In one corner………
Alexander Dumble, a reclusive, mysterious personality in the world of musical accessories. His amps are the most expensive in the world, each hand built and each supposedly made for the person that is to play them.
In the other corner……
Aldus Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts, the leader of the good wizards, and apparently a good friend to endangered children, is an old man who, well, died. Granted he was about 150 years old.
Alexander Dumble is still living, though the production of his amps stopped, like a wizard with amnesia, sometime in the 90’s. He does try to use his own magic of a sort. In his attempt to keep his electrical engineering a secret from those hungry tone-eaters let us say, he covered later circuit boards in his amps with a goop that hid the values and circuits he chooses. This has not stopped some, in particular Malaysian tone-eaters, from copying his tone to some intangible extent, much to his anger and further reclusiveness.
Why am I going on about this? Why do I care about either of these men and their own brand of magic, you might ask?
Music is a sort of magic. For guitarists there is one word that draws them in more than any other. It is the word that inspires the fuzz pedals, the guitars, the amps, the entire boutique industry of people trying to cash in on people looking for that special element equated as almost magic for guitarist the world over.
That word is TONE.
Before I get to tone, you might also be wondering how I came across these two characters. Aldus Dumbledore is a pop culture figure and written creation of author J.K. Rowling’s, with a strong contribution from actors Michael Gambon and Richard Harris. I have read the first two Harry Potter books and understand the character’s importance and place in the plot.
Alexander Dumble was introduced through the British YouTube show That Pedal Show, hosted by Daniel Steinhardt and Mick Taylor. The show is titled Are you Dumble? And delves into the concepts of tone and rarity surrounding the legendary (but not to myself) amp maker from California. Then in my search for an affordable loop pedal on various sights I ran across the Rowin Dumble pedal and soon found there are many amp pedals out there trying to capture that signature sound the Dumble amps produce. I would like to clarify one thing about Dumble’s amps. To date only about 300 have ever been produced. That is why, in the bigger picture of production and circulation, it is amazing these amps are prized as much as they are. Carlos Santana swears by them.
So why is tone such a big thing for guitarists anyway? Shocking question if you are a guitarist, but basically you want to play what you hear on your favorite albums or artists’ performances. To get it you search high and low to duplicate their equipment in an attempt to replicate their “sound”. The truth is: imitation will only be a step away and never exactly the same as the original. There are other tones out there to choose from besides a Dumble Tone of course. Some good examples being:
Hendrix Tone-fuzz pedals, wah, Strat guitars
Jerry Tone– Jerry Garcia’s envelope sound, OBEL (on board effects loop) guitar, triple humbuckers, clean amps
May Tone– Queen’s guitarist with special pickups, sixpence coin pick, Vox AC30 amps
Gallagher Tone-Noel Gallagher of Oasis with his Marshall or Orange amp, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Archtop guitarists.
Naturally I could go on and on because each artist has their own sound people would want to copy. Imitation breeds copy-cats which feeds a market, which tries to convince people that it is an item that makes a sound and not a person.
So who is more magical? Is it Alexander Dumble or Adlus Dumbledore? Is it you or I?
Go out and make your own magic, and if you do tell me about it. I’m listening.