Write to: Gui­tar Tech­niques, 30 Mon­mouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW. Email: neville.marten@fu­ us­ing the header ‘Talkback’.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Go on, get on your high horse...


I en­joyed your ed­i­to­rial in the Feb is­sue about the or­gan­i­sa­tion and tech­niques for live per­for­mance. Re­cently I’ve re­turned to play­ing solo acous­tic in­stru­men­tal sets lo­cal venues. This got me think­ing more about pre­par­ing and per­form­ing live, par­tic­u­larly when as a solo per­former you feel even more un­der the spot­light. A re­cent gig at a wine bar with 150 peo­ple was a big deal for me and made me fo­cus on how I pre­pare and prac­tice in ad­vance, and deal with the per­for­mance on the night. This made me con­sider var­i­ous ar­eas (level of prac­tice, ex­tent of im­pro­vi­sa­tion, choice of set, au­di­ence con­tact etc) which I dealt with in my own way, and led to an en­joy­able night. How­ever, how do the pro­fes­sion­als deal with this whole area. Your ed­i­to­rial prompted me to think it would be great to have an ar­ti­cle (even a pe­ri­odic fea­ture) on the psy­chol­ogy of tak­ing your tech­niques from the bed­room into the live arena. Paul Hill We’ve thought a lot about that, Paul. The thing is, when­ever we try it we al­ways come back to the fact that we are a mag­a­zine about play­ing mu­sic and we should re­ally re­tain all the space for that. Yes, of course one’s state of prepa­ra­tion in all ar­eas is key to play­ing that mu­sic live, but ar­ti­cles like this in­evitably get pushed to the back. I will have an­other think, though, as a while back we re­ceived an of­fer from a spe­cial­ist in per­for­mance anx­i­ety, to do just such a thing.


I am a long-time gui­tar player (55 years) and a long time ER doc­tor (40 years). Re­gard­ing re­hab (GT239/240); my view is that you can’t get mean­ing­ful ad­vice this way, it has to be face-to-face with a good his­tory and phys­i­cal done. How­ever, find a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist spe­cial­is­ing in hand and wrist re­cov­ery, fol­low their ad­vice and be pa­tient - a com­bi­na­tion of time, pa­tience, hard work that is pro­fes­sion­ally ad­vised, can ac­com­plish unimag­in­able things! Jon Mu­s­to­nen Thanks, Jon. I kind of said that in my long-winded way (and that a mu­sic mag­a­zine has no place giv­ing med­i­cal ad­vice!). But it’s great com­ing from some­one so em­i­nently qual­i­fied. I’m sure our in­jured read­ers will take heed.


Last night I gigged at a venue with a low ceil­ing and lots of hard sur­faces. When I en­gaged the pedal I use for solo­ing it fed back in­stantly. I turned off all re­verb and had no de­lay, but un­less it was set on zero gain and no vol­ume boost, I couldn’t use it. This is a typ­i­cal prob­lem faced by gui­tarists. An­other prob­lem is the lead sound dis­ap­pear­ing into the mix. I tried out an amp in a shop many years ago and was so im­pressed I bought it there and then. I took this new amp to my next gig and when­ever I started solo­ing I couldn’t be heard: I tried turn­ing up the vol­ume, boost­ing the mids, turn­ing up the rhythm chan­nel in­stead of us­ing the lead chan­nel. Noth­ing worked. I used this amp at a record­ing ses­sion and it was great but I couldn’t use it live. Why did the sound cut through in the stu­dio but not on stage? How about an ar­ti­cle on how to re­spond to th­ese typ­i­cal types of is­sues?

Also, dif­fer­ent ways to set up ef­fects: for ex­am­ple, if us­ing the dis­tor­tion chan­nel on a twochan­nel amp (a JCM900), what’s a good way to make a lead sound? I cur­rently just use my dis­tor­tion ped­als to boost the sig­nal on top of the amp’s dirty chan­nel, but some­times it feeds back and is noisy. I have in the past just left the amp on the clean chan­nel and used ped­als for rhythm and lead sounds but the amp’s dis­tor­tion chan­nel sounds bet­ter for rhythm. Is there a bet­ter way?

I’ve owned dif­fer­ent sys­tems rang­ing from racks to plug in and play, but prob­lems like this can oc­cur re­gard­less. You may one week play open air and the next you’re in a poky lit­tle bar and your set-up sounds com­pletely dif­fer­ent. My pedal board doesn’t in­clude a com­pres­sor, buf­fer or EQ; could one of those solve th­ese is­sues?

So how about an ar­ti­cle on sound and set-ups for work­ing gui­tarists? In the mean­time can you an­swers the above ques­tions? Rod­er­ick­dav This is a huge ques­tion. First, even with the best gear on the planet, you’ll get a dif­fer­ent sound from gig to gig; that’s the na­ture of sound, not the na­ture of gear. That’s what your EQ is for – to tweak a hard-edged room softer; or add pres­ence to a room full of car­pets and cush­ions – and peo­ple! My first port of call would be to make sure your amp has enough head­room: what might deafen you in a shop could be killed once the drum­mer and bassist kick in, in a proper live sit­u­a­tion. Se­condly, lay back on the dis­tor­tion: by its na­ture dis­tor­tion re­moves def­i­ni­tion, but also of­ten re­moves mid­dle and adds bass and tre­ble; th­ese can be wiped out by bass gui­tar, key­boards, hi-hat and cym­bals, whereas the mid­dle fre­quen­cies are where good gui­tar tone lies and where those other in­stru­ments don’t excel. Most gui­tarists imag­ine great rock tones are all about dis­tor­tion, but lis­ten to EVH or Hen­drix and you’ll be sur­prised at how clean their tones mostly are. So I would al­ways start with the clean­est sound you can get away with and work up, not the other way around. Many GT tu­tors swear by com­pres­sors, so that might be a way to help your sound punch through the live mix.

This is the kind of se­ries that Gui­tarist would do bril­liantly – so I’ll talk to the edi­tor and sug­gest it!


I was just go­ing to write you an email telling you how much I en­joyed GT236, Blues Work­out, when I got my Fe­bru­ary is­sue and read the Talk Back let­ter ti­tled Too Much Blues. Though it’s shock­ingly hard to un­der­stand, I guess not ev­ery­one loves the blues as much as I do. I found the GT236 is­sue in­cred­i­bly valu­able. My band plays a cou­ple gigs a month (we’re in the Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton area) and I try to find a way to in­te­grate all that I’ve learned about the blues into what­ever song we’re play­ing. I love Gui­tar Tech­niques and only hope you’ll con­tinue to cover as much blues-re­lated ma­te­rial as pos­si­ble. I couldn’t dis­agree with Mr. Wilkins more - no, we HAVEN’T had enough! Ken Craig Ha-ha! Thanks, Craig. As I keep say­ing, we try to bal­ance the styles but blues keeps dong best on the news stand and so we use it on the cover to sell is­sues. But if non-blues-lovers open the mag they will find loads of stuff in other gen­res. And I mean loads!

Tone: is it a bot­tom­less pit of woe for gui­tarists?

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