1. Play it like you say it. Sometimes one might speak in a low, sexy Barry White voice, like “Heeeeeeeeey baby… how YOU doin’…” Other times, it’s more like ‘ohmygodyoutotallywon’tbelieveitIjustsawagiganticspidereatingachicken” Both are valid forms of communication but you don’t wanna be saying “heybabyhowyoudoinletsgobacktomyvanbythewayyougotrealprettyeyes” when “Heeeeeeeeeey baby…” would do.
2. Play the pick as much as you play the guitar. Experiment with different pick types and grips, and with picking in different areas of the string. Pinch harmonics, percussive clacks, faux-wah sounds, imitation 12-string textures and grinding metal sludge are all yours for the taking.
3. Put the pick down. After you’ve mastered the pick, chuck it into the audience, Yngwie-style, and learn to pick with your fingers. A frequent pick-misplacer in my younger days, I learned to pick with my fingers quite early and developed my own voice that way, much sooner than I developed my ‘pick’ voice. You can hear an example in my song ‘Mistral’ which is played 100% with the fingers (even what sounds like pinch harmonics, using the edge of the thumb and the thumb nail).
4. Train your ear by playing along with the TV. Whether it’s picking out the melody to the Flintstones, adding chords to the Seinfeld closing credits or breaking out of a rut with the Conan O’Brien theme, this is a great way of learning intervals, melody construction, and transcribing.
5. Practice in front of a mirror. No, not guitar hero poses, Johnny Bravo. Watching your hands in a mirror is a great way of checking if your vibrato is smooth and even: if it looks right, it will sound right. Mirrors also help to make the transition from staring at the fretboard to looking out into the audience by reducing reliance on looking directly down at the guitar.
6. Steal from singers. If you’re just starting out on this technique, Ozzy’s phrasing is easy to replicate on guitar, and the way he sings behind the beat and slides between notes is very useful when applied to guitar melodies. After you’ve done that, try to replicate the vibrato of your favourite singers. Extra points if you can nail that Alanis Morissette squealy thing at the end of each phrase.
7. Play with the band, not just at the same time as them. This sounds simple but it can take a while to learn. Lock in with the kick drum, the high hat, the bass player, whatever you need to do to make sure you’re fully aware of the song and your place within it. When I was younger, I found this kind of advice to be boring – why should I focus on the drums when I’m enjoying the sound of a raging guitar amp? But it only takes one good rehearsal or gig to realise that stuff like this makes you sound better.
8. Play your song with PRIDE (Phrasing, Rhythm, Introduction, Dynamics and Endings). This is a lesson my Aunty Barbi, a music teacher, instills in all her students and it’s great advice whether you play guitar, violin, piano or whatever. They’re all obvious, and yet it’s easy to forget one or even all of them in the heat of the moment. Catch the audience’s attention and imagination with the introduction, leave them with a clear sense of finality at the end, and make sure you do everything to keep them there in between.
9. Use gadgets as much as you like, but don’t NEED to use them. It’s all well and good to chain together a dozen pedals and try to replicate the sound of a unicorn belching through a megaphone into the third circle of hell, but a truly well-rounded player should be able to conjur up the same vibe (even though the sound itself might only be attainable through a few feet of transistors) with just their fingers.
10. Do. Or do not. There is no try. This immortal advice comes from Yoda, and whether you’re a whiny little bitch like Luke Skywalker or a seasoned guitar vetaran like Steve Lukather, Yoda’s message is clear, even though his syntax may be a little shaky. If you tell yourself that you can’t play something, you’re probably right. If you tell yourself you can play it, you’re probably right about that too. Check out the book The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green for advice on how to locate that little voice inside you that says “I can’t,” roll him up into a carpet, and throw him into the river.
ABC affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco visited Jason Becker recently for a news story. You can watch the video here. It’s so cool to see Jason still composing (and giving cheeky answers to the interviewer).
During the story they show a few shots of the Paradise Guitars USA Jason Becker signature model.
When I was about 14 I bought the second Cacophony album on cassette, but there was something wrong with the tape and on side 2 the left side of the mix was completely silent. It took years before I found a copy on CD so I could hear what i was missing on that other side of the stereo spectrum! I took my tape to a guitar lesson and played ‘Go Off’ for my teacher and said “I wanna play like that!” He was a great teacher but Jason’s style was a million times removed from his, so I never did learn that song. Maybe it’s time I did.
Discussion time! What are your favourite Jason Becker songs or solos?
Seymour Duncan is a legend in the guitar world. His pickups have been integral in some of the greatest guitar tones in rock history, and his company’s more recent forays into pedals and acoustic guitar processing are already attaining legendary status. I spoke to Seymour Duncan himself, as Evan Skopp, Seymour Duncan’s VP of Marketing and one of the brains behind the company’s new D-TAR brand of acoustic guitar sound solutions.
The D-TAR (Duncan-Turner Acoustic Research) company is a collaborative effort with legendary luthier and amplification expert Rick Turner. Their new Mama Bear processor is a revolutionary device which takes the signal from any acoustic guitar and remodels it to sound like other designs. “Rick has had a kind of legendary career,” Skopp says. “He started off as the guitar player in the Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia, then he was the soundman for the Grateful Dead. He pretty much invented the outdoor amplification concept, founded Alembic instruments, was president of Gibson’s West Coast R&D lab, and also had a guitar company, Turner Guitars. One of the most famous Turner guitars was the model played by Lindsay Buckingham. In a lot of ways Rick is to the acoustic amplification world what Seymour is to the electric amplification world. What Rick brought to this focus group was some really far out and amazing ideas. One of the ideas was that acoustic pickups had pretty much reached maturity in terms of the design, meaning using piezo film was not going to improve that much on the sound of the guitar. You can use secondary sources and EQS, but using current technology we’ve pretty much reached the limit of what we can do. Rick said the future is in the digital realm, because once you take the signal from an acoustic guitar and bring it into the digital realm, you can give it algorithms to do certain things. For instance, you can remove the artefacts that the pickup brings into the digital signal, and as long as you’re doing that you can do additional manipulation, for instance layer the sounds of other guitars.”
Over the years Seymour Duncan has learned from some of the best in the business, and is happy to pass on the knowledge he’s acquired. “When I was eleven or twelve I saw Les Paul in concert and I met him backstage,” he tells. “Les Paul actually explained to me what an electric guitar pickup was, and to this day he remembers that and I have a copy of an interview he did on talkback radio talking about me, this eleven or twelve year old kid that used to hang out and ask him about guitar pickups. When I first came to California I called Leo Fender up and asked him “why did you do this, why did you do that?” I was fascinated by the history of the pickups and how they were made. Here I was, a 16 year old kid asking him about the first Telecaster bass, the Esquire, Jaguar… I was very fortunate to meet people like Leo Fender and Seth Lover. Seth Lover was such a great mentor to me. I’ve interviewed him, and it was very interesting to find out how things were done. People like Leo, Les Paul, Seth Lover and guitar players like Jeff Beck. These guys gave me something and I like to be able to give it back.”
Seymour is the only ‘non-famous-guitarist’ to have a Fender signature model. “I’ve always loved Esquires, so it’s based on my old Esquire. It has a black pick guard, an Esquire maple neck. It had one of my early tapped pickups and special wiring. Jeff Beck has used it many times. It’s one of those guitars that, everybody that plays it loves it.” Skopp, who helped oversee the project, says the Fender Seymour Duncan Signature Esquire features a few of Seymour’s guitar set-up secrets, as well as a specially wound Seymour Duncan pickup. “Seymour’s a great player,” Skopp says. “Midway between Jeff Beck and Danny Gatton.”
One of Seymour Duncan’s most well-known pickup combinations is the JB model in the bridge and the Jazz in the neck. “That’s what I use in my “TeleGib,” Seymour says. “The first set I did for Jeff Beck. That’s neat that guitar, because he used it, Peter Frampton used it. A lot of other guitar players have played this guitar so it’s kinda neat to have a guitar with a conversation piece feel to it, so we give others a chance to play it too.”
This interview originally appeared in Mixdown magazine in 2006.
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CLICK HERE to buy the Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Humbucker Pickup (Black) from Music123.
CLICK HERE to buy the Seymour Duncan SH-2N Jazz Model Pickup (Black) from Music123.
Before you can take an honest look at ‘Chinese Democracy,’ you have to address and then dismiss a few key facts: Yes, the only original member left is Axl Rose; yes, it’s 17years since ‘Use Your Illusion 1 & 2’; no, it’s probably not going to live up to the expectations created by that 17 year wait; and no, you can’t get your free Dr. Pepper unless you’re an American resident. It’s impossible to listen to this album without being aware of its history – starts, stops, hirings, firings, postponement after postponement. But ultimately this context has to be put aside if you have any chance of listening to the album for what it is: 14 songs by the guy who sang ‘Welcome To The Jungle.’
Opening with an atmospheric, chattering soundscape (courtesy of Eric Cardieaux, who has done a lot of work with Joe Satriani), followed by a heavily processed but very much rock-approved guitar riff, Axl suddenly breaks through the din with that famous scream, and the preceding 17 years are all but forgotten. The high notes are still there, and so is the attitude, and sure, the vocals could have been pieced together from studio sessions dating back to 2005, but Axl sounds happy to just be singing again. The sound is updated, semi-industrial, and very, very polished. It sounds like every dollar of the rumoured $14 million or so was used on the recording process rather than private jets and bike shorts.
Track 2, ‘Shackler’s Revenge’ continues, and in fact enhances, the industrial vibe with a pre-chorus straight out of the NIN songbook and a riff which would be at home on Max Cavalera’s Nailbomb side project. Track 3, ‘Better,’ is my frontrunner for song of the year. I can’t get this freaking thing out of my head, and that’s okay with me. Processed guitars and falsetto vocals set up the mood, and some on-the-off-beat guitar rhythms give the verses a sense of propulsion. Wild sweep-picked licks cap off the choruses, and Buckethead throws in a typically unpredictable ear-candy solo. Then NIN guitarist Robin Finck kicks in with a soulful, lyrical solo which reminds me of Ritchie Kotzen’s Telecaster tones and clean phrasing. Compared to the virtuosity of Buckethead and Ron ‘Thal’ Bumblefoot, Finck’s solo is reminiscent of the bluesier spirit Slash brought to the band.
Bumblefoot has a few cool guitar moments scattered throughout the album, as does Buckethead, and Finck can be relied upon for more tasty blues phrasing before the album is through, but for an act that’s so much a part of hard rock history (and with 6 guitarists listed in the credits if you count Axl), there’s less guitar here than you might expect. Around the middle of the album, things get very ‘November Rain.’ There are 4 midtempo piano songs in a row, coloured with varying degrees of drum loops and synth pads, at times sounding like the Bowie-and-electronica-influenced solo album of Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, and at other times recalling the ‘right up-to-date when it was released’ sounds of Sting’s ‘Brand New Day’ album – which would have been great news if Chinese Democracy was released in 2000, but which makes it sound a little dated today. The melodies are carefully crafted and the mood ranges from intimate to epic, and the overall pacing has a bit of a concert vibe (albeit compressed into just over an hour).
Piano time draws to a close and leads to the Zep-ish ‘Riad & The Bedouins,’ which has an almost prog vibe and some crushing guitar riffs, topped off with some classic 70s glam. The proggy vibe continues with ‘Sorry,’ which has a kind of 90s Black Sabbath vibe. Then ‘IRS’ brings in a bit of classic G’n’R rock mixed with more of that Tate-ish vibe. ‘Madagascar’ is another big epic, and one of a bunch of Chinese Democracy songs played on tour over the last few years. ‘This I Love’ is almost contemporary musical theatre with yet more piano and overblown arrangement, and finally ‘Prostitute’ caps off the album with some uptempo drums, soaring vocal melodies, and finally a quiet, peaceful orchestral finish.
‘Chinese Democracy’ may not be the greatest album of all time, but it’s surprisingly coherent despite its eclecticism, and while it comes close to collapsing under the weight of not only public anticipation but also its own overdubbed bloat, it seems to remain on track and provide a compelling listening experience. Sure, it’s not the album G’n’R would have made if Slash, Duff, Izzy, Gilby, Matt, or even Steven Alder were around, and it has its flaws, but if you treat it as an Axl solo album, you may be very pleasantly surprised. Just don’t expect a hard rock album.
With Joe Satriani on tour behind his new album ‘Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock,’ now seems like as good a time as any to have a look at tapping into a little of Satch’s tonal mojo.
Over the years Satch has taken on many tonal guises, and his distortion has come from various sources: Pedal into a clean amp; overdriven power valves; preamp distortion; even direct into a mixing desk and audio plugins in the case of his Engines Of Creation album. So when hunting down Satch tones, the question becomes one of which tone you’re looking to recreate.
A good place to start with any Satch tone is his choice of pickup. Most of the time he uses the Dimarzio FRED model, a medium output unit with a pronounced, vowel-like midrange. He’s also used the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates, as well as his new signature Dimarzio Mo’Joe humbucker, essentially a hotter version of the FRED.
If you don’t have any of these pickups on hand to throw into your guitar, you can approximate a little of the tonal signature of the FRED by using a graphic equalizer pedal as the first element of your signal chain following the guitar. Reel the treble in a little bit and boost the mids and high mids a little. Eventually you’ll find that sweet spot where single notes almost sound like harmonics.
Next we need our distortion. Satch has a signature Vox distortion pedal, the Satchurator, but over the years he’s used a whole batch of different models from various companies, both into clean amp channels and on top of already distorted sounds. Whether you’re getting your distortion from a pedal or an amp, aim for something with enough gain to gently compress notes so you can get the full effect from legato techniques like hammer-ons, pull-offs and tapping. If you need a little more gain than the pedal is capable of dishing out, try goosing the volume of the EQ pedal by a little bit. Turn it too high and you’ll get unwanted noise, but just a few dB should add a little fullness.
Finally you’ll need delay. Again, Satch has used various pedal and rack delay units over the years. Look for something with a tap tempo footswitch so you can align the delay repeats with the tempo of the song (especially on the ballads), and depending on the effect you’re after, you might want to use a more ‘vintage’ toned effect which rolls off the treble of the repeats.
(This article was originally published in Mixdown magazine in June 2008)
Now that the final Toto tour is behind him, Steve Lukather is about to embark on a tour of Europe, hitting Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, the UK, France, Monaco, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Lukather’s band for the tour features Stevie Weingart, Ricky Z, Carlitos DelPuerto and Eric Valentine, and he’ll be playing material from his solo albums and a few new surprises, plus tracks from his recent solo album, Ever Changing Times.
Next week I’ll post my interview with Lukather, where he talks about the final Toto tour, recording Ever Changing Times, and his Ernie Ball/Music Man signature guitar.
STEVE LUKATHER EVER CHANGING TIMES WORLD TOUR 2009:
26 Tivoli, Utretch, Holland
27 Boerderij, Zoetermeer Holland
28 Lantaarn, Hellendorn, Holland
1 La Bonbonniere, Maarstricht, Holland
3 Satzvey Castle, Mechernich, Germany
4 L’Atelier, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
5 The Brook, Southampton, UK
6 Robin 2 , Bilston, Wolverhampton, UK
9 Alhambra, Paris , France
10 L’Usine, Istres, France
11 Moods , Monte Carlo, Monaco
13 Triebhaus, Innsbruck, Austria
14 Roter Saal, Speilberg, Austria
15 Forum, Gleisdorf, Austria
16 Rockhaus , Salzburg, Austria
17 Szene, Vienna, Austria
19 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, Czech Republic
21 Conrad Sohm, Dornbirn, Austria
22 Z7, Prattelen, Switzerland
23 Specktrum, Ausburg, Germany
25 LKA, Stuttgart, Germany
26 Zeche, Bochum, Germany
27 Blues Garage , Isernhagen, Germany
29 Frankfurterhof, Mainz, Germany
30 Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
WebLinks: www.stevelukather.net / www.myspace.com/stevelukatheronline.
RACER X will perform at the 2009 NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, which will be held January 15-18 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.
Commented RACER X guitarist Paul Gilbert: “Ibanez guitars is celebrating the 20th anniversary of my PGM guitar with a concert at the NAMM show.”
The concert will take place on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at the Sheraton Park Ballroom and will not be open to the public.
Paul said, “It is very exciting for me to be the featured artist for Ibanez this year, so I am glad that I can do something special for this concert. I can’t think of anything better than a killer set of RACER X!” He added, “I can’t wait to play some killer heavy metal with my favorite metal band!”
Andy Timmons and his band will open the show, followed by a solo set from Paul Gilbert, and finally RACER X. The RACER X lineup will consist of Paul Gilbert, Scott Travis (JUDAS PRIEST), Jeff Martin (BADLANDS, MSG) and John Alderete (THE MARS VOLTA).
The last RACER X performance in the U.S. was held on May 25, 2001. It was filmed for the live DVD “Live At The Whisky – Snowball Of Doom”.
Check out this gorgeous Manzer-Metheny Singature 6, a collaboration between Canadian luthier, Linda Manzer and legendary jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny. The guitar is a recreation of Pat’s Linda 6 guitar, which was made in 1982.
The Metheny-Manzer Signature 6 features the same craftsmanship of the original model including:
German Spruce Top/Indian Rosewood Back and Sides
Ebony Fingerboard, Bridge, Peghead Plate
Pearl Engraved Banner with Black Pearl Inlays spilling down the fingerboard based on artwork by Pat Metheny
The “Manzer Wedge” (originally designed for the Pat Metheny Pikasso guitar)
Copper Neck Side Markers with Phosphorescent Center featuring a Diamond 7th Fret Side Dot
Thumb Rest/Neck Groove
Only 30 guitars will be made. Each will be numbered and signed by Pat Metheny and Linda Manzer, along with a signed certificate, a deluxe handmade Calton Case and a signed and numbered photo book documenting the creation of the instrument/
If you want one, you’ll need a $10,000 non-refundable deposit. The total price is $32,000.
Rush has just released their Snakes & Arrows DVD, and fans are speculating that clues given by singer/bass player Geddy Lee in an interview with Billboard magazine (read about it here on the Rush Is A Band blog) are a hint that the band may be reaching the end of its life as a touring entity.
According to the interview,
… Lee says “Snakes & Arrows Live” will have to hold Rush fans over for a while. The trio is currently “on a break” and “a little burnt out right now,” though he has every confidence there will be another Rush album in the future.
“I think we’re gonna stay quiet for awhile and then start writing — when we’re going to start writing I can’t say just yet,” Lee notes. “It may be in the fall, maybe the spring, maybe the following spring. But eventually we’ll start writing some songs and recording them, and hopefully that will be followed up by another tour down the road a couple years from now.”
Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy has seemingly backed up reports Rush may play one final tour in 2011. Portnoy mentions on his forum that he was at a taping of Eddie Trunk’s ‘The Metal Show’ on VH1 Classic. Mike writes:
I was called once again to bless the audience with my presence at a taping of this new show that will be on VH-1 Classic in Nov/Dec.
Today they shot two shows and the guests on the first show were Geddy and Alex. It was pretty cool, as we were waiting outside a limo pulled up and they both walked out. I think I may have said, “Holy Shit it Geddy!” and some guy behind me thought Alex was Mr. Peart which caused a series of frantic texts and calls to friends.
They were very reserved on the show although they did mention that there would be “one more tour”. Alex made a funny quip about how “there’s drugs backstage… like aspirin, cholesterol medicine, etc.” Geddy mentioned how between sets he “checks on baseball scores”.
It was pretty cool, so I thought I’d share.
Guitarist Steve Turner is an RJM endorser, and he talked about his RJM switching system when I interviewed him a few months ago. You can see the full interview here and visit Steve’s site here, but here’s what he had to say about his rig:
At the moment I am using their base model Amp Gizmo. You could think of it as an interface between your midi floor board and your non midi guitar amplifier. RJM make a bunch of different cables to connect the Amp Gizmo to the pedal input of your amp so it can be used with all sorts of guitar amplifiers.
You basically tell the Amp Gizmo what each midi patch will do to your amplifier. When you select a particular patch it triggers your amp mode, solo boost, effects loop or whatever else your amp can do via standard pedal input.
For guys out there struggling with multiple foot controllers this should really be ringing some alarm bells… It also has a ‘midi through’ to connect to whatever other midi gear you are running. From one midi floor board I can control my effects processor as well as the switchable settings on my Mesa Boogie. I don’t need to run the separate Mesa Boogie amp controller floor board anymore as the Amp Gizmo replaces everything it does. I control my amp features via midi. Amp and effects changes that used to take me three or four foot taps now take only one. When I am singing I don’t have the luxury of being able to look at my feet and perform an elaborate tap dance. Actually, dancing is not something I can do at the best of times! I would rather grab a beer and watch the ladies go for it.
I struck up a friendship with Ron from RJM and when I expressed an interest in upgrading to the RG-16 and Mastermind floor board he offered me an artist endorsement. The RG-16 does everything the Amp Gizmo does but also has 8 effects loops through which I will be able to run my analog pedals.
Once I integrate the RG-16 to my live rack I will be able to use my analog pedals and have everything – the amplifier, the effects processor and my individual pedals –controlled via the Mastermind midi controller and RG-16. Allan Holdsworth and Dweezil Zappa use RJM so that has to say something about the quality and design!