Dotted Eighth Delay Studies

Setting up the U2/Hillsong delay in a variety of situations.

The Sessionists

Esther Subra (vocals), Serena Chew (keys), Justin (guitars), Alphonsus (drums and percussion)

Thoughts on G.A.S.

Why you should save up for an expensive guitar.

Setting Up Disaster Area DPC-8EZ and DMC-8D MIDI Controllers

An easy-to-follow video tutorial to get those patches programmed!

An Overview of My YouTube Channel

Feel free to browse some of the playlists on my channel. Hopefully this leads to you liking and subscribing!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Deja Vu (Project Serve Welcome Tea)

It wasn't so long ago that a fresh-from-Sydney graduate was introduced to a parachurch organization, and auditioned for a place in the performing arts ministry's Project Serve.

I was mostly charismatic with little knowledge of the bible. I head-banged, jumped at least a foot off the ground, and believed that distortion and worship could co-exist. It was a very heart-driven Christianity for me.

Project Serve changed my life. The heart was reigned in by the mind. The mindlessness was replaced by a constant awareness of God's truth in every act I did, whether in public or in private. The gospel became something to be treasured, to fight for, to defend and not merely something private.

Music was seen for what it truly was; something God graciously gives, an aspect of His creation, and like all good gifts we can either use it well or abuse it selfishly. I began scrutiny of lyrics, and saw that what was said was equally important to what was played. Bands I previously followed couldn't be followed anymore, simply for what they stood for and what they encouraged through their lifestyle and in their songs.

I pray that these young ones will discover for themselves how to live a life pleasing unto God, that all aspects of their giftings, be it in music, sports, media, are all for God's glory. We are to be good stewards of what He gives.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pedalboard Revisions (aka The Never-ending Story Part 20-something)

A moment of tonal dissatisfaction, a touch of OCD, and realizing that a compressor after the EP booster actually cuts out too much of the nice frequencies gave me the impetus to rearrange my pedalboard. And behold, I finally did it; I squeezed my entire overdrive section onto the first row. While having better visual appeal, the process flow is a lot more obvious to people who may want to use my pedalboard. You now know that I have a pre-overdrive booster to squeeze more gain and compression out of the AC Tone, BB Preamp and Timmy, and a post-overdrive booster to give more clarity and punch if the need arises (such as playing through a solid state amp).

And yes, I forgot to mention the new additions to my pedalboard. I recently acquired a BB Preamp, better known affectionately as the Andy Timmons pedal. This has the most gain out of the usual 3 Xotic pedals (RC/AC/BB), and to my ears, the most versatile of the lot. You can use this as a clean boost with a good, broad EQ tweak with the gain at zero (like how Lee Ritenour uses it), or set it to mild gain to push an already-overdriven amp to make it sound, well, for lack of a better term, better (like how Greg Howe uses it).

In my case, I cranked the gain all the way up. This is meant to be my Marshall sound; big, loud, chunky and punchy. Even at full tilt, the pedal isn't fuzzy or overly screechy in my rig, and retains the natural tone of my guitars. A Les Paul will sound thick and fluid. A Strat will sound spanky and throaty with a Blues growl. A Tele will still have the sparkle and twang.

I replaced my old-timer Korg DT-10 with a Pitchblack, more for real estate reasons than for tonal reasons. It's 2/3 the size of the DT-10, and true bypass. I didn't hear its effect on the tone until I made the switch, and immediately heard higher definition and more articulation out of my pedals, as if someone had tweaked the EQ in the upper-mids/lower-highs in the right direction.

I also realized that with the new arrangement of having the compressor before the EP makes the tone control useable again. Previously, when I turn the tone past 60%, the overall sound was too brittle and nasal. By cranking the EP to run at 18V, and having the bright switch off, the tone control became tamer and less fatiguing on the ear; setting it at zero gives a dark but warm wrap-around of the notes, and cranking it to full gives a nice treble bite that helps my Strat and Tele sound authentically vintage.

Sigh. Tone, the Never-ending Story, continues.


Friday, December 23, 2011

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

I had a rehearsal with the incredible Jordan Wei and Richard Tan, and took the opportunity to try out various combinations of my guitars/pedals/amp.

I thought running the acoustic into my pedalboard, and running the compressor will help keep the acoustic in the mix. I also thought of running my Variax through the analog pedalboard to A/B against my Tele.

After many swaps in the midst of our crazy rehearsal, here's the summary results:

1. The acoustic sounds best straight to the DI. Putting any pedals in the mix makes it sound more electric-like.

2. The Variax is better paired with my PODX3 than my analog pedalboard. Maybe there's a sweet spot with my pedals, but it's so much harder to get that right than with actual guitars.

3. Nothing can beat the sound of a real, no-modeling, non-silicon electric guitar into a pedalboard into a real amp.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shredding on a Tele

God is gracious and good. Even in the midst of the wrist injury in my picking hand, He continually provides ways for me to continue playing the guitar, and even improve on my technique to be a player who can play more cleanly. I've only recently realized that my left hand is far stronger than I had previously taken notice of. 

Its legato passages are fluid but defined. When I mute the strings with my wrist, I get a very distinct "chunk" sound out of the muted notes as I make my way across the fretboard. I've also managed to learn how to effectively mute unwanted strings during those long lead lines with my left hand, something I was very bad at doing for the longest time.

Not exactly shred, but it's approaching speeds I could play before in my John Petrucci days.

God is so good. Much thanksgiving is due.

While God works in helping me shape my technique, He's also helping me improve upon my existing setup. After playing with a well-setup low-action guitar, I was really inspired to get a similar feel. I starting watching those who play Teles and can play really fast on it (Andy Timmons, Ritchie Kotzen, even Keith Urban). It just seemed that they had the strength of gorillas to be able to have such volume and articulation.

The thought hit me; what if their guitar action was low? I used to adjust the string height on my Yamahas like crazy just to get that sweet John Petrucci spot, and only avoided it on my Strat and Tele because I figured it would degrade the tone. Besides, wasn't it tonal blasphemy to have a Tele with low action and strung with 9's?

I threw convention out the window. Half an hour's worth of tweaking and retuning yielded some very satisfying results.
As you can tell, there's a fair bit of string posts exposed. They used to be flush with the saddle, meaning that the action was a lot higher. Here are some observations:
  1. The exposed string posts can cut your hand. Yes, now I know why some of my shredder friends don't like Teles. I palm-mute quite a lot, and my hand has to rest where the string posts are. Thankfully, I'm a light picker now with a light touch, so the pressure exerted by the string posts isn't strong enough for me to spill blood.
  2. The strings are closer to the pickups. My bridge pickup immediately sounded a lot hotter, allowing me to play faster passages and retain definition and articulation. The effect isn't as pronounced on the neck pickup.
  3. I can get away with legato passages far more cleanly. Oh yes. Bring on the long passages. I used to be so afraid of them playing on a Tele, but I think I've regained some confidence back.
I shall quote a website about lowering the action on your guitar:

"It'll feel so good you'll play it instead of eating/bathing/sleeping. There won't be anything left of you but bad posture and enough hair to comb over your face."

Further reading:
Hotrod Your Guitar
Setting string action on a Telecaster (eHow)

Monday, December 19, 2011


Every weekend is a great time of serving, gigging, fellowshipping, and just living in general. Oh to treasure these days.

Friday: Christmas Under The Stars, Poly Ministry

Saturday: Shema live at Olive Vine
Sunday: Playing at service feels like "Don't Forget The Solo"
"You can either keep Jesus and lose the sin, or keep the sin and lose Jesus."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dialling PODX3 Tones

The little black corner of the room
I was a devout multi-fx user for a great bulk of my life as a guitarist. I figured that it was possible to get by with emulation

While the stock tones were usable in only certain situations, they were nowhere near as organic as what the PODX3 clips were suggesting through my guitars (I suppose that's the beauty of having access to expensive guitars and paying sound engineers to post-process your clips).

Alas, we must work-around the problem at hand. Here are three of my biggest tips for PODX3 users:

Patches for live should be different from patches used to record
You have 128 patch locations at your disposal. Surely you can spare some for various situations. For playing live, I'd get rid of the reverb, tweak the EQ in the midrange to get the guitar to cut through, and generally don't use too much high gain tones because it just gets muddy when mixed together with the rest of the band.

Different guitars need different patches
The problem with digital is that all the nuances accompanying your guitar get lost; every guitar starts to sound the same, just with differing levels of drive, spank and twang (I'm grossly generalizing the differences between a Les Paul, a Strat and a Tele, by the way). I've had to specifically dial in tones that accentuate the nuances, quite unlike my analog rig where most of my pedals are transparent, allowing the character of the guitars to shine through even on the same settings.

A 4x12" cab sim sounds great recorded, but it's going to be boomy and muddy live
The sound guys will be immensely happy if you helped them focus your sound to the mids where the guitar's voice predominantly is, instead of having the big, large and full-range tone that the 4x12" cab sims try to emulate.

And for those who asked:
My top 4 most used tones to date which work best for live situations straight into a PA using a humbucking guitar that has a coil split.

For further reading:
Benvesco's Blog (The person who taught me a lot about tweaking the POD)
089Ray's Blog (This person has spent many hours tweaking, and he's got a great ear. Check it out!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


One guitar into one amp. The purest signal possible, with no pedals to suck tone, no power supplies to generate noise, and no patch cables waiting to die on you at the most inopportune time.

I occasionally play with this setup when I know that the venue provides a decent amp (which is a pretty broad category in my book; I'm content with both solid-state and tube amps), or when I know carrying pedals will be inconvenient from my previous engagement, especially when I don't drive for the day. If you're into large pedalboards like me, you'll find it extremely limiting.

All of a sudden, you're stuck with one tone. One. No choice of overdriven to suit the mood. No modulation or delay to thicken the sound. Everything boils down to tone exclusively from the fingers, which can be terrifyingly crippling. Fortunately, I have good news (or bad news, depending on how you take it): the audience isn't expecting much. They're not waiting for the roar of a BB Preamp, or to hear the trailing feedback of the delay pedal. They're not overly impressed with a truckload of pedals hauled onto the stage.

What they are expecting is (insert drum roll) music. Honest, heart-felt, confident, music. Jeff Baxter, one of the biggest gear heads in the history of music (due to his big time session work), has done sessions with gear ranging from a few racks' worth of equipment to recording with a DI straight to the console. He has repeatedly emphasized in his instructional that you make the gear work, not the other way around. There's something inside you, and that should be able to come out with any guitar and through any piece of gear.

So, here are some tips I've learnt along the way about guitar-to-amp setups:

1. Set the tone up overdriven, and use the guitar volume to toggle between a lead and a rhythm tone. This does imply your volume pot is useable in that fashion--my Yamaha's can't do that, so in that situation I wouldn't probably use them.

2. Be aware of your technique. There'll be nothing to cover it up. I admit to being lazy with technique when I have my full pedalboard. With that many overdrive pedals and that high a gain level, I still can sound decent with sloppy finger work.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reviving Jennifer

My acoustic is getting old. As of this year, she's been in my possession for the past 10 years. I practically grew up playing this guitar; I learnt many radio pop songs from the Backstreet Boys, Savage Garden, Richard Marx and N'Sync. I learnt my first worship songs from Hillsong, Sonicflood, and Avalon. I got hooked on the alternative sound forever from learning the Goo Goo Dolls, Ash and Gin Blossoms.

I can't remember why I named her Jennifer. It was probably because I thought the dreadnought shape of the acoustic and its larger lower bout reminded me of big bums (and Jennifer Lopez came to mind).

This guitar has probably seen three gigs in her entire life, aside from her usage at cell group and church camps. The call came and there was no readily available acoustic for the gig. Alas, I needed Jennifer to be in a presentable condition. When I picked her up from her stand, things weren't looking good; the frets had accumulated a green layer of gunk, the fretboard was dried out, and the white binding turned green. There was a fair bit of work I had to do, and I decided the easiest to start was to change the strings (which were black with dirt and brown with rust).

I'll make an honest admission here; I don't know a lot about acoustic guitar strings. I probably should start reading up or experimenting. My excuse is that I'm primarily an electric guitarist 99% of the time, and whenever I gig on an acoustic, it's borrowed. I went for a simple set of D'Addario Extra Lights (10's), bought from Believer Music (thanks Wendy!).


I don't know how the string material changes the tone of the acoustic. I use a Seymour Duncan woody pickup, so I figured that any set of strings will do. Besides, I changed my technique significantly over the past half-year. I can't strum heavily anymore, and I don't dig as deeply as I used to. Now when I play an acoustic unamplified, it's reached a state where I'm barely audible. I hope that means I won't be breaking strings anymore (fingers crossed; I haven't broken one in 4 months!).

Here's my "revival kit" spread out on the floor with the tools I used:


The green cloth is actually an army cloth I used to clean my rifle with! It's now a dedicated guitar cleaning cloth. I removed the strings and set out to remove the gunk out of the frets and remoisturize the fretboard. I used the mighty Dr Ducks Axe Wax to do the job:


I was initially skeptical about using Dr Ducks. It seemed too miraculous a product to be relied upon. Seriously? It can clean everything? I knew it had good uses for giving strings a wipe-down after a gig, but for everything else, it just seemed improbable. I'd never have considered using this for remoisturizing the fretboard, but alas, my supply of lemon oil got depleted with the last string change (on one of my rosewood fingerboard guitars).

I was desperate. I give up on all inhibitions and just went with it. The first application dissolved most of the gunk that was caked. The second restored some colour to the fretboard. By the third, the fretboard was looking pretty decent. You know what? Dr Ducks actually works! I'm a happy Dr Ducks convert now.

Here's a close up of the neck and the frets that were worn out:


These frets are so worn out that the strings sit in a "valley". They don't buzz anymore because the rest of the frets have all worn down to a level where they're all even!

About an hour's work later, here's Jennifer looking presentable:


She sounded good during my gig at Olive Vine, which I truly believe was mostly due to the fantastic job of Leon and Randall on the sound team! Kudos to an excellent job.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tech Noob Moments

I don't know what happened. Poof! My top navigation bar just disappeared, and for an hour I just couldn't get it back. I must have mistyped something in the HTML (which, at this moment, has been modified beyond recognition from its original code), and now, no matter how much I try to use the Blogger menu to change the layout style, it just won't show.

There are days when technology just doesn't work...
I came up with a workaround. You'll now find my biography, guitarists' corner and contact in the secondary navigation bar (which links to home, my band, and great links). It took a little reading to remember how to set it up in the HTML code, but it worked. It's just two more clicks to navigate, and hopefully it doesn't put people off. I'm told by the pro bloggers to keep my layout as simple as possible so that readers won't find it a hassle to click around.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Restringing Order

A quick tip for restringing guitars: the order you string them makes a difference in maintaining or derailing your setup, depending on your guitar. I have had the good fortune of owning guitars with decent necks that don't change with temperature fluctuations, and I keep them in a pretty dehumidified environment. Even my Yamahas, the cheapest of the lot, seem to require only minimal tweaking of the truss rod once every 4 to 6 months.

That being said, it does pay to take precautions. As you well know, the neck is under severe tension, and if you restring like I do by removing all the strings at once (just so I can re-oil the fretboard), the neck is going to experience a sudden change from full tension to no tension. To help the neck cope with the tension while restringing, I like to restring in this order:

3rd, 6th, 4th, 1st, 5th, 2nd
G - E - D - e - A - b

Having the G string first helps especially with Les Pauls and their equivalents, where the bridge isn't attached to the guitar body, but hangs by two threaded posts. It falls off when there's no tension, and if you try to restring with the low E first, you might dislocate the bridge.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More