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Weird Musician Stuff #3

Mark thinking

by Mark Starlin

I never really understood why some guitar players only play acoustic, or only play electric guitar. They are missing half the fun. I know each type of guitar is better suited for specific types of music. But I never understood people who limit themselves to one style of music either. They are missing 99% of the fun. Hmmm.

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Effects Or Not?

Strymon Mobius

by Mark Starlin

I recently joined a guitar gear group on facebook and quickly heard the decades old argument about using effects. One camp usually argues “tone comes from your fingers” and “all you need is a good tube amp and guitar, then use the tone and volume controls.” And the derogatory “they use a lot of pedals because they can’t really play.”

The other side answers “play echo with your fingers” and “I need more than just one tone” and “(insert famous guitarist name) used effects” and “effects are like colors to a painter”, etc. Both sides have valid points but I really don’t understand the battle. Sure, discussing gear is fun. But I think the only real reason to care what gear someone else uses, is if you want to sound like them, or need advice. Otherwise use what works for you and get on with making music. Gear should be secondary to making music. I have used effects since the 1970s and can honestly say from decades of experience that effects can make your tone better (almost everyone uses reverb, even if it is just the natural reverb of a room) and inspire you to play differently. How could that be bad?

In fact, I would argue that every guitar player uses effects (other than, perhaps, unplugged pure acoustic guitar playing.) You may have not considered it, but amp gain is an effect, pickups are effects, tone and volume controls are effects, amp reverb is an effect, capos are an effect, slides are an effect, picks are effects, fingers are effects, pedals are effects, cables are effects, string gauges are effects. They all affect your tone. Anything you put in your signal chain affects your tone. You could even argue that tunings are effects.

It's what you do with effects that matters, not if you use them. At least, that’s what I think. What do you think? Email me.

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Weird Musician Stuff #2

Mark thinking

by Mark Starlin

Don't you find it weird when someone doing a pedal demo on You Tube says "Here is my clean tone." And then when they play, their "clean" tone has more overdrive than a typical AC/DC song? I think "clean tone" should mean "no distortion or overdrive." It kind of makes the pedal demo useless unless you plan to use the pedal with their brand of amp set on the same "crunch" setting. Weird.

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New Relics

by Mark Starlin

I have watched the "relic" guitar trend for several years now, but personally, I’m still not sold on spending thousands of dollars on a new guitar that looks like it has been beat up. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I have to admit they do have a certain appeal. And they certainly wouldn’t keep making “relics” if they didn’t sell. Plus if you really like the looks of old, well-worn guitars, or you want an exact replica of a famous guitar player’s road-weary guitar then “relics” are a good option. Old guitars often have issues, but a new “relic” guitar simply looks old, yet plays like new.

Relic Stratocaster

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Pedal Dreams

by Mark Starlin

Starlin Effects

Like most guitar players, in addition to astrophysics and molecular biology, I also studied electrical engineering. So as a side job I have decided to create a line of boutique guitar pedals. I am looking for feedback from my fellow guitar players. Here are my first two designs. What do you think?

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Weird Musician Stuff #1

Mark thinking

by Mark Starlin

Don't you find it strange when someone says "This song is super easy." and then you listen to it and it has 30 different guitar parts. I do.

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Perfect Imperfection

by Mark Starlin

Recording Tracks

You have probably heard the saying “Practice makes perfect” and, in a sense, it is true. If you practice something enough times you should be able to play it well consistently. But should perfection be the ultimate goal for music? I don’t think so.

Many great guitar players of old where not “perfect” players. If you listen to John Lennon’s (The Beatles) rhythm guitar parts, there is not much consistency and even the occasional “mistake” in his playing. But his playing and the songs are “perfect” in the sense that people still react to them emotionally and still enjoy them 50 years later. This is a perfect example of feel trumping perfection.

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Teaching Guitar Is A Lot Like Teaching Shop Class

Mark Starlin

Shop Class

I may sound strange, but I think teaching guitar is a lot like teaching shop class. Some kids come in with a little experience, which they usually got from using their Dads tools (guitars), and others are completely new to the subject. It is my job to take them how I get them and turn them into craftsmen (guitar players.) Craftsmen is a generic term, I have plenty of female students also, and I teach them the same things, the same way.

If you have ever been to a well-equipped shop you will know there are various types of tools. It is my job to introduce students to the tools (chords, music notation, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, music theory, etc.) Some tools are more general purpose (chords) and some have more limited, specific uses (tapping.) But they all are used to create a final product (music.)

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Learning Songs

by Mark Starlin

Guitar TABs

Most people learn to play guitar because they want to be able to play songs. That is the fun part of playing any instrument. There are several ways to go about learning songs on guitar. The most common are printed music and videos, TABs on the internet, video lessons on YouTube (or paid websites), private lessons with a teacher, and by ear.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and usually to get the best results you need a combination of several methods. Let’s break them down into two categories — free and paid — and see what each has to offer and how to get the best results from each.

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