Music Collection Grooming

Music has long been a big part of my life, beyond just my (admittedly waning) guitar playing, I have been an avid collector of music. From my early days of buying LP’s (and kicking myself when several moves in the 1990’s caused me to donate my vinyl collection) to being an early adopter of the CD format while I was still in high school, my collection, while not huge by some standards, remains quite large.

Continue reading →

Apple Music – A Fresh Look

With the shifting allegiances in streaming music, I found myself re-enabling my Apple Music subscription. There are some benefits, and some less desirable aspects.

This is relevant as I again ponder the mix of music that I have in my collection, as well as the convenience of streaming. In the following post, I lay out the pro’s and con’s of Apple’s Music subscription plan. $9.99 a month, it is in the ballpark of the offers, between Amazon and Spotify. All three of them also offer family plans for the same price (alas, my Wife isn’t interested in sharing a plan.) Continue reading →

Music, part 5,231

If you dig through the archives, you will read my travails around a permanent solution to my streaming/collection.

The last “winner” was Amazon Music, hands down the best app experience, a decent library (not as big a selection as Apple, but enough) and the instant “AutoRIP” feature of what I bought from them were clinchers. The real win for Amazon is that whatever magic they do, even when I hit deadspots in my commute (via VTA Lightrail in San Jose), it just kept chugging. Continue reading →

More notes on Music

When we last checked in, we had come to the conclusion that the two “winners,” Spotify and Amazon, were the two services I kept subscriptions to. Both offered excellent coverage, deep catalogs (more on this later), and quality apps for computers and my iPhone (presumably for Android too).

I will admit that I have been listening more to Spotify. Their “Daily Mix,” personalized for my tastes, are outstanding. 6 playlists, that are fresh, and quite appropriate to my preferences. Spot on. Continue reading →

Music Appreciation: Yngwie Malmsteen

I was on the train home, after a truly grueling week at work, and I just got the urge to listen to some vintage Malmsteen. Thinking back to his time before he broke out, I picked up my iPhone, opened the Spotify app, and searched for Alcatrazz, the band he played in with Graham Bonnett before he broke out. I had a specific album in mind, “Live Sentence”, a live (duh) recording from 1983 or 1984 in Tokyo. Continue reading →

Music in the New Year

I know that I post often about my musical travails, as I wove my path between the various services, Spotify, Apple, Google, Pandora, and Amazon, so this is another installment.

The last episode found me back in Spotify, cancelling my Apple Music service. Partly this was due to my desire to back away from the Apple ecosystem, but also because Spotify is vastly superior to iTunes in streaming on my train commute.

I have been using it pretty consistently for 2 months, and without a doubt, the Spotify streaming is the champion. The only service that comes close to its performance is the Amazon service. (Google is just lousy at streaming. Every time I have evaluated it, it has been glitchy, even on wired, high bandwidth connections.) Continue reading →

Music Streaming changes

In the wayback, about 2015, I did a pretty thorough personal review of the music streaming services. Apple had just launched their “Music” offering, I spent time with the then-new Google Play subscription service, and Amazon’s subscription service, as well as Spotify.

The result was that Apple’s Music had better curated playlists, and their “Radio” function was head and shoulders above. I ended up canceling my Spotify and Google Play all-access account before the trial was up.

Later, I discovered that Amazon’s subscription service was quite good, and added that to my listening options (paying for both Apple Music and Amazon.) I find myself listening more and more to Amazon, over the Apple service, mainly because, there are native apps for windows that ahem doesn’t suck. Continue reading →

New music – The Source

I was listening to music last week, the “For You” selections on Apple Music. After clicking through to a couple of albums that I was grooving to, there was this title “Aryeon” and the album name “The Source“. What the heck, I clicked on it.

Before I go further, I must confess that I am a fan of “Project” albums. Like the rock operas of old (think Tommy, or Quadraphenia from The Who, or “Operation: Mindcrime” from Queensryche), and this was an epic in that mold. The brainchild of Arjen Lucassen, Aryeon is one of his projects, and spans more than 20 years and now 13 albums, each having its own character.

Listening to this, I knew that a) I wanted to support this effort more than the mice-nuts that streaming pays, and b) I needed to own this. It had some kick ass guitar riffs, always something I am grooving to, and in general, the album just “hangs” together. It tells a story, very dynamic, and just lovely music. Continue reading →

Music Appreciation: The Nice

Before Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Keith Emerson was a member of a British band, The Nice.

Having started my Progressive Rock trip in the late 1970’s and really by the fascination of the ELP song Karn Evil #9, 1st Impression, Part 2, that got a lot of airplay. If you click the link, I suspect that you will recognize the song.

After this initial introduction to the rabbit hole of Prog Rock, I chased many of the other big names. Pink Floyd, Camel, Yes, Jethro Tull, and so on. This accelerated when I got my driver’s license and began trekking to Santa Cruz, and the used record stores on Pacific Grove Avenue. My collection grew and grew. Continue reading →

That Tone Thing

The other day, as the train was lumbering towards my terminal station, a great Mr. Big song came on. From their Raw like Sushi Vol. 2 album, the song was Road to Ruin with the Paul Gilbert guitar solo appended at the end. I turned up the volume, and basked in the glory that is Paul Gilbert and reminisced about that elusive thing that all guitarists chase: “Tone”.

It wasn’t a particularly great solo, yes, as expected technical proficiency, some ginormous moves, and a couple of gaffes (you can tell that Paul wings it to some degree, unlike Yngwie Malmsteen). But that fat, ballsy, ripping tone.

I could plop down the bucks and buy a Paul Gilbert custom Ibanez Fireman guitar (his signature axe), and a stack of Laney amps. I could probably put together his signal path, and match it perfectly, but you know what? I would still not sound like Paul.

Early in my 3+ decades of playing, I spent a lot of money chasing the tone. The latest fuzz box, better amps, all tube, bigger speakers. And I was lost. I would religiously read GFPM (Guitar for the Practicing Musician) and try to duplicate the signal chains. I had digital delays, chorus pedals, DOD distortion boxes. I even chased the elusive Ibanez stomp boxes that are so revered today that original ones often sell for $500 or more on ebay.

The more I chased it, the less satisfied I was. Ultimately, I got away from all the gear. I kept my two main amps (Gallien Krueger 250ML, and a phat Fender Super 60), but along the way I shed all the extraneous gear.

I began working on my technique. I realized that the killer sounds weren’t magic from some analog of digital processing, but they come from your fingers and your guitar. What pickup, how you attack the strings, where you pick them (or mute them), that these were what made the great players sound great.

Alas, I finally “discovered” the secrets that I chased. Of course, there are some things that you can’t do, a good stereo chorus, or a phaser effect. But get a decent eq setting, and a solid overdrive, and rely on your skills, and you are golden.

I just wish I had the discipline to practice as much now as I could in my early 20’s (and also that the arthritis didn’t halt a lot of my practice sessions short). But that’s life.