Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ADHD ideas for a Minipedal Pedalboard.

So I'm totally stealing this from Effects Bay but I thought it was an interesting idea. I'm not a huge fan of the mini pedal craze because I have big feet and don't want my pedals packed together. Actually, as much as I love pedals, I'm kind of a minimalist. I prefer to get most of my tones from my guitar volume knob and the amp as much as I can. But pedals can certainly add color and so I thought about it. Assuming I was using a clean pedal platform, how would I set up a mini pedalboard?

TC Electronic Polytune Mini Tuner- I own the original. Tuners are kind of boring but being out of tune is amateur hour. Put a tuner on your board.

Xotic SP Compressor- This is one of the best compressors I've ever played through. Make your cleans fatter and give your drive more sustain.

MXR Phase 95. As a lover of all things Phaser and Vibe related this thing is fantastic. I like putting he phase in front of drive pedals to get a bit more of a vibe type sound out of them.

Mooer Green Mile- It's a TS9 but with true bypass and the right chip. Great for stacking with the SL Drive or doing the SRV thing with a clean amp.

EWS Little Fuzzy Drive. This thing is a bit fuzzy and a bit of a distortion. Very versatile, very tiny.

Xotic SL Drive- Great overdrive sounds, great Marshall-y tones. The SL Drive in Superbass mode is something people don't use enough. It sounds freaking amazing, stack it with the Green Mile or the Little Fuzzy Drive.

Mooer Trelicopter- I've recently started playing around with Tremolo again after years of ignoring it., and this thing has great reviews. The other option might be a chorus pedal. I like these after the drive pedals for more subtle effects.

TC Electronic Flashback Mini- Having a programmable delay pedal in such a small pedal format is cool. Just store your settings in your phone and "beam" them between songs.

I'd probably put it all on a PedalTrain Nano+ which should be just about right for a Mini pedal board.

Then I'd power it with a 1Spot which comes in the familiar daisy chain or their new isolated power brick.

So that's about it. Why not a mini wah? I don't know, I'm not sold on the mini wah yet. I like the full size pedal for that.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Puerto Rican Cuatro an ADHD Find

Yesterday I found a new instrument I didn't even know existed and it's perfect for guitar players who are looking for a unique yet familiar sound to add to their music. The Puerto Rican Cuatro is a 10 stringed tenor instrument that falls somewhere between a 12 string and a mandolin.

With a little bit of googling I found there are quite a few variations on this theme including shapes and other countries being quite different but I'm going to focus on this one.

The Puerto Rican Cuatro Technically falls into the lute family. It is small bodied like a parlor guitar and thin so very easy and comfortable to hold. The violin shaped body is immediately familiar and while typically played with a pick I also used finger picking. There are electric versions but most of them are acoustic or electric/acoustic.

What makes it incredibly cool for guitar players is that the chords and scales you use are easily transferred over because the tuning is very similar. The strings are tuned like a 5 string bass so BEADG with the bottom B and E having an octave string and the A,D and G string being doubled. The B starts at the same B as your 2nd fret of your A string on the guitar. And the scale is about 20".

Immediately ideas are popping out of my head for uses. 1) Doubling an acoustic for 12 string type sounds. Strumming cords will sound perfect but also picking notes out sounds amazing.

2) Mandolin type sounds, if you need to play Maggie May, or Losing my Religion in a set this thing could easily fill in. It doesn't sound quite as twangy like a mandolin but it gives you the double string sound and it is not as full bodied as a 12 string.

3) If you enjoy running around in phrygian on a nylon string the cuatro immediately sounds familiar and yet different. This is the first thing I did and while you have to think about the difference a little it's not so far removed from the regular scale patterns.

4) If your a roots player or bluegrass player running scales in mixolydian will also feel immediately comfortable. It really is that easy.

The Cuatro is the national instrument of Puerto Rico. I found this youtube video that you can really hear the sound of the Cuatro on it.

There are quite a few cheap Chinese built versions on the market. Be ready to take these to a seasoned luthier for a good setup. This is what I played yesterday and it was very well built. I also found a few artisan built Cuatros that were in the thousand dollar range. Not bad considering artisan built guitars can easily be over five grand. If your looking for something that sounds unique but familiar check out the Puerto Rican Cuatro.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Top Pedal Releases of 2016

2016 has been a rough year for a lot of people but there have been some amazing pedals released. While it isn't quite over most new gear releases will hold off until the 2017 winter NAMM show. So I thought I'd run down my favorite pedals released this year.

Digitech Whammy Ricochet- Whammy's are just fun, I had one for a bit but it never found a permanant place on my board. That said the Ricochet is perfect if you don't need the real time control of a rocker pedal. It can bounce your sound up and down for you via preselected settings.

DOD Carcosa Fuzz- A versatile fuzz that isn't a fuzz face or muff clone the Carcosa fuzz carves out a unique niche but also covers a lot of territory. It's also reasonably priced at $99 and only from PGS.

Keeley Bubbletron- Robert Keeley and crew have been knocking it out of the park lately. The Bubbletron incorporates a load of features including a flanger, phaser, and step filter that can be controlled with an envelope filter to respond to your pick attack. You can choose your sensitivity to the pick attack and roll it off for more traditional sounds. A must have for tone explorers or for people who like a lot of options but don't have extra space on their pedalboards.

Keeley Monterey Fuzz Vibe- This is my pedal of the year. I did a review HERE and can't get over how fantastic this pedal is.  While it may be Mr Keeley's Hendrix in a box it's certainly not limited to it. It's so easy to dial in other sounds as show in THIS post and so incredibly versatile. Don't let the $300 price tag scare you. You could buy 9 pedals and not have this range of sounds.

MXR Echoplex Delay- Man this sounds nice. Combining the Echoplex preamp with a Carbon Copy delay and voicing the repeats a bit darker makes for an incredible sounding easy to use delay pedal. It might be a one trick pony but it does that trick amazingly well.

MXR Phase 95 mini- If you love phasers or mini pedals then this pedal is for you! The Phase 95 has built in sounds from the Phase 90 and 45 as well as a Script and Modern switch. Still it's super easy to use with one knob. The 45 is a much more subtle sound so if you ever tried a Phase 90 and found it to be to much this might do the trick.

TC Electronic Corona SCF- This limited eddition pedal marks the end of the more expensive SCF pedal made famous by players like Eric Johnson and Paul Gilbert and is revered in studios around the world. But due to sourcing problems the SCF will soon be discontinued. Not to fear the Tone wizards at TC have made those sounds availble via toneprint and loaded them all on this pedal. It sounds heavenly.

I'm also looking forward to TC Electronics new bargain line. 13 pedals priced at $50 available at Guitar Center here in the states. Several of these sound really promising and while the cork sniffers won't like them I imagine I'll be adding these to my budget recommendations rather quickly.

What else did I miss? Let me know

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mojo Hand Fx Iron Bell Review

David Gilmour has become a name synonymous  with both Tone and Phrasing. But his tone has evolved over the years the tone on Wish you Were Here vs the tone from On An Island is quite different even if the playing is similar. There is nothing wrong with playing fast, it's fun and entertaining and can be somewhat impressive. But as I've matured as a player I find myself being drawn to people who slow down and make every note count. David is one of those players who always caters to the song, and he knows how to make a single note sound more impressive than a hundred.

Iron Bell in Rusty finish
If your looking for a dead on Muff clone to stack with compressors and overdrives the Iron Bell isn't what your looking for. Big Muffs, like many other fuzz pedals, can be tricky. Played into the wrong set up they can sound awful. Loads of bottom end, rough distortion and no definition are not the terms you think of when you think of David Gilmour. And while the Iron Bell is a muff based pedal it's smoother, articulate, and more responsive than most Muff based pedals that I have played as if there is already a compressor before the Muff and an Overdrive after it.

This is a pretty easy pedal to get a great sound out of no matter what your setup. Start with all the knobs at noon and start tweaking. Add a delay pedal and your favorite Gilmour licks and you'll find your way very quickly. 

The thing that makes this pedal so versatile is the contour knob which can give you a more pronounced mids like the Civil War Muff or scoop them out like an old Rams Head Muff. This has since become a very popular mod with a lot of muff builders, some adding a mids knob others adding 3 way switches. This combined with the smoothness and overall character of the tone make this an easy go to pedal for Gilmour tones.  

David also uses overdrives like the BK Butler Tube Driver and early on the Colorsound Powerboost. It's not really bright enough for the Powerboost but the Iron Bell can do a decent Tube Driver, even though I tend to use an OCD clone for these sounds. The APS2's in my Strat can get a bit lose on the bottom end and the Iron Bell is just tight enough to tame any kind of fartiness. It won't go from scream to clean when you turn down your volume but it does clean up quite a bit and the top end tends to open up when you do this.

Using EMG's with the Iron Bell and combined with my old Visual Sound H2O can nail most of the sounds from the 80's and 90's. Throw in a phaser for Wish You Were Here, a flanger for Animals or The Wall and a UniVibe for Dark Side of the Moon or Live at Gdansk and you can get 95% of the way there for just about anything.

While not my first thought I was surprised when I played Steve Vai's For the Love of God and Blue Powder with this pedal. Normally I'd grab a Suhr Riot or the Wampler Pinnacle for this but the massive smooth articulate sound of the Iron Bell works surprisingly well for shredding. 

I've been a fan of Mojo Hand Fx for years, their Zephyr is one of my favorite fuzz pedals ever and their Rook pedal is a favorite on pedalboards everywhere. One of the most impressive things about Mojo Hand as a company is their commitment to quality. I bought this pedal second hand and after I posted posted a picture on Instagram. They reached out to me because they noticed one of the letters had rubbed off and they asked me if I wanted to them to replace it. I declined because I really don't care about such things. The pedal works great. But they did tell me during the exchange that if I ever had any problems or questions to reach out to them and they would  help. Fantastic customer service for sure.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen

I haven't been posting much because I've been busy with life stuff. Last night I heard that one of the great songwriters of our time had passed away. He was someone who gave hope to those who listened to him. A voice to those who felt they had none. He was a hero to one of my mentors, and to one of my closest friends. Hallelujah is such a great song, it sounds beautiful but it's really a song about pain and the love of music, at least that's how it always hit me. I think I heard the Buckley version first. There are a lot of people in this world that are scared, lonely, and hurting. And so more and more I find I want to add something beautiful to the world. Rest In Peace Leonard Cohen and thank you.

For those of you who are gear nerds I always post pics of the pedals and settings on instagram so follow me there. In this one I used my trusty Starr Guitar, the Mojo Hand Zephyr, an OCD clone, the Keeley Monterey for a touch of vibe, and my Visual Sound H2O for delay.

Monday, October 3, 2016

TedEd on how Playing an Instrument Benifits Your Brain

Ted talks has become something of a phenomenon in today's culture. You can find information on almost anything. I found Kaki Kings Ted Talk to be fascinating. In this TedEd piece Anita Collins explains the positive long term benefits of learning to play an instrument.

You can also check out the link for the Dig Deeper section of the TedEd page HERE

Monday, August 1, 2016