About GuitArchitecture

GuitArchitect and Sonic Hooligan: Having received his undergraduate degree in composition from the Berklee College of Music and a graduate degree in guitar performance from CalArts, Scott Collins is a guitarist who performs a wide range of improvised western and non-western music on fretted and fretless instruments, he is a featured baglama (Turkish lute) performer on the Sony Playstation, God of War 2 video game and a soloist on the track “Come Alive” from the RedLynx Trials Evolution game. In addition to numerous live performances, he has toured in both the U.S. and Germany, performed in the world premier of composer Glenn Branca’s “Hallucination City”, the U.S. premier of Composer Tim Brady’s, “Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks” and co-composed and performed the thematically improvised score for the About Productions stage adaptation of Norman Klein’s “Bleeding Through” with Vinny Golia. Scott is committed to an art of real time composition he calls GuitArchitecture. When not performing improvised loop based solo guitar performances, he can also be found collaborating with several projects including Duodenum, an improvising duo with Carmina Escobar that specializes in silent film accompaniment, OniBaba (with Daren Burns, Vinny Golia, George McMullin, Craig Bunch and visualist Kio Griffith), Rough Hewn Trio (with Warr Guitarist Chris Lavender and Craig Bunch) and Dumb and Drummer a guitar-drum duo with an ever changing line-up… Other highlights include performances with John French (“Drumbo” of Captain Beefheart), Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, Mia Mikela (Solu), (Butoh dancer) Don McLeod, Butch Morris, Sahba Motallebi, Ulrich Krieger, Susie Allen, Mike Reagan, Melissa Kaplan (Universal Hall Pass), Jeff Kaiser, The Bentmen, One of Us, Annette Farrington, Tubtime, Sleep Chamber and many more. He has performed and co-lead workshops on improvisation as part of the Imagniary Borders/Imaginarias Fronteras project at the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexicali, Mexico and performed/lead a workshop on “Structured Improvisation in Film Accompaniment” as part of the Cha’ak’ab Paaxil Festival at the Edificio de Artes Visuales – Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán in Mérida, Mexico. An active guitar teacher and performance coach, Scott is the author of Symmetrical Twelve-Tone Patterns for Improvisation and The GuitArchitect’s Guide: series which includes: The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Melodic Patterns The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes: Harmonic Combinatorics The GuitArchitect’s Positional Exploration and The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Chord Scales and is currently working on additional books in the GuitArchitecture series to be released over 2012-2013. Scott is endorsed by FnH Guitars. He uses D’Addario strings, Planet Waves accessories, Scuffham Amps and Line 6 gear. In addition to his posts on GuitArchitecture, he had a quick lick lesson in the 2010 Holiday issue of Guitar Player Magazine, and has also had articles posted on Guitar Salon International, Live4Guitar and has a regular interview series on Guitar-Muse.com.

More Things Rig

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while since I had a gear post, but I thought I’d put up a quick update that some of you might find interesting.

And besides – what guitar player doesn’t like gear (or reading about gear?)

That Muse Of Guitar

The Guitar-Muse posts are on a bit of a hiatus for the moment, but I did a short series for them about the evolution of my live rig and getting it down to something manageable for travel.  You can read those posts below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

I never got to do part 5 or 6, but for people that are interested here’s some of the things I make sound with now (and it may be something you can apply to your own live rigs):

Electric – The Exonerated

As part of the Buck Moon Arts Festival, I volunteered to do live accompaniment for a staged reading of the play, The Exonerated.  The play called for a Slingblade/Daniel Lanois sparse type of accompaniment.  As the drummer I wanted to work with wasn’t available, I brought my full rig and laptop.

Live Rig

Can improvise, arrange and mix multiple audio signals for a live show. Can not shoot a picture in focus.

What you’ll find here:

  • FnH Guitar (not pictured) being played with picks, slide and ebow running into
  • Nady TD-1 (with 12AU7) going into a
  • POD 500X HD
  • (there’s an additional expression pedal as well) running the effects send into a
  • Torpedo C.A.B. and running that out to a
  • QSC K-8 speaker.

The laptop is running Logic Audio/Absynth and a few other apps and I’m triggering sounds and loops with the Korg Nano Key.  The audio leaves my headphone jack and goes into the 1/8″ input of the POD.

Perhaps you noticed the white Zip Ties….I tried using just the Velcro on the PedalTrain and when I opened the bag, all the pedals were pulled off the board and on the bottom of the bag.  I went to the hardware store and got the longest ZIP ties I could to hold everything down and all was right with the world.  A dedicated power supply for everything would be nice, but as that would require having the power input completely re-wired on the TD-1, that’s on a back burner for now.

I really dig the Scuffham amps S-Gear, so if I could have gotten the Scuffham amps and SooperLooper plug in in AU Lab to play nice with the Line 6 USB shortboard I might have just brought the Apogee Duet, laptop and shortboard.

But my laptop isn’t getting any younger and a new laptop is out of the budget right now so rig B right now is my iPhone, Sonic Port, Positive Grid, Audio Bus and Loopy HD.  I dig the loop features a lot and if the AirTurn BT-105-PB4 works the way I think it will I might be able to make it one of my default live rigs.

Having said that, the POD rig does a LOT of things really well and while I like the Positive grid guitar tones, in its current incarnation it can’t touch the POD for non-guitaristic tones (i.e. the weird stuff – i.e. the good stuff).  Using a RADIAL splitter and a SONUUS i2M to allow the guitar to be a MIDI controller is also something I’ve experimented with before and will come back to.  Again – it depends on the consistency of the laptop.

I also have a ZT junior amp, which I really dig and I’ve done a couple of background music gigs that just required showing up with a small amp.  For a straight jazz, country or for just a warm clean tone in small settings it’s my go-to.

Acoustic Tone

The last set up on my Tam Hiep made it borderline unplayable due to a sympathetic vibration on the low E string.  File that under substantial repairs/bummer.

In the meantime, since I don’t want to gig with my Jeff Chappel guitar – I’ve gone back to Yamaha APX’s for live use.  I have an APX700 12 string that I’m using for more Dastgah/Maqam type things with a B-F#-B-F#-B-F# tuning.  Right now I have it set up for octave tuning but will likely use the same adaptations I used on the Rogue (i.e. making it a 10 string with unison strings on the D and G strings.

I’m keeping an eye out for another APX700ii, 700 or 500ii.  The Yamaha and the BT-105 are the last anticipated gear purchases for quite a while but we’ll see what happens.

In terms of amps and effects.  It depends on the situation but the Yamaha AG-Stomp does everything I could ask it to do in a live setting and a ZT Acoustic lunchbox is arriving via UPS today and I anticipate that that will solve any live need I could possibly have.

That’s it for now!

 

Deciphering Apple’s Eddie Cue’s “Music Is Dying Quote”

BuckMoon Arts Festival

As a reminder to anyone who happens to be in the upstate NY area, I’ll be performing live accompaniment for a staged reading of The Exonerated as part of the BuckMoon Arts Festival on July 12-13, and leading a series of panel discussions with working artists and industry experts on how artists can monetize their art.  You can read about both of those here.

In doing some research for the panel discussions I was listening to the CD Baby podcasts this week and I caught up on two interesting, and somewhat related stories to the panel.

1.  Apple’s Eddie Cue announced that Apple bought Beats because “Music Is Dying”

2.  Indie artist Shannon Curtis came on to promote her new book, “No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour (And How You Can Too)”

Is Music Dying?

I’ve never seen anyone at Apple make any kind of negative statement about the music industry, which is why iTunes Eddie Cue’s quote is somewhat telling:

“Music is dying,” said Cue. “It hasn’t been growing. You see it in the number of artists. This past year in iTunes, it’s the smallest number of new releases we’ve had in years.”

As quoted from  http://readwrite.com/2014/05/28/apple-beats-eddy-cue-jimmy-iovine#awesm=~oHLbiOYNIxpYCB

My guess is that he’s talking about the smallest number of major label releases, as there is no shortage of independent music being released.  and that might be true. A recent Variety article entitled, Music Sales Continue to Plummet for Albums and Digital Downloads, brought up the following statistics comparing sales for the first 1/2 year of 2014 with sales from 2013.

  • Total album sales (any format) dropped nearly 15%.
  • Sales of individual digital tracks were down by 13%
  • Streaming was up 42% (but streaming revenues for music are almost nothing)
  • Vinyl sales were up 40%, with Jack White’s Lazaretto selling over 48,000 units.
  • The year’s best seller is the Frozen soundtrack which has sold over 2.6 million units.

As the article’s author, Christopher Morris put it:

“To put the steepness of the decline in perspective: Just 18 months ago, Adele’s Grammy-winning “21” – the bestselling album of 2011 and 2012 — finished the latter year with sales in excess of 10 million. It is conceivable that such a phenomenon will not be seen in the industry again.”

In contrast, check out the story about Indie Artist Shannon Curtis who went from playing clubs to making $25,000 on a 2-month tour of house concerts.

So, is music dying?

Well….music itself isn’t dying (that quote is just silly) but music making is being altered in a way that professional musicians are not able to make a living at it with traditional means. The traditional major label model has moved from a terminal status to life support and musicians are having to find ways to try to make money with more revenue streams than ever, that pay less money than ever, with more people competing in the market forever.

Shannon Curtis was able to bring in some money doing house concert shows to audiences who wanted to see her in a non-traditional venue (but I’m guessing she’ll make more money from her e-book from musicians looking for a new angle than she ever did from her concert tour!)  But the real problem most new artists face is that culturally we’ve created a Vine audience with a short attention span.  One that demands immediate gratification and doesn’t want to have to wait to experience something.

Having said that, people still want to connect with things on a deeper level, and the artists that can weather the storm and actually touch people – consistently in an honest emotional way, are the ones who will be building a career and those artists are going to face even bigger challenges over the next 10 years.  Perhaps that struggle will make some great art.

Back to the panel prep!  As always, thanks for reading!

My Interview With Daniel Donato On Guitar-Muse and Positive Grid JamUp Update

Hello everyone,

Two quick Things

Guitar-Muse

Just a quick note to let you know that my interview with Nashville Guitarist Daniel Donato is up on Guitar-Muse.  At the ripe old age of 19, he’s accomplished a lot more than seasoned players twice his age and has a new DVD out on Hal Leonard.  He also offers some great tips on Practicing, the value of Post It Notes when pushing one’s limit’s when performing, and how to go from being in the audience to being on stage.  Also, some great tone tips as well.  You can check that interview out here.

I’ve got an interview with Joe Romagnola at Grooveyard Records, a guitar-centric label in Upstate NY coming up soon as well. There are some more interviews in the pipelineand some gear things as well.

Positive Grid Jam Up Release

Positive grid released a massive new update for Jamup.  If you own any type of supported IOS device, you need this.  It’s a free upgrade for current owners but if you’re new to the game here’s an overview.

The good

  • The price is now $19.95 – but you get BIAS bundled with it for free.
  • There’s a drop box feature for tonesharing
  • The New acoustic bundle ($9.99) is awesome!
  • There’s an acoustic simulator that sounds really good.  It’s a decent acoustic tone on it’s ow and I think it would sit well in a mix but the real excitement for me is that it’s one of the best Jazz guitar tones I’ve ever heard!  If you were playing Gypsy Jazz or wanted to incorporate more of the warm acoustic tone into your playing.  What’s also amazing about this is that JamUp has been asking players on FB if they would have any interest in being able to choose pickups or wood materials for bodies – which could mean that they are getting closer to releasing something akin to a software version of the Variax (which honestly Line 6 would have made infinitely more money from than every Variax sale that they’ve ever made).
  • The acoustic processing is also very good.  There’s a new EQ, amp and reverb to go with it.  I could show up at an open mike with a sonic port and my iPhone and do a set no problem.
  • There’s a new Vintage effects pack (also $9.99) with some cool choices.  I’m still not down with the decay on the notes in some of the gain settings (and the gate) but the effects are cool.
  • There’s also a new amp pack (again a $9.99 add on).  It’s cool.  I don’t know that it’s anything radically different than other amps that are there (or that you could build in BIAS) but they sound good – particularly the clean amp.

The bummer

  • Still no dual signal path.  That’s a minor quibble.  But it would make it awesome.

Also, the BT-4 Bluetooth Midi Switcher is really cool but I think sending audio through it is a waste of time.  I’d rather see the energy spent on being able to daisy chain boards so you could run multiple boards and say use one for the looper and one to switch patches.  The addition of the expression pedal is a great feature though.  Even with that said, the BT-4 looks like a great product and I’m psyched to check it out.

Okay!  That’s it for now.  As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

New Guit-A-Grip Posts, Festival Cinema Invisible and June News

Hi everyone, this is just a short series of updates of things that may be of interest to you.

Guit-A-Grip

There are a few new posts up on my other site, Guit-A-Grip. The first post (Differentiating between action and change) has to do with why people take action to deal with problems (like buying a book) but don’t follow through (i.e. actually reading the book).  If you struggle with getting things done, this post may help and you can read it here.

Also there’s a (semi) return to the podcast.  If you’re thinking about doing your own podcast or running your own promotional effort, you can learn a lot from the mistakes I made on mine.  You can listen to that podcast here.

Guitar-Muse

Guitar-Muse should be running my interview with Daniel Donato soon.  Also, it looks like an interview with Joe Romagnola of the Rochester-based Grooveyard Records is in the works.  If you want to know what inspires a guy to start a guitar-centric record label when a lot of other labels shut their doors, this will be a good interview to check out.

Schenectady and The Festival Cinema Invisible

In 2006, right before I relocated to California to go to Cal Arts, I took a trip back to the capital district to visit family with my wife and FnH Guitar’s John Harper.  We took a drive down state street in Schenectady into Central Avenue of Albany and it looked like a post-apocalyptic nightmare.  Every other building was boarded up, and the only thing that seemed to be open was dollar stores.  I was in shock at how far down it had gone from even the last time I was thereh.

Last September I relocated to upstate New York and this past February I moved to Schenectady.  It’s come a long ways from where it was just several years ago and with places like the excellent Persian Bite, Tara Kitchen and Mexican Radio opening soon – there is a real sense of revival here.

The excellent efforts of the good people behind The Festival Cinema Invisible go a long ways to highlight the best elements of what’s happening here.  President and Artistic Director Mahmood Karimi-Hakak and executive director Elahe Golpari have curated a massive 3-day festival that is screening over 40 short and feature length films at at Proctors Theatre this weekend.  As a number of these films have not been seen in Iran, almost all of the film screenings are world premiers, US premiers and/or East Coast premiers.  In addition to helping artists get their voices out into the word – they are committed to the transformative power of art and community.  I am grateful to be here in Schenectady while this is happening, to make some fantastic friends and I look forward to see what I can contribute to arts and community here as well.

These are great people and if you live in the area, they could use your support.

  • The festival runs through this Sunday and culminates in a concert with the incredibly gifted guitarist and visual artist Farzad Golpayegani.  I saw Farzad’s work at the kickoff event for the festival on Thursday and you owe it to yourself to see him perform his Persian inspired instrumental rock music.  His cd, FOUR will be available to pick up there and I believe his artwork is available for sale as well. Farzad’s website is  here.
  • Big thanks to Brona Jafari and Elahe Golpari for posting an impromptu interview with Candace and I.
  • Mahmood has a new book out, Love Me More Than the Others – Selected Poetry of Iraj Mirza that’s available at the festival.  Having picked it up last night and read it until the wee hours of the morning, I can tell you that it’s fantastic.
  • Also, a big shout out to Modi, the bassist for Toltec Band.  Modi’s in town for the festival and has cds for sale there as well.

Gigs

I’ll doing live improvised accompaniment for a staged reading of The Exonerated as part of the BuckMoon Arts Festival at Fulton-Montgomery Community College July 12th and 13th. I’m also involved in organizing a series of workshops for emerging artists and we’re going to have some great panelist and panel discussions on being a working artist.

Some other gigs are in the works for this summer and fall.  More info as it becomes available.

Tracks

I’m working with an engineer to put some finishing touches on the long-awaited Rough Hewn Trio ep and will also have an EP of acoustic guitar music out this fall.  Some projects I’ve been trying to pull together for a while now, may actually have traction – so we’ll see what happens there!

Books

I’m still currently outlining the book on Practicing book, editing/ reviewing the material for the Pentatonic Extraction book that should be out this year and still looking at an e-book modal series that I think would be cool.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

Rig-O-Tone-y or More Hybrid Tone Approaches

When Gear Acquisition Syndrome is fuel for the fire

After my last post on using the Torpedo Cab and the Nady TD-1 in conjunction with the POD HD500X, I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the configuration I’m currently using and then A/B the approaches for you.

The TD might stand for “Terrible Design”

I had done a substantial amount of research for a BIAS review for Guitar-Muse that may or may not be see the light of day and in researching all aspects of the tube pre-amp, rediscovered the 12AU7.

12AU7

This tube is a direct replacement for a 12AXA7 but has some different tonal characteristics and offers less gain.  On a recent trip to Drome Sound, I found a NOS Groove Tubes 12AU7 for $10 and decided to swap it out in my Nady TD-1.  The TD-1 is a cool pedal in terms of tone, and a terrible housing design as replacing the tube requires completely dismantling the casing.

As a first step, you’ll need 3 tools to do this.

ToolsOn my first dismantling attempt, I realized that I didn’t have a star shaped driver to undo the sides of the casing.  It seemed cruel for Nady to not simply use philips head screws but a quick trip to Radio Shack got me the driver I needed (with some other attachments) and soon I had this.

Nady Pedal DisassembleThere are 36 parts holding the casing together.  You need to remove all 36 to get the tube out (a Chinese made 12AX7B in this case).

Pedal Interior

You’ll also notice that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room to extract the tube.  The photo above shows the replaced GT in the socket.

The A/B Rig

First off.  I had a strange experience with my hybrid solution at the last gig I played.  Soundcheck went fine and then live when I switched to my lead patch the volume dropped by 70% or more.  I had to full crank my QSC K-8 (which I’ve never had to turn past 10 o’clock [the off position starts at 6 o'clock]) to be heard.  I assumed it was a cable or a bad connection but checking the cables after the gig, they were all fine.  Line 6 just released a new Firmware update to deal with volume drops with that occurred when switching patches with specific configurations and I guess mine was one of them as it seems to be working now.

I started the process this weekend of porting all of my patches from the HD-500 over to the 500-X (and trying to recreate some of my POD Farm patches there as well) and thought I’d give you an A/B example of the dual rig.

This was one of my old POD patches that I liked.
Dual 800It was a great dirty rhythm sound but the leads were hit and miss.  I put a FX loop in with a 6 DB increase and used it as a boost for solos.

In contrast, here’s my current configuration.  The tube screamer is gone and replaced by the TD-1.

J800 + J45_1The TD is also the first step of my signal chain so I use that for the lead boost.  Here are the amps:

800 + 45_2You may notice that the cab models are turned off.  The FX loop now goes out to the Torpedo for the cab simulation.

So this means that I have 2 extra things plugged in with my POD.  Which is way more of a pain than simply using the POD direct.  But does it make a difference?

Well the tones are completely different but here’s the A/B.  I’m just improvising some D major patterns over a D5 chord.

Recorded the TD/Torpedo is more saturated, but the biggest difference is live.  When played through my QSC, the second tone has substantially increased presence in the room.  I don’t know how to describe it but seems to jump out more from the speaker.  There’s also a little hiss from the pedal, but I can live with it in a live context.

Wait there’s a third option?

Having said all of that I took advantage of a recent cancelled rehearsal I showed up to to put my Positive Grid Jam Up App through the paces.  I can work with it at home but it’s a different context to put it through an amp on a stage in a large hall and see what happens and I have to say – I was pretty blown away.

I’m going to be doing live accompaniment for a production of The Exonerated at the BuckMoon Arts Festival in July and currently it looks like I’ll just be bringing my iphone, a laptop for some synths and looping and a powered speaker.  It doesn’t have the flexibility that the POD set up does, but for situations where I just need a decent clean/dirty tone – it gets the job done and then some.

More tone reports as the summer progresses – but hopefully this is useful to some of you.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

So You Want a “Budget” 8-String – An Omen 8-String Update

Go With What You Know

Of all the posts on my site – by far the two most popular are my post on Guitar Street in Vietnam and the post on my Omen 8-string.  Since I’m not going to be able to make it back to Vietnam anytime soon, I thought I’d post on some things I’ve been working on with the 8-string.

Budget is the mother of invention

I basically have two views on gear.

On one hand, I fully believe that you should invest the money and buy quality gear that works for you.  On the People’s Court, Judge Millian has an common quote I’ll cite here, “Lo barato sale caro” – The cheap comes out expensive.  I have often found that when trying to cut corners on certain things (“That $30 chorus pedal doesn’t sound that bad”) that it ends up costing me more in the long haul (like having to spend valuable studio time testing out a bunch of other gear because that $30 pedal and that $100 amp DO sound that bad).  My QSC K-8 is not a cheap speaker, but given that it can push me in front of an entire band, it’s a bargain.

On the other hand, the quality of gear available now is better than it’s ever been.  I’ve been using Positive Grid’s JamUp and Bias with a Line 6 Sonic Port and I’m consistently blown away with the high gain tones and the quality of some of the effects coming out of my iPhone.

Transformer Front

Mind you, the hidden cost of this IS the iPhone but the apps are ridiculously inexpensive.  With the discounts they were offering before the BIAS release, I think I was fully loaded on the software for $60 or so.

Moving this argument to guitars, the building standards on mass produced guitars are constantly improving and the price is consistently dropping.  So when I looked at getting into an 8-string guitar, there were two routes.

  • Spend (for me) a lot of money on a custom model or
  • Try out an inexpensive model and see if it would work for me

Since it was a large unknown for me, I decided to go with the Schecter Omen 8-string.  You can read that gear review here, but a lot has happened to the guitar since then which may be of interest to people who are looking

This is another example of “Lo barato sale caro” BUT in this case it’s still much less expensive than purchasing a custom guitar and it’s good to see how these things develop.

There’s no going back to Kansas Dorothy

8 String Close Up

You’ll notice that on the right hand side of the body, there’s a modification that there’s no real turing back from.  (Side note:  When Mrs. Collins saw this mod she had a strange expression on her face and when I asked what was wrong she said, “Now you’ll never be able to sell it.” ;) – Very true.)  However, you need to make gear work for you.  And this mod was done for a very specific reason.

Tuning

 Initially, I was experimenting with the following tuning:

(low to high) B-E-A-D-G-C-E-A.  

And then using a .007 for the high A and a .062 for the B.  But it didn’t work for me because the high A was incredibly unstable.  When I tracked some alternate takes for the Trials Evolution game, I ended up going through 3 of them at the session.  

So I thought I’d try the Tobin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) tuning with an additional Low E/A added to the standard 6 string tuning [(low to high) E-A-E-A-D-G-C-E].

I got a DiMarzio D Activator bridge pickup and had FnH Guitar’s John Harper install it and set the guitar up for the heavier gauge strings.  I got it back earlier in the year and used a F#-B-E-A-D-G-C-E tuning and I didn’t dig it.  I just couldn’t find a tone that worked with that tuning.

So I went back to the drawing board and decided to try to see if dropping the entire tuning down a step would give me the stability to make it through a live show.  I had about 20 .007 strings to experiment with so I figured I’d give it a try.  Also, I was reading about a string development that was interesting to me

Ernie Ball 7-String Cobalt set

After experimenting with various strings over the years I’ve always come back to using D’addarios for my electrics.  I still swear by their Pure Nickle .011s for my FnH – but I didn’t like the strings that shipped with my Omen and I didn’t like any of the 8 string set options that I tried.  When I realized that I’d have to throw a high string on the top anyways, I just started looking at 7 string sets that would work for me.  I liked a Rotosound set that I found, but when Ernie Ball announced their Cobalt 7-string set that supposedly had more output and clarity, I figured that I’d give them a try.

Out of the bag, the wound strings had an interesting texture.  I realize that interesting is a terrible descriptive, but I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say that they felt more “metallic” than the strings I was used to.  Not in a bad way, just a different way.  Using the new tuning, I found that the guitar had a lot more clarity on the lower string on high gain settings.  Often with high gain tones, the bottom end becomes mud – but I found that I could still use 4-5 note voicings and have clarity in each note.

My other string discovery was more counter intuitive.  After going through 6-8 .007s with the high G tuning – I decided to try to use .008s and they’re holding up much better!  I can only bend a step or so on the high frets – but I’ve only broken 1 .008 string so far and I’m pretty sure I can make it through a live set now.

Getting back to the photo:

8 String Close Up

With that tuning in mind, the upper bout on the treble side made it impossible to access the upper frets.  The reason for this is that the chunky bolt-on joint

Heel Cut

required pushing the wrist out to access the frets above the 18th fret which bumped it right into the bout.

It doesn’t sound like much, but if you’re going to go through the trouble to have a high G string, you want to be able to fully utilize it.  So out went the bout.

It was a great decision!  Not only did I get access to the upper frets on the high string, but it gave my full access above the 17th fret on the lower strings which wasn’t possible before.  Second only to this mod:

8 String Guitar

which allowed me to comfortably rest my arm on the body, it’s done a lot for the playability of the guitar.

Mod Review:

Okay – so for those of you interested in going the “inexpensive” route with an 8-string – here are the mods that were added to the guitar.

Pickups:  I’d say that you have to go into this guitar an expect to replace the pickups.  I like the Bare Knuckle and the DiMarzio for completely different reasons – but I find that they compliment each other really well.

Tuners:  Same thing with the tuners.  I’ve replaced the Low A and high G with Grover Rotomatics, but the middle 3+3 need tuner replacement as well.

Kill Switch:  Some people thought that was really gimmicky – but it’s turned out to be really great when acting as a uber-noise gate.  I can hold it down and get ultra-tight exits and entries into tunes.

Lower Bout Bevel:  The carving on the lower edge looks nice but doesn’t feel good when resting your forearm on it.  Also, aesthetically I think the single line of natural wood peeking through the black looks bad-assed.

Upper Bout Removal:  You’ll have to wear a strap with this mod as the guitar won’t be sitting on your knee, but what it does for upper fret access is a game changer.

This might sound like a lot, but as I said in the initial review, the Omen is a well built guitar at a great price point and that was the template that was really necessary for this to be possible.  All in when everything is said and done – I’ll probably have about $850 into the guitar but the Omen is a serious player now and the ability to go from the A on a bass guitar to a high G a full octave above the G on the 15th fret of a high E string gives me all the range I could possibly hope for.

Now comes the hard part

Actually getting around on the thing at the same level I can with my string is still taking me a while.  The strings are REALLY close together so every time I go from playing this to playing my electric 6 string or acoustic I can’t believe how far apart the strings are.  Also the modified tuning means that I have to transpose everything in my head.  This means that occasionally I’ll start to play something and have to switch mid-stream because I’m in the wrong key!  Fortunately, those “whoops!” moments get worked out at home so they’re not being made on the stage.

(It’s also interesting just how different this guitar is in terms of timbre from my other guitars.  In JamUp Pro for example, I had to make my own amps in Bias to find a high gain model that worked with my guitar well as none of the high gain models provided did what I needed them to do.  With the 8-string even stock models like the Jeff Loomis model sound really good to my ears with no modification necessary.)

I’ll be documenting some of the strategies that I use in navigating the 8 string fingerboard later this year – but suffice to say that without the 2-string visualization methods that I’ve been using (and writing about) on the 6-string, I don’t know how I’d be able to tackle this.

More gear and playing posts in the pipeline.  As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

Guitarchitecture Book Sale on Lulu and New Guit-A-Grip Posts

GuitArchitecture book sale on Lulu

Lulu is running a 10% off sale for all of my books (pdf and bound editions) through May 11th. You can find those books here. Just enter the code MOM10 at checkout for the discount.

Guit-A-Grip

There are a few recent Guit-A-Grip posts up on both the 10,000 rule for mastery as well as a post on what might when major acts adopt a DIY model late in the game.

GuitArchitecture

I’ll have a post up next week with a whole bunch of mini reviews and observations contained within it regarding the Omen 8 string, Dimarzio 8 string pickup, Positive Grid Bias and Ernie Ball Cobalt 7-string sets.

Practice Post

I’ll also have a post up that will detail some approaches from my forthcoming practicing book that I hope you’ll dig.

Tracks

Finally, I’m writing some tracks for upcoming projects and trying to put some long overdue nails on coffins and check things off the to do list.  More on that as it gets closer.

As always, thanks for reading!

-SC

Rig-O-Lution Or More Notes From The Trenches Of Tone

The Siren’s Song Of Old School

More and more, I get players who stick with un-amplified acoustic guitar for performance.  Mind you, playing acoustic guitar and really articulating every note can a BEAR, but it’s such a dynamic instrument that gives you back exactly what you put into it.  There’s something really satisfying about strumming a chord on an acoustic and just having it decay naturally.

However, this isn’t about the easy solution. ; )

A Tale of Two Gigs

A while back – I talked about how I had taken my POD HD500 out for a show and was really surprised by how well the tones went across.  Basically I had 2 dirty and 2 clean tones (Really one dirty and one clean with a slight variation) – and running that out into the hall with a single QSC K-8 speaker.

After the latest Variax debacle, I decided to upgrade to the POD HD500X and, as I understood it, the only real difference was an upgrade in switches, and more memory so my tones would remain exactly the same.

But a funny thing happened.  I played another gig – with the same group and in the same hall, and this time a PA was set up.  So I ran a stereo pair to the house through the XLR outs and also ran a line out to my QSC K-8.

And I wasn’t digging my tone.

It was really shrill and strange and I was fighting it (along with the looper which was acting a little glitchy as well) for the duration of the evening.  I was able to limp through the gig but I wasn’t psyched.

So I went back to the drawing board.

Whatever happened to that Laptop Guitar Rig?

Several of you may remember a NUMBER of posts about my laptop rig (Just check the Blueprints page for the Laptop Guitar Rig section).  Funny thing about that.  My laptop got really out of date.

Enough so that running any kind of intensive audio software on it required disc repairs, defragging and obscure incantations.

Gradually, my system wouldn’t support the newer versions of AU LAB, and my software wouldn’t run on the updates I had.

I still use it for sound sculpture, but it’s been a little too glitchy to run live.  But one idea that I had there (running a signal out to a impulse response for a more 3-D tone) was one that still appealed to me as it seemed like I couldn’t get a tone out of the cabs without MAJOR EQ tweaking that worked for me.  Also, I liked a few of the distortions but I also felt limited with the models there.  So I started looking into solutions outside the POD.

DAMN!!!  The Torpedo!  Full Speed Ahead!

Here’s the first part of the solution.  A local music shop had a used version of a Two Notes Torpedo C.A.B. for sale for about 1/2 the street price.  After sitting on that for a while (and seeing it sit around on the shelf desperately looking for an owner) I offered them $20 less than the asking price and brought it home.

CAB_3D_721

Photo Taken From TWO NOTES Web Site.

The Torpedo Cab is basically a speaker cabinet simulator that acts as an Impulse Response (IR) loader in a stompbox format.  It doesn’t have any load box capabilities so you can’t use it directly with your JCM 800 speaker out (they do make gear you can run right out of a power amp into) – but it offers substantial tonal flexibility.  In addition to using their own format (which allows for virtual mic placement and different cab and mic options) you can also use a simulated power amp and EQ which is accessible through either the pedal screen or through the free Torpedo Remote software.

This is a GREAT pedal!!  It’s super solid and offers a lot of great tones on the fly.  Out of the box, there were some decent cabs and mics – but I wasn’t getting them to sound the way that I wanted them to.  Fortunately, Two Notes BlendIR came to the rescue.

BLENDIR

BlendIR is a free app that allows you to load multiple IRs and mix them down to a single file that can be read by the Torpedo CAB.

Blend IR

This is a big deal, because if you want to mix the sound of say a room mike, a close mic and a mid distance mike in the proprietary format, you’re out of luck as it only supports one mic at a time.  In my case I had a bunch of REALLY GREAT Marshall IRs that I was able to download for free from RED WIREZ (http://www.redwirez.com/).  In the example above, I mixed multiple IRs to create a stacked sound I was looking for.

That Distortion

Also, I was obsessing about distortion a little bit and thinking a lot about how much I dug some of Shawn Lane’s dirty tones.  Part of his sound started from front loading a solid-state Holmes Mississippi Bluesmaster Amp with a Westbury Tube Overdrive (later the Holmes was replaced with a Peavey Pro-Fex that Peavey had modded for him).  There’s a thread with some REALLY interesting insights on his tone here (about 1/2 way down the page).

Westbury was bought out by NADY, and NADY’s TD-1 is the updated version of it. 

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady released several versions of the pedal.  The original just had an on/off switch with Gain and Level controls.  The current version features 3 different levels of drive, and an EQ section.  I do like some of the Line 6 distortion pedals, but they haven’t modeled enough of them for my taste, so I wanted to experiment with this.  

A sale on Amazon had one shipped to me for under $100.  

The Pluses:

  • It’s a REALLY sturdy pedal
  • it’s relatively quiet
  • it has tremendous tonal variance

The Minuses:

The power connector is funky.

(I only mention this as making it a part of a pedal board will require more than a pedal power supply.)

While you can get high gain tones from it, I think it works best as on the low-mid gain settings – and it works great there.

The Line 6 Story I Can’t Find Now.

Somewhere in my jumble of posts is a brief anecdote about the time I met with Rich Renken when he was working at Line 6.  Rich had a great story about the (much maligned) Marshall cabinet that was modeled.  There were a number of people online who hated the Marshall cabinet that Line 6 had in the POD saying it sounded nothing like a Marshall.

What Rich said was funny about that was Line 6 tested a NUMBER of Marshall cabinets until they found the cabinet that everyone agreed had THE Marshall sound.  That cabinet was modeled and they then A/B’d the sound of the amplified cabinet with the sound of the model and everyone there said it sounded identical.  End users were brought in and they also couldn’t tell the difference.  The guys at Line 6 assumed they hit a home run.

But the thing is that it’s all about context.  That Marshall cab that Line 6 modeled may have sounded exactly like that cabinet miked up in a studio environment – but that same tone might not work at all in someone’s headphone mix.  The tone you hear on a mastered recording is sometimes radically different than what you’d hear coming out of the cone.

So, I don’t think that the Marshall sound is awful, but I don’t think it fully works in the context that I’m trying to use my sounds in.  And that’s what’s prompting the current signal chain.

Signal Chain

The signal chain is FnH guitar –>Nady TD1 –> POD HD500X.  The Nady is only used for a solo tone.

In the 500X – The FX send goes to the Torpedo CAB back into the unit.

From the 500x – I use the XLR outs for the house and run a line out to my QSC K-8 (either for monitoring OR for live sound if there’s no PA).

Here’s The Signal Path Of The Dirty Rhythm Sound I’m Currently Using

Rhythm 1

Basically what I’ve done here is try to combine the best of both worlds.  Amp A runs to the Torpedo for the cabinet sound and I’ve blended that with Amp B for the modeled cab.  Some people use the Pre-Amp versions of these amps to save on DSP, but I find that the deeper amp controls like SAG play a big role in the feel of the amps.  Amp B does have some additional EQ thrown on it to boos the cab sound a bit  and amp A had bit of slap back delay.  Both signals are then mixed (around 30% in the left channel for A and 30% in the right channel for B) and run through a common reverb for continuity.

Here’s the basic lead tone.

Lead 1

This is essentially the same as the rhythm tone, but I’ve removed the Tube Screamer and addd a volume and wah.   I think the modeled Tube Screamer works well with the modeled amps (it sounds great when you roll off the volume a bit rhythm) – but it just didn’t have the lead sound I was looking for.

Even at lower levels, the NADY does introduce noise, and the Line 6 gate I’m using needs a lot of tweaking.  There’s some digital dirt on the end of notes as they decay – so I find that the NADY is causing me to ride both Tone and Volume controls on the FnH more than before.  (In other words it’s forcing me to be more expressive and thus more musical).  Gain staging was a bit of an issue with the FX loop as well and it took a couple of passes to tame some sound issues there as well).

Live Versus Phone (or Phones Home)

One GREAT thing about using the QSC K-8 is that it gives me a pretty accurate picture of  what my tones sound like through a PA.  I like the Atomic amps I was using before a great deal, but they weren’t accurate at all for live sound, and having to mike one for the room, was completely counter to the point of running a modeler.

I’ve talked about this in other posts as well – but it’s still amusing to me just HOW different those tonal requirements are.  Even after getting it close to dialed in on my phones, I had to use a different IR for the K-8.

I’m not posting any tones now, because this is still very much a work in progress – but I’ll have something up relatively soon (hopefully a live clip!)  The word of the day here is EXPERIMENT.  That’s the truth of it.  Plugging a box into the front of a POD may get you something out of the unit you weren’t getting before.

For now, I think I’m going to see a lot more of hybrid rig configurations in my future until digital technology fully catches up – but rest assured it’s catching up and while the all in one solution is already here for many players, I anticipate that even players like me that need some old school feel and flavor will see an all in one digital solution within the next 5-10 years (if not sooner – I’m pretty knocked out by the Positive Grid software – look for some words on that soon!)  The future is not only coming, for the most part it’s already here.

Okay!  Enough rambling for one day.  As always thanks for reading!

-SC

2 String Melodic-Minor Arpeggio/Scale Fragments

Hi Everyone!

As promised here’s a quick lesson of some material I’ve been exploring lately that may be interesting to you as well!

The In-Between

As those of you who have explored my not-peggio series know, I’m a big fan of melodic material that exists in the area between scales and arpeggios.

The following ideas will be drawn from D Melodic Minor (D, E, F, G, A, B, C#) – but the approach can be applied to any scale.  Lately I’ve really been into trying to work this scale over knuckle-dragging metal that exploits that Phrygian-ish 1/2 step E->F Bass motion but the licks presented will work over any of the chords outlined below,

Two-String is The Thing

The first thing I’m going to do is look at some ascending two-string diatonic 7th chord arpeggios.

2_String_7th note arpeggios

If you’re not familiar with these shapes try practicing them up and down the fretboard to get them under your fingers.

Here’s a little secret:

  • When I play two-string patterns, I think of all of the time I spent working out permutations for the two-string minor pentatonic patterns I practiced endlessly and try to find a way to get a little more use out of them.

With that in mind, I thought,  “What if I extended this arpeggio with some diatonic notes and kept the 2-note-per-string idea the same?”

Applied to the first arpeggio above, I got this (Note the fingering):

Extended Pattern Fingering

Practicing it a bit to get fluidity, I realized that I was playing it in a different rhythm:

Pattern 1

This specific arpeggio could be called an E min 7 (add 11), but the combination of 3rds and some step-wise motion opened up the sound of the arpeggio for me and made it sound more like a fluid lick.

Here’s each individual pattern.

Pattern 1 Pattern 2 Pattern 3 Pattern 4 Pattern 5 Pattern 6 Pattern 7

I’ve added a Soundcloud link of all of the individual patterns played together below.

Technical Note:

I think I’m playing this around quarter = 132 or so and using a combination of hammer-ons/pull-offs and sweep picking.  I edited out some clipping that occurred when I recorded these but you may still here some elements of them in the mp3.

As always, pay attention to the 3T’s (Tone, TIming and (hand) Tension) when practicing these and focus on trying to be as fluid as possible.  Also be aware of the little finger dance between the first and second fingers when switching between the G and B string.

Aesthetic Note:

While you could play each of these ideas all in a row as I did in the example, I view each of these licks as connective tissue to help create larger phrases.

I’ll post more examples of these in the weeks ahead.  In the meanwhile, keep exploring and, as, always, thanks for reading.

-SC

PS – for those of you who are interested, the sound on the demo was recorded on my iPhone using a modded 69 Lead amp I created in Positive Grid’s BIAS running through a signal chain in JamUp Pro.

It’s a stunning App…and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.  Look for an upcoming review in Guitar-Muse.com!

A Lesson Learned From A Tyler Variax JTV-69

The JTV-69

A series of events conspired to put a Tyler Variax in my hands this week (these events included an upswing in students, massive price drops in that particular model, and a demo model in cherry condition selling for $800 shipped) but my joy on Wednesday quickly turned to frustration and, in a first for me,  it goes back to Sweetwater today.

Disclosure

I have owned Variaxs before.  When I moved from California, I sold a 300 and a 700AC and I liked things about both of them (I really regret selling the 700 to this day).  I like the concept of modeling and if there is an ideal demographic for a person who wants complete control over the sounds in his guitar, I would have thought it was me.

Unboxing

The guitar came with a Line 6 gig bag, USB interface (for connecting with Workbench), USB cable, Variax CAT cable and a battery charger.  The 700AC came with a GREAT gig bag.  While this gig bag looked the same, the interior was much cheaper in both materials and construction and the padding was of what’s found on a $30 no name bag from Musician’s Friend.

This was actually a harbinger of what was to come.

The Build

First, the positive.

  • The design on this is light years from the VAX 300.  It didn’t feel like a slab of wood the way the 300 did.  The wrist cut (rounded to the back) and rounded heel were nice additions and there was clear access all the way up to the 22nd fret.  The finish was flawless and, in short, it’s a nice looking guitar.
  • The top loading tremolo bridge is a really clever design and works well with the TUSQ nut and locking tuners.
  • Line 6 developed a new battery that worked really well with the guitar and was a welcome relief from the AA batter holder or the powered cable box required with earlier models.  They claim 12 hours of use time when fully charged.  I spent 3-4 hours my first day charging the battery and it didn’t run out of juice during the testing time so that seems like an accurate estimate to me.
  • The addition of the tuning wheel to dial in alternate tunings for the patches is also a great touch.

Now the not so positive:

  • The neck….I hate the neck.  The fingerboard radius is fine and the string spacing is actually comfortable – but the neck… first it’s a matte finish and not a gloss finish.  That’s just a personal preference but it didn’t work for me.  Second, the neck is a C shape but it just feels incredible bulky.  Apparently this isn’t a minority opinion as once it was determined on the forums that the Mighty-Mite compound radius Strat necks sold by Stew-Mac fit with very little alteration, Stew-Mac sold out of them, and they’re currently on back order.
  • The acoustic tone.  By that I don’t mean the models.  I mean, how does the guitar sound when it’s played un-amplified.  And to be honest, it just sounded a little one-dimensional.  More specifically, it sounded like a plastic Maccaferri which is not a tone I prize.  I bumped up the string guage to .011’s and that helped with the projection a bit but it wasn’t an inspiring guitar to play.

The Firmware

When I went to register the guitar I realized that it shipped with v 1.8 software (You need v 2.0 software to connect to workbench).  Upgrading required using the same USB interface that the 1st generation Vaxs used.  Given that a key selling point for this instrument is the integration of the Variax and the POD fact the requirement of an external box just seems clunky.

It behaved in a clunky manner as well.  It took 3-4 times to get recognized by Line 6 Monkey before I could upgrade it.  The upgrade was very straightforward.

Workbench

One of the most intriguing elements of this guitar is the fact that EVERY aspect of the tone (and intonation) is fully customizable with the Workbench software.

Pickups:

You can control the type of pickup. The wiring of the pickup (series or parallel) the polarity, the angle, height and placement. Virtual pickup placement and angles are literally drag and drop parameters and place them anywhere along the string path of the body.

WorkbenchJ

Strings:

StringsJ

You can control individual volumes!  No more of that E string barking out at you if you don’t want it!

You can control individual pitches (this can also be done on the guitar itself with the virtual capo function) and you can control the intonation through the Parallel Pitch function.

PotsJPots:

You can control the resistance and taper of the pots so the tone “rolls” on or off the way you want it to.

In other words, you can customize any aspect of a guitar or just create sounds that have never been made before.

It’s a remarkable piece of software and engineering, and a tweaker’s paradise.  But playing this guitar taught me something.

I’m not a really a tweaker.

.

The Sounds and Performance

This is where this realization really came into play.

Again, let’s start off with the good.

  • The physical pickups.  A number of players who have these guitars say that they use the on board pickups most of the time and they sound good enough that it’s easy to see why.
  • The models are dead quiet.  That’s the thing I loved about my original Variaxs, no buzz when recording.
  • The string muting is MUCH better.  This was a big downfall on the original Vaxs but this was largely fixed with the new versions.
  • The tracking is unbelievable.  I found ZERO perceptable latency with the models on this guitar.
  • The virtual capo function is pretty awesome.  You can literally touch notes on a guitar and the computer will assign a new open tuning in a second or so.  I got this guitar because I thought It would be fun to play in standard tuning and drop into a DADGAD for a chorus.  You can do that with this guitar.
  • The integration with the POD is stunning.  You can change patches and guitars with a foot switch.  Acoustic alternate tuning on the verse and distorted Les Paul on the chorus.  One switch can be set to do that.
Here’s where I had a problem.
Basically, my biggest problem with the guitar (other than the neck) is that you have to adapt your playing and tone to the performance aspects associated with each guitar.  Sean Halley hipped me to that with his Line 6 Blog post where he talks about using .011 gauge strings, playing as light as possible and using a really minimal signal path to get his acoustic tone.
  • I tend to play hard.  So this was a learning curve for me, but even playing softer, I still needed to drop my volume down to about 50% on all of the models I was using because I was hearing really strange aliasing with some of the settings.  It was more pronounced on some models than others – (The Dano and the teles were some of the best sounding models on there to my ears) – but it was still really problematic.
  • I tend to play with low stage volume, and if you’re not playing loud enough to cover up the acoustic sound of the guitar, you’re going to be subjected to sonic weirdness as your ear tries to mix the acoustic sound with the modeled tone – particularly with regards to altered tunings.
This leads me to a favorite story of mine.
.

The Ted Nugent Story

.

Here’s where I get to tell my favorite second hand Ted Nugent story.  (If you like this story –  ask Bob Bradshaw about the time he made a board for Prince because it essentially ends the same way.)
A GREAT guy I knew from Berklee used to run sound for the Nuge back in the day.  Where most live stages have a wall of amps that are basically there to fill out the stage (there’s a reason that only one of them is miked usually), the Nuge had a wall of Fenders that were all live (even more insane when you consider that he was playing a hollowbody guitar at that point!).  The stage volume was deafening, and based on his signal path he would walk up to each amp and just dial in the numbers that he knew would get him his tone and play.
.
The amount of noise that was coming from the stage was driving the sound people nuts.  So they rack mounted and hard wired his pedals and Echoplex (they changed the tapes and cleaned the heads as well) and got rid of a ton of hiss.  They showed their work to Ted and he hated it.
.
He hated it, because it completely changed the sound of his amps – and the number system he used to dial in his tone no longer worked.  Ted wasn’t about to re-discover how to get his sound, so they had to undo everything (they put the old tape back in but refused to dirty up the heads again).
.
With that in mind here was my problem.
.
I might have been able to fix the aliasing issues with Workbench but the thing is, I didn’t dig how the models were sounding with my tones. It makes sense.  My tones were crafted around my FnH which sounds completely different from this guitar
But like the Nuge, I spent a lot of time getting some of those sounds together.  I didn’t want to do that again.
And there’s the real review.
This is a bold solution to a sonic problem.
If you are the type of person who wants to be able to control every aspect of tone and have the ability to create tones that have never been heard before – this is a solution that approaches the answer.  And I say that because if you are that type of person, then you will swap out physical pickups, swap out the neck and make every aspect of this instrument conform to what you want it to be.
This is expected when buying a used guitar but that’s not why I would buy a new guitar.
This particular guitar wasn’t inspiring to play, and the thought of customizing every aspect of it (from the neck to the pickups, to the string output, to the patches and having it be weeks or months to get to where I needed to go) just isn’t interesting to me.  As it is, I’ve already lost the better part of two days just trying to get it going, and that’s my threshold for moving on.
What follows is pure conjecture and should be viewed as opinion rather than fact.
I don’t think I’m alone.
.
I’m guessing that the Variax cost, if you were getting an artist rate, would probably be $600-$700. So if Sweetwater is selling these at $899 for a new model.  They can’t be making much money.
.
Furthermore, Guitar Center Used is selling these for around $700.  (A JTV-59 was up today for $549! – Ouch indeed!)
.
I don’t know if they’re making a price drop to promote these guitars, to move them, or what have you but what is interesting to me, in contrast, is that the JTV-59 (The Les Paulish one) has not dropped in price.
.
That one also looks much more comfortable to play and knowing that you can mount a Bigsby to it makes it appealing to me.  The only reason I didn’t look closer at that one is the substantial price difference.
.
You may dig the JTV-69.  You might like the neck, embrace all the things I really liked about this guitar and not be bothered by what I didn’t like.
.
So I haven’t given up entirely.  I’m sure that there will be a point where I try to cross this bridge again, but it’s not the right guitar for me right now and so back it goes.