Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some Guitar PLAYING Tips for the Studio

One thing you find out when recording guitar players on a frequent basis is that most guitar players have the idea of playing all wrong. Please don't think that this is me saying that I'm "Yngwie Malmsteen" or anything but, it really does seem to me that when it comes to guitar playing most players tend to think faster is better. Completely overlooking tone and accuracy.

*Guitar Tone*
It baffles the HELL out of me when I see someone come into my studio who spends hundreds and hundreds of dollars on his guitar setup. He's got a Gibson Les Paul studio.. and an Orange half stack just to get that "Vintage" sound that he wants and then when it comes to playing with his drummer and bass player he just has no dynamics at all. Guitarists need to learn that there are many ways to enhance their tone that does NOT center around hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. If you try out my quick little suggestion you might find that it will change the way you approach guitar.

To understand how to improve your playing you must understand how to practice. Most people will just pick up their guitar and try to play as fast as they can and get tired and stop. The fact of the matter is that… when you push yourself to an uncomfortable level while trying to achieve speed it's never going to help. Remember the saying Practice Makes Perfect?.. it's untrue.. in actuality Practice Makes PERMINANT. Which means.. if you practice a scale fast and messed up… that's all it will ever be. Practicing scales doesn't have to be boring. He are a few tips to mixing stuff up while practicing your "HOT LICKS!"

Try alternate picking in reverse. Instead of starting on the "down" try starting on the "up" at first it will completely throw off your game but when it comes to descending scales doesn't it make sense to start them with an up stroke instead of down? One thing I like to practice is doing a regular Harmonic Minor (SLOWLY) using Up, Down, Up, Down, Up, Down.


In fact, try to become extremely familiar with this pattern. Practice it slow and steady with variations. Example: Try picking every note the first run all the way down and back up the scale. Then, on the 2nd pass try picking the first note of each string and using pull-offs to get the rest of the notes. Then, on the 3rd pass try picking the 1st and 3rd note in each phrase of 4. So pick 1 x 3 x. Try "echoing" the scale in groups of 4 so it looks like this…

B|---------10------10-9-----10 9-----10-9-------
G|--------------------------------10--------10 9-

Repeat the scale all the way down and back up again reversing the pattern. Again, one scale and be a HELL of a finger workout if you actually take the time to vary it up. Make your own patters like "First time straight through, 2nd time doubling every note, third time through groups of 4, fourth time through skipping a string (aka going from high E to G then from B to D and so fourth). Familiarity will make you a much better player.. and different patterns will greatly change the boring mundane (ascending scale) that so many guitar players rely on.

Tip #2 – PICKS MAKE SOUNDS!!!!!!!

It is surprising how many guitar players don't stop and think that the pick you are using will dramatically change your sounds in the studio. How you hold your pick is just as important as the picking technique you're using. For example, If I'm playing something acoustic I want a medium plastic pick. But, where do I go from here.. Well if I'm strumming I want a loose grip on the pick it's going to make things much more open and airy sounding… if I'm looking to do arpeggios I'm going to hold the pick slightly on a 45 degree angle to hit the strings to get that almost "Choppy" sound. It's going to make the notes sing and cut through the rest of the music. Again, viewing this from a producer's standpoint it's important that a guitar player realizes how their picks and picking effect their playing. Nylon picks with a heavy guitar tone just sound better… and if you have a player that can attack the strings at almost a sideways angle it makes all the difference in the world. When you get a chance… buy the thinnest pick and the thickest pick available at your local guitar store. Take them home and try them out for different styles of music. You will find that it makes a world of difference in sound. I'm not saying play with picks that are uncomfortable to you.. but become familiar with the sounds your instrument can make.

Tip#3 – STRINGS!

Thin strings have no bottom end! Which is fine if you are recording a black metal type project where you want no bottom end at all, but if you are putting 8's on your guitar and are expecting to play some low tuned metal it's just not going to happen. You should be sticking with 10's (regular gauge) for standard rock music. I've been known to buy two packs of strings.. heavy gauge for the E,A,D, and light gauge for the G,B,A,. Again, that's a little extreme and it's just my tastes but, I find that it gives me the light touch for solos as well as the "Stomping a mudhole in yer ass" heavy sound.

***Remember the more bottom end your guitar takes up.. the more bass frequencies you are taking away from your bass player and by law that gives him the right to kick you in the sensitive private parts.

Tip#4 – NOTES!
We're making music here people. Please understand that there are times to lay back and times to rip solos. There are times where a singer should sing. Where a drummer should drum.. where a bass player should… sit back and get some coffee for the band! (I kid, I kid) but, I've heard so many bands fighting with each other for "space" that it's really sad. Sit back.. listen to your band.. if your bass player is doing a sweet groove.. let it shine for a moment. Same thing with the drums. It's not just about one part of the band.. it's about the band…

I hope these little tips help and I hope that it gives you something new to think about when you're ready to go into the studio.
Goodluck and happy playing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Next Gemini Release

The next Planet Gemini release slated for December 2009 release is titled...
"This Could Be the End of Everything"

The album is written and just needs to be polished and fixed up production-wise.
I will probably do a little more work on this album for the rest of July and then stop in August to start working on Cauldron of Fuzz 6.

This Could Be the End of Everything is very heavy, dark. Very much classic Gemini. Probably not as "Heavy" as Wicked was but much more deep I think. Primal is the word I would use to describe the music. Very ritualistic... I mean this is the first new Gemini album in some time (Since 2007 if you can believe that) and I think you will all be satisfied with my choice in direction. Tons of new instrumentation. Lots of percussion... you'll probably be surprised at all of the strange percussive stuff on this album.

I'm really hoping to make this a 2 Gemini year so please bare with me if I seem to be distant... I have a lot of work to do... I am still hard at work on another project that I've been throwing a TON of my time to. I'm very... cautious about the presentation of this project. In my mind it has to be perfect and .. well you saw how that worked out with Wicked. hehe

Luckily for me Cauldron of Fuzz 6 is going to be much more... play, record, mix, release... I think that this is going to be a year where you REALLY notice the differences between Planet Gemini and Cauldron of Fuzz.. From a production standpoint I want COF6 to sound almost like a basement recording. It'll be much more polished than say... some of the old Electric Wizard stuff.. but, think along those lines production-wise.

Musically it's anyone's guess what it's going to sound like. I've got a while to get out some of my creative juices until I start working on it so... It's all fair game.