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.