Many pro players swear by this tone circuit, and it indeed produces a different effect than the standard tone circuit we all know.
This month we're taking a look at the Fender Greasebucket tone circuit introduced in 2005 on several guitars in the Highway One series, as well as in various Custom Shop Stratocaster models. The Greasebucket name (which is a registered Fender trademark, by the way) is my favorite when it comes to Fender's habit of choosing cheesy marketing names for new products. But don't let the Greasebucket name fool you—your tone will get cleaner with this modification, not greasy and dirty. I tried to find out who came up with this name, but it seems that this info is not documented, which is another Fender habit that began in the early '50s.
Here is what Fender says about the Greasebucket: "The Greasebucket tone circuit adds a new dimension to your tone, the effect is that when rolled down, the tone pot reduces the high frequencies, but does not add bass."
Okay, it sounds like this is worth trying out. In fact, many pro players swear by this tone circuit, and it indeed produces a different effect than the standard tone circuit we all know. But don't take the Fender description literally—a Strat's standard Tone control does not add bass frequencies. With passive electronics, you can't add anything that isn't already there—you can only reshape the tone by attenuating certain frequencies, which makes others sound more prominent. Removing highs makes lows more apparent (and vice versa), and that's exactly what we have here: The standard tone control rolls off some high frequencies (depending on the capacitance of the tone cap), making the bass frequencies more prominent.
In addition, the use of inductors (which is what a pickup behaves like in a guitar circuit) and capacitors can create resonant peaks and valleys, further coloring the overall tone. Some people like this interaction, others don't—it's purely subjective and a matter of personal taste.
Anyhow, the Greasebucket tone control is a cool way to roll off the highs and lows in your guitar while preventing your tone from getting muddy. This is especially helpful for creating sparkling clean tones, but it's also useful for overdriven sounds.
To convert your Strat's normal tone control to Greasebucket specs, you don't need much: 0.1 μF and 0.022 μF capacitors (Fender uses ceramic-disc versions), and a 1/4-watt 4.7 kΩ resistor (Fender uses the metal-film type). If you want to convert both your Strat's tone controls to Greasebucket specs, obviously you'll have to double these parts.
The mod itself is relatively easy. Simply unsolder your tone pot and then connect the new parts as shown in the diagram. (Note that the resistor is soldered in series with the 0.022 μF cap.) The rest of the Strat wiring, including the volume pot, stays standard.
Fender's Greasebucket circuit in all its glory. (Seymour Duncan and the stylized S are registered trademarks of Seymour Duncan Pickups.)
This wiring diagram comes courtesy of Seymour Duncan Pickups and is used with permission.
This type of band-pass filter only allows certain frequencies to pass through, while others are blocked. The standard tone circuit in the Strat is called a variable low-pass filter (aka a "treble-cut filter"), which allows only the low frequencies to pass through while the high frequencies get sent to ground via the tone cap.
The Greasebucket's bandpass filter is a combination of a high-pass and a low-pass filter. This circuit is designed to cut high frequencies without "adding" bass. Mostly it has to do with that 4.7 kΩ resistor wired in series with the pot, which prevents the value from reaching zero. You can get a similar effect by simply not turning the Strat's standard tone control all the way down. The additional cap on the wiper of the Greasebucket circuit complicates things a bit, because together with the pickups, it forms an RLC circuit (a resonant circuit comprising a resistor, an inductor, and a capacitor), but that's outside the scope of this column. But the Greasebucket has its own special sound, and I can only encourage everyone to try it. You'll be surprised at its flexibility and tone.
If you're adventurous, you can personalize the Greasebucket circuit with additional mods. For example, you can try different tone-cap values and materials. The 0.022 μF cap connected to the tone control is the standard configuration we all know from our Strat's tone control. But, as we've discussed several times in previous columns, there are tons of alternatives. You can try other values from 2200 pF up to 0.1 μF, and also different types of new, used, or new-old-stock (NOS) caps—such as metal film, film, paper in oil, waxed paper, and silver mica. Your choices are virtually unlimited.
We'll discuss more Strat mods—such as the Fender S-1 switching system—in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Dave Martone shows you how to combine an intervallic approach to playing arpeggios with some wicked hybrid picking
When I dig into a burning solo, I like
to combine different techniques that
can give my lines an interesting feel. In this
lesson, we’re going to combine an intervallic
approach to playing arpeggios with some
wicked hybrid picking.
Displacing certain notes in the arpeggio and combining them in odd groupings creates a flowing, angular feel that will make people say, “Hey! What is that?” These examples will involve a lot of string skipping, so in order to play them at breakneck speeds, we’ll need to use some hybrid picking. Essentially, hybrid picking is when you use the other fingers on your picking hand—usually the middle and ring fingers— in addition to the flatpick. Hot-rod country players have been doing this forever, and we’re going to steal it and combine it with some pure rock fury.
In the first example shown in Fig. 1, I’m playing a G#m arpeggio starting on the b7th. This works really well over the F#m. Since F# is the second note of an E major scale, this chord functions as a iim7. This arpeggio will be our starting point for adding some intervallic displacement, since right now it sounds a little plain. Download Example 1 audio...
In Fig. 2 we take the same arpeggio and create a seven-note pattern that will repeat twice. In the example I have notated which finger to use for each string with a representing the ring finger and m indicating the middle finger. The missing last note gives the lick a displaced feeling, but continuing with the 16th-note rhythm adds excitement. The arpeggio is pulled apart by bouncing intervals between the b7 and the lick’s root note, and with the 5th, b3rd, and the b7 occurring an octave higher. In the audio example, I cycle the lick twice so you can hear the connection between the two seven-note patterns.
Download Example 2 audio...
A wah with four unique voices: Classic Wah, MegaWah, Triggered Wah, and Auto Wah.
|Download Example 1
Mega Mode: Gain 11:00, Resonance 3:00, Sensitivity 1:00
|Download Example 2
Auto Mode: Gain 10:00, Resonance 9:00, Sensitivity 2:00
|Clips recorded with a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom into a Fender reissue Twin Reverb.|
Show me the Way
The aluminum Frampton MegaWah is a stout, sturdy device. And Gig-FX’s practical design sensibility is very much intact in this signature model, which is laid out with two sets of knobs on either side of a compact (9" x 4"), I-shaped pedal. The design is among the most distinctive on the market, and it serves the two-fold purpose of making the controls more accessible and visible while keeping them out of harm’s way on the sides of the enclosure. The improved access and readability is vital on the Frampton MegaWah, which is essentially four wah effects in one—each with its own unique voice and character.
The four wah modes are selected from a 4-way knob on the left side of the pedal and include Classic Wah, MegaWah, Triggered Wah, and Auto Wah modes. As I cycled through each mode, I felt a satisfying, solid click in each position of the selector knob— a sure sign that the moving components in the pedal are just as robust as the enclosure itself. The five other knobs—which controlled Auto Wah Rate, Gain, Sensitivity, and Resonance—felt just as sturdy.
I wasn’t too keen on having to use a screwdriver to remove the battery-compartment door. This is a small detail perhaps, but one that has proven to be a source of pain to road warriors when power supplies go on the fritz. It was a great feeling to know that there was nothing flimsy about the construction of the Frampton MegaWah. It was even better to discover that there was nothing flimsy about its tone, either.
Frampton’s playing has always been synonymous with tonal expressiveness. His style can have an almost seasick quality to it, swaying back and forth from one tonal extreme to another. The Frampton MegaWah captured this sound exceptionally well. I explored the many shades of wah within the Frampton MegaWah using a trusty 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom and a 1981 JCM800 2204 head with matching 4x12 cabinet.
After I flipped to the Classic Wah mode and stepped on the pedal, the amp roared with a thick, syrupy bite that coated every ’70s rock lick I threw its way. There’s a lot of headroom, thanks in part to circuitry that doubles the voltage. And a Gain knob helps you use the extra headroom to make the wah more or less cutting for solos or rhythm work. The Frampton MegaWah also has a superwide range—much more than most wah pedals I’ve encountered. Many players have a problem with the relatively small amount of sweep on most wahs. But this is not likely to be a point of contention on the MegaWah, which has a pedal sweep that was enormous enough to literally throw me off balance in more expressive moments! The Frampton also includes Gig-FX’s super-sensitive silent switchless bypass that not only detects the slightest movements almost instantly, but that won’t wear out like conventional wah pots.
The Mega Wah mode, which was voiced especially for Frampton himself—was the most striking of the four. With the Gain control cranked all the way, I was able to coax some really cool synth-like tones that I could tailor by using the pedal’s Resonance control to dial in just the right amount of peak-signal amplification (up to 15 dB). Essentially, it adjusts the pedal’s intensity, making the effect more or less pronounced. This feature also helps make the Frampton one of the more unique-sounding wahs around.
Auto Wah is one of the most surprisingly cool modes. Ordinarily, it’s an effect that can make a song when used sparingly or break it when used to excess. The Frampton’s Auto Wah mode is particularly pleasing and smooth, however, with a nice, natural ramp from each end of the pedal’s frequency spectrum. Unfortunately, you can only change the rate (which is indicated by a red flashing LED), and not the intensity of the mode’s ramp. It’s a limitation that makes it a little harder to tailor the effect in a live setting. This is offset somewhat by the mode’s rounded and less peaky tone. The funky Trig Wah mode, which responds dynamically to pick attack, does have a useful Sensitivity control that helps keep the effect in subtler realms, if need be. Conversely, if you want a taste of Frampton’s “Show Me the Way” talk-box tone, the Sensitivity control lets you dive deeply into this realm.
Peter Frampton’s searing, vocal-like guitar tones are known the world over, and the new Gig-FX Peter Frampton MegaWah is capable of delivering those signature sounds, along with a world of additional tones. About as feature-packed and versatile as a wah gets, the MegaWah’s smooth, natural tones encourage you to explore the outer limits of wah textures, yet also enable you to dial up subtler variations that will keep your less wah-enthused bandmates from casting the evil eye your way. Not having the ability to change the ramp rate in the Trig and Auto modes is a minor quibble. On the whole, this is a wah of unusual flexibility and toneshaping power, and it’s a remarkable value too. So whether you’re after Frampton’s classic colors or looking to spice up your funk, rock, or experimental playing with a wider range of wah-ness, the Peter Frampton MegaWah may well be the ticket.
Watch the video review:
you want a versatile wah with smooth action and extreme range.
your wah needs are satisfied with a single classic wah tone.
Street $149 - Gig-FX - gig-fx.com