I managed to get the fret Doctor on over the Easter weekend, and its great stuff. The ‘board of my Classic was starting to look a bit anaemic after a year of being virtually unplayed. I took off the crusty old strings and put a little fret doctor on a rag. I then rubbed it into to ‘board which quickly regained its original colour and feel. The ‘board was so dry it just swallowed it up, so I may apply another coat to make sure its happy. But, so far so good!
I got the fret doctor in the mail today, and as I have the next 5 days off work over Easter, I might be able to get around to giving it a go. Don’t quote me on that though.
There is an interesting thread over on the Les Paul Forum at the moment regarding the difference in sound between a lightweight aluminium tailpiece and heavier zinc tailpiece on a Les Paul. It has been suggested that a “double-blind” test be performed on both tailpieces to determine if the majority of listeners can tell the difference between the two, and therefore determine whether it is a worthy change or not.
There are a couple of problems with this that I thought would be interesting (to me at least) to mention them here. Firstly, it will never be a perfect test as there are too many uncontrolled variables. Even if you use a brand new set of strings from the same vendor and of the same gauge, different sets can still sound different. If you use the same set of strings, then the second time they are played, they haven’t been played for the same amount of time as they had been for the original test, which will effect the sound, however small. The flip side to that of course, is that no test is perfect and there will always be variables that you cannot control.
The second problem, and the one I think is impossible to overcome, is the variable of the human ear. Some people have higher developed hearing than others and can perceive smaller changes in sound than others. This is a fundamental problem that cannot be overcome, because even if you can do a study of a large enough control group, it will never be able to quantify if the change is going to be good for you. The only way to see if you like one sound better than the other is to try it for yourself, otherwise all you are doing is using other people’s perception on what is better and that is no guarantee for yourself. If you ask someone to make a choice as to whether something sounds better than something else, you are immediately verging off of the scientific path and into the realms of speculation. The only scientifically provable criteria you can study is which frequencies are enhanced or suppressed by a specific modification and that can never tell you which is going to be “better” to your own ear.
I started playing guitar back in ’92 and ever since I first started to properly look after my guitars (when I started on electric in ’95) I’ve used “Lemon Oils” to condition my rosewood & ebony fret boards. However, most “lemon” oil that you can get commercially is simply a synthetic oil with a bit of lemon scent thrown in, which whilst adequate, I feel isn’t quite right. For a while now I’ve been meaning to try Fret Doctor which receives great reviews from those that have tried it and I finally got around to buying some. I’ll let you know how it works when I receive it.
On a related note, I have also tried Virtuoso Cleaner and Polish. Up until I got my ’59 reissue Les Paul, my Les Paul Classic was my main guitar which served me well from 2001 (bought on September 11th, fact fans) through to March of 2007. Despite my (sometimes rather lame) attempts to keep it clean, after 5 years of gigging most weekends there was a significant haze on the finish, particularly around the arm wear, which no polish I tried could even get close to removing. I even tried a little t-cut (an abrasive compound for removing scratches from cars) to see if there would be any improvement. All the t-cut seemed to do was move the haze around.
So after reading the rave reviews I’d seen about Virtuoso products, I bought a bottle of both the polish and the cleaner. Using a new duster, I applied a little of the cleaner to the back first (which also had some hazing) and gave it a good solid rubbing. After using so many different polishes, I never thought I could get the haze off, but the Virtuoso cleaner did the job brilliantly. Once I’d cleaned the grime off of the guitar, I used some of the polish to buff the guitar back up to a shine, which it did nicely. I’m not sure the Virtuoso polish is any better than other polishe, but combined with the effect of the cleaner, the change was brilliant. I’d highly recommend the cleaner to anyone who, like me, has a guitar that looks hazier than the ’60’s. Whilst you’re there you might as well buy the polish as well, but be heartbroken if they don’t have it in stock.
I’ve just learned that the Timbucker pickups that I talk about here have ceased production. This is sad news indeed but Tim needs to concentrate on his family, which is far more important than what was originally just a hobby.
If you’re in the mood for other P.A.F. style pickups there are plenty of other boutique winders out there. I myself will try some more and let you know the results.
Back in August my Marshall 4212 JCM800 combo died on me during a gig. Being the stupid fool I am, I didn’t have any spare valves/backup amp (although I managed to get through it running through the other guitarists spare, a Peavey Classic 30). As I had a gig the following day I had to go grab something quick (from somewhere that took credit cards!!). After hearing good things about the Vintage Modern I hauled ass down to Sound Control in Bristol (taking my trusty ’59 Reissue and GeorgeL cable with me) and went for a test drive.
The Vintage Modern is so called because its got a “vintage” sound (courtesy of the KT66 output valves), with modern features; a -10db/+4db effects loop, foot switchable reverb and “Dynamic ranges” and Post Phase Inverter (PPI) Master Volume. I’m a bit of an “old skool” player, so the vintage sound really appealed to me, as did the way you work the amp.
Although the amp has a foot switch to change dynamic range, moving from Low to High engages an extra 12AX7 in the pre-amp creating a large volume jump from one range to the next. It was designed this way on purpose as its not a multi-channel amp like the DSL, TSL or JVM, its a single channel amp with two separate ranges. Like the old JTM’s the way to go from clean to crunch is via the guitars volume control, which is a method sadly lost on the majority of younger players who are brought up on a diet of multi-channel amps. I’ve not got a problem with this (after all my 4212 is a twin channel amp), its just that I feel everyone should at least learn how to do it the “old” way to help them appreciate the dynamics of working with an amp. To be honest, I think that having the dynamic range on the foot switch is the biggest problem with the VM. It encourages people to think that the amp is multi-channel when its not.
Anyway, I subsequently bought the 50 watt head and the following gig I ran it through my 4212’s V30’s (which I had changed to after an unfortunate incident with the stock G12T-75’s and the corner of my guitar stand). Although very nice sounding, the open back 2 x 12 cab of the 4212 just doesn’t have that low end I liked when playing through the matching 4 x 12 in the store. So the next thing to do was to buy the matching 4 x 12!
Not long after this, the band separated due to personality clashes between some members of the band, and I’ve therefore had only limited time to dial in the amp. However, over the past week, I’ve rolled the amp out and begun experimenting. Like I said before, I’m much more into the vintage sound than your average 20-something, so I like the natural voice of the amp anyway. However, the low dynamic range doesn’t have quite enough gain to get my juices flowing, so I stick it on high. I then set all the tone controls on 5, along with both gains (the amp has two gains, body and detail, which control the amount of gain on 400hz and below and 400hz and up respectively). I can then set the master volume to a reasonable level, which for my house is about 1-2 on the dial. I then adjust the gain to taste, with the guitar volume on 7ish. This lets me get a nice crunchy rhythm sound, which will clean up as I back off, and increase in volume – but not too much gain – as I turn up to 10. For me, this is with the detail on about 3 and the body on about 2.
After the gains are set, its time to move onto the tone shaping. First I adjust the bass, which will typically sit around 4-6 depending on venue. Next is middle, typically around 6-7 and lastly its treble again, 6-7 dependent on venue. Last is presence which doesn’t normally move too far from 5.
Because of the PPIMV you can I’m fairly sure that the tone isn’t going to change too much with the increase in master volume, mostly those mids will start to fatten up as the power valves get working. This is fine as when you’re playing with a band, you need to be able to cut through which is what those mids help you do. I’ve yet to experiment how the gain is affected by the increase in volume, but again, I should think it will be largely the same as the tone stack as its all before the MV. The only things I can see changing is the players/audiences perception of gain and the amount of gain introduced by the power valves clipping (or power amp distortion as its known).
I will have to up the master at some point, but it probably won’t be until I have a day off so I don’t disturb anyone too much!
Oh, btw if you’re interested in the Vintage Modern go to the Vintage Modern forum for more info.