Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Post Twenty - Guitars, Amps and Accessories

Guitars, Amps and Accessories

I have a number of guitars some for recording and some for live performance. I play mainly electric guitar and rock music was my main impetus for starting to play.

I first learnt on a classical guitar and have had flamenco guitar lessons. The reason I don't play classical or flamenco guitar is that it takes a lot of practice to keep control of the instrument. Playing plectrum style is a lot less labour intensive and with a large family this was advantageous. I do play nylon string with a plectrum and use this to sing and play acoustically. I prefer this format over steel string guitar because of the tone of the instrument and the feel of the strings. I have a stereo Ovation classical guitar for performance.

I prefer young instruments to old ones because old guitars are collectables and I don't really want to worry about them live or get attached to them at home. Young instruments are easy to replace and they feel and play as good as most old instruments.

For electric guitars I like playing the Les Paul Junior with a dog eared P90 in the bridge. The dog eared P90 is screwed to the body and is very durable compared with the adjustable height model in the Special. The construction of the height adjustment takes the firmness out of the end result because dog eared p90 are screwed to the body. The electronics of the Les Paul Junior are very basic not having a pick up selector and are very durable as well. The Junior has a really good weigh and balance and isn't associated with a showy rock star image that the Les Paul has, it's image is more of the working class and punk aesthetic. The reason for this is the Junior is a student model guitar rather than a professional model and is very unassuming. I enjoy this association. One downside is that the tuners are not as good as professional models and take more work to get in tune.

I also have a Gibson SG and this is a professional guitar with all the trimmings. Trimmings being - bound fretboard, pearl inlay, pick-up selector and custom pick-ups. 

I also have a Fender Stratocaster and I use this when I need the whammy bar. Fenders are very robust instruments and if needed can handle some rough handling. This is because Fenders have a bolt on necks, a Gibson which has a set neck needs a lot of care when out of the case.

The string gauge I use is 11-49, standard string gauge is 10-46 so I play a little heavier and this allows me to hit my guitar quite hard and I can be confident that I won't break a string. A lot of professional players use heavier strings than this but I am very happy with this gauge. It gives me just the right amount of resistance on my bends as well.

I like using amplifiers that have a dual channels and reverb. This means I can play the amp without any effects. Even if the amp hasn't two channels or any reverb I still want my amp to sound great going straight in. Sometimes I will gang two amps up to get a good sound. For the studio I have a Fender red knob twin and JCM900 with a 1960 quad box. For live I have a JCM800 combo with two 12" speakers (now sold). All of these amps have two channel switching and reverb. The combo caters for most applications but the quad box is better for larger venues.

My favourite effect is the Dunlop Wha Wha. I have an Yamaha octaver and a couple of Boss distortion pedals and EH pick-up booster. I have a splitter as well and usually have two lines out sometimes with different effects on each leg. I also have a GU8 Roland guitar processor but I mainly use this device as an active split to two amps. The amps sound better through this device even without any effects turned on.

I don't use alternative tuning but I do like using a capo on acoustic guitar and would like to start using the capo on electric guitar like Albert Collins.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Post Nineteen - Influences

In the process of finding a new sound I find it a good idea to find an instrumentalist that you can emulate. If you pick a guitarist as you try to emulate the player you will come up with something different from the original and your sound will be advantaged. I have many influences and they come out in my playing in different ways.

Wayne Kramer and Fred 'Sonic' Smith from MC5 have been very influential. The Stooges were also a big part of that Detroit sound. Blues players were a big part of my early development. Freddie King seems to stand out as did Johnny Winter.

Rock players include Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton. Players like Jimmy Page I couldn't really idolise, even though I like Led Zeppelin, because Page's playing was often lose and carefree on record while other players were solid and note perfect. I even found Hendrix a little hard to bear live for the same reason. Blackmore is an example of being rock solid live and on record. 

Band influences include Thin Lizzy, Cold Chisel, Dr Feelgood, Ramones and The Kinks all of whom I have seen live. I still use Cold Chisel's "Your thirteen, your beautiful and you're mine" for warm up exercises. The breaks in Wild Thing and Merry-go-round in particular are worth a listen. The Beatles were a big influence, Jo Cocker and other soul, blues, rock combinations.

I really like Black Sabbath but haven't developed my Metal playing. My influences in rock go until Van Halen 1 and that is as metal as I go in my playing. That album was quite influential and a great example of rock playing.

One of my favourite instrumentalists is the jazz organist Jimmy Smith. I feel that emulating someone who isn't a guitar player has a greater potential for coming up with something unique and exciting. I am still in the process of analysing Jimmy Smith's playing but this is where my direction is heading.

I have been interested in Power Pop for some time. Examples being early Elvis Costello, Sunnyboys, The Knack, The Sports. Any rock band that has songs you can sing along to. Clean guitars are very alluring and bands like The Jam and Jo Jackson are great examples. I would like to describe myself as a dance band if I can achieve that goal.