Monday 28 June 2010

What's happening June 2010

It's been a while since I did a What's happening, I've been blogging specific topics of late. However I find myself in front of a computer with an hour to kill, so it's a good oppurtunity to waste yours and my time ;)

On the arrangement side of things, I've completed my cover of "Hysteria", and am quite pleased with the result. I struggle with the solo, so I'm going to sit on it for a few more weeks until I can play it adequately. My covers on youtube are all rough, because they represent me only just being able to play the song...I really need at least 6 months to "bed it in". But, when the arrangement is complete and I can play it adequately, I'm all excited about it and could never wait the six months, so I throw it out there, unpolished and all. I don't think I'm the only one like that.

Now you'd think after thousands of years of people writing stuff for the guitar, and people playing covers of it, that arrangements would be a been-there done-that sort of affair. However I am constantly impressed and amazed when I see my favourite solo instrumental fingerstyle players churn out something unique and new, and wonder how we ever got this far without doing *that*! I'd never pin my lifes dreams or earning on my Hysteria cover, but I'm still excited and a little bit pleased that I've come up with something not totally groundbreaking, but kinda cool and never been heard like that before.

The joys of solo instrumental fingerstyle guitar :)

Meanwhile, my Esteve 1GR11 is finally starting to feel good. Let me clarify - from the moment I heard it unplugged I know it was good; after a month it felt good, and now, must be more than six months later, it is just starting to sound good plugged in.

The road has been a bit arduous - the task was to find a really nice classical guitar, install a really nice pickup, and end up with a really nice plugged in sound. My mate Roman recently pointed out "why don't you just use a mic?" which sounds way too sensible; worse still, in a shop I came across an Alhambra (Naudo's choice of guitar) which I though you could not get easily in Australia, and when I played it plugged in it sounded _great_. The unplugged tone was not as nice as my Esteve, but the plugged in tone exceeded what I had come up with, at least it did through the fairly nice amp in the shop. Let's just say it was a lot cheaper than how far I'm into my Esteve to date...

But now, the Esteve plugged in tone is nearly there. I need to make a new saddle, I filed the one I'm using at the moment a little too far in places - but you do need to do that sort of thing, probably several times, before you really nail it. Call it experimentation.

I grabbed an oppurtunity Sunday afternoon to sit out the backyard where I could crank my little amp and see how it sounds. It was there I hit a wall. Another bloody wall, excuse my 'Strayun.

I'm still using my little buskers amp, which has an okay sound and an okay volume. It was up loud enough that I couldn't really hear the unplugged guitar, all the sound was coming from the amp. It was sounding nice, so I started playing some of my usual stuff.

I began to tense up. I know when I'm tensing up, because I start to play fast, and pick really hard, press too hard on the frets - generally very unrelaxed. When I start tensing up I get frustrated and tense up more. A bottle of amber muscle relaxant can usually de-tense the situation, but I was all out.

I was fighting the guitar, fighting the sound coming at me, fighting myself. I realised then I had hit yet a wall. I'm not good (yet) at playing loud and amplified. Arghh! Why on earth does that make a difference!?

Well of course it will. You play to the sound you are getting, it's not like you can put earmuffs on and play just as you would normally play. Playing the guitar is a dynamic, fluid, feedback system, you respond to the sound you are getting, and play to it. I'm used to playing unplugged, or when plugged in I can normally still "hear" the guitar the amplified sound because I keep the volume down to appease the family. I just don't spend much time playing loud, and as much as I've tried to make the amplified sound just like the unplugged sound but louder - I'm not used to it.

Yet another wall blocking my path. I'm sure there are many more to come, in fact there probably is no end to the walls. But hey, if it wasn't a challenge, why would you bother? :)



  1. I remember when I first played FS through my amp. 1st of all my amp is not a guitar amp. It is a Kustom KBA65 bass amp that I got from a pawn shop for $70. Its tone is very warm and deep and it has 6 individual EQ knobs for the 60-5k bands. It has 8 effects which are nice as well. All in all i was pleased with the sound it gave me. It and my Lawrence pickup are the only 2 pieces of equipment i own. The guitar I play is a Yamaha FG-335 borrowed from a friend for several years now.

    Anyway, I have always played unplugged. I just got this amp 5 months ago. the 1st time I played through it sounded horrible. Sound artifacts everywhere and it seemingly only wished to amplify my mistakes :). Turning my pickup way down and the amp way up helped a bit. But as you do, I also tense up. I seem to do it when I know people can hear me playing. Like when I go outside and play and I know or even just "think" the neighbors may be hearing me. And it seems to feed itself as you say. That apprehension of judgment (in my case) builds and builds until my hands slash about as though they are struggling to do hard manual labor as opposed to gently "tickling the strings", as they say. A nice cold adult beverage helps to a point :).

    Now, I still love to play unplugged the majority of the time, just because It sounds so different and "perfect" in a way. Maybe if i had a great acc. amp i would use it more. Recently though, I have begun trying out more than just the basic reverb effects and, quite surprisingly, as I have always found myself bias against effects, they sounded great in some cases. If you haven't yet I would suggest trying GBBS with an echo. The ooo ooo's sound amazing. Same with Canon (on M47 now btw :) )

    Anyway I think the only way for me to quit tensing up like that is to apply myself to considering not what is around me, but whats in front of me, my guitar, and lose myself in its sound instead of other external stimuli. (good luck with that huh? sounds easy but hard as hell for me)

    BTW any chance of a blog on how you record yourself for your videos, including sound editing and computer setup? I have been messing around with a few programs with little success.

    Thanks for all,
    Ryan G.

  2. Way too sensible indeed! And quite a hassle too. A mic is a delicate thing to handle, it needs a tripod, and you can't plug it direct to pc (at least not from my experience, as a condenser mic needs phantom power).
    That's why I can't be bothered to record most of the time.

  3. That's always been my thoughts - if you play nice'n'stiff, ensuring that the mic is always in the same spot relative to you, you'd probably get a great signal.

    Naudo doesn't use a mic, he is my role model ;) Hey check out Juan's YouTube channel, I think he is recording Naudo again, there is good audio on a recent vid too. Apparently Naudo plays where he lives on Fridays - I need to convince him to get an audio recorder onto an amp feed, and record the entire sessions. Maybe some Euros will sweeten the deal - and buy him a good digital (not cassette ;)) recorder. If it's just an issue of money between me and other Naudo fans I'm sure we can come up with any amount!

  4. Hey R, sounds like we suffer from a very similar affliction. I thought I was over stage fright/audience, I've played to audiences enough that I don't tense up. But it is probably a combination of fighting with the sound and "people listening". I figure every weekend I'll sit out the back and crank it up and get over it :) I still want to play gigs, so I've gotta be able to play cranked. (all my gigs to date have been fairly quiet).

    I reckon you're in front on the gig side of things, so keep bringing on the tips!

    I agree with the amp call, maybe a good amp will help. I have tried many and nothing really appealed. Maybe because I can't play to the loud sound. The pinnacle for what I want, I have been told by more than one acoustic player, is the AER acoustic amp. Pretty expensive, I've tried it a few times, but never got "what I want" from it. I think that is my problem, not the amp's problem, so I should save up and get one, and adapt to it...

    Effects - aye, I've experimented a fair bit, it always comes back to a subtle reverb, or none at all. It's something about playing classic rock and pop arrangements on nylon, half the "concept" is the natural sound of the guitar, and that being applied to something which wasn't written for that sound. Adding effects is like trying to make if more like the real thing, which isn't the point...I don't know if I'm making any sense...but yeah, effects are fun but I keep them very subtle so the sound doesn't go muddy, or none at all.

    You know, none of us are the first to come across any of these challenges - the people who've been there either aren't talking about it on the Internet, or it's somewhere I haven't found yet. Or maybe these things are rare personal experiences and only one in a thousand people have been there, bumping into that one on a thousand doesn't happen all that often. Except on the Internet ;)

    Canon - keep up the good work. I haven't played that song for at least six months, and have probably only played it a handful of times in the past three years. I overdid it in the early days I think.

    Sound recording - follow a link on my stuff section. The article is out of date, but it may give you some pointers.


  5. Hi JAW: (and everyone else, too!)
    It's so nice to stop in here and enjoy the passion you have for the guitar.
    I liked the suggestion above, regarding a discussion about the techniques you are using to record yourself.

    On another note, I wonder if you or others get "distracted" by other musical styles?
    I find myself drifting back and forth from fingerstyle, to flat-picking, over to rock, back to classical, and now I have been toying around with an old electric with one string removed and tuned to an open G banjo tuning. I never gave "banjo" much thought, but I have bought fingerpicks and it's quite a bit of fun. But I can tell my progress is being limited, as you can't progress with all the side trips into different styles.

    Do you, or others ever struggle with that issue?
    Best wishes,

  6. Hey again Rich! You know there is probably about 10 of us all writing similar blogs, or commenting on those blogs, enough to make a good forum. Oh well, this will do for now...

    Indeed, I should write about recording a video for youtube, or at least update my web article about it. I'm using a different laptop these days and it wasn't playing the game with it's soundcard, so there are more tips to add. And I didn't write the article very well, it assumed too much knowledge in some places, and was basic in other places, and the whole thing is wordy and not easy to understand.

    I get that from time to time. Wordy, that is :)

    Other musical styles? I could say that the first twenty years of my playing was a distraction of styles before being currently entrenched in fingerstyle. It's all good I reckon, anything you do and experiment with adds to the greater knowledge of what to do with our lumps of wood and strings.

    Are you enjoying yourself? Are you finding yourself challenged? Well before that - do you enjoy being challenged? I think this is a rhetorical question because if you play the guitar, a challenging instrument, you obviously enjoy a challenge.

    Do you have a goal? That's the most pertinent question in this case. If you goal is to be a professional guitar player of style X then maybe your primary focus should be on X - but even then you should still try out everything, all styles are related somehow.

    If your goal is however to have fun trying out different things, then you are already there, no worries :)

    Good to hear from your Rich,

  7. Hi Jaw, you may have seen it already, Naudo last video from Juan ("Thriller"), he'll be selling his Alhambra guitar on ebay.

  8. Yep, I know all about it, Juan and I discussed it about a week ago, that Naudo was thinking of auctioning it. Come to think of it, I emailed you about it, but never got a reply! You mustn't use your yahoo email. You should send me an email so I can throw you in my address book - have we never emailed before!?

    Yep, that guitar would be a collectors item, but possibly only for us hardcore Naudo fans :) I'd buy it except the missus would kill me if I bought another guitar, I've bought two in two years! :)


  9. I've just read your email, sorry Jaw, I didn't check this account for about two weeks, thank you for emailing me then, be sure do so again in the future and please keep this address, I normally check it.

    Interesting, I hope Naudo can sell his guitar for a good price. I'm not gonna bid as I basically don't need a new guitar, and certainly not an expensive one.
    But that's one thing, I understand that it's Naudo himself who needs a change, but whether he buys a new guitar or not, it's nothing to do with your suggestion of recording with a digital recorder plugged directly into the amp. And for such device, yes I'd be willing to contribute if they need to, I mean at least something, as I certainly have great interest for new better quality recordings of Naudo.

    It's really good to feel that Naudo is back, I hope he can really get back in the spotlight!

  10. Come to think of it, what if Naudo becomes recognized, let's say in the next decade, as one of the greatest guitar players the world has ever known? I think it may happen, as whatever he does in the future, so many videos are on the internet (or on computer hard discs) and are not going to disappear. Just a matter of time (I may be wrong of course !).
    So currently only a hardcore fan would want to pay more money than the normal price for his Alhmabra guitar, but any hardcore fan would also believe that someday that guitar will be worth ten times more, two reasons to buy it then. Damn! I won't. The "missus" would not only kill me, she would... I don't know what she would do, but if I was gonna spend money for this kind of things, better take a trip to the Canary Islands with her, meet the man, have a great time, then post pictures, interview, live recordings on my blog. One can always dream!

  11. It's like you're reading my mind, man. Blog time!