Author Archives: Gary

Nobody is responsible/Niemand ist verantwortlich

[audio:niemand.mp3]

This is the first solo guitar feature of the album; a Les Paul, a Cry Baby Classic Wah, and the Vox AC 50 – that’s what the solo sound is made of. My Tobias four string bass provides the basis of a Hendrixian groove. The measure is 8/4 with an accent on the count of “3”.

The tune is completed by organ and driving drums. Its mood reminded me of my own angriness at people who don’t care – hence the title. Sometimes the Wah wah guitar seems to talk – sometimes one might discern furious words and phrases…

Damn Interference/Verdammte Interferenzen

[audio:Interferenzen.mp3]

This little tune of just a few seconds goes to show:

a) Children can also play music (my son is on electronic organ and analog delay) with great wit and understanding

b) Having passed the dark tune “Verfallenes Licht”, we find ourselves in a spacecraft in the middle of nowhere. None of the instruments aboard is working any more, and we have to admit there is nothing we can do now except wait for help. And curse the interference that keeps us from knowing where we are…

Uphill All The Way/Immerzu Bergauf

[audio:Immerzu Bergauf.mp3]
The opening instrumental of the album, featuring my Fender Jaguar as well as an Italian flea market organ from the Seventies. I bought a vibra slap specifically for this song!
The title (as all the other titles) came by intuition, capturing the track’s feeling of incessant straining movement, leading to exhaustion in the end (note some whispering voice there). Well, to reach a plateau, some initial effort seems necessary. And I never promised any Easy Listening!

Restart!

This blog will be resumed within a few days.
All the recordings I did in the meantime will be published here.
All my announcements and promises of last year will be fulfilled.
You will hear the album I completed – track by track. 69 Minutes altogether.
Plus some new collaborations.
Sorry folks, I’ve been very busy over the last months…

darker

[audio:darker.mp3]

Steve from England has sent me yet another keyboard track with cymbals, named “dark”. This was one I felt challenged by.  In order to surprise him (or maybe myself or you), I added things with no apparent connection to the original track. I wanted it to sound even darker than it was before. This is the first time I tried to record a wall of power chords plus bass in a unison. Although there have been level problems due to so many different instruments, I think the track conveys the original idea.
Thanks again to Steve, who’s track I found inspiring. So inspiring I apparently couldn’t stop playing, and had to add a coda. Stay with the track after the keyboard has ceased – it reminds me of my experimental teenage days, when me and some friends recorded music improvised on self-made instruments. In some respect, it was pure noise, but it had a dense atmosphere… Sadly, I lost the tapes, so I take this ending for a substitute.

All in all, “Darker” may not be everyone’s favorite, but it even contains traces of melodies…

the psychedelic medley

[audio:psych-medley.mp3]

On Simon‘s request, I would like to publish a list of the 17 tracks I used for the psychedelic medley of last year, along with a “reissue” of the medley itself.

1. Electric Prunes: I had too much to dream last night

2. Blues Magoos: Love seems doomed

3. Blues Magoos: Got to get away

4. Beatles: I’m only sleeping

5.  Blues Magoos: There’s a chance we can make it

6. Pink Floyd: Interstellar Overdrive

7. Family: See Through Windows

8. Rolling Stones: Gomper

9. Pretty Things: Bracelets of Fingers

10. Kinks: You’re Looking Fine

11. Cream: Deserted Cities Of The Heart

12. Hendrix: Castles Made Of Sand

13. Electric Prunes: Long Day’s Flight

14. Quicksilver Messenger Service: Too long

15. Vanilla Fudge: You Just Keep Me Hanging On

16. Nice: Bonnie K.

17. Pretty Things: Buzz The Jerk

There is much more psychedelic music from the original period in existence than I had thought. Quite a few bands published just one, but excellent or unique album, so nowadays these band’s names are forgotten. It was a short-lived time, even then. Everything in psychedelic music happened within less than two years. As a suggestion, also listen to John’s Children, the first Bee Gees album, Kaleidoscope (album “Tangerine Dream”), The Incredible String Band, Donovan, early Traffic, Country Joe and the Fish, The Seeds, Aorta, Moby Grape, 13th Floor Elevators, The Chocolate Watchband, Clear Light, Fever Tree, C.A. Quintet. Family’s debut “Music in a doll’s house” is an album I adore.

Virtually any established band, like the Kinks, The Hollies, The Moody Blues, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, brought out a psychedelic album in 1967. For some this was just a matter of fashion (like sitars and fancy caftans), dropped the year after – for some it was a deeper and longer lasting experience. Most of the music mentioned here is also represented on youtube, and there are more psychedelic lists on Amazon etc.

making the champ my champ

A post on some good experiences with easy amp modification.

About two years ago I tried to build a Fender Champ amplifier from a rather expensive amp kit (TAD) from Germany, including a perfectly made tweed cabinet. It was the first time for me to do this. I really took my time to solder accurately, and it took me many weeks to finish. To my great surprise it instantly worked, and from the moment I finally put away the screwdriver after closing the back it was just plug and play…

For a long time, I really was content with this little box that gives five very loud and intense watts – more than sufficient a sound pressure for my living room studio. I only found the Jensen P 12 R speaker (I had chosen a special champ edition with a bigger speaker for more bass response) sounded too dull. But as I also have a cabinet with two Jensen P 12 Q, I tried this combination and was quite pleased. I found that my Les Paul sounded good as it drove the amp harder and produced some nice crunch, but with my Stratocaster it was, again, too dull. The amp didn’t quite react to my playing, sounding neutral at best.

But come to think of it: non of the above results of my tests are true any more! Not that my ears would change from day to day, but I have applied some very easy mods that I think are not even real mods, and now it’s only the champ when it comes to playing Stratocaster…

A book on tube amps (“A Desktop Reference Of Hip Vintage Guitar Amps” by Gerald Weber), a very practical and easy-to-read guide to some more understanding of tube amps, was the catalyst. I brought together two ideas of which I had heard separately: The installation of a bright capacitor over the amp’s volume pot (as provided in many Fender amps, called the bright switch), and the installation of a multiple switch to house several caps of different values – making it possible to dial in different presets suiting each guitar or even each pickup separately. Remember the champ has but one volume pot – no tone control at all, and even the volume pot serves as on/off-switch in addition, thus canceling the memory of your last volume setting when turned off.

I was amazed at how plainly audible the difference was! With a simple trick that – applied to guitar volume pots – is called a “volume bleed circuit” a vast curtain was drawn back, and I finally had the treble and mid frequency range desired. Nothing is added that wasn’t there before by this procedure – it’s  just changing the balance between frequencies by adding something that the volume pot is taking away when not turned to maximum. Kind of reloading. By trying several different cap values you may affect only the very high treble, or include parts of the midrange, too. Gerald Weber mentions cap values from 47 pF to 120 pF.  You can solder one or several caps to a switch, as I did, or solder the one you like best directly over the input/output of the volume pot, thus losing the original sound. A switch will also be connected to the input/output terminals of the pot.

My multi-switch has six positions. I left the first blank to reproduce the unchanged, original sound. Then I added 33 pF, 47 pF, 100 pF, 120 pF, 150 pF. Lower values just add very high treble, as opposed to the higher values that increasingly allow for more middle to get through… I have already chosen some favorite switch positions for each guitar.

So now there is sort of a tone control for my little champ that I mounted on the chassis where there was some space left. I do not mind reaching for it on the backside of the amp, but maybe that is not a good idea for everyone.

A second step of modification included exchange of all three tubes of the little amp. Instead of a 12 AX7 preamp tube I placed a 5751 that gives lower gain, but clearly more nice treble. Just crank up the volume a bit more than used to, and voilà an excellent sound! Gerald Weber in several instances mentioned a rectifier tube named 5V4 that replaces a 5Y3. It makes the amp a little bit louder, which was no aim of mine, but also gives more, and tighter bass. Since I wished to make the champ sound less “boxy” I had to add more bass as well as treble. To check bass response, the low “E” from an electric guitar (compared to other notes) was perfectly right.

Then I tried several types of power tubes. First, different brands of 6V6, but then I switched to another tube (my favorite one on the modeling device “Vox Tonelab SE”) that is called 5881 (kind of a military rugged version of 6L6, but of different construction and sound). That’s when I experienced Strat-player’s heaven! Now that’s how this amp was meant to sound, and it sounds good with humbuckers, too. No matter a 5881 belongs in other amps, like the Fender Bassman – it just sounds great in my amp and makes it sound bigger. No problems so far.

Changing tubes (with the amp off!!!) is easy for anybody, only a little more difficult than exchanging a light bulb. If you are capable of soldering, you may try and add a bright cap to any amp’s master volume, I think, provided you are missing some treble or clearness of sound. The degree of sound shaping achieved of course depends on the way your volume pot is reacting when turned! And on the range of frequencies that is affected by it. So it may work in some amps, in some not. It certainly doesn’t make any difference with the amp’s volume turned all the way up – so the softer your setting, the more effect there will be…

Last thing to do was loosening the four screws that hold the baffle board (a rather thin wooden front the speaker is mounted on) a little, so its extra vibrations can add to the impression of volume, of vibrating tone. I think this measure that is known since the old days put the sound of the internal speaker above the sound of my 2×12 cabinet. What’s also important with these small amps is to place them in a somehow elevated position so the speaker’s cone addresses the ear directly. Otherwise much treble and presence will be lost.

Some months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of the sound quality and variability my champ has gained now. This was my first and only experience so far with “amp tuning”, apart from soldering some better tone caps to my AC 15 and changing all the tubes in my amps. Pretty successful for my purpose – I was amazed myself. Please feel free to ask questions.

sparkle

[audio:latin.mp3]

Finally I’m back, finally my health is better, and here is the next co-production with Steve:

Steve from England had sent me a keyboard track that constantly changes between major and minor of the same root, with some percussion added. He told me he had been playing around with the keyboard lately – and that was a surprise to me, for I knew him as a guitar player.

I liked the feeling of the track with the working title “Latin”. Of course it is a so-called Latin rhythm; only I don’t like the term and so decided to add some sparkle from another one of my son’s pictures.

Steve agreed with my proposal to add some more percussion to make it sound more lively. It was pure fun to play these instruments, but my personal highlight was the guitar solo I recorded immediately afterwards. This was the first time I achieved a sound with a Santana-like sustain and a similar character, and ironically I achieved it with the Jaguar, the good old tube screamer and my Vox AC 15. Not at all the kind of tools one would expect, but I had often tried it with Les Pauls or SGs and never succeeded! The Jaguar has a more nasal sound quality to it (which I like), and I consider my sound not a copy (which it isn’t and I couldn’t) but a parallel.

Anyway, this is not a bad one, and I wish I could have presented it earlier. I would like to thank Steve for giving me this opportunity with his inspiring track. In my earlier years as a musician I never came much forward with soloing, being mostly the bass player. So in a way, this track is a dream come true…

compulsory break

Hopefully this blog will go on soon, but right now I’m barely able to teach my students (which of course I do), due to a particularly persistent flu which has made me cough for nearly five weeks (!) now.

It is one of the kindergarten viruses depriving me of my energy. From the moment our son went there, just about every little infect became more evil, more persistent. This particular virus was said to presumably entertain the infected person for about six weeks (as those who were the first to get through this told us).

So there remains some hope: just one more week! Sorry, folks… I’ll be back as soon as I can. With music. With co-productions and some tracks that are more elaborate than the usual improvisations. Most of that stuff has been prepared for publishing, but I couldn’t finish it.

In addition I planned a track that will be called “The Psychedelic Chord”, giving rise to a bunch of questions like: Is there a psychedelic chord? Is it a chord at all? Is it psychedelic? As most of these questions should be answered “no” by an accurate musicologist, I prefer to give a personal answer in a strictly musical way (maybe “yes” in all three concerns)… Looking forward to those posts!

aqua

[audio:aqua.mp3]

With its simple double “a” vocal, the Latin or Italian word for “water” underlines this element’s fundamental meaning. An archaic word.

That’s what Steve’s contribution did to my unfinished track from the last post: it was reconnected with a fundamental meaning.