金曜日, 8月 12, 2005

The search for the elusive

these past few days saw me trawling through the pages of eBay UK. i can't exactly put a finger on what prompted me to do so. some time in the april of last year, i came across a guitar amplifier which had a £350 price tag on it. it was a hiwatt and i can't exactly remember whether it was a custom 50 or 100. it was a second hand head which had the wear and tear seen most likely as a result of years of gigging. lmsn rds would've killed to get the head but at that point in time, i was in the store to bag myself a fender telecaster which was going for cheap. i just shrugged the feeling off and drove home happily with the tele in a spanking new gig bag.

and for some reason, i began thinking of the hiwatt head again recently. a tinge of regret perhaps, but it wasn't financially viable for me at that time when i was in that converted barn of a store in castleford. why do i want another amp? do i really need it, or is it just a want? spending a few hundred quid on a want requires some very long thinking, or a very deep pocket.

i have, at the moment, a marshall valvestate 100R. i got it in 1998 from a store in sheffield for a mere £311 (they gave me an 11% discount). it is a hybrid amp, a single 12AX7 valve (or tube, in american-speak) in the preamp section before a solid state power stage. 3 channels, one clean and two for crunch. gigged for probably 5 times. 'blew up' once during lmsn rds' RATM cover band's performance. it took me years before realising what it could actually do. i blame myself for being not really tweaking the amp enough to get the tone i wanted. the neon once played my les paul through the marshall, and the amp actually sounded better than i thought.

nothing beats a valve amp, though. a hybrid like mine doesn't really count. then again, since i am more of a bedroom player, my friends have advised me against purchasing a high wattage valve amp as you can't get the tone you really want unless you don't mind having the cops knocking on your door. probably i long to be able to play a gig with a proper valve amp (i have once, when i played in newcastle - i used a JCM900 halfstack, but i only wished i knew how to properly tweak my then recently-acquired GT3 multieffects unit). i think i have never sat down long enough to sort out a tone with what i have. i remembered playing lmsn's american standard tele through the GT3 and my marshall. looking at the gig video now, i just wished i had put a little more thought in my GT3/amp settings. it has been a recurring problem. the shitty sound i had with my older effects unit (because i didn't know that i had to press this one button), the list goes on.

i had a long conversation with a mate recently, which centred on what we really want in our guitar sound. we agreed that it is no use kidding ourselves. why can't i sound like jimmy page / eric clapton / {*enter your guitar hero's name here*}? the simple answer to this is because we can only sound like ourselves. to the day i die, i will sound like kudo. i might argue anyone else wanting to sound like kudo would be a laughable notion, but if i wanted to, a better sounding kudo is possible with effort. no guitar pickup, pedal, and if i dare say, guitar or amp will make you sound like anyone else. you can only strive to sound better, if nothing else.

i once went to a paul gilbert guitar clinic for ibanez guitars and laney amps at ronnie scott's in birmingham. apart from a kazoo for a cover of hendrix's crosstown traffic, gilbert came up with tones by simply altering the pickups and volume/tone knobs. during the Q&A, someone asked why his PGM signature series ibanez sounded so different from the one gilbert was playing. gilbert said that the guitars he used in his recording were all stock models, off-the-rack with no extra modifications. paul gilbert would still sound like paul gilbert because he is paul gilbert. as simple as that. i am sure you have also heard a few more similar anecdotes pertaining to this aspect of guitar tone.

i now own two good guitars. i have a few others of a lesser quality, but i now don't have an excuse to do better with what i already have. i have to say, late last year, i managed to play along (in one of those rare occasions i get to do this) with my pearl jam records with my les paul plugged in straight to my marshall. no pedals whatsoever. i didn't even have to change amp channels. i finally learnt how to utilise the volume and tone knobs and the pickup selector on its own, to get what i hear on the record.

the road is still long but i was delighted i finally managed to be able to do what i saw in that clinic in birmingham that day. as uncle T used to say in his email correspondences to me - "pratice, practice, practice!".

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despite this little rant, i have, after much deliberation and reading, made a purchase of this addition to my pedal chain on eBay today:



hahaha.