“The Birth of Loud” by Ian S. Sport: R&R gear history book goes to 11

Originally published at: "The Birth of Loud" by Ian S. Sport: R&R gear history book goes to 11 | Boing Boing


Added to my xmas wish list… hoping santa thinks I’ve been nice.

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Will have to give it a look.

During lockdown, I pulled my old Washburn KC40V and Fender M80 amp out of storage for probably the first time in 20 years and started playing again.
It’s been great re-learning to play, as well as learning new stuff (Youtube is a phenomenal learning aid, and there’s lots of really fantastic guitar stuff out there).

However, this old kit is a bit temperamental to say the least. The Washburn, a mid-range “Super Strat” from the late Eighties / early Nineties, has some dodgy electronics, not helped by transistor degradation in the Fender M80 solid state amp (the Presence knob now just adds hiss).

So I treated myself to a Les Paul Studio and a Blackstar HT-20R combi tube amp, and have more recently been building up a decent pedal board.

And I’ve been amazed by the amount of control over shaping my tone the Les Paul gives me. It’s got coil-tapping volume knobs for both pickups, and I didn’t realise that the flexibility of the guitar comes from the ability to seamlessly blend the pickups while individually controlling their tone and volume controls.
It’s a wonderful instrument with a distinct sound, and gives me a deep appreciation for how these iconic instruments have shaped the sound of guitar music for the past 70 years.

The Blackstar amp has also been a revelation. I’d never played with a tube amp before, so wasn’t ready for the volume difference!
Even with the attenuation turned on, it’s a loud bugger. But a lot on the tone depends on volume.
It also breaks up wonderfully on the clean channel, allowing for a level of overdrive and distortion before even thinking about adding pedals.
It makes for a great bluesy sound, and has made me understand how a lot of classic rock and metal guitarists have created their tones,

I think that’s the thing it took me the longest to get used to. Coming from a transistor Fender where the clean channel is clean, no matter what the volume, it made me really acknowledge that there’s room for both technologies depending on what I want to play. Transistor isn’t necessarily worse than tube, just different.
And I can now also appreciate why a lot of jazz guitarists prefer transistor amps.

I’m not the best guitarist, spending most of my time noodling away in minor pentatonic scales, or thrashing out power chords.
But it gives me a huge amount of pleasure, and has had a fantastic effect on my mental health.

And this is also the first time I’ve had the chance to play with pedals. I couldn’t really afford them back when I started playing, and they’re ridiculously cheap these days for some really good pedals (I highly recommend Behringer pedals!)
I think my favourite is probably the first and most expensive pedal I bought, a Dunlop Mini Crybaby Wah.
As well as the Wah itself being incredibly fun to play with, I didn’t realise I could also use it to shape my tone by activating it and leaving it at set levels.

I can also see how people end up spending a fortune on guitars.I want so many now!
I want a Strat! A Jaguar! A Tele! An SG! A Hollow body! An Ibanez Jem! Hell, I’ll try anything!

Okay, I’ll stop guitar-nerding-out now.


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