Monday, March 29

Bits and Pieces

I'm watching some Cardinals spring training (no idea how incredibly excited I am for baseball season!), and decided that I have some spare time, so time to give my neglected blog some love!

In my last post, I put up a new 'board picture, which hasn't changed just to change; I'll be playing a lot of electric actually out of my house in a Mass-type environment, so booyah. The actual chain is: Guitar -> Vox Wah (modded for True Bypass) -> Digitech Hardwire Chromatic Tuner -> Strymon OB. 1 Compressor -> Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET -> Keeley DS-1 Distortion -> Boss GE-7 EQ-> Voodoo Labs Tremolo -> Ernie Ball Volume pedal -> Boss DD-7 Digital Delay (with Boss FS-5U for tap tempo) -> Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler -> Fender Blues Jr.

New additions include: Line 6 DL4 and Strymon OB.1. I got the DL4 in a trade; I got rid of my Epiphone Valve Jr. which has been seeing virtually no playing time for about 6 months now, and picked up a pedal that, while likely not the end-all, be-all delay pedal, is really quite good, really versatile, and has been used by a lot of the artists that I'll be emulating in playing worship guitar. The new compressor is, in a word, great. I don't have a lot of compressor experience, but I do like how it can go from subtle to apparent (but not super squished), and putting it before my 'drives gives me options in terms of shades of dirtiness with the three differently voiced clean boosts. At extreme settings, it makes a nice way to turn a dirty rhythm part (via the Fulldrive) into a great lead boost with just a stomp or two.

I've also been using my G&L ASAT a lot more exclusively, and I've really grown to love the tone. I'll always be on the lookout for a great Tele, (in addition to a great Les Paul, a great ES-335, a great Les Paul Jr...), but I like this one's sound. It's definitely not a Tele, despite all appearances, but rather, it's warmer. The middle setting is great and complex (and lets me get away with not having a chorus on my board), and the bridge can get a lot of the Telecaster twang, but without ice-picking it. The tone pot is also great, giving me usable tones on pretty much the entire spectrum. My Strat will always have a place, and will never leave me, but I think my G&L is going to be my No. 1, at least for the time being.

One other notable sweet-McAwesome things I've been playing with; I love my EQ pedal. It's just a stock Boss GE-7, but I love the versatility you get from having a stompable EQ. Right now, it's being used to give me that sweet "suck" tone that's semi-popular in indie and emo music nowadays. I'm just going to call it my "telephone" pedal, because that's what it sounds like on this setting (boost the 1.6KHz, cut everything else) is like a really lo-fi, far away sort of sound, and it's just fun. But I mean, think about the versatility; I've used the GE-7 as a clean boost, in this setting, or it can be used to fix any problem frequencies or sweeten your tone, give you sparkle, give you clarity, fix your boost, whatever you want to do. It is a pretty crappy buffer, and this being literally every pedal I own that I'd use for electric, I'm starting to perceive a bad sort of tone sucking, but there are some potential solutions on the horizon.

Probably the coolest solution, at least as far as I've seen, is the Carl Martin Octaswitch. I like the idea of being able to take the pedals I already own and like, and programming them to be able to turn one stomp into a sound. It's not as versatile in terms of on-the-fly changes as having a bypass strip, but enough preparation would make that mostly obsolete, or at least, a lot less common than having a good preset. And it's true bypass (or has a buffer if you'd like), so it will give me the least number of pedals and cable for each situation. I do think that some tone-sucking is actually a positive thing; Jimi Hendrix did some things with effects that should have just killed his tone, but only the insane would say that his tone was bad. But I'm also running like three times as many pedals as Jimi Hendrix ever did, so there's a lot more stuff to get in the way of tone.

So basically, if I had a grand lying around, I could get a great pedalboard (I love the PedalTrain boards, so I'm looking at the Pro, which would neatly fit everything I've got now and an Octaswitch, and also have a rolling hard-case), a new power supply to power my DL4 (I'm using batteries right now, and it makes me nervous), a switcher, and maybe even upgrade my patch cables, but that one's less important since, like I said, I actually like a little bit of suck. Anyone want to make donations? Tax refund is on the way...but I should probably pay down some debt first...

Thursday, March 11

New Music Tuesday: Awakening: Passion 2010

Going to be a few more days until I get to review my next bit of gear, so here's a teaser post!


It's a little fuzzy. I mean, it's "artsy". Booyah.

As of 10:00 this morning, I didn't have a piano. Now I do. For free. That's right, I have an entire other instrument to play now. Isn't Craigslist just the best?

It needs a tuning, and it's certainly not the most beautiful instrument ever created (it seems to have lived a hard life, or as hard as life can be as a piano), but it's a start. I'm really excited to learn my theory all over again (practice makes perfect) and to see all of the different things that the piano is going to bring to my music and composition. And, come on. It's a piano. AWESOME!!!

2) Because I have a sickness, a Strymon OB.1 is on the way. It will probably be getting here right about the time that I'm leaving town for Kansas City for the weekend, but once I put it through it's paces, you'll hear about it. Karl has already raved about it, so it comes highly recommended.

3) The unseasonable warmth has left me little choice but to drive with the windows down, sun-roof open, blasting the new Passion 2010 CD Awakening. Proof that God loves us. See also, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Anyway, consider this a mini review of Awakening:

Favorite new song: Our God (Tomlin)
Songs destined for worship: Our God (Tomlin), You Alone Can Rescue (Redman), Where the Spirit of the Lord is (Tomlin and Nockels)
Brought-me-to-tears-beautiful (both during the weekend and while listening recently): Healing is in Your Hands (Nockels)
Great version of recently released song: How He Loves (Crowder)
Taking Me Back-song: With Everything (Hillsong United)

A note on that last one; Hillsong had two concerts for the late-night sessions, and we were in the second one. This recording is from that second one. This is the last song they played. There's a break where the crowd starts up with the war cry. They start off kind of weak, but then it solidifies like the third time through. That's the moment when I started singing. You can hear me on the CD. That's how intense of a moment it was. Hundreds of feet from the crowd mics. Just an absolutely incredible moment in time, and now it's captured forever so I can listen to it whenever I want and remember how I felt. Just incredible.

As you can see, there's no way I can be objective with it, but to me, the CD sounds perfectly mixed, and is so close to what I remember experiencing during the weekend that it's as if they were standing next to me with a microphone all weekend long. I'm always amazed by what a live sound engineer can do, and way, way more impressed when that engineer manages to capture the sound and feel of a live performance onto a recording without losing anything, and to me, it feels like that's what Awakening is. Again, I can't hear any of these songs without having flashbacks, so perhaps I'm just way too close to it, but I highly, highly recommend you go iTunes it. At the very least, get the ones that I said are destined to be used by the church corporate, because you're probably going to be hearing them soon anyway.

Thursday, March 4

Gig: Artisan Caffe, March 5th

So I guess bit of information I can add to the collective knowledge of the internet is this: whenever I have a gig, I'll post my setup! If I get a lot of gigs, as I'm hoping, that might not be practical, but as of now I can at least let you know how it's going down.

So, for my first post, here's the setup, except imagine it in a coffee shop, rather than my basement:

I'll be mostly on acoustic, but I do have two songs (I'm Gonna Find Another You - John Mayer, and I Shall Not Walk Alone - Ben Harper) that I'll play some sweet, sweet, solo electric on. Speaking of, has anyone else noticed that you can get a real soulful, jazzy, bluesy clean tone from engaging the neck and middle pickups and playing it clean? I don't usually like the mid-pickup settings, I find them to be kind of gimmicky-sounding, but it's exactly the tone I was looking for on the Ben Harper song. When I'm playing softly, finger-style, it's smooth and soulful, with no quack. Interesting. In either case, my electric setup is just, real simply, Strat -> tuner -> Blues Jr., and it's exactly what I need.

The other interesting thing I can talk about is my pedalboard for this event.

It's not too much changed from what I'd consider a standard acoustic pedalboard, at least not too different from what I'll usually run, but the chain is Breedlove -> Fishman Aura -> Boss GE-7 -> Ernie Ball Volume Pedal -> Boss DD-7 (with tap tempo) -> PA. The DD-7 is being used solely for it's looping capabilities, and I'm using the GE-7 exactly as it's shown, giving me a slight boost and adding some upper frequencies to give me a nice, cutting tone for adding in some lead lines over a loop. For instance, I'm trying to mimic an harmonica when I do "Shelter From the Storm" by Dylan, or just trying to add some mandolin-like lines into some of my various folk songs. The Aura pedal is always on, and the volume will let me control, well, my volume, as I need a big, bassy sound for finger-picking, but it quickly gets to be way too much when strumming. Simply playing with the volume works perfectly, giving me defined chords at a lesser volume and a big finger-picked sound at full-volume. And also, I'm doing Glen Hansard's Say it To Me Now, so I'll be cutting the guitar's volume completely at that point, and yelling without a mic. It's going to be great!

Anyway, I've got two and a half hours to fill tomorrow night, so wish me luck!