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 – Tube amps are more organic

December 21st, 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 9

Tube amps still sound more organic than solid state amps. The difference is mostly in the power amp section, however. That’s just the way it is.

Maybe, really? I am not a qualified amp repair person, nor do I care to understand why an amp works.   Maybe a better question to ask is what does organic mean?  What I do know is that a well tuned tube amp sounds great, has better harmonic responses and responds better to dynamics in playing.  From my experience the tube in V1 has the most effect on the overall tone and playing.  A harsh Chinese branded 12ax7 is more brash and brittle sounding than a NOS 1950’s Mullard 12ax7. Even better to my ears is the increased headroom that you get by increasing the headroom by putting a 12au7 in V1.

Take this as food for thought.  The Orange Micro Terror is a tube pre amp into a solid state power amp section.  Put a NOS 12au7 in the pre-amp section and instantly you have a very responsive pedal friendly, less harsh sounding amplifier that is more friendly to pedals than a new Fender.  A good pre-amp tube in V1 is going to be your friend.   That’s the way it is in 2014.

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.