Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

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Paco Del Stinko
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:18 am

Great posts, Mo. Presented as someone who knows what he's talking about but not over one's head. Or at least too far over.

I am not a shredder but consider myself to be a sloppy Ace Frehley wishing he was Jimmy Page. That's who I am and I'm fine with it. But I do try and get good tone and do so through a variety of options, most of them simple and straight forward. Occasionally I like an over the top fuzz, flanged warble, octave monster, or swirly phased mush soup, but in context to what is needed for the song. I was very glad to see your mention of tone knob use, as I am a huge advocate of both it and volume knob use. Sure, everything on 10 works for driving your car through a wall rock/punk/metal, but the character of your guitar will come through better if you let it breathe, not gulp, for air. Gulping is, of course allowed, but if you're already gulping, you've got nowhere to go but down.

I sold off a dozen or so guitars and basses earlier this year, still leaving me with an army of instruments for different uses and tones. I won't start on amps, yet, either. But I guess my favorite baseline sound would be a Les Paul set-up. Neck pickup on a low volume, mid to high tone setting and the bridge pickup on a higher volume, mid tone setting. With the three-way selctor, you have pre-set whisper and scream settings on each pickup alone, and a full sound in the middle. Picking volume plays well here as well, especially with a nice tube amp. Adjust volumes and tones PRN, this arrangement is all around versatile, for me.

I have a Time guitar. It was built around 1980, by Time Guitars of Vermont. In the later 80's they went all futuristic looking and closed shop. One of the founders went on to make guitars for Trey Anastaio. Great player, great tone, if Phish isn't exactly my thing. Anyway, the guitar is set up as follows: Two Mini-Mite pickups, three-way selector. Each pickup has volume and tone, and there is also a master volume for the entire guitar. Done via two-way switch, versus push/pull knobs, are a coil split switch for each pickup, a phase switch, and a parallel switch that turns both pickups into one giant one. When the last switch is engaged, the three-way selector is bypassed, but the phase and coil switched remain active. It's like a turbo bost switch, with tonal options. Anyway, this guitar might not quack like a 5 position Strat, but gets about any tone you'd like. And it plays almost too easy. Nuts, man, nuts.

I'll let someone else in here, but will follow and be glad to talk further.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:40 am

Yeah I too am a big fan of getting my tones as much as possible from the guitar and amp setup itself, and using the interactivity of the different elements to get sounds. One of the reasons I like my Wharfedale (and it led me to get rid of a bunch of other amps, I don't think I really need to own anything over 35-45 watts or so anymore) is that on each channel it has a gain control for the saturation of the first preamp stage and a drive knob that controls the saturation levels of the 2nd and 3rd preamp stages, so you get a lot of natural control over the character of the amp distortion. And yeah, I usually like to use my volume knob in concert with the amp to get my clean/crunch/distortion tones, all in one quick little sweep. Obviously, this depends on the situation too, as going from clean to full gain with your volume knob isn't very realistic given gain settings vs level settings, but yeah. I recently have been using a little Blackheart Little Giant for clean tones, a little 5 watter that's inexpensive. But I'm about to get my tech guy (he builds me customized dirt boxes) to build me an amp, just a 1-watter that will let me do non-master volume things at acceptable levels. Matching a cabinet for it will be a bit of a bitch though, I expect.

Another thingy (technical term!) is that I've discovered in life that I prefer 25.5" scale, even though I have relatively smaller hands. Two reasons: I like the percussiveness and I find I can hit all the little harmonics more cleanly on the longer scale, like the ones between the 2nd and 3rd and 4th frets. Or the pick harmonics up in between the pickups--shorter scale guitars, I just don't hit them so cleanly, so they sound stunted.

Anyway, as I've continued to get older (funny how that happens, right?) I've come more and more back to single-coil sounds, but for practical reasons I use noiseless ones. I really heartily recommend the DiMarzio Area and 2nd gen Virtual series for these, as I think they come closest to full single-coil picture, but the Fender N3s are ok. At least I do like them better than the SCNs or the Vintage/Hot Noiseless Fender pups. I like the breathability of single coils, the rawness. They just sound more 3D to me than most humbuckers, although not quite as harmonically rich for some reason. Although with the new Am Dlx strats, the series mid/bridge option is like a dark-ass bridge bucker that's quite vocal sounding due to where the frequency scoop is from the cancellations. It's a pretty cool, unique sound. Anyway, a lot of this stems from the fact that I don't actually have a tech or roadies, so I like to take one guitar to gigs, so they have to be sonically versatile, fun to play and easy to restring and get in tune (and once in tune they have to stay there). That's my other beef with the Floyd, is just I would never feel safe gigging a Floyd guitar without a backup, just in case. There was once a sos show where I broke strings on 3 different guitars in the space of a 40 minute set (might've been 4. I might be blocking one out). I play lighter now than then, with lighter picks too (that's another post right there) but I still have too much paranoia to accept a Floyd.

Apropos of nothing, one of the things that always struck me about Jimmy Page's Les Paul sound in Zeppelin (sadly, I am a bootleg nerd) is how he made the LP sound like a heavy Tele, still such a spanky low-gain sound, not that Clapton tone that people think of as the really classic Gibson+Marshall tone. Anyway.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:50 am

I've also weeded out my guitars to only guitars I need and play.
1 70s ExplorerII (all original "again")
1 80s Les Paul (custom copy)
1 80s Strat (all original with a Floyd Rose)
1 Yamaha electric/acoustic
1 70s Ebanez bass (flying V, teehee)

I used to be a big mod fanboy. Over the past few years, I've brought all my guitars back to original specs. The only thing I do is string and pick up height.

My Explorer and Ibanez are my work horses. They are on every song I record here. I don't gig much anymore, but do play with old band mates occasionally.

As far as guitar "settings" tone, I'm not as technical as you two. I know the tone I want when a song comes together and I dial it in as close as I can get it to what's in my mind.

Amps, speakers and cabs are a whole other conversation. Mike just started that thread a week ago. So I won't get into it now.

As I've become less of a live player and become a studio player over the years, I've been on a quest for the best direct in guitar sound.

I play through a POD XT Live pedal board. Unlike you two with all your guitar tone from the guitars themselves, I depend on dialing in my tone through my pedal board, lock it in and name it. My starting point on my Explorer is to put the 3-way switch in the middle, turn all 3 knobs to max and EQ the sound I want. Good/bad, I don't care, that's my method and I like it. I will then use the 3-way switch, volume and tone knobs as needed on the fly.

Only in the past year I've finally figured out how to get a pretty good direct in sound. It turns out that my POD has a direct in/or/to amp switch I never knew existed because I've only played live for the past couple decades. Talk about an important find. I believe my exact words were "FUCKIN'' EUREKA!" My first recording with the direct in switch on from my POD was mid December 2011 on the song "better than before". I found it in the middle of recording that song. After that song, I started playing with my EQ for tone because everything changed. In fact, on better than before, it sounds very cold and sterile, but it inspired me to rock, lol. I now have a direct sound I'm happy with, but still lacks that certain je ne sais quoi. But I don't hate it and actually like it, so I'm happy for now.

I too have just recently discovered the joys of Guitar Rig Pro. I've heard good things, but never tried it. I only have the demo version, but wow. Some really cool FX, vintage and new. And all of the amp, cab, and rack fx options, it's crazy. A good effect can inspire me like no other and send me off on a riff adventure for hours. I haven't recorded with guitar rig yet, because I can't figure out how to make it work with Cubase. It might be because it's the demo version. Might be the music gods intentionally putting up that road block, because I will over use the hell out of it like Tim The Toolman Taylor and make gaudy tracks of which the likes should never be heard and it will take me away from my own sound I've developed. Who knows these things?
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:55 pm

I used to have a 1st gen POD. Like, one of the first ones. It was not bad, whatever Blue had to say about it, but the thing that all amp sims don't get right for me is the attack of a good tube amp. Believe me, I'm not an amp racist, I've played a few solid state amps that I think sound incredible, and having Guitar Rig is much less expensive than going and buying a 70s Boogie, a Plexi, a JCM800, a Twin, a Deluxe Reverb, a Champ, an AC30 and all the other classic amps, plus the boutique shit (I know it's a little trite at this point, but I LOVE Dr Z). But the actual attack of amp sims never quite gets me going. It's also of course because a speaker cabinet speaker and cabinet aren't the same as monitor speakers, but even so, I still find that miking an amp gets a more vibrant sound. Of course, living in an apartment in a city of 25 million, I record with Guitar Rig.

And Billy, while I get my base tone from guitar and amp, and will spend time to dial it in with all the knobs, that doesn't mean I don't love effects too! I, like y'all probably, have a shelf full of stompboxes. But what I've discovered over time is that with good pickups, a nice guitar and a dialed-in amp, I don't use OD or distortion pedals as much. If I'm using an unfamiliar amp in a gig situation, sure, I bring a dirt pedal to make sure I can get that tone, but in the rehearsal room or at home? Not so much. A little TS-808 now and then to get a more harmonically rich drive sound, and maybe some clean boost.

I do want a good fuzz pedal though, as that's a great sound that you need a pedal to get, and you can do a lot with it. I have a Fuzz Factory clone, but that circuit basically kills your low end, which is a little frustrating for me in a trio situation. With a bigger group, I wouldn't mind so much, because I'd just slice me out that portion of the midrange and call it home. So if anyone has a good recommendation for a full-sounding fuzz that will do fucked-up shit (because for smooth sustainy singing tones I can do that already just by dialing in the amp and guitar) I'm all ears.

The basic pedal chain that I use is 535Q Wah--EHX Ring Thing (ring mod, pitch shift)--TC Flashback Delay and things get shifted in and out of the middle. The Ring Thing is a pretty good Swiss Army knife pedal, the ring mod is pretty good, not quite as organic as analog, but very very usable and can "tune" the ring mod on the fly. As a ring mod it will do tremolo and univibe-esque type sounds, the pitch shifter section is polyphonic so can do chords, I have it set with an expression pedal so it can do Whammy pedal type stuff. I have tried living without using a wah, but they are just too useful as an extra tone control, beyond the pr0n and funk sounds. I especially like tuning the wah pedal to certain harmonics and then those will jump out of a band mix when you hit them. And I would never do one of my own gigs without a delay pedal of some kind. I often will chain up two delay pedals so one can be the echo sound and one can be a long digital loop that, you know, ends.

Today I'm about to go pick up a Subdecay Proteus secondhand off a guy who's hotel gig is coming to an end so is leaving town. It's an envelope filter pedal with a randomized step sequence function (tap tempo), so you play a note and the pedal will cycle through a series of random filter tones. I'm hoping this and the ring mod will do really awesome things together.

And Billy, I'm curious to know, just because--what is it about the Explorer that works for you? Like I have always been a Strat guy, just because the shape of the guitar is really playable for me and as I keep saying, I get with the percussiveness of the sound (with a lowish action. Action is a whole other discussion, no?) and that's inspiring to me. Partly because of these posts, I broke out my LP last night, as I had been tweaking the BC Rico Eagle for the last couple of weeks, and it reminded me how unique the LP sound is, and it was much more inspiring to me than the Eagle for riffs or songwriting. Maybe it's just that playing an LP makes me think of Jimmy Page and I channel a little something, the way that playing a Strat makes me think of Hendrix and Gilmour and Wayne Krantz and Jeff Beck and Niles Rodgers so I start channeling things.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:58 pm

Hey Paco, is the Time your main guitar? Or do you even have a main guitar? I try to switch up just to keep things fresh for me, but basically after anything longer than a day or so I will just go back to my Strats. And in a recording situation, I have to at least have my main Strat (named "7") in the room, just as a safety blanket.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:00 am

Hey Mo. No, the Time isn't my main guitar, though it would make sense to be so because of its versatility. If I had to whittle them all down to just one, I'd keep my Strat, as I've had it the longest and 'know it' best. Doesn't get beefy, which I need to do often, but that'd be the one I couldn't live without. I probably reach for my Les Paul most often. I hate to admit that it's strung with 9's (!) but it does most things I need it to do. It was these two guitars that have always been the backbone of my recordings. I haven't played ive in ages, but would most likely set-up the LP with 10s and use that if I had to.

I have a rack-mount POD that I got close to 10 years ago, I guess. I use it to write on when recording and occasionally use it to fill in parts or as a quick fix. I used the hell out of it when I first got it, made a ton of recordings, and enjoyed how far ranging it can be. But yeah, without being a snob, I prefer the snap and, oh, air of amps. I have a couple 5 watters, a Pignose that comes out for skank once in a while, a couple combos and a 50 watt head. The combos and head I am forced to use through an isolation cabinet while living in an apartment building. There goes much of my 'air'. Still, the immediacy and glassy sparkle of tubes is too tasty to ignore.

I have a ZVex Fuzz Factory that I love, when I have a hankering for fuzz. I hear what you're saying about bottom end, but I love that thing. I also have one of their Wooly Mammoths, designed for bass, but have never used it on guitar. Duh! It maintains bottom end very well for a fuzz, so maybe try one of those out. If I can use it, on guitar, for my next SF! song, I'll let you know.

Live at jams and when I played guitar in a band, I used to use my old 70's Cry Baby and a Memory Man delay. If I used an amp without channel switching, I'd use an older Boss DS-1. But I was using a Bedrock 1600 head, so no need for distortion pedals. The 1600 has two seperate preamps, two channels each. I used one side, and kept a channel clean and the other thick and cooking. I have the combo version now, which I use through the iso cab. The thing is a face melter.

So, yeah. Gear talk. :)
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:47 am

mo wrote:And Billy, I'm curious to know, just because--what is it about the Explorer that works for you?
Comfort, familiarity and ballz. It can go from crispy cleans to chainsaw bottom monster with a toe tap. I love that! I tend to have extreme changes in my music and as a single guitar, it's versatile. It's really an ugly beast and the shape is borderline silly in these retro back to the roots days. But it's all natural walnut and maple and just feels good in my hands.

It'll never have that shimmery clean sound I get from my strat, Or as you called it, 3D clean sound. But to be honest, I'm a bottom dweller. I'm mostly a chunky rhythm and riffer. I pull down a lot of mid and turn up just enough highs so the harmonics come through. The only time I even play my strat anymore is for recording clean guitar parts. And now that I'v acquired (I keep my POD updated and new FX via USB) a series of strat fx, (shudder) I don't even plug it in anymore.

By the way, I have to hand it to Line 6. Even though they don't make my XT Live anymore as well as other older models, they still let you keep your equipment up to date (with USB of course) with their latest firmware, etc. Although some of the technology is too new for my units capabilities, the updates are free and the newest model packs are either free or reasonable. But they keep everything they have readily available so their oldest equipment/customers are never left behind or pressured to buy the latest and greatest unless they want to. One of the reasons I swear by Line 6.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:40 am

Oh yeah total props to Line 6. I have an MM4 that's not part of my personal regular pedalboard, but I use it for doing covers naturally, and if I'm in a traditional playing situation maybe. For my own stuff these days, it's most filter pedals (wah, autofilter) and time (reverbs, delays) which keeps it all pretty "organic" sounding, plus the ring modulator for alien robot sounds. Because I feel like it's challenging to use that kind of sound musically and sounding purposeful rather than completely chaotic, the ring mod gets used actually quite a lot. The Ring Thing I'm using (can't get the Moogerfooger out here) also has a pitchshifter on it, so can do octave and whammy pedal shit as well, pretty versatile. Anyway, back to the MM4, I find the models on it totally usable and don't care if they don't sound EXACTLY 125% like the originals--I think they did a pretty awesome job with it.

That Subdecay Proteus, by the way, is a killer pedal. It's not as tweakable as I'd like ideally, but then again, sometimes too much tweakability is a bad thing. It sounds good as an envelope filter, and the step filter on it is pretty awesome, especially with tap tempo capability. For me, it's perfect for getting some synth-y sounds (for some reason I keep making synth sounds by combining pedals instead of just buying a synth pedal. Who knows why, but I'm having fun, so fuck it) and great for atmosphere or change of pace. Plus the envelope filter itself is pretty funky, so that's nice. I wish you had an attack and release controls for the envelope as well as up/down, but I guess then I should just shut up and buy the Pigtronix pedal if I ever see one in, you know, China.

Back to the theory of it all, to me pedals basically fall into a few different categories for the way I use them. 1. Base Tone. OD, boost, dirt. Currently I'm using a two channel combo with a footswitch, so I don't use much but a boost, and sometimes the TS-808 for high-gain tone. 2. Time. Reverbs and Delays, I couldn't play without a delay pedal at least--right now I have two delays (analog and digital) and a reverb on my board so I can basically screw with my own head. 3. Color. Filters, choruses, tremolos, phasers, flangers, pitchshifting, etc. etc.--to me they all fit in this category of stuff I can really live without but I switch them in and out for shits and giggles. If I'm playing at home by myself to a click (which I pretty much always do, habit from all those years of classical violin) I rarely use anything but a wah. 4. Extreme Color. The ring modulator is a good example. Effects that are challenging to use musically, experimental, that's what makes them fun. Although I have a Ring Thing now and that does a bunch of interesting things, I am thinking about getting a Way Huge Ring Worm, because it does actually more f***ed up stuff, less controllable. I'd lose all the modulation and pitchshifting capabilities, because I don't have space for both pedals on my board, but oh well.

Another topic to throw out there: string action--how do you like it? I keep the action almost all my guitars (including acoustic) at about 1.8 mm low E and 1.5 mm high E. I find that's just high enough to avoid fret buzz and get a clean ringing sustain, and low enough to allow me to blaze all over the fretboard if I want. Still high enough to dig in with bends, for me it's basically a standardized height that I know works on just about any well set-up guitar (I do all my own setups at this point).
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Sat Jul 14, 2012 8:51 am

You seem to really put the science and engineering into getting what you want, mo. Are you really Tom Scholz? :P

I set up my guitars and to be honest, I've never measured my action. Sounds like I should so I don't sound like a tard if I ever get stranded on guitar player island. I adjust my string height until I hit that sweet spot I like. How's that for a technical term, lol. I don't think it would fly if I was a how-to instructional writer. But I will say that each of my guitars hit the sweet spot at different heights. Then after I find it, I make decisions on how to deal with fret buzz (if any) as needed. Anything from dental floss in the nut groove to filing a fret. Whatever it takes. Then dial in my harmonics at the 12th fret and I'm done for good.

I've only taken a guitar to my local luthier a few times. He's pretty amazing and 3rd generation at their shop here in So Cali. My biggest nightmare was a used Yamaha 12 string acoustic I got for a song. It was abused and in bad shape, but I knew it was a high end model. I started to work on it, but the neck was warped and had some slight separation from the body. He fixed the neck and dialed it in perfect. He also found some hairline cracks in the lamination on the back that he fixed seamlessly. Beautiful looking and sounding guitar. After enjoying it for about a year, I gave it to my niece for her birthday. She played it every time she was over and I knew she'd take good care of it. Still today it is her main guitar and played almost daily.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:23 am

well as it turns out that measurement just ends up being what I find works on almost every guitar I own. Granted, it's a lot of Fender and Fender-type guitars, so there's a common base. I have a Gretsch for which the action is higher and the Les Paul is actually a little lower, but yeah, I have found those numbers to be a good starting point generally, assuming a straight neck and good neck angle. I have a completely different method for pickup heights as I use a whole bunch of different types of pickups, but whatever recommended height is, I'm lower. I find a slightly lower pickup height gets a more open tone with better detail in the treble and upper mids, which I happen to like. And I'm not generally a fan of really high output pickups, low to medium really. When I've had higher output pickups I've generally found ways to tame them more to my liking with magnet swaps and really just height adjustments. I really think the day I learned how to make guitars sound good was the day I figured out my own formula for adjusting pickup height and polepieces. To my ear, it's not just string volume balance that's at stake, but that openness and treble detail that I mentioned earlier, especially with humbuckers. Single coils you usually can't adjust the polepieces easily, but then you really just have to get the right pickups for what you want.

One of my hobbies the last few years has been selecting and buying cheap electric guitars, usually Fender or Gibson copies here in China, and then fixing them up to be good players. Basically I've discovered that as long as the wood is musically sound and the neck is straight, almost anything else can be dealt with, within reason.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:26 pm

Mo, I have a theory. If people that want to start playing guitar had a guy like you setting up a guitar for them, they'd get inspired and stick with it.

Another theory. All the great guitar players through history just so happened to pick up their first guitar that was perfect for them and inspired them to greatness.

I say this because I still remember the first guitar I ever played. It felt like it was an extension of my arm. From that day to now, I can't stop riffing. A blessing and a curse. :)
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Sun Jul 15, 2012 3:33 am

That's flattering of you to say so. I give away these guitars that I set up as presents mostly, and so far I haven't seen anyone run with it yet though. Then again, most of those people don't really *want* to play guitar as it were.

And actually in my memory, which granted is pretty faulty, I recall reading a lot of bios and interviews with guitarists talking about how shitty their first guitar was, but that they were still so taken with the idea of making music, and specifically playing guitar that that first shitty guitar quickly gave way to a much better guitar, once they knew the difference. My first electric was a mule of a guitar, but it served as a great little platform for me to modify (Memphis Strat from the late 80s. I completely redid that guitar and later gave it away to a DJ buddy of mine. It had sentimental value but it weighed like 12 pounds--5 ply laminate body, impossible to play for very long standing up, but it did have a ballsy sound.

Paco's comment about 9s reminds me that although I usually string up my guitars with 10s, I prefer to do a 10-48 set if I can find it (light strings 10 gauge set, bottom strings 11 gauge set), but usually here I can't get them. The 10-52 set that Ernie Ball does is ok too. But honestly, I can get pretty good sounds from very light strings too. I just prefer the feel of stiffer, more tension-y strings and my hands are strong enough to bend them almost the same amounts anyway. Right now on my Les Paul I have a set of 11s, top-wrapped, so they still feel almost like 10s. Thicker strings do have more interesting overtones to me, but basically I wouldn't go higher than 11 unless I needed to tune down to like C or B or something ridiculous like that.

But yeah if I only got to keep one guitar, it'd be the Strat--I can make it sound pretty beefy and ballsy if I want and frankly it's just the neck, it feels like it was made for my hand.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Sun Jul 15, 2012 7:15 am

The action on on all of my guitars varies, but not much. I don't remember all of their measurements, but low enough to play easy, and with room to grab a bend on. I remember guitars in the past where the action got set so low, they played effortlessly, but you couldn't grab a bend, down in the lower positions. Of course, for slide work, higher is better, generally. In my purge earlier this year, I sold off an old two-pickup Silvertone that I used for slide. Hard to let that one go, it was my secret weapon in the studio. I do have an acoustic that I tune to open tunings and use maybe once a year. The action is horrific and can't be fixed, I believe.

Yeah, I prefer 10s on my guitars, but the Les Paul I put 9s on a bunch of years ago and left them. I also decided to try the over the tail-piece wrap, and left that too. I swear it makes a difference in feel even though the point of string contacting the bridge remains the same. Still stiff, with a hint of slink. Could be psychological, I dunno. I tweak the action and intonation on my guitars, although not regularly. I admit that I am scared of the truss rod. I've had pros do those in the past and probably will in the future. I should get it over it, I'm a big boy now.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Sun Jul 15, 2012 10:18 am

For the record, my first guitar cost me $5 bux and was junk in comparison to what I advanced to over the years when I knew what I wanted in a guitar. I think I told the story once here. My friends and I would ride our bikes to Clark's drug store to get an ice cream cone and munchies. They had a section of cheap instruments, drums, guitars, tambourines, etc. I'd always pick up the tobacco burst strat copy and play what ever song was in my head. Not chords, but notes. And not the bass or guitar notes, but the singers melody, lol. My friends would say, whoa dude, that's exactly how that song sounds, lol.
Anyway, that guitar never sold. It lived their for a year or more and it got to where I'd go there just to play it and not with friends nor to get ice cream. Then one day during summer break, I went to Clark's for my usual store jam session. Some idiot dropped it and broke the head stock right at the high E tuning peg. I was heart broken. I went to the manager to show him and told him to fix it! He said they would just throw i away. I said NO! He was really cool and never complained that I'd be there playing for hours sometimes, no amp of course. Anyway, I took wood shop and knew I could fix it. I haggled with the manager and I shook on $5 bux. Not hands, he said $5 bux and I shook as I reached in my Levi 501s pocket. I was buying my first ever guitar! I'm officially a rock star!

My dad is an engineer and very mechanical minded. That's where I get it. He saw me ready to glue it and clamp it and warned me about the amount of tension on that piece. He recommended doweling pins and his usual over complicated spiel. I chose to do it my way. Waited a day, then strung it back up. Eureka! I couldn't wait for my dad to get home so I could gloat. It worked without my dad's stupid rocket science repair............for about a whole 15 minutes! Then SnAp-tWaNg-oUcH! Anyway, 3 metal dowel pins, resin glue and clamps later, I had a fully functioning Strat copy that lead me on my musical journey.

The End :)

....I told myself I was going to keep it short, but I just had 2 banana nut oat muffins and 2 cups of coffee and my brain is sparkin' and firing on all 12 cylinders......yes, my brain is a Jaguar engine......until about 3pm, then it's a Gremlin with 300 thousand miles on it, leaking random fluids. So if you'll please excuse me, I'll be back in 10 minutes.
.........better make it 15, just got the new Spin.

edit: Just thinking. I wonder how this "my first guitar" story lines up to the other one I told here years ago? You know how a story's embellishments grow with time and all, lol.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:50 pm

I like the top wrap because the less steep break angle makes the strings feel slinkier and easier, but the sustain is still good, maybe because the string itself has more overall contact at the anchoring point, transferring more vibrations to the body? I don't know, just guessing. But it also has the added benefit of more string behind the bridge saddles to make plinky noises with. On the other hand, the top wrap scares me every time I do it because I keep feeling like the strings are going to snap at the wrap. Hasn't happened yet but instinct blah blah blah.

My BC Rico Eagle has the TonePros wraparound bridge with Tune-o-matic style adjustable saddles, like the original Badass bridge, and I kind of think that bridge is perfect. Great design, easy to re-string. I don't know how much sustain it adds vs. the fact that the guitar is neck-through anyway, but that guitar does sustain like a beast, and I like to think the bridge contributes to that.

With Teles (and hard tail) I also prefer toploader bridges, probably originally because Jimmy Page's Yardbirds and LZ1 dragon Tele was a toploader, but also like with the top wrapping on a Les Paul, you can feel a difference in string response. I know that technically only the string between the contact points (nut and bridge saddles) really matters and that the string tension to pitch doesn't actually change at all, but it really does feel different.

For Strat-style fulcrum bridges, also, I love the design and frankly I don't have a ton of tuning problems ever since I learned how to set up and maintain one properly. Locking tuners help, but truthfully I don't know that it helps that much more than lock-tying the string (or however you say that), you know, the BB King method of tying the end of the string at the tuner. The only thing I have to reiterate again is STEEL SUSTAIN BLOCK which I can't emphasize enough. The difference is phenomenal and will instantly change any crappy sounding Strat into a tone and sustain monster. That awful die-cast horseshit that most Strat blocks are made out of is truly truly terrible. Maybe my results are unusual, I don't know. But when I put steel blocks in my Strats, they got louder, clearer, but with a tempered treble, not ice-picky, and almost as good sustain as my LP. It was really stunning.

How do y'all feel about 24 fret guitars (apropos of nothing really)? My Rico is a 24 fret git and I have certain thoughts about it but wanted to know what other people thought first before sharing.

Secondly, are we the only guitar players here?
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Caravan Ray » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:20 pm

mo wrote:Secondly, are we the only guitar players here?
I have been playing guitars for almost 30 years.
But I pretty much have no idea what any of you are talking about.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:30 pm

Sweet, guitar geek cred!
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:20 am

There must be something to the top loading, I agree. I have other guitars that top load and some that go through the body. Thinking about it now, it seems as though maybe the top loaders play a bit more slinky, the others a wee bit stiffer. I have a Telecaster, and have heard about top loading preferences, but mine goes through the body as it's equipped with a B-bender. No doubt all of that bending business has an effect on tone! I love the thing though, and can't imagine parting with it. It does play stiff, in a pleasant way, and the action is perfect. Regardless, it'd be interesting if I could A@B it against a top loader. As far asstringing the LP, I hear you on the break issues: Looking at the gentle angle, instead of the steep on to the tailpiece, makes me breathe easier. But as I am putting it through the opposite side of the piece and bending, I suck in through my teeth. No problems yet, though, after many years of doing it.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by roymond » Tue Jul 17, 2012 7:28 am

mo wrote:How do y'all feel about 24 fret guitars (apropos of nothing really)? My Rico is a 24 fret git and I have certain thoughts about it but wanted to know what other people thought first before sharing.
Why wouldn't every guitar be 24 fret? Would help beginners, and it's always great to fly way up there...

Also, when setting up new strings...should we wrap as little as possible on the tuner, or as much as possible? I go with as little, since then there's no "settling" under pressure, but I see some dudes wrap like a ton. #stuffIloosesleepover
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Paco Del Stinko » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:12 am

I like about three wraps on a string. I do the little bend and wrap it around so it doesn't slip, too.

24 frets are nice, for options, but I rarely get up there. I sold off a Hondo Longhorn that had 31frets. Too tiny for my fingers except to do some plinky plink. Nuts though.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by Billy's Little Trip » Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:37 am

mo wrote:How do y'all feel about 24 fret guitars (apropos of nothing really)? My Rico is a 24 fret git and I have certain thoughts about it but wanted to know what other people thought first before sharing.
Personally, if I pick up a guitar and it feels right and I can get the harmonics I like, it makes no difference to me. I know there is science involved here, but I just don't get that technical. I've played both 22 and 24 fret guitars that I liked and didn't like.
My bass is 20 frets and my guitars are 22. I've used my neck pick up on my Explorer as a 23rd and 24th fret before for a cool sound sliding my high E all the way up, etc.

As I sit here thinking about this. Is a 24 fret neck longer towards the nut or is the body cut out more to accommodate it's use or neither? Because I know the 12th fret wire is exactly half way between the nut and bridge, so I'd imagine that can't change. But then the neck pick up placement would have to change. Again, from an engineering thought process and not a sciency one, I've raised, lowered, tilted and tweaked my pick ups to get that perfect tone no matter where my fingers are on the frets. It seems to me that moving the neck pick up a whole couple inches would be a whole new ball game in tone. Not to mention moving it closer to the bridge pick up.

But I have a feeling mo will save me from google searches and personal experimentation. ;)

Also, I do the bend and 3 wraps. It was recommended to me as a teen by a guitar shop and has just become habit at this point. It seems that anytime through the years I did anything different, they'd slip. So that was that.
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Re: Your guitar tone sucks! (guitar tone/gear talk)

Post by mo » Tue Jul 17, 2012 10:21 am

Yeah, I asked about the 24 fret neck because of the pickup placement question. The usual 21 or 22 fret placement for a humbucking neck pickup is for the poles to be directly under where the 24th fret would be, so the second octave harmonic (same as 5th fret). I find in general that my Les Paul neck pup sounds much more liquid than the Eagle (24) and I haven't successfully managed to EQ that sound completely from the Eagle, so I was wondering specifically if anyone's figured that out. I mean, it has a nice neck sound, but never gets quite to full-on liquid mercury. And actually, the neck on that sometimes confuses my muscle memory, because I expect to hit the body way sooner than I do, so if I'm not looking, sometimes I lose my place and I'm like, "where did that note come from"? But the Les Paul neck pickup is like fluid perfection (I have a Jazz/JB set in there, but even stock pickups got pretty liquid). The new Joe Satriani 24 fret guitar is supposed to have "fixed" this problem by making the neck pickup placement right up against the fretboard, and minimizing the fretboard overhang so the pickup is close as possible to the 24th fret node, but I haven't tried one of those out (I am also not really into the Floyd Rose personally as I think I've ranted about already).

And I also rarely ever get up to the 24th fret to hit notes or play chords or anything but I feel like I should force myself to, just because. I mean, you can always bend to those notes or bend harmonics to get those high notes.

As for the wrap at the tuner, I do the BB King method, so it's as little as possible string on the tuner, except for the B and high E, where I'll give it a little more length because they break too easily sometimes. Except of course on the guitars I've got locking tuners on, then of course it's absolute minimum. I think it's probably the same as everyone else, that's just the way I learned to do it, so that's what I do. I've experimented with putting on more wraps but I always go back. I don't think it makes a tremendous amount of difference, but I feel more confident that I'm not going bend out of tune or something. It's more relevant to have the nut cut well really.

That's probably the single easiest thing that people can change about guitars that aren't playing right, just get the nut cut and filed properly. Takes 5 minutes, makes your life 5000x easier.

Billy, I'm glad you brought up pickup height, as I used to always have my humbucking pickups kind of low with the pole pieces raised and staggered, which is nice if you're going to coil split or tap or whatever as it'll sound a little more like a Strat single, and sometimes it'll really clean up a muddy pickup and make it articulate, detail the treble a bit more. On my Strat I'm still a little lowish compared to Fender spec, and the middle pup is way down as I find that maximizes the "quack" in positions 2 and 4. Read that somewhere and it actually worked! I just find that lowering pickups makes the tone a little "airy" and less compressed, and hopefully the lessened string pull gets me better sustain, but I've honestly never really heard that much difference in sustain between Gibson or Fender spec and when I lower the pickups.
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