GEAR: All hail the Ibanez Soundtank DL5 Digital Delay!

I just dug out my old Ibanez Soundtank DL5 digital delay pedal. These came out some time in the 90s, and I remember a Guitar World review referring to them as “fat little potato bugs.” The advertising campaign showed the pedals kitted out with tank tracks, charging over a hill, while such hardasses as Ministry’s Mike Scaccia posed in full military regalia. Because nothing says ‘trained for lethal combat’ like plugging into a little plastic potato.

Anyway, my DL5 was a birthday present when I was about 15, which would mean that as of this past July I’ve had it for, gulp, half my life. Yipes. The pedal wasn’t working any more (after it gave up the ghost I gave it to my baby son to bash around – knobs and footswitches aplenty for tiny hands and feet to learn coordination). I’ve been on a bit of a pedal spree lately – buying new ones, firing up old ones – so I took it apart to look for any loose solder joints to see what I could to do make it live again. I couldn’t find anything, but I gave it a general clean-out, and now it miraculously works fine, though the switch requires a good hearty stomp to activate.

Now that I’ve played about a million delay units, I appreciate this one a lot more. It doesn’t sound as warm as my MXR Carbon Copy, but it’s a little soft around the edges compared to a Boss digital delay. The repeats sound slightly smoothed over, and when used with a good power supply it’s very quiet. When used with a bad one, it sounds like the background noise on the Death Star.

Delay time is only 400ms, but that can be doubled with a simple mod if you care to get tweaky. Construction feels a little flimsy, and battery life is remarkably low, but despite these little niggles, I still really like it, and I’ve made a permanent place for it on my pedal board. I might put it in a true bypass loop just in case the switch gives me any further trouble, but as it is, it’s a fun little pedal with great slap-back sounds. It’s also really good for that Van Halen ‘Cathedral’ trick, where you hammer on notes while working the guitar’s volume knob, and let the delay fill in notes in between the ones you’re playing.

I’ve found a few helpful links to getting the most out of the DL5.

Here’s the schematic at
Experimentalists Anonymous.

Meanwhile at the fantastic DiscoFreq site there’s a great article containing the mods for doubling the delay time, increasing the feedback level for near-infinite repeats, and fixing the intermittent switch.

FEATURE: Going Solo

Performing as a solo acoustic act can represent either an artistic breakthrough or the kiss of death. It’s undeniably difficult to stand up in front of a crowd with only an acoustic guitar to shield you from the glare of public opinion, able to hear every little comment or conversation from the audience. While some artists are right at home in this environment, others could be forgiven for scurrying for the hills. While it’s easy to slip into the trap of just strumming some chords and warbling along, there are some tricks you can use to make your solo acoustic performance more distinctive, sonically varied, and unique. Let’s look at a few of them.

The first thing to think about is what to play. Are you taking songs that were originally written on electric guitar, with thrashing power chords? Songs like this don’t tend to translate well into solo acoustic performance because the awesome power of a blazing 100 watt amp is such a big part of the sound, and playing the same part on an acoustic guitar can change a riff from “CHUGGA-CHUGGA-CHUG” to “dinka-dinka-dink.” Clever use of open strings and arpeggiation (breaking up a chord into one note at a time) can take an otherwise heavy riff and recast it with moody atmosphere that will service the song much more musically if you take a riff that’s not meant for an acoustic or clean sound and just play it verbatim.

Take, for example, the main riff of that good old standard, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” For the song’s intro, Metallica took the same riff and moved it around a little, with some open strings and sustained notes, instead of just playing a clean toned version of the ultra distorted main version.

Another pitfall to avoid is the vigorous thrashing of chords, unless the song really needs it for dramatic emphasis. With the limited tonal palate of an acoustic guitar compared to a fully augmented rock band, dynamic control becomes one of your most important tools. One quite intuitive and great sounding technique is to break up a chord by strumming pairs of notes, or strumming only the bass note on the first beat of the bar, and all the remaining notes on subsequent beats. This opens up the arrangement a lot more and allows the audience to mentally fill in what the song might sound like with a full band. The idea is to treat the guitar as six individual voices in a choir – you can have them all sing the same melody in the same octave for dramatic emphasis, but an entire concert’s worth of that same sound can be a little bit of an onslaught. Breaking up a chord into groups of notes allows each section of the chord to breathe, and creates a more supportive bed for vocals.

Next, there’s guitar tone. Despite some great technical advances (like the D Tar Mama Bear acoustic preamp, Takamine’s CoolTube valve-driven onboard acoustic guitar preamp system, and various other analog and digital modelling technologies), a lot of players still just plug the guitar into the mixing desk and treat the audience to the unpleasant quackiness of piezo pickups. The problem with the pickups built into most acoustic guitars is that they transfer only the direct vibration of the string, but what we, the listeners, know as a true acoustic guitar sound also includes the effect of the sound reverberating inside the guitar body before leaping out of the sound hole. If you don’t have a dedicated acoustic processor, a little bit of this mysterious aural voodoo can be added with reverb and delay pedals. Dial the reverb to a ‘small room’ setting, set the effect mix to a ratio of about 75% dry signal and 25% reverb, then feed the reverb pedal into a delay set for a very quick single repeat of around 40-60 milliseconds, again mixed down relatively low, and with the treble of the repeat reduced, if your delay has a tone shaping feature. What you want to do is mimic the sound of a guitar string echoing only within the space of the guitar body, not an entire room. Then if you want to add traditional delay or reverb sounds, and have an extra available pedal or processor, the resulting echo or reverb will sound more like it’s being applied to a real acoustic guitar, instead of just repeating the trebly, hollow piezo sound.

Finally, the best acoustic performers I’ve seen make it feel like you’re sitting in their living room. They do this by being relaxed and displaying lots of personality and confidence, especially during between-song banter. The worst ones I’ve seen make you feel like you’re intruding on their private time, by mumbling or generally ignoring the audience (probably out of nerves, but still, this makes for a terrible entertainment experience).

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F.A.Q

1. Who are you?

I’m Peter Hodgson. I started playing guitar when I was about 8 years old, and I studied Professional Writing at the University of Canberra, while simultaneously undertaking a course in Freelance Journalism from the Australian College of Journalism. I’ve written for publications including BMA, Curio, Underdog Online, Beat, InPress, Rip It Up, Revolver, Drum Media, Urbane, The Brag, and probably a bunch more I’ve since forgotten about. These days I contribute reviews, interviews and a guitar lesson column to Mixdown Magazine, and I’m also a reviews contributor to Australian Guitar, and I do the occasional article for Australian Musician Magazine. Some of the articles on I Heart Guitar were written for Mixdown but have been expanded upon or otherwise tweaked for blogging purposes. Any views, comments, etc expressed herein are my own unless otherwise indicated, and do not represent the views of Mixdown, Australian Guitar, Australian Musician, or any other publication I work for or have worked for in the past.

2. Where can we hear you play?

http://www.myspace.com/peterhodgson and http://www.youtube.com/iheartguitarblog

3. Do you make any money from this site?

A little bit, a couple of bucks here and there from Google Adsense ads and affiliate commissions. I also have site sponsors from time to time (hi Italia Leather Straps!). But I still have to work full time. I’d love to do the blog for a living some day. CLICK HERE if you’re interested in advertising on the site.

4. Can you interview me/review my CD?

Sure. Email me at iheartguitarblog@gmail.com and tell me about your band and any relevant releases/gigs etc. It helps if you have a commercially available recording, even if you’re only selling it through your own website, but I’ll occasionally highlight guitarists I find on Myspace, YouTube, etc who might not have a CD available. If this is you, get in touch.

5. Who’s mentioned I Heart Guitar?

Premier Guitar
Tech – What Is Twitter? (May 2009)Perhaps the most interesting reads, however, are the many guitar bloggers on Twitter. Bloggers like I Heart Guitar’s Peter Hodgson and Guitar Noize’s Jon Bloomer both post regularly, from what they’re listing to at the moment to guitar news and everything in between.

Twitter Map (July 2009)

Guitar Edge
Article on I Heart GuitarThis guitar blog maintained by Peter Hodgson is a rapidly growing site, thanks in large part to his prolific yet engaging Twitter presence. Updated daily with industry news, press releases, new gear announcements, and occasional interviews, it’s readily apparent that Hodgson truly does “heart guitar.”

While most of the posts are press releases for new gear, Hodgson is as current on it as anyone out there, even beating a few more established “corporate” guitar sites to the punch on many of them. He’s also secured some pretty big names for interviews, including recent chats with Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis (June 29) and Chickenfoot’s Joe Satriani (June 16).

Jemsite Blog
We Heart Hodgson (July 2009) – Some great news came my way the other day. Peter Hodgson, the hip guitarist who writes the I Heart Guitar blog, is being featured on DiMarzio Inc., maker of some of the best guitar pickups in the world. They’re using clips of his guitar playing on their website to showcase their John Petrucci (Dream Theater) signature pickups, the Crunch Lab 7 and LiquFire 7.

Gear-Vault
Top Guitars Blogsiheartguitar is making waves not only online, but in print. This blog is pure professionalism. His content is very well written and the writer (Peter) flows with knowledge, and his website’s name [iheartguitar] is the perfect name for Peter, because he truly does love guitars. Read his blog and you’ll quickly see how passionate he really is. Keep up the good work Peter!

LESSONS

I’d love to have weekly lessons here but at the moment I just don’t have the time at the moment. Hopefully some day I can do I Heart Guitar full-time and I can do all sorts of stuff like that. But if you want a regular lesson, check out my column ‘Unleash Your Inner Rock God’ in Mixdown Magazine every month.

Lessons
10 things you can do to sound like you
The old hammer-sweep-and-tap
Digital editing for guitarists
Metal 101: Face-melting guitar tones
Writing for two guitars

How to sound like…
How to sound like Metallica
How to sound like Joe Satriani
How to sound like The Cure
How to sound like Andy Summers
How to sound like Muse’s Matt Bellamy
How to sound like Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell

GEAR REVIEWS

Guitars
Hagstrom F-200p
Dean Soltero Standard (with video)
Dean ML79
Carvin CT6M
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR
Schecter Hellraiser Solo-6
Schecter C-1 Blackjack ATX
Schecter Solo-6 Classic
Fender Jim Root Telecaster
Fender Deluxe Lone Star Stratocaster
G&L L2500
G&L ASAT Custom
G&L Legacy Special
Jackson Mark Morton Dominion
Gibson Dark Fire
Gibson Les Paul Jr Nashville
Epiphone Les Paul Ultra II
Fernandes Ravelle Deluxe Baritone
Cole Clark Guardian
First Act VE951
Taylor SolidBody Custom
Taylor T3/B
EVH Wolfgang
ESP Michael Amott Ninja
ESP LTD EC-256
Ampeg Dan Armstrong ADA6
Sterling By Music Man AX20
Sterling By Music Man Silo20
AXL Badwater
Lag Arkane AM100 & AM1000
Baden Guitars A-Style
Baden Guitars D-Style

Amps
Carvin Legacy VL100
Carvin V3 & 412VT cabinet
Bogner Alchemist (with video)
Krank Revolution +
Krank Rev SST
Crate V33-212
Peavey Windsor Studio
Marshall 1959RR Randy Rhoads
Ampeg J-20
Rex Bassking
Line 6 Spider Valve
Eden WTB300

Pedals
HomeBrew Electronics Paul Gilbert Detox EQ
MXR Classic 108 Fuzz
MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus
Jim Dunlop Buddy Guy Crybaby Wah
Jim Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Wah
GigFX Mega Wah
DigiTech HardWire pedals
DigiTech Whammy
DigiTech TimeBender delay
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff With Top Boost
Xotic BB Preamp
Morley Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah
Voodoo Labs pedal switching systems
T-Rex Twister chorus/flanger
BBE Boosta Grande
BBE Green Screamer
EvenTide TimeFactor
Roger Mayer Concorde +
Roger Mayer Metalloid
Morpheus DropTune
Way Huge Swollen Pickle MKII Fuzz

Pickups
DiMarzio LiquiFire & Crunch Lab (John Petrucci models)
Seymour Duncan Alternative 8
Seymour Duncan P-Rails
EMG ACS

Software
IK Multimedia AmpliTube 2
IK Multimedia AmpliTube Fender
Waves GTR Solo

Other
Jim Dunlop Ultex Sharp picks

INTERVIEWS

MUSICIANS

MUSIC REVIEWS

CD reviews
Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know
Queensryche – American Soldier
Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy
Adam Miller – Out Of My Hands
Sammy Hagar – Cosmic Universal Fashion
Paul Gilbert & Freddie Nelson – United States
Lloyd Spiegel – Live in Japan
Extreme – Saudades De Rock
Bryan Beller – Thanks In Advance
Q Ball – This Is Serious Business
Trivium – Shogun

DVD reviews
Steve Vai – Visual Sound Theories
Lloyd Spiegel
Tommy Emmanuel – Center Stage

Concert reviews
Def Leppard & Cheap Trick
Lynch Mob
Alice In Chains