The Wonders Of The Delay Pedal

These are my delay pedals and I’m going to make them sing for you this evening.

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Delay is one of the most common effects in the arsenal of many modern guitarists.  The idea is simple:  it takes the dry input signal, makes copies of the signal, delays them in time, and puts the quieter copies on top of the original.  The result is a sort of echo that gives the signal a nice body and depth.  Although it’s so simple conceptually, the potential sounds any delay can make with the twist of a knob or two are nearly endless.  Though there’s an almost overwhelmingly diverse selection of delay pedals to choose from in any music store  or online boutique, they’re all controlled pretty much the same way.  There are three knobs or some variation thereof on every delay pedal:

  1. Output/Mix/Volume: This controls how loud the echos come out of the output.  Tweaking this knob allows you to dial in everything from a subtle reverberation echo to making it sound like there’s another player copying your notes as you play them.
  2. Delay Time: This controls how quick the pedal pumps out echos.  Tuning this down gives a slap-back effect and pushing it all the way up makes it echo like you’re playing straight into the grand canyon.
  3. Feedback/Regen(eration): This controls how loud the individual echos are as they’re fed back into themselves.  It’s loosely “how many” echos you hear every time you play a single note and how loud the echos are in relation to each other.  At the lowest setting, this gives one echo and makes the others almost entirely inaudible.  How it behaves at the highest setting depends heavily on the specific pedal, but I’ll get to that later.

The above controls are described pretty intuitively by this neat block diagram courtesy of Wikipedia:

Delay-line_block_diagram

 There are two kinds of delay on the market today:  analog and digital and while each has their own particular sound and operational characteristics, the differences are subtle and they serve essentially the same purpose.

Analog:

Aptly named, the analog delay is made of exclusively analog components.  Analog components in audio devices are characteristically warmer and more natural sounding since they essentially let the original signal pass through without effecting its quality.  This is as opposed to digital components, which take the signal, sample it, assign discrete values to the samples and then process the signal as a series of samples.  This makes the signal seem pretty much the same, but if you squint really hard, you can see the signal gets all jagged and blocky after all the processing.  Digital devices often sound more “sterile” than analog but often also produce cleaner outputs with less noise.  In addition, there are many things that digital components can do that analog can’t, so many digital effects have a wider range of potential applications.  Despite all of this, many players and nerds such as myself swear by analog even in this modern age of digital everything.  Many in the gear world agree that the pinnacle of modern analog delay technology delay is the MXR Carbon Copy, pictured on the left of the photo at the beginning of this post.  If you crack it open and analyze its insides, it will look something like this:

MXR Analog Delay 1

Click if you’re interested. Don’t worry if you aren’t.

Simple, isn’t it?  Even if this is nothing to you but a mass of scary looking lines and blocks, how it looks isn’t important.  How it sounds is much more interesting:

That is how a typical delay pedal sounds with mix at 12:00 and the regen and delay around 10:30 (knobs on pedals are often described as if they were hands on a clock, most knobs range from 7:00 on the low end to 5:00 when cranked all the way).  This echo is nothing fancy, but it adds a significant amount of presence to the signal.  It draws attention to itself in the mix and can give the illusion of sounding louder when the signal is at the same volume.  You can easily dial in a funky slap-back echo by turning the regen down to 7:00 and the delay down to about 9:00:

The slap-back makes an interesting out of phase sound, like your notes are hitting a puddle and splashing water up at you.  You can even harmonize with yourself by setting regen to 12:00, the delay to 10:00, and pushing the mix to 3:00:

This final feature is what sold me on this particular pedal:  you can make it explode.  No, really.  Listen:

Figuratively, of course.  This monstrosity was made by pushing the regen all the way up and turning the delay time all the way down.  This is unique to analog delays due to how their feedback controls can be designed.  When the regen knob is perfectly set to 12:00, the echos are made to be exactly as loud as the signal that made them was.  This leaves a whole half of the knobs range usually unexplored.  With regen past 12:00 noon, you actually get a positive feedback loop with this pedal.  This just means that the echos are actually louder than the input signal itself, and each subsequent echo is louder than the last since it keeps feeding boosted signals back into itself.  Positive feedback is the same concept behind the ear piercing squeal you get if you hold a microphone too close to the speaker that it’s playing out of.  If done improperly, an effect like this can be dangerous to both equipment and ears, but I have years of experience making strange noises with electronics.  In the recording, I can be heard playing with the regen and delay knobs to control this beast.  Decreasing the regen brings the feedback loop back to reality and stops the vicious cycle while increasing the delay time makes it so that fewer repeats per second fly through the feedback loop, all of which allows me to control how wild the signal gets.  There’s also a cool pitch bending effect to the echos as I move the delay knob back and forth.

Digital:

As described above, the Boss PS2 Digital Pitch Shifter/Delay works on the same principle but in a different way.  Note that even though it does have pitch shifting capabilities, I am using only the digital delay part of this pedal in the recordings:

The differences are subtle, but noticeable to those with discerning ears.  The echos sound more “perfect”, but at the same time also sound thinner and less warm the the analog delay.  One of the big advantages of digital delay though, is that there is a much wider range of possible delay times.  Here’s the digital delay at it’s longest delay time setting:

Things really start to get interesting with you play with the two of them together:

The beginning is a side to side comparison of the analog and digital delays.  The first delay you hear is the analog which is fed into the digital delay.  When each plays individually, it’s pretty easy to hear the differences in quality.  The delay times are set so that the digital delay is repeating at a quarter note pulse and while the analog echos at a quarter note triplet pulse to the digital delay.  This creates a cool rhythmic pattern by playing a single note and adds an interesting set of layers to the passage.

Delay is definitely one of favorite effects as it imparts so much atmosphere and depth to the sound.  Though analog and digital both have their respective uses in different situations, I almost always prefer analog when I’m not using both together.  The natural warmth of analog cannot be beat by the cold, lifeless sound of digital to me.  I’ve always found having a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the equipment I’m using opens up a lot of possibilities for using these devices creatively and effectively and I hope I’ve granted some deeper insight into the wonderful world of delay here this evening.

The Gear Nerd

Nerd’s Guide To Restringing Your Guitar

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This is my Agile Septor Pro 727 and it’s long overdue for a new set of strings.  I’ve been playing for the better part of a decade so needless to say, I’ve done this before.  But have you?  Learning to restring your guitar yourself can save you tons of time and money considering the only other real option for getting new strings is to bring it in to a technician at your local music store who, while he or she may be a great guy or girl (they often are), will charge you an arm and a leg and make you wait all week  for a service you could do you yourself for only the cost of strings.  Being able to pull off a successful restringing is one of the most important tools any guitar nerd’s DIY skill set.  My goal here is to help you through the process step by step and share all the advice I can to make it the easiest, quickest and, most importantly, least painful process it can be.

What You’re Going To Need:

pic2The short answer is:  not much, aside from the obvious.  You’ll need a guitar that you need to or would otherwise like to put new strings on.  And you’ll need a new set of strings.  For this restringing, I’m using Ernie Ball Power Slinky 11 gauge strings and also pictured are a set of small pliers and some wire-cutters.  Even though I’m demonstrating the restringing process of a guitar with 7 strings, the actual act of taking the strings off and putting new strings on is completely identical to a 6 string guitar, there’s just another string to do.  You’re also going to need a “workbench” to “work” on, but you’ll see I’ve used a temporarily re-purposed coffee table, so you should just work with whatever you have here.  7$, 45 minutes/1 hour, and a little know-how are all you need to save yourself $45, a trip to the music store, and having to leave your precious guitar in the hands of a stranger until next Tuesday.  It’s worth it.

Step 1:  Remove The Old Strings

The logical starting point.  Luckily, nature aided me on this one by snapping my D string a while ago.  Lay everything you’re going to need on your workbench:

pic3

Like a patient etherised upon a table

The first order of business is to loosen the strings up a bit.  This is mostly a safety issue since the A string of the average guitar is under almost 20 lbs of pressure that’s just waiting to explode, lash out, and swing its needle-like point to lacerate your face if you clip the string in its current state (this has happened to me and it hurts).  Just twist the tuning pegs of each string to loosen the strings until they slack like shown:

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Use your judgement.  You don’t need the strings to be falling out of their saddles since that would take a really long time, but you also want to be confident they won’t try to attack you when you clip them.  Speaking of clipping, the easiest way is with the wire-cutters  you hopefully gathered earlier.  Don’t have wire-cutters?  Then you’re in for a long afternoon of unwinding, since that’s the only other safe way of removing guitar strings I could recommend to the general public in good conscious.

Next is removing the strings themselves for good.  If you cut the strings, you’re going to have string parts sticking out at two places:  by the bridge and by the headstock.  Since this guitar has a Tune-O-Matic bridge and string-thru body, the bridge string parts will be sticking out of the underside of the guitar like so (I’ve only clipped the bottom 3 strings here, so far):

pic5Note that for many bridges that are composed of two separate pieces like the Tune-O-Matic on this guitar (the two pieces here are the black bar-looking thing on the topside and the body itself, but many ‘Matics have a metal piece on the topside as well to hold the golden string knobs you can see in the photo above), with no strings to hold the saddle piece in place, it can and will fall off of the guitar since it’s usually only anchored in place by the tension in the strings.  Try to keep the guitar upright when there aren’t any stings on it, but if it does fall off, don’t panic.  These pieces almost always have little tuning screws for adjusting the placement of the strings’ saddles and these screws always face AWAY from the headstock.  Just place the piece back through the holes the right way and move along.

Though only this Tune-O-Matic bridge is shown, many other types of bridges work almost exactly the same way, such as other Tune-O-Matics and the hardtail bridge pieces that are on Fenders and many Ibanezes.  There are many types of bridges that seem very complicated like Bigsby hardware and Floyd Rose/Kahler locking trem systems, but the idea is essentially the same with slightly different hardware specifics.  For detailed help with other types and constructions, youtube has a rich selection of DIY instructional videos on the subject.

Turn your attention now to the headstock:

pic6This is where having a small set of pliers helps, though if you don’t have any you can always use your hands.  The best way to remove the string from its twisting cocoon around the tuning peg is to grab the string with the pliers by the long part near the  tuning peg (near where my fingers are in the photo, for example) and twist the string loose until you can see where it goes through the hole of the peg.  Take the wire cutter here and cut the string so that all the scraggle past the tuning peg is gone, which after should look like this:

pic7Simply remove the string and dispose of all the assorted pieces (there should be 3 if you did it like I did: The short piece from the bridge with the knob on the end, the long piece that came out of the tuning peg, and the short, twisty piece that was snipped off the headstock) in a safe place where it won’t hurt you or others and your pets can’t try to eat the string pieces (again, this has happened to me; this is not a pleasant experience so try to avoid it).  I usually dispose in a solid trash can (not a mesh can, those can hurt when the strings poke out) by folding the long parts loosely in half and making sure they’re settled  and not ready to take a swing at you on top of the garbage pile.

Repeat the process 6 or 7 (or 8 or 9 or 10 or 12 to 15, depending on how many strings you play) times and you will have a stringless guitar that looks like this:

pic8

This is the perfect opportunity to do some routine maintenance.  You can adjust the truss rod in the neck if it looks warped, you can tighten any screws that may have come loose, you can look at the electronics on the backside and anything else you can think of.  All I did was adjust the intonation on the top three strings a little by tightening the screws on their bridge saddles with a glasses repair kit screwdriver (these screws are tiny, you have to love a good multitasker), adjusted the pickup height a little and lowered the playing action (i.e. how close the strings are to the fretboard) a little bit and dusted the whole guitar off with a microfiber cloth (the one in my glasses case, love multitaskers).

Step 2:  Putting New Strings On

This should be the hard part by all means, but don’t panic as this is rendered easy by a little organization.  When you open your pack of strings, each individual string comes in its own paper pouch (you can see these pouches in the first picture of Step 1 laid out near the top of the table) that are numbered by thickness.  This number actually refers to the string’s gauge and the higher the number on the pouch, the thicker the string.  As you probably know from having touched a guitar before (or at least taking the previous strings off), the strings go in descending order of thickness from left to right, as shown when looking from the bridge to the headstock like in the picture.  I like to put the strings in from thickest to thinnest, but which order you do it in matters much less than having an order in the first place.  Starting with the lowest string as I did, putting the string in is essentially the same steps as taking it out in the reverse order.

First, take the end of the newly opened string by the end that does not have the golden knob and thread it through the body or whatever piece you took the knob out of when you removed the string.  Slinkys like I’m using have the golden knob typically, but D’Addario strings are color coded by string gauge.  All that matters here is that you take the end without the knob in first, or you won’t be able to fit the string in anywhere.  Pictured:

pic9Thread the string all the way through the body and then take the string and make sure it is settled into the notch in its bridge saddle as shown:

pic10Take care to make sure the string stays in its own specific bridge saddles and not any of the others as things shift and pull in the following steps.  The easiest way to do this is to pull the string taut by the far side of the unknobbed end and fit the end of the string into the notch in the nut by the base of the headstock.  Thread the string through the eye-hole in the tuning peg and pull tight with the pliers, all the while making sure that the string is in its proper saddles and notches, demonstrated below:

pic11

Fun Fact: this is hard to do with a camera in your hand.

Step 3: Twisting & Tightening

This part can, again, be complicated and scary if you don’t go in with a plan.  There are two main things you have to do at the same time at this stage:  continuously pull the string tight, making sure nothing slips or shifts too hard and turn the tuning peg to tighten the string more permanently.  Keeping the string taut is easy and I prefer to do this with my right hand while I turn with my left.  When you start turning, you have to pick a direction.  This decision is entirely arbitrary and should be decided solely based on what is most comfortable for you, the owner of the guitar.  It’s almost always best to pick the same tuning convention and keep it consistent between each string, but again, whatever works best for you.  Since my guitar has a reverse headstock, I chose to have my strings tighten with an outward turn of my left wrist when sitting with the guitar on my lap, as I always do.  Keep the string tight as you turn the knob in the beginning, but when the peg has made anywhere between a quarter and a half turn (between 90 degrees and 180 degrees, respectively), it should be safe to let go of the string with the pliers, as it will more or less be locked into place from here on out, shown below:

pic12From here, continue turning the knob, but use a tuner to make sure you do not tighten the string past the note you intend to have the string sit at for good.  Going past this stage will stretch out the string and make it not last as long and sound worse in the long run as well as giving the string a chance to slip through the peg’s hole as you tighten.  There is almost going to be a bit of string slipping as things get tightened and start to set, but too much string slipping can make the string snap out from the tuning peg which is a bad thing.  You can tell a string is slipping when, as you’re tightening it, you feel the string get significantly looser and drop in pitch substantially.  This is usually nothing to worry about as I said before, but can be mostly avoided by being patient with tightening and giving the strings a bit of time to set into their places.  Once you get the string up to pitch, you can leave it alone for the time being and clip the extra length of string that will be hanging out of the tuning peg past the winding (or you can leave it, it’s almost entirely a matter of aesthetics).  With the first string in, there’s nothing to do but repeat the process as many times as strings you have.  I took a picture after 4 strings below:

pic3Step 4: Finish & Enjoy

The finished product will look something like this:

pic14Ahhh, that’s better.  Notice the brilliant, clean luster on the new strings.  With every string in place, take the time to go back and tune each string up to pitch again, as with all the radical changes in total neck tension, things are bound to move around and settle a bit.  And that is it.  Brand new strings feel fantastic on your fingers, give your sound a wonderful sparkle, and it may be the most satisfying thing you can do to your guitar for $7 in half an hour, if you’re as experienced as I am.

Learning to restring your guitar is a fun, easy, and quick way to save time and money and get more familiar with your guitar.  It’s a great first step into the world of DIY guitar maintenance and I hope I’ve inspired you to not be afraid to get down and dirty with your gear.

The Gear Nerd

Flashbacks to NAMM: 2013

NAMM:

OpenWinterNAMM2013Logo

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show is the country’s largest music product convention and trade show and it happened last week.  Naturally, this particular nerd has been eagerly following all of the coverage of the behind-closed-doors event I could find.  Traditionally held near the end of January (the 24th to the 27th this year) at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, NAMM is any gear nerd’s four day long Christmas.   Since the event is, as I mentioned before, closed to the public, I’ve had to rely mostly on the fantastic coverage of Guitar World to keep me up to date on all the latest news to drool over.  Though many really interesting new guitars, amps, and effects were announced last week, sadly this is all I have accurate and detailed coverage of so there won’t be any software, synth, or drum talk in this post.  That being said, I have a highlight reel of the coolest guitar gear courtesy of Guitar World:

John Petrucci Music Man Signature JP13 Guitar:

JP13

Though I’m not a huge Dream Theater/Petrucci fan myself, the influence he has on the guitar playing world is undeniable.  Being the master of shread he is, it’s only appropriate that he has a line of shread-tastic signature guitars to match.  His guitars are more of a legacy than just a line, the “13” in JP13 reminding us that this is his 13th signature guitar with Music Man Guitars.  As shown in the video, this guitar is born to play heavy and technical.  The preamp in the guitar itself is not something you see often, but it’ll really go a long way to making this guitar sound unique.  The preamp does what it says, basically.  It takes the signal before it leaves the guitar to go to the amp and it amplifies it a bit.  This makes the almost raw guitar signal sound huge and gives the signal a lot of room to breathe, tonally.  The boost takes the preamp signal and kicks it into overdrive (literally) by amplifying it far beyond the amplitude limitations of the electronics.  This distorts the signal and gives a raw, crunchy tone all before ever even leaving the guitar at all.  The pickups help this out by being high output with a lot of mid-range crunch and a tight low-end response, all hallmarks of DiMarzio’s Crunchlab and Liquifier series of high gain designed pickups.  The final touches are on the neck, which has a softer fretboard made of rosewood (as opposed to the rock-like feel of the ebony previously used) and a slightly rounder neck from a smaller radius.  This configuration makes it easier on the fingers and more comfortable in the left hand, which can now comfortably cradle the 17″ radius neck.  Overall, a very interesting product, as one quickly comes to expect from Petrucci.  I look forward to hearing some more samples from both the 6 and 7 string versions.

Electro-Harmonix H.O.G.2 Harmonic Octave Generator/Polyphonic Synthesizer:

HOG2_set

I want this.  Never have I pined after a piece of gear as much as I did the original H.O.G. EHX released years ago.  It had the perfect combination of ambiance, usefulness, and downright wackiness all for the low, low price of $465!  Which is why I never got one of my own.  Now EHX is back with the H.O.G.2 and it’s about time, since the original was starting to show it’s age.  The main issues holding the original H.O.G. back were the external foot controller (which was expensive, cumbersome, and infuriatingly essential to the operation of the H.O.G., despite being almost impossible to use effectively itself) and the fact that it did not run on the industry standard 9V DC center negative power supply.  This was a huge hassle for anyone insane enough to try and lug this massive piece of machinery around, as you needed to also lug around it’s dedicated power source that didn’t work with a pedal power supply.  These problems are fixed for good and they’ve added an incredible array of new sounds and effects to play with as well.  The harmonic octave generator takes the signal and speeds it up or slows it down, changing the frequency (doubling the frequency increases the pitch one octave while having the frequency brings it down one octave) and overlays the wet octave on the dry signal, with sliders to control how loud the wet and dry sounds are.  With an array of octaves at one’s fingertips, there are a simply ridiculous number of possible tones to create and the polyphonic synthesizer can take these sounds and add many other interesting effects to the signal.  But at a cool $634.94 list price, I think I’ll probably be admiring this H.O.G. form afar as well.

DiMarzio Ionizer 8 Pickups & Ibanez Tosin Abasi Signature 8 String Guitar:

tosin neck

This was the apex of the conference for me.  There is no more creative and innovative guitarist in music today than Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders and he’s designed the guitar and the pickups to prove it.  His playing style incorporates a hefty amount of finger picking, quick thumb slapping, and intricate two hand tapping techniques and this monster of an 8 string guitar is built to bring out the best in this unconventional playing style.  8 string guitars typically have two low strings that are at the standard perfect 4th interval down from the low E string on a regular 6 string guitar, making the strings (low to high) F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E.  This extended range adds an entire new dimension to playing, allowing for tons of interesting new chords and voicings to be played with the extra strings.  Tosin tunes his lowest string down one full step (E-B-E-A-D-G-B-E) so he can play power low power chords with one finger on the lowest three strings with ease.

The pickups are very unique in their approach to the 8 string guitar.  Most people playing 8 strings these days are only concerned with high gain, heavy metal face-melting tones while the pickups Tosin designed are built for openness, clarity, and articulation.  Both the neck and bridge pickups are low-output, which means that the signal they pick up from the vibrating metal strings is smaller and less compressed, letting it have a huge amount of room for dynamic articulation and individual note clarity.  The neck pickup has a very tight and clear low-end response which is very important when dealing with an 8 string guitar and the bridge pickup has more of a treble-y twang.  This increased clarity and articulation lends itself very nicely to his very intricate, almost percussive playing style, as all the little nuances of his popping and tapping get picked up by the pickups.  The single coil pickup in the middle can act as a standalone pickup or, more interestingly, can be used with the coil tap switch on the guitar to mix with the other coils in the neck and bridge pickups’ coils for an even wider range of possible sounds.  The only gripe I have with the pickups is that it sounds a little scratchy and thin when played at a very high gain setting.  They definitely don’t capture the warmth and fullness of higher output pickups that you come to expect from extended range instruments like this.

The guitar itself is absolutely gorgeous and very unique in construction as well.  The neck is made of a very hard, reinforced material that was apparently based off of materials used in bass guitars in order to capture the low end warmth and boom that Tosin wanted for his guitar.  The hard, dense material gives the fretted notes a snappy attack and helps to make two handed tapping passages more articulate and might also give the guitar an interesting balance when wearing it on a strap, since the neck is so heavy and the body is made of such a light and airy material that is good for playing live.  The swamp ash body is another means by which to let the notes breathe and be heard individually with unprecedented clarity.  Although the guitar is almost undoubtedly going to be ludicrously expensive, I’ll still be waiting with bated breath for my local guitar shop to stock one so I can try it out myself.

That was the best of NAMM 2013 I could find and I can’t wait until this gear hits the stores.

The Gear Nerd

I Am The Nerd & This Is My Gear

The Nerd:

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I am Noah Schmitt and as you may be able to tell, I am a tremendous gear nerd.  I’ve been playing guitar for the better part of a decade and I’ve been buying, using, collecting, modifying, and swapping guitars, amps, pedals, microphone, software, and every other kind of device one can use to make music for nearly as long.  I’ve taken my passion for musical electronics and done what any insane person would do:  go to school to study them.  As a third year electrical engineering student, I’ve learned more than my fair share of the theory behind these devices and through my experience and knowledge, I hope to give meaning to this extremely interesting often overlooked aspect of music.

I intend to touch upon many of the aspects of musical electronics that interest me including news on big companies and products in the industry, how different devices and materials affect sound, software insights, production techniques, modification projects, and (most importantly) gear reviews.  Being the lover of gear that I am, I constantly have exciting new pieces to play with and I’d like nothing more than to share my thoughts on them as both an engineer and a musician.  I’ll also try to make homemade sound samples to give some real-world resonance to illustrate what I’m typing about here when I can.  None of my ranting and raving means much if I you can’t hear what I’m trying to say.

The Gear:

It doesn’t seem like there could be a better place to start than with my own personal collection at my disposal here in my apartment.  Some combination of gear on this list is what you’ll likely be hearing in any demonstration sample and the list is in sequence from the player on outward.

  • My main guitar (at the moment) is a bright orange Gretsch 6120-60.  It has a fully hollow maple body which makes the instrument sound huge and earthy and gives the guitar’s signal a little natural reverberation effect which gives the listener the illusion of listening to me play in a very large, echo-y room like a concert hall.  It’s currently outfitted with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece which offers an interesting tonal dimension to playing by allowing me to bend the pitch by moving a metal bar in my right hand. There’s a Stark tuner clipped onto the headstock and I use exclusively Ernie Ball Slinky Hybrid gauge strings and Dunlop Medium (yellows) picks.16478_Gretsch_Used_6120-60_99512060-1959_e
  • The raw guitar signal is then fed into my pedal board.  Each pedal has a very specific function and the order they’re put in has a major impact on the resulting quality of the signal.  From the front of the train to the back:

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  1. Boss CS-3 Compression/Sustainer:  This takes the raw guitar signal and “squeezes” it making soft notes louder and loud notes softer.  This gives the signal a more consistent volume and is helpful for making intricate passages of notes to be better heard.
  2. Boss PS-5 Super Shifter:  This takes the “dry” signal from the compressor and mixes it with a “wet” signal that changes the pitch in several interesting ways.  My favorites are flutter, which oscillates the pitch up and down by a small increment creating a fluttering sound, detune, which mixes the dry signal with a slightly pitch shifted version of the same dry signal giving the tone a very psychedelic color that sounds like multiple instruments playing at once, and the smart harmonist which takes the dry signal and harmonizes with the notes played according to a specified key and interval.
  3. Boss GE-7 Equalizer: This uses electronic filter circuits to boost or cut certain 7 specified frequencies in the signal.  This allows for almost limitless possibilities for customization of the harmonic content of the signal.  High frequencies give the signal a crisp sparkle sound, mid-range frequencies are harsh and gritty, and low frequencies give muddiness and “boom” to the low end.
  4. Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET Overdrive:  Overdrive (sometimes called distortion, though there are definite differences between the two) is the most common effect applied to guitar signals.  In general, they give warmth, grit, and a colorful harshness to the tone by amplifying and “clipping” the signal often with transistors and diodes.  This particular pedal is very smooth and warm sounding and the MOSFET based design gives the tone a nice mid-range frequency sound.
  5. Fulltone Supa-Trem Tremolo: Tremolo is an effect where the volume of the signal is oscillated up and down and causes a fluttering effect that is very distinct from the flutter produced by the pitch shifter.  This can do anything from a classic Fender amp trem sound to making your signal sound like it’s being pushed through a helicopter’s blade.
  6. ZVex Mastotron Fuzz: Fuzz is a special kind of distortion that essentially obliterates the signal as you thought you knew it and replaces it with a very harsh, heavily compressed, and grating sound.  This particular fuzz is exceptionally noisy and glitchy sounding.  It has a control knob to limit the width of the waveform of the notes coming from the guitar which gives it an interesting disjointed sort of feel as well as acting as a built in noise gate.
  7. MXR Carbon Copy Delay: The delay pedal takes the dry signal and overlays progressively more delayed and hushed copies of the same signal over it.  This produces a familiar echo effect that’s commonly heard on guitars everywhere.  The Carbon Copy is an analog delay, so it has a warm tone and the echo is almost imperfect sounding.  Analog delays can also do some nifty things like start a positive feedback loop through itself where it actually sends louder copies of the dry signal back through itself which gets very loud and chaotic and can dangerous to both speakers and ears, but nonetheless a very cool effect when used properly.
  8. Boss PS-2 Digital Pitch Shifter/Delay:  Finally, this is an old gem I found used in the local music store.  It’s a very old discontinued pedal that, as it claims to, combines the functions of a delay and a pitch shifter.  This can make some strange, yet very cool sounding noises as you vary the speed of the delay and the amount of pitch shifting simultaneously.  This delay is digital, so it is capable of longer delay times and has a stronger, more sterile sounding reproduction of the dry signal.  Using both delays at the same time can make some really cool syncopated rhythms come through by hitting just a single note.

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  • After all that, the signal is usually twisted and contorted and mangled beyond recognition of what it used to be. So at this point, there’s nowhere to go but amplification.  In my tiny apartment at school, I use an absolutely adorable Vox DA10 10 Watt solid state amplifier with two 6.5″ 8 Ohm speakers.  This is not ideal, but over the years, I’ve learned how to utilize this versatile little guy to it’s fullest.  Being a digital modeling amp, what it lacks in warmth and depth of tone, it makes up for in sheer breadth of distinct and useful tones available from unboosted clean to gritty blues twang to full-bore ultra high gain death metal tones.

And this is what you hear.  Simple, right?  I record through an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface direct line-in and edit everything in Cakewalk Sonor Home Edition (and Avid Pro Tools SE on occasion).  All drums are programmed in Propellerhead Reason 4 using the Redrum drum machine and  the drum tracks themselves are composed and transcribed in the midi editor TabIt and subsequently imported into Reason.  I also play an Agile Septor Pro 727 that is currently missing a string, so it doesn’t see much use and a Rogue Baritone Ukulele that I love dearly and might write about in the future. 

This is who I am and this is what I play and I hope you can see at least a little bit why.

May your amps forever go to 11,

The Gear Nerd