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Monthly Archives: April 2019

Mini Pedals

My two pedalboards have worked perfectly for the three, four, five years that I’ve owned them. But I realize that only recently have I had the opportunity to test them under realistic circumstances. One thing that has become clear since I started jamming with my new band is that studio and live are two different applications that place very different demands on the equipment. I have been extremely intrigued by the mini pedals that have started coming out in the past few years. The Xotic SL Drive blew me away when I first heard it, and a few years later, I couldn’t resist buying the Tube Screamer Mini. Soon after that, I added the MXR Phase 95, and just the other day, I bought a Korg Pitchblack Mini pedal tuner. When TC Electronic brought out their mini Toneprint pedals, I immediately got the idea to trade in my regular-size TC pedals for their baby brothers and sisters. How fortunate I am, that such a wild scheme never became reality!

I enjoy the mini pedals. The Phase 95 is great and I will probably write it up any year now. The Tube Screamer Mini sounds awesome, especially when I use it as a boost for a distorted sound. The tuner works perfectly, I am seriously considering a TC Electronic Flashback Mini, and so on. It’s just that I wouldn’t want to bring any of these pedals to a rehearsal, let alone onto a proper stage! The small form-factor brings its particular set of advantages and drawbacks to the table. Of course, you can fit more pedals onto your board. But they’re going to be squeezed together a lot closer, meaning that it’s going to require a lot more precision when you step on them, something that you can’t always count on in the heat of the moment. The first time I stepped on the Phase 95 during our first jam session, I accidentally nudged the Rate knob from half past nine to half past eleven, just because the knob is too darn close to the footswitch! So you have to spread the baby pedals out on the board, which kind of defeats the purpose. I can see them working in concert with a loop-switching system, which is anyway a road that I’m not going to be taking any time soon. Then there is the stability issue. Most of these micro pedals are taller than they are wide, which puts the center of gravity pretty close to where the action happens. I’ve felt them wobble underneath even light foot pressure, even though they are always secured with Velcro. The new tuner won’t even sit flat against the board, it doesn’t have enough mass to allow gravity to perform its natural work. I don’t even want to know what happens when I start moving around on a stage and the cable starts pulling on the pedal. One solution is to get better Velcro, but I don’t want to rip it all off my Pedaltrains and start afresh. Therefore, I have decided that the best solution is to get a bigger tuner to put on my big board, and let the baby tuner live on my mini board, which has kind of become my home and studio board. 

 
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Posted by on 8 April, 2019 in editorial, gear

 

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New and Old Gear

My new, unnamed rock band has led to a complete reevaluation of my gear requirements. Around Christmas, I fired up my 20-watt Blackstar head for the first time in six or seven months, and I didn’t like what I heard one little bit. It felt underpowered and sounded brittle and cheap. For a while there, it felt like a 50- or 100-watt tube head was at the top of my to-buy list. Then we started rehearsing once or twice a week, and it seemed like the little fellow shook off the cobwebs or something, because it just sounded better and better the more I played on it. Again, the HT-20 has just come through and defied all my expectations! It is just powerful enough, and it has the sweetest tone! To provide a contrast to Namlar, I have dialed in a woodier, British-type sound with lots of mids and just a touch of bottom end, and if I keep the gain at about 3.5-4, I get a wonderfully dynamic sound where I don’t have to dig in to get full crunch tone, but if I back off, it cleans up very nicely.

My pedalboard has gone through a massive metamorphosis during the past two months. I’ll come clean and admit that I got bitten by the pedal bug (again!) around 2013, and after that, the lack of a clear musical direction made me want to buy all sorts of different pedals, as if I wanted to be ready for anything. Well, now that we’re here, it turns out that I will find no use whatsoever for my fuzz pedals, I still haven’t truly figured out how (or even why) to play with a wah-wah, et cetera. To the consternation of my bass player and drummer, I have been testing various configurations, one rehearsal different from the next, until I have (seemingly) arrived at a suitable configuration. Currently, it is tuner, phaser, boost, tremolo, Uni-Vibe, chorus, flanger and modulated analog delay. I will let the compressor, reverb, vibrato, Vibraclone, Tube Screamer, DS-1 and the Phase 95 live on the small board I keep at home. The TC Electronic Eyemaster is going into strategic reserve, ready to be pulled out for… special occasions.

So far, I’ve brought five of my six electric guitars to our jam sessions: both Fenders and all three Gibsons, but not the PRS baritone. I have used the SG as my main rehearsal guitar since the store tech worked wonders with it back in 2016, so it was a nice diversion to use something else for once. It is so evident that whenever I plug in the black Les Paul, everything just clicks. I enjoy the lightness and attitude of the SG, but the tone and sustain of the Les Paul are simply unbeatable! What surprised me was that the best sound actually came out of my Telecaster. This is not surprising, since it has the nicest unplugged tone of all my electrics, but I didn’t hear it as clearly during the rehearsal as I did on the tapes. There is an attack to it that I suppose comes from the combination of the crisp high end and the single-coil pickups. I will probably soldier on with the two black Gibsons (with humbuckers), but I am definitely going to give P-90:s a second chance, and the Telecaster will wind up in the rehearsal room again. To be quite honest, each of the guitars that I have tested has brought something new to the table, each has managed to unlock something special and different in my playing, and none of them has made me say never again.

 
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Posted by on 7 April, 2019 in editorial, gear

 

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The New Band!

I started 2019 with a half-dormant recording project and very loose thoughts about a new solo instrumental album, possibly something acoustic. Three months in and I have formed a new rock band! We’re three fourths of the way there, the only position missing is the vocalist. I can hardly believe how quickly and smoothly everything has gone. I went from ad placement to the first rehearsal as a trio in about 10 days. I didn’t have a single riff or even one word for a lyric when we started playing together, and now we have 24 song ideas in various states of completeness, and dozens more recorded jams left to mine for riffs and melodies. It’s completely and utterly insane, and sometimes I wonder if it’s real, how long it will last, and if I can even talk about it aloud, for fear of jinxing anything.

One of the things that has always kept me from going all-in with forming a new band is that it’s so difficult for me to decide exactly what I really, really want to play. A small part of me wants to go for 60s and 70s covers, another wants blues rock, a third is more progressive and psychedelic, then there’s classic metal, death metal, you name it. But eventually I realized that there is absolutely no need to overthink anything. 20 years ago, I was deadly serious about everything since I still entertained the notion that I could somehow make it big. Now, I just want to have fun and hang out with like-minded people and improvise some kind of heavy rock music together. Whatever comes out the other end will likely anyway bear my maker’s mark to some degree, and there is something to be said about improvisation, since it does tend to bring the subconscious desires to the fore. Thus far, we have made forays into swing, funk, bossa nova and sleaze rock, but that’s just for fun. When we man up and try to be serious for a while, the main tendency seems to be some form of 70s-inspired hard rock with a generous helping of psychedelia. Like the bastard child of Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. To be honest, I have had so much fun jamming with my bass player and drummer that I am in no hurry whatsoever with adding that vocalist, or driving towards was my original intention: to play live.

My other drummer asked me a question the other day that perhaps was perceived to be a lot more pointed than was likely intended: how am I going to balance the two projects? I don’t think that that is going to be much of a challenge. Musically, it’ll fall into place on its own, since Namlar is a metal band and my new and so far unnamed trio is a hard rock band. I don’t have any problems whatsoever picking out which riff belongs where, since the stuff for Namlar tends to be more exotic and dissonant and that for the other band more traditional and blues-based. Besides, the working methods are very distinct: with Namlar we are approaching the end of a two-year, 11-song recording project, and with the new band, we are still jamming and exploring.

 
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Posted by on 6 April, 2019 in editorial

 

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