How to get a Surf Guitar Tone

surf guitar toneLooking for some surf guitar tones? You’ve come to the right place. Today we will talk about how you can achieve that dripping wet surf tone that will make you feel like you are riding waves in California. There’s really nothing quite like it. The sound alone makes you want to put on your sunglasses and float to the sounds of the ocean. It really does actually sound like the ocean somehow, especially when you have a good drummer who can stay on that ride. So lets get into it, here’s how you can achieve a good surf guitar tone.

Reverb

Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle for a surf guitar sound is having a good reverb to your tone. It is what gives you that ‘wet’ sound. But since there are so many types of reverb on the market, I will make it really easy for you. The one you want is spring reverb. The reason for this is that this was the type of reverb used by all of the surf bands in the ’60s.

surf guitar toneIf you want pure authentic surf sounds, then the only way to achieve is with a real outboard spring reverb tank. The best one out there is a Fender Reverb Unit. These units feature a spring tank and real tubes. Today, Fender has made a ’63 Reissue Reverb Unit which is pretty good compared to the original that came out in the ’60s. If you spend an extra 30 bucks on NOS tubes for the reissue, it can actually sound amazing! I have one myself and cannot use anything else when I want to go surfing with my guitar. The Fender Reverb Units retail for about $699, and while expensive, definitely worth it. And if you don’t like it, you could sell it used for almost what you paid for it. Check out the Fender Reverb Unit on Musician’s Friend.

The next best thing to an outboard reverb unit is an internal spring reverb found in Fender amps. Vintage blackface and silverface Fender amps (from the ’60s and ’70s) have really good sounding reverb tanks. Many bands actually just used these amps to achieve their surf sound. So you can get a pretty good sound, but not nearly the amount of adjustability that the outboard Fender Reverb Unit offers. When it comes to modern production amps, their onboard reverb is decent for surf, but not great.

Finally, the last way to reverb if the above two ways won’t work for you is to get a reverb pedal. However these are digital pedals, meaning they are trying to digitally emulate a real spring reverb. The truth is that they’ll never sound authentic because they are a reproduction and a digital circuit brings a lot of shortcomings. One of which is that digital tries to make things too perfect. What makes a real reverb great are their imperfections and their unique interactions to every way you attack your guitar. So with digital, you won’t get authenticity and it will never get that true surf tone. That being said, many of these pedals have a lot more flexibility and dials to get all kinds of different tones. As well, these pedals have options to do other types of reverb other than spring, such as plate reverb. If you want to take the reverb pedal route, check out our list of the best reverb pedals on the market.

Surf Guitar Amp

Without a doubt, the best surf guitar amps are Fender tube amps, particularly vintage ones. The cream of the crop would be the Fender Showman as used by the legendary Dick Dale. But many different Fender amps will get you there like the Twin Reverb, Deluxe Reverb, Super Reverb, Pro Reverb, Vibroverb, etc. However, I’m getting a good surf tone out of a Vox AC-15.

When it comes to surf guitar amp settings, its all about dialling in a good clean tone. Pushed cleans work as well, which is a clean-ish tone but has some gain to it so it is more touch responsive. I personally like to set my treble pretty high and then wash it out with a good amount of reverb so it isn’t too bright. But other times, I like there to be less treble for a real low analog type tone. Best thing to do is to set your reverb to taste and then adjust your amp’s EQ to suit.

surf guitar toneSurf Guitars

The last piece of the puzzle in great surf tones of course is the guitar itself. Fender makes great guitars for surf with one of the most popular being the Fender Jaguar, followed by the Fender Jazzmaster. Both have been used by countless surf guitarists. Also the Fender Strat will do an excellent job as well.

Aside from Fender, other great surf guitars are made by brands such as Mosrite, Murph, and Vox. Basically what you are looking for is a guitar that can get ultra-clean. Single coil pickups definitely help.

Then there is the 12-string electric guitar. This will get you some incredible surf tones. Allah Las, a surf band of today, uses a Murph Squire 12-string guitar to achieve some of the surfiest tones I’ve ever heard. I personally use a Rickenbacker 360-12 and when paired with my Fender Reverb Unit, the surf tones I get are incredible.

Surf Guitar Technique

Once you have all the equipment, you still won’t quite get there without having the technique down. Part of the sound is playing the guitar in a certain way. For example, many guitarists complain that they can’t get that “drip” sound. But in order to really achieve this, you have to palm mute the strings and pick individual notes. So definitely play around with palm muting. Another technique is tremolo, which is sort of like shredding but not quite. Basically you are picking the same string back and forth very quickly. If you do this while palm muting, you’ll sound just like Dick Dale.

Another amazing surf guitar technique definitely falls into the territory of psychedelic surf. If your guitar has a whammy bar, you can do some very surfy stuff by lightly using the whammy on chords. But do it very lightly and you’ll be rewarded with chords that bend into tune. Very surfy!

So I hope these suggestions help you achieve the wettest, drenched, and wavey surf guitar tones you can find!

Stringjoy Custom Guitar Strings Review

Stringjoy-custom-guitar-and-bass-stringsThere’s a new guitar string company on the market which is modernizing the way you purchase strings. Its quick and easy, feels like you are using an app, and gives you exactly what you want. The idea is simple, you can choose custom string gauges to get the exact tone for your guitar or bass.

The Importance of String Gauges

As most of your know, you can easily go to a music shop and pick up guitar strings in packs of different thicknesses. Choices are usually extra light, light, medium, and heavy. But the sets that are sold have pre-determined gauges. Thanks to Stringjoy, you can now have a completely custom set that after some experimentation, will be perfectly tailored to your specific guitar.

I personally own two upside down stratocasters in homage to Jimi Hendrix. After researching his string gauges, I was unable to find any string sets over the years that were the exact same. So after an order with Stringjoy, I was quite interested to hear the difference with the exact gauges. The verdict: string gauges made a huge difference, even with small variations! No longer did my D string feel too heavy, and now the sound was a whole lot more balanced. I will able to get more of a Hendrix vibe with this custom gauge set. My only complaint would be that it would be nice if Stringjoy could include different string materials such as pure nickel. However, they have told us they are planning on expanding their materials in the future.

Quality of Strings

So far, I haven’t had any of the strings break. They sound great, very clear tone and seem just as good as any of the top string companies on the market.

Cost

Costs are around $10 US dollars per set. If you live in USA, shipping is free. Canada and Mexico is $6 for shipping, and $10 for every other country. Not exactly very competitive, but not bad considering you get your own custom set. I would like to see some kind of discount in the future for repeat orders.

If you want to order a set, just visit stringjoy.com

 

Re-imagining Softwoods in Electric Guitar Construction

Ancient Kauri TeleThis is a guest post by Jordan Grunow of Ancientwood LTD

This is an interesting time for tone woods in lutherie. Environmental, political and price considerations, as well as good old curiosity are causing a resurgence in alternative tone woods.

Conifer trees, i.e. softwoods, are rightfully claiming their place in the new paradigm.

It is worth remembering that the first Telecaster prototype was built with a pine body. Indeed, the Squier line’s “Vintage Vibe” series is a good showroom example of what conifers can bring to the party.  A/B comparisons between Ash, Alder and Pine bodied Tele’s are fun and easy. The exercise is valuable sonic training for any guitar player. After market bodies are becoming available as well.

High end builders are enjoying the use of soft woods as well.  Solid Spruce, Redwood and Cedar bodied guitars respond very well to both magnetic and under saddle pick up systems.

My own fascination with soft wood construction began with my tenure as Director of tone wood sales at Ancientwood LTD.  We import 50,000 year old Kauri from New Zealand, the oldest workable wood available.  It is in the Pine family and still grows today. In New Zealand, it is a protected species. To understand the capabilities of the product, it was necessary to build a couple test instruments.

Being a tele guy, the simplicity of design and ease of construction made the choice easy. I also happen to have a great G&L Swamp Ash example to compare to. To make the comparison as scientific as possible, I should have used a similar pick up system. The fact that most of the bars I play in have dubious AC caused me to go to a stock filter tron for a sense of twang and air with quieter performance. Well?

The G&L remains one of my favorite all time guitars. It’s the first guitar I wore the frets out in under 5 years. It has all the “pop” and “air” that Swamp Ash is famous for. The Kauri guitar not only has great flame figure, but presents a vastly bigger voice. There is a profound low midrange punch with a more solid initial attack. For fronting a rock trio, it is a much more satisfying tone. The Kauri guitar fills more space in the mix, giving the player access to smaller chord voicing options with outsounding “small”. This is a trait I have found with other conifer species as well.  Another way to imagine the tone is similar to the warmth of Basswood but not as “hollow” sounding as a Strat copy I used to play.

Given the success of the first Tele prototype, I wanted to experiment with a different recipe.    Thinner guitars, such as Melody Makers, frequently will have less bass content. So how would a conifer, such as Kauri perform in that format? Once again, we collaborated with the great John Gray, our go-to luthier. We concocted a set neck Gibson scale instrument 1 1/4” thick. The result is what can be called a very “live” sounding guitar. The attack is very quick and punchy. Compared to my ’62 Melody Maker, the tone is quite similar but with a bit more “air” and great sustain.

We have received several observations that acoustic guitars with Kauri backs and sides present a similar roundness or heft in the mids. I am not aware of the use of other conifers for backs and sides. Our next collaboration is an 8 string Weissenborn to arrive in early December. As always, it will be intriguing to compare it to similar instruments.

There are also potential environmental aspects to consider. Conifers are generally faster growing than hardwoods so can be regenerated more quickly. There are also ample domestic supplies available, sparing the impact to tropical forests. Our Kauri is reclaimed from peat bogs, so no new trees are felled at all.

This is an interesting time in the evolution of tone woods. High quality stock of “traditional” species are getting harder to find. That, and environmental and political concerns are creating opportunities for all sorts of materials. The answers are not always wooden, either.

So, for players looking to have their parts sit in a mix or compliment other player’s tones or like to own several guitars, investigating conifers is a good place to start.

 

Large vs. Small Amplifiers – Is bigger always better?

This is a guest post by James Abel

Both large and small amplifiers have their benefits, whether it is portability, headroom or just plain ‘mojo’ it’s safe to say that both stand up strong in the battle of the elephant vs. the mouse. With that said, the pendulum also swings the other way, with both having their shortcomings. This article looks to host the sparring match between the two, by taking a look at both the pros and cons of each kind of amplifier.

Going large:

Marshall Superlead Double Stack in purpleWhether it’s the visual effect, or the colossal trouser flapping oomph that it exudes, I’m sure most would agree with the notion that a wall of amps is seriously cool. Similarly amplifiers like a 100-Watt Marshall atop a 4×12, or a large combo like a Fender Twin reverb, possesses a certain comforting characteristic. For example, anyone that has gigged with one of the amps mentioned above can rest assure that they are head in the mix, while maintaining the integrity of their tone. Furthermore, higher wattage amps tend to allow more headroom than their low wattage cousins, providing another argument for why big is better. However, large amps do have their drawbacks. For one, today’s gigging climate doesn’t always require a loud, unruly brute of an amplifier that’s going to rip the head off the first three rows of an audience. Ok, so the hard rock and metal heads like myself out there may not agree with this, as there is nothing quite like the feeling of your amplifier moving air. However, most sound technicians tend to prefer it when you run your amp at a lower volume, and instead use a mic to get the projection and volume that is required for live use. On top of that, some high wattage amplifiers are not always suitable for use in the home; any of you with angry neighbours are probably already aware of this problem though. In some instances portability is a definite issue. Carrying a large combo up and down the stairs of a small venue is certainly not the most enjoyable of tasks, especially when the temperature of the venue feels like a furnace. Yet, this does generally seem to be more of a problem with combos than with heads, as most venues supply their own cabinets. However, the obvious issue with that is that you’re often made to jeopardise your tone in a bid to encourage functionality. Still, regardless of all of this, many of us still persist with using big amplifiers. Whether it’s the tone we can pull from them, the sheer thrill of the appearance, or just because there are more options in the market, there is something extremely exciting about using a large amplifier. With that in mind, I don’t see their popularity dwindling any time soon.

Little monsters:

On the other hand, the popularity of smaller amplifiers seems to be increasing. The first obvious benefit of using a small amplifier, for example the Marshall class 5 recently reviewed on here, is portability. Carrying your amplifier to a venue becomes a much simpler and more functional task, and with the likes of Marshall, Blackstar, Vox, Fender and many more offering single speaker combos, there is enough variety to satisfy pretty much every faction of player. Another benefit of using fender-tweed-champ-vintagea small amplifier is that they really can be pushed. Whether it’s an overdrive, a boost or just the volume control used, a small valve amp at full tilt truly gives off a magical sound. Small amps are also fantastic for recording both at home, and in the studio. Tracks such as Layla, or albums such as Zeppelin I stand as a worthy testament to this. Versatility is hardly a problem here either, with companies such as Blackstar and Laney offering multi-channel low wattage amplifiers. However, much like before, there are some shortcomings of the pipsqueaks of the amplifier world. Volume can often be an issue, as although most of the low wattage amplifiers on the market can provide a hefty right hook, many actually struggle to climb over the top of a drummer. Furthermore, although the volume of the amplifiers can’t always compete in a band without a microphone, they’re often surprisingly too loud for use in the home. Thankfully, many companies are aware of this, and do provide a low wattage option on their little monsters. Another problem with using a smaller amplifier is that many sacrifice speaker quality in a bid to make the amplifier more affordable. However, if you are privy to vintage or boutique gear then this is less likely to be a problem. Besides, as mentioned earlier, most venues supply an external speaker cabinet that can always be paired with a smaller amplifier providing it has an external speaker output.

In Conclusion:

As is the way with everything in the world of guitars, choosing a large or small amp is simply down to a matter of opinion. It’s obvious that both have their Pros and Cons, and it truly is a matter of what ticks your boxes. Yet when push comes to shove, both are wonderful and excellent in their own rights, and should certainly be giving equal measures of respect and use.

Seymour Duncan Whole Lotta Humbucker Review

Seymour Duncan Whole Lotta Humbucker reviewThis is a guest post by James Abel

The Whole Lotta Humbucker is a pickup designed to celebrate the time spent by pickup juggernaut Seymour Duncan during his time in London. While living in London, Seymour rewound and customized pickups for some of the hottest cliental of the time, including the likes of Paul Kossoff, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Based on a rewind Seymour would perform on P.A.Fs, and designed for non-other than a Les Paul – Marshall set up, the Whole Lotta Humbucker could well be a British Blues rockers ideal pickup.

Features:

Availible in either uncovered black bobbins, or nickel covers, the Whole Lotta Humbucker was based on a particular pickup Seymour rewound while residing in merry old England. With a name like ‘Whole Lotta Humbucker’ no ones getting first place for guessing which player’s ‘#1’ 59’ burst this pickup is from. If the name’s not enough, the fact that the company states the pickup is for ‘use in any Mahogany or warm-toned solid body guitar with a Rosewood fingerboard for the “original” sound.’ gives a pretty concrete impression of which Rock N’ Roll giant owned the original set. Wound with a plain enamel 42-gauge wire, while also featuring alnico V magnets, the bucker may seem to fit the generic vintage pickup mould. Add short legs, and well, you’ve got a P.A.F style pickup. However, when taking a look at the output of these little gems, you begin to see why they’re somewhat different. The bridge pickup reaches a hotter than vintage 8.78K whilst the neck humbuggie weighs in at a fat 8.2K. Furthermore, the alnico V magnets are rough cast in sand moulds, meaning each magnet is a little different in their own way. The switching applied to the original pickups is also available here, as four way conductors allow for an array of switching, such as out of phase switching and coil tapping.

Sounds:

For the review, the pickups were used in their ‘original’ format, by being run through the ever classic partnership of a Les Paul and a Marshall.

Clean:  Starting things off with a clean tone, the pickups respond extremely well to pick attack. They sound articulate and clear, with a slight natural compression to be both felt and heard. The neck bucker really does sound beautiful, with a clear chime and sheen. The bridge pickup on the other hand has a more pronounced tonality to it, with a touch more of a push. Really laying into the strings can give some nice natural break-up to the amp. Flicking the selector switch into the middle position provides the user with a fat singing quality, that’s gorgeous for both chord work and clean licks.  With the coils split, you’re given an almost Tele on steroids kind of sound, that is perfectly fitting for all the country licks you can summon. Phase inverting the pickups and flicking into the middle position yields an excellent out of phase sound that is more than suitable for adding flavour to jazz or funk work.

Dirty: When cranking the Marshall and getting things to heat up, these little rockers really do kick up a storm. The compression, articulation and clarity is all still there, but with more of a kick. The pickups are wound to just a degree that they give the amp a nice push, without hammering the front end into oblivion. You name a British player that used a Les Paul and a Marshall, and its here. Kossoff style vibrato sings with pounds of sustain, while in the middle position a sweet blues tone is easily achieved. The neck pickup is creamy and juicy, and has a thick bottom end to it. Rolling down the tone pots here really do drop you smack bang in the middle of Clapton land. However, one of the most prominent tones offered by the bucker is its namesake. Cranking up a Marshall and flicking to the bridge pickup will have you wanting to play the Heartbraker solo for hours. It really is the fat, snarling, sweet, singing Les Paul tone that can be found on those early hard rock albums. Zeppelin tribute bands should also rejoice, it seems their pickup messiah is here. Pushing the gain into a hot-rodded Marshall territory really doesn’t seem to phase the pickups either; one could quite easily get away with using them for metal. When coil tapped, the pickups have a strong singlecoil tone that is somewhat reminiscent of Beck’s early tones. When phase inverted and running through a hot amp, it would be criminal not to show off some licks in the style of Green or Moore. Though, what stands out above all else, is how balanced the pickups are. They have a certain ‘Mojo’ if you will. There’s something about them that really do just make more of whatever amp and guitar they’re paired with. Perhaps it’s because they don’t put too much focus on colouring your tone, as they refrain from accentuating any frequency range in particular. Or perhaps Mr.Duncan has found a way to enhance the love between the Les Paul and the Marshall (if that’s even possible!). Although to this reviewers ears, they just seem to enhance that Les Paul Marshall set-up. It’s like finding the perfect glue between the two, as these pickups bring out the best in each of them.

At a price of $225 per set, these pickups are relatively competitively priced. It’s not often that I genuinely find a piece of gear I struggle to find faults with, though this is certainly towards the top of that pile. The wide range of tones in it’s arsenal, not to mention the heritage of the pickup make it hard to beat for both British blues and hard rock fans alike. Although the buckers can cope with a decent metal sound, those that are inclined to spiked bracelets and extreme shaped guitars may want to look at pickups more specific to the genre. But for those that love their Les Pauls and Marshalls, and are looking for that little bit extra to enhance their tone, these are the way to go. Unfortunately the Violin bow is not included, but that does not stop these pickups from being a tremendously special set.

View the Whole Lotta Humbucker Pickups on Amazon

Tone vs. Feel – The Importance of a Good Setup

set up guitar for toneThis is a guest post by Luthier, Ed Sculthorpe @Birchway_Sound

For any group of guitar devotees locked in a discussion of tone, it seems inevitable that one of them will say, “Yes, but it’s all in the hands.” True enough, but what does that actually mean? Instruments are energy transfer devices. Any guitar player who’s practiced their picking technique knows that you can swell or contract the emotion ~ the feel ~ of a song by the way you hit the strings. Every player does this differently, which is why you still sound like you through another player’s rig. It may not be your ideal tone, but it won’t sound like the rig’s owner either. It’s your playing that differentiates you from others ~ because it’s all in the hands. It’s the way you transfer energy through that devise that defines your playing. Tone is the way your energy sounds, and how you make those sounds is how it feels. In essence, the term “all in the hands” is referring more to the feel and less to the tone. Instruments transfer energy physically, but tone is the medium used to transform from the physical to the sonic.

That’s why discerning players allow nothing to get in the way of tone. Therein lies the importance of proper care and setup to enable that energy to transfer as directly as possible through the contact points within the instrument. The nut, frets, fretboard, saddles, bridge, mounting plates and wiring need to be kept unobstructed of road gunk and finger fungus to allow your energy to resonate clearly. The action, intonation, neck adjustment and pickup height come next but contribute equally. What components are made out of is superficial when addressing the playability ~ the energy transfer quality ~ of the guitar. If an instrument is inspiring to play it matters not who made it, when it was made or what it’s made out of. There are countless options to tweak your tone, but you need to start with an instrument that is hard to put down without even plugging in.

To get your instrument there, finding a local professional luthier that you can work with is essential. It’s well worth it, and they will be a maven of knowledge on your quest for tone. For routine maintenance there are a number of household items you can keep in your case for use in between gigs:

1. Toothbrush – To keep the nut and saddles free of debris that would absorb moisture and solidify, dulling resonance.
2. Facecloth – To wipe down the strings and fretboard after use to
absorb moisture.
3. Some cosmetic wipes with five drops of lemon oil on them in a ziplock bag to clean the fretboard between restringing. The wipes are cheap and lint-free and lemon oil is the ideal wood cleaner/conditioner.
4. 600grit sandpaper – If you have a burr in the nut or a sitar effect from a saddle, this is better than graphite lube. A small folded piece will usually do the trick.

Joe Bonamassa: Getting the tone

joe bonnamassa guitar toneThis is a Guest Post by James Abel

Joe Bonamassa is arguably one of the hottest blues players currently on the planet. His virtuosic ability and soaring tone have seen him become a guitar hero to many generations of fans. This article takes a look at how to achieve his guitar tone by spending money like it’s going out of fashion, and for those wife fearing men that are kind to their wallets. But yes, suit and shades are optional.

Guitars

For those with some cash to spend, it’s worth trying to hunt down one of Joe’s signature model Les Pauls. These can generally be found on Ebay for anywhere between $1500 to $4000, depending on whether you purchase a studio or custom shop model; they also all feature the classic appointments found on a Les Paul. All of Joe’s signature models prior to 2013 featured Gibson’s Burstbucker pickups, whereas the most recent models have the Bluesman’s signature Seymour Duncan models. Both of these are great for getting that creamy and wide Bonamassa tone, but it has to be said that his signature set does possess a marginally clearer tone with more of a bell-like quality. So if you can find one of his Lesters from 2013 it’s worth the tears from the wallet and wife as you will find yourself a step closer to JoeBoe’s sound. For those that want the Bonamassa tone but don’t fancy a signature model due to the name on the headstock, or because gold’s not their colour, fitting new pickups on a Custom Shop model or USA model is worth a punt. A Les Paul without chambering is preferable as it will help to keep the sound dark and tight, much like Joe’s. If you do go down the route of pickup replacement, sourcing a set of Joe’s signature pickups can be both an expensive and difficult task due to the limited number available. Gibson’s Burstbuckers, as mentioned earlier, are perhaps a slightly better option as they cost a fraction of the price and are still pretty damn close to the mark. For getting close to Joe’s searing tones on a budget, it’s worth taking a look at replacing the pickups on an Epiphone Les Paul. Burstbuckers are the definite option here due to the extravagant price of the Seymour Duncan custom shop pickups.  Another option that’s worth a look at is Vintage’s V100MRJBM. At $599 it’s not too painful on the wallet and is essentially an unauthorised take on Joe’s signature models. Either way, both would be fine options when attempting to capture JoeBo’s tones at a low price.

Amps

Marshall DSL100s and Silver Jubilees are good options here. Although the latter proves harder to find, and is a lot less caring to your pocket, it’s a one way ticket to Bonamassaville and will give you the gorgeous bell-like, creamy, hot and sustaining tone Joe is known for. Joe’s also been known to heavily use DSL100s and so for a cheaper and more easily sourced alternative the DSL is a superb option. If you can afford both, then go for it. Combining the two really will get you close to Joe’s tone, it will also help to thicken the sound with the two amps support each other. Loading cabinets with EV200s, Joe’s speaker of choice, can also help put you in the Bonamassa ball park. Their ability to handle high power ratings will help give you that clarity his sound possesses. For those on a budget, look no further than Marshall’s new for 2013, DSL40C. The amp is the little brother to the DSL100 and provides all of the whopping tone in a practical and more affordable combo.

joe bonamassa rigFX and other bits

Joe’s main pedal board tends to consist of; a Dunlop Bonamassa Wah, Lehle ABY switcher, Way Huge Pork Loin, Dunlop Bonamassa Fuzz Face, TS808 Tubescreamer, Boss DD3 and a Hughes and Kettner Leslie simulator. If you really do have cash to splurge then cloning this pedal board should be no issue, as each pedal can easily be purchased. However, if you’re on a budget then the essential tools for Joe’s tone are a Tubescreamer, a Wah and a Fuzzface as he is generally never seen leaving home without these. Dunlop produces cheaper alternatives to Joe’s signature gear such as a standard Wah or the pedal board friendly mini germanium Fuzzface, which will see you shelling out $100 and $150 respectively. Finding a Tubescreamer for a good price is far from difficult as the little green gems can go for as little as $75 on Ebay. If you’re on an even tighter budget, and are after a Bonamassa in a box, the Way Huge Pork Loin is the best option. Weighing in at a reasonable $199 it produces ounces of the creamy, soft top end that is recognised in Joe’s sound. Another way of getting the Bonamassa sound is changing your pick. Joe’s pick of choice is the Dunlop Jazz III which is also favoured by, that’s right you guessed it, Eric Johnson. Yep, go figure! Nevertheless using this pick is a quick way of reducing some of the top end in your sound, a tonal feature that is synonymous with Joe and is also a cheap and cheerful way of getting closer to his sound. If you own a Les Paul wrapping the strings over the end of the stop-bar, as well as installing nylon saddles at the bridge can also get you closer to Joe’s tone. The modifications reduce the angle and tension on the strings causing them to sound somewhat darker and softer, they also help to get that juicy sustain that oozes from Bonamassa’s axes.

Hopefully it’s easy to see that Joe’s sounds can be achieved regardless of the size of your wallet. Whether you want an identical rig, or a cheaper one that gets you pretty darn close, Joe’s sound is available in many shapes and sizes.

Resophonic Tone – A History of Resonator Guitars

resonator guitar toneA Guest Post by Al @resoguitar

The resophonic, or resonator guitar, has a distinct tone that sets it apart from other acoustic and electric guitars. It was born in the Jazz Age of the roaring 20’s, an era prior to the invention of the first electric guitar, as a means of mechanically amplifying the sound to be heard above an orchestra. The man behind the invention was a Slovak-American craftsman, inventor and musician named John Dopyera who later went on to found the Dobro guitar company. The word “Dobro” has become synonymous with resonator guitars much in the way that “Xerox” has with photocopy machines. When someone says “Dobro” the picture that immediately springs to mind is an acoustic guitar with a shiny hubcap-like object in the middle where the soundhole usually resides.

Actually, there are at least three distinct flavors of reso-guitars, each with its own unique sound. Mr. Dopyera’s original guitar was a tri-cone model consisting of 3 small aluminum cones, about 6 inches in diameter, resting on a mechanical bridge that transferred the vibrations of the strings to the cones. The cones act as speakers, amplifying the sound without the need for electricity. The tone is balanced, the sustain is good and the volume is LOUD! It is a marriage of form, sound and functionality. The unusual design of the body, made of German Silver alloy with art deco lines, was unlike any guitar before or since. The list of notable guitarists who play a tri-cone is long, but guitar wizard Bob Brozman is at the top. Mr Brozman deserves a lot of credit for the resurgence of these wonderful instruments today and his mastery of the instrument is second to none.

Tri-cones are a joy to hear, see and play. Mr. Dopeyera considered it his greatest invention. It was marketed under the National Guitar brand and became quite popular among Hawaiian guitarists. Hawaiian music was all the rage during that time and the National Tri-cone quickly rose to prominence and popularity. It is still the flagship instrument of the new National Guitar Company, who make faithful reproductions of the original Nationals along with new and exciting designs of their own.

As the world sank into the Great Depression of the 1930’s the tri-cone suddenly was too expensive for most musicians to afford. John Dopyera created a second model that was less expensive to produce, but every bit as loud as his original. This was the single cone model, sometimes referred to as a “biscuit cone” because of the round wooden disc that sits atop a larger, single convex cone. This model became the choice instrument for the traveling Bluesmen of that era because of their incredible volume and rugged metal bodies. The metal body of National Guitar could even be used to fend off a hostile crowd in a juke joint in a pinch. Their sound is different from the Tri-cones with a sharper attack and less sustain. Johnny Winter, the great modern American Bluesman, once described it as nasty, like a metal garbage can with a wire attached to it. Not a very flattering but still fairly

accurate analogy. It’s the sound we associate with Country Blues Giants like Son House and Bukka White. In more recent times you might have noticed Mark Knoffler’s National Guitar gracing the cover of Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms” album.

Shortly after Mr. Dopyera perfected his single cone resonator he ended his business partnership with National Guitar and started his own company. Since he didn’t own the patents for his original designs, he set about creating yet a third model of resonator guitar that became known as the spider cone. This is a concave aluminum cone with a metal alloy bridge riding over it that resembles a spider’s web. The spider’s sound is characterized by clear, loud tones and good sustain. Dobro guitars can be found in both wooden and metal style bodies. The choice of materials influences the tone of the instrument. The Dobro is commonly associated with Bluegrass or Country Music and it’s often played lapstyle with a metal bar instead of the bottleneck that traditional Bluesmen often use. In the hands of a musical genius like Jerry Douglas the sky is the limit. Mr. Douglas and some of his peers, like Rob Ikes, have taken the sound of the reso-guitar to new places and they continue to push those boundaries today.

There are three main types of resophonic guitars; the tri-cone, biscuit and spider. The bodies can be made of metal, wood or even fiberglass in some cases. The necks can be round (like most guitars) for chording and playing bottleneck style or square with the strings sitting high off the fretboard for lapstyle playing. All of these factors will have an effect on the tone of the instrument, along with the quality of the materials and the care and craftsmanship that goes into building it. There are no rules when it comes to selecting a certain model of resonator for a particular style of music. It’s up to the individual to find the tone that’s right for them. If you’re having a difficult time deciding, you can always own more than one reso-guitar. Please exercise caution, as they can be habit forming and I’m not aware of any 12-step programs that can assist with your recovery. Cheers!

Best Octavia Clones on the Market

From the time Jimi Hendrix used the octavia pedal on ‘Purple Haze’, there was something magical about the sound that he achieved with it. Of course we are talking about Jimi here, so he is always going to sound magical. But through the use of this pedal, he was able to reach new levels with his sound. Today, pedal makers are trying to recreate that sound with their own octave pedal. This article will focus on the best octavia clones available today.

Roger Mayer OctaviaRoger Mayer Octavia

If it is the Hendrix tone you are after, Roger Mayer is a good choice as he was there in the ’60s with Hendrix making pedals for him such as the axis fuzz. While this pedal can get that classic octavia sound from yesteryear, it is important to note that it is a very picky pedal. For one, it need a lot of push to get going, preferably from a fuzz pedal. Also a lead amp helps avoid it sounding thin. A good setting for the Roger Mayer Octavia is to set the drive to just a hair from being off, and the volume to taste. Going any higher than this will make the octave effect less noticeable.

Chicago Iron Octavian

While expensive, the Chicago Iron Octavian is probably the most faithful chicago iron octaviarecreation of the tycobrahe original. What makes this pedal great is that it works well with most setups. While some octave pedals will sound thin, the Chicago Iron always has a nice full sound that really gets the searing lead tone. If you have the dough and are looking to go the boutique route, this is your best bet.

FoxRox Electronic Octron

foxrox octronNot exactly a recreation of the classic octavia since you can also go an octave down, but can still do the octave up in spades. If you want the classic sound, but with versatility to do more, the Octron is a great sounding pedal from an excellent pedal maker.

Well there you have it.. These are our three favorite octavia clones. What is your favorite?

How to get a Good Live Sound

A Guide for Guitarists to Sound Good in a Live Setting

Guest Post by Guitarist, Jason Rooney

Live Guitar ToneA live gig can sometimes be a chaotic environment. Cramped spaces, gear and cables everywhere, nervousness, tensions between band mates, promoters, sound men, just to name a few possible distractions. There are enough variables to cause headaches and keep every musician from what I feel is the ultimate goal: Making the best musical and artistic expression you can. I’ll do my best in this article to offer some tips that have made my live playing experiences a little less hectic for me and have allowed me to focus more on my own musical expressions.

It is important to remember that all instruments should share the sonic space and not fight for it. I find this especially evident in the case of the electric guitar. One of the biggest struggles for some guitarists is how to fit it – tonally. Most great players have no problem filling in a solid rhythm or lick here and there, or even pulling out all the stops with mind blowing solos, but if that all gets lost in the mix of everything going on, those efforts and musicianship can often go unnoticed. Finding a sonic balance can be challenging and often perplexing. It seems that many guitarists have the tone they want in their head, and when they dial it in and play, it can sound muddy or even like somebody has driven ice picks into your ears. Everybody has their preferences and opinions of tone, and that is one thing I love about the guitar, but everybody should take some time to clear up their tone. This means, finding where the voice of your guitar blends well with the other instruments for the type of music you’re playing, as well as the room you’re playing in. See how the bass of your instrument blends with the bass guitar. Is it too boomy, or is it tight and pronounced? Are you struggling in the same space with keyboards or horns? I know a lot of us like to feel what we’re playing too, but that can get muddy quick. Don’t get caught in what I like to call the treble trap. I’ve heard a lot of players, particularly those who favor large amounts of distortion, who tend to go overboard with the high end, often sounding like a nasally buzz saw with no note clarity. I feel that the guitar really sings in the midrange, with a good balance of high and low on either side.

RELATED: EQing your Guitar Amp

Having the best equipment you can afford and keeping it well maintained is almost a requirement, especially in the live gig or touring world where gear certainly can receive a beating. Let’s start by looking at the signal path as a whole starting with your instrument. A guitar that is comfortable to play and has been intonated and tuned properly can save a lot of time tuning between songs, or even worse, in the middle of a song. Having the freshest strings you can help you start with a good crisp and clear sound that will articulate better into the pickups, through your guitar, and on to your cables. For cables, many folks have brands they stick to, but I’ll recommend something that is durable on the stage, has little to no “hiss” and that are shielded well to resist as much outside interference from other electronics, radio frequencies, etc.  Again, there can be a lot of chaos going on around you, so protect that signal and send it clearly on its way to the next stop in the chain.

When it comes to the pedal board, if you are a player who uses effects, this is where things can get very muddy. My “quality cable rule” definitely applies to pedalboards. Don’t skimp on patch cables. Get the best you can afford, because remember they are part of the chain too. Be sure your pedals have adequate power. Low batteries can suck your tone, especially in digital effects. There are some cases where a dying battery, or voltage sag, can give some distortions or fuzzes some cool qualities, but I digress. Beware of power transformers or wall warts that hum. A good regulated power supply is recommended here. It’s also a good idea to be sure that your power supply is going to handle all the pedals you plan to power with it. Most power supplies with have an output rating listed in MV, and your pedals should have an indication on the power they will need to operate properly. Then there is the argument for True Bypass. The area of input signal bypass can be a bit subjective, but I say, if there are any pedals that are making an obvious dent in your tone, replace it or get a bypass loop. Also another topic for a different article. Now, send that effected signal out to your amplifier of choice with another cable of good quality.

Last stop, the amp. It may not always be possible, but I recommend pulling your power from a dedicated circuit into some sort of power conditioner. This will allow you to have the cleanest source of power possible that can be monitored, and one that is also resistant to any other instrument pulling current from you when you most need it. A clean, strong power source will also ensure that your amp can operate at its fullest potential without any extra unwanted interference. Again, having a well maintained amp will help you be clear and powerful.

A little extra preparedness will always pay off. Having spare cables, strings, picks, tubes, extension chords, batteries, just to name a few, have saved me many times. The live gig is an unpredictable environment where Murphy’s law reigns supreme, but if you have a backup plan, no worries!

Live tone can be tricky and is certainly a matter of personal taste, but if you have durable gear you can trust, the cleanest signal path possible, and backup for any possible situation, you can put your mind at ease and let your ears guide you sonic dominance.