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Archive for April, 2010

Nestled in the hills in a small town east of the San Francisco bay lies the house of Doug Doppler, a man so unassuming and humble and possessed of such a warm heart that it’s easy to forget that he is just about one of the greatest guitar talents in the world. Last Tuesday, April 27, my close friend, Jeff Aragaki and I had the privilege to spend the day with Doug at his house for a behind-the-scenes look into the making of his upcoming DVD series, “Get Killer Tone.”

This meeting came about because Jeff lent Doug his incredible Aracom PRX150-Pro attenuator so Doug could use it on “Get Killer Tone” (I’ll have a video regarding this coming soon). Doug has since purchased the unit because in his words, “It’s saving my ears!” And taking advantage of Jeff’s relationship with him, I threw out the idea of getting a behind-the-scenes look at Doug’s process of creating the series; something Doug excitedly agreed to, much to my delight.

And a delight it was! My initial thought about the meeting would be that I’d just do a simple video interview with him that wouldn’t take more than an hour or so. But that hour turned into another hour, then another hour, then another hour, to the point where my video camera ran out of juice! Luckily I had brought my AC adapter! Needless to say, Doug had a lot to say, but it wasn’t at some condescending, “I do this and that, and look Ma! See how well I can play” level. What Jeff and I were treated to was a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the life of a musician who graced us with his passion, knowledge, and wisdom. All in all, we spent almost six hours with Doug, and honestly, I’ve had to let that experience sink in for a couple of days before I wrote anything about it.

It’s a given that Doug is simply an incredible talent on the guitar. That man can shred like there’s no tomorrow, but he can also play tons of different styles, and in his various demonstrations, he switched in and out of styles both seamlessly and effortlessly. I could go on all day about that, but frankly, that’s not what impressed me the most. What had the biggest impact on me was who Doug is as a person.

If I were to distill down my various observations of Doug to a single word, that word would be “genuine.” Doug is genuine about pretty much everything, and never in all the time we spent with him did I detect even the slightest air of falseness. When you spend time with Doug, it really is WYSIWYG!

Doug is also a very deep and passionate man, and he’s not embarrassed to share his philosophical or even moral views on various subjects; and it came through in our conversations. Even on the simplest subjects, Doug imparted a depth that went far beyond just surface chit-chat. This isn’t just some “Yo dude! Look what I can play” musician who leaves it at that. Doug is a deep thinker, and when you watch and listen to him play, he’s not someone who’s going to just do a bunch of “linked licks.” There’s real depth to the phrases he plays which is in turn a reflection of his personality; in other words, with Doug, there’s always more than meets the eye, and I mean that in a good way!

Doug’s enthusiasm about everything is contagious, and combined with his natural warmth and friendliness makes it easy to rap about anything; and he undoubtedly falls into the someone-you’d-love-to-hate-but-can’t-because-they’re-so-nice category because he’s such a nice guy that easily draws you in. He talks a million miles per hour, but it’s so incredibly engaging, you never get tired of talking with him.

As a guitar player, what can I say? It’s no accident that he was chosen to track the Guitar Hero game. His technique is absolutely incredible, and he weaves in and out of styles of playing seamlessly. Just watching him play was incredible! But the interesting thing is that he just did it. No pretentiousness, no attitude of having to prove anything. Doug’s confident about his playing without being condescending. Yeah, he’s a self-professed shredder, but after watching and listening to him play for a couple of hours, there’s not much he can’t play.

If you ever get a chance to see him (he does clinics for Ibanez and will be doing stuff for Orange as well), don’t hesitate to speak with him personally. Like me, you’ll find out just how great a guy he is! I’m very honored to have been able to spend so much time with him!

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Twist the Knife is my first foray into writing allegorical lyrics. What I wanted to achieve with the lyrics was have them stand on their own from the surface point of view, but really represent an entirely different thing. On the surface, Twist the Knife is about a lover’s betrayal, but it’s also an allegory of how many were betrayed in the recent financial crisis at the hands of the huge investment firms. The fact that firms like Goldman Sachs recommended risky investments in mortgage-backed securities to their clients, then betting against those same securities – seemingly know that they’d tank – and making a HUGE profit was like stabbing someone in the heart, then twisting it to add insult to injury.

Amps: Aracom PLX18BB for left-channel rhythm, Aracom VRX22 for right-channel rhythm and lead

Guitars: Squier CV Tele 50’s on the left, Gibson Nighthawk 2009 on the right and for the lead

Bass: Ibanez GSR200

Recording Notes: I dig the rhythm guitar parts as they sound like they’re coming from much bigger amps. Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps totally “gets” the vintage Marshall tone with that sweet and smooth overdrive. All guitar parts were recorded with no effects whatsoever, and I just added some reverb and a little presence to the guitar tracks to make up for the crappy ribbon mic I used to record the guitars.

LYRICS

To simplify your life that’s what you wanted
Our complications only bring you down
I set you free to satisfy your longing
to find what you’ve been missing
and recover what you’ve lost

I gave a lover’s trust as you turned away from me
thinking you’d be coming back to my arms
But all I’m holding now is this blade you thrust in my heart
You cut me down
My love runs out…

Then you twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife

Nothing’s as it seems with your deceptions
Your love was a veil you hid behind
I let myself be fooled that there was more to us
I guess it’s true when they say
love is deaf, dumb and blind

I gave a lover’s trust as you turned away from me
thinking you’d be coming back to my arms
But all I’m holding now is this blade you thrust in my heart
You cut me down
My love runs out…

Then you twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife

I thought we’d journey to our promise land
where our hearts and spirits unite
but you’ve left wanting
and I keep on calling
you’re just not to be found….

Then you twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife
Twist the knife

Copyright (C) 2010 Brendan Delumpa

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I’ve never hid from the fact that I own Aracom gear, and as I’ve said in My Rig page, I’m a faithful customer who just digs the stuff that Jeff Aragaki, Aracom’s founder, comes up with. I’ve extolled the wonders of his attenuator, the PRX150-Pro, and I’ve mentioned my Aracom amps, the VRX18, VRX22, and PLX18BB several times.

One thing I’ve learned over the years with respect to gear is that you go with what works for you, and my Aracom gear simply works for me! In fact, my Aracom equipment has had a lot to do with me using less pedals, and relying on the raw sound of my guitar and amps; especially when I’m playing straight rock and roll.

I have yet to play a bad-sounding Aracom amp. When they’re cranked to the hilt, they have such an incredible mojo that’s just too hard to describe. Of course, I couldn’t crank them without the PRX150-Pro attenuator. No matter, there’s magic in Jeff’s creations! To demonstrate this magic, I’m going to share an excerpt from a song that I’m working on. I just finished laying down the instrument parts. Give it a listen:

The rhythm part is played with my Squier CV Tele in the middle switch position, and running straight into Channel 2 of the PLX18BB, which was cranked up all the way. Talk about cranked Marshall-esque tones! It sounds even better live! The lead was recorded with my Gibson Nighthawk 2009 into my VRX22. Master was at 3pm and Volume was at 2pm. This setting gives me a sweet, singing lead voicing that sustains for days due to the awesome solid-state sag circuit! Again, the guitar was plugged straight into the amp – no frills whatsoever. I did add some reverb to both parts, but other than that, that the raw sound of the guitars/amps with no EQ. Pretty killer tones!!!

To top it off, both parts were recorded at bedroom level as both amps ran into the PRX150-Pro! We’re talking conversation level, so if you heard some transient clicks in the clip, it’s stuff that was making noise in my garage/studio!

You gotta check this stuff out. Jeff is a true wizard with amps! Both the VRX amps start at $895, while the PLX18BB combo starts at $1750 ($1350 for the head only). If you’re after vintage Marshall tone at a non-vintage price, you owe it to yourself to check out these amps!

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Awhile back, I wrote an article extolling the musical prowess of Jeff Beck, and how he’s the full musical package; how he possesses an insane ability to make his guitar sound like nothing anybody else can duplicate. I know that’s a rather bold statement, but all you need to do is a search on Jeff Beck, and watch videos and you’ll see what I mean.

But aside from Beck’s technique and musical sense, there’s a practical side of him that I also appreciate, and what compelled me to write this second article on him. In the latest issue of Guitar Player magazine (June 2010), Jeff Beck talks about the virtues of using a low wattage amp, not only in the studio, but on stage as well.  In fact, he said that most of his new album was recorded with a 50’s Fender Champ!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spoken at length of using low wattage amps and attenuators on medium-power amps to get the tubes working. It’s a real affirmation to hear that someone like Jeff Beck is doing the same. Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview:

“Some people can’t do without lots of volume to get their tone, but I think if you can’t get it without four million watts, something’s wrong. Because a mic doesn’t read volume, it reads tone.”

When asked about whether the small-amp/less-volume concept could work for live playing…

“By using the P.A. to act in the way it was designed – which is play at low level and use all the distortion and whatever else you need, but make sure you don’t come out louder than the side-fill monitors or the front wedges – you can blow the house down, and I’ve done it.”

Beck went on to say that when he played with SRV, he used a 20 Watt Fender Twin, while SRV used “a rig that looked like an amp shop” and Stevie asked him, “What the hell are you using? Are your amps under the stage?” “Nope, that’s it right there,” replied Beck.

Then he went on to say in the interview, “Most of the time, though, you can get away with a couple of Champs – one clean, one distorted – and use the clean one to get more definition.”

The statement that really hit me in the interview was the following:

“The louder the stuff is on stage, probably the worse it’s going to end up sounding. Your hearing goes, your pitch goes, and yo ucan’t really hear any depth of field. If you have to question whether it’s too lout, then it is too loud. The power has to be there, but without the level.

This coming from someone who, over his career, has played HUGE arenas! The more I find out about Jeff Beck, the more I appreciate both his musical genius and his wisdom about delivering that music. Simply amazing.

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Wow! I didn’t realize how fun doing videos would be! Expect to see more video reviews in the future! In any case, here are some key points:

Tone Bone Rating 5.0
Notes I LOVE this stand! I’m going to get a couple more! Very well built and lightweight, it’s a perfect stand not just for the stage, but also in the studio where its small footprint won’t take up much space!
Price $34.95
Pros Very easy to fold up and lug around
Cons May not work for bass – it works for mine, but fat basses may not fit (this is not really a negative, just a warning)

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When I first started learning guitar, I really wanted to be able to solo and improvise. I was told to do that I need to know my scales up and down the guitar neck. I especially heard of this scale called the “pentatonic” scale. Supposedly, if you knew this scale it was instant “money,” or rather, it was the key to soloing success and you’d be all set.

So I started learning my pentatonic scale patterns and major scale patterns all up and down the guitar neck. I got to know these patterns in every single position pretty well. But still, I felt like I had no mastery over the guitar fretboard. All I knew was a bunch of patterns, and I didn’t know how any of it connected or related, let alone, how to make it sound beautiful.

Perhaps you’re wanting to master and learn the guitar fretboard, or you are pretty rusty and you wish you knew it better than you do. Here are three exercises you can incorporate into your practicing. These exercises assume you know some of the theory behind guitar scales.

Perpetual Motion

For this exercise, you are going to choose any scale. For this example, let’s choose a C major scale. Choose a starting position for your C major scale. For example, start on the “C” note on the 8th fret of the low E string.

Once you’re ready, start the metronome at a slow tempo (maybe around 60 – 70 BPM). From your starting point on the 8th fret, you’re going to play any notes in the C major scale as perpetual eighth notes in time with the metronome.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what note you play or where you play it as long as it is a note within that scale. Try not to play the scale pattern just up and down. Jump to any notes within a C major scale but play everything as eighth notes in time with your metronome.

In a sense, the exercise is sort of like organized chaos. You’re staying within the C major scale but you’re not just playing a pattern up and down the neck. Your jumping between scale positions all the way up and down the neck perpetually as you play eighth notes. Once, you’ve done this with your major scales, go to melodic minor, and then harmonic minor. You can do perpetual motion with any scale.

Ascending & Descending Circle of 4ths

For this exercise, you’re going to start on a C major scale. You can choose any position you want to on the fretboard. Let’s start again on the “C” note on the 8th fret of the low E string.

You’re going to ascend up the C major scale in that position on the fretboard and then once you reach the top you’re going to descend with an F major scale. Then, you’re going to ascend with a Bb major scale and then descend with a Eb major scale. You’re going to continue in this pattern in the circle of the 4ths until you’ve played every key.

Basically, you are changing the scale from ascending to descending by an interval of a 4th. So if you follow the exercise all the way through you’ll cover all these keys in this order:

C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, G

And again, once you’ve mastered your major scale in ALL positions, go on to this with melodic minor and harmonic minor.

One Octave Circle of 4ths

This is similar to the past exercise except you’re only going to ascend and descend up only one octave. So if you started on the “C” note on the 8th fret of the low E string, you will ascend a C major scale all the way to the “C” note on the 10th fret of the D string. When you get there, you’ll descend in F major all the way back down to the “C” note on the 8th fret of the low E string.

Each octave you will play in one scale position only covers three strings (if you look at the C major scale ascending picture above, it’s basically the lowest green dot to the next green dot in the scale pattern). Practice this exercise on all string sets (set #1: E, A, D; set #2: A, D, G; set #3: D, G, B; set #4: G, B, E) and all scale positions for all scales. Whew! That’s a lot!

Conclusion

As you can see, these exercises are pretty endless and give you a lot of room for practice. I like these exercises because they get you away from the pattern of scales. Sure there’s a pattern to all of it, but you really have to be thinking on your feet and thinking about the individual notes and how to change from one scale to another. You can’t merely get by knowing some patterns. You’ll be better off because you’ll be able to see how the notes relate to one another and you’ll be able to navigate much better across the fretboard as you try to apply this to improvising or soloing.

Brett McQueen is a full-time music student, guitar player, songwriter, and blogs in his spare time. Brett is passionate about teaching free beginner’s guitar lessons so other guitar players can take their playing to the next level and reach their goals.

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Imagine someone walking into or past an ongoing conversation between guitarists and hearing things like the following. I wonder what their responses might be. Here are some possible thoughts…

“…yeah, my G string sticks and makes it hard to play,” with the associated reply of, “Then you should lube your nut so that it moves back and forth more easily. A sharp pencil will work…”

If it sticks, it shouldn’t get hard… F$#k ME! A pencil? Where the hell do you put it? Oh well, to each their own…

“I must play on my G string a lot. Can’t believe how much crap gets built up on it.”

Naturally… and you wouldn’t even have play with your G string to get crap on it…

“Man, that thing has an incredibly tight bottom-end. You can really rip it up.”

Thing? As in dog? Donkey? Dude, you need help. This is one situation where sticking with your own kind is a good thing!

“…all in black. No exposed joints anywhere.”

What? You describing that nun, Sister Mary Elephant?

“…incredible lines on that one. Graceful neck, and a body with perfect curves. Just oozes elegance…”

Damn! I’m gettin’ all hot and bothered. I’d love to meet her…”

“Every time I put my fingers around her neck and move up and down, she just sings with joy.”

Man, that’s one f#$ked up chick! Hope you don’t leave bruise marks…….

Context, context, context…

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