Not your dad’s tremolo—or anyone else’s.
Unique distortion/modulation effects.
Tricky to use. Tones may get tiring. Poor documentation.
Ease of Use:
Nunomo calls its Grain a tremolo pedal. It is, in the sense that it modulates the amplitude (volume) of your signal. But the sonic results aren’t like anything you might expect from a conventional trem effect.
Here, the modulating signal is a fast square wave. This is hard, on/off modulation at rates that begin where most trem effects max out. Grain doesn’t do slow, throbbing sounds. Instead, the speedy modulation generates a unique distortion timbre. “The original idea,” says Nunomo, “came from how a human shouts. In rock or metal songs, people shout like ‘goaaaahhh!’”
A Fast Flicker
This sonic stroboscopic flicker reminds me of the throaty, trilling sound Spanish speakers produce when properly pronouncing double-r words like torre and borracho. Since Nunomo creates the effect by nixing portions of waveform cycles, the modulation rate varies according to pitch and modulates faster at higher pitches. If, say, you bend a note, you can hear the rate change as you stretch and release the string. I suppose it sounds something like a heavy metal singer shouting “burrrrrrrr-ito!”
The pedal also includes gain and volume controls capable of overdriving an amp on their own. But, as Nunomo points out, the Grain sounds most dramatic when placed after a separate distortion or fuzz pedal. (I used a Tone Bender MkII clone for the demo clip.) The Grain doesn’t change your fuzz pedal’s innate timbre. It just sort of flutters it.
Meanwhile, the process also generates sub-tones between two and four octaves below the pitch you play. Many settings are reminiscent of the old MXR Blue Box effect heard on Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.” Like a Blue Box, the Grain is clearest when playing above the 12th fret. Below that, the sub-octaves become indistinguishable. Anything other than single notes (and sometimes fifths) sounds pretty sloppy. But hey—depending on how much noise you like in your rock, “indistinguishable” and “sloppy” might suit your style and tastes.
Mix and Match
The Grain’s additional controls let you vary the pedal’s core timbre. A trio of knobs activates the effect—each one generating sub-tones in a different octave. A 3-position transition toggle controls the intensity (i.e., the choppiness) of the effect. There’s also a much-needed mix knob to blend straight and effected signal. A little effect goes a long way here.
In fact, at aggressive mix levels I find the Grain’s tones fatiguing. But having said that, the effect could be deployed to good use in small doses. For example, fluttering the last phrase of a solo heading into a chorus might lend the perfect touch of drama and eccentricity. The Grain is ready for such applications: a second mini-toggle activates a momentary mode, wherein the effect is only applied while holding down a foot switch.
Dialing It In
I initially found the Grain difficult to use. Even with the one-page manual, I simply couldn’t get it to produce modulation effects, though the gain controls worked as expected. We contacted the manufacturer and Nunomo responded with a diagram depicting a starting position for the knobs—one that doesn’t appear in the manual. It turns out the three depth control knobs aren’t exactly depth controls. They’re more like trimpots that provide one ideal setting, as opposed to a range of usable ones. In other words, they do nothing useful across most of their range.
The same is true of the wet/dry mix pot. Fully counterclockwise, it outputs an effect-only signal. With the knob raised to around 10 o’clock, you get maximum dry. Nothing else happens in the upper two-thirds of the knob’s range.
The Grain is solidly made, with a tidy circuit board and enclosure-mounted pots and jacks. The pedal lives in a standard BB-sized box and runs on the usual 9V power supplies. There is no battery compartment.
Listen to the accompanying demo clip and to others online. (All feature similar sounds.) Do you think these tones could find a place in your toolbox? Well, that’s your verdict. To my ear, the Grain’s effects could be effective in short bursts. Your aesthetics may differ. I didn’t dig the fact that four of the six knobs only do useful things in a fraction of their range, or that the one-page manual failed to get me up and running without frustration. Again, your mileage may vary.
Watch the Review Demo:
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!