Hot-rodding the Hot Rod - 2011 Fender American Nashville B-Bender Upgrades

Category: Guitars

Back in the mid-2000s, I fell in love with the idea of a Fender Telecaster with a B-Bender, but I didn't want to have someone put a B-Bender in an existing Tele for a couple of reasons (cost, heavily modifying a stock guitar, etc.). Fender made the American Nashville B-Bender Telecaster, but it was out of my price range at the time and then they discontinued it. BUT THEN they brought it back in 2011! I jumped on the opportunity and my lovely, wonderful, thoughtful wife agreed to get it for me for Christmas and my birthday (they fall really close together and I often combine gifts to get something bigger). I had to wait a few months, but it finally arrived and it was fantastic!

Must-do Mods and Costmetics

I wanted to do a few things to customize it to my own preferences. First, like all of my Fenders, I put installed straplocks because I'm terrified of my guitars falling when the strap slips off. Second, I like all of my Fenders to have white pearl pickguards and black pickup covers. That look is kinda my signature style for my Fenders. This guitar already came with a white pearl pickguard, so I just had to add a black pickup cover for the middle pickup.

2011 Fender American Nashville B-Bender Telecaster with upgraded costmetics

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Preamp Usage with Microphones

Category: Recording & Production

This is the second post in a series of tutorials to help my kid learn some of the more technical aspects to recording and music production. After recently buying him a PreSonus TubePRE preamp, I realized he may not know exactly how to use it.

What is a Microphone Preamp?

A microphone preamp is a signal amplifier that can boost the signal level and can enhance the quality of the signal by adding color, such as emphasizing certain harmonics in the source signal. That is, a preamp can add mild distortion to your signal (vocal or otherwise) to add a desirable color to the tone.

Sometimes, the stock preamps built into an interface, such as a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, can be extremely clean. Using a preamp can add a bit of analog warmth missing from modern digital signal conversion (analog-to-digital).

Great! How do I use it?

The preamp goes between your microphone and the interface and it does not require +48v (Phantom power). You should set your interface's input to be line level, rather than instrument level, for the line coming from the preamp and +48v should be disabled on the interface. You will want to use a balanced cable, either TRS or XLR input, when connecting your preamp to the interface.

Now you're ready to plug your microphone into the preamp. If you're using a dynamic mic, such as a Shure SM57, +48v should be disabled on your preamp. If you're a condenser mic, such as an AKG Perception 220, you'll need to enable +48v on the preamp to power the condenser microphone.

Your preamp will generally have a drive and gain control. These may be labeled something else, such as input and output. Regardless of the naming convention, you can think of these like pre-volume and post-volume where the pre-volume impacts the distortion and the post-volume impacts the line level after the distortion has been applied.

Your preamp may have other controls as well, such as:

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Direct Box (DI) Usage

Category: Recording & Production

I was recently talking to my kid about recording and the topic of signal flow came up. We were discussing options with regard to how to record guitar: direct into the interface with software amps and effects, through the pedalboard and then into the interface with software amps, and through the pedalboard into the amp and then mic'd and into the interface. We were talking about this in the context of recording both guitar and bass (not simultaneously). I mentioned the idea of a direct box and he said he hadn't heard of that, so I thought I'd put together a diagram to explain the use of a direct box.

So what is a direct box?

Direct boxes are also called a "DI" which stands for direct inject. According to Sweetwater's article on direct boxes:

...the primary function of DI boxes is to take an unbalanced, high-impedance signal and convert it to a balanced, low-impedance signal.

A direct box allows the signal to run over longer distances without degradation of quality (volume reduction and loss of high-end frequencies) and it also allows a guitar or bass signal (or other instrument) to be run directly into a microphone preamp or other similar signal processor.

Most direct boxes allow for a passthrough signal (unbalanced, instrument) and an output (balanced, line-level). In addition, many direct boxes allow for a ground lift as one of the standard features. Direct boxes are powered by 48v phantom power like a condenser microphone and the line-level output runs through a balanced cable like an XLR microphone cable.

While there are many different direct boxes on the market, the primary variations are between active and passive direct boxes. The Sweetwater article linked above does a great job of explaining the differences and why you might want one over the other.

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Flash Chord - Practice chords, scales, or arpeggios with an endless stream of randomized chords!

Category: Web Development

Flash Chord - Practice chords, scales, or arpeggios with an endless stream of randomized chords!

I've recently published a new project called Flash Chord (at which is a web-based tool for practicing chords, scales, and arpeggios against an endless stream of randomized chords.

I've used various backing tracks and other tools, like iReal Pro, for practicing chords and scales, but those tools require you to enter the chords ahead of time or use a pre-built track for practicing. This is great, but it allows you to fall into patterns of comfort without really challenging you to learn every part of your instrument. I couldn't find any tools that I thought met all the requirements for which I was looking, so I decided to create Flash Chord as a free web-based tool that would work for any instrument to help musicians practice.

Flash Chord is configurable for various difficulty options which makes it usable for all levels of musicians. Configuration options include:

  • Tempo
  • Bars per chord
  • Time signature
  • Key
  • Chord types
  • Chord extensions
  • Toggle rare enharmonic equivalents (C♭, B♯, F♭, E♯)
  • Toggle next chord
  • Toggle audible metronome
  • Toggle visual metronome

Flash Chord is also an open source project on GitHub, so if you'd like to help contribute in any way (code, testing, documentation, etc.), please head over there and get involved.

To stay updated on the latest with Flash Chord, be sure to follow us on Twitter  @Flash_Chord.

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Recommended Guitar and Bass Pedal Ordering

Category: Guitars

I often find myself in discussions with friends about effects pedal order for guitar and bass. Now that my kid has started playing guitar and is getting into pedals, I realized that I didn't have a good go-to resource for the topic. I decided to write my own article on the subject, not because I have something fundamentally different to say than other people, but because I think I have a better way of presenting the information.

Why should I care?

There is no actual rule for pedal order. These are guidelines. You can do whatever you want. Some pedals may not work exactly as you expect, but you're not going to harm anything by running them in some atypical order. (Caveat: I suppose it's possible there's some combination of pedals that could harm one another in a certain order, but I've never heard of it. Usually, it's only power issues that can damage pedals.) You can always experiment and find what works for you. However, some people, like myself, don't have unlimited time to try out every pedal in every possible position. I like to learn what I can from others and grow from there.

How could order really matter?

While order of pedals doesn't matter in most cases, there are some instances where order really does matter. For example, some older fuzz pedals are very sensitive to buffers being in front of them in the signal chain because of [insert explanation here about impedance that I didn't really understand]. Because of that sensitivity, those old fuzz pedals need to be placed before any buffers in your signal chain.

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Drupal Module - Brickset Connect 8.x-1.0-alpha1 released

Category: Web Development

I've published the first release (8.x-1.0-alpha1) of a Drupal 8 module I've been on which I've been work for a couple of months. Brickset Connect allows a user to connect to the API and query Lego set information about a given set number and create a node with that data and associated images in the Drupal site in which the module is installed.

From the module's page:

Brickset Connect allows content creators to connect to the API V2 for importing information about Lego sets as stored in the Brickset database. This module defines:

  • Configuration for connecting to the API
  • A content type for storing set information
  • A mechanism for importing set information and creating nodes based on a set number
  • A view for listing imported set numbers, suitable for exporting set numbers
  • A searchable view for listing set details, suitable for searching sets

To see the imported data on my site, for example, you can check out the two views provided with the module:

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Entronomy - Evolve From Chaos - Album Release

Category: Guitars

Entronomy - Evolve From Chaos - Album Release

Reposted from

Today, May 20, 2016, Entronomy released our debut album, Evolve From Chaos! The album is available on many streaming and download services including Spotify, Tidal, Amazon MP3, Google Play, iTunes, Apple Music, CD Baby, and more. Check out the links on our site or search your favorite music service for "Entronomy" and you should find it. Enjoy the new album and let us know what you think! Thanks for your support.

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Building the Beast - Custom DIY Guitar Effects Pedalboard

Category: Guitars

I love guitar effects pedals. Oh mah science, do I love guitar pedals. I love 'em! Give me more! It's a bit of an addiction. I've had a lot, I still have a lot, and I want more. Pedals, pedals, PEDALS! I think you're starting to see the picture here: pedals = good. :)

This is the story of my latest guitar effects pedalboard build, including the successes and failures.


I have a lot of effects pedals that I like to keep on my pedalboard. Why do I like to have so many? It's mostly because I can't stick to just one style of music and I love having the versatility offered by lots of different effects. Also, I'm a gearhound, but you could probably guess that already. To have an ultimately flexible pedalboard, I'd need to hold a lot of pedals. Those pedals also require a lot of power in the form of multiple power supplies.

To accommodate all of those pedals, to keep them organized and usable, I've been building custom pedalboards for myself for a little over a decade now. A long time ago, I found a cheap sheet of diamond plate aluminum (about 4-feet by 5-feet) and I've mostly used that to build my pedalboards. In the past, I didn't like using velcro to attach my pedals because 1) the sticky residue left behind and 2) they aren't as secure as using zip ties. However, zip ties come with their own complications. It's hard to make a board that can work with zip ties because of the grid of holes necessary for mounting. Also, your pedal placement needs to be a lot more permanent since it's a pain to redo all the zip ties. After much personal mental strife, mostly battling with my OCD, I had come to the realization that the versatility of velcro was just too much to keep ignoring. I had accepted that I would be using velcro to attach my pedals to my new board.

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Webinar - An Inside Look: Acquia Certified Drupal Site Builder Exam [June 23, 2015]

Category: Web Development

I was recently asked by Peter Manijak of Acquia's cetification program to participate in a webinar (with Peter and Jeff Beeman of Acquia) on the topic of providing an inside look into Acquia's Certified Drupal Site Builder exam. Last February, I helped create the Site Builder exam and revise the Acquia Certified Developer exam. If you'd like to view the slides and learn more about the webinar, you can find that information here:

You can also watch the webinar on YouTube or embedded below.

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New Boxer Puppies Have Their Own YouTube Channel

Category: Dogs

After the tragic loss of our last two Boxers within 2 weeks of each other, we knew we had to fill our home and our lives with new dogs. We knew that puppies, while a lot of work, were the best option for getting dogs to fit with our home, our cats, and our livestyle since we could shape and mold them as they grew. We found two beautiful new puppies in Bonney Lake, WA at TKO Boxers. Our puppies, Paizley (female, brindle) and Pepsy (male, fawn), were born to Ohana and Makhai in February of 2014.

To share a view into their lives as they grow, we've created a new YouTube channel just for videos of the new Boxer pups. Be sure to subscribe, like, and comment for more videos! Thanks!

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