Archive for May, 2008

After a minor scare last week with my heart and circulation and worrying about how long I’ll be able to play guitar, I went to the doctor and was relieved to find out that I didn’t have a heart attack – just a strong arrhythmia. It was enough to scare me, and I’m now back to taking my heart meds and am feeling like a million bucks!

As far as the hand numbness goes, thanks go to Isaac Priestly for recommending fish oil pills for good joint health! Not only are fish oil pills great for joint health, they’re also great for promoting good heart health with the Omega 3 Fatty Acids! I’ve been taking them for over a week now, and I’m starting to lose the numbness. It’s still there, but nowhere near the amount it was. Turns out that I’m developing a bit of carpel tunnel syndrome from playing so much, so the doctor is prescribing a set of splints that I’ll wear at night to immobilize my hands while I sleep.

It’s all good now!

In other news, I’m considering buying a PRS Soapbar SE II from a friend of mine. Anyone have any input on it? I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but will hopefully get a chance soon. I guess that’s really the deciding factor.

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This past weekend, I discovered a new hobby: GeoCaching. From geocaching.com:


What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache.


I had a total blast searching for caches over the weekend with my son, and considering my recent health problems, it’s a great way for me get outdoors and get some exercise to boot. I’m so inspired by this that I’m going to create a GuitarGear.org GeoCache, and fill it with custom printed GuitarGear.org picks. It’ll be a great way to share the love!

Stay tuned for GuitarGear.org’s GPS coordinates!!!

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The big drawback of being a gear freak is that it can be an expensive hobby. But at the same time, it’s a hell of a lot of fun discovering new gear, or discovering little-known vintage gear. I was in a local use gear store the other day, and happened upon this amp. What a classic! It’s all-tube, with 4 – 8″ speakers. As far as tone goes, think Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, and perhaps a little quieter Dick Dale. In other words, this produces pure, clean surf guitar tone.

I tried it out with a number of guitars, and could never get it to break up. Talk about headroom! I do have to say that with a drive pedal, it didn’t sound too good. Actually, it sounded awful with a drive pedal.

Here’s the cool thing about this amp: If you run across one, and you like its sound, you can get it for around $500. For a clean tone vintage amp, that’s a pretty awesome price!

As far as features are concerned, it has two completely independent channels. The first channel only has EQ, while the second channel adds Presence, Reverb and Vibrato. Unfortunately, the vibrato on the amp I tried didn’t work, but the reverb was nice and thick, and reminiscent of old surf music. It sounded best with a semi- or hollow-body axe with the reverb kicked in about halfway.

There aren’t too many of these floating around, but you can find ’em.

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This is an instrumental that evolved out of an acoustic guitar groove I came up with years ago. Recently, a friend of mine shared what he was going through with me, and how he came to resolution with what he was facing. It inspired me to put this instrumental-only song together called, RESOLUTION. Give it a listen:

RESOLUTION (This will take you to iCompositions)

It’s interesting how this song finally came about. It was a really organic process. As I mentioned, I came up with the acoustic guitar groove years ago, and had it sitting in my head until a few weeks ago, when I decided to lay down some tracks. About a week ago, I was playing around with my ES-335, just jamming along with the groove, when out of the blue I started playing the arpeggios on top of the groove. So I layered those on top of the groove. Then when my friend told me what he was going through, I got the idea of doing the song as an instrumental-only song as he had expressed awhile ago that he’d like to hear me do an instrumental song featuring my guitar playing.

After he told me his story, I came home, sparked up my amp, strapped on my Strat, and started experimenting with different melody lines. In the end, I want to do harmonizing guitars with some free-form improv between. The result is RESOLUTION. It’s both sad and hopeful. Hope you like it!

Gear Used:

Ovation Elite Acoustic – recorded live through a Nady RSM-200 and a Sennheiser e835 stage mic :
Gibson ES-335 – provides the arpeggios
Fender Strat – voicing for all leads.

Absolutely no pedals were used to record the electric guitars. I added some gentle reverb on the guitar tracks and that was it. They sounded so good just by themselves, I didn’t feel the need to add any compression or chorus – that might’ve ruined their tone.

Amp: Fender Champ 600 15W – close-mic’d using the Nady RSM-200 to provide some depth. I just love the natural tone from this amp. When close-mic’d it sounds so much bigger than its little 6″ speaker! 🙂

Recorded everything in GarageBand on my Mac.

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I’ve tweaked about everything I want to on my guitars and amp, but haven’t gotten around to trying out a new speaker. I have a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe that I love, and while the sound is awesome, I was wondering what kind of speaker would work well with it, since I haven’t tweaked that part of the amp yet.

I’m thinking definitely along the lines of a vintage sound, and am leaning towards an AlNiCo driver. But I wanted to open it up to discussion to see what other people prefer. Any ideas?

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In the past couple of weeks, I’ve acquired this weird tingly sensation in my hands – like they fall asleep – when I have my arms bent. On top of that, the joints in my fingers hurt. It’s uncomfortable and a little scary; and worst of all, it won’t go away. So I’ve made an appointment to go see a doctor. Heart and pulmonary disease runs in my family, so I’m probably a prime candidate for hardened arteries and heart problems. But this condition has made me start thinking: What would it mean to not be able to play guitar?

Understand that the guitar has been pretty much the center of my life since I was a kid. Playing guitar is my escape from the stresses of the world, and pains of relationships. It is my outlet to release the creative energy bottled up inside of me.

I live to play guitar and play guitar live. To not be able to play, well, that would be the worst tragedy of my life, second only to the loss of a member of my family. I frankly don’t know how I’d be able to cope with life without guitar. Is it unhealthy to have such a dependence on it? I don’t know. But it has always been a calming presence in my life – my own personal therapy. If it’s gone, I suppose I could find something else, but 30 years of playing every day is kind of a hard act to follow.

Before I see the doctor, I’ve already resolved to make some major changes in my life. First, I’m no longer eating red meat. I love it, but my steady diet of pork and beef over the years and not enough fruit and vegetables has probably caught up to me. I can eat fish a couple of times a week, and chicken, maybe once every couple of weeks.

I’m also going to start exercising regularly. Before I started really working on my album, I was walking at least a couple of miles a day, and trying to do something active. But when I hit the studio last year, I did nothing. Now I’m paying for it.

I’m not asking for sympathy. I got myself into this mess, and I’m resolved to get out of it. Wish me luck!

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Check this kid out… Only eight years old! Incredible. Thanks to GG reader Pablo Levinas for pointing me in this kid’s direction. Just like Sungha Jung, Lucciano is a musical prodigy. Can you imaging how he’ll be playing once he’s a grown-up? It’s scary to imagine. Hopefully he’ll not be exploited and turn into burned out child star. But for now, just check out what this kid can do.

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A while back, one of my kids asked me, “Dad, what makes a rock star a rock star?” Being a dad who is also a performer, I didn’t want to give him the trite response and tell him to look up rock star on Google or make comparisons between rock guitarists. I wanted to provide a certain level of intellectualism to my answer, so I told him to hold on a bit, and I’d let him know what I came up with…

So after a lot of thought, I came up with what I think could be a reasonable explanation of what makes a guitarist a rock star. I call it the “Three E’s.” Here goes:

Excellence, Exuberance, and Entertaining

Excellence – A rock star guitarist excels at playing and musicality. Don’t confuse this with speed. Speed can be acquired. You need excellence in musicality as well as technique. Case in point? Neil Young. Okay, not necessarily that good technique-wise, but more than makes up for it with his musicality.

Exuberance – …and passion. You have to be exuberant and passionate about playing your guitar – and it has to be genuine. Audiences can read right through false passion or a boring disposition, or just plain fakery. Look at someone like Steve Vai when he plays. That’s a dude that just exudes passion and exuberance for his instrument. Others that come to mind are Santana, Frampton, Satch, Stevie Ray, etc…

Entertaining – Finally, a rock star guitarist is far from boring. It’s not that they have to jump around on stage. But by their very nature, they engage their audiences, and draw them into what they’re playing. Look at BB King. Damn! What an entertainer! The same would go for Michael Shenker. People might say that he just stands there, but there’s something about him that just completely draws you in when he’s playing.

So to me, a true rock star guitarist possesses a combination of the three E’s in various balances, but they always possess all three characteristics.

Note that I used a picture of Jimi. He was one of the rare guitarists that had enormous quantities of all three rock star guitarist characteristics. There are few that I’ve seen in my lifetime that were huge on all three. Another would be Prince.

Care to share more?

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BOSS CS-3 Compression/Sustainer
Summary: If you’re looking to really squeeze your signal, this box’ll do it.

Pros: 4 knobs provide great flexibility to shape your compression. For the money, it’s a pretty good deal.

Cons: Has probably some of the most severe compression I’ve ever experienced, which results in a loss of tone. Sounds okay with solid state amps, but horrible with tube amps.

Price: $89 Street

Back when I was looking for a compressor to fatten up the tone of my Strat to compensate for the really bright Tex-Mex pickups, I evaluated a bunch of compressor pedals, from the high-end (Maxon, Demeter) to the low-end, one of which was the BOSS CS-3 and MXR DynaComp.

I recently went through my review notebook and saw that I didn’t do a review of the CS-3, so here goes…

To start with, if you don’t want to read the entire article, if you’re a hard-rock/metal player, I think you’ll like this pedal. It’s real squishy, and combined with an amp that produces a tone of low-freq, it will definitely get you that super-compressed distortion. On the other hand, if you’re a jazz/blues or classic rock player, you will not like this pedal as it can really muddy your clean tone.

That said above, the CS-3 is not a bad pedal. It’s well-made, and compared with other BOSS I’ve owned in the past, it is probably just as reliable. But the CS-3 follows in pretty much the same formula as other BOSS pedals: You get decent tone for a relatively cheap price. They’re made for a mass market audience. Not that that is intrinsically bad, but if you’re a real tone freak, it won’t be up to par tonally with what you’ve come to expect. But high expectations aside, as I said, the CS-3 is not a bad pedal, and with the right amount of tweaking you can get a decent tone from this box.

One thing I really liked about this pedal is its configurability. It has four knobs for Level, Tone, Attack, and Sustain. The Tone knob really comes in handy as you increase the sustain, as I found that increased levels muddied the high-freq tones. The Tone knob helps to compensate for that to a point. But dial in too much highs and your tone becomes really “tinny” irrespective of the guitar you use. Having an Attack knob is a pretty cool feature as well, as you can adjust how fast the compression kicks in. Not bad for a $89 pedal.

The unit I tested was a little noisy when engaged, not matter how much I tweaked the knobs. It wasn’t so apparent when tested with a Roland Cube 60, but with a tube amp (tested on a Fender Twin and 65 Super Reverb Reissue), the soft hiss was a bit annoying. But with either type of amp, as I mentioned above, this thing really squeezes your signal to the point that there’s a noticeable difference in tone between the unit being engaged and not engaged. In comparison, my Maxon CP-9 Pro+ when engaged retains my tone even at higher levels of compression, but just “feels” fatter. Very transparent.

All in all, the BOSS CS-3 is a decent pedal. For someone on a budget who wants to add some compression to their signal, as I said above, this will do the job. But if you’re looking for transparency, this isn’t the pedal for you.

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On our local classic rock station, KFOX, we are lucky to have Greg Kihn as the morning DJ because he frequently has fellow classic rock celebs on his show either on the phone or in the studio. The cool thing is that most of his guests are guitarists, so I listen to his morning show a lot. This morning, he had Don Felder, former lead guitarist for the Eagles, talking to him about how he did his leads, and what his experience was like being in the Eagles. It was a very insightful interview. During the course of the interview, Greg pumped Don’s book, “Heaven and Hell” that chronicles his 26 year involvement in the band, from its heyday to his dismissal.

Personally, I’ve been waiting a long time to hear his side of the story behind his being fired. I originally became curious about the back story when the Eagle announced their last tour and that Felder would be a “contractor.” I don’t know if anyone saw the show in person or on TV, but it was clear that he was an outsider to the band. Very weird. But now that the book is out, it’ll be good to hear the other side.

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