So, Alex asked the question on the Wampler Pedals Tone Group page this week about your dream rig. I didn't answer there as I'm not sure I could articulate it that quickly, so I've thought about it, slept on it, drifted off when my wife has been speaking to me about BLAAHHHH and generally thrown it backwards and forwards in my mind and I think I've got it, so - here it is, my dream rig (please note, this expires roughly 5 minutes after I've written it).
I am the master of no genre but thoroughly enjoy attempting to hack my way through rock, metal, blues, country and if I'm being totally honest here, I really really want to be Steve Vai when I grow up (yes, I know, I'm 42 - age is just a number!). So, I need a guitar that can be versatile. I currently am the proud owner of a PRS Brent Mason signature, it's a great guitar and an excellent start to where I want my perfect guitar to be. My guitar needs to be powerful, both in pickups in and construction. I would probably go with something that has a fast, bright yet ballsy attack, it would be a 7 string with a whammy bar (I'd like to go up about a minor 3rd at the minimum so might need to be dug out), so the wood would be swamp ash. I'd need 24 frets, big stainless steel ones, probably with a Gibson scale sitting (smallish hands) on a thru neck (sustain baby!) or maybe a glued in because I am stupidly attracted to Birdseye maple. I don't know, not sure on that yet. I would get either Seth Baccus or Fibenare to build it - purely because I know them and trust them and they both produce guitars of such beauty and quality you'd be hard not to salivate when looking at them. Most of you already know about Fibenare because of Tom Quayle, but may have not heard about Seth. He's from my hometown, has now moved to Portugal and builds his guitars alongside his mentor, Andy Manson. The quality of work coming out their workshop is enough to make the hardest tone chaser weep! The pickups would from the brain of Tim Mills at BKP, the man is a tonal genius and I am certain he could take the concept of my current guitar and improve it radically. H/S/H config (independently tapable like the Brent PRS) with no signal level loss between HB and SC - I'd need it to sound like a Strat, a Les Paul, a Telecaster, a PRS... it'll need to sound awesome in all positions, maybe Brian would have to put an EQ and gain circuit in there some where to make it do this, now there is an idea. Can Brian make a circuit to go in a strat to make it sound like a telecaster and vice versa? Oh yeah, it'll need a JEM monkey grip, just because!
Quite simple, I want a Wampler and TC Electronics board for my rig. In it would be an Ego Compressor, the Plexi Drive Deluxe (I'd want this mod'd so that the pre gain boost can be separately switchable from a looper), a Tumnus for boosting, a Pinnacle and a Velvet Fuzz. Then there would be a Faux Tape Echo and a Flashback for delay, a Faux Spring Reverb, Hall of Fame, oh yeah, there'd be a PolyTune 2 in the front and a Ditto at the back. I'd also like a slimmed down Sonuus Wahoo pedal (I have some awesome ideas for that thing) in there somewhere as well... I'd like it all to be controlled by the sublime GigRig G2 - quite simply, there is no better looper on the market than that thing. Dan and team knocked it so far out the park with that the competition has been left stranded ever since. With this rig I can now be Vai, Gilmour, Edge, Brent, Brad, Dave and Adrian, Satch and every 70's, 80's and 90's rock player that I was bought up listening too and loving!
This part of the rig is quite easy, loud and clean. Probably the Port City Pearl because it just eats pedals and sounds beautiful. But... I'd also love one of those Friedman BE100 that sound what a Marshall should sound like. I had the pleasure of playing through Dave's a couple of years back and it's stuck with me ever since, best rock sounding amp I've ever heard!
So, that's my dream rig. Most of it is easy, so if you want to donate y'all can send it to me. This is the first time I've thought about "my perfect guitar" so I'm kinda clouded by the concept but the more I think about it the more stupidly excited I get so who knows, maybe one day. So, if you could all buy 500 pedals each and tell Brian that you did after reading this pointless blog piece so he'll buy it for me :D
So, those fine guys over at Gig Rig - Mick Taylor and of course Dan recently did a shoot out with the new MXR 5150 up against some old favourites in order to find which does the best Brown Sound... The JHS Angry Charlie, the new JHS Andy Timmons @ signature, the Xotic SL Drive, the Boss SD-1 and our very own Pinnacle Deluxe. They all sounded great, Mick leaned towards the crispness of the @ and Dan loved the top end clarity of the Pinnacle... For me, there was only one winner - the Pinnacle. It has been "my" sound every since I first plugged it in - brown sound or not, it just has that touch and feel that makes me go all funny inside - the mid contour control just gives you so much versatility and as Dan rightly says, there is no fizz in the pedal at all!! For more information about the Pinnacle you can see Alex's excellent overview of it, along with 4 suggested settings!
All in all another completely enjoyable show from Dan and Mick, to be honest, it just leaves me GAS'ing more and more for a G2, which is still the best switcher on the planet, others may come close but the G2 still has it! If only they'd put one in a box and send one to me... I'd even br prepared to let the Aussie's have the ashes back!
So, watch the show and let us know which one you think sounds the more EVH than the EVH does!
When Brian was designing this pedal, he wanted to create a distortion that was capable of working with any amp, he wanted it to have a varying gain range that could cover lots of ground, and he wanted the player to be able to tweak the tone to however they wanted it. The final product yielded a do-all distortion that a player could take to a gig that is adaptable to most any distortion scenario that would arise. In order to do that, the player needed to be able to shape the tonal characteristics of the distortion, making it flexible for bright or dark amps, and also for low or high gain situations. Thus the Sovereign was born.
Our favorite part of the Sovereign is the tonal shaping capabilities. All of the tone controls interact with each other, so adjusting one knob will alter how the other knobs and switches react. This allows loads of flexibility to tweak your distortion sound exactly how you want it to any amp you play through. The Sovereign also cleans up exceptionally well with the guitar’s volume knob. Rolling the volume back for rhythm sections, then rolling it back up for added sustain and crunch during solos. The Sovereign sounds great with any type of pickup, from single coils to humbuckers and P-90’s. It sounds especially fat and sustaining with humbuckers!
Volume: This controls the overall output of the pedal. There’s a considerable amount of volume available, and unity correlates directly to where the gain knob is set. Higher gain settings will require you to lower the volume to reach unity, with the gain lower the volume will have to be raised to reach unity. Fully counter-clockwise there will be no output whatsoever. Being a distortion, the Sovereign can be used as a boost, but it really shines as a “Second Channel” of sorts with a slight volume boost.
Gain: This knob controls the overall distortion that is applied on the signal. The goal was to be able to make something that could go from a lighter overdrive into mild distortion on the standard setting, to full on harder rock and even metal on the boost switch setting, and all things in between. There’s loads of gain on tap, I’m talking LOADS. Counter-clockwise will yield a smoother, creamy distortion that still lets your guitars natural tone shine through. The fun parts of the pedals lie in the higher gain settings. As you get closer to Noon, there’s more clipping happening and the harmonic bloom of the notes starts to really cut and saturate with loads of sustain. Around 2pm you’re really cooking with loads of distortion happening on the circuit, great for rock and metal riffs from the 70’s all the way up through modern artists of today. 3pm and up is full on shed territory. The way that the gain reacts is completely dictated on how the switches are set. With the Boost on and the switch on Bright, you’re looking at full on modern metal, with the boost off and the switch on even, it works great for classic rock. Half of the fun is experimenting :-)
Mid-Contour: This knob controls the mid characteristics of the distortion signal. Counter-clockwise will scoop the mids and give it a much more brutal sound (great for metal and harder rock), where turning it clockwise will accentuate the mid frequencies to cut through the mix. The great part about the mid-contour is that there are useable tones throughout the entire knob range. Fully counter-clockwise is brutal and cuts like a knife and extremely modern, where fully- clockwise offers a cool mid-heavy tone that works great for rhythm and lead (think Randy Rhodes tones on Crazy Train). Adjusting this control will directly affect how the Tone control reacts to adjusting the distortion. I suggest setting your switches first, then adjusting the mid-contour, then roll in some tone to taste.
Tone: The tone knob controls the high end frequencies of the distortion signal. Where this knob needs to be set is dictated by where the rest of the tone controls are set. Fully counter-clockwise your distortion tone gets very creamy and a bit mellower, where rolling it clockwise will introduce that extra bite and high end harmonic content to sit exactly where you want it in the mix. There’s loads of tone on tap, so I suggest starting it at 9am and going up from there. With the mid-contour higher up, you may want to roll off a bit of tone to even it out. With the mid-contour clockwise and scooping, you may want to roll the tone up the cut more in the mix. Again, half of the fun is experimenting :-)
Even/Bright switch: This switch controls the overall tonal flavor of the distortion. The Even position is very neutral with full harmonic content being present in the signal, and is great for classic distortion flavors that would cover any genre. The Bright position accentuates the higher and lower harmonic frequencies, which lends itself more to modern-style distortion tones. It also works really well to cut better with a really dark amp. This switch will directly affect how the Mid-Contour and Tone knobs react, so switching between Even and Bright will likely warrant adjusting those knobs to fine tune your tone.
Boost/Standard switch: This switch is a gain boost switch. This doesn’t affect the volume, but it adds more distortion to the circuit. The standard section gives you an overdrive into mild distortion tonal palette to work with, where the boost setting turns it into full on shred modewith loads of sustaining distortion. This switch really takes it from classic rock jammer to full on metal shredder with the flick of a switch.
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- Power draw: 9mA – Runs off of 9v center negative tip barrel plug (Boss style) or internal 9v battery connector. The Sovereign can be run at 18v, at which point it will have higher headroom before clipping. Note: This sounds great with some pedals, but some just prefer 9v.
- There has been only one version of the Sovereign to date.
You can read more about the Sovereign Distortion or purchase direct HERE
When discussing pedals, there’s one standard that most everyone refers to regularly when talking about overdrives. I’ll give you a couple of hints, it’s usually in a green enclosure, and it is known for making your tubes scream ;-) . That classic circuit has been used by nearly everyone at some point, finding a home on the pedalboards of famous musicians in practically every genre. It's known for adding some mid-range grit and overdrive to an amp on the edge of breakup, or cranking it and hitting the front end of a heavily cooking amp for a solo boost. Many 80’s metal and rock guitarists (too many users to count) used that pedal as their secret weapon for solo boosts to cut through the mix. Country artists have used them to add a slight touch of grit and punch for their lead and rhythm tones (Brad Paisley is a major fan of those circuits). It’s often considered a staple for blues guitarists, made famous by the legendary SRV for his searing lead tones. Our resident bluesman Max Jeffrey has had up to 3 on his board at one time, and typically leaving one as an always-on tone sweetener. Despite being so overwhelmingly popular, there are still a few things that people have requested to be modified from the original designs over the years (builders have modified versions of that circuit for many years, since the roots of the boutique pedal market). The Clarksdale is Brian’s idea of what he feels could be changed and added to make that circuit as flexible and harmonically rich as it possibly can be. Those circuits are known for having a fizziness on the overdrive when the gain is up high, and the tonal shaping possibilities were limited with only a tone knob. The solution was to tighten up the gain on the higher range so it retains the bottom end, and add an active 3-band EQ and clipping switch for tone shaping purposes.
Our favorite part of the Clarksdale is the 3-band EQ. It takes all of the things people love from that great classic circuit and allows you to tailor the tonality of the overdrive to whatever amp and guitar you are using. The clipping switch helps to tailor the clipping of the overdrive as well, so you have a much wider variety of overdrive tones at your disposal. The overdrive on the Clarksdale works great with single coils or humbuckers, and cleans up very well using the volume knob on your guitar.
Volume: This knob controls the overall output of the pedal. When it is fully counter-clockwise there is no output whatsoever. The amount of volume to achieve unity is directly correlated to where the gain is set. When the gain is higher, the volume can be decreased to unity. There is plenty of volume on tap, because these type circuits work extremely well as boosts to make the amp overdrive. One suggestion is to start the volume at 10am and work your way up from there. With the gain lower, you’ll need to raise the volume up to accommodate. One great way to use the Clarksdale is to slam the front end of your amp with a load of volume and just a touch of gain. At that point you essentially have a fully EQ-adjustable boost.
Bass: This knob dictates how much lower end harmonic content is present in the overdrive signal. Being that it’s an active control, at Noon there is no change to the overdrive tone. Counterclockwise it will actually remove the bass frequencies out of your tone. This works really well when playing a very bass-heavy amp such as some old Fenders. Clockwise it will add bass to your overdrive signal, fattening up the overall tone and giving it more girth. This works really well with inherently bright amps (Vox amps or Fenders with the Bright switch on). When setting this control, start at noon and tweak to match the amp. Sometimes it’s nice to have an extra boom to your tone (especially playing at lower volumes).
Mids: This knob controls the overall mid-range of the pedal. TS’s are famous for their mid-range punch, but Brian wanted to take it a step further. Being an active control, Noon is the standard tone you would get without any frequency changes. Counter-clockwise will remove or “scoop” the mids, giving it a much more aggressive feel overall. This works really well when setting up a rhythm tone, then kicking in another mid-boost overdrive or boost to stack for solos. Clockwise will add harmonic mid-range, ranging from a slight bump all the way to where the mids are standing way out front. One of my absolute favorite things about the Clarksdale is the fact that with the mids control completely clockwise, it gives your tone a “cocked-wah” sound. As you increase the gain from boost into overdrive, the cocked-wah sound becomes more apparent. (You can see it in action on the last demo video at the bottom of this blog). It’s extremely fun :-)
Treble: The treble knob controls the overall high end content that’s present in your overdrive tone. Also being an active control, this control at Noon is not changing your signal at all. Counter-clockwise will remove high-end frequencies, which in turn will make it much less punchy and more of a mellow tone (works really well for some jazz tones). Reducing it will also help tame some of brittleness that can come from running a high treble content pedal into a bright amp. Clockwise will add high end frequencies to your overdrive tone. Again, this works well to add some punch and clarity to you tone when using a bass-heavy amp.
Gain: This knob controls how much overdrive is being produced from the circuit. There’s actually a surprising amount of gain on tap for being an overdrive. Counter-clockwise will give you an edge-of-breakup tone that adds some depth and sustain to the bloom of your notes. By Noon there’s more clipping happening and the cut of the pedal is great for soloing. 3pm and up is for full on saturation and thick overdrive tones. At this point, those classic overdrives would get fizzy and the bottom end would be less defined on the gain. With the gain up, the Clarksdale still retains it’s bottom end and doesn’t fizz out at all. 3pm and above work exceptionally well for rock and blues tones. The main thing Brian wanted to do with the gain is to ensure that it was very transparent sounding, so your guitars natural tone will always shine through, even at the highest gain settings.
Smooth/Lift Switch: This switch dictates the characteristic of how the gain clips. Smooth will have a very smooth and even tone without any major fluctuations on the frequencies, and is closest to the original circuit. The Lift position gives your overdrive tone an extra depth and punch, with more emphasis on low and high-mids. All of the frequencies stand out front a bit more, and it works great for a distinct way to jump out of the mix for solos.
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ in size (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- Soft Relay Switching and Top Mount Jacks
- Power draw: 17mA – Requires negative center tip barrel plug (Boss style). Can be run at 18v to increase the headroom. Internal 9v battery connector accessible by removing screws on bottom plate.
- There’s only been one version of the Clarksdale to date.
You can find out more about the Clarksdale and purchase direct here.
For many years now, there has been a single brand of amp that is known for it’s unbelievably natural and full sounding harmonic content with loads of sustain and depth, but also for the fact that they’re so expensive that the average person would have to sell their home or a vital organ to afford one (it rhymes with Rumble). The Euphoria is Brian’s way of making those great tonal characteristics available using any amp and still achieving those natural amp-breakup tones.
Our favorite part of the Euphoria is the 3-way switch that dictates the clipping characteristics and how it reacts to the EQ controls. It allows the player to sculpt the amount of overdrive and harmonic content to suit any amp, but still remaining transparent. You’ve got clarity with the treble and the pregain bass helps smooth it out and make it fat and wooly with an added depth to your tone. We also like how it cleans up really well with the volume knob, and works well with any guitar you pair it with (single coils or humbuckers).
Volume: This control dictates the overall output of the pedal. There’s plenty of volume on tap, and it works really well set to unity like your amp is naturally breaking up, or even as a clean boost. Counter-clockwise there is no output. Unity on the volume knob will be directly correlated to where the gain knob is set. At higher gain levels the volume can be reduced to reach unity. It sounds really good with the volume boosted, the lightest amount of gain, a slight extra touch of treble and bass to taste for solos.
Treble: This knob controls how much high end content is added to the overdrive signal. This is post gain, so it actually adds some highs and clarity to your signal. It works great for adding an extra punch and presence when using it for lead boosts, or to add clarity when switching to your neck pickup. Counterclockwise the overdrive will be mellow with less cut. At Noon, there’s a depth and presence, but it is still very transparent and close to your original tone. As the treble knob goes up, your guitar’s natural tone will jump out front with a harmonic richness and clarity. There’s plenty of treble on board, so start at Noon and add or subtract to suit your tastes the best.
Bass: The bass control on the Euphoria dictates how much added bass there is before the gain. This means that with the gain up, as you raise the bass up, the gain will actually get woollier and fuzzier (because bass frequencies add a fuzziness too the gain ran before, where it adds the thump after). Fully counter-clockwise there’s no added bass; it’s just the Euphoria’s natural sounding overdrive. At noon there will be a bit of smooth fuzziness and wooliness to your overdrive tone that fattens chords and lead lines up, where fully clockwise it will be thick with loads of sustain. It’s inherently very sensitive to adding bass, so just add a bit at a time. Start off fully counterclockwise and dial in the exact amount of smoothness and wooliness you want for your overdrive tone.
Gain: This controls the overall level of overdrive that is put out. Fully counterclockwise there is no overdrive happening, and you can use it as a clean boost to hit the front end of your amp. At around 9am, it’s adding a touch of natural overdrive to your signal, like your amp is starting to break up. At Noon, there’s more sustain and harmonic content, making your notes bloom while still retaining your guitars characteristics. At 3pm, you’re getting loads of sustain and overdrive, which works well for rock tones. The gain knob reacts differently to where the switch is set.
Smooth/Open/Crunch Switch: This switch controls what kind of clipping happens on the overdrive in the pedal. In the smooth setting, the overdrive is exactly that…smooth. It’s got a very even tonal characteristic, and it works well for classic Clapton stuff and John Mayer tones (among many others) and is the closest feel to those old D-style amplifiers. In the Open position, it raises the headroom on the overdrive, and there’s more harmonic content happening, giving it an almost “airy” tone (NOTE: There's a volume boost when switching to the Open setting). On the Crunch setting, it’s much higher gain. It’s similar to the Open setting, but with more overdrive on tap. There’s loads of sustain and clipping happening, but still retaining the original tonal characteristics of your guitar’s signal.
- 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
- Power draw: 8mA – Requires a negative center tip barrel connector or an internal 9v battery. It can be run at 18v to add headroom
- There have been a few iterations, starting with the Ecstasy with two switch positions, then with 3 switch positions, and finally the name change to Euphoria for reasons beyond our control. There is no difference circuit-wise between the later Ecstasy pedals with 3 switch positions and the Euphoria.
You can check out the Euphoria more here
One of my favourite things about being a guitar player is that it transcends genres for so many people. During the 80's and 90's I was into heavy rock and it led me other music - Gary Moore led me to the blues, Steve Morse led me to Country and Randy Rhoads led me to classical, neoclassical - if you think about it, he was Yngwie before Yngwie bought his first pair of leather trousers. If you are not familiar with Randy listen to the Ozzy Osbourne Tribute album, released in 1987, to hear Randy at his fiery best. Simply awesome.
Randy died in March 1982, in the prime of his life, aged 25. A simply monstrous player who could play ANY rock guitarist under the table. While the world was going nuts for EVH, many were fascinated by RR - his style, technique and flair set him apart from everyone else. For me, if he had still been playing even 5 years later than that, would have quite probably the greatest rock guitar player to walk this earth. I shudder to think what his playing would have been today.
Yesterday marked the passing of life long music educator Delores Rhoads, 'Dee', aged 95. Always hugely supportive of Randy from the time he started playing to long after his death, it feels like a part of rock history has moved away from us, quietly, without anyone knowing. Dee Rhoads had simply became a maternal figure for many of us players from that time and it's so sad to hear of her passing.
Like many people, this outtake of Randy recording "Dee", a tribute to his Mother from the "Blizzard of Oz" album (this appeared on the Tribute album), never failed to make me smile.
I do hope she's now with Randy as they have a lot to catch up on. Rest in Peace Mrs Rhoads, from this quiet corner of rock fandom, your influence will never be forgotten.
The Tumnus is probably one of the most requested pedals that Brian has ever been asked to build. It’s designed be an accurate recreation of a famous mythical boost and overdrive, but without the unbelievably high price tag (it rhymes with Schmlon). Those big box behemoths of tone were known for adding a certain low-mid character and sweetness to your tone, which works perfectly to boost the front of an already cooking amp to get into overdrive territory.
Our favorite part of the Tumnus is the sweetness it adds to your tone. Even if it’s not set as a boost or an overdrive, it works really well to add just a bit of sweetness as an always-on pedal. It makes the notes bloom a little fuller and with added depth, along with adding a touch of clarity with the treble knob. It’s a very simple setup with the knob:, Volume, Treble and Gain, and just loads of great tone. The other thing we like is the fact that it sounds great whether going through a cooking amp that’s already overdriving a bit, or into a clean amp to add a touch of grit for the boost. The Tumnus works well with both single coils and humbucker equipped guitars. With single coils it helps fatten up the attack and the notes to add sweetness, where with humbuckers it adds a great depth and clarity for lead lines.
Level: This knob dictates the overall output of the pedal. The primary two things it’s know for are boost and overdrive but often the boost is what people love about those legendary pedals it’s modeled after. There’s loads of volume on tap, so you can nail the front end of your amp and push your amp to sweet breakup. Counter-clockwise there’s no output from the pedal. Unity depends on where the gain knob is set, so unity with the gain at 3pm would be 10am, where unity with the gain at 9am would be around 11am on the volume knob. Fully clockwise this thing gets LOUD. It works really well run into another pedal to boost the gain and clipping on your favorite overdrive too.
Gain: This knob dictates how much clipping is happening on the circuit. As with those legendary boosts, this isn’t an excessively high gain pedal. It’s capable of getting some great overdrive tones, but it’s used more to boost and add some depth and cut to your tone more so than a searing, face-melting distortion would be. Fully counter-clockwise, there is no gain happening and it’s just a transparent boost. At 9am, it’s starting to add a bit of sweetness and bloom to the notes. At Noon, the notes are fatter and have more sustain and punch. At 3pm, there’s grit on the notes and great rock and roll overdrive tones. Fully clockwise it’s sustain city with a considerable amount of grit. The great part about it is that no matter where the gain is set, the guitars character and tone still shines through. When using the boost on those older pedals, many people would set the gain just above off, then boost with a touch of clarity to punch the amp in the face in the sweetest way possible.
Treble: This knob dictates how much high end content is coming through the circuit. The big thing that many people want in a boost pedal is the ability to cut through in a band situation. The treble knob lets you do that by adding the high end harmonic content to the overdrive signal, so you still get the same fat, sustaining overdrive and boost, but you also get the punch and clarity to get out front for solos. Fully counter-clockwise to 9am works really well for jazzy passages with the gain low. Around Noon the high end is matching your original tone. At 3pm, there’s added clarity and bite, and fully clockwise will let it jump to the front of the mix. I often like it around 1-2pm with my neck pickup to get a little extra clarity to it.
- Power Draw: 20mA~ (9v ONLY)
- 9v Negative Center Tip barrel plug only. Being a mini, a battery will not fit in the enclosure. There is a voltage doubler on the inside to boost it to 18v, and powering it with anything more than 9v might well set it on fire. Please don’t do that, haha.
- Size: 3.5” x 1.5” (88.9mm x 38.1mm)
The other day on Chasing Tone – Brian and I had a customer write in and ask what tips we could offer a beginner guitar player. Expanding on that concept – I thought I could go over the 6 things I do to improve my practicing. These 6 steps are super easy and can be applied towards a beginner or a seasoned guitar player.
Standing up: So this one, I’ll admit, is hard for me sometimes. I often sit to practice – but when I get to the rehearsal space or the stage – I’ll sometimes mess up – “it just didn’t feel right/ natural.” Standing up and practicing - can often help put you in a certain mind set for live performance and will get your hands/ body used to being a different position.
Don’t beat a dead horse: If you aren’t getting it right away – don’t get frustrated – walk away and come back – patience is the name of the game. Remember – NOBODY got good at guitar over night.
Set a time limit: Let’s face it – we’re musicians. Not all of us have a huge attention span. There is a reason TV shows are only 30 minutes long – anything longer than that – and your attention will wander. If you are anything like me – 30 minutes can be a stretch sometimes. I always like to tell players just starting out – pros as well – play a concentrated/ focused practice for 20 minutes at a time. You can do that a couple times a day – it all adds up. Remember – it’s the long game. Too much focused practice – and you can burn out. Find the magic time slot for you – and roll with it. It could be less than 20 minutes or it could be more. Remember, just because Steve Vai used to practice for 8 hours per day, you don't have to... he's not from this planet!
Low volume tones: When you have good tone – you are inspired – plain and simple. It’s why we are all in this crazy tone-chasing world. Find a good “bedroom” volume and tone and roll with it. The number one tool in your guitar-playing arsenal is your ears – and you don’t want to wear them out prematurely. Find a comfortable volume to play at (switch to a smaller amp maybe)– set up some of your favorite pedals – and enjoy your practice!
Practice with others: Get out and practice with other musicians! Find an open jam night at your favorite watering hole and rock out! If you want to play live – or want to polish up your skills – nothing beats playing with other musicians. Bonus if you have never played with them before. Getting out of your comfort level is good. If you don’t have an open stage jam nearby or you can’t find another person to play with – Loopers (like the TC Ditto) or jam tracks on Youtube - can be great tools to use!
Get out of your comfort zone: The last bit of knowledge I can offer – is get out of your comfort zone. Find a genre of music you don’t typically listen to. Actively listen to what the guitar/ other instruments are playing. Trust me – you’ll take something away from it. You will then be able to use those lick, chops, tones – and incorporate them in your style of music. Always be a student of music – not just guitar – and your skills will continue to improve.
So what steps do you take to improve your guitar playing skills? Do you have a set practice routine?
There's nothing worse than when you are trying to shred on camera and your cat decides it wants to sit on your lap... especially when the cat won't take no for an answer!
Wampler Artist Toni Martinez (Spain) can't help by laugh as his persistent cat refuses to move from his lap despite his best efforts to keep shredding!
Personally I don't blame the cat. I've seen Toni play many times on a number of his beautiful Suhr's and it's hard not to get up close to stare, although I'm not sure if the cat is looking to absorb some of his skills like I usually am...
Disclaimer. No Suhr, guitar players, cats, notes or any related equipment were harmed during the making of this film. Well, apart from the small chunk that was taken out of Toni's right knuckle!