Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rediscovery of Distortion Pedals

If you've read my posts from late last year you'd know that I was working on converting my old tin shed into a studio & workshop.

Now I wasn't exactly flush with cash for this project and had to make do with what I had available to me. My studio is divided into two parts. 

A gear room and a recording booth.

The booth works fairly well. Nobody can hear my dodgy acoustic guitar playing or my lousy singing outside of the shed.

Even playing electric guitar I can get a decent tone to "tape" for clean sounds. But the problem I have is that if I want distortion from the output tubes (my favourite kind) I can only really do that during the day, even with my 5 watt amps.

I know for a fact that it can't be heard in my own home, which is just about the same distance as my closest neighbours to the recording room. So in theory I could play as loud as I want inside with the gear that I have, but I just don't feel comfortable with it.

The obvious thing to do of course, was use distortion pedals and turn the volume down. Sure, its obvious now, but I didn't even consider it until now.

I have several distortions and fuzzes, but I think maybe that I was a little prejudiced toward achieving my favourite tone.

So last night I had a hankering for a wee bit of grit and decided to fire up my pedal board.

I stuck to overdrive types for this session.

The ones that I had on hand are as follows:
  • Digitech Bad Monkey
  • Tech 21 Sansamp GT2
  • Boss Combo Drive
The Bad Monkey has been in my collection from way back.
Its a nice simple pedal that is kind of a Tube Screamer clone.
The results were pleasant and ranged between a little grit to nice full overdrive, which is great for chunking out the power chords.

The Sansamp is one that I had never used with a guitar amp(only direct). I know, ridiculous right?
It was excellent.
Each setting was really usable and not at all fizzy.
Lots of versatility and had a great gentle overdrive, but was not quite the death metal machine that I thought it would be on the high gain settings. Not that it really matters. I haven't played that sort of stuff since 1996.

The Combo Drive is really quite effective at generating Vox-like tones and as I've stated in an earlier article, goes from clean to seriously metal. Its a great little pedal for those looking for a tone change, without the massive investment. They're quite cheap at the moment too.

I felt like a kid in a toy store. Rediscovering distortion was something that I needed to do. Hopefully I'll actually be proactive with making music.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI

Like many before (and after) me, I have coveted the Fender Bass VI Ever since I laid eyes on it way back in 1997.

I'd finished high school in 96 and had spent all of my inheritance on living & instruments. This is definitely one of my big regrets.
Had I invested the cash more wisely, I'd be a lot better off now.


You can't tell teenagers anything. Ever.
Lessons have to be learned the hard way some times.

Anyway, when I saw it in the music store in pride of place, it blew my fragile little mind. 

We didn't have "cool" guitars in my town.
There were Stratocasters of course and there were plenty of metal super-strat type guitars (No thank you Anne). 

Gibson's were out of reach no matter how much cash I had.

The Telecaster was about as alternative as you could get.
I never had a chance to even look at a Jazzmaster or Jaguar.

The price tag was something ridiculous and was our of reach to me at any age since.

Mind you, I did have one of those Wayne's World "oh yes it will be mine" moments and guess what? It's finally paid off.

Ok so it's not a vintage spec instrument, but its as close as I'll ever get with a big fat mortgage hanging over my head.

My only disappointment is that the chrome hardware isn't on the current unit. No big deal, it can be modded easily enough.

A couple of weeks ago I wandered into one of the guitar stores in town, where everyone knows my name (Dropping the pop culture references today eh?) and saw a black PSVI hanging on the wall.

They kindly/cruelly let me play it.
Uh oh.

Now I have to have one.

Problem is, I've got a big fat mortgage & renovations to pay for.
Where to find the cash?

You, loyal reader, know where I am going with this.

I've had to say goodbye to two trusty instruments.
My Jackson SC1 and my Guyatone LG-127T.

Now, you might say, but you've had one so long and the other is awesome. Well, yeah. It is true on both counts.

I finally got the Surfcaster sounding good and playing nicely. The Guyatone sounds every bit as awesome as it did in the shop.

They were the only candidates hanging on my wall that are worth anything significant and that I would be willing to let go (sentimentality etc).

Oh right, back to the story.

The PSVI that I played felt great, though my technique needs some serious adjustment to make the most of it. 

I got to play it at moderate volume through a Fender Deluxe (no Princeton in stock) and each of the pickups had something good to offer.

The lower E & A strings were pretty floppy. This has been widely reported on forums all over the place. In those same forums however, there is a cure. I hear the name La Bella bandied about a bit and have read several independent posts confirming that .026 - .095 gauge fits without modification.

I didn't notice any intonation issues whilst playing, but the store was fairly noisy at the time.

The Bass VI Pawn Shop edition impressed me enough to order one in Sunburst. 

I really want arctic white, but they're not available in the PS range and ordering a Crafted in Japan model would set me back the price of two PSVI's locally (plus import duty). 

From the performance of my isolation booth with the Princeton at about half way (the whole shed rattles), I anticipate the need for an external strangle circuit (high pass filter) and a signal splitter to direct the low end to my Sansamp VT Bass pedal.

It'll be a few weeks before it arrives, so in the meantime, enjoy these two really good demos by a chap on youtube.

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