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  1. #1

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    An excellent jazz big band I play in is making a short recording for a few venues that are interested in hiring us for some gigs, so I took out the book on FG to brush up on my FG comping since we're doing some Nestico things.
    The appendix of the book has the most extensive analysis of FG's playing that I've ever read, with research by all the usual FG experts, including one of the posters on this board, Holger Weber, a fine player/composer, detailing FG's one note chord technique.
    We're doing the taping at a club we regularly play in, so it's not a studio situation, so the bass player and keyboard player (there's no piano in the club) are going to use amplification, and we won't be mic'd individually.
    Since FG played in completely acoustic groups, I'm wondering if I should go to the trouble of stringing my '35 D'A with heavy bronze wound strings, raise the action to 1/2 inch, when there are amplified instruments in the rhythm section, which will drown out my acoustic archtop.

    We'll also be playing modern charts, so I can't use the acoustic archtop on those charts. I'd have to use an electric guitar with an amp on those charts. I don't use a pickup on my D'A.

    This brings up the subject of what pro situations, other than what a musician I know calls "Resurrection Concerts", one would use the FG acoustic style in.
    Any thoughts?

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  3. #2

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    I'd be tempted to go Full Freddie and play acoustically...your sound is for the band, anyway. The only thing that would concern me is that modern players don't necessarily play the way the Basie guys did...everything's louder, it seems, especially the drums. Any chance of rehearsing in the actual environment, or at least at concert level volumes?

  4. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    I'd be tempted to go Full Freddie and play acoustically...your sound is for the band, anyway. The only thing that would concern me is that modern players don't necessarily play the way the Basie guys did...everything's louder, it seems, especially the drums. Any chance of rehearsing in the actual environment, or at least at concert level volumes?
    Yeah, everything is so loud. The last time I tried coming down with no amp and just my D'A at a rehearsal, it was a total joke.
    I couldn't hear a note I was playing, the guys in the band couldn't hear a note I was playing, and they just laughed at me.The leader said either bring an amp next time, or GTFOOH!
    I was using .011s at the time, with normal action.
    This time I'll be using heavy gauge Bronze wound strings, with the action up to a half inch, like the book said. FG used to squeeze rubber balls, and use that hand exerciser for his LH all the time. He even used to do a thing where he took eight quarters, and shuffled them around in his LH when he was on the road in the bus, and make a percussive sound that drove everyone crazy. They said he had arms and hands like a steel worker!

  5. #4

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    You'll probably need at least 13's if you're gonna be pure acoustic, and even then could be hard to be heard.
    I've done big band gigs like that really strumming hard and makes you wonder how you can be heard.
    But a snakehead or any other DA can handle heavy gauge, they were built to.
    Those old archtops w scratches on the top next to the strings usually got that way from cats literally almost windmilling to be heard, check out some old non Basie big band videos
    Know you're a veteran pro, but be aware that switching to a super high action w out doing it gradually can cause fatigue, maybe even cramps.

    Just lay on those mid and lower strings of course and be a pulse like FG, if you're heard, you're heard, maybe at least the band will hear it next time.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    You'll probably need at least 13's if you're gonna be pure acoustic, and even then could be hard to be heard.
    I've done big band gigs like that really strumming hard and makes you wonder how you can be heard.
    But a snakehead or any other DA can handle heavy gauge, they were built to.
    Those old archtops w scratches on the top next to the strings usually got that way from cats literally almost windmilling to be heard, check out some old non Basie big band videos
    Know you're a veteran pro, but be aware that switching to a super high action w out doing it gradually can cause fatigue, maybe even cramps.

    Just lay on those mid and lower strings of course and be a pulse like FG, if you're heard, you're heard, maybe at least the band will hear it next time.
    Yeah, thanks for the warning about the cramps, that's one reason why I'm a little worried about trying this.
    I don't know if you've read the book about Freddie, but it explores the fact that FG was actually experimenting with the role of the guitar in a big band, and the concept that he finally arrived at was doing a kind of rhythmic/melodic counterpoint with the bass, which added another layer to what was going on with the band. It was as if he knew what bass lines Walter page was gonna play, and harmonized them with thirds or sixths, the same way Bach would do two-voice counterpoint.
    Frank Wess, and Clark Terry commented on the fact that FG used to play little melodies that complimented what the band was doing.
    FG was way deeper than I thought.

  7. #6

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    The commentary on FG's concept is what always hit me for some reason, there's more to him than meets the..um, ear, and to me what sets him apart from most except cats like Allen Ruess, a FG disciple btw.
    Haven't read the book i'll check it out
    pretty sure you'll figure this out on your own...anyone that did a session sitting next to Billy Butler is ok in my book,...
    Last edited by wintermoon; 01-23-2020 at 01:44 AM.

  8. #7

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    john d'angelicos preferred strings were 80/20 bronze with a hex core...which he helped to develop along with the family that is now - d'addario strings!

    while i applaud your desire for true vintage sound, unless in an actual recording studio, and with amped bass and digi piano...you'd probably have a hard time of it without pickup and amp

    luck

    cheers

  9. #8

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    I played with an old big bandleader/drummer who had actually observed some Basie rehearsals. He said modern drumheads changed everything, the rest of the rhythm section needed to be amplified. He wasn't fond of most electric guitarists for big band, because he thought they played too loud, too muddy with too full chords. He complemented my sound because I was playing rootless 2-3 note chords, and wasn't too loud....on my telecaster.

    I probably have 20 Nestico tunes I get to perform between 2 bands, and Sammy wrote great guitar charts that are a joy to play on electric. Less is more.


  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    I'd be tempted to go Full Freddie and play acoustically...your sound is for the band, anyway. The only thing that would concern me is that modern players don't necessarily play the way the Basie guys did...everything's louder, it seems, especially the drums. Any chance of rehearsing in the actual environment, or at least at concert level volumes?
    Some instrumental technology changes that have occurred over the years
    1) synthetic drum heads instead of hide
    2) steel instead of gut bass strings
    3) improved and larger ride cymbals (ride cymbals didn't even exist at the start of FG's career.)
    4) larger bore trombones
    5) louder saxes! (From Balanced Action to Selmer Mark VI
    6) removal of band shells, risers and other acoustic amplification systems often in place at live music venues

  11. #10

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    Here's another thing I reckon that has changed:

    musicians now have an expectation that they will be able to hear themselves clearly.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    I played with an old big bandleader/drummer who had actually observed some Basie rehearsals. He said modern drumheads changed everything, the rest of the rhythm section needed to be amplified. He wasn't fond of most electric guitarists for big band, because he thought they played too loud, too muddy with too full chords. He complemented my sound because I was playing rootless 2-3 note chords, and wasn't too loud....on my telecaster.

    I probably have 20 Nestico tunes I get to perform between 2 bands, and Sammy wrote great guitar charts that are a joy to play on electric. Less is more.

    Wow, nice to have a bandleader that gets it. The old guys weren't (I think) so specific about getting the exact vintage gear etc (they'd probably regard it as a bit weird), but they knew what they wanted to hear....

    Yeah, biggest enemy of the acoustic guitarist - 21"+ cymbal, and the modern tom.

    I've had the same thing on tele. It's the ensemble rhythm electric guitar par excellence, any style.

    One thing that helps me on an ES175 or other set pickup laminate jazz boxes is to adopt the Herb Ellis pickup screw settings I found out about on this site. That has a significant roll off of the bass strings, as well compensating for the wound G. Obviously Herb played a lot of rhythm over the years.

    (Jazz guitarists - flat wounds always have too much bass, for like, anything. Roll FFS. Your bass player will thank you.)

    But different guitars like different strings. I tried rounds on the 175, and it wasn't putting up with my BS.

    Some of the lively jazz boxes like round wounds. But then you have the bronze string amplification problem too, and that's a whole world of pain.

    What you said reminds me of Chris Flory's story about working with Benny Goodman. Those old guys really gave a **** about the rhythm guitar sound.

    Last edited by christianm77; 01-23-2020 at 08:37 AM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    An excellent jazz big band I play in is making a short recording for a few venues that are interested in hiring us for some gigs, so I took out the book on FG to brush up on my FG comping since we're doing some Nestico things.
    The appendix of the book has the most extensive analysis of FG's playing that I've ever read, with research by all the usual FG experts, including one of the posters on this board, Holger Weber, a fine player/composer, detailing FG's one note chord technique.
    We're doing the taping at a club we regularly play in, so it's not a studio situation, so the bass player and keyboard player (there's no piano in the club) are going to use amplification, and we won't be mic'd individually.
    Since FG played in completely acoustic groups, I'm wondering if I should go to the trouble of stringing my '35 D'A with heavy bronze wound strings, raise the action to 1/2 inch, when there are amplified instruments in the rhythm section, which will drown out my acoustic archtop.

    We'll also be playing modern charts, so I can't use the acoustic archtop on those charts. I'd have to use an electric guitar with an amp on those charts. I don't use a pickup on my D'A.

    This brings up the subject of what pro situations, other than what a musician I know calls "Resurrection Concerts", one would use the FG acoustic style in.
    Any thoughts?
    hey steve. try bronze roundwounds. stick to playing one note counter-lines instead of chords for better projection. tilt your guitar so that the back can vibrate freely. last resort: mike yourself using your amp. (clarus or corus iirc?)

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Some instrumental technology changes that have occurred over the years
    1) synthetic drum heads instead of hide
    2) steel instead of gut bass strings
    3) improved and larger ride cymbals (ride cymbals didn't even exist at the start of FG's career.)
    4) larger bore trombones
    5) louder saxes! (From Balanced Action to Selmer Mark VI
    6) removal of band shells, risers and other acoustic amplification systems often in place at live music venues
    I've been fortunate enough to play some of the older rooms with band shells - HUGE difference: balanced projection at fractional db levels!

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    I played with an old big bandleader/drummer who had actually observed some Basie rehearsals. He said modern drumheads changed everything, the rest of the rhythm section needed to be amplified. He wasn't fond of most electric guitarists for big band, because he thought they played too loud, too muddy with too full chords. He complemented my sound because I was playing rootless 2-3 note chords, and wasn't too loud....on my telecaster.

    I probably have 20 Nestico tunes I get to perform between 2 bands, and Sammy wrote great guitar charts that are a joy to play on electric. Less is more.

    I can't think of a bad Nestico chart. Every note in them is there for a musical reason, and have complete clarity of thought.
    In the FG book, there is an in-depth transcription, and discussion of "Magic Flea", comparing what FG played on the recording to the actual part SN wrote for the guitar.
    On many sections, he doesn't play what is written. He doesn't play the entire introduction! Then he comps 4/4 for the piano solo, but he refuses to comp 4/4 on many of the full ensembles, and plays the same rhythm as the ensemble, even though SN has 4/4 comping on the guitar part.

    The point the author of that appendix of the book is trying to make is that an arranger's guitar part is just a guide for the guitarist; playing it note for note is usually wrong, because the arrangers don't understand what works on the guitar as well as an artist such as FG does.

    A good step in the right direction is people like James Chirillo holding workshops at JALC for bandleaders on how a guitarist should only use their part as a guide, rather than expect them to play the guitar part note-for-note.

    I played in a band where every arr. and/or composition was by the bandleader, and he had NO idea how to write for the guitar. He basically wrote piano parts for the guitar, which were impossible to play at tempo. His previous guitarist told him he didn't know how to write for the guitar, and the leader fired him in the middle of recording one of his records he made with the band.
    I got called in to finish the record, and the leader was happy with what I did with his charts, but I was just playing what was practical, and what blended in with the pianist/leader and the band, not what was written on the page.

    The second album we made was a complete nightmare, because the studio didn't tune the piano (one well-known horn player/arranger on the recording date accused me of being out of tune, but then they checked the isolated piano track, and it sounded like an old bar room piano that hadn't been tuned in years!).
    I had to do the entire album without the pianist/leader, who I always used to play off of, and the results didn't go over too well with the leader.
    It wound up that I had to come in again, and record it with the now TUNED piano playing, on my separate track, all alone in the studio.
    Thankfully, I haven't seen that guy in 30 years...

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    I've been fortunate enough to play some of the older rooms with band shells - HUGE difference: balanced projection at fractional db levels!
    The acoustics of the room is a huge factor in projection of an acoustic guitar.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim
    The acoustics of the room is a huge factor in projection of an acoustic guitar.
    also your own actual positioning in that room

    it's said that when bluesman robert johnson recorded his now legendary tracks, he sat facing the corner of a hotel room...for maximum projection...

    kinda like singing in the stairway or bathroom..that old crazy eddie ad!! haha


    cheers

    ps- agree--james chirillo is a treasure! shame he's not way better known!!