Gigging Advice

Modern stomps offer more sounds than ever before, but a laptop can help you delve into an even deeper world of live sonic manipulation. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

The beauty of a great guitar plugged straight into a great tube amp is undeniable. Still, some might say the full potential of an electric guitar is realized only when processing that signal. Of course, some of the most groundbreaking players of all time—from Jimi Hendrix to The Edge—have illustrated this point, and the current deluge of new pedals and thriving builders seems to bear this out.

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Using his Akai MPC 3000, J Dilla created an off-the-grid rhythmic feel that influenced a generation of bassists and drummers.

From James Brown to J Dilla, understanding note placement is a key to rhythmic mastery.

There’s so much to discuss when it comes to bass playing. One of the most basic and valuable skills to be explored on bass—or any instrument for that matter—is placement, or where exactly to play relative to the beat. To a certain extent, this can be a cultural question, decided by where one was raised or what one was raised upon. However, some musicians are more intentional about their choice of placement, and thus choose to study feel and the multitude of possibilities within.

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Duke Ellington, Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the Stones, Miles Davis, Prince, Zeppelin … all the music John Bohlinger loves was born from the trailblazing jazz and blues of Bessie Smith (above) and Satchmo.

While watching the Ken Burns documentary Jazz, I realized all the music I love was born from the jazz and blues of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.

Ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures all look like they were created by a sixth grader. They are stiff, flat profiles with feet, nose, and chin pointing in the same direction: no depth, no realism. All art was this primitive until the 5th century, when Greeks took a giant step forward … literally. They developed contrapposto, where a standing human figure is posed with their weight resting on one leg. The weight shift brought organic movement, bringing the paintings and sculptures to life. (Check out the 5th century Kritios Boy, which is the earliest known Greek statue to use contrapposto.)

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Got writer’s block? A little bit of Nic Cage and Robert Smith might forestall your Jack Torrance tendencies.

“Writer’s block” is one of those things that’s simultaneously so self-important and cliché and yet so devastatingly real that pretty much everyone can identify with it at least a little bit. Countless movie and novel plots revolve around it, but it’s not confined to the Stephen Kings/Jack Torrances of the world. It burdens all of us at one point or another, whether we’re signing a greeting card, trying to post something motivating for an upcoming gig, working on a new song, or attempting to compose a monthly column that doesn’t suck ass.

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