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

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fender Bassbreaker Review

The Fender Bassbreaker series was announced last year at the same time as the Jimi Hendrix Signature Stratocaster. There have been a lot of talk about them but I had not had the chance to play through one till a couple of days ago. I was out of town on vacation with my family, while they were having some down time I hit up a couple of local guitar shops. They had a Bassbreaker 45 2x12 combo and a Bassbreaker 7w mini stack. The guys there were more than happy to let me check them out but they warned me that the 45, even with the variable wattage control all the way down was insanely loud. So I checked out the 7 watt instead.  I've been into my strat lately so that's what I grabbed off the wall.

The 7 watt might be the perfect bedroom plexi style amp. It has a "treble booster" built into which emphasizes the upper mids almost like a built in tube screamer. Compared to a Blues Jr it has more presence in the mids and an immediate attack from your guitar. Without the boost engaged and the mids rolled back it is similar to a hot twin that is not quite breaking up yet. Speaking of breaking up this amp breaks up really easy. With the booster on and the mids up I nailed the strat with my pick and got some nice vintage British grind. Switch to my fingers and it cleaned right up, roll back the volume and use the pick again it was clean and spanky. As a pedal platform this amp rules! You can run it clean or with a touch of crunch but it loves pedals and the more dynamic the better. I'm not a big reverb guy but I kind of wanted it on this amp, just a touch to take the edge off because the sound is fairly unforgiving similar to the way my old Mesa Stiletto was, which makes sense since they share a similar inspiration.

So how loud was it? At first sitting in front of the mini stack I almost felt bad for other people in the shop. In a bedroom it would sound very loud. But as soon as I stood up to change a couple of settings it was surprisingly quieter. I don't think anyone would be taking a nap in the house but if you needed to record something without the neighbors calling the cops this would work. It would work for coffee shop gigs and other gigs without a drummer. But for anything larger, the Bassbreaker 15w would probably be the way to go. The 15 w adds reverb, an effects loop and an adjustable gain switch, and the guys at the shop said they have been unable to keep those in stock. As long as your miked up it should work in most situations unless your drummer thinks he is Tommy Lee.

Aesthetically there have been some detractors because of the grey tweed. I don't mind that at all, it looks unique to other amps out there, but I wasn't crazy about the knobs which, in my own personal opinion look cheap. I do like the oversize feel of them which makes it easy to dial in settings. If I end up picking one up I might swap those for something like a chicken head knobs. Also, even though I thought it sounded surprisingly great, I wonder if a different cabinet or speakers might sound better. If your after a vintage voiced, British sounding amp do yourself a favor and check these amps out before Fender gets smart and ups the price.