Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Back In The Saddle

Might as well start off with how sweet it was to play a gig once more. Rob Moorman and Company jumped back into action at the Brazos Valley Brewery here in Brenham to a very responsive and appreciative crowd. Very apparent that people are more than ready to get out of the house and support the live music scene again. The venue limited the tables available and customers to a table and had employees wiping down chairs and table tops. Hand sanitizer sat by the entrance. Lots of people sat at picnic tables just outside the entrance. Very, very few people wore masks. Just the absolute joy of playing our music again overcame any trepidation I felt at the beginning of the night. If the virus doesn't sneak up on me, we'll do it again at one of our frequently played venues, Home Sweet Farm, this coming Friday (June 12). And, by the way, our bass player, Andy Chiles' and his wife Sandy's band Tailgate Poets with Charlie Kelm on guitar will at the Brewery on Sunday.

We christened the Brewery's new Tap Room, where they keep something like 15 or 20 of their brews on tap behind the bar. The room seems to be about 40 feet long (maybe) and 20 feet wide and a 15 foot or higher ceiling. We sat up at one end with a rolling glass door at our back and another one stage right. I assume they'll open those up during nicer weather than the 90+ degrees hitting us. Such a situation could pose a problem acoustically, but I think the sound was surprisingly good. Rob's Bose p.a. system has yet to meet a room it can't whip. The same for Jason Moorman's guitar rig. He can adjust it to slay any situation and Andy Chiles has a new bass rig that is absolutely killer, weighs less than my Princeton and has a righteous thump. We kicked butt, if I do say so myself.

For my harp buddies: I took a chance and took my 68 Custom Princeton Reverb, hoping I could turn it up to a decent tonal volume. It was perfect for the room. I made some tube swaps that seemed to give the amp a creamier tone and a little more sag. Nothing wrong with my set up before, just a bit smoother. Not that anyone but me notices.

I might have mentioned before that I bought the amp a couple of years ago based on David Barrett's review of it on his website. I paid the subscription price just to read his review of small amps, which was worth the money for the couple of months that I decided to utilize it. The tons of information that one of the most knowledgeable harp instructors lays down is amazing. Anyway, after getting the amp I swapped tubes around quite a bit and settled on some of his review suggestions. The one that bothered me was swapping a 5u4 rectifier for the 5ar4 rectifier that the amp came with, given the 5u4 draws more current and could be detrimental to the transformer. I did try it, but it seem to gut the tone, so I kept the 5ar4 in. I settled on a 12at7 in the V1 preamp position and left everything else stock. Played many a gig with this setup. The amp seemed to really bloom once the speaker broke in, which seem to take longer than I expected.

NOW...back to David Barrett. I spent a couple of months combing through his website back then and then decided to cancel. THEN...during this quarantine period, I decided to polish my tongue blocking skills a bit more and no one teaches it better than Barrett, so I resubscribed and began delving a little deeper into what was available. Gary Smith, who taught Barrett a thing or two early on about tongue blocking and has tone to die for, is one of the contributors. I clicked on his contributions, which are extensive, and noticed several vid links regarding tube swapping. Clicking on a link revealed that they were using the 68 Custom Princeton Reverb on which to experiment with rectifiers, preamp, and power tubes. At the end, a 5u4 rectifier, a 12au7 in the phase inverter slot and a 5751 in V1 impressed them the most.

As I mentioned earlier, I was not impressed with the 5u4 rectifier and actually bought a Weber Copper Cap version to keep current draw in line to try out. Still didn't like it until I tried the combo Gary and David used mentioned above. Suddenly, the amp tone that they were illustrating, with a bit more sag and slightly smoother sound, came through in my amp. My thinking is that it all lies in the phase inverter tube being swapped from 12ax7 to 12au7 allowed the different rectifier to perform better than before and without the gutless tone I heard prior. I do not know how lowering that tube did that trick, but I do like the sound. I'd tried a 5751 in V1 before that seemed to gainy for me and I think the phase inverter swap is key to that tube working sweeter also. THAT said, I can see where going back with the 5ar7 in a louder band environment might be necessary. That's not us, though. Next gig will be outdoors, and I'll see how well the current setup will work.

Alright. I have more on my mind. I've said enough. I'll get back to Shoji Naito's Westmount to Chicago cd next time. Maybe. In the mean time, maybe I'll see you at Home Sweet Farm on Friday. 'Nuff for Now.

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