Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gretchen Menn

I would bet that not many guitar players out there have heard of this gal. Many female musicians get by today because of their looks. Gretchen however also has an incredible musical talent and it shows on her two albums she has released. Unlike some players she can play a variety of styles. I recommend you check out her website.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fidelity Video- Tommy Emmanuel

Tommy is one of the most talented and imaginative acoustic guitar players on the scene. Largely playing solo, he has a unique technique of playing. Here is his TED talk.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Current Pedal Rig

I have finally put together my pedal rig! I bought a new Gator GPB-BAK-GR metal pedal board which measures just under 24 inches wide and just over 10.5 deep. You can easily tie wrap all of your power connections underneath and Velcro holds down the pedals. I love the grate holes on it which also allows you to feed cables underneath for power and to connect the pedals together if needed. I also purchased a Donner DP-2 power supply which mounts underneath. I hate relying on batteries so this is a great set up for me. I have 5 of the pedals on the 9V, my Kotzen fly-rig uses 12V, and my Hawk Booster uses 18V. So the Donner works very well and it also has plenty of juice to power all of the pedals. I did some research on the many pedal power supplies available and I am glad that I did. The Donner DP-2 has more juice than most of the other power supplies in its price range. The Kotzen rig uses 12V at 150 ma, and most of the others only ran at 100 ma on the 12V. My Hawk pedal requires 18V and there is also one 18V output on this guy. So far no issues whatsoever in running all 7 pedals. I still have room for 2 more 9V pedals if I need them.

So far I am not set on the order of the pedals, but I started off by putting my little KLIQ mini tuner as the first in line. I chose this because it takes up so little space on the board. It works well, is easy to see and is good to shut off the board while you change out guitars. Next in line I have the Boss DS-1 to give me a some distortion. So far I don't use this pedal very much, and it would be the first to get replaced by something else. Next I go into one of my favorite pedals, the Supa-Trem, which give me a great tremolo sound and also gives me a little boost on the volume. I have the ability to set my speed and my mix, and I have a cool half speed switch and a hard/soft switch to give me a few options for some cool sounds.

After the tremolo I go into the Kotzen rig which gives me multiple effects, which on their own would be pretty decent for a complete rig. The first section is a delay which gives you some nice options, time, drift and repeat knobs. This is best for accompanying a nice clean sound. The Sans Amp section offers a nice reverb, 3 band EQ and a drive. This offers a nice classic rock sound. The OMG section gives you tone, drive and boost adjustments, which are great for playing a solo so you can cut through the mix. All sections have their own volume adjustments, and the boost is added in with its own switch and volume adjustment. This pedal is well worth the money and again, it truly stands on its own as a rig. I call it the rig within the rig.

Next I run into my Jemini Steve Vai pedal, which I found used. I don't see them around much new. This gives me two cool sounding drives each with their own tone and volume adjustments. It is essentially two pedals in one, but only one is active at a time. When you hear them you will know why you don't need both of them on at once! This gives me a couple more options for guitar solos and some rhythm crunch, depending on how I set them up. I then run into my VOX pedal, which I don't use a ton. I think I can also see myself replacing this with something else in the future with something to spice up my clean tones.

Finally, I make the grand finale into my Flynn Amps Rory Gallagher Hawk Pedal. I must confess that I am not totally in control of this pedal yet and I am still learning how to use it. It is a boost pedal with a couple of tone adjustments on it. It really requires a different style of playing than I am used to, and in order to use it effectively you need to know your volume knobs on your guitars well. Rory was a master at this and if you watch his live performances, he is a master of using his guitar volume to get the tone he wanted with the boost pedal enabled most of the time. I have some practice ahead of me if I am going to really use this guy effectively.

Overall I am pleased with the rig, but I am sure I will adjust it as time goes on. I like the way everything is easily moveable and slides right into a carrying case. There are some other pedals I would love to try out, but I really don't want to get too crazy with effects. This really is a bit overkill on the overdrive and distortion options for the type of music I play. I play through a VOX AC15 and I love the tone of the amp, so I don't like to muddy it up too much. But hey, right now its fun to play around with! If you are looking to set up your rig I think the Gator board and the Donner DP-2 works very well for a small rig like this.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Live Fidelity: Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives

Tonight I saw a fantastic show in Tampa at the Straz center, Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives. At the last minute I saw they were playing near me and I snatched up a 6th row ticket online. Marty and Cousin Kenny are probably two of my favorite country guitar players, and they did not disappoint! In fact, the entire band including Chris Scruggs and Harry Stinson were all superb.

I was impressed by several things, one of them being the awesome guitar tone that Marty and Kenny had. They all hung out after the show and signed autographs and I also had the opportunity to chat briefly with them. Marty is playing through a Fender Deluxe, and Kenny through a Fender Princeton, all vintage of course. I have seen a lot of shows and I thought they had some of the best tones I have ever heard live. On the gear, no frills, just pure tone and nothing to hide behind but pure talent and a soul for music. Marty also confirmed he still uses a Radial Bg Shot Power Booster on his rig.

Not only were these guys instrumentally phenomenal, they had the best harmonizing vocals I can remember hearing in a long time. Some of the most memorable tunes were 'Country Boy Rock and Roll', 'Working on a Building' and Marty's solo mandolin performance of "Orange Blossom Special.' Here are some of the pictures I managed to take! If you have a chance to see these guys don't miss out. They smoke it!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fidelity Artist Showcase: Steve Vai

I think it is safe to say that if you play guitar, no matter what genre you prefer, you have heard the name Steve Vai. He is arguably one of the most talented guitarists of our era, and his technical precision and skill on the fret board is second to none. Vai stretches the limits of any musical genre, combining many musical styles into his own unique creations. I first got into Vai back in the early 90s with his release of 'Passion and Warfare.' His catchy and vibrant tunes such as 'Liberty', 'For the Love of God' and 'The Audience is Listening' are all instrumental guitar classics.

Steve, a student of Berkley School of Music, started off his professional career in Frank Zappa's band and was also a student for 3 years under the great Joe Satriani. Vai's claims his big influences were Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and progressive rock in general. Under Satriani, Vai leanrned analyze and dissect music allowing him to later transcribe guitar solos of Frank Zappa. Vai said in a 1989 Guitar World interview of Satriani's inflence, "He could listen to a record and tell you in words exactly what was going on harmonically -- the chord changes, the voicings, intervals and everything. I saw him do that and I said. 'I gotta be able to do this. I want to be like this guy.' Vai is not just a guitar player, he truly understands music, knows how to break apart a song and put it back together from the ground up.

Steve Vai has literally put Ibanez on the map with his JEM series guitars. Ibanez approached him and he gave them the specs of the guitar he wanted to make for him, and they passed the test with flying colors. I personally own a JEM77P Blue Floral pattern and it plays like silk. I get an awesome, versatile tone which works well with any type of rock music. Coupled with my Vox AC15 and the Vai double distortion pedal, there is not much I can't play. Vai plays a number of his JEMs but his favorite is "EVO" model, which is a JEM7VWH and is named after the pickups in it . The guitar has gone through several necks, and Vai also uses another guitar named, "FLO" which is the same guitar as "EVO" but with a Fernandes Sustainer. Vai can be seen playing other varieties of Ibanez guitars live. One of my favorites for his live shows was the acrylic LED JEM. It fits his aggressive and flashy stage show that he is so well known for. Vai has also pioneered the 7 string guitar, which he uses to get some amazing and unique sounds. Myself, I have not progressed to the world of seven strings.

If you have ever seen Steve's studio, you know that he owns like every guitar effects pedal known to man. Below are a couple of live rig diagrams that I found online that Steve used to give you an idea of his rig setup. On the amp side used Carvin 100 Watt heads and 4x12 cabinets along with a Fender Dual Pro combo. Steve had his own distortion/drive pedal called the JEMNI. I picked a used one up on Ebay some time ago and I like the tone I get out of it. Steve also had a WAH pedal made for him by Morley called the 'Bad Horsie', which is used on his live rigs as well. A volume pedal is always a friend to have on a live rig and Vai again uses a Morley. Recently Vai seems to have moved to the Axe-FX II for multi-effects on his live rig made by Fractal Audio. Satriani also uses it. The rack version runs a steep $2249.00. One thing is certain, Via is not afraid of technology, and he is one who pushes the industry to develop new a cool toys for the rest of us.

Vai's recording career is now spanning over 30 years. His solo album releases number at 19 and that is not including his many other projects. I personally really dig 'The Story of Light' and it is one of my favorite albums of his. 'Gravity Storm' and 'John the Revelator' are two intense, blazing pieces that exude Vai's intense, aggressive signature tone. Likewise, 'Real Illusions' released in 2012 is also on the tops of my list with 'Firewall', 'Building the Church' and 'Freak Show Access' ranking among Vai's best work. Vai is currently working on releasing a new solo album as well as releasing an anniversary re-release of 'Passion and Warfare.' I am looking forward to purchasing both of these when they come out. Amazingly, Steve still feels that he has yet to accomplish the ultimate guitar album! He has said, “I don’t feel like I’ve made a record that expresses my full potential on guitar,... I’m fighting time on this project because I’m getting older and at some point I’m going to hit a wall physically. While I still have the chops to do it, I want to make my definitive guitar statement.” It will be interesting to see what he has in store for s in the future. Steve owns his own record company and I also admire Steve's other work in helping other aspiring musicians to accomplish their dreams by holding workshops.

It would be an amazing feet just to accomplish what Steve has done in the studio, but let us not forget his amazing and captivating live shows. On stage you get more than your money's worth, and his band of backing musicians are first rate. His shows are engaging, and a sonic wonder to behold. If you can see him live do so, in the meantime I recommend picking up his live DVDs and CD's. His recent release 'Stillness in Motion' is top notch. To top it all off, Steve has played alongside the best of the best in guitar performances with G3, which featured guitar greats such as Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Robert Fripp, Paul Gilbert, Steve Morse, Michael Schenker and others. Vai recently assembled his own guitar greats tour project called 'Generation Axe.' Vai along with Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi have done extensive touring together. At the age of 56, the sky is the limit for Steve ,and I am glad to able to experience the sonic gems he creates with his guitar. He is inspiring and constantly sets the bar higher for all those wanting to conquer that great instrument, the guitar!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fidelity Artist Showcase: Rory Gallagher

During an interview, Jimi Hendrix was asked by a journalist "How does it feel to be the best guitarist in the world? " He answered : "I don't know. Ask Rory Gallagher."

One day about 15 years ago I was making my usual rounds through Manifest Records in Charlotte, NC. I would go through every CD isle of every genre in the store, and low and behold I came across an album cover that captured my imagination. (above) I thought to myself that if the album sounded anything like the cover looked, that I was in for a treat. Being an avid lover of blues infused rock, this looked to be right up my alley. I read the packaging and learned that this was a remastered released of 'Irish Tour 74'. I had never heard of Rory Gallagher before, but I decided to take the chance based one heck of cool album cover. Who was this Irishman?

I went outside and slid the CD into my truck CD player and what I heard blast out the speakers forever changed my view of blues infused rock. Yes, I had listened to and was very familiar with Zeppelin, The Who, The Stones, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy, Clapton, Stevie Ray, and Hendrix. If you could name them, there was a good chance I had the CD in my collection. But this, this was something beyond what I had heard in any other guitar player before. The sheer energy that came out of the speakers left me sitting in the parking lot with volume cranked as I heard the fiery notes of 'Cradle Rock' pierce the air around me. It was like a fire had come down and left me lit up with excitement. I listened to the entire album in one sitting and came back the next day to pick up the remastered version of 'Live In Europe'. From that day on each pay day I went over and picked up another until I owned the whole Rory Gallagher collection.

Live In Europe opens with a rocking version of 'Messin With The Kid', following with a killer version of Laundromat. His guitar solos were not based purely on blues pentatonic scales. Rory was also influenced by Jazz and country, and his crafty solos proved he was in a league above most of the more popular players like Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. In fact, Rory was also one of the best slide players around and many have said he was on par with Duane Allman. I am generally not one to rank guitar players, since everyone has their own taste and their own favorite artists. I have many "favorites", but for me Rory is in his own class in the blues/rock genre, kind of like Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn are. They have a unique tone and an intensity that is unique unto them. In my opinion, they are the few who will forever be 'Etched in Blue.'

Rory was from Ireland and was more popular in Europe than he was in the US. He also never really broke into popular radio in the US, yet he sold over 30 million records over his career. Rory stuck to his roots and never was too concerned about being popular, although he at times indicated that he wanted to reach a wider audience, but never at the expense of his artistic integrity. He was not just a phenomenal player, he was also a fabulous songwriter. His songwriting began with his first recorded group, Taste in 1966. Just recently a remastered live CD of their Isle of Wight concert has been released and the audio is fantastic. They also released a companion live DVD of it as well, and are both a great add to any collection. Rory then went on his own after Taste disbanded and he released his first self titled album in 1971. He would release 14 albums over the next 24 years until his untimely death in 1995. One of the things I love about Rory's songs is that they are not boring or mundane. With many artists, given enough time, their songs start to sound the same. Not so with Rory. How he was able to remain so "traditional" for lack of a better term, and yet be so creative is elusive to me. Not many artists can claim such versatile song writing without completely changing genres.

How did Rory get that stinging energetic sound? Rory was known for playing his 61' Stratocaster and that was his go to instrument of choice. In fact, Rory once said, "I’ve had to take the neck off occasionally and dry it out – it was getting damp with doing so many gigs and I started to have tuning problems.  The pots have gone and the pick-ups have been rewound and things like that.  The tremolo arm is broken - but other than that it’s still in one piece!" His first choice was a red Strat, but the story goes that a sunburst came in instead. A funny story was that when Rory visited the Fender factory, that they saw his beat up 61' Strat and gave him a new white one to use, which he said he did use on some studio recordings. The 61' however was always his favorite. He did not make a lot of use with the tremolo arm on his Strats and actually had it blocked off in his 61'. The sound was in his fingers. You would also see him with a 66' telecaster which he would use for his slide playing on tunes like "Who's That Comin'. Some of his many other guitars included a 63' red Gretsch Corvette, a 68' Martin D35, and a 32' National Resonator. Rory also played the mandolin very well. For a list of Rory's guitars with pictures, visit the official Rory website.

Rory's amplifier selection varied throughout his career using Vox, Fender, Marshall, Ampeg, Stramp and others. Personally my favorite was his earlier sound using his Vox AC30, but he got increidble tone out of his Fender and Marshall rigs as well.. He preferred combo amps including a 56 Fender Twin, and sometimes linked them together. Rory was not overly dependent on effects pedals. In fact, he did not want anyone to be able to put their finger on the effects he used preferring a pure sound of the instrument and the amp. He once said, "I’m not an effects wizard like Dave Gilmour -a player who uses effects superbly. For me the perfect compliment is “It doesn’t sound as if you’re using anything. It sounds as if you’re plugging straight into the amp”, That’s when I know I’m using the effects correctly." He used a Range Master box for a boost in treble, a Boss BD-1 driver for fuzz and distortion, a Boss OC-2 Octave which he said was one of his favorites, a Boss BF-2 Flanger, a Boss VB-1 Vibrato, and his unique HAWK Booster which gave him the overdrive to the amp allowing his tone to be controlled from his volume knob and pickup selection. Flynn Amps now makes a clone of it. I have never seen any guitar player master their tone knob, volume knob and pickup selector the way Rory did. Watch any live video of him and watch his right hand work the guitar. You can hear his technique clearly for example in live tunes such as 'A Million Miles Away' and 'Walk on Hot Coals.' Rory's influences ranged from blues artists like Leadbelly, to early rockabilly players like Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. He also listened to a lot of Irish folk music and other roots music.

In my opinion Rory's acoustic work is under appreciated. Rory often had a solo acoustic set during his shows. One of my favorite acoustic tunes is 'Out on the Western Plain.' His slide technique also shines on his acoustic tunes. On the video below Rory talks a bit about his National Resonator guitar, which fit his music so well. Everything Rory did on the guitar jumped out at you, and the Resonator fit the bill well on his acoustic set. He used an aspirin bottle for his slide.

It is my feeling that many artists today have the lost the art of putting on a good show for the audience. For Rory it came naturally. There was nothing forced in his live shows. It was pure energy merged with his guitar that came across to the audience in an incendiary manner. Rory could enjoy the fill of a keyboard player in a quartet or the openness of a trio where he had freedom to work his magic. There are several live versions of both band formats available on CD.

In summary, Rory's music was a vehicle that Rory used to communicate himself in a very personal manner. If I had to use one word to describe Rory and his music it would be, 'genuine'. You can hear a unique presence in each note that he played and the way he played it. Each choice of the tone knob, volume knob or pickup was a deliberate sound chosen for that time and place. If you have the opportunity to pick up the box set of 'Irish Tour 74', you can hear how Rory chose his notes for each particular audience. I have not said much on Rory's voice, but if fit his music well. Rory was happy to live the life he lived, playing for his audience in the manner he chose to. He did not like the way the music industry was heading with music companies artificially creating personas to sell music. Lucky for us we have a nice catalog of music to choose from, including some posthumous releases by his brother Donal. With Rory, you get Rory, nothing more, nothing less, and that's a good thing in a world of sellouts and posers looking to make a fast buck. If I were you, I would get my hands on anything with his name on it. There was only one Rory Gallagher, and his music will always be on my 'A' play list. 

Walk on Hot Coals!

Welcome to Guitar Fidelity!

I have always had a passion for music. I love to write and record my own music and I have a small home studio where I like to doodle around with sounds. There are many musicians and fans of music that want to read about guitar sounds, tones, rigs and the great albums that demonstrate such. This blog is then dedicated to music, especially music in which that wonderful stringed instrument, the guitar is the focus.

On this blog I will post articles on guitars, amplifiers, pedals and rigs. I will also discuss great guitar albums of all musical genres including, Rock, Metal, Jazz, Blues, Country, Rockabilly, Bluegrass and even World Music. It is my hope that this blog will keep you entertained and also keep you informed as to the all great things relating to the guitar, hence the name, 'Guitar Fidelity'!

The background on the page is the famous Rory Gallagher 61' Stratocaster. Rory is my favorite guitar player for the Rock/Blues genre. Not only was his guitar playing extraordinary, but his songwriting was strong, vibrant and real. My first article will be on Rory Gallagher, his music, his gear and his life.