Thursday, August 28, 2014

Audiophiles, High Fidelity, and Why Sound Quaility Should Matter to You as a Recording Artist.

I just stumbled on this interesting documentary, which in my experience, is mostly true. Distortion of Sound is a documentary put together by the high fidelity audio company Harman. It talks about a few of the problems in our record industry today including the sound quality of mp3's, streaming audio, and consumers who don't know any better. But I've heard the difference and not only is it mind blowing, once you hear it, you can't unhear it.

Many years ago, in the late 80's and early 90's one of the popular things in stereo were high fidelity component sound systems, you bought a receiver, tape deck, record player (that's vinyl for those of you who aren't familiar), CD players all separately, Some of these systems could easily cost in the thousands of dollars. But you could buy very high quality components for around two hundred bucks. I did a lot of research and decided on a Kenwood system. It sounded better to my ears, was well made, and received high marks in audiophile magazines. I also had a walkman for portability and convenience . I made many mix tapes and spent hours listening to albums. But at some point in the digital revolution I stopped listening to it, I got busy and the stereo got put away. I tried selling it a few times but no one would buy it. I've looked it up on eBay and found the different components selling for fifteen or twenty dollars (people ask more but seldom get it).

Then a few years ago I was talking to a customer of mine, who told me he had spent a large sum of money designing some new high end audio speakers. I was intrigued. He asked me to bring three CD's that I had been listening to, that I thought sounded like they were recorded well. I have a pretty large selection of CD's in various genres so I grabbed a couple I thought would be interesting and brought them to his house. This guy had designed his own audio amplifier and showed me and a couple of other guest some differences that the speaker could make, as well as the room. Then we started with my CD's, the first one, a local band that was a mix of the Stones and punk, sounded just awful, it was actually painful to listen to and we turned it off before the first song was over. I was floored, it sounded fine in my car and on my computer, what happened?!?! The next CD I put in was a different experience, it was a string quartet that had recorded instrumental versions of Tool songs... it was amazing! I heard details I had never heard before, and everyone in the room was swept away into the song. We all sat there listening to this track with our mouths hanging open. It was magic. As the song finished my customer and one of the other gentlemen as me for a copy of the CD.  He then played a couple of CD's he felt were recorded at well and you could almost hear the band in the recording room. Later when I jumped back in my car to leave, I heard it. I couldn't unhear it! While not as pronounced as sitting in his living room the one album sounded awful, and the other album sounded great. I pulled my old stereo back out when I got home, it still sounds great.

So here is the Harman documentary The Distortion of Sound. Below I've made a few notes where I agree and a couple where I don't.


At 3:30 in they talk to the artist about how much time they spend getting those sound right only to lose them to mp3 compression. But as I mentioned above, a lot of albums really aren't recorded well. The sound quality just isn't that great, and when I throw a CD on my stereo it's very apparent.

I think this documentary get's it right for the most part, one of the things they don't do a good job with is comparing audio compression with digital compression. It's not the same thing but at 9:35 they explain how mp3's digitally compress audio files. WAV files that CD's use do a much better job and there are other lossless audio formats out there. Still we've discovered that WAV files could be improved upon.

 At 15 minutes in the guy talking about the "head-bob-test" is dead on about the problem. People don't know it but subconsciously your missing something. If your familiar with the better quality version your brain fills in what isn't there. But if your not familiar with it, you can't replace it. He says four times more people get into the song! What! Yeah, I totally believe it, because I've seen it.

Lastly the irony of listening to the this documentary on YouTube is rather amusing. YouTube has increased it's quality but it still compresses the sound quality quite a bit. Andy Timmons is one of my favorite guitar players, I love his style and tone. A few years ago when he released his Beatles tribute Andy Timmons Band plays Sgt. Pepper, I listened to a few tracks on YouTube. I wasn't that impressed with what I was hearing, I liked the playing but the songs didn't blow me away. Then someone gave me the CD and one day I threw it in my stereo, once again I was floored! It's a breath takingly beautiful sounding album.

If you want to find out more about what Harman is doing to make audio quality better start at http://www.distortionofsound.com/

I think this documentary points out a small part of a much larger problem that I'm not ready to tackle in this already lengthy post but for now, just listen.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Little Wisdom from Joe Bonamassa

I have to admit it took me a while to learn this. But like most of us I started with a single channel, solid state amp and the only way to switch between clean and dirty was to use a pedal. And although I'm still bad about using my tone knobs, I've gotten much better about using my volume knob. This combined with the Mojo Hand Zephyr gives me a surprising array of options. Here is one of the masters of our time talking about not using pedals.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Andy Timmons Gear Guide

ADHD's Gear Guides at any Budget. I'm a firm believer that the tone comes from the hands. If your trying to achieve a certain guitar hero's tone it's not enough to have the chops but you've got to get down their style of attack with your picking hand as well. That said every step you take toward finding the right gear is often very inspiring and WILL get you closer to “that” sound. I'm going to break these down into Guitars, Pickups, Pedals and Amps.


Andy Timmons Gear Guide.
Andy Timmons: Tone for Days
Andy Timmons is one of my favorite guitarist. The term “tone is in the hands” is particularly important with Andy. His style of Rock, Jazz and Fusion combined with his stripped down sound focuses on dynamics. Steve Vai said that you can hear the sound of Andy's fingers on the fretboard on the Resolution CD. Andy uses a signature Ibanez guitar with DiMarzio pickups, a few key pedals and has a long history with Mesa Boogie amps. But his real tone comes from his ability to strip away the extra to the basics of what the sound needs.

Guitars – Andy has been using Ibanez guitars since the late 80's in his days with Danger Danger. Ibanez was signing a lot of hot young gunslingers after their success with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. There have been three different signature models and a fourth is on the way.

Ibanez Andy TimmonsSignature Guitar- There are two versions of this guitar which are identical in every way except where they are made. The AT100 made in the Ibanez Japan facility and this Premium model the AT10P. Both Feature his exacting choice of hardware and DiMarzio pickups as well as a copy of his original neck, a little thicker than the standard Ibanez neck it feels much closer to a standard strat neck.

Ibanez Andy Timmons AT300- This out of production model features the same specs as the AT100 but with a slightly rounded mahogany body of the SA series and special inlays on the rosewood fretboard.
Fender Standard Strat HSS – This guitar is a great budget alternative to the AT100. With it's alder body, maple fretboard and HSS pickup configuration it's the blueprint the AT100 is built from. Upgrade to Andy's favorite pickups and you have a great mid priced guitar.


Pickups- Andy's choice of pickups hasn't changed much over the years. A slightly hot PAF in the bridge and two hum canceling Single coils are where it's at.

AT10P with the AT-1 and Crusiers
DiMarzio AT-1 Humbucker- Custom designed with Andy and DiMarzio it's a well balanced pickup That is a bit hotter than a PAF. Perfect for any kind of Rock.

DiMarzio The Crusier- Andy uses The Crusier Bridge pickups in the neck and middle positions of his AT100 Ibanez. These are voiced similar to normal single coils but without the hum.

Seymour Duncan JB- Before signing a deal with DiMarzio Andy had a JB in the bridge of his Ibanez. It's the worlds most popular aftermarket pickup and sounds very similar to his AT-1 pickup.

Pedals- Andy Timmons pedalboard has changed quite a bit over the years. He loves trying out new pedals and can make just about anything sound like it was sent from heaven.

BK Butler Tube Driver- A favorite of players like David Gilmour and Eric Johnson the Tube Driver sounds amazing into a cranked tube amp, but not that great at bedroom levels or in front of solid state or modeling amps. For the time being they are being built by hand by BK Butler himself.

Xotic BB Custom Shop
Xotic BB Preamp Custom Shop- The BB Preamp is another one of Andy's famous overdrives. At one point there was an Andy Timmons Signature version available that had a little more mids in it. This Custom Shop version has a Mid's control knob in it that Andy says you can dial in to sound just like his version. It's a fantastic pedal on any setup.

Xotic SL Drive- I don't know if Andy has used one of these but it works as a great alternative to the Tube Driver in smaller setups. Set up a nice overdriven sound with some delay and play Electric Gypsy.

Vintage Memory Man
Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man- Andy uses two vintage units with slightly offset times to produce a chorusing effect and it sounds amazing. Any good analog delay will work but the EHX analog delays have a certain sound that helps nail the tone.

Electro Harmoix Memory Boy- A nice budget alternative to the Memory Man with a few less bells and whistles. 

Carl Martin Compressor – Andy has used one of these for a long time and loves it. He uses it to boost the front end of the signal with just a touch of compression.

Visual Sound Comp 66- One of my favorite budget friendly compressor pedals. You can use it as a boost and/or compressor and it has a switchable tone control and Visual Sounds True Tone Buffer built in.



Amps- Andy Timmons has several vintage Marshall's, Vox's and Fender amps at home. But he relies on Mesa Boogie amps in the studio and on the road. I'm pretty sure he has sold more Mesa Boogie amps as an endorser than anyone other than Metallica.
Andy's Lonestar's and Stiletto's

Mesa Boogie Lonestar – Available as a head or combo this amp has a clean Fenderish quality and a beautiful Lead tone. Andy uses the 100 watt version as the core of his tone.

Mesa Boogie Stiletto- No longer being produced by Mesa Boogie, this was a two channel amp based on two of Andy's old Marshall's with some Mesa extras added in. They have a fantastic clean tone and take pedals very well. They turn up regularly on ebay but have been replaced in the Mesa line by the Royal Atlantic.

Mesa Boogie Transatlantic- Also designed with Andy's input the Transatlantic covers most of the vintage amp categories in a small package making it perfect for small gigs. Look on YouTube for for live clips of Andy playing it. The TA30 includes an effects loop and a little more power.

Egnator Tweaker- When these came out they were all the rage in internet chat rooms and for a good reason. The Tweaker comes in a combo or head and is available in a 15 watts all the way up to an 88 watt. They are well built, flexible, and take pedals well. They also sound good at lower volumes which can't be said about all tube amps.


Obviously there are a lot of alternatives out there but these are a great place to start your tone search. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gary Moore Gear Guide

ADHD's Gear Guides at any Budget. I'm a firm believer that the tone comes from the hands. If your trying to achieve a certain guitar hero's tone you have to not just have the chops but you've got to get down their style of attack with your picking hand as well. That said every step you take toward finding the right gear is often very inspiring and WILL get you closer to “that” sound. I'm going to break these down into Guitars, Pickups, Pedals and Amps.

Gary Moore Gear Guide.
Gary Moore with his Signature Les Paul
Gary Moore defines the sound of classic blues based rock n roll. It's the tried and true formula of a Les Paul through a Marshall that has been used by so many players through out the ages. In the Thin Lizzy days it was a Les Paul into a Plexi and then a JCM800. One of the most talked about sounds that Gary is famous for was on the album Still Got the Blues. Gary has said over and over again that the sound on that album was about stripping it down to the basics with a 59 Les Paul, a Guv'nor pedal, and a Marshall JTM 45 reissue. He also used a Soldano and in later years Marshall JCM 2000 DSL's (not to be confused with the TSL). Gary loved to try new gear but always sounded like Gary. He would use any number of pedals to act as a booster and other than the Guv'nor he often used a Tube Screamer or similar pedal to push the amp from crunchy to distortion.

Guitars – While Gary used quite a few different guitars including Fender Strats, Ibanez, and Hamer's, but he is most associated with the 59 Les Paul, he owned two which he named Greeny and Stripe. With the prices of original 59 Les Paul burst well into the 6 digit price range Gibson has begun offering the 59 reissue also known as an R9 Les Paul. These are still quite expensive but do have some subtle differences to the originals. If you have the cash and want the real deal check the labor intensive work over at Historic Makeovers the attention to detail is nothing short of outstanding. I've seen the process up close and the pain staking detail is extremely impressive. But if your looking to buy a guitar without taking out a second mortgage on your house there are some killer options out there.

The Gibson Les Paul Traditional – While the casual observer may not notice the differences between the Traditional and the Standard most players who have spent any time playing will notice them as soon as the pick them up. The new standards feel very different than the older Les Paul's and while they are a more versatile guitar the Traditional is what most people think of when they think of that classic Les Paul sound. The stock 57 Classic pickups are a favorite of tone hounds everywhere.

The Gibson Gary Moore Tribute Les Paul- After his 59's got to expensive to take on tour these were the guitars that Gary was seen using. A 50's profile neck, flipped neck pickup, and mismatched knobs are all tributes to Gary's beloved 59's. Differences include vintage style keys and a lack of binding. Word is that Gary was using the PG Blues pickups from Bare Knuckle before his untimely death in 2011.

The Epiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus- Want something in the mid range price that even the cork sniffers won't laugh at? The Tribute Plus is the Asian made Traditional complete with USA made 57 Classic pickups, a maple cap (not just a veneer), Switchcraft electronics and Grover tuners. Check the message boards and reviews on this killer guitar.

ESP/ LTD EC-256 – while there are a lot of knock offs in the budget world companies like PRS, Ibanez, and ESP like to put their own spin on things. The LTD EC-256 doesn't look exactly like a Les Paul but is well built and is cheap enough to spend some extra on aftermarket pickups. In the sub $500 range it holds it's own against others and has a slightly lighter weight and thinner neck. Couple this with some upgraded pickups and you'll have a nice sounding axe that won't break the bank.

Pickups- Gary Moore used a lot of different pickups over the years, but in Greeny and Stripe they were stock 59 humbuckers. Greeny in particular had a flipped magnet in the neck that gave an interesting out of phase sound that Peter Green used more than Gary.

Boutique- Boutique pickups are all the rage these days and there are several companies who offer drop in replacements for the Gary Moore/Peter Green tone. Bare Knuckle Pickups PG Blues set and Lust for Tone Pickups Black Roses set both take slightly different approaches but offer fantastic results.

Seymour Duncan Vintage Blues Set- While the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop offers a Greeie pickup, if your on a smaller budget the Vintage Blues Set is excellent. The SD 59's are often compared to the 57 Classic's that come in the Les Paul Traditional but are said to be a little less gritty. If your looking to get classic sounds out of a budget Les Paul this is a great place to start. Flip the magnet in the neck pickup and play your Peter Green licks. 

The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates- The legend is that the Pearly Gates Pickup was made to recreate the sound of Billy Gibbons 59 Les Paul. If your looking for an affordable replacement pickup with a little bit more nastiness checkout the Pearly Gates.

GFS Pickups- GFS Pickups have gained a lot of fans in the last few years. While they are developed in the USA they are made in Asia. And while not the quality of boutique companies they make very affordable, very good sounding replacement pickups that sounds much better than the standard budget guitar pickup. Their Vintage 59 pickup should fit the bill for classic Gary Moore tones.

Pedals- Gary Moore made the Marshall Gov'ner pedal famous. Interestingly there are not a lot Gov'ner clones out there and I have yet to try any of them. Gary however also used a Tube Screamers quite a bit.

Trex Moller- Gary used one of these the last couple of years before his death and spoke very highly of it. It is a TS type pedal with a few added features and has a very smooth tone. It also includes a nice clean boost feature that can be activated separately. If you want to try one without spending any money it's available to try in the IK Multimedia Amplitube Custom Shop. Pair it up with the JH Gold (JTM45 model) and try your Gary Moore licks, you won't be disappointed.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer- This pedal is so tweakable and sounds good in so many situations that it seems like almost everyone has one. It's famous mid range hump cuts through a live mix and it was a favorite pedal of Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan's.

Mooer Green Mile Overdrive- if your looking for a classic sound and need it in a tiny space you can't beat Mooer pedals. Their micro pedals have been a huge hit and sound very good to boot. The Green Mile is their take on the TS9 circuit and does such a good job Guitar Interactive Magazine featured it in their Gary Moore tone on a budget.

Joyo JF-1 Vintage Overdrive- Joyo has cloned a lot of pedals and while they don't have the record that Mooer does in the quality department the Vintage Overdrive is an very affordable TS9 pedal for the beginner.

Amps- Gary Moore's Still Got the Blues Album is a favorite of tone hounds everywhere and featured a Marshall JTM 45 reissue. In the Thin Lizzy days Gary used Plexis and JCM800's. In the 90's he mostly used Soldano's, mainly on the clean channel. But by the end of the 90's Gary had come back to Marshall's regularly using their JCM2000 DSL.

Marshall JTM45- The Marshall JTM45 reissue is available in a hand wired version and a PCB(Printed Circuit Board) version. It's not quite the same sound as a Plexi, having a looser bottom end but it was a favorite of Hendrix and Eric Clapton as well as Moore's

Marshall DSL- The Marshall reissue of the DSL is a very good mid priced amp. Available in a combo or half stack it sounds good at bedroom levels or on stage and while there were some early complaints about quality control it seems Marshall has taken care of most of these issues. There are also original used JCM2000's that pop up on ebay regularly. Just make sure you get the DSL not the TSL as they sound surprisingly different.

Jet City JCA2212C – The Soldano designed Jet City amps have become a favorite of low budget tone seekers. Guitar Interactive used this amp on their Gary Moore tone on a budget series and it's a very capable of nice clean tones as well as high gain distortion. Jet City has a range of combos and heads available from a bedroom friendly 20 watts on up to 100 watts.  

Obviously there are a lot of alternatives out there but these are a great place to start your tone search. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The story of "Greeny" the 59 Burst

Some instruments take on a life of their own and become legends in their own right. They have stories to them, which may or may not be 100% factual. It's important to remember that these instruments would not be so interesting if it had not been for the players playing them. I'm writing down some of these stories mostly for my own interest, and this is one such instrument.

Peter Green's 59 Les Paul Burst 9-2208

In 1966 Eric Clapton left John Mayall's Blues Breakers and was replaced by the young, up and coming Peter Green. While with the Blues Breakers, Peter acquired a used 59 Les Paul burst. Green decided to leave the Blues Breakers in 1967 to purse a more "pure blues" style with a drummer named Mick Fleetwood and formed Fleetwood Mac. Green played a lot of gigs and recorded many songs with that guitar and became a guitar hero for blues rock player's everywhere. Many noted players including Jimi Hendrix and Gary Moore have pointed to Greens playing and tone as being influential to their playing. While in his possession at some point it is assumed that the neck pickup was turned around by a guitar tech which gave the guitar distinctive out of phase tone when both pickups are used. Peter has stated that he felt the neck was like a tree trunk compared to other Les Paul's.

In 1972 Peter Green was trying to change some things in his life and offered the guitar to guitarist Snowy White, but Snowy couldn't afford both the 59 and his beloved 57 Goldtop so it was then offered to another up and coming player Gary Moore. I've talked about my love of Gary's playing here. Gary named the guitar Greeny. While in Gary's possession we know that the guitar was in a flight case in the trunk of a car that was hit by a truck which broke the headstock and cracked the neck. It was repaired by a luthier named Charlie Chandler. Gary has stated that the guitar had been played by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Rory Gallagher as well.

In June of 1984 Jol Dantzig of Hamer Guitars had the chance to inspect Greeny. In his words the most unique feature was the pickups. "everything was stock it didn't appear to have been resoldered or disturbed in any meaningful way.... but the magnet was reversed on one pickup. Because the pickups internals looked undisturbed, I concluded that it must have been a mistake at the factory"
notice the red underneath the neck pickup

 Gary went on to use that guitar as his main instrument in Thin Lizzy and his solo records for many years. Then in the late 80's he acquired another 59 burst he named Stripe which he loved even more. But Greeny was still very special to Moore and toured with it through most of the 90's. But by the end of the 90's 59 burst where becoming very expensive and Gary was keeping his guitars under lock and key most of the time. In 2005 Gary injured his hand and had to cancel an upcoming tour. Because of financial obligations that he had to back out of he was suddenly in need of a large sum of cash and in 2006 sold Greeny to Phil Winfield at Maverick Music. No one will disclose the exact sales price but internet folklore has placed the price anywhere from 500,000 to 1.2 million! Moore and Winfield seem to have publicly disagreed on some of the specifics of the deal but for a while it was offered up on the Maverick Music website for sale for 2 Million dollars. Since that time one or more private collectors have owned Greeny.

In April of 2013 Joe Bonamassa received permission to play Greeny at a show at Royal Albert Hall. Joe, ever the gear lover he is stated "As for Greeny, It plays great with 11.s. Phil Harris has it and set it up very nicely. Nothing wrong with the ole girl. Plays really slinky and intonates great. It was a complete 180 from my brief experience in 2007. I have to geek out and say the out of phase thing was surreal and to look down and see that flipped pickup ( not that it matters to the out of phase) made it a moment I will always cherish. The history made on that guitar is stunning."

In June of 2014 a forum member of mylespaul.com got the chance to check out Greeny up close under the watchful eye of an insurance company person. He posted many pictures including some of the ones I've posted here. He stated that the neck wasn't as think as he thought it would be and that the pickups had a lot of output and were brighter than other burst he had heard. He also stated that the color of the pickup bobbins under the pickup covers were double white under the neck and double black under the bridge.

In July of 2014 it was confirmed that Kirk Hammett of Metallica had acquired Greeny. Hammett has long been a fan of Gary's tone and playing. Although some have been disappointed that a metal player has bought the guitar instead of a blues rock player (even though Kirk's solos has been dominated by blues influences since the black album) I'm just glad that this guitar, with it's long history, is in the hands of a passionate player and not sitting in a museum somewhere.

If your looking to replicate the Gary Moore sound check out the Gary Moore Gear Guide

Monday, July 14, 2014

The ADHD child and buying their first guitar

There are a lot of post on the internet about buying your first guitar. Things to think about and what to know. I'm going to start off with the good news. Today's cheap guitars are built better than they were fifteen years ago. A lot better. And there are a lot of options for someone who wants to getting into playing. But those options can be overwhelming for someone if your not sure what your looking for. So you've spent some time reading various post on what to look for. I'm going to cover some of that today, but I'm going to focus on special considerations when dealing with ADHD kids.

I'm going to assume your a parent of an ADHD child or teenager who has told you he or she has an interest in playing guitar. Of course last month it was tennis and before that it skateboarding. Do you want to spend a bunch of money on something that they are going to play for a month and then let it sit there? A guitar can be an amazing investment or a costly liability. Part of this is a child's natural search to find "their thing", part of it is curiosity. First tell them you'll think about it. Then take them somewhere quiet where the two of you can spend some time together maybe over lunch and really listen. Ask your child or teenager what is interesting about the guitar. If it's because their friend has a guitar it seems cool, maybe they can spend some time with that friend learning a couple of songs before you plop down your hard earned money. Or maybe you have someone in your circle of friends who is patient who could show them a few chords. This is a great place to start because those first few chords are tough (it gets easier). If that doesn't scare them off keep talking. Maybe you've noticed that your child loves music and is always trying to find away to express themselves through music then that seems like a safer bet. With younger kids this can be a tougher decision, I played several different instruments before ending up on a guitar. With a teenager you might see if they can split the cost, put some of their allowance towards the guitar each month. Also talk to them about committing to lessons for at least a couple of months. If they can get through that, they can learn a lot on the internet once they have the basics down.

Acoustic or Electric? There is a horrible piece of advice that floats around that says kids should learn on an acoustic guitar (or a real guitar) first. This is almost always from someone who doesn't play or maybe only played a little. First there is NOTHING less real about an electric guitar. If a child or teenager is dreaming of being a guitar hero and their hero doesn't play acoustic 100% of the time they are less likely to stick with playing an acoustic. Also electric guitars are easier to play, the necks tend to be thinner so you can wrap your hands around it easier, and you can put lighter strings on them which also makes them easier to play. A big plus for someone with ADHD is that you have more sound options. There are normally at least two pickups and they sound a little different, plus a tone knob. They are also quieter! Surprise! They don't "have" to be plugged in, an acoustic is a lot louder if neither is plugged in. "But then I have to buy an amp thingy too?" Yes but they have even more sounds to explore and many starter or practice amps have headphone jacks built into them (So you can watch a movie or a game while your kid is practicing). The one thing I would suggest for anyone starting out is a fixed bridge. This is where the strings connect with the body and on cheaper guitars if it has a wammy bar (also called tremolo) the guitar will go out of tune easier. Now the flip side is that if they are inspired by an acoustic, by all means get one, they are straight ahead without a lot of different things to take into consideration. So go to a store and find a friendly salesperson to show you a few options in your budget and see which one sparks your kids interest. 

Next talk to players or sales people, and find a Tech who they recommend for getting the guitar setup. Most shops have someone they use, often in house. This next part is crucial. You want to find a guy who knows how to set up a guitar with the strings "on the board". The reason the guitar is not set up this way is that it's easier to set the strings up a little higher at the factory. The closer the strings are to the board the more details you have to get right. Warning! This can take a couple of days, it can be very involved and can cost even more money. If a guitar shop has someone onsite that does setups ask if they will throw in a setup for free. Some shops will, most won't but expect it to run $40-60 bucks. It can easily run close to $100 for someone off site. Why pay another $60 for a guitar you just payed $199.99 for? It helps the guitar stay in tune better, and makes it easier to play. Advanced players often want different setups on their guitars, just remember when your talking to the tech, ON THE BOARD. Also get lighter gauge strings. On an electric get 9's on an acoustic 11's or 10's if they have them. Also pay a little extra for coated strings, I don't care for them but they will last longer for someone starting out. Yep strings wear out, some guys change their strings after each gig, I change mine out every other month. 

I personally care nothing about brand names, but in this case I'm going to make an exception. Recognized brands have a better resale. If your worried your child might not stick with it buying a Fender Squire over some cheaper off brand will help you recoup some of your money. If you can afford it, a lower mid priced guitar ($200-600) will probably be better built, stay in tune, and have a better resale value than something under $200. 

So now you've done all of this. You want to be encouraging and help your kid but maybe you don't know anything about the guitar. There are two things can do that will help your child keep going. First, have their teacher, or maybe a friend of yours who plays, show you how to tune their guitar. Write down the instructions, this can be very frustrating for a younger player and a lot of young players spend a lot of time tuning. But once they have it down they will be fine. (hint, clip on tuners can be had very for $10 and they work great). Second have someone show you how to read a chord chart. Once a kid learns those first five chords and gets comfortable switching between them everything after that gets easier. Yep I just gave you homework. Learning to play an instrument can be a very rewarding experience for anyone and like many things can seem daunting when your first getting into it. But if you keep at it there is a lot of rewards. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The benefits of learning to play a guitar on the ADHD mind

If you are dealing with ADHD or are the parent of an ADHD child you maybe wondering if learning to play the guitar is something you want to take on. I won't sugar coat it, we have a unique set of challenges when it comes to learning to play music. But if you can learn to push through and work around those problems it can give you so much more.

It increases your mental capacity- Studies show that playing an instrument activates more parts of our brain than almost any other activity. The more you do it, the more you can handle.

It's like learning another language- Seriously? Yep, all of the cognitive benefits of learning another language like increased math skills and problem solving are shown in students that learn music.

It teaches you fractions- I mentioned math skills above, do you hate fractions? Music starts with easy stuff like 4/4 time and then gets more complicated. Ok so it won't teach you complex algebra type fractions but you or your child will have a better understanding of them.

It teaches you to listen to others- Music is a social medium. At it's best your part becomes subconscious as you listen and react to the other people in the band.

It teaches you to be a team player- When the band is nailing it, the timing is perfect and everyone hit's their ques it's an amazing feeling. When they aren't, it's just awful.

It teaches you how to persevere- As with most things you have to work at it to get good at it. And as with somethings you have to practice all the time. If you want to get into sweep picking arpeggios you have to constantly work at them or you won't be able to do it.

It Improves reading comprehension- Ok hold up, you don't have to learn to read music to play guitar. I've known a few guys that can sight read while playing but not many. But I learned to play the trombone before the guitar, you have to read while listening to others while playing your instrument. That's a learned skill that is useful for a lot of things.

It opens you to other forms of music and culture- When I started to play guitar I wanted to play Rock-N-Roll! Cut to a year later and I'm taking classical and folk lessons from a 70 year old grandmother. Music leads you to other things. I've dabbled in Jazz and Country and of course Blues. I've also sat down and read and listened to stories of musicians from other places and other times. It's amazing and you'll see the work differently because of it, that's a good thing.

It teaches you discipline- The say if you want something bad enough you'll make it happen. In the guitar world that means you'll practice. If you don't, you don't get better. Period.

It increases hand and eye coordination- This one is obvious but for a young teen who might be feeling a bit clumsy it really does help. Plus there is a confidence boost of being able to stand there strap on a guitar and pull of a song (even simple ones).

It gives you a sense of achievement- What I said in that last one also applies here, sometimes it's getting a passage down that you've been working on. Other times it's nailing the whole song with a band. And it feels amazing.

It is it's own form of meditation- Whenever you see something about meditation being good for you think about this. An ADHD person can't clear his brain. It just doesn't happen, or at least I haven't been able to do it. But I can run scales or do picking exercises and the whole world just disappears. It's good for you.

Learning to play an instrument like the guitar is challenging and fun. It's one of the few things in this life that has given me more than I've put in it. Learning to play when dealing with ADHD is even more challenging but it CAN be done.