Tone & Life (Or Just Tone…that Means Life)

So much has been happening in such a short span of time. Trying to catch my breath a bit and form everything into coherent thoughts. But ‘coherent’ thoughts haven’t really happened in years, so I guess I’ll just have to settle for the usual incoherency. (And wordpress is saying that ‘incoherency’ is not a word. I strongly disagree. It’s what life looks like inside my head. And it is very real.)

  • Tone is awesome.
  • Bass is harder than it seems. Bassist canceled, and since we already had acoustic and piano, I figured I’d just lead from bass. And then there was failure.
  • I am not Sting.
  • Not sure if I mentioned this before, but I had a dream one time where Bono and I were at the zoo. And then Sting was sitting in the food court, and he yelled to us. And then Bono said, ‘Oh, great. Now he’s gonna want to hang out with us all day.’ And yes, that really happened. The dream, not the zoo with Bono and Sting. Someday.
  • I saw The Killers last night with my wife in San Diego. They put on a simply incredible live show. Brandon Flowers makes you feel like it’s the show they’ve been dreaming of all their life, even though it’s just one stop on the tour.
  • Dave Keuning of The Killers has great tone. And looks funny walking around the stage aimlessly.
  • He also knows when to shut up and just layer chords so that the rhythm, vocals, or synth can take over. I need to learn from this. Even anti-solos can be too much sometimes.
  • Christians can be awesome. We get a bad rap, and we definitely deserve it. But just today, I spoke at a couple breakout sessions at a worship conference in Redlands, and there were just some amazing people there. Billy and Jan, who actually are my godparents and I didn’t even know went to the church, were totally rad and even helped me load up my gear in my truck. And a guy named Phil, who was my liaison for getting set up and stuff, might just be the nicest person in the entire world. Yep. And then one of the new guitarists at my church, completely humbly offered to play bass tonight as I was failing at it monumentally. Sorry to get all sappy, but it’s really, really rad sometimes to talk with people who restore your faith in the church. (Church meaning, people.)
  • The Killers had more fun singing about ‘a boyfriend who looks like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year’, than I’ve had playing worship music in a long time. This is bad.
  • Matchless don’t break. I’ve heard that moniker many, many times, and always thought it was just something stupid that sounded cool when you said it. But the other day, someone cut me off and I had to slam on my brakes. My Matchless was in the front seat (amps are passengers, not gear), totally did a front flip over my hand (I was reaching out to try to save it, but Matchless are heavy! It just totally took out my hand like it wasn’t even there…ya, I feel buff), and landed power tranny side down, hard on the floor of my truck. Plugged it in, perfect. Not even a tube came loose. I guess Matchless don’t break.
  • I also dropped my pedalboard on the asphalt this morning. Pedals and wires everywhere. I was playing a game with myself to see if I could make it to the truck without dropping the pedalboard, even though my arms felt like they were going to fall off (it was a long walk). And somehow I forgot that the game I was playing involved my pedalboard. And then I lost. I take pretty good care of my gear.
  • Halloweentown is one of the worst bands I have ever seen live. They opened for The Killers, and it sounded like a bad church service. Eight members all trying to solo over each other. And the tuning part I suppose was lost on them. They looked indie though, and had old-looking synthesizers, so I guess that’s what counts.
  • However, one of the guitarists did have his roadie come on stage during a song to take the cigarette out of his mouth. Which I thought was the coolest thing ever, and thereby decided that if I ever make it big, I’m going to have roadies to change out half-way sucked on lifesavers before the flavor is gone. I’m not going to do the cigarette thing because I don’t suck burning things into my body.
  • Dave Keuning plays Hiwatts. Halloweentown played things that sounded horrid.
  • Self-serve frozen yogurt is the best invention since tubes. I don’t care if it’s a fad, and I’m totally buying into it. Because it is, and I am. And yet I still want my taro. The best thing is that if you believe all the ‘health facts’ about it, you should actually get thinner from eating it. Which is a plus.
  • For the 546th time, Karl, change your strings before looking for new gear!
  • Sleep is underrated. And that makes me sound old.
  • I have decided that I want to be a famous guitar player. That’s all you have to do is decide that, right?
  • I have also decided to be the only blog in the world not to mention…oh blast. That means I can’t mention it.
  • Tone is probably the best thing that will ever happen to you.
  • Emery Amps looks really toneful.
  • Both guitarists from Halloweentown played there first chords with their amps on stand-by. Made me feel much better about myself.
  • Every drummer in the world needs to see The Killers and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. live. And listen to Coldplay’s ‘Death and All His Friends’.
  • Edge is in the United States, people. It’s only a matter of time before he goes to guitar ghetto in Hollywood. Edge Watch Day 1 was unsuccessful. Maybe next week.


48 thoughts on “Tone & Life (Or Just Tone…that Means Life)

  1. Hah I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to write the first comment, so it doesn’t get lost in all the ones that are actually on-topic…

    Anyway, if you don’t mind, I would like to know your and everybody else’s opinion on these Vovox cables or Solid cables. They’re basically magic cables, no one knows the secret, but they’re supposed to sound way more awesome (i.e. clearer in the high-end, more definition in the bass and all that) than a regular (high-quality) cable.

    I tried a Vovox cable once and it did indeed sound like I just removed a blanket from my amp, but it has not yet convinced me to go out and buy $125 guitar cables. I’m very interested in what people here have to say about this…


  2. i a/b’d a solid cable against a monster and you’re right the difference was really noticable. more lows and highs and just overall clarity, and i actually heard it to. usually i just pretend to.

  3. You’ve had the Zoo dream too!?!

    Glad to hear your gear is holding up to the “road tests.” Will this be a new feature in your product review videos in the future?

  4. LePaul–that’s a tough one. I know my Lava cables sound a good deal better than the mass-produced stuff. So do my EA’s. I’ve heard Vovox once, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. However, I wonder if you maybe hit a price range on cables where it doesn’t really matter anymore? You know, like, once you’re paying $75 a cable, will a $100 cable really sound that much better?

    I’m not sure. Like I said, a lot of the high end cables sound incredible, including Vovox. But I’ve never ab’d them with anything just yet.

    Phillip–lol But I have to be the only blog!! 😉

    LePaul–Okay, seriously. How’d you do that?!

    RyanJ–tagging this as comment of the day. (Nice to know there are others out there pretending sometimes, too. 😉 )

    Gtr1ab–uh-oh. Is this like a communal dream amongst musicians? That would be rad! haha

    And yes. From now on, after the sound demo, we’ll be loading gear into cars and then crashing the cars, to see how the gear holds up. lol Man, if I had the money to ruin stuff, that would seriously be a great idea! haha Good form, bro.

    Sal–blast! How’d I miss that?! 😉

    I think you’re the famous one, though. People at church will still hear a song sometimes and say, ‘Ah, Sal woulda nailed that!’ Seriously. :)

    James–yes! Isn’t it amazing? And it’s self serve, so you can just get a little bit, and not spend much money! And then I always just fill the cup, and wonder why I’m short $100 for the month. lol I’m so with you, brother!

  5. LOL, yeah, and you can tell exactly what the counter girl thinks of your imagination the second she puts it on the little scale. Tonight, the bottom half was vanilla with butterfinger, and the top half was orange sorbet/vanilla swirl with gummy bears and reeses. Which was of course nasty, but the point was to pick them off before eating so I could have yogurt AND reeses for desert! I’ve really been honing in on it though. I think my ultimate is vanilla with caramel and peanut butter chips, and JUST a bit of oreo to infuse excitement and a little exclusivity. What kind of yogurt are you about?

  6. Hey Karl – Tone equals life, and when you change strings Tone = New Life. You know just like moving, and you have to start over, find new friends, new places to eat. So I just switch over to Elixirs, and no I have to rework my tone, TOO Bright, with my current settings. The fun thing about tone is its ever changing.

    On the Killers, they have some cool grooves, I will have to re check them out cause its been a while. :)

    And remember everyone loves parfaits… even self serve parfaits. hehehehe

  7. I agree, playing bass (well) is a lot harder than it seems. Playing bass and singing is next to impossible for me. I’m not sure why. I can sing and play lead guitar. Must be a rhythmic thing.

    U2 was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. A couple hours drive from me. I could buy a lot of gear for the cost of the tickets so….I chose gear.

  8. James–right on! I’m so about the creations. I’m more of a fruit guy, though. I’m stuck on taro, blueberry, and some strawberry banana, layered with watermelon and strawberries. Not the strawberry puree though, that some of the ‘less classy’ yogurt establishments have. The fresh cut ones. Only the best for me. I try not to limit my snobbishness to guitar gear only. 😉

    Brent–score! I’ve seen some of the pictures of those shows! Looks amazing. Did you see them?!

    Shane–wow. Great points on tone, and on new strings! Changing strings is so huge.

    Ya, the first time I heard The Killers, I hated them. Once I finally ‘got’ what it was they were doing, I’ve been stoked on them for a while!

    lol on the parfaits. And yes…layering is an essential part of the self-serve yogurt culture. 😉

    Mark–what?! You chose gear over U2? U2 is the reason and source for all gear!! ………… I mean……I don’t buy gear just because U2 has it. 😉

    And glad you feel the same way about the bass. The singing was one of my main problems. I could sing if I just chugged constant 8th notes. But for the life of me, I couldn’t sing and also match the kick drum hits.

  9. A couple of years back we formed a band at our company and played the Killers “Somebody Told Me” at the company Christmas party ( along with several other songs ). Most of the guys were a lot younger than I but we had a ball. Hadn’t heard of the Killers before that. LOL

    I played ( attempted ) the electric guitar part where it’s really rapid strumming with a phaser-like effect. Another cup of java would have helped — or maybe he used delay and wasn’t really strumming that fast ! — yep must have been delay. :-)

    I did my best Bruce Springsteen singing Cover Me. We also did Closing Time by Semisonic, December by Collective Soul and The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

  10. All right…I need help. I’ve been “lurking” on this forum for a while, but i’ve never posted before.

    First things first. Karl, you are the man. Your reviews are up there with gearmandude from youtube, and your insight into tone and feel are second to none.

    I also am afflicted with GAS, and though I’m pretty in love with my tone right now, I’m afraid there might be something better out there (thanks Karl).

    About my setup. One-piece alder body/maple neck tele with a muy grande at the bridge and a vintage tallboy at the neck. For OD/Fuzz, I’m running through an HBE Dos Mos and Fulltone Full Drive II (on the Paul C. Tim waiting list) as well as a Hartman Germanium Fuzz. Damage Control Glass Nexus and Timeline round the rig out, all into a 1973 Fender Twin Reverb with original JBL D120F’s.

    The real issue I’m having is with the OD tone. I really do like the sound now, but I feel like I could get a better sound if I could push the amp to breakup instead of relying so heavily on my stompers. (For those of you who don’t know, it is virtually impossible to push the 100w TR to breakup without commiting sonic murder, and if the master volume goes up past two in our relatively small church, the sound guy threatens me with ACTUAL murder.)

    So any suggestions? I would hate to part with the twin, but alas, if there is better tone to be found, I could be convinced. Is this just my additction to gear talking? If so, somebody talk me off of the ledge. :)

  11. Luke, thanks for the kind words, and it’s great to have you here! A Hartman on the board, and a Tim on the way? Nice. :) And a one piece Tele…very cool. Is it a Fender?

    And you hit the nail on the head with what you said about trying to overdrive a vintage Twin. Killer cleans, and probably some decent overdrive too, if you could get it anywhere near that loud. Even in a huge venue, that thing’s gonna be too loud for that. So you’re right, you’re relying totally on your boxes for od.

    What’s your price range, and what style are you looking for? If you really like the cleans of the Twin, Divided by 13’s RSA23 has incredibly big cleans like the Twin, but will overdrive at lower volumes, due to it only being 23 watts. Also Emery, Swart, Holland’s Little Jimi, all amps that have great 6L6 cleans but at lower wattages so you can set them on the verge of breakup.

    If you’re looking to go the EL84 route, the Vox AC15/30 handwired is good, Hayseed, Matchless, Goodsell, and the Fender Blues Junior (great amp for the price). Also, the Peavey Classic series is highly underrated, and can be had for under $300 sometimes.

    So, I guess I am suggesting getting a new amp if you want to use more of the amp’s natural breakup. Once I know your price range and intended style, I can probably advise further. :) Good luck with the search! That’s the best part! lol Cheers, bro!

  12. The tele is really more of a partscaster, as it’s all fender except the pups and body. Fender guts, neck, etc, all on a USACG body. Gives it a fantastic tele tone with sustain and resonance for days.

    I’m much more calm today. After spending last night going back and forth between drowning in nostalgia playing my current rig and drooling over pics and reviews of the Emery Superbaby (perhaps one of the coolest amps ever made), I decided to go out on a limb, and I called up Paul Cochrane, the unofficial king of OD. BTW, nicest guy EVER. Talked about the Tim w/ a twin, and lo and behold, he actually talked me OUT of buying one (and PASSIONATELY talked me out of getting rid of the TR). Crazy, right?

    But here’s the best part. He’s making a new pedal (!!) that is supposed to be more versatile and designed specifically for the brighter sounds of Fender Twins and the like. So, I figure before I go and do something crazy (like sell one of probably only a few TR’s with D120F’s that haven’t been re-coned remaining) I’ll wait for Paul’s new pedal. He certainly didn’t disappoint with the Tim and Timmy for mid rangey plexis and their offspring, so I’m sure his new creation will be just as impressive.

    Thanks for the suggestions though…I still might have to look into the superbaby…so many tube options and self-biasing…talk about tweaking your tone.

    And thanks so much for this blog. Playing guitar for worship is becoming a genre unto its own, and it’s nice to have a community where we can get together and bounce ideas off of each other. Keep up the outstanding work!!

  13. haha Whoa. I can see you really know your stuff! :) Right on.

    My new advice is this:

    Go with what Paul Cochrane said.

    lol That guy’s a genius. I’m still in the pushing the amp camp, but I’m sure Paul’s new pedal will be awesome. Although…you so nailed it, bro…that Emery looks amazing. I’ve been trying to see if I can afford one as a secondary amp for a while now. The self-biasing is extremely cool. But mostly the looks. 😉 hehe

    Stoked on the news from Paul! And thanks for the kind words. It’s awesome to talk with another tone freak who uses it for God!! :)

  14. “Tone is awesome” We started here with something like that. It’s funny how difficult it is to get that across to non-musicians. See thread with comments over at the blog entry below – “dealing with petulant musicians.” In my comments there I used analogies like “trying to play worship with inadequate monitoring is like riding a bicycle while blind,” or running a monitor mix using a $3 set of headphones where the phone volume only goes up to 1 on the dial.

    Something I’ve expressed before is that if forced to choose, I would risk “polluting” the house sound with stage volume if it meant the musicians and singers could be inspired. Not the best of all worlds, but the congregation often can’t tell the difference — we can. I’m thinking it’s not being “petulant” it’s “can’t function without it.”

    Yes – in ears is a solution along with putting amps in separate rooms miked, etc. We can’t all do those things. In my case, since I’ve already left the guitar amp at home, it may be time to get the keyboard player to live without his amp and the Cajon ( hand drum ) player to get a sound baffle of some sort.

  15. Randy, I absolutely agree. Stage volume, when it’s not completely taking over, can add a realness, a warmth, and an energy to a room. That’s why the house sound is called sound ‘reinforcement.’ I’m totally with you.

    So, you’re playing with no amp and a cajon, and your sound guys are saying it’s too loud? I’ve been to your church’s website…seems like a decent-sized room to me. How does the sound hierarchy work at your church? Are they on their own, or do they answer to somebody?

  16. I think it’s hard for sound folks who aren’t musicians to appreciate what we’re saying. As far as my church, our sound guy has come a long way and is more flexible now. As far as giving him as much control over the whole situation as possible, the only remaining issues are the Cajon and keyboard amp, since I’m not using an amp.

    I’ll be discussing it with the two musicians and sound guy to see what can be done. It’s me saying those two sound sources are drowning my left ear rather than the sound guy complaining. As far as the churchaudio blog, I think the “petulance” I may see in musicians or vocalists is more along the lines of unable to take advice well. So I have to decide how to “couch” my little chat — but basically I want the cajon and keyboard to be 50% as loud to my ears as they are now, however they want to accomplish that.

    The topic here is generally, tone, which means we need to hear ourselves and LIKE what we hear. But beyond that we don’t want things diluting that tone, or drowning it out, so I’ll mention one more issue which many of you probably don’t face. First, let’s say you have a Cajon ( not a full drum set ) and you have to convince the Cajon player to hit the 2 and 4 beats most of the time. That is, if there is no drummer, the Cajon is the drummer and can’t play what I would call percussion. Imagine playing one of many, many songs that have a good backbeat ( emphasis on 2 and 4 like Blessed be the name or Everlasting God ) and you have some kind of latin percussion stuff coming in your ear that does virtually nothing to support the basic beat you’re laying down on guitar.

  17. Oooh, gotcha. That’s actually kinda funny that the keyboardist’s amp is too loud. Usually it’s the other way around.

    I hear ya on the percussion, too. Yikes. I’ve definitely played with my fair share of…shall we say…overzealous percussionists. You know, Paul Baloche has a great video on drumming. I’ll put it here. Maybe you could work a way for the whole team to watch this video series, then it wouldn’t seem like you were picking on him or something. But I know I’ve showed this video to some of my drummers.

    Maybe it’ll help? I feel you pain, brother! 😉


  18. Excellent post! I loved the Paul Baloche vids. The bass one is good too.

    I haven’t posted in a while.

    We lost our drummer, bummer. Sometimes folks leave. If you hold whatever in a clenched fist, and God chooses to take it back its going to hurt. So better to live life with the open hand.

    Ran into a Guitar for Worship compadre at a camp in Michigan. Very cool.

    I am in the market for a volume pedal. Suggestions?

  19. Hey, great to hear from you! Wow. Great commentary, too. Reminds me (of course, hehe) of a U2 lyric. ‘You can hold on to something so tight, you’ve already lost it.’

    And that’s cool to hear that people who read this blog can connect in real life, too. I’ve met a couple guys in person as well, and there’s some great people out there. Stoked on the community God creates in random places, like a stupid little blog. Way cool!

    As for volume pedals, I’ve been using the George Dennis active volume pedal for a while, and surprisingly, it’s really good! The Ernie Ball is decent, although it does seem to take some high end away. The Goodrich’s get great reviews, although I’ve yet to try them. Hope that helps! Cheers!

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