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Gear Settings: Bedroom -vs- Stage

Talk to any guitarist who’s played a small to medium sized gig and they’ll probably tell you the same thing. Don’t get too attached to your pedal or amp settings at home. Once your rig is on a stage in a weirdly shaped room with terrible acoustics, things are going to have to change. 
 
In this post I’m going to write about three aspects of tone that change drastically when you move from your bedroom to the stage.
 
BASS
 
The amount of bass you hear coming from your amp/cabinet will vary greatly in different venues, and even what part of the stage it’s on.
 
You’ll probably need less bass on tight indoor stages, and more bass on larger outdoor stages. Of course, there are exceptions.
 
The key is to use your ears. Listen closely, not just to your amp, but also to how your amp interacts with the room/stage. Forget what you think “normal” settings are. “0” is a perfectly acceptable setting in certain situations.
 
GAIN
 
Even with good a good PA system and fantastic stage monitors, cleaner tone will be easier to distinguish than heavily distorted tone.
 
This will vary from one style of music to another, but let’s use blues as an example. Most blues players use some form of overdrive. Using an OD pedal to push an already overdriven tube amp can sound glorious in your bedroom, but perfectly muddy on stage.
 
The guideline I use is this. Set the amp a bit cleaner than usual. Set the pedals a lot cleaner, but for more boost. Your mileage may vary, but for what I do, this approach works. Cleaner tone is easier for everyone to hear, even the audience (which I’ve been told is important).
 
I can hear some of you already thinking “but what about my sustain, MY GOD, WHAT ABOUT THE SUSTAIN?”
 
Don’t worry, here’s why your precious sustain will be OK.  
 
When you’re on stage, your amp will be (probably) be louder than it is at home. If you’re at a good venue with a good PA system, you might have the luxury of hearing your guitar through your own personal stage monitor. This extra volume around your guitar acutally increases your sustain.
 
This means that you can get the same “feel” (more sustain) using less dirt.
 
MIDRANGE
 
Midrange is a huge part of why your guitar is either heard or buried in the mix. Midrange can feel like the enemy when you’re standing in front of your amp at home. You might dial in a fat, shimmery tone that sparkles like unicorn tears and think it’s the last tone you’ll ever need.
 
But the noise of a band can bury your fat, shimmery tones. Your fat low end and sparkly treble can disappear from a mix as soon as the drummer and bass player get excited and begin playing louder. 
 
Being heard is more important than having perfect tone. If you’re the primary melody maker in the band, the music will sound worse if you can’t be heard. To be heard, you need to have enough midrange to cut through the mix.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, only a solid start. I’m curious what the working guitarists at Wampler Pedals could add to this list. If only they had a podcast where they could talk about such things...
- Anthony Stauffer Texas Blues Alley

Check out Anthony on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TexasBluesAlley Check out his awesome website! http://www.texasbluesalley.com

Typical Day At the Office

I’ve had a few people email in – wondering what it is like working at Wampler Pedals HQ/ in the pedal industry in general. So I thought I would take you through a regular day here at the office and debunk a couple misconceptions about working in the pedal industry.

So what “IS” a typical day like in the Wampler Pedals office? Playing guitar all day, geeking out over gear, attending guitar shows, NAMM, hanging out with rock stars, and generalized Tom Foolery – is exactly not it at all. (Well the Tom Foolery - sometimes.)

Most of my day is spent right here at my desk – checking email, answering emails and phone calls; making sure that anybody that needs warranty work on those road worn pedals or needs suggestions on tone settings – is covered. The rest of my time is spent pouring over the gear forums, administrative work, writing our blog, and contributing to our podcast “Chasing Tone” once a week. For those of you who haven’t checked out Chasing Tone – do so, stop reading this and go check it out! http://www.wamplerpedals.com/podcast/ I can’t speak for the rest of the guys – but I’m pretty funny. Brian and Travis are all right I guess.

Guitar shows and NAMM.

Facts about the shows – lots of gear, loud noises, usually filled with gear nerds like you and me. Shows have tons of great gear – made by some of the greatest people you will ever meet – and as a worker of your booth or room – you usually don’t get to see or play any of it. Just like any other worker at a tradeshow – guitar shows – especially NAMM is a lot of hard work. This past winter NAMM we were next to the drums – Drummers for 10 hours a day! Oh the humanity! Now, I’m not saying we don’t cut loose and have a good time after the show. I’m fortunate enough to have some great co-workers, and in case he’s reading this - a GREAT BOSS, so hanging with each other after you worked 14 hours a day or  traveling together – is pretty easy. It also helps that at the end of each day at shows, your boss walks with you to the beer cart and gets you a beer. (Not too many people can say their bosses do that.)

Although this industry is harder work than most people think - working for a pedal company does have it perks. I get to test new prototypes when they come out, I get to share laughs/ indulge in the occasional inner office prank with some fantastic co-workers, and I get to work in a field that I am truly passionate about!

- Max Jeffrey

10 Worst Guitar Faces

As guitar players, we all make them. Looks of pain and discomfort or frustration and just plain goofy. Yes - yes - the guitar face! While there are several terrible guitar faces out there. Here are just a couple of our favorites.

10.) Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz

9.) Carlos Santana

Carlos-Santana-Guitar-Face

8.) Stevie Ray Vaughan

srv

7.) Steve Vai

vai-guitar-face

6.) Johnny Lang

johhny-lang

5.) Alex Lifeson

AlexLifeson

4.) Joe Walsh

Joe-Walsh

3.) B.B. King

BB KING

2.)John Mayer

JohnMayer2

1.)Dave Mathews

Dave Mathews

And just for fun - here is one of Travis and myself. lol.

Travis guitar faceMax Guitar Face

Introducing the Clarksdale Delta Overdrive!

The "Man behind the tone curtain" has finally released his version of THAT world famous lime green drive pedal - with several Wampler styled additions of course. Check out our demo of the new Clarksdale below. Travis isn't too bad to listen to either.

- Max

Andrew Richardson

andy
Earlier this week, the pedal community suffered a terrible loss. Andy Richardson of ZVex Pedals left this world on Monday September 1st, 2014. Not only was Andy a total pedal guy and friend, he was a Husband to his wife Moe of 7 years and a father to his 3 year old son Bronson.

Everyone here at Wampler Pedals is truly heartbroken by the news of Andy's tragic passing. It's times like this that it becomes so evident that life is so very, very precious. A special fund has been set up to help Moe with accruing financial costs. Donations can be made at the following link: http://bit.ly/1lC6jHY

- Wampler Pedals

12 Essential Gig Bag Item Checklist

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Whether you have been playing for a lifetime, or are just starting out - there are a couple of items that will help you during your gig if your rig needs help. When packing for a gig – I have the tendency to over stuff my gig bags with tons of gear and tools. While not everyone needs to carry enough tools to make even Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor proud - there are some things that have saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

Extra Strings and picks. Even though these things are a no-brainer, more often times than not – musicians all over the world have been stranded at a gig needing one or both of these things. Me included. Make sure to check your gig bag/ case before heading out to your show!

Extra Cables/ patch cables – Again seems like a no brainer! But cables short out and it’s better to have a back up or two when snap, crackle, pop occurs.

Spare Batteries – Incase your expensive PSU goes down – you’re $2.00 battery could save the day!

A good quality guitar multi-tool or combo tool. This would be a tool that has a string winder, string cutter, and sometimes little essential screw-driver/ Alan key bits. There is a number of a great companies that make some fantastic tools out there: JP Tools, Planet Waves, etc.

String Winder – If there isn’t one on your multi-tool you will need one. If you don’t have one – you will wish you did. Speeds up the string changing process. Another small miracle!

Electrical/ Gaffers Tape – Helps secure loose cables, temporarily fixes bad connections, can even hold down a pedal or a car hood. True Story! I know a guy that repaired his car’s broken hood latch with Gaffers tape on a way home form a gig; so his car’s hood wouldn’t fly up and smash his windshield on the highway.

Guitar Strap. I know, another no brainer right? But make sure one is packed in your gig bag. I throw a spare one in my gig bag – just in case the bass player forgets his.

Electrical contact cleaner/ electrical deoxit. Between gig bags, smokey bars, and grimy hands – filth and nastiness can sometimes gum up your connections and cleaner can be the difference between a smooth signal connection or snap, crackle, pop!

LED Flashlight. Pretty straight forward – but stages get dark - plain and simple. Be able to light your way with a reliable LED flashlight. Not every place is going to bring the house lights for you when you lose that one tiny piece that you need.

Extra Tuner. As the old adage goes: 2 is 1 and 1 is none. In case the tuner on your board goes down or you need to tune away from the drummer blasting in your ear. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. There are a number of great tuners that clip on to your headstock that are fairly low cost. There are few things worse than an out of tune guitar. TUNE OR DIE!

Extra pedal. While this isn’t necessarily an essential item – it never hurts to have an extra- solid drive/ distortion pedal in your gig bag. Things happen to pedal boards: cables go out, pedals short out, the drunk guy dancing spills beer all over your board. When disaster strikes and time is of the essence – it never hurts to bypass your board all together and plug in your backup pedal to hold you through until the break.

Extra Tubes. Again not an essential item per say – but an extra set of power tubes or an extra pre-amp tube is never a bad thing to have on hand. It could mean the difference between you playing the rest of the gig through your amp – or having to plug in to the PA.

This list will not be a "cover all" for everybody. Some musicians will need more or less items in their gig bag check list - these are just the essential that I have found work best for me. Make sure you have a list and check it often before heading out to a gig.

- Max Jeffrey

Brian Farmer

Brian Farmer 1

Growing up, some kids want to be an astronaut, others fire fighters, I was the weird kid that wanted to be a guitar tech. (Yes I was the weird kid in school). Every month I would flip to the very back of my new addition of Guitar World magazine to read “A Vulgar Display of Power” articles that talked about player’s rigs. One of the rigs/ articles I was most enamored by was Warren Haynes’ live setup with Mule. Giving the play by play on Warren’s rig was Warren’s long time guitar-tech Brian Farmer. I immediately started reading and watching everything Mr. Farmer put about Warren’s continually changing rigs between Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh and friends, and countless other live and studio performances he was responsible for dialing in just right before each performance.

I had the great privilege to meet Brian Farmer a couple times both before and after Mule shows. He had to have the patiences of a saint to deal with all the questions I asked. Like a puppy in a shop window, I just kept yapping away. Brian answered all my questions in full – he even showed me several of Warren’s guitars and amps and a “few” things that he had in the truck. Never once did he act like he was too busy for me. Something I will never forget.

As I am typing this, I am deeply saddened to announce that Brian Farmer passed away on Sunday, August 24 at his home near Nashville. Whether you had or had not heard of Brian before – he was truly a tone chaser  just like us and devoted his professional career to tone and gear - performance after performance- night after loud night. He will truly be missed.

- Max Jeffrey

Why do I need dirt pedal?

euphoria

I see guys on forums quite a bit, that say “I have a distortion channel in my amp and I’m happy with that, so what do I need a dirt pedal?.” If you are truly happy with that one sound – then that is fantastic. For the rest of us, one OD/ distortion tone/ sound will never be enough. Tonal variety is the name of the game for a lot of us.

Some amplifiers (like the Fender Twin, Deluxe, etc.) don’t have a built in dirt channel – and will need an overdrive or distortion to fill in the gaps of their sound. If a player needs a dirty tone, and they only have a clean tone, they typically have 2 options:

1.) They can turn their amp and ride the volume control. Essentially, this gives you two basically different tones (Subject to pickup selection of course). This can be a viable option for some players. However, there is a chance for blasting out everybody in the front 20 rows if you accidently roll up your volume control too much too fast. Generally though, that’s not a very easy thing to get away with when you’re in a small bar, or church. You typically can’t crank up your amp that way to achieve the tone you’re looking for. Pedals are a great option for helping you achieve those tones with out having to crank up your amp too much.

2.) They can keep their amp clean and use different Overdrive and Distortion pedals to create different tones. If you are playing a 4-hour gig – you might not always want the same guitar tone. This is especially true if you doing a variety of cover tunes – you might need to cover a lot of tonal ground and have a wide range of options. Even if you have an amp that has a dirty channel – you may not want to use that same sound all night long. By adding pedals, you can actually hit your dirt channel with an OD pedal or Distortion, stacking tones together, and create new and unique tones/ sounds – tons of tonal variety.

One great example of this is if you are in a cover band. Lets say your band plays everything from: Rock, 90’s rock, country, and southern rock. These are all radically different guitar tones.  If you are playing anything “Modern country” you will definitely will want an OD or a Distortion pedal – almost a necessity. Most of the sounds produced are pedal based tones/ sounds. This isn’t a hard and fast rule by any means - some tones are cranked up amps. But again, a good OD or Distortion pedal will help you achieve those tones a majority of the time.

For some, one is enough. For most tone chasers, it is a never ending journey of trying, stacking, and gigging new pedals in an endless routine. The best advise I can give is get out there and experiment - try new tones and see what works best for you.

 

Brian Wampler (President Wampler Pedals) Max Jeffrey (Wampler Associate)

Guitar Effects Pedal Day

This Saturday (August 9th), Brian will be at World Music in Nashville, TN - from 12PM -3PM with fellow pedal builders Earthquaker Devices and Rockett Pedals USA. If you are in the area, stop by and say hi! 

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