Saturday, October 27, 2007

Very fun night ahead of me!

With Halloween falling in the middle of the week this year, this weekend is the time for all the Halloween parties. I plan on going to one tonight in Boston, and I'll be going as the godfather of heavy metal himself, Ozzy Osbourne! I was disappointed that every single store I went to was out of decorative rubber vampire bats, because I wanted to use one as a prop to simulate Ozzy's past behavior involving biting the heads off bats (he only did a real one once before, and it was an accident). It's a good thing he didn't do it for real, or he might not be immortal like he is today.

Before the Halloween party, I'm going to a concert at the Worcester Palladium. I'll be seeing the band Down, half of which is comprised of former members of the heavy metal group Pantera. They are more southern rock, but Down is definitely heavy stuff. They'll be playing on their own tonight, which means I'll be getting about a 2 hour set. Should be a very enjoyable evening!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Guitar Spotlight: Eddie Van Halen

I've stated many times before that Jimi Hendrix is my all-time favorite guitar player. Well, because of the man in the picture to the left, I might not have been telling the whole truth. Eddie Van Halen would have to be number 1b at this point, with Jimi at 1A. Like Hendrix, Van Halen is a true god on the axe. He took over as the undisputed greatest guitar player alive as soon as Van Halen burst onto the hard rock scene with their self-titled album in 1978. With classics like "Eruption", "Running with the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love", he made people worldwide aware of his virtuosic talents. He is one of the last true innovators of the instrument, with his rapid finger-tapping style becoming an art form as he refined the technique throughout his early career. He's doing what I'm talking about in the picture, it's the technique that uses no pick, it is merely a tapping of the frets with the finger to create a unique sound that can be moved all over the neck. Eddie didn't invent the finger tap, but he brought it to an unheard-of level. "Eruption" is still the most classic example of finger-tapping at its finest.

Another musical technique that EVH was known for is his use of the Major Third note in chords. All major chords have a three-note structure, with the root, the third, and the fifth in the major scale of that note. For example, in G major, the root is of course G, the third is B, and the fifth is D. Play all three of those notes at once on any instrument, and you have a G major chord. The B note is what's usually left out of chords in the genre of his time, which was a mixture of hard rock and heavy metal. Pretty much every heavy metal or hard rock group simply played the "powerchord" which is only the root and the fifth played together, making for a much heavier sound. EVH played the whole major chord as he was playing, which gave a much more upbeat tone to his riffs, and he often played them on the bottom three strings, for a higher sound. It's very difficult to imagine EVH playing without throwing in those third notes.

Van Halen is known for his famous "Frankenstrat" guitar that was constructed by EVH himself, by hand. He wanted to combine pickups and other parts from different companies, something unheard of in the 1970s for custom-made guitars. He wanted a Gibson sound with a Fender feel. The Frankenstrat ended up looking like it does in the picture to the right. That, however, is a mdoern-day replica of the same guitar, which was made with the very same types of parts and methods by which EVH constructed his. Fender made about 300 of those replicas, gave them the astronomical price tag of $25,000, and still sold every single one of them within minutes. It remains one of the most expensive guitar replicas ever assembled. The complexity of its structure was enough to bump the price of this instrument way through the roof.

To get a real glimpse of the man's immense talents, check out this video from 1989 at the Tokyo dome. Van Halen had already replaced singer David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar, but that didn't affect EVH's guitar prowess at all. He showcases all of his incredible skills in that one 6-minute video, but I'd encourage you all to check out whatever videos you can find from Youtube on this guitar legend. I'd recommend watching this whole video, but especially check out the technique he employs at 3:26. The piece he plays there is an original work, called "Cathedral" which can be found on Van Halen's 1982 album Diver Down. He puts heavy delay on his guitar and begins tapping with his left hand as he rapidly and rhythmically adjusts the volume knob on his guitar, creating a violin-like sound. He doesn't make a single mistake while playing this way; he hits all the right notes. A sound like that is still very tough to duplicate, mostly thanks to the unique build of the Frankenstrat.

EVH is truly one of the best to ever pick up the instrument, and I'm glad for every new fan I could possibly create with this posting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Podcast is up and running!

This is an exciting moment for myself and this blog. I've uploaded my first podcast. I guess it's technically not a real podcast because you can't subscribe to it, but let's say you can't subscribe to it yet. In the inaugural podcast, I feature an audio sample of an original work by myself, a cover of Hendrix's "Little Wing", and I comment on both of those. After that, I comment on how the jam sessions are going. My previous post is a rough transcript of what I said.

If the embedded file doesn't work, you can listen to it here!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rough transcript of my first podcast; soon to be uploaded!

That was a little sample of a new song I’m working on called “Broken Light”, which is clearly blues and funk-inspired. The effect I have on the guitar that you hear is a phaser, which makes the same effect as a wah pedal but it does it rhythmically and you can adjust the speed and intensity of it. I turned the speed way down here because this is a sort of calm, subdued piece, and blues in the key of G sounds great with slow rhythmic backing. To pinpoint specific guitar players that inspired it I’d have to point to my all-time favorite, Jimi Hendrix, and old-time blues players like B.B King and Muddy Waters. They are some of the best ever at adding “character” to their playing, making you really feel their emotions while they play, which is something every guitar player can always improve upon. I’m trying to emphasize that more than being able to play the most notes within a measure. As the song develops more I’ll update it and post a new recording.

As for how the jam sessions are going with me and the guys at 1474 Tremont, I think Justin and I are well on our way to getting a new song in place. The way our jamming styles work is that we pretty much play whatever comes to mind, and whoever’s taking the lead goes with it while the other tries to find complements to whatever the lead is playing. Justin started playing a nice riff down near the bottom of the neck of his Telecaster and it ended with him holding a note, so I jumped in and played a few licks of my own while that note was being sustained, and as we kept trading riffs back and forth it evolved into a nice dueling-guitar song that I would say is about 75% complete. Next jam session we will hope to have it done and possibly recorded.