Swap a cap or a cable to tame the treble on your Tele

Many guitarists who use single-coil pickups struggle with too much top end, myself included. A couple of things I've tried lately have worked pretty well to tone things down a little bit, so I thought I'd pass them along. Next time things get a bit glassy sounding, give these two simple fixes a try!

Swapping Caps
On a couple of brighter guitars, I've replaced the .047 tone capacitor with a .1. It's been just enough on a couple of them to warm up the tone while still retaining the clarity. Depending on how bright the guitar is, you can play with different capacitor values to find the right one for your personal taste. It's a quick change and you can find these at any local electronics store. Also, they're fairly cheap so it's not an expensive trial-and-error project. The higher the number, the more top-end the cap is going to roll off, so just remember "higher is darker." Two solder joints is all it takes!

Downgrade Your Signal Chain
Another solution I found helpful took me by surprise. It's quite trendy right now to use oxygen-free cables and true-bypass pedals to get the truest, most direct, and least degraded signal from guitar to amp, and I'm not immune from the trend. I use high-quality cables with the shortest lengths possible. I love my true-bypass stompboxes. However, these components can make it a constant balancing act between managing your treble and maintaining clarity.

This can be made easier by making one simple swap. If you're using all oxygen-free cables, take the one that runs from your pedalboard or rack to your amp and replace it with something that's not oxygen-free. Now, I don't mean using a junk cable, either. You can still use a high-quality cable from a reputable company, and just swap this one—leave the cables on your pedalboard or in your rack alone. This will take off some high-end, and it might be just what you're looking for.

The Proof is In the Pudding
We keep the signal as pure as possible for Brad's rig—I bet there's not five feet of cable between the wireless receiver and the rack output to the amp heads. There are a couple of feet between the wireless output to the switcher, another couple of feet to a pedal and back, and another foot to the rack's outputs. Every cable is oxygen-free, and the signal isn't hitting any pedal that isn't turned on through the switcher (Brad likes using the RJM Effects Gizmo because it takes everything that's not in use out of the signal path). Using 5 to 10 foot cables to connect the amp heads to the rack, the total cable length is roughly 15 feet. This delivers every bit of signal straight to the amps. But when is too much true-bypass...too much?

As you know, a Tele through an EL84 amp with alnico magnet speakers can get bright very quickly. Sure, you can darken the tone and treble knobs a bit, and I pulled the mics a little closer to the edge of the speakers, but it still wasn't doing the trick.

In the midst of trying to solve this problem, I attended a show back home during off touring months and was distracted by the guitar player's choice of cables. Multiple brand names and colors were driving my O.C.D. crazy! I talked with Bill Crook, a luthier who builds many of Brad's guitars who is also an audio engineer, on the subject the next day and I realized that this player had a very familiar setup—Teles, EL84s, and alnico speakers. However, despite his mix-and-match cables, he was getting a really nice, round, warm guitar tone... or was it because of the cables? For years I've been shying away from guitar cables that weren't oxygen-free for the fear of tone loss. I never dreamed they could help gain warmth.

To test the theory, I went with a 20" non-oxygen-free cable to take off more high end, and the result was noticeable. It's not a night and day difference, but it did help to make that swap with my existing setup. It just took finding the right combination, if ya know what I mean. Maybe it will for you as well.

The ideal--and less ideal--ways to protect your instrument on an airplane

Flying with gear is always a stressful task that shouldn't take as much planning as it winds up having to. I've flown around the world with guitars and amps and been amazed at the amount of work it's sometimes taken and the amount of prayer that's always given. Much has been written about how to navigate the TSA’s rules and regulations for the safety of your instrument. In fact, there’s a petition sponsored by the American Federation of Musicians to add language to a bill currently in congress that would streamline all airlines’ instrument carry-on policies. Until that becomes a reality, however, the fate of your instruments is in the hands of individual airline employees and baggage handlers. Because of this, there are a few extra precautions you should take to guard your belongings when traveling by air.

The Ideal Options
For starters, buying an extra seat on the plane is the safest way to go, but that simply isn’t reality for most musicians. If you can’t, try to use the instrument as a carry on item. Use a well-padded gig bag and ask the flight attendant if they will store it with the crew’s luggage. This has worked out pretty well for me in the past, but it's a gamble. If they don't have room in the overhead compartments or won't give up any closet space they can force you to either leave it or gate-check it. And a soft gig bag under a plane spells disaster.

Checking an instrument is not the end of the world. If you find yourself flying often, I highly suggest buying an ATA (Air Travel Approved) case. Yes, they are expensive, but more than likely so was your instrument that you hold near and dear to your heart, and getting it from A to B is a high priority. It's a one-time expense that will ease some of the stress of traveling. These cases are typically 3/8" thick plywood with a Formica laminate on top, aluminum edging, and oversized ball corners with a foam interior that should be cut to fit your instrument snug tight. A bit of warning, though, is you will pay an overage charge for size and quite possibly weight for any ATA case.

The Other Options
Expensive ways aside, you can also employ a few little tricks to pack your guitar well in the hardshell case that came with your instrument. As a precaution, I always detune the strings to take the extra tension off of the neck before it gets packed. The right amount of pressure hitting a headstock that has full string tension—especially angled ones—will be enough to decapitate your guitar. Once, you’ve detuned, go buy some bubble wrap from an office supply store. Wrap around the headstock and place the guitar in the case. Depending on how deep the pocket is where the headstock lays, you may want to put a little more there before the guitar goes in. Be very careful not to put too much—you don't want the bubble wrap to be pushing that end of the guitar up out of the case.

You can also cut a long strip of bubble wrap and lay it the full length of the strings to take up any extra space there may be between the guitar’s top and the lid of the guitar case. On cases that aren’t the tightest fit, I've cut a second long strip and placed it between the sides of the guitar and the walls of the case. The idea is to eliminate any and all areas where the guitar can rattle around.

After you get the guitar situated snugly in its case, tape the latches down. There's no need to wrap the whole case with tape—a piece the same length of the latch will do nicely to keep them from coming open at inopportune times. You definitely don't want latches opening and getting broken off, or even worse, the case lid coming open. TSA will pull the tape off for security checks, but they should put it back before approving it and placing it on the conveyor belt. If they don't, tell them to. It's always a good idea to watch security go through anything you check in with an airline.

Nothing I've described is a surefire way of protecting your belongings from being tossed around by a baggage handler, but at least you're as prepared as you possibly can be for them. Remember, “Murphy” is out there... try to eliminate him wherever possible.

Sanding down the finish and sealing the wood to get a nice, smooth bare wood feel on your neck

I can't tell you how many guitars I've played where the lacquer on the back of the neck made me just want to put it down and pick up something else. I've always been a fan of the bare wood feel as opposed to thick finish on the back of a neck, so I thought for this month we could talk about getting a nice, smooth bare-wood neck. We've all sanded a neck at one point or another, right or wrong. Here are a few that can get your guitars feeling slicker in just a few quick steps.

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Tips for dealing with humidity in summer outdoor shows.

Summer is here and the touring season is well upon us. I'm a guy that loves the sun and warm weather, but am not the biggest fan of humidity.  I've lived my whole life in Tennessee, so you might think I've grown accustomed to it by now. Sadly, I have to report... no. 

For the next couple of months, almost all of our shows will be in amphitheaters with a few festivals thrown in, and anything outdoors can put a twist or two in your daily routine. I'm not even talking about rain—we don't like to mention the "R" word when playing outside, although we see plenty of it every year. I'm referring to everyday preparation for a gig where you're losing 5 pounds just through sweating!

I'm a self proclaimed Gear Nazi, and the well-being of my equipment is of highest priority. My distaste for humidity runs pretty deep, so I'm here to share a few tricks I use to help you deal with it while gigging in the summer months.

The first thing I guard against humidity is tube amps. All of the heat produced when powered on for hours at a time greatly increases an amp's tendency to sweat inside the case if the amp doesn't have a chance to cool down before getting closed up. Bands and crews case hot amps every night, usually without a single problem the following day, but I don't like the thought of the foam lining inside the case holding that moisture against my amps while they ride in a truck overnight. Over the years I've seen some parts, like corners and screws, rusting-—even a faceplate on one particular amp. Unfortunately there's only about 20 to 30 minutes for me and the other backline guys to wipe the stage of all band gear and have it loaded and strapped on the truck, so as I'm packing I try to leave the amps as the last pieces to get lids and maximize the amount of cool down time.

I keep a couple of small fans with me on the road to help keep all of my amps comfortable. I aim them directly at the back of the amps to keep air moving around the tubes. Just enough to keep air circulating around the power tubes works wonderfully and is honestly not a bad thing to do on any given night anyway. When the thermometer starts getting close to triple digits, it can be a necessity. The fans will help keep them cooler, which means less heat inside the case after it's closed up...which means less chance for condensation...which means less worries about amps at night.

When it comes to guitars, I'm very careful about letting instruments acclimate to the climate I'm in. I won't immediately open any guitar case that's been in air conditioning overnight. That's not to say you won't still have to do a neck tweak after the guitars settles in with the temperature and humidity, but this can at least minimize it. Baby powder is another good thing to have on hand when playing in high heat. I use a little on the back of the guitar neck, and will usually coat my hands with it a couple of times during a show as well. The last thing anyone wants is a sweated up guitar handed to them before they get a chance to do it themselves!

Brad throws tons of guitars picks during our shows. Instead of using pick clips, I put them on long strips of tape, allowing me to reload a mic stand quickly. Unfortunately, cloth gaffe tape can have a tendency to absorb so much humidity it will literally fall off the stand. Thankfully, I found that 3M makes a vinyl duct tape with roughly the same adhesiveness of masking tape. It holds a row of picks perfectly, and I don't have to worry about the whole strip coming off by merely pulling a single pick. And as crazy as it sounds, I'll still have to wipe the mic stand down with rubbing alcohol first. After they're outside all day in 90% humidity not too many things will stick to their surface, so if you've been to one of our shows and it looks like a guy is cleaning mic stands--that's why.

Other than that, I hope you are able to find some shade--or preferably an air conditioner! Be safe and see ya out there!