Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hand Over Fist

Last night was jam night. David and I are almost getting organized; well I started writing the songs down in a book and now we go back to the list and start with that. So maybe those songs will improve over time.

David said he saw a girl playing Hey Hey My My in the subway the other day and she was making a bunch of money. I guess the classics are popular with people with money. He also said she did a really good cover of it.

We did some Dylan stuff (including Knocking on Heaven's Door and You Ain't Going Nowhere.) David is a big Dylan fan, and I think has a copy of just about every recording that's available. He mentioned that Starbucks is releasing a CD of some early Dylan concert tape.

Tried Sympathy For The Devil but I don't think we did it very well. Not sure it really works on acoustic guitar!

Messed around with changing chords and keys for a few songs. A couple we were doing I found it a lot easier to sing if I moved it up; put the capo on and play it a little higher (like You Ain't Going Nowhere.) I don't think my voice has much of a range. We experimented with playing different chord shapes too (like I played with the capo and he played without, and changing the chords)....easier to do for some songs than others depending upon what chords you have to play!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Hardly unexpected, but Apple today released an update to iTunes (v. 4.9) that adds support for Podcasting.
Podcasting is radio your way. Defy programming schedules and listen to whatever you want, whenever you want — and on your iPod — wherever you want. Podcasts are radio-style shows — some from major media, others from passionate individuals — delivered over the Internet to your computer. Unlike streaming audio, which requires you to listen in real time, podcasting lets you control how and when you hear your favorite shows.

I downloaded the update to iTunes here at work, but I haven't down anything with it yet other than stumbled around trying to figure what they have (and how to find it.) Some stuff is easy to find, and others maybe not so. I think someone should do a podcast review site. Or maybe a podcast review podcast...

Probably someone already has.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Street Musician

Stumbled across a great site today; Street Musician which is by a guy that plays on the street. Just looking at some of the first posts there's some great stuff; performance tips, changing keys, alternate tunings and much more. I might spend all week reading this!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Harmony Central

Harmony Central is a great music news and info website that's been around for some years. I use it mainly to search for guitar tabs, but it also has user reviews of guitars and equipment that can be interesting, and a long list of manufacturers.

Well they've just announced that they have been purchased by Musician's Friend and though they say they will remain "an independent publisher and forum" you have to wonder; then why are they being bought?

Eh, well not that I care that much about it...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Did Someone Yodel?

Listening to WBOS this evening and just happened across an interesting song The Way I Am by Martin Sexton which I kinda liked......but is that yodelling I hear?!

Oh, oh, and now Jason Mraz is doing an acoustic version of Summer Breeze. I think I am entering the Twilight Zone.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day!

Gibson Ad
Happy Father's Day!

Gibson has been running a Father's Day campaign. It started with a TV ad with a father tutoring his daughter in the history of rock guitarists. After several tough questions, he says 'I think you're ready.' Cut to the girl and her mother in a guitar store and the daughter points to a guitar and says 'He wants that one!'

I also saw a Gibson Ad in Time magazine this past week.

The real question; did any father get a guitar today?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Back Order

There's a Pedal Board and a USB microphone in back order limbo that one day will find their way to my door.

I hope I remember why I wanted them when they get there.

This weeks car song: Standing in the Sun, Howie Day

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jam Night

David and I are trying to get more organized. We've been getting together every couple of weeks and just jamming for fun. We've tended to do songs we're interested in each time, but a song might be done once and then forgotten.

So I suggested we make up a kind of set list, and play through the songs each time - adding new songs as we want. Since David had liked Hotel California and we had done that last time, I suggested (via email prior to getting together) that we start with that one.

So that was the plan, except we never did Hotel Clifornia. Instead, we started with 16 Tons, then moved to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and I took out the Last Waltz DVD and we watched that to try and figure out the beginning and what happens at the end of the chorus.

I also like Helpless which is also on the DVD, so we watched that, then I found the chords. It's a good Neil Young song; three chords. The listing on Olga said it was D - A - G, but when we played the DVD it was obvious they were playing it: C - G - F. I think I like that better.

David then mentioned that he had read somewhere on the web that you can see that Neil Young snorted Cocaine prior to going on stage as you can see some powder on his nostril. According to Wikipedia
The release of Martin Scorsese's movie of the concert was delayed while Scorsese re-edited it to deemphasize the lump of cocaine clearly visible hanging from Young's nose during his performance of "Helpless".

David just bought a Zoom multi-effects pedal via Craigslist. We spent some time playing with that; I liked the more subdued stuff than the way out effects that make an acoustic guitar sound like Jimi Hendricks is playing it.

Finished the evening with Loneliness House by Greg Brown. Pretty simple but captivating song; might be interesting to do with a looper.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Guy Davis

If you like Blues, Guy Davis is a special treat. A great guitar player with a voice like it comes from a gravel pit, he's both a great story teller and a talented bluesman. Some of his pieces start out as stories simply told with a musical accompaniment, that then lead into a song.


He also did a great harmonica piece which involved a story about a train traveling along, passing chickens, a chain gang, hounds and pigs, each part of the story imitated on the harmonica. Cool.

If you get a chance to, don't miss him.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Festival 47

Jake Armerding
Originally uploaded by mchgtr.
A while back I wrote a little about the concerts that Club Passim organized to celebrate their 47th anniversary. One of these, the Festival 47, A Concert for Cambridge, was held on a wet Saturday in May.

It was so wet that the last three performers played in the tent behind the stage to the 100-150 people that had stayed despite the weather.

I saw Christopher Williams and Jake Armerding perform on the main stage in the rain, and was tempted to stay for Chris Smither, but I had a party to go to and it was cold and wet...

I've posted a few of the pictures I took; photography was kind of ham-strung by the white tent over the stage, and the rain pouring down.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Keeping In Tune

Peterson makes a range of tuners that are expensive. The VS-II costs more than $200 and for that you'd figure it would change the strings as well as tune the guitar for you.

They have now announced a software version called Strobosoft that runs on Windows XP/2000 as a stand-alone application. A plug-in version is planned, and a Mac version will be available soon.

Standard Version $49.99; Features fully adjustable controls, several preset temperaments. Accuracy: 0.1 cent.

Deluxe Version $79.99; Includes Peterson Sweetened tunings, exclusive Buzz Feiten open string and intonation settings, full Sweetener and temperament package with unlimited user preset locations, user interchangeable tuning presets, oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, MIDI note number output. Accuracy: 0.1 cent.

Now personally, I'm not a big fan of software tuners; they can be cheap (some are free!) but the problem is that you have to drag your computer around to tune your guitar and that can be a pain even with a laptop.

A friend - whose a bit of a computer geek - was learning to play guitar and found a computer based software program to use to tune his guitar. He was really excited about it and spent forever setting it up and using it to tune the guitar. I think he was more into the geeky-ness factor. My reaction; buy a damn tuner and save yourself the time and aggravation!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Where's Mic?

Sometime ago I came across the Samson C01U, a "Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone" that has a USB plug at the opposite end of it's business end. It's only $80 so it seemed like an interesting little thing to experiment with.

I ordered one about two months ago from Sweetwater, and was told they expected dellivery "at the end of the month." Three weeks later I get a call; they hadn't arrived, but they expected them in a couple of weeks.

Of course they called yesterday; still haven't arrived, but they expect them in early July.

Now, had I been really jonsing to use this thing, I'd be pretty pissed by now. The fact that I was getting it out of curiosity means that I'm kind of ho-hum about it. Part of me is hoping it takes a long time to come....then I'd have a real story.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Mammals

The Mammals played Club Passim last week. They play traditional music, though they jazz in up a lot. Or as The Boston Globe put it:
"The Mammals play old-time string band music the way Jack Kerouac wrote novels - with an abandon born of a deep understanding of structure and form. Their sound is wild, mirthful, and masterful."

Why are music reporters so much better at describing musical acts?

I've seen them before and enjoyed their show a lot. They do a version of Richard Thompson's 1952 Black Vincent that, even though not as good as the original, is pretty damn good.

At one point they mentioned how they had become the center of a small storm over censorship after singing a song about George Bush and people complained and the organization asked them not to do the song again.

There's a description of what happened in an article at The Independent Weekly Don’t Play it Again, Sam

...Ungar’s band, The Mammals, played a set at the Community Coffee Scène Lafayette stage at Festival International on Saturday, April 23. For its encore, the band performed its song “The Bush Boys,” which contains lines such as:

Listen up folks the votes are in
It was anyone’s guess who’d win
Democrats had the higher amount
But they lost ’cause Florida could not count …
You won’t believe what the Bush boys bought.

Ungar was milling about the hospitality tent the following day preparing for The Mammals’ next performance when Festival International VP of Programming Jimmie Duhon approached her and asked her not to play “The Bush Boys” again...

I see on their website that they'll be playing some shows with Arlo Guthrie on his "Alice's Restaurant 40th Anniversary Massacree Tour."

Monday, June 06, 2005


G.A.S. (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) is a dangerous and expensive addiction. I’ve battled it (unsuccessfully) for several years.

It’s interesting – and almost satisfying – to watch the affliction infest others.

David and I have been getting together for the last few months and jamming. He originally appeared with a red acoustic guitar of unknown origin.

A couple of months later, he bought a Fender acoustic from someone that advertised it for sale on Craigslist. It was a good deal, despite the fact that he spent an additional $75 or so getting it set up.

He was pleased with the new guitar, as unlike the red guitar, it stayed in tune for much longer periods (he later discovered that humidity – or the lack thereof – was one of the reasons the red guitar didn’t stay in tune.)

Flash forward about three months and I get an email from him that reads:

I have my eye on a martin, and wanted to ask your advice on something. This martin does not have a glossy finish on it, so it smells like a carpentry shop. I know it will pick up scratches real easy. My question is, does this make it less stable of a guitar? Is it more likely to warp in severe weather? Or is this a cosmetic thing that won't necessarily affect sound?

He included a link to a page on Martin’s website that didn’t work; it loaded a page that basically was blank, but had the letters D-28 as part of the title, so I assumed he was looking at a D-28.

So I sent this reply:

The link seemed a little broken; it was labelled a D-28, but none of the details came up for some reason. Is that the model you are thinking of getting? The beat up old Martin I have is a 1970 D-28. They last a long time if a little care is taken with them (a guy in Allison Kraus's band Union Station plays a 1930's D-28.)

I don't know about the relative merit's of finishes, but the finish on these will withstand most normal wear and tear.

There's a thread at the Martin Guitar forum about the finish on these guitars; actually the thread is about a rumor that martin was changing the finish – which turned out to be untrue - but there's some interesting info there..

Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll take a stab at them. The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum (not affiliated with Martin Co.) can be a good source of info!

I also included a link to the thread, but that is now gone as ezBoard was hacked and lost a lot of messages. Ahh, the joys of the Internet; we managed to exchange broken links with one another!

I didn’t hear from him until next week, when he showed up with a new guitar case. Turns out he bought a 000CX1E which he bought at Guitar Center. We did some searching and couldn’t even find the model on the Martin website (they had a black version only.)

Turns out he traded in the Fender.

“You traded it in? But you just got it!”
“Yeah, but it had a buzz. Only I could hear it but it drove me nuts.”

I could understand. I have a guitar with a winter buzz. Despite humidifying it, during winter months it develops a faint little buzz that I find annoying. Can’t do a thing with it other than wait until the spring.

Others might get rid of it, but then I’d just be tempted to buy something else.

David’s new guitar is a nice little box. It’s a cutaway with built-in electronics. Wonder why it was discontinued.

I can't help wondering though; how long until the next purchase?

We ended up getting dinner at the Bollywood Café, and while waiting walked down to The Music Emporium. We didn’t stay lone; I didn’t want to expose David or myself to too much temptation. They have some great guitars, including one I have had my eye on for a while. If it was half the price I’d buy it in an instant; isn’t that always the way?

I wonder if they’d take a trade-in.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Ticket Gods

I’ve had front row tickets twice in my life. Once was to a James Taylor concert, and those weren’t really mine. A friend had them as part of a season package and couldn’t go that night, so swapped my seventh row tickets (which were for another night.) The other time wasn’t even a concert.

Of course, these days, just getting any seat to a popular concert is a feat in itself. And new technology doesn’t help; if anything it can make for more frustration. How many times have you tried to get tickets to a popular show on the day the tickets go on sale and watch in frustration as your browser fails to connect, load or generates errors in the middle of the transaction?

I thought I had a ticket to the U2 concert this year; and then after entering all my information, and waiting ten minutes on a ‘processing’ screen, an error screen appeared. And when I tried again, there were no tickets available.

Didn’t get tickets to Bruce Springsteen or Dave Matthews Band in Connecticut this year either; though in those cases I didn’t even get to select a ticket.

So I found out that tickets were going on sale this afternoon at 5pm for a summer concert I wanted to see. I checked the accuracy of my clock and had the web page set, just waiting for 5 to roll around.

I hit refresh about ten times, and finally got the ticket screen. Selected the number of tickets, hit the Okay button and got an “index error” screen. Damn! Tried again; same message. Switched to another computer; same thing!

Tried once more on the original browser, and it worked! Entered the details, and got a ticket. Much excitement. It was for Section 2, Row A, which didn’t mean anything; I got excited about getting Row D tickets once, and then found out that the theatre had rows AA, BB etc in front of row A.

But checking the seating chart revealed - assuming that the chart is correct - Section 2 is the center of the theater, and row A is the front row.

I’m excited; even if I had to pay $12.50 in handling and postage charges.

Out of curiosity, I tried again a couple of minutes later to see what row I’d get, and it offered me row E tickets, so you have to move fast!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

iTunes Royalties And Other Things

A friend and I were recently discussing the iTunes business model, and trying to figure out who made what on each song. This was partly prompted by the whole Pepsi free song deal and how that all worked financially, but I digress.

At the time I did a web search and found some information, but wasn’t sure how accurate it was. A recent suit over royalties for Tom Waits early catalog provides some interesting information.

The suit itself is also interesting because it centers on what royalties should be paid to Third Story (the publisher of Wait’s early catalog) for downloaded music.

[...] under the terms of the two contracts, Waits was entitled to royalties of either 25% or 50% from revenues derived from third-party licenses. Third Story maintains that digital music downloads constitute a form of third-party license, and that Waits is entitled to payment at that level.

In 2003-04 royalty statements to Third Story, WMG computed royalties from Waits' digital download sales at the same (and much lower) rate as royalties from the sale of physical product. Under the terms of the '70s Asylum contracts regarding album sales, Waits would be entitled to either 9% or 13% of the 67 cents received by WMG from each 99-cent download.

More On iTunes Royalties

An interesting post:

If you are an independent artist and would like to have your music on iTunes you can, for example, sign up with who will then get your music on a number of distribution services, including iTunes. The royalty you get from them is 59 cent (they get 65 from iTunes and keep 9 % of it), MUCH more then any signed artist would get.

...of course, you have to do all your own promtion...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mark Twain Played A Martin

I've seen this before, but I thought it was kind of interesting;

Mark Twain, one of America's greatest literary legends, was a passionate guitarist and singer during the 19th century's Romantic era [...}

Twain obtained this Martin guitar, style 2 1/2-17, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. It was built by C.F. Martin Sr. in 1835, the same year that Twain was born[...]