Guitar Equipment And Performance

- Will Landrum

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I received a lot of positive emails regarding my tune "Hour Champion" and an educational write-up that I sent to everyone a while ago.


Here it is again today with some added content and tablature for you to check out.


"Hour Champion" was written in a drop D tuning. What that means is that I simply tuned my sixth string, which is E, down a whole step to D. That's what gives it such a beefy low intro riff and chorus rhythm. 


Now, another way to get a totally heavy sound is to tune all six of your strings down a whole step. This is actually easier than what I did with "Hour Champion" because all of your chord and note fingering is the same as always. The notes of your open strings would now be:

6 = D
5 = G
4 = C
3 = F
2 = A
1 = D


If you use a tuner, it will have to have the capability to recognize these notes. Otherwise, you can simply tune the low E down to D in comparison with the normal fourth string D. (one octave lower) Once you have the sixth string tuned down, just use relative tuning from the sixth string.


Also, when you tune down like this, you may want to use a heavier gauge string. I usually use lite's which are:

Lite Gauge Strings:
E 042
A 032
D 024
G 016
B 011
E 009


But when I tune all my strings down a whole step, 10's give me a much better tone and feel.

Regular Gauge Strings:
E 046
A 036
D 026
G 017
B 013
E 010


The chorus melody of "Hour Champion" is an expansion of sweep picking a Dm arpeggio. I opened up the sound of the Dm arpeggio by using a combination of wider intervals, normal arpeggio intervals and normal scale intervals.


For instance, the first three notes of the melody are part of a D sweeping 5th arpeggio. This is when I totally omit the 3rd of the arpeggio and just sweep pick the 1st's and 5th's.


Just after that, it chimes in with a partial 2nd inversion Dm arpeggio starting at the 14th fret. My arpeggios are fluid. What I mean is that I sweep pick arpeggios one note per string across all six strings for speed and efficiency.


In this case however, I have "chopped" the arp in half and only play it on the first, second, and third strings.


The ending phrases after the partial Dm arpeggio are centered on the 13th, 15th and 17th frets, first and second strings in the Ionian/Locrian multi-position pattern. I can't stress enough how important it is for you to memorize all of the modal scale patterns. Your creativity will skyrocket when you do.


Here's the tab for the arpeggiated chorus melody:


Part A
\ \ po
E ----------------------------------13-17-13--------
B ------15-17-18-17-15-13-10-----15----------15-----
G ---14-----------------------14----------------14--
D 12------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------


Part B
\ po po po po ~~~~
E -------------------------17-15-13-----------------
B ------15-17-18-17-15-13-----------17-15-13-17-----
G ---14---------------------------------------------
D 12------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------


-- Repeat Part A --


Part C
\ po po po po ~~~~
E -------------------------17-15-13----------15-----
B ------15-17-18-17-15-13-----------17-15-13----15--
G ---14---------------------------------------------
D 12------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------



Another important aspect to this beefy rhythm sound is the effects that I used. I used a Roland GP-16 guitar processor with no post amplification. I just plugged my guitar into the processor and plugged the output of the processor into the 4-Track. Oh yeah...this tune, and my entire CD was originally recorded on a Tascam 4-Track!


The GP-16 has multiple effects that I combined to get the heavy sound. Surprisingly, out of distortion, compression, noise filtering and equalization, the secret to the sound is in the parametric equalization. I adjusted the mids and highs until I got a tone that I liked, and then boosted the lower 250hz range. Increasing the 250hz area gives your guitar a bass punch that simulates a loud stack of amps. Totally cool, since I was recording at home with headphones!


I used a Westone Spectrum FX guitar that I got in the 80's. I had the rear pickup replaced with a signal sucking Dimarzio and the entire neck has been scalloped.


I really like the scalloped fretboard. It gives me much more control of the notes because there is no wood rubbing against my fingertips. If you're not familiar with a scalloped neck, here's the Stratocaster that I use now.



I must admit, most guitarists I talk to can't stand scalloping or the idea of it. I, however, am sold. I'll always have my guitars scalloped because of the benefits I gain.


When I first started playing my scalloped neck, I had trouble with my first string at the high frets being pulled off of the neck. You know why I was pulling it off? Because I wasn't fretting the note straight down like I should have been. Prior to scalloping, the wood contacting my fingers helped "cover" my fretting inaccuracy.


On a final note, (no pun intended) the reason I switched to a scalloped board is control. I "test drove" a scalloped guitar and immediately realized that I could control my bends and vibrato much better on all strings at all frets.


That's what I mean by control...it's just your fingers and the strings.


Will Landrum

 

 

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