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Pearl Jam - Live

Following up from my post on Buffalo Springfield, here's some videos from Pearl Jam's performance at the Bridge School Benefit concert.  This was shot directly from the video screen, so while it's not perfect, it came out better than one might expect.

It was also nice to hear Eddie Vedder thank Neil Young for his influence on the band over the years.

And also a few from Sunday's concert that I found on YouTube.


Buffalo Springfield - Live

This past Saturday, I happened to luck into a pair of lawn seats for Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert.  Despite my distance from the stage, I used my trusty Canon G9 to shoot video direct from the project screen.  And to my surprise the videos came out pretty decent.  You get the benefit of multiple camera angles and excellent close ups.  Unfortunately, you do hear a bit of wind noise on occasion during the quieter parts.  

Nonetheless, for die hard fans waiting 40 years for a Buffalo Springfield reunion, I'm sure this will be a treat.  It's pretty amazing to hear the vocals as strong as they were back in the 60's.  The set list included:

  • On the Way Home 
  • Rock 'n Roll Woman
  • Child's Claim
  • Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It?
  • Go & Say Goodbye
  • I Am a Child
  • Kind Woman
  • Burned
  • For What It's Worth
  • Clancy Can't Dance
  • BlueBird
  • and finally: Mr Soul (my favorite)

Here are a few links to some others that I found on YouTube.

I'll post more videos from the concert in the coming weeks. But unfortunately, I'll not be able to make it to Sunday's show.

Roland Cube: A Million Strong

I recently picked up a small battery-powered Roland Micro Cube amp to take with me to some guitar lessons.  I wanted something light, portable and battery powered.  Despite my skepticism about such a small amp, I've come away impressed with the Micro Cube.  

Apparently, I'm not alone: Roland has sold more than a million Cube amps since it's introduction.  There are whole range of Cubes from the lightest Mobile Cube (which oddly enough is not cube shaped) to the big honking Cube 80X, an 80 watt beast with a powerful 12" speaker.  All of them share a common heritage and built-in modeling derived from Roland's COSM technology that provide a range of sonic choices: acoustic simulator, JC (Jazz Chorus) Clean, Black Panel, Brit combo, Classic Stack, high-gain R-fier etc.  Higher-end units have more features and more models such as Tweed, Metal and so on.  And there are also built in effects including Reverb, Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Phaser and Tremolo.

The Micro Cube is at the low end, but it's surprisingly powerful for it's size.  To be clear, this is not an amp you can use for a live gig competing against a drum kit. It's a 2 watt practice amp with a 5" speaker, so the emphasis is on portability. Think of it as a Pignose amp updated for the 21st century.  It's small enough that you can take it places where you wouldn't have AC power: a day at the beach, a cabin by the lake, front porch, etc.  You can also use it for mic'd recording. The Micro Cube runs for about 20 hours on 6 AA batteries and also includes a 9 volt AC adapter.  Unlike the original Pignose amp, the Micro Cube has a variety of amp models and effects that give you a pretty wide range of tones from clean to classic blues crunch to full-on Marshall stack.  Despite it's small size, it can crank quite surprisingly loud when the gain is turned up. With a street price of around $130, the Micro Cube is a good value.  You can also find them used for well under $100.  Heck, you can spend more than that on a single effects pedal.  

I tested out the Micro Cube alongside my Fender G-DEC, which is a 15 watt modeling amp.  The Micro Cube held its own in terms of volume with the acoustic simulator clocking in at around 75 db and maxing out at just under 100 db with full gain on the Stack amp model.  Volume alone doesn't tell the full story, but the tones on the Cube are as good or better than the G-DEC, though less varied.  Of course, the G-DEC also has other features like MIDI backing tracks and a built-in tuner, but in terms of sonic quality, the Micro Cube measures up nicely.  

Rx Roland has also introduced an upgraded model, Micro Cube RX, which adds a range of drum tracks (rock, blues shuffle, country, funk, etc) an on-board electronic tuner, additional amp models and two sets of stereo speakers and 5 watts total power.  While still portable, the Micro Cube RX is slightly larger and several pounds heavier.  So if budget or portability are the primary concerns, you might prefer the original Micro Cube.  Otherwise, the Micro Cube RX is a significant upgrade and worth the extra $100.  There's also a Street Cube model with dual amps and speakers that's ideal for the guitar player trying to make some extra money busking.

Any of these Cube models make a great first amp or an additional amp for times when you need portability.

Lawrence Fritts Backing Tracks


Ok, I know you're wondering: who the heck is Lawrence Fritts?  Honestly, I have no idea.  But somehow he had a grant with the University of Iowa to develop 80+ blues backing tracks.  If you're into the blues, you need to download these.  Now.

These are comparable to blues tracks sold commercially in books and CDs like the Jam Trax or Band in Your Pocket products.  To me they aren't quite as inspiring as the more rocking tracks from Guitar Center's King of the Blues contest.  Still they are typical 12 bar blues songs and they're in every key.  So just running through these will help you get comfortable with different tempos and keys.  Since they are all 12 bar blues, they do tend to sound the same after a while.  Still the price is right.

And there are no commercial restrictions, so you can use them in your own work, remix them, whatever. Heck, people have been out there selling them.  Which is slimey, but legal.  (Fritts would have been wiser to license the tracks under a Creative Commons share-and-share-alike non-commercial license.) 

However, one thing to point out is on Fritts' site, you have to download each track individually and the files are quite large and slow to download.  So if you know what you're doing, you may find it easier to locate these files on a free site in MP3 or ZIP format that is compressed.  If you google Lawrence Fritts Blues they are pretty easy to find.  (And again, these are freely available, so don't get sucked into paying for a download.)

Learning Pink Floyd with LickLibary's DVDs


With all the travel I've been doing lately, I've just now gotten around to looking at the LickLibrary DVDs covering the recently released 2DVD series "Learn to Play Pink Floyd."  

There's no doubt that David Gilmour's guitar playing in Pink Floyd is one of the most soulful and unique styles in rock and roll.  Gilmour's playing is immediately recognizable with his distinct phrasings, extreme bends and classic bluesy Strat tones.  But learning to play in the style of David Gilmour is not easy.  He combines a lot of Pentatonic scales, hammer-ons, pull-offs, double stops and vibrato to pull off what he does.  While there are plenty of Tab files out there that cover Pink Floyd, they aren't always accurate or complete.  And even then, you're still missing a lot of information on exactly how to play the notes.

That's where LickLibrary comes in.  These are fully authorized note-for-note recreations of classic Pink Floyd songs "Money," "Another Brick in the Wall (pt 2)," "Wish You Were Here," "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," and "Comfortably Numb."  It's every Pink Floyd fan's dream to be able to play these songs.  So how well do the DVDs do the job?  Lets take a look.

Lick_humphries One of the best things about LickLibrary is that they use top-notch talent to teach their DVDs.  These are pro musicians who are not only great players, they know how to teach.   Jamie Humphries is the instructor on the Pink Floyd series and he's got the chops that come with playing guitar since he was five years old.  If Roger Waters ever decides to take "Dark Side of the Moon" back on tour, he could do worse than taking Humphries in as a stand-in for Gilmour.  Heck, if Humphries put on about 60 pounds he could probably pass for the man himself.

"Wish You Were Here" is probably the easiest song among those included, and it's a good place to start.  Humphries takes you through the chords that make up the song and then illustrates the rhythm.  Once that's under control, the solo is a kind of counter-melody to the rhythm pattern.  While it's not a complicated song, it's certainly easier to learn it from the video than from just reading the tabs or chords on line. 

Other songs, like "Money" or "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" are considerably more complex.  Still, Humphries breaks the songs down into their separate pieces so you learn the intro, the verse, the chorus, the solos and so on.  He also explains the different guitar parts that are being played and provides just enough musical theory to get you going, for example, explaining key and time signatures changes, scales being used, blues forms, etc.  Humphries also shows how to do the bends, slides and vibrato to channel your inner Gilmour. 

It sounds easy, but you should expect to spend many hours, or more likely, days, learning these songs.  Other than "Wish You Were Here," the rest of these songs are at an Intermediate level or higher.  If you're not familiar with Pentatonic scales and finding notes around the fretboard, it might be hard slogging for a while.  But the songs will give you plenty of incentive to learn what's needed.

Having an instructor right there on video makes learning these songs much easier than doing it on your own and it's more convenient for many people than taking an in-person guitar lesson.  LickLibrary uses multiple camera angles to show what's going on with the both hands at the same time.  There's also a set of complete performance videos that take you through each song in its entirety along with drums, bass and acompaniment.  You could use these videos as backing tracks for your own practice.

If there's one minor shortcoming in this package, it's that it would be even better if they included on-screen chord diagrams and tabs in the lessons.  For example, when Humprhies walks through a song, I would find it much easier if they showed on-screen chord diagrams at the start, and on-screen tabs to illustrate phrases in a solo.  Maybe that's just my style, but I think it would make it easier to visualize some elements of the songs.  If they included a booklet of printed tabs, then that would be another way to cover it.

All in all, if you're a fan of classic rock, this is a great DVD set to have. You get more than three hours of note-for-note instruction for under $50 (£25), less than you would pay for a single private lesson.   Even if you just want to tackle one or two songs, it's a great value and can be used as a reference as you're building up your repertoire.  You can buy them direct from LickLibrary or at Amazon as well as many guitar stores . 

Check out the Learn to Play Pink Floyd series as well as the many other LickLibrary DVDs.  Below is a YouTube excerpt from the QuickLicks series, also featuring instructor Jamie Humphries.