This Week in Tone

Been living life outside the internet for a bit. It does exist, which is really crazy. However, that also means that the tonal and not-so-tonal thoughts and ideas constantly spinning around in my head, have not been spewed for a while. Life is music, and music needs to be shared. Especially the tone part. Mmm…tone.
  • Been thinking about effecting a reverb’d octave sound post-amp, with a mic into some ambient pedals and then into another amp. Oh ya, with a fuzz. That wouldn’t be overkill at all.
  • Has Coldplay called yet? I really want to run three amps again. But I can’t do that until they call, as they would provide the funding, as well as the authority to not have the sound tech and worship leader look at me like I am the primadonna that I probably am.
  • I would like a new pedal. Doesn’t matter what. Just new, and unfortunately, I’m really liking my guitars and amps right now. But a new amp could be cool, too. And a guitar. Mmmmm.
  • Let your female vocalists lead. They are usually incredibly talented.
  • Some weeks direct boxes need to be on ground, and some weeks they need to be on lift. What the difference between weeks is, I have no idea. I just know those are the magic buzz-killing switches.
  • I think we are the only church in the US not doing Transiberian Orchestra this Christmas Eve. Nothing wrong with Transiberian Orchestra…except for maybe some amp modeling. 😉 Just stating a fact. hehe
  • Taylor’s have the best pickup systems on their current models that I have yet heard. Just mic’ing the guitar…no adding. I’ve yet to find that anywhere else. Even high end stuff like Collings. With enormous thanks to Sal Hamby, for letting me borrow his 710. It is a beautiful axe, my friend. Can you call acoustics axes?
  • I need a new pedal that no one else has. The Hartman was that for awhile, but then everyone bought one. Stupid everyone.
  • Mmmm…fuzz. Pedals, not just fuzz in general.
  • I really like Christmas music. My wife says almost in a frightening way. But I live my life by believing that ‘frightening’ and ‘awesome’ are perpetually interchangeable.
  • The Catalinbread WIIO controversy has been fun. Stupid people, buying and selling gear. Unthinkable! 😉
  • Definitely talked with Neal McDonough at The Grove in LA this week. He was wearing the coolest 1700’s vest and indie slacks I have ever seen. And I wanted them. For those of you who don’t know, he’s this guy:

See that bleach blonde hair towards the center right background of the photo? Yep, that’s him. I would never survive as a paparazzi. But see, then whenever we actually go up and meet these people, they’re so nice that it just feels lame to ask for a photo with them. He even shook our hands and asked for our names. Really cool guy. I told him that I too, was famous, and had upwards of 25 people subscribed to my youtube demos. He didn’t seem to care. No, that didn’t happen. But if it did, he wouldn’t have. Oh ya. And the guy on the left is not famous, even though he’s the only one I actually succeeded in getting a clear photo of.)

Okay, here’s what he’s from:

The guy flying with Tom Cruise there. He’s also acted with Al Pacino in 88 Minutes, which makes him insta-cool. And Cruel Doubt, Band of Brothers…oh, and those of you ’90’s children like me might remember him as Wit Bass, the crazy pitcher on Angels in the Outfield. Oh ya. So, what does any of this have to do with music? If I was wearing what Neal McDonough was wearing when we met him, I would have killer tone.

  • Heard pirates singing an Irish folk tune in four part harmony. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Change your strings. No seriously.
  • So nice to have bassists who hit the chord inversions when you forget to.
  • Just found out The Editors have a new album. Best ever. And their singer looks like he’s fighting with his own face when he performs, which is an added bonus.
  • I hugged my Matchless. That one’s true.
  • Pickup height is the hugest difference ever.
  • Taylor Swift’s ‘Silent Night’? Whoa. Talk about worshipful. Those are some killer lyrics, that I’d not noticed in years during the traditional version. Plus, they add the ‘With or Without You’ chords at the end, which is never a bad thing. (Hopefully not, because that progression is in about 83% of songs in history…even Pachelbel in the 1600’s. But U2 still invented it. Some would say that doesn’t make sense. And they would be correct. U2 defies logic.) And I’m choosing to believe that liking Taylor Swift is not akin to rocking, ‘So I put my hands up, they’re playing my song…moving my hips like ya ya ya…’ Oh. Disturbing. Billy Ray, what are you thinking? And yes…now my google search bar has ‘Miley Cyrus lyrics’ in the history. Blast. But Taylor Swift is okay, right? Right? Hope so. ‘Cause now this is happening:
  • Just ignore the static glam shot. But the song…whoa. Gets me every time. And tone is wonderful. Sure, of the steel guitar in the song; but also, just in general.


36 thoughts on “This Week in Tone

  1. Correct pickup height….yes!….you can change your strings, buy $100 cables, $3,000 amps and have a pedal board the size of the Titanic. Adjust your pickups wrong and….it just don’t matter.

    Why would you find it necessary to take a much beloved 182 year old Christmas hymn and change the melody line to that unmemorable mush. Sorry Karl, I can’t agree with you on this one. Last Sunday we played Chris Tomlin’s huge mistake of “Joy To The World”. I guess he thought that since he got away with “Amazing Grace” he could get away with anything.

  2. Mark–totally. First time that I read that years ago, I was like, ‘Ya, right.’ Then I tried it. One quarter turn saved me $300 on new pickups! haha

    Rhoy & Mark–:) You know what, my team said the exact same thing first time we did that song. However, I introduced it to the congregation using my own story with the song. I was listening to it in the background, semi-consciously, and didn’t recognize it as ‘Silent Night.’ And I kept hearing these incredibly powerful and worshipful phrases like ‘love’s pure light’ and ‘the dawn of redeeming grace.’ And I just totally started worshiping God. I was like, ‘Way cool! Who wrote this song?’ So I looked up the lyrics and was like, ‘Whoa! That’s Silent Night!’

    So for me, I love the original version of Silent Night…but I guess I’ve heard it so many times that I have gotten into just singing the lyrics out of habit. And hearing it a different way just brought into focus how powerful those lyrics are. Of course, that’s just me personally…and I tend to dig the country/bluegrass thing sometimes. But after watching our congregation worship during the 3rd verse and the ‘Hallelujah’s’ at the end, I guess it connects with other people, too. So it’s not for everybody, least of all some of the musicians who play with me, obviously (haha); but in the end, a lot of people including myself were brought into worship through it.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth…I couldn’t stand and still can’t stand Chris Tomlin’s ‘Joy to the World/Unspeakable Joy’ version. However, I just couldn’t get it out of my head that if we changed that guitar riff, and un-cheese-ified the vocals, it just might connect with a congregation. And it really did! Obviously not for yours, though! haha I find it so interesting how different congregations can really be so different!

    David–haha I’ve looked into that! Maybe that and getting a Murf again! :) Gear is so awesome. hehe

  3. Well… sorry Karl, I sold my Hartman fuzz, Mosferatu, and used a M9 for the service last Sunday. Wow, it really nailed the Fuzz tone.

    Just kidding. I kept everything, but got a M9 and Jetter Gain Stage Red, and a Gain Stage blue. Already a nice grab. The M9 is not bad for modeling. At stage volumes, it shines. Still undecided on the actually overdrives, but the delays and modulation are not bad! I’ll try to revive my blog in the coming weeks with outcome from this try-out period!

  4. hahahaha Larry, comment of the day, brother. Especially the fact the fact that you used fuzz as the example of what the M9 nailed, and fuzz is like, the most real and analog circuit of almost any effect. That and treble boost probably. I was already formulating a diplomatic and tactful way to disagree with you in my mind when I read the ‘Just kidding.’ hehehe

    But ya…on the M13 and M9, the delays are the best of the sounds because most delay sounds are digital and crisp anyway. And I will say that Line 6 has definitely come out with two very good products, finally. Myself, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get into modeling. It just doesn’t do it for me. But the bottom line is, if it’s helping you to hear the tone in your head and make beautiful music, then go for it! :)

    • HA, I thought you would like that. “can’t get more analog than fuzz” haha.

      I’m still not settled on the M9, but the fact you twist knobs and treat it just like a stomp box really makes it easy to use and easy to tweak the tones in your head out of. I had a Dumble amp dialed in within 30 seconds. Well… not really.
      But had some beautiful delay with modulation just “springing” through the air while several different reverbs added a backdrop of octaves. Was quite nice.

      And yeah, Damage control are modelers… I agree with Mike :)
      Merry Christmas bro.

  5. Fuzz sounds good. I got my ‘pedals are delayed’ email from Skreddy but looking forward to the Pig Mine in the near future. What fuzz pedal is next? Morgan Amplification Shadow Fuzz?

    We were all sick with the flu or cold yesterday so we didn’t make it to service. I’m hoping our health improves so we don’t miss Christmas Eve service as there will be a special appearance by Jack Blades of Night Ranger. That and Future of Forestry last week (Matchless Clubman + 4×12 cab = TONE) is a good way to end 2009.

  6. So there’s a church up here in Portland and I go to their college group every once in awhile and last year they put out a free Christmas CD. It was definitely the first time I had sang Christmas songs and thought of them as worship (it could be because the worship leader’s voice is unique and so hearing his “tone” puts me into the “oh, is it worship time?” mindset)

    The vibe of it is definitely a cool one and it has become my favorite Christmas CD.

    Here’s the link for the free download from their site:

  7. Dan–so awesome to know another fuzz fan! I’m really looking forward to your Pig Mine review. :)

    And your Christmas Eve service sounds like it’ll be fantastic! I’m praying that you and your family heal up soon. (And not just to hear the Clubman. 😉 But…a lot of it is, ya, to hear the Clubman. hehe) Oh, wait, you said they already played, huh. Never mind. But still get better soon!

    Mike–haha No, no, your point is well-taken. You can do some modeling with the Timeline, but at its core, it’s not trying to sound like any specific model of delay, or song, or certain player’s tone. Can you dial in some grit/brown to try to do analog or tape? Sure. But it’s a circuit that uses tubes to almost give it its own gain stage. So it can do a lot of sounds, but it is actually processing a delayed sound, and then you can choose what you want to do to that sound with the circuit. As opposed to choosing from certain stock sounds, which is what a lot of modelers seem to do, or at least sound like they are doing to my humble ears. :)

    But you’re right…the bottom line is that everything short of singing accapella in a canyon is compromising at some level. The question for each individual is how far we want to compromise tone for the balance of convenience. Even my using overdrive pedals before effects is a compromise for not having to run a wet/dry setup, with the dry mic’d up and then sent into the effects and out a third amp. There’s a balance between pure tone and convenience, and we all have to draw that line somewhere……

    ……for now, at least. I promise, by the time I’m 60, I’m gonna have a recording of myself singing in a canyon, with the echo’s all set up in perfect quarter/d8/reverse timing. Ah! But if it’s a recording, that’s a compromise! Okay, then, you’re all invited to hear it live! hehe 😉

    Cameron–awesome! I’ll totally give that a listen. I love it when certain changes to older songs can cause you to focus more and worship God to them. Thanks, bro!

  8. +1 on letting female lead. In a lot of situations I have been in, the female had by far the best voice, yet she was regulated to the side of the stage singing a few lines. Females need to lead more often. Also, it is bad when there is a great song, being sung by a female (like Brooke Frazier) and then some male led band sings a of cover of it. Most of the time the male version is like Pillar covering “Beautiful Day;” it doesn’t come close to doing the original justice. Anyway, there is my rant on having more gender equality in our worship settings (and churches overall).

  9. hmmm… sorry, Taylor Swift didn’t pull that one off! I dont think she has a voice that can do that sort of thing – it sounds good for her genre ie: teen pop stuff but when serious vocals are called for it gets a bit thin!

    …and, i dont mind Tomlins Christmas Album! Esp the track “Winter Snow” by Audry Assad… now theres a good female voice!


  10. Silent night – I like the second half but agree the melody to start with is neither here nor there. Would have been better if she started with the traditional version then built it up in the second half with the U2 chords. In general I don’t mind a bit of Taylor Swift though – her album is not bad (my wife digs it) – just don’t play me the awful decountrified pop remix of that Love Story song – totally sucks the life out of it.

    Jonathan – agree with you getting male leaders to sing a female song is usually not a good idea. Our problem though, is finding good female songs for the girls to sing. Aside from Brooke Fraser (who is perhaps the best worship songwriter today – period) there’s a lack of good female songs.

    • Not only is it hard to find good songs for girls to sing, but it’s a whole other story getting it in a good range for a female singer while still keeping it in a range the whole congregation can sing along to. When guys lead, it can be too high for female vocals at times, but we usually just resort to harmony (because that’s the job we’re usually given anyway :) ). But when a woman leads in her range, it drops the guys range really low. And I hate to say it, but guys aren’t exactly the first ones to jump in with a harmony when worshiping in the congregation… tough situation to keep everyone participating in worship.

  11. Larry–haha That was pretty awesome. And ya, I agree that the delays on those things can be very decent. :) I wouldn’t say all the Damage Control pedals are modelers, though. The delay is one delay with a lot of options, but they are all options you get to by tweaking, not by selecting stock sounds. And even the ‘analog sounds’ are achieved by using a real valve gain stage. And of course they’re overdrive pedals are completely analog, which isn’t common knowledge I suppose. There’s definitely an argument for the Nexus being a modeler, though. I gotta concede that! :) But with some great algorithms! And merry Christmas to you, as well. Hope it’s wonderful!

    Jonathan M–I totally agree! Especially in my home church, where we have about 7 female vocalists with better voices than me. They sing a lot! haha

    As for the male covers of female-led songs, ya. I’ve heard it done well, and I’ve heard it done terribly. The terrible ones are usually the ones where they either don’t change the key (yikes), or they try to use the same female inflection. Not good. haha

    Cam–lol Wow! No love for Taylor around here. haha Guess it’s just me, and the congregation at my home church. hehe Winter Snow is a good tune, though. Except the background vocals…not the harmony, just the way the dude is singing them. But great song!

    Baggas–finally! Someone besides me who doesn’t hate Taylor Swift! haha I was beginning to wonder. I love the ending also.

    Jamianne–hey Sweets! :) (And that’s my wife, everyone…that’s not just my stock greeting when a girl posts here.) Great points. Sometimes you just gotta sing high, and hope that encourages us dudes to just belt it out! hehe You’re right though, unfortunately that’s usually not what happens. Love you!

  12. Hello Karl,

    Been a while since I last posted here but I assure you I have read every word in the meantime. Anyway, I still have some inside information on your family tree that needs to be shared! You see, this is the Verkade cookie/chocolate factory that I live right next to:

    Isn’t that awesome?

    +1 on the Taylor Swift thing btw, I haven’t heard this song enough to say anything about it but I have listened to her album a lot. She does have a beautiful voice and if you enjoy extremely well performed parts (by some awesome session musicians, obviously) it’s just an album you can’t miss.

  13. On the subject of female vocalist/worship leaders and couching a song in a key that the congregation can sing, one of the best pieces of advice we received came from Joe Horness (Willow Creek) in a two day worship leadership workshop I and some of my peers attended several years ago. “If you want the congregation (male and female) to participate in a song, the lowest and highest notes of the melody line should fit from ‘C to shining C’…” (i.e. from low ‘C’ on your ‘A’ string to ‘C’ on your ‘B’ string). If you do that, just about anyone will be able to sing the melody line along with you.

    Paul Balouche offered similar advice in a songwriting workship I attended back in 2005. He challenged us to consider, “What’s your goal? To prove you’ve got some chops as a musician or to ellicit the congregation’s response of worship to the Lord?” If it’s the former, there’s nothing wrong with that and there a several contexts where that’s appropriate… However, if the intended context is worship, you may discover the song is outside the congregation’s range or abilities to sing.

    You can sometimes get away with a 1/2 step or a whole step outside of “‘C-to-C”. Good example: we’ve ‘borrowed’ Third Day’s arrangment for “Angels We Have Heard On High’. In the key of ‘E’ (the key in which it was recorded), the lowest note is a ‘B’; the highest is a ‘C#’ (both are in the ‘Gloria’ portion of the chorus).

    This brings up another, somewhat related topic. Assuming you plan to use the hook which made some of the contemporary worship songs popular, you may find yourself facing a similar problem. For example, some of Chris Tomlin’s stuff isn’t “singable” by the congregation in the keys they were recorded. However, you sometimes discover that the ‘hook’ only works in the key in which it was originally recorded, most usually because of open string voicings or the vibe coming from particular register voicings on the guitar. So… you’ve got 3 choices: [1] you either work towards a compromise in order to keep the congregation with you, or [2] you say, “Let’s do anyway in the key it was recorded and hopefully the congregation will come along for the ride,” OR [3] you simply choose to not use the song (there is no right answer — LOL! :)

    I have to admit that I’ve been fortunate over years. During our planning meetings, if we discover a song’s not going to work in a particular key, I have ample opportunity to provide input on whether moving to the song to a different key will undermine it’s effectiveness in terms of vibe, energy, and/or dynamics.

    That’s my $0.02 for the day on this subject — thanks! :)

  14. Mike,

    Just had that exact Tomlin issue last weekend the leader changed keys for a couple and the riff’s didn’t work nearly as well in the new keys.

  15. Just a heads up to the coldplay charity auction happening at their site! it’s interesting just to download the catolog and see all the teles!!

  16. Ok Karl, here is your early christmas present. The best use of delay in a worship song. I tried to find a link for you on iTunes but apparently they don’t have it.
    Check out Paradise Community Church in Adelaide. The song you are looking for is called No one else like you. There is a sound bite on their website but it doesn’t have the intro where the good swirly delay bit happens. Also if you want to laugh, there is a very EVH solo in the middle of track 2. I laughed out loud in my car the first time I heard it. I couldn’t do it, if I tried, but I just had this picture in my mind of Eddie rockin’ out in the middle of a worship service.
    This CD is really good and Baggas, if you are looking for another Aussie alternative to united, this is it. And! they have have some female worship leaders. Woohoo!
    Mike and Craig, I guess this is the one time that lead players can use a capo. I stand corrected.

  17. LePaul–sweet! Another Taylor Swift fan. So glad to know you guys are out there. haha I totally agree, too…her musicians are extremely tight. And thanks for the link! When I was 2, we visited the Verkade chocolate factory. I don’t remember much, but it’s nice to be famous. 😉 lol Kind of. Ya, not even a little. hehe

    Mike Oliver–great stuff. I have great respect for Paul Baloche and how he always, in all the videos I’ve seen of him, keeps the focus as leading the congregation in worship, rather than just being a rockstar. Very cool.

    We almost always lower the key of Tomlin or Wickham songs. Mainly because I can’t sing them. haha But I will say there is a balance between hitting a range the congregation can sing in, but also leaving the passion of the song intact, like you said. Some songs just shouldn’t be done if they can’t find that balance. But in others…sometimes the highness of certain notes in the melody just creates this infectiousness of hearing a singer belting at the top of their range. I suppose it’s on a song by song basis. :) Great comment.

    Craig–I hear ya there, too. Like doing Hosanna in G, so a guy can sing it. Still sounds good, but when I play with that band, I have to come up with new riffs.

    Cam–awesome! I downloaded the list a few days ago. Then I realized I have no money right now. haha Let me know if you get anything, so I can be jealous and offer you a trade for it! hehe :)

    Mark Colvin–haha Thanks! I’m heading over there right now…both for the delay, and the Eddie solo. 😉 hehehe Merry Christmas to you as well!

  18. Hey Karl, you should look at K&K pickups. They are amazing. I put one on mine and its very easy to install and i adore it! They pick up the natural sound of your ‘Coustic and amplifies it. Simple, yet something that works wonders. ahhh, tone for days. hahaha

  19. Interesting. I tried the K&K Pure Western Mini and I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped. Could be the guitar, though…or maybe the pickup model. I’ll have to give it a second look! :)

    And raising or lowering the pickups. I think the first time I ever did it, I lowered them…and got this crazy sweetness I’d been missing in my tone. And then from time to time I’ll need to raise them to get some more punch and aggressiveness. Or anything in between. Sometimes lowering the bass side, and raising the treble side. Can make up for a bassy amp, or it can allow you to get high output on solos without then having your chords overtake everyone. :) Just so many options, and so many times I forget about those options, and buy pedals instead. haha

  20. yeah the mini is what i have on my v-neck martin knock-off. did you tape it? cuz I would say that was the problem right there. using the glue is what does the trick! they (pickup and guitar) sound great!

    I’m also starting to track some of my own stuff in a make-shift sound booth i set-up at my church. I’ll post some pics on facebook. It looks really cool . . .but the sound . . .that’s what matters. I believe it’s the same situation as with the blue LED’s . . .

  21. Ya, maybe it was the guitar in my situation. I’ll give it another go.

    And I agree! The more makeshift it looks, the better it sounds! hehe :) And sadly, I’m kind of serious. hehe

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