The below Youtube video does an excellent job of explaining the problem with compression in music these days. This is why so many albums I buy these days just sound horrible! I wish music producers would stop doing this...
This is cool. The rock band band Nine Inch Nails has released 3 of the songs from their newest album 'Year Zero' as GarageBand files. They did this with a couple of songs for their last album. I really like that they are doing this. It gives you a good look into how professionally produced music is made. Because they are GarageBand files, you can also go in and edit them as you like. It's rare to see a rock band that 'gets it' like this...
I haven't written about my attempts to learn guitar in a long time for a reason - I haven't been using the guitar much lately. It's been literally weeks since I've even picked it up. Why? In part it's been laziness, and in part because I've been very busy with doing stuff around the house. This weekend, something happened that is going to change this.
I was visiting with my parents this weekend and was telling them the story about my friend Dave and how he was going to be playing guitar at a friend's wedding. When I mentioned this, my mom mentioned that she'd always liked the Christmas song 'Oh Holy Night' and she suggested that I learn the song and perform it for the family at Christmas. I agreed. It will be my first performance of a song in front of an audience, even it is just my family (sure to be a friendly audience). I figure the song shouldn't be that difficult to learn. I just need to find some guitar tablature for it, so I can learn it.
I promise not to sing though! :)
In more ways than one...
Last night my friend Dave and I went to see the Queensryche concert. This was their 'Complete Mindcrime' concert.
Operation Mindcrime was an album that they came out with back in 1988. This ablum tells the story of Nicky, a man who becomes a government assassin. He ends up meeting a nun, who is a former hooker. They fall in love, but she is 'mysteriously' killed. He is accused of the crime and is eventually captured and sent off to prison. Yeah, it sounds like a pretty dark and violent album. It is, but it's also one of the best rock albums I've ever heard. I've been listening to this album for 18 years. I discovered this album back in college and I've lost track of the number of times I've listened to it since.
Earlier this year, they came out with a second album that acts as a sequal to 'Operation: Mindcrime'. This new album was called (cleverly enough) 'Operation: Mindcrime II'. The new album continues the story of Nicky. It's 18 years later, and he is released from prison. He immediately sets off in pursuit of Dr. X, the man who drove him into his life as an assasin, and the man who killed Mary, the nun/hooker. I suppose you could almost call this 'Mindcrime II: The Revenge of Nicky'. :)
I bought Mindcrime II the day it came out and honestly didn't like it much. It was nowhere near as good as the first Mindcrime. When I found out that they were coming in concert to perform both Mindcrimes, and that my friend Dave had already bought tickets, I told him that if he had a spare ticket, that I'd absolutely go with him. He had a spare ticket, which he offered me. That was months ago. Last night was the concert.
The concert started at 7pm. I left work at 6pm on the dot and hoped on the highway. It was raining. I was not happy about this, since the concert was in an outdoor ampitheater. I didn't have a rain poncho and I didn't think they'd let me bring an umbrella, but I went anyway. It took me 45 minutes to drive the 15 miles to the concert. Combine rush hour traffic with rain and you get a very slow crawl. Anyway, I got there at 6:45pm, and was in my seat at 6:50pm. Just in time! The concert starts in 10 minutes. I just made it! The rain had pretty much stopped by this point. It was down to a very light rain. Only a few drops every now and then. I bought a t-shirt and poncho on the way in. A few minutes later, Dave showed up. The concert didn't start until 7:30pm. As soon as the concert started, it started to rain! It rained nonstop for the next 1 1/2 hours. Just long enough for the band to finish performing the first Mindcrime. The performance of the first Mindcrime was a fantastic show. The audience was singing along and having a good time, myself included.
After a 15 minute or so break, the band came back out and performed the entire second Mindcrime. I gotta say that these guys really worked hard out there. It was just one song after another with no breaks at all. No talking to the audience. They just jumped right in and played nonstop. Other than a 15 minute break in the middle, these guys pretty much didn't stop playing for almost 3 hours! It was a great show. They finished the second Mindcrime, and after a couple of encore songs, the show ended. That's when things got really interesting...
Dave and I were just about to leave when these two girls in front of us turned around and handed these two small triangular passes to us and asked if we wanted them. I honestly didn't know what it was. I looked at the pass and all it said was "Queensryche Afterparty". My thought was, "Big deal, some bar in town is having a party after the show. Who cares?" Dave, however was very excited when he saw them. He told me to take the pass. I did. The two girls left. I then asked Dave what the big deal was about these two 'party passes'. He looks at me and says, "They are backstage passes!" Holy crap! I wasn't expecting that! The idea of being able to meet a band I've really liked for 20 years, was great! We went up to the security guys at the front of the stage to ask about it. The told us to sit down over at the front of the audience seats and wait, along with about 20-30 other people who had passes. Apparently the security team had to wait for the entire rest of the amphitheater to empty out before they could let us in. They were really strict about security.
After about 20-30 minutes of waiting, we were led off to a small side building to the side of the stage. We went inside. It was a very plain looking little meeting room. It reminded me of the kind of little side rooms you would see in a church where everyone plays bingo. Nothing to speak of. Just some tables and chairs. Dave and I had no idea we were going to be meeting the band. Apparently a lot of the other people did. They all brought different things for the band to autograph. One guy brought in an entire electric guitar to be autographed. Several guys brought in CDs and one guy even brought in some records to sign! All Dave and I had for them to sign was our new t-shirts. So, the two of us went around and had all the band members sign our t-shirts. Mine was wet! I was worried it would be too wet for the ink to set, but it seemed to work OK. And of course, me being the clueless person I am, didn't even know who was who in the band (other than the lead singer). I had to get Dave to point out who needed to sign my t-shirt. I think I still managed to miss one member of the band since I only got four signatures, but there are five guys in the band. Dave got all five signatures. Oh well. And of course since we had no idea we'd be there, the only camera I had with me was my crappy cell phone camera. But, I had a guy take my picture with the lead singer anyway. That's what that photo is up top of the blog. I'm the goofy guy on the left with the 'Incredibles' t-shirt. The guy on my right is Geoff Tate, the lead singer of Queensryche. How cool is that!
I gotta say that last night was an incredible night, and a night I'll never forget. Thanks for the ticket Dave, and thanks to those girls, whomever you are for the backstage passes!
Ok, I confess. I did something stupid that I shouldn't have done and it almost damaged a very expensive guitar.
In a previous post, I wrote about how I'd gone to guitar class only to find out from my teacher that my guitar was defective. It turns out it wasn't defective... It was 'overheated', which was my fault. That guitar class was the first class of the new semester. It was also the first class since I'd changed jobs. Previously, since I lived so close to work, I could easily sneak out of work a few minutes early, stop by my house, pick up my guitar, and head to class. This meant my guitar never spent eight hours sitting in a hot car in the middle of South Florida summer. I left it in the car because I knew I wouldn't have time to stop by the house and pick up the guitar. I did my best to cut down on the heat in the car. I put the guitar in it's case. I covered the case with several towels, and I bought one of those reflective window shades for the front window and made sure that was in the window the whole day, in order to reduce the heat in the car. Apparently, that wasn't enough protection. The heat of the car still ended up warping the neck of the guitar.
After the teacher (mistakenly) told me my guitar was defective, I took it by Guitar Center to get it exchanged. They brought it back to Tom, the guitar tech. He took one look at it and told me the teacher was wrong and it was not defective. The only problem was a slight bow in the neck caused by the weather - no doubt caused by eight hours sitting in a hot car. He made a slight truss rod adjustment to the neck and it straightened out perfectly. Disaster averted.
The sad thing is, I knew that heat was a bad thing for guitars, especially for fairly thin acoustic guitars. I just figured that my attempts at protecting it from the heat of the car were enough. Apparently not. When the teacher told me it was defective, I trusted his judgement over my own, under the assumption that since he'd been doing this stuff for 20 years, and me only 1, he knew a lot more about it than I did. What I never told him that night was that I'd left it in the car all day. I think had I told him that, he would have told me the same thing the guitar tech did - don't leave it in the car! He had warned us before not to leave it in the car but I did it anyway. *sigh*
The next guitar class is coming around fast. Wednesday is the day. This will be my first day sneaking into his advanced class at the other school. Hopefully I won't have any problems there. The question is, how do I handle the guitar issue? Yeah, I could just bring the guitar into work and leave it in my office during the day and just take it with me when I go. Why didn't I do this before? I guess because I'm still very self concious about the whole guitar thing. I am not a good player, so I guess walking through the office carrying a huge ass guitar would be pretty obvious. There's no way I could smuggle it in. I already carry enough crap in every morning - a briefcase, a cooler containing my lunch, sometimes a bag of apples, and now a guitar! What am I doing? Moving in? Damn, you are carrying a lot of crap into work every morning, buddy! I doubt anyone would give me a hard time over it, but I'm still the 'new guy' around there, so I'm not quite comfortable there yet. Gotta suck it up.
Well, I was originally going to title this blog 'Back to School' and talk about what happened on my first day of my latest semester of the guitar class. Things didn't turn out quite that way. It's what happened after class that turned out to be interesting.
I did go to guitar class today, as I planned. I honestly can't say I learned anything in class today. It was the first day of the class and as such, he spent the entire class helping out the beginners and never really got much time for his advanced class. Now I hardly consider myself advanced. I can barely play a few chords... I have a LONG way to go compared to the two young kids who were in the class. Clearly they were much more advanced than I was.
Anyway, class ended and I approached the teacher. I wanted to ask him if he would do a setup on the acoustic guitar that I usually bring to class. He offers to do free setups for the students of his class. All you need to do is pay for the guitar strings. So, I gave him my guitar and asked him if he could do a setup on it. He grabs it, takes a look at it, and suddenly gets this puzzled look on his face as he plays it. He then tells me that my guitar has a serious problem. Apparently the frets are 'popping'. I wasn't entirely clear what the hell that meant. As best I could understand it, that meant that the frets (metal bars glued into the neck) were coming loose. This was causing buzzing when certain string and fret combinations were played. It turned out that my brand new, $500 guitar is defective! Apparently the neck is malformed somehow causing one side of the neck to be straight, and the other side to not be straight. This is something that is pretty much unfixable! He said that he wished I'd shown him the guitar right after I bought it, because it is defective and I need to return it! Unfortunately it's been about 3 1/2 to 4 months since I bought the thing. I don't think Guitar Center's going to take it in return. This likely means that I'm going to have to deal with Takamine directly in getting it replaced. I am going to be out an acoustic guitar for a while. I'm going to bring it by Guitar Center during lunch tomorrow and see if I can get them to exchange it. I doubt it though. If they won't take it in exchange, I figure I can at least get some information and hopefully a box of some kind to ship it back to Takamine for exchange. This was a very dissapointing thing to hear. I don't think I'm out $500 for a defective guitar, but now I have to go through the hassle of trying to get it exchanged. Hopefully this won't be a difficult thing to do. This was the bad news after class.
I did get some good news from the teacher though, after class. The teacher teaches several guitar classes at several different schools throughout town on different days of the week. Some are beginner classes, some are beginner/intermediate classes (like the one I went to today), and some are advanced classes. I mentioned to him that I knew he had a class at a different high school. That class was a more advanced class. It's also a lot closer to my new job. It's maybe a 5-10 minute drive from my new job to that advanced class, as opposed to the 30 minute drive through heavy traffic to the beginner/intermediate class that I just started. It would be much easier for me to attend this advanced class at the other school than the class I was at now. Plus, since it's a more advanced class, I think I'd get a lot more out of it, since this class tends to be more beginner, and I'm way beyond that. I asked if it would be possible for me to just switch classes from this class to the more advanced class at the other school. He told me that I was welcome to do that, just don't let anyone in the school management know. Just kinda start showing up. He told me where and when the class is. This means that come next Wednesday (instead of Thursday), I'll be heading over to his more advanced class. I imagine I'll be there armed with my electric, since the acoustic seems to be DOA. :(
Tonight I took my final exam in my beginner guitar class. This is the second time I've taken the course. The first time, I didn't quite pass the final exam. This time I did. I had considered skipping the class tonight. I haven't practiced in over a week and I didn't think I was ready for the test. Thankfully my friend Dave encouraged me to go, so I did. Good thing I did too. After a little last minute 'cramming' with the class notes, I was able to rip through all the major, minor and 7th chords. I even did pretty good on the playing of a song. The teacher criticized me for restarting the strum pattern in mid playing. He was right to do so. I restarted because I screwed up one of the chords and tried to start over. You must never stop when you are playing a song. You have to keep going because it forces to get faster at switching between chords. Plus, if you are performing in front of an audience with a band, you can't exactly stop and restart a song.
I just signed up for a third go at the class. It doesn't start until August 17th (almost a month away). In this second class I didn't really learn much because I was still in the beginner side, so we were just going over stuff I already learned. Since I 'graduated' to the intermediate class, which starts an hour after the beginner class, I figure that means I'll start learning a lot more new stuff. I look forward to it. This class pushes me to keep going on the guitar.
A few weeks back, I bought myself a new acoustic/electric guitar. Why did I buy another expensive guitar, when I already have a nice electric guitar that I can't even play? Well, I bought it because I wanted something 'easier' to learn on. It turns out that 'easy' is a matter of opinion.
The acoustic is easier from a setup point of view. I love how you can just pick it up, and start playing. You don't have to worry about connecting cables, plugging in the amp, adjusting the settings on the amp for the sound you want, etc. You just grab it and go. While it is easier to setup, it's not necessarily easier to play. The body of the acoustic is much thicker than an electric, which means you have to struggle with reaching around that big thing in order to play. It involves having to find an entirely different position to play in, where you can comfortably play without that fat body getting in the way. Also, the action (the height of the strings) is higher. This means you have to push farther down to properly fret the strings.
The electric, while being much more involved on setup is much easier to play, especially on my PRS. The action is much lower and the guitar is much thinner. A lower action means its easier to play, and a thinner body means that it doesn't get in the way like the acoustic's body does.
The odd thing that I am discovering is that at least right now, I'm enjoying the acoustic more than the electric! I never expected this. I've always loved the electric guitar (and I still do) and found acoutic guitar kinda boring when I listen to it. Now I find that the sound from that acoustic is much cleaner and downright beautiful compared to the sound from the electric and the amp. I'm beginning to wonder if the sound coming from the amp sounds so bad because I'm trying to play a high quality guitar through a cheapo amp...
Maybe I'm developing a case of GAS (Gear Aquisition Syndrome) again. That Fender G-DEC is looking more and more appealing...
In two days I start my second 'semester' of my beginner/intermediate guitar class. At the start of this class, the teacher is going to essentially give me my final exam from last semester again. If I pass this 'makeup test', then I get to go to the advanced class.
I am not ready.
I freely admit I haven't been practicing as much as I should. I think I'm taking this class as much to force me to keep practicing as to try to learn how to play the guitar. The fact that I know I'm going to be going to class and I am expected to get better at this stuff is forcing me to continue to practice and try to focus on getting all this stuff straight. The article linked to by this blog shows a good technique for practicing clean chord changes (which I call 'chord transitions'). I'm goint to try this technique tonight and see how it goes...
Today I bought an acoustic/electric guitar. It's a Takamine EG544SC. It's a great guitar. The sound on this thing is absolutely fantastic. I think I like this better than my electric guitar. Why did I go out and buy another guitar when I'm still learning how to play the dern thing? Could it be just a bad case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)? Nope. (Well I guess in part...) I got it because I wanted something simple. I didn't want to have to hassle with guitar cables, amps, the million different settings on the amp etc. I just wanted a guitar that I could pick up and go with. This thing certainly can play loud, even with no amps or anything! I really like the way it sound and I'm truly enjoying playing with it. I also got a hard case with it. I figure I'll start bringing this acoustic guitar with my to my guitar class now. I was getting tired of getting drowned out by the other acoustics there. I never thought of myself as an acoustic guitar fan, but I gotta say I like this thing.