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.
I think it’s interesting how small shifts can make for some real changes. I picked up a Simon & Patrick Parlor guitar a couple months ago and I’ve been experimenting with a variety of strings. Strings are such a personal thing — only your ears and hands can tell you what set of strings are best for a particular guitar.
I put on a set of D’Addario Silk & Steel (EJ40) strings a few days ago. While the obvious thing is they sound different than phosphor bronze (which I usually use), they also make me play and write differently. So what does “differently” mean? I don’t actually know, but I did get the start of a new tune out of this string experiment. And that’s not half bad.
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.
Just received two new Blue Chip picks in the mail today… A TD 40 and a TP-1R 40. Basically, they’re backups for Blue Chips I already have. Yes, I know, Blue Chip picks are INSANELY expensive ($35 each). So if you’re a player who likes to fling picks into the audience or you regularly lose picks, Blue Chip picks are not for you (unless you happen to be a rock star with a boatload of disposable income that is!). I almost never lose picks (still have picks from high school) and I can’t think of the last (or the first) time I flung a pick into an audience, so I can kind of rationalize the price. Cost aside, Blue Chips are hands down the best I’ve ever used — terrific tone, almost indestructible and they stick to my fingers like no other pick. Love ’em!