Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jimi Hendrix Plays Auld Lang Syne

Jimi Hendrix recorded this at a New Year's Eve gig at the Fillmore East on December 31st 1969 with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, exactly 40 years ago to date! How cool is that?

Happy New Year Everybody!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Carvin Founder Lowell Kiesel Passes

From Carvin's Press Release, December 28th 2009 :

Lowell Kiesel: 1915 - 2009

It is with great sadness that Carvin announces the passing of it's founder, Lowell C. Kiesel. Mr. Kiesel was born in Nebraska in 1915, and as a young man, spent time in Wichita, Kansas, where he developed an interest in musical instruments; specifically, Hawaiian steel guitars, resonators and the electronic aspects of these instruments.

He founded the L. C. Kiesel Company in 1946, and began winding pickups on an old sewing machine owned by his wife, Agnes. The company was located in Los Angeles, briefly relocated back to Mr. Kiesel's home state of Nebraska, and then moved back to southern California in 1949, where the name was changed to Carvin, after his two eldest sons, Carson and Gavin. In the following years, the company expanded from pickups to guitars and basses, amplifiers, pro audio equipment and other musical accessories.

Mr. Kiesel's leadership, technical expertise and innovative engineering concepts led the company for decades, and even after handing the reins of the company over to his sons, he maintained an office in Carvin's San Diego headquarters and remained active in company operations.

He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by the Kiesel family and the entire staff of Carvin.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing to the Lord with the harp, and the voice of the psalm. - Psalm 98: 4-5


Orianthi, Rick Nielsen and Brian Ray Pay Tribute To Les Paul

Orianthi is definitely making her rounds -- this time performing a solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner for the opening of an NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans in Miami on December 27th 2009.

The Aussie lass was later joined at half-time by Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen and Brian Ray of Paul McCartney's band for a Gibson Guitar Tribute to Les Paul jam.

One of those rare occasions you'll see Orianthi with a Les Paul. And with a Floyd Rose to boot!

(Pic Source: AP Photo)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Gibson Releases The Jimmy Page 'Number Two' Les Paul

The Gibson Custom Shop has announced their latest artist signature model, the Jimmy Page 'Number Two' Les Paul, billing it as a culmination of "the extreme efforts of Gibson’s Custom Shop and the intimate cooperation of Jimmy Page himself".  

According to Gibson, several hand-built prototypes were presented to Page.  After he critiqued each one, refinements were made until the last prototype was given the master's blessing.  This last prototype was the template that was taken into final production.

Legend has it that after Page received his first 'Number One' 1959 Les Paul -- a gift from Joe Walsh -- he started looking for a second '59 Les Paul.  Purchasing 'Number Two' in 1973, he had the neck shaved down to more closely match the feel of 'Number One', which already had a slimmer shaved-down neck when he received it from Walsh. 

Gibson necks from the '50s were notoriously clubby and Gibson started to give their necks a slimmer profile in the 60s, no doubt due to customer feedback.

In the 80's, Pagey decided to get the electronics of 'Number Two' extensively modified.  He commissioned Steve Hoyland to devise a wiring system with push/pull pots on both volume controls and both tone controls and pickguard mounted switches, enabling a wider range of sounds via coil-splits, series/parallel and phase reversal of the pickups.  Hoyland was also brought in as 'hands-on consultant' in duplicating the wiring in the new 'Number Two'.

Gibson details the switching system thus:

With both pickguard-mounted switches pushed in and all push-pull pots in the down (in) position the Custom Shop Jimmy Page “Number Two” Les Paul functions as a normal Les Paul. From this starting point, the functions of the push-pull pots include:

Bridge Pickup Volume Control - Pulling this knob out switches the bridge pickup’s coils from series (standard) to parallel

Neck Pickup Volume Control - Pulling this knob out switches the neck pickup’s coils from series (standard) to parallel

Bridge Pickup Tone Control - Pulling this knob out switches the bridge pickup from humbucking to single coil

Neck Pickup Tone Control - Pulling this knob out switches the neck pickup from humbucking to single coil

It's interesting to note that this exact push/pull switching system was implemented in the first Gibson Jimmy Page Les Paul Signature model from 1995.  Personally when I tried out the mid-90's Page Signature, I found the switching system to be a hassle and actually took away from the gutsy Les Paul tone.  The tone was thinner than a non-modified Les Paul, even with all knobs down and the guitar in 'standard' mode!

A total of 325 'Number Two's' will be produced -- 25 guitars will be custom aged by Tom Murphy and played, inspected and signed by Page himeslf,  100 guitars will be custom aged sans signature  and 200 instruments will receive Gibson's VOS (Vintage Original Spec) finish.  Tom Murphy will be aging each guitar faithfully to match every scratch, ding and wear spot of the original Number Two.

Judging from Murphy's replicated belt-buckle wear, we also get a good idea of how low Pagey actually slung his Les Pauls onstage.

I'm guessing that Page's vaunted 1959 Number One will be next on Gibson's agenda.

(Quote Source:,  Pic Source:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard Formerly Owned By Gary Moore On eBay

Here's a piece of rock history.  It's not often you'll find a vintage late 50's Les Paul for sale.  Let alone one once owned by a bona fide, card-carrying member of rock's elite.

For your persusal is this 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard, formerly owned by Gary Moore.  (eBay Item #: 150400100221). 

Used by Moore in several music videos and album cover photoshoots, he apparently owned this guitar from 1991 to 1994 before selling it to the present owner.

Granted this is not Moore's almost mythical Peter Green '59 Les Paul Standard -- methought he wouldn't have parted with that one for all the Leprechaun gold in Ireland -- but this '58 comes pretty close if you're looking to own a genuine rock n' roll artifact. 

But as usual, do your research before committing and caveat emptor!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Royce Campbell Plays The Christmas Song

Here's an old chestnut from 1945.  Written by Mel Torme and Bob Wells, The Christmas Song was recorded most famously by the great Nat King Cole.

The guitar player in this vid is Royce Campbell who at age 28 became the touring guitarist for composer/arranger Henry Mancini's orchestra up until Mancini's passing in 1994. 

Royce has also toured with Cleo Laine, Marvin Gaye and Mel Torme and has performed with jazz luminaries Jack McDuff, Jimmy Cobb, Joe Williams, Groove Holmes and James Moody. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from all of us here at The Guitar Column!

Listen To Royce Campbell CDs Here! The complete home study jazz guitar course

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

PRS Torero SE | Poised To Capture the Shred Guitar Market?

PRS is set to release their first Floyd Rose-equipped guitar -- the Torero SE.
A lot of thought it seems has been put into the design of the neck, making it as shred-friendly as possible.  With a 24-fret ebony fingerboard sans fingerboard markers on a wide thin-carved neck, this axe is also the first production-model PRS to feature neck-thru construction.  The smooth carved heel-less neck design will no doubt facilitate effortless 16th note triplet runs in the stratospheric registers.
The solid mahogany body features a flame maple-top with binding,  EMG 81 and 85 active pickups in the neck and bridge positions respectively, a 3-way pickup selector, a single volume and tone control and of course the Floyd Rose 1000 bridge.

With a release slated for the first quarter of 2010, the PRS Torero SE will be available in Black Cherry and Gray Black finishes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Frank Zappa -- Birthday Tribute

Frank Zappa (born 21st December 1940) was way ahead of his time. A great composer, musical visionary, anarchist and extremely quirky guitar player, Zappa's music is beyond description.  Combining rock n' roll sensibilities with modern classical and avant-garde, he also peppered his music with liberal doses of sometimes explicit humour. You were either a fan or you weren't.  In Zappa's own words, "I never set out to be weird.  It was always other people who called me weird."

His music was legendary for being fiendishly difficult to play, but his sidemen were often an unlikely combination of conservatory-trained and unschooled, feel musicians.  And as bandleader of his Mothers of Invention, the roster of musicians who have been through the 'School of Zappa' is staggering.  It was Zappa who discovered Steve Vai as a budding guitar virtuoso, crediting him with the 'stunt guitar' parts on albums.  Zappa's impact on Vai's playing concept is undeniable.  And according to Vai, the best single piece of advice he received from his mentor was "Don't give up your publishing."

Because of the explicit humour in his music, Frank was no stranger to controversy. He battled the censorship of his music as well as the move to start labelling CDs with Parental Advisory stickers.  In the hearings before the US Senate that followed, Frank, a virtual army of one, took on no less than Tipper Gore (wife of former presidential hopeful Al Gore) and her music censorship lobby group Parents' Music Resource Center (PMRC).

Baltimore, where Zappa was born, has declared December 21st 'Frank Zappa Day', and are honoring him with a bust outside a public library.  Not bad for a guy who once stated, "I think it is good that books still exist, but they make me sleepy".

You were quite a character Frank.  Happy belated Birthday, wherever you are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cort Guitar Factory Workers Protest Layoffs At Frankfurt Musikmesse

Big business rears its ugly head yet again -- this time in South Korea's largest guitar manufacturer, Cort.

My article 'Guitar Manufacture -- China As The New Korea' highlighted escalating costs that were driving guitar manufacturers to mainland China.  This video, it seems, portrays a far bleaker picture.

According to Cort factory workers, the layoffs in Cort Korea came about as a result of the company's fraudulent bankruptcy closure by its chairman Park Young Ho. As the workers tell it, the company has been profitable since 1996 and that the bankruptcy closure was merely part of a plan to lay off more than a third of its workforce without retrenchment benefits or other compensation.  The bulk of Cort's manufacturing has been moved to Indonesia and China.

With their protests in Korea going unheeded, Cort workers gathered at the last Frankfurt Musikmesse tradeshow to further their cause, making known to the international community their plight of having to put in extraordinarily long work hours under threat of losing their jobs, the suppression of union activities by chairman Park, and the more serious allegations of threats and physical abuse at the workplace.

Their protest it seems fell on deaf ears.   

It makes me glad that I don't own a Cort guitar.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Steve Vai Duets With The Jemini Distortion Pedal

Not exactly a new video but a pretty entertaining one nonetheless.

Designed by Steve Vai and manufatured by Ibanez, the Jemini is a two-channel distortion device. The Jemini's left channel produces a smooth distortion with even overtones, while the right channel is, as Vai describes it, "grainier, with a lot more hair".

Vai sets up the Jemini's smoother left channel with the overdriven rhythm channel of his amp, kicking in the pedal for solos. The Jemini's right channel is used with the clean channel of his amp to accentuate its 'gnarly' characteristics.

Vai does a really good job demo'ing each of the Jemini's channels in two solo spots before performing a duet with himself, trading rhythms and solos.  When he puts the pedal's right channel through a rather skinny-sounding chorus-laden clean amp channel, he had me thinking how's he going to make that work?

As Vai plays the duet it all makes perfect sense.  Separating the two guitar parts with different tone frequencies, he cleverly avoids the tonal collision that using the same fat, creamy sound on both guitars would create.  No muddled frequencies!   His multi-guitar layering on Whitesnake's Slip Of The Tongue is still a reference for me from an engineering perspective -- check it out for how Vai lays down what must be 25 or 30 guitar parts per track, and have them all jive frequency-wise.    

A longtime devotee of the Boss DS-1 distortion pedal, check out also Vai's sly reference at 2:19!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Billy Gibbons and Robben Ford -- Birthday Tribute

Funny how things come in pairs.

Billy F. Gibbons celebrates his birthday today with another esteemed colleague, Robben Ford.

With a career with ZZ Top spanning close to 40 years, Billy Gibbons (born December 16th 1949) continues to bring his 'just turn it up as loud as you can and go for it' brand of good time Texas rock 'n roll to legions of fans around world.

Robben Ford (born December 16th 1951) made a name for himself as a young blues guitar phenom playing in the bands of Charlie Musselwhite and Jimmy Witherspoon. But the hip youngster was as devoted to the blues as he was to the jazz giants. Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter also featured heavily in Ford's listening habits, inspiring him enough to take up the saxophone which he also played in Musselwhite's group.

A stint in Tom Scott's LA Express made Robben a name in jazz-fusion circles culminating in him joining horn-legend Miles Davis in 1986 before returning to his blues roots in 1988 with Talk To Your Daughter.

Robben has a new project Trial By Fire, featuring Jimmy Haslip, Gary Novak and session maven Mike Landau. I'm looking forward to this one!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PRS Guitars Sweepstakes -- Win a PRS SE Custom 24 Signed by Orianthi!

PRS Guitars will be giving away a PRS SE Custom 24 in Whale Blue (retail value: US$1023), signed by Orianthi.

No purchase is necessary, but this one only applies to US Residents.

To enter, visit, click the “ENTRY” button and fill out the entry form in accordance with the on-screen instructions. Entries must be received between December 3, 12:01 a.m. PT and January 14, 2009, 2010 11:59 p.m. PT.

Be sure to read the complete contest rules at

Some customization ideas should you win this guitar:

  • Bling it out with Swarovski crystals and a hot glue gun

  • Create the first PRS 'relic' guitar. In my opinion PRS's don't carry the heavily relic'd look as well as Strats or Les Pauls, so proceed conservatively and with good taste
  • Really go crazy and let your imagination fly with a thematic graphic that best suits your personality. Check out this hand-painted bass that came through Gary Brawer's repair shop!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Steve Vai On Beekeeping!

Steve Vai got into the hobby of beekeeping when he moved to his home in Encino, California. Or as he describes it, "Went online, learned about honeybees, found a local beekeeper .. and got myself a swarm!

Vai waxes philosophical about the life and times of a bee, "A honey bee works until it dies -- I can relate!"

Steve covers the finer aspects of beekeeping including the reason why beekeepers use smoke, how raw honey is purified, and why one should avoid getting stung in the neck! Good to know, good to know..

Steve involves his wife, son and even his intern in his honey harvests, producing close to a thousand pounds of Fire Garden honey which go toward raising funds for his non-profit organisation, The Make A Noise Foundation.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Matt Schofield's SVL Sixty-One Strat

In my previous post I mentioned Matt Schofield's SVL Sixty-One Strat -- a travel and tour replacement for his beloved and valuable '61 Fender Stratocaster.

Matt has chosen playability and function over merely recreating a purely vintage replica. These are the specs of his SVL Sixty-One, as Matt tells it on his 2007 forum post:

  • One piece alder body, just under 4lbs
  • Yellowed Olympic White, thin nitro finish
  • Brazilian rosewood fingerboard on a flame maple neck, similar in contour to his '61 but slightly thicker at the first few frets
  • Back of the neck is sealed but has no finish, for a bare wood feel
  • Heavily rolled fingerboard edges
  • Jumbo 6100 frets
  • Slightly flatter compound fingerboard radius -- 9 1/2" to 12" at the end of the fingerboard
  • Hardware is vintage style -- Kluson tuners and a Callaham bridge and steel trem block but with graphite Stringsaver saddles
  • Pickups are scatter-wound Amalfitano SP's

(Pic Source and Matt's full forum post are here: Forum)

Matt Schofield To Release Instructional DVD

British bluesman Matt Schofield (that statement kind of makes him sound like he's in his 60s, I know) is currently filming an instructional DVD for Hal Leonard that is slated for release at Summer NAMM 2010.

According to Hal Leonard Corporation's press release:

December 2009:
Hal Leonard Inks DVD Deal with British Blues Sensation Matt Schofield
Filming underway in London for Summer release

Manchester-born Matt Schofield is making ripples on both sides of the Atlantic and far beyond for his incredible guitar skills. Hal Leonard Corporation, the world’s largest music print publisher, has signed a deal to create an instructional guitar DVD featuring Schofield for release this coming summer.

A confluence of solid blues, jazz, funk and rock, Schofield’s playing conjures up his various influences – the three Kings, Albert Collins, Hendrix, SRV, Robben Ford, The Meters – while sounding entirely fresh and original. His third studio recording, Heads, Tails & Aces, is garnering raves. The L.A. Daily News calls Schofield “the best blues guitarist from any country in decades,” and Vintage Guitar gushes that “his feel for the music is incredible.”

Hal Leonard VP of Pop & Standard Publications Jeff Schroedl shares the sentiment. “I was listening to Sirius and a track of Matt’s came on. I literally had to pull my car over and devote my full attention to listening to him play. He’s far and away the most exciting guitarist to come around in the last ten to 15 years.”

Matt's style brings to mind the bluesy 'fingerpainting' of Robben Ford as well as John Scofield's work with Medeski, Martin and Wood. He borrows much from the harmonic sensibilities of jazz, burning over the more sophisticated jazz-blues changes with aplomb. I'm digging it!

Heading up his trio with Jonny Henderson on Hammond organ and Evan Jenkins on drums, he goes with the (bass-less) organ-trio format to avoid parallels with the current crop of young blues guitar wunderkinds.

Although he used to travel with his vintage guitars -- a '61 Fender Strat, '62 Gibson ES335 and '68 Telecaster -- Matt now chooses an SVL Strat modelled closely after his '61. He plugs into Two-Rock Signature 100 watt heads.

(Press Release Excerpt from

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Greg Howe and Marty Friedman -- Birthday Tribute

Greg Howe and Marty Friedman, two of modern rock guitar's dazzling exponents, just happen to share the same birthday!

Greg Howe (born 8th December 1964) came to prominence after being discovered by Shrapnel Records head Mike Varney who at the time was soliciting guitarists' demos and writing a monthly Spotlight column for Guitar Player Magazine. Howe's outstanding self-titled debut, Greg Howe, was released on Shrapnel Records in 1988.

Emerging at the peak of the neo-classical shred guitar era, when it seemed that a new usurper to Yngwie's crown popped up with a new album every month, Howe's album revealed a fresh musical concept that combined rock, funk and blues influences with cutting-edge rock guitar techniques. To top it off, the writing on Howe's debut was extremely mature, borrowing more from Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs than Yngwie.

In recent years, Greg Howe has dabbled as sideman on the pop tour circuit as lead guitarist for the likes of Michael Jackson and Enrique Inglesias. He continues to embrace his rock-fusion roots on his recent albums, although he seems to have downplayed the stomping, funkier aspects of his early work.

Marty Friedman (born 8th December 1962)also made a name for himself emerging in the late 80's from Shrapnel Records stable of virtuoso shredders. Like Shrapnel label-mates Racer X, Cacophony featured a twin-lead guitar assault, with Friedman and co-guitarist Jason Becker attempting to break new fingerboard-speed records.

After Cacophony disbanded in 1989, Friedman joined Dave Mustaine's Megadeth in 1990. Friedman's nimble fretwork and unusual use of exotic Eastern scales were the perfect foil to Mustaine's crushing rhythm style. During his 10 year tenure, the band built a huge following, selling in the region of ten million albums. It's interesting to note that even during his time with Megadeth, Friedman continued to produce solo albums which were released on the Shrapnel label.

After his departure from Megadeth, Friedman moved to Japan where he continues to live. He collaborates on numerous musical projects with Japanese artistes and has even been known to host television talk-shows given his fluency in Japanese.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stanley Clarke with Chick Corea and Lenny White -- Power Of Three Concert Review

What can I say? Stanley Clarke has always been one of my favorite bass players.

When I was listening to the pioneering fusion groups of the 70's, I realised that Return To Forever alone had that complete balance of forces. Each member was a virtuoso. And no wonder -- a lot of their music was hard.

And holding down the bottom-end with Return To Forever with amazing dexterity and clarity of tone from his Alembic basses was Stanley.

Jaco. Marcus. Stanley. There are not many bass players whose first names have become synonymous with their instrument.

It was as a Return To Forever fan that I checked out their sold-out concert in Singapore on December 5th. The Return To Forever reunion tour with Al Di Meola did not make it to my neck of the woods, so when Power Of Three was publicised, I could not miss the chance.

Having recently stepped off what was undoubtedly a high-volume, electric Return To Forever reunion tour, Power Of Three was all-acoustic. The setting on the concert stage was intimate with the Yamaha grand piano facing the drums, and the upright bass in between. The instruments were set-up in close proximity like how they would be in a small jazz club.

Now, a part of me was hoping that Stanley would play his Alembic electric bass. But watching him absolutely tear it up on the upright made me feel I was not missing anything. I was reminded of an excellent South Indian vegetarian meal I'd had 20 years ago -- didn't miss meat at all!

The trio brought a pretty varied set to the night's program. Their second tune, Waltz For Debby by jazz piano legend Bill Evans featured Stanley's first solo of the night. It was an education just watching the master at work. I realized about minute into his solo that it wasn't about his incredible chops, his impeccable intonation or the warm, clear tone he was getting from his instrument.

Everything he did hit at an emotional level. Whether it was ripping lightning fast pizzicato lines or executing a beautiful arco bowed passage, his technique was merely there to elicit an emotional response in the listener. Technique served the music and not the other way around.

The same could be said for Lenny White. From my vantage point in the first row (!), I really dug watching Lenny. A picture of concentration with his eyes closed, he was supremely alert and ready to interact and respond to any spontaneous rhythmic gesture from Chick and Stanley.
Lenny's solo on Corea's composition Bud Powell from his Remembering Bud Powell tribute concert was especially memorable. His ultra-taut snare, resonant, unmuffled kick drum and his unique touch on the cymbals bore the trademark early Return To Forever sound I'd become all too familiar with. Up close, I was surprised by how light his touch actually was, even on the heavier tunes.

Lenny plays with incredible freedom, and is a very instinctual player. And if he did make an almost imperceptible rhythmic error, he simply smiled, and played the 'mistake' again but with a different variation! In my humble opinion, any player who doesn't make a mistake when playing live is simply not reaching enough.

Chick brought the night through a few more jazz standards including Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and My One And Only Love. I especially enjoyed his extended piano intro on the the latter tune which was a study in his many reharmonization devices and Corea'isms.

The trio's revisit of the Return To Forever classic After The Cosmic Rain saw Corea losing nothing in translating his original synth and Rhodes keyboard parts to the grand piano. Lenny approached the first half of the tune in typical mainstream fashion before ramping it up toward the middle with his original heavy-hitting classic drum parts. If die-hard Return To Forever fans in the audience had been watching this concert with mouths open thus far, After The Cosmic Rain had their jaws touching the floor!

But the highlight of the evening for me was Corea's Concerto de Aranjuez piano intro to Spain, probably his most well-known composition. Impactful and introspective at the same time, there was a longingness in his playing. In those couple of minutes, he painted a musical picture of his entire life. Pure genius.

Interestingly, Corea chose not to play the main melody to Spain, letting Stanley's striding bassline dominate. Sometimes an artist needs to re-invent and play his composition a little differently, especially if it's a tune that's been played a million times at concerts, gigs and jam sessions around the world!

All in all it was a great night for music. I just hope that fans will not have to wait three decades for another reunion.

The complete home study jazz guitar course

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jim Hall | Birthday Tribute

Born December 4th 1930, Jim Hall is known for his impeccable phrasing and deep harmonic sensibilities. Regardless of tempo, his melodic lines always demonstrate economy and remarkable restraint, so much so that one jazz critic even described Hall's playing as akin to 'walking on eggshells'.

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Hall ventured to Los Angeles in 1955 where he landed his first major gig, replacing Howard Roberts (and inheriting Roberts' Gibson ES175) in Chico Hamilton's band. Stints with clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, saxophonist Ben Webster and jazz diva Ella Fitzgerald soon followed. In 1959, Hall recorded Undercurrent with jazz piano genius Bill Evans, the first of two such piano and guitar only recordings.

Moving to New York in 1960, Hall joined saxophonist Sonny Rollins' group and eventually trumpetist Art Farmer's quartet, seen here in this video.

Jim Hall has been a major influence on countless jazz guitarists including Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Mike Stern and Bill Frissell. In many ways, Hall's stylistic legato approach, wide intervallic jazz lines and 'outside' harmonic ideas have contributed greatly to the development of the vocabulary that is so much a part of post-bop modern jazz guitar.

Happy belated Birthday Jim!

See More Jim Hall CDs and DVDs Here! The complete home study jazz guitar course

Friday, December 4, 2009

VHT Special 6 Amplifiers

I'm really digging the tones coming out of these new VHT Special 6 Combo amplifiers. These handwired, all-tube amps are driven by a single 12AX7 preamp tube and a single 6V6 power tube for a power-rating of 6 watts.

The 6V6 tube imparts typical Class A tones -- you can almost hear the 'ping' of the glass on the tubes. 6V6s are also a popular choice in the stereo audiophile industry, favored for their clarity and transparency.

A single-channel amp with simple Volume and Tone controls, the addition of a footswitchable Gain Boost feature on the Special 6 gives it the flexibility of a two-channel amp. Judging from this clip, the transition from Clean to Boost modes (at 0:20) are pretty smooth with no overly dramatic volume jumps. Notably, Boost mode retains the rich-harmonics and glassy overtones of the amp in Clean mode!

With a 'Minimum Advertised Priced' of US$199.99 for the Special 6 Combo and US$179.99 for the Special 6 head version, and considering the up-market boutique tones they are capable of delivering, these amps are amazingly great value!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nine Inch Nails Selling Tour Gear On eBay!

After playing their last show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on 10th September, Nine Inch Nails have decided to auction their touring gear on eBay.

According to the band's website

"We've been going through the NIN touring and studio rigs and are getting rid of a large selection of gear and equipment the band is no longer in need of. It's being listed on eBay here.
We do not know which (if any) tour these items are from unless specified, nor can we get any items autographed, so please do not ask. Hundreds of items will be listed over the next several weeks such as guitars, keyboards, amplifiers, drums, staging, anvil cases, cables, rack/outboard gear, guitar effects, and pedal boards.
Check the eBay page regularly for new listings, or follow @nineinchnails on Twitter for updates. More information can be found in the descriptions of each item."

Some items listed are near mint and some are 'tour casualties' -- broken necks and all.

Pictured is a near mint one-off custom shop ESP USA with The Fragile album graphic and Trent Reznor's Roland GK midi-pickup equipped green PRS Custom 22 tour guitar!

Stay tuned!

Eric Johnson's Setup Secrets -- Part II

My article on Eric Johnson's setup secrets from a while ago proved quite popular. This article is a more detailed follow-up.

In 2001, top-notch guitar repairman Gary Brawer took some careful measurements of Eric Johnson's beloved '58 Stratocaster. These were his findings:
  • The guitar was refretted with new .105 x .040 frets
  • The center of each fret was slightly milled to flatten out the radius to prevent bent notes from fretting out
  • String height is set at 4/64" for the high E and just under 4/64" for the low E, with both measurements taken at the 12th fret. The high E is set slightly higher to facilitate clean bending
  • The truss-rod is adjusted so that there is absolutely no relief on the fingerboard
  • The nut is cut low with just enough clearance for the open strings to ring cleanly
  • The string ends are not inserted into the center holes of the tuners. Instead the string ends are threaded between each tuner's center slot and then wrapped around each post two or three times.
  • The B string is wound all the way to the bottom of the tuning post and is not threaded through the string-tree
  • At the bridge, stock vintage saddles are used on all the strings except for the high E. Here Eric uses a brass saddle to fatten up its sound.
  • The four tremelo springs (set three on the bass side and one on the treble side) are tensioned just enough to keep the bridge resting against the body of the guitar, ensuring maximum transference of string energy. This setup also ensures that bending a string will also not cause other unbent strings to lower in pitch
  • Except for a simple re-wiring of the second tone pot so that it controls the bridge pickup, all electronics are stock
  • Eric sets the bridge pickup closer to the strings. The center polepieces on the bridge pickup are also pushed down to reduce the arc of the polepieces
  • The neck pickup is 10/64" from the strings. The middle pickup is 12/64" from the strings on the treble side and 10/64" on the bass side. The bridge pickup is set at 6/64" on the bass side and 4/64" on the treble side
  • Strings are GHS Nickel Rockers gauged .010, .013, .017, .026, .038 and .050
Gary's blog is loaded with pics and info about the repair work (and more) on the guitars and basses that come through his shop. Check it out here:

Eric's '58 Stratocaster is featured throughout this HotLicks DVD:
The complete home study jazz guitar course

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jeff Berlin On Why You Should Not Practice With A Metronome

Jeff Berlin recently referenced my Henderson/Berlin/Chambers gig review on The Players School Of Music Facebook page:

Go to the blue comments box at the bottom of the Facebook page and click 'See More' for the rest of Berlin's article.

Jeff raises a few interesting points about why one should not practice with a metronome.

"..we, as a band, Dennis Chambers, Scott Henderson and I played with good time as an automatic event, not as a special musical issue to regard. We never talked about groove or time because talking about these things is a "DUH"."

"No good pro player gives it the special importance that most of the music world outside the pro ranks seem to give it. My on-going point is that practically everybody, famous guys on downward never acquired their time sense from a metronome, practically no one."

"Groove doesn’t require an academic lesson because groove is always a result AFTER the fact of good practice, never as a starting or early practice principle. This is where teachers will always let you down; they insist that you play in time before you even know what you are doing, which is one reason why I dismiss using metronomes or groove lessons of any kind."

"Lessons are best learned out of time so that you can regard and improve your playing via great musical information. Nobody in music history will state that their groove came from a teacher or a school, because it always came from playing, listening and learning the styles of music that pleased them."

The Players School Of Music Facebook page is slowly evolving into a great resource with Berlin constantly updating it with new videos and free lessons. I'll definitely be staying tuned for more!

Check Out Jeff Berlin's CDs Here! The complete home study jazz guitar course

Greg Koch Plays 'Cause We Ended As Lovers

Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (behind the Cheddar Curtain as he likes to describe it), Greg Koch's playing is a gristly stew of influences.

Take a dollop of Jimi Hendrix, a spoonful of Eric Clapton, a dash of Chet Atkins, a peppering of BB, Albert and Freddie King, and a heaping helping of Albert Lee, and you have a killer gumbo that doesn't even begin to describe Koch's indescribable style. Or wry sense of humor.

In this in-store guitar clinic vid -- Koch is a clinician for Fender Instruments and Hal Leonard -- he demonstrates his succulent volume swells starting at 2:59 in the style of Duane Allman and Roy Buchanan before launching into a Jeff Beck-style rendition of 'Cause We Ended As Lovers at 3:31.

Koch's sheer control of the instrument is indisputable. Check out his Beck-approved finger-style approach to the main melody at 4:00 before going back to pick-mode briefly at 4:25 to execute some pick pinch-harmonics. I especially dig his quirky flurry of triplets at 5:19.

Koch has several books and DVDs out on Hal Leonard -- guitar instruction at its finest. Check them out here.


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