Dotted Eighth Delay Studies

Setting up the U2/Hillsong delay in a variety of situations.

The Sessionists

Esther Subra (vocals), Serena Chew (keys), Justin (guitars), Alphonsus (drums and percussion)

Thoughts on G.A.S.

Why you should save up for an expensive guitar.

Setting Up Disaster Area DPC-8EZ and DMC-8D MIDI Controllers

An easy-to-follow video tutorial to get those patches programmed!

An Overview of My YouTube Channel

Feel free to browse some of the playlists on my channel. Hopefully this leads to you liking and subscribing!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Did You Laugh?

Genesis 18:1-15

Theological comedy: When God surprises man with His methods, where we think they are ridiculous or silly.

God's ways are not for the amusement of the idle nor is it for the fascination of the curious. He works wonders an in unexpected ways
1. For people who wonder how they will survive
2. To challenge our common assumptions we have about Him

Noah and the ark, where the world then did not know rain, much less a flood

In our text, Sarah laughed because she never thought it was possible for her to have a son at such an old age.
-Note: Her laughter was probably dark, laced with sarcasm and cynicism.

4 assumptions we make about God:

1. We assume God will work within a certain time frame, like setting an alarm clock in our hearts
-When the alarm rings and the prayer request is not met, we may grow to become bitter

God appeared to Abraham and made the promise of the provision of a son when he was 75 years old. God's second appearing to remind him of the promise happened when Abraham was 99 years old, and when Sarah was 90 years old.

Sarah's laughter came from pain and disappointment that God had not yet fulfilled His promise. However, God demonstrated that despite His apparent delay, He accomplishes the seemingly impossible.

2. We assume that God's work is limited to our own abilities
-The bible often shows us that God uses the weak, the least talented, and those with physical limitations to accomplish His great work.
-Notable examples: Moses the stutterer, David the shepherd boy, Joseph the youngest (and later with a prison record).

3. We assume God must work according to our ways and understanding.
-Isaiah 55:8-9
-We are guilty of thinking, "My way is Yahweh." We must understand that God does not think like us. We must trust in God and surrender completely to Him.

4. We assume that God's work is limited to those who never fail Him.
-Genesis 21:1 "Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised"
-God's work is always personal and it goes far beyond us. It is gracious and He includes even those who failed or disappointed Him.

All Things New

I pray that in Your good time,
You may reveal Your glory to these precious ones.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Massive Unboxing!

A clearance sale is bound to strike a good chord in a guitarist. I've always dreamt of owning a THD amplifier for years, having seen small blurbs of it in guitar reviews, and hearing raves amongst my guitarist friends. Reading about the features was enough to convince me that this amp was worth the boutique price tag that it carries.

I finally found a place that sold THD products, and specifically, the combo version of the UniValve! Kudos to Chao for the great tip-off! I made my way from an external course at work, traveling from Science Park to Peninsula Plaza at peak hour, with ERP and parking, just for it. Yes, it's worth that amount of trouble.

The picture doesn't really show its size. It's a whopping 53lbs and I had to leave the box at the shop!


The styrofoam in the box provides more of a psychological assurance than actual protection. This baby is built like a tank.

Installing the wheels. Who would have thought it would finally be available on an amp?

And finally, when I lugged it back home and set it up...
This amp delivers serious tone. Everything I threw at it, even my cheapest pedal and guitar, sounded gold. Here's a run-down on what I love about this amp:

The tubes and the Hot Plate
The UniValve is single-ended Class A amp (don't worry, I've provided links to other sites for those of us who don't know the geek lingo), which is my personal preference when it comes to amplification. I think I won't burn the tubes out as quickly as my other friends do, considering my drive section is completely dependent on my pedals and I run the amp pristine clean.

It has two 12AX7's in the preamp and one EL34 in the power amp. Like most tube amps, there are two channels for low or high gain input--which, I recently discovered, simply meant how many tubes were used in the preamp. In the UniValve's case, it's a choice between one or two tubes, and there's a serious jump in the amount of crankable gain between the two channels. The first preamp tube governs the gain and tone of the preamp, while the second preamp tube directly drives the power tube. By varying the gain of these two tubes, you can influence the mix of preamp distortion and power amp distortion, or run a decently clean tone at higher volume by reducing the gain of both.

The power amp tube makes a profound difference on your overall tone, and the EL34 is a favorite of mine.  It has a middy character to it, and has a ton of headroom and volume. A friend of mine joked that if you want to hear an EL34 break up, stand really far away.

My favorite setting so far is the volume at half and the Hot Plate at half. If you run your rig like mine, where your pedals are your main source of overdrive, playing your amp at a volume lower than its breaking point will sound over-compressed. However, if you run an attenuator, the more you attenuate the signal, the amp becomes less open and you lose some dynamic depth. It's a delicate balance that I've easily achieved with the UniValve.

The controls
With clean amps, I'm a follower of the fabled Fender Deluxe Reverb mojo settings: 6-6-3 (Bass, Middle, Treble respectively), which provide a woody body and a "blanket" warmth to the guitar tone. Instead of a middle control, the UniValve features an "Attitude" control, which I'll let the company describe: "The Attitude control determines how the driver stage responds to signal and how it drives the power tube." 

The general idea is that when turned fully counter-clockwise, it's more a Fender-like response, and fully clockwise is more like Marshall. THD says it's not a presence control, but the effect is in the same ballpark, in my opinion. Personally, I like it one-quarter up, to get that Fender character with a bit of Marshall bite.

At the rear, there are speaker output jacks for anything ranging from 2-ohms up to 16-ohms. There is also a fantastic isolated line out jack and control knob. You can actually use the UniValve as a preamp for other amps, or you can run it like stompbox in your signal chain. It also works great for direct recording., although you have to get a cabinet simulator, either from something like the Rock Bug by Carl Martin or the Palmer direct box. Alternatively, for the cheapskates like me, I record direct to my computer and use a free plugin. There is also a switch to toggle between instrument-level and line-level output. Its probably the best line-out feature set you'll see on a tube amp.

A few quirky noteworthy things about this amp to up the collector's value: it's signed by Andy Marshall himself, and every amp has a quote from philosophers, presidents, famous musicians, etc. My amp has George Harrison's quote, "All things must pass".  

The cabinet
It's a specially tuned-port bass-reflex cabinet that in their words, "significantly reduce standing-waves inside the cabinet, giving it a very deep, even, tight and punchy sound." To my ears, this sounds amazingly like a 2x12" cab. However, what really kicked up the cool factor for me is that the cabs are modular, meaning you can swap out the UniValve head from the cab for any of the THD amp heads. If I was crazy enough to get a BiValve or a Flexi head, it's possible to remove the metal grill, stick it into the cab, plug in the speaker cable, and it will fit!

In conclusion
I'm able to pull off tones ranging from Earth Wind and Fire to Dream Theater through this amp. I couldn't ask for more.

Further reading:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pedals: The Essentials

Before rushing out to buy your ten distortion boxes, I hope to provide some insight on things that you'll need (and truthfully need, mind you). A few important points to note:
  • Pedals require power, either from batteries or from an AC/DC adapter. Powering pedals is a huge topic in itself, so I'll be brief in this post.
  • Every pedal you want to include in the effects chain needs at least two patch cables for input and output.
  • Pedals with the option for external control (such as tap tempo, or a latched switch to change channels and presets) will need an extra patch cable. Did I mention you need to get the external controller too?
The take-home message here is that every pedal requires a condiment of accessories to function, so accommodate that in your budget for a pedalboard!

Power Supply

Batteries have an advantage of having no power cables that could end in a labyrinthine mess, but unless you're willing to dish out the money and time to replacing them, you're better off getting a dedicated power supply. If you're into playing the electric guitar for the long haul, you'll easily acquire more than 10 pedals (and that's a conservative estimate!), so get it right the first time and get a power supply.


Please make an effort to get a tuner (really, it doesn't matter how much it costs). Regardless of how great your tone is, an out-of-tune guitar is an instant turn-off! If tone loss from using a tuner is an issue for you, put it in the Tuner Out of your volume pedal to remove it from the signal chain, or have a simple true bypass A/B box to split the signal from your effects chain.

Noise Gate
The more pedals you add to the chain, the noisier your signal will get when you stop playing. A gate does what it metaphorically describes; it will close at a certain preset level (threshold), and you can control how fast the gate will close (decay), varying from a fast shut-off to keep things real tight at the expense of sustain, to a slow decay which will let some noise in but keeps the guitar tone natural.

Volume Pedal

Rolling off the volume on your guitar will have the tonal effect of rolling off the high-end and scooping the mids, which could be undesirable as you may want your original signal intact. A volume pedal solves this problem, allowing you to retain your tone at a desired volume level. You can perform the volume swell effect with this by having a long delay set after it.

Bleed and Open-back Combo Amps

I played for RBC's worship conference with Brian Felten (who is absolutely amazing as a teacher and as a musician; I was so honoured to work alongside him!), and the venue we played at was small and enclosed. The placement of the band right next to the audience meant that we were going to have big problems with bleed from the amps.

My amp was facing me, but had its back facing the audience. There were two things I needed to do: find a way to elevate the amp so that the bass frequencies won't travel, and find a baffle to block the sound coming from the open-back combo.

The solution we came up with was this:

You can't really see it, but it's a chair with a backing that fits very nicely over the open-back portion of the amp. It elevated the amp to a height (and an extra blessing was that it was cushioned) where the bass response was still favorable for me as a monitor, but it didn't affect the audience members sitting next to me. The backing was also large enough to prevent excessive bleed from the open-back.

This may seem to be ugly from an audience's point of view, but I am much more in favor of poor "aesthetics" than having the audience bear with a really loud guitar!

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