Can't Stop the Rock

Faith on Fire played their monthly Mass last night. One of our singers (and the piano player for that matter) tried to reign in the Rocker Guy, to limited success. We began rehearsing and the singer commented that she really liked the sound of my guitar at our last practice, because there was less distortion in it during practice. I explained that I wasn't using my amp at practice, but one of the drummer's dad's amps, which had a different sound. She sounded disappointed, so I was trying sound combinations to try and better replicate what she heard earlier in the week.

So as I was trying something, she yells, "that's the sound! What did you do!" As it turns out, I turned OFF the distortion to make an adjustment to the amp. "Why don't you play like that, then?" The piano player chimes in, "It sounds good. It sounds like electric guitar and it doesn't have to be distorted to be rock. We're a Catholic rock band, not Catholic heavy metal band."

Ok, now you've got my dander up. The sound I was using was more 70s hard rock than heavy metal, but there was no point in argueing the sublties. So I did the polite thing and tried it out all Mass with clean guitar, only reverb and chorus on the amp. And I made some discoveries. Some potentially expensive discoveries.

I asked the Wife after Mass what she thought. She said when she first heard me start playing, she thought there were 2 guitar players. I normally play out of the bridge pickup on my Yamaha to get the brightest tone. I found I had to play out of both pickups since totally clean the sound was TOO bright. I found that with my Super Overdrive pedal, the sound dues get dirtier, but at the cost of brightness and sound quality. With my equalizer pedal turned on, I actually roll off some of the gain than if I turn it off.

The worst part of it all (besides feeling like I'd been turned into one of those whiney British bands like Coldplay) was that I REALLY liked the sound, except that it was just a little TOO clean. I got so much variation in tone. It reminded me of the axim I'd learned long ago that less is more. Less processing of your signal means the guitar itself can sing.

So here's the expensive part. I may have to begin again the Quest for The Sound. I thought I had The Sound when I bought my current amp. I had what I thought was a great metal/hard rock sound. But I noticed that all I got was low end and that all my guitars sounded the same. I thought it was a problem with my pickups. Until I went into the studio and plugged directly into a 1960s Marshall stack with no effects. The sound! The tone! I never knew my guitar could sound so good! So I went out to find a pedal to play through the clean channel that gave me The Sound. And I found a Boss Super Overdrive. And I thought I had The Sound. I was happy for over 5 years.

But yesterday I heard a closer proximity to The Sound than I've ever heard before. That clean sound I was getting. If I could get that same sound but with the kind of drive that Brian May gets, THAT would be it! So how do I get The Sound? I believe it begins with a tube amplifier. Mine is a transister amp, and while it sounds great clean, you can't drive it naturally like a tube amp. To get gain on a tube amp, you just turn up the volume. Now, you don't want to blow out the room by turning your amp up to 11, so how do you do that? Get an amp that has a channel volume to drive the input, and a master volume you can turn down so the amp has that overdrive without being screaming loud. So which amp can do that?

Wait for it..... wait for it...... Vox amps. That's right, the amps Brian May uses. I played around a little bit with a Vox AC15 at Guitar Center, and it might do the trick. But it's $600. And it may not. I may need a two channel amp, like, say, a Vox AC-30. Which is $1500. And I don't have money for that kind of gear. So now I need to do some research as to a good amp that I can afford one of these days.

And the Wife can't blame me for this one. I was perfectly happy with my sound until our singer made me play clean for the whole Mass. If she hadn't done that, I would have never know how inadequate my tone was. So the search for The Sound continues.

Stay tuned my gentle rocker fans.....stay tuned.


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