Seasons greetings and welcome! This weekend, being Christmas, is a quiet one for live music around town. This time of year, I like to reflect on the past year and look forward to the coming year. 2010 has been, arguably, the best year ever for Lowcountry Blues Club. The past year has seen our introduction to the Blues Foundation as we sent our first nominees Dan Wright and Sarah Cole to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. We successfully moved our jam venue to our new home at Home Team BBQ in West Ashley. We were able to keep a lot of our old friends after the move, and make tons of new friends. The Wednesday blues jam events continue to go as strong as ever, and I look forward to next year, when we are proud to send nominees Dan Wright, Jeff Norwood, and Wyatt Garey to Memphis, and who knows what else will come.
For my recurring entries, I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts on some basics of music theory and gear. This first entry was inspired by a conversation at last week’s blues jam between me and a young jammer. Hopefully others can benefit from the discussion.
BLUES YOU CAN USE – Distortion vs Overdrive
One of the main staples of a guitar player’s tone is his pedal rig. Many pedals offer ‘overdrive’ or ‘distortion’ effects, and it may be difficult for the novice player to know the difference. When explaining it to people, I often refer to the genre or the player rather than the technical details. In practical terms, an overdrive pedal is designed to affect the amplifier itself and the effect will vary with volume. A distortion pedal is designed to give distorted tone no matter what volume. Characteristics of ‘overdrive’ include a hollow, bluesy tone…a smooth, natural sounding tone that most blues and classic rock players favor. ‘Distortion’ is a harsher, fatter, grittier tone with tons of sustain…this gives the ‘crunch’ favored by hard rock and metal guitarists. Pedals aren’t cheap, and it is easy to be seduced by catchy names. My advice, if you’re just starting out, stick with the old school classics. Take a look at the pedals on stage at the blues jam and ask questions. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get a good deal on a used pedal from a big guy with a white beard, and I’m not talking about Santa Claus!
Cheers, and keep bluesin’!
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Featured artists with birthdays in December are Big Mama Thornton, Bo Diddley, Gregg Allman, and George Thorogood. In January, the featured artists will be Leadbelly, Etta James, and Jonny Lang.
Check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at http://www.reverbnation.com/lowcountrybluesclub, and join us on facebook and twitter.
And of course, we hope to see you at the blues jam next Wednesday night at Home Team BBQ West Ashley!!
LMW, December 23, 2010