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!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why You Should Save Up for Expensive Guitars

Some of you know me as the advocate for cheaper alternatives to the big guitar brands (Fender, Gibson, etc). I own two Yamaha's that I've designated for outdoor use, or for places where I know that the crowd might be rowdy and there's a possibility of spilt drinks.
I recently went on a project to test my new SansAmp GT2. I've found a setting that's really good for live use (as heard in the Performing Arts rehearsal rooms, and in the halls of AMKMC), using the GT2 in a clean setting and relying primarily on my overdrives and boosters for dirt. I had wanted to use the same settings for the recording environment, which turned out to be a little more tricky.

I set the GT2 on zero drive and a mild high cut on the British amp on clean with the mic off axis. All overdrive settings were the same throughout. I recorded three snippets with three different guitars, in increasing order of value. Here are the results of the recording project:

First up, the Yamaha RGX-820, the cheapest of the three.
Single note lines towards the end of the video were clear and defined, but chord work in front was muddy and too edgy. I suppose this would work for Japanese pop rock songs (don't you wish they turned the treble/presence down for some of the guitar parts?), or for the situation where I drastically need to cut through a muddy mix.

I then tried the Yamaha AES-820, slightly more expensive than my RGX.
I set this guitar up with the pickups on high-cut mode. Several things were improved over the RGX: there was more definition, and the tone was more full-bodied. With both Yamahas, I had to post-process to get the tone to sit right in the mix, with massive EQ-ing, parallel compression, a tube-warmth plugin, and a stereo enhancer.

Now, without changing any dials on the GT2, the tone of my Les Paul sounded like this with the bridge pickup volume on 6, tone at 8:
Definition, articulation, warmth, clarity...the Les Paul surpassed the Yamahas by a mile. I didn't have to do any drastic post-processing to get the tone to sound nice, apart from some stereo enhancement. The guitar tone seems to wrap itself around the notes, something I've realized is a quality that is present in my Strat and Tele.

Seriously. If you can save up and get a guitar of good build, it is worth every dollar.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Musician Jokes

You know who are the musicians among your circle of friends when something like this crops up on Facebook.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Rig (Superceded)

An electric guitarist uses pedals to achieve his tone in the same way an artist uses a palette of colours to paint; every pedal's tone has a unique nuance, and when blended with other pedals in the right proportion, gives a guitarist his signature sound, in tandem with his choice of guitar, amp, and most importantly, his playing style.

I've built this pedalboard with two objectives in mind: to be able to recreate similar tones live and in the studio, and to be as diverse as possible to cover the spectrum of British and American guitar tone.

It starts with a wah pedal, and I've chosen the Budda Bud-wah. This comes first to ensure the pedal receives the cleanest possible signal from the guitar. While it doesn't have the widest of available sweep range, it compensates by being very vocal-like in its expression. Its highs aren't shrill, and its lows aren't honky, which to my ears makes it very warm and wraps around the notes rather than cause them to stick out too much. I didn't know this until recently, but it's also the wah Andy Timmons uses.
Compression is actually meant to keep your guitar in a specific dynamic range so that you won't "disappear" into the mix. I especially like compressors with some EQ tweakability to adjust how bright or how dark you want the compression to be. This is the Visual Sound Comp 66, which is the Compressor side of the famous Route 66 pedal. I use the Tone knob as the Master EQ of my rig, controlling the amount of high-end required between a Les Paul, a Strat and Tele.
Now comes my overdrive section, which I admit has quite a few pedals (half of my board is occupied by drive). I wanted to be as diverse as possible when it came to overdrive, so I opted for pedals which are voiced more like "amps-in-a-box". I like the chime of a Vox AC-30, the sponginess and warmth of a Fender Deluxe Reverb, and the bluesy roar of a Marshall JTM-45. I couldn't decide on just I got three distinct pedals dialled to emulate those tones.

I have two EP boosters, which I've explained here how I've set them up, and the first helps to push my main overdrive pedals harder to get more gain and compression out of them. This is run at 18V and is in the Vintage setting (bright switch off, bass boost off).
The Carl Martin AC Tone is the closest you'll get to a Vox AC-style sound. I've owned an AC15 before, and can attest to its authenticity, with the best function being the Cut, which works just like the real deal! This pedal's Gain One is nearly always on because I switch between a clean tone and a slight crunch tone with my guitar volume. Gain Two, independently voiced, is cranked all the way for my dirty crunch (naturally). This pedal also has a nice pure clean boost which thickens up the rest of the overdrives in the chain.

If you're running this pedal by itself, you're able to get a boxy Vox roar by cranking the boost about midway, leaving it on, and adjusting the gain to taste with the Gain channels.
The next two pedals are my favorites: the BB Preamp and the Paul Cochrane Timmy. One way to judge how much a pedal is worth is to see how frequently it appears on the buy/sell forums--and these pedals pop up very rarely. The BB is the most versatile of the Xotic range (which includes the RC and AC Boosters) with a very musical EQ section. I've set it up with the gain cranked all the way and a slight treble boost, which sounds great for those thick and cutting riffs, and fluid, singing leads.

The Timmy is the best transparent overdrive you'll ever get. It takes what you give it and just puts out more--so a Strat still sounds like a Strat, but beefier and fatter, and a Les Paul still sounds like a Les Paul, but with greater edge and articulation. It also has atypical reverse taper knobs, so I've actually set it up for a treble cut (contrary to what the picture suggests). It's also set in the 3rd switch position, which is the most compressed and to my ears emulates the nuances of 6V6 power tubes.
The 2nd EP Booster is the Version 2, set to unity gain and helps clean up the overdriven tones in the right direction--like an EQ pedal with all the right settings tweaked in. Pictured next to it is a simple TYMC tap tempo switch for my Boss DD-20, and I hooked it up using a spare karaoke cable I found lying around the house.
The next two pedals are inverted to allow easier signal patching, otherwise I'll have to use much longer patch cables. I have an ISP Decimator to cut out the noise from my overdrive section, and I have a SansAmp GT2 for amp simulation.

Alright, I'll admit, I'm still pretty much a digital junkie at heart. These things never die on you, unlike an amp which can change its character drastically on a bad day. The SansAmp GT2 works best as an amp simulator straight to the PA, so don't run this like you would a stompbox into an amp. Having the EP Boosters really helps to warm up the signal to recreate the organic character of an amp. I've found that the best setting so far is the British amp on Clean with a Center or Off Axis mic (Off Axis sounds better for recording). The first time I used this for a show, the sound guy was sure I was hiding an amp somewhere off-stage.
The Korg Pitchblack is quickly becoming a staple pedal on my friends' pedalboards simply because it's cheap. And I'll admit, that's the only reason why I got it. It's wired to the tuner-out of my volume pedal.
Buying a pedal on impulse is never a good idea. I got the Visual Sound H20 because I needed a delay and a chorus for overseas gigs, and when I returned, I was determined to sell it. However, nobody wanted to pick it up, so it's found its way onto my main pedalboard! The delay side of this pedal has a strange side effect of taking my entire guitar tone and clean it up somehow (maybe because it's buffered-bypass), so it's almost always on.
This is an OLD pedal, with the serial number dating it to the early 80's. The previous owner modded it to run on 18V and added a Filter Matrix on/off switch so that he doesn't need to bend down to toggle the Filter Matrix switch. I use this for nice Police-style flange and faux Leslie tones.
Last but not least, I use a Boss Giga Delay, or more commonly known as the DD-20. I can't afford an analog delay, and I probably will never own an Echoplex, but I can live with something that provides warm delays, tap tempo control, an awesome-sounding true stereo out delay (the Pan function is my favorite), and being able to save 5 presets.

In summary, my board provides essentially 3 kinds of sounds: drive, chorus/flange and delay, which is more than enough to cover the basic, core tone of the electric guitar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hello Jodie

Low action, a fast neck, high output Burstbucker pickups, trapezoidal inlays, a curved maple top over a chambered mahogany Jodie, my Joe Bonamassa Les Paul Studio. She's my first made-in-America guitar, and the heaviest of my collection, both in weight and in tone.
Joe Bonamassa is a recent discovery for me. He belongs to the generation of American virtuosic guitarists born in the '70s and grew up on English Blues, hence possessing a unique tone that is a curious concoction of modern and traditional. While his tone is nearly impossible to replicate (he makes no apologies for using no less than four different amplifiers in various combinations), his guitar possesses some features I couldn't pass up on.
The neck is a cross between a '57 and a '59, not too chunky yet not too slim, giving a meaty feel when gripped. While it takes a little getting used to, it quickly becomes a comfortable platform to pull off long, extended passages. It's awakening the long-dormant shredder in me from his slumber.
The pickups are a stock configuration of Burstbucker 2 in the bridge and Burstbucker 3 in the neck, which on first glance appear to be completely normal and unassuming. Closer inspection reveals that the pickups are actually closer to the strings than on a stock Les Paul, giving the guitar a hotter output with less dynamic sensitivity. While this may cause the clean tone to suffer (unless '80s-style-overly-compressed clean tones are your thing), crunch and solo tones have an incredible depth to their character.
To add to the quirkiness of this guitar, the volume and tone knobs are different for each pickup. This was done because Joe has admitted to forgetting what each of the knobs did, and which pickup they referred to. In this case, the silver-faced knobs are labelled and refer to the bridge pickup, while the traditional translucent knobs refer to the neck pickup.

My only qualm with this guitar so far is its weight. I'm used to carrying around guitars and practicing for hours on end, especially on my Off weekends where I typically clock a good 6 hours on the guitar at least. This guitar has got me putting it down at least once every hour. I'd imagine that if I were to hold it longer, there'll be a groove in my shoulder from the strap pressure!

Everyone needs a solid rock guitar. This is mine.

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