Monthly Archives: May 2013

RECORDING: Best DIY portable vocal booth ever

I am building this, hopefully this weekend. Notice the 250 likes and zero dislikes on the YouTube page. If you read the comments, you’ll see how this is probably one of the best builds you can make, and DIRT cheap. I have read elsewhere online that this guy’s build works better than most very, very expensive “portable” solutions… and definitely better than those “reflection filters” (which can run $150 and way up).

I can’t wait to build this. It’s an easy build. And FYI – you don’t have to use Owens Corning 703 (the insulation type). You can also use Roxul (aka “rock wool” or stone wool)… a pack of eight 3″ thick 2×4 foot pieces runs you about $50 online. Sadly, Roxul isn’t available in a lot of local stores, so you’ll have to wait for it. But yeah…. this is an awesome video and totally needs more views. Superb, well-thought-out craftsmanship…. and put the damn thing wherever you want, or bring it to a friend’s studio.


SONGWRITING: Altered tunings

Some people out there get tired of playing the same old chord shapes, when they write songs with guitars. Even with a capo, things can get old if you have an arguably cursory knowledge of chords and chord shapes (C, G, D, Am, Bm, Em, F, etc).

So why not try out altered tunings?

Some common altered tunings include:

DADGAD (pronounced “Dad Gad”)

Low E tuned down to D, B string tuned down to A, and high E tuned down to D. Used on Third Eye Blind’s “The Background” (I think… but also, the song could be played in the following tuning..)

open D (DADF#AD)

Closely-related to DADGAD. Totally useful tuning. I believe Johnny Marr of The Smiths has used this tuning (with a capo) on many Smiths songs.

double drop D (DADGBD)

Kind of like a Dsus4add13… I can’t think of many songs that use this tuning, but it’s completely cool.

drop high D (EADGBD)

The only song from my current memory that uses this tuning is Coldplay’s “Sparks”, with a capo at the 6th fret (I love that damn song)

And…. the inspiration for this post….

open G (DBDGBD)

Alan Sparhawk of Low mentions in this live KEXP performance that he has played his guitar in open G tuning since he was 19 (in the last 4 minutes or so of the video). I knew Low used altered tunings (possibly open D or DADGAD, to my ears), but I didn’t really know exactly which tuning until I saw this video just now. Awesome, gorgeous tones from his guitar and chord shapes… that’s one huge advantage of altered tunings… the harmonic richness that you can’t simply achieve from playing in standard tuning.


SONGWRITING: Fresh-sounding Chord Progressions

If you guys are tired of the good old I-IV-V…. or, more importantly, the tried-and-true I-V-vi-IV (have you seen the Axis Of Awesome “4 Chord Song” official video yet?)…..

if you’re tired of that played-out sound (and most people who listen to a lot of music outside of the top 40/top 250 “box” usually tire of that sound pretty quickly)…. here are some chord progression ideas to spice things up a bit:


* Try playing A major and following it up with F major. The F is out of key and brings an ambiguous sound to the progression. Brings the common thought “are we in F… or are we in A?” This works with any two major chords. Just play the first one, and play the second down a major third (4 frets from where you started). Technical name for this progression is I-VI (chord I to the MAJOR version of chord vi, which is commonly minor).

* Make a progression entirely from suspended chords, especially suspended 2nd, that move by a minor 3rd (up or down 3 frets, not including the fret you were on)

* Try the very simple add9/sus2 power chord trick… if you’re familiar with power chords (and chances are, you are, if you follow this blog), try a voicing such as this (using EADGBE as a reference) —  357xxx, 579xxx, 135xxx, 246xxx – those chords always sound awesome and bring bands like Hum and some Foo Fighters songs to mind. It really spices up a chord progression or makes power chords a bit more fresh and interesting.

* Throw in a simple third interval, in place of a major chord. Just play the root and third of a chord (example: picking only the first two strings of a C major or G major chord). Sometimes this is a lot more effective than just playing the common “all strings at the same time” full chord sound.

* Whatever chord progression you’re playing, have your bassist (or yourself/computer) play the major or minor third instead of the root, for any chord you play… or a majority, or hell… every chord. This is an exotic, weird sound that can work in certain situations or styles.

* “Invent” chord shapes by playing in an altered tuning. One of my favorites to play in is DADGAD. You can come up with some crazy-interesting ideas… even if you only use a maximum of two fingers in the chord shape.