Volume Knob Treble Bleed Comparison

I recently rewired my Strat (which has had a humbucker in the bridge for the last five years or so, a Dimarzio AT-1 Andy Timmons model, which for the record sounds spectacular) with three singlecoils. While doing so, I tried a couple different “treble bleed” approaches for the guitar’s volume knob.

A bit of background – while the purpose of the volume knob on a guitar is, as you would fairly suspect, to control the volume of the signal going into your amp, one of the side effects of it being in the circuit as is you roll the volume back, the high end seems to disappear disproportionately faster than the rest of the signal. Continue reading

Home Recording: Some Thoughts if You’re Thinking About Starting

A Reaper project open, on my old PC, set up in my parents' library while I was tracking rhythm guitars for
The Reaper project for “Red Skies” on my old PC, set up in my parents’ library while I was tracking rhythm guitars for “Zero Mantra.” My acoustic sounded great in that space.

…Even budget gear is good enough today that if you can’t get at least a “good” guitar tone out of a budget USB interface, a Shure SM57, and a good sounding guitar rig, then the problem probably isn’t your gear.

I got the home recording bug back in late ’99, in my freshman year in college. One of the cool things about college, especially for someone who grew up in a fairly small town, is that suddenly you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of people around your age with similar interests. I had a number of musician friends in high school, some quite talented, but when I came to college suddenly I was part of a much larger community of musicians. A number of them were first and foremost songwriters, and since this was right about the time computer based recording was becoming accessible to home hobbyists, it was only a matter of time before one of my friends gave it a go.

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Video: Playthrough with a Fender Blues Jr NOS

A little quick and dirty, but some clean-toned blues playing through a Fender Blues Jr. I had in my studio recently:

I’ve always thought Fender really got it right on this amp. It has a glorious clean tone, and just enough preamp gain to get a bit of dirt into the sound with singlecoil pickups. At 15 watts, it’s output power is low enough that you can get it to break up a bit at typical “club” levels… Yet, unlike many comparable amps, it has a full 12″ speaker, so the low end isn’t weak or anemic and it sounds like a larger, more powerful amp, just at a more practical (sort of – it’s still a surprisingly loud amp, as Fenders seem to ramp up pretty aggressively in the low range of their output knob, and then quickly stop getting louder and start getting more overdriven) volume. Also, it has more reverb than you’d ever really need for pretty much any conceivable playing situation.

Smaller, low-wattage amps are enjoying a resurgence these days, and I for one am happy to see that (high output power sections with near endless clean headroom are critical for metal where you want tons of crystal-clear low end at any playing volume, but for a lot of other styles it’s absolutely desirable to be able to overdrive the power section – one of the many things that keeps me playing Mesa amps is they’ve increasingly allowed you to have it both ways, by building amps that have switchable poweramp sections that let you cut the amp down to 50, 10, or in some cases even 5 watts for a completely different playing feel). This Fender was just a ridicuouslyt fun amp to play through – if all I ever played was blues-rock or jazz, I’d absolutely want one of these to gig with.

Zero Mantra: The First Review is In

From the folks over at “Can This Even Be Called Music,” a cool independent blog reviewing underground bands with, generally, a bit of a progressive, avant-garde bent. Full Disclosure, I’ve known Dave Lopez, the reviewer, for quite some time over at a guitar site I run with a couple buddies, but I think the fact we know each other comes through clearly in the review itself. So, take this with as large a grain of salt as you deem appropriate:


This comment, or variants of it:

One of the biggest issues currently in the instrumental guitar scene is the lack of good songwriting skills. Most guys are aiming to show off theirs “talent” by shredding your face off. Drew Peterson can play his ass off, EX) 2:30 in Red Skies, but he decides to give us the nuances that are missed in the current overcompressed guitar tone world.

Solo albums in general can be a boring idea since most musicians use it as an opportunity to write jam tracks and then to just show their skills over it. But Peterson has songs where sometimes the bass and drums will feel like they are actually leading the song. Even at some points having no guitars playing in certain sections.

Now I wouldn’t call this a progressive album, it’s actually rather simple at times, but his songwriting and catchy/singable melodies make this a GOOD album.

…is something I’ve heard from a lot of people so far, and frankly is something I’m really relieved to be hearing. As an instrumental guitarist, you know you’re playing something of a niche genre, where pretty much the only people who are going to listen to you are other guitarists. And even then, most of them are going to tell you you’re playing too many notes and why can’t you just sound more like Eric Clapton or B.B. King? (and, I mean no disrespect to either player; both are great musicians, they’re just doing something different than what I want to. And that’s totally cool.) So, I spent a lot of time trying to write decent songs for this album, and while I think there are places where they can be stronger, a lot of people have told me this is an album that’s unusually melodic, hummable, and listenable for a “shred” record, so I’m really excited to hear that I’ve been able to do something that resonates with other people.

Anyway, go check out “Can This Even Be Called Music”!

And, I’m up on iTunes! (plus a new song)

I wasn’t expecting to see it there so quickly (it got sent over to them this morning), but I checked their store this afternoon and sure enough, “Zero Mantra” is now for sale on the iTunes store. It’s been up on CD Baby for a couple days now, as well, though they only have an initial stock of 4 copies so considering I’ve just started telling people it’s there, they very well may be cone by now.

I added a “Store” page here with links to my iTunes Store page and the CD Baby page for my album, and at some point I’ll have some sort of a Printfection or the like store up with T Shirts, pint glasses, etc, once I get the time to set one up.

For now, though, I’m just excited to finally be able to share this album, after all these years. With that in mind, here’s the 5th track from Zero Mantra, a mellow acoustic driven song called “Letting Go.”

Hey, So There’s This Box of CDs on my Dining Table…

Zero Mantra unboxed So, I came home to this sitting on my front step tonight; about thirty pounds worth of CDs in two boxes on my front porch. This is an album that I’ve quite literally spent the last ten years of my life either writing for, recording, mixing, or procrastinating on finishing up the liner notes, and to actually have the damned thing physically in hand tonight feels pretty awesome. I’m sitting here with a glass of Dalwhinnie 15 and the album cranked up and playing back through my studio monitors and just grinning like an idiot. It’s a pretty cool feeling – this has been a LONG time coming, and the finished album looks great. A huge thank you is in order to Ashley Belfield from Belfield-Nack Photography for most of the pictures on this (including the cover), Mark D’Vaz from MDV Productions for a great master, Kelsey Mathei for her work on the (badass) graphic design, and Jen Stevenson and Chris Quigley for their awesome performances on two of the tracks. I’m lucky to know people who are simultaneously so talented, yet have so poor judgement so as to want to get involved on this project!

It’ll be another day or two at least before it’s available for sale on CD Baby and probably a couple days at least more before it shows up on iTunes, but for now here’s the first “single” off the record, the fourth track, “Red Skies.” Kind of a melodic instrumental hard rock tune:


Video: Seven String Guitar: An Introduction

This is a lesson I did a couple of years back on YouTube… When I bought my first seven string, in the summer of 2001, there really wasn’t much available in the way of good instructional material or even transcriptions of seven strung tunes to learn from, so I had to sit down and work it out on my own, more or less. I fumbled around and by the end of that summer I felt like I had a pretty good idea how to get around the fretboard, but a lot of my progress was in the form of major breakthroughs where something would click, followed by a couple of weeks of not really getting anywhere. So I thought I’d try to put as many of those breakthroughs as possible into a video.

This was a lot of fun to do anyway, but in early 2013 Ibanez picked this up and shared it on their Facebook page, and I still remember walking onto the Park Street station platform in downtown Boston on my way home when suddenly my phone started blowing up, with all my guitarist friends letting me know what’d happened. That was exciting, but really I was just glad to hear that other people were finding this helpful.

In the next couple months I expect to have a number of additional lessons up here, some video, some blog posts, some a combination of the two. So, watch this space.

“Zero Mantra” Album Teaser

Ok, this project has been a long time coming… Long enough, in fact, that my musician buddies used to joke for a number of years that it was going to be a tossup which came out first, my debut or Axl Rose’s “Chinese Democracy.” Needless to say, I lost that one. The earliest song on this album was written in 2000 or 2001, and I began tracking in the summer of 2010. Life intervened shortly after I finished all of the rhythm tracks, but I finished the lead guitar in, for the most part, the span of a couple weeks in 2012, and had it mixed by the end of 2013.

“Zero Mantra” should be out by January 13th, available on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and a number of other online outlets. The album spans thirteen songs, including a bonus acoustic version of “Alien Love Child,” and just shy of 67 minutes of music. I recorded and mixed the entire thing in my home studio here in Somerville, and it features a guest solo from Chris Quigley, and a string section comprised of Jen Stevenson (violin) recorded seven or eight times. Mark D’vaz from MDV Productions handled the master.

Like most projects that have gone on far longer than they probably should have, there are things about this that I wish were better… But, on the measure, I’m happy with this album and think it’s a pretty good picture of who I was as a player when I hit “record.”