Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Spend Money; Feel Better

Decided to order the UX2 and see how it works out. Primarily because of a favorable review I came across from an actual user, and because of the knobs and meters. Placed my order with Musiciansfriend, and it is supposed to arrive in, oh 2-5 days.

The initial rush of the purchase did brighten my otherwise gray day a little, but now I’m starting to suffer from buyers’ remorse...

What The?!!

I'd always heard that Michael Hedges was an amazing player, and I've heard some of his music and liked it. But wow; take a look at this! What's he doing with his left hand?! I don't know how he does that stuff...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Further Consideration

I think one of the big issues I need to consider re: the breakout box thingy (below) is whether my iBook has USB 2.0 ports, or 1.0 ports. I'm not too sure and it's at home, and trying to figure out from Apple's spec pages which model iBook has what proved to be an exercise in frustration.

So...I guess the suspense will continue until I get home (at which point, the suspense will still continue, but I should have one more piece of the puzzle to plug-in.)

UPDATE (4:20PM): Turns out it has USB 2.0.... still none the wiser...

UPDATE (5:31PM): Okay, I'm clearly leaning towards the UX2 right now. Found this user review, which was positive. It appears that latency is not an issue.

UPDATE (10:43PM(: No idea what I'm going to do. Think I'll sleep on it.

Better Living Through...

In my experience, there's no day that can't be improved by the purchase of electronic equipment.

With that in mind, I've been thinking of getting a recording interface to use with my computer so that I can more easily record my guitar. There's two boxes that have got my attention: The Line 6 TonePort UX2, and the PreSonus Inspire 1394.

They are both $199 at MusiciansFriend, so it comes down to features, and the biggest difference (off the bat) is that the PreSonus is FireWire based, and the TonePort is USB. FireWire is generally faster than USB (particularly if you only have USB 1.0 on your computer! ;) ) The TonePort seems to offer more 'neat features' and super-cool knobs and meters, but rates lower in the reviews than the Inspire.

On the other hand, the Inspire only has three reviews, while the TonePort has eight.

On the other, other hand, the TonePort readers seem to have encountered problems with latency, which is the big issue with these interfaces (i.e. a delay between the sound that's coming out through the speakers, and what's being recorded. This can really throw you off while recording.)

Giving up on the whole 'other hand' business; the TonePort offers more effecty things, but it seems like the recording software isn't quite as good (or is more limited.) The TonePort also has the meters and actual knobs to turn down the audio output and the headphone levels separately.

It's a quandry! What to do....what to do...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Magical Mystery Tour

My daughter wanted to borrow the Magical Mystery Tour CD to take in for music class, where all the 6th graders were supposed to bring in CDs of music they liked. She wanted to play the song Magical Mystery Tour.

"Everyone else is bringing in Green Day," she said cryptically.

As usual, it took me a while to hunt around and find it.

"Why that one?" I asked.

She shrugs. "I like it." she says, then adds with concern, "there's no drug references or swears on that one are there?"

I had to think for a minute. I was certain there was no bad language, but drug references? If you thought about it for a minute, almost all of their songs from that period could be construed as being about drugs, drug influenced, or so weird and indecipherable as to be suspect.

"I think they played it on the BBC," I finally said. Actually they did; they played the Magical Mystery Tour film on the BBC - once.

"What's that mean?" she asked, not getting the reference. I wondered whether I should explain how the BBC is owned by the government, and how it was very "proper" and wouldn't broadcast anything remotely lewd or obscene. Well, except for Monty Python.

I just went with the "It'll be okay," reassurance instead.

I'm actually quite pleased that she is a fan of The Beatles. As a fan myself, I was careful not to push the music on to her. It was a friend of hers who first introduced her to a Beatles song, and when she came home one day and said how much she liked a song she'd heard, I said 'You know, I have that."

Since then she's become a bigger fan, though I guess we'll see if it lasts into the teen years.

I picked her up after school the next day.

"How was your day?"


"Anything interesting happen?"


"Did you play your song?"

"What? Oh yeah! Though I played Hello Goodbye instead."

"Why'd you do that?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"Just felt like it," she said.

"What did everyone else bring? Green Day?"

"No. Actually, a lot of people played Beatles songs. [Someone] played Bungalow Bill and there was Ricky[sic] Raccoon and [someone] played Maxwell's Silver Hammer and there was some rap and some other stuff."

It felt somehow good to know that The Beatles are still popular with 6th graders.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Nice Kitty

Yesterday I was playing guitar, frightening the neighbors’ cats, when my daughter said “Too bad you don’t have an electric guitar.”

I don’t now why she said it. She was sitting doing her homework and wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing.

“I have an electric guitar,” I said brightly.

“You do?!” her eyes widened. “Where is it?”

So I went and grabbed the Strat from the closet and brought it out, opened the case and put it into her hands. She started strumming it and frowned.

“I have to plug it in,” I explained, and went searching for a cable to plug it into the amplifier. After a few minutes I had it plugged in and making noise and she sat there strumming happily. It wasn’t in tune, but she wouldn’t have noticed as she didn’t know any chords.

“Will you teach me how to play?” she asked.

She’s asked me this before, and what usually happens is I show her a chord, she strums for a bit, and then she’s done and never mentions it again for a month or so.

“Sure,” I say.

“Can I have it?” she asked, looking down at the guitar.

“Eh no,” I said.

“Why not?” She knows I have more guitars than I need, and I spoil her rotten.

“You learn to play,” I offer, “and you can have it.”

I’m not sure that it will actually cause her to learn. She’s got her hands full with learning and playing the saxophone; I don’t think she really wants to spend any time actually learning another instrument. But she was certainly impressed by this bright shiny guitar that made the loud twangy noise.

She’d probably have kittens if she saw the Hello Kitty guitar from Squire.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harry Manx

I meant to write up a bit about the concert last week with Harry Manx.

Lloyd Thayer, a local performer, opened (or co-billed) with Harry. Lloyd is a great blues player, and he plays lap-style guitar (not, he's quick to point out, the armpit geetars we all play.) Lloyd is a real character and a great performer. I love his sense of humor, and he has great stories that he tells between songs (some go on for a fair while!) I always enjoy his shows; great slide work and his voice works well for the blues.

Lloyd teaches some classes at The Passim School of Music (just upstairs from the club!) as well as at The Music Emporium. Check out his website for some Dobro info and other interesting tidbits.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I also took one of his lap-guitar classes.) I’m still hopeless, but that’s not his fault!

On to Harry, who I didn’t even know anything about prior to the show (I went because Lloyd was playing.) Harry is Canadian, and has quite a sense of humor too; when asked if he had a mailing list sign-up he said ‘No, but just tell people to check out my website; www eric clapton dot com.”

Harry released his first CD back in 2000, and has won several Canadian awards for best blues record (one of which, even came with a trophy...but that’s a long story.) It’s unclear what Harry was doing prior to that; he's well into middle age so he must have been doing something. He did say that he spent five years at VM Bhatt’s house, learning to play the Mohan Veena.

I’ve already written about the Mohan Veena, a 20 (or 19?) string cross between a sitar and a guitar that’s played lap-style. He also plays a Taylor and a Martin six-string, and broke out a banjo for one number.

He says that he plays exclussively in open D; DADF#AD from the bass end, though sometimes he'll drop the F# down to F to give a Dm tuning. I didn’t get a chance to ask him, but I have to wonder if he isn’t using a special kind of pick that’s doing something to the bass because the bass strings really thudded and sounded to me like they were an octave lower than the normal bass strings on a guitar.

Steven King uses this technique to get extra bass from the 5th and 6th strings.

Harry was accompanied by ‘South Side Steve’ (don’t know his last name) a young guy that plays Hamonica and is “not too bad for a guy from Ottawa” according to Harry. Steve definitely knows how to play, and provided a real soul to Harry’s songs. I was most intrigued by an effect he got where the harmonica sounded almost like a Hammond organ. Turns out he was using a POD effects box and running the harmonica through the Leslie speaker effect. Pretty cool.

Amongst the many great songs, I particularly liked the performance of Baby Please Don’t Go which took the song in a slightly different direction to how I've heard it before.

But as Harry said, “the blues is not about feeling bad; it’s about making other people feel bad,” and if you like the blues, I think you’ll like Harry. His playing brings a different variety to the music, and his instruments – especially the Mohan Veena – adds new colors to the sound. He even played a bit of banjo “to torture us a bit” though he played it much like it was a guitar, and it almost sounded more like a guitar than a banjo (I even wondered if he was playing it in a guitar tuning.)

A great show, and I definitely recommend checking Harry out.

Another piece of stage patter: Steve, the Harmonica player, during a moment that Harry was adjusting his guitar, related how they had been in New York and seen a flyer for a band that was playing at some bar. The band’s name was ‘Hard to Make a Living,’ and somewhat prophetically, underneath it read ‘No Cover Charge.’

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Guest Chord: G7sus4

Today's guest chord is G7sus4. Just finger it up and strum it hard

It's been a hard day's night...

Unavailable Sites

I thought it was kind of weird that today both musiciansfriend.com and harmony-central.com were unavailable.

Then I remembered that Harmony-central was bought by Musicians Friend a while back. :(

No fun for me today...


In a recent discussion, someone mentioned that the song Daughters by John Mayer, is now the most popular song for the first father / daughter dance at weddings.

Kind of interesting; though who compiles this information?! And where do they get their data?

I guess the other thing is; have you read the lyrics to that song? It's a really nice song and all, but it's about meeting someone who is totally screwed up, and finally realizing that you can't do anything about it and that it's all the fault of the person that raised them! Hardly an appriopriate sentiment for a wedding, is it?!

i know a girl
she puts the color inside of my world
she's just like a maze
where all of the walls all continually change

I've done all i can
to stand on the steps with my heart in my hands
Now i started to think
maybe its got nothing to do with me.

so fathers be good to your daughters,
daughters will love like you do,
girls become lovers who turn into mothers
so mothers be good to your daughters too.

Come on people! Pay attention to the lyrics!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Is That?!

It's a Mohan Veena. That's the bastard child of a guitar and a sitar. Actually, in this case, it's a very nice instrument, played by Harry Manx, a Canadian who plays...the blues.

The Mohan Veena looks like an arch-top guitar with lots of extra tuners down the side of the neck. It has twenty strings, and - according to Harry - only takes three hours to tune. It was invented by VM Bhatt, and I gather that it's not currently made commercially in quantity (some guy hand builds them in India), though on his website FAQ, Harry also reports that a company is making an "imitation" of the Mohan Veena you can find on eBay. He gives these imitations mixed reviews.

I just did a search on eBay and found such a listing for $745. It also said that it has 19 strings (Harry said 20 at the show) and they are giving away a copy of Harry's CD with the instrument too!

I saw Harry playing this instrument (a real one) at Club Passim last week. It was a great show, and the instrument was very interesting (I'll write up a bit more about the show shortly.)

Photo from an eBay ad

A Flugel Whatsit

Know Your Flugelhorn

The Flugelhorn is a valved bugle developed in Germany.

It is not generally used for aggressive or bright displays as both trumpet and cornet can be, but tends more towards a softer and more reflective role.

It is also the subject of terrible poetry:
The flugel is your friend,
The trumpet is your spouse,
Don't mix them up or
You may lose your house.

That's just awful. It doesn't scan well, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense either! I am now on a quest to find good poetry about instruments...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Signature Editions?

Guitar makers have been making 'Signature Edition' guitars (special models endorsed by famous players) for a long time, and for a long time, guitar buyers have been complaining about them...

These complaints seem to break down into some variation of the following:

Why'd they give *HIM* a signature model?
I hate [some aspect] of the guitar
It's sooo expensive

Just the other day Martin announced a new John Mayer signature edition, prompting this posting on the Martin Guitar Forum:

Didn't the other Mayer edition come out just a few years ago? Do we really need two Mayer editions? [...] what has he done to really merit two signature editions?

Well, here's an interesting Signature Edition from Gibson: the Kiefer Sutherland Special Edition

I was really wondering about that one, but then on reading the article I see that he owns about 50 Gibsons, and he has a record label too!

Gosh...well...still. I can't imagine what they're saying about that over on the Gibson forums!

Taylor ES

The Taylor website has a great video on noise (hum) reduction.

From this link, click on "Performance Tips/Maintenance" in the upper right

Then click "More" at the bottom of the page

Finally, select "Noise Reduction"

It will, at least, help you to determine whether the problem is your guitar, your amp/PA, a bad extension cord, or your house wiring.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

All You Need Is...

Just one of my favorites...

Is Lennon chewing gum?!

Friday, January 20, 2006


Filming Dates: September 4, 1968
Filming Locations: Twickenham Film Studios
Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg

The backing track to "Revolution" was pre-recorded, but the vocals were live. Two clips were shot; They were mostly identical, but there were some lighting differences.

"Revolution" was broadcast only once in the UK, in black and white, on Top of the Pops on September 19. It was broadcast in the U.S. in color on on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on October 13.

Teeny Tiny D-35

Jaap Kaiser owns an original 70’s D35. Not content with that, he decided to build a minature D35 at a scale of 1 : 4.75.

A translation of his story, along with pictures, appears here.

I wonder if he's taking orders?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

New Martins

New Martin's announced. Most notably:

Roy Rodgers OM-45 in regular and Braz. models. $10K for the Indian Rosewood model; you don't want to ask how much the Braz. model is.

A white version of Eric Clapton's Bellezza (called the Bianca.)

D-42 Flamed Mahogany (about $10K too)

There's a bunch of other things too, including; OMJM John Mayer, 000C-28 Andy Summers, MC12-41 Richie Sambora, 000-18 Golden Era 1937, and for the kids, a FeLiX II.

Now what will Taylor announce?....

Gibson + Ethernet = ??

Remember that Ethernet guitar I mentioned? Well it has come back to haunt me.

The Gibson Digital Guitar brings the 1930s technology of conventional electric guitars into the Digital Age according to the press release. It looks like a regular Gibson electric, but it adds an Ethernet port and Gibson will be showing it at NAMM, though no word on price or availablity...

The Gibson Digital Guitar System features:

* A genuine Gibson guitar, 100% compatible with existing equipment.
* Gibson's patented HEX pickup, which senses up-and-down motion (like an acoustic guitar pickup) and side-to-side motion (like an electric guitar pickup) for each string.
* MaGIC-enabled digital transport, carrying multiple channels in both directions over standard Ethernet cable.
* Gibson's BreakOut Box, with 8 outputs (1/4" jacks) - one for each string, plus classic humbucking pickup output and pass-through for microphone; 2 inputs carry audio back to guitar for monitoring; split mode assigns strings to different amps.

Wait a minute. Did that say EIGHT outputs? I have enough trouble with one!

Gibson has developed a prototype digital guitar that converts the analog signal into a digital signal inside the guitar. Stray frequencies entering the guitar pickups are eliminated along with analog line noise induced through the guitar cable. A guitarist can run a cable over 100 meters with no loss of audio quality.

What if you want wireless? Does it support Wi-Fi?!

The Gibson Digital Guitar system delivers signal processing on a string-by-string basis, providing increased quality and flexibility, including the ability to adjust volume, pan and equalization of each string individually.

MaGIC technology
MaGIC, developed by Gibson Labs, stands for Media-accelerated Global Information Carrier and is designed to replace all wiring systems in both the musical instrument fields and consumer electronic applications with a single Ethernet cable. MaGIC-enabled consumer electronics devices will allow daisy chaining devices and plug-and-play capabilities.

If Sony and Apple support it, maybe I'll buy one...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Andy Summers Signature Edition

Turns out some NAMM news from Martin has already slipped out....on Andy Summers website. Martin will announce the 000C-28 Andy Summers Signature Model.

You can find more details about it here.

This is not Martin's first collaboration with the law. Fellow Police member Sting already has a Martin signature model or two.

Monday, January 16, 2006

NAMM Announcements Already?!

Okay, I'm excited. Only three days until NAMM and already there are announcements!

I have no idea why I'm all excited about this year's show. I don't honestly expect that anything will be announced that I'll actually want, but for some reason I'm still dying to know what might appear. Maybe it's because I need some excitement in my boring life?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

More Lessons

And why not? It's all about learning, right?

Here's a couple of articles that look interesting from guitarist Eltjo Haselhoff.

The first article "Learning New Songs" goes into how best to learn a new song at considerable length. The second article "Recording Acoustic Guitar" looks a little heavy on the theory (hey, I'd like to just know what to do thanks) but there are some good suggestions at the 'tips' at the end.

He also has lessons! If nothing else, check out the section "How to Play Cornerstone" which has a fun little example with the song played via MIDI and on acoustic guitar for comparison. Comparison of what you ask? Umm, well not sure really, but it's interesting.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Some websites with lessons:

Eric Lugosch Fingerstyle Academy has a number of different songs. For most there's both tab and MP3.

The Acoustic Guitar Workshop; range of resources.

Jack Baker's site for New York School of Fretted Instruments has beginner and intermediate tunes, advanced tunes, and some Chet Atkins/Jerry Reed/Merle Travis arrangements. You need Tab/Edit to download the files.

The Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar page has many arrangements -- also TabEdit, mp3s, etc.

Arrangements from UK guitarist Steve McWilliams including traditional, blues, 20s pop, Celtic, etc., and a beginner's section

Some other arrangements from the late Marcel Dadi and other well-known guitarists, such as Ton Van Bergeyk, Duck Baker, Eric Schoenberg, the late Dick Fegy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Martin News

I'm just whiling away the time until NAMM [Jan. 19-22], when all kinds of good things should be announced.

In the mean time, the Martin Guitar company has been working on renovating their Factory Museum, and though there's been no official opening ceremony yet, it does appear to be open, and it's even been covered in the press: "Martin's new museum gets in tune with visitors"

...Get's in tune with visitors...I love that! I could write a headline that bad!

And in NAMM related news, who knows what new goodies Martin will unveil, but a web posting gives a hint of one possible announcement:
I was on a factory tour yesterday and saw a new Roy Rogers sig in an early state of build. Only thing I could gather was it was a Brazilian beauty. Anybody know about this model? has it even been announced?

If it's Brazilian then it's going to be wicked expensive and built in only very small quantities (unless Martin managed to find some unexpected stash of Brazilian.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dancing About Architecture

Yesterday's post provoked this discussion. [edited to make me appear more intelligent]

Adrian: I was just checking out your blog and I see that you featured the swanky Yamaha axe :-)

Me: I like pretty colors too, and the tuners are weird ;-)

Adrian: the design is kinda Apple-esque

Me: hmmm...yeah, hadn't thought of that. Might fit nicely with the 'pod

Adrian: that's what I'm thinking

Me: though they need some way of wiring the two together so you can play along with your iPod. Then they might be on to a winner!

Adrian: you could get a Y adaptor, and plug the guitar and the iPod into a little amp, and then plug your headphones into the amp... that'd work... maybe not quite as elegant as it ought to be, but it'd work ;-)

Me: hmmm...you'd need a mini to 1/4 inch adapter and the guitar and iPod have different levels. The guitar output is lower

Adrian: I'm sure there's a way to do it. My bass amp has two inputs, one for line level input and one for lower level inputs

Me: Yeah, that might do it. Some company had a guitar with an Ethernet port on it. I need to find that again

Adrian: Interesting. That sounds very familiar too. Seems like USB2 or FireWire would be more useful, but who knows

Me: Yeah. I don't know what the exact point of it was. Getting Ethernet from a guitar is a bit like getting MIDI from a CAD program.

And Writing about music is like dancing about architecture is one of my favorite quotes.

Playing In Tune

I must admit to being a little unsure about this one... it's The Performer from TransPerformance. This fairly large and complicated piece of machinery will keep your guitar in tune, in any one of a number of different tunings. The tuning can happen almost instantly, though you have to strum on open strings to do it. You can preset the device to store as many as 240 tunings. When a tuning is selected, sensors and motors adjusts the tension on all six strings simultaneously. In addition to the fairly substantial piece of hardware at the bridge, there's an LCD screen cut into the side of the body that shows the note, octave and cent value of all six strings.

And I thought the Robotic Tuner was pretty whacky!

At the moment it's available for hard body guitars (Les Paul's and Strats) but there's probably no reason it couldn't be adapted for acoustics; other than it's large and heavy! on second thoughts, looking at the size of the bridge, maybe not in it's current configuration.

CNET has an article about the device. I'm not sure of the price; and not sure I want to know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You, Light Up My Life

I'm not a huge electric guitar fan; I have three, but none of them's particularly good, and one's out on loan.

I don't know why I don't play them much, just ended up being more into acoustics.

Anyway, reader Adrian (I don't think I have any others) suggested that the Yamaha RGX A2 Electric Guitar (left) is kind of cool because: 'I love the tuning knobs, and the color LEDs behind the volume and tone knobs.'

Yeah, that is pretty cool, though I wonder how bright that tuning knob light actually is...and wouldn't it be even more cool if it had that light over the fret board or something (kind of like those cars with lighting underneath them?)

The tuning knobs are interesting; I wonder how they feel when you turn them?

Anyway, it's nice, but too expensive for me to get one just because the lighting is cool.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Are You Experienced?

The Gibson Custom Shop has announced the Inspired by
series of limited-edition guitars, inspired by and built to the exact specifications of some of the most innovative guitarists of all time.

And the first guitar? It's the Jimi Hendrix Psychedelic Flying V. I'm assuming that Jimi didn't actually come back and specify this one. And actually, this isn't really 'inspired' by either, rather it's a 'copy of.'

It also seems that a lot of the work was in recreating the finish. No one is sure what Jimi used to paint the original (whether it was nail polish, enamel, or some combination.)

The finished result looks pretty cool. Not sure what the price is, but I'm sure all those ex-hippies who now work on Wall Street will be placing their order.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How Do You Hold It?

I've never been a big pick user. Just never really comfortable with them, so I mainly use my nails. Still, I do occasionally use a pick, and like all things, the more you use them, the better you get with them (a bit.)

Came across this little tutorial "In Your Hand" on using the pick (or more accurately, how to apply it to the guitar string.)

I've also been accumulating a collection of picks of different sizes and thicknesses. None seem to make a whole hell of a lot of difference in usefulness for me, but I keep trying!

I've read that you shouldn't hold the pick too firmly, but I find that if I don't, then the thing will move and even rotate in my fingers while I'm playing. Inevitably the thing will either fall out, or get into a position where it's useless and I have to either stop or drop it and play on using my fingers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Beat It

I just bought a Djembe. At least I think it's a Djembe, because it kind of looks like this thing here on the right (which isn't my drum as I haven't taken a piture of it yet.)

I've been wanting to get a hand drum for a while, so finally today I went down to Guitar Center to have a poke around. They didn't have a big selection, but then I had no idea what I wanted (or needed) so I tapped a few, tried not to make too big a spectacle of myself, and picked one.

I've been banging away on it for a while, but I'm not sure I exactly know what I'm doing. Maybe I should get a book or something. They have drum circles in Harvard Square. Maybe I should give that a try, though searching the internet provides a hint that drum circles are often about meditation and healing rather than beating your drum.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Here Comes the Sun / Homeward Bound

Not super quality, but this clip gets the point across: George Harrison and Paul Simon singing "Here Comes the Sun" and "Homeward Bound" on Saturday Night Live.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy New Year

December was kind of quiet around here.....mostly because I was running around the first of it getting ready for a trip, and the second half of December I was on the trip, so I didn't post anything for a month...

What a slacker.