How guitarists are like the most disgusting character in Monty Python’s history.
It seems we guitarists are foreordained/genetically predisposed/socially conditioned to slurp up other players’ licks, swallow ’em down, and then barf them back out. All over the place. Repeatedly and rather shamelessly—before the digestive juices have even had a chance to percolate, let alone suffuse or steep. We’re like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, only our bilious geysers hit everyone in the room, not just those in a 10-foot radius.
I mean, do you think there’s even a number high enough to quantify how many times 6-stringers have marshaled their fingers for a bluesy whole-step bend on the 3rd string, followed, of course, by a triumphant photo-op at the pentatonic minor’s root note on the 1st string, and then a reverse bend and pull-off from the same 3rd-string locale down to the oh-so-serious 4th-string root?
Mathematicians, we implore you—help us!
And let’s not forget the finale, the whole-step 2nd-string bend with the gyrating, back-and-forth climax between the bent 7 and the aforementioned 1st-string root. (Don’t forget your Oh-oh-oh-ohhhh face!)
To be fair, both these licks are pretty badass … until you realize A) that EVERYONE does them, and B) that absentmindedly hopping on the Blues Bend train to the 1st string is about as artful as farting in the tub.
On the bright side, at least the longer someone’s been playing, the likelier they are to resist the urge a little … to develop some sense of restraint, propriety, or shame. But for all too many of us these lick-spewing tendencies never really go away. It’s almost at plague proportions. Oblivious insecurity and the need to impress become paramount concerns: OMG—what am I gonna do to blow minds at the blues jam Wednesday night!!!!
And the thing is, it really doesn’t matter if you’re constantly replenishing your gullet with a fresh supply of finger tanglers. If cross-checking to ensure your latest rote feat matches the key of the backing track is the extent of your creativity and in-the-moment-ness, you’re still just a puking parrot.
So what’s the gosh-darn solution, O’ Effing Wise-Ass Shawn?
Why, chords, of course!
Chords? That’s whatchoo got?
I’ll say it again: Yes, friggin’ CHORDS.
More to the point, only other guitar wankers give a flying hoohah about vomitous streams of memorized tedium—and a slight few of those, too, to be honest. Unless your solos are part of a good song, and unless they’re memorable and unique, energetic and impassioned—and damn near songlike in and of themselves—you’re just an athlete trying to prove you’re not the weakest link in a room where everyone knows you should be benched.
Instead of combing YouTube or Spotify for supposed barnburners to add to your lick bag, wrap a Tucks medicated pad around your blazing insecurity and go collect some chords to add to your songwriting spice box. (I mean, for God’s sake—doesn’t the name “lick bag” alone tell you you’re up to no good???)
Barre chords and open-position chords are obviously indispensible. (I almost said “cowboy grips” just to avoid overusing “chords,” but that veers dangerously close to “lick-bag” territory, no? But I digress.) Nothing’s ever gonna put those two out of business. But sticking to only those is like seasoning with nothing but salt and pepper and acting like cayenne, coriander, allspice, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, and saffron don’t exist.
One approach that could be the musical equivalent of grabbing yourself a copy of Auguste Gusteau’s Anyone Can Cook is to put those (Ratatouille pun intended) ratty-ass scales you twiddle away on with your metronome to better use—i.e., choose unusual fingerings or note combinations from those scales to create your own chords. Stack octaves and/or omit the usual thirds and fifths. Discover the weird, dense, troubling beauty of seconds, sixths, and sevenths. Move either your go-to scale(s) or the ones you barely know around to advantageous fretboard locations where you can pull off a finger here or there to incorporate an open string that’s still “in key”—or not. (Dissonance is a viable spice, after all.) Either way, both the harmonic space between the notes and the different tension and timbre of the open strings will add texture and dimensionality to your voicing.
Once you’ve “created” a chord or two this way, that’s all you need. String one or two of the new grips together with some of the staple spices/chords and see how each brings new life to the other. (By the way, I used quote marks around “created” because some music-theory whiz will always know the academic name for your concoction, even if you don’t. Fear not, though: Unless you plan on a career in teaching or music engraving, it’s okay to be an ignoramus who only knows the chord-name basics and doesn’t give a flying cuss about the augmented and diminished crapola.) And if you really want to get weird, start creating your own tunings. Unless you’re one of the aforementioned Poindexters on music theory, there’s no way you’re going to put fingertip to string without coming up with some unique chord recipes!
Until next time, happy cooking, mesdames et messieurs!
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.