Re: Woodshedding effects

Otto wrote: 

>Robb Bingham writes:
> >Again, nothing wrong with a little ~delay~ and a
> >little reverb and a little simulated amp- - -it?s
> >just not something you can practice in the woodshed.

>I think that you not only can practice it, but that you must practice
>it. (Maybe not if you just want to add a little bit to let the sound
>not be so dry).

I agree that you've got to practice with any effect you use live.  I
agree that it can take a lot of time to set an effect up so that it
works with the rest of your rig, works with your style and approach, and
is consistently controllable and musical, especially live.

> going a step further: If you are looking for effects in order to make
>your sound more interesting for some musical styles, it takes a lot of
>work to find the appropriate effects-settings and it also takes a lot
>of practice time to become familiar with these sounds.  This is nothing
>that you can add after recording IMO, because then you can't change
>what you have recorded.

The last statement isn't true.  Engineers add effects to recorded tracks
all the time, sometimes very drastic ones.  On my latest free
subscription recording, "Bright Green Rain," I recorded the lead
harmonica with a very dramatic ring modulator effect, and then added a
resonant filter with an envelope and delay to the recorded track to make
it even bigger and wilder. It's very easy to experiment with plug-in
effects in a computer recording setup at any stage of recording, and
sometimes the results are very exciting.  (You can hear a short sample
of "Bright Green Rain" at -- keep
in mind that the very heavy, twisting sound you hear at the start of the
piece is a harmonica.) 

>I'd like to underline Winslow's conclusion:
> They're not just after-effects; they
> become a part of your playing.
>and I want to say: if they do not become part of your playing, then the
>effects will add more confusion to your playing instead of an

Again, this is certainly true for live performance, not necessarily for
recording.  The key question is always: what does it sound like?  You
only find that out when you turn the effect on, whenever that is.  You
certainly don't want to turn the thing on for the first time on stage in
front of an audience; that will, definitely, cause confusion for all

>playing with effects means that they also influence your playing, you
>must be aware of it, this means you must play live with them to be able
>to interact with them and to be able to control the effects instead of
>to become a slave of the effects. this also means that you will be
>forced to use some different playing techniques than you are used to,
>this also means that you will be forced to a very precise and proper
>intonation if you want that the effects work correctly and so on...

If by "better" we mean "has a wider range of expressive sounds," then I
agree.  If by "better" we mean "plays the harmonica with better
technique and more control," I'm not so sure.  I learned a lot more
about playing the harp by developing a solo acoustic repertoire than I
did by using effects.  Effects have their own technique, and when you
learn how to play the effect, you're not necessarily learning more about
playing the harp.  That doesn't make the results less valid or less
musical; it just means that you're playing a different kind of
instrument, one where the effects have lot of influence on the sound.  

>for instance: if you want to work with a wah-pedal, then it will take a
>long time until you are used to it. And if you are recording with a
>wah-pedal , and your amp is placed in another room so you cannot hear
>what you are doing with the pedal, the results will be absolutely
>unsatisfying if not to say it will sound terrible. Before you'd like to
>record it you will have to spent lots of hours for practicing it... 

It's a good example.  A wah-wah is a real-time device, i.e. the player
is continuously adjusting the wah band (via footpedal) throughout the
performance, so must hear the results in real time to use it well.  But
the player might get very nice resuts by recording the part without wah,
then "playing" the wah pedal while listening to the recorded track.  So
the point is mostly true for live performance, less so for recording,
because you can "practise" the effect on a recording at any time after
the track is recorded. 

>all in all: playing with effects can open new horizons for your
>playing, if you are seriously working with it, and this is only possible, >when you are practicing a lot with it. It can make you a better player...

Like I said above, it can certainly broaden your sound palette and
increase your range of expression, which I think is better.

Bottom Line: it's always smart to know your gear, and therefore to
practice with your effects.  I spent close to 100 hours working with my
Digitech RP-200, which is a complex multi-effect device, before I played
on stage with it.  (And the first time I used it onstage, I accidentally
triggered the built-in drum machine, which really upset everyone in the
room!  So I should have practiced with it more.)  I might spend 1 hour
getting familiar with a simple phase shifter or delay, because I already
know what kinds of sounds those things make.  But live performance and
recording should be considered separately where effects are concerned. 
In a live performance, the player MUST be able to hear and control the
effects in real time, which implies that the player knows in advance how
the device will change the sound (and therefore that the player has
practiced with the effect).  In a post-recording situation, you can
always erase the results if the effect doesn't work, so you can mess
with anything you like, whether you've heard it before or not.  Surprise
is part of the fun in that situation.
>PS: I am curious what Richard Hunter thinks about this 

Hope this is useful.  Thanks and regards, Richard Hunter
Turtle Hill Productions

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