James Duke’s Cool Delay Trick!

Here’s a great example of James Duke’s cool delay trick in action. He starts with the repeats all the way up and the delays on the longest setting on his DMM+TT, then sweeps the time knob and quickly hits the bypass for some analog goodness. This is a quick technique to master with a little practice. Just remember to turn your repeats down before you step on that delay again 🙂

Read what James Duke and others have to say about Tonesmiths http://www.tonesmiths.com/pages/testimonials

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Daniel Carson’s Pedalboard Rundown

Daniel Carson of the Chris Tomlin band gives his gear consultant http://www.tonesmiths.com a thorough rundown of his current pedalboard.

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How to Make Your New Guitar Sound Old

Late Night Science

I’ve been walking down a path of guitar research lately that I’ve always felt borders on quackery. It has to do with how the resins in old instruments set up in response to the conditions and frequencies they are subjected to over many years. The more I dive into this the more I realize that there is quite a bit of science and research to support these claims.

I recently decided to revisit these physics while working with the owner of Dirty South Guitars (https://www.facebook.com/DirtySouthGuitars?ref=br_tf). He recently happened upon a large stash of swamp ash that had been aging in a local warehouse for over 20 years. This center cut wood came from a tree that was over 50 years old and had been aging unpainted in plank form which made it age at a faster rate than wood which has been encapsulated with fillers, sealers, and paint.  It’s very light (2.4 lb bodies) and the guitars made from it exhibit characteristics usually only found in vintage guitars.

Classical Science

I was reading about a phenomenon known among owners of fine violins where a stored instrument is known to sound better within just a short time of playing it. They refer to this response as the violin “opening up”. The wood is known to quickly display a greater flexibility, increased volume, and a warmer tone as this lightweight instrument is subjected to the intense vibrations of music.  For this reason the wealthy conservators who own most of the Strativari violins are known to loan them to lead violinists in orchestras. This keeps the instrument “open”, allows it to be enjoyed by others, (and most likely ensures them great seats at the philharmonic).

Weird Science

The belief is that the resins (a combination of dried sap, oils, relative moisture, etc.) actually respond to musical vibrations in much the same way the salt is responding to sound waves in those amazing cymatic videos we’ve all seen on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtiSCBXbHAg. As the resins in a guitar that is continually curing are exposed to musical frequencies over many years they begin to align themselves in microscopic patterns along the wood grain in a way that creates conduits for tone.

Advanced Science

There are several guitar builders that are employing patented and secretive techniques for getting their instruments to sound like vintage guitars many years their senior. The first guy who comes to mind is a controversial builder from Nashville by the name of Kelton Swade. Kelton has a secret formula, which he refers to it as a “Colonel Sander’s recipe”, for treating his woods over a three month period that causes the resins to dry out and form in a way that is only generally seen in 50 year old guitars. Nobody can figure out how he does it. This produces woods that are lightweight and extremely resonant. When he’s done the wood doesn’t just look old it acts old. For this reason his guitars are coveted by many of Nashville’s greats. He was recently confided in me that Vince Gill owns ten of them! The other guitar builder is Finnish luthier Juha Ruokangas. John uses something called Thermo Treated wood which is a patented Finnish invention. The patents are owned by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and the process has been in use since 1990 by industrial wood technologies in Finland. Thermo Treatment for musical instrument woods has been studied by Tampere Technical University in close co-operation with several musical instrument manufacturers in Finland. This process uses a steam treatment varying between 100-300 degrees celsius at different time intervals followed by a toasting process to dry the wood and resins to dangerously low levels of humidity. This is done without causing any structural damage to the wood. The wood is then subjected to relative humidity to allow it to slowly readjust to the environment. These thoroughly cured woods are said to “open up” nearly instantly due the drier state of the resins. Thermo-treated wood is also said to act differently when planed, sanded, etc. It feels very dry and the dust smells different – old and sort of “smoked.”  The wood is also tanned in color throughout. Another apparent change is the bending strength (stiffness) of the wood. Finnish luthiers experimented by clamping a non-treated neck plank on the side of a table (with the neck hanging out from the edge) and then placed a weight on the tip of the plank. The wood naturally bent down a bit. When the same experiment was performed on an identically cut piece of lumber that was thermo treated it took some flexibility out of the wood structure due to the hardened cell walls and advanced crystallization process.  The exact same thing that occurs with wood has been air-dried for 50-100 years.

Natural Science

Jimmy Page’s guitar tech Jim Survis, had this to say in the March 2002 issue of ToneQuest Report: TQR: Did you feel that his (Jimmy Page’s) ’59 Les Paul was really special when you were working with it? “Sure… it was very spanky and bright. It has a lot of miles on it, and instruments always sound better when they have been played a lot in front of the amps, soaking up all of the reverberation from them. In fact, we used to take Jimmy’s guitars, including the ’59, and while he was tracking other rhythm tracks we would place the guitars on stands right in front of the speaker cabinets to absorb the sound coming off of them. There was actually a company out in California that had this military-grade sound generator that they would clamp your guitar in and bombard it with sound waves for three days for a fee of $100. I told Joe Perry about Jimmy leaving his guitars in front of the speaker cabinets, so we sent a Custom Shop Mary Kay Strat that Joe had gotten from Fender to this company. The guy said, “Look, send it to me, and if you don’t like it, don’t pay me. We got it back, and it was awesome. The thing rang like a banjo, and acoustically, you’d hit the strings and it would go brrrnnggg. It was dramatically different. I’m not even sure if that company is still around.”

My Synopsis

So, I don’t know if anyone but me is excited by this revelation. But I’m willing to give the Jimmy Page technique a try. Shoot, if all I have to do is play my guitars often and blast them with my amps to make them sound better, I’m in! Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.tonesmiths.com if you enjoyed reading this.

We’ve received many inquiries about the stash of 20 year old swamp ash mentioned in this article. Please direct your inquiries to purchase@dirtysouthguitars.com.


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Don Mare Pickups – “The Real Deal”

The Truth
I see guys talking about a lot of different pickup manufacturers on the many forums I participate in. But, I don’t see Don Mare pickups getting the attention they deserve within the P&W community. The top guitarists in every other genre practically worship Don for his faithful reproductions of those sweet single coils produced by Leo’s ladies throughout the 50’s and 60’s. Some of his artists include Sublime With Rome, Dirty Heads, Lou Reed, John Fogerty, GE Smith, Aerosmith, ton’s of country guitarists, working musicians, and pro session players. I feel every player who slings a Tele or Strat deserves to know just how amazing these pickups are regardless of the style of music they play. Because we all know that a skilled guitarist can cover nearly any style of music with a great sounding Strat or Tele.
The Legend
Don earned his reputation reverse-engineering and replicating vintage pickups for pros who needed their replacement pickup to sound and look exactly like the one that went bad. Many of those old pickups would just fall apart when Don would try to apply tension to the poles and backing during a rewind, so he learned how to build them from the bottom up.
The Experience
While unwrapping those old pickups as he methodically counted each wind, he learned a lot of secrets about the different techniques the employees who wound pickups for Leo used and what made the good pickups great. He discovered an unconventional method used by an unknown winder at the Fullerton shop on pickups dated from 1952-1961. Every guy who had a guitar with these pickups would settle for nothing less than an exact repair or replacement when one would go bad on them. This secret process that allows for a hotter pickup that doesn’t get muddy has come to be Don’s proprietary winding method.
The Method
Don is a stickler for doing it exactly as it was done during the golden age of guitar building. Back when quality was king. He searched the globe to find the highest quality raw materials. Don even uses gas free magnets (no bubbles or voids), hardened steel poles, correct spec Formvar wire, and all that bees wax!
The Madness
When these quality components meet Mr. Mares proprietary techniques the result is nothing less than magical. This combination allows him to wind Fender style single coils nearly as fat as a P90 if needed. All that while maintaining every ounce of punch and clarity. His Strat bridge pickups can be wound hot enough to take the place of a humbucker if that’s what you’re going for. Don can also do the glassy thing like no other or get you anywhere in-between. He has enough choices on his website to overwhelm any tone freak. Call him if you need guidance. But, be prepared to get an education in tone. Once you try a set of these pickups in your favorite guitar Don Mare fever will infect your blood and you’ll start dreaming of how good your other guitars will sound with these pickups. I’ve seen it happen without fail to quite a few of my friends and clients.
The Skinny
Other than a few lengthy conversations (Don can talk!), I am not affiliated with Don Mare or his company in any way. I just want you guys to have the best of everything when it comes to your tone. And when it comes to single coil pickups it’s impossible get any better. Here’s the link to his wild looking site: http://www.buckcannon.com/
Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.tonesmiths.com if you enjoyed reading this.
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Bad Cat Stella Demo

Now presenting the long-awaited demo of James Duke’s signature amplifier the Bad Cat Stella!

The Bad Cat Stella is the EF86 channel of a C30 circuit running through a pair of EL34s at 40w class A. This amp received the “Best in Show” award from Guitar Player Magazine at the 2013 NAMM show.

(audio slightly out of sync with video)

Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.toonesmiths.com if you enjoyed this video

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Jeffrey Kunde gives Tonesmiths a tour of his pedalboard

We met up with Jeffrey while providing his backline Bad Cat amp for the Kim Walker show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, CA. First class tone from a first class guy.

Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.tonesmiths.com if you enjoyed this video

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PM Tubes – The Best 12AX7 on the Market


Those Magic Tubes

Once upon a time I had a small stash of NOS Sylvania grey plate 12AX7s that made every amp I placed them in sound better, Especially in the V1 position of my dad’s old 1965 Deluxe Reverb. I dreaded the day when my last one went microphonic. I even left it in my amp a little longer than a should of because a hated to see it go. I immediately located a few more, but they just lacked the magic produced by that first batch and were also quite costly.

So over the years I tried everything from Blackburn Mullards and Bugle Boys to all the latest and the greatest 12AX7s I could get my hands on. But none of them brought back the magic in dad’s DR like those Sylvanias. They had a way of slightly increasing headroom and curing that ‘farty’ bass that is the DR’s only weakness.

That Magic Moment

While at NAMM in 2011 I happened across an older British gentleman named Peter M. Watson at a little booth in Hall D (the basement). We quickly struck up a conversation about the tubes he had on display. I noticed a fire growing in his eyes and an enthusiasm in his heavily-accented voice as he began describing all of his classic and latest designs to me. As he continued to talk emphatically about diodes, cathodes, and a bunch of stuff way over my head, I began to realize I was in the presence of a true genius. Turns out he was invited to NAMM as a keynote speaker on tube technology! I thought he might be the guy to ask about those “Special Sylvanias” I used to have. And boy am I glad I did! He said, “I’ve got just what you’re looking for… It’s my latest design the 12AX7HG.” Though vendors are discouraged from selling merchandise at NAMM, Peter really wanted me to try a couple of these tubes in my ’65 Deluxe Reverb. I felt like Jack the Giant Killer must’ve as I carried away two of these mysterious tubes like magic beans in my bag.

Guess what I did as soon as I got home from NAMM? You guessed it! I installed those tubes in the V1 position of each channel of the DR, plugged my guitar straight into the amp, and …. Thank you Jesus!!! After all my years of searching I finally found the perfect tube! These not only had the warmth and character of my beloved Sylvania grey plates, but they sounded even fuller with more harmonics. I tried them in all of my amps with the same results. They sounded even better in British amps because they cured the grainy breakup and tightened up the bottom end. All that with one tiny $15 tube.

About the 12AX7HG

The PM 12AX7HG tube is built to the highest possible standards and has extra screening to eliminate microphony (squeal) and excessive white noise. Though the HG in the name stands for High Gain this does not mean it will make your amp distort faster. Gain=Volume to the Brits. These tubes deliver up to 20% increased gain before breakup, thereby increasing any amps headroom by up to 20%. The PM 12AX7HG is a drop in replacement for any standard 12AX7 with nothing but positive results.

About Peter M. Watson

Peter M. Watson (PM) is the guy who brought guitar amp and hi-fi tube designs into all of those industrial tube factories in China, Russia, etc after EPA restrictions and advancements in solid state technology shut down the US and UK factories. Marshall and Orange amps used to come with PM tubes. After losing those contracts to cheaper tube manufacturers Peter concentrated his efforts on designing premium hi-fi tubes under the new Golden Dragon name. These are considered by many to be the best modern production tubes. Hi-fi enthusiast pay up to $700 for a pair of Golden Dragon 300B tubes. However, in spite of the respect and admiration Mr. Watson has received from the audiophile community his tubes are still virtually unknown to most guitarists due to very poor marketing in that arena.

My Mission

It has been my mission to introduce these superior tubes to the artists I work with and every tone freak I come in contact with. And they have all thanked me again and again for helping them make this discovery. Not only is the game-changing 12AX7HG amazing, but every tube PM makes is leaps and bounds above their competition in design, quality, and tone.  They make every tube you could want for a guitar amplifier (except an EF86) and every tube Peter designs is a mix of the best of the best classic designs with a few modern improvements. These tubes are produced at the highest standards using the finest materials available to Mr. Watson’s stringent specifications. And they sell for about the same price you would expect to pay for a JJ.

We do not offer tubes on the Tonesmiths website. www.tubeboutique.com specializes in PM Tubes and offers discounted tube sets for most amps.

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Bad Cat: “The Sound of Modern Worship”

Is it just me or is everyone in the P&W world talking about Bad Cat amplifiers these days? These precision creations that have been a long time favorite for an endless list of top secular guitarists have slowly become the benchmark sound for worship music and can be heard on many recent recordings. Known for creating studio grade renditions of classic circuits and having the highest standards of construction, Bad Cat has become the amp of choice for guitarists from practically every major P&W band. Current artists include but are not limited to:

Nigel Hendroff (Hillsong Worship/United) Custom  Black Cat 30 with EF86 channel only and added mid sweep & level controls

Daniel Carson (Chris Tomlin Band) – Black Cat 40 w/o reverb, tonewheel only on EF86 channel

Matt Podesla (Chris Tomlin/ Matt Redman) – Custom with Black Cat 40 EF86 channel & Kool Cat 12AX7 channel

John Mark McMillan- Classic Deluxe 20R

James Duke (John Mark McMillan/ All the Bright Lights) – Signature Stella (EF86 channel of Black Cat 40)

Jeffrey Kunde (Jesus Culture/ Bethel) – Signature Luca (12AX7 channel of Black Cat 40 with selectable tonewheel)

Michael Gungor – Black Cat 40R

Lance Gatch (Elevation Worship) – Black Cat 40R

Mack Brock (Elevation Worship) – 10th Anniversary Hot Cat 30R

Phil Wickham – Black Cat 30

Jack Parker (David Crowder/ The Digital Age)

Mark Waldrop (David Crowder/ The Digital Age)

Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.tonesmiths.com if you enjoyed reading this.

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Bad Cat Luca Demo featuring Matt Podesla

Here’s an iPhone clip I shot of Matt Podesla (Redman/ Tomlin) demoing Jeffrey Kunde’s Luca amp at the Bad Cat shop in Irvine, CA.

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Interview with Matt Podesla

Matt Podesla, guitarist for the Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman bands, sits down with Donny Garrett of http://www.tonesmiths.com at the Bad Cat Amplifier shop to talk about life, ministry, and of course… tone.

Please subscribe to my blog or visit us at http://www.tonesmiths.com if you enjoyed watching this.

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