PJ Bass Wiring Mods

Today I was back at the iron for the first time in a couple months, it seems, wiring in some modifications to my Fender Squier P-J Bass.

I wanted to try wiring the pickups in series, and figured I might as well do other stuff while I was in there, so I also added mods to put the pickups out of phase with each other, and a different tone capacitor.  The diagram is below.

Image adjusted to make it easier to read, in case you’re trying to do that

First off, I had the wrong value potentiometers (I used them anyway, but may switch them out for the correct values some other time).  The stock pots were 500KA for the neck volume, 500KB (not sure why linear taper) for the bridge volume, and 500KA for the tone.  I had 250KA for all (based on Seymour Duncan’s “P-J BASS, 1 VOLUME, 1 BLEND, 1 TONE” schematic).

Next, the volume controls were wired with the hot input from the pickup to lug 2 and the output on lug 3, instead of the opposite (which I think of as “normal”).  I followed the stock wiring, against my plan (I updated the drawing), but I may switch it to normal (hot in to lug 3, out from lug 2).

I used DPDT push-pull pots for all three controls; in all cases down is the stock wiring, and up is my mod.

The neck pickup volume control, when pulled out, puts the pickups in series.  This results in an overall volume boost and a tone closer to the neck pickup’s sound than the bridge’s tone.  It’s a great sound, and worth doing the mods just for this.

Pulled, the bridge volume control puts the pickups out of phase with each other.  It’s a thin, edge-y sound, not something I’d probably use a lot but maybe cool for overdubs, specific song sections, or if I ever start a post-punk band.

The tone control pulled engages a 33nF tone capacitor, instead of the stock 68nF.  This raises the cutoff frequency of the low-pass filter, retaining more treble, and it seems musically useful all the way down to its minimum setting.  (The minimum setting on the stock cap is way too bassy for any use I can think of.)

Overall I’d highly recommend the pickups-in-series mod, and straight up changing the tone cap to 33nF if not making it switchable.

I’m going to get some kind of black pickguard.  Maybe after that’s in, I’ll do a demo video of the wiring mods.

h&s Pseudo-Live Blogging

Scott recorded a bunch of sax the other weekend; it felt like more sax-per-minute than anything we’ve done previously, so i decided to revisit near and far, comets, signs, and the b-sides to see if that impression was accurate.  Here are my notes.

near and far

  • Through “Nexus” sax has only appeared twice, I think; “Well” (a long, really good solo after “Cornerstone”) and the pop solo in “Fourbee.”  This might have been a function of time; we tracked and mixed in 4 days, with a second round of mixes later, and they weren’t long days
  • “The Broken Anger” – I’d forgotten about the vocal processing in the outro.  Hearing it makes me feel better about some of the studio production trickery planned for V for Voice, like it’s not a new thing
  • At the time we recorded this I definitely thought just playing cool chord progressions (no lead voice) was interesting.  I’ve learned to put more sounds over those; the ear needs a hook to guide it along
  • I’ve unintentionally re-created some of the tracklisting flow of near and far on V for Voice; a down-the-middle opener, then a strummy follow-up, rocker at #3, experiments in the back half… for V we moved the genre exercise to the b-sides at least
  • It would appear from iTunes I haven’t listened to near and far in its entirety since 2010, at least.  That’s about halfway between its release and today
  • Interesting choice on the final note of “Constellations,” had forgotten that
  • The chorus effect on “Staircase” and “Under My Protection” makes interesting bookends to the record.  I don’t recall that being intentional
  • <Egregious drum jam>

comets

  • The intro to “Wait… You’re Where?” marks a huge stylistic shift, bigger than I remembered, especially going straight into it after “Under My Protection.”  I wonder if that’s how people heard it at the time
  • Much more interesting dynamics and textures here, though the songs still might benefit from some lead lines (“The Bridge” has some and sounds better for them, for example)
  • The musical ideas are holding up for me – there’s a palpable jump in excitement and interest from near and far (nothing against it) – and part of me wishes we’d had the time/money/experience/knowledge to execute the technical aspects of these records better and present them in more direct, even light
  • Five songs into comets, I think the only sax has been in “Major & Minor.”  There’s been lots of cool Scott drumming though
  • Listening to all the GK bass on comets, I realize for the first time that V for Voice will be the first time we actually use a real bass guitar
  • I’ve probably said it elsewhere but Scott deserves major credit for performing these songs as he learned them.  On many tunes, when we’d sit down to start recording, he might have heard a rough idea at practice months earlier, the guitars would have already been recorded to a click, and he hadn’t had much or any time to just practice drums and build his chops.  That all adds up to a really tough situation to drum in
  • Pretty decent Who’s Next tribute on “What Sounds Are Real?”
  • I’m noticing a more marked shift from chord progressions on near & far to riffs on comets than I’d heard before

signs

  • Signs and comets are really separate records to me, combined in one package just to get them both out at all.  Comets was largely written first and the songs stand alone, where the signs songs share a vibe (and, largely, a key and scale)
  • I still would like to re-record some of this heavier, in more of a Kowloon Walled City style, crushing and brutal but with space to breathe, at some point
  • The mastering sessions for signs.comets were a Friday/Monday, comets first.  Signs sounds better as a result; at Doug’s suggestion I put some body back in the snare and guitars over the weekend in between sessions.  Not knowing much about mastering I’d been referencing these mixes to “A Praise Chorus” (insane, in retrospect) and had kept trying to make things brighter and more aggressive to match
  • There’s sax on first song, unlike near & far or comets!
  • I like and appreciate “Choose To” and its place on the record more and more with time
  • The “Easter III” theme riff, while I love it, is a shadow of a weirder, better riff that came to me in a dream that I could never nail down

b.sides

  • It’s forever weird to me that “Hymn for our TMD” became a fan fav, but I dig it
  • Hey, “Say Something” is super catchy!
  • <Is reminded of Bush-era political concerns, when the wars we were against we were at least sure the President would start on purpose and not with a misunderstood tweet>
  • Some of this is really open and raw, lyrically
  • I’m not sure if the “Snow in the East” vocal is a demo I just decided to keep or what.  The outro might indicate that to be the case
  • “Was I In Bon Jovi…” from Furious Instance basically counts as a b.side here, being recorded at the same time as the rest of it (and the back half of it is really raw, too, for me at least)

Hack attempt

30 July update: Everything I’m aware of is fixed, plus a fixed some unrelated stuff too. If you notice anything wrong comment or reach out to me directly.  -h

MFR sustained a massive hack attempt last night, and some parts of the site are not functioning correctly.  I hope to have it fixed by tomorrow (Th) night.  -h

Mohs Fuzz

My next pedal design, the Mohs Fuzz, is finished and ready to draw up, order parts, and build.

Start of the Mohs layout (incomplete; this is essentially a template from the Falcon Heavy, stripped of the actual circuit and hardware changed over to what the Mohs needs. The Mohs will have the same enclosure and similar, though simpler, controls)

For the Mohs I started with a silicon Fuzz Face, not knowing if it would lead to a finished idea, and experimented broadly from there.  The key to its range of fuzz tones is the “Hardness” control, which affects the softness-to-hardness of the signal clipping and gives the pedal its name (for Friedrich Mohs and his scale of mineral hardness).

Update: Here’s a short clip of Drew playing the breadboarded Mohs: https://www.facebook.com/darksatellites/videos/1302218346514629

I plan on building at least three, but if you’re curious and/or interested in obtaining one, email me or leave a comment with your email address and I’ll get in touch about it.  I may do a quick video before ordering parts for the run to help determine interest.

Art Day

Doing some experimentation today.  Early results from #1, below.  I’m sure something like these will find its way onto a cover, handmade packaging, or the like.

Recording Rhodes

Scott’s 73-key Rhodes, a Mark I with the Janus amp like to the one below, has been with me in Lawrence for about a year now.  I’ve been recording with it this week; two h&s songs where the Rhodes is the primary pad & rhythm sound (instead of guitar), and one Night Mode piece where the Rhodes plays counterpoint to a main synth track.

Image credit: fenderrhodes.com

I’m taking the stereo headphone output of the Janus direct into my Scarlett interface, with some guitar pedals in the Rhodes’ “Accessory” loop for the Night Mode part.  This has a nice, clean, clear sound.  I’ll probably experiment with analog re-amping and/or digital amp and cabinet simulation, but it isn’t required and I’ll try to keep a light touch with any further processing.  Some amount of compression/saturation will sound good, however it’s achieved, as you’d naturally get playing through the Janus, another amp, or a PA.

The instrument would certainly benefit from a tune-up by an experienced technician (who are harder and harder to find).  I tuned the tines’ pitches pretty well myself, but the action varies widely.  Some keys hardly sound when played, and overall it’s tricky to control volume and play expressively; the range from sort of piano to mezzo-piano is good (below piano there’s not much sound at all), and above mp it’s kind of straight to forte and then nothing further beyond forte.  To some extent this is the nature of the Rhodes, but a tune-up would improve things.

It’s a very cool piece of gear to have in the house.  I’m grateful to Scott for the loan and excited to share the work I’m doing with it.