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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUxpwYUlWDc

For more info, just click on the link below:

https://www.coursera.org/course/guitar

 

This post is a quick New Year’s alert to let you know that the long awaited Pedaltrain Volto power supply is now available at your local and on-line stores.  You may have read my post about the amazing Sanyo Pedal Power quite a few posts back. The Volto is a similar product.

The low profile of the Pedaltrain Volto makes it a great choice for mounting directly under your Pedatrain junior or mini or similar sized board. This, of course, means that there is another pedal-space on top of the board. The 3 status LED’s of the Volto have the same function as the green, amber and red light on the Sanyo, giving you an indication of the remaining power. Two outputs allow you to use 2 connectors or daisy chains, and the full-charge shut-off function is a feature that is a must have on rechargeable batteries to avoid overcharging. One very nice feature is that the Volto can be charged using a USB connection which gives you a variety of options for charging from the laptop to the car or home.  The Volto is a very practical product in a very practical package. It is unobtrusive and very easy to use.

I have been using mine on my Pedaltrain Nano with 5 small pedals. I set mine up with the on-off switch and the LED’s showing through the centre of my board, so I can constantly monitor the status. You can see the blue lights of the Volto peeking through from underneath the board on the right hand side.

The one thing I would recommend is a recharge before each gig. Because of its low profile the Volto will make it through the gig, but not 2 or 3 as I usually do with my Sanyo. All the same, you cannot beat it for the practicality it brings to the gig stage!  The Volto and the previously reviewed Sanyo are a couple of the most practical products to come around for the working musician!

 

Here are a couple of videos, one from Pedaltrain and the other just one of a review that was pretty informative on the set-up.

AAAA++

 

This post is another quick heads up.  I have been using the 3 Leaf Proton Envelope Filter for a couple of months now on my go-to board. As an R&B/Funkateer, vibe sounds are a big part of what I do on guitar.

The Proton Envelope Filter has much in the way of tweakable features that give you a broad range of sounds. I was an original Mu Tron III owner back in the day. I will say that it is very hard to find the contemporary vibe pedal that gives the good usable tones with the variety of features available in the original. I think the Proton comes as close as it gets! I will let the video do the talking. It is very well done and covers all of the bases. I will tell you that this pedal sounds great in my live power trio setting. The size and quality build with top inputs (including the 9-18v input) make it a serious addition to your pedalboard!

AAAA++

Here is the vid:

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to give you a heads up to a course I recently authored. It is one of the results of a partnership with Berklee College of Music and Coursera. Coursera is an organization that is bringing free college courses to the world. The idea is that if you have access to the Internet, you will have universal access to knowledge at no cost. It is quite an amazing opportunity for students all over the world. I was honored to be chosen as one of 4 authors for this initial collaboration with Berklee. My course is called Introduction to Guitar , and is designed to help folks to take that first step towards learning guitar. It gives you the fundamentals for building knowledge on guitar. It may even be useful for clearing some grey areas of guitar knowledge for folks who have been playing for some time. Introduction to Guitar is a 6 week long course and covers everything from the names of the strings and guitar parts to tuning, basic scales and basic chords. It ends with a couple of very easy songs to play. It moves at a comfortable pace, is very methodical and concise and it has had overwhelmingly positive reviews so far. The first semester enrolled roughly 120,000 students. Currently  it is approaching 200,000 in total enrollment since that first time! (Thats a lot of guitar lovers!) It will run again sometime in the next month or so.

So altho many of you may be experienced guitarists, you may know someone who has thought about learning to play guitar. Spread the word and encourage them to sign up! It is free and sometimes all it takes is that first step to a lifetime of musical fulfillment.

Here is a link to a promotional video describing the course content:

Here is a quick post about a useful accessory for your vibe pedal (or any pedal with an expression pedal connection, as found on some delay pedals etc).

Instead of using a standard full-sized expression pedal to change the rate of your vibe pulses, try this one by Nose Pedals. You can toggle back and forth between 2 predetermined parameters, set by you, using the 2 yellow knobs in this model (photo). Set one knob on “slow” and one on “fast” and depending on desired effect for the particular song you can go back and forth between both.

In the case of a vibe pedal like the Dry Bell Vibe Machine, which allows you to choose a “ramp” up setting, when you toggle back and forth between the two settings, your rate will slowly accelerate to the faster speed and vice versa (emulating the leslie doppler effect)

Usually expression pedals come in sizes roughly as big as a wah-wah pedal for active foot operation. With this Nose pedal, for a fraction of the pedalboard space you will have instant control via foot-switch over your two most often used settings.

Though not necessary for expression parameter operation, there is a 9v center negative power input. This is to power the 2 LEDs which indicate which knob setting is activated. In addition, Nose pedals offers choices of TS/TRS and custom colors for knobs and finish.

Below is a video and here is a link to the website for info. There are many other very useful, interesting and practical accessories available from Nose Pedals too:

http://www.nosepedal.com/store/nose-expression-stomp-switch

Every now again I get excited knowing that I might be the one first who brings a great product to your attention. Even if the product has been out on the market for a  minute, it gives me pleasure to know that you are first reading about it here on my blog.

We are all familiar with the gutsy sounds on Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies record. This is the signature Uni-Vibe sound,  the pedal that was originally designed to give guitarists a touch of the watery and throbbing doppler effect of a Leslie sound. Well it might not have achieved a sound that is recognized as such, but in its own right it is an established and timeless guitar effect that is unlike any other.

I rarely hear live performances with great, authentic sounding Uni-Vibes that are not coming from the original version of the pedal created in the late 1960′s. The “chorus” effect was the industry standard for chordal effects in the 80′s and 90′s. The Uni-vibe retained its timeless and and “retro” status and as a much larger pedal, appeared on the pedalboard of a die-hard few. Lately, with the release of some very authentic sounding smaller (mini) uni-vibes, the pedal and its tradition have recently has seen an upsurge in popularity.

One of the best of these newer smaller versions comes in a pedal called The Dry Bell Vibe Machine  V-1. This pedal brings all of the authentic signature sounds of the UniVibe and a great deal of unprecedented adjustability to the smallest package. Ringing up at around $295.00 The Dry Bell Vibe Machine is around the size of a Phase 90 and is a rugged quality-built product. Features include  true bypass signal path with an option to switch on an output buffer, an input to connect an external expression pedal to control oscillation speed (with a Leslie acceleration option which ramps up/down to the new oscillation setting gradually), range and symmetry control (in addition to depth and rate) and the usual vibrato/chorus option. In addition, there is a Bright/Original option. In short, the level of flexibility in this pedal for its size is spectacular!

So the question is how does it sound. Well without mentioning other products, I put this pedal up against some tough and much larger competition and the result was….I want another one! So with no further ado, here is the link to the website for more information and a couple of nice video demo. The Dry Bell Vibe Machine is now one of my all-time favorite vibe pedals for chordal work. (It might even be one of my all-time favorite pedals, period!) Kudos to Dry Bell for making such great authentic tones accessible in such a small package. Highly recommended AAAAAA++

Click Here For the Website

Video Demos:

Here’s a post to highlight a wah I recently added to my arsenal of tone generators. I love wah pedals. It is a big part of the retro-funky-R&B sound of the songs I write and sing. In my on-line course Funk-Rock/R&B Soloing, and in my book, R&B/Funk Guitar: Creative Grooves and Solos, I get into the usefulness of wah sounds and even dig into exercises using a wah.

In these days of roadie-less gigs, taking a big pedalboard to every gig simply is not practical. One of the biggest pedals on a board is always the wah. You can cut down your pedalboard size, but it can never get smaller than your wah, unless you take it off and set it up separately (which defeats the purpose of convenience). So when I heard about the AMT Japanese Girl Wah I went on line to check out a couple of demos. Quite impressive I would say. A week later, I had one of these little beauties in the palm of my hand (literally speaking)

After you get used to the smaller size underfoot, the Japanese Girl Wah pedal feels and plays like a full-sized wah. A typical full size wah is sturdy enough for you to put a lot of your body weight into the operation of the pedal. This is something many of the old school cats (like myself) are reluctant to give up. Some mini wahs I have tried don’t take this into consideration. I felt comfortable leaning my full weight into this mini wah. And ,quite frankly, the tones were absolutely as funky as I ever dreamed of.

The wah is so small that there is no room inside for a battery; that is no problem with standard 9v input center negative power input that you can use with your average pedal power connection. It uses optical control instead of the traditional potentiometer for the effect, so there will be no maintenance issues with scratchiness at any point in the future!

Two bright blue led’s  on both sides of the pedal cast a bright glow when the true bypass switch is activated under toe as with traditional full size wahs. Those lights can easily be seen in the dim lights of a club, so there is none of the insecurity that comes with wondering if your wah actually  made it to the “off” position.

One the the big plus features of the wah is a 3 position toggle switch on the left side of the pedal that allows you to switch from three very useful modes:  0.2-1kH, 0.3-1,5 kH, 0.4-2kH. To describe it in layman’s terms, it goes from vintage to modern or almost synth like. I did a couple of gigs with the pedal and experimented with all 3 modes with great satisfaction.

The adjustable axial screw allows you to tighten the feel of the treadle and also allows you to keep it in a fixed place for some of the usual wah notch-effects.

Thanks to AMT for a great new and very practical product!! AAAAA++!! (my second one is already on the way!!)

Here are some specs from the AMT website:

FEATURES:
- Switchable bandpass: 0.2-1kH, 0.3-1,5 kH, 0.4-2kH;
- True bypass
- Removable support feet (the option is useful when you install the AMT WH-1 on the pedal board)
- Effect on/off indicator LEDs on both pedal sides (visible when engaged)
- Adjustable pedal movement by means of an axial screw

SPECIFICATIONS:
- 9-12v DC power negative center (-), adapter or battery
- Low power consumption
- Small size: 110 x 62 x 58 mm
- Weight (without battery) 0.45 kg

Here is a very good youtube demo of the pedal:

 

This post I would like to share a new product worthy of attention. Many of you have already read my earlier post about the Allston Amp Dumbalina made by Rob Lohr in the basement of Mr Music, in nearby Allston Massachusetts (Boston). This latest achievement is one for the books of Tonal History. Rob keeps finding ways  to pack  modestly priced (under $2500.00) hi-quality handmade amps into the space of a Fender Princeton sized cab. All this with features and tone associated with the highest end of the boutique amp world. The Allston Tremulator MKII sounds great, is so much fun to play and cosmetically looks as perfect on the outside as the work inside the chassis.

Rob builds with the best components, and each amp is custom detailed to your cosmetic specs. He handles all aspects of the build and refuses to farm out any of the operation to anyone. From start to finish, the actual building of the cabinet, to the multiple layers of tough paint and clear coat that covers the hand-fixed vinyl knob lettering and the logo that you may have chosen for your custom order, Rob does it all.

Inside the Princeton-sized chassis, the neatly wired components sit nestled in an intricate work of art. With this latest build, Rob has somehow figured out  how to give you a vintage sounding, foot-switchable tremolo circuit that you cannot hear until you play!  The amp is “whisper” quiet and has no annoying beating sound that indicates that you have activated the tremolo. It is one of those “How come no-one has ever thought of this before?” kind of features.

The Front face plate of the Allston Tremulator MKII  has Input, Volume, Treble, Mid, and Bass controls along with Reverb level and a Master Volume Control. The first 4 knobs are all pull-pots which allow you to get just about any combination of  ”face” or “tweed” in a couple of seconds. The Back plate has a +4 effects loop (all of you dumble-ator fans will love this!!).

The +4 loop allows you to connect studio-grade effects directly into the circuit of the amp (Try out some of the Eventide delays for a good time). Noise, hum, and buzz free effects are stitched seamlessly directly into your signal path.

Miniature Tremolo controls (Depth and Speed) are also located on the back plate along with a 4, 8, 16 ohm tap.

The extension speaker output allows you to simultaneously (along with the onboard speaker) connect a specially designed closed-back mini-112 16 ohm cab that gives your 45w Princeton sized amp all the 2 x 12 punch that bigger amps dream about.

The foot-switch is the size of a Phase 90 pedal and controls (in my custom-ordered case), Tremolo and Tone Bypass.

Tone Bypass amounts to an increase or boost in volume. This allows you to cut through or overdrive the amp, depending on your settings and volume.  Tone Bypass is often used as crunch or overdrive. To top this feature off and make it even more practical, Rob gives you an additional independent volume control under the chassis for the volume level of your Tone Bypass. You may opt to have your foot-switch control the reverb. In my case, I never usually need to turn off the Reverb. Having Tone Bypass as an option is a plus, since it is often only found in the D-Style amps where I got used to having and using it in a practical way.

On my amp, Rob installed the optional Tilt Back legs, which, of course, in situation where you put the combo on the floor level, allow you to angle the amp toward you to hear the great tones. I will say that before my first tilt back Allston Amp, I used to opt out of having any amp tilted toward me, because they often sounded too harsh or loud for my ears. We as guitarist, get used to the sound of an amp moving air through our legs out into the audience. When I started using these amps, simply put, I love the sound, so now I play with the amp tilted upward. It makes for a more room filling sound and for situations where you are not using the 112 extension cab, I have found that a tilted- back amp on a wood floor makes for greater bass response.

The amp loves pedals and responds really well to clean boosts. If it sounds like I am in love with this amp, I will have to say yes, I am! My age pushes me into the category of traditionalist when it comes to tones. However, I like being able to use many of  the technical options that we have available to us today. Rob is a builder that is able to incorporate these options into a traditional sounding quality product. And yes, packing this much amp into the small space of a Princeton is a shout out to the working musician who has 30 years of back strain under his belt from taking the necessary 40w for the average weekend gig! Thanks Rob…(who has roadies any more?)

Here is some info and website below on the Allston Tremulator MKII from Rob Lohr: AAAAA+

Allston Tremulator MKII specs:

Dimesions: 20″W x 16″H x 9 1/4″D

Tube compliment: 2x 6L6, 3x 12AX-7, 2x 12AT-7

Power output: 45 watts

Effects Loop: Half normalled line level

Speaker: 12″ Celestion G12T-75

Front panel controls:
Volume- pull bright
Treble- pull hi mid boost
Mid- pull lo mid boost
Bass- pull tone bypass
Reverb
Master volume

Rear panel controls:
Power
Standby
impedance select (4,8,16 ohms)
Tremolo depth
Tremolo speed
Tone bypass independent master volume (under chassis between 1st and
second 12AX-7)

 

Click Here for the Allston Amplifier Website:

 

This post I want to talk briefly about my own experience with the Klon.  The introduction of the Klon back in the early to mid 90′s is arguably one of the most significant milestones in the world of overdrive pedals.

Many moons ago back in the early 90′s the maker, Bill Finnegan, came to my house with one of the original Klon prototypes. We sat and I jammed with the pedal through the amps I was using back then. I had a couple of Seymour Duncan convertible 100 amps. Yes, very very heavy, and very very loud. The Convertibles were ambitious amps that were a little ahead of their time. They had interchangeable tube modules that would, in effect, allow you to create a new amp within a couple of minutes of re-configuring of the order in which they were placed. One of the 2 channels was a dedicated overdrive channel. Back in the late 80′s, early 90′s the OD tones we chased were loud and saturated, humbucker driven. I will admit, back then, I was not ready to spend the $225 for an OD pedal when I thought I already had the killer tones of the day. In retrospect, of course, my tone was actually nowhere near as great as I thought…and  Bill was way ahead of the curve with his vision for the pedal and the market for boutique pedals.

Since then the Klon has become the industry standard for quality overdrive and can be found on the boards of most of the pros’s who’s tones we know and love. More than 8000 Klon’s in different incarnations have all been hand made and tested by Bill and are out there in the world making great music. In addition, there are many many clones of his original design that are being made on smaller levels by other builders. Those clones range in the 100-200 price range and some have even developed a reputation.

I recently re-visited the Klon experience. If you can find one,  the originals are cost prohibitive ranging anywhere from $800-1500 on ebay but usually going for around the $1000 price range. Bill still makes a newer, smaller version called a KTR available for around 385.00 to 500.00 depending on where you look. For my quest for tone, I went full circle: I found an old one, original gold casing early build. So…how does it sound? Pretty amazing actually…

The more I grow into who I am as a player, the less I use in the way of OD saturation. In short, my idea of an OD pedal has become:  ”the correct amount and shape of signal that you put into an amp to make the AMP give you the OD”. The end result is OD that does not get lost in the mix when you kick it in. (Have you ever tried to kick your OD pedal in at the high point in the solo only to find that the tones get lost in the drums and the B-3 pads?) I  lean towards pedals that give me the shape and size signal that I can push into the amp that makes the best use of the 45w that I am using. Clean boosts work well in this regard for the signal level, but they sound bright and gnarly when engaged. Compensating with the tone controls of the amp alleviates this problem, but then when disengaged the clean boosts leave your amp sounding dark and scooped. So… the Klon, in my opinion, represents one of the best signals with which you can push your amp into heavenly overdrive. In effect, this pedal is not just a pedal that creates a sound that you amplify, but a dynamic tool that works in combination with your guitar sound, guitar level, amp sound, amp level and the relationships between your master volume and volume (should you have that option on your amp).

I did a lot of geeking with the Klon, trying it at different levels with different settings of all signal related volumes in the chain and the results where quite remarkable. So now it has become a staple on my go-to board with my strat. I wish I had listened to Bill back in the early 90′s..I could have saved myself a lot of $$ and a couple of (amp-lifting-related) bulging discs in my back! As far as OD goes, a (light) 50w amp, with a Klon and I am a happy camper!

Here is a demo vid with Bill comparing all of his versions of this legendary pedal. Happy Klonning!