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

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