We love our instruments and gear. There is nothing like the smell of lacquer from a new guitar unfolding out of it's case. Hmmmm. A new pedal sees the light of day from it's box. The glow of glass softly lighting up the wall behind a new amplifier. All promise unique and new auditory adventures in tone. Hmmmm!
HEY! Wait a minute. Are you leaving all behind in search of new? Did you really experience what you already have? Have you twisted every knob? In every configuration? Different setups and adjustments made to be tweaked? A single, easy, inexpensive change of a 12A?7 inside of your amplifier?
The truth is that you have not done all of those things. If you only own an amp, guitar and hands the chances are that you fall into the same trap that we all do. A large number of guitarists live and die with the infamous "I turn my guitar controls up as far as they will go and I will never touch them again". If you are one of these folks then you are cheating yourself out of such a wide range of tones and guitar techniques that it is a crime. Yes, I said a crime. Send in the "Guitar Police" please but treat them kindly for they know not what they do. Or didn't do in this case. Lowering your guitars volume while driving a distorted signal will clean it up drastically and provide you with the sonic interest of increasing gain within the same song and you never have to leave your seat. Not using distortion? (Gain and Distortion and not the same but that's for another time) Then use volume swell and differing tone values within songs or song to song.
Your amplifier. For years I was one of you who bought their amp, plugged in a guitar, fiddled with the controls a little and then they remained the same for the last 10 years. I see little cobwebs. Real little. They must be made by even smaller spiders. I watch my students come into class and no matter what amp might be in place that day they plug in and will not touch any controls. (Yes, they are allowed to and encouraged to) Many of us are that way. We might own a single coil and a humbucker equipped guitar but we just plug in and play. These guitars use different tone structures and ask for you to experiment with the amp settings. So don't be scared. Play with all of the knobs all of the time. See what your amp sounds like with the bass control off or on 10 and everywhere in-between. Continue with the rest and then start the combinations that are available. If you own an amplifier with a lot of knobs, sliders, switches and inputs you are going to be there a while. Then do the same thing with another guitar because that's another variable.
AH! We have finally reached the word/concept of the day! VARIABLE. This is a wonderful amazing word that reeks of potential. A huge word. Gigantic! Any time you have the opportunity to change something, anything, in your signal chain then you have a new variable. That is the definition we are looking for. It is anything that we can change. So every knob, tube, speaker, string, guitar, pedal or anything else that you add or subtract then you have changed a variable in your signal chain. Most of us have so many at our fingertips that we never investigate or try them that it's a shame. (For you dear reader I refrained from the cliche "crying shame". Your welcome.) Mathematically, and I am no mathematician, if I have a guitar without any controls, a cord and an amp that only has a volume knob and a single input and a dedicated speaker that is impossible to change along with a circuit that cannot be altered then I still have variables. String choices. Then the volume knob. That's pretty small in the variable department. If you own 5 guitars and 3 amps and 10 pedals and they all have at least 4 knobs, controls, switches or choices of any type then the mathematic variables just went into astronomic proportions. As I said I am not a mathematician but I do have some common sense.
Before you run out to buy that latest and greatest whatever spend some more quality time with what you have. It's Saturday night. You don't have a date. Turn down the lights and explore some variables. Yikes.
( Rob is a "certified" collector so he is expected to purchase as much as he can to retain his certificate in good standing. So any mention above concerning "not buying stuff" is off limits and does not pertain to him. Honest. The "certificate" is held in the office of the management and can be viewed by submitting a request in writing.)
by Robert Gundry