Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sometimes You Really Have to Work For It

Programming appropriate digital effects for the guitar is an art as well as a science. I've spent literally decades learning the parameters for digital reverbs, phase shifters, flangers, choruses, notch filters, &c. and I'm constantly learning new things and figuring more stuff out.

As I've mentioned before, my set is organized into suites of three to eight pieces which progress around the cycle of thirds starting on A: A minor, C major, E minor, G major, &c. all the way to B major, which is the most remote key I have organized a suite for so far. Each one of these twelve suites has a unique program in my Lexicon MPX-G2's, and the programs - I call them "virtual acoustic environments" - roughly increase in complexity and/or percieved richness of stereo depth. For example, the initial program has a mild stereo hall reverb and just a touch of pitch shift doubling, but by the time the eighth suite - A major - is reached, there are no less than five simultaneous effects at work: Dual Stereo Pitch Shift Doubling, Stereo Tremolo, Stereo Flanger, Dual Stereo Delay, and the original Stereo Hall Reverb, but at a higher mix level than way back in the first virtual acoustic environment. The mix ratios of the various effects run from 27% for the doubler and the delay to 45% for the tremolo: I have found that by using small amounts of several effects I can create vast stereo vistas that have deep psyco-acoustic effects on the listeners - myself included (And, these VAE's inspire my performance enormously) - without allowing any one effect to dominate. In fact, hardly anybody - including seasoned recording engineers - is able to tell exactly what effects I'm using, except for the general "chorus and reverb" verdicts.

Since I got my first MPX-G2 back in 1999 and have had as many as three of them at some points, I have spent hundreds of man-hours programming these VAE's: I'm constantly fiddling with them, and a couple of times a year I'll go through them all and edit them if I feel the need. As a result, these highly evolved programs are a treasure, and I can usually adapt them quickly for a new guitar. For example, there are twelve programs for my Godin Grand Concert SA guitar, and another set of twelve - just variations on Godin versions - for my La Patrie Concert Cutaway with the Carlos CP-1 High End pickup. Each one of those guitars requires different input levels, tone settings, and the acoustic La Patrie "wants" lower effects levels throughout than the electric Godin does. The problem has been the wretched, blasted fretted Glissentar with the Carlos CP-1A Professional: I could never get the blasted solid state preamp in the MPX-G2 to pull enough out of it. Note that this is not a fault with the Carlos pickup, but is a result of the semi-solid nature of the Glissentar's body: It doesn't resonate enough to produce a high output. I've struggled with this for months totalling nearly a year. Tone was great/Output was anemic.

*Fanfare* Enter the awesome Lexicon Signature 284 "All Tube Class "A" Stereo Recording Amplifier and Direct Source"... BAM! as Emeril would say. I originally got the Sig 284 for the output section: I wanted a warmer, more dynamic sound than the Bryston's were giving me. So, I was still using the G2's in stand-alone mode, and just running past the Sig's preamp... Then it hit me: "Haaaaaaay! I wonder what would happen if I switched to an MPX-1 and used the Sig's tube preamp?"


Not only is there enough gain to run the Glissentar now, but I can pull it through to the most heinous heavy metal overdrive sound on the planet!... ahem... not that I would ever do such a thing in performance (He types, laughing quietly to himself).

So, here it is, The Rig of Doom:

As an aside, you may notice that I moved this setup to a larger six space rack. That was so I could add the vent plate and regain the freer convection I had before the Baringers were added to the setup: The racks were just getting too hot without them.

Since the MPX-1 has so much less memory than the MPX=G2's do - I can"t even combine a pitch shift doubler with a chorus or flanger here *humpf* - this rack will be for the Glissentar, and my other project (Muaaaahahahahaaaa!) of an MPX-G2 running into a MESA/Boogie 20/20 "Dyna Watt All Tube Stereo EL84" power amp will be for the Godin and the La Patrie... Say, I can now have a fourth guitar, can't I? *rubbing hands together*


Some things you just know are going to be worth all the trouble they entail.


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