It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week since we launched the Secret Room site. Hundreds and hundreds of guitarists and bassists have posted cool tone tips. Thanks to all those who’ve been generous enough to share their secrets. I can’t believe how many helpful and inspiring ideas we’ve been privileged to post. I’m confident the site will evolve into a fabulous resource for musicians. In fact, it already has!
I’d like to share a my few of my favorite secrets so far:
If Your Amp Is Too Loud, Even at Low Volume
By John Perry
If your tube amp is way loud right from the jump, and if the preamp tubes are 12AX7s, replace the first tube with a 12AT7 or 12UT7. The gain factors are lower on these tubes and will ease the “zero to LOUD” syndrome.
The Art of Pick Height Adjustment
You can change the tone of your guitar quite significantly by simply adjusting your pickups and pole pieces. This trick can save you a lot of money on unnecessary aftermarket pickups. The basis of it is this:
1) Pickup height controls tone. Lower = thinner, brighter, less muddy, and vice-versa for going higher.
2) Polepiece screw height controls volume without greatly affecting tone.
Therefore, if you have a pickup that lacks clarity and top end, lower it until the tone is to your liking, then raise the pole pieces to get your volume back. You can also do the opposite if you have a pickup that you think is too bright and thin. I have saved many a terrible-sounding pickup this way, even the super-hot ceramic shredder Gibson humbuckers that I have always hated so much. Don’t be afraid to go as low as your height adjustment screws will let you. You can use the trick on any pickup that it both height-adjustable and has screw pole pieces. You can use half of the trick on pickups with magnets for polepieces. You can thin them or thicken them by changing the pickup height, but you cannot make volume adjustments afterward, like you can with humbuckers or P-90s.
The $4 Tremolo Stopper
Got a floating Floyd Rose bridge, and want to be able to switch between dive-only and floating? Sure, there are plenty of devices in the guitar market to achieve this in various ways, but they can get pretty pricey for what they are. I may have found a great cheap solution that you may already see around your home doing something completely different:
That’s right, the humble little barrel bolt, like you might have on a toilet or bathroom door. This little 38mm model is just the right size for the job. Extend the bolt to the “locked” position and sit it in your tremolo spring cavity, just touching the sustain block without pushing it. Line it up parallel to the cavity, and get a drill with a 2 or 3mm drill bit. Drill a slight indentation in one of the screw holes of the barrel bolt, and then screw one of the provided screws into the indentation with the appropriate Phillips-head screwdriver. Keep the barrel-bolt parallel and do the same procedure for the rest of the screw holes. Tighten them all up by hand so they are nice and secure, and there you have it!
With the barrel-bolt in the “locked” position, your tremolo will be dive-only, perfect for drop-D tuning with an EVH D-Tuna, if you have one.
In the “unlocked” position your tremolo will be floating, ready for all those Steve Vai cricket chirps and Dimebag squeals. I have experienced no rattle from the barrel-bolt I installed, and switching between dive-only and floating is a breeze!
The Kyser Capo Trick
If you put a Kyser capo on the neck from the “wrong” side, you can clamp the highest five strings and leave the low E open to get a nice deep note to go with your higher chords. Similar to drop tuning the low E but without having to detune it.
Knock on Wood
By Felix A
It’s something I learn from Steve Vai (the greatest): If you knock on guitars’ neck and body and the knocks “sound” in unison or other perfect intervals, that specific guitar has better sustain. I was amazed to test it and find out it’s true!
Poker Chip Strap Lock
I drill a hole thru the center of a poker chip and use it as a strap lock. It’s cool-looking,cheap, and works great.
It’s been fun and fascinating getting insight into the techniques of so many guitarist in so many different styles — but it’ll be even better if you join in. Please do.