10-days until my next gig. I’ve learned all the tunes as chord melodies because I figured it’s more efficient to learn the melody and harmony at the same time. Actually, since your dealing with 3 times as many notes, it’s nine times more complex — not twice as efficient. This is not what my would be mentor, Eddie, meant by keeping it simple(or as he put it, ” getting Chauncy deGardner on their ass.”) Oddly, I found inspiration and meaning in simplicity listening to speeches given by heavies at my company. So tonight when I practice, that’s just what I’m going to do. It would be easier if I had something I could record my guitar playing the backing. Actually, I do but it’s not very convenient.


Drinking green tea is supposed to help me stay awake to practice late nights, but last night I just feel asleep to Hark Garland. I’m using his chord-melody on Secret Love as my model for the tune. He doesn’t use too many diminished chords, but rather harmonizes everything using ii-V7s-Is. It’s a similar approach, but not as linear because the chords are moving in 5ths.

Cleaning up, I noticed on a turqoise chair in my practice room, there sits a coarse charcoal pillow with a trio of devices on top: a Barber Tone Press compressor connected to a Hughes & Kettner Tubeman preamp running into a Korg PX4 Pandora headphone amp with processor adding a little plate reverb. The Pandora is also connected to my stereo and Sony headphones.

All of this gear strikes me as a bit elaborate just for silent practicing. Once device should be sufficient. The Pandora’s box is supposed to do everything: compression, amp modelling, speaker simulation. Unfortunately it doesn’t do these things very well. The compression only has one paramater for adjustment, none of the amp models give you a good clean sound, and the cabinet simulators sound harsh and unbalanced.

Even so, the best sound I can get from this rig is nowhere near as good as a real amp. Recently I tried tweaking the compression and tone controls to get a better sound from the amp at low volumes (e.g. “1”). It turns out that increasing all the other levels compensates for the loss of tone when the master volume is low. This proves that most of the good tone is coming from the power tubes, not the preamp. The clipping I get from overdriving the tubeman is nothing like it.

A trip to Akihabara is always fun, but I’m afraid I wasted an afternoon there. The parts I picked up did nothing to improve the condition of the gear on my workbench. I’ve had these boxes for years now, and despite all my research, analysis, shopping and soldering; I simply don’t have the knowledge and skill to restore them completely.

Take the LRBAGGS Mixpro: I found what should be a direct replacement for the volume control. It powers up, but still no sound come out. Probably it needs to be soldered in, but the lugs are so small and close together I don’t think I could do it without causing a short or damaging the traces on the circuit board (which I think I already did the last time I tried to replace it.)

Then there’s the Boss CE-1. Over the last three years, I’ve scrubed it down with a toothbrush, replaced broken switches, placards, knobs, rubber feet, a pot and a transistor. It powers up, but won’t switch to Normal mode. Even though it makes that great Andy Summers tone, I don’t want to lug it AND an effects loop to take it out of my signal. (Do I? It sure sounds pretty.)

Ironically, yesterday a nice old man in a stall took the time to mark specialty shops on a map of the area for tourists. None of those shops was on there. His kindness gave me chills, but after seeking them out, I realized I’d already been to all of them and also that the vendors around here are starting to recognize my face. At the time it occured to me that I have lots of time and brains to learn to make a little money doing this, but now I question whether this is true.

Maybe it’s better to cut my losses, sell this stuff as “junk,” and let someone else who knows what they’re doing fix it up and make a profit.