Write to: Guitar Techniques, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW. Email: email@example.com using the header ‘Talkback’.
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.
A DOCTOR’S ADVICE
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.
A DECENT LEAD TONE?
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!
NOT TOO MUCH BLUES!
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?