Skeptical Irony

Whisky Sage:

When people tell you the species of wood affects a guitar’s tone, then backpedal and say tone comes from your fingers when countered with facts.

Being told a “real” guitar is made in a specific country or from a certain year, then being told a Squier Classic Vibe is the greatest guitar ever.

Being fed bullshit about resin crystals, resonance, and vibrations like a guitar is a fucking crystal ball.

Originally posted on I fucking hate pseudoscience:

Being told GM food needs more testing by people who jump at the chance to eat the latest rare “miracle” fruit no one has ever heard of.

Being told “do your research” by people who dismiss and deny the findings of the world’s leading researchers.

Being called closed-minded by people who proudly declare they will never change their own views no matter what.

When psychics who claim an intuitive ability to communicate with the spirit world struggle to distinguish between “an M or J sounding name”, and need your help.

When people try to prove they aren’t conspiracy mongers by saying that the term “conspiracy theory” was invented by the government to discredit them and hide the truth.

Being lectured on the dangers of “toxins” in processed foods by someone who’s half-way through a spliff.

Being told GMOs need more testing by people who admit they will never accept GE…

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Guitars Are Tools

2014-12-14 12.12.22

Pictured: a mighty fine tool for music making.

I’ve spoken a ton about guitars and guitarists. I type with my tongue in cheek because the tonewood voodoo, dumbfuckery, and other moronic things guitarists say and do are also things I have said or believed at some point. I’ve played guitar for 20 years, I’m bound to go through these phases.

So that’s what leads me to my contemporary perspective. I love the guitar. To me it’s the most beautiful instrument ever invented. Grand pianos are majestic, a vintage Slingerland drum kit is cool, and saxophones are abstract and sexy – but a guitar has them beat. I’ve bought cheap ones and expensive ones. I’ve played dozens and dozens of them. I tweet about them, share them on Instagram, pin them, you name it. While I adore craftsmanship and inventiveness, at the end of they day owning a guitar is about one thing and one only: playing it. Guitar collectors are just hoarders if they aren’t playing their instruments. Sure guitars can be art. Some are art. But more than this they’re tools.

Always remember this. Guitars are tools. They’re for making music. The rest is fluff.

Guitarist Dumbfuckery

Guitarists are the dumbfucks of the music world. They pay the most attention to the things which matter the least, most can’t read music or keep proper rhythm or time, some don’t even know basic scales or chords, and they feel entitled to be the leading composers in their bands, because some musical genres are guitar-driven. Because of this guitarists pass down many traditions which are whole-cloth, rancid, horseshit. I’ve spilled too many words on guitarists’ favorite form of dumbfuckery, so let’s diverge into other forms where idiocy reigns.

1. Tubes. Tubes are great, vintage gear is great. I love tube amps, but they are also a pain in the ass to haul to rehearsals and gigs. Bassists have long since adopted DI boxes and direct-out amps, why are guitarists chain to tube amps? Because dumbfuckery. Get a tube amp and enjoy it, but consider something else for your live rig. Portability, performance, and function matter more over your obsession for tone, something that’s much less important than your ability to play.

2. Country of Origin. American-made is still the gold standard for guitar making, but once upon a time Japanese-made guitars were considered 2nd rate – except now people think the Japanese have magic guitar-building powers. Hence today Japanese Fenders, ESPs, etc. are fetishized on the secondhand market. Then the goalposts slid and Korean-made guitars were “garbage.” Guess what happened to that perception? Where it was built doesn’t matter. How well it was built counts.

3. Modding. Modding is a hobby which sprung up slowly after companies like Allparts, Mighty Mite, Seymour Duncan, etc. made it easier to affix replacement parts on your guitar. Some guitarists just like to tinker and that’s great. Other guitarists though have again turned this into a bullshit quest for magic tone. If they just get that one, $400 pickup set, that $100 bumblebee capacitor, or another overpriced aftermarket part that’s trading on name value over actual utility, they’ll nail godly Hendrixvaughn toanage. Even though Jimi Hendrix used stock, straight out the box guitars, but whatever.

The Arguments Against Tonewoods

A handy, quick-look resource.

1. The arguments for them are horrible, and guitar manufacturer propaganda is the worst resource to consult besides guitar forums.

2. Electric guitar pickups are not microphonic. They are similar to microphones, but do NOT record acoustic waves.

3. Transverse waves are not acoustic waves. The information coming from your electric guitar is a different kind of data from an acoustic one.

4. Because resonant frequencies don’t work that way. A guitar doesn’t just have one resonant frequency. It has several.

5. Because potentiometers and their variances matter a lot to your guitar’s timbre or tone.

6. Because knocking wooden planks together, citing resin crystals, and debating finish thickness is bullshit.

7. Because hollowbody electric guitars are still electric guitars, and construction counts more than wood species.

8. Because in acoustic guitars, hardness and construction are what count most for tone. Cheap, shoddy construction will ruin tone every time, regardless of wood species. Wood species doesn’t matter. Craftsmanship does.

9. Because woods are used for aesthetics, price, availability, consumer demand, sturdiness, and pliability in construction – not magical, tonal properties.

10. Because human ears are complex and we don’t hear every thing the exact same way. This causes problems for some who can’t accept conventional wisdom about tone.


How to NOT Suck at Playing in a Band

Playing in a band is an essential experience towards becoming a better musician. When you find like-minded individuals to form a group with you, each member should approach the endeavor with the same mindset: to get gigs, and have fun. This often doesn’t happen though, because so many musicians a shit-eating puke-pots. So here is what you need to know if you don’t want to suck at playing in a band.


1. Band practice is for rehearsal, not music lessons.

It is your job to know the set before you show up to practice. It is not the band’s job to teach you the set. The point of band practice is to rehearse the set. You rehearse so you can play a gig. That’s why everybody is there. If you don’t learn the set beforehand, then you slow everyone else down, and your band is less ready to play the gig. The gig is why you’re here! Don’t screw off!

2. Know you to play your goddamned instrument.

This especially applies to singers, drummers, and bass players. It also ties into number one somewhat, but in this case it’s about your skill. If you can’t tune your instrument or sing in key, or know chords and scales, or how to play in time, then why the fuck are you in a band?! Go learn your fucking instrument, then join a band. It’s not your band’s job to be your music teacher. KNOW YOUR SHIT.

3. Buy your own fucking gear.

Sometimes a musician is in a jam. They had to pawn their instrument to pay the rent, child support, electricity bill, or whatever. Musicians are often poor, so it’s a way of life. Also sometimes instruments break. It happens. In those cases it makes sense to borrow an instrument, but it’s with the understanding that you will do what it takes to obtain a new one, even if it’s not so shiny and pretty like your last one. Leave it to musicians though to think they can get buy without a PA (Hi, singers), a fucking amplifier, or their own drum set (This has happened to me personally.). If you refuse to buy your own shit, don’t mooch off every other broke motherfucker. Buy your own gear, you lazy fuck.

4. BE. ON. TIME.

Putting aside emergencies, we live in an age where people are no longer prompt. Texting, emailing, and cellphones have made punctuality a relic. “Sorry bro, running late,” is not a fucking excuse, fuck you and your fucking iphone. The club owner doesn’t care if you slept in or are hungover. Your band is pissed because you’re late, and you weren’t there to sound check or set up the gear. You are literally the worst kind of musician if you are chronically late. You’re good to exactly no one. Get the fuck out of music altogether if you can’t be bothered to make your appointments.

5. Be a helping hand, or go jack off with it.

For our last point, punctuality and helpfulness are intertwined. You should show up to rehearsal ready and on time, be at the gig on time, for the recording session, and so on, plus you should be able and willing to help out. Gear is heavy, bulky, and it always always ALWAYS has to be lugged up a set of stairs. SINGERS, THIS ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO YOU, PUT THE FUCKING MIRROR DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION. You are not famous, nobody cares about you, and you can’t afford a road crew. You are the road crew. Help move the gear, help set up, help tear down, and help put it all back in the van once you’re done.

Controversial Guitar Opinions

I ran across a thread on Reddit asking about controversial opinions regarding the guitar. I posted, then deleted it because seriously, screw Guitarrit or whatever it’s called. The place has become so terrible I unsubscribed and it’s not worth anybody’s time posting there – unless you want to constantly explain to newbies how a Telecaster works, what a tube amp is, that solid state amps aren’t the devil, and answer yet another question that always boils down to, “Practice more, you dumbshit.”

So anyway, here are my controversial opinions about the guitar.

1. Tonewood is bullshit. A giant ball of horseshit, in fact. Guitarists and luthiers have passed this crap around for generations. Those who accuse you of not knowing physics and accepting they myth do not know physics themselves. They don’t back their arguments with facts, they back them with fallacies and personal attacks. Tonewood is bullshit, end of story.

2. Tube amps are bullshit. They are clunky, heavy, overpriced pieces of shit. You pay more for the logo than what’s in it. Amp clones are bountiful. Modeling technology has caught up. Furthermore, so have sound systems in many (though not all) public venues. Also solid state isn’t the devil. If you want a tube amp, fine, but don’t expect a gold star for paying too much for one.

3. Wood is bullshit. Guitars don’t need to be made of wood to sound great. They just need to be built well. Wood is used because it’s renewable, dependable, and pretty. It has no magic, tonal properties and your Youtube/Deeprak Chopra understanding of physics doesn’t disprove that.

4. Fender and Gibson are bullshit. There are more guitars available for great quality and prices than ever. You are paying for a headstock, and the logo on that headstock. Buy it if you want, but again don’t expect your taint licked because of it.

5. Guitarists are myopic, dumb motherfuckers, the embarrassments of the musicians’ world. Most guitarists can’t a) read music; b) tune their guitars for crap; c) know what key is or how to be in it; d) write songs, only solos or riffs but rarely both; e) and they think equipment choices and soloing, the least important parts of playing an instrument, are the most important. If you want to be in a band, learn something else. There are plenty of worthless guitarists wasting people’s time.

6. Last but not least, guitar-oriented music, namely rock music, is irrelevant. It’s time has passed. It’s a niche interest. Nobody cares about it anymore. Sorry guys, but drum machines, auto-tune, and programmed beats have won. So acting like your favorite genre is great and mighty, then wondering why only 12 people turn up to see your band, should be a fucking clue by now. You don’t have to quit, but don’t think you’re hot shit. You’re cold, frozen shit. A poopsicle.

RIP Jack Bruce

Big news in the music world today, as Jack Bruce has passed away at 71 years old. He lived a long, full and natural life. Of course it’s always sad to know one more piece of rock’s golden era has shuffled on to oblivion. He’s survived by children and grandchildren, and naturally his most famous music, that of the golden rock power trio Cream, lives forever.

Personally I loved Jack’s singing abilities the best. He’s known as a pioneer rock bassist. I’d go so far as to say he’s known as the rock bassist, or ranked up there with titans like John Paul Jones, Paul McCartney, and Geezer Butler. Bruce filled the big gap between Eric Clapton’s guitar and Ginger Baker’s drums, leaving him free to treat the bass as a kind of rhythm guitar.

If you’re not familiar with Cream, “I Feel Free” is a great starting point because it showcases Bruce’s gold-coated throat along with rich, vocal harmonies. Many would recommend “Sunshine of Your Love,” or “Crossroads,” but I think this tune simply soars and celebrates its singer’s spirit.