Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Young Blues SingerCheck out Brendan McFarland!  The boy who shocked the guitar store owner with his incredible voice.  Very cool to hear someone of his age (or any age) singing with soul.

I know it makes me sound like an old fart but the music today just sucks beyond all understanding.  Sure there are pockets of brilliance but for the most part there’s nothing to cling to.  So inspiring to see this kid belt it out in style!

You can watch and listen to him HERE.


Well, I’ve thought about it for awhile and I think I’m going to clean out some things I have laying around that I don’t use.  Turns out that I don’t use my Martin Backpacker much.  When I go camping I can take my full size acoustic so why bother with the Martin which is cool but just have that full sound.

I’m thinking it’ll be up on Ebay before the week is out.  I wonder if I should play it a little and record it on video to give people a sense for what it sounds like.  I have a Washburn 12 string that I don’t play either but I don’t have a clue how to ship something like that.  It has a funky machine head on it that probably should be fixed first.

Hey, here’s a thought!  I can also put that You Tube video up in the auction that shows it being played during that Christmas song  – “I wish it was Christmas Today” with Jimmy Falon and Horatio Sanz.

I was searching around the net this morning searching for some popular chord progressions.  Below are the ones I found.  Let me know if you have any more to add to the list.

I-II-iii-iv “Longer” Dan Fogelberg
I-vi-ii-V “Please Mr. Postman”
I-iii-vi-ii-V-I “Alices Restaurant” Arlo Guthrie

Minor Progressions
i–V–i–iv–i  “Black Magic Woman” Santana
i–bVI–iv–bVII–i  “Mr. Jones” Counting Crows
i-IV “Oye Como VA” Tito Puente
ii-V-I “Autumn Leaves” standard



1.C C/E F G C
2.C G/B F/A G C
3.C G/B Am F G G/B C
4.C G E/G# Am G/B C


2.C C/E Fm G C

I was surfing along this afternoon and came upon this article over at The Boston Globe.  He describes the vi-IV-I-V as the Sensative Female Chord progression…lol.  He’s absolutely on the money!  I won’t rewrite his article here so head on over there and check it out.  I like it in Am where it goes like Am F C G.  That’s the progression in Joan Osborne’s “One of Us”.  You know…”What if God was one of us…”

I’ve decided to take Electric Chili in a little different direction or maybe I should say little different focus. My intent at first was to provide information about guitars, gear, and learning how to play. I think I might have bit off a little more than I was willing to chew. The world of guitars is huge and who could possibly handle it all without a full time staff of writers. There’s just no way one guy can really pull off what I had in mind. Well, how do you really know unless you try right?

So here’s the background…after a little work on putting guitar effects pedals up in the store (and ebay), I starting doing a little research about what I was selling as well as doing some reviews. In my research I found several communities of guitar players that enjoy creating their own effects pedals. I never knew this interest even existed. As an working electrical engineer I find this to be absolutely fascinating and want to jump in with both feet! So that’s where I’m going! I want to develop some of my own pedals as well as offer platforms and parts for developing guitar pedals. That’s my new focus. I admit that I’m somewhat ADD in my interests and move around quite a bit so we’ll have to see what happens.

My first project is to develop an effects development box that incorporates a breadboard inside so that tinkering with different circuits is extremely simple. From there I would like to see what can be done with PICs in the way of modifying guitar audio signals. I’m having a good time just thinking about the possibilities!

Being an engineer, I can’t help but enjoy digging into the origins of things we take for granted today.  I like to pay a little homage to the inventors who came before us.  With that being said, let’s take a look at magnetic pickups.  It seems that magnetic pickups were first invented for the purpose of improving record players.  The pickups would “pick up” the variations of the needle as it tracked the record.  This needle would move within a magnet field and generate a current.   It wasn’t until 1932 that a patent for a magnetic pickup appears in the patent record for an “Electrical Device Musical Instruments”.  The inventors name was Armond F. Knoblaugh.  It appears that although he is credited with the patent, he was working for Baldwin.  This is pretty typical in the engineering world.  The inventor is credited but the patent actually belongs to the company they work for.

He kept it general enough so that it applies to all musical instruments but the illustrations in his patent primarily show the the strings of a piano plate which makes sense for a Baldwin engineer.

Let’s hear a little from Armond about his invention…

My invention relates to the class of instruments in which the mechanical vibrations of strings or like members are transformed into electrical vibrations, which are amplified and 5 converted into sound by a loud speaker or the like. In a co-pending application, Serial No. 581,416, filed December 16, 1931, I have described a series of individual magnets which give excellent results. In the present 10 invention, I have made magnets, each in connection with a plurality of strings, that taper in substantially the same ratio as the lengths of the strings.

The first reference that I could find where the pickup was used for something that resembled a guitar was in 1934.  Check out that photo to the left.  Not a real “looker” but you get the idea.  It has the basic shape of a guitar that we’re familiar with and even has six strings.  This was patented by G. D. Beauchamp who was the cofounder of Electro Stinged Instrument Corporation. 

G. D. Beauchamp was also one of the founders of Rickenbacker Guitars.  He later went on to develop a patent for electric guitars in 1937.  If you do a little patent searching you’ll see that that is the time when patents for different types of electric guitars began.  That’s how it works in the patent world.  If someone can find a little different way of doing something they can get a patent of the own.  For example, if I think the pickup works better at the neck than at the bridge, I can apply for a new patent.  If I come up with a design that offers flexibility on what pickup I use, a new patent is born.

So now that the whole Magnetic Pickup is out of the bag, so to speak, patents start to come hot and heavy.  Gibson joins the party in 1939, Radio Corp  and Gibson again in 1941, and Radio Corp again in 1944.  If you wondering who the heck is Radio Corp, just think radio and Marconi.  They designed and manufactured radio equipment and ultimately were bought out by GE.

In the 1944 Radio Corp patent you can see that even improving something is enough to get you a new patent. 

In this application I disclose an improved method and means for obtaining a greater range of timbre in an electronic musical instrument, using mechanical vibrators such as strings, reeds, rods, plates, bars, membranes, etc.

This patent shows how the inclusion of capacitors and inductors can affect the response of the pickups.  The artwork shows the locations of these passive elements but in typical Patent form, doesn’t show you the values or the frequency plots that show you exactly how it improves it.  But anyway, I digress. 

So, there you go.  Magnetic Pickups go back quite a ways in our history.  We haven’t talked about the difference between the single coil and the humbucker but will certainly get to that in another post.

Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues musician, among the most famous of Delta blues musicians. His landmark recordings from 1936–1937 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faust myth.

Johnson’s songs, vocal phrasing and guitar style have influenced a broad range of musicians; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived”. Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986. He was ranked fifth in Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Article Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Johnson_(musician)

The ability to play a spontaneous, improvised guitar solo is a truly impressive skill. Whilst anyone can pick up a guitar and play a song using three chords, playing a guitar solo, on the other hand, requires a lot of hard work and practice. I have therefore decided to write a short article on guitar playing to share with you 4 tips which have certainly improved my guitar soloing and improvisation skills over the years.

Tip #1 – Learn More Licks
In order to play a good guitar solo you need to have a good vocabulary of guitar licks. Most beginners don’t realize that only 30% of what good guitar players play during an improvised guitar solo is improvised – the other 70% are actually licks which they have pre-learnt and internalized. Too often, we run into the problem of playing the same licks over and over again when we solo – which is boring! Having a good number of licks stored in memory will make you a more versatile guitarist. Guitar licks can be learnt from a variety of books, websites or by listening to your favorite guitarist and figuring out their licks. The resources are there, so there’s no excuse not to learn your guitar licks!

Tip #2 – Practise Smart, Not Hard
A lot of guitarists either practice too little or practice too much. Whilst being lazy and only picking up the guitar twice a week is obviously not going to get you very far, playing your guitar for up to 8 hours a day can be bad for you. I have a friend who developed carpal tunnel syndrome because of playing the guitar too much. Having a sensible practicing schedule, and sticking to it, is the key to success. In my opinion, it’s better to learn a little everyday then to cram everything in one day. For example, why not promise yourself that you will learn one new guitar lick a day? Seems like nothing, but that’s seven guitar licks in a week, and 365 guitar licks in a year!

Tip #3 – Practise over Backing Tracks
OK, so you’ve learnt your licks. The only way you are going to learn how to apply these learnt licks in a guitar solo is to play them over a backing track and practise joining the licks together. There are numerous free backing tracks available over the internet which you could use to practise soloing over. Backing tracks for the 12 bar blues are the most readily available, which is great because the blues is the best place to start when learning to guitar solo. Alternatively, if you want more exotic chord changes, it may be a good idea to buy some professionally-made backing tracks or even create your own backing tracks. Software such as Band-In-A-Box allows you to input a chord progression of your choice and it literally creates a backing track for you.

Tip #4 – Be Self-Critical
The only you are going to improve, especially when it comes to guitar soloing, is to be critical to yourself. Unfortunately, when we are playing the guitar, how we think we sound is often quite different from how we actually sound. Recording yourself play and then listen back, is a great way of self-evaluation. Often times, you might even be shocked at how bad your playing sounds but don’t despair – continual practice using the tips outlined above will polish things out. It may even be beneficial to get a friend or bandmate to listen to your playing and get them to critique on you. You might find that you’re not very good at taking criticism – but it’s the best way for you to grow as a guitar player.

About the Author

Lex Robben is a guitar enthusiast who is on a path of musical enlightenment. For more FREE guitar tips, licks and lessons, visit The Shadow Guitarist Blog.


Ok, I see some great videos on some of the usual suspect sites and I want to join in.  I post some ones I think are well done or offer some level of learning in them here on Electric Chili.  I’d like to do the same thing with my own stuff.  I think I may have to consult my son who’s constantly video recording his online video games.  Maybe I can tap into his expertise even though I’m likely to take a load of crap for it.  “Gee Dad, don’t know how to use a camera…LOL.” 

Ok, I can use a camera and I’m actually pretty up on the technology.  Since I’m a busy guy, I need some help in setting up an area in my studio (yeah, let’s call it a studio…aka basement) where I can do something without having to set up everything every single time.  My vision is that I have and idea, then I can run to my studio and turn on a camera, amp, guitar, and lay it down.  I don’t want to have to find a friggin’ guitar pick and figure out why my amp is feeding back.  By the time I finish solving these problems, I’ve forgotten what the heck I was trying to do in the first place.  That’s the situation right now because I let my 13 year old son have run of the place.  I want him  to be able to get comortable with the equipment and be creative but it’s clearly causing me some pain relative to my goal.

We shall talk.  I shall report.  I think I can come up with a compromise somewhere.

Blog Roll
Curious about Eyebrow Threading? Check out the Eyebrow Threading Hub for information and pricing.