May 2013 Musings: Strymon, Rustiness, Electric Guitar as a System

 

Strymon Mobius + Timeline

Strymon Mobius + Timeline

After thinking long and hard about it, tonight I took a plunge on both Strymon top-of-the-lines — Timeline and Mobius.  If you know me, you know that I already have Damage Control Timeline.  What made me go to Strymon instead?  (Shootout is coming, by the way).

Well, I’ve had Damage Control now for some time — almost two years (reviewed here) — and I do love its sound.  With the filter set to simulate tape-like sound, it really sounds like the delay I hear in my head.  No complaints there.

But over time I really came to feel limited by its user interface.  It has 8 spots for saving settings, but it’s a bit of a leap of faith — you have to remember which spot you saved what.  Plus, the key thing is that the delay time is baked into the presets — so I can’t save just the delay “sound” and call it up and set the time appropriate for the songs.   Plus, I really didn’t like its modulation sound, and again I didn’t bond with the way the looper works.

That’s not to say that I will for sure love the Strymon version.  But having considered both first and gone with the Damage Control first, now when I look at the Strymon video demos I just feel very excited by the sounds it creates.

The thing I can say about both Mobius and Timeline is that they are so deep and vast in their capabilities that adding them to your rig is a bit like adding a whole new instrument.  I firmly believe that to be a master electric guitarist is to learn to play the whole system — the signal chain starts with the guitar, runs through pedals and comes out in amps.  All these components make up one instrument you’re playing.

When I was starting to play U2 was one of my early inspirations, and the Edge’s effect-driven style came naturally to me.  But then I got the idea that to be a competent guitar player you should be able to play without effects, in fact effects were crutches and I shouldn’t become dependent on them.  So I spent probably last 10 years without much reliance on effects.

Well in my evolution it seems like I’m coming a full cycle and feel more drawn to being a textural guitarist with an arsenal of effects.  And yes, learning to use effects is something easy and not technically demanding, at least to me — but something I came to appreciate is that this is not true of every guitarist, even very good ones.  Derek Sivers has a post entitled “Obvious to You, Amazing to Others” — the post is more about ideas but I also think it’s applicable to just your gifts and strengths.  Some things come easy to you so you assume it’s easy for everyone else and it’s valueless — but that’s not always true.

So with these two vastly capable instruments added to my system, I’m going to allow myself to cop out and play some really easy (to me) stuff and let effects create sounds and textures.  I’m excited to see where this will take me.

Finally, today was the day I picked up and really goofed around with the guitar for the first time in several weeks.  Have been just really busy with my day job but also with the recording I’m producing — had no time to practice.

When I go without playing for a few days or more, I notice that the first time I get back to playing, it doesn’t feel good — it’s as if I forgot how to play.  Playing feels very unnatural, and I can feel dejected and discouraged.  It takes a few days of doing some exercise routines and instilling some regimens back in my life before I feel like I’m a guitar player again.  I do miss playing, making videos and blogging about guitars, but the next couple of months may be lean.  I’ll try not to get too out of touch — playing the guitar is like the most essential part of my life!  I feel so empty without it.  One of the arguments against buying the pedals was the fact that I don’t have much time right now, but then I decided that buying them will force me to make the time.  It doesn’t matter how busy I am — I need to keep my balance and find at least some corners of my day reserved for the most cherished activity in my life.

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