Here is one of the most common questions we are asked at Wampler Pedals - "Can I run this pedal at 18v"?
As you may already know, I'm not one of the engineers in the company, I'm more on the marketing side so this post is not going to be full of nerd stuff, just the basics - I hope it will be everything you need to answer your questions about the amount of power you stick into your favourite Wampler to make it sound the best it can for you.
During the design stage of every Wampler, it is all done via a power adapter that is giving out a steady 9v. So, if you want to hear what Brian hears - take a telecaster, take a pedal, power it via a 9v supply and plug it into a Fender style amp (obviously, he uses other guitars and amps in the testing stage but these are the main reference point for him). To be honest, whenever I receive a new Wampler, that's what I always do. I try to hear it as he does, then I carry on to make it work for me with my preferred gear.
So, what is the actual benefit of running your pedal at a higher voltage? Firstly, you'll get an increase of overall volume - the output goes up (great when you are using your pedals to slam into the preamp of your amp to get more power and balls). Secondly, you'll get an increase of clean headroom. So, if you favourite dirt pedal is breaking up a little too quickly for you and you need the sweep to be a little more gradual, try putting the voltage up. As a reference point, when Tom Quayle is recording, he tends to run his Dual Fusion at 18v so he can have more control over the amount of gain.
There are certain types of pedal that don't like the voltage being increased from 9v. For example, the fuzz circuits in the Wampler range. So, the Velvet Fuzz and the Triple Wreck should be run at 9v (you can run the Triple Wreck at 18v but the boost control will sound absolutely awful). The Tumnus will be extremely unhappy if you try to put 18v into it as well. Part of that famous circuit is a thing called a charge pump that increases the voltage to 18v internally, it's one of the reasons the pedal has such a responsive sweep across the gain control. So, if you put 18v into the Tumnus, it will literally melt down!
- a quick note on Tumnus and other circuits like it, although you should always separate and isolate your analogue pedals from your digital when using a power supply, this is all the more relevant with pedals like the Tumnus. If you put a pedal like the TimeLine daisy chained to the Tumnus you get some really interesting, and not in a good way, noises come from it. There have been countless forum posts about this over the years! As a reference point, when Max wires up the boards for trade shows, he uses the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2. Over here in the UK, I use the Carl Martin Pro Power 2. Each one performs perfectly and gives us consistent isolated power for the entire board.
Obviously, the benefits of running 18v is pointless on some pedals, for example, those with a digital element. Although most of our Faux range and the Latitudes have protections built in within them, you shouldn't run them any higher than the standard 9v. From the conversations I've had with Brian and Justin over the years, the actual circuits of these pedals run somewhere between 3.5v and 5v - the 9v input is brought down to the level they need to perform consistently. A lot of power supplies claim to be 9v but there is a small amount of difference in each one, so we bring them down to the level that will be perfect and completely regulated.
So, the list is this: The following are safe to run between 9v and 18v for an increase in clean headroom and increased output:
- Paisley Drive, Hot Wired, Dual Fusion, Black '65, Tweed '57, Plexi Drive (including the Deluxe), Thirty Something, Euphoria, Low Blow, Sovereign, cataPulp, Pinnacle(s), SLOstortion, Clarksdale, Triple Wreck (although the boost will sound terrible if you do) - Also included in here are some discontinued models: Plextortion, Cranked AC and OD, SuperPlex etc.
Can run at 18v, but all your get is an increase in volume:
- Ego Compressor and dB+
Please don't do it, nothing good will become of you doing it. Remember, 9v only unless you want to literally destroy the circuit within:
- Velvet Fuzz and Tumnus
You can do it, but it's pointless because Brian and Justin are waaaay too clever:
- Faux Tape Echo, Faux Spring Reverb, Faux Analog Echo, Latitude(s).
So, enjoy your pedals, enjoy tweaking them and enjoy seeing what the difference in power makes to them, but please, only do it to the ones that can take it!
*addition - if your pedal states "9-18v" on the casing (or manual), as a general rule this means that the pedal is OK to run between 9 and 18 volts, not either 9 or 18. You can count on every Wampler Pedals to follow this rule, but you should check with other manufacturers before doing so on their pedals.
The Pinnacle was designed to recreate that hot-rodded ’78 Marshall setup that Eddie Van Halen was using to achieve what’s now known as the “Brown Sound”. The key to obtaining that sound is breaking down what it actually is. It’s a Marshall flavor, but the clipping was so much more aggressive, and there was a bit of sag happening because EVH was pushing them past the breaking point on a consistent basis. A lot of time went into getting the clipping to be realistic and not overly noisy, but still allowing flexibility to work with all styles of music. Flexibility is the key word here. The Modern/Vintage switch was added, along with the contour to dial in the gain exactly where you would want it.
Our favorite part about the Pinnacle is the flexibility. It’s designed to give the brown sound (which is does in spades, regardless of using single coils or humbuckers), but it’s capable of far more than that. It’s really the perfect pedal to cover a majority of the tones that came out of 80’s rock and metal, including Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Ratt, Dokken among many others. It can also go from alt-rock chunkiness to pop-punk downstrokes, searing lead tones like Satriani and Vai use, all the way to heavy, scooped-sounding metal. It reacts very well to adjusting the volume on the guitar. Just roll the volume back a bit and it cleans up, but still retains that bite and presence for rhythm work, then roll the volume back up for full on searing leads.
Level: This controls the overall output of the Pinnacle. There’s a considerable amount of volume on tap for boosting an already cooking amp. This (along with most of our other pedals) works directly with the gain knob. As the gain knob goes up, the volume will need to be reduced to reach unity. With the gain lower, the level will have to be raised to reach unity. In most cases the Pinnacle works really well setup as a "second channel" to your amp, where you already have your preset volume ready and can switch to it quickly on the fly. One note, with the gain fully counter-clockwise (off), there is no output, even if the level is maxed.
Tone: This controls the overall clarity and high end of the Pinnacle. Counter-clockwise, the gain will be warmer and great for rhythm work, where above Noon adds some clarity and treble to cut through the mix. This control works directly with the Contour Knob. As you adjust the Contour knob, the treble will act differently because of the mid frequencies changing. It can go from very warm and thick to sounding like it will bite your head off.
Modern/Vintage Switch: This switch is used to change between two voicings of mid frequencies on the Pinnacle. Vintage will have a darker, smoother and fatter tone to it where the Modern side is much more aggressive and has a lot more bite to it with a brighter frequency. The Vintage side nails classic rock tones from the 80’s with ease, allowing fluid lead lines and crunchy, fat rhythms to punch well in the mix. The modern side has a lot more of an aggressive growl to it, and it can go all the way to shred and full on metal or punk rock.
Contour: The contour knob affects the mid frequencies, along with how the tone knob controls the highs of the Pinnacle. Counter-clockwise, there will be more mid-presence that’s great for cutting through the mix. Clockwise, it lends itself more to a scooped-mids sound and becomes much more aggressive and brutal sounding. This control relies heavily on where the Tone knob is set. As the Contour moves clockwise, it’s suggested to reduce the tone knob a bit to remove any brightness. This knob functions similarly on both Vintage and Modern switch settings, but the Vintage setting actually gets a bit woollier as the contour moves clockwise. As the knob is rotated clockwise (less mids), you'll have to add a bit more level to compensate to get back up to unity.
Gain: Being a distortion, the gain starts to break up pretty quickly, and there’s a massive amount of gain on tap within the Pinnacle. Around 9am on the gain is great for some lower gain, classic rock tones where the base tone of the guitar still shines through really well. As it goes up to around Noon, the clipping just gets crunchy and fat and has loads of sustain and saturation. great for newer rock. Upwards of 3pm is full on shred territory, with loads of saturation and sustain, all while remaining articulate and responsive to pick attack. At high gain, it's still very quiet compared to many pedals out there at such high gain with minimal hiss. If you’re doing single, sustaining notes, the gain and bloom of the notes mesh together and intertwine to let the notes ring fluidly together in the upper gain regions. The Contour knob frequencies will be more noticeable as the gain level goes up.
Boost Footswitch (or Toggle on the standard): This switch gives a gain boost to really add some saturation and bite on the Pinnacle. It works extremely well for lead boosts to add some great sustain (one of the benefits of the extra footswitch on the deluxe). For instance, I leave the boost off for early Van Halen songs during the verse, and then kick on the boost when the solo comes in. That being said, there isn't a major volume boost, it's more of a gain and presence and attack boost.
- With some extremely high output pickups, people have reported extra sag. The way to correct this is to lower the pickups a bit to compensate for the higher output. You can see a video about sag here and how to deal with it.
- The Pinnacle works really well being hit by a boost (tubescreamer and the like). It will get much fatter and fuzzier if you are using a full-frequency boost, where a TS or klon-style overdrive will give more gain and tighten the tone up a bit. Placing a boost after it will boost the volume primarily.
- It’s an Amp-in-a-Box style pedal, so it works well at the end of your dirt chain, pre delay, modulation and reverb, but after wah’s.
Wampler employee Jason Wilding has this to say about the Pinnacle:
“As someone who started playing guitar in the 80’s and was fascinated by that live, crunchy tone of people like Van Halen (VH I), Thin Lizzy (Live and Dangerous), Nuno (Pornografitti), Iron Maiden (Live After Death) and Slash (AFD) - That saggy low end that pushes massive amounts of air when palm muted, the powerful mid positional sweep and beautifully saturated gain structure makes it my perfect pedal. I just can’t imagine a board of mine in the future not prominently featuring the Pinnacle (or any of it’s descendent’s) at all times!”
Techincal Stuff of the Pinnacle:
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (88.9mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – **height excludes knobs and switches
- The power draw of the Pinnacle is 9mA - Requires Negative Center tip barrel plug, or internal 9v battery.
- There have been several different versions of the Pinnacle, most notably in the visuals, along with the layout of the controls. The current circuit has not changed in 7 years. Might be time to revisit that :-)
- The only difference between the current standard version and deluxe version of the Pinnacle is that the deluxe has a footswitch for the boost instead of the toggle switch.
I recently discussed with Curtis Kent what the Tumnus would sound like when put side by side with his Silver Klon Centaur. We all know that each Klon is slightly different due to Bill's delightful habit of tweaking the circuit (parts were more inconsistent than they are these days) so it sounded the best it possibly can... So, here is the Tumnus (that will sound consistent at all times) compared to his Silver Klon Centaur. Considering that another one of the originals will sound a little different to this one I think we got pretty close!
I'd like to personally thank Curtis for doing this, he did it mainly for his curiosity but also mine (and I generally hate comparison videos so this is a big departure for us), it would be beyond awesome if you could give his You Tube channel a follow here!
This past Friday night I put the Tumnus through it’s paces in a live band setting with my blues trio. Before the gig – I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with the pedal – so it was trial by fire. I’m happy to report that it came out on scorched!
For those of you guys who listen to the podcast - know that I am a huge fan of double tube screamers. It’s my go to pedal combination for all my blues/ rock gigs. But for this gig, I decided to take out the left tube screamer (the one I use typically for a lead boost) and throw the Tumnus in its place – I wasn’t disappointed!
I used the Tumnus as my always-on pedal to push my Super Reverb all night long! I never even touched my mini TS unless it was to combine it with the Tumnus to create super thick lead tones. Even then – the Tumnus held up its end and then some. Usually, I crank up my amp up to the point where it is just starting to break up; if the situation/ venue allows it. I used the Tumnus to really drive that edge of break up tone to give me some very nice thick – but extremely controllable – rhythm tones. In a live setting – I rolled down my volume slightly, (to around 7 or 8)this allowed me to sit in the pocket nicely all night with a blues trio. Think Philip Sayce - the tone, not the playing - I'll never claim to be that good. lol.
When it was time for a lead – I cranked up the volume to 10 and used my bridge pickup. I would occasionally use the mini TS if I needed just a little more dirt - but that was rare. The Tumnus also did a great job of pushing/ boosting my Tube Screamer. It rounded some of the harshness and gave it more life. It was like taking a blanket off of my tone. Clearer highs, tighter lows – simply wonderful! (Side note: the next day I tried the Tumnus with other pedals as well with similar results - this pedal just plays nicely with others.)
Here is a quick video of the Tumnus being used in a live band situation. For this particular lead I am using the Tumnus, just a little TS (the controls on the TS are pretty much all straight up and down with just a little bass control thrown in). So the complete signal chain is PRS → Mini TS → Tumnus → Super Reverb.
You guys will have to forgive the quality of this video - it was shot via my wife's iPhone in a crowded bar with a fairly loud band playing. But hey - I think it captures the spirit of the thing. :)
You can pre-order the Tumnus now, ready for release on Oct 1st!
I can’t wait to hear what y’all think when the Tumnus becomes available on Thursday!
It seems just about every time I log in to any one of my social media outlets – I unfortunately come across various stories about bands who have had their gear stolen out of their van, trailer, or even studio. It’s sad that this happens to hard working musicians that often play out to put food on their table. In an instant they lose the tools of their trade and the pieces of gear they have worked hard for and come to love over a lifetime of honing their craft.
While it’s a total shame we have to even think about the safety of our gear – it is unfortunately a variable we have to take in to account and try our best to prepare against. In this blog I wanted to throw out a couple steps that could help protect your gear from getting ripped off or increasing the chances you will get it back if it does get stolen. Some of these are no-brainers but are surprisingly not practiced all that much. If I don’t mention something you to do protect your gear – let me know about it in the comment section below.
Visual: Make sure you are parked in a well-lit, visible area. Lots of clubs have parking in the back that allows you easier access to the stage. While this is often makes for an easier load-in – it also secludes your gear/ vehicle; if it all possible, try to park your car/ trailer right next to the door. Most of the clubs I have played at – will save you a spot if you call ahead. This does a couple things: Puts you near a light(s), puts you close to the bouncer working the door, and will sometimes deter thieves from making a move so close to the building. In between sets I usually have one of my guys keep an eye on the gear and I go out and check on the remaining gear in the car, locks, etc.
For you guys that are lucky enough to have a rehearsal space/ studio – make sure your doors have reinforced locks. Also – if your space has windows – think about ways to block people from the outside looking in/ and make sure they are reinforced against breakage.
GPS Tracker: So this one is a new one for me – but I will most definitely be investing in one for the future. The Spot Trace (about $100USD) – featured above - is a GPS locater you can put in your band’s trailer. This particular model will send you alerts via your smart phone to let you know if the trailer is moving (in the case of being stolen) and where it is. Pretty cool!
Records: This is one is kind of boring – but most certainly a necessity. Chances are – pretty much every piece of gear you own has a serial number. Take a few minutes to find the serial numbers of gear and write them all down. Keep the list of serial numbers in a safe place at home. In the event that your gear gets swiped – you can let the authorities know the make/ model/ serial number of your pedal, guitar, amp, etc. You can also then notify local pawn shops/ music shops about the stolen piece of gear and the serial number so they can keep an eye out for it. (Note: also keep a record of any identifying marks your gear might have. Have a guitar with a big gouge in the back by the neck pocket? – Take a picture and keep it with your records.)
Hidden ID: I learned this trick a long time ago but it I think it’s kind of clever. When you open up your pedal or guitar – write your name on a piece of tape and stick it on the inside of your gear. (Or indelible ink if you are keeping the gear forever.) Even if the crooks get rid of the serial number of your pedal – they might not know to look for the hidden name on the inside of your gear – further helping to identify it for the authorities.
Community: Lets face it – musicians, as a whole, are a pretty tight knit community and are for the most part – are a pretty awesome group of people. Get to know one another. In this day and age of social media – news travels quickly. Other than the authorities – there is often not a better of group of people to help you recover stolen gear than fellow musicians who know what to look for!
I know some of this does sound like paranoia – well it is a little. But remember the gear that took you a lifetime to collect, the gear that makes you feel better at the end of the bad day, the gear that helps you express yourself better than words can ever do – can all be lost in a minute to unscrupulous people with no moral standards - looking to make a quick dollar.
Until next time tone chasers!
First off, let’s talk Velcro. It's used by most every guitarist under the sun to fasten their pedals to their pedalboards.
The original idea and design originated in 1948 from George de Mestral. He noticed that burs would keep sticking to his dog whenever it went outside to walk, and didn’t understand why. Upon looking at the burs closer, they were little hooks that would catch onto his dogs’ fur where it had intertwined. His theory was to use that same premise and make it useful in everyday situations, one major way was to attempt to replace the need for zippers on clothing. He created a hook side that was rigid and not very flexible, and the opposite loop side that was very flexible to allow them to bend and mold to fit as many hooks to the loops that they could, creating a more secure hold. The trick was finding the right combination that would be secure, yet easy to remove when pulled with enough force. Fast-forward 67 years and we’re using it for all sorts of stuff now.
I’m discussing this because of the concern that’s often brought up about not being able to secure pedals to the board with stability (especially with mini pedals). Standard run-of-the-mill Velcro works, but it’s not fail-proof and is prone to unlooping and the pedal falling off under heavy use. The technology has changed considerably in recent years, and it's improved the staying power of that hook and loop mechanism, as well as the adhesive that is used to hold the strip to the material.
Similar Velcro Alternatives
3M Dual Lock is one option that a lot of guitarists use. Instead of the traditional hook and loop method, Dual Lock uses a mushroom shape that sticks to itself to create a tighter, more secure fit. The adhesive has been improved over the years to make it excessively adherent to smooth surfaces. It comes in a roll, and all that’s needed is a pair of scissors to cut the pieces as large or as small as you want. The surface you’d be applying it to needs to be clean and smooth to obtain the best adherence. This guy does a pretty good job explaining it:
The particular brand that I use is Godlyke Power-Grip pedalboard tape. This brand uses a similar mechanism to the Dual Lock and also comes in a roll. Having two rigid sides makes it more difficult to apply to itself, but once it's on there, it's ON THERE. The adhesive is quite powerful, so much so that as long as it's on a smooth clean surface, removing it is quite difficult, and if not done correctly and with patience, it will take finish off of the pedal. Again, all that's needed is a pair of scissors and the surfaces to be clean and smooth. Here’s the video from the company that shows application and all that:
The thing that I suggest the most personally is not to run the hook and loop strips along the center of the pedal. This will make the pedal much more unstable and prone to rocking. With the above mentioned alternatives, an inch or so on the top and the bottom of the baseplate of the pedal will secure them without any rocking or instability. Another bonus of these two options is the ease of theft on pedals is reduced. Once the pedals are secure, if it isn’t peeled off the right way from the board, it will lift the board off of the floor before it will come off. I’ve personally lifted my pedalboard just holding onto a mini pedal with this particular brand.
**There are other alternatives out there, but these are two that I’ve dealt with personally
Alternatives to Hook and Loop Fasteners
Another method is using zip-ties (also called cable-ties) to secure the pedal to the board. This doesn’t require nearly the amount of tools as the bike chain method below, but it’s a bit more routing than just slapping a strip on there. What’s needed is a pair of scissors, a bag of zip-ties, and holes to run the ties through. This works really well because the pedal can be put on as securely as you want it to with reduced rocking or wobbling. To swap a pedal out, just snip the tie and swap the pedal and tie down the new one. One concern is making sure that the connection is secure without rubbing off the paint from the pedal. This method may be difficult for some boards, but there are also brands that are dedicated to making boards with holes designed to be used with zip-ties. In terms of theft, the person would have to be able to cut the zip-ties to remove the pedal, which will take a little more time.
The last method is by far my least favorite of the ones mentioned, but it seems to work well for a lot of people (I’m a habitual pedal swapper). It involves using bike chain links to fasten the pedal to the board. This method has a lot more involved with setup, requiring the bike chain links, a drill, screwdriver, screws, and the installation on the pedal. The downside of this method is that swapping pedals is not quick and easy. It requires a screwdriver on hand to unscrew the pedal, all of the pedals need the chain links, and if it’s a different size pedal then new holes will have to be drilled. If you keep the same pedals on consistently, then it would be an excellent option. For the frequent swappers, it’s some added time and trouble that may be unwarranted. This method helps a lot in terms of preventing theft too. I will provide a link below to the instructions for those interested.
The key thing to remember is that different methods will work for different people. This is just a glimpse at a few different options that are available to make your life a little easier hopefully. Until next time Tone Chasers :-)
**Bike chain picture and instructions on bike chain method can be found here: http://xmidi.com/bicycle-chain-links-as-velcro-alternative-for-guitar-pedal-board/
The Paisley Drive was designed for Brad Paisley to give him that great tube saturation like he would get from his Trainwreck amps, but at manageable volumes. Trainwrecks are known for being extremely touch responsive with loads of smooth, liquid sustain. These amps are very rare, so it took a bit of time and several prototypes before we landed on a design. However, despite it being created as a signature for him, it’s capable of a lot more. It works really well for most any type of country, rock, and blues for a bit of breakup to full on fat saturation..
One of my absolute favorite parts about this pedal is the response it has to pick attack and volume control. Set the gain and volume for a slight boost, then just roll back the guitars volume knob and it cleans up, and then roll the volume back up for boosts for solos. It works great with single-coil guitars, giving them an extra depth and punch that single-coils can often lack. It also works really well with humbucker-equipped guitars. On the humbucker guitars, the drive is a bit fatter, and the saturation has more *chunk* to it, for lack of a better word.
- Level: There’s a good amount of volume on tap. This control interacts directly with the gain knob. As the gain goes down, the volume has to come up. For instance, if the gain is up around 2pm, the volume is near unity at 11am, if the gain is at 9am, the volume will reach unity around 1pm. (approximate settings).
- Tone: The tone knob helps dictate how much high end you’re introducing to the signal. When it’s lower, say 9-10am, it will be around unity and the drive is really fat and warm. As you increase it, the highs and the higher-mids begin to pop out and it gets punchy and cuts through the mix.
- Gain: This pedal was designed more for using with gain more so than as a clean boost. As mentioned above, when the gain is down, the volume has to be up to achieve unity. 9am will add a touch of grit and fatness to the note, like a tube amp just starting to breakup…great for country chickin’ pickin’ and some cool blues lead work. Above 2pm gets into a heavily saturated overdrive, bordering on distortion. This is great for some modern rock and pop songs, and it covers 90’s alt-rock like you wouldn’t believe. 3pm and above and playing on the neck pickup will make you think you’re using a fuzz. As the gain increases, the fuzziness and thickness also increases because it’s like blasting a tube amp to the max.
- Up: This position is the middle ground between the other two switch positions. It’s very open and clear, but with some mids to accentuate cutting through the mix. This is switch doesn't jump the volume up or down at all...it stays very neutral.
- Middle: This is the position with the least amount of mids. It’s a bit more neutral and reserved sounding compared to the other two options. This is great for a basic rhythm tone no matter where the gain knob is set. Switching to this position will drop the volume a little bit compared to the others, so it's good to boost the volume back up to unity.
- Down: This position is for the mid lovers. Think of it as a highly modified popular mid-range boosting OD, but on major steroids. This is honestly not for the faint of heart. The mids in this position cut through the mix like a knife. This also happens to be Brad Paisley’s favorite switch position. This position will give a slight volume boost compared to the other selections.
- Down: This disengages the presence switch. The tone is a bit fatter and warmer like this. Great for smokey blues and rock tones. Amps that are inherently brighter will likely sound a bit better on this setting due to already having that frequency on the output. The pedal is extremely fat and beefy in this setting.
- Up: This helps add some clarity and accentuates the higher frequencies more. We suggest setting the tone know where it’s sounds good to the player, then cut this on to brighten the frequency to cut more in the mix. Another good thing that helps is if you have an extremely bass-y and dark amp (think Peavey Classic 30 or Fender Bassman), this will help accommodate and not get muddy when the gain goes up. The effect of this switch is varies depending on your tone setting, along with how much gain you're using.
The technical stuff:
- 5” x 4.5” x 1.5″ inches (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) (Height excludes knobs and switches)
- The Paisley Drive can run from 9v-18v and anywhere in between. That being said, it has to be a Negative Center Tip plug, and not over 18v. If a different plug is run into it, the pedal will smoke out and cease to work. So don’t do that! :-)
- The only difference between the earlier version and the current version is aesthetics. The new graphics feature Brad’s signature on the bottom left corner. Nothing related to the internal circuitry was changed at all.
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.
I was one of the very very lucky people to see Guns'n'Roses when they were at their most raucous and most, dare I say it, dangerous. I was 15, it was August 1988, and the location was Donnington Monsters of Rock Festival. G'n'R were arguably the biggest and most current band in the world at that time which was an opinion hidden by their place of 2nd on the bill behind the more established artists. It was a breathtaking set and one I'll never forget for many reasons, but I'll concentrate on the positive here (those of you who remember the news of that day or have read any of the books either written about or by any of the original band you will know). They were loud. They were in control. They were out of control. They were amazing.
Appetite For Destruction is for many, including myself, the best debut album ever. It was so good the band was doomed the minute it was released. There was no way they could even get close to it let alone build on it, it was, as they say, the most perfect 'moment in time' recording you could possibly imagine.
So, what is this all about? Well, it's about the constant need for perfection in music. Let's take a look at the single that drove the album sales in those early days, "Sweet Child O'Mine". That riff. That solo. The kind of wah pedal use that would make Kirk Hammett sit up and take notice. Now listen to Slash's parts isolated (taken from the Guitar Hero game, a 'perfect' reproduction. The riff is noisy and scratchy. In the solo the bends are off... Notes are dropped and misplaced all over the place... But, having said that, it's just perfect. In the context of this song it can't be bettered in any way, imagine how awful it would sound if it was pro-tool'd to perfection, or the drop ins were perfect and the notes were made right. The word sterile springs to mind.
Perfection has it's place. But I don't think that place is in rock and roll.