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

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 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 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!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CD Review: "Powerslave" - Iron Maiden

"Powerslave is the fifth studio album by the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, released on September 3, 1984. It is notable for its Egyptian theme displayed in the album art, as well in the title track's musical style. It contains a musical re-telling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", which uses pieces of the original poem as lyrics, and is the longest song Iron Maiden have ever recorded at a length of 13 minutes and 38 seconds. The album is also notable amongst the band's albums as being the first album to feature the same lineup as the previous one. As of 2008, this is the last of the band's albums to contain an instrumental track: "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)." Powerslave is often considered one of their finest albums by fans and critics alike." - Excerpt from

I bought a cassette tape of this album in the early 90's and it became one of my regularly-played tapes. What I particularly like about it at was the infectious energy of the songs from the beginning to the last. What I learned later on that each track has it's own interesting tale to tell. Some of the notable tracks include:

"Aces High", a song about a WWII RAF pilot during the Battle of Britain in 1940 which marks the first time an air battle was fought in the British Isles, provides a jolting kickstart to the album's high-energy opening salvo.

"2 Minutes To Midnight", tells about that time in 1953 when the Doomsday Clock registered the closest ever to "midnight", representing catastrophic destruction. (Presently, the Clock is set at 5 minutes to midnight. The furthest it was set was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991).

"Flash of the Blade" starts off with a prominent guitar riff to accentuate the tale of dueling swordsmen. The awesome guitar solo showcases intricate lead guitar harmonies between Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, that Maiden is known for.

"Back In The Village" is another fast-paced number, based on the 1960's TV show "The Prisoner" which was said to be a favorite of Bruce Dickinson's.

"Powerslave" begins with high pitched scream followed by an ominous laughter. It tells about the demise of an Egyptian pharaoh. One of the album's best tracks.

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is based on the poem with the same title by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This epic song used portions from the poem itself to complement the song. It's a commendable choice for the band to inject classic poetry to their album.

This album is generally hailed as one of the best ever, if not THE best, to be produced by Iron Maiden and I believe the recognition is rightfully bestowed.

Release: 1984

Tracks listing:
1. Aces High
2. 2 Minutes To Midnight
3. Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)
4. Flash Of The Blade
5. The Duellists
6. Back In The Village
7. Powerslave
8. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner

Band members:
Bruce Dickinson - vocals
Dave Murray - guitar
Adrian Smith - guitar, backing vocals
Steve Harris - bass
Nicko McBrain - drums

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stone Gods To Release Debut Album "Silver Spoons and Broken Bones"

The Stone Gods, a new band formed from the ashes of defunct British rock goup The Darkness, is set to release their debut album on July 7, 2008. The album will be called "Silver Spoons and Broken Bones".

The group is composed of Richie Edwards (vocals/guitar), Dan Hawkins (lead guitar), Toby MacFarlaine (bass) and Ed Grahams (drums).

The Stone Gods have been quite busy since last year to record the new album and started promoting their new songs at the start of 2008:

"On February 25, 2008 an EP called "Burn the Witch" was released. It contained two tracks from the upcoming debut album and two non-album b-sides. According to the official Stone Gods website, the EP sold out within one day. It also reached #2 in the Radio 1 Rock charts.

On April 9, 2008, Stone Gods announced that the first single of the new album will be 'Knight Of The Living Dead' and was released on 23th June 2008.

On May 25, 2008, the band released 3 songs exclusively on iTunes. These songs, which will be on the album are 'Knight Of The Living Dead', 'Making it Hard' and 'Defend Or Die'.

On June 10, 2008, Stone Gods were supposed to start their 'Knight of the Living Death' tour in Liverpool, but due to health problems with Ed Graham, three dates were postponed. In order to continue the tour, Ed Graham is temporarily replaced by ex-Bush drummer Robin Goodridge."

I watched "Burn the Witch" and "You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight" in Youtube, and I gotta say, this lineup with Richie Edwards sounds way better (kick-ass is more like it!) for me than the falsettoes of ex-Darkness vocals Justin Hawkins, although I have to admit that I did enjoy "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" for a while. I hope they continue what they're doing, it's good to keep the flames of rock alive and burning.

Here's "You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight" from Stone Gods...

(Info taken from

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Van Halen Wraps Up Successful Tour

As the final date of the humongous Van Halen Tour ended last June 2, 2008, it was revealed that this was the most commercially lucrative tour for the band. Lucrative… in the tune of US$93 million! This is according to the band’s official website,

What could possibly be even better for the band than having Eddie sober enough to play as prodigiously as he does? Van Halen followers know how bad his condition was during previous tours as a result of his severe alcoholism. But since he got better, possibly from regular rehab, so did his guitar playing. Another plus for the fans was that this was the first time in more than 20 years that David Lee Roth toured with Van Halen. I'm sure those who were alienated from the band when Sammy Hagar came embraced this welcome change.

I feel bad, though, for original bassist and longtime VH companion Mike Anthony. Now, he could only watch, after years of touring together with the Van Halen brothers. He was replaced by Eddie’s teenage son Wolfgang who seemed to have sufficiently filled the shoes left by Anthony.

There’s nothing like playing your own songs and getting big bucks for it. That’s why if I were Eddie, I’d keep my self sober and keep on rocking until I keel over and die.


AC/DC To Release New Album This Year!

According to the band’s website,, the veteran rock group is set to release a new album later this year:

“The waiting is almost over! AC/DC fans can expect the band's next album of new material sometime later this year. The band are currently recording in Vancouver with producer Brendan O'Brien and long time audio engineer Mike Fraser. This will be the band's first collection of new material since the release of Stiff Upper Lip in 2000.”

This is good news for loyal AC/DC fans all over the world. It’s been 8 years since their last album release that included new songs, so it’s about time! Man! This is longest time ever that the legendary band had in between albums. We can’t really blame them though. With the success they attained all these years, they can afford to lie low a little bit, and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Can’t wait to get my hands on it!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

CD Review: "Master Of Puppets" - Metallica

Metallica's 3rd full album "Master of Puppets", released in 1986, served as the breaking ground for this legendary thrash metal quintet to the public consciousness. James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett have been toiling in the underground scene for the past years and only after this were they truly appreciated by a wider audience.

This is also the last album recorded by Metallica with their well-loved bassist Burton before his tragic passing just a few months after the album's release.

It was a time when the most popular bands were led by hair metal groups like Ratt, Cinderella, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. Amidst the pomp and glitter of the 80's glam metal music scene, "Master of Puppets" provided a brutal awakening for hardcore heavy metal fans. They (including myself!) haven't heard anything like it before, at all.

All songs were clocking over 5 minutes, with the masterpiece title track well above the 8-minute mark. Each song bursting to the seams with killer riff after killer riff, to be punctuated with mind-boggling guitar solos. There were no typical song format at all. Pop hooks, catchy tunes? You can throw them out of the window because you won't find them anywhere near it.

But man! The energy and power in the songs as these four kids (they were still kids then) relentlessly bludgeoned their respective musical instruments with uncanny precision, can be felt. And that for me was one of the factors that made the album so special.

It was crazy.

Nowadays, there is much criticism aimed at the group from their old-school fans because of the "selling out" tag. But let's not forget, that there was a time when the mighty Metallica blitzkrieg once truly kicked ass.

This album is the undeniable proof.

Release: 1986

Tracks listing:
1. Battery
2. Master of Puppets
3. The Thing That Should Not Be
4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Disposable Heroes
6. Leper Messiah
7. Orion
8. Damage, Inc.

Band members:
James Hetfield - vocals, rhythm guitars
Kirk Hammett - lead guitar
Cliff Burton - bass guitar
Lars Ulrich - drums