Archive for the Music Category

Moving to new blog address

Posted in Music on November 30, 2009 by rsalit

I’ve moved this blog to its own domain at http://musicalsalad.com/. I’m still playing with some themes (so it may look different) and I’m learning about the features available when you have a hosted blog. I already have some new posts. Please follow me to the new site.

Thanks.

Band relationships

Posted in Music on November 23, 2009 by rsalit

I’m not an expert about being in a band and I would never claim to be an expert on relationships but I do think there are similarities. One of the things I remember (way back) in one of my psychology classes was the notion that behavior in relationships becomes, somehow, bio-chemically encoded in your brain. This explains why when we get back together with an “ex” we quickly revert to old behaviors. Its like we have these little plays we act out and seem almost helpless to change. The personal dynamics easily revert to whatever they used to be no matter how many months or years have passed.

Band relationships are similar and I’m really at a point in my band where certain frustrations are recurring. Specifically, one of the problems when we practice is we get too loud. Sometimes we’re not sure who starts it or why but after a few songs we realize we are much louder than we want to be. Its something we’ve talked about a lot but, like other relationships, we find ourselves replaying the same roles, unable to break out.

We’ve talked about bring an outsider who can set our levels but I tend to believe that we’ve got to solve this within the band. Perhaps personnel changes would help. But those decisions can be painful from a personal perspective – I like my bandmates, they are my buds.

I wonder how other bands resolve these kinds of issues. Especially, when there is no established leader in the band.

Celestion Vintage upgrade

Posted in Music with tags , on September 23, 2009 by rsalit

A few weeks ago I upgraded the speaker in the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe I purchased about six months ago.

This came about after a discussion at Sam Ash about the Fender Deluxe Reverb Blue reissue. I tried the Deluxe Reverb Blue Reissue a while back and loved the sound. It’s got a Celestion Blue speaker and I was playing it through a Gibson ES-335.

It was one of those moments where you find a tone that is sublime and you want to figure out a way to save it, pack it up and take it home.

Of course, costs are a consideration so I can’t do that every time I’m in a music store. Given the short amount of time I had the Hot Rod, I thought it might be possible that the dealer would give me a good trade in and I’d be able to upgrade to the Deluxe Reverb. No such luck – the salesman indicated they’d only give me a few hundred bucks.

However, he suggested an alternative approach to improving my sound. He explained that the the speaker in a Hot Rod Deluxe is a fairly inexpensive model while the Celestion Blue in the Fender Deluxe Reissue is a $250 speaker. Upgrading the speaker, he opined would give me a bigger bang for my buck.

After a few days investigation, I decided to buy a Celestion Vintage ($120). Within a few days it was IN. I brought it home to test. It’s a world of difference. It’s a much richer, three-dimensional sound. The regular speaker, although nice, is a bit harsh and flat sounding in comparison. I had heard that it could take months to fully break in a speaker but this one sounds pretty good – if it improves over time – all the better.

More on low wattage amps

Posted in Music on July 30, 2009 by rsalit

A few month’s ago I wrote about lower wattage amps. Guitar Player’s on line magazine GP2, has a new article discussing amp wattage and makes a similar argument – that high wattage amps may be unnecessary. “The average venue is a compact 80 to 120-seater club, in which your 15-watt 1×12 tube combo works so well that you may be even asked to turn it down.”

I was at Sam Ash yesterday and played an Gibson ES-335 through a Blue Fender Deluxe amp. Its a 22 watt amp and its certainly loud enough for small venues. The sound was very sweet – bell like tones. Compared against a Hot Rod Deluxe, which I own, its a much more distinctive sound. The blue version, is a 65 reissue with a Celestion blue speaker.

Traynor Amp

Posted in Music on June 22, 2009 by rsalit

About 37 years ago I purchased my first guitar amp. I didn’t know much about amps in those days and I don’t recall how I made my decision but I bought a Traynor Bassmaster. It was probably too much for what we did which was mostly play in my friend’s houses at very high volumes. It served me well for a few years but I stopped playing electric and about 15 years later I sold the amp (or maybe permanently lent it) to my friend Scott. Over the years, I had forgotten what happened to the amp but recently I visited Scott (while in NY to see the Allman Brothers – but that’s another story) and found the amp in the basement where I was going to be sleeping. I got to play it a bit and it was not in great shape – there was a lot of static. The tubes probably needed replacement.  

In any case, last week I was reading a book on tube amps. The book, Guitar Amplifier Handbook – Understanding Tube Amplifiers and Getting Great Sounds (Softcover)’ target=_blank>Guitar Amplifier Handbook – Understanding Tube Amplifiers and Getting Great Sounds (Softcover) by Dave Hunter, is very good, but a bit more than I need. It has a lot of technical details about the way tube amps are constructed, how components affect sound and drawings of electrical layouts. I had an eyes glazing over experience for some of this – I always have trouble with electrical layouts.  For those more technically inclined, this stuff is great, for others who are not as interested in knowing all the details of resistors, capacitors, transformers, etc., you can skip these sections and return (as I plan) as I learn more. What the book also has is chapters on what makes an amp sound good, what to look for in an amp and interviews with several boutique amp designers.

Getting back to how this relates to me, there is a chapter on 12 classic amps. It describes why these amps are classic, where they stand in the history of amps and what makes them different. AS one might figure, it covers several Fender and Marshall amps but surprisingly, it uses my old Traynor amp as one of the 12 classic amps. Evidently, its a well made amp that sounds good. I always thought it did but then again, when I was 17, what did I know? Anyway, I have a friend in NY who has a collector’s item that I’d like to get back. Maybe someday.

Steely Dan in Boca Raton

Posted in Live Concert, Music on June 16, 2009 by rsalit

Steely Dan performed at the Mizner Ampitheater Saturday evening (6/13/09) to an almost sold out audience. With a full horn section (baritone, tenor, trumpet and trombone), 3 back up singers, an additional keyboard and guitarist, Messrs. Fagen and Becker gave a solid performance. With 9 strong studio releases and solo work to choose from, they selected material from most of those recordings as well as a few songs from their solo work. They demonstrated why they are pretty much the only people who do what they do – write melodic, lyrically interesting, rhythmically complex, sophisticated popular music. They were in command of the material and made their intricate arrangements look easy.

All of the musicians were top notch and played with precision and made the most of their solos. In particular, the drummer and second guitarist (Jon Herrington) increased the level of intensity whenever they were given the spotlight.

Steely Dan is playing entire albums on some of the dates for this tour (Tour info). Those shows should be interesting but seeing them play a mix of material was great. I’d recommend seeing them.

Custom Carvin has arrived

Posted in Music on May 20, 2009 by rsalit

A few months ago my son, who has saved some money wanted to buy a new guitar. He had his eye on a Fender Stratocaster QMT but we couldn’t find one – anywhere. Fender told us there were none in stock and we’d be seeing more in the spring. However, no store showed any on order or in stock. Finally, a knowledgeable salesperson at Guitar Center told us they were not being made anymore. I don’t know why, they looked nice and had some interesting features. Josh started thinking about what other guitar he might want and I mentioned Carvin. You custom order the guitar you want and get to create the exact guitar you want. I also told him the downside, you have to buy sight unseen. I like putting my hands on a guitar, feel the neck, see how it plays, hear how it sounds, etc. Nevertheless, he got it in his head that this was what he wanted and when he gets it in his mind that he wants something, its hard to dissuade him.

A little over a month ago we put together an order on line for a CT4. We ended up calling Carvin and speaking with a IMG_4344sales person because we had a bunch of questions about frets, neck size, and a few other options. We ordered the guitar and received it in less time than they originally quoted. We had only one problem with the guitar they shipped us; the sales person recommended that we have individual volume and tone knobs for each pickup but the guitar came with just one volume and tone knob. As it turns out the sales person had been mistaken and this model does not come with the option for separate volume and tone controls. Otherwise, the guitar is gorgeous, perfect finish, set up well and plays really nice.

I borrowed it last weekend to play with my band and gave it a work out. It has a great tonal range. It has an option to pick up the tone knob and switch to single coil. Personally, I like the normal humbucker setting, especially with the neck pickup selected. That’s more my sound but I experimented with a number of settings, with tone, volume and pickup selection and found the guitar very versatile. I also liked the touch. The guitar was very sensitive to the pick attack, giving the guitar a very dynamic feel.

Its going to be hard to not order a Carvin for myself. This is a guitar that any serious player might want in their collection.