Zappa Yo Mama Tone anyone?

I have a hard time to recreate Zappas Yo Mama Tone. I wonder if somebody might have stumbled upon a preset in the cloud which sounds like this: The solo starts at about 02:00.

At the beginning of the solo he is playing some bass notes where a flanger seems to be involved. The rest of the solo is a distorted tone with a lot of feedback which one could fake with the freqout for example. What I don’t know: For the main part of the solo is he using also a (moderate) flanger and or a chorus effect? I guess this is played with a bridge humbucker. Maybe this tone is not so exotic and I only perceive it as magic because the notes he is playing are really magic, I don’t know… Maybe this is just a pretty standard Marshal 80s Rock Tone?

You want a flanger and compressor with a high sustain to get the effect on that solo.

OK, I would also tend to think that a flanger is involved and a compressor is needed after the flanger. Otherwise the tone might get too wet.
The question which I have asked many people and never got really an answer is the following: Is the flanger effect active all the time or only especially when he is playing in the lower register? I think once I have read that Van Halen used Flanger Effects in their tones, but also only when playing lower notes.
The other question is what kind of Flanger is this? When he is playing higher notes I don’t hear the typical Jet Flanging? With the lower notes it might be Jet Flanging. So is it a Dynaflanger then? I would say no, because a Dynaflanger has more of a chorusy singing quality. I don’t hear that in that tone. So what kind of Flanger Effect is it?

The tone Zappa is getting on the parts of the solo where I can clearly make out the flanger reminds me of a pedal that Boss made, the HF-2 “Hi Band Flanger”. As the name implies, that pedal really emphasized higher frequencies as it flanged.

Regardless of which flanger he used, his tone is extremely bright on this cut. I am wondering if part of that has to do with his propensity to use a cocked wah and if so, where he had it parked for this particular solo. In this case emphasizing the higher frequencies. That would also have impacted the tone he was getting through the flanger or any other processing.

There is a lot going on with Zappa’s tones from split coils, out of phase switches and EQ boosters etc. It’s hard to nail his tone(s) down.

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So true! The reason I mention the flanger is there are spots, particularly towards the beginning of the solo, when there are rests in between the more active passages, where I can hear the flanger whooshing in the background. Out of phase processing (and parked wah) and who knows what else could easily be thinning out the tone as well and giving it that more reedy quality.

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Thank you for those interesting observations. I have created a Zappa Preset with a Cocked Wah for the QC which is available here:

I have spend quite some time with his Cocked Wah Sound and now I am little bit tired of it. So it seems that my unconsciousness was telling me that in Yo Mama he wasn’t using a Cocked Wah, but now after reading your comments it seems that I maybe should use the Preset I made and try to integrate a Flanger and tweak it a little bit further. There is also a capture of a systech overdrive availalble in the cloud. I already tried to integrate it, but it seemed to me that this overdrive has too much gain. There are captures which more or less immidiatly can be integrated into a preset, but this one is difficult, but I don’t know it might not be the most important element. I think the main challenge which remains now is to find the right type of flanger and the right settings for it. After hearing it one more time: Yes, I am convinced now. There is a Cocked Wah involved. No doubt about it.

If he was using a parked wah on this tone, it would likely have been more towards the toe-down position.

Yes and no, on the one hand it is mind blowing how complex his setups were, on the other hand just take any high gain amp you like, take a cocked wah. I use the Bad Horsie Wah at about one o clock and you have Zappas 70s sound. As much as I enjoy to talk about his complex setups I think there is also the perspective of someone who is sitting at home, not playing for an audience, who just wants to recreate in this private setting Zappas music. Some sounds might be hard to nail, but not everything IMO. I also think that the Yo Mama Tone can be nailed perfectly with the QC if you just need it to play along a backing track at home or something like that. At least my goal is at the end of the day to get as much Zappa Tones out of the QC as possible without any external pedals. I personally believe that for his 70s Tone you don’t need for example something like the Syctech Energizer or the TWA Tiskelion. It might be the icing on the cake, but I would say that you can get there already up to 95 percent with the right wah and amp settings. At the same time for my the Yo Mama Tone still has something magical, but I got the impression that we are getting closer. It can be done on the QC. In most cases you don’t need any external gear. The only thing which can not be recreated up to now on the QC is the Dynaflanger, but I guess you can fake that to a certain degree with a combination of a conventional flanger and a vibrato and a chorus effect. Easier said than done. I am not the greatest tweaker, but on a theoretical level that is what I can contribute to this discussion in this moment. The flanging never stops… :wink:

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For the 70s Tone I use the Bad Horsie at about one o clock. Or with other words like 71 percent towards toe down works for me. Yo Mama is his late 70s/beginning 80s Tone. I am still searching for the right setting for that. Or is 71 percent okay for the late 70s Tone as well, I don’t know.

Good question. Where was it parked? When we find the right setting, the rest is to dial in a typical 80s rock amp tone which is not so difficult and to find the right flanger settings which is maybe a little bit more difficult or what would you say which flanger comes closest in the QC to the Boss HF-2? I never heard of this flanger…

What do you mean with out of phase processing? It doesn’t sound like Neck+Middle Pickup or something like that for me. I would say it is just a bridge humbucker. Who knows maybe I am wrong. Or are your not referring to the pickups when you say out of phase processing? Out of phase processing is a pretty abstract wording…

I mean anything that can cause phasing, e.g. two mics used for the recording at different distances, a direct and miked source recorded at the same time, two pickups out of phase with each other. Anything of that sort that can cause cancellation of some of the frequencies. Or maybe it was just the settings on the amp and guitar. Tone is still at least 50% arcane alchemy to me.

I don’t know if there is anything on the QC other than a combination of effects, perhaps just the right EQ placed before a flanger that would emulate the HF-2. The EQ would need to knock out the bottom and emphasize the high end. It was a very niche effect; I doubt that Boss sold many of them. I still have one that I never use.

Judging from the YouTube demo I saw the HF-2 doesn’t sound too exotic. The thing that drives me crazy with fasers is that in combination with distortion the sound gets to wet, you loose the clarity of the pick attack. That’s why Zappa used a separate DI Signal which he added to the Distorted Signal. This doesn’t mean that you can not achieve nice distorted faser sounds without an added DI Signal. It is just a challenge to find the right balance between a nice Jet Flanging Effect and to maintain a certain clarity of the overall guitar tone. It is a little bit like nailing a jelly to a tree…

I spent some more time working on a ‘dynamic flanger’ preset based on researching the Dynaflanger. I’m using the Flanger Engine which has a LOT of parameters, and feeding it highs only. It’s getting close, but there’s so much interplay between the parameters that it’s a challenge to dial in.

Seems to me there’s a good bit of ‘room’ in the guitar track of this song, the miked amp sounds like it plays a bigger part in the tone which is also tricky to nail spatially and EQ-wise. Fun challenge though.

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I am really looking forward to that preset. :smiley:Great if you take the challenge. If you allow me to give you a suggestion I would suggest at least two scenes. One scene should be a little bit more in the direction of a jet or wooshy flanger and the other should emphasize the chorusy singing quality of the Dynaflanger. I think to emphasize the jet flanger you could use for example just the MX Flanger, but not at 100 percent wet. Maybe just at 50 percent. In any case both scenes should contain a certain degree of jet or wooshy flanging and at the same time that singing quality. Well, just some ideas floating around in my mind… Maybe at the end you will make a preset that sounds even better than the original… :wink:

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Ok so I took a shot at it. Tweaked with single-coils so keep that in mind dialing in. It’s fairly harsh/piercing/twangy so that might need some taming/EQ/gating depending on your rig.

First scene is attempted emulation of the song’s first solo tone. The rest are “experiments.” The filtered scene can almost get talkbox-type attack tones if you tweak it harder

Open to any and all suggestions!

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You made my day :grinning: I just downloaded this and I am going to check it out later on and tell you what I think. Anyway a nice addition would be if you could incorporate your feedback simulation block into this preset! I could also try to do it by myself, but I am not sure where is the best place in the signal chain to place it. As you have noticed in the Yo Mama Solo there are some spots where a heavy amount of Feedback is quite important. Just as a side not for you xush or anybody who wants to play/learn the Yo Mama Solo. It is in E Myxolidian and if you scroll down to the bottom of the following page you find some more musical insights about it. There are also MIDI Files with small parts of the solo.

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The preset you made, Xush is great. I think it is a little bit quicker if you add the following suggestions if you like. First as mentioned you could ad somewhere in the signal chain where it fits best your feedback simulator. Second I would add an additional MX Flanger about 60 percent wet. See the screenshots above. You could add the MX Flanger for example in the last row. (I think the added Flanger is especially useful when you play some of those iconic notes in the lower register.) And just out of curiosity you could maybe explain to what degree your Flanger behaves like a Dynaflanger. What did you do to make it sound dynamic? The funny thing is that Zappa used the Dynaflanger for sure on the whole Shut up n play yer guitar album. I think I have mentioned this before. I am not sure if Zappa used a conventional or a Dynaflanger in his Yo Mama Solo. With other words if the flanger in the preset you did doesn’t behave dynamic then at least for me that wouldn’t be the end of the world. If anybody here wants to take the next challenge then that would be to try to recreate the sound of the shut up n play yer guitar album. Anyway for this preset I would say that you nailed the gain structure and everything very good of the Yo Mama Tone. This proves one more time that a lot of things can be done on the QC. You don’t need a million dollar rack to recreate Frank Zappa Tones. Although I wouldn’t mind to have all the equipment Dweezil has. :sweat_smile: On the other hand. With to much equipment it is really easy to get lost. So I would love to sell all my Zappa specific pedals and do everything on the QC. Thank you very much Xush. You did a great Job! :heart_eyes:

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