Archive for January, 2010

The Greatest Invention in History

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The word ‘post.’

It can be used for whatever you like, and always makes you sound not only intelligent, but indie-intelligent. Just put ‘post’ before any thing you like, and you automatically sound like a college-educated artist with a hobbit-half-beard, sitting in a non-chain coffee shop on the post-fashionable (see what I just did there?) side of London. Well, at least in your mind. The church has been doing it for years. ‘Ya, we’re a post-modern church.’ No one knows what it means, but it sounds fantastic! Seriously! You should try it.

‘What type of effect was that?’
‘Oh, just kind of a post-delay type sound.’

What does that mean? I don’t know. Sure sounds cool, though. And as a bonus, no one can really wrap their minds around what it means; yet it doesn’t quite sound like nonsense. So, not only do you sound cool, you also get this rad emperor’s-new-clothes effect……where no one wants to say that they have no idea what you’re talking about out of fear of not sounding as cool as you quite obviously are. Genius. Sure, it’s supposed to mean ‘after’ or ‘later.’ But does that stop us? Oh, absolutely not.

‘How would you describe your band’s sound?’
‘Eh, kind of like a post-grunge quasi-Eddie Vedder style.’

(‘Quasi’ is another awesome one.)

‘How’s the food here?’
‘It’s good. Like a post-euro lounge menu.’

‘Did you like that movie?’
‘It was alright. Little too post-noir for me.’

‘How should you keep your tone even at low volumes?’
‘Post-phase inverter master volume.’

(Wait, that one’s real.) ‘Post-true bypass.’ (There we go!)

‘What do you do for a living?’
‘It’s like a post-economy marketing portfolio.’

‘What type of tubes should I get?’
‘Look for some JJ’s. They have this killer post-vintage sound.’

‘What denomination is your church?’
‘You know. We’re part of that new post-non-denominational movement.’

‘What time is it?
‘Eh, around post-6:30.’

(That one actually works. Try it.)

‘How do you run your ministry?’
‘We try to use the post-John-Piper model.’

‘Did you leave your headlights on?’
‘No, I’ve got that post-Audi technology in my car.’

‘Did you drop your watch?’
‘Post.’

(Oh ya.)

‘What do you believe?’
‘I’m part of that post-Judeo-Christian mindset.’

Greatest invention ever. Intellectual-cool, without any need of the ‘intellect’ that normally accompanies ‘intellectual.’ And I’m definitely using this from now on. Watch out for my new ‘Post Ooh-Wah Demo.’ :)

Splendid.
Karl.

Musical Free Association

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Which is pretty much my life anyway.

  • Try as I might, I just cannot get over listening to Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69.’ Not even the cheesey keyboard breaks with the reverby drum fills are stopping me right now. I think something is wrong.
  • Melody. When in doubt, melody.
  • Just got an Ooh Wah in. It’s hand-painted. I mean, it sounds really good. ;)
  • And the same day I get it, I find out Moog just came out with a new Murf that can be controlled via Midi. Hmmm…hand-painted, or wood-paneling? Really tough choice.
  • Of course the inevitable answer will be ‘both’, but I do like to pretend for a while that I’m actually going to make a choice and save money.
  • After years of searching, I finally found the perfect ‘high heels’ British rockstar shoes. (‘High heels’ is in parentheses because my wife made me promise not to refer to them in this way.) And they got stuck on like every single pedal on my board at least once. Is this going to stop me from wearing them? Nope. Not even a little.
  • Bought a bunch of wood yesterday to begin the great pedalboard remodel. I’m remodeling to distribute the weight better so that my arms don’t fall off. And yet it was still extremely hard to turn down the 48×48 piece of wood there. There’s a third Damage Control Timeline for sale on Gear Page right now that would fit nicely on a 48×48 pedalboard. Yikes, I’m still considering it.
  • Lady Gaga’s new song where she grunts her name in it, has actually dethroned R. Kelly’s ‘I Want to Make You Pregnant’ as the song that makes me wish humans couldn’t hear sound.
  • And then Luke Kelly restores my faith in sound. Even though he died before I was born. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade. But then I would have grown up in the dark ages. Meaning, before the invention of analog delay with tap tempo.
  • I am as of yet still unconvinced that American Idol is real.
  • I am a sucker for wood finish on anything. Even pedals and head cabinets. Hey, the tubes resonate more controllably and less microphonically in hand-carved, solid birch. That’s a fact. I wrote it on the internet.
  • Click track.
  • Bass players.
  • Can we just make a law to have James Horner score every film? And while we’re at it, let’s also make a law against R. Kelly. Just in general.
  • And lastly, when I hear this, I wonder why we even need the guitar. Passion, feeling, and melody…everything is just there to support that:
  • And apologies if that was a little too pedestrian for rockin’ guitarists. Or a little too Neil Young. ;) But I adore it. And even though there was no tube in site on that song, I choose to believe that they recorded it using an old tube-driven, analog amplifier for the microphone. And that’s the truth because I want it to be. That’s how it works, right?

    Splendid.
    Karl.

John Fromel Shape EQ Review & Demo

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Boutique is beautiful.

Right there. That’s the reason we buy gear. Sure, we do a fairly decent job of making up some crazy ideas of ‘tone’, and that you need to ‘sound good’ while playing music; but in the end, we buy gear because finish jobs like this one make us feel special.
;) Of course, if you’re still gonna get hung up on the whole ‘tone’ thing, this pedal is one of the best EQ’s that I’ve tried. (‘EQ’ is fun to type. No seriously. Try it.) It’s not a boost, just an EQ. Leaves your tone completely alone until you engage the knobs. There’s bass and treble, and then a mids control, with a separate control over the frequency that the mids control adjusts. Very cool. And then a switch to turn the frequency control on or off. And lastly, there is a switch to engage true bypass, or engage a buffer. And the buffer is very natural sounding, as is the overall pedal. For just a simple EQ, with the bonus of having a great buffer should you so desire, this pedal may just be a great find.

And the demo:

No, that’s not a mistake. With a pedal this gorgeous, a picture is all the demo you need.

But in all seriousness, with the compression on youtube, a video demo wouldn’t do this natural and subtle-sounding pedal enough justice. Plus, I couldn’t figure out how to make an EQ pedal unboring, without making it look like a joke along the lines of my FS5L demo. However…the more I look at that picture, the more I think that this might be the greatest demo I have ever done. :)

And for those of you who have read a bit of this blog, you may have gathered that I am not a buffer or EQ guy. And this would be correct. I saw this pedal, and bought it immediately. Only after I got it home and opened it did I remember, ‘Oh ya! I don’t use EQ pedals!’ Such is the sickness.

Splendid.
Karl.

Is Guitar Center Even Trying Anymore?

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I need strings. Guitar Center, $5, done. Sure, you can get them for $4 online, but at that low of a price, I like to just get them right away. Plus then I get to go into Guitar Center and hence, have stories to make fun of them for. They never disappoint.

I get there yesterday morning at around 10:30, because they’ve been hit with the financial crunch too, and last time I went there at 9:00, I found that they had moved their hours up to 10:00. Never mind trying to find out what musicians really want to play, and diversifying your stock a little more beyond uh…Ibanez. Just open less hours to the customers. So I get there, and they are closed. Now they don’t open until 11:00. So I go across the street to Hollywood Video to kill time, and realize that with internet rentals, I think video rental places are going to just be stories we tell our kids about in no time. And kind of the same thing as Guitar Center over here. Rather than actually carrying movies (novel idea for a movie rental place), they just come up with new ways to do ‘customer service.’ ‘Do you have this movie?’ ‘No.’ Do you have this movie?’ ‘No.’ Do you have this movie?’ ‘No. But we can print you out a list of recommended movies for you based on your previous rentals!’ So they don’t carry anything I want to watch, but that’s okay because I get a computer-generated list of movies I will like. Which always seems like it’s based more on what movies just came out, rather than what I have rented in the past. However, Bee Movie was on it. What have I been renting? hehe

Anyway, I get back to Guitar Center and decide that as long as I’m there for just strings, I should check out the vintage room. Apparently Egnater is vintage now. (Nothing wrong with Egnater, but……in the vintage room? And being the only thing in the vintage room? Ya, not so much). So I go to check out the POG2. Not there. I ask the sales guy, ‘Do you have the Electro Harmonix POG2?’ He goes to his computer. Never a good sign, especially with a pedal that at least on the internet, is really hot right now. And he says, ‘What brand again?’ I say, ‘Electro Harmonix.’ He says, ‘Electro……?’ I say, ‘Harmonix.’ And of course, they don’t have it. So, in my current quest for octave-ness, I go over to the Boss Kiosk to try out the Boss PS5. Broken. The screw has fallen somewhere behind the Kiosk and hence, the cover won’t close…and the pedal no longer stays on. So I take a quick look around the room for something used. Nope. Alright, that’s it. Strings, and let’s get out of here.

Me: ‘Hey, could I just get an Ernie Ball green pack? The 10′s.’
Sales guy: ‘Sure.’ (Turns around.) ‘Uh, we’re out of them.’
Me: ‘Really.’
Sales guy: ‘But we have these. They’re basically the same, just coated.’

Oh, so at least I can get half the tone for twice the price. So I go to grab a cable because our church ones are going, and I just need one for the click track this weekend. Cheaper and better quality online, but I’m right there. And I look at it. $46.99. Not Mogami. Not Monster. Not even Planet Waves. Just a generic cable. And it’s more than Lava or Evidence Audio. Guitar Center is awesome.

Splendid.
Karl.

Blasted Diamond Pedals (Oh Ya, & NAMM Show Review)

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So, first things first. I am definitely not cool enough to go to the NAMM show. Luckily, I do associate with people who are. See, I would love to say that Boss or Mad Professor or someone saw one of my demos here and promptly offered me a lifetime pass to NAMM to be a demonstrator of their gear. Ya……not so much. Actually, if Boss were to somehow have seen my latest PS3 demo, they probably would have politely asked me never to play their pedals again. ;) So when I do get to go to NAMM, it is strictly on the good graces of others. Sometimes from Sal Hamby, who posts here sometimes and is the nicest guitarist you’ll ever meet (currently borrowing his Taylor 710…see what I mean by nice? ;) ); other times from a friend’s friend’s dad who was high on the chain at a power supply manufacturing company or something. (That really happened.) And still other times from an old roommate, who just seems to know anyone and everyone in the music world. And this time courtesy of Jared Valencia, who’s sponsored by Bad Cat. Thank you, Jared. So…pretty much, whenever I meet people, my first question is, ‘So…do you get tickets to NAMM?’ And if the answer is no, I do not pursue that relationship.

Unfortunately, Friday was the only day I could go. So I went early. I only live about 25 minutes from Anaheim, but an hour and a half later, I pull into a Disneyland annex parking lot (Buzz Lightyear said hi to me) for NAMM. Apparently, Disney owns the Anaheim Convention Center, too. So I join the herd of people heading across the street to the convention center, and call my friends, who have my badge-getting paperwork. And they’re about an hour out. Remember what I said about not being cool enough to get into NAMM without cool friends? Yep. So I get to hang around outside NAMM for an hour. Knowing full well the wonders that are awaiting inside. Luckily, this guy was playing outside:

No, not the spandex rock chick in the front there (I think that’s a chick), the guy in the background with the guitar. (You’ll notice that at various times I inexplicably forgot that I had brought an actual camera with me, and instead used my phone…and my phone is always whatever is the oldest and freest model currently at Sprint.) He said his name was Mike Logan, and he was good. Just simple chord progressions with great melodies and heartfelt lyrics that seemed to be borne from experience. The melodies were so good that they almost…almost…overcame the inhumane amount of delay the sound guy was drowning both his voice and guitar in. Hey, I guess it is a show about music technology, not necessarily music. But Thank you, Mike. This would pretty much be my last taste of melody for about 9 hours.

My phone beeps, and there’s a text (yes, it is new enough to at least receive those) from my posse (is that still cool to say?) saying they are on their way. So I go to meet them at the front. At the front, there was a large stage for some reason. I say for some reason, because all day, no one ever played on it. Every time we passed it, the same people were scurrying about, running the same cables, with all the same instruments on stage. Odd. But no worries, as the gear was disappointing. Like 7 brand new, out-of-the-box, Fender Twin’s. Yep, this is about sponsorships, not artistry. Nothing wrong with a Fender Twin, just the fact that every amp is the same.

So I finally meet them, get my badge (from a guy who was extremely excited to take my paperwork and print me a badge…couldn’t figure that one out, but alright! Nice people are cool!), and head up to the second floor. There were tones (no, that’s not a typo) of booths and displays and companies, but for the purposes of not boring your mind off, I’ll just highlight the ones that jump out at me:

Digitech–we went in here as it was one of the first rooms on the second floor. The second floor is mostly rooms, whereas the main floor is all booths and setups and stuff. Digitech is trying very hard, which I have to give them credit for, and they are trying to diversify. On the one hand they’ve got the RP 1000, which looks as if it’s trying to bite on the heels of the Line 6 M13. And then they also have the Hardwire series, which is trying to be boutique. There were too many people in there to try out the pedals, but…fair amount of props to Digitech for staying up on what’s popular. I don’t particularly tend to care for their tone, but alright. Do something about the name of your company, and you might be set. Oh, and they did have a lady demo’ing out a vocal harmonizer and you’ve never heard anything more fake in your entire life.

Taylor–we joined half the people attending NAMM in here. Cool guitars, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. Except that on stage there was a cool-looking Bad Cat Lynx set up for one of the artists to play later. (Bad Cat’s light up!) And, just like in Guitar Center, there were a slew of people sitting down, playing Taylor guitars, hoping to get ‘discovered.’ How do I know they weren’t just trying out the tone of the guitar? Because they were singing, too. Usually a Tom Petty song. Although it’s difficult to tell, because there’s so many of them all around each other playing different Tom Petty songs. And how do I know they weren’t just having fun? Because of the desperate and eager looks on their faces as I walked by them, hoping I was a celebrity or Taylor rep who would sponsor them and make them famous. And even if I was, it’s like, ‘You’re playing an E chord. Badly. What do you want me to do?’ And if that sounds harsh, don’t worry. I get my chance to play some stuff, and I’m sure people walked by thinking, ‘Dotted 8th delay again? Doesn’t he know that’s already been invented?’ It had to have happened.

Line 6–they didn’t even try. Terrible room, with absolutely zero setup except for like, a few pedals in the corner. It was almost as if they knew they took over the world last year with the cursed ‘M’ series ( ;) ), so they didn’t even bother with NAMM this year. I resisted the urge to trash the room in a rebellious rock ‘n roll statement.

Godin–surprisingly, they had some amazing electrics in there. Really great woods. I might have to check these out in the future.

ESP–incredible looking  guitars. Sure, they sound thin and they haven’t made any tonal advances since 1985, but they did have a guitar that was carved into an angel and actually went over the strings, so that the neck was almost a tunnel through the body, and was still fully playable. I should have taken a picture, but it was difficult to take a picture of any one guitar in that room without unintentionally getting one of the other thousand guitars with naked women on them in the background of the shot. I guess ESP’s stance on artistry is who needs tone when you can just paint the female anatomy on a guitar and it sells just as well. But the carved angel guitar was pretty cool.

Then myself and the piano player of the group couldn’t find the rest of the group, so we went off and looked at pianos. I wish I could remember the names of the companies, but some of them were handcrafted, and sounded amazing. Real, acoustic strings moving air. Beautiful. He played like a champ, while I went around and faked it with what I like to call ‘Variations on A minor.’ Which really means, hold the sustain pedal down and play all the white keys. The sales reps of these $30,000 pianos seemed displeased.

Kurzweil–the only piano company I can remember the name of. Their keyboard stuff back in the ’80′s still has some synth sounds that haven’t been matched. So I tried out their newest flagship keyboard model on some string and pad sounds, and was thoroughly underwhelmed. Bummer.

So next was upstairs again.

Fender–they took up the whole third floor.

Then we went back downstairs. (Fender has some classic designs that have a great balance between quality and price, surprisingly. But at a place like NAMM, I want to see the little independent companies. I can see Fender anywhere. And everywhere.) And into the main hall. Where we saw:

That’s right. Remember Staind? Ya, I thought not. They were huge for about a year in the early 2000′s. Kind of a Creed rip-off with heavier vocals. Anyway, we walked right by and I was like, ‘No way. That’s Aaron Lewis.’ So, we got our picture taken with him because…well, why not?

I never really got into Staind, even in high school, but I told him I appreciated his music. I think he knew I was full of it, but he was cool anyway. Because he definitely looked like he could have beat me up if he so chose.

Then we checked out some more stuff. Well, amongst the aural assault of pentatonic blues…faster and faster. I guess you can only truly demo how gear sounds while playing (successfully or unsuccessfully…guess it doesn’t matter) 32nd note blues riffs. It was less about hearing gear with these guys the companies had hired to do their demos and more about trying to show you were the better guitarist than the guy across the way. Like Guitar Center, but with the 13-year-old’s playing on the Marshall stacks all grown up. My ears started screaming for some sense of melody. Just two notes that aren’t chromatic or in some mode you made up yourself to prove something. Please.

Elixir–the guy I was with, Kenny, who’s a killer musician in his own rite, also owns a music store. So he’s talking with Elixir about carrying their products, and they mandate a $1000 minimum order every time. Way to take care of the little guys, Elixir. Another reason not to like them.

Orange–I’m not the biggest fan of Orange, but they’re definitely decent. However, they may have the coolest logo and branding known to gear. That medieval/Zeppelin looking crest logo against the orange tolex is spectacular. They were in a central spot so we passed them a lot throughout the day. And on one of the times, someone was playing a bass through one of their newer tube bass amps and…uh…whoa. Really good sound.

We hit a few more, and then went down to the basement, which is the coolest part of NAMM. That’s where all the little companies and independents are. And passed another finger gymnast on our way down. Hey, you know that delay pedal you’re supposed to be demo’ing out? How about stop the sweep picking and turn it on. That’s what we’re all waiting for. Okay, maybe just me. And as much as I wanted to hear melody and um…music?…it seems there was no end to the amount of people impressed by the same E minor pentatonic scale. So maybe they were giving the people what they wanted. I guess it is a trade show to sell gear, not to please me. Stupid giant mile-long billion dollar guitar gear gatherings not centered around me. ;)

And downstairs.

Bill Lawrence–too many people were stoked about this little booth for me to be able to get in and try stuff out. Guess his stuff is popular!

Moollon–so, so stoked that these guys were here. I’ve been wanting to try them for a long time. The guys there were actually really, really cool and let me sit down, grab a guitar, and try their pedals. Drives were okay, but the highlights were the vibe and delay. Delay sounded spectacularly like the T-Rex Replica in weight and depth but with TC2290 style modulation. Very impressive. And the vibe was washy without being too ’60′s. Hard to do. Only thing with these pedals is that the price point is high. But they said they’re coming out with a new line of the same basic pedals, but without the hand-etching on them. Not as cool, but same sound for a better price. I’m really hoping these guys take off. Nice fellas.

And there was the Batmobile.

I have no idea why. And I have no idea what Hallmark Guitars is, or who they are. And the fact that they think ‘Kick Axe’ is cool and original enough to be their slogan does not bode well. But they did have the Batmobile. Gotta be worth some points.

Fuchs–down there with their Plush pedals, and some goth-girl band playing shred to drum tracks. It was awkward. I think that was Fuchs. I hear good things about their pedals, but wasn’t too stoked on their showing here.

Suhr–one of the highlights of the day. I know a couple guys who work there, and was lucky enough to catch one of them while it wasn’t too busy. (Thanks, Chris!) He let me try out their Shiba drive, Riot distortion, and Koko Boost. The Shiba was decent…seemed like a perfectly fine overdrive. But the Riot was very cool. Like a fuzz, but more controllable. Very dynamic, a lot of response, and allowed each note (even stacked 7ths) to stack well without losing harmonic content. But the Koko Boost is the one I now want to sell my Fatboost for. Wow. Huge difference in fatness without losing the overall tone of the amp. Which, by the way…that Suhr Badger ain’t bad. hehe

Then I saw a guy on a platform demo’ing overdrives. Man, I wish I could remember what brand it was. Anyway, more finger acrobatics and melody was nowhere to be found. I wanted to hit myself.

Dwarfcraft–coolest booth of the day award. These two guys are the most awesome ever. They just wanted to talk tone, and germanium transistors, and how to starve battery power and put joysticks in your pedals…look for awesome stuff to come from these guys. I really think these pedals are gonna take off. :)

Now, this whole time I’m looking for Damage Control and Strymon. The guys from those companies have been more than generous about my demos of their products (which I never thought more than like, 5 people would ever see), and I just wanted to meet them in person and say thanks. Plus Strymon is coming out with a bunch of new pedals, including a delay and a reverb with shimmer. But I just can’t seem to find them, and they’re not listed in my little Mickey Mouse program addendum. By this time my whole group has gone to get lunch. I decided not to eat, as to see more gear. Tone knows no hunger. So I go up to the information booth to get a full directory. And am promptly told that my badge with the little ‘V’ for ‘Visitor’ on it, is not cool enough to be able to get a full directory. So I browse back upstairs looking for Strymon and Damage Control. And of course, stop by a few more booths of awesome.

Moog–I’ve always loved Moog. Great pedals, great synths. I tried out their new synth guitar deal…almost an exact copy of what Michael Brook has been doing with his infinite guitar for 20 years…and I think it’s cool. I say ‘I think’ because they were only hooked up to headphones. So it’s difficult to tell whether it’s just a gimmick, or if the tone is actually good. But it is a cool gimmick! It just basically makes it easy to do infinite keyboard-type pad sustain on a guitar just by using pickup selection.

Matchless–I really wanted to stop by here and meet Phil Jamison. My Matchless is perhaps the best thing to ever happen in my gear life, and I wanted to meet the master. Okay, now here’s the thing. Amongst tone after tone that day, and amongst all the ear fatigue going on because of 8 million choruses of ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine but with sweep picking’, some guy plugs into a Matchless and there you are. Nothing sounds like a Matchless. Now, you might not like the sound of a Matchless, and that’s cool. But nothing else sounds like it. So unique. And beautiful. Beautiful and unique and lighting up. What more can you want? Anyway, I talk to Phil for a bit and say thanks, and also ask him about a couple mods I’d like to do on the amp, and he quotes me a killer price and says they can take care of it no problem. Seriously one of the nicest guys in the world, to even take the time to talk to me about that stuff when it’s clear that my badge says ‘Visitor’ and not ‘Sales Rep’, and even though I committed the apparently unforgivable sin of mentioning the name ‘Mark Sampson’ in the Matchless booth. hehe ;)

And now to the crux of this post. (Well besides the fact that real music that touches the soul seems to be dying in the wake of ‘my hands are faster than yours.’) I find the Diamond Pedals booth. Now I have had the Diamond Memory Lane delay on my board since 2005. That’s a really long time for me to have the same piece of gear. Nothing sounds like it. There are things that do other things better, but for what it does, it’s the only thing that even comes close. And they had been rumoured to have been coming out with a new delay, the Memory Lane Jr. So I went over, and what do you know. Aimish, one of their lead techs, invites me to sit down and play their whole line of pedals. And again, the little ‘Visitor’ symbol on my badge is clear as day. Doesn’t say ‘Artist’ or ‘Sales Rep.’ So I just sit there and hack away for like a half hour and he keeps coming over excitedly and showing me some of the features on them. What a nice guy! That, coupled with the fact that all of their pedals sounded so good, makes me just want to sell my car and buy each of their pedals.

Diamond Memory Lane–ya, I have it, but I still had to turn it on. So lush.

Diamond Memory Lane 2–I never bought this one because, even though it has a second delay preset which was cool, because the time of the preset seemed too fast, and it had been said to not have the runaway oscillation and dynamic feel of the first Memory Lane because some people didn’t like it. However, Aimish said that the Memory Lane 2 has an internal jumper that can be switched to make the 2 go back to the 1 settings. And the second preset actually had a good deal of delay time. And the 2 sounded delicious. So now I need a Memory Lane 2.

Diamond Memory Lane Jr.–this one is currently at 1000 milliseconds, and they’re toying with the idea of making it 1500. (It’s still in prototype.) It’s all digital, with an analog dry path. Sounded great. Warm, yet clear…just what you want if you want a digital delay. I thought it was awesome.

Diamond Halo Chorus–this one I’ve owned before, and sold. Great chorus, but very classic sounding. And I was looking for a chorus that was pretty much the modulation sound of the Memory Lane.

Diamond Phase–a little too classic for me. But for that Phase 100 sound, awesome.

Diamond Tremolo–whoa. Just incredible. Huge, slow, tube-like throbs, to just straight gorgeous trem. Want.

Diamond Vibrato–surprisingly like the Moollon one. Maybe a little more ’60′s. Great sound.

Diamond Compressor–not a compression guy, but right on the heels of Strymon and Emma with this one. Probably able to get a more squished sound than the other too, but not quite as transparent. (Alright, there I said it. Can’t go a whole gear post without saying ‘transparent.’ hehe)

Diamond J-Drive MK3–very big surprise. I need to hear this one next to the Tim and Liquid Blues it was so good.

Diamond Fireburst–hard to tell as I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself. But I swelled into it a few times and it sounded very, very good.

Bottom line is that I could have a whole board of Diamond’s pedals and be completely happy. Well, except the phase and chorus, which were a little too classic rock for me. However, that probably is exactly what 95% of the people at NAMM were looking for. ;) And that is why I say blasted Diamond Pedals. Because I walked out of that booth wanting about $4000 worth of pedals.

That’s Diamond Pedals. Kind of. I am good at photography.

And then it was time to catch a couple performances. We had seen Tony Levin signing autographs on the main floor earlier:

He’s the guy next to the Ampeg. And we found out he was playing with his band up at, I believe it was the Pro Tools stage, but I forget. For those of you who don’t know, Tony Levin is like, the epitome of the freelance musician. He plays bass and chapman stick (a midi instrument set up like a bass) and has played on countless recordings and with countless bands, including Peter Gabriel and Liquid Tension Experiment (Dream Theatre’s experimental jazz side project). Sometimes his music is cool and he can be the most tasteful bassist ever. And sometimes not. But either way, he takes himself far from seriously, which makes him one of the coolest guys in the world. So here’s the first video of he and his band. It was interesting, and made me respect them, but not my favorite musically. Still fairly cool:

And the second. In this one, he is singing about soup or super-colliders. I can’t tell which. Either way, it was one of the oddest and most awesome songs I have ever heard:

And then right after that, Al DiMeola was playing across the way on the PRS stage. Now, I really like Al DiMeola. In the ’70′s, in Return to Forever, he was one of the first guitarists to use his guitar for soundscapes rather than just trying to play faster than Jimmy Page or in more modes than Robben Ford. So my hopes were high. And…well…he can definitely play fast:

But overall, it was disappointing not to see the mix of skill and melody that I was hoping for. In fact, he only played one song and then disappeared. And kind of seemed like he didn’t want to be there. Oh, well. He’s human…maybe something happened with his family or something. Again, not all about me. Unfortunately. He did, however, call this 20-year-old girl up to the stage. Kristen Capolino. And not only did she rock, but appeared to be having the time of her life. Which was really refreshing. That was cool to be a part of:

Then I tried to see Jason Mraz in the Taylor room and it was already impossible.

So back downstairs. And I guess things were really starting to get into full swing for all the celebrity after-parties and private shows. Lots of celebrities. We passed the Collings booth, with gorgeous guitars. Collings is awesome:

And where everyone is facing, right off camera, I guess they were filming some cake-building show? Everyone was very excited. I was confused.

But then I turned around and saw:

John Petrucci and John Myung, of Dream Theatre fame. The line was like a million years long, so I did not wait in it. But I used to be a huge fan, and still listen to their stuff from time to time, so that was cool.

And then, because things were so incredibly crowded, I ducked into the quite uncrowded Rocktron booth. And started playing their pedals for lack of anything better to do. And wow! Not the best ever, but certainly good! Especially for like $50 each or whatever. The chorus was great, and the delay was very impressive. I was able to get some good sounds going, even through the solid state amps. And they had this other pedal…basically a heavy overdrive. Can’t remember the name, but it was pink and had the name of some mythical monster, complete with a ‘stare’ knob. But sounded so surprisingly good. I talked with the head engineer, who was there (actually, the conversation began because he told me I was too loud, hehe), and he told me the chorus uses the BBD chip, and that the delay’s dry path is analog, and I was starting to think that just maybe these could be cheap sleeper pedals. Pretty cool.

Okay, so then the engineer walks off. And 2 minutes later he comes back and nudges me and says, ‘Hey, you’ll never believe who’s in the middle of the floor over there. Bono.’

Faster than the response of a Telefunken 12AX7 in the V1 position, I’m off. Camera in hand. The real camera, not my phone this time. And there he was:

Eh, sort of. It hit me at that moment that I know way too much about U2. Frighteningly way too much. Because everyone else was astounded, and I was disappointed. The dress was good, with platform shoes and etched stars into the glasses. But he was way too cavalier for Bono. Bono is crazy on stage, but in public is usually reserved and a little shy. And this guy was kissing everything that moved. And his voice was different, he was a few years older, hair was dyed, and to top it all off, once about 100 people were crowded around, he hugged some guy he knew and the guy left looking around at all of us there and muttering, ‘Comedy.’ So, hopes dashed. Not Bono. Although I heard later that the impersonator even sang some U2 songs horribly off-key, so I wish I had stuck around for that. Apparently this guy does this every year.

Unfortunately, it ended up Strymon and I think Damage Control too, were in the Hilton, not on the main floor. And I definitely didn’t look there. But they were doing some private demos and I bet they were fabulous.

And then I left. It closed, and as awesome as all of the gear was, I needed to get into my car, turn on some Coldplay and hear a blasted melody for the first time in nine hours. Oh, who am I kidding. As true as that is, had I been deemed cool enough to hang out at all the after-parties, I totally would have! hehe

And then, the absolute best part of NAMM. I saw this guy the last time I went, a few years back, and had no idea he’d be there again. Michael Masley. The guy who invented finger bows for violin sounds on the dulcimer. Sitting on the street corner, outside NAMM, bringing back all that is good about music. And I loved him:

Music is melody, my friends. In my mind, this guy showed up 99% of the guys performing at NAMM. After hearing 276 people play the same riff just at varying speeds (and levels of cleanness), nothing even came close to touching my soul like this did. Oh, and gear is pretty cool, too. ;) What if this guy had a delay pedal on that dulcimer?! Mmmmmm.

Splendid.
Karl.

An Experiment

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Just humour me. The next time you’re going to buy a pedal, or an amp, or a guitar, go buy a new set of strings and some new picks first. Ninety-five percent of the time, this makes more of a difference than new gear. And in the words of Tony Wonder, whoa whoa whoa, wait. Am I actually advising not to buy new gear? Oh no. Not at all. Definitely buy new gear. But once you get the new strings on, and it makes more of a difference than a new amp, guitar, or clean boost pedal, then you get to spend the money on another delay. That’s right…no need to fear. This blog still does, and always will, endorse the acquisition and subsequent caressing (for some of us) of new gear. And it wouldn’t have to be a delay either. A nice seek filter, or a new Dwarfcraft pedal. (They were at NAMM. Crazy awesome pedals. Remind me of ZVex, when ZVex was still unknown, and hence…way cooler. ;) My review of said tradeshow is coming soon…it’s just taking a while to upload all the videos to youtube. Including the one of Tony Levin singing…yes, he sings…sort of…about soup and/or super colliders. It was oddly awesome.) Or a delay. Ya, those are good, too.

But seriously. Every time I change my strings (and this should be a once a week occurrence at least if you play often), I am floored by the difference. In tone, and in feel. And subsequently, in my playing. And then I go sell the three guitars I bought because I was unhappy with my tone because I didn’t change the strings.

All things to make you happier with your tone. Oh, and Avatar will make you happier with your tone if you go see it, because everything seems better in comparison to that movie. Actually, I’ve yet to see it…so I have no basis on which to judge it. Except that the previews sucked, and the plot seems to have perhaps not so subtly ripped off Pocahantas. Which ripped off Dances with Wolves. Which ripped off Pocahantas. Like, the actual one that happened in life.


(hehe I just found out Giovanni Ribisi is in Avatar. He is…um…not one of my favorite actors. Don’t tell me, but I’m guessing he cries in this movie and you can’t understand what he’s saying. Boiler Room, anyone? Sorry. I hadn’t made fun of a movie in a while, and I was just dying to get something out! Oh! And he looks like Bill Paxton in this picture. If Bill Paxton was French and aging backwards. I appreciate the effort, Killers, but this Freddie-Mercury-throwback-stache deal has got to go. Okay, I’m done now. Giovanni, you make more money than I do, and you were on Friends, so I’m sure you couldn’t care less that I’m writing this…if by some magical twist of fate you even see this. But if you do, I apologize, take it all back, and can you get me an acting job with James Cameron? BBFF, bro. That’s butch best friends forever. Ya. Hmm…that doesn’t sound right. Wow, it must be late. Ya, there we go. I’ll blame it on that.)

But…uh…seriously, change your strings. Is that what we were talking about? Oh, I can’t remember. But do it anyway! It’s never a bad thing. Picks and strings…the first lines in your tone after your mind and hands…the two things that are actually making acoustic sounds in space…making sure those are in pristine condition makes all the difference in the world.

Splendid.
Karl.

Boss PS3 Review & Demo

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

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

The Good

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

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

–The dual settings were a cool option.

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

The Me

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

The Verdict

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

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

Splendid.
Karl.

My Head is Dying

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Ever have those weeks, where so much is going on, that you can no longer differentiate between the things you’ve done, and the things you’ve thought about doing? I’ll email someone and they’ll say ‘You just emailed me that.’ And then I’ll say ‘Really’ and then completely shut down for three hours while watching ‘Heat.’ Nothing like hearing Michael Brook playing over the landscape of LA, while Pacino kicks a television out of his car. Beautiful. The other way to deal with stress is to buy pedals. Done.

So, all that to say, please do not be offended during this time if I haven’t responded to your questions. Some days, between this blog, facebook, email, youtube, phone, Gear Page, and a little thing called real life, there are upwards of 40+ gear-related questions I need to respond to. (And a few saying, ‘I bought the $500 pedal you suggested and it would be impossible for you to have been more wrong. I hate you.’) And inevitably I miss some. So I’m really sorry if I’ve missed yours. I adore talking about gear, so just send it to me again, or post it here, or send me an email. I promise you that I love talking gear so much, that after a few conversations you’ll be the one not responding to me. :) I was hoping it’d never get to the point where I had to mention that, but it’s at the place now where I know I must be forgetting to respond to at least some of them, and I do apologize. Please be patient with me.

So anyway, here’s the end result of my head dying this week. Well, and of watching Heat with my laptop open buying pedals.

  • It’s about fullness. 98% of people hear the sound, not your guitar.
  • Got a PS3 in. (The pedal, not the video game unit deal. I am the worst video game player ever. I’ve never made it past the 2nd screen of the original Mario Brothers. Jumping is hard.) Unfortunately, it does everything I don’t need quite well. And the one thing I do need…not so much. However, a full demo is on the way.
  • I’m running all pads from a laptop now…into an eq…into a volume pedal, and then an amp. And I am looking for a Murf and another delay for them too. I do not understand why my way of dealing with stress is to complicate things. And anyone want to buy a Fostex MR8 recorder with pads already recorded on it?
  • Play a chord every once in a while. Ya, I know they’re boring, but it’s amazing how good those things sound.
  • George Clooney looks way better than me. And he’s 46. I hate him.
  • I’m learning more and more that music, and especially worship music, is about communicating…not ‘to’, but ‘with’ your audience.
  • Finally saw ‘It Might Get Loud.’ Absolutely lovely. Page is fantastic, I have a ton of respect for White, but Edge just comes from some other place altogether. In the best way possible. And if you disagree, then you’re wrong. ;)
  • My wife and I are starting week 2 of gluten-free, source, veganism. I would love to put 18-year-old-Tourniquet-listening-Jack-in-the-Box-ultimate-bacon-cheeseburger-loving-real-guitarists-play-bar-chords-Steve-Vai-hair-I-have-it-all-figured-out Karl into a cage match with 25-year-old-U2-adoring-source-eating-capo-using-balding-but-maybe-I-can-look-like-Jason-Statham-I’ve-failed-too-much-to-even-consider-thinking-I’ve-got-it-figured-out Karl, and see who would win. Probably the metalhead one. And this actually took place in my mind. Carl Weathers was the referee for some reason. ‘Ding, ding.’ Name that movie. Wow.
  • Bought a John Fromel pedal on looks alone. And I am not ashamed to admit that. Those things are gorgeous.
  • There’s this older gentleman at my church. Every time I talk with him, I’m blown away by the simple, concise wisdom. Very, very cool.
  • It’s probably time to change the tubes in my Timeline’s. Mmmm……tubes.
  • It’s incredible how much tone you can get when you stop listening for how your tone sounds, and start listening to how your hands and gear are interacting, and start feeling tone. A hot-glowing tube amp doesn’t hurt, either.
  • I think sometimes we get a result in our minds of how God moving will look, and then we pursue that result when He’s actually moving somewhere completely different.
  • Shocked my lips on the mic yesterday. I eventually fixed the ground problem, but you know…that pain stays in your mind! I backed off from the mic a ton, and didn’t really realize until then how much I devour that thing when I sing. So if any of you ever want to come to my church to guest lead, just be careful of which mic you’re singing into. We don’t want to kiss.
  • Buy more delay.
  • Music and tone and sound and melody just put thoughts and pictures into my mind that I can’t explain and wish I could. I love them so much. And ‘Heat.’
  • Recording technologies are getting out of hand. I should buy stock in compression. I think we could all do with a good dose of some old Beatles recordings, and remember how it sounds to get a great source sound, and to not let the recording get in the way of that.
  • School of Seven Bells. Do it.
  • I bought a pedal I’ve already had. I’ve done this like, 17 times. What is wrong with me? Or, what is very, very right with me. Gear is the best. Tone is better. And delay trumps them all. This makes sense to me.

Splendid.
Karl.

Where Did That Come From?

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Well, if I lost half my audience with my post mentioning buying some Boss pedals, I’m about to lose the other half with this post. Please no one ever go through this blog and count the mentions of this band. But I’m driving this morning, and this song comes on, and out of nowhere I just start singing it at the top of my lungs…and then these tears start coming. And it’s not like I’ve never heard this song before. I’d love to say it’s because of the sweet tone, and that is part of it. But overall, it’s the power that music can display. When all the parts…melody, harmonic structure, passion, feel, tone…are there, it can communicate in a way I’ve not experienced with anything else.

Perhaps sometimes we just need an emotional release. And this past year has seen some difficult losses in my personal life, which I try quite hard to keep out of this blog. And this song just wrecked me this morning…in the best way possible. For those of you who don’t know (meaning, everyone not as psycho about this band as I am…wanting to wear their clothes and sweat and stuff), Bono wrote this song about his children. And when they were recording it, Edge looked at him and said, ‘I think that’s about your father.’ And here’s the performance just days after his father passed away:

Splendid.
Karl.

Remembering How to Follow

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I usually take December off of everything but my home church. That way, I can reserve a month of ‘less’ so that I can spend holidays with my wife. Too often ministry kills marriages, and I’m not so sure God intended it that way. So this month is me getting back into playing for other worship leaders…and remembering that following is way harder than leading. When you’re the one leading, it’s quite simple to follow yourself. (Uh…hopefully.) You jump back into the following role, and suddenly you have to think about things like, ‘Are we jumping back into the chorus, pre-chorus, or bridge? Because that’s either a C, Am, or F…okay, I have no idea, so I’m just going to hit an overdriven C5 high on the neck because it’ll pass in all 3 chords.’ ;) Or, ‘Why does that sound off? Oh. Maybe I should play in the same key as everybody else.’ Rather than, when leading, you can just look at everyone around you disgustedly for not following ‘the Spirit’ as closely as you are, when ‘the Spirit’ suggested you play in Ab, when you wrote the music for everyone else in A.

And for you leaders out there, it’s a good exercise to worship with other bands and teams…without leading. You’ll find yourself going, ‘Stupid worship leader! Why can’t they just……oh wait, I just did that to my team this morning.’ And you’ll gain a bit of a new respect for the team serving under you. As well as putting yourself in a position to simply worship through your instrument, without the responsibilities of leading a team. Most refreshing. (‘Refreshing’ is a gross word, isn’t it? Just reminds me of ‘Refreshments will be served in the fellowship hall.’ Ugh!! Can’t you just say ‘You can have some watered down juice and cookies left over from last year out in the lobby’? Sorry, I get passionate about the over-usage of flowery words. ‘Organic’ and ‘transparent’, though…now that’s okay. ;) )

It’s just a cool thing to break out of the bubbles that inescapably form around us wherever we camp out at. Even if it’s jumping up at an open mic at a coffee shop. Something to get new perspective. To appreciate your teams more. To live…for reals. And maybe to worship a little more freely. And of course, just another place to experience your tone. hehe Provided you happen to be on the upswing of the ever-changing ‘I hate my tone/my tone kills all the pros’ schitzo.

Splendid.
Karl.

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