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(The above picture hangs right next to my desk, right next to every desk I've had)
25 years ago today we lost a musical giant and torch barer for blues music - Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan.
On the evening of August 26th, 1990 Vaughan had just got done playing an all-star studded event with his band Double Trouble, joined as special guests for a concert at the Alpine Valley Musical Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin - along with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie's older brother, guitar player for the Fabulous Thunderbirds/ Jimmy Vaughan Band.) After the show, around 1:00AM Vaughan took off in a helicopter heading towards to Chicago. Visibility was low that night because of a dense fog. The pilot of the helicopter; Jeff Brown, was an experienced airplane pilot - having lots of experience flying airplanes in this kind of inclement weather. Unfortunately, and what would prove tragically, Brown had little experience flying helicopters in such conditions. Because of the dense fog/ low visibilit y- Brown did not see a large 300ft ski slope at the Alpine Valley Resort and collided with it going close to full speed. Everyone on board was killed instantly. The crash was just over a half mile from takeoff.
For those of you who have followed Stevie Ray Vaughan - your experiences of how his music/ life effected you may differ. For me, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the music he played impacted me greatly. Even though I was only 4 and a half years old when he left this world - his music was powerful enough that I was able to discover it at 10 years old and be a dedicated disciple of his music and the blues for the last 20 years. While my friends were listening to metal and pop rock - I was listening to Texas Flood on tape in my walkman. I stretched the tape so much on so many copies that my parents eventually bought me a CD player because it was cheaper than buying more and more copies of Stevie Ray Vaughan tapes. Wether you like, love, or hate Stevie Ray Vaughan there is no denying that he created a legacy and helped secure the future of blues music by revitalizing an old style and craft of music that was previously dying.
I was going to end this blog with one of about 20 of my favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan songs - but I couldn't pick just one. Instead I think on this day it's fitting to end this blog with a song in tribute of that foggy night written/ performed by Stevie's brother Jimmy Vaughan. Even though I've heard this song a thousand times - the words and the meaning still give me chills every time. "Heaven done called another blues stringer back home."
Do you remember when you first sat up and really, really took notice of the guitar - how it could talk? How it could cry? How it could be a little cheeky or dare I say it, give the impression of being a touch sarcastic or have the kind of comedic timing only ever found in Laurel and Hardy films?
Like so many others around my age, for me it was the The Eagles, Hotel California. I was a young player, single figures young, and had absolutely no idea about phrasing - real musical phrasing on the guitar... about feel, touch, expression... About 12 strings, compression, phasers, fuzz, overdrive, humbuckers, single coils, harmony or even the concept of multi track recording, I just knew what sounded amazing to my young and impressionable ears. And Hotel California sounded just that, amazing.
Now, many years on, after countless hours spent learning the various guitar tracks, and far too many times berating the radio stations and plastic sounding DJ's who talked over the solos - someone has kindly taken the time to isolate the various guitar parts (if somewhat crudely) and put them on You Tube.
Aaaaahhh, the internet. How I love you!
Today I'd like to cover a topic that comes up quite often through email or on the Wampler Pedals Tone Group on Facebook: Setting up amp EQ's when running 2 amps in stereo.
We'll use two amps that are very different as an example. Let's use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe (clean channel, we'll just forget that the dirty channel exists), and a Vox AC30. Two VERY different amps in terms of EQ and gain structure and tonal frequencies. Bear with me on this one:
I look at a stereo setup as a painting. Your output of both amps should combine to look like a finely painted picture. Let's break that down into colors:
- Highs and Upper-Mids = Light colors - Lows and Low-Mids = Dark colors
The goal is to find the right mix of colors to make the painting look right.
Step 1 - Setup a great clean tone with your AC30, as if you were going to run it on its own. Straight up, no frills. AC30's are fairly bright, so you want to make sure you get that high-end chime without being piercing. Step 2 - Fire up the Hot Rod Deluxe, and find your favorite standalone clean tone. Fenders are inherently much bassier and low-mid focused, so try to dial in a great clean tone that isn't too woofy and flubby (#GuitarLingo) Step 3 - Make sure your pedal is ready that you're going to use to run stereo. In this instance, I'm using a Neo Mini Vent as my stereo output. Set your amps up about a foot apart, angled slightly towards each other so the sound frequencies will meet in the middle and bounce around together Step 4 - Cut both amps on and play a bit. The thing to listen for first and foremost is if there's anything that sounds out of place. It may be a bit too much high end, or the bass has a bit too much overlap. Make small changes, that way if you find a sound you love, you won't lose it.
The goal is to take all of the colors available on your amp, and blend them to the perfect match. Maybe you like the sparkle of the AC30 (light colors and airiness), but the bass and thump of the Hot Rod Deluxe (depth and deep color)? Maybe you like the cleans on the Hot Rod Deluxe, but want to add some extra chime and sparkle to the mix? The goal is to find a middle-ground that both sound great together, but so they both complement your pedals too.
I typically have one amp that I love, and it's my primary amp I use for my base tone. My stereo setup will focus on that sound as the primary, then I use another amp to fill in the tonal palette to give me a fuller sound. In this example, a brownface has been doing it for me lately. I have that amp as my primary tone, then I fill in the clarity and sparkle with my Dr. Z Prescription Jr. (AC15-ish). The brownface covers the lows and low-mids, where the RXjr covers the highs and high-mids.
One major tip that I can recommend is stepping away from your amps as far as your cable will take you. This will give you the fullest sonic onslaught of tone, and most importantly, it's what your audience will hear.
Until next time, Tone Chasers!
- Alex Clay
Today I wanted to take the time and wish Mr. Clarence Leonidas “Leo” Fender a very happy birthday! If Leo were still with us he would have been 106!!!
In 1954, Leo created the greatest guitar of all time – the Stratocaster. (I’m serious – the greatest – guitar – EVER!) Leo also came up with some other okay designs too – such as the Jazz master, Jaguar, P-Bass, Jazz Bass, as well as the Telecaster. (Just to name a few). In addition to Fender guitars, Leo also imparted his legacy on his companies Music Man and G&L. What an awesome impact he made on our industry! So here’s a tip of that hat to you Mr. Fender. Happy Birthday!
After 2 meals, a last second gate change causing us to miss a connecting flight in Dallas Texas, and 12 hours travel day later – we have arrived in Anaheim! A little tired – but had a great night’s sleep and the batteries are now recharged and we are ready to set up the booth. But first - a little breakfast - less I turn in to a diva. I'll leave y’all with this....
On almost every social media platform - there are countless videos regarding the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Ice Bucket Challenge. The rules are: accept the challenge of dumping ice cold water on your head or pay $100 to the ALS foundation.
We thought to ourselves - why not do both? So after Wampler's own Travis was nominated - he in turn nominated both Brian and myself. What a great way to raise awareness for ALS and donate money to a great cause.
So in true Wampler style, we filled up the font scoop of Brian's tractor, loaded it with 3 - 25 lbs bags of ice and freezing water from a garden hose, and had the boss' wife dump it on all of us. Perfect!
Even though we are having fun (and freezing) please don't forget to donate to the ALS foundation. Every dollar counts. Find out more about donating here: http://www.alsa.org/donate/
- Max Jeffrey