Here are a selection of poems and articles that I have written. I like to draw from all my experiences in life and incorporate them into my music.

TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO TONE HAS GONE BEFORE
By Mike Murphy
© 2017 All Rights Reserved.

"To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before". This line from Star Trek can be a great inspirational theme for all us tone seekers. At some point in your career you might come to the realization that in order to distinguish yourself from the other millions of players in our galaxy, you have to sound like you. This is solely your decision, but if you decide you don't want to sound like anyone else, you must dig a lot deeper into your soul to extract what it is that makes you unique. What is your life about? Your past? Your family? Positive/negative relationships? Upbringing? All these factors play as much if not more of an importance than gear itself to your development as a player. I realize that certain styles of music do not require many or any effects and are unique unto themselves. What I'm talking about here are the seekers/pioneers that want to develop new sounds. A distinguishable, identifiable sound of their own.

Was Jimi Hendrix thinking about what pedal setting he was using when he was playing Machine Gun? When he was crafting this tune? I think not, but he was always searching for new gear, pedals, to express what was inside his soul. This is key. He adjusted the knobs to where it sounded right to him. To get the gear to express his anger, hurt, opinion, disgust of the Vietnam War. I can't think of a single piece of music from a guitar player that paints a more vivid picture. He didn't just stumble upon his tone and effects. He was always exploring new paths and pieces of gear to use in order to say with his guitar what he was feeling inside. What this should reveal to you is that you need to explore both your own mental makeup and the vast array of gear available to you to enable you to express yourself.

I once read "don't let the setting numbers bother you when you are dialing in an amp or effect, just set it to where it sounds right to you". If you let your ears guide you in where you set your amp and/or pedals and guitar, you will have a far greater chance of getting a better tone. This is not to say to literally never look at your settings, but to not let where they end up overly concern you. That said, if you are completely dialing out your mids you will have a problem with your notes cutting through.The point here is to let your ears guide you. To do this you need to develop good listening skills in order to identify what it is that sounds good. Listen to your favourite players and see what gear they are using. Then take that knowledge, expand upon it and inject your own personality into the equation.

First you have to pick the right amp for the job. If you have a 100 watt amp and you are playing a venue where you can't turn it up to get those tubes cooking you will have a hard time getting the amp dialed in. A smaller wattage amp will sound better (and is easier to dial in if you can run it into it's sweet spot) than a 100 watter that you can't turn up because it's too loud for the room/gig. Never underestimate the importance of great cabling either. It can choke a lot of musical frequencies out of your tone. You must get your amp dialed in and then add your effects. There are some great modelling amps in the marketplace and they are designed to operate like tube amps, so you can apply this somewhat to those as well, although this approach deals with tube amps in particular.

Leave all effect pedals off, turn your guitar's volume and tone all the way up and get the power tube section of the amp working first. If the power tubes aren't driven somewhat, you will have a hard time getting a fat tone by just using a pedal to get it. If you have an amp with both master and preamp volume controls, you can use the preamp to add a bit of dirt/ tube saturation to fatten the tone, but you will still need the master up more than the preamp to get the power amp section tubes working to their optimal level. Finding the right combination of master and preamp settings will give you a big tone at a controllable/ reasonable volume. If you listen closely you will find the spot where each dial makes a big difference in your tone. Somewhere in that area is the sweet spot of that particular knob. Once the amp is turned up to where its starting to work, the tubes it will get fatter in tone. Finding the right combination of master and preamp settings will give you a big tone at a controllable/ reasonable volume. If you listen closely you will find the spot where each dial makes a big difference in your tone. Somewhere in that area is the sweet spot of that particular knob. Once the amp is turned up to where its starting to work the tubes it will get fatter in tone. The bottom end will start getting punchy and fill the room more. The highs will smooth out as well. It won't sound as thin as it did when the volume was turned down. That's the power section working. The sweet spot. Dial in your mids so that the notes have some definition and articulation. Scooped mids might sound nice to the untrained ear, but if you do your homework you will find that many of your favourite players use a lot more mids than you think.

Once you have your amp dialed in then set your effects. Too much of any type of effect will kill your tone. Effects should be used like spices or seasoning for your notes. Aside from a poorly dialed in amp or poor sounding guitar, some of the biggest culprits of a muddy or washy tone is from having too much distortion and/or compression coming from a pedal and/or too much delay. Those three problems alone account for most of the poor electric tones I have heard from my experience. There are some great boutique effect builders out there (Chase Bliss Audio to name one), and I find Joel Korte's products to be very transparent and don't colour my amp's tone. Seek these makers out. They are taking the extra time to make their products better in quality and sound than a lot of the makers of the more affordable products.They take the time to hear the subtle but important differences quality parts can make. They place these parts in their products for those of us that have developed our hearing to the point where we can hear those magical differences and are searching for betterment. Try each effect separately. Does it change your tone? Is it transparent? Discover products that keep your amp's tone intact.

Start with compression (if desired) to fatten your clean tone. Dial it in so that it isn't too squashed or your tone will not have much room for dynamic pick attack. It will sound mushy almost to the point where notes have a bit of a lag to them. If you have too much compression your mid frequencies will not cut through and notes will not have any presence to them. If set right, many country players keep their compressor on all the time as a way to fatten their tone and make notes "pop" while keeping high notes from slamming your hearing like a sizzling cast-iron skillet. Many rock and blues players don't use compression as much (if at all), as they use overdrive to fatten their tone. Then set overdrive/distortion (if desired) to taste, keeping in mind to not make the tone too muddy or scooped. Then set chorus, phaser, etc (if desired), then wah (if desired). Lastly, set your delay. If too much level or feedback, your notes will be too washy. Keep in mind that each effect (if on at the same time as the others) will affect the others. Set them individually at first. Then see how they interact with each other in various combinations. You may find certain effects don't sound good with others when used at the same time. I generally use effects that work well with others to keep it easier when stacking them. Again, some of the more affordable brands don't work as well with others. Experiment.

Remember, a great rule of thumb is to set in this order: guitar, amp, then effects last. It's a layering process that you must do. Star Trek's Spock would say "Change Is The Essential Process Of All Existence". You have to decide if you want to be like everyone else (just exisiting) or lead the change to become your own individual player and seek out new tones, effects, etc. that will make you identifiable in this much too common sleepwalking copycat world.

In closing, as a musician I am left to ponder: Is "Space" or "Tone" The Final Frontier? Your Final Frontier?

NIKOLITSA BOUTIEROS:
CAPTURING LIFE'S SHADOWS
By Mike Murphy
© 2015 All Rights Reserved

I have to get this off my chest. Recently, I watched a film on a very famous photographer. Something about it was missing for me. Yes, there were some great shots but not one like the shot of i.e. the little girl running naked from the bombing in Vietnam during the war. That is truthful art. I am not a photographer, but when I see something from a photographer, I either feel it or I don't. Same applies to music. I have watched a fair amount of film on photography, etc. and seen alot of works, but I have yet to see anything that strikes me and takes my breath away, or carries my mind away (transports me cerebrally) from it's current thought, like the work of Nikolitsa Boutieros.

There is this inner struggle going on that comes through her lens. Almost like a plea from her to mankind to take the time to see the real beauty of life and it's many shadows. To wake up. Take it all in. Absorb it. The colours, the depth. The expression. An artist's real vision and their true reason for existance. It is all about the light. How much gets in? How much doesn't? Is it pure or altered? Artificial or natural? Can the person capture on film, something that they see beauty in, and portray it to the viewer so that they will see that beauty the same way? Can the photographer capture an artist's true nature? See the beauty that the photographer sees? From the same angle? With the same feeling? With the same passion? With the same truth?

Her art is pure, honest, and truthful. World class. There is nothing to compare it to because there has never been anything like it before nor will there be anything like it again. Because her art reflects so rawly, her own vivid and authentic human core. She stands alone on top of her own individual mountain. And her mountain is mighty high!

For more information on Nikolitsa Boutieros, please follow these links:
http://www.divinelightphotography.net and http://www.Nikolitsa.com

CHASING TONAL BLISS
By Mike Murphy
© 2015 All Rights Reserved. 

Fresh from the womb, we come out seeking to learn, feel and discover life. We want to be the best we can be, and do good for ourselves and others, while doing something that will better mankind. To leave some type of legacy behind, so that the world will remember us, and be better for our thoughts and actions. Joel Korte, owner and mind behind Chase Bliss Audio's effects pedals is such a soul.
 
Seeing the finely crafted little wooden boxes that each effect pedal arrived in, I already knew that I was in for something unique. I felt like each box was a treasure chest containing a precious artifact that had been hidden for years. Treasure indeed. What a great way to start a new tonal relationship with a product than to get a perfect first impression. That is how it was for me when my Chase Bliss Audio's Wombtone II Phaser and Warped Vinyl II Chorus/Vibrato came into my musical life. I thought to myself, anyone who would go to the extent of making even the packaging of their product this special, indicates to me that there has been a great deal of thought and pride put into it, and that they are very dedicated to their craft. That they want all aspects of it to be perfect.
 
I had done a lot of research on these two boutique hand-made pedals prior to getting them, so I had a feeling that they were going to be good. I was mistaken on the good part. They are in fact, other-worldly. There is no other way to describe them. I have used many other boutique brands and have discovered that not all of them are made equal. The last socially well-respected product I had purchased, ended up causing me clipping issues because of compatability with my clean boost (Keeley Katana). What I discovered was that many of the pedals out there can be clipped on their input section if a hot signal hits them. Not so with Joel Korte's product. After e-mailing him with a few questions, he responded right away with the answers I was looking for. Namely, that his products had high headroom for hot signals, and being analog-based in tone, and digitally-based in only the memory, parameters, and tap function, I was not going to have the problems that using a strictly digital product had given me previously.
 
Joel's Wombtone II Phaser has huge headroom for clean signals, and does not need an input pad because of the circuit's design. Because of the circuit design of Joel's Warped Vinyl II Chorus/Vibrato, it has an input pad which lowers the input signal so it doesn't clip the input section of the pedal. It then bumps the signal back up on the way out to the level it was at when it went into the input section. This means basically that whatever signal you put in will come out the other end of either pedal, and keep your signal level intact. As well, because there is no clipping, your tone does not get muddy, shrill, or distorted. Aside from just the way these products process the signal, this doesn't even scratch the surface as to what they can do effect-wise. The fact that tone was his first priority, and the basis of his designs, caught my ear and attention right away.
 
The Wombtone II Phaser is easily the most imaginative and toneful phaser I have ever had the pleasure of using. It sounds so voice-like. It makes me think that this might be what the sound waves of an electric guitar sound like to a baby while inside the womb, to what things sound like once born and being outside the womb. The voicings are human in such a musical way. The guitar tone stays intact. You can drive the output if you want to, as it has a great boost that is tube-like in tone. You have great flexibility to shape the effect any way you want to using Joel's ModuShape controls, including making the waves rise up quick and down slow or up slow and down quick. With mini-toggle switches and totally accurate knobs for adjustment of various parameters, this pedal gives you many possibilites. The phase sounds can go from deep and swampy to frantic washes. It is midi compatable plus Joel has put little DIP switches on the side of all his pedals which allows you to further change or adjust what a knob does or how it reacts. You can also adjust or assign what parameter you want using an expression pedal. Dreamy is a word that comes to mind with this unit. Joel Korte is reshaping the effects world one dream at a time.

The Warped Vinyl II Chorus/Vibrato is in on the same level as the Wombtone II as far as functionality, tone, and possibilities. I was looking for a chorus that could get thick and meaty but keep the notes from being muddy and murky. I also wanted a chorus that could be more transparent and not get in the way of the chime in the top end but still add that magical pristine sheen to the notes. It does all this in full colours. It has a lushness that I have never heard before. It can make notes glisten. The warped part of it's namesake lends to the effect you can get it to reproduce, much like an old warped and scratchy record. That LoFi sound. And anything in between. The boost on this pedal is tube-like and magical just like the Wombtone II, so there is never a worry of signal or tonal drop from the effect. The extra feature of having a vibrato effect as well makes this pedal a double threat. It can make the notes dance beautifully. It can quiver and shimmer. It is also possible to have a combination of chorus and vibrato at the same. SRV's Cold Shot is alive and living in this piece. Hendrix lives in this pedal as well. Hands down the best chorus and vibrato unit I have ever experienced. Are you experienced?
 
These pedals will make you try things you have never tried before, and discover sounds you may have only dreamed about. The point being, up until now, those sounds were not available. Now they are. I found out more about Joel after I bought these two units. Now I understand why I was so drawn to them. Here is a guy who is changing the effects game, re-inventing it, and doing it for all the right reasons. Please read his bio. To honour family is the best dedication and inspiration a human being can draw from. This guy is as good as they come. I want to support an artist like this. That is what he is. An artist. In a time when people use the term "artist" often, Joel Korte has redefined it's very meaning, and will no doubt leave a lasting legacy in the world of boutique effects. 
 
For more information on Chase Bliss Audio, please click here:
http://www.chaseblissaudio.com

THE BOW THAT TOUCHED MY LIFE:
Remembering Jack Murphy
By Mike Murphy
© 2013 All Rights Reserved

I remember my Uncle Jack trying to show me how to play the fiddle when I was around 6 years old but my fingers were too small and I didn't have the strength in them yet.

I never did end up playing fiddle but first took up playing drums and would play along to his fiddling whenever we got together. I started out on pots and pans and I'm sure my Aunt Leanna put up with my banging on them and my drums many times in my childhood.

When I switched to guitar at age 12 I got to play a few places and gatherings with him. One being the Hants County Exhibition. I sure enjoyed that. Meeting all the people and watching their smiling faces as we played. I learned early on that it was all for the people. Uncle Jack loved to see people having fun and especially enjoyed it if they really listened. Music was always in our family. Uncle Jack and his brother (my Dad Jim) used to play live on a radio show from Windsor and Kentville, Nova Scotia in the 50's called "Jack Murphy and The Hants County Rhythm Boys", as well as playing many dances with their musical friends. Many times they would come back home after the gig and jam till the early hours and I got to sneak out and listen and learn. Those were magical times. I used to listen to the tapes Dad had of those days. Music has changed since then but one thing that hasn't is my gratitude and thanks to my Uncle Jack for teaching me the old time music and giving me precious memories of him and those times to cherish.

Music and horses were two of his favourite pastimes and he was always involved with these as a way of life. My Aunt Leanna I know, has many great and I'm sure some comical memories of Uncle Jack and his many adventures. There was never a dull moment. I thank her for putting up with the both of us working on tunes in the kitchen usually while she worked around us. Because of my Mom's passing when I was 10, I used to spend time with them when I could and it sure helped ease my pain. Aunt Leanna, you were a loving and so devoted wife to Uncle Jack (especially when his health was failing) and I sure thank you for that and all that you and Uncle Jack have given me in both memories and love. My boys nor Tammy never got to meet him but I will make sure they know who he was and what a positive influence he had on my life and musical journey. Whenever I play my guitar there has always been a bit of Uncle Jack's soul in my playing and now there will be just that little bit more.

This was read at my Uncle Jack's funeral.
R.I.P. Uncle Jack Murphy. Your musical soul lives on in me.


STARE WITH YOUR EARS
By Mike Murphy
© 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Try this. Turn off the phone and the lights. Get into a comfortable chair or couch. Put on your favourite piece of music and close your eyes. Now listen. Feel. Are your eyes trying to open? Your eyelids most often move a bit at least. Like when you are having a dream. Now try this the opposite way. Turn the phone on. Include all the daily distractions and sounds. Turn the lights back on. Keep your eyes open. Your reaction is different. If you are truly connected to the piece of music you will find that using your eyes will distract you from the total listening process.

Ever wonder why blind people are sometimes very gifted artists musically? They are listening to the music, not looking at it. This takes time to develop but is a great realization once found. Hence the phrase "stare with your ears" at the music. Not your eyes. Many of the big concerts rely on huge lighting rigs to make you stare with your eyes. To buy into the hoax. But close your eyes and listen. Are they singing in key? Are they playing in time? Are all the instruments in tune with each other and their intonation set?

What's the real message here? Or is there one at all? Maybe it's just a big party concert with no meaning other than fun. Many of the most famous songs evoke deep emotion. The people that really care about their music do a lot more than play an instrument. Have you ever wondered why some music sounds okay and other music sounds out of this world? Differences? Not as many as you might think. They usually all have a few common threads. They take the time to make sure their instruments perform properly. If the instrument plays poorly then guess what? The player will also. They are short changing themselves from giving the best performance as possible, and making the group sound out of key, which now affects not only themselves but all their bandmates as well.

Try being a singer with every instrument out of tune or with bad intonation. Hey, your singer relies on you for pitch! Same goes with the bass player. Is it fair to show up to a gig with worn out strings, maybe break one during a show that might have been avoided with proper care and maintenance? Maybe by playing with bad technique (playing too hard, etc.). The drummer should have changed the snare skin before the show but didn't and now it's busted during the guitar player's best solo of the night. Is that fair to the guitarist or the band? Out of respect for everyone involved, and if you want to have any chance of getting any better and developing as a band, you owe it to yourself and your fellow bandmates to show up as ready as possible. Of course, life factors in here to a degree. Showing up in a decent mood and with a decent attitude. Having your equipment working top notch. These factors will at least give you a fighting chance to do a good show and learn from each other. Take the time. The little details all add up to a great show as much as a bad one. Use some common sense and ask yourself a few questions:

1. What do I need to do to be ready for this gig?

2. What am I or we as a band trying to accomplish? Do I or we as a band have a common goal?

3. Most importantly: Why am I doing this? You have to have a personal purpose or you are just going through the motions and will eventually have little impact (return bookings, crowd reaction, call back for fill in again as a sideman, etc.).

A band or player that takes their music and all their preparation serious will have a far greater impact than one who doesn't give a care. Of course all this is actually the second step in the whole equation. There is something else that is far more important and without this, the second step is mostly a waste of time, effort, and in many cases money.

Talent. Take a hard look in the mirror before you get too obsessed with all of this. If you are getting compliments from club owners, managers, talent agents, etc., then this is worth looking into possibly. But if the only praise you get is from your Mom, Dad, husband, wife, lover, or drunk buddies at the show, maybe get a professional opinion to save yourself a lot of misery. The truth hurts, but is far more rewarding once you get on the real path of life. If it is music, then go at it and get prepared. Get your bass set up and playing in tune including intonation, action, etc. Same as your guitar. Drummers, talk about a timing problem. Do you change drum skins only when we change Prime Ministers or Presidents? Every musician should have a personal metronome. If you can't play to that in time how can you possibly have a chance of playing with each other in time? You don't go to play a game of hockey with a golf club do you? Whomever your influences are, find out what kind of gear they are using. Chances are you'll like some of the same gear they use. You like them in the first place. There must be a reason. Their tone, technique, mindset, etc. With today's availability of info there is no excuse for not doing a bit of homework and getting some tips to educate yourself. If not, maybe you don't care. Maybe you're in the wrong business. Question your purpose. Practice and prepare. Get in the right mindset. Find inner peace. Now play! And stare with those ears!

THERE'S A WAR AT HOME
By Mike Murphy
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this after the April 16th, 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Just my thoughts at the time after turning on my television and seeing it. Shame on society, I was thinking, and the utter blindness...

there's a war goin' on at home,
there's killin' in the streets,
no it ain't just over in Iraq,
it's right below your feet.

your t.v. shows the battles waged,
the pain, the hurt, the tears,
there's no safe place to hide from this rage,
no one's felt safe for years.

no love of God, no fear of pain,
that concept's slipped our hands,
shall it ever be the same,
or has it vanished to the sand.

yes there's a war going on at home,
and you'd think that we're all blind,
everyone wants to act like a convict,
but no one wants to do the time.

so don't hide your head in such denial,
to think you're not affected,
teach your kids to love again,
and not feel so rejected.

where has our social skills all gone,
technology rules our tongues,
we've lost all humanility,
and there's a war going on at home.

WHO AM I (For Miles Patrick Yohnke)
By Mike Murphy
© 2009 All Rights Reserved.

I am the person kicked when down,
that sand in my face is fresh,
like yesterday, it is with me,
moving on, still trying to heal the flesh,

sure I put on a good face,
to hide all of my pain,
but I seek to help others,
self indulgence is not my game,

I reach out with hand in air,
to teach not self gratify,
to spare another in some small way,
some torment as have I,

I ask not for any praise,
only acceptance of my life,
I do for others to feel better myself,
giving is not a sacrifice,

it keeps me strong and going on,
for others to learn is my reward,
if I can help another on this journey,
to mend what for me has somewhat scarred,

who am I, I sometimes ask,
to me I remember well,
maybe some will try to forget,
for me it's living hell,

but I battle on, too strong to quit,
for a loser am not I,
and when I get that sand again,
I can only ask myself why,

I have not lost my way,
for this, I am grateful to realize,
but it saddens me for all I'm worth,
when a friend has gone astray,

who am I, well I am you,
and you are simply I,
we all are just really one,
together or apart, but trying to survive.

A LETTER FROM DAD
By Mike Murphy
© 2013 All Rights Reserved.


Dedicated To My Adopted Brother Miles Patrick Yohnke.
From Your Dad through me.


Hello from afar,
I am watching you.
With only a few pictures,
And memories to cherish,
You remember,
And I watch and marvel even as I write.

Of the man you have become,
Of the son I can no longer physically hold.
But by a stronger connection,
And through an unbreakable faith,
The son I am so proud,
The father in his son.

Completely by accident,
Completely by fate,
Your Mother and your Brothers,
With you still looking up,
All left to find your way, without my hand.
Completely alone, but completely watched.

I will always keep the porch light on.
For when that supper day arrives again,
We shall all feast and reconnect our souls,
Like it had been, like it shall be.
The ties are never broken,
Only frayed by the hand of the Master.

Hello from afar,
I'm closer than they think,
I will always keep my eyes on all of them,
But you I know, already feel my warmth.
My time was shorter than some others,
But time is not measured by light alone.

Hello from afar,
You know I am near,
Your heart and your drive always show it.
The son for which pride,
Could never be measured,
Continue to fight, continue to grow.

Your visits I always welcome,
I visit as often as you.
Through your life I live,
As you live from my life,
Ever connected, ever loved,
An incalculable love from afar.

To read Mike Murphy's heartfelt poem "A Letter From Dad" and learn more of
it's contents you can view it online at MotivateUs.com. Please click here

Miles Patrick Yohnke and Mike Murphy


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