Archives for: July 2015

Joe Satriani Commenting on His Approach on Writing Guitar Instrumental vs Non-Instrumentals

Just came across a new interview with Joe Satriani. There was something interesting I found around the 10:45 mark where he discussed his approach in writing instrumental music vs vocal-oriented music.–shockwave-supernova–518967893

Here’s the quote from the video, starting at around 10:45, transcribed for you here to digest:

In instrumental music, the solo section is often used as a ball of frenzy. You know what I mean?
Because you already played guitar – minute and a half, leading up to it, right?
Sometimes people want, just a ball of frenzy -“You’re a guitar player and I’m only listening to you because you do your thing” you know?
And of course I kind of rebel against that, immediately. Anytime sometime tries to put me in a space and say, “Please go do what we ask”
I’d go, “no i’m not going to do that”.
Right, just because, I”m not going to do that.
There are a lot of these spaces where I don’t feel that’s the right thing to do.
Perhaps it’s the attitude, the setup that, convey the real message.

Maybe when the solo comes, you kick back and you can show the other side
if I can get a little more song-writing-vibe about this, I’d say
You can use the solo section as a bridge
and that way you don’t have to put in a bridge.

If you got a vocal song you need a bridge to give you another side of the story
and it’s usually a softer sell
sometimes if the verses are dreamy
the bridge can be something that’s pretty outrageous

It could be 2 sentences. The break out part of the story.
The instrumental can be something different sometimes
because you can’t get away with 2 verses back to back
you have to go intro, verse, right to the chorus, and then somewhere else, because you don’t have words…  To give a different take on this story telling…

So then this leads me to this idea that maybe the solo should not be a ball of frenzy, that it should not be a self promotional thing where you say, again, that after 15 records, you can really play the guitar, and I’m going to show you right now.

Because that bothers me when I’m listening to a record, and I go, that guy is really trying to hammer me with that, you know.

So I would take certain songs –  I tell the guys in the studio, “The solo is going to soar. This melodic thing – you can play though through it.” Whereas another song or solo, they may go, “If you play a lot of notes here, pull it in tight, so you’ve got a really rigid canvas to put the ball of the insanity on top of it.” We have to think about that as we put together the record to make sure we produce every song right. I mean I’m looking at that too, but I’m thinking, “This record has needs to be the most melodic, and I want every solo has to have an invention in it, a motif.” Every couple of bars is a signature that you would say is a melodic signature, not just proof again that, “yes he did practice for all those hours”.


Teaser of new album – “Business Brunch Specials: Uranium Omelet (with GMO-Free Brown Sauce)”

He’s a teaser of my upcoming album, “Business Brunch Specials: Uranium Omelet (with GMO-Free Brown Sauce)”. I shot the main video using my phone back in February with the intent of having at least some sort of visual footage of me making this album. When I finally revisited this today to add in the texts, I couldn’t help myself from laughing because it’s SO BIZARRE.

Hope you like the gloves! 😀

Tone Wizards Book by Curtis Fornadley

Picture by Diego Lopez

Curtis Fornadley recently released a book entitled “Tone Wizards” that interviews top-guitarists and gear gurus on the never ending quest of finding the ultimate guitar tone. Curtis is an excellent guitar player himself, but check out this cool list of people that have been interviewed in the book:

Joe Bonamassa
Bob Bradshaw
John Carruthers
Cliff Chase
Peter Frampton
David Friedman
Jay Graydon
Scott Henderson
Eric Johnson
Jim Kelley
Jeff Kollman
Ronan Chris Murphy
Joe Satriani
John Suhr
Pete Thorn
Steve Vai
Carl Verheyen

At the time of this post, it looks like only the ebook version is available on Amazon, but the print copy should be available soon too.

I’ll post a review once I order one and read through it.

Odd Time Signatures and How I Got Started Getting into it – Written by a Non-Drummer (Part 3)

(…Continued from Part 2)

4/4 and 6/8 can be “odd” too

Nothing is preventing you from taking what may seem generic 4/4 (or 8/8), and make it sound interesting as well. A bar of 8/8 could be seen as 3+3+2 (triplet feel with a missing beat at the end).

A 6/8 bar could be seen as 4/8 + 2/8 (a 4 on the floor feel but with 2 eighth note beats missing).

A 9/8 could be seen as 4/4 + 1/8 ( a regular 4/4 feel but with an extra eight note) – rather than a 3/8 treated all with that triplet feel.

Making 7/8 not sound so much of the overdone 7/8.

If you recall from the intro of Part 1, where we discussed odd time signature being more common than most people think – here is a super interesting interview with Marco Minnemann on (video) that I recently came across, where he talked about 7/8 being the most common odd meter used, and how he deliberately tried not writing something in 7s but ended up being just that. (There’s an equally excellent interview with Bryan Beller (video) on the site too for those so inclined [, although not so much on our specific topic of odd meters].)


While I have not mentioned poly-rthythm in this blog post, I will end this blog post with this song by King Crimson, where you’ll find all assortments of creativity how the bars are phrased (and constantly changing). “Indiscipline” played by The Crimson ProjeKCT. (Self Promo Disclaimer: I have been very privileged to have both of these drummers, Pat Mastelotto and Tobias Ralph drum on my 2nd and 3rd solo record, respectively).


Pat Mastelotto’s Drums, Microphones and Studio Setup

Might be a little long overdue posting this, but here are some snapshots showing Pat Mastelotto’s drum kit setup, microphone placements and studio he had while tracking for my 2nd album back in 2013. Sorry about the blurriness – I believe Pat took these with his camera phone at the time.

Click on picture for larger view.

Microphones used

There were 2 overheads, 2 kicks (in and out), snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, toms, single room mic. The ride might have been mic-ed as well, but I do not remember exactly. The overheads were Earthworks (although I’m not sure what the model was).


I believe he was using an API preamp

Which mics I used and which ones I did not

During mixing, I didn’t use the snare bottoms, kick (out), hi-hats. Things sounded much more focused and better that way. So it was mainly the overheads, kick, snare and the room. The toms were not played much, but I would un-mute those microphones whenever they were played. Every thing sounded excellent when they came in, and I all needed to do was enhance what I had with some processing.

Odd Time Signatures and How I Got Started Getting into it – Written by a Non-Drummer (Part 2)

(… Continued from Part 1)

Understanding larger number time signatures

A lot of times, a song may have something in, let’s say 13/8. There are many ways the bar of 13/8 could be phrased, but one way could be a segment of 6/8 (which we’re all so familiar with), plus a bar of 7/8. Here’s a simple example you’ll find in “Jacob’s Ladder” (Live) by Rush at the 4:38 mark. It’s phrased as 6/8+7/8 (or think of it as 6/8+6/8 with an extra beat). The feel is really a 6/8 feel, but I have found that extra beat a really powerful tool to keep things interesting in the song. Sometimes that little kick is all you need. This example is a great one because each of the notes are different. Alex Lifeson’s notes on the guitar are just simply mapped one-to-one on each of the different 6 (or 7) beats, which makes this example easier to follow. Of course, you are free to add syncopated elements to your own productions and compositions.

Breaking down each full bar into different portions seems to be a shared perspective and approach. If you ask in person or watch many of the instructional drummer videos out there, like this one with Mike Portnoy. you would notice that being explained too.

In my own tune “Limping Milestone Celebration” at the 3:00 mark, the first 2 bars of 14 is just a break down into bars of 3+3+3+5. (Or you could think of it as having a 6/8 feel but with beats added/dropped in the final segment).

(In reality, there’s really no “separation”. If you think about it, this whole ‘odd time signature’ business is really as a means of transcribing or formally describe what’s going on with the song. Hell, you could even argue all all songs are in 1s (and set up your click track/ metronome in your digital audio recording workstation that way))!

Continue to Part 3

Odd Time Signatures and How I Got Started Getting into it – Written by a Non-Drummer (Part 1)

I once had someone asked me what progressive rock was, and one of the things in my response was that it’s a genre in which odd time signatures could quite often be found. He then proceeded to comment, “you mean like 3/4?”

The comment was something I found somewhat amusing, because the widely popular waltz, which has been around for centuries in Western Music, are in 3/4! Watch any Viennese Waltz genre/style of standard ballroom dance and you would see that they’re all 3-beats to the bar. Every musician knows that majority of popular music out there (at least in North America) is either in 4/4 or 6/8. Although one could argue that the feel could be slightly different between 3/4 and 6/8, aren’t the two mathematically related (ok… the same)? (Side note: interestingly enough, at the time of writing this, Wikipedia says the Waltz is a “Progressive Ballroom and folk dance”).

Odd time signature is actually not as rare in music you’re familiar with as one might think. Pink Floyd’s “Money” is in 7s. There are sections of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” (at the 3:16 mark) that are also in 7s. The jazz piece “Take Five” is, appropriately named – in 5s. While one may or may not say they’re progressive, we can probably all agree that they’re wildly widely popular. But as a song writer, you may ask: “how I break-free” or freeing your ear/mind into writing in that mode, for purposes of making a song interesting?

How does a working bass professional/legend approach it

I asked one of my favorite bassists Bryan Beller before a gig about a year and a half ago on his approach to writing material in odd time signatures – (BTW: Nicest person in the world who was happy to entertain a fanboy like myself). His response was that he does not consciously think of a specific time signature he would try to write in, but rather come up with a motif/riff first, then come back and figure out what time signature the part is in.

How I first started doing it

Rewind back several years ago, when I was first started messing with this whole song writing thing, I figured I would maybe give it a shot. I had a metronome on my computer and had it play something in 5 (with accent on the downbeat for me to lock in) for minutes until I felt comfortable. Then I started humming an idea/motif that would lock in with it. To me, I found singing to it, rather than playing to it at first, was a little earlier to grasp. On my way out for lunch, when I no longer had the metronome with me, I would tap the idea with my hands and sing (when no one was looking of course…!) – but now with emphasis on additional beats within the 5, to make sure I was really internalize it. I ended up with this little song for my first album. The main motif that you hear at the beginning of the song is in 5, and I think there are a couple of bars later on 14 in the middle at around the 3:00 mark.

The 5 was a lot easier to grasp than the 14, because the number of beats before it repeats is a much shorter. But there’s a catch with the bars of 14 though – or any odd meters that have more than 9 beats per bar.

(Continue to Part 2)

Third Album Update

Tobias Ralph (Adrian Belew Power Trio), Live at The Casbah in San Diego, 2014

I have been working hard since Halloween 2014 on what will soon be my 3rd solo album. I have Tobias Ralph (from Crimson Projekct/ Adrian Belew Power Trio) playing drums for me on this record – just can’t wait to get this out the door and share with all of you (i.e., all 5 of you in the entire world 😉 ). My mixes are now done, and mastering date is set for next week in at Veneto West in Los Angeles. Ronan will be mastering the record for me again this time around.

This will again be an instrumental record, consisting of 9 tunes in total.

Phase Trick on Multi-Mic sources

One thing about phase is that whenever you have multi-mic on a single source, there would be a phase relationship between what’s been recorded by each of those microphones. When the combination of these signals have phase problems, you would hear things sounding hollow, lack of focus and specific frequencies sounding missing.

In a case where there’s a drum kit that is mic-ed with spaced-pair overheads, 1 mic on kick, 1 mic on snare, sometimes you would need to hit the phase button on the kick/ snare to see which sound you would prefer. Often times, the difference is dramatic, but sometimes it isn’t (where the engaged/not-engaged sound equally bad).

I’m going to talk about the latter case.

What to do when the phase button isn’t making much of a difference and neither settings sound good

When mixing my record, one scenario I ran into was where the snare’s phase setting, in relation to the overheads didn’t really make a difference, and didn’t sound particularly good. Then it occurred to me that every time I EQ a signal – any signal, the EQ itself is already changing the phase response of whatever it’s processing. If I change any settings, let’s say – even simply by nudging an already-existing high-pass-filter acting on the signal, by maybe 10 Hz higher or lower than my original 100Hz setting (or vary the Q) – whatever change in setting, then that itself is changing the phase response than what it was before. Changing the phase response of one signal (my snare) would change the phase relationship of that against my other signal(s) (overheads, kick).

Nudging EQ settings to change the phase response and the phase relationship with other signals

I did just that – nudged a subtle EQ setting of my snare, THEN go back-and-forth with the snare phase button. The difference between when the phase button is engaged or vice versa was then quite a bit more dramatic before. The ‘better’ version did in fact sound a lot better than before I did all this.

Of course, when you sweep the EQ setting, you may be already be able to find a spot where things overall just sound better, without hitting that phase button – but the point of this post is to mention that a nudge in an existing EQ setting every so slightly may be all that you need.

To summarize:

  • Apply equalization changes a phase response of a signal.
  • Changing equalization settings would change the phase response and its relationship with other signals.
  • Making a slight equalization settings change could help create a bigger difference between whether the phase button is engaged or not.