NAMM 2010: Reverend Reeves Gabrels signature

When I was 16 probably my greatest guitar hero was… actually it was Steve Vai. But my second-greatest was the unfathomably incredible Reeves Gabrels. I fell in love with Reeves’ playing on David Bowie’s 1.Outside album – check out his amazing Fripp-on-shrooms solo in ‘A Small Plot of Land.’ I was also blown away by his playing on Tin Machine II, especially the snaky melodies of ‘Shopping For Girls.’

Reeves has used many different guitars throughout his career, including Steinberger and Parker models, but now he’s working with Reverend. Here’s the press release about this new sig. I’ll make sure to check it out in person at NAMM in a couple of days

Reeves Gabrels to Unveil new Reverend Signature Guitar at NAMM
January 11, 2010

David Bowie/Tin Machine/solo guitar legend Reeves Gabrels will be appearing at the Reverend booth to unveil his new signature electric guitar. Gabrels will also be performing in the Allstar Guitar Night Concert on Saturday night. Visit the Reverend booth for concert details.

The new guitar fulfills Reeve’s desire for a guitar that can cover everything from high-gain shred to avant garde rock to heavy blues. The uncovered Reverend bridge humbucker and Dimarzio Fast Track 1 neck pickup deliver clarity with power, and the push-pull phase switch adds unique tone options. Other key features include a solid korina body, flame maple top, 25.5″ bolt-on maple neck, Pin-Lock tuners, and Bass Contour control. Available in Trans Red, or Trans Black. List: $1199, Street $999.

Visit the Reverend booth (#1372) for appearance schedule.

LINK: Reverend Guitars

NEWS: Reeves Gabrels tour diary for Guitar Player

Head on over to the Music Player forums to see Reeves Gabrels’ new tour diary for Guitar Player! The first update is on now, and Reeves will write a diary entry each day of the 10-day, 10-city tour.

Here’s a snippet:

15 July 2009 — Greetings. This is the first report from ten shows in ten cities in ten days by Reeves Gabrels and his Imaginary Friends. This summer mini-tour is my first time on the road since recovering from lyme disease, and it’s a different world. GUITAR PLAYER Editor Michael Molenda thought it would be interesting to share what it’s like to tour in the present economic climate and music industry maelstrom. A saner group of people quite possibly wouldn’t bother, but my imaginary friends and I just like playing live too much to do the sensible thing.

And I also found this to be particularly interesting:

I’m playing through a Koch 50-watt combo with one 12-inch speaker and a Mesa/Boogie Rectifier cabinet with two 12-inch speakers. As a spare — in case I should run into any unexpected amplifier problems — I have my trusty Crate Powerblock. I brought three guitars: a soon-to-be-announced Reverend signature model, a Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster, and my Fernandes with a sustainer and a 1967 Telecaster neck. I don’t usually bring three guitars, but I’m treating myself.

Reverend signature model? Wha? Whoa!

CLICK HERE to read more and make sure you check back daily.

Reeves has been a huge influence on the weirder side of my guitar playing, ever since I got into Bowie through the album 1.Outside. You should totally check out his album Rockonica.

LESSON: 5 Singers You Should Totally Steal From

One of the coolest techniques for expanding your guitar style is to copy other instruments – this is why you’ll sometimes find articles on I Heart Guitar about keyboard players, f’rinstance – but there’s probably no more expressive instrument than the human voice. When I was in high school one of my favourite things in the world was to chuck my bag in the corner, crank up my amp and play along with the vocal melody to David Bowie’s ‘A Small Plot Of Land’ from his ‘1.Outside’ album. It’s a pretty obscure track and you’ll probably have to dig pretty deep into iTunes to find it, but it’s well worth it, not only for Bowie’s killer phrasing and some very atmospheric Brian Eno production, but also for Reeves Gabrels’s really out-there guitar playing.

However I think the reason I became so entranced with this particular song as a guitar exercise was because the vocal melody included a lot of sustained notes, as well as a few small phrases with quieter dynamics than the rest, and a few notes that sort of drifted over the bar lines and behind the beat. It taught me a lot about leaving space in a melody, and about applying progressively wide vibrato over the course of a note, instead of the same level of vibrato over the whole thing.

CLICK HERE to buy the David Bowie Box from Amazon.com, including 1.Outside, Earthling, Hours, Heathen, and Reality plus bonus discs for each album.

So with this in mind, here’s a countdown of five other songs that I’ve found are good for copying vocal phrasing:

5. Black Sabbath – Changes.

Ozzy’s phrasing is relatively straightforward and is a good starting point for this technique. He tends to stick quite faithfully to the pulse of the song rather than messing about with the rhythm too much, and a lot of his melodies seem to be based on pentatonic scales. In Changes, there’s a lot of space between each phrase, and there are a few notes that he slides, which you can choose to mimic either by sliding from fret to fret or by bending.

CLICK HERE to buy the Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978 box set from Amazon.com.

4. Led Zeppelin – We’re Gonna Groove.

This is a good one for trying to get underneath some very staccato rhythms. Plant tends to hold the same note for a steady stream of words at a few points in this song, and it’s a challenge to use different pick attack, vibrato and slide techniques on guitar to make up for the fact that you’re playing the same note over and over again. A vocalist can get away with this a lot easier because they can change the word, but a guitarist has to be a little more resourceful.

CLICK HERE to buy the Led Zeppelin – Complete Studio Recordings box set from Amazon.com.

3. Alanis Morrissette – You Oughta Know.

I know, I know, this might seem like an odd choice, but y’know that thing Alanis used to do (she seemed to grow out of it after a few years) where she would finish a line and her voice would kind of jump to a high (and sometimes out of key) note? This can translate quite well to guitar, especially if you use it to go to a note that’s actually in the key of the song. You can use various techniques to hit these extra notes: harmonics, tapping, or, under the right circumstances, feedback. Find a spot near your amp where you get the same feedback note whenever you take your hands off the guitar, and soon you’ll be able to conjure that note at will.

CLICK HERE to buy Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill from Amazon.com.

2. Living Colour – Ignorance Is Bliss.

While the melody itself isn’t particularly crazy, this one is a little more out-there in terms of phrasing, with Corey Glover often holding a note until the last possible beat before dropping down to another note for the next syllable. There are also some very tricky vocal slides which translate really well to bends. You’ll also have to tackle the same “What the hell do I do when the vocalist sings different words using the same note?” issue as ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ in the ‘Ignorance is no excuse’ section.

CLICK HERE to buy Living Colour’s Stain from Amazon.com.

1. Devin Townsend Band – Storm.

Devin’s metal screams and growls are some of the best in the biz, but his melodic singing is particularly amazing. This song features some great phrasing where he finishes each line with a note which slides down while he also applies vibrato. This technique is very tricky but for those with whammy bar-equipped guitars there are two ways to accomplish it: either apply the vibrato with your fretting hand and drop the pitch with the whammy bar, or slide the note down the neck with your fretting hand while using the bar to achieve the vibrato. Devin ends the song with an octave-higher, slightly on the edge restatement of the verse melody, and it’s here that the sheer range and emotion of his voice is in full flight. Check out the bit from 3:40 to 3:50. It’s extremely difficult to copy on guitar, as he slides from one note to another, and then to another, all on the same word, but such full-on pitch manipulation is very rewarding when you get it right, and these skills can then be applied to your own material.

CLICK HERE to buy the Devin Townsend Band’s Accelerated Evolution from Amazon.com.

FEATURE: Festival Survival Guide

Whether you’re playing a Battle of the Bands with your dad as your roadie, or playing the Big Day Out with a pro tech at your side, there are certain similarities to the kind of gear you need. The key to playing on any multi-band bill is foresight. What songs are you going to play? What tunings are they in? What effects do you need? What’s going to happen while you’re changing guitars? What happens if you bust a string?

The first thing you need to do is decide on a set list. Especially in the case of travelling festivals, you need to travel light, sometimes purely for the sake of practicality, sometimes due to the high cost of lugging gear around, so if you’re not going to use that toolbox-sized vintage Echoplex or the Leslie rotating speaker cabinet for the songs you’re going to play, it’s a good idea to rationalise your amp needs. This also applies to those guys who take a full rack and twin speaker cabinets along to a pub gig.

The same goes for stomp boxes. Think about what you really need. Is the audience really going to need to hear 5 flavours of distortion if you can’t tell the difference between 3 of them when a band is playing? Can you make things run a little more smoothly if you construct a mini-me version of your pedal board?

A good solution for this problem is, of course, a multi effects unit. When I’m not in a stompbox frame of mind, my preference is the Boss GT-8, because you can use a feature called the “4 cable method” which allows you to place your amp’s preamp anywhere in the GT-8’s signal chain. This means you can still use your amp’s own distortion, while placing gain effects like wah wah and overdrive before your preamp, and time-based effects like delay and reverb after it. The GT-8 also allows you to change your amp’s channels from within effects patches. If your set list is set in stone, you can program each song as a separate patch in chronological order, and name each patch after the song you need it for. As an added bonus you don’t need to do an elaborate tap-dance before each song. Just cue up the next patch and all your effects are ready to go, along with the appropriate amp channel and delay time.

In the late 90s David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels used a Parker Fly guitar direct into a Roland VG-8 modelling system via a MIDI pickup. This allowed him to model everything from amps and pedals to guitars and pickup selections all at the touch of a button. It also meant he didn’t have to take speaker cabinets on tour at all, cutting down on haulage costs. The VG-8 even allowed him to change tunings within the unit with the tap of a foot, and it could be plugged directly into the front of house desk for a perfect reading of the programmed sounds. One final bonus of this system was that he could just copy his sounds and plug them into another VG-8 anywhere in the world if his broke down.

I find it’s best to group songs according to guitar tuning, just to reduce the amount of time spent messing around on stage swapping guitars. Make sure you have a backup for each tuning if you can, or, if that’s not possible, a non-tremolo guitar with medium gauge strings that can easily and quickly be retuned in an emergency.

One thing to remember in a festival environment is that even though you’re playing for a huge number of people, you don’t need to hit every pair of ears with your amp. A small combo with a microphone in front of it may get lost in the din, but even a 2X12 combo can be enough to fill a stadium. As with any gig situation, concentrate on getting your sound, and leave it up to the engineers to get it to the crowd via the PA system. Once again, make sure you have a backup if you can. Many players like to keep a multi effects pedal ready to go with rough approximations of their sounds programmed in, even if they regularly use a valve amp stack, so they can still play even if the worst happens and an amp explodes in a hail of sparks.
Finally, if you’re playing on a festival bill, don’t be a diva. If it’s a small gig and the back line is already provided, don’t hassle the soundman about using your own amp. One tantrum could throw the changeover time right out of whack and a lot of people will get their knickers in a knot, and besides, if you anger the person who has control of your stage and/or monitor volume, you’re probably not going to have a very good gig, either from your own or the audience’s perspective.