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Archive for January, 2011

In my previous article, I cited the Marshall Shoppers Guide as the definitive resource to help you make a decision in purchasing a Marshall amp, both vintage and modern. In that article, I mentioned that my very good friend, Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps was especially helpful in guiding me towards the type of Marshall amp sound that appealed to me. Jeff specializes in building vintage Marshall-style amps, and in order for him to be able to build those types of amps, he had to acquire quite a bit of knowledge about the vintage Marshalls. On top of that, he’s also a collector, and has an original JTM 45. Niiiiice!

Jeff’s such a great guy in sharing information, and he has written an EXCELLENT article that covers the vintage Marshall amps from 1962 to 1973. It is entitled: “History of Early Marshall Amplifiers.” In the article, he talks about the various Marshall amps and their configurations. It’s lots of information that is really geared towards the collector.

So now there’s another definitive resource on vintage Marshall amps!!!

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Before I got my Les Paul R8, I spent over two years searching; not just for the right deal, but sifting through all the different models. That meant reading lots of articles, joining several forums, and participating in lots of discussions. I’m glad I took the time, but looking back, it would’ve been great to have a single, definitive source for information on the different Les Paul models. It probably would’ve cut my search time by a significant factor!

As if searching for a Les Paul was bad enough, I was also at the same time looking for an amp. Having cut my teeth on the Fender sound, once I started writing and playing more heavy stuff, I started gravitating towards the Marshall camp. Now luckily for me, I met Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps who not only builds vintage-style Marshall-esque amps, he owns several Marshall amps from, including a 60’s JTM 45 that is an absolute tone monster! What a machine! Anyway, he has been my source for Marshall amp information; without him to guide me to the type of sound I was after, I probably would’ve had to resort to my method for finding a Les Paul (Jeff was also instrumental in that camp as he is a Les Paul collector). In the end, the tone I dig from Marshall amps comes from the JTM and Plexi camp. By the way, he’s coming out with a new 50 Watt amp called the “FlexPlex” that includes circuitry for both JTM and Plexi amps, and even has some Dumble-esque features. That’s my next amp!

Circling back to searching for a Marshall amp, I recently came across two articles that include pretty much everything you need to know about the different flavors of Marshall amps, collectively called the “Marshall Shopper’s Guide.” The articles are very detailed, and more importantly, they’re unbiased. Here they are:

Part I: Marshall’s Plexi Era

Part II: Vintage “metal panel” through JCM 2000 Series

To say I was thoroughly impressed by these articles is an understatement. The author, David Szabados, really did a great job with them, and my hat’s definitely off to him for providing such rich information. So if you’re looking for a Marshall Amp, at least in my opinion, there is no better source for getting information on Marshall amps.

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I’m uh… speechless…

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Just came across this today, and it is the most comprehensive OD shootout I’ve seen/heard – EVER! This isn’t a simple A/B. This is 36 OD pedals. Very good!

NOTE: If the video keeps stopping, watch the video on the YouTube site directly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuTt8YFblcE

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My wonderful wife posted this on her Facebook profile today. You’ve probably seen this as an email forward, but I thought I’d share it…

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Enjoy life NOW .. it has an expiration date.

Excuse the pun, but reading this again after a couple of years really struck a chord in me this morning. The reason is because last Sunday at my church gig, we did a couple of my older tunes that I wrote back in 2004. After our rehearsal right before service, my bandmates all said how much they enjoyed those tunes. In response, I remarked, “You know, I’ve been at an impasse with writing. It has been a long time since I’ve gotten the inspiration.” During 2004-2005, I was music-writing machine, coming up with new tunes every week. But the inspiration to write kind of dried up. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to return to writing music, but with the exception of brief spurts of inspiration, I haven’t been able to churn out songs like I used to.

Then this morning on the drive in to work, I thought about where my inspiration had come from in the past, and I realized that it had always come when I noticed life around me; when I quieted my mind so I could be aware of the things happening in my life – aware of life’s beauty.

Talk about positive reinforcement. That article above certainly reminded me to quiet my mind!

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For years I was on an Overdrive kick. I still kind of am. I love dirt pedals despite the fact that I don’t use them nearly as much as I used to, and am patiently waiting for my Timmy to arrive. 🙂 But ever since I went on my quest to get an original BOSS CE-2 chorus, I’ve kind of gotten on a chorus kick as well; not as bad as my overdrive kick, but every time I see a new chorus, I have to at least listen to it. And if I REALLY  like it, I might just buy it. That’s how it was with my Homebrew THC. It just came along at the right place at the right time.

Truth be told though, while I’m not currently in the market for another chorus pedal, the Sea Machine Chorus from Earthquaker devices does give me pause. One thing that always turns me on with respect to gear is versatility, and the Sea Machine certainly cannot be blamed for lack of it. In addition to the tradition, Rate, Depth, and Intensity knobs, the Sea Machine also boasts three other knobs:

  • Animate – adjusts the width of the chorus pitch shift
  • Shape – adjusts the shape of the LFO
  • Dimension – which adds reverb/delay-like ambience to the tone.

This is impressive because from demos I’ve seen, this pedal is capable of producing TONS of different tones from your traditional chorus to leslie to vibe to all-out tweaked!

The pedal retails for $215 online. Here are some demos for your viewing/listening pleasure:

I totally dig Andy at ProGuitarShop.com’s demo as he demonstrates AND explains what the pedal can do, which is a lot. The Dimension feature is absolutely awesome!

If I had to do it over again, and I hadn’t purchased the Homebrew THC, I probably would’ve picked up the Sea Machine. Great chorus!

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A few years ago, I was perusing a popular guitar-related forum when I came across a post about a particular pedal, and how people were waiting up to three years to get one. I remember at the time that I’d never do that, and I kept to my word; at least until I got on the list to get a Timmy Overdrive. That wait will only be about 6 months, and since I wasn’t in a rush, AND I didn’t have to give Paul Cochrane a down payment, it was a no-brainer putting my name on the list; especially after poring over reviews and sound clips and speaking with Paul directly. There’s other equipment out there that has a long waiting list as well. Analogman’s King of Tone is over a year long. The Faustine Phantom waiting list has been over a year for people who got on the earlier lists (though apparently Tim now has a new production partner and his production times are supposedly going down).

What prompted me to put out this question was that I was thinking about my Timmy on order. Then I thought: What was the impetus for getting on a waiting list? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. But probably a big reason was that I didn’t have to take any financial risk by giving Paul a down payment. Plus, the pedal’s only $129 shipped so it’s kind of hard to go wrong. I _might_ do the same with the King of Tone, but I’m really not sure I’d wait a year or more for a pedal. I guess for me, there has to be a good balance between wait time and financial risk.

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If Only…

…it were this easy. Plug in a pedal and adjust the amount of my virtuosity. 🙂

Actually, I’m glad that this isn’t so because then I’d never feel the satisfaction of achievement. That’s a really important thing to have, no matter what your experience level is – with anything. We sometimes wish that there would be a simple solution to learning and mastery, but if everything thing were simple, then there’d be no challenge. Look at the movie WALL-E. The people in that movie don’t have to think for themselves or do anything for themselves, and they just turn into slothenly slobs confined to floating chairs.

So dear readers and fellow guitarists, there’s no easy path to guitar mastery. It’s work. But with work come rewards.

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Usually during winter or summer NAMM, I keep close watch on the press releases and trade rags to make announcements about new gear. I’ve received plenty of press releases for this current Winter NAMM 2011, but there really haven’t been any  new sounds lately to get me excited. Maybe it’s because I have the flu, and I’m a bit grumpy, but nothing I’ve seen thus far has really wowed me. The trade rags still tend to play to the major manufacturers, so all you normally get is the expected set of gear from the expected set of manufacturers, though I do have to say that at least Premier Guitar makes an effort to showcase non-mainstream, boutique gear, as they seem to cater a lot to “The Gear Page Forum” crowd.

So the fact that I hadn’t seen anything new and exciting led me to the question: Do we have all the tones we can get? And by that I mean new classes of tones outside the standard amplitude, frequency, and time modulation classes; and let’s not forget envelope filters and the like. Frankly, all that territory has been well-explored. But some genius may come up with some other thing that will add yet another dimension to guitar tone in the future – it’s just not now.

So where does that leave us?

Well luckily we’re no longer in the days when only a few manufacturers existed and the selection of gear was fairly narrow. With all the boutique manufacturers out there now, there’re all sorts of choices at our disposal. We may not have any new classes of tones being developed, but we do have fairly limitless possibilities to combine gear within the existing classes. That’s a great thing!

For me, there’s still undiscovered country in what’s currently out there. I think my next avenue of exploration will be envelope filters. A lot of my latest music has had a real funk feel to it, and an envelope filter or an auto-wah may just add that little funky zest to my rhythm lines.

I did see this one very interesting – maybe weird – “guitar” called the Kitara by Misa Digital Instruments that’s completely digital. No strings. Each “fret” has a button. The right hand (it also can be flipped to be a lefty) uses a touchpad to generate sound. The Kitara is connected to a synth or software. Interesting concept, but I’m not sure if this will be the future of guitar. It does provide some very interesting possibilities, though. Here’s a demo:

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Rewind a little more than 30 years ago. It was the summer after my Freshman year in college. I was just starting to take guitar very seriously and I was addicted to seeing the late, great Michael Hedges at the old Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto, CA. Back then, the Varsity Theatre was THE place to see the Windham Hill recording artists when they were making their starts, and before artists like Will Ackerman, Michael Hedges, George Winston, Liz Story, and Mark Isham became the sound of the New Age, yuppie movement in the 80’s. Michael Hedges played there a couple of times a week, and that summer, I was at EVERY show. But among the artists that performed there that I also saw quite a bit of, were a husband and wife duo called Tuck and Patti.

Patti had this low, deep, sensual and moving voice, while Tuck was absolutely INSANE on his Gibson L5. Though I related much more to Michael Hedges during that period, I was completely blown away by Tuck’s absolute mastery over the fretboard!

The first time I saw Tuck and Patti, it was purely inadvertent. I was strolling down University Avenue and heard this great guitar playing coming from the Varsity Theatre’s courtyard, similar to Michael Hedges but much more jazzy. I knew it wasn’t Michael because they were playing Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and Michael played his own stuff. I walked into the courtyard to see this lady singing her heart out, and this weird-looking dude with curly locks playing guitar, his fingers a blur all over the fretboard. I was absolutely mesmerized by his playing! Running bass lines along with rhythm and melody. I’d never seen anything like it!

I’m not sure what prompted me to think of Tuck and Patti today, but I thought I’d share just how incredible this man’s playing is and what a great duo Tuck and Patti are:

And here’s a little demo of Tuck demonstrating his style:

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