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    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    let's discuss tone, and our favorite ways of hunting for it.

    i'm not limiting this to guitar types. if rubbing the output try of a printer gives you a great 800hz-2k drone, tell us your technique.


    the secret sauce had been, up until this week, the fact that a man who is now dead had modded my amplifier in an esoteric way that allowed it to 1) use a wider variety of tubes and b) get more gain.

    now i'm experimenting with a Little Big Muff, an eq pedal, and other guitars.

    fave studio guitar trick: run guitar into pitchshifter 1 octave up, then into distortion, then another 2 PS 2 octaves down. adds a terrible, hard to control, awesome doomy texture to things.

    also, fave live noise trick: turn delay pedal up all the way, turn delays to max, fiddle with time knob. run through pitch shifter, phaser, and reverb. twiddle knobs. hurt audience. smile at job well done. tune while headaches ensue.
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    An ex-bandmate of mine was particularly fond of screwing with the time knob on his MemoryMan for a good five minutes at the end of every show. I wonder why nobody came to talk to us after we were done....

    I have also been quite fond of the Boss Reverb/Delay pedal totally maxed out and then either singing or playing weird instruments thru it. I got a lot of sounds on Henry Miller vs. the Sea that way. The beginning "beat" of that song is actually a dirty jack on an electric mandolin+singing thru the pickup of said mandolin through the reverb delay pedal.

    I have also found that slightly detuned chorus pedals make people want to throw up.
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    singing through shoddy acoustic pickups (or nice one) into effects is awesome. i have a contact mic on my celo that does well for that.

    which boss unit do you have? is it one of the DD pedals, or a rackmount? i've got a Line 6 "echo Park" that's quite excellent. i recommend it if you're in the market.

    i LOVE chaining my small clone, Boss PS5, Boss PS3, and Whammy pedal together. it sounds like the washed out chorusey guitar in the quiet middle bit of "XYU" by Smashing Pumpkins (ie unintelligible swirly MBV territory).

    how much gear do you typically use for a live performance bryce?
  1.  (4372.4)
    My favorite way to find tones is the pickups and their set-up. All of my electrics are set up coil-tapped and/or phase-switched. The five-band equalizer on my amp is a gloriously quick way to grab a tone more quickly. I've played through radios and other hi-fi amps, put large fans in front of my amp, ran two completely different amps together, etc. I only find my self seeking a tone when playing with other people though, really. There's no contrast for me without it, especially in lieu of mixing in bass and making sure it and my guitar have a home...
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    yeah, my search is about fitting into a specific range in the context of my band. i have a coil tap pot, i just need to decide which guitar to install it in. i've been using an epiphone SG, but i got my hands on (don't laugh) an epiphone goth les paul. wood's kinda soft, but it sounds really nice. ot as thick as the sg, which may work out. i think the tortoise shell pickguard is what really makes it PUNCHY. lol.

    i've never been clear on what the phase switching does to/for pups. what's the effect, or advantage?
    • CommentAuthorThomDunn
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    I use P-90s on my Gibson, and they can actually pick up your voice if you yell loud enough. Turn up the gain, reverse delay, and wah/distortion pedal, and you've got yourself something to work with.

    On less ambient/noisy, more practical tone, I typically use the crunch channel on my Marshall. I prefer a cleaner overdrive sound, much more sensitive to attack--if I strum lightly or fingerpick, it sounds like it's clean, but if I downpick hard, it screams (this is especially useful for me because a lot of what I do involves open chords, often with distortion, and this way, things don't get too muddy with all the strings resonating). To achieve this, I turn the presence up almost to 10, turn the Channel Volume up to 10, and put the gain between 2-4 (depending on my mood/day/desire). You can set your 3-band EQ however you'd like beyond this, though I personally prefer a crisper, brighter tone.

    For songs that don't want as much of an overall crunch, but more of a dirty, overdriven sound, I keep the volume setting on my EQ pedal at 0 and boost all of the frequencies all the way up, and then put my amp on clean. This gives it a real dirty rock n roll sound, a la The Kinks' "You Really Got Me."

    Alternately, I do own an original 1962 Sears Silvertone Tube amp with the original tubes still intact, and this produces a tone in between these two when the volume's turned up enough. It's a bit muddier, however, and less controlled/malleable.

    (Finally, I tend to use every excuse to use my Tremolo pedal. mmm.)
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008 edited

    fuck yeah! i have a little Silvertone 1432 with the original tubes and speaker still kicking. i also have the matching Silvertone hollowbody (again, with original guts...P90s and all) that needs a bridge. they were my grandpa's. the tremelo in the amp is so understated and smooth.....

    volume on 0, all sliders up on the eq, ey? an interesting approach. i'd probably have just upped the eq volume....i'm gonna have to give that a try at next band practice. what's the advantage to sliders up vs volume up? and by "Sliders", i'm referring to the frequency band sliders on my boss eq pedal. you may have knobs or something.
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    I actually use an RV-3 which is a Reverb/Delay, but I USED to use an EchoPark in this shortlived ambient group I had called Spacebeard. I ditched the echopark because I was playing bass in a rock band and was broke and now I kick myself for it, great little box.

    The pickup I was sining through wasn't actually a contact mic/acoustic pickup it was some weird silver thing that looked sortof like a Silvertone Kleenexbox pickup. This mandolin is one of the weirdest instruments I have ever seen, it belongs to a friend of mine and it's just totally bizzarre looking.

    As far as equipment at live shows it depends on how I feel and what I want to do. Back home I played a show with a friend of mine where we split our sets half and half and we took up almost the entire stage with keyboards and pedals and amps, but I am keeping it pretty stripped down on this tour, all acoustic. It's easier to travel that way, although I sometimes find myself wishing I had at least brought some pedals with to screw around with. I'm looking into getting a Loopstation RC-20 for doing more of the weird shoegaze-y stuff that I like to do now that my bandmate and I split up (he is a diehard Woody Guthrie fan so we kept it pretty damn folky) but who knows.

    My favorite setup that I have ever had bass-wise was a GK RB800 run through a Sunn Concert Slave through a 610 cab, nice and crunchy and growly, yum. Actually even without the Sunn that RB800 will hold a special spot in my heart forever, those things are louder'nhell and you can throw em down a flight of stairs and then plug in and play.
    • CommentAuthorThomDunn
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2008
    @ Maud'dib
    what's the advantage to sliders up vs volume up?

    I use a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, which ranges from -10 to 10. If you boost the volume on the pedal, your overall volume increases (a lot), so in a live setting, it's really inconvenient. By boosting the other sliders, you still get that overdrive, but without a ridiculous, uncontrollable volume increase (it'll get a little louder, sure, but it balances it when you use your Clean channel as the base tone, which for me at least is typically slightly quieter than my amp's basic crunch channel). Hell, sometimes I even turn the EQ pedal volume down to -1 or so, to compensate for the added crunch.
  2.  (4372.10)
    I'm a complete amateur, but I love taking some strings, turning the distortion all the way up, and the treble all the way down. Meaty, epic and kinda scary.
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008
    My usual tricks:

    Ebow (in harmonic mode for a high note) -> Digitech Whammy set to Detune -> Line 6 DL-4 delay/looper -> Reverb. Play with a slide or a whammy bar. Changing the pitch very slowly while increasing the amount of detune induces migraines.

    Weaving nails between the strings gives a really nice bell-like sound.

    Putting packing tape on guitar strings is fun too, as long as you use the kind that doesn't gunk up the strings.
    • CommentAuthorThomDunn
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008
    Anyone else enjoy playing with displaced harmonics? These are especially trippy when you play very close to your amp, facing it, with loads of reverb, ups on the gain, some reverse delay and tremolo and maybe, just maybe, a pinch of wah
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008 edited
    Honestly my favorite noise I ever made was with my old Fender amp (well, old to me, it was still made in the 90s or something and I no longer have it) with a Danelectro Milkshake chorus pedal. Set the guitar in its stand so the strings could vibrate freely, crank the distortion on the amp, and then use the chorus to control the pitch and pulsing of the feedback. Scary fuckin' UFO sounds. I'll see if I can find the audio I have from it...

    EDIT: Found it, uploaded it. Also discovered there's some wah on it, too, to pick out the really resonant frequencies. Of course, this was way before I knew what the hell I was doing, so it was just random noise at the time.
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008 edited
    Unsure if this vimeo embed will work but my favorite thing for just sheer tone is my Whamola!

    Edit: The Vimeo ain't happening. Here's a link to the video if you're curious

    What is a whamola?
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008
    sunn ftw! my 2nd fave bass amp is the peavey mark iv i had for years and years. awesome head. just plain awesome.

    no shit...makes perfect sense, and sounds like another thing on my list of "shit to try at next practice".

    the whamola is fucking mental. wish i had a friend with one, as i've no desire to learn or buy it myself.
  3.  (4372.16)
    Old rusty strings on an acoustic. They need lots of grime and dirt and stuff to sound degraded and scratchy enough. I've used ebow on acoustics and had fun with the screechy buzzing that generates. Also ebow on a bass is fun. Screw it, ebow on everything is fun.

    Used to have an old Vox wah that picked up German radio stations for that genuine Spinal Tap-Nigel Tuffnel tantrum feel.

    Tried playing with an electric shaver once, but ended up destroying too many strings.
    • CommentTimeDec 5th 2008
    When I was younger and too broke to buy a real slide (yes, that broke) I used to use a piece of bicycle handle bar, cut with a hack saw and only filed enough to keep the edges from severing an artery. The bottom of each end was still much rougher than a real slide.

    One day while bored, I tuned my Strat to Open-G and flicked it to the bridge pickup, a Duncan hot-rails 'bucker I'd installed. Cranked up some meaty classic marshal distortion with the gain set high enough for a lot of feedback, and kicked on a chorus pedal.

    With this setup, I found that smacking,strumming and scraping the strings in random ways using the END of the slide, made some seriously far-out sounds. Kick on the delay and it's space launch time.
  4.  (4372.18)
    for some reason i never feel satisfied with extremes my low mid and highs are always relatively balanced. usually 7 low, 6mid, 7/8high.

    part of my loves fiddling for tone but another part of me despises it and wishes it could just play the goddamn guitar already.

    i usually neglect my pedals unless necessary, and usually use my wah in a static way instead of wah wah-ing i'll just leave it open, it gives it that weird round but also sharp sound.

    i have to say though there's a lot to be said about a little bit of delay, especially playing something clean like slow arpeggios or picking around those weird pretty jazz chords. just barely there delay is a beautiful thing.

    when i want ugly i set my phaser's speed and range to max, it sounds like a coked out monkey pounding a keyboard.

    and an eq pedal is key.

    favorite distortion by far is the boss mt-2 metal zone, the range of sounds and tones you can get out of that thing is absolutely ridiculous, i can pretty much pull any distortion sound i want out of it aside from something like a big muff.

    one thing i love about my jackson is that it has this extra knob that looks like a tone knob but isn't. you pull it out and gives this crazy signal boost if i'm playing clean it almost doubles the volume, and if it's distorted it colours the sound with this weird dirty-ness that's hard to describe. i kind of sounds like the amp is crapping out in a good way, but it really isn't.
  5.  (4372.19)

    Phase switching reverses the polarity of the pickup, basically changing the leads from/to ground and hot. The sound changes are subtle I believe, but they are there.

    I've played most of my life plugging straight into the amp, honestly. There's something about the burning warmth of tubes that won't permit me to accept substitutes for the most part. If I could experiment, I'd love to run my Mesa next to a Marshall in parallel and see what kind of tone I got. I play mostly rhythm stuff and only find distortion pedals useful on leads myself.

    Oh yeah; I miss my 4x12 cabinet. :( Nothing moves as much air or defines a tone as a 4x12, although I hear they are difficult to mic and record.
  6.  (4372.20)
    mesa boogie dual rectifier on a 4x12 is pretty much heaven