STELAR

Posted: April 14, 2014 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.49.10 AMThe new STELAR is almost here!

I want to let you know about my latest evolution on how to become a better rock, metal or blues soloist. After teaching and playing for 40 years, I’ve determined six areas; Scales, Timing, Expression, Licks, Apply and Repeat: “STELAR”. These principals will help you play better leads, refine your own signature tone, improve your all-around musicianship and just plain have more fun!

-Scales are a road map of notes available in any given soloing situation. It’s a fact, you could play any note you want, but having a map helps you negotiate over the fingerboard and gives you reference points.

-Timing is the way you fit those notes into the music. You can play anything over any rhythm but being aware and trying all your timing options helps you decide how you want to play the notes.

-Expression gives what you play meaning! What makes a melody so compelling, or a performance? It’s the human quality you add. Expression is unique to every individual. Expression is what gives your music meaning.

-Licks are the vocabulary in the language of rock, metal and blues. From BB King to Eddie Van Halen, we all use many of the same basic, essential, classic vocabulary. Like speaking, although we all use the same words and phrases, we each have our own individual style. 

Apply the scales, timing, expression and licks over jam tracks at different speeds at least twenty minutes a day. This sounds simple but it’s the most powerful thing you can do to build your skill. Like going to a foreign country being forced to speak the language. You get better at something by doing it.

Repeat. Repetition is the secret weapon of mastering anything from martial arts to cooking. If you repeat the principals above regularly, say five times a week, you will become a master!

The Improv section at shredguitaronline.com was the first part of this site that I created. The time has come for an upgrade. I’ve been working hard on STELAR, the Improv section’s replacement for about six months and it’s almost done! About thirty videos and hundreds of pages of tabs. There are five segments, each including jam tracks at different speeds and tabs. STELAR roughly follows the original improv section and each segment includes about six new, short, hi-def videos. Each video is based on one of STELAR’s principals: scales, timing, expression and licks.

The Licks videos and tabs are very extensive because guitarists come in so many levels and styles. Something brand new is a lick category that you’re going to love, “Essential Classics” or “EC”. These are phrases that are universal to rock, metal and blues. They are not hard to play but they are ubiquitous. Virtually all soloists use EC licks, they will make you sound authentic and pro! In addition each segment contains a video on timing and a video on expression. Rhythmic phrasing, vibrato, raking, sliding, harmonics, bends, and putting emotion into your playing.

I am almost done and STELAR will be at shredguitaronline.com soon. If you are a full member you will get STELAR for free. I will also be selling a complete DVD set of the STELAR system. Here is the Scales video from STELAR’s Phrygian segment. Rock on!

 

 

More Than a Feeling

Posted: February 10, 2014 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 3.53.37 PMI recently researched the recording of the first Boston album for a Guitar World issue. What an amazing story. Boston’s guitarist, Tom Scholz is a very smart guy! He has a Masters degree from MIT and back in the ’70s he had a pretty senior job at Polaroid. If you’re my age you’ll remember the coolness of the Polaroid camera. Put the film canister in, snap a photo and the camera would spit out your picture! Magic! Compare that to now. We take unlimited instant pictures, carry around a huge record collection, navigate with GPS, do video calls, check email, all with just our cell phones! 

Back to Tom. In the meantime, while working at Polaroid, he was recording the first Boston demos and then finally the album, all in his basement. But this was the ‘70s, back then, unless your were Paul McCartney, nobody had a home studio in their basement, or any other part of their house! Multi-track recording gear was very expensive, needed regular maintenance, complex wiring, expensive recording tape, a complex mixing console, and all kinds of tricky stuff.

Tom’s job at Polaroid gave him the resources to purchase a used 12-track tape machine from a local studio that was upgrading to 24-track. Tom cobbled together a ton of gear in that infamous basement. He built a power-soak so he could use his Marshall amp at full volume without it being too loud. He built a chorus effect into a cigar box and a tape delay unit he called a space echo, he bought a bunch of equalizers and everything he needed.

Tom’s drummer friend, Jim Masdea, came over and they recorded the drums. Then, Tom went to work playing and overdubbing all the other instruments including bass and organ. Tom also recorded his very patient singer, Brad Delp, who multi-tracked all the Harmonies and double-tracked most of the lead vocals.

In the early ’70s, Tom submitted tapes to record companies and he was turned down by label after label. But one day, upon hearing the demo of “More than a Feeling,” Epic Records decided to offer Tom and Brad a deal, but, they had no band.

Tom quickly found some other musicians and then flew them out to LA to record the album. But, the guys in LA were just a diversion for the record label. Really, Tom was back in his Boston neighborhood basement, recording all the parts himself. Meanwhile, the guys in LA pretended to record in a big expensive Hollywood studio. Of course in the ’70s, Epic Records, or any other self respecting label, would never approve of a new artist recording in a basement. They would need the big expensive studio, so the ruse continued with Tom back in Boston recording everything. Only the record producer John Moylan knew what was going on.

Now days, most musicians have a home studio, the thing that Tom had was the brains and the ability to work long and hard and produce amazing results. I read Tom worked on the song “More than a Feeling” for five years. If you listen close to that first Boston album, it stands up against any record from those days or for that matter any record today.

Tom’s brains, talent, perfectionism and stick-to-itiveness all add up to his genius. When recording you’re constantly making decisions, asking yourself, does that vocal sound in tune? Does that guitar chord sound in tune? Was the time rushing or dragging? Are the drums in the pocket? Does it groove? How was that bend in the solo? Shall I do it over? I just did 15 takes already, shall I really do it over?

Furthermore, since Tom had to bounce tracks to open up more tracks, he couldn’t click “undo” like we can today, he had to commit to a performance. He had to focus like a laser. If you ever have a feeling that maybe that take isn’t good enough, that feeling is probably correct. Or, then again, it might not be. That’s why recording is so hard. Especially when you’re on your own like Tom. On my latest instrumental guitar album “Mindscanner” I played everything but the drums. I know how hard it is. Most of my mixing decisions were made listening on my Subaru’s stock stereo.

The rewarding part is when you really nail a solo, rhythm or a vocal, or get a mix just right. Not all of us are smart enough to graduate from MIT, but I think a recording lesson we can take from Tom is “do it over until it’s right” and trust your instincts. Also, you don’t need that big expensive studio. 

 

Winter Namm 2014

Posted: January 29, 2014 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

 

WonderWomanWinter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) is a music gear trade show. This event happens once a year in January at the enormous Anaheim Convention Center in California. It’s fitting that it’s in Anaheim, right next to Disneyland because NAMM is a kind of fantasy land of manufacturers showing gear. Musicians are everywhere, and a good dose of strange people too. Here I am (left) with Wonder Woman and a random guitar Zombie.

This was a different Namm for me; I didn’t work the show like I’ve done so many times before. That’s a hard gig, eight hours a day of demoing a prototype piece of gear that’s usually not completely working yet. But, this year I flew down to LA and spent one day just browsing around. I checked out some lighting that I need for gigs, some cool guitars, pedals, and amps and I just cruised around and met people. I bumped into my old buddy Joey Tafolla, a Shrapnel records shredder and Ashwin Sood, a drummer friend I hadn’t seen for years. (Ash plays for Sarah McLachlan.)

If you’ve never attended a Namm show it’s quite an event. It’s the largest collection of musicians in one general area that you can imagine. Except for Namm’s European counterpart, The Frankfurt Music Mesa, this exists nowhere else. Imagine, in an area about 5 square miles, every restaurant, bar, sidewalk, hotel and parking lot is full of musicians. After the show my phone was dead, so to charge it I went into a bar to find an outlet and have a beer. The guy sitting next to me was a Scotsman wearing a kilt. I told him years ago, while on tour I had met the guys in the Scottish band Nazareth. This guy turned out to be best friends with the Nazareth guys, he’s their gear supplier.

This show is not for the general public, you have to work at a music store or have a connection with an exhibitor to get in. Years back I snuck into the show only to be caught by security and thrown out. You would think that would limit the amout of random musicians but it doesn’t. The first thing I noticed this year was how many people were there! Even with multiple buildings, and large outdoor areas, at lunchtime I had to walk about a mile to find a restaurant without huge lines.Namm Front

60th Aniversary StratThere are American, European and Asian Businessmen in suits; 40-something has-been rockers with mullets and large guts; hot babes in mini skirts and boots; young rockers decked out in leather ala’ Black Veil Brides. You see guys in shorts with long beards looking like Dimebag. There are famous musicians as well, I saw George Lynch and Steve Morse. I saw poser musicians, classical players and there is a huge area with violins, violas, cellos and horns of every kind. One building was full of music software and computer peripherals. But be very afraid of the drum area with hundreds of people hitting things with a stick!

Each of the 4-5 buildings are about a football field size so I covered a lot of area. I must have walked 10 miles!

There was so much gear I was overwhelmed. Boss has a new multi- effects unit, the ME-80, with very cool new rocker pedals that makes the four pedals into eight. Line 6 has a new amp called AMPLIFi, dreamed up by gear guru Marcus Ryle. You control the amp’s effects and amp models via Bluetooth from your iPad or phone. It has a guitar speaker in the center and stereo speakers on each side for playing back stereo jam tracks. Line 6 has even created an online cloud community for sharing presets and jam tracks for AMPLIFi.

FridgeI had seen pictures of the Marshall Fridge (left) in guitar magazines but in real life it rates a ten on my cool factor scale. Yeah it’s gimmicky but I don’t care, I want one! Fender was celebrating it’s 60th anniversary of the strat. I saw a strat that Jimi Hendrix gave to his roadie, I guess that guitar is usually up here at Seattle’s EMP. I saw guitars from so many manufacturers, including Jackson, Charvel, ESP, Martin, BC Rich, Gibson, Gretsch, Ibanez, Rickenbacker, Schecter and on and on. I even saw a guitar in the shape of Mary the mother of Jesus. I think that guitar was respectfully done but I’m not sure exactly who would play it. I hope maybe a worshipSupro band? I saw the new Supro amp (below) that’s a faithful reproduction of the one Jimmy Page used on the early Zeppelin albums. I tried it with a Tele, (Jimmy used a Tele in those early days) it’s scary close!

Bottom line, I was glad I only planned to stay one day. You get fatigued from all that noise, shiny things, lights and glitz. If you want to experience NAMM, maybe just once is enough. I’ll make my next trip to a quiet beach or a ski area!

 

Free Lick O’ the Week 21

Posted: December 12, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

MachineGunGirlRapid Fire Pentatonic Licks!

The Pentatonic scale is truly a gem because it works well in so many rock, blues and metal situations. For example, Minor Pentatonic sounds great over both Natural Minor and Dorian type progressions. If you choke the minor third a bit it’ll even rock over Mixolydian and Dominant type progressions. 

Here’s a free “Essential Classic” Lick O’ the Week for you from ShredGuitarOnline.com. It’ll give you three cool ways to move through Pentatonic fingering patterns!

Click Here for Rapid Fire!

(Btw, If the theory stuff goes over your head, being a full member of ShredGuitarOnline.com gives you about twenty guitar-centric Harmony and Theory chapters to clear all this up.) Below is the Pentatonic page from the ShredGuitarOnline Scale Glossary.

SG_P2Pent copy

Legato for Speed VI

Posted: November 26, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 11.20.10 AMHere’s another Legato for Speed, number six! Ascending across the neck, it’s got more hammer-ons and pull-offs than you can shake a stick at. I mistakenly say this is A Blues, I was thinking A Blues but it’s really A Dorian. I just included the flat five, Eb, 4th fret on the B string. That’s the blues note. You could also use this in E minor, just plug it in wherever it works.

A note about the picking. Although there is not much picking, I use mostly economy picking. I don’t really cover it in the video, it just works for me. By all means pick however feels comfortable and works best to you. (I include my economy picking in the tab if you are interested).

As in my other Legato for Speed posts this may be easy or hard for you. I always suggest adjusting material into small manageable sections. Go ahead and disregard parts and incorporate whatever fits your style. Rock on! 

Legato for Speed VI Tab

Early Van Halen Tone!

Posted: November 18, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

EddieArguably one of the greatest guitar tones in Rock history was Eddie’s sound on the early Van Halen albums. This was captured by engineer Donn Landee, and producer Ted Templeman of Montrose and Doobie Brothers fame at the legendary Sunset Sound studios. Eddie’s tone had a lot to do with Eddie’s playing, his great sense of time and tuning but you just can’t ignore his eccentric gear setup!

In interviews, Eddie claimed he used his old Marshall Plexi. If you’ve ever played through a Marshall Plexi, then you have to scratch your head and think, huh? Plexis just don’t sound like that. Furthermore, I’ve heard that Eddie’s amp guru “Jose Arredondo” didn’t modify the Plexi much. I never doubted that Eddie was being honest about his amp but over the years I’ve always wondered how he made it sound like that, what gives?

A few months back I was researching  ”On Fire,” from Van Halen’s first album for Guitar World Magazine’s “Pedals and Amp Suggestions.” First, I knew Eddie used a Variac variable voltage supply to lower the voltage to his Plexi to about ninety volts. This made the amp overdrive at a lower volume. But surfing the internet I discovered Eddie’s second trick! He used a “dummy load!” He plugged his Plexi’s speaker-out into electronic components that absorbed all the amp’s power!  Eddie then ran his Plexi at full volume but the output ended up near line level. This made his 100 watt Plexi into a big “four-power-tube” distortion box!!! Check out the amplifier description at this site: Brown Sound

Using a dummy load also allowed Eddie to run his flanger, phaser and tape echo after the amp-distortion so the effects sounded clear and not distorted. He then re-amped everything with a stereo H&H power amp into two Marshall cabs with low powered 25 watt celestions. Running the low powered speakers added a bit of speaker distortion too.

Btw, pretty sure Eddie also inserted a MXR graphic EQ pedal between guitar and amp for a mid boost, maybe just for solos. Below are my notes.

Eddiesgear2The main advantage of using this type of setup is that distortion comes from the amp’s power amp section! If you’re using a master volume, it allows you to distort the preamp section. However, unless you really crank the amp insanely loud, the power amp stays pretty clean. Eddie always claimed he liked power amp distortion!

There are multiple amp attenuator units available these days that you can use as a dummy load. Also, If you want to run your effects after the power amp like Eddie did, then you’ll need the amp attenuator to have a “line out.” Then from the line out you can go into your effects and then a power amp. Here’s a link to Mitch Gallagher at Sweetwater showing one of these attenuator units. Sweetwater Demo

Eddie had some other tricks up his sleeve too. In a previous post about pickups I describe how Eddie screwed his humbucker into his guitar so it had a solid wood contact. All pickups are slightly microphonic. So, in addition to the pickup’s normal function, a solid wood contact makes the pickup act like a contact mic too.  

One note, in the early years Eddie did use the Univox Tape Echo pictured above in my notes. By the time he recorded the first album he may have switched to an Echoplex. 

Rock on!

PH

Amp Distortion vs. Pedal Distortion II

Posted: October 5, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

DemonLast week I interviewed a young guitarist from a very famous band. The interview is for “Boss Tone Radio” and Boss likes to keep it under wraps until they announce it. I’ll get back to this guitarist in a minute. 

I started playing in an era when amps didn’t have master volumes and we had to have our amps modified to include this feature. Most of us believed that amp distortion was the best distortion and a master volume helped us distort the amp at any volume. Eventually, in the late ’70s amp companies added stock master volumes so we could overdrive our amps easier without modifications. Then, switchable channels became necessary so we could click a button to get to our amp’s clean sound. This is the way we guitarists have worked for years.

Fast forward to 2013. Have you noticed a multitude of new pedal companies? It’s overwhelming. I do the gear settings for Guitar World Magazine’s transcriptions and yesterday I discovered the “Queens of the Stone Age” guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen uses a Fuzzrociuos “Oh See Demon”, and an Earthquaker Devices “Dispatch Master”. Have you heard of these pedals? I hadn’t. A few years ago when I wrote my first post on this topic I was not paying attention to this explosion of new pedals. 

There are new pedal companies everywhere!! Keeley, Wampler, Red Witch, Pigtronix, Way Huge, Fulltone, Voodoo Lab, Route 66… and the more traditional brands, Boss,TC, MXR, Eventide, Dunlop, Digitech, Tech 21, Morley and Electro Harmonix are cranking out new pedals all the time. Now, also amp companies including Bogner, Blackstar, Budda and others are making pedals. This is just a short list. 

An advantage of having all these pedals on the market is that there are hundreds, maybe thousands to choose from. So, if you want a pedal to make distortion, instead of only a few choices like a Fuzz Face, Big Muff, Boss DS-1 or an MXR Distortion Plus, now you have virtually unlimited choices. You can also have a company like Keeley modify a pedal if you like.

Getting back to that young guitarist I mentioned earlier; this guitarist sets the amp clean and gets distortion from pedals. Also, this guitarist has a bunch of different distortion pedals and can choose the distortion that’s right for the song. Today’s new generation of guitarists don’t have the mind set that the distortion has to come from the amp! Also because of competition and modern technology, pedal distortion has come a long way!

There are some advantages to having your distortion come from pedals too. One, is that you don’t have to run separate lines to and from your amp’s effects loop! Since your distortion is coming from pedals on the floor, just insert your delays and reverbs last in the effects chain. Since the distortion is before the other effects they will sound as pristine as if they were run in an effects loop. A second advantage is that you’re more portable. Just have a clean amp ready at the gig, you bring only your guitar and pedalboard!  

A third and most important advantage is, it’s fun and creative to collect and arrange your own pedals on your own custom pedalboard! Since no two pedalboards are alike your tones also become very personalized and it’s easier to dial in original tones. Amp distortion is not always best anymore. Long live pedal distortion!

PH

Legato for Speed V

Posted: September 18, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 11.20.10 AMThis is one of my favorite types of runs. It’s descending and you only pick when changing strings so it’s almost 100% legato! Lots of hammers and pull-offs. Also it’s not very even, some strings you play seven notes, the high E has eight notes, the B string has twelve notes… so rhythmically I just “float it”, playing as fast as I want. If you don’t know what I mean by my term floating click the link and it’ll take you to a post where I describe it. 

Btw, if you are a subscriber you can also look at Lick O’ the Week 3. It’s the same idea!

Legato for Speed V Tab

Luck is When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Posted: August 23, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

BackToFutureI wrote briefly in my Audition Post  that I was the guitar coach to Michael J. Fox on the film “Back to the Future”. During the ’80s that job really opened up some doors for me. I was just thinking about the wacky way I got the gig. This is a true story, really!

In the ‘80s I graduated from MI (Musicians Institute) in Hollywood. I then set up shop teaching guitar at my house in the North Hollywood area. After a few years I built up a decent clientele. One of my ex-students enrolled at MI and noticed there were a lot of jazz instructors and not many rock teachers, so he recommended me to the Ron Benson who was the head of the faculty. Most of Hollywood’s session players who made up MI’s teaching staff, at the time, were jazz and fusion players. 

Before I knew it I was teaching a couple days a week at MI. Not long after, in between classes one afternoon, I was goofing around showing the MI receptionist how I could play a guitar lick with my teeth (I don’t remember her name).

Here’s the coincidence and it’s the way the world works. Bones Howe, the music supervisor for the film “Back to the Future”, which was just starting production, called up MI later on that same day looking for a guitar teacher. The receptionist I had just been hanging out with answered the call. Bones specifically said he wanted a guitar teacher who could teach the actor how to play with his teeth and behind his head. The receptionist of course said: you have to get Paul Hanson and gave Bones my phone number! That’s a true story and it’s the weird way gigs happen.

This is an excellent example of being in the right place at the right time, right? Well think of this. Five years before I lived in Seattle and as a guitarist I was going nowhere. I had married a very smart girl and she suggested I get odd jobs and save enough dough for us to move to LA. That’s what we did. It was hard work, I painted houses, set up waterbeds and sold cheap guitars at a small music store, but we saved several thousand dollars.

I attended MI in Hollywood and practiced eight hours a day. Afterwards I got into a band, “The Brooklyn Brats”. We were a great band but we watched our contemporaries, Ratt and Poison get the big record deals and we never did. So I kept teaching to pay the bills. After a few years my reputation as a guitar teacher grew which helped me get the gig at MI.

Okay, you get the idea. Before I could take advantage of that coincidence, or opportunity, I put in a lot of preparation. I’m sure you’ve had coincidences too and you’ll continue to have them. I’m over 50 years old and have seen so many unexpected connections that I think coincidences are how the world is wired. But, you have to be prepared for when your coincidences occur. Don’t follow my path, everyone has to make their own, but as long as you keep at it you will get your break. Maybe it won’t be what you expect, I never set out to be Hollywood’s Guitar Coach, it just happened. Be ready for it. Keep preparing!

Btw, my screen credit was for a “Pinhead”! The Pinheads was Marty’s band that didn’t pass the audition.

Hello… McFly!

Legato for Speed IV

Posted: August 5, 2013 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 11.20.10 AMHere’s another installment of “Legato for Speed”, those awesome hammer-ons and pull-offs. Like the first installment these are phrases that work out to be one bar of even16th notes each. They work very well along with the licks from the second installment, Legato for Speed II. Rock On!

Legato for Speed IV Tab