Saturday, February 28, 2009

How To Not Suck, Chapter 16: Sing Out

So, last week, I was the guitar player. The only guitar player. Drums, keys, piano and me. With fairly large instrumental times.

And I have to say that I know the chords, I know (for the most part) the choruses, but I don't so much always know the verses.

I might have over-played. Maybe a little.

Yeah, right.

Let's think about playing melodically. What makes up a melody? Well, traditionally, that's the part the singer sings. So, how much do singers go up and down the scale? Let's follow a singer or two.

That's in C, which makes it so easy to talk about. The "Workin' so hard every night and day", it seems, is just all B and C. And that's about the only fast part. If you know your major scale, there should be nothing here that a few passes shouldn't let you figure out.

Which is pretty much what I was doing this morning. Learning how to install the governer on my picking hand.

And hey, I kinda like the song.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Look to the upper right of this page. Unless I changed it some time after today (Feb 27), it should say Telecasters are the preferred instruments. What do I mean by that? Telecasters are the preferred instruments. I like all guitars, but I like Telecasters more. I like the body shape. I like the hardtail. I like the control configuration. I like the scale length. I like the tradition they come from. I like the sounds they make.

I'm budgeted to get a new instrument from Rondo when my paycheck comes (I will not get into that story!) and what am I looking at?

NOT a Tele.

A black flamed Les Paul copy. It looks black until it come up under the right light, then the flames come poking through. Man, that's pretty, and $150 less than I was seeing 'em on Rondo before.

What should I do?

More Low End Theory

I told a friend the other day, "There's only one band I can think of that had two bassists, and that'd Ned's Atomic Dustbin."

(I had forgotten Dos. I've never really heard Dos, so I hope you can forgive me.)

He responded. "I can think of one other one. Spinal Tap. And they had three, didn't they?"

Now, here's Oteil and his #2 bass guy.

Hat tip: NoTreble

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still Rock'n Roll To Me

Lunchtime Quiz: Elton vs Billy

Score: 83% (15 out of 18)

Why Sans should give up his dreams of getting a fretless bass

My Album Cover

Could be Kitaro-influenced. Could be Fugazi.

via Furtheron

Here's how this works:
1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random... Read More”or click
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to "Random quotations"or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”or click Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it to your blog or to Facebook and tag those you want to join in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How To Not Suck, Chapter 15: So you're not Miles

First track on the Kind of Blue. The chords are Dm, then Ebm, then back. Think Dorian. Think minor.

I have, as one of the last things I do before closing my eyes, cued up that track and tried to play with it. There's nothing like trying to play on the same track with some of the greatest musicians of the late 20th century to highlight how unimaginative your playing is.

But there's a bright side. A few, actually.

Listen to early tracks from Charlie Parker, like (I think; going from memory here) "Koko". Miles Davis wasn't always Miles Davis. Well, he was, and he was — you can tell it's Miles by listening to him. But in the 1940s, he wasn't the player he was in 1958. Who knows what kind of musician you'll be in fifteen years?

And you'll only become that musician by working at it. Steve Khan has broken it down for you. And scanned it. All things told, I'd rather he put it into Finale or something, because I'm a very poor reader and it's hard enough to figure it out without reading his handwriting, too. I have been slowly teaching myself to read, to the point where, before giving up and passing out, I was able to play along for the first three measures. I'll say this straight out: Nobody I play with regularly can read music. I play out with them weekly. We can do chord charts, and to at least some extent we can talk in terms of music theory. To me, it's like having words you can say but never write, hear and never read.

My son, after two and a half years of playing clarinet in junior high, is a far better sight reader than I expect to be. And I certainly won't be considered a great jazz icon.

So what?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Not Yet A Review: Jazz Icons

I stopped by my library, as I mentioned, and I went to the videos section, hoping to find something useful. And boy, did I.

Jazz Icons is as of now three series of DVDs with live performances of jazz greats. I have the John Coltrane and Wes Montgomery. I haven't given these deep and full watchings, so I can't tell you that these things are as wonderful as I just know they have to be. There is a preview video available, which I couldn't get to work in Linux.

Hey, when I'm wrong, I'm wrong

For years, I have had the following line on Guitar World magazine: I don't dress all in black and I don't play high-gain thud-rock, so there isn't much for me in Guitar World. But I went to the local library the other day. I'm sorry to say they've gone from having Guitar Player on the periodicals wall to Guitar World, but I picked up a back issue.

  • Ritchie Blackmore talking about the difficulty of finding a decent hurdy-gurdy and integrating it into modern synth-driven recording environments
  • Alex Skolnick of Testament talking about playing "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock You Like A Hurricane" in a jazz context
  • Tele-bender maestro Jerry Donahue with a column where he name-checks Clarence White
  • Eddie Van Halen on the cover

Thud-rock is in there. You can't get away from the thud-rock in Guitar World. Premier Guitar and Guitar Player remain my fave guitar rags. And Mattias IA Ecklundh got to "Detroit" via the Hot Club of France well before Alex. But there's something in Guitar World for me now. And it behooves me to admit when I'm wrong as strongly as I crow when I'm right.

Speaking of Alex...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Practice 2 of 4

The Cast:
  • The Leader, on vox (plus, potentially, electronic keys and electric guitar)
  • Keys, on the grand piano
  • Hammond, on the organ
  • Rocker, on bass
  • Animal, on drums
  • Sans, on acoustic guitar
Keys is the same Keys as before. I play with him every Wednesday plus on occasion for fun. We know each other. Hammond is cool enough. Right now, the spinning-horn amplifier is not connected to my mixing board, so I do not get to hear him, which is not good.

Rocker is a good bass player. He wanted me to give him an E, and from there he tuned all five strings of his bass. He's a very active player. The other bassist I regularly play with could easily be replaced by an absence, so this is a nice change.

Animal is a good drummer. He's got a double-kick setup here and he know how to use it.


Imagine taking the bassline to "Pulling Teeth" and the drums to "The Immigrant Song" and starting the tracks at different times. When the song you're trying to do is much more like "Big Log" to begin with.

Rocker and Animal aren't so much listening to each other. It depends more or less on the song, but when you can't pull it together for the slow songs, then nothing is going right. And where does that leave me? I'm on acoustic guitar! Where do I fit in?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My, Isn't That Interesting

My family does Netflix rather than Blockbuster, because Netflix has instructional vids. Right now, I have the Nils Lofgren disc on Acoustic and Electric Rock Guitar. I've been trying out his thumbpick style, but so far, it isn't taking yet.

And who is the artist interview in the new issue of Premier Guitar? Nils Lofgren.


Don't blame you for asking. Watch any Springsteen video after the Born in the USA tour, it's Nils you see standing off Springsteen's left shoulder. (Or Miami Steve, sure.) You hear him on Neil Young's Unplugged stand. I don't have as much of him as I should, but he's someone to watch and listen to.

But Nils, please, if you ever read this, remember: You need to have neck dots on your Takemine acoustics if you teach on 'em. That's how we know where your fingers are!

It does seem odd to listen to a song written in 1975 asking Keith to not kill himself, after growing to love a song written more than 30 years after, about Keith snorting his dad's ashes.

This ain't about regret

Good bands are not necessarily filled with nice people.

This is from the album Gentlemen by the Afghan Whigs, released in 1993. The album cover shows a pair of cepia-toned children and a bed. The girl is laying down, happy but out of focus. The boy is unhappy and his back is turned. This is the Whigs' version of relationships: We're all immature children, and the boys want out of the bed as soon as they are done.

I could point to another song on this album, "What Jail Is Like". What is jail like? A relationship. Greg Dulli is not a healthy individual. But this stands next to Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet as one of the best albums of the early 1990s. On craft alone, this stands ount from the crowd.

Meanwhile, look at the rosewood Telecaster and Jazzmaster.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Try to please 'em....

Years ago, Brian Setzer went solo, wanting to turn into 80s Robbie Robertson. Really. The other two joined with Earl Slick to form Phantom, Rocker and Slick. The doghouse bass only worked in the 1980s if you were actually the Stray Cats, Rocker or Phantom, I can't recall, switched to a Longhorn, while ex-Bowie guitarist Slick got himself a whammy-bar-and-humbucker guitar that looked like one. And they shamelessly tried to get on MTV.

And, until I heard about this, I had blissfully forgotten about it all.

It was just that bass that brought it back for me. I'm sure there's a lot of crucial 60s stuff that was pumped out on that kind of retro bass. And if you flip it over and play lefty, there's lots of cutaway to get to the high notes. I would certainly be tempted.

Hat Tip: Premier Guitar . I just pointed you guys out to my jam buddy, letting him borrow the Hot Rod issue.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Even Know What I'm Hoping To Find

Tonight was practice night.

Imagine a guy who kicks the bass drum like Bonham. On a kit with a double pedal so he can make a drum roll without using his arms.

Add a bassist with a five string whose chief influences seem to include Cliff.

Plus a Hammond organ and a grand piano.

Plus me on acoustic. He wants me on acoustic.

In a band like that, an acoustic guitar is as useless as a screen door on a submarine. Nobody will be able to hear me. Probably not even myself.

So, I'm disappointed.

In the mean time, I've been playing the vid on the last, nameless post. Playing it while having the tab sheet open. You see, I was doing scale exercises last night and came onto a bit that sounded like "Running on Empty". I was on electric, not one of my steels, but I was still pretty sure it was in A. And I was right.

Isn't it great when you're right?

So I played it again, trying to play along. I found the first steel bit, at about 50 seconds in. It took me a bit by surprise. It's an A arpeggio. It's easy on a steel, because hey, you don't even have to move the bar, but guitarists want to hit the scale notes beyond the chord notes. But if you play around A major near the 12th fret, you'll find most of the notes you want.

So I took out my #2 lap steel, a repurposed Epiphone Les Paul Peewee with a nut extender, tuned it to A Sebastapol (like open D, except up to A on a smaller instrument), brought up a Sebastapol tuning on my scale and chord tool, and started to play the scale. Then I plugged into my Frontman 25R and tried to dial in the tone.

Nobody is ever going to mistake a Frontman 25R for a Dumble. But that's my amp and I'm happy with it. Use the Drive channel but with the Gain only up to 3, I got a bit of the wailing tone. I'm not sure, but I think there's some phaser in there, too, because I don't have it, but I have a decent tone to start with. Maybe it's just screaming tubes that my solid state amp just can't mimic.

This is what I have of the main lead, tabbed in standard tuning.
e ------------------------------------------------------
B --------------------------------15-15-14-12-----------
G -14-14-14-11--------------11----------------14-11-----
D -------------14-11--11-14----14-------------------11--
A ------------------------------------------------------
E ------------------------------------------------------

e ------------------------------------------------------
B ------------------------------------------------------
G -14-14-14-11------------------------------------------
D -------------14-11--14-11-------11--12-11-------------
A --------------------------12-14-----------12----------
E ------------------------------------------------------

I guess it's the F# where I lose it.

I am sufficiently uninterested in JB in general and that song in specific that you could tell me BB King, Eric Clapton, SRV, and Hendrix were taking turns soloing and I still wouldn't listen. — Patrick on the above song, Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty".

I don't share that position. I am regaining the appreciation that I had in the 1980s for Jackson as a singer and songwriter, not just as a guy who employed David Lindley and Waddy Wachtel. But Dave and Waddy, still, are the primary reason I listen.

Link Dump
Tele Mod Guide from Premier Guitar

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This Is Just Absolutely Sick!

Hat tip: Electric Guitar Review

Now, This Here Is Mojo

I haven't had the gear to replicate this myself, but I know I have heard enough to know this is true. The wonder of a tube amplifier is in the sweet spot. You hit it and you have the sweet singing tone that you buy a tube amp for. If you can stand to be in the same building with it. And the audience might not want to be in the same room with it, either. You can turn it to the wall, hide it under the stage, put a blanket over it, but those are not good solutions.

So, what do you do?

Evidently, you replace the magnet in the speakers with an electromagnet, so you can turn down the efficiency of the speakers. You can keep the Volume knob at 2 o'clock while turning the volume down at the cabinet.

That is, if you're rocking Fluxtone Speakers.

They have video from a studio where they show it off with a 100+ watt Engl amp. Yeah, any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. I would love to see it myself, rather than trust Shub-Internet. But still, this is one of those "Oh, man! That's so obvious! Why didn't I think of that?" things.

And thanks to Premier Guitar for doing the story on it.

Has it beent that long?

Yes, I think it has.

Above is a Trussart Steelcaster Pink Paisley. Throw in a B-Bender and the spat of drooling will make me die of dehydration. This is my Gratuitous Tele Pic of the ... quarter? I would guess it has been three months since my last gear shot. I have been kinda busy. Including....

Playing Bass My musician friends and I have had a regular Tuesday jam, and as they're keys and guitar, I'm on bass. This is an interesting roll, because I think I can have more power over song direction on bass than as a second-chair guitarist. Not every bassist uses that power — for every Pastorius, Entwistle, Jamerson, Collins or Sheehan, there's a hundred folks who are holding the position because the guitarist is their brother/cousin/boyfriend/father/child and asked them to — but it is there, and the fewer people in the band, the more clear it is. Here's John Entwistle's bass part for "Won't Get Fooled Again". With the chaos that are Pete Townshend and Keith Moon taken out, you can hear that this is the song, and because Entwistle had it, they could go and and be the wonderful chaos they were.

Considering Taxes I am not sure on this, but I might be able to get a #2 guitar with the tax money. My preference would be a Les Paul copy from Rondo, but I'm thinging a Strat copy, at less than half as much, is much more likely. I'm planning to string it up with ropes and make it my slide guitar. I have country-bending .009s on my Tele, with the lowest action I know how to set. Wish me luck.

Playing Guitar I've been playing every Wednesday. Mostly acoustic. We have someone sitting at the Hammond now. So that's vocals guitar guitar bass drums piano and organ. I was playing acoustic, but I might be bringing my Tele (or, later, the Stratocopy). If everyone else has power, I might as well bring the power, too.

Wanting To Play Guitar I've been tapped to play Sunday. They want to have click-tracks set up so that the choir can practice to their tracks and sing to the band. So the leader's setting up Band A and Band B, so the unpaid band doesn't get burned out. And he wants me to play on Band B. Next Tuesday is the first practice.

Working As a temporary programmer/admin/helpdesk guy. Until Monday. When I become the permanent programmer/admin/helpdesk guy. Benefits and everything. Boo-yah!