Jan 8 2010

Tip of the Week: The String Cleaner

by Josh

John is a new addition to TheGuitarZero team. He has been playing guitar since he was a little kid, and has spent most of his adult life chasing tone and knowing all there is to know about guitar gear.

Here is a simple tip that will save you time and money.

A great way to save on string wear is to get a clean cloth and wipe down your strings before and after you play.  When you play the oils in your fingers get deposited on the surface of the string.  That can lead to corrosion or even rust leading to bad strings.  Dirty strings are unhappy strings.  So by wiping down your strings before and after each time you play you will save time by not having to change the strings and money by not having to buy them.  A good product is called The String Cleaner.  Its specifically designed with hook shaped microfiber to eliminate virtually all junk from your strings.

The fact that it works better than anything else out there combined with its small, flexible, easy to use design means that it will be money well spent: you will make that back in no time with the strings you don’t need to buy.

Sep 28 2009

Distortions at a Glance

by John

John is a new addition to TheGuitarZero team. He has been playing guitar since he was a little kid, and has spent most of his adult life chasing tone and knowing all there is to know about guitar gear.

This week I will be exploring the infinite ocean that is “Distortion pedals.”  Distortion can be broken up into several different categories.  Saying you have a distortion pedal is like saying you have a car.  People get the point of what it is but they have no clue if its a convertible, sedan, import, race car, truck, SUV, etc.  Essentially distortion is the over-amplification of the input signal coming from your guitar.  I’m sure everyone here is familiar with the idea.

Low Gain

So lets go from the low gain distortions to the high gain distortions.  At the low gain side of the distortion you have overdrive.  Overdrive gives you a very mild distortion.  It it usually meant to “overdrive” your amplifier.  Meaning it pushes the signal to your amp so the signal breaks up a little bit to generally give you a smooth sounding tone.  A fantastic overdrive pedal would be an Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer or a Boss BD-2.  A famous example of a lot of overdrive is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood and an example of mild overdrive can be heard on the solo of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2 solo.

Medium Gain

The medium gain distortion sound is what most people think of as distortion.  This is the classic sound that the 90’s grunge scene was founded on.  This is basically amplifying your guitar signal much more and through different internal components i.e. transistors, diodes, etc.  The classic distortion of choice for most musicians is the classic orange Boss DS-1.  This pedal is the equivalent of pressing the distortion button on most of your practice amps at home.  There are so many high quality medium gain distortions out there you wouldn’t believe me if I told you…  The choices are practically endless.  A few great distortion boxes out there would be the Xvex Box of Rock, the afore mentioned Boss DS-1 if you are on a budget, Proco Rat, and the Xotic BB preamp.

High Gain

Lets talk high gain pedals!  These pedals are distortion on steroids…  These high gain pedals we are about to talk about are the huge sounding distortions you hear by bands such as Metallica, Disturbed, Nickelback, and any other Nu Metal band out there.  Many guitarists get that great sound simply by buying an amplifier that has a high gain circuit built right in.  Like the Mesa Boogie Rectifiers, most Randall amps and the Peavey XXX.  These will 99% of the time be a better sound than any pedal.  But there are hundreds of awesome high gain pedals out there that will get you pretty darn close at a fraction of the cost.  The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone and the Boss ML-2 Metal Core are probably the most versatile, best sounding high gain pedal out there.  The Digitech Hardwire TL-2 Metal Distortion is really good as well.  You might want to be careful about some of these higher gain pedals because some companies want to push the envelope so much they end up making a pedal that has so much distortion it sounds terrible.  I won’t name any names but on your journey you will come across more than a few of these.

Distortion pedals generally work the same way.  Its how much they crank up your signal and what internal components are used.  These always vary from pedal to pedal.  Another neat trick that makes your distortion stand out is to put an overdrive pedal after your distortion pedal.  That will get you that meaty Eric Johnson/ Steve Vai tones.  Also subscribe to a few YouTube channels that do nothing but pedal demos.  My favorite subscriptions are proguitarshopdemos and gearmanndude.  Just type those names into the youtube search bar and subscribe to them.  You will learn a lot and at least get a good knowledge of how these pedals sound at different settings.  I will be back next week with another article that will help you on your tone quest.  Until then….  Jam hard.