Cap Job on my 1963 Fender Bassman

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I recently purchased a 1963 Fender Bassman amp (6G6-B). Old amps like this often need a lot of work to make them playable, but what attracted me to this one was the fact that the work had already been done. The problem, I would soon discover, was that the work had not been done correctly, or with quality parts.

That’s not to say that the seller was dishonest. The amp worked, and it worked well, but it did not deliver the stellar tone that these amps are famous for. Since I have a soldering iron, and I’m not afraid to use it, I set out on a quest to make a great amp even better. (more…)

1963 Fender Bassman Face Lift

As I wrote in, How to Capture Brian Setzer’s Tone, I bought a 1963 Fender Bassman head in my quest for tonal nirvana. In a further attempt to deliver the goods, I bought a barely used Mojoton 2×12 cabinet. Though this combination sounded good, it looked like it had been pieced together from parts sourced on Ebay and online classifieds which, of course, it had.

I’m far too obsessive to let mismatched components coexist under my care, so I did what any obsessive nerd would do. I set out to completely change everything.

The cabinet I’d bought was designed to look like an original 1963 Fender Bassman cabinet, which was cool and all, but I’ve never been a fan of the all-blonde look. What really does it for me is the blonde/oxblood combination found on the earlier 1962 Bassmans. Though my amp wouldn’t be historically accurate, I thought this combination would look killer, so I set out to get what I needed in order to make my vision a reality. (more…)

Death of a Vacuum Tube

I was working on my 1963 Fender Bassman, when I decided to plug in my Gretsch and see if I’d wired the speakers properly. Expecting the delicious tones of the early ’60s amp, I was disappointed to hear silence. Not even a hum! I quickly shut everything down and checked all my connections. The speakers showed the proper resistance, there were no shorts, and the guitar cable was fine. Stymied, I reverted to old-school thinking. This was no digital modeling amp filled with transistors, chips and software, after all. This was a tube amp that was built before I was born—and I’m old! (more…)

How to Capture Brian Setzer’s Tone

Question: What do I need to sound like Brian Setzer?

Answer: Decades of experience, a virtuoso’s mastery of the guitar, complete knowledge of every scale, mode, chord, and inversion, in-depth understanding of multiple styles, and the ability to mix it all together with ease. As they like to say on Internet forums, “tone is in the fingers.”

That and, “Why would you want to sound like someone else?” are the two standard answers to, “How do I get <insert famous guitarist’s name here> tone?” I hate those answers, and I’ll bet you do too. So I’m going to show you the steps I took on my quest to nail Brian Setzer’s tone. Not only that, I’ll show you two different ways to do it: mostly analog, using a real Fender Bassman, and mostly digital using a Fractal Audio Axe-FX Ultra.

This is a long article—much longer than my usual fare. There are many details to be explored, but if you’re interested in the topic, I think this will be a fun read. Please remember that what I’m recreating here is Brian Setzer’s live tone. In the studio, Brian uses a variety of guitars, amps, and effects. On stage though, his rig is usually the same. Remember too, that Mr. Setzer is an extremely accomplished guitarist who changes techniques on the fly. If you’re 90% there and you can’t figure out what’s missing, try to catch a video of him playing the song in question. He may have gone from flatpicking to finger picking in the middle of the song, and that can really change his tone. PIcking dynamics are important too, but now I’m getting too far down the, “Tone is in the fingers” side of things, so let’s talk gear.

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Vox VT30 Valvetronix Amp Review

I am a tube amp snob, or at least I used to be. The warm glow of tubes as they crunch my guitar’s signal into auditory bliss is just something that feels right. I also disliked most modelers until recently. Every time I tried some modeling gizmo I hated it. That is, until about a year ago when I bought a little Roland Micro Cube. The little cube sounded pretty good, but I didn’t really care so much about sound quality because I used that amp to amuse myself in the park or the back yard. (more…)

Roland Micro Cube Review

The Roland Micro cube is a tiny little amp that can run on either AC power or six AA batteries. I was never a fan of modeling amps, but this tiny two-watt solid state modeling amp really surprised me.

The amp is built like a tank. I’ve not tried this, but I would be willing to be that I could toss it down a flight of stairs and it would still work. Considering that this is the type of amp that you might literally throw into the back seat of a car, being able to withstand some abuse is a pretty good feature. Since it’s less than 10 inches on it’s longest side, and weighs just over seven pounds, there’s a good chance it could be taken along on many trips.

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WCR Pickups Review

As a general rule, I review things that grab me in one of two ways. Either the product is so good that I need to tell the world, or the product or service is so bad that I need to tell the world. I also sometimes do reviews by request, but so far that’s been a rarity. To cut to the chase, WCR pickups are so good, I felt the need to tell the world. (more…)

Guild Electric Guitars

Guild-X170T-Bigsby
While most people associate the name Guild with beautiful vintage and modern acoustic guitars, Guild electric guitars are also wonderful examples of fine US-made instruments. I’ve owned more than a few, and it all started for me 30 years ago.

Back in the halcyon days of the very early 80’s, I took my 17-year-old self into a local music store and bought the guitar that I had been lusting after for a year. It was a Guild S300A-D, and it was the coolest looking guitar I’d ever seen. Had I enjoyed the gift of prescience, I would have probably bought the old Gibson 1959 Les Paul in the store across town, but that was just dumb old guitar – this thing was the future! Fast forward 30 years and the Guild S300A-D is worth what I paid for it – about $1000. Not bad. That Gibson though, in good condition might fetch a cool quarter of a million dollars. Ah the decisions of our youth. (more…)

A Tale of Two Jacksons

The hair band style of music made popular in the 1980s generally requires guitars called super-Strats. These are guitars shaped like Fender Stratocasters that have been hot-rodded in any number of interesting ways. Usually they include at least one humbucking pickup in the bridge position, and are often adorned with neon colors or flashy designs. You have to remember that in the 70s, most rock bands played either Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters or Telecasters. These hot-rodded super-Strats were a statement that the same old boring thing wasn’t good enough for us. Of course today, those “same old boring” Les Pauls, Strats and Teles from the 50s and 60s are worth a pretty penny, but back then, it was all about the look on these shredder guitars. (more…)