Things That Are and Should Not Be

You know the stuff that challenges your entire world view just by its very existence? Ya. Here’s the stuff that makes me realize I know nothing:

  • Taylor guitars. They are so uncool, so overused, and way more mass-produced than they used to be. And they sound really, really good.
  • John Mayer. Yep, just him. His tone, his playing…it just plain shouldn’t be.
  • Epiphone Valve Junior selling for $75 and sounding better than so many things that are cooler because they don’t say Epiphone on them.
  • Eminem making records that people buy. A lot of people.
  • This picture:

(Note the mic’d JC120. And yes, I choose to believe he modded it to accept tubes.)

  • The current fascination with Glee.
  • Brad Pitt looking better and younger at 47 than I do at 27.
  • BB King’s tone from a solid state amp.
  • Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. That should be self-explanatory. And ‘pretty cool.’
  • The White Stripes. No bass player. Worst drumming ever. Amazingly catchy songs.
  • That game on the app store where you shoot angry sponge-monsters off cardboard boxes with tennis balls. And the fact that I want to play it more than I want to listen to U2 sometimes. Or live. Same thing.
  • On Raglan Road.
  • The live version of Bad. U2’s Bad. There is no way that song has only two chords.
  • When we had no bassist on Sunday and played an electric set acoustically, but still with drums and electric guitar. (This is wrong on so many levels. Maybe even a moral one.) And folks engage, and people tell you later it was the most they’ve let go and worshiped God in years. ?????!!!!!! Sometimes, the joke’s on us. And that’s a good thing.


49 thoughts on “Things That Are and Should Not Be

  1. “Sometimes, the joke’s on us. And that’s a good thing.”

    that is classic right there … as someone else would put it: “It’s legen … wait for it … dary”! 😆

  2. Taylors are great plugged in but unplugged they are treble monsters. I know a lot of people that have them and I want to like them. But, when they stop using a PA to amplify them, it’s like seeing the man behind the curtain. All smoke and mirrors.

    Also, worst drumming for White Stripes? Come on, she’s playing the song; aren’t there several (several) post about that sitting around here? Think of the WS with Nearl Peart or Lars the tennis plalying drummer? Gross.

  3. I think the joke is on the bass players.

    It’s funny how when things go wrong, they are often the times when people most connect with God. I’m not talking about tragedies or disasters. I’m talking about important things (to musicians), like blowing a tube, or a drummer calling in sick at the last minute. Maybe it’s because in those moments when everything is falling apart (musically), we are humbled and can connect with God because our own inhibitions aren’t stopping us.

    Or maybe I’m just wrong.

  4. “Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. That should be self-explanatory. And ‘pretty cool.’”
    This line made me laugh out loud. I love that sketch, especially when she gets down to interviewing her guests.

  5. Karl, somebody played an electric guitar unplugged? The power was out at our church last Sunday, so my full rig sat in the car. We had just two acoustic guitars and the Cajon. I think the people liked it — candles, flashlights and blankets — kind of “old-timey.” 45 degrees in the Sanctuary.

    Of course our Pastor tolerates much but is a dedicated acoustic lover, so he’d like to see more of that. Me, I’d like all of the unplugged videos purged from Youtube. I guess some work but the whole idea is like “Metallica Unplugged” Huh? Or to use the latest overworked term “really?”

  6. I love my Taylor. I saved for months to get it. I’ve never played an acoustic guitar i like better than my 414 (except an 814)

  7. I LOVE my Taylor… Plugged in or not. Great acoustic tone! Not as boomy and brighter than others, but it’s all about what you’re in to…

    I think mine sounds it’s best when I’m finger picking something…

  8. I have a Valve Jr. I got on TGP with Mercurey Magnetics transformers. I use it as my main amp at church because, well, I haven’t got a Matchless yet. Because I’m poor. But. It sounds awesome. Makes no sense.

  9. I take it your problem with the Edge pic is the solid-state amp, as opposed to, say, his hair? :) Seriously, one can get some good clean tones from a decent solid-state amp, depending on how one prefers to define “good clean tone”. Jazz players, I think, have largely used solid-state amps (although my favorite-tone jazz guitarists are/were tube players: Frisell, Sharrock).

    With respect to B.B.: you’ve observed before that while tone is in the hands, tube amps allow that tone to emerge in a more musical-sounding fashion than solid-state amps. I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but I think that for certain transcendent players, the tone is *so much* in their hands that the marginal benefit of a tube amp is really small, and given some other advantages of solid-state with regard to things like roadworthiness, those players might go for a solid-state amp instead. Unfortunately, the only other player that comes to mind for whom there is (anecdotal but widespread) evidence of this quality is Jeff Beck, who nonetheless regularly uses tube Marshalls for performance and recording. *shrug* That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

  10. JC120’s are great amps. I used to have one. If you’ve never played one, I’d encourage you to try it. It doesn’t sound as big as the cleans of say a Fender Dlx Reverb, but they’re not sterile either. And the chorus by way of stereo amps sounds really sweet… just, kinda 80’s too, lol.

  11. Scott, there is no place in this world for tubeless amps. Except my Vox Pathfinder. :) But agreed, an ace guitar player will make whatever he is using sound good.

    Also, the chances are catching them again are looking pretty slim, but the White Stripes put on a heck of a show live, considering it’s just two of them. I don’t agree with the ‘worst drummer ever’ comment either, to each his own.

  12. Oops, that anonymous was me.

    Also, whenever I hear JC-120, I think of that clean Metallica tone. Which some may like, I suppose. It’s certainly distinctive.


  13. I am the proud owner of a 314ce. After using itfor countless worship sets in the past 10 years it sounds much bigger. Also the top has begun to yellow out quite nicely. Some things really do get better with age!

  14. On the Taylor thing, ya…I think what makes them shine is their preamp system. Maybe not the greatest sound you’ve ever heard straight acoustically, but the sound you hear acoustically is the sound you hear plugged in. I’ve tried a lot of preamps, including the K&K stuff, and have yet to hear better. In my humble opinion, to my ears, all that jazz. 😉 hehe

    On the solid state thing, I totally agree that it works for some jazz stuff; especially because a lot of them, like BB, are playing hollowbodies, which react much more like acoustic guitars anyway. As far as Edge playing one, he doesn’t. I refuse to believe it. 😉 hehe But seriously, I know he doesn’t anymore, but back in the day he got some of those stalwart, glistening ’80’s cleans from the JC120. I played one a couple years back, and it was, unfortunately, surprisingly good-sounding. Definitely an ’80’s niche sound, but still very good.

    On the White Stripes, am I the only one who thinks Meg’s drumming is incredibly sloppy? I love the simplicity, but you can play a simple four on the floor well, and you can play it poorly. Maybe I’m just jealous that I’ve never written a song as catchy as that Doorbell one. :)

    • I’ve always found ALL of the White Stripes music to be a little on the sloppy side. I think that’s Jack’s M.O. Now, please don’t mistake my use of the word “sloppy” as “not good”. I quite like many WS songs.

    • Sorry, I’ve had my 310 for years and I love it. It sounds great plugged or unplugged and the neck is the best acoustic neck I’ve ever played.

    • Have you heard Jack talk about playing instruments? He plays broken, warped, out of tune guitars to try and tame them, for “the fight” or, in my opinion, because he would be bored otherwise. I don’t think Meg is awesome, but I also don’t think you can get The White Striped by having a clean drum sound. Kind of like No Age or Sleigh Bells, or, dare I even say, Keith Moon. Sometimes you just need trashy beats.

      I was a drummer before I was a guitar player. That’s my one and only qualification for lumping Keith Moon in with Sleigh Bells. Haha.

  15. I recorded with a Jazz Chorus for my clean tones years and years ago. Whenever I listen to that recording, I always realize that that amp works very decently for some things. But put some humbuggies (as gearmandude would put it) and a drive pedal through that, and I bet it wouldn’t sound very good.

    Now, it is hard to please me with an acoustic, but whenever I go to GC and play the Taylors they have there, they always sound funky. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve gotten more picky, but for some reason, I feel like they used to sound better. My close friend has an 814 that he has had for years and years, and it is one of the best sounding acoustics I have ever heard. In fact, we were just talking about this last night, how there has been some hit and misses with Taylor guitars. And we have played billion of them. I mean, Bob Taylor goes to our church, so everybody feels obligated to play Taylor; although, he really doesn’t care.

    My friend went up to him a while ago and asked, “Bob, what Taylor would you recommend for me so I can get that old Gibson sound?” He replied, “Buy an old Gibson.”

    And yes, the whole “We’re not going to have a bass player in our band” thing does not work. Sure, it can work in the studio where you can tweak the guitar to sound like a bass.

    And I am not a Mayer fan for his songs, but man, I am so in love with his guitar playing and his tone. I hate that he pretty much only uses really expensive stuff. It’s like, “Hey, kids, do you want to sound like Mayer? Well, it’s simple, buy a Two Rock amp and some Cornish pedals along with a ton of other stuff, practice for 20 years, and then you can maybe do what he does.”

  16. “And yes, the whole “We’re not going to have a bass player in our band” thing does not work. Sure, it can work in the studio where you can tweak the guitar to sound like a bass.”

    Clearly you’ve never seen them live. You don’t miss the bass at all.

  17. Speaking of things that should have been and were not (until now), I’m becoming more of an Editors fan. They do have some odd music videos though.

  18. My taylor does lack something when not plugged in but fwiw if I lean over the guitar and put my ear to the sound hole I hear a much better fuller sound.
    Hope everythings going well for you Karl!

  19. Just FYI, Justin Beiber comes from my town, Stratford.
    It’s incredible the success he’s had.
    And I love the white stripes. Jack has begged Meg to not take lessons, so preserving their sound. I guess that’s all over now.

  20. about Taylors i will say that the 414ce i have sounds amazing, plugged in or not. The models above i wasnt that impressed with, they sound good just not as instantly ear catching as the 414 does. once you get to the 800 series though its a different story. Amazing guitars!

  21. Totally off topic, but the JHS fairy came today. My Double Trouble modded to V.3 spec, and a modded Dano Vibe back in the fold. Can’t wait to try them.

    • You seem to like JHS’s work quite a bit. I’m considering just biting the bullet with the AC, but I don’t really want to wait 4 weeks plus. In that sense I may wait a bit because I wouldn’t benefit from the $20 off if I get it from a dealer. When I was at the Lead Worship workshop I saw Ben Gowelll had a Crunch Box, which he said was great for taking over the rest of the band on those rare occasions. Not that I don’t want that power, but I like that the AC sounds good even at lower gain settings (from clips anyway).

      By the way, is that a Visual Sound Double Trouble? Have you tried the Double Barrel Overdrive?

          • I would too but the modded vibe pedal already kicked my envelope filter off the board. The cool thing is that they can match up just about anything in a double or triple pedal. Personally I’d love the Bun Runner dual fuzz, but again no space.

  22. I actually use a Roland JC-50 and Hayseed 15 in stereo. A mini version of the Edge’s setup. IMO they compliment each other really well. The Bad sound he gets in the Live aid with the jc120 sounds phenomenal and I can see why he used to use it. Overdriven it sounds decent as well, it works well for my atmospheric/u2/indie playing style haha…

  23. KennyG–same here. Really dig the songs, I just get a bit distracted by her drumming sometimes.

    Craig–wish I had any 10. 😉

    Dave–ya, I think I remember him mentioning that in ‘It Might Get Loud.’ Interesting approach. I think that was right before he mentioned how technology is the enemy of art, and then pulled out a Whammy pedal. 😉 😉 hehe I actually really, really dig his music and his feel…especially Dead Weather; just think he doesn’t need the persona anymore.

    David–ya, I think that’s one of the common threads on Taylor’s, is that the older ones were at least more consistent, if not better. Difficult to maintain consistent quality as your company grows, though. That’s really cool that Bob goes to your church! What church do you go to? Are you local to SoCal? If so, I’d forgotten.

    And ya, Mayer plays some crazy expensive gear. He’s also been known from time to time though, to play on stage through TU2’s and stock Blues Driver’s. :) Of course, it probably doesn’t really matter what you hit the Two Rocks’ inputs with. haha

    Mike–ya, I think it works for them partly from Jack’s raunchy guitar sound (in a good way), his energy, and the heavy use of the octave down setting on a Whammy. :)

    Caleb–that is music to my ears. :) They are one of the best bands to come out in the last 5 or 6 years, for sure.

    Brandon–cool, I’ll grab it when I have time. :)

    James–great point! I’ve found that with a couple of my acoustics, too. Like, ‘Why does everyone’s sound better?’ Oh, because I’m hearing the actual sound from the soundhole on theirs. hehe And thanks for the sentiments! Totally, totally appreciate that.

    Don–interesting about Meg. Very interesting. Thanks for that!

    And I don’t get Justin Beiber…just seems like clever production marketing to me, and I hope he makes it out okay. I am, as well, amazed by the success he’s had.

    Dan W–I agree, I like the 414, too. I’d actually love to get a cedar top 514. But then I’d have to sell delay pedals, which is clearly not an option. 😉

    Zach–haha Awesome!

    JHS stuff–very cool. :) I’ll get on it someday. :)


    hehe 😉 But seriously, I’ve been trying to get into modern rap lately…just can’t seem to. I do like some of the early ’90’s stuff when it seemed like it actually came out of culture, rather than studios. But maybe I’ll give Eminem another listen; I do appreciate some of his current lyrical stances.

    John–wow, that’s a setup that’ll make anyone jealous. Nice!! The last time I played a JC series amp, I do remember thinking that the stalwart cleans could have some nice applications.

  24. Protect your neck, protect your neck…

    If you wanna get into current rap that really isn’t modern, The Roots. “The Seed 2.0” actually has a guitar riff for its beats. There other music is pretty amazing too. I don’t always dig Black Thought’s thoughts but they have a unique take for the rap world.

    “No Sound But The Wind” is great. I like that they focus on hope–that other song too–“I hope life is good to you” or however it goes. It’s almost like they have everything right except for missing the one giving away all the hope. Like C.S. Lewis and joy and the imprint of the waves on the beach.

  25. haha We played that for a meet and greet at some service I played at. (No lyrics.) Interesting, but I just couldn’t get into it. I have it downloaded on iTunes, though. Maybe I should try again.

    • Which one, Wutang or The Roots? Fyi, I don’t know if it was in this thread or not, but you should do a post on cloning. There’s some psychology around that would be interesting to explore. Even JHS pedals gets reamed for making a Klon clone while its out of production.

  26. Things that are and should not be: Sound guys that zero everything out at the beginning of Sunday morning practice. We spend the first ten minutes of our precious practice time saying ” I can’t year Bob” ” I can’t hear Mary” I managed to get our one sound guy to quit for a year once by trying to nudge him into what I consider an acceptable zone of performance. I think this time I’ll sic the youth pastor and his wife on him.

    We come in and generally everything sounds great — I suppose from a mid-week youth service. Then old George starts turning everything down. Now, I just stop the practice and tap on the mike until I can hear something through my monitor. Singing louder is a prescription for weak voice during the service.
    End of sound guy rant.

  27. Actually the vocals thing I can relate to. I do have to be a jerk sometimes about that because I have a fairly weak voice; and if I can’t hear myself, I strain…and then have no voice for the last couple songs.

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  29. About the Taylor sound, I own a Taylor 614CE (steel string) and a matching Taylor 614CEN N=Nylon Classical. All Maple. The Taylors have a built in pre-amp “Taylor Expression System” have more than one pickup and something called Dynamic Sensors used by the pickup sytsem. I was at first a bit disappointed at the sound, have a Fender Mustang III and a Fender Frontman 212R that sounds great with my Fender Custom Strat and my Fender Jaguar 1965 re-issue. Knowing that the Fender Electrics provide the High Impedance signal that the amp lives on I began a search. After a bit of research, the Taylor Expression System is a fully balanced low impendence output. The electric guitar amps are expecting a High Impendence signal. Therein lies the problem. Then I found the Taylor made device called the K4 Equalizer. With a TRS to TRS cable from the 614CE to the K4 to the Fender Mustang III or the Frontman 212R the Taylors can be made to sing! (Can you say impendence matching as this is the function of the built in preamp on the K4. It also has an XLR to plug you low impedance mike into and the pre-amp provides the high impedance match that the amp is designed to process. Has a bunch of knobs that relate to the Taylor Expression System on the guitars. Anything is tweak able 3-EQs for Low, High, Mid, a sound shaper a volume control for amping up . Complete control over the sound. Yahoo….
    Anyway have been in a great funk lately, have not played for months now. Unemployed, living on SS Income (63 years old) Had a Fender Jaguar when I was 18 bought second hand. Born Catholic, saved at 20 at this big ol Baptist Church in Pasadena Texas. Pray for me, just feeling stuck, want to get back to playing, Also have a piano (Baldwin Upright) that sounds like a Baldwin Grand, not played in many months either.

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