Monday 8 June 2009

What's happening June 2009

I found myself at home, the three kids in bed, the missus out for several hours - food in my belly, kitchen cleaned guesses for what happened next ;)

Now for the past month or so I've been putting any "spare" time into finishing the solar guitar amp.  It is basically finished, just some paint and trim and other non-essential, but essential items to go.  Recapping the project - 12VDC battery, recharged by a solar panel on the side, using car stereo speakers and amplifier, in a lightweight but sturdy box that also acts as a seat.

So interesting notes since I last mentioned it:

* my 5W solar panel that I've had for 5+ years has definately lost some oomphf.  It used to be able to kick out about 400mA, now only about 300mA.  Not a problem though, just a shame - the continuous power use during operation is about 600mA at an acceptable backyard volume, peaking to maybe 1.5A.  So for every hour that I play, it needs to get full sun for about 2 hours.

* I decided to keep it simple with the solar regulator this time - a Schottkey diode to stop the battery discharging at night (Schottkey diode has about a 300mV forward volt drop, as compared to a normal diode 700mV drop) - and 5W 15V zener diode to cap the battery voltage to prevent overcharging.

* I was running just a Behringer reverb pedal to "open up" the sound a little, and tweaking the EQ on the guitar.  I ran into two problems - the output voltage on the reverb pedal was a bit low for the car amp and I couldn't get a good mid balance on the guitar EQ.  I've always had a problem with the mid frequencies, it's the way I play the guitar.  The mids are always overpowering, but very notchy - it's like when I hit the G string I strike it twice as hard as any other.  The solution - I put a Behringer 7 band graphic EQ after the reverb pedal.  This boosted the signal into the car amp, and allowed me to better balance out the frequency response.  Worked well!  The Behringer effects pedals are pretty good, they appeal to the electronic engineer in me.  They are digital based effects rather than analogue, which means they are cheap (the real work is done in software an mass produced bit of hardware) and you don't have to compromise the effect due to hardware, just write good software!

But, I always...the kids were in bed, the missus out and I didn't have anything to do on the amp...not to mention I had already played my repetoire recently; so I took to thinking about some arrangements.

First up I had sitting in the back of my mind Ben Lacy's cover of "Let's Dance".  Absolutely brilliant; I've always been a bit of a Bowie fan.  I didn't have much reference material, 2 youtube videos that weren't close up and pretty poor quality, and another youtube video of someone who played the main riff, but he was flatpicking it.  After about an hour I had worked out some of the basics of it, but was dissapointed that I wasn't getting very far very fast.  I decided it would take a lot of time to transcribe, and that time is not something I have in abundant qualities.

Next I switched to Naudo's "Stand By Me" which I had already transcribed some of.  I played it back, watched some more; but again, it just wasn't coming to me, so I stopped.

So I went right back to my 20 year project - a solo instrumental fingerstyle cover of "Dark Side of the Moon", which I'm a few songs done already.  I'm tweaking up Brain Damage and Eclipse; when I did them say 10 years ago, I was still a bit "classical" in my playing and the melody wasn't on top like it should be.  I've got a new approach now which is better, I played it through a couple of times, got a bit bored of it, so thought about tackling a new one: "Time".

I'd already worked out that I would drum the intro similar to how I do "Come Together", and that was working out quite well.  There is more than enough detail on the web about the song, looking at tabs helped out with the chords and notes, didn't even need to listen to the song.  The verse is F#m, A, E.  I started playing it in my style, and it was so easy, and sounded great!  Slipped in the Sus4 where needed, some basic lead frills, again so easy!  Even the chorus Dmaj, Amaj, through in a C# bass, Bm just worked straight out of the box.  I love it when it is easy! ;)

I noodled it for about 30 mins before thinking about the solos - they are very distinctive, and are *definately* required as part of the arrangement.  Hmm, that's where it got hard.

About then the missus came home and I stopped.  I'm a little bit excited with "Time" however, which is a great way to be when you are looking for arranging something new and different!


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