Category Archives for "Music"

2 Schools Of Thought On Guitar Pedal Order For Better Sound

effects order 1I was asked by a guitar player recently why his tone wasn’t what he wanted, and the first thing that got my attention was the maze of stomp boxes he was using. Although that wasn’t the only problem with his rig, it was a good place to start, since everything was connected more or less haphazardly. Here’s some info on guitar pedal order taken from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with the great player/composer/writer Rich Tozzoli), that can help you get a handle on your processors.

“There are two things that will directly affect how your effects interface with your amp; the pedal order and gain staging. Effects order means the order that each pedal appears in the the signal chain between the guitar and amplifier. There are several schools of thought on effects order, and they each have a different result.

School Of Thought #1

This effects chain is the order generally recommended by most of the pedal gurus. There are several rules that make up this order:

  • Any distortion pedal must come first right after the guitar. The exception is if you’re using a compressor pedal, which will be first in the chain. Do not put a volume pedal first, as this can alter the way a compressor or distortion pedal sounds.
  • Any modulation or tone devices like wahs should come next. This enables you to keep the sustain coming from your distortion or overdrive devices and alter an already harmonically rich signal.
  • Delays come almost last in the chain, since you want to be delaying your already effected signal.
  • A volume pedal comes either last in the chain, or directly in front of any delay.
  • In situations where a pedal is providing a lot of clean gain, that will come last in the chain so as not to overload any of the other pedals.

So a typical pedal order might go something like:

compressor distortion → wah → chorus → delay → volume pedal (see the graphic on the left)

While this might not be the quietest order, it does sound really good because any distortion, overdrive, or sustain is being affected by the effects that come behind it.

School Of Thought #2

If we’re talking about recording, we may want the least amount of noise going into the amp. With that in mind, there are two rules in this scenario:

  • The noisiest pedal goes last in the chain before the amp.
  • The one with the most gain goes last before the amp.

The reason for both of the above points is simple; if the noisiest pedal is first in the chain, that noise will be affected and amplified further by every other pedal in the chain that you switch on. Same with the pedal with the most gain; if it’s at the beginning of the chain, it could possibly overload any other effect that comes after it, since most pedals only want to see a typical guitar signal and nothing greater (see Figure 4). Also, any noise caused by increasing the gain on a pedal will be amplified downstream by any other pedal switched on.

Generally, you’ll try to keep the basic order as in School of Thought #1 in order to be sure that any distortion or sustain is affected by the effects placed later in the chain. That being said, this order won’t sound the same as Order #2, especially if a distortion pedal is placed last in the chain (which isn’t recommended) because of its gain, so it might not be for everyone.

If you follow the above suggestions, you’ll find that your signal chain should clean up quite a bit and your recordings should benefit greatly as a result.”

You can read more from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

January 5, 2017

6 Ways To Spot A Fake Fender Stratocaster

Fake StratocasterThe Fender Stratocaster is the most popular guitar in the world, and because of that, there are a lot of imitations out there. That’s not a problem as we can decided quickly whether we’d rather have the imitation instead of the real deal. The problem comes with the many fake Strats that are available.

What do I mean by fake? The guitar looks like a Strat, and says it’s a Strat, but its a cheap knock-off that will cost you too much money for what you’re getting. In other words, you might be paying $1,000 or more for a guitar that’s worth a couple of hundred at most.

So how do you know how to spot a fake? The following video by Kennis Russell shows you how. In brief, there are 6 ways:

1. The logo decal

2. The bridge

3. The frets

4. The nut

5. The truss rod

6. The string tree

There’s really no one thing that will tell you the Stratocaster is a fake. It’s the combination of the above that will alert you. Check out the video for more details.

December 15, 2016

10 Cool Christmas Gifts For Musicians And Engineers 2016

We could all use a little bit of shopping help when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the people around us in the music and recording business. If you’re in a quandary about what to buy, you’re in luck as I have a list of recommendations that covers a wide variety of items and price ranges. All of these following products I use regularly.

earpeace1. EarPeace Hearing Protectors  I personally never go into a loud audio situation without these little gems. They are soooo much better than foam or wax earplugs in that they cut the level down without affecting the frequency response, plus you get an extra one with each pair! Since I found these EarPeaces, I feel absolutely naked and scared when I don’t have them on me. At less than $20, you just can’t go wrong.

Equator D5 monitors2. Equator D5 Monitors
Want to know my secret weapon when it comes to mixing? It’s these little Equator coaxial monitors. I’ve used them on every mix for the last 3 years and all I can say is they’re the best small monitor (5 inch woofer) I’ve ever used. You just can’t find a better pair of speakers at this price point ($449) anywhere. Get the matching isolation pads too, an absolute bargain at $20!

 

blocklite3. Blocklite  This goes under the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Blocklite is a simple LED add-on to any 9 volt battery that turns it into a flashlight that’s perfect for checking all those dark spaces during a session or show. Cheap too at only $19.95 for a package of 3 including the batteries!

 

Radial JDI direct box4. Radial JDI Direct Box
This is the best DI on the market, period. It’s built like a tank and will last forever, and captures the low end that those cheap DI’s could only dream about. You need at least one of these. At $199, it’s still a bargain and you will hear the difference immediately.

 

Monoprice 8323 headphones5. Monoprice 8323 Headphones  It’s shocking how good these phones are for $28. They’re pretty comfortable, have a really tight fit, and provide a surprisingly balanced sound. In fact, I would trust the low end on the 8323’s more than on a couple alternatives that I have that cost 4 or 5 times more. Don’t let the “DJ-style” in the description scare you, these are terrific for the price.

music-producers-handbook-2e-cover6. Books by Bobby Owsinski
Okay, so I’m a little biased, but if you’re looking for a book for someone in the music business, you’ll hopefully find one of mine that will hit the sweet spot. There’s something for everyone, including books on mixingrecordingrecording drumsmastering, being a studio musician or a touring musicianimproving your bandproducing, navigating the new music businesssocial media for musiciansstudio buildingguitar tone, and making videos. From about $16 to $30.

Golden Age Pre 73 MK37. Golden Age Project Pre-73 Mic Preamp 
Everybody wants a Neve preamp but a lot of us can’t spring for a couple of channels of 1073s. The Golden Age Project Pre73 was built to sound a lot like the 1073 and it does a pretty good job of it (and the latest MK III version is even better). It’s not the real thing, but for only $379 it’s surprising how close it gets. If that’s too expensive, get the Pre73 JR version for only $249. The Pre73 is what I use for my podcast voice.

lynda.com8. Lynda.com Online Training Tutorials  If you don’t know about Lynda.com then you really should. They’re the #1 portal on the Internet for video learning, with over 3800 high-quality courses on just about any kind of tech you can think of. While you’re there, check out the courses I’ve done for Lynda. Lynda is just $24.99 for a full month, which allows you to access as many courses as you can watch. Here’s a free 7 day trial.

Warm Audio WA769. Warm Audio WA76 Compressor/Limiter
I happen to think that the 1176 was the best compressor/limiter ever invented, since it works on just about any source and even does things that no other compressor on the market can do. A vintage 1176 (or even a new UA model) will set you back a bundle, but you can get so close you might not tell the difference with the Warm Audio’s WA-76. I liked it so much I bought 3. An absolute steal at $599. Also check out their great API-style WA12 mic preamp as well (I own a couple of those too).

snark-sn1-tuner10. Snark SN-1 Guitar Tuner  We’ve all gotten used to using software guitar tuners, but when you want to tune as fast as possible, this is the best tuner I’ve found. It clips right onto the guitar so you don’t even have to plug it in, and it even has a built-in metronome. At $9.95 each, it’s unbeatable.

Why Do Guitar Amp Speakers Sound So Different?

Guitar SpeakerMost guitar players are blissfully unaware of the details of the speakers they’re playing through. Sure, they may know what size the speakers are and how many are in the cabinet, but other than that, they have no idea about how much of an effect the make of the speaker can have on the sound. Here’s a brief excerpt from The Ultimate Guitar Tone Handbook (written with Rich Tozzoli) that explains why they sound the way they do.

“Size

The size of a speaker has a great deal to do with the way it sounds. As you’ve probably noticed, an 8 inch sounds different than a 10 inch, which sounds different from a 12 inch, which sounds different from a 15 inch speaker. The reason is simple physics; the larger the cone, the more energy it takes to get it moving so the high end and the attack time won’t be as good as a speaker that’s smaller. Conversely, a smaller speaker has poorer low frequency response because it has less cone area to move air.

As a result, you’ll notice that an 8 inch speaker won’t have nearly as much bottom end as a 15 inch speaker, and the 15 with have quite the top end of a 10 inch speaker. That’s why 12 inch speakers are mostly used for guitar rigs; they’re a nice compromise between the two.

Number Of Speakers

That being said, the number of speakers in a cabinet can also have an affect on both the volume level and the low end. The more speakers that acoustically couple together, the more effective cone mass you have. As a result, a cabinet with two 12 inch speakers  gives you 24 inches of cone mass while a a cabinet with four 10’s (like Fender’s original Bassman) gives you 40 inches. Of course, other factors like resonant frequency are involved, but this is a simple way to look at it.

Speaker Wattage

Contrary to what you might think, lower wattage speakers usually sound better than high-wattage ones. High-wattage speakers have heavier cones and surrounds that change the response of the speaker and therefore the tone. Because the cone is heavier, it slower to move when a signal is applied so the high frequency response isn’t as good as one with a thinner cone.

Other things that change in a higher wattage speaker is the diameter of the voice coil and the type of wire used for it are usually larger, which again changes the speaker’s response. A heavier magnet is also required because the voice coil is a bit heavier to move.

As a result, what you have is a speaker that’s harder to blow up, but also one that has a different frequency response and doesn’t break up as easily, which may be an important trait of your sound.

Magnet Structure

There are three different types of materials used in speaker magnets, Alnico, Ceramic, and Neodymium, with each material having a distinctly different effect on the tonal characteristics of the speaker.

  • Alnico, an alloy of aluminum, nickel and cobalt, is the magnetic material used in the original speakers in all the vintage amps. It produces a classic tone that’s warmer and sweeter at lower volumes that many players feel reacts faster to the touch. Alnico was used for decades because of its strong magnetic field, but once the alloy became a bit pricey, many manufacturers opted for speakers with the less expensive ceramic magnets.
  • Ceramic magnets were developed as an inexpensive alternative to Alnico and have the advantage of being more versatile with a wider range of tones. Speakers with ceramic magnets tend to weigh more, but generally handle more power and sound better at high volumes. 
  • Neodymium is the latest development in speaker magnet material. It’s not as expensive as Alnico but costs a bit more than ceramic magnet speakers. It has the advantages of both weighing about 50% less than other speakers and having stronger magnetic properties. Speakers made from neodymium respond to a player’s touch similar to Alnicos and have a well balanced frequency response.”
November 29, 2016

7 Ways Electric Guitar Manufacturers Save Money (And Make You Pay More)

electric guitar manufacturersElectric guitar manufacturing has come a long way since the early days of guitar-crazed 60s. Back then, if you didn’t buy a brand name at a premium price, chances are that you were getting an instrument that was difficult to play and only a few steps beyond wood plank. Today’s precision manufacturing has changed all of that, and it’s surprising how good sounding and playable even the most inexpensive guitar can be. That doesn’t mean that electric guitar manufacturers haven’t found new ways to save money though, and this video from Phillip McKnight shows the 7 ways that could happen.

If you don’t have time to watch, here’s a list, although Phil’s explanations are worth the viewing as it’s pretty educational.

1. Inlays

2. Maple veneer

3. Binding

4. Set neck

5. Pickups

6. Photo finish

7. Wood

If you’re a guitar player, this is well worth the watch.

November 28, 2016

Cool Cyber Monday Recording Accessories

We all love a deal and Cyber Monday is the day for it, so I decided to put together my own list of cool gear especially for musicians and engineers. Here are some accessory items that make great gifts for any musician or engineer (even yourself).

earpeaceEarPeace Hearing Protectors – They reduce the volume but don’t change the frequency response, plus they come with an extra ear protector, a cool carrying case, and different filters. I don’t know what I’d do without them. You’ll use them more than you ever thought. Black Friday deal from $12.

 

blockliteBlocklite – This goes under the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?”. Blocklite is a simple LED add-on to any 9 volt battery that turns it into a flashlight that’s perfect for checking all those dark spaces during a session or show. Cheap too at only $17.95 for a package of 3 including the batteries!

 

 

Monoprice 8323 headphonesMonoprice 8323 Headphones – Tired of spending big money on replacing trashed headphones? At $28 you won’t find a cheaper and better sounding replacement.

 

 

lynda.comLynda.com Online Training Tutorials – Have you ever wanted to learn a piece of software, but hated the “how-to” videos you found on YouTube with bad audio and lighting and people that barely know what they’re doing? Try Lynda.com, with more than 1500 courses with super high production values by experts and in small digestible bites. Check out my courses, and get 7 days free of unlimited access to lynda.com.

snark-sn1-tunerSnark SN-1 Guitar Tuner – We’ve all gotten used to using software guitar tuners, but when you want to tune as fast as possible, this is the best tuner I’ve found. It clips right onto the guitar so you don’t even have to plug it in, and it even has a built-in metronome. At $9.95 each, it’s unbeatable.

Shop Amazon for Cyber Monday deals in musical instruments.

 

active-snare-dampeningRemo Active Snare Dampening System – Designed in conjunction with drumming heavyweight Dave Weckl to get rid of unwanted ringing without the tape. Once fitted to the drum by attaching it to the rim, you can adjust the amount of dampening by either moving the Dampener from the center to the edge of the drum head, or by sliding the O ring up or down. Genius! And just $32.50.

 

primacoustic-voxguard-vuPrimacoustic VoxGuard VU – Like other vocal isolators only better in that it adds a 3 inch by 7 inch Plexiglass window so that the vocalist can see the rest of the band or receive cues from the producer (among other things). The unit fits on to a common microphone stand and an extender clamp allows you to fit the microphone holder. It’s also adjustable so that you can move the mic closer or further from the vocalist. Just $99.

 

radial-reamp-jcrRadial Engineering Reamp JCR reverse direct box – which has all the features needed to make the operation happen both quickly and easily.The Reamp JCR is actually a reverse direct box in that it takes a signal from your recording device via an XLR cable, then sounds it out to the amp via a 1/4″ jack. The $199 box also features phase invert and ground lift switches on the input side, and a filter control switch, mute and level control pot on the output side.

 

 

string-strechaString Strecha – New guitar strings sound great but it takes so much time until they stretch out, but String Strecha will allow you to stretch each string by the same amount every time. This thing is a favorite of top-flight guitar techs everywhere, and you should have one in your guitar case or in the studio at all times. Well worth the $12.50.

music-producers-handbook-2e-coverBooks By Bobby Owsinski – Okay, so I’m a little biased, but if you’re looking for a book for someone in the music business, you’ll hopefully find one of mine that will hit the sweet spot. There’s something for everyone, including books on productionmixing, recording, recording drums, mastering, being a studio musician or a touring musician, improving your band, navigating the new music business, social media for musicians, studio building, guitar tone, and making videos. From about $16 to $30.

 

the-x-clipThe X-Clip – If you want to mount an SM57 and a small diaphragm condenser mic right next to one another and keep them in perfect phase, then the X-Clip is just the thing you need. Get one for $19.95, or the Studio Bundle of 3 for $49.95.

Have a happy Cyber Monday!

Shop Amazon for Cyber Monday deals in electronics.

September 29, 2016

Some Boutique Amp Secrets Everyone Should Know

11-boutique-amp-secretsThere are so many guitar amps on the market these days that the choices are probably greater than any time in music history. In fact, just about every make and model from the past has been reproduced, and some of these designs have even been made better than before (if that’s possible). Since companies like Fender and Marshall already make throwback models of some of their greatest designs, why should you even consider a boutique amp? I’m glad you asked.

Wane Fuday of 45RMP Music Technologies has put together a pretty cool PDF booklet called 11 Key Boutique Amp Secrets: Insider Secrets Mass Produced Amplifier Companies Don’t Talk About that will give you a pretty good idea why you might want to consider looking at a boutique amp alternative the next time you’re in the market for something new.  Among the secrets mentioned:

Modern Mass-produced Amplifiers Are Difficult to Repair and Can Be Prone To Reliability Issues

Modern Mass-produced Amps Depreciate Significantly In Value over Time

Mass-produced Amplifiers Aren’t Built With Tone and Playability As The Primary Goal

Where is Your Mass-produced Guitar Amp Actually Built and What Does It Actually Cost?

Wane goes into great detail into why and how a boutique amp might be better for you in the long run, but from a sound and reliability standpoint. He makes a great argument that even though you’ll pay a little extra up front, you’ll get it back over time thanks to years of service and high resale value.

Let’s face it, we all run into boutique amps on the road or in the studio just about every day anymore, so even if you’re not a guitar player, it pays to know what you’re dealing with. Wane’s booklet gives a good look at the differences between the big guys and the little guys of that business.

Get the booklet at 45rpm.com.

September 22, 2016

Joe Bonamassa On Guitar Tone

joe bonamassa guitar toneIf you’re a guitar player or an engineer that records guitar players, the tone is what you’re always trying to follow. For guitar players, it’s a lifelong journey to find that perfect tone, and for engineers, it’s trying to capture the tone that you hear in the studio, or help the guitar player improve what he already has. It always helps to learn about guitar tone from one of the best, so here’s a great backstage video with Joe Bonamassa where he talks about his tone, how to sound like Clapton, Page and Beck, and some guitar tone history as well.

It’s easily one of the most easy going, off the cuff, and informative videos on the subject you’ll find.

September 15, 2016

5 Things You Didn’t Know About The Gibson SG

gibson SGIt has tuning issues, it’s neck-heavy, the neck is fragile, and reportedly, Les Paul hated it, but the Gibson SG is still a great guitar. It’s so light and has a great sound that once you get used to one, it’s hard to go back to any other Humbucker guitar.

Brought out as a redesigned Les Paul model after the sales of Les Paul declined, after a few years the SG became it’s own model. And what does the SG stand for? “Solid Guitar,” although we all wish it were something more exotic.

I’ve posted some of these “5 things you didn’t know about...” videos before and they’ve been met with great enthusiasm, so here are 5 things you probably didn’t know as the Gibson SG.