Limbering Up

During lockdown, I traded in my old effects box for a Helix LT effects processor, from PMT in Salford. As I got to grips with it, I copied a couple of well known song parts, and I found myself creating new riffs on the guitar.

I recorded myself using my phone, but the quality was only good enough to share with friends. So, I gathered together my music software and gear, and acquired a pair of studio monitors in anticipation of some new writing and recording.

Ready to record again - Orion Pro and Adam A7X monitors

When it was all set up, I had to test that I could still work the software. So I recorded a short riff and melody I’d knocked up recently. It all came back to me after a while, and I was pretty pleased with the result, although it was a very short piece of unfinished music.

After showing some friends what I’d done, I was sent a couple of pieces of unfinished music. Firstly, I was asked to add a guitar part to a jazzy bass and backing track. I went full-Santana over it. Then, I was sent a short free-played acoustic guitar piece, with no brief. I was a bit more ambitious with this, adding full drum/bass backing, 12-string electric, and two lead guitar tracks.

None of this is finished quality work, but I wanted to share it anyway — just to show what can be accomplished with minimal practice and 20 year old software.


To Trem or Not to Trem

The Kasuga Les Paul copy I used for 10 years doesn’t have a tremolo. My home made guitar had one, salvaged from a long-since-scrapped guitar, but I stopped playing that as soon as I got my Kasuga. So, it’s safe to say, I’m not used to tremolos, and I didn’t really have any feelings towards them. Until I got my Strat.

Stratocaster tremolo

Like most people, the novelty meant that everything sounded like I was sat on the washing machine on spin cycle. And, pretty soon, the novelty wore off. Problems with tuning stability outweighed its minimal use, and the tremolo was soon decked* and forgotten about.

A year later, and I’m listening to some Pink Floyd. I notice David Gilmour’s vibrato, especially on the bent notes. His big bends are famous, and, after a lot of practice, I can do them justice, but vibrato? It occurred to me that he’s using the tremolo with the bends, and it sounds great. So I decide I’m having some of that. But, do I really want to open that can of worms again?

I decide that I’ll attempt a compromise: I’ll keep the springs just tight enough to deck the tremolo, but not tight enough to stop a bit of whammy. That way, I won’t officially float the tremolo.

My first mistake was to remove 2 of the 5 springs from the claw. 3 springs made the tremolo too loose to deck and too easy to lift with a bit of bending. So rather than trying 4 springs, I went straight back to 5, and started loosening the claw. After a surprising amount of loosening, I reached the biting point. The springs were tight enough to keep the tremolo decked with a bit of bending, and slack enough to add a bit of vibrato.

Setup by Steve Robinson

All in all, this was an excellent result, and I will keep the tremolo going for the short term. Tuning stability seems fine, probably helped by the excellent setup done by guitar tech Steve Robinson in Sale, Manchester, early this year, which included a new bone nut and a string tree spacer.

* A decked tremolo is rendered inoperable by tightening the claw, using all 5 springs, until the bridge plate can’t move.