Q: Would you give your thoughts on the true bypass vs buffered bypass? Interested in what your experience has taught you in regard to guitar signal path. Thanks, as ever. Cheers! Brian
A: I'm certainly not a purist about true bypass effects. In fact, if a signal chain gets long, an effect with a buffer in it can really help keep the tone from losing high end and clarity. However, some effects have high quality buffers and others are quite horrible sounding. It's important to listen carefully to see what each effect is doing to the tone. Experimenting with the order of effects as well as different brands and different cables is really worth the time and trouble, as all those things have an audible impact on the sound. If your signal chain is short, and your cables are short, you may do very well without any buffering, and that can be very clean, simple, and beautiful sounding. But a true bypass effect or two that may sound great in a short chain like that may sound very compromised with longer cables and more effects, so you have to stay alert and listen carefully to avoid draining the life out of your tone.
In short, I like the idea of true bypass effects, but I'm always listening to make sure I like what's coming out. I often end up using a combination of them and other pedals, sometimes because I like what the other pedals do, and sometimes because the buffer in one of them seems to help the overall sound. Thanks for writing.
Q: From what I have understood, Morph the Cat and Sunken Condos were created in two very different ways, different processes with regards to how everything was recorded.
Morph the Cat was recorded more as an orchestra and SC more step by step?
Can you say something about what you think is the difference between the end result of those to records related to this difference?
What do you think about those two records as to how they sound? What do you think you miss or get by those two types of processes? Tommy
A: Yes, the big difference in the making of those two records was that the rhythm section played the tracks at the same time on Morph, and parts were recorded one at a time (pretty much) on SC.
Sonically, the biggest difference is in the drum tracks, it seems to me. Different players, different rooms, and different degrees of editing make a big difference in the sound of each of those records. But even though there can be lots of happy accidents and a very special interactive feeling when a full rhythm section tracks together, the way Donald imagines and creates music tends to minimize the difference in the final result to my ears. Even when a tune is tracked with several players, other parts are often added later, original parts are reconsidered or edited, all in service of the final product he's imagining in his head, and that seems to trump the method in his case.
I like both records, and though they sound different from one another, they are both unmistakably signature Donald Fagen works.
Q: Wondering if there are audio versions of all of your incredible arrangements online for reference to the staff and tablature in the (Arrangements For Guitar) book? RJM
A: You're not the first person who's asked about recordings of those arrangements, and I considered including a CD or a download link with the book when I was working on it. I decided to print it without any audio for a couple of reasons. One, it would have taken awhile to record well (I've been very busy with road work and making a record, plus those arrangements are not easy to play well, and I would have had to put in a lot of practice time!) and I didn't want to delay the release of the book, and two, the project struck me as very "old school" (I even considered printing it without the tablature) and I thought that including a recording would work against that impression, which I liked. Ultimately, though, I think I will relent, and I hope to find time to record all of them early next year. It will definitely take awhile, and I'll have to decide whether to release a song at a time or wait until they're all recorded before making them available. I doubt that I'll make a CD in this case - I'll probably just make the tracks available for downloading on my site for people who want to use them along with the book. We'll see.
Thanks for your interest, and thanks for writing. Please check my site every once in awhile to see if I've gotten any of those together!
Q: Caught the show last Saturday July 25th at Ravinia outside of Chicago with Steely Dan and I want to say thanks for that evening. Really enjoyed the band and hung my ears on the notes you were playing .... just great music all evening!
I wondered how the mix was on stage? About half the time when I'm out playing a festival stage live I'll get a monitor mix that's really good but the the other half it's like playing in a small aluminum warehouse. The vocals at Ravinia at the back of the reserved seating were sort of constantly overwhelmed .... the girls punched through most of the time but Don was half buried a lot..... still... those songs and arrangements, it was a great show.
I'm also writing because I want to grow as a guitarist. I want to vastly improve my ability with chord substitution and scale facility. I noted the program you have for download on your home page. I think that could be a fun start. Any additional suggestions... back to the basics of listen and learn from the records for example? When a guy like Jon Herington is asked to tour with those two monsters.... what's the first thing you did? Thank you, Brian
A: I'm glad you enjoyed the show. It's a treat to play with a rhythm section that good. That venue is not my favorite for music like ours, though. I can imagine an orchestra sounding rich (though perhaps not very articulate) in there, but it's so cavernous sounding that everything becomes washy and unclear in there. I use in-ear monitors, so the room sound doesn't affect me as much as people who are monitoring through wedges, but even with the in-ears I could hear all that horrible wash in the room. I'm not surprised it was hard to hear things clearly.
I've always found listening to music the most instructive whenever I've wanted to grow as a player. It's how I developed my ear and my understanding of what's going on in any music I hear, though I certainly was also a serious theory student. But I trust my ear over any method of instruction, which is why that first "course" of mine steers clear of any theoretical stuff, and instead focuses on listening well and asking you to remember what you learn from your listening. Before there was music "theory" there was music "fact."
The first thing I did when I got the SD gig was to really listen deeply to the records and learn the material - there was a lot of it and I was seriously pressed for time before my first shows with the band. I felt overwhelmed, but I persevered - it eventually became a little easier, but some of those tunes are still challenging to play well.
Q: I'm wondering if you had to gig with one amp between the Guytron and the Bludotonemwhich would you prefer. The Guytron seems to be more versatile but it looks huge and heavy. Adam
A: Both of those amps are incredible instruments, and they both work beautifully for me in almost every situation. Last year I tried switching heads (with the same cabinet) using a head switching device so I could choose different amps for different songs and sounds, but I blew up one of the Guytrons doing that, and I found that having that many options was distracting me from playing music. So this year I'm back using one amp at a time. If I play one amp for a few shows, I get used to it, but once in awhile a change to the other amp will sound fresh, because they do sound different, and that can be a shot in the arm for me, musically.
Each of those amps comes with its own 2-12 cabinet, and I don't usually use those amps if I have to carry the gear myself! Basically they're my touring amps, and when I'm off the road I use them as recording amps, but I pick them up as seldom as possible. Lately if I have to carry an amp myself I've been using a fairly new Bludotone amp I had made to sound like my favorite amp from my youth, a 50 watt Marshall, but with a couple of modern features that are important to me, like a good master volume and a good effects loop. It's a simpler amp than the two I use with Steely Dan, and lighter! I use it with a single 12 that Bludotone made for me which I like and is also lightweight.
Thanks for writing and thanks for listening.
Q: When you work with Fagen/Becker on their soloprojects or with SD do you listen to demos that they`re making, at some point, and if you do, what type of work do you do with them? Tommy
A: I don't remember hearing demos of Walter's songs before recording them (though I think he may have made some), but I do recall hearing many of Donald's. He never bothered to have anybody play on them, and they were usually just drum grooves with a few keyboard parts, a keyboard bass part, and sometimes a melody played on a vibraphone sample. Enough to hear the basic vibe, the chord changes, the form, and sometimes the melody. But none of the demos ever had a vocal track. Basically they were guides for the rhythm section.
Q: I've always been interested to know what the difference is between Donald and Walter in how they approach the guitar especially in the studio. Is there an automatic leaning towards Walter to talk to you about the guitar parts because he's a guitar player as well? Does Donald ever have trouble explaining what exactly it is he's looking for because he's not a guitar player? Can you put into words what the differences are working with Walter by himself on something like Circus Money versus Donald by himself on something like Morph the Cat and how a songwriting duo can branch off and make solo albums that sound so different from one another and what the studio experience was like on a Walter or Donald solo album versus a collaborative Steely Dan album. Thanks, love the video answers. Jamie
A: Thanks for writing and listening. Both guys give me a lot of freedom to come up with my own parts, and on all but the last DF record we've enjoyed the luxury of recording the entire rhythm section together, which allows each player to develop his own part in conjunction and cooperation with the others, which is a rare treat nowadays, and always makes for some great interactive rhythm tracks. But no matter whose record it is, there's a lot of time and freedom to explore options, and both D & W give the players a lot of room.
Solos are done for both guys later as overdubs, but Walter didn't use me as a soloist on his record. When I've recorded for Donald there's been a lot more direct discussion about the music - what kind of sound he might be looking for, what type of approach, etc. But he always is willing to spend a lot of time, and he always is interested in hearing my ideas. I've found it's gotten easier and easier over the years to get results we're both happy with, and I think that's probably because we've worked for so long together that we're both more comfortable and there's more trust and confidence after all that time.
The recording experiences with each of the guys has been quite similar to me, actually. The biggest difference was probably when we did the tracking for Circus Money, because it was the only time we ever got together in a rehearsal studio before the session to work on the tunes. That was a first - it didn't happen for Donald's records or for Everything Must Go.
Q: Huge fan... I would kill to know how you got that intro tone on "Don't Take Me Alive" 2005 video on Youtube. I'm a fan forever chasing your vapor trail. Mike
A: I don't know that particular video, but I've always used the same basic approach to that tune on all the SD touring I've done. I've only ever used two amps for any length of time with the band; one is the Guytron GT100 and the other is a Bludotone Bludo-Drive. It was probably the Guytron back then, and it would definitely have been the B channel of the amp with no pedals before the amp input, but with a very little short, dark delay and a very little plate style reverb from two pedals in the effects loop of the amp. Both amps have beautiful, natural overdrive tones, and though I've tried and own many very good overdrive pedals, none of them ever sound as good as a good amp voiced well.
I'm sure I was on the treble pickup with the tone rolled down a bit, but the volume cranked. In those days, before I was using in-ear monitors, the speaker cabinet was behind me, and the pickup/speaker interaction was nice, and allowed a bit more sustain and feedback if I were in the right position, etc. (I don't remember if that video had any of that, but I used to go for it!) But now my cabinet is off stage and I can't really get it to do that. That's the only compromise, because in every other way my playing and monitoring situation is improved. Thanks for writing and thanks for listening.
Q: I came across your site while doing a search on Sandole Straight Arm Picking. I studied with Harry Leahey in the late 70's while attending WPC. He introduced me to straight arm picking which I practiced for a long time. Now I sort of fall back on it when I want to do a fast run but I don't use it exclusively anymore.
I recently had a terrible bout with carpal tunnel and I was operated on the right side last week. Left side will have to be done when this side heals. I am just a semi serious recreational guitarist but I hope to continue playing once this sorted out
I am contemplating changing the way I approach the instrument because my doctor told me the symptoms could (PAIN and numbness) return after the surgery. I was wondering if you ever heard that straight arm picking could be bad for you physically? I was recently reading on a site that someone thought straight arm could cause physical problems....Thanks in advance for any feedback or thoughts you might have on the subject.
What phase shifter did you use on Who's That Lady? You really nailed the tone. Ross
A: Thanks for writing. Sorry to hear about your arm issues - I've been struggling with overuse injuries in my left arm for over 20 years, so I can sympathize. Thankfully, I haven't had serious issues in my picking hand.
There's no question in my mind that playing a musical instrument for as many hours as many of us do is a completely unnatural act, and is likely to do damage over the long term. Almost every musician I know has had overuse issues of some kind. But I've always felt that the technique Dennis and Harry advocated was the best approach for pick guitar, and, if done properly, the most natural and least stressful for the body. I've never heard that that technique was likely to cause problems. But I think it's the 'done properly' that can be a challenge. I've never been totally able to lose a bad habit of sometimes resting my pinky on the guitar or pickguard, which instantly puts unnecessary stress on my forearm. And I've seen many players approach the straight arm technique with a very tense, clenched wrist, as if it weren't okay to stay relaxed. That can't be good for you, and I'm pretty sure the right way to do it is with total relaxation, minimal squeezing of the pick, and, ideally, a big enough bodied guitar to support your arm at the elbow.
I'm pretty convinced that the technique makes sense, though it's hard to find players who use it, probably because so many of us have old habits we've never been able to break.
There's a book (still available, I think), by the late British guitarist, Ivor Mairants, called Perfect Pick Technique which I found in an old music store rack many years ago. I was surprised to find the very same technique advocated and explained, with no reference at all to Sandole. It seems like each of them figured it out independently. The clear advantage of it, besides it being less stressful ultimately, is the way it allows you to skip strings more easily and to strike each string with the pick strictly parallel to the string, thereby shortening each stroke and improving picking efficiency. (People playing that way should see no uneven pick wear, something almost everybody experiences from not striking the string in that parallel way. It affects the tone dramatically as well - you'll here a scraping sound if the pick is at an angle. That sound goes away when you correct that.) I find it pretty convincing, though the field I've ended up working in makes it difficult for me to be a strict follower. I play lots of solid body guitars that are too small, I have to mute with my right hand sometimes, and some things call for a hybrid pick and finger technique, etc. But I routinely recommend it to students, though I can tell they find it daunting, and I'm pretty sure in most cases they're not likely to overcome their original habits. If I could do it all over again, I'd definitely be stricter about it, and I still make some efforts that way, but it's still a challenge.
Good luck healing, and I hope you can enjoy trouble free guitar playing soon.
Oh, yeah, you asked about 'Who's That Lady' - I'm fairly sure I was using the only modulation effect I had on the pedalboard at the time, a Roto Choir made by Tech 21. It'a a Leslie speaker simulator I like very much.
Q: I know that you play several guitars in a show and own numerous guitars, I am curious about the kind of guitar necks you prefer the most and why. Which shape is on your CS 336? For me, I love the tone from beefier necks (Gibson rounded 59 style and Fender 10/56 boat necks and 65 "C" shape) but they are a little harder to work. I also find slim "C" necks to be too cramped for my fingers in the first position. Thank you so much Jon. Chris
A: The neck shape on my 336 is fairly slim, though not as slim as some necks I've played. It has was feels to me like a natural curve and I find it very comfortable to play. The relatively new SG I have has a similar feel to it, though it might be a little bit chunkier. It's also very comfortable to play. I have a reissue Goldtop Les Paul I bought from a tech years ago that is a great sounding guitar, but has a really chunky neck, and I avoid playing it regularly because of that. I think if all of my main guitars had fatter necks on them I could probably get used to that, but since a couple of my favorites feel a certain way, I'm disinclined to play necks that feel radically different. I've never liked the 'C' shape - it always feels like some edge is pushing into my palm. Basically I like necks that don't distract me from the music making, so I like guitars that play in the way I'm used to.
I'm sure the neck has a lot to do with the tone of the guitar, and I suppose more wood might translate into more tone in some cases, but my guess is that there are quite a few other variables as well, so I look for an assembled guitar that sounds good and feels good to play rather than focusing too particularly on any one element.
I also do better with a similar string spacing on all my main guitars; I have trouble refining my right hand technique if I'm switching to another guitar with different string spacing.
So all those things matter to me - nut width and string spacing, the feel of the neck in my hand, and certainly the tone of the instrument.
Q: I love how you get those creamy overdrives on songs like Caroline Yes, The Only
Fool, Green Earrings and Pretzel Logic, etc. I do not have a Guytron Amp or Bludo
Tone amp, but how do you set up your amps in terms of gain and eq to get that sound
and how do you set the volume and tone on your guitar (volume fully up, tone
controlled rolled off a bit)? Chris
A: Amps are very important to me, and I almost always prefer a good amp's natural overdrive to an overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedal. But I have found I can do pretty well with certain pedals when I'm in a situation where I can't bring my own amp. I think mostly what's going on (besides the fact that it's my hands, and they touch the instrument and make sounds in a particular way) is that I have an idea of the sound I'm looking for in my head, and I twist knobs until I get asclose to that as the gear I'm currently playing allows. So I'm not sure it would help to list settings I
use on one amp, since I'm sure the settings on another would be completely different. The Guytron, for example, is an extremely bright amp to my ear, so I usually dial all of the high end controls on it way down until it feels right to me. But the Bludotone amps I have are much different, and often I'll be looking for ways to increase the highs, like turning the bright switch on, for instance. So it really depends on the particulars.
In general, compared to other players in similar genres, I think I like a fairly dark tone, and I often have the tone control on the bridge pickup rolled back, and almost never on 10. I tend to go for the bridge pickup when playing an overdriven sound, and I tend to like a pretty healthy amount of overdrive so the sustain and depth of amp tone is there if I need it. I try to play a bit dynamically with my attack, and I sometimes roll the volume back a bit, too, depending on the character of the song. I will sometimes solo on the neck pickup with some overdrive, but then I usually kick in a pedal that will remove some of the low end, to reduce some of the bloated quality it can have, especially on low register notes, since the amp is primarily set for the bridge pickup sound. Also, I don't tend to like as much gain or overdrive when I'm on the neck pickup, so I'll often use a different channel on the amp that's set brighter with less overdrive. If I have only one borrowed or rented amp, I often bring two overdrive pedals and set up different sounds for each pickup.
So mostly I'm just trying to get as close as I can to a sound that seems right to my ear and that feels good under my fingers. When I was a teenager and first fell in love with the guitar, it was with the sound of an electric guitar through an overdriven amplifier. I'm sure I was attracted to the vocal quality of the tone, the way the notes could sustain and the pitches could be bent, and the complex overtones and the variety of tones available. It just seemed amazingly expressive to me, and I still feel the same way about it.
Q: Jon, prior to or during a SD tour have Don and Walt ever pulled out a song from deep in the catalog that threw the band for a loop? The rarities show at the beacon comes to mind (Pearl of the Quarter, This All Too Mobile Home, etc.) are there any that you guys tried and had to ditch? And additionally are there any that have never been on the set list that you wish they would pull out or any unreleased stuff you hope they bring to life someday (Here at the Western World, Running Child, etc.) thanks ! Jamie
A: They've never surprised us on a gig with a last minute song choice. I think they like to feel prepared, too, so we'll usually run anything unfamiliar at sound check.
There are certainly a lot of songs that I would love to play that we seldom or never play, and that's why the "rarities" night was so much fun (and challenging) to do. I've always loved "The Second Arrangement," for example, and I'm pretty sure we only played it once, on that same night.
I would love to do some of the quieter, earlier, simpler songs more often. A few that come to mind are "Here at the Western World," "Only a Fool Would Say That," "Any World That I'm Welcome To," "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," and "Pearl of the Quarter," which we've done a bit more recently.
Though there are definitely a handful of songs that it would feel wrong to leave out of a set, I think it would be fun to try to vary the rest of the set from night to night and include some of those rarer tunes I love. There are so many great ones to choose from.
I think the set list stays similar on a tour because of a concern with how the whole show flows - and that's a subtle, but critical thing to manage. It can take a few shows to figure out a set order that works well that way, and when that's figured out, it's a confidence-builder to leave it that way and to get used to that particular set's flow. There's no doubt that the band sounds better when we get to do the same set over and over again. On the other hand, once we've been out for awhile it can be a great thing to alter the set a bit and it can bring some new life and energy to the show. But that does sometimes disturb the "flow" I'm talking about, so it has to be handled with care.
Q: Your tone & playing on The Dukes of September dvd is wonderful ! Would you please share some of the amp settings you used ? Thanks, Stephen
A: Thanks for writing, Stephen, and thanks for listening. It's been awhile since I've played with that band, but I remember I was using the Guytron GT 100 FV amp that I've always used with Steely Dan and the Dukes.
I typically set that amp the same way all the time and use a few pedals in front to fine tune the level or the EQ. The amp has two channels, one dirtier than the other, so there are 3 controls per channel: gain, tone, and level, and then there's a master section that both channels share with volume, treble mid, bass, presence, and a control for the level of the FX loop blended into the signal.
I usually set the A channel so that it will give me a little crunch if the guitar is all the way up, but unless I'm soloing I keep the guitar volume down so it's clean. I like the way the amp feels for rhythm guitar like that.
The B channel is set with a lot more gain, and I roll the tone on it down so it's a pretty dark sound when I'm on the treble pickup. If I need to solo on the neck pickup with the same amount of overdrive on the B channel, I kick in an RC boost pedal set to cut the low end and boost the highs just a bit, because without it the sound is a bit mushy and too dark for that pickup.
The master settings on the amp can change, depending on the room, but because it's basically a very bright amp, the treble and presence knobs are way down low, the mid and bass are about half way up, and the master volume depends on the venue.
In the loop I always have a short, quiet, dark delay (only one repeat) and a dark, quiet reverb running.
So basically I use only a few sounds, varied with the guitar volume and tone knobs:
- the A channel with the guitar volume down a bit for rhythm
- the A channel with the guitar up full for a fairly clean (but not entirely clean) solo sound (possibly with a boost engaged to raise the overall volume)
- the B channel (with the guitar volume wherever it feels right for the song) on the treble pickup
- the B channel (again with the guitar volume wherever it feels right for the song) on the neck pickup with the RC engaged to cut lows and boost highs
For more info on that amazing amp, visit guytron.com
Q: Hey Jon, As always, you knock me out. Tonight I saw you in a Dukes special on NPT. When you pulled out that Collings 290 it hit me hard. Loved the sound you got out of it, and your slide work is just impeccable .I couldn't make out the name on the headstock so it took a bit of hunting to figure it out. It's not like there are many Les Paul Specials in TV Yellow with mini-humbuckers out there. What a great package!
I've been an SG/Double Cutaway Les Paul man since the sixties. Had more than my share of Specials and Juniors too, many of which I ruined with modifications. You've inspired me to tread that path again. It will be some time before I could swing a Collings, but I do have at couple of fifties PAF mini-humbuckers I've never been able to decide how to use. Tonight you showed me the light! Thanks, man. You're a fantastic player, and I wish you the best in all your future endeavors. C.R.
A: Thanks, C.R., I appreciate your kind words, and I'm glad you're listening! The Collings is an interesting guitar - they make a lot of amazing stuff. It's a surprisingly high output guitar - I was surprised at how powerful and thick the sound was with the mini-humbuckers (It had p-90s in it at first, I think, and it sounded a bit dark and dull, and it was noisy). It's pretty ideal for slide with the double cutaway and easy access, and it's a very solidly built instrument, so it's more stable than an SG, for instance.
I love playing slide, but I don't seem to get many opportunities to do it. That was a fun, rare one when I actually got to play in a slide tuning for a change. Even though I don't feel very accurate or adept with the slide, I like the way it puts me in a lyrical mood - I always seem to go for melodies when I'm playing slide. Since I don't have much technique with it I don't get distracted thinking about trying to play anything flashy! I like that.
Q: ...Is There any kind of warm up tips for the hands you wouldn't mind sharing? I play guitar but have gone over to bass and no kidding, I can feel my ligaments going clunk in my wrists. I'm just concerned about my hands locking up. Thank You, Kent
A: Thanks for writing and for bringing up a very important topic.
I don't have a specific warm-up routine on the guitar, but I find it's very important that I get at least 20 minutes of playing in before I have to do a show. Basically, the trick is to get both of my hands playing in synch in an efficient way, and spending enough time so that I have as short a pick stroke as possible for the right hand and as relaxed a left hand as I can get is what helps me there.
But, more importantly than that, I think a short exercise routine which gets all your muscles warm and loose before you play is a good idea. I use a couple of routines that my good friend Barak Mori (our bassist in the Madeleine Peyroux band) found, and we use them pretty religiously before our shows on the road. Do a search for "Posturcize" and look for a routine for the hands and wrists, and one for the upper body. I think they're really great.
Q: ...Do You have a favorite Steely Dan tune? If so, what is it, and why?...Sincerely, Rod
A: It's pretty hard to pick a single favorite song from the Steely Dan catalog; there are just too many great ones. But, for what it's worth, one that comes to mind right away is Deacon Blues. It always struck me as a song that somehow, if you had to pick one, would be a good representation of their work. It has so much of their signature music sound about it, and the underdog character's "voice" is classic Steely Dan lyric brilliance.
Q: I am a guitarist currently trying to "make it" in the music world, but have felt lost lately. A lot of my friends are really talented musicians, but I feel that they are able to advance by immersing themselves in one particular style (whether that be jazz, singer/writer, blues,fusion, funk, or hip hop). I can't seem to choose just one because each genre satisfies a different part of my musical identity.
One of the reasons I admire you is that you are so versatile. Every genre I've heard you play sounds like "your thing". I was hoping you could shed some light as to how I can better make a career for myself as this kind of player. How should I structure my practicing? How should I fit in? How do I get my name out there? How can I get in with the local studios? I have been going to all the different jam sessions in town, but should I consider moving to a place with a bigger scene (LA, NY, NSH)?I know these are all pretty generic questions, and might be hard to answer without having heard me play, but know I'll appreciate any response I get from you. Thanks for your time and keep making great music! Paul
A: Hi Paul, thanks for writing.
You're right, it is difficult to give any kind of advice without knowing you and your playing at all. But you bring up a few familiar topics.
In my experience, where I lived at any particular time seemed to be a very important thing for my development. I lived in a smaller city with a smaller music scene when I was first beginning to do studio recording work, and the smaller size was actually a big plus for me. The pace was a little slower then it would be in New York, and all the musicians and producers were very welcoming. Ultimately, I did feel like I needed a bigger city with wider opportunity, and though it took a long time after moving to New York, I found it there.
I used to always lament the same fact as you – that because I liked so many different styles, it was hard to find a focus, and it seemed to slow me down in a general way. After many years I've learned that there was just no other way for me, and that being true to one's own nature is more important than trying to force some kind of specialization on yourself. Some people seem born to do only one thing, and never even consider trying to do something else. That feels right if they're being true to their nature. But there are certainly opportunities that came to me because of my flexibility and versatility, such as all different kinds of live performing with different kinds of music ensembles, all sorts of recording experiences in various styles, Broadway show work in various styles, and playing in a band like Steely Dan, where the music really is an amazing hybrid of genres.
Good luck with everything.
Q: ...I saw you perform about a year and a half ago in New Jersey, I was blown away by your performance. I have been playing the guitar since I was about ten years old, I am now 16. I am looking to pursue a music career and was wondering if you could give me any advice on schooling and how to move forward after high school....Your time is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Will
A: There are many schools now with music programs that will admit guitar players. Most of them seem to have a jazz focus, in addition to the traditional classical music departments. College is a great time to expand your mind in a general way, and though music schools that offer music courses can be great for the cameraderie, networking, and also for the immersion in music only, you miss some opportunities in a school like that. Since I don't know your playing history or stylistic preferences, it's a bit hard for me to give sound advice. Thanks again for writing, and the best of luck with furthering your guitar playing and your education
Q: Hi Jon, I was just watching your video for premier guitar's rig rundown section. I just wanted to know what microphone the engineer was using on your bludotone amp. Design wise it looked similar to a blue but I couldn't find it on their website. Kind regards, David
A: It certainly looks like one of those Blu microphones, but I'm afraid I don't know which one. Different engineers have used different mics on my amp over the years, and I've trusted them to make good choices - after all, I'm at their mercy when it comes to show time. When I record in my own modest studio, I tend to use a couple of the standard mics people use for guitar amps - a Royer 121 is my current favorite, but I have several SM57's, an AKG 414, and a couple of Neumann mics, too.
Q: Hi Jon, What's your views on Boss multi effects pedals? I love individual pedals but play in small places with limited stage space. Cheers, Ian
A: I haven't played through the Boss multi fx units for many years, and never owned one, so I'm not qualified to comment. My guess is they've come a long way, though, since I have a pretty recently made Digitech unit I sometimes use that sounds surprisingly good to me. What I like about it is that you can shut off the amp modeling section of the unit and use just the stompbox style effects, which sound really good. The only thing that isn't quite as good as I'd like is the quality of the overdrive sounds. They're pretty good, but I'm fussy about that, and I prefer bringing an extra overdrive pedal which starts to feel like it's defeating the purpose of the multi fx unit to begin with. There is something to be said for the convenience of those type things, though, and I've used the Digitech unit on Madeleine Peyroux's gig for quite awhile now (on that gig I almost never require an overdriven sound, so the unit works very well for me).
Q: I'm really enjoying your "Ask Jon" section a great deal. I've read in several of you recent interviews about your new T style guitar which, from your comment, seems like a special guitar. In light of your recent discussion of your telecaster, can you tell me about the Wysocki? Thx much, John
A: The beautiful new Tele style guitar I've been playing recently was made by Larry Wysocki, a remarkable guy in California who is not only a fabulous guitar builder, but has a long history as a wood collector and supplier of luthiers. So not only does he know guitars, he knows wood, which makes his guitars unusual indeed.
The guitar is extremely lightweight due to the feather light (I believe) swamp ash body he chose. The fingerboard is very old Brazilian rosewood with a grain fine enough to look and feel more like ebony, and the maple neck came from some hundred year old wood found at the bottom of Lake Michigan, if I remember correctly!
Even if I'm not remembering the woods correctly, the secret to the guitar's tone is clearly in Larry's ears and his ability to select and combine the right pieces of wood, his careful assembly of the instrument, and his long and painstaking collaboration with Jim Rolph, the pickup designer and manufacturer.
What was striking about the guitar right away to me was its clarity, brightness, its 'ring,' even acoustically, its vintage sounding character, and perhaps most of all, the way it didn't sound new and didn't seem to need a breaking in period. It has a 'head-turning' sound, particularly in the middle position with both pickups on, and I think the neck pickup is particularly great sounding. I've always been a fan of the treble pickup on Teles, and (along with the middle position) it's always seemed like the most characteristically 'Tele' sound to me, but with the Wysocki guitar I find I'm drawn more than ever to the rhythm pickup since it sounds so good.
Larry is a meticulous builder, chooses the finest parts and materials, and likes to keep things as pure as possible, it seems. At my request he very kindly broke his own rule and put a string tree on my guitar, though, since I had played one of his teles on a song on one of my own shows and gotten a little over zealous with some string bending and caused the high E string to pop out of the nut!
All in all, it's a fabulous guitar, and without any doubt the finest Tele style guitar I've ever played.