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Archive for May, 2014

I know what you’re thinking… yet another new PAF pickup manufacturer; and you’d be right. But I’m pretty intrigued by what Deacci is offering based on what I read in their “About” page:

And this is where something special started to happen… taking inspiration from the mathematical sequences that underpin so much of nature’s seemingly random distribution, from flower petals to seed heads, Deacci created a winding distribution methodology based on the Fibonacci sequence that’s resulted in a range of pickups that deliver the very best of those vintage sets but with a consistency and purity that’s hard to achieve with hand wound pickups.

Fibonacci numbers? Those are nature’s magic numbers! 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… Creating a ratio between adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci sequence form what the Greeks called the “Golden Ratio” or “Golden Mean,” (0.61538461538462…) the perfect balance. You see the Fibonacci numbers everywhere in nature! For instance, the number of clockwise rows of “eyes” on a pineapple versus the number of counter-clockwise rows are adjacent Fibonacci numbers. The length of your hand versus the length of your forearm create a Golden Mean. Pretty amazing stuff.

So if it works in nature, why not apply it to technology? Apparently, Deacci has devised a scatter-winding methodology that employs the Fibonacci sequence. Who knows how this will make the pickups sound? But it definitely is a unique approach, and frankly, since they’re going after discrete numbers, it would mean that there will be much less variation and much more consistency between different pickups of the same make as you find with PAFs (imagine the winders that were originally used to wind PAF pickups were made for winding yarn).

Of course, there’s no guarantee, except for hearing them, and from the sound clips I’ve heard thus far, these are very nice-sounding pickups. I’m going to be getting a set of the their “Green Faze” pickups based upon Peter Green’s ’59 Les Paul’s PAF’s. Very excited about that as I will be putting them into my ’58 Re-issue to brighten up its naturally warmer tone – especially in the neck pickup. I’ll be doing a review in the next few weeks! Stay tuned!

For more information, visit the Deacci Pickups site!

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Monday Morning Inspiration

I’ve shared this story in the past, but decided to share it again because it has had such a profound affect on how I approach practically any problem. The article was first published in the Houston Chronicle in 2001, but I first heard about the story a few years ago when my aunt shared it. Here’s the transcript from the article:

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On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap — it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do.

People who were there that night thought to themselves: “We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage — to either find another violin or else find another string for this one.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night, Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing the piece in his head . At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said — not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone — “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it.

And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life — not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

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The incredible thing about that quote above is that it doesn’t just pertain to art or music, but any creative endeavor, be it figuring out a business plan, programming; well, anything. In this day of having everything at our fingertips, what do we do when there’s no easy access to resources?

I occasionally re-read that story to help remind me to use what I have and do my best when I don’t have everything I need. Granted, some things just can’t be done in the absence of key resources (for instance, you can’t bake a cake when you don’t have flour). But in many cases, we can still accomplish incredible things if we only dig deep and use what we have instead of freezing in our tracks when we we’re missing things. To me, that’s character-building.

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Gig Report: EHX Soul Food

soulfoodI finally got a chance to take the Soul Food out of my home studio and use it at a gig. I had been playing with it practically every evening in my studio for a couple of weeks to cozy up to it. So before I went to the gig I learned a few things about the pedal:

  • While it could be used as a standalone pedal for producing grind, it’s best used to interact with the front-end of the amp, and push an amp at the edge of break-up into overdrive.
  • The treble boost adds a nice, VOX-like top-end shimmer to your tone.
  • The treble boost to me is central to this pedal. There’s a different sweet spot for each amp/guitar combination you use with it.
  • Switched on, you get very nice sustain, but the signal is only mildly compressed.

In my studio, I was playing at very low volumes so as not to piss off my family and the neighbors. So all the tone that I had been experiencing up that point was through my studio cans. It was more than acceptable – in fact, it was quite spectacular – and enough for me to give it a 5 Tone Bones rating based upon my studio tests alone. But nothing could have prepared me for the heavenly tones that issued from my amp when at gig volume. The guitar/amp/pedal interaction was fantastic, but add the speaker into the mix, and what I thought was awesome to start out with, turned into something otherworldly.

I believe this is what Klon owners talk about when they play through it. But from what I’ve read, no one has been able to discretely describe what it’s like, so a lot of people tended to poo-poo their enthusiasm as justification for having paid so damn much for it. And after experiencing what the Soul Food did at my gig last weekend, I’m beginning to suspect it’s not hype.

From a functional perspective, I’ve learned that a major key to its magic the Treble knob. That was evident at my gig, as I was playing with my Aracom VRX22 which has a much more muscular tone than my other amps, but at the same time, it has some wonderful highs that, if left untamed, can make the amp sound really harsh. Whereas with my DV Mark Little 40 that has a much more even EQ profile, and the pedal works best boosting the treble a bit, I cut the treble for my VRX22. Obviously, it’s not just the treble control that brings the magic to the table. But setting the treble allows the magic to flow. And once you have that set, and play the amp at volume, to me, it’s rock and roll time!

Now does all this compel me to save my pennies to get a real Klon? No. I’ve never played a Klon, and as I’ve said in past articles, the Soul Food stands on its own as a great overdrive pedal, so I’m happy to stick with it. If I ever get a chance to play a Klon though, it’ll be interesting to do a head-to-head comparison.

But that said, as I mentioned above, it’s difficult to quantify the tone quality of the Soul Food. I could use all the familiar terms such as “sustain,” “shimmer,” “bite,” etc., but none of those really help because lots of overdrive pedals do those things. What I can say is this: Up to this point, I haven’t played with an overdrive that interacted so well with my amps. Even my beloved Timmy can be a bit finicky with a couple of my amps, but the Soul Food just seems to work with all my amps.

And yes, that too sounds like a familiar description, but to my ears, there is certainly some sort of “X” factor that’s going on when that pedal has some room to breathe that I haven’t ever experienced with an overdrive pedal. Over the life of this blog, I’ve played bunches of overdrives, but this is the first overdrive pedal I’ve played besides my Timmy – or perhaps even more so than the Timmy – that has had such a profound effect on my tone. To me, the Soul Food – and by extension, the Klon – fit my archetype of an overdrive pedal. I don’t say this lightly. I really thought my Timmy was do-all, end-all overdrive for me. But that all changed with the Soul Food. I’ll always have my Timmy on my board, but it has a new brother: The Soul Food.

 

 

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