Friday, 11 November 2011

Amps that go up to 11

This will just be a short post today...

There you have it kids!  Who doesn't want a guitar amp that goes up to 11?  Who doesn't want a tsunami of sound so powerful, so excellent it actually might make one pee?  The amps of mine that I use most often don't have any numbers on them at all so mine might... but then again they might not.  Anyway all you guitar players (and bass players too), when shopping for your next amp, look for knobs that turn to 11.  Try it out to make sure its not a cheap marketing gimmick, then Blast away my friends.... blast away.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

laser music!

So I was looking at nerdy things to do when you are not playing video games or musical instruments and I came upon this youtube video about a guy who took an arduino chip and some lasers and some other goodies and made this thing.  It made me want to go out and buy all of everything to make it.  Now the thing that makes me so excited is that I will be taking a computer programming course along with all of my music courses this semester... I could do something equally geeky with the knowledge that I hope to acquire.  I'll post if I do.  For the meantime though, Enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Mozart was nerdy

So this past week in Music History I have been doing an assignment where I had to take a couple of arias from a couple of Mozart Operas and analyze them and write a little about each one.  One of the arias that I  talked about in my paper was an aria called "O Isis und Osiris" from the opera "Die Zauberflöte" or 'the magic flute'.  Here is the basic idea of what happens in that opera:
 In the first act, Tamino is introduced.  He is a prince who being chased by a snake, faints and is rescued by three ladies; servents of the queen of the night.  Papageno, a bird watcher who needs a girlfriend appears, as Tamino is coming to.  Papageno lies to Tamino and tells him that he saved him when it was actually the three ladies.  The Ladies appear and punish Papageno by rendering him speechless by means of a padlock on his mouth.  They then show Tamino a picture of a lovely maiden with whom (of course) he instantly falls in love with and would do anything for.  The Queen of the night then appears and tells Tamino that the maiden's name is Pamina and is her daughter, tells Tamino that he can marry her if he rescues her.  The queen then departs.  The three ladies give Tamino a magic flute to change the hearts of men, unlock Papageno's face and give him some magic bells of protection, and send them both on a quest to rescue Pamina from Sarastro, an enemy to the queen.  At the end of the first act, everyone has been captured by Sarastro and Papageno and Tamino are taken toward the Temple of Ordeal.
 Act 2 begins on the way to the Temple.  It is determined that Tamino and Pamina are to be married and that Tamino is to succeed Sarastro in Sarastro's secret society as long as he passes all the ordeals.  Tamino is told that the Queen of the night is bad and she tries to rule with trickery and deception.  Sarastro then sings the aria Isis und Osiris as a prayer to protect Tamino and Pamina.  The ordeals begin with the promise that if Tamino is triumphant he will save Pamina.  Papageno also takes the trial with the promise of a woman for him too. At the end of various trials, Tamino and Pamina are united and celebrated for their success in the trails and Papegano wins the lovely Papagena, the Queen and her three maidens are cast into everlasting night and everyone else lives happily ever after. 
Wow! Queens of Darkness, secret societies, bells of protection, a flute to change the heart of someone, magic?  Now you can't tell me thats not a little nerdy. Now even though Mozart didn't write the words to the opera, he did work with  Emanuel Schikaneder, the guy who did and I imagine that Mozart could have changed elements of the plot if he wanted to... but he didn't.  You know, I bet that had Mozart been born in the 1980's he would have grown up playing D&D and would at this very moment be playing World of Warcraft.  He would probably also compose some of the best metal that anyone has ever heard and could probably play guitar with the greats.  The masterpieces that he would write would be for movies with epic plots with swords, dragons, Queens of Darkness, secret societies, bells of protection, a flute to change the heart of someone, magic and it would probably rival StarWars on the scale of awesome nerdyness....  And this would all be done from the comfort of his mother's basement. just sayin'.
Now the best part about all of this is that like most nerds, Mozart was really really smart.  If you read into all the symbols of this opera, it really tells quite a different story.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Theory in Practice

So here is something that twisted my noodle.
One of my classes that I take at school is a studio class.  That means that I have one on one music lessons on the piano.  My instructor is one of my favourite people at the school and I have recently been informed that she knows every piece on the planet.  Wow.  Anyway thats not what twisted my noodle.  I was working on some technique with my instructor (no good), when I discovered that there are only 3 diminished seventh chords ever.  EVER!  This is how it works:
A diminished seventh chord is made up of three minor thirds.  Because that is the case, it turns out that the root position of that chord is also the first inversion of the diminished seventh chord that begins a minor third down.  At the same time it also is the second inversion of the chord starting 2 minor thirds (or a diminished fifth) below.  At the same time as the chord is being those three cords, it also happens to be the third inversion of the chord that starts a minor third below that!!  Wow!  So when one chord actually equals four chords, and there are 12 keys in our tonal system, then only three of these chords are needed to cover all of the diminished sevenths of every key!  And the coolest thing is, that when you are playing these things on a piano, the fingering never changes!  Guitar will be much the same *if you want to change keys, just slide up the neck right?  Anyway I was thinking and from a composition standpoint, these chords could be used as a really nice pivot chord when you want to change keys and want to be a little sneaky about it.
Well, thats enough nerdy raving for today.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Attn: Metalheads My Friend's Band Made a CD

So one day while I was working at Axe, I was walking down the hall beside the teacher's rooms and out of one of the rooms came this really cool sound.  It was like several guitars going at once, some functioning as percussion, others having a really tasty rhythm part and then there was a really great lead part.  It was amazing. So I stopped in to take a look and it turned out that there was just one guy with a boss loop pedal and his guitar.  WOW!  It made me want to go and buy one right then and there (I never did though).  Anyway the guy working the wizardry was named Warren and he was working there as a guitar teacher.  During my time there I had the opportunity a few times to listen to his work and I must say, I quite enjoyed it.  Then I moved away.  A few days ago Warren contacted me on Facebook and told me that his band made a CD and that it streams free on the Internet, so I checked it out.  I really enjoyed what I heard and many of you metalheads will probably like it as well.  So HERE is the link to where his CD streams online and on that same website, you can donate whatever you think the CD is worth and download it so that you can have it forever and ever. Enjoy Kids!

*note Interlude I is more grandparent friendly than Deceit of Concience (no yelling in the interlude)

PS. The band's name is Alterity.  It seems that most people now a days seem to have a really hard time coming up with cool band names but I like this one. 
Here's aother tasty taste.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

4 Year Old Wisdom

One day this past week I was talking to my little sister and she mentioned this video on youtube that she thought was just great.  In it, a little boy who just figured out how to ride a bike gives us a motivational speech.  It is truly one of the greatest videos on youtube right now I think... So if you are feeling discouraged because your guitar playing has reached a plane and you just can't seem to improve at the rate that you want, or if you think that your piano pieces or bass chops or whatever need improvement, just listen to this guy.  He'll tell you what's up and remember, Thumbs Up Everybody, For Rock n Roll!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lip Shredding

One of my favourite things to do while I'm driving is crank up the tunes and sing along.  In this way I provide myself (and anyone nearby) with entertainment making an otherwise mundane task (driving) more enjoyable.  My singing would not even stop when a guitar solo would occur.  Rather than singing words, I would just try to sing the melody of the guitar solo.  Now, my singing at best is not that good so you can imagine what it sounds like when I start to sing solos...  Lots of "bedelebedelebeeee" and "wah wah wah" and "WOOOAAAYAAHH"'s screeching higher than the top of my vocal range... Not Lovely.  Anyway I was hanging out with one of my friends one day and he showed me this video on youtube and I am convinced, that if you are going to lip shred, you are a hero if you can sound like this guy.  Enjoy.  

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Need of Hair to Properly Rock

Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time there was a guy named Samson, or Sam, for short.  He was really tough but his strength wasn't attributed to his muscles, but his hair.  One day this girl that he liked asked him why he was so strong and after the little lies that we tell the people who we like, he came out with the truth.  After she found out, the wench cut it all off!  When he woke up Sam found out that his strength was gone and he was a wimp just like everyone else.  When everyone found out that he lost his strength, they poked out his eyes and then made fun of him every night until his hair had grown back, and guess what.  With the re-growth of his hair, his strength came back and he used it to collapse the building he was in, killing himself and all the people who were picking on him. Tragic eh?

Now let me tell you another story.
A couple of weekends ago, I was in Edmonton with my family and they conned me into getting my haircut.  They presented good reasons why I should have one; my hair was getting a little long, my sister has a wedding in a couple of weeks and she wanted me to look presentable, you know, the list that the relatives make up...  So I put some conditions that I thought were impossible on a haircut and to my surprise, my family filled all of the conditions, so my hair was cut.  I remember sitting in the chair, tears flowing from my face thinking
"How can I rock with short hair?
I play guitar in part so that I can swing my hair around.
My Rock Strength will be Gone!
Just like Sam!
They are going to poke out my eyes and make fun of me!"
Yes, I was a sorry sight.  Sitting in the middle of the mounds of what used to be my long beautiful golden locks, shivering in the cold, until I went outside that is, then I promptly sun burned my neck and ears.  After I returned home, I picked up the guitar to see if all of my chops were gone, but to my delight, they were still there!  My guitar stills were still intact and  I was elated!  Upon further contemplation on this matter I realized that there was really no need to ever be alarmed.  After all there are pleanty of great rock musicians who have (or have had) short hair and still rock! For Example:
Synister Gates - Now Despite the cheese of Avenged Seven Fold, this guy knows how to play guitar.  It can't be denied.
Matt Heafy - Same story, say what you will about Trivium, Matt is a great guitarist - Even with his short hair.
Rob Halford - Now he doesn't play guitar but This guy has been Rocking with No Hair at all for a LONG time!
Kerry King - Same Story as Rob
Joe Satriani - He had long hair but as it started to thin, off it went... ALL of it!  Even after that, he was (and is) still amazing
Steve Vai and John Petrucci both have had points in their careers when they had short hair and did they suck then?  No.  They didn't.  Ever.
These aren't the only ones either!  You can still rock even if you have short hair.  And that is that.  (Sorry about your bad luck Sam)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Rock and Roll and Old Man Strength

Does anyone remember long ago when we would play games like capture the flag or doing some other physical activity.  Maybe you remember helping on the farm while you were growing up.  Do you remember how much stronger the older men were?  Not just because they had a more advanced muscular development than you, it seemed that they were given a special "old man strength" that made them stronger than their physique could allow...  Last weekend, I found out that "old man strength" was not limited to physical activities but is equally applicable in Rock and Roll.
This past weekend I went up to Edmonton to visit with family that I have there. On the Saturday I was there, my cousin and I went to the Capital X (formerly known as Klondike Days), which is the carnival that passes through Edmonton every year.  To my delight, I found out that Chilliwack and Blue Öyster Cult were going to perform there and the only cost was the admission to get through the gate to the carnival.  I paid my $12.00 and made a bee line to the stage and waited.  Presently the members of Chilliwack came on the stage, tuned their own guitars and played one of the best sets that I have ever seen.  None of the new rock n rollers that I have ever seen have anything on this classic rock group.  Like I said, they knew how to tune their own guitars (and they didn't have a zillion of those either, they only had one electric guitar and an acoustic guitar each, Not a new guitar for every song), they played together and everyone stayed in their own pocket.  The sound was tweaked perfectly, they interacted with the crowd well and were a general pleasure to watch.  Sadly their set ended.  After a few minutes of waiting, Blue Öyster Cult came on stage and I was again blown away!  They were very entertaining and sounded excellent, despite having to play the show on borrowed gear, since the airline lost theirs.  Both of these acts were excellent and thinking back on it, I have seen lots of old acts that were likewise great: Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Def Leopard  just to name a few, and each time they were way better than their younger counterparts.  Maybe its just coincidence, or maybe its the Old Man Strength manifesting itself in Rock.

Monday, 18 July 2011

In Defence of those who "sold out"

Years ago, when I was in high school, I remember having discussions about bands who used to be great but sold out.  What does that even mean?  Does it mean that artists get crappy because they get signed to a big label and have to produce the things that the label demands?  This is what I think about it now a days...
Usually if you are a musician, you are in need of a career to support yourself over and above being a musician.  Lets say that you have a band and you are working hard to make ends meet during the day and a few nights a week your band gets together to make some music.  Then one day, while your band is playing covers with one or two originals, at a public function, someone says "hey your band is great, how would you like to make enough money that you can just play music.  The music that you play can be written by you but it has to meet certain criteria to be determined by the record company.". In your mind you think "hmm, that doesn't sound so bad, I can play music all I want, and the criteria is quite loose compared to the requirements that I have to meet now playing at this gig.  I even get to perform more of my own songs!"  Great!  so now you can either continue your struggle or be labeled a sellout.  Nice.  Now lets say that this record company was an 'independent' record company (whatever that actually means) and this somehow saves your little band from being sellouts (probably because there is less money involved).  You will work hard and maybe make ends meet.  Later (if you are creating a large following) a major label record company will notice you and offer you a contract that would pay off your mortgage, your car, and your guitars amps etc, but you just have to play the songs that they want.  Is that so different from playing covers at a gig somewhere before you were noticed?  Why were you playing those covers back then anyway?  Was it because  it was what someone else wanted?  Chances are that was the case (but not always).  Were you aiming toward a certain audience when you played? (If not, you should have been or else your performances were probably doomed to failure.)  Whats the real issue here?  I think that every band changes over time due to life experience and taste, and we are creatures of habit and generally resist change so we are programed to dislike the new different pieces from some of the bands who 'used to be great'.  Now because we are quite slow to find faults with ourselves and our way of thinking, we need something to blame it on!  How about "they suck now since they sold out".  Yeah.  That sounds good.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

On the Warmoth Forum...

Wow check this out everyone! This is a truly unique instrument and I think its just awesome! Look at the pictures and listen to this guy's sound clip of how the guitar sounds!

My first Warmoth project

Cool eh?

Sweet Guitar Finish!

So, I think that its time for me to say it (if you didn't get it already) I am a fan of Warmoth guitar parts.  In fact, the body and neck for my les paul build are from Warmoth.  I was looking on their website the other day and I found one of the coolest guitar body finishes I have ever seen! Mild mannered white by day and electric green by night!  What could be better? Almost nothing.

Here is the link to the showcase site where it is being displayed.  The link won't work forever though because someone is going to buy this one one of these days.  Then we'll just have to be sad. 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Guitar Backing Tracks

I recently was asked to play guitar with a group that will be doing a show consisting of a bunch of classic rock songs.   Wahoo!  I Love classic rock!  Anyway, I got the list and listened to the songs and started picking out the guitar parts and learning them.  One of my favourite songs on the list, twilight zone, reminds me of times when I was 3 or 4 years old thrashing about in the living room armed with an air guitar.  Aahh... Good times.  
Now this may seem completely unrelated, but while I was working at Axe Music, I remember going downstairs where the PA equipment was and listening to Rob, (the PA guy and steller guitarist) who had his guitar plugged into an old Spider II amp, playing along to loops on a website called  Rob is one of the best guitarists that I know and I asked him how he got so good at improvising solos and he told me, to find a loop, and create solos over it.  Cool.  So I started to look around on that website and began to use some of the loops.  Not only was this site filled with loops without the guitar track, but there were songs re-recorded and posted for my practicing pleasure! 
Now back to the first topic: Twilight Zone.  I was on the internet the other day and thought to myself "its a few weeks before the band gets together for some rehearsal time and I would like to know if my guitar add-ins would sound good.  I wonder if guitarbackingtrack has Twilight Zone".  So I looked and they did!  A pretty good version too!  Now I can play 80's rock to my heart's content!  
Seriously though, is a great resource and I wish that I had had it when I was just beginning.  

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Seventh String

Today I decided to pull out the ol' seven string guitar.  As I slung the ever cheesy 'police line' strap over my shoulder, I thought to myself "wow it has been a while.  I wonder if I should sell this guitar."  The answer came to me seconds after I played my first chord.  The huge sound seemed to swirl around my body, (thanks in part to the cold medicine that I am taking) and it came to me: of course I could never sell it, I still need it. The following argument with myself went something like this:
What For?  Surely I trespass some of the Bassist's territory with that low B string.  Not to mention that I haven't even come close to mastering the six string guitar so why would I even want a guitar with more strings that that?  Plus any guitarist worth his salt should be able to make his six strings sound as huge as any seven string guitar.

Will the defence please rise.
For charges against trespassing on the bass territory:
Bands sound best when each player stays in their little pocket and don't try to carry over into someone else's place.  If you are a rhythm player, be content playing a supporting rhythm to the bass and drums; something to fill in the sonic gap... but don't over fill!  This can be done on a seven string.  Just check your volume and don't play more than you should.  If you are a lead player, you should try to come to grips with the fact that you may never be satisfied.
For the charge against needing to master six strings before attempting seven:
You don't need to master a six string before attempting a seven string.  That is ridiculous.  It is a different instrument and needs to be treated like it.

For the statement "any guitarist worth his salt should be able to make his six strings sound as huge as any seven string guitar.".

This is somewhat true!  The simplest way to make a chord sound an octave lower is to simply drop a fifth on the bottom end of the chord.  For example if you are playing the C chord (3rd fret A string) to make it sound bigger, crank the distortion and play the G (3rd fret low E string) on top of the C chord.  Voila!   ...but its just not the same.  Also there is no real way (other than some pitch shifting pedals) to mask single notes as being lower than they are that I am aware of.

Further statements:
The Seven string also feels different, and not just because of the little wider neck, but because of its scale.  My seven string has a slightly longer scale than my other guitars do.  That means that the strings have to be pulled a little tighter to produce any given note than is necessary on a regular (not baratone) six string guitar.  The result is a tight feeling, mean and deep sounding machine of sonic might and glory.

Verdict:  I will keep and continue to love my seven string.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Fast Times and Canada Day

The first of July is one of the greatest things about the town where I live.  The population doubles on Canada Day here for the parade and the street party that follows.  Yesterday I had the chance to help set up for a band that played here called Fast Times.  They put on an excellent show!  The people in the crowd really enjoyed the music that they played.  They played from every genera too, everything from Journey, to Merle Haggard, to Lady Gaga and Led Zeppelin (just to name a few) and they did it well too!  After the show I went and spoke to the guitar player and this is what he said:  He told me that over time most of the combinations of chord progressions and notes have already been used and that the real key to being a musician is to render what is already there in your own way.  The music already exists and the musician acts only as a conduit to release it.  That is similar to what Victor Wooten had to say at a bass clinic that I attended one day and its what DiVinci about his sculptures, so it must have some merit.  He also told me the thing that sets one musician apart from another, is the way that the music is played.  No two musicians sound exactly the same weather the difference be in the tone that he or she peruses, or the technique used to create a certain effect.  So I guess this is another post like the 'sound like yourself' post I did a little while back.  Happy long weekend!
Canada Day Long weekend from the 1st to the 3rd or July 4th from the 2nd to the 4th for my American friends, have a good one

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Finally, A good photo!

I decided to mess around with a camera and a little photo editing program to see if I could make a great picture of my guitar and this is what I came up with.  I know its not much of a blog post for today but I like this picture and since this is a blog about music and musical instruments, why not?
Ok so what I did was I took a rumpled piece of black fabric and then placed my guitar on it.  Then I took a picture with my camera and then imported it into gimp (which is an open source photo editing program which is very similar to photoshop, only free).  Then I put the guitar on one layer, put a gradient filter overtop of that, and a black background under, and Poof!  Sweet picture of my guitar.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Ugly Blog

Well I have done a little research and looking at other people's blogs and I have come to the realization that My blog is ugly.  This is no good.  I want to make my blog look awesome so that I when I write about guitar playing, or piano playing or music in general, people aren't distracted by the ugliness.  Its time to go digging around and see what I can do in order to make my blog a little less of an eyesore.  Suggestions?

Friday, 24 June 2011

About the Piano

I am a piano player.  In fact, that is the instrument that I'm taking at University!  I know that it would be difficult to tell because of all the posts that I have done about guitar... 

Now, I like to consider myself a social creature.  I like to interact with people and perhaps that is part of my problem.  In all of my piano playing that I have done over the last 20 years, I haven't had the chance to sit down with someone else and make music.  My job was to master a piece of music, usually written by someone long dead, well enough to play at a recital or exam.  When the technically perfect performance was given, picked apart, and found acceptable, I was then able move on to another piece and start the process all over again.  Along the way I learned how to play scales, chords, arpeggios etc. but never learned how to apply them in a more social setting.  In contrast, when I started to play guitar, I jammed for the first time probably six months after I started on songs with which I was familiar!  I had FUN!  I want to be able to jam that way with piano but I'm afraid that I am too engrained with the classical discipline.  I NEED HELP or else I may be doomed to conversations like this:

"Hey we should get together this weekend and have a jam"
"Yeah!  That sounds like fun!" 
"Great!  I was thinking maybe I'll play keyboards, and I'll have a bass player and a drummer lined up and you could take lead guitar?"
"Sounds like fun what are we playing?"
"Ooh, well are you familiar with Bach's prelude and fugue in Bflat major?  I was also thinking we could do the first movement of his Fifth Brandenburg Concerto."
"Yeah! You know the ones... BWV 866 and BWV 1050!"
"I take it back, it does not sound like fun after all."

Now don't get me wrong, Those Bach pieces are great works of art and are enjoyable to listen to, however you need to be classically trained to play this stuff and even then, the challenge is formidable.  Once the task of learning such a piece is complete, there is very little room to play around and add your own flavour to the piece. Especially with Bach, because with Bach, there is only one flavour... the Bach flavour.  You can't just improvise your own keyboard solo in a Bach piece, mostly because he is already playing the best notes that could ever go there, but also because he will curse the musical talent right out of you from the grave (or so I've heard).  All this doesn't make me want to practice piano much.

So, you can see my conundrum.  I want to be able to play music with people (which I think is one of the best things about music) but there are very few people who know how to jam with a keyboard and I don't know where to begin to teach myself.  Ooh well.  I guess I'll just do the best I can and maybe by playing along with the stereo, improvement in this area will be improved, and this will increase my desire to be awesome at piano and I will practice more.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Help! Gear Stolen in Vancouver

Hello everyone who visits my blog,

Someone named Maurice had his music gear stolen in Vancouver.

CLICK HERE to see his poster on craigslist.

Maurice, I don't know who you are or if you will ever read this post but I sure hope that you get your gear back and that in their wrath, the Gods of Karma strike the dirty thieves down!!

First Attempt at Garage Band

Alright Ladies and Gents,  This is a piece of a song that I created shortly after I started to play the electric guitar so its not full of shred-tastic awesomeness, but it has a good rock groove.  I decided to try to record something on Garage Band and this is what happened.  Now that I'm beginning to learn the ropes and whatnot, I'm sure that there will be more posts like this one, just with better tunes.

This is what I did.  I made the drum track on Garage Band with the typing keyboard then I plugged my guitar into my little blackstar 5 watt amp and the emulated headphones out from my amp into my computer (no interface just right into my audio in jack).  Then I laid down the guitar track a couple of times.  After that, I grabbed a bass, plugged it right into the computer, laid down that track and poof!  A simple song!  Looking back I probably should have done the drums first followed by the bass then the guitar.  Ooh well.   I guess the point to this post is that Garage Band has all the fancy toys that I need at the moment.  Maybe after I become proficient in Garage Band, I'll explore some of the bigger programs.

Booted from a forum

The other day I wrote on the ultimate guitar forums that I had written up a blog about strings and how to choose them, and do you know what they did?  They kicked me off of the forum!  When you are banned from the ultimate guitar forum, they only let you post in one little area called "the forum of the banned" and I asked if it was because I posted the link to my blog and they said yes.  Anyway I picked the wrong option available to me at the time.  These were the options that I could have done with my blog post:

1. I could have done what I did.  Consequence: Booted from the forums
2. I could have copied and pasted what I wrote onto a forum page.  Probable concequence: Booted from the forums for spamming
3.  I could have just not told people about what I found.  Consequence:  Less people would know about strings!

Ooh well, I guess you can't win em all eh?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sound Like Yourself

One of my favourite things to do is learn songs by some of my favourite artists.  I love to put in my headphones, get into my power rock stance, put on my rock face, grab my guitar, turn up my amp and go!  I become untouchable!   After a long while I was puzzled to hear that I didn't sound exactly like the guitar players I listen to even though I played all the same notes that were played on the recordings and my tone was set so that it sounded like the recorded tone.  Eventually I realized that its because I'm not the guitar players in the recordings.  Thats why I sound different... and its good.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Recording at home eh?

Long ago I was sitting with my friend Dan in the computer lab at our high school and we were looking at boss guitar pedals online.  As I was looking at some of the pedals that I was sure that I needed to have in my guitar arsenal, I stumbled across something that I needed more than any of the other wondrous toys on that site... The Glorious BR 8.  I was sure that if I could acquire one of these units,  I would begin to revolutionize music as we know it.  Well, I never did get the money and eventually I got a computer that came stock with Garage Band.  After a few hours of exploring the program, I found out that it was just as, if not more, capable of recording my music than the BR8.  What Luck!  This program also had some capabilities not available with the early BR 8.  Now what have I done with this great resource?  Almost nothing.  This powerful software is at my fingertips and I don't even really use it.  I have all kinds of great guitar riffs and partial songs floating around in my mind that resurface whenever I play, but they never seem to make it onto my hard drive despite the relative ease of recording.  Who has a similar story?  If you have something home recorded already, post a link or the file if you can, and I'd be glad to hear it.  Maybe your home made efforts will inspire me to get off of my butt!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Ol' MT-2

I was feeling nostalgic a little while ago, and I pulled out my old Boss MT-2 Metal Zone pedal.  It was the first guitar pedal that I ever bought.  I remember that I saved my money won an auction for it on ebay for 35 dollars or something and I was so excited when it finally came.  I recall when I first plugged it into my peavey studio pro 112, and I was transformed into a warrior of rock destined to conquer the world with my crushing riffs!  Eventually it fell by the wayside as bigger and better things came along and added themselves to my music toy collection.  Anyway, I plugged it into my current rig and turned it on...  It sounded 'awesomer' a long time ago.
Anyone else have a similar story?
Well, I finished playing with the pedal and decided that I would get rid of it since I don't use it anymore...  BUT I CAN'T!!  It was so great and I loved it so much that I just can't let it go!  It sounded so wonderful to me long ago.  There is only one thing left to do.  Put on my geek pants, and modify it.
We musicians are always modifying our gear.  Different amp tubes, different pickups, new bridges, nuts, tuners, etc.  Why do we do it?  Does it really sound better after?  Sometimes, but sometimes not.  And if not, will we ever admit that it was just as good or better before?  Never!  So if this mod fails, will I say that it sounds worse?  Nope (unless it makes no noise at all).  We just can't leave well enough alone.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Guitar Strings?

Ever had any trouble picking which set of strings you should use?  Have you ever wondered whats the big difference anyway?  Do you already have a favourite set of strings and come hell or high water, never going to change?  My friend Scott has a saying that applies especially to musicians.  He says "We like what we like, the way we like it, because we like it".  Our (sometimes unfounded) bias can be a roadblock to new possibilities and we are often too proud to listen to anyone else.  I too am a musician and I am just as staunch and set in my ways as any of the other guys.  I realize the importance of letting you like what you like and I will NOT try to change your opinion of your current favourite strings (it would't have any effect anyway).  This is just some good information that I have found and it may be helpful to you.

Plain strings are usually made out of high carbon steel that are coated in tin to improve feel and tone.  Some acoustic plain strings are coated in zinc or bronze for a brighter sound.  The wound strings have a core with wire wrapped around it.  The wrapping techniques are different for most factories.  For Example, DR hand-wraps the strings while other companies use precession machines to do the work.  

String size.
Get what is most comfortable to use.  It is true that a bigger string is louder but, some people say that lighter string equals lighter sound.  If there is a tone difference, it I find it to be negligible.  For example: ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, likes a .007 string for his high e, and he has a pretty thick tone.  I have also found that when I play metal, a set of 9-42 are just as 'heavy' sounding as a set of 12-56.  The heaver ones just make it harder to bend.  Thats all.  

The Core: Hex or Round?
Until the late 60's, a round core was the only option.  Later string companies started using a hexagonal core which made it easier for the wrap to stay on, and delivered a more solid punch with a very quick response.  Some companies (like D'addario) use only hex core strings and have had lots of success in creating consistant quality sets of strings.  Other companies use both round and hex core strings and report that the round core is more flexible and easier to bend with a fuller sound and more all around versatility.  Not better, just different.

Bronze (acoustic)
80/20 Bronze (80% copper and 20% zinc which is actually brass) has the brightest tone out of the box but can loose this tone quickly.  Other "bronze" strings contain copper, zinc and tin and will generally have a sound not quite as bright as 80/20 strings but will last a little longer.

Phosphor Bronze (acoustic)
Strings wrapped with phosphor bronze have a deeper richer sound than the bronze strings.  (I love phosphor bronze strings on a good cedar top guitar)

Silk 'n Steel (acoustic)
These strings feature a thread of silk on the inside of the wrap producing a softer tone.

Stainless Steel (electric)
Stainless Steel strings have a very tight, bright and focused sound.  They are also extremely rust resistant but they will wear down your frets quickly.  They are also recyclable.  

Nickel Plated and Nickel (electric)
For rock guitarists nickel plated are usually the way to go.  Generally the wrap will be made of iron and then plated in nickel, producing a strong magnetic field which will deliver a high output, with an edge combined with some good overtones.  Pure Nickel strings are harder to find.  They have a pure nickel wrap around the core and produce a quieter and warmer sound with very rich overtones.  

Alloy 52 (electric)
Strings with this alloy of 52% nickel and 48% iron produce a high output, as well as the warm and overtone-rich characteristics of a pure nickel string.  These are generally used on vintage style pickups to increase the output while keeping the vintage tone of the pickup. 

Coated Strings
A coating on a string can greatly improve the longevity of a string.  Some coatings are more sonically invisible than others.  For example Elixir's nanoweb strings have a coating that is so fine that you cannot feel it under your fingers and personally, I can't hear a difference between these and a set of non-coated strings of the same specs.  Elixir's polyweb strings however, have a coating that can be both felt and heard.  The sonic difference is not a negative effect, just different.  Each string company has a different way of coating their strings.  My personal favourites are DR DimeBag strings.  I usually don't love signature things of other artists, however I cannot deny the greatness of those strings.  These wraps of these strings are coated in a liquid polymer solution prior to wrapping and have become my favourite guitar strings ever.  Try em!  You'll love em!

Cryogenically treated strings
Many companies offer strings that have been cryogenically treated.  That means that they subjected the strings to extremely low temperatures to realign the molecules of the strings in order to increase the longevity.  Many players have also reported better sustain, and a greater resistance to corrosion due to this process.  

Round, Half and Flat Wound
Sometimes the wrap of a string isn't round. Generally its like this
Round wound - Bright
Half rounds - not as bright but a little smoother
Flat - Mello and smooth like buttah.  (great for jazz)

There you go!  Thats what I know.  What are your favourite strings and why?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Little amps

So, Yesterday I helped out a friend with a talent show.  She had asked me to play guitar with a band for a couple of her songs.  After a rehearsal I decided that I would try my little 5 watt BlackStar ministack amp for the show rather than my 150 watt behemoth of an amp, and I was presently surprised.  It sounded GREAT!  It provided all the stage volume that I needed, and after I planted an SM 57 infront of it and sent the sound out through the house PA system, it was loud enough for everyone to hear.  This experience has proved to me a suspicion that I have had for a few years now.  All you kids who need 300 watt guitar amps are falling for the classic 'more = better' idea, which may just happen to be false in this case.  Nobody NEEDS a wall of amps with thousands of watts.  For most musical styles, A good 50 will do just fine in any jamming situation and live, you may need even less.  So my conclusion is this.  You don't need to buy that 100 watt + amp.  In fact, later you'll probably find out that it is a little inconvenient.  It weighs more, and only sounds good after its been turned up too loud to hear the drums (unless you use an expensive and often tone sucking attenuator).
There are a few exceptions to that rule, like if you don't have a PA (then your vocalist is up the creek and you are doomed to 'ear out' the sound levels from a stage) or if you happen to be someone like Gus G who seems to need six 200 watt monsters on stage with him wherever he goes.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Jamming Synergy... its a fact

So the other day I got a call from someone in town here who wanted to put on a talent show and needed some musicians.  I was told that there was already a bass player and a drummer and that I would play guitar.  I had a rehearsal a couple of days later and really had a blast!  I used my little 5 Watt BlackStar mini stack and it worked out really well for the kind of stuff we were doing (I wouldn't recommend using one of those little amps for hard rock or metal but for the soft rock we were doing, it was just fine).   It brought back memories of high school bands that I was involved in.  There is something great about collaborating with other musicians and creating something that is fun to play and listen to.  So, All you basement musicians, go find a friend who plays, and get together and get started!  It is AWESOME.  I find that the end result is always more than the parts that make it.

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Art of Excellence

So, today, I decided to flick on the much music channel (similar to MTV in the States), and I tried to get into the music that was playing on that channel.  I was very disappointed with what I heard.  I can't believe some of the stuff that passes for music now a days and I guess that society must buy into it since it somehow finds the funds to continue to be (re)produced.  Its actually quite depressing.  The music that is fed to the masses is a sorry excuse for art.  So, after sulking and whining to myself, I changed the channel to the comedy channel and experienced a similar dissapointment.  While some of it was funny, mostly it was tasteless and unoriginal.  It was like when you were on the playground in elementary school and you said a 'dirty word' and all the other kids giggled, just geared at people who are older than 6 or 7.  What ever happened to the creative comedian?  I like to have to know something in order to get a joke rather than just chuckle at the discomfort produced by derogatory comments! What happened to the musicians who were proficient in an instrument (voice or otherwise)?  I'm not saying that all new music and comedy are no good but I have no use for the majority of it.  Personally,  I'll take the Bill Cosby, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and other of the time tested greats over the new 'entertainment'.  Why do you think that we still hear bands like Pink Floyd on the radio?  I think that it is because there isn't much new great media.
Maybe I'm just being too closed minded or perhaps there is a plethora of new good music that is just evading me.  Maybe I'm just an old fart set in my ways. Or maybe, I'm just hooked on excellence which is in and of itself, a dying art.
Comment and call it how you see it.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Where I get Equipment

I have an addiction to guitar gear and accessories.  There.  I said it.  The only thing is, that I don't even feel bad!  I have worked in music stores forever so I have always got my strings and winders cleaners and whatnot for cheep but, since I have been in school for the last year I have not been able to work at a music store for a while.  That means that all of my little music goodies are expensive again!  So I decided to take things into my own hands and I started an online store through amazon for all of the little things that I love and use on my instruments, and the best part is, they cost as much as, or less than what I could get them with my employee's discount.  Anyway, more than this post being just an advertisement for my online store, maybe its an idea for you to do the same with products that you like.

In my store I start with a huge directory that you can use the search to find what you are looking for, then I have tabs on the side for some of my favourite musical goodies.  Feel free to check it out here!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

What do I do with a truss rod?

I have had many people ask me what the truss rod is for in a guitar.  While learning about the truss rod myself a few years ago, I came across a little post which I printed off and kept in my little 'how to' book that I made while I was a guitar tech at a music store.  Here it is!

(It all started, of course, with someone asking how to adjust a truss rod.)
XxStratxx wrote:
> I will tell you what everybody told me, dont mess with the rod,
> its like holy and if you dont have a doctoral degree you will
> ruin your life for ever and ever, (sic)

Paul Guy replied:

Dear Leo, who art in heaven...
If thou be Pure in Heart and Pious in Spirit, locate thou the Holy Truss Rod Nut - remove thou the Holy Truss Rod Cover if there is one. Take thou now thine instrument in praying position, this being the position in which thou dost hold the instrument to perform the Holy Rites of Rock'N'Roll, or whatever you happen to be into. Press thou now reverently thine E-string down upon the first fret and the highest fret simultaneously and inspect thou the Holy Gap, which hereinafter shall be named the Holy Relief, between the bottom of the string and the top of the seventh and eighth frets. At the seventh and eighth frets shalt thou look, and not anywhere else, save that thou mayest also look at the sixth and ninth frets, but there isn't really much point. At the other frets shalt thou not look, save for if you really want to.
Let There Be Light between the string and the fret, the light shall be in the amount of approximately one and one half times the sixtyfourth part of one inch, or about half a millimeter. Note thou well, howsoever, that not all Guitars are created equal and that some Guitars will need a little more and some Guitars may get away with a little less.
Shouldst the Holy Truss Rod require adjustment thou art constrained to obtain the correct Holy Implement, which hereinafter shall be named the Holy Truss Rod Wrench, or in certain cases the Holy Truss Rod Key, or in other cases, like older Fenders, The Holy Bloody Great Screwdriver. Verily, use of any other implement is heresy and may ruin thy Holy Truss Rod Nut for ever and ever, with the result that thy Holy Truss Rod will not perform its Holy Miracle of keeping the neck straight.
Thou canst do no damage by loosening the Holy Truss Rod Nut a bit in an anticlockwise direction if the string is touching the seventh and eighth frets, or if the Holy Relief is insufficient. If the Holy Relief is too large mayest thou gently turn the Holy Truss Rod Nut one quarter of a revolution or thereabouts in a clockwise direction. Check thou again the Holy Relief at the seventh and eighth frets and if it continueth to be too large have another bash. Shouldst the Holy Truss Rod Nut require large amounts of adjustment to achieve the required effect, something is FUBAR and thou shalt make Confession to thy parish Reverend Luthier for absolution.
(A very few Holy Truss Rods operate in the reverse direction, thusly, a clockwise rotation doth cause the Holy Truss Rod to add more Holy Relief, and an anticlockwise rotation doth cause the Holy Relief to diminish. Lo, these shalt thou operate with thy left hand. Or with thy right if thou dost feel like it.)
Now, if dost thou encounter resistance to thy ministrations that seemeth abnormal (if thou canst not easily adjust the Holy Truss Rod Nut without giving it some stick), or if thy ministrations seemeth not to have the prayed-for effect, or if the Holy Truss Rod shouldst make any rude noises, shalt thou cease and desist forthwith and immediately. Thereafter thou shalt entrust, without unseemly delay, thine Instrument to thy parish Reverend Luthier for His blessings and ministration of Holy Relief.
Thus is it written in the Book of Orville, whose Prophets at the Temple of Gibson were blessed with this wisdom many moons ago, when the faithful did wail that their necks did warp and bend, and that the ends of their fingers did hurt like merry hell. And thus it is,

Now this may all seem a little silly but lots of useful things can be learned from this little post
1.  You don't want a neck that is perfectly straight - every guitar needs a little relief. 
2.  To Measure the relief, put a capo on the first fret, and press down on the 17th fret, and measure on the 8th fret with some feeler gauges (I know that the post says that you should press on the last fret but I feel like I can be a little more exact if I use the 17th and measure over the 8th - because the 17th fret is 8 frets from the 8th fret).
3.  You will probably want .010" ish of relief for an electric, .012" - .015" for an acoustic
4.  To add relief, generally an counter clockwise adjustment is necessary
5.  Always use the right tool for the job.  To strip out a truss rod nut is almost unforgivable.
6.  If you have any questions, ask someone!


Friday, 20 May 2011

Beginning A New Instrument

I love when people first begin to play a new instrument.  I think that its great to watch their frustration melt away into excitement!  Looking back I can remember when I got my first guitar how excited and then frustrated I was.  I remember I was 16 years old, and I had had it with piano.  I was sick and tired of playing these pieces that were composed long before I was born, by people who I had trouble relating to.  Also, I was fed up with being unable to play piano with other people.  Its tough to jam on pieces by composers like Beethoven, Telemann, Schumann, Mozart, and (most especially) J.S. Bach.  So, I went and bought my first guitar. It was a seagull acoustic guitar, and I Loved it!  I brought it home and went on the Internet and learned how to read tablature for guitar, and then printed off the tab for Metallica's Call of Ktulu.  Thats when the frustration began.  I sat for hours trying to master the intro for this piece, I played until my fingers were blistered and sore.  Finally after what seemed like forever, I began to recognize that what I was playing was not just a bunch of awkward notes but that Call of Ktulu was actually coming from my guitar!  I was ecstatic!  It fueled my musical hunger!  I needed more.  The internet became a very important resource for me as I blundered along in my little world of a new instrument, and I have learned a lot!  The better I got, the more visions of playing giant rock concerts flooded my brain and I was a Legend (in my own mind).  

Recently I have gone back to school for music and am taking piano as my principal instrument.  I have decided to approach the piano in a different way in hopes that it will produce a different outcome from that of the first attempt.  I realize now that for me, it is important for me to learn all of those pieces that I once despised.  Also all that technique that I loathed must be mastered in order for me to play piano with a group of other people.  But most of all, it is important to have fun and to convey that sentiment to others.

I guess the whole point to this post is this:  I think that by learning to play a second instrument I have become a better musician than if I had stuck to just one.  Now I realize that this is not the case with everyone, but I think that it was important for me to break away and learn to play the guitar, in order to improve my overall musicianship. 

If you play an instrument, what was the first song you ever learned to play?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

"Guitar Hero" VS Guitar Heroes?

I remember when the video game Guitar Hero came out a few years go.  I was walking through a store and there was a kid playing the guitar hero demo game and he thought he was so awesome.  I remember I felt some hostility towards that kid, and all of the kids who thought they were so cool because they could play these songs in this stupid video game, that I could play in real life!  A couple of years later, I got a wii which came with guitar hero.  I decided to give it a shot and actually liked it even though I was terrible at it.  My playing style has since changed so that now my wife plays and I just play along with the songs on my guitar.

So the questions are:
1. Are all guitar players terrible at guitar hero?
2. Do guitarists generally hate guitar hero and why (or why not)?
3. Generally do guitar players soften up to guitar hero after they play?

Since that time I have noticed that some techie stores like Best Buy and Future Shop now sell real guitars, and amps etc... I blame Guitar Hero. Who do you blame?

Monday, 16 May 2011

Once upon a time... I built a guitar!

I have had a few people ask me about how I built my abomination of a Les Paul, so I decided that I would make a blog about it.  In this blog, I'll be tossing around the names of companies that I used and am pleased with.  There are other companies for guitar parts that can be used, that are probably equally as awesome.

So, first thing's first, I decided that I needed a new guitar and here is what I wanted.  I wanted a les paul shape and I wanted it to be white because my other guitars were black and were more of the strat or soloist shape.  I also wanted it to be more versatile than most les paul guitars which are mainly rock only. In addition, I wanted a floyd rose style bridge which could be used for vibrato or dive bombs.  Lastly, I am kind of a scrawny guy so I didn't want it to weigh as much much as a les paul.  Since I wasn't able to find such a machine, I decided that I needed to make it myself.

The Neck!  Upper frets were scalloped,
Just as I requested.  Warmoth suggests
giving new necks a fret job but this one
didn't need one.  The workmanship was
I gathered all of my tools together (which consisted of a sorry assortment of screwdrivers files hammers and other stone age implements) and discovered that I lacked the technology to fabricate the guitar of my dreams.  So, I turned to the internet and found a few companies that sold pieces of guitars.  After several minutes of searching, I came to a website where I would submit what I wanted, and they would build me the pieces that I needed.  The website I used was  This used to be "boogie bodies", used by Eddie VanHalen in the making of his Frankenstrat.  It was perfect.  I decided that they would build me a Les Paul shaped body, out of mahogany which was to be chambered (for weight reduction) and routed for 2 hum-buckers and a floyd rose.

The neck was made out of q-sawn maple and indian rosewood for the fingerboard with extra huge frets and fret scalloping between the 12th and 21st frets, finished with a satin laquer.

Pickups, knobs, bridge or neck were not installed yet...
I just couldn't help laying everything wehre it belonged.

Once the guitar chunks were taken care of, the Pickups were the next order of business.  I wanted something that could tear your face off but could be tamed just in case.  So I went online and read reviews, and listened to sound bytes and tested hundreds of guitars with different pickups in them and I found that the only way I could get what I wanted was through super powerful pickups and wiring tricks.  I decided on the DiMarzio X2N for the bridge and the D-Activator X for the neck with series and parallel wiring for the versatility.  I made the orders and waited... Then one lovely day, my guitar pieces came!  The finishing job was exceptional.  I Loved my new guitar and it was still in pieces!
Push Pull pot on the tone knob.
I used door bell wire, which was all I could find

... Then the work began.  I had to lay everything out and start sticking things together.  First, the pickups were installed.  This was a little tricky.  I decided that the series and parallel wiring for the pickups would be accessed by  push/pull guitar potentiometers (pots).  They would sit in the tone position.  The Seymour Duncan website has great wiring diagrams which is what I used for the instillation of my pickups.  With the wiring all done, I bolted on the neck, adjusted the angle, installed tuning keys, and set up the floyd rose.  The appropriate adjustments were made, (like intonation, bridge balance, etc.) installed a jack and some strap buttons and just like that, a monster was born!!

After a little while, I changed the strings and refinished the headstock changing the colour from clear to white.  The result was amazing!  Here it is!

There you go! *warning* before you rush out and build your own, know that its not as easy as slapping things together.  It takes time and you should know what you are doing BEFORE building a guitar like this.  If not, you could waste a bunch of money and have a guitar that has a different scale than the neck purchased  I worked in a guitar custom shop for a while before I decided to go ahead and build one for myself, however there are a few good books out there that you can consult.  Have fun!

Friday, 13 May 2011

And that's what its all about...

These posts will be the mad mutterings and musings of a music student.  In this blog it can be expected that a number of topics will be addressed but mainly focusing on music and musical instruments; primarily the guitar and the piano.  Don't be surprised if blogs about video games, biking and geocaching or other nerdy but universally enjoyable pass-times pop up in blogs from time to time.   Friendly discussion is welcome and appreciated!

Now... a little about myself.  My name is Jake.  I just finished my first year at a university in Canada in a music program.  At first I thought that I wanted to teach music at a high school level but soon realized that I don't have the patience for the willfully ignorant (and God bless those who do), and their meddling parents.  So I decided to peruse a career in musical education at a college or a university.  This course of action demands a higher level of education than that of a Bachelor's degree so here I sit looking down a long tunnel of schooling and not being quite able to see the light at the end.  I am primarily a piano player and this is the instrument that I am taking through university.  I also love to play the guitar.  I am fascinated and bewildered by and in awe of anyone who has made themselves a master of their instrument.  I also love the construction of instruments and all the details that go into it.  I have actually built a guitar (which I Love) and have worked on hundreds upon hundreds of them as a tech at a music store.

Thats what its all about really... I am open to address questions about building guitars or any of the above topics on which I have a limited expertise and who knows! some of the questions here may turn into full blown blog posts!  Enjoy!

Now to announce the creation of this blog to those who probably care the least:  My Facebook Friends!
(it should be noted that not all of my facebook "friends" will not care - I'm sure that Grandma does)

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