Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - December 2022

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Review: "Eleanor Rigby" from Revolver (Deluxe), by the Beatles, 2022 release

  (I just zoomed through Taxman before I thought this might make a decent blog entry....)

Eleanor Rigby

(I made this in conjunction with an a.i.; don't blame me, I can
actually draw better than this but not as quickly...)

Vocals sound "carefully" de-essed.  Fricatives are all tamped down.  

Uhg.   Ok, I just listened to the 2009 remastered version, 2000 "1" version.  I definitely prefer the *overall* eq choices I've heard so far on the 2022 version.  For instance, 

2000 Version 

- a bit puffy/squashed at about 192 hz.  There is a wide-band forward sound at 2k I associate (correctly or not) with the REDD 51 recording console sound; and a forward 3.6k (R127 "Presence box" no doubt) and ~7k bump, which I associate with what I know to their predilection at the time for cranking the treble; the boost was a 10k IIRC, but there are a number of factors that create harmonics below that in the 3-8k region.

 The attack time of the compression is "not perfect".   Nor is the release.  Notice you can hear Paul take a breath after "waits at the window... (inhale) wearing the *F*ace.."; on "F"ace the 2000 version has more low mids IMO than the 2022 version, which seems to favor having more of the fricative present at the expense of a thinner fundamental.  This keeps intelligibility, and sounds more "hi-fi" in that it gives the ear more "ticklish" harmonics to hear, but... it's a post-66 decision.  

2009 Version

 Wide band harmonic boost around 384hz, "controlled" below that.  This I would associate with the Kool Factor at the time, adding Kool "toob" harmonics to a recording *that didn't exist before*, while at the same time limiting activity in the bass register, which allows the level to seem "louder".  At the same time, there is a slight high frequency roll off.  Which could either be exaggerated "tape roll off", or the addition of adding Tape Effect to make it More Better.  Regardless, if you swap back and forth between this version and the 2022 the effect is "very dull".  Maybe the tape sounded this way and they left it alone.

Note that on the same "face that she keeps" line, the "ssss" sound of the end of the word "face" is allowed through, but the "fffff" of "*F*ace" is not.  A curious difference in mix limiting/compression.  This kind of thing is super subtle, but *how the sibilance/fricatives of enunciation hit you IS A RHYTHM*.  This is the kind of almost-subliminal thing that I believe falls into the "what makes a recording "magical"" to most people, and is ultra tricky to do.  

 While the vocal is panned, the ascending counter melody on the violin is centered, and back.

 It's also something I think that the original gear, from beginning to end, both suited the Beatles perfectly in the era, but also that *there was an unconscious awareness of responding to it, and acting accordingly*.  In other words, they were hearing the playback(s); and consider the notion that Paul could hear how much enunciation was happening on certain words, and perhaps subconsciously altering the performance.  Tinkering with the basic ballistics of the ADSR might sound "better", but be an artistic dichotomy to what was intended.

 Which gets back to "I'd really like to just buy the original uncompressed multitracks", but that's a tangent...

 2022 Version: 

  Equalized much better.  In that there are no euphonic frequencies, nothing sticks out.  The previously mentioned 3.5k is not there.

 On the other hand, there are no euphonic frequencies and nothing sticks out.  

 Which is kind of part of the charm of the early half of the Beatles catalog.  Maybe?  Vocals are not panned to the side.  There is wayyyy more clarity to the cello/strings decay, among other things: this is not how it would have sounded as Paul heard playbacks.  

 So it's philosophy: I don't have any anger towards this mix, but it's perhaps not what I would want as an alternate mix.  It has much more "clarity" thanks to technology, but the vocal has a thinner sound as de-essing is maybe pushing the fundamental down.  It's also a bit louder.  It sounds more in your face, but also IMO "processed" eq wise/dynamics ADSR wise.  It distracts me, but probably not the Average Listener.  

 But I'm not sure having a more... sonically fluorescent vocal suits the nature of the song.  It not longer sounds documentarian, in that his lyric is commenting on a situation.  On the 2022 version it's IN YOUR FACE and LISTEN TO THIS STORY I'M TELLING YOU.  

 Which is very 21st century.  A subjective choice that is neither right or wrong.  There is also some doubling on the vocal during the verses.  This does not suit the "standing back and commenting" nature of the song IMO.   It also doesn't allow the chorus "ahhhs" to come in with the doubling-richness impact as much.

Violin is hard panned.  I like that the counter melody is more upfront, and actually has some dynamics.  The strings sound fantastic on this version.   

(.... my dog Wylee is barking at the delivery person outside, a good cue to end I suppose....)



Monday, December 5, 2022

Christmas Guitar Gift Advice from a Wizened Experienced Guitar Teacher

 Christmas guitar gifts fall into 2 categories:

1) Mundane-Not Exciting but Useful and Needed

2) Exciting and Fun - but not Needed and Possibly Expensive

 In the first category are the usual suspects:

Pedal tuner for the more advanced guitarist;

Clip on tuner for the beginner;

3 pack of strings;

NOT a strap - a personal thing that is akin to choosing shoes for someone else...

NOT string cleaners/spray on cleaners/String Ease;

A metronome;

A computer audio interface (either Steinberg or Focusrite brands);

Decent guitar cable (no vinyl ends);

Possibly an Ibanez Tube Screamer clone pedal (just about any cheap pedal that claims to be a "distortion pedal" that is colored green...)

In the second category:

A NEW GUITAR (see my previous blog posts)

A NEW AMP (Boss Katana if a beginner; see my previous blog posts...)

A Line 6 DL-4 delay pedal (don't forget an extra patch cable is needed);

A Miku Stomp pedal (hard to explain, in this situation YouTube is best...);

.. and that literally is about all I could safely recommend!  Sorry - I do not wish to recommend something I don't think a semi-random guitar player might not need or like.  On the other hand, I'm fairly confident of the above as far as the reader being made aware.  

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Christmas Gift Guitar Amps

  As in my previous post, around this time is when I'm asked not only for "what beginner guitar should I get?" but also "what guitar amp?'".

 Beginner amps - or so to say, "very cheap" amps are a tossup these days.   But (and again, I am not sponsored or compensated by anybody for these reviews) there are 2 answers for "very cheap" beginner amps:

 Brand new, the Boss Katana mini.  small, light, portable (can be battery powered), and covers all of the basic sounds one needs - for $100:

Boss Katana Mini



 It is my claim that the number of amps and guitars on the planet is an ever increasing number.  You should be able to find some sort of an amp for $50 on Craigslist, OR alternately, I also claim the Kevin Bacon effect applies to guitars and amps: if you ask around, SOMEBODY you know has one or the other sitting unused in a closet at home.  In others, for FREE.   


 Having said that as a second amp, or for just a little bit more at $230, is the full-size

Boss Katana (50 watt combo)

 This is another Amazing Thing in the 21st century.  This amp is loud enough to gig with, has literally all the effects one needs, sounds "almost" as good as a much more expensive tube guitar amp, and (importantly) weighs ~25 lbs.????

 This amp is literally a back saver.  The number of little gigs I've done where I had to bring a 50 lbs. amp, and a suitcase of pedals that this amp could have been used for is ridiculous.  I bought one of these to use in my office (when I had one before covid, I'm now only giving lessons online) and now it sits next to me at home, while my vintage Marshall still remains in disrepair and my finicky VHT Princeton clone is unused.

 Not exactly recommended as a "beginner amp" because it has wayyyy more controls and features than one really needs, and can be very overwhelming, but - not a bad choice, because it's definitely an amp a beginner can grow into.

Christmas Gift Guitars for Beginners: Stainless Frets and Torrified Wood?

  This time of year I usually get calls about "can you recommend a guitar to me for a beginner?" (even before people sign up for lessons....  hmmm). 

(note: I have not been paid by this company or received any recompense for this review...)

 My previous go-to answer was to look for the Monoprice stratocaster copy,   They still seem to be one of the best deals, although in the past year or so models from EART seem to have stepped up - I'd say try to get one of these for $188:

EART Strat

 It's effectively a fully professional guitar, but also has 2 very notable features previously not found on a guitar in this sub-$200 price range, in that it has polished stainless steel frets and a "roasted"/torrified neck and body.

 The stainless steel frets, for the average player, will effectively hold their polish and not wear out.  In the Old Days not only did we not have stainless steel frets, on sub-$500 guitars the frets were made out of a cheap, soft alloy that started to wear with very little playing.  This wear affects the playability of the guitar over the period of years.  With stainless frets effectively the guitar should play the same for the life of the instrument.

 Which brings me to the second part, the "roasted or "torrified" neck and body.   I previously couldn't make the statement "it should play the same for the life of the instrument", because wood tends to do things in different environments when it gets cold/warm, or exposed to humidity/dry air.  "Roasted" means the wood has literally been baked in an oven for a period of time, at a very specific temperature.  This does 2 very good things:

1) removes moisture from the wood;

2) "caramelizes" the lignin, which is to say effectively makes the resin act as epoxy, it becomes harder/stiffer.

 The first thing is good because it means it is much less likely to want to warp or change it's dimensionallity due to temperature/climate conditions.  Wood is not a perfect material, and guitar necks have been known to warp when furnaces are used in the winter, or A/C in the summer creates strange moist-to-dry situations.  This is due to the wood expelling and taking up moisture.  

 When torrified, not only is there no water to want to evaporate out of the wood, the caramelization acts as a sealant that keeps it from wanting to absorb moisture.  

  Which is a good thing, but an even better thing IMO is that because it makes it stiffer, it SOUNDS significantly better.   Without a doubt, I am of the opinion the the reason *some* old guitars are so prized for their sound is due to the fact that after 30+ years, if the neck hasn't warped it's due to both the having successfully dried out AND the caramelization process starting naturally.

 Roasting/torrification does both in one go.  I claim the "vintage guitar" sound, and the seemingly random variability of older guitars sounding better or worse than another, is mostly down to how naturally the wood has dried out.  Roasted necks will create a nicer sound, and also a louder, more reactive sound.   

 These two things, stainless steel frets and roasted wood, I think are the most important inventions in guitar in the past 50 years.  That you can get both on a guitar that's less than $200 is incredible.  The rest of the guitar, pickups, bridge and tuners are also very high quality, as is the quality of the nut.  Effectively in every respect a professional guitar for less than I paid for my first Hondo guitar in 1984 that was lower quality in every respect!