Listen to the guitarist's new single that is raw, funky, edgy and inspired by Al McKay of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Andy Timmons has presented the first reveal from his upcoming new studio album titled ELECTRIC TRUTH, planned for a global release on April 1. Timmons offers, “This track epitomizes the record for me: A great band playing live in the studio - raw, funky, edgy…real. Very much inspired by the great guitarist Al McKay of Earth, Wind and Fire.” A pre-order will go live this Friday on www.andytimmons.com.
Reflecting on his connection to the instrument, Timmons shares, “Music and specifically the electric guitar has always been my solace and my foundation: something that I can always count on in good times and especially in bad. Something I can trust. In a world of so much misinformation and deceit I find music and playing music more important now than ever before. Electric Truth.”
Andy Timmons - "E.W.F." First track from "Electric Truth" CD Coming 4/1/22
He continues, “When my friend (producer and guitarist extraordinaire) Josh Smith invited me to his studio to record, I jumped at the chance. I was looking to do a record outside of my usual band just to change things up a bit. I was a fan of Josh’s playing, and really loved the bands he puts together so we decided I would just come out to L.A. as the “artist,” and he would produce and put the studio band together. We co-wrote a few things, and I wrote a few ballads as well. I’d say overall the record has a funky/earthy feel to it with plenty of melody. And it certainly rocks as well.”
Joining Timmons in the studio were drummer Lemar Carter (Joss Stone, Raphael Saadiq), bassist Travis Carlton (Larry Carlton, Robben Ford), and keyboardist Deron Johnson (Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Seal). Corry Pertile laid down vocals on a couple of tracks, while Smith performed on “Johnnie T”.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.
In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.
It wasn’t until I started hanging around Quinn’s Music in the neighboring town of Big Rapids, Michigan, that I started seeing guitars with alternative materials for nuts and saddles, such as the plastic used on Kays and Silvertones. Unfortunately, these materials lacked the firmness of bone, and ultimately did not produce the clear tone I’d become so accustomed to. This is also when I started to encounter acoustic guitars with adjustable saddles, which were mostly mid-’60s Gibsons. Some utilized wood for the adjustable saddles, while others used porcelain, and both materials posed both acceptable but not-so-great alternatives to bone.
A vintage-style “through saddle” on a 1930 Martin OM-18. When made correctly, the saddle height and string break will greatly enhance the overall tone of the instrument.
Over the years, I’ve seen many materials that claimed to be better than bone. But better at what? Because other than pearl, nothing beats bone for tone. Even though there are other compelling material propositions, such as brass and graphite, they all have flaws. Brass, which was popularized in the ’70s, claims to add sustain to notes, but that possible advantage has been debated, and brass is not recommended to be used as a saddle since its weight can potentially have a negative impact on soundboard resonance. Graphite is commonly used by electric players and can help maintain tuning with vibrato use and heavy bending, but it’s far too soft to offer premium tone on an acoustic instrument.
In 1976, I bought a 1969 Martin D-28. After playing it for a bit, I noticed it was lacking in high-end and clarity compared to other guitars I owned, such as my Gibson B-25. I unstrung the guitar, removed the saddle, and was surprised to discover the saddle was pliable and soft, and the nut was made from this same soft material. I took it to my local guitar repairman, Dan Erlewine, who did a great job fabricating and installing a new nut and saddle made from bone. The guitar’s overall tone improved, and the guitar came to life. Once I started repairing guitars, I routinely made and installed bone nuts and saddles to replace plastic or composite materials. As I began specializing in acoustics, I also did plenty of neck sets and fret jobs, which included a bone nut and saddle replacement to round out the repair.
This experience helped me to realize that the most impactful and minimal change you can make to influence tone is a bone nut and saddle upgrade.
This experience helped me to realize that the most impactful and minimal change you can make to influence tone is a bone nut and saddle upgrade. In fact, after finishing the initial evaluation on a customer’s guitar, I would let them know that. However, if a customer is tight for cash, I always told them to “focus on the saddle, as it influences every note on the guitar.” On the other hand, the nut only dictates the tone of the six open notes. Of course, those are pretty darn important notes!
So, to me, a bone nut and saddle upgrade is a fairly low-cost improvement to the overall tone and responsiveness of your guitar. Additionally, a well-made bone nut and saddle will outlast a plastic version tenfold. Both can easily be installed by a qualified technician, and along with a proper setup, it’s still my recommendation as the biggest “bang for your buck” to improve your guitar’s tone and playability.
Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.
• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.
I prefer to not teach each position based on a modal name, as sometimes they are taught. Personally, I’ve found labelling of positions like that can lead to confusion when learning the modes in a harmonic situation. To further emphasize this, no harmonic context has been given (aside from the fact that these are all based around the parent scale of G Major to give us positions to work with).
The goal here is for you to learn the sequence, pick out what you like from it and then work it into different applications. These applications could be taking a sequence from one position into another position, seeing if you can keep the same contour. Most importantly, you can spend time starting and ending the phrases around certain intervals to emphasize the chord that you’re playing over.
A technical note before we get started: I’ve transcribed the various hammer-ons and pull-offs that I use when playing these phrases at full speed. However, the secondary goal here is for you to find your own way of playing the examples that suit your style and sound. I use a mix of legato, hybrid picking, and sweep/economy picking. My advice is to look at the lines and listen to them. See what feels right for you.
Despite what angry YouTube comments might say, technique is feel (and vice versa) We can talk about technique and all the ins and outs of it, but unless we try it and feel how it is to play, we won’t find our own path and sound. We won’t develop our own confidence. As the Zen saying goes, “The thought of your mother is not your mother.”
Let’s start in 3rd position, a fitting way to begin our exploration in G. Ex. 1 is a legato phrase that starts off with an eight-note pattern that repeats across adjacent strings sets. The final measure outlines a G major triad with a trick string-skipping phrase on beat 2.
Working through the diatonic arpeggios is a great way to create new lines and sequences. In Ex. 2, I go through Em7, Bm7, F#m7b5, and Cmaj7 before I outline an Am9 arpeggio.
Rhythmic variety is a crucial part of any well-rounded vocabulary. Moving between different subdivisions is a great way to inject new life into a lick. Ex. 3 moves between straight 16th-notes and sextuplets (or 16th-note triplets). Although the pattern is relatively easy to hear, it moves fast, so focus on discovering the best fingering for you.
Ex. 4 moves around quite a bit, between legato fragments and arpeggio fragments. In the middle we have a classic displaced ascending sequence of fours through the scale that starts in the end of measure 1. We also utilize some slides on different strings. Watch out for this! I’ve found in my playing that timing can go astray on slides.
Ex. 5 is built around finding 3-1-3 and 2-1-2 patterns within this position. These terms are based on the number of notes before you change strings. A 3-1-3 pattern consists of three notes on a string, then one note on the next string, and finally three more notes on the final string. A great example starts on the second note of the phrase (G) and ends on the F# before beat 3.
There are some shifty slides like the last phrase (watch the timing!) and there’s also a mix of legato and picking to emphasize certain parts of the phrase. The line ends with a large arpeggio based on Em7 and F#m7b5. Dig the 2-1-2 phrasing here!
Since we are roughly thinking in the key of G major, Ex. 6 is sometimes referred to as the “minor” position since we start on E, the relative minor of the key. This phrase is built on a sequence based around a 3-1-3 pattern and we aim to keep this sequence going throughout the whole position. This lick is a great one to move around the neck.
Ex. 7 runs away with an initial legato sequence similar to the one found in Ex. 4, however we keep it going through the whole position before ascending through a fragment based on Ex. 1. Then I fill in the gaps of each phrase with some chromatic notes. The goal here is to aim for evenness of timing on the 16th-notes.
With these licks—or even parts of them—you will be able to navigate the fretboard with ease. Just remember: These licks are simply raw materials. It’s up to you to make music out of them.