What Makes a Good BassPlayer?

Someone who plays their notes with strength and power. Notes which sound full and round. This is not about having a loud amp, it is about digging into your notes to get your notes out of the bass with strength and confidence. This not only applies to bassplayers, guitarplayers should also dig into their strings to create a better sound.

Someone who is able to outline the structure of a song (playing the chordnotes) without the support of any rhythm instrument such as guitar or keyboards.

Someone who can create variations in feel of the song without altering or upsetting the tempo of the song.

Someone who can play the same feel, but vary their choice of notes, this to keep the song fresh.

Someone who can play supportive. Bassplaying is all about the support and feel of the music, it is not about being flashy. This does not mean bassplaying is boring and repetitive, no you can be as inventive when you play the bass as when you are when playing the guitar.

This list is by no means complete, the facts I mentioned here are only  some of the main characteristics which make up a great bassplayer.

Eddie

Steely Dan and How to Improve Your Solos

This article will not be about Steely Dan, I only use them as a example what you can do with your solos.
Steely Dan were well known for hiring different guitarplayers to create different sounds into their songs. Each guitarplayer they hired had a unique take on playing solos. At some point even Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits was asked to contribute some of his single string skills to one of the Dan’s songs.

In an ideal world guitarplayers should have enough theorectical and technical knowledge to execute exhiting solos for whatever song they are asked to play over. Because the world is far from ideal I will give you an insight how you can approach the subject of playing great solos:

      
      Mood of the Song and Your Solo:

Whatever song you listen to, most of them will fit into a certain style, a particular category of music. Usually this style will draw on a set of rules, sounds if you like, what creates the unique sound of the style. This style will have its own rules on what kind of solos will work, they are the so called stylistic cliches. Listening to particular styles a music will give you an insight in the sound of this kind of solos. Hopefully, over time, you will learn to play solos using some of these stylistic cliches. They will not make you sound great or unique but they will work and will teach you what to play and what not.
Once you know how to work in some styles you may want to play about with the cliches and use them at your own disgression. Later more on style.

When it comes to style, Steely Dan were unique in joking about with the style, they created solos in pop song which used a lot of jargon from Jazz Rock, or whatever genre they were thinking of at the time, to make them fit the right mood of the song.
This kind of approach makes up for more creative- and individual solos.

When it comes to mood each song conveys a particular mood, this mood can often be defined in day to day language instead of musical jargon. A song can sound angry, happy, sad, upbeat, shy ect.
You may want to get your solo fit the same kind of mood of the song, this would be logical. On the other hand you could also go in opposites: Create an upbeat solo in a sad song.
Is this a hard thing to do? Well it is just a matter of trying. Most theory about scales and harmony will try to teach you just that, but you could also get similar results by thinking about your playing and experimenting. This may be more fun. True, you have to approach your guitarplaying in different ways each time you play, and you will only get there by hard work (it is all about playing really!!)
Creating a contrasting solo with regards to the mood of the song will do a similar thing as what the Dan tried to achieve with their songs: All these different guitar greats had different takes on styles and the sound of the guitar. All in all you need to become a cameleon with a lot of different colours, but it certainly is a lot of fun!.

          Harmony versus Melody:

To get different moods in your solos you could think in terms of harmony or melody.
Playing solos where you use only chordtones of the song will get you to play harmonically. It will give you different results compared to playing melodically.
Melody, on the other hand, may disregard the chords of the song and live a life on its own.
Successful melodic solos can stand on their own without support of any chord. Harmonic solos may find it hard to make sense on their own.
Ideally you should be able to play in both ways. Just think of how you approach your solos and start to experiment with both ways of playing. Sing along with whatever you play, this is always a great way to improve your melodic twists.

         Style:

If you are familiar with particular styles of guitarplaying why not experiment with any of the following: Play bluesy over a non-blues song.
Play atonal with lots of dissonant (wrong) notes, and slip back from time to time to playing in the right key of the song.
If you are mainly a pentatonic guitar player why not slip in some chromatic notes to spice up your sound. Disregard your pentatonic patterns and just play some notes where you go up fret by fret over one string. Create some fast runs in this fashion to get some energy in your solos and before you know it you will start to sound like a really creative player instead of someone who just plays notes out of a tin.

Have a listen to the solo in Steel Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years. Listen to how the notes dance up and down and in some respect start to live a life of their own with regards to the backing of the song.

Have a go at trying a variety of soloapproaches on one of your favourite guitars. Once you get happy with the notes you produce why not try some of your favourite effects, this will open up new sonic possibilities.
Hope to catch again soon.
Eddie

Divide Up Your Practise Time

Your time spend with your guitar will be rewarded if you organise the moments you spend with your guitar.
For this article a handful of tips some of your may find useful.

           Give Your Fingers a Workout!

Typically when you start learning to play the guitar you will need some excercises to loosen up your fingers. Fingerexcercises are not only for beginners, a lot of intermediate players of the guitar need them as well as they may not use all their fingers correctly. Once your fingers know how to navigate around the fretboard they will remember this, but the fingermemory needs to be trained and a lot of people tend to skip the essentials. A lot of people even feel this is boring, but just remember: Noone in this world was born with the abililty to play the guitar. it is a skill learned over time and anyone can learn this skills.

         Material to Play………..Songs!

Fingerexcercises are only a tool to get you going, the music is what you want to play, and part of the music are songs.
Once people discover they enjoy playing songs they tend to forget the hard work of scales, chords, fretboardknowledge ect. because it is boring………………
It is true that songs are what most listeners would like to hear you play, but you need a direction for those songs, you need to know what you can do with these songs rather than just playing them using the same old chords and rhythms that you have learned in the beginning.

        How Do I get these Songs to Sound any Better?

This is where your journey on the guitar and in music starts! By learning about keys, tempo, chords, what you can do with those chords, how they are being formed ect.
All of this can be broken down into little segemants to guide you through the wilderness.
Make goals for yourself to solos over the songs you play, create new intros for them, learn to play some of the chords in different places.

        Your Practise Time:

You could start your guitarsession with a few fingerworkouts. If you have been using excercises for a some time, have a look at them again, do not just repeat the same old hash: Work on all your fingers, get all fingers to work at a similar strenght in ANY place on the fretboard, work on slides, hammer-and pull offs, bends ect. Create your own excercises based on what your own playing needs!  Enough to keep you going for quite some time.

From there you should move on to your songs, but don’t just play those songs as you have been doing, no break them down, analyse them: Ask yourself what key these songs are in, get to know all the different parts, the feel of the song. Memorise the song, learn to play it without the aid on any books or chord/lyricsheets. Listen to different  versions of the song and have a look at how you play the song. Ask yourself why you play the song the way you do. In most cases you probably do not know, you probably never thought about this. Can you play this song differently? Yes, anything can be played in a way how you like it!
All in all I would call this the theory section of your practise session. Use this time to find out as much as you can about all the things you need to get better at, break it down in little sections and keep revisting this material and keep working on it. In this way you create your own practise scedule based on the material you like while at the same time working on new skills.

At the end of your playing session you should reward yourself with playing whatever you like playing and having as much fun as you can.
Remember: Each session should focus on something new, do not just play what you already know.

How you should go about finding fingerexcercises, theory for scales, keys and chords I leave up to you as there is plenty of material out there. You need to get to grips how to use this knowledge for what you do or would like to learn, do not just copy material without any reference to your own playing.

How long should I practise for?
As long as you feel is needed. I think doing it regularly is more important rather than dividing it up in hours or minutes. If you love the guitar noone should have to tell when to pick up the guitar and play. Whatever time you have available is good.
If you find it hard to get time, create moments of routine for yourself when you practise the guitar. Hopefully these habits will start to feel natural to you after some time.

Think about what you do, keep at it and enjoy.
Hope to see you soon again with more new insights in how to improve your level of guitarplaying
Eddie

Learning Scales: What You Need to Know

For this article a few words of guidance to get you through the process of learning scales.

Why would you like to learn scale? You probably can play by now a handful of chords and with these you can probably play most of the songs you like.
When it comes to playing single notes you probably can play most of the simple intros of your favourite songs.
Why on earth would you like to burden yourself with the thought of gettting into scales?
Because it will help you with music theory, get to know the fretboard better, become freer on the guitar, and with music in general. All of these issues are deep, and ongoing goals. Not everyone does have the patience and willingness to stick to these goals and fight their way through it.
Get into learning scales because you feel you would like to know more about your instrument and music in general, do not get into it because other people tell you so!

For those who decide scales are for them there are a few steps you can take to make the subject clearer and more fun:

Most people will get introduced at some point to the Pentatonic scale. Often people will get scalepatterns and with that they have to do it. Then they often get confused: What are all these patterns about? How do they work? What is the relation between all of them?

My own approach when it comes to teaching scales is to introduce students to the major scale. Usually I will give the example of key of C because it relates to the keyboard, which is visual and most students do understand what they can see.

From the major scale I will then make the relation to the relative minor scale (Still a seven note scale!). From there I can then jump to the Minor Pentatonic scale, which contains similar notes as the relative minor. Of course the Minor Pentatonic Scale only contains five notes instead of the usual seven. But hopefully, by now, students can see the relation, and they will also have a better understanding where these scales come from.

What happens next in a unguided situation: Students get bombarded with scalepatterns which show these five notes all over the fretboard. Good for the abstract and dedicated student, wrong for the majority of learners: Too much information, way too soon, which leads to frustration and confusion.
My  own solution to this issue is to introduce students to one pattern, let them to get familiar with this, get them to play with it. Once students feel confident with this one pattern, and they also understand what lies underneath these five tones, then it is time to move on to the next scalepattern.

Follow this process through for all the other four remaining patterns and you get the picture.

The previous example may be a ideal situation, as most people will get a lot of patterns at some stage but they will still be unaware of how to use them. Usually it depends on the students own willpower and motivation to break down these scales and to see the bigger picture.
It also helps if students like a certain style of music where a lot of improvisation is the norm. Once I have given them a scale they immediately know how to use it to play riffs and melodic ideas. Students who are not familiar with the idea of improvising usually need more time to get used to the idea of playing spontenous musical ideas. 

Once you get to grips with the Major scale and the minor Pentatonic you may get curious to see how the modes work. Well the seven modes can be introcuded in a similar way, as they all relate back to the same major key I mentioned earlier on.

Have patience and stick to it.
Hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Learn to Mute All Your Strings

Muting strings is one of those techniques which can make your strings sound a lot darker.
Most of you readers will be aware of this technique when it comes to muting your low E and A with the technique called “Palmmuting”. This technique is used in a lot of Rocksongs, usually it is applied when using distortion on the electric guitar.
Why not extend this technique to ALL your strings? Not a problem you may say, true but watch out:

Stratocaster players or anyone with a vintage style bridge and a Strat style electric, will find that they will need to adjust their handposition when it comes to muting the top E, B and G string. The volumecontrol also seems to be in the way, you will need to curve your pink around it to get comfortable.

Start by putting your palm accross the whole bridge, this will now be at a different angle compared to when you only mute the low E and A.  Try your usual technique and watch ( and listen! ) what happens when you try to mute your G, B and E when using the same technique. Changes are you will need to adjust your palm.

A similar story for acoustic guitarplayers, you will need to adjust the postion of your palm as well.

This technique may be easiest for guitarplayers with a Tune-o-Matic style bridge (Les Paul style of Guitars). The Volume and Tone controls on these guitars seem to be well spaced enough, position of your palm should not have to change too much from how you normally hold it during playing.

  What is the use of this Technique?

Muted melodies on your top strings which will stand out in the mix. These sounds are also good for percussive playing all across the fretboard.

Too many ideas to mention really, just try it, experiment and see how you can fit it into your style.

Have Fun.
Eddie

I am Left Handed, Should I Get a Left Handed Guitar or Buy a Regular Righthanded Instrument?

This is a common question being asked by beginner students who happens to be left handed.
My answer to this issue is: Get comfortable with the guitar you already have. If you happen to have a right handed guitar, and it feels good, keep it and use this for your playing. If you have a righthanded guitar and it feels not good you could change the strings and turn guitar upsided down and play in this manner. If you feel this is a little clumsy, you could buy yourself a left-handed guitar.
When you shop for a left-handed guitar you will notice you have far less choise than the right-handed player.

I have had students in the past who were left handed but they were equally comfortable with both a left-handed and right-handed guitar.

If you are a left handed beginner and you are not sure what to do, just get started with whatever guitar you have. The whole idea of learning to play the guitar is new, and for anyone new to the guitar, you will need to get comfortable with holding the guitar, placing your fingers on the fretboard and start to get sounds out of it. This itself is a unfamiliar feeling, and it does take time to get used to it. Once you get used to it you will be able to tell what it better for you.
Be patient for now, give it a go and see what works for you.

Hope to see you soon again with more articles about tone and guitarplaying technique.
Eddie

Using Multiple Amps for your Guitar Rig

Fed up doing gigs or rehearsals with a muddy guitarsound? Not getting enough volume from your amps for your guitarsolos? Blame your bandmembers, or the songs or your own gear for having such a weak and thin guitarsound.

How much thought do you give yourself when it comes to your overal guitar set-up? Are you aware of the various options which lay open for you as a guitarplayer to get a better and solid guitartone?
For this article I will examine the ins- and outs about using more than one amp. You do not need to be famous or super rich to get a much better guitartone than what you have at the moment. Anyone in the world can achieve a big guitartone such as some of the more well-known guitarplayers use (and who we all seem to admire).
I will not detail the various technical options as in how to connect your gear, am more interested in the thinking behind the whole process why you could use several amps at once, and what the consequences will be for your tone and playing as such. My thought is: Once you know why guitarplayers go into this kind of set-up, it may be possible for yourself to figure out what it is you need to do to give yourself a much better tone.

    One Amp is enough or………………..??

Why on earth would someone like to use more than one amp you may wonder? Two comboamps will give you two speakers (or may be even more). The sound travels nor through one but two soundsources, making your sound fuller and more detailed. Sure this must be better or………….?
Well, no single set-up is perfect, anything you use does have its own effect on the endresult. Logical? There are not many guitarplayers around who do have one set-up which will cater for a Jazzgig, a metalgig, a folkgig ect. all at the SAME time. You need to look into what you need, what you like and how you can get there with the gear you have.
Using two amps will give you a particular sound which is different from just using one amp. The detail of each amp is lost, you will get just one guitarsound instead. This one guitarsound should be dealt with accordingly: You will need to look at the overal sound and adjust each individual amp to get the sound you are looking for. The sound of each amp is there to help the overal sound, not just that one amp.
If you are new to playing through two amps you may feel that your settings  of the past from your favourite amp may no longer work. The amp does now need to work in tandum with the other amp to create one sound. It should not take you too long to get used to. Overal you may want to keep the volume down as you are now using two amps. Keeping the volume at a reasonable level will help you to obtain a balance between the sound of the two amps. Mind you: I am talking tonesettings here not just volume, but keeping volumelevels down will help you to achieve a better mix between the tones of both amps.

     When Do You Need Two (or more) Amps?

When you are using guitartones which mix various sounds you may want to use various amps. The one, well-known example is delay: Use one amp and your delayed tone is mixed with the dry sound of your guitar. When you seperate each signal to its own individual amp the result is a much clearer ( and bigger, spacious ) guitartone. 

When you use loops where you use various instruments (think Bass, Keyboards ect.) which are all part of the same sound you may want to seperate each instrument into a different amp. It will give you a much clearer and less cluttered sound.

In a nutshell: One amp will not give you the seperation of sound which two amps will give you. On the other hand your sound gets dilluted between two amps and there may be occassions where you do not want that at all.
Personally I would prefer one simple, amp set-up if I was to a do a straight forward blues gig. That one amp would be enough. I would enhance the amp with only a handful of well-chosen pedals. Too many amps can make the set-up complex and you need to think carefully about what goes on soundwise.

     Considerations:

         Speakers  and tone variation

Okay, you have come to the conclusion that you want to use two amps. Should you choose medium range combo amps, stacks or maybe halfstacks?
Going back to what I mentioned before about volume think about this: Four 15 watt combos would give you a similar powerrating as one 50-60 watt half stack. In other words: You could similate the sound of a stack by using various smaller combos. If you are using amps which all have different speakers your tone will have a lot more variation than those four similar speakers from your stack.
Using amps of a different kind can be useful: Different speakers, different sound coming from each amp. It may also make it harder to get the right balance. Again, you could try and see what works. You may want to choose your amps on the basis of sound they can give: treble or bass or maybe even amps which do not have a specific tone at all.    

         Gigs and Seize of Your Amps

When you are gigging a lot with other musicians around you, you do need a cetain amount of power just to be heard and to feel comfortable. If your band is not too loud a few combos may give you just enough power on stage. Make sure your combos do contain a line-out (or headphone socket) which can be taken to the PA to get your amps heard in the venue.
If your onstage sound does not have to be too loud, a handful of small combos may just do the trick. It makes transporting your gear also a lot easier instead of using that bulk stack.

         Details of Sound Each Individual Amp

For most of the time you may wnat to play through a set of four amps, but there may be moments when you just want to use the tone of one particular amp. You could use A/B boxes to select that one amp for a particular moment while cutting out the sound of the other three amps. In this way you do not need to compromise on any of your favourite guitaramp sounds.

        
        Does it Ever Stop?

When it comes to sound and your particular guitar set-up you need to ask yourself questions? What do I really need for the kind of playing I do? Am I the person who is interested in experimenting hours and hours just to find some other guitarsounds? ( and other ways of making music! ) Am I getting the best out of my gear? Some people think it is about money and brands. It is more important to be aware of the sounds which are out there and to have a vision for yourself what you want to achieve soundwise.
Over time you will develop you own approach to sound.
In the beginning, when people start to get into effects and amps, it is quite common to get impressed with the sounds you can get from a few simple effects such as delay, reverb, chorus and flange. It is after some time, when you come to realise that all these effects will make you sound like anyone else, that you start to break things down and look into the details of how you can get these effects (and amps) to work for your own, unique style of guitarplaying.
There are these moments when you have groundbreaking results for yourself, these moments can be quite pleasing. It is from these experiences that you grow as an individual and develop your own take on sound and guitartone in particular. 

happy tonehunting and hope
Eddie

Tame the Brightness of Your Digital Delay

For this article a few ideas how to get your digital delay to sound less bright and more like an analogue delay.

Digital delays tend to sound brighter than their analogue brothers. Not a problem really, but there are times you would like your delay to sound a tad bit darker. In cases like this there are a few options you have to tame the brightness of your delay:

When you use your delay in combination with other pedals make sure you put the delay at the end of the  signal chain.
If you have the option of using two amps, please do so. Set one amp up for a darker sound, get the other one to sound a bit brighter. Set the brigher amp up for a slight distorted sound.
If your delay offers DIRECT and EFFECT, make sure you set the pedal up to get the delayed sound on the slight distorted amp. The distortion will make the delay less bright while the brightness of the amp will preserve the clarity of the delay. Leave the darker amp set up for your direct guitarsound.
When set up all correctly the end result is a well-balanced sound where the orgininal brightness of the delay will sound darker and more muddy while still retaining its clarity.

    Which delays are good for this approach?

Any of the Boss Digital Delays respond very well to this approach. You can get very close to the sound of a DM2, even a Electro Harmonics Memory Man Deluxe. It all depends on how well you set up your distorted amp: If it is too distorted, the clarity of the delay will be lost, hence me using a brighter amp for this approach.

   Could you achieve similar resulsts with putting a distortion pedal after the delay?

Interstesting question. I have not tried this set-up yet, but my feeling is that the first scenario will give you better results.

   Will you need to use two amps?

To get the best results the answer is yes as your sound is divided in: Delayed guitarsound and Straight guitarsound.
One amp will combine both sounds and  as a result you will loose a bit of clarity.
If you are new to using two amps with a delay (or Reverb or Chorus) you should give this set-up a go anyway, as your sound will be so much bigger, even a fairly low volumelevels.

Have fun experimenting and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Let the loop be part of your song but not become your song!!

For this article I return to the loop pedal. The regular readers of this blog will know I have posted about the use of loops before. I myself, am a keen user of loops and tend to use them in different ways. I keep on exploring their potential as I am convinced you can use them in more flexible and creative ways.

          For those who are not familiar with looppedals

 In short, a looppedal is a sort of sampler: You play a musical idea in the loop and the loop will repeat this idea. This gives you then the ability to use this musical idea in a larger context. This is also the downfall of loops: The original idea you put into the loop may become the overruling musical part, whatever you do, you cannot move away from this part.

         Why would you want to move away to a different part you may wonder?

Think of the average song and how most songs are build? They contain various parts such as verse, chorus, bridge ect.
When you put a chordsequence in a loop which acts as verse you are stuck with this idea, you will not be able to move out of this sequence without altering the loop: Either by chosing a diffent loop, or bypassing the loop to start up another musical idea. Most of this will interupt the flow of the music and rhythm and will give undesirable results.

         How can we solve this problem you may wonder?

How can we create a loop which will enable you to play various songparts without the orginal loopidea offending the sound?
The solution is in finding small musical ideas which will work with the key and chords you want to play. Yes you will need to think ahead of what you want to play. Once you have a small musical part, you will find you can play chords and basslines without offeding the loopsound. The actual loop will enhance the rhythm and sound of your song.

           What kind of looppedals are good for this approach?

Pedals which can contain short loops. Something like two bars will be enough as you will play yourself the main parts of the song. If you loop the whole song you have the restrictions of the loop: You cannot change the length of bars, you will not have much space for any extra improvistions ect. Overal, your song will sound mechanic and will feel very different compared to when you play that song on your own without using the loop. Using a small part, on the other hand, can enhance the overal song. Leave out that small looppart, and you will miss something. Bring the short loop back and your song will have more body to its bacis sound.

Without going too much into the different looppedals which are on the market, any pedal will do as long as it can contain short loops. There are dedicated short loop pedals, most of you will probably prefer the onces which conatain larger memory. Most of these pedals will be able to loop your whole song. Try looping the whole song, work with it, and then try the approach I described above to see if you like it.

           Get Experienced!!

Once you start the get the hang of things and you really like the results you are getting why not loop your short loop into another looppedal where you add more parts into? You could add a bassline and the chords of the different parts of the song. For this approach you will need a pedal which will contain a larger memory than just the two bars I mentioned before!! This approach is great to get the one man band sound. The short loop-idea, on the other hand, will enable you to use the loop in context of playing with other musicians.
            

            Conclusion:

What I described above will make sense to people who have been using loops for a while as they know what they like and dislike about them. If you are new  to using loops,just get started and explore. Do not feel restricted about what I mentioned above, just create, play and enjoy.

See you soon again,
Eddie

Solve Flutter and Play on Vintage, Stratstyle Tremolos Within Seconds!!

For this article a practical tip to solve the flutter on Strat style tremolos.
Anyone who has ever used a tremolo on a Fender Strat will know what I am talking about: Often the tremolos units do have a bit of play (or flutter if you like) which makes accurate use a pain.

The solution for this problem is to use something which is called in England PTFE seal tape. It is basically a tape which is used to seal gas. The advange of this tape is it is not sticky and does not harm your tremolounit. It will wear out over time, just apply again a little bit of tape and that will do the job for a while.

Why does Fender make so many different Tremolosizes you may wonder? I do not know, all I know is that there are many, many different sizes, and to find the correct size wich fits your guitar may not be easy.
If you have a brand new Strat you may be lucky, I have seen people with brand new Strats, and the feel on those tremolos was fabulous, spot on. But for the people who use second hand ones it may be harder to find the correct size trem. Dealers often swap tremolos without thinking about it fitting snug or not.
If you do not use your trem you may not even know!
The tremolo is a wonderful unit and with a bit of practise you can get wonderful sounds out of it. Do not listen to the people who will claim that it messes up your tuning: Once your guitar is set-up correctly the vintage style tremolo can give you lots of sounds without too much tuninghassle. Wanna dive bomb? Okay, be prepared to tune up from time to time, but in between that radical sound, there are lots of other ideas you can get with the trem, and they are all musically very satifsying.

Stay tuned and hope to see you soon again!
Eddie