Ambient music can be anywhere from relaxing to inspiring to mind boggling (in a fun way). While listening to a good ambient song, we can sit back, close our eyes and have the most interesting images fly through our heads. Below is just a small sampling of some of the great artists out there who are teasing our minds with their ambient goodness.
Don’t close your eyes for this one. Hammock stimulates your ears and eyes with their haunting tale “Cold Front” from their album “Departure Songs.”
Mikhail Medvedev doesn’t just have an amazing cat, he has created a beautiful song called “Memories.”
You can learn a lot from Andy – really you can. His site reverbnerds.com has video tips to help you if you are just starting to tinker in ambient sounds. Andy has so many good videos to feature, but we had to go with “Famine and the Death of a Mother” from his new album “This Is For Our Sins,” which captures a sense of isolation and loss.
Jeffrey Niemeir teases 15 seconds of ambient beauty.
This is a perfect one to close your eyes to and let the song take you away. “Gravitáció” by …A Többi Néma Csend is a perfect journey through your mind. Maybe a gallop on the beach or a run through the poppies, On Mountains provides the soundtrack for a gorgeous day.
Want to hear more? Also check out Ivan Ujević, Chords of Orion, and Jon Carolino. If you have any of your own ambient songs or enjoy someone else’s that you’d like to share, please post the link below.
Blake Stranathan is a guitarist, producer, and writer currently working with Lana Del Rey. After being a finalist on MTV’s Making His Band at the age of 20, Blake has gone on to work with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, Nicole Scherzinger and many others. He is currently on tour with Lana, and helped write and produce on her new album, Ultraviolence.
What kind of pedalboard do you have and what is your signal chain?
Right now I’m using a Pedaltrain pro with a fairly simple set up:
Guitar–> ProAnalog Supaquack Wah –> Suhr Riot –> Berkos Third Stone Fuzz –> Klon Centaur –> Boss Tuner –> Ernie Ball VP Jr –> JTM45/100 (with FX Loop and Master Volume)
Can you share what the co-writing process was like with Lana Del Rey on the new album Ultraviolence?
It was probably the best experience of my life so far. I was in New York visiting family, and Lana invited me down to Electric Lady Studios, which was always a dream of mine being a Hendrix nut. It was surreal being and working there. We wound up being there for 8 or 9 days with basically the entire place to ourselves. I had played guitar on a couple tracks that were pretty much finished, but one morning I came to the studio super early just to work out some tones and play in that amazing live room. As I was coming up with some progressions, Lana walked in and we came up with “Pretty When You Cry” on the spot. It was recorded through a Neve 8078 which just sounded unreal. None of it was planned which certainly added to the vibe. The same happened with “Cruel World”. I was actually watching a video of the ‘BigSky’ on my computer and showed it to her. She said, “Fuck! That sounds amazing. We need that.” (Laughs) So a couple of hours later, a runner went out and grabbed one. On the last day while Phil Joly, the engineer, was bouncing down a couple sessions, and she asked me if I wanted to play around with the new pedal in the live room. I played maybe a few chords and we immediately started writing ‘Cruel World’. We recorded it just guitar and vocal in one take, and then Dan Auerbach went on to produce the song not long after. Everything about the recording and writing process was super organic, plus the energy in that studio is very powerful. I came up with the guitars for ‘Flipside‘ at home in Los Angeles using the BigSky as well. I made a quick video clip and sent it to her phone. We wound up writing the song a couple days later at her house, and then recorded it at a studio later that night. Strymon definitely played a big role in shaping the sound of the record.
Now that recording software and equipment has become more accessible, what are your thoughts on home recording vs. going into a studio?
Home recording and the technology today is such a big advantage. I do most of my creating at home using an Apogee Duet and my MacBook Pro, which is loaded with plug-ins. It gives you the ability to make really awesome demos and record ideas without having to waste time and money at a big studio. Through trial and error, you also become a better engineer and mixer as a result. However, I think a combination of the two is the best scenario; Being able to work out your ideas at home, and then recording it for real in a nice studio. Being in your room is just not the same as being in a great space and collaborating with others.
After finishing working on the Lana Del Rey album, how did you musically prepare for the tour to support the album?
We are still adding in new songs here and there. There are multiple guitar tracks on many of the songs, so it was important to find the best way to incorporate all of them and make sure it sounds super full. It’s important to approach the music with a ‘producer’s ear’, like what you can add sonically to bring the music to life. During the live show, the sounds of the keyboards and some of the drum triggers are controlled off-stage via MIDI. The BigSky and TimeLine are hooked up via MIDI, and I made presets for each song. When the next song is loaded up, the pedals sync up to the specific patches. It’s such a life-saver on stage because I make guitar changes on a lot of the songs due to the different tunings. I use Fenders and I am always manipulating the tone/volume controls and pickup positions. The Klon is on all the time, and I have the Strymons in the FX loop to give me the atmospherics I need.
What would be a top tip you would give to an aspiring songwriter?
Be constantly learning and be unique. Don’t be quick to filter your ideas. Trust your gut.
We would love to know if you’d be willing to share a preset you used on “Flipside” with BigSky.
For the verse part I used the first Cloud preset with the mix turned to 3 o’clock, with the tone rolled off on the neck pickup on a strat. For the choruses I just flipped down to the bridge pickup.
Like Blake Stranathan’s “Flipside” Preset? Want to share some presets of your own? Send us a tweet of your own Preset using #StrymonPreset for a chance to be featured on our blog!
It has been a busy few months for Peter Dyer (keyboards), Joel Van Dijk (guitar), and Joe Gonzales (bass), who together make up The Grand Scheme. After their most recent tour with live partner Aloe Blacc, which culminated at Coachella 2014, The Grand Scheme recently kicked off a summer tour with Bruno Mars. As friends of Strymon, they took some time out of their hectic schedules to answer some questions about their favorite gear, recent success, and future plans.
1) This one’s for Peter. While Strymon effects are usually associated with guitar, you’ve managed to incorporate them into your style as a keyboardist. What effects/pedals (not limited to Strymon) do you use, and what makes them suit you as a player?
Peter: I’m a big fan of fxs pedals on keys. Dry stock presets kill me. Keyboards can sound very dull and static sometimes. Even a smidge of fx spice can go a long way. A nice delay can transform an otherwise trite synthy worm into a lush spacey lead. A mild chorus can widen a lifeless pad. A knobby hardware pedal lets me further shape my sound in realtime, making it my own, and engaging the audience. Folks can hear that stuff.
I adore the big box Strymons. I generally hate multi-pedals since they usually do too many things and usually poorly, but the quality and flow of the big Strymons feel “analog” to play and tweak. Saveable presets, stereo, and midi sync are icing on their stunning fx engines. It’s a wonderful hybrid.
Apart from my touring rig Strymons, I’m a glutton for an analog chorus on polysynths (MXR-134, Moog Cluster Flux), and a bucket-brigade delay on monosynths (MXR Carbon Copy, Moog 104z).
2) The Grand Scheme just wrapped up Coachella with Aloe Blacc and is preparing for a summer tour with Bruno Mars. Did the band anticipate this level of success or is this just the beginning?
Peter: I’m glad I got to see this act rise up 3 years ago when I joined from a mild success to the world stage. Usually I just catch one or the other as a sideman. And further, to have been a small piece of Aloe’s hit “Wake Me Up” and see folks singing it every night is a pretty nice feeling.
Joel: I believe both. At the beginning of my career playing with Aloe Blacc I had no idea it would make it to this level. I have played the empty shows, the tours in the van, the RV, and everything in between with Aloe. To be on this level now is awesome, but to answer the second part there is always room to grow and I believe this project will continue to do that. We are opening for Bruno now, but in the future who knows!
Joe: It’s been an unexpected rise to success. We started out doing smaller tours and each year has been bigger and bigger. The way it looks now this is just the beginning.
3) I’m sure over the years you’ve collected a lot of gear. Any particular instrument that you love the most?
Peter: My Rhodes Mk V, a Clavinet D6 I rebuilt, and my Yamaha CP70 (electric grand). There is life and uniqueness in every note, as each note is literally a different mechanism. The Mobius can coax 3 decades of classic album tones out of them, so it’s usually on.
Joel: Gear is like fashion, things go in and out of style, and/or my taste for them changes! I still have a Parker Fly from my teenage years which I will always love, but for my current taste and gig it’s not for everything. I still love to bring it in on sessions, especially for the clean stuff. I am still digging into the Mobius and Timeline and I am particularly excited about the results I have been getting with my stereo amp set up!
Joe: My Fender American standard jazz bass . It was a second hand used bass but it has the most buttery feel that I have yet to find in another bass.
4) Do you prefer the stage or the studio?
Peter: I like the studio. As a keyboardist, on stage, it’s expected for me to supply a hundred different sounds and parts at the drop of a hat, and possibly run tracks at the same time. In the studio, I can focus on making one amazing sound at a time, and tweak to my hearts content until it’s right.
Joel: I love them both for different reasons. The connection to the audience and spontaneity of the live show is priceless, but the lasting results of the studio and creation of something new can definitely trump the live experience for me. If I had to pick one, I will 9 times out of 10 say studio, but I would also attach that to my ideal touring schedule, 9 days in the studio and 1 day onstage! Live magic just can’t be replaced.
Joe: Personally I love them both but something about playing live and the energy feedback from the crowd. You just can’t get that from the studio.
5) Most memorable gig you have played/attended?
Peter: The Pyramids of Giza. It was a show for a private group with Mariah, and they had a stage built on the sand for the event, in the desert, with the pyramids less than a few hundred yards away. It was the strangest show I’ve ever encountered, possibly for life. A sandstorm hit during soundcheck, i mean come on!
Joel: Glastonbury stands out for me as a pinnacle moment in my career, while it was both live broadcast and live to around 20,000 people. There are plenty of other notable experiences that I have had since, but that festival marked a change in the game for me. Big time festival, tons of mud and people going to extreme ends to witness the music there!
Joe: The gig that stands out for me was playing on the David letterman show in the historic Johnny Carson studios. I’ve been watching bands on that show since I was a kid.
6) Can we expect an album from the three of you in the future? Any solo projects to keep a look out for?
Joel: The Grand Scheme project has been in the works for a long time and is nearing completion! We recorded a lot of material at the end of a long summer run, at Modern World studios in the UK and are looking forward to releasing the material to the public. Stay tuned! Instrumental-Soul-Jazz-Afro-Punk style on it’s way!
Peter: It was a magical time, near the end of a rough summer of constant touring. The Scheme was in sync and I’m glad we captured it.
Joel: That being said I have two albums of solo material under my own name (Joel Van Dijk) A Kind of Blues from 2012 and Truthseeker from 2010. There are definitely some Strymons recorded on there from everyone.
Peter: Joe & I are proud to have been apart of JVD’s albums.
Want more from the Grand Scheme? Check out their latest track “Scheme Theme” from their upcoming album:
Many thanks to the Grand Scheme for taking the time to chat with us, and we wish them the best in their future musical endeavors!
Mike Longworth is a serious player who is a veteran of the L.A. rock scene. He’s the guitarist in the punk rock band Mest, and has performed and toured with Jessica Sanchez, Colton Dixon, Candace Glover, Kree Harrison, and Angie Miller—all winners and runners up of American Idol. He was a member of the band Prong for many years, and has even written a song on the band’s 2012 album Carved Into Stone.
What kind of pedalboard is this, and what is your signal path?
The board and case were custom made by me. Since I use an effects loop, I have two paths going. The first path goes into the front of the amp and is the OB.1, and various tremolos, flange, and distortions. The second path is the Mobius and Timeline, and they go through the effects loop. I have it all wired into a single router that sends it out to the amp. It makes setup time very quick. And it keeps everything very neat.
You have called your pedalboard “clean and quiet”. Can you expand on that?
I keep both paths in separate true bypass loops so they keep the signal quiet while I’m not using them. It also lets me select presets before I need them. When I’m ready for a group of effects I can just hit one button on the loop pedal and engage my effects. It keeps me from having to step on multiple pedals at the same time. I also send MIDI from the Timeline into a Voodoo Lab Control Switcher, and that changes the channel on my amp all with one button.
Can you elaborate a little more on building your own pedalboard?
It mainly started as a project. I’ve always been tempted to have an actual board filled with my favorite pedals, rather than one multi-effects unit (which I still use occasionally). It was about a 6 month process going through all my pedals. Space is limited, so I didn’t want everything on there. Once I got them all in order, I wanted the whole thing to be super quiet, so I added the true bypass loops. I had contacted a few places about wiring it up and the cost was quite high. I know how to solder and I know what cables to use, so I went for it. It worked! Maybe I should build boards?
Mest recently released the new album Not What you Expected! Can you share how your pedals played a part in this album?
I don’t usually use pedals while recording. I need to recreate those sounds live though and that’s where the pedals come in. For this record, I needed certain delays, choruses, trem, and on the song “Radio” I needed to make the guitar sound like it was coming through an AM radio. I actually was able to do all of this with the help of the Timeline and Mobius.
Mest and Kisses For Kings are more hard/punk, but you also play with Jessica Sanchez. Can you share how your pedals differ between the two genres?
I really don’t change much to be honest. My current board is pretty versatile in my opinion. It’s always evolving, but where I have it now, I can get pretty much any effect and sound I want. Because I use several multi-effects units, it saves some room and keeps me from tap dancing too much. For Mest, I let my amp do most of the work as far as clean and dirty. For Jessica Sanchez, I like to go into a cleaner sound as my main, and the OB.1 and other distortions act as a dirtier sound if I need them.
Do you have any advice for musicians getting into the punk scene nowadays, has much changed since back in the day?
The punk scene hasn’t changed much in my opinion. Besides the bands who broke into the mainstream in the early 2000′s, I still see the underground scene staying alive. There are now many different sub- genres of punk, but it’s still there surviving in the underground. The best advice I can give is to just play and don’t get discouraged by what people are saying is a dead music industry. There are always going to be bands playing live and fans going to see them. That is never going to end.
Guitarist Pete Thorn can be found doing a myriad of things. He has been guitar sideman for Chris Cornell, Don Henley, Melissa Etheridge and many more. He also has his own solo album Guitar Nerd. You can check out a bunch of great gear demos on Pete’s youtube page. Or if you are looking for some tips, be sure to check out his articles over at Premier Guitar. Let’s get to know a bit more about his pedalboard!
What type of pedalboard is this?
The board is made by Trailer Trash, and I use it for touring and for recording. It’s big enough to do everything I could possibly want, but small enough that I can still carry it around myself— fits nicely in the trunk of my car!
What is your signal path?
My guitar either feeds an AKG wireless, then the pedalboard, or is plugged into the board using Providence cable. The signal runs into a Mission volume pedal and Vertex Axis wah, then hits the Musicomlab MKIII switcher. The switcher feeds a TC Polytune mini. The loops in the switcher have 8 pedals (1 per loop). They are:
The output of the switcher feeds a 1/4 inch jack on the left side of the board. Under the board is an RJM Y-Not midi A/B box, and the input and A/B outs also show up on the left side of the board. I patch the output of the switcher into the input of the A/B box. Output A feeds a D.I. This is for acoustic. Output B goes to the input of my main Suhr PT100 amp (my signature Suhr 100 watt amp). The amp effects send goes to the “post fx input”, also on the left side of my board. From there, the signal goes:
The outputs of the 2nd H9 feed the effect return of the main PT100 amp and also a 2nd PT100, for stereo. I come out of the amps into 2 Suhr 2-12″ cabs with Celestion Creamback H speakers. That’s it!
What things did you need to take into consideration when building your 2014 pedalboard?
Size. I wanted it to be small enough to carry myself! But yet, I wanted to be able to do virtually everything I did with my previous rig—which consisted of a 12 space rack, 3 speaker cabs, etc etc! I need it super-reliable and road worthy. And of course NO tone suck, and as little noise as possible. On my last tour, we had to run about 35 feet of cable between the board for every run—the amps were back by my tech, but I was up on a riser. So, 35 feet from switcher out to the amp input, then 35 foot runs to and from the effects loops of the 2 heads. That’s a lot of unbalanced cable! It was quiet and sounded great, virtually like I was plugged right into the amp with a short cable. That’s because Dave Friedman did the board right, and John Suhr makes the best effect loops on earth. Buffered, quiet, tight, solid. Quality.
You tour with many artists, what is the pedal decisions like when you start touring with an artist? Does the artist provide any feedback on those decisions?
Not usually. I usually know what to do. “Black Hole Sun”…. I need a rotary pedal! “Like A Stone”- I need a whammy. That sort of thing. That’s why you get hired—you know what to do.
Please tell us about your new solo release “The Groomed Noodler.”
I recorded that track as a way to help the Suhr guys show off their new SL67 plexi-type amp. I wanted it to be just a raw, in your face kinda tune, to really show off the amp. It sounded really cool, so I decided I’d throw it up on iTunes, and also offer it through Jamtrackcentral.com as a lesson. You can get it from them as a package with full tab, a version with no lead guitar, etc. I’m glad people dig it.
How is touring solo different than touring as “guitar sideman”? Do you do anything different with your pedalboard?
Not really—the board is so versatile. I can use it easily in different configurations, in mono, or stereo, for example. I can also quickly patch everything so all the effects are in front of an amp—useful if I had to use a rental amp like a Twin or AC30, and there was no effects loop. I designed it to be adaptable to different situations.
Any advice to other musicians on what to consider when building a touring pedalboard?
I recommend collecting all the pedals first, laying them all out—look at what you have, and measure. Then you know how big of a board you’ll need. I like the Trailer Trash boards because it’s easy to run power supplies and cables underneath. It saves space and makes for a clean setup. You can also put jacks/patch points on the side of the board. I recommend that, because you can do it like I did—put some patches there, so you can re-route things easily and re-configure how you use your board, if need be. On my first tour with the board, with Melissa Etheridge, the out of the switcher fed the input of the post FX path, and the out of the last post FX (then a Line 6 M9) fed the RJM A/B box. The A out went to a Him Kelley amp set clean. The B out went to a Suhr SL68 set crunchy. So I used all FX in front, and A/B’d 2 amps, old school. Now, I use the post FX (the time based stuff) in the loop of the PT amps and am running in stereo, and the A/B is used for switching between acoustic and electric. Easy, and painless, to configure the board both ways, because of the patching on the side. So I recommend that sort of setup.
Also—I recommend consulting someone who knows this stuff really well, when building a board. There’s so many snafus you can hit, with ground loops, power issues, etc. Dave Friedman really knows his stuff, so he keeps my boards running smooth and quiet. That experience is invaluable. I can hit the stage with peace of mind, knowing my rig is tight. Good luck guys, happy rocking!
Stanton Edward is a guitarist and producer who has worked with several artists including The Wallflowers, KS Rhoads, Missy Higgins and more. When Stanton isn’t on tour he enjoys being back home working on music in Nashville, TN.
What kind of pedalboard is this, and what is your signal path?
This is a Pedaltrain 2 that has been customized by XTS (Xact Tone Solutions) in Nashville. I had them flatten out the top and put in a custom interface that allows me to send isolated lines to 2 amps. They also put in a phase reversal switch on one of the outputs in case I run into a phase issue between the two amps. Another cool option they included for me was an insert that will allow me to pop in extra pedals after my drive section in case I pick up something cool on the road and want to throw it on my board without ripping up cables and pedals.
My signal path is constantly changing – I typically setup a new board and amp configuration for each different gig I play to really capture the vibe and feel of the artist. Lately I’ve been touring with The Wallflowers and my signal path is as follows:
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal (with custom XTS buffer to retain high-end) > Throbak Overdrive Boost > Durham Electronics Sex Drive > Another Sex Drive setup as a solo boost > Original 1984 Rat > Stymon Lex > Modded EH Memory Boy > Strymon Flint > 90′s EH Memory Man > Dual Outs to Fender Deluxe Reverb & Vox AC-30
Can you share a bit on how you have been using your Strymon Lex?
What a great pedal. When I was looking for a leslie pedal the main factor I’d consider is the quality of the “low” speed. This is where a lot of pedals miss the mark. I’ve played through a ton of real leslie cabs and to me, the Lex sounds closer to the real thing than anything else out there. I’ve also got to brag on the Flint. I’m a tremolo and reverb nut. I typically play through old Gibson & Fender combos in the studio but can’t always bring them to a gig. I threw a Flint on my board about a year ago and I find myself using it more and more, even when I’m playing my vintage amps in the studio.
You recently did a cover of The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows.” How has John Lennon and The Beatles influences you as a musician?
I mean, it’s John Lennon… What can I say that hasn’t been said a million times before? What an unbelievable creative individual he was. The Beatles are my “desert island” band for sure. There’s just so much variety. I’ve always loved their weirder, more experimental stuff and “Tomorrow Never Knows” is no exception. I love George Harrison’s playing on that track and I was really trying to capture that cutting lead tone on the solos. The main thing I take away from listening to The Beatles’ records is that they wouldn’t get in a hurry to churn something out. So much that happens on their tracks is so deliberate, creative and thoughtful while still retaining a raw, exciting feel. I try to keep a healthy balance of those two elements when I play. To me, great music is 50% brains and 50% guts.
Nashville is known for it’s great music scene. Can you share a bit about your musical adventures in Nashville? And for a newbie in Nashville where is the first place they should go for an evening of music?
Simple. Watch Mike Henderson on Monday nights at The Bluebird Cafe. I’ve been going to see him since I moved to town 11 years ago. Mike will show you that playing guitar is ALL in your hands, not your gear. His touch on the guitar is beyond words.
Do you have any bits of advice you could give for a band going into the recording studio for the first time?
All of my favorite artists strike a healthy balance of playing from their brain and playing from their guts. To me, that’s what it’s all about. Take the time before going into the studio to really practice and hone your skills. One thing I really hate to hear from guitar players is the classic line “I don’t practice because I want to play from the heart in the moment”. To me, this is such a misguided approach. You want to get your hands in a place where they’re ready for anything your brain can throw at them in the moment. Doing this will give you the freedom to explore new areas in a live situation and will get you out of the rut of playing your tired old “go-to” riffs and licks.
Listen to your favorite players, steal riffs and techniques from them and incorporate them into your playing. Learn the fretboard. Can’t stress that enough. Practice your scales & modes. Take the time to learn chords in every inversion up and down the neck. It makes such a difference and will really free up your playing. You’ll be amazed how that preparation will pay off when you’re in the moment in a live show or session.
Probably most importantly is to remember that as soon as you think you’ve learned everything there is to know about the guitar you’ll immediately stop getting better. Chet Atkins would steal riffs and learn new things from fellow guitar players right up until he passed. That inquisitive spirit is what made him one the best players to ever touch the instrument.
Killian Gavin grew up listening to The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac. From a young age he never wanted to do anything other than play in a band. His mum had him in piano lessons as a child, and once he hit about 12 years old he decided to learn guitar and never looked back. The first song he learned was Come As You Are by Nirvana. Killian is now enjoying the growing success of Boy & Bear.
What kind of pedalboard is this, and what is your signal path?
I had the board custom built by my best mate who’s a builder and a guitarist too. I planned out what I wanted in terms of size and shape and he put it together.
Signal chain is as follows:
T1M mini buffer (under the board)
Then I go into the crocodile tail loop.
Loop 1 – Sweetsound Univibe
Loop 2 – Keeley compressor
Loop 3 – Klon
Loop 4 – Analogman KOT
Loop 5 – ’85 RAT
Loop 6 – EP booster
Loop 7 – Byoc tremolo
Volume pedal and bjfe buffer (not in a loop)
Then the Strymon Timeline (not in a loop)
Loop 8 – Strymon Ola
Then into Strymon blueSky (not in a loop)
Loop 9 and 10 control which amp or both amps are on. (’68 AC30 and ’66 Princeton Reverb).
Can you share one or two of your favorite settings for your Strymon Ola?
My Ola I mainly use for vibrato. It sounds fantastic at every setting, but I have one favourite sound saved for live use, a fast speed and lower depth setting. It’s such a beautiful sound, I used it recording the guitars on ‘Real Estate’ and ‘Stranger’ from our latest record.
You are touring all over in 2014. How have your shows differed from when the band first formed in 2009 to now? How has that affected your pedalboard?
Like everything, you learn with time. I’ve found with trial and error what sounds work for me. Early on playing really small shows when we started out as band I just had a couple of boost pedals and a delay. As time went on and and my fascination with modulation surfaced and the board expanded. These days keeping a healthy signal chain is crucial. Using buffers were appropriate help both the feel and response of the amp to behave as if I were plugging directly into it.
Could you share a bit about your songwriting process? Do you use pedals during your songwriting process?
Songwriting is so liquid, and always changing. Sometimes I prefer to write without the clutter of a pedalboard, and just get the part nailed first. Other times the sound of a certain effect can inspire me to write a part with a certain feel.
Traveling with gear can always be a little nerve-racking. Do you have any advice for traveling with your pedalboard?
I kinda think if you can’t bear the thought of it breaking, then perhaps don’t bring it on tour. We are doing about 200 shows this year. That’s a lot of travelling and flying so plenty of opportunities for gear to break. Our tech is fantastic at keeping everything safe and protected, and when stuff fails he’s there to fix it. I had a ’60s Gibson 355 snap it’s headstock recently which was pretty heartbreaking, but it happens.
Please share what is on the horizon for Boy & Bear.
We will be touring for about a year and a half on this record. Hopefully in early 2015 we will start writing some new ideas for a new record. That’s about it for now.
A few weeks back Hugo did a blog on Sound on Sound with El Capistan. I thought it would be fun for this Artist Feature to take a look at what you have been doing with Sound on Sound. Check it out below.
What better way to start off than to double up the looping! Here is Dennis Kayzer looping with TimeLine and adding in some fun Sound on Sound loops with El Capistan.
BigMachineWriting takes us on a musical decaying journey. Enjoy :)
Elias Checco put together this fun reggae jam with the added bonus of Mobius in the mix.
And you don’t have to just play guitar, check out this funky bass loop by Arthur Wouters.
Westlenz gets loopy!
Krayuns shows in 15 seconds how to drastically change your Loop
iamneff posted this loop
And then two hours later post of the same loop
Do you have a video or song featuring El Capistan Sound on Sound? Please share below.
Andy Othling is a guitarist from Albuquerque, New Mexico who writes and records his own music under the name Lowercase Noises and plays with bands Archabald and Future of Forestry. He runs a YouTube channel and a site called Reverb Nerds that focuses largely on ambient guitar playing and sounds. Let’s learn a bit more about his current pedalboard!
What type of pedalboard do you have?
I’m using a Pedaltrain PT-3. It gives me enough space to have a good amount of pedals without getting overwhelming.
What is your signal path?
Walrus Audio Deep Six
Electro Harmonix Micro POG
Walrus Audio Mayflower
Earthquaker Devices Bit Commander
Xotic EP Booster
Ernie Ball MVP (with Boss TU-3 on tuner output)
Electro Harmonix Superego
Malekko Ekko 616
Dr. Scientist Tremolessence
Strymon El Capistan
Boss DD-5 (in hold mode for stutter/glitch effects)
ZVex Instant Lo-fi Junky
Disaster Area DMC-3 XL controller is connected to both the Timeline and BigSky via MIDI
Two this1smyne mini expression knobs are also controlling different parameters on the Timeline and Bigsky
How many variations have you gone through on your board?
Oh man, definitely a lot. It seems like I’m usually doing at least two or three different projects at the same time which all require different sounds/styles, so I’m always trying to figure out ways to make my board more versatile. Sometimes I entertain the idea of splitting things out and making different boards for different occasions, but that just seems more complicated. I also just like to leave room for experimentation and weirdness… things outside the standard overdrive/delay/reverb sounds.
What are some important tips for putting together an Ambient board?
Well obviously having some solid reverbs and delay are key. A volume pedal is pretty important if you want more synthy/swelly sounds, and I like having a compressor on board for added sustain and fatness. A lot of people are confused when they see multiple delays on my board, but honestly one of my favorite things is to stack two or even three delays to get a big soupy sound. I’m also a fan of the more textural side of ambient guitar, which to me is about very non-guitar and even non-musical sounds to fill the space and provide a complement to the more standard ambient sounds. The Lo-fi Junky, Micro POG, Superego and even the wacky modulation on the Ekko 616 can provide sounds like that.
You get to play with a lot of pedals. What’s the first thing you usually do when you get a new pedal?
Usually when I get something new it’s to serve a pretty specific purpose, so the first thing I do is see if it actually does that thing well. But whether it does or not, I always take the time to really explore all the possible sounds from the pedal. I’ve had it happen where a new pedal didn’t actually do what I originally wanted all that well, but ended up sounding really cool in some other setting or for some other purpose.
I’ve been making ambient guitar related YouTube videos for about 6 years now, and last year I really started feeling like it would be beneficial to make a place outside of YouTube where I could put all this content together, make it easier for people to peruse and digest, and really just provide a single place where people can go for tips specifically about ambient guitar. So far it’s been a great success and people are really getting a lot out of it!
Preorder Lowercase Noises new album “This is For Our Sins” here.
What do you get when you combine Strymon gear, synths and some creative minds? Check out some artists we have enjoyed recently with their mad keyboard and synth skills.
Peter Dyer joined us here at the Strymon shop and brought with him a ridiculous arsenal of cool keyboards. When he arrived his car was loaded up with a Dave Smith Prophet 12, Nord Stage 2, Korg Volca Keys, Arturia Microbrute, and the Therevox ET 4.3. We had a ton of fun recording these sound clips with him, and enjoyed hearing the many unique sounds he put together with BigSky.
Seif Sherif – Musician and visual artist Seif Sherif shared this picture of his Korg MS-20 and El Capistan.
Check out this great tour photo that Hillsong United’s Dylan Thomas sent us.
We came across this picture that Jonì Velásquez hash-tagged us on and enjoyed all the Strymon synth goodness going on.
Yasmin Hadisubrata hash-tagged us for this one which was shot while he was getting ready for his tour with Ivy Quainoo.
Scott Brown took this atmospheric picture while experimenting with some drone sounds, hope we get to hear some of it!
TheStrangeAgency TimeLine, BigSky and 5 Novation Bass Stations, yep you heard us right, 5 Novation Bass Stations. Got to check this out.
Well this might be cheating putting this in the Keyboard/Synth feature, but it is crazy cool and we live in the digital age now and this Virtual ANS is a software simulator of the Russian synthesizer ANS. So that’s fair! Enjoy :)
Tim Oliver’s Roland Paraphonic-505 is full of wonder and that just builds up with the addition of El Capistan. Get taken on a wonderous journey while you listen to this one.
Jon Carolino’s videos have a way of soothing you into a nice calm. This one especially can help bring your heart rate down and you can just sit back, close your eyes and relax.
We’d be pleased if most of our “just noodling” turned out this beautiful. Noodle away zibbybone, we could listen for hours.
Simple, beautiful and can we say even a little haunting.
Chris Wrate is a guitarist, songwriter and musical director that works with Ariana Grande, David Foster, Randy Jackson, Daniel Powter, Cher Lloyd, and Charice, among others. Chris originates from southeastern Wisconsin, where he got his first live experiences sitting in with local blues musicians around the Chicago and Milwaukee area. He recently sent us a photo of his pedalboard, and we wanted to learn a bit more about it.
What was most important when first starting building your board?
Having a good overdriven tone. A lot of guitar players I looked to when building my board (Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio) weren’t necessarily using a large amount of effects—but had these great overdriven tones that they are noted for. So I kind of looked to them when I first got started out.
What type of pedalboard is this?
PedalTrain 3. I’ve been using their boards for a while and they seem to withstand the abuse from frequent traveling well.
What is your signal path?
Sonnus Wahoo Wah, Ernie Ball Jr. Volume Pedal (modded by Mercy Seat Effects), Empress Effects Compressor, Em-Drive by Emerson Custom, Walrus Audio Mayflower Overdrive, Mercy Seat EffectsTree of Life Overdrive, Empress Effects Multidrive, Xotic Effects EP Booster, Mercy Seat Effects Zacchaeus Boost, Electro Harmonix Micro POG, Strymon Mobius, Strymon TimeLine, Strymon BigSky.
When you are on the road what is the biggest challenge or advantage of your pedalboard? What about in the studio?
I think both in touring and in studio work, the biggest advantage I find with my board is it’s versatility and my understanding of it’s capabilities. The guitar is often thought of as a lead instrument but is capable of so many sounds and textures that can be used in great support to the music and musicians around it. Once I started to invest in modulated effects, delays, and time-based effects I really started to understand their power and ability to make you more valuable as a player when you understand how to use them in context. Especially in the studio, I do a lot of work with film and writing cues. Having a wide range of sounds to pull from can again really increase your worth to other composers/producers. The disadvantage I’ve found at times, mostly when playing live, is that I might find myself trying to do too much with my effects. It also becomes another thing you have to be paying attention to when playing, aside from remembering the form of the song, vocals and lyrics if you’re singing—now you are also thinking about what effects come when throughout the song. It can trip you up and take a little more time to become comfortable with each song especially if the set gets long.
What current project are you working?
Currently I am the musical director and guitarist for Ariana Grande. I have also recently been writing and recording a lot of cues for TV and commercials.
In this installment of Every Instrument has a Story, we talk to David Gerald Sutton, a violinist that manipulates his instrument to sound like a viola, cello, bass, drums, and synthesizers. He creates loops live onstage, developing intricate and beautiful soundscapes reminiscent of film composers like Thomas Newman (Finding Nemo, Saving Mr. Banks) mixed with a pop flair. David brings a knowledge of great production and clarity to classical instrumentalists crossing into the electric realm. His music gives a different perspective of the violin to the modern day listener, blending traditional pop structure and melody with classical undertones. His new EP, entitled Communion, will be released this spring.
David’s story of his violin:
My violin is a 2009 Acoustic Electric Strings (AES Violins) London5 Violin, nicknamed Rose. It has five strings: C, G, D, A, E. It’s essentially a violin/viola hybrid with a built-in pickup designed by the maker, Gary Bartig.
I met Gary at the American String Teacher’s Association (ASTA) Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. I tried one of his instruments and was blown away by it’s tone and it’s ease of play. I found out he was in North East Minneapolis and we set up an appointment to meet after the convention. I brought my whole rig and tried three instruments. My instrument, Rose, was one that Gary could not sell. No one had liked it. After many adjustments and no takers, it was just sitting in his shop, collecting dust. However, when I played it, everything about it was just beautiful: the strings played evenly across the range of the instrument, almost with a natural compression to it. The pickup translated each note perfectly, sounding exactly as it did unplugged. Rose has been my violin ever since. I have two violins that just sit in their cases now because they can’t even compare.
I think my favorite piece of music I have recorded and my best story with Rose is a song I named after her.
I was writing, recording, and producing my first EP by myself and had set a hard deadline for September 1st. I was a week away, and the last song just wasn’t sounding like I wanted it to. I scrapped the idea and thought about just releasing the two songs recorded and leave it at that. Instead, I came up with a progression that night, recorded it the next day, and had my friend Matt Decker record drums on it the following Sunday. I met the deadline I’d set for myself, and it completely changed how I wanted to sound. All the songs on my next record, Communion, are some of my greatest works by far, but I would not have written them if I didn’t have Rose, the instrument, and written Rose, the song.
We recently heard from pedalboard builder Mike Vegas of Nice Rack Canada, and he gave us the story behind a challenging job to create a board for a Jazz & Chamber Orchestra guitarist, Rob Piltch. We thought the board turned out great and were intrigued by the nuances and wanted to learn more.
We asked Mike to elaborate a bit more on this unique board.
What needed to be considered when creating this board?
Guitarist Rob Piltch has long been one of Canada’s “A List” players with a decided lean towards very clean sounds that don’t have a lot of extra harmonic reach added through overdrives or distortions. The signal path had to be super transparent to allow the guitar to speak very dynamically with the amp while combining the “colour” of the effects. Due to the super quiet stage volume of the chamber orchestra environment, the signal path and “noise floor” of the system had to be as quiet as possible. Each effect pedal’s mechanical switches had to be quiet as possible as well. In respect to the producer and client relationship that a session player has to maintain we built a rig that has a set up and tear down time of less than 2 minutes.
What did you need to do to address the super quiet environment?
Strymon pedals are shipped from the factory with “soft touch” momentary switches that work very quietly, so we emulated that in each other effect pedal that previously had mechanical switches. We used these “soft touch” momentary switches engaging switching relays we installed in each pedal.
To accommodate producer / client effect requests that fall outside the scope of what the system contains, we built an “external” effects loop with clickless switching between the dynamics and post effects for easy insertion of extra effects into signal path. We also built a clickless clean boost circuit of variable gain from unity to +20db.
What is the signal path?
Guitar » DriveTrain OD » Sans Amp Classic » External Loop » Marshall ED1 Compressor » Nice Rack Canada Clean Boost with 3 outputs. #1 » Tuner #2 » dry feed to Sound Sculpture Volcano & line mixer. #3 » Strymon Mobius (mono in – stereo out) » Boss FV500L stereo volume & expression pedal » Strymon TimeLine » RJM Music Mini line mixer combining 100% wet effects with 100% dry signal to create a parallel “50/50″ blend of wet & dry signal into the left & right Fender Princeton Reverb amps. The expression pedal jack on the FV500L is connected to the Sound Sculpture Volcano which acts as volume pedal for the dry signal from the Clean Boost into the line mixer.
The Clean Boost’s buffered split to send signal to tuner constantly, provides a visual “cheat” for hitting certain intervals on a pitch bend, also allows for volume swelling a bent note while coming in on pitch with other players. We included switching circuit to sum stereo effects to mono for single amp gigs, no re-patching, no signal loss, no phase issues.
We also sync’d tap tempo from TimeLine to Mobius.
Why does set up and tear down need to be so fast?
For a session player to be able to walk into a studio and set up the rig in under 2 minutes says to the producer & client that not only does the player have chops but is also respectful of the “time is money” credo in relation to studio costs etc. This factor helps the player get repeated calls from producers.
And what did you do to make that happen?
We built latching in & out connection points for signal & power to & from the pedalboard. The amplifier I/O box features switchable ground isolation transformers for the left & right amp outputs and clickless relays for silent switching to mute. A multicore cable with custom cut lengths to reach input jacks etc helps streamline the set up time. In under 2 minutes Rob can uncase the board, plug in all cables in seconds, uncase amps, plug in multicore to amps, plug in to power point, tune guitar, start playing.
Although Rob is not using MIDI to control the system we included a MIDI Integration point for connecting the Strymon pedals to an external sequencer/recording suite for clock input and possible program changes & continuous control movements as necessitated by the session that Rob may be playing on.
Nice Rack Canada is passionate about building guitar rigs, bass rigs & keyboard rigs. Our mission is for musicians to get the absolute best tone and functionality from their equipment. We can build a rack or pedalboard system to suit your desire & budget. We offer a number of lightweight & easy to setup systems that maximize your tone and conform to your unique criteria. We are committed to building the best implements we can with the highest quality materials. We consciously source as much of our materials as possible from domestic sources. We seek to help build our community by creating value for musicians through our assemblies while creating jobs through our purchasing and the forward going opportunities that our assemblies create. We value the role that we play in a musician’s creative process and are honoured to have a hand in making many forms music to be enjoyed by everyone.
Rob Pitch is one of Canada’s best known sidemen and session players. Starting in the late 70′s with his brother David on bass, both Piltch brothers played with their saxophone & clarinet playing band leader / father Bernie Piltch. Rob moved on to playing with David Clayton-Thomas in Blood, Sweat & Tears during the Nuclear Blues period. Rob has recorded & toured his own solo works as well as works by Don Johnson, Hugh Marsh, Kim Mitchell, Shirley Eikhardt, Marc Jordan, Guido Basso, and Rob McConnell. Rob also works with his avant cabaret combo NickBuzz which itself is a “super group” of Canadian jazz musicians featuring Rob alongside Hugh Marsh, Jonathan Goldsmith & Martin Tielli. Rob is also a regular contributor to the Art of Time Ensemble which is regarded as one of Canada’s most forward thinking and musically talented chamber orchestras.