Monday, November 23, 2009

Short Scale Acoustic Guitars

Most of the acoustic guitars I own are long scaled guitars. This means that the length from the nut to the bridge saddle is 25.5 inches. Most acoustic guitars utilize this guitar scale length but lately a lot of people have noticed that they like bending the strings and if you have a short scale 24.9 inch, doing so can be done without bringing about early tendinitis. Short scale guitars have a lower string tension because of the decreased scale length. If you like playing blues on your acoustic then you might want to check out a few guitars made to this scale. Some guitars with short scale are:
An additional cool thing about short scale guitars is that the fret spacing is closer together. This might make it easier to play if you have smaller hands or fingers. Most people I know really have enjoyed playing this scale length. The decreased tension lends to a buttery feel when moving about the neck.

The only negative thing about the short scale guitar is that because the string tension is lower, the use of alternative tuning could bring about unwanted buzzing or muddy tone. Otherwise, the short scale guitar is fun to play and will add another dimension to a acoustic setting if you are surrounded by a group of long scale players.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Joke - JAZZ MUSICIANS Helpline


Welcome to the JAZZ MUSICIANS' HELPLINE. Your call is important to us so please use the following menu system to shorten your wait:

If you are a bandleader wishing to know your opinion of yourself, press 1

If you are a tuba/sousaphone player in a 'classic' jazz band inquiring which beats you will be expected to play on, press 1 and 3

If you are a drummer wanting to know on which beats to press your hi-hat pedal, press 2 and 4 - regularly spaced if you can manage it

If you are a banjo player inquiring about how many strings to buy for a complete re-stringing of your instrument, press 4

If you are old enough to remember Dave Brubeck press 5 then 4

If you are an agent wanting to know how much commission to charge, press 15. Or 20. Or 25. Or whatever number you fancy

If you want to know the REAL length in minutes of a jazz musician's '15-minute break' enter any number in excess of 45

If you are at a cultural crossroads between jazz and rhythm & blues and can't decide which Route to take, press 66

If you are over 60 and always forget to play the coda, press RECALL

If you wish to express your opinion of what your bandleader makes of gig arrangements, press HASH

If you are a bebop tenor player press as many keys as fast as you can for 20 minutes or more or until the room is empty, whichever comes first

If you wish to check your retirement account, press 0

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Acoustic Guitar String Review - Teflon coated vs. Non coated

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Nothing like a new set of strings. But which strings really pop? So I've cross examined all of my friends and came up with some interesting opinions. Now I am simple, I generally use D'addario strings. Why, because I get them for free! Come on, who can beat that but really I do love their consistency, method of color coding, and select gauges. But that opine generally is based on solid body guitars. So I needed more info for my acoustic guitars which I play less often. I have a Martin 12 string guitar and a Taylor 514 CE. Taylor supplied me with Elixir Strings. I loved them at first but then I tried D'addario Phosphor bronze. So I've used Phosphor/bronze for a few years now. Okay, I'll shut up and get to the data!

We found phosphor bronze to be very lively strings at the on set of application. The problem is longevity. I'd say these strings are lively for barely a week of infrequent use, moreover, an hour a day type of use. In comes the coated strings. To me, the coated strings sound better after a month than non coated strings. Most people I've spoke with had the same opinion.

To become a little more scientific about this new coating we need to look at the material used to coat the strings. Teflon has a great number of possible physicochemical modifications. At this point the laws of inhomogeneous polymeric materials are relatively unstudied and therefore the elastic properties of polymeric materials will differ based on orientation of their respective microsegments, and crystalline structures. To further add to the chaos; application techniques, material application, and relative strains (string tension, guitar scale) will add to variance that make this whole mess a wonder to study. Now for more simple terms.

The string manufacturers are rather quiet about the structures being used on guitar strings. At this point, we cannot say, String X uses a directional orientation polymer while String Y uses a random structure and therefore String X is better than String Y. Oh man! This type of information may never reach the String box label. Sadly, we must try each coated string and thus apply a non scientific approach to discerning the reason for better sound and tone. If different crystallite sizes are used, mixed sizes, random or selected orientation could yield better results. In regard to quality, musicians use their ears (subjective at best) and collective opinions to determine quality of tone brilliance. Shoot! For even more simple terms of selection.

Coated strings seem to sound brighter for a longer amount of time. Unfortunately this is qualitative and not quantitative data. I conclude that some coated strings will be better than others because different production processes are used. With the information available we can only hypothesize about coated string tone until someone like me or someone else lands some money (wishful thinking) to do a study. Some manufacturers will pay me to shut up while others will pay me to pontification the wonders of their coated process. For now, try them out and leave comments but save the arguments unless you have data.

IN conclusion, coated strings are nice but for me the price isn't worth the expense. Coatings will increase the brightness but this is dependent on the string. Elixir and Martin Coated strings have been the favorite amongst the Pros I know. I do think Coated strings have a viable place in performance but the ROI is still low at this time (2009). Indeed there are benefits to coatings: the coated strings will resist moisture, skin oils but these contaminates will transfer and adhere to the finger board. In conclusion we are only passing the buck in terms of the problem. Washing your hands might be a cheaper alternative. Maybe one of the engineers from one of the coated string manufacturers should get a white paper out there so we can all poke at it? Meanwhile, try them out and give us all a shout if you love them and let us know why?
All the best - Scott

Aynsley Lister - Guitarist of the Week 11-14-2009

This guy is a really a great player. Aynsley Lister in my opinion just doesn't get enough focus but those days will pass. Here he is doing a great job on a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's - So Excited. Nobody is Stevie but this is a great version.

So as a comparison I have included Stevie's version.

Take note that Aynsley has his own material. Go buy it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We saw Stevie Ray Vaughan

Once upon a time and a long time ago, my friends and I packed into a cab and headed off to Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. We were young and we heard about this new guy that played guitar and it was, like, old stuff but it sounded new. They said he played like Jimi Hendrix and that was enough to motivate us to go over the hill and check this dude out. I remember we had a half pint of some liquor between the three of us. That was enough. We got there and people were all milling about and chatting with their friends as warm up songs echoed through the PA system. The smell of weed wafted about the inside of what seemed like a High School gymnasium. The sound people tested the drums and the microphones with the routine test, test, test, 1-2-3, boom boom boom of the kick bass. Each time this occurred my friend Dennis would hoot and holler. The testing stopped upon the satisfaction of the sound technicians. Then the lights dimmed. On the stage appeared a slight skinny guy with a cowboy hat and two other dudes, one with a bass the other behind the drums. Then, boom and the band started it up and blasted the crowd with a rendition of Rude Mood. At the end of the song Stevie graciously introduced himself and the band, "Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm Stevie Ray Vaughan and we are Double Trouble."

I didn't know that my life would be dramatically changed at that moment. Who has the ability to realize in the moment what life in real time will effect or morph you in the future? I certainly just loved watching and hearing this man and his band pummel their instruments and our senses with sonic delight. To this day, I still see Stevie in my minds eye. I still remember the that night, Monday, August 4th in 1986 like it was yesterday. Double trouble and Stevie Ray did it. The worm turned. From that day forth, every note I played had to be played like I meant it, like it was my last note I would ever play because this is how Stevie played and nobody that saw the same show would dare to pose an opposing argument.

Buy this poster here

This poster and many great rock and roll memorabilia is available in Wolfgang's Vault. This site is a gold mine!
I hope this streaming media works - This is small sample from the Wolfgang's vault.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ear worm - Train - Hey, Soul Sister

Cool local (if you live in the S.F. Bay Area) band. The song sticks in your head and it's kind of nice too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Gear acquisition syndrome is more informally known as G.A.S.. This illness has wreaked havoc on many lives and caused many to simply go insane. The symptoms usually include but are not limited to: Forgetting how to play the guitar, compulsive web browsing, exhaustive research, frequent beatings from loved ones and extreme depletion of personal monetary sources. It’s analogous to obsessive compulsive disorder. There is no known cure. Many are afflicted and will never recover.

The illness itself starts out as one single innocent purchase of a piece of gear. Upon purchase it’s determined that the consumer will require an additional piece to enhance the first piece. These addition peripherals often have a side effect to their addition to the rig thus requiring a third piece to quell the side effect of the second peripheral and this cycle continues infinitely as a pursuit of perfect tone, instrument mastery, or recording perfection. In my case I bought an electric guitar and then found out that I couldn’t just plug the guitar into the wall and I needed an amplifier. I then discovered effect pedals. Therefore, I needed more cables. Then I found that the effect pedals stimulated some hissing sounds, consequently, I needed a noise gate. After all of that was purchased I found that my overall tone suffered so I bought a pre-amp to boost the signal. The pre-amp seemed to boost all the inappropriate parts of my signal; logically I needed a compressor effect. Ultimately, one single innocent purchase of a guitar effect pedal instigated a long chain of effects and cost. The whole process described hereto within was great fun and a learning experience. But what did I learn?

In my little experience with the syndrome I will hence forth refer to only as GAS I found that there is a specific order for effects. This order will help the effects work better and prevent them from canceling each other out and creating more noise than art. Also, I learned that I can spend a great deal of money and waste a lot of time. My waste of time ran into my playing. I would regulate my effects infinitely and forget to play! Lastly, I found I needed to drag these items along and set them up, fiddle with, and freak out on if they didn’t work. Then, in due course, show up to a gig, find that these new enhancements hindered my tone and worse – band mates objected! Back to simple terms requiring only a guitar, cable and amplifier.

In summary, one single purchase leads to another that begins the downward spiral to the abyss of ruination. This illness is insidious, commanding, calculating, and pervasive. Until you let go, (G.A.S.) Gear Acquisition Syndrome may perhaps consume you!