It’s always great to share great music. Its even greater to share great guitar music. I am excited to share another great album from the guitar wizard, Oz Noy. This time Twisted Blues Volume 2. I wrote about Twisted Blues Vol.1 in a previous post, and this, his follow up album delivers all the guitar greatness that we found in the first, but bumps everything up to the proverbial “11″ in every sense of the word.

On this blog I often review products that deliver “cool” tones. In this context, hidden in the definition of the word “cool”  are the words “useful” and “practical” and most important of all “musical”. A pedal that affects your tone is not exactly a good product for you to use if it does not in some way enhance the musicality of the performance or recording. Oz Noy is probably one of the most able guitarists in this respect. Not just a brilliant musician for his guitar skills which are virtuosic, but for his compositions and for his use of all of the toys we love (pedals) in about the most musical way imaginable.

The album “Twisted Blues” runs the gamut through all guitar-centric, blues-inflected grooves over which we, as guitarists, would feel warm and fuzzy feelings of comfort and familiarity. Oz takes us on this journey with  a “twist” that pushes the musical boundaries by affecting the grooves and progressions just enough to peak your musical curiosity.  You will find yourself discovering and learning new things each time you listen!

I could go through each track and describe Oz’s seamless use of guitar effects. I could certainly write about the variety of tones that OZ  conjures up to mirror the feel and vibe of each tune in the most musical way. There is much to talk about the harmony Oz injects into the releases or bridges of his tunes to take you on a detour which will eventually lead deceptively back to the original groove, leaving you with even more enthusiasm than before. There are blistering guitar solos that melodically marry the traditional with the contemporary without leaving you behind.  I could also expand on his ballad writing which, as a song starts, evokes much of the vibes and feelings of the old soul songs of the 70′s, (there is something vaguely familiar; you almost expect the high falsettos to kick in with a vocal melody). I could list the A-Team of players on the album too…yes let’s do that:

Keith Carlock, Will Lee, John Medeski, Dave Weckl Jerry Z, Chick Corea, Chris Layton, Roscoe Beck, Reese Wynans, Gregoire Maret, Lew Soloff, Giulio Carmassi, Anton Fig,  Eric Johnson.

But for the rest of it, maybe I will just let you go out and buy the album and listen for yourself and let me know what you think. Oz is a great player but whats more, he is a great  musician, writer and technician. Twisted Blues says it all…and…He does it all in just 10 tightly wrapped tunes:)

Below is a link to his website and a promo vid for the album. Oz Noy’s Twisted Blues Vol 2:  A guitar lover’s heavenly audio.

I am always very excited to be one of the first to bring news of a cool product to the general public. As known by many of you who have reached out with questions about my choice of amps, I have been a big fan of the Allston Amp line since its creation. I am equally  impressed how Rob Lohr, the owner/builder continues to obsessively improve upon his already great ideas. If you stop by over at Mr Music in Allston, Mass, you will get an earful on the workings of diodes, resistors, tubes and all things electronic in a conversation with Rob about his amazing amplifiers.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Alexander Dumble (I have played quite a few Overdrive Specials and others through the years) but I would imagine, based on the legends, that he and Rob Lohr shared the same inexhaustible energy and desire to make the perfect amp for his clients even if it meant rebuilding the thing again from the bottom up after listening to the player’s style touch and dynamics.

I stopped in at Mr Music about a week ago and I had the unplanned pleasure of playing through the latest flagship of the Allston Amp line.  The A.O.C mk II is about the most versatile tube amp I have played. I will describe it as briefly and as best as I can what the amp does in layman’s terms and then follow up with the official word and specs from the amp guru himself. In a nutshell the amp gets something like 6 foot-switchable, completely different sounds with the ability to tweak each one tonally, volume wise and also add your desired amount of reverb. Pretty impressive for a high-quality, hand-made tube amp with custom cosmetics.

The dual concentric knobs make sense. For example: Treble for the clean sound on the inside, treble for the overdrive sound on the outside. Reverb for the clean on the inner knob, reverb for the overdrive on the outer knob and so on. So how does it sound? Pretty amazing! (quite frankly put). I am a 3-6 knob kinda guy depending on whether you are talking amp or pedals. In a short period of time, I was able to figure out the logical layout of the settings and the footswitches to get some overdrive sounds from this 60 watt package that I could recall with a quick tap of the footswitch. If I can do it, anyone can! The 60 watt cleans give you ample headroom for the funkiest, snappiest rhythm sounds needed.

Rob is taking orders for the A.O.C mk II. Right now, unfortunately for you instant gratification junkies, the waiting list is something like 2 years. The amp comes with a lifetime warranty.

Below are the specs from Rob Lohr:

A.O.C mkII

Output :60 watts. Tube compliment: 2x6L6, 3x 12AX-7, 2x 12AT-7.
Speaker: Celestion G12-K 100
Dimensions : 22″Wx18″Hx91/4”D

The AOC features a Fender style preamp, both Dumble fusion and HRM style over drives, each overdrive with it’s own tone controls, gain controls, and Master volumes.
In addition to the overdrives, there is a tone bypass function. This feature switches the preamp tone controls out of the circuit, boosting the gain considerably. This function can be engaged in all three modes (clean, OD, HRM) and there’s a separate additional master volume for all three tone bypass settings.
New Smoothulator: The Smoothulator is an adjustable, assignable low pass filter. As compared with the AOC mkI control, the new Smoothulator has a sweepable frequency control and an additional assignment switch. The new assignment switch assigns the smoothulator to OD, OR HRM or both.
Front panel controls:  The controls on the new AOC mkII are all dual concentric controls (two knobs on each shaft).
From left to right with the top knob (inner knob) function first:
Smoothulator level/ Smoothulator frequency, Smooth assign switches,
Clean volume/ tone bypass master,
Clean treble/ OD treble.
Clean mid/ OD mid,
Clean bass/ OD bass,
OD gain/ HRM gain,
OD drive/ HRM drive,
OD master level/ HRM master level,
Overdrive Tone Bypass master/ HRM Tone Bypass master
Clean reverb level/ OD reverb level.
Effects Loop with trim control
Extension Speaker Connection
Foot-switches (2)
Below are some pics of the rear panel and check out my previous blog post on the Allston Combo Mk II that Rob made a couple of years ago for me that is part and parcel of my tone.

Here is the Allston Amp website for some info and cool pics of the previous custom amps and models Rob has made and is still making.

Speaker Extension Output

Effect Loop Send/Return and Trim




I love a great story around a pedal. I recently received an Electro-Harmonix B9 Organ Machine by mail. I picked it up at the Berklee mailroom during my lunch break. Shortly afterwards I was on my way to teach my Retro R&B/Funk/Fusion class. We do vocal tunes from the 70′s like Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” or the Crusaders “Street Life”.  I didn’t have time to make it back to my office, so I decided to take the pedal with me. Well as it turns out, the keyboard player for my ensemble called in sick and so that day, the only polyphonic instrument we had in the ensemble was a rhythm guitarist with a Stratocaster . When we started rehearsing in the class, there was an obvious gap in the frequencies needed to support vocals with challenging harmonies on these  tunes. (Light Bulb!). I cracked open the box and offered it to my guitar student in the group. We fired it up and voila, we had guitar and organ sounds supporting the grooves! What a great way to test drive a cool pedal!

My guess is that most will find this pedal practical for similar situations. I do a lot of power trio gigs (bass, drums and guitar). Often I can use additional color in the palette of frequencies to keep things interesting. Some moons back, I wrote a post about the EHX super Ego. The Super Ego, with the right combinations of pedals in it’s loop, can give you some very convincing organ sounds.  You also have the ability to sustain a pad while soloing over with some other effects exclusively on your guitar solo sound. What EHX has done with the B-9  is to offer you those cool, guitar-driven, organ sounds in a single pedal.

The B-9 gives you independent control knobs for the dry sound/organ sound as well as separate outputs for each. This allows you to either use 2 amps or process each signal in different ways before recombining at the amp input(s). There are 9 selectable authentic sounding organ patches on the B-9 and the “mod ” knob controls modulation characteristics that are  specific to each patch (vibrato, tremolo and chorus). The pedal operates with a 9v ( center-neg) included power supply.

How does it sound? Well…Given a blindfold test I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a keyboard organ and the B-9. Run this pedal through a Leslie (my next plan) and I bet the die hard B-3′ers would be equally challenged! (ok ok, I know guitarists play specific “guitaristic” voicings so it might be a little easier for you keys cats to tell) . But just in case, the B-9 even has a control knob that adds in varying degrees of the B-3 percussive “Click”. Ha! This pedal offers you some great sounding practical organ sounds in a package that is very, very easy to use.

Tracking is quite spectacular and sustain is also quite impressive. The bypass is buffered which is quite fine with me!

Electro-Harmonix as been around for quite some time. I still remember my first 2 EHX pedals, the Electric Mistress and the Big Muff Pi from back in the 70′s! I think it is great thing when a company with a great longstanding tradition of good products continues to innovate and stay on the cutting edge of tech, providing working musicians with the practical tools they need to go out and make the music they make! AAAA+++

Here is an entertaining video from EHX demoing the pedal for more info check out


Tell everyone you know who has told you that they always wanted to learn play guitar that the new semester for my introduction to Guitar Course Berklee/Coursera is starting soon! Total enrollment since April 2013 is approaching 300,000! It is a great foundation for many of the other courses that we offer here online at Berklee. Or a good foundation, in general, for you to realize your dream to learn and continue studying guitar. Now available with a Verified Certificate option too!

Spread the word!! Here is the Link:


So last Thursday night at the beginning of the set at a local gig, one of the 5581 tubes in my Allston Combo decided to call it quits. I immediately turned to the bassist in the power trio and said “bass solo!”. Within a minute I had unplugged the 1/4 inch output from my mini pedal board into the input of an Electro-Harmonix 44 Magnum Power Amp, plugged the 24v power supply into the wall and pedal and plugged the speaker of the Allston into the output of the pedal. Essentially I replaced my tube amplifier with a 44 watt power amp in a pedal!

Well not only did I make it through the gig, but I got quite a few compliments on my tone! I bought an EHX 22 Caliber  back when they were first manufactured as a backup amp. I never really had to use it, but was impressed with the overall tone and the way it responded to overdrive and pedals. When the 44 Magnum was released, I grabbed one since the comparable wattage to my amp (45w) made sense. I have used it twice as a backup with steller results on all fronts: Clean tones, overdrive tones, pedal friendliness etc. I am considering using one of these with a dedicated speaker cabinet as a convenient second amp on stage on a regular basis.

I am totally sold on both of these pedals. Not only as a backup, but as standard uber-light amplification! Highly recommended!! AAAAAA+++

Here is a video demo of the pedal in action:

If you have ever had difficulty with getting your traditional Cry Baby Wah to stay on a pedalboard securely here is a must have product for you. One of my students purchased one retail for around $10.00. Worth it for years of hassle free wah attachment. In addition, it allows you to conveniently access the battery compartment. Definitely one of those “Why didn’t someone think of this before” kinds of products! The video below explains all! AAA++

For More Information:


Every once in a while a pedal comes along that blows your mind because of the unbelievable value. I am a sucker for simplicity in operation and have a “3 knob” preference when it comes to features and ease of dialing in tones. A few moons ago, I wrote an article called the Klon Centaur Phenomenon  about Bill Finnegan and his legendary pedal, the Klon Centaur. There are quite of few Klon Clones out there (Try saying that quickly over and over!). Many of these pedals are quite close to the original and one would be hard pressed to pick out the authentic, given a blind-fold test.

EHX (Electro-Harmonix) has been on the cutting edge of the effect world for quite a few decades. I have a few of their later products and again they take first place in my arsenal for coolest with one of their latest forthcomings, The EHX Soul Food.

Essentially a Klon Clone with some tweaks, this pedal has quickly become my favorite OD for a couple of reasons. It takes up very little pedalboard real estate, you cannot beat the price, and it  sounds great! I rarely play a gig where I am not going back and forth to my amp, tweaking a knob or two in between songs or adjusting tone knobs on pedals depending on the room. I played one of my alltime favorite gigs (tonewise) last week with the EHX Soul food as the main engine behind my solos with no tweaks all night!

It was historic! The way the Soul Food works with a Fender style platform is quite spectacular. Check out my original article to see what makes the Klon magic happen (Click Here). A  great feature of this pedal is it stacks really well with other boosts or overdrive pedals. Use it as a clean boost before an overdrive pedal, or use a clean boost before it to increase the edge.

I did a few A/B tests with the EHX Soul Food and other pedals including the KTR from Bill Finnegan, which is the latest, smaller incarnation of the original Klon. If you cannot afford an original Klon or a KTR, The EHX Soul Food is a very special find. The KTR is a welcome downsize in price and size from the original Klon. It is easier to get an offers a “buffer” or “no buffer” option switch on the side of the pedal.


At around only a $60.00  price tag, the value and quality of the Soul Food is unbeatable!

Below is a link to a video from EHX. For more info check out The EHX website

Hi There,

Just a quick heads up to let you know that Introduction to Guitar has started up once again. For those of you who might be thinking of getting the fundamentals or filling in some blanks areas in your guitar knowledge, the course represents the perfect opportunity for you to do exactly this.

The cost is free!

For more information, here is the link:

I will be posting very soon about a couple of very cool guitar tone products!


In my on-line course at Berklee Online: Funk/Rock R&B Soloing and in my instructional book, “Funk R&B Guitar: Creative Solos, Grooves and Sounds” I talk about guitar sounds and effects that are common to the genre, both back-in-the-day and in contemporary tunes. One of the flagship sounds for the genre is the envelope filter. Envelope filters might be described as wah pedals in disguise. Instead of having a rocking treadle for use with your foot, the filter is automatically controlled with volume or velocity. Essentially, the harder you pick, the more “wah” you get. You can get some very interesting sounds after fine-tuning and experimenting with your picking and plucking.

Back it the day it was the Mu-tron III envelope filter that showed up in funk on guitar and on basslines. In a recent blog post, I talked about the 3-Leaf Audio Proton envelope filter as a hot contender for todays market. I recently stumbled on a rare find in the Guyatone WRm5 Wah Rocker pedal. These are no longer made and seem few and far between in used circles.  I was looking for something for my pedaltrain nano board. Yes I am on a constant search for smaller effective pedals that I can squeeze onto that little go-to board! I took a chance with the WRm5 since I had never played much with this model.  I did, at one point, try out its predecessor, the WR2 many moons back. The WRm5 has the standard features of most envelope filters: Decay, Threshold, Response, although differently named from some other auto-wahs, give full control over the quality of wah and oww that you get over time. In addition it has a “blend” switch which allows you to mix the original signal back in with the effect. Though I have never found it necessary to mix my original signal back in with an auto wah sound, it seems an interesting feature. I will experiment with this one to see what my personal applications for it might be.

Overall, I think the Guyatone WRm5 Wah Rocker is an unbelievable find, and is about the smallest full-featured envelope filter I have enjoyed thus far. Mine was an ebay quick sell on buy-it-now at about 160.00 which is probably higher than they were when they first came out, but given that these things are untraceable, a good value addition to the mini funk bag of tricks!! Keep an eye out on ebay for one! AAAA+

Here is a link to a youtube demo I found for this pedal:

I just wanted to give a heads up reminder to everyone to let your friends know that another semester of my Introduction to Guitar course is about to begin tomorrow January 27th 2014. Spread to work to anyone you know who is thinking about starting to play. The course is free and lasts for 6 weeks. It gives you the basics of everything you need to know to begin learning. It is even helpful for some who have already started playing and need some background or basic theory to help them along. No experience necessary!!

Here is a video describing the course.

For more info, just click on the link below: