Sunday, May 29, 2005

Audio Interfaces

I've been looking for a USB audio interface to use with my iBook. I really want to find something not too large or expensive, but it seems the more I research, the more confused I get!

I'm currently looking at the Tascam US-122 and the Edirol UA-25, but as I said, I'm getting more confused as I go; and I have found other products too!

Some of the music instrument sites have reader comments, which can be a way to find out more about devices; or it can just end up confusing you more.

There's an interesting resource at the "Audio Field Recording Equipment Guide"

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Recording Tip #1

When using a side-address condenser microphone, it works much better if you identify the 'front' of the microphone, and point that side at the audio source.

Seriously! Doh!!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pedal Board

I've been thinking of getting a pedal board to keep some pedals together rather than have them floating around in a bag. There's quite a few to choose from, and they aren't inexpensive. This one looks good as it has a built-in power supply, a hard top (SKB makes some cheaper pedal boads but they have a soft bag, not a hard cover) and hey, a life-time warranty. I have generally been happy with SKB cases I have bought.

It's been interesting reading the user reviews for different pedal boards on some of the music supply sights. Pedal boards seem to be something that really provokes the emotions of users. I just have to measure my pedals and see if they will fit in the space available (27" x 15").

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Since I don't write my own songs, I guess I can be considered a cover artist (if I can use such grand a term for jamming away on songs I like.) And because of this, I have developed a fascination with covers that "real" artists do of songs I like.

For example, I really like the cover of Wall of Death by REM. Got it playing on the iPod right now...

Yesterday the sound track to I Am Sam arrived. It's a movie that I never saw, but the sound track has a bunch of artists performing Beatles songs*; so I had to get it.

If you are thinking of getting a copy for yourself, note that there's at least three different versions of the album out there; the original with 17 tracks, a foreign import with 19 tracks, and an 'extra tracks' version with 20 songs. I bought the latter, but quite frankly, I don't think you gain a lot with those extra songs...

The first playing of the CD was somewhat of a bust. Sarah McLachlan does her usually excellent work on Blackbird and Eddie Vedder's You've Got to Hide Your Love Away is spell binding, but Ben Harper seems to be channeling Cat Stevens on Strawberry Fields and Golden Slumbers never worked for me as a song on it's own; it needs Carry That Weight to finish it off. It might have worked had Ben Folds version been drastically different from the original; but it isn't.

It seemed that for the last half of the album, each song was worse than the preceding one; Nick Cave's Let It Be, just about broke my heart.

Most disappointing (though not the worst song on there by a long shot) was Howie Day's cover of Help!

I have a live tape of him performing Help! solo, and despite the poor quality of the recording, it's phenomenal. The Beatles original - despite the title and lyric - is performed as an upbeat, fast rocker. In the live performance Howie slows it down, simplifies the accompaniment, and his voice really makes it sound like he's in therapy looking for help, rather than singing a rock song.

But either someone over-produced the cut on the album, or Howie's on Prozac, as the CD version - though it starts almost as slowly - adds in electric guitar and way too much "stuff" so that it loses all the charm of the acoustic cover. Howie almost sounds happy.

Okay, I'll quit complaining as I know I couldn't do anything half as good, but still; 'Uggh.'

By the end of the CD I was thinking I'd file it away and never play it again, but I gave it another go this morning. On second hearing, things weren't quite as bad as they seemed; but that may just be damning it with faint praise.

If only you could buy You've Got to Hide Your Love Away and a couple of tunes that you like (if you do) from iTunes; but they only have the partial album available, and none of the songs I'd have bought....hmmm.

*Full disclosure; yeah I am a big Beatles fan and that might color my attitude to these songs, but I can think of lots of cover's of Beatles songs I have liked.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You Know You're Old When...

Your daughter asks you what "LP" stands for, and you not only know what it stood for, but why it was called that...

You work with someone who didn't know what 'Side 2' of an LP is/was.

May 25th, Towel Day

Tomorrow, May 25th, is Towel Day.

You sass that hoopy Douglas Adams? Now there's a frood who knew where his towel was. You are invited to join your fellow hitchhikers in mourning the loss of the late great one. Join in on towel day to show your appreciation for the humor and insight that Douglas Adams brought to all our lives.

What do I do?: Carry your towel with you throughout the day to show your participation and mourning.

When do I do it?: May 25th, 2005.

Where do I do it?: Everywhere.

Why a towel?: ...any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Monday, May 23, 2005

What's With The Weather?

Saturday was the Concert for Cambridge on the Cambridge Common.

It was overcast, cold, breezy and other words, just like you'd expect the weather to be in October...but not the end of May! Something is seriously whacked with the weather.

I went down for a couple of hours and saw several people including Chris Williams and Jake Armerding. Then, due to the weather, they abandoned the stage, and the hundred or so hardy souls that had remained moved to the tent behind the stage for an unplugged performance by the remaining performers. I saw just a bit of Chris Smither perform.

Well, damn the weather! Though in some ways it was kind of appropriate; a little Club Passim annex set up on the common.

I Keep Losing Things

...and then it takes a month or so to find them again...

Just re-found the Clapton UnPlugged Sheet Music book that I'd been looking for the last two months. There's several great songs on thereI want to learn...

Just have to get around to it before I lose the book again...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Living Legends Award Concert

Cool concert on Friday night. I was volunteering for part of the show so mainly saw the second half. Richard Thomspon was in fine form (someone called out for "Wheel of Death" and he said that was a fine request, and if he had time he'd do it; but he didn't...[damn]) He was playing with Danny Thomas (I think his name was) playing double bass. Sounded like the word of God...

As usual, he played one really funny song, which I think was titled I want a girl with Brains or something like that, filled with dreadful rhymes and it went on for many many versus, but the crowd ate it up.

David Grisman played with Old School Freight Train, which is actually a bunch of young guys who play old-time music.

Then Alison Krauss & Union Station closed up the night. The show ran late, but it was a good time.

Professional Performer Tip #1

After the show - as we were tidying up - I saw one member of Old School Frieght Train carefully folding up the shirt that he'd worn for the show and putting it into his backpack. I was tempted to ask how many shows you can go without washing a shirt...

In a similar vein, here's a tip from Howie Day; To survive on the road, pack "Febreze. You can do all your laundry -- just spray your clothes with Febreze"

Friday, May 20, 2005

47x47, A Retrospective

Last night was the 47x47, A Retrospective part of the festivities celebrating the 47th anniversary of Club Passim.

Hosted by Tom Rush, the concert featured performances from Tom, Lori McKenna, Ellis Paul, Catie Curtis, Dr. Al Kooper & the Funky Faculty, the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers and Sarah Borges. Held at Saunders Theatre, it was a surprise that the show wasn't sold out, though perhaps this was partly because a second show is being held tonight; the Living Legends Award Concert which will feature Alison Krauss & Union Staion, Richard Thompson, David Grisman & Old School Freight Train and others. That show is sold out.

The Silver Leaf Gospel Singers were amazing; they have been going for close to 60 years, and the leader of the group is 84! They sounded great and really got the stiff New England crowd on their feet! I think being active keeps you young.

Or as Tom Rush later said, just because you grow old doesn't mean you can't be immature.

Tired from too much work I didn't stay to the end, but what I saw was awesome, and I'm looking forward to tonights show.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Daivd and I worked on a few songs last night. Spent a fair amount of time on Wall of Death, which is a Richard Thompson song. REM covered it on the Richard Thompson tribute album Beat The Retreat. That album is out of print and I haven't found REM's version on any other album, so I bought a used copy of the CD through Amazon.

Anyway, it's a pretty easy song to play, though we are futzing with some of the chords at the beginning...

We also worked on Bob Dylan's Abandoned Love, which is an interesting song. I guess there are two recordings of it; one on an album that isn't very good, and the other is a live recording that appears on a bootleg. The latter is the version to listen to.

Some notes:

The first known recording is from the Other End club, New York, 3 July 1975. Dylan performed back-up for Jack Elliott on two songs (Pretty Boy Floyd/How long) then performed Abandoned Love, solo, a song which Clinton Heylin says (in Stolen Moments) he probably wrote that week.

I found this post on the net from Joe Kivak:

I agree with this as i was at that show an i was the one who taped it. I was sitting right under Dylan. At my table was Paul Siebel, Larry Estridge & Mayer Vishner. I can never forget the power that came out of every line in that song. Every line was better that the last one...It was an amazing moment that will stay with everyone who was in that room the rest of our lives.

When Dylan came up he was very nervous an for the first 2 songs he had the capo on the guitar crooked an it was buzzing the strings but he never noticed. He nervous an shy. Then after the second song (which Dylan never sang on,near the end of the song Jack looked at Dylan to sing a verse an Dylan shook his head no an then the song ended) For the first 2 songs they where both sitting down. Then Dylan asked Jack if he could use his guitar ("Can I Use Yours?"). An they switched guitars..An Dylan stood up for the next song an Jack diddent know what was coming an was gonna play with Dylan..But once Dylan started the song Jack moved to the back and just listened, Amazed like everyone else..And after Dylan sat down Jack started to do his next song an then realized he had the other guitar..That's how much in awe he was at what he just heard. Dylan had just out of nowhere blew everyone away with this song an then walks off an sits back down. An now its up to Jack who like ever one else couldent believe what he just heard.

After the show was over we took the tape up to WBAI where Mayer Vishner was doing a show an played at about 4 in the morning.. Then the sun came up an it was now the 4th of July... A night i'll never forget.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Like A Rolling Stone

Ron Wood quoted in Guitar World magazine:
"We were doing drugs in the dressing room [at a concert in the early '80s]. Suddenly the tour manager stuck his head around the door and said, 'The police are here!' We all panicked and threw our drugs in the toilet. Then Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland walked in."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

One Of Those Things

You know the nightmare; the one where the class is having an exam, but you don’t know where the classroom is, what the test is on, or even what the subject of the class is.

All you know is that you’re going to fail miserably.

I kind of had one of those moments last night when I took a Dobro/lap-style guitar class with Stacy Phillips last night. I’d taken a class a few months ago, but hadn’t touched the damn thing in two months. You might get away with that if everyone else is just starting out, but it turned out that the other eight or so participants already knew their way around the guitar. Geez, I wasn’t even in the right tuning.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a complete disaster; I actually picked up some stuff along the way (though it was far to fast for anything to really sink in as we rushed on to the next part and I’d forgotten the part we just did.)

Fortunately I recorded the event (using the Marantz; which records about 4 hours on a 256MB CompactFlash card using MP3 format) and I have tabs for one of the songs and he promised to send tabs for the other three he covered, so with a bit of diligence, I should be able to find my way through these.

Really, if you can record the session, and get tabs, then it doesn’t matter how fast things go as you can go back and absorb it all at your own pace.

He kept asking if I had any questions. The only problem was, I had so many it was impossible to know where to start.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Edirol R1

Edirol R1

While I recently bought the Marantz PMD660, a friend bought the Edirol R1. He actually ordered his months ago when it was first announced, and it then took months to be delivered. I don't know when the PMD660 was announced, but by happenstance we both took delivery of these solid state recorders within about two weeks of each other.

They are somewhat similar in functionality and application, yet they are also very different. The R1 is much smaller (though not as small as my Sharp mini-disc recorder) and records at 16 or 24 bit, while the PMD660 only records at 16 bit. On the other hand, the construction of the Marantz appears to be a little more solid, it has XLR connections (and phantom power) and separate level meters.

Both also have built-in microphones; that's right, two for stereo recording, though given the mics are only two or three inches apart, you aren't going to get great stereo separation!

My friend used the Edirol to record a recent concert using the built-in mics and was impressed with the quality of the recording. It certainly didn't seem too bad given the situation.

I think the big question is how important the 24bit recording is to you. If it wasn't for that option, I don't think I'd consider the R1.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Shubb GS

Bought a couple of accessories today for the class on Monday (hey, if you can't practice, buy an accessory, right?) Bought a new steel, a Shubb GS, because the one I have at the moment I find rather slippery and difficult to keep a hold of. I thought the wooden handle on this might make it easier to use.

Also bought a Beard capo for use on the lap guitar (a capo on a lap guitar is very different from the kind used with arm-pit guitars...)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Lap Style

A couple of months ago I took a lap-style guitar class. I got quite excited about the whole thing (I even practiced!)

Lap-style – sometimes erroneously called Dobro, through a Dobro guitar doesn’t have to be played lap-style – makes for an interesting counter-point to regular acoustic guitar playing. It’s kind of similar but very different; both in the way you play, as well as the sound you get out of the thing.

Anyway, I took the class, and then…well a month has gone by and I haven’t done anything.

Now there’s a one evening clinic being help at my local guitar store next week. I hummed and hawed about going, but finally decided that I really should do it if I want to keep this up.

Of course, this means that I should practice before then…

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Lego Harpsichord

From the "what will they think of next" department:

With the exception of the wire strings, this instrument is entirely constructed out of LEGO parts--the keyboard, jacks, jack rack, jack rail, plectra, soundboard, bridge, hitch pins, tuning pins, wrestplank, nut, case, legs, lid, lid stick, and music stand are all built out of interlocking ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene) plastic bricks and related pieces.

And is playable.

You can see pictures and hear an mp3 file at this site.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Dreaded F-Chord

Someone posted on an online forum that they were having trouble learning the F-chord and this was my answer to them:

Here's some things that really helped me:

1) If you aren't using them at the moment, try putting light strings on your guitar. It will make it easier while you are practicing.

2) Rather than practice at the end of the neck, try doing the F-chord shape further up the neck (like at fret 5, which is actually an 'A' chord.) You'll find it a lot easier to do the F-chord shape there.

3) By making it easier to practice the barre chord, the more you'll do it. The more you do it, the sooner your hand will a) do it properly, and b) you'll get faster at getting your fingers into the right position.

4) A great song to practice with is Psycho Killer (Talking Heads) but play the A and G chords as barre chords up the neck (A is an F chord shape at fifth fret and G is an F chord shape at third fret, and the first part of the song is A-G-F!) There's Bm further on, but don't worry about that!

And don't be surprised if it takes you a few months to really get good at it...that's what it takes!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Good Practice, Bad Practice

The problem with practicing is that you have to do it regularly. Better to do a little every night than do two hours once a week or so.

The other problem is that there is good practicing, and bad practicing.

Bad Practicing is getting out the guitar and playing a medley of the tunes you know best; all four of them.

While it’s good from the point of view of keeping your muscle memory up (so at least a year from now you might still be able to play them) you aren’t really learning anything.

Good Practicing is taking a song you don’t know, or a riff you haven’t mastered, breaking it down into manageable bits, then starting out slow and l-e-a-r-n-i-n-g how to play it. This requires both patience, and the application of some brian power.

It’s the only way to get any better.

Damn, it’s hard to keep up with though.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Story So Far: Part I a kid I took piano lessons for about a year. Maybe more, maybe less; since I didn't like practicing, the total time is immaterial. I can still play chopsticks, but other than that it's all gone

Fast forward several years and I'm not too sure how I got the idea in my head, but I decided I wanted to learn how to play guitar. I was living in Somerville at the time, and there was a guitar store on Mass Ave and I went in and looked around, and the guy there showed me a Yamaha acoustic that wasn't too expensive. He played Blackbird for me - I guess he knew I was a Beatles fan - and it clinched the deal.

After spending some time with several self-teaching books that got me a few chords and not much else, I signed up for a class at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education, taught by Chris Breen.

There were about eight of us, and we sat in a circle and played along with Chris. It was a little intimidating, but fortunately we played together, rather than individually.

Chris had a great handbook he'd put together of easy to play songs, running from simple chords, to tabs for a few songs.

One of them was Blackbird...

After about six months, I had Blackbird down pretty good, and a few other bits and pieces. The F-chord was still a struggle.

But then two moves, a succession of job changes, and other things got in the way, and I pretty much didn't touch the guitar for seven years...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Vermont Diary Part 2

The rest of the weekend goes well...despite the food poisoning.
* * * *

I was, it appears, a week early. It seems that next weekend Peter & April’s neighbor has an exhibition, or an installation, or something, featuring various musical instrument constructions. We wandered over and saw one device under construction; it looked like something they use to draw lotto numbers. There were two large wooden cylinders, which will be painted with strips of different colors, then you spin the cylinders and hold up some kind of sensor and the pattern of the rotating colors causes different sounds to be generated.

I think.
* * * *

Get a few middle aged people together on a saturday evening, add a little tequila, and they start talking about rock and roll and the concerts they went to in their youth. These are the kind of stories that - if you have your own children - make you think ‘I’m never letting my kid go to a concert.’
* * * *

Peter asks me if I’ve heard of Howie Day. “I told you about him last time I was here!” I say.

“Oh, yeah.”

Peter is always asking me about what I am listening to. He had just ordered and received Australia and Stop All The World Now, but I suggested he should get the Madrigals EP as it has a DVD.

“I don’t like music videos.”

“Yeah, but you see how he creates these songs using a sampler and layering over different riffs and things. It’s really cool.”


He then gives me a Guster DVD that he got by mistake; he thought he was getting the CD and DVD combined. He likes Guster, but for some reason he finds he can’t watch them playing. The lead singer isn’t much to look at.... ???
* * * *

Somehow the subject of ‘What was the first concert you attended?’ comes up, and I realize I have no idea.

I don’t really even have an inkling. In a way, it's kind of disappointing not being able to remember

It might have been Elton John in Sydney, but I’m not sure of it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Vermont Diary Part 1

Lured to visit my friend’s Peter & April on the pretense of going to a concert by a lap-style guitar performer (which, after some consideration, we decided to skip) I find myself in Vermont Friday night doing Karaoke Revolution.
I hate Karaoke.

But Peter wants to play, so here we are.

Karaoke Revolution has this interesting thing that ‘rates’ your singing; it shows the words, along with a bar that goes up and down to match the changing notes the singer is supposed to sing. A little arrow represents your singing, and it can be above, below, or on the line. It seems to be based purely on whether you are making a noise that matches the expected tone at the expected time. So if you can grunt in key, you can do quite well even if you don’t know the words.

I don’t do too badly with Sweet Home Alabama, but I crash and burn on It’s The End of The World As We Know It. Of course, that song is damn hard to sing (just try it!) But then I don’t do much better on the next song I choose (the title of which, now eludes me.)

As you perform, the software rates your performance as Good, Poor or Lousy. A succession of lousy’s and the crowd starts to boo and walk away. Do really badly and your avatar collapses in dejection and a ‘Song Failure’ message appears. Talk about rejection.

I don’t know that this will help much with stage fright.

April creams both of us, getting through all three of her songs successfully and consistently scoring well. Peter and I do okay on one song each but don’t manage to complete the next too. I was doing pretty badly on the second one when Peter observed “Maybe we should switch to the easy mode,” at which point we all burst into laughter and I was hosed.

I partly blame the poor song choices; I'm just not doing Like A Virgin, sorry.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Seen & Heard In Harvard Sq

Two guys playing guitar on the corner. One is playing acoustic; he’s tall with long straggly hair. The other is shorter, playing an electric archtop and looks like Mikey from American Chopper. They’re enthusiastic, but it doesn’t make me want to stop and listen...
* * * *

Another two guys, also working the public, but they do it by advancing up the street side-by-side with paper cups in their hands and vigorously asking for money. I’m walking behind them in the same direction and try and slip by one of them and the other rounds on me and yells “Hey! Where you going? Got some spare change?!”

I say ‘No’ and walk faster.
* * * *

The Harvard Bookstore has “Guitar: An American Life” in stock, but they want $24 dollars (full list.) Amazon sells it for $16.32. Mental calculations ensue. Do I want the book now, or do I wait and get it next week? Since I’m going away for the weekend I decide to buy it.
* * * *

Pass the two guys again. The acoustic guy starts playing a riff that sounds a lot like Ants Marching, and I keep walking, but it somehow turns into House of the Rising Sun.
* * * *

The mice at Passim are getting brazen. Hanging out in the back with Jim, the other volunteer, I see one under one of the tables, seemingly unconcerned that there’s a concert going on around him. I tell Jim, “if that runs up my leg I’m gonna scream like a girl and run right out of here.”
* * * *

Pierce Pettis plays. Singer songwriter with a warm sense of humor. Plays an inspired cover of Dylan’s Down in the flood and breaks two guitar strings in the process.

Tell’s how Garth Brooks covered one of his songs, and how unnerving it can be to hear a familiar voice singing ‘oh so familiar words.’

“And then the big checks start coming in,” he continues. “and we go from renting to paying a mortgage. We went from nothing man, and now we owe thousands.”

He allows that musicians are kind of like outlaws, and that they think of themselves as “getting away with something. We get to sleep late, and people actually pay us to do what we love.”

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Guitar: An American Life

A book I haven't read yet, but looks interesting is Guitar: An American Life by Tim Brookes.

The publisher's site is a pain to navigate and link to (hence the link to Amazon) but here's the blurb on the book:

Shortly before his fiftieth birthday, baggage handlers destroy Tim Brookes's guitar, his twenty-two-year-old traveling companion. His wife promises to replace it with the guitar of his dreams, but Tim discovers that a dream guitar is built, not bought. He sets out to find someone to make him the perfect guitar-a quest that ends up a dirt road in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

As Brookes awaits his dream instrument, he explores the guitar's mystique: freedom, the open road, protest and rebellion, the blues, youth, lost love, and sexuality. Arriving with conquistadors and the colonists, the guitar found itself in an extraordinary variety of hands: those of miners and society ladies, lumberjacks and presidents' wives, Hawaiians, African-Americans, Cajuns, jazz players, spiritualists, singing cowboys of the silver screen, and Beatles fans. In time it has become America's instrument, the rhythm of its soundtrack.

With adoration, Brookes tries to unravel the symbolic associations a guitar holds for so many of us, musicians and non-musicians alike. His quest takes him across the country, talking to historians, curators, and guitar makers including the amiable curmudgeon master-guitar-maker, Rick Davis, who takes a rare piece of cherry wood and creates Brookes' new companion.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dinner Conversation

Went to dinner last night with people from an agency I do work for. It was an interesting mix of tech people, media designers, and project management staff. Just before dinner the conversation turned to medical operations and whether anyone had ‘sat in’ on one. I had worked on a project involving surgery video, and I described integrating the video into the project while avoiding looking at the video.

The good story was from the person that had witnessed a heart operation. The heart for the transplant arrived frozen (or seriously cooled) and was placed on a table to warm up. He described his shock, when after a little while; it started to beat on its own…

Later on the conversation at the other end of the table (it’s always frustrating when an interesting conversation starts at the other end of the table) turned to music and whether anyone played or was into music.

This was started by the senior partner who, it turned out, plays guitar and is into folk music. One of the techies plays flamenco guitar and talked about learning that style and how it was mainly passed from one player to another, rather than from reading tabs or music.

I admitted to playing guitar and when asked what kind of music, spent several seconds trying to come up with a coherent answer.

Another person was then asked whether he was into music and he said ‘No, I don’t play an instrument.’

There was a long pause and then he added; “but, I was the lead singer in a heavy metal band once.”

How Many Guitarists Does It Take To...

Q: How many guitarists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Dude, the talent doesn't do lights!

Didn't Win...

...the Taylor T5 they were giving away. :(

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tuning Your Guitar: Method 1

Extract From: "THE GUILD OF AMERICAN LUTHIERS data sheet #45"

Tuning the 1st and 6th strings: The E, open 1st string, must be in pure unison with the harmonic of the E, 6th string at the fifth fret. When these two strings have been properly tuned with each other, continue as follows. Tuning the 4th string: Play a harmonic on the (in tune) 6th string at twelve, and as this harmonic sounds, adjust the 4th string until the tone E on the second fret is in pure unison. Now you have the E, open 1st string, 1st on the 4th string at two, and E, open 6th string tuned pure (permissible because they are octaves).

Tuning the 2nd string: Play a harmonic on the (in tune) 4th string at twelve. As this sounds, adjust the 2nd string until D at the third fret is in pure unison. As you have used two fretted tones for references and as the frets are positioned for tempered intervals, you now have the open 1st, 2nd 4th and 6th strings in tempered tuning.

Tuning the 3rd string: As it is easier to adjust a string while listening to a continuous reference tone, you may first try the following: Play a harmonic on the (in tune) 4th string at twelve and as this sounds, adjust the 3rd string until D at the 7th fret is in pure unison.

Double check: Now make this check to see if you have been accurate or if the instrument plays tune when fretted at seven. Play a harmonic on the (now tuned) G string at twelve, and as this tone sounds, play G on the 1st string at three. The two tones should be in pure unison. If they are not, either you are at fault or the instrument doesn't fret tune at seven. Go back to the beginning and carefully check each step up to this point. If the tones are still faulty, then readjust the 3rd string until the harmonic at twelve is in unison with the 1st at three. Do not tamper with the 1st and 4th strings because it is the 3rd string you are trying to bring in tune. When you have the 1st, 6th, 4th, 2nd and 3rd strings in tune, in that order, continue with the remaining 5th string.

Tuning the 5th string: Play the tone A on the (in tune) 3rd string, at the second fret. Listen to this pitch carefully and now adjust the 5th string until the harmonic at twelve is in pure unison. When the foregoing steps are followed correctly, the strings will be tuned perfectly to equal temperament. No further tuning adjustments are permissible.

The complete document can be found here.

Tuning Your Guitar: Method 2

1. Attach the PT1 to the instrument
2. Pluck string
3. Adjust tuner until all arrows on both sides of the note are displayed (see illustration)
4. Repeat

Close enough.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Taylor's Are In

Taylor T5
Originally uploaded by mchgtr.
Having called and discovered that Guitar Center in Boston actually had three Taylor T5’s in stock, I kind of felt compelled to go and check them out.

So after work, I took a trip down town; fortunately, Guitar Center has it’s own parking lot, so going there isn’t the major aggravation that you have to endure going to most other places in the city.

The first question was; where would they be? I went to the high-end acoustic room (where the other Taylor’s are displayed) but found no sign of them. I then spent about ten minutes or more wondering around trying to find the damn things. I could have asked someone - I was just about to when I did find them - but I hate to talk to salesman unless I absolutely have to. You know; you don’t want them to think you might be interested in something; it gives them an unfair advantage.

Well, it turned out they were hanging on the wall right where you come into the store. I hadn’t noticed them. In my own defense, they were way up high, and easy to miss; they looked kind of like the other electric guitars...

Next shock; the price. They had a black one, a red sunburst maple one, and a koa top model. Now I’d checked the prices before going and found suggested list prices of: $2598 through $3498 (depending upon model.) Usually, you can pay about 70% of list (even less for mail order), which translates to $1818 for the base model. Guitar Center was asking $1999. You could probably haggle (but I hate doing that.)

Since I’m not 10 feet tall, I had to ask one of the salesman to get the guitar down for me. And also ask if I could plug it in. He asked if I wanted to plug it into an electric guitar amp or an acoustic guitar amp. I said I had no idea, but we ended up going into the acoustic room.

Unfortunately, two guys were already there with another T5, playing their complete repertoire of Dave Matthew’s songs to impress their girlfriends, who they’d brought along for some unknown reason. The girls pretended to be interested. I pretended to be interested, but it made it damn hard to hear what the guitar I was holding sounded like.

Things I noted: They’re thin and fairly light. The neck feels very like a Taylor acoustic guitar. There’s two neck strap buttons on the bottom (no idea why.) There’s a large plastic cover over a cut-out in the middle of the back (something to do with the pick-up the salesman said.) There’s also a socket on the back under the neck joint with a screw that takes an allen key that I take it is for adjusting the neck. I didn’t try it.

If you look through the top f-hole (when holding it to play it) you can see a small Taylor label. I wonder how they got that in there?

The salesman said that they had only opened them up after the store closed the day before; which seemed wrong as I thought May 1st was the first day they could sell them. I wondered if he was mistaken, but I didn’t press it.

As expected, they aren’t very loud when played unplugged. Didn’t sound too bad, but they were very soft. There’s three pick-ups; one under the bridge, a humbucker under the strings, and something under the neck, and a five-way switch for picking between them. I played it a little bit plugged in and I didn’t notice a hell of a lot of difference between the five settings; but then I’m not an electric player, didn’t have it plugged into an electric amp, didn’t have it cranked up, and didn’t really know what I was doing, so I can’t really judge the damn thing.

And besides, the Dave Matthew’s concert was still going full steam.

In the end - and this wasn’t a surprise - I decided that I didn’t need one. I don’t play electric - heavy duty for me is a few Blues tunes - and I don’t think I’m the intended audience, and that’s cool.

Actually, it’s kind of a relief; I don’t think I can afford a new guitar right now!

Bad Call...

Damn! Usually I hate calling places. You'd think there'd be no big deal; they don't know you, so why not just call and ask if they have the XYZ spigot in stock, rather than hop in the car, drive half an hour, and then spend 20 minutes searching the store shelves?

But no; I'll drive rather than call. I don't know why, just an odd phone aversion I guess.

Anyway, figuring that there was no way that Guitar Center would actually have a T5 (and it would make a good blog entry) I gave the local store a call...

They have 3 in stock!!!


Now I have to decide if I want to go take a look at them...

I Was Going To...But I Didn't

The Taylor T5 was supposed to be available at Guitar Center yesterday. I had planned to make a trip down to see what they were like, but work got in the way.

I hate work...but then, how else could I afford to buy one?

So I was going to go today, but after seeing a couple of postings about other Guitar Centers selling their two guitars almost immediately, it occurs to me that there probably won't be anything to see at Guitar Center.

I guess I could call and ask...

Or just assume that they don't have any and not go. That way I avoid the risk of wanting to buy one.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Diddie Wah Diddie

By: Blind Arthur Blake

There's a great big mystery,
and it sure is worrying me
This Diddie Wah Diddie
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

A little girl about four feet four,
go on papa and give me some more,
of your Diddie Wah Diddie,
your Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

I went out and walked around,
somebody yells, "Hey look who's in town"
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

Went to church, put my hand on the seat,
lady sat on it said,
"Daddy, you sure is sweet"
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

I said, "Sister, I'll soon be gone,
just gimme that thing you sitting on"
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

Then I got put out of church,
'cause I talk about
Diddie Wah Diddie too much
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
Mister Diddie Wah Diddie
I wish somebody would tell me what
Diddie Wah Diddie means

Recorded by Blind Blake in 1929. Ry Cooder covered it on the album Paradise and Lunch (though it's titled Ditty Wah Ditty on that album.)

A transcription can be found in the June issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Taylor T5 Released

Taylor has officially released the Taylor T5 on their web site. Maybe I'll go to Guitar Center today and see if they have one...