Thursday, December 10, 2009

More on "getting the right sound" (for electric guitarists)

I wanted to share my experiences about an innovative set of pedals from Boss – the FDR-1 “Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb” and the FBM-1 “Fender '59 Bassman.” The Boss web site describes these pedals as “A pedal with the original tone and controls of the Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb-Amp” and “A pedal with the original tone and controls of the Fender '59 Bassman Amp.” Let me explain a little more about what this means and how I came to like these pedals.

I recently joined a new band. Part of the overall stage appearance of the new band was to have a “clean” stage, meaning no amplifiers all over the place. Everyone plays through the mixer using direct boxes. For my style of playing, I have always considered the guitar amplifier to be an integral part of the tone. My belief is that the guitar amplifier must be chosen with the same care and considerations as selecting the proper guitar. There are different types of amplifiers for different guitar tones, for example; old Vox amps are popular with the “British Sound” bands such as the Beatles, Marshall Stacks are great for the hard rock and heavy metal players, blues guitarists seem to prefer the older Fender tweed amps or similar tube amps from other manufactures, surf music requires a Fender piggy-back amp with reverb, such as the Dual Showman with the Fender Reverb unit plugged in, jazz players like amps such as Polytone, Roland JC-120, and the Fender Twin Reverb, and so on.

For me personally, my sound was developed around the Fender “blackface” amps from the years 1964-1967. Throughout most of my career, I used a Fender Vibrolux Reverb, Pro Reverb or Twin Reverb. The reason I chose these was because they were loud enough to be heard in a nightclub and could be mic’d for outdoor concerts. If I was going to mic my amp all the time, I would have gone for the same sound in a smaller amp, which is available in the Fender Princeton Reverb and the Deluxe Reverb amplifiers.

Back to the problem at hand – how could I get the sound of playing through my Fender blackface amplifier if I had to plug straight into the mixer and not use an amplifier at all? At one point in the past I had owned a Line-6 Pod, which is an “amp and cabinet” simulator. I bought it because I was thrilled that it could make me sound like I was using anything from a `57 Fender Champ to a Marshall stack to a Dumble Overdrive. After playing around with it for several weeks, it ended up on the shelf. I didn’t think that the sounds were as good as the “real thing.” Let me clarify that statement – what I meant was, the best way to sound like you are playing through a blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb amp is to play through a blackface Fender Deluxe Reverb amp! Why use a simulator when you can use the real thing? Well, the real thing was not an option in the case of the new band. I probably could have bought a little Princeton Reverb and hid it off to the side in a baffle box so it couldn’t be heard directly, only through the mix, but I wanted to see what other options were available.

I stopped by my local Guitar Center store and they showed me the Boss FDR-1 “Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb” and the FBM-1 “Fender '59 Bassman” pedals. These are small “stomp-box” pedals like a chorus pedal or a distortion pedal. Each pedal has knobs on it to match the original amp. Since I am more of a blackface aficionado that a tweed player, I chose the FDR-1 “Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb” pedal over the other. The controls on the pedal are Level, Gain, Treble, Bass, Vibrato and Reverb. This is an even better layout than the original 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier, which didn’t have a separate “gain” control – only a master volume for each channel. Using different settings for the gain and the volume knobs, I could get everything from that bright clear sound these Fenders are noted for to a thick overdriven sound like a few players were able to get from their modified “hot rodded” Fender amps. I set the treble and bass controls the way I normally do, dialed in a touch of reverb, and left the vibrato turned off. The effect has a “bypass” switch which means I can choose to go straight into the board and bypass the effect, or I can step on the pedal to turn it on and the Fender amp simulation kicks in. The amp simulation is due to a new technology Boss is using called COSM (Composite Object Sound Modeling), which is a form of digital tone simulation through sampling and amp modeling.

To make a long story short, when I turned the pedal on, it really did sound like I was playing through a 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier! Problem solved, and I don’t have to carry along a heavy amp to each gig! I am currently running it from the built in 9 volt battery so that I have a minimum of wires on the stage in front of me. I am not using any other pedals.

Sometimes I will turn off the pedal when I want a more natural guitar sound, such as acoustic guitar or for clean jazz. I set the master volume know on the effect so that the volume does not change when I turn the pedal on – only the tone changes.

You can read more about this pedal on your own by following this link to the Boss web site.

I also tried out the Boss FBM-1 “Fender '59 Bassman” pedal while I was at Guitar Center. I have had the opportunity to play through some old and new tweed Fender amps, such as a `50’s Deluxe, a `59 Bassman, a Bass Breaker and a Blues Deluxe, and I must admit that the pedal does what it claims – it reproduces the tone of playing your guitar through a 1959 Fender Bassman amplifier! This would be a great pedal for those of you who like the old “tweed” tube sound!

As before, here we are one step closer to “getting that sound!” Enjoy!