Monthly Archives: December 2008

NAMM 2009: More Mustaine gear – new Dean ‘Rust In Peace’ VMNT

The appeal of this one will pretty much be limited to hardcore Megadeth fans and Dave Mustaine himself, but you gotta give ‘em props for trying. Here’s Dave’s latest Dean VMNT, which will be officially released at NAMM in a couple of weeks. Dean are going nuts for these graphic finishes lately.

What do you think? Is anyone going to buy this guitar, or is it impossible to step on a stage with it without looking like you need a big blond wig and a bullet belt?

You can see more cool Dean 09 stuff at their website.

If you can’t wait until the official release to get your hands on a Megadeth graphic Dean, CLICK HERE to buy the Dean V Dave Mustaine United Abomination electric guitar from Musician’s Friend for $299. These are based on the budget VMNTX, so you could quite easily take the money you save and upgrade the pickups to a Seymour Duncan Livewire Dave Mustaine active pickup set for $189.95 and have a decent approximation of what Dave uses, for a fraction of the price.

NEWS: Dave Mustaine auctions signature Line 6 amp

Remember a few years ago when Dave Mustaine was working with Line 6 on a signature amp? It never panned out but Dave had a few prototypes on the road, one of which is now up for sale at Megadeth’s official eBay store.

You can see or bid on the amp HERE.

According to the listing…

Here is an auction many of you have been waiting for. This auction is for a Line 6 half stack used by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Both the cabinet and amp have been autographed by Dave in silver Sharpie. The amp is a model designed and made specifically for Dave, but was not mass produced. The Mustaine amp has the same power amp section as the HD147, a two DSP chips, a main processor, and 4 amp models (a Line 6 clean, a Dave signature heavy tone, a modified vision of the Dave signature heavy tone, and a Plexi tone). The cabinet is a 4 x 12 including a custom grill and metal handles.

This item was used extensively by Dave during the recording of “The System has Failed” and the subsequent tour. Megadeth’s tenth studio album,”The System has Failed”, was critically hailed as a brilliant return to form which Revolver described in a four-star review as “Megadeth’s most vengeful, poignant and musically complex offering since 1992’s Countdown To Extinction”. In creating this album Mustaine has taken all the greatest elements of successive Megadeth line ups, mixed them together and reinvigorated the sound with an injection of fresh Mustaine venom. The album debuted at #18 on U.S. Billboard charts.

This set up is a must-have for the guitar playing Droogie. IT IS LOUD! There are some wear marks on the equipment as it has been used and transported. Don’t miss out on this one..Good luck winning this awesome item Droogies.

This item comes with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) signed by Dave Mustaine.

All items are signed with black sharpie. If you have any questions, please email.

I dunno if Line 6 amps will some day attain the same level of vintage fervour currently reserved for 60s Marshalls, but if that day comes, this one would be a pretty unique addition to some future, 50-years-from-now Line 6 collector. Line 6 aren’t exactly known for making custom amps, so this is pretty unique.

It would be interesting to plug into this amp and compare it to whatever Dave is about to release with Marshall at NAMM in a few weeks…

NEWS: DigiTech ships RP1000 Integrated Effects Switching System

Whoa, check out the new DigiTech RP1000, which was announced in November and has just started shipping. It’s designed to do what a bunch of Boss GT-8 users stumbled upon a while ago, which is to integrate a floor effects processor within an amp rig so you can use the amp’s own preamp sounds, and colour them with the effects unit, so you’re not chained to the pedal’s preamp. A similar feature is included in the smokin’ hot TC Electronics G System, but that’s mega expensive while the new RP1000 is a lot lighter on the wallet – with a street price of about five hundred bucks ($US).

In the case of the Boss GT-8, which I used for a while, you had to use all sorts of special cables and hum filters to get the amp’s preamp into the effects loop of the GT-8 so it could be moved within patches. The GT-8 was never designed to be used this way, it was just a happy accident. But it seems that since the RP1000 is designed specifically to do this sort of stuff, they’ve tackled all the impedance mismatches and ground hum problems. It also takes things further by including separate loops for your amp’s preamp and a stomp box.

My only beef is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to switch amp channels, which would somewhat limit the usefulness of this unit – it would be a shame to have all your settings and effects stored on individual buttons for your clean, rhythm and lead sounds, but have to step on a separate amp channel switch as well. I could be wrong, perhaps the Looper Switch jack can be used for this purpose, but if so it’s not very clearly spelled out on the website.

There’s also a smaller version, the RP500, which you can get for $299.95 at Musician’s Friend.

Here’s the press release.

DigiTech, a leading manufacturer of guitar, bass, and vocal processors, and a Harman International company (NYSE-HAR), is shipping it’s newest, highly anticipated RP1000 Integrated Effects Switching System.

The RP1000 sets itself apart from traditional multi-effects products featuring switchable stompbox and external amplifier loops that allow the RP1000 to easily integrate with external gear. “Guitar players use different brands and pieces of gear to create their personal tone, the RP1000’s loops and transparency is the only piece of gear of its type and allows them to do just that. I personally use an assortment of external pedals and an amp that defines my tone. Everybody I know has a different taste in amps and pedals, the RP1000 allows them to use their current setup while offering them more tonal choices” says Jason Lamb, DigiTech Marketing Manager.

The RP1000 targets live guitar players with 14 metal switches that controls both program changes, effects on/off, stompbox loop in/out, bank up/down, and the built in 20 second looper. The RP1000 can be used in two different control modes to switch up to 10 presets (preset mode) or 5 presets and 5 effects on/off (pedalboard mode).
For the tone purists, the RP1000’s internal Amp/Cabinet Bypass switch removes the RP1000’s internal amplifiers and cabinet effects from the signal chain leaving only stompboxes and effects.

The RP1000 has over 160 internal stompboxes, effects, amps and cabinets for nearly unlimited tonal options, USB 2×2 audio streaming along with Cubase LE4 all at the US MSRP of $699.95

For more information, visit their web site at http://www.digitech.com/.

CLICK HERE to buy the RP1000 from Musician’s Friend for $US499.95.

CLICK HERE to buy the book Ultimate Gear Guides: Roland Boss GT-8 from Sheet Music Warehouse

NEWS: I Heart Guitar on Twitter

I’m still messing around with it, but I recently set up an I Heart Guitar account on Twitter. I’ve been reading some articles on how to best utilise Twitter with blogging (here’s a good one for you bloggers: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2008/12/how-to-use-twit.html) and hopefully I can figure out how to make it all work. Bear with me as I no doubt make dumbass mistakes for a few days.

The address is http://twitter.com/iheartguitar

NEWS: VHT changes name to Fryette

VHT Amplification, who have been cranking out killer amps like the Pitbull and the new Sig: X for more than 20 years, are changing their name to Fryette Amplification under Steven Fryette Design Inc, but the VHT name, resp will live on under the ownership of the company AXL, known for their Badwater guitars and cool little portable amps.

VHT has been huge this year with the success of the Sig:X amp, which Guitar Player raved about back in July. It’s good to know that despite the name change, the company will continue to produce the same amps, as well as new ones under the leadership of owner Steven Fryette.

Here’s the press release:

Effective January 1, 2009 VHT Amplification, Inc., will be known as Fryette Amplification, a division of Steven Fryette Design, Inc. Fryette Amplification will continue to manufacture all of the VHT models currently in production including the award winning Sig:X amplifier, Deliverance amplifiers and speaker cabinets, Pittbull Ultra-Lead amplifier, FatBottom speaker cabinets, Two/Fifty/Two and Two/Ninety/Two power amps and Valvulator I Buffer + Power Supply.

In making the name change, founder and CEO Steven Fryette states: “Much like a musician who finds his own voice, my more recent designs have really captured what I’ve been searching for ever since starting VHT 20 years ago. These designs represent my personal vision of how an amplifier can interact with a player in a truly musical way. We’ll be introducing the Memphis Series amplifiers at Winter NAMM and these new products exemplify the use of our patented technology, years of experience and commitment to quality all in an affordable format. For years I have thought about putting my name on a product and finally I feel comfortable enough to do just that.”

As Steven Fryette Design Inc., Fryette plans on continuing working with others as a design consultant in addition to building Fryette Amplifiers and accessories. “Earlier this year, I had consulted with AXL and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with another manufacturer. In a surprise move, AXL offered to buy the trademarked VHT brand name and logo. They will now manufacture their own product under that name. The offer to buy was also an opportunity to rebrand the company under my name.” says Fryette. All of the original VHT intellectual property, patents, designs, and trade dress have been retained by Steven Fryette Design, Inc.

The web address for Steven Fryette Design Inc is SFDamp.com.

NEWS: Freddie Nelson interview

Head on over to the Random Chatter Music blog for a new interview with Paul Gilbert’s new co-conspiritor Freddie Nelson. This is the first interview I’ve read anywhere with Nelson, and he has some interesting stuff to say about his background. Part 2 of the interview will be online soon, in which Nelson will talk about each song from United States, his new album with Paul.

By the way, how hip does Paul look in this new shot with his Ibanez Fireman guitar? In my mind this look fits right in with his excellent debut solo album, King Of Clubs, which had a cool 60s feel.

CLICK HERE to buy Paul Gilbert and Freddie Nelson’s ‘United States’

CLICK HERE to buy Paul Gilbert’s ‘King of Clubs’

My favourite stuff of 2008

I’m back from my little Christmas exile, and I’m in a reflective mood, so here, for the heck of it, is my list of stuff I liked this year, in the world of guitar. 2008 was a pretty cool year for me. I wrote about a squillion articles for Mixdown and Australian Guitar, recorded a few tunes, wrote a huge batch of songs for my new band (watch out for us in 2009), interviewed Joe Satriani, John McLaughlin, Zakk Wylde, Steve Lukather, Page Hamilton, Max Cavalera, Bryan Beller, George Lynch and more, and started this here blog (with encouragement from the ever clever Mrs I Heart Guitar, who is an avowed blog-reading fiend).

2008 was also a pretty bitchen year for the world of guitar. We had releases by Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, the reunited Extreme, Guns N’ Roses, and even a freaking Van Halen tour (which never made it down to Australia or anywhere else outside North America for that matter… hopefully that will be rectified in 2009, but I shan’t be holding my breath for that one). There were also some very cool gadgets released during the year. So here’s my list of cool stuff in 2008. Click on any of the links to buy the stuff if you like.

General stuff

Meeting Paul Gilbert in person after many years of email communication and two interviews – he was just as cool as I could have hoped.

Hearing from Mike Keneally that he’d checked out my blog. In an email he said “Your website is EXTREMELY readable! Lots of cool articles.” I think I still smile in my sleep about that one.

Attending an album preview party for Trivium, and almost accidentally making a baby with the back of Corey Beaulieu’s head thanks to an uncomfortably posed photo.

Buying a crapload of new pedals while the Australian dollar was at 98 US cents. I went on an MXR spree and bought a Dyna Comp, Custom Audio Electronics Boost/OD, EVH Phase 90, Carbon Copy Analog Delay, and Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz. Now the dollar sucks again, so I’ll have to hold off on buying a Dunlop Buddy Guy wah and an eBow until it recovers. Dammit.


Extreme – Saudades de Rock

After going their separate ways to join Van Halen (Gary Cherone), farm alpacas (Pat Badger, and with a name like that how could he not be an animal lover?) and release stunningly awesome albums under various band names like Population One, Mourning Widows and Dramagods (Nuno Bettencourt), these guys finally got back together for one of the best rock albums of 2008 and one of the best moments of their eclectic career. I freaken love Nuno’s guitar tone here, all natural and gusty, and the live feel helps smack this one over the line as my favourite new release of the year.

Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson – United States

This unexpected new direction follows two highly successful instrumental albums from Gilbert. Sounding like a cross between Queen, Paul’s own solo stuff, and a tiny dash of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge-era Van Halen, the songs are memorable, the performances are powerful, and the shredding is noodletastic. You should also totally check out Gilbert’s ‘Silence Followed By A Deafening Roar’ CD, which was released earlier in the year. The link above will take you to CDJapan.co.jp, but you can also buy it at Amazon.com now too by clicking here.

Mike Keneally – Wine And Pickles

This album is a collection of alternate or extended takes, unused tracks and various bits and pieces, yet it feels like a cohesive statement which can sit just as comfortably within the Keneally canon as anything else he’s done. The best reasons to buy this album are ‘Feelin’ Strangely,’ an alternate version of ‘Backwards Deb’ with different lyrics and hugely differing mix to the version on ‘Dancing,’ and the amazing ‘Inhale’ with Lyle Workman.


Paul Reed Smith Starla

When I was a kid, I thought Gretsch guitars were the coolest freaking thing in the freaking world. All that metal stuff really looked like it did something, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and get my hands on one. Later my attention drifted to pointy Ibanezes and never really went back, but I still think Gretsches are cool, and the PRS Starla taps into enough of that vibe to make me say ‘dayum’ every time I see one. PRS, if you can find a way to make a Bigsby perform just like a Floyd Rose without changing the look at all, I’ll let you rebadge the Starla as my signature model. Just putting it out there, okay? Cool.

Ibanez FR series

Yep, I’m an Ibanez geek. What can I say? The second I saw Steve Vai hoist that heart-shaped triple neck guitar on David Lee Roth’s ‘Just Like Paradise’ video in, what, 1988 or something, I was hooked. Having said that, I’m not just into spiky neon metal axes, and my favourite Ibanez in 2008 was the new FR series. These Telecaster-inspired axes feature a fast neck and modern pickup switching options while still carrying more than a little old school soul. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone with a lot of sway in the industry picks up one of these and declares it their main squeeze forever more. It’d be me but I think I need to sell some guitars before I even think about buying any more.

MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay

I’m not sure exactly when this pedal was released – it could have been some time in 2007 – but I got mine in mid 2008 and it’s one of the best delay pedals I’ve ever encountered. It’s stupidly simple: controls for delay time, number of repeats, and volume of repeats, plus a button which adds a light warble to the delayed effects if you wish (and a few internal controls to adjust this modulation effect if you wanna, but really, they seem to have selected the most useful settings at the factory). The repeats mush up in a gloriously lo-fi way, and they get muddier and noiser as you increase the time between repeats, but that’s part of the charm of this vintage-vibed, sparkly green little beauty.

Bogner Alchemist series

I haven’t even played one of these suckers yet and already they make me go all a quiver. ‘Real’ Bogner amps are kinda outside my financial reach at the moment, so it’s encouraging to see a Bogner amp out there which the majority of players can afford (I’ll be sticking with my Marshall DSL50 cos we’re totally in love, but that doesn’t mean I can’t check out a hot amp from time to time, right? I’m sure my Marshall checks out other guitarists when I’m not looking). Anyway, the Bogner Alchemist series takes the vibe of the company’s far more expensive and covetous amps, and distils it into Asian-manufactured units for the player who wants to show off with a Bogner logo, but doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to hoist an Uberschall and Ecstasy into the back of the van for a pub gig.

So what were your highlights of 2008? Any gigs that totally did it for ya? Any new gear that you would hock your right leg to own? Favourite albums? Meet any of your heroes?

FEATURE: A Beginner’s Guide To Pickups

For something so simple – a bunch of wire wrapped around a magnet – pickups can have a huge impact on your sound. Unlike, say, a pedal, amp or pick, it’s not really possible to try out a pickup within your existing rig. Variances in guitar scale length, construction, shape and material mean the same pickup will perform differently from guitar to guitar, so what works in a Telecaster may not work in a Les Paul and vice versa.

Essentially, a pickup is made up of a magnet and insulated copper wire. It’s the stuff of high school science: the magnet magnetises the strings, creating a flux field. When the string is struck, the vibration affects the flux field, creating an alternating current within the coils of wire. This signal is then sent to the amp, and a whole new set of techy stuff happens.

The interesting, and often confusing thing about pickup construction, is that different types of magnet and different gauges of wire have different sonic characteristics. The size of the pickup also has an effect. The thinner the pickup, the thinner the sound. This is why single coil sized versions of humbuckers don’t sound quite the same – they’re picking up the vibration of a smaller area of string.

Pickups are typically made of one of two types of magnet – Alnico or ceramic. Alnico is shorthand for “Aluminium, Nickel, Cobalt”, and is an alloy which has a softer magnetic field, and thus less pull against the strings. Alnico pickups are often associated with ‘spongier’ tones, and players such as Slash. (By the way, I know it’s technically correct, but the spelling of ‘spongier’ just looks wrong. Perhaps it should be spelled ‘spunge-ier’ or something. Anyway…) There are varying grades of Alnico magnet, each of which has its own sonic signature.

Ceramic magnets are a combination of magnetic iron and rare earth materials which are pressed into bars under pressure and heat. They’re typically used in hotter sounding pickups with more distortion and harmonic content, such as the Dimarzio Evolution, or to beef up single coil sized humbuckers.

When it comes to the wire coil, several factors influence the sound, including the number of turns, the pattern used – is it just wrapped around uniformly or criss-crossed? – and the thickness of the wire. Australian guitar commpany Cole Clark has recently released a series of pickups using Formvar wire, which has its own sonic signature and was used on early Fender pickups. Matching the number of turns with a specific gauge allows the pickup designer to emphasise high end, low end or midrange to the point where specific frequencies can be ‘goosed’ in a similar way to setting a wah pedal in a notch position. Pickups with this effect include the Dimarzio FRED and Tone Zone. The gauge of wire and the amount and style of turns have an effect on the pickup’s DC current resistance. The higher the resistance, the lower the treble response and the higher the output. A pickup’s impedance also affects the frequency, and can be tuned to certain frequencies to further emphasise upper mids or high end.

A pickup’s pole pieces also have an effect on the tone. The size, material and height of each pole piece can impose its own sonic signature. Seymour Duncan’s Quarter Pounder pickups use oversized pole pieces to read a wider range of string space without having to beef up the whole pickup to humbucker size.

Which brings us to single coils versus humbuckers. Essentially, a humbucker consists of two single coils wired in series, but one uses a magnet of opposing polarity to the other. The hum characteristics of one coil are cancelled out by the other, hence the term ‘humbucker’. On more modern Strat style designs, the middle pickup is reverse winding and reverse polarity so it cancels hum when combined with the neck or bridge pickup.

Humbuckers tend to sound thicker and louder than single coils, but just to complicate things, they can be ‘tuned’ to sound more like a Strat style single coil (Dimarzio’s Humbucker from Hell) or a Gibson-style P-90 (Seymour Duncan’s Phat Cat).

FEATURE: Amp Glossary

Here’s a simple glossary of amp terms. I find it’s handy to keep this kinda stuff as a reference when writing reviews, and I add to it from time to time.

Balanced connector: A 3-conductor connector which carries a signal over 3 wires, commonly used in microphones but also in some guitar and bass amp recording outputs. Also called XLR or Cannon.

Bright switch: Increases the treble of an amp, either by adding extra treble or by shifting the range of frequencies the amp’s treble control operates in. Can have a similar effect to a Presence control, but is not variable.

Cascading: Wiring preamp stages in series for more gain. Common in Crate amps, where the Sequential Cascading Gain feature makes each potentiometer affects the one after it for greater tonal control.

Channel: Independent sound sections allowing different tones. Commonly clean and distorted, but more often clean, crunch and lead in modern amps.

Channel switching: Changing from one amp channel to another, achieved either by a switch on the amp itself, a foot switch, or MIDI. Some units allow you to combine effect units with particular amp channels to be recalled at the tap of a foot.

Class A: Circuit in which the device is always conducting electricity to some extent, drawing power even if there is no signal at all.

Class B: Circuit which amplifies only half of the input wave cycle. Circuit switches off the amplifying element half the time for greater efficiency, but with a large amount of distortion.

Class A/B: Circuit in which the signal mostly stays in the Class A region, but with efficiency benefits of Class B, without much of the associated crossover distortion.

Combo: An amplifier which contains its own speaker, instead of requiring a separate speaker box.

Compression: Evens out a signal’s dynamic range by capping the volume level while simultaneously increasing the volume of quiet signals. Can be achieved with a pedal, built into an amp, or applied in the recording studio. Valve amps also offer a type of compression when cranked.

Crossover distortion: Distortion created when the top and bottom devices in a push-pull amplifier circuit are amplified at slightly different times.

dB (decibel): A measure of volume.

Depth (1): An amp control which increases the bass frequency response. More commonly found on modern amps built for metal, or for baritone or 7 string guitars.

Depth (2): A control for setting the character of effects such as chorus, phaser or flanger, which may be built into an amp.

Distortion: Technically, amplifying a signal until it’s louder than the circuit can take. Originally a problem which engineers tried to design out of amps, but now appreciated as the greatest thing ever invented.

Dynamic range: The relationship between the minimum and maximum signal level. Can describe how an amp responds to hard and soft pick attack, volume swells, etc.

Effect chain: A series of sound effect devices wired one after the other.

Effect loop (Series): A point in an amplifier’s circuit where a single effect or an effect chain can be inserted into the signal. This usually occurs after the preamp but before the power amp, allowing the effects to add ambience or colour to the main guitar tone.

Effect loop (Parallel): An effects loop in which the signal is split after the preamp, so the unaffected sound goes to the power amp but the effect loop runs alongside, allowing effects to be added ‘around’ the main tone. The original unaffected tone is heard at the same time as the effected tone. Usually parallel effect loops have a control for blending the level of the loop. Some amps feature both series and parallel effect loops.

EQ: In a nutshell, tone controls (at least in the context of amps). This can refer to knobs or sliders.

Extension speaker: A speaker cabinet which can be added to an amplifier. Technically it can refer to any cabinet plugged into an amp, but is more commonly used to refer to adding an extra speaker cabinet to a combo amp.

Jack: The hole a plug plugs into. Or some guy who jumps out of a box.

Feedback: That squealy sound when a microphone or guitar pickup re-processes the signal from a speaker broadcasting it. Some feedback is ugly and people spend thousands of dollars trying to eliminate it from acoustic guitars and PA systems. Other feedback is glorious and controllable and should be encouraged. Check out the intro to Joe Satriani’s “Flying In A Blue Dream” for controlled feedback in a musical context.

FET (field-effect transistor): A solid state device which is more stable than standard transistors, making it easier to achieve consistent sonic results compared to vintage transistors, which varied greatly.

FET distortion: A more valve-like distortion than can be achieved by other types of transistors. Popular in pedals and solid state late 80s amps. – When overdriven, a FET exhibits distortion qualities more like those produced by a tube than most other types of transistors.

FET switching: A FET circuit which is used to turn on effects in amps or pedals, or to switch amp channels.

Footswitch (latching): A switch for turning an effect on or off, or for switching amp channels. Press it once and the effect goes on. Press it again and the effect goes off.

Footswitch (momentary): A different kind of switch which can work in the same way as a latching switch, or which can be tapped multiple times to set a delay or modulation rate, or to kick in effects only when the pedal is being pressed down.

Gain: Another term that has many meanings, but in this case usually means ‘amount of distortion.’

Gain boost: Usually an extra gain stage that can be turned on and off with a footswitch, especially for solos.

Headroom: The difference between peak tone and peak volume. For instance, ‘Clean headroom’ refers to how loud a clean sound can get before it distorts.

Impedance: Measured in ohms, the total opposition to the flow of alternating current in a circuit.

Master volume: A global volume control for setting the overall volume of an amp. There may be individual channel volumes too for setting the ratio between rhythm volume and solo volume.

Ohm: The unit used to measure electrical resistance or impedance.

Power amp: The part of an amp which drives the speakers. Can be part of a head or combo, or a separate unit for use in a rack system.

Power amp in: Can be another name for an effect loop return. Can allow a head or combo’s power amp to be driven by an external preamp.

Power attenuator: A device for absorbing some of the speaker load so an amp can be cranked for best tone without being too loud.

Preamp: The part of an amp which contains the gain control and tone controls. The main voice of the amp.

Presence: A control which adds additional treble to the circuit.

Solid state: In this context, refers to diodes and transistors instead of valves.

Wattage: How much power an amp handles.

Common valve types:

12AX7: Preamp valve. Dual triode valve with high voltage gain. Used in most preamps, and some overdrive and distortion pedals. Also called ECC83.

6L6: Power amp valve. Pentode valve with quick response, solid bass, high headroom. Common in Fender, Mesa Boogie amps.

EL34: Power amp valve. Warm response, musical distortion characteristics. Common in Marshall amps.

EL84: Power amp valve. Treble-heavy, clear tones when overdriven. Common in Vox AC-30 amps.

KT88: Power amp valve. Beam tetrode valve designed specifically for audio amplifications. In Marshall Kerry King signature model.

KT66: Power amp valve. Good alternative to 6L6 due to higher overload tolerance. In Marshall Vintage Modern series.

Merry Xmas!!!

Merry Xmas everyone! Hope you’re having a great day and that you all stuff yourselves stupid with all sorts of Christmas cheer.

FEATURE: How to sound like Muse

This is another in my series of ‘How To Sound Like…’ columns from Mixdown Magazine. These columns are fairly general, to give tips on how to get a particular sound without necessarily buying the same gear as a particular player or band.

Muse’s Matt Bellamy is a renowned gadget tweaker, and his custom Manson guitars are filled with all sorts of goodies, including Z Vex Fuzz Factory pedals, MIDI controllers for Digitech Whammy Pedals, Ibanez Edge Pro floating bridges, and all sorts of other mischievous machines of mayhem. Yet despite all the exclusive gadgetry, there are ways of copping the essence of Bellamy’s tone without buying up a whole guitar store effects department and shoehorning it into a boutique custom made axe.

One way of getting Matt’s sound is to use several cascading medium gain stages, rather than one ultra-distorted sound from just an amp or just a pedal. Try plugging an overdrive or distortion pedal into a valve amp, and set the gain or drive controls on each to around halfway. If your pedal has a single tone control, see what happens when you sweep it from minimum to maximum setting. You may hear a sound which is almost like a phaser, as the pedal’s tone clashes with that of the amp, especially towards the higher end of the tone control’s travel. Sometimes this can yield some really cool new sounds, but they may be a bit too grating for a full song, and are best used for effect. Back down around 9 o’clock or so on the pedal’s tone control, there often lurks a sweep spot which enhances midrange while taming treble ever so slightly, and makes the overall sound more complex, thick and reactive. You might even like to try adding a compressor or using several distortion or overdrive pedals at once, all at lower gain settings.

Bellamy is not shy about cranking the midrange to emphasise a solo or melodic section, such as that snaking melody in “Plug In Baby.” One way of doing this is to use a graphic or parametric equalizer. Another, far cheaper way is to simply turn your guitar’s tone knob all the way down. With a clean sound, this will usually just muffle the tone. With a distorted one, you’ll get a round ‘honk’ which almost sounds like a wah wah pedal left in a stationary position. The effect is even more powerful if you’re using a Strat-style guitar with a separate tone control for the middle pickup. Combining the wide open bridge pickup with a tone-tweaked middle pickup retains the high end and pick attack while still giving you that bold, vocal midrange quality, and can make it sound like the guitar is feeding back, but completely controllable.

As for the whammy pedal freakouts, you can either fork out for a Whammy pedal, or you can simulate the effect by wearing a ring or one of those tiny half-sized slides on one of your picking hand fingers, and whizzing it up and down the strings. With a little patience you’ll be able to play melodies and accurately drop down on pitches which would be otherwise out of the range of a regular guitar.

Taking a few days off for Xmas

I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from blogging over Christmas, but if anyone needs me I’ll still be checking my email every day. But don’t fear! I’ve written a few articles that will be automatically published over the next few days, so there’ll still be something new to read if you’re desperate for new content.

Have a great Christmas, and I hope you all get lots of kickass presents, especially of the guitar variety. I’ll start posting new stories again on Sunday.

Merchant City Music

Peter Hodgson Hi! I'm Peter Hodgson. I write for Gibson.com, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, Mixdown Magazine (including my instructional column, 'Unleash Your Inner Rock God,' which has been running since 2007), BluntBeat (including their weekly hard rock/metal column Crunch) and The Brag. And I'm Assistant Social Coordinator with Seymour Duncan. I've been playing guitar since I was 8 years old, and I've been writing for magazines since I was 18. I've also worked as a guitar teacher (up to 50 students a week), a setup tech, a newspaper editor, and I've also dabbled in radio a little bit. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and my hobbies include drinking way too much coffee, and eating way too much Mexican food. You can check out my guitar playing at Bandcamp or on YouTube, and feel free to email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com If you'd like to support the site, feel free to kick in a couple o'bucks using this donation button.

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