Sickness

It’s been a few days since I posted, so here are some updates…

I hate being sick. I woke up sick yesterday and I wanted to call in. Unfortunately, yesterday was the last day of school for teachers in my school district so I couldn’t call in. It’s probably the only day that I absolutely couldn’t call in sick since there’s all kinds of stuff that we have to finish – turn in grade books, textbooks, attendance verifications, etc.

I made the hour commute and when I got there, I saw that they were serving breakfast. I didn’t eat anything, but I drank up some juice. Big mistake. About 30 minutes later I’m in the bathroom depositing it into the toilet. This is probably the most violent puking I’ve ever done. It was not pleasant. I finished up my work by 11:30 (with several bathroom breaks) and headed home. I didn’t make it. I had to stop at a gas station (with really nice bathrooms) to make another deposit. When I finally made it home, I spent the next 5-6 hours in bed. Fortunately, there were no further unpleasant bathroom trips. I think I’m over it, but yesterday was pretty miserable.

In other news, I returned those pedals and picked up an Ibanez TS-9. I’ve spent a little time with it, and it’s ok. It’s definitely not an all-purpose pedal. I don’t like cranking the gain on it; it gets too wooly and compressed at those levels. It’s actually pretty compressed all the time. My favorite settings are with the gain really low (like barely on) and the level set around 12:00-2:00 going into a slightly distorted amp. You can get some nice tones for light chording. My main complaints are that it doesn’t clean up enough and it’s too mid heavy. In other words, it’s a tube screamer.

Transparent Overdrives

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a couple of cheap overdrives to mess with over the weekend – the Boss SD-1 and the Digitech Bad Monkey. While many people have had success with these pedals, I did not.

I actually kinda liked the overall tone of the SD-1 (I was getting some vaguely Eric Johnson-ish tones out of it), but it was too noisy. It’s also pretty much unusable with the tone knob past 12:00, but you can dial that out. As soon as I switched it on, there was the unpleasant hissing sound. The actual tone was okay for a lead boost, but the noise level was unacceptable. I know that a lot of people mod this pedal to make it more hi-fidelity or whatever, but I’m not going to go that route with this particular pedal. I would rather buy a used one for $30 and mod that one instead. I didn’t really give the Bad Monkey much of a chance. I messed with it for several minutes, but couldn’t dial in a sound that I was happy with. I can’t really quantify it. I should have spent more time with it, but I didn’t.

What I have realized is that I really like the way that the Stulce amp sounds without any pedals at all. I can get an amazing singing lead tone without any pedals at all. Unfortunately, that amp setting is kind of impractical for normal use. I’m trying to find some middle ground, where I can get a cleanish tone without pedals, step on my boost to get a crunchy rhythm tone, and step on a yet-to-be-determined pedal that won’t overly color the amp’s natural tone for leads. I want my lead tone to sound like the amp, just more of it. Neither of the pedals that I tried this weekend fit the bill.

I don’t think that a good lead boost should be totally transparent. To cut through the mix, there needs to be a bit of a mid-boost. Tube screamers are famous/notorious for this so-called “mid hump,” so I’ll probably try out an Ibanez TS-9 next. I know that these pedals are not at all transparent, so I’ll probably end up with something else. There are a ton of TS clones available on the boutique market, it’s kind of overwhelming. I’m thinking that one of the Xotic boosters might be the ticket (either the AC Boost or the BB Preamp).

What are you guys using for leads?

Lava Cable

A few months ago, I replaced the junky cables on my pedalboard with some better ones from Lava Cable. I picked the Canare GS-6, one of the cheaper ones on the site, but it made a huge difference in the tone quality.

Anyway, one of the cables recently developed a short and became pretty much unusable. The cables come with a lifetime guarantee, so I shot Mark a quick email asking if I could mail it back to him so he could either fix it or send a replacement. He responded back and told me not to worry about sending it back and that he would get a new one in the mail tomorrow. Pretty cool.

From what I understand, Mark is a pretty solid dude as far as customer service and standing by his product. Quick story: I was reading this thread on The Gear Page where this guy had left his pedalboard at a show. He wasn’t asking for handouts or anything, just sympathy. Anyway, the guy was suddenly flooded with offers of spare pedals that people had lying around. Mark from Lava offered to give the guy a free pedalboard wiring kit along with a really nice instrument cable – probably $150-200 worth of cable.

Keep it up, Mark – you’ve definitely got a return customer here.

Sitemeter vs. WordPress stats

According to my Sitemeter graphic at the bottom of the page, I just got my 2500th page hit. However, WordPress stats shows that I have over 3800 hits. I started the WordPress stat plugin several weeks after I started the Sitemeter thing, so what gives? Why would they be so dramatically different?

Cheap Dirt

In my recent pedal purge to fund the amp purchase, I sold pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down. My current board is pretty sad-looking. I’ve got a tuner, a boost, a DD-20 and a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2, which is totally overkill for powering three pedals.

I can get a nice rhythm tone with the boost, but I need something a little meatier for leads. I’m waiting on a Timmy pedal from Paul Cochrane, but there’s a waiting list, and I need some dirt before it’ll be ready.

Thanks to Guitar Center’s 30-day return policy, I decided to go pick up a couple of cheap pedals and give them a test run. I grabbed the Boss SD-1 and the Digitech Bad Monkey. I’ve used both of these before, but not with my current setup. I may keep one of them, but I’ll probably end up returning them both in a couple of weeks.

Any other suggestions for cheapish distortion/overdrive pedals?

Dropbox

I recently received an invite to become a beta tester for Dropbox, a remote storage software solution. Basically, it creates a folder on your computer, and any files/folders that you put in there get uploaded to a main server. This is a very cool service if you have multiple computers that you want to share files between and you don’t want to mess with flash drives. It’s really easy to upload your files and sync multiple computers. It runs on Mac or Windows, and you get 2 GB of free storage.

I have 4 invites left if anyone wants to try it out. Leave a comment and I’ll send you one. Don’t post your email address – just enter it in the comment form and I’ll see it.

no guarantees

At this point, I have to assume that everyone knows the situation with the Chapman family. I think it’s safe to say that they are in desperate need of our prayers.

I read about it first thing this morning and it has cast a shadow over my day. I have known who Steven was for a long time, but I never really knew anything about him until Jenny & I started seriously looking into adoption. He and his wife’s passion for adoption is inspiring.

I really don’t have words, but I will simply say that I gave Jack an extra tight squeeze this morning before I left for work.

We don’t get any guarantees in life. We can’t afford to take anything for granted.

CAGED: Connecting Pentatonic Patterns

Continuing from the last post, we’re going to discuss how to connect pentatonic patterns. Let’s look at the first two patterns: C and A.
 

CAGED Pentatonic C & A

If you start at the bottom of the C pattern, play all the way to the top. Slide your pinky up two frets, then descend using the A pattern. Look at the tab to see what I mean.

E------------------------7-10/12-10---------------------------------
B-------------------8-10------------12-10---------------------------
G---------------7-9-----------------------12-9----------------------
D-----------7-9--------------------------------12-9-----------------
A------7-10-----------------------------------------12-10-----------
E-7-10----------------------------------------------------12-10\7---

To really get the relationships of these patterns drilled into your head, try isolation two or three strings at a time like this:

E||  --------7-10/12-10---------  ||
B||  --8-10--------------12-10--  ||
G||. --------------------------- .||
D||. --------------------------- .||
A||  ---------------------------  ||
E||  ---------------------------  ||

Practice this pattern repeatedly until you have completely absorbed it, then move on to the B and G strings, then G and D, etc. Before long, you will be able to play the pattern on all six strings ascending or descending.

Use this same technique on the other patterns, pictured below.

 

Notice that these two sets of scale patterns are identical, even though they are separated by an octave. The first one is in open position, and the second one continues the pattern up the neck.

 

 

CAGED: Interlocking Pentatonic Scale Forms

The 5 pentatonic scale forms fit together like a jigsaw puzzle on the neck of the guitar. Where one form ends, the next one begins. I have created an image to illustrate this point. Click here for a direct link.

This may look kind of crazy if you don’t know what you’re looking at, so it may be easier to take things one step at a time. In the next lesson, I’ll talk about connecting two patterns and shifting between the two.

Radiohead concert review

Before I get into details, let me just say that Radiohead was amazing – hands down the best show I have seen.

Josh and I got to the Woodlands Pavilion about 20 minutes before the gates opened. There was a pretty interesting group of people in line. The crowd was mostly normal-looking people in their 20s and 30s, but there were some younger and some who were older. I saw several older couples in their 60s out on the lawn. Anyway, there were also some people who looked like they were trying really hard to stand out – lots of fauxhawks and mohawks, dreadlocks and facial piercings.

When the gates opened, we had to go through all the security stuff – emptying out our pockets, spinning around in a circle and lifting our pants legs so that security could see the tops of our socks. It was fun. We were pretty close to the front, so we got decent seats on the lawn.

The lawn is literally a big grassy hill behind the seated area under the pavilion. There’s no seating so a lot of people bring blankets or you can rent lawn chairs for $5 each. It’s a total ripoff, just like $40 t-shirts and $9 beers. We rented a couple of chairs, since I didn’t want to risk the odds of someone behind me spilling their beer all over me.

The opening band started at 7:30 and played for about 45 minutes. They were called either Liars or The Liars and they were pretty terrible. They started out with an instrumental introduction which wasn’t too bad, but then the singer came out. He was doing this spinning motion with his hands, like he was doing the “roll ‘em up, roll ‘em up, throw ‘em in the pan” thing. His singing only made things worse. It was this monotonous, droning buzz that would not go away. They finally stopped playing at around 8:15.

Radiohead started up at 8:45 and played for 2 hours straight. They started with the first 2 songs from In Rainbows – 15 Step and Bodysnatchers. I thought that they might just play through the album in it’s entirety, but the third song was one of my favorites from OK Computer – Lucky. It was one of the high points of the concert as far as I’m concerned. Most of the songs were from the new album, but they played a pretty good mix of old stuff, too. Probably my favorite song of the night was Arpeggi/Weird Fishes where guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien play these angular, interlocking arpeggios. It’s pretty amazing to see how they pull off all these layered textures in a live performance.

Musically, the performance was almost flawless. From what I’ve read, they’re doing different setlists every night. When you consider how large their song catalog is, that’s pretty impressive. They rehearsed for weeks to get ready to perform all these songs, and it’s clear that they did so. Everything was so tight. The rhythm section of drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood is completely locked in. guitarist Jonny Greenwood does so much more than just play guitar. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent guitarist, but he also covers keyboards and a bunch of weird little noisemakers.

Let’s not forget Thom Yorke. I don’t quite know what to say here. Either you get him or you don’t. His voice doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. He was definitely on last night. He’s an energetic little dude. I was surprised by how many instrumental parts he covers. He played a lot of the guitar parts that I thought were covered by the other guitarists, and he also played piano and/or Rhodes on several tunes. He’s just an insanely talented guy.

I’m rambling, but I’ll close it up with a little bit about the lights. Radiohead is very much into the whole carbon footprint thing, so they are always looking for ways to minimize theirs. Instead of using the high-powered incandescent lights that most rock shows use, they have gone to more efficient LED cluster configurations. They had these giant beams hanging from the ceiling that were apparently covered in programmable LEDs. It looked like the performance area was surrounded with thousands of little flickering lights. They would change from blue to green to purple to red to orange – it was really crazy. I’m sure that the people near the front were completely overwhelmed by it.

It was a fantastic show. If they come to your area, you should really try to catch them. It’s probably too late to get tickets to this tour, but you never know…