Pedalzzzzz...

Pedal addict Peter Stroud shares four of his go-to effects: EH #1 Echo, Janglebox Compression/Sustain, Pigtronix Attack Sustain and Red Witch Pentavocal Tremolo

… the endless streams of ‘em. Can’t get enough it seems, always in search of new and cool effects, and there never seems to be a shortage of new innovations, as well as improvements on sounds we’re already familiar with. Many that I come across aren’t always new to the market, but rather ones I’ve just come around to discovering and spending time with. Here are four current notable pedals in my collection or on my pedalboard well worth sharing.

Electro-Harmonix #1 Echo
A simple, all-around and great-sounding 3-knob delay that tucks firmly in your tone. But it’s even more of a pleasant surprise to find that that’s not all it has going for it. Turn the feedback all the way up, and it creates an infinite repeat that does not regenerate and amplify into an exploding racket. It’s a great effect to have, but the Deluxe Memory Man already does that trick splendidly. Instead, the #1 Echo allows you to keep stacking riffs on top of each other, “sound on sound” style that will stack and repeat indefinitely. If you want, screw with the repeats by giving a quick twist to the speed knob, and it’ll repeat that action as well. But again, the key thing is that it sounds good—a digital delay with analog warmth. It has become a mainstay on my pedalboard.
ehx.com

Janglebox Compression/Sustain
This compressor has been out for a while, but I’ve just discovered it in recent months and have been using it quite a bit. It seems you can never have enough compressors, and this one has inked out a spot of it’s own. If you’re looking for the super jangly tone à la the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn’s Rickenbacker 12-string, this stompbox will be all you need (along with a 12-string Rick, of course). Also think “Ticket to Ride.” It compresses hard with plenty of gain and perfect amount of pick attack, and has a three-way tone switch that I leave on Bright the majority of the time. It sounds like your bestrecorded, super-compressed guitar, without any weird, cruddy compression artifacts. I’ve noticed they’ve come out with the JB2, with additional controls for tone, gain and attack. Added extra fun.
janglebox.com

Pigtronix Attack Sustain
Pigtronix is no doubt one of the most cutting-edge effects pedal companies out there, and this box will have you dialing up amazing sounds for hours—from smooth, long compression to aggressive lead anger. Completely analog, and designed by yesteryear Electro-Harmonix legend Howard Davis, the control is very reminiscent of ADSR synth attack/decay setting. You can slow down the attack to create a reverse effect, ramping attacks with a sharp or slow drop off on decay. Also, the Decay control will create unique tremolo effects. There is a Harmonix control that dials in the overtones and distortion. Sit this control on top of an already powerful amp distortion, and you can create a galactic space battle from the year 3000.
pigtronix.com

Red Witch Pentavocal Tremolo
One of New Zealand’s greatest treasures and exports comes from Ben Fulton, who offers an extraordinary line of pedal designs. I’ve been hearing about Ben’s pedals for years, in particular his Deluxe Moon Phaser (which I’ve still yet to hear but understand to be the bomb.) Eventually, I met and spent time with Ben while touring New Zealand in 2008 and bought one of his Pentavocal Trem pedals, which has proven to be quite versatile, practical and excellent sounding. The key standout feature of his tremolo is the 5-way Rotary Selector—from subtle trem shapes to deep, pulsating tremolo. The Bottom control allows it to range from a full trem to merely pulsating the lower frequencies and keeping the top end of your signal clear and unaffected. Also, there’s a Volume control to recover any level lost with the trem affect. This one is very useful and another mainstay on my pedalboard.
redwitchanalogpedals.com

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Peter Stroud''s tips to becoming a great rhythm guitarist

“I’m the rhythm guitarist…” is not a response you hear often when you ask a guitarist if they play rhythm or lead. Back in earlier days of rock ‘n’ roll, there seemed to be a clear delineation of roles in a band. The Yardbirds had Chris Dreja on rhythm guitar, and Eric Clapton and later Jeff Beck on lead. Even though Brad Whitford of Aerosmith contributed notable solos, he was mostly known for holding down the rhythm. Keith Richards recorded more memorable solos than most realize, but it’s his rhythm guitar style that has become the blueprint for rock rhythm guitar. Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes is a modern-day notable rhythm guitarist. He too contributes stellar lead playing, but along with his songwriting, it’s his rhythm parts, playing and tone for which he’s recognized.

Playing rhythm is not necessarily a relegated role or somehow inferior to taking the lead guitar spot in a band. It requires a different mindset and is every bit as demanding. I’m equally challenged, if not more so, when playing rhythm. There are a lot of factors you have to consider when playing rhythm guitar versus being solely a lead player—who embellishes and usually tends to play on top of everyone else, sometimes to the detriment of the song! First and foremost, when playing rhythm, you have to have just that: rhythm. You must be able to fall into the groove with the drums and bass. Ahead of the beat? Behind the beat? You have to be solid, just like the drummer and bassist. If you drop out, drop your pick, stumble on a beat, it’s noticed. And you’ve got to have tone.

With that in mind, here are some ground rules for being a stellar rhythm guitarist.

Lock in with the drums and bass. I like to huddle in with the drummer and bassist when playing rhythm guitar. I’ll have the drums in my in-ear monitors, primarily the kick, hi-hat and snare. Our drummer in Sheryl Crow’s band, Jeremy Stacey, is very quick to make comment or complain if he feels any of us rushing or dragging behind him, which makes us very aware if we’re slacking off. We’ll usually come back at him with a few derogatory remarks about being a Brit (he’s from London), but in the end we know he’s right.

Rhythmically, find a groove that works around the beat of the drums and bass. Creating a rhythm part like this most often becomes a significant hook of the song you’re writing (all parts should have a hook, actually). Use space, breaths and silence as well.

Have your tone dialed in. That can mean a lot of things, depending on what style of music and band, but there are some common sense factors. Make your sound full and pleasing to hear: not too much harsh treble; clear, maybe with less distortion. If your band has a high-gain kind of sound, make it the best—complex and full with rich body and overtones (sounds like I’m describing a coffee blend). All of this usually means getting a good amp.

Be careful not to dial too much bass into your tone, lest you conflict with the tonal spectrum of the bass guitar. Find your own tonal space. Also take care not to dial in too much midrange, or you’ll fight with the lead guitar and vocal. I find the bass control on my amp barely exceeds 3–4. In the past, I’ve had hi-gain amps where I’ve had the bass completely off.

Your sound engineer can help with this on a gig. Listen to the way it sounds out front. Don’t argue with him, just fine tune your tone accordingly to blend with the band. Sometimes it may even sound a little sucky from your perspective onstage, but it will be just right out front.

The same goes in the studio. Choose amps that sound good specifically for rhythm playing. You’ll know you’re onto something when the recording engineer places a mike in front of your cab, takes all of one minute to dial your sound at the console and says, “Okay, next!”

Choose your notes carefully. Rhythm playing isn’t all about playing barre chords. As far as note choice, you play with the bass guitar—or better yet, play off the bass guitar. You’re part of a mini-ensemble, not the entire band, when it comes to playing rhythm. If your bassist is holding down the root notes for the majority of a bass line, try building chords that start with the third or fifth on the bottom. Try using spatial three-note chords. This trick was the creation of guitarist Freddie Green, the big band jazz legend of the ‘40s, who developed a style that most often avoided the roots in his chord structure, playing only the most important notes in relation to everyone else. He’d prefer thirds, fifths or sevenths, with wide intervals between notes. This made his sound bigger than playing chords with four or five voices.

In the end, you can rest assured that being the rhythm guitarist always equals cool, whereas the lead guitarist often equals jack-ass!

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Peter Stroud covers the list of gear he brings to recording sessions.

Guitars:
Elliott Tone Master (Jazzmaster-style with P-90s); 1964 Gibson SG Special; 1967 Trini Lopez (semi-hollow ES-335 style); TQR (Tonequest Report) Strat-style; Gibson Sheryl Crow Acoustic. Optional: Rickenbacker 660/12; National Resophonic Tricone; Jerry Jones Baritone; Duesenberg Double Cat with Multibender.

Amps:
65amps London head and 2x12” speaker cab; 1966 Fender Deluxe Reverb; 1969 Ampeg G12 Gemini; 1960 Gibson Ranger.

Pedals:
(mounted on Pedaltrain pedalboard): Boss TU-2 Tuner; Moollon Active DI; Moollon Wah; Ernie Ball Volume Pedal; Carl Martin Compressor/Limiter; Baja Tech Custom Da Squeezer compressor; Pro Analog MK I overdrive; 65amps Colour Boost treble booster; Xotic Effects RC Booster; Z.Vex Fuzz Factory (Vector series); Electro-Harmonix Polyphase; EH Electric Mistress chorus/flanger; EH Echo 1 Digital Delay; Boss DD-3 Digital Delay (Robert Keeley modded). Optional: Electro-Harmonix POG; EH Memory Man with Hazarai.


Recording overdubs with artist Marius Westernhagen.
Supplies: Slide; a few packs of strings; wire snips and peg-winder, capo, and picks; 15’ input cable, 25’ input cable (from pedalboard to amp), and 50’ heavy gauge speaker cable (to allow placing speaker cabinet away in closet or iso booth); a handful of patch cables for pedals.

Above is my checklist for the gear I’ll take to a typical album recording session, plus or minus a handful, depending on the project. I try to cover all bases with the guitars: I bring along single coils, P-90s and humbuckers, solidbody and semi-hollow, “twang” vs. “fat,” and at least one guitar with a vibrato arm. For acoustic guitar when recording, I always prefer mahogany back and sides for the midrange character and the way it sits in the mix. Rosewood acoustics tend to be more bass responsive and too boomy for recording support parts. Most always, the low end is rolled off of my acoustic tone.


Peter with guitarist extraordinaire Larry Campbell.
Photos by Romney M-Westernhagen.
In the amp department, the 65amps London is my main “go-to.” The Deluxe Reverb gets used for the identifiable Fender blackface cleaner tones, reverb and tremolo. The Ampeg G12 and Gibson Ranger are sort of my tone secret weapons—both have been tweaked, repaired and modified over the years so they have a sound of their own. On most sessions I’ll run the London, Deluxe Reverb and Ampeg through the 65amps 2x12” cab, loaded with both a Celestion Alnico Blue and a G12H-30 “Anniversary.” The speakers have distinct individual characteristics, allowing for both to be mic’d and brought up separately or together at the console. The Gibson Ranger’s internal speaker, a higher-powered Jensen Alnico 12” out of an old Hammond organ (the less efficient original Jensen blew years ago), will always be mic’d. Smaller amps like the tweed Gibson are very “vocal,” narrower in tonal range and place nicely in a track. All of these amps have distinct tonal characteristics, which helps when multiple overdubs are called for.

The pedalboard is loaded with way more pedals than I’d ever use at once, and they’re never all hooked up, but they’re there to cover anything that might be asked for, or cool to add. Pedals that are almost always in the chain are the Moollon Active DI (a buffer to keep the input signal strong to the amp when using pedals or a long cable run), a compressor for occasionally beefing up the tone, and a delay for a little slap or echo during a solo.

Most recently, I recorded with German superstar Marius Westernhagen for his forthcoming release due out by end of year. This week-long session took place in Brooklyn at the way-cool studio facilities, Mission Sound Recording. Along with working with Marius, it was an opportunity to record alongside some of NYC’s absolute finest: Larry Campbell on guitars, mandolin, violin and pedal steel; Jack Daily on bass; and Andy Newmark and Shawn Pelton, who shared drum duties. Flying to recording sessions requires much thought to keeping the gear list lean. Working within the confines of travel, I took the smaller Pedaltrain 1 pedalboard in a roadcase that fell within the 50-pound baggage weight limit, two electrics (the Tonemaster and SG Special) in a dual gig bag that I carried onboard, and my acoustic checked with baggage. A backline company in NYC provided a 65amps London, and Mission Sound had an ample collection of cool amps to choose from. Marius’ producer, Kevin Bents, also made his Gibson ES-335 and Fender Strat available to me. It’s always unlikely you’ll use everything you take to a session, but every time I leave something at home, I’ll wish I’d brought it: “Hey did you a bring that Doppleganger tape delay that’ll chorus, flange and fuzz?”… “Errr, no. Left it at home.” And no, I don’t use a cartage company… just my Honda Odyssey van.

Cheers!

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Peter Stroud looks at the different pros, cons and options for employing or ignoring an effects loop

Guitar amplifier effects loops are quite a controversial topic with tone purists. Common questions go from, Do I run my effects into the front so as not to disturb the amp’s tone? and Do I use the effects loop to get better delay sounds? to the even more drastic, Do I install an effects loop on my vintage amp?



It’s just another aspect of your rig scene, and often comes down to personal preference. There are times when an effects loop comes in handy on a gig, and others when it can cause your tone to suffer, all depending on what you’re trying to get out of your amp.

In a typical guitar amplifier, there is the preamp stage and the power amp stage. The effects loop is almost always placed right between the two. The idea is that your preamp channel switches between clean and overdrive tones, feeds into your effects via the effects loop, then back into the power amp stage. Placing your effects after your preamp works very well if you’re generating all of your clean and distortion tones solely in the preamp stage.

On the other hand, effects loops don’t always work well if you’re generating your overdriven tones by cranking your amp to get overall distortion and compression from both the preamp and power tubes, as with vintage style, nonmaster volume and low powered amps. Inserting the effects between preamp and power stages in this case most often impedes their interaction, and leaves you scratching your head wondering why you have weird levels, funny buzzing from your effects, or general tone suck. The preamp may be sending out such a strong signal that it hits the effects too hard, requiring you to pull back the level (if you have control of the input gain), and then the power stage can’t react properly since it’s not getting hit hard enough.

Analog-digital-analog effects interrupt that preamp-power amp interaction, in which case you’re better off running your rack effects into the front—or getting elaborate with a nice, big eighties-style stage rig: the vintage head into a load box feeding into your effects rack, then into a stereo tube preamp with two 4x12s. Yeehaw! (But remember: never run your amp’s speaker output into your effects input, unless you want to blow it to smithereens.)

Here’s a handful of recommended scenarios:

1. Run your stompboxes into the front, not through an effects loop. They are designed and intended for this both tonally and levelwise, and will cause very little change to your amp’s tone and the power-amp distortion it generates. In fact, many pedals can improve your overall tone by their effect on your input impedance—buffer circuits are designed to allow longer cable runs without loss of signal. Plus, if you run your pedalboard thru an effects loop you’re creating unnecessary excess cable lengths, which can impede your tone or cause noise issues.

2. Run your rack effects into an effects loop. This scenario works best using an amp with preamp, master and channel switching for clean and dirty, with your distorted tones generated by the preamp stage. Delay mix levels generally remain even between clean and dirty. Most rack effects units have bypass footswitching ability, as well as MIDI, which really gives you flexibility using a MIDI foot controller (but be prepared to pull out your propeller hat).

3. Run all of your effects in the front; feed pedals and rack effects into two amps for stereo. This works well if you use a tubepreamp stompbox to generate your distortion and mainly use the amplifiers for overall tone and volume level. And you can swim in stereo heaven onstage.

4. Run a rack tube preamp into rack effects, into a stereo power amp (tube preferred), into a stereo speaker cabinet or two speaker cabinets for full-on stereo bliss. A lot of great sounds you’ve heard over the years have been created this way.

5. Forget all of your pedals and plug straight into the front of the amp. (No diagram needed!)

Well, it appears I could elaborate further, so perhaps I’ll do so in next month’s column. Until then, happy late night hours twiddlin’ with your tone… I’m right there with you.

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