My youngest daughter is 13, and unlike many 13 years ago she still subjects us to a constant barrage of irrelevant questions, kind of like when she was only 5.
Most of the time this is delightful as her questions can be about absolutely anything, some of them are infuriatingly irrelevant (“What do you think the cat’s favourite colour is? I think it’s yellow, what do you think?”) to ones you have no idea how to answer “who invented the spoon?” and some that quite often cause discussion and debate in the house… for example “Who’s idea was Brexit?”. And then there are the ones that utterly destroy my day… On Saturday I was in full flow with a good friend talking about the finer points of David Gilmour’s and Pink Floyd’s music (I was playing the guitar and he was on Piano), having a lovely time discussing Michael Kaman’s addition of the sus2 in place of the minor 3rd in the root under the second solo of Comfortably Numb, we have since discovered is most prominent in the live versions within “Pulse” and “Delicate Sound Of Thunder”, but that’s another story) when she destroyed my day with a simple “How many hours do you think you’ve played the guitar, Dad?”
This stopped me dead in my tracks as I’d never thought about it before. So, I reached for my phone and broke open the calculator. I started playing when I was about 8 or 9 and I’m now 46 (ouch), so that means I’ve been playing for about 37 years. Bloody hell, look at that number. That’s ridiculous. I took into consideration that as a kid I played all the time, I worked in a guitar shop for 6 years, played in many bands up to 4-5 nights a week and also the 10 year period of when I went to University which immediately preceded getting married and starting a family (in which I barely played at all) and up to the work I do for Wampler, we estimated that I was, on average, playing around 5.5 hours per week…. Which, if I am being honest, is a little on the low side. Based on the basic formula this means (at minimum) I’ve played the guitar for 10,582 hours in my life (5.5 x 52 x 36).
I was initially really impressed with this, felt like I’d reached some kind of personal milestone I previously wasn’t aware of until, until my Piano playing friend Dave (who is somewhat of an academic and has a PhD in music composition) said “You’re an expert then!”. Obviously, my self-deprecation instinct took over and I laughed and said something along the lines, bit in a much more coarse fashion, of “Go away” to much laughter… and he said “Seriously, there’s been a study saying that if you practice something for 10,000 hours, you can be classed as an expert”. I was horrified by this, as although I am comfortable with my playing I’ve met FAR too many players who could legitimately be called an expert to consider myself to be in that category… So, once again, the phone was reached for and I googled “10,000 hours expert” and the first thing that came up was Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book “Outliers” that says “the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours”.
I was delighted by this as I was 100% of the hook. Purely because of the section of that sentence that says “a matter of practicing the correct way”… If I think about it, and be honest, my “a matter of practicing the correct way” runs at about 10 hours maximum over those 36 years. I’ve never practiced despite regularly receiving ‘the look’ from Tom Quayle when he’s asked me what I am working on right now, because I simply just don’t practice. I work out songs and then I play them. Sometimes, if the song is a bugger to play (for example, we’ve started to do Brad Paisley’s Nervous Breakdown with the band and it’s taking some time to get up to speed and work out the solos), I will work on it to get the speed and accuracy up, but I’ve never practiced properly. Never thought “I need to think about that properly and practice” or anything, I just get it (eventually) and then move on to the next challenge.
That delight of being off the hook lasted for about 10 minutes until I started to think about this properly, again. Have I wasted 36 years of my life playing the guitar and NOT actually practicing properly? If I had practiced in a structured way would I be the guitarist I want to be? Can I be arsed to practice? Am I too old? Is that why I play the guitar?
In order to think about this, I need to remember why I play the guitar in the first place. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was play along with my favourite songs. I was lucky enough to be born with fast fingers so it seemed that once I got my head round playing the guitar I could easily play the music I was into at the time… Iron Maiden, AC/DC, etc. and when Satriani hit I would pretty well be able to play most of it straight away but had to do quite a lot of work on the Vai stuff, as his writing tends to be a little more lateral in construction and his lines simply didn’t make sense, but I could get there quick enough not to worry about it and I could pass myself off as being able to play it, providing people didn’t listen hard enough… This was good enough for me, at the time. This kinda changed when I discovered Brent Mason and proper country picking, as I had to do some work, but that was basically repetition and rethinking the physicality, not practice. To this day, I’ve only ever had about 4 official lessons in my life (because I wanted to be that cool guy who could say “I don’t take lessons, all this is me”… yeah, I was a dick) and since I’ve grown up I’ve never had the money or the time to change that attitude.
This is all going to change now, I want to play like the person who has put in as many hours as I have. So, this week, I’ve had a proper guitar lesson with my current favourite player and we talked about chord construction and playing according to intervals instead of scales and boxes… I doubt I’ll keep to a practice regime, but I’m going to give it the best shot I can!
Today we give the blog over to my current favourite guitar playing walking the earth, and long time Wampler artist (he performed at the Wampler NAMM booth this last January), Mr Jack Gardiner. Jack's musical life was transformed when he took his first lesson with Tom Quayle aged 16 and has progressed to be one of the most exciting players performing today, and I'll say it again, my current favourite player... the tone, the notes, the phrasing, the versatility... you can check out his YouTube channel here. Jack is a session guitarist, touring artist and teacher based in Liverpool (UK) and Switzerland, has toured with countless amazing artists such as Stu Hamm (you can read Stu's impressions of Jack here) and taught at clinics with players such as Guthrie Govan.... Anyway, enough of my waffle, here's Jack!
I’ll never forget my first day teaching in a Secondary School (High School for my friends across the pond). Me being 20 years old - not much older than the students I was about to teach was a slightly daunting prospect. Knowing the area I was about to teach in and the reputation of the school that Steven Gerrard (Liverpool Football Club legend) studied at, had me ready for the typical ‘Scouse’ (Liverpudlian native) humour/insults that could be thrown my way, being a bearded, long haired, wizard-looking guitarist. Not a common look for suburban Liverpool to say the least.
As I was walked to my white-washed, no window room I was given a list of all the students I’d be taking for the following 6 hours. The Head of Music warned me that there was one student in particular who had some slight anger management issues, but wouldn’t tell me which one it was. ‘You’ll know when you meet him’ was her response. So I go about my day, which for the most part was pretty pleasant, when I get a knock on the door – my last pupil of the day. I introduce myself explaining how I’m the new guitar teacher and ask the boy, (we’ll call him Josh), ‘How’re you doing?’, to which he replies ‘F*****g s**t’. Ah… Here he is. Now the thing is, Josh was in Year 8 at the time (12-13) and I soon discovered that he was really getting into heavy-metal music. Delighted at the prospect, I introduced him to some of the heavier music I was listening to such as Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Lamb of God etc. He soon realized that with practice, he could actually start playing some of this stuff. By the time he was in Year 11 and taking his GCSE’s (16 years old), the difference in him as a person was huge. It was hard to recognize this polite, humble young lad, when compared to my final pupil I had on my first day. Now Josh ended up coming away with really good GCSE results – especially in Music, but when it came to him entering 6th Form, he hadn’t picked Music for his A-Levels. I was shocked that he hadn’t to be honest, but upon asking him, he told me that he didn’t think there was any future or job to be had and that his parents thought it was more important to focus on ‘real’ subjects. I was gutted, but at least I thought he could continue his one-to-one lessons with me at least – something he was very keen on. That’s when I noticed that he wasn’t on my list of pupils at the start of the new academic year and this is where the issues begin.
Most Secondary Schools in the U.K. will either part subsidise, or charge the pupil’s parents the full amount in order to pay peripatetic teachers. The reason being for this is that over the years, successive UK Governments have continually slashed budgets for Music and the Arts in the name of austerity. When I was 9 years old, growing up in Anfield (home of Liverpool Football Club/one of the most deprived areas in the country), my local Primary School had music teachers that were sent from Liverpool Music Support Service (now called Resonate) who provided free musical instruments and lessons, fully funded by the Arts Council. That meant free music lessons and an instrument to practice at home for those that really wanted to do it! With the background I’m from, it would have been a nightmare financially for my parents to pay for lessons and an instrument privately. Especially not knowing whether it’s something that I’d actually be interested in enough to take seriously.
The lucky thing about the current Secondary School I’m teaching in, is that they actually pay all peripatetic teachers at their own hourly rate, out of the schools own budget. This means that pupil’s parents don’t have to contribute anything towards lessons. Essentially, it’s a free 20-minute guitar lesson a week aimed at pupils who are showing promise/looking to take GCSE Music. Now going back to Josh, for him not to pick A-Level means that he’s taking a lesson slot that could potentially go to a new pupil looking to take GCSE Music. His name falls down the list. This brings me onto my next point…
I posted recently on Facebook about how a pupil of mine who showed promise in his playing had came to me at the beginning of term telling me how his parents had requested to change his lesson slot. Now according to his parents, his guitar lesson could not be taking part during his Math’s lesson. Bare in mind that a Math’s lesson is 1 Hour long, 3-4 times a week. A guitar lesson is 20 minutes long, once a week. A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that ‘students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs’… Regardless, the Head of Music and I desperately tried to find a new time slot for him, without moving other pupils into core subjects for fear of the same thing happening to them. Week two of term comes along and the young pupil comes to me to tell me his parent’s have told him he can’t be having his lesson in this new time slot as it’s in his ‘History Lesson’ which is a ‘proper subject’. I asked him then, which lessons have his parents’ deemed ‘non-proper lessons’ to which he replies ‘Art, Music or PE’. My heart broke and my blood began to boil. He’s now left with no guitar lessons and no prospect of taking GCSE Music. I’m not saying that this kid could have been the next revolutionary guitar player, but he at least showed talent and desire. I see this time and time again. If we go back to Josh, there is someone who was willing to take time out of ANY of his A-Level Subjects (arguably more important) to have one-to-one lessons but can’t because he’s not taking A-Level Music. Just recently I had the exact same situation with a seriously talented 17-year-old, who can’t afford private lessons outside of school. No A-Level/GCSE Music, no lessons.
Growing up in Anfield was a rough experience. I remember coming home from school one evening to see a guy injecting (what I can safely assume by his demenour and appearance to be drugs) at the bus stop in broad daylight. I was verbally abused aged 12 coming home from school by a woman who told me to ‘get your f******g hair cut you scumbag’ in front of my father. A SUV flipped over on our driveway one evening, before two men jumped out and stabbed the guy they were chasing on foot at the side of our house. The boy who I grew up with playing football over the other side of the street recently died in what seemed to be gang-related crime. Crime was and is everywhere. I’m not saying that I would ever be involved in any of this if I were not doing music (as my parents would’ve killed me), but it did provide a whole host of other opportunities, a distraction from what was around me, everywhere around me. The kids I was introduced to via Tuesday night and Saturday morning music schools (funded by Liverpool Music Support Service) were from all sorts of backgrounds. I met some of my long-term best friends there, most who are actively involved in the Music Industry these days. I discovered all kinds of different bands/musicians. All of these factors contributed to me becoming the person/player I am today. All thanks to free music education.
My point is, when funding is constantly being cutting, labeling a subject as ‘improper’ and forcing the kids to think about their future ‘real’ job at the age of 12, they could be closing a whole host of doors for them in the future. They don’t realize how;
- They’re taking away an opportunity from someone else who WANTS to do Music Lessons
- They’re taking away an opportunity for your child to make new friends and build relationships, develop cognitive skills; improve listening skills, etc. etc.
- Falsely labeling a subject as ‘improper’ is dangerous. It demeans and under values the whole world surrounding it – how many memories do we all have that are cornerstones because of the music of the moment – is that improper?
Please, everyone...not only must we not under value the emotional benefits of learning and making music, but also the academic value and benefits!
- Jack Gardiner, 2019.
Here is Jack giving his brand new Strandberg* it's first play, total improvisation! - feel free to hit me up if you need an interpreter to deal with his strong Liverpool accent!!
March 20, 2006.
That’s the day I originally created my youtube channel.
Originally, I wasn’t intending on creating a lot of youtube videos, but to be fair I don’t think many people that it would take off as big and as fast as it did. This was back when Myspace was still somewhat of a ‘thing’, before Facebook was popular, and basically before Social Media in general was what most of us would use the internet for when we were in line at McDonalds waiting to place our order. Forums were huge during these days. “Boutique” pedals were just beginning to become mainstream, and a majority of my business was built around DIY, pedal mods, and writing DIY books.
On October 11, 2006 I uploaded my first two videos. They were simply discussing the similarities between the tubescreamer and the Boss SD-1 circuits. My voice, in all of it’s youthful naivety, displayed calm, introversion, and a meekness that is quite unlike me these days. My reason for creating the video was simply to help explain a question I was getting frequently.
Being that Youtube was just a video sharing website at that time, I uploaded another video of my then 6 year old son playing drums in order to share with my family who didn’t live nearby.
Around the beginning of 2007, I started noticing how quickly Youtube was growing. Periodically I would upload videos of different things, trying to gauge what others might want to see. My thought was that if I could provide something entertaining or valuable in some way to guitar players, then perhaps they would take notice of Wampler Pedals (which was called IndyGuitarist at that time), and hopefully I could make a living by turning my part time business into a full time business. Videos that year ranged from a demo of a Crate Blue Voodoo, to my thoughts on designing guitar pedals, showing prototypes, and a few videos from hanging out with Brent Mason. Around this time I had started a podcast as well, but it wasn’t called Chasing Tone. It’s no longer around though.
2008 was a year when many things changed, both in my personal life and the business. I went through a divorce in February, and ended up moving 3 times that year. I went full speed ahead with the business. I stopped doing remodeling completely, which was what my main job was up to that point. Remodeling work completely dried up due to the economy at that time. Working out of a 400 square foot apartment I barely slept and worked around the clock trying to build the business up. Later that year I ran into Amanda and we began dating, eventually marrying.
Little by little we began growing, despite the lagging economy. I soon realized that I couldn’t continue focusing on both DIY projects and a pedal company; I had to choose one. I was fairly indecisive on it…. Both IndyGuitarist (DIY) and Wampler (pedals) were both bringing in about the same revenue at the end of the day. I simply took a chance, picked one, and hoped for the best.
The pedal business continuously kept growing, slowly but surely. I was starting to realize that building the actual pedals was not my forte… it’s fun building them for sure, but building the same pedal over, and over, and over grew very boring and tedious for me. We started hiring staff. I began using an outside manufacturer to build our pedals based in Kentucky.
We moved offices multiple times. Once we decided to hire staff we rented a small house to work out of. We grew out of that quickly into a bigger office. Then, a bigger office.
I’ll be brutally honest. Around this time the pedal business stopped being fun. I was having to focus more on the day-to-day running of the business rather than creative endeavors like designing new pedals. We had outgrown our manufacturer and it was limiting our ability to supply our retailers. I was completely stressed out 99% of the time. I needed a change, I needed it to be fun again.
So, I changed our model completely. In 2016 I connected with Boutique Amps Distribution which was building Bogner Pedals, Friedman Amps, Morgan Amps, and also had several other brands under their umbrella. We struck up a deal that would change everything yet again, but in a good way. Partnering with them, I was able to still specify exactly how I wanted them to build our pedals, but was now able to let them handle the B2B sales (business to business) and distribution, which meant I was completely able to focus on working with end users (our customers), work on new designs including branching out into DSP, and create fun youtube videos.
And here I am… having fun once again!
So there you go, there’s some behind the scenes history that you may or may not have known. If you’ve watched our Youtube channel since then you’ve probably noticed it’s changed multiple times since 2006.
It’s been a fun 13 years, I’ve enjoyed the journey with some amazing people who I’ve been lucky to work with, and I’m curious to see where we are in another 13 years!
Let’s face it, we’ve all used them before and I imagine that like me you’ve got them confused or not really understand what makes each different. As I started playing properly in the 80’s each of these pedals carry HUGE memories for me and I’ll always have a love/hate relationship with each.
Before we go any further, let’s put on the (my level of) nerd goggles and dig into what separates them. They all come into the family of “modulation”, because… well, they all modulate the signal! Yeah, that doesn’t help much does it… Usually, this means that the signal is in some way split, the something happens to one of the signals and then it is laid back on top of the original one. This creates movement, modulation, and if you go too far, chronic seasickness.
As your signal goes into the pedal, it is instantly split into two. One of those has its phase shifted and then they are laid on top of each other before exiting the pedal. Because you have two opposite phases of the same note sitting within each other, a notch is created where they cancel each other out and then these notches are swept along a range of the frequency band. This where you get that wonderful sweeping ripple.
Name: Phaser Splitter… “Phaser”
Here is my favourite example of a phaser (totally obvious!)
A Flanger is not too dissimilar to a Phaser, but can be much wetter sounding. A flanger happens when the signal is split into 2, one is delayed and then put back on top of the other. The most audibably pleasing Flangers are running at somewhere under 15ms delay, but the rate control changes that. The effect of the flanger going swoooosh is where the delayed signal then has the delay time varied in a constant cycle, up and down.
Name: Legend has it that a producer was running two identical copies of audio and pressed against the flange of the reel to slow one down slightly to make it run ever so slightly out of time… “Flanger”. This is hotly disputed though as George Martin has said that the phrase comes from Lennon during the recording of the Revolver album, Lennon was enquiring about “artificial double tracking” and Martin answered with a nonsense “Now listen, it's very simple. We take the original image and we split it through a double vibrocated sploshing flange with double negative feedback”. Lennon thought he was joking and Martin responded with “Well, let’s flange it again and see”… Lennon went on to call it “Ken’s Flanger” after Abbey Road engineer Ken Townsend performed the process of copying the vocal line and slightly delaying it. The concept was later expanded into stereo and was first credited to Eddie Kramer during the recording of Axis Bold As Love by Hendrix in 1967.
My favourite flanger example
The one that was TOTALLY overused in the 80’s, hence my love/hate relationship with it. Like the flanger, the signal is split, slightly detuned and then delayed, and put back on top The main difference is that the delay used to create the chorus is somewhat longer, usually between 20-50ms . Chorus was first given to us, the guitar community, in the mid 70’s within the legendary Roland JC120 amp. The Chorus element of this amp was then released as a stand alone unit as the BOSS CE-1. To this day, this is, to many people the ultimate chorus pedal. Personally, I love it, but the best one I’ve ever heard was in a Roland RE-501. Although, it does have to be said, I’ve not physically heard one for well over 20 years, I just remember it being the fattest and most lush chorus I’ve ever heard!
Name: Imagine two large vocal choirs singing as close they can get, you could call it a chorus of vocals… put them wide apart, stand in the middle and because it’s almost impossible to singer perfectly on key and at the same time, when they are separated it provides the chorus effect.
One of the best uses of chorus I hear is when the rate is set really low and it’s in stereo. You don’t get the movement but you get the width. Brian May live was the best I’d heard this used, it was so massive I can’t describe it.
Here is my favourite example of regular Chorus
A dimension chorus differs in that it creates two clones of the original signal, both are delayed and then one is flipped 180-degress and then laid back on top. This gives a much bigger effect.. the most interesting thing for me is that the Dimension C pedal gives you four options, which just changed the regular controls… was this the first boss with presets?
My favourite example of Dimension Chorus (once again, totally obvious!)
It’s well worth noting the difference between vibrato and tremolo. Because, well, I don’t know why, in the early days Fender appeared to get these two names the wrong way round, a lot of effect pedals are still incorrectly named. Vibrato changes the pitch of the signal, tremolo dips the volume up and down! One modulates the pitch, one modulates the volume… So, your trem bar, it’s actually a vibrato bar. Or to give it the correct name, the whammy bar!
Following on from Brian’s video about wattage/power/dB, I thought I’d share something that has happened to me recently that has confused me considerably, until I quizzed Brian about it in regard to the video (released 26th Feb 2019, you can see it below).
Like I’m guessing some of you, I’ve been blissfully ignorant of almost everything to do with the whole power thing until that video, it wasn’t a conscious ignorance, but one that I’d never really thought about before, and the question came extremely pertinent once I’d started messing around with digital control of effects.
For the band (we have no sound guy) I run a clean boost at the end of my chain so I can make sure my solos are lifted above the general mix of the band. When I was using a regular pedal booster, I found I had to find the sweet spot that boosted the solos manually, which meant I often had to change it according to my tone. What I found was that my clean solos weren’t as prominent as my dirty ones. I had no idea why, I just thought it was one of those things. It wasn’t much of a turn of the knob, but enough to warrant it…. Once I started using something that was digital I noticed that the actual increase was huge depending on what effects I was using.
Before I go into it properly, here is a run down of my tone and how it is made. I don’t run my rig bass heavy, and it’s not overtly bright, but it’s definitely not the same as when I play at home. This is obvious, because at home you are hearing everything in a sterile environment and you want to enjoy the full scope. When you are live, you need to leave room for the others in the band… so, I don’t encroach on the bass player and I also like to leave room for the acoustic guitar to shine through, so my place is pretty well in the middle and the amp is set as such. My clean tone is never totally clean, a Tumnus at 9 oclock gain and treble at 12 is the best way to describe it with unity level. My main OD is the Pantheon, set at a nice break up – 18v, lowest gain setting with the gain at around 2 oclock… bass and treble are both about 10 oclock, presence all the way off. When I want more grunt for it, the K style drives the Pantheon and it is quite gainy. This is also my main dirt solo tone… when we do the rocky stuff, the Pantheon/Tumnus is the rhythm tone and I bung a TS between them, set at higher output than gain, with a little tone control boost. My rhythm sounds are all pretty unity, none are ‘louder’ to the ears than the others.
Here is the issue, when I wanted to boost the solos for the dirtiest tones, I need just under 3dB to get to the level. About 5dB for when the TS isn’t on, and upto 10db when it’s clean. And yes, this confused the living daylights out of me!
Here is what is happening… and how it also ties in with bDub’s video about power/wattage/dB.
Everything is relative to the EQ of what you are hearing.
When I am boosting the clean tone, it’s about as full range as I can get. There is a slight 1k hump due to the K style pedal being bought in, but it’s not huge. So, when I am boosting that signal, my ears (that are tuned to hear human speech – between 1k and 5k) say I need a lot more power because it’s also boosting the lower frequencies a lot, as you know, bass takes a lot of power, so it’s needing a lot more literal volume to boost it to the level my ears are telling me is an acceptable volume. When the Pantheon and the K style are on, the mids are more focused due to both the circuits being on, so my ears are picking up on the frequencies more as the bass is kinda removed, so it needs less. When I have the TS on as well, that’s three circuits that are pushing the frequencies my ears already picks up on, so it needs even less.
All this for the same physical level of sound, according to my ears.
Once you put this in with the points bDub was making in the video, the physical level of sound cannot directly be related to either the wattage the amp is claimed to sit at (in my case either a Fender BDri or Quilter 101R (on the smaller gigs where I can’t get the amp to it’s sweetest spot), or the dB coming out, or change of dB within the chain. Because EQ and headroom change everything completely. Before you are even hitting the amp, the levels are all over the place so the output of the amp, in terms of actual volume, are going to be wildly different…. And I didn’t even mention that on the clean stuff the pickups on my Brent Mason PRS are tapped for single coil sound and the dirty stuff is often on HB… as the HB ones need about 1dB less of boost, despite to the ears there being NO level drop between the two (one of the main selling points of the PRS BM model).
When I first started with Wampler, all those years ago, the conversion about Midi was often happening… if I am being completely honest, we didn’t have the need for it because our corner of the market wasn’t really there yet – but as we’ve got bigger and far more in depth with all the technical ‘stuff’, it’s got to the point now where we feel it’s madness not to go down that route. This makes me really happy as I’ve been using midi controllable rigs on and off since the 90’s so for us to be going down this path it’s one that excites me massively!
Over the years we’ve gently asked our customer base about incorporating midi into our products and the one thing that always comes up from many people is either “wut?” or “I don’t understand Midi”… so, with the Terraform about to be released, I thought I would give an introduction, written in a way I understand and use it, to help you if you are in anyway confused about what it can do for you.
Midi is an acronym for “musical instrument digital interface”. What it does, fundamentally, (we won’t even go near Midi v2 that has recently been announced), is send control information digitally between various pieces of equipment. The best way to explain this is in terms of a keyboard. If you separate a regular keyboard into it's most basic elements will have two parts. The keyboard (user interface) and the sound module (the thing that produces the sound). The keyboard receives a command from you – usually “this key has been pressed and it’s been pressed this hard” and it fires off that information to the sound module via a midi signal. The module receives that information and then activates “that note, this hard” and you hear it from the speakers.
Midi is basically run on a numbers system from 0-127 and those numbers are what is transmitted. So, if key 40 is pressed at a velocity of 127 on a full size midi keyboard, you are going to get a middle C blast out at the highest velocity you can get. What gets really interesting is when the nerds start to sample instruments at 128 differing levels of being struck, which is where touch sensitivity comes into it. If it has 128 different samples of the instrument being struck at 128 ever increasing velocities… no touch sensitivity (heeelllloooo 1982) would be present and the note is either “on” or “off”. Touch sensitive transmits the velocity as well as the location… Hopefully, you are still with me!
What does this mean for guitar players? Well… firstly, I’m not going to go down the route of midi guitars here (although I truly feel that within a few years they will be FAR more common because technology is finally catching up to the concept from where it started in the 80’s, and it’s still my ultimate goal to have a completely midi guitar rig one day that acts and feels like my favourite guitar, but sounds like anything I can think of from a Strat, Les Paul, Telecaster, Nylon Strung etc etc), but more about how it can control multiple pieces of equipment simultaneously with patch changes, making your life a LOT easier.
We can start off by looking at my old rig (as I love any opportunity to talk about my gear, past and present). If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll be aware of it I expect, but in case you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell (effects section)… Signal chain:
One Control OC10 Looper, containing:
- Strymon Mobius, pre gain;
- Wampler Mini Ego;
- Wampler Tumnus;
- Wampler PaisleyDog – c2;
- Wampler PaisleyDog – c1;
- TC Electronics Quintessence;
- Strymon Mobius, post gain;
- Strymon TimeLine
- TC Mini HOF; and
- Wampler dB+.
Obviously, I had the pedals set and used the looper to bring in each when I wanted them (usually multiple pedals being brought in and out with the touch of one stomp). It was a massively versatile rig with those three gain stages and I could literally pull out any sound at any time and it would always sound amazing (humblebrag). When you add in the additional control I had via midi using the two Strymons, it very quickly got to the point where I was using upwards of 60 or so patches across 8 banks on a two hour gig. Obviously, you don’t need to do that, you can just use however many you like, but when the options of differing modulations and delays instantly available you can get waaaay deep, really easily. And I can tell you now, it’s a LOT of fun.
What has midi got to do with this? Well, the OC-10 is a midi controller looper and both the Strymon's receive midi commands. Here is how it was used. Before we go any further, I need to point out a little annoyance I have with some of the more complex pedals, and how they are not midi mappable…. Alright, OK, I’ve gone there, so here is what midi mappable is all about and what is unfavourable with some systems who don’t have it.
When you get into loopers, you create banks of sounds according to the band you are playing in and the songs you play. For example, my board was set up with Bank 1 (8 presets in a bank) for “general” which had a mixture of clean, dirt and dirty solo sounds in it, as that is what I used most of the night. Bank 2 was my “clean” bank, so that was clean stuff, slap back delays, vibes etc… Bank 3 was where I started to get into specific songs that needed specific sounds, so it was a real hotchpotch of tones including various sounds that had flangers, chorus’. Vibes etc etc. I know… get to the point, Jason… but this is exactly where I am going. When I was creating these tones, and because the units I was using were not midi mappable, here is how the pedals saved the patch information coming to them… My first modulation sound on my board was bank 2, patch 3 (clean vibe sound). My second was bank 3, patch 4 (dirty vibe sound). Then was Bank 4, patch 1 (clean big chorus), Bank 4, patch 8 (dirty solo sound with the same big chorus across it) – it was like this all the way up to bank 8. As the units were not mappable, that means that my first Mobius preset was saved on patch 23 (bank 2, patch 3 on the OC-10), my second was patch 34 (bank 3, patch 4 on the OC-10), the next one was patch 41 (Bank 4, patch 1 on the OC-10) and so on. So, if I was playing around with the Mobius away from my rig I would get 22 blank user patches, then one of mine, then nothing to patch 34 and so on… It becomes really bloody annoying when you are messing around with the unit on its own.
When this became even more annoying was when you get into the delays… I like to use a LOT of delay, and I don’t mean have it overbearingly loud, but it is on everything. A small amount of delay just gives me a lovely element of width. As most of the tones within my board were splittable into two sections “basic rhythm” or “ basic lead” (obviously, there were ones outside this), I would say I had about 30 individual patches set up that were EXACTLY the same within the TimeLine. That being a basic rhythm delay setting. On top of that about I had almost the same amount of the same patch duplicated over for solos… All because the units were not mappable and they created a new patch location every time I used a new preset on the looper.
Here is the point (…to loud cheers from the readers…) If they were mappable ALL of my rhythm patches for rhythm would have pointed to ONE patch only on the TimeLine instead of creating 30 or so duplicates. So, across the first bank of my controller that had 5 rhythm patches (clean, clean loud, dirty, dirtier and filthy) all using the same delay, 5 different patches were saved on the TimeLine. If they were mappable, all 5 patches on the looper could have pointed to the ONE patch on the pedal. As you can imagine, when you want to tweak ALL of your rhythm delay lines a fraction for any reason, having to change 30 patches is a pain in the arse. It’s much better if you only have to change one…
This is why you are seeing a LOT of new midi controllable pedals come out that appear to have a lot fewer preset locations on them, because – quite frankly, the VAST majority of people just don’t need 128 or 256 locations as most of them will be duplicates (note that numbers, 128 and 256... because midi sends numbers between 0-127). Once you get into providing 128 patch locations you start to get into the realms of needing display screens on the pedal, you start to get into banks and banks of duplicate patches, which can be solved with basic midi mapping.
Obviously, as the Terraform has 8 saveable preset locations, we have jumped straight in with midi mapping. The terraform will recognise 128 different commands coming into it (presets commands from your looper), and then allocate the desired patch from the 8 saved to that command. So, Bank 1, preset 5 (on the lopper), Bank 1, preset 6 (on the looper) and Bank 3, preset 2 (on the looper) etc etc will all be able to point to a single patch within the Terraform. We have worked extremely hard to make how this is handled on the Terraform as easy as possible – so much so that when I explained how we are doing it to a good friend of mine who is of the attitude “I don’t get midi, it’s so confusing” he understood it instantly and said “Yeah, I get that, it’s easy”. So, all those who are considering going down the midi controllable looper route, we’ve made this extremely easy for you.
The midi in and out/thru (thru is essential as you can run multiple units in a chain that all receive the same command from the controller, making it so you can change multiple units from the press of one button) are right there on the back and are in the format of a TRS mini jacks (WHAT???!!!??, I thought they were 5 pin plugs??)… it has ALWAYS baffled me why most units have a 5 pin midi plug on them, as the cable itself only uses two of the pins – 2 and 4 with 1, 3 and 5 not connected at all (there is probably a historic reason for this, but I am unaware of it). So, as the industry moves forward with the mini TRS cable, so have we… those 5 pin ones are huge and effectively a complete waste of space and as one of the major concepts of design with the Terraform was pedalboard real estate, we are not wasting a single millimetre on oversized, unnecessary plugs.
There you have it, a VERY basic guide to midi for guitar pedals, midi mapping, and players like me. If you have any questions about this, feel free to hit me up on social media, I’m pretty easy to find, especially in our Tone Group on Facebook!
This has been one of the most exciting NAMM’s I can remember - purely because we revealed the Terraform and it’s the kind of pedal we’ve been fantasising for literally years about making. Once we worked out we could do it, we approached it the only way we know how, and that’s with a ‘gloves off’ mentality. After looooong discussions about functionality, we came to the conclusion that we wanted controls to be right there up the front with no endless sub-menus or scrolling through tiny screens. This, obviously, means that the feature set won’t be as comprehensive as some of the other pedals that occupy this corner of the market, but you know, in my experience (as an owner of two of the biggest sellers out there), the best sounds I ever got from those was by not doing all the tweaking - we needed to make sure it is easy to use with best sounds, right there.
11 custom designed effects which are: Slow Gear style, U-Vibe, Phaser, Through Zero Flanger, Subtractive Flanger, Additive Flanger, Chorus, 3 Voice Chorus, Dimension Style Chorus, Tremolo and Harmonic Tremolo. We are constantly tweaking (we get sent them as plug ins to tweak in Logic) these as we want to make sure they are perfect, so right now - at the time of writing - this is how it is looking - we are currently working on a few things that may replace one or two of the effects, only time will tell. We wanted to make sure that the effects are ‘just there’ and sounding great from the outset and so far, all that I have heard are bang on.
Up front you have 5 basic controls: Rate, Depth, Blend, Volume and Wave-Shape. 4 of those will be easy to comprehend but all the magic is going to happen in the wave-shape. This is where the interesting and fun stuff will be held, and you guessed it, I’m not about to go into it all here, let’s just say because of this one control this pedal goes deeper than you would first think.
We definitely wanted there to be presets, as we can’t see how you can have a pedal like this without them. It had to be stereo… we also decided pretty early on that certain effects will want to be pre or post gain, whether that be dirt pedals or the effects loop of the amp. A 4 cable method (4CM) was of utmost importance, this means that when using 4CM the effects will be of course, mono. We had to think of a way to program which effect went pre and post – as the pedal comes out the box the obvious ones will be set accordingly when used in 4CM. You can change these yourself, quickly and easily by putting the pedal into ‘routing program mode’. Plus, it looks really cool when you do it as well!
Here’s some examples of how we see it being wired up.
Set the Terraform to Stereo, run it in a big ol’ line:
Pre/Post, straight in the front.
Set the Terraform to Pre/Post, place the dirt between the two 'sides' of the Terraform:
Pre/Post, FX loop method
Set the Terraform to Pre/Post, put one half of the Terraform in front, put the other half in the loop:
Set the Terraform to Pre/Post, put Pre in a loop before your dirt, put Post after!
We have included 8 presets that stores everything and you can recall the presets either from the switch on the front or from your midi controllable looper. We wanted to put an expression pedal control in there as well, and give you the ability to control any one of the 5 dials up front, with the additional control of being able to set the high and low point of the pedal sweep – so, it’s not just a 0-100% and try to find it on the fly, you can set the exp to start at your preferred toe down and heel down position. So, instead of that exp being 0-100%, it might be heel down at 45% and toe down at 80% - you can set it exactly as you like.
Of course, we wanted it to be built the same way we always do and the way our customers expect, like a tank and in the USA. One of the most important things we could think of, make it as small as possible. So, although this is not in our regular double sized box (think Dual Fusion, Paisley Drive Deluxe, Fuzztration) but custom boxes designed specifically for this pedal that are almost an identical size. As you can imagine, this makes it considerably smaller than the others out there as we know that you are as concerned with pedal board real estate as we are! While I’m here, I just saw that Brian published the expected price on Facebook, how does $299.97 sound? I know, bargain! Right?
What we want to do with this is ensure we have the right effects in there. The ones shown at NAMM are all cool, but we know that there are things you think will make it better, so – Wampler hive mind. Based on what you’ve seen and what you now know, this is your chance to get in at the first floor – tell us what you think we should have in there! Now, I’m not making any promises, but we want to make sure it’s perfect for as many people as possible when considering their next mod pedal!
You can listen to the Terraform here...
Terrarform features in Andy's video from 3:59!
Back on October 12th I made a blog post about getting a Line6 HXFX, I gave the first impression of it and am now ready to follow up on that as I’ve finally got it out to gig over the weekend!
First of all, in regard to the purpose of the original post (I needed to downsize my rig due to an existing spinal issue), it’s job done. My 50lb pedal board is now less than a quarter of the size and weighs about a third. It’s SO good to walk into the venue with my board in one hand, my guitar on my back and my Mandolin in the other. My back and my surgeon will be forever grateful for this development!
So, what’s it all about, what’s the purpose, and why did I choose it. Regardless of all the stuff about my back, the main issue was downsizing. I play in a pub band and there isn’t room for a board that big, it just gets in the bloody way. Also, and most importantly, I love the scribble scripts. Because of that, the Helix family was the basic and most obvious choice. Couple that with the fact it’s renowned for being the easiest to use, I was a fan before I even started. However, I really must remember that what is easy for most generally means “bloody nightmare” for me as I detest reading any manual that’s over 2 pages long. I looked up the “how to use” videos and they made it so simple I thought – this is gonna be easy.
I was wrong.
First World Problems, a two-part tale of western privilege.
Firstly, there is pretty well no point in using this thing without using the HX editor from your computer. Based on space limitations, the HXFX is remarkably easy to use, but you know, it’s fiddly and annoying and you can’t use its full potential without it. This is the first major failing of it to be honest. Considering the technology out there today how on earth this was released with only a computer editor and not some kind of app, preferably with Bluetooth, is really amazing. About a year ago my big brother bought a Line6 Firehawk FX and I had a lovely time editing the sounds on it via an app on his phone as he was playing it. I’m pretty amazed that this technology hasn’t gone forward onto the HXFX. As you can imagine, editing something easily when you are on your computer at home does not translate to when you realise that one of your solo sounds isn’t quite loud enough and you need to fix it on the fly during the break… Plus, it’s 2018. I want to do it on my phone dammit.
Secondly, considering that Line6 are one of, if not THE market leader (when you take into consideration their market share) producers of high quality and small wireless systems, why wasn’t a receiver built in? I feel a trantrum coming on I WANT AN APP!!!! I WANT A RECEIVER!!!
As with anything like this, it’s all about the mindset in how easy it is to use. I’m guessing that a lot of people will use it in stomp mode, but I’m willing to wager that there are a lot of people like me who have come from a full looper situation and are looking to condense. So, for this piece I’m going to be talking about it from that angle only. From what I can see, the vast majority of YT demos are geared towards using it in stompbox mode, so I was struggling to find the way around using it my way. Also, worth noting I’ve not properly dived into the expression pedal element of it yet.
Once I had worked out what the hell was going on, I was able to navigate the thing much easier. The first issue I had with it was the difference between patches and snapshots. They should have been called “boards” and “patches”. You see, that’s what a patch is. You set up a ‘pedal board’ within the patch and then use the snapshots to change the what is on and what isn’t. Now, this caused me no end of problems initially, but when I got my head round it, it was easy. I just then had to work out from each virtual board which patches I can use as you only get four snapshots per ‘board’ (patch). Why is this an issue you ask? Well, when you load a new ‘board’ up, the audio drops out for a split second. When you change between Snapshots, this does not happen.
The quality of the effects are generally really quite good, although with everything else that belongs in the modelling world, the whole thing is a retrospective view of the world of guitar effects. It’s crammed full of the classics, and being a tone snob within the industry who has played everything that Brian Wampler has made since 2010 and most of our competitors pedals, at times it was really disappointing. Compromises HAVE to be made when you go from a full board to one of these. This is NOT a unit for the cork sniffers who are well versed in the current trends in boutique level pedals. The compression is great if you want a vintage Ross style, or a SP Compressor, but if you are used to the Ego, or a Keeley, or an Origin Cali76, your bottom lip is going to drop when you play them. Same with the Klon model, it’s really accurate to the original, but if you’ve played any that have come after it – including the KTR – you’re going to be a fraction disappointed. The delays are great, even the tape emulator (but it ain’t no FTEv2), as are the reverbs – but at times it feels like they have made them to appeal to the guy in the store who is going to be demonstrating it so everything is kinda over the top, there is a distinct lack of subtlety within them. Unsurprisingly, the things I’ve not found a use for are the overdrives. I’m sorry Line6, but once you find the boutique level OD pedal for you, an accurate model of some of the older stuff just ain’t gonna cut it. I am an overdrive snob, which is probably why I have worked for Wampler for so long, so it was never going to work out well! Once you really get into OD’s properly, it’s not just the tone, you can actually feel the difference between all the boutique guys, Keeley’s feel different, JHS feel different… so, a digital recreation of a Boss SD-1 just isn’t going to hit the mark. Fortunately, Line6 have allowed you to have two external FX loops within so my beloved Paisley Drive Deluxe is still my main overdrive. For this run of gigs I’ve been using the Klon model in the HX, and using both side of the Paisley… however, as I only use the blue channel of the PaisleyDog as a solo boost, I am pretty certain that from here on in the Tumnus will be back on the board in the second loop and I’ll use the internal TS for boosting. Once you get used to that Tumnus feel and sound, a regular Klon model just isn’t going to cut it. I’m sorry to all you Klon purists out there, but I think it’s just better. I just wish there was a third loop so I could use the Mini Ego, but of all the compromises that I will have to make, the Tumnus and the PaisleyDog are above it on the list.
The one thing I am pretty well staggered was not included was a side chained noise gate. The effects are noisy, especially when you stack them up (in fact, the ‘same’ effects on this board has considerably more floor noise than my old board,) I’m pretty certain those big ol’ brains at Line6 could find a way of putting a noise gate in that reads when there is a signal coming from your guitar and then place the gate in a location you want (ideally, after the gain stages). All that floor noise will be gone in an instant even with the sensitivity set real low.
So, what’s the verdict then? When we look into the specifics of what I wanted, it’s doing a grand job. I wanted to replace a lot of my board and my TB looper, and it’s done this. Is it an ‘all in one’ solution for everything? Not quite – but right now, it’s probably the closest I can get to it. The key thing to remember is that almost everything you want out of a massive board is going to be compromised when you scale down.
My old, big board (mostly for sale - under the Strymons are Tumnus, MiniHOF, Wireless receiver, dB+ and under the board is a Carl Martin ProPower 2. Since this was taken, the Mobius was replaced with the BOSS MD-500 and the TimeLine with a Source Audio Nemesis)...
My new board, streamlined board of compromise...
And, for a more direct comparison, here is the case for my new board sitting atop of my old one (now for sale, please contact author lololz)! The actual case for my old board weighs 2lb less than my entire new board inc case!
Pros of using something like the HXFX...
- SCRIBBLE SCRIPTS. The single most important thing on this. I can now troll myself every gig with ‘comedy’ names for my patches and snapshots. I particularly enjoy the fact I can insult our lights guy with a specific patch for his favourite part of his favourite song…. He always watches my feet as I kick that in, so the look on his face when there is an insult to him on that bit is priceless.
- The vast majority of the effects are more than good enough, in fact some of them are outstanding (“muff”, intelligent harmonizer, TS, plate reverb, Script 90 phaser and Vibe in particular)
- Ease of use. Despite what I say above, it’s easy to use, I’m just a luddite who wants everything to be so easy I don’t have to think about it.
- It is without doubt outstanding value.
and the cons...
- It draws 3A. That’s a huge power draw, hardly any supplies give that out and the wallwart is bloody huge. This will annoy me for ever!
- No app? Come on Line6, you did it with the Firehawk. Do it on the HX as well.
- On the flip side to one of the cons, some of the effects are disappointing. Most of the overdrives are dated, the gate needs updating, it needs a polyphonic pitch shifter (like the Digitech Drop), the chorus is good, but not as good as the BOSS MD-500 (better than the Mobius though)… some of them need to be calmed down (’63 Spring’ in particular).
- A built-in wireless receiver would have been perfect.
- It’s noisy. Really bloody noisy. Get a decent side chained gate in there! And get it in there now!
At home, I think it will stay in the case. I have the Full Helix for recording and quiet play, and also ‘quite’ the collection of pedals and there is nothing like grabbing a pedal off the shelf and just loving what it does. But, for live, I’m the kind of person that wants it all set up, not change and be the same gig after gig after gig. In that case, it’s perfect. If you are a ‘set and leave it’ kind of player (whether that be at home or live) then this is for you. If you are a tweaker, it just won’t work quite so well.
All in all, this has been an interesting experiment. Due to the physical limitations I have I will stick with it and enjoy every moment when I use it, because it's good, most of my old board is now up for sale. Is it ideal? Is it perfect? Nope, gear choices rarely are – it’s all about compromises and unless you want to take a board the size of a small village out with you, it will always be this way. But… it’s good enough for a pub band and good enough for my almost exacting ears. Without the option to put my favourite OD in there it would be a massive fail, as NOTHING works for me like the PaisleyDog does, but the rest of it is close enough. I just wish I could find a way of getting my Tumnus and Mini Ego in there as well… But, I may have a plan for that. I’m getting a slightly bigger board for Christmas… so, here I go again!
I got name-dropped on the podcast this week (#239), it all stemmed from a conversation that Brian, Alex and I were having over the weekend about the future of rock music. Then subsequently, the future of the guitar, and the guitar heroes of our youth. As Brian said, I was naming Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but unfortunately, my opinion was not expanded upon in the conversation properly, so I’m going to explain on here where I was coming from.
During my life I have seen 4 guitar related musical explosions that have directly affected the sales of guitars and guitar gear in general. Or course, I can only speak from my own observations, it’s probably different from your ‘angle’, whatever that may be!
The first one I remember was the late 1970’s (and I only really have a visual memory of this as I was young). We used to live in Greater London and one of the last memories I have of that area before we moved to Devon was seeing a full-on London Punk. Full Mohican haircut (is that moniker for a hairstyle appropriate these days? If it isn’t, I apologise for my ignorance) on top of the full Vivien Westwood style of clothing. At the time it scared me as I was only about 5, but, looking back at it now, I fully understand what was happening.
Punk came around due to the frustration of the music, the politics, modern culture and just about everything else. People needed an outlet, and that boiled up to the point of explosion and the extremes of these people became very famous. For us, it was the Sex Pistols who spearheaded this charge and at the time people thought “What the hell is that?”…
If you watch interviews with members of the movement discussing the musical aspect of this, it was frustration with music popular at the time and they need to push back against it. Just listen to John Lydon talk about the Eagles and you’ll understand where I am coming from. Subsequently (and most importantly, relevant this piece), legions of people picked up the guitar and joined in. This music was never on the radio, in fact, the major broadcasters of the day refused point blank to play any of the punk stuff. That is until it became SO big they couldn’t avoid it, even then it was only the parts that were the most commercialised, maybe one or two songs.
Fast forward a few years to the mid ’80s. Now, from the blues came rock and from punk came the attitudes of thrash. These attitudes were existing quite happily until that mad moment when the kids of the day first heard players like Satriani, Vai, Gilbert, Malmsteen and so on. Everyone who had been enjoying riffing out suddenly heard all the virtuoso music and thought “What the hell is that?”. This was, if I am being honest, the time when I looked at the guitar in a different light. I was already fully embedded in rock music, in particular NWOBHM, and loving all the widdlywiddlywiddly stuff, but those guys are responsible for more hours of me woodshedding than any other. With this, guitar sales shifted away from the Strat’s, Tele’s and Les Pauls and the pointy headstock era was born. Over here, that music was never on the radio.
The next one is a weird one, as for me it was a two-part instance that happened 4 years apart, but it came from the same attitude. Firstly, in 1988 Guns ‘N’ Roses exploded here, they were anti virtuoso and relied on that Les Paul into a Marshall tone… unlike the other bands they benefited from being played on the radio, well, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was. Here they weren’t really regarded as a rock band per se, because the first song they became known for opened with the lines “She's got a smile it seems to me, reminds me of childhood memories, where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky”. That didn’t really sit with those of us that were used to headbanging along to “Ace Of Spades”. They were considered to be pop rock which explains why the ‘Use Your Illusions’ albums outsold ‘Appetite for Destruction’ at the time (although now, the first album flattens those completely) – I remember hearing ‘Welcome To The Jungle” for the first time and thinking “What the hell is that?” Sales of guitars peeked again and Marshall got to join in the party, although stopping making the 800 series in favour of the 900’s might not have been the best move ever as something was missing from those amps.
The second part of this joint explosion, and the one I think was the most important in my lifetime, was in 1992 when Nirvana fully exploded. Which, like G’n’R, happened because of one song on the radio… Nirvana gave the impression (to me at least) to be coming from the same direction as punk did. As a direct response to the music of the day, the virtuoso players seemed to have forgotten about the riffs and the songs, the over production. The reason this one sticks in my mind so much is because I was working in a guitar shop when this happened. Over the space of a couple of months my customers went from “Dad Rock” types or “Big Hair Shredders” to young moody kids who wanted to strum the hell out of their guitars, stare at their feet, and think the entire world was against them. Because, well, they thought it was. Strat’s, Tele’s, Jag’s, Mustang’s and interesting guitar sales went off the charts… the Les Paul’s died on their arse, we could shift a few Epiphones, but Gibson’s… nope. For years I had confused looking parents talking to me while their kids glared at me through their hair and grunted in response when I tried to talk to them. However, when they got a guitar in their hands their faces lit up. All I could see in the faces of the parents was “What the hell is that?”
After that everything kind of flatlined again, until the radio picked up on Oasis and Blur. I’m not going to say much, but, (as someone working in a guitar store at that time) if I ever hear a kid play Wonderwall again I’m going to scream. So, net result, guitar sales spiked for a few years. I can directly relate this movement to when the 60’s guitar music thing happened, the fact that most Oasis songs appear to have a riff directly borrowed from that era further proves my point. Bizarrely, this appeared to bring up the sales of acoustic guitars more than electrics, but the raise happened across the board. There was no “What the hell is that?” moment though, unless you happened to see Liam Gallagher be interviewed without an interpreter.
So, where does this leave us now? The thing I find most interesting about it is that half of these movements happened without the support of radio in any way. One (albeit two bands) came from just one song being on the radio and the other was pure pop music, so radio play was inevitable. Punk was NEVER on the radio. 80’s rock (whether it be NWOBHM or the more extreme elements of it towards the end of the decade) was never on the radio… Actually, that’s not entirely true, “Soft Metal” or whatever it was called, often was. it was usually some disgusting “oh baby I love you” style song with heavy guitars in the chorus and a nice wailing solo, but the rest wasn’t.
All this leads me to the discussion Alex, Brian and I were having over the weekend which prompted the podcast and which has now prompted this piece. I was saying that “we need the next Nirvana to hit” (and I say this as someone who isn’t really a big fan of them) but did they ever promote sales in guitars to the ‘kidz’. Brian’s main argument is that “People don’t listen to the radio anymore, so there will never been another big guitar group”… However (over here at least) that never stopped the punks of the 70’s and the rockers of the ’80s. In fact, it was what made them. Being overlooked was what defined them.
What’s next? Who will be the next supergroup to explode sales of guitar gear? If you look at the way most of those bands came about, the ones that caused guitar sale peaks in my lifetime, it was because they were standing against something. Now, that may be a political stance but, at the core, mostly it was about the music. Right now, popular music (in my humble opinion) has never been so crap (yeah I know, I sound like my Father). Well, maybe the mid 90’s pure lollipop pop scene, but the jury is still out on that, time will tell.
Politics right now is at the most divisive I can ever remember it being, music is consumable. The music industry is churning out gallons of forgettable sewage and vacuous crap that does nothing more constructive than make the likes of Simon Cowell even more disgustingly rich than they already are. Instant fame is touted as the only answer, fame is handed to the lucky few, young impressionable kids on a plate on televised talent shows and most of them are instantly forgettable – and then forgotten. How many kids watch these talent show with a dream, not understanding the odds of even getting an audition for them? The internet affords us access to endless hours of new and great music, giving artists the impression that they have the chance to be bigger than The Beatles… but can they ever be? Of course they can’t. No one ever can be. But can a band come along that stands up against the drivel? Stands up against the politics? Stands up against the system and the ‘machine’ that runs everything?
It’s time we had another Nirvana, another Sex Pistols. It’s time for another band that can rise up and smash everything to pieces. Like Punk, 80’s rock and grunge, this explosion will NEVER happen on the radio. The radio is as much about music these days as MTV is. This explosion will happen from the internet. From an independent source as that is always where the life-changing music comes from. There are endless great bands out there at the moment, my daughter spends most of her free time these days working out “Panic! At The Disco” riffs on my guitars so the hope is there, but it’s not fully realised yet. What band is going to come along and speak to her fully like the Pistols and Nirvana did to people of her age at that time? I have no idea, but the world is begging for it.
We don’t need another guitar hero at all; the age of the guitar hero is dead. We need another Steve Jones. We need another Kurt Cobain. These were the anti-heroes that exploded guitar sales. We need someone to put a finger up to the industry and make a stand against it. The guitar itself is not dead (as Blake points out on the podcast, everyone is looking at Guitar Center and saying “Man, the guitar is dying” as their sales are going down) but are those people looking at the underground independent manufacturers that are thriving? No, they are not, because the media is only interested in reporting the companies that have shareholders to keep happy....
The one thing that is obvious to me is that what is actually dying, albeit slowly right now, is the corporation strong hold on the MI industry and music in general. The underground is rising, the next Sex Pistols or Nirvana are posed to maximise on the ambivalence of the general public and I hope that they will shake it to the core.
We need another “What the hell is that?” moment. We need another guitar anti-hero.
Yes, you love it, we love it, EVERYONE loves it. So much so, last year the amount of money the great British public parted with was up +11.7% to £1.39B (thank you America, we are now adopting your retail trends) according to data from IMRG. And this was online sales only. In the US, the period known as Black Friday (including CyberMonday) was $19.6B. Approximately 58 million people chose to do their shopping online only, versus roughly 51 million at physical stores only (a drop of 1.6% from 2016 in physical stores) (practicalcommerce.com). 2018 is projected that the average adult is expected to drop $483.18 each (finder.com). Yeah, I could bore you stupid with stats here, but I won’t.
What does this mean, well – you know, it’s a time of year that we at Wampler spend a lot of time planning to making sure our big hitters are released on the run-up to this period – the eagle-eyed amongst you would have heard Brian say in numerous NAMM videos last January that we didn’t really have anything new to show this year as everyone shows the new stuff, so it all gets lost in the mix, and also if you show it in January there isn’t a big retail opportunity to drop them for about 10 months. Doesn’t make sense really. Does that mean we won’t be showing anything this January? Well, you’ll have to wait and see, but from what I can see from here we may show a proto of something quite extraordinary, but then again we might not. Who knows? Well, we do, but we aren’t in a position to speak about that yet!
Looking around the market place this week has been fascinating… I’ve seen lots of companies like us who are giving a flat 15% off everything, to reward the people who buy from us all year round… then there are the stores. A lot of them are just banging stuff out at a discount, and it’s awesome, but some stuff has been NOS that is cheap, which is even more awesome, but a lot of it is the just dead stock that needs to go. So far today I’ve been tempted by a guitar I don’t need and won’t ever play, an amp that is COMPLETELY unsuitable for my house and gigs and about 8 plugins for Logic and FCPX that I simply don’t understand. And my inbox… I’m on the verge of turning it all off… PLEASE stop emailing me, or I might just unsubscribe from you, I don’t mind receiving your news once a week, but one company has sent me 6 emails in the last 48 hours. I might get something from one of their competitors just to air my displeasure at their overbearingness… is that a word? Did I just make that up?
Black Friday is insane. I love it. Please, before you go anywhere else today and this weekend, make sure you pick up the brand new Fuzztration from our site, or a Pantheon… or one of our older models, direct from the factory, at 15% off. That’s 15% you can put to your next piece of gear... and buy them right here!