Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dark Thrones and Black Flags

The punk retaliation continues with this release. Fenriz & Nocturno want you to understand their current engagements because the production here is one of the most appealing the duo has to offer. Nevertheless, the lo-fi notoriety still persists ...

I prefer not to spur you on with how grand the punk brand of black metal this band is propagating but the vocals here is something I dislike. The reverberation is excessive & some of them are really...em... bad (for want of a better adjective). Nevertheless, if you are willing to go into I-just-wanna-listen-to-the-music mode, you'd enjoy DTABF for its more dedicated melodies, true to the duo's current engagement. Please do not hope for an Under The Funeral Moon (et al) eminence as such parallels are not available here. For that matter, expect lesser BM from this band in the mean time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Paul Danial @ Standard Value

Fancy bumping into guru Paul Danial while trying Wampler pedals @ Standard Value last evening. No, he didn't turn up with his Les Paul Studio, he was there to collect his Strat...

...seen here still with the former trio of pickups. Paul got it equipped with a set of TESLA VR-1 single coils. In summary, the VR-1 sounds very vintage in clean mode but once in overdriven phase, it's as contemporary as can be.

Some discussions with Paul:

About his Strat
  • bought in 1994
  • stock parts less the pickups/ frets
  • I played the guitar for a while (because I don't click with the .010 string set on board); the neck was very worn in, devoid of whatever overcoat that used to be there
  • it was well set up by Mike so it was shredtastic to say the least & it's a blues-rock tool through & through
Wampler pedals
  • Paul likes the Plexi Drive & Plextortion particularly
  • with his TESLA equipped Strat yesterday, he likes how the pickups sound thick with the above-mentioned pedals
Samad (Lefthanded, RIP)
  • Samad suffered a heart attack which led to his demise
  • having been through a heart attack himself, he accounted how his muscles were virtually wasted & had to undergo therapy to recover. He did some weight training to strengthen his fretting arm as well. From then on, every note 'is more meaningful'... We should be grateful of our abilities, we simply don't know when we would be stripped of them.
Current assignment
  • playing with Douglas Oliviero
  • the above-mentioned Strat was tuned down to suit Mr. Oliviero's sonic range...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tonal bliss...

This was last weekend's tonal bliss = Marshall + Fender + overdrive pedal

A well set-up guitar can do wonders to one's playing in terms of inspiration. My advice to everyone out there- make your gear slave for you (mod it, upgrade it, etc...).

Monday, October 27, 2008


I am finally settling down with this string gauge for my Ibanez RG2228:
  • D'Addario EXL110-7 set (.010 - .059)
  • additional SIT .008 high E as the 8th string
One of the obvious setbacks of owning an instrument of this ilk is the unavailability of a ready string set. Before this decision, I had to buy 2 packs of strings & do a mix-match accordingly. I can't make do with a regular 7-string set + the additional .008 as the RG2228 sports an extended scale length so it has to be thicker to avoid that slack feel once the guitar's in tune. By the way, I tune this guitar only a half step down...

The first (Part 4)

The first person whom I saw play a Gibson Explorer was U2's the Edge. He's another one of those minimalists to have made an impact on me but his playing was (still is) effects laden, in fact, the delay effect & this chap are quite synonymous.

The thing I like about him is that he fits in the guitar parts into the songs regardless of the song's nature. This is also the reason why I like Zooropa the best- the most electronica U2 release & probably the most disliked if you are a traditional U2 fan. I remember having Zooropa in my Walkman years ago (in perpetual repeat mode) & cycling along East Coast Parkway at sunset... those were the days.

The F-plate

The default H1 Telecaster bolt plate is a markless version...

I have no idea why there's a spare F-plate in the house but it made itself useful.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

When Dad's not looking (Part 5)

My daughter busy playing with my used picks, some of which were lost during this event. *sigh*

Shimming the neck (Part 1)

Today I shimmed the neck of my H1 Tele not that it's in a dire need of one but it's my attempt to enjoy a uniformed (lower) string action along the neck of the guitar. In reality, this is nigh on impossible because the nature of the instrument is such that the lower fret register would manifest a lower action (once the strings are fretted) compared to the upper upper part. If action is uniformed throughout, there will be fret buzzing.

What in guitardom is a shim? It's a wedge inserted in the guitar body's neck pocket to raise the neck placement.

The neck of the H1 Tele is first removed. If your body's neck pocket contain some dirt/ dust, it's best removed/ swept away before proceeding. As you can see here, Fender still stamps some assembly detail in their neck pockets as it was done in the past. My H1 tele is indeed a fresh product, assembled in July this year.

Create a simple shim out of a piece of paper. The recommended thickness is one similar to that of a cigarette box. If you don't smoke & having fag boxes in the house would get you into grave trouble, use a food container box (eg: cereal box/ granola bar box/ etc) or your string pack (the one I used here) for that matter. The length of the shim should match that of the pocket (duh!) but the width need only be 2cm or lesser. The objective is to raise the tip of the neck, nothing excessive.

You need not create any holes on the shim (because as you screw the bolts back in, they would easily penetrate the paper, yes?) but I did that to ease insertions.

Righty! It's done! My H1 tele needs a fresh set of string & I'm using EHX's set of .009 this time...

Strings: To clean or not to clean?

There are 2 school of thoughts when it comes to string cleaning:

  1. Don't clean: Strings are expandable. Play your guitar, leave it be, if the strings rust, you can always get new strings.
  2. Clean: After each play, you leave dirt & grime on your strings. If you don't clean them, you'll be coming into contact with them the next time you play- this will affect feel.
Yes, strings are expandable, you'd be replacing them anyway but having dirt left behind for you to deal with is a NO for me. The very least that I do after each play is to wipe my strings down. However, I prefer using cleaning fluid.

Bridging differences

The tone tinkering continues- taking cues from the PRS philosophy (keep the guitar's hardwares light & it will sing better), I gave the default tune-o-matic type bridge a rest...

Its replacement is a traditional, jazz-favoured wooden bridge & the difference was marked. With the previous metal bridge, the tone was still immaculate but there was a lack in midrange fullness. The wooden bridge refined the lower midrange, adding more definition while increasing some bottom end thump. There's a certain crisp when played clean, in driven mode, the AF105 does metal-type riffing much better & solos are more upfront through the amp.

RIP: Hiram Bullock (1955 - 2008)

I first tried the above Cort guitar prior to a store sale. It played very well with the default pickups, an impressive mid-priced guitar to say the least. I went on to dig up who Hiram Bullock was because that was the stated model; Cort HBS (Hiram Bullock Signature).

The name subsequently appeared in Yamaha's database, Mr. Bullock has a certain affiliation with the manufacturer pertaining to the company's DG amps (one favoured by Alan Holdsworth as well).

Hiram Bullock was an enigmatic session player, Jaco Patorious, Stevie Ray & Chaka Khan were among the stars he collaborated with. He was also known to be that outgoing, barefoot guitarist in Paul Shaffer's World's Most Dangerous Band. The cause of death was unclear, a major report cited throat cancer but the man was also known for his substance binge after shows.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Marshall's mini stack

Many of us thought the current MG15MSII is a neat, fresh idea by the manufacturer but it's actually a reflection of a former model, the Lead 12 shown here.

Should I swap pickups?

You have recently acquired some wealth & wish to upgrade pickups for some aural appeal- here's some reflections before you take the plunge:
  1. You are emulating your idol & wish to replicate his guitar hardware so just instal what he has in his guitar, in yours- this is a reckless move. Your idol is probably some pro running his signals through countless processors so by the time these reach the amp, the tone is super polished; it's not about the pickups per se, it's the entire set-up for consideration.
  2. Amplifier before pickups- this is a lesson learnt throughout the years of playing. I had a handful of guitars in my early playing years but still plugging into a practice-grade amp (typically one with a small driver, enough to push the airwaves, nothing spectacular or respectably decent for that matter). I equipped one of my Ibanez RG with DiMarzio pickups but the end result still sounded like plugging into a practice-grade amp... It's not until I acquired my Marshall DSL401 (all tube, 40W, 1x12 combo) did I hear a marked pickup performance output.
  3. Higher output = better for distortion? This is perhaps one of the active (forgive the pun) misconceptions in guitardom, today. No- higher output pickups are not exclusively better performers when it comes to signal overdrive/ distortion. Again, citing a personal account- I swapped my Ibanez RG560's default bridge humbucker for a DiMarzio Tone Zone withe clear regrets; I didn't sound a million times better thereafter. So one fateful day, I entered the guitar store in sado-masochistic mood & bought a DiMarzio PAF humbucker, (one of the lowest ouput humbucker out there) & installing it in the very same Ibanez RG. It worked wonders when it comes to distortion (excess distortion in my case). Do note that the pickups in active units like an EMG for instance are indeed low output pickups which become high output due to the inclusion of an on board pre-amp; so now you know...

Frank Gambale: Food for thought...

One of the best advices from the sweep-picking wizard:

People spend a lot of time practicing technique & not enough practicing musical things- a sad state of affairs. Like the old adage "You are what you eat" musically speaking "You are what you practise". If you spend too much time practicing scales, when you get on a bandstand, you'll probably play a bunch of scales, which is not music.

Discont'd Les Pauls (2008)

Les Paul Classic Antique
Les Paul Standard Premium Plus
Les Paul Standard
Les Paul Studio Premuim Plus
Les Paul Classic
Les Paul BFG

The above LPs have been discont'd WEF Summer 2008.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wood talk: Basswood

Basswood, according to the guitar lay-person, is a pariah wood, often used in cheap guitars & some pretentious high end models so the manufacturer can rake in the most money from unsuspecting people. Oh?

Luthiers often classify basswood as a good tonewood to tool with due to its soft nature. It's more abundant than its other tonewood siblings hence its lower price tag. The uninformed always attribute abundance & the lack of material toughness as 'bad'; just because it doesn't comply to certain expectations doesn't mean it's dud. Fundamentally, basswood gives off a muscular midrange response but we often hear a lack of pronounced manifestation from a particular frequency hence making it one of the most neutral wood to propel guitar acoustics.

In this light, basswood is perhaps the best working material to propel your favourite/ boutique pickups' tones with minimal resonance colouring. However, the situation today is still one of basswood disapproval because it's not used in high-end guitars so it must be bad.

To date, Suhr guitars, one of the most respectable names in grand guitar craftsmanship, cites basswood as a splendid tonewood. Guitar wizards such as Joe Satriani, John Petrucci & Paul Gilbert, among others, chose basswood for their signature guitars- they must be dumb to do so, yes? Something for us to reflect upon...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The first (Part 3)

The first person I saw handling a Telecaster was Bruce Springsteen. He's clearly not my type of guitar player; merely supplementing his songs with some strumming/ melody lines, that's about it. Of course, I don't expect a shred-type performance from Mr. Bruce because he's not that kinda player which is pretty clear.

The brass experience...

The default Highway1 Telecaster string saddles aren't bad, I just want to try some brass units & do away with those action adjustment screws which are too protrusive for the good of anyone's picking hand.

So they made way for a brass set (GOTOH) & the added zing is bliss- not recommended for dweebs who can't handle bright top end responses. I don't mind added clarity, I can effectively tame them down via EQ but having a muddy tone to start with & trying to inject some sizzle in the mix is unnecessary labour & quite ineffective too.

Do note:
  • the Gotoh saddle length are naroower so they don't come into contact with each other as this can induce buzzing at this end if your instrument (& sometimes you wonder where that darn buzzing's from...)
  • the action adjustment screws are much shorter, they don't stab your picking hand palm

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now, diabolical ESP!

The inevitable has happened- Satyr (Satyricon) has parted ways with Ibanez & joined the ESP camp:
  • I knew something of this nature would take place because the Ibanez SZ series had been discont'd (he played the SZ in the studio)
  • The studio clips of The Age of Nero recording sessions saw Satyr playing ESP

Randall: Ninja combo

For many of us, owning an amp which is beyond 30W is strictly a NO, due to volume concerns. Well, I played the Ninja V2XNM 1x12 combo recently & I'm very impressed with the performance in relation to tones.

This amp is a budget version of Mike Amott's Ninja stack. The first thing to note here is Randall's wise decision in equipping the combo with a superb driver- Celestion's Rocket 50. As such, the cleans are definitely above average.

Drive-wise, if you are looking for one of the best default distortion/ drive because you wish to remain pedal-free, this is perhaps one of the most gratifying solidstate tone for the money. The dual EQ feature here is indeed the key component of what makes this amp good to the ears. The amp has a boost feature for that much needed saturation for us distortion overdose dweebs. However, I personally feel some reverb would propel this amp into greatness. Highly recommended. (Absolutely love the price!)

  • Product: Randall V2XM (30W, 1x12") combo
  • Availability: Davis GMC
  • Price: $215.00 (NETT)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Haunted: Versus

The greatest thing to have happened when At The Gates dissolved was the conception of The Haunted as the act perpetuates the virulent Gothenburg tone. In the guitar domain, The Haunted was the other remarkable Swedish export next to Marduk. The fact that they remain to be non-black metal while gathering equal respect from fans, is an accomplishment per se.

Versus is the band's 7th full length release but one which continues to fray the fan base. If you get really lethargic listening to its predecessor, The Dead Eye, you'd be likely to be dead beat after a spin of this. The album, at best, is a respectable, heavy release but one which is rather uninspiring. There are no opiating guitar riffs such as the true-to-form grabbers in The Haunted's first five releases, the drumming was primarily holding foundation while Peter Dolving's vocals leads into a very hardcore-like phrasing in every track.

With all due respect, the band still has what it takes to get us hooked but it's something we've heard before in another guise somewhere out there. Perhaps the opening track Moronic Colossus is an internal reflection of... themselves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The first (Part 2)

The first person I saw playing an Ibanez Flying V was Immortal's Abbath. It was a hand-down instrument from former Immortal guitar player, Demonaz. As you can see, it's an early Ibanez model which still featured Jackson-like ski slope fretboard markers. The headstock had also been filed down to make it look un-Ibanez.

For their current reunion tours, Abbath had been seen playing the LTD V-type guitars as there is a current endorsement deal between the player & the guitar manufacturer. In due fairness, the man should be given an Ibanez endorsement in the first place but Ibanez has a record of severing endorsement ties with landmark guitarists, John Petrucci & Frank Gambale are among others worth mentioning.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

PRS: Modern Eagle II

Yes, it's another gorgeous PRS guitar, new for 2008- the Modern Eagle II. We know PRS to be someone who's particular when it comes to parts & components; with this guitar, the degree of it got even finer. Here's what the man has to say about the pickup wires (my goodness, pickup wires?!):

"We've obtained exclusive rights to pickup wire made by the very machine that made pickup wire back in the '50s. We think the new pickups we've sreated sound extraordinary."

Em... vibrato or tremolo?

We often hear people referring to the Floyd-type bridge as a 'tremolo' unit which is incorrect. The floating nature of this bridge type allows notes to be raised & lowered, creating that warbling effect. The raising & lowering of notes (in succession), in music, is known as a vibrato- tremolo is the raising & lowering of volume...

The person responsible for this confusion is Leo Fender, who labelled his new Stratocaster guitar, equipped with a new bridge (new in 1954, of course- that infamous headstock label: WITH SYNCHRONIZED TREMOLO). Ironically, his Vibrolux amp (in 1956) with a built-in tremolo was labeled as a vibrato effect.

So now you know...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ibanez: Reverse Iceman (Part 2)

You remember seeing Paul Gilbert with a reversed Iceman guitar here, yes? Well, here's the dual humbucking version.

The first (Part 1)

The first person whom I saw playing a Strat was Eurythmic's Dave Stewart. He isn't a flashy, technical player, more of a deliverer of necessities. I've seen Dave play on TV a few times subsequently & noted:
  • his Strats were visual attraction, namely due to a unique body finish like the one depicted here (chrome plating)
  • his live tones were never like his recordings; I clearly remember because Dave strummed his flange/ vibrato/ delay laden guitar that was never part of Sweet Dreams

Hardwire: CM-2 Tube Overdrive

I bought the CM-2 (after a recent try-out). As pictured, the package includes:
  • the pedal itself (duh!)
  • a STOMPLOCK contraption
  • velcro sheet

Tone-wise, the CM-2 is ear candy. We should stop making comparisons to all things green & bearing the overdrive label, to the Ibanez TS9 but the manufacturers can't stop manufacturing units in this light, so it's not our fault, really. What I dislike about it is its lack of midrange control but I'm not one who forsake a good pedal on grounds of personal disliking. In any case, the 2 modes on offer here, Classic/ Modified, add some colouring to the midrange so that's a consolation. This insclusion also addresses the popular buy-&-mod culture among pedal geeks here so the Digitech folks got that covered. Kudos to the inclusion of the velcro sheet- Digitech folks somehow know we own pedalboards...

If you're still wondering what the STOMLOCK accessory is all about, it's a control panel cover, to protect your settings during play. This is for those of us who like a particular setting for our pedals & do not wish to meddle with the prescribed tone any further during performances- not many of us are like that, yes?

  • List: $211.40 (NETT)
  • Product availability: Swee Lee Co

Thanks: Adam & Co @ BB showrom for the hospitality despite the crowd (thumbs up!!)

Park (by Marshall)

I used to own this Park amp (Park is a subsidiary brand name for Marshall, as Squier is to Fender...) long ago (in fact, 12 years ago). It was simplicity at its best because the amp gave off a very appealing Marshall-esque tone but the twin Gain feature was what drew me to it. This is what I'm into all this while; a cascading drive/ distortion which in my opinion works best for sustain & pick sensitivity. The Park made way for a Marshall DSL401...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Squier: Classic Vibe series (Part 2)

The Classic Vibe series do feature basses as well. The 50s P-bass with that sumptuous maple fretboard is pure attraction...

Ibanez: Soundwave X (Part 2)

You first read about the new Ibanez Soundwave X amp here:

I managed to try the 20W version (SWX20) yesterday (pic above):

  • active EQ has a healthy frequency sweep, very dependent on overall volume
  • Ibanez retained the default compression circuit- kudos!
  • HUE control functions like a dampening switch but one can hardly hear the difference in operation unless overdrive is in use
  • BRIGHT/ SHAPE switches further enhances tone sculpting. On a personal note, if you do solos on your bass, the former adds clarity & it helps inject definition into neck/ humbucking pickups

Great amp for the money, highly recommended for the beginners & those in need of a practice unit.

Morse moved on

With the demise of Peavey's 5150 amp (FYI- Van Halen now with Fender...), Steve Morse now has his own signature amp head, the ENGL Steve Morse 100. Besides the tremendous amount of gain (3 x Gain channels) included, it's equipped with 4 midrange controls (2 x Lo-Mid/ 2 x Hi-Mid) implying the gravity of this frequency in Morse's EQ needs...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sco @ Esplanade

Watched John Scofield play last night, much to be learnt from this performance:
  • Sco's live tone was his recording tone- the man knows tone acquisition despite the different amp (live amp: VOX) used in both circumstances
  • There was effective use of pickups switching & volume management; the master manipulates his Ibanez first & foremost before messing with his pedals
  • The upholding of jazz elements was unmistakable but Sco is one jazz cat who EMBRACES technology rather than seeing it as an intrusion. There were countless moments when his phrase sampler was put to good use, often leaving Joe Lovano in exhiliration limbo
  • The bass/ drum lads were exceptional! They promote band chemistry & were not relegated as mere accompaniments- bass & drum solos were fine touches to the overall performance
On a personal note, I was kinda down because no Uber Jam numbers got on the playlist; I was looking forward to see how technological implements were sequenced in Sco's playing but knowing Lovano's presence in the line-up meant no such tracks were to be heard (note: Uber Jam is Sco's solo effort) but one heck of a show anyway.

Em... half the audience were Caucasians...