Guitar - Good Practice Tips

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?

Max

Shreddy Cat Fight!

 

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!

Overview of the Tweed '57

The Tweed ’57 was created because Brian loves the tones of those old tweed amps from the late 50’s. The main problem with those old amps are the fact that they cost an inexplicable amount, and you have to blast them (which is often deafening at close range) to get those great old overdrive tones. The solution was to create a pedal that could get those cranked tweed tones from any amp without having to spend thousands of dollars, while also allowing flexibility to tailor the tone exactly how the player wanted it.

Our favorite part of the Tweed '57 is the channel switch and how it reacts with the EQ knobs. This opens up the spectrum of tonal frequencies while retaining the original tweed characteristics. These things combined allow the player to use any amp and still get those cranked tweed tones at manageable volumes.

Controls:

Volume: This controls the overall output of the pedal. It's interactive with the gain control, so as the gain is lowered the volume can be brought up to match unity (or boost an amp). This allows you to use it as an always on pedal, or to add a tweed feel to your lead lines. Fully counter-clockwise the pedal will have no output. Where unity is achieved is based on where the gain knob is set. With the gain at 9am, unity will be closer to 11-11:30am on the volume. With the gain above noon, unity can be achieved earlier in the knob range. There’s lots of volume on tap, so with it fully clockwise it will be slamming the front end of the amp and producing amp breakup.

Bass: This affects how prominent the lower frequencies are in the gain range. The big thing that Brian wanted to do was make the whole knob range useable. Fully counter-clockwise makes the lows much less pronounced, which is great paired with an already bassy amp. At Noon it's at unity with your original signal, so there's very little harmonic content being changed, more so just adding the gain and tweed clipping characteristics. Around 3pm there’s added bass, which is great for pairing with inherently brighter amps. At the max level it’s quite bassy, but still retains that great tweed clipping characteristic.

Middle: This controls the mid frequencies that are present in the output signal. Counter-clockwise will lessen the mids and have a more modern take on that sound. At Noon the mids are a similar frequency to your original signal, and around 3pm will give an added bit of mids to cut through the mix. Tweed amps were typically not scooped in the mids department, so the lower the mid output still retains that fatness that’s inherent in those old tweed amps.

Treble: This control affects the amount of high end frequency is present in the signal. Tweed amps are often known for their significant low end, and this allows the player to adjust the high end to match the amp. Fully counter-clockwise will have a much more bassy, mellow sound (works really well for jazzy stuff actually). At noon the highs are consistent with your original signal. At 3pm the highs have much more snap and the overdrive has more clarity to it. Completely maxed out it’s still useable, but with added punch and edge to all of the notes.

Drive: This knob dictates the level of gain that’s applied to the signal. It has a considerable amount of gain on tap, so it’s highly tweakable to get any level of tweed tones you’d want from any era. Fully counter-clockwise there will still be a slight bit of breakup on the notes. Not a lot, but similar to the sound of digging in harder on an edge-of-breakup amp. At 9am, there’s a bit more grit happening, but the signal still stays articulate to where you can hear the overtones of the notes blooming very well. At noon, it’s similar to having an amp cooking pretty good. Lots of breakup and sustain, and it’s even more into that great tweed grind. It sounds great for covering early Joe Walsh. At 3pm, (at which point a real tweed amp would be deafeningly loud), it’s sustaining and saturated in full on rock and roll glory (sounds great for some Black Crowes jamming). Despite having that much gain, it’s still very touch sensitive and reacts really well to adjusting the volume knob on your guitar.

Normal/Bright/Linked Switch: This switch is used to similar to how players used tweed amps years ago, where the inputs would change the EQ characteristics and their relationship with the gain. On normal mode, the tone is very even across the board, no particular frequencies emphasized (like plugging into the normal channel of the amp. The bright mode adds presence and high-end frequencies, which are great for bassy amps to have some extra cut and reduce any *flub*. The Linked mode is similar to how people would use a jumper to run into both the Normal and Bright channels on the amp. This gives the great tweed growl from the normal channel, but with an added presence and upper-frequency harmonic content.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ in size (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 3mA – Runs off of negative center barrel tip power supplies (Boss style) or on an internal 9v battery connection). Note: Make sure to unplug the input if you’re using batteries when you are done to keep from draining the battery.
  • Only one version of the Tweed ’57 has been released to date.

How Many Pedals is too much?

So how many pedals on your board are too many? Is there really such a thing? While opinions are widely varied – here are my own personal thoughts on the matter – doesn’t make it right or wrong – just how I view it.

First off – I don’t have just one pedal board. I play in a Blues/Rock band (my main gig), I have a 90’s rock cover band, and I also have a small practice board for home practice. The pedals on each board are pretty different. Multiple boards allow me to basically grab and go, cut down on weight, less space in the car, and it keeps my pedal board footprint down at shows/ rehearsals. (Being a bigger guy and having a 5 piece 90s rock band on a small stage – space is sometimes a premium.)

So on each of my boards – I kind of keep the mantra – if I don’t use in 5 gigs and/or 5 practices – I take it off the board. For me – and totally speaking for myself here – I use just enough pedals to help me achieve what I want to achieve. Sometimes that takes 10+ plus pedals – sometimes it only requires 4 pedals.

Now – should you limit your pedals in your collection?

My thoughts – ABSOLUTELY NOT! Speaking from a pedal-holic perspective – options are good – and different pedals will help you to achieve the big picture. Bands change, songs/ set list change, and tastes change – it’s good to be able to draw from your collection when you want/ need to. Do I need every model of tubescreamer – probably not – if you ask my wife, she would say no. But - they are nice to have just in case. ;) So – what are your thoughts on the matter tone chasers - Lots of pedals on one huge board or less pedals on multiple boards?

-Max

2015 Charity Pedal - Pink Tumnus.

We are delighted to release the 2015 Charity Auction!

As always, we have taken a pedal from the range in put them in a special pink limited edition pink casing - this year it's the turn of the Tumnus, the pedal is fully functioning and you can check it out on the special charity page here!

As I'm certain you can relate too, all of us here have been devistated by cancer at some point in our lives. We've either lost friends, family... we even have a three time survivor among us. This is why every year, we put out limited edition pedals for charity and simply delight in the generosity of the people who buy them. The auction, for the benefit for Susan G Komen, is now live - please make your bid here. Your generosity is much, much, much appreciated by us all at Wampler Pedals and the charity this will benefit.

 

Modelling units - instrument SkyNet?

I've been thinking again and as usual that means I'm getting philosophical and a little grumpy... all this thinking has led me to the question - "Once digital modelling has won and there a no longer any amps/effects to model, what happens then?"

So, right now you are probably thinking "Another blog from a guy who works in the analogue pedals markets slamming digital modelling... *yawn*... here we go again" but hopefully after reading this you'll see that I'm not here to whinge and moan, just to maybe shed a little light on to what could happen, once SkyNet goes live.

Before I get going I need to tell that I absolutely love modelling gear. I've spent countless hours playing with them and always had a truly majestic time. I owned what was possibly the first full featured modelling unit, the Roland GP-100 (check out this old video manual from Nick Cooper, the guy who demo'd it to me back in the '90's, which lead to me instantly buying it) and it was without a doubt absolutely perfect for what I needed at the time. I don't expect it will sound as good as I remember, but in my head it was, and still is, awesome. At the time I was playing in a "The Police" tribute plan and that unit, powered by a Marshall 9100 all valve power amp into a Marshall 1960 4x12" was devastatingly effective. Some of my happiest memories of playing live were with that band... Moving forward 20 years I'm lucky enough to be able to play with some of the more contemporary units as well, everything from the Boss GT-100 to the Kemper Profiler (or as I like to call it, the Haunted Toaster) and have a passing knowledge of the Fractual AxeFx. I think they are all amazing units and if I was a richer man, I'd have and use them all with pride. And yes, if anyone from Yamaha is reading this, please send me a Line 6 Helix, that thing is amazing - if I had a hat on right now I'd tip it in your general direction.

However, as much as I love them, I have to also admit that the whole modelling thing really really annoys me. It's not so much that they exist, it's when they are called "the future of guitar tone" I start to see red. How many times have you heard "Man, I bought an AxeFX, I sold everything I had, I don't need anything else, everything else is pointless". If you are anything like me, you'd have heard that hundreds of times. But, you see, the thing is and the question I always ask is this, if the modelling devices become so cheap and so good that they then force the analogue guys out of business, who the hell are the modellers going to model?

The 'conventional' musical instrument industry is currently amazing... I'm going to avoid the obvious route to talk about effects, but instead I'm going to bring amps into the conversation. There are companies out there that are slaying the market with new and exciting products... From Mike Fortin who not only makes amps under his own name but also at Randall; to Daniel Klein at Port City and everyone in between (I could list them here but I'm certain you get the idea). New and exciting definitions in tone are being forged everyday, new standards of hi gain, medium gain, rock amps, clean amps and every other kind are here, right now in 2015 and it's really exciting... Imagine what it will be like in 2, 5 or 10 years time. I literally cannot wait to hear them.

Bringing it back to the subject matter, from what I can see the modellers are not creating anything new, their entire sales pitch is to recreate everything and put it in one place. For the touring/gigging musician this is fantastic, but what about in terms of the future of tone, where does it leave it? In an ideal world people will see that the modelling stuff has purpose, real purpose and has an extremely valuable place in our industry but; should it be classed as the future? Yes it should, and rightly so BUT ONLY PART OF IT! Everything has a purpose and everything has a job, let's not get things confused here. If you like, you can look at it this way - If modelling had existed in the 70's and all future instrumentation development had stopped, we'd not have the JCM800. We'd not have the modd'd JCM800 and so on... It's all very well having an app of ten different 70's Marshall's in it, but personally I'd take the modd'd JCM800 one! Now, apply that to amps of today and what they will lead to in the future.

I guess what I am saying is that modelling stuff is fantastic, buy it, love it and use it. But please, if you have any sense of excitement for what may be happening in 5, 10 or 20 years time, also keep buying amps and pedals from your favourite builders. Because if you do, they can then produce new and exciting instruments, new aspects of tone that you'd not yet thought of that can then go into the future modelling units... Modelling is a tool, not a total solution and we should work really hard to keep it in check a little. They aren't the future, they are a convenient stroll down memory lane with zero concept of the future. As you may have guessed, I really don't want to see the day that instrument SkyNet goes live.

 

Overview of the Velvet Fuzz

The Velvet Fuzz was designed to to make it possible for a player to get great, cleassic fuzz tones into a clean amp. Many fuzzes excel when run into an already cooking amp, but they can fall short when running into a clean platform. Not to mention that some can be very temperamental depending on temperature changes and what signal it’s receiving.

Our favorite part of the Velvet is the Big/Tight setting, and the adaptability it provides. It really makes it so you can take only the Velvet and have it fulfill any fuzz needs you’d run into in most situations. The Big position will give a great old school saggy fuzz tones that are fat and wooly, where the Tight setting will give smoother, singing fuzz that borders on distortion that works great for covering Johnson, Gilmour, and even Bonamassa. It also cleans up exceptionally well with the guitars volume knob as well.

Velvet Fuzz settings

Controls:

Volume: Though it’s pretty self-explanatory, this knob controls the volume of the output of the pedal. And this fuzz unit is no slouch, it gets LOUD. Loads of level on tap to add a slight bit of fuzz and boost to an already cooking amp. The level has to be compensated depending on where the Fuzz knob is set. When the fuzz is low, the level knob will have to be run a little higher to achieve unity. With the fuzz set low, the level can be backed off of to match unit output. This works well with a dirty amp, but it really excels into a clean format as as well.

Fuzz: This knob dictates how much fuzz and clipping starts happening on your signal, and I can promise you there's plenty of it. It can go from just a hint of fuzzy grit, all the way to full-bore cranked aggressive clipping (almost sputtery on the Big setting). Fully counterclockwise, it will give you a touch of fuzz, but allows the original tone of your guitar to shine through. The big thing to remember is that the level must be set really high to achieve unity when the fuzz is all the way down. It works great for having a boost and rolling the guitar volume knob back for rhythm, then turning the guitars volume back up to add that fuzzy sustain. At 9am on the knob, the clipping becomes more apparent, adding a depth to it with added sustain and grit. At noon, there’s loads of Fuzz on tap for early Hendrix stuff, and the sustain can hold for a considerable amount of time. Noon would likely be plenty of fuzz for a lot of people, but Brian likes to go all out. At 3pm, it’s into full on fuzz mode, with loads of sustain and clipping going on. You can hit a note and it will sustain for what seems like forever. This knob changes how it reacts based on what switch position is selected. In Big mode, it acts much more in a warmer, wilder feel with the fuzz getting woollier as the knob is turned up, all the way to the point of being a saggy, completely fuzz-laden wall of sound with very minimal original signal coming out. On the Tight setting, it acts more as a fuzzy distortion of sorts (works great for Gilmour riffs).  As the gain goes up, it adds loads of sustain, but retains the character of the original signal much more than the Big setting.

Brightness: This knob controls the overall high-end content that’s happening on the fuzz signal. Fully counter-clockwise is much more subdued and woollier (less high-end content coming through). It can get quite bassy. Clockwise will introduce more highs in and add some cut and depth into the signal. I will say that this circuit is very dark, so rarely do I run the Brightness less than Noon unless I’m playing on an inherently bright amp.

Big/Tight Switch: This switch is what dictates the flavor of fuzz is being produced. On the Big setting, it’s much darker and saturated, indicative of those classic fuzz tones from the 60’s and 70’s going into a hot amp. It can go very over the top and crazy wooly at the top of the gain range. On the Tight setting, it’s not as wooly and retains a clarity and note definition, even with the fuzz all of the way up. The Tight setting is often thought of as distortion-ish, and that’s definitely right. It takes the parts of fuzz that people love and refines them to retain note definition and smooth out the whole tone of the fuzz.

 

Notes:

  • The Velvet works with both Single Coil and Humbucker guitars. It’s a bit fatter and warmer when using humbuckers, and the fuzz can get a little heavier because of the higher output of the humbuckers.
  • The Velvet is suggested to go first in the chain, but it’s not nearly as touchy when it comes to buffers like many fuzzes are. The best practice is to try it first in your chain, then try it in your dirt chain and see what sounds best to you.
  • As stated above, the Velvet is very reactive to the guitars volume knob. Rolled back it’s more tame with less fuzz on the note, and then for solos roll the volume back up and you've got a plethora of fuzz glory at your disposal.
  • Be sure to check out the video at the very bottom for a cover of a very popular EJ song using the Velvet and a guitar and amp combo that are nothing like what the original artist used.

 

Technical Stuff:

  • 5″ x 4.5″ x 1.5″ (63.5mm x 114.3mm x 38.1mm) – height excludes knobs and switches
  • Power draw: 23mA – Requires negative center tip barrel plug or 9v battery internally
  • There’s only been one version of the Velvet. Quite happy with how it turned out to begin with ;-)

 

One great thing about the Velvet is it’s adaptability (as mentioned earlier). Eric Johnson has one of the most identifiable fuzz tones on the planet, and it can be tough nailing those tones without considerable expense. We wanted to see if we could get his live sound with a completely different amp and guitar. What do you think?

 

CHANGE YOUR TUBES!!

When our guitar strings wear out – we change them. Old strings need changed for a ton of reasons – they won’t stay in tune because they are overly stretched – they break – they lose their sparkle – and for you non-coated string players – they rust! Bad/ old strings can affect your performance and your tone – big time!

But many of us – myself included – are not as diligent with changing the tubes in our amps. Now, I’m not saying that you need to change your amp’s tubes as much as often as you change your guitar strings – but they shouldn’t be neglected and should be changed for similar reasons.

Older tubes can cause your “sparkle” and crunch to go away. If you are anything like me – you crank up your amp to louder volumes and really give your tubes a work out. Doing this over time, combined with turning your amp on and off frequently will simply stretch those tubes thin - so to speak– and slowly but surely your tone starts to go away. Honestly, I am often surprised how much tone I have lost in my amp until I change my tubes.

I was blown away this weekend when I changed out the Tubes in my Blues Jr. My tubes were starting to crackle and pop and my tone was darker and muddier than I like. So – I swapped out the old JJ’s for a new set of JJ’s and BOOM – blown away. MY TONE was back. Sparkle was intact and drive was sounding better than ever!

I shied away from changing my tubes – for probably longer than I should have – because I thought it might cost a lot. We are lucky to currently live in an almost renaissance of guitar gear (a plethora of great products and great prices all the time) – and tubes are more affordable than ever. For my Blues Jr. – I got a complete set of JJ’s (power tubes and pre-amp tubes) for just under $60 before shipping. If you change your tubes once every 2 years – that’s only a $30 dollar investment towards your tone every year. Now – My Super Reverb costs much more to re-Tube than my Blues Jr. – but when break down the costs over a couple years – it’s definitely worth it in the quest for maintaining your tone. (That’s what I tell the wife anyway.) Until next time tone chasers!

Max

Endorsements - Dave's tale (Part 2).

Endorsements. A hot topic... But first of all, let me answer the question you just asked yourself. Part 2? Where is part 1? Well, part 1 is written but I had to get it signed off by the management of another Dave and it appears to be lost in their bottomless pit of administration. I hope one to day to be able to publish it...  it was all about approaching companies for artist deals... Like I said, hopefully one day!! So, part 2 is out before part 1 and just like part 1, part 2 is all about a guy called Dave...

Before I get into that, I have to tell you that in the 5 or so years I've been working here I have always been involved in artist relations. Sometimes for the international market, sometimes in the U.S. market, sometimes both - it's changed a lot over the years, but I've always been part of it and I've seen it all over the years. Most importantly, I've seen the market change and the players within it. The best way to describe an artist deal with Wampler Pedals is to split the basics down into four sections. It’s hard to keep the information within them, as they cross over, but hopefully you will get the idea!

1. What is an artist deal and how do I get one?

This is the golden question, so I'll be matter of fact. An artist deal (or as we like to call them, endorsements) is where the artist and the company benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship. We rely on the artist to continually use our gear (when appropriate) in order to give credibility to the product and make it reach a wider audience. In a nutshell, it's about building our, and the artists, reputation. The hope is that someone is so good, and their tone is so good, people who like them will buy the gear to in the hope they will be able to recreate it. Let’s face it, at one time or another we’ve all owned something that a famous person uses because they sound awesome… The artist can be someone that was historically extremely popular and still has a large and dedicated fanbase, be someone who is currently riding a wave of popular success or someone I consider to be an investment in the future - getting in on the ground floor so to speak - that is the hardest one to gauge and the one I have the hardest time when letting someone down on. To be honest, it's a gamble. In some cases I've hit the jackpot and in others some people have been quietly removed from the website without fuss and never mentioned again! ;)

In order to obtain an artist deal you have to approach me (I rarely approach people to be honest) with ether a plan or a set of facts. It's that simple. Within the approach there has to be something like a history of recorded output/releases, or a schedule of future confirmed recordings/releases, total internet reach (social media and other factors, for example if you are recording/writing pieces for magazines or teach online to a large subscriber rate), the gear you currently use, a break down of why you want us to commit to you (preferably because you love our products because if you've never played one of our pedals before you'll be instantly dismissed)... Quite the list! Obviously, you don't have to tick every box (but it's better if you do) but you have to at least tick several. The as yet so far unpublished Part 1 of this blog covered this extensively so I won’t go into massive detail, but you have to make the approach personal and attractive. 

So, let's meet Dave. He is Dave Weiner. Many of you will know the name but it is likely that many of you won't. Dave is a classic example of one of our artists (and many other company's, he has an impressive list of companies he has to balance relations with) because he’s an incredibly hard working musician and is a dedicated tone chaser. Basically, Dave just loves great tone. Now, Dave came to us a few years back because he had played and loved the Paisley Drive - it was simple email, no fuss, just on point. Within it were Dave’s credentials which are as follows... He owns and runs Guitopia (formerly Riff of the Week) that is the original (and in my opinion the best) weekly internet based tutorial package for guitar players. He has 3 solo albums out, he’s a graduate of MIT and has been the guitar player in Steve Vai's touring band for 16 years. I'm guessing that right now you don't need to think too long and hard about this one, because when he came to us, we certainly didn't.

What do you get?

So, what does Dave get? First of all he has the honour of saying he's a Wampler Artist. Yep, that was a bit of a joke, I was giggling as I wrote it. :) In reality Dave is entitled to buy the gear at a discounted rate (and there goes the theory that when you "sign" an artist deal you receive a box full of Wampler's, because you don't). You get a place on the artist page (that reminds me, I need to update the site as some are missing or need removing), and you get the opportunity to be promoted by us when you do something substantial (the last one isn't always appropriate because with some of the more obscure artists out there it just wouldn't work, but it doesn't mean we don't stand by them, it's just not as visual) and you also can be featured in some of our promotional stuff. Dave's been on much of our marketing materials, videos and the like over the years - He doesn't get paid for those, but dare I say it, there was a lot of promotion for him and his primary business, Guitopia, along the line. In return, Brian has appeared as a guest on a live web chat on Guitopia - it kind of goes round in circles. So, when it's all written down like that, there isn’t much to speak of fiscally. He saves a few bucks on products should he buy one - but if I were his accountant, I'd say that there isn't actually much point... But, it’s not about that - it’s about maintaining a relationship with the company that makes the products you use. On the flip side of this, and to compare to others, to many artists just to be an "endorsed artist" is more than enough for them, they can put our logo on their website and use our gear all the time and that's that. It’s all they want. I'm a little amazed and flattered when that happens, but that's how it goes. 

What do we get?

This is the big one and the one you have to sell the hardest when you contact us. It's obvious what we get from Dave, on the Steve Vai Story of Light tour that lasted 2.5 years Dave used 2 Ego compressors from the time he got them early in the tour (maybe even at the start, I can't remember) until the very end. He also swapped in and out some of our drive pedals throughout the tour as well (typical tone chaser, always tweaking). During this tour there were endless photos taken, gear reviews done (of both him and Steve) that showed our products (I’ve also heard from many many people since the live CD and DVD came out that Dave’s tone was much more organic and natural than Steve’s). Dave makes videos every week for Guitopia and quite often they have our products in them, we get... and here it is again, great exposure from him. He has helped us grow our brand. There have been times as well when Dave’s dropped me a message that has begun “I’ve got a great idea for a pedal…"

Dave's effects, Vai Story of Light tour, 2012-2014

How does that apply to other players? Well, for a start, you have to give us access to an audience we've not tapped into yet. And that audience HAS to be a guitar playing audience that wants to buy new gear... This would be a classic time to mention Tom Quayle - he opened up the largely untapped modern fusion world directly to our products. A classic win/win situation. So, when approaching us, give us a run down of what you can offer us. because fundamentally, if you look at this cynically, the only question you need to answer is "How will the relationship with you benefit our company?". If you can offer us something we can't get elsewhere, then it's likely you are going to win. If you can't, then you will be disappointed.

How do you/we maintain that deal?

This is the one that is almost impossible to answer. Quite often, the onus falls on the artist to maintain. It all depends on their visibility. Our whole existence as a company is to provide tone and we are constantly bringing out new products, so you could say our part of the relationship develops daily… let’s face it, if we stopped producing pedals that sound great and started bring out ones that sucked, the artists wouldn’t want to be associated with us. We also maintain the relationship with the artist (when appropriate) within marketing materials (this could be on social media, at trade shows, etc), and there is always that presence on our website. Again, that's enough for some people, and that's always been a delight to me because they love the tone we provide so much that's all they want. They literally want nothing else from us, just to be associated. But, as with all guitar players, G.A.S. is an real issue and sometimes artists fall in love with other products, those products may be from another company like ours (which encourages us to be better), they might revert back into the player that just uses guitar/cable/amp (most of us have been there), or they might discover the joys of digital modelling (which is happening a lot, and to be honest, when they do, they are so fascinated by it their social media is all about it, endless posts and videos… it can leave us out in the cold, but if history is anything to go by, they often come back because it’s so much more organic, If they don’t, well… I don’t know yet, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it). So, let's get back to Dave... Dave does demo's for us now and then, when a pedal we release suits him and his style of playing. Sometimes, he says he can't do it because he is too backed up, fair enough - but... here is the thing, being backed up may mean he has promised to do a demo video for another of the companies that endorse him. When this happens, Dave messages me and tells me it is happening. I guess the point here is communication, mutual respect and an understand that we don't own him and vice versa. The ideal is that we both grow as a brand, and grow together AND separately.

Conclusion (sorry, the academic in me can't resist)

The thing to remember when approaching a company to become an endorsed artist, you have to offer something (and I'll list things people have used as an incentive for me) that others do not. Having endorsements from other companies isn't a consideration, having a You Tube channel with millions of hits of you playing SRV covers isn't going to work, being a successful demo artist isn't enough, offering exposure for free gear certainly isn't going to get you anything, winning an award for the fastest player in Hungary (a title I've been unable to verify) isn't enough, being given a standing ovation one time by Guthrie Govan is a no no, starting the email Dear Mr Keeley and mentioning how much you love JHS pedals (copy and paste fail)... I could list many many examples but I won’t - the thing to remember about artist relations is at that very moment of someone new and exciting landing in my inbox, is one of the very best moments in this job, purely because the potential for excitement can be infinite.

Dave Weiner and Steve Vai performing Answers

You can, and should, check out Dave's website, and of course, check out Guitopia. I personally recommend it!