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Steel Guitar News January 19th 2012

Hello fellow players,

As we were closing the last newsletter that you should have received by now, I was answering questions about tube amplifiers versus transistor amplifiers. Either can be made to sound very good by the designer or either can be horrible. Now days, if an amplifier is made to be a lead guitar amp, you’d better forget about trying to use it with steel.

These usually don’t have a lot of power and they start distorting at a pretty low volume which is what guitar players seem to love, want and need. I remember once when I was in the Air Force, I played through a very small old Gibson tube amp that had the most beautiful, rich sound I had ever heard.

For some reason, the owner wouldn’t sell it to me, but it made me think that when it comes to amplifiers, if you’re buying something you’re not really familiar with, you’d better try it before you lay the bucks on it. Of course, this is not necessary if you’re buying a famous well-known amp with a brand name like Peavey, Fender or the like.

Buying from a store that has professional musicians working in it in the daytime and getting their opinions is probably the most valuable service a store can offer. Once you trust them, you will find that even though they are sales people, the incredible knowledge that they will part with can save you much worry in making your choice.

I remember as a youngster going into stores in my hometown where the local professional players were working their day job. If I’d say something to them like, “Boy that Premier is a beautiful looking amplifier.” Many times they would give me a helpful nod “yes”, but if they looked the other direction and cleared their throat, I knew I should leave it alone.

One of the biggest, greatest amplifier companies in the United States today makes the world’s best steel amp, but don’t do very well on their guitar amplifier. Then there’s another company that we all know well that makes very good guitar amps, but don’t do very well in the steel guitar area.

Of course I’m not talking about weird amps that have a way of coming across our shores like a Vox or possibly Marshall and so on. When it comes right down to it, between all of us having our tastes changing as we grow older and trade guitars and as the amplifier companies themselves are making continual changes, we will all have hard core opinions that may be hard to deviate from.

Remember of course, there are different amplifiers for studio and onstage equipment. Different styles can also dictate different equipment. Even guitar picks can be figured in here.

Another question that I am asked occasionally is who played certain parts on different instruments on albums I’ve recorded. On many of my albums, I’m playing the piano parts on steel guitar using a Proteus synthesizer triggering device. I even played Last Date with a piano setting using this method.

There are times in the studio when I’d be finishing up a mix and the piano player would have already gone home and it would have cost mega-bucks to get him back into the studio so I would do the piano fill or intro on steel.

And of course, horn parts and violin parts I’ve been doing for years by hooking up two Proteus units together. I can just about sound like a complete orchestra. And remember, on steel you can slide violin parts much easier than you can with a keyboard synthesizer. I got so adept at this at times that the musician’s union would threaten me with fines for putting musicians out of work.

Now that I’m not really an A team player anymore, I can talk about it. I would do many sessions for big name artists on major labels that would not give me credit because of fearing the union getting involved in disciplinary actions. I look back on this now and usually just laugh at it.

It’s a shame that people don’t understand that I did many albums in the late sixties to late seventies. I’d like to be able to brag about these now, but I really have no way of proving that I did them even though there are many producers and musicians in town that know I did.

I still get asked a lot about my equipment and how I hook things up and tricks I have like true stereo volume pedals that controlled my stereo signals going out to the board. And I had full control over my Proteus units with the setup that I had. There are a lot of great former number one hits that I still hear on the radio with big lush strings and horn sections where there may have only been four of us in the studio when it was done.

Producers loved me because they could save the money in hiring a lot of musicians, but yet could charge the record company for a whole bevy of strings and horns, put themselves down as leader and put the bucks directly in their pocket. Such is the life of a studio musician in Nashville, Tennessee.

Just a reminder that I’m giving you free shipping within the continental U.S. on any guitar you buy during the months of January and February.

Check out our monthly specials at http://www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

Your buddy,

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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