Jan 312011

John Rich, Sebastian Bach and band at soundcheck

We had the pleasure of opening for John Rich (Lonestar, Big & Rich) this last weekend, and it was definitely a wild one! John invited his good friend Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) to join him onstage for the show and it was a real treat for the audience. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of soundchecks over the years, first running the merchandise concession for the Seattle Center Coliseum, and then as an opening act, and I’d have to say that John Rich’s soundcheck was easily one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. When he came out, he wasn’t just going through the motions and making sure everything worked, he came out and performed!

People have asked us to talk more about performance, stage presence, and the like, and John was a great example of how to really get ready to perform at a show. There were probably fewer than 20 people in the room, from stage hands to security to vending, and still he included his stage patter, lots of energy, and he took charge of the room. Not something you see at most soundchecks.

One of the big takeaways I got from seeing this is that just before they were done with soundcheck he said “Okay, let’s run the top of the show.” They proceeded to run the first song-and-a-half of their set, just like the show had actually started. When they walked off stage, they knew they were ready for the evening’s performance. I used to play a lot of golf, and this is a trick a lot of good golfers use to get ready for their round. Right as they’re finishing hitting balls and warming up on the range, they actually hit all the shots they’re expecting to play on the first hole. I always found that this calmed the inevitable nerves and helped you come out ready to play. Frankly I’m surprised I didn’t catch on to doing this in the band setting sooner myself, and I can guarantee that this is something we will be doing from now on at every show. Thanks John!

And as a special treat, If you’d like one of the John Rich guitar picks pictured below, be one of the first three people to post a comment here on the site (not on Facebook, sorry), and I’ll drop one of these in the mail for you. Let the comments begin!!!


Gibson Booth at NAMM 2011

 Posted by at 9:28 am  Gear, NAMM
Jan 282011

Gibson Custom Shop Artist Series

The Gibson booth was packed this year with Custom Shop guitars to drool over, and drool I did! After years and years of being a Strat guy, I play mostly Les Pauls and humbucker-equipped Tele’s these days, which is interesting given I’m in a county band! But watch CMT or GAC these days and you’ll see a lot more Gibsons than Tele’s it seems. For our brand of Industrialized Country it’s just the right tone for what we’re going for.

There were lots of great guitars at the booth, but it was definitely the Les Pauls that got my attention and there were several new Artist Models to check out. First up was the Eric Clapton 1960 Les Paul. This is patterend from the guitar used on the “Beano” album, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers’ Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album of 1966. I ‘ll post pics of the guitar as well as the specs on these Artist guitars and apologize for some blurry text. It was Sunday by the time we got up to the Gibson booth, and well, things were pretty blurry in general by then…..

Next up is the Don Felder “Hotel California” 1959 Les Paul.  While the solo on “Hotel California” is named on virtually every reputable list of “greatest guitar solos” that has ever been published, in fact Felder played all of his solos on that album on one outstanding instrument: a 1959 Les Paul Standard.

Marc Bolan was at the forefront of the early ’70s rock scene, helping to shape the legendary “Glam Movement” with his driving boogie licks and larger than life stage presence. The Marc Bolan Les Paul captures the guitarist’s workhorse in its most iconic incarnation, with Bolan’s DIY finish (coined “Bolan Chablis”), ’50s Les Paul Standard specs and a black custom neck.

And finally, the Alex Lifeson Axcess.

And now for all of the Gibson’s on display in the booth…..

Jan 272011

[Editors note: We'd like to thank Ken Cormier for taking the time to write such a wonderfully insightful article on what it's like to be a left handed guitarist. If you have a topic that you'd like to share with our readers please contact us for submission requirements.]

Living In the Right Side of the Brain

By: Ken Cormier

Being right on the inside and wrong on the outside is a lefty’s world. Lefties are primarily dominant by the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the body and statistically make up less than 10% of the population. Although lefties are considered more creative and we have seen such great musicians as: Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Tony Iommi, Billy Ray Cyrus and many more, they still make up a small percentage compared to their counterpart. Here is a more complete list of left-handed musicians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_musicians_who_play_left-handed

Comparatively speaking, there are not a lot of famous lefty musicians compared to right handed players but their contributions shaped the world of music and how we hear it today.

My first encounter being a minority occurred in 1976 when I started playing guitar. I was 9 years old. Left-handed guitars were rare (if not obsolete) but hardly ever seen in local music stores. Back then the internet was at best an idea and catalogs were the other option. Research came down to opening the phone book and calling music stores to only hear the same news over and over again. So, I did what every other lefty would do and bought a right-handed acoustic guitar and turned the strings around. The action was challenging because the higher strings buzzed due to laying across the nut where low E, A, D strings one resided. It became the norm for playing (high action on the low strings and buzzing on the high strings) this doesn’t include the fact that the instrument quality was far below and decent standard of an instrument along with the intonation being slightly off due to the bridge angled the wrong direction.

Jumping ahead to 1985, an amazing thing happened. Guitar for the Practicing Musician magazine started publishing a new music notation called tablature. This was a fast way to interpret the guitar and cover things standard (piano) style sheet music couldn’t. This included: Slides, Whammy Dives (Eddie Van Halen was it in the early ‘80’s), Volume Swells, Hammer On, Pull Offs, Finger Tapping, Artificial Harmonics, bending strings behind the nut (such as the intro to Iron Man by Black Sabbath) and the list goes on. Wow, this was fantastic but again it had to be read upside down if you were a lefty. The notes weren’t as challenging for me but the chords would take a bit longer for the brain to reverse the fingers and get that on the fret board.

Moving ahead another 10 years to 1995, it was finally time for me to invest my years of playing into quality instruments. Most non-musicians & wives (sorry if I’m offending any female guitarists but you are more rare than a lefty ) don’t understand why just one guitar isn’t enough, so for those of you reading this and are trying to understand the reason for more than one instrument, let me explain.

When it comes to guitar, there 3 basic standard instruments: Classical, Acoustic and Electric but from there many instrumentalists will find interest in other sounds such as: 12 String Acoustic, Split the electric guitar into Dark and Light meaning a Gibson (dark) and a Strat. (Light) or some variance. Then there’s Pedal Steel, Mandolin and Banjo to list a few more. Each of these instruments are unique in their sound and take a completely different approach to playing.

Ok, back to what I was talking about. It was finally time for me to invest in quality instruments to match my playing ability which meant for a guitarist, there are lots of instruments to buy. I started out with a Guild F-47mce Acoustic which is an amazing instrument but started running into other issues. I started experimenting with strings from different thicknesses to brands and materials. This proved to be a long journey before settling down on something that felt right for that instrument.

Over the next 10 years I picked up an American Deluxe Stratocaster, Carvin CL 450 Classical Guitar, I customized my Kramer which seemed to be the only lefty guitar that appeared in every music store I walked into in the early ‘90’s; Then the holy grail, the Gibson Les Paul Custom. Every one of these instruments was ordered online and sometimes I had to wait up to 6-8 months for delivery. This could present a problem for professional musicians or your left handed band mate who decides to get overexcited and smash his instrument.

Out of my repertoire of guitars’ listed; there should be one that stands out from a lefty perspective more so than the others. It is the Carvin CL450 classical guitar. If you are looking for a quality left handed classical guitar with a cut away and electronics (this one has Fishman), then please let me know. I was unsuccessful in finding anything except from Carvin. I have gone as far as contacting Ovation and said I would pay for a custom made classical guitar, only to be turned away. I do remember Takamine having something but not a cutaway if I remember correctly. The Carvin is really amazing and I had my doubts on going that route because I didn’t know anyone who owned a Carvin. Of course they have a lot of famous sponsors which is hard to overlook but I can honestly say I was so impressed with the CL450, that when it came to buying a bass I had no issues going back to Carvin and getting the LB-70.

In summary, if you are a lefty guitarist, then you know what I’m talking about. For the other 90% of the world, I hope this brings a little more insight on the challenges a lefty has to overcome on learning the guitar and finding instruments. In my next article, I’ll cover effects and the challenges of setting them up in reverse order which is the correct way for a lefty. I can also briefly discuss Mandolins due to my recent purchase.

[Editor’s Note:

I found this article fascinating as I too am a lefty. Fortunately for me though, I tend to be fairly ambidextrous and learned to play the guitar right handed from a very young age. The pros to this is the much wider variety of guitars and other instruments available to me. The cons is that my right hand coordination sucks, making sweep picking, banjo rolls and general shredding much more difficult. The older I get, the more I realize that’s it’s all about the right hand! I remember reading a long time ago that Steve Morse would actually practice left handed as he felt it helped his overall playing, so I got a left handed guitar (a story for another day) and found that it wasn’t all that difficult to play “backwards.” It certainly didn’t help me as much as it helped Steve (a point made painfully obvious seeing him play at NAMM last weekend!), but it’s something I still do from time to time when I want to get my right hand working better. Thanks for the great article Ken, and let’s see if we can get some of you other lefty’s out there to post some pics of your favorite guitars.  -Paul]

Jan 272011


I had mentioned earlier that one of my favorite amps of the show this year was the new Mesa Boogie Royal Atlantic, and I’m really looking forward to using one this summer on the road. Another amp that caught my eye was the new VOX Bruno Amps, designed by legendary boutique amp designer Tony Bruno. For those of you not familiar with Bruno’s amps, his Underground 30 is widely considered to be the best modern AC-30-type amp you can buy these days. He has reworked all of Brad Paisley’s vintage VOX amps, and Brad often uses an Underground 30 in his live rig along with his Dr. Z’s.

VOX TB Top View

The new VOX Brunos come as either a 1×12 or 2×12 combo, both sporting 35 watts. The big difference here though is that they use a quartet of 6V6 tubes in the power section unlike your usual AC-15/30. The 6V6′s are noted for their smooth high end, creamy mids, big bass, and rich breakup when overdriven, and give this amp a decidedly American flavor. This is a single channel, master volume amp and it sports a footswitchable Macho mode that is great for fattening up single coils guitars, as well as a Bass Boost and Master Volume Bypass. All of this runs through Celestion G12-65′s (the only speaker Robben Ford will use!).

These are heavy beasts at 66 and 77 pounds respectively, but the 1×12 paired with your travel pedalboard could well be the perfect rehearsal/jam/small room setup.

Jan 262011

This has got to be one of the coolest contests we’ve seen in awhile (next to our great Morpheus giveaway that is!). Fifteen grand prize winners of Ernie Ball Presents Experience Clapton will get unparalleled access to Eric Clapton’s private rehearsal, an exclusive meet and greet, and a ticket to see Clapton live at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

So how does it work? You can check out all the details here, but basically think of Willy Wonka and the Golden Ticket and you’ll be in the ballpark. Each and every pack of Ernie Ball electric and acoustic guitar strings purchased at Guitar Center between February 1st and April 30th will give a guitarist the chance to win one of the 15 grand prizes to Experience Clapton in London, simply by visiting ernieball.com/clapton and entering the unique code provided inside the package. Select packs will also include one of 5 color-coded, instant-winning Eric Clapton guitar picks. Each pick is redeemable for one of thousands of exclusive prizes including free Music Man guitars, VIP trips to the 2012 winter NAMM show and Guitar Center gift cards, depending on the pick’s color.

15 Experience Clapton Grand Prize Packages Include:
· Round-Trip Flight & Hotel Accommodations To London, England.
· Once in A Lifetime Access to Attend Eric’s Private Rehearsal.
· Meet & Greet with Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall.
· A Ticket to Clapton’s Royal Albert Hall Concert.

Eric Clapton Picks and Prizes Include:
· Golden Pick– Round-Trip Airfare to Anaheim, CA for the 2012 Winter NAMM Show (10 winners).
· Silver Pick – Custom Ernie Ball Music Man Guitar of your choice (10 winners).
· Red Pick– $100 Guitar Center Gift Cards (150 winners).
· Black Pick– Limited Edition Eric Clapton Lithograph (150 winners).
· White Pick – Free Pack of Ernie Ball Guitar Strings (1,500 winners).

This offer is available exclusively at one of 215 Guitar Center locations in the United States.

Jan 262011


To celebrate the release of their new documentary, Cry Baby: The Pedal That Rocks the World, Dunlop is giving you the chance to win 1 of 8 Signature Cry Baby Series pedals signed by Dunlop’s own Signature wah-wah masters. These pedals are designed with the attitude and tone of their namesakes in mind, representing the unique ways that they have made the Cry Baby an essential part of their sounds. 
Eight grand-prize winners will receive one of the eight signed Signature Cry Baby Series pedals below according to his or her preference.

  • - Eddie Van Halen Signature Cry Baby signed by Eddie Van Halen
  • - Dimebag Darrell Signature Cry Baby signed by Dimebag Darrell
  • - Buddy Guy Signature Cry Baby signed by Buddy Guy
  • - Jerry Cantrell Signature Cry Baby signed by Jerry Cantrell
  • - Kirk Hammett Signature Cry Baby signed by Kirk Hammett
  • - Slash Signature Cry Baby signed by Slash
  • - Zakk Wylde Signature Cry Baby signed by Zakk Wylde
  • - Classic Crybaby signed by Jim Dunlop

Five second-place winners will receive one GCB95 Cry Baby and some awesome Cry Baby swag.

Click HERE to enter now!

Jan 252011

Fender Online Lessons

Fender posted some incredibly good online guitar lessons today from the Fender University series. There are video lessons for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced players covering Rock, Metal, Blues and Country from artists including Eric Johnson, John 5, Chris Duarte, Joe Bonamassa, Redd Volkaert and Albert Lee among many others. I’ve already watched a few of these and stolen some great chickin’ pickin’ licks from John 5. Even if you’re not a huge fan of online lessons (which I’m usually not) these are well worth a look. It’s a little slow today as they were just released and their site is getting pounded, but be patient and let me know what you think after you’ve had a look.

Jan 252011

TGM.com's Paul with his new Mesa gear

Who doesn’t want to be endorsed, right? But where do you start? Are you big enough or important enough for someone to even be interested? Who do you talk to and what should you ask for? Am I going to be totally humiliated when I get rejected? I know these were all questions I had as my new band was gearing up for a summer of touring last year. I had been using Mesa Boogie gear for well over 20 years, and still I didn’t know who to talk to. But after a few phone calls and some networking help, I got in touch with Tim McKee at Mesa and was on my way to becoming a Mesa Endorsed Artist.

So how did it all work? Well Tim McKee is Director of Artist Relations at Mesa Engineering, and he recently wrote an article for his friend Mark LaFay’s blog about some of the do’s and don’ts when looking for an endorsement deal. Tim’s got some hilarious stories to tell of how people have approached him over the years, and you can really learn a lot from this article. Do your homework, be nice, be humble, and don’t take anything for granted. All easy things to do, but amazing how often people forget the basics. Have a look at Tim’s article and share your endorsement experiences with us here at The Gigging Musician.

Jan 242011

Photo Gallery of James Trussart and Tom Anderson guitars. The guitars from James Trussart Custom Guitars feature either a hollow steel body, or a chambered wood body with inset steel top, and the etching and finishing on these steel tops is spectacular. If you haven’t seen a Trussart before, definitely check out their site for more information. And the Anderson guitars from Tom Anderson Guitarworks are always some of the nicest you’ll find at the show (or anywhere else for that matter). From their vintage-inspired classics to their signature Drop Top, it’s hard to beat an Anderson guitar.

Jan 232011

Sighting down the neck

This is one of those adjustments to your guitar that can seem scary at first, but is quite easy to perform and can have a big impact on how your guitar performs. There’s a great article on the Stewart-MacDonald website that walks you through all the steps.

One of the things to experiment with is how much neck relief is right for you. Jeff Beck for example prefers an absolutely flat neck. That means that if you hold down your low E string on the first and last fret (or first and 17th fret in the Stew-Mac article) there would be no gap between the string and top of the frets halfway between where you’re pressing down, or somewhere around the 12th fret the way I do it. I tend to prefer my guitars with just a very slight relief/gap appearing between the stings and the frets at the 12th fret. I find this alleviates some of the string buzz you can get with low action and heavy playing. How much is right for you depends on your playing style and it’s worth some experimentation to find out what suits you best.

But most of all, don’t be afraid to experiment and make this adjustment. It’s one of the easiest to do yourself and can have a big impact on how your guitar plays.

Jan 222011

The new Mesa Royal Atlantic was one of my favorite amps of the show. It sports three channels with separate power soak capabilities on each and is powered by EL-34′s for a distinctly British sound. I just came across a video demo from Premier Guitar and thought I would post it here for your review. I will be road testing one of these over the summer and documenting my experiences with it so stay tuned for more!



Fender Booth at NAMM 2011

 Posted by at 1:30 pm  Gear, NAMM
Jan 212011

Below are several shots from the Fender booth at NAMM last weekend. Lot’s to see there including Fender, Gretsch, and the EVH  Wolfgang guitars.

Jan 212011

Randy Nichols - Force Media Management

Our friends at Ultimate Ears recently asked that question of RANDY NICHOLS of FORCE MEDIA MANAGEMENT. Randy represents music clients UNDEROATH, THE STARTING LINE, THE ALMOST, AARON GILLESPIE and PERSON L as well as producer AARON SPRINKLE. In addition, Randy co-manages FAKE PROBLEMS and HIT THE LIGHTS with Matt Watts.

Have a look at what Randy has to say and see if it’s time for you to consider adding a manager to your team.

Jan 202011

Morpheus DropTune

Ray and I have been looking at all kinds of contests for readers of The Gigging Musician, and we’re happy to announce that for our very first contest we’ll be giving away a brand spankin’ new Morpheus DropTune pedal. For those of you not familiar with the DropTune, it gives your guitar instant, polyphonic drop tuning in ½-step decrements up to 3½ steps — plus full Octave and Octaver. This isn’t a mere pitch shift stompbox. The DropTune uses proprietary polyphonic pitch drop algorithms that maintain perfect harmonic accuracy and tonally-correct overtones — you have to hear this pedal to believe how real it sounds! And the fine folks at XP Audio were nice enough to give us one of these pedals to give away to one of you!

I bought this pedal and have been using it virtually since the day it came out, and I have to say it’s changed my life. In my current band, we do about two thirds of our songs in standard tuning, with the remaining third split between a half step down, a full step down, and one-and-a-half steps down. I was having to take at least 4 guitars to every show, and even that left me without a backup in standard tuning. And for fly gigs? Forget it. No way we could afford to ship that many guitars to every show. The Morpheus completely solved my multiple-guitar problem, and I even flew to a few gigs last summer with just one guitar and a small Pedalboard that included the Morpheus.

The Contest

So how do you win one of these pedals for your very own you might ask? Great question. All you have to do is sign up for our mailing list and then help us hit 10,000 “Likes” on Facebook. It’s that simple. If you like The Gigging Musician, we ask that you “Suggest” our page to all your musician friends (just click the “Suggest to Friends” button under the Gigging Musician logo on our Facebook page). Then sign up for our mailing list, and when we hit 10,000 “Likes” we’ll do a random drawing from everyone on our mailing list and this brand new Morpheus DropTune pedal will be on its way to our lucky winner!

Jan 202011

Harrison Duo Jet

This Gretsch G6128T-GH was meticulously recreated by Gretsch master builder, Stephen Stern & his crew from the ORIGINAL guitar owned by George and played during his early & post Beatles career. Only 60 Harrison TRIBUTE guitars will be produced worldwide, and MSRP is $20,000.

Unique features of the guitar include a light weight mid-50′s body chamber style, distressed all BLACK color scheme (body top, back & sides & back of neck), modified B6C Bigby tailpice with black “phillips-head” trem arm pivot bolt, off-set mounted strap carrage bolt on butt of body.

The package also includes two unpublished photos of George with his ORIGINAL Duo Jet guitar, a rare 1987 British 7″ vinyl record release of Harrison’s hit song, “Got My Mind Set on You”, a DVD – “The Making of George Harrison’s TRIBUTE Gretsch Guitar”, and one of George’s personal guitar picks.

There is a great, in-depth story about Harrison and his Duo Jet on the Gretsch site you can read here.

Harrison Display at the Gretsch Booth

Jan 192011

Ray's Pedalboard

Now if this were anyone else’s pedalboard I would probably understand. For those of you following the site, you know how into pedalboards I am and how I’m always looking for the latest and greatest part to make the thing perfect. So imagine my surprise when I walked into rehearsal last night and saw this monstrosity on the floor! Who in the world would have a pedalboard like this? And to make matters worse, there isn’t even any velcro on the pedals yet so they just came out as a pile of pedals when the lid came off!

So who’s board is this? None other than my bass player, good friend (until this post!) and partner in crime here at The Gigging Musician, Ray Neyens! Oh man!

Okay, to be completely fair to Ray (and to hopefully preserve our friendship) I suppose I should come clean and let you know that basically all of the stuff for Ray’s new pedalboard came on the same day and we haven’t even started putting it all together yet. Still, it’s always fun to make fun of the bass player, right? Maybe if I wrote my posts in crayon…..

Paul's New Board

So the first step in the process will be to drill the hole in the side for that Miracle Pedalboard Part, the Male Flanged Inlet which allows you to power the whole board with a simple extension cord. Then holes for the locking Neutric jacks for the 1/4″ connections. A Planet Waves pedalboard cable kit for the connections on the board and the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus mounted underneath, and this thing will be ready to go. And with any luck it will look a little something like my (finally) finished board.

We’ll take pictures along the way and let you know how things progress, and if you have any questions or comments, as always, we’d love to hear them.

Gotta love those pedalboard projects!


The Colors of NAMM

 Posted by at 3:16 pm  Gear, NAMM
Jan 192011

Different than most of the posts you see about NAMM, one of the things I noticed this year was the great use of colors in some of the booths. So in no particular order and without captions…..The Colors of NAMM!

Jan 192011

Here’s something a little different today. Every time I see this video it makes me laugh. This band is called the Herding Cats and they put all their energy into creating an entertaining show.

I’m not posting this to promote the band, but rather to give a little food for thought as to how you might think outside the box and come up with something new or different for your show. Admittedly, their show is a little “gimmicky” and might not be right for every type of band, but it is still worth considering whether there might be something you can do to freshen up your live show.

Let us know what you think. Do you like this? Does your band do anything similar? Different? Do you hate this kind of thing?

This is a rather long video and the payoff doesn’t come until around the 5 minute mark, so don’t stop playback too early.