I decided to spend a few £s upgrading the old SG. Not that there was too much wrong with it, but it needed some tweaks and let’s be honest – messing about with guitars is fun.
First, it needed a proper set up. The guy who had it before me strung it with 9s and had a ridiculously low action (it was more or less unplayable) so I went up to 10s and then 11s but it was still buzzing and there were dead spots all over. The other big issue was the intonation. With a wraparound bridge it’s always a compromise but the one that was in there made very little effort to compensate, and it was quite noticably crap. I took it to Richmond Guitar Worshop (Andy and Andrew – the guys that used to be in the workshop at Chandlers in Kew). Ive had all my repaires and set ups done by these guys since about 2003. They are total wizards. They dressed the frets, sorted out the neck and, importantly, replaced the crappy stock bridge with a compensated Gibson Lightning Bar. It’s still not perfect, obviously, but I could do a gig on it now and not get shouted at for being out of tune!
The second step was to replace the Gibson 490 pickups. The bridge one was ok but the neck one was a bit dull. Having always used Seymour Duncans for humbuckers, I thought I’d maybe see what else was around. Had a look at Bare Knuckle, which are pricey (though worth it, generally) and a few other “boutique” makers. Amongst them, one that I thought was pretty interesting: The Creamery. After a bit of research I was unable to find anything even resemblining a slightly negative review, and what’s more they’re really well priced. Less than Bare Knuckles which seem to run at £200 + per set but not so cheap as to arouse suspicion like, say, Iron Gear. They are hand made by one guy (Jaime)and they are fully customisable, from the covers to the magnets. I had to wait about a month, but they’re great! I went for the Creamery ’59 set, I wanted better versions of the 490s with a tighter sounding neck. He suggested these with alnico II and IV magnets in the bridge and neck respectively. I’m really pleased with them – and for £150 (with nickle covers) you basically can’t go wrong, they compare very favourably to the Seymour Duncans that I’ve owned (Pearly Gates, Duncan Custom, Jazz, and JB). Well worth a look, as there is a huge range of stuff available!
So… you know, I’ve spent about as much again on upgrades as I did on the guitar itself. But it’s personalised now, whilst still cheaper (and as far as I’m concerned, better) than an off the shelf SG standard. So there.
About a year ago I transcribed this marvellous solo, but I didn’t get around to learning it and recording it until the last couple of days. There’s some great melody here and it’s another example of Django’s brilliant musicality and gestural approach to his solos.
The main challenge is the speed of this one, particularly in the second chorus (the signature chromatic run, for instance) but the first chorus is very restrained with a focus on melody and phrasing. You can download the TAB here: Them There Eyes Django (Solo).
I have an 11 year old student who has just released his debut E.P. I’m really impressed by this so thought it was worth a share!
He recently turned 11 and his parents bought him a day in a local studio where he was able to record some songs that he’d written. Recording under the name The Bolders, he wrote the tunes, recorded all instruments and sung – he also designed his own album cover.
I’ve recently been trying to navigate my way through a particularly tedious creative slump. The kind where you find yourself massively bored of everything you do, and where you feel like you’ve boxed yourself into a corner… it’s the worst.
Was it Einstien that said the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results? I don’t know, but seems to make sense. So, in that spirit, I’ve begun stepping outside of my normal operating perimeters and making more use of “technology”. Specifically, Logic and Ableton*. I know Logic well enough, but have only ever used it to record and mix audio (and do a bit of MIDI stuff when required). Now I’m making an effort to actually delve into the things that I had previously considered “not my thing”. And, oh look! It’s fun.
I recorded a Dmajor triad and loaded it into Space Designer (a reverb plug-in) as an impulse response. This means that instead of the input signal (in this case my guitar) triggering a reverb, it triggers that Dmajor chord. A pretty cool effect, that sort of sounds like a phased-out synth reacting in the background.
*Ableton is still a mystery to me, but I do at least own the program now.
Gumtree got in touch with me and asked me to be part of a social media campaign – a bit unexpected, but the idea was that we shoot a short video of me talking about the SG I recently got from Gumtree… Next week we’re filming a live stream with FRiSK, so look out for that one!
FRiSK are having a busy summer, which is a wonderful thing in itself, but the great thing about it is that it gives us more opportunities to produce little off-the-cuff videos and things – largely for our own amusement!
Recently we were booked for a private event at Brooklands Museum, which is a fantastic place that celebrates a golden age of British racing, aviation and engineering. Penny (one of our singers) and I felt inspired to perform this Fats Waller classic which is of the same era as a lot of the cars in the museum… A few takes and some hasty editing on iMovie and this is the result. Fun!
The 16th of May marked the anniversary of the death of Django Rienhardt, so I asked the guys at ACM if I could do a little video by way way of tribute, and here it is. There’s a lot I wanted to talk about but it’s hard to know what to fit in a video that has to be so short, so it’s a very simple demonstration of one idea: taking the minor pentatonic (1, b3, 4, 5, b7) and lowering the b7 by a semitone to make it a maj6th (so it’s now 1, b3, 4, 5, 6 – like a m6 arpeggio, and implying the Dorian mode). This is one thing I found that really helped me start to build some Gypsy style vocabulary and move away from the minor pentatonic licks that are omnipresent in rock and blues improvisation.
The lick I play is based one of Django’s phrases found in the solo of Swing 42 (click here and skip to about 1’07”). Swing 42 is in C major , but here I’m using it in the context of a Gm6 chord. The TAB is here: Django Style Minor 6 Lick
This last week, I was delighted to be working for The London School of Musical Theatre (LSMT) in their annual post-graduate production. This was the third year in a row working for the school and each occasion has been genuinely great fun. The previous two shows were American Idiot (Green Dayʼs adaptation of their album) and Jason and The Argonauts (written by LSMTʼs in-house composer Charles Miller). This year it was Dolly Partonʼs 9to5. The guitar parts were quite busy in this one, and in places challenging but was a great excuse to dust off my country chops!
The cast did a tremendous job and it was a pleasure to work with such a good band.