Now Booking Lessons For January!

Now Booking Lessons For January!

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

I’m currently setting up times for private guitar lessons on Thursdays in January. Give me a shout if you are interested in starting guitar and I will see if I’ve got space. Kit

Describing the chain continued…

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

On to the pedal board(s) and the next link in the chain. I write as an enthusiast, not an expert, and it’s probably best to conduct appropriate research on the topics raised here, before making decisions about your own rig.

It would be worth understanding a bit about how amps work and where to place your pedals in the chain. Guitar amps have two types of amplifier, a pre- and a power. Essentially, the pre-amplifier shapes the tone by perhaps using a graphic equaliser and possibly adding distortion and the power-amplifier simply increases the volume. By the time the signal reaches the power-amp, nothing further will dramatically influence your tone.

The pre-amp can be sandwiched between two sets of pedals.

Guitar pedals fall into two general categories, those that traditionally sit before the pre-amp and which are located before the amplifier’s guitar input, and those which sit after the pre-amp, in the effects loop (if your amp has one). My rig follows a fairly traditional method of placing pedals but you may wish to experiment.

The way I see it, all the pedals that boost (add sparkle and definition), compress (squash into a uniform volume and add a bit of ‘slap’), drive (drive the signal into the pre-amp, pushing/enhancing the amp’s distortion/drive into overdrive), distort/fuzz (adding distortion, fuzz or dirt to the signal) and filter (such as a wah pedal) the signal should be placed before the pre-amp.

All time-based pedals (delay and strictly speaking chorus and flangers) and other modulation pedals (phaser, tremolo, vibrato, vibe, rotary, reverb…) sit behind the pre-amp. The reason for this is because the modulation should affect your tone after the preamp has shaped the sound. The best example is a delay (echo) pedal – if it is placed before a preamp which adds distortion, all the echos will be distorted, if the delay pedal is placed after the preamp, the distorted tone will be echoed.

Of course, everyone has their preferred order and musicians have experimented along the way. Therefore, it’s completely up to the musician how they arrange their board. Have fun trying things out and I’ll let you know my order and the reasons for it in the next blog.

Fender Mexican Stratocaster

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

Ive got an awesome Mexican strat for sale on gumtree check out the maple fretboard on it!

http://www.gumtree.com/p/for-sale/fender-mexican-strat/110979698

Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

THIS GUITAR IS NOW SOLD

Just to let you know I’ve got a beautiful Les Paul Standard Custom Shop for sale on gumtree. Check it out!

http://www.gumtree.com/p/for-sale/epiphone-les-paul-standard/109124267

 

Latest news!

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

Just to let you know Mike Tresham’s excellent blog will be on hold for a while due to a new baby! Congratulations to the Tresham family! Also expect to see some new no reserve ebay auctions within the next few weeks as I am clearing out some of my gear.

Guitar for 1p anyone???

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

I’ve just put up a no reserve auction for an Epiphone Les Paul Custom in white starting price only 1p! Check it out!

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/110902035130?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649#ht_500wt_1287

Cables

Mike Tresham No Comments

Let’s face it, cables aren’t the first bit of gear you want to splash some cash on but it would be worth having a think about how much cabling your signal has to travel through in your chain. At a quick count, my rig uses 70 feet of normal cabling (from guitar to pedal board, to amp switcher, to amps, out the back of amps to post amp pedals and then back to amps – more on all this in future posts) and around five feet of patch cabling between pedals. Cabling creates resistance to your signal and can ‘dull’ the tone. I remember updating my cables last year and I couldn’t believe the difference, it’s money well spent.

On my budget, I’ve settled for Planet Waves for the longer cables and a mix of Planet Waves and George L’s for the patch cables. The great thing about GL’s is that you can buy a kit and make your own cables, exactly to the length you need. However, I took the lazy option and telephoned a custom order, which was made and posted to me within a few days. In summary, if you want crystal clear sound, you can’t afford bad quality when it comes to cabling!

Next post I’ll get to the pedal board, starting with the ‘before amp’ pedals.

Pickups

Mike Tresham No Comments

I want to focus on pickups briefly because they have such an important influence on the tone and noise in your tone. My factory Strat pickups were unusable with any high gain amp or pedals because they let so much noise interference in, by picking up power from the lights, TV and even my amp. So I set about choosing replacements. Having scoured the internet for Strat pickups (pups), I settled for ‘active’ EMG pups. The active feature is the use of a tone potentiometer to boost the signal, which has the effect of intensifying the amp’s gain or acting as a clean boost, depending on the amp’s channel. The problem with internet research is that there are so many viewpoints you may end up going round in circles!

However, when I arrived at the shop, the manager challenged my thinking by his incredulity at the idea of me using any other type of pickup than the ones designed for the guitar. Why buy a strat to gut it and replace the pickups with a generic brand? His suggestion was for me to buy one pickup for the bridge position which could handle huge amounts of gain and recommended a Seymour Duncan Hotrail. I went with it initially and made the purchase but changed my mind for two reasons: 1) the remaining middle and neck pickup still let in too much noise and 2) the Strat bridge pup was my favourite and I couldn’t lose this tone.

I took his point, although I love active pups and would happily buy EMGs for another guitar, and decided to buy the mighty Fender Hot Noiseless pups, which retain the glorious Fender spank and shimmer, but reduce the noise. Also, I figured that pups made by Fender allow the tone to retain it’s intended characteristics. They are magnificent, just what I wanted. The Fender tone but hardly any noise, despite the use of high gain amps, a long chain and noisy pedals such as the mxr dynacomp compressor.

A mention must be made about humbuckers, of which I have very little experience. The differences can most notably be heard in the final solo of Hotel California by the Eagles. The creamy smooth tone of the guitar with humbucker pups duels with the raw, trebly attack of the strat pups. Kit and I were swapping today between his lovely vintage Greco Les Paul Custom (with humbuckers) and my strat and both are so distinctive. I would suggest that, when choosing your tone, the quality and type of your pickups has the greatest influence on the characteristics of the sound at the end of your chain.

I had the cash and spent the best part of £200 upgrading mine (including fitting) and don’t regret it for a moment. I would even be tempted in future to buy a cheaper guitar so that I could reserve some of the budget for pups with integrity, noise reduction and the characteristics of the intended sound of the guitar. Others may feel that this is like buying and modifying a Corsa, rather than just buying a BMW, and I accept their point. But I now have a guitar that is totally suited to my style of music and copes with the fairly large chain between guitar and amp. Most importantly, I absolutely love the tone.

Describing The Chain

Mike Tresham No Comments

In my opinion there are two main factors to consider when choosing new gear: ‘tone’ and ‘noise’. Tone is the quality of the sound produced by your amp’s speakers at the end of your chain, noise is the amount of audible interference heard from your amp. All my equipment has a positive or negative impact on these two results. My 15 year old Mexican Fender Stratocaster is a great example.

The tone is excellent, favoured by hundreds of first rate guitarists in all sorts of genres (Malmsteen, Clapton, Corgan, Beck, and on and on). There are essentially five tones created by the five positions of the pickup switch. The bridge pickup creates a satisfying ‘spank’ for rhythmn and high end squeal for solos. The next position between bridge and middle has a softer, country and western sounding tone. The middle position has a warm and rich sound. The combination of middle and neck is smooth and low but to be frank, I don’t use it. The neck pickup is dark, creamy and smooth.

It’s worth getting a good guitar because it sets the standard for your tone. Any subsequent link in the chain, by using a cable or pedal, will in some way diminish this tone and introduce noise. Therefore, a straight to amp sound (guitar to cable to amp) will provide your tone in it’s purist form. The better the guitar, the better the starting tone and the better the result at the end of the chain.

Personally, I’m delighted with the strat. They are versatile and produce an excellent tone, which is suitable for my needs. However, the factory ‘single coil’ (more on this later) pickups are known for letting in a lot of noise into the chain, so I have modified the guitar and would expect to for all future Fender Strats.

The alternative is to choose a humbucker guitar with pickups designed to reduce the noise and interference. Now I have a strat, I would choose this type of guitar next time, possibly a PRS Tremonti or an Epiphone AFD for a few hundred quid. High end would include a Gibson, Rickenbacker, Collings and PRS and low end would include Epiphone and BC Rich. Of course, most brands produce a range of guitars for a spectrum of budgets.

Next in the chain are pickups, which I’ll say more on later. Enjoy the journey towards creating your dream tone!

New gear reviews on the way…

Kit Robertshaw No Comments

Just a quick note to let you know that a monthly gear review column from local gear junkie and axe shredder Mike Tresham is on the way. Heres a preview from Mike…

“I’m a guitar enthusiast who wishes he wasted even more time and money when he was younger so that he would be playing stadiums now. Having hit thirty I decided it was time to take things seriously and invest in decent kit. Here are some thoughts on my equipment, from the view of a passionate enthusiast who still has so much to learn.”

Stay tuned for more!

We offer a completely FREE trial lesson to all new customers. Call us to arrange yours!