Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bluegrass Season is Here!

Martin D-16GT with Fishman Ellipse Martix Blend under the saddle pickup and custom pearl inlaid bridge pins. Picks by Strum 'n Comfort. Concho Western Straw Hat by Dorfman-Pacific

Now is the time to get your guitar ready for those warm weather concerts and jam sessions! My Martin D-16 is back from the shop with a set of new phosphor bronze strings, a new pickup battery and custom pearl inlaid bridge pins. I also had some cosmetic work done to the soundboard and the repairs are completely invisible. That's one of the reasons why serious musicians buy C.F. Martin guitars. They make beautiful, high quality guitars and stand behind them. I'm also a member of the Martin Owner's Club. We will be having Owner's Club Day this coming August 1st in Nazareth PA so check out the banner ad to your left for more details.

If you are a little rusty from not playing very much over the winter, the best thing to do is to put a new set of strings on your guitar. This will improve the sound greatly and encourage you to play more. If you haven't already, invest in a good electronic tuner. Being a little off is o.k. when strumming at home but if you get with a group, well, let's just say you'll stand out but not in a good way! I use a BOSS TU-2 which also offers chromatic tunings for my Autoharp. It will also do dropped D tunings and the LED lights are easy to see on a dark stage. The next best thing I can recommend is a DVD that will ease you back into playing at those Bluegrass Jams. Homespun Tapes has a variety of DVD's that will help you do just that. No matter what songs you play, you'll find yourself needing to know how to play backup for other musicians. If someone is soloing on a break, this is the back up rhythm that allows that person to shine.

Basic Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar taught by Steve Kaufman is the DVD I chose because it is very specific to that skill. Steve is the only three time winner of the National Flatpicking Championships but delivers step by step instruction of rhythm guitar and moving bass lines in a non-threating way. You will be playing the way he does very quickly. This is because Kaufman breaks everything down yet tells you it doesn't have to be done his way. Therefore he encourages the player to allow his or her natural musical intuition be the deciding factor. Examples of that are the walking bass lines and keeping up when the going gets fast. This was so well done, I am looking forward to seeing his Lead Guitar Breaks for Bluegrass Songs DVD.
Kaufman's approach is refreshing and liberating. After all, you are supposed to be having fun at these events, right? DVD's like this help to get the essentials under your belt so you can actually have a good time playing with other musicians without concentrating so much on technique. I especially appreciated his exercises for muscle memory so that chord changes are smoother and more accurate. This DVD offers 70 minutes of instruction with Music and Tab enclosed. Retails for $29.95

Coming Up Next......

Guitar Cables! Love 'em, hate 'em but you've got to have them. We'll take a look at some new guitar cables that are on the cutting edge for sound quality and even changing instruments on the fly while performing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Audio-Technica's NEW ATH-ANC3 Quiet Point Earphones

ATH-ANC3 QuietPoint
Active Noise Cancelling
In Ear-Earphones

List $169.00

Ah yes! Spring is here and we're out and about, hopefully taking our music with us. One of the most important pieces of equipment us musicians will have in our gig bag is a comfortable set of earphones for our MP3 players. Audio-Technica is indeed a company that is always listening so following on the heels of the award-winning ATH-ANC7, A-T released its latest gem in their in-ear, earphone line at the NAMM show this year.

The ATH-ANC3 QuietPoint™ Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones actively cut out background noise by 85% without any compromise whatsoever in sound quality. These in ear, earphones are so comfortable to wear due to the pliable, interchangable earpieces. This is one of the ATH-ANC3's best features as fit is always a problem for iPod and MP3 users. I have taken the ATH-ANC3 on my morning jog and they stayed comfortably in place for the whole run. Even better is the quality of the sound either with the noise cancelling option on or off. The secret is a miniature microphone in each earpiece that picks up ambient noise (such as traffic, speech, instruments, etc.). Electronics in the control box create a noise-cancelling wave that is 180° out of phase with the ambient noise. This wave acts like a virtual noise eraser: it cancels out the annoying sounds that surround you without taking away from the the audio you wish to hear.

I've also found these to be very useful in the recording studio and guitar class where there are other musicians tuning up or playing. This is often a problem because you are sharing the same space with other musicians who are not working on the same material as you are. Still with the ATH-ANC3 Quiet Point Earphones, you are able to take your music with you as if you were in your own "isolation sound room" during the session. This is very important when you do not have the luxury of your own separate practice booth. It is also great for replaying your uploaded, previously recorded music files. Work on your own recorded sessions anywhere you want. Listen to your sound creations or other music files any place, anytime—on a busy subway, in a noisy practice session, or settling in for a long flight. The quality of the ATH-ANC3 is unsurpassed. Check out all these excellent features:

  • Ultra-compact in-ear design is ideal for travel
    Advanced electronics cancel up to 85% (20 dB) of background noise

  • Innovative ANC circuitry delivers an exceptionally pure audio signal in noise-cancelling mode

  • Ideal for use with all audio sources, including MP3 & other portable players

  • Soft interchangeable ear pieces (small, medium & large) provide a custom fit

  • Monitor switch deactivates noise cancellation/audio so you can listen outside when you need to Audio functions (in passive mode) even without battery

  • Sleek control box offers on/off and monitor switches and clothing clip

  • Two-pin airline adapter connects to in-flight entertainment

  • Hard carrying case protects headphones & accessories

  • Y cable includes an adjustable sleeve and extension for secure, comfortable fit

  • A single AAA battery powers noise-cancelling electronics

  • Gold-plated mini-plug provides exceptional corrosion resistance, superb conductivity and low noise