Reverb was probably the first “effect” for guitarists other than overdrive – originally found on amplifiers, and later in the digital realm, with complicated parameters. TC brings the simplicity of the old, with the sound quality of the 21st Century.
The HOF Mini is not much bigger than a business card, so due to the small size it can’t fit a 9v battery; power needs to come from a standard power adapter. With just one knob it gives the analog feel of a vintage amplifier’s reverb, but for those tone-tweaking freaks a USB port is included for uploading sounds from the web, and editing of sounds via TC’s TonePrint editor software. Sounds can also be loaded via a smartphone, using TC’s TonePrint app.
Our review unit came loaded with TC’s “Hall” reverb mode, but the reverbs on TC’s full-sized big brother (the original Hall of Fame pedal) are all available to be loaded, as well: Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, Mod, Lo-Fi, Tile, Amb and Gate. Of course, TC pretty much perfected the digital reverb, so the sounds are fantastic, and while it may take a bit more to load or change a sound, once it’s done, they don’t disappoint.
Unlike digital reverbs of old, these have a musical quality that actually makes sense, sonically, for guitar. In front of an amp, or in an effects loop, it sounds great. Oh, and for the pedal tone purists, it’s true bypass. This is a nice small package to get a decent reverb, without taking up space on a pedalboard or taking a bite out of your bank account.
Pedal tuners are nothing new, but TC’s PolyTune was a game changer, and their PolyTune 2 goes to the next level.
The polytune functions enables the player to strum a chord, and the tuner displays what strings are out of tune. The idea is that even after tuning each individual string at perfect pitch, when played together they are not quite in tune with one another. This concept may be alien to guitarists, but after using it in this mode, hearing is believing. It can also be used as a standard tuner, with the LEDs acting like a strobe display, with super accurate tuning like the old school strobe tuners. There are two new modes: Drop D and Capo, enabling accurate tuning when using a capo, performing in Drop D, or any other alternate tuning. The true bypass switch enables silent tuning, and no tone loss.
The display has been turbocharged, as well, with a super bright readout. This makes the pedal easily readable in bright situations, like an outdoor daytime gig, and senses when it gets dark, providing a clearly visible display, regardless of the ambient light.
It can also power a series of other effects, with a 9v out option. A USB output is also there for any firmware updates that may become available, but it’s hard to think of what TC could do to make this better. With all these features, it’s pretty much a no-brainer: a hyper-accurate tuner with plenty of options and simple usability.
PROS: Flexible tuning modes, easy to use, super bright display. CONS: None. PRICE: $99
Mantic Effects is a new audio effects company based out of Denver, CO, focused on making pedals that are unique and inspirational, perfect for the artist looking to create a singular sound. In a market saturated with boutique clones or software emulations, Mantic is focused on creating something special in sound and usability. Founders Luis and Caleb spent years tinkering with electronics and circuit bending as a hobby to relieve stress while trying to repay loans and playing in bands together. Eventually their hobby led them to win the 2012 Moog Circuit Bending Challenge and to begin experimenting with original designs and ideas that got musicians so excited they decided to pursue effects full time. Mantic started with the ‘Density’ line of pedals that all focused on beefing up the sound in one way or another (The Flex is a synth fuzz envelope follower, The Hulk and Brute are bass boosters) but they’ve recently been expanding into new audio territory. “It can be a lot of trial and error,” Luis says of their design process, explaining that they focus more on getting what they want to hear than getting something finished quickly, with many rounds of revisions and test runs with musicians until they have it just right. Though Mantic is still young, they’re definitely a company to watch.
The Proverb is a straightforward reverb with great sound and subtle modulation. Its sound is very spatial, good for big ambiances or subtle spatial effects. Like other reverbs you can get noisy by turning the knobs until the pedal begins to self-oscillate, but unlike other pedals, the Proverb will continue oscillating when you bypass it, letting you punch in some of that wild noise whenever you like without waiting for the pedal to warm up again. Great for guitars and synths, the Proverb has ‘Mix’, ‘Numb’, and ‘Dwell’ knobs, features true bypass, and is handmade with the highest quality parts in the USA.
Insane melodies played just fast enough to comprehend combine with extreme examples of proficient instrumentation. These musical masters deliver patterns that even without vocals project words, as if the men planned to allow the listeners to write that last piece into the orchestra.
If the name of the band doesn’t spell it out for you, Levin Minnemann Rudess comprises some of the most talented players in progressive rock: Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani) & Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater).
Musicians should instantly recognize these names and immediately wonder how they each manufacture more time, because Rudess just released an album with Dream Theater for which he is now touring and Rudess manages app development; finding spare time in his schedule would seem impossible! Minnemann has recently appeared with The Aristocrats, doing interviews as well as playing gigs.
Levin took the time to answer a few questions for Performer Magazine readers and musicians:
Do you hear lyrics in your head while playing? If not necessarily words, how do you feel the theme of a song?
I don’t really hear lyrics while playing. It’s hard to describe the process in your head while playing—especially after years of playing, when most of it becomes unconscious. I guess I’d say there’s a lot of awareness of the structure of the music, and then the options of what to play arise out of that.
Did you play the Chapman Stick throughout the whole album? Are there any regular bass guitar tracks?
I played a lot of my basses on this album, often two or three on a single track. There’s the Chapman Stick, to be sure, and I use that not just as a bass, but the ‘guitar side’ of it is very helpful with writing, and I can play a lead line on it, or double the bass line for a heavy sound. I also played the NS Electric Upright Bass on some tracks, and even the matching NS Electric Cello (which sounds pretty much like a fretless bass on those tracks.) And my usual Music Man basses – both fretted and fretless, usually for low-end power, but on some songs the bass takes the lead from time to time.
What is the Chapman Stick, in your words?
Good question. It’s an instrument designed to be played by ‘hammer-on’ technique, or a ‘touch guitar’ – you don’t need to fret it with one hand and pluck with the other; you just tap on the fret part, and that’s how the sound comes out. So you can tap more notes with the other hand – like piano playing, but directly on the strings. Mine has 12 strings: six are bass strings, six are guitar strings, and with a stereo output so they go to separate amps.
I’ve used the Chapman Stick a lot though the years, recording and live, and often as a bass, where I find the distinctive sound, and percussive nature, are helpful in giving me a bass approach that I couldn’t get on other instruments. But, I use the top-end too, playing guitar lines, both for my writing, and it’s been pretty featured in the Stick Men band, and some of my solo albums.
What was your first instrument? Tell me about the evolutionary process that led you to the Chapman Stick.
I played piano as a kid, then chose the bass (the acoustic ‘upright’ kind) as the instrument I liked the best. Played classical and jazz on that for years before switching to electric bass. Somewhere along the line I became interested in alternative basses, having been the first to play Ned Steinberger’s unique bass, and when I heard about Emmett Chapman’s instrument, still more unusual and challenging, I got one right away. Brought it, brand new, to the record session of Peter Gabriel’s first solo album, in 1976. I didn’t end up playing it on that album, but when we toured with that music, I began to bring it into the arsenal, and have found it very useful ever since.
Do you have influences that also played the Chapman Stick?
I approached it, at first, as a bass, so I wasn’t influenced by the players at that time, who were playing the full range of the instrument. Their technique was far beyond mine, and I did practice a lot (and still do) to get more fluent, but with my focus on relatively easy bass parts, I was sort of on my own with my playing of it, in the Discipline era of King Crimson and on the early Peter Gabriel albums. Since those early days, a lot of great Stick players have come along and done amazing things on the instrument. I try to keep up with those, and though I can’t match all the technique, I find it great to learn what new things can be done on the Stick.
How did the Levin Minnemann Rudess project come about? Had you considered a 3rd Liquid Tension Experiment album?
Scott Schorr, who had produced my Stick Man album and the Levin Torn White collaboration, suggested we do another progressive trio. We first brought drummer Marco Minnemann into it, and the process sped along quite quickly. We had to wait for Jordan Rudess to finish with his Dream Theater recording before he could get his parts done—and because of that, Marco and I had all the pieces underway by the time Jordan was ready. So the process went pretty quickly and easily compared to how it sometimes goes. A lot of intense work, and then we had this wonderful album ready.
Regarding LTE, there’s always the possibility, of course, but there are no plans or even discussions about it currently. Like all the fans, I’d be very happy if it happens some day.
Tell me about the Funk Fingers. Were these used on the latest Levin Minnemann Rudess album?
I did use them on some of the album – for even more percussive sound than the Stick (basically they are drum sticks attached to my right hand fingers, to drum onto the strings.) I first came up with the idea after recording Peter Gabriel’s song “Big Time,” where I had the drummer drum on the bass strings while I fingered them. Trying to do that in the live show was pretty tricky, so, on Peter’s suggestion, I tried attaching drumsticks to my fingers. Took a lot of adjustment, but eventually they were right (and are currently offered for sale on the web).
What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
I love music, listening and playing… but playing is even better than listening. Having the opportunity to share that music with others is really special, and I consider myself very lucky to have had a career doing that.
What is the most difficult part of being a musician?
I think, for a lot of players, when the potential is there to make great music, it gets frustrating when things stand in your way. And there are many things: monitor sound, the sound in clubs or theaters; the travel side to things: to try to get you to your show; the business side, which can be distracting. When I used to play jazz in Chuck Mangione’s band, he would say there is an 11th Commandment, “Thou shall never really groove,” referring to the many things that, in the jazz world, can get in the way of just letting that great music happen.
I must temper that answer to point out that for me, nowadays, things are pretty easy on that front, especially out here on the road with Peter Gabriel, where there’s a big crew to deal with all the sound issues for us every day!
If you had to choose one genre of music as a career (like session player, touring musician or instructor) what would you concentrate your efforts on (assuming this one choice would pay enough for you to do it full-time).
It’s live playing that I love. Nice to mix in some recording from time to time, but I would greatly miss playing live if I couldn’t do it –and that’s what has brought me the deepest satisfaction in my years in music. There’s something magical that happens at a great show, and it’s not just the audience who appreciate and remember that, it’s us on stage too.
Levin Minnemann Rudess Self-titled
(Lazy Bones Recordings)
The Standard CD or the Deluxe Edition CD & DVD available at: evinminnemannrudess.com
Ambience is always something guitar players have to work for; reverb and delays can get so complex that in the process of this search, the concept of “simpler is better” gets revisited often. Maxon’s new analog delay pedal brings ambience with ease.
The small box houses a BBD analog IC, which brings warmth and clarity. It’s the standard in most analog time-based effects, and it lives up to the reputation. Controls are sparse, a Delay, Blend, and Repeat knobs are the only variables. The switch is buffered, meaning it can work with long cables without loss of signal or tone (like its cousin the ASC10). It works equally well in front of an amp, and in an effects loop, a rare feat for a stompbox.
Like most analog units, this one tops out at 600ms of delay, so don’t expect to do tons of looping or trippy sound-on-sound layering. It’s more in the natural slapback echo pocket – quick, sharp delays that are natural, with just the right amount of repeats that won’t clutter up the notes that come after it. The only downside is that at higher settings the Repeat control gets very sensitive, and the repeats cascade louder and louder: neat for those Pink Floyd oscillation effects, but in most situations, it can be a bit too much.
The AD10 is a breath of fresh air; it’s warm and sweet, and while not super-long or adjustable, the delays seem to be more musical, not content to sit in the “just make an echo” department. For players who want a delay but don’t want to go digital, this new pedal from Maxon is well worth the asking price.
PROS: Smooth, simple, natural. CONS: Repeat control seems a bit aggressive. PRICE: $249
Since the 1970s, chorus pedals have been at guitar player’s feet, giving sounds ranging from the shimmering soundscapes of The Police, to the detuned glory of Nirvana.
With only RATE and DEPTH knobs, this pedal was designed for the player that wants to get good settings quickly. The plus side is that with just two knobs, there’s a great selection of effects. From a spacious modulation to a metallic detuned mass, it can cover pretty much every classic chorus sound you can think of. An LED indicates when it’s on, and another LED indicates the pulse of the rate; on a dimly lit stage this is a real plus. The footswitch is a buffered bypass, meaning players can use long cables without signal or tone loss.
At lower settings, it evokes spaciousness found on early U2 records. Take it further, it warbles a bit into that “Come As You Are” area. When it’s maxed out, super underwater and Leslie-type sounds emerge with ease. It really excels at the analog chorus sounds, but unlike a vintage chorus, it’s much quieter, and with a standard 2.5mm jack it works with pretty much every standard power supply. Oh, and its stereo, meaning the signal can be split into two amps, giving an even more galactic sound.
For players who want an analog chorus without the vintage hassles, this is worth considering for your pedal board.
PROS: Clean signal, great modulation and detuning effects. CONS: None. PRICE: $229
Classic analog chorus circuit
Wide stereo split sounds like 2 guitars playing at once
Rate and Depth controls with extended operation range
Works in FX loop or front-end of amp
Buffered Bypass switching with low impedance output
“Virtuosic guitar helps mend the wounds of war in this Malian insta-classic”
The title of guitar virtuoso Vieux Farka Touré’s latest album is translated as “My Country” in English. Originally conceived as an homage to his home country of Mali, the project assumed a new meaning as the ongoing conflict between Tuareg freedom fighters and the Malian government erupted in renewed combat last year.
Though it is mostly instrumental, Mon Pays conveys a message of healing and cultural preservation in the face of the destruction of war.
Son of the late Malian guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, Vieux has proven himself to be much more than just a worthy heir to his father’s legacy. Well-versed in Malian music and a master of its classical guitar styles, Vieux also has a keen ear for blending the traditional with the modern.
Two of the tracks, “Future” and “Peace,” are duets between Vieux and kora player Sidiki Diabaté. Their collaboration recalls that of their fathers: Sidiki’s father Toumani was also a prominent kora player, as well as a musical collaborator and close friend of Ali Farka Touré. With these virtuosic, yet delicate duets, the sons pay tribute to their fathers and take up the mantle as protectors and ambassadors of Malian music.
Vieux Farka Touré Mon Pays
(Six Degrees Records) Recorded by Yaya Diarra at Studio Yele in Mali Mixed by Jerry Boys Mastered by Tom Leader www.vieuxfarkatoure.com
In part one (read it here), we examined how artists can spend their time in the studio unwisely, and how session days/hours can be broken down into parts (arranging, tracking, mixing, overdubbing, etc). The point was to illustrate how much less focused a group is on tracking multiple songs in a limited studio timeframe.
FOCUS ON JUST ONE TRACK
What if they had started by just focusing on one song? They would have picked their best song. They would have rehearsed just this one song until it shined. They would have come into the studio with just this one song on their mind and with a little luck, they would have tracked it beautifully. All the attention would be on this one song. Ideas, discussions, things to try in the mix would have all been focused on this one song. When it was finished and released, people would want to hear it again – and that’s what you want, to leave them wanting more. Have them begging for more. Have your fans focused on this one song, sharing this one song with friends. Have the venue bookers humming this one song as they book you at the club.
Okay, did it work? Did our attempt at written subliminal suggestion work? Are you thinking about going into the studio and focusing on just one song now? Something magical can happen when a group of musicians, engineers and producers focus all of their efforts on bringing one song to life. Ideas to try a subtle shaker percussion track or perhaps a third vocal harmony on just one line in the chorus, now can be tried without worrying about whether there will be time to mix half a dozen more songs today. It’s this intense focus and ability to experiment that is the strength of studio recording. The studio is THE place to try out ideas that are impossible while playing live. It is a magical canvas with an erase function.
TIPS TO REDUCE WASTED STUDIO TIME
And this is the realization that many artists come to after too many “squeezed” recording sessions. It is what you experience along the journey, not the miles traveled that counts here. So maybe by now you believe us that it’s better to focus on one song the next time you head to the studio. “But we can’t afford to spend 8 to 16 hours on one song,” we hear you say. Well here are two tricks that can help reduce your time in the studio:
Prepare, prepare and prepare some more. Focus on and rehearse that one song till it shines, till everyone knows it backwards and forwards. Record the rehearsals and make sure everyone is happy with the arrangement. Can you get to the first chorus faster? Is the first verse too long? Then type up a lead sheet for the song and bring plenty of copies to the studio. Nothing fancy, just chords and lyrics laid out by section. This allows the engineer to quickly get around the song instead of spending time hunting for where the line “she’s not coming back” is in the song. When doing overdubs, for instance, now both the talent and the engineer are on the same page when the singer says, “I’d like to fix the second line of verse two.”
Break it up. Fight the urge to stuff the whole session into one long day. Instead book (for example) a four-hour session to record the rhythm tracks and overdubs and go home with a rough mix. Then have everyone in the band take copious notes over the period of at least a week. Then meet before the next mixing session to discuss these notes with everyone. Make a Master List of what you like and don’t like about the rough mix. Be precise about what needs to be fixed: “bass flub at 1:24,” “flat note on the vocal at 2:31,” etc. For your second mixing session, don’t expect to get it 100% perfect and try not to spend too long mixing; after about four hours of hearing the same song over and over, you lose perspective. Go home with your near-perfect mix and repeat the last step of taking notes and making another Master List. Only when your head is clear can you hear the mix properly to make decisions about its quality and effectiveness.
If you still aren’t convinced that quality is more important than quantity, we challenge you to take your favorite artists’ best studio album and research how long they spent in the studio working on it before they were finished. Then go onto ReverbNation and find an artist with a six song EP that’s just so-so and send them an email asking how long they spent in the studio.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Zac Cataldo is a musician and owner/producer at Night Train Studios, a recording studio in Westford, MA. He is also co-owner of Black Cloud Productions, a music publishing company. Reach him at zac at nighttrainstudios.com.
Brent Godin is a bassist/guitarist and engineer/producer at Night Train Studios. He is also a talent scout at Black Cloud Productions. Reach him at brent atblackcloudproductions.com.
Here’s something you’re gonna dig. Got an iPhone and wanna jam on the go? Line 6 has got you covered with the new Sonic Port guitar interface for iOS. This works seamlessly with all iPod, iPhone and iPad devices you might iHave. The tiny device packs in TONS of cool features in such a teeny package. How about a free mobile POD app? Sure, why not! We love this because it brings the power of Line 6’s famous POD fx and amp modeling to your phone, for crying out loud! 32 amps, 16 cabs and even rack fx are at your fingertips. We spent quite a few hours playing around with these, and there are some seriously amazing tones to be had. Did we mention the app is free?
Connecting is easy – just plug and play; it’s that simple. We were impressed with how effortlessly the interface worked with our tests in GarageBand and rocking out to our favorite tunes in Jammit. We were also relieved that the Sonic Port doesn’t require a power supply; it’s powered directly from your iOS device, meaning one less cord to lug around.
Look, we could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: the product just works. It’s easy enough for a monkey to use, and with all the cool tone options available, it’s hands-down one of the most essential iPad tools for the traveling guitarist or songwriter. You’d be amazed at some of the vintage sounds you’ll be able to squeeze out of your tablet with this handy little box. At under $100, the Sonic Port comes highly recommended.
Computer Connection: 30-pin/Lighting
Simultaneous I/O: 2
A/D Resolution: 24-bit/48kHz
Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/4″ DI, 1 x 1/8″ Stereo Line
Audio Outputs: 1 x 1/4″ DI/Stereo Line, 1 x 1/8″ Stereo Line
Bus Powered: Yes
PROS: Simple connections, Free POD app for amp modeling, inexpensive.
The Idan Raichel Project Quarter To Six
Kfar Saba, Israel
“United colors of dance-a-thon”
The seventh album from this rhythmic alliance wraps the core of Eastern energy and Red Sea revelry with a bow of Western sensibilities and a power-pop state of mind.
Quarter To Six truly is world music, featuring musicians from a cornucopia of nationalities across the Middle East, Europe and Asia with Raichel singing in myriad of languages.
As the Project’s sound pulls heavily from traditional Arabic and bubbling Indian styles, it tactfully incorporates elements of Western pop in the form of soft piano/guitar ballads like “This Wind” and Latino-fusion tracks like “Closer Now” and “Behind My Soul.”
Atop a melodic melee and rhythmic powerhouse, the album’s lyrical content ambles in multiple languages, but is united through a thread of compassion and spirituality, with Raichel’s croons sounding both endearing and vulnerable.
If music is indeed the international language, then Raichel is on track to becoming one of the world’s top linguists.