Archive for January, 2011

Boss DD20 Vs. Damage Control Timeline

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Well my Timeline is officially back, which means the world is welcome to start turning again. And with the official announcement of the new Timeline coming out, I figured it might be worth it to see how much better the Timeline really sounds than my current standby…the DD20.

The DD20 is probably the least cool delay pedal you can own. It says ‘Boss’ on it, which as anyone who’s anyone knows, means it can’t possibly sound good; it has no handpainted letters or cartoon characters making guitar puns out of regular words like ‘Echolution’, anywhere to be seen on it; it’s called the ‘Giga Delay’; it’s sold at Guitar Center; it’s still in production; you don’t know the builder’s first name and hence can’t say ‘Sven’s DD20′; and most importantly…and I mean most importantly…everyone has one. And the amount of tone decreases exponentially with each person that owns a version of any one guitar pedal.

And yet…it sounds…well, good. Really good. It has a ton of features, 5 presets, a bpm readout, and can be powered off of a PP2+. How many times have you seen someone on Gear Page (myself included…hehe) start a thread asking for all the delays with those exact features but ‘not the DD20!’ We guitarists are awesome. The main thing about this pedal is that it is currently one of only two multiple preset delay pedals on the market that does not digitize the dry signal. The other one? The Damage Control Timeline. The new Timeline will be the third, but it’s not out yet. The T-Rex Replica and the TC Vintage Delay don’t, but they don’t have presets. The Strymon Brigadier and El Capistan don’t, but they are only capable of 2 presets. The rest of them either do convert it to digital, or are still shrouded in mystery. (Which means they probably do.) So I figured we’d have a clash of the analog dry signal preset titans. Although, they are delay pedals, so the clash will be taking place on top a billowy cloud of ambience.

Clean Tone

Godin SD fat strat (humbucker, neck, and neck-middle used)–>

Fryette Valvulator–>
Hartman Vintage Germanium Fuzz (used)–>
Loop-Master–>
Loop-Master–>
(Loop 6–>DD20 or Timeline
(Loop 8–>DD20 or Timeline
Barge Concepts looper–>

Matchless HC30 (EF86 channel used)–>
65 Amps birch cab (Celestion Blue mic’d)

And these delays sounded so close at times that I went ahead and mic’d up my cab and recorded it ‘the right way’. ;)

Shootout

Well…regardless of what I said in the video (and what I wore…sorry, it was hipster day…I also rode my bicycle down the middle of the street, drank tea with a name I didn’t understand but pretended I did, and wrote a song on the ukelele)…after listening back to it, the Timeline wins on the vast majority of settings. It is pretty spectacular. I think the DD20 holds its own, especially on its analog and tape settings, but there is a ‘spread’ to the Timeline that really seems to fill the room. And that multitap setting low in the mix…yikes. Amazing. I’ve tried so many delay pedals, and none of them have a spaciousness like that. Timefactor, SuperDelay, Hazarai, TC…can’t find it. Well, at least I can’t. I’m sure others can. But for me personally, so stoked the next Timeline version is coming out.

However, the DD20 still sounded very good. On a few of those settings, it was difficult for me to tell which was which; and on the analog setting, I may have actually preferred that the DD20 could get warmer and muddier. Of course, the Timeline was still ‘bigger’ sounding, but the DD20 might have had the upper hand right there. Might. The Timeline sounds so good that it’s difficult to hear any shortcomings. hehe But still, I really liked the analog setting on the DD20. So for the money and for how versatile it is, the DD20 for me is the ultimate sleeper delay pedal. The one that’s not cool enough to like, but sounds good enough to stay with if not perhaps beat, most of the others. And it keeps the dry signal analog…which helps your tone’s dynamics, weight, and feel so very much. And for what it’s worth, here’s a couple hidden settings on the DD20 which I keep hearing from folks that they didn’t know about them. If you already do, my apologies and just skip this part:

–While in modulation mode, hold the on/off switch. You can now use the time knob to set the modulation rate. While still holding the on/off switch, press the time knob. You can now use it to control the modulation depth.
–Holding the on/off switch also accesses settings in dual delay mode and in tape delay mode.
–If you hold the right switch while you power the pedal on, you can choose what you want an external pedal to control: tap, on/off, or presets.
–If you hold the left switch while you power the pedal on, you can choose output modes…including ones where you can get a 4db boost.
–If you hold ‘Write’ and ‘Select’ while you power the pedal on, you can select ‘Pedal Mode 3′, where you can leave the right switch as tap tempo, and cycle presets by pushing both the right and left footswitches at the same time.
–Holding both ‘Tap’ and ‘Tempo’ allows the backlight to stay on.
–Holding ‘Tap’ toggles between a bpm readout and a ms readout.

Just some more ways that the DD20 is a swiss army knife. A very toneful, inexpensive ($150 average price used), swiss army knife. That I love so much. That I will probably sell when the ‘Timeline: bpm readout!’ is released. Ah, tone. Both such wonderful pedals. And it’s not really fair to Boss that Strymon is obviously putting magic into their pedals. The coolest thing about this shootout is that neither pedal died. Instead, they were able to look past their differences, and realize that they would be much more powerful if they joined forces. Much like every movie ever.

Splendid.
Karl.

Epiphone Valve Jr…There Is No Possible Way This Amp Should Sound Like This

77

This is the third time I have owned a Valve Jr. (I know, I know. There are reasons…none of them good ones, but at least I can make myself fall asleep at night.) This time, I found a screaming deal for it used, and got it to literally just keep in my car for emergencies. Like if I drive to a tortilla stand and there’s a guitar in the corner and I can see the hunger on people’s faces for not just tortillas…but tone. And tubes. Which has happened. Not really, but it has. And every time I play one of these, I am shocked. It should not sound this good. It just plain shouldn’t.

Is it the best amp ever? No. Is there some boxiness? Yes. Do I wish it had a tone knob? Yes. But when you can find these things for $75 used? Sweet mercy, that’s a good deal for an all-tube, incredibly loud 5 watts of tone that I don’t understand how it is coming out of what it is coming out of.

Here’s the demo. Just shot real quick, having fun with the Godin SD, a DD20, a little Behringer pseudo-shimmer action, and that big yet subtle reverby depth in the background? Yep. The return of the Damage Control Timeline. I really hope the new one can make that sound. There’s also a Hartman fuzz on the swells at the end, and the drives that aren’t amp drive are two Fulltone Fatboost’s. The good versions. Means version 1. ;)

And there you have it. Would I rather play my Matchless? Yes. Would I rather play my Blues Junior? Sure, but not by much. And that wasn’t too bad of tone for an amp that I could own 53 of instead of owning a Matchless. The drives didn’t do too well on it…it’s own overdrive is a bit boxy, possibly due to the little speaker, so for a drive pedal on this amp, you’d probably want something with it’s own sound…like a Menatone King of the Britains or something…rather than pushing this amp into it’s natural overdrive. Or getting the head version and running it through a 12″ cab might help too. But overall? Every time I plug in this amp for the first time (yep), I sit there for a few seconds just in shock. All tube preamp (1 12AX7), all tube power amp (1 EL84), nothing extra going on in the circuit. Which might be the secret. That, and nothing compares to tubes. If you have $75, go buy this amp.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. ‘Get down! They are trying to take my tortillas!’ hehehe Name that, and you get a free 1,000 points towards something I’ve yet to make up.

Please Don’t Judge Me

12

How much does this have nothing to do with Guitar and/or Worship? All…the nothing. (I should probably re-type that, but I’m not going to.) We went to Vegas last week, where they literally have everything. Including a channel in our hotel room that apparently plays nothing but back-to-back reruns of William Shatner’s opus, ‘TJ Hooker.’ So as I continue to work on some recordings and gear demo’s that are not yet finished, I give you something exponentially more amazing. Mr. Shatner, and his partner with the mane and awkward leg movements:

You can’t tell me you would’ve rather seen a pedal demo. And in case you missed it:

I don’t know about you guys, but I always stop mid fence-climb so that I can pose with my leg.

Splendid.
Karl.

The Art of Three Chords & a Melody

57

This song kills me. There are three chords. Used in almost exactly the same way as 17,178 songs before it. Except for one thing: this song is using the chords not to be the song, but to be the harmonic structure for the guitar and vocal melody. The melody is the song, and the three chords merely provide the base for that. As Bach said over 300 years ago, music is melody.

I give you…the best use of three chords the world has ever seen (possibly an exaggeration, except that it’s not):

Melody. Sometimes (by which I mean all the times), sitting back and writing a more inspired melody, will give you a song hundreds of times better than trying to add a new augmented chord, or a face-melting solo, or even (the world is about to end right here) adding more delay. All the other parts of the song…the chords, the harmonies, the structure, the arrangement, the orchestration, the contrapuntal sections, even the keys and scales themselves…realize themselves in that melody.

Oh, and if that song sounds familiar to you, it’s because: ‘Oh, Big Gulps, huh? Alright! … Well, see ya later!’

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Alright, I just can’t handle it if you’ve never seen that clip:

Coming Clean

59

Lately, I’ve found myself getting ripped off. I’ll find myself quoted somewhere on the internet without the use of, well, a quotation; certain melodic lines I’ve written and posted on youtube used for other things by other people; ambient pads I’ve made available for free for churches used for things that make money; song titles used in other songs and albums…etc. And I started to become a little annoyed by this. And then I remembered this line from Arcade Fire:

“You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts”

And I realized that I am just like them. Probably worse, as most of the afore-mentioned stuff was probably unintentional. So I decided to…well…remember that scene in Airheads (yes, Airheads…greatest band movie ever…’I don’t want to play it on cassette because it cuts out all the lows’) where they find out that Chazz’s real name is Chester and then they have the impromptu confessional? Well, this is my version…and I’m a little frightened…

  • My style of writing…you know, the one I spend hours on and then pretend like it’s just a flow of consciousness…is ripped off from Conrad Tolosa at Decapolis. I don’t think he writes like that anymore, but he used to, and it was amazing. I read it about ten years ago and decided that one day, I would have a blog like that.
  • Sometimes I like to pretend that I was the first one to start looping ambient guitar lines live…even though this is obviously false. In reality? I watched Phil Keaggy do it and then heard Moby’s ‘God Moving Over the Face of the Waters’ at the end of Heat. That’s pretty much every song I ever write.
  • I check my blog stats.
  • Listen to the closing melodic idea in my song ‘Surface’, and then skip to the last scene in Hook. You know, the one where Robin Williams flys into the sky and the voice-over whispers, ‘Thank you for believing.’ I didn’t mean to rip off John Williams; but I knew as soon as I listened back to the song why the melody had popped into my head so easily. And then I thought, ‘Eh, no one will notice.’
  • I re-wrote the ‘Donate’ page 15 times, trying to get a wording that encouraged people to donate while still sounding cool, aloof, and humble all at the same time.
  • I like to think I succeeded.
  • I make fun of Twitter and Facebook for promoting narcissism, and then post every conscious thought I have on my own personal website.
  • I like to pass off ‘splendid’ as something I just came up with off-hand. It took me a week to come up with a sign-off that I felt was the right blend of retro, unused, feminine but not too feminine, and so uncool it might be cool.
  • Sometimes, when you guys ask me tone questions, I have to google the pedal or amp name because I’ve never heard of it.
  • Then I shorten the name in my response so it looks like I’m intimately familiar with it: ‘Oh ya, the Devi’s are decent pedals.’
  • I hope this site gets huge and makes lots of money.
  • I get annoyed when people post too many links to their own site on my site. I then still respond as if I’m smiling. :)
  • I can’t stand Lincoln Brewster’s playing and still wish I could play like him.
  • I’ve refreshed my own youtube videos.
  • Sometimes I try to keep an internet persona of being, ‘That guy who’s authentic and honest.’ Which, by definition means…yep. There’s a part of me that secretly hopes this post will help that image.
  • I’ve gone to other people’s blogs and posted comments, hoping they will notice my obvious wit and charm, and click my name to come visit my site.
  • I’ve also wanted to visit other people’s sites, but come to mine first so that I can click their name from my Blogroll, so that they will see traffic from my blog and hopefully post here to get more traffic. That one hurts.
  • Some of my youtube videos are the 20th take.
  • The other day I was thinking about my future and a way to solidify my wife and I financially. I wanted to do something I was passionate about and that would help people, but that would also allow me to buy food and not worry about money. And I came up with the idea of writing and selling a book about how the church sometimes functions like a business and sells God for its own profit. And if that’s not sinking in, just read that last sentence again. ;)
  • If I really had something to say that I thought would benefit either the church or the world, wouldn’t I just say it and distribute it for free, and then earn my bread by painting houses like everyone else? But secretly, I hope to one day live off of royalties and do nothing. Giving 90% to churches and charities, of course. It’s just that I hope to be grossing around 20 million at least. You make that one work mathematically. (Sorry, I was trying really hard not to re-introduce ‘you do the math’ to the internet recycling machine.) ;)
  • I have entered writing contests and lost.
  • My bad tone, need to be The Edge, and inability to admit my musical shortcomings is what caused this band to fail: myspace.com/brilliantabsence
  • And I wish my name was Chazz. And that I had Brendan Fraser’s body. His old one.
  • I really, really want to end this with something spiritual about how God loves me anyway. But I would be doing it just to appease comments I know I’ll get about how it’s a good thing God loves us anyway. And as a good friend of mine recently pointed out, that may be closer to the original meaning of ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’ than a slip of the tongue after hitting a wrong chord. By the way, his blog is here: The Quillen. He’s a really cool guy I met a couple months ago, and one that I believe to be very intelligent. But I’m not sure if he’s actually intelligent, or if I just like to think so because we keep agreeing on things. hehe
  • I want my ambient songs and future albums to get really popular. I try to market them on this site with the reverse technique of pretending I’m ashamed of them and don’t want anyone to know about them. Which is of course why I hit ‘Upload.’ ;)
  • Probably the first post I’ve ever written where I’m literally a little frightened to push ‘Publish.’

But it’s looks into yourself like this that remind me that I truly am just like everyone else, and possibly a little bit worse than everyone else. And more importantly, how when the book of Isaiah talks about our righteousness being like used toilet rags, that’s kind of true. And I know it’s not the most fun or popular thing to end posts with that part of the Bible without throwing in the ‘you’re worth a lot’ passage at the end of Romans 8, but I’m not sure a proper view of God is possible without first getting to a proper view of ourselves. In fact, I think that as our view of God grows, our view of ourselves becomes more and more like the dirty rags. And the beauty is, we won’t care.

Just…
Karl

We Are Not Alone

32

Just in case you had a particularly bad weekend at church, watch this and feel better about yourself. I must thank two of the worship guys at my church, Tony and Nick Arriola, for this fabulous video. This is Martin Smith from Delirious, leading worship at his church:

Ah…I just breathe a sigh of relief every time I watch that video. We are not alone, my friends. We are not alone.

And because I can:

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. Is that Timeline out yet?

P.S.S. (Yes, I know it’s supposed to be PPS. ;) ) I finally posted edited versions of my last three songs on my Soundclick site. And even though it now seems every guitarist has an ambient album out, I keep getting requests to put one out; so that will be happening soon, and I’m thinking about putting something into the project that I’ve not heard in a long time, just so that it’s not the same stuff you’ve heard before.

P.S.S.S. That Timeline thread on Gear Page? So awkward and yet so much fun. It’s kind of righted itself now, but from pages 17-20, that was better than watching a movie. hehe

We Interrupt our Regularly Scheduled Broadcasting for…

116

Timeline 2???!!!

We’ve got midi! We’ve got 5 jacks! Possibly the 5th for an external footswitch for more options? And we’ve got a digital readout! Thank sweet merciful sweetness. And is that USB? Shape’s right, but seems a little small. Forget it, I’m calling it USB.

Most of you know that I tend to shy away from popular things. And Strymon has gotten so popular, that I haven’t tried too hard to get one of their pedals besides the OB1, because I don’t want to sound like everyone else. Actually, it’s probably just that I like the random things on my board that make people go, ‘What’s that?!’ which automatically makes me cooler, and everyone knows coolness leads to better tone. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I first picked up an original Timeline three years ago. But today? With the prospect of a Timeline 2? Or, what I’m hoping will be called Timeline with a Vengeance? I couldn’t care less if I sound like everyone else. Want. Want very much.

And if you’re wondering what all the hype is about:

Original Timeline Review and Demo at this site

Strymon Site (edit: Strymon has posted some pics a bit more high quality than mine below…hehe)

Strymon Twitter

Let the Battle for Who Can Click the Fastest once these go on sale publicly, begin.

Timeline 2. With a Vengeance.
Karl.

P.S. I have no official proof or inside information that this is in fact the Timeline 2. Except the proof I made up inside my head. That’s my favorite kind. It’s the same proof that lets me differentiate between tubescreamer chips manufactured in Malaysia or China. ;)

And the Edit of Happiness. For once, the proof I made up in my head was correct. :D

I was not deemed cool enough by the keepers of tone to be invited to NAMM this year, but luckily I do have friends who are cool; so thanks to Ryan Jones for the text that filled my Thursday night with joy, to Dan Price who posted me pictures, and to all the kind folks at Gear Page and Harmony Central who have started multiple page threads about the pedal that I now know to be so popular, I have decided not to hope for one until November. Which is a lie. I would like one now, please.

Analog dry path? Smear control hidden somewhere in that ‘Value’ knob? Subdivisions? Can I order a custom green one? Can I put my original Timeline in this one’s effects loop? Yes. I have decided to answer my own questions with proof I made up in my head. Hey, it worked last time! ;)

Splendid. So very splendid.
Karl.

Why Tone Matters

47

You know that story where Eric Clapton gets to the gig and all they have is a solid state Fender Frontman and then he goes back and turns a few knobs on the amp and ends up playing the whole gig sounding great and exactly like, well…Clapton? Ya, I’ve never seen that video either. Or heard that recording. I have, however, seen this video:

Now…let’s get a few things straight. These two gentlemen are better musicians than I will ever be. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are very, very good musicians. Not only to play what they’re playing, and not only to have come up with what they’re playing, but to be able to play in time together like that. Even though this is not the style I usually go for, it is difficult not to recognize their talent. However…and if you watched that video, I probably don’t even need to say this…what good is skillful musicianship if the tone quality gives your listeners headaches within 30 seconds? Like listening to Beethoven’s 9th on midi. There is a time and a place for tone. And that time and place is ALL the times and places. Please don’t ruin your hard work by plugging into whatever it is you plug in to that gives you a headache while you practice but you shrug it off and chalk it up to just playing too loud, because you don’t want to admit that the $700 you just spent on the new ‘tube hybrid’ technology wasn’t worth it.

Please sound good while you melt my face off. They’re called tubes, and there are amps that have them for below $200. Also pedals. That don’t have models of famous people’s tones on them. And guitars that sound…how do you say…good. And songs not from albums called ‘Nano-Nucleonic Cyborg Summoning.’ ;) Just kidding, just kidding. Please feel free to summon cyborgs, nucleonic or otherwise, with your guitar-playing. Just please do it with tone, as well as harmonizing Chapman Stick sweep-picking.

Splendid.
Karl.

P.S. There is still the one experience I had where the guy’s tone summoned my own nucleus (it makes sense to me) with his ’62 ES-335 plugged directly into the board. The key word here though is ’62 ES-335. If you play one of those, I hereby declare you exempt from tubes. And for what it’s worth, there is more going wrong tone-wise in that video than just the lack of tubes. And if you play consistently without tubes, or with modeling gear, or with yellow guitars with locking tremolo’s, I still love you. Just not as much. ;)

Digitech Jamman Delay Review

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No.

Splendid.
Karl.

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