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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New kit & updated recordings

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During the past couple of months I've had a major change in my kit. I've sold 6 guitars and bought 2 new ones, I've also sold my old Marshall amp. The guitars I sold are the Palmer Twin-neck, the Wesley Archtop semi, the Ibanez Gio, the Aston Bison SG, the Stagg Mockingbird and a Westfield Strat that I didn't have long enough to mention on here before. Something I'm quite proud of is the fact that over the years I've bought & sold about 50ish guitars and made a profit on every single one of them. I was concerned that streak may come to an end, mostly because I thought the Stagg Mockingbird may not sell for much, but in the end they all sold for a profit (the Stagg only sold for 2 more than I'd paid for it, but it's still profit).

The new guitars are a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet (without a bigsby) and a Hutchins Venue. I'm particularly proud of the Gretsch, as they recently changed the design of their non-bigsby guitars. Instead of the awesome looking G-style tailpiece fitted to the one I've bought, now they just have a bog-standard bridge that looks like it could be on any Les Paul copy. I can't see why they'd remove something that was such a unique feature of their guitars, but it made me want to buy one of the older ones before they become a collectors item - they were already hard enough to find as most people wanted the version with the bigsby tremelo, something I'm just not interested in.

When I originally sold the Marshall, I bought a Vox VT40+ to replace it. That followed quite a bit of research into my options prompted by a few conversations (both in the UG forums and in real life) where 4 different people said a Vox amp would sound good for my style of playing. I couldn't afford the AC30 that people had mentioned, but the VT series seemed like the best compromise as it also gave me a lot of options for different sounds that I could use in my recordings. Then a while after buying that amp, I realised that about 90% of the time I was playing with the Vox AC models anyway, proving everyone right! I still couldn't justify the cost of an AC30 and wouldn't actually get any benefit from one as I only play at home these days anyway, but I found a B stock AC4TVH & V112TV going for a good price on the Thomann website so I went for it.

Best decision ever, it's an awesome amp and is just the right volume for playing at home but still cranking it up enough to get the best out of the tubes. It's cleans are also significantly better than the other one as they are actually clean, whereas the VT40+ just has some models that are clean and I don't really like any of them. You can't get just the sound of the guitar with no digital interference. That's something that is always very important to me - I like to keep things as genuine as possible, so even though I still use the modelling options on the VT amp when I need something different, I much prefer to stick with just the sound of a guitar and amp with no other influence. I use my effects pedal in the same way - it's there when I need it, but I don't rely on it all the time. For now I'm planning to keep both amps, but in time I may well decide to get rid of the VT40+ if I find I'm just never using it.

It was when I bought those two amps that I started re-recording everything. The first to be completed was an updated version of She Sells Sanctuary. That was done solely using the VT40+ and was uploaded before I'd even considered purchasing the AC4. I doubt I'll redo it again, the updated version loaded to my profile is as good as I expect I'll ever get it. I'm especially happy with the changes I made to the intro.

Since then I've also recorded new versions of Witch Hunt and both the Your Fantasy songs. The Your Fantasy songs are basically the same as the original versions but done using the new amps - both songs use both new amps. I also noticed that when I did an updated version of (I Don't Believe) Your Fantasy a while back I actually uploaded the wrong version of the MP3. The version I uploaded was terribly mixed, but it's too late now, I can't exactly go back in time and change it.

Although I was never necessarily dissatisfied with the original version of Witch Hunt, I always felt there was something missing from it. Then while recording an updated version I realised what it was - when I played it without any backing tracks, I played it significantly faster. As soon as I noticed that, I decided a whole new version of it was needed. The new version is probably at least 20bpm faster, I also play the rhythm parts slightly differently and I've improved the solo (IMO).

I've also recorded a cover of The Man Who Sold The World. There are a few cover songs I've been thinking of recording since I spent Christmas day recording the first version of She Sells Sanctuary, this one just happened to be the first I got around to. I didn't actually program the drums for this one, I found a backing track on the internet and used that. I spent very little time recording & mixing it, most of the guitars were done using a single take so there is still a couple of mistakes in there, but that kind of just makes it more like the way Nirvana played it on their Unplugged album. I've listed it as an initial demo version but I don't know when (or if) I'll ever get around to re-doing it, considering the whole thing only took a couple of hours what I've already done is passably OK.

I still have 4 unfinished original songs that are just waiting for some lyrics, but I've been suffering from some serious writers-block lately and haven't come up with any ideas - I've hardly even come up with any new riffs to base new songs around. I guess that's part of the reason for starting to record a few more cover songs - it gives me something to do to stay practiced at recording & mixing, and it's also a good way to kill time whilst also practicing playing and recording/mixing. One of the unfinished songs is probably going to be an instrumental though, so I expect that will be the next original song to be finished.
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