Sunday, December 30, 2012

MODULATIONS PART 3: DELAY AND ECHO! (with Free Vst Plugins Inside)

Hello and welcome to This week's article!
Today we're going to talk about Delays and Echos! These effects are also called Time Based Effects, because they take the first sound and repeat it continuously at a certain rate, as if you were talking inside of a cave, with the reflections of your voice coming back to you on a delayed time, summing up one another.
Although the two terms are today exchangeable since they refer to the same thing, usually with "echo" we refer to the natural phenomenon, while the delay is the implementation of that in the audio effect; 
in common language many manufacturers calls "echo" a warmer, more vintage sound,  and "delay" a crispier, more digital sounding effect. 
Delay is an effect born in the '50s by recording a sound on a tape and playing it continuously to simulate an echo (the famous "Tape Echo"), but today it is a very common tool featured on pedalboards and racks of virtually any guitar player in the world; the two guitarists that probably own more of their trademark sound to this effect are Robert Fripp of King Crimson and The Edge, from U2 (which is famous for his riffs that are often exclusively based of the layers of delay).
Delay is the basic modulation effect, from which descends almost all of the other modulations: Chorus, Flanger and Reverb are consequences of applying particular settings to a delay, but there is also another use of a extreme settings applied to this effect: the looper.
A looper is a delay which records long phrases of an instrument, up to several seconds (e.g. a guitar riff) and set them in loop, so that for example a guitar player can play a solo above that base.

The most common and specific uses for a delay are the Doubling Echo, the Ping-Pong delay and the Slapback Echo.

Doubling Echo: Is used to create a sound that feels like the original instrument has been doubled by a second one, and to do this the delay time must be very short: 10 to 50 milliseconds. 

Slapback Echo: instead is a longer delay effect (75 to 250 milliseconds), and was often used in the '50s records to underline the main vocals, and later in the '80s it's been used on synths and percussions too, to produce creative rhythmic textures.   
Today Delay is often syncronized to the metronome of our Daw, to ensure that its repetitions are perfectly in sync with the song, but if we want to make the repetitions to cut through without being overshadowed by the other rhythmic elements of the mix it's suggestable to use the same metronome but with different beats, for example triplets, or a 5/4 rhythm; the delay will still be "on the click", but the repetitions will be noticed more.

Ping-Pong Delay: a particular type of stereo delay that "bounces" the repetitions (sometimes called "Taps") from left to right, sometimes it has been used by Jimi Hendrix and Brian May from Queen, among the others. 

Here are the most common controls found on Delays and Echos:

Length (time) - The delay of the repetition in ms (thousandths of a second)

Length (musical) - The length of the repetition in beats (e.g. 1/8 note)

Feedback - How much of the delay output is fed back into the input of the effect.

Wet/Dry (sometimes these two controls are fused on a single control called "Mix")
Wet - The amount of processed signal in the output.
Dry - The amount of unprocessed signal in the output.

Lowpass filter - A filter, which filters out from the repetitions the frequencies ABOVE this value.

Hipass filter - A filter, which filters out the frequencies BELOW this value.

Today most DAWs already feature some basic Delay and Echo Effect, but if you want to try something new and different here's a selection of the best freeware Delay and Echo Vst:

Readelay, a one of the most used free delays around, very versatile and professional

Variety of Sound Nasty Dla II, an excellent Chorus and Tape Echo device

Valhalla Freq Echo a creative and easy to use delay

WatCat a very interesting replica of the vintage hardware "Custom Copicat" device

Tal Dub a vintage style delay effect

TapeDelay a very simple tape delay effect

Saturday, December 22, 2012

WHAT IS A SCALLOPED NECK (a guide for dummies)

Hello and welcome to this week's article! Today we're going to talk about scalloped fretboard!
What is a scalloped fretboard? It's a guitar fretboard where the wood is filed down between the frets, making it look like the shell of a scallop:

Why would someone do this to his guitar?
To "increase the height" of the frets, thus avoiding the player to reach for the fretboard while playing, basically making the player just to push his fingers on the string without touching the wood: if the guitarist would try to touch the scooped out fretboard, he would obtain a bent note, due to the increased distance.
This technique was featured sometimes on a medieval instrument, the lute, and it was introduced on the electric guitar by Deep Purple's guitartist Ritchie Blackmore, being a medieval music lover himself.

Playing a scalloped neck can be hard at first, especially for those players who likes pushing with their fingers until they are firmly planted on the fingerboard, but on the other hand it will enhance the clarity and articulation of each note, and that is the reason why many shredders prefer to use it: because it shows even more the effort they put into creating and perfecting their technique. 
A scalloped fingerboard also helps the player to learn how to play better by forcing him to push more lightly on the strings (to avoid unwanted bendings), and makes some technique as tapping, pull off and bending a little easier.

There are different types of scalloped fretboard: the Yngwie Malmsteen signature Stratocaster has the whole fingerboard scalloped, while the Ritchie Blackmore model starts flat and becomes increasingly scooped towards the higher frets.
There are also many guitars (manufactured by Esp, Ibanez and many more) that features a flat fingerboard that becomes scalloped only in the last highest frets.
If you don't want to dig the fingerboard of your guitar but want to try the "scalloped feeling", you can also just mount higher frets, such as the Dunlop 6000, which can get you very close to the same result.  

To choose wheter this kind of guitar neck suits your playing or not it's up to you, in the meanwhile never stop experimenting!

The staff of Guitar Nerding Blog wish all of you a Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

MODULATIONS PART 2: PHASER AND FLANGER! (with Free Vst Plugins Inside)

Hello and welcome to This week's article!
This time we continue our research for modulation effects focusing on Phaser and Flangers.
The sonic result of these two effects is pretty much similiar, but the phaser is softer, smoother and less extreme, while the flanger is more "Jet-Like".

The Phaser is the first of the two effects to be invented (around the '60), and consists into splitting the signal in 2 identical ones, and into applying to one of them a filter that alters its phase. By summing the two signals; the obtained effect it's a rhythmic phase cancellation that variates according to the settings, thus creating the "oscillating" sound typical of phaser.
The Phaser, unlike the flanger, doesn't work by delaying the second signal and summing it to the first one, therefore the sound is less aggressive.
Additionally, the output can be fed back to the input for a more intense phase shifting, creating a resonant effect by emphasizing frequencies between the wave notches. 
This effect has been use extensively by many bands, especially the psychedelic rock bands of any time, but the most famous guitar player that has used it on its records is probably Jimi Hendrix.

The Flanger effect is produced by summing two identical signals together, with one signal delayed of a small and gradually changing period, up to some centisecond. This produces a phase cancelling effect that variates according to the variating lenght of the delayed signal, producing an effect called "Comb Filtering", named after the visual effect this process does to the waveform.
Variating the time causes the two tracks to sweep up and down the frequency spectrum, and the flanger is the effect dedicated to produce this result.
Part of the output signal is sometimes fed back to the input, producing a resonance (sometimes even inverting the phase of the fed back signal) which further enhances the intensity of the effect.
One of the most famous guitar players that has used this effect on many songs is Edward Van Halen.

Here are the most common controls found on Flangers and Phasers:

Depth: Sets the depth of the flanger and phaser effect, the width of the oscillation. Higher values equals to deeper oscillations.

Resonance: Sets the amount of resonance. Higher values equals to more effect. 

Rate: Sets the cycle speed of the effect: higher values means a faster effect cycle. 

Modulation Phase: With this control the effect can be oriented on the stereo field in different time rates between left and right, in order to give it more ambient. To use this effect live we need a stereophonic amplification.

Today most DAWs already feature some basic Flanger and Phaser Effect, but if you want to try something new and different here's a selection of the best freeware Phaser and Flanger Vst:

Wok Flanger - a stompbox style flanger

Kjaerhus Audio Classic Flanger - simple to use 

Kjaerhus Audio Classic Phaser - simple and essential. 

Smart Electronix SupaPhaser - less simple, but with more presets. 

Blue Cat Audio Blue Cat's Flanger - simple yet effective. 

Smart Electronix MdspFlanger a flanger synchronizable to the tempo with different waveforms

Smart Electronix Phase90, a clone of the Mxr Phase 80 guitar stompbox

EmptySquare NXTPhase, described as "a phaser with an attitude". 

Tal Phaser, a stereo Phaser Effect

Saturday, December 8, 2012



On the first part of our article we focused our attention especially on Fender Tremolo Bridges, but also Gibson guitars featured a noticeable amount of technology through the years, starting from the Bigsby bridge, that we have already seen.

The first attempt of Gibson at producing a proprietary bridge resulted in the Gibson Vibrola, which basically was a Bigsby Clone, with all the mechanism set outside the guitar body, but through the first years of the '60s the company kept on developing the project, giving birth to the Gibson Vibrato
The Gibson Vibrato was mounted on some SG model (which at the time were still called Les Paul),   and consisted on a long tailpiece that ended at the bottom of the guitar, with a whammy bar mounted on its side; the excursion of the bar was very low and the unit didn't have much success, but it'considered a passage to the more famous Gibson Deluxe Vibrato, produced from 1963, which had more fortune.

The Gibson Deluxe Vibrato finished what the first Gibson Vibrato started: to create an efficient Tremolo Bridge alternative to the Fender standard. The Deluxe version was a shorter and more effective version of the first Gibson Vibrato, and was featured mainly on the semi-hollow models of the brand, while the Short Version (called Short Vibrola) was mainly featured on the solid body models. These bridges have been offered always as an optional on Gibson guitars, while on the Fender models, the two point Synchronized Tremolo became a standard, so now the classic Gibson guitars that features a non-fixed bridge are considered a valuable collector item.

While other brands tried to develop their own tremolo standard almost all of them failed to gain success, but between the end of the '70s and the beginning of the '80s a new kind of Tremolo Bridge gained worldwide exposition, becoming a new standard on most of the guitars played by the raising heavy metal bands of the time: the Floyd Rose.

The Floyd Rose tremolo system is an "extreme" version of the Fender Synchronized Tremolo, featuring an extended excursion that allows the player to perform dramatic pitch drops, generating effects such as the "dive bomb", while retaining the original tuning.
The "secret" lays on a locking plate on the head nut, tightened with a hex key to fix the strings at this point after tuning. This provides extra tuning stability, but as an unwanted side effect it also prevents further adjustment of the pitch using the machine heads.
To refine the tuning without unlocking the nut, the player can use the fine tuners provided as part of the bridge mechanism on all but the earliest units.
This unit has been brought to world success by bands as Iron Maiden and Van Halen, plus it's a standard used by numerous guitar heroes such as Steve Vai, and as today it's still featured on high end guitars of almost every manufacturer, with no modification from the original project.
Licensed Floyd Rose versions are available for lower price guitars, or some guitar manufacturer produced its own Floyd Rose "proprietary clone", such as the Ibanez Edge or the Steinberger TransTrem


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Sunday, December 2, 2012


Hello and welcome to this week's Article!
Today we're going to talk about Tremolo, a classic guitar bridge often seen on Fender Stratocasters, but also featured on a wide variety of other guitars.
Let's start off by clearing what it is: the tremolo bridge is a particular guitar bridge that allows the player to use a lever (called Whammy Bar) to alter the string tension, thus altering temporarily the pitch and producing an effect called "Vibrato", which, according to the particular type of bridge, may be softer or stronger.

The first attempt of building a Tremolo bridge was the Kaufmann Vibrola, built around the '30s and mounted on some Epiphone and Rickenbacker guitar, and thoughout its evolutions the bridge managed to survive until the late '50s, also thanks to an unique invention: an automatic vibrato effect generated by the bridge itself, rhythmically moved by an electric powered circuit.

The Tremolo bridge that became the first to be mainstream though was the Bigsby, created at the beginning of the '50s by Paul Bigsby. This type of bridge was completely outside the body of the guitar and solved the notorious problem of the Kaufmann bridges: it didn't throw the guitar out of tune so easily.
This bridge was featured on many Gibson guitars, and still today it can be found on the most high end hollow body and semi-hollow body guitars on the market, due to its vintage look and classic sound.

To this day, the most famous Tremolo bridge on the market is the Fender Synchronized Tremolo, created by Fender towards the half of the '50s (Click here to see an original picture of the 1954 patent application).
This bridge was revolutionary and it required holes on the guitar body, in order to mount on the back of the guitar three-to-five coil springs, to bring the string tension back to normality once the whammy bar is released.
The bridge is formed by six bridge saddles held against a plate by string tension, and individually adjustable both for height and intonation, and it is anchored to the guitar by six screws, although the most famous bridge version is the "Fender two-point synchronized tremolo", which featured only the two most external ones.
The "Fender two-point synchronized tremolo" is still today the most used (and copied) tremolo bridge on the market, and it has been used by Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend, among the others.

The Floating Tremolo was an evolution of the Sinchronized tremolo featured on the Fender Jazzmaster model, it was presented in 1958 and it was much more complex.
The particularity of this kind of Tremolo system is that its mechanics allows the player to retain the strings tuning even better than the other types of bridge, and that it's blockable, so if a string is broken, the player can still keep the other ones in tune.
Unfortunately this bridge didn't have too much success due to some string resonance on some frets, that at higher volumes can cause some problem, and due to its complexity today is featured only on some custom shop model.

Around the half of the '60s Fender presented also another Tremolo bridge: the Dynamic Vibrato, featured on the Mustang model. This kind of bridge combined elements from the previous ones, and it's still today mounted on the Fender Mustang, for its look and because some player still consider it the best Tremolo bridge ever created.
The tremolo system is integrated with the bridge, unlike the Floating Tremolo which is composed by two separated parts, and became popular worldwide because it was mounted on the Jag-Stang (a custom hybrid between a Fender Jaguar and a Mustang) used by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.


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