Dulltown, UK: Today’s unusual pencil sharpener is the one shaped like the end of a bad dream.
So, guitar amplifiers – have you ever wondered what all the shiny knobs at the top on the front do? It usually says on them, or above them, or below them, things like: ‘gain’, ‘dist’, ‘volume’, ‘bass’, ‘middle’, ‘treble, ‘tremolo or vibrato’ and occasionally ‘presence’. I do like the sound of that last one.
The knob is really just another treble control that adds some extra highs in the frequencies – I wonder who first thought of naming it ‘presence’? Perhaps they thought that it made the instrument sound ‘nearer’ to you, more present – that’s what I always assumed it meant. Hm… generally something is either present, or it isn’t; but I quite like the idea of having a knob that controls the amount of it – sort of ‘not in the room at all’, through ‘just lurking in the doorway’, up to ‘here I am right in front of you, in yer face’.
I suppose the opposite of ‘presence’ might be the knobs usually placed on the far right of the panel – the ‘reverb’ knobs; they add reverberation to your sound and produce an effect like playing in a large room or even an echoing hall; it really is nice, and is also very flattering to your playing. By the way, when uncouth people (musicians) mention reverb they usually pronounce it as RE-verb – hm, this annoys me! I always say reVERB as it is short for reVERBeration. (It’s a bit like people pronouncing the word research as RE-search because they think it sounds cooler and more American.) I mean, you wouldn’t say RE-verberation would you? Oh, but maybe you would…
But let’s go back to knob talk – I like knobs. I fancy making, well not actually making, perhaps adapting an amplifier by carefully putting new words on the knobs – rather like they did in that fine film This is Spinal Tap (1984) where all the knobs go up to 11 rather than the usual 10 – oh, how we laughed!
No, the knobs on my special amplifier would be there to adjust: ’emotion’, ‘irony’, ‘humour’, ‘passion’, ‘sensitivity’, taste’, and ‘expression’. What do you think?
‘You know that bit where you do your second long solo in It Hurts Me Too?’
‘Yes, what about it?’
‘Could you put a bit more into it? It’s sounding a bit limp and insubstantial…’
‘Oh?… Is it?… I hadn’t spotted that.’
‘Well it is…’
‘Okay, I’ll turn the ‘irony’ knob on the amp down to 2, and stick the ‘passion’ and ’emotion’ up to 8 or 9… Alright?’
‘Yeah, that should do it… Let’s run through the bloody thing one more time… Wake up everybody… One, two, three…’