Metalbrain's Log

Why? Because everybody loves a log!

I used to like music, until I discovered metal… Then I loved music. For over 25 years, being a fan was enough, and I didn’t feel the urge to play myself, but watching Youtube I somehow came across Rob Chapman, and from watching his Andertons videos where he’s blindfolded and guess all kind of stuff just by the sound, to one video of his favorite guitars, which included 4 of his own Chapman brand, and I specially loved the sound of 3 of those. I started GASsing (before I knew what GAS means) about Chapman guitars and telling myself they were too good for me, who doesn’t know how to play. From there, the next question was, and what good be a good guitar for me as a beginner?

FIRST GUITAR
So at the tender age of 42, and after a few weeks, with many articles read and many Youtube videos watched… I was looking for a Strat type (my fave design) around 250-300 euros and was about to order myself a Yamaha Pacifica 112V. However, even after adding the mini-amp, a cable, a strap, a gigbag, picks, a stand, an extra set of strings… I didn’t reach the minimum amount to get free shipping to Malta in Thomann. So I decided to check a guitar a bit more expensive, and came across the Ibanez RG421. It wasn’t a Gio model (which got bad reputation), and it was better than the Pacifica (or at least more metal oriented) in several aspects, and a bit worse only in versatility (because of HSS vs HH), so in the end I was convinced and went for it. I placed my order, and 6 days later on 2019-08-29 my adventure began. So here it is:

This is my main guitar, still today, and I love it.

THE AMP
My requirement for the amp was clear: while I’m learning I’m not going to play in a band, just at home, so a small mini amp would be more than enough. Watching this video convinced me that the smallest toy amps were total crap, and the minimum I should opt for would be the Blackstar Fly 3, with the Boss Katana Mini also being a nice choice: Mini Battery Amp Shootout - Do They All Sound Cr&p?!? - YouTube
and shortly after, I found one similar to the Fly 3, but loaded with extra features: the Nu-X Mightly Lite BT. I felt specially attracted to the drum machine feature, even though I ended up not using it (or many other features) most of the time, because I just used some other metronome app in the phone instead, or played along the original tracks. And while the sound isn’t too good, I can say this was more than enough for my needs (heck, for the few first months I mostly played unplugged. I really started to use the amp more often when I started playing power chords, as they do sound better with distortion). Here it is:

GAS
Contrary to what I had expected, even after I received the guitar and I started playing, I had kept watching guitar Youtube videos, and also started thinking about my NEXT guitar, which (if I didn’t abandon the hobby) I’d buy in 1-2 years, probably after I had finished the Begginers course, or maybe also the Intermediate one?.. My first guitar is a hardtail, which in one way is good as a beginner because I won’t get distracted by the whammy bar, forcing me to learn properly, but I knew for sure my second guitar would have a floating bridge, because whammy bars ARE cool. I also got interested in extended range guitars, and was quite disappointed to find out that all those 7, 8, or even more string guitars only extended the range to the low frequencies, when the thing I love the most from metal are the fast solos with lots of high notes (and I’m not so into the djent or more modern core metal styles). I understand now it’s pure physics, because higher frequencies would requiere thinner strings, which would break very easily, but if we can’t get an extra string for higher notes, how else can we extend the range in that direction? Adding more frets!!! So I looked for guitars with more than 24 frets, and found several models by a few brands such as Ibanez, Washburn, LTD… but most of them were discontinued. So it seems like the only way to get a 27 fret (or more) guitar is looking for rare models second hand, or paying a lot for a custom one, or paying a lot for a Caparison. Absolute minimum 2500 euros. Ok… got it, maybe for my third guitar (who knows when).

As I kept progressing through the BC, I was watching less guitar review videos and thinking less and less about that NEXT, then came Black Friday. And that year 2019, Andertons had a really crazy offer. A Signature model from Kreator’s Mille Petrozza (ESP LTD MK-600) had been reduced from 1519/1499 GBP (Black/Green models) to just 599 GBP (around 700-720 euros, according to currency rates back then). That’s 920 (or 900 for the green model) less pounds. A 60% discount. A lot of guitar, signature with the expensive Fishman Fluence pickups, a good floating bridge and killer V looks. The very same guitar costed at the time around 1300 euros in Thomann. I think Andertons had overestimated the popularity of Mille Petrozza and had made a big order some previous year, which they wanted to clear from their storage after not selling them for a long time. It’s the only explanation I have, because the number of available units (when I first checked) was of 7 for the Green model and over 12 for the Black one, and it took them around a week to sell them all. I was extremely tempted, as it ticked a lot of boxes for my second guitar, and I thought I could just not play it until I had progressed more, and even resell (with a potential small profit) if it didn’t convince me. In the end I decided it would be too troublesome to resell it, and that for sure (with not even 3 months of playing under my belt) I didn’t need it, so what am I thinking about getting such a nice guitar, and there will be new Black Friday offers next year (that’s what I thought back then, but Andertons Black Friday offers from 2020 and 2021, while being decent, didn’t have this kind of crazy offer, or anything remotely similar).


Almost mine, but in the end I didn’t take the bait.

SECOND GUITAR
Fast forward a month, and I was tempted again. This time it was one of the discontinued 27-fret old models that I had investigated a pair of months before, the Ibanez Xiphos XPT700XH. Rare, discontinued, but… A new guitar, no previous owner, and only 799 euros, not 2500. They don’t seem to send to Malta, but it’s from a spanish shop, from my old city, where my parents and most of my family still live, and where I’m going to be next week visiting for Christmas. So when I was there I went to the shop one morning, asked about the guitar and it turns out the owner of the shop had bought some cheap Ibanez stock from a distributor that had bankrupted, and it included 6 or 7 of that old model, out of which they had recently sent one to Poland and there was just one remaining. I tried it, the neck was almost the same as the one in my main guitar, so I had no problems with it, and was surprised to see it was one of the earliest ones, from 2009 (this model had been produced between 2009-2014). In any case, this time I decided to buy it, because even if I’ve been playing for less than 4 months, if I hadn’t done it I know for sure I would have obsessed over it, and after (if) someone else bought it, I’d regret it. They told me they could send it to Malta, but they’d have to check the shipping prices, and they had to make a final adjustment, and leave the strings loose so they don’t snap during the flight. So when I got back to Malta, made the order, waited for them to send me the complete bill including shipping, paid, waited… And the guitar finally arrived. Here it is:

Oh, that’s just the hardcase. Let’s take it out:

Anyway, as it arrived, the state wasn’t good at all. It didn’t just have loose strings for the flight, after I tensed the strings and tuned the guitar, the action had been adjusted way too low and there was a lot of fret buzz. When I tried to fix it, the low E string snapped and I wasn’t sure if it was broken and needed replacement or it could be put back. I did replace the string, and trying to adjust the action with the rod I only made things worse, and ended up taking the guitar to a local shop in Malta to be adjusted. After a week, when I came to the shop and tried the guitar, there was still a bit of fuzz, but they told me it wouldn’t be noticeable though the amp, and after trying it with a bit amp in the shop I ended up taking it home because I really wanted to play it once and for all, but I think I should have told them to remove all buzz (as back then I was still playing mostly unplugged), but anyway, at home I could lift the string height a bit and now there’s almost no fret buzz. But it wasn’t a good start for my relation with the guitar, and compared to my main one, this one is a bit more uncomfortable, so I just take it out once every one or two months. And a disadvantage of getting this older cheap model is that the bridge is one of the worst floating bridges in the market, the Edge III. That’s something I didn’t take into consideration but since I don’t use the whammy bar too much, I haven’t had any problems so far, and I can replace the bridge in the future with a better one if I consider it necessary.

I find it interesting that even though everybody recommends going to a shop and trying a guitar over buying online, I was very lucky with the guitar I bought online and not so much with the one I did test in person before buying. Anyway, I’m still expecting I will start using this guitar more once I start playing standing up, and when I learn songs requiring the use of the bar. And even though I don’t use it too much (yet), I’m not planning to sell it. For once, it’s rare enough to be very hard to replace with something similar (or better), and on the other, what this guitar is being very useful is in cancelling my GAS. I feel guilty for not really using the guitar, which means I have one more guitar than what I really need, so if the GAS formula means that if I have N guitars, then I want to have N+1, in my case the guiltyness is adding a -1 to that formula, so I’m fine as I am. Even though I have only played my two Ibanez and feel curious about how the classic shapes feel (such as Strato, Tele, SG and LP with their shorter scales), or how the single coils, P-90s or active pickups sound, I don’t feel like buying more electric guitars. This might change once I start using the Xiphos more often, but for the moment I’m totally fine.

NOT A GUITAR
However, GAS never rests, and if it’s not electric guitars… there are other instruments. I was always finishing my playing around 0:00, but didn’t get to sleep immediately, so I started to thing about getting a keyboard, which can be played silently, and after some checking, I ended up getting this Yamaha PSR-463:

For a few months I was playing every night, but then the interest waned… I can play a little bit now, including some parts of a pair of songs, but I haven’t played it for the last several months. Will I restart playing it in the future? Who knows…

NOT MY GUITAR
And here’s a third guitar which is not really mine, but it’s the one I play when I’m back in Spain at my parents home. As you can see in the picture, it’s a spanish classic guitar with nylon strings, made by Alhambra (the model is simply “Iberia”, and I can’t find any futher info in the web):

It used to belong to one of my brothers, who used it for around a week before he got tired of it, and twenty something years later, once I came out as guitarrist to my family (because I kept it secret for over a year, in case I didn’t persevere), they took it out again for me, and when I tried it I had to spend a long time tensing the strings, which had become very loose. I managed to tune the guitar and played it a bit (the sound was bad, but it did sound). Later that night while we were having dinner (and the guitar was untouched by anyone), a string suddenly snapped, and the rest followed one by one a few seconds later. I bought new string for it the next day, and since then it’s been fine. Quite different from my electrics, with the much wider neck, but after a short time with it I can play it fine, in the same way that my fingers would adapt to the mini keyboard of a small laptop.

FIRST PEDAL
Since my family knew about my new hobby, I could start asking for guitar related Christmas gifts, and since those Christmas gifts have a cap on their value, I thought a pedal (my first!) would be nice. So I got this wah pedal:

And even though there’s one song I’m learning where I can put it to good use, to be honest I’ve just used it one day (the day I unwrapped the gift and tested it). Turns out I’m not much of a pedal guy, I guess.

A NEW AMP
So now we’re into 2021, I’m using the amp more and more, and I’m lusting for an upgrade to a Yamaha THR amp, because: they have excellent sound (much better than my current NU-X), can be used as recording interface (so no need for a separate Focusrite Scarlett or anything similar if I want to record the sound from the Amp to the PC), and they have a bass mode for my future bass (which I didn’t have back then, but I was planning to buy in 2022). So I went to a shop, asked for it to be tested with both guitar and bass (I couldn’t test it myself because of COVID measures), was convinced and took it home. The model is the THR10II (I don’t need wireless, and 30W is way too much for my needs). Picture:

TWO MORE PEDALS
Just like the previous years, I decided to go for a pedal as my christmas 2021 gift. I was looking for a Fuzz (as I thought it could be nice for some Black Sabbath songs), and when I found one that sounded nice to my ears, it was so cheap that I decided to also ask for an even cheaper distortion pedal (I already have distortion in the amp, but being able to switch between clean/distorded without touching the amp is nice to have), so these are my pedals 2 and 3, which I don’t use too often, but way more than the wah one.

Pedals_2_3 - TC Electronic HoneyPot + Behringer UM300

FINALLY, THE BASS
This year 2022, I had a plan of making a trip to Thomann (as a part of some vacation trip to Germany, as it would be too much to pay for the flights and accommodation just to visit a shop), and once there I would try lots of bases (I had compiled a list of around 20 different ones, including many Harley Bentons, and also some from Ibanez, Yamaha, Sterling, Sire, Cort…), and after briefly checking which ones were the most comfortable, I’d try the best ones more deeply for sound, so I would pick the perfect first bass for me. Then I’d also try acoustic guitars (and probably buy my first acoustic together with the bass), and try many electric guitars too (those I said I feel curious about), probably not to buy them, but to choose which would be my next electric guitar to be bought another year. I wanted to do this around March/April, but I didn’t want to go to Germany until the COVID situation got better. The problem was, the COVID got better in basically all of Europe, except for Germany. Their numbers of daily new cases found very rarely dropped below 100000, so I kept delaying the trip… until I saw this:

And since I had already seen rising prices in Thomann for many months already, with their prices for some brands such as Yamaha being higher than what I could get locally I decided, f*ck it, there won’t be a Thomann trip. I’m just buying it here and now. And the next day I decided to go to Olimpus, the biggest music shop in Malta, where they only bring basses from Yamaha and Ibanez, and decided to test and try two of the models I had in my list: Yamaha TRBX 504 and Ibanez SR300E. I found both to be quite comfortable, the Ibanez one was cheaper, prettier and lighter, but its sound was quite meh (I thought the Yamaha had more variation when switching from between pickups), and I valued that the Yamaha could work on passive mode (to avoid depending on batteries), . So this one came home with me:

A pair of months later, the very same bass I bought is already 10 euros more expensive at that shop after they replenished their stock a bit. Now I’m alternating between bass and guitar, sometimes playing both, and when I’m shorter on time, just one of them, but I’d say it’s about 60% guitar, 40% bass.

And that’s all about my gear (and GAS) so far. Here’s a final picture with all my current instruments:

But what about learning how to play? For that, I’ll recycle my big post from the older forum:

I’ve been doing Justin’s BC (the classic one, not the newest) since the first day I got my guitar, and therefore most of my songs were those that could be found in the different stages in lessons called “Easy Songs for Stage X”.

Usually, I only knew a few songs (which I liked) from each list, while others were classics I had heard often but didn’t know the name of the artist and/or song, and many others were completely unknown to me (this includes songs by very famous bands (such as Oasis or The Arctic Monkeys), since I don’t usually listen to commercial music). Also, any song with a capo I discarded, since I didn’t have one.

For the first 3 stages the songs I practiced the most were those that had a promotional video for the mobile app (guitaraokes), so I played a lot of:
The Mavericks - Dance the Night Away
Edwyn Collins - A Girl Like you
John Denver - Take me Home, Country Roads

but I also checked many other songs from the lists, and played along several of them, such as:
The Troggs - Wild Thing
The Kingsmen - Louie Louie
The Arctic Monkeys - 505
The Beatles - Yellow Submarine

Starting from stage 4 there was no guitaraoke, so I just checked several songs, and played a bit of the ones I liked the most, although for some stages (such as 5), none of them really convinced me. As an example, for stage 4, I played mostly:
U2 - One
Oasis - Live Forever

shortly before I got into stage 6, I bought a capo, and went back a pair of stages to check songs I had discarded, so I played:
4 Non Blondes - What’s Up
Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly With His Song

I think it was this last song were I first heard about the old faithful strumming pattern (D DU UD), and that the first song that came to my mind was Antichrisis - Forever I Ride , and looking for that song I discovered chordify.net , which (while not perfect) became an alternate source of guitaraokes. The song I used the most to solidify my F chord in stage 6 was Scorpions - Wind of Change, thanks to the chordify version.

From the rest of the stages I kept checking most songs, discarding those which seemed way too difficult (usually most songs for a certain stage include something extra, which helps you learn something new, but sometimes I consider this new thing to be too advanced for the stage, such as the B flat chord in stage 7 for Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love), and playing the ones I liked the most.

After I finished stage 9, I had to choose 10 songs as my consolidation songs, and I decided to skip the first 2 stages because those songs were too simple, and the final songs I chose (thinking about incorporating most concepts covered in the course) were:

Stage 3: 4 Non Blondes - What’s up
Even though the chords are very simple (like most songs of the first 3 stages), I chose this one because I like it and also because of the strumming pattern. When had I first practiced this song, I used the simple 4 downstrokes. Then I tried D-DUD-DU instead of just D-D-D-D-, which was a bit better, but I couldn’t really do the real pattern which is explained in the second half of the video. So when I went back to learn the song properly for the consolidation, being more experienced, I tried it again, and it still didn’t properly match the song… until I realized I had to double the speed and play the whole D-DUD-DUDUDU-UDU pattern for each chord in the time I had been playing D-D-D-D- , and not do D-DUD-DU for the G, then DUDU-UDU for the Am, and so on. This is something which Justin doesn’t mention in the video, and it makes all the difference, because doing it that way the rhythm fits perfectly and now it’s impossible for me to play it in any other way.

Stage 4: Roberta Flack - Killing me Softly with his Song
A song which I originally didn’t know, and despite not being my style, I love it. I also chose it because it has a large collection of chords including G7, and also the original song is played with piano, which I found a bit harder to get in sync with. I had learned it quite well when I first played it, and when I went back to it for consolidation, it took me almost no time to nail it again.

Stage 5: Bill Haley & His Comets - Rock Around the Clock
I chose this because it’s fast, uses the A7, D7 and E7 chords in a simplied 12 bar blues, and has rock stops. Even though I didn’t spend much time when I first did stage 5, it didn’t take me much to play it both with normal dominant chords and doing the chunka style.

Stage 6: Scorpions - Wind of Change (Not from Justin lessons)
As mentioned earlier, this was the song I used the most to practice the F chord. Initially I had been playing the guitaraoke version from chordify, but for consolidation I decided I needed to learn to play it by memory, and I used the studio album version instead of the video one (they’re very similar, the only change is the chorus is repeated the 2nd and 3rd time).

Stage 6: Mike Oldfield - Moonlight Shadow
I chose this one because it uses a capo on fret 4, which makes the chord position a bit different, and has some fast strumming in the chorus which can be a bit challenging. For consolidation, I decided to learn how to play the intro, since I had successfully learned Black Night by Deep Purple in stage 9, so it didn’t seem impossible. After I learned the intro I spent quite a bit of time getting it up to the real speed, which I managed after I decided to do a mini-arpeggio in two notes which I was having the most difficulty with. This intro is a riff (or mini solo) which trained me specially using fingers 2 and 4 in the left while picking notes.

Stage 6(8,9): The Animals - House of the Rising Sun
I had found a chordify version of this song when I was doing stage 6, but I didn’t really like it. But when I learned fingerstyle in later stages, it was recommended in stage 8 to go back to this song, and I did. I love the sound with the proper notes being picked and doing the arpeggios, so for consolidation I played this song both in fingerstyle and using a pick (left hand is the same, but right is quite different).

Stage 7: U2 - All I want is you
I chose this song to practice both the chords with sus, and palm muting. I think I had first played the simplified sus chords when I practiced it in stage 7, and did the proper real ones for consolidation.

Stage 8: The Offspring - Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)
This is the song I chose to practice my power chords. I had first tried it in stage 8, and found the chorus to be quite hard. I spent almost a month to learn it properly (together with the rest of the song) for the consolidation.

Stage 9: Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
I chose this song to practice the slash chord D/F#, and it has a complex pattern which can be played either with pick or using fingerstyle, so once again I decided to learn both. It also teaches bending for the mini-solo, and it even encouraged me to try doing some transcribing of those mini-solos not explained by Justin in his video.

Stage 9 (bonus): Deep Purple - Black Night
This is the first song I practiced for stage 9 (because being a metalhead, it was my absolute favorite out of all the songs suggested), and it teaches a lot: a complex riff picking strings and using mostly fingers 1 and 3, slides, hammer ons, and even a bit of a power chord.

After this, before I considered the BC as finished, I decided to consolidate one more song, because as someone in the forum says: “learn songs, learn songs, learn songs”, and 10 is the minimum, there’s no upper limit, so I went with:

Stage 8: Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
I had passed over this when I was in stage 8 because I didn’t really like the song, but watching the lesson this is interesting because it teaches fingerstyle chords, so it cannot be played both with and without pick as the previous songs I learned doing both.

After consolidation, I’ve started doing the IC, but I’m not following it as closely as I did the classic BC (and there are much fewer songs listed on each stage), so I’m currently a bit stuck in stage 2 of IM, learning other songs (apart from revisiting some from the BC). For the IC I’ve been working on:
The White Stripes - In the Cold, Cold Night
Radiohead - Creep
Jack Johnson - Sitting Waiting Wishing

and from BC:
Twisted Sister - We’re Not Gonna Take it (including the solo, which is not on Justin’s lesson)

Also, on my own, I’ve been working on this:
Bruce Dickinson - Tears of the Dragon (just the first riff, but I managed to do it)
Gary Moore - Over the Hills and Far Away (just the intro, but it’s too fast for me)
Judas Priest - Breaking the Law (just the intro for now, I need to take on the verse)
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (currently stuck in the bridge section 4:35-5:20, it’s hard to get up to 100% speed)
Paradise Lost - As I Die (whole song, lead part. Seems doable)

and lately I started to try a certain riff from Dark Tranquillity - Away Delight Away, but I play it much slower than the real song. I think it’s way over my level, so I must leave it aside for the moment.

I wrote this post in February 2021, 1 year and 4 months ago. During the Intermediate course, I had started to combine the course with some external songs, and over time, those external songs took more and more time over Justin’s course, until I basically dropped it, and only did songs. And even though I’ve learned and improved during this time (I know I’m faster now than what I used to be, can do more things, and what used to seem impossible now it seems very difficult, but doable with enough practice), I have this feeling of not having improved enough for the time spent.

So I’ve decided to go back to Justin, starting from the new versions of the courses, skipping the easier parts that I can totally do, learning the new parts that weren’t included in the old BC, reviewing the stuff I haven’t practiced, learning a few new songs and relearning those I’ve forgotten (or those that have an improved lesson, such as Pretty Fly (for a White Guy), which is now better with those slides and all). All while I keep practicing the songs I’ve been learning on my own.

I’ll also try to get record myself more often, and post some recordings in the AVOYP section, but the level is sometimes so high that I feel ashamed of my own playing, and won’t be happy with a recording unless it’s perfect… And I keep screwing up while recording myself.

Anyway, if you’ve read all of this so far, congratulations. I’ll keep posting my progress here once in a while.

5 Likes

I’ve loved the tour you’ve given us Jaime, not only of your gear and your progress, but the way your brain works.

Beware of this kind of thinking though, the search for perfection can be a prison that keeps you trapped for life, never to be seen or heard.

Thanks for sharing your log, Jaime. Man, do I love that wood Ibanez! Looks so good.

The more the merrier, just post! It’s not meant to be perfect, just a sharing of where you’re at and the feedback is great, you can learn so much. Screwing up while recording is normal, I do the same! I figure recording more is the cure to red light fever.

Jaime, what a great story, wonderfully told plus pictures.

As the others have said, record and share without feeling the need for perfection or achieving a particular play-grade. In addition to what others said, we are also often our own worst critics, and you will benefit from both feedback and encouragement through sharing.

And when all that is said and done … I want to hear you rocking those axes!