Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Done for now! I used the board on Saturday for a rehersal and Sunday night at church. My favorite part is how the Musicom sends MIDI changes to the time factor to call up presets. The musicom is super easy to use and I was able to make changes on the fly on Sunday when we rehearsed. Even changing the tempo of a song wasn't too hard. Good deal. Here are new pics, click to enlarge:

(with room for a TIM [within weeks!] or other OD on the left)

(showing how stealth the wires/cables are)

(Lava Cable for the win! Nothing else would have fit like this)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ode to my housemates

I live with three guys I've know for years in a big house that we rent. The living situation is great but lately I realized how lucky I am to live with these guys. Here are a couple quotes that emphasize my point:

"Whoa" - Joe M. said as we were watching "out of my mind" on the the new John Mayer DVD (Where the Light is - which is AWESOME! Go get it). I respond, "What, how he just bent the 2nd up to the 3rd even though though it's not in the blues scale but works over the I7 chord? Oh so tasty." "No, that fill!" said Joe - a drummer. I talk to so many guitar players I forget other musicians listen and watch for different things. Joe's played drums since before I knew how to whistle and while he's the most technical and musical drummer I've ever played with, he's also the only one I've ever know to obsess over drum tone. TONE. He doesn't just hit it, he doesn't just hit it in the sweet spot, he hits it in the place where it gets the specific tone he wants at that moment. He'll spend a day auditioning cymbals like I will auditioning overdrives and he hears the difference between new and vintage cymbals - when they used to rib both sides before they "refined" the process, as he would say. Among other things, he reminds me to listen to other parts of the song and lock in.

"[some profound explanation]" ok, that's a lame quote but I'll explain. My other housemate, Ryan, has played violin since he was a kid and picked up bass few years ago. He's also managed to become a super good sound engineer, both live and in the studio. He's the smartest person I know and music/physics/the art of mixing just make sense to him. My lame quote could be one of the numerous answers he's give me to sound questions or just something he said in conversation when we're talking music. He's helped me EQ my gear and taught me to make it sound good in the context of a full band, not just in the basement by myself. He never thinks of my tone my it's self, always in context of drums, bass, vox, acoustic, etc., like it's one of the channels in his mixer soloed.

"What makes this guitar $1,000 better than your old one?" Haha. Joe W. keeps me honest from time to time. He has thousands of dollars of audio equipment in his room though, so he can't give me too much crap. Joe and I used to build speaker cabinets together in high school and basically anything that looks good on my new pedal board is because he helped or did it for me! He has an electronic degree which means he knows the secrets to how pedals work. We almost built a buffer together but that's been it so far.

This is just a small number of reasons why I'm lucky to live with these guys and I happened to base all these around music/guitar but they're a huge blessing in lots of areas, not just music!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The posts that no one read

I'm shamelessly plugging my blog on my own blog. I think I missed the point, but here goes. The very first thing I wrote on this blog was "Fitting into the band" parts 1-4. It was kind of the reason I started this blog in the first place and is like my thesis of playing guitar. Back when I wrote it my co-worker was the only one who read them so I'm rehashing. If you haven't ventured back 6 months in blog posts, here are the originals:

fitting into the band - part 1 - making a song

fitting into the band - part 2 - knowing when and when not to play

fitting into the band - part 3 - knowing our role

fitting into the band - part 4 - Moving as a band

Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting there!!

As of last night, my pedal board is tolexed and I have the plexi cut to size. I still need to attach the plexi, attach the PP2 to the bottom, velcro pedals, and wire the whole thing. Wiring is going to be a beast. Since I'm using effects loops for everything I need something like 19 cables and 38 plugs. I'm using the new right-angle solderless plugs from Lava and ELC mini cable. I needed tiny plugs to fit in the musicom effects switcher so lava won even though it cost a bit more. here's what the board looks like:
(click to enlarge)

I didn't put all the pedals on for the picture (don't even have some of them yet!) but here's how it should turn out:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Used gear

There's a saying, "Buy used, play for free." What it means is, when you buy used gear, you can often sell it for the same price you paid. Aside from shipping it didn't cost you anything to play with that gear for a while.

I've been going through more gear lately... sometimes just buying stuff to hear what it sounds like with no real intention of keeping it! It'd be ridiculous to pay full price and turn around and sell it for 30% less so I've fallen in love with buying used. It's a little more work and often involves waiting longer, but it's worth it to save the chedda (yes I use 90's hip hop slang).

Today I realized I have all these sites tucked away for finding deals so I figured I'd share em. You probably have sites that aren't on my list... so help me out and tell me what they are!!

My used gear sites:

www.Thegearpage.net used gear emporium
www.guitarcenter.com (used gear)

and my local shops that probably won't help you!

What are yours?

Friday, October 10, 2008


Ever since I got my Musicom EFX I've known I needed to build as new pedal board to fit it. I was going to wait for the TIM pedal to come so I could fit everything together, but my old pedal board started acting up. I accidentally used some low heat solder that came with one of my solder guns. Apparently that solder melts at 118°F so it melted in my trunk of my car on a hot summer day. I touched up the solder but ever since then things have been bonky. One night at practice (thankfully not a gig) my board just stopped making noise or would stutter like a hard term was on. I checked the cables and it still didn't work. Finally I gave the pedal board a solid kick and suddenly it worked again. That was the end of the line. Gear shouldn't need to be kicked to work correctly. So that night I ripped the board apart and threw away the cables. Since then I've been bringing a grocery bag full of the pedals I need to each gig. That little mishap sped up my decision to build a new board, so last week I started working on it.

I got a great deal on a road case that was accidentally made the wrong size. At a minimum I needed 13"x24.5" and this case has internal dimensions of 14x28. Close enough and at 50% the cost of a new case, I decided to go with it. I figured I'd put 1x4s on each side of the board to take up some room and leave 1/2 an inch on each side for wiggle room. That left 13.5"x26" of board space which is pretty much perfect. My old board was flat with the PP2 and cables on top but this one I decided to make a wedge in the style of Pumaboards or Trailer Trash so I can put power below and run cables underneath.

So far I have the board built and sanded. I still need to tolex the sides (marshall green to match my cab) and put black plexi over the top. It kind of looks like crap at the moment, but it will look much better with tolex and plexi!! The top board especially look bad because I decided to reuse my old pedal board - cut and velcro removed. I could have gotten a new sheet of plywood but I like the idea of recycling and using the only piece of MDF I've even put my pedals on over the years :) As a side note, 3M velcro will never fall off. I had to yank it up with a pliers and it ripped the paint right off the board.

Here's the board as a work in progress. Hopefully by next weekend it will be done and ready for wiring!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Max Hsu

I have a confession, I feel like I suck at guitar right now. Lessons have been great and I'm learning a lot, but the biggest change has been that I realize how little I know about guitar. I had kind of assumed I knew around 80% of everything there is to know about guitar and that last 20% has hazy and stuff I could get by without. Well, since lessons started I've realized I know more like 20%... at least it feels that way. I had also gotten used to being able to play basically anything I tried to play, but now I'm running into limits with speed and things like sweep picking that are really slow going. I also ran into my own junk, like letting guitar define me. All those things kind of culminated last week and I decided to not to play for a week or so. It was good to just let it be. When I decided to play again it was good to just play for fun. My drummer housemate and I jammed for a couple hours. I didn't worry about playing wrong notes or thinking through the theory of what I was playing, I just jammed. Making music is fun. End of story. If I get to the point where I'm playing or practicing for some other reason I need to stop and reevaluate. That's not to say practicing will always be fun, but my goad of practicing should be to allow myself to have fun making music as a result. Not so people will be impressed with me or for bragging rights or whatever.

So why is this post titled Max Hsu? He's a producer, the keyboardist for Superchic[k], a song writer, and darn good photographer. He also writes a blog I've been reading for a few years. He really believes in chasing your dreams and working at it. His writings have been a major source of musical inspiration and I'm not sure where I'd be at without them. I decided to read through some of his old posts today for some more inspiration and I decided they're worth sharing. Here are some quotes and links to blogs you should really read!

If talent is an issue, than get someone to help you or teach you. Ask around. I am one of the least talented musicians in the biz, but I make up for it with effort. Remember, success requires 2 of the following 3 things, talent, passion or discipline. I believe I got here on passion and discipline. You can too. It might be hard getting started, but that only makes the story better and you will discover what courage and character you have.

Life is Uphill - On working at it (anything) even though it's hard.
Starting Badly - On writing songs
Good is the enemy of great. Planning is the enemy of doing. Palpatine is the enemy of Yoda. - On getting stuck in the planning stage of chasing your dream
Just Showing up - 90% of being successful is just showing up.

Check out the rest of his blog, it's all good stuff! http://homepage.mac.com/maxwax11/iblog/ or use the link on my blog roll, it's been there since the start!