The Gear-Wise Musician, Part 2 – You’re Their Superhero!!

Faster thaHero sneakersn a speeding heavy metal lick!

 

More powerful than a 1,000 watt amp!!

 

Able to leap tall concert speakers in a single bound!!!

 

IT’S… YOU!!!!!

 

Or at least, that’s what your music equipment hopes you will be for them.

 

Protector.

 

Defender.

 

Mighty WALL against destructive onslaughts!

 

Your instruments & gear look to you, their gear-wise musician, to take good care of them… through touring, transport, temperature changes, seasons, storms, and all that the entropy of our universe can sling at ’em.

 

Are you ready? Let’s go save the world… of GEAR!!

 

The Case for Cases

Get those guitars out of their cases!
Get those guitars out of their cases!

I once did a tour across Europe with a few other musicians from around the U.S. We started in Amsterdam and played the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary and finally to Romania.

 

It was a fantastic tour with lots of memorable, musical moments. We had our own big van that fit all of us and all of our gear. I was one of the main drivers and spent much of my time behind the wheel, which gave me a front row seat to the scenery we were movin’ through. Good times.

 

In fact, I can’t think of a single thing that went wrong or was bad in any way… except one:

 

I transported my electric for that tour in a soft case.

 

This was a really bad idea, although I didn’t really know it at the time. When I returned home from the tour, I noticed that the bolt-on neck of my Jackson Dinky electric guitar had a severe crack in it, where it joined to the body of the guitar.

 

This is probably why, in the last few concerts, I was struggling with keeping my guitar in tune. ;-(

Boy wonder hero

 

Moral of the story: if I’d have had a hard case for that guitar, that damage would have never taken place. I definitely learned my lesson, and that was the last time I used a soft case for any of my expensive instruments again.

 

Now, if you’re going on a gig and your instrument will never leave your hands? Fine – use a soft case. But if it has to be put anywhere else… with a bunch of other gear, in back of seats, on an airplane, a ship… whatever, then do your gear, and yourself, a favor – get a hard case.

 

These days there’s no excuse for not getting one, since you can defend Music City by jumping on eBay, Reverb or Craigslist and find one really cheap… pretty much any day of the week. Like THIS ONE, for example:

 

Take my advice: treat your instruments with the dignity they deserve and protect them in a hard case. You will be their Bat-cave hero forever!

 

You’ve Got the Pow-wah!!

Electricity. What a miracle! We take it so much for granted it, yet without it, astronauts wouldn’t have nearly as cool pictures of our cities, and we wouldn’t be sitting here sharing this internet moment in such audio bliss. lol

electric lights from space

In fact, life would be unfathomably more difficult without it. But wait… it does have its dark side! Power surges; megajoules spikes; sudden outages! All these things can wreak havoc on your delicate electronics gear, and send studio session players running for fearful cover!!

 

So what do you do? Well, over the decades of owning studio gear, I’ve always installed a power conditioner. These come in different grades, and with different options, but you basically get what you pay for. They’re also not really that expensive, especially considering how much we spend on just software plugins for our DAWs!

 

Even if you get the most basic power conditioner though, it’s still putting up at least one line of defense between you and a surprise electric villain that could zap your electronics into the Dead Zone.

 

Add to that that they are also extremely helpful in organizing your power cables. They give you a long strip of outlets, so you can bundle all of your power cables together, tied or velcroed, and string them in an orderly fashion throughout your studio, or in your rack-mount cases if we’re talking live gear.

 

Here are three power conditioners I use in my studio and live racks:

 

power conditioner 1

power conditioner 2

power conditioner 3

 

Do they work? Well, in my decades of doing studio and live music work I’ve never suffered loss due to electricity issues. Is it because of these conditioners? Who can say? But I know they certainly didn’t hurt, and since all it would take to destroy my computer with THOUSANDS of dollars worth of products on it, I’m not taking any chances.

 

I know it’s much more sexy to buy a new guitar, or keyboard, or mic pre, but sometimes… ya gotta be the responsible bloke, and look out for those that can’t look out for themselves.

 

If you’re just starting up, here’s a good, inexpensive power conditioner option that will start you down the road of defending your gear like the hero I know you are and being an organizational wunderkind with neat cables as well. 🙂

 

Does it Seem Humid in Here to You??

Old cracked wood acousticIf you have wooden instruments then you need to seriously be thinking about humidity. If you have very expensive wooden instruments, all the more so!

 

That beautiful tonewood which makes up your favorite axe is very sensitive to temperature and humidity changes.

 

What happens when wood dries out? It contracts. What happens when wood gets too humid and absorbs water? It expands. This accordion action is no joke for the poor wooden instrument that takes the brunt of its push and pull brutality – it can literally crack under the pressure! The seams can come apart and, even worse, permanent warpage can occur.

 

Case in point: I went over one day to see a drum set that belonged to my favorite drummer, Jim Lewis. He had regrettably passed away a couple of years before, and one day subsequently, in conversation with his widow, I heard that Jim’s drum kit was still in their garage – their unheated-through-Michigan-winters garage!!

 

I was immediately concerned for its safety. This was no clear plastic acrylic kit – these were wonderful Maple wood drums made by Ludwig (See the review HERE). I surmised it probably had already taken some damage, so I went to have a look.

 

We went into the garage, pulled out each drum and looked them over, and I instantly saw the damage that the seasons had inflicted upon this kit. On most of the drums the black wrapping was cracking off. Some of the wrapping was even missing, cracked off in pieces somewhere.

 

It was too sad for me to walk away from. I paid her market-value price on the kit and took it out of that hostile environment and into its new, warm, loving home. Today it sits in my rehearsal room, safe in a humidified environment with a consistent temperature… a lasting tribute to a fantastic musician and a dear, departed friend.

 

To protect not only Jim drums, but all my other gear that’s made of wood, I do three things whenever the heat’s turned on for winter:

 

1) I switch on the whole-house humidification. Installing a humidification unit to your house furnace is obviously a more expensive option which some of you won’t be able to afford yet. But if you CAN afford it, it does make a difference. I keep a humidity meter anywhere I have music equipment and I can see, as soon as the humidification unit goes on, a 9% to 17% increase in the humidity reading. That’s a big win, and it goes a long way in helping protect your instruments and keep them in tip-top shape.

guitar humidification

2) I bring up a small reservoir humidifier from the basement and turn it on in my rehearsal room where all my instruments are kept. This is just so my instruments get a little extra humidification during the ‘indoor dry season’. It helps keep the humidity my rehearsal room at 40% to 50%, which is right where it needs to be.

 

3) I place small humidification hoses, or sponges, in all of my most sensitive instruments. The thinner the wood on a musical instrument, the more susceptible it will be to expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes.

 

So you’ll also find that my violin (the thinnest wood of all my instruments), my cello (made in the 1800s & also of thin wood!), my viola, and all my acoustic guitars have little humidity sponges in them. These little bartenders for instruments are cheap, but they do an important job.

 

Every Monday morning, I collect them, take them downstairs & fill them again with purified water. I use purified water so that over time there’s no bacteria growth.

 

Then I take them back upstairs, plug each one into a beloved instrument, and look with pride on their well-maintained and protected craftsmanship. They don’t squeal with Joy or anything, but if I could see through their eyes… I bet I’d look like Iron Man!

 

So how about you? Are you maintaining good humidity for your susceptible instruments? If not, try taking just a small first step: order a humidification monitor so that you can know, at any time, day or night, whether your instruments are being placed in a vulnerable place or not.

 

Here’s the model that I have two of and that work great:

 

 

Or just go ahead an order a small humidifier now! I’ve got a lot of these, since they’re small, unassuming and get the job done. ‘Nuff said!

 

 

click map

Sam AshAmazonMusicians Friend

 

 

You CAN Take it With You

Okay, quick survey: how many of you have gone into a restaurant or store and left your instrument in the car?

 

Uh-huh… gotcha!! Hey, even I was guilty of this at one time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. But a great part of life is being able to learn and grow and get better at things, right? So let’s get better at protecting our instruments: DON’T LEAVE THEM IN YOUR CAR!!!

 

guitar in car!!

Did you know that the temperature fluctuations in a parked car can be so extreme that a wooden instrument doesn’t stand a chance?!

 

According to THIS STUDY by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, if the temperature outside is 80 degrees and your car windows are up, within 20 minutes the interior vehicle air temperature will be 109 degrees!!

 

Do you think that might do some damage to your guitar? Uh… yeah!

 

And for those of you in L.A. or other typically hot environs, if the temperature outside is hotter than 80 degrees? Then things get way worse inside your vehicle. The temperature differentials are staggering.

 

So don’t be a gear villain: take your instruments inside with you. No one will mind, really. I’ve taken guitars in hard cases into restaurants with me dozens and dozens of times with never a comment. I put them next to me under the table so it’s never been an issue with being in the way of customers.

 

Don’t let Mr. Heat Miser destroy your expensive instruments – take your instruments inside with you, and let your car be for driving YOU to Guitar Center, not as an oven, or freezer, for your expensive gear. 😉

 

Quick – Destroy That Villain’s Fry-Ray!!Monitor speaker

Finally, here’s a quick tip for those of you who use any type of speakers/monitors for your studio control room, rehearsal rooms or gig setups:

 

  • For power-up, turn your speakers on last!
  • For power-down, turn your speakers off first!

 

I just had to add this to today’s post I have heard WAY too many times explosive sounds coming out of expensive speaker cones because the person running the sound didn’t follow (or didn’t even know to follow!) these basic rules.

 

Let’s cut to the chase in this superhero blockbuster: the Mega-Signal is on the move! You’re chasing him madly! He’s weaving, ducking, around audio corners, down triple-shielded cables, through the electronic jungle mazes! You almost nab him at the P.A. Aux Send, but NO… he slips out of your grip like the slippery sound eel that he is!

 

Oh, no – he’s made it to the speaker! He’s running towards the CONE…. NOOOOO…!!!!!

 

KER-POWWWWWWW!!!!!!blown speaker

 

He just blew your speakers.

 

So, like, don’t be that guy (or girl). Don’t fry your electronics! You paid good money for those speakers. Don’t cripple ’em so cruelly when safety is just a button push away.

 

Listen for this is all the money pops clicks and POW-s that Electronics gear can produce when you first turn them on. I’ve got a big keyboard practice amp in my rehearsal room that does this every time I turn it on. that’s one of the reasons I never use it professionally… that and the fact that it’s huge!

 

Up, Up & Away…

Super GW CARTOONED
Gear-Wise Man Saves the Day!!!

It’s easy to fly high above all these destructive villains that I’ve mentioned today. There are many more to be vigilant against too, but the main point today is just keep up your due diligence to keep your gear safe.

 

 

All it takes is a little effort, mindfulness and, sometimes, a small investment, but nothing too drastic.

 

You can do this! So join me in the league up instrument Heroes DHR and banish all audio attacks from this realm!

 

Together, we can Vanquish tone Intruders, and put an end to all Sonic assaults! We can spread instrument longevity and electronics health across the humming globe!

 

You can, you will, you must… be the superhero!!!

 

Now go… make… sounds!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm-fields!

 

 

 

The 4 Cable Method – Now We’re Cookin’!!

Okay, who likes to cook???Cookin' with 4 cables

 

Anybody?? Any galloping gourmets in the audience today??!

 

I like to cook when I don’t have to, especially when it’s a HUGE project that takes 4 or 5 HOURS to complete plus an overnight marinating!

 

One thing I’ve learned from cooking (and from watching my wife’s favorite show, “The Great British Bake-Off” with her) is that the ORDER in which you add the ingredients can make a crucial difference in how your food turns out.

 

Which is exactly why we’re focusing today on the 4 cable Method of setting up your guitar amp and effects. Maybe you’ve not heard, but there are some pretty solid reasons why you should put guitar effects in a particular order if you want to sound stupefyingly mind-blowing on your axe.

 

The Nutshell

The four-cable method of guitar/amp setup, sometimes simply referred to as “4CM“, is simply using four cables to place effects onto our guitar signal.

4 cables cartooned

Effects are applied in one of two places:

 

  • BEFORE the amplifier’s EQ section and gain stage, or
  • AFTER the amplifier’s EQ section and gain stage.

 

The “gain stage” of an amp is where we can turn on our overdrive, or distortion, effect.

 

If we’re talking pure quality of tone and clarity of signal, the 4-cable method is the preferred method for guitar/amp signal routing.

 

Let’s find out why, shall we?

 

The Rock ‘n’ Roll-y Trinity

All guitar effects fall into THREE categories:

 

  1. Gain-based effects
  2. Modulation effects
  3. Time-based effects

 

Break it down for us, Teaj! Okay. Gain-based effects are your overdrive, fuzz, distortion, or crunch effects. A lot of times a noise reduction unit, a tuner or an “Octaver” unit is also placed in this category since they all should be at the TOP, or start, of your signal chain.

 

Next, Modulation effects. Under this heading we find chorus, flangers, phasers, envelope filters, tremolo & vibrato. Modulation effects, as a rule, always follow Gain-based effects in the signal chain.

 

Finally, we arrive at Time-based effects such as Delay, Echo, Reverb, or Loopers. These work best at the END of a guitar signal chain.

 

Now, before we outline specific cabling diagrams, let’s get this question answered: why would we want to separate effects this way??

 

Because it SOOOOOUNDS BETTERRRRRR!!

 

Certain effects will be clearer and work better BEFORE an amp’s preamp stage, and other effects sound much better AFTER the preamp stage. The 4-cable method allows us to utilize all effects in an optimized fashion to get the very best sound possible out of our rig.

 

Want some proof?? Check out the following video. Aaron did a great job letting us hear just why we need to consider this setup. Pay close attention to the awful guitar sound at 2:15, then the quality, clean guitar sound at 2:30:

 

 

Go With the Flow!

I find that the easiest way to understand the 4-cable method is simply to grasp the signal flow that makes your guitar sound awesome when it comes out of the cabinet and spills onto your 80,000 cheering audience members.

 

It goes like this:

 

First, your guitar is FIRST plugged into your effects processor. We do this because that’s the first place we want to put on gain-based effects. Like a distortion sound. OK, so let’s pretend we’ve done that. Great.

 

Now the guitar signal, with distortion added, can go into the amp’s PREAMP stage. This is where the sound of our amp really comes in.

 

Where to next? Well, we probably have some more effects that we want to put on that belong to the Modulation and time-based effects family. For those, we’ve got to go back into our effects processor.

 

The processor then puts on those effects, like maybe some Chorus, a little bit o’ Tremolo, and after that finally some nice Reverb to make it sound like we’re playing for those 80,000 cheering audience members… even when you’re just in your room!

 

At this point we’re done with effects so we can send the signal out of the effects box once again back into our amp.

 

The amp, in the final step, directs your incredible-sounding signal into your cabinet and/or straight to the PA system, and voila – you’re gold, baby!

 

Did you follow that flow? If you can really get your head around how the signal passes through each stage, and why it’s passing in that certain order, you can master the 4-cable approach no matter what amp or effects processor you have, and be able to set it up without bowing before the almighty Google. 😉

 

But since I know that you probably appreciate specifics, let’s look at two popular ways to set up guitar effects with amps…

Today's rockin' rig!
Today’s rockin’ rig!

 

With Processors – Ports is Ports!

Most of the players that I’ve worked with professionally have used, like myself, a rack-mounted effects processor.

 

The Processor foot controller
Foot Controller for the GSP1101

Most of us also have a Foot Controller to change things on the fly, with just a tap of our foot. This is helpful because we don’t want to have to go side-stage to twiddle with any knobs. We want to be able to do it all from where we’re performing, and that’s where a foot controller really saves the day.

 

There’s one important caveat to successfully setting up the 4-cable method with the processor: the processor must have an effects Loop. A send and return, in other words. If not, the 4 cable method is not an option for you.

 

But let’s assume for now that your processor is loaded with all the necessary ports. Using the flow logic that we outlined above, here is our signal flow cable layout:

 

  1. GUITAR to processor INPUT
  2. Processor SEND to amp INPUT
  3. Amp SEND to processor RETURN
  4. Processor SEND to amp RETURN

 

4 CABLE Method

 

Cool! Now that that’s set up correctly, we know our signal will get to where it needs to go.

 

But wait – there’s more! In most processors, you must ALSO go in and assign the effects, either to ‘before the preamp’ or after it.

 

Why? Well, the processor doesn’t know whether you’re using a 2-cable, 3-cable, 4-cable, or 20-cable technique; you’ve got to tell it!

 

Each processor is different in how it assigns effects with regard to signal flow, so I won’t go into those particulars here. if you don’t know how to assign effects in your particular processor, it’s time to get out the manual, or head over to YouTube, and become a programming master of your gear. This MUST be done if you want to sound amazing.

 

And you DO want to sound amazing, right??!

 

Once you’ve successfully assigned the effects, based on your processor’s unique method and menu, the whole guitar wall of sound coming from your rig should make the most-celebrated Guitar Hero jealous!

 

Or maybe not. They’re probably using the 4 cable method too. 😉

 

Using Pedals

In the last 7 years or so, the popularity of guitar pedals has skyrocketed. When I was growing up in the 80s they were big, but then they kind of went the way of the dinosaur when rack-mounted processors showed up. Clearly though, they have had an incredible resurgence. I see younger players now with enough guitar pedals in front of them to make your amp spin.

 

Somehow they just love doing that toe-tapping dance!

 

Alright, so how do we set pedals up within the 4-cable method? Again, we must go back to the three genres of guitar effects & how they’re separated for optimal total excellence. Do you remember??

 

  • Gain-based effects go before the preamp
  • Modulation and time-based effects go after it.

 

Now that I’ve mentioned that a few times, I bet you’ve got it, right?

 

I knew you would. 😉

 

With that in mind, here is the cabling layout for utilizing foot pedals in a four-cable system:

 

GUITAR to, & through, Gain-based PEDALS (usually tuner first)

Last Gain-based pedal OUT to amp INPUT

Amp SEND to Modulation & Time-based Pedals.

Last Time-based pedal OUT to amp RETURN

4CM signal routing

 

Okay, so… did you follow the signal flow logic again? it’s just like following the course that a river takes – if you’ve got a map, and you understand why it’s flowing where it’s flowing… you’ll never get lost!

 

How My Own Rig Rocks with 4CM!

We humans always learn better when we’re given specific examples to peruse, so let’s take a look at my favorite guitar rig here in my studio: my EVH 5150 III & DigiTech GSP1101 combination!!

The 5150 III & the GSP1101!

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the 5150 III amp… oh man… this thing ROCKS THE UNIVERSE!!! See the full review of it I did RIGHT HERE. And if you ever PLAY through one… be prepared to never hear guitars the same.

 

The first thing I’ll do is take my guitar (which today is a Fender Partscaster with a cool “Burned Ash” body that I had hand-built) and plug it into the input of my processor.

 

The GSP1101 will then apply, according to how I programmed it, all of my gain-based effects.

 

I then send the signal out of the processor through the send port and I bring it into my amp by plugging into the input of the 5150. You can see this in the cable with the blue tape (I keep my cables all color-coded for fast hook-up at gigs).

Cable out of amp to processor

 

This is where my amp will apply all that beautiful EVH Magic in the preamp stage.

 

As a quick aside, the whole reason I chose my DigiTech processor is that it doesn’t suck tone from whatever amp I pair it with. a lot of processors the tone of the amp, sometimes in very unfortunate ways. this 1101 consistently let’s my 5150 shine in all its Glory.

 

And the choir sang “Amen!!”

 

Now that we have our real amp sound applied by the preamp send the signal out to the other effects that must come after it. You see this in the cable that has the red tape around it, coming out of the amp’s SEND, and going into the processor’s RETURN.

 

Back of amp cables

 

At this point the processor applies all the modulation time-based effects, fulfilling weird request that will create our signature sound.

 

Now we’re ready to go back into the amp, to the power amp stage, so that all that lusciousness can be amplified loud! the final cable, with the green tape, goes from the output of the processor to the effects return of my amp.

Back of processor cables

 

That’s it! Cables complete. If I hadn’t already done it, I would now program my processor so that it assigns certain effects either post- or pre-preamp.

 

If any of that was a little confusing to you, just go back and re-read it a few times. It’ll become clearer. And the good news is you really only have to do this ONE time. After that you can just leave the cables, and the programming assignments in the processor, exactly as they are. They will serve you faithfully until the time you want to make any changes in effects or cabling.

 

By the way, in the next week, I’ll be finishing up an article specifically on the DigiTech GSP1101. So if you want more particulars on it, check in here at Seriousgas.com and you won’t miss any of the tasty tidbits!

 

The Final Power Chord!

guitarist in smokeI hope this post has shown you just how advantageous it is to use the 4-cable method and apply it to your guitar rig. Having reverbs, chorus fx and delays before high-gain effects can really, as Aaron showed us earlier, sound outright awful.

 

But with a bit of forethought, a cup of study, a tablespoon of trial, and pinch of error, you could just wind up COOKIN’!! With a guitar tone and effects selection that sounds better than any time in your life up to this point!!

 

I’d say that’s a goal worth pursuing, wouldn’t you??

 

Got questions? Have 4-cable technique experience yourself? Still wondering how you can get all your cables UNTANGLED, let alone in the right ports of your amp??!! Talk to us in the Comments section. We’d love to hear your story.

 

Tangled or knot. Uh, I mean… NOT. 😉

 

In the meantime, grab your guitar, your amp, your processor or pedals, and four free cables and…

 

… you know the drill – go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

 

Teaj in the storm-fields!

The Drum Mic Shield – How To NOT Let It Bleed!

I’ve got to confess right up front… there are some audio intricacies I still don’t feel I’ve mastered.

 

Doesn’t matter how many decades you work with music gear… there’s always something else to learn; somewhere else to grow; some new facet of our industry and our performance methodology that we can conquer.

 

This week… it’s the mic drum shield!

 

A Movie’s Worth a Thousand Clicks…

To start things off, here’s a very revealing vid showing the unboxing of the shield I used, and two subsequent recordings: one with the mic shield, and one without.

 

Do you think I found any difference between the two??

 

Time to wake up and smell the cymbal cleaner… !

 

 

What’s the Big Whoop??

Pyle shield ad

So, what’s a drum mic shield and why would I want one anyway??

 

Well, hopefully that groovin’ vid let you glimpse a little bit of the reason why, but as a quick primer, let’s just say they’re mostly to bring down the amount of CYMBAL BLEED in your drum mics.

 

When it comes time to mix a song, it always helps to have clear signals of each of your drums, where the mic on a particular drum hears it and not the other drums or cymbals or percussion that might be nearby.

 

If there’s too much cymbal wash, buzz, crash or sizzle oozin’ into your drum signal path, it makes it a lot harder to keep things sounding clean and tight.

 

Plus you don’t get as many options for leaving things OUT of the mix somewhere down the cable, because if you tried you’d still hear the unwanted signal through some other mic. DRAT!

 

Enter today’s shield test. I’ve heard of these little “sound caves” for decades, but just never bought in to their hype. This week, I decided to give ’em a try and share the results with all of you.

 

The shootout I did with and without the shield taught me a lot, and showed me a few things I didn’t expect.

 

What did you expect??!

 

Choose Your Guard

There are not many of these drum guards to choose from. I picked up the one that’s a little larger than the others. I wanted to be able to try it on varying mics, and that means size differences.

 

click map

Pyle drum mic guard

 

 

 

For the video recording, I used the “PYLE Drum Microphone Guard“. Here’s the specifics on how it does what it does:

 

  • For versatile Drum Recording & Sound Isolation
  • Great for Cymbal Sound Absorption
  • Ready for Session: Quick & Easy to Setup
  • Box-Style Engineered for Maximum Isolation/Reduction
  • High-Density dB-Absorbing Acoustic Foam
  • Ideal for Studio Drum Recording
  • Universal Microphone Compatibility
  • Works with many sized mics
  • Universal Standard 5/8” Microphone Threading
  • Portable, Compact Design
  • Charcoal Gray inner foam color
  • White Outer Shell
  • Microphone, Stand Mount not included
  • Weight: 0.93 lbs.

 

Mics! Mics! Mics!the CAD 411 snare mic

When setting up for a live drum kit session, the decisions about WHAT microphones you’re going to use are paramount to eliciting a pleasing, powerful, attractive sound outcome.

 

To dig deep and maximize my profit for this experiment, I used many different mics, and eventually heard which gave me the best sound right off the bat. I’ll be featuring an article on all of those mics, and how different they sounded, in my next post, so stay tuned.

 

Suffice it to say that nothing sounded as good, and full, and slamming as my TSM411 snare mic. I ended up placing it at almost a 45-degree angle toward the head, with the Pyle shield angled slightly toward the high hat. This enabled me to get maximum isolation from the hi-hat jangle as possible.

 

After I had a blast layin’ down a beat with the shield in place, I then took it off and did the exact same thing with all the exact same settings, only without the shield. The recordings that you heard in the above video revealed how both of those sounded.

 

One important note I shouldn’t let slip without telling you: this drum shield really never got in the way of my playing at all. I honestly thought it would, and was expecting my hands to be like some sugar-craving kid at a pinata party!

 

Once I started playing though, I never got near it. No matter where I put it, I easily played around it and never felt nervous about its positioning.

 

An welcome surprise!

 

Location! Location! Location!

mic under shieldAnyone who’s recorded audio for long knows that where you place the microphone, and at what angle, makes a huge difference in the sonic outcome. It’s one of the first things you decide upon when setting up mics for a session.

 

For this test I placed the mic in at least 8 different positions, and at the drum at three different angles, to find out what the optimal juxtaposition is for this kit, for this song, at this moment.

 

I tried aiming the mic at 11 o’clock on the snare head, 12 o’clock, 1, 2… basically any position that wasn’t in my way when playing!

 

I also tried all the mics at different angles to the head:  90°, 45° and even almost horizontal with the head. Each placement gave, as we would expect, a slightly different sound.

 

It’s a Keeper!!

Now let me tell you why I’m going to keep this mic guard: I discovered that it didn’t really isolate the snare signal as much as I had hoped it would. I could still hear the hi-hat quite clearly, tho’ the dB level of the hi-hat, measured on my level meters, DID drop by a couple dB.

 

What it really does well is cuts the crash and ride cymbals dramatically. That’s probably the biggest, most obvious reason why right away I suggest you get one too and start implementing it into your recording method.

 

There were a couple of other things that I noticed though that make me want to keep it: first, the EQ differences. Each position changed subtly affected the EQ of the snare and the spilling cymbals. What you hear in the video is what I landed on as the best timbre of the snare, with the least-imposing hi-hat assault.

 

This final “best position” cut out many of the middle frequencies of the hi-hat, letting only the sparkly high frequencies come through. This is great, ‘cuz that means they’ll be easier to cut with a high-pass filter AND I won’t have to dip the shelf of attenuated frequencies as LOW as I might usually, giving me the maximum snare spectrum of sound.

 

Drum mic with no shield
“AAAhhh!! Somebody put a SHIELD on that NAKED mic!!”

The second thing I’m impressed with about this shield is how it improved the snare timbre. The 411, shielded, and at this particular angle, sounded better than any of the other  20 or 30 variations I tried this week. It has snap and crack in the high frequencies, where some of the other positions and other mics made the snare sound a lot more mid-rangey, and even, sometimes, somewhat BASS-y. Both of those we obviously want to avoid if there’s vocals, guitars and/or keys in the mix.

 

Oh, and yes, I tuned up my drums before the test, so they were optimized before I started. That’s how I know they were even better!

 

(If you want further training on the whole “tuning” thing, check out THIS ARTICLE!)

 

 

 

No Need to Fix it in the Mix!

I’m really pleased with how the mic guard substantially lowered the amount of cymbal bleed in my snare microphone. It was really obvious with regard to the crash and ride cymbals. They really didn’t stand a chance.

 

The Hi Hat still bled through, but what I liked was that the EQ was very different using the shield, such that it makes it EASIER to dial out those whiny hat frequencies with a high-pass filter.

 

Here’s a final recording to show you what I mean: this showcases my whole kit (minus the toms which I didn’t use in this test), plus I threw on some compression and reverb to make it sound closer to what I normally do for a real song mix.

 

The first take you hear is WITH the Pyle shield in play. The second is WITHOUT it.

 

Aaaaand… downbeat!    😉

 

 

That Isolated Feelingfoggy drummer needing a mic shield

One thing’s for sure: I’m gonna be using this shield EVERY time I record in the studio from here on in. In the final analysis, I don’t think it was amazing, but it managed to eke out a bit more clarity between my hi hat and my snare, and when it comes to recording, every step ascending the mountain gets you closer to the pinnacle… of your sound!

 

One of the reasons that I like doing these reviews is that you can take all of my work and experiments and bring them to bear upon your own recordings, hopefully improving them as I strive to ever improve mine.

How you install the shield towards your hi-hat, roward your particular snare, might be different than how I put it today. But no matter what mic you put on it, and no matter what the angle, it will admirably attenuate your crash & ride cymbals so obviously that you probably will find yourself wanting it in the mix from here on out.

 

I know I do!

 

So, are your drum signals sounding washed in a foggy bleed? Wanting that tight clarity of a Mick Fleetwood or David Robinson like me??! Then you’re in luck! For very little cash you can make a pretty decent improvement and make final mixing easier than ever.

 

Pyle Featured Image CARTOONED

 

So GO for it. Who knows? It could make the difference between sounding good… and sounding GREAT!!

 

Now, go… make… (clean) SOUNDS!!!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm-fields!

The Apollo Twin – The Tardis Has Nothing On THIS Interface!!

 

Above the couch in the living room of my house hangs this picture:

 

 

Dr-Who-Van-Gogh-painting-

 

 

Those of you who have a certain sci-fi bent to your interests might recognize that as a tribute painting to a really entertaining and memorable episode of “Dr. Who” that featured Vincent Van Gogh as a character.

 

“What in other worlds does that have to do with the Apollo Twin??”, you ask.

 

Easy: like Dr. Who’s legendary space/time ship called the “Tardis” (that just happens to look like a British Telephone booth) the Apollo Twin interface is (seemingly) BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!!!

 

Why?? Ooooohhh… wait ’til you see… !!

 

click map

Sam AshAmazonMusicians Friend

Video Review!

For a good overview of all these specs, check out this quick overview from fellow pro audio guru Tosh, here in this video:

 

 

Twin Technicalities

Apollo top view

As Tosh just showed us in that video, the Universal Audio Digital (UAD) Apollo Twin MKII Audio Interface is so stuffed with amazing things, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I guess a good place is always with the specs, right?

 

(Caveat: the specs below are for the specific Apollo model that I purchased, which is the USB version. I work from a Windows-based PC so that was the appropriate choice. There is, however, as you just saw in Tosh’s video, a version for all Mac aficionados with a Thunderbolt connection.)

 

Here’s what this little sound-ship sails to you with:

 

Inputs

  • Total inputs: 10
  • Mic preamps: 2
  • XLR/TRS combo jacks: 2
  • XLR only jacks: 0
  • 1/4” only jacks: 0
  • S/PDIF in: 0
  • ADAT/optical in: 8
  • RCA in: No
  • AES/EBU: No
  • MADI: No

Outputs

  • Total outputs: 4
  • XLR out: 0
  • 1/4” out: 4
  • S/PDIF out: 0Apollo back view
  • ADAT/optical out: 0
  • RCA out: No
  • AES / EBU: No
  • MADI: No

Other Connectivity

  • Computer connection: USB
  • MIDI I/O: No
  • Headphone output(s): 1
  • Word-clock I/O: No

Audio Quality

  • Max bit depth: 24-bit
  • Max sampling rate:192kHz

Onboard Features

  • Platform compatibility: Windows
  • Phantom power: Yesapollo front view
  • Direct monitoring: Yes
  • Onboard DSP: Yes
  • Metering: LED Meters
  • Display: No
  • Latency control: Yes
  • Monitor control: Yes
  • Headphone control: Yes

Other

  • Width: 6.31 in.
  • Height: 2.60 in.
  • Depth: 5.86 in.
  • Weight: 2.35 lb.
  • Rack-mountable: No
  • Included software: Yes

 

What’s the Big Diff’?

Unless you already have a ton of expensive gear, get this interface and you’ll notice a big difference in the final products you produce. I’ve had this interface since spring of this year, and it has quite revolutionized the sound coming out of my monitors and my final mixes.

 

How? Well, it’s not just because the superb A/D & D/A converters get the audio into my computer squeaky clean. It’s also because of the insanely beneficial galaxies of sound-sculpting effects freely included in this interface!

 

Universal Audio logo

We’re talkin’ world-class sonics and options for your studio here, whether in-home or in a professional installation. UAD has a long, rich history of engineering the very best audio products big money could buy. THIS POST is a succinct glimpse into their acclaim and fame.

 

But let’s talk about NOW. Universal Audio was re-launched as Universal Audio Digital to bring us into the 21st century and put all those renowned hardware pieces of the past right at our fingertips, for small fractions of the prices they used to command.

 

“Yea,” you might say, “but are they GOOD??” An excellent question. My personal experience jumps up & down at that question and shouts to the heavens a resounding “YEEEEEESSSS!!!!”

 

But don’t take my word for it only – go hear the incredible A/B Shootout between real hardware units and UAD emulations done by a Nashville studio in THIS VIDEO. You won’t believe how faithful the reproductions are!

 

GET FREE STUFF!!

Whenever you buy an Apollo Twin, it comes packed with a free software bundle that will immediately give you some professional-grade audio effects to use with the system.

 

The free Apollo Plugins!
All the free Apollo Plugins!

Sweet, right?! These freebies give you a real taste of what’s possible when you engage the power of this unit.

 

Currently, these are programs that comprise the studio recording gift package in the Apollo MKII:

 

 

These are such useful plugins, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate them. They upped my game in an instant as soon as I added them to my signal chains. Epic awesome audio quality.

 

Also, there’s usually one or two ADDITIONAL programs that UAD throws in depending on WHEN you purchase the Apollo. Case in point: as of RIGHT NOW through 12/31/18, if you buy any Apollo MKII interface you’ll also get from UAD:

 

  • The Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ Collection
  • The Oxide Tape Recorder, &
  • The Fender ’55 Tweed Deluxe

 

 

FYI, I just demo’d the Fender Tweed plugin for a song I recorded that needed some good R&B chickin’ pickin’, and, oh man… the sound was perfect for the tone I was wanting. I decided it was worth buying just from that demo.

 

Apollo Fender Tweed plugin

 

Finally, if you’re over the moon about how incredible these plugins are, and decide you want MORE, baby, then guess what? You have full access anytime you want to the entire UAD catalog so within seconds, right from the software console, you can either demo for 15 days, or purchase, any other plugin your humming heart desires.

 

Yes, folks, constant, haunting G.A.S. shall weigh heavy upon thee!!   lol

 

Work Your Core

The biggest decision you’ll have to make about purchasing the Apollo Twin MKII is which core to choose. You have three selections to choose from, based on how much processing power you’ll want to the Twin to handle instead of your computer doing it. You can choose:

 

Twin MKII & box
Teaj’s Apollo on his desktop!
  • The SOLO core (a single processor)

 

  • The DUO core (two processors), or

 

  • The QUAD core (four processors)

 

Basically, the core strength you choose will determine how many plug-ins you can run at the same time. If you get the basic model, the SOLO, you’ll probably max the unit out at three, or at most, four plugins running simultaneously. If you want more, then you’ll need a bigger Apollo core.

 

Unless the computer you use has superhero specs. Think of it this way: if you have a wimpy computer, you’ll want a bigger Apollo processing core. If you have a computer with lots of RAM, quality sound cards and a processor that rocks, OR if you already have another UAD rack interface, like the “8P”, then the SOLO core will be just fine, because those will provide the brawn needed to run chains of plugins without breaking a sweat!

Apollo ConsoleThat App’s Sleek, yo!

The interface “Console” software that you install to run the minutiae of the interface is totally intuitive and a no-brainer to use and integrate into your DAW system.

 

It has its own levels window, inserts panels, typical mixer operations and is totally configurable just the way you want it by adding or subtracting channels.

 

Because of this, I often find myself working in this UA Console window more than Pro Tools when I’m tracking. To dial up just the right tone and flavor before coming into your DAW you’ll park here, twiddling knobs, for minutes on end… and smiling!!

 

I also really like how UAD integrated the actual hardware unit to be able to manipulate a lot of the faders, buttons and menus so I don’t have to use the computer mouse all the time. Brilliant!

 

Apollo Plugins roster
The Plugins Roster!

If you need a quick, streamlined look at which UAD plugins you have at your disposal (and which you can buy to have more!), a simple click on “Settings” brings up a menu where you can scroll through with delight the effects to choose from.

 

If you need a little refresher on what each of those effects DO, well, right there in the list you can instantly link to an online explanation to get you picking just the right tool for the job in no time.

 

They really thought of everything!

 

Latency, Shmatency!

Apollo Processor
The Apollo shows at all times how much you’re taxing the processor

This may be the biggest, most persuasive testimonial for the MKII I can give: since owning this unit I have had (wait for it… ) ZERO latency issues. Yes, I said ‘zero’. And I have run up to four plugins on one instrument coming into my DAW.

 

Now, it’s true I have a powerful computer, so that helps. But it’s always worth mentioning when a pro audio unit works flawlessly and gives you absolutely NO problems, hiccups, or surprises when tracking or mixing in the studio, with or without clients checking their watches in the chair next to you.

 

YMMV, but so far everyone that I know who has one of these things has said the same: “Dependable, rock-solid and powerful delivery of signal, with effects easily manipulable and legendary in quality.”

 

Less time trouble-shooting; more time for music-makin’. YESSSS!

 

‘Rome Studio’ Wasn’t Built in a Day

One of the best features long-term about the MKII is its scalability. As you get more money to expand your studio, you can add on further UAD-2 devices to your original interface for more power & flexibility.

 

UA Apollo rack mount units
UA Apollo rack mount units

Because I track live drums most of the time for all my tunes, I need a lot of inputs to capture them all. Currently I’m using the Tascam 16×08 for that (see its review HERE). But eventually, I hope to add more and more hardware over time to this Apollo chain and get to the place where I won’t need the Tascam anymore.

 

Not that the Tascam is bad at all! It’s just that the ability to implement the UAD software bundles and programs on my inbound instrument tracks is the BOMB! They make such a difference on the sound of drums, especially.

 

So if you’ve only got a small budget currently, but eventually want more inputs, no problem – start small with the two combi connectors (XLR & 1/4″ capable) on this unit for now. You won’t have to get rid of this investment later to upgrade, you’ll just add onto it to increase your audio might.

 

Specifically, you are able (thanks to the foresight of UAD) to daisy-chain FOUR Apollo interfaces together, or SIX total UAD-2 devices. This enables you to grow your studio capabilities slowly until you achieve that giant recording hit-making machine called your studio. This console software makes it easy to see and manipulate however many units you string together. It also grows with you, with the click of a mouse!

 

I Hear the Doctor Owns Three…

Just the high-resolution sound card alone in this unit will bring the quality of your mixes up (and noise levels down!) if you don’t already own a more expensive interface.

 

Apollo box & Dr Who CARTOONED
Bigger on the inside indeed!!

Then consider the DSP you’ll no longer be taxing your computer with and the disappearing latency issues.

 

Add to that the software that immediately revolutionizes your tracking and mixing options and you’ve got a recording package that is a must-have – there’s simply no conceivable reason for you NOT to have it!

 

That’s why it won “Best In Show” award at N.A.M.M. when it was released. It’s no mistake. For the price, it packs the most wallop for your hard-earned bucks and makes your music sound the best it can be at this price point.

 

The Twin MKII is easily my favorite piece of studio hardware from the past decade. Like the Tardis of Dr. Who, it’s amazingly bigger on the inside… ‘cuz it’s packed with the amazing power of some of the best plug-ins Universal Audio has ever offered.

 

If you wanna give your music production a well-deserved BOOST in quality, tone & pro effects availability, join me and get the Apollo interface in your studio today! Here are your links to legendary sound:

 

For PC:

 

Apollo BUYcon

For Mac:

 

Apollo BUYcon

 

When you finally get the Twin in your anxious hands and get it running in your own system, give us a shout here at Seriousgas.com and let us know whatcha think, how you use it, what your favorite plugins are, etc. Share the love, man!

 

Until then, let the music guide you and go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm-fields!

 

 

My PDP Maple Snare – It’s Side-stick, Rimshot Heaven, Yo!!

“Africa” by Toto.

Drummer Jeff Porcaro
Jeff Porcaro (photo: Oliver Knieps)

 

Can you believe how much it’s being played these days??! I mean… even Weezer doing a cover of it THIRTY-SIX YEARS after its initial release??! Wow!

 

You’ve got to give it up for any song that features drums right at the top of the song. And what a groove! Jeff Porcaro and Lenny Castro just killed it with that entrancing Serengeti tribal lope.

 

But what’s that little click-y sound being made in the opening loop?? Why, it’s Jeff doing a “side-stick” pattern on his snare.

side stickin' on my PDP snare!
Side stickin’ on my PDP snare!

 

Well, thanks to my new PDP Maple snare drum, I’ve been enjoying side-sticking more than ever these days, and rehearsing hard to even be a TENTH of the player Jeff was. Prayer is welcome!! LOL

 

This latest investment into my own personal world of beat-making. I’m diggin’ it so much, I just have to share… let’s rock!

 

The Wooooo of Natural Wood

As is often the case, the snare caught my EYE before my ear. I was visiting the drum shop at Guitar Center, buying a couple crash cymbals for my “Crash Cymbal Shootout!” (check that out HERE).

PDP Maple Walnut Ltd Edition Snare

 

While talking to Veronica, my uber-knowledgable Sales Rep there, I saw this very classy-looking snare up on the shelf with a price that surprised me, it was so low.

 

Although it’s made mostly of Maple, it’s covered on the outside with a beautiful Walnut veneer with a Satin finish that is startlingly appealing.

 

Needless to say, within a half hour I left with, um, a little more than I’d planned on buying. lol

 

But it’s all good!! This snare has given me a sound quite different from all my other snares, and when you’ve assembled a diverse snare collection, that’s saying something!

 

Let’s break it down…

 

Spec Me, Baby, One More Time

PDP snare from side in drum kit

 

Here’s whatcha get when you bring home one o’ these bad boyz to your set:

 

  • The PDP Limited Edition Maple/Walnut Snare
  • Model #: pdsx7514natc2
  • Size: 14″ x 7-1/2″
  • Shell material: Maple / Walnut
  • Shell construction: 10-ply
  • Shell thickness (mm): Info Not Available
  • Bearing edge: 45 degree bearing edges
  • Hardware material: Steel
  • Hoop type: Wood!
  • Throw-off: Tap-style from DW line!
  • Snares: Copper
  • Finish type: Satin Lacquer
  • Warranty: 1 year limited warranty.
  • Country of origin: China

 

A Tone That Brings the Tinglies!

Dave from Guitar Center does a great job showcasing the many sound facets of this snare. The mic really picks up well the difference in timbre and cut between soft and loud hitting.

 

Make sure you hone in on the difference in timbre he gets from having the head cranked high at the top of the video, compared to at 1:15 where he changes it and drops it down substantially for a more laid-back timbre. It’s BAM-alicious!

 

Check it out…

 

 

These Are a Few of My…

Teaj playing his PDP snare
Teaj side-stickin’!

Favorite things about this snare??

 

For starters, it is, as I mentioned at the top, THE BOMB for creating a rich, warm side-stick sound. There are times when I’ll want that typical metallic snap-crack that we get on a metal rim, but now if I’m tracking a soft ballad I have a side stick that is far less ostentatious and sits unobtrusively in my mix wonderfully.

 

The DW MAG throw-off is also my favorite design out of all the snares I own. DW really knows how to do things right, and they obviously listen well to their drummer consumers and then engineer accordingly, to make our lives easier, better… more fun!

 

This throw-off design is quite clever – it uses a small magnet to make sure it doesn’t slip open. Plus, it’s not clumsily loud when you engage it, like some others I could mention, and it’s easy to fine tune the tightness even when you have it on.

PDP wood hoop snare THROWOFF
The DW Throw-off!

 

OH, and the fact that this same throw-off is used on many much more expensive DW snares doesn’t hurt either. 😉

 

If I’m going to want to throw in any rimshots in a tune, this snare packs some pretty explosive power for that, mostly because of the thick matching wood counter hoop. I can’t get a louder rimshot sound from any of my other snares, and the timbre is round, full and, again, very wood-y.

 

But wait! Did I mention maybe the biggest reason this snare rocks?? It’s THE PRICE!! Considering the heft, tone, hardware and beauty of this snare drum, I still can’t believe I got it for under $300. It’s truly an exceptional addition to my kit at a cost that, based on my experience, is much lower than it deserves to be.

 

In a phrase, buying this snare as an addition to your kit is a “no-brain-er”.

 

Paradiddle Perfect!

PDP wood hoop snare BOTTOMRight outta the gate this snare was a pleasure to play. Pick a rudiment, any rudiment! You’ll enjoy the journey as I have on this roll-worthy percussion ride.

 

Like all snares, this one rings with significant overtones if you want it too. Dial up its heads to its strongest resonant frequency and you’ll have a ring sustain that floats like a king’s entrance trumpet fanfare!

 

It’s easily backed off though, either by changing the head tuning, adding a Moon Gel, or (as I know some of you still use!) slappin’ on some duct tape. I pretty much gel every snare when recording in the studio, unless it’s a very divergent, more “folk”-flavored tune. Regardless, you have lots of tone available at all times.

 

Most of that thick tone and lingering sustain comes from the six plies of maple coupled with the beautiful 2-ply outer walnut veneers of the shell. Tune it to your liking for whatever genre or song you’re prepping for and this wood combination will perform it brilliantly.

 

PDP’s combination in this snare of Maple wood, with that outer bit of Walnut, can sound forth a warmth, diversity and luxury sound that my other snares don’t have in spades like this one does. It’s a unique, adaptive and easily complements any number of genres. Just employ those dual-turret lugs to set the sound that works best for you and unlock the very best this snare has to offer.

 

Size Matterstop view of PDP snare

Heads up on an issue that you might run into, as I did: fitting your snare stand.

 

Because the wooden hoops extend the width of this drum beyond what’s normal, I actually had to buy another snare stand to accommodate its width. The stand I had previously gave me no wiggle room or way to expand the cradle, so, yes… it was off to Musician’s Friend to save the day!

 

Now I have a larger, more industrial stand with an adjustable cradle both for width AND proximity to the drum throne. BIG win in the ergonomics department, for sure!

 

So be warned. If you have a standard snare stand that’s non-adjustable, you may have to get another stand.

 

The total width across this snare is one tick less than 16″. Plan accordingly. 😉

 

PDP wood hoop snare INSIDE LABELThe Final Flam

If you’ve been wondering what Rim Shot & Cross Sticking heaven sounds like, congratulations – you’ve found it.

 

I swap out other snares for this one when I want warmth, a real wood-y tonality, or when I know I’m gonna be doing a significant number of rimshots or designated sections of side-sticking, in songs that would benefit from the slightly more subtle, wood-flavored bark that this PDP paragon delivers.

 

Wanna join me?! Add one o’ these puppies to your kit, and then let us know here at Seriousgas whatcha think. If you’re like me, you’ll find it a distinctive, significant asset to your tonal palate!

 

 

Now, go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields

My Ibanez Acoustic Guitar – The Lure Of Exotic Wood!

Klingon with a Batleth
Klingon with a Batleth, from “A Klingon Christmas Carol” (Photo: Guy F. Wicke)

“Afzelia Xylay.”

 

“Chakte Viga.”

 

“Cocobolo.”

 

“TZALAM!”

 

Am I shouting to you a Bat’leth challenge in Klingon??!

 

I am not. (I shamedly say I have not yet earned the right to carry that curved blade of honor through ritual, adjudicated combat in the Klingon Training Academy. Plus… I’m past the Age of Ascension.)

 

Ibanez EW acoustic headstock

But I digress…

 

Instead, the above names are way-off-the-beaten-path exotic tone woods used in making guitars. There are literally hundreds of interesting woods around the world that could form our instruments. And some… look simply a-MAAAA-zing!!

 

Enter my Ibanez acoustic guitar! I’ve been enamored with it for weeks now and just had to share with you my experiences with this ‘workhorse of a different color’.

 

How I love to ride!!

 

We Starts w’ th’ Parts!

Because of an INCREDIBLE deal I found on CraigsList, I now am the proud player of a member of the AEW series (though technically, when this guitar came out, it was only called the “EW” series).

 

The incomparable beauty of its top wood figuring pattern ignited my G.A.S. like a Molotov Cocktail torching up a Soviet tank in Finland during the great Winter War!

 

Look it up. It’s a pretty interesting story. 😉

 

Here’s the pertinent parts:

 

  • “EW20AS ENT1201” Model
  • Deep “Grand Auditorium” body style
  • Quilted Natural Ash veneer top, back, and sides over laminate
  • ‘Sound Expand’ inner bracing
  • 12th fret pearl inlay
  • Die-cast chrome tuners
  • High-gloss finish
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Binding: Cream
  • Inlay: Mother of Pearl Infinity symbol @ 12th fret.
  • Tuners : Ibanez Chrome Die-Cast
  • Bridge Pins: “Advantage”
  • Saddle: Ivorex II
  • Nut: 1 11/16″ width, Ivorex II
  • Scale length: 25 1/4″
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.842
  • Pickup: B-Band UST
  • Electronics: AEQ-SP2 preamp with onboard tuner, EQ
  • Outputs: Balanced 1/4″ and XLR
  • Finish: Natural high-gloss
  • Weight: 5 lbs 0 oz.

 

In case you’re wondering, the ‘Sound Expand‘ inner bracing that Ibanez uses in the body is an innovative design they’ve recently placed in some of their line. In short, it couples the bridge plate to the end block, which in the end achieves better resonance. This was a smart move for this guitar, since laminate top plates tend to suffer from a more ‘dead sound’.

 

So too, the Ivorex II saddle and nut are Ibanez’s answer to the ‘faux bone’ fad of the last decade. Are they better than plastic? Oh yea. Better than real bone? Gonna have to say “no” there.

 

Ibanez acoustic guitar Bridge

 

The “Advantage” Bridge Pins are made with a different shape than usual. They don’t go as far into the body, are stopped by a little ball inside, and stay in place, supposedly, better than the usual suspects.

 

Don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can say they’ve given me no problems. Might be an issue though, if you ever want to swap out the pins for bone…

 

Whadda THEY Know About Acoustics??

The Japanese company Hoshino Gakki first got into the acoustic guitar business in 1935, when they distributed high-end Classical guitars built by a luthier named Salvador Ibáñez from Spain.

 

In 1939, after Salvador’s whole shop was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War (what a bummer, dude!), they bought the rights to the luthier’s name and started producing the guitars themselves, using the shortened moniker “Ibanez“.

 

Ibanez guitar logo

 

With the advent of the “performing songwriter” and the fame associated with traveling bards singing folk music in the 60s (I’m looking at YOU, Bob!), the steel-stringed acoustics showed up in their catalogs. They were pretty much at that time not-as-well-made copies of Gibson acoustics, but they were much cheaper and sold well despite the lower quality.

 

Until they were sued by Gibson in ’76 and had to change their headstock & product names, that is. 😮

 

In they ensuing decades, Ibanez found that actually designing new, innovative & distinctive guitars, especially with a star player’s endorsement, really shot their sales higher.

 

Since then, they have continued to make electric and acoustic guitars with an emphasis on divergent aesthetics, rather than copying the big dogs and their toys…

 

Hey, Joe! Where You Going w’ That EW in Your Hand?!

Joe Walsh playing an Ibanez EW
Joe Walsh playing an Ibanez EW (Courtesy)

The Eagles came to Detroit this past month, bringing with them their penchant for extraordinarily well-crafted songs, impeccably-rehearsed vocals, and exceedingly top-of-the-line gear to bring it all to our appreciative ears.

 

Imagine my surprise, then, when I see Joe Walsh bring out MY EXACT SAME GUITAR, this EW with Ash top that I’m reviewing for you right now, and play it on a couple songs!!

 

Wow. Was my high opinion of this acoustic superbly vindicated, or WHAT?!!

 

I have to mention this, because there are some snooty, pretentious players commenting in some forums online about how “sub-par” these guitars are compared to other brands and models.

Ibanez acoustic guitar Inlay

 

What do I say to them? Dudes – Please! There’s a reason why well over 90% of the reviewers that actually own this guitar have given it 5 stars and rave about it.

 

And besides that… if it’s good enough for Joe… then it’s good enough for anybody!

 

Don’t let the naysayers or the lower price point fool you… this is definitely a guitar you should play and hear before making any value judgments.

 

“Are All These Your Guitars…?!”

Ibanez currently has six  acoustic guitar series available. They are:

Ibanez acoustic guitar line

  • The PF Series (Inexpensive “Performance” guitars)
  • The AEW Series (“Exotic Woods”)
  • The AE Series (“Acoustic-Electrics”)
  • The AEG Series (“Fishman”-electronics equipped)
  • The TALMAN Series (Merge of acoustic & electric guitar vibe)
  • The AV Series (“Thermo-Aged”)

 

They also have a couple other one-off guitars endorsed by Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, designed according to their specs, if you’re an avid fan of either, or just like spending way more money for “a name”.

 

For a complete look at their current line-up on the official Ibanez website, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Voice of a Different ColorIbanez acoustic guitar Label

One of the big reasons I like this guitar for my in-studio work is that it sounds different from any other acoustic I’ve ever owned.

 

It is sparse in high frequency content, so if you want a “warmer, darker” sound, this carries that flag. But, at the same time, it’s not muffled-sounding, which sometimes accompanies guitars that are too “warm” or have a laminate construction.

 

Ibanez acoustic guitar Back

Also, the type of strings you put on it, as with any guitar, will make a big difference in the frequency content.

 

I prefer to use Gibson Masterbuilt Premiums on this guitar, as they bring out the top end more and off-set the darker “brown sound” with some shimmer.

 

Still, regardless of the string set you choose, to my ears this guitar has a real “story-telling” timbre to it that I just can’t get enough of.

 

If I need more starlight-kaleidoscope dancing high frequencies, then, fine, I’ll just strap on one of my other more expensive guitars. But for so many of my songs, this Ibanez beauty… enthralls my audiences splendidly!

 

For a great glimpse into the stellar and singular timbre of this acoustic, check out this video our friend Wade playing it over at “The Perfect Guitar” by CLICKING HERE!

 

Do Androids Dream of Electronic Guitars??

The SRTn electronics that come standard in this EW model are quite good. They enable you to get a much different sound from this axe than if you just mic’ed it, and of course make it louder for larger venues.

 

Ibanez acoustic guitar Output Jacks

 

One thing that I love, love, LOVE about this guitar is that it gives me TWO output choices: a 1/4″ AND an XLR output!

 

Sound mixers love this because they can take a D.I. from the XLR straight into the board and work whatever magic they want with effects and such there.

 

I LIKE it because my 1/4″ output I can send to my on-stage rig and hear it how I want it, with the effects and EQ that I WANT.

 

And, if desired, the sound person can mic my cabinet or amp and have BOTH signals to mix with. Most excellent!

 

As I researched this guitar online, I only found three negatives mentioned:

 

  1. the overall timbre of the guitar (obviously totally subjective),
  2. the failure over time of some electronics parts, and
  3. the imprecise nature of the tuner

Ibanez acoustic guitar Output Electronics

 

 

As for the sound of the guitar, I find it to have a very pleasant, usable tonality.

 

Would I use it on everything? Nope. But I don’t think I own any guitar that I’d say that about.

 

It has given me a further compelling and complementary “color” to use when writing songs. I consider what my lyrics are saying, choose a guitar in my arsenal based on that mood, or attitude, and voila – I get the perfect combination.

 

With this EW acoustic, the recording results are warm, homogeneous, transfixing when finger-picked, and ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.

 

I have not had any failures with the electronics myself. The EQ knobs work as expected, with no hint of noise or crackle, & the notch button definitely cuts out a swath of frequencies to help you avoid feedback.

 

The Phase button also helps when I’m recording the guitar with mics and the D.I. I can switch it to blend a lot better instantly. That’s a cool drool tool, fool! lol

 

The tuner? Well, it’s not as precise as the Peterson rack tuner I use onstage, but, then… what IS??! Unless there’s a guitar with a Peterson built in one day, you’ll never catch me using a built-in tuner. I’m just too spoiled and picky now with regard to intonation.

 

Still, how they’ve packaged the electronics is simple, clean and immediately user-friendly. No need for a manual here, folks. And the non-slip surface texture of the knobs?? Every guitar with any knobs should use these – I love it!

 

En Guard!!

One distinctive difference of this EW guitar is that it has no pickguard. That might look a little odd to some, but I think that’s perfect for showcasing the intricate, mesmerizing figured exoticism of the Ash wood veneer.

 

I also don’t mind the missing guard because I usually finger pick with this guitar, mostly in alternate tunings. In fact, as soon as I saw this guitar in the ad, I knew it would be the ideal tool for finger-picked compositions that demand the entire fretboard to be worked.

 

Ibanez acoustic guitar Figure close-up
Just LOOK at that Ash wood!!!

 

Because of this, I don’t think I’ve ever used this guitar for strumming. Ever. Not that it can’t be; it would sound fine for that, I’m sure. But it’s just such a finger-picking dream that, for me, not having a pickguard is no problemo.

 

If it is a necessity for you, well, that’s easily remedied. I have another guitar, an Ovation Balladeer, that also came with no pickguard (read it’s story HERE), but since I strum that one A LOT, I just bought one on Amazon for around $19 that looked super stylish and matched the overall vibe of the Balladeer perfectly. Problem solved.

 

Just Can’t Dis ’em Exoticism!Ibanez acoustic guitar Back figure close-up

This Ibanez acoustic guitar is almost a ‘10‘, in my book, for what you get. And many others obviously agree, if you research online. One reviewer on HarmonyCentral even said about this EW, “For the money, if there were a higher rating than ’10’, I’d give it”!

 

When I play it, I find it hard to believe that it’s a “cheap factory guitar”. It feels sturdy & well-made (like most Ibanez products), it’s outfitted with parts that make it sound good, though unique, and, of course, it so immediately grabs your attention visually that I absolutely guarantee that somebody in your audiences is going to mention how cool it looks.

 

And it’s such an unbelievable value. Compare it with other brands at the same price or even up, say, $700, and you’ll see what I mean… there’s hardly any that give you so much quality and ‘wow factor’ than this… and it’s under $400!

 

But, hey, prove me wrong, please. And when you do, I’ll buy THAT incredible deal and write an article on it… and mention your name!! 😉

 

In the meantime, give the Ibanez acoustics a chance. They will continue to have a place in my “wall of gain” and in my ongoing recordings. After all… can a choir ever have too many voices?? If you’re as excited about the EW acoustic as I am now, follow this link to your bliss:

 

Ibanez EW acoustic BUYcon

Now, go… make… sounds!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields

The Wishbass – Boomin’ In A Pseudopod Embrace!

You’ve probably never heard any musician utter this sentence in your life, so prepare for a moment to remember…

 

You ready??

 

My Wishbass looks like an amoeba.

 

See. Told ya. 😉

 

As you can see by the pic on the left, my particular Wishbass is quite… well, different is one way to start the discussion.

 

Luckily, it doesn’t sound as peculiar as it looks.

 

I’ve named this unusual bass “Meeb“. Seemed fitting somehow…

 

So for those of you unacquainted with the Wishbass company, let’s expand our brains a bit, shall we?!

 

The Vacuole of G.A.S.!Amoeba Proteus

Did you get to investigate amoebas in high school Biology like I did? Such weird, amorphous-looking creatures… so bizarre-looking!

 

 

I remember watching one in the little slide of liquid we were given. It was changing its shape at whim – twisting, turning, morphing, moving like bad-joojoo-Jello come to life. It was kinda fascinating, until…

 

… I watched it eat. Ohhhh…. the horror!!

 

It came upon an unsuspecting paramecium. Out crept it’s surreptitious arm-like psuedopods… slowly starting to envelop the leisurely critter without a sound.

 

Sun creature eats Paramecium

Within seconds, the paramecium too late recognized the threat! It started to swim around fast and frenetic, slamming in panicked circles against its foe!! But the rubber arms of the “Mrs. Incredible” of single-celled organisms only tightened the embrace.

 

There was no way out. The “bubble of death” was complete.

 

The morphed mouth smothered.

 

The digestive enzymes invaded.

 

Wishbass Armstrong pickup
One strong, bangin’ pickup!

Then all was still… in the vacuole of death!!!

 

Funny, but when I first saw my Wishbass in pictures in an ad on Craigslist, all those moving amoeba memories came flooding back in to my conscious thought. It didn’t come across quite as grisly as that hungry amoeba in high school though.

 

Like lunch-luscious parameciums to an amoeba’s survival instinct… I knew when I saw this bass that it had to be mine!! It was the only way to escape the vacuole of G.A.S. that had enveloped my brain!

 

My Debt’s Less For Fretless!

Wishbass headstockWhen I saw this bass in the ad, obviously the shape and look of the body grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go.

 

But it was also the COST listed in the ad that made me jump like Eddie Van Halen during the “1984” tour! It was listed for $150! Now, I’d been in the market for a fretless for some years, and this price was… well, a little to low to believe.

 

But I had to check it out. So, I went over to the guy’s pad and played it through his amp. Wow. Weird shape, but FULL sound. No buzzing, short-outs or pot crackle at all. Just solid bass whomp.

 

I was sold!

 

Of course, I talked him down to $130, ‘cuz… ya know… that’s just whatcha do, right?! lol

 

An Amoeba That’s Truly “Kewel”!Wishbass label & serial #

The only info on the bass was the label that you see in the picture to the right. Jumping on the Internet, I soon discovered that the Wishbass company was down in North Carolina, and looked to be a one-man operation.

 

I shot an email and picture of my bass off to the company, hoping to get some facts about it, learn about the company and, really, just kind of ask, “What were you THINKING??!”

 

Within a day (impressive response time!), I received this insightful reply:

 

“Hi, Teaj. That bass is called the “Kewel”. #749m. It’s some oddly variant bass made out of maple wood.

 

Wishbass from the back

Here are the specs:

 

  • Body: Maple on Ash

 

  • 4-string

 

  • Neck: Maple

 

  • Fretboard: Persimmon

 

  • 1 Volume knob

 

  • 1 Kent Armstrong soapbar pickup

 

  • Production: Sold on eBay on 5-9-07.

 

That was a good design – comfortable.

 

It was hard to ship though, and wasteful of wood.

 

Carry on.

 

-Steve”

 

The Whacked Master of Wish

So that was my first encounter with the wizard behind my head-turning bass. He’s the one daring design dude behind all the quirky, morphing bass bodies that come out of the Wishbass shop. His name: Stephen Wishnevsky.

 

Stephen Wishnevsky

In researching him and his company further, I’ve come to think of him as a cross between Uncle Si of “Duck Dynasty” and “Doc Brown” from “Back to the Future” – a curious, tinkering, jokester of a cuss that just can’t stop tryin’ different woods, electronics and hardware together in unexpected and, sometimes, outlandish combinations.

 

He started Wishbass.com in 2001. His business model there was to make inexpensive fretless electric bass guitars for working musicians. Guess he saw the need for good, solid, usable tone at a low price, for those among us gigging for peanuts

 

Before that, though, he had quite an apprentice era learning this craft. He studied with the Ovation company, as well as several other well-respected luthiers, to gather the skills needed to open his own shop.

 

These days he’s moved on beyond Wishbass, and now you can find him making all kinds of stringed instruments that, again, buck the trends of current accepted instrument design. Guitars, harps, mandolins, resonators and mixed hybrids you can now find on THIS WEBSITE.

 

Wishbass bridge
The simple Wishbass bridge

Steve approaches instrument making with the same basic premise in mind: to keep them affordable by providing the basics that you need, with no frills, and maximizing the wood-to-strings relationship for tonal and response excellence. Here’s how he puts it:

 

“Our basses are designed to maximize the acoustic coupling between the strings and the neck/body wood.

 

This produces a fine woody tone and lots of sustain.

 

Our basses minimize the metal and electronics in between your hands and the amplifier, letting you control your tones instinctively, instantly, organically.”

 

I’d have to say that from what I hear of my own Wishbass axe, he’s hit the nail on the headstock.

 

The Fire

Wishbass shop on fireIn February 2015 the Wishbass shop burned to the ground. Everything he had in the shop was destroyed… and even his TRUCK! Investigators concluded that it was a loose pipe or flue from a wood stove that caused the fire.

 

How awful. It goes without saying that it hit him financially, but it was worse than usual: The flames engulfed thirty guitars that he just handmade and was going to sell, AND he was, unfortunately, UNinsured. Because he made his instruments in the garage-turned-shop on his personal property, he couldn’t insure the business, since personal real estate is zoned for residential, not business.

 

Not the legalese you want to hear when you’ve just witnessed your business go up in flames, I’m sure!

 

And just think about all the other stuff he lost that had sentimental value. He’d created instruments in that shop for over 20 years! He found, for example, in the ashes the twisted remains of his dad’s old toolbox that he used to store tools. Things like that are just irreplaceable.

Steve surveying what’s left after the fire.

It really makes ya feel for the guy.

 

Steve has bounced back from this tragedy though. In typical Steve “forge ahead” fashion, he said, I got no time for angst. That’s always been my motto. You can do anything if you don’t angst about it.”

 

Steve is once again up and running, having opened a workshop in the basement of a former furniture warehouse in downtown Salem, North Carolina.

 

Best of luck in your new digs, Steve! May hundreds more instruments find life through your hands!

 

The “Not-Yet-Ready-4-Prime-Time” Instruments

Not everyone is a fan of Steve’s work though. You can find plenty of naysayers about Wishbass basses. But then, the products of any instrument manufacturer is put down by somebody.

 

Roxie on the Wishbass neck
Roxie doesn’t seem to mind that there’s no truss rod.

One thing that is true of standard Wishbasses though is this: they have no truss rod in the neck.

 

For some, having no truss rod is unacceptable. Me personally?? I’ve never had a problem with my Wishbass neck. It’s been consistent and straight with no changes for years.

 

Here’s what Steve says about the whole truss rod thing:

 

“Let’s get the standard questions out of the way:

 

Yes, the neck is kind of fat.

 

No, there is no truss rod.

 

There is one reason for both of these quirks – I am convinced that putting metal in a guitar neck hurts the sound.

 

If you think I am wrong, buy something else!”

 

As you can tell, this is a guy that knows what his business stands for, and unapologetically adheres to the mission!

 

Wishbass control panel
Notice the ‘rough cut’ of the control panel

Is it true that some Wishbasses have come to customers with some “rough edges”, compared to high-end and well-known guitar manufacturers? Yep.

 

But, again, consider what you get for the price point. A Wishbass may need some “finessing” to get it to your liking after purchase, but it’s always going to arrive sounding good from the get-go. Steve says he wants the instruments he makes to sound good, not necessarily look perfect.

 

Some Wishbass customers online say they’ve had to replace, refine or recarve some piece of their bass after they bought it from Steve to get it to look like they want. Okay. Personal preference. But the sound you get makes up for what’s lacking in fashion.

 

Here are some things customers have mentioned online that they’ve changed after getting a Wishbass:

 

  • Body contouring
  • Bridge intonation
  • Fretboard radius
  • Neck thickness
  • Finishing coat application

 

Interestingly, the customers that DID change these things still appear to be fans of Steve and often buy multiple basses from him. It’s like they realize that Wishbass gives them a good starting product, tho’ imperfect some of the time, for a price that’s just… well, stupid cheap.

 

In other words, when you’ve saved so much money on an instrument you can afford to shore up a few niggling shortcomings here and there, or add bells & whistles if you want.

 

Wishbass Tuners
Precise & easy to turn tuners!

I get the sense from Steve that he’s really more into exploration, forging new ground and making something new than being too particular about visual Q.C., so I’m not surprised that these issues come up from time to time.

 

This lines up with Steve’s M.O. –I make affordable string instruments for the working musician.” He usually, for example, puts very little coating or lacquer on the wood at all. Sometimes none! Why not? Because it’s not necessary to get good TONE.

 

Also, you won’t find his instruments in the big box music store catalogs. Why? It helps keep costs down, the savings of which he can then pass along… to you.

 

Though I haven’t actually gone down and met Steve in North Carolina, the Internet shows that he spends a lot of time probing the boundaries of potential in his instrument making. Take, for example, THIS VIDEO. It shows just how interested and curious Steve is about expanding the possibilities in the marriage of music and electronics.

 

Now, I bet most luthiers who have been making instruments for more than 5 or 10 years are probably way more interested in making more products, to make more money, than investigating further how to make “a better mousetrap”. I give him kudos for maintaining a healthy inquisitiveness in the face of market pressures that say “just roll with what works and grab the cash!”

 

Let the Amoeba Music Begin…

I did a little recording for you of me messin’ around on ‘Meeb. It’ll give you good insight as to why I like it, and how solid of a sound it produces.

 

I recorded with one mic pointed at my Ampeg cab. Amp was my Bugera Veyron T. Didn’t have it up very loud. About halfway.

 

In playing this bass again for a few hours, I have to mention just how comfortable it is. The way Steve made the body it rests perfectly on my leg, and because the body isn’t too thin, like, say, a Stratocaster, my leg didn’t mind it being there for hours. Very easy to play and, though it admittedly looks strange, this bass is ergonomically the bomb!

 

Enjoy this glimpse into my ‘Meeb world!

 

 

When You Wish Upon A Bass…

Steve’s instruments aren’t for everybody. Some say they’re ugly. Some call ’em “unfinished”. Some label ’em sub-par. Others say they’re bizarre.

 

For those of us that play a Wishbass, however, we find them to be solid, dependable basses with deep, woody voice, admittedly basic, but full of great tone and substantial sustain.

 

Roxie the Mantis likes Wishbass! CARTOONED
My mantis Roxie really digs the Wishbass!!

For me, the tone and response I get from my fretless Wishbass is great. I haven’t had to change the bridge for intonation problems. I haven’t had to sand down any parts of the neck to get the radius consistent. I haven’t needed to change anything… ‘cuz it’s a solid workhorse as is.

 

Yes, it only has one sound. But that sound is solid and exemplary. Just what I need in the studio when a fretless bass part is needed. It records wonderfully.

 

And yes, it looks totally bizarre. But when I’m recording, that doesn’t matter. If the tracks sound good, I’m happy. And so far… Meeb gives me everything I need!

 

Wishing for an inexpensive way to get into a big-bottom bass?? Try Steve’s instruments. If their unique look isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Not all art speaks to everybody. But if you DO try one of these handmade, one-of-a-kind instruments, you just might end up a groovin’, satisfied customer.

 

Like me.

 

Now, go… make… sounds!!

 

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields