Posts Tagged ‘Mark IV’

New Gear :: Chicken Picks

Chicken Picks

There are tons of articles online and in magazines about the unexpectedly pronounced tonal revelation that occurs when switching picks, and how marked the change in your sound can be by simply switching to a different shape or weight or material. Tonal transformation for 50p. It’s a point that’s been made many times, which does nothing to dilute its legitimacy – changing your pick really is an easy win if you’re looking to change your tone for next to no cash.

So this could be another one of those ‘OMG new pick, total tonal epiphany’ posts, but there’s already plenty of those around, and I actually think it’s a little bit deeper than that.

The pick in question is the Chicken Pick, which just came into stock at Strings Direct. I ordered a ‘tester pack’, which is a tenner, and comes with one each of the 2.6mm and 2.2mm thicknesses. First of all, it’s a great pick, very nicely made, and comfortable to hold. The thickness of the pick belies the ease with which it sits in your hands – I normally find thick picks to be a bit unwieldy, and my previous squeeze, the Dunlop Nylon 1MM, was the thickest pick I found comfortable until now. And it improves your tone as well, which is an important thing to mention in the field of plectrum hagiography.

I was thinking about recording a couple of comparison audio clips for this post, which is when the actual difference between this and other picks dawned on me – I’m actually playing better. It reminds me of the review excerpt touted by Mesa/Boogie on the advertising literature for the Mark IV:

“You know how a great instrument can make you play over your head? The Mark IV gave us this transcendental experience.” Andy Ellis – Guitar Player – May 1991

It’s the same deal. With a thicker pick, like this one, you really have to step up to keep it under control. If you try and play with limp fingers, you get nothing out of it – zero forgiveness. But in the same way as playing thicker strings makes things a bit more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding, the Chicken Pick repays the extra effort required in buckets. I’ve always known the guitar sounds better when you’re really trying, and hitting the strings at full force (literally the first lesson on my first day of music college), but for whatever reason it’s easy to get lazy when you’re playing, which is something I am regularly and supremely guilty of.

The Chicken Pick  is fundamentally incompatible with lazy playing, and for that reason it has already shifted itself to be my regular pick.

TL; DR – the advantage is 20% pick, 80% psychological. It perversely plays to weaknesses rather than strengths, and is all the better for it. I’m hooked.

No Longer For Sale :: !!

The response to my recent gear sale was really positive, and I thank everyone who got in touch with enquiries about the amps, pedals, and guitars that I had for sale. Amazing how many people from around the world came across my little clear out!

Anyway, my apologies for not posting this sooner – May entailed the small matters of finishing my degree, and starting a new job, so I was unable to get the time to update the site – the original batch of gear has been sold. So, if you’re after the Jazz Chorus, Princeton, Mark IV, Mark IIB, Esprit, Poly Chorus, Small Stone, StarTouch ABY, Cry Baby, or any of the other myriad pieces of kit I had available, they’ve all gone!

Having sold all this gear, I’ve been flush with cash, which I’ve already sunk into more gear. Build pics for my new rig will be forthcoming. Additionally, there are a few ‘experimental’ bits that I’ll likely be selling on if they don’t gel with my new rig.

Thanks for all your enquiries!

For Sale :: Mesa/Boogie Mark IV B

Mesa/Boogie Mark IV 1×12 combo. Awesome amplifier with more features than almost anything else out there; supremely versatile, and exquisitely built. Electro-Voice EVM12L speaker.

I’ve had this amp for the best part of 10 years, and it’s in beautiful condition. Comes with the FU-3 foot switch and original slip cover.

£1050 ono. Email [redacted] No longer for sale, enjoy the pictures!

20120429-133812.jpg

20120429-133820.jpg

20120429-133827.jpg

20120429-133838.jpg

20120429-133850.jpg

20120429-133857.jpg

20120429-133903.jpg

Tone :: My Mark IV & Me

With so much programming required for my current project, I’ve been at my desk pretty much non-stop recently. That means basking in the glow of up to four screens at a time, which has started to occasionally induce headaches, eye strain etc… – symptoms of computer vision syndrome, a kind of studio tan for your eyes and brain.

I always have an amp by my desk for practice and warmup exercises, but in an effort to tempt myself away from working I’ve shelved my trusty Roland JC-50, and replaced it with the amp I bought with a year of shelf stacking money when I was 15 years old – my Mark IV Mesa/Boogie.

This amp provokes thought more than any other. I’ve had it for the best part of a decade, and played it just about every day through school and when I was at music college. I’ve played it with Strats, SGs, my Squier Esprit (in the picture above), and most of all Telecasters. I’ve played it with meters long pedal boards, in stereo rigs, and simply jacked into the front. When I played gigs in my teens, this was the amp that came with me.

Playing the Mark IV this evening, I wasn’t quite happy with my tone on any of the channels. Yes it’s a stadium amp, with more headroom than basically anything else out there, but I know from experience that it can kill at low volume too. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling it this evening. Any tweaking session on this thing is at least a half hour tonal excursion, but spending time with my eyes off the screen is the aim of the game here so I dived right into it, and for about the millionth time I ended up in the same spot – T/M/B @ 7/4/4, gains at 7-8, lead drive at 8. Slightly scooped 750, edge off 6.6k, and a boost on 80 & 240.

How much of my life have I already spent tweaking this amp?!

The thing is, it always ends up sounding awesome. But next time I plug in, it’s just not going to feel quite there.

I love tweaking amp settings, so I’m cool with that aspect, and I do love the tones it spits out. Maybe it’s just that I know there are some real solid gold tones in there that makes it so frustrating. I’m so conscious of the fact that whatever tone I can get dialled in is, say, 85% as good as I’ve heard it at its best. For a 1 channel amp, 85% of a Boogie at its peak is still a cut above. But take that 85% times 3 channels and you get the niggling sense of ever-so-slight disappointment I feel every time I plug in.

I’ve had it crunch and sing like nothing else, and cleans which would kick the ass of a Twin (seriously). But in nearly 10 years I’ve never been able to get all three kicking in sync, and there’s a frustration that I’ve absolutely nailed how to get the amp sounding nearly as good as it can, but never achieved perfection.

As an aside, I could write for days about every aspect of the Mark IV that makes it the most powerful and versatile amp I’ve ever owned, and there’s no doubt that it’s my ‘desert island amp’…but damn! I feel like really mastering it it requires an approach that borders on the academic, so this can be considered as ‘entry one’ in the logbook of my quest to own the amp I’ve owned for so many years.