Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Secrets of Making Great Guitar Recordings

By: George Nellas

Not every guitarist records. In fact, most guitarists will never
make a recording of themselves. However, many of the burdens
associated with the task of recording have been, in recent
years, pushed aside. In the past, it was necessary to assemble
an entire team of people to make recordings. You had to have one
or two engineers, usually a producer, several band members and
generally a few hangers-on who just wanted to get in on the
action. As technology has increased, the amount of labor
associated with recording has decreased, along with the number
of people needed to produce recordings.

For most guitarists who want to record, especially in a home
studio, the recording environment will consist of three primary
things: the guitar, the amplifier or direct device, and the
recording device. All three of these are of equal importance in
producing quality guitar recordings.

First, you must make sure that your guitar is of quality and in
good working condition. If you're not up to the challenge
yourself, take it to a quality repairperson who will be able to
make sure that your string heights are adjusted correctly, the
action is comfortable and that your electronics are in working
order and free of buzzing and other electrical noise.

Second, the amplifier or direct interface. More and more these
days, guitar recordings are made with direct recording
interfaces, such as the Line6 POD. These types of devices can be
great time-savers in the studio and, more and more, can offer
you a tone equivalent to or better than a traditional amplified
signal. If you're more of a purist, make sure that you have a
quality microphone to pick up the signal from your amplifier
(the standard is a Shure SM57) and that your signal is free from
interference. This means making sure that your amplifier,
microphone and microphone cables are free of buzzing and that
all fluorescent lights in the recording environment are turned
off. Fluorescent lights, although great energy-saving devices,
reflect up to sixty percent of their energy back into the
system. If an amplifier or loudspeaker is hooked up to the
system, a beautiful 60-cycle hum ensues, ensuring that whatever
recordings you make are utterly useless.

Third, the recording device. For most of us these days, our
primary recording device is a home computer. Macintosh has been
the industry standard for years, but most PC makers have revved
up their models enough (and made them crash-free enough, thank
you very much) so, although the majority of studios still use
Macs, the only real difference is your personal preference.
Whatever type of computer you decide to purchase, however, make
sure that you max it out with speed and memory.

Although many computer programs and direct recording devices
will have some pretty good-sounding presets, to get original
tones, make sure that you experiment and try to come up with
something that sounds original. Many presets are loaded with
gain and effects to make them sound impressive to first time
hearers. Remember, a whole lot of great guitar sounds have been
recorded with a minimal amount of distortion, and effects can
always be added later, so don't risk screwing up a great take by
committing your effects to tape right away, without being sure
of the tone that you're going for.

Good Luck!

About the author:
You can find more information about guitars, recording and
recording techniques at

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Theory About Guitar

By: Jerry Mathis

I'll never forget it. Several years ago I was on my way to see
KISS in concert (first time seeing them with makeup, I might
add) with a good friend of mine. She was interested in music as
I was; she had taken piano lessons for ten years or so.
Inevitably the conversation during the drive turned to
music...all different aspects of it.

We got to the subject of what exactly music instrument lessons
really teach you, and I asked her a very simple theory question:
"What is the chord spelling for a minor chord?" (in case you are
wondering, the answer is 1, flat 3, 5...more on this in later

I was shocked to find out that she had absolutlely NO idea what
I was talking about.

I tried to explain to her the basic theory behind this question,
but see seemed to get more confused as we went. I just could not
understand how someone that had taken lessons for ten years
could not have the slightest inclination as to what she was
playing. She stated "all I ever was taught was how to read music
- what notes on the page corresponds to what key on the piano".

This simple conversation had shown me how important it was to at
least have some sort of understanding of basic music theory. I
know...there are many, many guitar players and musicians out
there that are perfectly happy with their level of knowledge (
my brother-in-law has been trying to learn guitar for the past
year simply to be a chick-magnet).

I guess my point is this: going beyond the chord books and scale
charts and guitar tab and standard music notation is this
living, breathing "thing" that you can't really appreciate until
you "get into it". I have found that once you get the urge to
develop more knowledge about theory, it can be hard to stop.
Granted, everyone has a level where they are comfortable...but
you would be doing yourself and your music a dis-service by not
trying to get to that point. It kind of struck me as sad that I
would never be able to jam with my friend and be able to yell
out "follow me - play a 1-4-5 12 bar blues in 'E'".

Do I know or claim to know everything about theory? Absolulely
not...but I am comfortable with the level I am at. I can sit in
with any rock back and hold my own. Now jazz on the other
hand...I know I would have to do some work. But you know what?
That's OK!

By the way (just in case you were wondering)...the concert was

About the author:
Jerry Mathis has 25 years of guitar experience - playing,
teaching, recording and performing live. Visit his website to get
your guitar tablatures, articles, reviews, accessories and more
all in one place!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Christmas Gifts For Guitar Players

Any guitar players on your gift list? Check out Zzounds online. You're sure to find anything they may need. Order early so that the gifts get to you in time. There are tons of special pricing deals for the holiday season so now is a good time for deals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Write Songs on Piano Instaed of Guitar

For a change of pace try to compose songs on the piano instead of your guitar. Here's an interesting that explains how Springsteen took his songwriting to another level.

What Bruce Springsteen Taught Me About Writing

By: Sophfronia Scott

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Bruce
Springsteen's groundbreaking album Born to Run. Columbia Records
is celebrating by re-releasing the disc with lots of audio and
video goodies including interview material of Bruce discussing
the writing of this seminal work. I'm a fan, so you can imagine
I've been gobbling up this stuff like Thanksgiving came early!
What's hitting home for me is hearing about how Springsteen's
back was really up against the wall while he was creating this
album. His record label was considering dropping him so he knew
he had to make something happen. When people ask me "how do I
know if my work is good enough?", I think of Springsteen because
surely he wasn't asking that when he was trying to figure out
what to write. The answer could have been "it's not" if he had
asked someone at his record company. He had to work and learn
for himself how to tell if his work was good enough. This is
what I learned from how he did it.

1.) Learn From the Great Ones

In the summer of 1974 Springsteen could have been lamenting the
fact that his first two albums had not been successful and he
was living in a tiny house in New Jersey while the country was
in the throes of a severe economic depression. But he wasn't. He
was focused on his songwriting. "I had a record player by the
side of my bed," he wrote in his book, Songs. "At night I'd lie
back and listen to records by Roy Orbison, the Ronettes, the
Beach Boys, and the other great '60s artists. These were records
whose full depth I'd missed the first time around. But now I was
appreciating their craft and power." Notice he wasn't saying
"There's no way I can create songs like that!" Instead he was
considering "what can I add to the conversation?" He was getting
inspired and educated at the same time.

2.) Aspire to Be Great Yourself

In an interview about Born to Run, Springsteen says he knew his
record company was about to drop him. He added, "I knew I had to
write something great." Springsteen didn't have to write
something great. He could have folded up his tent and said,
"they don't like me, I'm just gonna stay in Asbury Park and play
where people appreciate me and that's it." But he didn't do
that. He also didn't ask whether he was good enough. He simply
challenged himself to go beyond himself--to be great. Ask
yourself: what are you writing right now and is it challenging
you to be great? What would it take for you to start thinking
this way?

3.) Find Trusted Ears for Feedback

Yes, it is hard to know on your own whether you're on track with
your writing. That's when you recruit your own inner circle of
readers whose ears and eyes you trust. Jon Landau became one of
those trusted pairs of ears for Springsteen. They became friends
during the writing of Born to Run and Bruce often sent Jon, then
a Boston music critic, tapes of the work as it progressed. When
the work stalled, Landau was the one who came in and helped
Bruce put it all together. Who can be those ears or eyes for
you? Try to keep the inner circle small. If you have too many
opinions showered on your work it may cloud your creative

4.) Try Something Different

Most of the songs on Born to Run were written on piano--this
from a guy known for his raucous Fender guitar. But writing on
piano gave Springsteen new ideas and presented new opportunities
for him to explore. It also gave the album an amazingly
emotional and intimate vibe that I find intoxicating. What can
you do differently that can inspire a leap to your next level?
Set your novel in 1905 instead of 2005? Write from the point of
view of the opposite sex? Be a little creative with your
non-fiction? Take a chance. No effort is ever wasted even if
you're writing badly--you can still learn from what you've done

5.) Think Local, Write Global

One of the changes Springsteen made with Born to Run was that
the characters in his songs were "less eccentric and less local"
than the ones on his previous albums. The people in Born to Run
"could have been anybody and everybody," he says. "When the
screen door slams on 'Thunder Road', you're not necessarily on
the Jersey Shore anymore. You could be anywhere in America." And
it's true. Millions of people connected with--and bought-- Born
to Run. I sought the same kind of connection for my novel.
Though the family in All I Need to Get By is African-American,
I've had readers of all races tell me how they have seen
themselves in one or more of the characters and how they related
strongly to the book's family issues. Touching people in this
way is key to developing an attentive audience. How can you open
up your work to a larger audience while still being true to your

If you still have doubts, think of this quote from Ralph Waldo
Emerson: "Whatever course you decide upon, there is always
someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always
difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your
critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it
to an end requires...courage." Be courageous for yourself and
your writing. Your own Born to Run may be waiting to come out.

© 2005 Sophfronia Scott

About the author:
Author and Writing Coach Sophfronia Scott is "The Book Sistah"
TM. Get her FREE REPORT, "The 5 Big Mistakes Most Writers Make
When Trying to Get Published" and her FREE online writing and
publishing tips at The Book Sistah,
230 South Main St. Ste. 319, Newtown, CT 06470 203-426-2036,

Guitar Emporium

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Turning a Band Into Songwriters - 10 Songs In One Hour

By: Brandon Drury

While most bands have good or even very good drummers, guitar
players, and bassists (notice I didn't say singers), most bands
don't have good songwriters. In fact, songwriting is usually an
afterthought with most bands. That's why I came up with the 10
songs in one hour challenge.

That's right, if you did the math, you quickly figured out that
the band must write a song every 6 minutes to stay on target and
THEY MUST STAY ON TARGET. That's the challenge. You must enforce
that they have to get 10 songs done in one hour.

Here's how I do it: I divide the band in groups of two. If they
are a three piece, I'll jump in and play along. Each group gets
a guitar, a small amp, and small PA system. I put a wall of
gobos (sound deadening device) in between them and I hit go
while recording both the guitar amp and vocal mic from each
room. One person is expected to sing, the other is expected to
play guitar. After each song is written, they must switch.

While this method might seam a little off the wall, it's the
best way to get a band to work creatively together. It breaks
down a lot of barriers and it's common for about 10% of the
songs to be very good. I like this method because it solves a
lot of problems. It forces the band to be a band.

One problem the 10 songs in one hour challenge fixes is the
notion that the singer has to come up with all the melodies.
Why? Okay, a singer should be able to sing, but the melody is
the entire song in my opinion. The only thing separating a great
song from a crappy song is vocal melody, in my world. So, let's
get the entire band in on writing the melodies. You'd be
surprised how good your drummer might be at creative vocal

A lot of guys are shy in front of the mic. I've never recorded
any Kansas type bands where the entire band can sing. I'm lucky
to find a band where one guy can sing. So the guy with
absolutely no clue about singing must get on the mic and do it.
Even when a terrible singer gets on the mic, the intent is
usually clear. A real singer would have no problem making your
drummer's melody sound great. So when you force a guy to sing,
he usually adapts to his situation.

It forces everyone to play guitar or similar instrument. This is
great. It makes the drummer pick up an instrument that he's not
used to. If he can't play it, he must deal with it. That's part
of the process. He can play one note lines if he has to. I just
want a song. Seldom does proficiency at the instrument effect
the quality of the song.

While there are certainly exceptions, a band that is not used to
writing a lot of songs, simply won't write a lot of songs. By
adapting to this lighting fast method, the band will understand
that not ever song has to be great. In fact, you need to write a
few terrible songs on purpose just so your brain will be
creative enough to do something interesting. Bands play it safe
all the time. They feel like each song has to be great. In fact,
it's the opposite. I noticed it more with 80s pop groups who
weren't going to be dropped after the first record like they are
now. They would come up with the most screwed up, stupid songs
sometimes. Listen to a bunch of Human League. They had at least
3 top 10 hits, but then listen to "Black Hit of Space" or
"Empire State Human". You can tell they just messed around. When
you are actually being creative and experimenting is when you
will come up with your hits and your crap.

I'm not saying that the 10 songs in one hour method is the best
method for all bands. I think it's a great method for bands who
need to come together as a group. It's a great songwriting tool
for any band that just expects the singer to write songs. There
is no finger pointing. Every band member is responsible for
writing great tunes in this situation.

About the author:
Brandon Drury has written about songwriting
and producing
on for since 2005.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Review of the Rivera Knucklehead Guitar Amp

By: Brandon Drury

I've owned my Rivera Knucklehead since 1998. It's a small part
of my guitar amp collection which consists of more than 5 amps.
I'll tell you how the Rivera Knucklehead performs both on stage
and in the studio.

Not surprising, Rivera is owned by some guy named Paul Rivera. I
guess it's a little surprising that his name is Paul, but that's
about it. While I hate to spread rumors about facts I don't
know, this is press, and that's that the press is all about. The
rumor on the street is that Paul Rivera worked for both Marshall
and Fender for years modifying guitar amplifiers for the rock
stars that could afford to have them modified. If this is true,
it will explain a lot about the Rivera Knucklehead.

The Rivera Knucklehead is a 100 watt, all tube, 2 - channel
guitar head. Each channel has a gain boost. Both channel
switching and the gain boosts can be controlled by the
footswitch. As with every 100 watt head, this thing is
ferociously loud. It contains an effects loop with control of
input and output for effects and whatnot. The Knucklehead uses 5
12ax7 tubes for the preamps and 4 EL 34 power tubes. Each
channel contains tone controls and a Focus and a Presence knob
are global, which means they effect both channels. It would have
been nice to have a spring reverb on the Rivera. That's the only
feature that it's lacking.

American Channel (Clean Channel) First off, I must say that the
clean channel isn't so much like a clean channel, necessarily.
It's more like a Fender channel. I mean that if you crank up the
gain on the clean channel, you will have a very distorted sound
in the way that a Fender distorts. This sound is not going to be
what you want for metal in most cases, although it might pull
off an Iron Maiden type of sound. Turning the "Ninja Boost" off
and backing the gain down brings you back down into Fender
territory. It's not an exact clone of the Fender sound,
necessarily. The tubes used are not typically found in Fenders
and even if you had the same tubes, the Fender sound is quite
different from amp to amp. You have tremendous options in your
tone. I mean TREMENDOUS!!! You have the typical bass, mids, and
treble. By pulling out the treble pot you engage the "bright
boost" and when you pull out the mids you engage the "mid
scoop". The tone controls are the most sensitive that I've ever
seen on a guitar amplifier. In fact, the tone knobs can be too

Plugging a strat or tele gives you the real deal tone. It's
pretty much a Fender amplifier. Plugging a Les Paul or PRS is a
different ball game. The tones are absurd on this channel. You
should be able to get anything you want out of this Fender side
that you would expect a Fender to do. This amp is very sensitive
to different guitars and it's tone will change more drastically
than other amps.

Distortion Channel (Marshall Channel) Alright, I called this
side of the amp the Marshall channel. The tone is not exactly a
Marshall. I own a 1971 Marshall Super Lead. It's sound is quite
a bit different than what you hear in the Rivera. I wouldn't say
the tone is necessarily better or worse, but different. When you
get to this caliber of guitar amplifiers, they are all good,
it's just a matter or preference.

The distortion channel has a gain boost, bass, mids, and treble.
Once again, these tone controls are as sensitive as you will
ever find in a guitar amp. It's stupid how much control you have
over your tone. This amp has too much gain, if you want too much
gain. With a Les Paul, I don't think I've put the gain past 12 O
Clock, ever. You would not believe how different this amp sounds
when you take the mids to 0 and then up to 10. It's a night and
day difference. With the gain boost turned off, this thing feels
like a good medium to low gain distorted amplifier. As I said,
choosing the right guitar and tone settings can be time
consuming, but getting whatever you want is a possibility. It's
worth trying all your guitars with this amp. There will be some
that obviously shine more than others. In this setting, it's no
problem at all pulling off tones such as AC/DC and other 70s
tones. I'd probably go with my 1971 Superlead first for this
application though, just because of the tone differences, but I
could make a guitar player looking for that tone very happy as

When you engage the gain boost, this thing is all out death. I'm
talking deathmetal death, if that's what you are looking for. In
my opinion turning up the gain to a stupid amount, cranking the
lows and highs, and scooping out all the mids is tremendous
overkill. I'd say it's unusable. The kid down the street may
totally love it, though. I guess that's the great thing about
this amp. You can make the sound too thin or too thick....too
bright or too dull. It's up to your playing, your guitar, and
your tone settings.

With the gain boost on and the all settings on 7, this amp is a
full blown rock machine The tones inside this amp are
impressive. You will find a sound that you like. It just takes
some time to find that perfect combination. This takes more time
than a Marshall does. Sometimes the mids on 5 are too much when
the lows are on 6. But lowering the lows down to 5 might require
a little more mids, for example. I'm saying that the tone
controls are high dependent on each other.

This amp would always be my first choice playing out live. It's
a mammoth sound if I want and gives me 4 great sounds with the
footswitch. Going from mega gain to dirty clean is just a step
away. Going from pretty clean to low gain distortion is also
just a click away. I'd say it's one of the best live amps you
can buy.

In the studio.... well, this thing gets used on just about every
project I do. I haven't found a project that it didn't work well
on. I've recorded country, rock, and death metal with this amp
and every single one of them was very happy with it.

In conclusion, I wouldn't change a thing about the Rivera. It is
worth every penny.

About the author:
Brandon Drury's site, has links to all sorts
of free recording

Guitar Emporium

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gibson J160E

New guitars for the Christmas season: Gibson J160E

In the sixties when The Beatles were bursting onto the scene it was a J160E that John Lennon played on their first single and was seen using for recordings, TV and live performances. A brassy, high-output acoustic/electric sound combined with its punchy, warm acoustic tone recreates the sound which led a musical revolution in the '60s. Gibson's J-160E features a solid Sitka Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, trapezoid fingerboard inlays, P-100 stacked humbucker at the neck, and volume and tone controls. Includes free Gibson hardshell case - a $150 value.

Gibson J160E Vintage Sunburst