Kenny G is beloved by the public, if not by a lot of musicians out there. Whenever there’s disparity like that between the appreciations of the masses and the cognoscenti, I wonder what the latter are missing. Yes, the masses like a lot of crap, but they don’t like crap only, and even when they go for crap there’s something different about the crap they go for. I never much liked Kiss, but they definitely weren’t like anything that came before them. Trent Reznor has said publicly that they were a big inspiration to him, and anything that inspired Reznor is worth hearing. So the question I ask of anyone who’s popular is: what is it that makes them stand out to so many people? What’s the single big thing they got right?
I’ve been jamming with my new rig, and as usual I’m recording those jams. The new rig lets me get big tones in two different ways: first, I can combine the amp modelers and the iStomp running SwingShift to get big textures with lots of motion in them in real time; then, I can loop those sounds and add more on top.
Here’s a cool sample that combines the Zoom G3 with the Digitech RP500. The Zoom is running a patch from my new set for Zoom G3 that features an autowah with a Twin Reverb amp model. The Digitech RP500 is running the patch called “TuffSli” from my patch set for RP500, and it’s also getting its input from the iStomp running SwingShift, meaning that there are multiple octaves in the signal. You can hear the pitch of the RP500 moving up and down against the G3’s tones as I work the expression pedal to shift the pitch.
This one uses the same patches on the same devices as the first, but the lines are played in chords. The pitch on the Zoom G3 doesn’t change in tandem with the RP500, but because the RP500 patch has a stronger tone than the G3, you hear both sounds as shifting pitch, with the autowah putting more attack on the tone.
This sound is created by looping a phrase from the Digitech RP500 using a single patch from my RP500 patch set, MA816D, which shifts the pitch two octaves down or 1 octave down depending on the expression pedal. I record a phrase using both, then play over that using a very nice clean amped tone based on a Fender Twin amp model with a big medium-length delay.
And finally, a nice funky phrase that uses a Zoom G3 patch that combines a Bassman amp model with the G3’s very funky phase shifter, over which I play various tones from the RP500.
All these samples were recorded with a Zoom H4 parked a few inches from the front grill of a Peavey KB2 keyboard amp. Sample volumes were normalized to the same level; otherwise there was no post-recording processing applied.
I said in a recent post that I had cleaned up my rig, reducing it to a few pieces: a Digitech iStomp running Swing Shift, a Digitech RP500, and a Digitech JamMan Stereo. Well, it wasn’t long before I completed the Zoom G3 patchset, and once I did that I wanted to combine the Zoom with the RP500. So my rig has expanded again. (Alas.) You can see the new rig in the picture.
Our first set of 35 original sounds for harmonica and the Zoom G3 is now available for purchase at this site! For your listening pleasure, we’ve recorded those sounds as we played them, using a Seydel Session Steel harp in the key of Bb and an Audix Fireball mic and a Zoom H4 digital recorder positioned about 6 inches in front of the speaker grill on our Peavey KB2 keyboard amp. No post-recording processing has been applied to these samples, except to normalize the volume levels; this is what the patches sound like, and nothing else.
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As readers of my blog know, just before the end of 2014, I did a couple of recording sessions for an ESPN documentary called “Keepers of the Streak.” To my surprise, the show, which I watched last night from start to finish, turned out to be a very cool piece about four very accomplished photographers who’ve collectively photographed every Superbowl from the start. The music included a lot of nice stuff that I didn’t know about when I recorded my own parts, and most of my favorite harmonica cues from the sessions ended up in the final cut, with the harp positioned nicely up front in the mix. I enjoyed every minute of it, which is saying a lot, because I’m not really a bigtime football fan. (Beyonce won the SuperBowl last year, right? I wish I’d seen that…)
Digitech RPs have a very nice single-line pitch shifter, and a very nice rotary speaker effect too. If you could use them both at once, which you can’t do on a single RP, you’d get some decent simple organ tones. (You can actually get decent organ tones with a rotary speaker alone, but a pitch shifter helps a lot.) But if you really want to emulate the sound of a Hammond organ, you need multi-timbral pitch shifting–the kind you get with an ElectroHarmonix POG or HOG, where you have multiple independent pitch-shifted lines running in parallel. Unfortunately, a HOG or POG costs $300 and up, and it takes up a pretty big chunk of space at your feet, too.
I decided last week to check out a promising alternative: the Digitech iStomp, an interesting device that’s essentially a reconfigurable stompbox. I bought my iStomp from guitarcenter.com used for about $60 shipped, a savings of close to 50% compared to buying new.