Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Improvization

The first five letters of "improvisation" are the same as the first five letters of "improve". And you can't improve on something if you don't have that something to begin with. — Patrick

Have A Rockin' Thanksgiving!

From me, Mr. Carlson and the folks at Hulu.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fake Plastic Rock, plus

My parents bought me Rock Band for my birthday (which I opened well over a month before the event, by their permission).

My son and I spent a good long time playing it last night. At 11pm, we finished "Won't Be Fooled Again" and called it a night.

And, about 8pm or so, I used my Leatherman to pop my guitar-controller blister. I've started frobbing the "string" part like a bassist rather than hit it with my thumb. I've tried using a pick, but that just doesn't work with me.

Since I program for a living, hitting the space key with the picking part of my picking thumb, I should really be more careful. And I am starting to be.

So, Chinese Democracy is out. Get yourself a drink. If you can get through before 6pm EST today.

My jam partner got himself a new lefty Les Paul-style Agile guitar from Rondo. All the pretty you see in the picture is dwarfed by the pretty it is in your hands. But the thirteenth fret is high, visibly high when looking down the neck, and thus there's a dead spot. He's not as happy as he could've been, but when that gets sorted out, he'll be happy. You just don't see a 24-fret Les Paul with a Floyd Rose everyday, and make it a lefty and they become even more rare.

Speaking of guitars, my friend Patrick has de-fretted my old acoustic, and I'm planning on picking it up from him Friday, after a good long jam with my jam partner and his brother. Due to Fender's excellent customer service, I have an embarrassment of strings, but I'm strongly considering getting it a set of Elixirs, because 1) if I slide my fingers, I don't need to bend, and 2) sliding without string noise works a lot better on coated strings. I've had Elixirs on this before and liked them, but that was when it had frets. Can anyone comment about playing fretless with Elixirs? Guitar, bass, lute?

Speaking of Elixers, one time, I looked on their website and saw that Nickel Creek were endorsers. Well, Chris Thile and Sean Watkins. Not Sara Watkins. Why not?, I wondered. You're sliding with fiddle as much or more than mando or guitar, so why wouldn't you want slippery strings? Then I thought about it. Your left hand might want the slippery, but your bow wants sticky. You rosin the bow to get the sticky. The bow is grabbing onto the strings as it passes by. That's how you get the sound! So, if you put on coated strings, the slippery makes it a quiet thing. Not good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

So, What Did I Do Last Night?

That wasn't my show, but it was the Punch Brothers, and they did do that song.

I'm at least slightly disturbed that I didn't know it was a Strokes song.

They also did Chris Thile's (which, by the way, rhymes with "Feelies") four-movement, 40+ minute "The Blind Leaving The Blind". (Find a segment of it here.)

Also, some other of their works for this band (I haven't been able to keep up, so I didn't know a lot of it) and a cover of the Band's "Ophelia". My wife's a little worried, as they were all sad songs, but as fiddler Gabe Witcher ascribed to Bill Monroe, "I can't get behind no happy song." A great time and a great band.

Punch Brothers albums:
How To Grow A Woman From The Ground

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Just out of curiosity....

I think something like a 50-watt tube 212 combo would be the perfect amp to get me ready to leap from closet player to playing out. I want tube, not emulation. What is the cheapest way to get 50 watts of firebottle action feeding 2 speakers? I mean, via catalog, not luck into a guitarist's widow who doesn't know the value of his collection or something.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Interesting Mix

I sometimes wear just one headphone, so I might be able to hear the sounds of my environment. A Who song came up on my playlist. "I'm A Boy", specifically. What seemed to be an instrumental take on "I'm A Boy".

It took a good long time for me to wonder if there's a vocal-less take on "I'm A Boy", and if I had ever heard of one, much less heard one.

So I put my other ear on. There's the vocal track.

I'm used to vocals being mixed dead center. In fact, the quick trick to get a karaoke track is to reverse phase on left or right and force it into mono, and the vocals, being identical left-and-right, will phase out and be silenced. A one-sided vocal mix? That's odd. I know they did that on VU's "The Gift", but as it started as a poem/story and the music was added on, so a hard music/words division makes sense there.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Made of Awesome

In a mere week, the Punch Brothers will be playing in town. I don't know much about the Punch Brothers, but I've been a fan of Chris Thile since well before he was old enough to drive. I own a mandolin because of Chris Thile.

Here's some Chris with Edgar Meyer.

Sam, a co-worker who bears more than a passing resemblance to Chris, mentioned him in passing. I told him that Chris had the band and would be coming in a week, but alas, I could not afford to go.

Sam has gifted me with two tickets to see Chris.

I am SO happy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Songs You Wouldn't Think I Loved

A lot of it is Peter Hook. You have synths holding down rhythm, guitar holding down rhythm, drums holding down rhythm, so what's the bass gonna do? Play lead!

It Followed Me Home! Honest!

Today, I met with my headhunter, who gave me all the stuff I left in the cubicle and bought me lunch. Since I was a mere seven miles from where all the good music stores are, rather than the 60 miles I usually am, I took advantage of this fact and shopped.

Shopped for what?

A tremolo pedal.

I fell in love with the glories of tremolo years ago, listening to Richard Thompson's "Shoot Out The Lights". If I could have a Twin Reverb with built-in trem, I'd do it. (Remember, Fender-speak for tremolo is "vibrato" and vice versa. Tremolo is variations in volume, vibrato is variations in pitch. What you do if you gently put pressure on your tremolo bar is apply vibrato, and what you do if you turn on the vibrato circuit of your Fender amp is apply tremolo. Leo, being an engineer and not a musician, got the technology way right and the terminology bass-ackwards.)

Anyway, I stopped in one store (we shall call it GC) and tried out two of their pedals. First pedal I checked was the Electro-Harmonics Stereo Pulsar. It was a neat pedal, but 1) I couldn't dial in the good Fender amp tremolo that, in my mind, is the reason you want the thing, 2) At some settings, it just turned off, and 3) at $80, it was above the price point I had in mind.

Then I tried the Boss TR2 Tremolo pedal. This was pretty much the sound I had in my head for a trem, which, as I said, is the Fender amp sound. Also, at $100, it was much more than what I was hoping to spend.

So I tried another store, which we will call SA. There they had the Danelectro Cool Cat Tremolo. It was $40, and while I'm sure there's sonic differences that might make me think that the Boss was worth the extra $60, I don't know what they would be, as I found the nice Fender sound quickly, and a few nice stuttering sounds that I might have to pull out Oz Noy style.

The Cool Cat is sitting on my desk in front of me, waiting for me to get home and plug it in.

And I got a replacement coricidin bottle for slide. Since it's flat on the sides, Patrick, I can use it with the pedal steels, which I can't do with the bottleneck you gave me. Thanks again for that, though.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What If We Cared All The Time?

I certainly hope that we don't care as much Nov. 5 as we do Nov. 4, because that will mean that the election process broke down again and there's lawyers and judges fighting the election and it is out of the hands of the people.

Most of the time, there's something that the most radical and the most conservative can agree on. Around here, of course, it is music, and a Wilco fan and a fan of Derek Trucks can talk, play their tunes, and find common ground. I've stopped participating in political online forums, because the conversations are so caustic.

But I will be earning my free coffee.

Addendum: Was at the polling place at 6:30am, was inside the building by 6:40am, voted by 7am, went to Wal-Mart and picked up Brad Paisley's Play by 7:10, then went to get the free coffee.