On the modern electric guitar

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JD
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 17 Jun 2014, 14:18

Well, you are in luck. We're living in kind of a new golden age of cheap equipment. (And by "cheap" I mean less than, say, $750.) The main questions to ask are:

-what style of music do you play? eg, outlaw country? smooth jazz? death metal?

-what kind of situation are you going to be playing in? eg, just for myself in my small apartment; jamming with a small blues group in a studio; playing a large hall with a death metal band

-how much do you care about having a lot of different sounds and effects? Highway is in a cover band, so he wants a lot of flexibility, which might mean a digital "modeling" amplifier; I play mostly 70s-inspired hard rock, so I care more about having a single good vintage tone or two, which for me means a simple tube amp.

My single biggest piece of advice is that you almost certainly need less wattage than you think, particularly if you're getting a tube amp. I read somewhere once that 1 watt of audio power, through a speaker of reasonable efficiency, is about as loud as a trumpet; it is highly unlikely you would ever need to be louder than a trumpet for home practice, but some guys just insist they need more power...
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 17 Jun 2014, 14:25

I see that you pretty much answered my questions already - but yeah, I hear good things about the Mustang II also.
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Highway
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 17 Jun 2014, 14:31

JD wrote:Well, you are in luck. We're living in kind of a new golden age of cheap equipment. (And by "cheap" I mean less than, say, $750.) The main questions to ask are:

-what style of music do you play? eg, outlaw country? smooth jazz? death metal?

-what kind of situation are you going to be playing in? eg, just for myself in my small apartment; jamming with a small blues group in a studio; playing a large hall with a death metal band

-how much do you care about having a lot of different sounds and effects? Highway is in a cover band, so he wants a lot of flexibility, which might mean a digital "modeling" amplifier; I play mostly 70s-inspired hard rock, so I care more about having a single good vintage tone or two, which for me means a simple tube amp.

My single biggest piece of advice is that you almost certainly need less wattage than you think, particularly if you're getting a tube amp. I read somewhere once that 1 watt of audio power, through a speaker of reasonable efficiency, is about as loud as a trumpet; it is highly unlikely you would ever need to be louder than a trumpet for home practice, but some guys just insist they need more power...
We're also in a golden age of cheaper than 500 dollars equipment.

It's funny you mention me being in a cover band. I do like a bunch of different tones, but only have one with my bass. And our guitarist pretty much plays everything with a Les Paul through a (crappy) Marshall head that has a lame effect circuit which can't go full 'wet'. It always mixes the clean sound in, so it's utterly useless. You can't control the volume, you can't make a nice delayed sound, you can't do jack shit with it. It's a complete travesty, and of course he didn't find out about it until he bought it from his boss. It sounds great if you want to sound like a Les Paul through a Marshall stack, tho.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Number 6 » 17 Jun 2014, 14:39

There are worse sounds than a Les Paul through a Marshall stack, of course. I can think of several rawk gods who did pretty well with that tone.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 17 Jun 2014, 14:48

Number 6 wrote:There are worse sounds than a Les Paul through a Marshall stack, of course. I can think of several rawk gods who did pretty well with that tone.
There are certainly worse sounds, but there are certainly a lot of other sounds. And when you play everything with a Les Paul through a Marshall Stack, it all kinda sounds the same, no matter what you're intending it to sound like. And there's only one volume. Holy shit that thing compresses EVERYTHING to exactly the same volume. If you play softer, you just get less distortion. You can turn the guitar source level almost all the way down and it will be the exact same output volume... until it cuts off completely.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 17 Jun 2014, 15:11

Highway wrote: We're also in a golden age of cheaper than 500 dollars equipment.
Heck, even sub-$250 equipment. It wasn't that long ago that a cheap East Asian guitar was strictly to be avoided; today it can be pretty much the equivalent of all but the best American-made stuff. Even some big-name stuff is cheap these days (admittedly usually because it was made in China). There's just more good stuff at lower price points than ever. Real tube amps for $250, decent electric guitars for $200, pedals for $35, etc.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 17 Jun 2014, 17:26

Huh. Apparently I've already thought about this, as the Yamaha THR10 is on my Amazon wish list.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 17 Jun 2014, 17:43

I hear pretty good things about those, too.

And speaking of amps: on another forum, I was wondering, "Why doesn't anyone make a low-wattage amp with a push-pull power section?"* And someone pointed out that there are in fact a few of them out there...and now I see that a local store may have a used one for a good price. Everything I own is single-ended Class A, so it would be nice to try out a P-P amp... Hmph.

* Without going into the technical details too much, for those not into the minutia of amplifier design, this is a bit like asking, "Why doesn't anyone make a small, low-power V-12 engine?" and the answer is much the same in both cases; it's not that you couldn't do it, but if you're trying to build something low-output, there are much simpler ways to do it.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Number 6 » 17 Jun 2014, 18:07

Highway wrote:
Number 6 wrote:There are worse sounds than a Les Paul through a Marshall stack, of course. I can think of several rawk gods who did pretty well with that tone.
There are certainly worse sounds, but there are certainly a lot of other sounds. And when you play everything with a Les Paul through a Marshall Stack, it all kinda sounds the same, no matter what you're intending it to sound like. And there's only one volume. Holy shit that thing compresses EVERYTHING to exactly the same volume. If you play softer, you just get less distortion. You can turn the guitar source level almost all the way down and it will be the exact same output volume... until it cuts off completely.
Sure, it definitely sounds like that head sucks. And I'd hate for everything to sound like a Les Paul through a Marshall. However, that combination resulted in one of my favorite guitar sounds ever-Slash on the Appetite for Destruction Album. Not being a guitarist, I don't notice tone all that much unless it jumps out at me, and that one did.
Whatever the hell SRV did is another example. But the only explantion for the way he could make a Strat sound is, "magic." Or, "He's Stevie Ray Vaughn," which amounts to the same thing.
" i discovered you eat dog dicks out of a bowl marked "dog dicks" because you're too stupid to remember where you left your bowl of dog dicks."-dhex, of course.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 17 Jun 2014, 18:19

On a bass forum I was on for a while, there was always a lot of "what instrument / amp / effects / cables / processors / aftershave / winter gloves does X use? I want to sound exactly like him." And the people who were more experienced / realistic about it would patiently try to tell these guys "It hardly matters what you have. Geddy Lee using whatever rig you've got will sound more like "Geddy Lee" than you will using his rig." It's so much about playing.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by GinSlinger » 17 Jun 2014, 18:24

Do bassists get stoked when they master 19th Nervous Breakdown?

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Highway » 17 Jun 2014, 19:23

GinSlinger wrote:Do bassists get stoked when they master 19th Nervous Breakdown?
I guess they could. I don't care about it (or pretty much anything by the Rolling Stones).
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by Number 6 » 17 Jun 2014, 21:03

Highway wrote:On a bass forum I was on for a while, there was always a lot of "what instrument / amp / effects / cables / processors / aftershave / winter gloves does X use? I want to sound exactly like him." And the people who were more experienced / realistic about it would patiently try to tell these guys "It hardly matters what you have. Geddy Lee using whatever rig you've got will sound more like "Geddy Lee" than you will using his rig." It's so much about playing.
Very true. A guitarist friend of mine once commented that one way to tell a great guitarist if if you can hear one note of his or hers and immediately recognize the player. That's a bit overstated, but the principle works. Jimi Hendrix sounded like Hendrix specifically because he was Hendrix. The same is true of SRV, John Lee Hooker, or any number of other guitarists. It's not anything that can be explained in terms of technique, gear, or anything else that can be imitated. There's just some alchemy that happens with really great players.
The same is true of drummers. I could play (if I was a better drummer) Tom Sawyer note for note the way Peart does, on his drumset, but it wouldn't sound like Peart. You can study all the Elvin Jones licks you want, but only Elvin Jones could do what he did. Etc.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 17 Jun 2014, 21:43

Highway wrote:On a bass forum I was on for a while, there was always a lot of "what instrument / amp / effects / cables / processors / aftershave / winter gloves does X use? I want to sound exactly like him." And the people who were more experienced / realistic about it would patiently try to tell these guys "It hardly matters what you have. Geddy Lee using whatever rig you've got will sound more like "Geddy Lee" than you will using his rig." It's so much about playing.
And equipment companies are riding that one all the way to the bank, too.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 17 Jun 2014, 22:06

I'm going to half-agree, half-disagree with the "equipment doesn't matter" thesis. It is true that buying more and more expensive gear will not make you play like your hero, and that half your heroes recorded your favorite material on stuff that was not that fancy or special. But at the same time, there is a reason that professionals do not play cheap stuff, generally speaking.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 18 Jun 2014, 00:16

JD wrote:I'm going to half-agree, half-disagree with the "equipment doesn't matter" thesis. It is true that buying more and more expensive gear will not make you play like your hero, and that half your heroes recorded your favorite material on stuff that was not that fancy or special. But at the same time, there is a reason that professionals do not play cheap stuff, generally speaking.
And that reason is that they're either given that equipment as product placement or at the very least can deduct the cost as a business expense.

BTW, doesn't anyone here other than me play acoustic guitar?

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 18 Jun 2014, 08:21

I'll go with half-agree as well, JD. My old (cheap) guitar was literally impossible to keep in tune more than 5 minutes at a a time. When you're dealing with defective equipment, it's a problem that's hard to overcome. But once you're in the range of decent performing equipment, you're better off spending time practicing than you are buying fancy new gear.

You see the same thing with guns. To get better requires trigger time, which is time-consuming and expensive. But buying another gadget only takes money. At least with practicing guitar, you don't have the ongoing cost of ammo.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 18 Jun 2014, 16:22

D.A. Ridgely wrote:And that reason is that they're either given that equipment as product placement or at the very least can deduct the cost as a business expense.
To some degree, yeah. But the same thing applies in every field: professionals, given a choice, use professional-quality gear and not the cheap stuff or whatever happened to be available at the local mega-mart. I'm reminded of these breathless articles that come out now and then with titles like You Won't Believe These Museum-Worthy Photographs Were Taken On A Cell Phone. Sure, you can take great photographs on a cell-phone camera...but there is also a reason why professional photographers generally don't choose cell-phone cameras for their work.

Likewise, you can sound good on a cheap starter set guitar and amp, but it's not really the way to go if you're serious. And to be sure, it is just as foolish to think that expensive music gear will make you sound good as it is to think that an expensive camera will suddenly enable you to take great shots. At all levels, in all disciplines, you just want to be sure your gear is not holding you back.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 18 Jun 2014, 16:53

JD wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:And that reason is that they're either given that equipment as product placement or at the very least can deduct the cost as a business expense.
To some degree, yeah. But the same thing applies in every field: professionals, given a choice, use professional-quality gear and not the cheap stuff or whatever happened to be available at the local mega-mart. I'm reminded of these breathless articles that come out now and then with titles like You Won't Believe These Museum-Worthy Photographs Were Taken On A Cell Phone. Sure, you can take great photographs on a cell-phone camera...but there is also a reason why professional photographers generally don't choose cell-phone cameras for their work.

Likewise, you can sound good on a cheap starter set guitar and amp, but it's not really the way to go if you're serious. And to be sure, it is just as foolish to think that expensive music gear will make you sound good as it is to think that an expensive camera will suddenly enable you to take great shots. At all levels, in all disciplines, you just want to be sure your gear is not holding you back.
Years ago, my wife gave me an HD-28 and I laughingly bemoaned that I couldn't blame the guitar any longer.

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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 19 Jun 2014, 10:01

Funny if you know something about Gibson's history of aggressively protecting their headstock and body designs:

Image
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 25 Jun 2014, 11:50

Monday's band practice saw our first run-through of ZZ Top's "Jesus Just Left Chicago". And (judging from the recording) it was actually not terrible. It's not actually a very difficult piece, technically, but the funny thing about not-technically-difficult pieces is because you're not playing a million notes and flashy arpeggios and sweeps, the impact of the piece relies so much more on you actually getting the feel and the nuances right. And when you're playing a Reverend Willy piece, you can fake your way through the technical stuff, but you sure as hell can't fake your way through the feel.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 25 Jun 2014, 11:56

JD wrote:Monday's band practice saw our first run-through of ZZ Top's "Jesus Just Left Chicago". And (judging from the recording) it was actually not terrible. It's not actually a very difficult piece, technically, but the funny thing about not-technically-difficult pieces is because you're not playing a million notes and flashy arpeggios and sweeps, the impact of the piece relies so much more on you actually getting the feel and the nuances right. And when you're playing a Reverend Willy piece, you can fake your way through the technical stuff, but you sure as hell can't fake your way through the feel.
In general, the less complicated something is, the more important it is that you get everything right, and you have fewer excuses for not doing so.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by tr0g » 08 Jul 2014, 12:37

JD, you're my tube amp expert. Whatcha think of this little number? I know you got a Bugera a while ago.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 08 Jul 2014, 13:19

tr0g wrote:JD, you're my tube amp expert. Whatcha think of this little number? I know you got a Bugera a while ago.
Wow, I'm an expert now? When did that happen? *g*
Anyway, I played through one for about a whopping 30 seconds, but it gets very good reviews from people I trust. The attenuator (down to 0.1W!) is a really nice feature, as are the built-in reverb and the separate gain/master volume, which you don't always get on an amp this small, and it does use an EL84 tube in the power section, so it is a "real amp", just a rather small one - and 5W is still plenty loud.

The only dings might be:
-8" is about as small as you would want to go for a guitar speaker. Going up to a 10" or 12" makes a big difference in the fullness of the sound. (Not necessarily the volume, which is, at least to a first approximation, more a function of the wattage.)
-People say that the amp does bluesy distortion and into classic rock territory, but if you want more crunch, for thrash metal or whatever, you might want a distortion pedal, or to look at a different amp. Dunno if that's your style.
-No effects loop, if you care about that, and for home practice you probably don't much anyway. They're pretty rare on low-wattage amps anyhow.

In general I think Bugera is really good value for the money, and they seem to have done a good job of getting the bugs worked out of their early designs, and I think you would do fine with the V5.

A few other possibilities, if you're interested:
-The Vox AC4TV: 10" speaker; no reverb though.
-The Randall RD1C or RD5C: Both of them have an effects loop; the RD5C has a 10" speaker; neither has reverb (but it would be easy to put it in the loop). No attenuator. I think these are aimed more at metal guys, tonally.
-The Blackstar HT-1R or HT-5R: 8" speaker on the 1W model, 12" speaker on the 5W model. No attenuator. Reverb on both. There's a stereo line input (for MP3s or whatever) on both, and an effects loop on the 5. Both are two-channel amps. They both have a push-pull power section; some people say that gives them more of a "big amp" sound.

But really, even this may be overthinking it. The Bugera gets good reviews; you will probably be entirely happy with it.
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Re: On the modern electric guitar

Post by JD » 30 Jul 2014, 09:25

This video is kind of jaw-dropping and humbling, and not for the playing skill involved, just for the variety of tones he's getting.

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