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Archive for March, 2011

I have a LOTS of pedals, but sometimes I forgo the use of them in order to just keep things simple. For instance, while I was in my studio this evening working on a new song, I got a little sidetracked and started jamming to a little chord progression that I quickly came up with to warm my fingers up. So much for the songwriting tonight as I ended up looping the chord progression and playing over it – for about two hours. I finally decided to record a clip.

In the clip you’re about to hear, I’m using Amber, my trusty Les Paul R8, plugged into my Aracom Amps PLX-18 BB Trem, which is a 18 Watt Marshall Plexi clone. I’ve been gigging with this amp a lot as of late, as its tone is just to die for! In any case, I recorded the rhythm part with the guitar plugged straight into the amp. Then for the lead, I cheated a little and added a boost pedal to slam the front-end of the amp with gain so I could make sure the power tubes compressed a bit. The amp was in the drive channel cranked all the way up. Also, the rhythm part was done with the guitar in the middle position, while the lead was on the bridge pickup.

I did master the clip a little bit, and added some EQ texturing on the master track, but I left the guitars alone EQ-wise, and only added a touch of reverb to each track. At least to me, the end result is just pure, cranked Les Paul/Vintage Marshall tone. No distortion or overdrive pedals, just getting my distortion from gain. The is just letting my fingers do the talking. 🙂

I remember when I was weaning myself off of drive pedals, it was really hard because all the drive pedals I have add a bit of sustain. But with no pedals, you just have the natural sustain of your guitar and the sustain that comes from overdriving the amp. But once I got used to it, and learned to wiggle my strings effectively, I found I preferred playing like this most of the time. But that said, I will always have drive pedals on my board as they produce distortion sounds that my amps can’t produce by themselves, and they do come in handy for lead breaks when I’m performing live.

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Yeah, I suppose I’m a gear critic, considering the nature of GuitarGear.org. But one thing that I NEVER wanted to do was establish myself as someone who came off as “my word is is law.” To be honest, I would consider myself an expert on guitar gear – at least in general with respect to guitars and peripherals and how they all work together – but I also realize that my own proclivities and tastes are my own. And despite the fact that I employ rigorous testing in both studio and on stage, inspect every piece of gear closely, looking for build or finish flaws, or admiring the workmanship of some gear; in the end, my analysis is simply… an opinion. Because of this awareness, I’m always careful about making gear recommendations. I rarely, if ever, tell readers that they have to buy something; rather, I suggest they check it out and try it for themselves.

The reason I’m covering this particular subject is because as I was reading through some wine reviews this morning (yes, that’s yet another passion of mine besides guitar and golf), I realized that the critics I gravitate to are the ones whom I consider to have considerably more expertise than me, but rather than dictate, they suggest, and also provide contrast by illustrating similar wines.

Then I looked at my participation in various online forums, and the various so-called experts that practically live there. There are some for whom I have great respect and admiration who give and have given me some great insight and advice on various gear topics. But there are others who love to bandy about their knowledge, pulling out their credentials as proof that you need to listen. The worst thing is that they’re all very eloquent so many people are taken in by the things they say and advise, then they go out and buy a particular gear that the “expert” says they need, and they’re convinced beforehand that it’s everything they need; only to find out some time later that it just doesn’t work with their sound.

Look, I’ve been down that road; hanging on every word that a so-called “expert” says. And yes, I’ve been burned. Just remember this, as said in the movie “Platoon:” “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one.” 🙂 Seriously though, and I know, I repeat this all the time. Don’t just take the word of someone who raves about gear. Try before you buy. And if you can’t try it, make sure you do your homework and research!

“guitarboy” who is a reader of this column teased me recently about getting my Timmy pedal. To be completely honest and transparent, I’ve never played one. But I did do my research, listening to tons of clips, and fortunately for me, seeing/hearing one in action at a friend’s concert (Dylan Brock of “Luce”) where I could see how he set it. I was also able to talk to him after the concert to get his insights on the pedal. That particular conversation sold me on the pedal.

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I suppose I’m not the only one who has a bucket list, but I thought I’d share mine. And no, I’m not thinking about my life ending, but the other day I thought about things I’d like to do, see, or have before I die. So here goes (not in any particular order):

  • Build a huge wine cellar devoted to my favorite wine, Pinot Noir; focused specifically on California, Oregon, and Washington, categorized by region and appellation. Oh, I’d also stock it with French Burgundy as well. I suppose I should share that I also have a blog about Pinot Noir called The PinotPhiles.
  • Play a real ’59 Les Paul, if not outright own one. And it wouldn’t sit in a glass case. I’d play it.
  • Own an original Marshall JTM-45 and an original Plexi 50
  • Have all classic Les Paul Reissues: R7, R8, R9, and R0
  • I’d really like a Corvette Z06.
  • Speaking of automobiles, one of my dreams is to see the F1 Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and have a room that is on the Casino Turn, overlooking the race course.
  • Back to music, once the kids are grown up – or maybe earlier – I’d love to build a nice studio/sound stage in my back yard.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now… 🙂

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The danger about being a gear freak or have a mania for anything is that you can easily waste lots of money chasing an ideal. Think about it a moment: Lots of things influence our decisions to purchase gear; and not all are that reasonable. We gear freaks tend to be a fairly compulsive lot. Something might look cool or feel or sound great in the shop; we read about something in a forum; see something in a magazine; all triggers for GAS.

Though I still get GAS and am intending to buy yet another guitar very soon – a Gretsch Electromatic 5122C – I’m not nearly as compulsive as I used to be. This is because about a year ago after I had amassed a bunch of gear, I looked at my studio with the line of guitars, stacks of amps and cabs, three pedal boards (with more in a special cabinet drawer), and said, “Damn! You just gotta play yer gear.”

I realized in that moment that I had a bunch of stuff that I’ve hardly used at all; for instance, a BOSS practice unit that sits on my recording console desk that I rarely if ever turn on. Or I have some pedals that are simply collecting dust. I resolved then and there to slow down my buying and be much more calculating with my purchasing decisions. After all, I told myself, you bought this stuff to play it, so play it!

The TC Electronic Corona Chorus was the first pedal I’ve purchased in about six months. I’ve looked at several, but haven’t pulled the trigger. I do have to admit that I didn’t necessarily “need” a new chorus, but the Corona sounds so damn good that I just had to have it. 🙂 Truth be told, it’s affixed to my main board and will not be leaving it. And that’s a real driving force for my purchasing decisions: Will I really be playing the gear in question. I gig at least two days out of the week, and I’ve stepped up my studio time as of late, so the gear I get has to be relevant to what I’m playing.

The net result of that shift in mentality is that my rate of picking up gear has significantly slowed; though I admit it gives me more to invest into fine wine and golf. 🙂

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I’ve gotten to the point in my playing where I’ve pretty much established my base tone, so I’m extremely sensitive about the pedals I add to my rig; especially modulation effects. To me, they should only enhance my tone, and not define it. I should still sound like me whether I have a particular modulation effect on or off. In other words, if the effect is off, I shouldn’t feel as if something is missing from my tone. There are, of course exceptions to this rule of thumb, like my Boss CE-2, where I actually want my tone altered, but in general, I want my modulation effects to simply “fit” with my tone.

Such is the case with TC Electronic Corona Chorus. It simply “fits” with my rig. I’ve been playing with it for the last hour or so, and the more I get to know it, the more I absolutely love it. And all this for $129? This is a winner. In any case, I’ve recorded a couple of clips to demonstrate the pedal. Mind you, all these were done in the standard chorus mode. I haven’t started playing with the TonePrint or TriChorus much yet.

Subtle/Clean

The first clip has me playing clean fingerstyle with a short song. I do the song first without the pedal engaged, then play the song over with the pedal engaged, just adding some subtle chorus. The result is simply amazing:

Liquid/Clean

In the next clip, I do sort of a funky rhythm with a syncopated bass line. Here I’ve turned the FX Level to past 2pm, the Depth to 2pm and Rate to noon. What I get is a real liquid tone:

Swirling/Dirty

In this final clip, I add a little more depth and FX Level, then get into the dirty channel of my Hot Rod Deluxe. The result is a flange-like swirling tone. The interaction with the distortion of the amp is totally cool – at least to me:

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I took the Corona to my weekly solo acoustic gig last night to give it a gig test. From the moment I started playing it, I was in love with this pedal! I actually got to my gig a little early so I could play around with the settings and find a “standard” setting that I could use. My thought behind this was that the pedal would just stay on all the time, except for specific songs that I just want my raw guitar sound.

My standard setting was Speed at 11am, Depth between 12 and 1, FX Level at just past noon, and Tone right in the middle. This produced a super smooth, lush, liquid, and sensual tone that also added a three-dimensional quality. It was total ear candy!!! Not only that, I was using no other processing, doing straight into the restaurant’s board and relying on the high ceiling to get my reverb. The result was absolutely stupendous!

I used the “standard” setting for the songs I play fingerstyle, which is most of the time. For songs where I was strumming, I backed the depth to noon. It’s a very subtle change, but an important one, as any chorus can muddy up your tone when you’re doing fast strums. I do this with all my chorus pedals. But the interesting thing with the Corona is that when I wanted to do any kind of adjustment, I didn’t have to move the knobs nearly as much as I would with other pedals. With the Corona, all the controls are interlinked, so it only takes minute adjustments to affect the overall tone. This is totally cool!

I didn’t use the TonePrint or TriChorus modes at all last night. I just didn’t feel a need to use them. As I mentioned in my review of the pedal yesterday, if the Corona only had the standard chorus mode, I’d still buy it. It sounds that good! I could get super-subtle chorus tones to gorgeous, liquid tones ala Andy Summers with this mode. In fact, I played “Every Breath You Take” last night, and just loved the chorus sound that the Corona produced for that.

Finally, a question I asked myself last night was: With how much I love the Corona, will it possibly replace my beloved Boss CE-2? Probably not. Not because the CE-2 is a better chorus, but simply because it has a distinctive tone that no other chorus I’ve every played can cop. Besides, I also like the slight gain boost that the CE-2 gives me when engaged. For bluesy stuff, that gain boost actually comes in handy. But for general chorus duties, I’ve found my go-to chorus pedal. This thing absolutely RAWKS!!!

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TC Electronic Corona Chorus

Summary: Part of TC Electronic’s new Compact line, this is just about the most tweakable chorus I’ve ever played. Standard chorus most offers a wide range of chorus tone from subtle, ringing tones to thick leslie-like warble. But with TonePrint and TriChorus, you’ve got even more chorus sounds at your fingertips.

Pros: For the chorus lover, the Corona is a tone tweaker’s wet dream! There’s so much you can dial in with this pedal, and guess what? It all sounds great! Great TC sound in a standard-size enclosure? No problem, mahn!

Cons: None. Granted, I haven’t played with it much, but I just can’t think of anything NOT to like at this point.

Features:

  • TonePrint – instant access to custom pedal-tweaks made by your idols!
  • 3 chorus types – expansive tonal options from glassy shimmer to mind-boggling swirls of sound
  • Speed, Depth, Color and Level controls – sculpt your chorus sounds from subtle to extreme
  • Stereo in & out – for added flexibility to your set-up
  • True Bypass – zero loss of tone
  • Analog-Dry-Through – maximum tonal integrity and clarity
  • ToneLock – protects your presets under all circumstances
  • Easy battery access – makes changing batteries fun! (well, almost)
  • Small footprint – save precious pedalboard space
  • High quality components – only the best will do when it comes to tone
  • Road-ready design – ready to follow you wherever your playing takes you

Price: $129 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~TC Electronic is finally coming down from the stratosphere. In the past, price was a big barrier to entry, but with the Compact line of pedals, that’s no longer the case. You get great TC tone at an absolutely affordable price.

Selling Like Hotcakes

I called up my buddy Jordan over at Gelb Music in Redwood City today to see if he had any of the TC Electronic Compact Line in stock. He said he had one chorus and one delay left. He had three of each two days ago, and people are calling, so he has a bunch on order. I’ve been reading the buzz about these pedals for the past couple of days, and it seems that dealers sell them as soon as they get them; and for good reason: At least for the Corona, the pedals sound INCREDIBLE! As soon as Jordan told me he had a Corona (which is what I was originally interested in), I told him I’d be down in a few minutes and he said he’d pull the pedal. He knows me too well; if I like and bond with some gear, I’ll walk out the store with it.

Well, such was the case with the Corona. As soon as I got to the shop, Jordan handed the pedal to me. I took it and got set up to test it. I tested it through a 100 Watt Sebago Double Trouble with a Gretsch Electromatic at the shop and immediately fell in love. This is a keeper, and will be going on my board – today! Let’s get to the review, shall we?

Fit and Finish

Can you say, “built like a tank?” 🙂 The enclosure is absolutely solid. The knobs feel totally sturdy, and the bypass switch (yes, it’s true bypass) feels solid. In other words, if the Corona is any indication of the rest of the line, these pedals will be gig-worthy.

How It Sounds

Sorry, no clips yet as I have yet to bring it home. 🙂 But all I can say is that the chorus is simply silky-smooth. The “Analog-Dry-Through” (ADT) technique that they’re using really works. Basically, with ADT, the dry signal stays untouched in the pedal, and the effect is simply blended in. I really like this technique, as it ensures that your signal retains its integrity. So there’s no signal loss, and no gain boost like you get with other pedals that modify the dry signal directly. It also gives you a lot finer control over how much effect  you want.

I tested all three modes: Chorus, TonePrint, and TriChorus. Here’s a synopsis of each:

Chorus Mode ~ If the Corona only had this mode, I still would’ve bought it. Based upon TC’s classic SCF circuit, this is a smooth, sexy chorus. There’s nothing bell-like with this mode, but it just adds some very beautiful character to your sound and it doesn’t sound at all processed. Based upon my initial test, this will most probably be the mode I use the most.

TonePrint Mode ~ This mode, of course, offers the ultimate in tweakability. Out of the box, the default TonePrint is an asymmetrical TriChorus that has some really cool swirls. But if you don’t like that, just hook the pedal up to your computer via the included USB cable and print a chorus sound you like. You can download TonePrints from the TC Electronic site, where they’ve had some major artists provide TonePrints. Want a Bumblefoot chorus sound? How ’bout one from Orianthi? Pretty cool stuff!

TriChorus ~ For me, used subtly in mono, this mode out of the box will give you very cool leslie-like tones. Apparently, it’s best used in stereo. While I liked it, it was the least of my favorites, but I can actually see where I can use it in one of my songs. It’ll work perfectly for that.

Overall Impression

As I entitled my previous article on the Corona chorus, I really thought I was done getting chorus pedals. But this is a must-have for me as I wanted to have another chorus pedal that could do sounds that me Boss CE-2 can’t do. The CE-2 is a really in-your-face type of chorus, while the Corona can be dialed back for a much more subtle chorus tone. I’ll be using this pedal – A LOT!!!

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At Winter NAMM 2011, under the “Compact” line of pedals, TC Electronic released seven new pedals in a more standard footprint. I spoke about about the Corona Chorus in my previous article, and it is very promising. Now you might say, “So what? There were lots of pedals release at NAMM.” True, but from my standpoint, this is a major departure for TC Electronic; not in terms of engineering and quality, but of its movement into the mainstream.

Think about it: For years TC Electronic has been producing incredible effects that are always highly rated, and known for their high quality. The only problem for me, and while it might not seem like a big thing to others, but it is a big thing to me, was the form-factor of TC pedals. I have always had a problem with their size and shape.

People might say that it’s the tone that should matter and not the form-factor, and I would agree to a point. But from a practical perspective, because of their size and shape, I’d have to sacrifice too much real estate on my board to accommodate an original TC pedal. So though I’ve loved the pedals for their tones, I’ve always passed on them purely because of I’d have to change my board. That is definitely changed with TC Electronic’s new Compact Line.

The Compact Line in a Nutshell

As I mentioned above, the Compact line includes seven pedals. It’s great that TC came out with all of them at once as opposed to staging the releases. It definitely makes a bigger splash. One thing that I can say about the Compact line is that TC had versatility in mind with these pedals. All the modulation effects include TC’s new TonePrint feature, which lets you load settings by major artists into the pedal directly via a USB connection. How cool is that?

Anyway, here are video clips I found on YouTube that really demonstrate the pedals’ capabilities:

Flashback Delay

Corona Chorus

Vortex Flanger

Hall of Fame Reverb

Shaker Vibrato

Mojo Mojo Overdrive

Dark Matter Distortion

The pedals that really catch my ear are the Corona Chorus and the Vibrato, which is VERY cool. Unlike tremolo, vibrato is a pitch modulation, where tremolo is a volume modulation. That could really come in handy!

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TC Electronic comes out with the Corona Chorus (announced at Winter NAMM 2011). From what I’ve been reading and watching about this chorus pedal, it’s a winner! Very tweakable, with three different modes including their classic SCF chorus, Tri-Chorus, and TonePrint, which allows you to download settings directly into the pedal via a USB connection to your computer.

I have never owned a TC Electronic device; though I’ve tested a few of the Nova line pedals, and they sound great, one thing that has turned me off in the past is the size of the pedals I tested. Now with TC Electronic’s new compact pedal line, all that tonal goodness TC Electronic is known for can be had in a more standard form factor!

I don’t have a lot of chorus pedals; in fact, I only have two (BOSS CE-2 and a Homebrew THC), and I love them both. I use the THC for acoustic guitar, and use the CE-2 for electric. But I was just thinking that I’d like to have a more tweakable chorus to accompany my CE-2, as it’s kind of on the bright side, and sometimes I want something much darker, plus the versatility of the Corona would be awesome to accompany the CE-2 on my board. And no, I wouldn’t remove the CE-2 because it has a very distinctive tone that I have not been able to duplicate with any other pedal – ever.

From the techie side of things, the Corona is true bypass, and as TC Electronic puts it, Analog-Dry-Through, which simply means that the dry signal through the pedal stays dry and the effect is blended in. Very nice. That would definitely make it easy to put in front of an amp.

In any case, as usual Andy at ProGuitarShop.com has created a demo video. It’s pretty sweet:

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When I get any guitar, one of the very first things I do is to test it out clean. I know, I already did a clip of the guitar dirty, but that was just a spur of the moment thing, and I literally only spent 15 minutes with her when I recorded the first clip. But tonight, I wanted to really take some time to dig in, so to say, and run Lana through her paces.

So I hooked her up to my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe because it just has killer cleans. Came up with a simple chord progression in D, recorded it, then laid down the lead. The “rhythm” part of this clip is with the neck pickup coil-tapped. The lead is with the guitar in the middle position, no coil-tapping. Give it a listen:

One of the first things that struck me was the super-organic, acoustic quality of the rhythm track. The inherent sustain creates lots of resonance, so it acts like the resonance chamber of an acoustic guitar. That’s really amazing. The guitar is probably about an inch and a half thick where the neck meets the body (no joint as this is a neck-through guitar), then tapers out to less than an inch around the body. At first glance, you wouldn’t expect this guitar to have so much sustain and resonance, but Perry’s design somehow creates tons and tons of sustain. Excellent!

When I played the lead, the humbuckers were simply thick and juicy, but without even a hint of boominess, even through my Hot Rod Deluxe, which can get pretty fat in the bottom end. Though I ultimately recorded the lead in a single take, I recorded it after about an hour of looping through the chord progression, just playing lead lines.

To me, that’s the mark of a truly great instrument. I lose all track of time when I’ve got a great instrument in hand. I’ll play for hours on end, and not stop. That’s how good Lana is. She can absolutely sing! I’d put her up against a Les Paul any day; and that’s saying a lot! Can’t wait to hook her up to my Plexi-style amps!

As to the recording, the guitar was recorded completely raw. I didn’t add any compression or EQ or do any mastering. The guitar was plugged straight into my Hot Rod, and I just set the Reverb on 3 to give it just a little grease. But that’s it. What you hear in the recording is just that.

By the way, even before I do the formal review of Lana, she’s going to get 5 Tone Bones. I know, I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but this is such a damn great guitar that I’d be lying if I gave her anything less than a 5!

If  you’re looking for a great custom guitar, Perry is the man to talk to. I don’t have his contact info in front of me, so I’m not providing it just now. Perry, if you’re reading this, please let the folks here know how to reach you.

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