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QRD #63 - Guitarist Interview Series IX
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
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Guitarist Interviews:
Chris Vaisvil
David M Birchall
Stef Ketteringham
Patrick Ogle
Xavier Watkins
Bill Berends
Todd Hawthorne
Michael Clamp
Eric Bessel
Benjamin LÝzninger
Benjamin Duvall
Tom Lugo
Peter Bingham
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Guitarist Interview with Chris Vaisvil
May 2013

Name: Chris Vaisvil
Bands: solo
Websites: www.chrisvaisvil.com

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

Chris – A cherry red one pickup Sears Silvertone electric that was brutal to my fingers - I bled. I have no memory of its demise; I would guess it was dismantled for parts.

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

Chris – I mostly record directly into a USB audio device into Sonar & use guitar rig or other effects. If I am not recording like that, I use a used Bulgera 22 watt tube amp with one or more mics & no other effects.

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

Chris – I’d have to say the guitar.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Chris – Currently my Bulgera tube amp - because it is a tube amp.

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

Chris – I don’t have a main guitar since I am a microtonal guitarist & have several guitars, all in different tuning or fretless.

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

Chris – It would be a 12-string electric with removable fretboards so I could change tunings on the fly.

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

Chris – I love my MXR Distortion+ because I get distortion without changing the tone of my guitar. I really dislike tone controls on distortion pedals & consider them a limitation because they torpedo my tone changes like changing from neck to bridge pickup.

QRD – How many guitars do you own?

Chris – I have 12, 15, 17, 19, 22 (DIY refret), 23 (DIY complete), & fretless electrics.

QRD – How & where do you store your guitars?

Chris – On guitar stands.

QRD – What do you wish guitar cases had that they usually don’t?

Chris – A compartment for pedals & cables.

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

Chris – Used & cheap enough that I won’t be disappointed if I mess up the refret. I have had success in finding incredible value in used gear at Guitar Center.

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

Chris – Under $1000.

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

Chris – Yes, I refret my guitars.

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

Chris – Since I buy almost exclusively used gear, it is all about my evaluation at the store.

QRD – Do you change your rig around often?

Chris – Yes, because I don’t have a set rig.

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

Chris – I’d die if I played just one kind of music, so yes, constantly.

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

Chris – I find the Moog guitar interesting. The adjustable fret classical from a Turkish luthier is awesome, but at 8,000 euros far too expensive.

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

Chris – A person starting out should have a well set up, easy to play guitar. Almost every beginner has to fight their instrument & it discourages many from learning.

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

Chris – My best purchase was a Yamaha $600 acoustic I bought for $60 from Guitar Center, because it was damaged in shipping (a crack on the bottom edge). I fixed it with epoxy (I care not for looks) & it is a wonderful guitar. My worst purchase was an Indiana brand mandolin.

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

Chris – Used Fender Squiers tend to be good value & have standardized parts & are easy to modify.

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

Chris – Each guitar is different & asks for different music. I improvised what the muse tells me to.

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

Chris – 11 or 12.

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

Chris – That happened several times. I’m still growing in different ways. However, my hands are starting to hurt & playing a lot of barre chords for an extended period is now often impossible.

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

Chris – Actually I am getting better at playing piano - & it doesn’t hurt.

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

Chris – A first instrument should be one that the person is interested in, which usually means being able to play the music they like. It doesn’t have to be a guitar.

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

Chris – Ally of course.

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

Chris – Adrian Belew, Robert Fripp, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, John Lennon, Jimmy Page.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their guitars is natural or silly (e.g. naming their guitar)?

Chris – Kinda weird, but I don’t care.

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

Chris – I smashed a classical guitar against a piano once. I still regret that.

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

Chris – Play scales, though mostly I just make up riffs.

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

Chris – Not enough & too many.

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

Chris – Orange Dunlop or my fingers (even on electric or 12 string)

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Chris – Regular to maintain hand strength.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Chris – When they start to corrode or have intonation problems.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Chris – Anymore, that is rare.

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

Chris – I think they are rather equal.

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

Chris – I set up my own guitars now.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Chris – I try to stick to EADGBE or the equivalent with my microtonal guitars.

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

Chris – Whatever it takes.

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

Chris – Midsection.

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

Chris – Left hand position could be more perpendicular.

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

Chris – Bass.

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

Chris – Two-handed tapping.

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

Chris – Two-handed tapping.

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

Chris – One-hand harmonic tapping.

QRD – What’s your favorite guitar gadget (ebow, capo, slide, string cutter, etc)?

Chris – Ebow by far.

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

Chris – Two-handed tapping.

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

Chris – I took one rock lesson - I learned how to play Black Dog.  I took two years of classical guitar & had my mind blown.

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

Chris – The idea that there are no rules, only preferences.

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

Chris – Listen to my work.

QRD – What’s your take on tremolo systems?

Chris – Awesome. The best thing to happen to feedback.

QRD – How often do you adjust your tone knob?

Chris – I sometimes remove them.

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

Chris – Dexterity in playing runs.

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

Chris – No. The most important thing is having a good composition. Classical or popular music, technique does not make for memorable music. That is in the realm of the composition & it can be complex or simple, but if it doesn’t speak to the audience it has no artistic worth.

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

Chris – I want a Taylor electric 12 string. Don’t care who owned it.

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

Chris – Hard to say. Steve Vai is mighty impressive. Donte Rosati too.

QRD – Where can people hear your best guitar work?

Chris – www.chrisvaisvil.com

QRD – Anything else?

Chris – Yes, I wish I could go to Guitar Center & buy microtonal guitars. I hope to see that day arrive, as more people find the unlocked potential in microtonality & make music that simply can’t be done in 12 equal.