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DunedinDragon

Complexity

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Being bored I decided to peruse some of the training materials posted above in this forum.  Of particular note were the tone templates.

 

What I found interesting, and something I've been wondering about for a while now is the general lack of complexity in those setups which were ostensibly copied from the setups used by major artists.  For example, I don't see a whole lot of effects except on the ones you expect like David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix.  More importantly you don't see any with dual amp configurations.

 

I find this interesting because I see a lot of discussion in this forum regarding dual amps, and mountains of effects.  I know for myself I have about 50 or 60 presets developed which match up with my band's repertoire of songs.  So far, no dual amps, no mutiple signal paths with various effects.  In fact, aside from the loop and volume pedal I think the max effects I may have in any one patch may be around 4 which includes a final EQ effect.

 

I'm not saying I don't do a considerable amount of tweaking on the amps to get the sound I'm after including some of the DEP, but so far I haven't found it necessary to add to the complexity of the signal chain to get the sound I'm looking for.  This makes me wonder if some (or maybe a lot) of this complexity is driven by "what I am able to add" versus "what do I really need".

 

To give a specific example of this, I was developing a patch for a specific song the band does which uses some fairly hefty overdriven sounds and it seemed to me that the level of overdrive was washing out some necessary detail.  I first thought about splitting the signal chain and adding another amp with some cleaner attributes.  But then I thought about the BIAS control.  I adjusted that and in no time I had the detail I wanted.

 

Don't get me wrong.  I love all the capabilities the POD provides.  I like to have options.  But I wonder if it doesn't also cause people to add unecessary complexity and introduce unforseen additional artifacts. that a simpler approach might not.

 

What do you guys think?

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Most of my patches are not overly complicated either. I see no point in routing everything to Hell and back, just because I can. I do use dual amps a lot, but for the smooth transitions between tones without the drop out of switching patches. I don't really bother with trying to merge 2 amps for one tone.

 

For FX, it's pretty sparse. A delay, reverb, sometimes a little chorus for the clean tones, and either the tube drive or the screamer in front of the amp model for crunchy rhythm tones. I want it to sound like a guitar, not a spaceship.

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Less is more!

 

I'm only allowed 3 fx blocks per patch on the firehawk but I'm yet to find a tone I couldn't create for the covers we do.

When I create patches for our own material the amp tone and behaviour is always priority for me, I might have a special feature effect like an ambient delay for an intro but usually I'll have an fx block spare.

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1. Studio vs live. Live patches can often be simple (and mono) because no one hears fx in dive bars. But studio work can be a little bit more involved. 

 

2. You are absolutely correct. I've said numerous times - people try too hard and end up over-complicating things. The very sounds some people are trying to reproduce were made 50 years ago with a Marshall stack cranked to ten. Nothing fancy. Nothing tweaked. Why do we need 8 various effects trying to match it. 

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Agreed. Keep it as simple as possible. Complexity tends to lead to mushiness. Pre-eq and a bit of drive (often in the same effect), right amp, right cab and mic, bit of verb and you are done.

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1. Studio vs live. Live patches can often be simple (and mono) because no one hears fx in dive bars. But studio work can be a little bit more involved. 

 

2. You are absolutely correct. I've said numerous times - people try too hard and end up over-complicating things. The very sounds some people are trying to reproduce were made 50 years ago with a Marshall stack cranked to ten. Nothing fancy. Nothing tweaked. Why do we need 8 various effects trying to match it. 

 

I doubt anyone is using eight effects to replicate something that's simple to begin with. That would be kind of stupid.

 

But there's a tendency in some, maybe many, certainly myself, to be always looking for something unique. One good way to achieve that, whether true or not, is to add layers of complexity in the tone. However, that good way can easily be misguided and the end result might only exist in the tone maker's mind.

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When I first got my 500x, my first main high gain chain was something like this:

 

Gate>comp>screamer>gate>dual amps>Parametric EQ and then whatever delay or verb I wanted.

 

I think after a while I realized the extra Gate and comp weren't necessary, and then I whittled it down to one amp/cab with some knob tweaking to get it to sound almost the same.

 

Turns out that things sounded better with less in the chain.

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I rarely use any compressor in gain-tones (only in some clean-sounds) and I wonder if there could be any advantage in using comps even in distorted tones?

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I often put a compressor in a higher gain tone to help clean up some flabbiness in the low end, when other methods seem not to work, and just to generally make things a little more balanced and defined. A compressor in a higher gain lead tone can provide for that little bit of extra sustain, assuming you don't have sort of cheating method like an infinitely sustaining pickup.

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Yes mine are also simple ones, but patches for gigs would be more complex to avoid patch switching

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Yes mine are also simple ones, but patches for gigs would be more complex to avoid patch switching

 

I guess I don't experience this type of complexity in my gigs because each song has it's own dedicated patch.  The most complexity I've run into are situations in which I have multiple effects assigned to the same footswitch, more or less creating the effect of a second patch in songs where there's a need for a fairly dramatic shift in the sound palette.

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I rarely use any compressor in gain-tones (only in some clean-sounds) and I wonder if there could be any advantage in using comps even in distorted tones?

 

 

I often put a compressor in a higher gain tone to help clean up some flabbiness in the low end, when other methods seem not to work, and just to generally make things a little more balanced and defined. A compressor in a higher gain lead tone can provide for that little bit of extra sustain, assuming you don't have sort of cheating method like an infinitely sustaining pickup.

 

I haven't seen a need for a compressor in higher gain tones as the overdriven tones are pretty well squashed anyway and I get plenty of sustain from the available pedals.  Mostly I use compressors for late 60's clean/crunchy tones like the Rolling Stones or The Who to even them out.  Where I've used them consistently is on fully strummed clean tones (similar to an acoustic guitar) or particularly when finger picking on my hollow body Gretsch to get that Chet Atkins sound.  But I'm really not looking for sustain as much as I am a more balanced response across the strings. 

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I use a tube comp as a gain stage sometimes. Not too often anymore but it works well with some amps.

 

But on the topic of complexity, sometimes I like to make patches that mimic synthesizers. Those can get pretty complex.

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I haven't seen a need for a compressor in higher gain tones as the overdriven tones are pretty well squashed anyway and I get plenty of sustain from the available pedals. Mostly I use compressors for late 60's clean/crunchy tones like the Rolling Stones or The Who to even them out. Where I've used them consistently is on fully strummed clean tones (similar to an acoustic guitar) or particularly when finger picking on my hollow body Gretsch to get that Chet Atkins sound. But I'm really not looking for sustain as much as I am a more balanced response across the strings.

 

Could be related to the type of PU we use? I use EMG81 in bridge position and an additional comp seems to muddle high-gain tones, maybe because the PU compresses the tone by itself?

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Could be related to the type of PU we use? I use EMG81 in bridge position and an additional comp seems to muddle high-gain tones, maybe because the PU compresses the tone by itself?

One thing for sure with high output pickup like that, you'll get to the saturation point in gain faster than with a less sensitive pickup.

 

If you think about what a high gain signal looks like on a scope, the very nature of high gain is to chop off the peaks of the signal which produces the overdriven sound.  When you add a compressor into the mix you're increasing the volume level on the low side of the signal making the difference between the chopped off peaks and the non chopped off signal less.  This would result in less articulation or what you might call saturation of the signal.  Where this would likely show up would be in the pick attack which would have less definition.

 

This is what I was referring to when I said high gain signals were pretty much squashed anyway, and a compressor just adds to the squashing.

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Another thing to take into consideration with pickups is the distance from the strings. Too close, you'll lose sustain and it may start to sound muddy and not well defined. Too far and things can start sounding thin. Find that just right place, the goldilocks zone. But that's been my experience with passive pickups. Don't know if active pickups behave the same way, but I suspect it would be similar.

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In my high gain tone I use a compressor both before and after the Amp/cab but they are both set to very little compression.  I prefer this to the single compressor before the Amp using more compression.  The compressor after the Amp seems to reduce the volume of chords while not compressing or reducing the volume of single notes as much.  This helps my single note riffs come through the mix better.  Definitely takes a little tweaking to achieve the right balance.

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