Dave Brons Rockin’ The UK

If you like Trans-Siberian Orchestra you will probably like Dave Brons’ new release Based On A True Story. Anyone who is interested in guitar oriented instrumental music should check Dave’s music out for sure. As a disclaimer, Dave and I are friends, but he did not give me the album to listen to on my iPhone for free. I bought the digital download from his bandcamp.com page. You can listen to the music streamed for free if you like, but I prefer to have actual .mp3 files on my devices, plus I want to support as many musicians as possible by purchasing their music. Creating and recording music is hard work and the people who take the time to do such things should be compensated for their efforts.

The really cool thing about Based On A True Story is that the each piece tells a story without any lyrics whatsoever. The album is very well done, and there is plenty of space for the music to breathe. Plus for a guitar oriented album the guitar parts are not overdone and fit together nicely, which is refreshing.

I highly recommend giving this album a listen. Click the link below and enjoy…

Based On A True Story

Keep Pickin’!

Stringjoy Custom Guitar Strings

I found out about Stringjoy guitar strings through Twitter. I decided to check out their web site, and thought it was a cool spin on selling guitar strings by being able to specify the gauges of strings you would like in your set rather selecting one of the predetermined sets other guitar string manufacturers put together for you. I decided to try a set that I have been putting together myself, which I learned from Sfarzo strings, but the Sfarzo strings kept breaking prematurely, between a Dean Markley 10-46 set with the .46 gauge string replaced with a .52 gauge Ernie Ball low “E” string. This string set works really great for Drop D tuning, and Standard tuning as well. The string gauges are .10 – .13 – .17 – .26 – .36 – .52 for the custom string set I specified, and the cost was $9.00 including shipping and the new customer 10% discount. What’s great is you can order just one set like this or ten.

I just strung my Les Paul Studio up with these strings yesterday, so I am in the initial testing phase with these strings, but so far my initial impression of the strings are positive. I will do a full review after I am finished testing the strings thoroughly.

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Elixir String Tester

I have been selected to test a set of Elixir guitar strings. I’ll string these up and give them a thorough test drive. In an up coming review I will let you know what I think about the strings.

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Rock Bytes Rocks!

Check out Rock Bytes. I really like this Facebook page. I find out about music here I have not ever heard before or versions of old songs done in new ways. Very cool…

https://www.facebook.com/rockbytesandmore

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Cheap Trick – Rocks My World (and maybe yours too)

Since I’m on the kick of posting about rock bands that I like. Cheap Trick is the next one on my short list. My favorite Cheap Trick albums are Heaven Tonight, Dream Police, and of course Live At Budokan. In Color is a good album too, but the studio version of I Want You To Want Me is so wimpy (the live version is much better). One song that slipped past my radar was Downed (it is on the In Color album from 1977). Downed was on the audition song list for a band I recently auditioned for, and the song is a killer song. Probably one of Cheap Trick’s best. Give the songs below a listen and enjoy!

 

Head East Rocks!

Head East is one of those bands that I always thought would be huge, but just never seemed to get there. I still really like them though. Top notch vocals. If you haven’t heard of them listen to these tunes. Head East Rocks!

 

 

Rush – Closer To The Heart

Closer To The Heart is one of my favorite Rush songs of all time. Here is Rush in their prime laying it down. Great band, great musicians… What is your favorite Rush song?

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Gravity Guitar Picks Stealth

Gravity Guitar Picks Stealth Review

Gravity Guitar Picks hails from Manteca, California. They manufacture and sell acrylic guitar picks to guitarists everywhere through their web site, and select dealers around the globe. I classify Gravity’s guitar picks as specimens of the boutique ilk.

I purchased the Gravity Stealth in the Mini and the Big Mini sizes both with an oval grip hole in the 2.0 mm thickness from Gravity Guitar Picks’ web site. Shipping has been fairly quick for the U.S Mail, in the 4 – 7 day range from California to my Midwest location (I have purchased picks a few different times from Gravity Guitar Picks). I did not expect super fast delivery for the reasonable and affordable $2.99 shipping charge I selected. There is also a 2-day Priority shipping option for $10.00 if you need your picks delivered sooner.

Pick Specs:

  • Gauges: 1.5 (Fluorescent Green), 2.0 (Blue), .3.0 (Orange), 4.0 (Yellow), 6.0 mm (Red)
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Shape: Rounded Triangle with Oval Grip Hole
  • Sizes: Mini (Jazz), Big Mini, Standard and XL
  • Tips: Pointed
  • Bevel: Polished or Master Finish (unpolished)
  • Price: Starting price is $4.99/pick for the 1.5 mm thickness, and goes up from there depending on the options you choose. The picks reviewed currently cost $6.99 each.

Description

The Gravity Stealth 2.0 mm guitar pick is manufactured from transparent acrylic (Polymethyl Methacrylate to be exact) that is tinted blue in color, and has three identical pointed tips to pick with. It is like getting three picks for the price of one. Bonus! The oval grip hole makes it easier to hold onto the pick especially in the Mini size. Regarding the Big Mini size, the oval grip hole is okay, but a series of holes drilled into the pick in a circular fashion would work better in my opinion for a more comfortable grip on the pick. Both picks reviewed have polished bevels, but the bevels are not the same on the two sizes. The Stealth Mini’s bevels span further across the the three tips with more of an angle than the bevels do for the Big Mini size that I received. I was a bit disappointed since I like the bevel on the Stealth Mini better than on the Stealth Big Mini for fast playing and tremolo picking. To be fair I ordered the Stealth Mini at an earlier date, and ordered the Stealth Big Mini when Gravity had the Stealth picks on sale at a later date, so they were not both manufactured at the same time or shipped in the same order. Perhaps Gravity decided to change how they beveled the Stealth over the month or two time frame.

Action

With a thickness of 2.0 mm each these picks are very stiff and do not bend at all in actual use.The relatively pointed tips on the two Stealth models allow for good clean alternate picking (The Stealth Mini has slightly more rounded tips than the Stealth Big Mini) . The bevel on the Mini allows for slightly better string release when picking single note lines and when tremolo picking. The Big Mini tends to work better for chord work than the Mini. Both picks glide over the strings fairly easily.

Sound

The Stealth Mini has a smaller sound and the tone is bit blurred due to your index finger hitting the string as you strum and pick notes, which is typical of a Jazz sized pick. The Stealth Big Mini has a larger, clearer, more focused sound than the Stealth Mini due to the added size and mass of the pick, and the more pointed tips. Plus there is a enough pick real estate in the Big Mini size for the index finger to not hit the string(s) when you strum and pick if you don’t want it to. This gives you a clearer sound with less blur/warmth. There are pluses and minuses for either pick depending on your preferences.

Summary

It is interesting how two picks made from the same material, and relative shape can sound different in actual practice, but they do. The Stealth Mini wins for single note picking speed and warmth. The Stealth Big Mini is the better choice if you are looking for clear note separation, clean articulation, and crisp chordal work. I have found the Stealth to show very little wear from playing, which means you can expect these picks to last you a long time if you don’t lose them first. A very cool bonus feature this model and some of the others that Gravity makes is you can play faster by just using the pick without any additional practice time. Pretty nice benefit if you ask me.

Keep pickin’!

 

 

 

Who Is Your Favorite Guitarist?

Randy Rhoads has been one my faves ever since I first heard the Blizzard of Oz record when it came out in the early 80’s. That album was a game changer for me. I was also lucky enough to see him play live in 1981, which upped the ante on how good he really was. Mind blowing guitar work for the time. Here’s a video I found on YouTube for your enjoyment.

1990 ’76 Reissue Gibson Explorer

I bought this guitar right before Christmas in 1990. Guitar Center had Gibson Explorers and Flying V’s for $350.00. They were also selling Les Paul Studios for $400.00. It was a huge sale! I was surprised the prices were so low for brand new Gibson guitars. The sales manager said they had to blow them out before the New Year. With that in mind I was happy to see if I could find a guitar in their inventory that I liked.

I played a Flying V and it didn’t tickle my fancy. I tried a Les Paul Studio, and thought let’s try an Explorer. I tried three or four Explorers until I hit on one that I really liked. I decided to buy the Explorer with the hardshell case for an extra $100.00. I had the guitar set up by a guitar tech that worked at Guitar Center as an independent contractor, and I was ready to rock!

Features:

  • One-piece solid Mahogany body
  • Mahogany Neck
  • 22-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
  • Dot inlaid Position Markers
  • 496R neck and 500T bridge pickups
  • Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar
  • Chrome Mini-Grover tuners

The Gibson Explorer just screams Rock ‘n Roll! That is the bottom line on this guitar, and I love it!

The stock pickups are high-output ceramic pickups. Perfect for Heavy Metal, but wait I love to play hard rock, classic rock, and some heavy metal but not exactly what people today consider to be “metal” music. The Gibson 496R pickup in the neck position is a great pickup and sounds really good in this guitar. I tried other pickups in the neck position, and I kept going back to the 496R. The 496R is that good, and definitely a keeper.

The 500T in the bridge position was not working nearly so well for me. The reason is that I like a pickup that cleans up when I roll back the volume on the guitar. The 500T didn’t really do this, because it is super hot at around 15k d.c. resistance. This pickup kept everything way too distorted for my tastes. I searched a long time and tried several different bridge pickups including a Dimarzio Super II, the bridge pickup from my ’76 SG (which sounded pretty good in this guitar), and a couple others. It wasn’t until I acquired my Les Paul Studio with the 498T in the bridge that I knew I probably found the right pickup for the bridge slot in my Explorer. The 498T is a fairly hot Alnico 5 pickup with a d.c. resistance around 13k, but it does clean up when you roll back the guitar volume. With the guitar volume on 10, the 498T will melt your face when playing into an overdriven amp or into a cranked up distortion pedal feeding a clean amp.

The Gibson 498T sells for around $130 new. I decided that was too much money. I knew there was a used guitar shop not too far away, so I went there to find a used 498T. The manager of the store pulls out a couple boxes full of Gibson used pickups. Now to find a 498T… one of the store’s clerks pulls out a multimeter and we start measuring the d.c resistance of each pickup. It took a while but we finally found one that had a d.c. resistance a tad over 12k and was most likely a 498T. I paid the store clerk $50 for the pickup, and I was on my way.

I dropped my “new” used Gibson pickup in the bridge position of my Explorer after removing the chrome cover from the pickup to show the black bobbins like the uncovered 496R that was already in the guitar. I could not be happier. This pickup sounds perfect in the Explorer. Nice and powerful with the guitar volume on 10 and when you roll the volume back it cleans up nicely.

The Gibson Explorer has two volumes and one tone control with a three way pickup selector switch. This allows you to be able to do the pickup selector switch stutter/kill switch trick when you have one of the pickup volume controls turned all the way down.

The scale length is the typical Gibson 24.75 scale length. The neck is a fast 60’s slim taper style neck with a rosewood fretboard. The fretboard has 22 nice medium sized frets. Not too big, not too small.

The paint job was done in Classic White, which has yellowed over the years. Quite typical for white Gibson guitars from my experience.

This particular Gibson Explorer is a blast to play and sounds quite nice. It sits very nice in the mix when recording rhythm parts. Leads sound great with this guitar too. There isn’t much not to like about this guitar except maybe the weight. It is a tad on the heavy side.

Here is a guitar solo I recorded on my iPad using the Explorer into Positive Grid’s JamUp Pro. Post production was done in Logic Studio 8 on my Mac. All of the parts were played with the Explorer if I recall correctly. I know the lead part was for sure the Explorer.

Keep pickin’!