Archive for June, 2009

Michael Jackson is dead. What to do? Learn Van Halen licks!

Posted in Guitar Playing on June 30, 2009 by Staff Writer

This is not my tribute to MJ. My real tribute will to be to realize one of my lifelong ambitions which is to learn how to do a proper Moonwalk.

I did feel suddenly inspired though, to learn how to play Beat It, which does of course feature one Mr Edward Van Halen playing the solo on it. The equally iconic rhythm parts I believe were laid down by Steve Lukather, so all cool in the guitar pedigree department: now to get to the licks.  I had a copy of Guitar World which had the transcription in it and had no problem locating a video on YouTube to play along to.

I say ‘play along to’ but what I actually mean is to ‘fumble, flub and stumble along to’ – particularly the solo. The rhythm part, while interesting and catchy is quite straightforward. There are some coolio overdubs which might challenge the right hand a bit, but it’s reproducing VH’s feel in the lead which is hardest. Sure I could probably get the actual notes down after a couple of days, but man – listening to EVH’s squealing ‘wanky’ (and I mean that in a good way) feel, his grip of the strings, vibrato, use of the bar, his sense of pitch and ‘falling down the stairs’ is one thing that might take me a lifetime to replicate.

Which then of course begs the question – is it worth copying an artist note-for-note and banging out a replica? I think there’s some kudos in being able to do this and then YouTubing it, but it also depends how much time you have to devote to your instrument and what ‘musical tasks’ you must spread over that time (I have a long, backed-up list of stuff I want to learn).   I’d love to be able to play the Beat It solo as per the record but in reality this will take too much of an investment in time (I guess it means I’m not that good) for the sake of a party piece (I won’t be playing this song live any time soon either).  Better then, IMHO to learn the spirit of the solo and some key licks to get a feel for it and take away something that can be integrated back as an influence.  I spent about half an hour doing this. Some great tapping licks in there, and a nice stretchy (12-15-19) lick.


A bit of DIY neck adjustment

Posted in Guitar Gear on June 30, 2009 by Staff Writer

I’ve always been a bit scared of doing truss rod adjustments myself thinking that this was one thing best left to the professionals with their fancy tools and straight edges. I’d always figured that this was something that could easily go pear-shaped and throw a lot of other things out of kilter such as the action and intonation.

Anyway – my Kirk Hammett Junior was starting to buzz a bit in the first fret position and up most of the B string (I think the boys had been kicking it repeatedly while trying to climb into a little playhouse they had built beneath my study table) so I decided to give it a bit of a tweak myself. Sighting from the bridge end I could see that the neck was much too flat.

With trepidation I located the Allen key, removed the truss rod cover and started turning, going the wrong way at first. I went in the opposite direction and for a while, got a bit worried, since there was a point for a few turns where the rod offered no resistance which made me wonder whether it had run out of thread or something. Luckily I felt the key reengage and it started pulling the neck into relief after a couple of turns. A quick tweak of the bridge height and now the guitar plays nicely again – I can pluck quite hard and get decent volume, but it still has a fast slinky feel to it.

Have Lapstick will travel – Australia

Posted in Guitar General, Guitar Playing on June 17, 2009 by Staff Writer

On the road again, and jolly happy to have my portable six-string companion with me. In conjunction with my new VOX Amplug Lead it’s a fairly formidable setup with a quite tasty sound and really helps me hone my chops.

I decided to take a different approach to normal in warming up and started banging out some melodies and trying to play them by ear, without trying to visualize them on the fretboard as part of a scale form.  Instead I tried to rely purely on my sense of relative pitch and melodic intervals. Sure there were plenty of screw ups but this is something I am gradually getting better at.  I also focused on making each note loud and clear and with a nice tasty vibrato. Before long I was really getting a good grip on the strings and was improvising freely while using my ears more.

I played a whole bunch of tunes from the movie The Sound Of Music which I can remember how they go very well (My Favourite Things, 16 going on 17, Lonely Goatherd etc.). I also played some well known theme songs from TV shows such as Eastenders, and of course, being Down Under bashed out some renditions of the themes from Neighbours and Home and Away.

Tiny man plays Flying V

Posted in Guitar General on June 2, 2009 by Staff Writer

He looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mini Me. Oh wait – it’s a giant guitar…

World’s largest guitar collection?

Posted in General whining, Guitar Playing on June 2, 2009 by Staff Writer

This made me laugh. While doing a search to see what I could come up with as the World’s Largest Guitar Collection, I came across this Internet denizen who has a stunning *nine* guitars and a 10 minute video talking about this enormous stockpile of instruments. Click the pic to hit the link.


What makes it even better is that it’s called the World’s largest personal rare guitar collection. Check out how many of them are rare – a Les Paul Standard; a Fender Strat; a P-Bass?

I have 15 guitars – must write in to Guinness World Records…

But seriously – the largest I have heard of is the Paul Day collection at around 300 instruments, but I’m sure there must be some gargantuan ones out there that can dwarf even this.

Yep – I’m a Mark Knopfler fan…

Posted in Guitar General, Guitar Playing on June 2, 2009 by Staff Writer

Recently picked up most of the Dire Straits back catalogue as a result of a buddy of mine asking if I wanted to jam some of their songs. I know parts of most of the Brothers in Arms album, but very little of their older stuff so I went and bought them.

Wow – these albums are positively dripping with great guitar – much more than B.I.A. – Knopfler really stretches out on many of the tracks with his trademark fingerpicked licks.  These will keep me busy for a long time.

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Martin is back…

Posted in Guitar Gear, Guitar General on June 2, 2009 by Staff Writer

…the setup is great. The guitar feels more zingy now and I think it won’t challenge my callouses so much.  The repair job to the surface scratch, while not concealing it completely does go some way to making it less obvious, which is probably the best I could have hoped for. Oh well.   Anyway, whatever patching has been done is extremely top notch – it is totally flush with the rest of the top finish and buffed to perfection – most of the little indents, apart from the largest dink have been smoothed off. You can still see the line beneath it, but it is not so white.  

I dropped off my Tom Anderson Atom for a setup and for the tech to have a check on the neck pickup which seems to be putting out little or no signal.  That guitar is a beaut, but the string tension and the action are a little high for me.  Hope to get that back later this week with a new lease of life.