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AweSome Guitar Views

The following comments focus on interesting topics.

Current Topics

  1. Copying Our Ideas Is Flattering.
  2. Is Your Band Really Profitable?
  3. Capacitor Use In Electric Guitar And Bass Instruments
  4. Electric Guitar Pickups
  5. Does Wood Affects Solid Body Electric Guitar Pickup Tone?

Copying Our Ideas Is Flattering

It is now becoming hard for us not to notice how others have "discovered" us, our ideas and our products — and are leveraging our relentless innovation and impossibility-defying ingenuity to provide benefit to other players. Here are just a few examples.

As early as January 2012, we promoted the notion among all pickup manufacturers to consider creating unbalanced (i.e., asymmetric) humbucker coil pairs. The reason is that this would create a greater dissonance in the pickup coil combinations from our high performance Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products. The result would be a much wider Grand Canyon Wide range of possible pickup tones — especially when paired with our upgrade products. Although the suggestion was admittedly self-serving, it also had the potential of significantly enhance the electric guitar performance for everyone in the industry from a pickup tone power standpoint.

TV Jones has released special Brian Setzer asymmetric 4-wire humbucker pickups. And previously, Jeff Lace introduced his Bill Kelliher "dissonant aggressor" humbucker pickups which use unbalanced coils in both the neck and bridge positions. We congratulate Jeff Lace for his interest in using our idea to introduce something new and "out-of-the-box" to the smart players. We are also thankful that he decided to use our terms "dissonant" and "unbalanced" for his products — because that's what they truly provide when used with our upgrade products (sadly, he missed using the "asymmetric" term.) Word has it they will not be releasing "uncovered" asymmetrical humbucker pickups. This means that we need to work with some smart and nimble pickup maker to produce the uncovered asymmetric 4-wire humbucker pickups we need. Is there a pickup winder that is interested in this opportunity?

Even FMIC recently released a "knock off" of our high performance Pickup Switch UpgradeTM products with their American Deluxe Strat PLUS instrument that has "personality cards". This is interesting because this release came about eight months after we shared our products with them (both the now-outgoing CEO and also the head of their Custom Shop) to foster mutual collaboration. The fact that they released one of their instruments at substantial corporate cost (as a "Plus" guitar) is strong evidence that they are seriously worried about what we are doing. And rightly so! We will shortly be releasing complete instruments that will produce 276 pickup tones and will be the ONLY instruments in the world that will give you numerous QuadraBuckerTM and PentaBuckerTM pickup tones. For the heavy metal crowd, this means that you can now very easily get numerous incredible pickup tones that are so "fat", they're... Obese! All this copying still shows others that truly, We're not just light years ahead of everyone; we are completely in the next galaxy. (2014-03-24)

Is Your Band Really Profitable?

The current "marketing" trend finds many musicians/bands now exclusively using resources like ground(ctrl), reverbnation, band camp, soundclick, snotpope or one of the so-called social media websites like facebook, myspace, etc. Although perceived as a "convenient" way to do business, this also has a downside that is devastating to your profitability. When you exclusively use one of these resources, you are also totally insulating yourself from easy contact by fans and others. This increases the likelihood of alienating potential PAYING customers who actually have the spare cash to spend on your concert tickets, tshirts, caps, CDs/DVDs, etc.

Over the last decade, several new music genres have cropped up (e.g., rap, electronica, hip hop, techno, etc.) all of which are competing for those spare dollars. Put another way, others have been eating away at the pool of spare cash people have to spend on your stuff leaving less for you. It's called competition. When you deliberately (or stupidly) do things that are designed to discourage purchases, you are the loser.

Do you know the main reasons that discourage sales?

By making it hard for potential customers and fans to contact you (especially if they are not a member of a "specialty" website mentioned in the first paragraph), your revenue stream suffers. If your band does not have a real website that contains a direct email address — you immediately lost a lot of fans that actually have cold hard cash — cash that is the most likely source for your current and future sales revenue.

These days, most smart people (the ones who DO have the money to buy your stuff) are very concerned with identity theft and are no longer willing to "sign up" at a multiplicity of websites. They want to be as anynomous as possible on the web. They clearly understand that they are unwilling to flush their life down the toilet with Pavlovian reactions to every irrelevent message. If you don't have an easy way that these PAYING CUSTOMERS can directly contact you without jumping backwards through flaming "hoops"... your band is losing sales EVERY DAY!

Yes, it takes a little more effort to review customer emails and respond to them (by hiring someone to review the emails and reply if needed), but it fosters a better atmosphere of easy communication. For the bands that missed the point, it's called "customer service" — something at which you need to be proactive... if you want to avoid quickly becoming obsolete. It's that personal attention that wins the hearts (and wallets) of potential newbie fans. The minute you forget this truth, you are history.

Although perceived as popular, if your primary way for others to interact with you is one of those so-called "cool" specialty site or social media website, this will likely result in severely diminished profitable revenue. Even worse, most people on social media websites habitually lie — they lie about who they are and they lie about their purchasing intentions. Your band can't deposit lies in its bank account. But when you have an actual website coupled with powerful demographic and analysis resources (freely available from Google and other companies) to measure who visits your website, who sends emails, who makes purchases and why, it helps you to intelligently and scientifically develop strategies to enhance your sales as well as plan your financial destiny.

The young groupies (that don't have a job and live in their mommy's and daddy's basement) but spend every waking minute on Facebook, Myspace, twitter, yada-yada-yada to get their "15 minutes of fame fix" to feel like they are saying something important are NOT your target audience. These non-purchasers don't realize that they're flushing their entire life down the toilet with no benefit — much like ducks with their useless "quack-quack-quacking". Even worse, they do NOTHING for your profitability. Clearly, these are NOT your target customer because they don't have two nickels to rub together — and is why they are living in their mommie's and daddy's basement. Yes they may post drivel on your social media site and give you "likes", but how many actually have the cash to buy your products? Do you even know this crucial information? If not, then it is a strong business case for having your band on an actual website where you can intelligently evaluate these metrics.

If you are a band that wants to be profitable, you should know that most of the "over 30" crowd no longer wastes their valuable time with this social media nonsense because there is only 24 hours in a day to use. One third of the day they're working (to make the bucks that will buy your stuff), one third of the day they're sleeping, and they are certainly not interested in flushing the remaining third of their life down the toilet lurking on multiple social media websites that gives them NO direct benefit.

You need to be smart and have a real website that gives your customers a direct way to contact you. This also lets you use the metrics analysis resources (already mentioned) to look for effective ways to enhance customer experiences. For example, if you see that the bulk of the caps you are selling are green colored then perhaps your concert lighting should be skewed with green to enhance attendee enjoyment.

Another example of obstacles that prevent you from capturing incredible benefit is our Band Support program that we extend to many undiscovered groups — but only to the ones that we can directly contact. Our time is valuable too and we don't fritter it away with people that cannot be easily contacted. To date, about 420 bands who were difficult to contact did NOT receive our Band Support program invitation. However, about 760 bands that were easy to contact are embracing our products and are getting a huge edge over those who don't. If you are difficult to directly contact (because you don't have an email address), then you totally missed out on getting easy access to incredible career boosting products which are available by invitation only — products that are giving your competition a Les Paul edge in today's fiercely competitive music market. (2014-01-17)

Capacitor Use In Electric Guitar And Bass Instruments

Capacitors are electrical components designed to behave in a specific way, and that predictable behavior is described in its specification. This component is frequently used in electric guitar and bass instruments as a way to "bleed" off treble (i.e., high frequency) sounding tones via an RC (i.e., resistance/capacitance) circuit. This gives the musician a way to use a "tone" control to reduce the treble intensity of their instrument's pickup output by diverting some of the brilliant tones to ground before the signal is sent to the amplifier input.

The tone control in an electric guitar or bass is really a poor substitute for the superior circuitry that a quality amplifier already provides. Based on their characteristics, capacitors (regardless of the type) are "commodities". This means that a 2-cent .05 MFD ceramic capacitor will provide the exact same result as a $10 orange drop .05 MFD capacitor in any simple RC circuit. So why would someone purchase the $10 cap over the 2-cent cap? It is because some of these manufacturers have misled customers into believing that there is some "benefit" to using only their product. The reality is that no capacitor manufacturer can offer up any evidence as to the benefit of their product over a less expensive one.

Does it make sense to pay more for identical performance? Would you be willing to pay $3.00 MORE per gallon for "Chrysler" gas instead of the lower priced generic gas? Most people would not. In fact, there are many of you that will drive several miles to get gas that is just a few cents cheaper because... gas is gas. Likewise, MFD is MFD (MFD is an appreviation for "microfarad", one of the several terms used to describe a capacitor characteristic).

The 2-cent .05 MFD ceramic capacitor is going to behave in the EXACT same way as that $10 orange drop .05 MFD capacitor, especially in a simple RC "tone bleeding" circuit that contains almost no voltage or current. So the next time you have an instrument project that needs tone control work, buy yourself a 2-cent capacitor and take the other $9.98 and reward yourself for being so practical with a six pack of quality craft beer that you have never tried. You may learn two new things as a result. (2013-12-21)

Electric Guitar Pickups

There are three main categories of electric guitar and bass pickups; copper coil wound magnetic pickups (passive), battery powered pickups (active), and piezoelectric pickups. This topic only discusses the coil wound magnetic pickups.

The following components are what contributes to the tone produced by any copper coil-wound magnetic pickup.

Together, these three items — when combined in various ways — are the core "receipe" for producing different pickup tone "flavors". This is how we get the various pickup tones ranging from Muddy/Dirty Blues tones at one end of the pickup tone spectrum to those glass shattering, out-of-phase tin-canny Mark Knopfler/Robert Cray pickup tones at the other end of the pickup tone spectrum. The total range of pickup tones that are possible is presented below by using several standard benchmark tones and where they reside in this pickup tone range:


So the entire range of pickup tones is a result of how the above three components are combined. Just like with the previous "Capacitor" topic, any pickup manufacturer who claims to have "different" or "better" (a subjective term) pickup tones is not being forthright. There are pickup manufacturers that would have you believe their products are unique. However, with rare exception pickups are not all that unique regardless of who makes them. Increasingly, pickup makers are using subjective hyperbole words which appear to have been deliberately selected to influence the purchasing decisions of people who are easy prey for these words.

In an industry now filled with people who make pickups, the industry sorely needs an independent pickup certification organization that can objectively and honestly evaluate and "quantify" a manufacturer's specific model pickup's characteristics. Having an entity that can certify that a manufacturer's pickup model(s) will perform in a predictable and definable way and will produce a specific pickup tone type. As a result, the claims by all pickup manufacturers would be based in honesty and not subjective euphamisms.

By combining the above three components in the correct way means that anyone can now produce pickups that will result in these universally recognized "benchmark tones". In looking at the bigger and longer-term picture, the Chinese are already doing it in a limited sense. And it won't be too much longer before they finally get a clue about how to consistently produce pickups that provide specific benchmark tones. When that happens, an entire industry of U.S. pickup manufacturers are going to be standing in the unemployment lines. This is because the benchmark pickup tones will quickly be "commoditized" by hundreds of Chinese factories — that are fully automated and using low-cost labor — to produce pickups with consistent and predictable performance that they will sell directly on the internet worldwide to customers. (2013-12-14)

Does Wood Affects Solid Body Electric Guitar Pickup Tone?

This is a seemingly controversial topic until you understand both the science and mechanics behind it. Sadly, the controversy is fueled by people whose opinions aren't grounded in scientific fact. There are two categories of electric guitars; solid body and hollow body. This topic only discusses solid body electric guitars.

Here are the most common "Tonewoods" currently used for electric guitar bodies.

Several wood types are designated as "endangered species" and are no longer legally available, so they may not be included in this list.

The notion that a solid body electric guitar made with a specific wood type will have an effect on the tone coming out of an amplifier is preposterous. The scientific physics that govern the operation of copper coil wound magnetic guitar pickups does not support this claim. These pickups are mounted to the guitar's body under the (steel) strings and surround the strings with a magnetic field. When the strings are "plucked", they vibrate back and forth causing the enveloping magnetic field to also move back and forth following the steel string's vibrations. This back and forth vibration of the magnetic field "cuts" across the copper coil winding and induces a small voltage into the coil. This small voltage is supplied to the amplifier and produces the amplified version of the guitar string vibration.

The electric guitar pickup's output is not influenced by the type of wood to which the pickup is mounted. In fact, if the pickups were simply "suspended" in the air and not mounted to anything, the amplified signal being produced would be identical.

To believe otherwise, you would also have to make the same claim with microphones; that the microphone's output (or tone) is influence by whether it is mounted in a metal microphone stand, a wood microphone stand, or just hand held. Because there is no such claim being made in the microphone industry, one has to wonder if a different wood body type will have any effect on the output (i.e., "tone") produced by the magnetic pickup as a result of vibrating guitar strings. An extensive web search has not produced any scientific evidence to support this claim.

An emerging (and likely correct) belief is that some people mistakenly confuse the wood body of a solid body electric guitar vibrating against their body with the "tone" coming out of the amplifier. One way to confirm this is to put these passionate adherents in a different room with an amplifier and — while being isolated from the the guitar vibration — listen to the the strings being plucked on the guitar that is in a separate room and have them identify the type of wood body being used. They simply cannot do so when confronted with this scientific "double blind" methodology.

There is also more to this topic of wood vs. tone. One example includes a white paper published in May, 2007 by Keith J. Soper. He wanted to determine if there really is a difference in sound between a Telecaster made of Ash vs Alder. We believe that he obliquely came to the same conclusion. You can read this paper Here.

There can be agreement that the wood type of a solid body electric guitar will influence "sustain" — albeit slightly. But the term "sustain" is relative and subjective in the context of guitar string vibration. What is needed is to have someone take two identical guitars, everything the same except one with a solid steel body, the other with a "balsa wood-like" low density wood body. This would provide a practical minimum/ maximum density range to measure the output duration of a string plucked on each with identical plucking energy.

Measuring the time that it will take for the output signal of each guitar to degrade to a specific signal intensity will scientifically establish the "time" range for practical sustain of string vibration. We believe that there is not all that much difference in the sustain time between these two body densities.

One more area of "sustain" involves the heavy metal crowd using the amplified output to cause the string(s) to further vibrate — which is not really sustain, but rather a type of "feedback" that causes the string(s) to continue vibrating. Calling this "sustain" is just muddying the water of scientific analysis even further.

Regarding lighter weight solid body guitars: the Paulownia wood (similar to Ash) a virtual unknown until recently is very lightweight and is now being used for some guitar bodies. A standard blank Stratocaster body weighs in at about 5.9 lbs. The Paulownia equivalent is around 2 lbs. That's dropping as much as 4 lbs. off the weight of a guitar! Although repeated removing and replacing screws can more easily cause this wood to have the screws "strip", this issue can be solved by using nylon anchors where the screws would normally go. Having an axe that is several pounds lighter is a heaven-sent solution to all the older rockers who just can't strap on a 12 pound weight for five hours a night. (2013-12-07)