Friday, April 25, 2014

Overdrives and Everyday Magic

Overdrives and Everyday Magic

I love dirt pedals.  Overdrives, Distortions, Fuzzes – I like them all, but not every pedal makes the cut in my small collection.  

I’m not a pedal hoarder, although I do own close to two dozen pedals.  Most of the pedals I own are currently attached to my pedal board and are used on a regular basis.  I don’t have a lot of loose pedals that I don’t use, but those that I’ve kept are mostly dirt pedals of some sort.

Note:  I’m not really that much of a distortion pedal guy, so my choices tend to be more overdrive- and fuzz -oriented.

So, what makes a good overdrive, fuzz or distortion pedal?  If you’re looking for specific sonic qualities, then obviously, the pedal has to have those qualities to be considered.  Amount of gain, tonal control, character of the gain (grainy, smooth), are all factors to consider.  If you’re trying to nail a particular sound that an artist gets, then this is a very specific criterion to apply to a pedal.

However, when I choose a dirt pedal, the biggest question for me is, how does it make me feel?  

Do I want to keep playing through this pedal?  Does it inspire me?  If the sound is there, but I lose interest in playing after a few minutes, then there is something about this pedal that is not right for me.  It’s probably something about the dynamics of how the pedal reacts to my playing.  I don’t exactly know, I just know that it’s an emotional factor.  I’m either inspired in my playing or not.  Call it magic, mojo, or whatever you want, the pedal has to have it (and I have to feel it) or I don’t keep it.

I’m also aware that I have very particular way of approaching the way I play, so my choices may be someone else’s rejects, and vice-versa.

My favorites (i.e., the ones I kept):

·         Diamond J-Drive Mk III – This is currently on my board, which says a lot about how much I like it.  It wouldn’t be my first choice for a classic rock gig, but it could fill that slot very nicely, if needed.  It can be set up to be somewhat transparent, but that’s not where the true magic is.  It really takes on a unique character when you turn up its ‘Warmth’ control - it fattens up but doesn’t lose clarity.  I can’t explain why I like this pedal so much, but I can say it just makes me feel good when I play through it.  The independent boost is a great bonus, and I sometimes useit to solve gain mismatches between different guitars.

·         Earthquaker Devices Hoof – My newest pedal - this is also currently residing on my pedal board.  I went through a number of pedals before settling on this fuzz.  The sound in my head that I’m searching for is very near to the smooth, sustaining sound that you hear in progressive rock recordings from the early 70’s by Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett, and by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.  The Hoof is, I’m told, a take-off on the ‘Rams Head’ version of the Big Muff, but with more tonal control.  Again, like my other favorites, it has a quality that makes me feel good and want to keep playing.

·         Way Huge Pork Loin – Despite the ludicrous name, this is my second favorite overdrive.  I’ve played other overdrives that mix in the clean signal like the Pork Loin does, but this one just seems to be doing something special.  This pedal could work in a lot of genres, but I love setting it to a classic, Screamer-type of sound, minus the attenuated low end and excessive midrange hump.  It can be transparent when turning down the guitar volume, as well.  This pedal is my first choice for jam sessions or any kind of classic rock or blues.  Why is it different?  I don’t know – again, it just makes me feel good when I use it.  It’s also a very nice purple.

·         Fulltone Fulldrive II – This is an original, first generation, red Fulldrive II that, early on, I sent back to Fulltone to have them modify it with the ‘comp cut’ switch.  It does the Screamer thing really well – smoother with less mid hump, and it sounds different than any other Fulldrive I’ve tried.  This overdrive has the added advantage of the second footswitch to add an additional amount of overdrive.  I keep thinking of selling it, but then I plug it in and it has that feel-good effect on me, so it stays.

·         Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer – This is a 90’s model that I got to replace my original 80’s TS-9 when that pedal’s switch failed.  It’s been modded to TS-808 specs, but has the original opamp in it, which I actually prefer to the JRC4558 (not NOS) that I swapped in originally.  I had two of these, one modded and one not, and I think I sold the better sounding of the two, unfortunately.  Nevertheless, I like the sound and feel of the real-deal Screamer.  While I don’t play it very much, but it does make the cut as far as being enjoyable to play through, so it stays in the herd for now.

·         Fuzz Factor – This is a germanium transistor Fuzz Face clone that I built from scratch.  The only changes from original specs are the trim pot inside to dial in the transistor bias (essential for cleaning up the sound when the guitar is turned down) and an on/off LED. In my opinion, it nails the Hendrix, Are You Experienced tone.  Every now and then I have to have that sound, and this pedal satisfies that craving.

·         ‘Len-Tone’ Fuzz – This is my original 60’s Jordan Bosstone that I transplanted into a stomp box enclosure (the original was a plug-into-the guitar unit).  The original pots had disintegrated, so I had to search for schematics to figure out what values to use for the replacements.  I’m pretty sure the components’ values have drifted so far that it no longer sounds the same as when it was new, but it’s fun to pull it out once in a while to play around with it.  It’s probably my least used pedal, but it may have a use on a recorded track someday.  That, and the personal history attached to it keep this pedal in my collection.

·         Boss DS-1 – This is a 90’s Taiwan version, self-modded with the Keeley ‘Seeing-Eye’ circuit.  I didn’t bother to drill a hole for the added LED (the ‘eye’) that serves as an additional clipping diode, but I did change the on/off LED to a bright white one.  I bought this pedal hoping to recreate the sound of my original Japanese-made DS-1, which I sold a long time ago, but it was never close.  The Keeley mod makes this pedal a lot more fun, though, more so than a number of modern distortion pedals that I tried.

Dirt pedals that didn’t stick around:

·         Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer – 90’s version, unmodded.  I tested it just before I sent it off to its Ebay buyer, and I was very sorry I was selling it.  It sounded better than my other 90’s TS-9.  Oh, well.

·         ProCo Rat – early 80’s white logo version.  I don’t know- I just never bonded with this pedal.  I never used it live or on a recording.  I’d start playing and get bored with it after a few minutes.  I know many players love these, so I’m at a loss to say why I didn’t like it.

·         Fulltone Catalyst – Not bad, but I couldn’t find a sound that inspired me, and I liked my modded Boss DS-1 better.

·         Way Huge Swollen Pickle – I really liked this pedal, but it was too sensitive about what pedals were in front or behind it in the pedal chain, and I needed a fuzz to use on my pedal board.  The only other negative thing I could say about it is that having the trim pots inside was really inconvenient for dialing in the sound.  (They’ve changed that on the newest version of this pedal.)

·         Way Huge Fat Sandwich – Another distortion pedal that I liked, but not enough to keep.

·         TC Electronic Dark Matter – This is a great sounding pedal, more vintage-oriented than the name might suggest.  I liked it, but not that much more than my DS-1.  Actually, I’m a little sorry I sold it.  I don’t know why TC doesn’t promote this model more, because it’s really a nice pedal.

·         Bixonic Expandora – Original version.  I used this as my main overdrive for a while, but there was a subtle quality about it that I didn’t like.  It was slightly fizzy, and there was a certain boxy quality to the sound – it’s hard to explain.  Otherwise, it was a decent sounding pedal, and I enjoyed using it on multiple gigs and jams.  Plus, you gotta love the circular can enclosure.

·         Prescription Electronics Experience – Original swirl finish.   Very interesting sounding pedal, but it’s the sort of thing you use for one solo at the end of a set, or once on a recording.  That, in a nutshell, is exactly how I used it.  I had this for a number of years and it was no longer being used, so…

·         Toadworks Little Leo – This pedal emulates the sound of a Tweed Fender, but at the risk of guitar heresy, I have to say that I’ve never been a big fan of the tweed sound for my own playing.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a good sounding pedal, but the feel wasn’t there for me, and bottom line, it didn’t inspire.

·         Diaz Square Face – Original hand-wired version, signed by Cesar Diaz.  I sold this quite some time ago, and it’s very possible that I might like it better today.  It’s a fairly thick Fuzz Face without a lot of dynamics, although it cleans up very effectively when you turn down the guitar volume.   At the time, I couldn’t see using it very often.

That’s it for my dirt pedal selections and rejections.  I’m sure there will be more in the future, so stay tuned.

As a footnote, I have a couple of pedals on the workbench, waiting to be resurrected.  One is an Ibanez TS-5 Tube Screamer, the black plastic ‘Tone Bug’ version.  I took this to a lot of jam sessions and open mics, but the footswitch became temperamental and I could never find a direct replacement.  The second one is a 60s Heathkit fuzz that I built when I was thirteen.  Actually, all that remains are the insides, waiting to be transplanted into an enclosure.  I plan to combine it with an original EHX LPB-1 (also missing it’s enclosure) and put them both in one pedal housing.  It’s been years since I heard these old pedals, so it should be interesting when I finally get around to bringing them back to life.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

High-End Guitar Cables - Scoffer or Believer?

I've always looked at High-end guitar cables and wondered if they were really better, whether the difference was a matter of personal taste, or if it was all just 'snake oil'. They seemed too expensive for the difference in tone they might or might not deliver, and the confusion of there being so many different brands of cable all claiming to be the best wasn't helping.All of that changed when I won a free '20 Elixir guitar cable and did some tone testing of my own. Here's what I posted on Elixir's Facebook discussions page:

Up to now, I’ve never been the hundredth-caller/sweepstakes winner type of guy. So, I was very excited to receive the "Experience the Difference" Elixir Cable sample. As a longtime user of several types of cables, I was interested how the Elixir cable would stack up.

First impressions: Very heavy duty construction, almost indestructible connectors, but the packaging needs improvement. The way it was packaged caused some annoying kinks in both ends of the cables, and I really object to this type of plastic packaging that is almost impossible to open without damaging the product. I would have preferred that the cable be packaged in a way that it would have been coiled naturally. It also would have been a nice touch to include some sort of cable tie, as well.

My tests were conducted in my home studio with the following signal path: Guitar to PODxt to Rane SM82 line mixer to Samson C-Control to Yamaha MSP3 powered monitors. The guitars used were a Fender ’60 Strat Relic, a Fender Custom Shop 3-pickup Telecaster Custom, a Gibson ’54 reissue Les Paul with humbuckers (and some fairly old strings), and a Godin LGXT. The PODxt was set to a Vibroverb model that’s my Fender go-to sound. It’s a clean, but on the verge of breakup sound with a touch of reverb and some barely discernible delay.

The comparison cables were all 20 feet in length. The contenders were as follows:

- Whirlwind Leader – a longtime companion, I’ve owned a number of these in various lengths, and I’ve never had one fail. I’ve played a lot of gigs with these and got used to their ‘sound’.

- Monster Standard 100 – I switched over to these a couple of years ago, not so much for the quality of sound, but for the non-kinking, tangle-free quality of the jacket. I also like the color coding feature that I use to identify different lengths, so that I can grab the right one in a hurry.

- Homemade Belden 8412 cable with Switchcraft connectors – My first really pro cables, I made several of these ages ago and never had any problems.

None of these are really high-end contenders, just working-man’s tools. I was hoping to hear a real difference in the sound quality with the Elixir, especially after viewing various videos on the internet in which the Elixir cables were demonstrated.

The Belden/Switchcraft cable faired the worst - by comparison with the Elixir, it was flat and muddy with pronounced lower mids and poor note definition on chords. The Whirlwind leader and Monster Std 100 performed better, although both seemed to emphasize the higher mids by comparison with the Elixir. The Monster was a bit more open than the Whirlwind, but the Elixir still surpassed it in clarity and presence. However, it’s hard to say if the Monster and Whirlwind emphasize the upper mids, or if the Elixer notches them out slightly.

My final test was to compare the 20-foot Elixir with a 10-foot Monster Standard 100, and the Elixir cable won again, hands down.

The Elixir cable was by far more open sounding than any of my other cables. It really shone on the Les Paul’s neck pickup, where the note definition was better. The Elixir made the lower strings sound less flabby than the other cables. Overall, my guitars had way more presence, but not in a shrill way. Even the guitars that had older strings sounded better, as if the strings had suddenly become newer.

Bottom line, this cable is now my number one cable for recording and important gigs. I can definitely foresee buying a 10-foot version of this cable soon. I don’t know if I’ll take my Elixir out for open mics or jam sessions, though - it might be too nice for that.

This is a great-sounding cable, period. Thanks, Elixir!

That's how I caught the high-end cable bug. I was hooked, and I couldn't go back to my old cables. Luckily for my bank account, there's Ebay, and over the next few months I was able to find a couple of Elixir 10-footers (which are more practical for a lot of situations) plus several George L's cables for what I thought were reasonable prices. George L's are considered by some to be the holy grail of guitar cables. I've been using them on my pedal board for years now, but hadn't considered buying the longer cables until now. I A/B'd them with the Elixir cables and they compared very favorably. I could detect a tiny bit more 'openess' in the top end with the Elixirs, and while I realize that's a pretty vague sonic attribute, the bottom line is about how you feel when you play your instrument.

Here was my follow-up post on the Elixir page:

Damn you, Elixir! You sent me the one cable for free, and I liked it so much I had to go out and get two more! That's sneaky!

On a more serious note (pun intended), I've now had an opportunity to A/B the Elixir cable with a George L's cable. Really, really close, but I liked the Elixir better. The Elixir had slightly more openess in the highs. Hard to define, but it just felt better.

Still don't like the packaging, but it's my #1 cable now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Restringing the Guitar - One Player's Method

This is what works for me and the way I play – your mileage may vary. My goal is to have strings that don’t slip and also are easy to remove when I need to restring in a hurry. I think that by being careful and methodical about it, you can have both. My method varies slightly depending on the guitar and the gauge of the strings, but here are the basics for traditional setups (i.e., fixed bridge or non-locking tremolo), and is applicable to most electric or steel-string acoustic guitars.

- Change strings one at a time or two by two. This keeps tension on the neck and on tremolo springs, if so equipped. You also get to have a tuning reference using the existing strings, unlike when you change all the strings at once. If you have a fully-floating tremolo, it’s probably better to change the strings one by one, unless you have a way to block off the tremolo while you restring.

- Precut the strings to the length you want. I allow for 2 to 3 winds on the wound strings, and 4 to 5 on the unwound strings. I use the distance between posts as a reference for the length of the string after it reaches the tuning post. This distance varies by the make of the guitar.

- Inserting the string into the post: If it’s a slotted-post Fender-type vintage tuner, push it all the way into the slot and bend it down. For other types, push it through the hole and let about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch protrude. Some people leave more, but I’ve never had a problem with this short a length, and I don’t like poking myself with the protruding ends.

- For non-slotted tuners, wind the string once around over the protruding end, and then wind all subsequent turns under the end. For slotted tuners, just start winding the string down. Keep it neat so that the string comes off the post at the lowest wind.

- For non-slotted tuners, bend the protruding end of the string in the reverse direction of the wind. In other words, if the post turns counter-clockwise to tighten the string, bend the end in the clockwise direction, and vice-versa.

- Tune the strings up to pitch and stretch them out. I do this four times on each string, tuning, stretching, and re-tuning until stretching the string doesn’t detune it. Be careful with the 1st string – it’s really easy to break when you pull up on it.

- Lubricate the nut. At this point, I’d recommend putting a bit of graphite in the nut slots, as I’ve described previously.

Editorial section

If you notice that there are a couple more instructions for non-slotted post tuners than for the vintage-style slotted ones, you’ll understand one reason why I like the vintage-style tuners better on Fenders – ease of restringing. I don’t know why Fender persists in using the cast, Schaller-style tuners on all their non-vintage reissue guitars, other than the fact that they’re probably easier to install. The reissue vintage tuners are much more exact and reliable than the originals, and I believe the lighter weight results in better tone for that type of guitar, another good reason for liking them better.

That’s why the last two Fenders I bought that came with the sealed, cast tuners immediately got vintage replacements. Stewart MacDonald ( sells retro-fit grommets that convert the larger tuner holes to the correct size for vintage tuners. They also sell vintage replacement Kluson tuners.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lenny's Club Gig Survival Tips for Guitarists

While I’ve never reached any kind of notoriety, I have played in bands most of my life. The gigs I’ve played have ranged from opening for major acts in ten thousand-seat halls, all the way down to grueling four-sets-a-night club gigs in miserable smoky hole-in-the-walls where two dozen people would seem like a crowd, that is, if there was a crowd instead of a few disinterested drun…er, I mean, patrons, sitting at the bar. Here are some tips and tricks, none of which are particularly original, that have helped me over the years.

Guitar set-up and maintenance – the basics

- Number one and most important, get your guitar set up by a pro. You only have to do it once (unless you change string gauges), and it will help the guitar play in tune and stay in tune more than any other thing you can do. A pro can tweak the nut so that the strings don’t catch in the slots, and he can set the intonation properly so that the guitar plays in tune. Just do it.

- Learn to string your guitar properly. There are many methods, but they all involve a few basic principles.

- Be neat about it - don’t allow winds to overlap (except intentionally)

- Use only as many winds as you think you need

- Unless you’re trying to convey a chaotic, punk-like vibe, trim the ends. You don’t want to poke your eye out with those things.

- Stretch new strings out before you start to play. Be careful with the 1st string – I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve broken by using too much force while stretching.

- Use an electronic tuner. Don’t be proud – this can actually help your ear by showing you what in-tune really sounds like. Better yet, buy a stompbox-style tuner that mutes your output when engaged. No one wants to hear you tune on stage, and the joke about the Chinese song, “Tu-Ning” is only funny once.

- Unless you play like a gorilla or your strings are rusting off the guitar, you shouldn’t be breaking strings. If you start breaking strings for no particular reason, and it’s usually the same string in the same place, take the guitar to a pro. There’s probably a burr on the bridge or on a fret somewhere that can be smoothed-out. I’ve only broken one string in the last fifteen years while playing, and that was because I had just gotten a new guitar and didn’t know how to deal with the Bigsby when restringing. I have friends that continually break strings at gigs and don’t understand that this is not necessary.

- Wipe off your strings every time you play, and not just a quick up and down on the neck. Take a clean polish cloth and wipe each string off individually, sliding the cloth up and down the string between two fingers. Note: Although I didn’t intend to get into health issues here I have to comment on this: If you have very acidic sweat and your strings corrode quickly, you need to know that (in my opinion and the opinion of others far more knowledgeable than I), this acidity is not an optimal condition for your body, and you should consider modifying your diet and/or seeing a natural health practitioner for advice.

Guitar set-up and maintenance – some tricks

- Lubricate the nut with graphite. Pull each string out of its slot at the nut and tap in a little Extra Fine graphite powder (available at hardware stores in tubes). Put the string back in the slot and blow off the excess powder. I do this every time I change the strings, or for vibrato-equipped guitars, before every gig. A #2 pencil works as well. You can also put a bit of Vaseline on the string tree as well, if you’re playing a Fender. Chapstick works well, too.

- Use Teflon plumber’s tape on your Stratocaster-type vibrato arm. If you like the arm to flop around, skip this, but if you like to find it where you left it, then this might be helpful. Wind some tape around the threads of the arm a couple of times, and then screw it in. (You can also use the same Teflon tape if a lever switch tip is loose.)

- A bit of thin insulated wire can be a cheap and effective straplock. I've seen people use handfuls of duck tape to keep their straps on while they perform. Unless you like the punk look and don't care about getting a lot of sticky duck tape goo on your finish, I have an alternative for this. Get some insulated, solid cord wire, about 24-gauge - telephone wire is perfect - cut two pieces about 6-inches long. Put your strap on the strap button and wind the wire around the button and the strap end in such a way that the strap can rotate a bit, but can't come off the button. Do this for each end.

Common Sense preparation for your gig

- For Fender-style guitars, always carry a spare switch tip. I’ve knocked these off on a number of occasions, and I’m not really into tearing my hands up on the bare metal of the switch. If you don’t have spare and the tip starts slipping off, wind some plumbers tape around the switch and press the tip back on, or tear a bit off of a paper match and stuff that in the plastic tip cavity and then press the tip back on. This assumes that you can find the tip that came off, of course, and that no one has stepped on it yet..

- Bring Duct Tape. Better yet, buy the more expensive Gaffer's Tape from a theatrical supply store. It's worth it, because it doesn't leave a sticky mess on everything once it's removed. Tape down your cables where you think you might trip over them. Also tape down any PA cables that you think are in danger of being accidentally yanked by members of your audience. Come to think of it, bring both, use the good stuff for your guitar gear and the cheap stuff for everything else.

- Take a narrow strip of tape, and tape some picks to the mic stand (be orderly), or you can tape them to the top of your amp. You can also buy an inexpensive pick holder made by Dunlop that clips on a mic stand.

- Bring a towel and stick it someplace close by. The first time you (or someone else) spill a drink on your amp, you'll realize this was a good idea. If you don't have any accidents, it's great to have one if you start sweating due to exertion, hot lights or the even hotter blonde up front.

- While we're on the subject of wiping things, consider bringing some wipes as well. This isn't some OCD thing, and if you get something sticky on your hands before you play and don't have time to hit the restroom, you'll thank me for thinking of it.

- Carry a couple of different lengths of guitar cable. If you’re going to be playing on a postage-stamp sized stage, you don’t need a 20-foot cable getting in your way, unless you want to walk off the stage playing your guitar.

- Do I have to tell you to carry spares of important stuff? I’m talking about spares of everything – picks, strings, strap, cables, batteries, tubes, fuses, underwear (just kidding, I think…) – whatever you use, you need a spare. If you can bring a spare amp, or something like a POD preamp, that’s good insurance.

- Bring a second guitar and keep it tuned and handy. If you break a string, you can probably switch mid-song. Don’t subject your audience to watching you fumble through putting on a new string – it’s not professional, even if you can tell a few jokes while you’re doing it. If you don’t own a 2nd guitar, chances are that you can borrow it from a band mate.

- Bring Band-Aids and a small roll of surgical tape. You never know when you’ll get a cut, and having a Band-Aid can make the difference between enjoying your own scorching solo and wishing the night was already over.

- Bring earplugs, not necessarily for playing, but for listening to any other band that may be playing before or after you, or for excessively loud break music (just in case you have no control over that). However, if you’re playing with a very loud drummer or if you’re stuck in a place on the stage where your amp is blasting at your head, earplugs can be your best friend, and I recommend them highly.

- If you only have hard cases for your guitars, invest in gig bags. For most club gigs, a gig bag is much more convenient than a case. It’s fast and easy to get a guitar in and out of a gig bag, and you don’t need any room to lay it down like you need with a case. You can toss an empty gig bag anywhere, and it takes up a lot less room than a case. The only time I carry a hard case is a gig where I know I’m going to have to leave my guitar unattended, and there is a possibility of it being moved or knocked around by someone else.

- Carry a six-inch piece of two-by-four. This ultra-cheap accessory can be inserted just under the front of a combo amp or speaker cabinet to lean it back a bit for more projection. You can spray paint it black if you want it to look a bit more pro. Another inexpensive alternative is the ubiquitous milk crate, which makes a great amp stand, plus you can carry your cables in it. A chair will do as well, but if you really want to look professional, there are plenty of amp stands priced under $50.

- Unless you want to wear yourself out before the gig or risk straining your hands, get some sort of hand cart to move your gear around. This can range from a heavy duty hand truck, or – what I used for some years – a cheap, folding luggage cart. One of the best carts I’ve used is a folding model made by Ruxxac. It’s a bit pricey at $125 -150, but I’ve found it to be the best piece of ‘musical’ gear I ever bought. Hey, if you’re twenty, forget I mentioned it, but as you get older, you should think seriously about this. Also, bring some cheap work gloves to move gear. It may look dumb, but it’s worthwhile to keep your hands safe before the gig.

- Bring your own water and snacks. Sure, most clubs will offer bands free sodas and even a limited bar tab, but then you’ll have to depend on the wait-person to bring you everything. This may be problematic in the middle of the set when you need it the most. Another time to consider is the end of the gig, when you’re probably thirstiest, and most of the help are gone or cleaning up. The snacks – they’re for the trip home (or if the club food is really, really bad).

- Make an equipment checklist, and tack it up where you keep your equipment, at home or at your rehearsal space. If you’re in a hurry loading up for a gig, it’s way too easy to forget something. A checklist is extra important if you’re in more than one band, as your setup may vary. Make a separate checklist for each band.

- Keep important phone numbers in your wallet and programmed in your cellphone. Make sure you have the club’s number and your band mates’ numbers before you leave. If you get stuck in traffic, or if your car dies halfway to the gig, you’ll need to call the rest of the band, and you may need to call the club as well. If your cellphone dies or the battery runs out, you’ll need that paper list.

- Be sure you have a set list, and make sure it’s printed big enough to read without picking it up after every song. If you are new to the band, get a set list ahead of time and make notes on it.

- Consider investing in a wireless unit. First of all, it will make you feel a lot freer to move on stage. But most importantly, you will never be shocked by a badly grounded microphone again, and you will be safe from electrocution by miswired club power. I always take a cheap Radio Shack AC outlet circuit tester to clubs I’m playing for the first time. Once I found two outlets fairly close together that were wired in reverse polarity to each other. This means that if you had the PA plugged into one and your guitar into the other, the result would be fried lips - at the very least. I can understand that some tone purists don’t like wireless units, and I sympathize, so at least get an AC outlet tester, and always test for shocks at the mic before you start. If you’re covering James Brown, ‘Owwww!’ is an acceptable lyric, but it doesn’t work for a lot of other music genres.

At the Gig

- Don’t just plug the cable into your guitar and leave it dangling. Get into the habit of threading it around the back of the guitar, through gap between the strap and the body of the guitar. The first time you step on your cable and pull it out in the middle of a dramatic solo, you’ll figure out why this is important.

- Beer does not quench your thirst – it just makes you want to drink more beer. Stay hydrated with water. Approach the gig as if you were an athlete – remember to stay hydrated, and eat foods that give you energy.

- One more word about Beer (or any other intoxicant): If having a little puts you in the mood, don’t assume that having more is your ticket into the “Zone”. You’ll only play too loud, ignore signals from your band mates, and generally act like an ass. Yeah, you’ll be in a zone all right, but not one that anyone willingly spends time in.

- Ok, the personal stuff – common sense, really. Be friendly and polite with the club staff. If they ask you to turn down, do it. If they ask you to turn down past the point of being reasonable (like if your drummer has to use chopsticks to play at their preferred volume level), consider whether you want to play this club again. If that answer is “yes”, turn down, or act like you’re turning down and bring the dynamics down a bit for a few songs. If “no”, then – well, I don’t have to explain that, but be careful – a bad reputation can get around. Ask ahead of time what the policy is for guests, drinks, and food. If there’s a house soundman, be especially friendly, even if he’s not. He has control of your sound and is probably not getting paid very much – enough said.

That’s it for now, thanks for visiting!