Jose at Musika Live at Conspiracy Garden Cafe 10/15/2015

Here’s last night’s clip of Jose and yours truly playing at Conspiracy Garden Cafe in Quezon City for an event by Beehive Productions. Many thanks to Abby Clutario, Eric Tubon, TJ Trinidad, and Andy Saunar of Beehive Productions for inviting us. Many thanks as well to a wonderful audience last night consisting of the bands Clubhouse, Paincake Patrol, Eight Moons of Jupiter, and God Bless the Unicorns plus friends:

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Life as a “Single” Guy – Stories Through Musical Improvisation: VIII. “Looking Forward to Tomorrow”

There is always hope after emotional turmoil. While I am always unsure of whether or not I will wake up the next day, I always believe there is something beyond the here and now, something to look forward to. The future looks bright indeed. I suppose there probably is no better way to tell that story than through the power of the electric guitar.

A Big Reason Why I Have a Career as a Music Transcriber

I was browsing through my Facebook page when I found this string of comments from a Steve Stine post:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 6.12.58 PM

One of the guys who commented on the new GuitarZoom “Guitarists of the 80s” course said, “Hey buddy! Are you reading the music to these leads as you play??”

Steve replied, “Tom, just wrote them out in my head and played them…”

Most of the time (myself included), many musicians write out their music inside their heads and just go out to play them. Another thing is that most of these musicians don’t have the time (or patience!) to write them out on paper for themselves. Let’s face it. The fact still stands that music transcription requires time, effort, and heaps of patience. These musical geniuses (like my buddy Steve Stine) give folks like me some kind of employment, and I am very thankful for that. Such musicians provide one big reason why I have a career as a music transcriber.

Perhaps there will come a time that the compositions inside my head will bring me great financial reward to the extent that I’ll just hit “record”, start playing, and then I could never be bothered to write them out on paper for myself. That would be a time that I will probably hire someone just like me to write them all out.

Until then, I’m the one being hired to do that sort of documentation. I really got nothing to complain about.

Early Evening at Cycfi Research, Inc.

Last Saturday, I got invited by the man behind the Cycfi Alpha, Mr. Joel de Guzman, to visit his facility somewhere in Quezon City to discuss ideas and possibilities regarding music as well as the innovative projects he undertakes. Realizing that this was one of those opportunities that I should not miss, I gave Joel my schedule and when I would be able to go visit. Fast forward to around 5:45 p.m. yesterday, I was with my son at the gates of what appeared to be a 21st-century-state-of-the-art residence, complete with tight security, a laboratory, and a properly built and well equipped studio. The first impression I got was he pushed the concept of SoHo to the extreme. The gate was opened and Joel welcomed us into his home office and conference room.

Joel de Guzman Cycfi Research Inc

(Mr. Joel de Guzman)

Joel de Guzman is one of those rare, forward-thinking individuals. He is an IT consultant, software developer, musician, instrument maker, and open-source advocate. It’s not off target to say that he’s the local Bob Moog. He strongly believes in give-and-you-shall-receive philosophy so much that he posts his designs and concepts freely on the web which include his hexaphonic pickup design and the carbon-fiber/glass truss rod. He is a living testimony of a person who has been blessed so much because of his belief in giving. One could easily see that the gates and storehouses of heaven have opened up for him because of his unselfish attitude in life.

We talked about a lot of things, mostly exciting and forward-looking ideas for making music. Right there and then, I realized that I was in a presence of a genius. The things we were talking about were mindblowing to say the least. Joel was particular about how he could use waveshaping to explore new timbres and techniques when using the full-range hexaphonic pickup that he has been developing. The math of it all was mind-boggling to me (being a person who has struggled with math) but I guess I had enough knowhow to understand how I could use it. The idea of synthesis using the guitar’s strings and pickups as an oscillator has been expored by a number of other institutions. Companies like EHX have played with the idea by developing the POG and HOG pedals and Moog Music even has its own guitar for that purpose, but Joel made me realize that you could do more than that with his full-range pickup, a parametric EQ, and a waveshaper. He also had the idea of hiring me as his child’s music theory tutor. Sadly, I could not accommodate his request, given the distance I would have to travel to go there and give lessons.

After discussing ideas about how we could work together, Joel gave us a tour of his facility. The Alpha prototype was in the process of a paint job so he was not able to demonstrate how it sounded like. We went into his recording studio and he showed me a Fender Stratocaster with the prototype hex pickup installed. The pickup sounded rich on a Marshall combo that the guitar was plugged into. More than that, the hexaphonic output of his pickup was also connected to his Logic Pro based DAW. How it sounded like was something I have never heard on any other guitar. It was phenomenal! Imagine having individual control over each string having its own excusive output routed to a dedicated channel. Andres Segovia once said that the guitar is an orchestra unto itself. Joel’s hexaphonic pickup pushes that to a whole new level. I was very fortunate enough to have tried it for myself.

Mark@Cycfi Research Inc 01-28-2014

(The author smiling like an idiot with Joel’s Fender Strat and the Cycfi Hexaphonic Pickup)

It sounded crazy good with each string having a different position in the sound field starting with the low E string panned hard right and the high E string panned hard left. Since the pickup had a flat frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hz, you could do all kinds of things with it and a parametric EQ. One of Joel’s intentions in developing this pickup is to disprove the idea that a full-range pickup is brittle sounding. Upon strumming my first chord on his guitar, I realized that he was right. Noodling with Joel’s Strat for a bit made me see all sorts of things that you can do with it. Some of the more basic things I thought I can do with it is faking an acoustic guitar with a solid-body electric (without the need for piezo saddles) and simulate any kind of pickup. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Applying distortion to it while it is rigged in a hexaphonic manner was very interesting: full triads sounded very nice and very different. Rather than the aggressive high gain sound you usually expect from your typical humbuckers running into Marshall stack, it sounded more like a guitar orchestra. You could actually play your thirds with the gain all the way up to 10 without sounding harsh or dissonant. I could already imagine setting up six amps in a room or hall, surrounding both guitarist and audience, with each string’s signal going through each amp, exuding music like you’ve never heard before. An added bonus is that the pickup is so quiet even with distortion that the only thing a noise gate would do in this instance is to turn down the ambiance from the amp itself. Another thing currently in development is for this pickup to function as a sustainer. Once Cycfi Research finalizes the design of this pickup, I’m very sure that the serious musician will have to rethink about how to make a sound with a guitar. The question of single-coil versus humbucker would not matter with this kind of pickup. Rather than getting a pickup installed to give your guitar a certain kind of character, you can get the exact kind of voicing you want with this hexaphonic pickup by just using EQ.

Cycfi Hexaphonic Pickup Prototype

(Cycfi Research Hexaphonic Pickup Prototype)

To cut the story short, I was very happy and honored to have met Joel. I hope that this will be the start of a mutually beneficial working relationship. More important than that is the fact that I have met a new friend who has the same sort of passion that I have for something new in music, finding ways to make music that’s really progressive.

To find out more about Joel and his projects, visit http://www.cycfi.com.

Steve Dahlberg’s “Play Delta Blues Now”

People have to know that there’s more to Blues than the kind you hear from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Winter, and others who have excelled in the popular variant called Texas Blues. If you want to be able to play the Blues during the prewar period or sound like you’re from somewhere around the Mississippi Delta, Steve Dahlberg’s the man who can show you how to do that with his new course “Play Delta Blues Now”.

“Play Delta Blues Now” is an acoustic blues course that will teach you the essentials of how to sound like the Johnsons (Blind Willie, Tommy, Robert, etc.) or Charley Patton. Again, this is NOT your electric blues guitar course. You will NOT make your guitar cry like Gary Moore or go to a getaway like Robben Ford. It’s closer to playing classical guitar (except with blues notes, bottlenecks, open tunings, and an emphasis on the I-IV-V chord progression).

The course will be launched on January 29, 2014, 9 p.m. U.S. Eastern time. So, if you want to acquire what it takes to play the Blues on acoustic, go grab a copy of this course by going to the link below:

Play Delta Blues Now

As usual, sheet music transcription in standard notation and guitar tab is by yours truly.

In other matters unrelated to “Play Delta Blues Now”, here’s Gary Moore, here’s “Still Got the Blues”, a song that my uncle Joe taught me how to play back in 1994 when I was in my 2nd year of high school:

The Cycfi Alpha

I recently discovered this one-of-a-kind guitar that’s made out of carbon fiber and bamboo, equipped with DiMarzio pickups, soon-to-be equipped with a unique hexaphonic pickup, and impressive switching options that would provide a wide palette of guitar sounds. Oh, before I forget, did I mention that this is 100% Filipino-made? It is the brainchild of IT consultant, guitarist, and luthier Joel de Guzman:

Cycfi Guitar

It looks pretty, and (based on the recording I checked out) it sounds awesome too. Just go to http://www.cycfi.com/2011/03/finally/ so you can see what this instrument is all about.

If I could have one of these for myself (it’s pretty obvious now that I want one), it will open up more possibilities for future compositions. I could perhaps ask Mr. de Guzman to build me a custom Cycfi guitar (if I have the money for it), maybe a 7-string model with locking tuners and floating bridge or a guitar with MIDI output (something that would help me transcribe GuitarZoom lessons better). Wait a minute. I think I did ask him via email. Unfortunately, the Cycfi guitar is still in the prototype stage (Alpha) so there are no production models out yet. The instrument looks very promising, a form of innovation you rarely witness in this tropical country called the Philippines.

In a matter of months or years, will the Cycfi Guitar be featured in events like the NAMM Show or Musik Messe. I do hope so. In any case, should the time come that the Cycfi Guitar becomes available in the market, I will get my hands on one. After all, it is that sort of instrument that would implant a nagging thought in your head like, “Play me,” or “Check me out!” Therefore, I can say with confidence that this guitar induces GAS!

On a final note, Mr. de Guzman is looking for a luthier he can work with so that he could kick start the production process. If you know of one, please contact him through or drop a note here.