From DIs to multi-effects processors to IRs, there are plenty of ways to make your sound golden.
Whether you’re a professional player, weekend warrior, or a once-in-a-blue-moon open miker, you will likely be put in a position to play both electric and acoustic instruments on a gig. As you’re looking to build your switch-hitting pedalboard, you may find that electric and acoustic guitar processing haven’t exactly been treated equitably in the marketplace. Even a bog-standard electric guitar rig these days is populated with three overdrives du jour and a gaggle of space-age DSP-driven effects culled from a market saturated with bobs and bits intended to fatten your sound and thin your wallet. When compared to the smorgasbord of electric guitar processing products, the selection of acoustic-guitar-specific offerings may seem a bit spartan.
But flattop pickers need not be forlorn! I’ve had the opportunity to build lots of guitar rigs for players who needed to serve both the electric and acoustic parts of a setlist, and there are many options for getting your acoustic signal out of your instrument and into the PA. Some of these builds were biased toward the electric side of things, when acoustic playing was just a small part of the job description, and others were mostly acoustic-minded affairs with just a sprinkling of electric-centric equipment. You’ll need to look at your situation to determine how much board real estate and budget resources you should be allocating to your double-minded setup.
The simplest way to get your acoustic instrument’s sound to the PA is to add a plain old DI to your board. I’d highly recommend the transformer-isolated variety, like the Radial ProDI ($114 street) or, if you can spring for it, something like their J48 ($229 street), which includes a higher-quality Jensen transformer. You can stick this DI to your board with a permanently connected guitar cable and simply plug in your acoustic when you need it. Neutrik silentPLUGs ($12 street) will help you avoid those nasty connecting/disconnecting pops as you transition from electric to acoustic by automatically muting the unused signal chain.
If you wind up sharing effects between acoustic and electric, be cautious about the settings of your overdrives and distortion pedals.
Maybe you’d like to have only one instrument cable into your rig? Put a simple A/B switch in front of your first electric pedal and the DI. Whenever you select your DI, the electric chain will be muted. Turn off the effects in your electric chain, particularly overdrives and distortions, to keep the white noise from the deselected backline amp at a minimum. Switching the A/B selector back to the electric will effectively mute the DI output to front-of-house. You’ll need to be careful here as you can accidentally send electric guitar to FOH or acoustic guitar to your backline amp if you lose track of the state of your A/B switch. You can alter this arrangement by putting additional effects after the A/B switch and in front of your DI or sharing effects in both chains by putting your A/B switch after your electric-guitar effects. If you wind up sharing effects between acoustic and electric, be cautious about the settings of your overdrives and distortion pedals. Accidentally engaging one could lead to some surprising—and painfully loud—results. The line between exciting and execrable can be very thin.
If you want to go beyond the straight piezo-pickup sound of your acoustic, consider acoustic imaging. You can replace your simple DI with something like Fishman’s Aura Spectrum ($399 street) or LR Baggs’ Voiceprint ($399 street), which use impulse responses (IRs) and DSP to produce realistic miked and in-the-room sounds from a humble undersaddle bridge pickup. Alternatively, if your rig already contains something like the Line 6 HX Stomp ($649 street), you can use it to process and route your acoustic signal. Several purveyors produce acoustic IRs that you can load as effect blocks on your Stomp (3 Sigma Audio and Worship Tutorials are two). You can then use your Stomp’s FX send port to connect it to a plain external DI and configure your specific electric and acoustic presets so they output to the correct port. An additional benefit to this type of setup is that you have access to all the HX Stomp effects as well, so compression, modulation, delay, and reverb are readily available for your acoustic processing needs.
Whether you connect your acoustic instrument to the PA via a run-of-the-mill DI or the latest in high-tech signal processing, there are many ways to sound great in our amplified world. Don’t let your electrics have all the fun, bring acoustic signal processing into your pedalboard world!
There’s way more than blues-rock fodder buried in the crevices of the most overused scale in music.
- Explain how chords are generated from scales.
- Create unusual harmonies, chord progressions, bass lines, and melodies using the blues scale.
- Demonstrate how music theory and musical intuition can coalesce to create unique sounds from traditional materials.
Last updated on May 21, 2022
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for blues music, but the blues scale can yield beguiling musical results that bear little resemblance to the traditional blues—particularly if one looks at (and listens to) the scale from a different point of view.
The idea of harmonization is relatively simple. It means is to play two or more notes together at the same time. Technically speaking, two notes performed at the same time create a dyad, not a chord. It takes three or more notes performed simultaneously to create a chord, although the one exception, the two-note so-called "power chord" in Ex. 1, skews this theory a bit.
So, which two or more notes should you harmonize? Any you want! But, if you desire continuity in your compositions and playing, it's a good idea to harmonize notes from a specific scale.
Most musicians usually start with the major scale, stacking every other note of the scale on top of each other until a triad is created (Ex. 2).
From there you can start adding, or replacing notes, to create variations from these basic triads, as seen in Ex. 3.
I must point out that you can also arpeggiate these chords, playing the notes one at a time (Ex. 4). Since we are emphasizing harmony in this lesson, it helps to let them ring out.
That's the most common way to create chords, but in this lesson we're looking for something unusual. So rather than being so formulaic, let's proceed with the basic idea that playing two or more notes at the same time will work as long as they all come from the blues scale.
The blues scale is just the minor pentatonic scale with one additional note, which gets labeled #4 or a b5 depending on context. Ex. 5 shows the most common "box" pattern for the A blues scale (A–C–D–Eb–E–G). After getting a hold of this scale, I recommend working on it in the key of E and D since many of the notes can be played with open strings.
There are two considerable disparities when it comes to generating chords from the blues scale as compared to the major scale. First, the blues scale only has six notes and second, the intervals between the notes in each scale are significantly different.
This means that the blues scale creates radical changes in chord construction and nomenclature, the theory of which is far beyond the scope of this lesson. For instance, Ex. 6 is a selection of relatively common chords you can generate from the A blues scale. Later on, we will get into more exotic harmonies.
For now, all you really need to understand about the theory is that, the chords, and the melodies I've composed to fit them, all come from harmonizing notes from the A blues scale.
When Theory, Intuition, and Creativity Meet
Once the concept of harmonization is understood, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. The following examples are just a few of the endless ideas you could generate. I have designed my examples to imitate the styles of well-known composers and guitarists and broken them down into how they are fingered on the fretboard.
Ex. 7 is a particularly fun place to start as this arpeggio is just the A blues scale, but the notes are displaced into different octaves to create chords.
For Ex. 8 I've rearranged the notes ever so slightly to create a slightly more uniform, pseudo-Slayer progression and melody.
The bent note at the beginning of Ex. 9 immediately made me think of Jimmy Page, so for guitar two, I mimicked Robert Plant's chromatic vocal melody on "Misty Mountain Hop" to create this Led Zeppelin-inspired etude. Note that the first chord is labeled A5(#11) because it contains the D# almost an octave and half higher than the root, making it a #11 in relationship to the A.
Ex. 10 was a happy accident I discovered while playing around with this lesson's concept. It's unashamedly Nine Inch Nails meets Andy Summers. The second chord in the progression is a little tricky to label, so I went with D5(b9) as it contains Eb an octave and one half-step away from the root, making it the b9.
Ex. 11 demonstrates the power of playing unexpected, three-note chords over a static bassline, very similar to funk/fusion keyboard players in the 1970s (think Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea). To provide continuity, I've actually harmonized the blues scale using the same method discussed in Ex. 2. The chord labels I've chosen are derived from a combination of the chords and the bass line, though you'll see there are really only two chords: Cm and Asus4, played with different voicings. And take my word for it, the fact that this progression contains both Cm and Am chords is highly unusual and worth more investigation.
Ex. 12 Is a pseudo-power chord riff a la Fugazi or other bands found in the post-punk/emo genres. I've started here with a variation of the A5(#11) chord. Perhaps this is the defining chord of the harmonized blues scale? The rest of the progression seems to alternate between variations of Am and G, but notice that the bass is playing different notes over the chords, providing harmonic variation. Also pay attention that B and C sections are slightly different.
Comprehend and Create!
I hope by now you've realized that the key to exploiting the harmonized blues scale is to include the #4/b5 in all your progressions. This is the vital element that distinguishes the blues scale from so many others. Make your own progressions, melodies, and songs based on what we've started here. You are only limited by your imagination.
Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.
We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.
JHS Series 3 Overdrive
This OD is part of the company’s Series 3 line which offers affordable stomps with simple control setups. Along with volume and drive controls, it offers a body knob that tweaks the EQ and a gain switch that moves between more saturated and crunchier sounds.
Thanks to an extremely dedicated following among Nashville session cats, the other green stomp is now offered in a downsized setup. It can run up to 18V for increased headroom and sports glow-in-the-dark knobs for those extremely dark stages.
TC Electronic MojoMojo
This all-analog distortion offers classic, vintage-inspired tones with a familiar control setup of volume, gain, bass, and treble. The real secret sauce is in the voice switch, which allows you to move between a more natural sound and a bass cut.
Since 1978, the DS-1 has been a go-to for generations of guitarists. It offers a scooped sound that can take you from grunge to shred and has been affordable for decades.
EarthQuaker Devices Plumes
Although loosely based on a classic circuit, EQD has replaced the 4558 IC with a JFET op-amp for a more mid-focused sound. In addition to the standard controls, the toggle switch moves between two different clipping options or no clipping at all for a wide-open clean boost.
Electro-Harmonix East River Drive
A JRC4558 IC-loaded circuit that creates the classic symmetrical overdrive sound, this is an all-analog affair that is true bypass, housed in a rock-solid chassis, and can run on a 9-volt battery—which is included.
Fender Hammerstone Overdrive
One of the newest entries on this list is a retro-looking stomp that offers some interesting features under the hood. The original circuit allows you to control the mids before the gain stage, plus there’s an internal trim pot to wrangle the high end.
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
One of the most popular stompboxes of all time has been shrunk down to a mini-sized wonder. With an oversized drive knob and two smaller tone and level controls, this green monster aims to cop all the classic midrange tones of the original.
Pro Co Rat 2
Is it a fuzz? Or a distortion? Or an overdrive? Well, thanks to the famous filter control, you can blur the lines between all the different flavors of dirt. It offers a totally analog signal path, glow-in-the-dark graphics, and the trademark heavy-duty enclosure.
There’s no mistaking that shade of yellow. This dead-simple setup offers output and distortion controls along with a vintage-sounding germanium clipping circuit that does everything in its power to blur the line between overdrive and fuzz.