Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tarantula Sighting, Invasion, Capture, and Release

So, I come home from the gig this evening and find this beauty on the brick wall just outside of my front door.

The right edge of the pic is about four inches from my front door. I have an outer screen door, and the inner wooden one. Since it's summertime and quite pleasant out tonight, I had the inner door open - the back door too, so I get good flow of fresh air - well, about 90 minutes later I detect movement in the lower right corner of my vision (I'm sitting at my computer station watching an old Chuck Connors western). Guess who?

The plastic mat is the thing I roll my desk chair around on, and the leg is my music stand. It's over thirty feet from the front door to this point - on the opposite side of my desk from the door - so the little critter had to go all the way down the entrance hall, across the living room, and behind my desk to emerge at this point. Sneaky.

Well, I almost stepped on a tarantula getting out of the shower one morning (I posted about that here), and she scared me so bad I killed her double-indemnity dead... I've always felt bad about that. Tarantulas are great to have around, because they eat the real dangerous spiders we have out here, like Black Widows and the infamous Brown Recluse. So... I grabbed a shoe box, got a fork to prod her into the open with, and then released her on the back porch.

The back porch was evidently where she was headed anyway. Glad to help out. As the Nike box says, "Just Do It."

And, just because redheads make me insane...

That's one of the cutest redheads I've seen in quite a while. Even her eyebrows are red. That just slays me. Yeah, we've seen her before here. Awesome girl.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Nice Trip to Tucson

Played a private affair on Friday, and then a little coffee house gig on Saturday. I used the Godin Friday, but since the coffee house deal was a casual, low-pressure affair, I decided to play the RMC Nylon Fly there. I'm still not as comfortable with it as I am with the Godin, and I'm beginning to realize there are some suites in my set the Godin will work better for, but it went pretty well considering it was only the second time I performed with it. I'm sure I'll end up alternating between the axes.

Gabriel Ayala dropped by - someone I've been wanting to meet face-to-face for quite a while - and since he's a Guitar Institute guy and I'm a Berklee guy, we hit it off famously. I was a bit nervous performing for him - yeah, it still happens, especially on an unfamiliar guitar - but he was favorably impressed enough that he's thinking about a collaboration where I'll open for him and then we'd do a duo type of thing at the end. That would be fantastic, if it comes to pass.

Her nose is a bit prominent, but it's sure working for her. Yummy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

RMC Nylon Fly: First Test Tracks (Downloadable MP3's)

OK, I have finally gotten around to posting this - major busy preparing for some gigs in Tucson this week.

Here are the first three test tracks with the RMC Nylon Fly.

These are three of my own pieces: 01 is a prelude in D minor that uses a Drop-D tuning, 02 is a B-Axis Study in E major (Every other note in the melody is the open B string), and 03 is a freestyle poly-modal piece over an E pedal point.

Here is Hucbald Central Command:

The recording setup is the guitar into a Lexicon MPX-G2 Guitar Effects Processor, the MPX-G2 into a Lexicon Signature 284 All Tube Class "A" Stereo Recording Amplifier, and the Sig 284 into an original Digidesign M-Box. My Mac Mini is running v7.1 of ProTools LE.

All of the effects you hear are coming from the Lexicon - I use ProTools as a stereo digital recorder only - and these are all raw tracks and first takes with no editing at all. So, they are not perfect, but I couldn't spend much time on this due to the upcoming giggage.

The original M-Box is notorious for sounding tinny due to a problem with the Focusrite preamp - Focuswrong is more like it - so the highs sound quite harsh, but this is not what is going in, I assure you. This is the last straw for the M-Box, and when I return from Tucson, I'm going to hit eBay and get myself a Digi 002 Rack, which ought to cure the problem.

Anyway, I'll do round two when I acquire the 002.

I like bangs. Bangs are cool. Especially red bangs.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RMC Parker Custom Shop Cedar Nylon Fly, v2.0.3

Sorry for the hiatus, but the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of programming sounds and sorting through the last few head-scratching frustration factors to get this guitar working perfectly, but I have finally done it.

I swear, after playing a Gibson Chet Atkins CE, a Chet Atkins CEC, a Godin Grand Concert Duet, two Grand Concert SA's, and now this Parker over the past twenty years, I feel like I must be the world's foremost authority on electric nylon string guitars.

Here's what I had to do to the nut and headstock:

The major problem with the stock nut is the long string channels. I sorted out that the treble strings were buzzing within these grooves, and that was what was killing the sound. I tried graphite and TUSC nuts in sorta/kinda electric guitar configurations, but nothing works as well as this antique ivory nut from an old 1979 Anthony Murray guitar I had. Since that guitar was destroyed by exposure to low humidity - I live in a desert - I just decided to use the nut that works best, so I sanded it to the correct height, and that is that. I'll file and sand the ends to the proper width the next time I change strings.

The second problem that cropped up is related to the fact that the headstock has zero degrees of reverse pitch. That works for steel string guitars OK, though it's not really ideal, but for nylon strings of much lower tension, it does not work at all. Even with Tony's nut, I was getting buzz on every open string except the low E if I played them double forte. So, as you can see, I had to add a pull-down to the headstock.

I was not able to place the pull-down so that it captured all six strings due to?... the placement of the truss rod. Arg! But, since the low E was OK, I just put it where it would get the five problematic strings, and then machined off the extra length from each end. There was simply no other possible solution. It doesn't look pretty, but it works perfectly, which is all I really care about in the end.

In contrast to the nut/headstock, the bridge design is brilliant:

Here's how you tie nylon strings to eliminate all possibility of buzzing and slippage at the bridge end: Capturing the extra length of the higher strings within the loop of the lower strings solves both of these issues. Many acoustic classical guitars have tie slots that are too short to get two twists of every string - the low E only needs one - but the Parker's are absolutely perfect. It's the best nylon string guitar bridge I've ever encountered, and I've seen $40K "Holy Grail" classical guitars. Bravo.

I also made myself another shim out of a 3x5 card to raise the action a tad more, as I was not able to get the dynamic range I wanted without breakup with all of the stock shims. I may yet add one more the next time I change strings, but the action is still lower than on my two Godins.

Concurrently with all of this, I was programming my butt to the bone:

These are my two performance rigs. The only difference between them are the power amps: The top small venue rig uses a Bryston 2B-LP solid state amp, while the bottom large venue rig uses a MESA 20/20. So, I was able to develop the twelve programs I needed - one for every suite in my set - on the MESA rig, and just do a bulk data dump into the other MPX G2.

I'm able to get away with only four spaces for the top rig only because the heat sinks on the Bryston are on the front of the rack chassis, BTW, and I can get that rack, two Turbosound TXD-081's, a pair of speaker stands, and an X-stand onto a single dolly. The larger rig needs a vent panel, and it's in a rolling rack. I plan to get a pair of Turbosound TXD-121's for it at some point, but I have seven TXD-081's, I like them so much.

The rig I record with is an entirely different ball game:

This rig uses a Lexicon Signature 284, which sounds nothing at all like the Bryston and the Boogie, so it requires a completely different set of twelve programs. I only use the power amp of the Sig - the outputs of the MPX-G2 just go to the effects returns - and it sounds amazing recorded direct. I used to record direct from the MPX, but the sound was very sterile. The Sig adds just enough tube warmth and dimension.

Now that I have all of this in the pocket, I'm going to start recording some tracks this weekend. If I can get into a groove, I should have the first ones posted tomorrow. The guitar through this rig sounds like God... unfortunately, God won't be playing it, I will. LOL!

So, if Parker wanted to do this guitar right - since there is already a Fly Classic, we'll call this imaginary instrument a "Classical Fly" - here's what they need to do:

1] Between the bridge and the nut this guitar is absolutely the best in the world - better than any acoustic concert classical guitar I've ever encountered - so it's a Stradivarius in the playing feel department. Unfortunately, the Fishman system is so bad as to be unusable if you are a tone freak like I am, so a "Classical Fly" would have to be based around an RMC system. The Polydrive I works fine for me, but a PD II would be the best.

2] The nut/headstock combination is also a tragedy, so a reversed pitch headstock with a traditional classical guitar type of nut would be the best solution, but, as you can see, a pull-down will work.

3] The 1.85" nut width is useable insofar as I can adapt to it - the Chet Atkins CE was 1.75" and I could never make that transition, so I got a CEC just as soon as they came out - but can we please have a traditional 2.0" nut width? I'm pulling the high E off and pushing the low E off far too often when I play really wide stretches and super-difficult chords. Like I say, I can adapt, but I shouldn't have to.

4] For the right arm/hand ergonomics, this guitar is a breakthrough. Since there is no sharp corner to hit the forearm, everything is much more relaxed and groovy. I love it. Unfortunately, the corner on the backside rear of the upper bout hits smack dab in the center of my breastbone when playing this guitar seated. I have to fold up a washcloth and put it in between there for that reason (In all fairness, I should point out I've had to do that with every classical guitar I've ever had, and even with my Godins). Just a slight rounding of the rear of the upper bout would do the trick.

If Parker made a guitar like I just described, they could easily sell it for $5K per, and they'd sell ten times as many, at least, per year. The guitar world is waiting for an electric classical that does everything right, but nobody makes one, and not many people are as dedicated as I am to taking a flawed instrument and perfecting it.

OK, on to the recording phase!

Nice "wow factor" with her.