All things lead to Brian May

Vox Valvetronix AD50VT, Vox Brian May Special amp and Burns Brian May guitar
From left to right: Burns Brian May guitar, Vox Valvetronix AD50VT 50W amplifier and Vox Brian May Special amplifier and treble booster (VBM-1).

This evening I’m playing again in the Powerpoint worship band at St Thomas’s church, Glasgow Road, Edinburgh. Powerpoint is a monthly Christian youth event overseen by Scripture Union Scotland. It will be my first live gig with my new amplifier, the Vox Valvetronix AD50VT which I bought a couple of days ago from Guitarguitar on St John’s Road.

I didn’t have much time to play around with it on Wednesday evening before taking it down to St Thomas’s for the band rehearsal, but I’ve since brought it back home and spent a few hours both yesterday and this morning trying to get a good, usable Brian May-like sound from it, and to good effect.

This month I’m omiting my Digitech GNX2 from the setup and focusing on a more simplified setup: Burns Brian May guitar into the Vox Brian May Special (VBM-1), used as a treble booster, into the Vox Valvetronix AD50VT set to model the Vox AC30TB, and with a bit of compression and chorus.

Just like BM’s setup I have the gain, volume and master volume controls all cranked up full on my amp, and the treble booster up full on the VBM-1, which allows me to control the overall tone with my guitar volume knob.

I got this advice from the Brian May World website:

The Treble Booster is always first in line, and both it and the AC30 are set on full volume, thus giving maximum presence and sustain, with the overall volume controlled from the guitar. This gives a flexible range of tone and distortion choices, starting low down on the guitar’s volume control with sparkling clean tones and as the volume is increased, sliding smoothly into the creamy compressed overdriven sound that Brian is famous for.

I found the advice on the Brian May World website really helpful, particular this article on The Brian May Sound and this section on the Red Special. As a website it’s a great resource, but it could now do with a good bit of updating and rationalising the design to make it much easier to find the material there.

One of the great things about the Valvetronix AD50VT — apart from the fact that it is about £1,000 cheaper than a Vox AC30TB — is its adjustable output wattage:

The AD50VT let[s] you adjust the output wattage from 1~50W … so you can lower the volume without losing the sense of drive that’s unique to tube amps. You can get the great distinctive tube sound at a volume that’s appropriate for any location.

And it really works, it’s great! So I’ve got the guitar, the treble booster and if not the actual amp, one from Vox that models the AC30TB, and I even have an old English sixpence. All I need now is the curly wig, the curly lead, a pair of clogs and the ability to play like a guitar legend! I’d better go and practice now.

New year revolutions

Close-up of a bicycle chainset
Bicycle Gear by donjolley at Stock.xchng.

Today was the first day in weeks that I’ve not woken up with a sore throat. So to celebrate Jane and I cycled down to her aunt’s to deliver a card.

I read the other day “a quarter of all car journeys are under two miles”, and that “cycling for fifteen minutes a day halves your rish of a heart attack”. I really need to cycle more.

Gosh it felt good to be back out on our bikes: new year revolutions, indeed. I just need to keep it up. Here are some of the other things I’d like to achieve this year:

  1. Spend more time with God in prayer
  2. Spend more time with Jane
  3. Exercise regularly: cycling and free weights
  4. Eat more sensibly, and cook more often
  5. Get a new job (for those who don’t know my current post ends in April 2006)
  6. Keep in touch with friends more faithfully, and not just by email
  7. Read more
  8. Play guitar more (maybe even start a band?)
  9. Be more environmentally aware and friendly
  10. Play more Mah Jong
  11. Finish the backlog of websites that I’ve promised people
  12. Learn PHP and MySQL more thoroughly; learn how to setup and administer an Apache server under Linux; improve my CSS knowledge

What am I doing still sitting here?! I’d better get on and start doing these things!

Emerging Church

Resource logo

Now this is the kind of stuff that get’s me excited. I followed a link from Jonny Baker’s blog — I used to play bass guitar in the worship band at St James the Less, Westminster about 10 years ago with Jonny, though I doubt he remembers me; I always remember him as being the worship leader that brought copies of music for the rest of the band, and didn’t (like some) expect us to know every-worship-song-under-the-sun™ off by heart — which took me to the Resource website, where there is this amazing quotation:

“We need to stop starting with the church. Rather, we should plant the seed of the gospel in all sorts of new and emerging cultures and contexts — and make disciples of what sprouts. The fruit will be all sorts of new expressions of authentic church – that is, Jesus communities of disciple-making disciples.” Bob Hopkins, ACPI

How that quotation makes my heart sing. I would love to get involved deeply with something that engages with church and culture. I would love to do something that uses my gifts and passions for Jesus, theology, writing, computers and the internet, and music. Anyone out there with that perfect job?

As it happens, Neil Costley blogged today about postmodern church and culture.

Powerpoint (December 2005)

Looking at the crowd from the stage at the Powerpoint youth event
View from the stage near the end of Friday’s Christian “Powerpoint” youth event. (Photo on Nokia 5140i)

Despite feeling unwell on Friday (I’m still not 100% and tomorrow will call the GP to make an appointment) I still turned up to Powerpoint (the SU Scotland co-ordinated monthy youth event) to play electric guitar.

The experience of worship was incredible. God was most definitely present, and the response from the young people encouraging beyond words. There were around 340 young people there, how incredible is that!

One of my highlights was playing the descant to the Christmas carol O Come, all ye faithful which I’d transcribed during the afternoon, using the excellent Guitar Pro 4 software. You can download it, and use it if you like. It’s the version arranged by NYCGB President Sir David Willcocks

The only disappointment about the evening — apart from feeling utterly exhausted at the end of it — was that I think my amp (Laney GC80A) is needing a serious overhaul. It’s buzzing terribly, and began cutting out while I was playing.

Band rehearsal

Photograph of the band in rehearsal

Two photographs from the Powerpoint (monthly Christian youth event) band rehearsal this evening that I’ve ‘stitched’ together using the wonders of Paint Shop Pro X. Why are Andrew (drums) and Tim (keyboards) both hunched over so?!

Neil Costley

Here’s an action shot of Neil (acoustic guitar and vocals). He looks nothing like a folk singer, I don’t know what you mean!

The rehearsal went really well, with some quality prayer time before hand. I’m back on my Burns Brian May guitar through the Vox VBM1 treble-booster and Digitech GNX2; the last few months I’ve been playing my Fender® Stratocaster® (though mine is a Mexican Strat rather than American).

I’m looking forward to the Powerpoint tomorrow evening. A time to worship God through playing guitar and singing.