Fin ……(Meaning, the Free Ambient Pads are Done)

I am artsy now.

But the ambient pads indeed are fin! Finally. I finished the last two families of keys today…one of which is called ‘Hatred.’ Because it consists of Gb, Ab, and Db. The other family is just Bb and F, which is decent enough. But Gb, Ab, and Db…that’s 6 flats, 4 flats, and 5 flats respectively…these are the keys your keyboardist will shoot you for. I say keyboardists, and not guitarists, because we’re usually angry if it’s anything except for Em blues. I actually thought about not recording the last 3, so that perhaps worship leaders would look for the Ab pad, not find it, and go, ‘Ah well. We’ll just do it in G.’ Or A. Either one. Please. I was going to do my part to eradicate those three keys from the existence of life; but alas…my fear of the ‘just learn your scales!’ crowd got the better of me. Actually, it was the knowledge that U2 tunes their guitars a half step down for most of their songs live; which then bred the of course quite plausible hope that when Edge is surfing the internet looking for backup Vox’s, he’ll come across my Db pad, and it will become an integral part of ‘Streets’ live. And there will be much rejoicing.

Anyway, the ambient pad download link is right up at the top of the site. Or, here. Keep checking back, as now that the 12 keys of base pads are finished, I’m going to start working on some multiple track ones that can stand alone as actual pieces, as opposed to just background sound. I’m not exactly sure how that will be useful…just that it sounds fun to do. 🙂

And speaking of…nope. This has nothing to do with anything…that is, if you want to call extreme musical and poetic gorgeousness nothing. 😉 This is one of those songs that sounds like it’s just always existed, and for some reason, she was the one who found it.


Tone Tip #342

Sorry to be absent from the blog for so long. Been really busy over the holiday doing actual things in life…as opposed to in the internet. Nothing wrong with the internet, but on occasion, I can get so engulfed in it that when I actually pick up my guitar to practice, I’m shocked to find that guitars exist in three dimensions. (Because…looking at pictures of them on Gear Page all day makes you think they are in two dimensions…because they’re pictures…and your computer screen is flat……Okay, enough of that. That was very lame. If you have to explain your jokes, something has gone wrong.) Anyway, all fantastic stuff…but leaving little time for here. But not too much time for a tone tip. This is serious.

Tone tip #342:

When in doubt, turn up.

(And this is after you’ve already turned on all your delay pedals, and there is still doubt.)


Making Mistakes Intentionally

And not how it sounds. Although I would absolutely love to be able to say that the mistakes in my performance last night were because I was trying to make them. The song is in Gb, we break for the bridge, and then I come back in F. If only I could have had my tremolo pedal on during that; then I could say I was just doing my Henry Kaiser diminished 7th scale stutter effect. That would have been a great way to have explained away the extreme suckiness of last night. Ever have those sets where you just have to look at yourself and say, ‘Seriously.’ And then you just laugh. That was last night. Worst ever. Unfortunately, the mistakes were all my own…and I was not trying to make them.

The problem was that I was trying not to make them. I know that’s subtle, but it’s a psychological shift. You can’t avoid mistakes by trying not to make them. I don’t know why. People smarter than I am (why is it so hard to type that?) say that the phenomenon is caused because as you try not to make mistakes, all you are thinking about is the mistake. Hence, your brain just goes there, and you make them. But that just sounds stupid to me. So I choose not to believe it. (Just like Beyonce Knowles sounds stupid to me…so I choose to believe she doesn’t exist.) But the result is still the same: you can’t play flawlessly by trying not to make a mistake. You have to focus on playing the right stuff, not on not playing the wrong stuff.

(This is when I lost any respect I may have had for Beyonce. Which is zero. Well, this isn’t the actual picture, but it’s the exact same look Robert De Niro had on his face when, at his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award dinner, in the middle of tones of respected actors introducing the best acting clips of his career, out of nowhere Beyonce comes up and sings him a choreographed version of The Star Spangled Banner. It was awkward. And he had this look on his face…like, bored, but trying to be polite…but yet a little bit confused, too.)

Now that’s like, Musician 101 stuff right there. I would very much like to think that I have long ago surpassed Musician 101 stuff. But when you can’t find E, when even if you were to just hit a random string you’ve got like a 33% chance of finding it, obviously not. And this is much more honest than I was intending to be here. So let’s just keep on that path of honesty. I was nervous last night. I’d like to think that I am beyond nervousness. But when you have to chromatically slide to find Ab…you’re nervous. And I was nervous because the night was for a conference, and it was being recorded. I usually don’t get nervous during recordings; but this night was with some new people whom I’d never recorded with before, and I suppose I was nervous because I really, really wanted them to listen back to the recording and marvel at my ‘wondrous purity of tone that is possibly only surpassed by the musical genius by which the tone was played.’ Alright, now we’re getting really honest.

So what happens when you’re nervous? You stop playing intentionally. Meaning, you stop just going for it, and hitting each note with authority and purpose. And you start playing tentatively, in hopes of not making a mistake. And then what ends up happening, is you make just as many if not more mistakes as you would have if you were playing normally; but you also make all the right notes sound weak and gutless also. So then, rather than having one or two, or maybe even zero, noticeable errors, you get like, 74 errors, plus making every right note and passage sound terrible as well. Which is what I mean by making mistakes intentionally. The mistakes are going to happen no matter what. So you may as well just play intentionally and with purpose, and let those mistakes sound out with authority. 🙂 When playing with confidence, not only do you make all the correct notes, sounds, and passages sound as they should, but you also take the stress off of your mind and hands, and allow yourself greater possibility of not hitting wrong notes.

I wish I had read this post before I hit my D note last night so softly that it almost ended up being a harmonic. The emphasis being on ‘almost.’ And of course, an ‘almost harmonic’ is a ‘thunk.’ Which is bad. Unless you’re Henry Kaiser. hehe No! I’m not making fun of a successful guitarist to try to make myself feel better about my ‘less than stellar musical…uh…endeavors’…meaning thunks. It’s just that he plays a lot of thunks, and some people really seem to enjoy them. I’m just simply validating those people. 😉 I’m the good guy here. Unless you were there last night. I was definitely not the good guy. More like, the antagonist of all things diatonic.

Play intentionally.

hehe Henry Kaiser.


P.S. The last few keys of the ambient pads will be finished soon…hopefully tomorrow. I was going to finish them today, but I super-glued my finger fixing a Christmas lawn decoration, and now the super glue makes weird sounds on the fretboard. Yep. I am awesome. You’d think I’d be better with my hands.

The Affliction is Official

Huh. Sounds like a bad death metal band name. And since we used ‘Affliction’ instead of ‘Agony’ or ‘The Scourge of Bubonic Death’ or something, it’s probably a Christian death metal band.

Anyway (wow…sidetracks are beginning early this time), I have decided that it is officially a mental affliction. I bought this pedal today:

Now, some of you might be thinking that you were sure I already had that pedal. And you would be wrong. I have this pedal:

See the font for the ‘Mosferatu’ lettering? Ya. Way different. The first version looks much more lush, weighty, and toneful. The second version just looks a little thin. Probably not enough mids.

There are no tonal, component, or build differences between the two versions. In fact, technically it is the same version Mosferatu. I would love to say that the first version (come on, let me call them ‘versions’…it makes me feel better) has a NOS op-amp, or that in the second version, Alf (remember, calling the builders by their first names is an automatic coolness boost) ran out of carbon comp resistors or something. Nope. Just the graphic. It is officially a sickness.

This is not a joke. Well…it is, but unfortunately it’s all true.


Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 2)

You chose ‘(F) Chuckle Openly.’

(And if you have no idea what is going on, this is the second part of a series started here, where you get to choose your own ending. Basically, I’m asking everyone to risk some Michael Jackson (is it too soon?) and take some trips back to their childhood to remember those ‘Choose Your Own Ending’ books. You know, the ones that were really popular 20 years ago right alongside the ‘When you hear the chimes, turn the page’ ones. So for our purposes here, when you hear the anti-solo, turn the page.)

So, as the worship leader turns bright red and continues to fumble through his words trying to recover into the next song after his accidental blasphemy, you just stand in the background, chuckling openly, and throwing in a few delay-laden volume swells over the finger-picking the worship leader is doing as he continues to pray. The worship leader has many times asked you not to play during the prayers as he ad-libs some finger-picking, but you know it’s for the greater good. His finger-picking is just terrible. It really needs to be rescued by your definitely-not-yet-cliche volume swells…and of course every few notes by your volume swell/note bend ‘whale call.’

Finally the worship leader finishes his prayer, and turns back to you, as you are supposed to start the next song. You sigh. How many times do you have to tell him that this song cannot be started with your Les Paul? The tonal nuances are such that it requires the Telecaster. This would be common knowledge to anyone who would actually listen to the original recording of the song, but hey…it’s the worship leader. He plays his Taylor on every single song, even though he has a perfectly good backup Martin sitting right there. Something about switching guitars during the set causing awkward silence? Come on. That’s just dramatic effect!

Nonetheless, he’s the worship leader, so you give him grace. You give the ‘I gotcha’ look as you take off your Les Paul and turn towards your Telecaster. Meanwhile, he’s giving you the death stare of ‘I thought this was why we decided beforehand for me to pray between these two songs, so that you could switch guitars.’ (I know prayer more than likely wasn’t originally intended to be a worship service transitional tool by which to switch guitars, capo’s, and sheet music undetected, but you know it’s true.) His stare however, is lost on you as you bend down to change the settings on your Lovepedal COT50 to be more Telecaster-friendly. You don’t use fuzz on this song, but just in case. Besides, you know that you couldn’t possibly have switched guitars during the prayer, because you were compelled by your own musical genius to play the afore-mentioned volume swells the worship leader asked you not to do. Quick as the buffered relay of a Line 6 amp modeler (which means not very fast……wow, I’m sorry, that was just mean-spirited), the worship leader turns around and tells the congregation to take a minute to just let the world fade away and quiet their hearts before their Creator (also a great tool for transitions), and you finish setting your pedals, grab your Telecaster, kick on your must-sound-like-Hillsong dual delays (a DD20 and an Analogman ARDX20…with tap tempo mod, of course) and oh-so-smoothly launch into the intro of the next song.

And you’re feeling it. The tone is oozing out of your Hayseed 30 with upgraded EF86 preamp option, and you watch as the sound waves just move the congregation into throngs of passionate worship. You can’t actually see the throngs of passionate worship because the expressions on their faces haven’t changed, nor have they stood up, lifted their hands, started clapping, or shed tears. But you know they’re being driven to worship. I mean, how could they not with a Hayseed 30 with upgraded EF86 preamp option? It’s just that the sheep are too scared and lazy to fully give themselves over to worship. That’s the only explanation.

The first passage is done…played flawlessly by your time-tested hands. (You don’t believe that tone is in the hands, but still…it’s nice to admit that it might be, after completing a passage as well as you just completed that one.) The drums start to tap in on the ride cymbal as you launch into the next passage. The bass subtly enters with a low, sustaining tone of harmonically anchoring loveliness. The keyboard fades in with a sweetly ringing, background synth pad…oh wait, he’s been playing that the whole time…hold on! There’s a keyboardist on stage? Who is that guy? (Sorry keyboardists…it’s the most unfortunate thing in the world, but sadly true.) Your concentration is just momentarily lifted as you marvel at the distant and wondrous sound coming from the stranger you’ve never noticed playing that odd-looking instrument with what seems to be something like ‘Korg’ or ‘Korj’ scrawled across it. But you don’t falter. No. Your Barber Liverpool hitting the front end of your amp sounds much to good for you to even dream about faltering. The music picks up (worship build time), the bass plays his second of the three notes he’s been given, and you start to take off into the introductory anti-solo……

And then it happens. You’ve hit a D. Now the congregation looks up. And with pained looks on their faces. Let it be known that D is a wonderful note. But the song is in the key of Ab. And it’s not Tommy Walker or Norma Jean. Your confidence begins to fade. What’s the next note? How am I going to recover from this? Why won’t that blasted D note stop ringing out? Curse my perfectly compressed sustain! You see the congregation starting to shake their heads. The sheep are restless. What can be done. Quickly you decide that worship needs a hero. And that hero is you. Only a guitarist as talented and toneful as you can save the church from the unholy dissonance that you unleashed on them! With the effortless tone, grace, and class of a 1960’s 12-string Rickenbacker, you…

A) Make a weird face and go over and check the tubes on your amp. (One of them has obviously gone harmonic.)

B) Continue playing the D…along with a bunch of other random notes, throw one hand up in the air, and pretend the sour notes are just the Spirit-filled result of being completely overcome by worship.

C) Take your unused capo out and chuck it at the worship leader to remind him never to play in capo 1 again.

D) Allow the D note to bring you to an E note, and then into the key of A, and keep playing as if it was a modulation the rest of the band missed.

E) Shake your head in disgust and glare at the other guitarist. And if he’s still in the middle of switching to his Telecaster too, and it would be quite obvious even to the drummer that he couldn’t have played the wrong note, then glare at the bassist. You could glare at the keyboardist, but everybody knows the keyboards aren’t in the mains. (Again, my apologies keyboardists…you know I love you, and if you come over to my church, I’ll make sure you drown everybody else out! But at other churches…well…I’m sure you’ve been there…)

F) Play off the D like it’s a diminished 5th jazz scale. Won’t help the worship mood any, but you’ll definitely get props with the rest of the musicians.

G) Turn to the other guitarist and laugh out loud, pointing to your guitar and making train wreck sounds and motions with your mouth and hands. (I used to play worship with a guy who would do this every time he would make a mistake. I tried to explain to him that these actions caused everyone to notice his one mistake, but they would never notice my ten mistakes, simply because I didn’t point them out with mimic’d train wreck sounds. But he was much too carefree and humble to care. I actually learned a lot from this guy.)

H) Fiddle with your massive pedalboard. (Seriously, everyone always believes this one.)

I) Just own it and rely on your superior knowledge of music theory to be able to explain away any mistakes afterwards in the green room.

J) Frantically turn off your 5 delay pedals trying to get the blasted tritone to stop ringing out any longer! Ah! Stupid delay pedals with spillover capabilities!

K) Just make D a part of the scale now, and come back and hit it at least 9 more times during the course of the song, until you’ve successfully pounded it into people’s heads so many times that they can’t help but just recognize it as part of the song. (I’ve tried this one. It never seems to work like you think it will.)

L) Smile, shake your head, and thank God profusely that even though He chooses to use us, and even though we should probably do our best to stay away from playing a D while in the key of Ab, He’ll probably still find a way to get glory in spite of us. I know it’s hard to imagine…I mean, we’re the ‘worship leaders’…’the battle cryers of the church’ ( 😉 )…pretty important people with amazing tone. (Okay, at least self-important people with expensive gear.) But I think just maybe He’s got it covered.

So, choose your own ending. And of course, you can’t choose ‘L’!

And I know it sounds trite, but we do realize that the God who could do a much better job bringing glory to Himself by Himself, chooses to use us by letting us jam out music to Him every week, right? I know, I know that completely sounds like the cheeseball church thing to quote out of the latest ‘Worship is a Verb’ book; but it’s true, and I for one, forget it all too often.

Sorry for the Disney ending. Delay, tubes, Dumble, germanium, Arcade Fire, Mullard, decayed note artifacts, tone. Is that better? hehe 🙂


Tone Tips (Real Ones This Time)

I’ve been getting this sickeningly frightening feeling that were I to actually practice, and practice with a click track, and practice with a click track and a tuner, it just might make more of a difference to my tone than whether I play a Timmy or a Klon.

Oh, wait. I haven’t tried out all the different op-amp chips in the Timmy yet. Never mind! Sweet mercy! That was almost quite dangerous. And just in case it needs explanation (which it doesn’t), ‘quite dangerous’ in its literal translation means, ‘almost giving up on the idea that tone comes not from hard work, but from magic boutique-ness.’

And for those of you who may be new to this blog, and actually found this post while searching what would be the ‘hands down tone for days nails David Gilmour best op-amp for your Timmy’, and are thinking that I’m just making fun of people who don’t plug straight in to the amp……just take a quick look at the archives on the right, and the scores of pedals that have been my ‘I didn’t know tone until the month I didn’t eat to buy this pedal’ pedal, and you will quite sadly realize that zero of this post has been tongue-in-cheek. Yep. In some deep part of my brain, I truly believe that the Klon Centaur renders practice obsolete.

But I’m recovering. With a click track. And a tuner. And a Timmy overdrive pedal? Perhaps…just perhaps…and I realize that by saying this I am now alienating both camps, and creating my own camp, a camp called ‘Loneliness’……that perhaps these things can coexist. Maybe tone can be in the hands and in the delay pedals? I’m starting to think so. But only if it’s a Damage Control Timeline.


P.S. Oh, and ‘B’ is up in the free ambient pads section.

Digital Storm & Ambient Chord Voicings

First off, thank you so much to everyone who has encouraged me with this giving away of the ambient pads endeavor. And those of you who have both encouraged and donated. It is appreciated more than you probably know. It’s really, really nice to know that these might be able to be used to aid in the worship of God through music at different churches around the country. Or venues. Or bars. Maybe even more true acting out of worship goes on when His teachings are lived out at bars rather than just churches. Just a thought. But to everyone reading, thank you! And pads in C and Eb are now up as well. Just six more keys, and then I’ll move into some layered and more melodically driven pads.

Now for the humility part. And I’m always positive that it is like, the 276th time I’ve talked about humility here. I love humility because I don’t have it. I always end up posting tons of stuff that I’ve done wrong and been an idiot about during worship (this last weekend I accidentally hit a patch on one of the Timelines called ‘Digital Storm’…which I created accidentally one day, and have absolutely no idea what to do with because it overtakes your entire rig…and it sounded…well, just like you’re thinking it sounded), in hopes that that brand of ‘easy humility’ (let’s face it, it’s a bunch of guitarists here and most of us can relate) will appease my responsibility for ‘true humility’, such as actually listening to what someone else is saying and seeing if I can help, rather than chomping at the bit to spit out my answer for them so that we can then move on to more important matters; i.e.what I want to talk about. I.e. Tubes and delay.

So here’s some humility. I’ve been getting asked a lot to show the chord voicings that I use for some of the ambient stuff, including the pads. Where’s the humility in that? Well…it sounds a lot harder than it is. When I show what my hands are doing to create those sounds, it’s like…’Oh. Good job playing that one chord you know.’ 😉 I did think for a second about just playing a pad through my amp, and then turning the volume down on my guitar, and just doing crazy nonsense all over the fretboard so that it looked like it took much more Eddie Van Halen-ness than it does, but… So I turned my camera on while recording one of the pads that hasn’t been used yet, because it’s a little more melodically dense than the ones I’m posting just for background sounds. But you can see my hands, the voicings I use, the pedals I turn on, and the fact that for some reason I apparently bite my lower lip when playing ambient stuff. It’s awkward. My version of the John Mayer face I suppose. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Not having his face, but being him. Him as a guitarist. Not a person. And not that his face is bad, but he is a dude. And so am I. And he’s not Brad Pitt. Hmm. Getting in trouble again.

John Mayer
(This is John Mayer biting his lower lip. I had no idea that I do the exact same thing. I would prefer this to mean that John and I share the same musical splendor. Unfortunately, I think the truth is much sadder, and might have something to do with me subconsciously pretending I am famous people. And if you’re giving me the benefit of the doubt right now and thinking I’m just being hard on myself, uh…wait until you see the video. Ya. It’s depressing. And I must admit, extremely amusing. hehe 😉 )

So here’s the video of the voicings and pedals. As for voicings, it’s incredibly simple:

  • Stay with 1’s and 5’s.
  • 3rd’s for color.
  • 2nd’s and 7th’s use sparingly as passing notes.
  • 6th’s can be passing notes too, but use even more sparingly.
  • 4th’s are for tension and need to be used poignantly and must resolve.

Then mix those in a way that draws out the feelings and sounds in your head.

And for the effects used:

  • Phaser (slow setting)–>
  • Volume Pedal–>
  • Digital Delay (long time and repeats, high ‘warmth’ and decent modulation)–>
  • Analog Delay (high and slow modulation)–>
  • Digital Delay (multitap setting, low mix and very high repeats)–>
  • Analog Delay (short time and lots of repeats)

Delay is good. And the video that shows me doing nothing:


So I’ll try to post these reverse camera angles of what I’m actually playing (which is basically one chord, just re-voiced constantly, lol) during the videos and recordings from time to time, as so many have asked. And I’ll try to have the rest of the pads up as soon as I can. Unfortunately, I do have my actual job…so I can’t record all day. And I live in an apartment…which means the neighbors aren’t quite as giddy as I am when the bass response shakes the walls. (Mmmm…bass response.) So I have to record in stints. But I promise, once Coldplay calls and tells me I’ve got the tone they’ve been dreaming of, and that they’ll give me a full-time gig only if I promise not to upstage them each night (hehehe sarcasm, people), I’ll record free pads all day. 🙂 But until that time, I really don’t have any money mainly because whenever I actually have it, someone invents a new delay pedal. And unfortunately, I tend to use delay pedals as if they were a savings account. However, I did get an email from Twitter the other day, offering me a job I could do at home in my spare time, consisting of just sending tweets. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but apparently they are offering me upwards of $3500 a day to do this. So, I got that going for me. 😉

Anyway, thanks again to everyone reading, for the encouragement, and I really hope these posts, videos, and pads are of some use in just maybe creating a bit more of an atmosphere where people can let go and connect emotionally with the God who loves them…a lot. Oh ya. And if you messed up this weekend during the worship music, just think ‘digital storm’, and feel better.


Make Music

Don’t learn to play the guitar, learn to use the guitar to make music.

And…that just sounded decidedly more Lifetime Original Movie than I had originally anticipated. (Of course, without the teenager trying to kill the wife of the guy she’s having an affair with. Uh…I mean……I’ve never seen a Lifetime Original Movie.) I stole it from a film; but in the film, the quote was about war. It sounded much cooler when it was about war.

However, despite my unfortunate attempt to sound profound and prove my poeticicity (well, if there was any lingering thought that I might be profound anyway…that just killed it), I still agree with the statement. Your sound increases exponentially the less you play your guitar, and the more you use your guitar to create music.

Splendid. (Except for the cheesiness. And the Lifetime reference. And uh…that’s most of the post.)

Ireland is the Source of Tone

And if you don’t believe me, go play your guitar. (Wait, I’m not finished.) Then go find an Irish song to listen to. Now go play your guitar again. Instant feel increase in your playing. Like hooking up an iv of Irishness to your guitar.

The unfortunate thing about this post is that I’m not even joking at all.


P.S. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes……I am stalling because I blew a tube in my mic preamp and now I cannot record the rest of the pads tonight until I find one of those six-pointed star screwdriver things. (Why do they do that?) However, that has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that your tone does indeed increase the more Irish you become.

Ambient Pads Preview, Rhythmic Addition to the Fulldrive/Tim/Liquid Blues Shootout, & The Pedal I've Always Wanted

A lot of updates, and I figured they’d get lost in the mix if I gave them each their own post one after another in the same five minutes. So I squished them altogether. Like an Orange Squeeze compressor. Score. Tone joke. And a bad one.

First order of business is that some ambient pads are finally available for download. I figured that perhaps others might be able to find uses for them in their churches and venues as well. But, it’s still in the preview stage. So there’s only two pads up right now…I didn’t want to put a ton of time into them if there’s absolutely no interest. hehe But if there is some interest, I’ll be more than happy to finish out all the keys, and different versions of all the keys. Here’s all the info for these:


Free Ambient Pads Page

Original Ambient Pad Setup post

Secondly, I received some comments kindly pointing out the lack of chordal rhythm work in my latest Fulldrive/Tim/Liquid Blues Shootout video. I was appalled. My videos are perfect. Then I went back and listened to it. Yep, no rhythm whatsoever. I am a rockstar. (You’re reading the sarcasm in that, right?) So I have apologetically posted a second video of the same pedals, showcasing their more rhythmic qualities. And for some reason, I make the strangest sounds in between the different rhythmic passages. No, not cool ones with the guitar. With my mouth. It’s odd.

But you can check that post with the new additional shootout video here:

Fulldrive Vs. Tim Vs. Liquid Blues

And lastly, for the first time since 1984, all is right with the world. I have never, ever wanted a piece of gear more:

None More Black

It’s beautiful, really. Almost indescribable. Almost as if the world wasn’t really turning all this time, until you saw that picture. And if you’re not quite sure what is going on right now, allow me, if you will, to change your life:

Sorry, I couldn’t find a Spinal Tap clip with the actual ‘None More Black’ record reference, or the clip where they sign the black record with the black felt marker (hehe), but I’m pretty sure these will do. 🙂