Sep 10 2010

Little Walter would of loved the Epiphone Valve Junior

During this last summer tour with The Bill Lupkin Band, there were some big changes in the transportation department. The band van passed on to a better place – the scrap yard in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We replaced it with a much smaller vehicle, which saves us some fuel expense but also created space issues for us and our gear.

I usually travel with my Marshall 1974X, housed in it’s road case but with the smaller vehicle, comfort and space is at a premium so I started looking at possible alternatives to the 1974X. I picked up an unmodified  Epiphone Valve Junior head, and paired it with a Mojotone 1 x 12 cabinet loaded with a single 16 ohm 20- watt 12-inch Celestion G12M-20 “Greenback” reissue T1221 speaker, connected with a Monster Cable #SP1000S3. I was using my 1962 Gibson ES-335 on the gig.

I tried this rig on our last tour, with the first date at The Fat Fish Blue in Cleveland, OH. We started the set with Little Walter’s “Aw, Baby” and man, I was blown away with the tone. It was exactly the tone I’ve been hearing on those Little Walter recordings from the ’50s with Dave and Louis Meyers on guitar. I can get a more refined version of that tone with my 1974X, which I dig,  but this rig dished out that raw, spongy tone that comes from those small wattage amps that were prevalent in the ’50s. The Valve Junior head has  4, 8 and 16 ohm outputs so just about any speaker cabinet will play nicely with it.

One caveat: At times, the Valve Junior can get a little “farty” with a guitar with humbucker pickups;  I solved this by changing my attack or lowering my guitar volume – Problem solved.

I highly recommend checking out the Valve Junior if you play blues, rockabilly, early swing, or any other music that requires some subtle to not-so-subtle gritty overdriven tones.  It’s a great little amp that for me was a perfect addition to my amp collection.

Sep 8 2010

Teaching Your Guitar Students While on the Road

As working guitarists, we all love going on the road and playing gigs. It’s a rich part of the experience of being a professional musician and we all have such great stories to tell when we return home, right? Like many of you, when I’m not on the road, I maintain a modest roster of guitar students and give weekly private guitar lessons and teach a few guitar classes.

Whenever I was about to go on the road, I would have to either cancel my guitar students or reschedule them prior to my departure. Neither of these options were ideal for myself or for my guitar students – I would lose that income and my students would lose momentum and in some cases drop from my guitar teaching roster. And if you are like the many guitar teachers who rent guitar teaching space, going on the road can mean the end of your profitable guitar teaching income.

I solved this problem with Skype, a HD webcam and a laptop. Since most hotels, motels and lodges have free WiFi, getting connected to the internet has not been an issue for me while on tour. You can also get a USB modem, if you have the space in the tour bus to do the lessons while traveling. I’ve used my USB modem quite a bit when I’m out of the country or whenever the hotel doesn’t have an internet connection available. Here’s what you will need:

Gear Required

  1. Laptop Computer
  2. HD Webcam
  3. USB Modem (optional)
  4. Skype Account
  5. Skype Documentation

Here’s how I did it:

Get a good HD webcam
You don’t want to skimp on this. Remember that your guitar students are used to face-to-face interaction  with you so the closer you can get to that experience the better. I use this HD video webcam and it works great for delivering guitar lessons. You can see a great review on HD webcams here.

Create a Skype account
If you don’t have a Skype account already, sign up for a free Skype account here. Your students will also need a free Skype account in order to participate in the lessons.

Download and install Skype software
Download the free Skype software here.

Launch Skype from your laptop and sign in
Use the Skype username and password that you created when you signed up.

Fill in your profile and add a picture of yourself
From here, you can upload your profile picture and add some other information about yourself.

Add your guitar students to your Skype contact list
Click on  “Contacts”, located in the Skype application menu bar. From here, you can add your guitar students.

Video call your guitar student and give the lesson
Click on “Contacts”, located in the Skype menu bar. From there, locate your guitar student and double-click their name. Then, click on the video icon.

That’s all there is to it. Now when you are on the road, you aren’t losing your teaching income. In fact, you can also extend your teaching reach by offering your guitar lessons to students located outside of a comfortable commuting range.