General tech questions

20 hacks to increase your musical satisfaction, from FREE to 300.00

26

Someone I worked with made this drummer joke, "They have to be REALLY good to be better than no drummer at all." For me, the best musicians on ANY instrument have the best time. Chops are way down the list. And by best, or at least really good time, I mean time that feels great to play with, or makes you want to play when you hear it. It's different than metronomic time; not that it should rush or drag, but it has a certain spongyness to it; it breathes, is relaxed, but still generates energy and forward motion. It's the medium that allows the music to flow.

I guess the point is, it's a huge topic, probably the most important component in music (rhythm is a manefestation or expression of time) and if I seem opinioniated, it's just because it's one of the very few things that appears to still hold some kind of truth.

27

Proteus and Journeyman's observations on drummers and time evoke memories for me. I played with one drummer who lost beat halfway through every verse of a song, resulting in some very frustrating practice sessions for the rest of us at the time. Needless to say, that particular group didn't last long. At the other end of the spectrum, one of the best I ever played with also played guitar, bass and piano and had an amazing grasp of music theory. Many times he helped one or the other of us to understand a part we were having trouble with. He was truly a pleasure to work with, and I can honestly say I've never met another drummer like him.

28

Proteus and Journeyman's observations on drummers and time evoke memories for me. I played with one drummer who lost beat halfway through every verse of a song, resulting in some very frustrating practice sessions for the rest of us at the time. Needless to say, that particular group didn't last long. At the other end of the spectrum, one of the best I ever played with also played guitar, bass and piano and had an amazing grasp of music theory. Many times he helped one or the other of us to understand a part we were having trouble with. He was truly a pleasure to work with, and I can honestly say I've never met another drummer like him.

– Synchroslim

I love playing with drummers who listen and play 'inside' the band instead of over it. Over the years I got to play with Terry Clark, who some might recognize as Jim Hall's drummer throughout the 1970's and 80's... up to Jim's passing, really. Back when I was trying to play Brazilian music we had a trio gig for a week and each night I played one set of Brazilian tunes on a nylon string guitar. I asked Terry if it was a drag for him to have to play quietly enough to accommodate the nylon string and he said that it was certainly not, and that if he couldn't hear everything I was playing, he was playing too loud.

Seems like I might have pushed the thread a bit off track; apologies Proteus. Yes....timing. May I expand on the topic slightly and include rhythm and phrasing? To me, they are born out of time; rhythm being the expression of time, and phrasing being an expanded expression of rhythm that has to do with the relationship between sound and silence, in a manner similar to the relationship between structure or mass and space in architecture. A phrase has notes AND silence. So a two bar phrase, for example, could have notes in the first bar (more or less) and silence in the second bar, or silence in the first bar and notes, more or less, in the second bar. The two sides of the phrase, notes and silence, form one larger phrase, and the space, or silence from the soloist brings in the rest of the band as part of it; the whole thing breathes together. This can be practiced with the metronome, treating it as if it was the rhythm section, and really playing with it. Even though it's a machine, it can still be used in creative ways and be fun to work with.

29

All good comments, Jman. No derail. Expands on one of the hacks, and from an expert perspective.

I'll note that it can be hard to really place one's pulses deliberately and/or responsively unless everyone you're playing with is at least as rhythmically skillful and attentive as oneself. (It's an ideal situation for me if I'm good enough not to frustrate them, but they're still better than I am.)

Of course we all have to pick ourselves up where we find ourselves, and try to improve - we don't all get the pleasure of playing with really fine players all the time. But it's a real treat when all acknowledge a common pulse, even as it's fluid and dynamic over time, and allow each other to work within and around it "organically." It's distressing when attempts to consciously work around the rhythm throw other players, because they were expecting something different from you than they heard, and are unsure how to respond.

Then I'm embarrassed not just for having unintentionally caused a trainwreck, but for having misjudged the musical situation.

But yeah - all your suggestions and observations fall under "Learn to Count." I think it's a life-long discipline, because at some level it's tied so intimately to our own physical processes - our internal rhythms - and those are constantly changing. I'd like to think that training the mind, ear, and muscles together to find the groove also works inwardly to bring the body along in a sort of active but still meditative zen state.

I'd like to go there more often.

31

Great list. I'm currently gutting my 5120 to put in some more improvements, glad I saw the Reverend Soft Spring in this list: immediately ordered one.

32

Great! If you’ve never tried one, prepare to be delighted.

34

This Soft Spring....I'm curious. Does it have enough tork to bring the strings back in tune? I've got some kind of logic going on that suggests that a spring with a lot of stiffness would be better for tuning stability. Then again, I've rarely had much tuning stability on any guitar with a Bigsby, and all my Gretsches but one have Bigsbys. Can ya put me straight brother?

35

I notice no difference in return-to-pitch behavior. It just feels ever so much more responsive. It's a cheap try, and if you don't like it, I'll buy it.

36

I notice no difference in return-to-pitch behavior. It just feels ever so much more responsive. It's a cheap try, and if you don't like it, I'll buy it.

– Proteus

I'll add it to some upcoming tweaks, one of which will be the addition of a Zero Glide nut.

37

Useful list and a great read, thanks. I guess I could give compressors another try, and the only real reason I have cut back to tuner/drive/trem/delay is the size of my pedalboard, and yes it IS silly owning a Dyno Brain and not having it available, and since I put TArmonds in my Annie I've hardly played it, and surely I MUST one day hit the looper on my TC Flashback at the right point to get a clean loop...maybe I'll just take the 2 week break.

38

Is that Boss CP1X compressor the absolute business? Very tempted.

39

Well, I certainly think so, Ade. My Reverb review goes into extensive detail about how and why, and lists the compressors I'm comparing it to.

Short version: when I listen in critical isolation, comparing the CP1x to my favorite comps at 2 and 3 times the price (like the Origin Cali76 and Empress), I can hear that the Origin sounds a bit fatter and inexplicably more luxurious - and that the Empress is more "flexible" in that I have more control over all parameters and can thus make it sound bad. But in actual use, I just can't trick the Boss into doing anything unseemly, and even when I A-B it with the uncompressed tone and note that it leans the overall guitar tone out a bit, I have to admit it sounds better that way. Just more articulate and defined.

I wouldn't say it's a compressor connoisseur's ultimate prestige compressor - but on the other hand, the more you know about compression the more you appreciate what it does, so I can't imagine a compressor connoisseur who would consider his experience complete without trying it.

And if you're not a squeeze junkie, it just plain works for whatever you throw at it. That's hard to beat.

Boss had a lot of bad will to overcome with me in a pedal compressor - my prior experiences have been universally negative - but this box has won me over.

(Lest I seem to condemn Boss compression too roundly, I hasten to add that I'm very impressed with the comp algorithms in their MS-3 multi-box - probably the same as in other of their current range of multis.)

40

I have a CS-3 that I keep in the 12-string case. Probably out of embarrassment. It's like playing through a vacuum cleaner. And yet, I've never been quite able to get rid of it.

When recording I always, always record uncompressed then add it later. It's a bit tougher going in, but invariably sounds superior afterwards.

However, it doesn't face up to the reality of live situations which are 95% of my real world work. The 12-string is getting used more and more and it goes without saying that a good compressor is the very best friend a 12 ever will have. An upgrade is due- something durable, translucent to the touch and immediately replaceable with a duplicate should it get lost.

Really appreciate the tip and the hearty reviews. I did read your Reverb review as soon as you mentioned it.

41

You've describe the CS3 to a tee. You should sell it. Apparently some people actually like it.

I did read your Reverb review as soon as you mentioned it.

Well, of course you did. But there are those who would rather avoid reading my rambling screeds...

42

I know that some will condemn it, but I find that the JangleBox works very well, both with my Rickenbacker electric 12-string and my Gretsch acoustic 12-string.

44

I've got a love/hate with Reverb - the good, it makes it incredibly easy to buy gear quickly, the bad, it makes it incredibly easy to buy gear quickly. LOL

The BOSS CP-1X showed up, I'm pretty impressed. I've only done a little knob tweaking and it's doing a dang good job. I'm still dialing in my "always on". too little compression and it doesn't do much for the B9 and too much compression and the B9 is solid but the rest of my tone isn't where I want it to be.

I already caught some flak for using a compressor in the first place but the B9 needs it - although again that is likely more my fault than the pedal itself.

45

Golly, who gives you flack for using a compressor?

Dial down the Attack to improve the rest of your tone. Cranking it up increases the prominence of the attack; it doesn't slow the attack of the compressor as you might expect. Experiment with the balance of Compression (which, on the Boss, decreases threshold as you turn it up, so more of your signal gets compressed) and Ratio (which determines how MUCH it's getting compressed).

When auditioning a compressor against your uncompressed signal, try to keep Level so your output with comp is just a little (not much) louder than uncompressed. You'll have to keep adjusting that as you play with Compression and Ratio, as their relative levels can radically change the balance of input to output. But if you use the compressor for too much of an audible boost, it will almost always sound better than dry (because, duh, as guitarists, our ears always interpret louder as better). And if the net effect of particular knob settings is to reduce the output relative to dry, we'll think it sounds worse (for the same reason).

Obviously once you find a good always-on setting (if there will be such a compromise that works well both with the B9 and for your straight tone), you'll be able to stop playing with the Output knob. But till then, on any compressor, you always have to remember that most of the knobs are very interactive, and a change in one can require a change in another (usually Output).

46

who gives you flack for using a compressor?

That would have been me!

As much as I love a good compressor in a recording/mixing situation, I hate them in a guitar signal chain.

47

Ah. Very good. That's fine. Sometimes turning the compressor OFF is an effect.

48

I didn't want to crap on your thread about it though - David and myself were talking about it in a semi-private conversation somewhere else - Carry on!

49

I have nothing to carry on about. I was just passing along my experience with the Boss comp, and that was it.

50

It's good natured ribbing.

All good, I'm learning things about compressors that I never knew that I needed to know. It's appreciated.


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