Monday, October 3, 2016

TedEd on how Playing an Instrument Benifits Your Brain

Ted talks has become something of a phenomenon in today's culture. You can find information on almost anything. I found Kaki Kings Ted Talk to be fascinating. In this TedEd piece Anita Collins explains the positive long term benefits of learning to play an instrument.

You can also check out the link for the Dig Deeper section of the TedEd page HERE

Monday, August 1, 2016

Billy Joel Quote

Billy Joel isn't a guitar player but he is an amazing song writer.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fender Bassbreaker Review

The Fender Bassbreaker series was announced last year at the same time as the Jimi Hendrix Signature Stratocaster. There have been a lot of talk about them but I had not had the chance to play through one till a couple of days ago. I was out of town on vacation with my family, while they were having some down time I hit up a couple of local guitar shops. They had a Bassbreaker 45 2x12 combo and a Bassbreaker 7w mini stack. The guys there were more than happy to let me check them out but they warned me that the 45, even with the variable wattage control all the way down was insanely loud. So I checked out the 7 watt instead.  I've been into my strat lately so that's what I grabbed off the wall.

The 7 watt might be the perfect bedroom plexi style amp. It has a "treble booster" built into which emphasizes the upper mids almost like a built in tube screamer. Compared to a Blues Jr it has more presence in the mids and an immediate attack from your guitar. Without the boost engaged and the mids rolled back it is similar to a hot twin that is not quite breaking up yet. Speaking of breaking up this amp breaks up really easy. With the booster on and the mids up I nailed the strat with my pick and got some nice vintage British grind. Switch to my fingers and it cleaned right up, roll back the volume and use the pick again it was clean and spanky. As a pedal platform this amp rules! You can run it clean or with a touch of crunch but it loves pedals and the more dynamic the better. I'm not a big reverb guy but I kind of wanted it on this amp, just a touch to take the edge off because the sound is fairly unforgiving similar to the way my old Mesa Stiletto was, which makes sense since they share a similar inspiration.

So how loud was it? At first sitting in front of the mini stack I almost felt bad for other people in the shop. In a bedroom it would sound very loud. But as soon as I stood up to change a couple of settings it was surprisingly quieter. I don't think anyone would be taking a nap in the house but if you needed to record something without the neighbors calling the cops this would work. It would work for coffee shop gigs and other gigs without a drummer. But for anything larger, the Bassbreaker 15w would probably be the way to go. The 15 w adds reverb, an effects loop and an adjustable gain switch, and the guys at the shop said they have been unable to keep those in stock. As long as your miked up it should work in most situations unless your drummer thinks he is Tommy Lee.

Aesthetically there have been some detractors because of the grey tweed. I don't mind that at all, it looks unique to other amps out there, but I wasn't crazy about the knobs which, in my own personal opinion look cheap. I do like the oversize feel of them which makes it easy to dial in settings. If I end up picking one up I might swap those for something like a chicken head knobs. Also, even though I thought it sounded surprisingly great, I wonder if a different cabinet or speakers might sound better. If your after a vintage voiced, British sounding amp do yourself a favor and check these amps out before Fender gets smart and ups the price.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Slash Quote

I saw this quote from Slash and thought "how true!" Early on I played around with a number of different instruments. I had a knack for picking up instruments, learning the basics and being able to get a song out of them. But the guitar was different, it called to me before I ever really knew what it was. I love the feeling of a guitar that vibrates with me as I play. I keep saying when I get bored of it I might learn the violin, but it's been over 20 years and I'm not bored, I keep exploring. What a fascinating instrument it is.   

Monday, June 20, 2016

Keeley Neutrino Envelope Filter Review

The Keeley Neutrinio is a envelope filter that is a step above other envelope filters I've played.  I had been looking for an envelope pedal to play with and some of the cheaper brands didn't respond very well to my playing. Making be wonder what the deal with these was. But the Keeley Neutrinio is killer adding in funk and jam band sounds is easy. Getting it to making crazy synth sounds can be a bit trickier but yeah those sounds are in there.

I talk a lot about dynamic playing and there really are two kinds. One is alternating playing soft passages and heavy passages. The other is using your pick attack and volume knob to control how much gain is coming out of the amp. My favorite pedals are the ones who respond to this second type of playing the most. Most drive pedals and tube amps have this to a degree but in the last few years we've seen a plethora of extremely sensitive pedals. My favorite combination for drive pedals is my Zephyr fuzz into an OCD pedal. Both stacked together can sound like your amp is fixing to meltdown but rolling down the volume can give you a beautiful clean tone without switching them off. 

The Neutrinio is a fun and very dynamic pedal. You can switch back and forth between your pick and fingers for more dynamic range. I like to use a brighter pick like a tortex rather than a nylon or herco style pick that has a warmer tone.The more dynamic your pickups the better this pedal is going to work. I find that single coil vintage sounding work best where as hotter focused sounding humbuckers are not as dynamic to begin with. That's not to say you can't have fun with them. People say active EMG's lack dynamics but I had no problems getting the Neutrinio to make all kinds of sounds with mine.

The controls are very interactive with your guitar. The Peak knob controls how high the wah sound goes. The Range switch emphasizes either the low or high notes while the three way LBH acts as a high or low pass filter to roll off the edges. I find this is particularly important with really bright sounds. The gain knob is the one I move around the most and the final knob to dial in my tone. There is also a side switch which reverses the sweep of the wah, so instead of a "wOw" sound it's more of a "OwwA".

I really like setting up this pedal so that I have to roll the volume back a bit to get it to sound the best. I don't find that I have to fight with it like I have some others and it's highly tweakable to adjust to whatever the situation is. Using this pedal with drive pedals that also respond well to picking dynamics is amazing. One thing that I find fascinating is that you HAVE to control your picking intensity and your volume knob. I think I do a pretty good job with these but I had to really tighten up what I was doing. It forces you to work on different aspects of dynamic playing. So if your looking to work on that aspect of your playing I can't recommend the Keeley Neutrinio enough.

Note: This review was completely unsolicited, I received no compensation for it and all views and opinions are my own.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Words of Wisdom from Austin Kelon

Just watched a very cool interview with artist and writer Austin Kelon and found it very inspirational. I thought I would share this. For more of his work checkout his books HERE.