Archive for the ‘General’ Category

It’s been forever since the last update, mainly because between work and family life I get a lot less time to build pedals. I do still build the odd utility pedal now and then, but the exciting stuff, the development of new pedals, is simply too time consuming for me to dig too deeply into. The concepts and ideas of new pedals still excites me greatly, but the reality is that digitally I can create the sounds in my head a lot easier and a lot cheaper than trying to design and build a new pedal.

I still play guitar when I can, and on the second of December the band I play guitar for, ThisFire, released our second EP – Demons. We haven’t been as active in recent months mainly because we aren’t all based in and around Minehead anymore, but we still write and gig as much as possible.We were super excited heading into the studio to record this one because four of the five songs that made it onto the EP were still very fresh having only been gigged a few times.

ThisFire – Martyn Terrell, Ben Pollard, Matt Reynolds and Jon Timney on Minehead Beach, Somerset

With this record we were determined to capture the live energy that often seems so hard to transfer onto a recording, and decided the only way to go about it was to record the EP as live as possible, which meant all of us being in the same room. The technical difficulties this brings must have been considerable, but luckily we found the right man and studio for the job. Joseph Buckler from Yak Music Studios in Wellington, Somerset, did an amazing job of accommodating our desire to record live while keeping excellent separation between the instruments. In the final recordings most of the guitar tracks and all of the vocals overdubbed, but the drums and bass are live in their entirety. Demons took two seven hour days to record, and many hours of patient mixing and mastering on Josephs part, but the result is well beyond what we dared imagine was possible in search short time and a small budget.

A massive shout must also go to graphic designer and long-term friend of ThisFire, Tim Logg, who did an incredible job with the artwork for Demons. I’ve always loved simple, bold album covers and band logos, and taking that into account Tim nailed it!

ThisFire – Demons, cover design by Tim Logg

We released a video to accompany the first song that we released from Demons, Wrong Things, compiled from footage filmed in the studio, but there’s a few live clips in there for good measure too!

Demons is available now from our Bandcamp page, and is currently streaming on soundcloud. It is also available to purchase or stream on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Deezer. 

To keep up to date with ThisFire releases and gigs check our ReverbNation page or the ThisFire Facebook page.

Ans so the dream board charity auction has begun! It is now live on eBay.

It’s really a win-win situation – a mother and daughter who need a helping hand get it and you can buy some one-off custom pedals from some of the best builders in the world.

This is just a quick post to share my recent experiences with issues regarding the TC Electronics Nova System.

I started building a board based around combining the TC Electronics Nova System and a Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 with other MIDI gear (G-Lab BC-1, Source Audio Programable EQ, TC Nova Drive (to be added)) controlled by a Behringer FCB1010 with UnO (modified to have no expression pedal hysteresis) when I hit a stumbling block – the tap tempo CC on the Nova System.

When setting tap tempo via MIDI (set to CC #30, sending alternate values of 0 and 127) the Nova System set the global tap tempo to its maximum BPM. If I engaged the tap tempo manually with the switch on the unit and then used MIDI tap tempo set fine. I reported the bug to TC Electronic, who admitted it is a known firmware bug, and that it will be looked at but can’t offer a date. Seeing as the last Nova System firmware dates back to September 2011 I’m not holding out for this.

So where has this left my MIDI board? Well, it floundered after this revelation as the NS was a core element. With known buggy firmware being in effect left (and TC are still selling new NS!) I’m not investing in the Nova Drive by these guys, I just can’t agree with that kind of company ethos. And with no other reasonably priced analogue drive with MIDI available it looks like the MIDI board is just going to have to wait. With the other known issues with the Nova System I’ve reverted back to a fairly simple board, and I couldn’t be happier.

Korg Pitchblack > G-Lab BC-1 > AMT Japanese Girl Wah > Way Huge Green Rhino > Devi Ever Hyperion > EHX Small Stone Nano  > Malekko 616 > Amp > Source Audio Programmable EQ > Hardwire DL-8.

It’s a shame as TC make some great gear, particularly their Toneprint range of pedals, but their MIDI approach has in recent years become half arsed. Need further proof look at the Flashback x4…

If you get a chance definitely check out http://www.pedalswithacause.com/ a charity auction set up by a friend of mine – Ben of SynapticGroove.

Ben’s set up an auction of a pedalboard with 100% proceeds going towards Kerri Mone’s cause. So far the board will consist of pedals from Moog, Diamond, WMD, Lovepedal, Shoe, Devi Ever, Synaptic Groove and 0xd FX, some of which are custom builds specifically for this board.

It’s going to be epic.

The auction should be going live in a few days, keep an eye on the Pedals with a cause website for further details.

Discofreq’s (aka Bart) effects database is 10 years old! To help Bart celebrate this fantastic achievement and to recognize the constant hard work put in to making it such a great resource for all the pedal hounds out there I’m giving a way a ‘DIY box of joy’ – and no – that isn’t what you are probably thinking it is!

To enter the prize draw just sign up to the FXDB forums and post in the ‘give away’ thread here.

There are masses of pedals being given away by lots of great companies on the FXDB homepage, which can be found here

2013-05-21 07.49.02 v 2

Winner will be drawn on the 14th June 2013 – good luck!

It seems most of my posts recently have involved this amp,  and this one is no exception.

I had a hard time EQing this amp properly to start with, I always found it way too trebly especially when cranked up. I found the EQ didn’t really respond how I wanted it too and that there always seemed to be a lot of high-end on tap, and if you’re not careful the overwhelming presence can ruin your cranked clean sound. I found there to be a some kind of harsh ultra high pitched ‘treble strike’ on the initial pick attack that just drove me crazy when the amp was really, really loud – moderate levels no problem.

Anyway, I first heard of this technique somewhere online, and now I swear by it.

Treble: 10 o’clock

Middle: Max

Bass: Max

Both channels, back off the bass and mids a little if it is too much when really cranked up.

It really seems counterintuitive, but once you get your head around the fact that some of the knobs are maxed out and that the EQ looks like it is somewhere it shouldn’t be, and realise that it actually sounds like it probably should you may find the overall tone of the amp is somewhere nearer to what you would expect, with no annoying ear-piercing treble when cranked up. At bedroom levels I get away with everything at half way, but at band volumes I much prefer this.

Just a though for those who are struggling with it…

I have been having quite a bit of interest in the Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 36 controller over the last few weeks, so here’s an update on it after using it for a few months.

My advice to anyone looking to build one would simply be this: Don’t. Or if you do, build bigger and less complex.

The main problem with the amp controller I built was that is was simply not big enough. You can’t stomp the channel change very well without accidentally turning on the reverb, cutting out the FX loop, changing to crunch from lead, hitting the killswitch etc you get the idea? And this becomes a real problem live when trying to do mid song channel changes!

The buffer is a good feature, as are the loops, but again these caused me problems. The Tubemeister went down and had to be returned to Germany for a repair, so I bought a 2nd hand Black Heart Little Giant 5w head, which is single channeled. All of a sudden my board was hard to use – I had overdrive in one loop, compressors in the other, what a nightmare to use on the fly!

My Tubemesiter 36 setup is this:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack (tuner) > TM Footswitch > Loop 1 – Boss CS3 (compressor, modded) – TM Footswitch loop 1 return > TM Footswitch loop 2 – Way Huge Green Rhino > TM Footswitch loop2 return > TM36 > Source Audio EQ > ISP Decimator > EHX Small Stone Nano (phaser) > Malekko 616 (delay) > TM36 return

Which requires 5 (yes 5!) cables running to the amp by the time the channel switching was taken care of!

For using the single channeled amp I ripped up my I had a board setup like this:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack (tuner) > Boss CS3 (compressor, modded) > Way Huge Green Rhino (overdrive) > Barber Dirty Bomb (distortion) > EHX Small Stone Nano (phaser) > Malekko 616 (delay) > Amp

And this was all I needed. A reverb would have been nice, but for live use not needed. I actually think this is the best sounding setup I have ever used (except for really cranked, heavy stuff where the TM36 lead channel destroyed everything else for me!). And guess what… no FX loop, no channel switching, no on-board reverb, no complex EQ’s, no need for noise gates, no MIDI switching or programming, basically no gimmicks. I actually preferred the Malekko 616 out front to be honest.

So, this has turned into a bit of a ramble and you’re probably wondering how this all relates to the Tubemeister footswitch? Well here it is I’m going to do the dirty and come out and say it: If you think you need anything as complex as the switch I built here and the relevant routing this requires in order to get your rig in line, I would take a step back and consider what you really need before embarking on building something similar. If you have a whole bunch of analogue FX running up front and in the loop that you really need and you find yourself tap dancing to go from your clean and dirty sounds I would seriously suggest looking into getting a digital MIDI enabled solution and to control everything and not building a footswitch like the one I built and rig like this. Something like the Boss GT range,  Line 6’s M13, the TC Nova System (that’s what I’m currently running) or G System etc. Cut out all the tap dancing and get playing! This does add a certain level of complexity when toggling settings on the fly, but it also opens so many possibilities that a traditional footswitch such as the one I built here is rendered archaic.

For the future I’m looking to get one of the bigger single channeled Black Heart amps and the simple board I described for it, and using the TM36 and Nova setup for anything more complex, which for my main band is sometimes required. I gigged this setup last week, and it was awesome:

Guitar > Korg Pitchblack > Boss CS3 > Way Huge Green Rhino > TM36 > Nova System > TM36 return

One button press to go from TM36 lead with a small amount of digital delay to trippy phaser, reverby analogue delayed clean, using the TM36’s channels, compressor and overdrive there for when I need them.

Basically if you want a footswitch for the TM36 my advice is this: you have a midi controlled amp so use it – midi-fy your rig, you won’t look back! I may have bashed MIDI in the past with the TM36 saying it over complicates things – but used right it really is cracking and solves a lot of headaches. Despite being quite old technology MIDI really is the future for us guitarists and I honestly believe digitally controlled analogue circuits with MIDI capabilities are the way pedal building needs to go in order to progress. Full MIDI integration.

If you rig is a super simple amp with no pedals and you want a footswitch to change channels only then that is another story…