Wednesday, August 31, 2005


More than two days later it's still impossible to imagine the scale of the devastation caused by Hurricaine Katrina. I'd like to encourage everyone to consider making a donation to the Red Cross.

On the T.V. tonight a guy was standing in front of a destroyed house holding a guitar and he said "I ain't worried about the house, I got the guitar."

Unfortunately, there's little to laugh about right now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Problems Ahead For Online Music Services

The record companies want to change download pricing to increase the cost of new/popular songs (maybe $1.49 per song) and lower the cost of some other songs. Reports suggest they are putting pressue on Apple to accept new pricing. The article has an interesting note:

A sore point for some music executives is the fact that Apple generates much more money selling iPod players than it does as a digital music retailer, leading to complaints that Jobs is profiting more from tracks downloaded to fill the 21 million iPods sold so far than are the labels that produced the recordings.

I don't know if I like the idea of $1.49 songs. I think I'll buy less music if the songs I want cost that much. I'm sympathetic to some of labels concerns, but then again, we're at the beginning of the cycle; I'm not planning to buy a new iPod ever year, but surely I'm going to buy new music...

Meanwhile, it looks like clouds are forming over the subscription based systems (Yahoo, RealNetworks and Napster) because of an impasse over license negotiations between the companies and music publishers over royalty negotiations.

The National Music Publishers' Association has asked for nearly 17 percent of subscription services' gross revenues, while the services have offered 6.9 percent instead. Seems like a bit of a difference.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The World is Safe from Lip-synching

...or some of it.

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has ordered a ban on lip synching across the country, citing "a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art."

"Unfortunately, one can see on television old voiceless singers lip-synching their old songs," Niyazov told a Cabinet meeting. "Don't kill talents by using lip synching... Create our new culture."

Niyazov banned opera and ballet in 2001, claiming it did not conform to the national mentality. We can only wonder if karaoke will be next.

[Well that's something I think we can all get behind -Ed]

Monday, August 22, 2005

Robert A. Moog 1934 - 2005

When I was a kid the Moog synthesizer was the cool - but unknown - device that seemed to be the ultimate answer for the musically untalented. Of course, since I had no idea what this thing was or how it worked (other than it made cool noises) I didn't really understand that you still needed to know what you were doing to make beautiful noise with one.

For several years the name Moog was synonymous with synthesizer. The Beatles were one of the first main-stream groups to use the device. It appears on several songs on the album Abbey Road including, Here Comes The Sun.

Robert Moog, the create of the Moog synthesizer, died last Sunday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

While My Ukulele Gently Weeps

Jake Shimabukuro is one hell of a ukulele player. This site has a QuickTime video of him playing George Harrion's While My Guitar Gently Weeps and it's simply amazing.

The really interesting thing about this is that George was evidently a big ukulele fan. So said Paul McCartney last time he came through Boston on tour. He had a ukulele that Goerge had given him, and he played Something in homage to George. It was quite a performance, though his ukulele playing didn't rival this video!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli & Jake Armerding

Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli & Jake Armerding performed a night of cover songs at Club Passim Thursday, Aug 18, and it was a great show! I've seen Mark and Jake before, but this was my first time hearing Lori, and what an amazing voice she has. Whether singing lead or backup it just comes out and grabs you. Very country sounding in a way, but wow; it knocked me out.

It was a fun, almost laid-back evening, as each artist took turns performing different cover songs, with the others providing backup or just listening with the rest of us.

It opened with Jake performing a Gordon Summer song (that's Sting to you and me) I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying, which, dammit, I wasn't even familiar with. Other highlights included; Lori's rendition of a Johnny Cash song -the title I didn't catch- and Bruce Springsteen's One Step Up. The audience laughed through much of Mark's performance of Randy Newman's Political Science, and Richard Thompsons I Feel So Good really rocked.

Jake did a hilarious cover of I LIke Big Butts (not sure of the exact title,) and a great performance of Michael Jackson's I Wanna Rock With You. Two songs that aren't thought of as folk or acoustic standards!

Monday, August 15, 2005

New Toy

It was a sales tax free weekend here in Massachusetts, and I went a little silly. I was at the local guitar store and they had a Hercules stand and I was taken with the fact that it has an auto-grab system; the weight of the guitar pulls down the frame on which the neck sits about an inch, and little fingers rotate up, keeping the guitar in place. You have to lift the guitar to release it. Pretty cool.

I spent several minutes just pushing down on the top and watching the little fingers rotate to keep the guitar in place.

Of course, I had to buy one. I already have a guitar stand, but you can always use a second one, right? ;)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Samson C01U

This USB condenser microphone, which I ordered about three months ago, finally arrived. I thought it would be fun to use with my iBook to make quick and easy recordings.

I first tried it hooked up to a machine running Windows XP. As soon as I plugged it in the system recognized the device (even knowing it's name and model number!) and when I went to the Sound Recording application it worked just fine. Couldn't really tell how good it was as there was a lot of noise in the office environment.

I had a lot more trouble getting it to work with the iBook.

There's a driver you can download from Samson's website and it said to simply install and away you go. Except that it didn't; the install went okay, but when I selected the mic nothing happened other than the small green light going on. I was worried that I might have damaged the mic by putting the cable in wrong (you really have to watch those USB cables!) but I tried it on another Windows box and it still worked fine. Back to the Mac.

It turns out there's a small application installed in the Applications folder (nothing that I saw in the installer talked about that!) Tried that; still nothing! Restarted; nothing. Unplugged, and replugged. Just about to give up when; suddenly it was working.

Only problem; I have no idea why it started working!

Anyway, it's working, and I tried it with Deck, and it seems to be working well. A bit of noise but I need to do some experiments to see how it compares with other mics.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

NazFest Preparations

I've been looking forward to going to NazFest this year, however, as always it has kind of snuck up on me and I'm not sure I'm ready for it! If things go as planned, I'll head out Saturday morning for the 6 hour drive down to Nazareth PA. But in the mean time I have so much to do; have to get various projects completed, get stuff packed, and decide which guitars to take!

I really need another month or two to prepare!

NazFest is a get together of the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum. A bunch of Martin guitar enthusiasts in other words. Two days of playing, as well as a tour of the Martin Factory and assorted fun. I went to this a couple of years ago and enjoyed myself a lot.

Now if I could just get everything done before Saturday morning.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Sounds like...

There's a new Herbie Hancock/John Mayer song (Mayer sings!) that's started to get some airplay here in Boston. It reminds me a lot in style of some of Stings songs; can't quite put my finger on why; maybe it's the arrangement and the 'stitch me up' refrain. Sounds very Stingish.

And there's another song that's been getting some airplay that sounds really like something of George Harrison's; it even sounds a little like him.

Note that this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just what stood out when I first heard the songs.

OMG! Dolly Parton on the radio. I'm bouncing around the radio presets and I hear Dolly Parton! Or at least it sounds a lot like her. Now that's just not normal (for me) and I'm seriously wondering if I need to reprogram my presets when I discover that it's a duet....but I had to leave the car before I found out any of the details; and a quick search on the web hasn't turned up anything.

Oh, the song seemed to grow on me after a bit...

Beatles News: a news item on the radio; Paul McCartney recorded a two hour event in Abbey Road studios where he played some songs and talked about the recording process. Supposed to be released on DVD sometime...

A more accurate(?) report can be found here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Harvard Sq

I got to play with an HD camcorder on the weekend, so I took it down to Harvard Sq to shoot some video to test it out.

I walked around shooting various things; there were a bunch of street performers of varying quality. One of the biggest problems - it seemed - was the quality of the amps they were using. By necessity, everyone was using small battery powered amps, but some definitely sounded better than others! Not sure whether it was EQ problems, or the sound of the amps themselves. A lot of people seemed to have the Crate Taxi; and again, some sounded good and others didn't.

If I get around to it I'll try and post some of the video (now that I have figured out how to put video on the website.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Getting The Cold(play) Shoulder

The Boston radio station WBOS is running a competition this week. Be caller number seven and you get tickets to Coldplay's concert. The grand prize winner gets a press pass to take pictures at the concert (usually this means you can only take pictures for the first three songs, but you can stand right in front of the stage.)

I'm not the biggest Coldplay fan, but it would be cool to be able to take pictures at the concert.....of course, you have to win first, and it's not easy even getting through. But I heard the ads and I got all excited and figured I'd give it a go; it's been a while since I've won something from a radio station ;)

But the problem is that the concert is this Saturday; and I'm not going to be in town that day. *sigh* Well, I guess it's not even worth trying....