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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Slash Quote

I saw this quote from Slash and thought "how true!" Early on I played around with a number of different instruments. I had a knack for picking up instruments, learning the basics and being able to get a song out of them. But the guitar was different, it called to me before I ever really knew what it was. I love the feeling of a guitar that vibrates with me as I play. I keep saying when I get bored of it I might learn the violin, but it's been over 20 years and I'm not bored, I keep exploring. What a fascinating instrument it is.   

Monday, June 20, 2016

Keeley Neutrino Envelope Filter Review

The Keeley Neutrinio is a envelope filter that is a step above other envelope filters I've played.  I had been looking for an envelope pedal to play with and some of the cheaper brands didn't respond very well to my playing. Making be wonder what the deal with these was. But the Keeley Neutrinio is killer adding in funk and jam band sounds is easy. Getting it to making crazy synth sounds can be a bit trickier but yeah those sounds are in there.

I talk a lot about dynamic playing and there really are two kinds. One is alternating playing soft passages and heavy passages. The other is using your pick attack and volume knob to control how much gain is coming out of the amp. My favorite pedals are the ones who respond to this second type of playing the most. Most drive pedals and tube amps have this to a degree but in the last few years we've seen a plethora of extremely sensitive pedals. My favorite combination for drive pedals is my Zephyr fuzz into an OCD pedal. Both stacked together can sound like your amp is fixing to meltdown but rolling down the volume can give you a beautiful clean tone without switching them off. 

The Neutrinio is a fun and very dynamic pedal. You can switch back and forth between your pick and fingers for more dynamic range. I like to use a brighter pick like a tortex rather than a nylon or herco style pick that has a warmer tone.The more dynamic your pickups the better this pedal is going to work. I find that single coil vintage sounding work best where as hotter focused sounding humbuckers are not as dynamic to begin with. That's not to say you can't have fun with them. People say active EMG's lack dynamics but I had no problems getting the Neutrinio to make all kinds of sounds with mine.

The controls are very interactive with your guitar. The Peak knob controls how high the wah sound goes. The Range switch emphasizes either the low or high notes while the three way LBH acts as a high or low pass filter to roll off the edges. I find this is particularly important with really bright sounds. The gain knob is the one I move around the most and the final knob to dial in my tone. There is also a side switch which reverses the sweep of the wah, so instead of a "wOw" sound it's more of a "OwwA".

I really like setting up this pedal so that I have to roll the volume back a bit to get it to sound the best. I don't find that I have to fight with it like I have some others and it's highly tweakable to adjust to whatever the situation is. Using this pedal with drive pedals that also respond well to picking dynamics is amazing. One thing that I find fascinating is that you HAVE to control your picking intensity and your volume knob. I think I do a pretty good job with these but I had to really tighten up what I was doing. It forces you to work on different aspects of dynamic playing. So if your looking to work on that aspect of your playing I can't recommend the Keeley Neutrinio enough.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Words of Wisdom from Austin Kelon

Just watched a very cool interview with artist and writer Austin Kelon and found it very inspirational. I thought I would share this. For more of his work checkout his books HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

ADHD: Fascination, Boredom, and Respect for Yngwie Malmsteen

Back in 1988 I was living in Tampa, and just really starting to listen to music other than what I had grown up listening to. We didn't have cable so no MTV (they used to play music on MTV). But there was a local station, V-32 that was playing music videos. One of the videos that they played on regular rotation was Yngwie Malmsteen Heaven Tonight. I had never heard anything like it. I was dumbfounded. How could anyone play that fast? This was the first time I had thought of the guitar as more than just an accompaniment to the singer. This was my introduction to NeoClassical Shred guitar. At the time I had taken piano lessons and played the trombone in school for a few years. But suddenly there was the guitar...

My parents weren't crazy about it. They had both tried at one point in time to learn to play the guitar but had both given it up. They weren't about to plop down money on another guitar for me, they also hated rock music so that had to wait. I started noticing other guitarist and other bands. I got a job bagging groceries the next year and a couple of the guys at the store played guitar. I saved up some money and started looking around. Finally, several months later I bought my first guitar.

One of the guys I worked with was really good. He could play Eruption and knew a lot of Randy Rhoads stuff too. He told me to go get a book of guitar stuff I liked and he would show me some stuff. I thought about what I wanted, went to the record store and bought the tab book for Yngwie Malmsteen's Odyssey. He almost laughed when I showed up at his house with it. "Dude, Yngwie is amazing. I have trouble with this stuff. It's a great goal but get something a little easier to start off." Ok fair enough, you gotta walk before you can run.

Fast forward a couple of years and now grunge is the big thing. But Yngwie was playing a club not far from us and a group of us headed down. There was a pretty sizable crowd and we had started drinking and made our way near the front of the stage. By the time Yngwie started playing we were ready. He was, in a word, ASTOUNDING! How could anyone play that fast and that clean all the time. Even in the slow songs. Every note was perfect. Perfect pitch, perfect timing. Perfection at a million miles an hour.

I know I'm going to catch flak for this next part but please keep reading. After about 20 or 30 minuets I realized... I was kind of bored. Every song was Phrygian. Every solo was... well perfect. And it dawned on me. That's your thing. You play fast, perfect, phrygian runs and wide vibrato. And that's all you do. Suddenly that girl over there (who was looking equally bored) was more interesting. Remember I'm ADHD.

PING.... what the hell was that? Something just hit me right smack on the forehead. Something small. But I felt it and everyone around me is looking around. I look down and there is Yngwie Malmsteen's guitar pick at my feet. I picked it up and looked at him. He was shredding down the neck in another perfect run hit a wide vibrato note and pointed straight at me! Yep he noticed me checking out that girl! Not only was he playing at a million miles an hour he had beamed me with his pick and hadn't missed a lick! I still laugh thinking about it.
A photo posted by @adhd_guitarist on

I've talked about it before. In the course of an evening I might listen or play Yngwie, SRV, Van Halen, Shinedown, Slipknot, Alice In Chains, Andy Timmons, Pink Floyd and anything else. I'm too ADHD to JUST do Phrygian runs up and down the neck. And listening to it for hours on end? Nope. For Yngwie, that's his juice. He loves it. For that I respect him. He's made a career doing something that he loves and doing it better than anyone else. Most of us can't say the same.

Monday, April 4, 2016

ADHD Reivews: Keeley Monterey Fuzz Vibe Pt 2

So just a few weeks ago I posted a review of the Keeley Monterey Fuzz Vibe pedal and I wanted to follow it up with a few thoughts. First off it's a really incredible pedal, it's like the pedal that keeps on giving. I keep finding uses for it, new sounds and things I like better about it than other pedals I have. But what about if your not looking for a Hendrix in a box pedal? Or maybe you like the idea of having a Hendrix in a box pedal but the band your in doesn't do a lot of Hendrixian Psychedelica type stuff. Maybe your band has a much more modern vibe... So I figured I'd throw up some of the things I've found it useful for.

1) Massive Attack Teardrop. Using the Vibe and a touch of Octave up I used the Monterey and some finger picking to play the theme song to House. Yeah that one

2) Big Wreck A Place to Call Home. If you don't know Big Wreck please log on to youtube and look them up. Ian Thornley's tasty chops and sonic landscapes are not the most well know but are very admirable. The beginning of A Place to Call Home has one of the biggest guitar sounds I've ever heard. I was able to get that wall of fuzz sound with just the Monterey fuzz and and some octave.

3) Soundgarden Black Hole Sun. I stumbled upon this sound while playing around with the rotary settings and heard it immediately. I quickly had to remember how to play the song. Probably not surprising that you could use the rotary for that sound but I haven't thought about that song in so long.

4) Ok I might have gotten some help from the Wampler TripleWreck on this one. A friend of mine brought up the John Sykes band Blue Murder the other day and I use to play this song all the time. I used the Monterey Rotary to add in a touch of chorus. Sure I could have used any chorus but the Monterey has such an organic sound.

I've added it to the first review but there is also a cocked wah setting on this thing with an adjustable Q. It's like I bought 8 or 9 really great pedals. If you think of it that way I pretty much got all of this for the price of a few Chinese knock off pedals. Money well spent in my opinion. Check it out HERE By the way. I when I post these clips on Instgram I normally follow it up with a picture of the pedal for the settings, if you think you might find that useful follow me there.

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe Review

A few weeks ago Robert Keeley announced his idea for a Hendrix in a box pedal. Based around his new Workstation platform than combines a drive section with a very versatile modulation section the Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe tackles the herculean task of recreating the tones of Jimi Hendrix. I say herculean because I think different people hear Hendrix differently which inevitably means some people will be disappointed in this pedal in that it may not sound they way they want it to. More often than not this has more to do with their picking hand than anything else but that is a topic for another post. I digress.
Monterey Workstation

Some time in the early 2000's a legendary pedal was built called the Captain Coconut. It had an authentic Univibe, Fuzz Face, and an Octavia built into it. Throw a wah pedal in front and a cranked Marshall Plexi stack behind it and you had instant Hendrix tones, if you had the chops of course. These legendary pedals have been sought after by collectors. IF your looking for authentic photocells and a perfect Octavia clone stop now, the Monterey is NOT what your looking for! If your looking for a pedal that oozes late 60's psychedelica, is a studio work horse, and sounds freaking amazing read on. 

I'll start by talking about the fuzz, unlike the standard Fuzz Face, this fuzz plays well with buffers. I've used it with active pickups and placed it before and after pedals with buffers and it sounds fantastic. It's extremely dynamic, responding to your volume control and your pick attack. It can sound a little buzzy when turned down but I found the trick is to push the level up to where it is pushing your amp a bit and the buzziness goes away and it starts to get that meltdown apocalypse sound that we all want from a fuzz. Now roll back your volume and it cleans up beautifully. The fuzz also stacks well with other drive pedals, I used it with an OCD, a Tube Screamer and my Zephyr fuzz and it sounded great with all of them. 

A video posted by @adhd_guitarist on

Next is the modulation section. There is three way switch to change between the Wah (harmonic and auto wah), the Vibe and the Rotary. There is also an expression pedal input to control the speed of the rotary and vibe or to act as a wah. I don't currently own an expression pedal but that has now moved up the on my wants and needs list. There is also an octave knob which will blend in an octave up or down. In rotary mode this changes the level of the tweeter in the rotary cabinet. There is also a level knob that blends in the overall effect of modulation. This is extremely useful in the rotary setting where the effect can be overpowering.  
This is a great rig

I'm a lover of all things vibe and phaser related. And I have to say I really love how deep and throby this vibe is. As I said earlier this is not a photocell vibe, it's really a phaser with a tremolo effect which gives a great approximation of a vibe circuit. It has a great sound to it. Do you want to play Pink Floyd's Breath? Perfect. Little Wing? Nailed it. I want to try this with an expression pedal but that will come later. Honestly for Hendrix sounds I can leave on this Vibe setting and throw my wah in front of the pedal and pretty much nail all of the sounds I'm looking for. 

The Wah section is really interesting. The depth knob can change the wah from an auto wah to a harmonic wah to a cocked wah. Once again with the added expression pedal can make this section a normal wah. For the cocked wah, roll the depth knob all the way to the left and use the rate to dial in the Q. The auto wah is pretty great too. It responds great to your picking dynamics and is a lot of fun to play with. But the real find for me was the Harmonic wah effect. I had never played with a harmonic wah effect and it has really blown my mind. I still don't fully understand it but it is crazy cool, it's a very unique sound. You know that sound at the beginning of Burning the Midnight Lamp? Add in a bit of upper octave and your there. This is such and interesting effect that Burgs did an entire video on it all by itself. This pedal is loaded with features.
The Octave knob is not it's own section and is not an octavia clone. This may bug some purist but I find it very useful. Octavia's are picky about where you play and what your overall tone is like, so they can be very tricky and many people complain that they have a hard time getting that octave up sound out of it. That is not the case with this octave knob. In the center position it is off, roll the knob to the right and you start to blend in an upper octave sound. Roll to the left and you get an octave down setting that is great for thickening the low end of your sound. Just watch your bass players eyes start to roll when you do it. 

The rotary section is more versatile than I thought it would be. It's not as three dimensional as a Strymon Lex but it is very convincing and I love the level knob that blends in your sound. In this mode the octave mode controls blend of the high and low speakers. One of the things I found interesting is that you can slow this down to a really organic chorus sound that doesn't sound metallic or processed like most chorus pedals do. You can even knock the rate down to zero but keep the depth up and get a flanger sound. This maybe the most versatile part of the modulation section. 

a small compact unit
Do you want all of these modulation effect to come before the fuzz? Open up the bottom of the pedal and there is a mini switch to do just that. This opens up a whole different feel and group of sounds on this tiny pedal. It's surprising just how small it is and for many people it has enough different sounds for it to be it's own pedalboard. Throw a delay behind it and a lot of guys could gig with just this and make every song sound different. One thing that is kind of cool is that there are 12 different paint jobs all with a metallic blue finish with art work inspired by Jimi's Monterey strat. You have no idea when you order which style you'll get. The Keeley Monterey is available direct from the Keeley pedals site and at select retailers. 

I keep using the word versatile. In some pedals versatile can be a curse, you have to constantly tweak to get it sound right but on the Monterey I have to say it's difficult to get a bad sound and it's just so easy to work with I felt immediately spoiled when I started playing with it. I've had it a week and I feel like I may have to update this review next month. I just keep finding cool sounds it this box. Check out Pt 2 of this review HERE

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