Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2019

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen that I have a fairly sensitive bullshit radar. It’s not that I’m a natural skeptic, but I’ve been around gear for so long that when I see something that has a super high price and claiming all sorts of improvements to my tone, I become quite a bit wary. And especially when it comes to cords and wires, I tend to be quite a bit of a skeptic. But the exception to that is instrument cords.

Now this is not going to be a comparison article where I say one particular cord is the best, blah, blah blah… When I see articles like that, that’s when my BS alarm goes off. But by the same token, I’m also not of the belief that you can just use any old cable and you’ll sound great.

On Low Capacitance

Since the ’90’s, cable manufacturers have been touting their low capacitance cables, and how a low capacitance cable opens up your sound. The argument is that with a lower capacitance, less electricity will be stored in the cable, allowing more signal to pass through. Amazingly enough, I actually agree with this. The effect of capacitance in a cable is that it acts like a low pass filter, essentially rolling off the highs. By lowering the capacitance, more highs pass through the cable, thus allowing much more of the signal to get to your amp.

BUT… Low Cap Doesn’t Mean It’s Better for YOU

Manufacturers of low cap cables will make you think they are simply better because they allow more signal to pass through to the amp. In general, that’s a good thing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. You see, more of something doesn’t mean it’s better. Sometimes, it’s just more.

I have a couple of low capacitance cables, but I only use those for certain guitars, like my acoustic, where I want the full range of signal to pass to my acoustic amp or a board. But I actually tend to use a cable that has a higher capacitance for my electric guitars because my entire chain is set up to be pretty bright. I actually like to have some of the highs rolled off.

And since I started using my Godin Artisan ST-V, I’m actually in search of an even higher capacitance cable for that guitar. It’s bright, Bright, BRIGHT! And though I roll off the highs on my amp when I use it, I want a little help prior to my amp. That way, I can effectively set up my amp one way to serve a couple of guitars during a gig. It’s a kind of a convenience thing.

Does Low Cap = Better Quality?

Yes and no. I say this because in general, it seems that higher quality materials need to be used to achieve lower capacitance.

But as we all know, build quality varies from manufacturer. For instance, hands down, Mogami makes about the best cables in the business, at least as far as build quality goes. They use really high-quality materials and have all sorts of features built into them. But you pay for that quality and those features; on the order of at least twice as much as a similar cable.

I use Mogami XLR cables for vocals. Even my cheapo Sennheiser e835 and my Sennheiser e609 instrument mic sound much better with my Mogami XLRs. And with a great mic, it’s like removing a blanket from the mic. Admittedly though, the sound difference is subtle – the “blanket” is thin as it were – but it counts. But I cherish those (read: I don’t want to “f” them up), so I rarely take them to gigs. For gigs, and frankly because the audience won’t be able to tell the difference, I just use some generic brand cables like Monster or whatever the house may have.

Back to instrument cables, I generally get cables whose quality is good enough, so I tend to go with middle-of-the-road Hosa cables. Their build quality is solid, though nowhere near on par with Mogami. But I’m also a real stickler for treating cables well, so my instrument cables tend to last a long time.

And by the way, Hosa makes a line of low cap cables that are very affordable and work just fine; no hiss, no crackle when the tips move. That’s all you need right? You can get a 10-foot cable for around $20.00.

The point to this is that yes, you can get the ultimate build quality with something like a Mogami or some boutique cable maker. But low cap can be had at a decent build quality and you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get it.

So… Does It REALLY Make a Difference?

Yes. But you have to look at it from the perspective of how the cable fits in with the rest of your rig. I know I took some time to get this conclusion, but I wanted to take some time illustrate this very important point: Low cap cables will give you more of your signal, but you may just find that you don’t like getting everything.

ROCK ON

Read Full Post »

The Problem with Dogma

I’m a cradle Catholic, so Catholicism – and its associated dogma – are a large part of my life. But while I fully accept and believe in my religious dogma (for instance, Jesus is the Son of God and there is only one God), what I have always had a problem with is how that dogma has often gotten translated into rigidity in the practice of said dogma, or used as a way to demean, destroy and take advantage of others who either may not be aware or fully versed in the knowledge of the dogma.

So what does this have to do with guitar gear?

Lots, actually. I’ve been playing guitar for close to 50 years now and one thing that has always annoyed me is the dogmatic perspectives I’ve encountered during that time. You’ve all heard them:

A modeling or solid state amp could never be as good as a tube amp.

You pay more for a piece of gear because it’s better.

Gibsons and Fenders and other brands have a signature sound.

People say this stuff all the time. And they believe it so fully that they become demeaning and dismissive of anyone who may disagree with them. The way these people interact with others is with something akin to religious zealotry.

In the past, my more confrontational self would love to engage with these people. But I have to admit that my reaction was just as militant and dismissive. Now I just roll my eyes and say, “Whatever, dude…”

The problem with rigidity or fundamentalism in general is that it prevents people from seeing or even accepting; much less tolerate, alternative viewpoints. And from the perspective of gear, there’s so much fantastic gear out there that often gets overlooked because people can’t see past their personal dogma.

I’m writing this because I too can be accused of having been dogmatic. But especially since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve had to be much more open to the different ways people approach gear.

For instance, I used to be of the belief that I had to have a big pedal board with lots of effects to create great sound. As a result, I have lots and lots of pedals, especially overdrive pedals. Now, I just use three, maybe four pedals to get my sound. Admittedly, part of that is that I’m older and don’t want to lug around a lot of gear, but a large part of it is that I’ve found my sound, and only need a few pedals to enhance my sound as opposed to define my sound.

But I also know that others will differ with my approach. I have a friend who plays with no pedals whatsoever. He plugs directly into a 50 Watt Marshal Plexi and lets his fingers do the talking. On the other hand, I have another friend who has 20 pedals on his board and stacks overdrives and distortion boxes and has three different delays.

Look, we all have our personal truths, and they’re all valid. For me, I have a very “you do you, I’ll do me” attitude about gear. Where I have a problem is when those truths are used to exalt over others. I’m a firm believer in ecumenicism – there are many paths to God. So too with gear. There are many ways to make music.

Rock on!

Read Full Post »

I have to admit that I haven’t been too impressed with Fender’s offerings for quite awhile. I have three Strats and a Tele, but I haven’t seen anything coming out of Fender that got me really excited; that is, until now.

When I checked my email this morning, I saw one from Fender entitled, “Alternate Reality | The Powercaster.” At first, I rolled my eyes, but when I went to read the email, I was immediately intrigued by the body shape. I thought that it looked like a Jazzmaster or Jaguar. Then on closer inspection of the picture, I saw that it has a P90 in the neck and a humbucker in the bridge. The very first thing that came to my mind was: Rock Machine. So I decided to take a closer look.

So I went to the Powercaster product page. Maybe I shouldn’t have because now I want one of these!

Before I go on, here are the basic specs:

  • Alder body
  • Roasted maple neck (wood is roasted to remove all moisture)
  • Pau ferro fingerboard
  • Synthetic bone nut
  • 24.75″ scale length
  • 9.5″ neck radius
  • Modern “C” neck shape
  • Adjusto-matic bridge with hardtail
  • Comes in 3-color Sunburst, Surf Green and White Opal (it’s like a translucent grey)
  • Made in Mexico
  • Street price (so far): $899.00

One of the first things I noticed was the scale length and neck radius. Look familiar? It should because those are Les Paul neck specs. When I saw the scale length, I started salivating because the feel would be like a Les Paul. And being a Les Paul guy, I imagined that I would be right at home with this guitar.

After reviewing the Powercaster site, I went to the forums and gear blogs to see what others thought. The reviews were mixed. One person didn’t like the Tune-O-Matic style bridge (I actually would’ve preferred a more modern bridge like a Gotoh 510). Another didn’t like the thought that Powercaster didn’t have a “Fender” sound based on demos he saw. Another didn’t like the Gibson scale length.

Others like me, love the features. But the person who didn’t like the scale length also brought up a couple of valid points. First, they didn’t quite know who the target consumer of this guitar would be. He also pointed out that considering the price and where it’s made, the price point sits just below American-made prices. These are very valid points that I’m sure will need to be sussed out a bit more.

Personally, I think that this guitar is aimed at someone like me who doesn’t have a dogmatic perspective of brands; for instance, if something is branded Fender, then it has to have a Fender sound – whatever that is. I tend to judge gear based on their own merits, and I LOVE that P90/Humbucker combination! I also love that roasted maple neck because dry wood is very resonant. And as far as the price is concerned, while it’s about $150 more than other MIM guitars, I don’t think it’s really all that out of line.

Of course, while I’m excited by the features and possibilities this guitar has on offer, I need to get my hands on one and play it. But it sure shows a LOT of promise!

Read Full Post »

As with anything we learn over time, playing guitar is a journey replete with ups and downs, feasts and famines, motivations and let-downs. It’s a never-ending, circuitous path that always guarantees that there’s something else around the next bend to discover and explore.

As guitarists, we’re seekers. We’re explorers. We’re trailblazers into a wilderness that is simultaneously both familiar and new; familiar in the sense that we can see the paths that others have taken, and new in that while we may tread the same ground as others, the tracks we make are ours and ours alone.

There is no wrong journey. Some journeys have several stops along the way. Some go at a snail’s pace. Others, like my own, meander all over the landscape. Others take a straight path and reach higher and higher pinnacles of skill and technique quickly. But no way is better than the other.

Along the way, we may pick up things from other sojourners. But we make the choices in how to apply and use those things in our own journey.

The gear we use is also a reflection of the nature of our journey. Some travel light with only a single guitar. Others need a wagon or large transport to get them along. Others use the latest in high-tech gadgetry while others go unplugged. And still, it’s all good, no way is better.

And the nature of our journey will change over time. Sometimes, we may just need a guitar and an amp and perhaps one or two pedals if any. There will be times when we’ll be lugging a stack and two full-size pedalboards and three backup guitars. At other times, we may go digital or may go completely analog. And still, it’s all good, no way is better.

Along with our journey, we may experience doubt about our equipment. We can see what others have and wonder if our own equipment is good enough. Furthermore, we will encounter people on our journey who are passionate about the right way to travel. They’ll tell us to follow their path and to provision ourselves with the same things they’ve provisioned for themselves.

Sometimes it’ll make sense. Other times it won’t. Just remember that those who give out the free advice are speaking from what they see through the lens of their own experience. We have to live with our own choices and the choices others have made well, they have to own.

As a humorous aside, here’s a video clip from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.”

As the dude said: Remember, no matter where you go, there you are… In other words, if we translate that to our own journey, wherever we’re at, we have what we have, we know what we know, we play what we play. And the cool thing with that is that what we have, know or play can be in flux depending on wherever we’re at. Chew on that for a bit!

You see, the journey of playing and learning guitar is intensely personal. Even if your primary motivation is to emulate a guitar hero or someone whom you idolize, you still have to make your own choices and YOU have to be the one who learns. It’s fine to seek advice and mentorship from others; in fact, I’d say that one of the beauties of being on a guitar journey is that there is a large, global community with which to interact and from which to learn.

So Sojourner, JOURNEY ON!

Read Full Post »