The problem with playing electric guitar is that there is always something better than what you have. Whether it’s your guitar, amp, distortion, delay, cable, whatever – there is always something better than what you have in your hands. I fall into this trap all the time.
The progression goes something like this: I am satisfied with my tone. I read about a new piece of gear online. I am no longer satisfied with my tone. I sell the piece of equipment that I am no longer satisfied with and buy the new gear that I have been obsessing over. Rinse and repeat.
My most recent gear rinse cycle has been amp related. I was satisfied with my Top Hat Club Royale until someone offered me a different amp as part of a bigger trade. This particular amp was a Matchless Chieftain. I have always heard magical things about Matchless amps, so my interest was piqued, and I agreed to the trade. As soon as I plugged in the Chieftain I was pretty sure that I had made a mistake.
I pretty much hated it right off the bat, but I did my best to convince myself otherwise. I mean, how could I hate a Matchless? I tried swapping tubes, different guitars, and I tried some really weird knob settings. I finally found a setting that I didn’t hate, but didn’t really love. I tried to make the amp work for about 3 months before I gave up and sold it.
I ended up buying a Bogner Goldfinger 45, which is a really cool amp. [I'll work on a review/demo at some point.] It has a really fantastic clean channel. It might even be the best clean amp that I have ever used. The first time I plugged it in, I was really relieved that I didn’t immediately hate it. The gain channel is good and really flexible, but it’s kinda tricky to dial in. I would like a little more gain, but part of that problem may be the fact that I don’t have any humbucker guitars right now.
Anyway, now that I have an amp that I am happy with, I have resolved to try to stay happy with it. I need to work on my chops and stop trying to fix my musical shortcomings with my wallet.
A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I was working on a trade for a Matchless. I traded my Top Hat Club Royale and my AVRI Jaguar for a ’96 Chieftain. I really liked the Top Hat, and wasn’t really trying to get rid of it, but this trade kinda fell in my lap and I found it hard to say no. I was mostly trying to get rid of my Jaguar, and this guy asked me about the Chieftain and wanted to know if I had anything else that I could add to the trade.
I have had it for a few weeks now, and I have spent enough time with it to be able to say that I really, really like it. A lot. At first, I wasn’t so sure. The first time I dialed in a tone, it was really bright and somewhat unbalanced sounding, and it wasn’t getting along with my overdrives. I was having a hard time dialing in a tone that I was satisfied with. I swapped the preamp tubes for some lower gain Jan/Philips and Tung-Sols (I really don’t like JJ 12AX7s) and put some SED Winged =C= EL34s in the power section. That helped somewhat, but I still wasn’t totally satisfied.
I did a lot of reading on various forums, and people kept saying things like “the Chieftain is a loud amp” and “it’s meant to be played at stage volume.” The first opportunity I had to really turn it up, a lightbulb went off. As I turned the master volume up, that annoying brightness went away. As it turns out, there is a bright cap on the master volume that is intended to keep your tone bright at lower volume settings (or something like that). I may end up removing it, but I probably won’t, since this is a Mark Sampson era Matchless not that that necessarily means anything) and it might lower the potential resale value.
So anyway, with the master turned up to about 1:00 or higher, and the volume (gain) control set to 9:00 or so, The Chieftain delivers a really fat, well-balanced, albeit fairly loud clean tone. I am not very good at gear reviews because I don’t like using the familiar tone adjectives like sparkly, chimey, bell-like, creamy, woody, etc. I haven’t really delved into the natural amp overdrive, but I really love the cleans on this amp.
I have been on an amp tone quest for a long time, and I think I have hit a major milestone with the Matchless. I think I’ll hang onto this one for a while.
If the following conditions apply, then you should be listening to Punch Brothers:
you are a living human being
you enjoy music
you have a soul
Punch Brothers is a traditional bluegrass ensemble (mandolin, banjo, violin, guitar, and bass), but they don’t really play traditional bluegrass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t be listening to them. These guys are all exceptionally talented musicians, especially Chris Thile (mandolin/vocals) and Noam Pikelny (banjo). You may know Chris Thile through his work with Nickel Creek.
Anyway, here are a few videos.
You should be listening to these guys. If you aren’t, well, you may not have a soul.
I’m not even sure why I have this blog. I post like once a month. Maybe. Usually when I post, it’s only about new gear that I just bought. Yawn.
Speaking of which, I just bought some awesome new gear! I sold my bassman (why did I think I needed another amp?) and bought a Deluxe Memory Man Tap Tempo. It is amazing.
Other recent acquisitions:
Walrus Audio Voyager – It’s pretty much a Klon from what I can gather. As an overdrive, it’s not very good, but it’s an awesome boost.
Diamond Tremolo – it sounds awesome, but I’m still trying to figure out how to use it.
Timmy – it’s awesome. Pretty much every pedalboard needs one of these.
I also have a deal in the works to acquire a Matchless Chieftain, which is pretty much one of my dream amps. I’m trading my Jaguar and my Club Royale for it. (Chances are you have seen/heard this particular Chieftain if you have ever listened to lowercasenoises, aka Andy Othling/tubescreamer316 on youtube.)
Speaking of youtube, I recently recorded a demo of my pedalboard with my iPhone. If you want to hear some awkward narration and clumsy noodling – please watch!
It has been a while since my last post. That’s kind of becoming the norm around here. I need to stop waiting so long between posts.
Hmm, let’s see. I haven’t bought or sold any guitars since my last post, but I have bought and sold a bunch of pedals. My most recent acquisitions are a POG2 and a Teese RMC3 wah. Here is the current board:
I really want to like the POG2, but I’m having a hard time figuring it out. It seems to have quite a bit of boost to it, and it adds some noise to my signal. The effect is cool, but I think it may be a little overkill. I may end up going back to a Micro POG.
I have been playing with a clean tone a lot recently. I used to run my amp overdriven and push it further with overdrives and stuff, but I have moved away from that recently. I still use overdrive a lot for rhythm, but I’m finding myself going clean more often than not. A lot of the nuance gets lost with too much overdrive.
I want to get back into playing classical guitar. I really enjoyed it in college, but I pretty much quit playing after graduation. It was too much effort to keep the nails grown out to the proper length. However, I have been itching to get back into it. Unfortunately, I don’t even have a nylon string guitar anymore. I guess that’s something else to put on the list.
I guess the thing that has prompted the renewed interest in classical guitar is related to my new job situation. I am now teaching at 2 school, from grades 7-12. The top group at the high school is working on some pretty serious literature, and it made me realize that I have been slacking off lately. I mean, I am a classically trained musician, and I barely even practice anymore. It’s shameful, really.
Another thing that kind of inspired me was the discovery of a band called Punch Brothers. They are a bluegrass ensemble fronted by Chris Thile from Nickel Creek, and they play some pretty progressive music. It is virtuosic, clever, extremely melodic, and fun to listen to. I was watching some youtube videos and I came across a performance that they did of the third movement of the Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 3. That’s one of the pieces that we are working on with the high school group. I decided to start learning the violin 1 part. Most of it is really high and fast, and it is really stretching my chops. I have learned about 12 measures, so I’m about 25% of the way there.
In non-guitar news, we legally adopted the girls a couple of weeks ago. Brittany and Katie are now officially Hintze girls. Here’s a pic from adoption day.
For most of my life, I have been a skinny guy. I think I was like 130 lbs when I graduated high school, and I probably didn’t gain much weight in college, either. I’m 34 years old now, and I have put on a lot of weight since my school days. A lot of it is muscle, but a lot of it is… not muscle. Anyway, at the beginning of this summer I was close to 200 lbs. To me, that was unacceptable.
about 6-7 weeks ago, my wife and I decided that we were going to get in better shape. We decided to start watching what we eat and drink, and most importantly, we decided to start exercising regularly. We have been members of a gym for several years now, but we have never really taken advantage of it. We have certainly taken advantage of it over the last month or so.
I have been going to the gym 8-10 times a week. I have spent most of my time on the treadmill, but I have also done some basic weight training. I usually set the incline really high and the speed somewhere between 3.5 – 4 mph. It’s not very fast, but my goal is to get my heart rate up for an extended period of time. I usually walk something like 45 mins to an hour twice a day. According to the treadmill computer thing, I burn about 1200-1400 calories a day.
On Friday, I weighed in at 184 lbs. I don’t know exactly what I weighed when I started, but I think I have lost something like 12-15 lbs in the last 6 weeks. That’s kind of a big deal, I think. I can really tell a difference in the way my body looks and the way my clothes fit.
I have another week of summer before I have to go back to work. I have committed to continue exercising, even though I know that I won’t be able to continue the same regimen that I have been doing recently. I don’t want to go back to where I was, and I am confident that I won’t.
I need to purge/update my blogroll, so let me know if you have a blog or whatever that I don’t have listed. I try to keep the regular commenters listed, but I may have missed a couple, especially if you’re a lurker.
The strymon timeline delay pedal is tentatively set to be released around the end of April – early May, so I have begun preparing to purchase it as soon as it becomes available. This means selling anything that isn’t nailed down.
The first thing to go was the most expensive pedal on my board – the strymon Brigadier. This one hurt, because I absolutely love the way that this pedal sounds. However, a couple of little things kind of annoy me about it. One is that the tap tempo warbles like crazy when you tap it during the middle of a song. Yeah, I know that’s the way that an analog delay would sound if you twisted the knobs in the middle of a song, but how is is musically appropriate for a tap tempo? The other thing that is somewhat annoying is the modulation. I can’t set it any higher than 9:00 on the dial or it just sounds totally out of tune. It would have been nice if there were separate depth and speed controls. Other than that – it’s an amazing pedal.
The next thing to go is going to be the Boss RV-5 reverb. I really like this pedal, but I can totally live without it. I will miss having that lush modulated setting, especially on volume swells. I may just have to repurchase this one somewhere down the line.
I will probably sell my DL4 once I get the timeline. I like the DL4 quite a bit, but it will probably be redundant/inferior once the timeline is on the board.
I really hope that strymon doesn’t keep us waiting too long on this pedal.
Radiohead has been working on a new album for a while now, and they have been pretty secretive about details such as when they’re going to release it. On Monday, they announced that it’s available for presale and will be ready for digital download on Saturday.
It’s $9 for the MP3 version, and $14 for the WAV version. Buy it, because it will be awesome. It has to be.
I’m a little late posting this, but I got a new guitar last week. I sold the Mesa Dual Rectifier and bought this. It’s an ’07 Les Paul Standard in pretty much mint condition. It has a 60′s neck and a pretty amazing-looking finish. I really wanted a plain top, but this flame is pretty sweet and not too over-the-top. I want to change out the pickups eventually, but these will do for now.
It came without a pickguard, and I didn’t want to screw any holes into the guitar, so I grabbed a screwless pickguard from this guy. Pretty cool idea.