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What’s the Difference?

I hope you are thinking about your rig and how you are using it.

It’s time for a bit of a review. First off, I hope you are thinking about your rig and how you are using it. Bryan Lionman taught you about composite signal techniques. This is something that can change the way you sound in the biggest way. The art/skill of effectively obtaining and using two or more amps at the same time to develop a composite signal is not easy, but it’s not that hard either. The benefit is definitely worth it!

While we’re talking about it, I’d like to add a few tips of my own. As Lionman instructed, you will need two amps, one for adding clarity and punch (we’ll call this #1) and one to act as the “tone shaper” (call it #2). If you have a killer pedal board or processor, putting out lots of effect and crunch, this will be #2’s job to handle.

The problem here is with all of the “thick stuff” coming from the amp, it sounds really great when you’re alone, but you don’t play by yourself – odds are you play in some type of band situation, whatever that may entail. That great, massive tone you have coming from your amp is eaten to pieces by the cymbals, vocals, and other guitars. This is why 90% of live gigs sound like mud, and often it isn’t the sound engineer’s fault; they can only deal with the sounds they get and cannot “clear up” mud in the mix.

So what does a composite signal have to do to help this out? Set #1 to be dry and fairly clean – a little bit of crunch here is okay, but remember the “less is more rule” really applies. Set #2 to shape the overall sound, and add #1 in underneath until you can feel and hear the composite come together. You should note that you will be starting with the volumes set to approximately half of what you might normally expect. A majority of the time the two signals will fight each other, but at just the right mix they will merge together for an amazing sound that cuts like a chain saw. Work on this, as it will change your sound permanently and for the better. But what’s the difference?

We have also talked about what we have and what we know. I can assure you what you know is entirely more important than what you have. For example, let’s take George Lynch, Eddie or Vai. Give them a guitar and a junk amp rig and I bet you they could wrangle a useable tone out of it. The reason is because they know tone and how best to use whatever is at hand to get it. Give them the good stuff and we get the music and killer tones we all have come to love.

Great gear is the bomb, but in the end it is not about the gear – it is about the music and the tone. If you sound great, look great, act as a professional, take responsibility for yourself and your band and stop blaming everyone else for “bad sound,” you’ll be able to punch your own ticket into the industry. That may not be everyone’s dream, but at least having favorable recognition as a musician should be. But what’s the difference?

Lionman instructed us to take care of our gear, right down to the proper way to wrap up cables. That’s because the gear you have cost you some money. Do you want to buy it over and over again – I don’t! I want to buy more gear, not replace it. In addition to taking care of your gear, study the written material that comes with the equipment you buy, or go find it on the Internet. I can tell you firsthand that gear manufacturers go to great pains to explain the best ways to use their products. They want you to use their products to their fullest potential.

After you do your research, get in the woodshed and tweak, play, tweak, play, and tweak some more. Learn what that gear means to your music and your tone. Read this magazine and employ the things you learn. Ask us, the column writers, questions. Then ask us some more. We’re here to help! Striving to learn and improve is the mark of a serious-minded player who wants to move from being an amateur to being a professional. There''s no reason you can''t know tone as well as Eddie or Vai. But what’s the difference?

Well, in the end, you make all of the difference. How you learn or not, how you apply what you learn or not, how you decide to act and carry yourself and how you determine your attitude all make a difference between creating something great and falling short. In the end, you have the ultimate choice. You might remember what Yoda told Luke in the Star Wars movie: “No try. Do, or do not.” When Yoda fished the fighter out of the swamp, Luke said, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda sternly replied, “That is why you fail.”

That’s the difference.

Gary “Sarge” Gistinger
President, Creation Audio Labs, Inc.