Colorless writings, part 3 – The Madness

Third part of these articles takes a look on the madness that eats up every tone freak person.

Madness? What are you talking about?

Dealing with used gear, guitars, effect, amps, you name it, you’ll need to be in contact with the people who are more or less tone freaks. It is rare that you can buy or sell a pedal from someone who doesn’t know what he/she is buying or selling. Those occasions are usually benefitting me and all the others who know their stuff. But these moments are rare. I’ve met people who are 10 years (or more) younger than me that list hundreds of instruments they’ve tried and used to own. I’ve met older people with spark ignited after they have turned 50. There’s one thing common with these people and me. All of us are on the hunt for sounds and nuances that are new to us. We all are on the hunt for that exact tone that may not even exist. There won’t ever be a person who has played with every single stompbox design ever released.  Every piece of the puzzle affects every other piece. To be more exact, there are basically four common variables:  Guitar, Effects/Pedals, Amplifier and the Cabinet

We could add cables to the mix, but unless you are not using the cheapest cables that came with your sister’s karaoke set, the audible difference can be debated for a long time. I mean that if you’re using good basic cables, you’re going to be fine and you don’t have to bother yourself with that. Back to the variables. Change one item in that chain, and the overall tone will change. You’ll be able to hear the differences. Always. That’s why i think most of the pedal demos are just wrong. You might get the idea what is happening, but you won’t have any real surface to the sound before you’ve played the pedal with your own  gear. Commercial instances who make the demos are usually trying to sell more stuff they have on stock, so the demo should sound good. When was the last time you saw a stomp box demo that was truly and constructively critical about the product? I surely can’t remember seeing one.

Someone could write an article about his hunt and catch, but then again, that article would only cover the hunt for his/her preferences. Some people even hunt the existing tones. Some are deliberately trying to match D. Dimebag, B. Corgan, J. Mascis, S.R. Vaughn, Slash, EVH and so on. To be honest, i feel slightly sorry for these guys spending massive ammounts of money to nail the sound that already exists. I also feel slightly sorry for myself and rest of the world who are trying to nail what they think will be the greatest tone ever – spending massive amounts of money trying to get there.

This is where the madness steps in. May the goal be whatever, the gear that needs to be tested to get there will always be a lot. Not to mention that human mind is pretty stupid thing. If you eat oatmeal every morning with peaches, you’re going to end up hating both in just a few years. There is always that one little thing that could work and/or sound just a little better or different. This is the main reason why we need pedals.

So the madness is the hunt for tone?

Basically no.  Not everyone playing a guitar/bass is affected by the consuming mental phenomena. But it turns to madness when you have more than 50 pedals, more than 20 guitars or more than five vacuum tube amps. We are called hoarders in some parts of the society. Some people will even go deeper than that. Like myself, i want to understand how and why the tone sounds like it does. I need to understand it. In some cases i might even trust my knowledge of electronics theory more than my own ears. That’s what makes this a madness. And the endless yearning for more of unexplored tones.

I can’t take myself too seriously. If i did i’d be already too deep – past the point of no return. Some people will always collect automobiles and some get their kicks from collecting stamps or vinyl records. I find my inner peace from electric guitars and sounds created with pedals, amps and those guitars. Yes it does interfere with my everyday life. Just as much as my everyday life interferes with my electronics. Once you are too deep, you’ll know it. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but once you’re in there – you’ll know what i’m talking about.

Ah. I think i get it. The madness is when you don’t care about anything else but the tone?

Now we’re getting closer. In the past i watched TV. In the past i jogged considerably long distances. In the past i needed to get drunk way too often. I may be getting fatter and out of shape, but i really don’t care. Sometimes i even forget to eat. All of this because i do my best to get even deeper in the understanding of tone. I’ve been at this for a few years and i’m still learning new things every day. Not a day goes by that i don’t think about this stuff. It is my stuff. I live and breathe it. It is my sound.

I just happen to know that this is the chosen way of life to others too. None of us will ever be able to verbally express why this sound like that and why that sounds like this. We all just know it by heart and by gut feeling. When we rather spent our last pennies on rare 70’s pedal than get our fridges full to support our bodily functions for the next three weeks – that’s when it goes past the limit. That’s when we’re in the zone. That’s the madness. Couldn’t say that i didn’t like it here.

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