Well hey hey! Normally, I don't write many of these blogs, normally because i'm too busy doing the youtube's and the breadboarding (aka circuit design). Plus, Jason and Alex are way more interesting than I am.
In January a combination of things happened to me, and us as a company. One of those being that our company became recognized by probably the worlds best business guru, Gary Vaynerchuk. I know, I know, you don't care about business, you care about tone, right? Of course, we all do! Regardless, I wanted to take a minute and write a piece that we can reference back to every time we get business questions (and to be honest, we get A LOT of questions about how we do our marketing). As you read the following paragraphs, please understand that I'm coming at this from a place of love, and a place of wanting to help you if you are starting a business, trying to run your guitar/amp/pedal/whatever business, or just feeling like things overall are feeling impossible... like it's impossible to get ahead, and improve whatever it is that you're going through right now. I also want to point out first and foremost: The business isn't just me, it's Jason, Alex, Jake, Cathy, Jeff, Jerry, Amanda (of course), Travis, Max, and just about everyone that's ever worked for us.
That being said, I bring you: "Why good things never come easy."
Don't let anyone ever tell you "it can't be done", or that something is impossible. In 2005 or so, I started writing a few books to help guitar players learn how to modify their guitar pedals. It was intended to be a book that would simplify electronics and bring it to a bigger audience than just Engineering nerds (no offense nerds :p ). A little later I started building pedals and eventually quit my work as a remodeling subcontractor to focus full time on all things guitar tone related. So many people tried to discourage me, even some that were close to me.... but I kept going.
Around 2010 or so I learned of a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk, and bought a book called "Crush it!". His book excited me so much that I drove all of my employees, friends, and family nuts with his ideas and business principles, and insisted that we follow his lead. I think I've bought that book (and his newer ones) about 50 times and sent it to various people over the past years in hopes it would help them actually.
Fast forward to 2016... I found out that one of our customers knew Gary himself after I posted something about loving GaryVee's videos, who invited me up to their office, which lead to a chance to meet Gary (AND be in one of his videos)...
...which lead to Gary asking if I'd like to be part of his next book. That book is available today, and to all of my entrepreneurial friends: You've got to check it out - it's fantastic! Here it is... Oh, and make sure you check out page 48
However, that's not why I'm writing this. I'm saddened, humbled, and overall more than anything... grateful.
I'm saddened that people still don't believe in themselves. That they talk theirselves out of trying, out of taking a risk, the negative self talk defeats them before they even TRY to start anything. Even talking to people at other companies at NAMM, I'm astonished. When they ask how we do what we do, I have no problems telling them. The most common response: "Wow, that seems like a lot of work!"
Are you kidding me?! Seriously? If you own a business and you aren't going to give it 1000% you're going to get beat. Your competition, at some point in time, will take your lunch money and shove you down in the dirt (metaphorically of course). This applies to musicians, and writers, and creatives of all types. It applies to high school seniors who are wondering what to do with their life. It applies to those in college who feel stuck, or are doing what "Mom and Dad said I should do" yet have no passion for that area in which they (or more correctly their parents) have chosen.
Success is simple: BUST YOUR ASS AND BE PATIENT. That's all it takes. Work harder than everyone else, like your life depends on it. Do everything possible to improve your situation. Are you having money problems? Do something about it. Throw out the TV, and sleep less. Learn new skills. Are you upset because your coworker makes more money than you? Do something about it. Change. Change. Change! You can't have change in your life without changing yourself. But remember - life is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't expect some magical way to "Get rich/find love/become successful with these 3 easy steps!"
I'm completely humbled and grateful for our customers and friends who believe in us. We exist purely to make your world a little better. Granted, we aren't curing diseases here, but it's incredibly satisfying to meet those who have just a little bit more joy in their life because they are coming home after a long day's work and playing on that new piece of guitar gear that makes them happy. Or, they write a song and send it out to the world and that song affects other people. Grateful isn't a strong enough word. Just please understand that all of the youtube videos I do, all of the podcasts, all of the facebook, instagram, twitter, and snapchat posts that my team and I put out - they are for you. They are for your enjoyment, entertainment, and/or education. You'll notice we don't "sell, sell, sell" on 99% of our posts. We don't look at our business that way. We believe we are in the people business, not the guitar pedal business. I go to bed thinking how can I make your life better with what I have to work with and I wake up with the same thought. For now that looks like guitar pedals, but who knows - maybe it's amps, or guitars, or VR instruments, or something entirely different in the future.
To all those that have helped us get here, and to those who work for me, have worked for me in the past, and/or put up with me, I'm indebted to you.
We get a lot of questions about breadboarding. It is an essential for any DIYer. Using software from 123d.circuits.io, we are able to give you the following tutorial on how to build a voltage amplifier circuit, or as many guitarists call it, a JFET booster. This is a basic breadboard layout. The battery, of course, represents your power supply, but any power supply will work.
The top and bottom two rows are all connected horizontally.
In the middle section, the holes are all connected vertically. This is important to remember, as this is key to how our signal will flow.
First thing we will do is run power into the board. We accomplish this by running a wire from the positive lead on the battery snap to one of the top rows. It can be any hole in that line, we just chose the closest. That entire row is now 9 volts power. And you do the same with the negative feed to the other row. That entire row becomes our ground.
If you are building a circuit using op amps, you will want to run power to both sides of the board. This is done by using a jumper wire from the positive row and the ground to the bottom two rows.
We are going to need an input and an output jack. Heat up that soldering gun. You will need to solder wire to the lugs on the jack. Notice how the negative lug is connected to the ring? This is where you will connect ground. The positive lug, which is connected to the tip, carries your signal into the signal chain.
We will now run a wire from the positive lug to one of our columns in the middle section. You would then run a wire from the negative lug to ground.
Now that we have the basics in place, we want to start this circuit out with a J201 JFET transistor. Notice how the three legs fit in three different rows.
Next we will need to add a .022 capacitor to the input.
Next we will place a 1k resistor in parallel, in the same row, with the capacitor.
Now we want to run a jumper wire to the first leg of the JFET.
The middle pin of the JFET can be given many different values dependent on what frequency response you want or how much gain you desire from the circuit. You can use any size resistor, however we will use a 1k resistor for this demo. We need to attach one end of the resistor to ground and the other to a hole in the middle section. We will then run a jumper to the middle leg of the transistor.
Now we need to run power to the JFET. We do this by attaching it to out 9v line and then to a hole in the middle. Again we need to use a jumper wire to get to the third leg of the JFET.
This is a little tricky here. As this resistor value will be dependent on what is needed to get a 4.5 reading on a voltage meter.
To check your voltage, you will need to attach the black probe to ground, and the red probe to the powered pin of the JFET. Then trade in resistors until you get a reading of 4.5 minimum.
It does not need to be 4.5 exactly, but I don’t like to go below that. Generally 4.5-5 volt is where you would like to be.
Okay, so the transistor has power and is working, but we need sound. Now we will add a capacitor where the power is coming in at the JFET. So we will connect it with the jumper wire that is going to the third pin on the transistor.
The other leg of the capacitor is where the sound will be coming out to your output jack. (Remember, when connecting your jacks to hook your negative to ground)
Warning: When you connect this breadboard to your amp it is going to be very loud compared to your usual guitar signal. This is because we have not added a volume pot yet. So let’s add a potentiometer. There are two types, wired and plug-in. For this demo we will use a wired type. We will be using a 500k for this circuit.
We will connect the third lug to the output of the capacitor. The first lug will go to ground and the second lug will go to a random hole in the board and then out to our output jack.
You may notice an added resistor in the diagram there. Very observant grasshopper. That is a 1 meg resistor that we forgot to add. It is attached to the first leg of the transistor, and then jumpered to ground. Our bad. So if we were to translate this to a schematic it would look like this.
As you can see, it would run input to capacitor to resistor to ground to JFET to ground. R5 is going to change in value as you bias it to reach 4.5 volts, then the signal continues to our capacitor (c4) to our volume pot to negative to our output. And so we just breadboarded a JFET booster. Well done!! :)
When most guitar players make lists like this, it's because they are listing things that made them play guitar differently or want to play guitar better or something like that. When I list things, it's because certain pieces made me hear something different and challenged the way that I viewed the sound of guitar. Most often they shaped me as a person which lead me to where I am today as President and Head of Design at Wampler Pedals.
I really can't narrow it down to five points, so my list may be a little bit longer than the others, but I think by showing you a few more things than five you will see a trend in how I got to where I am now. The truth is that there were several different moments that define points in my life that would eventually point to where I am now. Most guitar players think about guitar solos, riffs or maybe even song structure or something along those lines. To me, the things that really struck me were more related to guitar tone and also effects. Not even necessarily guitar effects but effects in general, such as the case with Pink Floyd mentioned below.
Van Halen – Beautiful Girls
When I was growing up as a kid, Van Halen was definitely the guitar sound that defined rock 'n' roll to me. It wasn't necessarily the group itself, or a song, or a particular EVH solo that made me want to pick up the guitar. The guitar tone that I heard from the early Van Halen albums (up until around 5150 I believe) was something that was such a massive influence on me personally, and was something that I was always striving to achieve with my modest rig I had setup as a young guitar player. I loved the ‘brown sound’ (as it’s came to be called) on songs like “Beautiful Girls”, “DOA”, “Feel Your Love Tonight”, “Everybody Wants Some”, and all that stuff from that era. Even when 1984 showed Eddie using more chorus, I liked the effect. Once 5150 and OU812 came out though, I wasn’t as big of a fan of the tones… the effects were too ‘wet’ in my opinion in many cases. Additionally, it seemed like they were turning into a pop band with songs like “Love Comes Walking In” and “Finish What Ya Started”. “Black and Blue” had a cool groove to it though. I do feel there were a few decent, but very new tones with the “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album. For example, “Runaround” and “Top of The World” definitely aren’t Eddie’s brown sound, but it was fairly unique in that era.
Dokken – Mr. Scary
A big influence for me during my younger teen years was Dokken. Not so much the love songs, but George Lynch’s tone at that time was huge! He had a ton of catchy licks and melodic yet tricky solos as well. Songs such as “Night By Night”, “Mr. Scary”, and “Sleepless Night” off of the “Back for the Attack” album had great tone for the era. Both that album and “Under Lock and Key” were my two favorite Dokken albums, due to the guitar tone. As far as the songs themselves…. eeehhh… the lyrics got in the way of the guitar playing. ;)
As I got a little older in the 80s, I loved what George Lynch was doing in the Lynch Mob years. The “Wicked Sensation” album had tons of great tones and more catchy Lynch riffs. I have a lot of great memories as a 14 or 15 year old playing in a garage band with some friends, and playing songs like “Wicked Sensation” and “All I Want”.
The second Lynch Mob album was entirely different than their first, but tonally I loved its departure. Some of those guitar tones are something that really influenced me at that time, and showed me how guitar effects can actually create a mood. Whether it's a very moody but spacey, warm chorus sound like “Tangled in the Web”, or whether it's just a very warm midrangey-yet-crunchy distortion tone like on “No Good”, it was a driving force for me at that time. I hate to admit this, but it wasn’t until I heard Lynch’s version of “Tie Your Mother Down” that I paid much attention to the Queen version of that song… so thank you George Lynch for introducing me to Brian May J
It should be noted that this is the time that I met Steve Townsend, who plays on many of our 80’s rock dominated YouTube videos. Even as a teenager he could play all that stuff note for note… such a great player even to this day.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
When I was around 16 or so, a bandmate of mine let me borrow a Pink Floyd tape (yes, I’m old), called “Delicate Sound of Thunder”. It was a live album, and believe it or not, it wasn’t the guitar playing that bent my ear... it was the reverb on the vocals on “Wish You Were Here”. From that point on, I’ve always had a secret crush on various reverb sounds.
Pearl Jam – Alive
Around my senior year of high school or so was when Nirvana and Pearl Jam really hit it big, and Pearl Jam was a huge influence on me at that time. It was revolutionary for me as an impressionable 17 year old… the guitar parts were so simple, there weren’t tons of effects, there were no huge refrigerator sized racks… it was just a guy with simpler gear and maybe a pedal or two creating great songs. He was doing it without showing off finger acrobatics and he was achieving more melodic solos. The moods and feelings they evoked with the simpler equipment were amazing to me. It was the way that they made songs come alive and made me feel emotions and spoke to me in different ways; it was something I could identify with compared to the corny love songs of the 80’s. This was a big inspiration on me personally... I realized just how much those types of things affect a person as a listener, not necessarily as a guitar player. For a consumer of music, I realized that the guitar tones and effects used could often help affect the listener just as much as a good lyric. Hearing the song “Alive” made me re-realize the power of a cranked JCM800. It just had BALLS. Such great stuff; I’m a huge fan of the first 3 albums from Pearl Jam in particular.
Alice in Chains – Would?
Through those years, I was a huge fan of the movie “Singles”, and especially the soundtrack. Some of my favorites were from Alice In Chains (with “Would?” being my introduction to them) and “Breath and a Scream”. I got into Alice In Chains, Sound Garden, and various other bands (including Weezer). During this time, I was in a band playing clubs around our local college, having way too much fun and loving life. Keep in mind that I did not have a ton of great gear at all. I was borrowing a solid state amplifier (Peavey Supreme 160 and a GHS 4x12 cabinet) from a friend, and I had a little RP 50 (and later upgraded to a RP-5) Digitech processor that sounds terrible by today’s standards, that I would use for different effects. This was during a phase of my life where one starts trying to “find themselves”, and I hopped from cover band to cover band, moving from Indiana during the warm months to Tampa, Florida during the winter and playing with different bands there. It was in during one of my stints in Tampa that I upgraded to an RP-10. All of this gear ended up getting pawned so I could eat one day. Such is life I guess.
Brent Mason – Hot Wired
Eventually, at some point while I was playing for that band I just got tired of playing the same songs. Soon I got offered a position in a country band. I did not know much about country guitar or country music at that time at all, but it paid good and I needed money so that was the route I took. The other guitar player in that band actually introduced me to the fact that it was Brent Mason on those recordings that was making my life miserable trying to learn all the solos he was playing! That started off an obsession with him, and I really started digging into his solo stuff and everything that he was putting out with different artists. It amazed me how he used effects in the same way, to evoke emotion and to create a mood within a song simply by his choice of notes and his choice of effects within those notes. By this time I had ‘upgraded’ to a Peavey Bandit (yes… it’s true….) and then my first tube amp, a Peavey Delta Blues. I also purchased my first Telecaster, the MIJ ‘52 Reissue that you might see in our older videos on YouTube. I also went and bought the brand new, super amazing Digitech RP-7 and spent a ton of time creating “Brent Mason” patches. If you were a user and member of the RP forums back then, you may have seen me interact on there during the time. It was around this time that I decided to ditch the RP-7 and I bought a Peavey Classic 50 amp, along with different pedals. I found the Harmony Central gear forum (which actually was pretty cool in 2001 or so) and The Gear Page effects forum. Being a tinkerer, I found DIYstompboxes.com and decided to start pulling my pedals apart. The rest was history as far as pedals went… I read a ton and experimented a lot. Eventually the electronics side became more of an obsession than trying to learn how to play all the fancy licks like Brent and the next guy were putting out…
Brad Paisley – Me Neither
I'll never forget where I was when I first heard Brad Paisley song “Me Neither”. It’s one of those things that made me pull over to the side of the road and do nothing but simply listen to the song. I was floored by the way Brad was using a special choice of notes that was unlike anyone else at that time; he was playing licks that others were playing that you would not think would fit within the song, but they did somehow. I immediately bought the album and heard “The Nervous Breakdown”. This was my introduction to Vox tones. Up until that point I simply wasn’t a fan of them. Brad completely changed that. Every album to date, they’re just full of great tone and creative licks and solos. Not to mention, the guy can write too. PLUS, he’s as big of a fan of gear as anyone else I know. He LOVES pedals, and routinely walks into stores in various towns looking for new gear… even to this day.
I digress. Here are some more great songs that you’ll love from Brad:
- “Munster Rag”
- The entire Mud on the Tires album is FULL of great tone. I can’t narrow this down to one song. “Make a Mistake with Me” and “Spaghetti Western Swing” (with Redd Volkaert) are two of my favorites if I HAD to choose. Of course, check out the solo in * “Little Moments”… perfect note choice, perfect tone in that solo.
- “Time Warp” … every player in the band is just amazing. Seriously, flat out amazing. This is Brad’s road band on the album too – not “studio musicians” like what is commonly the case in most of country music.
I could go on and on here. I’d have about 80 songs to point you to just from Brad. So suffice to say, just check out his stuff – even if you don’t like “country music”, you’ll love Brad’s stuff. In particular, check out his instrumental album “Play”.
And that’s where I personally am today. I love A LOT of great bands that aren’t necessarily country, but the stuff mentioned above is what has shaped me both as a guitar player, as a effect pedal creator/designer, and as a person.