Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sound Searching

Last week I blogged about having a bit of a block. Not anything massive but rather just a week of nothing to get excited about. And getting excited about songs is the best bit. So last week, not so cool.

I've come to learn that when things aren't working you need to change it up. It's a little bit strange like that actually. It's impossible to just sit down and say to yourself, "Look, it's time to write a song, get going." Those songs never seem to be awesome. When you force yourself like that it's kind of like preparing to write not a bad song. It might be alright but it's not going to have anything particularly special. At the same time though you can't just hang out waiting for a melody to drop miraculously into your brain. So you need to be writing for something to happen but you can't force it either. Slight dilemma. And I guess that's where the most frustrating part of all this comes into play - you might spend days and days, possibly weeks and months writing with nothing to show for it and then suddenly you can have a song completed within five minutes. And sometimes not just one song but a few, all in a really short period.

So back to what I was saying: when things don't work, change. Instead of trying to write songs I turned my attention to guitar sounds. Now obviously "the song" is important. And by important I mean the most important. But next is sounds. As a guitar player one of the most enjoyable parts is discovering sounds and finding your own sounds. When playing acoustic guitar, for me anyway, it's about having a pure, resonant tone and sticking with it. In that way it's all about the guitar and nothing else. But when it comes to electric it's a completely different game altogether. Everything counts, from the guitar itself and the wood it's made of to the pickups, the setup, the cables, your in line effects and your amp. Everything matters and makes a difference to the tone. I swear you could spend a lifetime exploring sonic possibilities on guitar alone. Something that's been exciting me recently in this arena is exploring guitar sounds in STEREO. Now to achieve that you obviously need two guitar amps, something I don't have. But because I've been working in headphones of late I've been able to achieve the stereo effect. And wow! I've decided that I need that second amp.

Imagine a simple clean guitar tone. Nothing fancy, possibly a little bit of reverb on it. Now comes the stereo part. You split your signal to two amps. Still nothing fancy, the second amp might have a slightly different EQ and a little bit of grit on it. When you pan the two slightly left and right it's suddenly like a whole new dimension has just opened up. And that's just with a straight tone. Now the coolest bits are when you start working with delay. One channel plays home to your direct signal, no effect, just the straight sound like before. But your second amp is where the wet signal comes in. So in your left channel say is your direct guitar sound and in the right is the delayed signal. When it's put together it's incredible. There's enormous clarity but you still have the delay trails decaying in your right channel. And you can get crazy when you start putting a short delay in one channel and a long delay in the other. I can't explain it properly in text but the result is you have a whole new platform of sound to work with.

When I first considered changing my rig to stereo I didn't fully understand just how awesome it would be. The only problem now is I've had a taste and I need to make it happen. Which means saving some dollars for a second amp - not the cheapest things going around.

For our next record sometime this year I'm going to make the stereo thing happen. And then you can believe my ravings when you hear it.


Billy Bodean said...

hahah stereo guitar your crazy dave! but go do it lad, it will blow peoples minds!!! YEWWW!

Dave Butler said...

Yeah man you know it. Crazy times. YEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!