Your comments and communications...
I’VE RECENTLY HAD A LARYNX OPERATION THAT RESULTED IN A LOSS Of BOTH HIGH END AND VOCAL POWER
Post Guitar Techniques, Future Publishing, Ivo Peters Road, Bath, BA2 3QS. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
TOO LOUD, MAN! CAN’T HEAR YOU, MAN!
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