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Musician Talk

Old 08-31-20, 01:53 PM
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Musician Talk

I think this fits better here than in Other, but if mods disagree feel free to move.

I don’t recall ever seeing a thread for the musicians in the forum to shoot the shit. If you’re a musician, what instruments do you play? What genres? And before Covid were you professional, semi-professional, in a band that played publicly, or are you more of the play at home type?

Here’s my background: In middle school I first learned guitar and tenor saxophone, and in high school took a year of a guitar class elective but didn’t continue. Although I continued with sax in marching band and symphonic band all throughout high school. I actually thought at one point I wanted to study music education in college, and many days wish I’d followed through, but frankly I got burnt out my senior year.
It wasn’t until after college that my interest in playing music got rekindled. I fell in love with Bťla Fleck’s music and bought a 5-string banjo.
I never could really get used to the fingerpicks, though, and ended up getting into the frailing style of banjo playing (this is known as Old Time music and pre-dates bluegrass and the fingerpick style that Earl Scruggs made so popular). It uses a downstroke from a fingernail plus the thumb to do this style of playing.
Here’s a good example of the style:

After a year or two of mostly just playing banjo I reconnected on Myspace with an old high school friend, discovered he played flute in an Irish session. Since a lot of Old Time music is watered down simplified Irish and Scottish music, I quickly fell in love with tradition Irish music as I listened to it more and more. I did some research and discovered that the Irish tinwhistle has a fingering system almost identical to saxophone, so I bought one and my sax knowledge transferred over well enough that I was able to integrate fairly easily into this group. I’m still in that group, but we haven’t played since Covid git. Up until then we had a weekly gig playing in a local brewery.
I also transitioned away from whistle and taught myself some other instruments that fit well within the Irish music genre. I learned tenor banjo, which unlike the American 5-string version, this has 4 strings and is tuned an octave below a violin. I also picked up mandolin, which is also the same tuning but in the same octave as violin. I also play a good bit of octave mandolin as an alternative to guitar for providing accompaniment instead of melody in my Irish group.
I’ve dabbled with Irish flute (which also has fingerings pretty close to saxophone and whistle) and violin, but never really put in the time necessary to get either one sounding good consistently.
Just within the last month I bought myself an electric bass. Nothing fancy, just a Squier Mini. I like that it has a scale length of about 28.5” versus the 32” to 36” of a full size bass. It’s been fun. A good friend of mine is a luthier and is supposed to be starting soon on a cello banjo for me.
I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on Irish music and really would like to branch out into making my own music. I’ve gotten into prog stuff over the last year or two and plan to start working on making stuff through Garageband. Incorporating all these different acoustic instruments may or may not work, but I can also manipulate to sounds through Garageband itself. My only holdup right now is figuring out how to do the percussion side of things. I’m not sure if I should simulate it with a keyboard or maybe get one of those tabletop drum machines. Something kinda like this:


Anyway, I’ve rambled too long. Tell me about yourself, fellow music makers!
Old 08-31-20, 07:22 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I might ramble even longer. I've played music, but I'd hesitate to call myself a musician. First instrument was clarinet, in 4th grade. I got frustrated after about 6 months, 'cuz I couldn't hit the increasingly low and high notes they were trying to get me to play, so I quit. Of course I now know that playing an instrument is all about working through those hard-to-play notes, but try convincing a 10 year old that. Wish I'd stayed with it, not because I want to play the clarinet, but because I was learning to read music at an early age. I struggle with it now.

Middle school, I took guitar lessons after school with my science teacher. I liked it, and my dad bought me an acoustic Yamaha guitar for my 16th birthday. But as a rock-n-roll fan, I annoyed him when I worked out the famous guitar riff from Pinball Wizard and that was the only thing I played on it. Wasn't even playing it in the right key, glad he didn't know that.

Bought my first electric, a cheap Les Paul copy when I was in high school. Freshman year of college, a local music store was selling "Hondo" guitars for $99, so I bought a Strat copy. To this day, the only new instrument I've ever owned. Junior year, I got money back from the IRS for the summer job I'd worked, used it to buy a Dean "Hollywood Z", similar to the Gibson Explorer.

After college, I moved to California and answered an ad for a guitarist, and we began playing Dead Milkmen and fIREHOSE cover songs. We were progressing, and the bassist and I were ska fans. I wrote (to this day, my only penned tune) a little power-pop ditty but with ska styling on the guitar. I followed that by adapting two songs into ska covers: Let's Dance (the 60s song, not the Bowie) and I'm Gonna Love Ya Too (Buddy Holly). Although to be honest, my adaptations of those songs were closer to the versions done by the Ramones and Blondie.

I couldn't keep playing a heavy-metal looking guitar in a ska band, so I bought my first "real" guitar, a 1969 Gibson SG. Pre-internet, no one knew what it was worth and I got it for just $350. I could probably get over $3K for it now, if I were to ever sell it which I won't. The band was moving along, and we poached some members from some dissolving local ska and reggae bands. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were coming to town, but playing a seedy club. Just for grins, I called the owner and asked if we could be on the bill. He said no, it was filled, but he'd take a demo (a rehearsal tape, recorded on a boom box in our practice space) for potential future gigs. But one of the bands dropped out, and since we were the only ones who specifically asked to be on the bill, we were added. Yes, my first public performance ever was opening up for the Bosstones.

Shortly thereafter, we had to fire the singer. It sucked, he'd started the band. But he had like zero stage presence, we found out when finally playing live. He turned his back to the audience almost the whole time. He also didn't memorize the words to the songs (which HE wrote!), so he would read them from sheets of paper. With a new singer, we quickly jumped into more gigs, starting to open up for any ska band that came to town.

Tensions were high between myself and the bass player, who was now writing all the songs. Hell of a musician and bass player, but also arrogant. And a total phony. He never drank with us. Not that that's a requirement, but he always bragged about how much he drank, yet when we were making beer runs for after practice and we offered to buy him something (he was under 21) he just asked for Mountain Dew. On the occasions when he did open a beer, he barely touched it (found this out as I was the only one who would clean up our empties if we were drinking at a public park or something). We played a gig at a bar that allowed minors in, but you needed a wrist band to drink, and I had a beer going after our set. The bass player comes to me, arm around his girlfriend, and says "Let me have some of that beer, man!". I refused, as he did not have the wrist band, and bouncers were specifically looking for non-wrist-banded people if they had drinks. I embarrassed him in front of his girlfriend. Next day, I was sacked, because the bass player told the rest of the band, "him or me". Since he'd taken on songwriting duties, they felt he was more important.

(at this point, I should mention I'm an OK guitarist. Not a great one, not even a pretty good one. They used this as the excuse for sacking me, and I'll fully admit the guy they replaced me with is better, but I listen to tapes from that era and I'm definitely not the weak point. The horn section was horribly out of tune with one another, and the vocals are average at best. I'm pretty sure it was the personal tension with me and the bass player that was the real reason I'm not in the band. Although, they're still together to this day, and if I was still playing just ska music now, I'd want to shoot myself)

Not much happened after that. I did join another developing band, with an actress as the singer. She was in the film version of A Chorus Line, but didn't have one of the solo songs. She was part of the main cast though. This was more of a power-pop band, that she kept calling "retro" because she was a big fan of Blondie and Bow Wow Wow, but I thought we could be current and play female-fronted "buzz pop" songs similar to what The Primitives, The Darling Buds, and Voice of the Beehive were releasing around that time. She was writing the songs, based on the vocal melodies she created and the handful of chords she would sketch out on guitar. We had a really interesting sound, because due to her limited guitar ability she had no idea we were changing keys several times within the song. Yet it all sounded cohesive. I think it could have gone far, but problems with peoples' day jobs, finding rehearsal space, and the fact that the singer was a married mom with two toddlers we couldn't get it off the ground.

I still noodle around on that '69 SG, and have filled in for the absentee guitarist of another ska band from time to time. I also studied Japanese at the local community college, and one of the students in the class told us there was a choir that sang traditional Japanese songs. I was uninterested, until I found out that a girl from class that I had the hots for was participating. So I checked it out. She only came to one more rehearsal, but I found I enjoyed it and have a pretty good tenor voice. Who knew? We played one recital, and a few gigs at local churches and retirement homes. Biggest gig was when a Japanese Arena Football team came to town to play our team, and our group was recruited to sing the Japanese and American national anthems. The Japanese national anthem: plot the flight of a moth on a musical scale and you pretty much have it. I left that group after about two years due to another personal issue, but I've already gone on too long. I'll just say in this case, unlike the ska band, they begged me NOT to quit, but there are some things you just don't do to people you call friends, and one of the other singers did it.

Only performances I've done lately is "Punk Rock Karaoke", a traveling group of famous punk musicians (from bands like The Adolescents, The Dickies, Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, and Goldfinger) play, and brave (read: drunk) audience members sing. I've performed Stiff Little Fingers' Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster, and one time I really took a chance (read: drunk) and belted out The Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen in Love. Even hit that last high note, ringing it out several seconds after the band finishes. Got lots of high-fives for being daring enough to try that.
Old 08-31-20, 09:15 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I was never a professional nor a semi-pro by any definition. Probably not even an amateur.

I was given an electric guitar and small amp when I was a teenager, where I was mostly just making a ton of awful noise. Gradually I figured out how to tune it probably and decipher tunes by trial and error, such as stuff like thin lizzy, ozzy, judas priest, kiss, black sabbath, etc ... and later metallica. That was the extent of my "music education".

Played briefly in garage bands, where I was thrown out numerous times for playing really poorly and being really really drunk all the time. The first time I played in a real band that wrote/played originals (ie. not covers), it ended up being a complete wash out. They were dependent on me coming up with new tunes, where I had no idea what I was doing. (The other guys didn't know how to write tunes very well either). Most of the stuff we wrote sounded like really poorly done punk rock with lousy guitar solos and a singer who couldn't sing/yell in key very well.

In the end, the only thing I knew was how to do transcriptions from listening to the record/cd. I never figured out how to write tunes that didn't sound like incoherent stream of consciousness type stuff.
Old 08-31-20, 09:37 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

^ Ha, that reminds me of an audition I went on. I have to admit, I was in way over my head, these guys were really good. Playing odd time signatures and keys. I thought I was keeping up, playing on the off-beats (from having ska and reggae experience), and throwing in all my m7 and add9 chords (from being a fan of The Police). After a 5 minute or so jam song, the drummer says "Hey! That can be our sound! We play various time signatures while he stays in 4:4 the entire time". I got the message.
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Old 08-31-20, 09:50 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I was definitely not a person that would have been great in a band.

In the end, I was mostly playing stuff which resembled dexterity fretboard exercises than anything "musical".
Old 08-31-20, 10:14 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Ironically over the past decade or so, I still have local friends which ask me if I want to jam or audition with their current bands. They all mention there's hardly anybody around locally who are still playing that older rock stuff AND who is not drunk all the time.

I turn them down every single time, since I know I would be an extremely poor fit nowadays.
Old 08-31-20, 10:29 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by Paff
Playing odd time signatures and keys. I thought I was keeping up, playing on the off-beats (from having ska and reggae experience), and throwing in all my m7 and add9 chords (from being a fan of The Police). After a 5 minute or so jam song, the drummer says "Hey! That can be our sound! We play various time signatures while he stays in 4:4 the entire time". I got the message.
I wouldn't have the discipline to play stuff this highly technical.
Old 08-31-20, 10:38 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I suspected what happened with my first band which we wrote our own original tunes, was that the other guys thought I was some "musical genius" from how I was able transcribe stuff relatively quickly by ear and (at the time) knowing how to play a lot of guitar riffs of songs we were into. In reality, that was the extent of what I knew.

Writing original tunes is a very different process and requires a completely different skillset, than transcribing stuff.
Old 09-01-20, 01:48 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by morriscroy
I wouldn't have the discipline to play stuff this highly technical.
Thatís actually the kind of stuff Iím getting more into. Prog rock/metal stuff with time signatures like 5/4, 7/8. I love that shit! 😁 Thereís actually an Irish flute player named Michael McGoldrick thatís done a few albums of Irish/jazz fusion, and a lot of it uses non-traditional time signatures. Itís really cool stuff. His albums Aurora, Wired, and Fused are all good examples of it.
Old 09-01-20, 05:42 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

I was a semi-professional musician (bass player) for about 25 or so years. Always had to have a day job to get by, but did gigs, etc. in the off hours. Gave it up a little over 10 years ago, just didnít get the same satisfaction from it that I did in the past.

Over the years I got to do some cool stuff, wrote a number of cool songs, got to play on a few albums/CDs, and got to play gigs with/open for some well-known bands, (Fishbone, Gravity Kills, The Urge, etc).

The last band I played in before retiring was one of the most interesting ones because I got to play with a man that I greatly admired for years, Monty Colvin, who was (I think still is) in the band ďGalactic CowboysĒ, which are/were a prog-rock band from Houston. The band that I played in with Monty was called ďCrunchyĒ and I played with them from 2007-2009. Hereís a video I made with them during that time, I am the bass player with the shaved head:


I was uber-serious about playing music in my younger years, but Iím pretty well past that now, but itís nice to have mementos like CDs and YouTube to relive the memories.
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Old 09-01-20, 10:26 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

I've played guitar for ~35 years (electric & acoustic), but I probably hit my peak ~28 years ago. I've been pretty much coasting since then. I'm not good at creating my own music, but I can play other people's stuff well, even pretty technical/difficult/fast stuff. I'd be most fit to be in a hard rock/metal cover band, but I really have no interest in doing that. I know a good amount of music theory, but if I was ever at an "open jam" and asked to improvise a lead, it would really not be impressive; I'd be stuck in basic scales, pentatonic and blues box stuff.

I still really like guitars, but I seem to collect them now, more than I actually play them. Occasionally I'll get together with a friend who also plays, and we take turns playing acoustic tunes we like, but it has probably been a few years since I actually learned a new song.

People who can't play music at all think I am great, but I know enough to know that I am not.
Basically, I am a pretty decent guitar player, but I'm not a very good musician.

Last edited by JackoOnHisBacko; 09-01-20 at 10:40 AM.
Old 09-01-20, 11:02 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by Tom Banjo
Thatís actually the kind of stuff Iím getting more into. Prog rock/metal stuff with time signatures like 5/4, 7/8. I love that shit! 😁
On and off over the years I attempted to figure out stuff from bands like rush, pink floyd, dream theater, voi vod, etc .... where they go beyond the generic 4/4 and pentatonic stuff.

It's one thing figuring how something is played by trial and error by ear. It's a whole entirely different matter figuring out what is the exact overall structure.

I had no idea what scales and time signatures they were using. (ie. Besides "chromatic").
Old 09-01-20, 11:11 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by JackoOnHisBacko
I know a good amount of music theory ...
The only "theory" I ever figured out, was from reading scale/mode charts and a lot of trial and error. Even then, I still had no idea what exactly was the point.

I was primarily looking at it from the perspetive of physical patterns on the fretboard. For example, IIRC a natural minor scale was the easiest fretboard pattern to remember and play through the notes really fast through ascending. (I started recognizing this particular "generic" pattern being in the wheelhouse in various guitar solo segments from the "shred" guitar player type).
Old 09-01-20, 04:33 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

All this talk of time signatures reminds me of one of my favorite jokes.

A piano player worked at an upscale Italian restaurant in New Jersey. One Saturday night, a big family who looked "connected", if you know what I mean, came in for a dinner. The head of the family was flanked by two henchmen, and one of the henchmen comes up to the piano player. "After dinner, Big Vito is gonna sing a song, and you'd better play it right."
The piano player gulped. "What song?"
"Strangers in the Night"
The piano player breathes a sigh of relief. "Ah, that's a classic, I play it all the time. No problem."
The henchman then says "But when Big Vito sings it, he sings it in 6/4 time."
"That's not the way that song is played....." the piano player begins to protest.
"I don't care about that. You gonna play that song in 6/4 if ya knows what's good for ya, capiche?"
The dinner goes on, several courses, with the piano playing the entire time. Finally, after dinner, desserts and coffee, Big Vito goes up to the microphone. The piano player grits his teeth and does his best version of the song as Vito starts to sing: "Strangers in da fuckin' night...."
Old 09-02-20, 09:26 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

On the issue of time signatures.

How many folks here practiced with a metronome?

Back in the day when I realized I didn't play very well with a drummer initially, I knew I had to practice more on precise timing. As a byproduct, I was guessing what different time signatures (besides 4/4) were possibly suppose to sound like from playing with a metronome.

Since I don't play as much as I use to, I have noticed my timing isn't as precise anymore. (I don't seem to have much of a "muscle memory" for timing precision).
Old 09-02-20, 01:48 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Practicing with a metronome is essential IMO. These days I try to practice with a drum loop or other backing track, rather than just a metronome. I'm trying to nail a solo on Joe Henderson's "Blue Bossa", which has taken up a lot of my summer. Well, that and Miles' solo on "Blues by Five."
Old 09-02-20, 02:29 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by morriscroy
On the issue of time signatures.

How many folks here practiced with a metronome?

Back in the day when I realized I didn't play very well with a drummer initially, I knew I had to practice more on precise timing. As a byproduct, I was guessing what different time signatures (besides 4/4) were possibly suppose to sound like from playing with a metronome.

Since I don't play as much as I use to, I have noticed my timing isn't as precise anymore. (I don't seem to have much of a "muscle memory" for timing precision).
I should. I play piano, and have a couple guitars to fart around with.

I know my piano playing is uneven. Honestly, I'm pretty lousy, but still enjoy it a great deal. Playing in any sort of band would be out of the question, as I have terrible stage fright. It's awful, as I can't even play in front of my wife. My kids, yes. Trying to record a video for my wife, as an attempt to cross that bridge, results in making a mess of it, out of nervousness.

It sucks, and I admire you folks that don't have these inhibitions. Slybone, that video was good stuff!

Regarding time signatures, I really like odd time signature stuff. Time Out and Time Further Out by Dave Brubeck are both amazing. I also like Philip Glass who has a lot of odd time signature pieces, often with each hand playing a different rhythm. That sort of stuff, I can't even count to myself. I have to just get the feel of the pattern and then rely on muscle memory.

As an FYI, I started out my programming career writing music (MIDI) software. Fortunately, it was a conversion, so I had no responsibility for the musical theory and musicality of it.
Old 09-02-20, 02:48 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I’ve never been good at playing with a metronome, although I know I should. At least when I’m learning a piece or on an instrument that I’m not quite as strong at.
Old 09-03-20, 05:48 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by andicus
Slybone, that video was good stuff!
Thanks so much!
Old 09-03-20, 06:20 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I hesitate to call myself a musician, but I do make electronic music with what my wife likes to call my "noise machines" (synthesizers, drum machines, turntables, and effects), strictly as a hobby. Probably not most people's cup of tea but it's my thing. I have a few different current projects:

The Stoudion - Psaltere (synth instrumentals)
Monochromystic - Translunar Coast and Minus All Zeros (kind of weird, experimental ambient)
War Short Sugar - Struggle (lo-fi instrumental hip hop/turntablism)

Here's a video for the closing track from The Stoudion - Psaltere:

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Old 09-06-20, 11:32 AM
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Re: Musician Talk

Been a musician since the age of 5 (49 now). Started with piano lessons, became proficient enough to play classical pieces fairly well by age 10. Also took up the clarinet in 4th grade in order to join the school band. Played that for 5 years.

Once I seriously got into "classic rock" when I was 12 (although it was contemporary then!) I moved to guitar and lost interest in piano and clarinet. Looking back I regret dropping both, but I really fell in love with the guitar and wanted to master that instrument.

I didn't. But I had fun trying. I was an uninspiring lead player [rarely venturing past pentatonic and major scales] but loved locking down rhythm parts and especially acoustic. Played in a bunch of garage bands, performed at local events here and there but nothing significant at all. I also played bass and a little bit of ukulele.

I learned a bit more here and there but basically stayed at the same level of proficiency for the last, oh, 25 years or so. Until COVID. I've seriously gotten back into guitar, learning more about theory and trying to massively improve my picking mechanics. There are so many amazing resources online, I would have killed or died for any of them when I was a teen and learning.

As far as what instruments I'm playing, I sold a bunch of gear in the late 90s and 00s when I wasn't really using them anymore. I regret that too. Now I'm playing mostly for myself, so I have a lot of Line 6 gear:

Guitars
* Line 6 Variax (sunburst finish, this is my main practice guitar)
* Fender Stratocaster (American made, from about 2006? Cherry wine, maple neck)
* Epiphone Casino (Inspired by John Lennon model from 2010, sanded-down finish, I love this thing)

Bass
* Ibanez GSR something or another, bought it cheap from a friend and updated the pups. Blue finish, rosewood neck.

Piano
* Yamaha P71 digital piano. I tinker but I'm nowhere near where I was when I was 10. It's sad

Ukulele
* Some Les Paul looking thing I bought online a few years ago. It's fun but nothing I've dived to deep into.

Amps
* Line6 Amplifi 75 - my practice amp. This thing is amazing ,I only wish the app wasn't as clunky and buggy. I love being able to lookup tones based on songs/artists, downloading them into the phone, and having the amp reflect it accordingly
* Line6 Spider Jam - this thing is a monster, but I don't really use it much anymore.
* Boss Katana 100 - plus a Boss footswitch, When playing when buddies, this thing is probably the best solid state amp on the amp for hobbyists like me

Effects
* Line6 Pod XT - mostly for practicing

I have my eyes on a new Telecaster, the American Pro model in mystic seafoam. I played one recently and fell in love with it. But I promised my wife no new gear purchases until after we move (in February-ish).
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Old 09-06-20, 08:05 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by Hokeyboy

Amps
* Line6 Amplifi 75 - my practice amp. This thing is amazing ,I only wish the app wasn't as clunky and buggy. I love being able to lookup tones based on songs/artists, downloading them into the phone, and having the amp reflect it accordingly
* Line6 Spider Jam - this thing is a monster, but I don't really use it much anymore.
* Boss Katana 100 - plus a Boss footswitch, When playing when buddies, this thing is probably the best solid state amp on the amp for hobbyists like me

Effects
* Line6 Pod XT - mostly for practicing
I had a rackmount effects unit, but I found I like the raw sound of plugging directly into my 80s-era Fender Stage Lead II. Unlike a lot of guitarists, I prefer solid-state to tube amps.

I also keep my effects analog, mostly just using a couple of 30+ year old DOD distortion and stereo chorus pedals.

And I don't like tuners, either. I use a 440Hz tuning fork, play a 12th fret harmonic on the A string, and bring the fork close enough so the pickups get both the played note and the tuning fork. Align those, then tune the rest of the strings to that A string.


Old 09-06-20, 08:49 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

Originally Posted by Paff
I had a rackmount effects unit, but I found I like the raw sound of plugging directly into my 80s-era Fender Stage Lead II. Unlike a lot of guitarists, I prefer solid-state to tube amps.

I also keep my effects analog, mostly just using a couple of 30+ year old DOD distortion and stereo chorus pedals.
I still have a Boss Flanger pedal from 1984, and I think the Super Overdrive pedal is in storage somewhere. The rest were sold off -- Chorus, EQ, Metal Zone, Tuner, and Delay. I loved the way those pedals looked together
Old 09-06-20, 09:13 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

I use to be into the effects stuff back in the day. After many years of it, I came to the realization my "preferences" sounded like muddy sludge which sounded horrible when recording it to tape.

As I got better at playing, I preferred to just play through the amp/head with the built in distortion. There was no easy way to fool anyone of my low playing ability, by covering it up with tons of effects.
Old 09-06-20, 09:20 PM
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Re: Musician Talk

When it came to transcribing stuff, I noticed the stuff which was heavily buried in effects frequently wasn't too difficult to figure out in the end. The worst was transcribing guitar solos which were buried in a barrage of digital delay. (Especially when it was simple).

Less ambiguity when transcribing stuff which had very little to no effects layered on.


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