Jason Wilding

Jason Wilding

Here's a nice story...

Many of you are probably aware that we run a gear/tone group on Facebook. We call it the Wampler Pedals Tone Group (I know, how dazzlingly original is that?) and we made it because, well, most gear groups on Facebook appear to be frequented by people who I can't accurately describe here and still keep my job!

We had no idea how it would turn out, if we would have to delete it because those same kind of people came in but I don't know how, but it appears we got really lucky as it appears that the vast vast vast majority of the 6000+ members we have are just great people, looking to talk gear and pedals, and are not interested in being know it all show offs who state opinions as facts!

Since we started the group a couple of years ago you get to recognise certain names and then over a period of time you actually get to know them... You get used to seeing them about!

One of the first people I remember noticing was Huey Falls, purely because every post he made he signed it "SGT Huey Falls USMC Ret." - A man who is obviously extremely proud of his service, and rightly so! I got the impression after chatting to Huey within thread over the months that he wasn't a well man, I had no idea (and still don't) if this is due to his service or something after, I think he's blind also... Anyway, that's how I got to know Huey, albeit not at all, just online in a gear group, you know what I mean.

It was a few weeks ago I noticed I'd not seen him around for a while, and then a day or so later one of our members, Kevin Harrington, made this post in the group - Kevin knew Huey through the group only, and somehow found out he was about to undergo an amputation on his left leg, below the knee. He knew Huey was gassing for a new fuzz, a Velvet Fuzz no less, so he set up this go fund me to help Huey out and it was posted into the Tone Group.

Due to the extreme generosity of the members of the tone group, the $250 goal was quickly reached and breached. It looked like Huey would be his pedal after all!

Now, Alex and I had been watching this for a while and once the target was breached we talked to Brian, and we came to the conclusion that it would be best if we donate Huey a Velvet and then donate the money raised to Huey's charity of choice. Everyone in the group thought this was a grand idea!

So, thanks to the generosity and community spirit of our tone group, Huey's favourite charity of choice is $355 better off and he has his pedal! What a wonderful little community we have here! Thank you Kevin, this is all your doing. You're one of the good ones.

 

 

I was checking out the wonderful "The Guitar Hour" last week (hosted in part by signature artist Tom Quayle) where the guys went to a luthier and filmed and dissected a full set up on guitar. It's compelling viewing and fascinating to see what happens when a professional does the job perfectly! If, like me (having worked in guitar shops for years and having set up thousands of guitars in my time) you thought you know it all, then this will be a real eye opener for you.

Part 1 - The Fret Dress - The thing that always made me really nervous! 37 minutes.

Part 2 - Taking you through the first part of a standard set up. 35 minutes!

Part 3 - The rest of the standard set up. 36 minutes.

 

Thank you to Tom, Dave, Dan and David for letting us publish on our blog, it's much apprecaited! You can check out The Guitar Hour here.

Power, power, power… This has to be the most asked question we get, well, the many variations of it anyway… I’m not kidding when I say it’s probably a daily event that one of us answers the question! So, I’m going to consolidate the headline points into here so hopefully we can provide you with the one stop place to get all the information! A few weeks ago, our friends over at That Pedal Show produced the ultimate geek-out about power, but running at 37 minutes, many didn’t get to the end so I am consolidating it here to make is easy to grab the basics, with a little of my own perspective to keep it relevant...

What power do your pedals take?

ALL of our pedals are designed to run at 9v DC, center pin negative (The DC and center pin negative is essential). Some of them can be run at 18v (you can see a list of those in our FAQ section here). So, most power adaptors will be just fine. We don’t recommend specific ones, but any one made by a reputable company should be good. If you need to double check, or a second opinion, you can ask us or any gear forum, or your local store! There’s always a load of people willing to discuss power... 9v is the amount of power (voltage) the pedal takes to work under standard operating conditions so if you want to hear it like Brian hears it, run it at 9v. However, Tom Quayle uses his Dual Fusion at 18v and I find it works best for me at around 15v. 

What are mA?

Well, basically, this is how much juice your pedal is taking from the supply. This is the current. So, if your pedal takes 30mA, a 700mA adapter will be just fine. Anything up to the amount listed on the adapter theoretically will be good. You won’t melt a 30mA pedal down by putting a 700mA adapter in it, the pedal will just take what it’s needs and the rest is just not used. So, if you have 3 drive pedals; one at 30mA, one at 15mA and one at 25mA, your total draw will be 70mA which in theory still leaves 630mA ‘headroom’.

A simple way of putting it is that the voltage is the strength of the current and the mA is how much of it is used. Most plugs here in the UK have a 5A – 13A fuse in them, the US usually has 15A, so even if you are chain up a lot of 50mA pedals, you can draw tons of them at 9V until you start to run out of “headroom” from that plug. Hope that makes sense... 

*One thing though, I wouldn’t try to push the adapter to the limits, leave some room. I’ve heard it say that if you draw over 60-70% of the adaptors power, you might see a drop in basic voltage which will affect the way the pedal sounds.

What is center pin negative?

Well, the tip of the plug (barrel type, usually 2.1mm) that goes into the pedal has two connectors, one on the inside and one on the outside, the one on the inside is the negative and the outside is positive. Who ever thought this up was clearly insane, it would be better to have the hot part on the inside out the way, but there you go. All of our pedals take DC, if you put AC into it smoke will appear, you will hear a pop and then you’ll have to send it back to us to be fixed – and the smell… it’s horrible. Remember, it's the magic smoke in the pedal that makes it sound so cool, so if you put the wrong power in and the magic smoke is released then it won't work anymore!  We ensure there is protection inside each pedal if AC is put in, but all it does is limit the damage, it doesn’t resist it. So, please please please please do not put AC into the pedal! It’s highly unlikely that a warranty claim can be made due to incorrect power being applied.

What is isolated power?

Basically, it’s the process of separating the power from each circuit from others present in the signal chain. Some pedals disrupt others (especially if you mix up analogue and digital) so the best thing you can do is completely isolate them from each other. Now, I could talk for hours and hours and we’d just scratch the surface, but I’ll keep it simple. If you are running pedals that are friendly to each other (modern overdrives/distortions) you should be fine to daisy chain them together (providing the above criteria is met). However, if you stick a digital pedal in the chain noise can be picked up and amplified by the ‘gain’ pedals. During the episode of That Pedal Show, Dan said that this is because digital pedals dump a lot of noise on to the ground (I didn’t know this) – isolation will take that away and doesn’t allow a pedal to disrupt another across the ground. Some people call this clock noise, some digital noise… it has many names but the only thing you need to know it’s just not a nice noise at all and you don’t want it. The more you isolate, the quieter your board will be!

So, there are the basics of the power conundrum. This is just scratching the surface but it should give you enough information to keep you ticking over (but not with clock noise) and have a happy, yet quiet, pedalboard!

 

Another Free lesson!

August 17, 2016

Lesson 2: The Major / Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas. 

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We take the b3rd of the scale and sharpen to create a natural third instead. This essentially means that we have brought in a major element to the minor pentatonic scale, hence the name major / minor pentatonic. There are two ways to play this shape, which you can see here:

The Theory

In terms of how to use this scale, we need to understand a simple bit of theory. This scale uses the following notes:

Scale Construction

1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th 

Within these notes we have major and minor elements. The root, 4th and 5th are all good in both major and minor, but the 3rd is major and the b7th is minor. Therefore the ideal chord and sound to use this scale is shape is a dominant chord. If you look at the chord construction of a dominant 7th chord you get this:

Dominant 7th chord

1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th

 So this works perfectly! As it works so well over the dominant 7th chord this scale is perfect for blues and funk, so jam away to those style backing tracks. If you are playing over a 12 bar blues, remember that this scale fits perfectly over the root chord, but not as well over the there chords… so just tread lightly as the track progresses!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Free lessons!

August 09, 2016

Lesson 1: The m7b5 Arpeggio...

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the C#m7b5 arpeggio (a half diminished arpeggio) and add it to the pentatonic box 2. We’ll get into the theory in a minute, first of all, let’s learn the shape:

Our second task is to layer this new shape on top of the B minor pentatonic shape 2. Theory aside for the moment, this layering effect will allow us to quickly call upon the m7b5 arpeggio without having to think too hard about it! The little exercise we looked at in the video is as follows:

Tab for arpeggio

The Theory

So, for those of you who like to know what’s going on behind the scenes, let’s talk about the theory behind this concept. We are using the key of B minor for now. If you are a pentatonic player you probably know that if someone shouts B minor, you pop your first shape of the pentatonic on the fretboard on the 7th fret and away you go! Well, thew other thing that happens when the key is called is that you can harmonise the B minor scale to create a series of 7 chord shapes. These are <em>B minor, C#m7b5, D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major and finally back to B minor</em>. Each one of these chords uses only the notes from B minor to create the chord, and therefore they work perfectly together in key.

All we are doing is taking one of these chords (we could take any), in this case the C#m7b5, and playing through it over the B minor backing track. We know every note will work as the notes are built from the B minor scale. The cool effect you get is that of a bit of tension, as these notes spell out a chord that may not be playing underneath (unless you beautifully land it on the correct chord). This could be a bit dodgy sounding if you just keep going up and down it, but used conservatively and resolving to the pentatonics after each lick, provides a cool sound that adds a bit more spice to your playing and gets you out of those pentatonic boxes, even just for a moment!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

As I watching the news here in 'sunny' England yesterday i was confronted with a picture of a rather serious looking Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and the headline of "Stairway Heaven in copyright trail".  I expect like most people did, I just rolled my eyes and thought "... not again" but then the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it became.

Before I start, let's look at a couple of copyright trials in terms of music in recent years. Famously Joe Satriani took Coldplay to court because of the claims he made that their song "Viva La Vida" from 2008 was based on his 2004 track "If I Could Fly". Here they both are....

I can hear some similarities in the two, but I'm not certain enough to bring about a court action. Now, I love Satch - big love for him and his career but I don't get this - there are parts of the Satch song I can take over to the other but for me it's not that obvious... Waaaaaaay back in the 90's I worked in a music shop in Exeter and Chris Martin was a regular in there as a young 17/18 year old music freak. I remember him having a talent several miles wide and hated it when I dropped Vai and Satriani licks in when there was a shop jam happening. He just didn't like that style of music and never listened to it... But, that's incidental. Anyway, it is strongly rumoured that this was settled out of court under the banner of being "dismissed".

George Harrison was famously found to have subliminally plagiarised "The Chiffons" track "He's So Fine" for his track "My Sweet Lord"... now, this one I can hear completely. Have a listen to the melodies throughout... I do find it 'amusing' that after the case was found against Harrison he went on to buy the publishing company that owned The Chiffons track!

So, Stairway to Heaven. Apparently, this copyright infringement action has been brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin in the 1960s, and claims he should be given a writing credit on the track. Let's have a listen to them put together (man... I love the internet).

I think everyone can hear the hooks in the intro being similar. But let's be honest, it's not exactly an uncommon progression/feeling in either of these songs is there. At what point does a song become solely identifiable from one section of the track, in this case, it would appear to be the intro and maybe a hook in the middle. At what point do we draw the line at what is obviously an inspiration and what is blatantly plagiarism. As I said above, Zep and Spirit shared the the same bill in 1969 and Spirit played Taurus that day. Could it have been the case that Page heard it and it stuck in the back of his head? Probably. Could it be the case that Page/Plant sat down in that cottage in Wales and said "Remember that band, Spirit, we played with them a couple of years back - they did a song called Taurus and it had a couple of great hooks in it, let's use them in a new song"... Unlikely. I mean, it's not as if Zep were struggling for hooks or general abilities for songwriting was it?

I'll think I'll just leave you with this to think about before I start ranting about lawyers and the pointless pursuit of money, something for nothing and creativity...

Actually, I'm not going to rant but I will say this... If this is decided in favour of Spirit on May 10th, I will just transfer all my future gig earnings to Messers. Gilmour, Vai, Satriani, Mason, Reed, Edge, May, Paisley, Smith, Murray, Bettencourt, Gill.... and everyone else's who's licks I've picked up over the years and are all bastardised together to make me sound like me. I wonder if I can just set up a direct debit to their accounts, or maybe I should just stop playing. Maybe the fear of litigation will stop is all from playing soon anyway. How I wish I was the person who can claim rights to the 12 bar progression... Imagine that!

I’ve not let the contentious me out the box for a while but something has happened recently that’s made me a little prickly.

Guitar solo competitions. I hate them. I really really hate them. When did playing the guitar, or music in general, become a competition? Are we expecting to have it put into the Olympics? Man, if it does, I pity the people who have to dope test some of the pros! Lolololz, no – obviously, I put that in to make myself smile as after today, I’m kind of struggling… and before I start, have you noticed that it’s always the same people entering these things? Always the same guys winning, always the same faces submitting? I’m actually bored of the sight of some of them by now.

OK, so – today. Facebook lit up this afternoon (my own profile included) with the video of someone who was awarded 2nd place in a solo competition (as usual,Wampler Artist Levi Clay broke the news as this is a pet hate of his). The solo was awesome, the level of composition was fantastic and so far as musicality goes, I loved it. The trouble was, he was miming and if you pay attention you can see (and hear) that to play that fast at that level of gain you just can’t play that cleanly and accurately without cookin’ the books a little (I mean, I’ve watched Vai play “Building The Church” at a distance that I could see the hairs on the back of his hands and he wasn’t that clean and accurate, and let’s face it, love him or hate him, the one thing you can’t deny is that Vai has flawless technique). I’m pretty certain this guy he’s either slowed the track down, played his part and then sped it up again or even fired off some midi thing here. It’s just too perfect… When you watch the video closely, you can see that his picking is off, his vibrato is off, his whammy work is off and his left hand cannot keep up with it either. When you look at his other videos, he’s no where near as good on those videos either…

Let’s take a look at what this guy won. Mesa Boogie (Mini Rectifier & Cab) + Bare Knuckle (set of pickups) + Toontrack Ezdrummer 2 + Gruv Gear (set of accessories).

Yeah. You read that right. He won that by cheating – or did he?

Looking at the rules of the competition there is nothing in them about slowing stuff down, using technology to help the player along or anything like that, so, if this is about composition, then fair play – the boy done good. However, if you watch a load of videos for a solo competition would you not think that it was a prerequisite that they should be able to play it? As Levi mentioned – can you take a Beethoven written oboe solo seriously knowing that he couldn’t play oboe (I have no idea if he could play that instrument or not) but what is the expectation when it’s a “submit you playing the solo on a video” type thing? I expect, like me, you would expect to see someone playing, live, the solo they constructed.

Here is the problem. Legally, as per the terms of the competition, he’s not actually done anything wrong. But try telling that to the guy who missed the prizes by one spot though – Mr 6th place. He is the guy who actually wrote and played his solo live and has got nothing. Is that fair? The first thing that went through my mind is that if this guy is allowed to keep his prizes then we should give the gold medal back to Ben Johnson (sorry to you real young’uns, you might have to Google that one), give all 7 tour titles back to Lance Armstrong (if they have the balls) or allow Sharapova the chance to compete on the tour this year and grunt herself to a lot more sponsorship money while sitting around in her bikini for the paperazzi?

Fortunately, me being me and my habit of social networking, I was able to talk to one of the judges who is a mate of mine (who I didn’t realize was a judge when I originally ranted) and he came in with “Honestly when I find 20 minutes on tour to judge a thing like this I trust the top 10 entries to be correct and fine. Actually I DID doubt ****’s entry at one point at one lick but I thought maybe that was just an overdub and I honestly don't care about that too much. It was almost inhuman clean but I know several players that can do that, so I trusted the competition and awarded him with points. If he faked it he did it really well, and I fell for it in the little time I had judging this.”.

Before I spoke to him, my initial reaction to this whole thing was “The judges need shooting” but the reality is that not only were the rules poorly put out, the decision about who put the top ten together wasn’t done by someone good enough to spot a faker and in fact the whole concept is just crap. Totally crap.  I understand how tiring it is for people as many years ago I judged one of these things in a competition we ran. I can tell you now that the process of reviewing and deciding the entrants is one of the most soul sucking things I’ve ever done. You get SO bored of the backing track you are ready to kick a kitten after about 10 minutes. I can understand how they didn’t see it, but surely when you get to the top ten the people who are responsible for putting those in front of the judges should be in a position to weed out the good from the, well, morally unacceptable. But they didn’t and now there is a social media firestorm happening and it’s going to look bad for the judges and the fine companies who sponsored it. They’ve been let down as much as we have (although not as much as the poor sod in 6th place who got nothing).

So, did he cheat? Is he wrong? Did he fool the panel? Should he give his prizes back? Before you sit there and think “well, he didn’t break any rules” consider this. In the thread on You Tube under a post from someone congratulating him on his work did he openly tried to take credit for the backing track as well by stating this? (The backing track was provided by the competition sponsors) “Very much appreciated for your compliment and watching, I wrote all the Time signatures, Chord progression and my guitar solo on some piece of papers in my way, I will translate them on Guitar Pro @ some point.” Or was he just saying that he wrote all the charts and progressions out to work out his solo? I don’t know – it’s hard to tell really. I guess the devil is in the details with these things. Which is where this whole thing went wrong. There was no detail and if this guy has been rumbled, he has a really good case for not sending his prizes back.

I’m not going to point you towards the competition, it shouldn’t be hard to find if you really want to see for yourself, but I’ll leave the final word to Levi - if you do go on to watch Levi's full rant about this - I must warn you, it is NSFW, Levi is passionate about this and he pulls no punches.

The Faux Spring Reverb was developed because Brian wanted a flexible, but authentic-sounding reverb without having to lug a reverb tank around. The idea to put it into a pedal format made it easy to travel with and allowed flexibility on the fly instead of having to go over to the amp to adjust. The FSR is a digital reverb, but it has an all analog signal path, so your base tone remains the same with the added reverb effect being blended in. This works well because it allows more flexibility to tweaking the reverb signal to exactly where the player wants it.

Our favorite part of the Faux Spring Reverb is it’s natural sound and feel. It feels and reacts like a reverb tank, but allows you to adjust the tonality to fit any amp and guitar, going from a light room-ish vibe to add depth, or full on surfy wash.

 

Controls:Faux Spring Reverb Settings

Level: This knob controls the amount of reverb that is merged with your analog signal. This ranges from no mix at all fully counter-clockwise, to a full canvas of reverb that adds depth and feel to your tone like having a spring tank nestled on top of your amp. The key to reverb is finding the sweet spot where it’s got the depth that you want without drowning out your guitar tone (unless you’re using it for ambient washes). This allows you to tailor it precisely to the amount of reverb you want. We suggest starting it at Noon, setting your shade and depth, then adjusting the level to the desired effect level.

Shade: This knob controls the overall tonality of the reverb signal (it does not affect the dry signal). Setting the shade counterclockwise toward the dark side will yield a mellow, warmer reverb tone that sits nicely in a mix for added depth, without overpowering the guitars original tonality. Adjusting it clockwise toward the light side will give a more out-front and noticeable “spring effect” for your reverb tone. The darker setting is great for just adding a bit of depth in a dry room, where setting it lighter will give those classic surf tones of the reverb tanks. This knob changes the effect of the Depth knob, so adjusting each to find the right balance is key. We suggest starting it at Noon and adjusting to match your guitar and what type of atmosphere you'd like to create.

Depth: This control dictates the length or amount of time the reverb signal continues on before fading out. The max reverb time is 2.8s, so there’s plenty on tap to get a great ambient wash. Turning the knob counterclockwise will yield a quicker reverb effect and fade quickly as well which is reminiscent of a smaller spring tank. This setting works great for country picking with the shade knob on the lighter side. With the Shade knob darker it will be a more mellow feel, where it provides an ambient undertone that makes your guitar tone a more three-dimensional. This control is interactive with the other knobs, so adjust the shade will dictate the character of your reverb. The depth will then dictate how much decay occurs, and the level can be used to set it from light to heavy mix for any combination of great reverb tones.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5″ x 4.5″ 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 78mA – Powered via 9v negative center tip (barrel plug like Boss). NOTE: You cannot use a battery with the Faux Spring Reverb, and it should not be run at a higher voltage than 9v.
  • 8s max reverb time
  • True bypass
  • There have been 3 color variations on the Faux Spring Reverb. Early versions had a silver case with black knobs and lettering, later versions had a dark greenish-brown with white knobs and white lettering. The latest version has a brighter green with white knobs and lettering, and the Tone knob has a graphic denoting lighter or darker.

 

 

 

 

 

Demos:

 

  

You can read more about the Faux Spring Reverb HERE as well as purchase factory direct.

I'm writing as I think, this will probably contain some bad language, so if you are offended by curse words, you might want to skip this!

Over the next few days, weeks, months and hopefully years a lot of words will be said about Nicholas Harris. Most of them will be full of praise, some will be controversial, some will make people laugh. I'm not going to sit here and talk about his achievements in tone as they are obvious, but I am going to talk about my friend.

I first met Nicholas at Winter NAMM a few years back. I was (obviously) fully aware of who he is and the company he built - his reputation had proceeded him... But, I was surprised at the softly spoken, quiet and unassuming man I was talking too. We discussed a few things about the industry but it was obvious that neither of us wanted to talk about pedals so we went our separate ways, politely and professionally and without incident. I was quite surprised at how uncontroversial he was and that I came out with all my body parts intact. My first impression was that the persona that other people attributed to him was well off the mark.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'm at our distributors booth at MusikMesse and I'm playing with either the BelleEpoch or EchoRec (I can't remember) and just having the BEST time with it. When I got home a few days later I pinged him a friend request on Facebook. After a few days a message appeared in my PM from Nicholas basically sounding me out and my intentions of asking to be his friend on social media... He explained how boring he was (!!!), how all he talks about is golf and his real friends and that I won't find it interesting. I responded that I digged his work, I hate the politics of business and I just wanted to be able to connect with him. There are a lot of people in this industry with their heads firmly up their own backsides and I liked the person I met and just wanted to get to know him better. He finally relented and we became "friends".

It quickly became obvious that we enjoyed each others (virtual) company and made each other laugh. I would often wake up to a drunken PM in FB from him (he was 8 hours behind me in terms of timezone) which was hilarious - often wildly offensive and TOTALLY honest about another manufacturer, a distributor we share, a dealer or about something irrelevant... often it was just a chat about nothing and everything... quite often about something specific to our business and their business, a path smoothed, a problem avoided. He quickly became one of my favourites in the industry because there was no bullshit with him, he was a very real person who took me at face value and allowed me to take him as such. He worked out that most of my online presence is a front, I am socially awkward and just allowed me to be me. Really quite refreshing as he had no interest in my online persona.

When it comes to products I am in awe of the way Nicholas led CatalinBread. I often called him "the f***ing Rock star" of our industry, that I'm pretty certain slightly annoyed him (which is why I kept doing it and because there are people who like to think they are a rock star when they are anything but... you need more than a beard, hair, vinyl and some well placed artist endorsements to make you that) because he didn't pander to customer expectation or market trends. He designed and built pedals based on what they thought was cool and what inspired them to play. Basically, the true essence of artistry. I am so jealous of that I cannot begin to tell you, but I am wired up differently. I am constantly looking at the market and what we need to do to be successful in it. He saw this in me and quite often made some wonderfully cutting remarks to me about it. We butted heads a couple of times about some things I'd said... it never ended bad though, just two guys who are basically the opposite ends of the spectrum with a common goal. I think we liked to remind each other often about those differences.

I last saw Nicholas at Winter NAMM about 4 weeks ago. I went in early one morning to catch up with some faces before doors opened as once the people come in, you're tied to the booth for 8 hours flat. Being him, he wasn't in yet so I left a message and I hoped to see him soon... A couple of hours later he came up to our booth with Howard and we caught up. We talked about our eye sight (I had the same operation he did about a year before he had it so it was a conversation we often had), we talked about Hipsters and Portland (again, just to annoy him as I liked to poke him with a stick when I could) and loads of stuff that I wish I could remember. Later that day I saw Howard at the pedal builders social gathering and we chatted for bit, and that was that, we went our separate ways. Between then and now we chatted a bit, he popped up on a couple of my threads on social networks which ended up with us deciding (about a week ago) that I should go to Portland and go drinking and jamming with him. We thought it would be great fun and lots of laughter would be had. I last spoken to him on Wednesday, the day before he died - I asked him about getting wider HiWatt tones from the RAH and WIIO pedals and if they could be Gilmouresque. Looking back on it, the most disappointing conversation ever considering it was our last.

Mortality is a bitch. I'm 42 now, 5 years older than Nicholas will ever be. I'll never be able to have that drink with him. I've lost a valuable friend with whom I can compare notes about dealers and distributors with (yes, you should all be really scared as we talked openly and honestly about you ALL) and most importantly, someone I can make laugh and who made me laugh. Fortunately, we have have his legacy, his company and the circuits he designed with the team and I, as a simple guitar player, am thankful for that. I spent a long time in PM on FB, in several threads, with some other guys from the industry yesterday, talking about Nicholas and our memories of him. I laughed a few good times as I thought about conversations we'd had about these very same people before. He saw us all, with perfect clarity, I don't doubt there were some incredibly accurate perceptions about me floating around with his name on it someplace.

I have no doubt there will be the usual charity auctions pop up soon to give financial aid to his family in this horrible time. I don't doubt for a moment we will contribute and promote it fully. However, I'm kinda leaning towards this opinion - Just go to their website and buy one of their pedals. Direct from them. HERE. I'm pretty certain he would hate a charity auction in his name, would hate the concept of financial assistance so if you want to help. Go buy a pedal from them direct.

Sleep well my friend, I hope one day our paths will cross again someplace else and we can have that beer. I'll miss you, your quiet confidence, your humour, your wonderfully different to my own brain and your insight into this wonderfully diverse and complex little industry. I'll leave with this picture that sums how I feel for Nicholas, this was taken at NAMM 2016. Here I am displaying all my levels of social awkwardness, and here's Nicholas putting his arm around me for a photo. I liked that about him, most would sense I don't feel that comfortable and retreat from me, I like to think he did it just keep me on my toes. Or because he was just a down to earth nice guy.

 

UPDATE (11th March 2016, 19:39BST) A gofundme page has been set up to assist the Harris family in these horrible times. If you don't spring for a pedal from them, please give generously here.

A couple of weeks ago someone asked the following question in the Wampler Pedals Tone Group on Facebook… “How long do you guys let your amps warm up in standby? I used to play about 10 mins before switching it over. Now I'm doing it within the first 5 minutes, and no sound comes out for about 20-30 secs is that the sign of an amp issue?”

I sat there and looked at it for a while, and all I could think was "I don't think I've ever been told about the real use of a standby switch, I just turn on, about a minute later flick the standby switch to on, rock out. When I stop playing, I leave the amp on but flick it to standby”. This period can be either a couple of minutes, between sets at a gig or even virtually all day when at home. I always thought “if your amp is on standby, everything is good”. The trouble is the more I thought about this, the more I realised I’d never even read what to do anywhere, I just did it – the same thing I’d been doing for years and years and years. I didn’t know if what I was doing was right, wrong, standard, naïve or anything else. I just saw the standby switch on my current amp (Fender BDri) and used it the same way I’ve always used it on every valve amp I’ve ever had.

Using the glorious medium of social media I put a question out on out my personal FB about standby switches, their use and what would be the best way to deal with them, or even use them. I tagged some extremely (and some not so) reputable amp builders and asked the question “Can someone please tell me WHY we put valve/tube amps on standby”. I wanted to leave it generic, leave it open… Wanted to hear the opinions of the people who work in the business – let’s face it, 5 minutes on Google had given me so much conflicting information that I was about to switch to solidstate as they are obviously much better and less likely to melt your face or burn your house down. So, having done this I went away to do something else and when I came back didn’t expect the response I got, it would seem this is quite the talking point.

The simple answer to this question is there is no simple answer. It would appear that the standby switch is put in place mainly due to customer expectation than anything else! Here are some of the choice comments from some of the guys.

First to respond (within seconds) was Roland Lumby from The Amp Clinic in North West England, Roland is the go to man in the area for the maintaining and upkeep of your vintage and modern amps… He said “You put it in standby to stop it making a noise while the band takes a comfort break. There's no technical requirement! Using standby means you don't have to wait for the valves to warm up.” I must admit, this threw me a little as I was not expecting such a dismissive answer basically stating that the standby switch is just not ever needed. So, I read on…

Next up to offer something was James Hamstead of Hamstead Ampworks. “Better to turn the master down or unplug the guitar. Standby doesn't do the valves any good. The cathode emits electrons, but they have nowhere to go, so they go back down to the cathode. It's called cathode poisoning, and it will change the characteristic of the valves for the worse - noisier, reduce gain etc.” – The theory of cathode poisoning was bought up a couple of times. I must admit, this kind of made sense to me in a “sounds logical but I have zero scientific logic or reasoning to support my thought process” type of way. So, after this I started to think that maybe the standby switch would start to harm my amp rather than protect it?

Then in swoops Mike Fortin. Designer of signature amps of Ola Englund, Scott Ian and Kirk Hammett. So you know, he understands gain structures and valve amps! He just posted this link which to save you trawling through it (you should, it’s great and not that long) had the following line: “Fender essentially misinterpreted the requirements, and everyone else copied Fender. Leo tended not to put anything into the circuit that he felt was unnecessary - but he came from a repair background where a standby switch is a service convenience.” This was supported by Jamie Simpson of Booya Amplifiers. So, obviously – the valves carry a lot of juice when they are in full flow so you’ll want to restrict the flow to a safe level when servicing them, so the standby switch appears to have been put in to protect the health and safety of the people working on the amps rather than any need in normal operation. The article even goes as far as stating that the best way to deal with your standby switch is “Bypass the standby switch internally so that it does nothing.”

After this the answers started to get more specific and silly (it is Facebook after all) yet some interesting points were made. “Unnecessary if your output tubes see 500v or less. If they see 800 like in a musicman (on not half) it might prolong their non microphonic life” (Harald Nowark). “When you turn the first switch on you send 6.3 volts to the heaters... This warms the cathode which is treated or coated with material that promotes the expelling of electrons. By warming up the cathode before hitting the tube with high voltage it protects the coating on the cathode. When you take the amp off standby the big voltage hits the tube. Also, I think you should turn the entire amp off if you take more than a 10 minute break... No use baking your components for no reason when it only takes a minute to warm it back up....” (Phil Bradbury – Little Walter Tube Amps). Questions were asked about unplugging speakers in standby mode “Still wouldn’t do it” (James Hamstead) and so on and so forth. This really jumped out at me “You see all those amps warming up before a concert? They're not on standby... your amp won't start to cook (class A amps excepted) without the HV on, the amp barely gets warm with just the filaments (when biased right, I must add). And... it's not the tubes warming up that does the most for your tone... it's the electrolytic caps... the ESR goes way down as the temperature goes up... so warm your big tube amp up good before you play. Standby is good for soft-start... cathode stripping is not really a problem with indirectly-heated cathodes (like all tubes we use now), so using standby and separating the HV from the filaments just lowers the inrush current, doesn't really prolong cathode life. There have been wars fought over this, google cathode stripping for more. Cathode stripping happens to thoriated (directly heated filament) cathodes, found on large transmitting tubes.” (Stephen Cowell). “The standby switch is for convenience as a way of keeping your amp ready to go between sets or a quick way to mute when making changes to your rig. There have been millions of pieces of tube gear made (tv's, radios, hifi, etc) that never had standby switches and worked just fine. If there is any validity to the "cathode stripping" theory, let me just say I have seen more tubes blown from the instant surge coming off standby than from improper warm up. And yes, an amp does sound better after it is fully warmed, but you don't have to have a standby switch in order to warm it up. All this being said, most Shaw Amps will continue to be produced with standby switches for your convenience.” (Kevin Shaw – Shaw Audio)

In regard to Cathode Stripping, Roland made this excellent point: “During the 40s,50s and 60s, the best sound we heard was from a Juke Box. This machine stood all day, all week, for many years in the corner of the Cafe, waiting for the coin. How did it play right away? That's right, it was in standby. The valves were heated by the main jukebox transformer .. The amp had a mains transformer which was switched off, it fed the rectifier valve which was directly-heated (usually a 5U4) When you put a coin in, the amp transformer was powered up, and HT would appear after 5 seconds or so, quick enough to beat the record onto the player. This meant that the valves were running the heaters continuously. Cathode poisoning was such a problem that they would have to put a new set of valves in the Juke Box every thirty-forty years!

Trace Davis, head of Voodoo Amplification came in with this marvellous insight, not only into the industry but to tone. “When it comes to manufacturing amps it’s a great deal easier & faster to include a Standby Switch than to deal with daily emails & phone calls from those asking 'Why is there no Standby Switch? My local tech said that's bad for the tubes?' As one can imagine daily emails & phone calls like this consumes a great deal of time so consequently most companies continue to implement Standby Switches as it’s more cost effective” and “To varying degrees this also enters into the topic of tone. Does an amp sound & feel better once the tubes have come up to temperature & the bias has settled in? In my very humble opinion, yes, so once you do engage the Standby Switch into the ready-to-be-played mode it takes a minute or so (depending on the design, how long the power switch has been on, etc) for everything to settle in to where the tone is consistent.”

To support this, Roland came in with “Trace is right about the amp sounding better when hot, particularly when the output valves get older, they don't achieve full emission until the cathode has been heated for around 2 to 5 minutes. This is actually testable, and is not speculation”.

So, you know, I could rip apart all the comments by all the fantastic amp builders and repairers who contributed but instead I will summarise with the following, written in language that we can all understand.

Your standby switch is a hangover from Fender being more interested in the early days of repair and servicing. In terms of normal playing, in a normal amp, your standby switch is pretty useless. It’s just there as we guitarists expect it. Your amp will probably sound better after a few minutes once everything has warmed up and settled down. Cathode Stripping, do you want to risk it? I don’t, so I won’t be leaving my amp on standby when I’m not playing it. I’ll just turn it off (as like most people, my amps sits in that fraction of a millimeter between “Can’t hear it?” and “Ermhagerd!” so turning the volume down isn’t really an option). Please do not turn your amp on at all without the speaker plugged in and please – if you love your amp - give your valves a few minutes (minimum) to cool down before moving your amp after use. And, of course, there are no user serviceable parts inside – leave it to the professionals!

And who said social media is full of cats, politics, beard combs and pictures of people’s lunch?