Saturday, October 25, 2014

Playing through a $3000 amplifier

I've always wanted to play through an expensive boutique amp to see what they are all about. I finally got my chance the other night.

My Band, The Hip Swayers shared the stage recently with another local band, Cosmic Slim and His Intergalactic Plowboys (love the name!). We shared equipment given the size of the stage, and I was fortunate enough to be able to play through a Tone King Metropolitan. Amazing amp.

Based on 60's and 50's era Fender amps, the Metropolitan had a presence that none of my amps have (including my '72 Vibrolux). I was in tonal nirvana. 

One channel could be set-up as a typical blackfaced Fender, and the second channel could be set-up with the kind of overdriven sound you might get out of a 50's era tweed Fender or with the midrange bite control, a smaller Marshall combo. 

From beautiful "chimey" cleans, to slight break-up to full blown, cranked up distortion, this amp had it all. But at $2999 ($2200 to $2500 used), it will most likely remain as the "experience I once had with a great amp." 

More info:
Tone King Metropolitan

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Telecaster

I used to be a Gibson guy. Fender guitars with single coils didn't work for me. Somehow I was able to conquer this affliction without intervention, medication or even support groups (ok, I do visit every so often, but that's it, I swear!).

Last week was Danny Gatton's birthday, and him being a Tele guy, I was thinking about this. I spent quite a bit of time driving to band rehearsals listening to him, always being struck by his seemingly super human abilities. I decided I had to have a Tele, so the shopping began.

Ok, I don't pretend to play even close to Danny's level (few do), however his playing and the playing of Roy Buchanan, The Hellecasters, James Burton, Albert Lee and Jim Campilongo inspired me to buy my first Telecaster. I've never looked back.

The guys I really like are the players who coax all the twangy goodness out of this first successfully mass-produced solid body electric guitar. The behind the nut bends, volume swells, tone control wah-wah effects, and the aggressively twangy sound of the bridge pickup makes a Tele, a Tele. 

Of course the list of favorite Tele players I've come to know is now a long one, all the a-list country players like Don Rich, Redd Volkaert, Brad Paisley, Brent Mason, and Vince Gill have influence my playing as well (I could go on with more names but I'll stop here!).

For me, the original 1950 design was good enough. Simple, straight forward, easy to repair, it became one of the most popular guitars of all time. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The perfect amp?

I've owned quite a few amps over the years. Some of them I wish I still had, like my '66 Fender Bassman. Some were traded in for something different, the Bassman yielded to a MusicMan, which in turn yielded to an easily forgettable Peavey Deuce. Horrible amp.

After using tube amps for the last few years,  I've gone through a succession of modeling amps from the Vox ADVT series to a Fender Super Champ XD and to a Mustang II. The Mustang II has been my go to amp for the last nine months.

It's hardly the perfect amp, but it's weight makes it easy to transport, and there are lots of good tones, settings and effects to choose from. At 40 watts it can keep up with a drummer in most situations.

Plug the amp into your computer and you can tweak the sounds through the Fender Fuse software. Not surprisingly, the Fender Blackface tones sound amazingly good (at least to my ear). It's not quite like using my Vibrolux or '65 DRRI, but it's close, and well worth the money spent ($99 used at the local Guitar Center).

There are a few blindfold tests of the Mustang series on YouTube where you can hear one side-by-side with the real tube amp the Mustang is modeling. The results can be surprising.

Here's a good one: