Plugging In, Episode 3: The One Where I Get a Killer Tube Amp
A rare photo. There I am rocking in the garage. No makeup. This is real life, people. See that cello in the left corner? Yes, that makes an appearance for a song or two as well!
I got a taste of what playing through a really amazing tube amp felt like when I visited my friend Rich and plugged into his vintage Fender Super Reverb.
Wowza! My eyes and ears just popped open. Now that’s what rock and roll feels like!
So here’s the thing. If I was gonna jam on electric guitar with the band, I needed a killer, ballsy tube amp. It wasn’t optional! But I couldn’t afford that $1,500 vintage Fender amp. So I called up my buddies at 65amps and they were kind enough to send a London Pro combo on over (I know, cool, right?).
When I brought it to rehearsal, my bandmates were psyched. And what became clear to me was that not only did my guitar part have to fit in with what they were playing, but so did my tone. The two main guitarists play VOX amps -- both AC15s but one a special handwired model with a bigger cabinet. They also have a bevy of very cool effect pedals, which I have not even addressed yet. I had to find a tonal place that made sense in the mix of things.
Now, the 65amps London Pro is a powerful little sucker. We didn’t even get the volume past 3 and it was blowing the walls off. I promised the guys one day we’d let ‘er rip, but today was not the day.
I wanted to make sure I didn’t sound too muddy or too biting so that my rhythm part I was playing felt like a backbone of the song. Luckily the London Pro is extremely versatile and I selected a dual channel tone with a little treble boost and my guitar set more on the top pickup.
The guys have their amps lifted off the ground for better projection … and so that they can hear themselves better too. I didn’t get that far, just turned it up and pointed it at my knees. It felt weird to play so loud. And yes, I could hear, and feel, every missed note. But as I got more confident, the more fun I had.
I never understood why guys were so persistent in their search for the “ultimate” tone (see Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s recent article!). But I’m kind of getting the idea. Good tone just feels better.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Revolver Golden Gods awards. The player that blew me away the most? It was Marilyn Manson’s guitarist, Twiggy. Not because of his technical ability, which was substantial. It was his over-the-top crunchalicious tone. Wow. It was inspiring! If anyone knows what amp he was playing through…I wanna know!
There’s another amp or two bound to show up on my doorstep soon. So, I’ll keep you posted in my new quest for awesome tone. Now, I better go practice! Next episode, I play electric guitar live for the very first time!
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.
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