Techniques

Definitive Proof That Size Does In Fact Matter… Musically.

While I have been chastised in the past for the sometimes cringe-inducing size of the gauge of picks and strings that I use. However, the following video seems to do justice to the fact that a heavier picks in particular give a more even sound, hitting the string with more mass and therefore causing a more even, balanced, and more importantly compressed sound.

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An Intro, Explanation, and Coda.

It is absolutely obvious, and painfully clear that the September debut of the freshmen album, Acadia did not happen. As with any project, circumstances over the course of 8 months change drastically; drastically altering the progress of such an already slow burning project. Before I delve any further into the complexities of why the album has yet to be released, let us reflect on the past events which critically crippled its progress.

In the winter of 2011, I was struggling. I was at what has so far been the top of my personal musical expertise, and more than able to understand by that point in time, that a personal album project would be eminent. This idea was sparked by the moving of my absolute closest friend and only confidant in the world at the time: A musician, who like myself was at the top of his game at a very young age. We learned how to play together, and most of all, we learned how to play virtuosically together. Once I understood that this move would undoubtably tear us apart (which it among other things did), I felt my internal clock of creation begin to tick. I only had months left with him truly, and therefore began to write the beginnings of the Acadia album. Of course at the time it was named The Bitter Cold, and our musical project The Northern Arcade, yet the musical principle of what we were doing then, and what I still do today were all the same. I put me and him out in front musically of the album, making it instrumental in order to accent his virtuosic bass skills, as well as my own personal abilities on guitar.

Recording sessions went well all through the summer of 2011, ending in August of that year. We parted ways, and I was left with a mass of material, none of which was finished to continue working on until he would be able to continue another session at his small home studio at another time. Except this never happened. Due to complex legal issues between me and an affiliation with which he is a large part of, we never were able to continue our friendship, much less an entire musical project like Acadia. Crushed and depraved of the only musical inspiration I personally had at the time, I left the project. I let it collect dust in the corner of both closets and computers for nearly a year, no longer caring what became of my only sonic legacy. It was with the introduction of another great musician that I truly began to musically explore again. Christopher Scott was a man I knew much and yet at the same time nothing about. I knew he was from Durham, North Carolina, and was well known in the local music community, but my knowledgeability at the time extended no further. It was not until I was invited to play under his instruction that I began to understand his genius. Christopher is not a virtuoso, nor is he a musical maverick, however he is an incredible leader both musically and spiritually, subconsciously making me play to the best of my abilities at the time of our first show together.

While our friendship began to blossom, I was beginning to write music for the first time in nearly two years. After failed attempts to revitalize my old album now dubbed Acadia, I realized I could not do this alone. Christopher had somehow ignited in me the ideas that I had buried and forgotten, giving me a fresh and new canvas in order to paint my only sonic masterpiece onto. The theme of the album became dark, yet revealing; The Libretto about a man finding himself through the dreariness of his meaningless life. Perhaps this was me. Me reawakening my soul after the crushing blow of losing not only my closest friend, but the death of several others, the front row view of my parents’ sicknesses, and the crawling away of almost everyone who had anything to do with me. However, this blog is meant to remain in the frame of musical ideas, not personal to an extent.

The demos were recorded late at night, by myself. Every guitar track, every bass and drum track, everything was all of my own doing. After nearly a year of careful writing, I came to Christopher, as my musical partner to help record the new project. Old ideas were scrapped, and the Acadia album has come alive again. Being that I want this piece of music to be as masterful as personally possible, it will take quite some time to record it in full. Once a week, me and Christopher sit down together and rework parts of each song, one song a session, in order to make it a beautiful, lush, and seamless as possible. Once all ten tracks are covered, we will then begin to record in the same way that we edited the album together.

Perhaps this is self-induced therapy, or perhaps this is the manic ravings of a mad musician, but at whatever rate you view this particular blog post at, you the reader will now know why it is imperative to me to finish what I started going on 3 years ago now, and that this mere hour long piece of music was intended to be the swan song of my old beloved life as a young man. Take care, and have a blessed Christmas season.

• Jonathan Morgan Price

Cleanliness is not Nessesarily Next to Godliness

soapWhat I believed to be the foundation in my constantly expanding sonic dialogue has been shaken, crumbled, and rebuilt. I had thought for years that to gain the perfect tone in your playing, you must start out with a perfectly clean fundamental tone. I did and still do believe to an extent that the high gain screeching of the 70’s and 80’s rock guitar gods was a barbaric and primitive style of expression, reserved for those who didn’t have the knowledge nor the patience to truly sculpt their own sound. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule: There is the soulful blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Ballsy-but-clean Led Zeppelin, and the classic and natural sound of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, but the list is much shorter than most people perceive it to be. The genre “Classic Rock” is anything but; filled with the he-man garbage of many a one hit wonder, but on occasion the music industry gets it right with bands like those listed above, and it is these bands that have inspired my next move artistically.

For those of you who know me, I am an aficionado of fuzz effects. The type of gain that is an almost 180 degree turn from the distorted Marshalls of classic rockdom. Thick and low gain, becoming lower and lower in fidelity with a thumping low end driving the amplifiers tubes into oblivion. Unlike regular distortion, fuzz gives you a more tangible feel for the gain stage of your signal. More cutthroat than the hardest distortion in some cases, and yet it can be more dynamic depending on the effect. The fuzz then is an extremely dynamic instrument, yet… yet this wasn’t working for me anymore.

Yes, fuzz does and will always have a place in my heart and on my board, but the difference between my clean sound and fuzz is just too drastic. To transfer from a smooth silky ala “Bon Iver” style verse to a heavier chorus using fuzz almost changes the attitude of the song, even at lower gain settings. Moving on from fuzz, I decided to try the extreme low gain types of boosts/overdrives. I’ve had and still use a Blackeye Effects Palmetto, a JHS Morning Glory V3 overdrive, and a DMB Cosmic Crunch among other low gain alternatives and still the difference between the two types of distortion couldn’t be spanned by a suspension bridge.

This is where I currently reside. I understand that I need a middle ground alternative to bridge the gap between crazy low and gritty high gain, without the thin snarly classic rock sound. After much deliberation and several hours of asking around and trying out, I have narrowed it down to two options. With both amps still set on a fairly clean setting, a JHS Angry Charlie or a boutique type of Klon Clone would both have enough gain to push the delays, amps, octave effects, and reverb just enough to squeeze every last drop of tone out of my rig.

My previously distorted ideas of distortion have been wiped clean, realizing that given enough searching and tweaking, I can make it work to better my own sound. Adding a rumble underneath the dark, rolling repeats of a Dbucket-style delay, or to push a smooth plate reverb just enough to lengthen the decay and boost its mix. This is how I will utilize the distortion effect to my own advantage, and how I will apply it to change the style of my music.

Just when you think you’re out of ideas.

So I’ve been worried lately with whether I could get another band off the ground and running before life catches up with me and makes is almost impossible. However, by taking a trip to a small music store earlier this week, there is hope for this idea yet. I went to a great local music shop, Redphish Music, on Monday afternoon with prospects of seeing my old friends Travis and Dane, always slumped behind the counter, always talking of bigger and better plans. As predicted they were there, slumped as they will ever be, waiting for an inkling of business to trickle in. As we caught up from the week, me and Dane grabbed a couple guitars off the wall and began to fiddle with them. As any musician knows, this snowballed into a jam session to the point that I was late for my evening class at the local community college! Another friend and haunt of the business filmed us, and quickly has both videos on the internet. As me and Dane looked back at the material, we realized how much wasted potential there is in our playing together. It was with this spark that we discussed him retrieving his equipment from Indiana, and the two of us beginning another band. This could be the beginning of something great- two seasoned players from two different backgrounds collaborating solely for the art of music. This Saturday we will be reviewing old materials from records’ past that never made it to the final cut, discovering new sounds, and maybe even writing a few new ideas. Just when you think you’re out of ideas, everything gets dropped on its head, and you start from scratch.

Happy Recording!

I’m baaaaacckk!!

So I’ve been super busy lately trying to keep up with of my students and other clients this past week, but I have had enough time to mod my trusty Xavier! So Victoria (The Strat) went to the shop this past week with crazy neck problems, and I’ve been left with the XV-910. Since I haven’t seriously modded anything in a while, I thought I would give her a tune up, and try out an idea I had seen years ago.

The first time I saw Tom Petty on the Old Grey Whistle Test (I believe it was from 76′) I noticed something was seriously different about Mike Campbell’s Les Paul. It was a 1955 Goldtop with the original soapbar P90’s, but the covers were removed, giving it a more aggressive sound.

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With this idea in mind, I removed the covers from the dog ear P90s, and re-screwed the pickups into the body. I have noticed that the clarity has improved a good deal, and looks ever better than before.

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However at a gig this morning, the upper neck pickup screw apparently was not completely secured, and the pickup “popped”, literally out of place! At least this happened during a guitar break during the song, and I was able to repair it quickly! (Nothing a little washer can’t fix)

More pedal art to come soon! I’m waiting for the natural light to be perfect, and I have a new technique you guys will love! Here’s a sneak peek!

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Happy Recording!

Low Wattage: Quietly disturbing the peace

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Above: A 65′ Fender Princeton Reverb. A huge sounding amp, with only 15W of power.

Loud is good. Being louder than your band mates is fun, but being loud and maintaining your sonic integrity is hard. A 100W Marshall stack may sound great “at 11”, but did you know you can get an even bigger sound out of an amp 1/10th of the size? One of the secrets of recording guitar, (especially rock guitar) is using lower volumes for bigger sounds. The quieter an amp can be, the better the microphone can track it, giving you a crystal clear and lush sounding tone. Bigger amps were built for a need to amplify sound before PA systems were capable of mic’ing smaller amps. As a rule of thump, I never use an amp over 30W, and no lower than 20W. This is the perfect range of power an amp needs to be loud enough to be heard, but quiet enough to not disturb. Using these types of amps will make sound technicians love you, as well as your fellow band mates, and possibly, yourself.

Happy Recording!

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!