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Post Gui­tar Tech­niques, Fu­ture Pub­lish­ing, Ivo Peters Road, Bath, BA2 3QS. Email neville.marten@fu­ us­ing the header ‘Talk­back’. HIGH STEAKS

Nice to see a re­ply from Katie (your pro­duc­tion ed­i­tor, GT259) on the sub­ject of fe­male gui­tarists and their lack of cov­er­age in Gui­tar Tech­niques and gui­tar mag­a­zines in gen­eral. But at least when you do cover them, you do so with­out any hint of the sex­ism that you see in publi­ca­tions from some other coun­tries. But the rea­son I’m writ­ing is as a re­sponse, or in­deed a fol­low-up, to a let­ter you printed some months ago from Brian An­drews (GT258), re­gard­ing play­ing at a 50th birth­day gar­den party. I have a sim­i­lar co­nun­drum: it’s a friend’s ‘singing bar­be­cue’, where al­most ev­ery guest is a mu­si­cian and has to per­form two songs. I play key­boards and gui­tar and have wracked my brain to think of songs that are both musical and per­formable – oh, and fea­ture a per­son’s name (it’s a themed bar­bie). A fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion is that I re­cently had a larynx op­er­a­tion that has re­sulted in a loss of both high end and vo­cal power – I used to com­fort­ably hit a high C but this is now down to an A, and sadly with­out the guts it used to have. Ob­vi­ously, I have thought about my own song short­list, but would be fas­ci­nated to see what you might rec­om­mend. Oh, and did you ever hear how An­drew got on? First of all, Abi, I’m sorry to hear about your op­er­a­tion and the re­sult­ing ef­fect on your vo­cal range. Let’s hope that with care­ful use and no over-strain­ing that at least some of it will come back. Ac­tu­ally, we didn’t hear back but hope­fully An­drew took our ad­vice – maybe he’s on his first world tour as we speak! The ob­vi­ous thing is to find songs that won’t tax your voice too much; per­haps to the point of drop­ping keys if this makes things more com­fort­able. With that in mind, I’ll slightly con­tra­dict what I told Brian: if you choose songs whose lyri­cal con­tent is at least as im­por­tant as the musical side, that will hold the lis­ten­ers’ at­ten­tion while dis­tract­ing them from any ‘range’ is­sues, or wor­ry­ing whether it’s com­plex enough for their mu­si­cianly tastes. So how about some­thing like Luka, by Suzanne Vega – a chill­ing story that will keep them riv­eted; or what about another of her big hits, Tom’s Diner (es­pe­cially if you do the DNA ver­sion with the big synth pad)? And you can’t go wrong with a Ca­role King song – so what about Smack­wa­ter Jack, from Ta­pes­try; it’s an up­tempo num­ber that should get ev­ery­one go­ing; it’s sim­ple and not at all ‘rangey’. Or a bit of coun­try, like Ode To Billy Joe, by Bobby Gen­try; it’s another great ‘story’ song and you could switch from keys to gui­tar to show your ver­sa­til­ity. So, to sum up, I’d say let the songs to the talk­ing – leave artists like Aretha and Whit­ney well alone – and just have fun. I hope this has at least given you some food for thought.


I’ve no­ticed some re­ally bad habits creep­ing into my play­ing of late. I don’t seem to be able to con­trol string noise when play­ing at de­cent vol­ume, even in the house; my fret­ting hand gets all ‘tongue-tied’ (or the dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent); and my in­ter-hand syn­chronic­ity has be­come ap­palling. I’m get­ting on a bit, and pos­si­bly don’t play as much as I used to. But I’ve just re­cently had a full phys­i­cal check-up and don’t seem to be suf­fer­ing from any­thing un­to­ward, so do you think it’s sim­ply a case of creep­ing old age and lack of prac­tice? And I think the ma­jor clue there, Peter, is ‘pos­si­bly don’t play as much as I used to’. Even younger mu­si­cians’ hands need a mod­icum of reg­u­lar play, or prac­tise, to keep their chops in shape. Look at old-timers like Clap­ton, Beck and co – and even the next gen­er­a­tion down, that’s started to be not quite as young as they used to; they keep play­ing reg­u­larly be­cause they have to per­form. Per­haps you don’t play with other peo­ple any more (I’d bet that’s the case). So why not make that your first project – stick an ad in your lo­cal mu­sic shop win­dow, on Face­book, or in the lo­cal pa­per, and see if you can get a prac­tice part­ner. There’s noth­ing more stim­u­lat­ing than know­ing another player is com­ing round for a jam. And find a lo­cal teacher and say you need some ex­er­cises to get your fin­gers and musical brain back to what they were. Any de­cent teacher can put to­gether, say, a six-week pro­gramme aimed at hon­ing your chops. Do this, along with hav­ing a jam-buddy, and I’d bet your prob­lem will soon sort it­self out.


I know you’re not a gear mag­a­zine but I’ve re­cently started play­ing in pubs and I just can’t seem to get the vol­ume right with the equip­ment I’m us­ing. My rhythm is too loud so I’m con­stantly be­ing told to turn it down by other mem­bers or by the land­lord, while my so­los are in­dis­tinct at best and plain in­audi­ble at worst. I’m us­ing a Fender Hot Rod Deville, a 72-style Tele with hum­buck­ers, and a small se­lec­tion of de­lay and drive ped­als. I don’t use chan­nel-switch­ing but jump on my dis­tor­tion pedal for so­los. Any ideas, as this is driv­ing me and my band up the wall! Si­mon De­laney Those Hot Rods are no­to­ri­ously pow­er­ful beasts – hav­ing used them many times I don’t re­call ever hav­ing the mas­ter vol­ume above three! How­ever, they are bril­liant sound­ing things so you should be fine. The com­mon­est mistake new­bie per­form­ers make is to as­sume that pil­ing on the gain is the way to a good solo tone. And while we of­ten do want the sus­tain that this brings, we don’t want it at the ex­pense of the abil­ity to cut through. Too much over­drive will sim­ply mush your sound up, wip­ing out the mids and en­gulf­ing the fun­da­men­tal note to cre­ate a sound that the drum­mer’s cym­bals, the bass gui­tar and key­boards, sim­ply wipe out. Try turn­ing the amp down a bit so your rhythm’s not in ev­ery­one’s face, then re­duce the gain on your dis­tor­tion pedal a tad while boost­ing its vol­ume. This should add clar­ity and put some of the mids back. It’s a big topic for such a small space, but use this as the ba­sis for your ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and it should at least help.

Turn down the gain and turn up the vol­ume!

You can’t beat a good ‘story’ song for an in­ti­mate BBQ

do you have any so­lu­tions that might as­sist my plight? Peter Lewis

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