Limit your choices.

Hello my Mercurial Mercenaries. Okay, so far this website has only experienced limited success, however; it has felt like a place where we can talk away from the limelight. As well as being a place where everyone can express their opinion – freedom of speech and all that – YouTube can be divisive. People post nice comments because they want nice comments in return or they post nice comments because they want to be part of the crowd. There is of course one more possibility: They post nice comments because they believe in those nice comments. When I was at school I was taught never to use the word ‘nice’. I was told that the word ‘nice’ has no value. ‘Nice’ is apparently a meaningless, filler word. The teacher who drilled that into me was one of the greatest individuals I have ever had the pleasure to know, yet, perhaps there is a place for ‘nice’. It is often, unfortunately, the only word that seems applicable!

Anyway, onto the subject in hand. I am going to talk a lot about the methods and madness involved in the creation of music. One of the topics I am going to keep returning to is the limiting of one’s choices. For, you see, too much choice can destroy your life’s work. You can set out with the best of intentions… but too many options will be the death of you. Honestly, I will return to this subject again and again and again and again.

With regard specifically to guitar amplifiers this mantra still applies. There is nothing wrong with finding a sound you like, or even a sound you can tolerate, and sticking with it. AC/DC has done just fine with an SG and a Marshall. Iron Maiden, likewise, has become quite famous with a couple of Strats and a wall of Marshalls. Black Sabbath, Joe Satriani, the Beatles, Keith Richards… whoever. It seems that the amateur is more concerned with ‘choice’ than the professional. Wake up and smell the roses. 🙂

13 comments

  1. Words are just symbols to convey meaning and they evolve over time. Before Disney nice originally had a number of meanings, including fine, subtle and discriminating. A little different to what Thumper the rabbit had in mind. I suppose we live in a world of the 5 minute video and easy english to ease our transition through life. Maybe being “nice” online gives us a buffer zone while the more challenged individuals learn to communicate without having a seizure….So “nice” might be good in that respect but it should not prevent a reasonable amount of honesty. Could you imagine how awful and unworkable it would be if there was total honesty! Here in this place I feel I can respond more fully without worrying about seizures and the like. Youtube comments sometimes resemble “fortune cookie english”, short and witty or short and vapid, but like the 5 minute video that they accompany, not too demanding. Of course there are exceptions and strange as it may seem I am happy in either arena but they are very different in my opinion. Now about choice, I agree 100%. It has been found that too much choice can lead to confusion and an inabillity to act. Which makes me wonder if decisive types just don’t recognise the choices and nutty professor types see too much choice. Psychologist Barry Schwartz has a lot to say about this, check it out here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM
    I think you will enjoy watching this video, maybe it helps explain why when I want to play guitar I always choose my acoustic guitar first and just play. I am looking forward to your videos about recording music, no one needs help more than me, I really know nothing and would like to learn the basics without having to become a sound engineer or software expert. A world in which it takes a day to record and then a week to refine it to the point where it no longer bears any resemblance to the original may have its merits, but its not for me. Oh and as a footnote, the “pro-sumer” market between entry level and pro has always been the most lucrative for manufacturers……

    1. What a great video. I agree with every word. I have long believed that more choice is stifling. People have mocked me in the past for my inability to “make a decision”, but that is often because every single decision in life has so many bloody choices!
      “I’m popping out to the shop for some lunch. Do you want anything?”
      Me – “Hmmmm… well, ummmm, yes, ummmmm..”
      Them – “Here we go again! JUST MAKE A DECISION!”

      Is making a decision really that easy for everyone else? I always feel like the odd one out. And I’ve noticed a trend for ‘choice’ being used to inflict easier pain. If someone wants to bring about a change for the worse in your life, rather than tell you what they want you to do – they now offer you a choice. I’ve tried to reason with people that this is a bad state of affairs… but the general public appears too stupid to ‘get it’.
      If someone tells you to do something, and the result is negative, then you can blame the person who made you do it.
      If someone lets you choose for yourself how to bring about an outcome, and the result is negative, then you can only blame yourself.
      This seems simple to me. Simple. But people just don’t get it!
      Infuriates me!
      Too much choice is more often than not a bad thing.

  2. Interesting… you know I have a Fender Mustang amp, which is a combo with a USB input for a computer where using the Fuse software you end up having a massive modeling suite available with all kinds of stompboxes and amps and cabinets …

    I used it several times but realized that recording with it… if I ever go back to playing live? what a nightmare.

    I don’t use it anymore.

    I’ve been recording my recent songs purely with my rig/amp(s) mic’d.
    Not because it’s simpler… or easier. (Hardly)
    Because I like the sound of my amp and pedals, because its me taming the tube-beast like a lion-tamer!
    Shaping the feedback to my will… the sound is me, I don’t sound like you or him or him…
    I want people to listen to me, not a thin replication of Jimi’s Amp, Zakk’s Amp or Angus’ Amp. If anyone wants to hear that, they just pop in a tape/CD or youtube them. No need to listen to imitations.

    I think everyone who is serious about creating their own music, should invest in their gear choices to shape their sound. Then work on learning their tools/equipment and take a good long time in tweaking things out.

    I have 4 distortion/overdrive type boxes on my pedalboard. I have 5 guitars. I use one amp exclusively with another available for “cleaner-cleans”, however using a G&L legacy with the low-cut built into it (to get rid of the boomies) has allowed me to drop that extra amp.

    The pedal/guitar combinations allow me endless variations of tones but playing through the same amp keeps the results tight.

    If I ever get famous, I’d like some kid to run to the music store and say: ” I wanna sound like Richard Kurbis from Painfinger… what do I need?” lol

    Thanks for having your site open to comments 🙂 Even though its only a few of us, its fun to post and enjoy reading everyones thoughts as well.

    1. Even with my virtually non existant knowledge and limited kit I understand your point. I chose my guitar and amp based on achieving as much versatility as possible with as little as possible, within my budget. I think I would do chose differentially given a second chance, I suppose that is the learning curve! Advice like this is well received!

      1. Jamie, yeah your rig really all depends on what your end goals are, if you know what your end goal is.
        There is nothing wrong with having a Fender Mustang (I’d say 4+) for gigging in a live band, if you do covers, or 2-3 for lounge performances… A Mustang 1 is kinda too small though. You can = these to the Line6’s or Yamaha’s as well. Also having one for a “studio” amp is great (Even a 1 is perfect for that).

        One thing I found though is there is limited tweaking on these modeling presets. It’s almost like the settings were stamped with Treble=Perfect, Mids=Perfect, Bass=Perfect… for each Amp setting.
        When you turn a knob you get: Treble=Perfect, Mids= Meh…, Bass=Perfect…
        And it quickly goes downhill from there. Or becomes and endless battle to get the less “Meh” lol

        An amp with less knobs on it forces you to work more with the switches and knobs on your guitar. For me, I love that.
        Some guys like more knobs like on a Marshall head or H&K heads… but once dialed in the footswitch from 2-3 channels is all you need besides some light tweeks from hall to hall.

        I like meaty, throaty tone, something with enough vibration in it to make your dick hard, tingles the dangling bojangles and entices you to blow a load by accident…
        I think once you dial in a sound that gives you (as well as your accompanying musicians) that feeling when you hit open chords… you end up improving everyones mojo and they want to be there to practice.
        Inspiration goes to the roof and people just start creating on the spot.
        You wanna be that band that wrote songs you wanted to hear, with that sound you wanted to hear, but never found.

        Ah sorry Jamie for typing so damn much on M6’s blog, blah bla bla… shutup Richard 😉

        Anyways I think each type of amp serves a purpose for a type of musician. Some guys like doing covers, some like doing originals, some like small personal venues, others want the big stage… it’s cool to have choices.

  3. I collected hundreds of VST’s and VSTi’s, endless guitar effects, amp simulators, synths, drum machines, I think I have around 700 instruments and maybe 500 fx, it’s ridiculous.
    I’ve recently finished recording an album of songs. It’s sort of rock/pop/folk/prog, but really it’s a collection of songs. I had access to all these wonderful sounds and things with knobs on , anything I wanted.
    We’ve ended up using two of the most basic vst’s I own, a Marshall stack simulator, and a Fender Twin simulator, on pretty much everything. We tried Amplitude, Amplion, AmperVan .. 🙂 … at the end of the day that’s all I wanted. the odd Tube Screamer for the Punkier side of life, but for recording and balancing two guitars, I had two amps, we all know their sounds really well, and I could make them do exactly what I wanted.
    I also ended up with pretty much the same reverb, compression, delays etc all over the album, and I got to know these effects really well, and could make them do exactly what I wanted.
    And Mini Moog and Hammond, just because I had to.
    I owned a very nice acoustic guitar once, pure Tonewood..It’d cost around £2000 now, maybe $3500. It was a Fylde Orsino. My friend had a Fylde Oberon, that is one of the most amazing things on the planet.
    My Fylde was a great guitar, it had a beautiful sound, very warm, (Mahogany and Cedar), it would totally fill a room, but to make it sing, really really sing, took a lot of doing. It actually took me months.
    You really had to know the guitar inside out, how to hold it, where to pluck it, how to actiivate the sweet-spots, but man, once you did, they were sweeeeeeet, the sort of thing when you suddenly hear your heart beating, from a distance, that real out of body shit.
    I don’t think that guitar was designed for what I wanted, brilliant though it was. I sold it, I bought an Ovation.
    Me and my Ovation speak the same language, we want the same things and we help each other get there.
    If you want to play metal, don’t buy a Fender Twin…You can, and you’ll be able to play metal on it, but better to get an amp suited to that, and learn the shit out of it, because then one day you’ll make it do exactly what you want, and your heart will leap out of your body and you’ll be glad you were born !

    1. I have access to loads of different effects but I try and limit myself to the same handful. I’m a sucker though, and I don’t always take my own advice!

      I think the main problem with so many options with specific regard to music making… is that you are in danger of making no music. It doesn’t just apply to the limitless software/hardware options available – it applies to actually finishing a song. People come up with great little loops. Cool riffs. Great ideas. And then they move on to the next great idea. And before you know it you have a hundred great ideas and zero finished songs. I think the people who struggle to write a song fall into this trap. Or they are so concerned with the technical aspects of playing an instrument that they don’t see the bigger picture (i.e. that the general public don’t give a shit about your ability to tap faster than Eddie Van Halen). Anyway, that’s a rant for another day. And a reason I can’t get involved in hangouts!

  4. It seems to be a very human thing, if something is good then more must be better. It sounds logical but is often quite wrong. I think it is all about balancing the budget with what is required and what is desired. It all comes down to making music, even if all you have is an old winebox with a dog bowl and strings you can still produce something…. I hope this site continues, it has real potential given enough time!

      1. Holy fuck and shitballs, you don’t know Carlins’s stuff… well, I discovered him when he was already living-impaired, but if I could erase my memory and discover him again, I’d do it several times. So I partialy envy you 😀 and the begining of this comment isn’t meant as insult by any means. https://youtu.be/vuEQixrBKCc this one is the first that clicked with me and few days later there wasn’t way back for me.

  5. I have wanted to learn to play the guitar since I was a teenager. I took some lessons then, and picked it up a few times between now and then, but really committed to it maybe three years ago, then actually got to it 2 years ago. But its been a do it my self painfully slow process. So I had a 2nd hand telecaster and an acoustic I got on one of my “false starts.” I needed an amp…. So I did some reading up and watched a bunch of YouTube videos and I couldn’t decide what to get… In my watching/reading I found out about Fender Mustangs, researched those and picked the Mustang 3. So I went with near limitless options!!!! Ya, it does shit I have no clue of what it even means, but I used it as learning tool. I am learning about effects, various amps and settings cabinets… As it turns out I use maybe 3 presents on regular basis. When I first got it I down loaded a bunch of presents from In The Blues Mustang Monday series. Maybe on a Sunday afternoon I will play around. But I mostly use one of the Fender amp patchs with a compressor. The past few months I have been toying with the idea of “trading it in” for a tube amp, but they are just too expensive.
    Keep in mind, I do not preform, I do not record. I nooble around. Drive my family crazy.
    I did purchase two other guitars in the past two years too. An Ibanez MC 150 (1982) and a G&L Fallout (new). I want more too… This is two fold. 1) I like them. I like the way the look, I like the way they sound. Some people like cloths, or shoes, or cars… I like guitars (and knives but this isn’t a knife page).
    2) I am searching for my sound… my voice so to speak. Its out there waiting for me to to unleash it onto the world. Maybe I will find it before I am dead. I don’t think I will find my sound via watching demo’s or sampling gear in a store. I need to use if for a while. The Modeling amp lets me do that with a limited (17) amps and a list of effects. Guitars I will just have to experiment with. But actually purchasing another guitar isn’t practical at this time.
    What I need to do is take some leasons.
    I am a HUGE procrastintor. In fact I have written and erased this message several times…. Cuz, well does anyone care? Am I worthy of a comment?

    1. I would love the space to be able to have a ‘guitar collection’ but when I see people who have these collections they don’t play the guitars. They’re more like investments. I only have a couple of guitars, but they’re all beat up and that’s how I like it. I’d take a bright orange fallout anytime. I probably have another two or three guitars in me! We’ll see what happens. And all comments are worthy here. Over time I hope to make this site a kind of ‘aside’ from YouTube. The place to come for a little deeper thought. The place for pretention and pipe smoking, away from the riff-raff. Ha ha! I do have plans up my sleeve but I’m gonna need another couple of weeks to put them into action. Thanks for commenting.

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