In the early eighties, I studied electronics at Hatfield Polytechnic and a couple of years later, was lucky enough to land myself a job at Simmons Electronics Plc in St. Albans. From there, I moved on to Roland (UK) Limited where I was Technical Manager until 1990 when I decided to go freelance.
Being a recording and performing artist myself, I found it easy to empathise with fellow musicians, engineers and producers, especially regarding technical problems.
So, for over twenty years, I've been servicing all kinds of music technology and designing systems for clients that have included shops and distributors as well as private individuals and named artists.
Yes, I service those big heavy boxes that get really hot and have 600 Volts floating around inside of 'em. In fact I positively love valve amps. Of course I also service all types of amplifiers, guitar, bass, P.A., etc. It's just that I have a personal passion for the old valves!
Other than fixing problems, I do valve changes which includes a bias check. You'll not just notice a change in sound with a properly biased new set of valves but also a change in sensitivity and responsiveness.
I exclusively buy my valves from my friend, Derek at Watford Valves. He always offers me premium components and they always come in either matched pairs or quads.
Most valve changes shouldn't take more than a couple of hours so you're looking at tops, about £120 plus parts.
GUITAR ELECTRONICS AND TONE
Custom screening, especially for single coil guitars, pick-up changes, pot and socket changes are just a few of things I do on guitars and basses.
Without going into detail, everything about guitar electronics makes electric guitars almost perfect aerials! In fact, back in the day, there was a set of conditions I'd be able to create that would nearly always pick up Radio Moscow, LOL. And then we plug 'em into amps an' wack up the gain which amplifies everything. WOW!!!! That's a good idea.
So, screening the electronics cavity and proper earthing of all components is something that goes a long way to ensure that what comes out of your guitar is what you do to the strings.
Being a guitarist myself, I totally relate to the tone chasing thing. Decades of experience has shown me that while the amp is responsible for the majority of your tone, the signal you start off with, what comes out of your guitar, must be a good start, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.
Wolf tones for example are a big part of my own guitar sound. I have twenty-two guitars, most with humbuckers. One is a 1984 Kramer Baretta which still has the factory fitted Seymour Duncan JB pick-up. Using the same technique as always and playing this guitar through my standard Marshall 2555 100W Silver Jubilee stack, I just can’t squeeze those wolf tones out of the instrument. Swap over to my Jackson RR1 which is also fitted with a Seymour Duncan JB, and the wolf tones pour out.
People tell you that you need a compressor for this and an overdrive for that. If only it was that simple. The truth is that every change you make to your set-up will have a contributing factor to your sound. That includes things like plectrums and strings!
I could get together another website just talking about my experiences with guitar tone, suffice to say that if you're a guitarist searching for something specific, then there's a good chance I can help you. I can advise on a whole host of issues from selecting the right third-party pick-up for your sound to tweaking your playing technique and even offering you custom built electronics like for example, my Power Cord which basically has a built-in JFET pre-amp in the plug which attaches to your guitar. With a 3dB of gain, it also has a low output impedance which helps maintain signal integrity between your guitar, pedals and amp.
I don't do wood but I have an excellent locally based luthier who I trust implicitly so if for example, you want a pre-amp fitted to your guitar, my friend Gary will cut out the cavity and make it look like it came from the factory!
The very nature of how a keyboard works, means that over time, contacts will start to deteriorate. Metal spring type contacts are a little more resilient to temperature, humidity and contaminants than rubber contacts and although manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that their contacts deliver an acceptable period of longevity, I definitely perform keyboard contact changes more than any other repair on keyboards. There are however, a few things you can do to help prolong the life of your keyboard:
- Don't leave your keyboard in your car over night. While a flight case will provide some protection, temperature and (more so) humidity will take its toll.
- Avoid spillages of any fluid on to the keyboard (obvious but I need to say it).
- Cover your keyboard when it's not being used. After the sound check and before the gig, just put a lint-free cloth over the actual keyboard. This particularly good advice if you're performing outside.
Most keyboard changes up to 61-notes take between two and three hours so you're looking at between £120 and £180 plus parts.
Of course I do a lot more than keyboard changes!
LIVE FOREVER BATTERY MODIFICATION
Older synths, modules and effects processors use an on-board battery to ensure that patches and presets were stored. Usually something like a CR2032 would maintain the 'memory' of a machine for several years. The problem is that there's no indication of the status of the battery and if not regularly used, a leaking battery could damage the electronics of your machine. Unfortunately, battery damage renders a machine unfixable 99% of the time.
To prevent this from happening, I offer a 'Live Forever' battery mod'. Of course no battery will literally live forever. My mod' however, will last considerably longer than the factory fitted back-up battery. Replacing the existing battery in your keyboard, synth module or effects processor, a much higher capacity battery is mounted to the inside of the chassis which means that apart from lasting many, many years, if it ever did leak, it wouldn't dribble its hazardous contents all over the precious PCBs in your machine.
I charge a flat £156.00 for the Live Forever battery mod', including parts.
IMPORTANT: Although the process includes dumping the memory from your machine prior to performing the mod', I insist that you do the same; better safe than sorry.