Shall We Call This a Lesson Learned

I was on Gear Page to buy a new amp. Tone was not nearly where it should be. I was all ready to make the deal, when I remembered the 27 notes scrawled on backs of receipts in my pockets and wallet (that part is very…and I suppose a bit sadly…true) that say, ‘Change your strings before you buy new gear!’ (Or some variation thereof; such as, ‘Karl! Change your strings now!’ When I refer to myself in the third person, I know I’m serious.) So between Sunday morning services and the night service, I changed my strings. And it was like a new amp had been shipped to me within a half hour. Seriously. String changing is the biggest difference ever. And for once, I actually did it before buying new gear.

This feels dangerously like what I have heard described as ‘learning.’ What a strange and wondrous new feeling. Although I think this ‘learning’…it does drop your gearhead status a few points.

Oh, and speaking of dangerous (nope, not even a little), if U2 did it 20 years ago, worship music considers it cutting edge today. (And if you’ve listened to my demos, this quite obviously includes me. ;) ) I don’t know if that means that worship music is incredibly behind the times, or that U2 is incredibly ahead of the times. I’m guessing that it’s probably a mix of both, with a number that rhymes with ‘ten’ in there. Don’t know if that’s good, bad, or indifferent…just something I’ve noticed. Oh, and I got to mention U2, so…bonus.

Oh, and the title for this one comes from this splenditious rendition…I be freestylin’…whoa…it was a long weekend, obviously…of this beauty:

And obviously the slide show of Mr. LaMontagne was put together by a junior high girl. Hopefully. I mean, who else would have multiple pictures of a musician with which to be able to put together a slide show. Oh. Wait. Uh…I mean…of a musician not named Edge.

Splendid.
Karl.

26 thoughts on “Shall We Call This a Lesson Learned

  1. Strings. The most important and overlooked part of tone. Can’t agree more. But since I love Jack White and just watched It Might Get Loud again, I have to say we should all use as old of strings as possible. I’m just sayin’…

  2. I once considered selling my guitar because I didn’t like how it sounded or played. Before selling it I got it professionally set up and it was like a whole new instrument and I fell in love with it all over again.

    It’s okay to love inanimate objects right?

  3. Ben–*sigh* Seriously, right? :) Wow. That song makes me feel experiences I’ve never even had. lol

    Zach–I totally agree. :) And while I really like Jack White’s music as well, I would say I respect rather than agree with all his ‘methods which he describes in that film. hehehe ;) However, I really enjoy his music, especially the Raconteurs and his work on the Cold Mountain soundtrack; so, obviously his methods work for him! :)

    Sam–lol Yes!! That makes me feel way better. And I certainly hope it’s okay to love inanimate objects! :D

  4. honestly, i’m not a big fan of freshly installed strings especially the bass strings (E-A-D) … i have to play it a few times before i am happy with them, i guess when they are “fully” stretched … but definitely not recommending very old strings :)

  5. Speaking of strings… What kind of strings are on the Taylor? I like the tone. Now I am wondering if I would like the tone with new strings…;-)

  6. Hey Karl,

    I thought you might be interested in this page…
    http://www.amnesta.net/edge_delay/
    This is a page where someone did a slowed down study of the Edge’s settings in various live songs and studio songs. They even get down to the type of pick he uses and how he holds them to get his “chimey” attack… pretty sweet… especially for us U2 junkies…

  7. Rhoy–really? Huh. Very interesting. Personally, I love the pop of new low strings…sounds very Hendrixy to me. hehe But now that you mention it, I totally see where you’re coming from. :)

    Chris–lol That sounds like it might be a good number! ;)

    Sal–I put some Martin SP 12′s on there. Hope you don’t mind. I love the warm, earthiness of the SP’s, and figured I’d put some on…I always try to give things back in better condition than when I got ‘em. But if you’d rather some other strings, just let me know, and I’ll pick some up for ya. :)

    Ben G–thanks, bro! Ya, that guy must’ve stuck the recordings into slow track players and just calculated for hours, because he even starts to go down to the millisecond delays that aren’t effects, but are due to mic placement of more than one mic. hehe :) And I’m ashamed to say that I use Herdim picks. ;)

  8. lol Well, the right response from my guitar with good strings, makes my amp sound the way it should. I was looking into a Matchless without the EF86 channel…simply because the situation was ‘dire’ (hehe) in my mind. However, now that I remembered to simply change strings, I’m just gonna find a week where I don’t need the amp, and take it to Matchless to put a Spitfire preamp into the first channel, so that I can have Spitfire and EF86, depending on what the situation calls for, or to jump them. :)

  9. Do you hold the Herdim picks like he does though? He holds them sideways to use the dimples on them to actually pick the string. i’ve been thinking about switching picks. I just use crappy old plastic ones from GC.

  10. Ben G–sadly, yes I do. I tried it out a couple years ago just to prove to myself that it really didn’t make a difference, and then I just fell in love with the percussive harmonics it brings. I now use them like that probably 85% of the time, and switch them back to normal the other 15%. The nylon material they’re made with sounds really good too, at least to my ears.

    Randy–you don’t have roadies?!

    hehe ;)

  11. have to admit you startled me for a second for the first 2 sentences of this post. were you looking into a spitfire or lightening? also have to admit that unfortunately sometimes the dc30 is too much. but oh how good it sounds. i could be wrong but sometimes i feel like a 15 watt amp sounds better than a 30 watt amp at half power. i play quite a bit so i change my strings about every 2 gigs. could be excessive but if i don’t change them and wipe down the neck, my guitar just doesn’t feel or sound inspiring to me. good to know that you came to your senses :) also if you do that mod you should do a demo of it.
    and have to agree with sam that more recently than i’d like to admit i was struggling with a guitar and had it on craigs list than i set it up, changed the strings and cleaned the neck and fretboard and it was like, “oh yea now i remember why i bought it”

  12. RyanJ–actually, I was looking at the Matchless 30/15. The EF86 channel in the HC30 is so great because it allows you to get that incredibly clear sound without the brittleness that normally comes with clarity. However, when my strings wear out, it starts to sound more and more brittle. So then I start to look at the 30/15 for the AX7 Spitfire preamp, because the Lightning AX7 preamp channel in the HC30 doesn’t quite work with my mids-heavy pickups. So, that’s the story on that. hehe I’ve never heard anything like a Matchless, and after nearly 7 months with it, I can’t see myself playing something besides a Matchless. ;) hehe (I’ve said that before.)

    But, for versatility’s sake, I am still going to ask Matchless to replace the Lightning preamp channel in the HC30 for the Spitfire preamp, eventually.

    Randy–lol haha Awesome comment, brother!

  13. Karl you are a funny guy… I dont need strings I just wanted to know which type were on there I like them. Still trying different brands till I find the tone I feel inside…

  14. Speaking of new amps, I got to try out some very nice amps on Monday. The wife was defending her dissertation (successfully I might add) and I went off to play a Bad Cat, Divided by 13, and Savage amplifiers. All amazing and very expensive but I was least impressed with the 13. It was a decent base tone but for $2800 I was not wowed. The Bad Cat was amazing and super musical. In just a few minutes I got so many amazing and usable tones. The Savage was a close second; it took a little longer to get a really great tone but once it was there, it was there. From my understanding the Bad Cat and Matchless amps are cousins. I have yet to play through a Matchless but if it is anything like the Bad Cat, it might confirm that my Fender Deluxe needs to be replaced.

    Strings are great, I keep saying this but the Gibsons on my Les Paul sound really, really good. The downside is that like everything Gibson makes, they are expensive.

  15. Karl, there is no doubt that new strings are such a key factor in tone. I noticed that myself, too. I go from hating my rig to loving it all the time. And for some weird reason, how I feel about my rig is always in direct relation to how old my strings are. Hmm.. I wonder why.

    I’m sure you know about this, but I found a huge secret in keeping new-sounding strings. It’s all about “Fast Fret.” That stuff works so incredibly well. You are only supposed to scrub the top of the strings with it, but for some reason, it keeps the whole thing clean all around. I’m not sure how it does that.

    I have tried other products, as well. Fret Ease has a real nice feel (a little better feel than Fast Fret) but doesn’t keep the strings nearly as bright and new sounding.

    I also got suckered into buy “The String Cleaner.” It seemed like an amazing idea, but it seriously hardly does anything.

    So I wouldn’t doubt if you use it already, but give Fast Fret a try if you haven’t. It leaves little fuzzies all over the place after using it, but I just wipe them away and strum my strings and most of it falls off pretty easily.

    What kind of strings do you use, by the way? I am all about DRs. Those things are awesome.

  16. Jonathan–right on! And ya, Bad Cats and Matchless are very close, as both are rumoured to have been designed by Mark Sampson. Phil Jamison says it may have gone down a little differently, so I have no idea what to believe except that yes, both amps are very similar.

    Our of curiosity, which D13 did you play? Because I found the 23 to be extremely incredible and original-sounding, and the 31 to be extremely under-whelming. Didn’t seem like they could be from the same builder. Curious to know your experience.

    David–so true! Strings are incredibly important. And no, I’ve never used any type of string cleaner. But I’ll have to try out that Fast Fret. Thanks, bro!

    And I’m using the Ernie Ball green pack. I know they’re not supposed to be good, but I always seem to go back to those. :)

  17. Karl, you will thank me later about the Fast Fret. I swear, they will double your string life. Use it before and after you play.

  18. I believe I played the 31. I am not super familiar with those amps and the 23 and 31 look similar. Being what they cost and on the opposite side of country of which they are produced, they are hard to come by where I am. The D13 was not all that bad it just was not great. I started with the Bad Cat, then the D13, and ended with the Savage. Had the other 2 amps not been there, it might have been a different but I doubt it. That much money for an amp is a lot ($2800), if I am going to spend that much, it better knock my socks off. It did not. In all fairness I spent about an hour twenty playing all three amps. The other 2 knocked me out almost immediately so I did not spend as much time on the D13. For that kind of money, I should not have to work too hard to coax greatness from an amp. I would like to play other D13′s though; maybe I just got a goofy one.

  19. Ya, that was very close to my experience with the 31. Just kind of under-whelming for how expensive it was. I think it’s difficult to get EL84-based amps right. Because like I said, I loved his 23 with the KT88 tubes, and I hear great things about the 6L6-based ones. Nice to know I’m not the only one to not like the D13 RSA31. hehe

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