Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pedal board is complete

Still waiting for my new switch to arrive but here's the final part of my "mobile/gigging" board, a small loop pedal.

I normally use my brilliant Digitech Jamman, which is getting a little old now (actually its been out of production for a couple of years now) but its still my favourite pedal type toy, but its size and need for AC current make it a bit hard to add to a self contained/1 plug board..So I bought this. In some ways it outdoes my Jamman but also it has limits that my jamman does not have. Not to worry, as far as recording short chord sequences and phrases from the guitar to allow for self accompniment at our jams are concerned this will do the job perfectly. It does not mix voice/mic loops, but lets be honest, with my voice thats a bonus. Though I can if I want to make use of the stereo in/out and plumb a mike into 1 channel and guitar into another.

So the Jamman now gets left set up full time on my home setup and the RC-3 gets a home in the new gig board.

and here it is in place, my all in one (more or less) pedal solution

The switch when it arrives, will be carried around inside the box, but if I plan to use it (with my hybrids), I'll place it outside the box and connect it to a Zoom Acoustic pedal, which in turn can then go into either the Looper stereo output direct or via the VL4 if I take it with me. I can even use the spare power leads, with the switch to put a whawha pedal or Zoom G2 in the signal if I choose, so all in all a very good basic setup with the chance to expand outside the box if needed/

The looper also takes an aux input so the Ipod/pad can be plugged in there for backing track playback if needed.

1 box, 1 plug for normal use..if I need to take the Zoom A2/VL4 with me it lives in another box but can be plugged to the signal chain with little or no effort.

Really pleased and much more dismantalling bits of my home setup to go to jams, just pick this up lock the lid down and take it and a guitar.

happy bunny....


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

grrrrrrr nothing works

Whats up with blogger, it refuses to stay logged in so I have to sign in every time even though I've set the stay logged in option..

And everything else....nothing seems to work easy..I'm getting mega mega pissed of with computers and tech, this laptop especially!!

Anyway...recording gear set up again and one thing I am enjoying is Garage Band, a tinker about last night discovered even more functionality than I realised, I am loving that package when all hooked up it provides amazing studio functionality...though it did of course crash at least once on me...grrrr, and lets not even start on Apples add on Jampack addition process..which does not work!!! doh!

I even found the onboard keyboard options...but have decided to pick up a small/cheap usb midi keyboard to make best use of it. But now I can add strings and piano to my recordings, so long as they are not too technical...but certainly for some horn parps this is great.

My nice t-bone condensor mike which went all crackly on me just as it went out of its 30 day no quibble return policy, so had to go for repair, has come back from and working well again, hopefully for good.

I decided to dip into my VL4 user manual to experiment with some settings to do some decent autotuning on my voice, only to confirm that as expected I really can't sing, even autotune has its limits when you warble as bad as I do..I will have to hold off on my Black Eyed Peas audition for a while....but as I said before I have 1 tune that might work if I can get at least a couple of phrases in tune.

In the meantime, Summertime is starting to take shape, my 1st attempt at mult track recording is a learning process but an enjoyable one...when things work.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Despite the golden chance to do a bit of recording while Bina is away, I've been too bored, tired or otherwise busy to bother...mostly bored.

The weather has been wet and muggy pretty much the whole week which saps the energy out of any enthusiasm.

Also after Thursdays barnstorming jam, I have to re-connect all my bits and bobs which are lying around in the attic. It is a tedious and boring task getting everything back together again..(though I am putting together a "portable" kit for jams, more later)

But am upstairs starting to put things in place, and as it feels a bit cooler today even if it is still wet. I'll get my kit set up again and see what I can come up with.

While searching for classic R&B numbers for the Ex Pat jams, I heard a really great funky guitar riff the other day which I can't get out of my head,unfortunately I can't get it into my hands either, but its AWESOME All I know it its a G+9 chord, but how its played is a mystery to me at the moment.
How did I not ever hear this before....

Still working on this Sam Cooke version of Summertime though, which I love and can almost play through without errors...Its only taken me about a week to master...almost. I did a dummy recording of it to test it out but will do a proper garage band multi track version soon, withouth the singing of course!

My mobile board is almost complete, now that payday has arrived I've ordered a new switch from my reliable switch maker, the EHX switch has been sent back for a refund and to complete the chain, I bought a new RC-3 Looper standard sized pedal which will fit in the box, which pretty much gives me all the same stuff I carry around when I go to Jams, aside from the VL4 which considering its inabilty to make me sound even remotely in tune may not be as usable as I hoped. So I think it can stay at home in future.

That said, I may have found a number which the VL4 can work with, since it matters not if my voice gets autotuned to death...we'll see, I'll reveal all after some tests.

Oh well, typing all this isn't going to get my amp power cable fed up behind the desk is it....better crack on.

Oh a small post script...Bina passed another of her MBA assignments with an A...I'd say I'm very proud of her, but she knows it ;)


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Life is a losing game.

Sad news about Amy Winehouse, proof that fame, fortune and whatver else she had does not bring happiness....also that drugs are going to kill you who ever you are.

I love the Back in Black albumn, and yes I'll be listening to it again a few times over the next few days. There really is not one bad song on there, and that voice...amazing.

For me this is my favourite of her own songs...I managed to find a youtube of her demo version, just her and a guitar, no production, no fx...just a twangy guitar and voice like treacle dipped in honey oozing emotion at her lost love.

"That all right?......." yeah...thats perfect.

RIP Amy Jade Winehouse.


Friday, 22 July 2011

Why so complicated?

As much as I love computers, I have to after all, there is no doubt they seem to be capable of draining the very life out of you when it comes to doing what should be relativly simple tasks.

I took some video footage of our ex pats Jam session last night (which was a huge amount of fun despite my reservations about doing guitar duties alone) and I have about 40 mins of footage I want to put on our We Jammin facebook group.

simple enough eh!!


40 mins is too much for FB, 20 min limits. You have to cut it.....ahhhhhhh thats easy.


Downloaded some software which claimed to be video cutting software for youtube and other sites....
ok it works...but it takes fucking hours to load the 40 min movie.. this one
Free Video Cutter is simple to get hold of, install and apparently operate...but at the time of writing, over an hour after setting it to just load the video, so I can then cut it, its still at 36/60 creating video Thumbs...huh...

So I left it running in the back ground and downloaded something called Kates free video cutter, and yes it at least loads the video, but actually cutting it up into 15 min sections takes.....15 mins....per section.

I mean, come on...........its possible to slide forward and back though a video player why the hell is it needed to play in real time to the point you want to cut then process that??

Anyway, after 15 mins, I did eventually have a 15 min mpg file to upload to facebook.
Thats easy enough.


FB's video upload is a seems to up load in small 50Kbyte chunks then a pause as it does something then next 15 mins woth of video is apparently going to take 1h20min to upload...OMG.

So simple tasks....totally fucked up by technology thats supposed to make our lifes easy.

Oh the Irony.

Edit...after taking ages to hangs
and FB has this to say

Your account is currently unavailable due to a site issue. We expect this to be resolved shortly. Please try again in a few minutes.

bloody computers.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Good and bad buys

I mentioned before that I bought a really cool 5 way ABCDE swtich for my amps at home, but I also bought a smaller A/B switch a few weeks ago to use for my "gigging" board. I don't gig of course, I'm no where near ready for that, but I do go to my regular jam sessions both with students and more recently with adult collegues and members of Breda ex pats, and unplugging my gear and lugging it around is a pain, as indeed is restoring it all when I get home.

So I've been slowly putting together another pedal board. I have one for "home" use which basically is to allow me to use my VL4 system so my Hybrids can switch easily between pedals/amps etc. I like my G-Dec amp and various amp modding software for home stuff.

This however is my "gigging" board that I plan to take in future, its self contained, reasonably compact, and tidy. Though pretty cheaply made and with a pish poor practice amp system that I normally bypass. The A/B channels for example are not seperate, you can plug into any and get an output from both...hmmm not really a problem though.

As you can see, I have a tuner, an AB swtich, an acoustic simulator a multi effects pedal for standard effect types and the crown in the jewel a Big knobs Tube 808. This bascally lets me do most of the stuff I can do at home on any amp I want to plug it into, all be it with some fiddling on site, where at home I just select presets on my G-Dec or Garageband style software. (I love plugging this into my Fender Champ though, that 808 is mega)
The reason for the AB switch is to do with playing acoustic bits on my hybrids, they really need to go through seperate acoustic channels when in proper acoustic mode,(as opposed to an electric going into the acoustic simulator) and I want to send them to my Zoom A2 multi pedal to give deeper sounding acoustic sounds into a PA. rather than into the electric channels amp.

Gosh this is a long boring technical post innit...anyway...after my delight with my custom made switch pedal last week. I'm mega pissed with my shop bought switch, basically it bleeds signal to the unselected channel, which if amplified creates a distorted electrified echo to your clean acoustic other words crap.
I returned one of these already and was really pissed to find the replacement has the exact same fault, so I guess its shoddy manufacturing.

I'm going to send it back for a refund and get my custom switch maker to make me a simple A/B and do it right.

As you can tell by the rant I'm pissed off about this, I hate buying goods from reputable places only to find out they are crap. So this is a warning to anyone else who might be tempted...don't buy an Electro Harmonix Nano Switchblade A/B switch.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Play time :D

Still a few mistakes, and I think my timing is off on a few places, but I am really pleased with this effort, 100% improv off the cuff as I was testing a really cool new footswitch I had made special for me, which lets me hook up my radio transmitter to 5 output lines, so I can have all my different amps and fx pedals all hooked up. I just need to hit the switch for the output path I want. I can play acoustic, electric and bass just by plugging in my wireless bug and messing about with my choice of signal to the recording system, in this case, Digitech Jamman then into my mixer for use by GarageBand.

It works brilliantly and silently, you just can't hear when I switch from the G-Dec->Jamman to an A2->VL4->Jamman and back. Really pleased, this means I can keep my amps and pedals set up the way I like them and don't have to reroute wires whenever I want to play a different set up.

Also has the advantage that I can keep the Gdec backing track thats playing and change fx without losing the track.

Posting this so I can look back on it in a year or so and comment on how bad I am/was/

Mind you there is one downside to all this pedal magic, having to unplug it all when we go to jam nights and then restore it when we get back....but I think I'll travel lighter to future jams, just a guitar and a multifx pedal.


Friday, 15 July 2011

Schools out for summer!!!


Today is our last working day, though we pretty much finished up on Tuesday, I have had a few minor things to finish and a short meeting to do in Rotterdam this afternoon, then its time for the summer hols...weeee I love this part of academia, long relaxing breaks where year...hmmm
something wrong there. I'm sure we will fit in some holidays :D

I started a new set of Jam sessions a couple of weeks ago, with members of the Breda ex Pats society and musical work collegues and its proving to be very very successful, everyone is enjoying themselves and some really good music is starting to come out of it.

Its still at an embyonic state at the moment and a lot of fun to see people with all very different muscical tastes getting together to find a common purpose, but it really is starting to work. Last nights session saw us attempt several songs from scratch which many had never even heard of before, blues, rock, jazz and was bloody awesome. Going to be a regular thing from now on, hopefully we can settle into a core group of people with a set of standard songs and play the odd small gigs. Carnegie hall perhaps?


Friday, 8 July 2011

Nice...very different

Now that the annual end of year marking frenzy is out the way I got some time to sit down and play with my new toys.

I'm liking the fretlight a lot, though it does not really compare in terms of quality with my other guitars, thats not what it was bought for. Its a decent enough guitar, though I did have to file down a sharp spot on a fret when I ran my hands up and down it, the strings are coming off 1st thing tomorrow, whats on there is like barbed wire without the spikes, a new set of Ernie Balls should make a big difference.

But it does make a decent sound and the light system is really cool. I stuck up the full fretboard notes of Gm and was really pleased at the range it let me play with...still have to memorise all the different keys and placements but it was an eyeopener for me, especially the lower ranges.

Its funny, the ad blurb goes on about how much easier it is to watch the lights than bob your head back and forward on screen but I am so used to that I actually find it a little hard to follow a tab without reading...but not to worry, new things always take time to grasp.

The supplied software though...hmmm not so great, and I was not pleased to see they were trying to charge more for song arrangments and so on, that really is something they should do for free to support their kit.

But not to worry, I bought a "1 time expense", copy of Guitar pro 6 for Fretlight which lets me use my pretty vast tab collection with it, now I can be certain of not missing a note and no more money needs to be sent off.

Also has the advantage I can see other areas of playing occuring and electronically modify them to overdub stuff like rythm, lead and bass, even some keyboards all on my guitar....well thats the plan.

Customs did make a big error, the supplier has never heard of this kind of problem before, so I'm going to photo copy everything and send it off to Customs for a nice fat rebate.


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bloody customs cock ups

Not quite sure whats happened but customs appears to have majorly cocked up and charged me a small fortune in tax on the assumption my fretlight cost 816euros, which it most certainly did not, not even half that. They also seem to think it came from the US rather than Norway and hit me with a bill for 203 euros...nearly 3 times what it should be. I had no option but to pay it, and now I will call them up and complain so I can get a refund.

Silly bureacrats.


My Last One..

For a while at least...Well its kinda a guitar, but more of a teaching aid. I want to improve my fretboard range, but have lots of problems visualing the scales in different keys, so have invested in a Fretlight guitar

Its a cool tool, which you hook up to your computer and it lights up the frets you need to press for chords, scales and so on, it can even walk you through lots of songs so you can get accurate notes from most types of Guitar Pro tabs of which there are many.

I use tabs a lot and as the Fretlight ad blubs points out, having the lights on the fretboard stops you bobbin your head up and down between tabs and fretboard and you can be more certain with your placement..only think it does not help with is finger selection.

Its also a fairly competent guitar but really I want it for its teaching abilities, I've gotton quite good at my tone and feel, over a few limited keys and even my rythm has improved, but checking out the whole board so you can move all over to get the right notes in the key is something I need to work on.

What I didn't cotton on to when I ordered it from a company in Norway is that Norway is not part of the EU, though it is part of the common market. But it got stuck in customs for a while...finally released today so I can expect it in the next day or 2.

Anway...that's it...there will be no more guitars, unless one gets sold.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Mid Life Crisis

I really need to go buy a porche, after all its compact, reasonably practical and does provide some tangible functions.

Guitars, and various other musical toys....not so much!!

Though having said that, last night we had a jam at the Mezz which found me enjoying my mid life crisis with various other mid life crises sufferers, and it was bloody awesome, even Bina joined in with a few toots on her noise horn? Musically we got into the groove and had the most fantastic time.

But during a bit of a clear up of the play room today, I have all my guitars out on display...and ermm, there's rather a lot, even I am starting to realise I can't honestly say, they all do different things and keep a straight face.

I am a bit obsessive when it comes to my hobbies, and 25 or so guitars proves that; my playing is certainly improving, of that there is no doubt and I am enjoying myself immensely when I twang the strings. Its even evident that I'm starting to hold my own with musicians who are much more accomplished than me, but, I clearly need to stop buying guitars..I did promise myself I'd buy a blueshawk if one came up at a reasonable price, but I think I need to shed a few others before I do that.

To complete my one man band obsession I've bought a cheapo drum machine and some percussion stuff...I can't see me taking up drumming as a hobby though, but we'll see if I can lay down a few tracks soemtime soon. Such a pity that my singing is genuinely terrible, no amount of software or hardware is going to improve my crappy voice, unless I decide to be robot man and autotune the life out of my out of tune wailing.

If I have to part with them all, then at least I can narrow down to 2 the ones I'd keep, Lucille of course...what a guitar..and Gracie, my Ovation VXT, so versatile...the Dark Fire and GS60 are going to be close behind, and the Strats nd Frankie...........hmmm I simply can't choose.. I do have 3 or 4 lesser axes,so maybe I should just sell them and focus on a core of ...20 or so?? :D

GAS...probably the most expensive obsession around...but then again..when you go to a jam and start contibuting meaningful noises with everyone else....its all worth it.