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Archive for October, 2007

A few years ago, I was going through a very hard time: Couldn’t find a job, and financially, I was flat broke with six kids and a huge mortgage. I hocked practically everything I had to just stay afloat. But to make a long story short, at what was probably my lowest point, I suddenly got the resolve to fight, to ignore the advice of close friends on selling my house and leaving the area my wife and I both grew up in. Thus this song was born, inspired by something I said to a friend, “Look, it’s my struggle to face, for wrong or for right…”

I know my friend meant well, but the point of my reply to her several suggestions was that she was simply a spectator to what I was going through at the time. I have to live wit the choices I make. This song is about self-awareness and integrity, and knowing what’s important in life. I hope you enjoy it!

For Wrong Or For Right (http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=76544)

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Ig wrote a great article last week, and challenged his readers to write letters to themselves that they’d read some time in the future; a lot like Marty did for Doc in “Back to the Future.” So I’m going to take a crack at this.

Hey!

Looks like you’ve come a long way. I know you were thinking about giving up playing, but knowing you, you just couldn’t keep away from your passion. Hopefully, you’ve kept driving towards incorporating different kinds of styles into your playing. I know you started a bit late with improvisation on the guitar, but I’m hopeful that you are now a master of it; or short of that, can work your way around the fretboard instinctively, switching modes to suit the musical phrasing.

Speaking of musical phrasing, you must have written a few hundred songs by now. I wonder what style of music you’re writing? It’s a good bet that rock and roll is still your staple, but I hope you haven’t given up your dream of finishing your concerto. I can only imaging what it would be like to combine a full orchestra with a rock band, and a huge choir. While I know that you originally thought that you’d hire a big name to play lead guitar, at the rate you’re going, I hope you decided to play that role yourself.

You’re probably not a shredder – that’s not something that you ever aspired to being. Though I know that learning various techniques to incorporate into your playing have always been one of the earmarks of your learning experience on the guitar. Never forget though, you always need to sound like yourself, be it on guitar, or vocally.

I know it has been a rough road to get to where you are. But what’s life without struggle? How can you learn without making mistakes? But just keep doing what you’re doing. Keep pushing the envelope with your skills. Be happy with all you’ve accomplished, but don’t settle with where you are. Complacency leads to boredom, both inside and out; and you are far from being boring.

Cheers!

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BOSS CE-5 Chorus EnsembleWhen it comes to chorus sounds, Roland/BOSS is pretty much the standard for the last twenty or so years. The CE-2 has especially been very sought-after used pedal 1) for its simplicity and; 2) for it’s analog design. I owned a CE-2 back in the 80’s, and have since kicked myself since I traded it for other hardware – that I don’t use at all anymore! Since then, BOSS has gone through a couple of renditions with the Chorus Ensemble line, and now offers the CE-5 Chorus Ensemble. A pedal that even though digital, sounds pretty darn good.

The CE-2 was a simple affair: Just two knobs for rate and depth, and a single output. With the CE-3, Boss introduced a “stereo-like” affair with two outputs, and three knobs, introducing a “Stereo Mode” knob to control how the outputs generated their sound. The CE-5 does away with the Stereo Mode knob and replaces it with an Effect Level knob, and a dual knob used for Hi- and Lo-cut filters.

In my opinion, the Hi/Lo Cut knob is what makes this pedal special. With it you can really shape your chorus sound from bright and smooth to dripping wet. All in all, you can’t go wrong with this pedal; and for less than $80, it’s a deal.

Starting with this review, I’m going to start giving summary ratings at the bottom of each review, similar to what you’d see in one of the trade rags.

BOSS CE-5 Chorus

  • Price: $129 (<$80 street)
  • Pros: Very versatile. Can produce a wide range of sounds
  • Cons: Can take awhile to dial in the sound you want
  • Summary: Great sounding chorus at a great price

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John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers…when you learn a new lick or technique?

After a week-long hiatus from playing, I picked up my Strat and started playing some warm-up licks. Ooo did it feel good!

After about half and hour, I put the guitar down, and went to YouTube.com to see if I could find any videos of John Frusciante. I’ve always admired his no-nonsense approach to the guitar, and wanted to learn some of the technique he uses to play those very cool licks on the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs.

Sure enough, I found some great instructional videos that John has produced. In particular, I found this great video where John explains some Hendrix technique that he learned:

After years of doing this halfway, now that I’ve seen how it’s done, I’m totally jazzed to practice it! For a pretty much pure rhythm guitarist like myself, learning how to add stuff to the things I’m playing is just incredible!

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Lewiston Lake, CA

Every now and then, I have to set my guitar down, get my ass out of the city, and commune with nature. I spent this past weekend with one of my boys and his Boy Scout troop at Lewiston Lake in Northern California, in the Shasta-Trinity wilderness. Well, it wasn’t exactly wilderness, but this area is far away from any major metropolitan area, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been going up to Trinity since I was boy, and going up there this weekend reminded me of how much I missed the area.

Being away from my daily routine is one of the best ways I’ve found to renew my perspective and get my creative juices flowing with respect to writing music and playing guitar. And being in what I consider to be “God’s country” helps me appreciate the simple pleasure of walking along a lake or river, dropping a fishing line into the water, and just clearing my mind of the constant barrage of information my daily existence brings to me.

If you get the chance, go out into the “boonies” yourself. You’ll be amazed at what it does for your creative spirit!

BTW, I took the photo above with a Nikon Coolpix S200, set in “Dawn/Dusk” mode, which opens up the aperture (I wanted to emphasize the blues).

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Victoria Amplification Double DeluxeTalk about getting a “clean” tone, and invariably, some Fender amp will be mentioned, especially the models from the 50’s like the Twin. By far, “Fender clean” is the clean tone that has been emulated for decades by amp manufacturers the world over. Unfortunately, if you want that clean tone from the 50’s, you’ll have to get a used Fender amp from a vintage shop – and they’re not cheap. Enter Victoria Amplification. As Mark Baier (owner of Victoria Amps) says on the company site’s “About Us” page:

In 1993, I set out to faithfully recreate the crown jewels among the many classic amplifiers developed by Leo Fender. The tweed amps of the late ’50s defined the sound of rock and blues on vinyl and on stage, but they had also become increasingly scarce, and well beyond the reach of most working musicians.”

And recreate the sounds of those amps he has! So much so, that one might be inclined to say that his amps are even more “Fender than Fender,” as each amp is meticulously hand-wired point-to-point. Most Fender amps today rely significantly on solid state technology, especially for amps in the 40+ Watt range; for instance, using solid-state rectifiers to convert AC-DC current. Granted, solid state rectifiers are considered to be more “reliable” and don’t suffer from voltage sag like a tube rectifier. However, that voltage sag can actually be a real plus when using a tube rectifier as the sag can act like a compressor/sustainer as the voltage builds in the rectifier when you strike a note on your guitar. Thus, amps with tube rectifiers tend to sound “warmer” than their solid-state brethren.

I recently had the chance to plug into a “Double Deluxe,” and I have to say that I am now in love! In testing, I played the Double Deluxe with a Fender Custom Shop ’57 Re-issue Strat (I didn’t have enough time on my lunch break to plug other guitars into it). The first thing I noticed was the touch sensitivity of the amp, even at low volumes. Cranking the volume knob on the guitar produced a singing clean tone, with just the hint of breakup. With my own Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, to achieve this at lower volumes means I have to use a drive pedal. But this little amp, responds well to input gain; I think the tube rectifier has a lot to do with this, though it doesn’t matter. It just sounds great!

The Double Deluxe also responds well to attack. Light finger picking produces beautiful ringing tones, while a heavier, driven attack produces a pleasing, even-toned crunch that is like candy for the ears. Unlike a lot of newer Fender models, the Double Deluxe responded very well to tone settings (there’s just a single knob), which was very impressive, as I could dial in the tone for fatter, thinner, or balanced tone presentation. No matter how you set the tone or attack the guitar, the Double Deluxe retains note definition, and doesn’t muddy up at all.

The 2 – 12″ Jensen P12Q vintage speaker re-issues also have a lot to do with how great this amp sounds. These are generally very warm speakers that don’t squeak with lots of high-frequency harmonics when pushed. Rather, what you get is a very complex sound that you can tweak with the tone knob; and here’s an interesting thing: This amp has no reverb, but you could swear that there’s reverb built in! That’s a testament to the beautiful complexity of sound that this amp generates.

Operating the Double Deluxe is pure simplicity. Plug into one of the inputs (normal or bright – the amp has four inputs so you can jumper between the two “channels;” hence the “Double” in “Double Deluxe”), set the volume according to the input you’re using, then dial in the tone with the single knob. How much easier could it get? You might be thinking that you need individual control over lows, mids, and highs, but this amp just doesn’t need it. Just set the tone knob to what’s pleasing to you and play.

Here are some specs (taken off the web site):

  • Completely hand-wired point-to-point
  • 5E3-type circuit. Class A cathode bias push-pull operation. (40 Watts by default)
  • Tube complement:1-5AR4, 4-6V6GT, 1-12AX7, 1-12AY7
  • 2-Jensen P12Q speakers
  • Cabinet Dimensions (HxWxD, Inches) 20.5 x 24.5 x 11
  • List Price: $2695.00 / ~$1900-2000 (street)

Note that you can swap the 5AR4 rectifier with 5Y3 rectifier to reduce the amp’s output to 30Watts. Very cool.

When I first saw the list price of this amp on the Victoria Amplification web site, I gulped. I thought these amps were accessible. But I looked around, and you can get one for less than 2 grand, so I was calmed immediately. And for the price, what you get is a lot of amp that you can use for all sorts of applications.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve played lots of different amps from big manufacturers to small boutique shops. And among the tweed amps I’ve tested, Victoria Amps Double Deluxe is at the top of my list. If you’ve got a distributor near you, I suggest taking a trip there as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed!

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