Archive for the ‘Guitar’ Category
First of all, “Unboxing videos” are, for the most part, useless and ridiculous. Once in a blue moon they may be warranted, but it’s kinda rare. Furthermore, for any 1 product there really doesn’t need to be more than one. Ever. Look! The product, the manual, and some little $0.05 accessory! Wow.
With that in mind, allow me to show you perhaps the worst of the worst:That’s right, it’s an “unboxing video” (or “unpacking in this case”) **FOR A GUITAR CABLE**. Not only that, it is over 13 freaking minutes long!!!
I understand she’s excited about her cable, and the Vox coily cables are great, look cool, and sound great too, but still. [facepalm]
(If you must know the “unboxing ends before the 4 minute mark – which is still too long – and the rest is playing, talking about a guitar she ordered, etc.)
There are different “stages” of fear, and different types of fear. There is mental fear, and physical fear. Mental fear could be something like the fear of public speaking, while physical fear could be the fear of physical injury (like you might experience skydiving). This does not relate to actual phobias, which I will not address in this article. Types of fear could include the fear of success, the fear of a break-up, etc. I will be addressing what I call the “stages” of fear:
The purpose here is to discuss how fear can be greatly mitigated, and brought down from one stage to a lower stage.
Panic is often experienced in the heat of the moment. You could be at stage 2 (fear) and suddenly , unexpectedly be elevated to stage 1 (panic), and you could also be feeling confident and suddenly be elevated all the way to panic.
The question is, how do we prevent this?
This was sparked by a post on a forums regarding the “best” speaker solution for a modeling rig (CLR, other FRFR/PA speakers, guitar cab, etc.). A little background is due here. The Atomic CLR FRFR solution is one designed by Jay Mitchell in cooperation with Atomic Amplification, specifically for modeling rigs. It is meant to address inconsistencies in many PA speakers, and deliver as flat and “true” a sound as possible, within a mid-range budget. It competes with speakers such as RCF, FBT, ART, etc.
The basic premise here is that if you want to use a modeling rig to it’s fullest potential (meaning, not only amp and effects modeling, but cab/speaker modeling as well), you need to use an FRFR solution. FRFR is Full Range, Flat Response. Just like studio monitors, the idea is that the speakers should not color the sound at all, but rather reproduce, as closely to exact as possible, what the modeler is putting out. When utilizing a traditional guitar cab, which is not FRFR, the idea is you would only model the amps and effects, and turn off the cab modeling, and let the “real” cab do it’s job and reproduce the sound that you are looking for. Other arguments for and against are that the real cab approach, while more limited, produces a more real “amp in the room” sound and feel, and that the FRFR solution provides a tone more reminiscent of what you hear on a recording (IOW, great recorded tone, not an amp in the room sound or feel). The degree of this can be argued and often is.
Some may disagree with my ideas here, but I think we tend to approach modeling amplification from the wrong angle. The idea is that there is an objective “best” (or at least as close as we can get w/o shelling out WAY too much – so for the sake of argument) speaker solution for a modeling rig is, in my opinion, incorrect.
The truth is, tone is subjective, not objective. Are the CLRs “the best”? Or at least “better” (twice as good, 100 times as good, it doesn’t matter) than say an EV speaker? Or a $10 speaker? What about a Guitar Cab?
No. Yes. It depends. All are correct answers. Like Jay Mitchell has said, they are a tool for performing a specific function. So the question “are they the best” is a non-specific question. Are the “the best” AT WHAT? If the question is “are they (the CLRs, in this case) the best at reproducing the tones that your modeler makes with the greatest degree of accuracy” then the answer *could be* “yes” (at least for this argument). But is that really the question that we should be asking? Isn’t what we REALLY want to know is “Are they the best sounding for me?”
Check out this webste post. They measured the capacitance of 1/4″ jacks. Of course, this is on Vertex’s website, and they come up #1 in all the tests, but you can’t buy their end connectors.
What surprised me was not only the very large differences between manufacturers, but also the really large differences between TYPES of plugs. No way did I expect right-angle plugs to be so much better than straight plugs. I figured that they would be about all the same, or close to it. And Switchcraft pancake connectors have half the capacitance of Horizon connectors? I’ve always stayed away from all Horizon cables except MIDI cables, as all the ones I had were tone suckers. Maybe it’s time to rethink that a little bit.
This was just in time as I am planning on creating a front patch panel for my rack this month too.
Amongst guitarists, you hear this a lot. Often in the following type of a context:
“I’ve got an Eric Johnson signature strat, an EJ Fuzz Face, the right delay pedal, a vintage Marshall plexi, but I still don’t sound like Eric Johnson. I can’t get that tone.”
Response: “Thats because tone is in the fingers.”
This is often followed up with (as “proof”) something along the lines of “I don’t sound like Eddie Van Halen, but Eddie could come over to my house and plug into my crappy amp and still sound like Eddie Van Halen”
Well, I think that this is crap. Or partially crap.
I’ll approach this from a couple of different angles to hopefully, in the end, paint the full picture. I’ll tell you what my perspective is, and then define/justify/prove my argument afterwards.
Read the rest of this entry »
So, if you are like me, matching amps and speakers can be confusing. A good part of the reason for this is that there is a LOT of conflicting information out. You can find 2 very reputable experts out there saying completely different things! You hear on one hand that the speaker wattage should be 1.5 to 2 times what the amp wattage it. Then you hear on the other hand that the amp should be at least twice what the speakers’ wattage is (this is all assuming matched Ohms). WTF? Both theories are put forth by experts that know what they are doing, so how can they contradict?!? It makes no sense.
Like most things in music, it’s all about context and application. One guy says one thing, and never clearly defines the context, or even mentions that there are OTHER contexts in which the matching will change, and the other guy gives his spiel, also without defining the context or noting that there are other contexts. Well this post should completely clear that up!!! There should be no more mystery after reading this.
Read the rest of this entry »
So, I saw this question on reddit:
What I struggle with is knowing which notes I’m heading to during a jazz solo. For example, playing Blue Bossa, I’m great on the ii-V-I in Cm, but when it hops up to ii-V-I in Db, the fretboard just blanks out on me and I get lost. I can easily just learn the positioning and move through shapes, but I don’t want that, I want to know where all the notes are, just like looking at a piano and being able to lay down a tall chord without thinking.
So, TL,DR; I’m trying to find the best way to learn the notes applicably and thoroughly from someone who’s done it already. I’ve exhausted my resources and I need a new approach.
I think thats a great question, and I will attempt to give an answer. Something a little more indepth and different from the answers that were already given.
It is, of course, important to learn the names of the notes and their position on the neck. However, for this guy’s application I think intervals are far more important. Think of it like this (this is probably a weak analogy); generally we don’t need to know how to spell a word to speak it. Witness you’re, youre, bear, bare, etc. We just speak the words, and it’s all about context. I think to a great extent music is like that too. Think of the note names as spelling, and intervallic (and ear) playing as the context.
So I’ll break this post into 2 sections:
How to cheat at learning the notes on the strings (for most players with even a little bit of experience, they only have to now learn the notes on the B string and that’s it), and
Why knowing intervals is more important and a better, more musical, and quicker (in terms of mental processing) approach.
There are no wrong notes. To see what I mean, check this out:
1) If you play a wrong note, play it again so it sounds like you did it on purpose, and it will often sound like its tension-building rather than a bad note. That leads me to….
2) There is no wrong note, just the wrong note played after. Play a bad note and if you pick it up quickly enough, you can slide into the right note (see #4).
3) If you play a wrong note on purpose as a neighboring tone leading into the right note, it sounds good. It also sounds just like #2 above.
4) When playing in the standard modes, no matter what note you hit, if its a “wrong” note you are NEVER more than 1 fret away in EITHER direction from the right note. If you are quick enough and you hit the wrong note, you don’t have to think about where to go from there to make it right, just go SOMEWHERE. That of course leads into #3 and then #2.
5) If you are playing a CMajor chord, people, the music, your ears will tell you that a C# note clashes with the chord. However, if you play it an octave up, it doesn’t clash! Its just a b9 and sounds fine. Play a C#Maj chord with the root on the 5th string, and hit the note C# on that 5th or the 4th string and it clashes. Hit that C# on the 3rd string (an octave up) and the b9 (C#) doesn’t sound so bad. So, is it REALLY a wrong note, or is it the close interval? And if its the close interval, then why does the 3rd sound OK? So its not necessarily that either.
6) If you practice playing the wrong notes enough, they start to sound good.
7) If wrong notes are so bad, then why is it that even some more rock guys like Steve Morse make heavy use of them and they never sound bad? Bach can hit notes out of key and use those notes as part of a main melody, and it won’t sound bad at all.
All food for thought!
“If you hit a wrong note, then make it right by what you play afterwards” – Joe Pass
It was either Vai and Satriani or Becker and Friedman (I think it was Jason Becker and Marty Friendman) when they were younger used to sit back to back with guitars in hand. One would play chords while the other, having no clue as to the chord name or key or anything, would have to improvise over it. They learned quickly how to “fix mistakes” as well as play “wrong” notes on purpose for tension, etc.
In Victor Wooten’s book “The Music Lesson” (an excellent book!!!) a chapter deals with this. His teacher starts playing some chords, and Victor sits there and tries to find they key before jumping in. His teacher asks him what he is doing, and tells him to just jump in, and that there are no wrong notes, or at least you can fix them, etc.
Of course, simply knowing that playing wrong notes can be good, or that there are no wrong notes, etc. isn’t enough. You have to actually practice it (something that I really need to incorporate into my practice regimen too!)
When you are first learning something (like a piece of music, or a forehand spin in tennis or ping pong) and you’re learning the mechanics of it, it is difficult. You are trying to learn all the parts of the motion. In the case of a forehand spin, it’s the motion of the racket, the angle of attack, how your hips and torso twist, etc. There are many parts that come together to complete the action. In the case of music on the guitar it’s the movements of the left hand, the picking of the right hand, the rhythmic placement of the notes (timing, melody, etc.). At some point after many years of practice it becomes second nature. You can just do it without even thinking. Its like driving. When you first start you are nervous, and you have to coordinate your feet (on the gas or brakes) with steering, and situational awareness (and even more if you are learning how to drive a stick shift). Once you’ve been doing it for a long time, you can pretty much drive without thinking. You still have to concentrate on situational awareness (because it is never the same), but the rest of the mechanics are done without thinking about them.
Studies using MRIs have shown that when you are learning and what that activity becomes second nature you are using different parts of your brain. When you are learning you are using what you could call the “extrinsic” (or “learning”) part of the brain, and once it becomes second nature you use the “intrinsic” part of the brain to perform that task. When you “choke” what is really happening is you start performing tasks with the extrinsic part of the brain rather than the intrinsic part of the brain. The skills change from 2nd nature to the skills of someone learning the activity.
You can actually see this happening yourself. If you drive a stick shift and have done so for a long time and shift gears without even thinking about it, next time you get into your car and drive start thinking about what you are doing when you shift gears every time you shift gears. THINK about how much the ending should rev before you switch. THINK about how much you release the gas pedal as you push in the clutch. Think about WHERE the gear is that you are getting to as you shift. THINK about how much gas you give the engine as you let go of the clutch. Odds are that if you trusly do this your shifting will either become sloppier, or slower, if even slightly, or less smooth, or some combination.
If you are a touch typist you can try this out as well. Good typists don’t think about every letter they are typing, they think of the words or sentences (chunking memory, as discussed previously in this blog) and their fingers move on automatic pilot. Now if you are or know someone that is a really good typist, have them think about each and every letter that they type, instead of the whole words. They will likely slow down, and could also make more mistakes. This is because now instead of using the intrinsic part of their brain they are using the extrinsic part. Their “units” are also different. If their unit before was a word, their unit now is a letter (this is called “de-chunking”). If the word has 5 letters, that is now 5 units of information that their brain must think about and process to type that word when it used to be one. There is also more potential for mistake. With every “unit” there is new potential for screwing it up. The typist starts using more of the extrinsic rather than intrinsic part of the brain. Their performance changes EVEN THOUGH they really have these things internalized!
Some may say that if you are chocking you just need to focus on what you are doing and try again. The problem is that choking comes from TOO MUCH focus! With that added focus, as we have just seen, comes a shift in the area of the brain used, and hence a downgrade in skill and capabilities.
Another example. If you are a guitarist and are adept at sweep picking, for example… If you are adept enough at it you can sweep through an arpeggio without thinking about it, no problem. But if you suddenly force yourself to look just ahead to see where you need to be in a second, and concentrate on what you are doing – i.e. concentrate on what fret each finger is on, rolling off to mute the previous string played, making sure that the picking hand hits the right note at the right time, etc. you will find that you suddenly can’t sweep pick as well as you could when you weren’t thinking about it. Again, its because instead of using the automatic part of your brain, by concentrating upon it you start using the learning part of the brain. It’s known as the “flipping” of the brain system used to perform the task.
If a golfer starts thinking about the mechanics of driving – how and when the hips are moving, the speed and accuracy of the head as it hits the ball, the angle of attack, etc. – the drives will suffer.
The problem is that if we encounter this in real life – in a game, at a jam, whatever – our natural instinct when we start playing sloppily or poorly is to try to re-focus, when that’s about the worst thing we can do!
As Yoda once said, “there is no try, there is only do”
So what do you do?
The best thing to do is the hardest thing to do at that time, which is to back off, clear your mind, and just play! Don’t think about it. Realize that choking is a brain function thing. Its something that gets in the way of you executing what you know you can already do. There is no need to relearn it. Just be in the moment or instant, and stop thinking ahead. You can also try to prep for it by emptying your head to begin with. In most major sports competitions like the Olympics if you were to walk around the backstage area where the competitors are prepping you will see some that sit there and visualize their routine ahead of time – not the individual mechanics of a jump, but the routine as a whole (“turn here, them I jump and star this other move”), and a lot will just sit there possibly in silence, calming themselves down (to get rid of nerves, which can easily and quickly lead to flipping of brain systems, aka choking), and emptying their heads, so that they can just get out there and perform, and do what they’ve likely already done 1000 times already. The book “Effortless Mastery” is essentially as guide to how to get there. How to make sure that you can properly internalize your task, and even empty yourself, which helps prevent brain system flipping. BTW, the title doesn’t mean “a really easy way to master something” it means “to master something to the point where performing that task is effortless.”
I posted this on a forum. I thought it might be worthwhile to report is on my blog too.
Seriously, I’m so tired of hearing “its in the hands” or “its in the fingers.”
It is NOT “All in the hands” It is only partially in the hands.
(numbers given here are arbitrary!)
50% = equipment
50% = Its in the brain.
If Eric Johnson sets up his recording rig, and plays 3 simple note, he will sound like him. That guitar, amp, etc. will have that EJ tone. If he then hands the guitar to you and you play the same simple 3 notes, guess what? YOU WILL SOUND JUST LIKE HIM (give or take, depending on how competent you are). Why? Because stylistic choices, attack, phrasing, etc. won’t come into play, just equipment. Just equipment and when Eric (and you) plays those 3 notes you will hear Eric’s signature tone.
OK, now imagine it’s not all set up. You are in a room and given a Marshall Amp, a strat, and a dirt pedal. Unknown to you Eric Johnson has the exact same equipment. You are both told to dial in a sound you like and then play 3 notes (you are given sheet music). Guess what? You and Eric Johnson will sound DIFFERENT. Why?
Well you dial in and use your equipment differently, and therefore you will have different sounds. Why? Because Eric, in his mind’s ear, hears a specific sound he wants, and he dials in his amp and plays with it until he gets what he wants. If he dials it in and its not quite right, he will usually know pretty well whats wrong (too much/little mids, etc.). He may not know to say “Oh, the mid-hump is too shallow here, I need to fix that” (OK< well Eric would, but whatever), but he knows that hes gotta tweak some dials some more and will quickly find that the mid is the dial to tweak, and then he will tweak the knob left or right till it matches what he hears in his head.
You will do the same thing. But instead, YOUR sound is in your head, not necessarily HIS sound. You can try to emulate his sound, but you may fail to cop it properly simply because you are thinking about it rather than hearing it from within (if that makes sense). I guess the way some people can technically play a rhythm right, but can’t groove. They think too much like a metronome rather than a funky musician!
By the same token, Eric is given a Vox AC30 and a different dirt pedal and a Flying V. Well his tone won’t be exactly the same as before, but it will probably be pretty close. He will figure out how to tweak that Vox to get to what he hears in his head.
So the reason a guy sounds the same playing through a big stack & a small combo is because its in his head. He dials the tone in.
The exact same thing applied to stylistic choices. Yeah, the brain-hand connection that people are referencing when saying “its in the hands” is the way the hands attack the strings. The way a note is gently or aggressively plucked, allowed to sustain, swept or alt picked, etc. But the OTHER stylistic choices such as legato or picked, arpeggio subs to play over the background harmony, how wide a vibrato to add to a note, and phrasing come from another area of the brain too.
Now when someone says his tone comes from his fingers, well thats only part of it. To SOUND like someone means to cop not only his sound, but stylistic choices as well.
To sum all this up, we are dealing with four elements here:
1) Equipment (which is physical equipment – i.e. an external factor)
2) The DIALING IN of said equipment (which comes from the “minds Ear” or the brain)
3) The attack on the strings (pick attack, finger plucks, sliding around, etc.) which is BOTH physical (a maple fretboard will have a snappy attack and can affect the way you play, for example) and mental (you decide to pick hard and percussively or lightly to accomplish your musical goal for the second)
4) The stylistic choices made (harmony & melody, etc.) which is 100% mental
Everything is pretty much a combination of these 4 elements:
The actual TONE: Both physical (#1) and mental (#2). Anyone can (theoretically) cop anyone elses tone with lots of different equipment – but not with EVERYTHING. If I can really get into that EJ tone and fiddle with amps and FX enough that I can know that tone as intimately as someone else, I should be able to cop that tone, or something REALLY close to it with most anything. There is a video on youtube from Voodoo labs where they teach you 3 different ways to cop the EJ Cliff of Dover tone. Its a really good example of this.
Someone’s STYLE: a combination of #3 & #4
Someone’s sound: really is Tone+Style, or a combination of all 4 above elements. Often however, people will equate “Sound” with “Tone” all depending upon the context.
To get a Sound, you need a combination of Physical and Mental. It’s not “All in the hands” – thats only 1/4th of it (or 1/2 of it if when you say “all in the hands” you mean elements 3&4 rather than just #3). Its why Eric Sounds like Eric and you don’t (“all in the hands” folks will point directly to this). Its why you can have a tone just like like Eric, even if you have not surgically put his hands on your body (“pure equipment folks will point to this).
This should al be pretty logical, but SO MANY people say “its all in the hands” when referring not only to overall sound, but also to purely tone – where the hands really don’t come into play (OK, in some rare cases they do, but thats the exception, not the rule).