Live Sound for Guitar

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Live Sound for Guitar

Sandy Williams

Cengage Learning PTR

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Live Sound for Guitar Sandy Williams Publisher and General Manager, Cengage Learning PTR: Stacy L. Hiquet Associate Director of Marketing: Sarah Panella Manager of Editorial Services: Heather Talbot Senior Marketing Manager: Mark Hughes Product Manager: Orren Merton

© 2015 Cengage Learning PTR. CENGAGE and CENGAGE LEARNING are registered trademarks of Cengage Learning, Inc., within the United States and certain other jurisdictions. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this work covered by the copyright herein may be reproduced, transmitted, stored, or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, taping, web distribution, information networks, or information storage and retrieval systems, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All images © Cengage Learning unless otherwise noted. Cover images © iStockPhoto.com/ivosevicv, © iStockPhoto.com/gianlucabartoli, © iStockPhoto.com/Roob, and © iStockPhoto.com/iharvo. Library of Congress Control Number: 2014937096 ISBN-13: 978-1-305-09205-1 ISBN-10: 1-305-09205-8 eISBN-10: 1-305-09206-6 Cengage Learning PTR 20 Channel Center Street Boston, MA 02210 USA Cengage Learning is a leading provider of customized learning solutions with office locations around the globe, including Singapore, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. Locate your local office at: international.cengage.com/region. Cengage Learning products are represented in Canada by Nelson Education, Ltd. For your lifelong learning solutions, visit cengageptr.com. Visit our corporate website at cengage.com.

Printed in the United States of America 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 16 15 14

I lovingly dedicate this book to my wife, Pam, and my sons, Eddie and Alex.

Acknowledgments The author would gratefully like to thank a number of people for their assistance, advice, contributions, and mostly for their encouragement. w

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All my music teachers, including Leah Curnutt, Patience Berg, my mother Sarah Jane Williams (a well-known musicologist and also a guitarist), Charles Aker, Jethro Burns, David Baker, George Russell, and Ben Schwendener. John Riggs, for having me keep a journal in his GHS English class that helped me clarify and define the direction of my career. Rich Clark, for his extraordinary photography throughout this book. Dan Brush, for running up to the front of the stage at Farm Aid! I had to take the plugs out of my ears to hear you. Thanks for keeping the music store open in Greencastle and for graciously allowing me to photograph some of your fine instruments. Robert Norwood, thanks for letting us document some of the treasures at About Music. TA Weber, thanks for your time and opening up your factory to us. Scott Olson and Derek Duncan at Seymour Duncan Pickups for sending such great shots and especially for the shots of the factory. John Cooper. Brian Wampler, for all the great shots and factory pictures. Alan Hoover from Maniac Music. Peter Benner at Mack’s Ear Plugs. Marshall Johns at Peterson Strobe Tuners. Alex Welti and Mike Claiborne at Creation Audio Labs. Larry Wexer for his advice and photographs. Krista Shue at Gibson. Jason Farrell at FMIC (Fender). Steve Bartoski at Line 6. Kevin Silva for your advice and contribution—oh, and for keeping my amps running for all these years! TJ Everett at Tom’s Guitar Repair, thanks for keeping my guitars happy. Graydon Stuckey at Guytron Amplifiers. Christopher Parks at Quilter Guitar Amplifiers. Bill Wenzloff at Morley Pedals. Dick Hardwick for the Wafuzz Staralator and years of keeping me entertained. Rob McGaughey. Kathy Peck at H.E.A.R.—keep up your important mission. Justin Bryant. Larry Baker. Romain Gril at Two Notes Audio Engineering. Cobi Stein at Eminence Speaker. Alan Johnson, thanks for your friendship, expertise, and contribution. Andy Symons at Auralex, thank you for all your help and for the Blanc Box!

Acknowledgments w w w w w w w w w w w w

Chris Lieber, thank you for the Lieber Box. Bill Shaefer at Guitartown. All the members of the Average House Band. Denny Hardwick. David Murray. Charlie Smith. Mike Harrison. Doug Benge. Doug Hubble. Orren Merton at Cengage Learning. Cathleen Small at Snyder Editorial Services. And lastly, Mr. Kevin Anker, thanks!

Any omissions to this list are unintentional.

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About the Author Sandy Williams has played guitar professionally for more than 35 years. His live playing spans performing with altcountry rocker Steve Earle, on crooner Michael Feinstein’s Sinatra Legacy PBS special and DVD, and with composer George Crumb. As a studio musician, his credits include the Rounder Records box set (with singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer), jazz arranger John Clayton, the John Mellencamp movie soundtrack for Falling from Grace (performed with Larry Crane), numerous comedy CDs for radio personalities Bob and Tom, Rodney Carrington, Richard Bowden, hundreds of jingles, and gospel singers Sandi Patti and Bill Gaither. His musical compositions have been featured on a number of network television shows, including the Martha Stewart Show and Garage Makeover. He is on the faculty of the DePauw University School of Music and the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Music and Arts Technology program.

vi

Contents Introduction .

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics Protect Your Hearing! . . . . . . . Your Instrument/Your Hands . . . . Warming Up . . . . . . . . . Moving Gear . . . . . . . . . Basic Setup and Maintenance . . . . Strings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tuning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Octave Cross-Check Method The Fifth Cross-Check Method . Being in Tune with a Real Piano .

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars Single-Coil Pickups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Single-Coil Pickups and Hum . . . . . . . . . . . . Humbucking Pickups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hot-Rodding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pickup Adjustment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pickup Switches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Active Circuits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Review of Fundamental Tone-Shaping Factors . . . . . . . Types of Electric Guitars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stylistically Correct Instruments for Rock, Blues, and Country Pursuing Vintage Sounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pursuing Modern Guitar Sounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . Electric Guitar Shopping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Whammy Bars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lifting Weights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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vii

Contents

Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics

39

Tube Amps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Developing the Touch . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Safe Way to Replace Tubes . . . . . . . . . . Tube Amp Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tone Controls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Graphic EQ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Parametric EQ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Volume Conundrum and Master Volume Controls . Preamp Distortion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Power Tube Distortion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Using Amps at the Gig . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . One Guitar, Two Guitars, Three Guitars, Four… . . . . Solid-State Amps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Chapter 4 Guitar Amp Basics: Hybrid and Modeling Amps A Whole New World: Innovations in Technology Modeling Amps on Stage . . . . . . . . . . . Hybrid Amps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects A Little History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Human Voice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Talk Box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Effects That Physically Manipulate the Strings . . . . . . . . . . Effects That Electronically Manipulate the Sounds’ Volume . . . . Volume Pedals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tremolo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Boost Pedals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tone Filter Shaping Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Envelope Follower . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Phasers (on Stun) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Distortion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Devices That Manipulate the Spatial Dimension of the Guitar Sound A Two-Amp Setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Here We Go Loop-De-Loo… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Powering Effects and Ground Loops . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Effect Order . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Multi-Effects Pedals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii

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Contents

Chapter 6 Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound (and Possibly Making It Not Quite as Loud) Installing a New or Replacement Speaker . . . . . . . . . Speaker Sizes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Speaker Upgrades: Old and New and Old Again . . . . . . Different Types of Speaker Enclosures . . . . . . . . . . Working with a Soundperson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mixing from the Stage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Using a Microphone and Understanding Mic Placement . . Capturing a Direct Signal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Speaker Emulation DI Boxes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How to Play Loud but Not Be Loud . . . . . . . . . . . Speaker Emulators/Load Box . . . . . . . . . . . . Attenuators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . IR Emulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . More Solutions to Volume Overload . . . . . . . . . Working with Headphones and “More Me” Monitoring .

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Chapter 7 Using an Acoustic Guitar in a Live Setting Acoustic Hurdles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leakage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fighting Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . More Acoustic-Electric Solutions . . . . . . . . Acoustic-Electric Amplifiers . . . . . . . . . . Combining Effects with Acoustic-Electric Guitars

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Chapter 8 Final Thoughts and Wrapping Up Using Backline Gear . . . . . When Something Goes Wrong . Protecting Your Gear . . . . . Guitar Stands . . . . . . . . Getting There . . . . . . . . Wrapping Up . . . . . . . .

Index

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117 121 122 122 123 124 126 132 132 133 134 135 137 138 142

148 148 149 152 153 154 156 157

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Introduction If my poor mother had only known that I wasn’t spending my high school lunch money on food, but rather was squirreling it away to buy records and guitar strings, she would’ve had a fit. As fate would have it, the local music store, Kersey Music, was located right across the street from Greencastle High School. Rod Kersey, who later became my best man, tolerated my daily lunchtime noodling around on whatever new or vintage guitars were in the store. Rod also hired me to repair guitar electronics and was responsible for networking me with a number of musicians responsible for some of my first paying gigs. It’s hard to believe that a small town in Indiana could be such a music hub, but due to the presence of DePauw University, I was lucky to hear performances by a number of incredible artists, including bluesman Albert King and composer Aaron Copland. By my senior year of high school, I was also attending the Danny Martin School of Gigging—four nights a week at a local roadhouse. Danny had been gigging for a number of years and taught me a lot about playing different styles of music, playing to the crowd, being on time, and preparing for gigs equipment-wise, but mostly he encouraged me to step out and shine whenever I could—all lessons I’ve carried forward. Fast-forward several decades later, and I consider myself very lucky to put food on the table by doing something I love so much. I was excited to take on this book project because I hope I’m able to pass down, more than just live guitar sound information, a few morsels of live guitar sound wisdom. This book wasn’t written for experienced players, but rather for guitar players who are taking the plunge into the world of live performances for the first time. I celebrate any time a guitar player first takes advantage of a chance to share his or her talents with other musicians and an audience. While the Internet is an amazing resource for connecting us with the rest of the world, I’m afraid that it can also become a social and intellectual crutch that can hinder real social interaction, musical interaction, and curiosity. Immediate access to unlimited information, without direction, can be like trying to take a drink out of a fire hose. This book is my attempt at not only presenting some basic information about the tools necessary for live guitar sound, but also giving some gentle context, direction, and worldly advice, which in the end I hope will prove most valuable for the novice performer. This book was written during an intense period of my life, consumed by recording sessions, gigs, teaching at two universities, and most important, family. I hope you enjoy the ride!

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Gig Basics

1

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N THIS CHAPTER, we’ll explore some important topics you should consider before ever hitting the stage. Preparing for a live gig has many similarities to preparing for a camping trip. My personal motto for getting ready for a gig is to plan ahead but travel light. You don’t always have the luxury of a Winnebago or a tour bus when you head in to the gig wilderness. Being able to focus on your music and communicate with your audience should be your prime concerns. With a little planning and common sense, implementing your live sound shouldn’t be an impediment to this goal.

As I will point out throughout the book, every gig is different, so being psychologically prepared for the almost-certain curveballs, both technical and social, that come your way is an essential component to successfully handling any live guitar sound situation.

Protect Your Hearing! Without question, the most important piece of “gear” we have is the set of ears we were born with. Unless you live in an extremely remote area, you are inundated with not just random sound, but also seemingly constant music. You can’t go to a gas station, grocery store, department store, or restaurant without being subjected to piped-in music. The irony of this constant bombardment of music is that it has made people somewhat immune to the magic that music has to offer. Rather than being attracted to or repulsed by the music being played, we are conditioned simply to take a neutral stand and accept this wash of sound as normal. The truth is that decades ago, background music was carefully supervised by psychologists who were hired by marketing teams to manipulate people to do things like eat faster, stay calm in an elevator (see the Blues Brothers movie’s elevator scene!), and most of all, spend more money. The genie is out of the bottle, and though many of us would be fine with a little more peace and quiet, I’m afraid we’ll probably just have to develop strategies to cope with this aural abuse. Have you ever heard of the NAMM show? It’s a music-industry tradeshow whose primary purpose is for manufacturers to display their new wares to music-store dealers and hopefully entice the dealers to place orders for the next season. The NAMM show is always a spectacle. Admission is for exhibitors and dealers only, though in recent years students from music technology programs have been able to attend as well. It is quite common to see some of the biggest names in the business wandering around the aisles, checking out the latest gizmos or demonstrating equipment. The show is held in a giant convention center, and each company rents booth space. There’s little to no soundproofing between booths. It’s hard to imagine the cacophony unless you’ve been there. I have attended a number of NAMM shows since 1974, but in the late 1980s a small company, Maniac Music, asked me to demonstrate their new invention, the Sustainiac, at the Anaheim winter NAMM show and then at the Chicago summer NAMM show. The Sustainiac, shown in Figure 1.1, allows a guitar to have infinite sustain without being hooked up to a guitar amp. Brilliant! I traded shifts with another guitarist from Indianapolis named Troy Stetina, who would go on to publish one of the bestselling guitar instruction books of all time, Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar (Hal Leonard, 1992). Troy and I would sustain notes all day long, ’til the cows came home. This innovative device caught the eye of a number of industry heavyweights. 1

Live Sound for Guitar

Figure 1.1 Sustainiac Model C. © Maniac Music.

Figure 1.2 Sustainiac Transducer. © Maniac Music.

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics Our booth was surrounded by the Stewart MacDonald luthier supply company on one side and Demeter Amplification on the other. Around the corner was Rivera Guitar Amplifiers, previewing their new 60×60-watt stereo guitar amplifier head. One of the greatest builders of acoustic guitars, Santa Cruz Guitars, was three booths down from us. Sadly, I don’t think many people could hear the Santa Cruz guitars over the loud din in the hall! Even though I wore earplugs during much of the show, I found the constant barrage of sound to be incredibly wearing. I’ve been in some manufacturing plants that, while loud, weren’t such an assault on the eardrums. As musicians, we need to protect our ears at all costs. Even unamplified music can contribute to ear fatigue and hearing loss. One of the greatest seats in the house is to be sitting in the middle of and playing with a symphony orchestra. A symphony can produce such a lush sound that you wouldn’t think it would be straining on the performers’ ears. My first hint to the contrary was when I saw industrial-size boxes of earplugs backstage at the symphony hall. You haven’t heard “piercing” until you’ve been sandwiched between the French horns and the woodwind section of the orchestra. In the world of sound reinforcement, it seems like wattage, just like computer memory, has gotten less expensive in the past 20 years. It’s not uncommon to run into a soundman who has 5,000 watts of power at his fingertips. What does this mean for Joe or Joyce Guitar Player? It means that in almost any performance space, from a small club to concert hall, there is the potential for ear-damaging volume. Our ears don’t need help losing their acuity. Part of the aging process is that our eyesight and hearing tend to diminish over time. Some of my older musician friends have several decades of experience playing loud music to aggravate their partial hearing loss. Some of the greatest musicians of the 1960s—the era that ushered in the guitar amp stack—are very hard of hearing. And I know from personal experience that playing and listening loudly can be seductive. Part of the attraction to loud is that tube guitar amplifiers tend to produce better tone when they are turned up and working “on all cylinders.” A number of devices on the market are designed to allow the amplifier to be turned up while keeping the volume at a controllable level. I’ll discuss these later in this book. I made a vow to never go back to NAMM after working the convention. But more than 20 years later, I broke my vow. I was in Nashville doing some recording-session work, and the producer I was working for had an extra NAMM badge. It was with a sense of dread that I entered the Nashville Convention Center. Right outside the main hall, I was pleasantly surprised to find a booth sponsored by the H.E.A.R. organization, whose mission is to encourage musicians to take great care of their hearing. They were passing out the most awesome swag—earplugs! Now I could walk through the show without getting an earache.

H.E.A.R.: H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers) was co-founded by a bass player named Kathy Peck, who was inspired after playing a concert and MTV shoot at the Oakland Coliseum with her group, the Contractions (warming up for Duran Duran), that damaged her ears permanently. H.E.A.R. recommends five steps to “minimize the potential for hearing loss and/or prevent further damage.” 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Turn down the volume of your stereo, TV, and iPod. Monitor sound levels at your rehearsal and performances. Limit your exposure time. Take a 5- to 15-minute break from the sound source. Wear earplugs!

H.E.A.R.’s mission is to “Make hearing conservation part of every music education.” With support from others, H.E.A.R. hopes to expand its Listen Smart programs by developing the Listen Smart film series to educate more music and sound arts students (especially young people). Please visit H.E.A.R at www.hearnet.com. 3

Live Sound for Guitar Your local audiologist can fit you for some custom earplugs, as well as custom earpieces for in-ear monitors. I am a longtime user of earplugs (see Figures 1.3 and 1.4).

Figure 1.3 Mack’s Hear Plugs. © McKeon Products, Inc.

A number of products are designed especially with musicians in mind. I never attend a concert or even a movie without earplugs. I’m amazed to see people mow the lawn while listening to portable electronics. I wonder how loud they have to get the music or radio before they can hear over the mower? A little common sense goes a long way in the ongoing endeavor to preserve your precious hearing.

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics

Figure 1.4 Mack’s Acoustic Foam Plugs. © McKeon Products, Inc.

Your Instrument/Your Hands I spent part of my youth on the road with a magic-show band, playing bass no less. Some aspects of a musical performance share a lot with a magic performance. When everything is going right in a musical performance, the audience isn’t distracted by the props—your effects, your amp, your vintage 1959 sunburst Les Paul worth $500,000. Unless you’re playing to an audience of guitar geeks, you’re likely to elicit more of an emotional response from the conviction of your performance than from your cool gear. I’m a firm believer that while having good props, or tools, is helpful, the real musical sleight of hand comes from being prepared mentally and physically.

Warming Up All the stuff your mom told you about being well rested is true, even though the pre-performance anticipation may give you a restless night of sleep before your first gigs. It’s good to stretch out, do some jumping jacks or sit-ups, or take a walk around the block before your performance so you are loose and relaxed. 5

Live Sound for Guitar Warming up on your instrument is helpful as well. Running through your songs is always a good idea. You could also do the tried-and-true musician’s warm-up: scales. Don’t try to start out blazing on scales as fast as you can. Take it nice and easy, preferably with a metronome or drum machine. The idea is not only to get the muscles in your hands warmed up, but also to get your right and left hands in sync with one another—and if you’re lucky, get your brain in sync, too!

Moving Gear One lesson I learned early on is that the more equipment you bring to a gig—and for the most part I’m talking about an entire band—the more likely you are to waste your hands and your back before you ever touch your guitar on stage. The good news is that even though modern guitar amps can still be pretty heavy, keyboards and PA gear have gotten much lighter, due to innovations in technology. The older vintage keyboards, the Hammond B-3 organ, and the Fender Rhodes electric piano are terrific analog keyboard instruments. If you ever have a chance to examine one of these instruments, try to gently lift a corner. Now imagine moving that to every gig or up a flight of stairs. Don’t try to be an Olympic weightlifter. Be sensible and carry the really heavy stuff with the help of another person. Here is a list of gear to handle with extra caution: w w w

w

w

The drum trap case. It could contain the cymbals, stands, or possibly a snare drum. These cases usually have two handles, so use two people to lift them. PA speakers. These can be heavy and often are mounted on stands. Don’t be a hero; use two people to install and remove them. Big guitar speaker cabinets. Yes, the cabinets with four 12-inch guitar speakers mounted in one box. They also have two handles, so use two people to carry them. Heavy-metal bands used to like to impress people with an entire wall of these cabinets. Most of the cabinets had no speakers—in other words, they were just props. Anything in a road case. We’ll talk a little more about road cases later in the book. While road cases are fabulous for protecting equipment—especially guitar amps and keyboards—they add a lot of extra weight to the piece of gear they are protecting. Anything in a rack case. Rack cases come in all sizes based on the number of rack spaces the case holds. A single piece of equipment can take up from one rack space to four. (Rack-mounted mixers can take up even more space.) If you include multiple pieces of gear in the same rack, then the weight can add up quickly. Add to this the fact that some racks are enclosed within another padded rack for extra protection. Racks have handles—use ’em! After you’ve hauled truckloads of equipment in and out of venues for about a year, you’ll get the idea of why bands need roadies.

Fortunately, in more and more situations it is possible to travel much lighter, as more clubs and churches provide their own sound reinforcement. Before you fill your two semi-trailer rigs with mountains of gear, ask ahead. Maybe you can get by with far less. We’ll cover how to prepare for these possibilities later in the book.

Basic Setup and Maintenance As a guitarist, you will be involved in a number of important musical relationships throughout your playing career. You’ll become good friends with audio engineers in live venues and maybe even in recording studios. It’s possible that you’ll have a relationship with a booking agent. Hopefully, this relationship will be profitable for both of you! One of the most important relationships is the one you make with your favorite guitar repairperson (see Figures 1.5 and 1.6). Over time, this person will not only get a sense of the style of music you play, but also understand intimately how your hands interact with the strings, frets, and body of the guitar. These folks usually fall into one of two categories: w w

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Luthiers—guitar builders who do repair on the side to help keep their cash flow going Dedicated repairpersons

Chapter 1 Gig Basics

Figure 1.5 My trusted friend, master craftsman Tom “TJ” Everett. © Tom’s Guitars and Guitartown, Irvington, IN.

Figure 1.6 TJ setting the intonation on a Strat. © Tom’s Guitars and Guitartown, Irvington, IN.

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Live Sound for Guitar In either case, this craftsperson should be capable of doing basic setup and maintenance work on your precious instrument. Not to state the obvious, but is anything about to fall off the guitar? Here’s a list of things to have your guitar chiropractor—I mean repairperson—check over: w w w w w

Loose strap buttons can ruin your day if they come off onstage. Odds are good that your repairperson has a good fix for this common ailment. If the guitar is electric or amplified acoustic, is the output jack secure? This is the Achilles’ heel of many a guitar. Are the tuning keys securely attached to the guitar? Does each tuning key have an individual adjustment screw? This screw doesn’t have to be set tight, but it should be checked to make sure it’s not about to fall out. Are the pickups about to fall out of the guitar? Adjusting the pickups for optimal sound is a whole other topic, and the repairperson probably has some good advice about this as well. Probably the most important adjustment that might need to happen to your guitar is setting the action so it feels good and fits the style of music you’re playing. The “action” generally refers to how easy or difficult it is to press strings with your fretting hand. We are attracted to guitars that are easy to play, but some styles, such as bluegrass, are associated with guitars set up with high action in order for the guitar to be played a little more forcefully (in a musical way, of course). The height of the bridge is an important factor in setting the action. The height of the nut, at the other end of the string, also contributes (see Figure 1.7).

Figure 1.7 Close-up of a steel-string acoustic guitar nut. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics w

The adjustment of the truss rod is critical to making the guitar play and sound its best. Almost all modern guitars are equipped with a truss rod. The truss rod runs the length of the neck and can be adjusted at one end of the neck or the other, depending on the model of guitar. People have different opinions about how straight the neck needs to be. Some guitar repair people insist on the neck being absolutely straight, while others like to adjust for a slight amount of relief (or a very slight concave bow) in the neck to accommodate for the distance a vibrating string travels. I’ve seen many guitars play easier, instantly, with a simple neck adjustment. w The general humidity in the part of the country (or world) where you live can have a dramatic affect on the playability of your guitar. Seasonal changes are a good time to pay close attention to whether your guitar feels different and might need adjustment. If you live a dry area and the humidity is low during the winter, you should humidify your acoustic guitar. I am a fan of Oasis humidifier products, though a number of other companies also make fine humidifiers. Be sure to only use distilled water when you are refilling your guitar humidifiers, as the minerals in tap water will reduce the humidifier’s efficiency over time. If you live in a very humid region, you might consider putting desiccant packs (often available from camera-shop suppliers) in your guitar case to keep the humidity under control. Always try to store your guitar in an environment in which you would also be comfortable. w The frets on a guitar need attention every now and them. A high fret can cause a string to buzz. Worn spots in frets can make a guitar not play in tune. You can have your frets filed or “dressed,” so the worn spots are smoothed over and rounded. If your frets are in really bad shape, you may eventually want to have your favorite guitar refretted. w Adjusting the intonation, or how well the guitar plays in tune with itself, is critical and can be affected by the player’s personal touch. I encourage you to learn more about all of these aspects of guitar maintenance. You’ll probably end up doing some of these adjustments yourself at one time or another, but you might want to practice on a cheap guitar before you work on your 1955 Strat. Personally, I don’t mind visiting my favorite guitar repair guy a couple of times a year.

Strings I love new strings. When I put new strings on a guitar, I’m inspired to play music. I’m shocked that a lot of younger players don’t change their strings more often. Maybe the process of changing strings intimidates them. Old strings sound dead, don’t vibrate well, and adversely affect how well the guitar plays in tune with itself. Sometimes a bad new string, which is very rare, won’t play in tune when strung up to pitch. This used to be common with nylon strings, which could be inconsistent from set to set. The worst part about old strings is that they are much more likely to break during one of your inspired guitar solos. A few broken-string moments have gone down in history, like Roy Buchanan’s “Five-String Blues” from his Second Album. There is a pretty well-known poster of Kurt Cobain playing on stage with a broken string hanging down. However, most of us would rather keep all six strings attached. Here are some ponderings about guitar strings: w

Nylon strings used on classical or folk guitars can take days to stretch out before they settle down and finally stay in tune. They will sometimes go a half-step or more flat from one day to the next for a while. It’s probably best not to change these on the day of the big gig. w The term “steel-string acoustic guitar” is often used for the type of acoustic guitar that uses metal strings. Usually the first and second strings in these sets are plain steel, but the wound strings are made using different alloys (brass, phosphor bronze, and others) in the windings, depending on the set.

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Live Sound for Guitar w w w w

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w w

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w w w

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Many string companies offer sets of strings in a range from bright-sounding to mellow-sounding, depending on the materials and alloys used. This is true of both electric and steel-string acoustic sets. Steel-string guitars can be strung with hybrid silk and steel strings. There are many possible variations on the texture of the windings on wound strings, from round-wound to flat-wound. The ends of a string can be plain or might have a loop end or a ball end. The different strings are for specific types of instruments. Consult the guitar maker for the recommend string type and gauge. And never put steel strings on a nylon-string guitar! Some instruments, like a Steinberger electric guitar, use double ball-end strings that attach to the headstock of the guitar as well as the tailpiece. The way a string attaches to the tuning key can vary from brand to brand of key. The majority of tuning keys have a “post” with a hole in it that the string loops through, while traditional Fender-style keys have a hole in the center for inserting the string. Instruments with locking-nut systems are great at keeping the guitar in tune while using a whammy (or vibrato) bar, but the locking-nut system adds several time-consuming steps to the string-changing process. There are now strings available with a coating that makes them last longer because they are less susceptible to metal corrosion caused by perspiration and acid from fingers. Coated strings are a real blessing for players who have issues with their hands sweating. You can also get coated strings in different colors from some manufacturers. Who would’ve thought that you could color-coordinate your strings and stage clothes? Strings don’t cost that much money. If you find a set you like, buy a box set of 10 (or sometimes 12). They are always less expensive per set in larger quantities. Many sets of strings come sealed in plastic, so they stay fresh for a long time. Experiment with lots of brands, just for fun. You can always go back to your favorite. Remember that if you switch brands, even for the same gauges (strings are measured by their diameter, thus “gauge”), you may have to adjust the overall setup (including intonation) of your guitar. Buy a string-winder device. (Buy several to be safe.) What a timesaver! Be careful using the slot on a string winder to pull the bridge pins out on an acoustic guitar. If the pins don’t come out easily, please take your guitar to a repairperson. This is an easy fix, but you might have to leave it overnight. If you keep breaking the same string, chances are you have a problem with your bridge or nut. Back to the shop! In addition to carrying extra sets of strings in my guitar cases, I carry extra single first and second strings, because these thinner strings seem to break more often. There are different schools of thought about this, but I say that on most guitars, you should change strings one at a time. If you don’t do this on a guitar with a vibrato arm, you are opening a can of worms because every time you take a string off, you change the tension dramatically on the vibrato system. Even on a standard guitar with no vibrato system, you change the neck tension if you take even one string off. This is easily verified by checking the guitar tuning with your ear or an electronic tuner. Notice how the strings go slightly flat when you remove one string? Buy some microfiber clothes at the drugstore or hardware store. Take 20 seconds after you play each time and wipe the top of the strings from the bridge to the nut. Carefully put the cloth under one string at a time and wipe the bottom of each one. This simple step will help prolong the life of your strings.

Tuning Your guitar was in tune when you bought it, so you don’t ever have to tune it again, right? Well, perhaps not. The art of tuning and temperament is a vast topic that is well worth researching. Like so many things in the field of music, it is intertwined with the history of pianos and keyboards. In fact, since pianos are tuned by professional piano tuners,

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics maybe we should hire ourselves some professional guitar tuners? When you get to be a rock star, you can hire a guitar tech to do just that! In some ways it has never been easier to tune a guitar. There are dozens (hundreds, if you include software-based tuners) of electronic tuners currently available. Given a nice, quiet space, it is possible to tune, by ear, from an outside aural reference. The most common sonic reference tools for accomplishing this are a tuning fork, a pitch pipe, a keyboard, or maybe another guitar. In this section I’ll briefly examine some of the different types of electronic tuners available today. The great advantage of electronic tuners is that they are accurate (some more accurate than others) and they provide visual feedback about your tuning, so even if other musicians are playing loudly, you can still get your guitar in tune. w

The first electronic tuners that provided visual feedback were mechanical strobe tuners. Mechanical strobe tuners use a strobe disc (see Figure 1.8), a small motor, and a light to provide highly accurate and easy-to-read visual feedback. Strobe discs have also been used to calibrate the speed of vinyl-record turntables and to calibrate the timing of internal-combustion engines.

Figure 1.8 A stationary strobe disc. © Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc.

When tuning with a strobe instrument tuner, the idea is to make the display stationary. If the display moves to the right, you are sharp. If it moves to the left, you are flat. If it stops, then the note is in tune. When they first try out my vintage strobe tuner, I like to tell my students that it’s like a videogame, albeit as deep as Pong. Because of their incredible accuracy, mechanical strobe tuners are still considered the tool of choice for many musicians and guitar technicians. w Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of mechanical strobe tuners, also offers handheld and foot pedal tuners (see Figure 1.9) that use Virtual Strobe technology. These tuners have extraordinary accuracy and can even be used for setting the intonation of a guitar, as well as tuning.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Figure 1.9 Peterson Stomp Classic pedal tuner. © Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc. w

On older tuners, you had to manually select the note to be tuned. Most new electronic tuners have the capability to automatically sense the note being tuned. If your first string is tuned to an E flat, the automatic note sensing won’t know that you really wanted to tune to E natural. Pay attention to the display on the tuner to make sure you are tuning to the desired pitch. Several modern tuners have the ability to operate in automatic mode or manual mode. Manual mode is still useful if a particular string on a particular instrument doesn’t seem to read well in automatic mode. Manual mode will focus the tuner on one note at a time. w A new twist on the automatic tuner is a tuner that can hear all six strings simultaneously, such as the TC Electronic PolyTune. w One of the greatest innovations in tuning technology in the past decade is the advent of small clip-on tuners that mount to the headstock of a guitar. Rather than use a microphone or a 1/4-inch input, clip-on tuners sense the pitch through vibration. This means that they can be used even when there is a lot of background sound. These tuners can be easily stored in a guitar case. w Piano technicians have been using software-based tuners for a number of years. Now there are software-based tuners designed to work with a number of instruments. The flagship software application for guitarists is Peterson’s StroboSoft (see Figure 1.10). StroboSoft comes with a number of tuning presets and can store tuning offsets.

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics

Figure 1.10 Peterson’s StroboSoft 2.0 VST/AU software. © Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc.

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One of the cool features about StroboSoft is that you can set the tuning window to be full screen. Imagine being on a big stage and having a big monitor screen in front of you or off to the side that would let you see StroboSoft so you could make quick, accurate adjustments. There are now hundreds of tuner apps available for smartphones. They range in price from free up to about $10. Sometimes it’s advantageous to check your tuning using two different apps. There are many great tuning apps, but my favorites are Peterson’s iStroboSoft™ ($9.99) and Trace Tuner ($0.99). Peterson’s app gives you a virtual stroboscopic display with incredibly accurate resolution. Trace Tuner is unique in that it traces the waveform of a note over a period of time. This is helpful for guitarists because strings tend to go a little sharp when first struck (plucked or picked) and then settle back down. Trace Tuner is useful for seeing the behavior of a string and then making an assessment ultimately based on your ear. The amount of fluctuation in pitch created by pick attack is determined by the force of the attack as well as the type and gauge of string being played. Unless you have an acoustic guitar with a built-in tuner, a built-in pickup plugged directly into a tuner is probably the best route to take. A clip-on tuner would also give excellent results. A suction-cup tuner pickup is a handy tool to have in your guitar case. A suction-cup tuner will improve the performance of any electronic tuner when used with an acoustic guitar. Tuners can hear only one note at a time (unless you’re using the PolyTune). Take great care to ensure that only one string is being played at a time, or you will confuse the tuner. If you’re just using the microphone on the tuner, don’t put the tuner 10 feet away from you and expect good readings. Put it on your knee or on a music stand right in front of you if you’re playing an acoustic guitar. Put the tuner in close proximity to your guitar amplifier if you’re playing electric guitar. There are guitars out in the marketplace that will physically tune themselves or auto-tune themselves, such as the Gibson Robot Les Paul. It’s important to remember that a guitar will probably go sharp if moved to a place with a colder room temperature. Conversely, it will tend to go flat if brought into a warmer space. It takes diligence to keep a guitar in tune! Even moving the guitar at a different angle or putting it flat with its back on a horizontal surface will change the pitch of the guitar slightly. Test this with a good strobe tuner. 13

Live Sound for Guitar w w

A new set of tuning keys sometimes helps alleviate mechanical problems associated with tuning. My violin teacher, Mrs. Berg, showed me a trick that still works. If a string gets caught in the nut, making it difficult to tune, slide the string over for a second and rub some graphite from a pencil lead in the slot. This will help reduce friction, thus allowing the string to move more freely. There are some commercial products available that accomplish the same thing but work even better, such as Big Bends Nut Sauce. w A capo can wreak havoc on your guitar’s tuning. Some capos utilize a strong spring to clamp to the back of the neck. These capos have the advantage of being able to be unclamped quickly, removed, or moved up or down the neck to a new fret. I’ve found that, since the pressure of the spring is fairly forceful and not adjustable, these spring-loaded capos always require retuning once the capo is on or moved. My preference for capos is the Shubb brand, which use a lever and a user-adjustable set-screw to control the amount of pressure applied by the capo. If the capo is lined up straight behind the chosen fret and the amount of pressure is adjusted to mimic the amount of normal left-hand finger pressure, there should be minimal effect on tuning. The set-screw may have to be adjusted if you re-capo at a different position on the neck, where the neck thickness is different. It’s a good idea to strum a few chords with the capo on, in order to equalize string tension, and then double-check your tuning. You may be able to adjust the capo before you go on stage so the effect on tuning is minimal. Plan B would be to have some good jokes prepared or be able to tell the audience the story about your very first guitar while you are retuning on stage with the capo on. w Sometime in your life, you’ll meet a guitar salesman who can pick up a completely out-of-tune guitar and tune it, zing, zing, zing, zoom, zing, zoom, za perfectly, in about 7.3 seconds. If it’s so easy, why don’t more guitarists sound in tune? There are probably two reasons for this. The first is that their guitars don’t have the proper intonation setup, meaning their guitars don’t play in tune with themselves from the top to the bottom of the instrument. This can usually be solved easily on an electric guitar because most (though not all) electric guitars have an adjustable bridge for each string (see Figure 1.11).

Figure 1.11 Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge with adjustable saddles. Thanks to About Music of Broad Ripple, Indiana. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Chapter 1 Gig Basics You can do the adjustment yourself or take it to your repairperson. The advantage of doing it yourself is that the adjustment is somewhat dependent on your personal touch with your fretting fingers. Acoustic guitar can have a “compensated” bridge, which is fabricated to account for the string lengths necessary for the guitar to play in tune with itself. Other acoustic guitars may have a bridge without the fine-tune compensation but at a slight angle, which provides some degree of compensation. These are sometimes referred to as straight bridges.

Figure 1.12 Straight acoustic guitar bridge. Thanks to About Music. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Some electrics utilize bridges that take special skill to properly compensate, such as a vintage Fender Telecaster or an Esquire bridge.

Figure 1.13 Fender Esquire three-piece bridge assembly. Note the angled bridge saddles. Thanks to About Music. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Live Sound for Guitar I would take these guitars to the shop for professional love and care. The second reason why more guitarists don’t sound in tune is that they rely on an electronic tuner but fail to doublecheck the instrument by using their ear. I’ll be the first to say I’m guilty of this. That’s one of the reasons why I think it has taken me years to really know how to get a guitar in tune. Part of the problem goes back to the noise pollution I discussed earlier in this chapter: It’s difficult to find the quiet space needed to listen with the focus to hear the subtleties needed for fine tuning with the ear. Fortunately, we have various electronic tuners at our disposal, but ideally a quick double-check by ear is recommended to make any necessary final adjustments or compromises. At this point, I should mention that we’re discussing a guitar in standard, low to high, EADGBE tuning. Did I say compromise? Yes, in the end, one or two strings may have to be tweaked slightly away from the “perfect” tuning offered by an electronic tuner, in order for the instrument to be in tune with itself. It’s important to note that the pitch of a string will change slightly from when you first strike it (attack) to when the note decays. You’ve probably heard this with your ear, but an accurate electronic tuner will let you see this phenomenon as well. I have found that a good crosschecking (sometimes called spot-checking) method involves playing an open string and then playing the note an octave above or below the open string.

The Octave Cross-Check Method 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Tune the open strings as precisely as possible with an electronic tuner. Play the open E, sixth string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret E note on the fourth string. Play the open A, fifth string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret A note on the fourth string. Play the open D, fourth string. While it is sustaining, play the third-fret D note on the second string. Play the open G, third string. While it is sustaining, play the third-fret G note on the first string. Play the G note, third fret on the sixth string. While it is sustaining, compare it to the open G, third string. Play the B note, second fret on the fifth string. While it is sustaining, compare it to the open B, second string. Play the E note, second fret on the fourth string. While it is sustaining, compare it to the open E, first string.

Believe it or not, this procedure can be performed in a matter of seconds. The idea is to make a quick assessment. Listen and make note (no pun intended) of discrepancies that sound out of tune to your ear. Make any slight adjustments. Perform the procedure again. There is a “chasing your tail” aspect to this method, but it is excellent for using the ear as the necessary and final arbiter in the tuning process. I have another top-secret method for making a quick assessment.

The Fifth Cross-Check Method 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

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Tune the open strings as precisely as possible with an electronic tuner. Play the open E, sixth string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret B note on the fifth string. Play the open A, fifth string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret E on the fourth string. Play the open D, fourth string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret A note on the third string. Play the open G, third string. While it is sustaining, play the third-fret D note on the second string. Play the open B, second string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret F# note on the first string. Play the open E, first string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret A note on the third string. Play the open B, second string. While it is sustaining, play the second-fret E note on the fourth string. Play the open G, third string. While it is sustaining, play the third-fret C note on the fifth string.

Chapter 1 Gig Basics 10. Play the open D, fourth string. While it is sustaining, play the third-fret G note on the sixth string. Once again, the idea is to make a quick assessment of how well the guitar is in tune with itself, adjust as needed, and repeat. You can combine both cross-check methods or develop your own hybrid method. In any case, octaves and fifths are useful for revealing any overly offensive tuning issues. Experiment with playing fifths and octaves in different locations on the fingerboard, even up on, say, the seventh or ninth frets. My final check is to play an open E chord, open A chord, open D chord, open G chord, and lastly open C chord. If all five of those chords sound reasonably in tune, then you are in like Flynn. Many electronic tuners are capable of being connected in-line with the guitar signal, and most of these have a mute function. There will be many situations when it will be advantageous to use this mute function for “silent” tuning. Believe it or not, the same cross-checks work if you play one note at a time with the tuner in mute mode. This is an effective way to take into account the idiosyncrasies of your guitar.

Being in Tune with a Real Piano If you’ve never let your electronic tuner “listen” to a fine piano immediately after it has been tuned and adjusted by a highly trained piano technician, you might be shocked. What you’ll find is that the notes in the middle of the keyboard are relatively close to registering as being in tune on your device. As you play notes higher in pitch on the keyboard, you’ll notice that they start to register sharp on your tuner, and if you play lower notes on the piano keyboard, the notes will register flat on your tuner. Is the piano out of tune with itself? Yes and no. Piano technicians “stretch” the tuning on a piano to make the piano more in tune with itself. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this book but are worth researching. This stretching of the keyboard is worth keeping in mind in situations when you have to play along with a real piano. I take a quick reading of a piano to see whether the A note above middle C is tuned to A=440. If this A note registers different than 440 Hz, then I recalibrate my electronic tuner to match the A on the piano. Virtually every electronic tuner can be set or recalibrated, at the touch of a button, to a different pitch standard. Then I try to get a feel for how flat the lower register of the piano has been adjusted. This is similar to the cross-checking methods I use to fine-tune a guitar in that I find I need to listen and then make a quick assessment. So, use the most accurate electronic tuner you can afford, but don’t forget to always let your own ears make the final judgment.To summarize this chapter, before you set foot on stage, put on some groovy clothes (okay, I didn’t mention this before), protect your ears, protect your hands, maintain your guitar, spend a nickel on some nice strings, and tune up!

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Electric Guitars

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C

ALL IT AN EDUCATED HUNCH, but if I took a poll, I bet that 98.589 percent of you started playing guitar because you wanted to play electric guitar. I’m certainly one of the 98.589 percent. I have grown to love acoustic guitar, but my first inspiration and desire was to plug in and rock out with an electric guitar.

Single-Coil Pickups Electric guitars come in many different shapes and configurations. There are six-string electric guitars, twelve-string electric guitars, seven-string electric guitars, eight-string electric guitars, baritone electrics, and even fretless electric guitars. The engine of an electric guitar is the electromagnetic pickup system. The first attempts at amplifying a guitar were with lap steel guitars, but it wasn’t long before these experiments were applied to a six-string guitar. Rather than try to use a microphone to amplify a guitar, the early inventors experimented with making a built-in pickup that would, through the magic of electromagnetism, capture the sound of the strings. Guitar pickups are transducers that convert the physical energy of the vibrating strings into electrical energy. In a nutshell, traditional electric guitar pickups simply consist of a magnet (or magnets) wrapped with thousands of turns of fine wire.

Figure 2.1 MJ of the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop, scatter winding a single-coil pickup. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

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Live Sound for Guitar The motion of the strings moving across the magnetic field of the pickup generates a minute electrical signal, or current, which can be sent via a cable (guitar cord) to an amplifier and speaker.

Figure 2.2 Seymour Duncan’s Leesona winder, purchased from the Gibson factory and used to wind the actual PAFs (as in Patent Applied For) humbucking pickups of the ’50s and ’60s. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

An electric guitar can be outfitted with anything from one pickup to three or more. The pickup are selected or even combined, if so desired, with a pickup switch. The first guitar pickups were single coil, one coil of very fine wire wrapped around a magnet. Most single-coil pickups contain six individual magnets, which are wrapped together in one coil of pickup wire. Single-coil pickups are still used in many electric guitars. They have a clear, sweet tone that is appealing to many guitarists and listeners.

Single-Coil Pickups and Hum The one big downside to using single-coil pickups is that they are very susceptible to picking up not only the vibrating strings, but also stray magnetic fields and other electrical fields. These electrical fields manifest themselves in the form of 60-cycle hum, which can be quite loud, annoying, and distracting when amplified through your amp. Here are some possibly problematic sources of hum that you should be aware of: w

Your amplifier. If you have an amplifier that uses vacuum tubes, it uses a power transformer and output transformer. Both of these emit magnetic fields. w Your bass player’s amplifier. See above. w Anything with an electrical motor, such as an air-conditioning unit, a blender, or a vacuum cleaner.

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars w w

Neon light displays. Anything in your signal chain that adds gain or distortion will exacerbate existing problems, as will compressors and overdrive units. w Standing too close to the other electric guitarist in the band—I mean really close—can potentially induce hum in your guitars. w The lead singer’s ego. Just kidding! And here are some suggestions for alleviating annoying hum from single-coil pickups: w

w

w

w

w

w w

w

w

w

Turn your guitar’s volume knob all the way up. Stand up and slowly turn in a circle. As you are rotating, you’ll probably notice a spot in the circumference that you’ve turned where the hum seems to dissipate greatly. This technique works really well if a guitar amplifier transformer is the source of the problem. The downside is that you may have to stand like a statue all night! This will earn you a C– in the showmanship department. Take your guitar to your guitar tech/repairperson and have him make sure that all the electrical components in your guitar are shielded. The tech will put copper shielding foil around the control and pickup cavities in the guitar. Hopefully this should help keep the hum to a minimum. In situations where the hum is particularly oppressive, you might have to run your guitar through a device called a noise gate. Noise gates are available as floor pedals, but also as rack-mounted units. Rack-mounted units have more fine control of parameters that may need to be adjusted to control the hum. There are also rack-mount units with the ability to store presets. Presets could come in handy because your sound, effects, and pickup settings might change from song to song. Built a Faraday cage. I’ll leave it up to you to do the research in a physics book. Sounds like a great idea and could double as chicken wire to protect the band from incoming objects. However, I don’t think I’ll be hauling one around to any gigs in the near future. You could use the volume knob on your guitar to create a manually operated noise gate. You would have to turn down the volume on the guitar when you desire silence. The usefulness of this approach would depend greatly on the model of guitar and the location of the volume knob on the top of the guitar. You can also use a volume foot pedal to manually gate the sound, if you so desire. Most multi-effects rack-mount units or floor-mounted units have a built-in noise gate. These built-in gates may not be as smooth or controllable as a dedicated stand-alone noise gate, but they are usually functional and good tools to have in your back pocket. I will reiterate this later in the book, but any hum could be the sign of a potentially lethal ground problem. If you’re playing through an older amp with a two-prong power cord, please take it to your amp tech and have him replace it with a properly grounded three-prong cord. If your guitar or amp is interfaced to a mixing console via a direct box, there is a good chance that groundloop hum may occur. Direct boxes have a ground switch. Flip it and see whether the hum goes away. Many guitars with single-coil pickups are wired so that the magnetic polarity of one pickup is reversed compared to the other(s). In essence, this means that when the pickups are combined, they have hum-cancelling properties. Replace your noisy single-coil pickups with noiseless single coils. Almost every major pickup manufacturer offers their variation of this design.

Hum and other noise parasites have been, for the most part, the bane of electric guitar sound. I say “for the most part” because I have a great old ADA rack piece, called the Ampulator, that I used for recording directly into a mixer; it actually had a hum knob. ADA figured that hum was part of the idiosyncratic sound of some amps. That actually might be the case, but in general there is frequently a battle (or at least a mild skirmish) with hum. If you listen around your house or apartment, you can probably hear a little 60-cycle coming from your refrigerator or fluorescent lights. If there is alternating current around, chances are something is humming that monotone, almost ♭ pitch, 60-cycle hum.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Humbucking Pickups The hum problem with single-coil pickups was in need of a solution, and in 1957, after several years of research, Gibson Guitars introduced the humbucking pickup that consisted of double coils wired in such a manner that they rejected outside hum. Humbucking pickups tend to have a fatter or warmer tone than single-coil pickups. Humbuckers can also pick up hum if they are near something like an amplifier power transformer. In general, though, they are much quieter than single-coil pickups. As great as humbuckers are, it is a testament to the enduring tone of single-coil pickups that they never went away. This we can be thankful for!

Figure 2.3 Seymour Duncan JB humbucker. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

One cool thing about humbuckers is that they can be wired so that at the flick of a switch, one of the two coils is out of the circuit. This is called a coil-tap or coil-split. In other words, the same pickup can function as a single-coil or a humbucker. Yes, the coil-tapped humbucker will potentially hum, just like a stand-alone single-coil. The two coils in the humbucker can be wired in series or parallel. And to top all that, if the guitar has more than one pickup, the pickups and coils can be selected to operate simultaneously if the guitar is wired to do this. You can see that the possible combinations are numerous. Have you ever seen that book Chord Chemistry (Alfred Music, 1981) by the late, great Ted Greene? It really belongs in every guitarist’s music library. If you do a search for an original edition of this book (it has been reprinted many times over), you’ll see on the cover a picture of Mr. Greene surrounded by a bevy of now-vintage guitars, each sporting more switches than NASA Mission Control. That was all the rage in the early ’70s. Fortunately, guitar techs and guitar parts suppliers have figured out ways to modify guitars without defacing them or ruining their collector’s value. New guitars offer options in wiring of pickups. Some guitars have internal switches that allow you to set the humbucker for series or parallel operation. I should mention that there have been several guitars in the history of electric guitars, such as the see-through Dan Armstong guitar, that have allowed the owner to easily remove a pickup and replace it with a different kind (single-coil for humbucker), depending on mood or taste.

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars

Hot-Rodding Far more than acoustic guitars, electric guitars lend themselves to hot-rodding—switching out the original parts for upgraded parts. Pickups are probably the most common modification. There are almost as many kinds of pickups as there are flavors of ice cream. It may take some experimentation before you find exactly the right one.

Figure 2.4 ’78 model from the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

Some guitars have pickup cavities and wiring that are easy to access, like most Fenders and solid-body Gibsons. Hollow-body guitars are tricky because many don’t have a plate on the back of the guitar to allow easy access to the electronics. But if you’re pretty good with a soldering iron, then installing pickups in a solid-body guitar shouldn’t be too difficult for you. One note of caution: The pickup-coil wire is very fine and easy to break. If it breaks, you may have to send the pickup to a specialty shop to be rewound. Some pickup companies even offer preassembled pickguards, complete with pickups, switches, knobs, and wiring.

Figure 2.5 Seymour Duncan Classic fully loaded pickguard. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Pickup Adjustment Almost all single-coil and humbucking pickups can be adjusted to enhance their performance, once they are installed in a guitar. The most common adjustment is the height of pickup relative to the strings. If you do some experimenting, you’ll notice that the signal seems louder when the pickup is closer to the strings. More is better, right? Well, not always when dealing with pickups. The magnets in the pickups may influence the vibrations of the strings to the point that the string is pulled out of tune by the string’s attraction to the magnets. The strength or pull of the magnets can vary, depending on the ferrous material used to manufacture the pickup magnet. Magnets can become demagnetized to one degree or another based on age and/or their close proximity to other magnets or electromagnets. Sometimes it’s necessary to lower the pickups to the point that the magnets don’t pull the strings. This is especially common in Fender Strats. Many pickups have individual pole-piece adjustments, one for each string. These can be adjusted to balance the wound versus plain strings, for instance. On some guitars, if you lower a pickup too much, you will unfasten the pickup from the pickup cavity. This isn’t the end of the world, but it might take you a minute to line up the screws and springs (under the pickup) to refasten them.

Pickup Switches Unless you build your own guitar from scratch, you have no say where the pickups are placed on the guitar body; the manufacturer predetermines this, and you simply get to select a pickup or a combination of pickups via a selector switch. If you’ve never done it before, it’s worth taking the time to explore how the pickup’s location makes a tonal difference. To hear this with your own ears, let’s do a simple experiment with an acoustic guitar. Using a guitar pick, pluck the open D (fourth string) about an inch away from the bridge. Now gently pluck the same string near the neck. Do you notice a difference in tone? When you pluck near the bridge, it sounds brighter, and when you pluck near the neck, it sounds darker, warmer. When you pluck near the bridge, you’re in an area of the string rich with overtones, and when you pluck farther away from the bridge, you hear more of the fundamental pitch of the string. The placement of a magnetic pickup close to the bridge makes the amplified string sound brighter than a pickup close to the neck. Pickup switches sometimes have funny names like “Lead” or “Rhythm.” You can play a solo or rhythm guitar with any pickup position you think sounds good for the music you’re playing. You don’t have to worry about the pickup police telling you you’re using the wrong setting! If you don’t know which part of your selector switch is for which pickup, you can easily find out by turning the volume of your amplifier up pretty high and gently tapping the side of the pickup with a fingernail or a guitar pick. I confess that I still don’t know what all the switches on my Fender VI bass do!

Active Circuits Another important choice you can make regarding pickups is whether to go active or passive. We can thank the Grateful Dead for this, in a roundabout way. Alembic, the company that brainstormed and brought to fruition many of the Grateful Dead’s forward-thinking sound experiments, manufactured the first commercially available guitars with on-board high-end buffer circuits.

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars I recall playing a mid-’60s Vox guitar with all sorts of built-in electronics, like a wah-wah, a repeater (did I say repeater? did I say repeater?), and a tuning note oscillator. Nonetheless, I think the Vox was going more for whiz-bang effect than for high fidelity. Although there have been pickups manufactured with actual IC buffer circuits mounted right on the pickup, most of the time when someone says “active pickups,” they simply mean that there is a buffer circuit in the guitar requiring some power, usually in the form of at least one 9-volt battery. We’ll dig deeper into the magic of buffer circuits when we discuss effects, but here are some advantages to using an active circuit in your guitar: w

There is virtually no loss of tone from running a long guitar cable. The first thing that goes when you run through a lot of cable is the higher end of the frequency spectrum. Anything that you might equate with presence or shimmer might suffer. Active electronics eliminate the frequency loss.

Figure 2.6 The Redeemer buffer circuit. © 2015 Creation Audio Labs. w

In a passive guitar, the volume control usually exerts some effect on the tone of the guitar, depending on the volume setting. On many guitars, the high end of the guitar degrades a little as soon as you start to turn down the volume knob. There are passive workarounds to this phenomenon, which actually brighten the guitar tone a little as you turn down the volume knob. With an active buffer, the tone will remain consistent through the whole range of the guitar’s volume knob. w The guitar will be able to interact better with most foot pedal effects. The tone of the guitar will be preserved through the signal chain to the amp. Some older fuzz circuits don’t respond well to having a buffer circuit in front of them.

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Live Sound for Guitar w

I personally like the way humbucking pickups sound with a buffer circuit. Without the buffer, they sound nasally to me. This is strictly a personal preference.

Figure 2.7 The Redeemer buffer circuit belt-pack. © 2015 Creation Audio Labs.

Review of Fundamental Tone-Shaping Factors It’s worth reviewing some of the tonal factors we’ve discussed that have such an important impact on your sound. w w

Strings are available in bright to mellower tone sets. Where you pluck the strings, with a pick or your fingers, has a huge effect on tone. Notice we haven’t discussed how to pluck the string or why plucking the strings with your teeth is a really bad idea that you’ll regret later in life. w The type of guitar pickup and its location relative to the bridge and neck of the guitar processes the previous two factors, converting them to an electrical signal, adding further coloration of the sound.

Types of Electric Guitars Traditional electric guitar types include: w

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Archtop guitar with F-holes and a floating pickup. The floating pickup isn’t cut into the top of the guitar, so the guitar’s acoustic tone isn’t affected by having a pickup cavity. These guitars have been long favored by

Chapter 2 Electric Guitars straight-ahead jazz guitarists who love the warm, amplified tone combined with the natural acoustic F-hole sound. Because archtops are hollow, they can be prone to acoustical feedback problems. The entire acoustical cavity of these guitars tends to resonate if it’s too close to the guitar amp or sometimes any other source of sound. There have been various strategies over the years for controlling archtop feedback, and they have met with varied success. The most common are to cover up the F-holes or to fill the body with temporary foam. Some players have embraced the fact that these guitars feed back so easily.

Figure 2.8 1955 D’Angelico Excel with floating DeArmond pickup. © Laurence Wexer, Ltd. w

Archtop guitar with pickup installed in the top. Also favored by jazz players. These tend to have the exact same feedback issues as guitars with floating pickups.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Figure 2.9 Gibson Memphis ES-175 with Aged ’57 Classic humbuckers. © Gibson Brands, Inc. w

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Semi-hollow-body guitar. These guitars have a solid piece of wood through the body of the guitar but also have an F-hole cavity. The best-known semi-hollow-body is the Gibson ES-335 model. Semi-hollow-body is an excellent choice for someone who needs a guitar that works well with a number of styles. A semi-hollow-body is much less prone to feedback, but it’s not impervious.

Chapter 2 Electric Guitars

Figure 2.10 Gibson Memphis 1959 ES-335 with Gibson Burstbucker pickups. © Gibson Brands, Inc. w

Solid-body guitars. Solid-body guitars solved the acoustical feedback issue that plagued electrified hollow-body guitars. The meteoric rise in stage volume levels we have seen since the 1960s wouldn’t have been possible or manageable without solid-body guitars. The most famous solid-bodies are almost certainly the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster. There are a number of outstanding modern solid-body builders, such as Paul Reed Smith and Tom Anderson.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Figure 2.11 Fender American Vintage ’65 Stratocaster. © FMIC.

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars

Figure 2.12 Gibson USA Les Paul Standard. © Gibson Brands, Inc.

I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that we live in a period of extraordinary craftsmanship, variety, and value when it comes to choosing an electric guitar. Many of the top manufacturers offer not only high-end custom-shop instruments, but also entry-level instruments with the same exacting standards.

Stylistically Correct Instruments for Rock, Blues, and Country There are two paths to approaching the choice of what type of electric guitar to use for rock or country music. The first path is to try to reproduce historically important guitar sounds or guitar trends. While it is impossible to deny the influence of the stylistic innovators, there is something about this pursuit that is reminiscent of historical reenactments. There is almost no end to the pursuit of the minutiae needed to re-create historically “correct” instruments and sounds. 31

Live Sound for Guitar

Pursuing Vintage Sounds Here is a list of options that players sometimes navigate when pursuing the golden tones of yesteryear: w

w

w

w

w

w

w

Play a vintage guitar, preferably without any modifications that negatively impacts its value as a collector’s item. Sadly, many fine vintage instruments are simply collected as investments and are thus taken out of the hands of performers. This is in contrast to the classical world, where many valuable old violins, for instance, are still used by performers—when they are not being left in taxicabs! It’s possible to find older guitars that are referred to as players. A player is, for one reason or another, not considered as collectable. Perhaps it has been modified or refinished, or it has new pickups or a repaired headstock. Players often have all the mojo of an original vintage instrument but at a fraction of the price. Play a reissue guitar. A reissue is a reproduction of a vintage guitar. Guitar makers sometimes go to great lengths not only to make these guitars sound old, but also to make them look 50 years old. The art of “relic-ing” a guitar involves making the finish look cracked, worn, and otherwise like it has been used in a sweaty, smoky bar for years. The metal parts on a relic-ed guitar even have corrosion on them! There are craftsmen who specialize in this relic-ing art. Replace the pickups in your guitar with vintage reproduction pickups. Pickup makers have gone to great lengths to understand and re-create the magic of older pickups. This takes into account the number of turns of wire around the magnets and the type of metal used for the magnet. A number of theories and possible urban myths are floating around about older pickups. Since the manufacturing process involved a lot of hands-on labor, it’s possible that the strength and tonal qualities of each pickup varied from one to the next. And there is always the possibility that pickups that are 50 to 60 years old have lost some of their magnetism. There are services that offer to remagnetize your pickups. Is/was your favorite vintage guitar player left-handed? Did he play a right-handed guitar upside down? Then if you are right-handed, you simply must play a left-handed guitar upside down to properly re-create the proper tonal vibe. It’s a bit confusing! In the case of a guitar with a pickup that isn’t perpendicular to the strings, such as the bridge pickup on a Fender Stratocaster, playing the guitar and especially restringing it upside down really has an effect on the guitar’s tone, because the angle of the pickup is reversed. Replace your tuning keys with reproductions of vintage keys. While this may seem like an almost trivial detail, it has been demonstrated that the amount of mass on the headstock of a guitar can have a noticeable effect on the tone of a guitar. The reproduction keys are quite possibly lighter and may yield subtle, pleasing results. Replace the bridge with a period-correct bridge. For instance, Gibson Tune-o-matic bridges have gone through periods of using plastic bridge saddles instead of metal saddles. Replacement bridges are available. You might find you like the sound of one over the other. A number of replacement bridges are available for Fender Telecasters and Esquires. Add mailbox lettering to the top of your guitar, like your hero did. Should you use his initials or your own? You decide.

Thankfully, many of the original manufacturers have embraced the qualities that made their brand’s vintage instruments so highly esteemed. The path to vintage glory will hopefully lead you to a useful instrument that inspires your playing to greater heights.

Pursuing Modern Guitar Sounds The second path is more forward looking with the features on the electric guitar you choose. The builders of current-day electric guitar models are probably some of the top scholars of what made the vintage instruments tick.

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Chapter 2 Electric Guitars So, truthfully, the vintage path and the modern path don’t diverge too much. Makers such as Paul Reed Smith, Tom Anderson, and others have put a forward-looking spin on guitar designs of the past. Companies such as Fender and Gibson, with a history rich in tradition, have made a point of embracing changes in technology and innovation. Fender and Gibson both offer reproductions of historic instruments, as well as instruments with the latest in electronics, hardware, and structural innovations. You may have noticed that I haven’t labeled certain types of guitars “rock” guitars and others “country” guitars. The truth is, if it has a pickup on it, it has been used for rock—even hollow-body electrics. Really, the same is true for country music. Probably the most limiting factor is that stage volumes often prohibit guitars that feed back easily, such as hollow-bodies. Nonetheless, especially if you aren’t on a quest to re-create a specific sound of the past, you should feel free to experiment. It should be noted that most of the great electric guitar players broke the rules, not only with their playing, but also with their use of equipment. Here are some features to look for on modern-designed instruments: w

w w w w w w

w w w w

Electronics that take advantage of the multitudes of possibilities for controlling the wiring of pickups. Including: w Choices for coil-tapping humbucking pickups. w Choices for switching the coils in the humbucker to be in series or parallel. w Active electronics. w Various solutions to the age-old problem of how to create a quiet single-coil pickup. MIDI or USB interface for controlling synthesizers with a guitar. Hollow chambers in “solid-body” guitars for making them more resonant. Guitars set up with alternative temperaments for helping alleviate intonation problems associated with the instrument. LED lights in the fingerboard. These could be used to teach you fancy chords or send subliminal messages to the audience, like “Download my album.” Instruments that can collapse so they can fit into a suitcase for travel. More than six strings. This isn’t really a modern innovation, given that lutes with more than six strings have been around for centuries. Electric guitars with more than six strings have been around since George Van Eps realized his seven-string guitar a few decades ago. In the past decade or so, we have seen a number of sevenstring and eight-string guitars. I’m a bit of a six-string snob. If you really want to check out an amazing instrument with 10 to 12 strings, check out the Chapman Stick. Headless designs, such as Steinberger guitars. These instruments require special strings with loops on both ends. Because of their headless design, they can fit nicely in airplane overhead storage compartments. Use of other materials than wood, such as high-tech composite materials for the neck or other body parts. Locking-nut whammy bar systems. Built-in electronic tuners.

The Line 6 JTV Variax: The Line 6 JTV Variax, shown in Figure 2.13, is a hybrid electric guitar that can switch between traditional magnetic pickups and an array of “models” of iconic electric and acoustic instruments. The instrument was designed by luthier James Tyler. The onboard electronics would probably make NASA jealous. The modeling uses a hexaphonic piezo-electric pickup to capture each string individually. The signals are then processed through an onboard computer that is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. Line 6 offers the modeling circuitry built into a number of different body styles and magnetic pickup

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Live Sound for Guitar configurations. The circuitry also allows the guitar to offer models of detuned and open-tuned guitars. The guitars have standard pickup selector switches to switch between magnetic pickups. The Variax has control knobs to facilitate switching between models and tunings (see Figure 2.14).

Figure 2.13 © 2015 Line 6®.

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Line 6 JTV Variax.

Chapter 2 Electric Guitars

Figure 2.14

Line 6 Variax modeling controls.

© 2015 Line 6®.

Here is a list of models included with the Variax: u 1960 u 1968 u 1968 u 1959 u 1958 u 1952 u 1961 u 1956 u 1976 u 1955 u 1959 u 1956 u 1968 u 1966 u 1961 u 1967 u 1957 u 1953 u 1959 u 1970 u 1967 u 1966 u 1995

Fender Telecaster Custom Fender Telecaster Fender Telecaster Thinline Fender Stratocaster Gibson Les Paul Standard Gibson Les Paul “Goldtop” Gibson Les Paul Custom (3 PU) Gibson Les Paul Junior Gibson Firebird V Gibson Les Paul Special Gretsch 6120 Gretsch Silver Jet Rickenbacker 360 Rickenbacker 360-12 Gibson ES-335 Epiphone Casino Gibson ES-175 Gibson Super 400 Martin D-28 Martin D12-28 Martin O-18 Guild F212 Gibson J-200

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Live Sound for Guitar u 1935 Dobro Alumilite u Danelectro 3021 u Coral/Dano Electric Sitar u Gibson Mastertone Banjo u 1928 National Style 2 “Tricone”

One nice feature of the models on the Variax is that they are virtually hum-free, because they don’t rely on magnetic pickups to transfer information about string behavior to the modeling circuitry. To say this instrument is versatile seems like an understatement. In many ways, it is a gigging musician’s dream guitar.

Electric Guitar Shopping What kind of guitar should you use for your gig? At a minimum, I think most rock and country players will want to own at least one guitar with humbucking pickups and one guitar with single-coil pickups. Whether you bring both instruments to the gig might depend on the song selections. There are humbucking-equipped guitars with coil splits that offer great single-coil sounds. The Variax is another alternative as well. All in all, you should at least have a backup guitar. How much should you spend on a guitar? Most guitar companies offer entry-level instruments that are very playable and functional. Whether you spend $300 or $3,000 depends on your budget. A less expensive instrument can be tweaked by a guitar repairperson to make improvements in setup and playability. You can also upgrade many of the parts on a less expensive instrument, such as tuning keys or pickups. I was never great at math story problems, but I know that there might be a price point where a less expensive guitar plus upgrades comes close to equaling a guitar a notch or two up in quality. It’s worth considering the resale value of the guitar as well. Some guitars tend to hold their value pretty well just by virtue of their brand name. Also, don’t spend a chunk of change on a nice instrument without having a nice case to protect it. That’s a recipe for an unhappy ending. If you’re trying out some guitars at your local music store, make sure to use an electronic tuner to tune them up exactly to pitch. If a guitar is tuned down, say, a half-step, it will seem to play easier with the lower string tension.

Whammy Bars Some people call them whammy bars, some people call them vibrato bars (a fairly accurate description, actually), and I’ve even heard them called flushers. Whatever you call them, whammy bars can be a lot of fun to use. They can also be your nemesis when it comes to tuning up and string bending. Take a guitar with a whammy bar out for a spin, but if you don’t end up using the bar, you should consider having the bar set up by a repairperson so it can’t affect the pitch of the strings. You might also consider using a guitar not equipped with a whammy bar. There are a number of solutions to the pitch problems associated with whammy bars. w

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On a Fender Strat or PRS, you can adjust the number of springs and the spring tension to accommodate your individual style. If it is tightened down, it will be harder to physically push down on the bar, but it might stay in tune better. The more “floating” the bridge is (free to move up and down), the more likely you are to have pitch problems with bending and tuning. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to bend the pitch slightly up as well as down. This can only be accomplished with the bridge floating a little.

Chapter 2 Electric Guitars w w

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A repairperson can block off a Strat vibrato system by inserting a small block of wood in the spring cavity, up against the tailpiece block, thus making the mechanism immobile. On guitars with other vibrato systems, such as a Bigsby, it may be possible to replace the unit with a fixed tailpiece. The big question is whether it’s possible to do this without defacing the guitar. If you like your guitar and it’s not a valuable instrument, then a modification is worth considering. On a Strat, install a Fender Hipshot Tremsetter, which is designed to “increase tuning stability.” Friction, from the string trees on the peghead to the nut and bridge, is the enemy of tuning stability. There are a number of replacement products made of graphite that provide solutions to issues where a string or strings is hanging up. Be sure to change strings one at a time if you use a whammy bar–equipped guitar. If you don’t do this, you may have to take a lot of extra time to settle down the guitar’s tuning. On some instruments, like Gretsch guitars, it’s probably better to just embrace the whammy bar and deal with its funny idiosyncrasies than to try to alter the instrument.

Lifting Weights In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the word on the street was that if you wanted to have a solid-body electric guitar with lots of sustain, you needed a physically heavy instrument. Some manufacturers even made heavier instruments to meet this demand. At one point, one guitar hero even had a guitar made out of cement. At some point around the early ’80s, guitarists noticed that many of the great vintage instruments weren’t so heavy. They also realized that even on a solid-body guitar, the body of the guitar itself could have a beneficial impact on the tone of the guitar, not just the sustain. It seemed like the lighter guitars tended to have a more appealing, resonant tone. That has been the general consensus now for at least two decades. To decrease the weight of guitars, some manufacturers have added hollowed-out chambers inside the bodies. Other builders have even experimented with using synthetic materials other than wood to create lighter instruments. The bottom line is that yes, light instruments can improve tone, but they also are way more comfortable to have strapped around your neck for three or four hours. No one likes feeling as if they have a boat anchor around their neck after playing for a few hours. When you pick out a guitar, seriously take its weight into consideration. Sometimes it takes a few years to really get to know an instrument. You’ll probably go through a number of instruments in your time as a player. I’ve found that a reliable instrument is as important as a beautiful instrument or even an amazing-sounding instrument. At some point, you might say to yourself, “I have a nice guitar; now I need to practice more!” Good luck with your quest.

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Guitar Amp Basics T

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who would argue that a guitar amp is more important to electric guitar tone than the guitar itself. I don’t know that I would go that far, but certainly a great guitar amp is a little underappreciated compared to the more glamorous guitars that the amp flatters so well. HERE ARE GUITAR PLAYERS

Tube Amps It’s hard to deny the influence of Leo Fender and Fender guitar amps on the amplifier world. Sure, there were guitar amps floating around before Fender amps existed, but their designs have served as a reference point for almost every guitar amp to this day. For many, the apex of guitar amps—their desert-island amp—is the Fender Deluxe Reverb. It is fairly lightweight, it is loud enough for many gigs and styles of music, and most importantly, it sounds great with almost any electric guitar.

Figure 3.1 Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb amp. © FMIC.

Developing the Touch One of my favorite old guitar amps is the all-tube Fender Champ “Tweed” model, shown in Figure 3.2. In addition to the sweet tone, the beauty of this amplifier is the simplicity.

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Figure 3.2 Fender Tweed Champ amp. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

It has three vacuum tubes, one speaker, and one knob for volume. Where is the on/off switch? Look more closely at the volume knob (see Figure 3.3). Yes, the whole amp functions from one knob!

Figure 3.3 Fender Tweed Champ control panel. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics A guitar amplifier is really part of the entire electric guitar instrument. But amplifiers don’t seem to get as much respect as guitars. A wise man once said that a nice electric guitar played through a piece-of-junk amp will sound like doo-doo, but a junky guitar played through a nice amp might not sound too bad. Even the most sophisticated modeling amps, amp simulator software, and rack-mount amp simulators are designed and judged by how well they emulate the sounds and behavior of actual tube amps. This is one reason why it’s important to explore the tube amp sound in its essence. Let’s look at some of the basic components of the Fender Tweed Champ. w w w w w

Input jack for accepting cord from guitar. Volume knob that goes to 12. On/off switch. Wait, it’s part of the volume knob! One 12AX7 preamp tube. This is the first tube to amplify the guitar signal. One 6V6GT power tube. This further amplifies the signal, enough to power a speaker.

Figure 3.4 Fender Tweed Champ amp rear view, showing all three tubes. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music. w w w

One output transformer to properly match the output signal from the power tube to the speaker input. One power transformer to convert the incoming wall electricity to voltages usable by the amp’s circuitry. One 5Y3GT rectifier tube to convert the incoming alternating current to direct current. It’s worth noting that most modern tube amps use a solid-state rectifier. w A fuse to protect the amp in case of an internal failure, such as a tube failing. w One guitar amp speaker. Speakers used in guitar amps are special and are quite different from full-range hi-fi speakers. The main difference is that guitar amp speakers have a deliberately limited high-end response. In other words, if you plugged your tube amp into hi-fi or PA speakers, you would be aghast at how bright and harsh your amp sounded. Don’t try doing this unless you’re sure your hi-fi speakers can handle the power from your amp; otherwise, you’ll fry (burn up, destroy) your hi-fi speakers. Guitar amp speakers warm up the sound by cutting out or rounding off most of the high frequencies above about 5 kHz. If you distill the components and operation of the most sophisticated tube amps, you’ll find that in their essence they aren’t too far off from this little guy. Guitar amps can appear in a number of different configurations, but two are by far

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Live Sound for Guitar the most common. The first is the combo amp—a single box containing the electronics portion of the amp as well as the speaker(s). The other common configuration is the head-cabinet amp. With this setup, the speakers are in a separate box from the electronics. Within certain parameters, it’s fine to mix and match amp heads containing the electronics with different speaker cabinets. As long as the speakers are rated to take the power of the amp, and the output impedance of the amp speaker jack matches the impedance of the speaker cabinet, you should be good to go. A simple rule of thumb is that if two speakers are wired in series, the impedance doubles, so two 8-ohm speakers wired in series would be 16 ohms.

Figure 3.5 Circuit diagram illustrating two speakers wired in series. © Ken Silva.

If the speakers are wired in parallel, the impedance is cut in half, so two 8-ohm speakers wired in parallel would be 4 ohms.

Figure 3.6 Circuit diagram illustrating two speakers wired in parallel. © Ken Silva.

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Figure 3.7 Circuit diagram illustrating four speakers wired in a series/parallel combination. © Ken Silva.

Usually speaker cabinets are marked with the proper impedance, so you don’t even have to do the math. The output jacks of amps sometimes have an impedance selector, usually with 4-ohm, 8-ohm, and 16-ohm settings (see Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8 Trillium speaker output impedance selector. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Figure 3.9 Trillium 7-watt guitar head. The Trillium is an amp that can accept a 6V6 output tube or a 6L6 without any adjustment. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Figure 3.10 I’m so lucky to have Kevin Silva as a friend and as an incredible amplifier technician. Kevin comes from a line of tube amplifier designers. His father and grandfather both designed tube audio gear. Among other things, his dad designed the amplifier used in the Sears Silvertone guitar with the amplifier built into the case. © Ken Silva.

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Figure 3.11 Mesa/Boogie Mark series speaker output jack. A single 8-ohm speaker can be plugged into the 8-ohm jack. Two 8-ohm speakers should be plugged into the two 4-ohm jacks (2 × 8 ohms in parallel = 4 ohms). © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

If you’re using a vintage amp that doesn’t have the output impedance clearly marked, then you need to do a little research. The output of almost all vintage Fender amps can be determined as long as you know the model and year the amp was manufactured. However, it is beyond the scope of this book to compare all the varieties of guitar amp speakers. From a gigging musician’s standpoint, there is one other factor to consider besides the tone of the speaker: the weight. I have replaced a few great-sounding speakers because they added too much weight and made the combo or cabinet burdensome to me. Recent advances in technology have enabled a number of companies to produce speakers with neodymium magnets, which dramatically reduce the weight. Over the years there have been a few other amp configurations worth mentioning: w w w w

The Sears Silvertone guitar with a little tube amp built into the guitar case. The 1960s-era Realistic combo tube amp with a built-in fold-down record turntable in the back of the amp. Rack-mount tube amps. Separate rack-mount preamps (containing the smaller preamp tubes and tone and gain control) and power amps (containing power tubes).

One of the beautiful things about tube amps is that 9 times out of 10, if you’re having a problem with the amp, you can fix it by simply replacing a bad tube. It used to be that you could go into almost any appliance store or even drugstore and use their tube tester. That’s because back in the day, not only guitar amps, but also TVs and radios used vacuum tubes. These days, it’s hard to find a tube-testing machine, though most amp techs have one nearby. One simple test for preamp tubes is to turn the volume up pretty loud on the amp and gently tap on the tube with the soft, eraser end of a pencil. If the tube goes ping or Ping or PING!, then it’s microphonic and should be replaced. Microphonic tubes will ring or feedback if there is too much mechanical or sonic vibration.

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Live Sound for Guitar Guitar amps—especially combo amps with built-in speakers—can really shake up the insides of a tube. I always carry at least one spare preamp tube with me whenever I play a gig with a tube amp. I’ve had them fail at gigs. If the amp has multiple preamp tubes, I’ll use the eraser trick (or my fingernail) to track down the culprit. You don’t have to replace a tube with the same brand of tube, but it’s important to replace it with the same type. Tubes have stenciled markings that indicate the type. Your amp likely has a chart affixed to the chassis with a layout of all the tubes (see Figures 3.12 and 3.13).

Figure 3.12 Fender Tweed Champ tube layout chart, none the worse for wear! © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Figure 3.13 Fender Pro Junior tube layout chart. Note the absence of a rectifier tube. Most modern amplifiers use solid-state rectifiers. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics In general, stick to the chart when replacing tubes. I’ll qualify this by saying that there are a few modern specialty amps, such as the Trillium, shown in Figure 3.9, that allow you to swap out a power tube with certain other types of designated power tubes. These amps come with precise instructions about what substitutions are possible. If you’re replacing a set of power tubes (you wouldn’t replace just one power tube in a set), you may have to have the amp biased at a technician’s shop. With preamp tubes there is room for a little experimentation—for instance, a 12AX7 can be replaced by 12AY7 or a 12AU7, both of which have different gain factors. Gain factor is the factor by which the tube amplifies the signal it “sees” at its input stage.

A Safe Way to Replace Tubes In the heyday of tube guitar amps, in the 1950s and 1960s, all radios and televisions sets contained a number of tubes. It was expected that over time, some of these tubes would need replacing. Where did people go for tubes? They could go to the corner drugstore or to a TV repair shop. Many drugstores used to have a tube tester that was simple to operate. In other words, this aspect of tube electronics has always been, for the most part, user serviceable. Unfortunately, tube-tester machines aren’t as easy to find these days, but most tube dealers test tubes before they sell them. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

6.

7. 8. 9. 10.

Turn off the amplifier. Unplug the amplifier. Wait a couple of minutes for the tubes to cool down. Position the amp so you have clear visibility of the tube and tube sockets. Grab the tube and gently rock it side to side while pulling up and out. It should come out without much resistance. Some amps have metal shields around the preamp tubes or tube retainers around the power tubes that you need to gently remove (shields) or move to the side (power tube retainers). Take a look at the tube socket and study the configuration of the pin holes. It should be apparent that there is a larger gap between some of the pin holes. Now look at the base of the replacement tube. It will also have a larger gap between pins. Line up the gaps on the socket and tube and gently insert the tube into the socket until it’s secure. Reattach any shields or retainers. Plug the amp back in. All tubes have heaters—a faint orange glow—in the center of the tube. With power tubes, when they fail or there is an internal problem with the amp, they can glow bright red. Not good. If you experience this after changing tubes, shut the amp off immediately, or else you’ll risk severe damage to your amp. Most of the time this simply indicates another bad tube, but if it happens every time you try a new tube, then you have an internal problem that needs the attention of an amp technician. I know this from firsthand experience, but I have only had it happen with power tubes. The little Tweed gem shown in Figure 3.2 doesn’t kick out much volume, but it works great for recording and practicing. As you turn up the volume knob, you’ll notice a point where the volume doesn’t increase. Once you pass this threshold, the only thing that increases is the amount of sweet distortion.

Since the beginning of electric guitar amplification, distortion has been a companion and an essential ingredient to many great guitar sounds. While amp manufacturers struggled with the problem of how to clean up electric guitar sound, some genius guitarists recognized early on that something special happened when their tube amps were pushed to the point of distorting or breaking up. The distortion gave the guitar a new timbre. This distortion was a byproduct of the fact that for the first 30 years or so, guitar amplifiers used vacuum tubes to amplify the tiny signal being passed from the guitar via the cable. Tubes tend to accentuate the even-order harmonics when they start to distort. Distortion is sometimes called clipping because if you look at a smooth sound wave on an oscilloscope and then apply distortion, it will make the waveform on

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Live Sound for Guitar the oscilloscope look like the tops of the waveforms are chopped off, or clipped. Even in the humble little Champ amp, several factors are at play when creating distortion. w

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The strength of the pickups will have enormous bearing on the entire signal chain. Humbucking pickups will usually drive the front end of an amp much harder and push it into breakup (another word used for distortion) much sooner than a single-coil pickup. A preamp tube will be driven hard by the guitar pickups and the higher setting on the volume knob. The power tube will get slammed by the signal coming from the preamp tube and will amplify any distortion already present in the signal. As the gain is increased, the power tube may also start to clip. Lastly, the speaker itself may distort a bit under the pressure of the amp being pushed closer to the limit. With the amp turned up high, you can control the dirtiness or cleanness of your sound by simply turning your volume knob on your guitar up or down.

Even though tubes comprise a basically archaic, antiquated part of technology, their popularity endures. Tubes (or valves, as they are called in the UK) are thought of as the ideal mechanism for producing the kind of raw guitar sound most of us like. Tubes are also treasured by enthusiasts of über-expensive ultra-hi-fi components for home stereos. Most tubes are manufactured and imported from places like China and Russia. The last tubes manufactured in the U.S.—a batch of 6,550 power tubes—was in July 1993 at the General Electric plant in Owensboro, Kentucky. Before you go out gigging with the amp of your dreams, with 20 knobs and switches on the front and another 15 on the back, I suggest you get comfortable with an electric guitar and the most stripped-down, simple tube amp you can find. The interaction between your guitar and amp requires sensitivity on your part as a musician. There are several new models of small tube amps that would make good platforms for your experiment. Look for the little Fender Champion 600 reissue amp, which has a volume knob and a separate on/off switch. The Fender Pro Junior has a volume and (gasp!) a tone knob. Try this little experiment with your favorite small tube amp: 1. Turn the volume and tone knobs on your guitar all the way up. 2. If the amp has a tone knob, set it about halfway up. 3. Turn up the volume on the amp to 1 or 2 and strum some chords on your guitar. The amp should sound relatively clean. 4. Turn up the amp the next couple of notches. Is the sound getting gritty? When you strum harder, does it get grittier? 5. Turn up the amp two more notches. Is the sound distorted all the time? If it is, see if you can clean up the sound by turning down your guitar volume knob. 6. Experiment with turning the tone knob on the guitar (if you have one) all the way off. 7. Now turn the amp all the way up. You should probably have those earplugs handy. Can you still make the amp sound clean by turning the guitar volume knob down? 8. Tube amps tend to have personalities, almost like musical instruments themselves. If you play several examples of the same model of amplifier, you might notice subtle or dramatic differences between them, even if they’re equipped with the same components. Every tube amp behaves a little differently. Even changing a tube can affect this guitar-amp interaction. Once you learn to accept the organic nature of tube amps, hopefully you’ll learn to embrace these facets of each amp’s personality.

Tube Amp Tips Many tubes amps have stayed in service for decades. How many commercial electronic products can you say that about? This is not to say that you won’t ever have to maintain your tube amp. In this day and age of planned obsolescence, it’s nice to see a piece of technology that, with some loving care, can keep ticking for years. Here are some tips for getting along with your beloved amp. 48

Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics w

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On the back of your amp, there is probably a warning that the internal components of the amp should be examined only by a qualified service person or something to that effect. This is advice you should absolutely adhere to, because there can be potentially deadly voltages stored in the capacitors inside your amp even is the amp is unplugged! These same capacitors, the filter caps in the power supply section, tend to go bad after a number of years and may need to be replaced. This is probably the most common repair performed on older tube amps. Warning: This is not a user repair! This should only be performed by a qualified repair shop! If your amp has two or more power tubes, it may need to be re-biased if you switch to a different brand of power tubes. Some companies, such as Mesa/Boogie, which has fixed bias in their amps, offer pretested tubes with the idea that the measurements on the tubes are consistent, so if you use their tubes as replacements, there is no need to re-bias. In any case, this is also a very common maintenance procedure. Never operate a tube amplifier without having the speaker or other “load” plugged in. This is a recipe for a disaster. “Handle with care” is a good phrase to keep in mind when transporting any electronic gear, but especially tube amps. Amps can be quite resilient, but after a few years of gigging with one, it’s not uncommon to have to replace a switch or potentiometer. Don’t toss gear around unless you’re a lottery winner and can afford new stuff every week. At a minimum, use an amp cover when transporting. Spend the extra dough on a padded cover. An inexpensive way to ensure that your favorite amp has a smooth ride to the gig is pick up a foam mattress topper at your neighborhood retailer. Put the foam wherever your amp rides, in the trunk of a car or the back of a van. It may look cool to put the beverage of your choice on top of your amp, but one little spill of liquid into the guts of your amp could mean an expensive repair. My choice is to put a drink on the floor, around the corner where the amp is located. This reduces my odds of knocking the beverage over. I’m careful to survey the floor and make sure the drink is away from an effects pedals or AC lines. After spilling a can of Coke down a studio mixing console at 3 a.m. (when the studio had a session at 9 a.m.), I’m very aware of beverage location, and you should be, too! I’m so glad that most of us no longer have to put up with secondhand smoke, even in a club environment. The dust and debris from secondhand smoke can gum up the components, resulting in noisy switches and knobs (or, more accurately, the pots [potentiometers] behind the knobs). One of the other byproducts of an accumulation of dust and dirt inside the amp is that the amp’s ability to dissipate heat could be inhibited. Tube amps get hot. Don’t put your amp flush against a wall, where the amp gets no ventilation. As long as there is air circulation, the amp should be fine. When companies such as Mesa/Boogie started putting highpowered amps in combo packages with built-in speakers, they included a built-in fan to keep air circulating. These amps also have metal fins, or heat sinks, on the back of the amps to dissipate heat. As you turn up an amp, you not only turn up the guitar signal, but also any residual noise and hum. Some of this comes with the territory, though with higher gain settings there is sometimes a compounding effect of pickup hum, effects pedal hum (usually due to power-supply issues and/or grounding issues), and the amp itself. If you gig with the same amp often, you may eventually wear out the handle (or handles). It’s a good idea to keep a couple of spares on hand. The handles that attach to the top of an amp usually have a metal insert through the plastic. Sometimes this is all that needs to be replaced.

Here are Kevin Silva’s amplifier tips: All amplifiers and gear: w w w w

Never replace fuse with foil. Always use the correct fuse value. Only use a ground lift as a last resort. When powering up gear, it’s amp on last, amp off first.

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Never use a tube amp without a speaker. Turn the power off when changing tubes. Don’t leave the amp on for extended periods of time.

Amp turns on, but there’s no output: w w w w

Check for milky-white tubes and replace any. If the amp has a rectifier tube, replace it. Check the speaker. Check the guitar cable and speaker cable.

Tone Controls We sometime use the idea of tone to talk about the broader sound or timbre of an amp, such as “That amp sounds really clean” or “That amp sounds really crunchy.” Believe me, the adjectives can get pretty creative when trying to verbalize a sound. Although the tone of an amp really needs to be considered in a holistic way that includes volume settings, size of speaker, speaker cabinet placement, and a host of other factors, we can actually discuss tone in relation to the knobs on the amp that say “tone.” You may have noticed that the cool Fender Tweed Champ amp is lacking a tone knob. One less decision to make! Some amps, such as the Fender Pro Junior, simply have one tone knob (see Figure 3.14).

Figure 3.14 Fender Pro Junior control panel. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics Over the years, there have been many different circuit designs that include tone controls, bass, treble, and sometimes middle. These controls may boost or cut the designated frequencies. There is always some interaction or overlap between the range of frequencies covered by the tone controls.

Figure 3.15 Mesa/Boogie Mark series tone controls. Note that four out of the five knobs in the picture can be pulled for variations in tone or gain. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

On a number of classic tube amps, the tone controls cut or filter the frequencies, so a good place to start, especially if you’re dialing in a clean sound, is to turn the tone controls all the way up and then reduce them to taste. It’s also worth experimenting with turning all the tone controls completely to the off position and then turning them up one at a time to listen for the frequency range they cover. Be aware that when the tone controls are set higher, there is more gain running through the preamp. On many modern amps, the tone knobs are push/pull. This enables you to pull them out for a bright boost or bass boost. You should also be aware that if you wear earplugs, as you should in a high-volume situation, then your perception of tone will change. You especially won’t hear the high end or treble as acutely. Resist the temptation to boost the treble even more. It takes practice to get used to playing with earplugs. You can practice by playing for a minute without them and them putting them in. Even though people think of plugs as protecting your ears in the long run, playing loud can affect the way your ears attenuate frequencies in the short run. Even over the course of a gig, your ears will play some funny tricks on your hearing perception.

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Graphic EQ Some amps also have a graphic equalizer (EQ) capable of boosting or cutting a broader spectrum of frequencies than just treble, middle, and bass (see Figure 3.16). The number of frequencies (or bands) on a graphic EQ can vary from as low as 3 to 20 or more. Sometimes this graphic EQ is foot switchable. It can even be assigned to a specific channel if the amp has more than one channel.

Figure 3.16 Mesa/Boogie graphic equalizer. It can be controlled by the switch to the right of the sliders or turned on or off with a footswitch. If the switch on the right is in the middle position, then the graphic is assigned to the lead channel only. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Interactive is the main word to keep in mind when setting the controls on an amp. This interaction is the combination of electronics and psychoacoustics. (See the “Fletcher and Munson” sidebar later in this chapter.)

Parametric EQ Another kind of tone control that is common in studio and live mixing consoles but extremely rare in guitar amps is a parametric equalizer. I’ve only seen one tube amp with a built-in parametric. Parametric EQs allow you to control, boost, or cut a specific frequency and to control the bandwidth of the frequency.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics On a graphic EQ or even on the treble, middle, and bass controls on an amp, the frequency bandwidth is fixed. Each control has domain over one preset swath of the frequency band. Amp tone control frequencies overlap, but the bandwidths aren’t variable. Bandwidth is called or labeled Q. Parametric EQ allows you to change the size of the swath from a very narrow, specific frequency to a much broader area of the frequency neighborhood. In a live sound application, parametric EQs can be handy for dealing with troublesome microphone feedback issues because offending frequencies can be cut. It’s not unusual to see a soundman walk out into the middle of a venue and control the PA from an iPad, including all the EQ. Welcome to the future!

The Volume Conundrum and Master Volume Controls The first really high-powered guitar amp was the Tweed Fender Twin, introduced in 1958. Throughout the ’60s, manufacturers kept introducing louder and more powerful amps. While jazz and country players embraced these amps’ ability to produce clean sounds at high volumes, the word on the street for rockers was that you still had to crank up an amp to get “the tone.” Pretty soon, you had bands playing with 100-watt amps cranked all the way up. I’ll admit that these amps sounded great, but I’d rather enjoy them on recordings than in person. Having amps cranked up to the volume of jet engines on stage took its toll on the bands. What ended up happening is a vicious cycle. The singers couldn’t hear themselves on stage, so bands started using guitar amps as onstage vocal monitors. Soon, vocal monitor systems were developed to integrate with the PA system. This constant upward spiral in stage volume is a dilemma that bands still struggle with. Throughout this book, you’ll look at strategies for keeping your guitar sounding great while not overpowering your bandmates, the venue, or the soundman. Probably the most successful early attempt at creating distortion without having to turn an amp up full blast was the creation of the Fuzz Tone pedal. We’ll also explore pedals in later sections of the book.

Preamp Distortion To solve the problem of dialing in distortion without turning the amp up to a ridiculous volume, amp designers added a master volume control. This allows the player to turn the preamp channel volume up to any point but keep the overall level controllable. Typically, the tone controls are located before the master volume in the circuit. This means that there is a lot of interaction between the amount of distortion and the tone controls. There are so many gradations of clean to dirty tone possible when using a master volume.

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Figure 3.17 Mesa/Boogie master volume control. Note the lead channel Drive and Master to the right. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

The overdrive, or saturation, that occurs when you crank the preamp will increase your sustain. Experiment with turning the preamp volume up high but the master volume down. Now do the opposite: Put the master volume high but turn down the preamp. When you turn up the preamp volume high, you’ll notice that higher settings on the bass tone control make the sound muddy. Try turning it all the way off and see whether you like the tone better. Try splitting the difference with an in-between setting. To allow for more control of the balance between clean tone and overdriven tone, amp manufacturers started building amps with switchable channels.

Figure 3.18 Fender Super-Sonic 22. Note separate channels with separate tone controls. © FMIC.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics In most cases, the channels still have a certain amount of interaction, such as shared tone controls or shared preamp gain. There are many variations from model to model. Your tone is ultimately up to you, and you may find some great tonal voice that defies convention, so feel free to experiment. Keep in mind that you should listen to your sound in the overall context of the music. The greatest guitar sound might have a little too much pizazz in the big picture. It’s good to keep an open mind and listen to the people you are playing with if they have suggestions. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to work with a great sound engineer or producer, and he will have some insight into how your sound is working.

Power Tube Distortion For many guitar players, the most satisfying cranked-up guitar tone simply comes from turning a non–master volume amp all the way up or close to all the way up. What makes this sound more appealing to some is that the entire amp is working hard, including the power tubes. There is a special robustness and compression to the sound of power tubes being pushed hard that can be very inspiring to the player. In the late ’70s, an amp builder named Jim Kelley built an amp specifically to take advantage of power tube distortion—according to his brochure, the “most pleasing and desirable kind of harmonic distortion” (see Figure 3.19).

Figure 3.19 Jim Kelley FACS amplifier with switchable power attenuator. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Kelley’s amp utilized a specially designed power attenuator, a device connected between the guitar amplifier’s output and the speaker that reduced the amount of power going to the speaker by gradations. The Kelley amplifier can also run at half power (see Figure 3.20).

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Figure 3.20 Full-power/half-power (60/30 watts) switch on a Jim Kelley FACS amp. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Kelley’s FACS amps featured two channels, with one running through the attenuator. As Kelley says in the owner’s manual, the attenuator can be thought of as the “ultimate master volume.” After years of being out of the amplifier business, Jim is back in business in partnership with John Suhr. Another super-cool amp that is designed to showcase and control power tube overdrive is built by Guytron (see Figure 3.21). A Guytron utilizes a standard preamp and power-amp section but also uses a set of EL84 power tubes in the preamp section of the amp.

Figure 3.21 Guytron GT-100 F/V. © Guytron Amplification.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics The signal is tapped off the EL84 output transformer and then sent through another preamp (the big knobs in Figure 3.21) and then to four EL34 output tubes. This allows the guitarist to control the overdrive and compression characteristics of the EL84 tubes and then control the output volume with the master volume. The diagram from the patent application (see Figure 3.22) for the Guytron aptly labels the internal amp that utilizes the EL84s as the Captive Output Stage.

Figure 3.22 Basic circuit-layout diagram from Guytron patent application. © Guytron Amplification.

It is worth noting that there is a correlation between our perception of various frequencies in the tonal spectrum and loudness. In other words, if you crank up or turn down, you’ll perceive the high and lows, in particular, differently. The most famous study of this was by Fletcher-Munson in 1933.

Fletcher-Munson, by Graydon Stuckey of Guytron Amplifiers: Fletcher-Munson deals only with apparent loudness, and one particular curve from Fletcher-Munson’s data was referenced in the development of the A-weighting scale we use to describe sounds as they would be perceived by a human ear. When you show a graph of a noise without any weighting at all, it gives the appearance that the bass is too high. So, we apply the A-weight scale to make the graph look approximately like what we think we hear. Modern experimentation to develop the various weighting scales has shown that although Fletcher-Munson were on the right track and actually pretty close, they weren’t precisely accurate. Also, the scales that should be applied depend on the volume level of the subject, and most noise analysis is conducted at very quiet levels. The typical environment of a guitar amplifier is anything but quiet. Based on Fletcher-Munson and even modern A-weighting scales, if we were to operate a guitar amp at very low levels, we might be inclined to crank the bass, but it isn’t that simple. Because the levels for live sound are much higher than typical noise analysis, we would be working in a much different range. In fact, engineers that work on high-level aircraft noise use the D-scale. This is probably the scale that we should consult for guitar amps. Also, the typical bass control on an amp may or may not even work within the region that we want to adjust according to the A-scale (or D-scale). And furthermore, we really should be changing all of the frequencies based on the D-scale, not just the bass. That can be done with analog electronics, but it is much easier with digital electronics.

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Live Sound for Guitar Okay, that was all background. The real factor for a guitar amp is much more than just frequency-based level adjustment. We want the tone to sound good as the level is reduced. That is much more difficult and much more misunderstood. The best way to understand this is to put a loud guitar amp (like we want it to sound) in a soundproof studio. Then, put a couple of good microphones on it and feed those to a world-class mixing board in another room. Then, listen to this on a set of very high-end studio monitors at any low or high level you want. This is the tone we’re trying to achieve in a modern guitar amplifier. We can’t play at those ultra-high levels any longer due to most clubs turning levels down, and we have good PA systems so we don’t have to play at those ultra-high volume levels anyway. But we want that tone. I could write a treatise on modern attenuators, but there are lots of engineers in this industry who could do a better job at it. Here is what I would add: All of those attenuators will reduce the volume level of a cranked guitar amplifier fairly effectively, but they don’t all sound great when doing so. At Guytron, we decided to take the studio approach as described above. We run a 20W amplifier wide open, then tap off a signal from that amp (similar to a microphone) and feed it to a 100-watt PA system, which in our case is a four-EL34 power tube setup similar to a classic Marshall. This is all onboard the GT-100 head and works silently so that all you hear is wonderful, glorious loud (or soft) guitar tone played back at any volume level you want, from a whisper to a roar.

Using Amps at the Gig If you have the luxury of doing a sound check before your gig, here are some things to keep in mind and keep in your back pocket with regard to hearing your amp and making sure it is being heard the way you want the audience to hear it: w

w w w

w w

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If you’re positioning your amp on the floor with the speakers pointed at your knees, then you need to stand far away from it to get a clue of how the amp is really sounding. Your perception of treble response in particular will be skewed if your ears are way above the amp. Treble is very directional, but bass response is less so. Are you working with a soundman? If so, you may have to make a compromise between how much volume you’re “throwing” off the stage and your ability to hear yourself. PA systems have come a long way in the last 25 years. There is a good chance that you’ll be heard even better by the audience if you turn down and let the soundman blend you into the mix. There may be gigs where you have to play at a lower volume but still hear yourself. The best solution is to elevate your amp by putting it on a road case or a chair. You might experiment with leaning the amp back or putting the amp on your side (instead of behind you). In a gig situation with limited PA monitor options, your fellow musicians will (hopefully) want to hear you, so angling your amp a little toward them may be a desirable way to help the ensemble play more cohesively. Notice how sometimes your amp is your tone-production engine, but also your guitar monitor. If you do get your sound dialed in to your liking, but you still can’t hear it to your satisfaction, you may be able to request more guitar in the PA monitor system. Monitor systems have changed a lot in the last decade. It used to be that there were only one or two monitor mixes available. Nowadays, with the advent of self-powered monitor speakers, it is possible to have many individual mixes on stage. The limiting factor is the amount of time required to get everything “tweaked in.” If you’re in a group that travels with their own sound technicians, then you should be able to get things sorted out from gig to gig. There may be only one sound person to run

Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics FOH (front of house) and monitor—or, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a separate monitor engineer in addition to the FOH person. w Every room/venue sounds different. It helps to have a ballpark idea of what your amp should sound like. Before you buy a new amp every week, you should get used to your amp in a variety of settings, including recording it. w It’s really good to be able stand out in front of the PA system and hear yourself, away from your amp and possibly in context with the whole band. One way to accomplish this is to play your guitar through a wireless system, thus giving you complete mobility for scoping out your sound anywhere in the room (see Figure 3.23). Another idea is to use a looping pedal and record a snippet of yourself playing; then hit play and wander around the room to listen.

Figure 3.23 Line 6 G30 wireless transmitter and receiver. © 2015 Line 6®. w

Don’t be afraid to ask people in the venue for their opinion about overall sound and volume. You can take these opinions with a grain of salt, but they may be helpful for knowing something about not only your sound, but also who you are playing for. w The difference between sound-checking in an empty room and playing to a packed audience can be dramatic. In a full house, the bodies will soak up a fair amount of the sound. Sometimes crowd noise can be louder than a band! I don’t encourage a volume war, but a tone tweak may be in order.

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Live Sound for Guitar

One Guitar, Two Guitars, Three Guitars, Four… My thought here is not about your own personal armada of guitars on stage, but whether you are performing with another guitar player, or three or four. I’ve never been in a band with four guitars, but I was in a band for several years with three electric guitars and an electric bass. A musical approach to this type of situation is for each guitarist to create a unique sonic stamp in the overall group sound. This is a good rule of thumb in the recording studio as well. If you’re playing a Fender Strat through a Fender Twin Reverb amp, and the other guitar player in your band is using the exact same type of gear, you might be creating one-dimensional, monochromatic sonic sameness. Now, you might say to yourself, “There are many different kinds of amps and guitars. How could that possibly happen?” It could happen in the same way as when you show up to the party and someone is wearing the exact same Nehru jacket as you. Most guitar players stand accused of following fads at one time or another in their musical journey. That’s okay, but when it comes to a gaggle or herd of guitar players, it’s important to keep your musical antenna up to make sure you aren’t all using the same color paint on your paintbrushes. To achieve contrast, you might use single-coil pickups if the other guitarist is using humbuckers. One guitar player could play with a clean sound, and the other player dirty. One player could use effects, and the other could play with none. These contrasts could happen during a song, from song to song, or over the course of an entire performance. Using an acoustic guitar in combination with an electric has been one of the most successful contrast combinations through the years. Amplifiers and speakers can be combined in ways to make each musician stand out more clearly. Then again, rules are made to be broken, and you might find that having all the guitarists on stage playing electric bass, like Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom,” is the big breakthrough. Be a scholar of your favorite recordings and make note of when and why certain multiple guitars work to your liking. In this day and age of music downloads, it is much more difficult to even find out who the musicians are on a particular recording, so you’ll have to do some extra research. Just like the modern renaissance in guitar building, we are living in a renaissance of modern tube-amp building. There are a number of affordable and great-sounding options out there, from very small to big enough to fill a concert hall.

Figure 3.24 Z.Vex Nano Head (0.1 watt clean). © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics

Figure 3.25 Guytron stack. © Guytron Amplification.

Solid-State Amps The search for alternatives to using vacuum-tube technology in guitar amps began at least 45 years ago. There is certainly a correlation between the increasing popularity of solid-state electronics utilizing transistors in most consumer electronic devices and the fact that the use of tube technology reached a zenith in the mid 1960s. Tubes devices were considered by some to have a few shortcomings. One of the biggest concerns was the amount of heat generated by the tubes. Can you imagine how much heat was emitted by the first Univac computers, with their 5,200 vacuum tubes? Solid-state electronics, equipped with transistors and ICs (integrated circuits), greatly reduced the amount of heat and the size of electronic devices, as well as the cost. The advent of the solid-state transistor provided an alternative to vacuum-tube technology. As it turned out, most guitar players preferred the sound of real tubes, and rock guitarists especially liked the way tubes behaved when pushed hard. Amp designers were intrigued by the possibility of amps that were more reliable and consistent. The earliest attempts at solid-state guitar amps mostly didn’t catch on with the guitar-buying public, though the second generation of solid-state guitar amps—led by an upstart company from Meridian, Mississippi, named Peavey—did gain traction. In the mid-’70s, a company called Polytone came out with small high-powered solid-state amps that gained huge popularity

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Live Sound for Guitar with straight-ahead jazz players, such as George Benson. Gibson produced the Lab Series amps, favored by B.B. King. Baldwin produced a solid-state amp with multicolored switches on the faceplate. Probably the last guy to use the Baldwin amp is Willie Nelson, who still loves them. In the 1980s, there were even some solid-state amps produced that would nowadays be considered high-end boutique amps, such as the Pearce amp. The great amp pioneer Leo Fender sold his Fender Electronic Instrument Manufacturing Company to CBS in 1965. When he sold the company, he agreed not to get back in the business or compete with the Fender company for 10 years. In the mid-1970s he lent his expertise to a company called Music Man, which began producing hybrid tube/solid-state amps. These amps had solid-state preamps and tube power amps. Music Man, with the help of some high-profile endorsers—most notably Eric Clapton—was a dominant player on the amp market for about 10 years. Solid-state amps have had a steady presence on the amp scene, with even tube-amp stalwarts like Marshall and Fender producing lines of solid-state amps. Aside from any advantages that a solid-state amp might have, particularly in weight and in not running so hot, there is one factor that is almost taboo to discuss: What if tubes are no longer manufactured? There, I said it. Granted, people still buy WWII surplus NOS (New Old Stock) tubes. Even tube gurus themselves have noted publicly that tubes simply are not the same quality as they used to be. They commonly quote that they are “lucky to get 4 out of 10 tubes that work well enough for them to use in [their] products.”1 I mention this because even folks who think they’re buying NOS WWII tubes are often actually getting these “leftovers.” In terms of manufacturing new audio tubes, there are only a handful of factories in the world producing them anymore. There is always the thought that tubes may become scarce. I would personally shed a tear if tubes were no longer manufactured. However, this is why I’m glad that some brave, forward-thinking amp builders have pushed the envelope to try to incorporate classic guitar tones with the advantages of solid-state amps.

Figure 3.26 Quilter Aviator Open Twelve. © Quilter Laboratories. 1

Quoted from the LA Custom Guitar Amp and Pedal Show Tone Guru panel, 2013.

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Chapter 3 Guitar Amp Basics One company that is currently making waves on the analog solid-state guitar-amp scene is Quilter. Amp designer Pat Quilter was part of the team that designed and manufactured the highly regarded QSC audio amplifiers for sound reinforcement applications. Quilter guitar amplifiers take advantage of Class-D solid-state power, which is capable of producing high-output wattage to the speakers, but in an ultra-light package. Here are some appealing features of these amps: w w w w w

w

Big power in a lightweight package. The Quilter ToneBlock 200 puts out 200 watts of power but only weighs 4 pounds! Ultra-reliable. No fragile components to shake loose or sustain damage. They operate on a universal voltage supply, which allows them to work even at lower voltages and with dirty AC voltage. Flexibility. They can take almost any impedance without modifications and can even run without a load. Consistency. They work the same at every gig, everywhere on earth. They have active tone controls with stable repeatable settings. Astonishing tone. Pat Quilter’s nearly 40 years of experimentation and thorough knowledge of both tube and solid-state technology has uniquely qualified him to crack the solid-state code. Professional artists find that it is more than just an emulation and that the designs mimic the actual behaviors of tube amplifiers. Professional feature sets. Studio-quality effects loops; direct out to interface with PA systems; switchable voicings, such as Mini, Tweed, Clean, and Full Q; and an extension speaker jack that auto-adapts to various loads.

Figure 3.27 Quilter MicroPro 200-8. © Quilter Laboratories.

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Guitar Amp Basics: Hybrid and Modeling Amps

4

T’S EASY TO LOOK AT THE PACE OF DEVELOPMENT in the computer and communications industries and see that giant leaps in technology will continue to grow unabated. These rapid changes have had a trickle-down impact on the music industry as well, from the use of computer-aided design (CAD) in the manufacturing of guitars to implementations in various studio and live audio applications. This chapter on hybrid and modeling amps is not only an examination of the potential utility of these amps, but also a reflection on the dynamics of an ever-changing music industry.

I

A Whole New World: Innovations in Technology In the 1990’s, the audio recording world went through dramatic changes. Digital audio, which had previously been cost prohibitive for many studios, became a much more affordable platform as computers increased in processing power and memory. Magnetic tape-based recorders were sent out to pasture. Coinciding with the recording software were software-based signal-processing plug-ins. Instead of using rackmount outboard equalization or time-based effects (delay and reverb, for instance), an engineer could call up effects within his DAW (digital audio workstation). In this wave of technological change and innovation, developers and engineers started experimenting with guitar amp modeling. The promise of amp modeling was to be able to digitally emulate real amplifiers. One digital modeling amp can replicate the sound of dozens of actual guitar amps. Essentially, this is made possible by a marriage of guitar amps and microprocessors. If that weren’t enough, many of these modeling amps also are equipped with an array of built-in effects. Instead of simply having clean and dirty channels, modeling amps have multiple channels or patches, each with its own preset amp models, volume settings, and effects. Want to have a different sound on every single song in your set or show? This is a piece of cake for a modeling amp.

Playing in a Musical Pit: I’ve used modeling amps in a number of live and studio situations, including as part of the pit band for musicals. For instance, some of the traveling Broadway shows pick up different guitarists in every city, but they strive for a focused consistency of sound from show to show. The shows often travel with their own modeling amp and pedalboard. Modeling amps enable different guitarists to have the exact same sounds from city to city. Sure, each player has a different touch on her instrument, but the modeling amp goes a long was toward ensuring that the show’s production values remain steady. For those of you who feel this is robbing the guitarist of his identity, consider this: The keyboard players in most of these shows have patch-change numbers (program numbers for preset sounds) written all over their parts. What is being asked of the guitarist is identical. The pedalboards have not only buttons for patch changes, but also a volume pedal that can be assigned to function as a wah wah pedal, depending on the patch of the moment. Just for fun, let’s look at the multitasking required to perform one of these musical pit gigs.

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Live Sound for Guitar u The

guitarist may be required to double (play multiple instruments) on electric guitar, steel-string acoustic, nylon-string acoustic, banjo, mandolin, 12-string guitar, and even percussion. The game changer for doubling is the modeling guitar, such as the Line 6 Variax. The guitarist can change from one instrument model to the next on the Variax via knobs and switches on the instrument itself, but he can switch hands-free and faster via the Line 6 HD500 pedalboard. This control aspect of the HD500 is just scratching the surface of its capabilities. Now a player can switch from, say, a solid-body electric, to a 12-string acoustic, to a banjo, to a sitar, all at the touch of a footswitch. u The guitarist is expected to be able to read music, though he or she will probably get to look at the advance book a week or two before the show starts. u Like all the other pit musicians, the guitarist must be able to follow the conductor. u The guitarist may have to follow a click track on some tunes. A click track is useful for coordinating the sound, lights, and choreography. This may require the whole pit band to be on headset. In this case, the guitarist probably will hear only the amp or guitar direct-only sound through the headset. “Direct only” means that all electric guitar sound is coming only through the sound reinforcement system and that there is no audible electric guitar sound emanating from the stage or pit. Having a silent speaker mode for direct-only applications is a common feature of modeling amps. I have seen this feature on a few tube amps. but it’s rare. u The guitar part—or guitar book, as it’s called—may have preset patch changes written into the part for use with the traveling modeling amp. Now, in addition to rehearsing with his fingers, the guitarist has to be able to quickly manipulate the pedalboard as well. u The guitarist might not be in a pit. Some shows required the musicians to be on stage with the actors. Time for a visit to the dry cleaners?

Jingle Jangle: The process of recording music for a TV or radio jingle involves several layers of creative decision-makers. First, there is Mom and Pop’s Neighborhood Shop (or maybe a big corporation) that needs a jingle. They will usually hire an advertising agency to come up with a slogan or some creative direction. The ad agency will contact a jingle company and give them input about the style of music required, who the target audience is, and even lyrics. The jingle company will write and produce a demo, or sometimes multiple demos, to see whether they can complete the creative vision and win the job. Ad agencies will sometimes do a ”cattle call,” where they have several jingle companies produce demos. In many cases the demo is only 30 seconds long, and if it goes to final, which means the client has bought the jingle, then chances are that a 60-second spot will also have to be produced. Chances are good that if the spot sells, then the jingle company producing the music will want to replicate the sounds from the demo to be used on the final. A modeling amp is ideal for this task because it is capable of storing sounds. Not only can you save the basic modeled amp tone, but you can also store any modified tone, gain, and effects settings. During the demo session, I have seen the amp sound stored in the modeling amp and a note made in the DAW session file with the amp preset bank and number. While not an example of live guitar sound, I think this is a good example of the utility of a modeling amp.

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Figure 4.1 Line 6 Spider IV 75 modeling guitar amplifier. © 2015 Line 6®.

Modeling Amps on Stage The ability to recall presets opens the door to immense possibilities on stage, especially in situations where you’re required to cover a lot of different styles and use different sounds. The Line 6 Spider IV 75 is a very popular 75-watt solid-state amplifier. The modeling features of the amp are accomplished by a built-in advanced digital microprocessor. Let’s take a look at the 16 amp models utilized by the Line 6 Spider IV 75 modeling amp. w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w

Clear Red, based on the clean channel of the Marshall JCM 900 Clear Green, based on the clean tone of a 1973 Hiwatt custom 100 Twang Red, based on the Fender blackface ’65 Twin Reverb Twang Green, based on the Fender blackface Deluxe Reverb Class A Red, based on the Vox AC-30 Class A Green, based on the Divided By 13 9/15 model Blues Red, inspired by a ’53 Fender wide-panel Deluxe Blues Green, based on the Gretsch 6156 Crunch Red, inspired by the ’68 Marshall Plexi 50 Crunch Green, inspired by the Orange AD-30TC Hi Gain Red, based on the ’68 Marshall Plexi 100 Hi Gain Green, inspired by the Diezel Herbert Metal Red, based on a modified Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Metal Green, proprietary high-gain model with wildly variable midrange control Insane Red, inspired by a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Insane Green, another proprietary high-gain model 67

Live Sound for Guitar Although we’ll be exploring pedal effects, pedalboards, and multi-effects units later in the book, let’s look at a sampling of the onboard effects in the Spider IV 75.

Figure 4.2 View of Line 6 Spider IV control panel. © 2015 Line 6®.

Chorus, phaser, and tremolo effects: w w w w w w

Sine Chorus L6 Flanger Phaser U-Vibe Opto Trem Bias Trem

Delay effects: w w w w w w

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Digital Dly Analog w/Mod Tape-Echo Multi-Head Sweep Echo Reverse

Chapter 4 Guitar Amp Basics: Hybrid and Modeling Amps These amps also contain reverb effects, harmonizer effects (adds or harmonizes whatever note you play when you’re playing single-note lines), a noise gate, a looper (a recorder with sound-on-sound), and a built-in tuner. It’s worth pointing out many of these effects are essentially carefully crafted models of actual effects. In other words, the Tape-Echo effect doesn’t in fact switch on a little magnetic tape-echo device inside the amp; rather, it emulates one. However, you could possibly take an empty tissue box, paint it, label it Tape-Echo, position it on top of the amp, and probably fool some people. Be sure to add a blinking light to it! Note that with the Spider Infusion 2.0 firmware update, 50 additional effects are added to the amp. The Spider IV has 64 user memory locations for storing your tonal concoctions. To fully take advantage of the power of this amp in a live setting, you should seriously consider using one of the pedalboard/controllers made by Line 6.

Figure 4.3 Line 6 FBV Shortboard pedalboard controller, a useful tool for taking full advantage of the Line 6 amps. © 2015 Line 6®.

With the pedalboard, you have an expression pedal that can be assigned to be a volume pedal or wah pedal. You also have a tap button so you can tap the tempo to line up the repeats of your delay to match the music. This button can also function as the record button in looper mode. The pedalboard gives you the ability to switch effects off and on, depending on the amp’s preset (also sometimes called program or patch) of the moment. It also gives you the ability to change amp presets. It takes a moment to get used to the fact that almost all of the buttons and even the expression pedal are multifunction and dependent on the preset. The amount of user control is staggering. Speaking of control, here is another thought to consider about using an amp like this live. These amps are capable of receiving MIDI information via an RJ45 connection. The MIDI information includes program-change information from a computer. Taken to an extreme, let’s say the entire band is on a click, controlled by a computer sequencer (which controls digital events); all the keyboard patch changes are programmed into the computer, and all of the guitarist’s programs, amps, and pedalboard functions are also controlled by the computer. That is quite possible in this day and age. You can also control and coordinate sound and lights if you desire. The amount of planning required to set this up and its usefulness depend on the situation and would seem to be desired more by a live-show producer creating a show-business product. Although it could simplify certain aspects of changing programs and using pedal functions, this global control could make some players uncomfortable about not

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Live Sound for Guitar being in charge of their gear at every moment. I appreciate this sentiment, though I’ll say that there are a number of live situations where, try as you may, you don’t have much control over things. So if you’re interested in a gig that is musically and financially rewarding but requires your sounds to be controlled externally, you might have to let go a little bit. Any musical production requiring that much coordination of sound and lighting may also require you to make a couple of costume changes.

Strategies for Making a Modeling Amp Create Your Sound: If you’re using a modeling amp on your own gig, and you have the freedom to choose sounds, then I’d like to suggest some ways to tailor your sound. This editing should be done before you hit the stage. Remember that the way the amp sounds in your living room will be different from how it sounds with your band. Don’t be married to the preset sounds that come with the amp. The presets are suggestions, starting places. Good golly, the Spider IV has hundreds of suggestions built in! A good idea is to create a simple template patch for yourself that has only an amp model with no effects. From this, you can build patches and add effects to suit you own needs. I have a general observation about almost all multi-effects units, including amps with built-in effects: The presets tend to sound incredible with just you and your guitar, but they are usually a little wet in the context of other musicians. Wet can mean “lots of effect,” but for our purposes, wet means too much reverb and/or delay. Players and engineers often talk about wet, with lots of effect, or dry, with no effect. Obviously, there are many gradations between wet and dry. As you start to save your own sounds, have your ears tuned into the mix between wet and dry ambient (reverb and delay) effects. One trick I’ve learned in the recording studio is that there are times when the overall sound of a group is enhanced when the soundman (or recording engineer) has control over the ambiance, especially reverb. In the recording studio, if you record with a lot of reverb through your amp, you used to be more or less stuck with that amount of reverb on the recording. Digital recording and modeling software have even changed this conception. It’s possible to split your guitar signal, with one side going to your amp and the other, completely dry, going into your DAW of choice. If you aren’t happy with the amp sound on the recording, you can always go back to the dry guitar sound and run it through modeling software and effects. I’ll get on my little soapbox here and say that in the studio environment, great performances and initial sounds always trump having a million options later. It doesn’t hurt to know the tricks. In any case, a little reverb on stage goes a long way (especially if another guitarist is using it as well). A not-so-subtle theme that runs through this book is that many live music situations virtually require the stage volume to be under control. There are a number of reasons for this. w

The person running the sound reinforcement can do a more artful job of mixing the stage sound if there isn’t a complete wash of sound on stage. w Sound reinforcement has become more powerful not just in sheer wattage, but also in utilization of smart technology to analyze and control potential acoustical anomalies in the venue.

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Chapter 4 Guitar Amp Basics: Hybrid and Modeling Amps w

Volume wars on stage make it extremely difficult for the singers to hear themselves. Singers can use in-ear monitors to overcome the stage volume rather than use loud floor monitors or loud side-fill monitors. If all the band members resort to using in-ear monitors, which are a combination of high-quality earphone and earplug, then the whole environment becomes more like a recording studio in that the mix of the in-ears is usually highly customizable. At this point the necessity for a wall of stage volume comes into question. w In praise and worship situations, volume can ruin the mood. This varies from house of worship to house of worship. I’ve played in urban churches with two Leslie organ speakers cranked up, with a full band and choir. I’ve heard that there are churches that have a live, loud, basically rock P&W band on stage. I’ve played in many churches, and the majority of them like the band to accompany but not overpower the singers on stage or in the hall. w Patrons in bars/restaurants may like to hear conversations. The servers in these establishments like to be able to hear their customers’ orders. So, there are times when the overall volume might be loud coming from the sound system, but actual stage volume is kept under control. Or, there may be times when both the stage volume and the overall volume need to be reined it. I know I sound like I’m handing a child a bike and saying, “Always ride with the brakes on, and never ride down hills fast!” But it’s still possible to feel like you’re playing loud without offending the audience or the sound person. Modeling amps afford players a few ways to do this. One way is that many of the models are of cranked, turned-up-loud amps, so even if the amp’s speakers aren’t putting out maximum decibels on stage, the character of tone is loud! Another way is that some of the amps, such as the Spider IV 75, have a direct output that can be interfaced directly into a sound system. When this output jack is used, the amp’s speakers are automatically muted (silenced), and the stage volume problem is solved. This requires the direct amp sound to come through floor monitors or, most likely, in-ear monitors. This output is also extremely handy for standing in the control room of a recording studio and being able to hear the guitar amp sound through the studio monitors. The advantage is that you’re near the amp’s controls, but you can hear exactly what it will sound like in the recording. In a live situation, the sound engineer will more than likely use a direct box to interface your guitar amp to the sound system. Direct boxes accept a 1/4-inch guitar cable input but have an XLR output to feed an XLR microphone cable. A direct box usually has a pad switch that lets you reduce the signal going to the XLR jack. A DI box (a term used for direct box that means direct injecton) also has a ground lift switch. If plugging your amp into the sound system causes 60-cycle hum, flipping the ground switch usually solves the problem. In a recording studio, the amp output may be able to go right into the DAW’s soundcard. There are always DI boxes around in studios just in case. Being able to run a direct feed from your amp is simply a tool. Some guitar players feel that part of their sound is that the amp speakers are “moving air.” I get it, but I also get that it’s important to serve whatever situation you’re in and be prepared for a curveball.

Editing the Line 6 Spider IV (Models 75, 120, 150, and HD150) via Computer: By connecting the Spider IV with a computer (via FBV Mark II foot controller), you can take even greater advantage of this amp’s vast potential. The first step to do so is to download and install the Line 6 Edit application for Spider IV amplifiers. This software is available for Mac OS X or Windows. The connection from the amp to the FBV requires an RJ45 cable, and the connection to the computer is with a USB cable. When the FBV is connected to a computer, the FBV goes into USB mode. As long as this connection is established, the FBV’s functionality is disabled while the amp is basically in an edit mode state. The greatest feature of the Edit application is being able to use a GUI (graphical user interface) to see the entire signal flow within any preset. You can control any amp models as well as effects from the GUI.

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Figure 4.4

Screenshot of the Line 6 Edit application.

© 2015 Line 6®.

Any change of setting you make on the amp itself is reflected in the GUI, and any tweak you make in the GUI is reflected in the sound of the current amp preset. The Edit application allows you to store infinite presets and move them to one of the amp’s 64 user locations. The app also allows you to download more artist presets for previewing. The Signal Flow panel allows you see whether an effect is enabled or disabled. In the Edit panel, you can reorder the effects to be located either before the amp (model) or after the amp (model). Who needs patch cords? The Edit panel gives you a quick view of all the parameters in all the effects being used. The Edit software could be classified as an editor/librarian application. While it may seem a stretch for a mere guitar player to be using a laptop at a gig, it’s quite feasible, as laptops have gotten smaller and more powerful. Our keyboard-player friends have been using laptops for a few years instead of hauling around multiple keyboards. One MIDI controller keyboard and a laptop make for a powerful setup. So even if you don’t want to carry a laptop to your gig, it would be easy to bring one to rehearsal and use the Edit software to tweak sounds.

Hybrid Amps In the previous chapter, we briefly touched on a vintage hybrid amp (Music Man) that uses a solid-state preamp section combined with a tube output section. The next generation of hybrid technology encompasses traditional tube technology combined with sophisticated modeling technology, effects, and MIDI control, all in one package. It’s testament to the enduring popularity of tube amps that this marriage has occurred.

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Chapter 4 Guitar Amp Basics: Hybrid and Modeling Amps Previous-generation programmable tube preamps were able to digitally store analog tube preamp settings. Combine these with a rack of MIDI-controlled outboard effects gear, and a guitarist could cook up some tone and effects presets of his own. Now, with a modern hybrid amp, all that programming and recall power can be combined in a single package. These modern amps are also perfectly capable of interfacing into other MIDI-controlled devices, though they stand on their own quite well.

The Spider Valve MkII 40-Watt Guitar Amp:

Figure 4.5

Line 6 Valve MkII 212.

© 2015 Line 6®.

As you might recall, valve is another word for tube. The Spider Valve integrates an all-tube design by tube guru Reinhold Bogner, featuring two 12AX7 preamp tubes and a power section with two 6L6 power tubes with advanced modeling, 16 amp models, and a host of built-in effects. The following are some features of the Line 6 Spider Valve MkII Hybrid guitar amp: u Controllable by pedalboard via the Line 6 FBV. u Has 128 user-programmable presets. u Can receive updates and upgrades. u Integration with Spider Valve MkII Edit software. u XLR direct output with cabinet simulation. As we

previously discussed, guitar-amp speakers have a significant high-end roll-off that characterizes their sound. A direct output without compensation for this roll-off would be politely characterized as harsh at best. The XLR out also has a ground-lift switch with two different modes: Studio, which taps off the DSP (digital signal processing), or Performance, which taps off the power-amp transformer.

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Live Sound for Guitar u MIDI in/out. u Preamp out. u Power amp in. u Cool-looking knobs. u Very clear output jacks

Figure 4.6

with clear labeling about proper speaker impedance connections.

Spider Valve MkII speaker output jack. Note the impedance labeling.

© 2015 Line 6®.

It should be noted that the Spider IV 75 with a single 12-inch speaker weighs in at 36 pounds, and the Spider Valve Mk II 40 with a single 12-inch speaker weighs 62 pounds. This shouldn’t come as a shock to those familiar with tube amps. The transformers typically found in tube amps add a significant amount of weight.

Figure 4.7

Control panel of the Spider Valve MkII.

© 2015 Line 6®.

Modeling amps offer guitarists a wide palette of sound to choose from and tailor to their delight. Some guitarists are more likely to sort through the sounds and find two or three—maybe clean, dirty, and screaming—as home-base sounds. Other guitarists might have reason to script out a large number of presets from song to song. The sky’s the limit with these amps. It will be fascinating to see what new innovations in guitar amp technology come to fruition in the future! 74

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5

W

HEN YOU THINK OF EFFECTS, you probably think of a little box with a clever name, input and output jacks, some control knobs, a bright off/on light, a foot-switch button, and a 9-volt battery. While we are looking at effects, I’d like to think a little out-of-the-box and also include some non-electric effects in the big musical picture.

Figure 5.1 Danelectro Fab Tone fuzz pedal. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 5.2 A vintage Vico Vibe. This unit plugs directly into the guitar. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Figure 5.3 Wampler Hot Wired Brent Mason signature overdrive/distortion pedal. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

Figure 5.4 Holy Fire overdrive/distortion. © 2015 Creation Audio Labs.

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects My overview of guitar effects is a little skewed by the experiences I’ve had working with other instrumentalists, particularly percussionists and trumpet players. If you’ve ever looked at the trumpet section of a big band, you’ve probably noticed that the trumpet players have all kinds of special accessories, sometimes called mutes, ready for action: hats, toilet-bowl plungers, and who knows what else. It’s no wonder that the first guitar wah wah effects pedal was named after a famous trumpet player of the day (who is now probably more famous for his name being on a wah wah pedal!). Percussionists are likely to carry a case filled with all kinds of toys—anything that makes a unique sound when struck, shaken, dropped (or even bowed, like my friend Steve Hanna’s infamous “water phone” played with a cello bow). Guitar effects are really just carrying on the musical tradition of having tools at your disposal to add special coloration to your sound. I’ve mentioned that we are in a golden age for guitar and amp building. The same can be said about electronic effects units. There are more choices and builders than every before. Just like the modern guitar and amp builders, most of the modern effects builders have studied, and often repaired, the classic pedals of the ’60s and ’70s. There’s definitely a spirit of tradition as well as innovation. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at a few vintage effects that inspired the current crop. We’ll also discuss some approaches to using effects musically. The origins of electronic effects units have a kinship with the concept that electronics are capable of producing unique sounds (and instruments) that have never been heard before. Imagine what it must have been like to hear a theremin back when they were first introduced. I hope that performers will continue to keep some of this creative spirit alive when they use effects.

A Little History To look at the big picture of guitar effects, you have to look beyond the effects pedal du jour. One of the first recorded guitar effects in the twentieth century was the slide (sometime called “bottleneck slide,” though metal slides work fine), used in blues, Hawaiian, and later rock and country music. I mention this because many guitarists have a repertoire of useful effects that are so analog they don’t even need to be powered with electricity. The first electric guitar effects were basically manipulations of the instrument’s volume and tone knobs. I’ve taken the liberty of including the electric steel guitar in the electric guitar family. I hope you can do some research and find videos online of the amazing steel guitarist Alvino Rey. Rey was experimenting with talk-box units back in the 1930s! The oldest external effects unit I’ve ever personally seen is a device that plugs into the input of a guitar amp and creates a tremolo effect (see Figure 5.5).

Figure 5.5 Vintage Multi-Kord tremolo unit. This baby was designed to plug directly into the amplifier input jack. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Live Sound for Guitar Right around the same time as this tremolo box came out, the Echoplex effect unit was released. It used a loop of magnetic tape combined with a record and playback head to create an echo effect, much like the effect that was being created in studios at the time with outboard tape recorders dedicated to creating slapback (a very short echo).

Figure 5.6 Wampler Faux Tape Echo delay designed to simulate the idiosyncrasies of a magnetic tape delay. I love the movement and sway controls! © 2015 Brian Wampler.

The first foot pedal effect was the volume pedal, used by steel guitarists. However, the first foot pedal effect to make a huge mark on guitar players was the Fuzz-Tone, introduced commercially in 1962 by Maestro. The next effect to make a huge impression on guitarists was the Vox wah wah pedal, made famous, of course, by Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. For several years the only pedals you were likely to see an electric guitarist use were the Fuzz-Tone and wah pedals. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of models of effects pedals on the market today. If you were to make a family tree of effects, you would find their origins in these simple and still popular early types of effects. It is also well worth recognizing non-powered effects for their place in tradition and their enduring usefulness and popularity. 78

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Figure 5.7 Wampler Effects circuit boards ready to be mounted in pedal enclosures. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

Here are what I believe to be the archetypical effects: w w

The human voice. Effects that physically manipulate the strings themselves, such as the steel bar used by our steel-guitar cousins. Bottleneck slide guitar would fall into this category, as would the violin bow that Jimmy Page used on “Dazed and Confused” or the violin that Nigel Tufnel used to play his guitar in This Is Spinal Tap. The whammy bar belongs with this group, too. Even the guitar pick can be used for special effects. Ever hear the Duane Allman steel drum trick? I know you’ve heard a pick scrape. w Effects that electronically manipulate the volume of the sound coming out of the electric guitar, such as a volume pedal, a tremolo pedal, and a compressor. I would include the boost pedal in this category as well. w Tone filter-shaping devices, such as the wah wah pedal (I’ve heard a wah described as a “variable narrow-band parametric equalizer”), an envelope follower, and graphic EQ pedals. w Distortion devices, such as Fuzz-Tones and overdrive pedals.

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Figure 5.8 No, these effects are not reproducing! © 2015 Brian Wampler. w

Devices that allow you to manipulate and control the spatial dimension, including stereo imaging, of the guitar sound. Many temporal, time-based effects help create and manipulate the illusion of space. This includes reverb, delay, chorus, Leslie speakers, loopers, devices that enable you to run two amps in stereo, and even A/B/Y switching boxes that allow you to run two amps at the same time (or switch between them). A more elaborate setup could create an even more complex array of audio sources and imaging than mere stereo. 5.1 guitar, anyone? w The leftovers. There is such a vast number of effects units out there that I’m positive there are some that will practically fix you a specialty coffee along with your crazy guitar sound. I will christen one effect in this special category: the harmonizer or octave box. An octave pedal is specifically designed to—surprise!—create a signal one or two octaves below the input signal. A harmonizer can generate other fixed intervals in relationship to the input signal. For instance, you can set a harmonizer to generate a perfect fifth interval above every note you play. Bear in mind that octave pedals and harmonizers won’t like it a bit if you play more than a single note at a time. The exception to this is that some harmonizers can be set to a pitch that is minutely, maybe a couple of cents (there are 100 cents in every half-step), away from the input signal. This setting may accept multiple notes at the same time and will produce a sound similar to chorusing but without the modulation sweep. There are also “intelligent” harmonizers that will harmonize the original signal (single notes, please!) in multiple combinations of intervals and interval structures, from thirds to triads, or any user-preset intervals, but follow the harmonic structure of the key of the music or, more specifically, the key the harmonizer has been assigned. Modern MIDIcontrolled harmonizers can easily be programmed to essentially change key or mode at the touch of a footswitch. A prime example of a harmonizer outputting multiple harmonies is in Joe Satriani’s “Why.” 80

Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects In the same manner that we recognized and explored the interaction of the controls on a guitar amp, we need to realize that there is overlap between all the categories of effects listed above. Because the effects are an extension of the instrument we play, it’s useful to look at them in their essence, since we’re going to play the effects as well as our strings and amp.

Pedals: When I was a kid, I used to love to go to the toy store and drool over the latest Matchbox cars and trucks behind the glass display case. Nowadays, I love that when I go to any guitar store, the effects pedals are neatly arranged in a glass display case. To add to the visual impact, most foot-pedal effects have great paint jobs and clever (and often humorous) names. In some cases you can almost hear in your mind what the effect sounds like from just staring at the unit for a few seconds.

Figure 5.9 Effects box enclosures drying after being painted. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

The modular nature of pedals makes them easy to swap out and experiment with. The pedals themselves have proven to be collectable, from vintage pedals to modern boutique pedals. Most players rotate through their collection of pedals in their search for the best combinations.

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Live Sound for Guitar From a performance standpoint, it’s important not to put the cart before the horse when using effects pedal. In other words, don’t expect to create a great electric-guitar sound just by piling on layers of pedal effects. It’s helpful to start with a great amp sound. It works well to start by dialing in the amp so it has a nice, warm, clean sound. The term people like to use for this is having a good “pedal platform.” This is especially true if you’re using a non-channel-switching amp (a single-channel amp). If you turn the amp up to the point where it’s really distorted, you run the risk of creating sonic mush by adding effects to it. I encourage you to experiment and try the mush anyway. Who knows? You might find something unique. My experience is to either crank up an amp to the point where it’s compressing and overdriving but not add many (or any) extra effects to the sound, or to dial in a cleaner sound and push the amp with pedal overdrive if need be. Getting a great clean amp sound isn’t hard, but it does seem to elude people. When I try out an amp, I always check out the clean sound before I try to dial in distortion or add any other effects. Let’s examine the list of archetypical effects in more detail.

The Human Voice The occurrence of a voice or voices singing along in unison with an instrumental melody is a cross-cultural phenomenon. In blues music, there is a tradition of the guitarist (or mandolin player—thank you, Mr. James “Yank” Rachell!) singing along with riffs and parts of improvised solos. This is also evident in jazz music, especially among guitarists and pianists. From Robert Johnson, George Benson, and Jimi Hendrix to the brilliant contemporary jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitarists have used their voices to enhance or effect their guitar lines.

Using Your Voice, Ears, and Phrasing: One of the most basic ear-training exercises is to play a note on your guitar and them match the note with your voice. You can reverse this exercise and sing a note and then find it on your guitar. One of the hurdles to overcome in this exercise is that the guitar’s range is greater than the range of most people’s voices. Play the highest note on the guitar. Can you sing that pitch but in a lower octave? Can you play a major scale but sing a harmony a third away? The bonus of singing along with your solo lines is that you have to take a breath. Constant-motion “wheedle-deedle” guitar solos without a “breath” are a challenge to listen to precisely because they tend not to have natural musical phrasing. Taking a breath is almost like a natural punctuation mark. Once you get good at matching the notes you’re playing on the guitar with your voice, step up to the mic and sing along with yourself.

The Talk Box The fascination with integrating a voice-like sound with an electronic effect led to the creation of the talk box. The talk box is simply an enclosed speaker driver that sends the sound through a plastic tube that the guitar player inserts into his mouth. When he moves his mouth with the same motions used in speech, the guitar sound can approximate talking.

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects The talk-box effect must be amplified with a microphone and put through the PA system to be heard above a live band. Many guitar players (and steel-guitar players) have used a talk box, including Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, and Joe Walsh. Make sure to sanitize the plastic tube if you use one of these contraptions!

Effects That Physically Manipulate the Strings There are so many ways to play or attack a string in an expressive manner using finger vibrato, finger or pick tremolo, dynamics, slurs, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and glissandi or by bending strings. Guitar players are masters at finding new ways to play expressively on the strings. On slide guitar, using a glass or metal slide to play the notes above the fingerboard rather than pushing down on the frets has been a popular way of creating captivating and sometime otherworldly sounds for years.

Figure 5.10 Front left: metal slide, front right: dobro slide bar, back: thimble. © 2015 Richard Clark.

It’s a good idea to keep several different kinds of slides around. It may take a while before you find what works best for you. Also, slide playing requires that the action on your guitar not be super low. The smoothness of the slide sound is ruined if you can hear the slide clank against the frets or fingerboard. There is something about playing slide with the guitar on your lap that’s a lot of fun. If you have too much fun, you might find yourself exploring a real lap-steel guitar, Dobro or pedal-steel guitar!

Figure 5.11 Guitar pick wedged between the strings in preparation for the Duane Allman steel-drum trick. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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The Duane Allman Steel-Drum Trick: Years ago, someone introduced an effect to me as the “Duane Allman steel-drum trick.” To be honest, I’m unaware of any recordings of “Skydog” using this trick. The trick works on an electric or acoustic guitar. Take a standard-size guitar pick or even a larger triangle pick and insert it over the first string, under the second string, and over the third string. Now, move the pick close to the bridge. Try playing a melody on the first three strings without dislodging the pick wedged between the strings. First the good news: This creates a great approximation of a steel drum. The bad news is that the wedged pick usually comes flying out in short order. Also, the tuning of those three strings can get a little bizarre, but that’s okay ’cause it’s an effect, right? Have fun! The quest to control the sustain of a note has led to many innovative devices. Feedback, created by turning up the volume of an amplifier loud enough to excite the strings into a possible infinite loop, can be generated fairly easily with a hollow-body or semi-hollow-body guitar. Generating feedback with a solid-body guitar requires much more volume and/or the added gain of an effects device that excites the overtones on a string, such as a distortion, overdrive, or boost pedal. One of the first effects units that allowed the guitar player to control the sustain of a single string at any volume was the E-bow (see Figure 5.12).

Figure 5.12 The E-bow. © 2015 Richard Clark.

The E-bow uses electromagnetism to create a feedback loop with a string. It can be used on an acoustic guitar as well. The Sustainiac, shown in Chapter 1, has many of the same capabilities as the E-bow but can be used to sustain multiple notes at the same time. The Sustainiac Model C even features an effects loop for delaying or filtering the feedback signal being sent back to the guitar. The Sustainiac is also functional regardless of whether the guitar is plugged into an amplifier. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pick-scrape in this section. By sliding the side (I use the top) of the pick down the string, you can create a sound sometimes described as sounding like a jet taking off. Pick slides virtually require the use of round-wound strings because the sound is really created by the surface of the edge of the pick running down the windings of the round-wound string. This effect won’t be captured as well if you use flat-wound strings.

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects A good pick slide is enhanced with some distortion and volume. You can slide the pick down two strings at a time or one. I seem to have more luck with my fifth string alone. You can slide from the nut end of the strings down to the bridge, but the iconic pick-scrape is from the bridge end of the strings, starting on the low E or low A string and scraping down toward the nut. Did I mention that pick-scrapes chew up picks? If you do them a lot, you’d better invest in a gross of picks (a bag of 144 picks). Many avenues have been explored in the quest to create unique sounds by manipulating guitar strings. The genre of avant-garde guitar technique devoted to this practice is called prepared guitar. Do yourself a favor and listen to some Derek Bailey. His book entitled Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music (Da Capo Press, 1993) deserves a read and a place on your bookshelf. Mechanical devices that change the pitch of the strings include the Parsons/White B-string bender (sometimes called a pull-string bender), which was originally designed to emulate the sound of a pedal-steel guitar by raising the B string up a whole step via a complex mechanism that is controlled via the strap button closest to the guitar neck. By pushing the neck down toward the ground, the strap-button button lever is activated, and the second string can be raised a whole step. The late Clarence White, who helped conceive this crazy contraption, was one of the greatest and most influential bluegrass guitarists of all time, and later in his career also played electric guitar with the Byrds. Marty Stuart, the current owner of Clarence’s guitar with the original B-bender, was kind enough to let me play it backstage at one of his shows. What a thrill to hold this piece of history. A whammy (vibrato) bar is a great effect, though it can lead to temperamental issues with keeping your guitar in tune. I encourage you to listen to differences between a Fender Strat vibrato system, a Bigsby system, and a system that uses a locking nut. One subtle feature or adjustment of a vibrato bar is to be able to not only make the strings go flat, or lower in pitch, but also to slightly pull them sharper in pitch. There are many variables in the proper adjustment of these mechanisms, and I recommend the counsel of an experienced technician.

Effects That Electronically Manipulate the Sounds’ Volume There are several fascinating outtakes on the Charlie Christian CD box set, The Genius of the Electric Guitar, including the only known recording of electric guitar pioneer Christian (1916–1942) speaking. The first time I heard this I had to chuckle because Charlie is responding (it’s difficult to hear exactly what he says) to his bandleader, Benny Goodman, telling him he’s too loud! Controlling and manipulating the volume of an electric guitar has been an issue since the inception of the instrument!

Volume Pedals A guitar volume control is a humble little “effect.” Early in the days of guitar amplification, players—especially steelguitar players—found it useful to have hands-free control of the volume, to facilitate volume swells, and to soften or completely hide the initial pick attack of the note(s). Volume pedals are still prevalent in the steel guitar world but are also common members of a guitarist’s pedalboard. Volume pedals that use passive electronics (usually a simple potentiometer) are sometime subject to a “scratchy” pot (potentiometer) if they are exposed to enough dust and dirt over time. A big innovation in volume pedals was when Morley Pedals introduced a volume pedal that uses a photoelectric potentiometer rather than a mechanical potentiometer (see Figure 5.13). The photoelectric system is impervious to the noise problems associated with previous volume pedals.

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Figure 5.13 Morley Little Alligator volume pedal. Note that this pedal uses a photoelectric cell for noiseless operation. © 2015 Morley Pedals.

Another simple but innovative volume-pedal design is by the company Visual Sound, who had the brilliant idea to add an array of 10 LED lights on the top of their volume pedal so players could see where the pedal is at any moment, from full on to full off or any step in between. The Visual Sound Visual Volume pedal has switchable active or passive modes, with the active mode including a clean-boost preamp and buffer. You can place a volume pedal in any number of places in an effects chain. If you place it at the end of an effects chain, it can act like a manual noise gate, meaning that you can turn the pedal to off when you don’t play, thus shutting down any sound—and possibly noise—between the guitar and effects pedals going to the amp. In a more complex setup, you can use multiple volume pedals to control things like delay-only signal. My favorite use for a volume pedal is the good old imitate-a-pedal-steel-guitar effect, especially with string bends and a touch of reverb.

Tremolo One of the classic electrically created effects is tremolo. Tremolo is a pulsing of the volume from a slight amount to a deep amount. On guitar amps with built-in tremolo, there is usually a depth control for the amount of effect and a speed control to control the rate of the effect. Fender mislabeled the tremolo effect “Vibrato” on many of their amplifiers. This designation was a misnomer but adds to the charm of many classic Fender amps. A survey of vintage Fender amps will reveal several variations in electronic circuits used to create the tremolo effect. Some of the circuits used an extra preamp tube to help accomplish the effect, some used variable bias on the output tubes, and others used an optical cell. From a performance standpoint, it’s sometimes desirable to synchronize the speed of the tremolo with the speed of the music. With older amp tremolos, this could sometimes require some trial and error, but on many newer devices it’s possible to tap the tempo via a tap button or simply program the tempo into the device. Playing a vintage amp with built-in tremolo is a gas, but if your amp doesn’t have tremolo built in, there are a number of finesounding tremolo pedals that will do the trick (see Figure 5.14). Compressors were a common tool in a recording engineer’s bag of tricks before guitar players started utilizing them. In fact, the first compressors were rackmount units, and portable pedal units didn’t come along for a while. When guitarists first became intrigued by compressors, it was because they were billed as being able to create sustain without using distortion. The actual function of a compressor is to compress and control the dynamic range of a signal. A heavy use of compression will electronically make the range between loud and soft narrower. Studios often use compressors not only in the initial recording process but also in the mixing and final mastering, depending on the needs of the sound engineer.

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Figure 5.14 Boss tremolo pedal. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 5.15 Wampler Ego compressor. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

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Live Sound for Guitar There are two basic controls for a compressor. Threshold sets the signal level the unit needs to see to start squashing (compressing) the signal, and compression determines the amount of the effect. Some units have threshold and ratio controls, with ratio meaning the amount of compression expressed as a ratio to the input signal. The amount of compression is always a ratio (proportional to the input signal), regardless of whether it’s designated as such on the device. One of my favorite compressors—the famous Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer, which plugs into the guitar output jack—just has an on/off switch; all the other controls are preset internally. Many compressors have a gain knob as well, which can compensate for reduced output volume of a compressed signal. Some units, such as the Electro-Harmonix Soul Finger, have a sustain knob, but this is basically for the ratio or amount of compression. In a chain of effects pedals, a compressor is a favorite to be placed immediately after the guitar. If they are placed at the end of an effects chain, it’s an invitation for unwanted sonic gremlins. At the end of an effects chain, they could potentially make the hum and noise as loud as the signal. Feel free to experiment with putting the compressor in various locations in your chain. There are a number of great uses for compressors with electric guitars. One is to use a compressor while playing slide guitar. This is usually done with the amp set to a fairly clean sound. When a tube amp is cranked to the point of distortion, it’s doing some natural compression on its own. A compressor allows you to get much of the same sustain but without the dirt. Another use for a compressor is in a chicken-picken’ country guitar solo or a single-string rhythm part. I must admit that I sometimes hear this style and wish the compressor were dialed down one notch. There is tendency with most effects to want to hear them doing something. But sometimes the best sounds are found just a notch below where you hear them doing something. Compressors can sometimes be set to function as limiters, limiting peak volume. This is a useful effect in plucky funk rhythm parts or funk slap-bass. Notice that when you pop (pluck hard with your right-hand fingers) notes or slap notes with your thumb, like a funk bass player, the notes are way louder than your median dynamic range. If your compressor has threshold and ratio controls, turn the ratio up high. While you are playing loudly, adjust the threshold to a setting where you can hear the compressor squash the signal. Once you have found this spot on the threshold knob, back the ratio back down. You should be able to find a comfortable balancing between playing at your normal dynamic level and controlling the volume spikes caused by any hard plucking or slapping. Finally, playing with a compressor on all the time can really take the life out of your playing because of the way it takes hold of your dynamics. It’s a great tool for the right time, place, and song, but let your music have some natural louds and softs!

Boost Pedals Boost pedals are very handy to have in your bag of tricks. Boost pedals can be used to raise the output volume of a guitar with weaker pickups, or they can be used to push the front end of an amp into an overdriven state. Boost pedals are handy to have just to give your sound the extra push it needs to stand out, say for a solo or another important part of a song. Some amps, like the famous Dumble Overdrive Special, have a built-in boost function that can be activated with a footswitch. It’s possible to add an active internal boost circuit to the guitar itself. Some boost circuits, like the Demeter circuit, boost the midrange frequencies as well. Boost circuits, whether in pedal form or built in, can also compensate for weaker guitar pickups. If you’re using more than one electric guitar in a live performance and there is a significant difference between the outputs of the pickups, a boost pedal could make the playing field more level

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Figure 5.16 Creation Audio Labs MK 4.23 Clean Boost pedal. © 2015 Creation Audio Labs.

between the two guitars. Some boost pedals, like the Creation Audio Labs MK 4.23, also have a nice low-impedance output for driving other pedals and/or long cable runs. What kind of amp you use and what settings you use on the amp determine a great deal about how a boost pedal will respond. If the amp is clean and has plenty of headroom (how much signal the input can take before distorting), then the result of a boost pedal will manifest itself in an increase in volume. If the amp is set clean but near the top of its range, then the boost pedal will push the amp into overdrive. If the amp is already distorted, then the boost pedal will add distortion and sustain.

Tone Filter Shaping Devices I admit that I spent my entire 1970 Christmas booty on a wah wah pedal. I learned quickly that it’s almost impossible to use a wah pedal without moving your mouth as you are moving the pedal up and down. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Virtually every wah owner does this. The opening and closing of your mouth (okay, say WAH slowly as you’re reading this) is actually a pretty good approximation of the filtering that the wah pedal does.

Wah Wah 101: A wah pedal can do more than just go wacka-wacka in time with the music. I’m not saying all wacka-wacka is bad. It just needs to be done while wearing the proper attire. You can keep the pedal in a stationary spot—say, with the pedal all the way heel-down or the pedal all the way down (be careful not to step on the on/off button!)—to accentuate certain frequencies. You might find a spot in between full-up (sometimes called closed) and full-down (sometimes called open) that brings that special texture for the song you’re playing. Along the same lines, you can use a wah to boost a certain frequency that makes it easier for your guitar and amp to get on the feedback train. This takes some practice, along with some volume, distortion, or maybe a Sustainiac. The reaction between the guitar and certain boosted frequencies may change from venue to venue and might require some experimentation. A wah can be played in time with the music, but go slowly up and down rather than the straight quarter notes that so many wah parts

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Live Sound for Guitar consist of. It’s good practice just to tap your foot in time with the music every once in a while. That way, if you get a “happy foot” with your wah pedal, you’ll be playing “in the pocket.” A wah pedal with a slide can be a beautiful combination if used sparingly. If you’re ever at a loss for things to do with a wah wah, go back and listen to Axis: Bold as Love and especially Electric Ladyland from start to finish.

Figure 5.17 Vintage Vox wah wah pedal. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Envelope Follower An envelope follower (or filter) produces a sound similar to a wah, but instead of being controlled by a foot pedal, the filter is controlled by the dynamic attack on the string. I remember being in a music store when the traveling pedal salesman was pedaling pedals for the local music store to stock up on. The salesman looked at me with a straight face and said, “This envelope filter pedal will make you a better guitar player.” I could barely contain my teenage contempt for such a silly statement. Now, however, I get it. To use an envelope follower effectively, you have to use dynamics when you pluck a string. Controlling accented and unaccented notes takes a certain amount of technical skill. Our previously mentioned friend, the talk-box, is also a close cousin of the wah and envelope filter. When I play funky-fusion jazz, I can play the craziest chromatic lines if I have the envelope filter turned on. Turn the effect off, and I play it safe. Envelope followers can add excellent coloration to a solo or rhythm part, but a little goes a long way. By the way, if you have a boost pedal before your envelope follower in the signal chain, be careful about turning on the boost. The extra signal will change the sensitivity with which the envelope follower responds. Some guitarists like to use a graphic EQ pedal. I find that many players like to use them essentially like glorified boost pedals. If I’m playing a nice guitar into a singing (nice-sounding) amp, I’m hesitant to use a foot pedal EQ unless I have preset a radical EQ curve on the pedal for special effect, most notably a V midrange cut or a mid-boost setting. If you have to play with an EQ pedal on all the time, maybe you need to reevaluate your fundamental sound.

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Figure 5.18 MXR envelope follower. © 2015 Richard Clark.

The tone control on your guitar is an underappreciated tone-shaping tool. Passive tone controls basically cut the high end of the guitar’s frequencies. Some guitars with active circuits have bass and treble controls that allow for boosting those chunks of the spectrum as well as cutting. On many guitars, there is a loss of high end when the volume knob is turned down. There are two solutions to this possible problem: One is to add a capacitor across the terminals of the guitar’s internal volume potentiometer. Some brands of guitar have this prewired into their instruments. This makes the guitar get brighter as you turn down the volume. Another solution is to add an active buffer circuit to the guitar’s output. This will make for very consistent tone no matter where you set your volume knob.

Phasers (on Stun) Another classic tone-shaping device is a phaser, and I don’t mean what Mr. Spock would use on Star Trek. Phasers are also known as phase-shifters. Most phasers simply have speed and depth controls, but a few of the higher-end units have a switch to increase the number of notch filters. This can result in a thicker, deeper-sounding filter-sweep effect.

Figure 5.19 TC Electronic Phaser. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Distortion To continue my Christmas wah story, I didn’t actually get the Vox wah pedal that I been fantasizing about. I ended up with a Guild that including a built-in fuzz-tone. Nonetheless, I was a happy camper. For about a month I neglected most of my other musical studies and tormented my family by pretending I was playing at Woodstock. Distortion pedals have evolved a lot from the days of the simple fuzz tone. Here is a list of some of the archetypical distortion devices: w

A cranked up tube amp. There are some legendary stories about how some of the early electric rockers and blues players did crude modifications to their amps (slicing speakers, pulling out a power tube) to create distortion. I have doubts about these stories because most amps from the 1940s and 1950s were underpowered by today’s standards and could be easily coaxed in distortion by cranking up their volume knobs. And by the way, please don’t ruin your speakers trying to achieve some ultra-vintage distortion. If you feel inclined to pull a power tube out (from an amp with a push-pull circuit), please do it under the supervision of your amp tech. Some amp heads, such as the THD UniValve, have an instrument-level line out so you can use the amp as a glorified distortion/boost box. The THD contains an internal load that allows you to run the amp without speakers plugged in. Be sure to read your amp’s manual very carefully before attempting to use the line out, because the requirement for whether you need a speaker plugged in varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and one mistake could trash your amp. w A fuzz-tone. A good fuzz is hard to find (see Figures 5.20 and 5.21). Several years ago, I had to record a soundtrack for a cartoon show. The producer wanted a fuzz-tone sound similar to what was used on a certain 1960s TV theme. I brought several units with me, and sure enough, the old rusty one that picked up radio stations when you turned it on won the prize. It has been said that the transistors in some of the old distortion boxes are as hard to find as some rare vacuum tubes. There is a certain amount of inconstancy in the tolerances of these transistors as well. What does that mean for you? It means that most fuzz-tones have their own idiosyncratic personalities. Sometimes the differences are subtle—if you can call a fuzz subtle in any way!

Figure 5.20 UniVox Super-Fuzz. © 2015 Richard Clark. w

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Overdrive pedals. Overdrive doesn’t have the over-the-top buzz-saw sound of a fuzz-tone. A good overdrive will make your amp sound like it has just been through the Starbucks drive-thru. There are even some overdrive pedals with internal vacuum tubes that have a very natural tube overdrive. These can complement a single-channel amplifier nicely in that they effectively give the amp a clean or dirty (with the overdrive pedal on) sound. There are many solid-state overdrive pedals as well.

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Figure 5.21 Wampler Velvet Fuzz. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

Figure 5.22 Wampler Euphoria Overdrive. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

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Live Sound for Guitar Recently, I’ve seen pedals on the market that boast the ability to make your amp sound like another model or brand of amplifier. These pedals are in essence doing amp modeling. w Special category. A standard guitar pickup and wiring system sums the signal from all the strings (assuming they are all being played) into a single monophonic output jack. When this monophonic output signal passes through an overdrive unit and/or through a cranked-up guitar amplifier, the interaction between the fundamentals and the overtones off the strings can create some interesting sonic amalgamations and consequences. Sometimes completely new tones, called heterodynes, appear as a result of the mixture of sounds coming from the guitar output. Hexaphonic pickups have separate outputs for each of the six strings and offer multitudes of control when it comes to blending combinations of strings, controlling stereo imaging, and panning the strings. Passive hexaphonic pickups—basically standard magnetic pickups with each pickup pole (one for each string) wired to a separate output—offer some wild possibilities, such as alternate stereo panning for every other string. String-bends pan across the stereo field when the alternate panning is in place. With a hex pickup, each string can be sent to its own distortion box, or sets of strings can be routed to different effects. For live applications, a passive hexaphonic pickup requires a breakout box to control the output routing of the signal. One of the early hex pickups on the market was designed by Steve Ripley and later included in a Kramer guitar model. Eddie Van Halen used a Ripley-outfitted Kramer on the song “Top Jimmy.” Passive hexaphonic pickups are now available from Ubertar, which also sells breakout boxes as well as guitars with hexaphonic pickups installed. Passive hexaphonic pickups don’t require any kind of special preamp to function. The Roland VG Guitar System uses a guitar equipped with a piezo hexaphonic pickup in combination with a floor pedalboard using Composite Object Sound Modeling (COSM) to re-create numerous classic guitar tones and amp tones. The Line 6 Variax instruments also utilize a piezo hexaphonic pickup.

Figure 5.23 Wampler Plexi-Drive. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects The controls on most distortion pedals usually consist at a minimum of a distortion level (maybe labeled fuzz or overdrive) and a level control. There is an interesting phenomenon when using distortion: Because of the way overdrive and distortion excite the overtones in a signal, the audible level of signal seems greater when overdrive and distortion are applied. Do this experiment: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Plug your guitar into an overdrive pedal, but for the moment leave the overdrive off. Plug the overdrive pedal into a piece of rack-mount gear that has an input meter or input LED lights. Plug the output of the rack unit into an amplifier. Play the guitar with a clean sound (no overdrive) and adjust the signal level of the input of the rack gear so that it’s just below peak, or “in the red.” 5. Turn on the overdrive pedal and adjust the output on the pedal so that the signal level of the input of the rack gear is just below peak or as close as possible to where the clean sound was set. 6. Notice that with the overdrive on, the apparent audible volume level seems way higher than the clean sound, though the signal levels approximately match.

The reason I mention this is because many effects—especially digital effects—work best when they “see” a full dynamic range of signal. Also, digital delays and reverbs like to see a strong signal for their analog-to-digital convertors to convert the audio signal to 1’s and 0’s and maintain the widest, most natural, dynamic range. One famous guitar that was designed to take advantage of sending the fullest possible signal to the effects chain is the Doug Irwin Tiger guitar, made famous by Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. This guitar has some built-in electronics beyond the scope of most electric guitars, including guitars with active circuits. Tiger sends a buffered signal to the effects chain, pre–guitar volume control. After the signal goes through the effects, the guitar signal returns to the guitar and is routed through the guitar’s volume control and then sent out from the guitar to the amplifier. Obviously, your standard 1/4-inch guitar cord can’t do this. Tiger uses a multi-pin connector and a special cable to accomplish this. Thus, Tiger’s volume control is post effects, and the effects are always getting the best possible signal from the guitar. You probably don’t have the funds to have a guitar built for you with one-of-a-kind electronics, but you might use this kind of thinking when organizing the signal flow of your effects. The simplest way to do something similar on a more modest budget is to use a volume pedal at the end of your signal chain. That way, you can crank up your distortion units enough so that the rest of your devices capture proper levels. What is proper level? Beyond technical explanations such as, “Well, it sounds good to me! Snicker, snicker…,” a glance at a meter could tell you whether you’re close to the red. Ah, but most pedals don’t have meters. In that case you want to keep your ears on the lookout for ugly non-harmonic distortion. This kind of distortion is present usually when a solid-state input of a device is begging for mercy. There is a point where the input of device is overloaded, and the result is unpleasant. Unlike the “good” type of distortion, which enhances the even-order harmonics in the overtone series, a solid-state input being overdriven will not inspire you to create a classic guitar hook. Tube-input stages are generally more forgiving than solid-state inputs. Even tube amps will give you a less-than-joyous, begging-for-mercy sound if they are slammed with too much front-end signal.

The Wafuzz Staralator, by Dick Hardwick: The Wafuzz Staralator effect pedal is a polyphonic octave generator that will actuate a skimpsheamatic obadameatstacko hydro valve on your isolated dubeties that lets you conjure up everything from the surreal jangle of an 18-string guitar to rich, thick walls of symphonic woodlum, enabling you to feature the devious dexterity of your flying fingers, the nimbleness of your knuckles, and the deep divinity of your

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Live Sound for Guitar humbuckers. It features an Attack control that enables you to fade in lush, smooth Atlantic swells that will twerk your whammy bar, releasing a pent-up purgative upheaval of creative emotion percolating in your own private wire choir. It also features a second suboctave to reach deeper than Lady Gaga or Madonna ever did before, a two-pole resonant low-pass filter that includes two additional Q & A modes, and an enhanced detune to refine your sound even further. This machine goes all the way, sure to sport musical wood. The PUD 2 lets you pull your favorite settings and recall them with a single click of an app. Its enhanced algorithm delivers a focused and in-the-pocket rocket harmonic performance. Forget your stomp box; it’s just a pathetic smokescreen of prestidigitation. To create an all-out electronic ecstasy of convenience, the Wafuzz Staralator is packed into the corrugated, military-grade ElectrotonicHardmonix PUD2’s rugged and pedalboard-friendly die-cast chassis, dwelling in the phantasmagoria of the limbo of any master of guitardom’s subconscience. If you are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you soon will be with the Wafuzz Staralator! Batteries not included!

Figure 5.24

The Wafuzz Staralator.

© 2015 Richard Clark.

Other controls on distortion units often include some number of tone controls. Probably the frequency area that needs the most attention is midrange. Some famous screamin’ units are preset to be midrange heavy but only have a treble adjustment knob. On one hand I’m all for experimenting with the controls on guitars, amps, and effects to your heart’s content. However, there are a few caveats. It’s easy to get caught up in just the gear aspect of your guitar world and not devote enough attention to the musical aspects. Just because you can control every nuance and every parameter of your gear doesn’t itself guarantee a great sound or great music. This might be a distant cousin of Murphy’s Law, but the more variables you introduce to your sound, the more your tone can swing out of orbit and get lost in space.

Rackmount Effects versus Pedal Effects: Starting in the early 1980s, the guitar world became enamored with rackmounted effects units and, to a lesser extent, preamplifiers and power amps. Part of the main appeal of the rack effects units was that by the mid-1980s, companies were building units with memory that stored presets. Along with the memory came a vast

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects array of internal effects, which could be edited and stored in user banks. Changing effects could be accomplished via MIDI Program Change commands. Pedals didn’t vanish, but there was nothing like the pedal fever that exists today. What happened? In my opinion, the sheer logistics of hauling a big rack to gigs were probably too overwhelming for most gigging guitarists who didn’t have the luxury of a road crew. Rack gear is still found in recording studios and live sound reinforcement situations. Even in these situations, DAWs and related software-based plug-ins have replaced much of the rack hardware. High-end, studio-grade digital-delay rackmount units offered far greater control over the possible effects parameters than pedals usually afford.

Figure 5.25

Digidesign Eleven Rack.

© 2015 Sandy Williams.

The other factor is that as processing power has increased, we are seeing modern rack units that have as much or more control over a potpourri of effects all in one box, as well as amp-modeling capabilities, than a refrigerator-sized rack from 20 years ago. Guitarists now have more options than ever with combinations of an ultra-powerful rack-brain, maybe with some pedal effects thrown in for good measure, and their favorite amp. Most of the modern multi-effect rack units are optimized for direct recording or going directly into a PA system.

Devices That Manipulate the Spatial Dimension of the Guitar Sound Have you ever noticed that “acoustically perfect” concert halls tend to not be the greatest place to hear a band play a concert? The paradigm for acoustic perfection seems to be modeled around a solo violin concert or a piano and voice concert. You may find that your guitar and amp sound glorious in a hall like this, but when you throw everything else in—bass, drums, vocals, sax section, violins, tap dancers, and on and on—everyone is jockeying to hear themselves, and finally the soundman has to lay down the law about what the stage volume needs to be. One of the first things I do when I walk into a new venue (if it’s empty) is clap my hands a couple of times. I can hear plainly the kind of natural room sound I’m dealing with by hearing how long my handclaps linger in the room, or if they bounce back a few milliseconds later. I have digital reverb or a spring reverb at my disposal, but why should I use them if the venue has plenty of natural reverb? Spring reverb is a slightly different story because some guitar players like the sound of their guitar running through the extra tubes, as well as the spring itself—assuming they are playing through a tube amp—of the reverb circuit. The Sproing! sound of spring reverb really is a unique effect unto itself. Spring reverbs have a unique sound that has been

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Live Sound for Guitar heard through the years from surf music, to country, rock, and jazz, among other styles. Check out the sound of a vintage Fender Princeton Reverb amp being dropped on the floor, with the reverb turned up and tremolo turned on, in the middle of the John Mellencamp song “Crumblin’ Down.” When I did my first professional recording session, I couldn’t believe how awesome my guitar sounded. At first I couldn’t really pinpoint what was different. Finally, the engineer told me he was using a stereo plate reverb on the playback. That was the sound I’d been hearing on records of the day as well.

Figure 5.26 Circuit boards being tested on the bench before being mounted in their enclosures. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

Next time you have a chance to hear unamplified music in a concert hall or church, listen for the natural stereo reverberations in the room. Electronic stereo reverbs and other stereo effects work nicely to liven up space, especially in situations where the room is dead, without many sonic reflections. Stereo effects work especially well when only one guitar is being used on stage. In multiple-guitar situations, stereo should be used judiciously. In terms of stereo reverb, if you’re working with a soundman who is running a stereo PA, he can probably create a better field of sound for you, at least from the audience’s perspective. As a rule of thumb, you might be able to get away with more stereo imaging on stage if you’re playing in a smaller group, like a trio, in order to fill out the sound. Running a stereo rig with a larger band—say, with another guitarist, a keyboard player, and horns—is a recipe for your sound getting diluted.

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Figure 5.27 Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 5.28 Wampler AnalogEcho delay. © 2015 Briam Wampler.

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Live Sound for Guitar Any kind of ambient effect can be used in a stereo or mono path. Delay units often have a stereo out or delay-only output. Stereo chorus units need to be handled with care, as many of these units derive their stereo imaging from flipping the phase of the two sides of the chorused (very short modulated delay) signal. If these two signals are summed together in mono, they effectively cancel each other out! Some players prefer the warmer sound of an analog delay to a digital delay. Analog delays might sound less sterile than digital delays, but there are two limitations of analog delays to consider: w w

They tend to be a little more noise prone than digital delays. The delay times can’t go as long as digital delays due to the technological limitations of analog.

You would be well served to have both types of delays in your toy chest. When you’re setting up delay times, there are several considerations. The “pick a delay time and leave it” method. This hat comes in small, medium, and large. A very short delay time—around, say, 50ms—can be a useful effect for some funk single-note rhythm parts. This short delay setting is sometimes referred to as a doubler sound. A delay time of around +/– 140ms is great for getting a slapback (think rockabilly or country pickin’) echo sound, especially with a little feedback (regeneration) dialed in. A longer delay of around 250–300ms is nice for approximating the length of delay you might hear in a large hall. Be careful not to mix the longer delay signal loud enough that it’s stepping on the dry original signal, though. If you dial this one in sparingly, you may be able to leave the delay on quite a bit, depending on the style of music you’re playing. When you’re using a foot-pedal delay, you can always bend down and change the delay times by hand. w The “set the delay in time with the music” method. You can create delays based on any musical subdivision: quarter notes, eighth notes, eighth-note triplets, and so on. The question is whether you want the delays to be pretty straight subdivisions, such as quarter note or eighth note, or whether you want them to be more syncopated. There is one subdivision that seems to be magic when used with delays, and that is the dotted-quarter or dotted-eighth subdivision. You’ve heard this setting in the Edge’s playing, and you’ve heard it in country genius Albert Lee’s double-time playing, as well as in the playing of many others. This delay setting seems to give a certain forward-motion bounce to the music while simultaneously creating a bouncy polyphonic interplay with the dry signal. Hopefully you’ve had some music lessons and understand dotted-note values, but if not here’s another way to get there. This same delay setting can be represented in ratio form. A dotted-eighth delay can be achieved by setting four evenly spaced delays in the space of three beats—thus, a 4:3 ratio. Look for the ratio option on your delay and learn to feel dotted rhythms! This delay setting works well when the delay mix is turned up a bit. w Foot-pedal delays don’t often have a broad range of parameter settings. One subtle flavor to be aware of is whether the delayed signal has the same frequency response as the original signal. Older tape delays had an idiosyncrasy that each delay tended to be significantly less bright than the original signal. Digital delay units with more parameters often have a control for the high-end cut-off of the delay signal. This is a useful adjustment if you’re trying to mimic tape delay. w

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Figure 5.29 The AdrenaLinn box—one of the most unique effects units from the past decade. All the effects are tempo based. The AdrenaLinn can be synced to an external tempo source. It even has a built-in drum machine. Note the tap tempo button. It also has my favorite flange sound for imitating Jimi’s “Gypsy Eyes”! © 2015 Richard Clark.

Modulation Experiments: If you have a foot-pedal delay, analog or digital, set the delay time to at least halfway, set the feedback up about halfway, turn the delay mix up about halfway, and strike a short chord on your guitar. Hopefully, the chord will linger monumentally. Quickly reach down to the delay time knob and turn it slightly back and forth. Do you hear how the pitch of the delay signal changes? This is because you are “modulating” the delay signal. Flanging and chorusing both utilize electronically controlled modulation to achieve their effects. Many chorus and flanger pedals have no user adjustment for delay time and are simply dialed in for what the builder considers the optimal sound.

Figure 5.30

Wampler Nirvana chorus pedal.

© 2015 Brian Wampler.

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Live Sound for Guitar The width (sometimes called depth) knob controls how far the modulated delay varies, and the speed (or rate) knob controls how fast that delay time is varying. Here are some fun things to do with your chorus pedal: u Turn the rate and depth all the way up. On most chorus pedals, you’ll come close to a workable, albeit cheap, imitation of a Leslie rotating organ speaker. u Turn the rate and depth halfway up. You are instantly time-transported back to the mid1980s, and your hair is spiked with hair gel. In case you haven’t noticed, many effects do conjure up a specific era when they were in vogue. u Turn the rate almost all the way down and the depth almost all the way up. Play an E7#9 chord and let it ring. Okay, that’s good for a short moment in the half-hour funk jam!

Figure 5.31 Wampler Faux Reverb pedal. © 2015 Brian Wampler.

A Two-Amp Setup Even though I’m usually hesitant to recommend using a stereo reverb, stereo delay, or stereo chorus on stage, I’m a fan of sometimes using two amplifiers. Two amplifiers can create spatial imaging just because of the multitude of possible tonal differences between the amps, especially if you’re using different size or different brand speakers. The actual millisecond or two offset between when the sound of each amp arrives at your ears creates a spatial dimension. One problem with using two amps, even with an A/B switching box, is that the inputs to the amplifiers may be out of phase with one another. Fortunately, this is addressed in more contemporary switching boxes, such as the Radial Tonebone.

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Figure 5.32 Radial Tonebone switcher and boost pedal. © 2015 Richard Clark.

How do you tell if the phasing is correct? Simple: Play for a few seconds and then flip the phase switch on the Tonebone. Go back and forth if you want. You should notice that one of the phase positions has noticeably more low end. This is the setting where the amp inputs are in phase with one another. Don’t try this with one of the amps turned off, because this won’t reveal anything about the phase difference between the two amps. By having a second amp on stage, you also have a spare amp ready in case disaster strikes. You can also combine two smaller-output (wattage) amps and have enough volume to cover the gig, where one small amp wouldn’t have enough power.

Figure 5.33 Whirlwind A/B box. What makes this box useful is that you can send signals in either direction. So you could plug in two separate guitars—one into jack A and the other in jack B—and then send an output signal through the I/O port, or you could plug your guitar into the I/O port and send the signal to two separate amps via jacks A and B. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Here We Go Loop-De-Loo… Loopers are essentially digital recorders that are designed to be used in live performance. Loopers are an inevitable byproduct of the digital delay technology. Digital delay units are in essence digital recording devices, though the first digital delays had very short delay/memory times. As digital memory has gotten cheaper, the lengths of time in digital looper/recorders have gotten longer. Some people just use loopers to play along with tracks they have recorded themselves, for practice purposes. The use of loopers in a live context seems to be especially favored by solo artists, though some band guitarists are able to effectively use them, particularly in a fairly small group setting. The use of looping in a live setting certainly existed in the days of magnetic tape. Guitarist Joe Walsh could get some crazy looping going on his Echoplex tape delay. Like any effect, the door is open to experiment in almost any context.

Where to Put Your Effects at the Gig: The obvious place to put pedal effects is on the floor. You may have seen a guitarist or three with one of those giant, ever-popular pedalboards. This is a great option because you can keep all your pedals wired up together; you don’t have to reconnect them at every gig. You can also have a pedal guitar tuner on the board, and hopefully you’ll have a hum-free power supply for all the effects. You should invest in some heavy-duty Velcro, as you’ll probably need it to mount your pedals to the pedalboard. Many pedalboards have lids, so you can pack them up quickly and transport your pedals without fear of them being damaged. On the other hand, if you’re using just a few pedals, you can easily put them on top of your amp. One advantage of this is that the pedals aren’t subjected to the grit and grime on the floor. And if the pedals are on your amp, you don’t have to worry about someone pouring a drink on them or someone stepping on their knobs. There are other options, such as putting your pedals in a rackmounted drawer and controlling their on or bypass state from a controller device, such as the Carl Martin Octa-switch or the Voodoo Lab GCX Guitar Audio Switcher. Some of these controllers can also send channel-changing instructions to your amplifier. A lot depends on how much preparation you put into making sure everything is working properly, which could end up adding to your setup and tear-down time.

Powering Effects and Ground Loops As long as you’re using alternating current to power your gear, your sound be susceptible to 60-cycle hum. Effects setups are especially prone to ground-loop issues. Problems with 60-cycle hum may exist where there is a faulty AC/DC power supply to an effect. AC-powered rack units are not immune to 60-cycle problems. Be sure not to confuse EMI-generated 60-cycle from guitar pickups with power-supply hum. Turning the volume on your guitar down all the way is a first step for troubleshooting power supply problems. If you still have lots of hum (even with the guitar volume control turned down), then you probably have a dreaded ground loop. Hum can be vexing, and you need patience to solve any issues. Realize that you can solve most pedal power-supply hum problems by running on batteries. Different types of effects eat through batteries at different rates. Digital delays are tough on 9-volt batteries, and you’re lucky to get through one gig on one battery—thus the temptation to use an AC/DC power supply so you don’t spend a fortune on batteries. Some new rechargeable lithium-powered battery supplied for use with multiple pedals also provide a hum-free solution. 104

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Figure 5.34 VHT Valvulator I tube buffer and pedal power supply. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 5.35 Another view of the Valvulator, showing that it can split the signal out to two amps, or an amp and a tuner, or any of a number of possible destinations. Keep your eye out for versatile utility devices like this. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 5.36 The Visual Sound 1spot power supply is an affordable option that can power a whole pedalboard of effects. Be sure to pick up the multi-plug cable. The 1spot can even be used in other countries without using a voltage convertor, because it does the conversion internally. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Live Sound for Guitar The more gear we use live, the more trouble invites itself. This is especially true with power supplies. If you’re using 10 pedals on your pedalboard and 10 different power supplies, there is a high probability that you’ll have the 60-cycle blues as the power supplies vie for different paths to ground. You can troubleshoot by unhooking everything and then plugging in one effect at a time until you find a culprit. Once in a great while, you can solve an effects-chain hum problem by using a 1/4-inch instrument cable that has the ground clipped internally on one of the jacks, between effects. I keep a short special cable around for this purpose. Never do this if your amp doesn’t have a three-prong power cord or it isn’t properly grounded. Probably the solution with the highest odds of success, besides using the battery route, is using a power supply capable of powering multiple effects. This way, all the power is sharing the same path to ground, and you’ll avoid loops. A good utility box to have handy is the Ebtech Hum Eliminator (see Figure 5.37).

Figure 5.37 Ebtech Hum Eliminator. © 2015 Richard Clark.

If you really want to play hardball with the AC, you can look into isolation transformers, such as those offered by Tripp Lite (priced starting around $109), or even balanced power conditioners. Both of these types of solutions are physically very heavy and, especially in the case of the balanced power conditioner, very expensive (Furman P-2400 IT at $2,500).

TIP: Whatever you do, be extremely leery of three-to-two AC adapters that lift the ground from the AC line. Lifting the ground on an AC may be an invitation to death. Deaths on stage from improper grounding have happened.

I asked my old friend and former student, Justin Bryant, now a gigging and session guitarist, for his thoughts about effects pedals, pedalboards, power supplies, and the finer points of being a cool electric guitarist. In the following sidebar, Justin shares his thoughts.

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Thoughts from Justin Bryant: It’s a great time to be a guitarist, with so many great studio-quality effects pedals available. Often overlooked is what is needed for the gig with regard to which pedals, in what order, and possibly more important, the power requirements and cabling used. Also, why should you use buffered, true bypass, or both?

Figure 5.38 The underside of one of Justin’s pedalboards. © 2015 Justin Bryant.

Regarding true bypass versus buffered: True bypass allows the signal to pass through the pedal with no interference or degradation from the effect itself. It is in fact bypassing the electronics of the pedal. The only downside of this is when you use several true-bypass pedals in series. You are losing signal as capacitance is building. Buffered pedals have an electronic buffer that changes high-impedance signals to lowimpedance, allowing signal to have the same tone and to drive longer cable runs without high-capacitance roll-off. Not all buffers are created equal, and some can add noise to the circuit. I try to utilize a hybrid of true bypass and buffered circuits on my pedalboard to avoid capacitance buildup from long cable runs. I typically will use a buffered pedal as the first pedal after my guitar signal, one toward the end of the pedals going to the front end of the amp, and one in the effects-loop send to ensure no degradation in the effects loop. Regarding power, I’m a firm believer in isolated power sources (no daisy-chaining), such as the Pedal Power by Voodoo Lab. Each pedal will require at least 9 volts, with some power-hungry pedals using more amperage and others requiring 12 or even 18 volts. Note: Some boutique pedals can handle between 9 and 18 volts, which adds extra headroom. Always read your owner’s manual to ensure your pedal can handle higher voltage, or you can seriously damage your effect! The reason for discrete power is to eliminate or reduce ground noise. Overdrive and distortion pedals are notorious for adding noise that will spread to others on the same circuit. Another reason is that you greatly reduce ground loops, which leave a nasty hum.

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Live Sound for Guitar For cabling, I prefer to use solid solder-type connections cut specifically for the length of the pedals. I see people buying inexpensive patch cables that aren’t shielded well and that break easily or add noise from outside sources. Why have a quiet and clean path and spoil it with subpar cables? There are also many solderless cables on the market. Some of these sound great, and since they require no soldering, they are easy to custom build. These work well for players that aren’t aggressive with their pedals. These cables tend to be more delicate, and there is nothing worse than kicking your pedalboard around the stage due to a faulty cable.

Figure 5.39

Justin’s smaller pedalboard.

© 2015 Justin Bryant.

I also try to keep the pedal connections away from the power cables and connectors. By using the above methods, I’m able to use a pedalboard that will take the rigors of the road—better yet, no batteries after 15+ years! (I’ve saved thousands of dollars and time going this route.) First, I always think of the gig I’m doing and get the essentials down. I sometimes like to use a preamp line driver or clean boost to give the signal chain a little more power. This can be subtle—to give a little extra kick and add girth to low-output pickups. You can also use these pedals with 20+ dB of gain to really hit the input of your amplifier and clip the front end for extra gain. Be careful, however, as too much early in the chain can cause the other pedals to distort in a nasty way. I prefer these pedals to be buffered, which ensures that the pedal, even when turned off, is powering the output properly. If I’m playing a gig that calls for a wah pedal, I’ll use one. If not, I may pull it off altogether. Why? The wah pedal can be overused, much like a tremolo system. I would always recommend a true-bypass wah, as wah pedals are notorious tone suckers when turned off. Dunlop and RMC, among others, make great pedals in a variety of flavors, depending on your style. I may also use a compressor to give a little squish to the signal to help notes balance out, or sustain on clean tones so the notes don’t decay immediately. Another use is a booster to drive the input of an amplifier harder. Compressors usually have a unique tonal quality and color, where a line booster just gives you more signal without compression. 108

Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects Next, I’ll use an overdrive pedal to add gain or distortion to a clean channel, to give it the feel of an amp cranked up at low volume. There are literally hundreds of flavors of these, usually based off an Ibanez Tube Screamer, SRV’s pedal of choice. You can also use these pedals to boost an overdriven amp to produce extremely high gain. Hard rock and metal players use the pedal with a lower gain setting and higher volume level. This method is utilized to give that thick, high-gain sound that adds definition and additional compression.

Figure 5.40 Justin’s medium-size pedalboard. © 2015 Justin Bryant.

Next we have modulation effects, such as phasers, chorus, and flangers. Phasers came to popularity in the ’70s, replicating tape-flanging effects of the records of that time. The effect can be used subtly, as heard on the early Van Halen recordings, or on higher settings to give the watery or psychedelic sounds of the late ’60s. The MXR Phase 90 is the de facto standard, with many other companies offering different shades and controls. Chorus pedals were used to sound like a “chorus of singers or instruments,” utilizing pitch changes mixed with the original signal and combining short delay times and feedback. Chorus can sound very sweet on a clean guitar sound to give it depth and color. It was also used heavily in the ’80s to give a wide and thick guitar spread. Players from Tom Scholz to Zakk Wylde still use this effect as a major component to their sound. The Boss CE-1 is the original analog chorus, and there are many versions of this pedal available by other pedal makers. Flangers are similar to chorus pedals and phasers, except they utilize shorter and uniform delay times. The best way to explain the difference is that flangers have a jet-plane type of sound. Flangers vary from the MXR Flanger, made popular by Eddie Van Halen on songs like

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Live Sound for Guitar “Unchained,” to intense pitch-shifting and faux “dive bombs” from players such as Paul Gilbert, who uses an ADA Flanger.

Figure 5.41

The whole Bryant family of pedals and pedalboards!

© 2015 Justin Bryant.

Next, I’ll use a delay pedal, either analog (old school) or a digital delay (new school). Analog delays typically have delay times from 1 to 400 milliseconds. This sound is warm and rich and will sound great for slap-back rockabilly to classic late-’70s arena rock. Digital delays are more “brilliant” and don’t have the high-end roll-off of the analog units. They also can allow a range of 1 to 4000ms. Some go above, into several seconds or minutes, and are used as loopers. The Edge is a great example of digital delay and syncing multiple delays together to create the U2 sound. I prefer programmable units that allow three or more presets with tap tempo, which allows you to tap the rhythm of the song into the pedal, ensuring a perfect sync.

Effect Order When it comes to the order in which to place your effects, rules are made to be broken. In general, preamps, boosters, and compressors should come early in the chain. Distortion works well early in the chain. In the old days, the only dilemma was whether to put the wah before or after the fuzz-tone. (Try it both ways and pick a favorite.) Some of the more famous fuzz-tones, like the Fuzz Face, like to be right after the guitar (and a passive guitar at that, with no active circuit). Delay devices, from chorus pedals and flangers to analog or digital delays and reverbs, come at the end of the chain. A volume pedal works well on either end of a chain of pedals, so see what works best for you. If you use it at the end of a chain, it can function as a manual noise gate.

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Effects Loops: Many guitar amplifiers come with an effects loop. An effects loop allows you to insert an effect or effects between the preamplifier and power amplifier of your amp. Effects loops work especially well with digital delays and reverbs. I would not run all of your pedals and devices in the effects loops, though, as this might create a sound noisier than ocean waves in a hurricane. Probably the vast majority of effects users run their effects in series, one after the other. Most guitar-amp effects loops are series loops. They simply allow you to insert your effects in the signal path. There is an alternative. A few amps are equipped with parallel effects loops. Parallel loops work really well if you’re using one effect in the loop, such as a reverb or delay. The awesome thing about the parallel loop is that you can turn the mix knob all the way up on the effect itself. Your original signal always goes straight through the amp, but a parallel signal is split off into the loop. These amps feature a mix knob for mixing in the effect to taste. The benefit of this is that you retain the purity of the original signal. There are some boxes available, such as the Lehle Parallel L Compact Line Mixer, that allow you to convert a series loop into a parallel loop. If you choose to use a more elaborate effects system with rackmount gear, you might consider using a small rackmount mixer for parallel effects applications. Many multi-effect rack units (and pedals) have internal series or parallel routing controls.

Multi-Effects Pedals Another convenient and versatile option is to use a multi-effects pedalboard with all the effects built in. You needn’t eschew other foot pedals when using a multi-effects board, although whenever I’ve used a multi-effects board, it has been standalone. I think this is mostly about convenience. Many of the ground-noise issues of modular pedalboards don’t exist with multi-effects units because the unit simply has a single power supply. One feature that a number of multi-effects pedalboards and rack units have is a switching A/B output jack that you can connect to the channel-switching footswitch jack on your amp. You can program amp-channel switching in the effects patch changes. As time goes on, these multi-effects boards get more sophisticated with more built-in effects and programmability features. Most of these units have speaker-compensated outputs—in other words, outputs that have filtering to replicate the high-end roll-off of a guitar speaker—for plugging directly into the PA system of the recording console. The tradeoff, compared to the choices available in a modular, pick-your-own-pedals system, is there, but some of these multi-effects units now come with an astounding fleet of built-in effects.

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Figure 5.42 Line 6 HD500X pedalboard. To simply call it a multi-effects pedal is really an understatement, as it has wide-ranging capabilities. © 2015 Line 6®.

Buffered versus True-Bypass Effects: Among guitar-pedals buffs (no pun intended), the debate over buffered versus true bypass will raise some people’s blood pressure. The basic argument is about what happens when you step on an effects pedal’s footswitch to turn off an effect. With a true-bypass effect, when you turn off the effect, the signal completely bypasses the internal-powered electric effects circuit. Some feel this allows for a more pure signal to pass through the box when the effect is in bypass mode. Buffered effects pass the signal through a buffer circuit, even when the effect is in bypass mode. Low-impedance output and unity gain (the same signal strength out of the effect as going into the box) are touted as advantages of buffered effects. I personally feel that in most cases buffered effects have the advantage of playing well with others, though a built-in buffered guitar output might solve any detrimental issues with truebypass circuits. It really just takes some experimentation. Make sure not to just read the spec sheets on the gear; use your ears as well. So, we’ve had an overview of the world of effects. It is a vast world with endless possibilities. I have a couple of suggestions/cautions, and then I’d like to show you a couple more types of pedals. There are many types of live situations where, depending on what other instruments are on stage, you will stand a much greater chance of creating an indelible sonic stamp if you don’t use effects or if you at least use them judiciously. If you have a great-sounding guitar and a great-sounding amp, you may be diluting their full sonic glory by piling on effects, just like you might mar a good-tasting sandwich by piling on too many condiments. We’ve seen some great electric guitarists throughout history create a unique sonic identity through effects that were integral to the music they were creating. I’ve invited you to explore effects in a way that not only tries to mimic a popular song or style but that also maybe goes beyond and helps you forge your own identity. I know there have been

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Chapter 5 Effects and More Effects points in my life where I have spent so much time working on sound that I finally realized I was neglecting working on music and my instrument. You’ll have to find that personal line where your sound and your instrument merge. Effects are tools, and a handyman doesn’t have just one screwdriver and one wrench. You would be wise to keep a variety of effects on hand. You may just be inspired by putting a new one in your pedalboard every once in a while, or you may have a specific call for a certain effect. Don’t feel like you have to always plug in all of your effects. Everyone should have a pedal like the Boss LS-2 Line Selector (see Figure 5.43).

Figure 5.43 Boss LS-2 Line Selector. © 2015 Richard Clark.

The Line Selector consists of just two sets of sends and returns. In other words, it has two loops. It is kind of a Swiss Army knife gizmo. You could plug your guitar into the Line Selector and go to your amp out of the Line Selector. In loop A, you could split out to your whole pedalboard and from loop B go to your tuner. If your pedalboard were to take a nosedive, you could instantly bypass the entire board, no matter how many effects were connected to it, by switching off loop A. I’ve used the LS-2 live with my laptop inserted in one of the loops because I’ve found that one of the best live backward (as in, sounding like a tape played backward) guitar sounds is in a software-based guitar effects platform called Guitar Rig. I didn’t want my guitar running through the computer for the whole gig, so I put the computer in one of the LS-2 loops, and it worked like a charm when I needed it. It would behoove you to own a noise gate. I hope you don’t always have to use it, but a noise gate can be incredibly handy in situations where noise and hum are out of control. I’ve had to stand right next to a fluorescent light on a small stage, and even with humbucking pickups the noise was dreadful. I finally resorted to bringing my rackmount Rocktron Hush noise gate to the gig, and at least things were tolerable at that point. Lastly, do you use a smartphone? A number of smartphone apps on the market contain models of many effects and amps. As with other multi-effect units, you should spend a little time custom-tailoring your own sounds. If your effects or amp should fail at a gig, you could use your smartphone or tablet! You’ll simply need to use an interface device like the Line 6 Sonic Port to connect your guitar to the smart-device via a standard guitar cable (see Figure 5.44).

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Figure 5.44 Line 6 Sonic Port interface for mobile devices. © 2015 Line 6®.

Figure 5.45 Line 6 Mobile POD app. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound (and Possibly Making It Not Quite as Loud)

6

E

ARLIER IN THE BOOK, we touched on the fact that guitar amp speakers are quite different from hi-fi speakers. The main difference is that guitar amp speakers roll off the treble, starting off at around 5000 Hz. Without this roll-off, your guitar would probably sound jarringly bright, and distorted tones would grate your ears and drive your dog crazy.

Figure 6.1 Weber speaker frames with magnet circuits attached. © 2015 Richard Clark.

You should make a point of sometimes plugging your electric guitar directly into a mixing console with no outboard effects or your computer audio interface with no plug-ins to hear the full-range, unfiltered electric guitar sound. This bright sound can be useful in some contexts, especially in recording guitar layers for a track. The full-range guitar sound works with a clean sound (though it might be too sterile-sounding for your taste), but applying distortion to the sound will make it unbearable. With the advent of powerful combinations such as the Line 6 HD500X and L2t speakers, you can automatically switch the mode of the speaker from full-range (hi-fi) to guitar-amp speaker response (high-end cut-off), depending on the preset sound program of the HD500X. Being aware of the frequency response of a guitar speaker is critical to having a chance to be heard in the best possible light, especially when you’re working with a sound-reinforcement setup.

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Figure 6.2 Weber Blue Dog Speaker—Isolation. © 2015 Larry Baker.

Figure 6.3 Black Shadow (EV) speaker. © 2015 Larry Baker.

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Installing a New or Replacement Speaker A new speaker is one of the easiest upgrades, repairs, or modifications you can make to your sound. In most cases, you can do the installation with only a screwdriver or two. There are more choices than ever when it comes to speakers. Guitar speakers come in many tonal “flavors,” and truth be told, finding the perfect speaker for your amp might be rather like trying to find the perfect pumpkin in a pumpkin field. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a new speaker, enclosure, or array of speakers. w

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Guitar speakers by design have a calculated amount of taper in the high end of the frequency spectrum. The area of the spectrum that seems to define much of a speaker’s characteristic sound is midrange. Automobile sound-system installation stores often have a wall of speakers that can be compared at the simple touch of a switch. It’s a shame we can’t compare guitar speakers in such a rapid manner! The enclosure where a speaker resides has a great deal of bearing on its sound. The same speaker in an openback speaker cabinet will probably sound noticeably different in a closed-back cabinet. In a combo amp, the speaker accounts for a great deal of the amp’s total weight. Along with high efficiency, some of the high-end, high-efficiency speakers with the power-handling of up to 200 watts also come with the price of enormous added weight. For the gigging musician, this cannot be ignored. A solution might be to install such a speaker in a separate cabinet for more portability. Common sense would be to only install a speaker capable of handling the full output wattage of an amplifier, but practical experience has taught me otherwise. If you play in a really loud setting with your amp cranked all the time, you should err on the side of caution. If you never turn your amp up to nearly ridiculous volume, you would probably do just fine with a lighter speaker with a lower power-handling rating. You wouldn’t want to match a speaker with, say, a 10-watt power-handling rating with a 100-watt amplifier, but you might be fine with a 75-watt speaker as long as you aren’t maxing out the amp. The rating for a speaker is usually given in RMS, which is typically half the peak rating. A speaker with a 100-watt RMS rating might be able to handle the occasional 200-watt peak. Be sure to read the fine print on the speaker rating. Recent advances in speaker technology have resulted in speakers using lightweight neodymium magnets. Neodymium is a “rare earth” material that has extraordinary magnetic properties. It can be used to create smaller, lighter speaker magnets. Compare the weight of the classic EVM 12L speaker, weighing in at 19 pounds, to the Eminence Patriot Lil\’ Texas Neo 12-inch, weighing in at a whopping 4.1 pounds (see Figure 6.4)! Granted, the EVM has a power-handling capacity rating of >200 watts RMS. The Eminence has a rating of 125 watts RMS, which is easily enough to handle the output of almost any single 12-inch combo amp. Neodymium products obviously address the concern of a gigging guitarist who sometimes feels like he plays for free but gets paid to haul heavy equipment. It’s important to replace a speaker with a speaker with the same impedance rating. The exception to this is that some amps will theoretically tolerate a speaker with a higher impedance rating, such as using a 16-ohm speaker with an 8-ohm speaker output. Your amp might work a little harder and not produce as much volume as a result of such an impedance mismatch. This could be an effective strategy for taming an overly loud amp. Using a speaker with a lower impedance rating than the amplifier output will likely cause the amplifier’s output transformer to fail. The character of your amp might be enhanced by trying a different-size speaker, possibly in combination with the existing speaker. An amp with single 10-inch speaker will produce more low end if combined with a 12-inch extension cabinet. Make sure you use the correct output impedance jacks when you combine speakers. Two 8-ohm speakers should be plugged into the amp’s 4-ohm output(s).

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Figure 6.4 The incredibly lightweight Eminence Lil\’ Texas 12-Inch speaker, weighing in at 4.1 pounds and rated at 125 watts RMS! © 2015 Eminence Speaker.

How to Replace and Install a Speaker: In most cases, replacing a guitar speaker takes only a matter of a few minutes and some elbow grease. Occasionally speakers fail, usually due to being pushed beyond their limits for too long. Speakers are usually repairable, so consider restoring your blown speaker to its former glory before you toss it. A diagnosis by a competent repairperson will inform you of the feasibility and estimated costs. When you remove a speaker from an enclosure, you need to determine whether the speaker is mounted to know whether it can come out directly from the front of the enclosure or through the back. If you’re looking in the back of the enclosure, do you see the heads of the speakermounting screws? If so, then the speaker comes out the back. If it comes out the front of the cabinet, then the grill cloth will most likely have at least four screws that need to be unfastened in order to remove the grill. A few amps simply use Velcro to affix the grill, but this is rare. Before you unfasten the speaker-mounting screws, you must disconnect the speaker wires from the speaker terminals. In most cases, this only requires you to pull the connectors out of a clip or a spring-loaded connector terminal, but some speakers still use soldered connections. Assuming you have some minimal competence with a soldering iron (you should certainly acquire some basic soldering skills), then be sure to put some material, such as foil, under but not touching the terminals, between the terminals and the speaker cone. You want to avoid dripping hot solder on the speaker cone. Here is a list of steps to follow when replacing a speaker. Even with such a large variation in cabinet design and speaker connectors, you can accomplish this task with minimal complications.

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Chapter 6 Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound 1. UNPLUG YOUR AMP FROM YOUR AC POWER SOURCE. Sorry to shout, but this is important. However, this isn’t an issue if you are just working on a standalone speaker cabinet. 2. Determine whether the speaker-mounting screws are affixed to the inside of the cabinet or facing out the front of the cabinet. On an open-back cabinet, you can access them by peering into the back of the cabinet. Use a flashlight if necessary. If you see the screw heads installed in the screw holes around the rim of the speaker, then the speaker will be removed or installed via the back of the cabinet. 3. Remove any baffles on the back of the amp that would impede easy access to the speaker. At this point you should probably have a small container handy to keep track of the screws you’re removing. 4. Make a note of the position of the speaker connection terminals. When you install a new speaker, the new terminals should be in approximately the same position as the old ones. In other words, when you install the new speaker, don’t rotate the speaker so that the connection terminals face the opposite side of the cabinet. 5. Carefully remove the speaker wire from the connector terminals. If this requires use of a soldering iron, see above. 6. Unscrew and remove all of the speaker-mounting screws. Put them in the special screw container by your side. This can be a bit tedious if you’re doing it by hand. You can use a power drill if you have the correct-size bit for the screws. 7. Firmly grasp the speaker magnet and gently pull the speaker loose. It should come out easily. 8. Set the old speaker aside. 9. Make note of whether the old and new speakers have the same number of screw holes. If they don’t, there’s no reason to panic. It’s very likely that screw holes will line up even if the number of holes is different. 10. Grab the new speaker by the magnet (or frame, as long you have a secure grip and aren’t putting your finger through the cone) and move the new speaker into position. Be aware that the speaker magnet may have a mind of its own and might be attracted to (or repelled by) anything ferrous in the amp chassis, especially a transformer. This isn’t an issue in a standalone cabinet. 11. Reattach the speaker wire to the terminals on the new speaker, making sure the positive wire (usually marked with a + sign or with a white dot) is connected to the positive terminal (also usually marked with a + sign or with a white dot). 12. If you use a power drill to reinstall the mounting screws, save the last few turns for a hand screwdriver. Over-tightening the screws could warp the speaker frame. 13. On a closed-back cabinet, most of the same instructions apply. You’ll have quite a few more screws to deal with in order to remove the back of the cabinet. You may have to deal with some insulation material inside the cabinet, in which case gloves and a simple breathing mask are recommended. If the speaker-jack connection is on the back of the enclosure, then you must take care not to pull the wire out and off when removing the back. 14. Reinstall any baffles you removed. 15. Lastly, put the old speaker in the box that the new speaker came in, but be sure not to store in it near any magnetic hard drives or magnetic tape!

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Figure 6.5 Weber speaker 20-ounce and 30-ounce ceramic magnets. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 6.6 Weber speaker front plates. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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Speaker Sizes You will find guitar speaker sizes ranging from 8 inches to 15 inches. (And there was a period when some bass players were using 18-inch speakers.) If you dig deep enough, you’ll probably find a few amps with smaller or larger speakers than those dimensions. Almost any professional-grade modern combo amp with a built-in 8-inch speaker will have an output jack for an extension speaker. It’s surprising how much volume a small speaker can pump out. Many of the amps using such a small speaker are solid state and use a closed-back enclosure, which enhances the low-end response. Depending on the internal speaker’s impedance, the power-amp section of the amp will put out higher output wattage when using an extension speaker wired in parallel. Ten-inch speakers are popular options in smaller single-speaker combo guitar amps, as well as combo amps with two or four 10-inch speakers. Smaller speakers are sometimes described as brighter, punchier, and faster than their big brothers. A single large speaker will disperse sound over a broader area than a single small speaker. Speaker cabinets with multiple 10-inch speakers have been used in a number of bass guitar amp cabinets through the years, which dispels any notion that these speakers aren’t capable of putting out low end. By far the most popular-size guitar speaker is the 12-inch model. There are many different varieties of replacement speakers, but in broad terms they tend to fall into several areas—American-voiced, British-voiced, vintage, or modern. Which one is best for your style of music? Some may disagree, but after years of experience with a variety of speakers, I’m convinced that you can use almost any type of speaker for any amplified guitar sound and style.

Figure 6.7 Speaker cones at the Weber speaker factory. © 2015 Richard Clark.

There are sonic differences for sure, but it comes down to whether you want to honor the sound your amp was designed to produce. There are no rules, and experimentation is allowed.

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Live Sound for Guitar The composition of the speaker magnet is considered to be the leading factor in a speaker’s tone quality. Speakers with Alnico magnets are regarded as having a very rich and pleasing tonal range, but until recently they weren’t capable of handling higher output wattage. Alnico speakers were great replacements for lower-wattage amps or in multiple-speaker arrays, such as two or four 12-inch speakers. Now several companies offer speakers with Alnico magnets that also handle higher wattages. Ceramic magnets can be found in many classic speakers and can be designed to handle a much higher power rating than Alnico. Alnico speakers tend to be more costly than ceramic. As mentioned before, neodymium magnets have really changed the speaker world because of their lightweight characteristics. Fifteen-inch speakers are popular with pedal-steel guitar players and jazz players, though many jazz players now have the option of using a small, portable, powerful solid-state amp with a smaller-size speaker.

Speaker Upgrades: Old and New and Old Again The trend of upgrading an amp to a more efficient (louder) replacement speaker has turned around a little. Now there are more options than ever to install a speaker that is voiced to replicate the sound of a vintage speaker. Why is this necessary? For one thing, new owners of vintage amps whose speakers have been upgraded might like to hear the vintage amp with period-correct speakers. It’s sort of like taking the CD player out of your antique Chevy and reinstalling a tube radio like the one that came with the car brand new. The modern speaker can still be used if it’s in its own enclosure. A great method is to utilize two different types of speakers at the same time. This could obviously also happen if you used two amps at the same time. One amp can power a number of different speakers as long as the impedance of the speakers to the amp match and the speakers are in phase with one another. Some brands of amp have a phase switch for ensuring that an extension cab is correctly lined up with the internal speaker of a combo amp. When the speakers are in phase, you will notice the low end is fuller than when the speakers are out of phase. There are a number of opinions and theories about how to create the perfect distorted guitar tone. One theory is that this occurs not only when the amp is pushed to an extreme limit, but also the speaker is pushed almost to the point where it is distorting. There is surely some truth to this, but it reminds me of someone saying, “The amp sounded incredible right before the smoke came out the back!” Unless you can afford to replace speakers on a semi-regular basis, I would steer clear of this avenue in your pursuit of the golden tone.

Different Types of Speaker Enclosures Years ago, I saw Jeff Beck perform with a wall of Univox speaker enclosures, each enclosure containing six 12-inch speakers. I have a feeling his roadies got tired of hauling those around the world. Speakers can be mounted with the amplifier itself, as in a combo amp, or in a separate enclosure. The vast majority of combo enclosures—especially tube amps—are open back due to ventilation concerns. You can find separate enclosures in open- or closed-back configurations. Closed-back speaker boxes have greater projection, and open-back tend to diffuse the sound somewhat. Nothing quite says “rock” like the sight of a 4 × 12-inch cabinet or a whole wall of them. If you ever see a whole wall of 4 × 12-inch cabs, chances are they’re props, but even one gives you a reason to bring earplugs. Even low-wattage amps sound great through a 4 × 12-inch cab. What is really interesting is that if you plug a combo amp speaker output in a 4 × 12-inch cab, the amp sound takes on a completely new character. If you’ve ever stood next to an upright-bass player, unamplified and on stage, you know it’s almost impossible to reproduce the sensation of the air moving off the soundboard of the bass. You can stick a microphone or pickup on it and amplify it, but being near 122

Chapter 6 Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound the instrument is a sensation unto itself. Standing in front of a 4 × 12-inch cabinet evokes a similar sensation. There is nothing quite like it for a guitar player.

Figure 6.8 Third Power speaker enclosure. Note the removable ports. Also, note the 8-ohm and 16-ohm input jacks. © 2015 Justin Bryant.

Some 4 × 12-inch cabs are available with the bottom half in a closed-back configuration and the top half in an open-back configuration. Many standard 4 × 12-inch cabs can be configured to be run in mono or stereo at flip of a switch. As usual, pay attention to the impedance match between the amp and the speaker cabinet. A more portable alternative to a 4 × 12-inch cabinet is a 2 × 12-inch cabinet. You can load these with two identical speakers or mix and match two different speakers, paying attention to impedance and correct phasing. For those of us who don’t play on an arena-size stage and who have to squeeze with the rest of the band on an area about the size of my kitchen table, a single 12-inch extension cabinet makes a lot of sense. You can set the cabinet on the floor and stack on top of it either a combo amp or an amplifier head. It’s great to keep a couple of single 12-inch cabinets around with different types of speakers for different occasions. One cabinet could have a low-wattage-rated Alnico speaker, and another could have a high-wattage-rated high-efficiency speaker. These single 12-inch speakers are easy to haul around even when loaded with a 20-pound speaker. Four 20-pound speakers in a single cabinet might lead to trips to the chiropractor!

Working with a Soundperson We’re going to spend a fair amount of time discussing more ways to get a live electric guitar sound that doesn’t make people’s eardrums bleed. Your setup on stage might appear so threatening (remember the stacks of fake speaker cabinets?) that someone might accuse you of being too loud before you’ve even played a note. You just look too loud! 123

Live Sound for Guitar The soundperson is one of the first people at the venue who will give you an honest and informed opinion about how your guitar sound is working in the context of the group.

Mixing from the Stage It may be that your group is self contained, and one of the band members does mixing from one side of the stage. This isn’t an ideal spot to mix from, but many bands choose to run the PA this way (usually for economical reasons). If the band has time to do a soundcheck, it’s possible that a guitar player or bass player might have a wireless controller that would enable him to go out into the room to hear the big picture. If this isn’t possible, then hopefully one band member can run out into the room for an overview listen. In some cases, the band might not have time to do a soundcheck, so the really fine tuning will occur once the music has started. The directions are usually pretty simple and broad, such as, “It’s too loud!” or “You can’t hear the vocals” or sometimes “Turn up the bass!” If the band has a leader, he may have specific (and yet subjective) feelings about the volume on stage and the volume projecting from the stage. If you’re hired as a side person and like the work, then you should probably make some attempt at appeasing the boss. This can be frustrating, especially since you may have brought your vintage 50-watt amp to the gig and you want to put it through its paces. There are a number of technical ways of making the boss happy and yourself a happy camper. But before we get to those solutions, probably the most obvious place to start is to make sure you can hear yourself. Back in the days when a PA system had only four channels, and nothing from the stage was reinforced via the sound system, it made sense to point guitar speakers out at the audience. From an aesthetic standpoint, it looks cool to have amps pointing outward, but it might be helpful to think of the amp as a tone machine and monitor. This is a long-winded way of saying you should make sure the amp is somewhat facing your ears. Especially in situations where volume is an issue, you may want to put the amp on a chair or get a tilt-back amp stand and angle the amp toward your ears instead of your derriere. If you’re standing stage-left or stage-right, you can even put the amp off to the side of the stage and point it across the stage (more toward your head if possible) rather than at the audience. FOH means front of house, which usually means in the back of the hall or room. Having a soundperson who can mix from the back of the room is more ideal than trying to do all the mixing from the stage. A number of technological advances in sound reinforcement in the past several years have revolutionized the art of live sound.

Soundchecks: My Experience: First of all, don’t be too surprised if the soundperson spends 90 percent of the soundcheck getting drum sounds. Even though we know that the guitar sound is not only cooler than drums but also more important, soundpeople like to spend a lot of time dialing in the bass drum and snare drum. This is to be expected, considering that low frequencies are less directional and can fan out sonically through a room. Being able to access how a room handles the low end is vital for establishing how the rest of the frequency spectrum can be defined clearly in the mix. While this is going on, resist the urge to crank up your amp and noodle around. The sound engineer may be dealing with resonant frequencies that cause the unwelcome feedback in the PA system. The fewer sounds going on at the same time, the easier it is for him to isolate any trouble frequencies. You can warm up with your volume knob off. If you insist on making a racket while the soundperson is checking the drums, microphones, and other instruments, you will be holding up people and maybe cutting precious time before the show to grab a bite to eat.

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Chapter 6 Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound The soundcheck should be an orderly process that usually starts with checking and balancing all the drum microphones, moves on to bass guitar, and then moves to maybe keyboards. Guitar players are lower in the pecking order and are usually asked to play later in the soundcheck. If you arrive early enough and the engineer is ready to go, he may be willing to make sure your sound is up and running through the sound system. Guitars should be checked with a basic rhythm-guitar sound and also the most screaming lead sound you’ve got. The soundperson would prefer not to be surprised by a dramatic spike in volume during the show. Everyone should realize that an empty room makes everything sound loud and that a room packed with people will absorb a lot of the volume. Soundchecks are important for making sure all the microphone inputs and line inputs are working, but in most cases they are a “ballpark” exercise, and the final adjustments won’t be made until the audience is in the house. There are some simple things you can do to help the engineer get zoomed in on your guitar sound. If you’re playing in a medium-sized room, chances are that a fair amount of your live amp sound will carry into the room. Make sure not to stand right in front of your guitar speakers during soundcheck if possible. When it’s your turn to play—you’ll probably have a short moment when it’s only you playing—walk around and off to the side of your amplifier. The soundperson will eventually want to hear any vocal microphones on stage and will ask for all of your band to play a song. Sometimes you can get a quick rehearsal in during this part of the soundcheck. After you play a song, you may be told to turn up or turn down, or maybe your sonic porridge is just right. Sometime during the soundcheck process, you’ll have a chance to adjust the mix in the monitor speakers that are pointed back at the band. There are several different types of monitors, from big side-fills (big speakers off to the side of the stage that point across the stage), to small individual monitors that mount on a microphone stand, to the traditional floor monitors. Make sure your monitor is pointed at your head, not at your knees. It used to be a rarity to have more than one or two monitor mixes on stage, but now, especially with the advent of self-powered monitors, it’s quite common to have multiple monitor mixes so everyone on stage can be happy. We’re getting spoiled, aren’t we? Another fairly common sight on stage is the use of in-ear monitors. In-ear monitors are usually connected to a “more me” box, such as an Aviom 16-channel headphone mixer. With a box like this, you can make your own mix entirely to your taste. In the studio and live, I’ve found that if I’m working with a topnotch engineer, I often like the way he mixes monitors more than what I try to create for myself. Using in-ear monitors really merges a live environment with the characteristics of a tightly controlled studio environment. Chances are that if you’re using inear monitoring, the drum set will be either enclosed in a booth or surrounded by Plexiglas shields. If you’re using in-ear monitors that are earbuds and seal out most of the outside sound, you don’t really need massive stage volume. The world of live sound has been dramatically changed by software that allows engineers to remotely use a tablet to adjust controls on the mixing console. This ability to walk around the room and size up the sound from multiple vantage points is a tremendous benefit. Getting the optimum sound in a room is a little like tuning a guitar, in that subtle adjustments and compromises need to be made to achieve the most pleasing, balanced sound.

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Live Sound for Guitar Mixing consoles used to operate entirely in the analog domain, but nowadays many of them have the ability to store and recall mixes and control many parameters, including effects, essentially through a built-in computer. The simplicity or complexity of this tool is at the mercy of the engineer. Some engineers are incredibly adept at utilizing analog or digital boards. At some point, however, you will experience a soundperson—perhaps a nonprofessional engineer, a club DJ doubling as soundperson, or a church member just helping out. In this case, try to be patient and helpful, but keep your earplugs on hand. Loud feedback squeals from the monitors or PA mains can cause permanent damage to your ears. I never go into a gig feeling like I’m entitled to a great monitor mix or even soundcheck. I still consider it a bonus when I get to work with a competent professional sound company. If good monitors and a relaxed, thorough soundcheck aren’t in the cards for a performance, you may just have to make do. In a worst-case scenario, you can simply disconnect an offending monitor or point it toward the floor if it’s too much of a distraction. Communication, cooperation, and civility go a long way in setting the stage for a good performance.

Using a Microphone and Understanding Mic Placement If you gig on a regular basis, you’ll play plenty of gigs when it’s just you, your guitar, any effects, and your amp, with no additional support by being added into the PA mix. On the other hand, you’ll also walk into gigs where there’s a sound system and a sound crew (or maybe this is handled by someone in your band). The tried-and-true method of capturing your electric guitar sound is to put a microphone in front of the speaker. I’ve made several observations over the years about this practice. By far the most common microphone you’ll see being used to capture your sound is a Shure SM57, a cardioid dynamic mic (see Figures 6.9 and 6.10).

Figure 6.9 Shure SM57 capturing a Marshall 4 × 12 cabinet. © 2015 Alan Johnson.

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Figure 6.10 Shure SM57. Close-up view. You don’t want your ears to be this close when the guitarist is playing! © 2015 Alan Johnson.

This humble workhorse (although maybe closer to a large workmouse) has a number of attributes that put it in high demand. Cardioid refers to the geometric pattern of the microphone’s pickup area. Cardioid mics mostly capture the sound emanating directly toward the front of the microphone (the opposite end from where the cord attaches, in the case of the SM57), and the pickup pattern gradually lessens for sounds coming from the sides and is minimal (if present at all) for sounds coming from behind the microphone. This pattern of sonic focus allows the sound engineer to keep the guitar sound discrete, or separate, from other sounds being pumped into the sound system. Although the SM57 always seems to get used for both guitar amps and snare drums, some engineers prefer the Sennheiser e609 (see Figure 6.11). It has a little smoother midrange, which makes the guitar amp less brittle in the PA, and it also has a different center frequency from the snare drum mic. Both will cut through the mix, so having each of these two mics with a little different “color” is preferred. The e609 is great if you need to hang the microphone from the amp handle. The microphone’s profile is flat, which allows the microphone to be on axis when hanging in front of the speaker. You would think that pointing the microphone directly at the center of the speaker would be the way to mike it, but the preferred way is to point the microphone slightly off to the side of the center of the speaker. Whether the mic is perpendicular to the speaker—on-axis—or pointed at angle—off-axis—is often a matter of the engineer’s personal preference. The more direct the microphone is pointed to the center of the speaker, the brighter the sound will be. As we have discussed, the high end of an electric-guitar sound can be a make-or-break proposition, and most engineers prefer the slight high-end roll-off that occurs by angling the microphone. Sometimes pulling the microphone away from the speaker slightly not only will add a natural roll-off of the midrange sound coming from the speaker, but also will add a bit of ambience around the microphone, making it less direct-sounding.

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Figure 6.11 Sennheiser e609 dynamic microphone. © 2015 Andy Symons.

If you’re on a big stage, the placement of a microphone stand in front of your amp or speaker cabinet won’t make much difference, but if you’re on a small stage it might be annoying to keep bumping into the mic stand. There may simply not be room for a mic stand, or, heaven forbid, there may not be enough microphone stands to put one in front of your amp. In this case you may be able to do the old dangle-the-microphone trick. You can run the mic cable under the handle, maybe use a loop (double it back over) for extra security, and hang the microphone down across the speaker. Even though the mic capsule isn’t pointing toward the speaker, the microphone will still pick up the sound. Warning: The sound quality will be less satisfactory when using this method because the microphone is off-axis from the speaker. It is also possible to jettison using a microphone altogether and just use a direct signal, but more on that later, in the “Capturing a Direct Signal” section. Another option is a CabGrabber, which is a spring-loaded clamp with a threaded microphone mount.

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Figure 6.12 Coles 4038 ribbon microphone. © 2015 Alan Johnson.

Figure 6.13 Audix CabGrabber with Sennheiser e609 dynamic microphone. © 2015 Andy Symons.

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Guitar-Amp Miking, by Alan Johnson: Guitar miking, as with all recording techniques, is a matter of taste and preference. There are no real rights or wrongs. That is the beauty of the creative process, but it can also be the most frustrating part. However, here are some guidelines regarding mic choices and placement. u Shure

SM57. This is the classic go-to mic for recording electric guitar. It functions well on a guitar amp that’s at a high volume, it rarely distorts, and it produces a focused sound with an emphasis on the midrange. u Neumann U 87. Large-diaphragm condensers can offer a cleaner, brighter, and broader sound but will distort with too much volume. A mic of this type that has a 10- to 20-dB pad is usually best and will require a preamp with phantom power. u Coles 4038. Ribbon mics like the Coles or Royer models offer what many feel is the most realistic guitar sound. It’s very smooth, very real. Ribbon mics can take a great deal of volume, but if your amp is moving a lot of air, be careful because the ribbon can be damaged. Preamps with phantom power must be avoided with ribbon mics. The key to recording electric guitar with any mic is placement. Move the mic and listen to the changes that small differences in location can make. Often I’ll have an assistant engineer or another member of the band adjust the mic placement as I listen in the control room. Regardless of mic choice, mic placement is the key to getting a great guitar sound, assuming the guitar and amp are producing the sound you want in the first place. The microphone can then be pointed at the amp, allowing the guitar to be miked without having a microphone stand in the way. Another feature of a dynamic mic like the SM57 is the ability to withstand a high sound-pressure level coming from a speaker. Other types of microphones that use different types of transducers, such as ribbon and condenser microphones, can sound incredible with a guitar speaker. Condenser mics require 48-volt phantom power, which is transmitted via the three-pin microphone connector from the mixing console to the microphone. Phantom powering consists of a phantom circuit where direct current is applied equally through the two signal lines of a three-pin (XLR) microphone connector. Ribbon microphones cannot have phantom power applied to them. The 48 volts will actually damage these microphones. Many of the finer condenser and ribbon mics are used in a recording studio, but you don’t typically see them at live gigs being used on guitar amps. This is because: w w

They don’t cut through the mix like a dynamic mic. They are typically more expensive and fragile than dynamic microphones, hence most sound engineers are not willing to put these microphones through the rigors of a live gig. w Both condenser and ribbon microphones are typically always used in tandem with dynamic microphones in studio recording sessions. These mics’ warmer tone is typically mixed with the edginess of the dynamic mic, creating a fuller, richer sound in the studio.

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Q&A with John Cooper, Front-of-House Sound Engineer for Bruce Springsteen: How do you like to capture the sound of electric guitars? Do you have a preference toward using a microphone over going direct? Both. My first choice is a mic, and I also like to take a DI for other audio textures, as well as in live audio. It gives me a backup plan if the amp fails. I use the Waves GTR plug-in to create my own amp sound that feels right for the music as well as the performance. I still use, for the most part, Shure SM57s for guitar, but also I’m currently using vintage rebuilt with old-stock Sennheiser 409s. I tend to use the 409s on guys who run a clean, bright, or thin guitar sound. The 57s are great for all guitars, but especially for the ones that have a lot of grunge on them. Currently, I have four legitimate lead guitar players, so having different textures on each helps a lot to bring them through the storm. What are your thoughts about stage volume? I have, over the years, run the full circle from amps in isolation boxes. The ISO boxes are great, but sometimes you lose the integrated feel of the band sound. The current vicious stage volume of a Springsteen show…it’s hard to describe how loud it is on that stage. There are no words that do it justice. I can be sitting at front of house in a stadium, and when the techs check the guitars, after 12 years I still jump, thinking I have left the guitar on in the sound system. Just unbelievable! How do you like to deal with an acoustic guitar in a live situation? Well, this varies. If it’s a loud rock show, then I’m a big fan of very tight pickup systems. The Takamine guitars are absolutely fantastic when it comes to that situation. You can leave the Martins, Guilds, Gibsons, and the like at home in the studio, as they just won’t cut through the storm. If I am doing something acoustic in nature, then I would go for the pickup-and-mic scenario. Neuman KM 184s and Shure KSM137s are my current favorites. As far as DI types go, I like the Avalon 737s pretty well, and the old Countryman is still hard to beat. Are there differences between mixing clubs and big venues? Everything! Frankly, I haven’t mixed in a club situation for a long time, but you will find yourself mixing around stage volume a lot in the clubs. With Bruce, about the only environment that is not heavily influenced by stage volume is the really large stadiums, 70,000 seats or more. Then there is the leakage into the vocal mics, the percussion mics, and the drum mics, so you see where I’m going with this. You have to manage the leakage. Noise gates don’t work under those circumstances, so you have to figure out how to make the leakage and spill work for you. You also spend a lot of time riding primary vocal mics to keep the guitar tone manageable, as it can really foul up the sound of the guitar when it hits the main vocal mic from 20 feet away on stun. By the way, that’s the level I am used to running at: stun. How can musicians help or interact with the soundman to conduct a good soundcheck? Well, I deal mostly with their techs, getting things set up prior to the band’s arrival. My goal is always to have the technical stuff out of the way so when the band hits the stage, all they have to do is play music and work up new material. If you have band guys that set up their own gear, it should be looked on as two separate parts of the day—one being the setup and tech stuff, and then, as I said, the music portion when the whole band is on stage.

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Live Sound for Guitar Do you have any advice for young guitarists? Listen, listen, listen! Get your stuff sounding as good as you can at home and have a clear idea of what you want for your sound. Don’t compromise that because you have some inexperienced whiner at the soundboard. At the same time, try to work with them and find the common ground that works for both of you. Do you have any stories from your amazing professional career? I guess the current configuration (Bruce Springsteen’s band) is the most challenging thing I have ever been involved with. We have 18 band members on stage, 104 inputs at front of house, and over 70 wireless frequencies going. Four lead guitar players (currently including Tom Morello); an acoustic guitar or three depending on the song; a five-piece horn section; four background singers, one of whom plays a very large percussion rig; bass; drums; two full-blown keyboard rigs; synths; Hammond B3 organ with Leslie in an isolated box under the stage; more synths on the other side of the stage; and a grand piano. Oh, did I mention 12 backing vocals in total, plus the principal vocal? It’s a handful. Currently, in addition to mixing the live show, I do two 104-track Pro Tools captures with video of the show, and also I’m doing remixes on a daily basis for downloads from the Internet, with the occasional recording of a song or two in a hotel room somewhere.

Capturing a Direct Signal If you or the soundcrew decides to forgo the microphone altogether or add an alternative to using a microphone, you may have a couple of options for taking a direct signal from your amp to the mixing board. If your amp has a recording out, it may have a properly frequency-compensated direct out, which could be used as an alternative to using a microphone. Most of these recording output jacks on amps use a 1/4-inch output jack and require being connected to a standard direct box in order to interface into the sound system. A direct box has a 1/4-inch input and usually another 1/4-inch thru jack. It also has an XLR, three-prong output jack for connecting to a microphone XLR cable. And it usually has a pad switch, which pads down or lowers the output signal, and a ground-lift switch (for dealing with ground-loop hum). Some amps have a switch enabling you to shut off the speakers altogether but still take a signal from the recording output. Some amps also have a built-in XLR jack, though this is a more common feature on bass amps. The line out on most guitar amps is high impedance and needs the impedance matching provided by a direct box in order to properly interface with a mixing board.

Speaker Emulation DI Boxes For amps that don’t have a recording output, I carry a Hughes & Kettner Red Box (see Figure 6.14). The Red Box is designed to accept a line-input signal from the amp or take a tapped signal from the speaker output and convert it to a balanced signal with frequency compensation to simulate the natural high-end roll-off of a guitar speaker. A tapped signal means that the amp’s speaker output is connected to the Red Box’s speaker input, but it must be connected to the speaker (or speaker cabinet) via the thru output on the Red Box. Failure to connect the speaker will result in permanent damage to the Red Box and amplifier.

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Figure 6.14 Hughes & Kettner Red Box. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Most Hughes & Kettner amplifiers have the Red Box circuitry built in and recording out. Several other companies, including Radial and Pro Co, make similar speaker-emulation direct boxes. Although many regular direct boxes are capable of taking a tap from a speaker signal, the sound won’t be as useful unless it’s supplied with “compensation” to approximate the frequency response of a guitar speaker. In theory, a soundperson could take the uncompensated direct signal and run it through a DAW at the mixing console with guitar amp/speaker–simulating software plug-ins. This is all dependent on the amount of time and resources available before the gig.

How to Play Loud but Not Be Loud Without getting too philosophical, I think we’re at an interesting stage in live guitar sound history. For 50 years or so, guitarists have had an attraction to powerful guitar amplifiers. Part of this is just to have the “goods” on stage to compete with the ongoing volume wars. Also, guitarists recognize that powerful amps have some qualities, especially clean headroom and well-defined low end, that aren’t easy to achieve with a less powerful amp. The sheer wattage can also be deceiving. A 15-watt class A amplifier can put out an extraordinary amount of volume. So it’s not always as simple as looking at a spec sheet and saying that wattage is equal to a certain amount of volume. Volume and amplifier power have a logarithmic relationship to one another, not a linear one. In other words, a 100-watt amp doesn’t put out twice as much volume as a 50-watt amp. As guitar amps have gotten more powerful, so have live sound systems. There has been an ongoing battle—or at least arm-wrestling—between musicians who feel compelled to crank up the stage volume and sound engineers who want to

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Live Sound for Guitar have control over the entire mix of the band, without a wash of volume coming off the stage. There are also potentially clients, club owners, and worship leaders who probably like music as much as you do, but who don’t want to hear a tsunami of volume coming from the band. The search for a happy medium to volume issues has led to a number of possible technical solutions. Simply turning down the volume on an amp is always a possibility, but we know that tube amps, especially, have some enhanced sonic qualities that can be attained only if the amp is cranked up.

Speaker Emulators/Load Box A tube amp must “see” a speaker load at its output, or the amp’s output transformer will fail, and bad smoke will come out of the amp before it finally keels over. There are ways to trick a tube amp into seeing a speaker in order to run the amp silently. Be absolutely positive that whatever you plug your speaker output into can function as a speaker and is rated for the amount of power you’re going to pump into it. The Kolbe Silent Speaker (see Figure 6.15) can take the place of a speaker, acting as a dummy load, and will send out a signal at line level or headphone level. The Silent Speaker doesn’t have circuitry to mimic the frequency roll-off of a guitar speaker, but it could be used in conjunction with a Red Box or DAW plug-in.

Figure 6.15 Kolbe Silent Speaker. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Figure 6.16 Groove Tubes Speaker Emulator. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Since the 1980s, several dedicated speaker emulators have emulated the frequency response and feel of playing through a speaker, including the Palmer and the Groove Tubes Speaker Emulator (see Figure 6.16). The Groove Tubes Speaker Emulator has tone circuitry that can be switched off or on. It also has an internal load that can handle up to 100 watts RMS of power. It is critical to double-check that your speaker emulator also has a dummy load. If it doesn’t have a dummy load, you must leave a speaker connected to your amplifier. If the emulator does utilize a dummy load, then it’s safe to disconnect your speaker(s).

Attenuators We touched on attenuators earlier in the book, when discussing amps that include them in their design, such as the Jim Kelley amps and the Guytron. There are also many standalone attenuators on the market. With an attenuator interfaced between your amp’s speaker output jack and the speaker or speaker cabinet, you can turn the amp up all the way and use the attenuator as a final master volume. Will using an attenuator hurt your amp? The question should really be, “Will running my amp all the way up hurt it?” And the answer is that you’ll be testing its limits. You will wear down the power tubes faster if you run the amp at a high level all the time. If you don’t run the amp all the way up all the time, and your amp has been serviced by a technician who knows you’ll be putting a little extra stress on it, you’ll probably be fine, other than having to order tubes a little more often. The Weber speaker company makes one of the most innovative and unique series of attenuators on the market—the Weber MASS, short for Mobility Analog System Simulator (see Figures 6.17 and 6.18). The brilliant feature of the MASS is that the circuitry uses an actual speaker motor to provide a reactive load for a more natural and interactive sound. When the attenuation is turned to zero, the MASS unit functions as a dummy load. (The amp can be used without speakers connected, and the MASS will only output through the line out.) Weber also manufactures a series of resistive load attenuators.

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Figure 6.17 Weber MASS reactive attenuator, front view. © 2015 Richard Clark.

Figure 6.18 Weber MASS reactive attenuator, rear view. © 2015 Richard Clark.

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IR Emulation The melding of a dummy load with advanced digital circuitry has brought forth the Two Notes line of Impulse Responses (IR) emulation products. With a device like the Two Notes Torpedo Live, shown in Figure 6.19, you can select what kind of power amp, speaker cabinet, microphone, and even what kind of acoustic space you want to emulate.

Figure 6.19 Two Notes IR Torpedo Live. © 2015 Two Notes Audio Engineering.

Figure 6.20 Eminence ReignMaker speaker featuring FDM technology. The speaker output is adjustable via the modulator knob on the back of the speaker. © 2015 Eminence Speaker.

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More Solutions to Volume Overload One tried-and-true method for controlling sound on a stage is by using Plexiglas shields (see Figure 6.21). You will sometimes see them in front of or surrounding the drummer, but a soundperson may stick a Plexiglas shield in front of your amp or even behind your amp to keep your sound from bleeding into any other microphones and/or to make sonic life easier on the people standing behind your amp on stage.

Figure 6.21 Plexiglas shield in front of a combo amp. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

TIP: You can get pieces of Plexiglas cut to size at the hardware store. A small Plexiglas shield can double as an excellent music-stand cover for keeping sheet music from blowing off a stand.

Another option to tame a speaker’s volume is to use a speaker-isolation box (see Figures 6.22 through 6.25). Several companies, such as Rivera and Demeter, manufacture speaker-isolation boxes. These boxes contain a single 12-inch speaker and have a microphone mounting arm inside for capturing the speaker’s sound. The boxes contain sound insulation and are tightly sealed.

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Figure 6.22 Speaker-isolation box. © 2015 Chris Lieber.

Figure 6.23 Interior view of speaker-isolation box. © 2015 Chris Lieber.

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Figure 6.24 Connection panel on speaker-isolation box. Note the 1/4-inch jack for connection to the amplifier. Also note the XLR jack, which is connected to the internally mounted microphone. © 2015 Chris Lieber.

Figure 6.25 Auralex AmpDude isolation riser. © 2015 Auralex Acoustics.

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Chapter 6 Capturing Your Electric Guitar Sound The outside of the box has a speaker jack and also an XLR jack for a microphone cable. Although these boxes were probably conceived with studio applications in mind, they are also ideal for live musical pit use, praise and worship situations, and any other live event where volume needs to be tightly controlled. To use one of these boxes live, you will need to monitor with headphones, since these boxes are very quiet from the outside (if you aren’t hearing the internal microphone).

Amplifier Isolation 101, by Andy Symons, Auralex Acoustics: When a speaker cabinet of any kind is placed against a surface, either hard or soft, coupling takes place. Coupling turns that surface into part of the cabinet, and it will resonate along with the speaker cabinet. This is true with a PA speaker, a floor monitor, a guitar or bass speaker, a stereo speaker, a bookshelf speaker, or a subwoofer. Typically, this effect is undesirable in whatever environment the speaker is being amplified. Many stages are hollow, and the combination of the main speaker stack, the bass cabinet, the guitar cabinet(s), and the floor monitors becomes an additive effect that typically requires the FOH engineer to roll out low end from the microphones to reduce the amount of stage rumble created by the acoustical effect. The room literally becomes a soundboard. I’m not describing a room boundary that is reflecting sound, I’m describing the room being a source of sound. You might think that in your home theater, a connection between the subwoofer and the floor is actually desirable, so you can feel the sound in your chair during action movies. Actually, tactile transducers may rely on direct transmission, but not subwoofers. With a good subwoofer, when you feel it in your chair, virtually all of that energy is being transferred through the air to begin with, not through the floor.The best way to eliminate this effect is to place an isolation device between the bottom of the speaker cabinet and the floor. Auralex Acoustics makes a very effective device called the GRAMMA (see Figure 6.26). GRAMMA is an acronym for Gig Recording Amp and Monitor Modulation Attenuator. The GRAMMA is created with a 1/2-inch piece of MDF board, covered with Ozite, riding on two 2 × 4-inch rails of very dense foam. The gap between the two rails is filled with a piece of Auralex’s standard acoustical wedge foam. It also includes a handle on the bottom of the device for easy transport to and from the gig.

Figure 6.26

Auralex GRAMMA isolation riser.

© 2015 Auralex Acoustics.

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Live Sound for Guitar By putting your speaker cabinet on a GRAMMA, you mostly sever the direct mechanical connection with the floor (called decoupling). You attenuate from the sound that is voiced by the room and alter the sound reflections in favor of what comes directly from the speaker and the reflections bounced around the room. Essentially, what is heard is more of what is passed through the air and less of what is passed through the floor. The end result is more clarity of the speaker cabinet and elimination of the tubbiness or bloat created by the low-end buildup when the speaker cabinet couples to the floor it is placed against. The isolation foam on the GRAMMA is denser than the sort of acoustic foam you’d put on a wall of your studio or control room. The two rails of foam do not visibly compress under the 100-pound weight of a guitar amp, and Auralex claims the GRAMMA will support up to a 300-pound load. For a larger-profile speaker cabinet, Auralex sells the Great GRAMMA, and for practice-sized amplifiers they have included the AmpDude in their line of ISO products. Each of these devices creates the same desired result. They are offered in three different platform profiles to cater to the wide variety of amp/speaker footprints available in the market. Taking the back off an enclosed cabinet—especially a 4 × 12-inch cabinet—will keep it from projecting as much and will disperse the sound. The cabinet will lose much of its low-end bottom, but in some smaller venues this may be the best option. Removing and reinstalling the screws on a 4 × 12-inch cabinet can be a time-consuming proposition. If you must play with a really loud amp, but there is no way to include that much volume on stage, you may want to consider finding a room backstage where you can let it wail. The ideal way to do this is to leave an amplifier head on the bandstand or stage pit and run a long speaker cable (unshielded—please don’t use a guitar cord) to the speaker cabinet, which is in a soundproof location and is miked up. Even if you use a combo amp, you should be able to disconnect the internal speaker and connect the speaker jack to the long speaker cable and external cabinet far, far away. Another great option for reducing the power of a tube amplifier is to use tube convertors like the Yellow Jackets convertors (see Figure 6.27). These devices utilize EL84 tubes and can be used in the place of 6L6, 6550, 7027, or EL84 power tubes. They will dramatically drop the power of your amp, as well as run the amp in sweet Class A mode. Yellow Jackets can be installed with no modifications to your amp. They do make several models, so it would be worth doing a little research before you purchase. It should be noted that you can try many of these solutions in tandem with one another. For instance, an amp with Yellow Jackets adapters can still run a speaker that is in an isolated room. An amp with an attenuator may still need to have a Plexiglas shield in front of the speaker.

Working with Headphones and “More Me” Monitoring If your speaker is in another room or in an isolation box, or if you have unplugged your speaker and are using some kind of dummy load/speaker emulation, you still must be able to hear yourself! Although you may accomplish this via floor monitors, chances are great that you will be asked—or required, to be precise—to use headphones. The phones might be standard enclosed headphones (see Figure 6.28) or in-ear phones (see Figure 6.29). In-ear phones take some getting used to—not for the sound, as they typically sound fantastic, but for comfort. I’m used to wearing earplugs quite a bit, so in-ear headphones don’t bother me too much.

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Figure 6.27 Yellow Jackets tube convertors. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

There are certain hygiene concerns that go along with using in-ear phones. Not to be too gross, but these phones can get clogged with earwax. The makers of many brands of phones offer a wax-removal tool, a little wand with a small wire loop. The actual earpieces are removable. You can visit your local audiologist for a custom fitting and mold for a custom earpiece. That would be the Cadillac of earpieces! There are also earpieces made out of the same material as foam earplugs and earpieces made out of soft silicone. The foam ones are disposable, and the silicone ones can and should be washed regularly. Now for the good news: In almost any live situation where you would need to use headphones, you will likely have your own headphone mixing station, sometimes called a “More Me” box. The most common is the Aviom A-16II personal mixer (see Figure 6.30). This 16-channel mixer lets you tailor your own mix!

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Figure 6.28 Shure closed-back headphones. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Figure 6.29 Shure in-ear headphones. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

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Figure 6.30 Aviom 16-channel personal headphone mixer, the classic “More Me” box. © 2015 Doug Hubble Music.

Figure 6.31 The Techstar Pocket Mo Me. Not as versatile as the Aviom, but nonetheless a lifesaver in some situations. © 2015 Richard Clark.

The other channels might include a click track, a drum mix, bass, vocals, a speaking vocal microphone, horns, keyboards, strings, percussion, and of course the most important part, the guitar (maybe electric and acoustic). It might also include the two-mix, which is a stereo mix created by the engineer. I’ve found that when working with a great engineer, I will often mostly use the two-mix but turn myself up a little. Be careful, because you can damage your ears by monitoring too loudly with headphones, just as easily as you can by being exposed to loud stage volume. Be prepared with the tools to deal with loudness, for your own protection and to accommodate the musical needs of the gig.

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Using an Acoustic Guitar in a Live Setting

7

I

GUESS I’VE PUT OFF FOR LONG ENOUGH DISCUSSING ONE OF THE MORE PROBLEMATIC AREAS OF LIVE GUITAR SOUND: the use of acoustic guitars. The genesis of the electric guitar, and especially the solid-body electric guitar, is intertwined with the frustration of using an acoustic guitar in situations where it had to compete volume-wise with almost any other combination of instruments. I’ve read that in order to project volume, early jazz guitar legend Eddie Lang used such heavy strings on his acoustic arch-top Gibson that he used a wound second string!

According to vintage guitar expert Larry Wexer (who, by the way, is a fabulous guitarist and also one of the best harmonica players in the world), Gibson equipped an L-5 model with an experimental piezoelectric pickup as early as 1928. Although sticking a pickup on an arch-top guitar did help amplify the guitar, the inherent problems with the resonance caused by the hollow bodies of these guitars tended to cause the guitars to feed back under anything beyond minimum-volume situations. Thus, solid-body guitars were conceived and developed. Interestingly enough, hollow-body electric guitars never went away. Straight-ahead jazz players preferred the perceived warmer characteristics of the hollow-bodies.

Figure 7.1 Gibson J1603 acoustic guitar with magnetic pickup. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Doug Babb.

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Live Sound for Guitar In the great folk-revival period of the 1950s and early 1960s, many artists and groups used standard Dreadnought-style or nylon-string acoustic guitars live, with only the support of a microphone. In many cases, the same microphone was used for vocals. I’ve heard a live recording of early-period Bob Dylan in what sounds like a large venue. His voice is barely audible, and the guitar has nothing more than a slight presence, to put it kindly. It’s no surprise that by the 1950s, Gibson was including a magnetic pickup on some models of acoustic guitar. The need to really get serious about amplifying acoustic guitar became acute after the Beatles came on the scene. The Beatles were pictured using the Gibson J-160E model quite a bit. If you look at a who’s who of ’60s rockers, you’ll see that many of them were deeply involved in the folk scene before the Beatles debuted. The affection for acoustic guitars carried through into the ’60s rock scene. The sonic competition became even fiercer, with acoustic trying to keep up with drums, electric bass, electric guitars, and keyboards. We’ll take a look at some of the solutions that this quest has spawned. But first let’s look at some of the inherent problems of amplifying acoustics.

Acoustic Hurdles The hollow cavity of an acoustic guitar body makes it incredibly prone to feedback. The same sound cavity that helps to create and project a beautiful acoustic-guitar sound can work in reverse, filling up with sound if external sound pressure is too great. The sides, tops, and backs of acoustic guitars tend to have resonant frequencies that will vibrate in sympathy if they are subject to the same frequencies from another source. Have you ever heard of a violin builder tapping the violin top as he is building it? When he does this, he is listening and tuning the resonance of the wood (by carefully carving the wood). If you lightly tap on the top of an acoustic guitar with a soft knuckle, you should be able to perceive an actual note. It may not be an exact note in an equal-tempered scale, but it will be close. This resonance isn’t a bad thing, and it’s unavoidable in keeping an acoustic sound great. The problem comes when any other sound source plays a pitch close to the resonant frequency of the guitars. This will excite the wood of the guitar and will likely set the guitar into a feedback cycle. If the external sound is loud enough and close enough to the acoustic guitar, the acoustic guitar will catch the resonant frequency and ride it like a surfer rides a wave.

Leakage Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that the glue that holds parts of your guitar together will likely come oozing out of crevices! The technology involved in live sound tends to somewhat parallel the technology used in recording studios. In the first days of recording and live sound, it was enough just to put a single microphone in front of the whole band and call it a day. Many classic recordings were cut this way. However, as audio technology evolved, it became possible to mix multiple microphones and discrete sound sources. Whereas in the one-microphone days, the mix was largely determined by various instruments’ proximity to the microphone, with a multi-channel mixer you can deal with each vocalist and instrumentalist separately. A microphone is an ideal way to capture an acoustic guitar in a controlled environment, but if the guitarist is close to other instruments on the stage (or in the studio), the other sounds will bleed or leak into the acoustic-guitar microphone. If the sound engineer can’t hear the acoustic guitar through the microphone, he may find that when he turns the acoustic-guitar microphone up, he is also turning up all the ambient sound leaking into that microphone. I’ve found that even in live gigs where I’ve been using headphones with a “More Me” box, it can be difficult to use a microphone by itself without hearing a wash of sound from other sources than the acoustic guitar.

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Figure 7.2 Mandolin with built-in magnetic pickup—an excellent addition to your tools. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Figure 7.3 Martin Willie Nelson “Trigger” model nylon-string guitar with piezoelectric bridge pickup. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Solutions Fortunately, there are a number of great strategies for having an effective live amplified acoustic-guitar sound. Spoiler alert: Rather than go through the complete chronological history of amplified acoustic guitars, I’ll tell you that the current consensus is that incorporating multiple methods (combinations of pickups and/or a microphone) of capturing an amplified acoustic tone seems to yield the most satisfying results. As mentioned earlier, there has long been experimentation with nonmagnetic piezoelectric transducers. Because of their electrical characteristics—specifically high-output impedance—piezo pickups require some sort of preamp/buffer to optimize their performance. A piezo pickup can be as simple as a suction-cup pickup that sticks on the top of the guitar; however, the optimal location is under the bridge saddle. 149

Live Sound for Guitar It’s possible to have an acoustic guitar retrofitted with a bridge saddle pickup. Typically, the signal is routed to a 1/4-inch jack located in the rear strap-button. This signal can be routed to an external preamp and sent to a PA system or a special acoustic guitar amp. If you don’t feel like having modifications done to your prize acoustic guitar, I have wonderful news: Numerous models of acoustic guitars, both steel-string and nylon-string, now already come equipped with a preinstalled piezo bridge pickup. Furthermore, most of these instruments have a built-in preamp that usually includes tone controls, a guitar tuner, and a light to indicate the internal battery status. The batteries for internal preamps are sometimes difficult to reach because they’re located inside the guitar body (see Figure 7.4). Fortunately, many of the newer built-in preamps afford super-easy access to the battery (see Figure 7.5).

Figure 7.4 Sound-hole battery. It takes patience and nimble fingers to remove and replace one these batteries. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Figure 7.5 Fishman built-in acoustic-electric guitar preamplifier. Note that the tab at the top enables you to slide the preamp out of the cavity to easily and quickly change the internal battery. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

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Chapter 7 Using an Acoustic Guitar in a Live Setting Magnetic pickups are still used on steel-string acoustic guitars. The curveball with magnetic pickups is that acoustic guitar string alloys containing bronze are not as ferrous as electric guitar strings and thus respond differently. Nonetheless, magnetic pickups do work effectively on steel-string acoustic guitars. Magnetic pickups don’t work with a nylon-string guitar due to the non-ferrous composition of strings. Most acoustic guitar magnetic pickups are aftermarket products easily installed by guitar owners or guitar techs (see Figures 7.6 and 7.7).

Figure 7.6 Installing a Seymour Duncan “Woody” magnetic acoustic guitar pickup. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

Figure 7.7 Seymour Duncan “Woody” pickup installed. © 2015 Seymour Duncan.

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Live Sound for Guitar Even though external microphones can suffer from leakage from external sources, another option is to use a small internally mounted microphone inside the body of the guitar. Many modern acoustic-electrics (which usually just means an acoustic guitar outfitted with some pickup system) come with a built-in piezoelectric pickup and a builtin internal microphone. These instruments often have a control panel on the upper bout of the guitar body that has, in addition to various tone controls, a blend control for adjusting the balance of the two pickup systems. If a magnetic pickup is used, then blending in a little bit of an external microphone might add that certain special je ne sais quoi.

Fighting Feedback You can take physical and electronic measures to quell a feedback-prone acoustic guitar. A drastic step would be to fill the body of the guitar with cloth or foam. This would keep the guitar from being prone to sympathetic vibrations from other instruments, so it might make the guitar sound like some strange cousin of a $20 banjo. Another solution is to use a sound-hole blocker insert. These inserts work really well, but they prohibit you from using a sound hole–mounted pickup. In some cases, these inserts are exactly the solution to making an electric acoustic work well in a live setting.

Figure 7.8 D’Addario Screeching Halt sound-hole feedback suppressor. © 2015 Sandy Williams.

The electronic solution involves using tone controls. This is an ideal application for a parametric equalizer, which can isolate a frequency, adjust the bandwidth, and adjust the gain. When dealing with feedback issues, adjusting the gain almost always means reducing the gain. If the guitar has a resonant frequency near the note G♭, then with a parametric EQ you can find that frequency and cut it. The way to test this is actually to boost the gain of the parametric and sweep

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Chapter 7 Using an Acoustic Guitar in a Live Setting the frequency knob until the offending—I mean, resonant—frequency is found. You’ll have no doubt about when you’ve found the offending frequency, as you’ll feel and hear feedback. In extreme situations, physical and electronic means can be combined to eliminate unwanted feedback. Be aware that you may, by necessity, be sucking the life out the acoustic sound you’re trying to present. What might end up happening is that you’re left with almost an acoustic guitar prop. If you’re in a pit setting or a church-stage setting, you might try creating an ad hoc isolation booth with Plexiglas shields. When playing any amplified hollow-body guitar, you should be aware of damping unplayed strings. A stray open string is a likely candidate for unwanted feedback.

More Acoustic-Electric Solutions A number of companies, most notably Godin, have made essentially solid-body (or chambered with hollow internal chambers) acoustic-electric guitars. These instruments have acoustic bridge saddles, piezoelectric pickups, and a built-in preamp. Some of them even have magnetic pickups built in as well. These guitars work extremely well in loud, live situations. Using a modeling guitar, such as the Line 6 Variax, is another option. The trick to using a modeling guitar is to use an amplifier with a full-range speaker, such as the Line 6 StageSource L2t powered speaker or an amp especially designed for acoustic-electrics. Just plugging a modeled acoustic guitar sound into a regular guitar amp won’t yield satisfactory results, mainly due to the high-end roll-off in any guitar speaker.

Figure 7.9 Line 6 StageSource L2t powered speaker. © 2015 Line 6®.

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Figure 7.10 Top view of the Kustom acoustic-electric guitar amplifier control panel. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Figure 7.11 Close-up of the Kustom amp input controls. Note the Active and Passive button. Passive should be used if the guitar doesn’t have an internal preamp. Active should be used if the guitar does have an internal preamp. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Acoustic-Electric Amplifiers A recent development in the world of guitar amps is amplifiers specifically designed for acoustic-electric guitars. Almost without exception, these amps are solid state. They sometimes double as small PA systems, as they often have a microphone input as well. They have parametric EQ for handling difficult resonant frequency problems. Often, these acoustic amps have built-in digital effects, such as reverb or delay. 154

Chapter 7 Using an Acoustic Guitar in a Live Setting In a club setting or possibly a praise-and-worship setting, these acoustic-electric amps are ideal. Just as an acousticelectric won’t shine its best through a standard electric guitar amp, you should use sonic caution if you’re attempting to use a standard electric guitar with magnetic pickups with one of these specialty acoustic-electric amps. The frequency response of these amps and speakers is much more full range. For certain styles this might work—straight-ahead jazz, or funk if you desire an ultra-clean tone.

Figure 7.12 Input jacks on Kustom acoustic-electric guitar amp. Note the XLR microphone input as well as the piezoelectric input. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

Figure 7.13 Effects controls on a Kustom amp. © 2015 Sandy Williams. Special thanks to Dan Brush, Greencastle Music Center.

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Combining Effects with Acoustic-Electric Guitars Any effect that can be used with a standard electric guitar can be used with an acoustic-electric guitar. Experimentation is certainly encouraged, but keep in mind that if you’re trying to create the sound of a very large acoustic guitar, competing volume-wise with other members of a band, duo, trio, quartet, or orchestra, you run the risk of masking the integral essence of the acoustic sound by running the guitar through your Wafuzz Staralator. Mild doses of ambient effects, especially reverb, work well with an acoustic-electric, though the sound engineer might prefer to add this at the board rather than having you send your signal already imprinted with an effect. Amplifying an acoustic guitar is an exercise in presenting an instrument who’s natural presentation is in an intimate setting. By experimenting with external and internal microphones and piezoelectric and magnetic pickups, I’m sure you’ll find a way to make this wonderful instrument work to its full advantage in a live setting.

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8

EFORE CONCLUDING THIS BOOK,

I’d like to touch on a few final topics. Guitar players are a bit like lemmings, sometimes following and copying their favorite players down to the kind of guitar, amp, strings, and even clothes. Manufacturers even market products to appeal to fan musicians. There is no doubt that to mimic, say, Wes Montgomery’s sound, you’ll need a Gibson L-5 with flat-wound strings, or to nail Jimi Hendrix’s tone you’ll need a Fender Stratocaster, and (if you’re right handed) it will need to be a left-handed Strat. That being said, pursuing these dream tones can lead you on a wild goose chase if you aren’t careful. I feel it’s better to study the music itself than to go too crazy chasing tones. A reasonably versatile player can make plenty of great music on almost any kind of guitar. I’m hesitant to label the Fender Telecaster as the “ideal” country-style guitar, even though many feel it is. The Tele has served a number of styles. Many types guitars have proven to be versatile in the hands of players who know the music itself. The reason I bring this up is because in an ideal world, your guitar tech would hand you a different guitar for every song to match the original recording (maybe even your own recording), but in real life you probably won’t bring more than one or two guitars to your gigs unless you’re on serious professional tour. In that case, bring the kitchen sink! I’ve gotten plenty of mileage out of being more like a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. When it comes to working with other musicians, they care about what you bring to the party. Most musicians probably value a good team player more than a hot-shot soloist. Do you sing? Can you play rhythm guitar as well as you can solo? Do think you would be good company on a six-hour road trip? Do you compose music? Can you play reggae, funk, jazz, praise and worship, finger-picked acoustic, Chuck Berry rock, and shredding rock? Can you read a chord chart? Do you know some good jokes? Do you double (in other words, play other instruments, such as bass, mandolin, banjo, or harmonica)? And the all-important question: Can you take criticism without taking it personally? If you’re working with other musicians, rehearsing and doing live playing, you should cultivate as many of these skills as possible.

Using Backline Gear What do you do if you don’t even get to use your own equipment? This almost always refers to choice of guitar amplifier, but it can also include effects. In most cases, this will save you considerable effort because you won’t have to cart your gear to a gig that would require you to navigate through a large crowd. Amps that are provided by the venue or the production company are called backline amps. The most common backline amp is probably a Fender Twin Reverb, though different tours may travel with other brands and models. If you’re using a backline amp, you need to figure out whether the amp has a clean channel and a switchable dirty channel. If you don’t like the sound of the dirty channel, or if the amp only has one channel, it’s best to set the one channel to the cleanest sound you’ll need and then use an overdrive/distortion box to get a crunch sound. You’ll need to adjust the output level of the overdrive to give you an extra volume boost if need be. If you have a pedalboard with a separate boost pedal, you can use that to give your sound an extra nudge. Backline equipment is usually maintained and in good working order because the production company doesn’t want to jeopardize its reputation and wants repeat business from the venue. If you do get stuck with a “skunk” amp, you have a

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Live Sound for Guitar couple of options. You can try to get the cleanest sound possible from the amp and just deal with it, or you can bypass the amp altogether and run directly in the PA/monitor system via a pedalboard or rackmount preamp with a workable speaker simulator. You could even run through an amp simulator app on your iPhone, such as the Line 6 Mobile POD. Just make sure you have the hardware interface, the Sonic Port, handy.

When Something Goes Wrong Notice I said when, not if. Guitar players are typically fearless musical improvisers, and hopefully this instinct carries them through the unexpected detours that will happen at some point in their live sound experience. No matter how long you’ve been playing, you will at some point break a string during a performance. Your pedalboard power supply may take a nosedive. Your amp might fail. These are the good things that could happen! I once spent a humorous after-gig meal with some musician friends, recollecting a series of unfortunate medical issues involving bodily fluids that have happened to them on stage during a performance over the years. Believe me, the pedalboard failing is child’s play compared to trying to make it through a show when you really don’t feel well. In a perfect world, we would carry around a complete redundant set of gear to every gig—a backup guitar, a backup amp, and so on. However, while it’s never a bad idea to have a spare tire in case you have a flat, you probably won’t be hauling around a spare engine everywhere you go. You should have the items in the following list with you as a matter of course. These don’t even qualify as the emergency list. If you don’t have these with you at a gig, you don’t pass Go and you don’t collect $200. w w w w w w w w w w w

A spare sets of strings. A string winder. A pair of needle-nose pliers. A flashlight. You can use the one on your smartphone. Spare guitar picks. Don’t buy the pack of three. If you find a pick you like, see whether you can buy half a gross or even a full gross. If you’re using a tube guitar amp, bring a spare 12AX7 preamp tube. This is the most common guitar amp preamp tube, and I’m assuming that your amp uses one as well. Fingernail clippers. Extra 1/4-to-1/4 guitar cables. Spare fuses for your amp. When your amp is unplugged, practice removing the fuse. A pack of 9-volt batteries. You’ll probably end of giving at least one of them to the bass player, but you’ll be the hero. An extra strap.

If you want to pack some Imodium in your guitar case, it might save the show someday, but I hope you never need it. Here’s a list of some other items you would do well to have on hand, just in case. w w w

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A long extension cord to reach a faraway AC outlet. Don’t expect the venue to provide one. An AC extension strip with a built-in surge protector. An AC voltmeter that plugs directly into the wall can be handy for diagnosing why your amp and the PA system don’t sound right to you. If you don’t carry a voltage under/over regulator with you, such as the ones made by Furman or Tripp Lite, there isn’t much you can do except try a different circuit. If your AC power has to make it to the stage via a 50- or 100-foot AC extension cord, chances are good that the voltage will be lower than the standard 120 volts. If the voltage has dropped by 10 to 15 volts, you’ll notice that the low-end frequency of any of the sound equipment on stage will suffer. An overloaded AC circuit can also cause

Chapter 8 Final Thoughts and Wrapping Up

w w w

w w

w w w w w

voltage drops. FYI, I used to carry around a heavy-voltage regulator primarily for outdoor gigs where the stage was powered by a generator. Modern industrial generators have come a long way in the past 20 years. Nowadays, generators are capable of keeping up with the current demands of a band and sound system, and voltage is usually rock steady. You can even check the generator output voltage by looking at the voltmeter built into the generator. A small, plug-in AC circuit tester to make sure the AC is wired properly. This could potentially be a lifesaving tool, as it will show you in an instant if the hot, neutral, and ground AC lines are wired correctly to spec. A power-conditioner usually means a super-duper surge protector. This could provide added protection for your equipment. Spare power tubes. Imported tubes (which constitute the majority of tubes used in amps today) have the reputation of not being as reliable as tubes made in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s not a bad idea to keep a wellprotected (in a case lined with foam) set of power tubes handy. How fast your tubes wear depends on how often you use the amp and how hard you push it. If you play one or two nights a week and don’t “dime” your amp (that is, turn the amp all the way up), you’ll probably do just fine with a set of power tubes for a year or two. If the power tubes fail, hopefully your amp will blow a fuse. The fuse-blowing prevents other components of your amp from failing. A soldering iron and solder. Something as simple as an unsoldered speaker terminal could ruin your day. If you’ve never used a soldering iron, why don’t you get some practice by building an effects unit kit? A spare amp or just a spare amp head could save the day. There are several models of small, fairly powerful solid-state amps on the market, such as the Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum, that would make a serviceable backup in a pinch. The Electro-Harmonix unit is the size of an effect pedal and is 44 watts! An extra bowtie. Not for you, but for the drummer. A bottle of Cholula sauce to add flavor to the box meal they’ll give you at your gig, if you’re lucky! A 1/8-inch-to-1/4-inch cord for connecting an iPod to your guitar amp or to the PA system in case the venue or client would like music playing during your breaks. A female-XLR-to-male-1/4-inch adapter for plugging a microphone into a guitar amp. Bringing an extension speaker cabinet not only makes your combo amp sound bigger, but also acts as backup in case the internal combo amp speaker fails.

Protecting Your Gear Don’t skimp on protecting your gear from the elements and from rough handling. If you order a slipcover for your amp, get the padded slipcover that affords a little more protection. If your amp gets moved around a lot and rides around with a lot of other gear, you’ll want to get a protective road case with a hard exterior shell and foam padding on the inside. An amp that has been protected in a road case will hold up cosmetically for years, and the electronics will be protected from jarring, shock, and anything else that could crack a tube or circuit board or loosen a component. Be sure to get a good set of wheels for your road case. You’ll thank me later! If you don’t have a road case and you transport your amp in the trunk of your car, be sure to make a soft bed for the amp. You can fit your trunk with a small foam mattress topper and give your amp a ride like a king, queen, or double. A soft “gig bag” works well for throwing your guitar over your shoulder and going out into the wide world, but if your guitar is going to travel with other equipment, you’ll want to be sure to have a hard-shell case to protect it. If you do opt for a gig bag, get the padded one, not the little “fabric cover with a zipper” model.

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Live Sound for Guitar

Guitar Stands If given a choice between using a guitar stand and putting my guitar back in its case during a break, I’ll always put it back in the case because of the extra protection. When I see a guitar in a guitar stand—even a more expensive stand— I see a guitar with a strong chance of getting knocked over. There is nothing sadder than a nice guitar with a broken headstock. That being said, never just lean your guitar up against a wall unless it’s a guitar you don’t mind seeing tumble to the floor. In a pinch, I have leaned my guitar in a corner, knowing that it’s more stable than putting it flush against a flat wall. On some kinds of gigs, such as musical-pit gigs or orchestra gigs, you might have to double on several instruments—electric, steel-string acoustic, banjo, mandolin—and it’s imperative that you use a guitar stand, preferably one that holds multiple instruments, like the Warwick RockStand. You will find that if you’re doing a lot of doubling, you might as well leave your guitar straps back in the case, because they’ll only interfere with your ability to switch instruments in a timely manner.

Getting There The more gear you have, the larger the vehicle you’ll need to transport it in. This should be a serious consideration before you run out to the music store to buy the giant rig of your dreams. The price of the big gear really has to include the price of the big vehicle it takes to haul it around. If you live in an urban setting and have tricky parking and load-ins and load-outs to venues, you may find yourself downsizing. Many working professionals—including drummers, bass players, and keyboard players, and me—belong to the secret One Trip club. To be in the One Trip club, you have to be able to get your instrument, amp, and all accessories to your gig in one single trip from your vehicle. All members of the One Trip club have a cart, a dolly, or some top-notch wheels on their amp or drum case. Using a cart with a tube amp requires you to be careful; you don’t want to subject the amp to too many bumps. It would be wise to make a trip to your local hardware store for some bungee cords to secure your amp or instruments to the cart. For several years, I’ve used the $25 Welcom Magna Cart personal hand truck. This cart folds up nicely and is strong and lightweight. Many other carts are available at your local music store or hardware store.

Wrapping Up I hope this book has given you some ideas about how to prepare for the challenges and joys of playing live. I’ve tried to encourage flexibility and problem-solving skills as mainstay strategies for coping with what is tossed your way. Everyone has a different musical journey, and every gig is different and has new challenges. Someone used to say that you learn musical technique so you don’t have to think about it when you play. Learning about the intricacies of live sound is simply preparation so you can be more in the moment with your music. Music is all about sharing with others, not sitting in your bedroom, polishing and talking to your guitars. So go find someone to make music with and somewhere to play! Take advantage of as many resources as you can. I am a big fan of Guitar Player magazine and have subscribed to it for decades. There are a number of great contemporary guitar magazines worth keeping up with, such as Guitar World, Vintage Guitar, The Fretboard Journal, and Premier Guitar. Keep learning, listening, practicing, and jamming!

160

Index A A/B switching box, 102–103 acoustic guitars acoustic-electric amps, 154–155 electric guitars combined with, 60, 156 feedback, 148, 152–153 in folk-revival period, 148 magnetic pickups, 151 modeling guitar, 153 piezo pickups, 149–150 resonance, 148 solid-body guitar, 147 sound leakage, 148 acoustic-electric amps, 154–155 AdrenaLinn box, 101 Allman, Duane, 79, 84 amps acoustic-electric, 154–155 amplifier isolation, 141 graphic EQ, 52 hybrid, 72–74 modeling, 65–71 multi-guitar combination, 60 parametric EQ, 52–53 power tube distortion, 55–57 preamp distortion, 53–55 solid-state, 61–63 technological advancement, 65 tone controls, 50–51 tube, 39–50 two-amp setup, 102–103 using at gigs, 58–59 volume, 53 Ampulator, 21 analog delay, 100

AnalogEcho delay unit (Wampler), 99 apps, tuning with, 13 archtop guitar, 26–27 attenuators, 135–136 Audix CabGrabber clamp, 128–129 Auralex AmpDude isolation riser, 140 Auralex GRAMMA isolation riser, 141 automatic tuners, 12–13 Aviator Open Twelve amp (Quilter), 62 Aviom A-16II mixer, 143–145 A-weighting scale, 57

B backline gear, 157–158 Black Shadow (EV) speaker, 116 boost pedals, 88–89 Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal, 99 LS-2 Line Selector pedal, 113 tremolo pedal, 87 Bryant, Justin, 106–110 buffer circuit, 25 buffer circuit belt-pack, 26 buffered versus true-bypass effects, 112

C CabGrabber mount, 128–129 capo, 14 cardiod mics, 126–127 Chord Chemistry (Greene), 22 chorus effects, 68 circuit boards, Wampler Effects, 79 Clapton, Eric, 62 clip-on tuners, 12

161

Index closed-back speakers, 122 coil-tap/coil-split, 22 Coles 4038 mic, 128–130 combo amp, 42 compressors, 86–88 condenser mics, 130 Cooper, John, 131–132 coupling, 141 Creation Audio Labs MK 4.23 Clean Boost pedal, 89

D D’Addario Screeching Halt Feedback Suppressor, 152 Danelectro Fab Tone fuzz pedal, 75 D’Angelo Excel with floating DeArmond pickup, 27 DAW (digital audio workstation), 65 delay effects, 68, 100 Deluxe Reverb amp (Fender), 39 Digidesign Eleven Rack unit, 97 digital audio workstations (DAW), 65 direct boxes, 71 direct signal capture, 132 distortion power tube, 55–57 preamp, 53–55 distortion effects, 92–97 dobro slide, 83 Dylan, Bob, 148

E earplugs, 4–5 ears, protecting hearing, 3 E-bow, 84 Ebtech Hum Eliminator, 106 Echoplex effect unit, 78 effects archetypical, 79–80 boost pedals, 88–89 Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal, 99 Boss tremolo pedal, 87 box enclosures, 81 compressors, 86–88 Danelectro Fab Tone fuzz pedal, 75 delay, 100 distortion, 92–97 Echoplex, 78 envelope follower, 90–91 feedback, 84 Fuzz-Tone pedal, 78 Holy Fire overdrive/distortion, 76 human voice, 82 loopers, 104

162

loops, 111 modulation experiment, 101 multi-effects pedals, 111–114 Multi-Kord tremolo unit, 77 mutes, 77 order, 110 pedals, 81 phasers, 91 powering effects and ground loops, 104–109 rackmount versus pedal, 96–97 spatial dimension, 97–102 spring reverb, 97–98 string, 83–85 talk box, 82–83 tone filter shaping devices, 89–91 tremolo, 77–78, 86–88 two-amp setup, 102–103 VHT Valvulator, 105 Vico Vide unit, 75 volume pedals, 85–86 Vox wah wah pedal, 78 Wafuzz Staralator effect pedal, 95–96 Wampler AnalogEcho delay, 99 Wampler Effects circuit board, 79 Wampler Ego compressor, 87 Wampler Faux Tape Echo delay, 78 Wampler Hot Wired Brent Mason overdrive/distortion pedal, 76 Ego compressor (Wampler), 87 electric guitars acoustic guitars combined with, 60 modern sounds, 32–36 shopping for, 36 single-coil pickups, 19–26 tone-shaping factors, 26 types, 26–32 vintage sound, 32 weight, 37 whammy bars, 36–37 Eleven Rack unit (Digidesign), 97 Eminence ReignMaker speaker, 137 emulators/load box, 134–135 envelope follower, 90–91 equalization graphic EQ, 52 parametric EQ, 52–53 equipment extra, 158–159 moving, 6 protection, 159 Euphoria Overdrive unit (Wampler), 93 Everett, Tom, 7 extra supplies/gear, 158–159

Index

F

H

FACS amps, 55 Faux Reverb pedal (Wampler), 102 Faux Tape Echo delay (Wampler), 78 FBV Shortboard pedal board controller (Line 6), 69 feedback acoustic guitar, 148, 152–153 effects, 84 Fender American Stratocaster, 30 American Vintage ’65 Stratocaster, 30 Deluxe Reverb amp, 39 Esquire three-piece bridge assembly, 15 Pro Junior control panel, 50 Pro Junior tube layout chart, 46 Super-Sonic 22 amp, 54 Telecaster, 29 Tweed Champ amp, 39–41, 46 fifth cross-check method, 16–17 Fishman acoustic-electric preamp, 150 Fletcher-Munson study, 57–58 floating pickup, 26–27 frets, 9 fuzz-tone, 92 Fuzz-Tone foot pedal effect, 78

Hardwick, Dick, 95 HD500X pedal board (Line 6), 112 head-cabinet amp, 42 headphones, 142–145 H.E.A.R (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers), 3 Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (H.E.A.R.), 3 hearing protection, 1–4 heterodynes, 94 Holy Fire overdrive/distortion, 76 hot-rodding, 23 Hughes & Kettner Red Box, 132–133 hum Ebtech Hum Eliminator, 106 single-coil pickups and, 20–22 human voice ear-training exercises, 82 as effects, 82 humbucking pickups, 22 humidity, 9 hybrid amps, 72–74

G Garcia, Jerry, 95 gear extra, 158–159 moving, 6 protection, 159 Gibson J1603 guitar, 147 Tune-o-matic bridge, 14 Gibson Memphis 1959 ES-335, 29 ES-175, 28 Gibson USA Les Paul Standard, 29, 31 gig bags, 159 GRAMMA (Gig Recording Amp and Monitor Modulation Attenuators) device, 141–142 graphic EQ, 52 graphical user interface (GUI), 71–72 Greene, Ted (Chord Chemistry), 22 Groove Tubes Speaker Emulator, 135 ground loops, 104–109 GT-100 F/V amp, 56–57 GUI (graphical user interface), 71–72 Guytron GT-100 F/V amp, 56–57 Guytron stack, 61

I IR (Impulse Response) emulation, 137

J J1603 guitar (Gibson), 147 JB humbucker (Seymour Duncan), 22 Johnson, Alan, 130 JTV Variax (Line 6), 33–34

K Kelley, Jim, 55 Kolbe Silent Speaker, 134 Kustom amp, 154

L Leesona winder, 20 Les Paul Standard (Gibson USA), 29, 31 Line 6 FBV Shortboard pedal board controller, 69 HD500X pedal board, 112 JTV Variax, 33–34 Mobile POD app, 114 Sonic Port interface, 114 Spider IV 75 modeling amp, 67–69 Spider IV model, 71–72

163

Index Line 6 (Continued) StageSource L2t speaker, 153 Valve Mkll 212 hybrid amp, 73–74 Variax modeling controls, 35 wireless transmitter and receiver, 59 load box/emulators, 134–135 loopers, 104 loops, effects, 111 LS-2 Line Selector pedal (Boss), 113 luthiers, 6

M Mack’s Acoustic Foam Plugs, 5 Mack’s Hear Plugs, 4 magnetic pickups, 151 maintenance repairperson, 6–9 string, 9–10 Mandolin, 149 MASS (Mobility Analog System Simulator), 135–136 Mellencamp, John, 98 Mesa/Boogie graphic equalizer, 52 Mark series output jack, 45 Mark series tone controls, 51 master volume control, 54 metal slide, 83 MicroPro 200-8 amp (Quilter), 63 mics CabGrabber mount, 128–129 cardiod, 126–127 Coles 4038, 128–130 condenser, 130 Neumann U 87, 130 phantom power, 130 placement, 127–130 ribbon, 128–130 Sennheiser e609, 127–128 Shure SM57, 126–127, 130 spring-loaded clamps, 128 MK 4.23 Clean Boost pedal (Creation Audio Labs), 89 Mobile POD app (Line 6), 114 modeling amps Line 6 FBV Shortboard pedalboard controller, 69 Line 6 Spider IV 75, 67–69 Line 6 Spider models, editing via computer, 71–72 stage volume and, 70–71 technological advancement, 65–66 modern guitar sounds, 32–36 modulation, 101 More Me box, 142–143 Morley Little Alligator volume pedal, 86 moving gear, 6

164

multi-effects pedals, 111–114 Multi-Kord tremolo unit, 77 mutes, 77 MXR envelope follower, 91

N NAMM show, 1 Neumann U 87 mic, 130 Nirvana Chorus pedal (Wampler), 101 noise gate, 21 noise interference, 16 nut, 8

O octave cross-check method, 16 output jack, 132 overdrive pedals, 92, 94

P Page, Jimmy, 79 parametric EQ, 52–53 Peck, Kathy, 3 pedal tuners, 11–12 pedal versus rackmount effects, 96–97 phantom power, 130 phaser effects, 68 phasers, 91 piano, tuning with, 17 pickguard, 23 pickups active circuits, 24–25 adjustment, 24 floating, 26–27 humbucking, 22 maintenance, 8 single-coil, 19–26 switches, 24 piezo pickups, 149–150 pitch problems, with whammy bars, 36–37 Plexi-Drive unit (Wampler), 94 Plexiglas shields, 138 power supplies, 104–106 power tube distortion, 55–57 preamp distortion, 53–55 Pro Junior control panel (Fender), 50 Pro Junior tube layout chart (Fender), 46

Q Quilter Aviator Open Twelve amp, 62 MicroPro 200-8 amp, 63

Index

R rackmount versus pedal effects, 96–97 Radial Switchbone switch and boost pedal, 103 Radial Tonebone, 102–103 Red Box, 132–133 Redeemer buffer circuit, 25 buffer circuit belt-pack, 26 ReignMaker speaker, 137 repairperson, 6–9 Rey, Alvino (guitarist), 77 ribbon mic, 128–130

S semi-hollow-body guitar, 28 Sennheiser e609 mic, 127–128 Seymour Duncan fully loaded pickguard, 23 JB humbucker, 22 Leesona winder, 22 magnetic guitar pickup, 151 Shure headphones, 144 Shure SM57 mic, 126–127, 130 Silent Speaker (Kolbe), 134 Silva, Kevin (amp technician), 44 single-coil pickups active circuits, 24–25 hot-rodding, 23 and hum, 20–22 humbucking pickups, 22 pickguard, 23 pickup adjustment, 24 scatter winding, 19 switches, 24 slipcovers, 159 solid-body guitars, 29 solid-state amps, 61–63 Sonic Port interface (Line 6), 114 soundchecking, 124–125 soundperson, 123–124 spatial dimension, 97–102 speaker-isolation boxes, 138–139, 140–141 speakers attenuators, 135–136 direct signal capture, 132 emulation DI boxes, 132–133 emulators/load box, 134–135 enclosures, 122–123 factors for selecting, 117 frequency response, 115 installation, 117–119 sizes, 121–122 upgrades, 122

Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar, 1 Spider IV 75 modeling amp (Line 6), 67–69 Spider IV models (Line 6), 71–72 spring reverb, 97–98 stage volume, 70–71 StageSource L2t speaker (Line 6), 153 stands, guitar, 160 steel-drum trick (Allman), 84 stereo reverb, 98, 100 Stetina, Troy (guitarist), 1 straight bridges, 15 strings effects, 83–85 maintaining, 9–10 strobe tuners, 10 StroboSoft tuning software, 12–13 suction-cup tuners, 13 Super-Sonic 22 amp, 54 Sustainiac, 1–2, 84 switches, 24 Symons, Andy, 141

T talk box effect, 82–83 TC Electronic Phaser, 91 Techstar Pocket Mo Me device, 145 thimble, 83 Third Power speaker enclosure, 123 tone controls, amps, 50–51 tone filter shaping devices, 89–91 tone-shaping factors, 26 transportation, 160 tremolo box, 77–78 tremolo effects, 68, 86–88 Trillium amp, 43–44 Tripp Lite isolation transformers, 106 troubleshooting, 158–159 true-bypass versus buffered effects, 112 truss rod, 9 tube amps combo amp, 42 configurations, 45 distortion factors, 48, 92 Fender Deluxe Reverb, 39 Fender Pro Junior control panel, 50 Fender Pro Junior tube layout chart, 46 Fender Tweed Champ, 39–41, 46 head-cabinet, 42 testing, 45 tips and techniques, 48–50 Trillium amp, 43–44 tube replacement, 46–47 tube converters, 142

165

Index Tune-o-matic bridge (Gibson), 14 tuning, 10 with apps, 13 automatic tuners, 12–13 capo interference, 14 clip-on tuners, 12 Fender Esquire three-piece bridge assembly, 15 fifth cross-check method, 16–17 noise interference, 16 octave cross-check method, 16 pedal tuners, 11–12 with piano, 17 playing random open chords, 17 straight bridges, 15 strobe tuners, 11 StroboSoft software, 12–13 suction-cup tuners, 13 tuning key, 8 Tweed Champ app (Fender), 39–41, 46 Two Notes IR Torpedo Live device, 137

U UniVox Super-Fuzz unit, 92

V Valve MkII 212 hybrid amp (Line 6), 73–74 Variax modeling controls, 35 Velvet Fuzz unit (Wampler), 93 VHT Valvulator, 105 Vico Vibe unit, 75 vintage sounds, 32 vintage Vico Vibe unit, 75 Visual Sound 1spot power supply, 105 Visual Sound Visual Volume pedal, 86 volume amp basics, 53 sound control, 138–142

166

volume pedals, 85–86 Vox wah wah pedal, 78, 89–90

W Wafuzz Staralator effect pedal, 95–96 Walsh, Joe (guitarist), 104 Wampler AnalogEcho delay, 99 Effects circuit boards, 79 Ego compressor, 87 Euphoria Overdrive unit, 93 Faux Reverb pedal, 102 Faux Tape Echo delay, 78 Hot Wired Brent Mason overdrive/distortion pedal, 76 Nirvana Chorus pedal, 101 Plexi-Drive unit, 94 Velvet Fuzz unit, 93 warming up, 5–6 Weber Blue Dog Speaker, 116 Weber MASS reactive attenuator, 135–136 Weber speaker ceramic magnets, 120 Weber speaker cones, 121 Weber speaker front plates, 120 weight, guitar, 37 Wexer, Larry, 147 whammy bars, 36–37 Whirlwind A/B box, 103 wireless transmitter and receiver (Line 6), 59

Y Yellow Jackets tube converters, 142–143

Z Z.Vex Nano Head, 60

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