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!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bring Me to Life: Trying NYXL on a Les Paul

The new string feeling is amazing. I took a break from essay writing by trying on a set of D'Addario NYXL strings. I had wanted to try a low tuning to play stuff from A Perfect Circle. As much as they aren't a good influence in terms of lyrical antithesis to my Christian faith, James Iha and Billy Howerdel are geniuses at crafting intricate but simple guitar lines.

My plan to play in Standard C# failed. As it turns out, the string tension when top-wrapping a Les Paul drops significantly, to the point that I didn't need to crank my tuners that much to raise the strings to pitch. At Standard C#, the strings were flappy and had very little tension, feeling like 8's and had a terrible time staying in tune.

I raised the pitch to Standard Eb, and it was a much better experience.

Oh well. Lesson learnt: I’ll try out 13 gauge and drop tune that next time!

Monster Curry at Serangoon Nex

Monster Curry hasn't changed in price, but it has changed its practice of upfront payment. You no longer have to pay first!

We tried something different this time: their honey toast, which we think is a just-pass. According to wife, she says it passes the test to satisfy a sweet craving but it's not something to shout about.

In other news, we discovered that NEX has a Lego Store!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pedalboard Adventures November 2017: Building with the JPS

Alas, I have fallen into the trap of building/tearing-down/rebuilding pedalboards. I put together the following builds with the spare "big format" pedals that I had.

This one with an improved outboard application: as my DD-7 rehouse has dual mono outputs, I placed this last in the chain, with one output split to the Joyo AC Tone for direct-to-board, and a dedicated mono output to amp.

The LS-2 was functioning as a tuner split and a buffered input.

Here was a trial of Mark I. The Timmy sounded too shrill into our sanctuary's PA system, regardless of how low I set the treble.

I still wanted more control over the pedals and wanted to avoid the tap dancing. Enter the  build with the Disaster Area DPC-8EZ, which has a buffered input, a tuner mute, and most importantly, preset capability.

Complete with the Palmer DI for direct-to-board applications and a pick tin, I think I'm set! Now to try this rig out at the next rehearsal.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Gear Day: JPS Pedalboard (No Crazy Pedals)

I was inspired by my recent MSM Stringdom Workshop participants who were seeking simplicity of tone for worship to strip down my rig to something much more manageable.

8 pedals. No crazy delay or reverb, just my PS-6, DD-7 and Time Machine for basic delay tones. I can stack the DD-7 into the Time Machine for dual delay sounds, or set them up for two different subdivisions and toggle them when required. 

My BB Preamp and Timmy have made a comeback on this board, and I'm using the Timmy for crunch. I will augment with either the BB Preamp or SL Drive for lead tones, which I've dialed differently. Strangely enough, the SL Drive has more hair than the BB Preamp!

Finally, I have the Joyo AC Tone at the end of my chain as the amp sim, and it is comparable to the Tech 21 Liverpool! Serious!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Gear Day: Suhr Modern Satin

This African Mahogany beauty came into the fold as a result of a trade with my Gretch Duo Jet. If I were honest, I wasn't bonding with the Gretsch as much as I thought I would. Yes, it's a "quintessential" worship guitar sound, but it was like playing an electrified acoustic. I had difficulty accessing the 16th fret onwards for solos. And it was just bigger and heavier than my other shred machines.

Yes, I'm aware these guitars are well-suited for the shred genre. And perhaps with its lightweight, fast neck and incredible touch, maybe I could get back to practicing proper lead guitar technique.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Renewed Reflections on Worship Songs

Allow me to preface this reflection with a confession. I have considered myself an "armchair theologian", and I shall provide a working definition from one who has articulated it before:

"An armchair theologian is also an outsider to “the game”. He looks into the academic community of theologians with a keen interest in the topics being discussed. He knows schools of thought, scholars/preachers/pastors associated with them and so forth. He listens to and reads them whenever he can. He develops opinions of his own about the different subjects. Perhaps he understands he’s an outsider and perhaps he doesn’t. Perhaps he presents himself as a “player” and perhaps he doesn’t."

Why do I bring this up? While an "outsider to the game" of academia (hopefully not for too long), I enjoy the academic rigor of thinking through issues that arise from evaluating lyrics and music in worship songs. I can get quite passionate about the discussion--and sometimes, this passion can be misconstrued as callous candor. I am among people in school who have the same disposition--we chat, we argue, we gesticulate, we get quite animated--but we discuss all in the name of wanting to learn more about the differing positions that each of us holds regarding the topic at hand. In other words, we seek dialogue and mutual discourse.

I have, at times, got carried away with conversations with other people who may not have similar dispositions. Most recently, our church worship ministry underwent a revision to our new song selection process. There were several new songs up for consideration, and part of the process required us to comment on theological content in their lyrics (amongst other things).

I confess I got fired up. Here was a chance to engage in meaningful dialogue! But alas, I forget that I am part of the bigger body of Christ, called to a community that has a variety of people, people who may not find rigorous dialogue meaningful, edifying or encouraging. I might have said some things to provoke thinking, but I'm afraid they might have been provoking instead.

To cut a long story short, my "issues" with some of the new songs were of theology and grammar. I had thought that songs with "bad" theology and grammar must not be used for corporate worship (we are what we sing, I always say). However, an evaluation of whether or not theology and grammar are "bad" is subjective (yet another provocative statement), as my interpretation of songs are according to a framework that I have developed over the years. 

I must recognize that evaluative frameworks are not universal--you have yours, and I have mine. My sin is that of trying to impose mine on yours, and it is not my place to persuade you within the space of a single conversation. By way of self-reflection, I have been asking myself the following questions:

Is the theological content truly "bad", or more aptly "incomplete"?

The songs of my beginnings as a Christian were from the late 90's, with Hillsong and Planetshakers at the forefront of what I thought were normative worship expressions. I could articulate the love, compassion, and mercy of God. With the help of these songs, these concepts transcended from being mere words to an enlivening of my spirit, awakening my senses to the reality that God is love.

The medium of music is certainly the aptest to communicate that God is love. It is a cultural norm for us to hear the ideas of love being communicated through the love song (duh, right?), whether in an upbeat, celebratory tone, or an emotive ballad. In our modern context, it would be rather strange and out of place if we used the love song for instruction. We recognize this when we hear songs that could very well be sermons in musical form.

I think that my present preference for sermons-in-songs (or songs that have more instructional material) colors my view on songs of the heart. Does every song need to be a sermon? Does every song need to teach every aspect of God (or by extension, within the "four songs of the setlist")? Many worship leaders are divided over the answers to these questions, but for the sake of my congregation and my local context, I must admit that the answer should be "no".

If I consider a holistic view of the church, perhaps there are other opportunities to engage the congregation with the other aspects of God. Certainly, within the time allotted in service, each item in the order of service (welcome, prayer, offertory, sermon, benediction) contributes to an engagement of the whole community with God. This does not take into account discipleship classes, small group meetings, prayer meetings, various fellowships; indeed, we have such a wide variety of activities to engage the congregation, so why should we load such a heavy burden onto the song?

Hence, theology expressed in a song isn't necessarily "bad", it is incomplete if read in isolation. We should be asking ourselves how the songs being sung in service fit into the wider context of the church, and if found to be truly deficient, we can seek further improvements from there.

Is the grammar truly "bad", or simply "poetically fluid"?

Grammar is dear to my heart. I'm writing this on the Grammarly web app to double-check my grammar. However, I forget that with music and poetry, there is some measure of fluidity with grammar rules. The rules of Hebrew grammar don't apply very well in Proverbs and Psalms because the authors (songwriters and poets, evidently) bend the rules for word-play, analogies, chiastic structures, and emphases. If I spare the Hebrew scriptures such scrutiny and criticism, perhaps I am too critical of English writers.

On a separate note on Hebrew, let me give a recent example that was very humbling for me. I was very insistent that Chris Tomlin was being a poor grammarian when he wrote the lyric, "the God of angel armies". My auto-correct instinct kicked in and insisted that the line should be "the God of the armies of angels". I thought about it a bit more and realized that Tomlin was referencing the phrase, "The LORD of Hosts", more commonly known to us as "Jehovah Sabaoth":

יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת
(YHWH Z'vaot)

Hebrew is a wonderfully compact language. Z'vaot is difficult to express in English, and Tomlin is actually closer to its meaning than the more archaic term, "hosts". I seek forgiveness from those who were at the receiving end of my "grammar tirade" against this song.

In conclusion, please forgive my callous candor. Songs are not sung in isolation from the rest of the service, so I must recognize the other avenues in the church to teach a complete theology of God. Being rigid with grammar rules takes away some measure of beauty in lyrical prose, so I must recognize the time and place for good grammar.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

MSM Short Course - Bass-ics (Foundations of Bass Guitar in a Worship Team)

I'll be conducting a short 8-session course at the Methodist School of Music, entitled "MSM Bass-ics: Foundations of Bass Guitar in a Worship Team". Registration details are in the Google form below!

See you soon!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Freedom Marches In (Hillsong United, Guitar Playthru Tutorial)

Hi all! I've come up with a video for the latest Hillsong United tune, with parts I think would be beneficial for beginners to learn.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tones and Tips: Gretsch Duojet

I recently got a hold of a Gretsch Duo Jet. It's a completely unique instrument, with certain quirks that takes some time getting used to, and a sound that has twang and growl, a balance between a single coil and a humbucker.

Here's a video I made that shows the unique tones and control scheme for the Duo Jet. I would have spoken and have some dialogue, but there's constant construction happening around my new home!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wonder (Hillsong United) - Guitar Playthru and Tutorial

I needed this recording, not in the sense of a monetary make-or-break for my channel, but I was feeling incredibly down this week. It's like there's been a dark cloud hanging over me, and it hasn't lifted. Everything was getting to me, and I didn't know how to change the way I felt about everything. I felt under-appreciated by everyone. And every memory of being taken for granted, of being abandoned, of being cast aside for the better ones--they all came crashing down on me.

I felt stifled, I felt choked. So I did the only thing I could, throwing my self into worship, hoping for anything, just anything from God, one word, one fragment of an encouragement from the one who made me to worship Him. And that search in prayer led me to the latest Hillsong United tune that Alphonsus introduced to me earlier--Wonder.

I did this in record time--listen to the parts, figure out an arrangement for solo guitar, dial in the correct tones, set up the camera, the recording interface, and hit record. I didn't care about the mistakes, I just went with the flow, letting myself get "lost in the wonder" (that's a terrifying thing for a seminary student to say). But alas, I'm tired of seriousness, tired of trying to be perfect. It's time to recapture the wonder.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Jazz and Blues in Worship

Image result for jazz rock worship

I'm a fan of reharmonizing tunes to fit other contexts, and in my case where some of my musical upbringing took place playing in wedding bands, I learnt some Jazz and Blues. I'm not skillful in Jazz chops by any means, I'm just a fan of the genre, having picked up a few tricks of the trade from sitting through numerous sessions where I've had to figure out Jazz chords from scratch. But of course, I wasn't alone; my dear bassist Ben Sng is really good at picking out musical substructures that I can't begin to describe.

Here are some arrangements I've made for worship songs. They don't usually bode well with the congregation, but as offertory music, they seem to be appreciated there.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Lion and the Lamb (Bethel) - Guitar Playthru and Tutorial

This isn't another lead guitar cover. Here's a suggested lead and rhythm guitar arrangement for Bethel's "Lion and the Lamb", which I've come up with catering to the following scenarios:

  1. Your band doesn't have a keyboardist but you need to recreate the synth pulse.
  2. Your band doesn't have the expensive Strymon stuff to pull off the big, spacey-sounding lead tones.
With two electrics, you'll be able to cover enough tonal ground, and with the right arrangement, they'll complement each other to form a big sound.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

My Lego Sets from 1996-1998

I went back to Springside to retrieve items that Mum wanted me to sort and throw. I found my old Lego sets! These brought back wonderful memories, as the Aquanauts series were meant to be played underwater--I remember going swimming at the club with these in hand. There's a ship that appears to be some space-travelling spy series, which I also believe made some trips to the pool.

I honestly have no idea where I got the other random minifigures from, but there's a policeman and what appears to be a Frenchman in a red cap. Now they've found a permanent home on our Modular series.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How Great is Our God (Guitar Solo)

I was very refreshed to learn a Hebrew version of the song "How Great is Our God" recorded by Joshua Aaron. Right in the middle of it, there's a powerful, declarative guitar solo that spoke so much to me. Call me crazy, but the musician in me worships with solos! I decided to learn it and incorporate it whenever I get called to play this song. Be sure to check your pitch with those whole step bends!

For viewing Joshua Aaron's full song:

This short recording was done with a whole new workflow, completely cutting out any Windows editing, and relying on Amplitube for recording the audio, and iMovie for editing the video with subtitles. I think I'm getting the hang of it!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are You Quitting Guitar? (May 2017)

A friend messaged me and asked if I was quitting guitar because of all the gear I was offloading on Carousell. Another joked that I was keeping the guitar pedal economy going by trickling down my effects onto the newer generation of 2nd-hand market buyers. On that latter point, I did realize I'm now part of the 2nd-tier of the gear life cycle; I did build my first analog pedalboard by buying 2nd-hand exclusively, and the sellers offered the same reasons--not having enough time to play with the pedals to justify keeping them, and having to fund other necessities.

Personally, I'm downsizing for both reasons. For a time, I had many TC Electronic, Joyo, and Boss pedals. I had four different amps, two amp heads and two combos. I was going direct to PA most of the time in church, where I primarily play, so why was there a need to keep so much gear? I decided to be resolute and responsible with my time and money. Having recently moved into our own apartment, Christine and I are discovering that everything costs money. If it's not in the house when you need it, you have to go out and buy it. I know, it sounds obvious when it's put that way, but we were living with my parents.

My goal is to sell off all other gear except my Mothership and Interceptor boards, as shown above. I was nearly going to sell off the Mothership, but the level of time, effort and renewed sentimentality (from using it at the recent Night of Worship) has deterred me. You can read up here as to the drama that surrounded the Disaster Area gear, and you can watch this video here as to why I needed the level of control in preset switching.

The Interceptor has all the tones I need and more--the GFI pedals have tremolo, harmony, shimmer, chorus and flange sounds, so that covers my modulation needs. I wasn't sure that I would be able to fit an entirely functional rig onto a Pedaltrain Nano, but I have!

So in short, no I'm not quitting guitar. I'm just streamlining my resources to only have what I need. A big board for the times I need the large degree of control, and a small board for most of my sessions.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Brunch and Lunch at Curious Palette

Nestled in a row of shophouses opposite Paradiz Centre, Curious Palette caught our attention for a variety of reasons: they had a Scotched Egg dish, their fries were truffled sweet potato, they had a soft-shell crab burger, and their hotcakes were so big that it has been purportedly substituted a main course for a food blogger. We just had to try them out!

Here's their menu as of 10 May 2017:

Corned beef scotched egg. The slaw had too much garlic, in my opinion.

Crab cake on English muffin

My piccolo late, which was nice and strong.

Wife's mocha, which had a nice balance of chocolate, milk and coffee.

Another view of the crab cake. That's a chorizo pate on the side.

The Croque Madam, which has a great cheese filling that goes well with the nice ham!

Soft-shell crab burger.

There's a nice selection of dessert cakes that you can order off the shelf.

Salted egg yolk chicken wings.

Their hotcake that takes 30 minutes to prepare. We thought it was ok.

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