No More Excuses


I’m talking about musicianship from a musical and creative/writing angle. Now is the time to target creative sources of inspiration. Now is the time to avoid disasters in the explanation of these truths. Time is running out. The more time I spend doing other things leaves little to no time doing these things. The less tactful I am at fulfilling these responsibilities the more it shows in the output of the product. Some have attributed quality of product to age of musician.

I have been told before by a thirty something person “I can’t wait to see the music you are making in your thirties.” This is nothing more then a self centered hierarchical statement. I will not tell someone, “I can’t wait to hear the music your making after x, y, and z has happened (because x, y and z have happened to me and I must say that I am making the best music in the world). I’m not here to talk about poor external advice though (to turn thirty). I am here to talk about my process of creation. Even if someone from the ages of 30 to 40 does have a more unique outlook or draw of more stories to choose from, I am not in that period of my life yet. I am in my twenties. However, I would also hypothesize that more influential recordings come from 20 somethings then any other age group. Nirvana. Beatles. The Doors. Etc etc.

The source of creation combined with my personal view, musical language style, writing techniques, and work ethic determines the output. Considering the audience is also one facet that can be factored in. Before anything one must believe in the song. Someone once said “Film is much like Christianity, it requires significant belief in things unseen”, and I agree and apply this statement to music creation.

If one has nothing less than strong technique then all that is left is an ear friendly song.
If one has nothing less then a good story then all that is left is an entertaining piece.
If one has nothing less then a personal view then all that is left is a bias.
But if one has significant belief in the song then all these aspects are considered.

Who knows, maybe I will write a lot better when I’m thirty, but why wait?

The best guitar sound I’ve achieved in my entire life.

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*This is the guitar rig software paired with the Native instruments foot controller. I actually use a FCB1010 for control, and an M Audio Profire2626 for my interface. 

I don’t believe this.
How could an algorithm, ones and zeros model an actual guitar amp without sounding like a digitally processed direct ‘line in’ polished turd?
I have achieved one of the greatest sounding guitar rigs that I have ever constructed, and it happens to be (bear with me) fully digital. I don’t know whether to vomit or rejoice.

Each ingredient must be introduced by not only an intentional measurement, but the correct order. Think of it this way, you are driving your car to SXSW. Not only do you need to follow the speed laws (or at least close to), but your directions and turns must follow the right order (or at least close to). Every time I construct my guitar rig, I follow these steps to the best of my ability. I am not a scientist. I am not the worlds best guitar player. I am someone who is passionate about achieving great tone.

1. Guitar Volume/ pickup choice-> you may want your pickups mixed “hot” to be fully reactive and provide that gritty bite. Turn your pickups all the way up. You may want your guitar sound to be dynamic and let your amp sing. Dial back on your pickups. I mostly keep my neck pickup all the way up. Why do I use the neck pickup as opposed to the standard “rock” bridge pickup? I like the warm tones. I like my guitar to be fairly dark sounding with just enough sparkle to cut through the mix. I do use both pickups or the bridge pickup sometimes. Thats when I really need to bite through through the mix.

2. Interface/preamp volume-> This is why most people say amp simulation sucks. They often times are using a low end USB interface with horrible latency. Use firewire for good latency. They set the line to crush, and it sounds overly clipped, digital and distorted, or they set it to weaksauce and it ends up sounding “tinny”. Obviously there is a balance but a rule of thumb I have is to set it so its peaking at about 40-50%.

3. Overdrives/Compressor/Volume/Tuner etc etc-> Anything that colors the tone of the guitar I try to keep in the front of the chain. When you put it after delays then your coloring the tail and also the transient.

4. Amp Color-> You may want your amp to make use of its tubes. Well this is great news but please don’t blow my ears off. You can buy an attenuator which basically adds a volume after your preamp section. It allows you to drive your tubes at essentially lower volumes. You may want to make some eq corrections with your amp. Or perhaps your amp is like my blues jr. which for some reason sounds great with the bass knob turned all the way up.

5. Modulation/Echos/Reverbs- Chances are that if your a person like me that enjoys a little bit of tube color in your amp then you will have to put these effects ideally in an effects chain. This is a separate channel that introduces your effects after the tubes. How does this even make a difference? It just keeps your delays and all cleaner, the moment I started doing this, was the moment all that mud I was trying to get rid of, finally (for the most part) went away. In Native Instruments Guitar Rig I can actually just drop these after the amp head and it accomplishes the same task.

6. Cabinet->In a live setting take into consideration the room. I usually use a small cab and tilt it up towards my face. I can hear myself, and yes, tilting it up like that makes the bass frequencies a little washy but thats besides the point. The pros of doing this outweigh the cons of having an inconsistent room. The guitar cabinet should not do the job of the main speakers unless they can’t handle it or the show calls for it.

You probably noticed that most of this is analog tone theory. You also noticed that this rig (if all analog) could break your back if carried in one load. Yes now I have to mention that  with Guitar Rig, I just need a suitcase (that contains my laptop, and and interface and a few cables) that I can quickly plug in at any give need, the midi floorboard controller, and my guitar. Its pretty portable, one fairly lightweight trip type of thing.

But another advantage is accessibility. The other day I was playing for gateway fellowship, a small worship service put on by the Washington area Christian radio station WGTS 91.9. I needed a wah pedal for one of our spontaneous interlude/jam songs during service. I just dragged and dropped the wah pedal into my setup and sent the pedal to connect with my floorboard and “BAM!” I had a wah. But one might say “Hey I can do that with my Floor POD Plus” Well that is good news. But the problem I have with that is that the amp and cab simulations are just okay. I mean they aren’t bad. But for a boutique, AC15, AC30 or any barely broken up amp sounds I have never had any thrilling experiences with them. Maybe they will improve those types of sounds who knows.

I’m also constructing an analog setup featuring my new BadCat 50w cougar, but due to the advantages of my digital setup, it looks like the bad cat won’t be put to as much use as I had initially thought.