10 May 1997

Thoughts About Orpheus

As I view adults around me, I see two roads being traveled. One involves pursuit of the true self, while the other involves avoidance of true self through addictive behaviors, relationships and substances. Nearly everyone seems to have both, in varying proportion.

It is indeed terrifying to face the splendor of what we can become, for it involves letting go much of what we thought of as our security. What distinguishes us humans from other creatures is that we have the ability to tell the difference between these two roads and can, in fact, choosewhich one to go down.

To further illustrate the concept of these two roads, I recall the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice:

When Orpheus plays his lyre, nature listens. Eurydice, while gathering flowers by the river her wedding to Orpheus, is bit on the foot by a snake. She quickly dies. That night, Orpheus -- playing his lyre, pouring all his grief into the music -- enters the cave to the underworld in hope of finding his bride. Charming the ferryman and 3-headed guard dog, he reaches Hades the cold-hearted King of the Underworld -- who is uncharacteristically affected. Hades pronounces to Orpheus, "Go back to the light of day. Go quickly while my monsters are stilled by your song. Climb up the steep road to daylight, and never once turn back. The spirit of Eurydice shall follow. But if you look around at her, she will return to me."

And so Orpheus begins the return journey, but fails to hear any sign of her spirit following him upwards. Wondering if he has been tricked and doubting that he could succeed in returning down a second time, with the mouth of the cave in sight, he turns to look behind. For a brief moment he can make out her form and he attempts to embrace it. She says only "goodbye" and vanishes. Other versions of the story have her nagging him as they walk, saying he must not love her if he won't turn and look.

To not look feels like death; to look is death. I ask each one of you: In what ways do you give in to looking back and what act of faith will it take for you to proceed forward? To facilitate this discussion I have prepared a list of how, to me, these two parts of our self appear to operate:

Ego Self - Personality - Victim

Higher Self

  • rows the boat but doesn't know the first thing about navigation
  • makes informed decisions for the Ego Self to act on
  • can navigate the boat
  • when Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus
  • when Paul Revere made his ride
  • sex drive, territorialism
  • perceives competitively; only victims and victors
  • believes in a certain autonomy; "every man for himself"
  • yet also feels the need to be taken care of by someone
  • views each individual as part of the whole; "All for one and one for all", "No one is free until all are free"
  • decides when to have sexual feelings
  • obsessed with holding on to the past through photos, etc.
  • having no divine faith, always preparing for the worst
  • preoccupied with security
  • leave behind what is not needed
  • believes loyalty is key to survival
  • acts out of obligation
  • expects paybacks
  • seeks a dominating patriarchical God
  • loyal to religious orders and institutions
  • does not require family, clan or tribe connection
  • seeks the God within
  • has no need for religious or institutional affiliation
  • seeks to deepen relationships naturally with all present
  • values all relationships
  • does not require one special exclusive relationship
  • power
  • sex
  • retribution
  • wealth
  • transcendence
  • true closeness
  • ability to forgive
  • the genuine abundance of giving and receiving in quantity without attachment to wealth
  • objectifies others
  • seeks to be objectified
  • insatiable need for attention
  • unable to listen to another or imagine the feelings of another
  • needs to always be "right"
  • seeks personal fulfillment through relationships
  • able to listen to another with loving detachment
  • offers nurturance without seeking fulfillment through it
  • cannot receive
  • lack of creativity or imagination (can't see any point in funding the arts)
  • requires no activity to be fully engaged; appreciative of every nuance
  • source of unbound creativity and imagination
  • believes only in instant gratification
  • only interest is: "what's in it for me"
  • content waiting
  • completely present in each moment
  • basis of tyranny, dependence and addiction
  • military training/obedience
  • basis of liberation and independence; makes free choices
See related article within this site: Sermon given 5/97

In Praise of Paper Music

Recently, while listening to the new anthologies of previously unreleased recordings by the Beatles, I was struck with a new concept placing all creators of music into one of two categories: composers and improvisers. Certainly most musicians have some of both, but it occurred to me that when viewed in terms of soul purpose, we each identify more strongly with one than with the other. For example, of my two strongest 60's influences The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix the former were clearly composers and the latter an improviser.

Listening to the takes that led up the the final versions of their songs, it strikes me that The Beatles were nearly always heading toward a final version for each. The song's earlier incarnation was not simply an alternative version, of equal merit to the final mix, but a developing sculpture on its way to completion. The melodies were superior in their final form, and therefore difficult to improve upon. It wasn't just because their audiences got too big or screamed too loudly that The Beatles needed to end their performing career together; for all they could hope to do live was repeat the best ideas they had already recorded. Their primary creative act, the evolution of masterful song arrangements, is what took place in the studio . Little variation was present in their live recordings; and when alternative ideas were tried out as in Paul McCartney's performance of Beatle hits with Wings they were not in keeping with or empathetic to the musical essence of the originals.

Jimi Hendrix, in his short life of 27 years, left a legacy of recorded performances, some of which were conceived as final studio versions but most of which were recorded in concert or jam sessions. As with improvisations of the jazz greats, many of the ideas he tried out in these alternative performances were equally musical. One is left with the sense, in listening to a song, of hearing only one of many ways he could have played it; of a new musical concept being tried and proved (except for the times he was too stoned or exhausted) in that moment. There could not be a definitive recording of a given song because it wasn't in his creative nature to make hard-and-fast decisions; rather, it was rooted in change.


The quality of improvisation is essential in all our lives. Even those of us who are not musicians delight in our own improvisatory abilities, as well as those of others. All of our interactions are improvisatory, as we have no way of predicting each thing coming our way. Some of us go after it on the basketball court. We enjoy banter, Like Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing. In jazz, such a musical conversation is called "trading fours". It is the essence of life. Listening to the radio, notice how much more attentive we are to improvised speech as opposed to that which is recited. Perhaps a better way to express it is that we use our right, intuitive, brain to follow improvised speech and our left, analytical, one to follow recitations. Herein lies the popularity of talk shows, the unpredictability affirms our inherent desire to live each moment well, encouraging our very blood to flow.

This inner process is much the same in conversation as it is in playing music: creating something new, by selectively dipping into our own unique files of memorized material while making way for Spirit to do the rest. Eric Clapton once spoke of how deluded people were to scribble "Clapton is God" graffiti on the walls because, from his point of view, all he was doing was stringing together memorized riffs; but whether he acknowledged it or not, he did it in such a way as to allow God to come through him.


However much spontaneity affirms life, our beings also strive for perfection. While an improviser may find what it perfect for that moment , a composer strives to create what is perfect for all time. When it all comes together, the end result is a "masterpiece". The question is: What would cause someone in the present day to devote most of his or her creative energy to the performance of music committed to paper by another, intended for an audience of a past century?

Most would agree that J.S. Bach was, through his music, as direct a channel of God as anyone. Yet, Bach didn't even intend his music to last beyond his generation. He, after all, would discard the scores left by his predecessor when assuming a new post and assumed that whoever followed him would do the same with his scores. If he could let go in such a way, why do so many of us persist in holding on?

In my practising on classical guitar, there continues to be a handful of pieces that are so infused with life that they keep on giving it back, no matter how much you play them. A fine line seems to separate them from other, often very similar, works. These pieces bring the performer to a state of transcendence -- a moment where the spirit of the player and that of the composer are joined in the common purpose, where egos step aside and God streams through. The audience members, once they also set their egos aside, will become the recipients of this bountiful stream which may also be a force for physical and spiritual healing.

How we choose to develop our channel whether it be as improviser, composer or performer matters less than does our commitment to this combined artistic and spiritual mission as communicators. What we choose to bring through matters less than how we choose to do it.


Angels, Victims & Love Songs

Sermon given at Gloucester U.U. Church

I thank you for this time to speak to you. I would like to use it as an opportunity to share, primarily through personal anecdotes, some important insights I have gained over the years. This probably should be three sermons, but by the time get up here next I may already have three more written.

I see each step in my life as another up a mountain path from my Ego Self at the base to my Higher Self at the summit -- the first characterized by victimization and the second by acceptance. Each time I've made the conscious choice to leave behind another aspect of the victim role -- that is, "lay my burden down" [from opening hymn] -- the added lightness to my knapsack permits me to rise further up the slope.

We've all seen -- and perhaps even have been -- that child in kindergarten who is unusually preoccupied with the behavior of the other children: "Melissa's squishing me! . . . Jimmy said something mean to me!" Whether or not anyone is intentionally hurting the child, being a victim is the best way she or he can figure out to get attention. When we're outside of it, we can see it for the manipulative pattern that it is -- fulfilling itself by drawing hurtful behavior from the other children. But many of us adults continue to do some version of the same thing, the difference being that we have figured out how to do so while maintaining the appearance of being an adult. Ever noticed how long people can go on exchanging anecdotes about health problems and hospital visits? Membership in the victim club gives us something "in common". When we get out of victim mode we begin truly listening to each other.

We are a global society of victims. If everyone were to unilaterally give up the victim role, strife would end in many flash points of the world -- whether it be Northern Ireland, the Middle East, within families or within ourselves. It preys upon us like an addiction, keeping us oppressed and unhappy, from moving forward, fulfilling our potential, or from attaining what would be our natural state of joy and bliss -- like the two-year-old of the Opening Words.

To me, a story well-told is one in which I find myself able to identify with every character. Watching a video about domestic violence, I was moved by how much the batterers reminded me of myself. Many of their feelings seemed true for men across the board, not just a psychotic fringe. They perceived themselves as victims of the partners they had physically abused, in fact they were so deeply sunk into the victim identity, so desperate and so hopeless, as to completely lose it, to go berserk.

However much I would like to think of the victim state as having been thrust upon me, the fact is that I have chosen it. Why?... because it is familiar, it has usually gotten me attention of some sort, and it's mostly all I've seen modeled. In today's reading, Jesus draws attention to the fact that we choose to be victims when he tells the paralyzed man simply to take up his bed and walk.

What has helped me to leave behind the victim role has been a new understanding of how everything that happens to me is for my eventual highest good. I have opened to a Divine Presence, having it's own Divine Order -- which allows me to look back on my life and say, "I wouldn't change a thing!"

I acquired this spiritual perspective after working hard at healing my early hurts at an emotional level -- expressing anger or grief over past upsets -- mostly through Re-evaluation Counseling. This was an important process of separating people from their patterns and realizing I've always done the best I could in every given moment.

Along with the concept of Divine Order has come the concept of guardian angels. I think I've figured out how my angel operates. He's up there somewhere saying, "Are you going to see clear and do the right thing or am I going to have to do it for you?" He arranges for certain things to happen at prescribed times and prevents things from happening at other times. My angel speaks to me through intuitive, gut feelings. Many of us, men in particular, have difficulty even recognizing when we're having intuitive feelings, let alone rely on them for anything.

Whatever negative thoughts I harbor towards others tend to be thoughts I am also harboring towards myself. A victim-free perspective means not only forgiving, but perhaps even blessing "those who trespass against us". While we should not deny our anger, we should realize that self-righteous anger is to be worked through and left behind -- and that holding on to it is a decision to remain the victim. In fact, we only have two choices: running laps around the victim track or seeking the divine light shining through. We know we've passed the test when we can climb out of the smouldering wreckage and remark without urgency: "My, my, today didn't turn out at all the way I'd planned!" Likewise, however I am feeling about myself tends to get reflected back at me by the universe. Days I'm feeling impatient tend to be days someone cuts me off at a rotary. Bless yourself, on the other hand, and strangers join in -- such as one guy standing in front of a liquor store who greeted me with, "Say, aren't you the Music Man? Good luck to you!" Other people simply reflect either the love we have for or the love we withhold from ourselves.

Our angels come through in the least likely form: the person whose affair with your partner brings that relationship to its needed termination; the child who greets you with a hug; from the police officer that decides not to issue you a ticket to the one who does. They all are, unconsciously, carrying out Divine Orders.

Stepping out of the victim mentality means seeking the positive lesson in every occurrence. Everything becomes a gift: good weather, bad weather; close friends, no friends. Nothing is coincidental. "Thy will be done" means that we accept the presence of Divine Wisdom rather than fight it.

It is never God's will that we should suffer needlessly; the God that I know wants the best for every one of us and does not punish. It is not the jealous, wrathful God of the Old Testament -- could that one have perhaps been the best concept of the divine that the society of the time could come up with?

Getting us in the position to move forward often requires the dismantling of the very structures we thought our lives depended on. I once heard someone express it this way: "Yes, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." God is trying to position us to be not only the most effective in healing ourselves, but in healing the world at large as well. Christ, the teacher and messenger, is in all of us.

Each of us has our own unique piece of the truth to share, something that no one else can bring through in quite the same way. I may have a particular ear for musical truth, but others will have developed different sensitivities. They may not get a word I say or a note I play but notice that my sweater's on backwards or that I avert my eyes when I speak to them -- the "truths" they may read.

Between all of us we have the complete picture, just like when three people together can remember all the words to a song that none of them individually could totally recall. Like the main character in "Mission Impossible", we all at one time listened to a recording that destroyed itself at the conclusion of playback. Although the voice in the TV show said "Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . ." I think we all indeed chose to accept it; it's just that most of us continue struggling to remember what it was we heard on that tape.

This connects to some thoughts I'd like to share with you about prayer. Prayer is something most of us have been told to do, at some point, but (like parenting or relationships) for which we received little instruction. Many see prayer as a time to ask for things: please heal me from this disease, please find me a mate, etc. But this strikes me as praying from within the victim role. In fact, prayer time may be better used to ask questions, such as: What am I meant to learn from this disease? How am I meant to use this freedom from a primary relationship I am presently enjoying? "Give us this day our daily bread" has as much to do with insight as it does with bodily sustenance -- as some scholars have rendered the Aramaic original of the Lord's Prayer.

God and the angels don't do requests. They do see to it, however, that I am periodically brought "to my knees" -- down to the level of vulnerability required to bring about significant change. Forced to feel the underlying pain that I have been pretending wasn't there, I have been subjected to many a "dark night of the soul". The more I've given up addictive behaviors that kept me from feeling it, the deeper down this tunnel I have been brought. This is the core, where we bump against all the old wounds, where we build a foundation, the essence of our being. From down there we had those tantrums that we thought we had since outgrown the need for. If we cannot fortify the core, whatever we build will eventually topple.

Concurrent with this movement from my Ego Self to Higher Self, has come a whole new sense of what "love" is. I mostly heard about love from the radio. "I'll love you forever"... "I'll always be true"... no matter when you grew up, the lyrics all have something in common. It has been a great disappointment to discover that the fantasies described in popular love songs did not depict what happens between actual people. Almost all of them promote emotional over-dependence and addictive love. To quote these lines from Lionel Richie:

I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do.
Are you somewhere feeling lonely, or is someone loving you?
Tell me how to win your heart, 'cause I haven't got a clue.
But let me start by saying... I love you.

If someone isn't "loving you" then you must be "somewhere feeling lonely", right? Music flows into the right, intuitive, side of the brain, with the lyrics floating on top -- lyrics penned by someone who admits he hasn't "got a clue". How can one grow up immune to indoctrination delivered by means such as these?

What has made me less cynical about all these songs is the realization that they are actually written, unconsciously, to God. Who else can be the giver or the object of such consuming love? Try recasting your favorite love song in this manner. It's not that such a love doesn't exist, it's simply not the kind that we mortals, however well-meaning, can handle. People are like reflections of God in the water -- water that is easily disturbed, light that is changeable. We would be much gentler to one another if we stopped expecting people to live up to expectations and fantasies that only God can fulfill.

There is a lovely song by Karla Bonoff about manifesting this. She starts off, in her typical fashion, lamenting the end of a romance; but she concludes it like few other songs that I know:

Now as I move on to a place that's strong
I'll think of you and wonder where you are
And when someday you see me on a crowded street
I think you'll see in my eyes
My life is complete
'Cause I learned from you as you were passing through
That Love would never find my heart a home
'Cause in the end we all walk alone

Walk alone or walk with God, however you'd like to think of it, it means giving up a long-held expectation.

For it may actually be that no profound moment can truly be shared. My joy is my own. No one else has ever been responsible for it and no one can ever be the source of it in the future. I need no one to complete me; nor is anyone capable of doing so. No experience I have enjoyed alone would have been improved or deepened by the presence of another. I deserve, and always have deserved, to thoroughly receive each moment -- having another to share it with was never a requirement. While I don't believe we can grow to our fullest without experiencing intimate relationships, we often can't grow to our fullest within them. Primary relationships can keep us in a perpetual childhood. Just as the child must grow up and eventually leave home -- and just as the parent should then step aside and bless their beloved children on their own journey -- we must free ourselves periodically from what no longer serves us. There has been much talk about our Inner Child; let us also be conscious of our Inner Parent who is not letting go of that child.

We cannot love anyone any better than we love ourselves, at least not without issuing false promises. Anyone who we feel withheld love from us was simply short on self-love. Let's not waste any more energy pining for the love we never got. Let's stop blaming our parents -- even if some of them were attempting to complete themselves through us -- and appreciate how well they did with what little they had. Stepping out of the victim role means abandoning the search for love from others -- whether from the past or the present -- for the simple reason that we are looking in the wrong place. Rev. Carlos Anderson, of Hope Church, had an actual ceremony in which he married himself -- which may be what it takes to get us to the Christ-like place of loving unconditionally.

When Orpheus was escorting his beloved Eurydice out of the underworld, his Higher Self knew he must not look back at her. But his Ego Self insisted on doing so. To not look feels like death, but to look is death. We all get presented with choices like this. Something, or someone, so beautiful that we seek ownership; a habit so familiar that we stay addicted. Telling that Ego Self "No" is painful; if it isn't we're probably not doing it for real. God doesn't cut us deals; "If you can assure my security, show me who will catch me, then I'll take this leap"... or "Bring me another partner (or job) and I'll leave this one." No; we have to be ready to go all the way -- no tether to the space capsule. Orpheus had almost made it out the mouth of the cave before he turned; it is the challenge presented to each one of us to make it to the light of day. Some days I feel those rays warming my face, and others I've got a bag over my head.

I chose a hymn and reading related to children because they have been some of the most honest, if not always the most articulate, teachers I have had on this topic. They've helped me resolve issues left from my own childhood. In addition to teaching in the classroom, I was a Big Brother volunteer and played a lot with with neighborhood children while in Western Mass. When I first began working with children in groups, it was important for me to be liked by them -- so much so that I was not a good ally to some of the so-called "behaviorally involved" children who needed someone to stand up against their patterns at the risk of not being liked. I had to feel more loved by the child within me, before I could respond effectively to problem situations with certain children I've worked with; in other words, I've had to give to myself more of what I'd been seeking from them.

Giving to myself means doing enjoyable things that have no particular neccessity. At the same time, it has meant opening to the idea that fulfilling my highest potential as a musician is quite possibly also what is best for the world. It means blessing myself whenever I make mistakes, bearing in mind that when I get home from giving a concert it will have made no difference to my cat how many notes I missed. It means taking myself on beautiful walks, intoning gently (reminiscent of Dorothy's "There's no place like home"): "There is no place I'd rather be, and no one I'd rather be with."

Join with me now in the spirit of prayer:

Dear God,

Please grant me the knowledge and the insight to become an open channel for Your eternal wisdom.

Let me see the ways I have held myself back by dwelling on images of myself as a victim.

Let my love be as pure as the flowers opening around me.

Let my growth be as certain as the most magnificent of trees.

Let me have abundance, whether it be in relationships or material things, in accordance with Your will and with what is best for our universe.

Thank you for the gift of my life in this time of great possibility. Amen.

[Thanks to Harvey Jackins, Carolyn Myss and Marriane Williamson for some of the insights paraphrased above].

01 May 1997

Recording Solo Guitar on the Roland VS-880

This was originally prepared for Recording Magazine. While it did not appear there, Roland ran a summary of it in "Track Notes" the VS-880 Roland Users Group publication.

Letting the VS-880 Do It All

No sooner did I get my VS-880 home, one year ago, I begin working it into my solo guitar concerts. It occurred to me that insights I've gained on how to control its parameters in solo performance may be applied to the recording/mixdown process as well. My goal has been to have the VS-880 fulfill as many tasks as it is capable without the addition of other pieces of gear narrowing down set-up time, whether you are a performer, a sound support person or an engineer making an on-site demo. Even when you've had ample time for a sound check in a particular venue, you know how much the presence of an audience can change the acoustic response of a space. You need to be able to vary certain things "on the fly".Those accustomed to standard mixers may assume that one cannot have adequate physical access to essential parameters on the VS-880. There is, however, always at least one elegant solution to every problem.
When I use the Roland to provide my pre-recorded accompaniments and effects in my guitar concerts, all that is needed to complete the rig is an acoustic guitar amp, a mic, a footswitch and a volume pedal. Here I offer some scenarios that offer a good degree of real-time control.
First we set the Master Channel parameters:

Master Mode = MIX
MasterLevel = 100
Master Bal = 0
Aux Level = 100
AUX Bal = 0
EFF1 RTN Lev = 100
EFF1 RTN Bal = 0
EFF2 RTN Lev = 100
EFF2 RTN Bal = 0

The Master Out is patched to the amp's Effects Return, while the Effects Send from my amp goes into channel 1 on the VS-880.

Playing over pre-recorded accompaniment
In one scenario, when we want to play live guitar over a second guitar part recorded on Channel 5 the latter going through a chorus effect and both receiving reverb we activate four channels as indicated here:

Ch 1 (Source) Ch 5 (Play) Ch 6 (Source) Ch 7 (Source)
Input=INPUT-1 Input=INPUT-1 Input=AUX-A Input=AUX-B
MIX Sw=Off MIX Sw=PstFade MIX Sw=PstFade MIX Sw=Off
MIX Level=(fader 5) MIX Level=(fader 6)
MIX Pan=0 MIX Pan=0
V. Track=1 V. Track=1 V. Track=1 V. Track=1
EQ Switch=(to taste) EQ Switch=(to taste) EQ Switch=Off EQ Switch=Off
AUX Sw=Off AUX Sw=Off AUX Sw=Off AUX Sw=Off
Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off
EFFECT1 Send=100 EFFECT1 Send=100
EFFECT2 Send=100

(for live guitar) (for recorded track) (for recorded track) (for recorded track)

The bottom row indicates the function for each fader. On the VSF-8 internal effects board, we use Effect1 for reverb and Effect 2 for chorus. A scenario such as this can be adapted to the stereo mixdown of recorded tracks, either to the VS-880 putting two channels into record mode with their inputs set to MIX-L and MIX-R or to a separate mastering deck.
I start and stop the accompaniment with a momentary footswitch plugged into the VS-880 back panel. I have found I can acheive substantial rhythmic freedom by cutting out any time between phrases in the accompaniment (using Track Cut), placing a Mark Point at each juncture and setting SYS Marker Stop (System Menu) to On. Each succesive phrase is automatically cued to begin with each press of the footswitch almost like having a live duet partner following your every nod.

More for the foot
In a second scenario we would like to use Effect 2 instead to provide delay for the live guitar signal (no accompaniment this time) while controlling the amount of delay with a pedal . This involves the following addition to Ch1:

EFFECT2 = PreFade
EFFECT2 Send = 100
EFFECT2 Pan = 0

Fader 1 controls the wet/dry mix of reverb for the live guitar sending reverb only back into the amp. By running a cable from AUX A OUT to a standard volume pedal, and bringing it back into Ch 2 of the VS-880, I can vary the level of Effect 2 with my foot. Ch 2 settings are (Source mode):

Input = Input2
MIX Sw = PreFade
MIX Level = (fader 2)
MIX Pan = 0
V. Track = 1
EQ Switch= (to taste)
Aux Sw = Off
Channel Link = Off
EFFECT1 = PstFade
EFFECT1 Send = 100
EFFECT1 Pan = 0

Since the pedal controls the Effect2 return level (delay, in this case having routed the delayed signal to the AUX OUT), we can now use the fader of this channel to adjust the Reverb (Effect1) send for the delayed signal. This is a more flexible method for sending the delayed signal through the reverb than the alternative of designating the delay as an insert effect.

By another route
The mixer's flexible routing scheme, in fact, allows us to vary almost whatever we like with this pedal, as in this third scenario where I want it to control the level of an accompaniment recorded on Track 7. I am still using a delay effect on the live guitar. This "scene" (we are saving each of these configurations as Scenes) has roles for five channels. Ch1 remains as above its fader still controlling reverb level for the straight live guitar signal while the remaining four are as follows:

Ch 2 (Source) Ch 3 (Source) Ch 7 (Play) Ch 8 (Source)
Input=AUX-B Input=AUX-B Input=INPUT-1 Input=INPUT-3
MIX Sw=PstFade MIX Sw=Off MIX Sw=Off MIX Sw=PreFade
MIX Level=(fader 2) MIX Level=0*
MIX Pan=0 MIX Pan=0
V. Track=1 V. Track=1 V. Track=1 V. Track=1
EQ Switch=Off EQ Switch=Off EQ Switch=Off EQ Switch=Off
AUX Sw=PreFade AUX Sw=Off AUX Sw=PreFade AUX Sw=Off
AUX Level=100 AUX Level=100
AUX Pan=L63 AUX Pan=L63
Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off Channel Link=Off
EFFECT1 Send=100 EFFECT1 Send=100

(for live guitar) (for delayed signal) (for recorded track) *(via pedal; fader inactive)

Assuming you can remember the function of each fader you now have many significant adjustments at your fingertips. I've worked it out, in the above cases, so that this one set of fader labels remains true for every piece in the concert:


Live Guitar Recorded Tracks

One can use the Scene memory to save effect settings for a number of pieces, calling them up at the touch of a Scene (LOC) button. In fact, you could even change to other pieces with accompaniments (putting them on unused tracks or virtual tracks, muting or enabling those required) and have each be accessible as a scene . This takes much less time than it does to load a new song (via the Song Select menu). It's best to set the Scene Mode (accessed via the SYSTEM menu) to 'KeepF' (faders), by the way, if you want levels to be where they faders say they are.

Alternative for the VX-panded
Effect settings can also be varied from the same footswitch one is doing the stop/starting with by setting up a New Song with Auto Mix on and the footswitch set (in the System menu) to "Next". While in this menu also set Auto Mix Snapshot mode to "MaskF" (once again so the that faders still reflect reality). Unfortunately, you can't save new System menu setting as a Scene; it has to be a new Song. By saving different Channel (or Master) Effect Send settings as "snapshots" allied to consecutive Marker points (they need to be at least four frames apart), you can then step through them with the footswitch. It would be preferable not to use the transport for recording or playback in this configuration.

Creating a live loop
Since the VS-880 is, after all, a digital recorder. It would be a shame not to have its recording capabilities utilized in performance as well. We've come a long way since the days when Robert Fripp had to position two reel-to-reel decks in line and run an actual loop of tape between them. To set up an eight measure loop for improvised soloing on the VS-880 which is re-recordable whenever you choose first create a new song (in the SONG menu) and then set the channel parameters to either the second or third scenario above (the second if you don't require foot pedal control over any of the levels). The difference is that you change the mode of the PLAY channel to RECORD (that is, from green to blinking red) and change its input to INPUT-1. In the SYSTEM menu, change the footswitch function to REC. (The changes saved with this particular song will not affect counterpart settings for the other songs, by the way). Also in this menu, set MetroOut to INT and MetroMd to Rec Only (also, check that RecordMon is set to the default of AUTO). Lower MetroLevel to about 24.
Let us say our improv will have a tempo of 60 bpm in common time. Set TMap 1 (found in the Sync/Tempo menu) to 60 therefore. For an eight measure loop, I have found a Loop Start (LpSt) setting of 3s28f (2 frames before the downbeat of measure 2) and a Loop End (LpEd) setting of 35s24f (6 frames before the end of measure 9) compensate adequately for the time it takes the loop to begin itself again. Now, when you start the machine recording (in the usual manner with the transport buttons) you'll have a one measure count-in, followed by eight measures that loop. The metronome will sound only when you're recording, after which time you can immediately begin soloing over the loop you've just laid down. Don't play on the last eighth note in recording the loop, by the way, to avoid getting a note choked off. Whenever you'd like to change the progression or texture you're improvising over, hit the footswitch at the beginning of a loop and play the new accompaniment once through; the metronome will automatically return for those 8 bars. The guitar will increase in volume while a new recording is being made as it is going through two channels but this does not pose a major distraction.
I hope these ideas might inspire readers to get the most out of the VS-880 or whatever gear they may have, and to further ply their creative spirits.