Stone Temple Pilots Concert

I went to see Stone Temple Pilots on Saturday night and it was a pretty good show. I was a big fan of Core when it came out (I was in high school), and it was cool to hear those songs live.

Scott Weiland did okay. It sounds like a lifetime of smoking and drinking has taken its toll – not mention the heroin. He looks pretty terrible. I’d be surprised if he weighs more than 100 lbs. The first 5 or 6 songs were pretty rough, but it seems like he found his voice after that. They played from 9:30 – 11:00, so it was a pretty decent set. They played a pretty good mix of songs, mostly concentrating on Core and Purple.

The band sounded great. I think that while Scott was shooting up, Robert and Dean DeLeo (bass and guitar) and Eric Kretz (drums) must have been practicing. They were just solid. Dean took a lot of solos, and I was amazed at how full the sound was with just bass and drums – Robert is a monster.

From what I understand, Dean runs 2 amps – a cranked Marshall (4×12) and a clean AC-30 (2×12). The Vox helps the weirdo chords retain their clarity while the Marshall gives him that huge Marshall sound.

It wasn’t the best show I’ve ever been to, but I’m glad I went.

Kung Fu Panda

I took Jack to see Kung Fu Panda this week, and I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t really know anything about it, but I haven’t been all that crazy about the last few animated movies from Dreamworks. Anyway, I didn’t really know anything about the movie, except that it has Jack Black in it.

There is too much Jack Black in the world today. I liked him when he was just the guy from Tenacious D. His first couple of movies were okay, but he is everywhere now as the big name on the billboard. Well, the opening sequence of this movie was amazing. It was this ultra-stylized dream sequence where Jack Black is narrating his own character as this amazing kung fu master. It reminded me of the JB from the Tenacious D song “Tribute,” which is a really funny song by the way.

The rest of this movie is really funny, clever and well-acted. The action scenes – and there were a lot of them – were fantastic. It was like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with actual tigers, pandas, snakes, etc. I’m not going to do a full review here, but if you have kids, I would definitely recommend taking them to see Kung Fu Panda. Jack was almost literally rolling in his chair with laughter. The only questionable content in the movie was a couple of uses of the word “sucked.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s better than all of the donkey/ass jokes in the Shrek movies.

In other news, I’m really looking forward to seeing WALL-E. It looks amazing. I’m convinced that Pixar can do no wrong.

Trem demo

Here’s a little recording that I did of the tremolo. I start out dry, then add the trem. I play with the speed and depth settings. At about the 1:45 mark I turn on the delay and play with some textural stuff. Right now I have the trem after the delay. I tried it the other way, and I think I like it better this way.

Anyway, here’s the clip. Feel free to post your thoughts, critiques, etc. This recording was done in Garageband with the software amp sim – not my Stulce. I don’t have a recording interface yet.

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The trem is working

I finally got the capacitors that I needed to finish building my tremolo, and I got it finished up last night, er, this morning. I got everything wired up, so I plugged it in and saw that the LED was pulsing in tempo, which is always a good sign. It worked in bypass, so I stepped on the switch and it sounded exactly the same – no tremolo.

I checked my wiring and everything was fine, so I checked my solder joints on the PCB. I touched every bit of solder to make sure that solder was flowing where it’s supposed to and plugged everything back in. Voila – the tremolo works. Apparently, I had a cold solder joint somewhere.

Anyway, it sounds really good. I need to figure out some settings, because I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to use it. I’m thinking that I probably won’t for for real deep choppy trem, but go for kinda spacey shallow trem for a more textured sound. I’ll try to post some clips in the next day or two.

Mikey’s TV habits

Mikey has been playing with the remote control lately, so you never know what channel the tv is going to be on when you turn it on. This morning it was on the News from the Middle East channel or something. I had no idea that we had that channel. I would watch it all the time.

He also pushes enough random buttons that he manages to set the DVR to record. It’s usually something totally off the wall – like last month when he set it to record Flavor of Love with Flava Flav.

Tremolo roadblock

I have reached a stopping point with my tremolo build. I received the rest of the parts that I ordered yesterday, so after the kids went to bed I got to work populating the board. I put the resistors in, the trimpot, the transistors, the electrolytic capacitors, then the regular capacitors. By the way, my soldering technique is getting much better. I was almost done when I realized that I was out of components. The schematic calls for 3 .68µF capacitors and I only had one. I went back and checked my order sheet, and I only ordered one. Ugh. I checked at Radio Shack this afternoon, and they didn’t have the right value – of course.

Oh well, this build was already going to take longer than I thought because Small Bear Electronics didn’t send the pots that I ordered. In the last shipment I got from them, they didn’t send the sockets and knobs that I ordered. Two orders in row with items missing. I could understand if I ordered like 100 knobs and they sent 98 or something, but they just totally skipped the item altogether.

I think I’m done with Small Bear. In the future, I’m doing all my orders through Mouser or Pedal Parts Plus unless Small Bear is the only place to find what I need.

More Wah Mods

I just did a couple of little tweaks to my wah pedal that really fattened things up.

Vocal Mod – I replaced the stock 33k resistor with a 68k. I’m not sure exactly what this does, but it made the “wah” sound a little more vocal.

Sweep Range – This was the big one. I replaced the .01µF capacitor with .022µF. If I understand it correctly the larger value capacitor allows more bass into the circuit, making the output fatter and less nasal.

I almost screwed up my wah doing the sweep range mod. When I desoldered the old capacitor and pulled it out, I think I pulled off one of the solder pads. This left nothing on the PCB for the solder to stick to. I ended up following the trace and soldering the leg of the capacitor to the next component in the circuit. I wasn’t sure that it was going to work, but I fired it up and it sounded great.

There are a few more little tweaks that I may try, but I think I’m pretty much done with it for the time being.

True Bypass mod for wah pedals

I got a used crybaby wah a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed right away that it colored my tone even when it was not switched on. Mechanical true bypass uses a DPDT (double pole double throw) or 3PDT (triple pole double throw) switch to ensure that the original signal is unaltered unless the effect is engaged.

When I ordered the parts for my tremolo, I picked up a new switch from Small Bear Electronics. Part of the order showed up yesterday did this mod last night. It was a little more involved than I anticipated, but it wasn’t too hard. I had to cut a trace on the PCB and resolder all the connections to the switch.

I’m pretty sure that it sounds better in bypass mode now. It’s hard to tell without a true A-B comparison, but it seems like the tone was a lot darker and muddier before. The actual tone of the wah is still pretty harsh, so I need to look into doing some of those other mods. If I have the right resistor/capacitor values I’ll probably do some of the mods pretty soon. I’ll probably to the vocal mod and the sweep range mod to make it a little less trebly and more smooth.

Stulce SA-10H

FedEx showed up earlier this afternoon with a package for me direct from Oklahoma. Obviously, I’m talking about my new amp from Stulce. My first reaction – it’s really wide (24″) and really red. It looks pretty wild sitting on top of my orange Avatar speaker cabinet.
 

Stulce SA-10H

As I have mentioned, I have been playing the combo version of this amp in church for the last few weeks (thanks Maury – you may now take your amp home ;) ), so I already knew that it sounded great. However, I have been hearing it through in-ear monitors – it’s a totally different experience when you’re standing/sitting right in front of it.

First of all, this is an extremely versatile amp. When you crank the master volume you can control the output volume with the gain controls. This makes for a very pristine clean tone, perfect for chimey open chords. I should also mention that this amp takes pedals extremely well.

On the other end of the spectrum, when you dime the gains and adjust the overall volume with the master volume knob you get this amazing distortion. I don’t even know how to describe it. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s probably the most perfect rock distortion that I can imagine. Leads just sing and sustain, and the rhythm tone is extremely dynamic. It responds amazingly well to picking style as well as the guitar volume controls.

Of course, there are many options in between these extremes, and I explored a lot of them this afternoon. The hard part is going to be deciding where to leave the controls set while I’m playing. As much as I would love to crank the gains, that’s just not very practical. Likewise, it feels like a waste of such great natural distortion to leave the amp set clean and use pedals for dirt. I guess there’s only one solution: I have to get another one. Seriously, I’ll probably leave it on one of the many “in between” settings so that I can lighten my pick attack for clean stuff, play harder for light overdrive, and step on a dirt pedal for higher gain settings.

I can imagine that the Stulce SA-10 would be a fantastic studio amp. It can cover a lot of ground. I’ve only had it for a few hours, but I think that the honeymoon is going to last a while on this purchase. I’ve been through several amps in the last few years (Reverend Hellhound, Reverend Goblin, Fender Pro Jr, Reeves Custom 6) and the Stulce outclasses all of them by a longshot. It’s not even close, really. If you get a chance, play one. If you want to try mine and you live in the Houston area, let me know and maybe we can meet up. I can’t recommend this amp highly enough.

[I tried recording some clips this afternoon, but I don't have a recording interface for my computer. I gave the internal mic on my MacBook a shot, but it didn't really sound right. I could post them anyway, but I don't want to misrepresent this amp.]

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Jenny and I watched the documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters last night. I liked it a lot. If you haven’t heard of it, it follows this underdog-type guy (Steve Wiebe) around as he tries to get the best Donkey Kong score. His rival is a guy named Billy Mitchell, a sleazy hot-sauce salesman from Florida who has held the record score since the mid ’80s.

It may not seem remotely interesting, but it was great. I don’t even like classic gaming. It’s just a really cool story about a regular guy who fights the good fight against an opponent who won’t play fair and a system that is stacked against him. It transcends the video game premise and becomes something bigger.

Anyway – it gets my recommendation. Check it out.