Texas slinger Zach Person joins us in sharing the ditties we play when sizing up a new axe to see if it meets our needs. Plus, we discuss current musical obsessions.
You enter your local guitar store. An instrument calls you over, you pick it up ... what do you play? Do you have a go-to riff when testing out new gear?
Zach Person — Guest Picker
Photo by Nathan Hall
A: I usually will set the amp really clean so that I can hear the true sound of the instrument. I'll almost instinctively play through a variety of pentatonic and Lydian-esque passages, and big open chords to get a feel for how it handles tuning, intonation, etc. If it proves to sing through all of these "tests," then I'll add some drive and continue exploring. At that point, any person accompanying me knows that they've lost me for the next half hour!
Current obsession: An artist in town (Austin, Texas) named Dave Scher. He is truly my favorite guitarist, and he inspires a lot of my playing. He's so melodic, and his improvisation never feels stale. He's one of those guys that can plug straight into any amp and make it sound like he's running through a $3K+ pedal rig. Before the pandemic he was on the road for several months with Eric Johnson playing rhythm guitar (and bass on some songs), but he has his own solo project here in town. Go check him out. You can thank me later!
Dave Scher "Georgia On My Mind"
Felipe Gonzalez — Reader of the Month
A: I tune it down to D, then play "Hate by Design" by Killswitch Engage. If it resists the abuse of that riff, it's worth it. The reasoning behind playing this riff to test guitars is the mix of precise downstrokes, palm-muted notes, and ringing notes in an up-tempo song. (It's KSE, after all.) It's challenging and delightful to play. I love the power of their riffs—to play them is tricky and will develop your timing in a very good way. I think Adam and Joel are one of the best guitar tandems on the metal scene of all time.
Riff Rundown - Killswitch Engage's Hate by Design
Current obsession: My current musical obsessions are three bands I discovered by chance: God Is an Astronaut, Earthside, and Distant Dream. Sometimes the YouTube algorithm works nicely for you, and that's how I found them. I love their melodic approach in their composition and the lack of virtuosic playing, which in the end, makes me tired. This is music, not a competition.
GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT - Fade (Official Video) | Napalm Records
Ted Drozdowski — Senior Editor
A: I have a very specific ritual: a rip on the riff from Beck's "Devil's Haircut" followed by the four-note riff and opening barre chords from "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Part II" and then some blues licks and campfire chords. If there's no buzz, it rings out, and the neck feels like love, then I plug in.
Current Obsession: Figuring out how and when to return to live performance. My band, Coyote Motel, just had its first rehearsal in 14 months and we could feel the rust, but the gears were still turning beautifully underneath. Now what?
David Von Bader — Contributing Writer
A: I have one rootsy-sounding, slippery ascending riff that starts with the open low E and slides into a little double-stop sequence that I tend to play when my hands are on autopilot. It's a lick that makes it sound like I kinda know what I'm doing, but without being too showy. As someone that put in a few years working at a busy but physically small vintage guitar shop in Brooklyn, I'm hyper aware of in-store demo etiquette and the last thing I want to do is subject shop employees to any ego riffing beyond what I really need to get a feel for a guitar or amp or pedal.
Current Obsession: I've been absolutely punishing the Walker Brothers' 1978 release Nite Flights lately. It was the last album they released as a group, but it's essentially three solo EPs smashed together. The songs each of the band's three members (they weren't actually related) respectively wrote and sang appear sequenced together in clusters. The four Scott Walker tunes that open the album are dark, wonderfully dramatic, incredibly catchy, and subtly telegraph the avant-garde (and occasionally quite terrifying) direction of his late-career solo work.
The album features some truly phenomenal guitar work by famed British session ace Big Jim Sullivan, as well as hired soloist Les Davidson, who rips a proper barn burner of a solo on the album's opener "Shutout" that perfectly accentuates the song's bad drug trip at the disco feel.
Streamlined simplicity makes acoustic sound sweetening a piece of cake.
Streamlined and intuitive. Nice range in controls. 18V means extra headroom. Quiet.
Busy graphics make control names hard to read.
Orange Acoustic Pedal
I understand why a lot of my acoustic-playing chums avoid DI boxes. They aren't the sexiest pedals in the world, and a lot of them can look pretty intimidating—with parametric EQs, notch filters, phase switches, and other highly inorganic devices that don't do much for a focused, spontaneous performance mindset. But the fact is that even a simple DI can prevent a lot of headaches. And the very streamlined Orange Acoustic Pedal (which seems conceived for the DI-averse) makes fixing or fine-tuning a baseline amplified acoustic tone feel a lot less like a chore.
It's easy to add or subtract a touch of bass and treble to very effective ends.
The Orange Acoustic Pedal is super-intuitive (which is a good thing, given that the graphics render the control names a bit indecipherable). It's easy to add or subtract a touch of bass and treble to very effective ends. And small adjustments to those two controls alone can do much to eliminate problem frequencies or add body and excitement to flat-sounding piezos. The midrange, notch, and Q-factor controls (the latter two isolate specific mid frequency ranges and narrow or widen the range of the selected frequencies, respectively) take more practice to master. But doing so can make the Orange feel like a scalpel for eliminating problem peaks. The 18V Acoustic Pedal and its useful effects loop are also super-quiet and do a fantastic job of preserving signal integrity. There is no shortage of solid DI options in this price class, but Orange's quiet performance, high headroom, and satisfying, intuitive operation make it an appealing option for DI newbies and players that like keeping their DI solution simple.
Takamine Blue Rose with Ct4-Dx preamp, Martin 00-15 with L.R. Baggs Element
Think outside the box and utilize bends to create tasty triads and dissonance that grabs attention!
● Use more than just the 3rd finger when bending strings.
● Bend into triads and create chords with movement.● Home in on bending intonation and precision.
Bending strings is one of the main pillars of rock, country, and blues playing. Imagine if B.B. King, Brent Mason, Brad Paisley, or Jimi Hendrix played without using any bends. It would be strange, right? The main bending techniques used by those four (and nearly every other person to pick up an electric guitar) will take you pretty much anywhere you need to go as a guitarist, but there are a few approaches to bending that will take you down roads less travelled.
The following examples give you specific licks to plug right into your playing, but the main idea is to gain a different approach and perspective when it comes to bending strings.
Ex. 1 is probably the most 'countrified' of the examples but works well as a tension builder within several genres. The lick is focused on the tension created by bending one whole-step on the 2nd string while fretting the note one half-step above the bend on the 1st string. The bend is released before moving to each section. The "rub" created by this pulls the listener's ear until the resolution, which is A. The first finger frets all notes on the 1st string, and the third finger frets all notes on the 2nd string.
Ex. 2 is where we start to look at what I call a "chord based" approach to bending. Using a simple I–IV vamp in D, I demonstrate two simple ways to use triads with bends. On beat 3 of the 1st measure, I bend the E one whole-step up to F# with my second finger to create a D major triad (D–F#–A). In the 2nd measure on beat 1, I bend the F# up one half-step with my 2nd finger to form a G major triad (G–B–D). I prefer to play with a hybrid pick-and-fingers technique, but it sounds just as clean when all three notes of each triad are played with a pick.
In Ex. 3 I work with a descending progression in E, using a bend at the top of a triad with my first finger to form each section. This progression sounds great on its own, but using each of these voicings in other contexts can really add some interesting flavor to your playing.
The first shape uses an Esus2 shape, bending the top note up one whole-step with the first finger to create an E major triad (E–G#–B) and then releasing the bend. The second shape has the same mechanics, only it uses an F#7 chord. The third shape continues that descending pattern, using the exact same bending mechanics but with an A6 sound. To finish the lick, I play an Esus triad using the open 6th string. Then, I use a pull-off to hit the G natural before bending it up a half-step to create an E major triad.
The progression from the previous example also works well on the upper three strings of the guitar and helps build finger strength. In Ex. 4 rather than bending the top note of each shape, I'm bending the bottom note. It follows the same Esus–F#7–A6–E harmony and resolves with the same shape we used to wind up Ex. 1.
In this last example (Ex. 5), I'm demonstrating three simple triad shapes that work well with bending the bottom note. We start with one that uses the 1st finger to bend, creating an Emaj7 sound. The second shape works over a B7, and the third resolves to E major. They are all very simple voicings to create but come in handy when you need something that sounds just a tad different.
Bending into triads can give your playing a little sparkle when needed, whether comping or soloing. The examples given in this lesson are great to use, but the idea here is to apply this concept to different shapes all over the fretboard. Some shapes might take some muscle building, but the work is rewarding. Get creative with your voicings, create and resolve tension, and most importantly bend in tune!
The 4-knob drive includes transparent and character drive voices (changing the order of drive & EQ circuits) that cover boost, drive, and fuzz tones.
Overdrive versatility with its own voice Hamstead Soundworks are proud to introduce Comet: a meticulously voiced overdrive pedal that opens up a whole world of tones from a simple control set.
Representing our pursuit to take analogue drive circuitry to new heights, it can be moulded from boutique sounding overdrive with a vocal midrange, right through to a rich and creamy fuzz. Both transparent and character drive tones are accessed via a deceptively simple, but incredibly powerful switch. Furthermore, your tone can be shaped via an intuitive two-band EQ, for additional tone sculpting.
- Incredibly versatile tone shaping from a simple control set
- From tone-enhancing 'always on' preamp gain, to boutique overdrive and all the way to rich, creamy fuzz
- Transparent and Character drive voices
- Multifunction EQ/Drive switch:
- Changes the order of the Drive & EQ circuits
- Switches between two distinct clipping circuits
- Adjusts the gain structure for a wide range of drive sounds
- Active EQ with +/-15dB of clean Treble & Bass boost & cut Up to 30dB of Level boost
- High Gain mode (via an internal switch)
- Global Hi Cut adjustment (via an internal pot)
- Silent optical switching and TheGigRig's OptoKick footswitch, for excellent reliability
Drive, EQ & Gain Structure
The EQ/Drive switch sits right at the heart of Comet, providing two distinct tonal paths. While on the surface it may appear to be just a simple physical switch, it's much more than that. By selecting DRV>EQ or EQ>DRV, you not only change the order of the Drive and EQ circuits, but also the type of clipping and gain structure circuitry. The design uses complex analogue engineering on the inside, to be simple and instinctive to use on the outside.
- DRV>EQ mode gives you a very dynamic and transparent clipping circuit and places the EQ after the Drive Circuit, for studio style EQ sculpting.
- EQ>DRV mode moves the EQ in front of a more raw, yet organic clipping style that boosts the input gain into the drive circuit. Doing this provides a wide range of character drive tones that can be pushed all the way to into super saturated fuzz tones.
Global Gain & Tone Control
From pre-amp boost and right through to fuzz, Comet has a very wide range of gain available onboard. However, to push the circuit even harder into high gain territory, we've also added an extra gear. Selectable via an internal switch, Hi Gain Mode can open up heavy crunch and distortion or even highly saturated fuzz tones.
While Comet is voiced to work excellently with any guitar or bass set-ups straight out of the box, we wanted to add a little extra flexibility for those players who really want to fine tune their sound. With the internal Hi-Cut pot, you can tailor the high frequencies to suit any rig or tonal preference.
- All-analogue design
- Dimensions: 70 w x 130 d x 65 h mm
- Weight: 525 g / 1.16 lbs
- Power Requirement: 9-12 V DC ONLY, 65 mA (Centre Negative) Input Impedance: 500 kΩ
- Output Impedance: < 300 Ω
- Warranty: 5 Year Limited Warranty
Comet has been extensively tested with a large range of familiar guitars and amplifiers to ensure that it will work superbly with any setup.
An all-analogue circuit designed by Peter Hamstead. Built at the Hamstead labs in Cambridgeshire, Great Britain.
Hamstead Soundworks COMET: Interstellar Driver
Hamstead Soundworks Comet Interstellar Driver : RRP £199 // €235 // $259
Built with KT77s, this living-room-worthy, stage-ready combo rocks out in 40W/20W modes and comes stock with a 12" Celestion alnico Cream speaker.
Based in the Flemish region of Belgium, Da Capo manufactures totally hand-built, valve-driven guitar combination amplifiers of the highest quality.
With switchable 20watt Studio and 40watt Stage outputs, the Da Capo GT Deluxe Series 1x12 class a/b amplifier, features circuitry designed in-house by respected engineer Guy Tiels, delivering sweet, hot-valve musical cleans, with an abundance of harmonic induced sustain when pushed to its natural overdriven voice.
"The Da Capo GT Deluxe Series brings a fresh new approach to tube amp design," says Da Capo owner and founder Nicolas Acou. "There's a noticeable increase in clarity and separation within chords and lead lines, what you hear from the speaker is an open and direct, unimpaired translation of the guitar, with exceptional focus and definition.
A Fresh New Sound
- Pré Gain
- Studio / Live switch
- 240v / 110V
Ins and outs:
- High / Low input
- Power inlet
- 8ohm extension
- Effects loop
- Mic out
- 1X Ecc 83 Tung-Sol- 2x ECC83 JJ's
- 2X KT77 JJ's- Custom wired toroidal power traffo
- Van der Veen toroidal output trafo
- 12" Celestion alnico Cream speaker
- Beech cabinet
- Leather handle
We also worked with renowned contemporary designer Joeri Claeys, whose emphasis is on form and vision, for a striking cabinet design, featuring well-balanced, fluid curves, creating a minimalist contemporary guitar combo that suits every interior.
No more heavy lifting with oversized and heavy amplifiers. The GT deluxe is easy to carry and will fit in any car. It is designed to make traveling and setting up a breeze.
GT Deluxe amplifier
€ 3.630,00 incl.tax
Optional Integral mic'ing system
€ 150,00 incl.tax
€ 965,00 incl. tax
€ 230,00 incl. tax