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QRD #42 - Guitarist Series
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Guitarist Interviews with:
Ashkelon Sain
Zac Keiller
Eric Muhs
Patrick Vega
Russ Stedman
Bret Hart
Rick Ray
John William Gordon
Evan Peta
Evgeny Zheyda
Dave Halverson
Charles Rice Goff III
Calvin Johnson
Kim Chee
John G Sosnowski
Michael Walton
Annelies Monseré
Eric Quach
Robert Poss
Sarah June
Ted Johnson
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Guitarist Interview with Ted Johnson 
July 2010

Name:  Ted Johnson
Bands: Current bands:  Random FX, Dreamphonic, National Holographic, Ted Johnson (solo gigs)
Past bands:  Groove Stream Attractor, 61 South, Drive Shaft, Furious George, Scrapyard, Smokin’ Granny (guest musician)
Websites: www.studio713music.com - www.myspace.com/studio713music
Listen to "Atmospheric Disturbance"
Listen to "Phaseshift"

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Ted – It was a cheap Harmony acoustic that I played for about six months.  I traded it in on a cheap Japanese electric (Kent).

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Ted – I currently play a black Fender Stratocaster factory-fitted with a Roland GK-2 (synth guitar) pickup.  The Strat outputs both (1) a regular guitar audio signal (from the three guitar pickups) & (2) a synth signal from the GK-2 pickup. 
The guitar audio signal goes to a set of switches (Whirlwind Selector A/B boxes) that route the signal to various amp emulators & effect units.  These units vary depending on whether I am playing live or in the studio, but usually include a Boss VF-1, a Boss SE-70, a Lexicon MX 200, a TC Electronic Nova Delay (ND-1), & an AdrenaLinn II. 
The synth signal goes to a 13-pin switching system (Roland US-20) that sends it to a Roland GR-20 guitar synth module, a Roland GR-33 guitar synth module, &/or a Roland VG-8 guitar system.  The audio outputs from these units are typically sent to a Lexicon Vortex, a Lexicon MX 200, and/or an Electro-Harmonix Super Memory Man delay. 
The overall system is stereo, so I send the various output signals through a stereo mixer to two Roland KC-300 keyboard amps. 

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - guitar, amplifier, or effects?

Ted – A guitar with a Roland GK (synth guitar) pickup is essential to my rig. 

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Ted – Currently, I use two Roland KC-300 keyboard amps (or a stereo PA) to amplify the stereo signal from my rig.  Because the rig includes various guitar amp emulators (VF-1, GE-70, VG-8, etc.) that provide gain & distortion effects, I don’t need a guitar amp at the end of the chain. 
In earlier days when I played through a guitar amp, my favorite amp was a Mesa Boogie Studio 22 which I still own.  I also have a Fender Super Champ, a Fender Pro Reverb, & a Music Man combo. 

QRD – What’s your main guitar & what are the features that make it such?

Ted – Currently my main guitar is a black Fender Stratocaster with a factory-installed Roland GK-2 pickup.  The GK-2 pickup is essential to my current style of music (ambient/electronica/experimental), since it enables me to produce a wide variety of spacey sounds using both a guitar synth & a traditional guitar with effects.

QRD – If you had a signature guitar, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Ted – It would look pretty much like my current guitar (see above).   I might like to have a mini-Kaoss pad installed on it to enable me to manipulate sounds as I play them. 

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be? 

Ted – I would like to have a stereo stomp box combining distortion, delay, & phaser effects.  The distortion & phaser section would produce a smooth, swirling sustain.  The delay section would have a digital readout of the delay tempo (bpm).  You could set the delay tempo by either a knob or by tap tempo.  Adding distortion & phaser effects to the TC Electronic ND-1 (Nova Delay) pedal would do it.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Ted – I have two Fender Stratocasters, a Fender Telecaster, three Gibson SGs, & a Univox U1800B Hi-Flyer bass (Mosrite copy).

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Ted – I store them in their cases.  The location is a secret.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a guitar?

Ted – Fast neck, light weight, good tone, & the ability to mount a Roland GK pickup.

QRD – How much do you think a good guitar should cost?

Ted – Upwards of $1,000.00 (new).

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your guitars or just stick with what you get?

Ted – I tend to stick with the guitar as purchased.

QRD – How thoroughly do you research or test a piece of equipment before
buying it?

Ted – If possible, I will borrow the piece of equipment from the store & try it out in my rig.  I also read the online reviews at Harmony Central.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Ted – The rig keeps evolving as I replace old effects with new ones.

QRD – Are you after one particular guitar tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot? 

Ted – Because of the types of music I play (improvisational, experimental, ambient), I like to produce as many different guitar sounds as possible.

QRD – What are some guitars, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Ted – Although they are not considered good guitars, I would like to own a Vox Phantom 6 & a Mosrite Ventures model because I think they look cool.  As for effects, I would like to own a rack-mounted Eventide Harmonizer.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first guitar that aren’t always there?

Ted – Locking tuning machines & a good chromatic tuner. 

QRD – What have been the best & worst guitar related purchases you’ve made?

Ted – Best: Fender Stratocaster with built-in Roland GK pickup.  Worst: Seymour Duncan Convertible amplifier.

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & guitar brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?

Ted – I particularly like the multi-effect units produced by Roland (VG-8, VF-1) & Lexicon (MX 200, Vortex).  My favorite recently-purchased pedal effect is the TC Electronic “Nova” delay pedal.  I also like Electro-Harmonix pedals, particularly the Stereo Memory Man.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a guitar?

Ted – I typically improvise in the Dorian mode.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Ted – Twelve.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best guitar playing?

Ted – I hope that I’m still improving.

QRD – Why do you think a guitar fits you more so than other instruments?

Ted – In my opinion, the guitar is more versatile & expressive than most other instruments (with the possible exception of the synthesizer).  But mainly I like the looks of an electric guitar.

QRD – Do you think guitar should be people’s first instrument as often as it is? 

Ted – Yes.  The guitar is relatively affordable, it’s portable, & it can play both single notes & chords.

QRD – Do you see your guitar as your ally or adversary in making music?

Ted – Definitely an ally.

QRD – Who are the guitarists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Ted – Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, early Jeff Beck, Neal Young, Wes Montgomery, & the Ventures.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly? 

Ted – Although I have never named one of my guitars, I don’t see any harm in people doing that.  I think it’s natural for a guitar player to treat his or her favorite guitar as a good friend.

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a guitar & how did you do it?

Ted – I mistakenly asked a guitar tech to dress (file down) the frets on a Fender Telecaster.  It never played as well afterwards.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Ted – I often improvise in different modes (scales) to a drum track or looped bass pattern.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play guitar & how many hours would you like to?

Ted – I think I average about four hours a week playing guitar (including jam sessions). 

QRD – What type of pick do you use & why?

Ted – I use heavy-gauge Fender “confetti” picks.  I can’t play with a thin pick. 

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Ted – I use a set of D’Addario regular light gauge (nickel wound) electric guitar strings (EXL110).  The gauges are 0.010, 0.013, 0.017, 0.026, 0.036, & 0.046.  They seem to have the right balance of tone & bend-ability. 

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Ted – Not frequently enough.  Maybe once a year or when a string breaks. 

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Ted – About once a year.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming hand or fretting hand & how does that affect your style?

Ted – I think they are about equal in proficiency.  Although both could use improvement, I don’t feel that one is holding the other back.

QRD – Do you set up your guitar yourself or send it to a guitar tech (or not set it up at all) & why?

Ted – I generally have a guitar tech set up a newly-purchased guitar to ensure that the neck & bridge are adjusted correctly.  I make fine adjustments to the intonation later as needed.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Ted – I use standard tuning (even for slide).   Someday I hope to experiment more with alternative tunings.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Ted – I prefer standard musical notation, but I don’t have a problem with tab.

QRD – How high do you hold your guitar when playing (strap length)?

Ted – The guitar pickups are level with my belt buckle.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Ted – Leaving the volume up when I’m not playing.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s guitar playing?

Ted – Probably piano because it enables you to hear how melody lines sound combined with chords & bass parts.

QRD – What’s a type of guitar playing do you wish you could do that you can’t?

Ted – Jazz rhythm guitar with complex chord progressions.

QRD – What’s a guitar goal you’ve never accomplished?

Ted – Playing a duo guitar gig with Brian John Mitchell.

QRD – What’s the last guitar trick you learned?

Ted – How to use backward delay effects.

QRD – What’s a guitar technique you’d like to master, but haven’t?

Ted – Reggae rhythm guitar.  It sounds so simple, but it’s so hard to get right.

QRD – Did you ever take guitar lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Ted – I took lessons for less than a year at a music store in Charlotte, NC.  The most useful thing I learned was the concept of the movable chord.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a guitar lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a guitar teacher? 

Ted – I think the guitar is inherently more fun (& rewarding) to play when you can improvise. Consequently, I would focus on scale structure (modes) & simple harmony theory early in the lessons.  & I would encourage the student to begin improvising as soon as possible, rather than waiting until he or she has mastered all the basics.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Ted – Combine smooth sustain with delay & phaser effects.  Improvise interlocking guitar parts.  Play too many notes.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Ted – I don’t use them because of past problems keeping them in tune.

QRD – What do you see as the difference between lead guitar & rhythm guitar players?

Ted – I don’t know many guitar players who consider themselves “rhythm guitarists.”  In most of the groups I have played in, the two guitar players shared lead & rhythm duties.

QRD – If a band has good guitar work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Ted – Yes, but I particularly enjoy bands in which the musicians are evenly matched. 

QRD – What famous musician’s guitar would you like to own & why?

Ted – I would like to own the guitar rig that Pat Metheny used on “Phase Dance” & other songs from the Pat Metheny Group (white cover) album.  I want to make those harp-like tones. 

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative guitar player & why?

Ted – I really can’t answer this one because there are just too many great guitarists playing these days. 

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Ted – I have archived the best bits from several years of jam sessions by Random FX at the following five sites.
There are additional examples under the “My Band” tab on my FaceBook page & on the Studio 713 page at MySpace.   I hope to release some new material later this year. 

QRD – Anything else?

Ted – Thanks for including me in your survey of guitarists.  I look forward to reading the other responses.