Month: July 2012

The Internet: “Making poor musicians feel needed since 1989”.

It sounds a bit naive or ignorant, but I couldn’t imagine a time when the internet was not available to network with other artists, to research techniques, or to book gigs. The days of begging hung over managers from a Kansas pit stop are almost at an end. The technology of the world, as well as its inhabitants have evolved, and at an alarming rate, and with that, the music industry has also evolved.

With the invention of Craigslist, artists like myself, and most of you reading this, not only could ideas be spread to other like-minded people, but instruments, gigs, and even musicians can be bartered, traded, sold, and rented out to others. This is the same way that one of the bands I was in at the time, found our drummer. Putting out a basic wanted ad for a folk/alternative percussionist, we sat back and waited for the calls to come in- nothing. We eventually got another drummer, and forgot the ad existed. Over two and a half years later, our rhythm guitarist at the time, Connor Shackleford, gets a drunken call from a guy named “Anonymous Joe”(at least, that is what we will call him for the night). He says that he has been touring for years, is sponsored by Zildian, and was looking for a fresh start musically.

At this, we told him to get himself straight, and we would bring him down to the studio to see what he had. Two months, three jam sessions, and two embarrassing gigs later, he was gone. We took this as a warning, to be extremely cautious of who we “bring home” to try out.

He was soon replaced by the best drummer we have ever had, Alex Dancy, whom which we are still trying to get in contact with. It just goes to show that although there are many people out there with the incentive to be a musician, it doesn’t always mean they should.

Happy Recording!

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Favorites

It has been many years since I can last remember being a newcomer to the music industry, and in that time I have used many, many different types of instruments, amplifiers, effects pedals, microphones and headphones in order to create a sonic landscape. The list of gear that has passed through my hands, or through Barefoot studios is almost innumerable. The following are a few of my favorite pieces of hardware and why;

1. 1978 Peavey Stereo Chorus (No picture available)

This amp came to me when a friend of Caleb Barefoot, the studio bassist, brought it in a heap in the back of his truck. He said it was found in a dump in Raleigh, North Carolina, and had been rained on for possibly years. Hearing this, me and Caleb did the most dangerous thing one could do in our situation- we plugged in and cranked it up. It started working immediately! Not only did the rare footswitch come in the back of the amp, but it worked properly, as well as 16 different types of delay and reverb! Although it is a solid state amp, the sound of this 212 beast is loud, crisp, and pure. It pairs perfectly with my AC30 as well, which are always running in stereo. When the man who brought the amp realized how great of a condition this amplifier was in, he immediately tried to sell it to me, saying “Fifty dollars and no less, and it’s all yours.” At this, I was dismayed being that I didn’t have a job at the time, and replied “Just let me use it at the gig tonight*, and you can have it indefinitely.” He agrees to this request, and therefore me and Caleb play the gig that night with the Stereo Chorus in stereo along with a 1982 Peavey Bandit (The club owners amp) The man who let me borrow the amp never came back, which I am fortunate for, because this amp helps me create my original sound every night. It has been modified over the years, with the overdrive channels and chorus settings being bypassed, and original black “rubber and bakelite” type knobs replaces with green “Davies” type knobs. I also have both a Ibanez AD9 delay pedal and EXH XO Stereo Electric Mistress mounted on top and my “hand-board” before running into the from of the amp.

2. DMB Lunar Echo

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This pedal is the shit. I mean, you will never find another type of delay unit that can cover so much ground with only a bucket brigade circuit, with the amount of class that this handmade pedal can provide. I received LE #206 in the winter of 2010, when these pedals were even harder to come by then they are today. It has an old school Deluxe Memory Man type of sound that it killer through a Vox, or other british-type amplifier. The “Take Off” switch provides over the edge type oscillation, along with modulation and “hi-fi/lo-fi” controls. IT goes everywhere with me, and I love the sound of this singular pedal, more so than my new Strymon Timeline.

3. 1978 Taylor 855 12-String Acoustic Guitar.

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This guitar is the ultra rare, the incredibly luxurious, and the delicately beautiful in sound. The 855 in particular that I am speaking of belongs to Ms. Angela Libby of Ayden, North Carolina. She sent me the guitar in the summer of 2011 with a completely severed headstock, the neck covered in staples and warped from the heat, the body in the un-seaworthy shape of a 17th century merchant ship, and yet, there was potential there. The neck had a “repair attempt” some 20 years before, but failed miserably, the Luthier condemning the guitar and referring a newer one. On this note I repaired the guitar, fully restored it and the case, and returned it in almost better than new quality. The body had rested for almost 30 years, giving it a biting, hearty thump with every pluck of the pick. The neck and headstock were reattached by industrial strength epoxy, stronger than the wood itself, making the guitar more solid than when it was shipped from the original Lemon Grove, California factory. The finish was a bit more challenging, but the checking all over the body did not effect the tone of the wood, and there were no major cracks in any of the body, neck. The original bridge pins were replaced by Taylor Ebony Abalone pins, correct to the period. Not only did the guitar sound beautiful with all twelve strings chiming, but with a pack of Martin Marquis 10’s as well. I used this guitar with her permission on most of my band’s last album “Dark Fields” and occasionally live, when in the area.

4. Shure SM57 Microphone

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The good old SM57 has been a staple of modern music since its introduction in the early 1960’s. Its incredibly accurate yet slightly warmer sound has been a fan favorite along musicians, and I am only one of many. I’ve used this microphone on almost every recording involving electric guitar, and I just cannot leave home without it.

5. Lava Cables Retro Coil (Green)

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Last but not least, this has to be one of my most valuable tools, a Lava Cables Retro Coil. These cables which are produced by hand, are not only very stylish, but seriously accurate in tone reproduction. When you have been using poor cables your entire career, you don’t realize how much your tone can get smothered by your effects, or misunderstood by your amp. This cable fixes all of those problems. I’ve used these cables everyday for years, and hey have never let me down. They go in every guitar case I have, and they go to every stage or studio I play. No frills, no thrills, just badass tone in a beautiful cable.

Happy recording!

Don’t Forget About Me

Before I officially bring home the Fender Mustang to be a permanent part of the family, I thought I would give you guys the low down on my original #1 guitar. “Jessica” is a 2004 Fender Highway One prototype** Stratocaster, that Fender only produced a handful of. These models in particular were put together with higher grade American Standard components, but with a bit of hot rod style. It has more than everything you need, and absolutely nothing of what you don’t, from the re-wound Texas Special single coils, Tone Bucket pots, and bi-flex truss rod the Highway One elements are clearly evident, with a more “AS” feel. The pickguard date puts this guitar as being built on November 24th, 2004, during the process of “working out the bugs” from the original Highway One’s. It keeps to the original idea of the 50’s (not 70’s) theme with the smaller headstock and 8.5″ radius neck, as well as a gloss lacquered neck and extremely thin skin nitrocellulose lacquer finish in a now discontinued color, White Blonde. The neck is buffed rosewood with clay dots, and the body a light, one piece slab of Alder. It shines with the volume and tone full up, but backing off just a small amount makes her sound just dark enough to have a large bottom end, even through an AC30. As beautiful as this guitar already sounds, I have added my own modifications to enhance the beauty she already is. I’ve had the frets hand rolled, orange drop capacitors added, a solid brass tremolo block added underneath the original early 60’s style bridge, and very particular claw and spring work in the back. I only use three springs in parallel in the back, with the cavity uncovered to bring a little more natural tone out of the body, and the action is slightly lower than stock, using Ernie Ball 11’s only. The finish has aged like fine wine, darkening and checking already, but tastefully so the guitar looks well loved, but not abused. I have had to apply a layer of clear coat over the edge of the upper body in order for the paint to stay on, but it is almost unnoticeable. She’s still my #1, but after 8 years of daily use, and 650 shows, its time for a #2, to make sure that Jessica has a bit of insurance when I walk onto the stage, or into the studio.

Photo circa 2007, Asheville, North Carolina.

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MoDuLaTiOn & Octave Effects

Personally I have never been one to use modulation or octave effects very much in my signal chain, but there has been a few types that have stuck with me over the years. When putting modulation into my main signal, I like to keep it very mellow, yet present enough to make my overall sound lush and vibrant. Within the confines on my triple input system, I have a EHX-XO Series Stereo Electric Mistress running out of signal “B, low gain” into the 1978 Peavey Stereo Chorus (see “The Indie Guitarist Tone Room” for triple input details). I have the Electric Mistress sitting behind a AD-9 on top of the amp, where I can control the modulation depth, speed, and blend by hand. The only other type of modulation I use other than the occasional natural modulation of the DMB Lunar Echo, comes from the Strymon BlueSky located at the end of my pedalboard signal chain. There is a setting via a three way toggle switch that changes the trails of the reverb from “Normal, Spring, Modulation”. I use the latter of the three occasionally due to the breathtakingly beautiful wash it gives to the entire sound of my stereo guitar rig. Happy Recording!

The New Girl Named Daphne

I’ve been using my beat to hell modified Stratocaster for the past 7 years everyday whether in the studio or on the road. As much as I love her, its time to look on the market for a second main electric that can take the stage when the Strat needs to take a break. I knew that a humbucker-equipped guitar (ex; Les Paul, SG) would be too beefy sounding, and wouldn’t fit with the gigantic rig I’ve already invested soo much time and money into. A single coil (prefferably a Fender) has the chimey cleans and gritty fuzz tones that almost everything electric I play needs. After searching local music stores, pawn shops, and the internet for the past few months, I finally found the perfect guitar to fix the gap that the Stratocaster cannot. I finally settled on a 1965 Fender Mustang, crafted in Japan in Daphne Blue with a rosewood fret board, with the classic Mustang single coil “in and out” of phase selections. The sound is superb, with just enough hollow tone to fit the bill that the Stratocaster needs help with. Hopefully this new addition to the family will make its way on the album before its completion this fall. We will return to effects-centered posts next time, with a focus on modulation and octave effects. Happy recording!Image

Stereo Career Paths

Taking a rest from my effects-based posts, today I am talking about the future. Although the thought of my success as a musician is a glamorous and somewhat pipe dream idea, there is still hope for people like me yet. Something I have always strived for no matter where or what I played, was not to be popular, but to be great. I do not measure success in what I do by sheer numbers of throngs of people who attend my shows, but rather how the art of music can shape people’s emotions, and thoughts. While I was on this small soul search, I realized exactly what my life could potentially become. As you the reader may know, I am madly in love with effects units, and am constantly trying new ones, changing the ones I have, or borrowing interesting ones from others. Through all the raucous and experimentation of tinkering with the effects, I became fluent in wiring and modifying entire pedalboards and signal chains. This is when the lightbulb finally went off. People will pay others in order to do this complicated work for them, like anything else, so why not do something that fascinates me and confuses others for a profit? I discovered that there are hundreds of these people out there, working in warehouses and shops building an entire guitarists’ rig before going on tour, and it was with this thought that I began my college transfer classes for a BS in Music Technology. Without giving up the dream of a musician, I can work hands on, with the medium I love most and not starve in the process!

EQUaliZATion

My sound, or better yet the sound of any musician worse his/her salt is almost dependent on equalization of all frequencies. No matter how good you are or how long you have been playing, you will appear to be worse if your sound is sub-par. This is why equalization beyond what your guitar/amp/other types of effects can produce is crucial for sonic quality. In order to get a extremely clean and clear sound to build other sounds on top of, I use a Fromel Effects ShapeEQ running in stereo, along with most of my other effects, into a 2009 VOX AC30 and a 1978 Peavey Stereo Chorus. With a Stratocaster, I have most of the midrange frequencies tuned out for a somewhat bright and clean sound. The two buffers on the pedal are almost always on for the sake of the other effect’s sound integrity. Soon I will be adding an additional EQ pedal (an Empress ParaEq) to be used as my main sound shaping tool. The ShapeEQ will still be used, but only as a character-changing effect for my fuzz units. Next week I’ll be covering modulation and octave effects. Happy recording!