Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Changes in the Wind

photo credit: @WyldeAudio
What is going on? The other day I posted here about Zakk Wylde and Wylde Audio his new guitar and amp company. They are posting new pics on their twitter page everyday so I grabbed this interesting pic they are calling the Odin. There is also a new pic of a Flying V. We still don't know the whole story. Is this a whole new company? Is Father Wylde doing with Epiphone and Gibson what Mr. Van Halen is doing with Fender and the EVH brand? This remains to be seen but I'm still kind of excited about it. Especially that they are doing an amp. I love a great sounding 800 head.



Next I get an email from Carvin Guitars about some high end re-branding. Here is the Press release.

"Carvin Corporation announces the formation of a new and separate company, Kiesel Guitars / Carvin Guitars, which will take control of the guitar and bass manufacturing and sales of all instruments and related parts and accessories, effective Feb 1, 2015. Kiesel Guitars / Carvin Guitars owners Mark Kiesel and Jeff Kiesel formed this new company so they can focus exclusively on the advancement of instruments. Mark Kiesel has led the guitar and bass division of Carvin since 1970 and will continue to lead the new company as president. Jeff Kiesel brings industry leading designs and advancements in construction and quality to the Custom Shop. The instruments will continue to be produced in the USA at the same facility. 

Carvin Corporation's focus will now be exclusively on our passion for pro audio and instrument amplifiers under the brands Carvin Audio and Carvin Amplifiers. We will continue to provide our customers with industry leading products and customer support. Carvin Corporation will continue to design and manufacture its products in San Diego, California, USA with its team of top engineers and staff of musicians under the direction of the Kiesel family; Carson, Joel and Kristen."

So now it seems you'll be able to order a Carvin Guitar or a higher end Kiesel Guitar with more complexity and better woods and finishes. hmmm ok, not sure I see the point of it but really not a big deal. The founder of Carvin was Lowell Kiesel, and Mark and Jeff Kiesel have run the Carvin Custom Guitar shop for many years. Carvin pro audio and Guitar Amps will still be Carvin. Ok got it, if you want a really nice Carvin you order a Kiesel. (And Jeff Kiesel has been doing some cool looking stuff lately).

Anything else confusing out there? Well here is a pic of Dave Navarro playing a copy of the David Gilmour Black Strat!!! That's not his normal gear!

If I pickup on any more interesting stories this week from NAMM 2015 I'll be sure to talk about them here or at least retweet them at @ADHDguitarist so follow me there.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Introducing Wylde Audio

What in Odin's name is going on?!?!?  A friend of mine noticed in Gibson's roll out at the end of last year that the Zakk Wylde Signature Les Paul seemed to be no more. I've also noticed that recently Epiphone has pulled any Zakk Wylde guitars as well. I just looked at all the big box retailers to find that there are NO Zakk Wylde Signature guitars!!! How can one of the most iconic guitarist in the business not have a signature guitar? Apparently Mr. Zakk Wylde has pulled some partners together to introduce Wylde Audio.

photo credit:@WyldeAudio
There are some guys out there that don't seem to like Zakk's larger than life persona or his blazing riffs and low end pitch harmonics. But I've seen this guy play piano parts on his acoustic (that was a mind blowing and mind expanding moment for me). He can play Al Di Meola style jazz fusion, he can easily cover the greats like Randy Rhoads and Jake E Lee as we all saw with his former employer and friend Ozzy Osborne. Oh yeah and he can chicken pick country riffs till the cows come home. But blazing riffs and low end pitch harmonics is where the money is at for Zakk and why fix what ain't broke. Personally I've always dug Zakk's playing. I love that he respects other guitar players playing. And that he is actively always working at getting better. 

Meeting Zakk Wylde pre-viking-beard
I've gotten to meet the guy on several occasions and he was always very cool and laid back. This is a pic of me meeting the boss man around '97. It was after the criminally underrated Book of Shadows album and before Black Label Society. In fact he told me at this meeting that "everyone keeps asking me when I'm gonna do some real heavy stuff, so that's what I'm working on next, this stuff is going to blow everyone away". Since then I've seen him play live several times with the crowds getting bigger and crazier every time. 

So what's Wylde Audio all about? I don't know exactly. I'm hoping it's Zakk's version of the EVH line. Quality amps and instruments at mostly reasonable prices with a few USA models to keep the gear snobs happy. There's not a lot of information yet but there is a sign up page at www.wyldeaudio.com and also a twitter page that has a few pics on it. So make sure you check them out. In the mean time it looks like I'll be changing the ADHD Zakk Wylde Gear Guide soon!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Finding Tonal Magic in Similarities

Most of us have more than one guitar hero. Focusing on trying to get that one sound is a lot of fun, and helps teach you what works and what doesn't. There is something impressive about nailing a sound and a style of a great artist and every step you take towards achieving those tones is an accomplishment. The question many people have is "why do you want to sound like that guy, don't you want to be yourself?" The answer is "because he's great" and striving towards greatness has never been a bad thing. I've heard a lot of Hendrix clones, a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan clones, a lot of Eddie Van Halen clones, a lot of Zakk Wylde clones, and a lot of David Gilmour clones. But is Eric Johnson a Hendrix clone? Nope Eric sounds like Eric despite having very similar equipment and being very influenced by Hendrix. It's easy to find the differences but I've found that focusing on similarities helps you find tonal magic.
There is a reason this works!

The Strat Masters
Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Gilmour, Eric Johnson, Richie Kotzen and Yngwie Malmsteen. They all sound quite different and yet there are similarities in their tones. We'll start with the obvious one the Strat! Ok so Richie plays a tele but he also plays a strat at times. Strats are very versatile and easy to modify to your liking. Amp wise there seems to be two trains of thought here a crunchy, overdriven Marshall type amp or a clean amp with pedals but those pedals often sound like a crunchy old Marshall. David Gilmour and Eric Johnson are both known for using a BK Butler Tube Driver into a clean amp but compare those tones to a JTM45 and you'll start to hear similarities. Eric Johnson's setup is very Hendrix influenced as was Stevie Ray Vaughan's and David Gilmour's in the early days. If your using a lot of clean tones you may want to go with the clean fendery tones and pedals for your crunch and lead tones but if your mainly using crunch tones you can also clean up with your volume knob and then push it for leads. Once again focus on the similarities and you'll start to find magic. I find setting up for a nice crunchy Marshall tone with just a bit of gain a great place to start. Start with your EQ knobs at 12 o'clock and then add or take away depending on what you hear. All of these players will use their volume knob a lot to change the sound so dialing in your sound with the volume around 6 or 7 instead of on 10 will open up a lot of options. Another similarity is pickups, with the exception of Yngwie they all use weaker vintage voiced pickups. Yngwie uses a hotter more modern style pickup but you can also use an overdrive to get that type of sound if you prefer to use more vintage sounds most of the time. All of these guys use modulation to add a swirly effect. David Gilmour started with a Univibe, changed to a Phaser, then Flanger, then Chorus but he uses them all the same way. I was a chorus player for a long time but lately I've really gotten into phasers. These days I use chorus for subtle effects and the phaser for wilder craziness. With each of these players their style of playing is what creates their sound more than gear.

Hard Rock Heroes
My favorite rock guitar players have always been guys like Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, Jerry Cantrell, and Metallica. All hard rock players playing through high gain amps with few simple effects. Most of the time we focus on the differences between the sounds of these players but when I focused on the similarities I found tonal magic. I was able to dial in a JCM800 or a Dual Rectifier to cover all of these guys best sounds. The formula was simple. A slightly hotter bridge humbucker like an EMG81 or a Seymour Duncan JB, a high gain amp with most of the knobs past 12 o'clock, an overdrive pedal to push it for solos, chorus for thickening, delay and wah. If I needed ACDC crunch I could roll back the volume on the guitar. If I needed more cut I would use a TS9 type overdrive to push the amp and give a little more mids. Some people will get hung up on the guitar bridge and while it's an important part of your sound and playing style I've found that in heavier rock sounds it's not as important. I can mimic all of these players sounds with a floating floyd type bridge or fixed bridge as long as I'm using the above formula.

My point here is that it's easy to listen for differences but when you start listening for similarities you can often find something that works great for you. Find the similarities in the setups with your favorite artist and you'll be one step closer to finding your own voice.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Mesa Boogie Lonestar review

A few days ago one of the small guitar shops near me put a couple of pics up on Facebook of some new stuff they had acquired. One of these items was a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Classic Combo. I've been curious about these but never ran across one. I've talked about how much I love Andy Timmons tone and style of playing. And I've owned one of the Mesa Boogie Stiletto's that he uses but I've always wanted to try out a Lonestar so I jumped at the chance to go down and check it out. I grabbed my current favorite guitar and headed to the shop in the middle of the afternoon and spent some time checking it out.


The Mesa Lonestar is similar to the Stiletto in many ways. They are both two channel amps with a dedicated set of knobs for each channel, a master volume and a boost volume. They both have switches on both channels to choose between 100 watts and 50 watts (the newer lonestar's also have a 10 watt setting). You can also choose between a tube rectifier or solid state rectifiers, and there is a variac switch on both amps to help knock the power down and give it a spongier feel. They also are both very demanding amps in that they don't let you hide, every mistake you make is amplified and put in your face and you hear a huge difference depending on which guitar your using. And that is where the similarities end.

In contrast to the Stiletto the Lonestar has an active EQ and sounds great at lower volume.  It was much easier for me to find usable sounds. Channel 1 reminds me of a Blackface Twin while Channel 2 reminded me, surprisingly of a JTM45 type sound. Fender cleans and vintage Marshall in the same amp? yep. The Variac switch makes more of a difference on the Lonestar than the Stiletto. On the Stiletto there was a softening of attack and a slightly looser feel but on the Lonestar the gain gets into tweed type of sponginess. The lead sound was thick and solid. It has a ton of loose low end that can be to much and can get farty sounding if your not careful but pull the bass down (or use a TS type pedal) and you get a thick lower mids that sounds awesome. The gain switch and two gain knobs on the 2nd channel take you from Tweed to MK 1 type gains.
Andy Timmons Lonestar's and Stiletto's

Using the Variac on channel two with the three way switch set to thick and a decent amount of gain rolled in I was able to quickly dial in a sound that covered everything from gorgeous cleans to early Van Halen just by switching pickups and changing from using my fingers lightly to nailing the strings with my pick. This amp is a dynamics players dream. In the Thicker setting it sounds like an early MK 1 which quickly inspired some Santana type runs.

As versatile and easy to use as this amp is it isn't for everyone. I'd really like to try it on a small 4x12 cabinet and see if it tightens up the bottom end and gives it a little more focused sound. It's very low mids heavy and while it certainly has a lot of gain on tap I would never call this a high gain amp in line with a Dual Rectifier. If you want modern metal or even 80's shred keep looking this isn't for you. But if your longing for a variety of vintage voiced amps the Lonestar is certainly worth a listen.

This review is completely unsolicited and any opinion is my own.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Introducing HACK42

So I've shared this music before. Along with playing guitar, learning songs, blogging, and everything else in life I also like to create Electronica music that has a bit of a rock n roll influence. So I've created a HACK42 page on Reverbnation. I've always enjoyed bands like The Crystal Method, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Front 242, and Depeche Mode. It's just a different side of stuff. I've tried for years to marry it with the hard rock and classic rock stuff that I love playing but it really doesn't work well for me. The writing is a different process. I'm also hoping to have some new guitar music up soon and I'll share that when it's ready. I haven't felt this creative guitar wise in a while so that is very exciting for me. In the mean time if your a fan of electronic music check out HACK42. HACK42

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ADHD Strategies

Let's talk about ADHD and different strategies for working with ADHD. It's important to note that this is not a one size fits all for everyone out there. Everyone is different and has different needs, ADHD can be related to stress factors and environmental factors. In addition most people that deal with ADHD often have other secondary, or sometimes primary, mental issues such as OCD, dyslexia or depression. I am not a professional, I can only talk about things I've read and my personal experiences. My advice is to find a Doctor or Physiologist who specializes in ADHD. I was lucky early on to have a teacher who had been reading up on it notice that I was struggling and needed a little extra help with certain things.

When I was a child there was very little information on ADHD and we were really starting to study it and learn about it. As I got older it seemed to become a buzzword and a lot of people thought that it just meant that you got distracted easier. And let's face, all kids get distracted easy. Some people believe that ADHD is something that you "grow out of" the truth is as you get older some people learn to deal with it. You develop strategies to help you get things done with ADHD.

Diet

There seems to be some misconception that artificial sweeteners and chemicals are the root cause of ADHD. But there have been 60 long term studies on ADHD and diet found no real difference in the need for treatment treatment. That's not to say that these things can't exasperate a condition. Stimulants found in sodas, energy drinks and diet pills can cause problems if someone is on a prescribed regimented stimulant. To much stimulant can be worse making you feel agitated or, strangely enough, tired. But a well balanced diet of fruits, veggies, and some protein can help your overall well being. This doesn't negate ADHD, but it can help decrease stress factors, fight mild depression, and help you think clearer. I've met some people who found relief by switching to a vegetarian diet while others seem to get worse.

I've tired various diets and one of the most interesting was the Zone Diet. It really did help me think clearer. I felt great, and looked younger and constantly felt like I was firing on all cylinders. But I found it difficult to keep up with. It's very regimented and for someone who can be picky about the foods they eat, it can be a very limited menu. Still it's worth a look at if your someone who can eat on a schedule and enjoy eating healthy.

Medications

I want to take as little medication as possible, but medication really can help. The most common medications for ADHD are stimulants. But getting stimulants to work is tricky. To little won't do much, and to much, as noted earlier, can be a disaster. I remember as a kid breaking pills into fourths to try and get the dosage right. But once we got it right it really helped, my mom tells a story about me being able to do a puzzle, start to finish for the first time in my entire life. I was NINE! My five year old does puzzles all the time. Medication can help. Work with your practitioner, give it time (that's the hard part), and watch out for additional stimulants like sodas, allergy medication, and diet pills.

Exercise

I like exercise, it makes me feel better. But it's hard for me to do on a consistent basis. If I'm not reading and thinking about it constantly I won't do it. But when I do it, even just a bit every couple of days I feel better and feel like I can do more. On top of that, pushing yourself physically seems to help get all those distractions out of your mind. You have to focus to hit a personal record and lifting heavy weights, or running a faster time helps you realize that a lot of things that your worried about aren't that important.

Schedules

I find schedules are important. I try to schedule time to practice playing guitar, I write down my goals and spend a certain amount of time working on them. Most of the time if I do that I'll enjoy it and want to play more but sometimes I just can't concentrate. So maybe I just noodle or play some of my favorite songs for a bit or I put the guitar down and do something else. Keeping a written list of things I want to work on helps keep me focused.

I'm planning on delving into each of these subjects a bit more in depth in the future. Click the Random ADHD tag under Post on Topics to see other post on ADHD. If you have any strategies that you have found work for you please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me. If your looking for more specific ideas please email me and I'll try to help or point you in some direction.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ADHD Guitarist Christmas Wishlist 2014

It's Christmas time. And for most of us that means scheduling Christmas parties, buying presents for kids and significant others. It's a crazy time of year, and often we can be caught off guard when someone ask "what do you want for Christmas"? So I figured I'd post a few guitar related ideas of things most of us wouldn't mind finding under the Christmas tree.

Pickups- Experimenting with different pickups is always fun. You can dramatically improve the sound over cheap pickups or just tweak the sound of your favorite guitar. You can add more mids or more scoop, a little less top end, or pound the front end of your amplifier with a really hot pickup.

Seymour Duncan Jason Becker Perpetual Burn Humbucker- Jason is one of my biggest inspirations for more reasons that his phenomenal guitar playing. Sitting between the legendary JB and a classic PAF the Perpetual Burn is hot enough for shredders but dynamic enough for blues and fusion players. The reviews have been impressive.

Fender Noiseless Pickups- It seems like every couple of years noiseless single coils keep getting better and better. Most of them can be tapped to give you true single coil sound. These really are versatile and able to deliver the goods in the tone department.

Pedals- While your tone should be based around your guitar and amp pedals are fun, they are one of the easiest ways to add a whole new dynamic to your playing and discover new sounds. And they are available at most price ranges.

Overdrives

EHX Soul Food- This krazy klon kone has captured the attention of the guitar world, everyone seems to like it. A low gain drive with a slight roll off on the outer frequencies and a slight lower mid bump, it also includes an internal switch to add a nice buffer or not depending on your taste. Think of it as a more button

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Mosfet Overdrive- One of the early more versatile boutique tube screamer based pedals, the recent price drop makes this a killer deal. It has switches for more or less base, and a smoother tone as well as a boost you can engage for more gain or solos.

Wampler Dual Fusion- While this may seem like an expensive pedal at first, your really getting two great overdrives at a great price. Wampler worked with fusion guitarist Tom Quayle for this dual overdrive pedal tweaking their Paisley Drive (Brad Paisley's pedal) and their Euphoria Overdrive (Dumble sounds). It's extremely flexible, you can stack either pedal first, or use the dual in and outs.

Xotic SL Drive- Mini pedals are all the rage right now and how Xotic shoves this much marshall flavored tone into this little beast and leaves room for a 9v battery is beyond me. Internal switches let you select between the sound of a SuperLead for Jimi sounds or the SuperBass for Duane Allman flavors. It's a very organic, dynamic sounding pedal.

Fuzz Pedals

Mojo Hand Fx Iron Bell- Mojo Hand is one of those companies that keeps knocking it out of the park with each new release. The Iron Bell is not a straight up Big Muff clone but is smoother and adds a midrange control that allows you to dial in tones from the scooped early muffs to the mid heavy soviet era. It also makes a nice overdrive sound. Whether you need to cover David Gilmour or Billy Corgan this can do it.

Dunlop Mini Fuzz Face- Dunlop has released a whole slew of these mini Fuzz Face pedals in different fuzz flavors but this germanium based pedal has quickly become a favorite of fuzz freaks. It's fat and dynamic sounding in front of a slightly over driven amp. But read up on germanium quirks, it doesn't play well with other pedals and can sound different on cold or warm days.

Fulltone OctaFuzz- I've been a bit obsessed with octave fuzz pedals lately, and this one leads the pack. It's mostly a clone of the old Tycobrahe Octavia but with a switch to take out the octave circut giving you a fatter sounding fuzz. Versatile and built like a tank.

Modulation

Mooer Eleclady- Mooer has released a whole range of clones that have been hit and miss but many people are saying this is the best clone of a vintage EHX Electric Mistress Flanger. More subtle than the jet sounding MXR flanger, think more Andy Summers or David Gilmour in the late 70's.

MXR Phase 45 Script - Have I mentioned how much I like phasers? Different from the Phase 90 the Phase 45 is slightly smokier, sweeter variation of phase. Hand wired like the originals, this pedal does not have an LED indicator and is battery powered only.

Delay

TC Electronic Flashback- These have been out for a while and have gotten rave reviews. The new toneprint program from TC allows you to tweak settings for days or just beam toneprints from some of today's biggest players. It also comes in a X4 for access to more delay settings or a mini pedal to save space.

Way Huge EchoPuss- A true Analog delay similar to the MXR Carbon Copy but voiced more like the old EHX Memory Man. A beautiful sounding delay and highly recommended.

Loopers

TC Electronic Ditto- With the recent price drop making these more affordable that ever your reasons for not having one are getting fewer. There is a new X2 version with more features but the original Ditto Looper is a great practice tool.

Accessories

Strings are pretty personal. I've been using GHS Boomers for years and really love them but I also talked about the new D'Addario NYXL strings here and they are fantastic. Pickup a multi pack and save some dough.

Picks- We guitar players go through picks like crazy, they wear out and get lost constantly. I love experimenting with different sounds from different materials like metal, nylon, TUSQ, and plastic. Recently I've jumped on the Tortex band wagon, they sound beautiful and give you a lot of attack when you need it. You can never have enough picks.

Inspiration

Gary Moore: One Night in Dublin- It's no secret that the late Gary Moore is one of my all time favorite guitar players. In this tribute to the late Phil Lynott, Gary and other Thin Lizzy alums tear up the stage in front of a home town crowd. This is classic blues based rock at it's best.

Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet- Jason Becker was an amazing up and coming guitar player who was just hitting his stride when given the worst news of his life "your going to die in the next three to five  years." That was 1990 and he is still here working on music, puzzling doctors, defying disease and inspiring people around the world. He is a testament to the human spirit, positive thinking, and the will to live. EVERYONE, not just guitar players, should watch this movie.

David Gilmour: Remember That Night- David Gilmour's live performance of his 2006 album On an Island, and classic Pink Floyd songs culminate in a breath taking performance at Albert Hall. His incredible tone and masterful playing is a lesson in phrasing and feel.

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Live from Austin- This DVD features both of Stevie Ray Vaughn's performances on Austin City Limits. One in 1983 and one in 1989. Both fiery performances, the staggering differences between them are the subtleties between watching an insecure, drug addled performance in 83 and a bright eyed, full of life performance in 89.