Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Guitar Vinci Amp Rig

Reflecting the pared-down approach to my recording guitars on the new EP, I used a basic but versatile amp rig for the tracking of The Guitar Vinci Code. Apart from one clean chord part recorded with a plugin, I used a Mesa/Boogie RectoVerb25 head and CabClone interface exclusively for all electric guitar tracks.
The RectoVerb25 is an amazing piece of equipment - a two-channel amp with two preamp settings and separate reverb on each channel, plus an effects loop. The amp's 25w power rating is deceptive, as I found out when playing a live auditorium show some time prior to recording, and while it is the baby of the Rectifier family, it's certainly not the runt of the litter.

The Mesa/Boogie CabClone is a simple and effective speaker simulator/interface that has some very useful cabinet settings to compliment the amp, and I pretty much left it set on open-back for all the sessions. From saturated rhythms and solos to clean sounds that could shimmer or grind, I found the match of Mesa/Boogie and Ormsby to be one made in tone heaven. Between the amp and the guitar pickups I found every tone that I needed for every track, with minimal tweaking and processing. For such a minimalist recording rig, I was beyond impressed.

I'm looking forward to finding more sounds from this rig as I get back in to the studio to see what awaits - I'll be sure to keep you updated!

Mesa/Boogie RectoVerb25 and CabClone

Friday, 17 March 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #6

Track 6: Trail Of Dreams

Trail Of Dreams, the album closer, was also the last piece to be written and recorded, and is a play in three acts. The main guitar used was my trusty GG6, there being some acoustic (Taylor 412CE) in the first two sections. The chords and arrangement for the first section was originally written as part of an earlier effort that went nowhere, so I started there with a fresh approach and everything took off from there. I say took off, because the second section followed in a creative rush, and as I was completing that, ideas were forming for the main body and grand finale. The thread of the tune fell in to place seamlessly, and as the melodies and orchestration came together I knew I was doing something good. I was almost disappointed when the track was finished and I had no more to add.

The GG6 played beautifully on Trail Of Dreams, and I enjoyed using different pickup configurations to get the different chord and solo tones for the three separate movements. Perhaps a little bit of guitarist playing guitar/guitar playing guitarist went on, because there was some alchemy afoot. The EP felt complete once I'd finished, and the afterglow lingers as of this entry. It was good to get back to guitar basics and just work with my main axes, because I feel that it helped me to focus on what I was creating with them. I'm glad that Ormsby kid made himself known to me all those years ago.

The Ormsby Graham Greene Signature Series

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #5

Track 5: The Odd Dervish

The Odd Dervish was the first track written for The Guitar Vinci Code, and came at a time when I was feeling a bit sick of all the extended soloing. I had spent a year playing AC/DC songs with Hells Bells (which was solo city), and was kind of over the guitar hero thing. I had also really enjoyed holding down those Malcolm Young rhythm parts, so decided to write a piece that had no soloing, but cool chord work with suggested melodies and additional instrumentation to help things move along.
Messing around on the GG6FG (yet again), I happened across the altered-5th D chord pattern that forms the main theme of the track. The Eastern-flavoured theme consists of three bars of 6/4 followed by a bar of 7/4 - a pattern that continues through the second section that shifts to E before returning to the main theme in D after a clever little additional bar of 3/4. Even with all the timing changes, the groove still held together and made musical sense, with the drums playing off various Eastern percussion instruments to create a solid foundation for the guitars, bass and strings.

The main guitar sound for The Odd Dervish is the single coil neck pickup of the 'FG. This pickup is one of the finest single coil units I've heard, and it was great fun to find a thick but chiming tone that suited the track perfectly. I hadn't used the pickup for a recording before, so was happy to find somewhere to use it. With some tweaking and stereo spreading, it came up huge, and is the tonal mainstay of the track. It even held its own when the feel breaks out of the odd-time section into a breakneck rock section in common time, and the more ambient middle section cleaned up beautifully to compliment the piano and bass parts that come to the fore.

The 'FG never ceases to impress me with the variety of tones it can produce, and The Odd Dervish is a perfect example of this. Just before getting into mixing, I added a dirty track using the bridge position humbucker to double all the sections except the middle, which took the track from big to huge, beefing up the bottom end while the clean guitars and strings took care of the sparkle.
All in all, a very satisfying piece to write, record and play. Reaction to the track has been very positive also, which always does the heart good!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Rig Rundown

A few weeks ago, I took some time out from rehearsals at Vision Recording and Rehearsal to film a quick rundown of the rig I'm taking on stage with me for this year's gigs. John Davies shot the footage and the editing was courtesy of Donna Greene. Please enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #4

Track 4: Petra

Petra was another drop D tune played on the GG6FG although this one is in the key of E, with the drop tuning allowing the D to E main riff.
This track started with the main riff idea, which I doubled with a staccato string section. Once I had settled on a tempo, the rest of the piece came in a rush, with melody and orchestration ideas coming to me as I was writing and recording the other sections. I spent very little time reviewing parts as everything felt right as it was going down. The arrangement, while not simple, flows from part to part, the orchestra/band interplay describing mystery and high drama in turn. In one section in particular the horn line (written and recorded first) inspires and compliments the guitar melody, something I didn't plan or even realise until after the parts were all recorded. I think I got more of a handle on orchestrating recording Petra, and after playing it a few times in rehearsal, it is definitely one of my favourite tunes to play so far.

The GG6FG is perfect for this track, allowing me to clean up the rhythm parts where needed simply by changing my pick attack and palm muting, and to roar when the tune opens up. The solos vary in intensity from section to section, and I'm finding it easy to replicate live due to the guitar's responsive feel and the pickup's sensitivity to attack. When the drama hits in the tune's story, the 'FG sings gloriously - one of the reasons that Petra was so enjoyable to record and play.

Oh, I should mention - that's the 'FG in the background image of this blog. 😏

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #3

Track 3: The Guitar Vinci Code

The title track of The Guitar Vinci Code started out with the main riff idea on the GG6FG - a series of hammered-on or slid power chords on the 4th, 5th and 6th strings, made easy by the drop D tuning. The chords are punctuated by open notes on the low D, and each phrase is separated by two beats of chugging rhythm on an open D5 chord, semi palm muted. Being a big fan of drop D, I have used this method of playing chord riffs in a few tunes, and this time around doubled the riff with strings and underpinned the whole thing with a sustained-note horn figure. The result was powerful and majestic, and inspired the rest of the arrangement.

The first solo drops to half time with the guitar being answered by strings and woodwind in places. This was the first time I had kept second solo instruments in mind when playing a solo, and I was very pleased with the way it turned out, both melodically and dynamically. In the middle of the tune are two unison riff sections which were fun to both record and play. Coming out of the middle section is a return to the intro riff, but with the guitars and bass providing a relentless chugging rhythm under the string motif and underpinning brass.

The outro section wraps up the piece in mighty fashion, and the GG6FG was perfect for this track, with just the right balance of drive and clarity. While I sometimes use more than one guitar on a track, The Guitar Vinci Code was GG6FG all the way - the guitar was playing particularly well on the day I recorded, and it was a great feeling to hear the parts come together as the track took shape.
I had had the idea for the title for a while, and as I was laying down the solo tracks I knew that this would be the tune to bear the name - it just felt right. I love this track, and I hope the people who hear it on record or live will love it too.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #2

Track 2: Raven's Eye Pt.2

I knew since writing Raven's Eye Pt.1 for the Leap Of Face album in 2006 that there would be a part two some day - ten years down the track, and there I was in the studio, seeing what I could do to complete the musical narrative and give the raven a 'second eye'. As with Pt.1, I used the GG7 for all the electric parts, utilising the extended lower range of the seventh (low B) string to play a middle section in low C#. The only other guitar used on this track was my Ibanez AI307CE seven string acoustic, with which I doubled the clean electric guitar in the arpeggios at the start of the song.
Having a little extra wood in the neck to accommodate the seven strings helps to give the GG7 a beautiful, singing sustain, and this influenced my use of long notes in the main theme. I also loved the thick, meaty tone that guitar had in the offset rhythm patterns of the middle section. I have found that it feels good to not have to solo all the time, and to be part of a piece of music without overriding everything else. Flight Of The Kelpies and The Odd Dervish (track 5) are both cases in point, and both great fun to play.

At the end of the day, I was really happy with how Raven's Eye Pt.2 turned out. The chugging middle section wrote itself when I got to it, and I feel it makes a fitting partner to Pt.1. It will be interesting to see how they go together in the live set!

Monday, 30 January 2017

2017 EP Promo Video

The first official promo clip for The Guitar Vinci Code, featuring footage by Pat Parent and art/video editing by Donna Greene. Please enjoy. (The guitar featured here is the Ormsby GG6FG)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Guitar Vinci Guitars #1

Track 1: Flight Of The Kelpies

Flight Of The Kelpies is the opener, and one of two tracks on the EP that have no guitar solos. I originally had intended to have the guitar playing the main melody, and put a rough string line in as a 'place holder' while I recorded the rhythm guitars. The tune is in the key of Gm, and uses a low Eb chord under the main theme. I mention this because it meant that when I played the Eb on the GG6 - which is in standard tuning - I couldn't use the low E string as it was a semitone sharp, and just used the A and D strings to play the chord. After laying down left and right rhythm tracks, I switched guitars to the GG6FG, which lives in drop D tuning, and doubled the existing tracks using the low D string to play a full Eb power chord at the first fret. As well as adding a new tone, the Drop D tuning added some meat to the overall sound which I found appealing. I should add at this point that when I play the tune live, I use the GG7 so I can use all the normal chord shapes and still reach a low Eb. Thus, all three of my guitars are involved in the creation of Flight Of The Kelpies in one shape or form.

By the time I had finished the rhythm parts, I had really grown used to the sound of the violins taking the melody, and had come up with additional parts and embellishments while playing guitar. I had a quick think about it, and decided that the guitar didn't necessarily have to take all of the melodies on the CD. I then got to work arranging strings and horns, and wound up throwing in flute, tympani, Irish bouzouki, bodhran and harp for good measure. I had a ball mixing it all, and clarified some points on orchestration along the way. I think it makes a great opening track, and may use it to open the live shows, mainly because it's so much fun to play!