guitar & gear: Fender Jaguar, Fender Tweed Champ, Roland Space Echo
Sparing you the discussion whether or not there are differences in sound with different caps, I simply begin with: “Yes, there are. Use your ears and you will find out”. This post is to enlarge upon some former posts – when I still had no idea how many people would be interested – specially upon “switches and caps“, which is my no.1 post concerning hits now. There are some comments there with additional information, if you like.
A list of some of the capacitors I tried with guitars:
“Luxe Caps” (Vitamin Qs), made of Russian military caps, thoroughly coated to look like vintage caps. They are California made, but the link above is to a German distributor, where I bought a bunch of caps (I’m also German), being much more delighted with the sound quality than with their English on the home page. But there are some forums (just google “Luxe caps”) who talk about alternatives to these rather expensive parts. Or look here for NOS caps.
– amongst them: Bumblebees. The legendary Les Paul caps give a nice and smooth sound, but for some it’s just too dull.
– Black Beauties. Used later on in Les Pauls, they are a bit brighter in sound, and my favorites.
Jensen (from Denmark, not to be confused with Jensen Speakers in Fender amps)
Styroflex (silvery and half transparent looking)
Red Dimes, Orange Dimes (good ceramic caps, but still ceramic..) and many others.
red dime in a 1967 Stratocaster
Personally, out of vintage repro caps, I prefer Black Beauties for all Les Pauls (including Juniors and Specials), for they give a brighter sound than Bumblebees. Both come in 0.022 uF only. There are intended as replacements for original vintage instruments. With little interest in “vintage correctness”, in a way I don’t care too much if they belong in this very guitar I want to tune. The point is: they sound very very good. Even the higher priced ones are worth trying.
The cheapest solution are Mustard caps, and to me they are second best. Made as replacements for Marshall amps, they sound great in guitars. For most users, I presume, there will be nothing left to be desired. My pimped Epiphone Les Paul houses a pair of them…
Capacitor Values: Values (in micro Farrad) differ from 0.01 to 0.1. The higher the value, the stronger will be the high frequency roll off. Fifities guitars often had bright sounding pickups – these were matched by more roll-off (0.05 to 0.1), whereas 0.022 is most common now. Vintage repro caps only come with vintage correct values, but it is worthwhile to experiment with different ones. In this case, you’ll have to try “normal” caps. I had a bass guitar that sounded somehow strangled until I fixed it with a foil cap of a different value – it felt like a miracle! For the Neck PU of my Les Paul I put a 0.033 uF cap so it lost its biting brightness, whereas for the bridge PU the usual 0.022 was fine.
Jensens are high grade, but originally for HiFi. Rather big in size, they give a very cultivated, smooth sound. Except for my Gibson EB3 Bass, I missed some aggression, though.
For my Stratocaster there was no alternative to a “chiclet” 0.1uF wax paper cap (Luxe). I originally wanted a red dime 0.05, like I had read somewhere, but after comparing it to a chiclet, there was no other way to go. I found the same to be the case with a student’s Mexican strat. These foil repro caps give the best and smoothest vintage sound I ever heard with Fender single coils. I don’t care if all the sixties’s strats were provided with ceramic caps – I would even replace these originals (of course keeping them).
Styroflex also turned out fine, but I missed some of the character in tone that other foil caps delivered. They are best for tone stacks in amplifiers (I already replaced some caps in my amps as well, with good results).
My Jaguar, as usual came with ceramic discs, but with the lower value of 0.01uF, as these single coils are rather different from a strat’s ones, and there are two tone circuits involved. So, no vintage repro caps were available. I simply tested several ceramic caps (for the main circuit), but bigger than discs, looking like the famous “Sprague” ones, and ended up with a 0.015. This one gave a fairly aggressive attack I liked so much that I don’t care I cannot turn the pot down anymore – not even a little bit, or it strangles both tone and volume. But after comparing its sound to the pot without any cap, I knew I couldn’t do without it.
For the Jaguar’s “rhythm circuit” I took a different choice. This circuit was created for dull rhythm sounds with the neck pickup only – but I like to use it for smoother jazzy sounds. For lack of space I sought out an old foil cap from a British Quad amp called “Hunts”, looking like a tiny carrot or a candy, and at the same time decreased the value to 0.0056 uF (roughly, only half of the original value). The result was less dampening, so it served for soloing also.
With all the hype of caps, don’t forget to check your pots! New pots (500 kO for Les Pauls, 250 kO for Teles and Strats, 1 MegO for Jazzmaster and Jaguar) might be just the missing thing in your guitar, brightening up the tone until it shines likes a Rembrandt painting exempt from centuries-old layers of varnish…
My new Jaguar has a whole bunch of switches that repelled many a guitar player before. You know, they usually like to play without having to think about knobs or buttons. Just plug and play, and that’s okay.
But for me switches are paradise! I now have three different capacitors instead of one in my guitar, and I can even switch from foil to ceramic, if I like to, and I simply love all of the sounds they produce.
For years now I use to modify my guitars by replacing their tone capacitors by better ones. Capacitors obviously are the poor cousin of even the best manufacturers. Usually you don’t see them, and that seems to be enough of a reason to provide only the cheapest ones.
But anybody with ears to listen can hear the difference, though it’s never spectacular. With a Gibson Les Paul or the like I prefer foil caps that give a much smoother sound than the ceramic caps provided. You can turn the tone control all the way down to produce the “woman tone”. Still it will sound good and present, while ceramic caps strangle the tone until it virtually disappears!
With a Fender Guitar, they say, you should use a ceramic cap, but one that’s much bigger than the cheap ones. It is called “Orange Dime”. But the really old Strats had foil capacitors, too. After trying one of them, I would never return to a ceramic cap. But that’s a thing you can argue about.
With the Jaguar it took me some time to find out the right items, though. As always, it was trial and error, and I had to change one capacitor’s value from 0.01 uF to 0.005, for instance. The result is amazing. There is a right-in-the-face Rock sound as well as a smooth Jazz sound, and so the Jaguar has become the most versatile guitar I ever played. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the “resonance strings”: they have their own, harp-like sound adding to the many possibilities of this guitar.
For those who want more information, there is a recent post on guitar caps here.
After a long time interruption this is the third and last installment of my little vernissage of Ismael Kamara’s paintings. This guitar looks to me like a freshly opened bottle of champagne!
At the end of the short piece of music here you hear sort of an echo. This was done by simply omitting the two main tracks of the recording. (I always have three tracks: two different microphones, and reverb on a separate track to make it easy to allot the proper amount of this effect).
Another guitar picture Ismael painted in collaboration with his son Salif was shown in lydian.
guitar & gear: ’67 Stratocaster, Vox AC 50, BSM treblebooster, tube reverb
Only a few days ago I rediscovered a very special vinyl long player in the basement. A former student of mine who had recorded his self-composed music on it had given it to me as a goodbye present about 15 (!) years ago. It’s title is “Psychedelic Underground”. Sounds pretty appropriate for this blog, doesn’t it? I didn’t really appreciate his gift then, not understanding its content and the effort it took to accomplish such a work.
As I don’t feature his music here in order to let my own ideas come through, I focus on the exceptional look of this record: did you know vinyl doesn’t have to come in black? This one has all the right colors on it, and I went some further by moving the camera around, thus creating a hypnotic and shaky effect…
guitar & gear: Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Vox ToneLab, Gerd Schulte Phaser, tube reverb
Another guitar painted by Ismael Kamara.
And at its side (to the right above) you see the “Shadow of John” watching over us.
The music is a longer piece, showing the qualities of the Vox AC 50 and a special mood I was in on April 29th…
guitar & gear: Gibson Les Paul Special, Vox AC 50, BSM treble booster, Tube Reverb
Welcome to my new home!
Here’s a new/old tune most of you will already know. A real hippie head-banger. Who can tell the name, the band, etc? I re-recorded it just for our mutual fun in four layers of first takes (you know, musicians are always proud of getting things done in first takes – in order to be first to the champagne or the buffet).
To further enhance the sixties’ feeling that is a constitutional matter of this blog, I’d like to share some exciting links I only found today. I was astonished to see that all the stuff I had discovered in my intense sixties-research is there in video! For most people watching facilitates the appreciation of the music.
So, please listen to some inhabitants of my Psychedelic Pantheon:
If you want to know my favorite out of these, it’s The Electric Prunes. There is an amazing (but kitschy) new artwork video attached to the music, which back then has been recorded without any visuals. Hope you enjoy it!
Ismael Kamara is an artist from Kongo living in Germany and a friend of mine. Whenever he comes to see me, he brings little pictures showing guitars which he just painted before. And every time he does so, I feel kind of overwhelmed by it. (It’s hard to accept he has done that just for me – maybe a stupid reaction). But then I proudly expose these works in my studio.
In order to thank and honor him, I’d like to show some of these pictures (in several installments) along with further improvisation. Another Link to Ismael’s pictures.
guitar & gear: ’67 Stratocaster, Vox ToneLab SE, Tube Reverb
It’s a bit unusual for this blog to have two posts published the same day. But this time around there are just too many things to tell.
First: Rufus is audible now. One more invitation goes out to you to join in and dance around the trunk with me.
Second: Elspeth has posted a new video yesterday. The second proof of a fruitful collaboration. It’s (about) magic. Oh, and it will take some time to load, maybe. At least it has been so with my computer.
Third: Another collaboration is on the way, including Susanne from creative.mother.thinking.
Forth: In this case, please don’t just look at the last post, as today there is also Volcanology!
This video is the first result of a collaboration between Elspeth Duncan, multimedia artist, and me. We are both posting it simultaneously on our respective blogs. I’d like to thank her for inviting me to take part in this. Her approach to art as well as to everyday life is an inspiration to every human with an open mind. Just go to the link above to see what I mean.
Isn’t it wonderful how the internet enables people to work together who are thousands of miles apart, located on different continents, and raised in different cultures?
I was amazed at how good the video matched the music (or vice versa), and I’d find it interesting to know about your reaction to it. What do you see? Which associations are coming up? And how would you name it?
Thanks for participating.