Much of what I do and how I make my music wouldn’t be possible without the help from these companies:
- Steinberger: I am a Gibson Artist, and am a fan of any of Ned Steinberger’s designs.
- Seymour Duncan: I use their pickups exclusively, and also write a blog for them.
- Brian Moore Custom Guitars: These are the guitars I use for the ambient/guitar synth work, because they have internal hex pickups.
- Graph Tech: I am a Graph-Tech Artist & use their TUSQ nuts and String Saver Bridge Saddles.
- Ernie Ball/Music Man: I was featured on Ernie Ball radio, and they gave me some custom picks one time for being the last person featured in Mike Varney’s Guitar Player Spotlight Column. I also love their guitars. Sterling Ball signed my guitar (along with Steve Morse) and is a great guy.
- Warmoth Guitar & Bass Parts: This company helped with a blog post for Seymour Duncan, and helped me create a wonderful Strat.
I have been asked about recent affiliations. I am currently a Gibson Artist, and endorsed by Brian Moore Custom Guitars/iGuitar as well as Graph Tech. I am also a writer and artist for Seymour Duncan pickups.
Ok, I have been one of the most vocal proponents of using the HD500 as a standalone live looper as well as an all-in-one effects/amp modeling device. I have seen many looping guitarists with huge pedalboards, miles of cable which take forever to set up and transport. I wanted to get back to basics with an acoustic guitar and a looper, but the way I use loops force me to be very careful in how I select one.
I have explained in these pages before how I love the Line6 DL4 and the M-series effects for their simple, elegant way of handling loops. You have control over the volume of the loop or overdub level (or both) with your feet. This is important for me, because I need to be able to manually fade out loops while playing live as they fade. This allows for seamless transitions between loops, and no abrupt endings as a dense loop stops dead.
I was overjoyed when, a few years ago, the POD HD series was coming out. It would include the M-series effects, which also meant the looper. I had owned the M13 for a long time, and was familiar with the way it sounded and worked.
However, when I finally got the HD500 home, I realized that while it did contain the same effects and looper of the M-series (and my beloved DL4), they didn’t assign it the same control. Sure, it had parameters for loop volume and overdub, but it didn’t make those parameters assignable to the expression pedal, so in order to fade the loops, I’d have to bend down and turn the knob by hand, or live with the fact that I would need to bring another looping device to gigs.
To make matters worse, the manual described the ‘new’ way the overdub parameter worked: On the M-series, overdub at 90% would fade out loops 10% on each repetition, so loops could ‘evolve’ over time. Stepping out of overdub mode ‘froze’ the loop, so it would no longer fade and I could play live over it. Now the ‘new’ way, as described in the manual for the HD500, the overdub parameter just controlled the volume of the overdub, but the initial loop would not fade. Why would anyone want overdubs at a lower volume than the original loop, and why not just use the guitar’s volume knob to do that manually? No idea, but this is what was described in the manual.
So, I brought this to the attention to the good people at Line6, and update after update was released. Updates were fantastic, adding new amps and fixing bugs. I know solo loopers are the minority of Line6’s customers, but I was still hopeful. Now I was upset about the overdub parameter not working like it had been, it seemed silly to not have the volume of the loops able to be controlled with the onboard pedal. I mean, the parameter was there- and every other effects parameter was capable of being controlled by the expression pedal. And of course, it was possible with older Line6 effects, like the DL4, and the M5/9/13.
So, I continued to use my DL4 for looping gigs, despite the fact that the HD500 could do so much more. Well today, I tried something new. First, I tried to make some sense out of how the overdub parameter on the HD500 worked. To my surprise, it worked exactly like it did on the M-series! The HD’s manual was wrong. Go figure. Don’t know if updates fixed it (it wasn’t mentioned in any of the update notes) or if it was like that all the time. But working like it did in the M-series, it gave me an idea of how to make loops automatically fade in the HD500 while new, non-looped material is played.
Normally, with the overdub set to 90%, loops fade 10% on each pass while overdub is on. Anything you play is also looped, and faded. That isn’t always what I want. I want to play something new while the old loop fades, and then, when it has faded away, start a new loop.
So, I added an effects loop to the end of the effects chain. Since I am going into a mono PA for now, I have a 1/4″ TRS cable into the send of the effects loop (make sure the switch is set to ‘line’). That cable gets plugged into a 1/8″ TRS adapter and returns to the HD500 via the cd/mp3 jack. That jack just passes audio through to the output, and not to any effects or the looper. I set one of the footswitches to turn on or off the effects loop. This will not work through the s/pdif output though, only the balanced/unbalanced/phones outputs.
So the idea is that you build up loops, and when you want it to fade, go into overdub mode (the loop starts to fade at whatever rate you had set the overdub parameter). Click on the effects loop. The signal gets processed as normal from whatever effects you are using, but exits the HD500 right before the looper via the effects loop. It comes back into the HD500 while the old loop continues fading. To start looping after the loop has faded away, stop the faded loop, turn off the effects loop, and start over. Clumsy, but it works.
I still want Line6 to add expression pedal control to the looper, as it is easier to manually control loop fade times.
This is the ‘None More Black’ Dean 2011 V that I won at last year’s Dean Owners Association party. It took a year for me to actually get it (?!?), but it rocks. And it is the only one in the world. The guys at Dean did a great job. There is quite a story that goes along with it, which I will tell in another blog post.
Mahogany neck and body- light too! The case weighs a ton though. Ebony fretboard.
Neck pickup is Dean’s Nostalgia:
Magnet Alnico 5
DC Resistance 7.8K
Bridge is Dean’s Vinnie Moore Shredhead:
Magnet Alnico 5
DC Resistance 12K
So many guitarists work on technique these days, and I am no exception. I mean, the mechanics of playing- flying up and down the fretboard at faster and faster speeds. It is a young (mostly male) thing, no different than the runner trying to be the fastest or the weightlifter going with a few more pounds.
However, concentrating all of your practice time on just getting faster misses the point. Not every song is fast (that gets boring), and it ignores the tone of the notes created.
The tone is the thing for me. There are some seriously fast players out there, known and unknown. After listening to many of the mp3s and seeing tons of videos, I realized that most of them ignore the obvious: is this a sound that anyone would want to hear?
Believe me, I love making irritating noises as much as any other musician. But a guitarist who just makes irritating noises probably won’t work much, and drawing from such a shallow sonic pool, will repeat him/herself quickly.
Tone is subjective, but identifying when a musician ignores it is not. Everyone has bad days/bad gigs…with unfamiliar gear or some gear that is acting up. But if a musician is consistent in their lack of attention to tone, it shows.
Now, I know not everyone can afford the latest boutique amps and overdrives (either can I: I am a musician after all). But it starts with a guitar and an amp. If you can’t get a clean sound to be fretted cleanly, all the distortion in the world won’t cover it up. The process starts with one single note, and then two.
Gear selection is a big subject: most people buy what their heroes have, in hopes it can help them sound just like their heroes. This works as we are learning, but the failure is to not break off of that course and find our own sounds.
Now is one of the most exciting times to be a guitarist: we have multieffects, programmable amps, and guitars that stay in tune without us doing anything. Problem is that most guitarists buy these and have no idea what they do. The idea of reading a manual is an impossible task, and understanding just one parameter (like setting the ‘sustain’ on a compressor- we want a lot, right?) sends the technophobic guitarist reeling and dismissing the good ol’ amp and cable approach. Nothing wrong with that, since lots of guitarists do fine that way. But arriving there because you can’t or won’t read the manual of the expensive device just bought is sort of..silly.
So the tone search is a lifetime one, for the guitarist. It isn’t like we never get there, but we constantly evolve. And it is fun. The goal is to sing to others in our own voice, because we have something to say. And what our own voice sounds like makes them want to listen. Hopefully.