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Archive for March, 2014

Getting in the “Vibe” of Things…

Yesterday, I started working on a sketch of a song. I knew I wanted the main rhythm part to be clean, but I wanted a fairly heavy tremolo sound. I didn’t have a tremolo pedal nor an amp that had it, so I used a software plugin. That worked to a degree but I kind of wanted to get a bit of a swirly, leslie effect. Then it dawned on me that I had a Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe that has been collecting dust in my unused pedals crate.

So I dug through the crate, and quite literally dusted off the pedal and hooked it up. Damn! I forgot how much I like that sound! And then it also occurred to me that perhaps the reason I put it away in the first place was because I didn’t have the right combination of gear to do the pedal justice. But since I got that pedal a few years ago, my rig and my playing has evolved to where I could make use of the pedal once again. In any case, here’s the sketch I put together:

I’ve got an idea of what I want the song to be about, but this time I asked my son to do the lyrics because I wanted a younger, fresher take on the subject. We’ll see how it goes.

This is the gear I used:

  • Amp: DV Mark Little 40 Head into an open-back Avatar 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N speaker
  • Rhythm Guitar: Slash L Katie May into the Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe
  • Lead Guitar: ’59 Les Paul Replica into a Vox Big Bad Wah
  • Bass: Squier “P” Bass

To me, this is an example of using the right combo of gear. Though this is a sketch, I’m loving the guitar sounds, es. pecially Katie May into the Micro Vibe. What a sexy sound!

ROCK ON!

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A few days ago, Aaron over at GuitarGearFinder.com contacted and me and asked for my opinion on what my top three pedals would be for someone starting out. I actually think there are four, so I shared them. He posted my thoughts, and other top bloggers’ thoughts on the subject on his blog. Go and give it a read!

It was interesting to see the overlap of recommendations. Every single one of us recommended a dirt pedal and delay, though my top recommendation was a reverb pedal. Were the results surprising? Actually not. I figured that overdrive would probably be on everyone’s list, but admittedly, after that, it would be anyone’s guess.

Anyway, check it out!

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mlb-strat-sfNot sure how I feel about this one. But here’s a press release I got from Fender yesterday.

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FENDER® MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS CREATES UNIQUE MLB-THEMED STRATOCASTER®
GUITARS FOR MUSICIANS AND BASEBALL ENTHUSIASTS

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.  (March 20, 2014) – Fender is proud to announce it will offer fans collectible MLB-themed electric guitars that sound as great as they look. Each Fender Stratocaster® guitar will feature official team logos along with custom designed landmark imagery unique to the team’s market, as well as a “MLB” logo adorning the neck plate.

The initial group of team guitars available in 2014 includes the Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants. Also available is a Minnesota Twins All-Star Game guitar that features unique Minnesota imagery in honor of the team hosting the Midsummer Classic in 2014.

In addition, each guitar features an alder body, maple neck with a modern “C”-shape and 21 medium jumbo frets, three standard single-coil Strat®pickups, six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo, five-position switch, master volume and tone knobs, and standard gig bag.

“Fender and Major League Baseball are all-American originals,” said Justin Norvell, Fender marketing vice president. “Through this relationship, we’re excited to ‘team up’ to provide one-of-a-kind collectibles for musicians and baseball fans alike. The connections are intrinsic — baseball bats and guitars are both made from maple and ash, and tons of ballplayers are guitar players. We’ve had more casual or informal connections with players and teams for years, so this further solidifies a relationship we’ve long valued and enjoyed.”

Fender and MLB officially launched their relationship during the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at the New York Mets Citi Field by selling limited edition MLB All-Star Game Stratocaster guitars. Now, baseball fans throughout the United States can craft their own rock ‘n’ roll classics while representing their favorite MLB teams.

These instruments will be available to U.S. consumers only beginning March 31 exclusively at http://www.fender.com/mlb and http://www.shop.mlb.com, as well as in team shops at select MLB ballparks.

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Don’t know what price point these will come in at. I guess we’ll see when they get released on March 31. Definitely not something for me. Even though it’s a Strat, to me it’s akin to that leg lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story.” I suppose if you’re a big fan of particular team and a guitar player, you’d want one of these. But for me, as much of a Giants’ fan I am, I don’t ever see myself toting this one on my shoulder.

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replicaWhen I bought “Ox” from my good buddy Jeff Aragaki, it had already changed hands a few times. I bought it with the intent to make it an investment guitar, and though I actually did have it sold awhile back, the deal fell through, much to the chagrin of the buyer who then tried to buy it again with a trade and cash. I turned it down for a couple of reasons: 1) I was admittedly sour on dealing with that person a second time after they reneged on the original deal – not that they weren’t nice, but I felt they were a bit wishy-washy, and didn’t want to go through the hassle of dealing with their indecisiveness; 2) After I got Ox back, I set it up with different guitar strings. I had been using pure nickel, and decided to use steel strings for more bite. So I strung the guitar with Ernie Ball RPS-10 strings, and it was if a veil was lifted off the tone of the guitar!

Point 1) above is actually a trivial contributor to my decision to keep the guitar. It was changing the strings to Ernie Ball RPS-10’s (10-46) that brought out the true nature of the guitar’s tone. I’ve since switched to Ernie Ball Cobalts, which sound just a tad bit smoother than the RPS-10’s, but they have all the attack and bite on tap that I need. And once I heard the tones issuing from my amps from just that little change, there was no way I was going to part with this fabulous guitar.

Circling back around to my original purchase of the guitar, a little research revealed that the guitar had changed hands at least a few times before it landed on my doorstep. But perhaps in the case of this guitar, they didn’t have the right combination of gear and accessories to truly experience the tones this guitar can deliver. Who knows? But I have it, and I love it! 🙂

In any case, even though I found out who the luthier was who made the guitar, I had never made contact with him. As I said in my original review of the guitar, I also didn’t want to “out” him publicly to spare him from Gibson’s litigious wrath. But finally, after four years of owning this guitar, the luthier contacted me after reading my review, which was forwarded to him via a prospective customer. We had a great email exchange where he shared some details about the neck and body of the guitar.

I always wondered how he achieved the tone he achieved with Ox. For the longest time, I felt all that juicy tone came from the types of wood that were used. Ox’s body and neck are made from old-growth mahogany, the top is hard-rock maple, and the fretboard is Brazilian rosewood. I thought that just the wood combination accounted for how good the guitar sounds, but after he explained how the wood was cut, and how the pieces interact with each other, I realized it was way more than just the combination of woods, and believe me, considering what this guy’s day job is, he knows what he’s talking about!

I can’t share all the details of what we spoke about because again, I just don’t want to out him. But suffice it to say that the more I find out about Ox, the more I’m convinced that it was the smart thing to do to keep it.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been gigging with it fairly regularly. In fact, I’ve been gigging with Ox almost to the exclusion of all my other electrics. I haven’t played “Amber” my R8 for quite awhile. And my Slash L Katie May is now my main composing tool. I’ve gigged with her a bit, but she’s such a nice guitar that I like to keep her close to home.

In any case, here are a couple of clips of the 59 Replica.

This first one is a song that I’m currently working on. There’s no lead in it, but Ox has a very distinctive neck pickup sound that I can’t quite get with any of my other guitars. It’s very evident when I start finger-picking.

This next is my song “Strutter” but played with the 59 in the lead. I love the rock sounds this guitar makes!

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I originally wrote this about four years ago, and always meant to finish it. It remained in sketch form until I happened to listen to it for the first time in a couple of years. So I resolved to re-record it and give it the justice it deserved.

“Down Highway 29” is about driving down Highway 29 in the heart of California. I was in a bit of a pensive mood, just enjoying the drive down a lonely stretch of road, when the melody line of the song popped in my head, and luckily stayed with me until we got to our destination and I could record it (I always have a IK Multimedia StealthPlug with me so I track ideas). Anyway here it is:

Acoustic Guitar: Yamaha APX900
Lead Guitar: Slash L Guitars “Katie May”
Amp: Aracom VRX18 into a closed-back 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N Alnico speaker.

As with most of my recordings, the lead part is not EQ’d. I let the guitar and amp do all the EQ work, then just add effects. In this case, I used a matrix reverb to get that large room sound and a sample delay to add a bit more ambiance. There’s nothing else done to the guitar tone. Even without the modulation effects, the tone is very rich, which is why I do my best to not do too much with it in production.

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This morning I got a notification on my WordPress dashboard that today is When I first started this blog, I started it with the express intention of using the blog as an online diary documenting my purchases of new gear; specifically, I wanted to use GuitarGear.org as a way to record my transition to valve amps and all the cool stuff that I was going to buy.

And buy I did… 🙂

Back in 2009, GuitarGear.org suddenly boomed. I was writing pretty religiously, adding at least 5 articles a week, and I was active on several gear forums. Then manufacturers started come to me to review their gear, and GearGear.org kind of took on a life of its own. And though to date, the blog has had about 1.25 Million unique visitors – which is peanuts compared to big, commercial sites that get more than that in hour – I’m honored that that many people over the course of its existence have found GuitarGear.org valuable enough to visit.

I never meant GuitarGear.org to be a “go-to” resource for gear, but that’s kind of what it has become; at least in some capacity. But because I’m just a single guy working on it, I’ve had to be rather selective about the gear that I’d review, and so I’ve kept my focus on either things that I would use myself, or the “little guys.” That probably accounts for why I’ve got a fairly focused set of visitors. I just don’t cover much of the mainstream. That would be a full time job!

In any case, I’d like to thank everyone who visits this blog for making GuitarGear.org what it is today!

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EHX Soul Food OverdriveI hate to admit it, but I’ve become a little jaded about pedals over the years, especially overdrive pedals. And admittedly, at the rate that EHX pumps out pedals, I tend to not put as much effort in checking out their offerings when I get announcements in email. With respect to the Soul Food, which was released late last year, I did another ho-hum, another EHX pedal…

But that meh turned in an, eh? this afternoon when I happened to be checking out the Holy Grail Max demo on YouTube. I saw the Soul Food demo in the related videos list, and decided to check it out after I watched the Holy Grail Max demo. I sat through all 16 minutes and change completely mesmerized; not by just the sound of the pedal, but by the player playing in it. My curiosity about the pedal brought me to the video, but the playing kept me there. Before I go on, check out the demo. The dude playing is the SHIT!

Apparently, the Soul Food is a part-for-part clone of the Klon, and it’s supposed to sound and feel like a Klon but at a fraction – I mean a small fraction – of the price. With Klon’s selling on eBay for $1500 minimum, at $62, the Soul Food is quite an attractive offering.

Klon Hype

The Klon is sort of a “Dumble” of overdrives. People have hyped about it for years. I’ve personally never played one, and perhaps back when they first came out and sold for $300-$400, I would’ve considered buying one. But at the price they are now, I could get a good amp and be happy. Is it THAT good? Only those who play one can tell. But as with a Dumble, or any gear for that matter, what might sound good to one person, may not sound good to another. For me, at the price I’d have to pay for a Klon, I’ve got enough great gear to keep me for even considering it.

However, $62 isn’t at all a stretch, and after seeing the following head-to-head comparison, makes the Soul Food something I’m putting on my “to-buy” list. Check it out:

This is a great head-to-head comparison. Personally, I think that in most cases, they sound insanely close, though the Klon does seem much richer in low-gain settings. However, that said, the best test would be in a gigging venue where the sound gets a chance to bounce off air molecules. Could be that that is where the Klon shines. It’s the same with a Dumble. Close-miked, it’s hard to tell what’s so special. But when you hear it in an open environment, there is certainly some magic in the tone.

I’ve done a bit of research over the past couple of days; specifically, I was looking for comparisons between the Timmy and the Klon or Soul Food, since the Klon is also touted as a transparent overdrive. In my mind, the only thing that would keep me from getting the Soul Food was if it was truly transparent. I don’t need that; I already have a Timmy. But from what I understand, there is a definite mid-hump color that the Klon/Soul Food introduces, and that is something in which I’m interested. To me, even though the mid-hump suggests something akin to the venerable and most-copied TubeScreamer, it’s a different sound; seemingly a little rounder and fatter than a TS mid-hump.

I’ll be ordering a Soul Food pretty soon. Hehe… You never can have too many overdrive pedals. 🙂

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