Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Andy Timmons teams up with JHS Pedals

If you've looked around on my modest blog you know I'm a big Andy Timmons fan. And while a lot of his tone is his playing style his gear is pretty important. So I've been pretty excited to hear that Andy is working with Josh at JHS pedals to design a signiture overdrive that captures his Lonestar lead tone. The excitement continues with the announcement that the AT drive will be available November 16th in the US and shortly there after internationally.

Here is the video that JHS put up last night.

Long time followers of Andy's will remember that Xotic put out an Andy Timmons version of their BB Preamp. The difference is that the BB Preamp is a very nice TS type pedal designed to go in front of an amp where as the Angry Charlie that the new JHS AT Drive is based on is an amp in a box type pedal that gives a voice close to the lead tone of Andy's Lonestar amps.

So is this the Andy Timmons tone in a box pedal? Not exactly. A big part of Andy's sound is the modulated delay from his EHX Memory Man pedals or the Strymon Timeline. But this new pedal will free Andy up to show up at a gig, put the amp on a nice clean sound and be able to use the AT Drive if there isn't a Lonestar available. So maybe we should think of it as a Lonestar lead channel in a box.

If you want to learn more getting Andy's tone check out the Andy Timmons Gear Guide. And while your at it check out my thoughts on the Mesa Boogie Lonestar. Why this pedal isn't called the Angry Timmons I don't know but as much as I try not to buy a lot of signature gear but I might have to pull the trigger on this one.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Creativity and why I'm going to write a bunch of bad songs

I haven't been creative in a while. Haven't written any original music in several years. I haven't been writing much on this blog this year. I started a new job a few months ago that is taking up a lot of my time and energy. This has been a bit depressing. Sure I'm still noodling during most evenings and weekends but I haven't been "working" on the guitar. I've been learning the basics of quite a few songs over the last few years, and even spent some time diving into the styles of guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Some of that was learning but I thought maybe I would derive some sort of inspiration from it. I didn't.

I was listening to a podcast from someone last year (an author, I can't remember who it was) and he was talking about how he writes books. He was talking about the fact that he shuts the doors, and even blocks his internet for a certain amount of time everyday. But he said something very interesting. He said that he tells his brain to work on things, and his brain will work on it in the background. He never says "I don't know what to do with this" when he thinks that he tells his brain to get rid of that thought and to figure it out. So last night I started thinking about that idea in terms of songwriting. I also watched an interview with David Grissom a bluesy roots rock player with an incredible resume. He said to write 100 songs and by the time you've written 100 of them you'll START to figure out what works and what doesn't.

I remember the first few songs I wrote were pretty awful but at some point I wrote a handful of songs I was really proud of. So I'm starting over, taking the two pieces of advice from above. I'm going to write 100 songs. I don't care if they are good or not. This will hopefully kick my creativity into gear. It will force me to learn about mixing demos and how to build drum tracks (which I suck at). Not sure if I'll try to add vocals at any point, for now they will just be instrumentals.

So here is the first idea, just a guitar track, nothing else. I screw up in a few spots, even the most simple part because I realized I hadn't decided what to do with that part. Maybe I'll try to rerecord it. Maybe I'll try to write a different riff. I'm not sure yet but it feels good to do something.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Wampler Triple Wreck Review

The mighty Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier! A favorite in the metal scene Mesa Boogie's Triple Rectifier is known for brutal scooped tones and boatloads of gain. I've spent time with both the Dual and Triple Rectifiers and they are extremely versatile amps. Clean sounds, crunch sounds, classic rock sounds and of course copious amounts of gain on tap. For a while I got tired of them, every local hard rock and metal band seemed to have a PRS guitar and a Rectifier on stage and they all scooped out their mids till you couldn't hear their solos?!?! But I like Mesa gear and have found that it takes a little getting used to and that you have to spend some time to tweak it till you get the absolute best sound out of it.

There are some people who are blessed and will own 7 different amps for various occasions but most of us will only have one or two. So what happens when you like that sound but it's not ever going to be your main sound? What do you do? Enter amp in a box pedals like the Wampler Triple Wreck. Brian Wampler has built a business around getting the feel and sounds of some of the more monumental amps, everything from blackface to Plexi's to Soldano's. To make it even better they are designed to sound great through less expensive amps. I picked up the Triple Wreck almost a year ago, and while it will never be my main sound I've found it to be a very versatile and useful tone tool.

The first thing you notice about the Triple Wreck is that it has a lot of knobs and switches. There is an active EQ section, volume and gain settings as well as a foot switchable boost contour knob. One of my favorite switches is the Voicing switch at the top that changes the gain from a hard tight sound to a looser "brutal" sound. One thing to note is that most of these knobs are very interactive so don't be surprised once you've dialed in the right amount of gain if you need to change it if you move the bass knob or vice versa. Like all Wampler products I've checked out these things are built like a tank, so no worries about them breaking down at a gig.

The first thing most people are going to try and dial in is a heavy shred-tastic sound that rectifiers are known for. I found the leaving the voicing switch on Hard and pulling back on the bass while bring up the mids is perfect for this. Interestingly I never had the bass above 1 o'clock. In fact I start all of the EQ knobs at noon and tweak from there. As I stated earlier this is a very versatile pedal. Roll back the gain for just a bit of breakup and set it up for a brighter in your face sound and you can nail Foo Fighter tones, now push it with a TS9 or a RAT type pedal for leads. I really love this sound

Of course one of the things I use pedal for is brutal downtuned modern rock sounds a la Slipknot. I talked about using this pedal for Jim Root type sounds here. Even though Jim is associated with Orange amps for the last few years he used a Dual Rectifier on the first couple of albums. Set the voicing to Brutal, put the gain around 2 o'clock pull back the treble and mids and bump up the bottom end a bit. Boom, now grab a guitar with EMG's or any hot pickups and play Before I Forget. (hint, it helps if your tuned down to drop B but you don't have to.)

While not useless I haven't found a lot of love for the boost switch on this pedal. Yes it gets a bit fuzzy, and it overdrives the bottom end of the sound. But it's not what I would call a great fuzz sound. I would love to see a version of this with an adjustable mid boost but we'll have to wait and see what Mr. Wampler has up his sleeve. So if your looking for a versatile modern amp sound check out the Wampler Triple Wreck.

This review was completely unsolicited, I received no compensation for it and all views and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

D'Addario NS Micro clip-on Tuner Review

The importance of having your guitar in tune can't be overstated. If your out of tune nothing sounds right. Lucky for us there are a plethora of tuners out there, they are on your phone, pedalboard, and over the last few years small headstock tuners have become very popular. I have a TC Electronic Polytune on my board and but I don't always plug in when I'm just running some scales or practicing a technique. I had a tuner on my phone but when a friend showed me his headstock tuner it just seemed so easy and practical. So I picked up the D'Addario NS Micro Tuner 2 pack

These things are tiny, and packed with features. On top of that they are very user friendly. It can be mounted a variety of ways and adjusted to make it easier to read. They are chromatic meaning they can read any note, this is important because I use different tunings at times and I can't stand tuners that only recognize the 6 strings in standard tuning. The lights change color depending on how close you are. Green is dead on while yellow and red means your getting away from being in tune, pretty simple. You can see the mounts in this picture and they are very easy to use, the tuner itself can swivel or be taken off and mounted on the D'Addario Artist Capo which I've found pretty helpful. There is also a blinking metronome. Like I said lots of features. Plus with the 2 pack one stays on my main guitar and the other on my Artist Capo.

The tuners are very accurate and fairly quick.  They are small enough you can leave them on the guitar when you place your guitar in a case or gig bag. I was wondering how well I'd be able to see these tuners on my guitars that had tilt back headstocks but it's not a problem at all. In comparison to other headstock tuners one thing I really like is that the clips don't leave a mark on your guitar. A friend of mine left another brands tuner on the headstock of his guitar and it left an indent on the finish! These will not do that. Also the battery in these things are a standard battery similar to what is in a key fob. 

So how does it compare to the TC Polytune? Well I don't have to pull out my pedalboard if I want to tune my guitar but the Polytune is faster, we're talking slightly here but it is noticeable. Also the NS tuner is not great with down tunings. Lately I've been tuning one of my guitars down to Drop B  and the NS tuners seems to struggle with anything under D. But there is a work around, simply fret at the 12th and the tuner works fine. Also I personally find the blinking metronome worthless. I tried it but I miss the clicking sound. Once again not a big deal I just don't use it.  These things are not big issues, I'm sure as the technology gets better these things will be addressed. If your looking for an easy to use tuner check out the NS Microtuners from D'Addario.

This review was completely unsolicited and any opinion is my own. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Aftershock Designs Hybrid Iso Enclosure

File this under things I don't need but think are a great idea. I've never heard of Aftershock Designs but I was looking around at custom 4x12 builders and found them. Aftershock Designs has a hybrid guitar cabinet that looks like a 4x12 but has 2x12 and an 1x12 IsoCab built in! IsoCabs are great for low level recording, but also for controlling the quality of the sound on stage. You get a more consistent sound from stage to stage so mixing becomes easier. This is a fantastic idea for guys playing clubs, outdoor festivals, and even the P&W crowd. It's almost like going direct except it's still your amp sound and you can set up your microphone the way YOU like it.  

Here is a direct link to the Hybrid Iso Enclosure page but check out some of their other options, including custom toltex and paint, grill cloth, and even LED's. 

Just for the record this is not a sponsored post. I just saw it and thought it was a great idea. Plus it looks like these guys do some very cool stuff for those of us that want something a little different. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

The ADHD Tweak Fuzz Review

If you have never listened to Blues Saraceno (yes Blues is his real name) you have no idea what your missing. Blues broke out of the late 80's early 90's shred scene and gets lumped in with a lot of those guys but Blues has a groove to his playing that a lot of his technical peers didn't. While he can shred with the best of them, he also has an amazing feel and swing and boat loads of tasty chops. These days he focuses his efforts on selling songs for commercials and video games. But he and his father also have a company named Dirty Boy Pedals. Mostly these are small batch boutique pedals built to extremely exacting tolerances. A while back Seymour Duncan approached Blues with the idea of taking one of his Afro Fuzz pedals and doing a less expensive mass produced version.

The circuit of the Tweak Fuzz is essentially a silicone fuzz face but with an added six position tone switch that changes the overall character of the fuzz. The six position tone knob doesn't just roll of the highs but also cuts low frequencies making the Tweak Fuzz sound like several different fuzzes. You can go from full on crazy over the top doom metal fuzz face sounds to LoFi AM transistor radio sounds. Add to that the re-activity with your volume and tone knobs and you have a lot of sounds available to you. It pairs well with low output humbuckers as well as single coils.
Seymour Duncan Tweak Fuzz
So lets talk about some of the bad reviews I've seen. 1) It doesn't deal well with buffers... well most fuzz face based pedals don't. 2) the Volume knob doesn't have a boost, unity is at full on volume...  yes some people don't like that but old school fuzz faces were built that way. 3) it sounds awful and thin or basey.... this is a beginner complaint, the thing about most fuzz face clones is that they need to be driven hard through a cranked amp to sound good. 4) My extra special boutique fuzz sounds better... well yeah I'm sure it does, but who cares you can pick this thing for next to nothing on the used market, seriously check Reverb or Ebay and you'll find them for $30.

I've talked about my Mojo Hand Fx Zephyr Fuzz before and it is my main fuzz but if I need something with more edge or a LoFi type sound the Tweak Fuzz is what I use. It doesn't stay on my board but it does make an appearance at times when I need to push myself or just need to experiment with some crazy sounds.  It really is worth putting the time in to find the sounds in this crazy pedal. Other versatile fuzzy pedals include the Zvex Fuzz Factory and the Way Huge Swollen Pickle but know that these are based on the Muff circuit and are completely different animals than the fuzz face.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Andy Timmons on That Pedal Show

So you guys know what a huge fan of Andy Timmons I am. Daniel at The Gig Rig has started a youtube series called That Pedal Show and his latest installment features Andy Timmons talking about his current state of experimentation. Check it out below

One of the most interesting things to me in this video is that in the beginning he uses the Lonestar's lead sound and then later he uses a Keeley modded Boss Blues Driver, and he sounds almost the same! There are some subtle differences but it really proves the statement Tone is in the Hands. For more about getting Andy's sound check out my post HERE, and for more about my thoughts on the Lonestar my review is HERE. Also give Daniel a follow on youtube as he is a very interesting guy with some serious tone clout.