More often than not, whenever I learn about someone who is good at what they do, I see some similar patterns. Sure the patterns are somewhat specific to their own area of expertise, but many (all?) care deeply about not only the bigger picture, but also the little things. I think it’s pretty rare to find a hockey player who doesn’t care about their stick or a violinist who is totally indifferent to their bow.
I’m certainly not immune to the battle between the forest and the trees and I’m never sure if I’m getting the mix just right. I have boxes and bags full of different bits of gear — all kinds of strings made out of a multitude of materials, picks in just about every shape and, of course, in a huge variety of thicknesses. I also have tons of stuff that I can’t even remember why I bought it. Must have made sense at the time and I probably thought I really, really needed it.
And that’s the point — those little things are part of the process for me. Every bit matters even if I can’t tell you now why something had value in the past. What’s important to me, is continuing to have some of my focus on the building blocks of my music — both on the gear and technical side of things and on the compositional and performance elements.
I have to admit, until maybe a few years ago, I had never played around with any kind of partial capo. I didn’t have a specific reason for not looking into how useful it would be for my own music, I just never felt drawn to it. In some ways, I was also not pulled towards alternate tunings, albeit for a different set of reasons. Two sides of the same coin? Maybe. Both a partial capo and alternate tunings change your relationship to the guitar and, until relatively recently, that wasn’t something I was super interested in. Probably that has a lot to do with my training on the guitar (read classical and jazz) and how I vastly prefer to know the fretboard as well as I can.
Now before I go on, if you’re reading this and new to the world of guitars and guitar accessories, what the heck is a partial capo anyways? Partial capos are a subset of capos. See, cleared that right up, eh? Now seriously, partial capos work just like any other kind of capo in that they clamp onto the neck of the guitar and raise the pitch of a string or strings. Where a partial capo differs from a standard capo is that a partial capo allows certain strings to not be clamped down. A partial capo allows some strings to have their pitch raised and others to perform and sound in their “normal” unaltered state. I use a SpiderCapo for the times I want to use a partial capo and it allows me to capo each of the six strings individually.
So why did I get interested in partial capos? For a lot of things artistic for me, I can’t truly point to a single reason. I’ve been moving towards incorporating folks elements in my music for quite some time and open tunings play a role in some of that music. And then a friend online suggested trying out a partial capo. Seemed like a good match — I could get some of the open tuning sound I wanted and still retain my knowledge of the fretboard.
The partial capo certainly has opened up new sounds and colours for me. It’s pushed me to think differently about the guitar and challenged some of my preconceptions. But it hasn’t become an all or nothing type of thing. I still play in standard tuning without any kind of capo most of the time. I still use an old “regular” capo as well. The partial capo has just increased the number of possibilities for me as a player and as a writer and I sure am happy I found it.
Put together a new acoustic pedal board yesterday. Pretty much in line with my ongoing quest to simplify/streamline my gear, this board is even more refined than my previous one. Just four pedals (Radial StageBug, TC Electronic Polytune 2, Mooer Radar with IR from 3 Sigma Audio and a TC Electronic Hall of Fame) all mounted on an Outlaw Effects Nomad Rechargeable Powered Pedal Board. It’s light, battery powered and most importantly, sounds amazing!
Watched “Restrung”, a very cool documentary on Wyn Guitars last night. It was great to hear Abraham Laboriel and James LoMenzo playing the basses, but just as interesting to me was getting to see and hear about Wyn’s workflow. He’s incredibly organized and deeply considers the ergonomics of his shop. I try to do the same thing, albeit on a lesser scale, in my studio. Also, Randall’s comments on efficiency versus enthusiasm hit home. I’m sure sanding necks for three days straight can’t be a ton of fun, even though it maybe highly efficient. I come up against similar issues when recording an album. Do I do all of the MIDI stuff for the entire record first? Record all of the rhythm guitars in one go? That sort of thing is more efficient, but it’s not nearly as exciting as taking a song at a time from nothing to a finished master. Anyways, the documentary’s good, so if you have about an hour to spare, check it out!
Yesterday I put together a new acoustic pedalboard. I was hoping to keep my gear to an absolute minimum and just have a Radial PZ-Deluxe on the floor, but I found I needed a few extra pieces of the puzzle. The only real effect on the board is the TC Electronic Hall Of Fame Reverb and I’m going to use that mainly as a way to compensate for room acoustics. Right now, I’m into playing pretty much as effect free as I can be.
There were a few “challenges” putting together this board. The first one is size. It was tough getting everything to fit on the Pedaltrain Nano +, but I wanted the board to be as compact as possible. The second one was powering the PZ Deluxe. I’m a huge fan of Radial gear — it’s built like a tank and sounds absolutely first rate. But I’m not a fan of their 15v 400mA power requirements. Tough to find a power supply that can meet their needs. Thankfully, Radial came out with the StageBug, which is a signal buffer and 9v to 15 v converter. Basically, I’m taking one 9v 400mA and one 9v 100mA from the Pedal Power ISO 5 and feeding those into the StageBug. The StageBug then powers the PZ Deluxe. Works perfectly and keeps the board neat and clean.
The third challenge was learning about true bypass pedals. I was surprised to find that having a true bypass pedal first in the signal chain would cause a level increase when I engaged the pedal. When I use the StageBug to buffer the signal there is no level change. I’m also not really into the “pop” you get when you engage a true bypass pedal. This is not going to affect me as I’m going to either have the pedal on or off for entire gigs. The Hall Of Fame lets you switch the pedal from true bypass to buffered via a DIP switch inside the pedal. I think my board sounded and felt better with the Hall Of Fame left in true bypass, so that’s how I’m using it.
The TC Electronic PolyTune Mini 2 is great for my needs — small, bright and most importantly accurate. I’ve used the PolyTune app on my phone for years now and love it, so it made sense to get the pedal for this board.
This is best pedalboard I’ve ever had/made. Truly sounds incredible!
Over the last 35 or so years, I’ve gone through quite a few pedalboards. From literally having pedals velcroed to a piece of plywood in the 70’s/early 80s to a rack of gear with MIDI switching in the 80’s/90’s to having four different pedalboards until recently. I lost those four boards this summer. The upside (if there ever is an upside to getting robbed) is that you are forced to look at what you need. And right now, I need less. My two new “pedalboards” in the photo below (acoustic on the left and electric on the right) are pretty darn minimalistic and I’m going to try to keep them (mostly) that way.
Received my Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina yesterday and man do I ever love it! Sounds as great as it looks. I need to play around with it for a bit to figure out what its strengths are, but my guess is, it’s going to give me exactly what I was hoping for — a natural, unhyped sound.
It’s fun to get a new guitar and even more fun to celebrate with a nice single malt scotch!
I was so impressed by the LR Baggs Lyric Acoustic Guitar Microphone demos I heard on the LR Baggs site that I made the leap and had one installed in my Seagull Artist Studio CW. I think I made the exact right decision. I’ve never been a huge fan of under saddle pickups (or internal mics) — the sonic compromise has always been too great. Yes, you can get a good tone from under saddle pickups, but it takes work. Lots of work. I have a Fishman Spectrum that truly helps get a “better” more realistic sounding (read miked) tone, but I never found it completely satisfying. And internal mics always seem to be less than ideal too. You get some “air” in the sound, but you also get a boxy tone along for the deal.
Now the Lyric is an internal mic — LR Baggs calls it a bridge plate microphone. The Lyric behaves much like an external mic in that your guitar feels and sounds like it’s being miked by a mic sitting a foot off your guitar. You get all of the good stuff that a mic brings to the game and none of the boxiness that internal mics usually have. Basically, it sounds fantastic! Well, it sounded fantastic after I adjusted the Mic Presence Control. When LR Baggs say the Mic Presence Control is “responsive” they’re not kidding. I spent a bunch of time recording different parts into Logic and then adjusting the control. Once I got it set right, the Lyric really did a great job of representing the sound of my guitar.
Of course, feedback can be an issue for acoustic instruments and the Lyric is a mic. I haven’t had a chance to gig with the Lyric yet, but I did crank my studio monitors (Yamaha HS80Ms) and play directly facing the speakers with no feedback issues.
The Lyric has impressed me. I’m definitely going to be using it live and I’m sure it’s going to end up on one of my future albums.
There’s nothing like a great drummer and I’m lucky enough to work with one of Canada’s finest, Dave Patel. But for writing, EZ Drummer has been an amazing tool. I just picked up the new Indie Folk add-on and it sounds incredible. I particularly like the Slingerland kit in the 4 mic configuration — truly massive tones. Getting lots of ideas for the next Sixteen Different Minds record!