Archive for the ‘Guitars’ Category

Summary: This is a heavy-duty cable that looks like it’s meant to last. And for someone like me who gigs a lot, durability is the key.

Pros: Uses 8mm wire and a thick shielding. Right out of the box, I felt that this cable is totally road-worthy. And did I mention PigHog cables have a no questions asked lifetime warranty?

Cons: None


  • High performance instrument cable
  • 8mm high quality rubber outer covering
  • 1/4″-1/4″ connector
  • Lifetime guarantee

Street Price: $19.95

Right before my gig started a couple of weeks ago, I completely lost the signal to my amp. I didn’t panic because as they say, shit happens. We were literally a few minutes from the start, so I unplugged from my pedal board, and plugged directly into my amp and did the gig with no effects. It was a big deal.

But what was a big deal was the loss of signal. After the gig, I check out my board to see if I had knocked a power connector. Everything was fine. All my patch cables were in place. I finally narrowed it down to the cable connecting my board to my amp. I guess it was its time… But it served me well for almost 20 years through literally thousands of gigs (I take care of my cables).

But it got me to thinking that I hadn’t replaced my cables in a LONG TIME. And lo and behold, I just happened to check my email and saw an ad from American Musical Supply that they were having a flash sale and what would you know, they had these PigHog 10-foot cables on sale. I immediately ordered two of them.

I knew nothing about PigHog cables. I didn’t even know they were considered one of the more expensive brands. But they were only $14.95 apiece, so what the hell! I went for it.

It was later when I received the cables that I got impressed. These are THICK and have a solid feel. The connector jack bodies are wrapped, so no worries about the circuit covers ever twisting off.

But the kicker for me is the lifetime, no-questions-asked guarantee. A company that provides that obviously stands by their product; so much so that they wouldn’t offer this if they knew their cables wouldn’t last!

As far as capacitance and sound are concerned for those who are curious, I have no numbers. I really don’t give a shit. The cables work. I plug them into my rig and I get my sound. Then I set the EQ on my amp and play.

But I do get comfort on how well these cables are built. I feel as if I can trust them to withstand the rigors of packing and gigging. For me, durability and reliability completely trump capacitance. Besides if I plug a cable into my rig and my highs are slightly rolled off, what do I do? I go to my amp and add some mids and/or treble… Uh… duh?

Overall Impression

Cables are boring. They’re pedestrian. But I want to have good, durable cables that will last a long time. I understand the whole low-cap thing, but as I said, that’s less important to me than durability. Besides, the only time I’m concerned about low-capacitance is with my mic cables in my home studio. I don’t know if they really make that much of a difference, but I use them just the same.

But as far as these cables are concerned, I’ll probably get some more; especially patch cables.

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Newly Shined Shoes

When I was growing up in the 60’s, dress code was important. You always looked groomed and at least as far as my father was concerned, you always shined your shoes. Granted, he came from a military background, so shining your shoes and belt buckles and making your bed so that you could bounce a quarter on it were important things.

But shining shoes was also de rigeur in that era. Shoe shine stands are a thing of the past and pretty rare nowadays, but they were numerous when I was growing up. If you didn’t shine your own shoes, you went to a stand to have it done.

So what does this have to do with gear? This morning when I was shining my shoes – yup, I still do it with my oxfords and brogues – I thought back to a conversation I had with my dad.

“Dad, why do we have to shine our shoes all the time?” I asked.

“You want to look neat, son,” replied my dad, “And part of looking neat is having nicely shined pair of shoes. People may not know what it is that makes you look neat, but when you wear shined shoes, it just completes the package.”

Wise words. It’s all about subtlety and nuance.

And then I thought about my approach to gear; especially pedals. For the most part, I don’t necessarily want people to know that I’m playing a particular type of pedal, like reverb. You hear it if you look for it, but when you look at the whole presentation, it’s just one piece. Just like a nice shiny pair of shoes.

Of course, there are times when I want something to stand out, like deliberately turning up my digital delay when a song calls for it. But for the most part, I like to deal in subtlety with respect to my tone. I don’t want anything to specifically stand out.

Even with overdrive, my philosophy is that you’d be hard-pressed to tell if it’s coming from my pedal or it’s coming from my amp. In actuality, the way I set up my overdrive pedals, it’s a combination of both. Again, you know it’s there, you just can’t pinpoint what it is that makes the sound.

I realize that this is just my approach and I’ve made a conscious choice to use my effects in this manner. Others are much more overt. But for me, taking this approach has also trained me to trust my fingers and never rely on effects. You never know when you might have to just plug in directly…

But when I have my effects, it’s like a newly shined pair of shoes: You know it’s there, you’re just not sure what it is…

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When I first saw the announcement about the BOSS Waza Tube Amp Expander (“TAE”) I got excited because I was just starting to explore the absolutely wonderful world of Impulse Responses. I was working on re-doing the old guitar tracks on a few songs for my new album in and was using IR’s to silently record them.

My setup for using IR’s was pretty basic: Amp into my Aracom DRX attenuator; attenuator line out into a DI; DI into the balanced input on my audio interface. From there, I used an IR plugin in GarageBand (yes, I recorded the entire album in GarageBand) and voila! I had a full, natural guitar sound that I could record silently.

But in the process, I was wondering if there was some magical box where I could house the IR’s I needed. Then I saw the BOSS announcement. But that lead me to another box, the Universal Audio Ox. Then I saw the price for both. It’s doable, but definitely not in the realm of super-affordable.

And then the pragmatic part of me asked, “Well…. what do you really need?”

Both the TAE and the Ox were rife with incredible features. I actually started leaning a bit more towards the Ox because it’s really set up for studio use. The TAE’s convenient knobs make it easy for on-the-fly tweaking, which made it great as a live performance unit. But I’d really only use a unit like this in the studio, so the Ox made a bit more sense.

I was just about to start making it happen when I looked at the Suhr Reactive Load IR. At a little more than half the price of either the TAE and Ox, it didn’t have all the different features those other units offer. But it did have the main thing I was after: The ability to load and save different IR’s! It’s simple. It’s straight forward. It doesn’t have anything more than what I need. Perfect!

I’ve gotten to the point in my gear purchasing where simplicity is the key. In fact, I’m taking this barebones approach even with my musical arrangements. This has been informed and inspired by listening to artists like Bruno Major who gets so much out of trio; or even the Police. If I need more, I add it, but for the most part, I’ve gone the route of less is more.

So I’ll probably start saving my pennies for a Suhr Reactive Load IR unit. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find one used.

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I can’t believe it has been just over a month since I got my J-45 Avant Garde. Oh, how time flies! I’ve pretty much played the guitar daily since I got it and the wood is finally starting to break in. It will probably be a few more months till it is finally settled in, but the sound has definitely mellowed.

I did make some changes to the guitar; actually right away. I removed the stock pre-amp (LR Baggs Element), and replaced it with my Seymour Duncan MagMic soundhole pickup. It is SO much better than the under-saddle piezo, combining a magnetic pickup with a microphone. The sound is much more natural.

I haven’t played this in any club gigs yet, but I have played it in church weekly since I got it and also did a few other private gigs. But no matter where I’ve played it, I’ve walked away totally inspired by this guitar.

People ask: Does a great guitar make you better? From a technique point of view possibly, because it’s easier to play. But from an inspiration perspective, absolutely. When I play an instrument that inspires me – and mind you, no matter the cost as I have some “cheap” instruments that kick ass – I tend to be a lot more creative. When the guitar’s as easy to play and sounds as good as this, I just go off.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect with the walnut body and solid maple neck. I figured it would be a little on the brighter side. And when I first got it, that was definitely the case. But now that it’s breaking in, that brightness has mellowed and given way to that super-rich sound that J-45’s are known for. I’m in tonal heaven.

And no, I haven’t yet come up with a name yet, though I’m really leaning towards calling her Nadine. Don’t know why. There’s no sense in it. And I know it irks some, but hey! You do you! 🙂

As for me, I have a feeling this love affair will last a LONG time!

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Many years back, I was jamming with a few guys and I got to the jam a bit late. So when I got there, I hurriedly set up my gear, switched on the power and started playing without doing a check of my pedal settings. In transport or while I was setting up the level knob on my reverb got turned way up. So when I started playing, my sound was awash in this syrupy-soupy reverb.

There was an older, cranky dude who was playing at the time. When he heard my guitar, he stopped and yelled out, “Hey! Use your f-in’ mix knob!”

I laughed, flew him the bird, told him to piss off, looked down and was shocked to see that most of my pedals needed to be set. So I quickly made the adjustments, and went back to playing.

Unfortunately, the guy wouldn’t let it go, and when we took a break, proceeded to lay in on me about my ambient sound. For the life of me, I can’t remember his name, but I again told him to piss off and that I had made the adjustments, and being young and brash and hot-headed at the time, probably added some zingers of my own. But in the end, it all worked out.

What sparked this memory was a demo video I watched this morning of the Walrus Audio Slo Multi-Texture Reverb pedal. It’s a cool pedal if you’re into that ambient sound, but since I don’t play much ambient-style music, it’s not a pedal that I’d consider adding to my rig.

And despite my little conflict all those years ago, the dude had a point: Overdo anything, and you’ll sound like shit. But I need to qualify that.

Set the level of your effect – any effect – relative to everything: the song, the band, the style, etc.. For instance, if you’re playing a funky song, an ambient reverb will not work. The staccato nature and the quick, syncopated patterns of the rhythm guitar just don’t lend themselves to anything with a long decay. That’s not to say don’t use reverb at all, but just don’t slather it on.

But this can be said of any pedal. I pick on reverb a bit because I’ve seen too many players overdo this effect. But to be honest, whenever I’ve seen any player overdo an effect, a lot of that has to do with the player not taking into account the context in which he or she is playing.

For me, I have two pedals that are almost always on: Reverb and Chorus. But I set them such that their contribution to my sound is extremely subtle. If I turn either off, you hardly noticed a difference, but once I switch them on, there’s just a bit “more.”

Now that’s me. The styles I play are mostly classic rock and reggae. And one could argue that reggae uses a lot of reverb. There is a lot of reverb in reggae due to the most popular amp used in reggae is a Fender Twin. But I’m not a big fan of spring reverb either, so I almost always dial it back.

For me at least, I have this thought that I want to hear as much of the natural sound of my guitar as possible. Or if I’m playing electric guitar, the fundamental tone of my rig sans effects. I add on mod effects sparingly so I can get my sound. But also, doing that makes ME work harder.

I’m a firm believer that your tone is in your fingers. Effects can seriously hide flaws in technique. When I’m woodshedding, I almost invariably plug straight into my 1958 Fender Champ. Talk about exposing mistakes! That amp is truly a WYSIWYG amp. You mess up, it’ll let you know.

Circling back, yes, use effects. They add texture and depth to whatever you’re playing. But as that cranky, old dude said: “Use your f-in’ mix knob!”

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Back in the ’70’s and ’80’s (yeah, I’m dating myself), rock and roll was rife with guitar solos. And not just the deep cuts on albums, but the songs that got actual airplay. Think “Freebird” or “Show Me the Way” or anything from Clapton. The guitar solo was an integral component of a song back then.

But today? Unless you’re listening a classic rock or alternative rock station, forget about hearing a guitar solo – or any solo for that matter.

And don’t tell me that it’s because songs have to be three-and-a-half minutes or less. You can still fit even a short solo in that amount of time. Look at “In My Life” by the Beatles. It’s just under 2:30, and even it has a solo!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that music today is bad. Pop music really isn’t my thing. But it just seems to me that instrument virtuosity is not really a thing any longer.

To be honest, I’m more sad about this than anything else. When I was growing up, listening to my guitar heroes like Frampton, Clapton, and Santana inspired me. There are really no groups or guitarists today that do that.

I suppose you can argue that John Mayer does it still, but I can only take him in small doses. He’s a great player; of that there’s no doubt. I’m just not into his music.

There’s one guy I got introduced to recently named Bruno Major who’s absolutely wicked on guitar. He’s much more jazz-pop, but I love his playing, and he does guitar solos in many of his songs.

But the screaming, melodic, big electric guitar solo seems to be dead.


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Over the years, I’ve heard many cringe-worthy horror stories of damaged guitars, from cracked tops to delaminated nitro to broken head stocks, etc., etc..

In some cases, the damage couldn’t be avoided; for instance, due to flooding. But in a majority of the cases I’ve heard about (and experienced myself as I’m not immune to my own past stupidity), the damage could’ve been avoided by just following a few simple things. And the funny thing is that they aren’t exotic suggestions like placing your instrument(s) in a temperature or humidity controlled isolation booth. No, these are slap your forehead, common sense things, where you say, “DUH!”

Extreme Cold = Bad. Extreme Heat = Very Very Bad

Any extreme temperature is bad for a guitar, but heat, especially from letting your guitar sit in direct sunlight for too long is really bad. I know a guy who was playing a gig in a park on a hot day and put his backup guitar – a Les Paul – on a stand behind him that was exposed to direct sunlight. It didn’t take long for the guitar to heat up so much that its neck warped. So avoid exposing your guitar to temperature extremes… Which bring me to the next point…

If You’re Not Using Your Guitar, Put It In Its Case – Preferably Its Hard Shell Case

I woke up one morning, padded to my kitchen to make some coffee and yelped in shock to see my acoustic guitar lying face-down on the floor. I guessed that it was my cat that knocked it over. But that was totally my bad for leaving it on its stand overnight. Lucky for me, the guitar was okay and got just a simple scratch. But it could have been much, much worse! From that point on, as soon as I finish playing a guitar, I put it back into its case. If I know I will be playing it soon, it goes into a padded gig bag, but if it’s going to sit for awhile, I put it back into its hard shell case. This goes for all my guitars, electric and acoustic.

Also, after I get home from a gig, I immediately transfer the guitars I use from their gig bags to their hard shell cases. Yeah, it’s a bit anal-retentive, but better than the alternative of having damaged instruments.

At Home, Stand Up Your Guitar(s) In Low-Traffic Areas

I had to learn this the hard way; especially when I still had little kids in the house. Now lucky for me, none of my kids ever knocked over one of my guitars, but they came close a few times; enough to make sure that when I put a guitar down on its stand – even though its temporary – it’s out of the way of traffic. If it means that I have to physically drag my ass out of my chair to place it, I will do it.

Climate Matters

I live in a fairly temperate climate in Northern California, but in areas where it’s extremely humid or extremely dry, you need to take measures to control the humidity. Here’s an excellent article from Premier Guitar that discusses this very subject. Other than Las Vegas, NV, I’ve never lived in an extreme climate. And even in Las Vegas, I always had the air conditioning on during the hot months, plus used a room humidifier to add some moisture. The tips given in that article are very useful, especially the in-case humidity control units.

Strap Locks. Hello?

After I dropped my Les Paul during a gig while I was jumping around on stage – luckily the body landed on my foot, so all I experienced was a severely bruised foot and not a dented or broken guitar – I went out the very next day and got strap locks for every one of my electric guitars. Strap locks are your friend. Get some.

There are definitely a lot of other things, but these are at the top of my list to help mitigate damage to my guitars; especially putting the guitars in their hard cases. These are difficult to follow, and in some cases are marginally inconvenient, but the safety they bring will help you avoid a lot of heartache!

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