Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Virtual Air Guitar

Makes real noise; virtually! A friend sent me a link to this, and then I saw it on the local news last night (nothing like good video and a silly story to get you on the local news!)

The really nice thing about this is that you probably don't have to tune it.

The Virtual Air Guitar project, developed at the Helsinki University of Technology, adds genuine electric guitar sounds to the passionately played air guitar.

Using a computer to monitor the hand movements of a "player", the system adds riffs and licks to match frantic mid-air finger work. By responding instantly to a wide variety of gestures it promises to turn even the least musically gifted air guitarist to a virtual fret board virtuoso.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Kids Say The Darndest Things...

Came across this story, that I thought was cute:

My boss leaves work, picks up her kid and brings her back to the office until closing time. The little girl (a sixth grader) likes to sit and talk to me.

The other day I told her that I had to leave early. I explained I had to pick up my Martin from the shop (Randy Wood Guitars) in Savannah. I told her that I was having a "pick-up" installed.

She looked at me very curiosly and asked, "why do you want a truck in your guitar?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

iRocker Your iPod

I've had my iPod for a couple of years, but I've never used it for anything other than playing music.

I did try one of the games once and was underwhelmed. It might have a calendar and an alarm, but I haven't used that either.

So now comes something that might almost be useful. iRocker software for the iPod includes the following:

200 essential chords (absolutely no, non-essential chords here!)
Tuner - well, it just plays an E it seems...
Metronome - 10 (count 'em! - 10) different speeds
Five (count 'em) chord progressions to jam along to.

All for $29.95.

Is it worth it? Hard to tell. Certainly not worth buying an iPod just for that. On the other hand, if you already have one, the chord library might come in usefull.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chris Whitley 1960-2005

Chris died 20th of November.

Death Of Political Protest Music

To measure the state of folk/rock music (and has protest/political expression died?), I took up a challenge to listen and “jot down on a piece of paper what any random 6 songs are generally about”

Here’s what I heard on WUMB today at about 10:10am EDT

Song 1: Another Train: [something about] getting on a train. Maybe the next one is yours.

This song seems to be about if you’re lost and confused then another train will come along. I can’t help wondering if this is like that saying about girlfriends and buses? It’s kind of Celtic in flavor

Song 2: Second Wind: now we’re sailing and waiting for a southern breeze. Turns out someone gave him his second wind. Been chasing a dream.

I’ve got a reason to start living again; you’ve given me my second wind.

This song could easily be appropriated as a religious song. The performance is a little country in flavor

Only two songs in and I think I’ve detected a travel theme here.

Song 3: Love stood in my way. On a winters night.
She said the road goes on for ever, every day’s a change.

Definitely have a traveling theme going on here.

The song ends and oh, Peter Morton is introduced as the song writer of those songs (though only the last one was actually him performing.) He’s going to be in the studio later, which explains a lot.

Song 4: Three days in the storm, and three on the flood, the crescent moon her arc.
Deep in the pagan forest.

Hard to figure this song out. It seems to be about some pagan witch or something. I’m always so bad at figuring things out unless they are really obvious.

Song 5: Oh my little [someone] girl, better be making your wedding dress
Oh she wouldn’t say yes, she wouldn’t say no. All she’d do was sit and sew, sit and sew.
Oh, it’s already made, trimmed in red, gonna be married on Saturday night

Oddly, not a happy song, rather sad the way it’s played (with a slow tempo). It seems almost depressed that she’s getting married; like she has no alternative or something. There could be some anti-marriage message here, or equal rights thing, but it’s hard to get inflamed as the song … is …so ….sleepy….

Song 6: It’s a short life of trouble for a boy with a broken heart. You know what you promised, only a week ago, you promised that you’d marry me.
Now you’ve broken your promise.

I was really hoping for a political agenda in this one, but it’s more love and lost love. Now he’s off going round the world but he is still hung up on the person that broke her promise to him. This guy could be potential stalker material.

Could this failed marriage proposal be the result of the legalization of gay marriage? It’s not made clear in the song.

iTunes Outsells Tower Records

During the past three months, iTunes made it to the U.S. Top 10 sales list for the first time, analyst firm NPD Group said.

According to figures from the Recording Industry Association of America, digital sales accounted for slightly more than 4 percent of the market during the first half of 2005, up from about 1.5 percent during the first half of 2004.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Intel Inside

A few days back there was discussion on the UMGF about a Martin Guitar prototype that had a slot for inserting a PDA. I wondered what use it was; to keep track of your set list, remind you what couch you were sleeping on, or what a Bm7 chord looks like?

Well today I stumble across The Surf Guiter a Fender Telecaster with a tablet PC embedded in the back. Seems that Intel and Fender actually got together and built this. It includes a Centrino processor and Ethernet connectivity.

I can't help but wonder what damage your belt-buckle could do to the screen

It's assumed that this is just a demo for use at trade shows and Fender won't actually be mass producing these, but you never know...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Chris Whitley

I am a big fan of Chris Whitley's album Living With The Law which contains - amongst others - the song Big Sky Country.

I just saw that Chris has entered hospice care suffering from advanced lung cancer.

I wish him and his family the best.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Shawn Colvin On Martin Guitars

Shawn Colvin played a benefit at Club Passim in Cambridge last night. A small, intimate show (just 145 fit in the room!) Her voice was amazing and her playing is really great; a good rhythm player with a percussive feel, she uses a lot of muting and mixes in enough finger-style to keep it interesting.

She told a lot of stories about her early days as a performer playing at the club. During a moment of intense guitar tuning she invited the audience to ask a question and someone shouted out ‘What’s that Martin you’re playing?’

Well she positively gushed about her Signature model Martin. She said that when she started out she had always wanted a Martin – she used to play a Yamaha that were just terrible she said – and she and a friend would go to the local guitar store and “play the Martin’s.” She eventually got enough money together to buy a used D-28 (a 71 model) in 1975.

“Martin came to me and said they wanted to make me a signature model,” she continued, “so I told them I wanted a neck that I could wrap my hand around, I wanted it to ring like a D-18, but have the bottom end thump of a D-35. Can you do that?” Then she turned over the guitar and showed the three-piece back and then pointed at the headstock that mimicked it and said “they did that, I had nothing to do with it.”

She was definitely happy with the guitar. “I gave one to Jackson Browne because he gave me a Gibson a while back,” she said.

“I was looking at the book of signature guitars they’ve made,” she continued, “and the thing I regret now is, I could have had my name written along here,” and she waved her hand along the fingerboard, “but I said ‘No, I want it very spare.’ It doesn’t even have fret markers. I was so stupid!”

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Geoff Emerick

Interesting interview with Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer that worked on several Beatles albums including Sgt. Peppers and Abbey Road.

Considering that you were using loops as far back as 1966 [on Revolver], it must amuse you that they are now so prevalent.

A lot of it was that Paul had a couple of Brenell tape recorders at home. You could disconnect the erase head on them, and he used them to make tape loops, putting new recordings over the first. He’d come in with a bag full of them—some long, some very small—all labeled with a grease pencil. We’d lace them up on our tape machine, and people would have to hold them out with pencils. I recall that on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” there weren’t enough people in the control room to handle holding them, so we got some of the maintenance department down to help. I think we put five loops up on faders, and then just played it as an instrument.

Of course, now, it’s endless, you can do anything. But often, all that doesn’t mean anything. If you just press a button and it’s there, you haven’t really created anything, have you? Going back to the artistic side of it, it’s the difference between painting by numbers or being a Rembrandt and painting a picture. Anyone can apply this technology to recorded music. But there’s that certain something that you can’t put your finger on, something that you can actually give to that piece of recording that the equipment can’t. It’s something that’s in your heart, that’s in you, that doesn’t come from any equipment whatever. It comes from what you hear.

Robotic Tuner

I just 'miss-placed' my tuner again. I know it's around somewhere, so I won't buy a new one....

But then I saw this today: String Master Robotic Guitar Tuner Woot! It's a robotic tuner: check out the demo video at the link.

It actually has a motorized crank that turns the tuning peg as it listens to you plucking a string. Works with electric guitars, but there's an 'attachment' for acoustic guitars (which I suspect is a microphone.)

Reviews at MusiciansFriend are mainly positive, though a few negatives. For $50 it's competitive with many others tuners, so I'm really tempted...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chickened Out

The big party happened, and for a variety of reasons, I didn't play.

#1. I just wasn't ready. I hadn't practiced enough; I'd left it until the last minute, and I thought I'd have a good shunk of Saturday to practice, but then the basement flooded and I ended up having to deal with that.

#2. The party had several scheduled performers, and then there was going to be an Open Mic at the end. Well, the party started just after 6, and the scheduled acts didn't finish until a little after 10:15, at which point there was dessert. And I had to start thinking about getting my daughter home, so really there was no time to even do it if I had been ready.

Oh well.

In the mean time I'm still practicing...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Have Book...

The book I ordered from Amazon arrived this morning, just in time.

So now I have all the chords to I'm only sleeping, and they are supposed to be correct. Sound's reasonable, and as long as I can play a B7 and sing at the same time, I might be able to pull it off. Have been practicing a bit. If I'd started a month ago I would be better.

Oh well.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cold Feet

Winter approaches. The boiler has been fired up in anger (and had to be repaired because it didn't come on the first day) and the party is this weekend.

That's the party where guests are invited to bring an instrument and perform.

I was [thinking about] / [trying to get up the nerve to] / [contemplating] doing a Richard Thompson song Wall of Death which seemed appropriate as it's a birthday party... but of course I haven't practiced or done anything in the past month...and it’s a comewhat difficult song to sing.

Then a couple of days ago I decided to go for something simpler. I was playing Revolver and it occurred to me that I'm Only Sleeping might be doable. Hey, when in doubt, go to Beatles, as a guitar instructor once said.

I searched about on the web and there's a version floating around that's got two sets of chords, and is partially complete. Partially as in the whole thing is not in both chords, and transposition is not one of my best skills....

soooo...I have a Beatles book that has riffs etc., in it. It had the song, but only the verse and the chorus, not the bridge. And it didn't match the web version either. *sigh*

Went down to the local music store and they had The Beatles Complete Vers. 1 & 2. $32 each. That's a lot of scratch for one song.

I considered buying it, but went home and checked Amazon. They only had Volume 2, and both volumes in a boxed set for $44. There was another 'complete' book The Beatles Complete Chord Songbook for $13.50 that had the advantage of being cheaper, and much smaller (easier to lose, but easier to cart around too.) So I ordered that one. It should arrive on Friday. Which gives me two days to practice.

Unless I decide to switch to another song.

Now I'm wondering; Should I re-string the guitar?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jerry Douglas Dobro, Weekend Edition Sunday

Jerry Douglas, 'the Jimi Hendrix of dobro playing' will be on Weekend Edition Sunday on NPR tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Origins Or Dreadnought

A poster on the UMGF asked why Dreadnoughts were called Dreadnoughts.

I replied that they were named after a class of battleship, but then another poster corrected me and said it was named after a specific ship.

This prompted my reply:

Actually, not a minor detail! (as I discovered after reading your post!)

The Dreadnought was a ship, but it was also a class of ship. Just as the Forestall is both a specific aircraft carrier, and a class of aircraft carrier.

Martin's own history mentions the class yet I found a listing on that mentioned the battleship.

Most of the Internet listings seem to use the class story, though they are mostly borrowed from Martin's article.

Growing up (prior to knowing anything about Martin's) I was familiar with the term being used for a large battleship, but had never heard of the specific ship (until tonight!)

Here we get into a generational thing; I wonder if anyone would know whether CF Martin, back in 1916, was aware of the specific ship, or had just heard of these large ships, called dreadnoughts?

A little sleuthing; if you read this history of naval warfare it appears that the original ship Dreadnought was the first of a new breed of ships (it was launched in 1906), and that at the time, there was a race to build bigger and bigger ships. Dreadnought became the term everyone used for these very large ships, and by 1914, the original ship was outmoded.

It's clear that the ship Dreadnought resulted in the name being applied to all large battleships, but I think it's more than likely that the Dreadnought guitar shape was named after the class, rather than the specific ship.

You're probably wondering if this is just a distinction without a difference, but actually, I think it's a minor, but interesting issue (though it surely will not effect the tone of your D-28.)

I will admit that I'm taking a wild guess here, but I base this on the following:

1) The original ship Dreadnought was a British ship. It's unclear to me that this ship would have been widely reported or hailed in the US.

2) The term Dreadnought was used for all large battleships, and there was a race to build bigger and bigger ones. This was probably widely reported in the US

3) By 1914, the ship Dreadnought had already been superseded by even larger ships.

4) Why would CF Martin name it after a British ship (the US wasn't then involved in World War I) rather than an American one? I could understand it if the ship was legendary, but other than it being the first really big battleship, I don't think it was legendary at all, and by 1916 it was no longer the largest battleship.

But if the US Navy was building large 'dreadnoughts,' and they were frequently referred to by this term, then it would seem to make sense that the public would start using the term for other things and that Martin would then adopt the term as well.

I admit that there's an assumption here that the original ship was not widely known and hailed in America.

Counter to my argument, it's entirely plausible that when the Dreadnought was launched in 1906, it was so large (like the Titanic) and was covered so widely in the press, such that people immediately started using the term in everyday speech ("it's the Dreadnought of bed pans") and that using the description 'Dreadnought of' could have been rooted in speech for a long time and Martin just borrowed this phrase that was already widely used. I'm a little doubtful of this, as again, I don't think the ship itself was widely known.

I think we need to find a historian....

Sorry for the nit-picking, but I actually think it's an interesting story.

On reading this post, the original poster accused me of being neurotic! :(

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Neil Young on Conan

Neil Young is the musical guest on Conan O'Brien's show all this week (Tuesday through Friday.)

Wish I stayed up that late :(