Ken B Jammen

The Essential Ken B Jammen

Single Coil Sunday – Preamp buzziness at low levels

December 28th, 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.

10.  All preamp distortion, tube or solid state, will sound buzzy at low volumes. I don’t care if it’s a point-to-point wired Matchless Hotbox, a Boogie V-Twin or whatever, preamp distortion sounds buzzy unless it’s used moderately in combination with a hot power amp. That’s just the way it is.

Maybe less true now than ever.  I do get where the original poster is coming from though.  At lower volumes amplification of the waveform effects the waveform differently.   Now more than ever advances in technology and circuitry allow less problems at different levels.

I am going to refer to the perpetual motions mod DS-1. This effect sounds clean and not grainy at any level. Sure the run of the mill Boss pedals will have their own problems at low levels and need to be pushed, but your high end pedals can really shine.  A great point: Even at almost silent levels, a modeler (as much as I cannot stand a modeler) sounds the same at any level. That is really how it is in 2014.

And that will be the last Single Coil post for 2014.  I wish all my readers a happy and blessed 2015.

Single Coil Sunday – Your Amplifier and Tone

December 13th, 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 8

Your amplifier accounts for anywhere from 55% – 80% of your tone. If your amp sucks, buying the best guitar in the world won’t help much. That’s just the way it is.

Sure, but what really is left out, is that improved tone is not a linear equation, it is exponential. Great strides are made by simple changes at the low end of the spectrum, and little is noted at the high end. Most people lose track of what sounds good at the 50% range. Really crappy tone will be noticed, but really great tone will not be noted, except by a few tone savvy people. A adequate player, playing a solid state modeling amp with adequate tone will not be a tone slug and only those with a distinct ear will care.  Whatever amp a great player is given, whatever guitar, they can tweak it to sound fairly well. Even if the guitar intonates badly, they will hear the pitch variants and bend to accommodate the correct pitch. A bad player or unseasoned player with the greatest equipment on earth is still going to sound like crap.  A train wreck is still a train wreck that is really how it is in 2014.  You will continue to see a large number of gigging bar cover bands with guitar players playing middle of the road guitars and middle of the road modeling amps and having an impressive following.

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.

Single Coil Sunday – How many overdrives do you need?

November 16th, 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.

Point4

Admit it, you really DON’T need more than a couple distortion / OD / fuzz boxes. That’s just the way it is.

Unfortunately there are four distinct types of pedals that fit into this group, BOOST, OVERDRIVE, DISTORTION and FUZZ. Each of these types of effects are different and unique. There are unique qualities to each type of boost and they work differently. This can also be said of the Overdrives, Distortion and Fuzz categories. Fuzz reacts differently both before and after Overdrive. Overdrive sounds different before and after distortion. Some distortion works well with an overdrive pushing it, and some do not. Boutique quality effects have the highest likelihood to sound good through a good tube amp and sometime sound terrible through a cheap solid state amp. Sterile mass produced effects tend to be designed to sound better through a tube amp, but sound OK through a solid state amp. If you go on a tone quest, you will eventually go through the effects stage and spend some time on the quest for the best OD/DS/FZ box.

The boutique pedal market has done an amazing job of cloning rare pedals from the past.  Some, like my personal favorite “Soul Food” from Electro Harmonix are virtually indistinguishable from the pedal they are cloning.  An original Klon is out of reach for most of the real world, but now what these intuitive manufacturers have done is essentially taken every desirable circuit and made it affordable.  Some are copied better than others.

In 2014 you can get a clone of the famous Klon Centaur, Colorsound Tonebender and Strymon Blue Sky for $200, much less than the $1,500 it would cost to get the originals.  Which brings up the ethical question, is circuit copying okay or is it intellectual property theft?  I’ll leave that up to you.

That is really how it is in 2014.