Monday, December 31, 2007

In fact it's a gas . . .

There aren't many guitarists still out there today with a catalog of music as impressive as Keith Richards' is. It reads like a rock history exam: Beggar's Banquet. Exile On Main Street. Sticky Fingers. It's Only Rock n' Roll. Every song so beautifilly executed in its Tele & Fender-ness - pure emotion dripping from every note & chord.

It'd be easy to go on and on about Keef's impeccable style and idyllic tone. For brevity's sake, though, I'll just post this great interview I found on the Sabella Recording Studio's website awhile back. I couldn't find a date on it, but from the material being discussed, I'm thinking it's late 90's, perhaps early 00's.

Read carefully, young grasshoppers - there's a lot of good info there.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

More About Tubes . . .

If you haven't already deduced, my 12/29/07 post on vacuum tubes was purposely ambiguous in regards to their actual functionality. This was due largely to the fact that I've only become familiar with their importance in the tonal equation over the past few years. Having done a fair amount of reading on the subject, however, I thought it might be good idea to offer a few resources in regards to their inner workings.

The Tube Store has an excellent page with all sorts of information pertinent to vacuum tube applications as they apply to guitar amplifiers. Rock n' Roll also has a nice page with lots of good info. At the very least, these two links should provide you with a good base of knowledge in regards to the inner workings of tubes, recommended usage, model cross-referencing, etc. There are tons of great sites on the internet where you can find information about tubes - most are just a Google search away.

Another outlet I've used in the past is Eurotubes, suppliers of J & J brand tubes. Their staff is both knowledgable and friendly in regards to information and recommendations, and their service is top-notch. Most of my tube amps have run J & J tubes at one time or another, and I can say first-hand that they are toneful and incredibly consistent. Very reasonably priced, too.

Even with all of the information and resources available the internet, your own ears are still the best judge when it comes to your tone. Learn to trust those instincts, and the rewards will be many - J.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

She's The One . . .

I recently purchased a gorgeous red mahogany PRS SE One from Stringbean Music in Bismarck, ND (*see link under Back Forty). As you can see from the photo, it's pretty much a meat-and-potatoes guitar - a single P-90 soap bar pickup, one volume knob, and wrap-around bridge. Some people might look at it as being "stripped down", though personally, I tend to find beauty in simplicity . In other words - nothing to get in the way of your tone.

Other things that impressed me about the SE One were the exquisite build quality of the instrument, along with an amazing tonal
projection. Initially, I was a bit skeptical about the wrap-around tail piece, but as I played the guitar, I could almost "feel" it resonating; as if it were alive right there in my hands. Of all the guitars I've played over the years, none have resulted in playing experience quite like that. Tone-wise, the stock P-90 has plenty of that growly, low-end bite that I like - perfect for crunchy leads and punchy rhythm work. The p'up is also very articulate using cleaner timbres, adding another element of versatility.

I'm planning on picking her up next weekend, and hope to have a few clips posted at some point later on. Getting a new guitar is always exciting - J.

Tube-a-licious . . .

"I'll take a decent amplifier with the finest tubes any day over the finest amplifier with mediocre tubes." - Zen Guitarist

Over the past ten years or so (*perhaps its been longer), guitar amplifier manufacturers have seen a huge resurgence in the demand for tube-powered amps with vintage-based circuit designs. To meet that demand, leading manufacturers have introduced new models that pull into cue vintage circuitry, tone, and styling. Today's players, perhaps now more than ever, are savoring the harmonically complex, organic tones delivered by traditional tube circuits. Ladies and geltlemen of the congregation - can I get an amen?!!

A high water mark in this trend would certainly have to include the tube-powered gems at the lower end of the feeder chain. Models like the Epiphone Valve Junior, Peavey Classic / Valve King lines, and Crate V-Series are generating a lot of fanfare, not only for their great tone, but also for their affordability. All of which hearkens back to simpler times, where players and bands made due with what they had, because they didn't have the lettuce to blow on high-end gear.

Now as we all know, vacuum tubes don't last forever. Over time, and through general use, tubes lose their fidelity. In other instances, they can develop a microphonic condition, which also results in a less-than-desirable tone. Long story short: replacing tubes is part of owning a tube amp. And just like anything in the Great Gear/Tone equation, what tubes you put in will have a lot to do with how good your amp will sound.

One company that appears to be on the forward line of thinking in regards to the vintage / tube trend is New Sensor, manufacturers of Electro Harmonix tubes and effects. After acquiring the name-brands of a several vintage-era tube companies, they have responded by introducing a number of reasonably-priced re-issue tubes from these legendary tube lines for use in both new and vintage amplifiers. The design elements of these tubes focus closely on that of their classic predacessors. New Sensor's attention to detail has resulted in a new production tube with many the desirable tonal qualities found in the originals. And compared to NOS tubes - a mere fraction of the cost!! Tube amp players everywhere are rejoicing in the fact that they don't have to take out a second mortgage to get great, consistent tone.

Over the last year or so, I've re-tubed several of my amplifiers with Mullard and Tung-Sol re-issue tubes, and would rate them very highly for harmonic complexity, balance, musicality, and overall tone. For lower-watt amplifies, such as the Epiphone Valve Jr., the Electro Haromix EL84 EH is an excellent power tube replacement that provides immediately noticeable tonal benefits. At some point in the near future, I hope to have a few sound clips posted on Tone Farm of the aforementioned tubes for all to hear. Otherwise, if you're looking to score some new tubes, check out the Classic Clones link under the Back Forty header on the right. Tell Ed I sent you.

New tubes are an incredibly easy and cost-effective way to change / affect your amplifier's tone. A little online research may indeed provide a player with big dividends, perhaps even the chance to stand face-to-face with their own personal "Grail Tone". So, to surmise - tubes can be the difference between good tone - - and great tone. May your own search be fruitful - J.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tasty Vintage Tones . . .

When players are talking tone, vintage gear will undoubtedly work its way into the conversation at some point. True, that which is vintage is certainly not the "end-all" to god-like tone - - but I'd have to say its damn close.

There are a bunch of cool tone clips featuring killer vintage gear at Cam's Riffs. Cam's gear arsenal is a veritable treasure trove of highly sought-after gems, as you will see when you check out his site. One item of note - - you'll need to have an Apple Quicktime player installed to listen to the clips. A link to a freeware version of Quicktime is provided on the website. Sorry for the name drop - hopefully the clips are worth it.

If you're into the Marshall thing, David Bray Amps has a bunch of killer clips, too. Check out the 1959HW 100-watt Plexi w/ custom EVH p'ups about 1/3 of the way down the page. Nasty, nasty tone.

The clip / sample page for the Time Machine Boost is another great source for vintage Marshall, Fender, and Vox tones. The Fender amp featured on this site is a 1967 "Blackface" Super Reverb - guaranteed to put a smile on any tone-lover's face. has several pages of excellent color photos (*and a few schematics) featuring a number of 60's era vintage amplifiers, as well as several mid-70's models. I like the fact that several Fender "Silverface" amps are featured in this collection, as I feel that they are often overlooked in lieu of the more popular "Blackface" models. I have a '68 Silverface Super Reverb myself, and totally dig it!

Also - be sure to check out the vintage Fender Instrument catalogs at the bottom of the Classic Amplifiers page. I browsed through the '69 version, and noted their featured artists section: Sonny & Cher; The 5th Dimension; The Union Gap; Charley Pride; Faron Young; Paul Butterfield; etc. Conspicuously missing is perhaps one of the greatest Fender guitar players ever: Jimi Hendrix. Somebody at Fender Corporate HQ must've missed the goings on at the Monterey Pop Festival back in '67? Lighter fluid, anyone . . . ?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Seed is planted . . .

"The ground is rich from tender care, repay . . . do not forget" - Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin

Being somewhat of a wordsmith, I was hoping to come up with something very literary for my initial entry on the Tone Farm blog. As I sorted through the various ideas I'd come up with, however, it seemed less important for me to coax into words something that quite often defies description. Many things dictate the perception(s) of what constitutes the ultimate guitar tone, each being unique in the way it has guided, or shaped one's playing. Bearing that thought in mind, I will simply plant the seed, and do my best to nurture it along. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, and hopefully, there will others who contribute to its growth.

May your playing always be accompanied with a smile - - J.