I’ve been using Fender Blues Junior amps (I have two of them) since about 2007. I’ve never had any problems with them but decided that after seven years of use on the original tubes it might be a good idea to have them looked at. I’d also heard a lot of great things about the Eminence 12″ Cannabis Rex as a replacement speaker for the Blues Junior, so decided to pick one up and have it installed in one amp while the amp was in the shop.
I asked Athens area guitar and amp tech Jon Fluharty* to do the work for me. He tested the tubes and found out that all of the preamp tubes were pretty well shot and the power tubes were severely mismatched. I’m not at all knowledgeable when it comes to tubes so I went with Jon’s recommendations that he said would give me a bit more more headroom and better clarity. The tubes installed are as follows: V1 JJ 5751, V2 Sovtek 12AX7WC, V3 Sovtek 12AX7WC Balanced, and V4/V5 Sovtek EL84M. Jon also biased the amp and then took care of breaking in the new speaker by hooking it up to an old Jeff Beck recording and just letting it play for a good 40 hours. Who else would you rather break in your speakers?
There are a ton of mods out there for the Blues Juniors, and although I didn’t ask for this, Jon went ahead and made a couple of tone stack modifications. In the stock amp, it is impossible to completely attenuate the mid frequencies. Jon corrected this so that the mids can be turned down completely if desired. He also beefed up the response on the bass knob. Where once the bass was anemic and made little difference below a setting of about 8, it now has a huge bass response and with lot more even control.
Since I now have both a stock amp and the newly modified one sitting next to each other, I attempted to create a video to demo the differences. Please note that the camera’s internal microphone did not do a very good job of picking up just how much difference there is in the the low-end response and the noticeable volume boost the modded amp has. I don’t know if the changes would be everyone’s cup of tea and some might even suggest that I should have bought a different amp in the first place, but I’m extremely pleased with the result of the updates and mods and look forward to upgrading the other amp sometime soon.
*Jon Fluharty does not currently have a website but if you are interested in contacting him please leave a note in the comments or email me via the Contact John page and I’ll put you in touch!
Guitarist Adam Rafferty is now introducing digital downloads of his popular instructional videos that walk players through his funky fingerstyle arrangements of Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five. This is a great solution for folks who primarily use devices that don’t contain DVD players or who just want to be able to access the video lessons on their mobile devices.
I’ve tried the digital downloads out and they work great. Here’s a quick overview of the process:
The videos are sold via a company called Leaping Brain who also distribute content for Homespun Music Instruction and dozens of other well-known clients. You can visit this page to see all of Adam’s available titles: https://leapingbrain.com/modshop/?shop=194&
Upon purchasing a video, PC and Mac users are be prompted to download a special “Adam Rafferty Player” which basically acts as a container to organize the raw video and PDF files. Users can then download and launch all of their purchased content via the player. The videos will launch in their own player which has the ability to play the lessons at half- and quarter-speed and to select a portion of the video loop over and over. Great features for those elusive sections you need to see and hear several times to get a grip on them!
Tablet and smart phone users are prompted to click through to Leaping Brain’s “MOD Cloud Player” which loads as a regular browser page showing all of the purchased content available for streaming. I first tried the cloud player with Adam’s “How to Solo Over II-V-I Changes for Jazz Guitar” and found that the videos did not stream. However all of the other titles work just fine on both my iPhone 4 and on my PC. The vids all feature excellent sound and video quality and buffered almost instantly. I suspect that the II-V-I video had just not yet been converted for live streaming as of this writing.
Leaping Brain also offers an iPhone/iPad app called MOD Mobile that sells for $1.99. This app allows users to transfer the video files from a PC or Mac to a mobile device via iTunes. It takes a couple of extra steps to accomplish this, but if you don’t want to eat up your data plan or bandwidth streaming the videos this solution makes a lot of sense as all of the files will reside on your device. Although there are some negative reviews of MOD Mobile on iTunes, The app worked flawlessly for me.
One more special feature of the digital download are the newly formatted booklets of the arrangements. The music in the included files is significantly larger than what is in the booklets that are provided with the DVDs. This makes for much easier reading and study. However, in order to protect the content the music only opens in it’s own PDF reader-type program and can’t be copied or shared. The booklet may be printed to your default printer but you can only print the entire book so be sure to have plenty of paper (about 60 pages) and ink ready to go!
These digital versions of Adam’s instructional videos are an excellent value and will likely be the preferred method of delivery for on-the-go players.
How to Play the Music of Stevie Wonder Volume II by Adam Rafferty is a new instructional video with solo fingerstyle arrangements of the Stevie Wonder hits “Isn’t She Lovely”, “Higher Ground”, “My Cherie Amour”, and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” The DVD/booklet sells for $34.97 at www.adamrafferty.com. For a limited time you can buy it for $29.97 so don’t wait. Scroll to the end of the review for a preview video.
Although Adam Rafferty’s latest video offering is a follow-up to his highly successful instructional debut in 2009, this new video reflects the experience he’s gained touring and performing over the past three years. The four arrangements included highlight a diversity of guitar techniques including varying approaches to right-hand technique, modulating using mid-song capo moves, alternate tunings, percussive hits and more. While he includes plenty of harmonic detail Rafferty’s focus on groove helps guitarists to communicate these songs using only the essential elements. The result is a natural sounding treatment that is rich and full but never overburdened by the complex harmonies. The video includes a very detailed booklet containing both standard notation and tablature, and all instructional segments use a split-screen so you can easily observe either Adam’s right- or left-hand.
If you are familiar with Adam’s other DVD’s he follows the same format as usual. After a brief welcome each song is presented in its entirety followed by a detailed walkthrough and breakdown. Adam also provides a short wrap up at the end of the video with words of encouragement and practice strategies.
Here’s what impressed me most about each arrangement. The links in the title of each tune will create a pop-up of Adam’s older YouTube demo the song. It should be noted that the DVD is professionally produced and has better quality sound and video than what is represented and that the performances are even more polished now.
In “Isn’t She Lovely” Adam introduces a groove that is integral to making this song and others work. He actually begins the lesson by using a doumbek to illustrate how to properly execute a triplet swing feel. Also (although he doesn’t talk about it) by focusing on the triplet feel and notating the song in 12/8 time he avoids having to explain how to count the quarter-note triplet figure that is prominently featured in the melody. The constant bass figure in the right-hand thumb and fingers drives the rhythm section feel home while the melody soars overtop. He also sneaks in a tasty temporary key change in the second half of the piece.
“Higher Ground” uses the slightly altered tuning of DGDGBE and uses carefully selected muted notes to keep the bass line and snare drum hits percolating along on the lower three strings while also maintaining ringing melody notes above. The first verse begins with the melody played in single notes and then introduces a harmony in the second verse. There’s a simple but effective percussive hit on the body of the guitar leading into the bridge which uses a combination of slides, hammers, and right-hand back strikes to articulate the melody alongside the harmony and groove.
“My Cherie Amour” is the mellow tune in the set. Adam uses a combination of open strings, harmonics, and fretted notes in the introduction resulting in a texture reminiscent of the great Lenny Breau. Looking at the printed music this looks like the most conventional arrangement of the collection but examination of the right-hand parts reveals a tricky combination of traditional fingerpicking with light strumming and back-strikes. Since the attacks are somewhat unpredictable compared to most fingerpicking pieces the effect is unique and a bit mesmerizing. This tune also introduces the mid-song capo change something I first saw David Wilcox do many years ago. Adam starts with his Kyser capo on the nut and then shifts the capo to the first fret for a half step modulation on the final verse.
The video ends with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” This song seems to have this biggest sound out of the group using lots of four- and five-note chords, open-strings, and quite a wide range. The arrangement utilizes all of the right- and left-hand techniques introduced in the earlier songs. It also features the mid-song capo move, a few chord substitution enhancements, and wraps up with a sweet samba vamp on the coda section.
While Adam Rafferty is still not a household name among guitarists his videos offer the very best instruction available on acoustic fingerpicking. Certainly there are instructional videos available from bigger name players but very few are as musically literate and approach the task of instruction with such care and detail. I would highly recommend this video to any intermediate to advanced level player. It’s a worthwhile investment for serious students of the guitar. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in learning the tunes of Stevie Wonder there is such a variety of guitar techniques and arranging ideas on display here that you’re sure to learn something that you can apply to your own arrangements down the line.
In this lesson we’ll begin to look at how to create the illusion of two independent parts using a walking bass line punctuated with occasional short chord stabs above. The focus here is on controlling the duration of the notes with the right hand in order to create parts that contrast with one another. The examples in this lesson use the first two bars of the C Blues bass line from Walking Bass Line Lesson 3. Once you have these two rhythms under your fingers try applying them to the rest of the blues progression or any other tune you’re working on.