Archive for February, 2010

Introduction to Atoms and ADDA

Posted in Guitar Playing on February 24, 2010 by Staff Writer

Consider any scalar fragment or group of notes with a particular order, e.g. (doesn’t matter what string):

  1. —8—10—12
  2. –8—12–10
  3. –12—10—8
  4. –12–8–10

I call these ‘Atoms’ – let’s skip by why I call them that for now (I plan a deep dive on Atoms for the future) and look at some of their properties and application.  In the four cases above (and let’s imagine that these are all on the low E string) two of them go up, and two of them go down. The first two go up, i.e. the last note is higher than the first note (regardless of what note is in-between) and I call these ASCENDING (A) ATOMS. Numbers 3 and 4 go down, i.e. the last note is lower than the first note; I call these DESCENDING (D) ATOMS.

I’m trying to apply an approach to an aspect of my improvisation (mainly longer runs) that uses combinations of these to instill some variety within lines.

Let’s take the objective of getting from the note C on the eighth fret of the low E, and getting to the F note on the high E. A traditional scalar approach looks like this (for simplicity ignore the note groupings or harmonic resolution or whatever for now):


So here you have something which I think is played 99% of times by players who know this scale form in traversing these notes from low to high (incidentally I categorize this as an Ascending Ascending [AA] – which means that it’s an ascending line which uses ASCENDING ATOMS). Conversely, if going from the F down to the C, they’d (and I include myself up till recently) play something similar to this – the exact opposite:


And you probably recognize this (I categorize this as a Descending Descending [DD] – meaning that it’s a Descending line which uses DESCENDING ATOMS). I was starting to get very bored with these, but they do serve as a jumping off point for a different approach. Let’s start with this one:


I call this a Descending Ascending [DA] – in other words the contour of the overall line is descending (the last note is lower than the first) while the Atoms used are ascending. Here’s another:


This is an Ascending Descending [AD] line.

What’s so great about these? Well, there is an infinite number of combinations/permutations of atoms and their intermixing which pull you away from straight ‘AA’ or ‘DD’ all the time.  I can plan my line in my head as ‘ok – I went to get from up here to down here’ and I can go there by ascending or descending ‘atomically’ as it were.

I hope some of this makes sense – there is a whole evolutionary tree of stuff that springs from just this that will take me years to document…


It *Might* Get Loud, but it definitely gets BOOORING

Posted in General whining on February 22, 2010 by Staff Writer


Since they weren’t screening this in cinemas in Singapore (with hindsight, probably a good decision) I decided to buy this from Amazon and it arrived the day before yesterday. Well, I can safely say that my $18.99 (not counting shipping from the U.S.) was largely wasted, as this is a TERRIBLE MOVIE, DEATHLY BORING, and a gigantic WASTED OPPORTUNITY.

Well, so what if it’s directed by the award winning director of an “Inconvenient Truth”? In fact, I should have probably used that as a signal to avoid this film since I watched about 30 minutes of that and then turned it off. Snooooooz.

Putting aside my anti Jack-who-the-hell-is-he-to-share-that-stage-White preconceptions for a moment*, I thought ‘what a smashing idea! – Jimmy, Edge – just the two of those would make fascinating viewing – the insights they could give on playing the guitar and their approaches would be worth watching just for the bits they are in! Just imagine! Jimmy Page, guitar god showing the others his approach to improvising, the scales he uses, how he comes up with riffs, his approach to layering and composition, maybe a glimpse into his writing process, etc. etc.’ won’t they? Won’t they?

Well, we do get a smidgen of a fraction of an iota of that, but it’s such a watered-down, lightweight laymen’s version and in such paucity throughout (pictures of cows get more screen time than Jimmy’s #1 Les Paul) that it hardly makes it worth it. The summit ‘insights’ we are treated to (hmm… how do I convey even more sarcasm in this medium) are the kind of info you can glean from the first paragraph in any interview that these guys might feature in in Rolling Stone magazine or some other non-guitar-focused mainstream publication.  The director clearly has no idea of the ethos of the guitar, what guitarists are interested in and would like to know from their heroes or any of that. He knows about global warming – which is why he must have included so many shots of trees and forests.

What we do get a lot of is some mumbly reflections on the olden days, when Edge was growing up in economically depressed Ireland, or how Whitey wanted to be a black singer who just clapped a lot, or Pagey lived in Surrey and other stuff we all knew – all of which is accompanied by a cliched black and white ‘photo zoom out’ effect that is used ad nauseum – I swear there are more still images in this ‘movie’ than there is kinematic footage.

And there’s some serious clashes of culture here. Early on, Edge is describing his rig and effects and how he uses them for sound scaping. Cut to Jack White in a car deriding people who rely on such things – uh-oh.  Then later, there’s Edge taking pot shots at late 70’s rock behemoths with 15 minute guitar solos who ‘looked down on their audiences’.. Err, did he think Zeppelin were punk or something?  Has he heard Page’s 26 minute version of Dazed and Confused? Probably best not to have.

It’s hard to see why White agreed to any of this. The mutual respect between Edge and Page is obvious. As is both of theirs for the younger upstart, but one can’t help but feel that from his expressions, White looks at times barely unable to contain some youthful exuberance cum arrogance that you know is holding in some eructations of ‘for Christ’s sake shut up old men – you’re both outdated’ or somesuch. I could be horribly wrong – after all Jimmy Page is the Associate Producer of this affair and presumably had something to do with who was allowed on the set with him, if you can be bothered to watch it (personally I now wish I’d spent that 90 minutes practicing instead) and see if you can spot the same expressions.

Do things ever get any good? Any shots of Jimmy or Edge at home are great – the ones where Jimmy’s at home amongst his records give an insight however fleeting into the lives of the Rock Gods, or Edge with his lovely window by the Liffe and his gear room down there. Jimmy shuffling around in his basement amongst his guitar cases is a twenty second snatch of goodness, but these moments are few and far between. What we’re left with is another 88 minutes of pretty much inane conversation that doesn’t reveal anything new about the three men. Any jamming they do has about the same amount of sparks as a rained-on campfire.

*I learned a lot about Jack White in this movie, and I acknowledge (not that it matters) that he’s a great songwriter, if only in 12 bar blues form.

Did I mention I thought this film was crap?

For sale – one used (once only) DVD of ‘It Might Get Loud’. Ships internationally. $10.

Aww jeez – now the frickin’ A string went PING on my classical

Posted in Classical, Guitar General on February 22, 2010 by Staff Writer

Maybe I got a duff set but last week the D, now this week the A string on my classical suddenly snapped at the bridge – and I wasn’t even playing it both times.  Fortunately I had some spares lying around but it’s a giant pain in the ass.  Hmm… what could be causing it? This has never happened before. I examined the bridge and there’s no sharp edges. What could it be?

Dave Mustaine showing some thumb fretting stuff…

Posted in Guitar Playing, Heavy Metal, Shred Guitar on February 18, 2010 by Staff Writer

…which Dave Navarro later describes as ‘that is f*cking the sh*t man!’.  And it is.

Restring the ol’ Classical…again

Posted in Classical, General whining, guitar on February 17, 2010 by Staff Writer

Well, one of the strings anyway – the ‘D’. Don’t know why but that was a fairly new set on there which I’d been letting settle in – tuned ‘em up to pitch and PING! – off goes the D-D-D-D’Addario ‘D’ string. Still, I bunged a new one on there, and in-between having to tune it after every three bars of music managed to get a half decent couple of grade 2 Sor studies knocked out, albeit with terrible tone due to not having any right hand nails.

Anyhoo… when I get back from this trip I’m going to make a more concerted effort to revive my sight reading.

What do I say about this?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2010 by Staff Writer

…apart from ‘that looks like some kind of F chord’.


I’m baaaaackkk…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2010 by Staff Writer

…but, predictably, with nothing very interesting to say.

So here’s a lovely picture from the homepage (yes – Microsoft’s Google).