The Marshall Tone: Amplifier and Speaker

For this blog a short article about Marshall amps and their tone: I will go into detail about the orgins of the Marshall amp, why it became popular and what creates the sound we all seem to know as “the Marshall Sound”.

Before I go into detail about the amp just a few words about the equipment bands used at the beginning of the 1960s:
It was quite common during those days for bands to amplify the vocals through the P.A system while the sound of the guitars and bass came mainly from amps being used on stage.
Think of any concerts you will been to recently and most likely, the sound you will have heard came mainly through the P.A speakers placed at each side of the stage. In the early days of Rock ‘n’ Roll P.A systems were relatively small and mainly designed to amplify the vocals, the amps for the guitars and bass were not amplified through the P.A and therefore could often not be heard very well.
As bands started to play louder and louder guitarplayers wanted their amps to be louder as well. Most of the amps of the early 60s were not designed to be played at full volume, and a lot of rock players were dissatisfied with the volumes their amp could produce.
At some point Pete Townshend of the Who got in touch with James Marshall with the request to build him an amp that was loud enough to produce the volume and tone he wanted. In a nutshell, that moment in time was the birth of the Marshall amp and sound as we know it today.

Jim Marshall based his amp design on the Fender Bassman, which was an American amplifier and import duties made this amp more expansive in the UK. Jim Marshall felt he could produce a similar amplifier at a cheaper rate. The result was the beginning of a successstory for  James Marshall.
One of the main differences between the early Marshall amp and the Fender Bassman was that the Marshall amp would break up quicker in sound to produce a smooth, distorted tone. The Marshall amp was also brighter in its overal tone. The Bassman used Jensen speakers whereas the Marshall used speakers which were produced in England under the name Celestion.

Here is a clear link about the history of the early Marshall amps:

The early Marshall amps tend to be darker in tone because the distortion is mainly produced by the poweramp, later models use a design where the distortion is produced by a mix of Pre-and Poweramp, resulting in a brighter distorted tone.


Anyone who has ever used a Marshall amp will have noticed that the tonecontrols are fairly passive: Turn up the bass and the overal sound becomes a little darker. The mid tonecontrol tends to be more active and the treble is where the secret lies: Turn this up and you will notice what it does to your sound!
Compare this to the average Fender amp and you will notice a big difference: Tonecontrols on most Fender amps are smooth and linear: Turn any of them up and you will hear your sound change accordingly.

As a rule of thumb one could say that older Marshalls —up and till about 1973— tend to be darker in sound, the ones produced after that period are brighter in sound. One of the reasons for this are changes in musical taste and habits: Guitar players wanted more from their amps: Master Volume controls to control the overal volume of the amp,  Channels which could be set-up for different sounds: One for clean and one for distorted tones. 

    Celestion Speakers:

One part of the Marshall sound is the speakers you use to amplify the amp. Celestion speakers have been there since day one, and they are still the speaker of choise for Marshall amps.

    The Marshall Sound Throughout Time:

It is true that early Marshalls do have a different sound compared to ones later produced, however the main characteristics of the sound, the brightness and clarity, can be found on any model of amp Marshall has ever produced. Most of the changes made to Marshall amps over time have been made because of requests of their users: Guitarplayers wanted Master volumes, spring reverbs, effect loops, just to make their amps fit into the musical trends of the day.

For next article I will have a closer look at the JCM 900 series and what kind of sounds you can get out of them.

Happy Playing!!

Marshall Factory Tour Videos.

This article is the fist one of a couple of articles about Marshall amps I will put together over the next few weeks.
Marshall amps, as any guitist will know, are absolutly wonderful to play through. They can blast you away in your tiny room or they can shimmer and shine and make you feel like the sun is shining on your back.
The most well-known documented Marshall sounds are probably the studio recordings of Jimi Hendrix. Most of his playing shows the dirty and clean sound of the Marshall, and then there is AC /DC to show you that Marshall roar.
I only mention these two names because most of you readers will be aware of those artists but, of course, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Marshall is everywhere and anywhere. Even bands and artists who do not use Marshall amps, may use the sound these amps produce. Basically in the world of guitaramplifiers there are only a handful of sounds, and the Marshall sound is one of them.

Before I go into detail about the Marshall sound and do some A/B tests I want to leave you with two videos which tour around the Marshall factory in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, in England:

Here is part one:

It is fashinating to see where those amps are being made. Anyone who has ever opened up their Marshall amp may have seen one of those testing stickers. Now you know what they stand for and how the actual testing takes place.

It is also great to know that you can get your amp serviced at the factory, no matter how old, or what kind of condition it is in. Of course, this may be more something for readers who happen to live in England rather than for those of you who live abroad, as shipping costs would add a lot to the final bill.

Enjoy for now and see you soon with more Marshall news.

Keep Plectrum ready whilst using your fingers to play other ideas. Watch Plectrum/FingerStyle Video!!

Today a very short article about how to hold a Plectrum, whilst still being able to use your fingers.
You may wonder why you want to do this. Being able to use a plectrum and to keep it tucked in your fingers while using your other fingers for fingerpicking ideas is very useful.

Watch this video where I explain the technique in detail. Sorry about poor soundquality. Hopefully futurevideos shall have greater soundquality, well lets us hope so as I spend most of my playingtime on sound, amps, and guitarpedals.

In the next few weeks I want to create more articles about Valveamps by Marshall and Fender, the big difference between them, more on the Marshall JMC 900 series as I have been lucky to try and A/B test a few of them side by side.

I will try to create article on a weekly basis, when this does not happen you know what goes on in my life: Everything goes up and down, and Eddie is working hard on getting it all in balance again.
Enoy for now and hope to see you soon again.

Using Fender Twin Reverb for Your Guitar Playing at Home

Happy New Year to all of you readers. Today an article about the Fender Twin Reverb. I will mainly concentrate on how you can use this amp to the best of your benefit, will not go into detail about its history and the different versions which have appeared throughout the years of its production.
If you are interested in the Silver Face versions, here is a good link:

      Layout Controls:

The Fender Twin reverb was originally designed to give you a cleansound at any volumelevel. As any experienced guitarplayer will know: Turn up the volume of any amp (especially those from the 1960s and early 1970s) and at some point the amp will start to break up, because the amp does not have enough headroom to give you a clean sound. The Twin Reverb was designed to overcome this problem.
The amp does have two channels: A Normal channel and a Vibrato channel which contains Reverb and Vibrato.

The controls and Lay-out of both channels are as follows:

Normal Channel:

Input 1  Input2  BrightSwitch Volume  Treble  Middle  Bass

Vibrato Channel:

Input1  Input2  BrightSwitch  Volume Treble Middle  Bass Reverb  Speed  Intensity  MasterVolume 
                                  (The Master Volume may be a Push/Pull Switch depending on which model you have)

As you notice, both channels have similar tone controls and a bright switch. The bright switch can boost the brightness on both channels. This switch can be engaged when the volume-and treble of the amp are at any setting, which is quite useful to give you an extra brightness boost at low volume.

    Two Channels, What’s Up Then??:

Two channel amps are nothing new, they have been quite common since the late 1970s. Most two-channel amps will have one channel which is dedicated to clean sounds while the other channel acts mainly as a Distortion/Overdrive channel. Looking at the Twin Reverb, this is not the case: Both channels can give you identical sounds if the controls are set in similar ways. There is no distortion or overdrive on the amp, even the Push/Pull switch does not act as an overdrive as some of you may think. No, it is merely an extra, clean volumeboost.
How useful are two identical channels then? Well they are not completely identical, as the Vibrato channel will give you the Vibrato-and Reverb effect, while the normal channel is without any effects whatsoever.
A practical use for both channels is to set them up with a different tonal contrast: Set one channel up for a more bassy sound, while you use the other one for a, contrasting, more trebly sound. Use an A/B box to toggle from one to the other channel and you can now play with having two different sounds coming from one amp. 
The push/pull is very useful at giving that extra volumeboost for your solos. The Push/Pull will only work on the Vibrato-channel, again, this is very useful as it can create that extra volumeboost for when you need it.
Originally designed to add more signal to the Vibrato, as this effect takes away a bit of your original signal. The Push/Pull boost compensates for this loss of signal.

Another useful purpose for the Push/Pull function is: Use the amp with two guitarplayers, guitarplayer one is plugged into the normal channel, guitarplayer two (who is also playing leadlines from time to time) is plugged into the vibrato channel while the Push/Pull is engaged. When it comes to playing solos, the signal of guitarplayer two will be a tad louder because of the Push/Pull boost. Clever thinking, and that for a company which was not doing that well in the mid 1970s!!

When you do your research on the Fender Twin Reberb you will notice that various speakerbrands will be mentioned. Yes, the Twin Reverb was fitted with different kind of speakers, which all have their own impact on the overal sound of the amp. A speaker will have an inpact on any ampsound, try any amp you have with a different speakerset, and chances are the amp will sound different. If you are interested in getting a Twin Reverb it may be an idea to try the amp with different speakers until you find the ones you do like. My feeling is you will like the sound of the amp anyway regardless of with which speakers it is fitted.

   Using the Twin Reverb in Your House at Low Volume and with Pedals:

Most Twin Reverbs you will find will be of 80-or 100 watts, which you may feel may be too loud for using in a living-or bedroom situation. Well hang on there: The amp does have two inputs on both channels, these inputs are for low-and high inpedance output guitars. Lowoutput guitars are single coil type of guitars such as Stratocasters and Telecasters and the like. High output guitars are humbuck guitars such as Les Pauls. Want less volume? Plug your guitar into input 2 and it will bring down the volume, use an EQ and compressor to restore for your loss in bass and treble and you are back in toneheaven. Want a bit of dirt? Use any of your favourite Overdrive/Distortion or Fuzz pedal and the amp will respond very well to them. 


The Twin Reverb is an excellent amp to give you that American sound, if you want a more agressive distortiontone, just use any distortion pedal and the amp will take it well. Use the distortion on one channel, while using the other channel for clean sounds and you have a perfectly two-channel amp.
Does a Silverface sound any worse that a Blackface or any of the older versions? Shall we leave that discussion the the experts for today? All I would say at this point: Let your EARS be the judge of what you hear, not what you read. Experiment with different pedals and speakersets and see what you like best of all.

Happy Playing and hope to catch you soon again,

Guitar Solos For Beginners– Part Three–: Guns and Roses “Sweet Child O’ MIne” and “November Rain”

For this article I will look at two well known songs from Guns and Roses: “Sweet Child of Mine” and “November Rain”. The night after I had written the first two articles of this mini-serie I heard “November Rain” on my radio and the song inspired me to write this article.
Both “Sweet Child of Mine” and “November Rain” are probably among the best-known Guns and Roses songs. When you are into guitarbands, and happen to play electric guitar, the intro of “Sweet Child” is probably one of the things you will have tried to play at some stage. “November Rain” came out in the early 90s and when you first heard the song it may have reminded you more about a  1970s Rock opera of some sort instead of a straight ahead rock song.

Let us now have a listen to “Sweet Child”:

Listening to the guitar-intro a few things spring to mind: The guitar sound is quite clear and open, the idea being played is melodic and does have a form: It is an arpeggio which underpins the chords of the verse. Try singing the intro back to yourself, this is a great memory aid, and once you can sing it, you can play it on the guitar, all you need to do is find those notes on the fretboard, they are all played in position and quite close to each other. During the chorus we hear the guitar playing along with the vocals, then there is the first proper guitar break based on the verse chords and vocal melody. After the second chorus the song develops into new teritory: a new part starts, different from the chorus and verse, and this part is mainly used for the guitar to solo over. This new part is repeated over and over again, this for the solo (and song!!) to develop and build up to a climax. Then the song moves into the end part with the “Where do we go from now?” For the beginning of this part Slash uses a Wah pedal, to add more drama and excitement to the sound of the guitar solo.
As far as song stucture goes ,this song is not a cliche song: Two new parts have been added to the song for the guitar to explore, and after those parts the song does not return to the chorus. If the band would have done so it would have made the song far too long, but it is already a long song even without repeating verses or chorus for too long.
The idea of adding new parts for a guitar to solo over is not new: A lot of hard rock band of the 1970s used to do it, Deep Purple being one of them, but usually these parts are not too long and often the song will return to the intial parts of the song. Guns and Roses do not do this at all here. Adding new parts to solo over is a great way to explore your solo: The guitar will have more time to develop melodic ideas and the solo can point the song into a new direction.

Let us now listen to “November Rain” to hear what is going on there:

The intro: Hardly any guitar in sight! instead we hear chords being played in broken fashion on the paino. Add some drums and bring in more keys and some understated chords from the guitar: Slowly we get an idea of what this song will be about, but we take our time and why not eh?
Then at some point the song changes: Different part is brought in after the chorus, guitars become more pronounced, and slowly Sash weaves his way around the chords before he breaks into full melodic mode where he plays vocal-based melodic ideas over main chords of the verse and chorus. Slash does return back to these ideas later on and keeps playing them, and then, like what we had in “Sweet Child”, when you would expect the song to finish…. a new part is introduced: first by the piano, then the guitar comes in and another new guitarsolo is ready to develop. Seems like Guns and Roses had a formula for creating songs like this. Creating a balance  in your songs between songwriting and playing great sounding solos and parts on the guitar is a real artform. Think of a lot of 1980s guitarplayers who maily created albums of songs just to show of their skills on the guitar. Most of these players did not have great songs, songs you would like to hear back again and again. Some of them did, and those are the ones who are still there today. As a band and songwriter this can be one of your goals, and once you have achieved this goal the audience will love you for it, because nothing sounds better than a song with a great melodic vocal line and some great guitarwork to support and develop the song to newer heights!

For next article a special about the Fender Twin Reverb guitaramp.
See you soon again,

Guitar Solos For Beginners–Part Two– What Guitar Solo??

When it comes to guitarsolos most guitarplayers, or at least the ones starting out, tend to think about the single-string guitarsolo, the part which breaks up a song and uses single notes to create a melody or a short riff. Most guitarsolos being played in Popular Music or Rock or Blues use this method, but the guitarsolo can also be a guitarplayer on his/her own who plays an entire song on the guitar where chords and single-string notes get combined all into one piece of music. 
For this article I will mainly focus on the single-string guitarsolo since this is the most popular method, and also  the most accessible for beginners on the guitar. Playing songs where you combine chords and melody all into one piece of music is a beatiful way of playing the guitar, but maybe this is something beginners can try after they are more comfortable with their fingers, and when those early, open chords start to sound really how they should sound!!

Okay, so now we know what we are going for: Playing single-string notes on the guitar, not as a chord, but as a single note. Right, but there there are still a lot of options we have, and we need to know what we want to do during that time when we play the guitarsolo, otherwise it all will sound like mud and chaos.

Throughout the times different guitarplayers have approached the guitarsolo in different ways: There are the ones who simply recite the vocal melody during the guitarsolo. Simple but effective as it creates variety in the song. Then there are the players who treat the guitarsolo as a mini-composition within the song. This approach is more ambitious and pleasing at the same time for your creative powers. Some players even use the intro as part of their guitarsolo, then they may play some varitions based on the intro riff during the rest of the solo. Examples of this approach? A lot of Angus Young’s solos from AC/DC fall into this catergory. 
All about notes then you may wonder? No, there are also guitarplayers who let loose with their effects during their solos, they may just make some wonderful noise created by effects and the notes they use may not relate to the chords or melody of the song at all.

For next article I will use a lot of videos as examples of different ways to solo over (or within) songs.
See you soon,

Guitar Solos For Beginners–Part One— : Making a Melody with Three Notes

Today the first part of a series about how to create solos on the guitar. I will keep things really simple but at the same time will give you practical tips on how to create your own solos.

Okay let us jump straight into it: When it comes to playing solos the average beginner and intermediate guitar player will mimick the solos of other players. Logical, as you learn by copying someone else.
When guitarplayers get to grips with playing solos they often learn about scales at the same time, and for a lot of beginners, scales are a dirty word, it is something which scares them to bits. Why? It sounds complex, the fingers no longer have those familiar chordshapes to fall back on, the mind gets lost in the different,  often unfamiliar fingering-patterns which govern so many scales. I will break down scales  (and the fear of them) at some point, but for today I will make matters really simple: Give yourself three notes, play those notes, sing them, make sure you can sing them. Now find those notes on all your six strings. Once you can do that you are ready to create short melodies, which could be the part of a solo.

~ Play (or sing the first note), play the note again, but use a different rhythm, Play this time the second note a bit louder (using dynamics!!) play a slide before you go into your new note. Now create a little riff which uses those three notes: Two will be the same, the Third note is your second note from the Three Notes I asked you to use before. Now play this little Two note riff on all your strings, see how it feels in different places. You may be able to connect the riff of one string to the riff of the next string by using some other notes. Yes you are allowed to do so! The restriction of the Three notes is only to get you going, once your creativity is flowing you should carry on being creative and play.

~ Once you are happy with your Two Note Riff, write it down in TAP form this will enable you to remember the riff anytime,  is also a good method for notating longer songs you may create at a later stage!!

~ Create a Second Two Note Riff, by reversing your notes of the first Two Note Riff! Simple eh? There are countless of riffs from Hitsongs where this technique is being used, I will provide examples at a later stage, let us focus now on creating!!

~ Create now about Five Riffs which follow this strategy, write them down and have fun with them. When you play electric guitar, use different effects to play your riffs. You may want to use some Flange, a bit of Overdrive etc. Anything will do to give those riffs a different sound. It is also a good way to get a feel to creating different sounds in songs. If you play acoustic, play riff with a pick, then fingerstyle, maybe even put some chords in between the riff. Heh, before you know it, this short Two Notes Riff becomes the start of a song. You see how Solos, Knowledge of Scales and Chords all feed into the same goal: Making Music, That is all what you want to do.

Okay, once you feel you can do this Two Note Riff idea any time you play, it is time to add more notes and to learn a bit more about scales, maybe just the major scale.

Next time more about the idea of playing solos, the thinking behind it if you like.
Enjoy for now and hope to catch you soon again!

Your Equipment: Upgrade Your Guitar Amplifier!!

Hello, today a very short article about upgrading your gear and in particular your guitaramp.

For a lot of guitar players the common experience is when it comes to buying equipment: Get a starter guitar coupled with a budget amp. Once people feel they can play a bit they want to buy a better guitar. Logical eh? Yes, but people often overlook that guitaramp. The amp makes a BIG part of your sound, and the better your sound, the better you will play.

My example of above is very cliched, and there are a lot of variations possible:

~ People start off on acoustic guitar, once they feel they get their first chords and riffs under their fingers, they will buy an electric guitar and an amp.

~ People start off on electic guitar, then upgrade to better quality electric guitar, then feel they have overlooked the acoustic guitar and get an acoustic guitar and start to learn more about tone and feel of fingers.

No matter how many examples I will provide, I may still overlook your own unique, personal experience.
What about the following example:

Student wants to learn to play the guitar, starts of with amp which will be suitable for playing in a band, because playing guitar with other people, and playing in a band is the goal. The amp will need to be powerful, loud enough to be heard over the drums. Most people in this case will buy something like a 75 to 100 watts amp. Logical? Yes, but then the band falls apart, amp apears too loud to use when playing with another guitarplayer, amp gets traded in for smaller amp. A few years later  this person regrets having sold that particular amp. What do you do??

# Start off with a small amp when you are starting out. Keep the amp, even when you upgrade to a bigger amp.

#For second amp, buy more powerful amp, but when you play at home, do not crank the volume, no need really as the amp will still sound a lot better than your small amp, because it is more powerful (more headroom– does not distort that quickly when you play it louder on clean settings ect.), does have a bigger speaker, therefore better bass-and treble response.

#Once the band breaks up and feel you no longer need that bigger amp, just keep it and buy another small amp, use this amp now in combination with your other small amp. You will be surprised how loud and full it sounds, almost as good as your bigger amp, only more portable and less bulky to carry around!.

#When guitarplaying is something you do a lot, look into getting a Valve amp. They are more dynamic and sound simply great compared to solid-state amps. You do need to maintain them from time to time: Change valves and some other components, but you will be rewarded with a great sound.

Okay and then I have forgotten to mention pedals: Add them to your basic amp and you will be in for a surprise: Your budget amp will start to sound a lot more expansive and fun to play through.

I know, at the end of this little story I have forgotten your case: Learning to play guitar for a few years now, still struggling with fingers, especially that pinky. Electric guitar? Still played as an acoustic!! You may need to ask yourself what you want from your guitar, and what you want to do musically. Not sure? Happy with whatever goes? Okay you may have to find out  for yourself what you like about playing the guitar.

Whatever your playing scenario is, it is a process, and a long one and do not expect easy ansers as there are none, there is only the experience of joy and it is this joy which makes people want to buy more guitars, amps, pedals, take more lessons, play in bands and make music above all, as much as they can.

Enjoy for now and hope to see you soon again.

Creating Loops as Original Songideas

Hello today a short article about something I do daily: Creating songs, songideas, melodies and chordsequences. For today’s article I will explain briefly what it takes to create a small songidea and to put it on a looppedal.
The whole process in explained and demonstrated on the included video as well.

To create an songidea you first must have some musical material. This can be anything such as a riff, bassline, small chordsequence. For this example I have chosen for the following sequence:

     Dm    Dm    Dm    Dm

      F       C      Dm    Dm


The next step is to find a bassline which supports the feel of the chordsequence. For this example I have chosen the Rootnote for each chord. Next you include a drumbeat which supports the bass and the rest of the feel of the chordsequence.  In case you use a Boss RC2 as well you have about 30 various drumbeats to choose from to fit you little songidea. Plenty of choise there!!

Next step is to create a melody which fits your chords and feel.
How do you create a melody you may wonder? Good question! This one starts on the Root and does contain two sections, the second part of the melody acts as a simple variation. Main thing is to make your melody work with your chords, think about feel, sing melody before you play ect. Yes I know a lot of work for some of you, but keep at it and you will get better at it.

Now you have your basic song and melody it is time to create some variation with your chords. You could go for different strums and chordpatterns in different places of the fretboard, add little riffs in between your chords. The whole idea is to add more spice and variety to your songidea.

Once you have done all of this you may want to leave out the melody and start improvising in the same key of the song, again with the aim to add variety to your playing and the basic sound of the song. Just remember: Keep things simple and sparse for the music not to get too cluttered!

Here is the video where the whole process is explained and demonstrated once again:

See you next time!!

Ukulele Lesson: “Norwegian Wood” in the key of C

For today we will have a look at the song “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles for Ukulele. I have created a guitarlesson about this song before. Look for the article from 18th of Dec. 2010                                
This time I have chosen to transpose the song in the key of C major, which is a relatively easy key for the Ukulele.

Here are the chordfingerings I use for this song:

            C    Cm     F      G
   A  —-3—-3—–0—–2—–

   E  —-3—-3—–1—–3—–

   C  —4—-3——0—–2—-

   G  —0—-5——2—–0—-

N.B: Notice I play the C chord slightly different from what most of you will use. This fingering is closer to the melodynotes, makes up for smoother transition between chord and melodynotes. Try it and see what you think!

The First part of the song combines a chord with a melody. The song is in 6/8 tempo, which means you get 3 beats on the first chord and 3 beats on the melody.
The strumpattern for the chords is as follows: 
                           Down Down Up Down     Down Down Up Down

              Count        1      2    and  3           4       5   and   6

For the first part of the song you only play the chord for the first 3 beats of the bar, the next 3 beats are made up by the melodynotes. There are only 3 melodynotes per bar, and they make up for the last  3 beats in the bar. Easy!!!

For the second part of the song you only strum the chords for the full 6 beats of the bar, no melodynotes here!!

Here is the first part, which only contains four bars. Once you played these four bars repeat them again before moving on to second section. 

Observe the last bar with only the C chord and no melodynotes at all!!

       C                                     C                                 C                              C                 C

  A  ————————        ————————     ———–5———-     ————————-

  E  ————-5—-3—-        ————————     ——–6——-5—–     ————————-

  C ———————5–        —————-2—5–4   ———————–     ————————-

  G ————————        ————————-    ———————–     ————————–

Here is the second section which is only chords:

     Cm       Cm      F       F

     Cm       Cm      F      G

These chords are played for the full 6 beats, observe strumpattern as given above for this section.

Now watch the video to hear how you can play this song for guitar and ukulele:

Happy Playing and hope to see you again soon!!