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Archive for September, 2008

I got so inspired by the Greg Howe video I posted here the other day, that I recorded a Jam Track to Sunny that I could jam to… I had A LOT of fun with this one… Check it out!

http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=96867

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Ibanez Jemini Distortion Pedal

Ibanez Jemini Distortion Pedal

Does the guitar playing world need yet another distortion pedal? That’s almost like asking if your town needs another Starbucks. Hmmm… maybe that’s a bad analogy because while we could probably do without yet another coffee commodity, I for one don’t ever mind seeing another distortion pedal hit the market.

And just when I thought I’d heard all the variations of distortion around, and that not much else could be done, along comes Ibanez with yet another mind-blowing distortion box, designed by none other than one of my guitar heroes, Steve Vai. I gotta admit it: I’m really impressed with this latest offering from Ibanez – at least as much as I was impressed with the Vox Satchurator. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not because of Steve Vai, or because I’m a Vai wannabe. It’s because there’s something about a great distortion sound that evokes a visceral response inside of me. It’s hard to explain. So I’m more than pleasantly surprised about the Jemini because it produces a GREAT distortion sound; at least from what I could tell from this video starring Steve Vai and Steve Vai – you’ll get the joke once you watch it:

Leave it to Steve Vai to not only demonstrate his mastery over the guitar, but the eternal showman manages to make the video a joy to watch. I was laughing my ass off at his antics! He’s so likeable!

Okay… now for a reality check… I really would like to get this pedal, but at $199, it’s a bit out of my price range right now. But being two distortion pedals in one for that price, it’s a hundred bucks a pedal. That’s actually not bad at all. But I have to admit, I have my sights set on a Satchurator right now. I kind of go for the more mid-rangy type of distortion. But I’m not going to let that keep me from taking one out for a spin.

On a final note, what’s been really great as of late is that big-name gear manufacturers are finally producing what could be considered boutique-type pedals. Having played with the Satchurator, that thing is built like a tank, and it just kicks ass. The Jemini appears to follow suit of well-made, gig-worthy quality. That’s very pleasing to me, because I’m a big proponent of getting great sound without breaking the bank.

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I don’t plug other web sites often, mainly because there are so many out there, it’s difficult to keep up. But a new site, called TonePedia is so interesting in its concept, I just had to share it! The basis of the site is for members to share the tone of their rigs through sound bites they share with the community. Want to know what an LP sounds like through a Crate amp? It’s there on the site.

What a cool idea! Check it out! I’m going to post a few samples myself! Er… Once I find some time… 🙂

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The mags and rags of the guitar playing world seem to have forgotten about the absolutely amazing virtuosity of Greg Howe who, in my maybe not so humble opinion ranks among the best guitarists in the world, hands down. He’s as fast as Yngwie or Paul Gilbert, but in my opinion covers a lot broader musical territory. But the guy’s not only a speed demon, his solos are incredibly expressive, employing a lot of phrases that you’d expect to hear in jazz.

I’ve been amazed by Greg Howe’s mastery over the guitar for years, and I actually feel bad that I hadn’t acknowledged him here. Maybe it’s because he’s considered to be more of a fusion artist more than a rock and roll dude… Who knows? Actually, who cares? Greg Howe KICKS ASS!

Here’s a video that displays just some of that musicality and other-worldly technique. Please view it to the end. When he starts out, you’ll think it’s nothing special… Wait until he hits his stride! Aiyeeeeeee!

Click here to see more on YouTube!

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I was reading several interesting threads about technique and improv the other day. I have to admit that I was quietly embarassed by the fact that I don’t have a large library of techniques that I can tap into while I read the posts and articles. There are so many things to learn with respect to technique out there that it’s daunting!

But after reading those articles, I realized that a lot of the technique I have developed – especially over the past couple of years – has come from stumbling upon how to play a certain phrase through experimentation. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a disciplined improv dude that can instantly tap into a library of patterns and apply them. I’ve never taken guitar to that intellectual level. My approach to soloing tends to be fairly experimental; primarily because I don’t have a lot of techniques on which to fall back. But that doesn’t mean the process of experimentation isn’t cool in an of itself.

In fact, that process, at least for me, has been absolutely rewarding, and after I’m done with an “experimentation” session and play back the different takes, I often say to myself, “Did I actually play that?” It’s mildly amusing, but it’s also a bit scary because I’ll eventually have to play that or at least something similar to that when I play the song live. But that gets me to practice the technique until I have it down.

For instance, early on when I started my experimentation, I stumbled upon the minor pentatonic scale just by playing what fit. At the time, I didn’t know that it was the minor pentatonic scale. I just know that what I played fit with the song. I’ve since learned the other patterns of the minor pentatonic, and it’s something I tap into regularly. In another instance a few years ago, I was playing a solo, and one of the other musicians in my band asked, “Hey man, did you just do that in Mixolydian mode?” I replied, “Mixo-what? I don’t know, I just thought that it would be cool to start the lead a fifth above the root and play within that relative area.” Mind you, I still don’t know all the modes by heart – I think I stick to Dorian and Mixolydian a lot, or often start playing a minor pentatonic in the relative minor of the root chord (if it’s a major chord).

The point is that I don’t go out to specifically learn and practice a technique or mode or scale. Admittedly, that has probably slowed my technical advancement to a large degree, and I’ll have to admit that for the more organized and discplined among us, that approach is probably unacceptable, but it works for me, and I’ve learned a lot of things that I was later able to identify as formal techniques.

I know that there thousands of guitar players who are a whole lot better than me, but here’s a glimpse into my experimentation process:

  • GarageBand or some other package where you can easily set up loops and record rhythm parts is kind of essential. Having this is akin to having a basic chemistry set to mix chemicals.
  • Once you come up with a loop, play it continuously and jam to it to see what falls out of your experimentation. Never mind trying to be intellectual – just let it flow.

I’ve literally spent hours at a time practicing using this method, and a lot of these progressions have turned into songs.

To get you started, here’s a Jam Track that you can use. It’s a simple, 3 minute track in the key of A. I laid it down because I wanted to practice chord soloing… er… actually to see if I could do it. 🙂 In any case, have a go!

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Just got my latest issue of Guitar Player, and as usual, went to the gear section first to see if there were any new and interesting pieces of gear. Normally, the stuff there is pretty tame, but I got really intrigued by a short product review on the Harmonic Capo. Unlike a normal capo that you place on a particular fret to play open chords at a particular fret position, the harmonic capo is placed at a harmonic fret: 12th, 7th, or 5th, and it will play the harmonic there. But the really cool thing about this is that unlike a normal capo, where you can only play the frets above the capo’d position, with the harmonic capo, you can play at frets above AND below the fretted position of the capo. It’s a very interesting concept that can yield some very interesting tonal possibilities. Check out this video by the inventor:

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Fishman SoloAmp

Fishman SoloAmp

Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker for gadgets. Aw hell! I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I wasn’t! So there I was earlier this evening, surfing the web in search of new gear, and lo and behold, I run across the Fishman SoloAmp, a 220W bi-amp for acoustic guitar and vocals. It’s an amp and a PA in one package, and I have to tell you, for solo gigs, it seems too good to be true.

Here are some specs from the Fishman web site:

  • Compact Line Array = Ultra wide horizontal dispersion & deeper sound penetration
  • Two Mic/Instrument Channels
  • – High-quality preamps
    – 3-band EQ
    – Phantom Power
    – Independent Reverb level
    – Effect Loop
    – Feedback-fighting Phase and Notch filters

  • Drivers
  • – Six 4′ mid-woofers, patented dual gap, high excursion design, neodymium magnets (200W)
    – One 1′ neodymium soft dome tweeter with level control (20W)

  • Auxiliary Stereo Input with Level control
  • Four Digital Reverb effects with master level
  • Balanced XLR D.I. outputs for both channels and main mix
  • Unique Monitor I/O for improved on-stage ensemble monitoring
  • Mute with remote footswitch input
  • Tuner Output
  • Ships with Stand and padded Carry Bag (w/ wheels)
  • Dimensions: 41.5′ H x 5.6′ W x 6.6′ D
  • *Weight: 25 lbs without Stand, 35lbs with Bag and Stand

I’ve only listened to sound bites and audio from the Fishman site, but from what I could tell, this lightweight PA kicks ass for small venues!

I do a lot of solo gigs and I’m always looking for ways to reduce the size of my rig. The first step for me was getting the DigiTech Vocalist Live 4 that acts as both a harmonizer and mixer. Combined with something like the SoloAmp… okay… I have to stop slobbering now. 🙂

If anyone has tried one of these, please let me know!

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