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: electric guitar

Back at it

I returned to the untitled riff rocker after last week's diversion for "Christmas Armistice" (a profitable one).  I managed to put together a fairly acceptable framework for the song and I recorded rhythm tracks on both the Tele and Les Paul. Using my standard wet/dry (AxeFx/SPDIF DI) approach, at any given time there up to 12 rhythm tracks. All together it's a bunch of mush, so I started some basic editing. I used my new(ish) best friends for mixing Neutron 2 and Ozone 8. The track assistant is perfect for artist oriented "producers" like myself. It's quickly become my go to solution for at least the initial rough mix so I can just hear how the song is shaping up.

I will return to the old school approach to mixing (well, digitally at least. I'm not going to get a console and tape machine) here in the future, it's still what I'm currently majoring at Berklee and I don't want to get lazy about the real art of producing and mixing. That being said, I chose production at Berklee because at the time the only other option was music business. As I've stated before I plan to add Guitar for the dual major once I put together an audition. 

Back to the riff rocker, I wrote basic verse and chorus vocal melodies yesterday and I'm pretty happy with them. I think they work pretty well with the tune, and it almost felt like the tune was written around them instead of the reverse. Now I need to write the lyrics and then record the vocals. My old friend Mike (Paramedic, Bassist, Rush Fan) had offered to help on a future project, so I'm going to try and get him to record a bass line for the tune. We'll see how that goes. I'm sure he can up with something much better (and more bass centric) than I can. 

Riff Rocker Untitled

Resumed working on a long dormant riff that I've actually had for many years. I put together a basic structure of the song several months ago (I think). I'm not sure when I got the time to patch together this very rough cut but the arrangement was pretty close to how I intend to keep it. I laid down several passes at the various parts on the Les Paul. I think I understand how many bands prefer to demo songs while on tour before they hit the studio to record them. Just messing around with the song for a few days has brought new ideas, plus it's helped the performance with the extra practice. 

Yesterday, my intent was just to get all the rhythm guitar parts finished and then maybe double track those with my Strat. I got sidetracked during the solo part and went ahead and started making some passes at that. I built on a solo idea I'd had started when I put together the first rough cut. I like the structure okay, but I need to practice it and I'll probably make a few tweaks to it before it's done. I played it on my Les paul, but I may try it on the various guitars to see if I have a preference.

After I've got a decent rough demo of the guitars I'll work on the bassline. Perhaps counterintuitive to how many songs are put together, but this song was written on the guitar so I decided to work on that first. I'm going to try and write and perform on the actual bass guitar this time. The last song was all written in midi and I never played the bass on it. This song is essentially just guitars, bass and drums. I'm leaning towards writing vocal melodies and lyrics and that will be the next big effort. 

Mark Knopfler - Dallas 2015

Still a bit gobsmacked with how good Mark Knopfler and band were last night. It’s all a product of Mark’s brilliant songwriting, arrangement, playing, production, and most of all his imagination. Mark is a storyteller in the truest sense and he inhabits his characters to a depth not unlike Kate Bush or Tom Waits. I often feel like he understands American and World culture and history better than most of the natives.

His band are monsters on their respective instruments, and in most cases that’s three or more instruments each. The tour lineup includes Mark Knopfler (guitar, vocals), Guy Fletcher (keyboards), Richard Bennett (guitar), Glenn Worf (bass), Jim Cox (piano, organ, accordion), Ian Thomas (drums), John McCusker (violin, cittern), Michael McGoldrick (whistles, uilleann pipes), and Nigel Hitchcock (saxophone).

This band can cover any genre and create any dynamic. Majestic is a great old venue (I’m deliberately not talking about the seats), and the sound was excellent. High marks for the Dallas audience as they all seemed to be real Knopfler fans and not just the socialites that sometimes inundate these shows (not looking at you, ATT PAC). Another really cool feature of this and the last few tours is that Mark offers the board recordings on little guitar shaped USB sticks a few months after the show. As this was a great performance (even according to Richard Bennett on his blog), this live recording should be a keeper.

For the gear heads: Mark played a variety of strats, I think the classic old Les Paul from the BIA era, the resonator made famous from the album cover, his old Pensa Suhr (on the second half of Telegraph Road, and shit yes, he played Telegraph Road), a steel string acoustic, and the Danelectro pictured here. Great feature on Mark’s most important guitars on SkyArts from a few years ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=9&v=27OT_FSWrIE

  1. Broken Bones 

  2. Corned Beef City 

  3. Privateering 

  4. Father and Son 

  5. Hill Farmer's Blues 

  6. Skydiver 

  7. She's Gone (with Nigel Hitchcock)

  8. Your Latest Trick  (Dire Straits song) (with Nigel Hitchcock)

  9. Romeo and Juliet  (Dire Straits song) (with Nigel Hitchcock)

  10. Sultans of Swing 

    (Dire Straits song)

  11. Mighty Man 

  12. Postcards from Paraguay 

  13. Marbletown 

  14. Speedway at Nazareth 

  15. Telegraph Road  (Dire Straits song)

  16. Encore:
  17. So Far Away  (Dire Straits song)

  18. Going Home: Theme from Local Hero  (with Nigel Hitchcock)

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.