Archive for December, 2009
It is coming.
Line 6 M13 versus real effects. Axe-FX versus real amps. Mp3′s versus real live acoustics. Enough talk. It’s time for real, hard evidence. Now. Does anyone have any spare money to buy an Axe-FX?
Oh. And if the amp modelers do end up sounding better, then they don’t. It just means my Matchless isn’t expensive enough. At which point (if the modelers sound better…which I of course doubt), it will be time to contact Mr. Dumble, and pull out my trem-stutter-de-tune-arpeggio-demonic-wang-bar effects during my audition so that he will actually build me one.
At no point am I actually making sense here. Ever just start typing and let fate fall where it may? (And by ‘fate’, I mean ‘tone’. By most things, I mean ‘tone’.) But hey, I said ‘Dumble’, ‘Axe-FX’, ‘Line 6′, and ‘Matchless’. That’s more than enough for a discussion on tone, right? Providing you leave out ‘Axe-FX’ and ‘Line 6.’ Now that was just uncalled for.
P.S. For those of you with malice in your hearts right now toward my ‘modeling’ jab, I actually did look at giving the Verbzilla a second shot on my board today. Even though there is not a handwired part or Swedish imported chip or vintage resistor to be found in that whole pedal. And even though it has the letters ‘zilla’ after ‘verb.’ (Just terrible.) See, now that’s gotta count for something, right?!
This may be the best thing I have ever read. ……Well, that wasn’t said by U2.
“A painter starts with a blank canvas, and as a musician, your canvas is silence. You don’t want to cover it all up. So if you know what you’re doing as a musician, you play the silences. You can’t fall into that trap of trying to get everything in and playing so fast. You have to take time and pace yourself. Otherwise, technically you may make people go ‘wow’, but it doesn’t make good music.”
Mr. Keith Richards, I salute you. Even if you did fall out of a coconut tree at one point. Actually, I probably salute you all the more for that.
Splendid. (A lot.)
I hope this grabs you as much as it does me. Meaning, just tears a hole into your chest and literally beats your heart for you for a couple minutes, so that you can just float on a delay-laden cloud made of melody in sheer ecstasy. Oh ya, and the cloud is glowing with tube warmth. (Wait, Edge’s tone doesn’t do that to everyone? I mean…um…me neither.) But seriously, I hope it inspires you just a little bit. With apologies to Greg Lake, who wrote a beautiful coming-of-age Christmas song. But with a couple subtle lyric changes, the song has changed from slightly hopeless to moreso ‘clinging to Christ’s hope despite the hopelessness around you.’ Meant a lot to me.
And as we reach the end of the year, and my favorite holiday, I just want to say thanks for reading. There’s a community of love, respect, and knowing that none of us has it all figured out, that I’m just stoked on here. Amazingly enough, I’ve never had to delete a comment. Knock on wood. (But only handcrafted Baltic birch with finger joints. And it’s ported.) So thanks, merry Christmas, and in the next few days, maybe try to make just one person around you feel God’s love from you. I don’t know if that’s actually thinking about what gift would make your wife or kid or family member happy, rather than buying another toiletry pouch with built-in shaving cream dispenser; whether it’s giving a homeless person five bucks; whether it’s taking the time to get the name of and thank the Salvation Army worker who’s been standing in the cold ringing the bell for 8 hours; or whether it’s smiling and saying merry Christmas to the checkout person who has to work on Christmas Eve…even if maybe they’re tired and double-charged you for the pineapple. People are actually receptive to God at this time of year, and a little love or a little hope might go a long way.
Sorry for the sap. God, love, and passion…with music to remind our souls of those things. And if that music is toneful (I’m thinking ’57 tweed Fender Champ with original speaker, a Melancon Tele in alder with quilted maple, and a good old Boss DM2……mmmmm), then all the better. Merry Christmas, my friends.
- Been thinking about effecting a reverb’d octave sound post-amp, with a mic into some ambient pedals and then into another amp. Oh ya, with a fuzz. That wouldn’t be overkill at all.
- Has Coldplay called yet? I really want to run three amps again. But I can’t do that until they call, as they would provide the funding, as well as the authority to not have the sound tech and worship leader look at me like I am the primadonna that I probably am.
- I would like a new pedal. Doesn’t matter what. Just new, and unfortunately, I’m really liking my guitars and amps right now. But a new amp could be cool, too. And a guitar. Mmmmm.
- Let your female vocalists lead. They are usually incredibly talented.
- Some weeks direct boxes need to be on ground, and some weeks they need to be on lift. What the difference between weeks is, I have no idea. I just know those are the magic buzz-killing switches.
- I think we are the only church in the US not doing Transiberian Orchestra this Christmas Eve. Nothing wrong with Transiberian Orchestra…except for maybe some amp modeling. Just stating a fact. hehe
- Taylor’s have the best pickup systems on their current models that I have yet heard. Just mic’ing the guitar…no adding. I’ve yet to find that anywhere else. Even high end stuff like Collings. With enormous thanks to Sal Hamby, for letting me borrow his 710. It is a beautiful axe, my friend. Can you call acoustics axes?
- I need a new pedal that no one else has. The Hartman was that for awhile, but then everyone bought one. Stupid everyone.
- Mmmm…fuzz. Pedals, not just fuzz in general.
- I really like Christmas music. My wife says almost in a frightening way. But I live my life by believing that ‘frightening’ and ‘awesome’ are perpetually interchangeable.
- The Catalinbread WIIO controversy has been fun. Stupid people, buying and selling gear. Unthinkable!
- Definitely talked with Neal McDonough at The Grove in LA this week. He was wearing the coolest 1700′s vest and indie slacks I have ever seen. And I wanted them. For those of you who don’t know, he’s this guy:
See that bleach blonde hair towards the center right background of the photo? Yep, that’s him. I would never survive as a paparazzi. But see, then whenever we actually go up and meet these people, they’re so nice that it just feels lame to ask for a photo with them. He even shook our hands and asked for our names. Really cool guy. I told him that I too, was famous, and had upwards of 25 people subscribed to my youtube demos. He didn’t seem to care. No, that didn’t happen. But if it did, he wouldn’t have. Oh ya. And the guy on the left is not famous, even though he’s the only one I actually succeeded in getting a clear photo of.)
Okay, here’s what he’s from:
The guy flying with Tom Cruise there. He’s also acted with Al Pacino in 88 Minutes, which makes him insta-cool. And Cruel Doubt, Band of Brothers…oh, and those of you ’90′s children like me might remember him as Wit Bass, the crazy pitcher on Angels in the Outfield. Oh ya. So, what does any of this have to do with music? If I was wearing what Neal McDonough was wearing when we met him, I would have killer tone.
- Heard pirates singing an Irish folk tune in four part harmony. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
- Change your strings. No seriously.
- So nice to have bassists who hit the chord inversions when you forget to.
- Just found out The Editors have a new album. Best ever. And their singer looks like he’s fighting with his own face when he performs, which is an added bonus.
- I hugged my Matchless. That one’s true.
- Pickup height is the hugest difference ever.
- Taylor Swift’s ‘Silent Night’? Whoa. Talk about worshipful. Those are some killer lyrics, that I’d not noticed in years during the traditional version. Plus, they add the ‘With or Without You’ chords at the end, which is never a bad thing. (Hopefully not, because that progression is in about 83% of songs in history…even Pachelbel in the 1600′s. But U2 still invented it. Some would say that doesn’t make sense. And they would be correct. U2 defies logic.) And I’m choosing to believe that liking Taylor Swift is not akin to rocking, ‘So I put my hands up, they’re playing my song…moving my hips like ya ya ya…’ Oh. Disturbing. Billy Ray, what are you thinking? And yes…now my google search bar has ‘Miley Cyrus lyrics’ in the history. Blast. But Taylor Swift is okay, right? Right? Hope so. ‘Cause now this is happening:
Just ignore the static glam shot. But the song…whoa. Gets me every time. And tone is wonderful. Sure, of the steel guitar in the song; but also, just in general.
The other night, my wife was using this new face recognition software on her Mac. Like, it scans people’s faces in a picture, and then finds all the other pictures of that person on the hard drive. She was scanning my face, and the computer thought I was Winona Ryder. And…this is bad, I know…but, I’m a little bit flattered by that.
And sorry. This is probably the furthest I have ever strayed on this blog from ‘guitar’ or ‘worship’. But I figured I’d post this so that if I ever say something you hate (like, ‘the M13 sucks!’ or ‘Lincoln Brewster sounds like 1990′s church music with less taste’…hmm…this is kind of cool…like free license right now–because I’m not actually saying these things…just, if I were to say them ), just remember this post and who you’re dealing with. And not in a tough guy way. Like, ‘just remember who you’re dealing with, yo!’ (Wow.) But I probably didn’t need to explain that. The Winona Ryder thing probably takes care of all subsequent toughness I might ever try to project.
P.S. Axe-Fx sucks! Axe-Fx sucks! Wait…don’t get mad. Remember Winona.
It was a day just like any other day (meaning, I was surfing Gear Page), and I was joining in with the usual banter of ‘Which univibe is the best?’ ‘Well the one I play, of course.’ ‘Have you played any other univibes?’ ‘Why would I need to? Mine’s the best.’ After about an hour, having solved all the world’s tone problems, I moved up to the search bar and typed in the search. I named it ‘the search’, because that is exactly what it was. The search, my search, my life. Actually, if I’m describing it as ‘my life’, I suppose I could have taken a few electrical engineering classes and tried to invent it myself. But that goes against everything I stand for. Which is, as afore-mentioned, solving the world’s tone problems one internet message board argument at a time. Little time to play even with the pedals I have, let alone invent and build new ones. So I typed it in. The words of absolute joy. ‘Analog delay with tap tempo.’ I had typed those words in to that search on that message board many times before. And had always been left stupendously disappointed. But on this day…oh fanctious (heard that word once…not sure if it’s real) day…the search yielded results. Brilliant results. In the form of ‘Diamond Pedals Memory Lane.’
The world would never be the same. And right then my roommate knocked on my door. ‘Did you hear about the new analog delay with tap tempo?!’ And I just smiled and showed him my computer screen. ‘Already on the waiting list,’ I remember replying, and not without a very smug satisfaction, I might add, at the fact that I had discovered it before him. Ya, minutes before, I know. Pretty shallow of me. But you try living with a guy who’s touring with countless worship leaders around the country, including The Kry, while you’re still pretending to know what a dotted 8th is and wondering why you just got sent ECC83 tubes when you specifically ordered 12AX7′s. You take what you can get.
And from that moment on, I have had a very passionate and ravenous love affair with the Diamond Memory Lane. (Ya, if you happen to re-read this post, just go ahead and skip over that last sentence.) It came out in 2005, and is still currently the only analog delay on the market to offer tap tempo. (Others are just starting to come out with them.) And that would have been enough for me. But on top of that, it sounds just gorgeous. It’s an overused word, but ‘organic’ actually does this pedal justice. It really does respond to your playing, and almost seems to bloom and wither with your dynamics. And the best modulation I have ever heard.
The craziest thing about this pedal is it’s response. For me, it has had the biggest learning curve of any pedal I have ever played. It reacts to everything you do, and many times almost plays you, rather than the other way around. It’s almost a grab-bag for what you’re going to get out of it when you feed certain things into it. And I love that. I’m still discovering things about it years later.
So here’s the demo. And…a couple apologies. One, for demo’ing a pedal no longer available. You can find them used all over, but not new. Diamond has since moved on to issue the version 2, which offers a second preset, a dotted 8th option, and is supposed to have a tamer reactivity. Which is the reason I do not play it. I love the unpredictable nature of this version 1. I have owned another version 1 with the dotted 8th mod. It was great too, but the I find the Memory Lane to be a bit too warm to make consistent usefulness to me of the dotted 8th; I find that to be more useable on digital delays. But this version can be modded for it, if you like…and the second version has it stock. But I chose to demo this pedal even though it is unavailable, because I have run across some recent discussions of why you would ever need an analog delay, or an analog delay with tap tempo, considering the current array of digital options. So hopefully I can show a couple reasons why. Plus, I kind of ban myself from buying things around Christmas, because I will inevitably buy something someone else will wrap up and give to me. (Am I really that predictable?…Delay, U2…ya, I guess so.) So I had to do a pedal I already own and currently have on my board. And not doing a demo was out of the question because it’s been a long time since I’ve posted one here, and I’m not sure how much longer I can rely on my charming personality to keep this site going. (Please be noting the sarcasm there.)
The second apology is that the playing is lamentably not so good. I only got to do one take at this with no editing because I promised my wife that I’d clean the house today. (How’s that for rockstar?) So, if you dig the video, then feel better about yourself that I suck too. And if you don’t dig the video, feel better about yourself as you post the nasty youtube comments, because now you have more fodder for them.
So here ya go:
I absolutely love this pedal. I have two Damage Control Timeline’s on my board. They are the completely best digital delay pedals I have ever heard. But yet nothing really gets that analog modulation sound like an analog delay. (Novel, huh?) Does it do everything a digital delay can do? Can it cop those sounds? Nope. That’s the reason you have a digital one on your board, as well. But I’ve yet to hear anything capture that lush, real sound that feels like it has actual layers, like the Memory Lane can. What makes it genius, is that it has tap tempo. Its delay time only goes up to 550 milliseconds, but that’s enough to make sure even the washy sounds can always be in tempo with the song if that’s what you’re after. And it allows you to throw on this beautiful sound in the background or foreground of what you’re playing, so much more often than if it didn’t have tap tempo. At any time, you can kick on this delay. Which is something I desperately wanted in an analog delay before this thing came out.
You also get a ton of options with the killer eq section for decay, and the big modulation sounds. Oh, and the modulation. Like a blooming flower. Not very hetero, but neither is this: it’s also very pretty, and I always feel the urge to press it to my cheek. I mean, rad paint job. The expression pedal option adds a lot, too.
There is a steep learning curve; not so much on the knobs, but on actually playing live with the pedal. It will give you some crazy oscillation at odd times, and seem to sound and react differently when you play what you thought was the same thing into it. But that’s also what I love about this pedal; it’s pushed me and inspired me musically.
It, as does the version 2, runs on 24 volts and needs a separate adapter. They do sell adapters to power it using the PP2+, but it will need to take up two of the outlets. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning.
Oh ya. And you can only find them used.
So there you have it. Diamond Memory Lane. The world’s first analog delay with tap tempo. (As far as we know. There’s probably been some electrician guitar genius living in Norway who’s had a homemade one on his board for decades.) And after four years, I still cannot imagine being without this pedal. And apologies once again for the sucky playing, and then actually posting the video rather than re-doing it. I guess basically if most guitar/worship blogs are going, ‘Please think I’m awesome! Please think I’m awesome!’, I’m just trying to be the antithesis of that. And then probably going, ‘Please think I’m awesome because of the fact that I’m not saying ‘Please think I’m awesome!’ Please think I’m awesome because of the fact that I’m not saying ‘Please think I’m awesome!” hehehe Humanity dies hard. And then, of course, you gotta give more honor to the Christmas season. ‘Ho ho ho. Now I have a machine gun.’
“Playing the the newest, most controversial, cutting edge song you can think of (usually 1987′s ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’), and convincing yourself that since you’re the worship leader and have spent all week (5 minutes) praying about the set, that that’s what will connect with people.’ And if what connects with people also just happens to be your favorite song that you’ve always wanted to play on stage…you can’t help that.
I started wondering today if my Radio Shack midi cables are sucking tone. (Just a side note, ‘The Shack’? Nope. Worst ever. As if that store couldn’t have gotten any worse. No, I do not want to add $45 worth of batteries to my purchase of a .65 cent fuse.) And then I joined the Diamond Pedals facebook group, which in turn made me feel more satisfied with my tone. Hmmm. Probably time to actually pick up the guitar again (the thing with strings on it, not the little metal boxes with pretty paint and bright lights) and actually put my fingers on it (as opposed to watching Jeff Buckley play it on youtube). Or I could blog about all the things keeping me from playing the guitar. Ya. That’s clearly the most productive option.
I have been told this day would come. That one day I would tire of lugging four amps, two pedalboards, and 5 guitars, to every service, gig, practice, show, and just to play in the living room instead of the office because I needed a larger (and hence, better, of course) sonic space. And I have resisted. Valiantly, in my humble opinion. (Hmm…hard to be humble when using words like ‘valiant’ as descriptions for oneself.) It’s been 6 years of this. I have managed to become a little more professional at gigs, and have knocked down the rig to two guitars, two amps, and one pedalboard. Although that pedalboard does split in half so that it can go through doorways. And therein lies the issue. Because that was not a joke.
(Alright, there’s the current board. As of…well, at least today. Who knows what new and wondrous tonal inventions tomorrow may bring. I’m hoping it’s delay. Oh, and I just weighed it…90 pounds exactly of tone. Yes, I weighed my pedalboard. I’m a loser. Luckily, the front portion with the Midi Mate’s disconnects for easier transportation. That only leaves 76.5 pounds. 38.25 pounds per arm isn’t too bad, right?)
There are few things I love in this world more than my pedalboard. And most of those things have tubes. But in the past month, I have smashed it into more walls, places on my truck, and stage equipment, then would probably be considered professional. I have also dropped it, trying to prove to myself that it was not too big, and that I could carry it half a mile perfectly. (This was at a venue with an exceptionally long parking lot……it’s not like I go out to a field with my board and measure myself walking with it. As plausible as that may seem in some of your minds, as something I might do.) Hence, my journey in all things tone has come to crossroads.
In honor of the Christmas season, I have ordered these options in homage to a classic film. Extra points (for what, I have no idea) if you can name the film.
A) Sell some pedals and get a smaller board.
–I thought about this for like, 2 seconds. The answer was no.
2) Replace my board with the Line 6 M13.
–Alright, now I’m just lying. This has never, and never will be, an option. (And just as a side note, ‘never’ is a completely meaningless word for a gear-junkie guitarist.)
D) Chop off half my board (I know, imagining me with a wood saw is a little Fargo), and then re-add it to the board as a third tier.
–This will mean more wood, and will make it heavier, but will also make it less lengthy, meaning my arms won’t be extended to their breaking point as I carry it. And maybe I’ll actually be able to get through doorways without my killer waltz/Thriller moves. I will definitely miss those.
Obviously, (D) is the clear option. Not only does it allow me to continue to resist the bloody current of the recent tide of M13′s, POD’s, and Axe-Fx, and keep my signal pure (at least in my own mind), but it also allows more space for subsequent pedal purchases. Which, as always, is the proper point of all this. I could really use the grass roots octave string effect I’ve been dreaming up, as well as a sequence filter. And I haven’t bought a delay in a while…
Someday, in the not so distant future I fear, everyone will be carrying their guitar rigs in the palm of their hands. Everyone, that is, except for me. I’ll be the idiot still mic’ing up six Matchless and four D13′s (it’s a dream I have), and running through a giant board with the perfect mix of bypass, buffers, and ingenuity to keep my signal pure; standing proudly in my corner of the stage; still believing that people can feel the difference. That last part is actually true. Probably so’s the idiot part. Nevertheless…long live tone.
Blogging used to be cool. Or…made you feel cool. You could actually publish the deep wells of wit you just knew were inside of you, for the entire world to read. Of course, the entire world doesn’t read them…having a blog published on the internet is the equivalent of having a science fiction novel published in Barnes & Noble…nobody is ever going to read it. But they could! It’s out there. That’s the magic. I mean, Edge could be reading my blog right now. He’s not……but who’s to say what may happen tonight while I sleep? And therein lies the wonder. Of Edge. (Apologies if you hate U2.)
However, it seems that this magical new (ya I know…I’m about 15 years late) art form by which we can all call ourselves published writers (in our heads…never out loud) who have throngs of devoted followers (my throngs of devoted followers consist of people searching google images for ‘Paul Walker hot’ and ‘Steven Seagal with no shirt on’…which is really gross…he’s old…I did just hear that he is starting his own reality show where he is an actual deputy in an actual town……this may be the best thing to happen since life…or, at least since he came out with his blues cd…yep…he has a blues cd), is slowly being replaced by the giant corporate sellout facebook/twitter…it’s the same company, isn’t it? (Isn’t it funny how when we don’t like something, we automatically refer to it as a big corporate conglomerate whatever? Because wordpress is so small and indie. hehehe) See, now, people don’t have to blog to get their free self-esteem boost. None of that actual writing and thinking out of an online journal entry! Who needs that? Now we can just say whatever we’re feeling whenever we’re feeling it! Stuck in traffic? The world wants to know! Climbing the stairs to bed? The entire western hemisphere might be hanging in the balance to know what happens at the top of the stairs! Eat a so-so hamburger at a normal restaurant at which you waited in a medium-sized line to order? These are the things the rest of us cannot live another day without knowing!
(And if you don’t like U2……come on! This picture isn’t helping any? Wow. Normally it’s Bono who’s the frightening one. And still, his hair’s not something that anyone should ever wear…in the history of life…by any means here; but he’s, uh, not the one with his tongue licking his lips in a way that makes me feel violated through the computer screen. And with his shirt cut below what his shirt should ever be cut below. Definitely the most awesome picture of Edge that I have ever seen.)
So I have decided that I miss the old way of mentally fooling ourselves into feeling validated! I’m bringing back the blog! And to do that, I’m listing here the army of my blogging brethren, who defiantly stand against the tyranny of twitbook! Will you stand with me, my brothers! We will never surrender the mother land!
And…uh…just ignore the fact that this blog post will automatically post on facebook, too. I…don’t know how that happens! So weird.
Alright…obviously my tongue has been lodged firmly in my cheek for the beginning of this post. (Why does that sound bad?) To be completely honest, every year or so I try to say some kind words about and send some some traffic towards, the incredible blogs of the incredible people in my blogroll. There’s seriously some great guys and gals over there, and I just want to give a little love their way. But that just sounds so touchy-feely and un-masculine! And if you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time whatsoever, you know that my comments about Edge and Brad Pitt have already thrown said masculinity into serious question on numerous occasions. So I made up the intro to this post about facebook and twitter and all that, to help mask my immense sentimentality.
So, here are the awesome people to whom I’m going to show some sentimental lovin’. And if those words frighten you, then…um…then they’re the last bastions of blogging hope! Ya! Freeeee-doooom! That better? But seriously, these are some awesome people, and you really need to check out their sites: