Engaging The Music
I had a productive hour of practicing guitar today. After I came out of the studio, I said to my wife, "I felt really one with the music and played well. My instruments are connecting me to what I'm playing in such an incredible way that I'm getting greater satisfaction out of the whole experience."
Today's rig was an SC58 with 53/10s and an ebony board, through the HX/DA amp.
For me, this is a magical combination. Notes come out of the speakers as instantly as I think them, sounding exactly like how I want them to sound. That's a beautiful thing. It connects my entire being to the process of creating each note, and each phrase. Great instruments that speak to you help you to achieve that. There is a warmth, there is the sound of the room itself, and there are intangibles that add up.
For me - I can only speak for myself here - playing through a real amp in the room is a necessary part of achieving this immersive experience. I feel the same way about playing a real piano vs a digital piano, as great as some of the digital re-creations sound (my digital piano samples take 36 Gigs, and sound amazing on tape), but playing the sampler in a room is still a different experience than playing an actual piano in the same room. Friends often ask me, "Geez, you can barely tell the difference on tape, why not get an Axe-FX or something similar and have all those sounds for your recording projects?" Well, for me the answer is, "I've got modelers, and use them sometimes. I've used the Axe-FX and admire it. But for me, the musical experience isn't the same. I just don't play as well via a modeler." I have to go with what works.
The reason has to do with this feeling of immersion into the music and into each note. It's something I can't describe.
But my point isn't really about what works for me, tubes, acoustic or digital - your mileage may vary. My point is that becoming truly engaged in the process of making music makes things better, no matter what gets you there.
It's pretty clear what blows the doors off for me: a great sounding PRS and a truly great PRS amp. I couldn't be any more involved with what I'm doing.
Is there gear that helps you engage the music that you feel this way about?
Yep, I agree with the modeller thing.
They're good and useful tools but there's just something a bit more three dimensional or immersive about playing through a real - and good - valve amp that I can't get with modellers. It's partly the way a good valve amp reacts to the playing. The digital modellers just don't seem to give me that reaction even if they do sound good.
When everything comes together the magic happens. The tone is good, i'm happy with my playing. There's just a smooth flow to everything and I don't feel like i'm having to battle with anything. Almost feels like the guitar is playing itself and i'm just listening to it!
Unfortunately, it doesn't happen everytime! :(
Absolutely. A big part of what immerses me in the music is the feel of my playing. And I don't mean "feel" like a vibe or some perceived notion, I literally mean the tactile feedback of the notes I play - vibrations of the guitar, string tension, the thump in my chest from my amp when I hit a note hard. And even the entry level PRS stuff does that for me (I can only imagine what stuff like the rig above would be like - someday it'll happen for me). Many other guitars I've played don't have the resonance of a PRS. Other amps don't have the "just-right" mix of bass in their tone. And when it comes to the modeling stuff like Axe FX, I've heard incredible sounds from it, but to really get what I'm describing, I would need a rack and power amp setup, at which point I would rather just have a good amp and a few pedals. I don't need 200 sounds to inspire me, no matter their quality, I know the few sounds I want for my playing style and if I'm getting them, I'm good to go. I make them fit the track with my hands. Anyways, my point is, playing has such a deeper dimension when you can actually feel what you're doing, in addition to just hearing it. Doesn't have to be at 11 on a 100 watt amp either, it can be done at moderate volumes. I moved up to a 2x12 cab from a 1x12 and that made a huge difference too, the sound is much more full now.
Originally Posted by LSchefman
Also, like you described above, when notes go instantly from your brain to your hands, and also in how much immediacy there is in the notes as they come out of your amp. I just put a set of 57/08's in my Akesson, and notes are so rock-solid now - it's a combination of punchiness and instant clarity. The end result is to think a note, and it just comes out the way I want, no waiting to hear what I'm expecting, it's just right there, instantly, and I'm already moving on.
I don't have that one guitar/amp combo that does it for me. All of my guitars and amps inspire me equally.
I see them as different paint colors that mix differently with each other.
I do play much better when using a good tube amp. There is an interaction I get that makes me more comfortable.
I think that modelers are useful tools that I use on occasion.
The tone and feel of my Ramirez classical guitar makes me very comfortable. I can do things that were previously impossible.
The volume and projection makes the guitar a pleasure to play. Subtleties in my playing come out easier in this guitar.
Now that I've played for it for a while, I feel like I was fighting against my old Yamaha guitar.
No digital keys or samples are as immersive and inspirational as my wifes baby grand piano.
It is located in a large room and is wonderful to play.
I have two minds on this. On the one hand, the relatively "easy" cover band stuff that I do seems independant of particular guitars and amps. From an independant perspective, I'd probably do just as well with a clean fender and pedals and my old SG as I'd do with some of my more fancy equipment.
I'm fortunate enough to have a reason to look at some of the more exotic gear for professional reasons, and on a personal level, that's a good portion of the fun. My "profession" isn't dependant on my musicianship, so I'm not dependant on how well particular gear works out for me.
From a personal satisfaction point of view, the HX/DA and an SC58 is simp;y wonderful. I couldn't see ever needing anything more than that. But then again, so is my SC Ted and the MDT. And then again, so is my vintage '54 Les Paul and my Marshall 2466. And there's my vintage JTM45 and my double carve R8. And then there's ...........
I think that it's tougher for somebody like Les, who depends on this stuff for a living, than it is for us weekend warriors. For me, it's all about fun. Our shows will work out no matter what, and I've got a paid reason to acquire and model a ton of gear.
If I had to earn a living at this, I think that I'd probably stick with the following:
1. HX/DA amp
2. Marshall 2466 amp.
3. DC Ted
4. Vintage 1954 Les Paul
5. Two Rock Signature Overdrive
Fortunatlely, I don't have to make a living on my performance (I'd probably starve). So, I get to enjoy all of the rest of the stuff I'm exposed to.
I have been doing so much work at home on headphones lately, and that's something I have not done in such a long time. Normally at the studios I will work in, I'm too busy dancing around and having a good time, that I really find myself more "engaged" with the cans on for the moment.