Restrung

Watched “Restrung”, a very cool documentary on Wyn Guitars last night. It was great to hear Abraham Laboriel and James LoMenzo playing the basses, but just as interesting to me was getting to see and hear about Wyn’s workflow. He’s incredibly organized and deeply considers the ergonomics of his shop. I try to do the same thing, albeit on a lesser scale, in my studio. Also, Randall’s comments on efficiency versus enthusiasm hit home. I’m sure sanding necks for three days straight can’t be a ton of fun, even though it maybe highly efficient. I come up against similar issues when recording an album. Do I do all of the MIDI stuff for the entire record first? Record all of the rhythm guitars in one go? That sort of thing is more efficient, but it’s not nearly as exciting as taking a song at a time from nothing to a finished master. Anyways, the documentary’s good, so if you have about an hour to spare, check it out!

New Acoustic Pedalboard

Jamie Bonk - Acoustic Pedalboard - 2016

Yesterday I put together a new acoustic pedalboard.  I was hoping to keep my gear to an absolute minimum and just have a Radial PZ-Deluxe on the floor, but I found I needed a few extra pieces of the puzzle.  The only real effect on the board is the TC Electronic Hall Of Fame Reverb and I’m going to use that mainly as a way to compensate for room acoustics.  Right now, I’m into playing pretty much as effect free as I can be.

There were a few “challenges” putting together this board.  The first one is size.  It was tough getting everything to fit on the Pedaltrain Nano +, but I wanted the board to be as compact as possible.  The second one was powering the PZ Deluxe.  I’m a huge fan of Radial gear — it’s built like a tank and sounds absolutely first rate.  But I’m not a fan of their 15v 400mA power requirements.  Tough to find a power supply that can meet their needs.  Thankfully, Radial came out with the StageBug, which is a signal buffer and 9v to 15 v converter.  Basically, I’m taking one 9v 400mA and one 9v 100mA from the Pedal Power ISO 5 and feeding those into the StageBug.  The StageBug then powers the PZ Deluxe.  Works perfectly and keeps the board neat and clean.

The third challenge was learning about true bypass pedals.  I was surprised to find that having a true bypass pedal first in the signal chain would cause a level increase when I engaged the pedal.  When I use the StageBug to buffer the signal there is no level change. I’m also not really into the “pop” you get when you engage a true bypass pedal.  This is not going to affect me as I’m going to either have the pedal on or off for entire gigs.  The Hall Of Fame lets you switch the pedal from true bypass to buffered via a DIP switch inside the pedal.  I think my board sounded and felt better with the Hall Of Fame left in true bypass, so that’s how I’m using it.

The TC Electronic PolyTune Mini 2 is great for my needs — small, bright and most importantly accurate.  I’ve used the PolyTune app on my phone for years now and love it, so it made sense to get the pedal for this board.

This is best pedalboard I’ve ever had/made. Truly sounds incredible!

New Pedalboards

Over the last 35 or so years, I’ve gone through quite a few pedalboards.  From literally having pedals velcroed to a piece of plywood in the 70’s/early 80s to a rack of gear with MIDI switching in the 80’s/90’s to having four different pedalboards until recently.  I lost those four boards this summer.  The upside (if there ever is an upside to getting robbed) is that you are forced to look at what you need.  And right now, I need less.  My two new “pedalboards” in the photo below (acoustic on the left and electric on the right) are pretty darn minimalistic and I’m going to try to keep them (mostly) that way.

New Acoustic and Electric Pedalboards

LR Baggs – Lyric Acoustic Guitar Microphone

I was so impressed by the LR Baggs Lyric Acoustic Guitar Microphone demos I heard on the LR Baggs site that I made the leap and had one installed in my Seagull Artist Studio CW.  I think I made the exact right decision.  I’ve never been a huge fan of under saddle pickups (or internal mics) — the sonic compromise has always been too great.  Yes, you can get a good tone from under saddle pickups, but it takes work.  Lots of work.  I have a Fishman Spectrum that truly helps get a “better” more realistic sounding (read miked) tone, but I never found it completely satisfying.  And internal mics always seem to be less than ideal too.  You get some “air” in the sound, but you also get a boxy tone along for the deal.

Now the Lyric is an internal mic — LR Baggs calls it a bridge plate microphone.  The Lyric behaves much like an external mic in that your guitar feels and sounds like it’s being miked by a mic sitting a foot off your guitar.  You get all of the good stuff that a mic brings to the game and none of the boxiness that internal mics usually have.  Basically, it sounds fantastic!  Well, it sounded fantastic after I adjusted the Mic Presence Control.  When LR Baggs say the Mic Presence Control is “responsive” they’re not kidding.  I spent a bunch of time recording different parts into Logic and then adjusting the control.  Once I got it set right, the Lyric really did a great job of representing the sound of my guitar.

Of course, feedback can be an issue for acoustic instruments and the Lyric is a mic.  I haven’t had a chance to gig with the Lyric yet, but I did crank my studio monitors (Yamaha HS80Ms) and play directly facing the speakers with no feedback issues.

The Lyric has impressed me.  I’m definitely going to be using it live and I’m sure it’s going to end up on one of my future albums.

EZ Drummer – Indie Folk

There’s nothing like a great drummer and I’m lucky enough to work with one of Canada’s finest, Dave Patel.  But for writing, EZ Drummer has been an amazing tool.  I just picked up the new Indie Folk add-on and it sounds incredible.  I particularly like the Slingerland kit in the 4 mic configuration — truly massive tones.  Getting lots of ideas for the next Sixteen Different Minds record!

StrapKeeper

I love it when a piece of gear does what it says it’ll do.  Yesterday, I came home from teaching and the StrapKeeper I ordered from Tapastring Guitar Care was here.  For those of you who don’t know what a StrapKeeper is, basically, it’s a little add on device that helps keep your strap on your acoustic guitar.  Other than getting the little nylon retainer on the end pin, installation (if you even want to call it that) was a breeze.  With the StrapKeeper on my guitar, I think it would take A LOT to get the strap to fall off.  Terrific solution for not much money!

New Gear

I’ve been updating my studio and I thought I’d write a short post about the hardware and software I’ve picked up.

The biggest change has been the addition of a brand new Mac Mini.  I bought a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 with 16 Gigs of RAM and a one terabyte Fusion Drive.  To say the computer has some serious grunt would be an understatement.  A massive understatement.  I seem to have no real limits now when I use Logic.  I haven’t been able to bring the computer to its knees and that’s a very, very freeing feeling.  Logic is showing eight cores on this quad core chip (which seems odd), but I’m not complaining!

I also updated Pianteq Play to Pianoteq Stage and purchased the Blüthner Model 1 add-on.  I’m not a piano player, but the Blüthner Model 1 is truly inspiring to write with and I’m positive it’ll be on the next few albums I’m working on now.

And lastly, I bought the new Sweetone from Sonimus.  Just a gorgeous, simple and effective eq/filter.  I’ve already used it on some liners for radio stations (i.e. This is Jamie Bonk and you’re listening to X radio station…) and it worked beautifully.  I used the Sonimus Satson and SonEQ plugins extensively on my last solo record (Necessity) and Sweetone is sure to become a go-to plugin for me in the future.

Blue Chip Picks

Just received two new Blue Chip picks in the mail today… A TD 40 and a TP-1R 40.  Basically, they’re backups for Blue Chips I already have.  Yes, I know, Blue Chip picks are INSANELY expensive ($35 each).  So if you’re a player who likes to fling picks into the audience or you regularly lose picks, Blue Chip picks are not for you (unless you happen to be a rock star with a boatload of disposable income that is!).  I almost never lose picks (still have picks from high school) and I can’t think of the last (or the first) time I flung a pick into an audience, so I can kind of rationalize the price.  Cost aside, Blue Chips are hands down the best I’ve ever used — terrific tone, almost indestructible and they stick to my fingers like no other pick.  Love ’em!