Archive for January, 2012
So, this past summer, I made mention here that I was entering some videos into the Boss Looping Contest. I lost. I lost badly. Didn’t even make it into the finals. Now, prudence would say I lost because I was not good enough. Bitterness would say I lost because the big-wigs at Boss don’t know talent. And I would love to go with the prudent one. But you know what? I just can’t. Because of this guy. He also lost. Which leads me to conclude that Boss can’t possibly know talent. This guy makes my videos look like a kid playing Guitar Hero.
So basically, it wouldn’t have even mattered if I had made it into the finals, because this guy would’ve handed it to me anyway. Props, my barefoot friend who mics up kitchen utensils and common household items. Props.
So this past Sunday night, I played a service at which I was super unhappy with my tone during the first set. So for the second set, I forced myself not to change a single setting, but just simply to use more finesse, a lighter touch on the guitar, and to approach the guitar as if I’m actually listening to the sound coming out of the amp, and letting my finger dynamics, pickup choices, pedal selections, and melodic lines, react accordingly; so that I am more or less coaxing tone out of my rig, rather than hammering away and expecting my rig to do all the work. And second set? I loved my tone.
This is about the 18…thousandth time I’ve had this revelation. For some reason, it’s hard for it to stick…maybe because my fingers don’t have blue led’s. Of course, you do need gear that will react to your touch, and is capable of sounding good if you put something good into it. But you also reach a point where you look at your gear, and you realize that if you can’t make this sound good, than no NOS Amperex tube is gonna make nearly as much difference as changing your mental approach to the guitar. Make it sing.
Tone is in the mind.
E) Finish the song how it is, and look forward to the juicy 2-hour lunch conversation at Chipotle on the church credit card with the worship team, discussing the spiritual shortcomings of every modern-day church attender except for yourself.
(If you’re confused right now, that’s okay. Just listen to some U2, and read part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4 of the Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending series, of which this post is the latest installment. The listening to U2 part really has nothing to with it.)
You end the song, letting the last little bit of Timeline-delayed Wampler Ecstasy subtle drive fade out on that lovely G chord, and of course harboring a hidden bitterness against the pastor for starting his closing monologue before the 14th echo of your last chord fully smeared out. (The Timeline has smear. It’s wonderful.) The pastor dismisses the congregation, saying something mildly humorous about whatever football team is in closest proximity to the church, as you nod and give a loud stage mime chuckle even though you’re not listening but instead are on one knee manually and unnecessarily fading out the delay mix knob on your other Timeline, so that everyone knows that you really do know what you’re doing on a pedalboard that size, no matter what the sound tech jokingly asks you every single Sunday.
The pastor says his last word, and quick as the popularity half-life of any Facebook-hyped new boutique pedal, the drummer clicks off the tempo and you jump in to a much more rocked out version of your opening song before the sound tech can turn on the house music. As if programmed into the subconscious of your string-plucking minds, you, the other guitarist, the worship leader, and the bassist instantly go to your amps and turn them up. All bets are off for the closing song. People’s worship of course increases exponentially with the decibel level of the guitar amps (provided they are tube, point-to-point, and no one else has the same one except for every single person on The Gear Page), so the loudness of your amp blowing directly past your knees on stage and right at the ear of the people who have come to the front of the stage for prayer, is only helping them to worship God more fully.
Quickly your eyes scan the room for young hipster kids learning guitar making their way to the front of the stage to compliment your awesomeness and gawk at your pedalboard. You see them. Coming down the middle isle. The moment of truth. Which way are the going to turn? You see the indecision in their eyes. Here it comes…no! Really?! They walk up to the other guitarist. He smiles graciously at them, as you turn on six delay pedals and take an unscripted solo. You look back at them. Still not coming over to you! Because the other guitarist is taking his guitar off and letting them take turns playing it! What a jerk. They totally would have come over to you if he wasn’t so nice. No one cares about good tone these days.
You rip through your solo, the song ends, and you make a big show of turning on your tuner mute button, unplugging your guitar, and going to get your guitar case while your delay is still ringing out your last chord. It makes you awesome. You know it. And quicker than the stupid uncontrollable second delay time setting on the dual delay mode of a DD20, you and the rest of the band are out the back door and off to Chipotle. You can still hear your TC Hall of Fame reverb lusciously wofting out a Jesus Culture toneprint as the back door clicks shut. The coolest thing about being a worship musician is that, without lifting a finger, every direct box, mic cable, mic stand, music stand (although not yours…you don’t use a music stand, because true worshipers learn the songs…even if it means you hitting multiple wrong chords), and your equipment, is always somehow magically picked up after each Sunday morning, and will magically re-appear in its proper place for the Sunday night college service stage setup or for the next week’s rehearsal. You’re still not sure exactly how that happens.
You all pile into the worship leader’s Escalade, which he obviously paid for by only buying clothes from the Salvation Army’s hipster section, crank up some Gungor so that everyone knows you listen to the cool underground Christian music that hasn’t been discovered yet except by the record company who bought the music and distributed it to everywhere, and you’re off to Chipotle. You stop on the way to graciously mingle with some of the church people…no, you didn’t.
You all walk into the Chipotle together. It’s like a scene from some nerdy ’90′s pre-teen tv show, and you’re dressed the same way too. At first the servers think you might be a gang, but after a few seconds of watching you take yourselves way too seriously as you joke about things that ‘normal church people’ would probably be offended by but it’s okay because you’re post-modern, but without ever uttering any real curse words besides the occasional under-your-breath ones followed by a snicker, the entire restaurant comes to the conclusion that you are indeed a church worship band. And when you order your food without any indication of the servers’ presence except possibly one of slight annoyance at their very existence, it removes all doubt.
You sit down to eat outside. You’re talking, laughing, discussing how much better high-end response your new Tung Sol’s had than your reissue Mullard’s, and it happens. You’ve been spotted. The table next to yours. Atheists, discussing atheist things! They’ve recognized you as a Christian. Blast! They must’ve seen your JHS Pedals t-shirt! You try to escape, but it’s too late. They want to talk. Quick as the sanded neck of a bird’s eye maple D’Pergo, you…
A) Point to them and scream, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ and go scattering off from your table in all directions.
B) Look down at your food and give the worship leader the, ‘You’re the one paid by the church’ glance.
C) Kindly nod and smile and give the bare minimum answer to each question until they get bored and go away.
D) Tell them that God isn’t man-made but that God made man, or any other stock Christian Facebook status update quote, and when they ask how you know, simply repeat yourself.
E) Change the subject because you’re scared, but tell yourself it’s because you’re trying to get to know them and have a relationship with them before you eventually lay down the gauntlet…in 15 years.
F) Say, ‘Pay it forward.’ You don’t know why. You just say it.
G) Engage in a lengthy discussion where you inexplicably and confusedly end up explaining in depth the day/age theory of Genesis that you heard about once during a message you weren’t really listening to.
H) Ask if they play guitar, and if they do, ask if they are interested in buying that Zendrive you’re selling.
I) Act like a big deal. You kind of have to, because everyone outside the church for some reason just treats you like a normal person, not the church rockstar like which you’ve grown accustomed to being treated.
J) Use your knowledge of the Bible to mercilessly attack their views, and then humiliate them by filming it and putting it on YouTube, so that if they ever actually take your advice and read the Bible for themselves, they can run across John 13:35 about knowing Christians by their love, conclude that since you cared more about winning the argument and your conquest than you did about seeing them understand God’s love, that you yourself are conceivably possibly not a Christian, which sends them into confusion and quite possibly atheism all over again. (Sorry, I couldn’t hold out much longer.)
K) Pretend you’re done with your meal, apologize, and leave the table, subtly leaving behind an invite card for your Sunday night church service, and then pat yourself on the back later for your fine job of witnessing.
L) Yell at the Chipotle worker cleaning the tables that you need more napkins, then turn politely to the atheists and say, ‘I’m sorry, what was it you were wondering about Christianity?’
M) Engage in a huge, bitterly fought argument, both sides throwing facts around built on premises that the other does not believe, until no one is sure what to say, and then leave awkwardly.
N) Engage in a huge, bitterly fought argument, both sides throwing facts around built on premises that the other does not believe, until no one is sure what to say, and then put on your church smile, hand them the invite card for your service times and say, ‘Here’s my card. You should come visit us sometime!’
O) Immediately close your eyes and warrior pray for their souls. Ignore their calls of ‘Excuse me, sir? Excuse me?’
P) Say a bunch of Christian things that they obviously don’t agree with, and then pretend as if you won the argument.
Q) Kindly answer their questions, and treat them like…oh sweet mercy…like people. Try to love them enough to care not just about their eternal destiny, but about them as people. And not just about making friends with them, but about their eternal destiny. You wave goodbye after a nice, humanly, respectful conversation, and ask God for the love to remember to ask them to dinner, and not solely to whip out your nine spiritual laws tract.
And as usual, you can’t choose the last one.
P.S. I know I may have been a little harsh in this one, but for what it’s worth, my honest answer is usually ‘E’. I’ve got some work to do, too.
Alright, let’s get some tone for the change that’s currently in our wallet from seeing the new Twilight movie. Sorry, if you didn’t catch my Twitter posts…yes, it’s true…I have a Twitter account…I tweet…, I’m all about Twilight now after having passed some older teenagers at Barnes and Noble today…okay, Best Buy…Barnes and Noble sounded smarter…who were having a very serious discussion about the sleeping habits and habitation lifestyles of werewolves. Now, I get that it’s important. The diabetic Panic Room girl has to choose between two guys whose skin is apparently allergic to clothing, according to every magazine cover ever. It’s a big deal. Nerds. Come on, guys. Let’s go back to our world-changing discussions of which tube will give the most high-end breakup so that we can then compress that into an ethernet cable to be sent back to the Aviom monitors and totally show up the other guitarist on stage with our superior tone!
So there’s your intro. Tone and Twilight. What has absolutely nothing to do with that intro is that I pitted a $15 Danelectro Tuna Melt tremolo pedal against a much more expensive and much cooler and boutiquer Menatone Pleasure Trem 5000, and watched the Dano totally hold its own.
–Danelectro Tuna Melt (in its original housing, because I’m not cool)
–Menatone Pleasure Trem 5000 (new box version)
The Clean Tone
’96 G&L strat–>
65 Amps cab with the Blue mic’d up
–Daybreakers had a pretty original take on vampires, but ended up getting too obsessed with, ‘Whoa! Look what our CGI can make the blood do!’
–Did anyone see ‘Attack the Block’? Alien ampire gorilla dogs with blue liquid nitrogen blood attacking British homie kids who were supposed to live in the projects but had clothes that were way too nice? Surprisingly witty little flick.
–I’m off track again.
You don’t need a ton of money to sound good. For all technical purposes, the Menatone is a better sounding tremolo. Sucks less tone, has more clarity, says ‘Menatone.’ But for all practical purposes, the tone-sucking warmth of the Danelectro sounded pretty good. I’ve sported the Dano on my board for months now, next to much more expensive pedals, and I would gladly sport it right next to the Menatone. I did like that the Dano could get slower, which seemed to fit its warmth. And I did like that the Menatone did a great slicer effect, and the blending of the wave shapes without detented presets is really, really cool.
Basically, it’s about tone. Not cheap tone, not expensive tone; just tone. It doesn’t have to be super expensive to sound good. Hence, the warm tone of the 15 dollar Danelectro. But, that doesn’t mean that money spent on boutique pedals is wasted. Hence, the clear ringing tone of the Menatone. There shouldn’t be an inexpensive camp railing on the rich boutique camp, and there shouldn’t be a hip boutique camp railing on the cheap camp. There should be one camp. A camp I like to call Camp Tone. It’s nice here. Lonely, but nice.
(Although, to be fair, it may be lonely simply due to the sheer volume of Edge posters I put up in the cabin scaring everyone else away. Mmmmm…Edge.)
P.S. I think I’ve acquired some sort of nervous twitch in my eye due to knowing there is a video of me on my youtube channel that doesn’t have a hint of delay on it.
P.S.S. For more on sounding good for cheap, here’s a couple previous postings:
Boss TU2. Fulltone Fulldrive. Boss DD20. Godin anything. Fender Blues Junior. Celestion V30. (Add Danelectro Tuna Melt, Seymour Duncan pickups, any and all Arion pedals, and Monsterpiece fuzz pedals as needed.)
Very few people will find anything wrong with your tone. At least before they look at your board.
P.S. You are not allowed to read this post in conjunction with any posts that may happen to show any incarnation of my pedal board. As the hypocrisy will flow. Well, the hypocrisy is already flowing; I’d just prefer if you didn’t know about it.
Speakers are one of the most important parts of your sound, as they turn the signal into moving air again. And I hear (and say) and types of conjecture about them, but very rarely have I run across actual back to back comparisons. So I decided to make one.
–Celestion Alnico Blue (alnico magnet)
–Celestion G12H30 (ceramic magnet)
–Scumback Scumnico 30 watt (alnico magnet)
All 3 speakers are 12 inch, 8 ohm, and run in a 2×12 cab wired in series at 16 ohms. They are mic’d individually, and recorded separately. Meaning, I recorded each speaker in a separate pass. Which does lead to some possible biases.
–The Blue was recorded while paired with the higher-powered G12H30, meaning the Blue was pushed harder than the other two speakers when they were recorded.
Possible Personal Biases
–I’m lazy, so since the Scumback was the new speaker and the one I removed the G12H30 for, I really want the G12H30 to be the worst so that I don’t have to solder anything again.
–On the other hand, it’d be pretty cool if the non-boutique speakers won. And cheaper.
Other Interesting Information
–The Scumback is from when they were being built by Weber, as per the label on the Scumnico itself.
The Base Tone
I’m playing the G&L fat strat, into the Matchless HC30 on the EF86 channel, with the exact same settings for all 3 speaker passes. Each speaker is in a 65 Amps birch cab 2×12. At various times, you also hear the Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire overdrive, the Boss OD1 distortion, and the Strymon Timeline. These are all used to test each speaker’s handling of big loaded signals such as washy delays that don’t let the speaker rest, and drive that pushes the speaker.
The first half of the shootout is a blind shootout so that you can see which you think is which. About halfway through, I reveal the speakers and then continue with the shootout. Chapter listing is below.
0:00 Blind Speaker Shootout (no speaker names)
0:02 Simple Ringing Chords on Single Coils
0:51 Picked Notes
1:28 Clean Riffs
3:27 Simple Ringing Chords on Humbucker
4:07 Speaker Reveal (Speaker Names Listed)
4:08 Delayed Riffs
5:03 Heavily Delayed Riffs
7:14 Ambient Washes
9:28 Light Overdrive
10:07 Heavy Distortion
Was very surprised to hear how good this speaker actually sounds. It was the only ceramic magnet speaker in the shootout, so it makes sense that it seemed to have the broadest eq range, and the most stalwart of sounds out of the speakers. However, that can also tend to make it slightly harsh and a little less sweet when pushed, especially on the delayed stuff, or in the high register of the eq.
–Celestion Alnico Blue
Always surprised to remember how good this speaker actually is. Very focused mids, cuts through the mix very well, and still maintains tight bass while giving sweet highs. Breaks up very nicely too, and I prefer this one to the G12H30 when pushed by drive or delay.
This one was a little difficult to hear correctly, as pairing two mismatched wattages on alnico speakers results in lower output from the higher rated speaker. But when you listen to the shootout, if you can force your brain not to immediately hear the lower volume one as sounding worse, this speaker might have had the sweetest overall tone out of all of them.
I think I like alnico magnets. Both alnico speakers had a sag to them which I really liked. It’d be interesting to hear two Blue’s paired against two Scumnico’s. So that may happen sometime in the future. So it looks like those two will stay in the cab for now. However, for certain applications, I really really like the broad range and slightly straighter tone of the G12H30′s ceramic magnet. So the real conclusion here is probably that once again we are blurring the line between ‘good’ tone and ‘bad’ tone, and showing that after a certain fairly low level point of good tone, what really matters is what tool fits for the job.
Which admittedly bums me out a little bit, as that is far less exciting than two speakers left lying in the rain as Tom Hanks (we’ll call him Scumnico) confronts Paul Newman. Which, incidentally, you put Paul Newman and rain in a movie together? Instant great movie right there.
Moral of the speaker shootout then…choose whatever speaker makes your tone sound like melancholy resolve fired as a lone bullet through a distant rain while Paul Newman’s aching blue eyes stare backwards into his, and in turn your, longing soul. I have a new motto.