those little ground switches on the direct boxes
  • I should put more into my acoustic rig. (Meaning, something besides just my acoustic. Like, a tuner would be good. And a cable. Don’t just steal them from the electric rig.)
  • Fleet Foxes. 
  • It is still possible to be overcome by God’s love, even when you’re focused on leading. Sometimes even moreso.
  • If you make a list of things to do but keep said list only in your head, you will always forget one thing.
  • Writing lists is for sissies (i.e. Line 6 users. Kidding!! Kidding! Seriously, Line 6 demos are coming soon, and the Echo Park is the best bang for your buck in the entire delay entourage.)
  • My amp’s black tolex sounds better than the red tolex. More mids.
  • I am the Edge. (Yes, a worse sounding and worse playing one, but don’t spoil my fantasies!)
  • If I want to stop burrowing a hole in the back of my guitars with my belt buckle, I need to invest in one of those guitar player belt sleeve things.
  • Man, those guitar player belt sleeve things look stupid.
  • Say what you want about Taylors, they sound really good.
  • Hillsong knows what they’re doing.
  • Hence, I steal from them a lot. (Ideas, not gear.)
  • More delay.
  • Those little background graphics behind the song lyrics? Ya. Those are important. Someone came up to me this week and said that one of the backgrounds reached them more than my tone…I mean, than the song. ;)
  • If you know for a fact that no one has touched the sound system since you last turned it off until the time you turned it back on, someone has touched it.
  • And lastly, if things are sounding really good, but you don’t have your delay pedal on, you should always then turn it on. Just for the peace of mind in knowing that since you had delay on, things couldn’t possibly have gotten any better. And fuzz.

Splendid.
Karl.

Tonal Efficiency

It hit me the other day; I played an outdoor gig with one amp at 30 watts un-mic’d and people 100 yards away said they could hear me with perfect clarity. (And I’ll leave it up to them as to whether ‘hearing me with perfect clarity’ was a good thing, or a very terrible thing. hehe) And 100 square yards of people sounds impressive, until you realize that there were very few people standing in between the stage and those sitting 100 yards away because that was the only place to sit. (What I mean is that there weren’t that many people there, even though it was a large area and I was wishing it were filled with Coldplay fans and that I was Coldplay.) But what hit me was that hearing yourself and being heard by others is not about loudness. I used to play with three amps, one at 100 watts, one at 30 watts, and one at 22 watts (never mind what in the world I was thinking), and I remember having trouble hearing myself. And I remember at the time thinking, ‘How in the world can I not hear 152 watts?’ And if you’re thinking, ‘Well, it’s probably just that the stupid sound guy had you turn your 152 watts down so much, they were probably only at 5 watts!’ Ya. No……that unfortunately wasn’t the case. They were all cranked. Because it’s a theological fact that people will not worship unless the guitar amp is cranked. (This is a joke……but if you not did read it as a joke, and were instead nodding your head in agreement, then……well, let’s just hope you weren’t.)

keithurban19xn
(Ya. As much as this makes me have to gasp a little for breath, and ‘The Hills were Alive with the Sound of Music’ just started playing within my heart, let’s not do this. And I’m not sure why Keith Urban is selling the two amps marked as ‘for sale’, but I am definitely buying them. He does have great tone…and he’s also one of the prettiest men I have ever seen. I mean that in an envious way, not a ‘longing for’ way. I’m really not sure why I say the things that I say.)

So let’s be absolutely honest here. It’s impossible not to hear 152 cranked guitar amp watts. You just can’t. So the only possible explanation if you can’t hear that, is that it must be psychological. See, the second most difficult thing in the world is to be objective about oneself. And the first most difficult thing in the world is to be objective about something one has created. Namely, in our case, our guitar sound. So whether you like it or not, there is an expectation of how our guitar will sound a split second before we hit each string. This expectation is in direct proportion to how much time, money, and effort has been spent on said guitar sound…as well as to how much we like ourselves. (So for me, that expectation is pretty high. No, not the effort thing; I like myself a lot.) In essence, our first impulse is to hear what we want to hear. Seriously, how hard is to admit that your new $3500 amp that you saved for four years for, sold your first guitar and 6 delay pedals to get, and drove 4 hours with petrol (you gotta forgive me…I have this perpetual desire to be British) you didn’t have, to go pick it up, actually sounds bad. Especially if you know you cannot resell it for the $3500 you’re into it for. We have an expectation of the sound that’s going to happen before we ever play it.

And it’s this expectation that causes us not to be able to hear ourselves. Why? Well, very simply, ‘hearing’ is your ear drums reacting to air moving at certain frequencies. And there are no frequencies an electric guitar puts out that the human ear cannot hear. So the only possible explanation for not being able to hear 152 watts is that we cannot psychologically bring our brains to realize that the distorted mush dying in the sound of the rest of the band, is in fact, our tone. See the point is not volume. It’s the volume of the frequencies that will both be pleasing to the ears and that will cut properly through a band mix, the strength and weight of those frequencies, and making sure that actual air is moving.

Frequencies

The guitar is a mids-heavy instrument. EQ it as such. You need to have a strong presence in both the high mids and the low mids, and not a ton of bass. And for the love of everything that’s good in this world, roll your treble back. That’s usually the first thing people do when they start to think about how they fit in the mix, is to think, ‘Okay, then I’ll be higher than everybody else.’ And yes, this is a sure-fire way to make sure you are heard. It’s also a sure-fire way to make people wish they couldn’t. Now, I’m not talking about rolling up your mids…that gets to be too much, as the guitar is mid heavy already. I’m talking about finding gear that is voiced well…with good presence in the mids. Then you can roll down on bass a bit, up on mids a bit, and slightly up on treble a bit. Usually this is the best homebase starting point towards keeping a presence in the mids on most guitar amps. Every piece of gear is different, so you’ll have to do a lot of on the spot eq’ing when you’re in a band situation. 

The low mids thing is to make sure the guitar keeps its warmth, and its ability to sit in the mix. Another tendency of guitarists is to do so well at making their guitar stand out in the mix, that it 1) no longer blends with the band in the times when they’re not solo’ing and actually want it to blend, and 2) loses warmth when drive pedals are turned on. The low mids allow the guitar to once again be warm when you’re stacking drive pedals for solos, and to be able to sit back in the mix when necessary, but still be heard. No low mids and too many high mids are the reason sometimes for going, ‘I can’t hear the guitar until it solos.’ You want to hear the guitar blended with the rest of the band, and then you want it to maintain warmth, even when it’s searing in a solo. Your solo boosting pedals are to add gain and volume, not necessarily treble. 

Secondly, make sure your pedal chain and cables are not killing all your mids. Lots of pedals and cable length tend to add flabby bass. And too many buffers tend to add harsh treble. If you go the buffer route, make sure there’s either one at the beginning of your chain, or two…with one also at the end of your chain. I highly suggest going the bypass looper route, as to my ears it keeps the tone as natural (untouched) as possible. 

balcony-fail2
(This has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Except to keep the people happy that come here just for the pictures. This is for you guys! :) The coolest thing about this picture is that you know it wasn’t doctored, because anyone with the same computer skills that wrote the wording ‘Balcony Fail’ in this picture, quite obviously does not have the skills to have photoshop’d it. And no, it wasn’t me who wrote that. Although, to be fair, it definitely does look like something I would do…and then subsequently be very proud of.)

And thirdly, you want to get pedals that let your now wonderfully middy, cutting through the mix, blended tone, through. So many times I hear guitarists with this beautiful clean tone, and then one delay pedal or drive pedal or trem pedal gets turned on, and they’re gone in the mix. Make sure each pedal keeps your tone intact first, and then adds the effect as an aside, so to speak. Doesn’t mean the effect can’t be pronounced, but there’s nothing worse than spending countless time, money, and effort and getting the perfect tone, and then ruining it with one little pedal.

Weight

Your tone must have weight. Absolutely must. If you’ve got 15 different instruments in the band (I’m listing all the cymbals and drums as one intsrument each) all pushing for their place in the harmonic spectrum, the weaker sounds, although eq’d properly to their portion of the harmonic spectrum, are not going to be heard. And turning them up only makes a louder weak sound, if that makes any sense. Sound is moving air. And it needs to move it strongly. With weight. All I can describe it as is sounding ‘real.’ Put it this way. Play a note on a grand piano, fully open. Then play the same note, at the same volume, in the same octave, on a keyboard through an amp. When you listen to them separately, you can set them to the same volume. Maybe even turn the keyboard up louder than the piano. But play them at the same time, and you’re going to ‘hear’ the piano more. Its weight and presence in the harmonic spectrum, is going to make the keyboard fall flat. Same with guitar tone. You have to process the sound in a way that lets it maintain its weight, and then you have to actually move the air.

The best way to process your sound is to process it as little as possible. Meaning, first create the integrity of your guitar signal acoustically, and then maintain that integrity. So good wood, good picks, good strings. Get a good acoustic sound. Then get hot and open sounding pickups that have great dynamic range and responsiveness to pick up and reproduce that acoustic sound as accurately as possible. And then……this is important……more important to me than most people are (and that’s bad…but hopefully it conveys the gravity of the situation…man, I’m a tone jerk), then…tubes. You’ve got to use tubes to keep the integrity you just created. As it matters to the weight of the sound, it can all be explained in a simple experiment. Bring a 100 watt solid state amp and a 5 watt tube amp to your next rehearsal. Run them both out of an ab box and switch between the two. I guarantee that the tube amp will be ‘heard’ more. It might not be louder, but in the band mix, it will fill the room more. More weight. I used to pull my hair out because the other guitarist at my church would always cut me completely out of the mix with his 40 watt Fender Bandmaster at 3, even though I had my 120 watt Crate at 8. Technically, mine was louder. But through this incredibly loud guitar noise, came this beautiful, weighty, real air moving at real frequencies, that just made my noise pale. 

And of course, again, don’t let your pedals take away that weight and presence in your tone. Don’t get ones that digitize our dry signal too much, or ones where the effect takes over and thins out your overall sound. I see so many guitarists with spectacular rigs and pedals that kill them. 

Moving Air

And after your guitar and tubes…you have got to push those speakers. The speakers are what’s bringing your signal back to the real acoustic realm of moving air. I think I mentioned in my last post (I tend to confess way too much on this blog…honesty bordering on stupidity) that I once ran 30 watts into 6, 75-watt speakers. And the tone was so incredibly weak. The speakers are what’s pushing the air; if they’re not working hard enough, air is not getting pushed properly. You have to make those speakers work for you! Get speakers that are as close to your amp’s wattage rating as possible. They have to push the air; and to do that, they need to be pushed. Also, get ones that when pushed, give off a full tonal spectrum, and get good wood in the cab so it will resonate those speakers well. I can’t tell how many soundguys have mentioned how tripped out they are that they can get such a range from my guitar and get it to fill the room, since I put in a Celestion Blue, and got a well-designed cab with good wood. And I guess that can sound prideful…but in reality, I’d like for the soundguys to be telling me that the riff I just played was the most dream-like and melodic one they’d ever heard and they were brought to instant girl-tears. But all they are saying is, ‘Hey, good job on buying that cab.’ Yep. Humbling. But good tone is very important.

fat-tone
(I didn’t mean this to be funny. I was searching for pictures of rigs with ‘fat tone’ and this came up–’Fat Tone’ professing that he is, in fact, the streets. And I think…that this is really an album cover. It’s sad enough that we even have to wonder whether something like this is real…but then to find out that it actually is…seriously, what is ‘Rapbay’?)

That is tonal efficiency. Being able to be heard more, be heard better, sound fuller, sit in the mix better, punch through the mix at those certain spots with more warmth, all done better with 10 watts than most players can do with 50. Or, in my case, with 15 or 30 watts than 152. Oh, those were dark days. Remember, next time you can’t hear yourself in the band mix, to seriously listen for that gross wall of mush that you think is just the soundguy’s poor mixing skills, and see if it’s actually your guitar sound. We hear what we want to hear. I’m not sure that can be fixed. (Especially for people like me who like themselves so very much. And I liked myself a lot at 152 watts. I thought my three amps at 152 flabby watts were so unique and original, and that if only Edge could hear me, he’d immediately sell his Vox’s and buy any number of amps that would add up to the magic of 152. I was wrong.) So let’s make our guitar tone, in reality, what we want to hear.

Splendid.
Karl.

Abandoned Tone Ideas

Something triggered this in my head the other day; and I started thinking of all the tone ideas that I have abandoned over the years. And how fortunate that abandonment has been for the world as a whole. See, my natural tendency is to think that, if it’s an idea that’s been thought of before, it’s not good enough. And so I’m always trying to push the envelope for new and innovative ways to do the ultimate end of all life. Which is tone. (Just in case there was any doubt. ;) ) However, for every one thing I’ve come up with that I actually end up instigating (that word might not go there) in my rig, there have been like, a hundred other abandoned concepts. Some, fortunately, before they were ever put into place; and others, quite unfortunately, after a good many people heard them live.

So, of course, my next thought is, ‘I should post my stupidity on the internet.’ I don’t know why that is always my next thought……I’m probably just hoping to get some kind of confirmation that I’m not alone. Oh, I hope I’m not alone in some of these. And please note that, yes…they are all completely true. And though most of them happened 5 or 6 years ago, as a 19-year-old just cutting his teeth on tone, a couple of them were…uh…not so long ago.

  • In the search for warmth, I went a while with the reverb on a Peavey Classic 100 (really wet, good sounding reverb) at 10. All the time. That was the homebase setting for my ‘tonal warmth.’ This one would have lasted a while, had it not been for fate mercifully stepping in and letting me read an article saying that Edge never used amp reverb. 
  • I’ve had a germanium fuzz and a tube preamp with the bass cranked, together in one loop, for ‘cello tone.’ I had to be sat down and talked to by a couple people about this one. They said that while I was playing my cello, no one could hear anything else. I said that they didn’t understand innovative tonal ideas. Then I think I went home and cried in my pillow, and then pretended that one of those pedals ‘broke’, so that I was ‘unable’ to play my cello, rather than giving in to ‘the man.’
  • After watching the special features on the Lord of the Rings, and finding out that they made the tree’s voice sound all warm and woody and natural by creating a series of wooden tunnels which the actor spoke into, and then mic’ing the end of the tunnel, I naturally decided to build a series of wooden tunnels that would stand in front of my amp’s speakers, and then travel through ten feet of tunnels to where it would be mic’d at the opening. Thankfully, I never got around to building it.
  • I used a dime for a couple weeks, rather than a pick. I can’t remember why. But it wasn’t because I ran out of picks.
  • For awhile, I had an analog delay with mix all the way up, and about 16 repeats on it, always on. Always on. This one took a…uh…a good long time to be abandoned.
  • Somewhere, I read that speaker coverage was louder than actual wattage (?). So I placed my Orange AD30 on top of a 4×12 cab, loaded the Orange’s 2 speakers and the cab’s 4 speakers with 75 watt Eminence Governors, and then plugged the cab into the Orange’s external speaker jack. So now I’ve got 30 watts running into 6, 75-watt speakers. That’s 30 watts trying to push speakers ready to handle 450 watts. And I wondered why my tone sounded so mousy. Sound techs were amazed at the fantastically anti-climactic sound from my ‘full stack.’ Thankfully, this one only lasted a couple weeks.
  • After coming out of my digital Boss GT6 amp modeling phase, digital was now the enemy. As a result, I played for a while all my Edge rip-offs with 300 millisecond analog delay pedals. (I didn’t have the money for a longer timed one like the Maxon or Moog, and Diamond Pedals had yet to come out with their analog tap tempo/dotted 8th Memory Lane.) In order to get the Edge dotted eighth effect, I set the delays to time their quarter notes with the music. And then I got the dotted eighth effect with my ‘pick attack.’ I’m quite sure it sounded nothing like the Edge. This went on a while, too.
  • At one time, I wanted to have a Line 6 pedal on my board. Whew! Thank goodness that’s over. (Just kidding! Just kidding!! :) )
  • After listening to some Irish music with sounds of rivers in the background, I decided to build a small cascading waterfall that would sit in front of my speaker grill, and then the mic would sit in front of that, so as to pick up my guitar sound through the sound of flowing water. The ultimate organic. Only thing would be that I would now not just need an electrical outlet for my rig, but a water spigot. It was while at Home Depot looking for a garden hose for my rig that I was like, ‘Wait. I’m looking for a garden hose for my rig.’
  • I used to split my signal after my overdrives and before my effects using a stereo delay pedal. The second signal went to a second pedalboard, loaded with delays and phasers, and going to a second amp…so that I could have washy pad sounds beneath everything I did. Though not a bad idea in and of itself, this was back in my ‘analog only/vintage only’ stage; so there were like 6 vintage Small Stone phasers and three DOD 680 analog delays. So I had my guitar sound from one amp, and then an indistinguishable mush from the second. I thought it sounded fantastic. This was abandoned however, when a sound guy told me how cool it was to have the two different sounds, and had been alternating between the two during solos.
  • Mic’ing my amp with a kick drum mic. Thankfully, this never saw the light of day.
  • Wanting a Leslie as an extension cab. This one is current. ;)
  • My very first pedalboard was circular. With a welcome mat stapled to it instead of carpet. (Still don’t remember what the welcome mat was all about…I think it had some green vines portrayed on it, so it looked more Irish and ‘organic tone’ than just plain carpet.) The idea with the circular boards was, as I added pedals, to add boards, and then eventually, like 8 of them would fit together in a complete circle around me. And then I could not only step forwards to turn on effects, but backwards, and sideways as well. This concept was abandoned after only two circular pedalboards, as Dance Dance Revolution premiered on Sony Playstation, and I realized that jumping forwards, backwards, and sideways to step on buttons looked far less rockstar than I had originally anticipated. 

Yikes. I sure wish I had made some of those up.

Splendid.
Karl.

Dr. Scientist Tremolessence Review & Demo

Alright. There’s been some good discussions here lately……but it’s time to bring it back to reality. Meaning gear. ;) See, anyone can bring up discussion points and point out what’s wrong; but what shows what type of person you are is not how many of the world’s and church’s problems you can solve in your own little circles (now if only the world would ask us!), but what you do about it. Hence, I have decided to show what type of person I am. It’s time to make all the world’s issues and all the people’s issues and all the church’s issues obsolete by really doing something about it. I give you…………a tremolo demo. And for those of you screaming heresy right now……okay, okay, okay. We’ll just solve a few problems with tremolo today. We’ll solve the majority of the world’s problems tomorrow……with delay.

But there’s a little truth in that. Sure tremolo is a small part, but we’re all here and on other blogs and boards and such because gear and tone and playing and leading and musicianship is how ‘worship’ is currently playing out in our own lives. So, though a pedal review is a small part, it is a part, and a part that is something tangible we’re doing to try to worship the Lord. I know, I know, a delay pedal review would have made so much more sense here. (And if you’re new to this blog, delay is the ultimate effect. It’s science.) But that’s why we’re all here. Well, and because we’re obsessed. (Oh! And speaking of ‘Obsessed’! Did anyone catch the preview for the new movie with that title? Fantastic. Some thriller (and not cool Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’…the type of thriller where they can only get no name actors to star, and then those no-name actors will never be able to do any other movie ever again…like the Blair Witch kids) lady wants to steal some other lady’s husband, but the other lady is all psycho-possessive of her husband, and they start to go Jodie-Foster-Panic-Room on each other. It’s like, do producers these days know that they are not legally obligated to buy a script just because it gets handed to them? Seriously stupid world sometimes. See? And I’m totally gonna solve it with trem.) And then…ah, forget it. I have no idea where I am. But after two somewhat heavier posts, it feels really good to just free associate. Nobody reads the parentheses anyway. ;)

obsessedwallpaper_02_1280x1024
(Okay, I guess you have the read the parentheses to know why I’m posting this. And I just two seconds ago learned that it’s actually not all no-name actors. This is Beyonce Knowles in the movie. Does that make it better? In terms of acting, no……that makes it none more better. But in terms of making fun of the movie when it comes out on television (and by the looks of it, that’ll be like, in two weeks), then it makes it absolutely more better. Oh, and I have this theory that Beyonce and Tyra Banks are the same person. Because if there were two people that dumb, the world would be exploded already.)

So I’ve been on this trem kick, which is weird, because I’m not a huge tremolo guy. I think tremolo is a beautiful effect, but I like it more in the backgrounds, and for certain parts of songs. It can be cool upfront, too, but don’t keep it on too long. However, when I have an effect, I do want it to be able to cut through the mix when I want it to. And that’s what I’ve been having difficulty finding in a trem. But this Dr Scientist Tremolessence caught me immediately (and not just with its gorgeous white led) by javing an extremely useful and full depth knob. It can sit back in the mix if you set it that way, but it can also come up full and cutting through, with the depth knob all the way up. And secondly, it keeps the ‘weight’ in your dry signal, which is an issue common to all trems. They take away your presence. But this one maintains the ‘weightiness’ of your notes quite well. It sounds a lot like the Monster Effects Swamp Thang that I loved, but was forced to sell because it couldn’t get the slicer sounds. But the Tremolessence can also do the slicer sounds quite well. I think I might have found it.

thriller1
(Alright, I couldn’t resist this one either. And if you skipped the parentheses, sorry. You’ll have to go back and read them if you’re interested in finding the like, 1% of tie-in this has to this post. But in life, one of the rules when you run across a picture like this is……use it at any and all times possible.)

thriller-was-a-documentary-t-shirt-dawn-of-the-dead-david-murray-seibei
(And this one…well. It speaks for itself.)

So I tested it against the Cusack Tap-A-Whirl. The Cusack is still a fine pedal, and maybe the sweetest sounding trem I’ve yet to hear. And I loved it in my house. But playing live, it would just cause my guitar to be lost in the mix, even with the depth knob dimed. And some people won’t hear it, won’t care, or maybe it’ll react better in their rigs. But for me, it had to go. I like presence in my tone. The Cusack is more versatile, and is one of the most refreshingly original designs I’ve seen in a while, with its tap tempo but all analog circuitry, revv capabilities, brake capabilites, and saveable settings on the waveforms (in the newest version). But I didn’t use the tap very much on it, and when I did, it was to tap off of the tempo…because that’s just the way I use tremolo. Sparingly, and for textures. And I find that those textures don’t sound as good when they’re in time. Kind of opposite of delay. But that’s just this week…next week I’ll probably be all stoked on the Empress Tremolo.

Here’s the demo of it, alongside the Cusack. White led versus blue led. Score!

 
And some people might still like the Cusack. Which is cool! It still sounds awesome! Just for my needs right now, I’m really liking the Tremolessence. You can hear how full it keeps your tone, and the weight it gives to the effect. I’m pretty stoked on it for now. Especially that shape knob, how it melds between the waveforms, and the white led, and the fact that it sounds like a Swamp Thang but can go fast……okay, I’m obsessed. Like Beyonce. But hey……I’m just trying to do my part to solve the world’s problems……one unfortunately named pedal at a time.

Splendid.
Karl.

Orchestration……& How to Ruin a Song

Yesterday my wife and I were in C28. Yes, the Christian store. Christian culture is awkward……it seems sometimes like you’re either in the going-all-out-I-just-witnessed-for-Christ-all-day-by-wearing-my-’Bad-Company-Corrupts’-t-shirt-for-8-hours-in-the-mall-today group, or you’re in the yep-you-heard-right-I-just-ordered-a-beer-and-I’m-a-Christian-what-now group. The first group has never even thought about talking with anyone outside the Christian circle…even when they go to In-N-Out, they have to look under the cup and then breathe a sigh of relief once they find the Bible verse reference there……now they can actually drink their Sprite guilt-free. And then the second group just spends all their time trying to find every way possible to awkwardly stick curse words into their everyday conversations, and then gets all giddy when they do, because the Bible doesn’t say you can’t curse. And I’m thinking that there’s just gotta be a middle ground somewhere.

But we did not find it in C28. Not even a little. (Although, we of course were definitely not looking for it in C28.) We found much worse. See, orchestration is the third factor in good music. First is melody, next is how the harmonic progression supports that melody. And thirdly, is orchestration……how the instruments find their supporting lines underneath that melody, and within the harmonic structure. And it’s orchestration that decides whether a catchy melody and good chord progression turns into the great song you can’t help singing all day, or the annoying song you can’t help singing all day. Orchestration can also be referred to as layering. And that’s something that secular producers do very well. Christian producers? Or, rather, the one Christian producer whom all American Christian music has to filter through so that he can compress the daylights out of it, run the vocals through the new Pro Tools plug-in ‘Scott Wyland-ify’, cut out all keyboards, and make every band sound like Creed? Ya, not so much. 

However, since Hillsong is not based in America, I guess they have been granted a reprieve from running all there music through this one producer. Granted, some of their stuff still does find a way to this guy, which is obviously where the filtered ‘I have a Ramones accent’ vocals came from on ‘Break Free’ and ‘Solution’. But a lot of their stuff has some very nice melodies, good chord progressions to support the melodies, and lots and lots of countering, simplistic lines of orchestration. Very un-Christian-music-like. 

And this is obviously unacceptable to the the one Christian music producer who loves Creed. So, as my wife and I learned yesterday in C28 while listening to the soundtrack playing overhead, he has in retaliation for Hillsong not running all their music into his ‘Pro Tools: the Creed edition’ software, commissioned Seventh Day Slumber to ‘de-orchestrate’ the Hillsong music. The beauty of this, is that now we have glaring examples of the enormous difference orchestration makes. 

Original, orchestrated song:

Note the layers of guitars. The way the intro actually flows into the verse. The way the dynamics of the song take you into the driving bridge, making it huge without the entrance of filtered vocals and compressed power chords. Notice that it sounds good. 

And after it’s been Creeded:

Note the complete lack of any countering melodies, keyboard pads, or layers. Note the intro that has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the song. Note the ‘look how cool I am’ filtered vocals, and the cookie cutter harmonies. And of course, the ultra-cool syncopation at the end of every other phrase. Oh, ya…and the ‘vocals only’ stop in the bridge, that is an absolute must in American Christian music.

Now, I’m not talking about style. Seventh Day Slumber might totally be your style. And that’s cool. It’s a bit of a heavier style…nothing wrong with that. But it’s the complete lack of orchestration that makes me just have an annoyed headache after I listen to that song. It’s this linear bleh of a song that makes completely takes the beauty out of the melody and chord progression. That song could totally be done in that style (please, with normal vocals, though! This testosterone vocal deal has got to go!), but with layers, even if they’re heavy guitar layers, to give the song more beauty, space, and interest. Not to mention that they just took a song I’d never heard before, and turned it into a song I’ve heard since I was in junior high.

And just so that we’re completely fair here, most of Hillsong’s stuff, admittedly, are U2 rip-offs. But most of what I do is too, so I’m a little more forgiving. ;) Plus, well, I really wanted to segway into a U2 song and the way it was subsequently killed by de-orchestration.

This song is funny, because when U2 originally did this song, it wasn’t Christian enough for Christian radio. But when Sanctus Real, a Christian band, covered it…changing no lyrics whatsoever…it’s now Christian enough. Awesome. And not that I want or don’t want U2 on Christian radio…at this point, I’m totally thinking that lyrical content has nothing to do with what gets played. It only gets played if it runs through our afore-mentioned Creed-obsessed producer. And just to be fair, I’ve put the U2 one on as a live version…so it should be way less orchestrated than Sanctus Real’s studio version, right?

Original, Orchestrated Song:

Note the piano, bass, and kick drum almost playing on the same team, creating the basis. And then Edge’s guitar comes in on a totally different line, but bridging the gap between the vocal melody and the harmonic basis. Note the smooth dynamics. Note the drum layers…they’re not doing much, but they do more each time through the chorus and bridge in intensity. And sweet string pad throughout, just lying there.

And after it’s been Creeded:

Same song, same melody, same progression. But it annoys me now. The took out all the guitar lines, and just power chorded the bass line. Drums decided to syncopate, and they decided to do, of course, the obligatory little stops, filter the vocals, give them a fake accent, and give them more testosterone. And they did, try some dynamics, but they made them jerky and awkward. There’s no ebb and flow…just a really awkward drum beat that takes the song somewhere weird. And to their credit, they did layer a couple guitars…with odd sounds and feedback…but, hey…it’s the thought that counts, right? And if you made it to the ending…what in the world is up with the creepy ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ whispers at the end? Yikes.

The weird thing is that this post is not against Christian music. There’s just so many bad Christian songs out there! ;) But note in those songs how hugely different the carefully orchestrated versions are to the Creeded ones. And this weekend, when you play your songs, put in some countering, simplistic musical lines. Don’t syncopate a random beat every 30 seconds. Sing in your normal voice. Have keyboards. Turn down your compressor. And let the song dictate what the music does; stop letting the ‘style’ call the shots. And whatever you do, don’t send your recording to that one Christian producer who loves Creed. He’ll make it sound like this:

Who tried to sound like this:

Who ripped these guys off:

And please note…I have nothing against these bands. Especially STP, who has some good guitar tone…well, live anyway…and who are the original ones to sound like this. And I’m sure that people have been encouraged and maybe even come to know God through Sanctus Real and Seventh Day Slumber. The point is, just because it’s “working”, doesn’t always mean it’s “great”. And I think it’s important to strive for “great”. And sometimes Christian music…and Creed…can give us superb examples of what not to do. ;) And they all make more money than I do (by a lot); therefore, it is okay to make fun of them a bit. Can I do it better? Oh, absolutely! Which is why they’re all out gigging in front of thousands of people right now, and I’m typing a blog! Eat that! Wait……

Splendid.
Karl.

Worship or Lead?

Apologies to those of you who have just found this blog, and are looking for gear reviews and such, but sometimes things take a serious turn over here, as well. Well, kind of serious. It’s me. And it’s really hard for me to do anything serious…without at least one movie reference. There’s just so many good ones (and dumb ones, which are infinitely better to mention) out there. But most of the posts here lately have been gear-centered, and as it has been a very disappointing month for me for new gear, I’m going to slightly shift gears for a bit. (Seriously…ever have those months where it seems every pedal that comes in sucks? My last six new pedals have been found very wanting. Dr. Scientist Tremolessence should be here in a couple days…that’s like, the worst pedal name ever…but it’s my last hope for March pedal try-outs.) But it hit me the other night, as I was playing with a band for a youth retreat. And after one of the evening sets, I’m walking back to the cabin they housed the band in, and it’s pretty cool. It had been a really good set, the road is long and dark, smells like mountains as you walk instead of whipped engines as kids rev up mommy and daddy’s vans at stoplights to race to the next stoplight to show off their ‘I’m a BMX racer’ skills (seriously, living in the Inland Empire sucks), and it’s always nice to be out in cold air after sweating through a passionate worship set. (Okay, I know that sounds really gross…but hopefully some of you can relate…it’s a good feeling.)

And as I’m walking, God’s glory kind of hits me, and I start singing the song we ended the set with, ‘Mighty to Save’. And it’s pretty cool. But as I’m singing, I start to realize that this is the most intense worship I’ve had all night. Better than all the rocking songs, better than all the intimate acoustic stuff, better than all the ripping-off-of Hillsong-United-who-ripped-off-U2 songs……I was worshiping more intimately and more intensely when I wasn’t playing. Even though I felt like I had worshiped pretty intensely while I was playing. 

gyroscope
(Gorgeous pedal. Except mine’s purple. Which is even better…it’s right next to my desk, but I was definitely too lazy to take a picture of it. I was so stoked to get this thing…but it’s broken. What a pedal month. However, the builder did offer to fix it for free, even though I bought it used…so many props to Copilot FX. Maybe there’s still some hope for this one.)

So, of course, my next logical course of action is to never use a band again for worship. But that’s selfishness. Yes, my best time of worship that night between me and God was without a band. But when we’re leading worship, it’s not about our best time between us and God. It’s about leading people as we worship. Otherwise, it’s just selfishness. Otherwise, we’re forsaking the ultimate act of worship, loving God by following His command to love others, so that we personally can feel God through some little time of music. It’s not about our feelings…entirely. Feelings are great, and even necessary. It’s also not possible to lead worship properly if we’re focused so much on leading, that we don’t connect with God ourselves. But most of us don’t struggle with that as often as we do with just having our own private little worship sessions on stage, and totally leaving the people, that at that given moment God has entrusted to us to lead, completely behind.

Ya, my best worship experience that night was on my own. But that was my best worship experience. The people not playing instruments? There’s was probably during the worship music. As leaders, sometimes we have to take on a greater responsibility. Here’s what I mean. We all need to have personal worship times where we are just focusing on God, and nothing else. And most of us get that during church services. But once you step in to start to lead worship music, you should no longer be using that time as your personal worship experience……because now you need to worship God by loving others, and helping them connect with Him. Yet that does not let you off the hook of having your personal worship experience, too. As leaders, we can’t be lazy. You gotta know that, ‘Okay. If I decide to use these worship times as my service times to God’s people, then I have to now take on greater responsibility and set aside my own times, apart from when I’m leading, to worship God…either on my own, or at some church where I have no responsibilities. Otherwise, it really is selfishness. People have told me before, that our mentality as we lead worship needs to change; that we need to stop focusing so much on people, so that those of us on the worship team can worship (or, feel good), too. And my response, Im afraid quite unlovingly at times, is always, ‘Oh, so you’re saying that your personal worship time at home is more intense than when you’re here?’ And the response is always, ‘Personal worship time at home?’ Don’t shirk your responsibilities as leaders of people in the church so that you can get the warm fuzzies that you’re too lazy to get on your own personal time. 

And then at the same time, it’s not really the point of this particular article, but it has to be said……Don’t be so focused on leading, that you lose all touch with what you’re supposed to be leading them to. It’s like the pastor who got so excited about all the incredible teaching methods that communicate God’s Word so well, He forgot to use God’s Word. But at the same time, most of us worship leaders lead so little and try to ‘worship/feel’ so much, that we become like a pastor who’s up on stage, saying nothing for minutes at a time, because he’s teaching himself new things he just found in the Bible. That’s good, but a corporate setting may not be the place for the one called to ‘lead’ to be doing that. Same thing with the worship music. We’ve got to be totally lost in it; but in the corporate setting where we’re supposed to ‘lead’? Ya, not so much. And, it’s been my humble experience, that the ones who fight against this the most (including myself, when I was one of the ‘have to feel it at all time, congregation can follow if they want’ worship leaders), are the ones who have no personal worship time of their own.

Now, are there times to put down our instruments in a corporate setting and just sing to God? Yes. But usually after the work of leading has been done, God’s used us as much He wants, and He decides to now take over. And of course, sometimes everything I said needs to go right out the window, if the Lord is truly leading differently at the time. But…uh…sometimes it doesn’t need to go out the window.

When it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple. What shows God more worth? Loving His people by leading them in singing songs of love to Him, or leaving them behind so that your ‘worship’ can be intense, because you were blogging during the week, instead of having your intense times of personal worship then? ;) And I say that to myself as much as anybody…because I’m definitely blogging right now, and then about to go watch ‘Unforgiven’. And maybe I should be doing something else. Nah, I’ll just get my personal time in with God tonight at our service, while people are watching.

eastwood_unforgiven_2
(Caught a half hour of this on tv last week…really good. So I had to rent it. And say what you want about Clint’s acting…I defy you to find somebody cooler. ;) But it looked like, at least from the parts I saw, that his acting was pretty much tearing it up in this film. My favorite part about Clint is how his mouth never opens when he talks. His lips part and his Adam’s apple moves, but his teeth just stay together in this sort of perma-growl. He is the personification of toughness.)

Splendid.
Karl.