As musicians, most of us are naturally a little quirky and our pre-show rituals/warm ups can be anywhere from mild to extreme. Some swear by playing scales over and over for hours on end, soaking your hands in warm water, only walking backwards to the stage (I seriously used to have a drummer that did this). But, outside of the superstitious and weird pre-gig rituals – there are some very simple/ quick things you can do to make sure you kick off your gig with ease.
Warming up: So why do you need to warm up? I often tease Brian and Travis on the podcast or around the office – When asked about warming up - I reply: “Does a lion stretch before he takes down a gazelle?” While I might be hilarious..... The truth is – I do have my own warm up routine. The more I have played out professionally – the less strenuous my warm up routine has become. I used to warm up my hands with scales and finger stretches for an hour plus before the show, do some last second studying/ cramming of songs right before the gig – trying to pick up on those subtle nuances of the song that I might have missed.
The truth is – while hand stretches before the gig is a great idea – over stretching, or playing too much before the show can lead to hand fatigue later in the show. You definitely don’t want your finger/ hand strength to fail you in those last big string bends of your final song of the night. Today, I just make a good habit of doing some light finger stretching (maybe 5-10 minutes tops) right before a gig – just to make sure the old digits are good to go.
Know your stuff: Okay, time for real talk here - studying/ cramming for a song right before a gig is just no good. If you don’t know the song before the gig – you probably won’t know it during the gig. So – study/ practice harder at home. Practice makes perfect, perfect builds confidence – and confidence allows you to give the best performance you can give at your gig.
Tuning and Levels: This should be rule number one with any set up – but TUNE YOUR GUITAR!
I can’t stress it enough! TUNE TUNE TUNE! There is nothing more that fellow band mates and audience members hate more than an out of tune guitar. Your audience might not always be able to tell a run of the mill pedal from a high dollar boutique pedal – but most all of them can point out an out of tune guitar right off the bat. I usually check my tuning as soon as soon as I take my guitars our of the case, after I get my amp and pedal settings dialed in, and right before my band takes the stage. On pedal/ amps settings – make sure your levels are all set on your pedals and amp(s) before your first song. Usually – a quick sound check will help with this – but I’ve been in some bars were patrons are eating and club owners do not want to disturb them before show time. I keep a small log of settings for my gear at each place I play – so when I come back to that venue I can quickly adjust my settings.
So whatever your pre-gig ritual is – make sure, you at least – loosen those fingers a little, know the material, and makes sure your guitar is in tune! The rest of the gig you just have to make sure the drummer keeps decent time, the bass player shows up, and the lead singer stays semi-sober enough. What are some pre-gig rituals you do before a show?
Today would have been Les Paul's 100th Birthday. Les sadly left us on August 12, 2009. However the amazing legacy that he left behind, which is his famous Gibson guitar bearing his name, is still creating music that is enjoyed- the world over. Happy Birthday Les!!!
I get a lot of emails on how upgrades on ways to upgrade a Strat. Where I usually always like to start is the tremolo block. Most of the time – these blocks are thin and made out of zinc. The main issues with a block like this is that is thin and has very little mass to it – which often times puts a hamper on your string’s sustain.
In replacement a tremolo block – you have a couple of options for block materials. The 2 big ones are Steel and Brass. Steel blocks in my experience can brighten up a darker guitar and add sustain. Brass Blocks can actually do the opposite and darken up an overly bright guitar. I set my amps up kind of dark and I use the neck pickup a lot – so I typically favor steel blocks. Here is an example of the 3 types of Tremolo blocks. (Example: Brass on the left, Steel center, and stock Zinc on the right)
There are a lot of great companies that make fantastic replacement/ drop in tremolo blocks. I’ve used several – you can do your research and find out which one works best for you. My personal favorite is Callaham. Great parts – and I use a lot of them in my Strats! They can be pricey though – and if you are on a budget - Guitar Fetish makes a great one that is super budget friendly.
After you install the block you just need to reinstall your bridge/ saddles, springs, re-intonate/ setup your guitar – and let the tone begin! This is a fairly simple project for those of us who take a DIY approach to our guitars.
Note: Different Strats have different string spacing – make sure you order the correct block with the proper spacing for your guitar. If you feel uncomfortable contact your local luthier to install your tremolo block for you.
Circuits to Cure Cancer is a group of guitar pedal builders, retailers, reviewers, and musicians who have donated either their products or their time to help raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Please take a minute to look around the website to see some of the fantastic people/companies that have been involved in making this event possible.
From May 30th-June 7th, a series of guitar effects pedals will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Last year they raised over $30,000, and this year is looking even more promising already. You know you want to purchase guitar pedals, so why not help children in need at the same time?
This year we are honored to contribute 3 pedals for auction. Check them out! https://reverb.com/shop/circuitstocurecancer/effects-pedals?id=circuitstocurecancer&product_type=effects-pedals&make=wampler&ships_to=#
Ok ok – I’m not that smart – but seriously - Strings!! Which ones are the best and which ones should you play? This is a subject that is just about as diverse as how to pick your pick…. While there is no right or wrong answer parse – I just wanted to share with you my two cents – and hopefully it helps a little. If not – I’m sorry?
Gauge: So the bigger the gauge the better right?! Coming from the school of Stevie Ray Vaughn – I always thought big strings = big tone. When I tried to make the jump from .11 gauge strings (a respectable heaviness) to the mighty .13s – I learned a stiff lesson (pun intended.) My bends weren’t quite what they used to be and after 1 set – my fingertips resembled something that looked a lot like hamburger. (not the delicious kind either.)
Quickly I found out that thick strings aren’t for everybody. As I delved deeper in in to the metaphoric rabbit hole- I also learned that great tone could be achieved with much lighter gauge strings. Guys like B.B. King and Billy Gibbons were using much lighter gauge strings and still getting their tonal point across. (A great guitar set up helps a ton!) So what is right and what is wrong? Only you can decide that one. While bigger strings can produce a bigger tone – play the gauge of string that is comfortable and makes you want to play everyday and won’t murder your fingers after the show.
Coated vs. Uncoated: Aside from the cost, coated usually being way more expensive, what’s the big deal? Lots! Because of the coating on coated strings – dirt and grime usually doesn’t build up on your strings – increasing the longevity of life of the strings. Coated strings usually sound “fresher” for longer periods of time. Some players would beg to differ – saying the coating prevents the string from ringing as true as an uncoated string. I see both sides of the coin – but my personal preference is a coated string between 10 and 11.
I’m a big guy and sweat a lot on stage and usually after a long set – my fresh, uncoated strings are shot. They also feel harder under my fingers after a full 4-hour gig. With coated strings, I can get a couple more gigs with them before I feel the need to change them. In my personal opinion they also feel a little softer under my finger and ring just as true as an uncoated string.
So which string is best for you? Whether it is a light – medium- or heavy gauge string – coated or uncoated – this manufacturer or that manufacturer – only you can really decide what is best. I encourage you to try out different brands of strings of different thicknesses and see which one feels and sounds the best for your rig.
Today is a day of remembrance and mourning for blues players and music lovers the world over - as we have lost yet another music Legend.
Riley King was born on a cotton plantation near Indianola, Mississippi in 1925. He received his first guitar when he was 12 – and the rest as they say – is history.
The impact of his soulful voice and his powerful playing has been a true inspiration for generations of musicians across all genres of music. With just one, stinging, vibrato filled note -B.B. could touch his audience’s heart – and they would know exactly how he was feeling – happy or sad. It’s because with every performance and every carefully selected note – B.B. King bared his soul and passion for his craft - and we were lucky enough to have witnessed it. The World was lucky enough to have him for 89 fantastic years – and for that I am truly thankful.
Rest in peace B.B. King – music would have been a lot different without you.
Recently - I had a New Gear Day (NGD)! Sometimes it's the "little things" in life that get me fired up - and this NGD was no exception.
For those of who know me – or listen to the podcast – you probably already know that I am a tube screamer freak! For many, including myself, it’s even created a cult-like following since it’s release in the late 70s. Like, love, or hate the tube screamer – it definitely has earned its place in electric-guitar history and has been included among some of the most famous guitar rigs ever.
So being a TS collector, when the Tube Screamer Mini came out – I of course HAD TO HAVE IT; that’s what I told my wife anyway. So what’s so cool about it? LOTS – it sounds super close to the original AND it’s tiny! For you nano/ micro board/ mini pedal enthusiasts out there – this is a must have.
So how does it compare with say – the Clarksdale? They are in totally different classes. Apples and Oranges. The Clarksdale has way more options and tonal control. It also doesn’t get as gritty when cranked all the way up. With that said, at half the size and price – the TS mini is pretty darn cool!
Here is my Instagram (maxjeffrey3) pic of my Hebert pedal boards - Micro Board Set up with the TS mini I rigged up for band rehearsals:
If you want to see how the TS mini stacks up with the original TS808 – check out this video from our good friend Roman of Shnobel Tone:
In one of previous podcasts we talked about when to use your pedals at 18 volts. Since this topic is a little more tech oriented I asked our resident pedal engineer/ guru/ wizard/ Jake Steffes to explain it a little more in depth. With out further ado - Jake!! :
"In the podcast we talked about when to use your pedals at 18 Volts. In an analog pedal, that means that your guitar signal is going to swing above and below a reference voltage, which is usually half of your power supply voltage (4.5V for a 9V supply, and 9V for an 18V supply) like Travis brought up. This means that your guitar signal level can swing up from 4.5V to 9V, and down from 4.5V to 0V and not clip any op amps or transistors with a 9V supply (for the most part). With an 18V supply, your reference voltage is at 9V, and your signal can swing from this 9V up to 18V, or down to 0V without clipping any active circuitry (op amps, transistors). If you do your math, that means that an 18V supply essentially allows for larger signals to pass without being clipped.
In pedals with diode clipping, this won’t affect very much; the diodes are going to clip as usual regardless of supply voltage. In pedals with transistor clipping (for example, an overdrive that used JFETs for clipping), the supply voltage will directly affect the character of the clipping. With a higher supply voltage, less clipping will occur because the JFET requires larger signals to clip than with the smaller supply.
In digital pedals, a voltage regulator (a device that takes an input voltage and outputs a lower, regulated voltage) is used to power the digital electronics (like the analog to digital converters that transmit your guitar signal to digital processors). Typically, these regulators will take a 9V input and convert it to a 3.3V or 5V supply. By increasing the 9V supply to an 18V supply, you’ve done nothing to increase headroom in the digital circuitry."
- Max Jeffrey/ Jake Steffes
So after a week long stint of "Best Of" while we are continuing to move in, paint, and wire the new building with top secret gadgets (ok - I made that last part up) we were finally able to shoot 2 brand new podcasts in the new building on the new "stage". To top it all off - the first episode in the new building is also the 50th episode of Chasing Tone. I know what you are asking - did we celebrate? Yes, yes we did - with B's and G's. #trashbagBsandGs Without further ado - the highlights of today's episode:
Intro Music: Travis talks about the gear he used to record the intro music. Which was: a Don Grosh Retro Classic, an Amp 11 (Love Pedal), and a Budda Super Drive 30. The sound was supposed to "kinda honky" so when the full band comes in - the music would transform in to a nice big full sound.
Chasing Springs: Recently Travis changed the amount of springs (from 5 springs to 3 springs) on his Don Grosh Retro Classic. Which, according to Travis, changed his tone - especially in different pickup selections. It created a more "open and airy" type of sound which Travis enjoys more. The tuning stability is still surprisingly awesome! When Travis and I were playing around with it - he was really trying to wreck it - and the strings bounced right back to normal. Consider me impressed!
New Pedal Day: Travis recently purchased an Rocket Effects - Archer from one of our listeners, who also let him borrow a tall font Big Muff. Both are killer sounding pedals with some definite tone! I personally received the TC Electronics Poly Tune 2 Noir - which is a pretty awesome tuner. It's small/ compact - super bright and accurate. A big shout out to Stefan from TC Electronics and the rest of the TC Electronics crew for hooking me up!
How Brian Starts Designing a New Circuit: Brian, as we affectionally call him around here - BW, first starts off with the tone he hears in his head. Then he just starts chasing those tones. He starts with pedal "building blocks" (like J-Fets, certain op-amps, etc - he thinks will work) and thinks will get him close - and then starts tweaking it until he gets in the ballpark of what he hears - and then he fine tunes it even more!
So all that's all for this week - until Thursday Tone Chasers!