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David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: amplifiers, guitars, settings, technology, @musings info
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Flat EQ for guitar

From the "everything I think I know is probably wrong" department...

We all know how important EQ is in shaping guitar tone. EQ is in the tone stack, the speakers, the pickups, the room ... literally dozens of design/implementation decisions shape the overall EQ.

One thing I've always heard - and have taken for granted - is that "flat EQ" (intentionally, if not actually) isn't an appropriate sound for guitar. I've always assumed that an electric guitar DI'd to a PA, for example, wouldn't give a usable sound.

Turns out that's not necessarily true. It is true (IMO) that a completely dry guitar sound (no distortion, no ambience) is not at all pleasing. But throw in a bit of ambience processing (reverb, echo) and it can sound really good. Now you still need to EQ for the room, but that's a function of the PA which would apply regardless of program source (assuming that the PA actually delivers a neutral presentation and doesn't abnormally hype any particular range of frequencies for effect).

I've been playing lately through "flat" amps. My Fender Jazz King and AER Compact 60 both have active cut/boost EQ that's supposedly neutral at the 12:00 setting. I had always assumed that these sounded good because there's some "hidden" EQ (aside from speaker, cab and room) that's shaping the overall tone.

Last night I was playing with a couple of new pedals (Boss DD-20 and RT-20) and wondered what would happen if I ran them directly into some of my PA-type amps (I have several). Much to my surprise they all sounded good. (I did need to add some gain to match levels, but this was done with a clean preamp.) I'm very tempted to try playing the next open mic with a pedal or two DI'd directly to the house PA.

There are some gotchas... First, pickup selection may not be what you're used to. I tend to run both pickups and blend them for the desired tonal balance. Second, this might not work with all guitars. I'd be hesitant to attempt this with a Strat, for example. Finally, it may require a change in playing style. I play fingerstyle and constantly adjust picking intensity to control tonal balance - that has become second nature to me. I think I'd be surprised if the same setup sounded as good with a plectrum.

July 07 2008 05:25:51 GMT