Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chaos and Creation in Abbey Road Studio

Well the show was awesome! I'm a big Beatles fan, and I've always liked Paul's stuff (okay, maybe not Ebony And Ivory) so I figured I'd find this at least interesting, but really I was blown away. I thing I really liked were the little demo's of multi-track recording that he did, as well as the little comments he threw out here and there. The musical performance's were - as expected - pretty damn flawless, and he performed a mix of new stuff and old.

For those that missed it, Paul put on a show at Abbey Road studio's for a small audience that was videotaped and shown on PBS as part of their Great Performances series. I'm pretty sure that it was done in Studio 2, which is the one the Beatles used. It's not the largest studio at Abbey Road, but it's big enough to hold a small orchestra.

Paul played several new songs, as well as some old numbers, performing little snippets of other songs here and there. Nearly everything was just him playing either guitar or piano, but it was much more than just a music performance.

Highlights for me included:
The demonstration of multi-track recording (using an old 4-track recorder!) where he recorded sound created by rubbing the top of wine glasses, and a harmonium, and then sang the intro to Band on the Run

The performance of Lady Madonna with piano and new arrangement

The "Elvis Bass" performance

And at the end when he did another little multi-track example using a digital recording system.

There were a lot of other great things about the show, and I really wish it was another hour long! I'm hoping they'll release it on DVD; hopefully with additional material!

Highly recommended!

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Know What I'll Be Watching

Tonight on most PBS stations (in my case, WGBH at 10:00pm)
PAUL MCCARTNEY: Chaos And Creation At Abbey Road premieres.

I guess I could wait for it to appear on YouTube, but I'm going to try and catch it on television tonight. The following is from the PBS website:

In this unique concert, the legendary Paul McCartney returns to Studio 2 at London's Abbey Road Studios (where most of the Beatles' recordings were made) for a fascinating journey through his songwriting career, from his very first Beatles song to the work for his new album, CHAOS AND CREATION IN THE BACKYARD.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Helter Skelter

Paul McCartney at the Grammies.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Guitar Humidification

Spring is almost here. In the northeast we can almost taste it. Oh, there's at least another month of wretched weather ahead of us, a good snow storm maybe, but that's beside the point; we're over the hump.

Which means that guitar humidification is becoming less of an issue. But before we forget about it until November, here's a link to an article about making cheap guitar humidifiers from a sponge and a plastic bag. Kind of a downer for those of us that swear by Dampit's (which cost about $15 each!)

Johnny Cash - Hurt

I've been too busy tied up with school vacation week to do much of anything else.

Spending way too much time on YouTube though...what I can't figure out is; how are they paying for this?! Well, whatever, enjoy it while you can...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

'Clapton's Guitar' Book Reading

Book reading and discussion of guitar building revolving around the book 'Clapton's Guitar' at the Concord Bookstore, MA, Feb 19th, 2006. A local event I videotaped, this is just a summary I threw together.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It's A UI Thing

I downloaded the aforementioned FretPet to give it a try. Fortunately it's shareware or trialware (not sure which) but I managed to download it and give it a quick try out.

The bad news; it opens up a bunch of windows and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do! I can't even figure out how to simply display a C chord. I can click on the fretboard and mark strings to 'play' and therefore draw my own C chord, but I can't get it to show me a C chord, and I feel like it should do that.

And it does all these other things in other windows and they don't mean anything to me. It looks like it should be interesting, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do! It's very frustrating. I spent a good five minutes messing about with it and was none the wiser for it.

I guess I'm going to have to actually read the documentation if I'm going to figure out how to do anything with this program, which I think is rediculous. Some of these functions should have been really easy to figure out. It should have led me in and encouraged me to use it, not leave me stranded before we even get out to sea.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Guy Davis - Things About Coming My Way

Guy Davis, a great blues player, was back at Club Passim last night. Here's his performance of Things About Coming My Way

Friday, February 17, 2006

With A Name Like FretPet...

...it's got to be good?

Came across a link to a Mac OS X application called FretPet X which is described as:

"FretPet is a unique guitar-oriented music sequencer, an educational tool for learning music theory, a controller for software and external synthesizers, a reference for all things relating to notes, chords, keys, and scales. and an indispensible assistant for creating coherent musical compositions with ease."

It looks kind of cool and would - if nothing else - save me from having to go to Chord Finder all the time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Scale Length

I've heard about Scale Length, but never quite knew how it worked. The following is a combination of posts from this thread:

Scale length is the distance between the nut and the twelfth fret, doubled. On a steel strung acoustic you can't measure from nut to saddle because of the slant for intonation compensation. A longer scale length requires a greater tension on the string for the same note at the same pitch in relation to that note on a shorter scale length.

Typical scale lengths are 24.9" (such as Gibson electrics and Martin's 000-42 and 000-28) , 25.4" (most Martins) and 25.5" (Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters). In principle, though, there are no particular rules for scale lengths. PRS released a 25.0" guitar as a middle ground between Fender and Gibson, for instance.

Some consequences of scale length:

1. The lower you want to tune an instrument, the longer the scale length must be to avoid strings slacking, introducing fret buzz or flopping about.
2. A longer scale in standard tuning is generally harder to play than a shorter scale.
3. A longer scale will have more sustain in the notes due to the higher tension. It will also tend to sound a bit brighter.
4. A shorter scale's slacker tension allows guitarists to upgrade their string thickness for a fatter sound.

Also, it easier to bend strings on a short scale relative to a long scale with the same gauge strings. So the blues players tend to like them.

This all goes a long way to explaining the difference between a 000-42 and an OM-42 (that's the problem with looking at Martin's product list; they have something like 100 different models, and it's so difficult sometimes to figure out what the differences are between each.

So after reading this, I'm thinking maybe I should get a a short scale guitar. I'm always looking for a good excuse to buy another one! Even a port excuse is better than no excuse at all.

Then I realized....I already have one! D'oh!!

Monday, February 13, 2006

There was an item on Wolfgang's Vault Web site on NPR over the weekend, and now I see a piece on News.com, so obviously it's making the rounds.

Bill Sagan paid more than $5 million for items and recordings from Bill Graham's estate, (Graham was programmer of San Francisco's Fillmore.)

The website has a 75-song playlist from 7,000 to 8,000 audio and video concert recordings made between 1966 and 1999.

You can't download any of the recordings, only stream them, though there's talk of CD and DVD sales in the future.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I happened across iPlayMusic in a local magazine. They offer online video guitar lessons and you can get 35 of them free. They are pretty basic lessons, but might be worth checking out for someone just starting.

Most interesting of all; you can get them on iTunes as a podCast and play them on your video iPod!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Do You Have Big Thumbs?

I was never a big fan of Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman - that was until I heard Richie Haven's do an inspired version of it at the Bob Dylan 25th anniversary concert. That was just amazing.

If you want to play like Richie Haven's, it's pretty easy (he says so!). It appears that all you need is a really big thumb!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Are We Not Weenies?!

I hang out at the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum quite a bit. It's a fun place with nice people, and you can learn a lot about Martin guitars (and acoustics in general.) They also hold a yearly get together in Pennsylvania that's pretty much heaven for Martin guitar fans.

That said, sometimes things can get a little out of hand. Discussions about some topics; the wood used for necks, the price of the D-18 Authentic, and whether so-and-so deserves a Signature Edition, can sometimes get a bit repetitive. But we're guitar geeks, and that's to be expected. The best solution sometimes is just to stop reading a specific thread. I try not to take things too seriously.

A recent posting asked 'Are we the only weenies, in the world???' and spoke about a guitar player that one of the members encountered at an open mic who had no idea what model guitar he owned.
After he was done I walked up to him, and asked if it was a Westerly. He looked at me with a puzzled expression.

I said, "Your Guild.....was it made in Westerly?" He shrugs, "I don't know."

So then, I ask, "What year is it?" Again....shrugging, "I don't know....it was a gift."

So I ask, "what model is it?" Again....a shrug...." I don't know it was a gift.....I normally play Alverez's."

The posting then went on to speculate whether the forum members were the only weenies that know so much about their instruments. Do Sousaphone players know much about their instruments? Do they debate the merits of different models and years of production?

It’s a mildly interesting discussion, but frankly I don't see it as a big issue. Some people are really into the instruments, and some people just see them as a tool they use to make music. I don't think either attitude is right or wrong, it doesn't really bother me which one you are.

But while I was pondering that a little, I saw another post:
How does tuner mass change a Martin dread?
I'm wanting to swap out the small knob Pings on my D-15 for something of higher quality [Grover Rotomatics...] I've heard that these are lighter and that the lower mass allows for more resonance.

I've also heard that the greater mass of the Rotos will contribute to greater sustain.

Say what?!!

Changing the tuners changes the mass enough to effect the tone of the guitar?!

Okay, I have suffered through discussions of Brazilian vs. Indian Rosewood. 'Opening Up' vs. guitar aging, effects of humidity, bracing patterns, top woods, and coated vs. uncoated strings. But changing tuners?!!

One reader suggested that clamping on a couple of capo's on the headstock will effect sound! Others wrote:
To my ear, the lighter, open-back [tuners] are somehow less-invasive and allow for more wood-character to come through.

On some instruments adding weight to the headstock has had a dramatic positive effect on volume and tone (Blueridge guitars & Resophonic guitars).

The general rule is greater mass will add sustain. This is particularly true for electric guitars.

This kind of stuff can only lead to madness people! Put those capo's down! Don't touch those tuning machines! It's time to go back to playing the damn things!

Carved Guitars

Doug Rowell carves guitars. Beautiful, intricate work that he performs on old Stratocaster bodies and other instruments, to create these works of art. His Dragon Strat is amazing, though some of them make you wonder...

Even though it's left handed, and a bass, I like the Yellow Submarine Bass. I'd like to have that on my wall ;)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lori McKenna Free Track On iTunes

I'm a big fan of Lori McKenna. I'm also a fan of iTunes free downloads; sometimes they're a hit, and sometimes they're a miss, but they are always free!!

This week the two come together. The free Discovery Download is Lori's Mr. Sunshine from her album Bittertown.

I'm not sure when this free download expires; they change the "Single of the Week" every Tuesday, but I think the Discovery Download changes less frequently. Either way, if you have an iTunes account, head on over and download it today!

The Frame Costs More Than The Picture

Some time ago I bought a poster that was signed by Mark Knopfler. It cost $90. Pretty expensive, but then it cost me about $110 to get the thing framed.

I was reminded of that when I saw a write up about Reunion Blues handcrafted guitar bags; a Rawhide leather bag for dreadnought guitar, and an electric guitar bag in crocodile finished full grain leather.

They didn't really catch my fancy, but then I saw the price! $899 for the electric guitar bag! That's more than my electric guitar is worth!!

I think I'll stick with the SKB.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Toys, Toys, Toys

I ordered a Line 6 TonePort UX2 several days ago from MusiciansFriend. Their online system is messed up; they can't seem to get the tracking information for the orders right. The package didn't arrive yesterday, so I figured it would be Monday at the earliest.

Much to my surprise, as I was walking out the door this morning, there it was waiting for me.

Getting the thing working wasn't quite as easy as I might have liked. Firstly, I had to install OS X 10.4 because the software won't work with earlier versions :( Luckily for me, I had a copy of Tiger, and it only took about an hour and a half to install the system.

Then I installed the software; which consists of something called GearBox, which is a utility you use to control the box's options, and Ableton Live, which is recording software.

First problem; the instructions say not to connect the box until the software tells you to. But it never did. After installation I launched the GearBox tool and it came up that there was no hardware attached (*duh*), did I want to run in a mode that pretends there's a box connected? Well no, so I had to quit, attach the box and launch it.

That worked okay. The little needle level's lit-up too. Excellent.

The software help suggested trying a guitar connected to it first. I plugged in my guitar and....nothing. The meters didn't register anything. Plugged the guitar into an amp just to check and that was working, so what's up? I tried help, I tried fiddling with various settings, and nothing.

Finally I just got a microphone and plugged that into the microphone input. Success!!

Then I tried the Live recording app. Didn't like it. I could record audio, but I didn't really want to.

Then I tried Deck, but I couldn't get it to work with the TonePort. Tried all kinds of things, but no luck.

So I tried GarageBand and Ta-Da! It worked. Now I just have to experiment with the options...

Friday, February 03, 2006

Are You Finished?

If you're interested in how finishes are applied to guitars, then you'll find the lastest 'Factory Friday' video at the Taylor website interesting. In this 9 minute video, finishing department manager Jerry Cooper demonstrates applying a Tobacco sunburst to a maple top T5.

Did someone say maple?

Sunbursts are tricky things, and companies apply them in different ways; some have very sudden transitions from light to dark, others are much more gradual. It's definitely an art applying these things.

Mark Erelli @ Club Passim

Mark Erelli @ Club Passim, February 2, 2006
The Only Way
Mark is a singer-songwriter, originally from the Boston area, now living in Maine. I've seen him perform several times at Club Passim, sometimes alone, sometimes with other musicians. He has a range of musical interests; his previous album was described as being 'rockabilly,' but his latest is more in the singer-songwriter tradition, and is more political. This album, Hope & Other Casualties will be officially released at the beginning of March, though he was selling copies at the show last night.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Here's a link to an article on G.A.S. by Walter Becker (of Steely Dan) that originally appeared in Guitar Player magazine.

He starts out by describing some friends that obviously suffer from very advanced cases of the disease. Then he offers some tips for "any sufferer on the brink of yet another G.A.S. attack." Here's just two:

1. Consider for a moment the karmic implications of owning all those guitars. Picture yourself dragging your ass through eternity with all those guitars strapped to your back. In hardshell cases, not gig bags.

5. Ask yourself: would I like to be thought of and remembered as a guitar player or as a guitar owner?

Of course, the problem is that I am such a lousy player, my only hope is to be remembered as a guitar owner...


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brokeback Guitar

Not having grown up in America - or the fifties - I wasn't really aware of the 'cowboy guitar tradition.' Sure, I vaguely had heard of singing cowboys, but I didn't realize that they also painted their guitars "prettier than a twenty dollar whore."

But it seems so. Or at least that's what guitar manufacturers would want you to believe.

On the left, the Martin Company's Cowboy IV, a 000-14 Fret size guitar constructed from HPL/Texture Finish (that's High Pressure Laminate.) It'll set you back about $700.

On the right, the Rodeo Sweethearts! from Recording King which will set you back about $199.

I'm not really sure I'd want either of these; unless I was going camping. And if I was going camping, I'd rather take my Taylor Baby M, which is smaller, and a lot less embarrassing to be seen with!

UPDATE: Turns out I might have got my decades wrong when it comes to the popularity of singing cowboys. There's even a book about Cowboy Guitars!