How to get the gear you want while maintaining a happy marriage.

It has taken me many, many years, but I have finally achieved my goal: the perfect solution to the married man’s quest to get the gear he needs while maintaining a happy marriage. Just follow these ten steps to expand your guitar collection without spousal struggle or strife:

Step 1. Out of the blue, make an observation that the house, garage, or whatever, is cluttered with stuff you never use. Continue making this observation for several weeks.

Step 2. Suddenly exclaim, “Honey, I’ve got an idea! I’m going to sell items I’m no longer using or need from around the house!” In reality, you are cleaning out junk to make room for the gear you’ve dreamed about forever (she doesn’t know this yet, but may suspect something is in the air). Gather items for a week or two, randomly removing items with sentimental value, holding them while you sip beer in the garage. Mumble to yourself and re-insert them back into the pile. Try to muster a tear or two occasionally. Appear to be in deep thought. Invite friends over to look at the pile with you. It helps to sell a guitar or two—not ones that work, of course, (in fact, you should actually acquire some at a garage sale just for this purpose… but whenever you’re asked, they’re the treasured family heirlooms from Uncle Ned).

Step 3. Only put your stuff in the pile. Make certain you find enough to sell to exceed your target financial goal by at least 20–30 percent. These funds will be used for manipulation… er, persuasion… later in the process.

Step 4. Say something in the middle of the process about how this is much bigger and more profitable than you thought it would ever be. At this point, feel free to accept her items too, but only at her suggestion. Make certain to exactly account for each item she sells. Craftier men take a 20–30 percent commission on the sale of her items, though children may need to be bribed for this to work. This is the “holdback money” you may need later for just this purpose.

Step 5. Let her make a few suggestions about what to do with the money, then volunteer, “Wow, with all the money I’m making, I could get you a new patio set, a pile of rocks for the garden, a yard gnome for the front yard, a health club membership, a ruby turtle necklace, etc., that you’ve always dreamed of.” Be careful to keep any chuckling under your breath as you lure her into your web of deception. “We’ll save the rest for the kid’s education.” Throw in some pearls (faux of course), a new set of fingernails, and some lingerie, and you’re a true hero. Now she knows you truly are the knight in shining armor that you pretend to be.

Step 6. She now realizes you are doing the work for her—what a labor of love. This impression may last for anywhere from several hours to several days. Be aware of this and be prepared to move through the next few steps in an expedited fashion. Time is of the essence, and a man who doesn’t act quickly will risk losing it all to Mickey Mouse or Chuck E. Cheese.

Step 7. Casually drop a comment: “Honey, I had a dream last night about a guitar and I realized it is the one that I... oh, never mind… it’s a guy thing... ” This is the time to improvise and to be sincere. Dry eyes will get you nowhere. She will be putty in your hands.

Step 8. Problem solved. Get out the charge card, bring home the gear, ice down the beer, enjoy! For advanced guys: it’s often best to immediately damage whatever you bought. Render it “non-returnable” before you arrive home. Zipper rash, headstock dent, Carpenter’s putty, and bullet hole decals can all be brought into play here to make a more realistic wound.

Step 9. There is no “out of pocket” expense. This is your mantra. Repeat it over and over.

Step 10. Play your new axe often! Always treat this one as special.

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Every guitar player is on a quest to find his or her perfect tone. Many of us long to get the guitar sounds we hear on albums and projects



Guitar Tracks
Every guitar player is on a quest to find his or her perfect tone. Many of us long to get the guitar sounds we hear on albums and projects we idolize. Often what happens is you buy the same amp your favorite artist used, only to find it’s not quite what you heard on the recording. You then seek out mic’ing techniques, mics and preamps, all kinds of advice from every website imaginable, and it all leads to a dead end.

The problem could be that one amp may not be able to give you everything you want. In fact, many artists use several different amps simultaneously when recording and performing. Here’s how it works – each amp has certain strengths and by combining different amps, you can blend those strengths together. It’s like a good sports team; you utilize the strengths of each player. Stevie Ray Vaughan is a great example. He often combined different amps to produce his trademark tone, both on stage and in the studio.

When combining amps, you can use less gain, and still get the sustain you’re looking for. Imagine cleaning up and articulating every detail of your playing, getting all the sustain you need, and adding more punch so you can be heard through the mix. This is what it’s all about.

The truth is, you can never have too many amps. Ask my wife – our house used to have a room filled with close to 35 guitar amps. But if you don’t have two or three guitar amps sitting around waiting to be plugged in simultaneously, you’re not alone. Many people have multiple guitars, but far fewer have multiple amps. If you only have one amp, you may need to call your friends together for an amp summit meeting!

Once you’ve gathered a few different amps, you need to hook them up so you can play through them simultaneously. A “Y” cable will do the job, but there are better solutions. (There are many to choose from, but I’ve tested the following, and they work for me.) For large rigs, check out the Radial Engineering JD7 (see fig 1). This rackmount box has two guitar inputs and seven outputs; one direct out and six Jensen transformer-equipped isolated outs. This means no ground loops between amps and no humming/buzzing – just killer tone. The smaller Radial Engineering JDV mk3 (see fig 2) supports two guitar ins and four outs, including a tuner out, for smaller setups. You could start with the Radial Engineering Big Shot ABY for a twoamp setup.

A great starting place is a Marshall, a Fender, and a third amp from another manufacturer. Set up the Marshall amp in the middle with no reverb, add the Fender with some reverb to the left (you might set it with slightly more ‘verb than normal as it’s offsetting the dry Marshall), and the third amp on the right with a medium amount of reverb. Match the volumes among the amps, and begin experimenting. As you play, change the volume levels and tone settings on each amp to find a “composite” sound you like. You may find one amp is great for shimmery highs, while another provides low-end thump. Or they may all combine into a huge punchy tone. You’ll probably find yourself getting lost in non-stop playing – there are nearly infinite options for dialing in the amps’ volume and tone settings!

Good luck in your quest for tone, and remember, when your spouse says, “You can’t play more than one guitar at a time,” you can reply with, “Yes dear, but I can use more than one amp at a time!”




Brian Cravens
Brian Cravens has owned, or is in the process of arranging a second mortgage to own, virtually one of every Fender amp made in the 1960s. Many ‘60s and ‘70s Marshalls have also found a home under his roof. He helps people in the quest for perfect tone at his Sales Engineer position at Sweetwater. You can reach him at 1-800-222-4700 ext. 1278 or at brian_cravens@sweetwater.com.
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