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The Hottest Attenuator: Aracom PRX150-Pro

Looking for the “Doppler on the Dumble” series?

First let’s start with a link to the app because before I even discuss it, and before I even review it, I want to recommend that you get it. :)

Having been a “feel” player for much of my guitar-playing career, a few years ago, I decided that it was high time I looked at my guitar playing a little more academically. It was driven from this sense that I wanted to better understand what I was playing; and perhaps in the process expand my improv vocabulary. So I started buying books on various topics, and watched a lot of videos. All that instruction was great, but what they lacked in many cases was discussions on strategy – when would you apply those concepts. Most take the safe route with “it depends…” Frankly, that’s actually not a bad thing because I’ve found that how I approach soloing at any given time depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is how I’m feeling at the moment I’m going to be playing a solo.

With respect to modes, I’ve read a lot of articles, and gained a bit of an academic understanding of them. But I’m a learn-by-doing and learn-by-example type of player, and there was always some missing ingredient in the things I read. It wasn’t until I found and watched Rob “Chappers” Chapman’s video on Pitch Axis Theory: Learn Modes in 15 Minutes on YouTube that I started really “getting” modes and how they could be applied.

But even Chappers’ videos weren’t enough. Even though they got me over the top with respect to using a modal approach in my playing, I felt that I didn’t fully understand them. Enter “Modal Buddy.”

Modal Buddy is an iOS app (they say it’s made for iPhone, but I’ve been using it on my iPad with no problems) that will help you learn modes. It’s not just a reference guide, which to me would be utterly redundant. Yes, it has LOTS of reference material, but the meat of it is structured like a step-by-step learning guide, replete with chapters. I REALLY like this approach because it makes it more like an interactive book, and not just something that says, “Here’s the E Lydian mode, where E is the 4th, etc., etc., etc.” There’s discussion AND examples.

The examples are ultra-important in learning modes. What I learned with Chappers’ videos is that each mode has an aural “flavor” if you will, and what I was able to internalize about that is you can evoke certain moods depending upon the mode you apply over the root of a chord progression. And to me, that’s the crux of what modes bring to the table: Moods.

So when I started going through Modal Buddy, I was very keen on seeing if the app discusses this. I’m happy to reveal that not only does Modal Buddy capture that sense of moods, it starts off with that discussion as one of the first lessons and keeps emphasizing that in the examples, so you literally can hear the mood that a mode presents. That’s such a huge thing for me because looking back on how I was first presented with modes, everyone taught the spelling of a mode first. Had they shared the root of it, “moods” first, I would have probably started using and applying modes much earlier. As a result, like many, I was intimidated by modes, or relegated them to the “jazz snobs” who seem to live and breathe modes.

I’ve only gone through the first four chapters of Modal Buddy, and only scratched the surface with the practice stuff. I’m not even sure how many chapters there are. And though much of this initial stuff is stuff I already know, I have already learned a great mnemonic for remembering the mode names “I Don’t Play Like My Aunt Lucy,” with each first letter representing the modes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. That might be old hat to some, and even though I knew the mode names, I always had trouble remembering which mode went where in the order. That simple mnemonic helps me keep them in the proper order.

So what’s the gist of my first impression of Modal Buddy? I LOVE IT!!! At least from what I’ve seen thus far, Modal Buddy combines the best of both worlds: Theory and Examples in one straight-forward and easy-to-use learning guide. And I will say this: Even before I do a full review and breakdown of the app, I recommend you get it. It’ll be the best $4.99 you’ve ever spent. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran. The examples alone will help train your ear to hear the modes in different settings.

Speaking of “hearing” modes, I was curious to hear the Locrian mode. It seems to be the least presented in the discussions and videos I’ve seen. But when I heard the example, I realized I use the Locrian mode – a lot – especially when I’m playing over minor blues progressions because of that diminished, sad sound you get out of it. I had no idea I was using it until I heard an example in Modal Buddy. By the way, the modes are played over actual backing tracks. That’s HUGE in understanding and internalizing modal theory.

Anyway… GET THE APP!

Dug this one up today…

A few years ago, while I was on vacation just on the outskirts of the Portland metropolitan area, and on my way to the Oregon Coast, I happened to stop at a little music store to see what gems they might have (remember, I picked up a gorgeous 1981 ES 335 in a music store in a little town in Northern California). Well, making that stop was fateful because I found the VHT Special 6, a point-to-point, hand-wired, 6 Watt powerhouse that knocked my socks off!

Once I got home, I recorded this song with the amp, using my Les Paul ’58 Historic Reissue. It’s called “Beauty and the Burst,” and it’s a rocker.

The song itself is nothing technically masterful, but when I heard it again after all these years, I had to smile and ask myself, “Where the hell did you pull that one out of?” Enjoy!

Tonight I was reminiscing of becoming a father for the first time, and holding my baby boy in my arms, and suddenly a melody popped into my head that I had to track. I called it “Les Paul Lullaby” because I used both of my beloved Les Pauls to record the song. The finger-picked guitar is my ’59 Replica and the lead guitar is my ’58 Historic Reissue. The ’58’s cleans in the middle position are simply the best I’ve ever heard. The Deacci Green Faze pickups I had installed in that guitar have completely transformed it. The neck pickup is reverse-wound like Peter Green’s Les Paul so you get that out-of-phase tone. Played clean, it’s haunting sound. So check it out…

As far as other gear is concerned. I ran both guitars direct into my Aracom VRX22 then out to an Aracom DRX attenuator, then through a custom 1 X 12 with a Jensen Jet Falcon speaker. I added delay and reverb in my DAW.

New Song: Prima Luce

Prima Luce is Latin for “first light,” or dawn. The melody of the song was inspired by my thinking about a cross-country trip I made with my family last summer, and driving through the Nevada desert at the sun was coming up. It was absolutely moving. To be perfectly honest though, making another instrumental was not my original intent with Prima Luce. I wrote the backing parts of the song over a month ago. Since then, I had been trying to come up with lyrics and for some reason, words just wouldn’t come. So early this morning, I woke up with the intent – yet again – to pen some lyrics. But I ended up noodling over the backing track, and came up with a melody line. I realized that this song was meant to be an instrumental.

Guitars: Rhythm: 1958 Les Paul Historic (Amber)*, Lead: 1998 American Deluxe Strat (Heather)*.

* Note that the signal chain for these included an EHX Soul Food Overdrive and Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (handwired).

Amp: Aracom VRX22 run into an Aracom DRX attenuator. Note that all clips were recorded close-miked with the volume output no higher than loud conversation level (Gawd! I love the DRX!)

Update: September 2, 2014

Once I finish writing songs, I let them sit for a couple of days then re-listen to them to see what needs fixing. In this case, I wanted to make the end of the choruses match, and re-do the bridge to be more dramatic. In the process, I decided to do the whole song with my ’58 Les Paul. I happened to pull it out just to play around, and found that the “woman” tone that the Deacci pickups I just installed in it just took the song to a completely different place. So, I re-recorded the lead over the weekend. Give it a listen:

More on the Soul Food Overdrive

soulfoodI hate to say it, but the Soul Food has become my number one overdrive. It just works with every guitar and every amp I have. It’s purely amazing! When I was recording the lead, I set the Drive to about 3pm and the volume at about 1pm. With a Les Paul, that would’ve created over-the-top breakup, but with a Strat, the pedal brought out all sorts of harmonics and sustain with less distortion than with a Les Paul. I just closed my eyes and let my fingers do the talking.


Yes. In fact, he was apparently a very accomplished guitarist who specialized in Russian and Gypsy folk music. He even recorded a couple of records over his lifetime.

I had always known Yul Brynner from his movies; as the Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments as “Chris” in The Magnificent Seven, and who could forget him as the lead in The King and I? Yul Brynner was a special and unique talent, and I have always been a fan; I guess not big enough to know about his musical history. But there it is. Yet another reason to appreciate his talent!

As the title says, I hate it when I’m not paying attention…

Last night, I went to see the Tower of Power, Steve Miller Band, and Journey concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. The show opened up with Tower of Power, one of my favorite bands growing up. Steve Miller, at 70, is still absolutely incredible. And Journey? What can I say? While I loved the Greg Rollie years, I preferred the music from the Steve Perry years. Whether you liked him or not, Steve Perry’s voice was what took that band out of just being a collection of great musicians into pop rock legends.

Despite that, why am I a bit pissed? Well, I wasn’t paying attention when Neal switched from playing Les Pauls and moved to custom PRS guitars last year. I normally keep up with that kind of stuff, and I completely missed it! So much to my surprise, when Neal came out on-stage with a guitar that had those familiar PRS bird inlays, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed.

Neal Schon has been one of my Les Paul idols for many years, and to see him with a PRS… well, that just took getting used to. I also had to get used to the fatter tone. Neal’s tone wasn’t bad at all, but I felt that it lacked that top-end shimmer that you get from a Les Paul. I was expecting more bite from his tone, but what I got was just smooth. Like I said, it wasn’t bad, it was just different. He still sounded like Neal Schon, but I will admit it: that smooth PRS tone is not for me.

I’ve got to hand it to Paul Reed Smith. He has taken the electric guitar world by storm. So many artists play PRS guitars. I even have an SE model, which is great. But I still prefer the Les Paul bite.



5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!



Deacci Pure Legend “Green Faze” Humbuckers

Summary: This is a set of PAF-style ‘buckers with a reverse-wound neck pickup that captures that Peter Green out-of-phase sound. Whether or not they’re true to the original, these are game changers for me! They’re so clear and articulate – even with that “woman” tone in the neck position, I’m like… “Hey baby! Where ya been all my life?”

Pros: Absolutely articulate in any pickup position. Neck pickup is warm and deep-textured without losing that top-end bite. Bridge is bright and expressive, and that middle position… OMG! It’s going to give me countless tone-shaping possibilities!

Cons: None.

Price: $275.00 – $300.00 direct


  • Reverse-wound neck pickup to get that out-of-phase tone in the middle position.
  • Super responsive with an aggressive attack
  • Un-waxed potting
  • Available with nickel, chrome or gold plated covers – or unplated (all black, all creme, zebra-striped).

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 ~ As I said, this is a game-changer for me. With my Les Pauls, I use either the Treble or the Rhythm pickup; rarely do I use the middle pickup. But the tonal possibilities this particular set of ‘pups offers in the middle position will ensure I’ll be using that position – A LOT. Rex Kroff, the luthier I had install the pickups and do my yearly setup, said the pickups made “Amber” suddenly wake up. To him – and me – the difference in tone between the Burst Buckers and these pickups was like night and day. Where the Burst Buckers sounded a little subdued and “wooly,” the Green Faze pickups made my guitar come to life!

At the end of May, I got contacted out of the blue by Declan Larkin, founder and builder of Deacci pickups. He asked me if I’d fancy a set of “the best humbuckers ever made.” He’d send me a set to review, and I could do with them as I pleased. I’m used to reviewing gear then eventually returning it after I’m done. As I’ve mentioned in my about page, I don’t like to be beholden to any manufacturer or appear that I’m doing a review because someone comped me some gear. So admittedly, I was a bit wary of this seemingly blind giveaway.

So I started doing a little research on Deacci. I found some forum posts in a couple of UK forums (Deacci is based in Norther Ireland) discussing the pickups, and I found some sound samples. The sound samples turned me on my ear! They sounded absolutely marvelous! Needless to say, I was intrigued. Plus, as an amusing aside, I found that the pickups are in a “Patent Applied For” state, and that Deacci pickups are PAF-style pickups, so PAF-PAF’s. :)

But seriously though, Declan also caught me at a good time, as I was considering swapping out the stock pickups in “Amber,” my ’58 Historic Les Paul. I was only using the bridge pickup on her because the neck pickup to me was just not clear enough. Even the neck didn’t have the “bite” that I was wanting. She had a gorgeous clean tone in the neck, but driven, the neck pickup was practically unusable; just way too muffled for my tastes. And having moved from a bluesy to a more straight-up rock sound, I needed brighter pickups.

So I looked at the various models that Declan builds and found that the Green Faze pickups had the slightly lower impedance ratings that I felt would brighten up Amber just right. And it must’ve been kismet because as I was doing my research on Deacci, I was listening to “Oh well, ” so perhaps there was some subliminal stuff going on because I just love that song! In any case, I contacted Declan and asked if it would be okay to evaluate the Green Faze set, as I was sensitive to the fact that his was a brand-new company, and I didn’t want to take advantage. But he said it was all good, and he’d send them over once he’d wind up a new set. Frankly, I was blown away by this, and absolutely humbled. All Declan asked for was a honest review, and if I didn’t like them, I could return them.

Well they’re not going back. They’re staying in my guitar – forever! I’m not saying this because of the freebie, I’m saying this from the root of my heart. The sound my guitar now makes with the Green Faze pickups installed in it moves me practically beyond words.

What’s so special about them? I think a lot of that has to do with how they constructed and especially, how they’re wound. Declan uses a Fibonacci number to determine the number of winds of wire to apply to the pickups. He has also established what he says is a much more efficient and consistent way to hand wind the pickups as well. As far as the Fibonacci stuff is concerned, that could all be just techno-voodoo. But Fibonacci numbers are extremely important because they exist in nature. So applying them to a man-made artifact – at least to me – makes sense as the Fibonacci numbers represent balance.

How They Sound

I’m not going to spend much time singing the pickups’ praises. Suffice it to say that to me, these pickups sound so good, they leave me short of words to describe them. In lieu of that, I recorded several clips. All clips were recorded with my Aracom VRX22 into a custom Aracom 1 X 12 with a Jensen Jet Falcon speaker in it. I also recorded the clips at bedroom level by running my amp into the wonderful Aracom DRX attenuator. Note also that absolutely no EQ was added in production, and I turned off all compression. So what you’ll be hearing, save for the lead break for “The Hit” is the guitar’s natural tone as picked up by my microphone.


I played my guitar clean in the shop and was taken by the gorgeous overtones the pickups were producing, so I couldn’t wait to get home to see if I could get that classic Les Paul bloom. For this clip, I played the neck pickup, with the tone control turned all the way down to get that “woman” tone. I’m just picking single notes in an Am pentatonic.

Slow Blues – Fingerpicked – Neck Pickup

Putting the Bloom to Work

The next clip uses the fingerpicked clip above with a simple lead using the woman tone. Oh my…

After recording that, I wanted to see what the guitar would sound like on one of my more engineered songs. This is the lead break from my song “The Hit.” The first half features the “woman” tone, then I switch over to the bridge pickup to finish the solo.

Crunchy Tones

Here I’m playing the same riff for all three positions. The volume knobs are dimed, and my amp is set at the edge of breakup. These pickups through a lot of signal at the front-end of the amp forcing my pre-amp tubes to compress. It’s most evident with the Neck pickup.




Clean Funk

I just love the fast attack of these pickups. The clean tones are right in your face, but not off-putting at all.




Clean – Fingerpicked

The overtones that the pickups produce combined with the natural sustain of a solid body Les Paul, make for a rich, complex tone that makes me want squeeze every bit of tonal goodness out of what I’m playing.




Oh Well…

Of course, I couldn’t do a review of Peter Green-style pickups without doing at least one Peter Green riff. Here’s “Oh well” (at least as close to what my ham-handedness could produce):

Overall Impression

Need I say more? I love these pickups. It’s past midnight and I’ve been writing this review since 8pm. It has been a stop and go affair as I’ve taken breaks to play my guitar. :) I don’t give 5 Tone Bones often. What I do give 5 Tone Bones are game-changers. The Deacci Green Faze pickups are game-changers for me without a doubt!

For more information on Deacci pickups, go to the Deacci site!


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