Steve Lukather and Steve Morse discuss tone and rut busting at Guitar Center sessions in Hollywood.
Steve Lukather and Steve Morse entertained and inspired an enthusiastic audience during a recent event at Guitar Center's flagship Hollywood store. The two legends were featured guests in a special gathering hosted by Sterling Ball - the head of Ernie Ball - as part of a six-city Guitar Center Sessions Series tour featuring Ernie Ball/Music Man artists.
Not surprisingly, Luke and Morse attracted a jam-packed crowd to the May 31 event, which was open to the public (as are all Sessions Series events).
For over two hours, attendees were treated to a wide-ranging event that combined freewheeling humor and jaw-dropping musicianship. Accompanying Lukather and Morse on the stage, ace drummer John Ferraro provided solid support during the various jam sessions (highlights included an extended jam on Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and Motown-themed instrumental medley), while Sterling Ball rocked on bass and moderated an easygoing-yet-informative Q&A session that featured numerous questions from the audience.
Both Morse and Lukather are longtime Music Man endorsers (Morse since 1986 and Luke since 1993) and the camaraderie was evident as the icons talked about their formative years and their musical influences.
The discussion included numerous tone tips, as when Lukather described mic'ing techniques in the studio. "You have to start out with a good sound source," he admitted, "but so much of it is trial and error. Most of my favorite sounds, like on 'Voodoo Chile,' the slow version, you hear that ambient sound. They took the double stack amp, turned it around so it faced the glass, and they miked the cabinet from behind. You could also hear the guitar through a live vocal mic. When people say 'you just can't get that sound anymore,' a lot of it was ambient leakage. There is no right or wrong. If it sounds good, it sounds good."
One of the more revealing moments of the evening occurred when Sterling Ball asked Morse and Lukather "What happens when you hit the wall?" to learn their tips for refreshing their creativity.
Morse suggested that guitarists look inward to find new inspiration. "Take a different perspective. All of us were two-year-old kids at one time, with incredible imaginations where we could envision just about anything. Part of breaking out of a rut involves regressing back a bit to the point where you can imagine anything. A good way to start is to restrict yourself and force a different part of your brain to work. For instance, from a mechanical standpoint you can force yourself to play a song using only the D and G strings. You'll be forced to play up and down the neck using different shapes, and you'll force your brain to think in different ways." Morse also recommended players to "change your tuning and force yourself to envision things differently. The key thing is to avoid using the part of the brain that controls muscle memory. When you challenge yourself to play in different ways, you'll end up surprising yourself. You can be that person you were when you were two years old and you could imagine anything, but now you'll do it while using your adult skills to make it happen."
Lukather suggested an alternate approach, explaining that guitarists can look outward and seek inspiration outside their comfort zone. "I find it's really helpful to listen to music that you don't normally play yourself. After a gig I'll listen to old jazz, acoustic music, Ray Charles stuff. Go back through history and there are just some stunning, amazing players and that can inspire you. It may not be your daily diet, but you'll be surprised. You cop a couple of licks and they'll sneak into your vocabulary. The key to opening up to new ideas is like learning a foreign language."
Vamping on Lukather's point, Morse added: "Try to add one thing to your vocabulary of licks every time that you play. If you practice something perfectly ten times in a row, there's a chance that you can pull it out of your hat when you're on stage. Try some simple licks that you've never played before and play them a bunch of times. Challenge yourself to add one little thing each time."
At the end of the evening, Luke and Morse signed autographs and met with fans while attendees enthused about the event. 18-year-old Manuel Badoni has been playing for five years, and he welcomed the opportunity: "When I heard that Steve Lukather and Steve Morse would be here, I definitely knew I could learn a few things." Steve McCloud, a major fan of Lukather, agreed: "I play rock guitar and I try to copy from the best," he laughed.
Dave Starks has been playing for five years and he was particularly impressed with the tone tips: "I'm a big fan of both guys, so this was a must-see. There are so many techniques that Steve Morse has that you don't hear all the time, from the volume swells to the pedal-steel effects that he gets. And his use of the tone knob effect - I never knew you could get such a strong, wah type of effect. I'm definitely going to experiment with that."
At the end of the day, that's what defines a productive clinic: guitarists left the GC event with a smiles on their faces, inspired to pick up their instruments and raise their playing a notch or two.
For more information:
Guitar Center Sessions
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.