I got Victoria home from the shop Monday night, and decided to have a go at photographing it. What do you think?
Soundscapes and “pads”, as they have come to be known are possibly one of the most overlooked type of guitar orchestration methods used today. Many see the multiple delay, reverb ridden, and volume swollen guitar sounds of many great but obscure bands as taboo, or in poor taste, but I stand firm in support of it. Just as keyboards started out life as a basic piano, but changed to become a “pad” machine, the guitar can be enabled as well to serve this need. I have played in bands in the past where the keys player would hold a pad; sometimes for an entire song without changing presets, and I began to wonder if I could fill his spots for when regular keys are needed more. After a bit of research (I was using rhythmic delay almost 80% of the time) and a few thousand hours of experimentation was able to come up with a stunning pad/octave swell sound. When I used this setting live, it blew the keyboardist away, who turned to playing regular keys full time!
I was using a stereo amp setup (Vox AC30 & Peavey Stereo Chorus) with a Strymon Timeline, a Boss DD-7, DMB Lunar Echo, MXR Dyna Comp, Strymon BlueSky, DMB Cosmic Crunch, and a lot of on board reverb from the Stereo Chorus. Now, to make a beautiful ambient sound, you don’t necessarily need all of these fancy dancy effects, but I have found that this huge combo of things make a perfect pairing for my Stratocaster and amps. Also remember, as breathtaking as these sounds may be, be sure to use your unaffected signal as well during the performance, or otherwise the fact that you are a guitarist may never be harolded as what it should be! You worked hard for those licks, show them off!
I have been extremely busy lately, between performing in a prewar blues musical, teaching guitar lessons, repairing guitars, writing music, and going to college for Music Technology. Although this is a lot to take in, when I spotted this 1970 Fender Fuzz Wah for a steal at a local music store, I had to fire back up the old blog!
Those of you who have read my blog before, you know my fetish with fuzz effects. This rare and vintage effect satisfies everything I have ever wanted in a fuzz, and even more so than dare I say my Black Tone Arts Pharaoh! Everything is still in great working order, and with a mix and volume for both wah and fuzz, I can have way too much fun and waste way too much time, much to easily. Released at the height of the Jimi Hendrix craze, Fender brilliantly combined both of his signature sounds into one (somewhat compact) pedal. The fuzz has a beautiful Black Keys circa Thickfreakness sound, while the wah sounds almost identical to a early Vox. Combined, they sound like I told my friend last night “God grinding His teeth, while Jimi Hendrix screams in the background.”
I am not totally sure why this is on the bottom of the Fuzz Wah, but I’m kinda digging it!
Above: A 65′ Fender Princeton Reverb. A huge sounding amp, with only 15W of power.
Loud is good. Being louder than your band mates is fun, but being loud and maintaining your sonic integrity is hard. A 100W Marshall stack may sound great “at 11”, but did you know you can get an even bigger sound out of an amp 1/10th of the size? One of the secrets of recording guitar, (especially rock guitar) is using lower volumes for bigger sounds. The quieter an amp can be, the better the microphone can track it, giving you a crystal clear and lush sounding tone. Bigger amps were built for a need to amplify sound before PA systems were capable of mic’ing smaller amps. As a rule of thump, I never use an amp over 30W, and no lower than 20W. This is the perfect range of power an amp needs to be loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough to not disturb. Using these types of amps will make sound technicians love you, as well as your fellow band mates, and possibly, yourself.
Before I officially bring home the Fender Mustang to be a permanent part of the family, I thought I would give you guys the low down on my original #1 guitar. “Jessica” is a 2004 Fender Highway One prototype** Stratocaster, that Fender only produced a handful of. These models in particular were put together with higher grade American Standard components, but with a bit of hot rod style. It has more than everything you need, and absolutely nothing of what you don’t, from the re-wound Texas Special single coils, Tone Bucket pots, and bi-flex truss rod the Highway One elements are clearly evident, with a more “AS” feel. The pickguard date puts this guitar as being built on November 24th, 2004, during the process of “working out the bugs” from the original Highway One’s. It keeps to the original idea of the 50’s (not 70’s) theme with the smaller headstock and 8.5″ radius neck, as well as a gloss lacquered neck and extremely thin skin nitrocellulose lacquer finish in a now discontinued color, White Blonde. The neck is buffed rosewood with clay dots, and the body a light, one piece slab of Alder. It shines with the volume and tone full up, but backing off just a small amount makes her sound just dark enough to have a large bottom end, even through an AC30. As beautiful as this guitar already sounds, I have added my own modifications to enhance the beauty she already is. I’ve had the frets hand rolled, orange drop capacitors added, a solid brass tremolo block added underneath the original early 60’s style bridge, and very particular claw and spring work in the back. I only use three springs in parallel in the back, with the cavity uncovered to bring a little more natural tone out of the body, and the action is slightly lower than stock, using Ernie Ball 11’s only. The finish has aged like fine wine, darkening and checking already, but tastefully so the guitar looks well loved, but not abused. I have had to apply a layer of clear coat over the edge of the upper body in order for the paint to stay on, but it is almost unnoticeable. She’s still my #1, but after 8 years of daily use, and 650 shows, its time for a #2, to make sure that Jessica has a bit of insurance when I walk onto the stage, or into the studio.
Photo circa 2007, Asheville, North Carolina.