Key Area For Development

Portfolio

To really showcase my skills as a studio sound engineer and also personal development in my weakest areas, I need to let my work speak for itself by building a sizeable and varied portfolio of studio recordings. Therefore a potential employer can see how I improve my knowledge and practical skills throughout the course of my 2 years at university. As I record I should; encourage the bands to endorse me on LinkedIn; write a blog post about each recording; upload any media to the appropriate websites. I will need to state in detail for each blog post the use of the following:

  • Studio’s – Every studio has its own timbral characteristics due to acoustics.
  • Consoles – Every console is slightly different, employers want to see you can use any console.
  • Bands – Showcase ability to work with different genres.
  • Recording techniques – Using different microphone techniques to best capture and artistically characterise the sound.
  • Mixing techniques – This can include mixing in the box (software) or on the desk and using outboard equipment.
  • Mastering techniques – Software or hardware.

I will need to demonstrate that I have used all possible functionality of the Neve and SSL consoles as they are high end consoles. This will show the diverse array of methods of signal flow and recording techniques. I will achieve this through first learning the specifications of each console and then putting it into practical use both in lectures and in professional recordings.

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There are pieces of software I haven’t used which I should learn. I could record in Pro Tools in the studios and then mix the stems in other software such as Cubase or Logic and then Master in Wavelab. Having extra tools under my belt will always be beneficial when working with different bands, engineers and studios. Also Cubase, Logic and Ableton are used for electronic music production so working with other students on my course who specialise in this style of music will mean I learn more about the software. This is how Jimmy Page learned about engineering, by watching others.

 

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I have been working on my own music which I should get another engineer on the course to record. The purpose of this would be to work as a the Producer to decide arrangement and instrumentation but to also work as a performer so I understand what its like being on the other side of the glass. This gives more insight into what the performers I work with may be looking for but struggling to communicate.

Reading around the subject is a fantastic way to learn new habits from other engineers and then put them into practical use. Sound on Sound is a great source of information on how to do pretty much anything within the engineering world. Also reading books on the construction of recording equipment, sound engineers, producers and looking more into the production behind my influential bands. Its easy to read about what you’re interested in but I should venture into genres of music I have no idea about just in case I end up being asked to work with it one day.

Tying this all up I must; write a blog post for each recording stating how I recorded, edited, mixed and mastered a track; where I got the idea and how it works; post links to the final tracks on Soundcloud; encourage bands to endorse my work on LinkedIn to grab the attention of perspective employers; share other media such as images and videos on Instagram and Vimeo to add further weight. Social media is also another method of reaching people, be it employers, engineers, bands and so on.

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Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

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Me at 12 years old

“Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets,” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

The music industry is ever evolving due to the rapid transformation and development of digital systems. The only constant is the analogue realm which is making a huge come back. Being multifaceted is the key to success in this industry. To operate a studio you need to have the following skills:

  • Knowledge of Microphones including polar patterns, frequency response, SPL and construction (transducer type).
  • Signal flow including patchbays.
  • Operating a console.
  • Recording to a DAW or Tape.
  • Mixing – same principality but differs between DAW and tape
  • Mastering

Consoles

Working not only in the studio but also in a live capacity I have used analogue and digital consoles. This gives me a deep understanding of signal flow which is essential to working out how to operate different studios. The Neve and SSL consoles we have at SAE are what you would typically expect to see in high end professional recording studios. The advanced functionality of signal routing within these consoles is much more elaborate and requires a lot of reading to fully grasp.

 

Analogue Age

Tape has very unique sonic quality and is arguably a better storage medium for master recordings which is why people still use it. The logistics and running costs including the tape itself and maintaining the machines is one of its downfalls. However a lot of bands use it such as the Foo Fighters. Knowing how to use tape could be the difference between working with a band and someone else getting the job.Bruce-Two-tape-machines

Digital Age

The industry standard software for recording is Pro Tools which I have used at great length to record, mix and master music. This stems from College to professional recording sessions. Prior to Pro Tools I used Cubase back in school, sixth forma and college, which is another piece of software some studios may use. People tend to use Mac’s more than Windows computers and may decide to use Logic Pro X which I haven’t used, I should learn how to use it. Both Cubase and Logic lean more towards MIDI rather than Audio. Further more for live MIDI application Ableton is fantastic which is another program I haven’t used. Knowing Ableton would allow me to work with more electronic bands both in the studio and in live situations.

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Guitar Rigs

Over the years I have developed as a guitarist not only in terms of playing ability but also my understanding and collection of equipment. This includes amplifiers, pedals and guitars. I began collecting pedals after I got my first tube amplifier and the collection grew rapidly. I bought at Pedaltrain pedalboard for everything I would mainly used and a reel of high quality cable to cut cables to length and solder jacks on myself. Length adds resistance so I try to keep everything to a minimum. I developed my understanding of how tube amplifiers work as well as hot they should be recorded to achieve different tones. I set up my own guitars to ensure they’re set for the gauge of strings I use and make sure the playing action is right with little buzz. These skills are a great asset when working with rock bands, specifically with guitarists who don’t have a technician or an understanding of their guitars and rigs.

Student Rep

As a student rep it is my duty to communicate with students on my course to find out what they’re liking about the course and what they think is lacking. From here I inform the board of studies of any issues that may need amending as well as whats good about the course to ensure it remains the same. I take it upon myself to see how students are doing with both the course and any possible issues outside the college to make sure they get the right help they need to progress.

Also I organise social events to improve cohesion within the group and make sure the other students get to know one another better seeing as we will all be working together for the next 2 years. When the university has open days or visits events such as comic con its my duty to attend and speak to perspective students to get them interested in SAE. This experience shows my communication and organisational skills as well as attention to detail.

Reflecting on Previous Experience

The Remnants

After working with the remnants in the first year for free, we went back into the studio in the second year and agreed on a price to lay down a few tracks. After we had recorded the band asked for a bounce of each song so we roughly mixed and gave them the tracks. They stood us up on payment and we had no leg to stand on.

What did this teach us?

This taught us how to treat future clients; we made the mistakes of not writing up a legally binding contract, we should have taken a deposit and we gave them the mix as a whole instead of a short teaser that would not be of use to them. All they really got away with was a poorly/quickly mixed track that had not been mastered or possibly even edited in any way so the joke was really on them. We still got the experience we needed which was more important.

The New Beats

The next band we worked with were the New Beats, ironically named these guys covered songs from the 1960’s and 70’s. It was 4 older gentlemen who played all the local pubs in the poole area most weekends. This time they signed a contract to pay £250 for 2 recording sessions and 5 mixes for which we took a 50% deposit. I was enjoying the session so much I allowed them to record more tracks that I mixed free of charge. I still have all of the stems and the finished tracks uploaded to my soundcloud.

From a technical standpoint

we adopted different microphone and acoustic techniques to change the timbral shape of the drums. Large room and distant Microphones for loose drums for The New Beats and dampened tight close Mic’d drums in the booth for The Remnants. We mixed on the console for The Remnants and in the Box for The New Beats.

The most pressure

I’ve ever been under was my first night as the live sound engineer at The Anvil in Bournemouth. This was a tiny basement stage area and I had 5 bands on all with their own drum kits and amps. There was hardly any room on stage as is so had to stack up the amps with the headliners at the back and earlier bands stacked in front. There was a small amount of space under the stairs of to the side of the stage so again had to put the headliners kit at the back and everybody else in order in front. In between acts as well as changing equipment I’d need to move all of the microphones over and check levels as quickly as possible.

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By the time the headliner were on stage it was just sit back and relax. They were so tight and their equipment was such higher grade than the other acts, it basically mixed itself. The managers of the venue were so impressed they wanted me to be their in house engineer.

Glaso Blasto

Back in 2014 I was given the privilege to work at Glastonbury for a company named Noise Control Audio who were responsible for the PA’s on the stages of the south east block. This allowed me to see the area in the early stages before the stages themselves had even been completely built, craning fake tram cars to hang out of the side of a building and so on. Monday to Thursday was spent unloading articulated lorries and then stacking the speakers in position. Then I ran a lot of multi-core cables under stages to racks of amplifiers and crossovers which taught me a lot about the set up of point source PA’s in terms of EQ and placement. Friday, Saturday and Sunday I was able to enjoy the festival which is one hell of a place to go! Its almost a waste to go and spend the whole time at the Pyramid stage as there is so much else to go see.

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Charlie Farrans Rhythm and Blues Band

Through word of mouth after working with a band at college Charlie Farran got in touch with me as he needed a sound engineer for his 7 piece rhythm and blues band. This talented bunch of fellas consisted of Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keys, Harmonica, Vocals, Alto and Tenor Sax. They had their own PA including a digital console which was the first I ever worked with. This was great as everything was in one box, all the reverb, delay, EQ, gating, compression… We were always under time constraints to get all the gear in, set up, sound check and then perform, then set down and get out. It was as physical as it was creative which made it fun. All of us would chip in together to get the equipment to where it needed to be.

Who Am I?

My name is Richie Verrico, I’m from Bournemouth in the south of England and I now study Audio Production at SAE Liverpool for which I have been awarded a scholarship. I studied Music Technology level 3 extended BTEC at Bournemouth and Poole College and graduated with distinction, distinction, merit. I have worked on bars for a number of years where I gained great communication skills through customer service as well as working within a team. I managed a bar and trained members of staff and then lead them through the busy periods which gave me leadership skills. I, like my father, am extremely passionate about music and have been listening from a young age, we have gone to countless gigs all over the country.

 

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Primarily,

I’m a classic/blues rock fan with bands such as Cream, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. This all came from blues artists such as Son House, Eric Johnson, Lead Belly, Blind Willy Johnson, T-Bone Walker and so on. This was the acoustic low fi age of blues which then developed into an electrified version which blues purists rejected. This is where B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Albert King, J.B. Hutto took blues in another direction.

 

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In my later teenage years,

I dived deep into grunge with bands such as Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana as well as other alternative rock bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots and Queens of the Stone age. Although, the instrumentation is largely the same, this side of music is completely different to the bands I mentioned earlier in terms of melody, rhythm, timbre, mood and subject meaning behind the tracks.

 

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From a technical standpoint,

there are a number of engineers/producers who made all of that music happen, some of which we discussed when I was at college. These people shape the sonic quality of the music by deciding different recording and mixing techniques. There is a lot to be learned by looking into the tastes of these people.

My greatest hero

of all time is Jimmy Page wanted to research cancer but instead stuck with what he loved which was guitar. Moving from a session musician, where he learned a lot about engineering from looking over the shoulders of BBC technicians, he joined a bands named the Yardbirds. Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton were also members. He eventually left to set out to create one of the biggest rock bands in history with the aid of their manager who helped him find the best musicians he could. Thus Led Zeppelin was born where not only did he write and perform but also engineer the music.

Jimmy Page pushed himself as hard as he could at what he knew he was best at and is now immortalised as a god. I have learned a lot form listening to the likes of Led Zeppelin about guitar tones and amplifiers as well as playing techniques. These skills are easily transferable in the studio environment when recording bands.

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My Garage

Is where I stored all of my guitar equipment and would practice in bournemouth; The walls were pre-fabricated concrete columns with no treatment, an A pitched roof and i’d usually Y split between two amps so it was very loud indeed. Surprisingly, the neighbours never complained so I must have been doing something right. This is where I could assemble my pedal board, solder cables, play around with pickups in guitars ect.

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My career aspiration

is to become a studio engineer so I can record, mix and master material from different bands from different genres. It’s my dream to one day own my own studio and have other engineers in house which would also give me the freedom to work for bands in other studios also. Having your own studio gives you the freedom to build it to your very own specifications and decide what equipment you have. However, you will continue to learn if you keep moving. I have experience as a studio engineer from my time at college where I recorded bands in the evening and would then mix and master the tracks at home in my garage. This is documented in this blog and the tracks are available to listen to on soundcloud. The styles consisted of 60’s/70’s rock, 90’s indie pop, acoustic folk, contemporary heavy metal and a cappella.

Rock would be the genre I’d typically work with given my taste and knowledge from my influences. Furthermore, I have gained practical skills as a guitarist which have improved my skills at backline technical management. Having the ability to change strings, replace pickups and pots, soldering cables, patching a pedalboard together, changing tubes, biasing an amp, fixing blown capacitors and so on would qualify me to work as a guitar technician. The is something I would like to do as you can tour the world with a band and get to watch the show from the side of the stage, but my heart will always be in the studio’s.

 

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Strings

I use D’addario 11-49. I used to use 10’s but wanted to make my hands stronger so went up to 11’s and never went back. I use a relatively high action on my Les Paul because the strings have more room to breath which improves tone and also trains your fingers better. One thing Ive noticed is after about 4 weeks of playing they are gagging to be changed and there are several indicators.

1) They get covered in dead skin and turn black. I don’t know if its my fingers but I play most days and have found that after playing for long durations its a good Idea to use a cloth to wipe the top and underside of the strings to remove any dead skin. This maintains them for longer and you can also apply fast fret before and after playing to coat them so they don’t react as quickly to the sweat from your hands and moisture in the air.

2) The intonation drops off due to a change in tension. As you make your way up the neck the Guitar will not stay in tune, depending on how fine tuned your ears are its audible and a pain. Remember though theres no such thing as a perfect intonation, if there were it would sound inorganic.

3) The action lightens, you can feel your fingers getting close and close to the fretboard as time goes on and the reason for this is that the strings have been under high tension for a long time. Have you ever gotten blue tack and kept pulling at it until it literally buckles under its own weight if you hold it up? Similar principle, its as if the molecular structure of the metal relaxes as it gets tired of the tension and so they don’t pull on the neck as much leading to reduced action.

Moral of the story, change your strings and maintain the to make them last as long as possible. Should save you some money that way.

Jaw Dropping Consoles!

2 lovely, modular, analogue consoles! The Neve VR Legend (Left) and SSL G+ (Right) are in the 2 larger studios of SAE Liverpool. Both have extensive EQ’s, compression and a great many possibilities of bussing and routing to other channels as well as a small fader for mixdown and patchbays.  Also there is a selection of outboard gear including a Lexicon 480l digital reverb processor, with the external console seen sat on top of the SSL. Furthermore a TL Audio Ivory 5051 2 channel Compressor/limiter and 5013 EQ, SPL Gold Mic 9844 Pre-amp and more goodies ready for patching in on the patchbays of the Neve.

These are high end consoles that you’d expect to see in Dave Grohl’s garage. In fact he owns a Neve 8083. I have downloaded the manuals for both consoles which I’ll need to learn inside out. Before we can use them we must pass a test but that won’t be until the beginning of next academic year. The sooner I learn them inside out and also shadow the second years, the more efficient my time will be when I use them in the second year.

Liverpool

The view from the ferris wheel by the docks.

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I’m finally here. I applied for university and was given an unconditional offer by SAE Liverpool. Later I applied for a Scholarship which I have been awarded. I booked my halls and paid an extra £20 a month for a bigger room which was totally worth it and now I’m living in the city! The only down side is I’m the first one here as I moved in pretty much as early as you can so I have no room mates yet. I’m living in Liberty Living Atlantic Point which is on Naylor street, literally on the very edge of the City centre. It takes about 15 minutes to walk to Liverpool One where all the shops are and even less to Matthew street where the Cavern Club is.

I was in a relationship and was extremely unhappy which ended as she went to America, so I decided to come up north about a month ago. I packed my Les Paul, Firebird, Hot Rod Deluxe and Pedalboard as well as my clothes in my car and drove up. It was one hell of an escape, I had time to really think about myself and my life which really put things in perspective. Whilst I was up here I began talking to a girl I’ve always really liked so I dropped off the non essentials and went back to Bournemouth to spend some time with her. I learned Welcome to the Jungle the night before she came over and I cooked dinner, both of which blew her away. We spent a few weeks together in Bournemouth and she came up for a long weekend which was brilliant!

We packed my dads car and as you can see it was full. I left the Peavey and 4×12 cab at my grand parents so its up here if I want/need it. Nothing broke on the way up which is a miracle considering I had a lot of gear in there!

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So 2 days ago my dad and I humped all my gear up 5 flights of stairs into my room. I got my speaker monitors set up, my hot rod deluxe is here with the pedalboard in front of it and my Les Paul beside it. There is plenty of storage in the wardrobe, chest of drawers and under the bed. I also have an en suite shower. The room went from being completely clear to completely cluttered!

I moved the bed over to claim more floor space which I thought was sensible. The premises has high security with a fob scanner on every door. Also visitors must be signed in and out and theres a security guard on the gate all day. With everything set up its looking great!

Just waiting to get started at uni and then I bet ill hardly see this place! I’ll either be at uni or gigging hopefully! Time to kick ass…

Guitars

Everything that goes into a rig will define the output from pickups to speakers but I personally believe it all starts with the Guitar. Every Guitar has its own characteristics, you could get 2 off the same line and they’ll have tonal differences, if you’re eagle eared enough to notice them. Furthermore they all play differently, different shaped necks, scale lengths, sizes…

If you took the Telecaster off Hugh Cornwell and gave him a Strat would the Stranglers sound the same? If you took the Stratocaster off Andy Summers and gave him a Les Paul would The Police sound the same? If you took the Les Paul off Jimmy Page and gave him a Telecaster would Led Zeppelin sound the same? Well to be fair he started on a Tele with the Yardbirds. But now weve gone full circle, 3 Guitars and 3 bands and would they be the same?

So what Guitars would I like to make sure I could be in any band. Firstly lets go for a good old Telecaster.

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Leo Fender was an electrician who had no idea about Guitars so preceded to cut out what he thought would be an adequate body from a piece of Ash, bolted a maple neck onto it and people went what the F**k is that? Until they played it. The Tele is extremely distinct, just listen to; again, The Stranglers but also tracks like ‘Green Onions’ Booker T and the MG’s. The image above is of a 1960’s Tele which you can tell by the White pickguard (50’s were black) and Rosewood Fingerboard. All that plus the vintage Blonde colour makes that the Tele for me. And maybe a little bit of wear.

If I had a Tele and a Strat they’d be called Boing and Twang. Those 2 words just explain their tones. Angling the pickups away from the bridge on the lows and towards on the highs gives more twang at the high and and less at the low. Then with a small ‘Lipstick’ Pickup in the bridge you have a nice mellow tone. These have a 3 way pickup allowing for bridge, bridge and neck, or neck. Originally Strats had the same thing so people such as George Harrison and Eric Clapton used toothpicks to get the switch to sit between the Bridge and middle or Neck and middle.

Enough talk lets see a Strat.

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Probably the most popular guitar and most recognisable for its shape. This is a classic 60s stray with a sunburst body that would be built with 2 pieces of ash glued together, maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, vintage tuners (that are a pain in the ass to restring until you figure out the trick), mint green pickguard and aged white pickup covers and knobs. The adjustment for the truss rod is at the other end of the neck hidden in the body which means you’d have to unstring and unbolt the neck for every quarter then of adjustment which was the only down side to the 60s Strats!

when the first strats were built around 54 they had only a 3 way pickup selector and fender never thought of using the bridge and the middle or the neck and the middle together until players like George Harrison and Eric Clapton began using tooth picks to hold the pickup selector in between to get an out of phase tone due to the distance of the pickups, the same way you get phasing from the distance of microphones from a sound source. Tracks like Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix and Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam belong to the Strat for these reasons. No other guitar can reach the tonal characteristics of a Strat.

The most notable difference between the Tele and Strat is the addition of the spring loaded Tremolo Bridge and Whammy Bar. This allowed you to adjust the pitch up and down whilst playing but could be very temperamental with tuning until the Floyd Rose was built which featured a locking nut and tuners on the bridge for easy adjustment. Furthermore the strings would be installed the other way round with the ball at the headstock. David Gilmour used the Whammy bar consistently. A great and very 80s use of this system is called a dive bomb where you slowly tune the whole guitar down until the strings are loose, then back up again.

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The 80s ushered a new breed of stratocaster named superstrats which would have extremely hot (high output) pickups, usually a floyd rose and some were even made of carbon fibre. Also the action would be extremely low for fast playing and guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughn came to the limelight. These usually have a humbucker in the bridge and neck with a single coil in the middle (H S H) rather than classic strats were all single coils (S S S).

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There are a number of countries of manufacture for Fender Stratocaster; made in Korea MIK, made in Japan MIj, made in Mexico MIM and made in America MIA. They tend to flow that direction in quality however some Japanese Strats, specifically from the 70s were better than the Americans. As you flow upward in quality, naturally the price increases but what do you get for the money? Japanese and Korean bodies won’t be alder or ash but imitation wood such as birch that doesn’t oscillate as well. Mexican Strats may be lower quality alder or ash or may even be more than 2 pieces glued together. However sunburst Mexican Strats are 2 pieces glued together it’s only solid colours where you can’t see the wood that may be 3/4 pieces. You may get a lesser quality piece of wood compared to the Americans but it won’t  be far off. The value for money of a Mexican sunburst Strat is better than an American made sunburst Strat. Furthermore you can buy parts online and assemble the guitar yourself for significantly less money. You can tell an American or Mexican body as the have a hole drilled in the neck slot and below the pickup slots (then 2 more either side on a Mexican body) which are for a jig to slot into to cut the slots for the pickups, bridge and so on.

the electronics In a Mexican Strat may be from Korea, and  on a Korean Strat may be from China. The quality of metal is lesser and lesser meaning less conductivity specifically with Chinese pot metal where they melt down anything they can before losing all conductivity to save money. But Squire (owned by fender for budget entry level guitars) make Strats with incredibly comfortable necks. You may find a Squier more comfortable than an American custom shop, however they will sound different! It’s all a balancing act so choose carefully before buying.

Another query is do the springs from the Tremolo Bridge reduce sustain and impact tone? I’d say yes, it works like suspension in your car or bike if you think about it. Clapton put a piece of wood behind his bridge to stop this but Billy Corgan has fixed bridges on his Strats to get more sustain. Id like to have 2 Strats, one that works each way so you’re covered for the style of the song you’re playing.

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Well that was a tonne on the Strat so let’s get to my favourite! The Les Paul! Manufactured by Gibson in 1952 after fender brought out the telecaster, these were the first solid body electric guitars that were amazing! The first les Paul had a trapeze style bridge, p90 pickups and solid gold top. Typical single piece of mahogany as the back with 2 pieces of maple on the top. Over the next few years they changed the bridge eventually to the best functioning tunimatic bridge and stop tail. These allowed you to adjust the intonation and had no tuning issues. However the guitar was not selling as well as they’d expected so had to come up with an idea to make it sell. In 58 they dropped the solid gold top and rocked the cherry sunburst. Also they installed the new PAF humbuckers for even more output. The difference was so slight but you were able To see the beautiful maple top and no 2 les Paul’s look the same because the wood is always different. You could see the flame effect the wood gives which is sexy!

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The original 58 les Paul’s are highly sought after due to their ultra tone and go for up to hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately things have changed including laws and trees. In the 60s mahogany was all natural but consostenly used in furniture as well as these guitars. Eventually it ran out and is now farmed which has had an effect on the wood, potentially because it’s being cut at a much younger age than it would have been in the late 50s and 60s. Also the glue that stuck the tops on and set in necks was insect based which meant it would dry to a glass like state which would oscillate much better. Modern polymer based glue isn’t the same and it’s for this reason the custom shop 58 reissues are still extremely expensive but not as much as the originals. During the 70s  Gibson hit a bit of a lull in terms of manufacture and the quality dropped. Also they have barely catered for left handed people which has put them under scrutiny. They’re crap at coming up with names, for example SG stands for solid guitar… but their guitars are out of this world!

The original les Paul’s were extremely heavy due to the amount of wood involved but around 82/83 they began drilling holes in the upper left quarter of the body to relieve some of the weight. This is called 9 hole weight relief. Later and more contemporary measure of weight relief are called chamfering and full on chamfering where larger sections of the mahogany are removed before the top is glued on. However purists, such as myself, argue it kills the tone. The wood is the most important part of the guitar in my opinion and cutting it out is cutting your nose off despite your face. My lespaul has 9 hole weight relief and is still very heavy but I’m man enough to take it to keep that tone.

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You just have to listen to tracks such as Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin or Love Is The Law by The Seahorses to see why the Les Paul and Marshall amps combined were so popular. It’s a mighty roar but you can easily clean it up or get some fantastic tones with the volume and tone pots as well as switching between pickups. Peter Green physically turned the bridge pickup in his Les Paul round so it gave him a more nasal out of phase tone due to the windings of the child when the switch is in the mid position (both pickups selected). Other guitarists had phase flip switches installed on the pots to do this electronically as well as coil taps (turns humbucker into single coil by bypassing one of the coils) to further experiment with tones. Les Paul’s are a huge canvas of tone for you to explore which is why I love them and it’s something that the stratocaster somewhat misses but they are chalk and cheese in fairness.

 

Complete Pedalboard…Maybe

Got me a few more pedals. Well my girlfriend did for Chrismas and my birthday but I think I’m there!

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Ok signal flow…

Guitar – Buffer (bottom right) – Tuner (top right before wah) – 2 loop bank – Loop 1 – Rotovibe – Cry Baby – Whammy – Pog – Loop 2 – OS-2 – Big Muff – Small Stone – Ph-50 – Small Clone – Flashback – Hot rod/Polara – Windsor.

The buffer is to try and gain back some signal degradation from the 10ft cable I’m using so I can move around. Should ideally be using 6ft. The Korg Pitch-black Tuner I’m not a fan of, it seems to just be really lenient and not very precise. Admittedly its winter so I’m in a cold garage with a little heater in front of me so some of the guitars cold, some of its getting hot air and that plays havoc with tuning, especially on the firebird. The reason being the tension of the wood against the strings really does change due to the temperature of the wood. But thats not such a massive thing with the Les Paul its just not a great tuner. Doubles up as a mute though.

This is mostly a repeat of what I’ve said in previous posts but I like the Rotary and Wah before the distortion/fuzz (Big Muff/OS-2) plus the octave effects work better as close to the guitar as possible so all expression and octave effects go in the first bank. That way I can then bypass 4 effects at once. The Big Muff and OS-2 are in the second bank so if I’m getting that Billy Corgan Buzz Saw Tone I can turn it all on or off at once. Also the pedals are at the back of the board and I can turn them on/off from the front which is more ergonomic. Then if I had a third bank I’d put the Modulation (PH-50, Small stone – Phasers/Small Clone – Chorus) in it but I don’t so they’re in series after the distortion. I like the sound of the Phasers after the OS-2 which is used as a boost.

This is where it gets fun! The Flashback (Delay) and Polara (Reverb) are both stereo I/O. So a mono signal enters the Flashback, then if I want to use a Stereo Ping Pong Delay then one output goes to the Hot Rod and the second to the Polara. Reason being the Hot Rod has a built in Spring Reverb. The Peavey Windsor doesn’t so the Polara can give it one. Ideally I’d prefer the reverb to be in the effects loop but I don’t want to run 2 more cables to and fro 1 amp. Already got about 15ft of cable, don’t want another 10! Id rather have the polara in the loop because then you have a nice clean reverb, not a distorted one as its sounding off before the Pre-amp. But its all sounding pretty good.

The really fun part is putting the Polara on reverse and using the volume pot on the Guitar to create a bow like sound for songs such as ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘How Many More Times.’ This setup is how I would gig however the possibilities are endless for a studio environment. For example there are Wet and Dry outs on the POG which so you could run one to one amp and the other to another. Or you could put the Reverb before the Delay and then a stereo output to both amps with the Reverb down on the Hotrod to get a more coherent tone of the amps in unison. Or you could throw away the pedal board and play just with 1 amp. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

Les Paul

Christmas has come and gone…I got myself a present. My very first Gibson Les Paul!20170111_140841

No idea what to call it. Think I’ll wait until I get another 1 or 2 to decide, more on that later. This is a Les Paul 2016 Traditional T. Believe it or not the T stands for Traditional. The alternative is a LP 2016 Standard. Traditional Traditional, what are gibson thinking? The finish is an Ice Tea Sunburst and in different light you can see different levels to the flames which ill show later.

I picked this LP as it is true to the late 50’s Les Paul’s where it has weight relief in the form of 9 hole (earlier LP’s had no weight relief and weigh a god damn tonne, newer ones have limited/full on chambering where they rout out huge amounts of wood. In fact the Gibson Memphis LP’s are damn near completely hollow usually with F holes. Weight relief will effect the tone, dramatically, as you are cutting out chunks of wood so there is less substance to oscillate when the strings are struck. You tend to get a lot more sustain from the wood being there so I prefer them heavier. However the early 50’s LP’s were so damn heavy that after a while of use, your shoulder will ache. To be honest I even have that with my one.

The top is 2 pieces of Maple stuck to a single thick piece of Mahogany. The neck is set in (glued into the body) with a single piece of Mahogany and a Rosewood Fingerboard. The inlays are acrylic with cream inlays around the whole body and neck. One way to spot a fake LP is looking at whether the Inlays cover the sides of the frets.

What I really want this to look like is a 59 LP which will require changing a few things. For examples the knobs are more like the earlier ones Gibson used, I prefer the bell shaped ones as they feel more ergonomic. Also the Jack plate is made of metal, originally they were nylon I believe but ill keep this as its a bit more sturdy.

Also the Pickup covers are Chrome as well as the bridge pieces. The original Covers were made from nickel, which if these were, would be quite easy to relic using some chemicals. Instead ill just replace these keeping them incase I ever decide to re-use them. Also I have top wrapped the strings. There are multiple purposes for this, most notably it will stop the bridge from caving over backward if the strings are resting against the back of it from the tail. Also it arguably improves the tone and loosens the tension of the strings making them feel ‘slinkier.’ Also it looks awesome. A trick I learned from Mike Hickey (Joe Bonnamassa’s Guitar Tech) for top wrapping which you can see in the image below is cutting the balls off a dead set of strings, running them down each new string which will offset them by a few mil to to pull the winding further back into the tail piece. That’ll stop you catching your hand on the sharp ends and stop the strings snapping from the tension. The other thing to note however is the angle at which the strings are from the Stop Bar to the Tunomatic bridge; if its too shallow then you will get buzzing. Once you adjust the height of the Tunomatic bridge for playing action, then adjust the stop bar to fix any unwanted buzzes.

The Machineheads are in fact the vintage 50’s style tuners that Gibson used. The Tektoid nut has been nicely rounded off which is a really great touch to the headstock.20170111_154719.jpgI originally wanted a gold top and there was one on Dawsons where I got this, but it was more money and not really what I wanted. It was a Standard so had the later machine heads and cost £300 more than this. Once Christmas and New Years had gone by, both Guitars dropped by £300 also so I grabbed this up as they only had 3 left, on a 12 month interest free finance at £1399. Its a lot of money but breaks down nicely to around £116 a month and is a worthy investment.20170111_154627.jpg

I also bought a strap and some strap locks; the trick with these, in some cases, is to use the screws already holding the strap eyelets in place, not the ones provided in the pack. The reason being the hole will already be the right size for the screws, using new ones may crack the finish or be too small causing the straps to pull out. However, over tightening the old ones may cause them not to grab so if the screws provided are slightly bigger then they might be better.

One thing that i found irritating was the disk around the toggle switch that says Rhythm and Treble was slightly the wrong way around. Also the angle of the toggle switch, so I took the cover off the back, taped the disk in the right position with black insulation tape and held the switch in the right play. Then I used players to tighten the switch in place but it damaged the metal ring slightly. Not massively obvious but a bit annoying.

The strings that were on it were 10’s so I got it out the box and played them for about an hour and replaced them with 11’s. From the get go this Guitar really stood out against the others in my limited collection. Its incredibly loud and going from the LP to the Firebird is a drop in intensity and volume. The LP just roars! Opening up the backplate it has ceramic Capacitors which still give you that gentle curve when adjusting volume or tone, not a drastic one. There is also a plate that the electronics are connected to that acts as the grounding which i found interesting (as opposed to soldering to the top of the pots.

I wanted the tone in the bridge to be a bit heavier, the covers on the pickups can negate noise and protect the pickup but also dampen the sound somewhat. So the idea was to take it off. I took the pickup off and you can see in the cavity just how the top piece is about 15mm thick in the centre! The cover is held in place by the two bits of solder either side of the pickup which are dense and were difficult to melt. I kept a soldering iron on them and used a stanley blade to cut through as quickly as possible trying not to heat the pickup and the coiled wire at all. Too much heat may cause things to move within the pickup which may cause damage. Once the solder is cleared you can just lift the cover off. The Pickups are also covered in a coat of wax after they are wrapped to hold everything in place, some of which was coated over the top of the pickups once they were bear so i used an old credit card to carefully scrape it away so it looks nice and clean.

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The finished product with my preferred knobs. I saw a video from Stu Mac on youtube where they had a bridge pickup from an old Telecaster that wasn’t working very well, its output was incredibly low. As they opened it up they thought it may have been rust from a single pole piece that had spread but instead it seemed to be a dink in the coil possibly from a pick sliding through the side. They had to remove all of the wire and re-wire the pickup which is a long painstaking process so I’m extremely conscious not to do a similar thing.