Just Like Tom . . .

Today, Craig and I got together and took all day to produce one track, a cover of a Dylan song.

Craig played rhythm guitar (an orange Tele with a mini humbucker), lead guitar (my Agile LP copy on the bridge pickup) both through his Acoustic Image amp, and bass (my Douglas violin bass) recorded direct with adjustments through the Bass Professor II plugin. He also did the vocal. I played drums and was the recording engineer.

We think it sounds pretty good. It is almost a professional track, by our very suspect standards.

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TDPRI Backing Track Challenge

This is just a lead recorded to a backing track posted on tdpri.com, the Telecaster forum.

It is my Telecaster on the bridge pickup through the Deluxe model in Tonelib GFX.

Here’s another one for a different challenge:

That’s my Casino through the Deluxe model in ToneLib.

A third one:

This is my Agile LP through the Tonelib AC30 Top Boost model.

And yet another one. This my Agile LP again on the neck pickup through the Tonelib Tweed Deluxe. I added some organ to the track using Xhip Synth.

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Ain’t No Mountain . . .

Yesterday, Craig and I got together and played most of the day. I had stripped down my cajon kit to the 13″ New Beat hi-hats, a 15″ Sabian HHX Studio Crash that I used as a ride cymbal (it also has a nice bell), and a 12″ splash cymbal that served as a mini-crash. And of course the 10″ Gretsch Blackhawk snare.

I put new Aquarian heads on the snare:


Gretsch Blackhawk snare with Aquarian Texture Coat head

These heads are popular among drummers on DFO, the drum forum I sometimes frequent. The stock head had almost no texture, so brushes wouldn’t really work. They probably figured that nobody would do brushwork on a 10″ snare, but I wanted to. I think that the new heads gave it more definition too, more pop, less splat. I like them.

Here is one track from the session:

Craig is playing a black Ovation acoustic-electric through a Fishman amp. We were using two mics at this point I think, one for vocals and one for the room, with the guitar going direct from the amp. I put a little compression on this mix, and I attenuated the frequencies above around 5,500 hz to tame the hi-hats a bit. They were really bright. I might use the 14″ Armands next time.

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From 2012

Craig found a CD of stuff we had done in 2012. Here’s a track that I don’t think I have posted before. It’s a version of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones:

I don’t remember what guitar, amp, or cymbals this is, but I know I am playing the Tama Silverstar Metro Jam kit. I have toms! Which I don’t have at the moment.

Whatever amp that is, the tremelo on the guitar is glorious. It might have been some kind of pedal (Update: Craig says it was a Babyface Tremelo, which he no longer has). Craig’s playing and singing is awesome as usual. This is just Craig on one guitar and vocal and me on the drums.

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Distortion Using Avantone CK-1

This is just a clip to help the Reaper forum troubleshoot this distortion problem:

A second clip of the end of the track:

Update: the thread is here:

Reaper Forum Discussion

Apparently, this is a noisy mic. It may have something to do with the way the interchangeable capsule connect.


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New Snare and New Tracks

My cajon-based mini drum kit is now complete with the addition of a 10″ Gretsch Blackhawk Mighty Mini snare. Here it is:


10″ Gretsch Blackhawk Mighty Mini Snare

Today, I went out to Craig’s to try out the new kit. We recorded a bunch of stuff. I will say up front that these tracks are mostly first or second takes, and sometimes I didn’t know what song we were going to play when Craig counted it off. Most of this was recorded with one mic, my sE X1A condenser, which turned out to be a very musical mic, excellent for vocals, and it was picking up the whole room. I think that the snare sounded better in the room than it sounds in these recordings because of all the room reflections. To reduce volume, I was playing with Tala Wands, Cool Rods, Blasticks, and finally, Vic Firth Aj6s. I know that on “Little Sister,” I was using my Wuhan hi-hats. At some point I switched to Zildjian 14″ Armands, and then later to some 2010 13″ New Beats, that I have never really liked, but apparently record well.

This was the first time I played this kit with another musician and the first time I have played a drum kit in about five years. I hear lots of things I need to work on. Here are the tracks. We had a lot of fun.

“Little Sister,” an early Elvis song.

“In My Life,” a Beatles song. Ringo has a really cool part, but I only remembered part of it. I am pretty sure I used the Armands on this.

Give Me One Reason,” a Tracy Chapman song.

“Soulshine” a Warren Hayes song.

“One Headlight,” a Wallflowers song. I used to play this with Craig, but not on drums. I have no idea what the original drum part sounded like, and I didn’t know what we were playing when we started. Somehow I fell into something Deep Purple does in “Smoke on the Water.”

And finally, “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne. This is probably the roughest of all. I am sure I was playing the New Beats by this time.

Craig is amazing throughout (though he did forget lyrics on occasion). On some tracks he added a second guitar after I left.

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Meinl Direct Drive Cajon Pedal

I am working on turning my cajon into a mini drum kit. I have a Meinl low hi-hat stand on order (it is backordered until August) but I have received a very innovative Meinl Direct Drive cajon pedal.  It doesn’t look like it would work, but it actually works very well. It came without instructions, so I had to figure some things out.


Meinl Direct Drive Cajon Pedal

First, the included drum key is handily attached to the pedal (see the red circle in the image above). You need that to make other adjustments. Install the beater by loosening the screw and sliding it in, then retightening. You will notice that the way the pedal is shipped, when you push on the bar, the beater moves away from the drum instead of toward the surface of the cajon.  To fix that, you need to take the drum key and loosen the screw in the light blue circle above.  Then rotate the cam until the beater is in the right position. Now it makes sense.

The other adjustment involves the long bar that sticks out from the pedal.


Cajon Pedal Showing Bar

The pedal is shipped with the curved part of the bar pointing toward the pedal instead of away.  You have to use the drum key to remove one of the screws (see the red circle above), move the bar forward, then reinsert the screw and tighten it.  In this position you can depress the bar with your toes.

Update: I have my cajon on a small carpet because if the feet are directly on the floor, the sound resonates throughout my condo and bothers family members. However, I found that when I push down on the the lever of the pedal with my foot, the point where the lever is attached to the L-shaped base tends to push into the carpet, absorbing some of the energy and making the beater hits less accurate. I solved this problem by going to a hardware store and buying a thin metal plate called a “strap tie” from the lumber section for $1.98. Here’s a picture:


This works very well. The wide surface keeps the pedal from depressing into the carpet.

I think that this pedal should come with instructions.  It is probably supposed to. I hope this post will help anyone who is confused.

The design looks weird, doesn’t it? There is actually no pedal! It is actually quite comfortable and responsive.  The bar is in just the right place for sitting on a cajon. Whoever designed this was thinking outside of the box. Meinl also makes a more expensive cable driven version of this pedal with an actual footplate. I haven’t tried the cable version, but considering the extra friction of the cable and the ever present danger of damage from being stepped on, I think that this direct drive version is better.

You can buy this as part of a complete Meinl cajon drum kit with a bass cajon, or as a cajon conversion kit without a cajon, or as separate pieces. I chose to buy the pedal and the hi-hat stand separately because I didn’t need more hi-hats (I have three sets: 14″ Wuhans, 13″ Zildjian New Beats, and 14″ Zildjian Armands).

This will end up being a tiny drum kit, suitable for coffeehouse gigs and house concerts. I think it will be fun!

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Funky One Chord Jam

This track was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could play cajon with my left hand while playing a ride cymbal with my right.  It turns out that I can!

This is almost 8:00 minutes long and it doesn’t go anywhere at all.  It is basically an Amin7 chord forever.  However, it is not without interest.  It might be called a “meditative shuffle.” It does sound a bit like the Dead.  That was not my intention, but I am a child of the 60’s. It turned out better than I thought it would.

The ride cymbal is a 21″ Sabian HH Raw Bell Dry Ride, a very pretty sounding cymbal, played with one Pro-Mark Broomstick, about the quietest thing you can play a cymbal with. The bass is my Douglas violin bass.  The guitar is my Tele.  That’s about it.

Update 6/25/19: After consulting with some guys on the Reaper forums I made a more natural sounding mix with a different compressor on the master channel.

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In Search of a Pickguard

My Casino came without a pickguard.  A lot of people take them off and then they get lost.  I wanted mine to have one, for two reasons.  One, when I finger pick I tend to anchor my hand on my little finger.  I am a little sloppy finger picking, and this helps tighten things up.  However, without a pickguard, the body of the guitar was a long way down.  I ended up putting my finger on the bridge pickup, which was a bit far back.

The other reason was that I thought a cherry red guitar would look awesome with black pickups, black top hat knobs, and a black 5-ply pickguard.  See what you think:


It turned out that finding a pickguard that would fit was a bit tough.  In fact, the whole process was a journey, which I will recount here for anyone else who goes down this path.

The Pickguard

Casinos have changed over the years and have been made in different factories in different countries. A lot of places that custom make pickguards want the buyer to send a tracing of the old pickguard, but I didn’t have one.  According to the serial number, my guitar is Chinese, made in 2006. I finally found an ad on Ebay for a pickguard made for a 2007 Casino, from a source recommended in internet discussions, C-Rocker Guitars.  It turned out to fit perfectly. Excellent customer service too.

The Bracket

Now I needed the mounting bracket, which was also a search.  The pickguard brackets that are generally available fall into three categories: generic Les Paul type, generic big archtop (these have a double bend), and Gibson ES-335 style, which is fancier and requires that you glue the pickguard onto a plastic block.  The Gibson style would work for a Casino, but I already had a pickguard with a screw hole in it.  The big archtop bracket would probably work if the second bend were flattened out, but these have two screw holes to attach to the body, so I would have to drill another hole in the guitar.

I ordered a Les Paul type bracket through Amazon, but it turned out to be coming from Shanghai and it got stuck in customs in L.A.  I got impatient and ordered from a different source on Amazon.  This one arrived quickly, but was too short.  I contacted Epiphone, who gave me a part number (PPB-110), but no one had it.  I went back through the available Les Paul types and looked carefully at the specs.  I found that some were about 1/4″ longer than others.  The pattern seemed to be that the ones that were rounded on the end were shorter than the ones that were square on the end.  I ordered a squared off one.  At this point I had ordered three brackets, between $5.00-$8.00 each.

Yesterday, the one that had been stuck in customs arrived.  From the specs on the listing, I had already given up on this one because it seemed to be too short, but when the actual item arrived, it turned out to be one of the squared off longer ones, and it fit.  Then I needed a screw for the end of the pickguard near the neck.  That turned out to be a #4 3/4 inch screw.  I used a couple of neoprene faucet washers as spacers under the pickguard.

Adjusting Pickguard Height

At this point, I recognized another limitation of the Casino’s 1950’s design.  Because of the design of the dogear pickups, the pickguard rests on top of the lower dogears.  That means that the height of the pickups determines the height of the pickguard.  Pickup height on a Casino is not easily adjustable because you do it with spacers, not adjustment screws.

The Lollars came with round head screws rather than flat heads and the pickguard was resting on the screws.  It was a bit too high.  The five-ply pickguard was quite thick, so I took out a drill and eroded away two plies where the screws made contact with the pickguard.  This actually helped a lot.

The end result is quite nice, but it was an adventure getting there.  On Friday, the last, now unnecessary bracket, will arrive.  Anyone need a Les Paul pickguard bracket? I have two extra ones.


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Very Superstitious

Got together today with Craig.  Here is a version of Superstition with Craig on a Tele that just got its old three barrel brass bridge back.  At some point he had had a six saddle steel bridge put on, but he was never happy with the guitar after that.  Now the old one is back on and the guitar sounds amazing.  I am playing cajon.

One channel in this mix has some crackly distortion in it.  It turned about to be because of a dirty volume pot on the mixer.  We liked this take and didn’t have time to redo it.  It makes it sound a bit like an old vinyl record.

When you listen to this, remember that it is one take, with Craig playing guitar and singing and me on cajon.  There is no second guitar, no bass player, and no overdubs.

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