American Musical Supply
American Musical Supply
1-800-458-4076
AMS Advantage
August 20, 2009
Get the Best of Both Worlds from a Condenser Microphone

...and by both worlds I mean multiple patterns thanks to multiple diaphragms. Most small diaphragm condensers come set up to offer on pickup pattern, however in some cases it is selectable but typically uses the same diaphragm which will change the voicing substantially. It usually means you loose a bit of transparency of frequency curve flatness. With the CAD Equitek E70 Modular Dual-Capsule Condenser Microphone, you truly get the best of both worlds since you actually get 2 different capsules in one inexpensive, small diaphragm condenser microphone. Choose between an omnidirectional capsule for flat near field and ambience or the cardioid capsule for proximity boost and off-axis rejection. The combination works great for choirs, orchestras, acoustic instruments, guitar cabinets, strings, piano, cymbals/overheads, hi-hat and pretty much anything you can think of. Talk about versatility!

CAD Equitek E70 Modular Dual-Capsule Condenser Microphone

Condenser Microphone

August 14, 2009
Recording and Re-Amping Guitar and Bass Tracks

If you have a few extra tracks on your recording session and are not sure if you'll be happy with the sound of your guitar or bass amplifier, or want to re-amp your guitar tracks through a variety of amplifiers and blend them in post production, a Direct Box (DI) with a thru output, like the Whirlwind Director Passive Direct Box, is a 'cost effective' answer.

Connect your guitar or bass to the DI input and run a mic cable from the XLR Thru straight into a mic input on your recorder and attach an instrument cable from the 1/4 inch output into your mic'd up amplifier. Record both tracks separately so you have 2 recorded tracks (one clean and one amplified) and now the 'clean, thru' track is ready for re-amping.

When Re-amplifing your guitar or bass with another amplifier, connect your DI backwards (to match impedance) sending your recorded 'clean, thru' track to the XLR 'Thru' output of the DI and out to your preferred amplifier from the DI's 1/4 inch input. Mic up your amp and re-record the clean guitar track with your new amp setup into an open track on your recorder and there you have a fresh, re-amped guitar or bass track added to your recording!

For a Pro looking for the ultimate Re-Amping Kit, Radial Engineering makes a product just for you; The Radial J48 and X Amp ReAmping Kit comes with all you need to set up for re-amping and comes with a protective case for travel and storage.

Whirlwind Director Passive Direct Box

Radial J48 and X Amp ReAmping Kit with Case

August 7, 2009
Noisy Guitar Pedals

If you have noisy guitar pedals that pop or click when turning on or off, try using the Boss Line Selector (BOS LS2). It is totally silent, and can even boost or cut the volume of the pedals in its chain. I have several effects in series, in a loop and switch them on or off while bypassed . Then when I need them for a part I can turn them all on or off at once. I use this pedal at every show I play.

Boss LS2 Line Selector and Power Supply Pedal

Shane from Connecticut

July 31, 2009
Coiling Snakes

When coiling an especially long mic snake ( ours was 27 pair X 250 feet ), we used to coil into a figure 8 configuration. Then tape ( or velcro strap ) it before folding the upper loops, and lower loops together. This allows snake to be coiled, without twisting either the input box, or the pigtails. When you get to the next venue, you unfold the figure 8, and pull the snake back out.

Live Audio Snakes

Matt from Michigan

July 16, 2009
WHAT IS A BUS?

I get customers calling all the time asking about mixing boards and one question that pops up quite frequently is "What do they mean by a 4 bus mixer or an 8 bus mixer? What is a bus?" The bus referred to here does not have wheels that go 'round and 'round, carry 3rd graders or have Sandra Bullock driving it. Basically, a mixer bus is a pathway you can route one or more audio signals to with the purpose of sending them to specific places such as auxiliary sends, monitors, effect loops or stereo mix.

It's always a good thing to have several busses available to use in live sound applications mainly because audio channels can be bussed together and controlled by one group fader, thereby having less controls for the engineer to manipulate on the fly. (It's always sad when a sound engineer gets his fingers tied in knots from too many fader adjustments.) Keep in mind however, even though the master group fader has control over the level of the summed audio group, individual levels can still be adjusted via the channel fader.

In the studio, busses can be used to group signals together for recording when there are too many channels of audio for them all to be sent to your multi-track recorder, interface or sound card.

4 Bus Mixer

AMS Product Tech

July 14, 2009
Equalization, Friend or Foe

Whether in a live situation or in a recording studio, not only is an Equalizer very useful, it's an absolute must, but only if you don't overdo it. For example, as we listen to a guitar track and we want to hear more of the midrange frequencies, we tend to reach over and boost those frequencies. But when we boost that certain frequency the surrounding frequencies are not as prominent in the mix, so then we boost those also. The next thing you know we have maxed out our EQ, leaving us nowhere else to go. The other option is to actually cut the surrounding frequencies of the band you want to boost. The benefits being, cutting the unwanted frequencies on that guitar track will allow other instruments to stand out and you have successfully boosted the frequency you wanted to hear, without creating unwanted noise. Keep in mind that drastically increasing or reducing frequencies can add unwanted noise to your mix, but used correctly and sparingly, an equalizer can greatly enhance your mixes. Check out our complete section of equalizers online to find the right one for your studio or live rig.

Audio Equalizers

AMS Product Tech

July 9, 2009
STUDIO MONITORS VS HI-FI SPEAKERS

Ok you may have all heard the terms "Studio Monitor, Reference Monitor and Near-field Monitor" thrown around and some of you are asking the question "What are they and what's the difference between Reference monitors and Hi-fi stereo speakers?" Well today is your lucky day.

The terms Studio Monitor and Reference Monitor are synonymous, they both refer to loudspeakers that are specifically designed for audio production applications such as radio, recording, television and film studios. "Monitor" in this application refers to a speaker with a relatively flat linear phase and frequency response. In other words the speakers will produce a true i.e. transparent or uncolored representation of the recording source with no emphasis or de-emphasis of particular frequencies (no accented highs or lows or scooped out midrange) A Near-field monitor serves the same purpose but are usually smaller, more compact and sit either on a stand or desktop in close proximity to the listener. This is beneficial to the listener because the sound comes directly from the speaker rather than bouncing off the walls and ceilings (which would of course pick up the coloration and reverberation of the room i.e. the room's ambience.)

Hi-fi Stereo speakers in contrast to the studio monitors are designed to make the audio sound "better" by emphasizing (or de-emphasizing) certain frequencies. Add a lot of bass, a little more high range and scoop out the mid range and you have a typical stereo speaker. These are not recommended for studio mastering. Here is an example why. Say you’re mixing down your newest creation with a pair of hi-fi stereo speakers that have a heavy emphasis on the bass frequencies. You want a good solid thump in your mix so you push the low end in the mix until it sounds good, bounce it down and burn a CD. Then when you go to play your creation on a commercial stereo system, the nice bass that was present in the studio is missing. Chances are your midrange frequencies sound overly boosted and the highs might not sparkle the way you intended because you didn’t have a true representation of the original audio source when you did the mix.

So keep those stereo speakers where they belong, in your car, in your home and NOT in your studio. Reference monitors are what you need and what you must have to get the awesome mixes I know you are capable of creating.

Studio Monitors

AMS Product Tech

June 29, 2009
SPEAKER REPLACEMENT

If you are about to replace the speakers in your 2 or 3 way cabinet and you are thinking about putting in something different from the factory speakers it originally came with, do yourself a favor and have someone next to you slap your fingers. You're always going to get the best results by replacing the speakers with the exact same speakers your cabinet came with and here's why.

Speaker systems have crossover points that are designed to match the frequency responses of the components that the manufacturer uses. By installing a different woofer, the speaker's crossover in most situations won't match the frequency response of the new woofer, thereby inciting some rather unflattering remarks about your sound quality.

Putting the correct speakers into your cabinet may cost you a little more and may be a little more work but your cabs will sound great and you will avoid any disparaging remarks about your sound quality... I cannot speak for your playing quality but the speakers will sound great!

If you have any questions about which speaker should go into your cabinet contact the manufacturer of your cab. It is definitely worth the extra effort. AMS carries a full line of replacement speakers that are sure to meet your needs.

Replacement Speakers

AMS Product Tech

June 25, 2009
Acoustic Guitar Recording

Here are some tips for recording an acoustic guitar:

1. Use a condenser mic for recording. Condenser mics tend to have a smooth, clean detailed sound.

2. Place the mic about 6" to 12" away from the sound hole for a smooth natural tone. Close miking will give you a harsher, more brittle tone. Miking to close to the bridge will give you a "woody" mellow tone.

3. If you have access to two condenser mics, try using them in an XY pattern about 3 to 6 feet away. If you have a "live" room this will pick up some of the natural reverb of the room.

4. If a realistic stereo sound is what you desire, use those same 2 condenser mics about 12” from the guitar; one placed at about the 12th fret, the other near the bridge of the guitar. Pan one left, and one right.

Don't forget to check out our large selection of large and small diaphragm condenser microphones.

AMS Product Tech

June 23, 2009
Guitar Amp Vacuum Tubes

Q. How often should I change tubes in my guitar amp?

A. That depends on how often you are using the amp. A guitarist that plays 3-5 nights a week would probably change tubes every 6 month's or so. If you just play occasionally you should not have to change tubes as often. Here are some signs from Groove Tubes that your tubes are deteriorating:

1. Loss of highs or lows
2. Muddy chords
3. Poor balance in the output levels of various notes
4. Lacks punch
5. Your amp makes funny noises
6. Amp starts sounding weak
7. Power fading up and down
8. No sustain, or fast decay

As you may have guessed there are no hard and fast rules about changing Tubes, just use your ears and a little common sense. Be sure to check out our selection of vacuum tubes here.

Guitar Amp Vacuum Tubes

AMS Product Tech

June 19, 2009
Adding subwoofers to your PA system

Most subwoofers used for professional live applications use either 15- or 18-inch drivers. The 10- and 12-inch versions, while punchy, usually don’t respond as well to the subsonic frequencies as the larger subs. For most effective use, the crossover frequency should be no higher than 120 Hz, though some pros set the crossover point between the subs and the low frequency drivers as low as 80 Hz. Crossover can be accomplished using either a passive or active network. Using a passive crossover will likely be less expensive and simpler to use, but an active crossover will almost certainly be more efficient, effective, and versatile in the long run.

Crossover

AMS Product Tech

June 16, 2009
KEYBOARDS and WORKSTATIONS

Question: What is the difference between a Synthesizer Keyboard and a Workstation Keyboard?

It's not a question of great philosophical value like the age-old laundry room conundrum of "Where do all missing left socks go when they disappear?" or "How many holes does it take to fill the Albert Hall?" I digress, now that I am done contemplating the questions of the universe lets get down to the real question at hand.

A synthesizer keyboard is basically a performance-based instrument with a set of keys and a lot of on-board sounds along with the ability to manipulate those sounds to create even more unique and customized sounds.

A workstation is all that AND the proverbial bag of chips. In addition to the keyboard, the sounds and the ability to customize the sounds, you get all the tools you need to compose as well as perform. The workstation may have other tools such as a sequencer, multi-track recorder, sampler and some form of removable storage such as an SD memory card all of which can expand the limits of your creativity and performance skills.

Now if I could just find the missing left socks.

Keyboards

Workstation

AMS Product Tech

June 9, 2009
Adjusting EQ

As we listen to our recordings, it is only natural that when we want to hear more of a certain frequency we automatically reach over and boost the frequency on our equalizer. In turn the surrounding frequencies are not as audible so we then boost those, etc. Finally, all the frequencies are boosted so we have nowhere to go. One option is to consider cutting the surrounding frequencies of the one band you want to boost. Benefits are twofold.

First, cutting unwanted frequencies on the offending track will make room for other instruments to break through. Second, you've essentially boosted the fundamental frequency without raising your noise floor so you retain a clean, strong signal. Bear in mind that drastically cutting frequencies can add noise to your system, much the same way as boosting frequencies. Used correctly, this technique will produce full and balanced mixes. Check out our large selection of EQ's here.

AMS Product Tech

June 9, 2009
Cymbals

In the world of drumming a lot of your sound comes from the choice of cymbals: cast, sheet, hand hammered, B20 bronze and alloys. With so many brands and varieties of cymbals out there, how do you know what cymbal is right for you? Here are a few tips when you are choosing your sound.

Sheet cymbals are made by rolling out a "sheet" of alloy and punching out the cymbals in a cookie cutter fashion. Generally these cymbals are cheaper to produce and most have a brighter sound with more cut. This style cymbal works well when you want to cut through loud music.

Cast cymbals are made more or less one at a time. Each cymbal has its own unique tone due to this. Most cast cymbals have a warmer, more colorful sound compared to sheet cymbals. Cast cymbals are the popular choice for a drummer who is looking for more tone out of their cymbals, such as blues or jazz drummers.

Weight of the cymbal has a lot to do with how it resonates. Thicker cymbals will give you a louder, more cutting tone. A thin cymbal gives you more shimmer, and expression. Once again, if you play in a harder rock band a thicker cymbal with serve you better.

This is a general guide to cymbals; hopefully it answered a few common questions. As always, there are exceptions to this. So don't forget to experiment. You know what sounds best for you.

Cymbals

AMS Product Tech

June 5, 2009
Guitar and Bass Effects Master Class

You've just got yourself an awesome new preamp/processor for your guitar or bass rig, and you're wondering how to get the most out of it. Many companies are building amazingly powerful devices these days, but it's not always clear how to get the most out of them.

Here's one of our all-time favorite tips. If you have a processor with a preamp in it and you have a guitar or bass amp with an effects loop, you can get even more out of your processor by bypassing the preamp on your amp. This is a simple trick. Simply plug your guitar into the Input of your processor, and then plug its Output into the Effects Return on your amp. In this configuration, all that you’re using your amp for is power, and your preamp/processor is handling all of the tone shaping.

Any amp, no matter how great it is, will color the sound of your guitar. This is usually a good thing, since most amps are designed to make your guitar sound cool, but if you’ve just spent a few hundred bucks on a processor or preamp, you probably don’t want anything to affect its performance. This connection gives you the purest signal path. Remember, however, that the channel switching, reverb, and (most likely) EQ on your amp will not work.

Give it a try. Half the fun of working with gear is trying something new. You never know when you'll find the magical combination that will inspire you like never before.

Guitar Multi Effects

Bass Guitar Effects

AMS Product Tech

June 2, 2009
PROTECT YOUR HEARING

Of the five senses we possess, hearing is by far the most important to a musician (unless you are Beethoven and then you just fall back on pure genius.) For the rest of us musicians…struggling or otherwise... we need our ears. So it is extremely important to protect our precious hearing.

Normal conversations between people 5-7 feet apart have an average volume of 60-70 decibels, a telephone dial tone is 80 decibels, truck traffic or a train whistle at 500 feet is 90 decibels and a subway train at 200 feet registers 95 decibels. Hearing damage can occur at sustained levels of 90-95 decibels. Stay with me now. A motorcycle or snowmobile has a decibel level of 100 db, a power lawn mower registers at 107 decibels, a ROCK CONCERT has an average decibel level of about 115 db and physical pain begins at 125 decibels. Hang on I'm almost there. At 140 decibels short term exposure can cause permanent damage. A jet engine at 100 feet or a gunshot has a rating of 140 decibels. Hearing tissue dies at 180 decibels. Have I got your attention?

Ok, here is the part where I tell you to GET SOME HEARING PROTECTION, especially if you're frequently playing loud music or are exposed to loud sounds of any kind for an extended periods of time. Hearing protectors will allow you to still hear everything but reduces the db rating by approximately 32 decibels.

Protect your hearing now so you don't have to "aid" it later.

AMS Product Tech

May 29, 2009
TRUE DIVERSITY

Have you ever been on stage with a wireless microphone or guitar and been in the middle of a song and your mic just drops out... nothing, nada, zip, zilch, a new version of the "Sound of Silence"? Well my friends, chances are you're not playing with True Diversity. What is True Diversity you ask? Well I'll tell you.

Wireless systems are in essence a mini radio station. Your mic or body pack has the transmitter while the bass has the receiver. The bass receives radio waves from the transmitter in the microphone. If the radio signal can't reach the receiver then the sound drops out. A lot of wireless systems have only one antenna to catch those radio waves from your mic or guitar, so if something gets in between you and the antenna, like a stray electro magnetic field that can be generated by a multitude of pieces of gear on stage, you lose your sound. So some smart fellow said "Hey why don't we put two antennas on the receiver and make it so the receiver will switch back and forth between the two antennas always locking on to the strongest signal." And that's what they did, thus True Diversity was born. Now, some wireless systems have two antennas but may not have True Diversity...just diversity. So make sure to read the fine print and you will never have another drop out again…unless you forget the lyrics in the middle of the song.

"Carry on my...son they'll be...when you are done..."

Wireless Systems

AMS Product Tech

May 25, 2009
Direct Boxes

A direct box (or DI) can be very useful for both recording and live sound systems. It allows you to send a signal from your instrument, or a Line Out from an amp, directly into a mixer channel. Probably the most common use for a direct box is for a bass guitar. Here’s a popular way to get a big, tight, clean bass sound: Use both your direct box and a mic to get your bass into the mixer.

Since most direct boxes have several output combinations, you can plug your bass into the direct box and use two outputs; one direct into your board, and the other to your stage amp. Mic your speakers on stage and blend that sound with the direct signal. This gives you the best of both worlds and can help you create a bass sound that not only has big low end, but sounds punchy and well-defined.

Jay E.
AMS Product Tech

May 19, 2009
Les Paul Gibson vs Epiphone

A question I hear asked a lot is "What is the difference between the Gibson Les Paul and the Epiphone Les Paul? "Well, here is your answer.

First of all, Gibson Les' are made here in the USA in Nashville, TN. Epiphone Les Pauls are made in factories that were built by Gibson and managed by Gibson employees in China, Korea and Japan.

The next difference is in the materials used. Gibson Les Pauls are made of a solid mahogany body with a ¼" book-matched maple top that is AA or AAA grade material. The Epiphone Les Paul is a multiple laminated Mahogany body with a thinner veneer maple top.

The finish also differs from one to the other. A Gibson Les Paul is finished with a Nitro-Cellulose Lacquer Finish that is 7-9 layers deep and takes several weeks to complete. Epiphones are coated with a Polyurethane finish that is done in a matter of hours. The hardware is drawn basically from the same bin in both cases.

Les Paul himself originally wanted to put his name exclusively on the Epiphone made guitars of old, which should tell you what he thought of the house of Stathopoulo*.

*Epi Stathopoulo inherited the family business and changed the name to Epiphone. Epi being his first name and phonos the Greek word for sound. The House of Stathopoulo by Jim Fisch & L.B. Fred ISBN 0.8256.1453.8

Click this link to read more Tech Tips.

Joe N
AMS Product Tech

May 12, 2009
AMS Tech Tip Balanced Cables vs Unbalanced Cables

When it comes to cables and inputs/outputs, we are always faced with a couple of options, a balanced signal/cable or an unbalanced signal/cable. This brings up a few questions. First of all, what is a balanced/unbalanced cable? What are the benefits of using a balanced or unbalanced cable? And when should either be used?

A balanced cable is made up of 3 different elements. A positive signal, a negative signal and a ground. With a balanced cable the audio signal is, in essence, sent twice. One signal is positive and the other signal is negative. The resulting effect is a phase cancellation of residual noise from outside sources, thus a quieter signal. This is very beneficial in long cable runs and for studio use where any noise can be extremely annoying and cabling can be endless. Most audio equipment will specify whether it requires a balanced or unbalanced signal and some will accept both. Typically, your higher end gear will require balanced in/outs along with studio gear. On the other hand, an unbalanced cable is made up of 2 elements, a positive signal and a ground. This means that the full signal is carried by one line. Unbalanced lines typically used on less expensive gear, are standard on all types of gear including guitars, some instrument processors, RCA connections, etc. The main limitations on unbalanced cables is length, which should be as short as possible to limit interference and signal loss.

It is always a good idea to observe the instructions for all your audio gear, hook everything up properly and remember to use quality cables to ensure great sound! Be sure to check out our vast array of audio cables, including " Monster and " CBI as these are high in quality and will ensure quality sound in any application.

Joe N
AMS Product Tech

May 8, 2009
Tuning your Toms

There are many ways one can tune the toms on their drum set. One way, which happens to be my way of choice, is to tune the bottom resonant head to the desired pitch by carefully turning the tension rods and lightly tapping the head 1-2 inches in from the hoop. Repeat the process all the way around the head until the warble or modulations are minimal or non-existent. The order of which I tune them may seem backwards to some but I prefer to start with the floor tom. By starting with the lowest pitched drum, I don’t have to worry about it being too low by the time I get to it if I tuned them starting with the highest rack tom. In terms of tuning the batter or top head, I like to keep the heads loose but not too loose. The idea is to get as much sustain out of them since I prefer a real open tone. I never dampen my tom heads, they just sound too dead when they are dampened. If you have tuned carefully, you should not need any dampening material but for those of you that prefer a faster decay to your tom sounds, check out MoonGel Reusable Drum Dampers.

Ryan D
AMS Product Tech

May 5, 2009
AMS Tech Tip Guitar Maintenance and Setups

We probably don’t look at guitars as tools of our musical trade, quite like a carpenter looks at his hammer or a truck driver looks at his truck. But the fact of the matter is they are tools and like a carpenter or a truck driver, we need to maintain our tools. Guitars are tools with moving parts, not to mention made of wood and are subjected to changes in humidity and temperature, therefore, needing periodic maintenance in order to ensure top notch performance. Unfortunately, most of us do not know how to properly maintain our guitars. Even if you don’t plan on doing any maintenance on your own guitars, it is a good idea to become familiar with the adjustment points of your guitar; this includes your truss rod, bridge, and saddles. These features are important for a reason. When your guitar is exposed to the elements it will expand and contract. This results in the stretching and shrinking of your strings. Over time with the stretching and shrinking of your strings and the expansion and contraction of the wood, your guitar will require some adjustments. Adjusting the truss rod will assure the best possible feel and adjusting the bridge/saddles will assure proper intonation. With a combination of the two adjustments you should achieve maximum performance from your instrument. Additionally, new instruments usually require an initial set up so they play at the optimum level and also a change in string gauge will require a set up. Depending on how much you play, the climate you live in, the amount of traveling that you do, etc., should ultimately determine how often you have your instruments set up. One other thing is general hygiene for your instruments. Change strings on a regular basis, clean the neck and body, (a soft toothbrush helps to get the gunk out of the bridge) wipe your instrument down between sets and always clean it before you put it away. Check out Dunlop’s great maintenance kit that will take care of all your basic needs. Item # DUN6500, and if you are interested in learning general guitar construction and maintenance, check out Hal Leonard’s "The Guitar Handbook" Item # HAL 330105 which not only gives you the anatomy of the guitar but also basic setup tips, general maintenance, terminology and some history. It also provides great theory, an extensive chord chart and it also dabbles in stage sets, sound systems and more. This truly is the guitar bible! Good Luck and Happy Gigging!

Joe N
AMS Product Tech

May 1, 2009
Nylon Guitar Strings

Can you use nylon strings on a steel string guitar? It’s not recommended for a couple of reasons. First of all, nylon strings are lower tension strings and not designed to handle the stress of an acoustic steel string guitar. Secondly, the nylon strings are a thicker string and won’t fit in the narrower slots of the nut. The saddle on a nylon guitar is also straight as opposed to a steel string guitar which is slanted. The reason for this is that the diameter, length, tension and height of the string from the fingerboard affects its ability to play in tune, therefore the saddle angle needs to be different. Another reason is the tuning mechanism. Nylon strings stretch more than steel strings so the tuning peg is larger on a nylon string guitar and geared differently in order to compensate for the extra stretchiness of the nylon string.

So the answer my friend isn’t blowing in the wind, it’s right here in black and white. Nylon and steel don’t mix. Don’t do it! And now you know…

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

April 28, 2009
Drum Tuning

Drummers, if you are spending more time tuning you drums than playing its time to try a Drum Dial. Drum dials give fast and accurate tuning by measuring the tension of the head instead of the lug tension. It’s easy to spend several hours trying to find that “sweet spot”, but so often you still have unwanted overtones due to uneven tension on the head. If I start getting overtones the first thing I do is grab the duck tape and cotton balls, but that deadens the drum taking away the natural tone and resonance. The best way to unlock the true tone of your kit is to get an evenly tuned drum, and if you are as impatient a drummer as I you want to spend your time playing and not tuning. Drum dials take all the guesswork out of tuning, and still give you that perfect five-hour tuned sound. It is time well spent - spend more time playing and less time tuning! Check out a Drum Dial.

Ryan D
AMS Product Tech

April 24, 2009
Protecting Drum Finish

This may seem like common sense to some, but others might not even think of it - so I’m going to cover it. What is one thing you really like about your drum set besides the sound? For me it happens to be the look and therefore the finish. You can actually keep your kit clean and looking great using Guitar Care products.

On the other hand, I look at my kit as an investment that should be taken care of. I have noticed that when I’ve let others use my kit in the past, my bass drum has suffered a scratch or gouge thanks to a tension rod from a tom rubbing on the finish. How could this be prevented besides not letting others use your kit? I’ll tell you. Position your toms so that you can grab them and move them in all directions as much as they will without rubbing on any other drum. If there is any contact between any of the drums, they need to be repositioned. Also, make double sure you have tightened all the hardware down properly, but not too tight. You don’t want to strip anything.

Ryan D
AMS Product Tech

April 17, 2009
Guitar Electronics

Electric guitars aren't just the pretty faces you see in their pretty cases. They've got GUTS as well and sometimes they need a little TLC - and I’m not talkin' about your mama's chicken soup. Pots, switches and wiring may all need attention eventually and here are a few ideas relating to pots.

Pots or Potentiometers for you logophiles out there are the knobs that control volume and tone on electric guitars and they are basically the same part. The only difference is that a capacitor is soldered to the ground lug of a tone pot to prevent some of the treble from grounding out. If your experiencing scratchiness when rotating your pots, you can fix that with an electronics cleaner that you would spray into the opening of the pot casing. Once sprayed, simply rotate the pots fully back and forth several times to clean.

If you are thinking of replacing your pots keep the following things in mind.
  • 1. Know your Pot.
             Is it audio or linear? The most popular is audio, but check the manufacturer's diagram to know for sure.
  • 2.  Resistance value.
             What is their ohm rating (250k, 500k, 1meg, yadda yadda)?
  • 3. Long or short thread?
             Many carved top instruments like the Les Paul would require a bit more length on the threading to break
             through to daylight.
  • 4. Regular or mini?
             If you have a guitar with active pickups space can be at a minimum inside the chamber so you may need
             mini pots to compensate for the diminished space.
  • 5. Solid shaft or split shaft?
             Solid shafts have a small setscrew that holds the knob in place where a split shaft is merely pressed on.
Some pots will have this information imprinted on them, however, if this is not the case or you are unsure, then check the manufacturer’s website for a schematic or wiring diagram. You can play around with the type of pots you are using, but you will find that typically 250K are used for single coil pickups and 500K are used with humbuckers.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

April 10, 2009
Speakers, Wattage and Ohms, Ohm My

"Will these speakers work with this power amp?" "Will this power amp work with my speakers?" "How does wattage relate to ohms?" I get asked these questions a lot so I thought I would try to put down some answers to satisfy general curiosity.

Ok, first let’s talk about PA speakers and wattage. The amount of sound that can be put through a speaker is gauged by watts and most speakers have 3 wattage ratings - RMS, Program and Peak. RMS is considered average power output over a long period of time. RMS actually stands for Root-Mean-Square which describes the mathematical steps needed to calculate the average power of an AC sine wave. Ok, now that your eyes are starting to glaze over…lets move on.

Program power is usually twice the RMS power and is the average of your normal operating range output given that your sound is a series of notes with varying tone and time signatures with many peaks and valleys rather than a steady sustained tone as in RMS. Peak is the maximum momentary power output your speaker can handle and is usually twice your Program power. You should not run a constant peak power thru your speaker, the result will be that you will let all the smoke out of your speakers.

Next let’s tackle resistance. Resistance is measured in ohms. Resistance is the speed bumps of electric current on the wattage freeway. One 8 ohm speaker connected to an amp has a resistance of … you guessed it… 8 ohms. Two 8 ohm speakers connected to an amp in parallel i.e. amp to speaker to speaker in a chain has a resistance of 4 ohms cutting the resistance in half.

Example: Billy has two Peavey PV115 PA speakers which are rated at 400 watt. Program with a resistance of 8 ohms. (PA speakers like these can usually handle 1 – 1.5 times their program rating in power), Now Sarah has a Peavey PV2600 Stereo Power Amplifier that has an output of 540 watts per channel at 8 ohms and 800 watts per channel at 4 ohms. Sara and Billy connect the speakers to the amp and start happily playing their tunes. Lucy shows up with another pair of Peavey PV115 speakers and connects them to the first set of speakers in parallel. Now they have reduced the resistance to 4 ohms effectively increasing the power from the amp to 800 watts per channel which is then divided up between the speakers.

These are the basics of the nature of speakers, wattage and resistance. Hope I didn’t confuse you too much.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

April 7, 2009
What's in Your Gig Bag?

Gigging musicians know that it's necessary to be prepared for Murphy’s law. Murphy’s Law states, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." So like the Boy Scouts … always be prepared.

There are a number of things I like to carry … just in case.

  • 1.     Strings
             Strings are always breaking so keep an ample supply on hand.
  • 2.     Picks
             Arguably the most losable item a guitarist can carry.
  • 3.     Extra Cables
             For when the 500 lb gorilla steps on your favorite ¼ inch jack.
  • 4.     Peg Winder/Pin Puller
             A great time saver. From personal experience wire clippers are not good for pulling bridge pins.
  • 5.     Allen Wrenches
             For truss rod adjustments, bridge set ups etc … just make sure Allen approves.
  • 6.    Extra Batteries
             If it uses batteries the current one is already dead
  • 7.    Spare Bridge Pins
             if you insist on using your wire clippers to pull them
  • 8.     Wire Clipper
             Got to keep those strings neat.
  • 9.     Big Bend’s Nut Sauce
             Keep that nut lubed and your strings will always return home.
  •          and Fretboard conditioner to keep your axe purty…and don’t forget the polishing cloth.
  • 10.    Gorilla Snot
             to complete the Trifecta of naming unorthodoxy to help get a grip on your picks, bows, drumsticks etc.
There are many other things that you will think of to keep in your gig bag, but these are just a few items that can come in handy from time to time.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

April 3, 2009
Frett Buzz

Like the high-pitched whine of a mosquito or the incessant 3:00 a.m. chirp of the cricket you can’t find in your bedroom, guitar buzz is one of the greatest annoyances I know. And just like the cricket, it can be frustratingly impossible to find. Here are some causes and tips to silence that metaphorical cricket.

Fret (string) Buzz: The string comes in contact with the fret and causes a buzzing sound. This is probably the most frequent form of buzz and can be caused by several things:

  • 1. If the string buzzes when it’s played open, the most likely cause is that the nut slot is cut too deep which means replacing the nut or shimming it up
  • 2. If you’re buzzing in one place i.e. the third fret but not the fourth, then your frets may not be level. You will need to make sure there are no loose frets and that they are not becoming worn or getting deep grooves in them. The cure is to secure loose frets, level then dress or possibly replace the worn frets.
  • 3. If your guitar is buzzing everywhere all the time, the strings are touching the frets in a particular area of the fingerboard. This could be caused by a truss rod that is set much too tightly. It could be a back bowed or twisted neck. To fix this, have it set up correctly, adjust the truss rod for more relief and if this is no help have your neck inspected. A warped or twisted neck is not very common but it can happen.
  • 4. When the buzz stems from strumming too hard it may be that you have not got enough relief in the neck, the set up was not done properly or you may need to use heavier strings. The cure seems obvious. Adjust the neck, have it set up properly or put on some heavier strings.
  • 5. If your guitar is buzzing where the neck meets the body you may need to evaluate the guitar for dryness, check to see if frets need leveling and in extreme circumstances you may have a bend in the finger board at the joint between neck and body. In this case you may need to have the hump planed down.
Hardware Buzz: This is usually from loose hardware: machine head fittings, pickup covers, loose trim fittings, or loose tailpieces. You might want to get someone to help you find the culprit, one to strum and one to find the buzz.

Loose Brace: Buzzing or rattling can sometimes be caused by a cracked or loose brace in an acoustic guitar.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

March 31, 2009
Phantom Power

What is phantom power? Do I need it? We hear these questions often. Here's a basic explanation. There are two common types of microphones that musicians use most: Dynamic and Condenser. When you understand the basics of these two mics, phantom power should make sense.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic mics, like the popular Shure SM57 & SM58 do not need phantom power. They work much like a speaker, but in the other direction. Where a speaker's cone is driven by a magnet to push air to make sound, a dynamic mic uses the air pressure pushing against it to move its mic element to produce its sound. A magnet is at the heart of this design so there is no power required.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones, on the other hand, use a two-piece mic element with front and back "plates" separated by an electromagnetic field. When the front "plate" moves (in response to air pressure from sound), the change in distance between the front and back plates changes and creates a current in the magnetic field. In order for this to work, a small amount of voltage must be present. The source of this voltage is most often phantom power. Some condenser mics can use an internal battery for this power but most of them use phantom power from an external source.

Many of today's mixers provide this power. If your mixer does not, there are external phantom power supplies available.

What if I have Condenser and Dynamic mics?

In most cases, phantom power from a mixer will not harm a dynamic microphone. In general, if the microphone needs the power, it will draw it. If the power is not needed, it will cause no problem. The exceptions are ribbon mics and older dynamic microphones. They may actually be damaged from phantom power. If your dynamic microphones were manufactured within the last 40 years or so, you're not likely to have any phantom power problems.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

March 27, 2009
Going out of Tune

Are you frustrated with your band mates always telling you your guitar is off pitch? Do you cringe when you start that first song and find out you’re a half a step down from the rest of the group? Are you worried that the rhythmic cadence of the audience chanting “Tune It Tune It Tune It Tune It Tune It “ is going to start a riot? Here are a few tips on how to keep your axe in tune.

  • A. The most common reason your guitar will go out of tune is improper string winding around the tuner posts. If not done right the strings will slip and lose tension.
  • B. If the nut slots are too small for the gauge of string that you’re using your string can bind and catch in the groove. If you’re tuning and hear a creaking or popping then the nut may need to be cut larger. You may also want to use some nut lube like Big Bends Nut Sauce.
  • C. If you have an acoustic guitar you need to be aware that if the ball end of the string isn’t properly seated against the bridge pin the string will slip as it draws itself closer to the bridge. This will also cause the string to slacken.
  • D. Just like a new pair of tight fitting blue jeans, new strings will stretch, so allow some time for a new set of strings to stretch once they are installed. Tugging on them slightly or doing some moderate to heavy strumming while muted will help to encourage the stretching process. Be prepared to tune several times that first day with the new strings.
  • E. The more inexpensive or worn tuners can have gaps in the gears and cause strings to loosen. Your best strategy is to tune UP to the note if you go sharp go back down below the note and tune up to it. If you’re planning on getting new tuners a 21:1 ratio is preferred over an 11:1. 21:1 means it takes 21 turns of the tuner know to make the post do a complete 360-degree revolution.
  • F. The tremolo is the worst nightmare for keeping a guitar in tune. The tremolo bends the pitch i.e. stretches the string and it must return to its exact position to maintain tuning. Excessive tremolo use can cause the strings to stretch and in the case of a locking nut system like the Floyd Rose style, loss of tension or a broken string can cause all strings to lose pitch. Keep all pivot points well lubricated allowing less friction so the tremolo can move easily.
  • G. Other structural problems such as a loose neck, a loose or rising bridge or sloppy saddles can certainly cause a world of tuning problems as well.
And there you go. Your guitar is in tune, sweet melody is flowing and the crowd isn’t rioting…unless you want them to.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

March 20, 2009
Tube Maintenance Longevity

We all know it’s hard to beat the sound of a pure tube signal, and it is a big part of many classic and modern amp sounds. Owners of a tube powered amp can tell you that they can be fragile and expensive to replace. With a little tender care however, we can extend the life of the tube, preserving that great amp tone that we cherish, while saving a little coin!

First things first….lets warm up! It is very important to warm your tubes up before you start to play. Tubes are designed to run off of two voltages, a low voltage to heat the filaments and a high voltage to actually perform the amplification. If you hit the tubes with a high voltage right away, you can damage the tubes components and shorten their life. Always have your Standby switch turned on when you power up the amp. After a minute or two your tubes should be warmed up, and you can switch Standby off and you are ready to go.

It would only make sense that if we need to warm up our tubes, then obviously we need to let them cool down. When you are done playing, switch your Standby on first, and after a minute or two, power down. You should still let your amp sit until your tubes are completely cool, as they are most susceptible to damage when hot. Also, you should keep your tubes as cool as possible when operating. Playing a tube amp placed against a wall or in a confined space can limit air flow, causing your tubes to operate at a higher temperature. Using a small fan can really help cool your tubes, extending their life span.

Obviously, nobody bangs around their tube amp on purpose, but excessive vibrations or bumps can also damage your tubes, so be gentle. Road cases can certainly help! Tubes are also subjected to a lot of vibration just from the amp itself, so even though they sit firmly in their socket, they can shake loose. To prevent this, tube clamps will help to hold the tube in place. Ask any amp repairman to install these if you don’t already have them on your amp.

Two of the most important things you can do to protect your tubes is biasing and impedance matching. Some tubes do not require biasing, but for those that do, if they are operating at the wrong bias, not only will it shorten the life of the tubes, but they won’t sound good. Finally, impedance matching is very important when using a head and cabinet. Mismatching can cause your tubes and transformer to fail. One more thing, never power up a tube amp without being connected to a cabinet, or switch cabinets while your head is powered up. Solid state amps can usually handle this, but tubes amps cannot. Hope this helps both your tone and your pocketbook. Good luck and happy gigging!

Joe N
AMS Product Tech

March 17, 2009
Before Buying Music Software or Hardware

Computer software and/or hardware of any kind can be tricky when you are purchasing something new. There are a few things to keep in mind before laying down your hard earned cash.

1. Know your system. Before you buy, make sure you know a few things about your computer. What kind of processor do you have? How much RAM is installed? How much Hard Drive space do you have? Which Operating System do you use? Does your computer have USB 1.1 or USB 2.0? Do you have Firewire? And lastly, how much Video Ram do you have?

2. Match up your purchases. Now you know what you have, the next step is to match that up with what you want to get. Check the software/hardware’s minimum requirements and make sure your computer at least meets them. Ideally you want your system to exceed the minimum requirements.

3. Research research research. Now that you know all these things, one last thing I recommend is to find blogs and forums that talk about the software to see if there are any users who have found glitches or bugs in the software/hardware. There are times where your system will seem compatible but sometimes a certain chip set on a particular motherboard will not work with the piece you're wanting to buy. Granted, this is a little more in depth but none the less it is out there.

Jay E
AMS Product Tech

March 13, 2009
EFFECTS AND EFFECT LOOPS CONTINUE

If you are using a pedalboard, normally it would be inserted in between the guitar and the input of the amp, which is fine if your amp is set clean and your distortion/overdrive pedals are first in your chain before your modulated effects. However if you are using the preamp/distortion in your amp you can generate undesirable tones. This is where you would use your effects loop

The guitar signal comes from your amp's preamp and through the "send" jack goes into the effects that should be put behind any distortion. The signal comes back into your amp through the "return" jack. Therefore, you should have all the stomp boxes that come before distortion between your guitar and the amp's input and all the boxes that should come after distortion, in your effects loop.

Typically, there are two types of effect loops. "Series" and "Parallel," the difference being, in a Series effect loop, 100% of your signal will go through your loop, so you will have to adjust how much effect you want by the controls on your pedal/processor. In a Parallel effects loop, you can control how much of your signal will be effected and how much of your original signal will pass through unaffected joining again with the effected signal. This is accomplished by using a control knob, letting you dial in any amount of signal from 100% dry (without effect) to 100% wet (with effect). You should have the effects in the loop set to 100%, so they do not let out any dry signal.

I hope this helps you in the never-ending quest for great tone!

Joe N
AMS Product Tech


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