One of my favorite things is the sound of brand new strings. Unfortunately one of my least favorite things to do is change my strings.
There are a few signs that will tell me it’s time to get those wire clippers and string winders out.
The best thing to do is to keep your strings clean and use your ears as well as keeping an eye out for the obvious signs of wear.
As the saying goes, timing is everything. This is especially true when playing a musical instrument.
There are many benefits to using a metronome.
One of my favorite tricks with a metronome is to set it up so the click is on the 2 and 4 of a measure like a snare drum. This can be challenging and will really help you find the groove.
I think that you will find that using a metronome is a fast way to improve your timing and feel which will really help you become a better player.
Well, because if one is good two must be twice as good! Actually, we can do even better than that by stacking overdrives and distortions.
When using two distortion pedals on my pedal board I usually set up one as a low gain sound and the other as a medium gain sound. I can then combine the two for more gain.
A couple of things to remember.
There really is no right or wrong way to stack Distortion or Overdrive pedal so use your imagination!
The Compressor Pedal is one of the most misunderstood pedals out there. There are many ways to use a compressor effectively. I use mine as an always on device that makes my sound really come alive.
A compressor will help even out your sound by bringing out the soft parts and bringing down the loud parts. This will help with clean sustain by bringing up the level as you notes start to fade. You will get a more consistent sound using a compressor this way.
You can use the compressor as more of an effect by turning up the compression level to get more of a “squished” sound. This is great for Chicken Pickin’ country guitar as well as for Funk gitar parts.
You also can use the Compressor for a volume boost by turning up the volume control and turning it on when you need a little more volume.
The Compressor can be a very subtle effect, one of those effects that you don’t notice until it’s not there.
As a beginning player you can find out very quickly one of the most important things is one of the hardest things to do. Tuning your instrument! When I first started I had a pitch pipe. The biggest problem with that is that as a beginner our ears aren’t usually developed enough to match the pitch. As I got a little older electronic tuners started to become more affordable but I still paid over $100.00 for a very basic tuner. Today you can get a much more accurate and flexible tuner for a fraction of the price.
Here are some types of tuners and their advantages:
The Clip on Tuner
I love these things! I keep one in every room that I play in as well as my guitar case. The low cost and ease of use make these a favorite of mine. Just clip it on the head stock of your guitar, turn it on and go. (Pictured is the Tune Tech TT-5)
The Pedal Tuner
Some people find the pedal tuner is a must especially if they are using other effects. It is can just go into your pedal chain on your pedalboard. One big advantage is that when turning it on you can mute your sound. Most of these types of tuners have a bright display which is very useful on a dark stage. (Pictured is the Modtone Pedal Tuner MT-PT1)
Built in Tuner
Some acoustic instruments have built in tuners. This type of tuner is great if you aren’t using any pedals. It is built into your instrument so it is always there!
(Pictured on the left is the built in tuner for the Eddy Finn EF-9-CE. Pictured on the right is the built in Tuner in the Morgan Monroe Music Row series MGV-100E)
What is the best type of tuner?
To me it really depends on the application. If I’m sitting at home you can bet I have a clip on tuner on my headstock and if I’m out playing with a band I have a pedal tuner on my board.
Let us know what your favorite tuner is!
We all love the intimacy and ease of playing our acoustic guitar but sooner or later if you want to gig or play with a group of people you are going to need to plug that guitar in.
Most of us start off by plugging straight into the P.A. System. This is a great option but there are 2 things to consider.
Is my signal hot enough for the board, and how do I go from the high impedance out of my guitar to the low impedance input that most PA systems require? A direct box will get us from the guitar to the PA. ,but there are many options; my favorite is an Acoustic Guitar Preamp pedal.
Here are some advantages of using an Acoustic Preamp Pedal.
How to choose?
When we start to play guitar plugging straight into the amp is great but most discover quickly that there are so many sounds out there that can be added with a effects pedal, but where to start? I want to talk about some of the basic effects groups.
Distortion / Overdrive
This is usually the first type of pedal new guitarists try. My first pedal was an old Fuzz Face.
There are so many flavors out there. Overdrives typically are more subtle sounding than distortion pedals. They are designed to give you the sound of a tube amp pushed too hard. Overdrives are great for Blues, Country and many Classic rock sounds.
Distortions will kick things up a notch, giving you more gain and many times a much “harder” sound. The Distortion pedal is great for Hard Rock and Metal.
Delay is an echo effect which is to say it automatically repeats the note that you have just played. Most delay pedals have at least 2 controls, Time and Repeats. The time control determines the length of time between the repeats and the Repeat control will adjust how many times the note repeats. There are many ways you can use the delay from a subtle doubling sound by setting the time to a quick setting and the repeats all the way off to wild and crazy effects with a long delay time and more repeats. The Edge from U2 is a mast of the delay, just listen to “Where the Streets Have No Name”.
A Chorus pedal is a great way to fatten up your sound. The Chorus Effect will work with both clean and distorted sounds. My favorite sound is a clean tone with chorus. The Chorus can provide a lush sound by first doubling the sound like and echo and then detuning the signal. You can almost sound like 2 guitars!
Hopefully this will give you a good start in deciding what type of sounds you are looking for. The most important things are to experiment and most of all have Fun!
I’m a bit of pedal head truth be told. And while I am completely void of creativity, (I do write originals), I love playing cover tunes. I have a lot of fun trying different pedals with different guitars and pickups and matching tones to the recordings I hear.
I own several Iconic guitars with the all the classic pick up configurations. I love the sound of a PAF humbucker, the spanky bark of P-90, the crisp twang of single coils. And, just because I can and want to, I get a kick out of selecting the exact guitar a particular song was recorded with (when possible), finding the exact pickup and tone settings that the original artist used, and trying to coax the exact tone from my 20 watt tube amp with the help of my beloved foot pedals.
How big is my pedal board? Too big to be practical for sure! But I never move it so I don’t care. I have my scaled down 5-favorite pedal board for road gigs but at home in my tone cave? Different deal!
You have probably heard the saying “it’s all in the hands”. This is the claim that certain artists will always sound like themselves regardless of the equipment used because it is “all in the hands”. I can only say that I sound more like Stevie Ray Vaughn using a Tube Screamer, or more like David Gilmour with a vibe pedal and other stompboxes akin to the ones he used.
Here are a few favorite Tones and hopefully you will share some of yours!
Time / David Gilmour- Pink Floyd :
American Standard Strat, Neck pickup, Vox AC-15 amp, Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe, ModTone MT-CR Compressor, ModTone MT-BD Bohemian Drive, MXR Carbon Copy Delay.
Samba Pa Ti / Carlos Santana:
Fender Custom Shop Strat, Neck Pickup, guitar tone controls rolled off complete, Fender Blues amp, MXR Dyna Comp Compressor, Modtone MT-DO Dallas Over Drive, ModTone MT-VD Vintage Delay.
All Right Now / Free:
Gibson Les Paul Standard, PAF Humbucker bridge pick up, Modtone MT-Duo Dual Over Drive, Modtone MT-VD Vintage Delay, ModTone MT-CRV Reverb
If you have tips to get specific tones please share them here so all can benefit!
The late Steve Jobs had a famous phrase “Content is King.” , and while no one can disagree to that, as I was putting together my gig set the other night, it dawned on me: “How useful would this content be if I didn’t have it organized at all. Now by no means am I some crazy IBM database scientist, but I do want to share with you my system, and maybe after you’ve read, I can get some tips from you about yours.
So back to Jobs, er apple…. In my ITunes app I have a Playlist called “Band”, this where I keep the music file to every song I can ever remember playing with any band. In almost all cases I have a matching Backtrack file, often in the standard key and also a ½ step down version. When I click on the song file I get a lyrics tab, and you guessed it, I have a copy of the words and chord chart to those songs which are attached to the file. Now whenever I have to brush up on songs for a particular project, there is nothing to search for because everything is organized in one place. That library is forever growing.
I also use separate sub Lists that are specific to certain tasks. For instance, I have a friend named Al that always plays with the same guys and every once in a while I will have need of them or they of me, so I keep a list called “Al Band”. This list has every song I have ever played with them, usually they are going to ask for songs from this list so I am always ready, and if they hit me with a new tune I just add it to the list. Other example lists that compartmentalize my songs are “Country Band” “Jam Tracks” and a file for my current project called “My Band”. Because I have the original song and a back track minus lead guitar (my instrument) and Vocals (if I’m singing) for every song on my bands list, I can open the folder and run down the list and rehearse with my virtual band while preparing for my real one. Whenever I need the lyrics or chord charts for myself or other members, I print them right out of my playlist. In this way I find that I spend my time practicing instead of searching, surfing, clicking etc.
First: What is a direct box and why is it used:
A direct box or (DI) is used when you need to send an unbalanced signal; most commonly bass, electric acoustic guitars or keyboards direct to your mixing board. Typically these instruments have unbalanced ¼” outputs. On a typical stage the Drums and guitar amps will use microphones to carry their sound to the front of the house mix while the aforementioned instruments will most likely run direct to the mixer. Without a DI you would be running hi impedance instrument cables to the mixer and that can present problems. Of these problems these three are the most common:
#1. These unbalanced cables can pick up unwanted noise and inference, also the longer the cable run, the more likely this becomes. A good direct box eliminates the “hum” or noise by balancing the signal.
#2 . Because a Di takes a ¼” unbalanced cable (and signal) and it converts it to a balanced signal via 3-pin connector Microphone cable and carries your signal to the mixer, you should use a DI if your cable is longer than 20 feet; the low-z balanced mic cable will carry your signal extremely far without degradation.
#3. Most DI’S offer pad and loop features –the pad feature helps make sure you sound isn’t distorting because it’s too loud before it ever even gets plugged in to the mixer (not all mixers start at the same volume) , and the loop helps you monitor yourself directly on stage or duplicate the signal for things like recording, or amplifying in yet another location!
So, in short most direct boxes allow you to: Avoid unwanted noise, send a nice strong signal far away, avoid that signal clipping when it gets there, and duplicate that signal so that it can be in two places at once! They are a tool every musician should have in their gig survival kit.
See the Modtone
See the Radial