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!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rant: How To Make a Great Night of Music a Complete Turn-off

I played at Blujaz cafe for an adhoc band put together to support Ivni, a blind drummer (Yes! Blind! He has trumped all other drummers I know) who's a drum student at Ben Lee's drum school.

It was meant to be a great night of music, where students showcase what they've learnt in school. Our band was meant to take stage at 8.45pm--as of writing, there's a band that's been playing since and it's now 9.21pm. I'm not one to complain, but I really felt cheesed off by these young punks. They misunderstood the intention of the gig and made the show about them. Seriously? A night dedicated to music students, giving them the opportunity to experience a live gig, and you pull off this stunt?

"Hi, we're _________ and we're here to play some music for you tonight. Thanks for coming down to support us!"

No. We're not here to support you. If you had any integrity, you would have said something more along the lines of:

"Hi, we're _______ and our drummer ________ is actually learning drums from the school, we're here to support her. Let's encourage ________ !"

I believe the appropriate Singlish term for what I witnessed with this band is buay pai sei. How shameless can a band of young punks get? Let's see:
  1. You certainly took your time setting up. Oh yeah, I was counting. You didn't need to bring your three electric guitars, massive pedalboards, your MIDI-controlled keyboard and sound module. Could you not have simplified the setup for this gig, especially since there were many students waiting their turn to perform? Can't you tweak the existing setup that's there?
  2. You were all fancy-smancy with working the crowd. I get it that you're a young band. I get it that gigging at legit places is hard to come by. But you didn't have to do the long introductions, regale us with the story of how your band met, and give special thanks to your parents/girlfriends/significant others/cats/dogs/hamsters for inspiring you.
  3. And when you finished your jaw-dropping performance (again, I don't normally bash bands or other musicians, but you guys were not as fancy as you made yourselves out to be), you took your time tearing down your equipment. Hurry up!
By the time we took the stage, it was nearly 9.40pm. This band played something like 5 long songs complete with dual-guitar solos and keyboard solos.

Wah lau. Sibei puay sai lei you all! Come back when you're old enough to see that performing isn't all about you all the time.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Distortion vs. Overdrive: A Renewed Discovery

Fads. They're everywhere. They're a temporary fascination with something until the novelty wears off, only to be replaced by another. And the funny thing about fads is that they come in cycles. In the guitar world, I have seen quite a few fads: the rack-race, where it seemed fashionable to build the largest, bulkiest rack system, the Swiss army knives of multi-effects, where everyone wanted everything in as small a package as possible, and perhaps notably now, the era of trying to get the guitar to sound like a keyboard with the use of delay and reverb (a company starting with "S" should immediately come to mind).

It's also fashionable to own boutique overdrives--the more obscure the name, the better. The wierder the tone, the better too. If you're into the worship scene, the Instagramverse is chock full of worship leaders, worship pastors and electric guitarists owning boards boasting 4 to 5 overdrive pedals, each one not being very heavy, but I suppose the idea is that when stacked, they'll be able to achieve a chunky, beefy tone for distorted tones. But does it adequately substitute for an actual distortion pedal? Will one distortion pedal sound better than four overdrive pedals?

I think there is a time and a place for distortion in a worship song. Consider the following video where I try to let you hear the audible difference between distortion and overdrive pedals: the mid-hump which can be fatiguing to the ear.

This is not to say that the stacked overdrive sound is unusable. I think there is a way to shape the sound of stacked overdrives such that it can be used pleasantly, and there general guidelines to ensure that your listener isn't bombarded with a wall of shrill noise:

1. Lower gain into higher gain
The first pedal takes on the characteristics of an amp on mild breakup, and the second pedal acts like an overdrive into a mildly broken-up amp. The resultant tone is thick and liquid-like, and can be a great way to empower single-coil pickups.

2. Higher gain into lower gain
The second pedal acts as a booster for the first. In this situation, the EQ controls will have a great effect on the overall sound. My experience is that the treble control will determine the overall "seariness" of the tone. Treble boosts will help you obtain a UK-like tone reminiscent of the JCM sound, while treble cuts will obtain a US-like tone, with the top-end roll-off like a Fender Twin.

3. High gain into high gain?
I'd say this is generally something to avoid. The tone becomes buzzy, you lose note definition, you'll end up with lots of noise...unless a noise-scape is something desirable for your type of music. The JHS Synth Drive is an example of a pedal that I'd generally avoid because it's uncontrollably noisy, where you'll never know when it starts to feedback or oscillate!

In short, overdrive and distortion are two different sounds which can be used to great effect depending on the musical context. Let the music and the song determine the tone you take, and not the other way around--you'll find the end result far more satisfying!

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