Definition of G.A.S. (guitar acquisition syndrome)


As if spending close to £10k over the last fifteen years or so on guitar related kit didn’t give it away, I’ve now realised I have an official problem with G.A.S.:

This last weekend, and for the first time in ages, I had a couple hours spare so thought it would be a great opportunity to practice. So after setting up my amp & pedal board I went to youtube and started watching a few videos to try and pick up some new licks. About two videos in and I thought – wow that guy has great tone, maybe I need a new overdrive pedal. I then spent the next half-hour looking for overdrive pedals, and then the next hour or so comparing reviews. Although I didn’t buy anything, I suddenly realised that instead of practicing for two hours I had practiced for ten minutes, and spent the rest of the time looking for new gear – doh!!

Still I think I am going to get myself both of these for Christmas!

117600V2JH

Compressor for guitar and bass


I’ve had an epiphany over the last week or so when it comes to using a compressor on both electric guitar and bass. As I have mentioned in previous posts I have had a boss CS-3 for many years, but never really worked out how to use it. So after reading lots of people praising compression I bought a BBE opto stomp a few months back to see if a different pedal would “do” it for me – maybe it was just the CS-3 I didn’t get on with? I have only really been playing bass in live situations recently so I initially tried the opto stomp on the bass and wasn’t massively impressed as it noticeably sucked my tone. However last week I put the opto stomp on my electric guitar pedal board like so:

I placed it immediately before the GraphicFuzz (if you put it after drive it cancels out any boost), and after adjusting the volume so that the pedal did not reduce the signal strength had one of the greatest “a-ha!” moments I’ve ever had with a pedal. I basically turned on all the drive and fuzz, and then as I slowly turned up the compression dial noticed how it really gave control over stray harmonics, uneven picking etc. It seemed the compressor enabled me to control levels of drive that I had previously stayed away from, freeing me to really go for it (in this case in a rather OTT blues jam). It was like I could finally control Gary Moore levels of drive and sustain without sounding like Michael J Fox (as in “Back to the Future”!). So rather than directly effecting the sound this compressor provided control giving me  a new confidence for playing at high drive levels – result!

So now that the opto stomp is a favourite on my guitar pedal board I tried the boss CS-3 on my bass pedal board like so:

Again, when I tried this setup (this time in a practice with my band) I had another “a-ha!” moment. Unlike the opto stomp that doesn’t have an attack control, the CS-3 gave me enough control to dial back in the bassy punch that I like so much, whilst still compressing the overall signal so that again I really felt a much greater level of control. By carefully adjusting the attack and sustain I got a tight compression but without losing the punchy attack that the opto stomp took away – again a major result!!

So, after almost twenty years of having a compressor I’ve finally got compression to work for me albeit by choosing different pedals for electric guitar and bass. On the electric the one knob control of the opto stomp works great as it allows me to dial in the control without overly colouring the sound (or at least the attack setting seems to be set to work well with guitar). However on the bass I really need the additional manual attack control to balance the benefits of compression without losing the punchiness that I like so much in my bass tone – so finally I’m a convert and will be keeping the pedals on both pedal boards and even switched on for the foreseeable future (or at least until our next live gig on 5th November which will be the first true test of the bass + CS-3)!

PedalTrain mini review


Why did I buy it?

So as mentioned below I have started playing in a band again, this time on bass. I’ve always liked to take a few pedals along for the bass but in the past have been a bit haphazard with them as previously the only option has been making my own pedalboards. But since I last looked there are a plethora of options for pedalboards, and I figured this one was about the right size. It was however quite expensive, so still feels a bit extravagant (although does massively reduce my set-up time). The padded bag is made of identical material to standard gig bags and it has a pocket for cables and a shoulder strap. It is made of robust black painted steel and comes with velcro to attach the pedals. Powerwise I found a 9volt transformer with a 1.7A current rating which runs the 9v pedal that I have on the board via a daisy-chain. There isn’t really room to fit a dedicated power supply.

How does it sound?

It makes a satisfying metallic clunk when dropped from waist height, which is significantly muted when the padded gig bag isn’t removed.

Keep or sell?

Definitely a keep as it is about the right size for my bass pedal board. I’ve had a variety of pedals on it, however at the moment am running the ones shown in the picture. In fact I’m thinking of getting a second to make a stripped down guitar pedal board as well.

Electro-harmonix bass big muff review


Why did I buy it?

I have a Russian big muff which although great, does sometimes sound a bit transistory. As I have started playing in a band again and these are quite cheap, I thought I’d get one just for fun.

How does it sound?

WOW – this is amazing! With the tone and sustain at about 1/3 and the volume at 1/2 it dirties things up beautifully and makes my bass sound huge! I’m using it on a cover of the Beatles tune “Lady Madonna” and it’s great. Granted everyone else in the band rolls their eyes whenever I hit the pedal and shout big muff but I love it. I would say it sounds significantly better than the Russian one, and has the added advantage of being much smaller on the pedalboard.

Keep or sell?

Keep.

BBE opto stomp review


Why did I buy it?

I bought this about 6 months ago as I have started playing bass in a band again and wanted to get a pedalboard together. Although I have the Boss CS3 I wasn’t sure how good it would be for a bass and found good reviews about this one on the encyclopaedic website www.ovnilab.com Also I have had a love hate relationship with compressors in the past, occasionally finding them essential especially for the bass, and at other times wondering why I spent the money to buy one. I wanted to try a new compressor to see if this love hate relationship remained, but not spend too much.

How does it sound?

So the big caveat here is that I have only used it in a live situation on my musicman bass going into a Genz-Benz shuttle amp – so not on an electic guitar. Initially I was really disappointed as even when set to a very mild setting it seemed to suck the punch out of my bass tone. I quite like playing near the bridge to get the punch, but as soon as the compressor was clicked on zwump – the punchiness disappeared. However after a bit of experimenting I think I like it, again on a very mild setting, but only when playing fretless, although frankly the effect is very very subtle to be almost unnoticeable.

Keep or sell?

I have had moments in the past when sound engineers are very pleased that I have a compressor for the bass, so I think I am keen to keep at least one with me at all times. However much like the boss, the optostomp effect is very subtle to my ears, and realistically it is not a major part of my tone. So keep, but only to keep the sound guys happy!

Musicman Stingray Pickguard


Vanity of vanities – I have started playing bass in a band again so got the old musicman out and decided it needed sprucing up. I’ve decided that I like my guitars looking beautiful so bought a new “cream pearl” pickguard from an extremely helpful company called www.guitarpartsworldwide.com Initially I was somewhat flabbergasted that it would cost £50 however after asking the guys on the talkbass forum (http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f18/source-scratchplates-870990/) it seemed this was par for the course so I went for it. I’m actually rather pleased with the effect:

Image

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Fender Telecaster – Review


Why did I buy it?

I think it’s clear from this blog that I like strat’s, however after owning a less inspiring Mexican version with far more bells and whistles than I actually needed (reviewed immediately below) I decided to step out on a limb and buy something simple and classic. Mind you it wasn’t too much of a limb because this guitar feels almost identical to a strat apart from the slightly heavier non-contoured body. Indeed I do think Tele’s look cooler than strats. This one was of course US made, I think in 1999. The story behind it was that the guitarist in my old band used to play an almost identical guitar and I figured if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me. Also I had just split-up with my girlfriend and was in need of cheering up – perhaps being nostalgic for “old times”.

How does it sound?

Tonally the Tele is not as diverse as the strat but it still sounds great. I found it beautiful for most things on the clean to a bit of dirt side of the spectrum, however after a year or so of owning this I went out and bought a PRS SE with two humbuckers to handle the heavier stuff. The band I was in at the time played mostly covers and together these two guitars got me through a lot of gigs very well. I found the Tele a little bit heavy and the silver pick-up cover used to get quite dirty, but as mentioned above I really liked the overall look (how vain!). Played through my Laney VC30 it was bit brighter than I may of liked, but sometimes brightness can be a good thing especially if there is something like a Hammond in the band that gets a bit greedy with the number of frequencies it covers! My enduring memory of this guitar is fluffing the intro to the “Friends” theme tune in front of everyone at the year 2000 festival in Farnborough park!

Keep or sell?

I sold this when the number of gigs I was doing reduced and I could no longer justify two electrics. Although I liked the Tele there was nothing it could do that a strat couldn’t plus more. Also my band split up and I was going through a slightly difficult time so I wanted a new guitar to take me in a different direction. I think in the future I would not be adverse to getting another one, however it would come quite a bit down the wishlist. I’m glad I tried a Tele and do see why people get excited about them, however if I am to own only one electric that’s got to be a strat for me!

Mexican Richie Sambora Strat – Review


Why did I buy it? 

After being at university for a year and having traded in my strat for an acoustic I found myself in a band where I needed to play electric. As a long time strat lover there was only one option, however I couldn’t afford a US made guitar and wouldn’t reduce myself to a Squire. I started looking for a Mexican or Japanese strat before coming across this second-hand guitar (again the photo is not the actual guitar). As a young teenager I remember being blown away by Richie Sambora especially his playing on the “BonJovi Unplugged” MTV session, and I also remember an issue of the Guitarist magazine in the early 90s that reviewed both the high-spec Sambora strat along with this cheaper Mexican made version which I rather fancied at the time. So when I saw this instrument at a very reasonable price I snapped it up, probably around 1999 ish.

How does it sound?

This instrument had a DiMarzio PAF humbucker in the bridge position which (in my opinion) is a great improvement on the singlecoil in the equivalent position. As mentioned previously I love the range of sounds available on the strat and the humbucker just adds to the tonal smorgasbord. Feel wise the neck, balance and fret finish of this guitar was not as good as my previous US strat but it was still very playable. I liked the locking nut however had huge problems with the Floyd Rose tremolo. Initially I liked the fact you could tune using the little black dials however I found the tuning stability very poor. Latterly I found out that the Floyd Rose pivots about a blade that needs to be maintained in order to work optimally. When I first got this guitar I was using it through a small rack system with an ancient ART preamp & Calvin power amp, however then moved to a Laney VC30-210, the latter “vintage” amp not quite being a good match for this very much rockers guitar.

Keep of sell?

As a bit of a guitar snob I always figured I would upgrade back to a US made Fender eventually. This one worked well for a few years however the tuning instability caused me all sorts of issues and after a gig where I really struggled to keep the guitar in tune I think the writing was on the wall. Still I really liked the humbucker, the occasional dive-bombs that were possible with this instrument, and it was nice to own an instrument I had coveted as a kid.

Fender US Strat – rosewood fretboard – Review


Why did I buy it?

Sadly I never took any pictures of what was my teenage “dream guitar” (this is the closest I can find online). When I was 18 I went to the States for the first half of my (inappropriately named) gap-year and worked in a drive through to afford this guitar. I had borrowed a squire strat for years whilst at school and my dream was to get a “proper US strat”. I settled on a US standard, candy apple red, rosewood fretboard and pearl pickguard. I remember the day I paid for it in autumn 1996 – bringing $800 in $100 bills into the music shop – and remember the smell as I opened the case once getting back home! I then brought it back to the UK with the case wrapped in more bubble-wrap than was strictly necessary!

How does it sound?

The problem with teenage dreams is that they are quite often unrealistic. I had bought my dream guitar but forgotten about what to plug it into! For the first year or so of owning this I cobbled together a make-shift amp with old bits of radio plus the smallest practice amp you’ve ever seen (I think it was a “Kustom”) before finally borrowing someones better Trace Elliot amplifier for a few months. However I do remember spending a day in a friends studio and plugging this into a Marshall half-stack and wow – I was in heaven. I love the variety of sounds you can get from the five-way pickup switch, the feel of the neck and the contour and lightness of the body. In fact I go teary-eyed even thinking about it!

Keep or sell?

And then we get to the sad bit. I played bass full time for a year in a band with an excellent electric guitarist whose ability was way beyond anything I could hope to achieve. However, for occasional songs we did use two guitars but with me playing a bit of acoustic. This meant for a whole year of touring I was exposed to blistering talent on an electric whilst carving a niche for myself on bass & acoustic. So when I finally went to university (and having little money) I traded this strat in for my Fender Acoustic guitar (reviewed below). In one way I do not regret this as I still have and love my acoustic which has served me well in literally hundreds of gigs, however I do regret not being able to hold on to what I consider my “first” guitar. Sometimes I think that when I am old with lots of money and children off looking after themselves I might indulge myself with an identical guitar, just for “old times” sake.