Xotic EP Booster

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

So a few days I ago I had a shot of a fantastic set-up (fellow guitarist in a great covers band), including a Victory V30 amp and some great pedals. Two pedals that stood out were made by Xotic – the EP Booster (boost pedal) and the SP Compressor.

 

Yesterday I went to my local store with the intention of buying the compressor, but walked out with the EP booster. I’m sure I’ll get that compressor at some point… I can’t help but feel using a compressor is cheating a little bit. But the punchy sound you can get out of them really is great.

 

In any case, the EP Booster… I’ve already got a boost pedal. However if you read about this pedal online, you’ll know many use it simply as an “always-on” pedal. Why? Even at its lowest setting (no boost) this pedal colours your sound in the most fantastic way – it’s like the missing link in “tone”… and believe me, I hate saying that, because I’m not a big gear-head or some “tone-searcher”… but it’s undeniable. Check one out for yourself, and hopefully I can do a video soon. For now, this has replaced my TC Flashback (I just don’t use delay or looping often).

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Halestorm

Monday, March 21st, 2016

So the band are doing a rock version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and we checked out Halestorm’s version, which is cool. I have to admit, I’d never heard of them before. I went  on to listen to their own albums and wow wow WOW…. SERIOUSLY amazing. The female singer is absolutely fantastic. Gritty, raw, totally awesome. The whole of the new album “Into the Wild Life” (pictured below) is just SO fantastic. Being stuck in an 80s time warp, I don’t get too inspired by more recent music but this has lit a fire inside me I haven’t had since I heard Appetite for Destruction all those years ago. Check them out!!

 

 

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New Monitors

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

So I’ve put it off for so long, thinking I could get by with headphones (admittedly the Audio Technica M40X’s I bought are amazing – cheaper than the more popular M50X yet better IMO – a flatter frequency response) but as soon as I turned on my new monitors, I realised how wrong I was (Audio Technica’s are pictured below). Very wrong. If you plan on doing any mixing or mastering, get yourself a pair of decent monitors. I’ve gone for Genelec 8010s as they “fit” my set-up. I know, I’m breaking a cardinal rule by having my set-up in the corner of a room but that’s what I have to work with just now.

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I initially had a pair of Adam A3X’s which were great, however they were too large and a tad boomy. The Genelecs are small and have adjustable controls to suit the room – perfect!

Unfortunately for some songs that were mixed some time ago and have a tad too much chorus on the guitars… I have lost the master files, so they’ll just have to do. I have a day job, you know! However it’s good news for tracks I’m currently working on.

 

Things I love about these are the size, the amazing sound (there is enough bass, believe it or not), the iso-pod feet (no need for isolation pads), the light weight, speaker grilles (to prevent cone damage) and the controls on the back (bass adjustment etc).

 

Here are pictures of my set-up!

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Compare to the Adams A3X below (plus iso pads) and you’ll see why I’m preferring the Genelecs. The Adams were great, though – no doubt about it.

 

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Whistle Binkies Gig Photos

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Many thanks to Whistle Binkies (Edinburgh) for hosting us! Gaz was a great sound guy.

My middle fretting hand finger start to bleed under the nail half way through – rock and roll! Then all of a sudden a photographer came in to take photos. Add the free soft drink we got as a rider and yeah, we totally made it 😉 Great photos by Waysted Photography below.

 

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Opium Gig Photos

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

A couple new photos from a recent rock gig in Edinburgh. Thanks to Opium (Edinburgh) for having us. Dino was a great sound guy and the organiser was awesome!

 

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Tank Engine

Monday, February 8th, 2016

At one band practice I came up with funny pseudonyms for each of our members. One of our singers said something about “Thomas the Tank Engine” and then just “Tank” and I thought “yeah, I like that….. Tommy the Tank Six String”….

 

If I think about it, I am a bit of a tank. Powering through this album, a one man freight train… Seriously, I’ve had my good friend Paul play bass on a few tracks and help with some drums & rhythm guitar, but otherwise “the Tank” has done songwriting, lead and rhythm guitars, bass, drums, vocals, effects, learned how to use the audio sequencer, learned how to program drums (and to some pre-recorded rubato guitar parts which is no short and no easy task…), created this website, learned how to use several video editors, how to use a higher-end camera, create a YouTube channel, created my soundcloud, researched distribution/marketing strategies and some legalities associated with album release, created my logo, acquired professional YouTube intro videos tailored to my channel, bought some very expensive gear, learnt a lot about mixing & mastering and the general “audio process,” and the list goes on. And all that while holding down a day job, having a life, being in a band, and doing a whole host of other things.

 

One of my favourite film series is Rocky. Balboa gets up very early and just grinds through the tasks he knows he has to do to get where he wants to be. “The Tank” might not get up at 4am, but the late-night grafting involved has been phenomenal. Perhaps I should name the album “Balboa.”

 

One of the bad things about this whole process is that all this stuff that I’m having to do really detracts from time available to actually sit down and play guitar. Unless this album is successful (and considering the dire state of the music business and peoples’ taste in music these days…) it might be many, many years before I attempt something like this again. Not because of lack of ambition or desire but due to the sheer energy and time that are involved. Perhaps if more help were available next time… heaven knows I have enough existing material and ideas for more than one other album sitting in the memory bank.

 

Ciao for now!

 

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Wish Her Well!

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Up until last week things were progressing nicely. I put down more drum tracks and bass for a few more songs. Then I found out that my cherished partner had been diagnosed with cancer… We are hoping for the best but until she is back to good health, the foot will be taken off the gas regarding anything guitar related.

 

Fingers crossed for my loved one!

 

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New Pickup Day!

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

So I swapped the pickups in my violet PRS from covered 59/09s to uncovered 85/15s. The syrupy/wah-type quack I get from the 57/08s isn’t quite there but the sound is less muffled, harmonics ring out more easily, I can hear every note in a chord (very articulate) – it’s been a good decision. Here are some pictures!

 

 

And now, a video to match!

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Fretboard Navigation

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

Shiver me timbers, we’ve got to navigate this fretboard!

 

I’m not going to go into all the basic theory because there are a “bazillion” references out there. I’ll try to keep this concise.

 

The core musical constructs I use are the (major scale) modes (I actually learned these first!), the pentatonic shapes and arpeggios. I dabble in others but those are the core elements.

 

Here’s the main tip. Learn how to play in any key starting both from the root note starting on the A string and the E string. So say you have to play in E minor. You can go up to the 12 fret on the E string(s) and play the shapes you’d like. Let’s take E dorian, as an example. If you want to play E dorian around the 7th fret area, I (personally) remember that E dorian in the 7th fret area is super-imposed over the B Aeolian shape (referencing B on the low/high-E string at 7th fret).

 

Similarly, if I wanted to play E lydian in the 7th fret area I know it is super-imposed over B major in the 7th fret area.

 

This covers a LOT of fretboard ground when you know the shapes to either side, as well. You can then progress to find the root note anywhere on the fretboard and know which shape to play for any given mode or pentatonic etc you want.

 

Hope that makes sense!

 

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More Technique Tips

Monday, January 4th, 2016

Remember the two main points which will vastly accelerate your technique:

  • –  wherever you feel tension, hone in on it and eradicate it.

 

  • –  always “follow through” with motions (which in turn makes things feel natural and less tense). Think about a golfer – full swing back and follow-through once the ball is hit (no, I don’t play or watch golf).

 

These two above points will force your technique into something very natural feeling, where you barely have to think about it. Makes sense, right? Why would you want your playing to feel unnatural?

 

If you practised for 10, 000 hours you’d be a monster player. You have it in you, already! Why not get there sooner? Every one of you is already a guitar legend – you just have to work smart in order to get there. There are certain ways to do things and when you do it’s like a light-bulb has gone off. Follow the above two points in general and you should advance faster than normal.

A lot of people have trouble with their pinkies when it comes to legato. I see their hands look so cramped! They think that if a passage is fast it’s difficult – their brains go into overdrive and it all turns into a disaster. Let me tell you, when you can do it, it’s not so difficult (duh!). It should almost be like walking on air… smooth and free-flowing with no tension. But to get there don’t be afraid to DIG IN and make mistakes. If you are scared of hitting wrong notes, tensing your hand up and not following through with motions, you’ll never improve. So, to the pinky. When you play up at the high frets, what does it do? I bet all your fingers try to squeeze together, right? So your pinky moves toward your forefinger? Don’t do that! Keep your pinky such that it naturally pushes out to the right of your hand. You want natural feelings (not sexual healing – get practising, instead!!), not to be forcing your fingers into positions you think they ought to go. Feel free to ask questions on this.

 

Now, picking… Focus on the STRONG muscle motions. This usually means your DOWN PICKS! For an age I focused so much on my up picks that I neglected my down picks, they became weak. I do not advise this. You want to keep the strong motions strong and everything else will follow from that. Try to pick as much as you can from the wrist – that’s the bit that is capable of the widest motion and has the most strength. For so long I focused on how it felt for the thumb to push through the string during a down stroke  and yet for the upstroke it was like the thumb had to drag itself back. Not good enough – follow the thumb back to the biggest muscle or motion mover or whatever you want to call it – and that’s the wrist. That doesn’t mean follow it back to the forearm – forearm movement isn’t really desired. Why? Because of upward and downward pick slanting and how you have to change the slant depending on where your pick is relative to the strings and what lines you are playing (inside / outside picking etc) – the best way to change the slant is to change your wrist so I say do it all in the wrist. Yes, this “pick-slanting” might sound like an alien language but it’s true. I may elaborate in future but in the meantime I highly recommend you check out Troy Grady’s video series which explains this in length (and is very entertaining). And note I am not talking about angling the pick at 45 degrees in order to dig into the strings and provide less resistance when picking – that is something entirely different.

 

Lastly, don’t take anything anybody else says as gospel as players are always developing. Try things out and see if they work for you…

 

Next up? A little theory (fretboard navigation and my unique way of doing it). Until then…!

 

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