strumzilla

​A blog/journal about my life and the stuff I like. Popular subjects include music, guitars, gear, books, movies, video games, technology, humor.

Filtering by Tag: acoustic guitar

Letter From Home Practice

I’m trying to slowly get back into the groove after the previously discussed elbow issue. This is an excerpt of me practicing Letter From Home (Jason Vieaux arrangement of the Pat Metheny song). It’s recorded with a Fuji XT-3 using the onboard mic, so the sound is a bit inferior and noisy compared to my usual condensers. The final version will be with a good condenser mic or two and I’m thinking I’ll use this as my audition for the Berklee Online guitar program.

Christmas Armistice

Last week was a reasonably successful week from a songwriting standpoint. I had to write a song for my acoustic guitar class final, so I endeavored to write and record the song/video within that one week. I had noodled a simple counterpoint idea (my first) on the keys a few weeks before and thought that might be useful. 

I ended up using that as the chorus and in short order came up with a basic chord progression for the intro, verses and chorus. It's a really simple tune in that sense, basically in A minor with occasional non diatonic wanderings. I ended up also coming up with a harmony line for the chorus melody and that's definitely an area I intend to explore further. Lots of untapped potential in counterpoint and harmony. I'm taking a basic rhythm section arranging course next semester, but I'm planning on taking a counterpoint course in the future. 

Since recording the instrumental version of this tune, I was inspired to pen some lyrics and so now I plan on recording a version with vocals in the near future. This tune was a nice surprise because I actually had people talking about how the song made them feel, which is a first for me. That's really the point, though. Causing an emotional reaction with music is all I can really hope to achieve. Complex and impressive arrangements are fun and I'll pursue those tunes as well, but as a listener I'm always drawn to those songs that make me feel something. I have loved all the technical players I've seen live, but nothing has connected as strongly as a show like David Gilmour, Father John Misty, or Tommy Emmanuel (he straddles that line, but it's his simpler and more emotive tunes that mean the most). 

Christmas Armistice

And in the bitter cold, they laid their weapons on the frozen snow
All quiet on the western front
Foes laughed and sang, then prayed
For peace a toast was raised
A fragile truce they did construct

And in the bitter cold, they laid their weapons on the frozen snow
A respite from the wars to come
A fleeting bloodless day
Brittle bonds doomed to decay
To doubt and fear they would succumb...

A new domain, a new semester and Father John Misty

Sauntering into October, and fall can't be more welcome. The news cycle is a continuous barrage of gloom, doom and cheeto in chief's continuous upstaging of the last unbelievably stupid and callous comment or decision he made. It's impossible to process in real time, so I disconnect. Luckily I've had some great music by which to achieve this, including one of the better shows in a long time, Father John Misty at The Bomb Factory. I went with a group of friends including the brothers Garrett who originally turned me on to him. He's an old soul, wrapped in beautiful nihilism laden with gallows humor in a sumptuous sonic feast. Some of the best new music I've heard in years. No rest for the weary music fan as I begin pre-loading for prog titans King Crimson in a few weeks. 

I'm hoping for an email from a domain registrar to offer my long sought after domain for pyramidgrid.com. I've been trying for a few years since the name occurred to me and it's about to come available. I'm not sure how the current registrar got my information, but I received an email indicating it would be up for sale soon, so I'm trying to complete the purchase. This will be my ostensibly prog group name/page, not sure exactly how I'm going divide up my songs as an artist at present since I don't have enough of a catalog of songs to really worry about it yet. A concern for another day. 

I just started the fall semester at Berklee last week and it's already proving fruitful. I'm taking a harmony class as well as acoustic guitar techniques. We jumped right into alternate tunings the first week and it's proven inspirational for composition. Our first assignment was to post an original song using the tunings and I had already jotted down a basic idea while noodling. It's a short song in open D tuning that I plan on developing further in the future. A good week. 

New Gear Updates

Since the last gear update (L6 Variax, if I recall) I've added a few new pieces. I bought a new acoustic amp (Roland AC33) that I was planning to use during my first gig since we thought we would be playing outside and I needed something that could run on batteries. After attempting to play guitar during an August afternoon in Texas I prevailed on my mother to have the service indoors. Along with the amp I bought a preamp/IR modeler from Fishman called the Aura Spectrum. It's basic function is to recreate the sonic characteristics of various acoustic guitars and it also functions as a preamp, providing volume, tone, and compression controls. It has actually done wonders for the straight piezo sound by warming it up and adding a fullness to the tone that I couldn't previously create even with the AxeFx (it's probably possible, but would need a lot more tweakage).

The Roland is a good little amp, although in a small room it definitely as some mid/low feedback problems. Both the Roland and Fishman have feedback defeat circuits and even using these combined with a soundhole cover on my Maton weren't enough to eliminate the feedback entirely. I think this would be a non issue in bigger or more absorptive rooms, but I decided not to chance it and just played straight acoustic during the gig.

Not too long after that I saw Pete Thorn demoing the Matrix amps GT1000 and GT800 models. These are solid state flat response power amps designed to be used with the Axe Fx and other high quality modelers. Pete is the ultimate gear demo man since he's well spoken, concise, has chops for days, and always picks little song excerpts and licks that you would see yourself playing. Whenever he demos a product I always see the "What if" scenario played out to the fullest. So that means I usually end up buying the gear he demos if it's something I was considering. (I don't buy everything I see him demo, I would be broke if that were the case). The main motivation for getting this amp was that I still have a Mesa 4x12 cabinet that I custom ordered from Sweetwater at the same time I had purchased a Mesa Mark V. As luck would have it, I also got the AxeFx at the same time and quickly realized I had no need for a separate amp head. I was able to return the Amp head, but the cabinet was a custom order and couldn't be sent back.

I had been toying with the idea of selling the cab on Ebay for several months but I decided I really wanted to get the Axe setup like a regular rig. So far I've been pretty happy with it. I don't know yet if the Mesa Stiletto is the long term cab for me or not, but I like having the isolated guitar sound coming from one amp and believe me, this thing can get LOUD. I have only turned the volume on the Matrix to about 20% of it's range and it's already pushing the "pissing off the neighbors" range. It should be plenty for a band, even with a loud drummer.

Gig Report

I'm trying to think of a way that could sound more pretentious, but I think I nailed it right there. For lack of a better term, I played my first gig (ever) as a musician this past Saturday. It was for a sitting room only crowd of 15 family, friends, and general well wishers. I played acoustic guitar while my sister Debbie sang Amazing Grace, followed by my niece Heather on Over the Rainbow and finally with How Great Thou Art (Carrie Underwood version) with Debbie on lead vocals and Heather singing harmony.

I played modified versions of the Tommy Emmanuel arrangements of AG and OTR. It was a memorial service for our grandmother Nonie who passed away last month at the age of 85. It went pretty well, there were no big mistakes and everyone seemed to appreciate the effort. Heather was temporarily overcome with emotion while singing OTR because she said made eye contact with our audience and they were all crying and that set her off. It made the moment more emotional and poignant. I studiously looked at the guitar and didn't look at audience. I don't know if I would have become overly emotional, but I could have easily lost track of where I was in the song.

I know I didn't play it as well as I would want, but it went okay and there were no glaring errors made. Somewhere in there I started to actually disconnect from the mechanics and feel the emotion of the songs. I can say that details are hard to recall, it was mostly a blur. I want to get out and perform again but I'm not sure if I want to pursue the solo acoustic path or electric guitar in a rock band path first. I want to do both, but I'm a little more inclined to rock right now. I need to keep working on my set list of known songs so I have something to offer any potential bands. I'm more inclined to play with a covers band, at least at first.