Music

Music (9)

Joey Landreth

Sometimes a chain of events happens that results in your life being changed forever. I could trace this story back to how a pointless gobshite (to all those not familiar with British vulgarity, you're welcome) from England started to work for the fastest growing 'booteek' effects company in the world in 2011, but that's another story, instead I will start this on the NAMM floor, Friday the 20th January. 

I was hanging with my bud Andy Wood on the booth, I met Andy through Tom Quayle about 5 years ago at the show, he's used our pedals for a while and we quickly became friends, as you may expect I am an ENORMOUS fan of his playing, he's amazing, but also of him as a human. Funny, intelligent and just a down to earth great guy, he's a joy to be around. So, as usual, we were hanging and he said "Hey man, let's go out and have a beer" and usually at NAMM we are too busy to do this, but I knew we were off to the Celestion Party that night so I said to Andy, you should come. Fortunately, he did!

We arrived somewhat late (no surprised there) and after enjoying the Arnie Newman Band for a while I found Andy at the back with about 5 other guys so I went to hang for a while. As we are guys, the introductions weren't quick, we just drank and laughed and had a great time. Eventually Andy introduced me to the guys, which transpired to be most of the upper echelons of Suhr. To one side and being quite quiet and reserved was this guy in glasses and a beard who Andy introduced me to as "Joey". Now, as we say here, the penny dropped from a great height, it was Joey Freakin' Landreth. I'd been quietly accumulating a massive man crush on Joey for about a year, marvelling at his playing and songwriting (let alone his voice) and here I was completely unsober and face to face with him. I played it cool, said I was a massive fan (fortunately I had good knowledge to back it up with) and we hung for a bit. I was picking his brain about his intonation (was delighted to hear that it's mostly down to hard work and dedication) and other stuff. He mentioned that he was doing a tour of the UK in a couple of weeks. Usually when this happens I get all excited for nothing as to most artists a UK tour means "London, Manchester, Glasgow" which are all hours from me (and let's face it, in the UK, if it ain't within a half hour most people claim it's not local enough to bother with) but it turns out that Joey was playing in my home town, 15 minutes from where I live. He gave me a CD (Whiskey) and put me on the guest list for the show - I was a little uncomfortable about this, as I was a little drunk and I didn't think he would remember, plus, I have absolutely NO issue in paying for a ticket to see an up and coming artist such as this.

So, I spend the next two weeks quietly (and not so quietly) trying to get as many people to this gig as possible, I wanted Exeter to be good enough for Joey to come back for. The last thing I wanted was him to be in this quiet big room and there be not enough people there for it to be comfortable for anyone. 

Last night was the night of the show. My long suffering wife, Lisa, and I picked up our good friends Phil and Hazel (I've know Phil for literally years and years, he saw my first gig that was bizarrely 26 years ago that day, but that's another story) and off we went. The venue was a new one to me (last time I was in town it was a shitty discount sportswear store) and was desperately trendy and cool. Name was on guest list, result! As I walked in, I noticed large beards where everywhere, the fridges were stocked with beer that I had never seen before and being offered around there were pulled Pork or some strange Cauliflower canopé things. I'm more of a "pint of Guinness and a packet of Peanuts" kind of guy. So from the outset I was out of my comfort zone.

As I went to the bar (full of dread as these places are never cheap) I noticed a familiar face at the bar and it was non other than the lovely Mick Taylor, a long time industry legend who I first became aware of years ago as the editor of Guitarist magazine and more recently as one of the hosts of That Pedal Show with Dan Steinhardt. We had a quick catch up and a little business talk (I'm going up next week for something exciting to be featured on the show, although hopefully not me personally) had a quick chat with Joey - looks like he did remember me, which was nice - and off we went to find a seat. Fortunately (for Joey), the place had a very healthy attendance so we had to make do with a crappy seat at the back. The support acts came and went and then it was show time...

Now, it's taken me a while to get to this point because I wanted to set the scene. Sometimes, you go to a show and you get blown away and that's that (for example, every time I see Vai I am left speechless) but other times you go to something and the whole experience is what takes it from being blown away all the way up to a defining moment in your life. This was a defining moment, it was a masterclass, it was everything a musician - and most importantly a guitar player - needs to see at one point in their life. 

Starting with just an acoustic guitar, he built the set foundation perfectly. There wasn't any of the trademark genius of Joey's slide playing, but rare moments of complete wonder within the songs that caught you and carried you on to the next one. His ability to hold the attention of the room, and to be heard in every corner at a reasonable volume (3 people talking at the back would have been heard everywhere but it just didn't happen) was spellbinding. As he eventually moved onto the Suhr superstrat and then the Collings he is most associated with, the tension and almost unbearable anticipation of what he was going to be doing next was palpable in the room. I first "lost it" during his well known cover of Eddie Cochran's "Hallelujah, I love her so" and then struggled to keep it together throughout. His last song was dedicated to his Grandfather who died a couple of weeks before was just stunning, there were many of us who couldn't keep their emotions in check, it was just one of those evenings.

So, why am I writing this - you could say I am on somewhat of a mission to make as many people as possible aware of Joey Landreth. His star is rising, and rising fast, and it is my hope that everyone who reads this gets to see him live sooner rather than later. It's one of those experiences that not only restores your faith in a music industry that appears to spew out nothing but shit, but makes you realise that the guitar is a vehicle for so much beauty it's our duty to make it talk, weep or shout as often as possible. I can't think of anyone who can do the above as well as Joey, but I walked out as inspired as I've ever been to play more, practice more, use different styles/voicings/tones/expressions and just be a better musician. I can't think of many other players who can do that to a middle aged cynic like myself.

Please buy his CD, see him live, or do whatever you can to make sure this guy - and lest we forget his incredible work with his Brother in the Bros. Landreth so we should include David and that band in this - are as huge as possible. The future of music will thank you for it. 

Thank you Joey, for restoring my faith in music, and being just a lovely lovely man.

Breaking Out The Pentatonic - Pt 5

Lesson 5: Chromatic Scale

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we look at applying the chromatic scale to the minor pentatonic scale. The chromatic scale is playing all 12 available notes, one by one, back to back! As you can probably guess, this isn’t the most beautiful sound out there and kind of sounds like the first thing a 5 year old does when they first pick up a guitar! However, in the right context, chromatics can sound great! Have a look at this diagram: 

In this fretboard we show the A minor pentatonic shape 1 with a few chromatic notes on the top two strings. The pentatonic notes are our safety notes, and the chromatic notes work out as ‘out notes or ‘tension notes’ that can be quickly resolved to the pentatonic notes. This is a good example of how to take a chromatic scale and break it into small, effective chunks. Have some fun with these ideas over any backing track, and you’ll quickly get the idea and be able to apply this to your own solos!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Gain Stacking – 101

When it comes to pedals, there are endless possibilities of combinations to create the perfect tone for the scenario that you’re in, whether it’s just jamming at home with a jam track or in a live band setting in front of a packed venue.

One secret to finding that elusive perfect tone is to use two dirt pedals stacked together to cascade your gain structure instead of just running a single drive pedal with the gain all of the way up, or running a dirt pedal into a cranked amp. There are several advantages to doing this, including extra control of the nuances of your EQ to how the gain reacts in terms of the bloom of the notes. Here are a few tips when configuring your stacking setup to maximize tone:

  • When stacking 2 dirt pedals together, the key thing to remember is that the 2ndpedal in the chain dictates the overall tone of the stack. What does this mean? Let’s use a tubescreamer and the Plexi Drive (JTM-45 style overdrive) as examples. If you run the TS before the Plexi Drive, whatever signal is leaving the TS is going to use the Plexi as a “gateway” of sorts. This means that the EQ and the clipping on the Plexi Drive will change the way the TS sounds. By nature the TS is mid-heavy, which is great for cutting through the mix. Once it reaches the Plexi Drive, the circuit itself will take that signal and adjust the frequencies it sees according to the knob position treble and gain positions. So if you have the mid hump from the TS, but have the natural light mid-cut from the Plexi Drive, that mid-hump will be less pronounced and the gain will just add to the overall level of saturation. This will give your gain a larger, “wall of sound” effect, while placing the TS AFTER the Plexi Drive, the TS will impart that more noticeable inherent mid-hump. If you have a favorite pedal that you like as your “base tone”, you’lll either want to put that last, or put a very transparent boost (even just a clean boost) after it.
  • Cranking the volume on the first pedal in the stack will not raise the volume, but will increase the clipping (gain) in the second pedal. When stacking 2 pedals, remember that volume before dirt = more gain, where volume after dirt = more volume. Again, the 2nd pedal acts as a “gate” and dictates the overall volume. Cranking the output of the first pedal will push the input higher and clip the signal harder. This will make a big difference, because if you want a volume boost for a solo, you’ll want to put it 2nd in the stack.
  • Using an EQ pedal after your drives can help better sculpt your dirt tones. When you add an EQ pedal into the stacking equation, your options open up tremendously, especially based on what EQ pedal you’re using. We live in the golden age of effects pedals, so there are loads of great EQ’s out there, some that just adjust basic 3-band EQ (Bass, Mids, Treble) and there are some that let you fine tune the exact frequency of the signal to add or cut whatever you want in your tone. Getting lost in the mix using a big muff? Crank up the mids a bit. Want a little bit of added depth in a smaller venue? Adjust up the bass frequencies to fill out the sonic canvas. This also applies when using the amp for dirt, by sticking the EQ pedal into the FX loop of your amp, then you have access to a boost and can adjust your amps gain tone to the closest detail to get that perfect tone.
  • Stacking dirt pedals into an already distorted amp can add a depth and level of saturation to your tone only capable from stacking. Players have been using this method for decades to achieve their signature tones on classic records. A favorite of many people has always been a Plexi paired with a TS, which is used to boost the mids for solos. Another stack that happens often is using a Fender amp on the edge of break-up, and a Klon-style boost/OD to kick it into the stratosphere. One of the most popular and widely known stacks revolves around running a cranked fuzz face into most any type of amp (especially Plexi-style amps). The fuzz face provides a thick, wall of sound that’s great for fat sustaining leads or for chunky rhythms.

The main thing to remember is there are no wrong ways to stack your gain! Some of the most surprising stacks may lead to the coolest tones. Don’t be afraid to experiment and create unique combinations that can fit any scenario you need, from two low-gain drives to provide a base tone that you can stack on more gain for solos, or a boost hitting a distortion for sustain and saturation galore.

A few fun Wampler-related stacks that work really well together:

  • Tumnus into the Pinnacle Distortion. It adds a low-mid presence that just punches through the mix and sustains for days.
  • Clarksdale into the Plexi Drive. Reminiscent of cranked Plexi tones that have an added presence and depth from the EQ shape on the Clarksdale
  • Velvet Fuzz into Plexi Deluxe.From tube driver-esque tones to full on Hendrix, this is the go-to combo for great classic fuzzy blues.
  • Tumnus into the Euphoria. The perfect yin and yang. The Euphoria sounds like your amps natural OD with a D-style amp feel, and the Tumnus’s low-mid presence and warmth creates a 3D tone that works for a plethora of styles of music.

There are a lot more out there. What are some of your favorite stacks?

Breaking out the Pentatonic, Pt 4

Lesson 3: The Harmonic Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We draw inspiration from the darker sounding harmonic minor scale and replace the flattened 7th we normally use with the natural seventh. Before we get deep into theory, the scale shape looks like this:

The Theory

To create this scale we firstly worked out the harmonic minor scale, which looks like this

Harmonic Minor 

1st, 2nd, b3rd, 4th, 5th, b6th, 7th

The key difference between this scale and the natural minor scale is the 7th (which is b7th in the natural minor). Therefore, our concept is to take the minor pentatonic and replace the b7th with the 7th to create the ‘harmonic minor pentatonic!’<

Harmonic minor pentatonic 

1st, b3rd, 5th, b6th, 7th

This scale can be used over basic minor progressions, but be careful to use the 7th degree as a tension note, resolving quickly to the root or b6th. You can also use the scale over a harmonic minor backing track, which uses the notes of the harmonic minor scale to harmonise the chords. Basic examples of this would be to use a major chord on the 5 chord, rather than minor. For example, you could play Am to E major and use your A harmonic minor pentatonic perfectly over that. Have some fun experimenting with it!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Breaking out the Pentatonic - Pt 3

Lesson 3: One String Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we come at the idea from a different angle altogether! This time we are not altering notes or adding arpeggios, we are sticking with the same 5 note pentatonic scale as always, except playing it on one string! This idea opens up a totally different, more vocal, sound to the scale. To begin with here is the A minor pentatonic scale on the G string...

Your first task is to get to know this across the neck. Remember to try and visualise the 5 pentatonic shapes as you flow through them on this one string. A great exercise is to get someone to shout ‘stop’ as you go through the notes… wherever you land you should be able to play up and down the pentatonic full box, wether it’s box 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5! Once you’ve got that you can work on the technique.

 

Slides and Vibrato

To get the notes sounding almost vocal like, you need to apply some simple techniques. Start by using grace note slides. This is simply where you quickly slide from note to note, so that the note covers one beat, not two (see the video for more help). If you then apply some wide vibrato you will immediately have this more fluid, vocal sound. Here is a cool exercise to practice this:

This can take a while to perfect, but once you’ve nailed it on one string try to do it on another string in the same key, followed by actually changing key. Good luck!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Another Free lesson!

Lesson 2: The Major / Minor Pentatonic

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas. 

In this lesson we will be taking the minor pentatonic shape 1 and changing one simple element to create a whole new sound and scale shape. We take the b3rd of the scale and sharpen to create a natural third instead. This essentially means that we have brought in a major element to the minor pentatonic scale, hence the name major / minor pentatonic. There are two ways to play this shape, which you can see here:

The Theory

In terms of how to use this scale, we need to understand a simple bit of theory. This scale uses the following notes:

Scale Construction

1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th 

Within these notes we have major and minor elements. The root, 4th and 5th are all good in both major and minor, but the 3rd is major and the b7th is minor. Therefore the ideal chord and sound to use this scale is shape is a dominant chord. If you look at the chord construction of a dominant 7th chord you get this:

Dominant 7th chord

1st, 3rd, 5th, b7th

 So this works perfectly! As it works so well over the dominant 7th chord this scale is perfect for blues and funk, so jam away to those style backing tracks. If you are playing over a 12 bar blues, remember that this scale fits perfectly over the root chord, but not as well over the there chords… so just tread lightly as the track progresses!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Free lessons!

Lesson 1: The m7b5 Arpeggio...

Breaking out of the pentatonic boxes doesn’t mean that you have to totally change the way you play guitar and start all over again, in fact, it’s very much the opposite! It simply means that you use your pentatonic knowledge as the foundation to build a more varied library of ideas.

In this lesson we will be taking the C#m7b5 arpeggio (a half diminished arpeggio) and add it to the pentatonic box 2. We’ll get into the theory in a minute, first of all, let’s learn the shape:

Our second task is to layer this new shape on top of the B minor pentatonic shape 2. Theory aside for the moment, this layering effect will allow us to quickly call upon the m7b5 arpeggio without having to think too hard about it! The little exercise we looked at in the video is as follows:

Tab for arpeggio

The Theory

So, for those of you who like to know what’s going on behind the scenes, let’s talk about the theory behind this concept. We are using the key of B minor for now. If you are a pentatonic player you probably know that if someone shouts B minor, you pop your first shape of the pentatonic on the fretboard on the 7th fret and away you go! Well, thew other thing that happens when the key is called is that you can harmonise the B minor scale to create a series of 7 chord shapes. These are <em>B minor, C#m7b5, D major, E minor, F# minor, G major, A major and finally back to B minor</em>. Each one of these chords uses only the notes from B minor to create the chord, and therefore they work perfectly together in key.

All we are doing is taking one of these chords (we could take any), in this case the C#m7b5, and playing through it over the B minor backing track. We know every note will work as the notes are built from the B minor scale. The cool effect you get is that of a bit of tension, as these notes spell out a chord that may not be playing underneath (unless you beautifully land it on the correct chord). This could be a bit dodgy sounding if you just keep going up and down it, but used conservatively and resolving to the pentatonics after each lick, provides a cool sound that adds a bit more spice to your playing and gets you out of those pentatonic boxes, even just for a moment!

More about Your Guitar Academy!

Your Guitar Academy is the UK’s central hub for learning guitar. They offer an online subscription-based range guitar lessons called “YGA Pro”, as well as private guitar tuition in several parts of the UK including London. They welcome students of all ages and abilities looking to learn and improve, from complete beginners to experienced players. They’d love to hear from you!

Comparing the Tumnus to the legendary Klon Centaur...

I recently discussed with Curtis Kent what the Tumnus would sound like when put side by side with his Silver Klon Centaur. We all know that each Klon is slightly different due to Bill's delightful habit of tweaking the circuit (parts were more inconsistent than they are these days) so it sounded the best it possibly can... So, here is the Tumnus (that will sound consistent at all times) compared to his Silver Klon Centaur. Considering that another one of the originals will sound a little different to this one I think we got pretty close!

I'd like to personally thank Curtis for doing this, he did it mainly for his curiosity but also mine (and I generally hate comparison videos so this is a big departure for us), it would be beyond awesome if you could give his You Tube channel a follow here!

Stevie Ray Vaughan: 25 years ago today

(The above picture hangs right next to my desk, right next to every desk I've had)

25 years ago today we lost a musical giant and torch barer for blues music - Mr. Stevie Ray Vaughan.

On the evening of August 26th, 1990 Vaughan had just got done playing an all-star studded event with his band Double Trouble, joined as special guests for a concert at the Alpine Valley Musical Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin - along with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie's older brother, guitar player for the Fabulous Thunderbirds/ Jimmy Vaughan Band.) After the show, around 1:00AM Vaughan took off in a helicopter heading towards to Chicago. Visibility was low that night because of a dense fog. The pilot of the helicopter; Jeff Brown, was an experienced airplane pilot - having lots of experience flying airplanes in this kind of inclement weather. Unfortunately, and what would prove tragically, Brown had little experience flying helicopters in such conditions. Because of the dense fog/ low visibilit y- Brown did not see a large 300ft ski slope at the Alpine Valley Resort and collided with it going close to full speed. Everyone on board was killed instantly. The crash was just over a half mile from takeoff.

For those of you who have followed Stevie Ray Vaughan - your experiences of how his music/ life effected you may differ. For me, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the music he played impacted me greatly. Even though I was only 4 and a half years old when he left this world - his music was powerful enough that I was able to discover it at 10 years old and be a dedicated disciple of his music and the blues for the last 20 years. While my friends were listening to metal and pop rock - I was listening to Texas Flood on tape in my walkman. I stretched the tape so much on so many copies that my parents eventually bought me a CD player because it was cheaper than buying more and more copies of Stevie Ray Vaughan tapes. Wether you like, love, or hate Stevie Ray Vaughan there is no denying that he created a legacy and helped secure the future of blues music by revitalizing an old style and craft of music that was previously dying.

I was going to end this blog with one of about 20 of my favorite Stevie Ray Vaughan songs - but I couldn't pick just one. Instead I think on this day it's fitting to end this blog with a song in tribute of that foggy night written/ performed by Stevie's brother Jimmy Vaughan. Even though I've heard this song a thousand times - the words and the meaning still give me chills every time. "Heaven done called another blues stringer back home."

- Max