Category: Guitars

Album status update 05/06/2017

Still tracking guitars. Rhythm guitars. I’d say probably 1/3rd of my way through them.

Parts have been tricky while I struggled with getting the right tone but now I’ve figured out partly how to address some of the issues (amp settings, pickup choice, pedal use). Part of it has also been arrangement-related, which I sort of have to go back and re-learn/re-visit some techniques that I’ve somehow forgotten.

Some things to try and play with: Mostly note to self:

  • Stabbing 8ths
  • Harder picking
  • Arpeggiated sections – clean or with some dirt
  • Trying out different chord inversions between left and right parts
  • Playing chord inversion at a higher register
  • Adding rotary or modulating effect to these extra parts
  • Using different pick on different part
  • Using different guitar on different part
  • Acoustic guitar to add articulation
  • Varying strumming pattern between phrases or sections of phrases

Keys and synth parts are done. Piano parts will happen later, depending on when I’ll have access to one.

More to come.

Review: “Truefire Steve Vai – Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare”

Steve Vai has a new instructional video out with Truefire called Alien Guitar Secrets: Passion & Warfare. Unlike most of the guitar instructional videos out there where the videos typically show note-for-note ideas and specific techniques, this series of videos here consist mostly of Vai talking about his philosophies and approaches in both his playing and compositions.

Many of his things he talked about could be found in his interviews online, his Alien Guitar Secrets seminar, (which I also attended several years ago,) especially the philosophical-type of talk. That content were to be found in mostly the first half of the video series. But the videos were done really well in that they are well organized and focused without going off too much to a tangent. While the philosophical topics were interesting, I found the videos in the latter half with him breaking down his songs from his record “Passion and Warfare” to be fantastic. That record, of course was an iconic record, not just in guitar playing, but the compositions, the compositions/arrangements of the songs, the engineering and mixing part of it were all so perfect. For him to go over the songs, pointing out his compositional and arrangement methods for each was unbelievable.

Here are a couple of things that I remembered, off the top of my head.

  • All the different sound effects he used, such as:
    • Slapping strings
    • Blowing into the guitar on the side against the strings and pickups to get a flute sound
    • Sounds created by tapping his finger on the unplugged end of a patch cable going into an amp.
    • Hitting the strings with the whammy bar
    • Scraping sounds
    • Sound coming from detaching a whammy bar
    • Strumming the strings from behind the nut
  • Reverse technique:
    • Writing a composed part
    • Transcribing each note of each instrument backwards
    • Playing and recording through the backward transcription along with a click for each instrument
    • Flipping the tape backwards to there’s a recorded effect but with notes of the original un-reversed composition

He would use these sounds or reverse effects and sometimes they would appear in just really small sections of songs, sometimes even as a backdrop, and sometimes as the main parts.

Other things:

  • Consciously writing a song that don’t have a melody as part of his vision
  • Chord substitutions
  • Call and response
  • Duplets, Triplets, Quintuplets, Septuplet (which he had also gone in depth in the past)
  • Getting familiar with time signatures that are in 13 (based on the Frank Zappa song “Thirteen”) and the phrasing of the time signature.
  • Getting familiar with Septupets (it’s actually quite tricky when the tempo’s fast, getting that picking/strumming technique down and locked in)
  • Taking a groove off a song he loved, tweaked it to his liking, changed the tempo and used it in his own song.
  • Using sampled instruments (back when samples just started to sound good)
  • Not using vibrato (very minimal) in the first verse’s melody of the song, and then playing with exaggerating vibrato in the 2nd verse’s melody for contrast.

Still a lot of material for me left to watch, but it’s been quite fun and inspiring watching all this thus-far.

Consulting with Bryan Beller, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I scheduled a consulting session with one my favorite musicians, Bryan Beller. Bryan needs no introduction, but he’s played with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mike Keneally, Dethklok and of course his own superhuman band, “The Aristocrats”. He has a solo career too, where his own touring band members are the exact same members as the Mike Keneally Band. I’m a huge fanboy, and always found his bass tones ridiculously amazing. I’m not even really a bass player and I’m a fan. Go figure. While some of the conversation topics shall forever remain private, there are other things that I can share here that may be of interest to folks out there.

On how he got his bass tones from the studio, on the latest Joe Satriani record “Shockwave Supernova”, as well as on his own records (solo, Aristocrats).

For the recent Satriani record, he used the A-Designs REDDI. Distortion came from the Sansamp plugin. The recording chain was decided by the staff, rather than him. There was an AMPEG rig in an isolation room, miced up. DI was duplicated, and SansAmp bass-driver plugin was put on one of them.

On his own records (Aristocrats, Solo), he decides on the recording chains. The signal path is not the same as his live rig. On records, they’re typically DI – one clean DI, one dirty DI, blended together. The dirty DI is done using overdrive pedals.

For the song “Oh No” from The Aristocrats “Culture Clash” album, he used a combination of overdrive/distortion pedals – the Dark Glass Electronics B3K overdrive, and the Dunlop M80 distortion DI together. No mic cabs were used.

On whether the Aristocrats albums were mixed In-The-Box (ITB) or Out-of-The-Box (OTB)

First two albums “The Aristocrats” and “Culture Clash” were completely done ITB – i.e., within protools. The third record “Tres Caballeros” was mixed hybrid – i.e., with both protools and the console. I have always been curious about this because I’ve always really enjoyed the sonics (and the songs) of the 2nd record (“Culture Clash”).

If you’ve watched some of Bryan’s DVD extras for his solo records, you would notice that those albums were all mixed ITB as well (AND sounded awesome).

On how he works through writers block

Time. When forced a deadline, you’re just pushed to write. There was one song that he wrote in 6 hours because of this. But he recommends going away and coming back to it.

“Sometimes you need to live through the life experiences to be able to have something to write about.”

On how he keeps himself from repeating himself when coming up with new parts or contributions (on his own records or records for others).

He doesn’t really think about it like that. He just writes whatever works. The parts would always be like “different children from the same parent”.

This is an interesting answer, because I know Mike Keneally has mentioned publicly that he really puts emphasis into not repeating himself. These are very different approaches from two people that have worked so closely together for 20+ years! Fascinating indeed.

On how he approaches his work differently when it is his own project vs supporting another artists

Doesn’t try to approach anything differently. Some artists might want something a bit more basic, and just to play the song as it was written. It’s just whatever that works to serve the song/songwriter.
It’s usually up to the producer to make the balance. For Aristocrats each member produces his own songs. (Typically, each member contributes 3 songs – and their producing styles are quite different.).

On what piece of work he’s most proud of and why

  • “Love Adrenaline” (which happens to be my favorite song he wrote too). Writing process for that: He had a good idea of where he wanted the song to go, and he just ‘chipped away at it’.
  • “Through the Flower” (Aristocrats).
  • Playing-wise, couple of songs from Keneally’s Sluggo album. “Life’s too Small”
  • Proud of “Smuggler’s Corridor” too.
  • He’s more interested in compositions than anything in his playing.
  • Hopefully his playing makes the song better. Otherwise he feels that he’s doing it wrong.
  • Favorite work of his usually are ones that are the better songs and ones that he has an emotional attachment to.

On how he writes

Yes. He grew up playing piano and his writing always comes from it first. The piano is how he visualizes music.

Bonus tidbits if you’re still reading this:

  • I found out that Bryan went to school with Tobias Ralph from The Crimson Projekct (who also played drums on my record)!
  • Bryan finds my music weird. I was a bit surprised to hear that at first, considering some of his past work he’s done, so I’ll more than gladly take it as a compliment (… even if it wasn’t meant to be one!)!

(Continue to Part 2 here)

Scott Henderson’s interview on “Tim and Pete’s Guitar Show”

This is a really great episode where Pete Thorn and Tim Pierce interviews Scott Henderson. By the way – Great, great show hosted by two amazing players in their own right. In this episode, Scott Henderson talks about his tone, recording process, pedals, guitars, playing techniques.

Spoiler alert if you’re short on time to watch the full video:

  • He only owns 57s and single-mics his cabinets.
  • He uses different mic placements (in combination of tone controls) for different parts/sections of the song.
  • He would try to use a different distortion pedal/distortion setting from song to song to get a different timbre.
  • He uses different tone control settings for the different pickups – not just to tame the high-end of particular pickups, but so that when switching between bridge and neck, there’s less of a noticeable tonal difference, which suits his tastes better and what he found to be the case in old records he enjoys.
  • In the mix, he would play with low-shelf attenuation at 5K to get rid of the fizziness/brittle high-end, and would also play with boosting 3-5K as needed.
  • In live he uses a wet-dry setup, but the wet (reverb/delay) amp is placed right next to the dry amp, so it’s pretty much mono from distance, and they’re panned mono live. He would have the presence/highs turned down in the wet amp to directly adjust reverb/delays.
  • He goes into detail of how he picks (more side of the pick than the tip of the pick), use of fingers, where he would pick on the guitar, how he uses the whammy, etc.
  • Some of his things he talked about in how other player’s approach are quite fascinating too.

Video here on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko8SrhSXjnU

The Aristocrats Live in San Diego, Tres Caballeros Tour (August 28, 2015)

Please scroll down for pictures…

I don’t remember the exact set list, but these are the songs that were played as far as I could remember (in no specific order, other than the first 3 songs):

  • Stupid 7
  • Jack’s Back
  • Texas Crazypants
  • Pig’s Day Off
  • Smuggler s Corridor
  • Pressure Relief
  • The Kentucky Meat Shower
  • Louisville Stomp
  • Desert Tornado (with Marco Minnemann Drum Solo)
  • Blues Fuckers

As you can see, most of the songs were from the latest record, and the only songs that they didn’t play that night from the record were “ZZ Top” and “Through the Flower”. ZZ Top did get played played live from previous shows on this tour from what I have seen on Youtube. I was actually hoping to hear what Marco Minnemann explain the counting intro at the beginning of the song before the intro… (though I think I have an idea…), but I guess I’ll just have to wait for another day.

(Or maybe those were played! I’ve been losing my memory as of late…)

The band was tight as always and watching/listening up close to how Bryan Beller harmonizes things was incredible. The songs have indeed evolved a bit from the record, which made it really fun to watch. Marco Minnemann’s drum extended solo towards the end of Desert Tornado was such a treat to watch. Of course, Guthrie Govan was in God-Mode the entire show – well the entire band was. It is almost a given whenever these three special entities are up on stage together.

Security guys at UCSD asked everyone to leave soon after the show (around 11:15), which meant we couldn’t wait to meet the band members. That was a first because we were always able to thank them at the Brick by Brick venue, at all the Keneally shows in UCSD, as well as the Calprog show (double bill with Stick Men) last year up in Whittier, CA. The security guys were quite keen to wrap things up so they could go home probably. One thing that I don’t see everyday was that when security asked everyone to leave, one fan pleaded if he could talk to Marco Minnemann, seeing him leaving through the other door. The fan was denied, then cursed at security and tried to force his way through and around the guy anyway. Security got really upset, yelled at the guy and kicked him out….

…AT A ROCK FUSION/ INSTRUMENTAL SHOW!

Man, and I thought I was a crazy passionate fan myself… I’d probably not do that… But given that these guys are the best in the world at what they do, it’s good to see my heroes getting this type of attention….! (I guess)

 

Steve Morse Interviews

Interesting to listen to Steve Morse’s perspective and how he’s constantly thinking about how he sounds in the mix, even when playing live (not just in studio)- and how he adjusts his playing in his technique, pickup selection, EQ-settings, etc. When watching the Sweetwater interview where he talks about his pickup selections, watch where his picking hand is playing as relative to the bridge, and how he’s changing the distances depending on how high the notes are that he’s playing (- something he didn’t talk about in the video, but interesting to see).

Interview with Sweetwater

Interview with Premier Guitar

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.

http://on.aol.com/video/joe-satriani-on–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”.

 

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.