Saturday, March 8, 2008

This one doesn't go up to eleven

I'm a Tele player, and I'm sitting at my desk, when I should be asleep and getting ready to wake up too damn early for my new job, but instead I'm making the train whistle sound at the beginning of "Train Kept A'Rollin'". The Yardbirds version. I don't have the Aerosmith version, and Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio version is on cassette and I have no player in the house.

It's easy. The song's blues in E (while seemingly containing no E chord), so it's at the 12th fret blues scale. Hold the B string at the 15th fret, getting you a D. G string at the 14th fret, getting you a D. Bend the A to B. Hold the D. Unbend and bend.

And you have to grab the tone knob and roll it from all the way out to about halfway while picking. You can't do that on your Charve/Jackson/Performance/Ibanez superstrat because it probably doesn't have a tone control and if it does, it's way out of the way. It's a bitch on the Les Paul. It's not at all convenient on the normal Strat.

It's a slight reach on a normal Telecaster. My Tele has the control plate reversed, so it's Vol-Tone-Switch instead of Switch-Vol-Tone, so it's downright easy. Stick out your pinkie and it's right there.

There's a video on Youtube (Overdrvn?) where a Canadian metalhead shows off his sustainer. Good video. Makes you want to give Fernandes money. He says he dimed his tone control and left it in the control cavity, leaving his knobs as volume and Sustainer intensity.

And I saw a video on Guitar World with John 5, saying that his signature model doesn't have a tone control, just separate volume knobs for neck and bridge pickups, and a Les Paul-style pickup switch. That kind of on-off trick is pretty cool, and no guitar I currently own can do it. But his guitar can't make a train.

There's an assumption with rock guitarists that goes down to the knobs. They have numbers. "We'll have the volume on nine and the tone on six, and then we'll rock out." Tele knobs have no numbers. They have knurl, so you can grab them with a sweaty hand and still get traction. We don't need a volume pedal. We have a volume knob. We don't need a wahwah pedal. We have that tone knob. There's a sweet spot that sounds kinda jazzy, not all the way bright but not too muffled. There no number, you just hit a note, frob the knob and find it. Unless we want to go all the way bright. Or we want to drop it all the way down and move it up to make a train.

Can you hear that lonesome whistle blow when you play your guitar?


Pribek said...

Yeah! I'm all the time using the tone and volume controls. I've also always liked the way the tele kind of thins out when you back off the volume almost halfway-great for rhythm parts that cut.

Dave Jacoby said...

I'll have to try that one. Thanks for reading!