Let’s talk about guitar pedals

I’m a gadget freak, everyone knows that. And my love of gadgets extends to guitar pedals.

I go over my setup here, although now my rig has changed slightly. To the non-guitar person, a pedalboard probably looks pretty alien to them: a bunch of contraptions made to set off bombs maybe? All those switches and dials and knobs. But every pedal has a function. Here’s my current setup.

The Boss TU3W tuner is the first pedal in my chain, because 1) I need a good stable tuner and 2) I need a buffered pedal as the first pedal, because if you have a long pedal chain, having ALL true bypass will suck out some of the highs. That’s why the first pedal needs to be buffered. The rest of my pedalboard is true bypass to retain the signal clarity.

My Wah pedal is the BBE Wah. It is a nice simple vintage style wah with a simple Q control, that is it. I didn’t need anything too fancy. I also considered the Vox V847 and the Dunlop Crybaby Clyde McCoy and the Teese Picture Wah.

The Dunlop Echoplex EP101 is my main preamp/booster pedal. I previously had an Xotic EP Booster here, but I stuck with the EP101 because the coloring was not as strong.

I love overdrives. There’s so many overdrives types out there. The Ibanez Tubescreamer style, the Klon Centaur style, the Chandler Tube Driver style, the Fulltone OCD Style, the “Dumble” / Hermida Zendrive style, the Boss Blues Driver style, the Marshall Bluesbreaker style, the Boss SD-1 style, the Marshall Plexi style etc the list goes on and on.

I needed a versatile OD pedal that can do many of these styles. I chose the Keeley Oxblood Germanium for getting the TubeScreamer / Klon Centaur type tones. I also considered the Seymour Duncan 805, Wampler Clarksdale, MXR Sugar Drive, the Fender Santa Ana Overdrive and the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe as they all had 3 band EQ shaping but found that I was keen on just using the pedal’s built in EQ anyways and chose the Keeley.

The second OD pedal I have is the Wampler Euphoria for getting the Dumble / OCD / Tube Driver type of tones. I also considered the Maxon TBO9, MXR Shin-juku Drive, MXR IL Diavolo Drive, MXR FET Driver, Hermida Zendrive, Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Analogman King of Tone and LovePedals Dover Drive but the Euphoria proved the most versatile for my setup.

I have a distortion / OD pedal as well, the RambleFX Marvel Drive which serves me my Marshall Plexi Tones. I also considered the Wampler Plexi Drive, Keeley El Ray Dorado, LovePedals Purple Plexi and Xotic SL Drive but liked the RambleFX the best.

I don’t use any Fuzz (Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi, Sola Tone Bender are the main fuzz types) as my OD/Dist can often hit Fuzz territory.

I use an analog delay as my main modulation effect. I don’t use any phasers, flangers or chorus effects. The Boss DM2W serves me well here. I also considered the Keeley Magnetic Echo, Maxon AD9, Way Huge Aqua Puss, Seymour Duncan Vapor Trail, Fender Mirror Image Delay, MXR Carbon Copy Bright, Dunlop Echoplex EP103 and Catalinbread BelleEpoch but the Boss won here.

For compressors, I have the nice and compact Xotic SP Compressor. I also considered the Keeley Compressor but I found the Xotic doing just fine.

For reverbs, I have the Keeley Omni Reverb. I like Spring Reverbs the most and I tried the Hermida Reverb and the Catalinbread Topanga before, which are much better spring reverbs, but stuck with the Omni because of the additional versatility, great room + plate settings.

The Boss RC30 rounds out my pedals as a dual track looper pedal. I also considered the Electro Harmonix Memory Man and Digitech Jamman but stuck with the Boss.

And that’s all my pedals I’m using now! I’m running them all into this amp:

The Milkman Amps 1W+. Previously I used a Swart Atomic Jr. I also looked into the Dr Z Mini, Tone King Falcon, VVT Amps Night Owl, Matchless SC Mini, Fender Eric Clapton Signature Vibro Champ, Vox AC4 Handwired and Victoria Amps 518 but I like the Milkman just fine.

Back to boring everyday living again…

These days trying to save up as much money as I can to help purchase a place in Vancouver hopefully next year.. ideally I want to 1) get my mortgage down to $200k 2) leverage my current SF home to get a home equity loan of at least $310k and 3) save up at least $60k this year in cash.
I want to take advantage of the US dollar strength because $310k + $60k = $370k which equals roughly $500k CAD which is just enough to get a decent 1 bedroom condo in a decent location in Vancouver. Of course, I want to purchase a home back in Canada for several reasons.

One is that the US is not particularly friendly to immigrants and especially so since Trump took office, and I get harassed every time I go across the border, since I am not a green card holder, and the TN visa is not a dual intent visa which means I cannot apply for a green card on that visa. Furthermore, recent changes to the H1B, the only dual intent working visa, have made it more difficult for programmers / software engineers to obtain. This means that my time in the US is likely limited.
Two is that Canada is the place that I want to start a family and retire anyways. I have often said before after all my travels, is that America is the best place for working due to the high salary and low taxes and low cost of goods; China and Europe are the best places to travel due to all the history and natural beauty; Korea is the best place for nightlife and having fun; and Canada is the best place to start a family and actually live, since it has a combination of European and American culture, the tuition fees are lower, the healthcare costs are lower etc. And Vancouver is unique as the warmest city in Canada as well as being on the lovely West Coast, and having lots of Koreans (Long term workers not just students) there doesn’t hurt my future plans either.
Three is I want to finally be able to purchase my own place with my own money. I always felt like my SF home is kind of my parents home, since they helped out with 40% of the cash. I want to finally purchase a place all with my own cash and call it my own.

So I’m trying to save a lot of money, but of course this being myself I do buy some things still… among the things I purchased recently is the Milkman Amp 1 Watt Plus model. This is a Class A Tube Amplifier that was handmade in San Francisco so I thought I might support a local shop here. But don’t I already have a Class A hand-wired tube amp? Yes I do, the Swart Atomic Jr. But this one has more wattage (10W vs 5W), 12″ Alnico Blue speaker (vs the 8″ Ceramic in the Swart), built in attenuator (goes from 0.5W to 10W) and is better for traveling due to the tubes being covered (the Swart has uncovered tubes which makes it risky to travel with it, despite being lighter).

It definitely has more headroom than the Swart does. I’ve also finalized my pedal board! My pedalboard contains 10 pedals. I’ve gone through tens of different pedals in my career, and I’ve finally settled on this configuration (for now): (from first to last in the chain)
BBE Wah -> Boss Waza Tuner -> Dunlop EP101 Preamp -> Wampler Euphoria -> RambleFX Marvel Drive -> Keeley Magnetic Echo -> Xotic SP Compressor -> BBE Sonic Stomp Mini -> Hermida Reverb -> Boss RC3 Looper
Retired my Maxon TBO9 (served me well) and the Keeley Oxblood Germanium (might use as backup to the Euphoria), and had to get the Hermida Reverb due to the Milkman amp not having onboard reverb. It was a compromise I had to make, the bigger Half Pint model had onboard reverb, but it was also 5lbs heavier.

And I want to get rid of my Gretsch White Penguin and Traynor Amps, even though the Gretsch is a great guitar, it has intonation problems, and is still a bit heavy for my tastes. It’s definitely the best looking out of all my guitars though. So ideally I want to keep the custom Partscaster that I built (Fender Telecaster Thinline ’72 deluxe with Filtertron/WRH pickups) as my main jazz/blues guitar, with the Fender Stratocaster doing rock and blues as well, and the Martin OMJM as my acoustic doing mostly pop tunes.

I’m doing a lot of jazz guitar these days. I love it! Playing a lot of Larry Carlton and George Benson these days. And I also love that John Mayer’s new album (Search for Everything) has great funky jazz-type riffs like ‘Moving on and Getting over’ and ‘Still feel like your man’. That man is a genius. Best album for me since Battle Studies (Continuum obviously still everyone’s favorite). Here is my ranking of John Mayer albums btw (from best to worst) as well as my favorite songs from each album.

1. Continuum (blues/pop masterpiece) – Best song: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
2. Room for Squares (great acoustic pop) – Best song: St. Patrick’s Day
3. Try! (his best guitar album, great blues/rock songs) – Best song: Gravity
4. Battle Studies (more great guitar-pop) – Best song: Friends, Lovers or Nothing
5. The Search for Everything (blends all his previous styles + adds funk/jazz) – Best song: Moving on and getting over
6. Born and Raised (acoustic-folk pop) – Best song: Walt Grace’s Submarine Test 1967
7. Inside Wants Out (like Room for Squares but more raw) – Best song: Victoria
8. Heavier Things (some songs are great, others not so much) – Best song: New Deep
9. Paradise Valley (not many songs I liked from this album) – Best song: Who you love

In other news I’ve also been playing games with my friend, being bored a lot at home these days makes you do that. We still play Far Cry 4 a lot despite it being a 3 year old game just because of how amazing the co-op experience is. I think I have like 30 videos on Youtube of our play sessions together. I even made my own map and published it!

Other games I’ve been playing are the fantastic JRPGs Persona 5 and Yakuza 0. I’ve loved both these series (wayyy more interesting than Final Fantasy XV for me) so that’s no surprise. Also finished Root Letter (it was alright, but the ending was unsatisfying), and both Blazblue Central Fiction (love that series) and Steins Gate 0 (also love that series as well). Also bought Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Mass Effect: Andromeda mainly because both of them have co-op but both of them were letdowns for me. And of course still playing Hearthstone, which just released a new expansion (Journey to UnGoro).

Also looking forward to: Fire Emblem Echoes (3DS).. Akiba’s Beat (Vita).. Agents of Mayhem (PS4).. Quake Champions (PC).. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

And that’s the state of my life right now.. everyday work, go home and play games, and save money. Boring existence. When’s my next trip to Korea?

Building my own guitar

I’ve been wanting to build my own guitar as a project for a while now… at least since high school. So now, I finally had the time and resources to do it!

Keep in mind I haven’t soldered much outside of fixing my old Thinkpad Yoga laptop 2 years ago, so I had to find a ’72 Telecaster Thinline wiring diagram and solder it up. Here are the components:

-Fender Lonestar Deluxe Stratocaster neck (70s style, Maple, 22 frets, Modern C shape)
-Pots, Caps, Switches etc from Emerson
Warmoth Body (Cherry Sunburst, Tremolo Bridge, ‘F’ hole, humbucker pickguard)
Lollar Pickups Lollartron Neck model (4.4k)
Lindy Fralin Twangmaster Bridge model (8600 turns)

I was really interested to see the combination of a Filtertron style pickup (the Lollartron) with a Wide Range Humbucker style pickup (the Fralin Twangmaster) to see what that combination would sound like. I don’t know of any production guitars that combines those two.

For reference, here is a list of all the different production pickups in order of increasing strength:

Single Coil:

-Strat style single coil (used by Fender Stratocaster, Telecasters etc this the most common single coil design)

Strat style single coils
Strat style single coils

-Lipstick style pickups (used by Danelectro guitars and a few others)

Lipstick style pickups
Lipstick style pickups

-Charlie Christian pickups (used by Charlie Christian’s Gibson)

Charlie Christian style pickups
Charlie Christian style pickups

-Jazzmaster pickups (used by Fender Jazzmasters)

Jazzmaster Pickup
Jazzmaster Pickup

-DeArmond / Dynasonic (used by Gretsch guitars)

Dynasonic Pickups
Dynasonic Pickups

-Gibson P90 (used by Gibson guitars)

Gibson P90 Pickups
Gibson P90 Pickups

-Blade style / stacked single coils (usually noise cancelling single coil alternatives to humbuckers)

Joe Barden bladed pickups
Joe Barden bladed pickups

Humbuckers (dual coil hum-cancelling pickups)

-Filtertron (used by Gretsch guitars)

Gretsch Filtertron
Gretsch Filtertron

-Wide Range Humbuckers (used by the ’72 Fender Telecasters)

Fender Wide Range Humbucker
Fender Wide Range Humbucker

-Gibson PAF style (used on Gibson Les Pauls, SGs etc this is the most common style of humbucker)

Gibson Burstbuckers
Gibson Burstbuckers

Anyways thats alot of different styles but I chose to combine the unique Filtertron style with the Fender WRH style…

Building a custom guitar
Building a custom guitar
Building a custom guitar
Building a custom guitar

…And the results speak for themselves!

Oh, and I’m now finished porting my Java based stock simulator (such a hassle to download csv’s from the deprecated Google Finance API and install a JVM on the computer to run) to React/Node so now it has a complete graphical UI and fetches in real-time. Which is nice, but it still needs stock index fetching capability. Github repo link here check it out.

… and also had enough time to make a video about all my UMPC gadgets! yay!