Tuesday 11 August 2009

What's happening August 2009

For those who may not have noticed, I put a a video of "Another One Bites the Dust" on youtube.  Another Naudo copy, but like all of my Naudo copies, modified to suit me ;)  It's good to have a few rockier pieces in my set, I've come to notice that all of my stuff is quieter...which suits the nylon sting (it's not really a rockers guitar), but it suprises people when I make it bark, which is good fun.

Speaking of people, I *finally* did a gig last Saturday night.  It was a favour for my cousin, she had helped organise a school function at a winery and knew I liked to play.  Was a crowd of somewhere about 50-70, mostly indoors in a long rectagular room that had concrete floor, concrete walls...the acoustics were not nice.  It wasn't a big room, so I found that people were talking louder and louder to hear each other over each other, and me.  Generally no-one was actively listening, I was background, but I was catching some peoples attention and getting a few claps which was nice.

When I realised the bulk of the people who were actively listening were outside, I relocated out there where it was quieter and the acoustics were great - basically a courtyard with lots of vines growing around the place to absorb reflections.  It was easy to dial in a great sound.  By this time I had a glass of red wine in me and I had already played for an hour so I was well and truely warmed up, I was playing really well.  Since I only have about 75mins worth of stuff I was repeating things, but nobody had heard them earlier so no dramas.  One guy, who also loved pink floyd, was so impressed with some of my floyd renditions he bought me a bottle of red wine!  Excellent!

Now you are probably wondering what my setup is.  Okay, for those following you may recall my passion for battery powered amps, and I had been building version 3.  I finished it about two months back, really pleased.  It is based on car audio gear as the speaker/amplification engine, built into a custom made light weight ribbed 3mm marine ply box that also serves as the seat.  The sound straight from the guitar through the car audio gear was a bit plain, so I first added a reverb pedal, and then later added a 7 band EQ pedal because the way I play tends to have powerful midrange, and the midrange EQ built into the guitar doesn't have bands specific enough to take it out.

So to dial in a sound, firstly I start with flat EQ on the guitar going through a Behringer reverb pedal.  I always use  the "modulate" setting, and wind up the level/tone/delay according to the room size I'm in.  If I am outside then I'll wind up the reverb more, but inside the rooms normally offer a bit of "natural" reverb so I wind it back in.  I don't use much reverb, just enough that you can only _just_ hear it; I think the acoustic sound needs the warmth of reverb but it should not dominate. 

From the reverb pedal I go into the 7 band EQ.  I normally sweep out the midrange and accentuate the highs and a bit of extra bass.  The car amp and speakers are built for bass (think of the doof doof drivers) so it doesn't need much extra bass.  The car amp and speakers actually has a very flat response across the frequency curve which is great.  The enclosure is fairly linear, I think there are some minor resonances, I might need to stuff some more foam into it.

So I can do a basic 3 band EQ tweak on the guitar (normally leave flat) into the reverb, then do a post 7 band EQ tweak, then into the amp.  I've found I can pretty much get a good sound with this setup.

I'll have more to say about the amp and the sound and playing at gigs in the next few months; I'm still looking for a cafe to play during lunch times, haven't had much response so far (talked to two), but I'm not pushing it.  I'm probably about to move office again so I wouldn't want to hook up a regular gig only to find that I no longer work near it!

Suffice to say that yep, I got out there, I was a little nervous at first but I got into it really quick and thoroughly enjoyed it - looking forward to the next ;)



  1. Hi jaw,
    It seems like you had a nice gig (and the free bottle of red wine was a good bonus).
    I thought to myself what I've learned so far and it came down to less than 20 songs (about 19,and I don't know all of them till the end).3 min/song and I leaened that I know to play less than an hour of music.
    It's a problem with fingerstyle guitar,It takes a month to learn a song but it worth it.

  2. Yep, you are right, fingerstyle takes a long time to get together a good set. 20 songs is good - I figure 30 seconds between songs, a 5 minute break in the middle, a couple of 1 minute re-tunes, and a few chats to the audience for 5 minutes puts 20 songs at 1hr15 - 1hr30. And then, if you need to play longer, just start playing the same thing again!

    I've also got about 20 that I can play reliably, about 5 that have a chance of stuffing up, 10 that I will stuff up/forget, and about 200 that I know bits of. I played the 20 probably twice, the 5 once and a couple of the 10 when I knew nobody was listening. I had two requests for songs that were in the 200, so I played the bits I could recall to keep the requester happy ;)

    You're right, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again!


  3. Hi Jaw, long time since I last checked your blog, or you on Youtube for that matter. Congratulations for your gig! So it seems you've overcome your performance anxiety.

    I think I've wandered away from listening to fingerstyle guitar on Youtube altogether (you or other guitar players). My mind is somewhere else, nothing wrong with that.
    I still play almost everyday, but only for about 5-10 minutes, usually in the morning or after work. But today my approach is different. Indeed, I can't find much interest anymore in learning songs (whether to sing or just instrumental), now the only real enjoyment I can have playing the guitar is through fingerstyle improvising songs based on their chords structure. Without giving too much effort or thought to that process, but playing everyday (even for a short time), it starts to payoff (especially when it comes to the timing, knowing where you are at anytime in the bar). I find it more creative than rendering material that have been patiently learnt through sweat and blood (although I very much respect that, and still admire the talent of others doing that). And creatvity is something I need at this point in my life.

  4. You are right Roman, nothing wrong with moving and creating and generally mixing it up. From about 1999-2002 I played nothing but original songs, I was on a a really creative spree. Nothing sensational came from it, but I enjoyed it at the time. I'm at a standstill with the sweat and blood rendering of material, I need to do a bit of easy stuff, instant gratification for a while. Some more gigs will be good, but I've gone and bought a new house and am in the process of selling my existing one, which eats up any guitaring time, I'm lucky to play for 10 minutes every three days at the moment!

    But that's the beauty of the guitar - it can be whatever you want at whichever stage in life you are at. Sounds good to me!

    Thanks for stopping by,

  5. Hi Jaw,

    Have you thought about adapting for fingerstyle some of the songs that you wrote? For sure there must be some of them that you quite like, and it is some original material that you have at your disposal, your own, and already written. Now I know it could not bring as much attention as well known songs, but just one original here and there in a gig, it just gives some more credibility and respect (and possibly a bit of pretention), but it definitely adds something, doesn't it?
    If you look at famuous fingerstyle guitarists, they usually play many covers, why is that? I think it brings them an audience, as you need to know the original song in order to appreciate how close their arrangement is to it, and whether we like it or not, a big part of the appeal to that style is the technical performance, the achievement, the 'blow away' factor. Having said that, they also have some original tunes, and I have to say that those are generally boring. Why is that? Because they still try to impress you in the same way with their technique, but then the listener has nothing to hold on to, and all that's left is a fast and repetetive poorly written piece of music (that's my opinion of course). If I really want to listen to some really exciting and challenging music, I will forget fingerstyle and look into instrumental jazz (many options here for different people).
    My opinion is that popular fingerstyle guitar, in order to hold the listener's attention, has to be thought primarily as song material, that's ok for covers but is almost never done with original material. Hence my suggestion to adapt some already-written songs, but original ones.

    Then if you, me, or somebody else, has written a potentially good song, I know there's much more profit to be made from it by having it sung by a singer, than by keeping it for yourself and playing it fingerstyle, but it's just as a matter of curiosity.

    Take care,

  6. Interesting, as always, Roman, you're a deep thinker. I understand what you are saying - that when you apply fingerstyle ground up in creating a new song, you'll probably be focussed on fingerstyle techniques as much as you are focussed on _the music_ and end up with something cool, but probably not something that is going to catch an audience. Unfortunately everything I've written is primarily fingerstyle already, so it is boring!

    I'm still at the stage where I'm more interested in catching an audiences attention so I'm still cheating with covers. One day I'll probably tire of fingerstyle, and maybe stop being so "control-freak" and join in with other musicians. I've had a few jams with a really good drummer over the past few months, and I've come to have a deeper respect for playing with fellow musicians, rather than trying to do it all yourself.

    But for now, I'm still focussed on all by myself ;)

    Good to hear from you Roman,