Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting the “Right Sound” – Part 3

Picking up on where we left off last month, I have since moved up to the next level (well, actually the top level) and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about this. After working with the BOSS FDR-1 “Fender Deluxe Reverb” pedal, I became fascinated by how you can obtain the sound of a particular guitar amp without having to lug that amp around. The FDR-1 pedal did a great job of making my guitar sound like I was playing through a Fender Deluxe Reverb.

Now that I am learning a large variety of songs for this new band, “Rightside,” I discovered that most of the guitarists I am emulating (copying?) don’t play through a Deluxe Reverb. In addition to having to get the sound of 25 different amps, I also have to contend with the fact that they are all using different makes and models of guitars, and a variety of pedal effects such as delay, reverb, chorus, EQ and compression.

After doing some intensive research along with the band’s manager, we discovered the perfect solution – the “BOSSS GT-10 Guitar Effects Processor.” The GT-10 is a large pedalboard, AC powered, which contains a number of footswitches and a pedal controller. It contains “patch” storage memory which holds the original 200 factory pre-set patches, and room for 200 user created patches. The patches are stored in 100 “banks” (50 factory preset banks and 50 user banks) and each bank contains four patches. There is a wheel control to scroll through the patches, but since the unit was designed to be a floor board, the convenient method of changing patches is to step on either one switch to go forward from bank to bank, or a second switch to change backward from bank to bank. Once the correct bank is accessed, you will then step on one of four switches to access each of the four patches in that bank.

If that sounds complicated, it’s really not. I found that I really only needed about 32 different sounds, so I stored them in the first eight banks. I’m never more than eight pedal clicks away from my sound. To make it easier to change patches in the middle of the song, it stays on the previous patch setting until you do the very last step of activating one of the four patch selectors in the selected bank.

Now, for the fun part. Creating a new patch for yourself is like going to a music store and deciding what you need to have to get the sound you want – only the whole music store in built into the GT-10 pedal! You start by deciding what type of guitar you want to sound like – humbuckers, single-coil pickups, single coil “half-sound” (like a Strat), or acoustic guitar. Next, pick and amp “head” to play through. If you select a “combo” amp such as a Twin Reverb or a Tweed Bassman, you can either go with the “stock” speaker configuration, or you can select just about any speaker configuration from one 8” up to eight 12” speakers. Surprisingly, one 15” speaker (one of my favorites) is not available.

Next step is to pick a microphone to put in front of the cabinet, decide if you want to center the mic on the speaker or put it off center, then set the mic volume. Now that you have a basic guitar and amp sound, you can begin turning the knobs on the guitar and on the amp to adjust the sound, including gain and volume combinations. You can even set a different setting for amp channel “B.”

Now you can add in the standard effect sounds, each readily available from a button on the top of the unit – compression, reverb, chorus, EQ, overdrive and delay. You can adjust the settings of each effect, and assign it to an off/on footswitch if you want it to be selectable. There are also two multi-effects processors available, FX1 and FX2, where you can select from a long list of just about every stomp box effect pedal ever made. Some examples of what is available is phase shifter, flanger, tremolo, rotary speaker, uni-vibe, octave, acoustic guitar simulator, sitar simulator, jazz bas simulator, wah pedal, auto wah, and many more, about 34 in all! You get to pick any two from the list in addition to the six “basic” pedal effects mentioned previously for a total of eight simultaneous effects! Think of what it would cost you to purchase eight of your favorite effects pedals, and the $499.95 street price of the BOSS GT-10 starts to look like a real bargain! Once you have finished the patch, you must press the “write” button to store the patch into memory. Free librarian software is available from the BOSS web site to help you backup, rearrange and manage our patches. There is also an online “user group” where you can download and exchange patches with other users. I tried some patches from other users, and they were nice, but they did not fit with the songs I am performing. I think every user will have their own unique tone requirements, and that is where this unit really shines – the ability to easily create or modify a patch!

The pedal controller can be used as a volume pedal, a wah pedal, a patch changer, or to vary one of the available parameters in any of the settings. There are two outputs if you want to run the unit in stereo through two amps or two channels of the mixer. You can have the amp “A” sound on one channel and the “B” sound on the other! Stereo effects such as echo would bounce between the two channels!

There are many more feature of this unit that may be of interest, such as a USB connector which allows you to either download or backup patches, or you can use the GT-10 at the front end of a digital recording (DAW) system. There are MIDI connectors so that the patches and parameters can be changed automatically from a sequencer, and there is a digital output as well as the two ¼” guitar jacks. There is a headphones jack (of course), and effects loop to allow you to use additional effects pedals, a connector that allows you to add two additional switches to turn effects off and on (for a total of four!). If you have a two channel amp that uses a footswitch to switch channels, you can even do your amp switching from within the GT-10!

You can create sound-on-sound loops with onboard Phrase Loop function. A loop can be up to 38 seconds in length.

I should also mention that the GT-10 is driven by BOSS’ latest custom-made DSP and proprietary sound-modeling COSM® engine, so the sounds that are “simulated” are very authentic. When not plugged directly into the house mixer, I usually play through a 1967 Fender Twin Reverb amp. Previous to the Twin, I was using a 1966 Fender Pro Reverb. When I “model” these amps using the GT-10, I can tell you from experience that if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that I was still plugged into the Fender!

Now, if the band throws a song at me and the guitar player has a distinctive sound that drives the song, I don’t have to sit back a listen to the complaint “your guitar doesn’t sound right for that song!”