Let’s take another quick look at one of the ultimate classic guitar tones, a sound Eric Clapton once described as “Woman Tone.” We’ll spare you the history of the band, but if you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.
As part of their farewell concert, Clapton gave an interview where he described exactly how to get this sound. In his own words, either “by using the bass pickup, or the lead pickup but with all the bass off…on the tone control. Turn it down to one or ‘oh.'” Watch and learn from the man himself.
If you’re lucky enough to have an SG, Epiphone or otherwise, that will help. But a Strat can certainly come close when using the same pickup strategy. The elements are simple enough, we’ve lined up the perfect combination in AmpStamp:
VG402B Amplifier set to use the Normal channel
VG 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet
AMB400 Plate Reverb
For the rhythm tone, set the amp to direct output, bypassing the cabinet altogether. It’s likely this was done with the amp or a pedal, but you’ll instantly hear the clarity and top end that Clapton gets from his guitar. For the lead tone, use the neck pickup, or the bridge pickup with the tone down to zero, or to taste. You can’t miss this epic sound. Enjoy!
Let’s take a quick look at one of the ultimate classic guitar tones, the one and only Brian May of Queen. We’ll spare you the history of the band, but if you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.
In a rare moment for this business, Brian actually cut a near 30 minute video back in 1983 detailing how he achieved his now legendary sound. If you have the time, we highly recommend watching it.
Here are a few key points that we gleaned from watching the master at work:
uses AC30’s without Top Boost, can achieve a similar tone by playing through the Normal channel
starts with a really woolly tone and refines it using a Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster
plays with a metal pick
adds a chorus pedal using two or more amplifiers for true stereo operation
also adds a delay pedal panning repeats to opposite amplifiers
Oh right, and Brian’s guitar is obviously a one-of-a-kind! But that’s OK. We’ve lined up a few of the required elements in AmpStamp:
VG302E Amplifier set to use the Normal channel
EQ100 Treble Boost
VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet for rhythm tones
VG 2x12C 30W ’67 Cabinet for lead tones
Disable the boost for mellow cleans, tap into solo mode for blistering leads, and enable echo to bring in other-worldly harmonies while soloing. This preset has you covered for all occasions. We’ve also added room ambience to capture the studio sound found on recordings of rock bands during the mid-’70’s. But enough talking for now, check out how it sounds!
Welcome to the first installment of our Classic Sounds series. In this edition we are going to touch upon the history of products that first implemented the effect known as phase shifting and how you can achieve similar sounds with the Digital Filter.
Traditional phase shifting is accomplished by passing an input signal through a set of All-Pass filters in series and then summing the output with the original input. All-Pass filters do not attenuate the input but like Low- and High- Pass filters, they shift the phase of specific frequencies. Wherever the output is inverted or 180 degrees out of phase with the input signal, a notch will occur in the frequency spectrum. Modulating the corner frequency of these notches creates the effect we know as phase shifting. With two All-Pass filter stages in series, we expect one notch to be created at the corner frequency. As we increase the number of stages by 2*n, we can expect to add n more notches.
1968: Breaking New Ground
The first popular effect to make use of phase shifting was the UniVibe (Shin-ei). Released in 1968, this circuit design is the most unique of the products we considered. This effect has four filter stages but is not typical in that each stage is tuned differently. Furthermore, the signal used to modulate the filters is not a standard waveform. This was due to the use of light-dependent resistors (LDRs) and the associated limitations with turning the light source on and off.
Though three years later, Maestro is credited with releasing the first official phase shifter, the PS-1 (1971). This effect has six stages and uses field effect transistors for variable resistance to modulate the filters. Musitronics (Mu-Tron) was inspired by this design and created the Phasor (1972), built with Operational Transconductance Amplifiers (OTAs) which eliminate the need for FETs as they can be directly modulated via bias input.
1974: Year of the Phaser
The next most popular effect is the Phase 90 (MXR). Released in 1974 with just one knob, a product for musicians couldn’t get any simpler. This effect has four stages and later introduced an internal feedback resistor which added a mild distortion and increased filter resonance. MXR also released the Phase 45 (2-stage) and the Phase 100 (10-stage). The Phase 100 had a few additional features including applying modulation to a subset of the filter stages.
In the same year, Mu-Tron released the Bi-Phase (1974), a configurable series/parallel combination of two six-stage filter banks. Each modulation source is selectable between sine and square waveforms and can be synchronized.
Also in that year Electro-Harmonix released the Small Stone (1974). This effect has four stages and was technically the first to introduce feedback, controllable by a switch. Electro-Harmonix then released the Bad Stone (1975), revised from an earlier design. This effect has six stages, a dedicated feedback control, and a manual-mode with dedicated control of corner frequency.
1979-Present: Coming Up To Date
Later, A/DA released the Final Phase (1979), with six stages and steeper notches for a more pronounced effect. The Final Phase had an additional feature that added a second low(er) frequency oscillator to create more complex modulation schemes similar in concept to the Bi-Phase.
Fast forward to modern times and the release of the Moogerfooger MF-103 (1999), a selectable 6/12-stage filter, and the Boss PH-3 (2000) a selectable 4/8/10/12-stage filter with additional features including rise/fall and step modulation, and that sums up the history of phase shifting as we know it.
Not so fast, with the growing interest in Eurorack Modular gear, it’s worth mentioning Pittsburgh Modular and the release of their Phase Shifter (2014). This effect has sixteen stages and brings the experimental nature of modular synthesis along with it, providing custom ins and outs, switchable changes in configuration, and multiple taps.
Though the Digital Filter is not a phase shifter by design, we were able to overcome these limitations by combining the output of both HP and LP filters. There was enough difference in phase to generate notches or cancellations at the appropriate locations in the frequency spectrum when summed with the original signal.
We built up a set of patches based on classic designs, including the unmistakable sound of the UniVibe, the dual configuration of the Bi-Phase, and the simple but effective Phase 90. The intent is that this is a starting point for experimentation. We hope you find something useful and inspiring.