Cables, whether used for power, for linking pedals, connecting amplifier to speaker, or in the internal connections of an amplifier, offer different tonal qualities that will enhance, decrease, or be transparent to your tone
With all of the things that people have to alter, shape, and color their guitar tone, often times not a lot of thought is given to the actual path that leads to all of these components to begin with: wires. It may be easy to dismiss the importance of the quality of this path as simply “wire is wire,” but that would be shortchanging the value of what it is that is actually carrying your signal to all those components that you worked so hard to obtain.
So, where do you begin? Are you going to tear open your amplifier and start changing all the wires? What wires were even used in the first place? Did the builder of this or that product even give any thought to wire quality? It is important to remember that what we are talking about here is quality. I am not speaking in terms of better or worse. Expensive does not equal better. Inexpensive does not equal worse. The point here is to realize that grades of quality are simply different. When building a quality amplifier, for example, careful consideration should be given to the sonic character of all wiring involved. The reason is to facilitate what is desired as the end result, not to be fancy. The fact is that certain wire colors the sounds differently than others. If I am aiming for transparency and for the instrument to be the voice of the amplifier, I should use wire that facilitates that.
Musicians will spend great amounts of time and money making sure their signal chain is wired true bypass, so that the electronics of their pedals do not affect their tone. They will spend hundreds on different tubes to shape their sound. All of these considerations are important and make a very real difference, but these same musicians will argue over whether or not the actual wiring powering those units makes any difference. A cracked and oxidized AC cord is degrading the tone of your prized amp. An upgrade to a standard quality AC cord will make a very noticeable difference. Upgrade that cable to something of high quality and you will hear an improved tone. An improved quality cable connecting that beautiful amp to that custom speaker cabinet will allow you to hear those pieces for what they have to offer.
Instrument cables are probably the most common form of wiring that the average player gives credence to. There are many types, brands, and grades of cables that result in a particular tone. Some cables actually sound different the direction they are played. It is true! If you were to go into any high-end recording studio you will see high-end cables. Is the reason for this because these cables have been so hyped up that high-end cable companies have fooled the entire industry, or is it because quality cables make a very real improvement in tone?
A low quality instrument cable can bring certain qualities to the table such as: hum, static (especially when the cable is moved), dull tone, and interference. These cables are also often unreliable and may not be doing your tone any favors. The aim with these types of cables simply is to transfer sound with less consideration given to the quality of that sound. I’ve seen many cheap cable companies offer “Lifetime Warranty” on their product. The problem with this is when the cable breaks you are then given a replacement of the same cable that has failed you!
When talking of high quality cable we are talking about attention to detail. Attention has been given to the purity of the metal (copper, silver, other), the quality of the plugs and the way the wires are insulated. Some high quality cables are constructed so that each strand of wire is actually coated so as to prevent noise and interference. Careful consideration is given to the wire gauge, resistance, capacitance, and inductance. Thicker wire gauge, for example, does not equate to better tone. A balance needs to be in place with regards to keeping the gauge large enough to handle the load placed upon it, but small enough to keep the capacitance and inductance low. Other important factors to consider are diameter of individual wire strands, the length of cable, aging of the cable, and durability. All of these factors contribute to a cable's frequency response and get us closer to what we are after: better tone. But since “better” is so subjective, let us just say “purer.”
Another consideration when talking cables is that of break in. It is commonly known that speakers and tubes have a break in period to where they settle in. Wires are no different. An instrument cable, for example, will break in as it is continued to be used. What may start off as sounding tight becomes relaxed. You may notice a particular difference in the smoothness of bass response and the chime of the highs as the cable continues to break in.
The point of this article is to shed some light on an often overlooked component of a player's signal chain. It is important to bear in mind that any player should use whatever cable they are comfortable with using and whatever fits into their budget. Cables, whether used for power, for linking pedals, connecting amplifier to speaker, or in the internal connections of an amplifier, do offer different tonal qualities that will enhance, decrease, or be transparent to your tone. Which ones you choose to use is all part of shaping your sound.
Check in next month for a hands-on overview of a Dumble Overdrive Special.
Tim Schroeder is the President and chief engineer at Schroeder Audio Inc. of Chicago Illinois where he is responsible for new product design/construction as well as over seeing repair operations at Schroeder Guitar and Amplifier Repair. schroederaudioinc.com
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses.
DiMarzio, Inc. announces the release of the Relentless P (DP299), the Relentless J Bridge (DP301), Relentless J Neck (DP300), and the Relentless J Pair (DP302) for 4 string basses. The new Relentless P and Relentless J series pickups feature the Relentless cover designed in collaboration with Billy Sheehan.
As with the Relentless pickups, we removed all the hard edges from the standard P Bass and standard J Basspickups, and added an arch to the top of the pickups to bring the sensing coils and pole pieces closer to the strings. These improvements increase the dynamic range and make active circuitry unnecessary.
The Relentless P and Relentless J pickups incorporate Neodymium magnets and produce 70 percent more output than traditional passive pickups, and they’re dead quiet due to the incorporation of metal covers and foil-shielded cables. To dial in (or fine-tune) the individual string output, the Relentless P and Relentless J include eight adjustable pole pieces. These pickups also have a broad magnetic field so you can even bend notes without volume dropout.
DiMarzio’s extra shielding makes the Relentless P and Relentless J better for both recording and stage performances. We’ve mounted them onto robust .09375” thick circuit board base plates to eliminate the annoying protruding mounting screws — ultimately creating a more comfortable and consistent foundation to rest your fingers on.
The new Relentless P steps beyond the traditional P-Bass sound and can only be described as massive. It has more of everything: more volume, beefier lows, a growling midrange, and crispy highs with better individual string definition.
The Relentless J incorporates a new invention, (patent pending) parallelogram-shaped coils, offering an expanded mid-range punch, snappy highs, precise lows, and a new dimension to the sound of the Relentless series pickups.
Relentless P and Relentless J pickups will breathe new life into any bass, increase playability, and work well for any style of music from Motown to metal.
DiMarzio’s Relentless P, Relentless J Bridge, Relentless J Neck, and Relentless J pair are made in the U.S.A. and may now be ordered for immediate delivery.
Suggested List Price for the Relentless P is $169.00 (MAP $119.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Bridge and Relentless J neck is $155.00 (MAP $109.99).
Suggested List Price for the Relentless J Pair is $296.00 (MAP 209.99).
For more information, please visit our website at dimarzio.com.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
For part two of our crash course in harmony for bassists, we’re talkin’ triads.
As bass players, our job is often to indicate and support what is happening rhythmically and harmonically in the music we’re playing. And to do that, it’s important for us to understand the basics of tonality and how it works. In fact, every bass player must have a strong knowledge of harmony to do their job correctly. This month, we’ll continue last month’s harmony crash course with some more ways to brush up on your ear skills, in italics below, so you can do your low-end job effectively.
The basic building block of harmony is the dyad, which gives us our basic intervals. But the basic building block of tonality is the triad, a grouping of three or more tones (root, 3rd, and 5th) that give us the four chord qualities—major, minor, diminished, and augmented—which you’re probably already familiar with.
Just as with intervals, we should train our ears to recognize chord qualities instantly. Start with two qualities (major and minor). Once you can identify those two correctly about 95 percent of the time, add another. Keep going until you can identify all four qualities consistently.
Another great exercise is to take a melody (either major or minor) and convert it to the opposite quality. Start out with something you know well, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” This may take a while at first, but the goal is to keep on doing these until you can convert most stuff on the fly instantly.
“This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.”
Each chord quality has its own distinct sound, but major and minor are related, and both feel very grounded. Because of the 5th in each, our ears can easily hear which note in the chord is strongest (the root), which gives major and minor a sense of gravity. This feeling persists even if we change the order of the notes (invert the chord).
Have a friend or an app play inversions of major or minor triads. Find the root of each chord by singing it. Work towards being able to identify these triads in root position (root in the bass), first inversion (3rd in the bass), or second inversion (5th in the bass).
Pay attention to bass lines that land on a root, 3rd, or 5th on the first beat of the bar and then practice coming up with your own examples.
Diminished and augmented triads are much more ambiguous. Without a perfect fifth (diminished has a b5 and augmented has a #5), no tone in particular sounds strongest. Thus, both chords lack gravity. In fact, to most of us, every tone sounds equal, like being lost in the woods where every direction appears the same. Both seem to want to move towards something else more stable. When this occurs, it gives a sense of release, or resolution. This feeling of resolution, in some ways, is the whole point.
The top part of a dominant seventh or V7 chord is a diminished triad. For example, a C7 consists of the notes C–E–G–Bb. If you remove the C, we’re left with an E diminished triad. This is where the moving sound, or the desire to resolve, comes from. The important takeaway is that we’re making something very stable—a major chord—and making it less stable when we add the b7, because of the diminished sound, which in turn sets up the need to resolve.
Listening for V–I: On a guitar or keyboard play any major chord, then add a b7 (transforming I to V7) and try to hear where the progression “wants” to go next. Move to the new key (a fifth down) and repeat. After twelve V–I progressions you’ll arrive back at the original key.
The Dominant Gateway: On bass, try playing a walking bass pattern over the cycle of fifths, strategically using a b7 to move to the next key. This foreshadowing is a great voice-leading skill.
That's all for our crash course in harmony. If you take your time with these exercises, you should notice not only your ears improving, but your bass playing too!