Tuesday, July 22, 2008

waiting, waiting, waiting

The scumback speakers should be done any day now. I can't wait for those to get here, I'm using pretty mediocre speakers right now (G12T-75s) and I can't wait to hear what the scumback's sounds like.

Also waiting on the TIM pedal by Paul Cochrane. I ordered in in May and it should be done in Sept. I realize that's much much shorter than people who ordered a year ago had to wait, but it's killing me. Especially since I really don't like the light OD I have right now and that's what I use on 80% of worship tunes. I love the high gain on the Twin Tube Classic but the "rhythm" section isn't my favorite anymore. I'm going with a TIM (maybe a timmy) and an OCD or Box of Rock to replace the Twin Tube. I'm going to build a new pedal board so I can use the Musicom EFX (see previous post) but I don't want to build it until I get rid of the Twin Tube so I know how everything will fit. My Patience got the best of me today and I bought a used Blues Driver (non-Keely) for cheap so I can get on with my pedalboard until the TIM arrives. I'm not sure if the BD-2 will do any better than my TTC but it's at least the right size and will let me get the OCD or BoR so start playing with them. Oh gear, oh gear.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

No more tap dancing!

I love stepping on pedals as much as the next guy, but lately it's been bugging me more. I especially notice it on the complicated songs... like Hosanna by HSU. I have delay and light OD on the second chorus but for the solo I switch to analog delay with tube screamer. I have the foresight to tap the tempo into the analog delay at an early break, but I still have to: turn off the DL4, turn on the Memory Lane, turn off the light OD, turn on the TS. I can do it quick but it still means I don't play for about 2 beats and it's easy to get off tempo while frantically stepping. After the solo I reverse the process. I'm always far less worried about playing the songs right as I am about getting the right pedal combinations. The solution:

Musicom Labs EFX

I actually got the original, not the MKII, used so it's a little different and used - so much cheaper. What it will do is, let me program up to 128 preset combinations of 8 effects loops. For songs like hosanna it will be bank 1 for the second chorus and bank 2 for the solo. One button. It also acts as a midi controller and since I'm in the process of getting an Eventide Time Factor (which can be midi controlled!) I can set the EFX presets to change the TF presets. A lot of the places I play use a click - either for reason or just because - so I'll be able to set tempos for the TF presets before hand and never need to tap it! Right now I'm tapping the DL4 because it doesn't have enough presets and sometimes it's majorly stressful on quick transitions to change what pedals are on and make sure I'm taping beats 3 & 4 as the drummer clicks us in. The EFX will be great for getting rid of noise and cable suck (loops and two buffers) but I'm most excited to just think less about pedals and more about the music.

In other news, I found a guitar teacher to try! He used to play in a band I liked and he's a sick player. I really respect his playing and hope to learn a lot. First lesson is next week, more on that later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What a weekend

I had a long weekend of playing guitar - 4 services between 2 churches and 10 songs to learn (all in keys I'd never played them in and a few songs I had never heard). It was super fun playing at both churches and I learned a lot. Here's what I'm left pondering:

1) The first church had horns (trumpet, trombone and sax) playing with us. I think someone told me that but I totally forgot. Needless to say, horns and lead guitar play basically the same parts and since they had arranged music and written it out, I was the one who had to make room. There was an acoustic and piano playing too, so I found my place in playing rhythm stuff half way up the neck and doing some arpeggiated stuff.

2) The second church had a tiny team, just drums, bass, me, and the leader on acoustic. Bass sang BVG so it was just the four of us. This church tends to rock out and usually has smaller teams but there's almost always keys and I notice when they're gone. It leaves that hole between the acoustic and the higher electric parts. The sustaining chords and vibrato of a B3 patch really fill in, so I made it a point to not leave that gap open. I played with more delay than usual to fill in the pad sound and played chords in a couple places I wouldn't have normally. We played "everything" by Tim Hughes and it was the song I was most worried about sounding empty. I put my DL4 on quarter-note lo res delays and my memory lane (analog) on eighth-notes in series so everything I played delayed on quarters but then those delays delayed on eighths as well. I played a simple eighth-note line and it ended up sounding huge. At one point I got to max the repeats on the DL4 and make a cool oscillation behind a quiet part of the song... I love doing that! I talked to my musically inclined housemate later and he said the music didn't have that usual "empty" spot with the keys missing. Mission accomplished!

3) I had to tackle some musical insecurities. I have this weird perfectionism with playing in front of people. Even if I just have friends over, I don't like playing (performing) anything I haven't practiced. I think this stems from my concert band days where mistakes were only ok when sight reading, the next rehearsal you were expected to have learned it right and by concert time it should be basically memorized and you should be concentrating on the nuances of dynamics and feel, not playing the right notes. When I play electric now, I basically have my parts memorized so I can concentrate on other things. During run-through (first and last time we'd play it before the first service) of "how great is our God" the worship leader says, "Mike, solo." Ok. I know how to solo, I know my scales, I've improves solos with my cover band that were several minutes long, but for some reason my musical perfectionism/insecurities piped up here. The solo was 16 bars - two times through the chorus - which is actually really long for that song. I think soloing in blues at a bar is different than soloing in the middle of a worship song, especially for how long this one was. I felt pressure to not just fill the time with notes but actually take the solo somewhere musically. I really, REALLY, wished I had known about it before right then so I could have come up with something good. I talked to the worship leader before the service and asked if I could cut it in half because I felt it would be easier to come up with something for 8 bars and I explained how I have my weird perfectionism. She basically said no. Haha. She and the bassist said they knew I could do it well and I just needed to do it. I hate trusting my creativity. It's never not come through for me, but it seems like voodoo and I wish I had more control of it. As the solo was approaching I made it a point to stay relaxed or I knew I'd screw it up. I had no plan until about 2 bars before when it hit me to play with the theme from the opening lead line - the one that's behind the first verse and chorus. We were in G so I did some variations on that theme down on the 3rd-7th frets for 8 bars, then slid up to the Em form on the 12th fret and built from there for 8 bars. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. In retrospect if I had spent time coming up with something at home I probably would have landed on the same thing. I need to just trust my creativity in the moment.

4) I think I need to start taking lessons again. I took guitar lessons when I was a kid for a couple years but since then I've learned on my own or from playing with friends and people who are better than me. A lot of my learning has been from necessity, as in I need to learn something for a song I'm playing. That's all fine and dandy but I know there's a lot to guitar that I haven't begun to explore. I think there's a mentality to lessons that they're just for beginners. When I was in concert bands from 5th grade to half way through college I took lessons the entire time. School required them but I also took private lessons most of that time and there was never a time when I was "too good" for lessons, even when I was quite accomplished. I'm not sure why I'm not currently taking guitar lessons. Probably because my parents aren't paying for them!! I think it's time to start again.