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Guitar Musician e-zine     08/16/2006

In This Issue:

  "Music is the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken." 

                                                                                       - Ludwig van Beethoven

Some Humor


I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.

Life is sexually transmitted.

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?"


A Lesson For The Learning

Interested in guitar lessons? - Be sure and check out the guitar lessons offered by Andrew Koblick at Amazing Guitar

Click here for all products by Alvarez.

Alvarez AJ60SC and AJ60SC12

Sonic and aesthetic brilliance

By Travis Taylor

Sonic and aesthetic brilliance

Acoustic guitars are tricky beasts, particularly when it comes to playing live. What sounds fantastic in your living room can sound downright ugly onstage. An onstage acoustic should complement the singer's voice, not overpower it. It should have projection and volume, but not feedback at the slightest twitch of the player. Last but not least, anyone who goes onstage wants his or her instrument to look good. Knowing that Alvarez hand-builds some of the finest acoustic guitars in the world in their Yairi models, I was curious to see how that translated to their more-affordable Artist Series. Musician's Friend sent me the AJ60SC acoustic-electric and its 12-string version, the AJ60SC12, so I could put them to the test onstage.

Blonde beauties

Each guitar's solid spruce top is complemented beautifully with a maple back and sides. The overall lighter hue of the guitar is in contrast to the rosewood fretboard and bridge, which mimics the shape of the direct-coupled bridge of the Yairi models. Other visual accents include die-cast tuners, white pearl rosette, multiple binding, and the Alvarez Artist Series logo inlaid on the headstock. Under stage lights, these guitars look incredibly sharp.

Au naturale

After taking in the gorgeous look of these guitars, I was eager to hear how they sounded. I'd only played on a jumbo once or twice before, and was left with the impression that the bigger lower bout and extra depth felt clunky. I immediately knew that was not the case with these guitars. Both were equally comfortable to play, whether I was seated or had them strapped on. The cutaway allows you to make the most of the upper ranges of these guitars, and is a must if you do any lead playing (there are non-cutaway versions of both these guitars as well).

The maple back and sides make these guitars much brighter than I had expected, given their jumbo status. Mixed with the low-end-enhancing depth and lower bout, the overall tone favors the midrange, with powerful projection and warm resonance. This proved to be a very big asset when I took them to a gig.

Pluggin' in

Alvarez AJ60SC (detail: preamp)
Alvarez AJ60SC (detail: preamp)

The 600T Mk II electronics system is one of the most versatile and functional I've encountered in an acoustic-electric. The built-in pickup is an under-saddle piezo, and the preamp section provides an auxiliary input with its own level control for the optional ASP50 Mk II soundhole pickup or ACM50 condenser mic. The 3-band EQ has a unique enhancement, the Mid Freq knob. The knob lets you change the center frequency of the Mid EQ slider from 600Hz to 1.2kHz. So much control might sound overwhelming, but it makes it really easy to enhance virtually any nuance of the guitar's natural sound with a simple adjustment. Whether I wanted to simply amplify the acoustic tone or boost a given frequency range, the electronics in these guitars delivered with ease.

Two additional features that make the 600T Mk II such a flexible system are a built-in tuner that auto-mutes the pickup when activated and a post-EQ notch filter that gives you an instant reprieve from any feedback you may encounter. I found both of these features invaluable from a performance perspective: the tuner made it a snap to get in pitch without subjecting the audience to the distracting sound of tuning up, and the notch filter gave me the peace of mind to move around while onstage.

In the mix

Alvarez AJ60SC12
Alvarez AJ60SC12

I substituted the AJ60SC for my own acoustic-electric during a gig so I could get feedback from some regular fans who are familiar with our sound. One word that kept popping up was "clear." Even with the rest of the band playing � including an electric guitar � these guitars cut right through the mix and were easy to hear. It was nice to actually get some compliments on my playing, since the volume of the other instruments often overshadows it. It made me realize the importance of good electronics in an acoustic-electric, something I'd taken for granted before playing these Alvarez guitars.

Jumbo perfecto

In the world of acoustic guitars, jumbos are known for their big, bold tone; intense volume; and outstanding projection. While some players find them too big, bulky, or boomy, with the AJ60SC and its 12-string counterpart Alvarez managed to capture all the best qualities of a jumbo acoustic and avoid the pitfalls. The tone is crisp and boisterous, yet not overpowering or too bottom-heavy. As a singer, I found that it worked well with my voice instead of against it. Add to that the versatile System 600T MK II electronics and the Alvarez tradition of building fine guitars, and these Artist Series jumbos add up to an exceptional value.

Features & Specs:

  • Solid Engelmann spruce top
  • Maple back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • 600T Mk II electronics
  • Fully bound
  • White pearl rosette
  • Headstock inlay
  • Nickel die-cast tuners




Birth of the Harmonic Minor Scale

Carlos Torres; San Juan, PR

Q: Can you explain how to create a harmonic minor scale and some of its uses?

A: A harmonic minor scale is constructed by raising the seventh degree of the Natural Minor scale.

Let�s take the notes of an A Natural Minor Scale for an example:


1-2-3-4- 5-6-7

Now you raise the seventh degree one half step which would make the G into a G# and the Harmonic Minor Scale is now:


1-2-3-4- 5-6-7

This scale tends to have an Egyptian sound that is very distinct. The most common application for the harmonic minor scale is over the V dominant 7th chord (referred to as V7) in a minor key. For those of you who aren't familiar with chord theory, the V7 chord in a minor key is seven frets up from the first chord in the key. For example, in the key of A Minor, the V7 chord is E7 (the note E is seven frets up from A). In the key of E Minor, the V7 chord would be B7.

Let's use the progression A minor to E7 to illustrate good use of the harmonic minor scale. Over the A Minor chord, a guitarist could play minor pentatonic licks, blues licks, ideas from Aeolian or Dorian modes, etc. But, when the progression moves to E7, the guitarist would play notes from the A Harmonic Minor Scale (note: you do NOT play the E harmonic minor scale over the E7 chord). This is a bit tricky and will take some getting used to because you are changing scales in mid solo and using a chordal soloing approach.

Experiment and try to come up with some great sound using the Harmonic minor Scale.

Yours in Music
John McCarthy
Rock House

Feature Paid Advertisement



  Studio Tech Tip - Compressing Vocals
By Dennis Kambury

Compression is one of the most useful tools in the studio, and for good reason. It not only can tame wild dynamics, it can help prevent signal overload, smooth performances, and boost perceived loudness by squashing dynamics to within an inch of their limit�just think of any big-time pop tune or those commercials that seem to jump out of the TV set! This week, we'll take a quick look at compressing vocals.

Managing a singer's dynamics is a study in personal dynamics. Pro singers will often play the mic like an instrument, moving back when they're belting it out, and moving in when they're after a quieter, more intimate moment. Less experienced vocalists may stand rooted on one spot or sway around as they groove to the music, oblivious to the mic.

Whatever their experience, vocalists will benefit from the judicious use of compression. Start easy, and keep your ears open for unwanted effects such as pumping, breathing, or accentuated mouth noises�ideally, you won't actually hear the compression, just a smoother overall vocal track.

A good starting point is a compression ratio of no more than 3:1 with a soft-knee, fast attack, and medium-fast release. Check the meters to make sure that you're generally compressing to a slight degree, and that only the loud passages are really pushing the compressor.

This should help get your feet wet in the art of compression, but there's much more to learn than I can present in a few paragraphs. It's not difficult�if you start with the basics and experiment, you'll soon find yourself the proud possessor of a crucial studio skill.

Recommended Listening - A Must For Your Collection!

Jeffrey Foucault, Ghost Repeater
By Judith Edelman
When, on �One Part Love,� Jeffrey Foucault sings of �one part grief, one part love,� he could be sharing his recipe for the honest and bittersweet brew he�s concocted on his third solo album. Foucault leavens the heavier moments of dark revelation with tender images and welcome doses of hope: �Ruined apples fall / Too heavy and too sweet / But right here the birds are calling / The early stars are falling / For Americans in corduroys / Kissing in the middle of the street� (�Americans In Corduroys�). Known for the spare, acoustic settings of his richly detailed country-folk songs, Foucault broadens the dimensions of his sound on Ghost Repeater with the addition of a rhythm section and the bluesy electric guitar of producer Bo Ramsey (Greg Brown, Lucinda Williams). Still, Foucault loses neither his inimitable sense of space nor the acoustic heart of his music. Strumming rhythm front and center, his acoustic guitar is a warm, woody constant�a steady companion to Foucault�s gentle, leathery voice, and a resonant counterpoint to his uniquely Midwestern scenes. (Signature Sounds,


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