Archive for January, 2008

Anatomy of a GAS attack

Posted in Heavy Metal with tags , on January 31, 2008 by Staff Writer
Saturday 26th January, 08:00 On toilet reading Guitarist magazine. Close Encounter of the First Kind with ESP Ltd. Kirk Hammett Junior (i.e. I saw it in the magazine). Hmm.. currently sitting on $4K of proceeds from sale of Warwick bass.. slowly burning hole in pocket. Slight raise in bodily temperature.
Saturday 26th January, 08:10 Checking prices on Musician’s Friend for above mentioned item. $249. Would probably cost another $50 to ship to Singapore, so SGD $450. Order or can obtain locally? Pupils dilated.
Saturday 26th January, 10:30 Friends come round to swim in pool.
Saturday 26th January, 12:00 Canadian 241 Pizza. Mmmm…
Saturday 26th January, 15:00 Find out from Davis Guitar Website that they bring in ESP. Butterflies in stomach.
Saturday 26th January, 15:01 Phone call to Davis. Yes- they have one in stock – SGD $381! Oh no! Must…. restrain…. GAS…
Saturday 26th January, 15:02 Find out on harmony Central that Boss has just brought out an updated Acoustic Simulator – the AC-3. Shit. I must own it. I ‘need’ it for my band rehearsals for those clean parts. Internally convinced it will sound exactly like a 1945 Gibson J200 (it doesn’t).
Sunday 27th January, all day Church – pray will not cave in to GAS attack. God help me. Shortness of breath and attention span.
Monday 28th January, all day GAS attack becomes acute but stupid work meetings prevent leaving office to go and spend money. Accidentally say the words “pointed headstock and skull inlays” during presentation of Regional Sales Figures. Damn job. Crushing pain in chest radiating down left arm.
Tuesday 29th January, 12:00 Uncontainable urges. Drive to obtain shiny new unnecessary toys becomes unbearable. Lunchtime visit to Ebenex music – target acquired – Boss AC-3 @ $175. Slight drop in fever.
Wednesday 30th January, 12:00 Observe colleague drop $2K on recording gear, removing all remaining boundaries. Mental resolution to buy the KH Jr. Line is crossed. Thin upper lip and steely resolve. Credit card flexed at the ready.
Thursday 31st January 11:46 Davis Guitar – target acquired – ESP Ltd. Kirk Hammett Junior.
Thursday 31st January 13:00 Meetings cancelled. Went home ‘sick’.
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THD Electronics – customer service commendation

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 31, 2008 by Staff Writer

Was trawling through some old e-mail today doing a clear out and came across this old exchange between myself and Andy Marshall of THD Electronics. I’m always a fan of companies who give personal time to each and every customer and this only draws me closer to them as a loyalist.  I still have my UniValve and although it’s not super versatile live, at home it gives some of the greatest tones I’ve ever heard – in fact this little baby is positively dripping with tone – on some occasions I’ve even laughed out loud that there is TOO MUCH TONE coming out of this little head!

Anyway – this is what I wrote.. and for the record I believe the tech screwed me making up some crap to overcharge me.

Dear THD guys,

I am the proud owner of a THD Univalve that I absolutely adore – it is positively the best amp I have ever owned – for this I thank you. 🙂

I would like to relate a recent experience to you and ask for your advice please: recently, I had some technical difficulty with the amp – I turned on the power, let it warm up a while and then flipped up the standby. There was a crackling noise and I saw a purple incandescence inside the power tube – like a quick flickering flame. After this, there was no sound emitted from the speaker. I changed the power tube but still the amp did not work.

I brought the head to a local tube amp repairman. I had described the symptoms to him and he immediately told me what his suspicions of the problem were. At the workshop, he replaced one of the fuses, turned it on and we heard the same crackling noise. He told me he had to do some work on the PCB. I collected the amp the next day in working order and he told me something to do with ‘screens and humidity’ (Singapore is very humid except my amp resides in an air-conditioned room) and having to raise up components from the PCB so they weren’t so close in order to cause arcing (the root of the crackling he said). BTW, repairs weren’t expensive – approx USD $30-$40.

Not being a tech head, I didn’t understand this, but he mentioned something about the attenuation and more recently has posted this on a local forum:

-You must also have a good technical background to use a product as a tube amp attenuator.

-Improper connection, or using it outside the boundary (very easy to happen for the untrained and unfamiliar), could cost you irreversible damage.

-Tube amps are meant to be ‘impedance’ matched properly for the output stage. Improper matching could result in shorted out tubes or worst transformer meltdown.

-Either case, I personally frown upon putting an amp on a “treadmill” situation. This I surmise from some of the THD univalve units I have seen so far with built-in attenuator.

-With the case of the SL sales that is happening on a regular basis, I do suspect the resale values of such amps will deteriorate.

I have not heard of similar problems in running the amp with attenuation *all the time* which is essentially what I want to do as a bedroom player. I certainly don’t want to suffer transformer meltdown.

If the info is relevant, then my tubes are: stock China 12ax7, Mullard NOS ECC83, Mesa Boogie EL34.

Can you comment please?

Thanks in advance and kind regards

Gitbuddy

Andy Marshall personally replied:

Thank you for your email and for purchasing a UniValve.

Let me start off by stating that I am very sorry that you have had any problems with your UniValve. I am glad that the repairs were inexpensive.

The situation that you are describing is almost always caused by a short in a power tube itself and is almost always rectified by replacing the power tube and HT fuse. As you changed the power tube and still had the problem, clearly your situation was somewhat different.

As for your tech’s assertion that some components needed to be raised off the board, this would only make sense if the board were not completely coated with a moisture-proof completely insulating solder mask layer. Furthermore, the components in the screen circuit are either raised at least 1 cm off the board or are mounted point-to- point at the tube socket, implying that your tech must have been mistaken in his assessment of the cause.

Now, as for the humidity in Singapore being an issue, it is not so much the humidity itself, but more likely a matter of small crawling or flying critters making their way into the amplifier through the vent-holes or the jacks themselves. I have seen countless cases over the years of exactly what you are describing (in other amplifiers, not THD amps) being caused by spiders, ants and other uninvited guests strolling across the terminal strips, the tube sockets or the circuit boards, providing a nice, juicy path for arcing and leaving a nasty burnt trail where they were cremated when the amp was turned on. I see this in many amps from the tropics as well as amps that have been stored in dark basements or attics. Often there are little legs and wings left over, but sometimes there is just a burnt smudge, which could be misinterpreted as inadequate relief for voltage and humidity. Our relief spacing on the boards, sockets and terminal strips are adequate for 95% humidity at up to an altitude of 2000 meters, so unless a little visitor was involved, I would have to guess that you had a “freak” accident with the amplifier.

We have over 2000 UniValves in the field, with roughly 1/4 of them sold in tropical areas, and this is the first we have ever heard of this kind of problem being anything other than a bad tube, so I would have to go back to my assumption that your experience, though unfortunate, is an isolated incident.

As for your tech’s prejudice against attenuators, that is another matter altogether, and clearly had nothing to do with the problem you had with your amplifier. The UniValve was designed from the ground- up to be run 24/7 with it’s built-in attenuator and doing so will not shorten the tube’s or the amplifier’s life at all compared to running at the same settings into a speaker. As for our external attenuators, they are constant-impedance devices and always show the amplifier the same impedance, assuming that the amplifier’s output impedance, the Hot Plate impedance and the speaker impedance all match. For these reasons, I fear that your tech is expressing more of a prejudice than anything else.

I hope this helps.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should have any further questions.

Sincerely yours,

– Andy

Two string Seventh chord arpeggios

Posted in music theory with tags on January 30, 2008 by Staff Writer

One most useful piece of info that Master imparted to me at our last meeting concerned the ‘patterns’ that can be derived for easy memory of seventh chord arpeggios.

Consider a G Major 7 chord starting on the 3rd fret, bottom string and playing two notes per string:

2stringGmaj7

Notice that there’s a repeating pattern every two strings, i.e. starting from the root note G, you play the next note a major 3rd up (B). Then, when you shift to the next string, you move up two frets, and again play a two note interval a major 3rd apart, i.e. five frets, so going from the D to the F#. That’s the complete one octave arpeggio, so when you move to the 4th string and start on a G, you simply play the same pattern again – two notes on the 4th string, then 2 notes on the 3rd string. And so on… cool huh?

So, for the other 7th chord types:

all72string

Sp, basically, repeating each of these patterns every two strings starting from the next root note you can easily cover 3 octaves of the arpeggio in question.  The Major 7, Minor 7 and Diminished 7 ones are particularly easy to remember given their fingering ‘symmetry’.

Lunchtime gear hunting – Taylor Solid Body Electric Guitar, BFR John Petrucci Musicman F-1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 29, 2008 by Staff Writer

Went with one of my buddies to Sinamex music today as he was looking for an audio interface for his Mac so his wife can sing into Garage Band.

To my surprise they had two of the much-talked-about Taylor electric guitars in stock – the Standard and the Custom. Known for their superb acoustics and semi-acoustics (I have at a Baby Taylor guitar which I love immensely which I strum in the office), they’ve only recently started making these solidbody electrics. Given their reputation for the superb build quality of their acoustic line, expectations have been high and there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding their release. I’d heard they weren’t coming until February (as the salesman confirmed) but that they had had a sneak preview order of three units since November. The Classic model which would have completed the triumvirate had already been sold, so I sat down and tried out the two remainders.

Meh. Don’t believe the hype.

Sure, they are built beautifully. They are light and seem thinner than than they are (an illusion I think due to the contouring at the side of the body). The figuring on the veneer top is highly attractive. Didn’t like the control knobs personally though. On the Custom there was an ugly glue job at the nut with excess glue rising far too high and spoiling the perfection.  Soundwise, I found these guys pretty uninspiring. None of the voices made me go ‘wow’. Although there is a fair range of noises coming out of these instruments, none of them floated my particular boat. The best of them was a zingy almost semi-acoustic noise that one could imagine being coaxed from a 410CE. Overall both the guitars I’d categorize in the ‘very bright sounding’ bucket and certainly overpriced at $3195 and $3885 respectively.

However, the salesman, clearly impressed by my highly advanced shredding asked me if I wanted to try out a quite special guitar and handed me a (Ernie) Ball Family Reserve John Petrucci Musicman F-1 model – the top of the range of the Dream Theater guitarist’s signature line. The BFR ‘brand’ must be Ernie Ball’s premium range in the same vein as PRS’s ‘Private Stock’. I’d never heard of it up till now; can’t say I liked the BFR logo inlaid into the 12th fret though – that was the only ugly design snafu…

Perhaps I didn’t get enough time with it (about 15 minutes) but I didn’t find the piezo sound to be particularly wonderful and was expecting something closer to the pseudo-acoustic noises that may emanate from a Parker Fly, but for sheer playability, this guitar is very hard to beat. The neck is wonderful. Super sheer and playable with a low (but not buzzy low) action that is uniformly setup for supreme accessibility and ease. The thin neck profile and flattish fingerboard all help make this an addictive player. I loved it.  The one I played was a Walnut Burst – beautifully finished. $5800 though. Doh. For that money I can get a custom built Tom Anderson, which I think I will.

bfr_walnut1

GAS alert – Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator, ESP Kirk Hammett Junior

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 26, 2008 by Staff Writer

Thinking of getting one of these babies to take the place of the soon-to-be-departing-from-the-pedalboard DigiTech Death Metal (I really don’t need a death metal distortion sound anymore since we’re not playing music that heavy – and besides it’s way too white-noisey to cut through the mix).

bossac3

Nice looking toy – will add a little more versatility to my clean parts during our rehearsals. It uses COSM modeling to model a Jumbo, Standard and Piezo pickup acoustics.

Of course, I won’t be selling my Martin HD-28 though. 🙂

Also spotted this in the pages of Guitarist magazine and instantly went hunting for it online:

khjr

It’s an ESP Kirk Hammett Junior. $381 SGD according to the nice man on the phone. Might get one for the office and put it through my mini-Marshall stack.

Homework 4: Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered chord examples

Posted in chord changes, Jazz Guitar, music theory on January 24, 2008 by Staff Writer

Chord names can be found in this post.

Example 1:

bewitched1 

Example 2:

bewitched2

Heaviest Moments in Heavy Metal #1327

Posted in Heavy Metal, Shred Guitar with tags on January 24, 2008 by Staff Writer

Whitesnake – Still of the Night.

Was listening to the 1987 album on the bus this morning. Surely this track, and its super-cheesy video featuring Tawny Kitaen, epitomizes 80’s hair metal like no other. Still of the Night is an absolutely awesome song with a serpentine Zepplinesque main riff and that stupendously heavy part in the middle. The song (and the album) features John Sykes on guitar (curiously he isn’t in the video) and ranks as some of the greatest heavy metal guitar playing of all time.

Since it would be illegal for me to post the sound clip from the song, I’m directing you towards YouTube where you can see a video illegally posted by somebody else; let them take the copyright heat. Check out the video below – the ‘heaviest moment’ I’m talking about occurs from about 3’55” after Coverdale sings “Ooh Baby, ooh Baby, AAAAHHHH!!!”

still

Here’s my effort at the guitar tab for it:

stilltab

This excerpt from John’s own site:

“Coverdale and Sykes wrote these nine songs together in a small village in the south of France, in what Coverdale has described as a week-long period. Various studios were used on both sides of the Atlantic. Sykes and Murray demo’d new songs in Blackpool, England, before the bulk of the recording was done in Vancouver, Los Angeles and London. Of these songs, one (‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again’) was left off the original album release in the US (although it appears on the UK CD version and the 1994 Greatest Hits CD), and the eight new compositions were accompanied on the record by new versions of ‘Crying in the Rain’ (featuring the excellent guitar solo that Sykes had been playing at Whitesnake gigs in ‘84 and ’85) and ‘Here I Go Again’, the one track on which Sykes does not play lead guitar. I would really love to see a classic albums-type documentary made on this record, but given the ill-feeling between the main protagonists (although Sykes and Coverdale have since had some cordial exchanges), I doubt it will happen. The famous A&R man John Kalodner, who oversaw the release of 1987 describes Sykes and Coverdale as a dream team, and like many fans, Kalodner still harbours a wish to see the two men record and play together once more. Whether or not that would be feasible (personal differences aside), given DC’s now sadly deteriorating vocal abilities, is a moot point. Coverdale’s and Sykes’s voices gel so well on the 1987 songs – at times it is almost as if they are duetting. Why was it decided to record in this fashion, and considering the doctoring of some of Sykes’s other contributions to the record (eg. the guitar solos are often obscured in the mix, part concealing them with keyboards and so on – just think what that middle section and guitar breakdown in ‘Still of the Night’ would sound like with quieter keyboards, although it still sounds fantastic as it is), why was this aspect retained? There has been an unofficial remastered version of the album, and to an extent this improved on the original sound. Hopefully one day we will be allowed an honest remastered version of ‘1987’, one that does full credit to the guitars. Many critics of the album will say that ‘Still of the Night’ is too derivative of Led Zeppelin. True, it is reminiscent of ‘Black Dog’, but did Led Zeppelin ever record such an electrifyingly exciting song? – I don’t think so. I’m sorry, but for me, and I suspect others who were first discovering hard rock in the mid to late 1980s, Whitesnake’s ‘1987’ was, is, and will always be a top 5 all-time album. The guitar sound which Sykes hit on for this album (assisted by future Metallica and Mötley Crüe producer Bob Rock) is not replicated by anyone anywhere else.”