Category Archives: Guitars

Rig update

OK, the term “update” is not quite the word when you have never actually detailed your rig in the first place or posted a single word in eight months – but anyway! Here we go.

Pedalboard

The main pedalboard currently looks like this (I apologise for the broken glare protection on my phone):

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Earthquaker Devices Sound Shank v2 fuzz
smallsound/bigsound Buzzz fuzz
Dunlop volume pedal
BYOC Mega Chorus/Vibrato
Strymon El Capistan delay (on loan, M-Audio expression pedal controls feedback)
Fairfield Circuitry Barbershop overdrive (used as a clean boost)
Mooer Trelicopter tremolo
tc electronic Flashback delay

I have been slowly “downsizing” as it is called, taking things off on by one to see if I missed them. Clearly I cannot live without fuzz and delay so far… And I need to get something smaller to put the pedals on as the current board takes up way too much floor area.

Looping section

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After the pedalboard the signal travels here where it first meets the Ibanez LS10 Line Selector which is currently serving as an A/B selector. When the pedal is off, the signal travels to the Top Boost signal on my Vox AC15C1 amplifier and when it is on, the signal goes into the Echoplex looper. The output from this goes into the smallsound/bigsound Fuck Overdrive and the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy delay and then on to the Normal channel on the amplifier. This part is still quite ad-hoc and far more a proof of concept than any final product: I intend to rework it quite extensively in the future.

Guitar

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A 2007 Hagström Swede reissue with a whole bunch of modifications.

Hardware changes: Bigsby B3 bridge (the install of which I have detailed in an earlier post); Dunlop straplocks.

Electronics changes: Fatboy Guitars Super-Dry humbuckers; master volume on lower horn + individual tone controls (CTS pots); miniswitch for master kill; momentary button switch for master kill.

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One music per day

My recording challenge had a difficult start (major equipment issues that took many weeks to finally resolve) and came to a premature stop thanks to running out of space on Soundcloud. I did record quite a bit by my own standards though, so here is the final playlist:

Final thoughts on the project? Things to improve: be better prepared in terms of practicalities; be more disciplined. Positive effects: learning this new, amazing rig I have; having more courage to trust where the playing takes me; reduced recording stress. Finally I really need to have my guitar receive a thorough servicing (including a new fret and probably a new bridge).

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Review: smallsounds/bigsounds Fuck Overdrive

I have been wanting to get my hands on one of these for years. For some reason, other pedals were prioriotised (many fuzzes, chorus, looper, the Quest for Compression etcetera) and time passed. And then in 2014 there was a Black Friday sale on the smallsound/bigsound website and I finally took the leap. It came in a limited edition finish and with a t-shirt included, both of which I am a complete sucker for…

A brief overview: it has controls for Gain, High Cut, Volume on the top row which do what you would expect them to; the second row controls the secondary function of the pedal – the Crackle function, activated with the momentary footswitch labled Boost. The On/Off switch controls if the momentary switch turns the Crackle on or off when pedal is activated; Threshold sets how strong signal is needed for the sound to get Crackled; the Heavy/Light switch controls the nature or the Crackle, glitchy/gated death or overdriven tape deck with maintained sustain.

So my journey with this pedal has gone like this: first I started with the pedal in the middle of my dirt section, with the gain set low. The Crackle goes up as the gain goes down, so this was a lot of fun! I then discovered how pleasing the overdrive from the pedal was so I spent a few weeks with the gain pushed up quite a bit – but that lost me the explosiveness of the Crackle (fantastic for looping), which eventually made me take the gain down again. By then putting the pedal last in the dirt section I get all the sustain from the previous drives and fuzzes and as a welcome side effect, the Fuck is absolutely amazing when you stack other pedals into it. The JFET-based circuit has a warm but still quite flat EQ which does wonders for fuzzes especially but firming up the low end.

This has in practice become an always-on pedal for me. I only turn it off when I need really clean, sustaining notes for looping or more delicate and/or funky stuff. These days, whenever I turn on another overdrive or fuzz and this one is not on after it I immediately feel like something is missing. The Crackle function is just the delicious, seductive icing on the cake that is this lovely piece of electronic pastry.

[ there used to be a very nice photo here of the FOD sitting on the very nice t-shirt I got with it but it’s disappeared and I can’t even find it on my computer anymore! ]

 

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Recent videos

Today I have a Boss VB-2 visiting so I made a very simple demo of it. Sounds lovely!

Here is a brief one from when I was learning the basics of my new looper:

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Adding a Bigsby B3 to a Hagström Swede

So I had the thought today that hey, what about adding some more content to this site? Presenting the riveting tale of what I did on the afternoon of the day before New Year’s Eve 2013!

Swede

Guitar sans strings

First the strings come off. This was mildly annoying because I have been trying out the D’Addario EXP strings which are more expensive than regular strings and the set that was on the guitar were simply cut too short for a Bigsby installation.

The next step is to remove the existing tail piece. First the cover comes off, revealing the individual string anchors and their plastic riser.

Swede TP

The bridge laid bare of her cover, even

What can we see here? The anchors are obviously staggered with the front anchors sitting on two washers. This raises them a bit and gives all the strings roughly the same angle over the bridge saddles. The anchors were very well secured in the guitar with good long screws screwed in tight. Something that is less obvious from the above photo is the way the person drilled the wholes for the anchor and tail piece cover holes had not bothered to wipe off all the paint and wood flakes from the top before applying the considerable pressure of the plastic riser with hardware. Result? Lots of dents and little holes on the finish. Certainly not a big deal but a very strange thing to disregard at any price point. Some of the small paint flakes were stuck to the plastic riser after uninstallation:

Tailpieces

Tailpieces

Next bit, getting the actual Bigsby installed! Measuring where to put it turned out to be very straightforward and went so quickly I took no photos of it. I simply decided to first do a dry run to see where things would end up and how much room for adjustment there would be. I unscrewed the strap button, put the B3 over the end of the guitar and screwed the strap button back in. As it turned out there was no give up/down at all and very little room for rotation – pretty much ideal and no need to fiddle about at all. I made sure the felt rests on the B3 were as even on the guitar top as they could be and then made marks through the screw holes on the B3 with the actual screws, took everything off and drilled. Then everything went back on and I started to screw the B3 into place.

B3 installing

Screw insertion

At this point it turned out there was a small amount of adjustability in the angle of the folded-over end piece depending on which side of screws went in first. I tried to simply keep it at a right angle to the curve of the guitar (or is that “at an even tangent” on both sides? – something like that anyway). I covered the ugly area the old tail piece left with some black electrician’s tape – I would not call it unnoticable but it blends in very well and with the strings on I forget it is even there.

Swede B3 installed

(almost) Everything in place

After this the strings went on, the spring under the vibrato arm and the plastic washer under that, the strings were tightened and then slacked again and the plastic washer taken out (the arm was just way too high off the guitar body), everything was tuned up and roughly adjusted and that was that! It worked fine right off the bat and the next day when the strings had re-curved the neck again it was even better. The Bigsby unit is very smooth to use and causes no problems with staying in tune at all. I think it looks pretty cool too.

Swede complete

Done!

The astute reader will have noticed other modifications to my guitar – these will be discussed in a forthcoming post. Sorry about the iffy photo quality too, they were taken with a mobile phone during the Swedish winter.

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Guitar lineup

These are my guitars, from left to right:

Hagström Swede reissue, 2007. Upgraded with CTS log pots and .015 Sprague Orange Drops wired serial (or ’50s style). Neck humbucker is a 1972 Maxon, bridge pickup a Wolfetone Dr Vintage.

Ibanez Roadstar II RG140, 1986. All original/unmodified (the black knob for the vibrato arm is still around).

Schecter Tempest Custom, ca 2005. Rewired to master volume (push/pull to split the bridge pickup) and tone with a green Russian .022 PIO capacitor. Neck pickup is a Ruokangas P90 style single coil from a Mojo King model, bridge pickup a Baby ’71 from The Creamery.

Some tinkering remains to get the right feel with the volume and tone controls – there will be some potentiometer juggling. The Schecter probably needs better grounding and the Hagström will get a new neck pickup at some point. Variety is good!

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Rig Building, Pt III

My pedalboard has been significantly altered lately and currently looks like this:

Pedalboard, januari 2012

Signal goes: Earthquaker Devices Hoof (fuzz pedal, serial #1317) -> Subdecay Liquid Sunshine (overdrive) -> Fairfield Circuitry Barbershop (overdrive, serial #OD465) -> Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy (delay) -> Danelectro Cool Cat (chorus) -> stereo out into both channels of the Vox AC15. I never sounded better, but the Hoof is not easy to get along with: two millimetres off on a knob and it bites your head off. I have not found the sweet spot for it for this band, but it is a very rock’n’roll pedal!

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Things of Beauty II

Time to drool a bit more I say!

Jersey Girl Guitars Audrey Bonet

I am a real sucker for Jersey Girl Guitars from Tokyo. They create amazing looking guitars covered in distinct and personal inlays and make much of the hardware in-house by hand. The guitars come with matching straps and sometimes even a matching stompbox from their own line of effect pedals. I like all of that.

David Myka Dragonfly

David Myka builds some fantastic looking guitars, I really like his Dragonfly model. The above instrument has a figured redwood top that just looks like a million currency units.

– Edit –

This was the place for a lovely Warr touch guitar, but apparently Warr do not like other sites linking to their images. Fair enough, and I will find another guitar to put here ASAP. -KB

 

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Rig building, pt II

A quick update: the Hagström has had CTS pots installed and the truss rod now works as intended. It also got a setup with new strings (these – they feel great) and plays better than ever. There is still a bit of a treble drop when the volume is turned down so I am considering doing a so-called treble bleed mod. The tone controls work great now!

I also got a new overdrive pedal, a Boss SD-1, for an embarrassingly small amount of money. Sounds very good although I have not played it at proper sound levels yet. As an experiment I have started using the stereo option on my chorus pedal and plugging into both channels on the amp – again, very pleasing sounds at home but the real test comes at band practice and more proper sound levels.

Pedalboard dec 2011

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Rig Building

A hot topic of conversation whenever two guitarists meet are their Rigs. “What Rig?” I hear you ask – the guitar rig of course! The combination of instrument, effects and effects pedals and amplifiers. The Rig is a source of constant joy, irritation, hard work and worry.

Joy, for all the wonderful noises it can make and the potential for artistic expression it holds.

Irritation, for when something stops working and the sometimes very long signal chain has to be gone through. Again.

Hard work, because with guitars, pedalboard, amplifier or indeed amplifers, possibly an effects rack and all the wiring the weight of the Rig grows exponentially.

Lastly worry, because the conservatism in the guitar world is absolutely monumental. “If it was good enough for Jimi, it’s good enough for me” is something you come across more often than I care to think about. This leads many to worry constantly about keeping their tone “pure” and can cause a certain amount of machismo bullshit – “look at me, I don’t need all that stuff to sound good, I just play and sound good”. Not a very useful attitude when you are doing U2 covers let me tell you.

Obviously things can get out of hand (for one high profile example, see John Frusciante’s 2006-2007 pedal boards on this page) but I think the important thing to remember is that there is nothing inherently bad – or good – with guitar effects pedals. It is entirely up to how, and when, you use them.

This all leads me to the topic of my own rig, as if by pure coincidence! I have been working on it in earnest for a few months now, and it is really starting to come together. Generally my approach is that if it sounds good, it is good. I do not have an unlimited budget and my pedalboard is quite small so I am forced to consider any additions carefully.

The guitar is still just my trusty Hagström Swede. It is entirely stock right now, but next week I am having the electronics replaced and the neck looked at by my friendly neighbourhood luthier at Gitarrist. While the pickups and the general quality is very good for the price this guitar really shows its price point in the volume and controls: they are pretty much rubbish at anything but full on. The truss rod (controls the curve of the neck) has become stuck, making seasonal adjustments impossible – wood moves with the change of seasons!

On my pedalboard sit, in order of signal path, a Moody Fuzz, a Way Huge Pork Loin, a Subdecay Liquid Sunshine and an old 18v version Danelectro Cool Cat. These are all powered by a T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon.

The signal is fed into a Vox AC15C1 amplifier. I usually play through the Top Boost channel on a clean setting and set the master volume about halfway up – I get a very dynamic sound that I really enjoy, but I could still use a little bit more push. The reverb and tremolo are controlled by a Lead Foot FS2 that sits on the pedalboard. I have a Stonecastle amp cover for protection/amp stand.

Plans for the future? A new guitar – more on that next year, hehehe! -, standalone reverb and tremolo pedals as well as delay and volume pedals. I have an interesting solution to the amplifier situation.

More on this subject as budget allows!

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