Sunday, September 25, 2016

2016-09-25 - Drop Tuning

Greetings to the Cult of the 6 stringers:

Drop tuning. YES we mean tuning your guitar lower.

Is there a point? Yes,
Is it common? Yes.
Is it overused? ohhhhh yeah.

Myths of Drop-Tuning:

"but... but.. but... it sounds better, doesn't it?"

"all the cool metal bands do it, why shouldn't I"

To a degree it is tasteful. I have a hard time justify anything lower than C# standard. That is three semitones lower. For certain types of music (metal, which may be obvious), utilizes it quite often. Then you have the ass-clowns who tune to B standard, A standard, Drop G, etc.

I have an argument on two fronts:

First is that E2 which on a guitar is the low E string 82.41 Hz. What does that mean? Every second 82.41 sound waves pass any point (Hz is cycles per second). Simple.

HOWEVER the frequency scale is NOT LINEAR, it is logarithmic. E2 is 82.41 Hz (as we have already established) one octave lower E1 is 41.20 Hz etc. Which is what a bass is tuned to.

The threshold for the human ear is typically between 20Hz and 20kHz (twenty thousand hertz). So, you can only go so low. The bass typically drops with the guitar.


The guitar is definitionally a mid range instrument. SO what does that mean? You are changing the range. What happens if you tune your guitar to B standard? Your whole guitar is five semitones lower. It begins to encroach where the bass guitar is, the bass drop tunes as well. If you tune the guitar lower, where are the mid-range frequencies? Missing in action to a degree. So you have a hole in your mix, not a good thing.


The gear side. MOST modern guitar speakers (everything from Celestion Vintage 30's to Celestion Greenbacks, T75's, etc.) start to roll off their low end at around 100 Hz, give or take a bit. What does that mean? the speakers have a harder time producing lower frequencies. So 100Hz is about a G2, (third fret on the low E string if tuned in standard). That isn't a big deal.

Now lets go to the bastard child B standard tuning, ~61Hz. HUGE difference. The lower tuned notes cannot be as efficiently produced by the speakers, so you lose some lower frequencies. Lower, and you aren't fully hearing the fundamental harmonic, you are hearing other harmonics as well.

In summation, think before you drop. If you like it you like it, but now at least you are informed.

Thank you for your ever so valuable time,



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016-09-06 Guitar Strings

To the Guitarophiles, and the Fellow Chasers of the Purple Tone Dragon!

Guitar strings. The topic alone strikes emotions and uneasiness. So what do I have to say? Strings are cheap, and strings are cheap. Wait... did I say that twice? It would appear that I did. So lets say it one more time, Strings are cheap.

Now that we have established that strings are cheap (I usually purchase mine online in bulk), the discussion can commence.

When somebody asks me what strings I use, I tell them.

When somebody asks what strings I recommend, I ask them this: "What strings are you using now? What do you like/dislike about them?" That is all I can say. Strings are a personal item that is largely preference.

The most common issue is NOT breakage, but we will cover breakage first. Seemingly like the string is bad, right? Not all the time!

I say this because if you keep breaking strings in the same spot, you probably have a burr. Not to worry though, they are easy to smooth out a little bit with a little bit of sandpaper (very fine). Once you get that spot fixed, you shouldn't have a problem area any more.

Typically strings break at the bridge/saddle, nut, or tuning keys. Unknown to you, what is happening is that a burr is developing in a problem area. Your string is slowly getting weaker and weaker as the burr is cutting deeper and deeper into the string. You will be innocently strumming (we all know YOU don't do that, so) beating the hell out of your guitar with earth shaking power chords, then SNAP! a string pops. Hopefully it didn't go flying and scratch your cornea, as then you wouldn't be able to read this blog!!! I cannot imagine a worse fate.

[Actually I most commonly break strings bending, but that is a personal thing.]

The most common issue that strings come up 'short' on is the aging (oxidation?). New strings sound jangley and bright and lively, after a little while they lose their luster. Then they start to sound muddy and dark and DULL sounding. No bueno in my book. String life has a million variables, from the sweat and acidity of your sweat on the strings, to the climate. Some people have much better experience with certain string brands than others, largely due to the different metals/coatings interacting with their body.

You can research the different features gimmicks on the packages yourself. They have all sorts of fancy words, that likely don't mean a whole lot. Coatings can be a good thing, on some brands of strings, but may or may not be worth the hike in price for you. The metal alloys are probably the only thing other than round-wound flat-wound half-wound that matter from a tonal (and feel) perspective.

There are products that claim to enhance string life, I call it snake-oil. Some swear by it, I don't. You can decide for yourself.

In summation: Strings are cheap, play the field.

Keep on reading, and I will keep on bitching.

Cheers, Trashed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016-09-18 Cables! oh-Snap.

Greetings Cork-Sniffers and Fellow Tone Hunting Extraordinaire 

Do I spend $10 or $50?!?!?! This one has gold! This one has a warranty! OMGZZZ!

The answer? None of the above.

This topic is heavily debated, and to be honest is mostly bullshit and/or marketing.

If I spend $50 on this Monster or Moogami is it going to give me better tone? In short, No. but there are a few variables. The warranty is one aspect. The durability is another. The ability to do you're own repairs (OK, it matters if you can solder).

What does a cable do? and what is it made of? 

A guitar cable, also known as instrument cable, is a two conductor (think two wire) cable that has a 'TS' plug, They are similar to what a headphone jack looks like (except a headphone jack is smaller and has an extra wire), you get the point. TS means "tip-sleeve" the tip (inner wire) is the 'hot' and the 'sleeve' is the ground (shielding). Typically the shielding is braided around the inner wire. In most every case a decent cable is oxygen free copper, and the jacket is some form of ABS or PVC plastic.

Copper is not the best conductor, so why do we use it?

That is because of cost of material, and tarnishing of silver (everybody has seen an old silver dinner platter) and becomes less conductive, and diminished performance. Copper also oxidizes more than gold. NOW! That is why we use gold plated ends. Why do we? I have not a damn clue. It is a sales gimmick, I call bullshit on the audio industry. Does it do any harm? No.

Why don't you run ten thousand feet of cable? The answer is capacitance, and the way it can interact with the resistance. I will cover that another day.

Cables have two main components that affect performance, cable (surprising, isn't it), and jacks.

The good thing about a typical garden-variety cable is that they are easily repairable, just two solder joints. That is if you can solder (it isn't hard and any self-respecting guitarist should learn). 

BUT I have this warranty so they will replace it right? 

Yeah, if you go the store and if they have one. It's a hassle. If you have a music store down the street that does, great, good for you. I don't feel like wasting an hour on the road to get one cable swapped (and gas too, I guess). 

So what do I do? A little bit of everything. I bought a TON of Monster cables a long time ago when they were half off ($25 isn't bad for ten years and the warranty). But I make a lot of cables.

There are two brands jacks worth considering, Switchraft (my preference) and Neutrik (good as well). They will set you back a couple of bucks a jack, but they will last forever. As far as cable, I use (hey guys, I could use a kickback here), They are very well priced and they are cheap in bulk. Their cable out-specs Monster, Moogami and [some] Canare and is priced at just over $.50/foot in bulk.

The Verdict-

Cheap shitty cables have weaker ends and are less reliable, in my book, a no-go. Mid range cables the ends will fail first. Expensive cables are expensive, but are generally extremely reliable (especially how Monster casts theirs in a resin around the plug). Cheap cables also have more 'memory' which is a huge pain in the ass, it doesn't like to lay out flat and coil up worse. I have never had a cable I made fail. if it does, I can fix it in two minutes. THAT is what I do. That is the rant!

Keep on playing and I will keep on bitching!

Cheers, Trashed. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

2016-09-12 Tubescreamers and More Tubescreamers.

Greetings Fellow Gear-Whores, and Six String Elitists,

Resentment -

OMG! Tubescreamers - There are sooooo many! WHY!?!?!?!?

As we know options lead people (like most other things) to vast stupidity and ignorance. Idiocy and ignorance puts money in two places, the hands of techs (me for example), or manufacturers. What is stupid? how about this: most of this is based on at most a half dozen or so different components that add up to be south of $1.

From the Ibanez/Maxon lineage, there are two caps and two diodes and an op-amp that separate the TS-9 from the TS808. Why in the hell does this add up to a $40ish dollars? (I said it above in case you don't remember), stupidity and ignorance.

You want a "4558" op-amp. That is the consensus.

The NJM and/or JRC models are more sought after, there are a lot of opinions on that though, I am not going to get into that. There are still some NOS ones out there, but there are very mixed opinions there too. Note that for the record NOS is not always the best way to go, depending on the component type and application.

So what are the differences in a TS9 and a TS808 audibly? If I put one of each in an amp in the room with me, (with discerning ears) you COULD tell the difference. HOWEVER, I bet you couldn't tell me blindly which is which through different guitars and amps. This is largely a psychosomatic type thing.

the Rambling  -

WHY in the HELL would you BUY a Maxon or Ibanez (lets stay with current production) tube screamer? in short- you shouldn't. There are literally over a hundred TS based pedals, some are cheaper and lower quality, some are cheaper and higher quality, some are more expensive and lower quality and some are more expensive and higher quality, more versatile and less versatile... etc.

There are two things that impact this: Do I even want a traditional tube screamer? and Am I open to new ideas?

Why wouldn't I want more options if i can get them? You aren't sacrificing anything in most cases by taking the new breed of TS-a-likes-. The prices are very similar as well new and used, so why not get more for your money. Also, support the little guys, I know a handful of guys who build better stuff, and a lot cheaper.

The 'alternatives' out there have better EQ'ing. The flexibility ranges from having more than just one tone knob, to full EQ's, to switches for different levels of treble and mids. A lot of them also have different/multiple gain modes, THAT is a game changer, in my book. Also some have a second switch for a boost (which allows me to take one pedal off the board). Some even have a fuzz circuit built in (i am looking at you MI Audio)

Then, why stop at tube-screamer-a-likes, The Paul C Timmy is awesome, the Hermida Audio Zendrive is heavenly, Pigtronix has some wicked stuff (with three band active EQ's), ZVEX is just flat out insane, Xotic has some REALLY nice stuff, Fulltone has the OCD which is stupid popular (they don't gel with me though), Keeley makes some really nice stuff, etc. etc. etc.

At the moment i am loving my Fulltone Fulldrive 2: Mosfet, and its under $100 used all day, everyday.

My favorite company at the moment is CMATMODS, they are a small business that is turning out some stupid nice stuff. It is all very well built, and the Signa Drive is sweet. I own five of their pedals at the moment, and that number will only go up.

To the Brethren, may your strings sound like music to your ears,


Monday, September 5, 2016

2016-09-05 Tube Amp Maintenance

Greetings to the Brotherhood of  the Quest for Audible Pleasure in the form of Guitar,

The Resentment:

This is one thing that boils my blood on a regular basis (unfortunately almost daily). It usually comes in the form of some uninformed, inexperienced player armed with an arsenal of bullshit online knowledge. Most of this "knowledge" is from another uninformed idiot spouting off something that they don't know either that they heard from somebody else. This is like the small snowball that rolls down the mountain getting bigger and bigger, and leveling a small town,

Now lets get on the topic... "Tube amps are expensive to maintain."

"Well I can't get a tube amp because I can't afford tubes."

 Immediately I call bullshit. yep, right then. I call it so fast that they cannot even get a word in.

My next retort is this: "Do you not play your guitar because you have to buy new strings?" "Do you not drive a car because tires wear?"  Following my statement this blank stare. EVERY time, always the same face.

So lets get down to it. How long do tubes last? There are still plenty of tubes out there from the '60's, as NOS (new old stock), some unused, some partially, and some that have been used since then.

For example i have NOS RCA tubes in a '70's Musicman amp, they are (to the best of my knowledge) the original tubes. This is not normal, but they are out there. I have pre-amp tubes from the '60's, my prized tube in my collection is a Telefunken 12AX7, I have a dozen others as well, some more RCA's, and GE, a few JAN Phillips around too. Current production tubes aren't made to that standard though anymore, but yet again you aren't paying $150 for one tube.

I use a lot of JJ ECC83's, i have probably 50 (yes, fifty) of them in various amps, and I just bought 40 (yes forty) more when they were on sale. I have been using them since 2009 and have only lost two or three, they are able to be had for about $10 brand new from some dealers. They are extremely reliable.

Regarding pre-amp tubes, you can expect a five year lifespan (minimum average) for current production 12AX7's. under moderate to heavy use.

Regarding power-amp tubes, they have a slightly shorter lifespan. If you use them a lot and are gigging, I would replace them every other year. *KEEP the spares though so you have them down the line.* They are also more expensive than pre-amp tubes, but not a whole lot more.

Bottom Line - Tubes are a wear item, just like strings, socks, and tires. I would be very surprised to hear that dumped more than $20-$40 a year (averaged) into tubes, I am sure some are out there, but few and far between, that would be HEAVY use, bordering on abuse.

Having said that, the Resentment and Rant were kind of in one this week.

As always, hatespam is welcomed, comments are fine too.

Cheers, and may you find much pleasure with your musical endeavors,


 **One thing that i purposely not discuss is brand, other than just a causal reference or reference gain levels. i will save that for another week**