Sunday, November 21, 2010

solo studies iii.

So, yes, more studies and documentation thereof (backstory here). Just because, oh, I don't know, it kind of really is working for me, in terms of actually learning techniques vs. just crashing random shit into my strings.

There will be about 10 in total this time around, I'll be uploading them as I sort through the takes. And then deleting them again as I come to realize they suck (see study 16).

As objects/preparations, they're getting weirder but not necessarily better; but on the upside I seem to be getting a little more efficient/resourceful/ooh dare I say smarter in working with objects. And plus it's keeping me out of trouble, unless you count my dabbling with reverb on a few takes.


This first one is a useless freak of a thing, but I've never seen or heard of it before, so I hereby share it with the world, who may already be doing this left and right, WTF, maybe I'm the last to know, who knows. I feel like a useless freak myself for "discovering" it, but you gotta believe me, I didn't spend hours on it, it just happened, you'll see how in 2 seconds.


So there I was, dorkily taking pictures of preparations when I dorkily realized that hey, my camera makes noise. And not in a bad cell-phoney way. Here are the complicated instructions: turn on your digital camera and hold it right next to your pickups. That's it! Try it!

With my shitty camera I found that there were about 6 different constant/rhythmic sounds, one for each side of the rectangular block that is The Camera. So most of the variation you hear in the study is me rotating the camera around and bringing it closer/farther to/from the pickups. I don't know a single thing about science, but is it probable that the LCD screen is probably the source of this sound?

One way to interrupt the constant sounds is to put something like a finger in front of the lens (with autofocus on), and you get a slightly different sound for a few secs. Much cooler than that (but not really useful on a regular basis) is the sound that happens when you depress the Take a Picture Now button (actual name?) so that your infrared laser thingie comes on but you don't actually take a picture. This is the quick synthish melody you hear towards the end of the first version of the study. Taking a picture sounds completely different and sadly, less cool (you hear this at the end of the second version) sounds like maybe the SD card being accessed, you also hear something similar at the beginning, I think this is turning the camera on.

So, nifty. But in terms of a technique you can learn and develop, this isn't it: it's pretty limited sonically if you're not using effects pedals, which we're not. You will notice below that I exploited a loophole in the no-effects-pedals rule and did one take with my amp reverb turned up all the way...yes, I feel guilty about it and would like to say I won't do it again but in fact I know that's not true. I also included a totally dry take for reference.

Solo Study iii-15 (camera with amp reverb).

Solo Study iii-15 (camera dry).


This one's an orphan from last week, I don't remember what I was doing. What typically happens is, I press REC, play for 2 minutes and quickly decide if it sounds like anything or not and then jot down what I did technically, but I must not have liked this one when I did it b/c I have no jottings, I imagine b/c it's a bit too close to Bela Fleck Plays Gnawa pastiche. But it turns out that now I do like the oud-dy-ness of it all and the gimbri elements in the bass, though I wish I'd left out the one or two most obvious stock "Middle Eastern" articulations that snuck in there.

Solo Study iii-14 (shortened scale on bottom neck and playing behind the capo on top neck).


The one pictured here and at the top is something I haven't quite figured out yet. It involves using a thundermaker, part of which is essentially a giant guitar string, pressing it up against your pickups, and at least one ebow. The prep as it's currently evolved isn't pictured b/c i've got an ebow in each hand and the camera has to be held innit.

Basically, as notes for myself: there is one ebow that works on the thundermaker, mark it with something: hold that ebow with its front facing upwards at you; optionally put foil on the neck pickup to prevent unplanned loud noises.


Awesome name aside, the thunderstick doesn't quite work yet. Plus you look like an ass when you're doing it. Instead, we move on to a wonderfully rhythmic, abrasive, and unpredictable prep. It involves:

1) a large metal baking spatula at around the 2nd or 3rd fret, going UOUOUO (under-over), and then continuing on to the bottom neck, under your top "E" string and over all the rest. It should wobble.
2) a foam mute underneath the bottom 4 strings on the bottom neck.
3) the ebow.
4) technique: keep the ebow on the neck with your left hand, use either pickup, and ebow your fifth string. You will get an unpredictable pitch with a rhythmic component due to the suspended spatula being vibrated. You modify the pitch and the vibration rate by either a) moving the ebow closer or farther from the spatula (changing the string length); b) pressing down on the sixth string (not the one you're ebowing) to tighten the suspension of the spatula; c) moving the spatula to a position directly over a fret; d) changing the string length at the bridge side with your right hand palm or index finger.

The fact that you've got the ebow in your left hand lets you do useful things like work your volume and tone controls with your right hand, or mute the string.

Solo Study iii-17a (baking spatula, one ebow, foam mute, dry).

Solo Study iii-17b (baking spatula, one ebow, foam mute, reverb).


Like a lot of wobbly things, the baking spatula is a little unpredictable.Say, what if there was a much more subtle and reliable prep that was almost as good? This is a 1/2 cm-thick rectangle of aluminium foil on my bridge pickup and an ebow. OK, it's not really almost as good, but...if you play this take and the two above at the same time it sounds like Machine Gun's first album at quarter-speed. Try it!!!

Solo Study iii-18a (aluminium mute, bottom neck, ebow, dry).


I am liking this next thingie a lot, it's reliable and surprising at the same time. They have these everywhere in Amsterdam, and every guitar player seems to have one:

It's some kind of squishable metal scrubber. Pros: it's loud, and you can use it in either hand with different results, plus it's well-suited to playing non-guitar sounding rhythms, with or without a simultaneous e-bow component, held in either hand. It's textures become more diffuse and mysterious with a touch of reverb (but what doesn't really), so we have quickish examples of: a highly unspectacular ebow thing that I need to replace when I find a better take (dry) and then a kind of interesting thing where I hold the scrubber in my left hand and drum on that hand with my right hand (dry), and a thing yeah where you just desperately fret with the scrubber and play like you're a 1986 Marc Ribot recording, something badly recorded and released on Knitting Factory Works probably.

Solo Study iii-16a (metal scrubber + ebow).

Solo Study iii-16b (metal scrubber + finger rolls, dry).

Solo Study iii-16c (metal scrubber + left hand fretting, less dry).


Speaking of funny-looking things on stage, here's something I'm working on:

It's the movable one-hand ebow/slide combo. Can almost do it good, the hard part is a) keeping the ebow far enough away from the slide for there to be enough string length to vibrate, and b) at the same time keeping your slide parallel to the fingerboard. But when it works it's pretty unusual.


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