Me and My Noise Suppressor

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What is the Best Thing You Have Ever Bought? I don’t mean the most expensive, or luxurious, or practical; I mean the Product That Changed Your Life.

Yesterday I was supposed to take my two-year old to Monkey Music class. My Tuesday mornings are usually spent in a church hall making animal noises and leaping around with a tambourine, desperately trying to engage the enthusiasm of my toddler. She sits staring into space, or occasionally has a languid suck on a germ-ridden plastic trumpet before lying face down on the floor. The other women there are strangers; we smile vacantly but avoid each others’ gaze, in case the cracks are revealed.

All this in the name of good parenting. But yesterday I chose the bad parenting option- I dragged my little one to the guitar shop, and I am now the proud owner of a Decimator II Noise Reduction Pedal.

I genuinely love this pedal with all my heart. My guitar sound has changed in an instant from ‘teenage boy bashing on his first guitar’ to ‘someone who can actually play Slayer’. How did I not know about this piece of equipment before?

A noise suppressor, or noise gate, does exactly what it says- it eliminates unwanted noise. It works by silencing or reducing the audio signal once the signal drops below a certain amplitude, which is set by the player using a dial. Noise suppressors can be useful for all electric guitar players, to simply reduce signal hum or noise generated by a complicated pedal chain. But they are almost essential for metal with its high gain amplification, and in particular for the fast and precise riffs I am attempting to play.

Until now I have been plagued by string-sliding noise, messy palm-muting, and a general shambolic unpleasantness surrounding my playing. But plugging in the Decimator instantly cleans everything up, leaving the crucial silences between pick strikes that had been lacking before. Apparently the Decimator is the premium noise pedal on the market- it’s certainly the most expensive. I still have to do a bit of experimentation with the levels but so far it doesn’t seem to be affecting my tone very much either, tone degradation and loss of effects being the downside of noise gates.

So I’m really not as bad a guitarist as I thought. I asked my teacher the million dollar question- is it cheating? Yes, he said emphatically, you have to learn to play without it first.

Well, fuck you teacher. I am never turning this thing off.

In reality it may make me a worse player, but in my fantasy world of bedroom shredding it will make me superficially sound like a better player. And I am all about the superficial.

Now this will all be blindingly obvious to anyone who has played metal guitar for more than about five minutes. In fact most of the writing in this blog will be blindingly obvious to seasoned metalheads. But I am a fledgling metalhead; I am still at the stage of soft fascination, of childish excitement at every new discovery.

Ronnie James Dio invented the devil horns? Yay! Djent is an onomatopoeia for the progressive metal sound developed by Meshuggah? Tell me more! I didn’t know!

I flick through guitar magazines just to look at the pictures; I am still in a wonderland, devouring information, soaking it in, and too old to care if I am totally lame.

And since I can usually find a metal metaphor for everything in life, what I now need is a sort of built-in psychological noise suppressor. Imagine if we had a dial that could turn down all the unwanted sounds- children squabbling, TV advertisements, negativity- and just focus on the important things in life.

Like playing awesome riffs, cleanly.

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