Tag Archives: guitar

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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New looping video

Did this yesterday, a few new tricks and techniques this time and not quite as “nice” sounding.

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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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So you think you can do a gear demo?

For a musician today, and especially a guitarist, Youtube has become an absolute goldmine of sound samples and demonstrations of applied gear. Guitars, effects and amplifiers are being demonstrated with various degrees of expertise and usefulness. I have found it very helpful – mainly to rule out pieces of equipment that sounded like good ideas on paper. However, there are a few aspects to these demonstrations that start to become rather tedious once you have seen and heard them ten or twenty times.

1: Talking. Long, winding and ill prepared explanations of the features of the demonstrated piece of equipment that no one really needs to hear. The viewer is very likely to be more or less fully informed about this and does not need a step by step runthrough, one or even two minutes of length.

2. Omitted information. The talking that is not done, this is actually an even worse offense. Hopelessly common is that of stompbox demonstrators not saying what guitar they are playing or through which amplifier. To make a good assessment of whether or not the demonstrated piece of equipment may be of value or not, the viewer also needs a good reference to how the signal chain sounds without the item in question affecting the sound.

3. Low quality of sound. When I come across a 240 video and/or one where the sound is recorded with only the camera’s microphone I immediately click “back” these days. It is simply not worth the time.

4. Not tuning up. Seriously, this is very common: guitar players not tuning their guitar, recording a gear demonstration, and then posting it on the internet for all to see and hear. It never ceases to amaze me that someone can do this.

5. Dull playing. Constant repetition of the same old tired blues “licks”, extremely predicatable bends and double stops – or nonchalant metal legato runs, good grief make it stop make it stop

6. Not giving different examples. Trying to correct this can easily backfire and lead to far too many examples of settings, I have noticed this with distortion pedals especially. Something that I have found very helpful is to play through the same setup using two or more different guitars, but this is time consuming and unless you have some pretty varied guitars, pointless.

7. Unboxing. Seriously, this is no joke. On one channel every single video begins with a complete unboxing of the stompbox in question, made by a person who describes what he is doing as we look at him doing it. It is unfathomable.

To end on a more positive note, the ones who do the very finest demonstration videos are, in my opinion, Strymon. They build very high quality digital effects for guitar and bass and make amazingly good videos for them. I find myself watching these videos just to hear this guy being excellent at what he does!

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Re-vibrating a guitar, pt II

Given that the guitar is now without strings, I took the opportunity to give the fretboard some care and attention. Step one: clean it up!

Clean fretboard

There, much better. I used a very simple method of cleaning: liquid dish washing detergent (is that the word?) in luke warm water, applied with a slightly abrasive sponge. Note that this can really dry out your fretboard, so make sure you do the following as soon as you have dried off the water:

Fretboard with oil (and focus)

Apply lemon oil to the fretboard, in this case made by Dunlop. As you can see I have rubbed down about half of the fretboard with the rag visible top right in the photo.

Finished fretboard

And this is the end result: a happy fretboard! I will make sure that any oil remaining on the surface is gone before I put on the new strings.

Acoustic fretboard

Less happy, however, is the fretboard on my acoustic guitar which has been given basically zero attention in nine years above some cursory scraping off of grime. As can be seen above, which is after some much needed cleaning, it is very very dry.

Oiled acoustic

It actually took two coats of oil for this guitar, the first coat was simply sucked into the wood immediately! I will keep it under observation, it would not surprise me if it needs one more eventually – maybe after the summer.

Next step is to string up the guitars again so I can begin practising, but that part is not all that interesting or photogenic. Eventually when I have the time and money I will get the new pickup installed and do a final update on my guitars for this time.

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Guitar for sale

I’m trying to raise some cash by selling a guitar I no longer use. It’s a Schecter Tempest Custom in black cherry colour that I’ve had for about four years. It’s a fine instrument, but I simply prefer my Hagström.

I’ve placed an ad for it here.

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New Adventures in Studio Land

Yesterday, I recorded my guitar parts for an upcoming album project. We are still in the “pre-production” stage, so this is more like a preliminary recording, to be used as a reference for future rehearsal/recording/arranging and for getting gigs.

We recorded in a small one room studio in Lund. It is generally used for laying down hip hop vocals, so after trying and failing to squeeze me, a chair and a guitar into the mic booth, I moved out to the sofa and we put the microphone stand over the armrest, bringing the microphone close to the guitar. Not exactly ideal, but it worked!

Then came the realisation that since I have not yet written down the arrangements for the songs with bar counts and intro/coda etc, I had no idea what the song structures were. Most of the guitar parts are very repetitive, so this was a real problem. We tried with Keyo sitting in the vocal booth quietly singing the lyrics, but it leaked too much into the mic. So, he had to stand and give a little wave for every transition into verse, chorus, bridge etc., keeping the song going in his head.

This actually worked well and I did something like four of eight songs in first takes. After a four hour session, including lunch break, my brain was well and truly fried and I went home for a very quiet night with dr House. Tomorrow is Keyo’s turn to do the vocals. I’m very curious as to how it will all sound in the end.

We are planning to do more intense rehearsing and arranging for a couple of weeks now, with our first gig the 30th of May. We hope to do final recording at the end of May too. More to come on this!

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The Telepathy of Music

Duetting guitarists playing the same melody show remarkably similar brain wave actitivy in this study. The synchrony increased with time and included the involvement of the same brain areas in both players. Fascinating!

I would like to see what happens with two guitarists playing an interlocking piece such as “Discipline” or “Frame by Frame” by King Crimson. Same, same but different?

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