About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995 and have been music director at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation since 2011.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Feeling Loopy

As much as I enjoy guitar toys, I'm not as big a gear head as many players. (Read A Mild Case of G.A.S. for more details.) While I enjoy checking out music gear, my own equipment is fairly minimal. I don't have a lot of money, so I only purchase equipment if I'm going to use it.

My newest piece of gear is the Boss RC-50 Loop Station. This is not a new purchase. I've owned it for a while. It's tricky to use at first, which is why I haven't taken it out in public yet. It's like learning an instrument. You want to practice and master the basics before you play it in front of people, especially when you're being paid.

What does this thing do? I'm glad you asked. The RC-50 looper records phrases and plays them back repeatedly. You can also add layers of sounds and essentially create your own "band." You can pound out a drum rhythm on your guitar and have an instant "drummer." Then you can play a bass line, which repeats, adding another layer of rhythm guitar chords on top of the bass line. It has a microphone connection, so you can sing or play into a microphone and add voice or percussion loops.

While the musical possibilities are endless, I'm using the looper in a minimal way for now. Let's say I'm going to use the looper to enhance a medium swing song. What I'll do is play a basic swing beat on muted guitar strings (so you don't hear notes, you just hear the thwack of my hand hitting the strings). After I set up the beat, I'll sing the song. While I'm singing the song, I'm recording the guitar accompaniment. After I've sung the song, I'll continue to loop the guitar accompaniment while I improvise single line melodies on the guitar. With the rhythm guitar part looping over and over, I'm essentially accompanying myself as I play lead guitar. I get more elaborate with instrumentals, usually playing a tasty bass line, then adding a rhythm guitar part, and finally playing the melody.

Of course, if I miss a chord, I have to hear the wrong chord every time it loops back around. The solution is to not miss any chords!

In about a week, I'm going to be playing a 3.5 hour solo gig. I have about 4 hours worth of solo material, so I'm not lacking for repertoire, but the thought of playing solo for 3.5 hours makes my hand hurt just thinking about it. Playing single line solos is much easier on the hands than playing full out chord/melody arrangements, so looping my guitar accompaniment and improvising single line melodies will be a good way to rest my hands throughout the night. I'll be using the looper not just for the added musical interest, but out of physical necessity.

Until I get past the basics, I'll be using the looper in a minimal sort of way. To see what a master can do with the RC-50, check out this video on YouTube.

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