Ken B Jammen

The Essential Ken B Jammen

Don’t be confused, buffers are not inert.

March 13th, 2015

Don’t be confused and think that a buffer in your signal chain has to always be good.  A decent line buffer will not generally color your tone and will help your signal get from your guitar to your amp in a decent manner.  But what about what it does besides that?

Think about it this way, a buffer increases the volume of your signal.  As your signal goes through the chain, some of it is lost, and if you planned it right, you are at the same volume at the end.

What about things in the chain that are effected by volume, like effects.  Most effects will clip if given a too hot signal.  Buffers will affect how your effects sound.  If you need a buffer, play around with it in different positions in your chain.  If it is at the start, will it color your other effects.  If it is at the end, will you still suffer from tone loss?


Think about it.

Single Coil Sunday – Humbuckers sound “bigger”

December 6th, 2014

Here’s Single Coil’s opinions on nearly everything important about guitars. I’ve limited to 20 points, all of which should be accepted as Gospel. Trust ye the word of Single Coil on this folks, he knows what he’s saying.

Point 7  Humbuckers sound “bigger” when playing at higher gain. And they are undeniably quieter. When playing clean or at lower gain overdrive, however, no humbucker can match the sparkle and definition of a good single coil. That’s just the way it is.

Ok, Humbuckers will sound bigger when playing at higher gain, and they are quieter. After that with the advances in pickups and the selection of high end pickups out there, this is less of a truth than it was ten years ago. Cheap pickups will sound cheap. After that a guitar and pickup selection should be aimed at the style of music you are going to play with that instrument. If you are looking for an “all around” instrument, you will have areas where there will be weakness. If you focus your instrument toward a particular tone or Genre you can actually do better. Here’s a good example. If you are setting out to be the next Chet Atkins, don’t get caught up in an Ibanez RG series guitar. Neither the guitar nor the pickups are designed for that style of music. Sure, you COULD play that style, but the guitar is set up to be a rocker. Coil tapping is another thing to consider to make your humbucking pickup more versatile. Well done it can go a long way. I have no idea why the whole concept of the P-90 pickup was left out of this discussion, because when you look at it, A single coil IS NOT a P-90 IS NOT a Humbucker, they all have unique and individual qualities, that is really how it is in 2014.

Let’s not forget to discuss active electronics.  There was a move not that long ago to go to active electronics in guitars.  There are some serious plusses and minuses to active electronics in a guitar.  Active humbuckers will certainly out gain non-active, but that comes with a cost.  Batteries, grittiness in low wattage amps.  That could be a discussion all on it’s own….

Single Coil Sunday – How long should you solo again?

November 30th, 2014

Here’s Single Coil’s opinions on nearly everything important about guitars. I’ve limited to 20 points, all of which should be accepted as Gospel. Trust ye the word of Single Coil on this folks, he knows what he’s saying.

Point 6

Nobody wants to hear you solo for more than about three minutes. I don’t care HOW good you are. That’s just the way it is.

Maybe, maybe not. Depends on your audience. Depends how drunk your audience is. I have played places where a three minute solo is way waaayyyy to long, and I have played a solo for 15 minutes and the crowd was upset that it was too short. Other factors to consider are the Genre of music you are playing, your skill, your equipment, and your tone.

Thoughts on Overdrive Part III

November 28th, 2014

With low gain comes low sustain.  With high gain comes noise.  Does the holy grail sit somewhere in the middle.  Probably not!  If you need to use multiple gain types, you may need two overdrive pedals.  One for soft overdrive and one for hard overdrive.  To stack overdrive pedals, generally you will want least gain first and highest gain second.  A high gain pedal into a low gain pedal will tend to by muddy and loose clarity.  A low gain into a high gain will give more overtones but also create more unwanted noise if not tamed.

So what really is the best way to buy an overdrive pedal?  Really you have to try it out.  Here are a few hints when buying your overdrive pedal.  Go to a shop that has both the pedal you want to try and an amplifier that is similar to the one you are going to play through.  Nothing sucks worse than trying out a new tube screamer with a classic blackface Fender and then going home and plugging it into your solid state Marshall.  It won’t sound the same ever.   Most overdrive pedals are going to sound sterile and blah plugged into a solid state amplifier.  They may sound ok into a modeling amp, or they may not.  Tube amps will take overdrive pedals best but depending on the schematic  they will have significant characteristic changes depending on the amp.  One idea may be to find a pedal rental service (like to have one in your possession with your exact equipment for a week or two.  This will allow you to do the tweaking that you want to see if it will do what you want.

There you have it my ramblings on overdrive.

Thoughts on Overdrive Part II

November 26th, 2014

This is part 2 on overdrive.

So let’s take a look at the “transparent overdrive”.  If we were to cut down the continuum from 0-11 to 0-2 or 1.5 and add a overall volume, the amount of noticeable waveform clipping would be hardly noticeable to the ear until the gain was almost all the way up.  The actual waveform changes throughout the gain stages, noticeable note sustain, but the tonal characteristics are less audible.   Hence the name “transparent overdrive” is given.  A better descriptor would be “sub-audible clipping system”.  The overdrive is present, but not a level that is discernable to most players.

Next, let’s take a look at a tube screamer circuit.  I would gather the range for most of these is from 3 to 8 or so.  On the low end, a somewhat clean boost can be had, but it can get very “clippy” and overdriven on the high end.   The JRC-4558 chip is famous more that ‘mid range’ gain.  The waveform clipping is again almost identical, it is that equalization (mid range) that gives this chip it’s characteristic tone.  Again, let’s consider that some of the clipping from this pedal is how it interacts with the V1 preamp tube.  That midrange frequency will interact with the tube much differently than the transparent overdrive I previously mentioned.

When we look at the TS-9DX pedal, it is the same type of circuit with higher gain.  It pulls from a range from 3 to 9 9.5.   As you can start to see, from overdrive pedal to overdrive pedal the differences are the range of gain and the tonal component of the circuitry.  It is a difficult challenge to develop a circuit that would contain the entire continuum of drive from 0 to 11.  Designing a circuit that did that would come at other costs, such as loss of high end or low end.

Finally, let’s explore a super high gain overdrive circuit.  My favorite high gain pedals are the Creamtone Creamsiscle (Which I do not believe is in production anymore), and the PBT OD.  Both on the scale run from 4 to 11.  At the high end, clipping becomes harder and more harmonic overtones are heard.  Overtones or partials are frequencies higher than the played frequency.  As gain is increased, these subtle frequencies come out.