30 November 2008

Allan Holdsworth

On the 16th (that’s two weeks ago to you and me, Russ), a hearty gang of peeps and I went to Yoshi’s to see Allan Holdsworth with Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Johnson. Obviously it was great of course as you’d expect, but it was also verrah interestoing. Wackerman made what I thought was a strange mistake at the end of his first solo, apparently getting a bar ahead of the rest of the band! He had to do a loud snare count-off to get people back in synch, and then he was visibly upset. Holdsworth just gave him an eyebrow. It was cool, though; everyone was doing very well. On his next solo he was flawless and thus happy again.

Al lent me his Holdsworth instructional DVD which I highly recommend. It's a great in-studio concert with that same band, mixed in which Allan talking about the tunes and about his own personal music theory lessons. (The disc has an iPod-grade movie as a file as well as a PDF of the lesson booklet! Sweet.) Holdsworth claims that it’s best to figure out by yourself how chords and scales work, in your own way, but he also admits that you end up with personal terminology that nobody else understands. So in these lessons he has to translate his terms into standard terms, and it kind of gets in the way. There are two reasons to learn music theory, (1) to understand how stuff works and (2) to communicate your ideas to others, and a homebrew theory does not work for (2). It’s also more effort to achieve (1).

Although I disagree with his approach, I can’t argue with results, and the results are total fusion goodness.

One cool thing from the video is he spends some time on synthetic scales, including this weird one:

E – F# – G – A♭ – B♭ – C – C# – D – E

It’s surprisingly flexible, including a straightforward (ha ha) use as a sort of bi-tonal blues (E and B♭ major blues; C# and G minor blues).

Currently listening to: The grinding of my laptop’s cooling fan

New Toy: DigiTech JamMan

I finally decided to get a looper, so yesterday I did a little reconnaissance. I went to Rocker Guitars knowing, as always, that I was in for a punch in the gut or two. (The Yelp reviews, both positive and negative, are accurate in my experience: Rocker is goat-asses that sell very nice gear.) All they had for delays/loops was a Visual Sound H20 ($189) and another thingie that I don’t remember but which also cost about 3 times as much as it should. The H20 makes a beautiful thick chorus and the delay is also decent (but short). I tried it out on a nice Strat into, of course, a Matchless. Great pedal, but not what I was looking for.

When I asked the salesdude if he ever gets anything with tap tempo and recording features, he snarled, “NEVAR. You’ll have to go to Guitar Center for that!”

I guess they hate making money. So, today I went to Oud Area and picked up a DigiTech JamMan. The first one was dead on arrival, so I had to drive back and return it. The second one works, nicely! It has all these terrible, non-analog, non-elitist features like a 1GB Compact Flash card, tap tempo, overdubbing, and what-have-you.

Also yesterday, I brought my Frankenstrat into Gary Brawer’s shop (their blog is also awesome) for a setup and a much-needed pickup replacement. (It had a neck Duncan JB in the bridge position, so the 6th and 1st strings sounded like fresh lutefisk.) I’m getting an EMG 85 in there, and it will rule. Gary Brawer always does awesome work. Joe Satriani was there, picking up two guitars, and his cell phone ring tone was the obligatory shred-rock noodle. Awesome!