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.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Changes in the Wind

photo credit: @WyldeAudio
What is going on? The other day I posted here about Zakk Wylde and Wylde Audio his new guitar and amp company. They are posting new pics on their twitter page everyday so I grabbed this interesting pic they are calling the Odin. There is also a new pic of a Flying V. We still don't know the whole story. Is this a whole new company? Is Father Wylde doing with Epiphone and Gibson what Mr. Van Halen is doing with Fender and the EVH brand? This remains to be seen but I'm still kind of excited about it. Especially that they are doing an amp. I love a great sounding 800 head.

Next I get an email from Carvin Guitars about some high end re-branding. Here is the Press release.

"Carvin Corporation announces the formation of a new and separate company, Kiesel Guitars / Carvin Guitars, which will take control of the guitar and bass manufacturing and sales of all instruments and related parts and accessories, effective Feb 1, 2015. Kiesel Guitars / Carvin Guitars owners Mark Kiesel and Jeff Kiesel formed this new company so they can focus exclusively on the advancement of instruments. Mark Kiesel has led the guitar and bass division of Carvin since 1970 and will continue to lead the new company as president. Jeff Kiesel brings industry leading designs and advancements in construction and quality to the Custom Shop. The instruments will continue to be produced in the USA at the same facility. 

Carvin Corporation's focus will now be exclusively on our passion for pro audio and instrument amplifiers under the brands Carvin Audio and Carvin Amplifiers. We will continue to provide our customers with industry leading products and customer support. Carvin Corporation will continue to design and manufacture its products in San Diego, California, USA with its team of top engineers and staff of musicians under the direction of the Kiesel family; Carson, Joel and Kristen."

So now it seems you'll be able to order a Carvin Guitar or a higher end Kiesel Guitar with more complexity and better woods and finishes. hmmm ok, not sure I see the point of it but really not a big deal. The founder of Carvin was Lowell Kiesel, and Mark and Jeff Kiesel have run the Carvin Custom Guitar shop for many years. Carvin pro audio and Guitar Amps will still be Carvin. Ok got it, if you want a really nice Carvin you order a Kiesel. (And Jeff Kiesel has been doing some cool looking stuff lately).

Anything else confusing out there? Well here is a pic of Dave Navarro playing a copy of the David Gilmour Black Strat!!! That's not his normal gear!

If I pickup on any more interesting stories this week from NAMM 2015 I'll be sure to talk about them here or at least retweet them at @ADHDguitarist so follow me there.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Introducing Wylde Audio

What in Odin's name is going on?!?!?  A friend of mine noticed in Gibson's roll out at the end of last year that the Zakk Wylde Signature Les Paul seemed to be no more. I've also noticed that recently Epiphone has pulled any Zakk Wylde guitars as well. I just looked at all the big box retailers to find that there are NO Zakk Wylde Signature guitars!!! How can one of the most iconic guitarist in the business not have a signature guitar? Apparently Mr. Zakk Wylde has pulled some partners together to introduce Wylde Audio.

photo credit:@WyldeAudio
There are some guys out there that don't seem to like Zakk's larger than life persona or his blazing riffs and low end pitch harmonics. But I've seen this guy play piano parts on his acoustic (that was a mind blowing and mind expanding moment for me). He can play Al Di Meola style jazz fusion, he can easily cover the greats like Randy Rhoads and Jake E Lee as we all saw with his former employer and friend Ozzy Osborne. Oh yeah and he can chicken pick country riffs till the cows come home. But blazing riffs and low end pitch harmonics is where the money is at for Zakk and why fix what ain't broke. Personally I've always dug Zakk's playing. I love that he respects other guitar players playing. And that he is actively always working at getting better. 

Meeting Zakk Wylde pre-viking-beard
I've gotten to meet the guy on several occasions and he was always very cool and laid back. This is a pic of me meeting the boss man around '97. It was after the criminally underrated Book of Shadows album and before Black Label Society. In fact he told me at this meeting that "everyone keeps asking me when I'm gonna do some real heavy stuff, so that's what I'm working on next, this stuff is going to blow everyone away". Since then I've seen him play live several times with the crowds getting bigger and crazier every time. 

So what's Wylde Audio all about? I don't know exactly. I'm hoping it's Zakk's version of the EVH line. Quality amps and instruments at mostly reasonable prices with a few USA models to keep the gear snobs happy. There's not a lot of information yet but there is a sign up page at and also a twitter page that has a few pics on it. So make sure you check them out. In the mean time it looks like I'll be changing the ADHD Zakk Wylde Gear Guide soon!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Finding Tonal Magic in Similarities

Most of us have more than one guitar hero. Focusing on trying to get that one sound is a lot of fun, and helps teach you what works and what doesn't. There is something impressive about nailing a sound and a style of a great artist and every step you take towards achieving those tones is an accomplishment. The question many people have is "why do you want to sound like that guy, don't you want to be yourself?" The answer is "because he's great" and striving towards greatness has never been a bad thing. I've heard a lot of Hendrix clones, a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan clones, a lot of Eddie Van Halen clones, a lot of Zakk Wylde clones, and a lot of David Gilmour clones. But is Eric Johnson a Hendrix clone? Nope Eric sounds like Eric despite having very similar equipment and being very influenced by Hendrix. It's easy to find the differences but I've found that focusing on similarities helps you find tonal magic.
There is a reason this works!

The Strat Masters
Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Johnson, Richie Kotzen and Yngwie Malmsteen. They all sound quite different and yet there are similarities in their tones. We'll start with the obvious one the Strat! Ok so Richie plays a tele but he also plays a strat at times. Strats are very versatile and easy to modify to your liking. Amp wise there seems to be two trains of thought here a crunchy, overdriven Marshall type amp or a clean amp with pedals but those pedals often sound like a crunchy old Marshall. David Gilmour and Eric Johnson are both known for using a BK Butler Tube Driver into a clean amp but compare those tones to a JTM45 and you'll start to hear similarities. Eric Johnson's setup is very Hendrix influenced as was Stevie Ray Vaughan's and David Gilmour's in the early days. If your using a lot of clean tones you may want to go with the clean fendery tones and pedals for your crunch and lead tones but if your mainly using crunch tones you can also clean up with your volume knob and then push it for leads. Once again focus on the similarities and you'll start to find magic. I find setting up for a nice crunchy Marshall tone with just a bit of gain a great place to start. Start with your EQ knobs at 12 o'clock and then add or take away depending on what you hear. All of these players will use their volume knob a lot to change the sound so dialing in your sound with the volume around 6 or 7 instead of on 10 will open up a lot of options. Another similarity is pickups, with the exception of Yngwie they all use weaker vintage voiced pickups. Yngwie uses a hotter more modern style pickup but you can also use an overdrive to get that type of sound if you prefer to use more vintage sounds most of the time. All of these guys use modulation to add a swirly effect. David Gilmour started with a Univibe, changed to a Phaser, then Flanger, then Chorus but he uses them all the same way. I was a chorus player for a long time but lately I've really gotten into phasers. These days I use chorus for subtle effects and the phaser for wilder craziness. With each of these players their style of playing is what creates their sound more than gear.

Hard Rock Heroes
My favorite rock guitar players have always been guys like Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, Jerry Cantrell, and Metallica. All hard rock players playing through high gain amps with few simple effects. Most of the time we focus on the differences between the sounds of these players but when I focused on the similarities I found tonal magic. I was able to dial in a JCM800 or a Dual Rectifier to cover all of these guys best sounds. The formula was simple. A slightly hotter bridge humbucker like an EMG81 or a Seymour Duncan JB, a high gain amp with most of the knobs past 12 o'clock, an overdrive pedal to push it for solos, chorus for thickening, delay and wah. If I needed ACDC crunch I could roll back the volume on the guitar. If I needed more cut I would use a TS9 type overdrive to push the amp and give a little more mids. Some people will get hung up on the guitar bridge and while it's an important part of your sound and playing style I've found that in heavier rock sounds it's not as important. I can mimic all of these players sounds with a floating floyd type bridge or fixed bridge as long as I'm using the above formula.

My point here is that it's easy to listen for differences but when you start listening for similarities you can often find something that works great for you. Find the similarities in the setups with your favorite artist and you'll be one step closer to finding your own voice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Mesa Boogie Lonestar review

A few days ago one of the small guitar shops near me put a couple of pics up on Facebook of some new stuff they had acquired. One of these items was a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Classic Combo. I've been curious about these but never ran across one. I've talked about how much I love Andy Timmons tone and style of playing. And I've owned one of the Mesa Boogie Stiletto's that he uses but I've always wanted to try out a Lonestar so I jumped at the chance to go down and check it out. I grabbed my current favorite guitar and headed to the shop in the middle of the afternoon and spent some time checking it out.

The Mesa Lonestar is similar to the Stiletto in many ways. They are both two channel amps with a dedicated set of knobs for each channel, a master volume and a boost volume. They both have switches on both channels to choose between 100 watts and 50 watts (the newer lonestar's also have a 10 watt setting). You can also choose between a tube rectifier or solid state rectifiers, and there is a variac switch on both amps to help knock the power down and give it a spongier feel. They also are both very demanding amps in that they don't let you hide, every mistake you make is amplified and put in your face and you hear a huge difference depending on which guitar your using. And that is where the similarities end.

In contrast to the Stiletto the Lonestar has an active EQ and sounds great at lower volume.  It was much easier for me to find usable sounds. Channel 1 reminds me of a Blackface Twin while Channel 2 reminded me, surprisingly of a JTM45 type sound. Fender cleans and vintage Marshall in the same amp? yep. The Variac switch makes more of a difference on the Lonestar than the Stiletto. On the Stiletto there was a softening of attack and a slightly looser feel but on the Lonestar the gain gets into tweed type of sponginess. The lead sound was thick and solid. It has a ton of loose low end that can be to much and can get farty sounding if your not careful but pull the bass down (or use a TS type pedal) and you get a thick lower mids that sounds awesome. The gain switch and two gain knobs on the 2nd channel take you from Tweed to MK 1 type gains.
Andy Timmons Lonestar's and Stiletto's

Using the Variac on channel two with the three way switch set to thick and a decent amount of gain rolled in I was able to quickly dial in a sound that covered everything from gorgeous cleans to early Van Halen just by switching pickups and changing from using my fingers lightly to nailing the strings with my pick. This amp is a dynamics players dream. In the Thicker setting it sounds like an early MK 1 which quickly inspired some Santana type runs.

As versatile and easy to use as this amp is it isn't for everyone. I'd really like to try it on a small 4x12 cabinet and see if it tightens up the bottom end and gives it a little more focused sound. It's very low mids heavy and while it certainly has a lot of gain on tap I would never call this a high gain amp in line with a Dual Rectifier. If you want modern metal or even 80's shred keep looking this isn't for you. But if your longing for a variety of vintage voiced amps the Lonestar is certainly worth a listen.

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