Guitar Snobbery

A few weeks ago, I was setting up my gear for a gig at a big wedding reception. After soundcheck, I was sitting down nursing a beverage, when one of the waiters working that evening comes up and says hello.

Waiter: “Hey, you’re the guitar player, right? So, how do you like your power supply?”

Me: “What??? My what?”

Waiter: “Your pedal power supply?”

I have a nice Les Paul, a pretty cool Fender amp, and some pedals that are not typical and ubiquitous, and this guy is asking me about my power supply?

Me: “Uh, I don’t know. It gives my pedals power, so I guess it works. What?”

Then he goes into this thing about how he’s a guitar player too, and he only uses batteries for his pedals. He says that other power sources degrade his tone, and was wondering if I ever have noticed the difference.

Trying hard not to roll my eyes, I said politely, “yes, I’ve heard some say that before that there’s a bit of a difference for some pedals, but for me, the convenience of a power supply far outweigh the nominal improvement in tone that some people seem to notice when using batteries”.

Now, I have heard people claim this before in forums and blogs. And it might be true. But, I bet if these self-proclaimed tone experts were put through a blind test, they couldn’t tell the difference between battery power and a good power supply. Isn’t power just power, assuming the power supply is of good quality and there’s no electrical interference?

So, I thought about this short conversation a bit after and wasn’t sure what to think of it. My guess is the guy was trying to sound smart, and maybe he is and could be a great player and a guitar tone expert. But, common sense told me he was full of shit and just trying to impress me with something he read somewhere. Well, I wasn’t impressed.

The ultimate tone is the elusive quest of most of us guitar players. But, in my opinion the majority of the tone comes from the player, a good guitar, a good amp, and maybe some good pedals. Secondary are the other parts of the puzzle: picks, cable quality, cable length, number of pedals, etc. Yes these secondary items can negatively affect tone, but assuming cables are ok, their lengths are not too crazy, and you’re not running 50 pedals through your chain, your tone should be ok.

I think if this guy looked into it a bit, he would see that most professional musicians, some considered purveyors of godly tone, aren’t that snobby. And, some of the best pedals seen on boards of the biggest concert stages and best studios don’t even have a battery option.

 

 

Art is encouraged until it is not

Many parents spend most of their free time driving kids around from piano lessons to dance classes, to sport practices and games and back again. They value a well-rounded experience and exploration of the arts, or sometimes feel like they need to compensate for the things that are not available in their schools. But, they don’t often think of what happens when that art becomes a passion and obsession for their kids.

I started playing guitar on my own motivation when I was 8 years old. My parents encouraged me, drove me to lessons, and checked on me from time to time to make sure I practiced. When I was in high school, I played in the jazz band, formed a couple of rock bands, and they encouraged it.

But, then, as I began my college years, they changed their tune. School and career plans were seen as the only priority. Playing music was ok as a hobby, but only after I’ve studied all I could study. The problem was, I couldn’t just turn it off like that. I was addicted to music and the guitar. Even if I tried to concentrate on other things, a melody or a riff would come to me, and I felt compelled to develop it. It became the most important thing at that moment. (more…)

Be good, but don’t be too good of a guitar player

In sports, the most successful athletes are those with the best abilities. The fastest runner, the strongest weightlifter, the main goal scorer, the best baseball hitter will be at the top, winning the most championships and earning the most money.

But in music, it is not so. The fastest guitar player is not the most successful. The best technical player does not earn more money than those less able to shred. Actually, sometimes the best and most technical players are unknown, local small town heroes at best, barely scraping by financially.

So, why is that? Why does a guitar virtuoso often earn less than a kid that can barely play 4 chords?  Should we hold back from becoming too good? (more…)

5 reasons why playing your electric guitar acoustically is good for you

MarshallStack Slayer

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plugging into a huge Marshall stack, pushing the volume up to 11, and hitting that first power chord is a life altering moment for us guitar players. If you have not done this yet, you must go now and do it.

But, as awesome as that is, I believe that we should often play and practice without being plugged into an amp. What? Yes, that means keeping that nice Marshall Stack off most of the times. Why?

  1. You will learn to be more accurate since you won’t have distortion and effects covering up your flaws.
  2. When you come up with licks and riffs that sound great acoustically, imagine how great they’ll be through that stack.
  3. You will be able to play more often without bothering anyone. No more excuses like it’s late, my kids are doing their homework, etc.
  4. You might explore some other genres which could add richness to your playing.
  5. You might be inspired to write more instead of spending endless hours of dive bombing and pinching harmonics.

Joe Satriani – what makes him so great

Musician Joe Satriani

Musician Joe Satriani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When guitar players and non-guitar players are asked who is the best guitar player in the world, Joe Satriani’s name often makes the list.

Is he the fastest guitar player? No.
Is he the most technically advanced? No.
Is he “the” best? Not sure if there is such a thing.

So, what makes him so great?

Guitar players are judged by many things: technical ability, flashiness, speed, the “touch”, or by the classic riffs or songs they’ve written or made famous. But, what really makes one guitar player better than another? And, why has Joe been so successful in the guitar instrumental genre, where most have had only marginal success? (more…)

Top Ten Things to know before you marry a Guitar Player

My wife is awesome! She gets my guitar obsession and quirks now, but it took her a while to get there.

She spent years scratching her head wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Is this madness ever going to end?

Guitar players are a unique breed.  At first, you might think it will be fun to date the guy from the band. You’ll tell yourself, wow, he has so much passion and emotion for music. He will bring all that passion to our relationship. He will always play for me and write songs about me, about our love, etc. And, oh, those fingers. They are so dexterous. (more…)

Practice everything before a gig – songs, technique, stage presence, gear, etc.

I had a gig last night and I was ready, so I thought.

I had my parts down, I knew the songs inside and out, had new strings on my guitar and had a copy of the set list printed out. But then I hit the stage and it all went to shit.

I couldn’t hear the bassist or my backing vocals, my solo boost pedal made my volume go up to 23 , my feet were frozen to the ground yet I knew I had to start moving around. My first solo came and I started shredding but noone was even paying attention. I started making weird faces and people looked frightened. And, that was just the first song. (more…)

What is NAMM and why it is more magical to musicians than Disneyland is to kids?

pics of the Anaheim covention center where win...

pics of the Anaheim covention center where winter NAMM takes place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lot of musicians know about NAMM, the National Association of Musical Merchants. Some have been to the annual NAMM show, while many have always wanted to. But, there are a surprising number of musicians that never heard of the show. They have no idea that this is the musician’s mecca and they should make a pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

In a nutshell, the NAMM show is a music conference where music instrument/equipment merchants come to see all of the latest products from the manufacturers of all things music-related such as instruments, electronics, software, accessories, and more. The main conference is held in Anaheim, CA, every January, while a smaller one is held during the summer in Nashville. The Anaheim convention center gets transformed into what can best be described as Disneyland for musicians. And by the way, it’s right next door to Disneyland so maybe some of the magic rubs off. (more…)

Still chasing tone? The volume knob can be your secret sauce

volume

We’re all familiar with the typical guitar setting: volume at 10, crank the amp and distortion and go. But, there are 9 other numbers on the guitar’s volume knob. Many often ignore 1-9?

There are a lot of sweet spots bellow 10 that can help expand any guitar player’s arsenal of sounds.  Many guitarists, myself included, have been guilty of chasing various tones over the years, often relying on guitar pedals to fill the void. One pedal for a little dirt, one for a little more dirt, one for uber dirt, two stacked for fatness, etc. But, a lot of these in between tones can be found with the often ignored volume knob.
(more…)

Do you have gas? (gear acquisition syndrome, not the other kind)

I have GAS! I buy gear and before I finish swiping my card, I’m already eyeing the next thing I convinced myself I can’t live without.

I can’t afford to buy new guitars regularly, so even though my eyes are set on the next 3-4 guitars I “need”, I can’t do anything about it. But, guitar pedals are another story. These beautiful little boxes with their promise of angelic sweet buttery tones, are so hard to resist. And, many are in the sub-$200 range so they can be acquired more regularly.

But, more stuff does not equal happiness. (more…)