Reading - December 2016

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett (1991)
Early Pratchett and more interested in comedy than the later, more satirical books - in this case, what would happen if Death took a holiday? A short and easy read, although the last sections are a little vague.
The Week (3 December 2016 / Issue 1102)
Guitar & Bass (January 2017 / Vol 28 No 4)
The Week (10 December 2016 / Issue 1103)
1971 - Never A Dull Moment: Rock's Golden Year by David Hepworth (2016)
An engaging, entertaining read, choc-full of interesting titbits and trenchant observations. Hepworth's main contentions are that a) 1971 was never-equalled golden year for rock music; and b) that it was the start of the modern era in rock, which therefore strengthens contention a even further. Despite his amusing assertion that 1971 is objectively the best year ever ("The difference is this: I'm right"), it's obviously subjective and while clearly great music was made in this year, much of it sounds dated, regardless of how good it is. Contrast that with some of the biggest records from a mere six years later, such as Aja or Rumours, neither of which sound as of their time in quite the same way.
The Week (17 December 2016 / Issue 1104)
Guitarist (January 2017 / Issue 415)
The Week (24 December 2016 / Issue 1105)
Haynes Explains Teenagers: Owners' Workshop Manual by Boris Starling (2016)
A slim, 34-page, 20 minute read, this joke "manual" about teenagers is a classic stocking filler. It makes me wonder what percentage of those bought are actually read, versus those just parked on a shelf. Anyway, amusing in places, a little stereotyped in others, but a nice little present and appreciated as such.


Solo of the Month #22

December 2016

Often the biggest influence on what I choose to play over a solo is the presence of a new toy. In this month's case, it's a very simple one: an expression pedal. Attached to the EHX Pitchfork, it makes it into a Whammy-style effect, and huge amounts of fun.

So it was already on the board when this rather nice backing track came up. It's got good dynamics, it's well recorded and there's some lovely little details going on. In fact, at nearly two minutes and with a clear verse/chorus structure (albeit one that cuts off rather suddenly), it's more like recording an instrumental than a solo.

After a bit of experimentation I settled on a compressed driven tone, using the EXH Soul Food into the drive channel of my amp and the internal gain boost on as well. I had a verse part and a chorus part and to add interest I used the expression pedal with the Pitchfork to sweep up an octave to the chorus, up another octave in the middle of the chorus, and down again at the end. The very high octave parts in the first chorus sounded a little thin, so I doubled it quietly an octave below. Then for the second chorus I recorded a harmony part, mostly fourths - basically, the same pattern but a string higher.

Recording this was straightforward, particularly since I did it in several parts, but this probably ended up being the most complex "production" in Reaper yet. I ended up with eight tracks (plus one for the backing): the guitar parts themselves, plus separate tracks for delay and reverb and a bus track to bring it all together. It was recorded dry, so I routed all the guitar parts through the TAL Reverb plate emulation plugin. I also wanted delay, but at different levels for different parts, in particular the long downwards glissando at the end of the first chorus. Here, a big modulated delay made it sound very other-worldly. It's using the superb PSP cmDelay (a cut down version of their Stomp Delay that was given away with Computer Music).

The guitars were routed in parallel through the delay and reverb, not in series, and brought together on a bus so I could control the volume easily. I put automation on the delay volume to bring it in and out where I wanted it. The reverb was as much because when the delay kicks in half way through the first verse, it makes a big difference to the sound, and the reverb cushions this slightly. However, it does have the effect that when you first hear the guitar, it does sound a bit like it's in a tunnel. I wasn't sure how to prevent this, but it does all come together later.

I'm quite proud of this one. It got some nice comments during the voting, including top marks from the guy who had recorded the backing track in the first place.