Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Letter Back In Time

This post is part of a group blogging event organized by MusicianWages. We decided that, as the decade came to a close, in lieu of a “best of” list, we’d ask a single question for other musician bloggers to answer. Here was our question:
“If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”

Dear 1999 Sans:

Yeah, you. (It will be several years before you take on that name. But you know where it comes from — Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" through the Rich Show band No Direction.) The one thing I would like to tell you is that, starting fairly shortly, most everything you might want to happen with music will happen. Within a few months, positions will open up at church so you will play on the Wednesday night band. You'll be the acoustic guitar player, and you will eventually gear up to a decent piezo-equipped acoustic. You will get pedals, an amp and eventually a second electric. Even a fiddle. You will gain friendships that will allow you to occasionally start to jam out. It will not always be fun — the standard setup will be you getting new songs and working through it during the half-hour before you play, so you will feel entirely unprepared — but that's a bit of a boot camp that will make you a better player. And you will play out at least once a week over the next ten years. Here's some bulk pieces of advice for you:
  • Learning to read music is good, but not crucial. Nobody you will play with more than twice over the next ten years will read music. Nothing anyone wants you to play will be written out in more detail than with chord sheets.
  • That being said, theory is important. Knowing chord relationships and such will allow you to transpose, and very often, you'll have to be able to transpose something to a more singer-friendly key right before you play it. So knowing the difference between a major seventh and dominant seventh will be useful.
  • If you rely on others for gear, you will be disappointed and silent.
  • The songs in the Fiddler's Fakebook are way too complex to use as a starting point to learn to read music. Especially "Blackberry Blossom".
  • Two related thoughts: There's no shame in dropping out and coming back when you know where you are. and It is better to play the wrong note at the right time than to play the right note at the wrong time.
  • Learn to let it go. If you have a bad night, you have a bad night. If you play a bad note, you played a bad note. If the soundman doesn't turn up the guitar in the mix, he doesn't turn it up in the mix. Let that go and do the part you have control of now as best as you can.
And that lap steel? It's a fun thing to have, and it helps you work on your ears, but really, nobody wants to hear you play it but you.

As He Thunders Through The Night

Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello. On Telecasters.

It might be the headphones. It might be the gear. But you gotta test something.

Lately, the last few weeks, I've noticed when playing out that there's a really annoying high-end bit that sounded really off to me. I've been pulling out the number one, and I've thought something was off. I tweaked the knobs, stomped the boxes, but I couldn't find a way to get a sound I liked to hear. I'm not a big tone chaser, but if you absolutely can't stand your tone, your playing suffers.

But I think I have identified the problem.

The headphones.

You see, we've just switched to wireless packs for Wednesdays and we've had Aviom for Sundays, so I've been plugging in to hear myself forever. And it struck me that every time I've been confounded by this problem, I've had that same set of headphones on. So, tomorrow I will A/B the system and see what's up.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Picture Comment

Man, I should've cut down those staff images, huh?

Rejoice! Rejoice!

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom Captive Israel

By the hymnal, that's what we have here. The melody note and a harmony note, in most cases. Consider "come", the first note past the pickup. That's an E and a G. That implies an E minor chord, which, as the staff has one sharp on it, meaning G major or E minor, should come as no surprise. But that isn't an easy thing to fret. So, inspired by Ritchie Blackmore's recommendation to follow the horn players because they can only play one note at a time, I dropped the harmony and just played the melody notes.

If I was Ted Greene, I'd play more than the chords, but in context, I'm one voice among many, so it wasn't crucial to bring the whole of the song to life. I will tab that out and append that later, but I have some stuff to pack so I'll do that later. Santa brought a video camera to the household, so I'll show you how I play it later, too.

Also, Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy (premature) New Year!

How Low Can You Go?

Andy Ellis of The Guitar Show makes a Case for D-Standard Guitar Tuning. D-standard is dropping each note 2 half steps, turning EAGDBE into DGFCAD. In essence, put on the next highest gauge of strings, detuning, and you get the following benefits:
  • fuller, deeper, stronger tone
  • higher tension when you tune to open tunings, such as Open D, Open G and DADGAD.
I am sold. More than sold. So sold, when I got a bone nut put on my #2 Tele, I asked them to cut the nut to take EB Not Even Slinky strings. I've gotten it down to B-Standard before going for C#-Standard. C#-Standard ( C#F#BEG#C# — That format for describing a tuning really falls down when you start throwing sharps and flats in there, doesn't it? ) is what Pepper's guitar was in for Down's "Stone The Crow", but what attracted me to it is the fact that all my flatpicking G licks are now in E. That, and the fact that B, while it put all my E-barre chords as A-barre chords and A-barre chords to D-barre chords, the strings were just too floppy to sound in tune.

The problem, I found, is that it takes a while to remap all the chords. That remapping process takes a little time: The G comes up and rather than going "G! Got it!", you're going "G. The guitar is down a minor third, so to get a G, I have to move it up three frets. Can't be an open chord, so we're thinking Bb, which is here!" Problem with that, is, by the time that thought process has happened, you should be playing the next chord. And you haven't remapped it permanently and completely yet, so the next time the G comes around, you might or might not have it memorized. And again. And again. Next song, it might or might not be the same G. And, if you're jamming with friends or simply playing "Guess the Key"* with the radio or your playlist on random, this is fine. But if you're playing in front of people, it's really not a good time to start trying to find your G chord. It makes you look and feel like a rank beginner, which doesn't feel good when the tempo is passing you by like truckers on the interstate.

Definitely a good idea, but you have to learn to live with it a while before you can gig like that.

* "Guess The Key" is simply this: You start a song, preferably a song you don't know. It starts playing and you start trying to guess the key of the song (e.g. "A" ), then you start trying to piece together the chord structure ("A D F#m E") and finally start trying to figure out something to play over the top of it. One time, I had the Sirius "Outlaw Country" channel on, and I went for a lick and heard the session guitarist go for the same lick. This is a good exercise to develop your ear and your genre-related knowledge.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Tele Is This?

It's a Parker. It has a piezo bridge, too, but he's not using it. Isn't it gorgeous? Well, more the playing than the guitar, but I could learn to live with a Parker.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Is John 5 the un-Kline

Beyond the Tele-vs-Jazzmaster/Jag bit, the jazz->rock vs country->metal bit, there's John 5 using very few effects vs Nels using gobs, even if his take is that ultimately it should be you. Don't know. Both well worth listening to.

A Few Notes with Nels Cline

1) What's the name of the girl pasted onto the "hippy paint" Jaguar? I didn't quite catch it.
2) Is that bit at about 7:50 musical for anyone else but me?
3) A Roy Rogers guitar being used by near-free guitarist Nels Cline? How cool, on a standard 1-10 scale?
4) I have the bridge cables on my #1 Tele, which I designated to be the lightly-strung Tele in contrast to my Rondo, whose bone nut I had cut for Not Even Slinky strings. I have 2 packs of standard Slinky (.010s) just waiting to be installed. The bridge cables are Dean Markley Nick Catanese strings and they still sound good, but ... at the moment, I don't have anything that's slinky and part of what I want to play really likes slinky.
5) In the spirit of this, the earlier John 5 gear tour from Premier Guitar (did I post that one?), I think I'll make vids of my collection.

Yes, #4 isn't really about the video, and #5 isn't really a question. So be it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Divining Water IV



Jane's Addiction

Janes Addiction - Jane Says (live)
by Pzychofreak

Give You Some More Flacke Some More

This is a fretboard map of the A7 chord near the fifth position, showing the roots [A] in yellow, major thirds [C#] in red, fifths [E] in purple and dominant sevenths [G] in light blue. There's a growl, for lack of better terms, that I'm beginning to get when I play it that's the specific tone I'm going for. It's the low string growl that, to me, is the signature of a country guitarist. And, for the life of me, I don't get it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

OK, Maybe Not Any 15 Year Old Punk

There was a time where George Lynch was as big a star in my pantheon as Eddie and Yngwie. And look at his picking hand, the way his fingers poke out. I can and have identified him in instructional videos just from his hands. Dave Navarro was kinda the next generation for me, even if it was just four years from Tooth and Nail and Nothing's Shocking. Dokken was one of the first of the hair metal bands, although there was always something more about them, and Jane's Addiction was the first time that alternative rock started to crawl into the pop charts, a work eventually finished by Nirvana.

That's two heroes from two eras of my life coming together. And I can show you a major scale.

Swingin' A Tele

Pribek reports that Ron Wood might be out of the Rolling Stones. He also wonders if Ron could take Tiger Woods in a bar fight. The question became whether you could swing a Tele like Tiger swings a golf club. I thought Keef kinda proved that years ago, but still, it seems that going, if not actually swing, then at least jazz Tele is called for.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Request For Comments: Floyd Rose

It is established that I, as Tele-Blogster, can be considered Mr. Hardtail. My son has a superstrat and has poked at his strings and Floyd Rose, popping a string. I have poked at this before, doing an initial poke and setup. I'm about to do it again, this time doing a full string swap, and I'm wondering about the process. This seems like a fairly full explanation of the process, but if there's anything else about the care and feeding of a Floyd Rose or Floyd Rose Licenced tremolo unit that I should know, any tips, tricks, hacks or mods to make it all work, please let me know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Emmanuel Shall Come To Thee

Learning "Oh Come Emmanuel" for Sunday. I even looked it up in the hymnal to be sure I'm hitting all the right notes.

I think I have it under my fingers. Don't know if it flows yet but I am beyond the "How does that even go?" point. Need to run through the other songs, but that's cool.

Right now, the coolest part is the "ransom captive Israel" line. It's in the scale -- E minor, in case you're curious -- but it doesn't sound scaley.

Expect videos and tab and maybe staff as I work through it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You Can Keep The Dime

I work in a sub-basement. Down in the the bowels of the earth where the cellphone signal doesn't go. This is point one.

Point two is that I don't have a phone on my desk. My first computer job since 1998 where this is true. Co-worker/supervisor right next to me has a phone. Has said I can have people call that number, but twice my wife has called and been told she has the wrong number. This is not a solution.

And, if I could receive calls hat the office with my cellphone, that's no problem, but see point one.

I have Google Voice. If people leave me a voice mail, it gets transcribed and recorded and left in my inbox. That's great. But it is not reaching me directly, which is what I want.

One thing you can do with Google Voice is set phone numbers for it to forward. I set the office number (which is not ringing off the wall by any means) and the forward. So far, two people have called and gotten the office line. Neither liked it. I was able to talk via voice, so I liked it, but if they now won't call me,

So, what is etiquette? Have I breached Miss Manners' guide for the 21st century? Is it right and good for me to keep my phone pointed at the voice mail even though it could ring directly down?

Also, I have a new AIM account and email. The name of the account is the name of the blog, so if you want to try to contact me ... well, it might work.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Token of Frank's Extreme

And why I started all this:

In about 2 minutes in, Ruth says Zappa meant the two chord (D2, G2, etc) as dropping the third and replacing it with the 2nd. In the case of D, you have D E A, as opposed to the standard D F# A. (And you may want to pause soon after, because they switch from music theory and "Rollo" nearly directly to "Dinah Moe Hum".)

When I see a D2, I instead think of a Steely Dan mu chord, and I think about putting the on a higher note. That is, when I don't think "Hey, I'll just play the D. Nobody will notice." But that's the lazy in me.

Come to think of it, the Zappa form is what I would normally see as a Dsus2, which I discussed earlier, especially how in most cases, the suspended chords are more quick ornamentation on what's fundamentally a major or minor triad. Here, we're talking about something else. You suspend the second and you're totally dropping the third, which means that the chord won't tell you major or minor. (Which is one of the reasons you'd want to do such a thing.)

Ultimately, The question is how to play the thing. Since it's a D, you'd still want to keep a D in the root — we've talking the Zappa one, but if we were talking the mu chord, we'd maybe want the (dropped) major third in the root — so x57755, but I keep wanting to put the fifth on bottom and play it like an Asus4, 577755, which it kinda is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Goin' Home

Joanne Shaw Taylor at WGN. I love how the high notes pop. Did I post this already?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's A Guitar...

So I want it. Of course I want it. Pawn shop put a tag saying $500, which is good for a pedal steel. K saw it and said "Don't you have one of those?" The one I have is a lap steel, or maybe you can say a table steel. It has legs. It doesn't have pedals. It's a 10-string thing, but it has one neck. The cool steel guys have two necks. Still, I so want.

This is much more practical. A Parker P38. It has that piezo, and I am more and more curious about using that to add some percussive attack to a compressed and overdriven guitar sound, or to just sound acoustic. Looking around eBay makes me think that, should it work, that $350 for such an instrument is eminently reasonable.

Neither one followed me home, though.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let Nothing You Dismay

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
Sans Direction, guitar

Merry Christmas. Now don't say I never gave you nothin'.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Guitar In The House

And it isn't mine.

The grandparents came to visit over the summer. Dad does some woodworking, and I thought he might do some work on my eldest's broken StratoTele. He decided that this was a bit more than he could handle, and got a Douglas SI13 superstrat from Rondo.

We did not meticulously document the unboxing, but I did spend some time with the instrument. It's HSS, humbucker in the bridge, single coils in the middle and neck. Middle pickup is reverse wound, just like you'd expect, to give you the nice hum cancellation. And, it has a Floyd Rose.

I'm Mr. Hardtail. Really. You can tell. All the Teles I put up, it's clear. Tune and forget it. With the Floyd, change the tuning of one string and you've changed the tuning for every string. My goodness! But I've figured out the magic for what hex bolt adjusts what. Intonation is weird with these. You adjust a Tele bridge a half-turn at a time. With a Floyd Rose, you loosen the bolt and can slide it the whole range, which takes it from an incremental adjustment to something that can slide way out of the way each time you try. But I got it together and it sounds good.

And it sounded like a Strat. I love the second-position switch, neck and middle, but the bridge humbucker has something to it. When I had it kinda set up, but before I really got into tightening the strings and fixing intonation, we plugged in and played some. I showed him a little "Gimme Shelter". It really has to be neck pickup through a dirty amp, doesn't it?

It feels good. A little flatter radius than I'm used to, but that's how they make Shred Machines. Flat fretboards and jumbo frets for tapping and bending. And it is slightly different in body shape, with a bit of the Jazzmaster offset thrown into the Stratocaster. I have been very happy with my STL50 from Rondo and I'm sure he'll be very happy with his SI13. We'll get some pics up, and maybe some audio or video. And, more than likely, some comments from the big guy in the comments.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Considering the Every-Gig Carry

Ever heard the phrase "Every Day Carry"? I have a similar phrase in mind: Every-Gig Carry. (Kinda telegraphed it with the title, didn't I?) This is the stuff that, every time I go out to play, I carry. The stuff I have shoved in the gear bag.

Yeah, I bring an instrument. I have a multi-effects pedal and three outboard (tremolo, compress/sustain, wah) plus a selection of cables.

But that's not it.

This is the rest of my Every-Gig Carry.

  • String Sets: I try to always carry at least one spare set for anything I'm really playing, which means my electric and A/E guitars. What may make me weird is that I keep my old and empty sets. Try to remember what I have now, what I used to have. Is that weird?

  • Hardware: I have a pair of washers I used to use as string locks. I have the black pickguard that came with Blanc. I have the old bridge and control plate from my #1 and a volume speed-knob from the Les Paul lap steel. I also have 2 spare sets of bridge pins.

  • Screwdrivers: In theory, I should never have to pull out the screwdrivers during a gig, because the screwdrivers adjust intonation, and if you change a string in a gig, it should be the same gauge string as before and thus intonating correctly. I have 2 multi-bit screwdrivers and two phillips head screwdrivers.

  • Allen Wrenches: I need one big one for adjusting the truss rod on the acoustic. I also need small ones to adjust the bridges of the electrics. I have a few loose ones and a Guit-Tool, which is evidently no longer for sale. They're cool, like a swiss-army knife with screwdrivers and allen wrenches and, well, a fairly worthless wire cutter.

  • Wire Cutter: These are what Alton Brown would call multitaskers, because yeah you can clip strings, but if you have something like a book or catalog to protect the cover, you can use them to pull bridge pins. I carry two because? I don't know. One of 'em is kinda useless anymore for string snipping, anyway.

  • String Winder: It was meant to be a multitasker, but the pin puller in it has never been effective for string pulling for me.

  • Whammy Bar: No guitar in the house takes a whammy bar. Why do I carry this?

  • Capos: The two I no longer use. The wrap-around I find useful because it keeps the strings together when I change all the strings at once.

  • Feeler Gauge : When I do the whole hog for a setup, it means relief. This means putting a capo on the first fret (another reason to pack a capo) and fretting the pickup side of the last pickup. You then use a feeler gauge to check the distance between the string and the 8th fret. Which I only do when I change strings.

  • Battery: 9 Volt. Don't know if it's still good. Does anyone need 9 volts besides guitar players anymore? What else takes a 9 volt?

  • Sharpie: Some day I WILL need it. I just hope it isn't dry by then.

  • Velcro: There can be no modern rock music without velcro, duck tape and milk crates. Believe it.

  • Pot Cleaner: I had some scratchy pots. I might be good on scratchy pots for the next decade.

  • Nail Clippers: This one is kind of a mongrel, being curved out and not in, so it doesn't fit the shape of the toenail. But if you have fingernails on the fret hands that won't let you fret, you can't play like that, so there you go.

  • Scrunchies: I learned this one from Greg Howe. If you're playing legato or fingertapping or sometimes even just hard, sometimes your fingers are to busy to mute strings, and if you have open strings ringing, you sound bad. So, throw on a scrunchie. Jennifer Batten has a cool damper thing, but a scrunchie is cheaper, and allows you the chance to do like Greg and color-coordinate to your guitar. These were 6 for 99 cents, and black like my #1.

The thing is, I'm sure that a good chunk of that should not be an Every-Gig Carry. And seeing that I just got a great deal at Sears for a stewardess suitcase to use as a gear case, it's a good time to rethink what I'm carrying.

So, what do you carry with you each time? What should I box up and leave at home?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

That Kinda Sucks

My son's StratoTele had a bridge blowout, and so, he's using my classical guitar as his guitar right now. That's the one I'm willing to let go.

He comes to me last night. He had blown out the D string. In general, I pick up strings in pairs. It really is the only intelligent way. That way, if you break a string, you have spares. Years ago — honestly, I don't know if my seven-year-old was still alive — I picked up a couple sets of Dean Markley ball-end nylon strings. I put the first set on nearly immediately. My son picked up a pair of tie-on strings, which he improvised in installing a while ago. Pretty ugly, sure, but that's how you learn. Well, ugly improvisation and Google searches.

Anyway, I pull out the clippers, untie the strings, start putting the new set on, and realize, hey, there's no D string in this set. I suppose it is possible that I scavenged a spare and forgot about it. Still, it leaves the guitar exactly where we left it.

So, in the short-term, I need to get a set or two of nylon guitar strings, strings that will last. I'll throw in a replacement set or two for my Supro.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

They'll Never See It Coming

I don't know Justin Moore. I didn't know Dean Guitars made Tele-style instruments. But that's just a great idea, isn't it? Get-R-Done!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The B-Bender is ONLY for Country?

Not if you're a mutant.

Sweet. White. Tele?

Sweetwater has dropped the price on Charvel San Dimas Style 2 dual-humbucker guitars. I mean, it's down to levels that I don't think I've seen on USA-built guitars in years. I can't swing this right now, but dang!

And yeah, it isn't really a Tele. It's got 'buckers and a Floyd Rose. And you know what? I'm OK with that. I'd twang on it up on one anyway. And maybe, just maybe, I'd learn what to do with one of those whammy bars besides hang the instrument by it like Vai did in Crossroads.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

That was the Week That Was

There's a few different stories here, and they are wildly disconnected. Fair warning.

My musical week starts with "Behind The Nut Love".

It's a John 5 song, one where he bends above the nut to get a pedal steel sound. It's that kind of bending that inspired the B-Bender. Good stuff, despite the name. Anyway, the B string pops right next to the tuner. Folks, when that happens, you start thinking that there's enough to restring it and keep going, but really, there's not, and if you spend more than 10 minutes trying, like I did, you're just being a fool. Especially at 1am when your alarm is set for 6am.

Anyway, I had a choice. I could go for the EB Super Slinkys I have in my bag. I've said that the next set I go to is going to be, at least, Regular Slinkys. I don't have Regular Slinkys. I do have a set of Dean Markely strings that I got from Nick Catanese's roadie at Gearfest. And they're bridge cables, I gotta say. Low E is .060. I once had a set of GHS White Bronze mediums, which are acoustic guitar strings, and the low was .056. My baritone, with EB Not Even Slinkys, has a .056 as the low string, and that's tuned down three half-steps! But don't you know it, I love 'em. I've gotten into flatpicking, like Tony Rice and Clarence White stuff, and you just can't bash on light strings like that. Not that it works well amplified, but still.

That was Monday night. Tuesday was practice. Needless to say, I was a bit worried. Even when I give a stretch, I like to let new strings sit a day before I play out with 'em, because a string will stretch out and it's good to not have it happen when you're actually playing. Practice went well. Maybe I should be worried because when the leader has notes, they're never for me. Or, I can just be comfortable with the thought that every thing I play is the right note, even if what I play on the first pass and on the second pass have little to do with each other.

Tab time:
E -3-3-3-2-2-3-3-2-2-3-3-2-2-3-3-3--
B -3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3-3--
G ----------------------------------
D ----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------
E ----------------------------------
E -3-3-3-2---3-3-2---3-3-2---3-3-3--
B -3-3-3-3---3-3-3---3-3-3---3-3-3--
G ----------------------------------
D ----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------
E ----------------------------------

Both are essentially the same. A double-stop implying movement between G and D, in this place played in a fairly standard three-chord progression in G. The first, I believe, is what is on the album. The second, holding the F# and D notes instead of G and D, I think that just sounds cooler. What do you guys think? Maybe I should make another YouTube vid to make that point.

I brought my #1 with the heavy strings to play on Wednesday. I've started to prefer taking my #2, my baritone, but I didn't. There's not too much for me to say about it, except we're a bit bored with the arrangements. Which, in a way, why I got into playing the baritone. Years ago, there was an all-gear, no-tab guitar magazine named Guitar Shop, where they went on in one episode about how little it would take to turn your Fender-scale Tele into a baritone, and I wanted a #2 guitar so I could do that for over a decade. Now I have it. I tend to use it as an instrument where I almost have no open strings, which means I have to rethink, figure how to make the needed scales in other positions. And I can always drop down to D, which is nice. Being able to do some vibrato on what would normally be the low E? That's nice. But you know, I don't really use it like a baritone, really hitting the low notes. It's a guitar, but it plays just slightly different.

On Sundays, it's drums, keys, piano, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar (me) drums, sax, vox, vox, vox. On Wednesdays, it's drums, keys, guitar, guitar, bass. I heard once that, with a three-piece band, you want to play big chords. All six strings and such. I'm always with larger bands with sufficient harmonic support, so I find myself playing smaller chords, three notes across the D G and B strings.
E -------------------
B ----5----7----5----
G ----6----7----4----
D ----7----7----6----
A -------------------
E -------------------

These are A, D and E. Through the magic of relative minors, that's F# minor, B minor and C# minor. They say there's seven chords, but if you're not the only one responsible for harmony, you can really say there are four. I'm skipping past the diminished, which like gaslights and steam trains, just are not used much anymore.

And finally, I played this morning. And I actually got some complements for some hot playing, plust the sound man likes guitar and brings me up enough. There have been times, more than a few times, where the guitar was supposed to play the lead-in, but the sound guy hates guitar and had him down, so that nobody heard the lead-in. But not today.

Well, not totally finally. I play through a AX1500G multieffects unit, and my crunch and my clean tones were in totally different banks, so I can't play clean and just switch over to a raunchy tone for a break. Well, they were. I moved them over before crashing for an afternoon nap. We'll see how that goes on Wednesday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Was Miles the Anti-Frank?

This is the opposite of the Frank Zappa audition-from-hell story. The gig was Robbin's. He was asked in.

Problem is, you have to work to let it stay that way, and as Mr. Ford says, folks were falling by the wayside.

There's more there, where you can compare and contrast the two. Zappa has vibes double melody lines, really complex lines, just to say "I wrote this and they practiced hard to make it like I imagined it". Davis, especially Miles when Zappa was starting to roll in the late 60s and early 70s, was surrounding himself with people he liked and started playing. (Yeah, the jams were spliced into structure by Teo Macero.) Still, after some of the Zappa horror stories, I thought I was due an easy audition story.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I've Fallen In Love Again

I have never bought a full instrument from Guitar Fetish. I have bought some gear, and I would be glad to trade more of my hard-earned dollars for more of their gear.

And the gear in question is this: A Jazzmaster copy. It doesn't have the weird controls that real Jazzmasters have, but it has the P90s and the bridge. Sonic Youth used these things for decades — they needed dozens of guitars because they were switching between oddball tunings each song, and picking up a new guitar and plugging in is faster than retuning between every song — but they've done this since I was middle school and they got the signature editions this year. I think it's Nels Cline.

That solo is now my favorite piece of Wilco. The piece of Wilco that makes me think that I want a Jazzmaster tremolo. Which then makes me think I want a Jazzmaster. Or copy. And this one, it's a fine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ever heard the phrase "pre-fade"?

Wednesday, I brought the baritone. I have it tuned to C#. That's kinda like the B string on a 5-string bass — you have that so you can play D like it's B and have some low notes a few frets higher where it fits in the hand more easily. C# means you get E like it's G. Which is nice.

It also means you have to rethink all your chords and the relationships. Which is good for your musical thinking, for your fretboard knowledge.

But there's a thing. My C# is a Rondo STL50, and it's got cheap tuners, and trying to get it right in tune with the lower notes is hard, and the cheap tuners make it harder. OK, part of it, a big part, is on me, but I think the hardware can take some blame.

Speaking of blame....

I have been having problems with monitors recently. With the in-ear, the monitor levels are in Aux 8, and Aux 8 should be dimed so each in-ear unit can mix an individual mix. But the guitars were turned down, so while I was absolutely pushing it and out loud in the house, I was buried in my head and could barely hear myself. But I know that problem and it is solved.

But on Wednesdays, we've moved rooms, and we now use monitor wedges. Like everybody else in the world, I know. I have been so spoiled by in-ear monitors over the years. It's sick, I have to say. Zappa called modern recording mixes "imaginary rooms", where a fingerpicked classical guitar can be heard over a blasting Les Paul through a Marshall stack, and with the in-ear, you can have your own imaginary room. It's great. Playing to a wedge monitor makes me sad.

I was jammin', getting in touch with the C#, D and D# I never had access to before, and the sound guy started tweaking and suddenly I had nothing. Nothing. Turns out, there's a switch, which controls pre/post fader. You want the monitors to be pre-fade, to split off before the fader, so I can hear myself in the monitor mix even when I'm tuned down in the house mix.

You don't need to be a sound guy. You're a musician and you're doing your job. But these are a few of the things you want to be able to ask about if you're having problems.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Teaching Old Ponies New Tricks

Just saw this quiestion in a comment.
why oh why do good guitar players like Teles? More of a one-trick pony.
There are so many answers to this question.

First, consider this superstrat, owned by Warren DeMartini of Ratt.

Talk about a one trick pony. It has volume and a big humbucker. It has one trick. A tele has a volume and tone control, plus a 3-way switch. Even the one-pickup Esquires have that switch with three tones. Neck pickups give you a more mellow, more jazzy sound. Bridge pickup gives you a twangier sound, which is really nice for cutting through the mix. Plus the normal set of crazy Tele tricks, like above-the-nut bending like Jerry Donahue and above-the-nut picking like Tom Morello.

Not to mention what I've done with my #2 guitar, tuning it down to B to get those low notes. Or whatever effects you have between the jack and the ears of those listening.

But ultimately, it's not about how the guitar sounds. Nobody wants to listen to you playing open string after open string. That's not music, that's just sound. It's about what you play. I own Teles. I play Teles. I sound like me. That's the only trick I need.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Christmas Wishlist, as of November 2009

This is my wishlist for Christmas. Just to be clear, I don't expect everything on this list. Honestly, I don't expect anything on this list. A gift is a gift only if it is freely given, and if I expect it from you, then that's not free. But this is a list of my needs and desires, at least when it comes to guitar gear, placed where at least some subset of friends and family will see.

Strings and Things

These are things chosen to be under $40, in most case under $20 and in many cases under $10.

  • #1 My #1 Tele is strung light so I can work on Country bending. The Strings I tend to go for are Ernie Ball Super Slinky, which run .009-.042. I'm considering going up to .010-.046, to Ernie Ball Regular Slinky. Musician's Friend can give you great deals on 10-packs, which I am sure to use but not waste. I usually end up changing strings on this one about every three-to-six months.

  • Blanc This one is strung baritone, BEADF#B instead of EADGBE, so it needs a much heavier string. I go for Ernie Ball Not Even Slinky strings, .012-.056.

  • Acoustic I've been going lighter and lighter for my acoustic, hunting a decent gauge Ernie Ball Earthwood Lights are where I'm leaning now.

  • Old Standby This is my Ibanez acoustic that I've had forever, with a broken neck and no frets. Because it has no frets and no pickup, I hardly ever use this for anything but playing myself to sleep. So, slick strings that can last forever are exactly what this one needs. A set of Elixir Nanowebs, acoustic light gauge, are just what the instrument needs.

  • Classical This one lives with my eldest son as he conspires to get himself an electric guitar again. Any classical strings with ball ends are fine with me, because tying off a classical bridge is annoying.

  • Lap Steels I have two, a Supro with legs and an Epiphone Pee Wee Les Paul with a nut extender. The Pee Wee, which I tune to A Sebastapol, tends to get cast-off strings taken off other guitars. The Supro, on the other hand, is tuned to a C6 and I've gone to a custom set of gauges
     C  .038
    E .030
    G .024
    A .022p (plain, not wound)
    C .018
    E .015
    As with string sets, you can get single strings from JustStrings or your local music store.

  • Mandolin For this one, I am not picky. I'll take any mandolin string set, as long as it isn't Black Diamond.

  • Fiddles Fiddle strings are surprisingly expensive. The strings I put on the fiddle I use most are D'Addario Prelude. While I'm talking about the violin, I suppose I should mention that I could really use a Kun shoulder pad.

  • Picks I shouldn't be picky about picks. (Pun intended.) There are many good picks out there. But I love love love love Dunlop Ultex picks, 1mm width. They make more of a difference when you're flatpicking an acoustic guitar, but they feel great in the hand on any instrument.

  • Cables I play out, and playing out means cabling up, and right now, more and more of my cables are flaking and dying. I need up to 3 10' cables, used to connect guitar to effects, effects to amp, or just guitar to amp. I would also really like a few 6" or 12" patch cables to connect effects together. Guitar Fetish has some obscenely great deals on cables.

Effects and Electronics

This is where things start getting pricier, and also further from the "I know I need this" category and closer to "I think I want this".

  • Noise Gate Electric guitars can be fairly noisy, single coil guitars being the worst. A noise gate serves to cut down on the hum and buzz while keeping up the signal.

  • Tuner Pedal These sit on your effects chain, allowing you to tune up with just a kick of the pedal. Boss, Korg and Petersen all make great tuner pedals.

  • Transparent Drive Also known as "Clean Boost". Many effects pedals change the sound when they engage. This is often what you want. Take for example the fuzz sound on the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". A Transparent Drive is the opposite, trying to evenly and cleanly add gain to the signal. The Danelectro Transparent Drive pedal is an inexpensive entry into this category.

  • Overdrive Here we're getting more into the "Satisfaction" thing. The DigiTech Bad Monkey is an inexpensive example of what I'm going for.

  • Attenuator This is kind of the opposite. Imagine you're straight out roaring, but want to back off so the singer can sing. This pedal, specifically the Electro-Harmonix Nano Signal Pad in this case, turns you down. Yeah, you can use the volume knob, but sometimes your hands are busy.

  • Volume Pedal This is a pedal that serves like a volume knob, allowing you to mute your system. You can also use them to do volume swells. Ernie Ball makes a series of built-like-a-tank volume pedals, and Morley also has a few nice ones.

  • Vibrato Vibrato is variation in pitch. They sound cool. Danelectro makes a vibrato pedal that's not too expensive.

  • Digital Delay Delay pedals allow you to have your signal repeat. Think the slapback of rockabilly, or the Edge's guitar in U2. What I really want here, what I can't do with my existing gear, is reverse delay, which takes what you play and repeats it backwards, like Jimi Hendrix did (really reverse in the studio) on "Are You Experienced?". The Boss DD-7 and Line 6 Echo Park have this capability.

  • Violin Pickup I'm forseeing a chance to play out more if I can get one of my violins set up to play in an electronic setting. Thus, I would like a pickup on the fiddle. My initial thought is going with Fishman but the Shadow SV1 and SV2 seem like they would work, for much less.

  • Power All those pedals, not to mention the ones I already have, either have many many "wall wart" power adapters or go through 9-volt batteries. The 1 Spot serves as one adapter for several pedals.


You may want to stop reading here.

  • Amplification I do not have any amps rated to play next to a drummer. This, to my mind, is the next step. The solid state choice would be something like a Fender Frontman 65R or Frontman 212R. Having 2 amps would allow me to play one and let Niel play on the other. Of course, tube wattage, pound-for-pound, is louder than solid state wattage, so if I could get a tube amp of up to 60 watts, that would be better.

  • Bass I want a bass. You can get a Rondo bass-and-amp setups for not much more than $100. Eric has expressed interest in the low end, too, so he could use it when I'm not using it.

  • Steel I've done enough with lap steel that now I want a pedal steel, too. Carter makes a starter-level pedal steel they call the Starter.

  • Fretless Playing the fretless acoustic makes me curious. Rondo has a fretless LesPaul-style that looks just nice, and at much less than you can get one from Gibson or Epiphone.

  • Hot Rod This is a long-term interest for me, a guitar with everything I'm dreaming about in a hot guitar. I'm a Tele guy so I'd go for a Tele body and neck. I've been very happy with my low-end SX STL50 from Rondo, so that will do. Beyond that, I want:

    • Banjo Tuners on the E and A strings for quick retuning Schaller D-Tuners should fit the SX or modern Fender tuning holes - $100

    • High-output "Rails" bridge pickup Joe Bardens are the end-all for this class (That's what Danny Gatton used) but Seymour Duncan Hot Rails would be fine. - $80

    • My intention is to mount this pickup to the body, so a Strat-style hardtail bridge would be good to mount six saddles for a ... Graphtech Ghost system Piezo pickups to use for acoustic emulation. Being graphite, they'd be lubricated for

    • a B-Bender Ultimately I would want a Parsons-White or Parsons-Green style Bender, or a Glaser, but I think a Hipshot would be a good first stop.

    • Fernandes FSK401 Sustainer Kit This has a single-coil-sized driver.

    Of course, part of the joy of this is the learning of it, putting it together and making it work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Memory of Duane Allman

New Chord Form

E ---0----0----0---
B ---0----0----0---
G ---11---9----6---
D ---12---10---7---
A ---10---8----5---
E ---12---10---7---
This is a chord show to me tonight as I played. Those are a few places where the movable parts don't sound too bad with the ringing B and E. This is a jangly clean-tone chord, but give it try.

Looking just at the EADG strings, first, notice that we have the root, minor third and dominant seventh. It would be easy to say Emin7, Dmin7, Bmin7, but that doesn't bring in the G string. In the first case, that's an F#. That's an octave up from the root, so that's a 9? Emin9? We'll assume that someone, somewhere, will fill in that fifth. Come to think of it, the open B string gives us the fifth. So, yes, Emin9.

Drop down to the second chord and you see that's a Dmin9, except the B and E become a 4 or 11 and another 9. So Dmin9sus4?

When we get to the B, that's root minor-third dominant-seventh ninth root fourth, so again a Bmin9sus4.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Digs

The main room has the good sound. The main room has the playback setup. It has the Aviom system and piano and the glass cage for the drums. The choir is starting to do songs with the band rather than going along with pre-recorded tracks. So the choir is getting the main room, and Wednesday service is going to ... well, until this week, it was called "the choir room."

I didn't know how good I had it. Seriously.

Instead of a real piano, we have the kind of digital piano that people who want to start learning piano get. We have the drum set we had before we got the drumset before we got the drum set before we got the drum set. And the monitors. This is the first time I played there without earbuds, and the monitors were just nowhere near enough.

About a third of the way through the set, I noticed that I couldn't hear the bassist. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon thing. I motioned to the sound man to turn up the bass. At least, I meant to. Thumb up, thumb down, that's universal for volume up, volume down, and I tried to do plucking like a bass instead of strumming, but he turned me up, then turned me back down. Then he dragged in a bass amp for him, and finally, for the first time in years(!) we could clearly hear the bass.

To the extent I heard myself, I guess I did well, but I knew we'd have technical issues, and there were.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Notes From The Front

At this point, because I'm not working from a strong theme of hardware geeking like Stratoblogster and I'm more the student than the teacher, this has devolved into a nearly entirely diary blog. I am sorry.

That being said:
  • The leader's out-of-town — out-of-state, even — so we will not have practice this week, again! If we were touring and could just hit the same setlist over and over again, that would be one thing. I hate being so reliable.
  • My eldest had his first concert as a high school student this evening. I love my children and want to encourage them, but honestly, going to the middle school concerts was a chore. But this time, every band, from low to high, was just really good. Kudos!
  • I've found a decent tone on my multipedal. Reasonably close to the Steve Stevens Top Gun tone, as featured above. At least to my ears. I will put together a video soon.
  • Years ago, there was an all-gear magazine called Guitar Shop. In one issue, they wrote about what it would take to convert a standard-scale guitar to a baritone. I can't find my copy, but I have wanted to make a baritone guitar for over a decade. This concept was at the forefront of my mind when I got the Rondo. And now, I have it intonated to be tuned BEADF#B. I think I'd have to move the bridge back further to get below that. Again, I shall have to make a video.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Great Fiddler

This violinist is Ann Marie Calhoun. She's one of two of Steve Vai's violin players. And while this isn't Vai-like, it's good.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Object Of My Affection

I love classic rock keyboard sounds. The Hammond, the Clavinet, The Wurlitzer, the Vox Continental and of course the Fender Rhodes. I was searching the web while waking up, and I found a mention on Diane Birch's blog of a new Rhodes piano. Yes, they've restarted the Rhodes line. I originally thought "Why didn't anyone tell me?" So I'm telling you. Which made me want to do a rough price comparison with the Nord, which, to my ear, has dead-on perfect Rhodes and Hammond sounds. Just so you know, the Rhodes is running $5000 while the Nord is about half that. If I was touring and making money on it, I'd still want the Rhodes, though.

But, while I was searching, I saw this. The Korg SV-1. What struck me was the tube glowing on the control panel. I know people (Patrick) who would love it just for the tube. And it comers in under both the Rhodes and Nord. I know what's far closer to my price range, but that's what dreaming is for, right?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

That Was Fun

Right now, we're at the point where we're learning one song or so per practice and mostly tightening up the old songs. That's a good place to be. For one of the songs, which is B, E and F#sus, I was hitting chord notes on the D G and B strings. The leader, he starts complementing me on my "solo". Solo? I'm hitting chord notes. I'm just playing the chords without being all strummy. But I'm hanging out on a lead tone, not the clean tone I tend to go to, and, well, he thought it was the thing.

I still wish I had a louder clean tone. I'm starting to dial in a not-too-dirty OD setting on my multieffects unit, one that'll give me the more I need without the gain. I like my lead channel, which I call "Freak" because I was trying to get some of the Mattias IA Eklundh high-gain thing with the harmonics popping out. I am beginning to like that. I'm going to have to set it up and get some video of it one of these days.

And when I said freak....

The part I love the most is the noiselessness of it. He's got gain to coax out those tones, but there's no buzz, no sound he doesn't want. As a single-coil guy, that's the one thing I'm jealous of. I think I need a super-strat.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown"

We had a printer failure today. A $2 piece of plastic broke, meaning a cornerstone of our workflow broke down. We moved a replacement in, a different model which goes by a different name. A co-worker started the process of installing the new drivers, but, to a point, send data to a Postscript printer and it'll act like a Postscript printer. So once a) we established that we could print without installing mods, and b) the installer she chose involved installing IIS on a workstation, I stopped her, got out of the admin login, and set her back to work. She looked puzzled, so I gave a response.

"Forget about it, Ann. It's Chinatown."

I really want to know how many people here recognize that line.

It's the last line of Chinatown. Spoiler >> The bad guy wins. He wins at everything. Our hero, Jake, used to work for the DA in Chinatown, where the corruption and crime was so bad, the DA suggested he do as little as possible for his own safety and sanity. Jake is lead away by friends still on the force, who say that line. Any further action toward that goal is futile and potentially dangerous, so it's best to turn your back and go onto the next. << Spoiler Not to imply that Chinatown is any better or any worse than any other neighborhood. I was four when that movie was made, and have nothing to do with any associations made by that film.

There are obscure lines that I know when I say them "It's very unlikely anyone gets this." A few examples:
  • "I would like a cup of meat!"
  • "Let's go get sushi, and not pay!"
  • "Because you're perfect."
  • "A squid eating dough in a polyethlene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me?"
If I say these lines and you get them, that says a lot about our mutual interests. But others, well, it's just inconceivable to me that they're obscure. The above line is one of them.

The director of that movie is Roman Polanski. Google that name and you'll see the case against him. But he did what he did. He admitted what he did. He was tried, sentenced and he skipped out. To me, that's the alpha and the omega of the story. He doesn't want to go to jail, but who does? To my mind, he should be sent back to America and he should go to jail.

But that's my mind. Do I have any belief that this is going to happen? I don't. Years ago, Maureen Down said that Bob Packwood shouldn't be kicked from the Senate for sexual harassment, because he was too valuable a vote for women. This was the last I had any respect for Maureen Dowd. Whoopi Goldberg says this isn't rape rape, and that's the last I have any respect for her. But there are voices that say that his art is ... I don't know. An excuse? A justification? I say that Chinatown is a great film. I say that Rosemary's Baby is one of the foundation films of modern horror. But I say that Ninth Gate is closer to Peacemaker, a good piece of film but not crucial. And Fearless Vampire Killers? Not nearly worth your time.

But by even asking that question, is this amount of art a justification for any human pain, a question that to many in Hollywood, is already answered, we're cheaping life and justifying further violence. We've already created a new "Chinatown".

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That was weird

I play a Tele. I play clean. Normally, this means I have icepick tone, sharp treble that just pokes in the ear. The good thing about it is that you can always find yourself in the mix, but the bad thing is that you can't hide if you're having an off night.

Tonight, I tried a new, similar patch. And it was a ball of mud. No definition, all low end. This on my Tele strung with .009 strings. Normally, the thing has no bottom end. I could not find any top end with that clean patch.

During sound-check, I was playing around with patterns, adapting one that I learned off the Tommy Shannon bass tape, which, when put to B, is a lick from Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell".

E -----------------------------------
B -----------------------------------
G -----------------------------------
D -------------7-9-------------7-9---
A -------9-9-9-----------9-9-9-------
E -7-7-7-----------7-7-7-------------
Isn't it enough to make you want to pull out the ray gun? But, while playing around with it in another key (F#, which I'm not sure is the right chord but I think it might be) ...

E ----------------------------------------------------------------------
B ----------------------------------------------------------------------
G -----------------2-2-4-4-2-2------------------------2-2-4-4-2-2-------
D ---------2-2-4-4-------------4-4------------2-2-4-4-------------4-4---
A -----4-4--------------------------------4-4---------------------------
E -2-2--------------------------------2-2-------------------------------
"We've Got The Beat". Go-Gos. Who, remember, were so wild they got tossed out of Ozzy's backstage when he was still snorting ants and biting the heads of small flying animals.

Meanwhile, we didn't have a bassist — and if he called in and begged out, I never heard it — but between my mud, the piano and our friend coming back to sit in on organ, the low end was covered well enough. But still, it makes me very much want to get a bass. If you have two guitars and no bass, that's not right. And a whammy pedal set for going down an octave? That doesn't really do the trick.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tales from the life of an "almost professional" musician

I play on Sunday. I was supposed to know what songs we're playing by Monday. I don't yet. But, on Tuesday, we were supposed to practice, starting at 7PM. The boys wanted to go to the library, and so I said "As long as you get back by 6:35 or 6:40, I'll be able to get there on time." At 7:05, I sent a reminder. They got home at 7:20, and I got to practice at 7:30, feeling angry and bad.

And found the room dark.

Practice was canceled due to the leader having health issues in the family. The email telling me this was sent around 5:30pm and arrived around 9:30pm. So, that was annoying, frustrating, and, finally, saddening.

That's the sad story.

We play through DI boxes. The other guitarist and I use multieffects boxes to juice our signal a little, but the bassist doesn't, and so, it is a rare and unusual thing for him to be noticable in the mix. But tonight, he was out in front, which was fun.

Before we started, he was playing the E on the B string. "Bonk!" he'd go, wait a little, then go "Bonk!" again. A bass is one octave lower than a guitar, and he's playing one octave up, so next time he went "Bonk!", I followed with my own "Bonk!" He didn't figure it out at first, so whenever he went "Bonk!", I went "Bonk!"

Soon, he got it. The other guitarist joined in, going an octave up, to "Bink!"



Not funny in the telling, I suppose, but it was funny at the time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Victor Wooten at Sweetwater

On Monday, I took my two biggest sons to Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne to see a clinic with Victor Wooten and J.D. Blair.

OK, just in case you don't know, Wooten plays bass for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He plays Fodera basses and Hartke amps. He has been featured before on this blog, in the inaugural post of the 'man that's deep' label. There's also some points to add to the 'how to not suck' label. But we'll get to that.
On improvisation vs. repertoire:"The fewer songs you recognize, the better night we're having."
Of course, he's a massive player. He, a looper pedal, and a great drummer can make all the music you'd want.

Gearhead Paragraph: He had two bassists, one a 4-string yin/yang bass tuned EADG with a Hipshot D-tuner and another bass tuned ADGC: a 'tenor bass' in his terminology. Both have 24-fret necks. He uses nickel strings, a Boss RC50 loop pedal, a Peterson tuner pedal and had a Hartke stack with a 4x10 cab for high notes and a 1x15 for the low. He uses a hair tie to mute the open strings — I call it the Greg Howe trick because that's where I saw it first — He has basses with Kahler tremolos, fretless basses, five-string basses with MIDI pickups, but he didn't have them there that night. But that is what he uses. If you try what he likes and don't like it, he doesn't want the blame, and if you try what he likes and like it too, he doesn't want the credit.
On endorsements "Don't buy something because someone uses it. Try it out because they use it, but only buy it if you like it."

On the transitive nature of instruments "Bass is more a role than an instrument."

The coolest thing, the thing I want most to try, is his groove/rhythm exercise. Set up a long drum pattern on your drum machine. Set your drum machine so it plays that measure four times. Find your groove in that. Get into it.

Then replace the fourth measure to silence.

This will tell you your tendencies, if you tend to rush the beat or lag. And, if you know, you can start to work against it.

This is when you swap out the third measure.

Then the second.

Then just have one beat, one note floating in a sea of silence.

I have yet to try that exercise. But it sounds like a perfect get-the-groove don't-suck kind of exercise, doesn't it?

On warming up "I'm 45 years old. I've been playing for 43. I should be warmed up by now."

If you get a chance to see him playing with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, do it. If you get a chance to see him playing in duo format with J.D. Blair, do that. But especially, if you get the chance to do a workshop with him, jump on that.

The final point: it is far more pleasant to be in the electric guitar room at Sweetwater after a Victor Wooten clinic than after a John 5 clinic. Bassists who play with each other are much more pleasant to be in a room with than guitarists who don't.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

That's Gotta Hurt

Perhaps this is a lesson in ergonomics.

Phil Collins was the drummer for Genesis, and when Peter Gabriel left, he took over the singing duties, but he always saw himself as a drummer first.

But no more. Due to spinal injury, he's giving up the drums. Evidently, it's hooked to how he sits on the drum throne.

I've never really looked into ergonomics, especially the ergonomics of guitar. I know that I used to sit at an ergonomic desk with a keyboard extender that sat below my knees. That desk actually hurt me until I took off the keyboard extender.

Anyway, I always liked a bunch of his work. Sad to see him leaving the drum kit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Love The 70s....

I was playing my son some Supertramp. I don't know why Breakfast In America came back to my attention recently, but there it is. This evening, it came up because the family saw the Star Trek reboot, and when you think Spock, you should think of "The Logical Song".

But this brought to mind an element of my youth. I remember stopping by a friend's place, and his brother was there, long-haired and shirtless, airbrushing a mermaid on the side of his van, with Supertramp on the boom-box. At this moment, I cannot think of a more late-1970s moment than that. Can anyone one-up me?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Explain The Effect: Tremolo 2

This is ground I've tread before, but I'm hitting it again at another angle.

Put a little tremolo on a clean sound and it begins to sound like it has the power of a distorted sound, without the difficulties of high gain. I set up my Frontman 25R with a moderate amount of reverb — knowing Duane Eddy, I probably should've poured it on — and two takes at "Rebel Rouser". First pass is tremolo off, second is tremolo on.
That's my SX STL50 into a Danelectro Cool Cat Tremolo to a Fender Frontman 25R, recorded on laptop, so you know we're talking audiophile. Still, while it is a simple effect, the resulting sound is much fuller than without, at least to my ears. The good thing about it is that you can play fast enough to hide the effect, then sustain a note and there it is. (Don't thank me, thank Danny Gatton's rhythm guitar video.)

For your edification, this is the lick I was playing.
I couldn't really hit the timing with the TinyLick interface, but all the notes are there.

I suppose I should be fair and show the master doing it....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

We're talking like "Sonic", right?

In the late 80s, I was kinda Marten. Not that I was in a relationship with a hot coffeeshop owner, but I was a big music geek who knew new music from lots of bands that most people who aren't me didn't know or care about. I know a little about a few, but I'm not nearly that guy like I used to be. I try — I follow music blogs and all — but I'm just not keeping up.

So, I saw something on Wolfgang's Vault that piqued the interest in the 1990s Marten in me. It's called "The Pixies/Fugazi/Sonic Youth Syndrome" . Let me give you an example: Eddie Van Halen loved Cream-era Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton loved B.B. King. B.B. King got started listening to Bukka White. Half the guitarists of the 80s got into Eddie. Now, consider that EVH fan chasing up the influence chain. Easily, some Cream could leave them cold. Maybe they'd get B.B. King and maybe not. But what is a metal guitarist gonna get from Bukka White?

OK, now recast all that as late 80s alt-rock bands and you get the gist of the point. It does me well to look for ideas in the influence of my favorite bands, but that doesn't mean that I'll get anything that means anything to me, and that doesn't mean the audience should feel remotely obliged to even care.

Let me quote:
I sometimes feel that people grow up but never grow out of that attitude, unable to separate musical opinion from musical fact. The bands they loved when they were young served as gateways to new, exciting music and may have just changed (or, as often stated overdramatically, "saved") their lives. But those bands existed in and for a certain time. I recently did a tedious article for the St. Louis alt-weekly paper where I listened to every single band playing the local date of Warped Tour. After the 15th screamo band I heard, I desperately wanted to burn 3,500 copies of Relationship of Command by At the Drive-In and hand them out to the youngsters in attendance, as if to "teach them something.” But I'm sure many who heard Relationship when it came out wanted to do the same pretentious campaign with Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come at the front gates of ATDI shows. And it keeps going further back until we’re all crowded around a creaky record player listening to Black Flag’s first 7” on repeat all day long. Where’s the fun in that?
This woke up my Marten. Who is At The Drive In? Is Relationship of Command all that?

I don't know yet. Haven't had time to get into it yet. But, so far, I'm liking it better than Jane Doe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This Week In Review 2009/08/28

My Top 11 Artists
  1. The Replacements - 65 tracks
  2. Simon & Garfunkel - 61 tracks
  3. Paul Simon - 53 tracks
  4. Chris Thile - 52 tracks
  5. Nickel Creek - 41 tracks
  6. The White Stripes - 31 tracks
  7. The Raconteurs - 14 tracks
  8. Converge - 12 tracks
  9. At the Drive-In - 12 tracks
  10. Mike Marshall & Chris Thile - 10 tracks
  11. Punch Brothers - 7 tracks
Those are high numbers, but justified. I had a Chris Thile (plus Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers) day, two days of Paul Simon +/- Art Garfunkel, a day of the Replacements and today was Jack White (White Stripes and the Raconteurs).

I haven't finished the Jack White playlist yet. I could've done more, but there was big networking fun through much of the day today, so I was largely away from my desk. There's been talk in the forums I frequent about the movie It Might Get Loud, which is about Jimmy Page, the Edge, Jack White and the Cult of the Guitar. Listening today, it struck me that Jack and Jimmy have styles that are very similar, and that much of the WS/Raconteurs work wouldn't have sounded too out of place on an early Led Zep album.

Maybe more later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the ability to count to 3

On the Tele Discussion Page Reissue (TDPRI), there's a tread called "Post your three no-brainer tips you've learned here". This is my contribution:
  1. You can do it. Learn a technique. Mod your guitar. Build the thing from timber and finish it. Wind the pickups. I haven't done much -- I've modded every superficial thing on my #1, leaving only the fundamentals like electronics, nut and fretwork left for me -- but for any given thing I want to try, I know that a) I can do it and b) someone on TDPRI will tell me how.
  2. For hot country guitar, you need a compressor, a clean amp and rubber-band strings. And, of course, a Tele. Unless you want to do it some other way.
  3. The most expensive guitar/amp/pedal/cable isn't necessarily the best sounding guitar/amp/pedal/cable. Specifically, the SX guitars from Rondo are perfectly good guitars that make great mod platforms and are even pretty good guitars out of the box.
  4. The Parsons White isn't the only way to have a B-Bender. And you don't necessarily need to bend the B.
OK. Clearly, I have lost the ability to count to four. But that's my take. What 3 (or more, or less even) no-brainer tips do you have?

John 5: The SansDirection Interview

Well, not really. This is from the previously-blogged workshop at Sweetwater. But the clip does start with my question, which was "Can you tell us about your Tele collection".

I don't know that I knew about strumming above the nut before the workshop.

And no, he didn't just talk. He played a bit.

On Monday, Sept 14, Victor Wooten will be having a workshop in the same venue, which is just fantastic.

Friday, August 21, 2009

...Bears the Devil's Flower

This is my entry in the Eastwood Guitars contest, trying to win one of their Airline remakes. I did it with my cellphone because I didn't want to plug the camera into my netbook. The top prize is one like Jack White plays in the White Stripes, except I know he plays an original. All you have to do is video yourself playing the "Seven Nation Army" riff.

Well, there's slightly more than that. Check with them.

I did it on my baritone, which is tuned BEADF#B right now, and I just love that growl. Don't you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How To Not Suck, Chapter 20: Tune Your Ears

I busted a string on Sunday, and proceeded to do the fastest string change on an acoustic that I've ever done. I had clippers, capo and strings, but what I did not have was a portable tuner. The only one I had along was integrated into my multi-effects unit.

Tuning a guitar to itself is doable. Fifth fret to the next string's open. Fifth fret harmonic to the next string's seventh fret harmonics. 12th fret to the next string's seventh fret. Counting the beats and all. All that is a good to practice, to work on, to know. Magic boxes are good to have, because pitch pipes are horrible for tuning to, but you should still know how to tune your guitar to itself.

But that's one thing. The trick, the thing to learn, is a way to remember what a concert-pitch. And I thought I had that trick. "The Theme to Peter Gunn". One of the first things I ever learned on guitar. I get that riff going, and it sounds right, I thought, then I know I have the low E right. I honestly thought I had it.

Until I got back to the tuner.

I had it tuned to C. Not E. 4 half-steps flat.

Back to the drawing board.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Playing Out Sunday

I played on Sunday. Two services. There's two parts to the modern worship service: the fast songs to get you going at the begining, or the "praise" section, and then the slower songs that are meant to get you into a more contemplative and worshipful mood, or the "worship". Yeah, outside of this context, the terms nearly are synonyms, but there you go.

In the set list, the first song had an ugly, scratched together, illegible chord sheet, and that was the one I worked hardest on. Turns out, the second song was tough, too, and I did not spend nearly the time on that one. Ever heard Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone"? Al Kooper knew the producer and showed up hoping to play guitar on the track, but he saw Mike Bloomfield setting up, which, converting from 1965 to 2009, is a bit like seeing Joe Satriani set up his amp. So, Kooper moved to the organ, which he kinda knew. If you listen, the organ comes in half a beat late because he's learning the instrument at the same time he was learning the song, which was the same time they were recording it. He made it work. I have to say that I did not. In fact, I chuffed it. Both services.

And even when we're doing the slower, more contemplative stuff, we are the thundering herd, and while digging in on acoustic, I popped my D string. Generally, the band goes to second service, so we talk, judge our performance and cool down during first service. On Sunday, I changed my strings. While I was doing so, I was asked a good question: If only one string breaks, why change them all?

I have two reasons. First, if you replace one string, that string is going to sound different tan the others, brighter than the other ones. It'll sound wrong. Second, and this is more the case for me, if one string bit the dust, the others have a short life and will break soon enough. Normally, the wound G is the first to go, so when the D string goes first, the set is about dead.

I did not check tuning on the electric between services, and when I started, I found it was way off. I now realize I should've played what strings I had in tune, but I didn't think about that, and I tuned during the first song, which means I really blew two songs and not just the one.

In conclusion, I don't feel good about how I played this week. I guess I phoned it in, and it didn't feel good while I was playing. I will get that second song under my fingers this week.