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.