Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Twenty Tones You Meet In Heaven

There's a post on O'Reilly about keyboard tones. It started with 20 Sounds That Must Die, a list of way-overused keyboard sounds in 1995. He then reversed it, going to 20 Sounds That Must Live , a group of keyboard sounds that sound good and can generally be used in most situations.

That's interesting. But that's keyboard talk. I have a guitar.

No. That's not right.

I have several guitars.

I have a big dreadnought acoustic.

I have a tiny classical acoustic.

I have a Tele with dinky strings.

I have a Tele with heavy strings.

I have two lap steels.

Not to mention my pedals and the amp with clean and gain channels. And that multieffects box with bank after bank of emulation.

This is a big part of GAS. You need more instruments so you can get more sounds. A keyboard guy has bank upon bank of synth sounds, but to get a fundamentally different sound, you need to spend money on a fundamentally different instrument. You can break it down into acoustic, clean, crunch and lead tones, which might be useful for explaining. What are the tones you need to play? How do you get them?

If You Play A Part That You Don't Understand, You Will Suffer

Thanks, funkscribe!

(Hat Tip: Gibson Lifestyle)

Not Silent, Not Grey

Sunday was the day. Arrived at 7:45 to get my gear in order. There is something decidedly unnatural about musicians doing anything at 8 am besides sleep, isn't there?

We have two services. First service went well, with only one mess-up. Two songs then a choir piece, with a little bit of music as a bridge. We kinds went into the post-choir song instead of going with the pre-choir song. We were building up and stretching out and had to stop cold. We left, talked through the issues during the sermon, then went back for the post-service. The bassist hadn't played that song before, never practiced it, so he sat out. This meant I could "reclaim" the bass band of my EQ!

Second service? That was cooler. The choir was on it more, the transitions were smoother, our dynamics were more distinct. It was almost like the guitars action got lower and the strings got lighter. All around, it was a great thing. They were the thundering herd, but they thundered together and I thundered with them, so it was good.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ain't much you can beat a Tele for

OK. First, it's a an Esquire, not a Telecaster. Second, it's a Ron Kirn, not a Fender. Still, not too bad.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

He Made An Impression On Me

Listen for the guitar. Good stuff in there, but he didn't have to let it take over the song.

Thank You, Henry and Don

I am sure I'm not alone in this. You're sitting, doing email or whatever, and the urge comes over you to tweak and fine-tune your instrument. Well, it hit me this evening. I decided to check my guitar against the Fender Setup Guide. I grabbed a capo and a feeler guage and found that the relief is within tolerances — the .011 feeler guage was tight and catching, but didn't move the string much at all — but the action was still way high, and this with the saddle touching the bridge.

So, I followed what, if I remember correctly, is the Don Erlewine method. I got a business card, cut off an inch, and put that in the neck pocket against the back. Neck angle changed, making "dang near against the bridge" a more reasonable height. I had to go back and do height and intonation for the strings, but it was a good thing. It plays like butter now.

Which reminds me. I of course had to get back in tune once I reattached the neck. My trick for getting close is based on one of the first things I learned. "Peter Gunn". Something that's all on the low E string, and sounds cool. I know enough about tuning that, once I get a note, I can tune the rest of the guitar around that. Let me play "Peter Gunn" and I'll get that first note.

ETA: It is Dan Erlewine, not Don. Sans Direction regrets the error.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How I Learned To Quit Worrying And Love The Treble

I like my acoustic guitar. It's a big dreadnaught, with that big boom that's great when you want it and surprising when you hit it by accident. It has a piezo, and when I play out I try to EQ it so it sounds like the real acoustic tone for that thing. And thus I have never ever ever been happy with the tone.

As mentioned, I'm playing rhythm (read "jangly acoustic") with the rumbling herd now. While we were jamming before practice really started, I kicked in the B setting on my multi-effect's acoustic patch. I have never liked that sound, because it gets all the fuzzy sizzle. If you want to jangle, get yourself a Rickenbacker, rename yourself Roger and be done with it, I say. But the bassist said he could hear me much better, so I stuck with in and decided to make the best sizzle I could. Which, in part, meant I had to take the bass slider on the preamp EQ from 10 to 0. And I sounded better.

The really interesting thing was I only really was happy with the sound once I swapped from the Dunlop 2mm Gator Grip pick to the Dunlop 1mm Ultex pick. I would not have figured this would make that much difference, but things only really came together once I made the switch.

I'd still rather be hitting the lead parts, but I'm hearing my place in the whole a lot more, which has given me much more peace with it.

UNRELATED PERSONAL NOTE: Jack, do you have tab available for "Cannonball"?

UNSOlICITED ENDORSEMENT: Dunlop Ultex picks. The ones with the rhino.


E -2-3-5--5-3-5--7-5-5--3-3-2-3--3-5-7-7-7---------
B -3-5-7--7-5-7--8-7-7--5-5-3-5--5-7-8-8-8---------
G -------------------------------------------------
D -------------------------------------------------
A -------------------------------------------------
E -------------------------------------------------

E -9-7-5-3-2--3-5-7-7-2---7-5-3-2-2--3-5-3--2-0----
B 10-8-7-5-3--5-7-8-8-3---8-7-5-3-3--5-7-5--3-2----
G -------------------------------------------------
D -------------------------------------------------
A -------------------------------------------------
E -------------------------------------------------

E -7-5-3-2-----------------------------------------
B -8-7-5-4-----------------------------------------
G -------------------------------------------------
D -------------------------------------------------
A -------------------------------------------------
E -------------------------------------------------

Bonus points for the first to name that tune.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not Just Today

Every had a trainwreck?

Keys is on keys. Leader slipped in on drums. The drum cage is behind Keys' back. We have in-ear monitors, and Keys has a hearing aid. So, unless the drums are up on the in-ear monitors, Keys can't hear 'em.

Ever had a drummer try to assert a tempo when the main harmonic element can't even remotely hear him?

There was some key slipping, too. All the guys on guitars and bass stepped back to let them figure it out.

And wouldn't you know, some folks came up and said "you guys sounded great"?

I tried to explain what happened to Medium, using things he might have heard and might understand. In passing, I mention Otis Redding, using the drummer's insistence that the song is MUCH faster than you might think as first as an example. And I, after much looking, find my Otis in my stacks. Then I play it for him, to show the wonder of Otis.

He looked at me like had grown a third eyeball in the middle of my forehead.

Lessons Learned:
  • let the musicians face each other if at all possible
  • get to EVERY song in practice
  • kids today don't know nothin'!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Two Days From Being Born, and Half A World Away

Grateful Dead at the Fillmore, San Francisco, CA. 1969/12/21

  1. I Know You Rider - 3:44
  2. Black Peter - 9:26
  3. Not Fade Away (w/Pigpen on Harmonica and back-up Vocals) - 9:20
  4. Good Lovin' - 1:51
  5. Drums - 6:46
  6. The Other One - 13:04
  7. Cumberland Blues - 4:46

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sign 'O' The Times

In the CD section of my local library. A triple-disc set.

Disc 1) Audio tracks from Orbital shows at Glastonbury, 1994-1999

Disc 2) Audio tracks from Orbital shows at Glastonbury, 1999-2004

Disc 3) DVD Audio and Video of all on Disc 1 and Disc 2.

This is marketed as a CD, not a live DVD.

There's something to be made about this. I just don't know what.

While you ponder, here's some Orbital.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"You Put Your WEED In There!"

I pulled the strings on my brand new SX last night, putting on the Ernie Ball Not Even Slinky strings. I tried to see what I'll have to Dremel off to install the pearloid pickguard. Look what I found while the strings were off! A route big enough to put a humbucker. Sustainer City? Maybe. Macawbertown? Could go that way.

It's got the heavies on, tuned to D. It's my slider, so I don't have to bend, but I tell you, I can do some bending on it.

In conclusion, Wilco, including Nels Cline playing fast.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Have No Words

Isn't Cousin Kenny something? Both fabulous and superlative, I should think.

It's a Command, not a Description

This evening, over dinner, I told my wife "Let my boys boogie-woogie, 'cause it's in 'em and it's got to come out." She didn't so much get it, but I played some John Lee Hooker on the way home. I hope it made the boys feel good enough to play boogies with really strange measure counts.

The service order is two songs, then a break, then three songs. Except the chord sheet for one of the three wasn't a vanilla version. In fact, I'd say it was neopolitan with hot fudge, sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Like the guy writing it thought that, by saying chord/root, chord/root, he could teach the world to play chord melody. So, two songs, two songs. I played the white Tele first, then switched to the black Tele for later. When plugged into the Frontman 25R at home, I thought they had similar tones, but when going multieffect to D/I to in-ear monitors, man-oh-man there's a huge difference in tone. The black one is all icepick. I am surprised at the vast difference. There's also a marked weight difference, with the old Fender one being lighter.

One thing I did expect, but didn't think would bother me as much as it did, was the stickiness of the finish. I will be taking sandpaper to the neck to get some of it off soon. As well as other modifications. I know I will have a white or white pearloid pickguard on it soon. I'm going to have to think about whether the pickups are good enough to keep or if I should swap out, but, being clear, I will be rewiring it, and fairly soon. I'm considering doing a Baja thing, with a push-pull pot for tone instead of an S1 switch. New pots, Switchcraft jack, the whole nine yards. If I do decide the pickups must go, I will have to find a reverse-wound neck PU. And if I like it, I'll do the same on the black one, if only to get it so the switch points right again.

Here's the interesting thing: The other guy brought his Tele, a Raven West guitar very very close to this . He plays flipped-righty most of the time (lefty with the treble strings up) but he keeps this one strung lefty so he can learn how to play "normal". He's not as good this way, so he let me do most of the lead work this evening. There were some tough points, like the bungee worship leader, but when I wasn't concentrating on backing her, I loved her singing, and a good night was had by most of us.

Anyway, my initial thought was that the black Tele would remain the twanger and the white one would be the slider. That looks to remain the plan.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The New Number Two

Since I recently got a better job, I got myself a new second guitar. A backup, if you will. This is an SX STL50 Vintage White. There might be a guitar that this one looks a lot like. Certainly, there are other guitar I looked at. I thought about picking up something with a whammy bar. But as a friend pointed out, every time I play with him and hold a whammy-having instrument, I whang on the bar, I lift the instrument by the bar, then I play like it has no bar. So I decided to go hardtail again.

The white body and the orange-tinted neck contrast greatly with the black body and very-white neck of my #1, but there's more. The new one's string-through with jumbo frets. The old one's a top loader with thin frets. These are about as different as two guitars can be while being pretty much the same instrument. Notice that the SX has a rounded neck end, contrasting the squared end on the Fender Tele. That's Strat-like, and it points to a mod that I'll have to make when I think about a new pickguard.

I'm a sucker for reversing the control plate, because I always think I'll learn how to do Roy Buchanan volume and tone swells. The switch on my #1 is reversed ( forward position is bridge, back position is neck ) because the wires are too short for me to keep it reversed. For this one, they're not even long enough for me to do that. One of my goals for this instrument is for me to learn how to do guitar electronics. Getting this thing reverse-wireable is part of that.

I didn't like the little-knurl of the knobs it came with, so I swapped 'em with the knobs that #1 had before I got black hardware for it.

Anyway, I like it. I will mod it it beyond recognition before things are over, but it is now part of my family of instruments, with my #1, my Supro (black and white) and my Les Paul PeeWee lap steel.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interesting Artist

You could accuse me of getting into this because of the lefty Tele. It isn't everyday you see a white lefty Telecaster. Well, I would guess it is for her, but for me? Anyway, "her" is Vanja James. She's not about being the next James Burton, but that's fine, because from what I've heard, I like what she is about. Which is a little like this.

Don't know that I'll go on call folks my Tele-Family or anything (Stratoblogster?) but she'd be worthy of it.

If a Rockabilly Trio went uptown, what would it sound like?

Jim Campilongo and his '59 top-loader Telecaster.

ETA: And his Princeton Reverb.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Prophetic? Maybe. Hot? Clearly.

Get Well Soon, Brother

A Question Of Your Honesty

I found this through Slashdot. There's a guy who claims that, through code, he can graph and determine whether or not a track was made with a click track.

I can get both sides. Really. On the one hand, it's easy to work out your whole creative blueprint with a drum machine and guitar, and once a drummer comes in, he messes up your creation with his pounding. No drummer is better than a bad drummer, as a guitarist friend says. And for band practices, why is it always the timekeeper who arrives late? But on the other, you can listen to Tom Petty's "American Girl" and compare it to "Free Fallin'" and know that having a drummer in a box just isn't nearly as good.

I conclusion, I use the words of my friend, Jack Pribek. Save The Drummers!