June Music Addendum

Yesterday I posted a little recap of the June Music project so far. I mentioned how the Keeley D&M Drive didn’t play nicely with the Klon KTR the way the OCD did. It just dawned on me why.

Light dawns on Marblehead, as the saying goes.

I was running the OCD at 18 watts. That’s why. The D&M runs at 9 watts. 18 watts gives more headroom. It can handle more signal before it craps all over itself. The KTR puts out a tidal wave of signal. An avalanche of signal. A city sized asteroid plowing into the Earth at a zillion miles a minute of signal.

18 watts gives enough headroom to handle the signal level. 9 watts does not. That’s also why dialing back the output level on the KTR made things sound better.

Headroom.

QED

I Don’t Have the Tools

I had a bad morning.  I was all emotional and messed up and stuff.  Two really awful night’s sleep in a row put me in a pretty screwy state of mind.  Before I fell into my personal little black hole I was talking to Jen about things we can do to keep our heads.  Seems ironic now.  I said that I need to try and give myself the illusion of control over our crummy situation and one of the ways I can do that is to try and be creative.  I’m going to keep trying to write and record terrible songs until it’s all over.  Of course I had the opportunity to work on music this morning but did I?  No.  Bad day.

March is almost over.  I want to do another 10 songs in April.  My tiny little brain wants to change the March process up (guitar straight into an amp, like some kind of neanderthal) by allowing one pedal.  My little Fuzz Face mini.  I have heard that a Fuzz Face circuit is really simple.  What, thought me, if I gave myself another project and finally built a pedal of my own?  There are companies that will sell you kits with all the parts you need and you just have to assemble it all.  I was so going to do it.  Then I realized I don’t own a soldering iron.  Or solder.  Or literally any tool required to build a circuit board.  Damn it.  I guess we’ll punt on this until after the COVID-19 gives us our lives back.

I did go looking for youtube videos showing people building fuzz pedals.  There are a couple, but nothing really like what I want to see.  Instead I found an episode of That Pedal Show from 2015.  I’ve never watched this one, but they compare a few different Fuzz Face pedals.

Let this video kill off 11-12 minutes worth of your coronavirus exile.

So That Went Well (Mostly)

I’m not going to say that last night was the best gig we’ve ever done, but after the shit show I had at the last one, this was pretty magical.

There were humongous equipment issues, one that was big enough to end the show early, and there were a few bad spots, including a full on train wreck that was thanks to yours truly, but overall I can’t remember the last time I felt this good about a show.

Greg the singer, the purpose of the show was his 50th birthday, recently bought a digital mixer that will replace my old Mackie 16 channel board.  Last night was our first crack at using it and there were problems.  He was able to get one channel working (and it sounded great) but he couldn’t get a second channel into the mix.  We’ll figure it out but we didn’t have time last night so we switched back to the old board.

The train wreck was silly.  We were covering The Cars.  The song opens with me just playing eighth notes (fifth string, seventh fret) with accents on the fourth beat.  At one point I accidentally bumped the sixth string and Kevin the drummer must have thought I skipped a beat.  He tried to compensate, I didn’t, Mike the bass player didn’t either.  Next thing we know we’re all hitting accents on different beats.  Whoops.  I just kept playing eighth notes, without accents, and Kevin counted us back in.  Problem solved.

The show stopper was a tough one.  There was nothing we could do about it.  We were about half way though the second set (we were only planning to play two) and Kevin broke his snare drum head.  He didn’t have a replacement head.  We hung on for a few songs, trying to make the best of it, but eventually we had to give in to the truth and we wrapped it up.  Kevin said he was embarrassed.  I tried to tell him to not worry about it, but I don’t think I did a good job.  Shit happens.  It was a birthday party and we weren’t getting paid.  If you’re going to break a snare drum head that was pretty much the best time and place to do it.  The downside is that we only played about 75% of our planned show.  The upside is that I was home by 12:15AM.  We’re old people.  Getting home an hour or two early was a pretty sweet deal.

So how did I do personally?  Let’s just say I haven’t been this happy about a performance in a long, long time.  At the last show I was really nervous going into it.  I don’t know if that exacerbated the problems or not, but I started out playing like dog crap and it got worse from there.  About halfway though our one set my left hand had had enough and stopped doing what I told it to.  It’s not uncommon for me to have to deal with a huge amount of cramp-like pain in my left hand (it’s ruined gigs for me in the past) but that was never really an issue.  In this case it was like my hand just went dead.  It was awful.  I thought it was nerve damage, or something horrible and unthinkable like that.  A few days later I read an interview with Little Steven Van Zandt who was joking that the members of the E Street Band are just too old to handle Bruce Springsteen’s four hour shows.  He said he gets so tired he can’t bend strings anymore.  That was exactly how I felt at the last show and it was like taking a load off my shoulders.  I am not broken, I just ran out of gas.

As for last night?  None of that.  I was fine from start to finish.  I never had any of the cramping pain (which might be arthritis) and I never had any fatigue.  By the time we were playing I wasn’t even doing any of the things that seem to hold off the pains (I think squeezing the neck kicks it off so I try to keep my hand as relaxed as I can, which then leads to me cutting back on my lame attempts at shredding) and I was getting as close to showing off as I get.  My playing wasn’t great, but it was good.  My solos were repetitive and sloppy, but they were much more enthusiastic than usual.  It was… fun.

I didn’t have any equipment problems of my own, although there was quite a bit of buzz when all of my dirt pedals were on.  My Fender Bassbreaker 18/30 made its public debut and it sounded great.  As much as I love my Fender Deluxe Reverb, there is just something about having two speakers in the cabinet that just can’t be beat.

I had the Klon KTR on all the time, to put a little hair on my clean sound.  I maybe could have dialed the gain back a smidge to be cleaner, but what I had sounded so good.  That little red pedal lives up to the hype to a level that I can’t explain.  It just sounds fantastic, and it makes everything else I use sound better.

I used the Fulltone OCD (not the new germanium one) for my dirt.  One thing I’ve always noted with the Bassbreaker is it is really toppy.  There is a lot of focus in the treble frequencies.  Is that an issue with the EL84 output tubes as opposed to the 6V6s in the Deluxe (the 30 watt channel on the Bassbreaker is based on the ’65 Deluxe Reverb)?  I don’t know.  I try to compensate for that with both the EQ on the amp itself, but also with the tone knob on the OCD and I might have over done it a little.  I was a little bassier than I normally like to be.  There were a few times when I thought about adding some high end to the OCD but I was afraid I’d mess up the good thing I had going.  My distorted tone wasn’t perfect, it never is, but it was good.  Good for me at least.

I managed to use every pedal on the board at least once.  I used the cheap-o delay for a slap back effect on one solo.  I used the cheap-o pitch shift on a different solo.  The phaser was used for one full song, the flanger was used on another song.  The uni-vibe was on for one solo.  The digital delay was set to dotted eight notes for one full song.  I’m not sure if I like how it came out.  The delay was okay on it’s own, but when I was using it for the U2 style rhythm effect it muddied everything up quite a bit.  I used the wah-wah a few times, but I didn’t over do it like I sometimes do.  Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, the little digital reverb was on for the whole show.  I found a pretty good setting that I’m happy with and it’s changing my mind on whether I like the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini.  I’m still not loving it, but it’s okay.

So in summation, Lizardfish at J Brien’s in South Lawrence was, with the exception of a broken snare drum head, a really great experience.  The band had played there a few times before I joined (I was in the crowd for one of them) but they haven’t been interested in letting us play there for years.  Greg’s birthday was the reason they let this show happen.  At the end of the night though one of the staff members said she was hoping we could do it again.  I agree, let’s do it again.  There are still three more band members’ birthdays to celebrate, right?

Now It’s Three Days

Yesterday I said I had practiced three days in a row but it was only two.  Tonight it’s three days in a row.  I didn’t play through either of the sets, I just played scales and bad blues scale riffs for 30-40 minutes or so.  I did play through an amp and I did use my pedal board.

Actually I played through two amps at once because I am crazy like that.

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If I get the chance tomorrow I’ll probably pick and chose a few songs from the set list that are a little more challenging and run through those. Tonight I poked around with some pedal settings. The analog delay is set for a slap back, the reverb has a new setting that seems to be working. I set up a decent boost level. Things like that.

Oh and I played the shit out of the ol’ blues scale.

Tetris

I haven’t plugged it in yet. Let’s hope I got the wiring correct. Fingers crossed.

149/365

I added two Donner pedals, the Harmonic Square pitch shifter, and the Yellow Fall analog delay. I also added the Wren and Cuff Tri Pi ’70 fuzz pedal because after practice last night I decided I couldn’t live without fuzz. I put it before the Klon KTR in the hopes that the Klon’s mid push would fill in the gaps from the Big Muff clone’s mid scoop. If that doesn’t cut through the mix I can add volume with the Spark booster.

Like I said, fingers crossed.

Band Practice Recap or Fuzzy Fun

The main focus of rehearsal last night was working out a set list.  Kevin came up with a rough draft.  I had one little suggestion for a change.  Greg wanted more changes but couldn’t come up with alternatives so we punted.  We ran through the list as it was with the expectation that we’ll edit it during group chats throughout the week.

I had some gear issues.  Four or five songs into the setlist I switched off my spanky new Fulltone OCD ge for a second and then switched it back on and… nothing.  Huh.  I kicked it a couple of times and it came back but started cutting in and out.  I shut it off again and left it that way.  There’s a bad cable in there somewhere.  I’ve been using the backup board at practice while I fiddle with everything on the main board at home.  I mentioned a while ago that I took the fuzz pedal off the main board, but I still have one on the backup board, a Wren and Cuff Tall Font Russian.  With the OCD off I was able to switch the Tall Font on and it was pretty stable.  Okay then, for the rest of the practice I’m using fuzz.

The volume level with the fuzz on was the same as it was with the OCD on, but as soon as the band started playing I vanished from the mix.  The Tall Font is a Big Muff clone and that’s a common issue with Big Muffs.  All of the mid range frequencies are scooped out of the fuzz pedal so there is nothing in the sound of the guitar to differentiate it from the bass guitar on the low end or the cymbals on the high end.  The work around is to just turn up the volume on the amplifier.  I turned up until I could hear myself in the mix again and all was almost well.  The problem now is how things work with the fuzz off.  If I need to play clean the guitar will cut through the mix the way it’s supposed to and the volume change will result in everyone being nuked right out of their sneakers.  The fix for that is to use the volume knob on the guitar.  It doesn’t clean up perfectly the way a Fuzz Face circuit does, but it worked well enough.  I ended up turning the neck pickup volume way down and leaving the volume up on the bridge pickup.  When I wanted clean I just switched pickups.  All problems solved.

After an hour or so we needed a bathroom break and I did some troubleshooting.  I unplugged the cable coming out of the OCD and replaced it with the cable going into the amp.  That eliminated the problem.  Did it actually fix it or did I just get lucky and putzing around put everything into a state where it wasn’t cutting out anymore?  I don’t know.  I do know I needed to turn the volume on my amp back down.  I was happy to be back to overdrive, but I was also sad to put the fuzz away again.  I do so love a nasty fuzz sound, but I’m just more into a good overdrive now.  All these options.

My playing as a whole was okay.  I felt a little weird rhythmically, as in I was rushing sometimes and dragging sometimes and just funky (not in a good way) here and there.  I was trying to keep my hands relaxed and it worked.  No finger pain, no fatigue.  My elbow started acting up again though and by the end of the night it hurt noticeably.  It actually still hurt this morning.  It’s starting to feel a little better now though.

The band sounded fine.  We were focusing on songs we haven’t played in ages so there was rust, but when we hit things that are current for us we were pretty good.  The show on Saturday is going to go well.

I have the backup board at practices but I am definitely using the main board at the gig.  When I left last night I was 100% set on using the Deluxe Reverb as my amp.  By the time I went to sleep I was starting to waffle on whether to use that amp or the Bassbreaker 18/30.  I think I’m starting to lean toward the Bassbreaker.

I need to practice, practice, practice.

Four Days and 10 hours until gig day.

Gear Inspiration

Man, youtube… every once in a while you’ll see something and it will just click for you.

I just watched an episode of That Pedal Show where they talk about delay pedals.  I have a really nice digital delay on my pedal board right now, a Wampler Faux Tape Echo, and I have been using the crap out of it.  I use it’s tap tempo switch and it’s subdivision switch and I get dotted eighth note delays and I make all sorts of groovy The Edge style rhythmic patters and it’s just so much damn fun.

It’s a great delay pedal but it doesn’t really do oscillation.  Oscillation is when the pedal feeds back on itself and makes all sorts of glorious noise.  If you mess with the delay time control it changes the pitch of the noise and makes it even gloriouser.  I have a really cheap analog delay that I am not currently using.  It’s from one of those generic, low cost, Chinese companies.  Donner, I think?  A Donner Yellow Fall?  I think that’s what it’s called.  After watching this video I am going to put it on the board too so that I can have noisy fun and still have the digital tap tempo and subdivision stuff.

In all my years of playing electric guitar I’ve almost always had a delay pedal, but I’ve never been a delay pedal guy.  Now I have all this youtube silliness to inspire me to do new and different (and yes, goofy and noisy) things.

Thanks, That Pedal Show!

 

Dirt Problems

Considering that these are the fuzz and overdrive pedals that are not on the pedal board I will bring to the gig tomorrow, and that the gig board has three fuzz pedals and two overdrive pedals…

I think I might have a dirt pedal problem.

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Hello my name is Robert and I’m a distortion-aholic.

Oh and while we’re on the topic, let’s enjoy the warm glowing warming glow of some vacuum tubes…

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