Tuesday, January 26, 2010

German Rock Icons Scorpions Retiring For Good!

After rocking the world like a hurricane for a staggering 45 years, German rock legends Scorpions have finally decided to call it quits. That is, after they complete their tour to support their upcoming album release "Sting In The Tail".

The band is currently recording their 17th studio album in Hanover, Germany, and is set to be released in an undisclosed date early this year.

The band went through several ups and downs after being in the music industry ever since founding rhythm/lead guitarist Rudolf Schenker started the band in 1965. Being in a group for THAT long is a minority in this business where it isn't common to see bands immediately go separate ways after only a few years.

What surprises me is that while a lot of their contemporaries continue to rock out (Aerosmith) or form reunion tours (Van Halen), the Scorpions goes completely the opposite direction with this move. They won’t be having problems financially, as the band has amazingly sold over 75 million albums worldwide!

I hope the group would make their final album a memorable one. In retrospect, I do feel a bit disheartened that the creators of music I listened to when I was growing up will throw in the towel finally. In the end though, after dishing out rock hit after another for more than four decades, the rock icons deserve this break.

Photo source: Wikipedia.org

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Aerosmith Set To Replace Steven Tyler?

When I read the news about Aerosmith holding auditions to find a replacement for longtime vocalist Steven Tyler, I was both saddened and relieved at the same time.

The feeling of relief came after the realization that Joe Perry and the gang are still quite serious in continuing to dish out rock n' roll madness, as what they've been doing for the past 4 decades. However, this situation can only be added to the number of recognizable rock bands that replaced their prominent vocalists. It's a hit and miss kind of scenario.

I was saddened by the fact that, Steven Tyler might not be able to recover from this current setback, although I'm still rooting for him to do so.

The only band that I thought really successfully made this transition is AC/DC.

After the venerable Bon Scott passed away and left the Aussie rock juggernaut temporarily reeling from the loss, replacement Brian Johnson came and owned the screamer spot bigtime. The millions of records sold by the band fully attests to the extent of Brian's success as AC/DC's replacement vox.

Other than AC/DC, I really can't think of any other band that made it as good as they did.

Let's just hope that Tyler does recover to reclaim his rightful place in the band's line-up.

Here the video of Steven Tyler falling off the stage, sustaining injuries that caused the group to cancel several shows and look for Tyler's, hopefully temporary, replacement.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lucciano Pizzichini and Tallan Latz: 8-Year-Old Guitar Prodigies

I read this article about complaints against an 8-year-old guitarist playing in clubs. Apparently, someone thought he was too young to play according to state child labor laws. His name is Tallan "T-Man" Latz, who is by the way a very good guitar player specially for his age. I mean, he can play lots of blues songs that I don't even know yet! He even employs a mean blues vibrato in solos that you couldn't resist a feeling of awe for this kid.

While I was amazed at this kid Tallan, my amazement wasn't nearly as much as when I first saw this other 8-year-old kid Lucciano "Lucchy" Pizzichini.

I saw him first at youtube when he was but a 6-year-old playing a classical piece. I was like "How can he do that?!". Then I saw this video of a show in an open field where Luchy played Santana's classic tune "Samba Pa Ti". It's riveting how he looked so confident on stage, at some point even swaying to the tune and feeling the groove. He wasn't even looking often at the guitar's fingerboard! He was a mere 7-year-old at the time. Here's the video:

There was even a TV show (shown in youtube) where the man himself, Carlos Santana, was there to bear witness to the small boy's prowess. Santana could not help but pay homage to the young Lucchy.

Both these prodigies are very talented and I salute their parents, who I'm sure are very proud of their kids.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wanna Hear The New Single "C-lebrity" from Queen + Paul Rodgers?

Queen + Paul Rodgers will be releasing their first collaboration with the upcoming album entitled "The Cosmos Rocks". The legendary group's highly anticipated work is set to reach the stores in the EU and the UK on 15th September and to the US and Canada on October 14th.

It's a general concensus that no one could ever replace the great Freddie Mercury. But really I feel that Paul Rodgers, who's a great vocalist in his own right, really meshes well with Brian May and Roger Taylor. For me, this is a different group altogether. They're still carrying the band name though, despite the fact that original members Brian and Roger represents just half of what the group used to be, with John Deacon retiring already. Nevertheless, with Brian May still manning the lead guitar spot, the band has more than enough juice to rock on until the next century or so!

For a preview of what to expect from the supergroup, here's a video of their rockin' new single "C-lebrity" shown in official Queen youtube site! Enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Metallica Announces Release Date For "Death Magnetic"!

Finally, 5 years after the release of their previous album "St. Anger", Metallica will be releasing their ninth album entitled "Death Magnetic", which will be available this coming September 12, 2008!

I'm one of them old-school Metallica fans that loved all their 4 albums in the 80's, namely: "Ride The Lightning" (1983), "Kill 'Em All" (1984), "Master Of Puppets" (1986, in my opinion, their best ever!) and "...And Justice For All" (1988). I didn't really took much notice of them in the 90's. However, I'm still feeling that excitement as the date approaches and find myself looking forward to hearing the songs in the album.

There's a video I've seen in youtube showing the photo shoot of their upcoming single "The Day That Never Comes", a song which is shown in an Iraq War setting. This is what Lars Ulrich told MTV News about it:
It’s a story about human beings who don’t know each other, in a particularly tense situation. It could be a contemporary war setting, but it’s really about forgiveness and redemption and understanding what goes on in people’s minds. We really feel that this was such a beautiful and epic way to treat the song in something that was really radically different than the specificity of the lyrics.

I hope that the guys will remain true to the spirit of Metallica and make this album as kickass as possible. If they do, then it's going to be quite a treat!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How To Keep Your Guitar's Neck, Fretboard and Strings Clean

Some time age, I was rocking my guitar and jamming with my band when I took a little breather. Our bassist then took my guitar and played songs to which our drummer jammed with. After a while, he (bassist) commented how difficult it was to play my guitar! He said that the strings and neck weren't smooth as he expected. I've been playing it long enough to notice. I thought it was normal. But it shouldn't be! It turned out that the culprits were the accumulated sweat and dirt in the neck and strings of my guitar.

I've always been conscious about the guitar body. I always keep it clean and avoid scratches as much as I can. However, this incident spurred me to think about how I, a life-long guitar aficionado, have been inadvertently neglecting my beloved guitar's neck area to the mercy of dirt and grime!

Mind you, it's not only for aesthetic purposes. Three months ago, I went through a harrowing episode of indescribable pain in my left hand and wrist that forced me to stop playing guitar, and caused limited mobility for my left hand, for a couple of months. It was one of the longest 2 months of my life! Now, I made a connection between my wrist pain and the condition of my guitars' necks. It's indeed a factor that causing this discomfort in my left hand while playing. After this realization, I made a vow to myself to be aware of guitar neck care if I want to keep playing guitar. I need my hands to play, right?

After a little research, I found some different ways to make sure you keep you guitar's neck area clean:

1. Wash thoroughly, and then dry your hands before playing the guitar.

2. After playing, wipe the neck, strings and fretboard with clean cloth to remove sweat.

3. Use a guitar string/neck cleaner product. There are various products for this: Fingerease, GHS Fast Fret, Dunlop 65, etc. Each has their own supporters and naysayers, but it's only natural. As they say, one man's wine is another man's poison.

4. Use WD-40, but maybe just in very small quantities as this lubricant is 50% solvent based. Who knows what damage it'll cause to our beloved guitars and to our skin. I read about how other players have been using WD-40 to clean their strings, fretboard and neck. There were some who vouched for it while there were other who discouraged it.

5. Use lemon oil or almond oil to clean the guitar's fingerboard and keep the strings dust-free.

Actually, I did try WD-40 on my guitar after I read about it. What I did was I sprayed a little on a piece of cloth. Then, I used the cloth to wipe off the dirt from the neck, strings and fretboard. I actually liked the result. The strings became easier to bend and make vibratos with. Fast runs on the fretboard was easier to do with less friction. The neck became smoother and playing was more relaxed for my hands.

Nowadays, I'm using almond oil to keep my guitar's fretboard and strings clean. As usual, it's done in moderation. Just a few drops on a clean cloth then slow wiping off the dirt from the fretboard and the strings. Every now and then I swab the back of the neck to keep it smooth. It is very important to wipe the almond oil off so the neck won't feel "oily", but still be smooth and fast!

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Top 10 Classic Rock Guitar Solos!

One of the the most exciting things to do with the guitar is to replicate the solos played by your idols. It enables the aspiring guitarist to take the place of his guitar hero and BE the guitarist in the record... well, at least that's what it does for ME!

Trying to play a song/solo does 2 things: First of all, it gets me in a place, in my mind, where I'm front of thousands of screaming fans (just like Wembley Stadium in a Queen concert!), rocking the solo with my guitar! Second and more importantly, it helps me develop an "ear" by figuring out the guitar solo (and the whole song of course).

As a tribute to the venerated "guitar solo", I've made a list of my top 10 guitar solos from classic rock songs!

These were the pieces that I wanted to play when I was still starting out. Most of these are stuff that I can already play now, but THEN it felt like the most herculean task for me just to be able to play them.

You may agree with this list or not, as it all boils down to taste. But the thing we can't deny is that amazing guitar solos, such as those in the list, inspire young guitarists to take on the challenge of keeping rock music go on forever!

10. Crossroads - Cream
This 1968 rework of Robert Johnson's original is an impressive display of Cream collective virtuosity. Fittingly, Eric Clapton's fast yet bluesy guitar solos were among the song's highlights.

9. Reelin' In The Years - Steely Dan
It is said that Jimmy Page has called this Elliot Randall solo as one of his all-time favorites. Now that's one thing Jimmy Page and I have in common!

8. You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
Angus Young's big bend started the blues-inspired solo with a bang. One of my favorite songs to jam with, I never seem to get tired of it!

7. Highway Star - Deep Purple
Richie Blackmore's harmonized guitar solo, accentuated by fast arpeggios and precise alternate pickings, is the perfect foil for the Jon Lord's organ solo for the group's concert favorite.

6. Red House - Jimi Hendrix
This has different live versions but the studio recording is what I like best. The vibe of the whole song is amazing, with a great soulful feel on the guitar solo.

5. Crazy Train - Ozzy Osbourne
One of the late great Randy Rhoads masterpieces, he adapts finger tapping and fast trills to make his solo in this song one of the all-time classics.

4. Hotel California - The Eagles
With Joe Walsh and Don Felder trading licks and dual guitars parts on this song, the solo at the end of the song is mesmerizing.

3. Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
A melodic, lyrical solo in the first part of the songs followed by a rocking solo at the end part showed us the musical genius of David Gilmour. His amazing guitar tone and exceptional note choices are what many guitarists, including myself, aspire for.

2. Stairway To Heaven - Led Zeppelin
The whole song builds up until that moment that Jimmy Page opens up that famous guitar solo near the end. It's mostly a pentatonic-based solo but potent nonetheless. It's almost a requirement for every aspiring guitarist to learn this solo early on.

1. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
This magnum opus of Queen presents the meticulous guitar work of Brian May, who, being my favorite axe wielder, gets the top spot of this list. The main solo and the end solo both deserve proper commendation for a job well done on showing how a rocking guitar solo should sound like!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How to Solve A Slow PC Monitor Display

After I re-installed Windows XP Vista in my PC, I noticed that the video display became a bit slower that usual. How slow? Like, when I'm scrolling down a page, it doesn't immediately go down as it would normally. After some research in the internet, I was able to solve the problem with the following steps:

1. Re-install the driver for the display adapter. Mine is an S3 Graphics ProSavage DDR which I downloaded for free from www.s3graphics.com

2. After installing the display adapter driver, install now the monitor driver. Mine is a LG M1717S which I got from the CD included in the monitor package but it also mentioned that drivers are available at the www.lge.com website.

After doing these 2 steps, my video display is now faster. The procedure seems simple enough, but for uninformed guys like me it could take a lot of time to figure out first. Here's some stuff I learned while I was figuring it out:

- I learned that I need to install the display adapter driver FIRST before the monitor driver. I tried to install first the monitor driver but couldn't because it was listed as "Non-Plug-and-Play-Device". Once the display adapter driver was installed, I was now able to update the monitor driver in the Device Manager.

(You can go to Device Manager by right-clicking "My Computer", then "Properties", then "Hardware", then "Device Manager")

- I discovered a site called www.pcidatabase.com where people can determine the PCI Vendor Name and Chip Description with just a few steps. This became useful for me because in the Device Manager, I had "Other devices" that had question marks on it. I was able to identify those drivers by going to "Properties" then "Details". Once you get there you'll see something like this:


VEN means vendor while DEV means device. In this case, the Vendor Code is 5333 and the Device Code is 8D04. When you input these information into the Vendor and Device search boxes in the site, you'll be able to identify your unknown driver.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Top 10 Classic Rock Bands!

Ever since I can remember, I've always been drawn to the energy of rock music. My mind-opening moment was during my growing years when my uncle would blast their cassette stereo with strains from The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" tape. This was in the early 1980's by the way and I wasn't even 10 years old then. I became amazed, when I thought about it years later, how a 1967 Beatles album would still sound good, even after decades have passed.

That's when I learned about other groups whose musical outputs eventually transcended time and still reached their listeners on a different level. This quality and talent separate the ordinary bands from the great ones. But ultimately it's still a matter of taste. Everybody has their own list of favorites and here's mine!

The first song I heard from this group is "Hotel California". The highlight of the song is the guitar solo exchange at the song's ending! I can't forget the way the faces of Don Felder and Joe Walsh grimace and melt while playing their hearts' out, in concert footages. I find it both hilarious and mesmerizing at the same time. It turned out that "Hotel California" is just one of their numerous hits. These guys are tremendously talented. Their vocal harmonies are dead-on accurate and pleasing to the ears.

Hotel California - The Eagles

Cream was one of the first supergroups and exploited the "power trio" format in a band. Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce are each immensely talented with their musical instruments. Their formula was based on the blues-rock genre. Each original and cover song is boosted with the group's collective virtuosity. Clapton's previous work with James Mayall's Bluesbreakers was a perfect springboard to his shot to stardom with Cream, and at the time, his breathtaking guitar skills were highly-regarded that it was immortalized in a famous "Clapton is god" graffiti.

Crossroads - Cream

One of the most innovative guitar players in recent years, Eddie Van Halen spearheaded this rock juggernaut with his equally talented brother, Alex. Van Halen had two different vocalists, David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, that represented two different eras in the band growth over the years. Fans have been divided between the two, but I think it's better to just accept each as a unique hue in Van Halen's musical palette. Actually, there was a third vocalist, Gary Cherone but he was not as prominent as the other two. Just recently, Van Halen concluded their Reunion Tour with DLR. Its success as a testament to their amazing drawing power.

Dance The Night Away - Van Halen

My favorite album from the band is the classic "Machine Head", which produce the immortal "Smoke On The Water" and anthemic "Highway Star". (Read my review for this album in one my previous posts). Mark II lineup of the band is widely recognized as the best to have produced classic sound of the band, most notably Ritchie Blackmore's classical/blues combo influence in the guitar solos. Later, the group became inclined to progressive rock in later years. Deep Purple songs continue to be a staple in classic rock stations to this day.

Highway Star - Deep Purple

The group had their first hit in 1973, with the Irish traditional song. "Whiskey In The Jar". One of the proponents of the harmony of double lead guitars, Thin Lizzy was also the platform of enigmatic bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott for his engaging, story-telling songs. This group had, at one time, in it's line-up one of my favorite guitarists, Gary Moore. However, the more memorable songs of the group were done with the twin guitar attack of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson.

The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy

The lineup of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell followed, perhaps unintentionally, the power trio format initiated by Cream with just the basic guitar, bass and drums composition. As exceeding flamboyant and talented Hendrix was, Redding and Mitchell were not to be outdone and confidently held their own amidst the tumultuous performances conjured by the master guitarist. This collaboration produced the most of Hendrix' classic hits such as "Purple Haze", "Little Wing", "Fire", "Foxy Lady" and "Voodoo Child".

All Along The Watchtower - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

4. AC/DC
I was exposed initially to AC/DC's music during the Brian Johnson era, the "Back In Black" album specifically. (Read my review for this album in one my previous posts). The band had enjoyed considerable success during Bon Scott's tenure, but gained even wider recognition after his untimely death. Some critics may dismiss AC/DC music as repetitive. For me however, it represents rock and roll at its raunchiest, complemented with a generous amount of rebellious attitude by guitar god Angus Young. The band, still going strong through the decades, is reported to be releasing a new album later this year.

It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock N Roll - AC/DC

Once only known for the smash hit "More Than A Feeling", I've came to know Boston as more than a one-hit wonder. In fact, all songs in their debut album "Boston" in 1976 were potential hits. Apparently, Tom Scholz, lead guitarist and band leader, made sure of that. Their sophomore effort "Don't Look Back" was likewise as stimulating and melody-driven as the first one. Recent efforts however were not satisfying enough for me. The death of Brad Delp last year slammed the door for a reunion of the original lineup which produced the band's trademark sound.

More Than A Feeling - Boston

One can't find any other band that's more influential than the Fab Four. Although their longevity as a band (they were active from 1962 to 1970 only) wasn't that much compared to other veteran bands whose careers spanned decades, the impact of their work is irrefutable. The bulk of material came from the potent songwriting tandem of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who produced multiple hit songs over the years. Even after the group disbanded in 1970, appreciation for their music has continued.

Don't Let Me Down - The Beatles

Brian May is the guy who inspired me to play lead guitar. When I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody, I've been hooked since. But this group isn't just about May. From its inception 1970 until Freddie Mercury's untimely demise in 1991, this four-piece of superbly talented individuals constantly provided the music world with strings of hits. They refused to have their music to be tied down to a specific genre, instead released diverse tunes that defy categorization. The huge turnout in the "Freddie Mercury Tribute" concert in 1992 is a proof of how much the tragic loss of Mercury affected their fans.

Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How To Install New Pickups On A Strat-Type Guitar

I recently upgraded my Yamaha Pacifica 112 with Dimarzio pickups, and I thought about making a detailed account here about the project.

So, here's a step-by-step account on how to remove the stock pickups and install new pickups on a Stratocaster-type guitar, based on how I installed the Dimarzio pickups (DP100 Super Distortion: bridge, DP116 HS-2: middle, DP217 YJM: neck) on my Pacifica. Here it goes!

1. Loosen the strings but don't remove them from the tuning pegs. When it's loose enough, remove the neck mounting screws and carefully detach the neck from the body.

* This will save time when putting it all back together, using the same strings. On the other hand, if you're going to put new strings anyway, then just remove the strings and don't bother removing the neck.

2. After putting the neck aside, detach the "volume", "tone" and selector switch caps. Once removed, the volume pot, tone pot and selector switch can now be detached from the pickguard.

3. Remove the pickguard screws.

4. Detach the stock pickups from the pickguard.

5. To totally remove the stock pickups, look for the 3 lugs under the selector switch where the 3 stock pickups are connected. When found, de-solder the 3 "hot" wires from the stock pickups.

* Before de-soldering, try to remember or label WHICH LUG IS FOR WHICH POSITION (bridge, middle or neck).

6. De-solder the ground wires of the 3 stock pickups from the back of volume potentiometer.

* Now the stock pickups are completely detached. Set them aside or store them in a box for safekeeping.

7. Attach the replacement pickups to their respective positions in the pickguard.

8. Check the wiring diagram for the color coding of the new pickup. Usually the new Dimarzios have 5 wires with the following colors: red, green, black, white and a bare wire. (For me, I used the full humbucker *series* wiring for all three Dimarzio pickups). Solder tips of the black and white wires together then wrap tightly with electrical tape.

9. Solder the green and bare wires together then solder properly to the back of the volume pot for grounding. Be sure to use higher wattage soldering iron ( >45 watts ) in order for the soldering lead to stick and make a good connection.

10. Solder the red "hot" wire from the pickup to its the corresponding position in the selector switch lug as mentioned in Step#5.

11. Repeat Steps #9 and #10 for the other two pickups.

* After all soldering jobs, be sure to conduct a visual inspection on all soldering connections. All connections should be secure and solid.

12. Return the "volume" pot, "tone" pot and selector switch to their rightful places. Be sure to properly attach their screws securely. Re-place the pots and switch caps.

13. Re-place the pickguard and attach screws on the guitar body. Check for stray wires that may stick out. All wires should stay inside the guitar cavity.

14. Re-attach the neck to the guitar body's neck joint, then screw tightly.

There you go. Just a simple 14-step procedure anyone can do at home. Hope this helps!