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Author Topic: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.  (Read 29940 times)

Offline Paul Marossy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #30 on: August 16, 2012, 12:29:44 PM »
Thanks for posting that distinction between the definitions of tone and timbre.  You beat me to it.   :P

You're welcome.  ;D

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Paul Marossy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #31 on: August 23, 2012, 09:20:29 AM »
I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of guitar players:

1. The kind that is driven by their equipment
2. The kind that drives their equipment

And there is two camps on what exactly constitutes tone:

1. Tone refers to the tone color, terms like sounding bright, dark, mellow, etc.
2. Tone and "timbre" are the same thing. (which they are not, but some people insist that they are)

So here's a simple thing to try. Play an open A chord. First strum it how you normally would (I tend to strum right over the neck pickup). Listen to how that sounds. Then strum that chord exactly the same way (same amount of force on the pick, angle of pick, etc.) right over the 11th fret. Listen to how that sounds. Then strum that A chord as close to bridge as you can. Three different sounds, no tone control or pickup changes. If that's not in your hands, then tell me what is it then?

From Bill Lawrence, pickup maker: "Experienced players can create all kinds of sounds, just with their right hand technique. About a year ago, I was playing at a blues jam, and during the break, a young player asked me, "How do you switch so fast from the bridge pickup to the neck pickup, sometimes in the middle of a fast phrase?" I told him, " I don't", and showed him my guitar. He couldn't believe it, my guitar had only one pickup - the neck pickup. I told him all about the hot and the sweet spots on a string." That's clearly not in the hands though.

My point is that YOU, the guitar player, is in control of how you sound. People with developed right hand technique can change their "tone" (what really should be called tone color) simply by what they are doing with their right hand. For people that are driven by their equipment rather than them driving it, then of course they will say that's it's 90% equipment and 10% in their hands. So there will always be this "argument" about what tone is because there will always be these two types of players. It's not some kind of "tone is in the hands = religious hyperbole and pseudoprofundity", it's a simple fact that the guitar player is (or should be) in control of how they sound. But I can see that there are many people that seem to be letting their equipment drive them instead. That's eternal tail chasing because they will always be chasing the "holy grail of tone" and will never find it - because it starts with THEM.

I'm not an idiot. Of course you can't play heavy metal without certain kinds of amps or pedals to get that sound (which people will commonly call tone, but it is not a correct usage of the word AFAIAC) but the PLAYER is still the one in the driver's seat.

I've read on various forums over the years how people have spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting the exact same stuff as their favorite guitar hero(es) - the same guitar, the same amp(s), the same pedal(s), etc. - and seeing them bellyaching about why they can't get that sound. Well, it's because they ain't that person. It's SO obvious to ME why this is, but it's like some kind of big mystery to them.  Whatever.

Here are a few interesting articles to read:

The Psychology of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Feb/The_Psychology_of_Tone.aspx

The Science of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Mar/The_Science_of_Tone.aspx

The Cult of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Apr/The_Cult_of_Tone.aspx


Here is a good example from one of those articles:

"As part of his Alien Music Secrets course, virtuoso Steve Vai often talks about a day when Eddie Van Halen paid him a visit. EVH stood in Vai’s home studio, picked up Vai’s guitar, played it through Vai’s effects, through Vai’s amps, and out came the classic Van Halen tone."

These are two very different musicians with different setups, guitars, techniques and styles. They know how to get "their sound" with whatever they have at hand. Oh, but that's not in the hands.

And another one:

"In The Million Dollar Les Paul: In Search of the Most Valuable Guitar in the World, author Tony Bacon quotes an expert in guitar restoration who uses Jimi Hendrix as an example.

“He played an SG, a Les Paul, a Flying V, as well as a Stratocaster, but he always sounded like Hendrix,” Clive Brown states. “He didn’t suddenly sound like Jimmy Page because he played a Les Paul. That’s where everybody’s perception seems to go wrong. It’s the playing, and not necessarily the guitar.” In spite of an entire multi-million dollar industry revolving around selling musicians the latest gear, and in spite of thousands of axeslingers, aspiring and acclaimed alike, who readily gobble up that gear, it all seems to boil down to two implements— and we’re born with those."
Guess that's not in the hands, either.
 
And another one:

"“The tone thing is amazing because you can have one rig, have three different guitar players, and each guy can play the same exact thing and it’s going to sound different,” says L.A. Guns guitarist Stacey Blades. “It’s all in the hands.” Waara from Line 6 agrees. “Any guitar player will tell you, at the end of the day, it’s in your hands and you will sound like you will sound,” he says. The percentage of influence the hands wield is shockingly high.

Berklee College of Music professor Thaddeus Hogarth thinks the hands and the human element accounts for almost all of what we consider guitar tone. “Providing the instrumentation and the amplifiers are above a certain quality and in the general ballpark, I think it’s safe to say that we’re talking 90 perecent,” Hogarth says. In his classes and on his blog, The Quest for Good Guitar Tone, Hogarth argues that much of a guitar player’s tone is based upon the attack more so than the sustain. “If you take away the first second of the attack of a note played on any instrument, it is often very difficult to determine what that instrument is and certainly impossible to identify who played it,” he writes on the blog."
And I suppose that for sure is not in the hands either.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 10:26:49 AM by Paul Marossy »

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline lucgravely

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #32 on: August 23, 2012, 03:22:50 PM »
I don't disagree with you at all. It's just about word definitions really. What you call tone I call voice, what I call tone you call tone color. It's all good information and great discussion regardless!
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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Bill

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #33 on: August 24, 2012, 07:20:36 AM »
Thats everything for you.

Religion, politics, opinion.

Most people internally gravitate to a preconceived and long held inward belief, then reshape their perception of reality to fit it. Then will argue non stop to defend it ignoring all objective evidence to the contrary and seeing only the circumstantial correlations that help support their prior held beliefs.

In our human psyche's operating system, its more comforting to embrace the familiar, than it is the truth.

At least thats what I think, and I don't care what you say.  ;)
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 07:23:22 AM by Bill »
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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #34 on: August 24, 2012, 08:51:57 AM »
First of all, we all know what we mean when we talk about a musician's tone. In addition to being defined as a certain pitch, tone is also defined as the overall quality of a musical or vocal sound. Parsing the definition of tone seems like needless nitpicking and gains us nothing in talking about the feeling we put into our playing. Because the way we feel music, dictates our tone. And if you can't hear it, you can't feel it.
I played with Roy Buchanan for two years and Roy could pick up a 2 X 4 with a rubber band on it and make it sound better than you or I playing the absolute best guitar rig available. Yes, in a world of chorus, delay, distortion, compression, etc. we get a huge crop of homogenized guitar sounds and guitar players but the great ones stand out because of what they say, not what they play through.
I know this is a guitar forum, but the piano was mentioned and I think there are misconceptions about how tone is produced by a pianist. First of all, just pressing a key and having a hammer hit a string would seem like a limited delivery system compared to the guitar, but there is great variation of tone possible. As someone mentioned earlier, it takes some experience to hear those differences. Horowitz plays with such amazing tone and the reason is that he brings out things in music that other pianists simply don't hear. Classical music provides a unique platform for tone because everyone plays the same notes. Tone is also about phrasing and time. And it's about relaxation. Even when Horowitz plays very loud, he has a beautiful sound because there's no tension when he plays. You'd think that a hammer hitting a string wouldn't respond differently to tense playing, but you'd be wrong. If you have tension, your tone is brittle, whether on piano or guitar.
Ultimately, for me, 100% of tone is in the hands. Someone may choose to play a strat, a P-90 Gibson, a Parker or a nylon string classical guitar. That just is the jumping off point for making music. Tone is only in the equipment in the sense of having an instrument that is mechanically and sonically up to proper standards.
By the way, I was at the Van Cliburn Concerto Competition in 2000 when Lang Lang was the winner. He was 17 and his tone went very downhill after that competition because he started overplaying. His tone was beautiful, but on the small side and playing huge pieces in large halls day after day forced him to get cortisone injections in his arms. I think he's okay now.
I'll be a little less than humble and very proud to say that I won the over 35, amateur section of the Van Cliburn Concerto Competition that same year and got to perform with the Forth Worth Symphony Orchestra. My piano teacher asked me how the girls were compared to rock concerts. I said that I was really glad none of them flashed me :). A 50 year old feels like a teenager in that crowd....
 

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #35 on: August 24, 2012, 11:30:32 PM »
Even though I agree with everything you said (including Buchanan's rubber band playing knocking mine in the dirt), I'm going to be nasty by digressing about how that's another argument that pops up in these types of threads - "Why are we arguing about tone when feeling is what matters?" The argument tends to be that the abstraction of "feeling" is somehow a more-objective standard than the abstraction of "tone." Clapton and Gilmour are often brought up as further-objective examples of "feeling." But the problem in misrepresenting a subjective matter that you favor as an objective one that "can't be denied" is that the argument crumbles if just one person doesn't care for their playing - Once you get used to either Gilmour's soloing tendencies or the sound of the pentatonic or blues scale, his phrasing becomes contrived. Just because he's playing "the notes you want to hear" doesn't mean that he's connecting with angels - It might just be because he's predictable.*

*For the record, I don't agree with any of those criticisms about Gilmour - They are nonetheless valid by merit of whoever might agree with them in this matter of taste.


And what "feeling" are we talking about, anyway? Penis envy? Craving for soup? The reason "tone" and "feeling" caught on as buzzwords is the reason many do: Because they're vague. Vagaries re-purposed as jargon catch on because they allow a person to make claims from what they believe to be a place of ambiguity beyond reproach. "Feeling" is as vague as "something." "Who cares about tone? What matters is feeling" makes just as much (little) literal sense as "Who cares about tone? What matters is something." Or "Who cares about feeling? What matters is tone." On the literal level, It's Mad-Libs logic. And the burden is on anyone reading the claim to infer what the poster might have meant.

Let's say you wake up hungover and find that, last night, you made a serious of posts on several messageboards claiming that a youtube video of a three-legged dog playing slide-guitar is the "most soulful, toneful playing with feeling that I have ever seen; and anyone who disagrees is wrong." The problem is that you have no memory of this, and the dog only plays about as well as Roy Buchanan with a 2x4 with a rubber band on it. But because you're human, you're going to stand your ground on this issue, even though you have no idea what your ground is. Fortunately, the vagueness of the jargon you used allows you to defend your "position", given sufficient ingenuity:

"The dog isn't even plugged in? Tone is in the paws as much as the Pignose, any day. Bro."

"The guitar isn't even in tune, and four strings are broken? Feeling is what matters - Hendrix was often out of tune, brah."

"The dog is just some paralyzed midget some mexican children dressed as a dog and filmed trying to escape while next to a guitar in the street? Um...That just demonstrates your lack of IQ. That's right. I'm quantifying applications of objective knowledge, using this video as my yardstick. Same as Savant did. Schmendrick."

This kind of defense is made possible by the nature of vague jargon: Clarification is the enemy of jargon. Therefore, if anyone tries to pin down what you claimed, and your claim is beginning to look unjustified, the ambiguity you feel is afforded to you by your jargon leaves you room to accuse the other party of being guilty of a crude misunderstanding, rather than engage what may be valid criticisms of your unjustified leaps in logic.


I forget my point, but guitar stinks.

Okay Marc... We may all have vague, subjective definitions of tone and feel. Lets just set aside your penis envy, your craving for soup and your youtube fantasy and I'll ask if you think that responding to our feelings when hearing music has inspired us to play an instrument.
I'm sure we'd differ about the merits of various guitarists, but my point is that no matter who is playing, it's the person, not the equipment that moves us.


 

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #36 on: August 25, 2012, 08:12:57 AM »
Considering I don't always know the person, I'd say that it's the sensation of a certain frequency range of vibrating air molecules and the connotations they inspire in my imagination that I'm responding to. Some of my favorite musicians are pretentious people with a message, though; so there is supplemental material. That's just me being unromantic, though - Hearing music performed by a stranger, on the other hand, and believing it's the person (as you've assumed them to be) moving you is how every stalker gets their start. Nothing wrong with that, unless you're expecting a happy ending.

Do I think that "responding to our feelings when hearing music has inspired us to play an instrument"? If you're asking if I think cognition leads to conscious action, then: No. And my participation is not proof to the contrary!

edit: tone is in the fingers.

Okay.... "I'd say that it's the sensation of a certain frequency range of vibrating air molecules and the connotations they inspire in my imagination that I'm responding to".... I'll buy that... (Not that you've necessarily put it on the market)...
Where does knowing the person factor in? Obviously, when we first start listening to and responding to music, we don't know any of the players.
No, I'm not asking you if I think cognition leads to conscious action. I'm asking not only you, but the forum in general if their choice to play an instrument was based on being inspired/moved by it. What led you to play guitar? Yes, certain people pick up a guitar as a way to meet girls.... blah, blah....
You say that "Hearing music performed by a stranger, on the other hand, and believing it's the person (as you've assumed them to be) moving you is how every stalker gets their start".... Really?  Is this the "being nasty and digressing" part again or are we actually supposed to take this statement seriously. Every stalker, huh... When I hear a poor musician perform the same music and I'm unmoved, the variable is the person, not the music. I too would expect an unhappy ending if every time I heard a musician that I like, I was compelled to stalk them. Of course, expectations of any kind project into the future and being out of the moment won't help anyone's playing.
Getting back to tone and tone production, there are many tried and true physical ways to help musicians achieve tonal facility. In addition to the physical work - harmonic understanding, an understanding of melodic components, use of dynamics, improvisational variations that play with time, phrase length, register, while not placing our fingers on an instrument and making the sound itself, provide pathways for more expansive musical expression.
At least they might improve the odds of playing with better tone...
Singing also helps a great deal....
 

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #37 on: August 25, 2012, 09:03:04 AM »
If you have a point, please make it. 

I personally don't appreciate the tone of your comments, agreed or not.
Billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline sybersitizen

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #38 on: August 25, 2012, 09:21:00 AM »
I'm asking not only you, but the forum in general if their choice to play an instrument was based on being inspired/moved by it. What led you to play guitar?

A good question, but it deserves a new thread. This one seems to have exhausted its usefulness.
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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #39 on: August 25, 2012, 09:52:03 AM »
If you have a point, please make it. 

I personally don't appreciate the tone of your comments, agreed or not.

Sorry Billy... My point, which I state in my initial post is that players create tone, not equipment. When comments evoke Mexican midgets dressing as dogs, it seems to me that we've lost the musical content of our discussion.
 

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #40 on: August 25, 2012, 10:06:19 AM »
Not you Paul, your tone is IMO just fine. Fwiw, I agree with many of your comments.

My comment was directed to Marc.

I don't understand why someone would do the internet equivalent of walking into a room where people are having a discussion, no matter how tired or rhetorical, and then proceed to piss all over the room.

If you think the discussion is pointless or somehow beneath you, then it's probably best for everyone to not particilate and find something more appealing.

Billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #41 on: August 25, 2012, 10:13:01 AM »
Not you Paul, your tone is IMO just fine. Fwiw, I agree with many of your comments.

My comment was directed to Marc.

I don't understand why someone would do the internet equivalent of walking into a room where people are having a discussion, no matter how tired or rhetorical, and then proceed to piss all over the room.

If you think the discussion is pointless or somehow beneath you, then it's probably best for everyone to not particilate and find something more appealing.

Oops... Hang on while I wipe the egg off of my face :).
 

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #42 on: August 25, 2012, 06:07:32 PM »
Youll have to forgive me. 

Im here less often due to a bit more travel these days.  I saw a recent post from a longtime member who's signed off.  Don't always agree but usually an interesting discussion and always friendly.  Couldn't imagine why they would call it quits but it can be easy to find things posted to be more abrasive than probably intended.  Much more fun to chew the fat face to face over a beer, which is usually the way I approach it. 

Anyway, saw this first, breezed over it and then read the other post. 

Came back and read this one deeper and considering the context of the other post found myself a lot more irritated than I would normally get.

So while I feel bad about my reaction, I do think that some of the previous comments were less nice than they could have been.  There's people at different levels and if a rehash helps someone learn, then it's worth it.  I love this forum because it's normally very civil and tolerant.  Hope it stays that way and hope I'm not part of the problem.

Billy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Paul Marossy

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #43 on: August 25, 2012, 07:54:30 PM »
Okay Marc... We may all have vague, subjective definitions of tone and feel. Lets just set aside your penis envy, your craving for soup and your youtube fantasy and I'll ask if you think that responding to our feelings when hearing music has inspired us to play an instrument.
I'm sure we'd differ about the merits of various guitarists, but my point is that no matter who is playing, it's the person, not the equipment that moves us.

Which brings us back to what I said in post #1 of this thread:

"I saw this statement by Blackie Pagano in a book about Fender amps. I agree with this 1000% and couldn't have said it better myself.

'The most common misconception about tone is that its primary source is hardware. Tone comes from the heart of the musician. These tools exist to communicate the the emotion of the musician, so what counts is what is in his heart, his intent and his artistic perspective. A musician has something to say.'


So regardless of whatever someone who is 100% driven by logic and apparently devoid of any feelings, I completely agree with you prjacobs.

Even though I agree with everything you said (including Buchanan's rubber band playing knocking mine in the dirt), I'm going to be nasty by digressing about how that's another argument that pops up in these types of threads - "Why are we arguing about tone when feeling is what matters?" The argument tends to be that the abstraction of "feeling" is somehow a more-objective standard than the abstraction of "tone." Clapton and Gilmour are often brought up as further-objective examples of "feeling." But the problem in misrepresenting a subjective matter that you favor as an objective one that "can't be denied" is that the argument crumbles if just one person doesn't care for their playing

Yeah, I guess people like Stevie Ray Vaughn had no feeling and no passion for the music they were playing, and the resulting tone(s) coming out of their amps had absolutely nothing to do with feeling at all. It must be some other secret ingredient to their "tone" or whatever the heck you want to call it. Or people like Joshua Bell or Itzhak Perlman, they don't play the pieces better and evoke some kind of emotion from the listener because they are not connected and passionate about the music they play, must be something else that has to fit 100% within the confines of "logic". If that's how I approached listening to and playing music, then it would be devoid of anything pleasurable for me. I would just be a robot playing an instrument with everything being only a tone or combination of tones at some certain frequency with no emotional or spiritual component to it all. I would be reduced to a machine and would not resemble a human anymore because the human aspect has now been removed.

Apologies for digressing into a hypothetical, but do you think encouraged education in logic has any hope of reversing this aspect of human nature? It certainly hasn't been tried yet.

I have come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of guitar players:

1. The kind that is driven by their equipment
2. The kind that drives their equipment

That reminds me of these jokes:

There are two types of people in the world: The people who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don't.

There are two types of people in the world: People and non-people.

There are two types of non-people in the world: non-people and people.

There are two kinds of failed guitarists in the world: People who argue about tone, and bass players.

OK, maybe there are some in-betweens, but that's how I see it. And going by your logic, you are putting me into one of two categories of your own making. Apparently I'm the moron who listens to a piece of music that touches the soul and is moved by it, and not the kind of person who just picks it apart a piece of music, and s.u.c.k.s the life out of it by making everything some kind of highly critical scientific/pyschological analysis. I can see that this goes beyond the physical realm and is a spiritual thing designed to irritate me. Well, I'm onto it, so I won't waste my time debating over this any longer.

I can see that in these kinds of discussions it will be an endless game of semantics, but tone is a subjective thing, and it is comprised of many different things that you can't really seperate into individual components as far as I am concerned.

Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline prjacobs

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Re: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #44 on: August 25, 2012, 10:44:28 PM »
If you're really through "debating" the subject with one-sided, anti-intellectual hyperbole you put into other peoples' mouths and then refute as a strawman by appealing to mysticism, then that's a low note to end on. I don't know if you're really leaving like you said you would; but as a non-regular poster, I won't miss what your spiritual authority on the matter apparently empowers you to preach.

As I said; I'm through with this thread, too. But I wanted to respond to that rambling series of provably-false dichotomies addressed to me.

Please explain your idiotic stalking statement...
You smugly imply that an education in logic might reverse what you see as the inferior action of playing music with emotion. This simplistic way of looking at musicians as non participants - empty vessels randomly possessed by some animating creative force and twitching as it come through them is an insult and ignores the countless hours and decades musicians put into developing their body of work into something lasting. Inspiration is the easy part. The hard part is applying the intellect, developing complexity, understanding what the musical core of one's inspirations are. In other words applying your brain. Using logic.
Inspiration has nothing to do with spirituality. It just exists.
I'd be happy to see a demonstration of your musical intellect if you'd care to provide us with a detailed analysis of any musical piece of your choice. You've criticized others for being non specific so please show me that you're a serious, logical musician.  Not just some "feeling" guy...
My apologies to my fellow forum members.....
« Last Edit: August 26, 2012, 07:15:09 AM by prjacobs »