Improve your Guitar Playing Skills: Use Correct Fingering

Any starter or untrained guitar player will use their fingers in an uneconomical way. Let me explain what I mean: Most people will use three, or maybe even two, fingers of their fretting hand. The Pink is often overlooked, since it is the weakest in dexterity of all our fingers. My very first article on this blog was just about fingering and what you can do to overcome typical fingering issues.

I cannot stress enough that it is a must to use all your fingers, regardless of the style you are into. It may be obvious that people who want to get into playing fast guitarsolos will need to use all their fingers to help them along the way, but also the singer-songwriters who may mainly play chords on an acoustic guitar: The right fingering will make your playing so much better and easier. Once you get into the habit it is a joy for the rest of your life.

                      Typical Fingering Issues:

~ Not using Pink at all, because pink may be weak. Overcome this by working on excercises which focus on getting more dexterity in your pink.

~ Position Shifts: Often people loose the smoothness of their playing when it comes to moving from one position up to the next one on the fretboard. You can overcome this by playing scales which cover two ocataves over one or two strings. Most of the position shifts will be done by first finger: First finger moves up to next position, fingers will be ready to carry on playing in new position.

~ Keep your fingers down on fretboard at ALL times. Watch videos of guitarplayers who can really play and look at their first finger of their fetting hand: It will never NEVER leave the fretboard. Similar to driving a car, you never take your hands off the steering wheel.

~ Stringbending: Bend with your Ringfinger of fretting hand using your Index-and Middle finger to support the bend. I often see beginners who try to bend using one finger, and often they will  use Index or Middle finger. Yes it can be done, but using Ring finger will be easier. Again watch experienced guitarplayers to see how they do it.

                   Correct Fingering?

Yes it does not exhist, nothing is correct, there are always exeptions in what fingers to use and how to use them. There is something like “Common habits which works for most guitarplayers” You should try to get into these habits since it will help you. Once your fingering is neat and tidy it will become second nature and will help you with your playing and your music will start to sound much better.


Reading Music: What Is It? Why Should You (Not) Learn It?

For this article a short sum-up what is meant by “reading music”, what it can do for you and your guitarplaying and what it cannot do.

Some people have the idea that musicians and guitarplayers who can read music are high up the ranks of music making. My simple view is that reading is a communication tool which gets you musical ideas across. The ideal communication tool is to have someone around you who can show you what to play or how to go about things, since that is not really a pratical obtion people learn to read, and the reading is there to pick up new ideas or it is a way of telling what the orchestra is about to play.
Imagine the following situation: You enter a hall to play with about 15 other musicians, some are guitarplayers, some bassplayers, some are hornplayers who play Saxophone, Trumpet ect. There are even some people who play the piano. All those people are going to play a piece of music within the next 15 minutes.
The leader of the band hands out sheet music to each individual player. Each sheet is specific for each instrument.
Now that the leader has handed out the music, the orchestra is ready to play the next piece of music. All what is needed from the leader is to count off the tempo and the band is ready for take-off.

In the above example it is pretty obvious what the reading skills do for the orchestra: It speeds up the process of making music. If none of the above musicians would be able to read it would take the band leader a lot longer to get the music off the ground: The leader would need to explain what is needed from each instrument, how to play particular phrases ect. All of this is given in the music notation. Great, now the rehearsing can start.
Having the sheetmusic and being able to read does not mean the musicians can all do it on their own and will not make any mistakes. No, the bandleader will still need to guide the musicians in certain places where the sheetmusic fall short: Notatation can only do so much, and musical notation is an approximation of what the music sounds like. There is still a lot of scope for interpretation and individual expression and skill. Any good band leader will bring out the best in the musicians to get them to preform the music to the highest, possible standard.

Once you have read the above you may say: “I will never play in an orchestra of about 15 people”  “I will not really play any classical music”  “I will only play guitar for myself”
Once you have spoken out any of the above you may still feel: “Reading is not really for me as it does not apply to what I want to do”

Let us look at the next example: Let us say you picked up the guitar because you want to learn to play Rock. You bought your first guitar and amp. Both of them were accompanied with a book called: “Learn to Play 10 Classic Rock Riffs”. The book came along with a CD, tab. and traditional musical notation. You  first started listening to the CD, got impressed with some of those riffs, went to guitar and tried to copy what you heard………………………hmmm that actually takes some time: Need to listen, then find those notes on fretboard of the guitar and…………….Hang on there is a book. Once you start reading the book things become clearer, there is the tab which tells you where to put your fingers and there is the traditional notation which tells you about the rhythm.  After a few weeks you manage to play some of those riffs from the book quite well, you no longer need to look at the book to play those riffs. Well done!

From the above you can see that reading is not only traditional music notation. Tabalature and chordcharts all from a part of reading, they help you to understand and communicate what is going on musically.

                Advantages of Reading Music:

~ It gives the player a foundation of what music is about, how music works. It gives you an idea about rests, bars, staves, dots, repeatsigns ect. All things you do hear and cannot see until you put them into music notation.

~ It will speed up the process of making music together in ANY bandsituation.

~ Reading gives you the ability to play music you have never heard before.

~ Reading can be used as a memory aid, since it is on paper you can always go back to it and play it again at a later stage.

               Reading, What Reading?

When talking about reading I include traditional music notation, tabalature and chortcharts, since all of them will tell you what is going on in the music. All of these forms need some time getting used to. Chordcharts may be the easiest to get on with and traditional music notation may take the longest to learn. Once you can use any of them you will be using it for the rest of your playing life.

Most people will be introduced to tab and chordcharts when they are looking for instruction to play any of their favourite songs. Traditional music notation is usually included in any starter tutor book. The notes you are introduced to are taught gradually and will usually be picked up fairly easy by learners of any age.

If you have been playing guitar for a long time and have only been using chord charts you may be curious to learn about tab for solos or riffs or get into some basic music notation which introduces you to simple melodies being played on the E and B string of the guitar.

Once you have read all this remember one thing: Any musical notation is an approximation of the music. Musical notation in itself is a dead tool, you need to make it come alive with your instrument or voice.
Once you have learned a musical idea from sheetmusic it is a good habit to get into the feel of the music, forget about the notation, tab or chortchart, and just play to get into the music and to make it sound how you want the music to sound like. Beginners often forget this and keep looking at the music and do not really get into the feel of whatever they are playing. The endresult is the music, not the ability to read!

Have Fun and hope to see you soon again,

More Ideas to Develop Your Solos and Melodic Ideas for Beginners and Intermediate Students.

For this short article, again, a few tips to develop your solos.

Often you can grab yourself a note anywhere on the fretboard, it is possible to construct a scale around this note. For any melodic pattern you often will not play a whole scale, you could just play a handful of notes. You could repeat those notes within the scale, or take the notes up an octave into a different position.
It is also possible to play the same notes a string up. You may find that you are no longer playing in the same key, but it will work if you are doing it right: The new notes will sound as part of your previous phrase, you could quickly play those, out-of-key notes, before you return back to the key of the piece you are playing, using some of your original notes.

It is a good habit to be able to play melodies without any backing of chords. Melodies which can stand on their own, without support of chords, are often stronger than notes you may use to enhance chords. When you are playing in this mode you may even find yourself composing whole songs (or songideas) based on melodies.
Try if for yourself to see if it works for you.

Good Luck and hope to see you soon again,


3 Moveable Scaleshapes Using CAGED System

In the previous blogarticle I discussed the CAGED system, how this system makes it possible to move open chordshapes around on the fretboard to create new chords.
For this blogarticle I will go into detail how you can use the CAGED system for moveable scalepatterns. Movable scalepatterns work like moveable, open chordshapes: One scalepattern can be played all over the fretboard to create different keys for the same scale. Very useful for improvising and getting to know the notes on the fretboard better.

Here is a tab. scaleform which uses the A-shape. The example is in the scale of C major:

  E   ———————————————–

  B  ————————————————

  G  ——————————2–4—-5——–

  D  —————–2–3–5———————–

  A  ———3–5———————————–

  E  ————————————————-

     How do you know this scalepattern is in C major? The first note on the A string is the Rootnote, it is the 3rd fret on the A string and it makes it the note of C.  When you play through all the notes you will find that the last note ( fret 5 on the G string) is also a C, but one Octave higher than the C on the A string.

    How do you turn this scalepattern into a scale with a different key? Simply move the pattern around to the  right note (= Key of Scale) of the A string and play pattern again. Now you can play same scale but get the sound of a different key.

   What makes this scalepattern using the  A- shape?  When you look at the given example in key of C you will notice that fret 5 on the D string and fret 5 on the G string form part of the A-shape chord. Play those same two notes 3 frets down and you play actually part of an A chord. The shape you visually play creates the shape of a known open chord. Use this knowledge as a memory aid to help you navigate around the fretboard when playing in different keys.

Here another example. this one is a tab. for moveable D-shape scalepattern. The example is in the key of F

  E  ———————————————————-

  B  —————————————3–5—6———-

  G  —————————-2–3–5———————-

  D  ———————3–5——————————–

  A  ———————————————————-

  E  ———————————————————-

Again as before, this is a one Ocatve scalepattern in a major key. The key is F because of the 3rd fret on D string. Play through all the notes and you find fret 6 on the B string being an F again, but one Ocatve higher than the first F.

   Why is this scale pattern using the D-shape? Play fret 5 G string and fret 6 B string at same time, add fret 5 on the high E string, and you actually play a D-shape chord in they of F. Move this chordshape down 3 frets and you will find your well-known open D chord!
Move around the scalepattern to play scale in different keys. Keep checking the Rootnote to find the right key for the scale you need.

For this example a tab. for a moveable E-shape scalepattern. This time two Ocataves and the example is in the key of G.

  E   ———————————————————–2—3——–

  B  —————————————————3–5——————

  G  —————————————-2–4–5————————–

  D  ——————————-2–4–5———————————–

  A  ———————2–3–5———————————————

  E  ————–3–5——————————————————–

Rootnotes for this two-octave scalepattern are fret 3 on the low E string, fret 5 on the D string and fret 3 on the high E string.

Simply move scalepattern around to play in different key. 

   What makes this scalepattern using E-shape?  Play fret 3 E string, fret 5 A string, fret 5 D string and fret 4 on G string at same time, and you play a G chord using E-shape. Move chordshape 4 frets down and you will find yourself playing an open E chord: the first note is now the low, open E string.

There are two open chordshapes left: The C-shape and G-shape. See if you can find the moveable scalepatterns for those two open chords for yourself. Check the scaleshapes against the chordshapes to help you see why you actually play scales in the chordshapes of C and G

Taking Up Guitar Lessons: The Process

When it comes to taking up lessons there are different categories of people: There are the ones who are complete beginners who never touched a guitar before. Some of these students may be very young, some may be a bit older. Both the young and older need to learn similar skills: Getting to grips with the guitar and making some pleasant, pleasing sounds with it for their own enjoyment.
I cannot stress enough the enjoyment factor: We play music for fun, whether you are a pro or a beginner it all starts off and ends with fun. We simply play music and guitar because we enjoy what it does to us. We get a buzz out of play, and people listening to someone playing pick up on the vibe.

The next group of people are the folk who have played a bit in the past. They may have some experience but they may not have  played for a long, long time for all kind of reasons. The people in this group need to be reunited with the guitar, the funfactor, they need to revisit their former skills and build on them as quickly as possible.

For any kind of group of people, my task, as a tutor, is to motivate and inspire any of these people, introduce them to the wonderful world of the guitar and the sounds it can make, the various playing techniques we use to bring out such sounds.
Usually the inspiration process does not take too long, however, people taking up lessons need to realise that it may take a little time to get into their lessons. The taking time comes from being introduced to a new world, a world with new habits, jargon and culture.
It does help if students are madly in love with the idea of playing the guitar. Usually this is not a problem, but sometimes students need a little help in the form of being shown different kind of guitars and what some of these guitars sound like when played in a certain way.

The next group of people are the students with experience, but they may feel that they need to learn new skills to improve their playing. People who fall into this category should think about what it is what they want to learn, since they can already play. The better students are in communicating their needs to easier it is to help them quickly. Not everyone is good at expressing what it is they would like to get out of their guitarlessons. Often I can spot quickly what a student needs, however what a student needs may not be what a student wants. Again, it boild down to communication. Most of the time this is not a problem and does not take up too much time as well.

may see you soon again,

Develop Your Melodic Sense for Intermediate and Beginner Students of the Guitar

For this article a few short ideas  how you improve and develop your melodic idea.

Most beginner students of the guitar will start off with open chords. Chords form the basis of many songs, and playing chords gives people the idea they made the start with playing a song. Why not try playing some simple single, string solos? 
The problem most people will have in the very beginning: Where are the notes I want to play on the fretboard?
A simple and enjoyable way to overcome this problem is: Sing a simple melody, try to find the first note anywhere on the fretboard and work the rest of your melody around this note. Most of the time you will find that you can play the whole melody in the same place as where you found that single note which starts off your melody.

If you make a routine out of doing the above you will develop a natural instinct of where to play your melodies.

Singing notes is all very fine, but what about if you do not really sing? Anything you can do? You could play the vocal melodies of the songs you listen to. Find a good melodic song, try to hum the melody back. Once you can hum the melody, try to find the first note anywhere on the fretboard, and work the rest of the melody around this note.

Often vocal melodies will contain ideas you may be able to use for simple solo ideas. Use these ideas next to your scale practise to improve your solos.

Next to vocal melodies you could look at basslines. Go for melodic basslines, try to sing (or hum) the bassline first, find the first note of the bassline anywhere on the fretboard and play rest of the bassline in the area around the first note.
Basslines will often be played on the low E and A string, but there is no reason why you could not take those basslines up a few ocataves and play them right at the 12th position. The idea will probably not sound like the original bassline, but it may still work as a melodic idea for a solo.

Working out proper solos is the next idea you may want to look at. Sometimes people are put off by working out solos as they may feel this is far too advanced for them, hence my idea of playing basslines and vocal ideas as solos. The simpler the idea the better. A melody which is humable is better than one which is not as it is more melodic and easier to remember.

Once you start to see where to look for your melodies and solos you will find there is no end: Melodies are anywhere and you can use anything for your solos.
Solos do not have to be melodic, they could also be made up of pure noise with some effects.
Some people may think making solos out of noise is easy, that is until you try it. Anything creative you will try on the guitar is an artform in itself and it takes dedication, skill and motivation to get better at any of this.

Hope to catch you soon again,

Fulcrum Tremolo of Your Stratocaster: The Impact It Has On The Tone of Your Guitar

Ever feel you are bending your Stratocaster out of tune by resting your palm too often on the bridge? Ever wondered what would happen if you were to take that tremolo unit out of your Strat all together? Is it actually possible to fasten the tremolo without removing it from your guitar?

It is possible to add more springs to the tremolo unit, this will make the tremolo feel stiffer and you are less likely to bend the strings out of tune by accident.
If you want to block off the tremolo all together you could install a little piece of wood in between the body of the guitar and the tremolo unit. By doing so you disable the tremolo unit and will no longer be able to use it.

Once the tremolo unit is blocked off you may want to remove the springs from the tremolo unit. If you do this you will alter the tone: The Strat without any springs does have a more “woody tone”, it will sound less lively and a tad duller. The best way to experience this is by playing the guitar without the amp and listen to its sound. Attach the springs back and your tone will ,again, be a bit more lively.

You can test all of this for yourself: If you have a few Stratocasters you can loop one simple idea, loop this idea using the different guitars, including the one where you removed the springs from and added a piece of wood at the back. Make sure you are using same pick-up and play same idea.
Changes are when you do not record the experiment you may not hear the differencens very well. Loop it to record your ideas and sit back and listen, you will be surprised with what you hear.

Doing this little test is proof that the wood of your guitar does have an impact on its tone, although some people will claim that the pick-ups have more impact on the sound of the electric rather than anything else. I also would like to add that the springs and the design of the Fulcrum tremolo are responsible for that unique sound of the Strat.
Of course, any guitar with a tremolo unit will have an impact on its sound, overal it makes the sound lighter and lively as opposed to fixed bridged guitars like Les Pauls and the likes, which tend to sound darker and bassier.

Enoy your little experiment and hope to see soon again.

Improve Your Speed for Beginners and Intermediate Students

Before I go into why you should want to work on your speed let us first have a listen to some guitarplayers who can dance all over the fretboard:

First here is Charlie Christian: Clean Sound, most of his notes are picked, he plays in position, does have lines where he plays over one string, does have an amazing feel for that swing.

Okay now here a more modern version of some fast playing: Edward van Halen from a recent 2013 show. Very good video to get an insight in some of his techniques: Watch his stiff wrist when he plays the very fast picking with pick at the beginning. Watch how he keeps first finger in place. When he taps with his left hand he uses his right hand to mute the strings, in this way he can keep the sound clean without any rumble from resonant, open strings. Lots of false harmonics to get that bell-sound, also a lot of pinched harmonics. Knowing where you go on the fretboards is a must, especially when you are improvising. Listen to the studio recording of Eruption and to this version with all the little ideas in between. Observe the violin-like sounds from the volume swells. He does have amazing control over his sound.

Here a video of Joe Satriani, which give a great insight into his playing as well: Lots of melodic ideas and impros over one string which he shifts to positions or move up into a different registre, observe his Wah pedal technique he uses to get his notes to come out in the mix a bit better. Great to see those harmonics he gets when he depresses the Whammy bar, sometimes he uses the pick-up as extra fret, and uses the tremo bar to get those notes to come up better. Again observe the position of the first finger, it never leaves the fretboard! Once you start practising your excersices your fingers will get used to some of these habits, but you may need to sit down and spent some serious time with the guitar.

Okay now for something different, this is just about some fun, not really about guitarplaying. Had not seen this one before, you may have…At the end of the day your guitarplaying should just be about fun and something like this may inspire…………….

Another one in the same category: Playing very fast is alright, but can you dance is the question?

Okay maybe enough videos to illustrate the idea what fast playing is all about. You may think : “Fast playing is not for me, I will never be able to achieve what some of those guys do” Well you will be surprised at what you can achieve when you start working on this issue serously. It is also one of the reasons why I want to highlight some of this: To play guitar well you need to work on your playing, the faster you can play the better you will be at playing at a slower pace. A little bit like driving a powerful car: You do not need to race all the time, but having all that power in your car makes driving very comfortable ( Yes I know, let us not talk about your fuelbill but really, that is another matter)

Why would you want to be able to play fast? To create variety in your playing. The danger is wanting to do it all the time, which will reduce its effect. Variety in your sound can be achieved through use of effects and being able to play fast is just another techniqual tool you may want to use to add variety and drama in your playing.

Fast guitarplayers may not be in fashion at the moment, but you do not just play guitar to be in the latest magazines. Trends do change all the time and having some fast chops can never harm you, it may cost you some time to achieve them but see it as part of your journey with the guitar through the land of music.

                  Work approach:

There are many ways you can go about in achieving speed in your playing, but most guitar players will try something like:

                    @ Play slow at first
                    @ Hear and think about every note, serious business I know, but it will help you
                    @ Be patient, your playing ability will grow over time, but this is for life, just do not give up after two weeks of work, see this as a long term goal, or better, as something which can be worked on in all stages of your guitarplaying development, depending on what you go for at the time.
                    @ Use warm-ups and slowly build up your playing from there, try avoiding to rush things too soon.
                    @ Use a metronome to keep a mental check of where you are within the bar. Once you start using them you will get used to them and start to feel the beats.

                  What Material to Use for Building Up Your Speed?:

Anything really, from scales to set patterns, your own riffs you may make up, short phrases. Anything you can concentrate on to get your actions and timing in good shape.

I mentioned the use of metronome before somewhere on this blog.

When you are relatively new to the guitar you may have wondered what it is when your playing is not always the same every day: Your muscles do feel different at different times of the day, warm ups do help when you have not played before, use them!. There is also the fact: “Some days are better than others”  Even when your technique is good you have to accept there will be moments you can play faster and better than at other moments. It is quite a common thing for players to tense up when they go for fast solos, the better your are a keeping yourself relaxed the better your notes will come through.
Constant work on your technique will make your fingers work more consistently.

Whenever you listen to some music ask yourself: “Where is this particular idea played on the guitar?” “Are the phrases played in position or is it mostly over one string?” This approach does not only help your with analysing someone else’s playing, it will also give you a better understanding of the different ways of playing the guitar. Hopefully when you play yourself, you will have a choice of how you want to sound like, or what you want to do musically with the guitar.

Let me leave you with another guitarplayer who gives us an insight in some of his guitartechnique. Some very useful tips for beginners about playing patterns over one string: You do not really need to know the notes (yes it helps but………….) just remember the shape and repeat it over other strings.  Some sweep picking ideas ( which I will highlight in another article)  Watch his right hand wrist: Very small, neat movements when he picks through some of those fast scales, great insight for any beginner!! Also a bit of a rolling movement with his thumb (Close ups towards 4.50 minutes in video)

Hope to catch you soon again,

Peavy Dirty Dog Revised Review Sept. 2013

Two years after I wrote my first review about the Peavy Dirty Dog it is time to update my previous review. The previous review is underneath this article. Just scrowl down your mouse the see the full review from May 2011.
What is new and what is not new? In 2013 there are still not many reviews about this pedal, and most of the reviews are negative, the people who like it, really dig. Similar as in 2011.

As a musician you change, in 2011 (and years before) I used to play through several amps, using EQ’s and treble boosters to give smaller amps a kick-up.
These days I tend to play with just one amp without the support of any extra EQ’s or treble boosters.
Having tried the Dirty Dog on its own through one amp I can only say: It sounds fabulous, very open, nothing artificial, pedal sounds like it is part of your amp.

Here is a good pointer I totally overlooked in my previous review: Anyone who uses Boss SD-2 does gets the idea what the Dirty Dog sounds like: The Lead Channel is a dark and can remind you of an older Marshall. The Crunch Channel is lighter in sound. The idea of what sounds this pedal can create is similar to the Boss SD-2, but whereas the SD-2 is artificial and takes over your amp, the Dirty Dog’s sound sits next to your amp, forms part of it.

The SD-2 is really compressed, Dirty Dog is not. When the gain is opened a lot further than the Volume you do get that tube-sag feel, changing the settings can quickly resolve this.

What I wrote in previous review about using Dirty Dog as adding more brightness is still true. Overal, what I mentioned before is true, but using this pedal on its own is great as well, and it really can be a distortion pedal if you want it. It is very open and organic.

Other open, organic pedals, in my opinion, are MXR Dist.+ and Boss DS-1, both these pedals become part of your amp sound. Personally I prefer pedals of this kind as they leave your ampsound in tact instead of taking over the sound of your amp.

Pedals which can take over the sound of your amp are: SansAmp Classic, Boss HM2, MT2, DS2, SD2 just to mention a few. Do not get me wrong, these pedals have their place, and I enjoy them as much as anyone else, just mention them to give you an idea how different the Dirty Dog is in terms of sound.

If you get a change, give one a try.
Hope to see you soon again,

Check out the video I made which demos most of the sounds available from this pedal.

Peavey Dirty Dog: Review and User Guide May 2011

Today a review for the Peavey Dirty Dog pedal. It is classified as a distortion pedal, but there are many people, please read some of the reviews here: who are somewhat confused by what this pedal can do.

The pedal does contain two channels, one for “Lead” and one for “Crunch”.
The controls for both channels read like:

                Bark               Bite            Growl
           (Post Gain)        (Treble)      (Pre Gain)

Funny names, for some people downright annoying, but I think it should not be too hard to get used to them  as their function is pretty standard for the guitarplaying crowd.

Furthermore, on the “Lead” Channel there is a “Boost” button, which does not need any further explanation as to what this one does. On the “Crunch” Channel there is one more control left: a button which is called “Trash”, this one reduces the mids, when you switch it on it gives you a warmer sound, more tubby feel if you like. I will come back to this button with a video to back up its sound.

There are two toggle switches, one for “Bypass”, and one to switch from “Lead” mode to “Crunch” mode. There are LEDS to show you in which mode you are. The “Bypass” is not true bypass but it is very convincing and a great feature in itself.

Okay that is about it as far as the layout of the controls goes. Pedal works with a 9 volts powersupply or a battery. If you are using Boss type of plugs you will need a adaptor plug to get the same kind of socket as what most Boss pedals use. The polarity is similar to those of Boss pedals which means ( if you do use an adaptor socketplug) you can daisy chain your powersupply and run all your pedals of one powersource.

I tested this pedal with both Single Coil guitars (Fender Strat.) and Humbuck guitars (Gibson Les Paul), used both valve amps and transitor, small amps and stage amps. In all my testings the results were similar as in that the Humbuck guitars were exaggerating the sounds more (as one would expect), gave less detail ect. The stage amps made everything louder but not really different in sound.

                        Dirty Dog Used on its Own:

Using the Dirty Dog just on its own with no other pedals to interact, the “Lead” channel can produce a somewhat disappointing sound: With the Pre Gain on 12.00 0’clock the pedal produces a lot of bass, you need to work the Treble control to get a workable sound. When you are expecting a lead sound you will be in for a shock as this mode just adds more gain but not really a good strong, solo sound.
The “Crunch” channel is much better in this respect: It does what it tells you on the tin, but it can do it much better read on………….

As far as giving you distortionsounds right out of the box this pedal may be somewhat disappointing but heh, let us reduce the Pre Gain control, work that Treble knob a bit and make up for it with the Post Gain control. Now you are talking!! as this pedal does clean up wonderfully in both the Lead Mode and Crunch Mode, dial in more Treble and it still remains clean, does get a little grainy but does not add any more distortion as what so many other pedals will do when you add on treble.
Why is this so good? Isn’t this supposed to be a distortion pedal?  Read on………………..

                      Let Us Now Bring In Your Favourite Distortion Pedals:

Place them in front of the Dirty Dog and let the Dirty Dog do its trick on your pedals: In the “Crunch” mode the pedal can add a lot of extra treble, in the “Lead” mode it can add a lot of bass, adding more body to almost any pedal. I tried it with some of the most populair pedals like the Boss BD2, SD1, OD3, HM2 and the Ibanez TS9, all of them being stock, not modded or anything, and the Dirty Dog makes any of these pedals so much better: The SD1 sounded very creamy in the “Lead” Channel, the TS9 did get more body in both channels (Stevie Ray Vaughan, anyone???), The Boss OD3 gave extra shine on the Dirty Dog, more colour, especially when the tone control was opened up more. The HM2 in the Lead Channel could give me a real convining Marshall JMC 800 sound on both channels.

                     Overal Conclusion:

The pedal is designed to give a kind of Valve sound, it does this in the Power amp stage. When you play your chords hard you will experience that “dint in your sound” as any Valve amp will do when pushed hard. When you place any distortion pedal after the Dirty Dog this feature will be less noticeable. Experiment with the placement of your pedals, in any way you do it, the Dirty Dog will make your pedals and amp sound better!

This pedal can best be viewed as an enhancer for your sound, not a distortion pedal on its own. However as a clean bass/treble boost I would be quite happy just to use the Dirty Dog on its own as it is excellent in this mode

Its biggest selling point? The fact that it turns a One Channel amp into Three Channels. Cool! Combining this with any of your favourite pedals this does give you a lot of sound to work with from your amp.
One of its weakest points must be the fact that using this pedal as a distortion on its own it can be somewhat of a disappointing experience. 
What about the whining sound mentioned in some of the Harmony Central reviews and other posts on the net? Good question! Yes, that can be a problem, I had it too, but it can be repaired by any amptech, and after that you will be happy with a good working pedal which will last you for a long time to come. Heh what can go wrong with distortion pedals eh? 

                     Last But Not Least:

The one thing I was going to mention but have not done so far is the Trash contol on the Crunch Channel: When you push this button it does give a less direct, somewhat warmer sound. Listen to this song here. The guitarsolo which starts at 2.07. A TS9 and the Crunch Channel with the Trash button switched engaged will get you close to that sound!

                      For Who is This Pedal?

If you are into enhanced, expansive sounds from your amp and you like pedals and tweaking you can not go wrong with this one. You can use it for studio or live playing. If you are a “One Amp and Guitar” kind of guy you my not like this one.
What kind of guitarstyle? Any really, as this pedal puts a nice shine on any moderate- or more extreme gain pedals.

Have a great blast making music and playing guitar and hope to see you soon again,