Monday, December 12, 2011

So, That Was Something

We just had our Christmas concert. Normally, the holiday-themed event is better explained as a play or a musical or the like, and there was a bit of a theatrical element, but by and large, it was the band -- bands, really, involving both Sunday bands, with the bassists switching off and the percussionists trading positions between the plexiglass cage for the kit and the bongos and shakers and such outside -- and the choir just playing music.

We guitarists simply decided that the other would generally play lower chords while I would play higher chords, because it is silly to have two guitarists playing the chord form. So, I'm up the neck, set to bridge pickup, and playing a chord form I learned from Richard Thompson. Listen to "Shoot Out The Lights" from the album of the same name and and you'll hear a bit that you will not immediately recognize as E-D-E, because of the joy of voicings. The first E is basically the D form barred and moved up two frets, roughly 022450, which you'll notice is all roots and fifths. When playing with distortion, the third makes the chord sound bad, so that's a nice chord to have. I've taken to that as a go-to chord form, the D-style barre, going there more often than A and E style barres, which we've come to take as standard.

So, I had roughly 2 hours practice on Tuesday, general playing on Wednesday, 2 hours practice on Friday, 2 hours practice on Saturday, 1 hour practice/soundcheck and 2 services Sunday AM, and the gig Sunday evening. And boy, is my shoulder still sore. But it was fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cool Floral Teles from Fender Japan

Those in the know are well aware that many of the coolest, best made Strats and Teles come from Fender Japan, and this floral Tele, one of a series of kimono-inspired floral designs, shows it. Hat tip to Guitarz for making me aware of these.

Indianola, as played by Eilidh McKellar

Stratoblogster annonted Eilidh McKellar as a Strat-o-Sister, sure, but notice the lack of top horn on her guitar. She's one of us Tele pickers. Come to think of it, when Robbin Ford (whose song she's playing) plays single coils, doesn't he play a Tele too?

I love a top-bound sunburst Tele. Don't you?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Lick: Post-Game Analysis

I played the Lick a lot this weekend.

As presented to me when I saw it first, it was a Dorian lick: 1 2 b3 4 2 b7 1. I could force a Dorian mode lick into an otherwise major scale bit, but that's not thinking modally. Also, it's forcing a minor third where the listener is expecting the major third. So, as I played it, it was more 2 3 4 5 3 1 2. In the context I got it in, it was an F-heavy C song, and as it is in C, the 2 is D, and where I played it, it followed chords going to G, and of course D is the fifth of G, so it just layed on nice.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If you don't know this lick, learn it. Now.

Because everybody else knows it and uses it.


Note To Soundmen

I play with a multi-effects processor, into a D/I box. I generate no sound except what the guitar does acoustically and what you let get through the PA system.

During soundcheck in venues where there is no monitor mix, when we're asking for more or less sound, I will ask for enough volume that I can hear myself. I am sensitive to the idea that others don't want me to completely overpower what they're doing, and that, in a guitar/keys/vox setup, the singer wants to take most of the queues from  the keys.

This means, at the end of sound check, I am literally running at the lowest volume I can effectively hear myself at. If you decide to lower my headroom, there might be a place I can push myself, but you are giving me a choice between not being heard and sounding like a garbage disposal.

I do not want to be a prima donna.

I do not want to be silent.

I do not want to sound like a garbage disposal.

If given a choice between silence and garbage disposal, I will pack up my gear mid-song next time. Just watch me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How To Not Suck, Chapter 23: Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail

I am subscribed to the Flatpick-L mailing list (although I rarely read these days) and I checked in and saw poster Bryan Kimsey post the following:
I'm reading the FGM with Grant Gordy on the cover and I saw a statement that struck me; "if you don't have a goal when you're practicing, then you're not practicing."
He went on to explain how, to him, he plays guitar without goals because it is the one area in his life where he allows himself to not be goal-oriented. Good for him, but not everyone is him. Personally, I have two or three points providing goals for my guitar playing. There's what I want to play and what I actually play.

What I want to play tends to come with technical limitations. I want to learn to play against a tap-tempo delay. I want to play with a guitar synth. I would love to have a computer interface and program effects that relate to how I'm playing the instrument. I have no audio interface or software. I have no piezo bridges. I don't have a tap tempo delay pedal, and I cannot interact with those goals until I take steps forward in my gear acquisition, which is not going to happen any time soon.

What I actually play is what I play every Wednesday and every other Sunday at church. Each song has challenges and parts to learn, but very little of it is challenging. My goal, at best, is to get a sense of the changes, a sense of the melody, and get this lick or that lick under my fingers so I don't have to think about it when the time comes. Sometimes, I have to work through the sounds on a track -- it has a sitar-like bit and a digital delay set for the U2 thing here, and then a distortion here -- but that's not really practice.

So, my suck comes from a lack of direction (see blog title), but the way of not sucking is to set goals and practice to work toward them. Without the goal, you're just playing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Profile of Clarence White on Deft Digits

Joe Walker, Seattle guitarist and blogger at From the Woodshed, has started a new blog at Deft Digits, where he started a series called "Discover a Guitarist". He started out with Stevie Ray Vaughn, deservedly one of the most acclaimed guitarists of the late 20th century. He then opened it up to other musicians, and frend-of-the-blog Stratoblogster wrote up an introduction to the Big Dog, Scott Henderson.

I had to stand up for the Tele after two Strat players showed up, so I entered my discovery of Clarence White, touching on other favorites such as Marty Stuart and Tony Rice. Read, enjoy, and suggest your own favorites. If you find yourself wanting to learn more, I strongly suggest the Adios Lounge multi-part bio.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shoot Out The Lights

Richard Thompson and Al Kooper on one iteration or the other of the Dennis Miller Show. And RT the Strat master rocks a Tele here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flag Day Countdown #2

It has been said that hardly anyone was into the Velvet Underground, but everyone who was started a band. From a historical standpoint, that's a good place to be, but as a working band, that's a miserable place to be. I think this is part of the reason for the band's last release, Loaded. John Cale, the violist, bassist and classical/art influence of the band had gone, and drummer Maureen Tucker, whose standing drum style was unique, replaced by Doug Yule. Style experiments like "Black Angel's Death Song", "Sister Ray" and "The Gift", are gone, as are the drug and sex references of "Waiting For My Man", "Heroin" and "Venus In Furs". The things that make the Velvets distinct were largely missing. And it's one of their better albums. If there's one Velvet song that most everyone knows, it's "Sweet Jane", thanks to the Cowboy Junkies and their cover from the Trinity Sessions. The thing about it is that the "Heavenly Wine and Roses" part was originally edited out of the release. The Cowboy Junkies knew it from bootlegs. I originally had the one-disc CD release of this, and bought the newer Rhino release with two discs. I sold the first copy, and the clerk said, "Tell me you're not selling this!" "Rock and Roll" is another favorite, dedicated to the transforming power of music. "In spite of the amputation, she could dance to a rock and roll station", Lou sings. "It was alright." The biggest difference between takes that I can think of is "I've Found A Reason", which went from country to a mostly voice-and-bass interpretation before release. The "Fully Loaded" Rhino release contains both the edited and original mixes of the album, in addition to bonus tracks such as "Ocean" and "Satellite of Love". Yes, the satellite from MST3K is named after a Lou Reed song.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Countdown to Compact Disc Flag Day #1

I'm signed up to Spotify, to the Google Music beta, to Amazon. I had Rdio for a while, and might go back. I have several gigs of music on my own drives, too, largely ripped from my CD collection.

The future of music media is digital and streaming.

I have declared a personal flag day. After January 1, 2012, I will no longer buy or accept compact discs. I'll keep my collection, of course. At least for now.

I've decided to go through my music, one disc per day, and write about them. And the first one is <a href="">the eponymous release of the Stone Roses</a>. This was one of the first CDs I picked up, and I'm pretty sure it was used.

The first two songs to catch my ear are the first and the last. The first is "I Wanna Be Adored".

It's nice, droning, very much in line with the alternative stream from Britain at that time. I like it. It's good. Really good. What it isn't is transformative. With very little change, it could've come out in 1969 or 1979, rather than 1989.

What is new and transformative. "Fool's Gold" is.

From the 70s on, dance music and rock music were like oil and water, never meeting. This is entirely rock and entirely dance without being pop, using dance beats.

Anyway, brilliant album. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Reflection on "Stop Doing Stupid S***"

Most of my bedroom playing is me sitting up in bed. Not too surprising, as I have a queen-sized bed in a not-big bedroom, but there are downsides. I can't play out laying down in bed, and there's bits I'm trying to work into my playing that are probably negatively impacted by my playing position. Slide is I'm sure largely uneffected, but I'm very sure that I'm not gonna get anywhere by continuing to try to start progressing with sweep picking if I'm not standing up while practicing, and I'm sure my current status in sweep picking shows that.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How To Not Suck, Chapter 22 or so: Stop Doing Stupid ... Stuff

Saw this blog post through Hacker News. Basically, the way to be better is to stop doing stupid ... stuff. (I decline to curse.) He started in chess, and the stupid stuff he was dealing with was falling for stupid tactics. He then adapted it to piano. There's short shrift given to the specific stupidities he was falling for, because he was hurrying to get to the application in a developer context.

I suppose, then, that each person has their own stupidities to deal with, and identifying them is the first step.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Found this through the Leftsetz Letter.

"It's like listening to 'Kashmir'. Crossed with "The End". A mysterious trip into the heart of darkness."

I'm getting more "When The Levee Breaks" than "Kashmir", but other than that, I agree entirely.

Evidently, the singer is playing Spidey in the Broadway musical.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where The Image Breaks Down

I've been a fan of the BBC show Top Gear for a while, and, of course, the question is "Do I like this show because it's British, or because it's funny, or because it has cars?" And the answer clearly isn't the third, because I have the Speed Channel and don't watch it that often. I suppose the dream of getting a junkyard special and building it up to hot-rod status with welding and cutting and all sorts of chrome-plated parts is different than getting a factory-perfect supercar and driving the wheels off it.

BBC America shows this show, and clearly this is one of the top shows on the network, so someone noticed that America has an appetite for fast cars that Britain (!) was there to feed. This was clearly a problem, and the History Channel came out with Top Gear US. I saw the episodes as they broadcast last year, and it was fun, but clearly this was a show that was feeling itself out.

The Speed Channel, appropriately enough, has come up with the Car Show, which I am watching right now. I think they take more from The Best Damn Sports Show Period (although more in the set design, which is more standard talk show and less folks hanging around a warehouse somewhere, which you might think of as a bit of a win. Plus, of course, John Salley. But I'm thinking that the mix is closer to the Top Gear UK formula, which is, of course, 1) stereotypical middle age blowhard who likes guy stuff and sarcasm who is the main focus of the show [Jeremy Clarkson (UK), Adam Carolla (US)], 2) car pedant who can give the boring details for those who like them, but can be ridiculed for doing so for those who don't like them [James May (UK), Dan Neil (US)], a very enthusiastic car fan [Richard Hammond (UK), Dan Farah (US)], 4) who don't necessarily like each other. I don't think The Car Show doesn't really have #4, but I've shown that they have folks that clearly fit slots 1-3. I think that Adam is clearly joking, while Jeremy is able to pretend to be earnest about his opinions and bits. But looking at Top Gear US, you have Adam Ferrara as the crank, but he's one among equals and not the leader, and Tanner Foust and Rutledge Wood have mis-matched chunks of Richard Hammond and James May and the Stig mixed between them. The points where Hammond gets into a race car and doesn't really know what to do with them are some of the more interesting parts.

And there's still the part of me that remembers The Man Show and thinks that Adam Carolla needs to get more imagination with show names, but between that and Best Damn, I think they were more prepared to hit the ground running than Top Gear US.

So, I like Car Show so far, but I'm waiting for the other one to show up on the History Channel again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Me Steve Kirk and Keith"

There used to be this thing called "Anti-Folk". It wasn't really anti-folk the way that, for example, Kraftwerk or Philip Glass are anti-folk, coming from entirely different view of music. It's more like an attempt to reboot folk. It kinda didn't go anywhere. Except Beck.

Anyway, there was a great album on SST (Black Flag's label) by Roger Manning, and another by Kirk Kelly called Go Man Go, with a first verse to die for but I can't quite remember.
 I once had a dream where I came home from school. My parents left a note on the screen door, saying "Dear son, we've moved." 
Anyway, this is very much on the model of Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. A guy with a voice and a guitar. Some clever words, some memorable stuff, a nice energy, but a guitar and a voice.

Roger Manning, "Pearly Blues"

I heard that Cindy Lee Berryhill was in the same scene and was coming out with an album. Naked Movie Star.

We all know some Dylan. We know the early political folksinger stuff. We know the later stuff with Bloomfield and then the Band. Now, imagine picking up an album thinking it's Freewheelin' and playing it to find it's Blood on the Tracks.  That's what it was like for me.

"Me, Steve, Kirk and Keith" was the first song, and Kirk Kelly is the Kirk in question, I'm lead to believe. There's lots of Patti Smith stuff that I didn't know yet that they were referencing. It's just one of the best albums I let fall through my fingers. But it's on Spotify.

No Secrets to Conceal

Every see something that directly related to you, like it was written for you?

This blog is named "Sans Direction" for a reason. A faux-French interpretation of "No Direction", which is an early band for Rich Show, who then lead Flag With Hank, a band I loved in the early 1990s as a student in South Dakota. It's from a Dylan lyric on "Like A Rolling Stone".

But, it is also a statement of where I was, and kinda sorta am, as a guitarist and musician. I hit a point that I can play songs. I know how to break apart most songs and figure out a good way to play them, and if I can't break it apart myself, I know the wonder of adding "tab" to the end of the song title and searching on Google, or looking for demo vids on Youtube. I find myself finding the structure of songs and asking my kids if they can figure it out, too. (For those who don't know, "Wipeout" by the Surfaris is a 12-bar blues. Not remotely bluesy, but there you go.)

So, for most anything I want to figure out, I can. But what I can't figure out is what I want to figure out next. I have no direction.

Guitar Player Zen has a four-year-old post on that subject, called "If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any Road Will Take You There". The author takes inspiration apart and focuses on different parts. What excites you? What are your abilities? Very good for the "How To Not Suck" portion.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Shoot the Hostage"

So, you walk in and find the gig's just you and a guy on vox and acoustic guitar. You're playing electric guitar through stomp boxes into a D/I box.

Acoustic guitars are very percussive, so he is doing rhythm, and this is very vocal-centric. It won't be like there's too much time to go on extended breaks.

First thing I did was keep above the fifth fret. Acoustic guitar guy was in first position, and there's no reason for two guitarists to play the same voicings.

I also played lots of sustained chords, maybe arpeggiating them when I thought there was room. Acoustic guitar is punchy, so he can handle the rhythm.

I sorta thought about Mark Spencer playing with Jay Farrar and decided that I couldn't be that busy. Except in one spot, and I didn't take that to the full extreme like I could.

So, when you're supporting a folksinger with an electric guitar, what do you do?

Soul Dressing

Roy Buchanan on Austin City Limits, I think. I mean, I know that's Roy, I just believe it's ACL.

Thanks to Reverberate! for pointing toward this.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Soup is Weird

Ever watch The Soup? It's on E! and is evolved from Talk Soup. It's a clip show that shows bits of various television shows, most often reality TV or talk shows.

I bring it up because there's a segment called "Let's Take Some E!", which, yes, is a drug reference, but mostly it's a regular segment where they make fun of the shows on the network it's on. Chris Hardwick has a similar role on G4 with Web Soup, except instead of reality show freakouts and talk show hosts making fools of themselves, Web Soup has YouTube videos of ball hits and other grotesqueries instead of Kardashians, but both regularly make very critical statements on the networks that show them.

Which is so weird.

Think of it. Is there anything on Comedy Central saying half of what it airs is crap? SyFy? CNN? CBS? No. Some news sources have ombudsmen, people on staff meant to take the audience's side against the editors and publishers, but they are not normally nearly has critical of their paper/magazine/channel/station/whatever as Joel McHale is about his.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Angels Want To Play My Red Strat

Well, not really. I don't have a red Strat.

What I do have is a set of Ernie Ball Extra Slinky strings on my top-loader Tele. That's .038 on the low end to .008 on the high end. Effortless playing, I have to say. I have no knowledge about how well they'll last, but right now, they're feeling great.

Ironically perhaps, I have Not Even Slinky strings ( .012-.056 ) on my Rondo. It is set for slide and I keep it tuned to Open D. It takes all kinds, and I love them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Stompin' at the Savoy

If I recall correctly, Tommy Emmanuel is one of the treasured few who has earned his CGP.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quick Repairs

My control plate has had problems staying on. The hole for the rear screw is stripped, and has fallen out.

Don't worry, don't worry. I know the fix. A toothpick and some wood glue add material to the hole, giving the screw something to grab onto. But I've fixed a hole and had it strip out on me again, so I'm more and more considering my options.

First one is to start fresh. Get a new body from Warmoth or somewhere. Black hides a multitude of sins, and mine has experienced enough that the black is flaking off in places. Yeah, I know that folks pay extra to buy a beaten-up guitar, more power to 'em, but part of me wants a pretty black guitar again. And if I go this way, I can go ahead and get something routed for a neck humbucker or 2 Strat pickups or something. The downside here is that I'd be looking at $300 or more when I'd rather hold onto that much money for a while, if I actually had it sitting around.

The second is threaded inserts for where the control plate connects to the body. Then it would be just metal screws to connect the plate to the body. Hardware and superglue to hold it in place and I should have a control plate I can be in and out of all day, for under $20.

I think I'll try that first.

I also think that, when I get to where I can start making my own dang guitars, I'll do that for mine. I know of folks who put inserts on the neck so they can get it on and off quickly over and over without stripping. I so like.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Melvin Sparks

Honestly, I hadn't heard of him until I saw notice of his passing, and upon hitting play on this Youtube vid, I felt immediately sorry for his passing but joyful at discovering his playing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Thing That Should Not Vee

This is why I love Premier Guitar! As is clear, it is a guitar with Telecaster stylings on a guitar with a Flying V body style. It's called the Tee Vee and it's from RS Guitar Works. This one draws from the original blackguard look of 1950s Teles, while the one Premier Guitar reviewed is more drawn from a 1960s Custom Tele, sunburst with a rosewood fretboard.

On TDPRI, the great guitar sparkler Buckocaster once put holographic sparkle on a Tele-V body, but I don't think I ever saw the completed guitar, so this is not quite as original as it seems, but it's a great and wonderful thing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Want Red!

St. Louis and Sammy Hagar go together like Philly and cheesesteak, and since I lived there, I've had a soft spot for the Red Rocker. This footage was played on MTV in the time before Thriller, and IIRC it was filmed in St. Louis at the arena where the St. Louis Blues played hockey. I point in the part starting at about 5:30 where Sammy plays lap steel. Of course, he's getting that accelerating car sound, who would expect anything else from him? He's on top of a red Pontiac Firebird when he's playing it! The coolest part is the way he throws it. I think that might be the only lap steel ever hooked up to a wireless system.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Leatherman: Don't Leave Home Without It

I play at church, two services every other Sunday. This Sunday, as I'm getting ready to play second service, my strap falls off the neck-side strap lock. This suddenly drops the neck and puts all the weight on the tail strap button, and the screw hole was all but stripped, and with this sudden weight, just came out.

It was easy to get the neck button back to normal, although this does argue that the Grolsch/Dalco solution is preferable to Schaller straplocks, but I won't go there too far, because the urgent issue is the second button. Here, I pull out the trustly Leatherman and screw a new hole in the already-tortured end of my Tele. I tell the worship leader, "Hold on until I finish", but I was not a reason for delay.

I did notice before too long that my high E was halfway to F, but I could lay out and tune up with the tuner pedal during the first verse and come in strong on the chorus, so I count it as a win.

A Leatherman (or other multitool) is great for these kind of last-minute things. Don't leave home without one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roger and "Clarence" Together Again

I think, if you want to quickly grab all the trends in Rock through the 1960s, you can pick up everything you need by getting all the Byrds and all the Yardbirds. Every trend is represented. While the known songs from the Byrds are the early Byrds, my favorite era is Sweetheart of the Rodeo and after, the less vocal-harmony-oriented and more jam-bandish version, mostly with the masterful guitar work of Clarence White and his B-Bender. Marty Stuart has had Clarence White's B-Bender Tele as his #1 Tele for years now.

Here we have Marty and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives (which has to be the best band name ever!) backing Roger at the Grand Old Opry, doing a very true-to-the-Byrds take on Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere".

Monday, January 24, 2011

Which One Is Pink?

How many of you remember Twisted Sister? "I Wanna Rock"? Metal meets Animal House meets Warner Brothers cartoons? If you remember them, you remember lead man Dee Snider, especially him testifying to congress besides Frank Zappa and John Denver against record labeling. You might remember Eddie Ojeda's pre-Wylde bullseye superstrat. And, if you really liked them, you'll remember Jay Jay French, who played a pink-to-red sunburst Les Paul.

The February issue of Premier Guitar has an interview with French. His daughter, it turns out, has uvelitis, which is the leading cause of blindness for American girls. The funding and awareness for this condition isn't near the levels of other illnesses, so French convinced guitar and amplifier makers like Fender, Gibson, PRS, Martin, Gretsch, Marshall, Vox, Mesa/Boogie and others to make 25 pinkburst guitars and amps to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for MERSI, the specialists in the field.  It's called the Pinkburst Project, and images of the instruments, along with more information of the disease and the auction.