Sunday, July 31, 2011

Product Review: Boss PS-6 Harmonist

This product review is from a company I have believed in for many years....Boss. I have found over the years Boss makes some of the best sounding and reliable pedals. Up until T.C. Electronics started making kick butt pedals, the majority of the pedals I used were Boss. One pedal I have sworn by that is not Boss or a T.C. pedal is the Digitech Whammy pedal. The Whammy revolutionized the way pedals sounded. The pitch shifting capabilities and the note harmonization was never done as good or as amazing as the Whammy did. The only problem with the Whammy Pedal???? It cost a ton of money. Many a company has come along since the Whammy and tried to make pitch shifting and harmonizing pedals. To me they all sound like crap and were horrid reproductions of the great Whammy. Since the Whammy came around 15 or so years ago technology has advanced a ton. Now companies are making some better Whammy-esque pedals. The Boss PS-6 Harmonist is one of the new crop of pedals that does a great job of it. It does so at a fraction of the price and it also does so in a pedal that is the normal size of a pedal. Anyone that knows what a Whammy pedal is also knows how big it is. We are going to get into the Boss Harmonist right now.

The Specs-
1) it is the size of any normal Boss single pedal
2) the current draw is 45 mA, dc 9 volt (can be powered by an adaptor)
3) Blue colored pedal
4)has two 1/4 inch out for stereo outputs
5)has one 1/4 inch input
6)has one 1/4 inch input for an expression pedal (make it work like a whammy)
7) four control knobs
from left to right
knob 1- controls balance. lets you control the direct signal versus the effect sound. when you have the pedal in "s-bend" mode this knob controls the amount of time it is to take to transition to the set pitch
knob 2- when in the harmony mode of the pedal it sets the pitch of the harmonies. when in pitch shift/detune/s-bend it sets the amount of pitch shifting.
knob 3- key knob/fall time it sets the key to play in when using harmonies. when in s-bend mode it adjusts the amount of time it takes for the pitch to transition from the set pitch back to the original pitch (the fall time)
knob 4- mode knob used to switch among the harmony (major and minor), pitch shifter, detune and s-bend modes.
8)the light to tell you the pedal is on.
9) the pedal is turned on with a hit of the foot just like most normal Boss pedals

Now we are get into how a little of each setting sounds. I will break it down by function- Harmony,Pitch Shifter, Detune and the S-Bend effect. I am going to use the setting samples from the owners manual.

First up-Harmony Function.
I had the balance knob straight down the middle, I went through all the 2 part functions on the voice knob (3 part harmonies have an orange around them and are located with the knob all the way to the left, then again all the way to the right) had the key bounce between Eb and I bounced the mode knob between major and minor. The harmony knob takes you through (from left to right) an octave lower, next turn is a major 3rd an octave lower,turn again then a major 6th an octave lower, turn again then a major 3rd, next turn a perfect 5th, next turn a major 6th, last turn before 3 part mode is an octave up. These were all with the mode switch on major by the way. One thing I notice is how clean the pedal sounds. It most companies attempts on a harmony pedal the faster you play the more "soggy" the notes sound. In every harmony switch no matter how fast I played I could always understand the notes. I am more partial to the 5th and octave up harmonies. There is a great reproduction of the notes being harmonized and the original notes stands clear and clean as well. Keep note that the harmony goes with the key. So if you move through the notes of the scale with a say, 5th harmony it will be harmonizing through the scale and wont stay a perfect 5th away from all notes. As you hit the 7th degree of the scale it will naturally be a flat 5th because thats what happens in the scale. This function is cool, you just need to be aware of that.

Next is the Pitch Shifter Function.
I love the pitch shifter mode!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!This is where you can get your harmonies without worrying about the key. This function is awesome. The notes are clean. Has all the same characteristics of the harmony mode but without having to worry about what key you are in. Home run on this. Love it.You don't have to worry about if its major or minor key. You just go for it and rip it. This pedal would be worth it if it did only this.

Next is the Detune Function.
On the detune function stick the balance on 12 o clock, on the shift/harmony knob you can use the orange spots that are for 3 part harmonies to get different levels of detune. Detune is alot like a chorus effect. I love detune. I like it alot more than chorus. On this pedal the detune sounds rich and full. I love it. Sounds great. Another great feature on this pedal.

Next and last is the S-Bend Function.
On this your pedal works like a wah or a whammy. The effect is only engaged when your foot is on the pedal and is controlled by how much or how little you press down. This function has to many possibilities so I am just gonna tell you about some of the sounds I got. In one knob settings I was able to produce that guitar intro part to Black Sabbath's Iron Man. You know the part where you bend your string behind the nut the raise the pitch on the intro of the song. Another switch of the knobs and I hit a natural harmonic and hit the pedal and it makes the sounds of the space ship doors opening on the original Star Trek show. This function and make it sound like you are bending your string a whole step or a 100 steps! LOL! Your guitar can sound like a space ship or anything your imagination can think of. This function is far out.

The Boss PS-6 Harmonist is a great pedal. Better than most the pedals of its kind out there. You can also get an expression pedal (sold separately) that can make it like a Whammy pedal. I loved this pedal. At only $159.99 at Rock Bottom Music it is a far cry from the price of a Whammy pedal but with most all of the awesomeness of a Whammy. If you are looking for something different with endless possibilities then this is your pedal. Get on down to Rock Bottom and check it out. Imagine hooking up a violin or some other instrument than guitar to this. It will blow your mind. Awesome pedal, great price and Boss quality!

here is the boss demo of it on youtube.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Art of Ear Training: Part 1....The Shizzle...The Nizzle..... Fo' Shizzle My Nizzle...

This is going to be a series on something very important to a musician, your ear. Having a good ear is at the top of the mountain of things you need to be a good player. Being able to put what's in your head out into your instrument, pick up on a jam without knowing the key, being able to learn songs quickly, being able to know what chord you want to use and how to figure out what you want to solo with are all very well dependant on your ear. We are going to look at a bunch of ways to exercise your ear and get it into shape!

The first thing we are going to exercise your ear with is what I call "shuffle zone." We are going to use being a guitar player as the instrument of choice on this. You can use any one you like though. As a guitar player tune up to standard pitch, plug in and get near a radio. Put the radio dial on shuffle. Whatever station it lands on crank up the music. What you want to try and do is play along with the song and try and figure it out. There is no rewind or start over. You only have the time the song is playing to work with. What you want to do is try and figure out the chords by just doing single notes on your guitar. Once you get an idea of where your at and where to go, start trying to incorporate the major, minor or whatever chords are actually being played. Don't worry about soloing yet. Just try your best to learn the song that's going on at the time. It does not matter what style of music the radio lands on when you shuffle. It can be the crappiest bubble gum pop or a type of music you hate. Your goal is just to be able to get your ear to figure out the song. Once the song ends just start on the next song that comes on. If a commercial jingle comes on just try and play with it too. After a while hit shuffle again and start the whole process over again on whatever station it lands on. You also don't have to use a radio. Pandora, Sirius XM of put random music on from YouTube will work just as well. The point is to get something you are not familiar with and work your ear trying to learn it. It might take a bunch of times doing this to be able to pick up songs quickly but after a while you will be playing along with songs you never heard before! You will also find out most songs sound the same! The same order of structure and beats and a ton of other things! I have used this technique many many times. It has benefited my ear and taught me a ton of songs and also turned me on to a bunch of new music that I would never have found otherwise. So listen playa..... Go get your gitfizzle and git to strumming and pazickin with the "shuffle zone!" Fo' Shizzle my nizzle!

sidenote: and for anyone who has never seen the movie goonies, the picture is of the "truffle shuffle" that the character "chunk" does in that movie....i needed some kind of picture for shuffle and that is the funniest thing i could find!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Learn From: The Beatles

This edition of "Learn From" is from the most popular band of all time, the Beatles. It is hard to imagine the world without the Beatles let alone the music business. The Beatles changed the way music sounded, was recorded, marketed, was wrote and had an impact on the world that went beyond music. They formed in Liverpool England in 1960. They started their professional career as a boy band.....yes a boy band. They had pop songs, dressed the same and were marketed just like a New Kids On the Block or 'N Sync was in our time. The big difference between the Beatles and those crap boy bands? The Beatles wrote, played on the recordings of their songs and played them live. Some of the early Beatles songs like "Please Please Please" and "I wanna hold your hand" were very poppy and catchy but they have stood the test of time. Every young boy and girl everywhere was a Beatle-mainiac. Those early pop songs grabbed ahold of people like Ozzy Osboarne and Tom Petty. The Beatles also grew as a band as time went on. The more mature they got they produced more mature and complex music. You can hear as each album was made how much bigger each one sounded. They had songs like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" that featured blues master Eric Clapton just ripping it up. Songs like "Come Together", while not a blues song, has a blues influence in the main riff. Songs like "Strawberry Fields Forever" are about as psychedelic as any 60's band could be. There is incredible musicianship throughout all of their albums as well. Paul McCartney was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who could play just about every instrument well. Every member of the band had the gift of songwriting too. Every member of the band also sang as well. They have some of the greatest vocal harmonies on record. Now while the members of the Beatles may have been born with the gift of music you can tell how they worked and honed their craft. With every album being different from the other they were always looking for something new to learn and make them better. The Beatles also changed the way music was recorded. So many new technologies had to be developed to make their albums sound the way they did. While these things might be considered primitive now, they changed the game back then and led the way for the way studios are now a days. The Beatles also led the charge in marketing. They had everything from lunch boxes, t shirts, key chains, pillows, you name it and they had it with their name or faces on it. Those things seem common place today but bands did not do that on a big scale until the Beatles did it. The Beatles broke up in in 1970. All four Beatles released amazing solo records and went on to great things. Their influence is just as big and strong as at anytime in their history. They still continue to sell millions upon millions of records and songs. They still continue to inspire and influence tons of great new artists.(they have probably influence more world class musicians than anyone) Paul McCartney sounds as good as ever in concert and his last studio cd was outstanding. John and George are of course no longer with us and Ringo is ........well......he is Ringo! Go out and get any of their albums or songs and get to learning them. Their songs are part of any musicians learning. If you are plan on playing out you should have a Beatles song or two ready! Go out and "Learn From" the Beatles.

early beatles "twiaat and shout"

mid era "help"

some psychdelic "strawberry fields forever"

end era "let it be"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Importance Of: Youtube

In this edition of "The Importance Of" we are going to focus on the "new wave" of technology that has come into prominence....Youtube. Youtube is a site where you can see funny videos, movie trailers, music videos, most importantly people playing music and tons and tons of other things. Back in the long long ago, circa the 90's, if you wanted to learn some new licks, a new song, some new technique you had to seek out other musicians and pick their brain. While I still recommend doing this, Youtube has made it as easy as you can get. If you want any song to listen to and learn you type it in and it pops up. Along with your version is a ton of other versions of the song. If you want someone to show you how to play a song you just punch that it. You can even get musical instruction from everything on how to hold your instrument to how to make chords. This has gave any aspiring and seasoned musicians access to many ways to learn songs and about your instrument of choice. I even use it, as you already know, to post the videos used on this site. Your choices and education with the site are almost endless. As awesome and powerful as Youtube is it has its drawbacks too. While using the site to learn songs from other people, sometimes they are teaching you the wrong thing! As you develope as a musician you will be able to tell what is wrong and what is correct. Sometimes when you are learning something about your instrument it too can be wrong. Another drawback is when you put in a song to learn from an artist the pitch of the song can be altered. I have learned this the hard way by learning a song for a student on Youtube and then at lessons they brought in the original song and the pitch did not match. I have even had some people that you can tell really need instruction for an instrument say "I dont need lessons, I got youtube and the Internet for everything." While these are useful tools sometimes you still need instruction for the reasons, at a minimum, listed above for the drawbacks of Youtube. While there are some drawbacks of Youtube the benefits FAR OUTWEIGH the drawbacks. It is a way to access other musicians and get new ideas and learn a ton of new things. Go check out Youtube, most of you have for sure, and get some new ideas and songs. The best yet, Youtube is free!

here's some examples I find cool, usefull or a drawback.

learn some chords for beginners

zakk wylde licks

something wrong, if you were to learn this way you would end up a little off

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Student Spotlight :Zeb Shepard

Student Spotlight: Zeb Shepard

Zeb Shepard is a 15 year old student of mine who has been playing about a year of guitar. He is starting Aiken Christian School next year. He plans on going to college for aeronautical engineering. Zeb comes from a very musical family. His dad is a bass player, all his uncle’s on his dad’s side, all his cousins (one cousin even majored in guitar at UGA) and basically everyone he can think of plays! I asked Zeb what got him into playing and he said that there was just a guitar lying around and he decided to pick it up and go for it. His favorite players are Slash and Eddie Van Halen. He cites some of his favorite bands as Guns and Roses, Led Zeppelin and the Eagles. His dream guitar is a Gibson Les Paul. He just had the pleasure of getting his dream guitar not that long ago from Rock Bottom Music, a Les Paul Special!!! The amp that Zeb desires more than any is a Marshall stack! He will be killing some neighbor’s ear drums then! I asked Zeb if he could play anywhere in the world where would it be. He said “The White House. Just to get to play there and play for the president, who could say they ever did that! Not too many!” There is also a song that one day, with enough hard work, he is striving to play…..That is “Eruption” by Van Halen. He says “One day I will get there.” That’s what I love to hear a student say. Where does Zeb see himself musically in five years? “Hopefully being able to play Shenandoah!” he says with a laugh “and maybe playing in a band and doing some gigs” he says on a serious note. Zeb sites learning where all his notes on his guitar are and learning how everything connects together as the most important things he has learned from lessons so far. He is currently listening to a lot of good ole classic rock and says there aren’t too many bands that are currently out that he likes. The most embarrassing thing on his Ipod? “Shake it” by Metro Station!!! Hahahahahaha!!! Zeb is a great kid, smart and a hard worker. His is carrying on his family’s tradition of music in a good way. He is oozing with raw talent. He is going to be a monster of a guitar player. I am proud to have had a hand in molding him. Here is to you Zeb….Keep Rockin’…..Keep Playing……and Keep Having Fun!!!

here is video of zeb playing