Last night I found myself in the middle of 5000 people watching a band and, to be honest, it was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. Quite eye opening in fact, the band in question was Panic! At The Disco. I’m guessing that if you have teenage kids, who have at some point in the last couple of years ventured into the realms of “insanity” that most teenagers seem to do, you will be aware of them.
Now, at risk of sounding like my own Father, when I first heard about them – or I should say, the day my daughter walked into the house head to toe in Panic! merch, I took one look at the name and style and thought “Well, this is going to be crap” and wrote them off instantly. Over the following months, her songs made it on to our playlists in the car and I became somewhat of a silent fan. His voice, which originally annoyed me, now fascinated me. When I found out that for the last couple of albums it was basically a one-man band, my interest was even more peaked. I still didn’t really get it the levels of fanaticism my daughter was displaying, but the songs were catchy and most of them had a big chorus, and I’m a sucker for a big chorus.
For Christmas last year Lisa and I surprised the kids with 4 tickets to see Panic! in 2019. Tears were shed, mostly by me, because the closest one to us was the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. I’ve seen a few bands there before and never experienced a good sound – it’s a pretty horrible room, kinda square and solid, so the natural reverbs are pretty immense. The sound engineer must have felt his stomach drop an inch or two when he first walked in.
As the calendar flipped over more and more towards the date of the show, our daughter was almost becoming feral about the whole thing, which was confusing me enormously. But as it was to be her first proper gig I went with it and enjoyed her anticipation. Last Monday (25th March), after school, we jumped in the car and went to Cardiff for the show. We did our usual Cardiff thing and met a couple of friends I went to University with, had something to eat, a quick pint and then entered the arena. The first support band was on and I was instantly dismayed as the sound was exactly as I remembered. We kinda walked around for a bit and found the best place to stand so that we could see the show and the sound was at its least bouncy.
After another support band, the lights dimmed and at the back of the stage a digital clock began to countdown from 10:00 to signify the start of the show.As the the clock was getting near to zero I had my first proper look around and discovered that I, Jason Wilding, aged 45 and three quarters (in combat shorts and Empire Strikes Back shirt) was indeed stood stock in the middle of about 4750 teenagers, mostly female, and about 250 slightly bemused looking parents.
BOOM… lights down, show starts. For the first few songs I was just watching my kids – their first proper show – I marvelled in their reaction. My youngest was singing and dancing (unfortunately at only 5’1” they couldn’t see much) so was just enjoying the atmosphere and music and our eldest, 15 who is a good 5’8” or so, was in floods of tears and singing every word perfectly, and some of those lyrics go past pretty quick. I think it was about the third song that I had another look around and noticed that the vast majority of the people around me were in a similar state. The first thing that went through my mind was the pied piper of Hamelin, his control of the audience was complete and all he was doing was performing his songs.
The band itself was at core a three piece (drums/bass/guitar) all clicked with some substantial backing tracks happening. Sax and trumpet players on one side of the stage and a 3 piece string section on the other it was a very tight. Panic! At The Disco is now basically the singer, Brendon Urie, writing and recording everything. The band he has with him on tour are extremely tight and very professional. In terms of a band performance, I’d say it was flawless.
I think it was about the 6-7 song I noticed that one song was ending and another was starting without Brendon talking to the audience at all, but it was slick, a couple of seconds between songs and he was jumping around and dancing like a mentalist and performing at the peak of a man on the top of his game. The thing about Brendon that used to annoy me but now intrigues me is his voice, he gives what I call the full gambit of Barry’s. Low to high, he goes from White to Gibb constantly and is phenomenal. Whenever he went very high the audience went bat shit crazy encouraging him to do it again and again.
I think it was about 20 minutes from the end that I realised that I was at this point having almost as much fun as my eldest was (my wife and youngest had by this point gone towards the back) and totally caught up with the atmosphere and energy of the show. Although, being of the age I am, my back was hurting so, you know, I was just happy to be singing along and enjoying the spectacle of the whole thing. It was about 2 songs before they finished (the main set) when Brendon started to properly talk to the crowd and this was when it hit me, this man – right now – is in complete control of my daughter and many, many, many other people’s kids, and for a split second I was terrified. However, you know, I’ve seen Vai live enough times to relate to that feeling.
When the show was over we made it back to the car and I was looking around again, fascinated by all these young kids who were basically in some kind of euphoric trance. All I could hear, from every angle, was “Brendon did this” and “Brendon did that”… so I did that thing that all Fathers do at that point, I started to interrogate my eldest daughter. By the time I had paid for the parking and got back to the car our youngest was already fast asleep in the back (a talent inherited from yours truly, much to the annoyance of my wife) and the other was still buzzing.
As we drove out through Cardiff I started to ask her questions, probably something I should have done months ago, because I went into the arena as a fan of decent music prepared to be entertained somewhat, you know, it was for our kids mainly. But I exited a fan of the band and, more importantly, I left as a big fan of the band and a bigger fan of Brendon himself.
I asked the usual stuff, “why do you like the music so much”, “what’s so special about him”, “why do you think that demographic relates to him so much” and so on and so forth… and I was getting the same answer back and for virtually every question “He cares about us”. I soon realised this was going to be the answer to every question, which made me change track… “How do you know he cares about you?” I then received a master class in modern marketing and making your brand relevant to you audience. Brendon Urie, over the years, has had ‘issues’ – I’m not going to go into them here, but they are well documented if you care to search. It would appear that he is well on the path of coming out the other side of them – within his music he talks about his issues, how he got over them and how he moves his life forward.
He also (when not out on the road as much) does a lot of live streams talking about music and life, and all of it is overwhelmingly positive. He doesn’t care about people’s colour, creed, sexuality, class… anything like that, he just thinks that people are worth something and that they should love themselves and the life they live. He constantly communicates this to his fan base, which is overwhelmingly ‘millennial’ and they lap it up, as the world of social media and instant communication often leaves them feeling, well… shit. So, within his music and brand, he brings them up as much as he can. I like this attitude a lot, because as a parent you are painfully aware that as your kids get older you have less impact on their lives in terms of their self-worth and place in the world. On the flip side, I’ve also now realised that at times, Brendon Urie has my daughter in the palm of his hand in regard to her mental state. When she is feeling down his music – with the positivity it contains – brings her back up again. This scares me somewhat as he appears to be the kind of guy you want your kids influenced by, so right now him remaining like this is very important to me. If he were to let negativity overtake him, it would also have a negative impact on my kids. That is scary.
How the world has changed… when I was her age, all the music I liked was dark and designed to be hated by my parents. This band however, once you listen to them, is the exact opposite. Don’t get me wrong, she’s brought some utter crap in terms of music into our home over the years and I’ve diligently done my job by hating it, but right now, I’m a Panic! fan.
If your kids are into Panic! I suggest going with them to the show. The show will be enjoyable but that is nothing compared to the reaction of the kids that go to the show. Once you get over the fanatical hero worship levels of fandom (not that much different to when I first saw Iron Maiden in 1988 to be honest) you’ll see that music, in this instance, is doing exactly what you want it do – leaving the audience in a better place than they were in before they first listened to it. It’s safe to say that at times during the show it was the youngest I’d felt in years juxtaposed with feeling every day of my mid 40’s.
Oh yeah, this is a gear blog, right? Mike Naran – the guitarist - has a wonderful collection of weird and wonderful guitars and he was playing through a Kemper with no pedals. Sounded bloody awesome, no further comment required unfortunately, although I do think he’ll sound good with a couple of ours thrown into the mix.
Here are a few videos I shot on my phone on the night....
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!
Seems like a weird question, doesn’t it? But the reality of your playing is completely different from your perception of it, I can almost guarantee that… well, it is if you are realistic about what you play and what you see/hear when you watch yourself back. Those with overtly sized egos might not see it.
Why am I asking this? Well, since I went back into gigging just over 3 years ago, I’ve started to see and hear myself play in the cold light of day a lot more. Back in my day, when I were a lad etc. etc. it was extremely rare for a local cover band to be recorded in any way and have that recording even listenable. These days, as everyone has an HD camera in the pocket that can take high sound pressure levels, you are probably going to be recorded every time you pick your guitar up. For a good couple of years I steadfast ignored any recording that came up, purely because I didn’t need to see it as we are just a Dad band and we don’t care about our image, we don’t play the songs that everyone expects, we just play what we play to the best of our ability. It wasn’t until someone recorded us last year during a laid-back Sunday afternoon gig and I thought I played well at, I thought “I’m going to have a watch of that” mainly because I didn’t know I was being filmed until quite a while afterwards.
That’s the most important thing. I didn’t know I was being filmed. Because, you know, at the time I suffered from red light terror and all that. What did I discover? Well, I think my vibrato is crap, my phrasing is off and I am the most heinous lick thief that’s ever lived.
What I’ve done to try to expand on my playing is record myself… which in itself has presented itself with a whole new problem – a proper case of “Red Light Syndrome”. I’ve found out that when I know I’m being recorded, whether it be out in the wild or at home, I clam up. Completely. I revert back to tried and tested safe stuff, my timing goes out the window and all the bad bits within my playing become all the more obvious. The only way to do this is to keep doing it, over and over, and then share it with people.
This is the big one for me… sharing it with people. I’m a confident player, I know that I’m not crap, but I also know I’m not great. So, when I shared something (usually carefully picked, the best take of many) into the open playing field it’s in the knowledge that the people who have me in their news feed will see it. Now, in this regard, it’s a real dice with death for me... My social media ramblings fall into the feeds of some seriously good players, probably because I have what is perceived to be a cool job, so I am connected to them professionally. Fortunately, they overlook my stream of everyday grumpiness and bullshit in order to maintain the relationship. I cannot begin to explain the terror I feel when I post a video of something I’m working on and I get a notification of “Brent Mason commented on your video” or “Andy Wood reacted to your video”. My stomach falls about 6” and I can barely look. But I have to. Fortunately, it’s complementary, but you know, I think as a general rule they are playing nice. I’m not a pro player, but because of the job, I have to be quite good in order to pull it off – or at least give the impression of being quite good.
I eventually found myself in a position of doing either of two things. Continue to share stuff, or not. For a long time, I went with the latter. I shared nothing, but continued to record myself… As is my usual way, I eventually got bored with that and stopped doing it. And then, about a week ago, I was talking to a mate about playing something or another and I recorded it and sent it to him. He recorded something and sent it back, and we went back and forth like that for several hours. I learned more about my playing in that couple of hours than I had in a long time before because it was one on one sharing, there was no-where to hide. It was recorded and sent instantly before I’d even had the chance to watch it back myself… so, I was seeing it the same time he was. I was actually offering myself up in my most raw format for critique. I can’t begin to tell you what a different that made – I found that in doing this I lost the red-light issue as well, and I felt more comfortable and was properly able to see where I was going wrong.
The following day I shared one of the videos on to our group in Facebook that showed the issues I was working on the most, but also, the one that I felt was the least crap… because, you know, I still have an ego and I’m not ready to have it openly demolished! I posted it with the title “What are you working on right now?” and put in the description what I felt my playing needed the most work and asked for advice. For the first time it was an open share looking to get better rather than showing off. I got a great response and a couple of ideas on how to improve. I’ve since gone back and rerecorded it and noticed a difference… the main issue I have is time feel – I tend to grab phrases if I am not 100% confident on them, and my natural bent note vibrato… well, unfortunately, it really does suck - there is no flow or subtly to it. But I’ve learned a couple of techniques now that have improved it, I have a long way to go but at least I can see a way out of the woods. I am going to record that solo every week in order to keep track of my progress, and once I feel I’ve nailed it, I might share the results!
Here is one of the videos from that lazy Sunday, that shows my lick thievery to it's maximum extent.
Here is the video I shared into the tone group that shows my (bent note) vibrato that needs work.
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 scrolling through social media - especially gear groups - you tend to see a lot of the same misnomers and inaccurately assigned labels put on things… One of the most common is the “transparent” overdrive. I mean, how many times have you seen a K style pedal called Transparent? Quite a few I expect. It’s right up there with people saying “I need a clean boost” and someone saying “tubescreamer”.
Firstly, what is a transparent overdrive? Well, it’s one that doesn’t fundamentally change the EQ of whatever is coming into it. So, all that happens is that the pedal/circuit clips the signal, sending it to overdrive and then comes out again. These kinds of pedals are actually EXTREMELY rare as all the fun is in the EQ stack and when you start putting multiple EQ stacks into circuits, that’s when the fun really starts! bDub made a video last week that was discussing this, so I thought I would expand on it further, concentrating on the most famous transparent OD of them all – Paul Cochrane’s “Timmy”.
The Tummy has very little in the way of EQ colouration so what you put it just comes out, but clipped (on certain settings)… but before I jump head first into that rabbit hole, here is some basic information about how EQ is handled and how it is performed on most dirt pedals. Like a LOT of pedals the Timmy tone controls is not active, but passive, so it doesn’t add anything it only takes it away – think of it this way – a basic treble control is a LPF (low pass filter) that is wired backwards. It restricts the amount of bass coming through - it does NOT add treble. So, when the knob is all the way round clockwise, the treble isn’t being added, bass is being taken out. The more you bring it counter clockwise, the more bass is taken out giving the impression that there is treble being added. This is obviously different from a lot of the tone stacks that bDub puts in his pedals (which are 100% active EQ’s) so in those when the control is theoretically at noon there is nothing changed, but take the relevant frequencies away when turned counter clockwise, and then added when turned the other way. Worth noting, the bass control on the Timmy is active, but only adds bass – this is integral to the circuit and the style of clipping, and is quite similarly handled in the Euphoria pedal.
One of the things I’ve ALWAYS loved about the Timmy is that the tone pot is actually wired the correct way, so everything appears to be backwards for people who are used to other pedals. When you have the treble control all the way “off” (counter clockwise), all the treble is still in the circuit, when it is “on” (clockwise), the treble is taken out - so it’s working in the correct way… if you look at it from a nerdy perspective. This means that if you have the gain on the Timmy ALL the way down and the tone and bass control all the way up, you are hearing what I think is the most transparent overdrive currently available. Of course, as it’s going through ‘stuff’ before it gets there, and inside it, and what comes after, it will never be truly transparent but I think it’s the closest you can get, and most people won’t be able to hear any EQ difference in it – the pedal in this state is basically acting as if it were a buffer within minimal difference to anything else. The active bass control is also round the other way as well, so when the pot is all the way counter clockwise, you are getting maximum bass, and none added when it is all the clockwise.
To show this literally, we’ve made a few graphs to demonstrate it visually. Please bear in mind that these graphs start at about 50hz and go all the way up to the 10kHz, most guitar rigs won’t go lower or higher than this, so we’ve removed what happens above and below.
Here is the Timmy at its flattest, so that’s gain off and bass and tone all the way round clockwise. As you can see, that is what we would call over here in England as ‘flat as a pancake’, with a slight roll off at the very top end.
From here, we’ll change the EQ and gain controls to show what is happening in terms of the cut…
Gain 50%, Bass 0%, Tone 0%.
Gain 50%, Bass 0%, Tone 50%
Gain 50%, Bass 50%, Tone 50%
Gain 50%, Bass 0%, Tone 100%
Gain 100%, Bass 0%, Tone 0%.
Gain 100%, Bass 50%, Tone 0%.
Gain 100%, Bass 100%, Tone 0%
Gain 100%, Bass 50%, Tone 100%
Gain 100%, Bass 100%, Tone 100%
To round this up, I want to quickly remind everyone why a lot of us industry types scoff so much when TS and K style circuits are called transparent… the whole point of them is that they add a mid boost, which is what makes them push tube amps so well… the TS has its main peak at around 723hz and the K at 1k. They are anything but transparent!
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!
Quite a lot of the time when I see an event pop up on Social Media my reaction is usually one of these three: “A world tour means more than America and Canada”, or “Hey, you know there is life outside London as well?” or more often than not, “HOW MUCH???!!!??” – so, you can imagine my delight when mid-afternoon yesterday it popped into my news feed that Dan and Mick will be playing in a pub about an hour from me and it’ll be free to get in.
It took Lisa and I about 3 seconds to decide to go and check it out, as you know… ‘why not?’. We didn’t know what to expect as we saw that it was the ‘That Pedal Show’ band’s first outing and thought it would be cool to see and give them a little support!
They said in their post that they were “starting at 8”, which in the UK generally means “on stage at 9:30, so arrive early and spend money over the bar so we can be rebooked”… so, we made our way there and were somewhat surprised that at 8:10 they were already in full swing. It was a small venue, vocals only PA and packed to the rafters with people wearing TPS shirts (including myself). Obviously, the first thing you do is try to sneak a look at their boards without anyone noticing. As I looked over I was surprised to see a mate from the local music scene down here in Devon, Paddy Blight, playing bass for them. It was a weird moment, but he’s a great player and top guy so not really surprising as I know he’s had a ton of gear from Dan in the past.
The bar was right at the back of the venue and I managed to catch their eye as I walked by to say ‘hello’ (obviously, I wanted them to know I was there because I’m somewhat of an attention seeker) and at that point Mick decided to get everyone in the room to say hello to me, which was both the most embarrassing and ego massaging moment I’ve had for a while, not to worry though, the good feeling didn’t last when I found out the price of a pint, but you know, it was free to get in and apparently most pubs charge you both arms and a leg for a drink these days… **grumble grumble – back in my day… pound a pint… I remember when all this was fields etc.**. As I was waiting for the Guinness to settle they surprised everyone by going straight into a full rendition of Shine On You Crazy Diamond… which, for most bands would be a struggle but when you are a four piece with no keyboards, it’s verging on the downright insane! As you would expect, the guitar tones were pretty stunning. The great thing about the balance of Dan and Mick is that you have the two polar opposites of great tone. Dan is not shy when it comes to using pedals to get his sound, and constantly tweaks them on the fly, and Mick enters into blind panic if he has to change a patch during a song, but uses amp gain perfectly… the balance was spot on… And, I know you are wondering how he did the intro of Shine On, so to quote Dan when I asked him how he did it without the keyboards was “there was a shitload of reverb and delay on there”.
The one thing that I think a lot of people were pleasantly surprised is that they both have great singing voices and the 3 part harmonies were on point. Whenever I’ve seen a band attempt “Shine On” if there isn’t that massive vocal boost on the main line it falls down the crapper, and they had it nailed. It’s worth noting that in terms of vocals, that was the biggest surprise of the night, both Dan and Mick have great voices… damn them, great players, great tone, and great singers too. And that’s before I get jealous of the fact Mick still has a full head of hair.
Anyway, enough of that, this is a gear blog? Right? So, what did they have… Well, Dan was obviously mostly playing his favourite Telecaster, “Red” going through a G2 controlled monster of a board. The vast majority of his tone came from his workhouse D&M and King Of Tone, through a Sovtek Amp (sent to him by Josh Scott) though Dry/Wet/Dry set up. I love a guy who’s not afraid to take tons of gear into a show!
Mick on the other hand, appeared to be relying mainly on Blue through his trusty Victory and Two Rock amps for his tone, pushed by a Silver Klon .
Paddy's bass board
I would love to see the guys take this band out on the road out on the road properly, but you know, they both have real jobs as well as providing us with all the content we have come to expect from That Pedal Show on a weekly basis. The main reason for me writing this is that all four of them were just having fun and playing the music they loved with their friends (and this music was an eclectic mix to say the least, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise for those who will get a chance to see it in the future let’s just say if you like songs from a mixture bands such as The Bros Landreth, Soundgarden, Pink Floyd, QotSA and Tenacious D, you’ll be smiling).
We had to leave before the end, as it was so busy and we couldn’t find somewhere to sit (we are both old and have bad backs!) and as I was driving home I came to the conclusion that music, mostly, should be about having fun with your friends and making a noise that you and the people who are listening to it find enjoyable. We are all guilty of taking ourselves FAR too seriously sometimes, and it’s great to be reminded about what it’s all about. Fun. Dan and Mick are obvious such good friends that making music together is pure joy for them. What we all need to do, obviously, is get them to tour the planet and remind everyone!