Stuff I bought on my lunch break

I just nipped out for a break and decided to hit up a nearby guitar store for some goodies, since I’m about to record a bunch of stuff and I haven’t changed strings in what seems like an eternity. Here’s what I got:

D’Addario EXL120

D'Addario EXL120 6-Pack of Electric Guitar Strings with D Addario Pint Glass

Yep, 9-42 strings. However, It was a 3 pack, not the 6 pack with bonus ‘I Heart My Strings’ pint glass pictured here. I used to use 10-52 gauge strings, but I just don’t get to play for hours and hours a day any more, and I found that my fingers were suffering a bit with thicker strings. So I’ve shifted down to 9-42s. They sound wimpier and less manly than 10-52s, but what can you do?

GHS Fast Fret

GHS Fast-Fret String Cleaner

I’ve never used this stuff before, but I’ve heard good things about it. It smells like clean, and it’s supposed to prolong string life, condition your fretboard and make ya play faster. I think it also takes out the rubbish on bin night, finds your missing cat, and tells you whether to hold ’em or fold ’em in poker. We’ll see.

Dunlop Jazz III picks

Dunlop Jazz III XL Guitar Picks 6-Pack

These things are the bane of my life: I love ‘em to death but they seem to be gradually taking over my house. Despite having a trillion of them, I can never find one when I need it, so I’m going to stash these in the little pick box that came free with a recent issue of Total Guitar, and keep it next to the computer.

Dunlop Big Stubby 3mm
Dunlop 475 Big Stubby Guitar Picks 3.0MM 6-Pack
I have one of these picks still kicking around which I got for Christmas in 1993. I remember using that pick when I first sat down to learn Joe Satriani’s ‘Summer Song,’ so I forever associate this pick with that song. There’s a bit of a Satch ‘The Extremist’ feel on some of the stuff I’m working on at the moment, so I thought I’d pick up some more of these picks, probably just for the sake of vibe. They’re freaking huge and unwieldy.

If you wanna buy any of this stuff, here are some links:

D’Addario EXL120 6-Pack of Electric Guitar Strings with D Addario Pint Glass

GHS Fast-Fret String Cleaner

Dunlop Jazz III XL Guitar Picks 6-Pack

Dunlop 475 Big Stubby Guitar Picks 3.0MM 6-Pack

NAMM 2009: Electro-Harmonix Voice Box

I first read about this on the Twitter feed of, so make sure you go check out that very cool site.

Here’s the new Electro-Harmonix Voice Box, a combined harmonizer and vocoder. Want!!!

Take it away, press release:

The Voice Box packs a multi-functional vocal synth processor into a tough and compact chassis. Sing, and you’ll have a troupe of backup singers following you in perfect harmony. Or use the built-in vocoder to unleash classic synth-robot sounds. Diana Ross had the Supremes, Brian Wilson had the Beach Boys, Kraftwerk had The Robots. You have the Voice Box.

The harmony processor creates 2- to 4-part harmonies directly from your vocals, in the same key as your accompanying instrument. Studio-quality reverb lets you independently add depth to your dry and harmony vocals.

The focused 256-band articulate vocoder, designed by the same EMS genius who made vocoding famous, features adjustable harmonic enhancement and controllable formant shift.

Plug in your mic and your instrument, and let your new voice — or voices — be heard!

Harmonically matches any electric instrument you plug into it

Professional quality pitch shifting algorithm produces realistic harmonies

The Low & High Harmony independently produces two harmony notes: 3rd and 5th

9 accessible programmable presets

Natural GlissandoGender Bender knob allows for male/female formant modification

Built-In Mic Pre with Phantom Power & Gain Switch

Balanced XLR Line Output: Interface directly with any mixing board or A/D converter

US96DC-200BI power supply included

Read more at the Electro-Harmonix website.

While you’re there, check out this very interesting article about their Golden Throat talkbox.

CLICK HERE to see talk boxes on eBay.

CLICK HERE to buy the Danelectro Free Speech Talk Box from Musician’s Friend

CLICK HERE to buy the Dunlop Heil Talk Box from Music123

CLICK HERE to buy the Rocktron Banshee Talk Box from Music123

NEWS: Unreleased 1977 Thin Lizzy live album on the way

Get ready for another serve of classic twin-guitar rock awesomeness, as VH-1 Classics Records releases a 1977 live recording of Thin Lizzy.

Entitled ‘Still Dangerous,’ the album is out on March 3. It was recorded on the band’s sold-out 1977 ‘Bad Reputation tour, and captures the classic quartet of Lynott, Downey, Gorham and Robertson the celebrated Tower Theatre in Philadelphia.

Unlike the classic Live And Dangerous album, which the band admits was heavily overdubbed (with the exception of ‘Southbound,’ which was recorded at a soundcheck, only the drums and the audience on that album were from the actual concerts), Still Dangerous is 100% pure, unadulterated, live Thin Lizzy.

‘Still Dangerous’ features three songs that never made the ‘Live & Dangerous’ release, and all of these performances are previously unreleased. The album was mixed by the legendary Glyn Johns (Led Zeppelin, Joe Satriani), with contributions from Scott Gorham and Brian Downey.

VH1’s ‘The Leak’ and AOL Music will be streaming the entire album surrounding the week of release, and ‘Still Dangerous’ will be available digitally, on CD & limited edition vinyl.

More information at Thin Lizzy’s website.

NAMM 2009: Vox Night Train

Recording guitarists and bedroom jammers alike have long known the glories of cranking the bejesus out of a low-watt valve amp. Evidently Vox knows this too, because this year they’re introducing the NT15H Night Train amp head, designed to capture that Vox sonic mojo without getting you evicted.

No only that: It also looks like a toaster.

Here’s the press release:

VOX Amplification has joined forces with legendary amp designer Tony Bruno to introduce the NT15H “Night Train,” a 15-Watt, all-tube guitar amplifier head offering both classic and new VOX tones in a compact, portable design. A collaboration between the VOX R&D team and Bruno, this all-tube head weighs less than 17 pounds and boasts an “armored box” design for stunning all-tube tone on the go.

A pair of EL84 tubes deliver 15 Watts of power, as two 12AX7 tubes drive the harmonically rich preamp stage to deliver clarity and definition, from chime-like cleans to warm overdrives. A toggle switch lets users select between Pentode or Triode tube operation. In Pentode mode, Night Train delivers a full 15 Watts. In the Triode mode, the power is cut to 7.5 Watts. The Triode mode also relaxes the tube power stage, providing a smoother, mellower tube character.

The Night Train’s appearance is as striking as its tone, with a mirrored chrome finish and signature VOX diamond design that not only ventilates the amplifier but provides a striking view of the all-tube circuit within. The front panel controls are clear and simple, offering traditional chicken head pointer knobs for Gain, Volume, Treble, Middle and Bass. The preamp section features a mode switch, offering both Bright and Thick options. The Bright mode produces an articulate tone that ranges from clean to crunch; the Thick setting bypasses the tone circuit to boost the gain and create a chunkier, heavier sound suited to higher gain applications. Legendary guitar amp builder Tony Bruno played an integral role in the voicing of this new amp.

Equipped with both 8-Ohm and 16-Ohm speaker jacks, the Night Train can be used with nearly any speaker cabinet.

The VOX NT15H “Night Train” 15-Watt Amplifier Head will be available in January 2009, with a U.S. MSRP of $800.00.

For more information, visit their web site at

FEATURE: How to play in a band, Part 2

Last week we looked at some gear-related tips for young rock gods playing in a band for the first time – things like making your sound fit in with the rest of the band, and coping with the kind of volume levels you might encounter in a proper band situation, instead of jamming along to your iPod in your lounge room.

Writing last week’s article got me thinking about my early days playing with other musicians. The first time I played with a drummer was when I was in Year 7. I dragged along my 3-watt practice amp and $50 distortion pedal, cranked the amp to what was probably only a little louder than speaking volume, and was blessed with a horrendous, buzzy, scratchy little tone that did nothing for my early confidence as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Guitarist. Flash forward to 10th Grade and I auditioned for a covers band featuring local guitar hero Jamie Payet. The rest of the guys were a bit older than me, and since he was already a seasoned pro, I learned some very valuable things from Jamie about adjusting my playing to fit a band context. I didn’t end up sticking with the band – study pressures ate away at my ability to be anything but a miseryguts that year so I jumped ship, and it wasn’t until later that I got to put into practice all the great stuff I learned in rehearsal.

These days, Jamie is a recording and live audio engineer and a guitarist, who works for the European speaker company KV2 Audio and still plays gigs regularly. I asked him to revisit some of the advice he gave me back then.

“Do not play overly loud! This allows you to actually hear what the others in the band are doing,” Jamie says. “Play as loud as the drums, no louder! You need to also consider the singer may not have good monitors and even if they had, they usually have to turn up and compete with everything on stage or in a rehearsal room. I have found in the years of playing, if you want loud, face the amp away from the rest of the band. Sure it may not be cool in terms of showing off your cool quad box set up, but you will make much more friends on and off stage.”

Jamie advises that unless you are going to play on big stages or you are a touring act go with a 30 to 50 watt amp. “I use a 40 watt valve amp and still get told to turn down,” he says. “Look for tone and not volume. In order to get good tone you often need lots of volume, hence a lower wattage amp is the key. Volume can turn to mush at crazy loud levels.”

The most important thing I learned in that covers band was how to listen to the other musicians: to play as part of the unit, rather than just play the same song at roughly the same time as them. “Listen, listen, listen,” Jamie says. “That is the key. Listen to what you are playing, listen to what the other musicians are playing, listen to what experienced guys tell you, listen to your sound guy, he is your key to an awesome sound! This advice may sound a little corny or odd or I sound like your dad, but this is the key to success.”

Jamie learned a lot of these tricks in his days playing in bands as a teenager. “My early gigs were pretty simple in terms of production, musicianship and experience. I was 14 at the time and for a bunch of kids who were in an era where pub rock was at its best, it was a great learning curve. We suffered the same as all young bands go through, we overplayed a lot, had little concept of locking in as a group, we played way too loud and we didn’t listen; everything most teenage musicians still do! I was fortunate to then play in a band with older guys when I was 18 years old which was such a great learning curve for me in terms of making music a career.”

Jamie’s advice for young guitarists is: “Be yourself! If you follow a trend you end up being like everyone else. Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Tommy Emmanuel are examples of guitarists who bring attitude to the stage. One of my favorite quotes is from Alex Van Halen (yep a drummer!) ‘When you go out on the stage you go and play like it will be your last.’ I guess like anything in life if you do not have passion it aint worth doing.”

Jamie’s last word of advice is: “Learn to be a musician before you become a superstar. There are to many superstars who haven’t become musicians yet.”

This article was originally published in Mixdown Magazine in May 2008.

SPARKLY GUITAR WEEK: Day 5 – Gretsches

So far all the sparkly guitars of Sparkly Guitar Week have been single examples, but Gretsch has championed the cause of the sparkly guitar so thoroughly that I’m just gonna cite them generally. Pictured is a Sparkle Jet (photo originally from This model is still available today, although they’re certainly not the most common Gretsch on the racks. CLICK HERE to see the page for this model and colour (somewhat unsubtly titled ‘green sparkle’ on the official Gretsch website. 

Another notable and highly visible Gretsch is the Silver Jet model used by KT Tunstall. KT’s Silver Jet has a different bridge than the Bigsby unit that comes standard on the current Gretsch model, (which is based on the early 60s version of the Silver Jet) but the vibe is still very much there, as is the sparkle.