Tag: music


Return to Forever

My housemate and I have just watched Return to Forever: Returns, which he bought me for Christmas. We got into RTF late last year after I discovered Romantic Warrior in my music collection. I thought I’d take a moment to express how incredibly amazing these guys are. The music ranges from the sublime to the mental, and all the while it’s so incredibly complicated and well executed that us mere mortals have no chance. It’s things like this that make me wish I’d spent longer learning guitar properly (why oh why did I choose Computer Science?!).

Off the back of this I’ve ordered¬†Al Di Meola – A Guide to Chords, Scales and Arpeggios, which, I’m hoping, is likely to become my musical bible.

Here’s a clip from the DVD of them performing The Dual of the Jester and the Tyrant. Enjoy!



Dave Ellis, a friend and band mate of mine, has just posted this video of me recording a guitar solo for one of his solo projects. Enjoy!


Africa Laughing?

Has anyone else noticed the laughing over the drum intro to Africa by Toto? I heard it on my way home today, I had headphones in and the surroundings were very quiet, which helped pick out the rather quiet second or two of laughter during the first few bars. A quick Google search revealed no-one else talking about this – surely it can’t have gone unnoticed in such a famous song?!
In other news, I’m working rather hard at my Third Year Project. My presentation is Friday 13th, and there are quite a few little things to sort out by then. It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks! Similarly, Drongo Sealion Magic are through to the final of Battle of the Bands, which is on Tuesday. How we got through is a mystery, we played terribly with a huge number of technical issues, but apparently we coped with them all very well, which is cool. I’m really excited about playing in the final, it would be nice to win it since this might be my last year of doing it, but we’ll see. Fingers crossed!


Guitar Pro

I’ve been using Guitar Pro for quite a while now, a good couple of years, and have had very few issues with it. That is, before last night. I tabbed out a section I’d written for Drongo, and all was good. Because of compatibility/different software issues, when I send things round to the band, I send them in a MIDI file and a Guitar Pro 4 file. Normally this is all well and good, but last night I think it was trying to tell me something about the music I’d written. Firstly, the MIDI only exported the first 35 seconds, up to the heavier section. Secondly, when I exported the GP4, it swung the whole piece! Why the hell did it do that?! Somewhere, in some of the code, there is something which decided what I actually wanted to do was swing the piece of music. I’d love to know how this happened.


Adrian Belew

…is my latest musical obsession. This man has done everything! I’ve been a huge Krimson fan for a long time, but have never ventured into the Belew stuff until now. I ordered Side Four (his latest live album with the Power Trio – more on them later) and it arrived today (complete with US Customs label signed by Adrian himself – he actually posted it to me! how cool is that?!), and I must say it’s fantastic. When I have some money I need to get some more of his back catalogue.The Power Trio – his live band – are superb. It’s comprised of Adrian, and then Eric and Julie Slick, who are not only brother and sister, but are my age. MY AGE. And they’re amazing. Why am I not this good at my instrument yet? I really need to get on that…

On a similar note, I’ve been coveting the Adrian Belew Signature Parker Fly. I have a pretty wide collection of guitars as it is (I’m a bit of a gear whore), but this guitar just about covers everything. It has normal magnetic pick ups, a sustainer pickup, Piezo pickups in the bridge, 13-Pin MIDI output AND it’s got the Variax technology built in. So you can control all the MIDI synths you want with it, sound like any guitar you want, hold a note for as long as you want, and then sound like a normal guitar again. And, probably, do all of these things simultaneously. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? If only they did a 7 string model, I would be outside washing cars to raise money right now.


Home Recording Plus Valve Amp

For a long time we’ve been saying we would record Drongo Sealion Magic, which was a band we put together earlier this year. Due to the complexity of the song, we thought it would be best to record the parts at home in our own time. I did, however, really want to use my Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, which is quite a loud valve amp, something which doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with home recording.

So, I needed a way to record it, at relatively low volume, whilst still getting good tone so that it was worth it over using something like Guitar Rig or my Line6 Pod. And I managed it! This is how:

  • I found the “sweet spot” – I turned the amp on and cranked the volume with nothing plugged in. The sweet spot is the spot on the speaker that hums the most in this situation. For me (on my Engl vertical 2×12) this was on the very edge of the inner cone of the speaker. I placed the main microphone (a Shure PG57 – an SM57 would have given better results, but this was all I had at hand) about a centimeter or two from the grill with the center of the mic pointing at the sweet spot.
  • I built a triangle of duvets and pillows around the cabinet. This stops a lot of the volume coming out, though obviously the bass frequencies still get through quite well. It should, however, keep most neighbours happy in short recording sessions.
  • I placed a condenser mic at the apex of the triangle, however didn’t end up using that feed.

Now that the cab was mic’d up, it was just the task of playing it. This is your big chance to make or break the tone. Some people will double track the guitars to beef up the sound (this, obviously, requires you to play pretty much the exact same thing twice, which shouldn’t be too hard if you know the piece well enough). I took this a little step further, by using two different sounds and two different guitars for the tracks. The incentive for this is that a high gain sound will sound massively beefy, but a lower gain sound will give you the tightness. I had the ability to use two guitars, my Maverick Species 7 String and my Ibanez RG1527 7 String, which have very different sounds. The Maverick, being neck-thru and string-thru with higher gain pickups, gives a very high gain, loose sound. The Ibanez on the other hand gives a tighter sound. So, to find middle ground, I used the Maverick with the lower gain, tighter sound, and the Ibanez with the higher gain, looser sound.

The recordings will be available soon, but in it’s current (unmixed, uneq’d, uncompressed, unmastered) form, it sounds fantastic! I can recommend this technique to anyone wishing to record their valve amps at home.