“Complex” is not synonymous with “Superior”

More and more people I know are gear-heads. I’ve been in a part of several conversations about guitar pedals, amplifiers, reverb, feedback, shapes, sinusoidal waves, blah, blah, blah.

I’m not saying those things are bad, but they get in the way sometimes. I remember reading an interview with Angus Young (AC/DC) in a guitar magazine when I was a teenager and eager to consume the tricks of the trade. The interviewer asked Young to shed some light on his signal chain. Young said he didn’t have one. He plugged his guitar into the amplifier and turned it all the way up. I know this is probably oversimplified, but it spoke to me.

Nirvana was the first band I noticed using pedals. Cobain would click on his Tubescreamer or whatever to add some angst to the heavy parts. On the live recordings, you can hear the click of him turning it on and off. Then Rage Against the Machine brought insanity to my world of guitar effects. Ben Folds Five’s bassist even used pedals…

…but in my heart, I’m still punk rock. A guitar only needs one tone: Loud, bright but thick and on the verge of feedback. A bass only needs one tone: growly and bright but thumping.

And so, I respect pedals and love some of the things my friends can do with them (Kenny, Matt C., Tim W.) and I respect variable tone capabilities (heck, for my main bass I had to download a switch diagram just to know how it works). In the end, though, I will always love and find myself circling back to the guitar to amp model. Last night, I played my very, very simple jazz bass in a rehearsal for the first time since Rex was born. And it was good.

It’s probably a good idea, in everything you do, to remember that complex is not the same as superior. Complex is just complex and simple is just simple. Superior is something different and it can usually be accomplished through complex methods or simple methods. That project you’re working on could be superior with 100 add-ins or it could be superior with just one or two. Neither method is inherently better. They are just different.

Let’s plug in and play loud.

Now.

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