The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  1. #1

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    I think this works with most guitars and amps; I'm testing with my Strat and Super Reverb at the moment. The motivation here was for clean playing:
    - wanting to distinguish a solo tone that more blends rather than being louder in the mix
    - an accompaniment tone that is present without being lost
    - both tones being maximally dynamic with minimum change in picking firmness

    I have been experimenting; I think the degree to which the guitar's volume control near the top of its range causes a change in sound level is dependent on the gain stages of the amp, the one most important when playing clean seems to be the gain stage the tone stack uses to recover the insertion loss from the unpassed frequency ranges of the filters. The treble and bass tone controls subtract the opposite part of the signal from the knobs label - turning up treble (high pass filter) reduces bass, and turning up bass (low pass filter) reduces treble... that reduction (insertion loss) is recovered by a dedicated gain stage controlled with the middle knob.

    Here is what I have been doing:
    - turn the tones and volume on the guitar full up
    - turn the tones on the amp full down, volume up a bit
    - select the neck pickup and start thumping the low E string
    - rotate the bass knob on the amp and find the "inflection point"; the tone above it sounds bassy, the tone below it will be anemic. The sound of the tone above and below are very different, so I find the "neutral" spot right between them.
    - do the same thing with the bridge pickup, the high E string, and the treble knob on the amp, likewise the sound of tones above and below the neutral spot sound different, I set it there
    - I have a middle control, I do a quick experiment that perhaps reveals the basis for this procedure. From minimum, I strum the guitar and slowly turn the middle knob up... nothing will change (not tone nor volume) until it gets up to the higher numbers near the top, where it will get louder and "thicker". Up in that region, I notice that moving my guitar's volume down from maximum results in a big change in level, but if I back the amp's middle knob down low in its range, those changes in level from turning my guitar's volume knob will be very small.
    - leave the middle low in its range (the middle control moves the whole frequency curve higher and lower with little reshaping) and experiment on the guitar moving its volume knob down and up from full.

    What I get is very little change in volume, but a change in presence, which is comprised of the usual artifact sounds of fingering and picking. At home experimenting I prefer the volume moved down a little from max, and find the full volume tone kind of "edgy or hot" but not really louder. On the bandstand within the mix of the other instruments I'm expecting that extra presence will allow for my tone to be heard through the cover and masking of the overall mix sound without having to really be louder or cut through. On stage these artifact presence sounds are the first to disappear and I think it will actually sound like it does at home with the volume down a bit. The other thing is that with the tones on the amp set at the "inflection points", it takes vary little change in playing firmness to get nice dynamic changes for lines and phrases, stabs, etc.

    Anyway, I have a show this Friday and am looking forward to trying this out, wish me luck! Also, if anyone tries or has tried this, what was your experience with it?


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Any reader who is confused by tone talk should read The Tone Stack Explained in English for Humans, (archived from Pick Roar ), which explains how Fender/Marshall/Vox circuitry works.

  4. #3

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    Another good site to help understand tone stacks is TSC in the web. This lets you select the make and model of amp. Then you can adjust the tone pot values and see the effect it has on the frequency response. The affect of the tone knobs isn't always what you think it will be.

  5. #4

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    Thank you !
    I now understand why EQ pedals are so interesting.