Saturday, January 30, 2010

Songquest 2010: Cocaine and Ashes

I don't know if this rises to the point of a resolution, but one of the things I wanted to do this year is learn more songs. I thought about going to a new song a week, but then it got to be 2 weeks into the year and I hadn't hit anything, so I decided to learn one song a month, beyond what Wednesday and Sunday require. The idea is that, for each song, I gain some knowledge of these songs and the guitarists' lead styles, not so I can play out on the song, but so I can integrate it with what I do. Also, as a skills-building exercise.

The first one that I'm doing is one I first heard over a year ago and have blogged about before, called "Cocaine and Ashes" by Jay Farrar of Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo. He's since recorded it with Son Volt and released it on American Central Dust, but the version I know best is him playing with Mark Spencer. He's playing a Creston, a Tele-style guitar with P-90s. We'll see how close my dead-stock Teles and solid-state Frontman get to his sound later.

It's in waltz time. It seems that alt-country folks like waltz time and alt-rock folks avoid waltz time because it feels old. I love when a new drummer comes in and a 3/4 or 6/4 song comes up on rotation, because they always end up counting to four and not three. Verse
    D  / /  D  / /  C  / /  G  / /
D / / D / / C / / G / /
D / / D / / C / / G / /
D / / D / / C / / C / /

    G  / /  G  / /  C  / /  G  / /
Em / / Em / / D / / D / /
D / / D / / G / / G / /
Intro is the same as the verse. Chords are G, C, D and Em, which pretty strongly puts this into the catagory of songs in G. I love how the last line of the verse doesn't switch to C, just leaves you hanging on the IV chord, waiting for resolution.

Here's part of the intro.
E -------7----8--8---7-5-5b6--3--------------------------
B -------------------------------5--3--------------------
G --7---------9--9---7-5-5b6--4--------2-0---------------
D ------------------------------------------2-0-----0----
A ----------------------------------------------0-2------
E -------------------------------------------------------
The double stop part reminds me of 60s R&B guitar, like "Memphis Soul Stew" and taken to rock by Jimi Hendrix when he did "Like A Rolling Stone" at Monterey Pop. I originally thought it was B and D strings, but it's a simple transposition because all the intervals are the same. The first "chord", xxx7x7, can be seen as a G major, as you have the third and fifth. It can also be seen as a B minor, with D being the minor third of B. xxx8x9 then works as a C chord (C E), xx5x5 being C7 or A minor, and xxx4x3 being a G.

The seven chords of the G scale ( G , Am , Bm , C , D , Em , F#dim ) in
broken R&B form, D and B strings
E ------------------------
B --0--1--3--5--7--8--10--
G ------------------------
D --0--2--4--5--7--9--10--
A ------------------------
E ------------------------
The seven chords of the G scale ( G , Am , Bm , C , D , Em , F#dim ) in broken R&B form, G and E strings
E --3--5--7--8--10--12--13----
B ----------------------------
G --4--5--7--9--11--12--14----
D ----------------------------
A ----------------------------
E ----------------------------
The seven chords of the G scale ( G , Am , Bm , C , D , Em , F#dim ) in broken R&B form, G and E strings, seen another way
E --7--8--10--12--14--15--17--
B ----------------------------
G --7--9--11--12--14--16--17--
D ----------------------------
A ----------------------------
E ----------------------------
The descending bit, starting with the B string E and going down to open A, follows the G pentatonic major scale down to A. But there are some big jumps, maybe not in scale but certainly in position. This is not a lick I would've come up with by myself. I know I play notey, maybe to my detriment. Which is why this is so appealing. It takes techniques I know but in a time and with position jumps I never use. Which is why I started with it.

I will try to add the mid-song solo at a later time. Join us next time for "Rock and Roll" by Led Zeppelin. Or "Take Me With You (When You Go)" by the Jayhawks. Or maybe something else.

Check My Math

I saw this years ago at Guitar Center. A dingus that sits between your gear and your power to take away noise. In the store, they had it on a thing with a neon sign, showing that the noise that the neon sign generated would not come through your gear.

I am sure this is it. The Hum X from Ebtech, which seems to be a part of Morley.
The Hum Xtm filters out unwanted voltage on the ground line that can cause ground loop hum.
Elsewhere, it says "Not A Ground Lift", but it seems to serve that function, but in a safe way.

Here's the thing. The place where I'm most likely to put it, it's on a power strip where I plug power adapters to a device that takes DC power, my ToneWorks AX1500G multi-effects unit, and if that has no ground plug, like most DC power supplies, then how can it experience ground problems? Will this thing even help me?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Joined by Twang

Saw this on Fretboard Journal's Facebook feed. Deering made electric guitars for a while, including this gorgeous Tele.
I was going through some old files and I came across this photo of a nice looking guitar that Deering made way back when. Actually, I think in a lot of ways banjos and electric guitars have more in common in the way they're built than electrics and acoustics do.
And, come to think of it, how they're played. Seriously, I can't think of anything a hot Tele-twanger would want to do that isn't bested by Buck Trent and his fancy banjo.

You learn something new every day

Today, it's Jayhawks. "Take Me With You (When You Go)". I have played that song for nearly twenty years and just now figured the intro lick ended D to Dsus2 and not Dsus4 to D. Wow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I For One Welcome Our New Staff-Wielding Overlords

I play in a band that backs a choir. Or fronts, take your pick.

(I think I've made it obvious what my gig is.)

And, think of it, most of the time, they back us. The songs where they take the lead, they sing to tape. But we're changing that.

This means we're going from chord sheets to staff. Well, I think the term is lead sheets. Not full orchestration. Which trends toward me needing to learn to read.

I can mostly get pitches. Counting sharps and flats gives you key, Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, and such. But I fail to understand the rhythm of the dots.

I'll have to hit the scanner to go to the example I have. Listening, I hear seven notes. I see ... nine? (I don't have the music in front of me.) I may put up specific examples later but right now, I need general guidance about reading the rhythm of music. Anyone have good pointers?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Born at the Junction of Form and Function

Bill Kirchen!

I suppose I should use the tags so you can search the players, eh?

On the importance of committment

dabbling in jazz is like dabbling in satanism, you really don't get the benefits unless you go all in.
-- jazztele, on TDPRI

Honestly, There's A Tele There

With a cool custom aluminum pickguard. You just have to kinda look for it. It's there.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Brought The Frickin' Fury

We've been having monitor issues on Wednesdays, so what I did was take my acoustic. I really haven't had it out for a good long time, relying on my Teles. With my Tele being strung with .009s and .010s, I've been working on having a lighter touch. And it really carried over to the acoustic. I was loud — I'm not gonna back down — but as I've stopped trying to play by pushing a pick through the center of the string, I'm sounding better. Or at least I think I am. A lighter touch will do your playing wonders.

It gets even better

TDPRI says this completely illustrates the difference between Stratocaster and Telecaster players. Personally, I think it's great.


Danny Gatton credits this track for the development of his guitar-as-Hammond-organ trick.

More on the Acoustasonic

From our friends at Premier Guitar. Now, what I need is that, a stereo volume pedal, a Tech21 Blonde pedal, a Zoom A2 and a A/B/Y pedal to put in front of a DI.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Strange NAMMfellows, or Fender is Creepy

My Goodness! That's long-time Fender endorsee Yngwie J. Malmsteen and brand-new Fender endorsee Jim Campilongo. I'd like to hear them try to come up with some common musical ground.

Twang that Thang

More NAMM video. He's demoing G-DEC, the Guitar Digital Entertainment Center. I think part of what he's showing is the Fender version of Guitar Rig from Native Instruments. With a little gear and $100 of software, any guitarist can use his or her computer to access a near-infinite variety of tones.

But that's not what interests me. Well, generally yeah, it's nice that you're just limited by your imagination, sure. But, on a practical matter, this guy is demonstrating a nice sampler of Tele licks and techniques, and I'm the Tele blogger, right?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

On Developing Your Personal Voice

Stop playing a Blues in E major every day. You all already know how to do this. Try new and innovative things, things that inspire you. Make goals. It’s important and cool to master different scales and all kinds of arpeggios, but don’t forget to use all this stuff for your own music. It’s useless to learn all this if you don’t use it in your own musical context.
— Telecaster Master Jim Campilongo

Offerings of Twang

Hellecasters doing Jerry Reed. I'm sure it's easier than it sounds. Because it has to be.

Fender Acoustisonic

So, you want to sound like an acoustic for rhythm playing, but you want to bring the heat, too. Fender has the answer in this mix of the Thinline and Telecoustic. Which actually makes sense, and I've been wanting something like this for a good long time.

Somewhere in the 1980s, Danny Ferrington came out with the Tele-shaped acoustic guitar, and that became released by Kramer. The idea was to have an acoustic that plays like an electric. There's a reason that acoustics are shaped like acoustics — if you want to move air, you need a big box — but the age was coming that you didn't need to have an acoustic to sound acoustic. The Ovation and it's piezo was introduced in the late 1960s, remember, and the sound that you want to play to be the acoustic guy in a full band is not the same sound you want if you're going to be playing for a bluegrass band. High and thin actually works in this case.

For some time now, Fender has had this style of guitar released under their own name. And now they're 1) covering the sound hole, maybe for aesthetics and maybe to cut stage feedback and 2) adding a neck PU. It would be easy to mistake this for a normal Thinline, except for that bridge. Which is interesting.

The thing that comes to mind is, when you're talking a one-pickup electric, you're either talking an old jazz box with a neck pickup or you're talking about a bridge pickup. They put in a Twisted Tele neck pickup, which is good, but it still strikes me as a strange decision. I'm also curious about whether there's stereo out or you're putting the piezo signal into your standard effects chain and amp.

But you know what? I like it. I like it enough to want to try it.

PolyTune: It's what guitars crave!

I want an outboard tuner. The LED for my multieffects is not really bright enough, and the glossy front means I have to be at the right angle. I am frustrated with that. What I want is a pedalboard that has tuner, noise gate and compression as the first three pedals and something that'll act like an amp for the DI box at the end, because for all the bells and whistles of my multi-box, I use the amp simulator, tuner and volume pedal for every sound, and maybe a little delay. There's autowah, phase, flange and lots of other stuff that I just don't use, and if I want an effect, I can't just switch that effect on and off. I want a pedalboard that I can turn what I want on and off while keeping the fundamental tone. I can keep up with what I have for tone, no problem, so the first thing I want is a tuner.

And I thought I wanted a Petersen or a PitchBlack. Now I'm thinking elsewise. This is the TC Electronics PolyTune, just announced at NAMM, which evidently allows you to hit all the strings and it'll tell you where you are. Despite the very "Brawndo" way the TC ad works, it seems like the coolest thing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Box of Slides

I've seen it said that anybody who starts trying to play steel guitar ends up with a box full of steels. This is my box, built by my father. I occasionally play slide and I occasionally play steel, both basically as a bedroom player, so it's only a small box, but we'll see.

There's the fake Coricidin bottle slide, which I think is a little big but is my go-to. There's the Lowell George-approved 11/16s socket. It's a Craftsman, so if I play my blues hard and break it, I can take it to any Sears and get it replaced. There's a Zippo, which I never really used as a smoker. I think I saw a video of John Mooney playing like that. I have a shiny chrome slide and a less shiny brass one. I think the brass grips a little more, causing more of the characteristic string noise for bluesy acoustic work. I have a Stevens bar that came with my lap steel, and a Dunlop bar I picked up later, and they're heavy enough that I can really only use 'em for action-enhanced steel playing, rather than slide playing on my normal guitars, which is fine. The big one is a threaded test tube I got from the lab where I work when they were ridding themselves of glasswork. I thought I could make it into a bottleneck but never cut it off. I use it for steel stuff but it is light enough to easily go over to the spanish-style guitar, for playing like Danny Gatton and his beer bottle. Except that I'm not that good. But that's OK — saying you're not as good as Danny Gatton is like saying you're bipedal.

I know, this post is useless without audio, so I'll throw that on the list.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I have to thank Guitarz for this one. It's like a combination of '72 Deluxe Tele and a Zematais . It looks dang cool. And looks like you can get it on eBay for $300.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Isn't That Special?

Fender is introducing the American Special series, which includes 2 Stratocasters and a Telecaster. With the Strats, there's the option of three Texas Special single coils and two and a humbucker in the bridge, and the Tele has the requisite 2, with the three-saddle bridge. Intonation be damned, that's what we Tele pickers like! Anyway ...
They are designed specifically to bring the full Fender experience of a terrific-sounding, smooth-playing, rock-solid-built U.S.-made Fender guitar to the workingman without emptying his bank account.
Just so you know, that number is just north of $1000 MSRP.

Where do I sign up for a review copy?

Monday, January 4, 2010

We've All Been There

I've been showing my son a little bit about how to play bass. This is the second lesson. The first was a discussion on keeping time. They call it "woodshedding" because you really don't want others to hear you until you've figured something out. Still, I am proud of him and how hard he's working at it. I'm also testing out my new camera. Without following to YouTube to check, who can recognize what he's trying to learn?

Man, That's ...

Long time readers of this blog might remember me mentioning Steve Kimock. Specifically, back about two years ago, I wrote about a then two-year-old article in Guitar Player about intonation. I wrote about it then and I think about it on occasion because I thought and think it was very insightful. Not going to do Steve the injustice of restating his theme in my words. Kinda did that 2 years ago anyway.

Anyway, Steve wrote this about three months ago, then abandoned his personal blog. That's a well-written piece by an engaging author, about his inability to reconcile his ears with music theory.
Although it was perfectly clear to me that if the answer to the question, “What is a D Major chord?” was “D F# A”, and if the answer to the question “What is D F# A?” was “D Major”, that I hadn’t learned anything at all about that D Major triad.

I thought the ‘music theory” bit was going to explain to me why I felt the way I did when I played and listened to music,
but instead it just churned out a bunch of circular logic bullshit, perfectly protected by the really not so diabolically clever Catch 22: DON’T ASK WHY!!
I must disagree. I really think he's asking music theory to do something it was never meant to do. Music theory to my mind is about establishing an instruction set, a shorthand to allow the composer to tell the musician what to play. It establishes a vocabulary, a way of talking about what we expect to play, so we can say "D major" or "D" instead of "Put your index finger on the third string second fret, your middle dinger on the first string second fret, and your ring finger on the second finger third fret". Science is to be involved in explaining that, and

I confess, my ear is not nearly as developed as his is, and with the ringing I hear when I sit in a quiet room, I'm quite sure that it will never be nearly that good. (Curse you, Ramones.) Considering that guitarists, as a class, think of intonation as something you do with a screwdriver whenever you change strings, I believe it's well worth considering these issues, learning more. I don't think that the language of music theory is able to contain the question, much less the answer, but he starts this as a young learning guitar player, and that's a bit much to expect someone to understand. But recognizing a chord by the notes is as circular a logic as recognizing poison ivy by the number of points on the leaf. Far better to recognize than to have to count.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Not To Be Gross

Remember the ugly high end issue I was having? I kicked out a bunch of mucus when I brushed my teeth this morning and now my ears work better.

Might make it a 'Not Suck' post later.