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Archive for the ‘quest for tone’ Category

minutiae

I asked myself this question this morning while having my morning cup. I was ruminating on various ways to make my signal chain a cleaner. It’s pretty clean as it is, and I pride myself on having little to no electronic noise when my rig is at rest. But I still want it dead quiet. I don’t know if it’s entirely possible, but I knew there were things that I could do. So I started coming up with a punch list of things including getting high-quality cables with good shielding; replacing any non-true-bypass pedals on my board that often cause noise; things like that.

Then I stopped and asked myself, “Where am I at with my tone? Am I reasonably satisfied with it? Is there any specific thing that really needs addressing?” And the answer to those questions was no. I looked at my list and decided they were nice-to-have’s but not really addressing and particular problem or “hole” in my tone. Truth be told, as of late, I’ve been using pedals A LOT less as of late. While I may kick in an overdrive pedal occasionally, and usually have my reverb on, I’ve been doing without pedals. In fact, for the past couple of gigs I’ve played, I haven’t used pedals at all, except for a tuner!

I guess this is the dark side of being a gear slut; it’s really a borderline addiction; an urge akin to an itch you can’t scratch, a unicorn that can’t be caught. Like the cursed pirates in the Pirates of the Carribean, the desire for gear is a lust that is never slaked, or at least easily slaked. At times it gets to the point of not even having a reason for getting the gear – I just have to have it! 🙂

I was actually surprised by my moment of lucidity, and actually relieved that I pulled myself back from the brink of investing yet another few hundred dollars into gear. I also realized that as far as my rig is concerned, I’ve sort of reached a point where the law of diminishing returns is starting to kick in. Yeah, it would be nice to have high-end, expensive cables (I still may do that just for my pedal board), but at this point, it doesn’t really buy me much – even my pedal cables. And while I believe I would get an improvement in my tone, I think the improvement would be more subtle than anything else.

So here’s some food for thought: The next time you want to buy some gear, ask yourself if you’re already satisfied with your tone. Be honest. You may be surprised to find that you are.

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kiyosakiBack in the late 90’s and into the turn of the century, I got swept up in the craze of Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” I soaked up what he was saying like a sponge. It made so much sense to me! I was hooked, and proceeded to buy all his books, and two of his board games! I wanted to learn how to get out of the rat race and get on my way to real financial freedom. I even went so far as creating my own business that was actually a great idea. Then reality struck. My business failed because of my inexperience and ignorance of running a business. I couldn’t keep up with my expenses. I sometimes couldn’t make payroll. It was tough!

Even still, I kept on buying Kiyosaki’s books. But by about the fourth book, I realized he was saying the same damn thing that he had said in the previous books, only rephrasing the message so it sounded different. That was also when I came to the realization that he perhaps Kiyosaki was just a front man, and that his “advice” wasn’t all that sound. What he was really after in getting rich was to sell more fucking books and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” paraphernalia!

It was like this personal development seminar company that I got involved with in the early 90’s. They had three courses: Basic, Advanced, and Leaderhip, plus a satellite seminar for couples. I took the Basic and Advanced and my wife and I did the couples course. Those three courses changed our lives forever! And for the good. But then we both realized that what the company was really after was getting people to take the courses, and go through all of them, then recruit more people! They weren’t really interested in creating leaders. They were interested in filling up the classes! Needless to say, I divorced myself from this organization once I realized what they were up to. I’m not the only one who became enlightened to this, as the company is no longer in existence.

I shared this with you because while I learned a great deal from reading through Kiyosaki’s books and attending these seminars, they ultimately led me to one ultimate truth: I am responsible for my success. Only I can make the choices to excel at something or remain in obscurity. I can pray as much as I want, and dream and scheme till the end of my days; but in the end, I’m responsible for where I take myself in life.

So what does all this have to do with the title of this article? I shared these two experiences because despite the fact that they ultimately turned out to be somewhat fraudulent, they did have a lot of great material. Common to them both was this concept of “You get what you pay for…” Within that context, both stressed that we should beware of “free advice.” Free costs nothing, and in many cases, it’s very appealing. But blindly heeding free advice is essentially putting your success into another person’s hands, and not taking the responsibility for it. Yeah, free is good, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without a cost down the line.

This concept of free advice applies to buying gear. Like most gear sluts, I hang out in a few online forums to see what people are playing, and to engage in conversations. It’s great fun. But one thing I’ve noticed a lot in the forums is the plethora of free advice saying that things like “X cable is better because it has the lowest capacitance. You should get this.”

One thing I’ve learned in writing this blog for the past couple of years is to avoid giving advice. I’ll make suggestions for sure, and if asked, will say what I do to approach a particular problem. Usually, I’ll just tell people to try out a bunch of gear to see what they like because everyone’s idea of good tone varies from person to person, and tone being subjective pretty much behooves the buyer to “try before you buy.”

What sparked the idea of this article was a comment a reader left on my review about the Roland CE-5 Chorus: “I find it amusing that every other guitar player says that a pedal is better solely because it is analog, regardless if they actually own an analog pedal or not. I’d like to blind-test these people and see if the can actually tell the difference between a digital and an analog pedal. Maybe you can blind-test yourself, you maybe pleasantly surprise at the result. Well, unless you are Eric Johnson anyways…

That got me to thinking about all the free advice that’s out there regarding gear. I’m not saying you should ignore it. But use the free advice you get as reference points rather than guides. Make decisions based upon your own research. Even with the reviews I give here, remember, they’re my personal opinions. Ultimately, you have to make the choice. But if you go in blindly, and you’re disappointed with what you get well, you read the title…

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