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Questions music

I’ve been out of practice since 2004, and have finally decided to get back into music and do a solo acoustic gig. Formerly I was lead guitar for a country rock band, so going from electric to acoustic is quite the experience. I have some technical questions I’m hoping someone can answer, or at least point me in the right direction.

What is a good way to record my gigs and practices JUST well enough to self-critique. I do practice using my soundcraft notepad 12fx which has AUX out. I set everything up just like at a gig, so I get used to the sound. The only difference is I use headphones vs. my two QSC 8 speakers. I use a Godin A6 ultra hybrid guitar (acoustic electric with both piezo and humbucker). Practicing and recording just using my tablet to capture ambient sound doesn’t produce very good results. I’d like to improve it so that I’m hearing what the audience is hearing, or at least approaching that level.

I’m trying to set myself apart from just strumming the acoustic and singing. I used to be a lead guitarist so I miss throwing leads in. So far, I’m learning how to do “leads” using moveable chords, double stops, things like that, so that the bottom doesn’t drop out but I don’t have that many tricks up my sleeve, so sometimes I just stop strumming, do a lead, then pick back up again. It doesn’t sound bad but I wish there was a way to keep the rhythm up a bit. Any suggestions?

I am incorporating a Gretsch hollow body electric for songs that call for it (I saw her standing there, by the Beatles, lookin’ out my back door by creedence, etc.) I’m also doing some open G work for a few stones songs (Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, And move it on over by George Thorogood). Any other suggestions or caveats using the electric (sparingly)?

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    Camera-equipped smartphones can have decent sound, but if that's not enough, use a small recorder like Zoom H4n. A single stereo mic captures everything in a very honest way. – piiperi Nov 14 at 11:56
  • Excellent. I was thinking about the Zoom (I think even the H1 would work, and they're around $100). If I remember, they have TWO inputs so I could go straight from the board and record guitar on one, vocals on the other maybe? Then at least I can adjust that while I'm listening and MAYBE even use a couple as "demo" songs if I'm lucky?? Am I on the right track? – Kenneth LaVoie Nov 14 at 12:21
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    "Straight from the board" is not what your audience hears. IMO it's just unnecessary rubbish eating your memory cards and your time, and is of little use. Except if you're doing a video, you might want to be able to dial in more of the dry signal, if there's too much ambience. But if you're doing this to get your live show and skills better, you want to hear what your audience hears. If your real audience is Youtube, then any sort of fake goes and you can even fix timings and pitches/tuning or re-record the whole thing later on or whatever, nobody will know. – piiperi Nov 14 at 14:09
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As for recording I would just use a smart phone. I also use a micro recorder (circa 2008). Not sure the quality is as good as other methods but "good enough" for self critique.

I would address your technical performance question in a little more detail. If you are trying to solo without letting the bottom drop out I would recommend devoting some time learning the art of chord melody (the real reason the guitar exists). Arranging chord melodies teaches you exactly how to do this and is basically how classical guitar music is written and arranged (and that is the natural music of the guitar). Jazz guitarists also make extensive use of the technique. A systematic approach would involve learning chord scales (how to play up and down the scales with full 3 and 4 voice chord harmony) then applying this to simple standards you already know. The process will eventually get into your muscle memory and you will find that it becomes easier to solo with a chord melody approach. Until you get there you may want to write solos for a few tunes and then add back up chords and bass to that. It's a learning process and I'm sure you would rather just improv but it takes time to get good at the technique.

There are some great books out there on the technique and the Mel Bay series incorporates chord scales by about grade 3. There is a separate book called Guitar Melody Chord Playing System you can get on Amazon. It's very simple but effective. He goes through the simple I, IV, V7 harmonization of Major and Harmonic minor scales in every key. The sample songs are somewhat childish but that's not the point. Once you get the idea in your head and hands you can start applying it to your songs. The William Levitt method also incorporates this approach.

Many guitarists do exactly what you are trying and you could learn a lot from listening to them. I am not a country player so my examples may not fall into your taste category but the point is to learn how the technique is applied. One of the greatest Jazz guitarists was Joe Pass. He played standards solo, no back up group. He played a hollow body electric like a classical, i.e. without a pick. This brings me to the other thing you can do to make your playing richer. Learn finger style if you don't know it already. Joe would play full chords, chord melody, and even harmonize solo lines. It is worth pointing out that not every note requires a bass line! Sometimes you can just let the bottom drop for a line and pick it up again later. It's a matter of doing it tastefully. Joe does that. It is quite amazing to hear him play. You feel like you hear a group yet when you look at transcriptions there isn't much there. The Bass is thrown in once in a while but effectively. This is also the case in classical guitar music. Even though 6 strings are available a majority the music is single note lines.

As an example, I have a new student who likes folk and country and I'm teaching them chord melody. We just arranged The Gambler that way and it was fairly easy as it's mostly one chord (where it counts).

Artists who are known for chord soloing that I can recommend listening to are, Joe Pass, Bucky Pizzarelli, Van Eps, all jazz players. I would highly recommend getting a chord melody book like the Mel Bay one I mentioned above, and learn finger style. To make contact with country I know that Bluegrass guitarist use the same chord melody system as jazz players do but make use of finger picking or hybrid picking to get a quick banjo style arpeggiation of the chords as they go. So if you look up some classic bluegrass player on Youtube you may see some of that approach.

  • yes Voice Recorder on smartphone is my go-to note taking tool as well. Also great for song and arrangement ideas. – danmcb Nov 17 at 10:37
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Simple answer here.

  • Get a loop station. Use it when you need to have the rhythm that you normally play, to keep that going while you play lead over the top. Use it for layering sounds. Use it for pre-recorded backing that you did earlier, and add live to it.

  • As far as recording goes, I still use minidisc for recording the few rehearsals I go to. Recorder - pre-loved - £20. Separate stereo mic - pre-loved - £10. Run off mains or battery, over 5 hrs recording in one disc. Could even be directly connected from p.a., losing ambient sound, which you want to retain. Seems to me a great solution. Slightly old hat, but so are all my instruments!

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