First Impressions: Mad Professor Amber Overdrive With Midas Touch

This photo is a close-up of my pedal board.

There are two pedals shown: the original Amber Drive, and the factory-modded Amber Drive with Midas Touch Mod.

The only visual way to tell the two pedals apart is the black 'CUSTOM' sticker that has been added below the footswitch on the modded pedal.

Apart from that, the two pedals look identical.

Both have 'Volume', 'Drive' and 'Tone' controls on the top, along with side jacks and a power jack next to the 'In' jack on the right-hand side of the pedal.
The Mad Professor Amber Overdrive with Midas Touch Mod, next to the original Amber Overdrive pedal.

I recently picked up a new (to me) factory-modded Amber Overdrive pedal, made by Mad Professor.

This is the third pedal in their Custom series that I’ve tried. I really enjoyed the first two. Will I enjoy this one as much? Read on for my First Impressions.

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First Impressions: Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK3 Finger Drumming Pad

AKA how to get the Native Instruments Maschine Mikro MK3 to play nice with Universal Audio’s LUNA DAW.

I recently bought a Maschine Mikro MK3, to use for percussion / finger drumming. Have I finally found something that suits me, or will the search be continuing? Read on for my First Impressions.

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#TweedTalk 2: First Impressions: Universal Audio Fender 55 Tweed Deluxe Amplifier Plugin

#TweedTalk is my occasional Tuesday column, where I talk about all things related to tweed amps and tweed-tone pedals.

In the recent Black Friday sales, I finally picked up Universal Audio’s Fender 55 Tweed Deluxe amp plugin to add to my collection of tweed tone options.

Is it going to get much use, or am I going straight back to the real amp? Here are my First Impressions.

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2021 Review: Resolutions From Last Year.

Last year (like an idiot) I posted a bunch of music-related New Year resolutions. Did I do any better than the year before? Let’s find out.

A Quick Recap

Here are my musical resolutions for 2021:

  • Revisit my old music, and start creating new recordings of it.
  • Put together a song-writing process, and practice it.
  • Find my confidence as a guitarist.

Yeah, about that …

I Did Revisit My Old Music

I’ve spent a lot of the year playing my old music, that’s for sure.

I’ve been practicing my Phase 1 material on acoustic guitar. I enjoyed the challenge a lot more than I expected. For the first time in my life, I’ve been able to play the whole of Ragged Perceptions in a single go. I can’t believe that I used to try and play that one with a pick. It’s much easier played finger-style.

I’ve struggled with the finger-picking on other, easier songs for sure. The other songs were written for one-finger-one-thumb finger-picking, and I keep finding myself tripping over my other fingers now that I regularly use them too. I’ll figure it out – I just need more practice.

Problem is, I’ve also been playing a lot of my Phase 3 material too. At the end of the day, I’m an electric rhythm guitarist who loves playing crunchy amps or pedals, and while musically the Phase 3 stuff is pretty naff and simplistic, there’s a lot of gratification to be had from how easy it is to just grab my electric guitar off its stand and play that stuff.

It’s definitely distracted me from focusing on the Phase 1 material, big time.

Nothing Got Recorded Though

It’s not just that nothing got recorded. Apart from a brief flurry of activity at the start of the year and then again over the Easter break, I haven’t even switched my studio gear on this year.

Okay, I’m not ready to record the Phase 1 material (which was my aim for 2021). But I’m not even recording anything.

Sigh.

Song-Writing Is Still Sat In The Garage

To use a racing car analogy, any attempt at song-writing never made it out onto the starting grid. It’s still sat in the garage, looking abandoned and forlorn.

I’ve got nothing to add to that.

Confidence As A Guitarist? Maybe That’s Not The Real Problem

While I definitely need to improve as a guitarist, I’m starting to feel that it’s actually musical confidence that I need the most.

As well as revisiting my old Phase 1 and Phase 3 material, I’ve also been listening to my old Phase 2 material. It’s experimental, it’s got themes and ideas, there’s progression with both individual songs and the material overall – all driven by one of those old dodgy Roland guitar synths that punished you with a horrible squeal if you even thought about playing a note anything but pristinely.

I’ve never written anything like it, before or since. Why? WHY?

That question haunts me, and makes me seriously wonder what on earth I’ve been doing musically these past 24 years. I know the answer: I’ve been having fun with my crunchy amps and pedals. Back when I wrote the Phase 1 & 2 material, I was limited to clean tones and unreliable (but hella fun) Roland guitar synths. I didn’t have the crutch of overdriven guitar.

When I got my first Les Paul in 2012, Kristi said that it was time that I started taking music more seriously. As always, Kristi is right.

I Survived 2021, But No More

Last year, I ended my post with “I would like to do more than just survive 2021 though.”

As we head into a more-uncertain 2022, I’m relieved that I managed that.

New Arrivals: December 2021

There were two pieces of second hand gear that I really wanted to try this month. Both are in stores some distance away. One is a (tweed!) amp that’s only available for collection, and the other is a guitar that I’ve no experience with (so I’d need to try a couple of other examples first to help me understand whether it’s a good example or not).

Unfortunately, the pandemic is back with a vengeance here on Plague Island, and we decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of infection just for a couple of pieces of guitar gear – no matter how nice they might be.

That left the private sales second hand market, where popular and interesting pieces are currently going for quite high prices. Too many buyers chasing too few items, I guess.

I did manage to pick up something though, and I had a blast with it.

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2021 Review: Gigging Gear

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what gear we started with and what gear we ended up with – along with a discussion of why.

Previous posts in this series: [2019][2020]

tl;dr

Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been a second year of no gigs and no rehearsals for us. 2022 was looking hopeful, but at the time of writing, we’re waiting to see what happens with the latest variants.

Decision Made: Goodbye Acoustasonic

Back in 2019, I sold my Taylor T5z, and picked up an Auden 45 Bowman to be my main gigging guitar, with my Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster as its backup. This year, I sold off the Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster too.

There were a couple of things that made this an easy decision:

  1. I kept struggling with the string tension on the Acoustasonic. I don’t know what it is about the Acoustasonic, but I’ve always found that the string tension felt high for its scale length. I ended up finding it much easier to play an actual acoustic guitar than one emulating one.
  2. At the start of the year, I picked up some new recording mics and did a straight head-to-head. Even with my lack of engineering skills, the mic’d up Auden sounded much better than the Acoustasonic did.

That’s not to say the Acoustasonic is a bad guitar. It isn’t. I’ve got a friend who plays one (hi Adam!) and he absolutely loves his. And, like the Taylor T5z before it, it was an important bridge guitar for me. The Acoustasonic enabled us to get out and gig, and help me realise what I want from an acoustic instrument.

Next Contestant: B&G Guitars Little Sister Crossroads

During the summer, before the Delta variant emerged, it was starting to look hopeful on the rehearsal and gigging front. That’s when I realised that I needed something to do what I used to use the Taylor T5z for.

The Taylor had been my main writing guitar for our little duo: loud enough to use unplugged, but quiet enough that I could work on arrangements well into the small hours without disturbing anyone at all. After I sold it in 2019, we started writing the arrangements together during our weekly rehearsals instead. Arguably a good move, just one that didn’t work once we couldn’t rehearse together.

Mid-2021, with the success of the vaccination programme, it was looking hopeful that we’d be able to get back to live music in 2022. It was too soon to start rehearsals again, but we did start talking about which songs we’d like to add to our set list. We agreed that I’d start learning to play the songs, so that I could start working on new arrangements for them.

As much as I love my Les Paul, it’s not the right guitar for me for this kind of thing. So I picked up a B&G Little Sister P90 Crossroads to do this on.

I’ll write up a short-term review of the guitar in the new year.

My Next Backup Guitar?

Once we’re back out gigging, we want to land more decent-length slots. We did a 30 minute opening slot for Ariana Spina in April 2019, and it gave us a taste for more. I’m going to need a backup guitar for those. There’s no way I’m comfortable doing a ticketed gig with just one instrument to hand.

I need to spend time with Merrang! to see if she’ll work as a backup guitar. I honestly doubt it – P90s into an acoustic amp?

Another possibility is Vox’s new Giulietta range. Kristi bought one this year, and my first impressions are that I’d happily gig one. Again, I need to spend time with one to help me decide (probably need to try a full rehearsal with one).

Any Plans For 2022?

I’ve no idea if we’ll be able to safely rehearse or gig in 2022.

I really hope that we can. My week used to be built around our music, and I’m missing that just as much today as I was at the start of the pandemic.

Just in case, I’m going to continue picking up the bits and pieces I need to build a pedal board for my acoustic guitar. I’m up to three items: Fender Smoulder Acoustic Drive, LR Baggs Align Session and Reverb pedals. I want to pick up the other pedals in the LR Baggs Align series, especially the Active DI and EQ pedals.