New Year, New Stuff, New Plans…

I’ve been dreadfully absent for a little while now- wow, where has the time gone?
To be honest, I have actually been playing and practicing more than blogging and checking forums for gear. Also, my detachment I’m with is preparing for a deployment which I am helping out with. All this has left little time for me to write fresh posts. I know it is a little late, but here is a post of my “resolutions” for the New Year. I hope this clarifies what I hope to do in the coming months.

A note on resolutions/goals is this- they should be obtainable and quantifiable. Don’t say “I’m gonna lose weight this year” as that is too broad and difficult to measure. Say “I’ll drop 10 lbs at least, and compete in a 5k before the year is up.” Goal, match, bam!

So here we are:

  1. I want to write a minimum of 1 blog post a month here. I have 5 items I want to demo as gear demos. I hope to have these “ready” (maybe unpublished, but ready) by Summer.
  2. I want to lose 2 inches off of my waist, but maintain my current body weight. Since graduating med school I have lost alot of my ‘study belly’, but need to put a bit more effort into it. Being military, I am in pretty good shape, so this will just mean a slight change of workout and a better control of diet.
  3. I will work out 3 specific exercises at least 3 days a week to obtain my fitness goal. As the summer cools, I will start and finish  another advanced program (either P90x, Insanity, or something similar)
  4. I will dedicate 30 mins minimum 3 days a week to practicing my instrument, to better my skills, and to push beyond the current state of my abilities. This will be to improve and learn to be greater than what I am now. I make this statement as practicing our sets or finding lead parts etc… for our setlists do not count as the productive, learning process.
  5. I will continue to pay off my personal debts. (google “Debt snowball” for an idea of our process!)
  6. I will have 2 or 3 papers written by the summer to work on my Fellowship (professional thing).
  7. Never, EVER judge a piece of gear until played live with a band at performance volume. Several items I was going to trade off (or keep for that matter) sounded, felt, and mixed so differently at real levels. I kept stuff I normally wouldn’t and sold things I knew I would keep.

As I chase these goals- all very doable- I encourage you to make a few goals, and right them down. When its written, you see it and it becomes more real. Reexamine them every 3-4 months and modify as necessary to reach these goals.

Now for the gearhead stuff! I’ve had a pretty good few months for gear!

  1. Scored a Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire. What a great overdrive, and very natural with my amp, the Dr Z. I would say it has very little flavor as it own, but reacts well to your amp. I would go so far to say it is a “channel” on my amp and not a pedal. Very transparent. It isn’t as harsh as a Tim/Timmy, and more transparency and headroom than a King of Tone. The KOT has a bit more of a nasal sound in comparison. However, the KOT pushing this Holy Fire is an excellent smooth, transparent lead tone.
  2. Got a used Maxon OD9 for a cheap price, in new condition! This is a true bypass Tubescreamer from the guys that used to make it for Ibanez. Since I traded my good ol’ TS9 a couple years back, I’ve kinda missed it. This is a great replacement, and I hope to put the Analogman Silver mod into it soon.
  3. Have a Boss SD1 and a mod kit from Monte Allums. I hope to do a before/after demo. This should get my soldering skills up to stuff too.
  4. Build Your Own Clone Fuzz kit. Yup, more soldering and building. I figure if I want pedals, might as well learn how to deal with them!
  5. Found a ’96 PRS McCarty in Emerald Green for a pretty good price! It is a very different animal, but very lovely to play. I enjoyed the tones on it, but was really impressed when I played it live at gig volumes. Sits very well in the mix and layers with other instruments better than my LP. I really like it!

I hope this was encouraging and shows where my head is these days. I’ll be sure to give a gear recap/pedalboard pic soon. I also need to update my gear page. There is a lot to do with this blog! Thanks for hanging out!


Pedal death?

Just thought I would pose an interesting question. Sunday,  I was doing some sweet, sweet volume swells. Then, in the middle of a swell: “BWAANG – ANG- ANG-ang- ang…” The volume pedal broke and the delay echoed my note, but not as smooth as it would’ve been.

I decided to switch to a light tremolo with delay to float in the background as a pad. It worked, but not exactly as the volume swell would’ve done. But that’s okay… sometimes you have to make do in a cinch!

Have you ever had a pedal die on you during a middle of a performance? What happened, and what did you do?

On to repair my Ernie Ball VP jr!

Interesting Performance Tip

I stumbled upon a very cool tip while researching some guitarist/gear/gearpage stuff.

Scott Henderson (think modern jazz) uses his Boss RC-2 looper in his rig to record his rhythm and a lead part. Then he walks through the venue- at all angles- to HEAR what the audience hears. From there he decides what reverb, if any, to use and what his tone adjustments should be as well as his delay settings.

I wonder what I would hear if I walked around and listened to what I play. (kinda humbling, eh?)

Its a good practice! Hmm…. I think some of us “tone crazies” should take a peak into this!

Pedalboard 101: a question….

So I’ve been writing this blog awhile… and am getting a ton of hits on pedal board setup and questions how to do so. This question I received last was this one. I really liked the way it was asked and thought I would post it and my response.

hey! Great post… very informative, even though sadly, lots of it is over my head. I’m a worship leader at my church and I’m just slightly transitioning to my electric guitar as we’re doing more of the upbeat Lincoln Brewster type songs, and I’m using a Korg multi-effects processor pedal thing… and I just don’t see many people doing that, and am guessing I can tweak the sounds to my liking a little better using a train of pedals? Honestly I’m just trying to find that ‘appropriate’ church distortion/groove sound that is still hard core and sounds good, but isn’t the metal blasting away everyone kind of sound. I guess I’m asking what you think a good set of pedals (from scratch, including tuners/volume, etc.) would be to get crackin’ at finding a good mix of acousticy/strum sounds, with some good distortions and choruses as well?

Also, I know this sounds silly… but I don’t see how people transition so well between one song and the next, say you need to adjust your distortion… if you’re using say, the SD-1, then you’d have to bend down, turn the dial to crank down the distortion, and hope it’s right… that just doesn’t seem to be what people do, what is normal practice for getting different sounds throughout a set w/out literally tweaking the pedals between songs? Or do you just find a distortion that seems to fit them all?? Thanks in advance! —-

On the multiunits: yeah, I don’t like them. Did once, but they just don’t respond/breathe as well as actual analog effects do! The difference is astounding if you were to A/B them. That said, the newer “multi’s” that I would recommend is the Line 6 M13. This little guy can be tweaked quite well, and responds mostly the way an amp/analog effects do. I have been impressed with the tones I’ve heard from this thing. That said, my ear can tell some difference between a stomp box overdrive and the M13 overdrives, but the other effects (delay, modulations) are fantastic. Of course, as soon as I said I could tell the difference, a buddy of mine tweaked his to a point that sounded great and proved me wrong. So if you are on a budget, I would recommend the M13.

The best part of pedals is you have exactly what you want! You can add, remove etc…. and you get what you need! I’m assuming you are doing Lincoln-type music and maybe some Hillsong stuff. It helps to know your guitar, but we’ll just talk about the basics here and follow-up on the others. If I were leading worship with an electric guitar (as now I play lead and sing background) I would reduce my current board and probably use something like: compressor, 2 to 3 overdrives, tremolo, delay. Boom. That is all. Maybe a reverb. But thats pushing it– KISS method: Keep It Simple Sucka.

If I have to sing I don’t want to have to switch out so many effects, and I won’t be performing as much as I would be concentrating on Rhythm and staying on-key vocally! So for me, the actually pedals I would use would be: a smooth compressor (my fav: Barber Tone Press), high gain overdrive (my favs: Barber Small Fry, Fulltone OCD, Visual Sound Hyde, Hermida Audio Mosferatu) followed by 1 or 2 low gain drives (favs: Hermida Audio Zendrive, PaulC Tim, Barber LTD, Analogman Tubescreamer mod) then a tuner of your choice that mutes when you step on it, then a tremolo (preferably with tap-tempo) and a delay(with tap tempo, my favs: Line 6 Echo Park, and Boss DD20).

As for finding your “place” in the distortion/overdrive: Here is how I approach it. 1) I have 3 ODs on my board. Each is a different flavor. Each handles a different amount of gain. Boom, problem solved. I use this way sometimes. I also make sure the pedals (like the Zendrive) have a lot of headroom- where they aren’t too compressed and retain dynamics of playing. As in, hit a string soft, they are soft sounding, low gain. IF you hit the strings HARD, they ring back hard, medium gain. This also makes stacking drives (like my Small Fry INTO the Zen) sound incredibly good, smooth, and natural. 2) Lately I have been using the “classic method”. (which is what I would do if I were leading). The classic method comes from a time where no one used pedals, and only had amps for the drives. What they would do is set up their amp’s distortion with the volume on the guitar turned about halfway. Once they found that spot, their rhythm was set. Less volume would mean less drive, and a more clean sound. If they cranked the guitar’s volume, you had more gain/volume- thus a lead sound. I do this with the pedals with a lot of headroom (Zendrive, Analogman TS9 and SD1 among others…). Set to a nice rhythm with you guitar turned down. Nice light gain sounds. When I go into a heavy chorus/bridge, I only need to turn up to get harder/more gained sounds. If thats still not enough, I punch another “light” gain drive to boost it in volume and gain. Instant lead sound. I do the same thing with the high gain pedal: use it at 1/2 volume for the good crunchy stuff, more guitar volume for even heavier stuff or a lead sound, and if I need more, I boost with another low gain (this time the low gain is in the front, instead of pushing into the pedal).

But eventually you’ll find a pedal that fits almost everything. 80% of what I do (or have done) I used only an Analogman TS9 or the Zendrive (and now the Tim). The other 20% was clean (compressor usually) or heavy gained (which the TS9 and Zen couldn’t really do so well).

Good luck!

This has spurned some other thoughts from me… so look for them real soon!

Pedalboard update

Like many other gear-heads, I change my pedalboard about every 3 months. I never know why, it just happens.

For those following the blog, I really didn’t change any of the effects, or even the chain- I just made the whole thing simpler. This allowed me to fit effects that normal I just “rotate out” when I don’t need them (compressor, wah). Continue reading

Vid from Easter service

This is a taste of what the community brought forth on our Easter Sunday. Lots of different expressions of worship. This was recorded on a handheld cam, so the sound comes and goes (especially with the live music). Hope you enjoy!

Easter Service and pics

This past Sunday I literally had an 8 hour gig at church. I did my normal 3 services, and a special one.
Our community holds a Sunrise service in the city of Old San Juan. Old San Juan is surrounded by the ocean on 3 sides, and is made of the old city. We setup on top of one our 500+ years old forts (called San Cristobal). There is no feeling like a rockstar feeling than playing some loud leads, overlooking the ocean as the sun comes up— while standing on a 500 year old fort!! Continue reading