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Archive for August, 2011

Tuesday Funny…

And now, for something completely unrelated to guitar gear…

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I’ve written about this with respect to gear before, but that also applies to lots of things in life. For instance, I just put the finishing touches on a new contemporary christian song demo this morning. I was thinking about adding all sorts of percussion, another guitar, perhaps some keys. But in the end, all I did was replace my original click track, and added another guitar. I just found that the simple, straight-forward sound just worked better. Here’s the finished demo:

After I finished the production, I thought to myself that this arrangement can stand on its own. Besides, it’s what I’d have available at Mass, as I’m the only keyboard player and also the lead guitarist – but I default to guitar. 🙂 In any case, we played this song at Mass yesterday, and I was very pleased to see people nodding to the song. We put it in a place in the service where singing is typically optional, though encouraged, and it was great to see people singing a song they never heard before!

But back to the original topic, to me, sometimes the most beautiful things are really simple; no frills, no bling, nothing extra.

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At last night’s weekly gig at the restaurant I play at, I brought my trusty Roland Cube 60. I was in a rush, and just wanted a lightweight amp that I could easily set up.

To be honest, I hadn’t played that amp for a long time, preferring to use my tube amp combos or my SWR California Blonde. But those amps are also HEAVY. The Blonde weight over 50 pounds! My Cube 60, on the other hand, weighs just 30 pounds, and is roughly half the size of any of my other combos.

But weight aside, the Roland Cube 60 is simply a great-sounding amp. Solid-state or not, it doesn’t matter. If it sounds good, then who cares about its circuitry? I was reminded of that last night. I put the amp in Acoustic/JC Clean mode and was rewarded with a gorgeous clean tone that rivaled the cleans of any of my tube amps. Admittedly, the onboard time mod effects aren’t very good (at least to my ears), so I just used my own.

And that brings me to the point of this entry and my previous entry centering on the title: Let sound guide your decisions in buying gear; not the circuitry. With respect to the Cube 60, its Acoustic/JC Clean is modeled after the venerable JC 120 amp; an amp that has proven itself over the years as a viable tone platform. Players like Joe Satriani and Albert King used this amp. I believe Satch used a JC 120 to record Surfin’ with the Alien. And it’s no small wonder these guitar greats used it: The JC cleans are spectacular. They’re not as basso as Fender cleans, being a bit more mid-rangy, but they’re gorgeous just the same.

One thing that struck me last night as well was the wide sound dispersal from that little amp. I was concerned that the diminutive cabinet would be a bit too directional, but all that worry was laid to rest when I did my sound check. The Cube 60 filled the space incredibly well, and was clear from even extreme angles. Needless to say, I’ll be using the Cube 60 for most of my solo gigs going forward.

So definitely a lesson learned once again, that it’s the sound that matters…

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My older sons have gotten a lot into Reggae over the past couple of years, and it has sort of rubbed off on me. So while I was jammin’ to a song in the car a few days ago, I got an idea for a praise and worship song with a Reggae theme. Here’s the initial sketch of the song (I have to add the rest of instrumentation, but here it is with just a three-piece combo arrangement):

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In addition to being a guitar gear freak, I’m also obsessive about fine wines. The other night, I cracked open a bottle of 1985 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from my collection, and shared it with my best friend. I’ve been wanting to drink this particular wine ever since I won it at auction a few months back, and was just waiting for the right time to drink it. But I was also getting a bit worried about keeping it too long because unlike their French counterparts, California wines aren’t known for their longevity. But there are some exceptions out there, and this bottle was definitely one of the exceptions.

The cork was intact when I opened the bottle, which totally surprise my friend and I. This meant that the wine would have very little sedimentation. There was also perhaps on 4 mm of seepage into the cork, which meant that the cork used was absolutely top quality in this case. We knew we were in for a real treat.

We both took a small tasting pour, swirled the wine, then took our tasting sips. Both of us closed our eyes, then after swallowing that first taste, we both at the same time said, “OH. MY. GAWD!!!!” As wine connoisseurs for over thirty years, we’ve literally tasted thousands of wines, but this wine topped both of our lists as the best cabernet we’ve EVER had! In 1991, Robert Parker rated this wine a 91. Now in 2011, twenty years later, I don’t think this wine is even rateable. To us, it surpassed all of the best wines we’ve tasted.

Over the three hours that it took us to finish the bottle, the wine’s character changed, demonstrating to us just how marvelous, majestic, and magnificent this wine was. It was so complex and sophisticated, that we both, who have a fairly wide and experienced wine vocabulary, had a difficult time describing the wine. In the end, we both agreed that this single bottle of wine bestowed upon us a genuine religious experience.

Religious experiences don’t happen very often, and at least for me, are brought on by things or events that are truly awe-inspiring. For those unfamiliar with the term, a religious experience is one in which it is virtually impossible to articulate the feeling. It’s an experience so profound that words would only diminish it.

With gear, this has happened to lots over the years. Here are some that I’ll share here:

  • The very first time I tried out a BOSS CE-2 Chorus pedal. I have a few chorus pedals now, but when I need a particular chorus sound, this is the only pedal that’ll give it to me.
  • After years of looking for a good delay pedal, playing the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay sent me off into the nether world. There was simply nothing like it.
  • Getting my very first high-end guitar, a Gibson Dot ES-333. Up until that point, I just had some very cheapo guitars, and getting that ES was like a rite of passage.
  • Unpacking and playing “Amber,” my first Gibson Les Paul. I had wanted one forever it seems, and when I finally had the cash to get one, I can’t even begin to describe the mix of emotions I experienced as I held her in my hands that first time.
  • Playing my Yamaha APX900 acoustic at the guitar shop where I bought it. No Martin or Taylor has ever sounded as good to me plugged in. Yamaha’s ART pickup system is unlike any other.

As I write this entry, I realize now why I and probably so many others are such gear junkies: We thrive on religious experiences. Besides being virtually impossible to describe, religious experiences are the ultimate feel-good. They’re also addictive… So it’s not a small wonder why I’ve got so much gear. 🙂

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New Song: Given the Body

As many may know, I play at church – a lot. 🙂 And having played at church for over 30 years, writing music for worship just kind of came naturally. Here’s a song I wrote called Given the Body. It features my Strat on the right, and my Les Paul on the left; both played through my Aracom PLX BB 18.

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As I’ve said in the past, there’s always room for people who are good. I said it about Barron Wesley Guitars, and I’m saying it for Slash L guitars made by Perry Riggs. Look at the guitar to the left. Notice anything familiar? It’s patterned after a ’59 Les Paul with a mahogany body and neck, but with a neck-through construction. I have to tell you, Perry’s neck-through design works really well. As I mentioned in a previous article about “Lana”, his guitars sustain for days owing to the that neck-through design. Not only that, if this guitar is similar to Lana, it’ll be less than 8 lbs. (Lana weighed 6.5 lbs).

But as to the overall design of this guitar, it’s gorgeous! Of course, being a Les Paul guy, I love that shape, and that spalted maple top and the translucent tea burst finish is killer! The guitar comes equipped with Lollar Imperials (coil tapped), and has a rosewood neck. Love those trapezoidal fret inlays!

By the way, Perry doesn’t have a site, but he’s got a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/perry5610). Friend him. He’s uploading pictures of his build process. Very cool stuff.

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