Sunday, May 15

You knew this day was coming....

I've been a little frustrated with my pedalboard for a while now. I know, I know, a guitarist saying that he's not happy with his gear is like...I don't know...something. Point is, we all expected it, right? Well, just this night I've undergone a pretty drastic re-imagining of my electric rig. There are some old favorites that have migrated back on, and some pedals that have been on the board since the beginning that are either absent, or will be quite shortly.

This all started when I got my shiny, legit Tubescreamer and the tone faeries announced their presence in a flash of lime-green light and with the unmistakable sound of a mid-range hump. And I (almost) never wanted to turn it off. Then, I thought, I like this compressor, and it should always be on, too, so let's throw that in there. Then, I started to play around with my volume pedal as a means to control how much drive my amp was getting, so that one was "always on", too. Little by little, pedals moved from my looper to just in front or behind it until I had more out than in. Then, I began to find some minor annoyances with the looper itself. Nothing drastic; an LED on the first loop that decides to work intermittently. The not-so-silent switching. The space/weight it takes up. It made trying to experiment with stereo amps very awkward. Some of the buffers in the pedals (most notably the DL4) would add a noticeable amount of treble just by virtue of being included in the signal chain when that particular loop was engaged. These are all minor points, to be sure, but I think you can see where I'm going with this....

Yeah, it's gone.

Not gone as in "gone forever" gone, at least not yet, but I gave my board a good, hard look and just sort of found myself subtracting off things that I never used. The backup DD-7 is cool, and it's not something I'll never do again, but I was using it so infrequently, particularly when I can just tap in a short quarter thing on the DL4 and get the same effect. I also literally never turned on any of my distortions (Aria Disnortion or the Keeley-modded DS-1) in a live setting, preferring instead to just stack my drives, so since they weren't pulling their figurative weight, I wasn't going to carry around their literal weight. The signal chain, as of May:

Guitar -> JHS Little Black Buffer -> MXR Dynacomp -> Vox Wah (modded for True Bypass) -> Analogman TS-9/808 Silver Mod -> Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET -> Voodoo Labs Tremolo -> Boss CE-2 -> Ernie Ball Volume Pedal -> Boss DD-7 -> Line 6 DL4 -> BBE Sonic Stomp -> Boss TU-2 -> Boss RV-5 -> Amp(s?)

Basically, this is all of the stuff I need. I've forgotten how much fun it is to play with a Wah and a Chorus. And literally the only reason why I can possibly do this board is because of the Little Black Buffer and the really good cables that I made earlier. That thing really is magic, because there's no discernible difference between my board and going straight in. I mean, I'm sure a difference exists, but it sounds amazing to me. The Fulldrive might turn into two or three other ODs, but for now it's versatile enough to stay on the board. The TU-2 acts as a kill-switch if my delays are getting ridiculous (the one biggest benefit to having the looper), and the outs on the RV-5 means that I can run in stereo if I so choose.

This definitely isn't the end-all, be-all, but it's where I'm at now. Having to lug around an 80+ pound pedalboard was getting tiresome, so even if this is 5 or 10 pounds less, it's going to make a difference!

Tuesday, May 10

Bamboo Cocktail

Bamboo Cocktail:
  • 1 1/2 oz. Sherry
  • 3/4 oz. French (dry) vermouth)
  • 1 dash orange bitters
Stir and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass.

Interesting cocktail. As a wine-based cocktail, it's very light and easy to drink. Also as a wine-based cocktail, I honestly have no idea how old my Sherry/vermouth is, so I'm positive that it's past it's prime. I have no idea how to get around this: wine oxidizes, and it is not pleasant. All alcohol oxidizes, but high-proof alcohol does so extremely slowly, to the point where it's shelf-stable for years after being opened. But I don't drink very much wine in general, and wine-based cocktails are few and far between. As a result, this is probably better than my current example of it. I wish I could buy wine in 1 oz. bottles.

Thursday, May 5

Yet another reason to hate Guitar Center

Sorry about the extreme lack of content in the last few weeks; I have been busy, but most of that "work" has involved playing a lot of Fallout: New Vegas. It's awesome.

But I was thinking about this earlier today. I have 4 amps in my possession right now, though I'm not sure which ones I'm going to keep. Probably the best thing I could do is sell all of them and pick up a really, really nice combo, like a Matchless or a /13 or something, so that's kind of the long-term plan. I just have to figure out how to do that without being without an amp for X amount of time. But I was looking at one of them when I remembered one of the greatest lie I was ever told in a Guitar Center:

"It's a good practice amp!"

When I had no idea what I was doing with an electric guitar, that statement made sense. I need to practice, right? Why shouldn't I have a practice amp? The amp in question here is a 25 watt Peavey Transtube amp. It's got lots of effects and a "vintage" setting that kind of sort of almost makes it play like a tube amp, but not really at all. But the salesman said that when I got better, I could get a bigger amp! And until then, I could use this one to practice with! Woo!

What I didn't think about at the time, and what honestly took me buying a real amp first to realize, is why would I ever want to practice with something I wasn't going to use live? That little's not awful. That would be unfair. But it's not good, either. I haven't used it since college when it was my only amp. It doesn't sound like me. It makes me sound bad. I plug into anything with tubes and everything is instantly warmer and more awesome. But why would I want to practice on something that makes me sound bad, and that would necessitate me changing the way I play or all of my gear's settings just to sound decent when it's not the way I'm going to play live?

The other thing is, 25 watts is plenty for almost anything. Did the salesman foresee me rocking a full stack in a club? I mean, maybe he did, that's what 99% of his customers want to do. They also buy Dimebag Darrell guitars and Boss Metal Zone pedals to go in front of those 250 watt solid-state full-stacks. Awful.

I think it's all a ruse to sell awful amps to naive teenagers or completely clueless parents, and either way, it's despicable. The people who know good tone will buy the premium gear that they have and not even glance at the crap. The only people who will think twice will have to be talked into it, as they're going to gravitate towards the name-brand stuff if they know anything at all, or else they will have to be led towards whatever they end up buying. If you're okay with leading helpless, gullible people into paying significant amounts of money for poor tone, then I guess it's on your soul, Guitar Center. For shame.