Gear Tutorials

IMG_2986

13 Nov Never Underrate Your Equipment – A Marshall MS-4 Demo

 

Dear Rocking Friends,

 

Every one of us has a dream. A gear-related dream, to be precise. A Marshall Super Lead maybe? I think I just said something magical there. But you know, you don’t have to have that kind of equipment to achieve (or at least approximate) the tone you’ve always been dreaming about, as I shall demonstrate with this post. Now to be clear, the aim of this writing is not to say that expensive gear can be replaced, but rather to show you that you can squeeze out a somewhat decent tone – something you didn’t quite expect – even from cheaper gear. To sum this up in a sentence:

You don’t know you’re beautiful you sound amazing.  :-) 

 

So let’s jump straight into the setup I have for this demo:

  • Vintage VS6 SG – This is a $300-ish SG copy, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a decent guitar in this price range!
  • Marshall MS-4 – You probably know this little pocket amplifier already.
  • Shure SM57

Nothing quite special as you can see, it’s a very straight-forward setup. The only thing I did to the recording you’re about to hear, is that I applied some reverb via software. Other than that, this recording is raw, and has not been enhanced in any way. Have a good listen:

 

 

One thing to keep in mind while listening to this, is that the MS-4 has very tiny 3″ speakers inside of a plastic cabinet that barely has any air in it. This is the reason for the boxy sound, and the lack of bass. But once you get over that, it sounds very decent, especially the Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution part! That one sounds frighteningly close to the original in my opinion.

Now let’s take this experiment a little further – in case you’re not impressed already. I added the following items to the rig:

  • Boss GE-7 – Used as as clean boost in front of the amp (via the output volume slider), no EQ pattern was set.
  • 1960A replica cabinet with original 1973 Rola Celestion G12M greeenbacks – I admit that this is a bit of an overkill, but I really wanted to make sure that nothing is holding back the little Marshall from unleashing it’s glory.

In order to plug the MS-4 into the external cabinet, a modification is required to the amp. This consists of bypassing a resistor inside the amp that limits the output signal to headphone levels. After that is done, the headphone jack now becomes a speaker output jack – but make sure you don’t plug any headphone into it anymore! If you need exact instructions on how to do this, please let me know in the comments.

So after the amp was prepared, I hooked up everything, and I was very impressed by the results. The amp sounded surprisingly dynamic, lively, rich in harmonics, and enjoyable. I even managed to get a nice sustained feedback! I mic’d up the cab to make a second recording, here it is:

 

 

Now let me ask you something at this point. Could you possibly tell (without reading the article) that the amp used in the recording is a $50 1W solid-state pocket amp? If this was a blindfold test, I guess you would bet for something way more expensive, wouldn’t you? That’s fine though, I would do the same  😆

 

Before ending this article, let me address one more thing… The whole point of this article is to give you an idea on how to get a better tone from your existing gear. The answer is very simple: take your time! When you’re setting up your amp, miking your cab, or even just setting the knobs on your stomp boxes, remember this: if you think you’re done after a couple of minutes, you’re not! 

Let’s say you’re miking up your cab. What you shouldn’t do is to try out a few major mic positions, and pick what sounds the best for you, or either use a position that you used earlier. In many cases, tiny adjustments (I’m talking about millimeters here) can make a world of difference. When I mic up my guitar cab, I usually spend at least about 30 minutes setting up the mic position every time. Even if I marked a previously used mic position with duct tape on the cabinet, I only use that as a starting point. You should always absolutely geek out every possibility before recording. I find that spending extra time on the setup after you think it’s perfect is almost always beneficial. Of course the same rules apply to all the setup that’s required for playing, and not just miking.

 

Another very important thing is that you should always think of your whole rig (from your hands all the way to the speakers) as one big instrument! I cannot emphasize this enough. You’re not only playing the guitar, and having an amp that only makes it louder. The whole rig is one big instrument, but most importantly an instrument that has soul (not literally of course). Every piece in the rig is equally important. You have to spend time with your gear getting to know it, thus being able to use what is has to your advantage. A good rig is not just something you play on; it’s something that helps you expressing yourself, and also makes you feel good doing it!

 

I hope you find my thoughts useful, and will benefit greatly from them, just as I did. As the title says: never underrate your equipment!  :-)

Finally, here are a few pictures I took during the recording session:

 

 

Have a good day!

Read More
123

09 Mar D.I.Y. Home made Nylon Nashville / ABR-1 Saddles

Hello Fellow SD Members. 06AngusSG here (Jon)

It’s been quite a while since my last article here but it’s that time again. Time for some more Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) work articles. First off today we’ll look into some, scarce, history on the Nylon Saddles that we’ll be making. The reason I say “scarce” for the history is that when I started looking into the Gibson Nylon saddles there really isn’t much to be found.

So I’ll try to give a rundown of what I’ve discovered.

(I am  not calling this a “definitive history” but only what I can find. If you have any better sources please comment and I will update info.)

Standard

Wrap around bridge on a 1954 Les Paul

In the beginning of the Les Paul, and other hard bodies, they did not have the luxury of the Tune-o-matic bridge.

They had a wrap around stop bar that was set in the body at an angle to achieve an unreliable degree of intonation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grooves cut into stopbar to lower string action

Grooves cut into stopbar to lower string action

 

While some people were able to come up with some creative ideas for the high action these tails created, there just needed to be something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABR-1 on a '59 Les Paul

ABR-1 on a ’59 Les Paul

Debuting on the 1964 Les Paul Custom came the ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic Bridge. This little piece of innovation changed the way that Gibson, and now many other brand, guitars functioned. The Tune-O-Matic allowed for a micro adjustment of the intonation and action height achieving a higher quality of performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So into the Nylon mystery. While there are varying, and no official, accounts to be found about these saddles I have boiled my research down to a single reason Gibson used them. Rattle dampening. Yep, that’s right, rattle dampening. While the ABR-1 bridge was a vast improvement over the wrap around bridge it also came with it’s drawbacks.

Due to the retaining wire running along the adjustment screws and the way the set posts were constructed with multiple pieces it seems that the ABR-1 had an inherent rattling problem. So much that it was audible through the pickups. Gibsons solution to this was the dampening quality of Nylon. While “official” 😉  accounts also vary in the years, it seems that the use of nylon saddles started somewhere from 1959-1961 and lasted up to at the latest 1970.

With the incoming of the newer (rattle free) Nashville Tune-o-Matic, the Nylon went to the wayside. And since then the tone arguments have ensued to this date. The major opinions are “tone sucking,” “tone fattening,” or “treble ping taming.” Even Joe Bonamassa uses Nylon on his unwound G B E strings to “tame” them.

Therefor comes the reason for this D.I.Y. With the Nashvilles being rattle free no one has ever produced Nylon saddles for them. Which leaves those of us with Nashvilles no way to try to form our own opinion (like or hate) on their tonal qualities. I being a tone nut, like a lot of you, do not accept this so I made my own.

The originals were constructed of Nylon 6-6 material. Fortunately this is the most produced and desirable type of Nylon made even today. I got ahold of the material to fabricate these from a hardware store 1/2 mile from my house. This in the form of a washer of the already correct thickness for saddles. ($2.40)

ON TO THE FUN PART!!! 😛 😆

(CLICK TO EXPAND PICS FOR MORE DETAIL)

Tools

 

Tools needed are pictured here. As with all my D.I.Y. Posts I’m not saying anything in here is the only way to do something. It’s just my way. I’m trying to do these tutorials not with “proper luthier tools” but what tools most people generally have or are readily available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously you'll need to remove your bridge to do this. Simple...Take off strings remove bridge.These are the retaining spring for the saddle screws. You will need to push up on this to un-seat it from the retaining groove in the screw

1

 

Obviously you’ll need to remove your bridge to do this. Simple…Take off strings remove bridge. These are the retaining spring for the saddle screws. You will need to push up on this to un-seat it from the retaining groove in the screw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As seen here: you need to make sure that it is pushed out of the retaining groove so you can unscrew the saddles.

2

 

As seen here: you need to make sure that it is pushed out of the retaining groove so you can unscrew the saddles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First is to pre drill the hole for the screw threads. My bridge is a Gotoh so I'm using a 2.5mm pre drill for the M3 x .5 threads. I use a drill press for this part so the hole is straight. If you don't have one just carefully use a hand drill.

3

 

First is to pre drill the hole for the screw threads. My bridge is a Gotoh so I’m using a 2.5mm pre drill for the M3 x .5 threads. I use a drill press for this part so the hole is straight. If you don’t have one just carefully use a hand drill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next is to tap the threads into the hole.  Again: If you have to use a hand drill try to hold as square as possible to the material. A crooked hole or thread will affect how the saddle sits in the bridge!!!

4

 

Next is to tap the threads into the hole. Again: If you have to use a hand drill try to hold as square as possible to the material. A crooked hole or thread will affect how the saddle sits in the bridge!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

5

Once the threads are tapped shave off the “puckered” material with a razor blade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take the saddle and screw you set aside earlier and attach it to the nylon with the intonation screw. Make sure to twist it tight so it won't move around. Take a hobby razor knife and trace a groove around the saddle. Make sure to get all sides.

6

 

Take the saddle and screw you set aside earlier and attach it to the nylon with the intonation screw. Make sure to twist it tight so it won’t move around. Take a hobby razor knife and trace a groove around the saddle. Make sure to get all sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

6

 

This is how it should look when you’re done tracing. (I rubbed ink into the groove for photo definition. Not a required step.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN1047

7

 

After you use the fine cut saw to rough cut the outline, making sure to not intrude into the trace lines, use a flat razor blade to push down through the trace lines to get the final cuts. (a small jewelers type hammer lightly tapping the blade can help in this step)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

Here is the true rough cut. Now comes the part where patience and detail come in. Go ahead and have a smoke break first………… :roll:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

9

 

O.k. now that you’re done, here are the sanding blocks. They are just pieces of fir about 1/4″ x 3/4″ x 4″ long with sticky back sandpaper stuck to them. The grits are 120, 320, and 600. Here is the fit and finish. The razor cuts will not be prefect. use the sandpaper to file down the cuts and shape. Start with the 120 for the heavy lifting. Move to the 320 to smooth out the 120 scratches, and the 600 will more polish than remove material. Make sure to check the fit in the bridge often. It should be a tight fit but not be bound up. When using the 120 and 320 make sure to STOP sanding BEFORE you reach the desired finish point so the next grit will not take it down too far!!!!

(Otherwise your face will look like this  😡 when you realize you have to start this one over.)

 

DO NOT SAND THE TOP YET. THE NEXT STEP WILL EXPLAIN!!!

 

 

 

12

10

 

 

You need to measure the saddle height from where it sits on the bridge to the top where the string will rest. this is a critical number that has to be kept so that the strings will run correctly down the neck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

11

 

Here is the adjusted Nylon. Even though this measurement is critical, to be within a few thousandths of an inch is o.k.

Here is where you want to be VERY conservative with your sanding. Only use the 320 or 600 to sand here so you don’t go to far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

12

 

Here is where to put the “bevel” on the face of the saddle. I find the easiest way to achieve a consistent outcome is to clamp the saddle in a vise and hold the blocks at an angle and slide back and forth.  Again not going to far with the 120 & 320 grits. If you don’t have a vise you can shape it by laying the block on a table holding the saddle at an angle in your fingers.

(Before you finish this step Check out the next one)

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

13

 

Compare your new Nylon saddle to your existing one on the top so you know how much flat area to leave on top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

14

 

Side by side of the final product. Just wash-rinse-repeat 5 more times and you’re done!!! 😆

 

(Insert Jeopardy Music here…..)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

15

 

AHHHHHhhhhhhhh….. A little patience pays off right? For reference; this took me a good half of a Saturday to complete. So if you’re home and bored?????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

16

 

O.k. now sit back and enjoy the mess you made. Or clean it up!!! You have more work to do!!!! Is you Guitar working yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

17

 

So here we go. On to saddle slotting. Obviously I’m not going to tell you how to out your Guitar back together. You just took it apart. I would hope you remember. Anyway………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

18

 

After you’ve aligned the strings over the poles use a razor knife to mark their position on the saddle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

19

 

For the string slots use a very small “micro” file. Make sure not to file any deeper than half of the strings diameter.

Also, as in the picture, tilt the file down (doesn’t have to be a lot) in the back so the slot will have a high point on the beveled side.  This gives a clearer contact point and will help maintain tuning better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

123

20

 

All right!!!! Now you’re actually done!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alright guys (girls???? have we ever confirmed a girl member yet????) I hope you enjoyed this D.I.Y. edition from Solodallas.com

 

As usual any questions comments or corrections are welcome below. :mrgreen:

 

Jon (06AngusSG) signing off……………..

 

 

Read More
Vega transmitter

29 May Updated: Wiring the Vega Transmitter and changing input impedance from microphone to guitar

Hello Guys,

Member Mike has another update for us. Below, after the wiring instructions, you will find detailed instructions for the 50 kohm modification which is needed to operate the Vega transmitter (initially built for microphones) correctly with guitars. Thanks, Mike!
(more…)

Read More

08 Mar How To Bias Your Amp Yourself

Do you know what the bias setting on your amp is? If your tubes burned out, would you know how to get the same sound back as you had before?

The amps bias makes a critical difference and you really should know all of the bias settings for each amp you own and what the voltage number of the tubes that are in them, especially if you like how your amps sound.

You can check the number of the tubes by looking on the tube box (you did save the tube boxes, right?) it will be written on the end. (more…)

Read More
50s-wiring

04 Mar The Infamous “50’s Wiring” (D.I.Y Tutorial)

So, I’ve noticed alot of you have been asking Fil the same question that I had been for a while. ” What is the 50’s wiring you’ve been talking about?” Well here I’ll not only show you what it is, I’ll show you how to do it!!! In my research I found that there are more than one 50’s wiring styles. This one, however, is the most common and simple. This will be sort of a two part thing. I’ll show, in the simplest fashion, how to switch your existing wiring to the 50’s style. For me, this wasn’t enough. (I think we’ve learned I can’t leave things “stock” by now :-) ) Next I’ll show how to do a complete “vintage” style rewire. (more…)

Read More

28 Feb Making Your Amp YOURS (D.I.Y Part 2)

So here is the second part for the Di-It-Yourselfers here. As with the first this will be a basics tutorial. Also, as with the first, I’m trying my best, since alot of my “as I was doing it” pics were destroyed along with the flash drive. :-( The good thing here is the fact that ANYONE can do this to their newly built box or they can replace their existing tolex on a factory box. This allows people to have something other than the “stock” look. You don’t need any special skills or tools to do this. Just MAJOR PATIENCE. 😉

Be sure if you’re working on a new box to have all of your drilling, sanding, ect… before you begin covering.
(more…)

Read More

28 Feb Making Your Amp YOURS (D.I.Y. Part 1)

So if some of you out there are anything like me you customize or fix things to make them YOURS. Here I’ll attempt to show you how to build your own amp/speaker cabinet.  This will be part 1 of 2. The second part will deal with the covering (tolex) of the box. Keep in mind, also, that this is just my way of doing things. It’s not the only way. This will be a to the basics article. (more…)

Read More

06 Oct Tone Tips And Tricks For The Marshall Super Lead (By David Szabados)

While I have NO idea who in the world David Szabados is, reading this was useful and made sense. Many things I knew already, others I didn’t. The more info the better, agreed?

Tone Tips And Tricks For The Marshall Super Lead
David Szabados

The following tips and tricks will enable you to get much more versatility out of the Super Lead. Some of these may even surprise you. One thing to note – NONE of these involve modification to the original Marshall circuit. Those looking for the true “Marshall” sound only need use an original, unmodified Super Lead.
Channel Switching and Linking (more…)

Read More