The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    For years I've pondered Pat Metheny's description of his early "Phase Dance" era sound.

    To summarize brutally, Pat Metheny split his mono guitar signal and passed the signals through at least two delays, at 14 ms and 26 ms respectfully, along with some modulation and perhaps another center channel of delay, and put each delayed signal through its own preamp/amplifier/speaker system, located far apart on the stage. He stated, more or less, that he hated electronically-generated chorus but liked it when the sounds mixed in the air.

    I wondered what it was he preferred about the sound "in the air" compared to electronically-generated chorus. An unused neuron woke up the other day and I realized that the sounds coming out of each amp system were effectively point sources of sound with electronically-generated delays and modulations. But what was unique about Mr. Metheny's approach was that the two sound fields interacted in the air - that is, when Mr. Metheny would move or even just shift his posture, the phase relationships between the two sound fields would change, which would make the sounds heard by Mr. Metheny change as well. Such a change wouldn't occur with a completely electronically-generated, single-sound-source chorus, where the phase relationships between the two delayed lines would be static.

    Anyway, it's all my speculation, so go ahead and rip me to shreds about it, but maybe it's in the direction of what Mr. Metheny heard at the time.

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  3. #2

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    No shredding from me. Your explanation sounds entirely plausible. Metheny's sound is different, to my ears, than any chorus I've ever heard. More elegant, more organic, less mechanical. The speaker spread has to be part of it, imho.

  4. #3

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    I grew up listening to Jimmy Hendrix on a sony walkman. Mono is like suddenly becoming colorblind

  5. #4

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    As a guy with severe daltonism, I find your analogy intriguing and suspect it is spot-on.

  6. #5

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    I do not think there was any delay on the center channel, which was also louder than the two stereo effected channels. Perhaps without intending to, Metheny found one solution to the boxiness of amplified guitar in a traditional jazz setting, giving it a more room-filling authority like sax or trumpet, rather than just cranking the volume or using distortion. I would love to hear some proper 5.1 mixes of the old material to more accurately present this approach.

  7. #6

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    my understandings, what we recognize as PM sound is mainly his style and technique, and we are not differentiating the electronic and acoustic effects from the effects of "hand", (both movements freboard and picikng)

    ***

    waves are interacting not only in the air, but as electric signal tool by the law of physics with the very same rules. There could be nonlinear additions, what may differ electronic equipment by equipment, and air condition. However when the listener put Bright Size Life to the turntable those air and phisically separate amplifying pathways are really does not matter. The music, PM, Jaco and Bob Moses povides the result. It would be the same if PM played the whole thing on a flattop acoustic guitar miked, with a cheap electronic reverb an chorus and we are know and admire that historical record in that form.

    ***

    I think the whole pathway, signal splitting, stage far away thing serves PM. He (thinks) must be different than others, who satisfied by the electronic crap. I do not doubt, he is inspired by the split effect while he is playing I mean got invention. the sound. He is inspired by himself.

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    my most serious doubt is the timing. PM many times stressed the the very accourate timing is extremly important, and talk subdividions etc and how an excellent drummer is extremely important. Now having 20 30 msec delay plus stage far speakers, 30m distance means approx 100 msec delay of the speed of sound, We all know, when recording, editing etc, 30-40 msec delay between channels or musicians track practically kills the groove, and makes the final result useless, at least for jazz. Editing programs can time shift the tracks to compensate this.

    ...what is not possible to do this in real life
    . How on earth can play someone in groove, with all jazz nuances whe he hears his own sound 50 ms or even 80 msec deleayed?

  8. #7

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    Musicians are time machines, you play in the future to hear in the present and use echo reflections of the past to influence it all with depth.

  9. #8

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    I remember first hearing the PMG live in the early 80's and being blissfully awash in the sound of Pat's guitar... the delay/chorus effect (which was new and not described at the time) had to be part of the lushness of his sound. 40 years on, I still get shivers when I try to remember the effect it had on me. Not the same on record, and nothing like his sound choices of the last 15 or 20 years or so, except maybe when he plays acoustic or his Pikasso guitar for intros, etc. Even then, it's not the same, just very nicely EQ'ed and lush.

    I love everything about Pat's music and playing, but do miss that tone. His sound from the 90's live was probably the most enjoyable for me, not quite the ECM voice, but still lovely with some air.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabor
    However when the listener put Bright Size Life to the turntable those air and phisically separate amplifying pathways are really does not matter. The music, PM, Jaco and Bob Moses povides the result. It would be the same if PM played the whole thing on a flattop acoustic guitar miked, with a cheap electronic reverb an chorus and we are know and admire that historical record in that form.
    I am fairly certain Metheny's tri-amp setup was not used on BSL; doesn't sound like it, at any rate. I think it's mostly reverb there.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by micpoch
    I am fairly certain Metheny's tri-amp setup was not used on BSL; doesn't sound like it, at any rate. I think it's mostly reverb there.
    You may right, then take 80/81, or Rejoicing, or any other where the amp setup was applied. The conclusion is the same, or worst, because any later albums are not as genuine as BSL, and soundwise the guitar sound is so muddy and cloudy for example in Rejoicing, that is extreme.

  12. #11

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    Musicians will hear each other through monitors (physical or in ear) no matter what, so delay is not a problem. If not, no band can play right if they are more than 2-3 meters away.

    The delay of the venue is taken into account when designing the sound system, there are a couple of ways to go around it where you delay either all or some of the speakers.