Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making some progress

The latest jam session happened last night. That's me in my favorite shirt (Pink Floyd's The Wall) playing my own guitar for a change. It's an ESP Viper-301 with EMG HZ pickups and 24 frets. Pretty good for soloing and heavy music, but it cost me less than $500, so I plan on upgrading as soon as I'm not a poor college student anymore. That's Tyler playing bass on the right. He should be joining us every time from here on out.

We're still in the intermediate stages of "Crystal Baller" by Third Eye Blind, but the problem for me lies more in my equipment than my learning of the song. I have a nice amp, but it lacks a footswitch, which, for those who are unfamiliar, allows me to change tones by simply stepping on one of four buttons on the floor. I'll have to pick one up very soon.

Another song we began working on is "Lightninig Crashes" from the band Live. They achieved big success with this song in 1995, and never reached that kind of popularity again, but this tune is quite catchy and should be pretty recognizable for fans of 1990s music. There's not much of a challenge in learning this song; it's a three-chord progression that lasts almost the entire song, save for a short bridge part. This song is simply a matter of bringing all the elements together and having it mix well together. We got Steve to hop on vocals for the first time, and he didn't do a bad job for someone who came in knowing half the lyrics.

We started having fun by playing our version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama", the lyrics of which Steve didn't mess up once. We will probably end up pursuing that song as a cover, since it has piano parts we can get my friend Mike T. to play with us. But before that happens, we're going to focus on Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", which could take several sessions before we get it right.

Next post, I'll find a way to get an audio sample of one of my first original songs with Justin. It's still untitled, so I guess it will remain that way for the time being. Until next time......

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Session Happening Tonight!

Sunday night was a sort-of wake-up call for myself and Justin, as we realized we are being a little lax about our future plans with the group. We have a couple tunes semi-written, so we're in good shape in that regard, but there are still no covers we have learned and mastered. We decided to being working on Third Eye Blind's "Crystal Baller" as our first cover. We and our whole group of friends are extremely fond of 1990's alternative rock, and this song is, in my opinion, the best 3EB song and one of the best from that era.

The trickiest part of the song is the intro, which sounds like one guitar but may actually be two. It's also getting more and more difficult to find tablature for any song on guitar these days, let alone Third Eye Blind, not exactly the most in-demand group for tabs. For those reading who aren't familiar with tablature, or "tabs," it is a really simple system of reading songs on guitar. It's much easier than learning how to read sheet music, and saves a lot of time for people who just want to know how to play the song. All the tabs I could find for "Crystal Baller" were either incorrect or incomplete, so I had to basically figure out the song for myself.

I always saw that my greatest asset as a guitar player was my ability to quickly pick up melodies in songs and learn them, most of the time by listening to them over and over again. I have a good ear for music; I always felt that skill made up for my lack of speed and "chops" in my guitar playing. I listened to "Crystal Baller" about a dozen times in a row and in about an hour I had it almost 100% down. It may not be perfect, but if it sounds close enough we'd be in good shape. I hope we'll have an audio and/or video sample of us playing the song in the very near future. For now, we can just hope...

Monday, September 17, 2007

First Documented Jam: Unsuccessful

Last night was most certainly more about our beloved Patriots thrashing their biggest threat in the AFC 38-14 on Sunday Night Football, but we still found some time to hook up the guitars and play away.

Our jam space underwent a huge operation before this set-up was established. There was a small wooden barrier- sort of like a wall, but more just a general annoyance- that was really cramping our space. The guys got their landlord to let them tear the wall down, and now the basement has a nice open area. The acoustics noticeably improved, and now we're actually capable of playing a show down there! Notice there's a lonely microphone in the foreground; we're not quite ready for shows just yet, but in due time we will be.

Justin owns three guitars, and his #1 is seen in the picture at the top. It's a GL Hollow Body Telecaster, which is a high-quality version of the Fender Telecaster. At a little over $700, it was a steal. You can't see it in the top photo, but I'm playing Justin's #2, a Gibson Les Paul studio. It's the #2 because it's the cheapest one you can get ($599), but any guitar is expensive to me. Still plays like a dream.

That's James on the left playing drums. Nothing special about his set, but it's good enough for what we're doing. As good as James is at guitar, I think he's better at drums. It's quite refreshing to play with someone who can actually carry a beat and/or mix up his rhythms while keeping in time. I've had some bad jamming experiences with drummers, but James might be the best drummer I've played with so far. He's the only real drummer in our group, but don't be surprised if he jumps on guitar from time to time.

That's me on the right, and there's a perfect view of Justin's Les Paul as well as my Line 6 Spider II half-stack amplifier. It's ideal for heavier stuff like metal and such, but it works a decent clean tone as well. I had problems with it during this jam, at times notes sounded over-driven and muddled. I'll have to mess around with the knobs a little more to get the sound I'm looking for on clean.
My face is hidden because I prefer to remain a mystery...Actually that's just the timing of the photo, I promise a legit picture of my face in the near future!

The main problem with this jam was the fact that it was severely rushed. We started at around 7:40, and with the Pats kicking off at 8:15 we were pressed for time. There were also the aforementioned amp malfunctions, and Justin and I even had trouble staying in tune at times. Overall, it was a forgettable session, but Justin and I laid out our plans for this week over lunch today. Next session, we should prove to be more well-prepared and just better overall.

Special thanks to my friend Vilva for taking the pictures. That's all I have for today. Until next time...