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--- Mar 24 1999 Go to category
Subject: Guitar Sound
Category: Guitars
From: Jazz Online (sf,ca)

I have enjoyed your music for years! I've been curious for quite some time now as to how you acquire your distinct guitar sound: I suspect there is alot more sound processing going on than simply attenuating your guitars tone control. I would really like to know the details, from your guitar and amp settings, choice of signal processors, to your studio recording setup (microphones used, equalization, etc.). Also, what steps do you take in recording your spacious and pleasant stereo guitar sound from what what originally a monaural source?

Pat’s Answer:

i'll be happy to go into detail about how my gear works, etc., but i had a revelatory experience a few years ago when i realized that "equipment", although certainly a component in my sound, really had little to do with why i sound like the way i sound. for years, between around 1977 to 1987, i never did ANYTHING without my "rig". i would never "sit in" unless i could have my amps and stuff there, i basically didn't do any record dates at all other than my own cause i was sure they would "mess up my sound" etc. etc. then in 1987 i went to the then USSR on a tour with the group and there were a few "jam session" situations where i HAD to play with some russian guys on their "gear" (and i use the term loosely). i played one night on a polish guitar and a czech amp. someone taped it and gave me the tape the next day. i was shocked to hear that i sounded JUST LIKE ME!!!! since then, i sit in all the time on any old thing and have a blast and do record dates without worrying (too much) that it's gonna get mixed wrong etc. etc. i feel much better knowing FOR SURE that it's more about conception and touch and spirit and soul etc., than whether my hardware was in place. i do, however, totally envy horn players who are "sonically self-contained". they ARE their sound, especially if they can tote their own axe around with 'em as they all easily can do.

the REAL answer to your question though is this. i used an acoustic (brand name) 134 model amp for 20 years from 1974 to 1994. that amp had the SOUND for me. flat, kind of midrangy-bright but mellow and LOUD without any distortion. a hard combination of things to find in one place. unfortunately it was also really noisy and tended to break alot. i paid alot of dues keeping that guy around. during the josh redman tour i could see i was finally gonna have to change and also i had the urge to get modern a little. i knew there were new things out there and so i started trying everything. i finally settled on the digitech 2101 dsp guitar preamp. with it, i could get the SOUND and some cool bells and whistles too, mainly pre-programmability. (no more moving the barely-hangin-on-the-134-front-panel treble control exactly 2.3 centimeters to get the sitar on "last train home" to sound right and then in the 1.7 seconds before the next tune starts trying to get EXACTLY back to where it was. etc.)

like the 134 always was, the output of the digitech is run into 2 lexicon prime-time digital delay lines, one on my left at 14 ms delay, one one my right at 26 ms delay. each delay has a very slight "pitch bend" controlled by the VCO (sine wave) inside the prime-time. this is what gives it the "chorused" thing that i guess i would have to say i was the first to use extensively in jazz and that seemed to have influenced alot of other guys to do the same. only thing, i HATE the way "chorus boxes" sound, my sound is mostly the "straight "134/digitech line which is behind me with NO PITCH BEND which gets blended IN THE AIR with the the two DISCRETE delay pitch bends (which are much softer than the "straight" amp volume) to get a bigger sound. i HATE when i hear the "pitch bend" and the straight mixed together and coming out of the same speaker. it drives me crazy. you can then imagine that it's hard for me in a studio. studios and records are STEREO and i have THREE discrete sources, "straight", delay left, and delay right. i don't feel like i've ever gotten it right on any record. i'm anxiously awaiting the coming days when we get to go back in and re-mix everything for everyone's home 6-track surround systems!!! i'll finally be able to get the guitar sound right!!!!!! (also, i forgot one thing, i always have a slight 450-500 ms delay mixed in right off the guitar too. if you hear it too much, it's too loud. it just lengthens the notes some.)