Saturday, April 16, 2011

In Depth View: King Of The World.

With reference to my previous blog post, I have posted my very first video of myself playing a cover of Neil Zaza's King Of The World (link here).

Just a short writeup about this song:
It's the 3rd song on Neil Zaza's latest album, 212, which you can digitally purchase via his website, iTunes, or you can order and purchase his album and receive the whole packaging! I'm the #179th proud owner in this world! King of the World was composed during a soundcheck in Italy, when Neil was messing around with a bunch of open chords - which became the intro to that song. And this song has that enthusiastic drive, and the bridge shows a great melodic solo that's not even technical at all! It's all about dynamics that changes the mood for some songs, and this is one example. And I had real fun playing this song, when I wasn't recording. It touches me, personally, when I play this song.

Here's the breakdown of the stuff that was used with my guitar:
Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster 2010 (colour code - Amber, full maple neck)
Roland Cube 30X - Bass 5, Treb 5, Mid 8-8.5, Volume 8o'clock, where 7 o'clock is volume level @ 0
Pedals used:
Boss Distortion DS-1 - Tone 12o'clock, gain 3 o'clock
Boss Blues Driver BD-2 - Tone 1o'clock, gain 2 - 3 o'clock
* no DD-3 used - I didn't hear any delay in this track, I just realised it and that's clean recording! Sweet!

** Volume pot settings used - Intro @ 3, Bridge @ 5, maxed out everywhere else
Bridge pickup used throughout the whole song - Tone pot @ 7.5-8 .. 10 would be too "twangy" for this song.

That's the basic setup. If you read my about my setup, you'll notice that I had all fuzz pedals on - this is to break the limitations provided by the Boss Distortion DS-1 pedal. It's a great pedal, but it's not crunchy enough to approach this song. So, that is when the BD-2 comes into play. Usually I use the BD-2 to be some sort of a compressor to add a bit more gain to my lead sound. But it served a different purpose for this song. Because my guitar is a SSS setup (single-single-single coil setup - where HSS is humbucker-single-single coil setup, vice versa for HSH), it will definitely not deliver the same amount of gain / output compared to the guitars that has a humbucker loaded on it.

In other words, I was using my pedals to manipulate on how my tone should really sound like, that was the main idea, and it worked!

Comes the second question regarding gain control - It would be easier to cut off the DS-1 when I was playing the intro and the bridge area that doesn't require much distortion, which is true. But I had a listen to the BD-2 alone, and it was a bit too sharp for the overall feel on how the song should be like. Usually, I know how to do this on an Ibanez - especially with my old Ibanez JEM Jr - I'd cut the tone pot to about 4 - 5, and the volume down to 2. But because this Fender strats have different resistance values in their pots (something about 250k vs 500k?), my volume pot had to be at 5 for the bridge, and 3 for the intro. I controlled the volume because it was exactly what I needed, instead of switching off more pedals. It sounded great when I listened to the tone I produced by cutting down the volume.

Also, on another note, since Neil Zaza uses his Carvin guitar that comes with standard humbucker pickups, it's more forgiving in terms of being ear-piercing compared to single-coil pickups. So I had to cut down the tone pot from 10 to 7 - 8's range to get a less-sharper tone. I usually use this to play rock rhythms so I wouldn't deafen any audiences if it was a bit too sharp. It IS a stratocaster, after all!

On top of that, the secret behind this song would be tone. Not tone that you can set on knobs that you can physically touch and twist, but the tone that plays the guitar - your fingers. That's the most important thing, and to control your tone is extremely crucial in approaching this song. Ranging from your bending pitches, to the strength you put in picking the strings.

And yes, in this song, everything matters - pitch harmonics and palm muting will definitely help in improving the feel for this song instead of playing all of the notes clearly. My opinion is that you really listen to the palm muted areas - it really DOES make a difference (in general just about everything you play, really).

The other thing I need to stress about is regarding that bit that I did the bend - tap thing. If I'm not mistaken, generically, you'll need a 24-fret guitar, because you're going to be bending on the 2nd string (b-string), the 22nd fret, and hitting the 20th fret of the 1st string (e-string), and then letting go the bend for the b-string. Although with the cutaway on the Fender American Deluxe, it's still uncomfortable to play something like that on a 22nd fret guitar. If you're fine with it, that's alright. But I felt really uncomfortable playing something like that on my guitar, so I had to substitute it by bending on the 1st string on the 17th fret, and then tapping on the 18th fret, then letting go of the bend.

Since the bend is already a full step, tapping on the 18th fret will give you the tone of the 20th fret. This is common knowledge, but nobody really does it because either it's cosmetic, or they don't know about it. One good way to see how this is utilised would be the guitar solo for Panama by Van Halen. Either that if you think your fingers are a bit too stressed for bend + picking the next few strings, you can use taps to substitute that. Plus it's a very interesting bit because you require accuracy for tapping. But when you bend, and then tap on the note, it's a bit tricky. Practice on this and you'll be just fine.

The other important thing I would like to stress would be on pitch. My vibratos were messed up in that video because that was the 8th time I played out of 12 continuous takes, I think. Besides vibratos, you're going to be using a lot of bends for this one. The tricky bit would be the half-step bends - and the tap & bend if you're planning to use that technique. I went overboard with the 2nd chorus, and it sounded wrong, but yeah. It shouldn't be that hard if you put in effort and practice.

The other pitch you should pay attention to would be slides. The slides for this song is very far away. The first verse requires you to slide from a B to a G - which are about 8 semitones/frets away from each other. So watch it! Again, pitch!

The other one that's going to be annoying is the Dsus harmonic arpeggio. I was planning to go in further details regarding approaching this song, so that will be further discussed that. A Dsus harmonic arpeggio isn't that hard, you'll figure it out eventually if you know your harmonics well. It would be worse (Like Eric Johnson's Manhattan in G3 '01 - That is by far the MOST insane artificial harmonics being played to my ears!)

This song is in the key of G major, and all of the notes fall in that scale - no modal progressions or anything.

Lastly, have fun with the song. And remember, it's not about the guitars, the pedals, or the amps. It's all in the fingers that you use to play the guitar, so be cautious of what you're playing.

And I'd like to share the official music video to this song - available here.

Thanks again for reading!

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