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Author Topic:  From thin and harsh to thick and muddy
Nick Waugh


From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2019 6:19 pm    
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Hi All

I never thought I would be writing with this problem. I have been playing pedal steel for 12 years now and have been dogged to the point of wanting to give due to a thin harsh sound. You may be familiar with my numerous messages looking for a solution. I have been through many pickups to try and sort out this problem. Finally I installed a Bill Laurence 705 and it seemed my troubles were over. It is a thick warm sound. But now I realise I have lost the sparkle. My band used to claim my sound cut through too much. Now they are complaining that it doesn't cut through enough. I have to play almost over the bridge to get any kind of definition, whereas I used to do the opposite. Please don't go down the 'it's all in your right hand' route. it is not my right hand that made it too thin then too thick. On the advice of a member of this forum I am considering trying out a George L's e66. I started out with a George L's 10-1 and it was the worst of all the pick ups I have tried - thin and toneless. I have tried a tonealigner - a Lace Alumitone - a Wallace true tone.

Any suggestions on this? Anyone else stuggled with tone/sound problems?
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Kevin Fix

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2019 6:50 pm    
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Almost 40 years here. Go back to the basics. Been playing Sho Buds almost 40 years now. I remember 20 some years ago doing the P/U thing as you are now. Best sound to this day is the OEM P/U's in my Super Pro. I use no affects other than a Steel Guitar Black Box going through a Nashville 112. Where your amp is on stage behind you makes a world of difference where you place it in regards to your ears. I know my right hand plays into it also. What kind of amp are you using? Do you have metal or wood necks? Stainless or nickel wound strings? Your Amp settings?
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Michael Johnstone


From:
Sylmar,Ca. USA
Post  Posted 13 Nov 2019 10:18 pm    
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If your amp has parametric midrange controls (sweep & cut/boost)like Peavey steel amps do,dig around in there. That's where good steel tone lives. A lot of times if you cut a couple dB at around 2K and then bring up your bass,treble and presence till things are well balanced,thats a start. Of course the other thing could be that when your hearing starts to deteriorate,the first thing to go is your high end perception. So you'll compensate by adding more high end over time and others will start telling you your sound is shrill. Funny how that works.
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Dick Wood


From:
Springtown Texas, USA
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2019 6:48 am    
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Tell us about your amp and settings you're using. It looks like your playing a Carter but the picture isn't very clear.If it is, I had the best tone using an XR-16.
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Thomas Sabatini

 

From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2019 8:31 am    
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An EQ pedal is your best friend. Upper mids are where guitars sit in a mix. Most amps don't allow you to cut at 5k, boost at 1.5k, cut at 600, bump at 285, and roll off at 110, or so whatever you need.

On six-strings, EQs stopped me from endlessly changing fuzz pedals and amps looking for the right combo. Now with a Carter PSG, I can use my existing rig for bright "classic" tones or fatter tones, or pretty much whatever.

Pick your dirt for its gain stricture, use the amp you have, and shape the tone with EQ.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2019 11:39 am    
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Nick, if you feed your amp from an alternative source such as a personal stereo, how does it sound?
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Len Amaral

 

From:
Rehoboth,MA 02769
Post  Posted 14 Nov 2019 1:51 pm    
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I put an EQ pedal in the send/return jacks and it widened the tonal range. Good to have a buddy moving the sliders up and down as it makes dialing in a tone easier.
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Jim Pitman

 

From:
Waterbury Ctr. VT 05677 USA
Post  Posted 15 Nov 2019 12:23 pm    
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It may be your guitar - I fought the same thing for years. Have you ever tried out another brand?
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Johnny Cox

 

From:
Lives in Hallettsville Texas
Post  Posted 15 Nov 2019 1:16 pm    
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You may just need to find a new band. Sounds like they are trying to play your instrument for you. Get the sound you like.
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Johnny "Dumplin" Cox
"YANKIN' STRINGS & STOMPIN' PEDALS" since 1967.
Sho-Bud and MSA pedal steels. Telonics,Quilter and Sho-Bud amplifiers and volume pedals.
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Gene Tani

 

From:
The Pacific NW,
Post  Posted 15 Nov 2019 8:04 pm    
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I have/had 3 of those pups in my steels (e66, Alumitone, Truetone), they all sound good, especially, ahem, the last 2.

Can't really respond without info on what's your gear flow, maybe you previously posted

steel > VP and stompboxes> rack> amp?

could be a few things not optimal but adding up: pickup height, caps/pots in the steel if any, need a buffer like matchbox/Freeloader, amp bias etc

Or Johnny C's simple explanation: how do your bandmates sound to you?
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Last edited by Gene Tani on 16 Nov 2019 5:30 am; edited 1 time in total
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 15 Nov 2019 10:59 pm     Re: From thin and harsh to thick and muddy
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Nick Waugh wrote:
Hi All
Anyone else stuggled with tone/sound problems?

Naaahhh....

Seriously, your tone is probably there in your amp. Set aside a day for twiddling the knobs on it. You’ll find it.

Quote:
I put an EQ pedal in the send/return jacks

Please explain the principle behind putting the eq in the loop rather than in front of the amp, Len?
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Tommy Shown

 

From:
Denham Springs, La.
Post  Posted 21 Nov 2019 12:36 pm    
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I know my response is going to be the same as everyone else's, but here goes. Got to the EQ section on your amp. Do the easy stuff first before spending money on various pickups
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Dan Beller-McKenna


From:
Durham, New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 21 Nov 2019 1:13 pm    
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Nick, it may be even more basic than the amp settings. Where do you sit in relation to your amp? I find that my amps, even my favorite ones, sound radically different simply by where they are aimed in relation to me. Dial in some suggested settings (which are just a very subjective place to start), then have someone move the amp around a little: angled up or down; raised (on a chair or such); pointed towards you, away from you; etc. You might find that the tone you want is "there"; it's just not getting to your ears.

By the same token, some rooms sound better than others. I have a dedicated music room in my house. It's great for band rehearsals, and small choral groups (for my wife). But I cannot get any pedal steel or with any amp to sound "right" in that room. (Tragically ironic, for a music room: right?)

This might yield something, or it might not. But it's a relatively quick and easy test.
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Craig A Davidson


From:
Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin USA
Post  Posted 21 Nov 2019 1:15 pm    
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If you thought a 10-1 was thin don't even bother with an E-66. What is your amp?
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 21 Nov 2019 3:50 pm    
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I'm with almost everyone else here - it's not your pickup. I'd suggest, as others have, playing someone else's guitar and see how it sounds to you. If you have doubts about my statement, go to this thread and follow it and listen to the audio files comparing various pickups on the same guitar - you will see there is very little difference between them - nothing like you describe:

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=248049&highlight=

There are many things that impact the tone you hear out of the speaker besides the pickup. Let's start at the pickup and go through them:

The wiring on the guitar - I'd re-solder any connections you have on the guitar. Also, make sure the ground on the pup is still well grounded. If possible, I'd check resistance on all the wires - maybe there is a wire that is partially frayed somewhere along it's length? Since you've changed pups many times, it's probably not the pup wiring, but any other wires, switches, tone controls, and the final output jack on the guitar are all suspects.

Buffer - if you don't use a buffer, see if you can borrow one to try - sometimes a buffer can make a huge difference in a dark, muddy tone. But I suspect there is more to it than just that - may people don't use them and sound fine. And, obviously, if you DO use a buffer, remove it and see if the problem goes away.

Your instrument cables - they can make a huge difference. If you have cheapo cables, contact Bill Furguson and buy some parts or finished George L cables (Erv Niehaus and maybe others sell quality cables as well - I'm just personally familiar with the George L and Bill's quality service). Many would be surprised how much better they sound with quality cables.

Volume pedal - old pot? Questionable internal wiring? Easy to check - bypass it and play without out it - is it the same, or totally different? Do the same with any effects you use.

The amp - whole books have been written here on the forum about amps and tone. But again, easy to check - try a different amp. I'm assuming you've spun the dials trying to get a good tone and can't - get a different amp and see.

Speaker cable - make sure it IS speaker cable - they are different from instrument cables and NOT interchangeable! Try a different speaker (although using a different amp possibly already did this?).

If none of this answers your questions, then sad to say the only thing left is you. Have another steel player play your rig and see how it sounds.
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One with pedals, one without, and one with a resonator. And happy with what I've got.
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