Many times whether it be In-store, Online, on Chat or over the Phone- a common question always comes up.
"How do I get more out of my Tone?"
You see, Guitarists are a funny bunch. As much as we all don't want to admit it- we are all "Tone Chasers" and have that constant desire to get "That Sound". I guess because every Song is different, all of our favourite Guitarists all use vastly different tones and every Amp, Pedal and Guitar act in very unique ways.
The possibilities are endless in what our Tonal End-game will be but getting the basics down is always what we here at Port Mac Guitars try to help our Customers get right.
In the amplification stage of our Rigs, the concept is a pretty simple one. The old sound-guy saying is "Shit In. Shit Out"; meaning, if you put a bad quality tone or signal into an amp- its just gonna make things A LOT worse. Especially as you work your way up the Gain and Volume ladder.
So you have the Guitar and Amp of your Dreams (or what your Budget can handle!) and are still left wanting. "How does Joe get that tone to sound like that?" or "Why does my Strat sound a lot thinner than his even though we have the same amp?" , are questions that may be running thru your head. You have tried some drastic EQ-ing on the amp (Bass to 11?!), gone down the Rabbit Hole of "Maybe I need to change my pickups..." and have already thrown your Behringer Pedals deep in to the neighbours backyard.
But in reality, what you needed to do first is to Polish that Turd.
You see, there is this little Green Pedal- well actually there is a few of them...
It's is not really an Industry secret, but Ibanez's Tube Screamer range is much more than just an Overdrive. It's a pretty famous Pedal that has been and is used by some huge Artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Joe Satriani and more Metal Players than you can imagine. It harps back to the 70's and 80's where Guitarists were using every Mid-Range trick in the book to blast themselves to the front of the Mix. It was especially popular in the High Gain amp circles as a Solo Pedal, where you would use a TS808 with the settings Full-Bore to truly make your 24th Fret Arpeggios sing. Jazz players also appreciated the subtle breakup its FET circuit would obtain- replicating a blasting Class A amplifier without the accompanying volume. By itself it is a quality standalone Overdrive Pedal, especially if you are a hard strummer. As Overdrive Pedals go, it is not as compressed as some competitors, so is quite Dynamic in how it connects with your commands from your Guitar.
But today the Tube Screamer has a different purpose. It is still used for all those things above as it was intended. The design has barely changed in 30 odd years which is testement to how it "Got it Right" back in the days of old. But a lot of Guitarists figured out a little trick it had up its sleeve...
Basically from a quirk in its construction and design, the Tubscreamer is adept at reproducing an enhancing all the frequencies that we find important in certain Guitar Tones. You might not know these exact Frequencies, but for the Audiophiles here, it is the important Mid-Range stuff- mainly 800Hz, 1kHz, 2.5kHz and 5ish kHz. Now these little peaks and troughs also fall as Overtones, and if you carefully listen as you engage and disengage the Tube Screamer, you will hear certain parts of your tone "jump out".
As these important Overtones are passively targeted by the Tube Screamer, it automatically perfoms as an amazing Boost stage- which takes what we find important in our Tone and takes it to the next level. Now it is worth noting, that this is with the Tube Screamers Gain turned all the way DOWN. Volume is determined by realistically if you want the Tube Screamer treated as a Passive Effect (always on) or as a Boost (turned on only when desired, like for a Solo). Tone should always be at 12 o'Clock- unless you find a sweet spot that you feel like you can't leave. The positioning of the Tube Screamer is also important. Some people suggest sticking it in the FX Loop, but for me personally the Tube Screamer should be the first Port of Call from your Guitar. It is designed to set a Bedrock for your tone, so get this part right will all other FX turned off and rebuild your signal chain accordingly.
A lot of Players will find that it helps their Guitar "come alive" and helps fatten out their Tone without having to make drastic EQ decisions.
This technique works especially well with High Gain Amplifiers. Often in Heavier tones (especially with guys using Downtuned and 7/8 String Guitars) it means you need to use LESS Gain on the Amp. This tends to give you a little less High Gain Compression (a Pro/Con depending on how you look at High Gain Amps) and helps increase the Clarity of your Tone. If you are a Fast Picker, it really helps make individual notes pop out.
The reason why this aurally sounds so good to our ears is the Tube Screamer isn't doing what many other Boost pedals tend to do. It doesn't try to Cut anything out of your tone. As mentioned above, its Quirk makes it Boost what is important to our Ears and Amplifiers and thus helps our Tone reach a new Level.
Now a few people out there will say "Na mate, Tube Screamers suck tone out of your Guitar and just add Grit". That is a symptom of what I like to call User Error. Subtle additions can sometimes be the difference between a good tone and a great one. Turning all the knobs up to 100% and expecting your tone to sound 100% better is something that makes us beat our heads agains the proverbial Brick Wall.
We have included a few Sample settings to where you should begin, but overall you should do what sounds good to you. Experimentation is encouraged.
In our honest opinion, having a Tube Screamer in your Rig can never harm you, especially when used right. It is a simple, effective, time proven way to help you reach your Tonal Nirvana and should always be considered before changing out Amps or Pickups. The great thing with the Tube Screamer is no matter the Guitar, no matter the Amp, it will help make things sound Bigger, Better and Bolder. Often this is achieved with very subtle settings- but Tube Screamers do extreme quite well.
Each Tube Screamer from Ibanez has their quirks, so drop us a line and we will help you choose the right one for your application and desire. To see the Range, click HERE.
Classic Boost Setting for Any Application
"Middle of the Road" Boost and Crunch addition to Clean Tone
Class A Jazzy Finger Picking Buzz- Super Dynamic.