A couple of weeks ago I broke down and ordered some guitar pedals. The idea was to create a selection of pedals I could use both with my amp and running directly into a mixer for playing at our church and/or for recording (been doing some writing again lately).
I haven't spent extensive time fiddling with each one on its own, but I have been playing a lot with them as a unit. What follows are my initial thoughts and the reasons I chose the ones I did. My default choices were going to be Boss pedals, because they're a good industry standard, and they make solid stuff. I stuck to that default sometimes; other times, I didn't.
Going in order of my effects chain, the first pedal is overdrive - specifically, the Boss OD-3.
I suppose the main question to answer is "why the OD-3 over the SD-1, which is about half the price?". I did debate this quite a bit, but after watching several comparison videos on youtube and reading reviews, it seemed that the OD-3 was reputed to be a bit clearer, warmer, and less harsh - and I wanted "overdrive", not "super overdrive". There's also a little of "you tend to get what you pay for" in my thinking.
I don't have any personal experience with the SD-1, but the OD-3 sounds great. It gives a nice, warm, blues or classic-rock style overdrive crunch to the signal on its own, and if I run it into my distortion pedal or drive channel on my amp, I get a really nice, jagged, high-gain metallic distortion. It's just what I wanted from overdrive.
This was the pedal that I agonized over the most. There are a lot of different distortion sounds, and they all have different characters. My original plan was to go with the good ol' DS-1. It's a well respected pedal, and it's cheap - and I still might pick that one up - but I really wanted something versatile.
In a couple of distortion pedal lists and videos, I found the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal - and I really liked the sound of it. This one has two different distortion circuits, the sounds of which you can use seperately, blend together, or even run one into the other (I do think it would have been cool if they would have made the blend/series switch a footswitch). It's not a super-high-gain pedal (their Full Moon Distorition is more aimed that way), but you can get a pretty wide range of drive from using only channel A with just a little gain, to a pretty heavy sound running channel A into B with both gains cranked. Add my Overdrive onto the front end, and you can get some pretty wicked gain (albiet a bit noisily) as mentioned above. The Fender tone also does a bit to mitigate the midrange exaggeration of my SG+amp combo (which I've mentioned before).
The Fender pedals are solidly built, look great, and I have to admit, I loved the name of this one. "Pugilist" as the name of a drive pedal is pretty awesome.
Next up is the compressor. Once agan, I initially figured on picking up the Boss CS-3, but read several articles sayng it was a bit noisy. I know there is some misconception with compressors and noise, but I saw this concern often enough that it affected my choice. Since I'd already gone with one Fender pedal, I decided to take a look at their compressor, The Bends.
This was another pedal with a good look and a cool name, but that wasn't going to sell me on its own. The reviews on this compressor were very positive though, and a couple even commented that this particular compressor was quiet and subtle. Compression is one of those effects where, if you're doing it right, you don't really notice it - so this sounded good to me.
The controls on The Bends are a little different from those on the CS-3 and more "standard" compressors, but ultimately they do the same thing and give you a fair amount of control (moreso than the much-loved MXR Dyna Comp, which has one knob for "compression"). Also, I like the feature where the jewel LED on top of it actually changes color to show when/how the compressor is affecting the signal. I tend to leave this on all the time, but its effects are most noticeable when playing clean - tightening up the dynamics and giving a little boost to sustain.
So then there's the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble. This pedal is different from the others in that I've had it for about 20 years. It's probably not one I'd pick out these days, but I got a lot of use out of it in the past - and I have it, so I threw it in. It performs its chorus functon well, but it's not an effect I use super often - and when I do, it's usually fairly subtle. I think these days, if I was going to pick up a modulation pedal, I'd probably look at a flanger or phase shifter. Like many modulation pedals, it will take you all the way from "barely noticeable" up through "unusably bizarre".
The biggest reason I wanted a reverb pedal was for amp-less playing. My amp has a decent spring reverb built in, and I'm not super picky about my reverb sound - I just know I don't like the sound of an electric guitar without a good dose of it.
For whatever reason, reverb pedals tend to be some of the more expensive effects. I went ahead with the Boss RV-6 on this one, as it was well-liked and seemed to have a decent selection of reverb types/effects. I also liked the fact that it has a +delay mode to play around with without buying a dedicated delay pedal. Whle I may not be picky, I have enjoyed playing with what this pedal can do - and it's reverb is quite a bit juicier than what's in my amp - so it's usually always on.
It sounds good. Like I said, I'm not super picky on reverb in particular.
Last in the chain is the MXR 10-band EQ pedal, which I've talked a little about before - it's good for guitar and bass, and it has +/- sliders for volume and gain. It does a good job of taming my amp in a couple of ways, and it should give me more control over my tone for direct inputs.
So that's about it. I'm pretty happy with this setup. Nothing super fancy, but it gives me a solid sound and some versatility. If I get good mileage out of this stuff I might eventually pick up other toys - perhaps wah, volume, phaser, delay, some more drive pedals - but most of that stuff is all secondary at best.
So a month or two ago someone at our church was talking about needing more musicians. This actually surprised me a bit, as I know we have a lot of talented people. Talking to our worship minister, turns out they have a lot of people that can play, but he's only got a few for any given instrument. By the time you add in scheduling conflicts, he's apparently had some trouble filling all the roles every week. Playing music is fun, and I like to help out, so I told him I could fill in on guitar (lead/rhythm), bass, or drums as necessary.
And I thought, yeah, I miss playing.
Getting the Axe
After that conversation, it occurred to me that it had been some time since I'd even played my SG. Sadly, it and my amp had been in the basement for a year or two - mostly because there isn't an "out of the way" place for them to live. Playing again sounded like fun, so I brought it in and set it up in a corner of the living room. It's not "out of the way", but the biggest problems are keeping the 3yo away from the knobs, and competing with the TV for audio time.
Anyway, the first thing was to change the strings and clean up the fretboard. The second things was a bit less expected: re-solder the input jacks on my amp. They'd been finicky for some time, but apparently they finally snapped - quite literally. The old solder had given out from years of stress and the jacks had simply popped off the circuit board. Luckily, it was about the easiest possible thing to solder, and thus within my meager capabilities.
Since then, I've been playing quite a bit - trying to squeeze in an hour or so most days. I've been working a lot on my fingering, alternate picking, and generally expanding my repertoire of techniques. I've been going through spotify playlists picking out riffs that sound like fun, and then learning how to play them. I haven't tried anythng objectively difficult, but I'm pretty pleased with how I've been able to take something truly challenging for me that I've never attempted before and then be able to play it fairly proficiently after just a little practice. I think I've reached a point now where I'm actually a little better than I was back in college when I was playing a lot more.
So I play through an old Peavey Special 212 Transtube amp I got in the late 90's when my highschool band outgrew my little Fender practice amp. When I got it, I was playing a fender Duo-Sonic my parents got me after I'd been playing for a while (still one of my most memorable Christmas presents). It's still a great amp, but Peavey's favoring of the midrange combined with the darker tone of my SG's humbuckers means that, while you get really fat lead sounds from it, you can't get a rhythm tone that isn't 5-year-old-puddle-jumper-level muddy. After a couple weeks playing on it, I decided I needed to tweak that - and I ordered MXR's 10-band eq pedal.
I (obsessively) looked at a number of eq pedals before landing on this one. The big reasons I decided on this one were that it offers an eq range that's useful for guitar and bass, and that it has a 'gain' slider as well as a simple 'volume'. I figured that bumping the gain would be good for my passive instruments when doing direct-inputs, and I've found that pulling the gain all the way down (when running it post-preamp) quiets the hiss of my amp and enables me to turn the volume and post-gains on my amp up further than "1" (the other thing about my amp is that it's 200 watts - which is great if you're on an outdoor stage, and not-so-great if you're in your small house with sleeping children). I've been pretty happy with it so far.
I'm now looking to expand my pedal selection a bit more - if only so that if I end up playing at my church, I don't have to lug my amp (the other other thing about this amp is that it is unnecessarily heavy). Think I'm going to pick up a distortion pedal, a compressor, and a reverb to start. After (also obsessively) looking at a lot of the options, I've got my eye on some Boss models. They seem to be a solid mix of quality + value, they're well-reviewed, and I know Boss makes good stuff.
I was never really "a drummer" - Justin always took care of that. But I have always loved to play drums. I think it's the energy in feeling the music that comes with it. When my brother started playing, I developed a habit of playing his drums pretty often, teaching myself the basics and developing that particular kind of coordination. Actually, I think it made me a better musician overall.
Since then, I've played drums in a few ad-hoc music groups - usually praise bands at camps/churches/whatever. Basically, wherever someone was just needed. I don't know that I would pass too many auditions, but I can keep a beat and I play well enough on simple stuff to get by. I'm the percussive equivalent of that guitar player who only plays straight rhythms with with open fingerings - I'll get it done, but it's usually nothing special.
That's not to say I'm satisfied with my meager skill level. I'd love to practice more, but I don't have a kit of my own, so I'm kind of stuck here for now.
So last week I was asked to play drums for service this sunday. We had a rehearsal last night, which went fairly well. I've been deemed passable - which I consider a success if only because the guy playing percussion is a good drummer, and he said he didn't hear any big issues with my playing. Still, the once-through rehersal was not enough for someone like me who likes to be over-prepared. I've been told we'll go through everything "for real" on sunday morning. Meanwhile, I'm scrambling to make recognizable notes on what I was doing that worked vs. what didn't. As the new guy, it's maybe 1/4 the rehearsal time I'd like, but it's been a ton of fun.
Until yesterday, I actually hadn't played drums in at least a few years. Just haven't had the opportunity. Knowing this, I made arrangements to get to the church a couple of hours early to warm up, break off some rust, and generally have a blast rocking out. I played for about 2 hours straight, soaked myself pretty good with sweat, and made my shoulders sore. If I end up doing this regularly, I think I'm going to need to get a kit. Or make arrangements to be at the church...often.
Yesterday was the first time since playing my brother's that I got to sit down, undisturbed, and really get comfortable with a kit. I have to say, that by itself was awesome. The difference between then and now, however, is that this kit is electronic.
Like a lot of actual drummers, I prefer the feel of an acoustic kit. Unlike others, I do like the tighter sound of the electronic kits (maybe I just haven't played a really good acoustic), and the fact that I can, in a church, hit drums hard and not have to worry about being uncontrollably loud is fantastic. The "gentler" I have to play, the worse I am - or, at least, the less I can pull off.
The church's electronic kit is pretty decent. As you can see from the photo, it's a Roland kit, and it uses the TD9 module which is solid enough. I actually read the owners manual ahead of time so I was able to program the sounds I wanted into my own kit on the thing (piccolo snare is a must). The drum pads have all-mesh heads, and the response feels good. The cymbals are decent to play on, if nothing particularly amazing. The hats are really my only complaint. They're not the worst I've played on, but like most of them, the trigger is "lazy" in that letting up on the foot controller after hitting the pad doesn't change the sound. This is my continual pet peeve on electronic hats. I do know that Roland makes a hat trigger system that mounts on an actual hi-hat stand that doesn't have this annoying behavior - I've just only got to play on one for like 10 minutes at a Guitar Center.
All this has brought my songwriting back onto the radar. Other than recording a dozen or so chord progressions as voice notes on my phone, I haven't done much with it yet - but if the musical momentum continues, I'm hoping to be able to channel it there.
|Wednesday August 5, 2009 at 12:58pm||trips, in, family, memorials, storms, gaming, music, guitar, music equipment, band, lots of tags||Comments (1) »|
As some have commented, not too many knew we ever left. Probably because it was the sort of trip that was difficult to be real "excited" (and therefore talk much) about.
Last friday Sheri and I headed up to IN. The main reason for the trip was to go to the memorial service for her grandmother, who passed away back in april. As you might expect, it was a nice, if somewhat sad, time.
We spent some time with some of sheri's dad's family - for the first time, really. Stanley and Bonnie were hosting us as well as sheri's parents for the weekend. They were really nice and fun to chat with and we ended up talking with them for quite a while after her parents left on monday.
We also got to meet Ben's fiance. She seems nice, if quite shy. It was kind of a shame we didn't get more of a chance to hang out.
We also stopped in on my parents for about a day, which was great. We played some games and talked and generally had a good time.
While we were there, a rather significant storm system came through tuesday morning that resulted in flooding, power loss and downed trees. the downed trees resulted in a bit of a wet adventure as we tried to make it back to their house from lunch.
And, as I try to do each time I go to IN, I had Noble Roman's pizza and breadsticks. Tasty.
I put a few pictures from the trip up in the Gallery - mostly pictures of scenery and small children.
On some other stuff:
About a week ago we had the 3rd session for Little Fears (session synopsis on the gaming page soon). It went so-so. It was a little slow and certain elements didn't manifest quite the way I'd hoped, but it was alright. Hopefully next session will be a little more satisfying.
Last thursday we (me, robb, josh & bill) had our second band practice. Improvement from the previous session was 100%, not that that first practice wasn't great. That was the most fun I've had playing guitar in 5 years or more. :) Right now we're just doing cover songs, but we've talked briefly about maybe trying to write some stuff. We've also talked about possibly playing some small local shows once we get good and solid. We're planning to get together tomorrow for more fun. On a related note, I should be getting an eq to run my amp through soon.
I've had a few things going on the last couple of weeks, but not much worthy of recording or reporting.
About a week ago we took the Gamers II movie over to Rucht & McKenna's house so they could see it, and Tony joined us as well. It was a good time. I think McKenna was laughing so hard she was crying. (aside: If you're a roleplayer, you should really see the Dead Gentlemen's movies 'The Gamers' and 'The Gamers II: Dorkness Rising'.)
Last saturday we went over to Robb & Edie's to hang out for a while. Robb, Josh and I hung out on the porch playing guitar while Robb was starting one of his brewing projects. At some point we got to talking about going to Josh's house to play with his dad, Bill, who is a drummer, so on sunday we met up at Bill's place and jammed hard for a few hours. That was a lot of fun. I've played with Robb a bit and with Josh once and we'd never played with Bill. For our first time getting together, we sounded great. I really don't think it will take much work for us to sound quite good. *With* a lot of work, I think we could sound pretty awesome. We're trying to make plans to get together again soon.
I've been working on my Mouse Guard campaign quite a bit. We finally got to get together to make characters last night. We didn't have time to really get started on the game itself, but we had fun and I think the players have come up with some really cool ideas. I really like how character creation works in this system. Hopefully we'll get to actually start the game soon, but, unfortunately, it probably won't be for a couple of weeks.
In other news, we *still* need to get out and ride our bikes. It seems like something always comes up whenever we think we might try to go out.