Thursday, December 17, 2009

DigiDesign Eleven

For more Eleven information - click here!
Will this replace your current rig? This rack mount unit contains numerous effects as well as amplification simulation. I love my tube amps but lets look at it this way; the telephone took almost 50 years to perfect, the cell took roughly phone ten years. As an example of the technology paradigm shift rate; it took almost 40 years for the Telephone to reach significant levels of usage. In comparison it has taken only a decade for the Cell phone to reach the same levels. At this rate; technology doubles every decade and with this trend; 20 years of the 21 century will equate to 200 centuries of progress on a linear scale (at the rate of progress measured in 2000). I derive my rough hypothesis from Moore's law (Intel).

Sorry to say that one day my beloved Tube amp will make an excellent flower pot! Will the Eleven drive your tube amplifier into extinction? Find one and test it out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guitar effect pedal testing

Warning! This is a rant!

YouTube provides a wonderful medium for hearing and seeing products that are available. This is very cool as people want to see this type of advertising and they seek the vendor out rather than the vendor bombarding the consumer with commercials. Therefore YouTube has become a excellent marketing tool for people hawking tone enhancements. Everything is available to sample; Amplifiers, instruments, speakers, effects. This rant is about EFFECTS. I don't want to discourage YouTube testing of effect pedals but I would like to offer some suggestions to help the consumer.

As a consumer of electronic products you must realize that not all of these tests are objective but rather they are subjective. I often see tests where the amplifier alone will make the tone you seek if only you could play at full volume. Hint # 1 - The test might have been recorded at full volume and thus make the pedal sound better! So I decided to make a list of a practical test format for testing pedals.

  • List the guitar used for testing.
  • List the volume setting on the guitar.
  • List the tone setting on the guitar.
  • Indicate the pickups used (people often make changes while recording and fail to mention the adjustment).
  • All of the amplifier parameters should be noted, i.e., type, brand, Eq settings, speaker type etc.
  • When doing the pedal "A" vs "B" test - don't use other flipping pedals at all!
  • Play the same damn riff and chord set on each device so we all can hear the difference - Sheesh!
At this point in time we have a truly power means of testing and marketing these tools but without containment of the basic parameters, the testing is flawed and pointless. Or the testing isn't pointless - it's deception. Therein lies my rant as I get tired of seeing this post or that post only find I have more questions after viewing than I had before I wasted 5 minutes of hearing someone pull off their best chops. I have always been a KIS fan - Keep it simple! Do you think race car drivers drive about the street at full speed while weaving about the traffic just to show you how great the new fancy car works? Nope. So save your Van Halen promo wannabe licks for your girlfriend and just play a few simple lines and basic chords. Audition the product not your skills. Maybe you will sell more pedals in this manner?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bill Nash Guitars - Not just relic's

The relic crazy. At first thought I was certainly suspect of relic guitars because I have disdain for being a slave to fashion. Indeed, at first this concept was truly one where a person could own a guitar that looked like it had be played by a seasoned musician and had many sordid tales if only the instrument could speak. Without investigation I assumed that the instrument would have worn frets and basically was trashed and who in their right mind would pay EXTRA for this privilege? Let me allay some of these myths. Yes, most relic instruments have dents and scratches. Yes, there is a basic coolness to this look but let me assure you that most of these instruments are painstakingly prepared and generally play like a dream come true. The necks might be worn, the backside of the neck unfinished but the hardware (frets & saddles, etc..) are in fine working order. In many cases they are simply tarnish the hardware but the base product is top of the line hardware and electronics.
I first saw Bill Nash guitars at Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California. This store is known globally for selling top quality instruments and therefore I trusted that someone knows something I didn't know at first glance. I picked up a Stratocaster (Nash calls them S- models to avoid copyright infringement) and found that the action was excellent.

The playability and tactile sense of the instrument has a profound resonance that I didn't feel on any of my most recent purchased pretty guitars. In addition, I didn't have to worry about bumping, denting or wrecking my destruction derby survivor guitar. The neck feel is exceptional. I've tried the boat neck Telecasters, Stratocasters and hopefully will someday try the Nash LP (Les Paul) guitar.

Nash uses nitrocellulose finish on his instruments and top drawer electronic with names like Lollar, Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio pickups. Sure, I've tried some that I wouldn't buy but for the most part, a great number of these instruments I've tested are winners. Have I bought one? Not yet but I've got a few friends who own them and call these instruments their "go to guitars." For the money, it's hard to find a better instrument for gigging. My only gripe would be the lack of a hard shell case but it the instrument are supplied with a top quality soft case. Again, for the money - Bill Nash guitars are certainly on my wish list. I especially would like to test the LP model. For now, the Stratocaster (S-model) and Telecaster (T model) are more than sufficient tone monsters for the ardent tone chaser.
Other manufacturers that make similar models are:
Both of these manufacturers make excellent instruments and I will review them individually in the near future. Scott

Killer Guitar riffs on your Iphone?

Is there anything that cannot be done with this modern day Swiss army knife of a phone? My grandfather would have loved the iphone as who would have guessed that a Telephone would someday help you find your way to destination X, give you recipes, work as a flute or guitar and give you a massage? Well, add another blade to this astounding hand phone as now you can download guitar riffs - Killer riffs no less. This is a fantastic application and you can now download riffs like Born to be wild (SteppenWolf), Enter Sandman (Metallica - hope I'm not infringing copy write by including them on my blog LOL), Run to you (Bryan Adams), and many others at

Buying New Guitars and Equipment

Buying a new guitar is a great excuse for getting out and testing some instruments. It's your chance to audition the instrument of your dreams. You can go to your nearest dealer and play a guitar of your dreams. The whole experience can be a lot of fun providing that you follow a few simple rules.
  1. Be courteous to the retail people.
  2. Limit your testing time to 10 minutes maximum.
  3. Keep your volume in check - IOW - avoid cacophony!
  4. Be honest with the dealer. Expect the same.
Buy with a clear mind. I mean this as I state it. Be lucid when you are shopping. Playing a musical instrument takes dedication and I've seen friends quit because it's not easy. Most of us will never sound like our favorite guitar hero's. Therefore, before you decide to make the purchase you should decide what your level of commitment is towards this endeavor. Here are more rules regarding the process of buying a new guitar or equipment.
  • Determine your honest level of commitment - Are you going to do this for a career or weekends with your friends?
  • What is your spending limit? It's no fun buying a nice new electric guitar and not purchasing an amplifier. Consider all of the equipment you need to be able to reach your goal.
  • What type of Guitar do you want or need? Oh man, There are positive things about every guitar and also pitfalls. Determine your style of playing and research what type of guitar is needed to obtain your tone. In time; if you continue playing an instrument with commitment you will find that excellent tone is paramount.
Deciding the make and model
If you look into the various brands available you will find that they all have various levels of performance qualities. The performance levels are not always listed as student, intermediate, expert but rather with branded labels that evoke a more sophisticated ideal of the product. You can look in most catalogs and find Epiphone guitars and Gibson guitars. Generally speaking, Gibson guitars tend to be regarded as having better quality and structured better for the more experienced player. Fender guitars not made in the USA are generally the entry level guitars while those instruments made in the USA are better suited for the experienced player. Cost is also a dead give-away regarding the playing level of a instrument and in many situations it is the more expensive instrument that is better suited for the expert. Hence, being honest and determining your own needs is important. Furthermore, the differences between models of Pro level vs. Entry level are often blurred with technical terms that confound the customer and this makes the purchasing decision more complicated. In some cases, the differences between guitars can be little while the cost is big. For this reason it is important to sit down with each guitar and evaluate it based on it's own merits because no two guitars are the same and sometimes inexpensive guitars play better than expensive guitars. Try it then buy it.

Evaluating a guitar
It is important to look the guitar construction over in fine detail. Look at the front, the back, the neck. Most inexpensive guitars use a urethane coating that tends to hide everything beneath the surface. You check the body of the guitar using various angles and look for large marks in the urethane. This could be a sign of poor construction.
If you are looking at an acoustic guitar you will need to know that whether the top is a laminated top or solid top. Are the sides laminated or solid and also the back. Look into the guitar and check the glue job - Is it messy, is the wood cut well or poorly?
Most guitars have binding around the body. Check the uniformity of the binding. Does the binding look uniform as it surrounds the guitar?

Neck construction is important. Are you buying a set in neck? Bolt on neck? Be certain that the construction is symmetrical and if it's is a bolt on - the neck fits the body pocket well. Check all the frets for sharp ends that will make playing a pain!

Hardware and Electronics - This is an area where I could write for hours and still not quite convey all the information required to make an informed purchase. Like playing a musical instrument itself, the complete knowledge of components and electronic takes time, trial and error to learn. IN most cases you get what you pay for and what I mean is: the manufactures use inexpensive materials and processes on the entry level guitars. This is the reason they are entry level. In most cases the guitar or equipment is NOT meant to last many years as statistics show that often the entry level guitar becomes a lonely piece of furniture once the neophyte player quits. Therefore, softer metals are used for the inexpensive tremolo, low strand count wire for the electronics, low skill level workmanship on pickups.

Do your inspection and look for the following situations:
  • No gaps in joints
  • No globs of glue
  • Smooth Finish
  • Set up well - string height is good and no excessive buzzing.
  • Guitar is rattle free
  • Fret ends are smooth
  • Frets are uniform in their level
Be courteous and honest to your sales person and expect the same. If you find a sales person that you are uncomfortable with - Find a different person that is informative and helpful.
Bring a friend. Maybe a friend will help you feel comfortable (if not - curb them).
Using the basics I've provided you can comparison shop and ultimately get a instrument that you may keep for the rest of your life. This experience should be an enjoyable experience and if it is not. Hold off until you are comfortable enough to buy the instrument or equipment that enables a better playing experience.
Shop Here - Acoustic guitars
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