Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Big day for gear!

I ordered the OCD from since their videos have been so helpful in checking out new gear - I felt like I should repay them with some business. It came in the mail today but I haven't had a chance to get home yet. Can't wait!

If you're keeping up with the blog you'd know I've also been waiting to get an eventide timefactor but wanted to wait till it was on sale somewhere. After 5 weeks of paciently waiting, Musicians Friend announced a 15% sale that included the time factor. I jumped around for a minute, then ordered it!

Once I get a call from Paul saying the TIM is done I'll be set on all the stuff I've been waiting for since May. According to Paul's predictions, my TIM should be done in September... getting closer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Game

I'm learning a lot of cool things in my lessons so I thought I'd share a good one that everyone can benefit from - The Game. It's a speed game where you set your metronome (you have one, right?) at 80 bpm and play the major scale - two octaves up and down - at eighth notes, ie two notes per beat. That should be pretty easy to do. Then bump the metronome up 4-5 bpm and do it again. Keep speeding up until you can't keep up. Play a couple times at your fastest speed, then stop. Wait a couple hours or till the next day and start at 80 again.

I've never worked on speed before, I've never really seen the point. I have no ambition to shred or play speed metal and I've always been able to play fast enough for any song I've tackled. Good news though, between my teachers explanation and me seeing the actual results, I've come to realize this game isn't about speed - it's about technique. The reason you get to a certain bmp and can't play faster is because you're left hand is in an inefficient position, you're picking isn't perfect, or you're left hand/right hand coordination is off. The more you play the game the more your hands will naturally figure out what they need to do. I've always known I keep my fingers too far off the strings when I play scales and I've noticed I subconsciously changed my wrist position and keep my fingers closer now. Pretty cool! You're also guaranteed to see the results of faster bpms which is a little more tangible than other things we practice.

As of yesterday I'm up to 212 bpm. My goal is 232! You'll be surprised how fast you see results. Just keep it up at least once a day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

EQing an amp

I've learned a bit about EQing (setting up the bass, mid and treble) an amp over the years. I've made some pretty big mistakes and learned some good tricks that I'd like to share:

Mistake #1: EQing the amp so it sounds good if I'm the only one playing.
The goal with EQing an amp is to make it sound good through a sound system in the context of a full band playing. When you're setting up your amp it's tempting to make it sound great as an individual instrument. The result will be a warm sound with a lot of bass that will sound great when you practice, but won't cut through the mix when a band is playing. This goes back to knowing your roll in the band - it's the bassist job to lay down the low end, not yours. If you're both adding bass things will get muddy fast. I don't like the tone of my tube screamer when I play by myself, but when the band is going strong it cuts right through and does it's job perfectly. I had kind of known this, but it got hammered back into my head a few weeks ago when I was EQing my amp for the new scumback speakers. I had my housemate, who's a great live sound engineer and also a bassist, give me a second pair of ears. He gave my amp less bass than I would have but I realized he was setting it for what he wants to hear coming out of a sound system so he can mix it with the rest of the band, not setting it so it sounds great on it's own. Brilliant.

Mistake #2: Not listening to what's really coming out of the speaker.
I used to do this too. I'd be standing with my head 4 feet above my amp and think to myself, "I don't hear enough highs," so I'd bend over and boost the treble. The problem with this is that guitar speakers shoot strait out like a laser. This illustrates the problem:

If you're listening from outside the "sweet spot" it's going to sound different... and most importantly it's going to sound different than what the mike is picking up right in front of the amp. When EQing the amp, make sure you're listening to the sweet spot. Either bend down and listen, or tilt the amp back so it's shooting at your ear.

The important things are that you're EQing 1) for the mike and 2) to fit into the band. Happy EQing!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Whoops, haven't written in a while

I realized I haven't written in a while so here are three ideas in one post:

My Scumback speakers finally came a few weeks ago! They sound fantastic!! I like how they sound in my open back cab too. The combination of G12T-75s and my closed back 2x12 made for some muddy bass but the Scumback's in the open back are super clear. While my head is Marshall and the scumback's are voiced like vintage greenback's, I think the open back mixes in a bit of Fender or Vox character - which is a good thing, especially for the cleans. Between the scumback's and the buffer I got (have I mentioned that yet? I got a micro-buffer 2 from doob tone that added a significant amount of clarity and punch to my cable-suck) everything is much clearer.

I think this clarity surprised me. Suddenly I can hear a lot of nuances in my playing that were blurred before. Previously, I had thought those nuances were only heard on acoustic guitar. I actually had it in my head that acoustic tone was about nuances and electric tone was about other things... like interacting with effects and overdrive. I've been pretty amazed to hear the tiny details that used to be lost on my electric ringing through clearly. It's like the best of both worlds. It also forces me to play better as I can't get away with slop!

Still waiting on a few pedals. The TIM is scheduled to be done in September sometime. I've saved enough to get the Fulltone OCD and Eventide Time Factor but I'm waiting for a deal. Musicians friend has deals once in a while where you spend a certain amount and get some off, or guitar center will mail a 15% off coupon. I'm being patient and spending my money wisely even though I really want the stuff now!!

I started taking lessons from Alex Moreno - a local guitarist who used to play in a band (secret solution - check out "june") I used to like. He's a great guitarist and I've been really impressed so far. I was relying too much on the pentatonic scale so the first thing he had me do was learn the major scale and all it's modes. If you name a key I can now play every note on the fretboard that fits the key - something I couldn't do before. Right now it's just scales but I'm assuming we're going to do something like the CAGED system to incorporate chords and really open up the neck. Even though it's just scales, it's been fun. And it has me playing everyday - I've noticed for any instrument and even voice, if I play everyday I improve much faster. If I go a few days without playing I take a small step backwards.