Guru Guitars Newsletter
The Articles of Tone
by Eugene Reinert
When one reads most any guitar magazine they will find an article by someone claiming to be a professional (which may or may not be true) who tells them that doing a specific "mod" to their guitar or amp is as easy as 1 2 3 and/or it will have a drastic positive impact on the tone of their rig. If the reader feels they have the skills to complete this mod they will attempt it themselves; often times they find that it's not as easy as they thought. If not they take it to someone to do the work (who may or may not inform them that there are more factors at work than just this one thing they are focused on). In the end they may not even be able to tell the difference or could be thinking that they hear an improvement based only on one persons opinion. Not to mention that ten people can play through the same rig, sound different and all have an opinion on what it sounds like.
I personally enjoyed modding guitars before I got into the business, so I am not talking down those articles. But often times these "mods":
-Are not as simple as they seem.
-Are changes that take a professional's work to do or undo.
-Have minimal impact on the overall sound unless other work is done along side them.
The main reason for writing this is not to discourage mods but to educate the customer on how to go about doing them or choosing the right people to do them for you. I personally believe that modding a guitar or amp can do wonders. But one needs to make an educated decision before jumping in. The first step is to talk to us! Not just because we want business but because we offer something different than just work. We make sure our customers know what they are getting into and what it will really take to get the guitar or amp into tone dreamland. I will give you a few examples.
Replacing pickups is the number one mod to electric guitars. They offer drastic changes and improvement in tone but unless you are good with a soldering iron don't do it yourself! It costs so little to have someone install them for you (even less if you buy the pickups through us). On top of that if the other controls such as the pots, switches, capacitors, and jack are junk they will need to be replaced to get the desired result. Is your amp quality enough to do justice to your new pickups? Do you know how close the pickup should be to the strings? Does the guitar need setup? Does it need fret work? Is the intonation set properly? All of these things affect the sound of the instrument. So before ordering the tone generating heart of your guitar consult someone in person. Forums and articles are good info but not all of it is reliable.
When dealing with amps, making one change is not usually enough. Swapping some resistors, caps or tubes in your amp hoping to recreate the Holy Grail tone is a recipe for disappointment. There are many factors that come into play with amplifiers that make them sound the way they do. While quality parts can certainly make a difference, the amp must first be good sounding on it's own. I hope to have Tim Ristau write an article on amp repair and modding to better educate and debunk the myths of amp mods. Therefore I will stop here and let the master fill you in next time.
If you can't hold back and must do the mod yourself take some time to learn everything you can about the task you are about to do. If it is soldering, practice on pots and wire first so you don't mess up the pickups. If it is epoxying a fretboard take the time to practice on a flat surface and see if you can get a clean result (removing epoxy is hours of work). If you are going to reshape your guitar neck practice on scrap wood first to get the feel for your tools and most importantly find out if you can shape a surface to what you want it to be. Wood can not be added back! It never hurts to buy a cheap guitar and practice on that first. If you didn't catch my drift, practice! As always, keep having fun.
by Eugene Reinert
The latest and greatest Guru stompbox started off as a conversation with Marc Auble (Our amp class teacher). We were discussing the stomp boxes I was making and he suggested using FET Transistors in cascaded gain stages as they behave similar to a tube. So I started by building a bassman 5F6-A preamp straight off the schematic with everything exact except I used Fets as the "tubes". After tweaking it a lot I realized I wanted to make something better and more versatile that was an original design.
I then began the month long journey of prototyping the new idea. I started over with the new concept in mind. I began with one channel and soon realized the potential this box had. So I added a second channel with more stages. Tweaking frequency response was the longest process; filtering out high frequencies and tightening bass response using capacitor and resistor networks in specific areas of the circuit. I also experimented with adjusting the bias of each FET to obtain maximum clarity and minimize ugly distortion. After weeks of work I was finally excited with the result.
It has two independently voiced channels (each with it's own gain control), a master volume and a master tone control. Three footswitches control: on/off, channel select and gain boost (which affects both channels). The gain boost idea came from Marc's guidance as well. It opens up one stage in each channel to allow for more gain. I experimented with many different values and components to find the right boosted sound. In addition each channel has a unique voice when boosted. This box will cost $250, which considering you get two channels and a gain boost for each (making it 4 completely unique tones that range from clean boost to insane distortion) is a steal. I am also experimenting with splitting the channels into individual boxes so that players who never need gobs of distortion can buy the tamer channel alone. This would also make a box that is more affordable. I'm in the process of building the first official unit, which we will be taking to the Spartanburg Guitar Show this weekend.
I would also like to thank Tim Ristau for all of the general tube circuit knowledge that he freely passes along. I would not have the same understanding without his help.
The stompbox pictured below is a different creation which is also available by custom order.
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by The Guru
Rest are as important as the notes themselves. They really give music life and pizzazz. The space between notes is what allows players to develop their own voice and style. Obviously there are more factors that play into phrasing, but rests are a very powerful tool. The concept is that the instrument is completely silent for the duration of the rest. So in Fig.1 play on beat one let it ring until the end of the beat and be silent for the entirety of beat two and so on.
The simplest way to learn rests is to develop a feel for the the time that they represent. An easy way to practice is to rest every other note as in Fig. 1. It gives you a feel for the rests and keeps it simple. You can do this for all of the other types of rests. Before we get started, it is quite important that you can feel the different types of rhythms before getting into their rests. The proper picking is also extremely important. All of these things are covered in previous lessons.
Figures 1 through 3 show some examples of quarter note rests. Try to find more examples on your own. These are very straight forward and are an essential part of being able to feel the other types of rests. Since quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes are all factors of 2 from each other, they are all the same feeling just twice as fast or vice versa. So feeling quarter note rests is paramount in learning the others. You can apply the repeat signs throughout the rest of the exercises and licks to get a solid feel for each rhythm.
Fig. 4 through 8 show some examples of eighth note rests. The first two are simply skipping every other as with the quarter note example. Fig. 7 and 8 show some popular riffs using rests. The actual songs may be slightly different but this will help get the point across.
Fig. 9 through 13 show some examples of sixteenth note rests and added combinations. Up to Fig. 10a you have simple one note rhythms to help get the feel of sixteenth notes. You can also apply the every other note exercise to these rests. Fig. 11 combines sixteenths and eighths for something a little different. Fig. 12 and 13 show the power of inserting a rest in the beginning of a phrase to throw it off beat so that the same lick can sound very different. The key here is to be diligent in keeping the down picking and accenting on the down beat so that the lick has a different flavor. Fig. 14 rounds off the sixteenth note rest exercises with an up beat type of lick.
Fig. 15 is a combination of rests and subdivisions to help you see the usefulness of combining all of the things I've shown you. The trickiest part here is the triplet eighth note rest in measure two. Again if you can feel a triplet than apply the same feeling only rest on the second note of the beat. If you missed last weeks lesson check it out for more rhythm phrasing ideas.
Do you have a question about the lesson in this column? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contribute a lesson to the column send an email of the lesson to email@example.com. It needs to be clean, professional, short and sweet with all necessary diagrams attached. I'll review everyone's offering and pick the one I want in the column. If you are picked you'll receive a gift from Guru Guitars!
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