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    Ah, memories.

    We've glanced at the albums that defined 1984. Then we checked in with 50 albums that characterized 1994, followed by the big discs of a decade ago, 2004.

    Now it's 1974's turn!

    Seventy-four was one of rock's oddest years. It was a transition year that saw a moment of respite for its biggest names.

    Into the void debuted some new names, ones that would come to grow and stake their own place in rock's map. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who did not release new material, while the Rolling Stones, though still strong, had begun to show cracks after their beast mode period of '68 to '72.

    In the place of these vacancies, some new bands emerged. Kiss and Rush released their self-titled debut albums, giving the world just a glimmer of the talent that would take them to platinum sales and worldwide fame. A British band called Queen released their second and third albums and experienced growing success in their native land and in the U.S. An American band called Aerosmith began their own rise, with their idiosyncratic take on the Rolling Stones' loose, blues-rock style.

    A few solo stars took their music in strange, new directions. David Bowie took his glam-rock to more political directions with Diamond Dogs. Neil Young, reeling from a traumatic breakup, released his hazy, depressive masterpiece, On the Beach. Bob Dylan returned from another hiatus, found the Band again and released the ragged, accessible Planet Waves.

    It was a strange year for rock, but one that would help set the course of the genre for years to come.

    Here are 60 albums that define 1974! Enjoy! (P.S.: There might actually be 61 albums in the gallery. Hope you don't mind).

    NOTE: As we say every year, this list is presented in no particular order. Once again, it is presented in no particular order. None.

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    Here's a brand-new edition of Betcha Can't Play This featuring Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, who visited Guitar World HQ just last month.

    Try your hand at her new "Descending Legato Lick" below!

    As with the other new-for-2014-and-2015 "Betcha Can't Play This" videos, this is an expanded version of the usually brief "Betcha" videos on GuitarWorld.com.

    Also, note that there are no tabs, since Strauss explains key left- and right-hand techniques in the clip.

    For other recent Betcha Can't Play This columns, check out Betcha Can't Play This: Guitarist Ethan Brosh Lays Down the Challenge and Betcha Can't Play This: Diminished Madness with Guitarist Ethan Brosh.

    As always, good luck! We have more on the way!

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    Each fall, Reverend Guitars takes one of its models and turns up the volume a bit to make a limited-edition machine.

    This year, the company chose the Charger 290. The model will be released in three colors: Metallic Alpine Green, Metallic Red and Lakeshore Gold, all with cream pickguards and cream pickup covers.

    Each has a Bigsby B-50 that’s been loaded with Reverend’s own soft-touch spring. Every Charger 290 LE comes with an exclusive Souldier Strap that matches each color with each company’s logo on the ends. There are only 14 of each color available, in honor of 2014.

    The Reverend Charger 290 has a great vintage tone that’s better than you remember. Loaded with Reverend’s CP90s, this model is fantastic for clean and distorted tones — twangy enough for country but thick enough for rock.

    Like all Reverends, the Charger 290 has a Korina body and three-piece neck, a graphite nut and locking tuners, Reverend’s Bass Contour Control, and a dual-action truss rod — all for maximum performance.

    You can't be different if you're playing what everyone else is playing. Visit reverendguitars.com.

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    GuitarWorld.com's latest readers poll—the first annual Jim Dunlop Effect Pedal Throwdown—has reached Round 2!

    For the past month, we've been pitting Dunlop, MXR and Way Huge pedals against each other in a no-holds-barred shootout. Now the competition is guaranteed to get even tougher.

    Therefore, we're pulling out all the stomps! Sixteen stompboxes will go head to head — or toe to toe, if you prefer — leading up to the king of Dunlop/MXR/Way Huge pedals.

    You can check out the current bracket — with all 32 competing pedals that starting things off in Round 1 — in the Scribd.com window below (Be sure to click on the "full screen" button in the lower-right-hand corner to expand the bracket).

    The bracket is updated after (almost) every matchup, and matchups will take place pretty much every day, excluding weekends. Each competing pedal will accompanied by a demo video created by the Jim Dunlop company, and you'll always find a photo gallery of the competing pedals at the bottom of each matchup.

    Today's Matchup

    In today's matchup, the MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion goes foot to foot against the MXR M104 Distortion+. Start voting below!

    YESTERDAY'S RESULTS: Yesterday, the Way Huge WHE 101 Angry Troll Boost (55.15 percent) destroyed the Dunlop FFM1 Fuzz Face Mini Silicon (44.85 percent) to advance to the next round! To see all the matchups that have taken place so far, head HERE. Thanks for voting!

    Meet the Combatants

    MXR Super Badass Distortion

    Designed by the award-winning MXR Custom Badass team, the Super Badass Distortion puts decades of 100 percent analog distortion at your feet. With its highly responsive Distortion control, the Super Badass covers a full spectrum, from early Seventies low gain overdrive to modern “scooped” metal distortion and every shade of dirt in between.

    Once you’ve dialed in your desired amount of crunch, you can use the Bass, Mid and Treble controls to finely sculpt your sound.

    MXR M104 Distortion+

    This little yellow box is responsible for those great distortion sounds heard on so many classic recordings. Set the Distortion control low and crank the Output knob to drive the front end of your amp for cool blues tones, or max out the Distortion knob for classic early ’80s hard rock tone. There still isn't any distortion unit on the market that sounds like the Distortion+.

    "When I was 15, I first arrived at my potential sound with an MXR Distortion+, a Memphis LP copy and a Fender Princeton amp."— Slash

    Vote Now!

    iPhone 5S Sheet1

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    Today, GuitarWorld.com presents the exclusive premiere of "High Like a Hurricane" the new "in the studio" music video by Black Light White Light.

    The song is from the Danish trio's latest album, Gold Into Dreams, which was released in the U.S. October 14. It will be available physically in the U.S. January 13.

    At the core of Black Light White Light is singer/guitarist Martin Ejlersten, and the band is rounded out by brothers Adam and Tobias Winberg on drums and bass respectively.

    “When we recorded Gold Into Dreams, we planned a photo session to start one of the days," Ejlersten said. "We wanted to invite interested people of any kind with us in the studio by capturing the band in the recording process, taking some great shots from a pro photographer.

    "We then decided to shoot a video as well. It wasn’t really planned and that’s why the video has a kind of raw freshness to it. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining. You can sense how spring light is thrown through the windows in the roof down in the magnificent live room of the studio. Since it was morning and the light was really bright, it seemed natural to play with sunglasses if anyone should wonder.

    "‘High Like a Hurricane’ was such a strong track already at this early stage of recording, so it seemed natural to shoot the video for this song to become our first single for the new album.”

    In conjunction with its physical and digital release, the band has released the album as a “Gold Digger” fuzz guitar pedal. Designed by M&E with Ejlersten and pedal maker Dave Adkins from LooperStar, this one-of-a-kind pedal includes a USB socket and cable to download Gold Into Dreams.

    For more about Black Light White Light, visit blacklightwhitelight.com. For more about the new fuzz pedal, check out the bottom video. To preorder the album, head here.

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    Today, GuitarWorld.com presents the premiere of "Soul In Motion," a new song by guitarist Mike Cerna.

    The track is from Starbound, Cerna’s instrumental guitar debut. The new release features homages to instrumental genres of yesterday and today.

    Accompanied by Craig J. Martinez (drums), Marc Malitz (bass) and featuring a guest solo by shredder Michael Angelo Batio, the album is a return to classic instrumental guitar. The diverse material was inspired by the 20-plus years Cerna has performed around the Chicago area.

    Unique songwriting, inspiring performances, artwork by artist Kelly Messer and production by Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound make for an exciting release!

    For more about Cerna, visit michaelcerna.com.

    Additional Content

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    In this lesson, I’ll be demonstrating one of the best ways to transition up and down the neck on the fly.

    I frequently utilize this technique because it’s easy to play fast and expand into many complex riffs and ideas.

    The premise of this lesson is based on visualizing the pentatonic scale on one string and expanding it into two-, three- or four-note patterns using adjacent strings.

    Let’s start with its most basic form in EXAMPLE 1.

    EXAMPLE 1 is based on a descending D minor pentatonic scale on the B string. I play a pattern off of every note in the scale—two frets higher on the E string. Then I use my first finger to slide on the B string to the next note in the D minor pentatonic scale. This creates a cascading effect and keeps the fingering very simple. To complete this example, I add a pattern off the Bb on the 11th fret to give it some more color. Be sure to memorize this scale pattern before moving on the next examples.

    For EXAMPLE 2, I play the same pattern and scale, but in a different sequence. This time, the sequence is down two notes in the scale followed by one note up in the scale. This adds to the cascading sound of this technique and creates a great effect with minimal effort from your left hand.

    EXAMPLE 3 is nearly identical to EXAMPLE 2, just moved to the D and G strings. Be sure to use the same fingering as the prior examples. Once you have this example down, try moving it down two frets to the E and A strings.

    EXAMPLE 4 is where things start to get interesting. For this example, utilize the pattern EXAMPLE 2, but double up the highest note of every pattern with its lower octave on the G string. This creates a three-note sweep pattern. The trick to keeping this simple is only thinking about the note you’re playing on the B string. Stick to the original scale pattern and you’ll have this lick down in no time.

    Moving on to our final example, EXAMPLE 5 takes this concept a step further and expands it into a four-note sweep pattern. This is accomplished by doubling up both notes of our original pattern with their lower octaves on the D and G strings. To take this lick to another level, really try to accentuate the slides between positions. By accenting the slides, it will sound cleaner and more modern.

    This one string scale approach can be used in all types of musical contexts. I tend to use it in solos, but I’ve found it works just as well on the lower strings for writing riffs. I hope these licks spark some creative ideas for you and open some new doors in your playing. Keep shredding! Cheers!

    Final Sliding Lesson.jpg

    Sammy Boller is the guitarist for the Detroit rock band Citizen Zero. They’re touring and recording their first full-length album with Al Sutton and Marlon Young (Kid Rock, Bob Seger, Uncle Kracker). In 2012, Boller was selected by Joe Satriani as a winner of Guitar Center’s Master Satriani competition. He studied music at the University of Michigan. For more about Boller, or to ask him a question, write to him at info@sammyboller.com or follow him on Twitter.

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    It seems a bit of super-early Metallica—audio, at least—has turned up on the interwebs.

    It's a recording of the band performing December 18, 1983, at Cleveland's Agora—almost a year away from Ride the Lightning.


    The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone)
    Hit the Lights
    The Four Horsemen
    Jump in the Fire
    Fight Fire With Fire
    Ride the Lightning
    Phantom Lord
    The Call of Ktulu (Early version called "When Hell Freezes Over")
    No Remorse
    Seek & Destroy
    (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth

    Creeping Death
    (Guitar Solo)
    Metal Militia

    Additional Content

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    In the video below, Steel Panther's Satchel discusses some of his influences, plays a few of his favorite riffs (including a fair amount of AC/DC) and, most importantly, demos the Yamaha THR10X guitar amp.

    Check it out below and tell us what you think of the amp in the comments or on Facebook!

    For more about Yamaha's THR series, visit yamaha.com/thr/.

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    Celebrated soulful ensemble JJ Grey & Mofro will release their newest recording Ol’ Glory on March 3rd.

    This album marks their debut on Provogue Records, which is part of the Mascot Label Group. Ol’ Glory contains 12 new songs that feature the deep, soulful blend of blues, rock, folk, funk, gospel, gritty R&B and personal, Southern-inspired narratives that have become synonymous with JJ Grey & Mofro.

    A true Southern renaissance man, JJ Grey’s intensely charismatic live performances, combined with the incredible musicianship of Mofro, have connected with audiences all over the world. Their work has been praised by the press, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Relix, The Oxford American and many more.

    The material on Ol' Glory reflects two themes that run through JJ Grey & Mofro’s entire body of work, a strong sense of place, and finding happiness with where you are in life. The opening track, "Everything Is A Song" is prime example, as is the joyous "Every Minute" with its mantra "loving every minute of living."

    "Home in the Sky" allows listeners a glimpse at Grey's spirituality strongly rooted in his Florida home and the land he grew up on. JJ Grey is a natural storyteller with a gift for delivering thoughtful and profound messages in a down-to-earth, laid-back way, while maintaining a level of intensity that goes straight to your core.

    Ol' Glory was recorded at Retrophonics Studio in Saint Augustine, FL, where Grey has tracked many times. An avid surfer, Grey often spent the mornings at the beach and the afternoons recording, a formula that has proven very effective in creating inspired recordings.

    Ol' Glory showcases the strength of Mofro members Anthony Cole (drums and percussion), Andrew Trube (guitar), Anthony Farrell (piano/organ), Todd Smallie (bass) and Dennis Marion (trumpet) and Jeff Dazey (saxophone). Special guests include Luther Dickinson on dobro and electric slide guitar and Derek Trucks on electric slide guitar.

    JJ Grey & Mofro have captivated audiences at some of the largest festivals world wide, including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits Festival, Glastonbury, North Sea Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival and Fuji Rock in Japan. The band, who play over 120 dates per year, will be hitting the road in February in support of Ol' Glory, including a trip to Europe and Australia. (See list of tour dates below.)

    JJ Grey is as genuine as they come, a do-it-yourselfer who is committed to making music that's true to his heritage and full of integrity. In this day and age, that's a rare thing.


    2/14 - Jannus Landing – St. Petersburg, FL
    2/15 - The Moon – Tallahassee, FL
    2/18 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
    2/19 - The Egg - Albany, NY
    2/20 - House of Blues - Boston, MA
    2/21 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY
    2/25 - Mr. Smalls - Pittsburgh, PA
    2/26 - Vogue - Indianapolis, IN
    2/27 - Taft Theatre - Cincinnati, OH
    2/28 - The Vic - Chicago, IL
    3/01 - Intersection - Grand Rapids, MI
    3/04 - Jefferson - Charlottesville, VA
    3/05 - Ziggy's - Winston-Salem, NC
    3/06 - Track 29 - Chattanooga, TN
    3/07 - Buckhead - Atlanta, GA
    3/18 - Islington Academy - London, England
    3/19 - New Morning - Paris, France
    3/20 - Kaufleuten Zurich - Zurich, Switzerland
    3/21 - Technik Museum - Munich, Germany
    3/23 - Batschkapp - Frankfurt, Germany
    3/24 - Kesselhaus - Berlin, Germany
    3/25 - Bluestage - Nuremberg, Germany
    3/26 - Rockpalast Crossroads Festival - Bonn, Germany
    3/27 - Paradiso Main Hall - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    3/28 - Paard van Troje (Main Hall) - Den Haag, The Netherlands
    4/2 – 6 Byron Bay Bluesfest - Byron Bay, Australia

    More at www.JJGrey.com

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    Longtime Billy Idol collaborator Steve Stevens and Knaggs Guitars have announced the Steve Stevens Signature model SS2.

    Tailored to Stevens’ specs and preferences, it will accompany the guitarist on Idol’s 2015 world tour.

    Limited to 100 instruments in three colors (Red Sparkle, Cream and Black), the SS2 features a mahogany body with carved maple top, custom SS neck carve, rosewood finger board with mother of pearl inlays, Ray gun head stock inlay and Signature Bare Knuckle pickups with engraved Ray guns not available in any other guitar.

    Each instrument comes with an exclusive Certificate outlining specs and serial-number (1-100) and will be hand signed by Stevens and team Knaggs. A black form-fit case completes this limited-run offering.

    “I believe there is a soul and energy to a guitar well beyond the materials used," Stevens said. "There is musical karma. My over-30-year friendship with Peter Wolf laid the basis of building the guitar of my dreams. I then put that dream into the hands of Joe Knaggs, who I feel is the absolute best guitar builder/designer out there today. The fact that my guitar is available to the public is extremely cool, but honestly I’d play this instrument no matter whose name was on it. It truly is magic.”

    Joe Knaggs added: ”It is always an honor and inspiration to be working with Steve and I’m proud of what we have created together."

    Sales of Stevens’ Signature models will help MusiCares, a charity he has been supporting. "We wanted to give back some of the proceeds of my Signature guitar and MusiCares immediately came to mind. I’ve personally seen them help so many gifted players change their lives for the better. They are such an amazing organization.”

    For more about Knaggs Guitars, visit knaggsguitars.com.

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    In the video below, guitarist Phil X demos and discusses why he likes low-gain, boutique amps—like the ones modeled by the Yamaha THR10C.

    From the company:

    THR10C takes the personal-amp concept to a new level of audio fidelity. The finest tube amps respond to a player’s every touch—with picking dynamics and playing style adding as much to the tone as your guitar and pickups.

    Using Yamaha’s exclusive VCM (Virtual Circuitry Modelling) technology, THR10C perfectly recreates the unmistakable response and dynamics that only a boutique tube combo can provide.

    For more about the THR10C, visit yamaha.com.

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    In a previous lesson we talked about hammer-ons. Now we’ll build on that discussion and explore another playing device that can be used to spice up a strumming or picking pattern, the pull-off.

    As you recall, to play a hammer-on you pick a string by firmly tapping, or “hammering,” one of your fretting fingers onto the fretboard without picking it again, as demonstrated in Figure 1. The pull-off may be though of as the opposite of the hammer-on; in this case, you pick a fretted note and then lift the fretting finger to sound a lower note on the same string, as shown in Figure 2. Both techniques are indicated in sheet music by a curved line – known as a slur – arcing from the first note to the second.
    figure 1.png

    figure 2.png

    Pull-offs are a bit harder to pull off, so to speak, than hammer-ons, since in order to keep the string vibrating when executing a pull-off you must pick the string with your fretting hand as you let go of it, pulling slightly in toward your palm just before you release it. And if you’re pulling off to a fretted note you need to finger that note in advance, before pulling off. Otherwise, the string will be muted and the note you’re pulling off to will be inaudible.

    Figure 3 demonstrates how a pull-off can be used to embellish an open D chord via a Dsus4-to-D change. After strumming the Dsus4 chord, allow the notes to ring by maintaining the chord position with your fretting hand. Then pull your pinkie off the G note on the high E strong to sound the F# at the second fret. Remember that you must “pre-fret” the F# note with your middle finger before initiating the pull-off.
    figure 3.png

    Figure 4 is an example of how pull-offs can be used to transform a strummed four-chord progression into a catchy, melodic phrase. Be sure to use the strumming strokes indicated above the tablature and to pre-fret the D,A,C and G chord shapes before pulling off.
    figure 4.png

    Pull-offs are particularly effective when used in conjunction with hammer-ons, as demonstrated in Figure 5. In this example, open Dm and C chord shapes are arpeggiated (played as single notes) and embellished with sus2 hammer-ons and sus4 pull-offs. Notice the use of quick hammer-on/pull-off combinations in each bar.
    figure 5.png

    A classic instance of the effective use of hammer-ons and pull-offs within an open chord shape may be found in Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am a Rock.” Figure 6 illustrates a sweet-sounding lick similar to that song. Simon employs hybrid picking (pick and finger technique) to affect quick hammer-on/pull-off combinations on two strings. Be sure to execute each pair of hammer-ons and pull-offs as tightly as possible, moving your fretting hand’s middle and index fingers in lock-step fashion. Remember to pull each finger in toward your palm as you release it. Practice makes perfect!
    figure 6.png

    The examples depicted in this and the column of hammer-ons should give you a sense of how hammer-ons and pull-offs are used in other tunes. Ideally, they’ll inspire you to experiment and create your embellishments. Who knows? That one irresistible hook you’ve been looking for may be just a hammer-on or pull-off away.

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    I went to see a band play the other day. I had no expectations…just a fun night out.

    But hoo-yeah, this band kicked ass around the corner and back.

    It was the sister-lead Larkin Poe, a band that combines rock, blues, Americana, folk and a few other elements for a rollicking set of originals. Sentimental, sassy, sweet. Their stories were fun and full of life.

    Lead by sisters Rebecca Lovell on mandolin, guitar and lead vocals and Megan Lovell joining in on lap steel and some pretty awesome vocals of her own, the band was also supported with bass and drums.

    Their latest album, Kin explores their rich family history and the impact it has had on their own psyches. The band takes its name from their great, great, great, great grandfather, Larkin Poe, who was a Civil War wagon driver turned historian and a distant cousin to Edgar Allen Poe.

    I was so impressed by Megan’s kick ass lab steel chops that I asked her to record some video for us. So check out this clip and then the live performance below. Then read our exclusive interview!

    Here's Megan live!

    What influenced you to play lap steel?

    The first slide instrument I was introduced to was the dobro. At that time, I was taking lessons in guitar and mandolin and I couldn't seem to make headway with either of them. As soon as I saw, heard, and appreciated the slide guitar, I knew I had found my calling. I was immediately taken with the sound, versatility and almost vocal quality of the instrument. Later on, with the formations of our rock n roll music with Larkin Poe, I found the need for a grittier, electrified sound and picked up the lap steel. I'll always love the dobro, but my true passion lies in the lap steel. I love how multifaceted the lap steel can be; the sound can mimic anything from a roaring electric guitar to a whiny pedal steel. I play a 1940s bakelite Rickenbacker lap steel and I couldn't be happier!

    How did you start using that harness and playing standing up? It’s very cool.

    Contrary to the name of the instrument, I knew I wanted to be able to stand and play the lap steel. I had performed a couple of shows sitting down and it felt limiting and energy draining to me. I started looking for a device or stand designed for lap steel, but couldn't find anything that fit the bill. A family friend owned a steel company, so I went to him and together we designed a holder for my Rickenbacker that allowed me to stand and play comfortably. Now I can run around on stage and interact with my band mates and the audience, although I can't tell you how many people come up to me after the show to ask why I'm holding the guitar like I do ("is it so you can see the frets?")!

    You have backed several prominent musicians on tour. Do you have a favorite moment or two you could share?

    2014 has been an especially wonderful year in terms of collaboration! We got to tour with Elvis Costello as his backing band in the US and in Europe. Getting to sing "Alison" and "Peace, Love, & Understanding" alongside one of the greatest legends in Rock'n'roll history is a pretty amazing feeling. We got to perform with Conor Oberst (of the band Bright Eyes) on David Letterman and then with Kristian Bush (of the band Sugarland) on the Today Show! We feel very fortunate to have met and forged strong allies with some truly incredible musicians.

    Are you involved with the writing on the album? Give us some insight into your process.

    My sister, Rebecca, and I wrote everything on KIN together. Before we recorded this album, it was always challenging for us to successfully write songs together as sisters. In retrospect, sibling rivalry probably had a lot to do with it. But leading up to KIN, we decided to buckle down and write together. Once we made the commitment, it was surprisingly easy! So much of our communication is wordless, so we can arrive at the same musical or lyrical conclusion almost simultaneously. It's effortless... Which is one of the greatest perks of being a musical collaborator with your sister. Our writing process is very much dependent on each other. I like to think of a duo writing team as a check and balance system… We perform quality control on each other's ideas.

    How is it touring with your sister? Do you generally get a long?

    I'd be lying if we said we never fought... 'Cause we definitely do, but it's almost always over little and unimportant annoyances. We're a team in every sense of the word and, when it comes to the big stuff, we're completely on the same page. No one has my back like my sister and vice versa. It's truly amazing to travel the world and share all these incredible experiences with someone I'm so close to.

    Do you have a touring tip that you’d like to share?

    One touring tip I have is to never trust a cabbie with your precious instrument! We were on tour with Conor Oberst this summer, actually on our way to play Letterman, and, against my better judgement, I let the cabbie put my lap steel in the trunk. He slammed on the brakes (New York City driving! Eek!), the lap steel went flying, and came away in two pieces. Luckily, I was able to find a replacement in time, but I'll never forget that lesson. Trust yourself and no one else. Always keep the important stuff up front with you.

    Have you ever come across challenges being a female musician?

    I think the greatest thrill of being a female musician is also the greatest tragedy. It's the challenge of dispelling assumptions. There has always been an underlying assumption in my experiences that girls don't play, and, if they do, they don't play as well as the boys. There's nothing sadder than being tagged as "a good player… for a girl.” There are so many wonderful female vocalists in the music industry, but a lack of truly sensational female musicians. The Bonnie Raitts and Nancy Wilsons of the world are out there, but we need more of them. It's always been so important to Rebecca and I to be empowering women role models to young girls. There's nothing we love more than to have influenced young women and girls to pick up instruments and strive to be the best… not just "good… for a girl."

    What's next for you guys?

    For the foreseeable future, we're going to keep touring in support of KIN, our first full-length album! This year has been crazy busy and we've been touring almost non-stop... and we expect next year to be the same. However, we'll make time to write new songs, experiment with different musical directions, and ALWAYS practice, practice, practice. It's a never ending challenge, and that's probably the best thing about being a musician. Who knows what's next! :)

    Find out more at ww.larkinpoe.com

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    Since this is a "session" blog, I thought we'd better review a few mixing basics. We all do a certain amount of home recording, and this crucial step might just save your sound!

    By following some basic steps used by most professional mixdown engineers, your mixes will be improved exponentially. I guarantee it!

    Here we go!

    01. Use References. Listen to tried-and true-mixes, possibly similar to what you are mixing. It will get your ears used to the monitors and your head in the right place. Without references, you might be lost before you begin. Unless you do tons of mixing in your own professional studio.

    02. Volume. Obvious, right? But use volume changes to enhance dynamics. A de-esser is a frequency-based volume control. Use one to tame sibilance. And remember, silence is also part of volume. Use it. Mutes. Automation. Try some old-school tricks like matching bass volume to the vocals. And begin watching the output level! It needs to be constantly watched.

    03. Panning. Be realistic first, abstract later. Use panning to increase definition, width and depth. Ask yourself if the drums really need to be in stereo. Or is mono a better choice for verses and stereo for choruses? Should guitars be hard right and left? Maybe 3/4 of the way is right and wider on choruses.

    04. Midrange. It's all about the midrange. This is where most music lives. Learn it. Embrace it. Learn to control it with volume and panning. Do not let it clutter up the middle. But do not be afraid of it.

    05. Lower midrange. This is the biggest area where we find muddiness and cluttered, ill-defined mixes. Learn to cut it, not boost it.

    06. EQ: As far as EQ, cut before you boost. Listen before you do anything. Once understood, be fearless when need be. But mostly be cautious. Use EQ also to carve out frequencies to make room for vocals and such. Learn about shelving and bell curves. Learn what we mean by "Q."

    07. Build a mix in a way you are comfortable. Some start with drums. Others, vocals. All ways are valid.

    08. Set up a dry mix first before adding effects. You'll be surprised how much better your mixes will be when concentrating on the steak instead of the sizzle. If you can make a mix sound great dry, enhancing with small amounts of special effects will only help.

    09. Learn to setup a mix fast using instincts and save it. Over-thinking a mix will often result in a lifeless mix. I have often toiled for hours on a mix only to realize it is crap. Started over and worked fast. Way better. Not always, but this can be a great starting point. Trust yourself.

    10. Dynamics. Compression. Limiting. They can and should be used to correct problems, shape the overall sound, tame a less-than-controlled drummer and bassist. Keep the rhythm section solid. It can also be used to keep a vocal present. (Not to mention pump up a less-than-powerful sound.)

    11. Spatial Effects. Delays. Reverbs. Use only as much as is needed. Use only where needed. Use delay before the reverb to separate the reverb from the source. Less mud. More clarity/definition.

    12. Modulation effects. Flange, phase, etc. Use as ear candy. Enhance sections. Can be used on entire mixes for wild sounds. Most often used on individual instruments in small doses to add interest.

    13. Output level. The 2 bus. Left and Right Overall Levels. Be careful here. Too loud and you will add distortion. Too low and noise might become present. I am safe at this point and I check my output level often. I do use a limiter to grab peaks only, just to be safe. I also use an EQ here and Compressor. Both of these are not always used. However, i find a bit of each used gently seem to coagulate a mix. Glue the mix together a bit. But, I always mix without EQ and compression too. Mastering will more than likely add these anyway. (And watch the volume. Mixing too loud will only hurt your ears, fatigue you and create mixes that only sound good loud. Low to moderate listening volumes go a long way to revealing a true mix.)

    14. Mixes. I always do alternate mixes. Especially if I am fatigued and questions arise. I always listen back the next day with a fresh perspective. Mixes with vox up or down, bass up or down, drums up or down etc. Having these done already helps me immediately compare them and usually aids in my remixing again using these changes. And how about Mono? I RARELY use this once common practice. I still use it to check for phasing problems.

    15. Break the rules. You have to know the rules in order to truly break them! Start with the previously mentioned mixing considerations, then do what you feel sounds correct! Exploration and experimentation have no pathway nor any real expected payoff. You have to get through it to realize the fruits of your labor! That new sound could be sitting in the area between your mind and your laptop. Find YOUR sound.

    Till next time ...

    Ron Zabrocki is a session guitarist from New York, now living in Connecticut. Says Ron: "I started playing at age 6, sight reading right off the bat. That’s how I was taught, so I just thought everyone started that way. I could sight read anything within a few years, and that helped me become a session guy later in life. I took lessons from anyone I could find and had some wonderful instructors, including John Scofield, Joe Pass and Alan DeMausse. I’ve played several jingle sessions (and have written a few along the way). I’ve “ghosted” for a few people who shall remain nameless, but they get the credit and I get the money! I’ve played sessions in every style, from pop to jazz.

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    Everyone loves a good guitar quiz!

    Check out this quiz, dubbed "Crazy Hard Guitar Trivia," which was posted by Reverb.com over the weekend.

    Guitar World's Paul Riario scored 16 out of 18 this morning. Can you do better?

    Head HERE to take the quiz! Good luck!

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    Rhiannon Giddens, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and founding member of Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, makes her solo recording debut with Tomorrow Is My Turn, due out February 10 on Nonesuch Records (vinyl to come March 3).

    The album was produced by T Bone Burnett and is available to pre-order with an instant download of the album tracks "Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind" and "Shake Sugaree" on iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store, where CD and vinyl pre-orders also include an exclusive print autographed by Giddens.

    Burnett first worked with Giddens when she performed last fall at a concert he curated at New York City's Town Hall that was later broadcast on Showtime: Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of "Inside Llewyn Davis."

    In the Huffington Post's "5MemorableMoments From the 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Concert," the top spot went to "Dear Lord: Rhiannon Giddens. The chances are a good many people haven't heard of Rhiannon Giddens, but that's probably going to change ... Giddens performed two songs ... and earned the night's one in-show standing ovation."

    Backstage, Burnett was immediately moved to ask if he could produce a record with her. "It was clear the first time I heard her at rehearsal that Rhiannon is next in a long line of singers that include Marian Anderson, Odetta, Mahalia Jackson, Rosetta Tharpe," Burnett says. "We need that person in our culture."

    Check out "Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind"

    For her first solo disc, Giddens chose a broad range of songs from genres as diverse as gospel, jazz, blues, and country. In addition to the traditional "Black Is the Color," tracks include Hank Cochran's "She's Got You," made famous by Patsy Cline; Dolly Parton's "Don't Let It Trouble Your Mind;""O Love Is Teasin'," popularized by the Kentucky-reared "mother of folk" Jean Ritchie; and Elizabeth Cotton's "Shake Sugaree."

    "I had already started putting together a list of songs that didn't really fit into the Chocolate Drops world," Giddens explains. "At the top was 'Tomorrow Is My Turn' [immortalized by Nina Simone]. Seeing Nina do it on YouTube was revelatory. I knew she'd gone through a lot of hard times, as so many people did in that time period. Watching her sing this song, with the words 'tomorrow is my turn,' I began to think about the struggle of her and women like her." The significance of this song led Giddens to make it the title of the album as well. "Other songs started getting on my list and they were all by women or interpreted by women," she says.

    Tomorrow Is My Turn was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville, with a multi-generational group of players whom Burnett assembled. Among them are fiddle player Gabe Witcher and double bassist Paul Kowert of label-mates Punch Brothers; percussionist Jack Ashford of Motown's renowned Funk Brothers; drummer Jay Bellerose; guitarist Colin Linden; legendary backup singer Tata Vega; veteran Nashville session bassist Dennis Crouch; and Giddens' Drops touring band-mates, multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and beat-boxer Adam Matta.

    Tomorrow Is My Turn follows Giddens' work with Elvis Costello, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James, and Marcus Mumford on Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, an album also produced by Burnett that was released in November 2014.

    Find out more at http://www.rhiannongiddens.com/

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    In the new Guitar Legends: Play Like a Guitar Wizard, guitar legend Steve Vai checks in from Eastern Europe to provide some insider tips on becoming the ultimate guitar wizard.

    Other features include:

    Practicing Voodoo: So you want to play like Jimi Hendrix. Celebrated authority Andy Aledort shows you how to get experienced in these easy steps.

    Zakk Wylde's Guitar Boot Camp: OK, maggot, fall in and let the supreme sergeant of shred, Zakk Wylde, show you how to be all you can be with his 100 percent brewtal guitar boot camp!

    Walk on the Wild Slide: Cosmic Indian ragas. Otherworldly sacred steel licks. Celestial harmonics. Allman Brothers' master of the slide, Derek Trucks, offers wisdom in the key of open E.

    Also, shred master Joe Satriani saves the day with an in-depth lesson in the art and science of playing rock lead guitar.

    And much more!

    This new issue of Guitar Legends is available now at the Guitar World Online Store for $7.99!

    Additional Content

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    GuitarWorld.com's latest readers poll—the first annual Jim Dunlop Effect Pedal Throwdown—has reached Round 2!

    For the past month, we've been pitting Dunlop, MXR and Way Huge pedals against each other in a no-holds-barred shootout. Now the competition is guaranteed to get even tougher.

    Therefore, we're pulling out all the stomps! Sixteen stompboxes will go head to head — or toe to toe, if you prefer — leading up to the king of Dunlop/MXR/Way Huge pedals.

    You can check out the current bracket — with all 32 competing pedals that starting things off in Round 1 — in the Scribd.com window below (Be sure to click on the "full screen" button in the lower-right-hand corner to expand the bracket).

    The bracket is updated after (almost) every matchup, and matchups will take place pretty much every day, excluding weekends. Each competing pedal will accompanied by a demo video created by the Jim Dunlop company, and you'll always find a photo gallery of the competing pedals at the bottom of each matchup.

    Today's Matchup

    In today's matchup, the MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay goes foot to foot against the Way Huge Echo-Puss Delay. Start voting below!

    YESTERDAY'S RESULTS: Yesterday, the MXR Super Badass Distortion (66.67 percent) destroyed the MXR Distortion+ (33.33 percent) to advance to the next round! To see all the matchups that have taken place so far, head HERE. Thanks for voting!

    Meet the Combatants

    MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay

    Go from crisp "bathroom" slap echoes to epic, Gilmouresque delays with the MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay. Featuring 600ms of delay time with optional modulation, and a three-knob layout that controls Delay, Mix, and Regen.

    In addition, there are two internal trim pots that offer user-adjustable width and rate control of the modulation for even more tonal options. All done by a completely analog audio path for authentic rich, warm analog delay—made possible only by old-school analog bucket brigade technology. True bypass.

    Way Huge WHE 702s Echo-Puss Delay

    The Way Huge Echo-Puss was designed by delay expert Jeorge Tripps for players who want an organic analog delay pedal that allows them to fine-tune their delay sound with a simple user interface. It serves up 600ms of delay with a pair of gravelly-voiced bucket-brigade chips. Additionally, a fully tweakable LFO modulation circuit allows you to add a liquid texture to the sound of the repeats.

    Vote Now!

    Got a Late Start Today Sheet1

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    Utopia's Kasim Sulton recently stopped by the Guitar World studio in New York City to play songs from his new album, 3, which was released last month, plus a few classics from his Utopia days.

    Below, check out exclusive videos of Sulton performing his new single, "Clocks All Stopped" (top video), plus Utopia's "Libertine" (middle video) and "Lysistrata."

    Sulton is using his Martin 00-15 on all three songs; he even discusses the 00-15 in the video at the bottom of this story.

    The album version of “Clocks All Stopped” features Utopia's Todd Rundgren on guitar and background vocals and Utopia keyboardist Roger Powell on organ.

    “I was determined to write a song for this record that paid tribute to the band that started my professional career,” Sulton wrote in the album’s liner notes. “The music was the easy part. I never had a problem coming up with a few chord changes reminiscent of Utopia.”

    “Clocks All Stopped” was a project over two years in the making, with Sulton working collaboratively with songwriter Phil Thornalley before inviting his Utopia bandmates to contribute to the single.

    For more about Sulton and 3, visit kasimsulton.com and follow him on Facebook.

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