This week on TPS, Dan & Mick played host to British blues virtuoso Matt Schofield. While the full episode warrants a watch for the incredible sounds Matt teases out of his six-string, in the course of doing so he also offered some invaluable wisdom on how he approaches gear when navigating the ever-critical intersection of tone and technique. Here’s a top three of the many insights offered up in the episode:
Use Short and Subtle Delays to Fill Spaces in Your Sound
While Matt’s board is relatively straightforward, he described some of the ways he uses a simple set up to add color and contour to his sound. While there are any number of preferences for “always-on” type pedals these days, for Matt it’s a delay pedal dialed in with a single tight echo that is slightly longer than a typical slap back. Matt reflected, “Arguably it’s the most important pedal in terms of my live sound…when you put it in with the reverb on the amp, it’s a bit like the back wall or something, it just makes the space.”
To get the job done Matt opts for pedals voiced with a shade of shadow on the repeat but not as dark as most analog delays, like the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay. As Dan noted you almost don’t notice the delay as it melds well into the background, yet you miss it when the effect is switched off. For Matt, this strategy of using the delay pedal lets him “set the amp a bit brighter and make everything more lively on the amp and then it [the pedal] fills in a little area that then sounds missing to me without it.”
Dial in Any Amp with Its Unique EQ Sweet Spots in Mind
We all have go-to EQ settings. Yet Matt offered a simple yet potentially paradigm-shifting way of approaching EQ shapes and sweet-spots for any amp you may find on the end of your patch chord.
To begin, Matt prescribed that “On almost any amp, a bit more treble and a bit less bass is going to be a good starting point.” From here, it is a matter of being attentive to how each frequency range (i.e., pot for bass, mid, and treble) is voiced on a particular amp. The brilliant part? The best way to sort this out doesn’t require any playing at all. Matt cranked the gain on an overdrive pedal to get that classic white noise of a old television on a lost channel and then started cranking each EQ nob back and forth to hear where it’s targeted EQ range is impacted affected most. You’ll know you’ve hit it when the foggy haze you’re hearing has an almost wah-wah sound signaling the pot’s doing what it does best in that frequency. As Mick summarized, “there’s a point on the pot where it [the frequency] very obviously changes and you just find that space,” where the amp is at once “in its most neutral but responsive [state].”
Nailing Down Your Best Electric Guitar Sound Unplugged?
We all know the inspiration and excitement of plugging in and cranking it up. The amp’s performing at its best, your pedals are firing on all cylinders, and the dynamics of attack, bends, and vibratos you’re creating on the fretboard are jumping through the full rig. But when everything is stripped away, what are you left with?
What Matt’s left with is essentially the same sound and style because most of his playing time is spent experimenting with the electric guitar played acoustically. He commented, “My experience of playing a guitar other than on a gig [is unplugged]. For me, that’s what a guitar sounds like.” As he noodled around to demonstrate the point, Matt said “hopefully it kind of sounds the same because I’ve been trying to make the guitar sound how I want it to so that when you plug in that’s already half the battle.” When all the gear is removed from the equation, what you’re left with is the naked sound of the strings—the basic yet profound wisdom here is add gear to create tone but only after you’ve cultivated your technique and style. In short, play the gear, don’t let the gear play you!
If you loved the sound of the Two Rock amps of this episode yet the price tag of that gear is inevitably out of reach, check out Dan & Mick’s recent experimentation with the Mooer Micro Preamp pedals (https://youtu.be/ZC9ZABIKrEs)—a lineup which now includes the Mooer Micro Preamp 010 “Two Stone Pedal.” And don’t forget to “like” the Riff City Guitar Facebook and Twitter pages for our weekly blog round-up of all things That Pedal Show.
Matt’s TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars: SVL Reserve.
Amps: Two Rock Matt Schofield Signature Amp (50 watt).Effects Pedals: two Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay Pedals; Sonic Research Turbo Tuner; Free the Tone MS SOV Special Overdrive; Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive; Vemuram Shanks Overdrive; Henretta Engineering Crimson Tremolo.