The quick method of getting to know your gear.
Hey there, fellow gear gluttons! Welcome back to “Stomp School.” This month’s topic may seem at first a little too literally like school, since it’s called “Doing Your Homework.” Fortunately, this is the kind of homework that’s mostly fun, and it won’t seem a whole lot like work once you get into it.
Just as mastering your instrument takes a certain amount of study and practice, the ability to skillfully operate your equipment also requires a good bit of work. It’s not just the technical knowledge of how each piece of gear works, but the actual experience of using it that will yield the desired results. I’m continually surprised at how many players try to sidestep this part of the process. I’m sure you never expected that just buying a nice guitar would give you the ability to play it. So it stands to reason that mere ownership of other gear doesn’t necessarily give you great tone. You need to do your homework.
I was reminded of how important this is last week when the owner of a local music store called me in a quandary. He had just ordered a batch of Black Cat pedals and was having a problem with one of them. I asked him what was wrong with the pedal, and he said he wasn’t sure—it just “didn’t sound right.” Obviously, this had me greatly concerned, so I headed down to his shop as soon as I could. When I got to the store, the owner told me, “a kid wanted to try this pedal, and when he plugged it in, it sounded terrible.” He then suggested I try the pedal myself, adding “maybe we were doing something wrong.” Sure enough, once I got set up with an axe and amp, I fired up the pedal in question, took a minute to dial it in, and started jamming away. It sounded great!
“Wow!” the storeowner said, “it didn’t sound like that when we tried it.” Granted, I’m probably a much more skilled player than the prospective customer, but I was sure that the problem had nothing to do with chops. I asked him where they had the knobs set on the pedal, and he said, “Oh, we didn’t play around with the knobs too much.” Now, this may sound like the punchline of a bad joke, but it’s a true story. What’s more, this particular pedal only had three knobs, so it wasn’t overly complicated. It got me wondering how many people really expect to plug into a piece of gear and have it sound just the way they want it to without having to do anything. I mean, the knobs are there for a reason, right?
I tend to forget that tweaking knobs on guitar pedals is part of my job, and has been for a long time, so I take it for granted that everyone knows what to do when plugging into the average stompbox. Although the above example is a little extreme, it illustrates a tendency I’ve noticed in a lot of players to get locked into a certain way of using their gear without ever testing the full range and capability of each piece. Maybe it’s time to start thinking outside the (stomp) box. Whenever I get a new pedal that I’m not familiar with, I give it the “Quick Test.” Basically, I take a minute to quickly familiarize myself with the entire range of every control on the pedal. When I worked at Analog Man, it was a routine matter to test an entire case of 24 modified Tube Screamers in a few minutes using this method.
To “Quick Test” an average guitar pedal, first plug the pedal in by itself, using only your guitar, amp, and two cables, making sure the pedal is properly powered with a fresh battery or the correct adapter. Be sure to take a minute to set your bypassed signal to taste and let your ear adjust. If the pedal has a Volume control, you may want to turn that knob down before you start until you get an idea of how loud it will be. Next, set all the other controls at 12 o’clock, or whatever the equivalent midway point is likely to be. Turn the pedal on, hit some strings, and then listen. Now, test each control one by one, turning each knob through its entire range, from fully counterclockwise to fully clockwise, before returning to midway. You should be able to identify the function of each control as you’re turning the knob, regardless of what the label says. Having a better idea of the full range of each control, you can go on to see how they interact with each other. Most importantly, remember to listen, listen, listen…
Try this with some of your old stomps; I guarantee you’ll hear something new. Then get ready for the more advanced knob twisting, pedal tweaking tricks we have in store in our next session.
Until then, KEEP ON STOMPIN’!
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com) and author of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. Questions or comments about this article can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.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!