Showing posts from 2016

Maiden Voyage (Omaha) - The Trooper

I've been getting some good feedback on the Maiden tribute videos, so here's another one. This time, we're playing The Trooper.

What tune do you want to hear us play next?

Since people have been asking me...

Since plenty of people have been asking me, yes... I got a tattoo. No need for a long, drawn-out post here. I just need to post a picture of it around my scar.

To answer most of the questions:

1) No, it didn't hurt much at all. I had more tickling than anything.
2) Yes, that entire dividing line is the scar.
3) Yes, I am going to return to get color done.
4) No, I don't intend to get a bunch more scars / tattoos.
5) Yes, I do web work by day, so it has a connection to me.

Maiden Voyage (Omaha) - Hallowed Be Thy Name

Just a quick video from our rehearsal last night. We're about ready to get out and play some shows while we continue learning the rest of the catalog.

Maiden Tribute video - new bass player

First practice with a new bass player? Not a problem. We found the right guy for the job. Not only does he have the bass lines down, but he already owned the right bass! You can see my Dave Murray signature strat in this video, but Bill doesn't have his Adrian Smith Jackson along for this practice. I hope to put a few more of these videos up in the coming weeks.

So far, playing Maiden has been a total blast. Can't wait until the next practice... and the next one... and the shows... and building the stage props... and the shows... and did I mention this is fun to play?
Oh, and if you want to follow us on Facebook, it's here. Maiden Voyage Omaha

NGD: I'll have a new gear Friday post soon!!!

That's right... today is a big day. My Dave Murray signature Fender Strat shows up today. As you may have heard here already, I'm playing the part of Dave in a new Maiden tribute band, so I obviously needed the "correct" guitar. It'll arrive today, so after I give it a full shakedown, I'll be sure to upload some audio and maybe even some video with it.

NGD is always exciting!

Time off the blog and behind the guitar

In case you haven't noticed, I've been taking some time away from the keyboard to get fully ready for the Maiden band. I did audition with another band on bass last week, and they seemed pretty happy with my playing. However, I'm just looking for something fun to supplement the Maiden band since it feels like something that will be spread out (as in only once every month at the most) so we don't saturate the market.

So, with that said, I'm toying around with some songs that I think I can front reasonably well and have a buddy wants to play bass on and another buddy wants to play drums on. I've never done the power trio thing, but I think it could be enjoyable for a while. If something else comes along that catches my interest, I'll see where it goes. But for now, I've got those two plus the weekly Sunday morning performance with the praise band.

Three seems about right for now, and if the rumors come true, we may be busy driving around with the Maiden d…

Keeping extremely busy

As you can guess, learning every Maiden tune ever recorded has been keeping me quite busy. I'm enjoying the challenge of it as well as some of the new theory I've picked out of their music.

Yes, I said new theory. Not new as in "OMG, nobody has ever seen this before", but new as in I hadn't used certain chord progressions with 8ths and 6ths together in that manner before. I'm certainly enjoying the different approach to things.

Probably the toughest part, though, is the shared solos. Moving one guy from lead to rhythm without missing a beat on the rhythm or the lead is tricky to say the least. Again, I'm up for the challenge, but it's certainly something I haven't tried in the past.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm intrigued by every tune I play and look forward to what I can learn in the next song on the album... and then the next album... and the next... playing with a purpose is good.

Gear Friday: Gretsch Electromatic

It had to happen at some point, right? I had to get a Gretsch. Well, I decided to start with an Electromatic and go from there, but it still says Gretsch.

It's certainly a pretty headstock, but I'm not real crazy about the way the strings are bent out from the center. This adds unnecessary tension to those middle few strings, but perhaps that's the point. That means those are less likely to bend when you're playing "normal". I suppose that could keep it more in tune when playing chords, but I've never heard anyone state that as being the reason. I just know I generally prefer straight paths so I can bend them as I want to with minimal effort.

As for the body, it's pretty. The bigsby took a bit to get used to. No divebombs, but a nice vibrato is no problem.

So what do I like about this one? It's certainly a different tone than most of my others. Between the weaker output from the pickups and the airy sound from the semi-hollow, it's a much dif…

Tribute Bands: Love 'em, hate 'em, or otherwise?

Nothing beats seeing an amazing band. What do you do if they don't tour your area? Well, for many, it's checking out a tribute.

While it can't beat the real thing, or in some cases it does (deceased, etc.), a tribute can be a fun experience all in its own. Many times, these bands get extremely creative with stage props, song selection, audience participation or even making fun of how dorky they feel acting like someone else.

The first tributes I remember seeing were Elvis impersonators. Who doesn't love seeing a pretend Elvis shaking his hips and singing "Ain't nothin' but a hound dog"??? Ok, so many of us. But, for a true Elvis fan, that's one of the greatest things you can imagine, or one of the worst, or somewhere in between. It all depends on a few factors.

How well did they respect the memories you have of the artist / band? A great tribute not only brings back memories, but enhances / creates new ones.How well did they perform the songs? They…

I'm one of the 6...

I've been told this several times recently... I'm one of the six. Worse yet, I'm #1 on that list. I certainly find myself bored at times in bands. I most definitely want to keep progressing and hate taking it easy and just getting along. Lack of improvement from week to week drives me crazy. If I'm not better than I was last week, I'll be working 2x as hard the coming week to get it right. And then, I get let down by those around me quite regularly.

I guess that's why I have so much trouble sticking with a band... I don't see the same level of dedication and it drives me nuts. Anyway... on to the next adventure.

Gear Friday: Carvin BX1500

To finish off my new, lighter bass rig, I needed a new, lighter bass head. Enter the Carvin BX1500.

Weighing in at right around 10 lbs, it is less than 1/3 the weight of my previous head. I dropped the Line 6 Bass Pod Pro into a rack bag with it (interestingly enough, the rack bag weighs more than both of those pieces of equipment combined) so I'd have a tuner and wireless access to changing eq and tone settings using my Guitar Wing.

But, how does the amp itself sound?

I'm assuming that's the only reason you'd be reading this. To be honest, it's loud and clean. It's tough to dial in a growl with this amp (the Line 6 is handy for that now), but it's not really meant to do that. It's raw, clean power. Just how a bass amp should be in my mind.

As for the eq section, I find that it has a lot of static if I don't drop a lot of the highs. It doesn't sound dark if I drop them out, but it sure sounds bright if I leave them in. This changes if I use a p…

Audition results

Last week, I mentioned I had another audition. It went fine, I suppose. I was asked to come back next week and they were all pretty excited to have "low end" in their sound again.

That's the good stuff. Now for the not so good.

I wasn't a fan of anything they were playing. For me to really be happy in a band, I need to first off be a fan. It just wasn't easy to listen to with the songs changing keys from D minor to F minor to Eb minor to C# minor to E minor to C minor all in the same song. Yes, that's everything chromatically from C to F in one song done as key changes. The rhythm guitar and keys changed that much, but the lead seemed to be stuck in the same scale the whole day.

I didn't feel any of it as a result. I admit, I sometimes write stuff that's sketchy theory wise, but it's usually for a reason (adding some tension, transitioning, etc.) and not just because we had played four bars in one key already so it was time to change. Mark taught …

Gear Friday: Percussion Toys

Once again, I fell into a trap. I saw something fun and just had to have it.

While I don't have a specific use, I believe these will be great on some of the songs I'm recording recently. I'm doing one with keys, a bit of guitar, and a cello, so some congas seem like they'll be a great addition to that mix. Full drum set seems like it could be overkill for a pretty simple song.

The more I toy around with them, the more ideas I get. Sometimes, it's good to think outside of the "norm".

Another audition

This weekend, I'm going to audition for a prog rock band. They've actually been out playing shows without a bass player, just as 2 guitars, drums and keys. The whole thing is instrumental, so it seems like it could probably use a little help on the low end. They book practice time at the local Guitar Center, so I'll be meeting them there.

This brings up a couple of interesting things, though.

First off, how do you just walk into a prog band and start playing?

Secondly, if you don't have means for a decent recording, how do you get the songs down tight with minimal practice time at rented rehearsal space?

I'll know the answers to these and other mind boggling questions soon. Should be an interesting experience in any event.

From The Arc

I didn't get any building done this weekend. Instead, I had a band over to get ready for their first show coming up, opening for Another Lost Year and Death Division. Should be a great overall show, but it made me realize something.

Alex is a beast.

Alex, the drummer I've featured here a couple of times, is the drummer in this band. He's playing to a click for this group, the guitar players are sharp, the bass player is decent, and the overall sound is amazing. They're going to be a band to watch in the upcoming months.

That said, here's a little clip from their practice session.

Keep rockin', Alex!

Gear Friday: New Bass Cab

I've been a bit beat up for the past year plus, so lugging around my Ampeg (almost 100 lbs), or my Hartke with the Acoustic 4x10 and 1x15 cabs is just not what I'm looking to do. As such, the Ampeg went to church where it doesn't need to move and the Acoustic cabs are going to find a new home. That left an opening for a lightweight cab. Enter the Markbass Traveler 102p.

I can actually move this one with my right arm (side the surgery was on), and the sound is actually louder than both of the other cabs together. Not only that, but it sounds a bit cleaner and pops better when I hit something hard.

Now to move on to a better head. I still like the effects I have, but the Hartke is a beast to carry around. I'll have that solved soon enough, and that'll be another Gear Friday post.


While working on the electronics of El Capitan, I learned the hard way that soldering iron holders get just about as hot as the iron itself. Might take a day or two to get over that one. I now have a pretty decent burn across my thumb and middle fingers on my right hand. At least it's not on the left... I'll count my blessings... just using the other hand for now.

That said, a new soldering iron stand is in order. One that will help me not burn myself during future projects.

Build Monday: El Electronics

El Capitan finally got some electronics installed. It was not without incident, though. I'll post more on that later.

Seems to be something missing in a few body cavities.

Ah, that's looking nicer.

Selector switch soldered on and pickups installed. The two volume knobs and tone knob are also wired, but not yet poking through to the front. That'll come very shortly.

Next up on this build is adding the bridge hardware and tuners so I can hear it sing. That will be a great day.

Gear Friday: Inventables X-Carve CNC Router Progress

I was asked how the assembly of the X-Carve was coming along. Well, slowly. I've been pretty busy outside of the workshop lately, so it's been slowly getting assembled. At this point, I have the X-axis pretty well done. The motor can glide across the rails nice and easy.

While it doesn't look like I've done much, there is quite a bit of small assembly to do on both of those end pieces, and getting the screws that were missing took some time as well. I think I'm back on track to get this assembled, though. Next up is the Y-axis, and then I can start really making it look like something rather than a fancy clothes hanger.

JRZ System - Great performance

I enjoy going to see live music, so this week I decided to post a clip from one of the recent shows I attended. This is JRZ System performing one of their new songs at a CD release party. 

So while you may be wondering why I chose this clip, I did have a reason. That guitar player on the right was my instructor nearly 20 years ago. He's since been touring with various bands and is currently in Kill Devil Hill, but he took his time between albums with them to do another album with JRZ. It was truly our gain, and it was great to see my instructor perform again.

Build Monday : El Capitan gets glued

Time for some glue on El Capitan today. I got out my clamp, a small table and my my wood glue to attach the neck finally.
With a neck attached, it looks a lot more like a guitar. Oh, and since a bare headstock is one of my pet peeves, I took care of that as well.

That's the gamer tag that my boys use, so we decided this would be a suitable name for our guitar building as well. A bit of gloss over that and it'll look even more finished.

Gear Friday: Why so much gear?

I get asked quite often, "Why do you need so much gear?"

Let me start with PA systems.

If I were to take 4 18's, my big mains, 6 monitors, and 15,000+ watts to a small bar, not only would half of the equipment not fit in the venue, the band would be so loud nobody would stay. Add to the fact that this stuff is heavy and it's extreme overkill. So, I have 3 setups. Small, medium and large if you will. This allows me to match the system to the venue, anything from small and intimate to outdoors and loud.

So some of you are saying "Sure, that makes sense, but why so many guitar amps?"

Well, again, I don't need a 4x12 for every venue. In fact, I don't ever use a 4x12 when out on stage any more. They're great for looks, but heavy and overly loud on stage. I usually opt for a 1x12. However, when recording, each cabinet has different speakers and has a different sound. So, I like to keep a few options around for that, as well as a few options on amps. I…

Recording in reverse

Since it was the vocalist that initiated the recording project I started last week, and she had the songs in mind that I didn't know, we recorded her first. This left a few interesting things.

1) Rhythm and timing. We didn't use a click or even have tempos picked out. I wanted her to just freeform sing it so her natural tempo would come out. It made getting instrumentation lined up rather interesting.

2) Pitch. While she's got great natural pitch, there are times - especially at key changes - that it came out a little funky.

3) Song length. I wasn't sure how long these songs would be, but the first one is well over 5 minutes now. I've been putting strings, organs and guitars all over the place on this and have our percussionist ready to jump in whenever the recording is ready for him, but I still feel like I need to cut some of the song to make it more listener friendly.

What did I learn from this experiment? Plan on recording some framework of instruments first or…

Build Monday : Back side finish on El Capitan

Obviously, when creating a guitar that looks as cool as El Capitan, the back side needs some attention, too. Here are a few pics of it.

Gloss is on and everything is set in place.

I got a great shine from it.

Indoors, the shine shows up even better. I can't wait to get the neck attached and some electronics installed.

Gear Friday: Arbor Semi-Hollow Guitar

There are times where I find a guitar that's way out of my comfort zone, so I have to try it. That's what happened with today's Gear Friday guitar.

This is from a company called Arbor. I didn't know much about them, so I did some research and found a connection to Yamaha and Ibanez. It has a lot of nice attributes to it, but I'll just hit the ones that matter.

For starters, the pickups are decent. Not too hot, not too cool, but just about right for that bluesy and classic rock vibe. The F hole cutouts are sharp, as is the binding. The shape always looks a little funky, almost like the bottom (right side when hanging) is slightly larger than the top, but it plays quite well.

I find that the neck is a bit slimmer and faster than a typical semi-hollow. It stays in tune well, has a decent balance, and overall just sounds and looks good. I don't play it nearly enough, though. I tend to grab a Gelvin, Ibanez, or something I've built for most things. However, I t…

Pure vocal talent

It's not every day that I get to talk about real talent from a vocalist. However, that's the case today.

In the past, I've recorded lots of full band audio. Sometimes it was just a practice setting where we were recording to see how it sounded. Other times, it was something intended for an album (or at least a demo). However, it was always some music down first or at the same time as the vocals so there was some frame of reference.

Recently, I had a vocalist come to me to record a contemporary Christian album. This sounded like a reasonable request, but none of the music was ready to go and she was. So, I told her to sing it and we'd use that as scratch vocals if it didn't work out.

Totally. Blown. Away.

After she left, I grabbed my acoustic and started playing the chord progression that was supposed to be under the first of the songs. The between verses was, of course, not timed properly. She would just sing one verse, wait a bit, then sing another. However, the ti…

Build Monday: Castle

Ok, time for another kit. This one is currently being called Castle, and the progress should reveal why in a few weeks. But, for now, it's pretty bare.

A pretty basic bass body shape, 2 pickup cavities and a control cavity. Nothing too exciting.

Headstock is stained to look somewhat worn and nasty. Not what most people want in a finish, but it'll match the personality of this one quite well.

The back of the neck reveals more of that "worn out" look. I might have made it too smooth and gotten a gloss, but it'll play better that way while still looking generally dirty and grimy. The best part about a finish like this is that I won't need to worry about cleaning it up after playing each time. Any grime or grit I get on it will just match the finish.

More to come...

Gear Friday: Gear when its not in use

When you get a ton of gear, keeping it stored can present its own challenge. I have my entire basement dedicated to equipment, other than the laundry room (which has a few odds and ends in it yet) and my workshop (which holds unfinished instruments.)

This is where I have my amps, cabinets and instruments that I'm currently playing. I've been playing a lot of bass lately, but it's about to be rotated back to guitar.

This view allows you to see all the wall hanging guitars along that side of the basement.

The triggered drums, some odds and ends cymbal wise, connectors and misc hardware on the shelves, and a couple of acoustic guitars. I might also point out the contractor lighting for when I do videos. Good light is always important for that.

This furniture currently holds all of the wireless microphones I need to check out. I think there were 8 complete units for me to look at, but I don't really remember.

They're mostly these rackmount lav units, but with replacea…

My basic DAW

Since I've been doing some recording, I thought it was time to show off my DAW setup.

I have a Dell laptop as the heart of the system. It's got a hybrid drive (part solid state, part "traditional" magnetic drive) that seems to keep up quite well with most of what I do. For software, I typically use Reaper. I also have a Behringer headphone amp between the laptop and the mouse for when I have someone over that's doing their part since it works as a nice headphone splitter with individual volume controls.

But the laptop itself doesn't really do all that much when it comes to recording. I have a Presonus Studio Channel in the top rack slot, an Alesis SampleRack for triggered drums, a Tascam US16x08 audio board for 16 channels in at a time, a Behringer UltraVoice vocal pre-amp, a Nady 8 channel mic pre, a power conditioner and my Line 6 Pod Pro.

Most of the time, all I really need is my Tascam to get the recordings sounding pretty good. Couple that with a fantom…

Build Monday : Time for a little shine on El Capitan

Since I was able to get the shield looking decent on El Capitan, this week was time to make it shine. Yes, it was smooth enough to get a little shine, but I wanted it to be that deep gloss type that looks totally "wow".

Got it set up in the garage. Not much of a breeze this day, so it should be a great day for a smooth finish.

If you look close, you can see a bike tire in the reflection. That's the type of gloss I was looking for.

Turning on the light, yes! Smooth, shiny, and wow. That's just what I was looking for. I need to get the sides and back done yet, but it's well on its way to being just what I was looking for on this finish. Once I get that glossed, I'll be ready to set the neck so I can start installing hardware.

Gear Friday: Gelvin Guitars EVH Beast

One of my favorite guitars has no logo on the headstock. Instead, it's an unfinished neck on a body built by Gelvin Guitars with a custom wound pickup, all done to Eddie's original specs. Add in a wild hot pink to fluorescent yellow version of the EVH finish, and it's very eye catching. Black lights make it even more so.

But more important than how it looks (from behind the instrument, anyway) is how it plays. This one, I can gladly report, plays better than any Fender I've ever touched, and almost as well as my best Ibanez guitars without the thin neck. That part always shocks me, since that thin neck is what I've always looked for. Additionally, the pickup is hot yet crisp, so the output level compares to my EMG active guitars while still having the clarity and tone that I really wanted out of it.

As you can see, I'm quite comfortable behind this guitar. I've played it a ton and haven't had a string break. In fact, in the over a year that I've be…

Why am I starting another band?

I've been in plenty of bands, so why am I looking at starting another one? This one is a bit different in a few ways.

1) It's made up of musicians I really like and respect.

2) It's a contemporary / rock praise band, starting out with covers of Skillet, Thousand Foot Crutch and others.

3) The songs we intend to record are old school worship tunes that we're modernizing.

If you really know me, you know my faith is important to me. So it just feels right to do something in His name for once musically outside of just playing in the church. We'll see how this goes, but I'm pretty excited to have musicians pretty much lined up for this already.

Build Monday: El Capitan's namesake

I've been asked why "El Capitan" received that name. Well, it should be quite obvious after today's progress picture.

Yep, it's a Captain America theme on the guitar. I also changed up the pickguard with some plastic paint. Time for the clear coat, a bit of glue to set the neck, and then we can get to some hardware. This one has certainly caught a few eyes already, and I've even had offers to buy it. Sorry, but I'm planning to play this for a while first.

Gear Friday: Ibanez BioArmor

Sometimes, I walk in to a guitar shop and just know something was on the rack for me. This happened one day after a great trip to the casino. As a guitaraholic, cash and guitar shops go together way too well, so when I spotted an Ibanez BioArmor hanging there brand new and with a reasonable pricetag (it was special order and the guy never picked it up or paid for it), I knew I needed it. It played sweet, and the owner of the shop threw on brand new Super Slinks, gave it a quick setup and sent me out the door with a free gig bag thrown in. Of course, on stage all black will never do, so I grabbed my white stencil ink for tennis racquets to give a first layer through the grooves, then used a setting saver for a second layer and more of a color to show up under the lights. End result is below.

For a nice looking guitar, it also plays quite well. I've used it at several shows and would put it right up against my Prestige for feeling, with the Prestige edging it out slightly due to th…

Moving on from guitar kits

I've built a few guitar kits, and have a few more that I'm working on, but I feel it's time to move on and really challenge myself. That's why I'm moving into the world of CNC routers. I grabbed an X-Carve from Inventables, and while the assembly process left a lot to be desired (only instructions are online, for one and being shorted screws and nuts for another) I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

Now for the tricky part - guitar blanks are typically 14" wide, but most thickness planers are 12-1/2" wide until you get into the really expensive models. I'm still looking for solutions to that problem.

Once assembly is finally complete and I have it running, I'll post some pics and maybe even a video. My son is really excited, as he wants to help me build guitars as a career. We'll see how long that lasts.

Build Monday: El Capitan turns blue

After some white primer, El Capitan was ready for some painting.

El Capitan got a blue makeover, as did my portable work bench and my Craftsman screwdriver. I needed some way to hold it without touching any area of the guitar that is supposed to be painted. That's where the screwdriver came in.

After walking around it a few times, the blue was pretty evenly applied.

A nice shine can already be seen along that top edge.

That long edge makes for a lot of blue.

A close-up view shows that the grain still shows through since this is a translucent blue.

Again, the shine is already showing.

The pick guard, sitting about where it'll be located, just for contrast.

Closer view of the bridge and pickup area.

Next up will be giving this guitar its signature, and then on to clear coat.

Gear Friday: Bass Rig

Lately, I've been playing a bit of bass. That required me to dust off the bass rig, so here it is in all its glory.

I use a 4x10 and a 1x15 cabinet from Acoustic for my rig, all powered from a Hartke HA3500 head. I don't normally use the graphic eq, instead using the active eq on my bass. I like to mix the solid state pre about 30 - 40% and the tube pre at about 50% to get a little crunch without too much drive. Turn on the compressor and it's good to go.

One thing that I have had some problems with in the past is the DI out. With my own gear, it's always fine. Playing at venues using Behringer mixers, it always seems to go into the board at too low of a signal. I don't think it's really an issue with the board, but maybe either that I need to turn up the pre's or possibly even just teach people how to properly use the trim control on their board. Either way, I'm planning on changing to a different, lighter amp at some point. I think that will probably…