Lego Pedal Board

This is the coolest pedal board idea I have seen in a long time!

The most common method of attaching effects pedals to a board is velcro.  But the sticky stuff never comes off the pedal and I just don’t like it.  So I tried zip ties through strategically placed holes, but that made it too difficult to change the order on my pedal board.  Then I put each pedal on an appropriately sized piece of wood with zip ties, then put velcro on the bottom of the wood, and then attached it to the pedal board.

This lego pedal board goes a step further!  I don’t know how sturdy it is, but what a great idea!

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Best way to dumpster dive

I have discovered the best way to dumpster dive.  The person throwing the stuff away that you are interested in lets you know when they are going to throw it away.  My local guitar shop is cleaning out their storage space and is throwing away “old” (not vintage) and broken combo amp chasis and cabinets.  I have consistently told them that I am looking for metal corners, handles, and other nick knacks, so if they get rid of stuff to let me know.  They did.

So now I have an empty Raven RG100 combo cabinet in my garage waiting for me to remove the handle and the metal corner covers!

While I was there I saw two Yamaha horns sitting on the floor.  I mentioned they might want to move those so someone doesn’t trip and they told me they were getting rid of them.  They were going to put them on the sidewalk with a sign that said, “Take me if your horny.”  I won’t comment on my state of arousal, but I did take the horns too for a future PA speaker cabinet project!  Thanks guys!

I do love taking free stuff and building something that works out of them!

More Reverb Insights

Once again, Guitar Player magazine has further answered my questions (well, most of them).  In his Gear Shop Talk article, “Max Headroom,” Mark Baier of Victoria Amplifiers compared the pre-1960 tweed Fender amps (floating baffle, sturdy softwood) to the post1960 blackface Fender amps (secured baffle, ply or MDF wood).  He said:

The tweed’s natural resonance is largely what accounts for the characteristic, “I don’t miss the reverb” dynamic.  Tweed cabs already have an organic “reverb” to them.

In comparison, blackface amps such as the Super Reverb and Twin Reverb came with the reverb effect built in to the amp.

Turn the ‘verb off on a Super Reverb or Twin Reverb and the tightness, stiffness and directionality of the package becomes very apparent.  As such, the reverb is quite a necessity on these amps; it really softens this trait and makes them more enjoyable to play.

I’m sure this difference is even more obvious when comparing the standard 4×12 closed back Marshall to the tweed 4×10 open backed Fender Bassman as described in yesterday’s quote from Dave Hunter.

 

Guitar Speaker Cabinet Reverb

With the return of my Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb pedal to its original spot. on my pedal board, I was looking forward to playing again.  I generally like the warmth some hall reverb adds to my guitar signal and some songs call for some great spring reverb, both of which are achievable with the Holy Grail pedal.  However, I have always used my Holy Grail Reverb with my Vox AD50VT amp and not with my new Frenzel Champ Super Sportster amp and home made 1×12 speaker cabinet (with a Celestion Vintage 30 for you guitar geeks keeping track).

So Friday I played guitar.  I had finished a big milestone in my preparations for my fencing instructor exam and had the day off from work, so I completely relaxed.  The kids were playing nicely upstairs.  My wife was out and about.  Everything lined up.  So I played.  And unlike last week, it felt great.  I wasn’t particularly good, but I wasn’t particularly bad.  However, I found that I really had to dial down any reverb to the point of almost nonexistence.  The amp just sounded better without the reverb effect.  I tried multiple pre-amp and pick up configurations, but it was pretty consistent.  It sounded muddy and to heavy on the bass or muddy and to spacey and far away.  The only time the reverb effect seemed to add some real value was when I played something with my ModTone Vintage Analog Delay on too.  It really woke up the delayed sound and created more depth (if that word can be used to describe it after being so overused) for the repeats beyond what the plain delay created.

Anyway, it bugged me.  Why didn’t it sound as good?  I usually like reverb to make the guitar sound more alive.  But this had the opposite effect to my ears.  I finished playing and felt better overall, but perplexed with the reverb effect and why I had turned it off well before finishing my playing.  That night I just happened to read “All About Speaker Cabinets” by Dave Hunter in Guitar Player magazine.  He said:

The cabinets in 1950s tweed and 1960s blackface Fender amps were made from glued, finger-jointed solid-wood boards, usually of yellow pine, red cedar, or a similar sturdy softwood. This element contributes a warm, round, slightly soft resonance to the sound of the speaker itself. It’s a factor that can be somewhat unpredictable, too, but when it comes off right, it becomes a big part of an amp’s voice. The ’50s Fenders in particular had thin, “floating” plywood baffles mounted in these cabs—which is to say the baffles were bolted in at their four corners only (with extra bolts center top and center bottom in the big amps), rather than firmly all across all four sides. When such an amp is cranked up, this floating baffle vibrates considerably, and it contributes its own resonance to the sonic brew.

Using quality plywood and more rigid construction techniques—which often include a fully secured baffle—creates a stiffer cab in which the wood itself contributes less resonance. This was the Marshall and Vox standard. Numerous top-notch boutique makers use plywood cabs these days (usually made from high-grade, 11-ply Baltic birch ply or similar) in order to produce consistent and predicable results in a punchy, powerful speaker cabinet. The stiffer box allows the speaker to project its sound a little more immediately—and to retain its own character while doing so—and is often the choice of amp makers who want to favor muscle, articulation, and a quick response more than a compressed and somewhat velvety vintage tone. Decent “firm” cabs have even been constructed from MDF and particle board—although these are typically considered low-budget options.

Upon reading this, I had my a-ha moment.  Perhaps what I originally used the Holy Grail Reverb for was to help my mdf/particle board/closed back/secured baffle Vox AD50VT amp have a more “velvety vintage tone.”  Now that I have the white pine (sturdy softwood)/open back/floating 1/2 inch birch ply baffle 1×12 speaker cabinet, I don’t need the Holy Grail Reverb to achieve that “velvety vintage tone.”  It comes with the old 50’s and 60’s style speaker cabinet I built.

I am very curious now to build the 2×12 closed back speaker cabinet I have been planning.  I will be wiring two 16 ohm speakers in parallel (which should “dampen and restrain each other somewhat, yielding a slightly tighter response, and a smoother breakup” according to Mr. Hunter).  I want to compare and contrast that with my current 1×12 open back!  I’m also curious how playing different styles of music are impacted by the choice of speaker cabinet.  If I play hard rock or punk stuff, should I use the closed back cab?  If I play blues or softer rock, should I use the open back cab?  Or is it the other way around?  Or does it depend on the guitar?  What about the song?  Can I actually play songs well enough to tell a difference?  Will I need to practice more? Am I happier? Fascinating!

Friday wasn’t the end

I just read my last post (TGIF?).  Wow.  Depressing.  I tried to end it on a good note (which is how the week went), but it still sounds pretty down.  This week has also been exhausting, but I am more upbeat.  In fact, I had two very up beat guitar oriented events.  Unfortunately, they weren’t playing guitars, they were talking about guitars.

My coworker and friend who has the great guitar collection (and plays very well) stopped by on Wed.  In a previous meeting I had told him about a 6 part review of the Parker Fly on theFifthFret.  Of all his guitars, his number 1 gigging guitar has become his Parker Fly (with Roland synth pick up installed at the bridge – so he has the two humbuckers (with split coil capabilities), the stock piezo pick up in the bridge for acoustic sounds, and the synth pick up for playing other instruments on the guitar.  This is the pick up and technology that got me on the organ/POG2 quest.  Anyway, I digress.  We started chatting about guitars and his new year’s eve gig with an accordion player.  He had an amp go out on him at the gig.  We talked about the Electro Harmonix .22 caliber (22 watt) pedal amp as a back up.  Anyway, it was a great conversation about guitar stuff and I came away feeling upbeat and happy.  So upbeat and happy that the next three people I interacted with at work commented on it.

Then on 1/11/11 I talked with my wife about us possibly hosting a party with live music on 11/11/11.   November 11th is a Friday and a state holiday.  It couldn’t get much better than that!  And there is plenty of time to ask people to get ready.  We have a family friend who plays, writes, and records her own music.  She could play.  My work band could start practicing again and we could play.  The Breakfast Club could get back together and maybe even learn a second song!  And finally, I could ask the friend who got the Gretsch and gave me the body blanks if he wants to start a country western band with him on guitar and singing, me playing bass, and my wife playing drums! Plenty of time to do all of that!

The only thing that alarms me is that all of this excitement came from talking about guitars.  Not actually playing.  Once I’ve got this fencing instructor’s exam out of the way I need to regroup and make sure my excitement isn’t just about guitars, but about playing guitars.  Otherwise I’m wasting my time and money on equipment and instruments.  That seems just plain stupid to me.  It has to have a point.  It has to have a purpose.  Or it is just amassing stuff for the sake of stuff.  One of the reasons I love guitars is because I want to make music.  But if I’m just a victim of GAS and nothing else, then I need to stop.

Again, this will have to wait until after the exam, but I’m sure I’ll have more to blog about then.  It’ll be like my new year’s resolution posts…just delayed a month and a half.

TGIF?

I haven’t worked a Friday in months. With vacations, illness, flex schedules, holidays, etc. It has literally been months since I’ve been in my office on a Friday. But this week I worked all five days, including Friday.

Arriving at home I was tired. I’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for a written fencing instructor’s exam. I needed to keep studying. I needed to review. But I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t feel like taking care of my family duties. I didn’t feel like doing anything much.

My wife suggested I play the guitar until dinner. So I plugged into my amp. I played. I ran through some stuff I know. I played chords. I played some scales. I messed around. I still felt totally spent. So I plugged in my pedal board. I tried playing with my Holy Grail Reverb back in the signal chain. I played with delay. I played with fuzz. I played with distortion. I played with overdrive. I played with natural tube driven tone. And I still felt out of it.

I don’t know if it was the lack of guitar playing these last few weeks/months. I don’t know if it was the stress and guilt of not studying fencing stuff or performing family oriented responsibilities. I don’t know if it was just exhaustion from actually having to work Friday. All I know is that it didn’t change anything and I eventually stopped playing.

Anyone ever just feel like they are in a funk (not the cool kind of funk)? What do you do to get out of it? How often is it self-generated? Is the key other people’s kindness? Is it something you have to figure out alone? Is it just a sign of taking on too many things? Does it just have to be waded through (buck up little camper)? Or do you need a drill sergeant to force you to get through it?

Life isn’t bad. I’m not depressed. I was just surprised that playing the guitar didn’t rejuvenate me.

P.S. I will say that I actually fenced this (Sat) morning. I didn’t just coach and critique and study, I actually fenced competitively with someone who is very good. I came home feeling physically tired, but rejuvenated. Interesting.

Procrastinating Resolutions

I said this a few weeks ago, but for those 7 loyal readers out there, you may have noticed I really have slowed down my posts. I am headed into the home stretch on my current non-guitar oriented goal and won’t be done until mid-February. So I have decided to postpone my new year’s resolutions until after that goal is complete.
I’m curious how many people have goals for the entire year or if your goals can be split up throughout the year over a shorter time frame? Any thoughts or examples are appreciated!

Friendly Jam

The friend who got me the body blanks just got a Gretsch Electromatic Double Cutaway guitar pictured below for Chirstmas.  He also got a Fender Vibro Champ XD amp.  He’s retired and his family is out of town today. I’ve got the day off.  So we got together.  I took my Frenzel Super Sportster Champ head, still unfinished 1×12 speaker cabinet, and my Warmoth project guitar.  He played his Gretsch.  We had a great time!

We played some 12 bar blues.  We played some Beatles.  He taught me some cowboy songs.  He is a former Special Forces guy who played in country and western bands around base in the 60’s and 70’s.  He hasn’t played for a long time and I’m not very good, so we were evenly matched!  He also writes poetry and the occasional song.  He said he writes more poetry than songs because he comes up with poetry when he’s in bed and songs when he’s in the shower.  If he wants to write a song, he takes more showers.  I thought that was pretty funny.

After an hour and a half of playing, we agreed we had to do this again.  I also said I had to record some of the songs he’s written (minus the shower).  We’ll see how it goes!