Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Guitar Pedals

Creation Audio Lab's Holy Fire Overdrive and Distortion pedal gives you that warm, tube-driven tone for your guitar or bass.

We've chosen the most versatile pedals to give you the most bang for the buck. These are also the essential stompboxes no respectable pedal board should be without. After playing for a while, you'll find that you've collected a case full of pedals but only use a few on stage. You may also find that you'll only get one tone using the same sequence of boxes on your pedal board. While there is a logical order to using foot pedals, you needn't be bound by them. Looking for a warm vintage tube sound? The Holy Fire distortion / overdrive pedal offers a tube driven tone for both guitar and bass players. Want to switch it up? Keeley Electronics allows the most adjustments due to their under the hood and topside trim knobs.

Holy Fire by Creation Audio Labs
Often times you'll need to streamline your pedal board so that set up is quicker and you have better control over your tone. Look at the rigs of seasoned players like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, who has been quoted saying, "Sometimes when you start from an area of complexity, a composition can be crushed under its own weight". You'll see that they do not have overly cluttered pedal boards. Yes, they utilize rack mount units but their on the floor set up is often quite simple. How do they do it? They get the most versatile, key pedals and then tweak them for the tone they are looking for. The Holy Fire pedal pictured here comes with an AC adapter but I run all of my other pedals off a VooDoo Lab Pedal Power Plus II power source. This means less wires and clutter. The Holy Fire Pedal imparts a tube like warmth to your rig. With four control knobs topside, it is easy to adjust for your signature tone. Gain, overdrive and distortion levels are all very easy to dial in with their topside controls. Amazing sound out of this one box but its even better when coupled with the Keeley Fuzz Head. Very unique pedal looks like it's on fire behind the letters! It does get warm. Solid built, it is very gig-worthy. Made in America and now available by direct sale to musicians. Visit Creation Audio Labs online at: http://www.creationaudiolabs.com/

Keeley Electronics Compressor
This is perhaps the best compressor you can get! A compressor is actually an amplifier so it should go in the front of your signal chain. Put it before the Fuzz Head and/or the Holy Fire pedals. Compression is so important to your tone. Without it, your performance lacks the guts and attack necessary for soaring leads and blistering riffs.
My VL4, (Vocalist Live), signal processor has compression built in and I've come to appreciate it on vocals. Here Keeley offers the same killer effect but for your guitar. If you would like to record, I would recommend their 4 Knob Compressor as adjustments are easier to make topside. Built like a brick. Made with pride in the U.S.A. with Keeley's ice blue light.
Visit Keeley Electronics online at: http://www.keeleyelectronics.com

Keeley Fuzz Head
Keeley's Fuzz Head is what we recommend to be paired with the Holy Fire distortion/overdrive pedal. Why? Well, the Fuzz Head on its own terms, is an amazing fuzz pedal. There is no doubt about that. Still, when coupled with a serious distortion pedal like Holy Fire, it literally sings forever! The synergy is incredible. I found that the sustain you get when using the Fuzz Head next to a distortion pedal is unreal. So place it after the Holy Fire on the way to your amp and try a classic metal or rock riff like Smoke on the Water. In fact all of the Keeley pedals we've tested have worked extremely well with other pedals including wahs. The Keeley Fuzz Head is a very adjustable pedal which allows you to dial in just the right amount of "Fuzz" due to the inner trim knobs. Very cool too with its signature blue light and germanium toggle switch on top! Quality made in the U.S.A.
Visit Keeley Electronics online at: http://www.keeleyelectronics.com
For more information check out our article: Guitar Pedals: Get the Effect-Part III

We're back in the studio recording with our NEW Audio-Technica AT4047/SV large diaphragm condenser mic and all new Spectraflex mic and instrument cables! The AT4047/SV is in my opinion THE BEST vocalist recording mic, period. We now have the CD recording of our live performance for the Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Assoc. and hope to share some of these tracks and recording sessions online. Stay tuned and all the best in 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Strings 'n Things

Dr. M. & her vintage, Aria Pro II - Fullerton model. New strings make all the difference! ("Dizzy" Blouse by Fender - The Collection)

We've found some of the best guitar tools, parts and accessories to help keep your axe fit as a fiddle. (O.k. maybe as a guitar!) If you are willing to learn how, changing the strings on your guitar is probably the best way to keep your tone pure. There are many different rules but my guitar teacher said after something like 40 hours of playing, the strings should be replaced. This may sound like a lot of work but many professional musicians change strings much more frequently than that. In fact, they often have guitar techs that tour with them to do JUST THAT before each concert. With the right tools, you can change your own strings and even experiment with new types such as the coated varieties. Either way, you can save time and money if you do it yourself.

Gravity Guitar Innovations-Pro Bridge Pin Puller

Here are some serious tools to have on hand to make the task not only easy but will lessen possible damage to your instrument. This Pro Bridge Pin Puller by Gravity Guitar Innovations should be first on your list.
Extremely well made and foldable, Gravity's Pro Bridge Pin Puller easily removes bridge pins for quick string changes. It fits all standard bridge pins and will not damage the bridge or pins. I like the fact that this bridge pin puller is easy to hold and chrome plated. Comes with a key chain clip to keep it handy. Its the best pin puller I've found! By Gravity Guitar Innovations.

Ernie Ball - NEW Extra Slinky Strings
Made for electric guitar, Ernie Ball has come out with an upgrade to their famous coated Slinky strings. I attended a Heavy Metal workshop taught by the lead guitarist of Jack Frost and he said he uses these strings. He did rip it up, I might add! I've found these to be very light and easy to bend. They have a great feel for sliding fretwork, hammer ons and pull offs. In other words, they won't work your finger pads.
Our expert guitar tech, Randy Cauvanaugh pictured below, did the set up said these strings are similar to Elixir's. He aslo said the reason why many guitarists choose coated strings is because they tend to last a little longer than non-coated ones. If you don't like to change strings so frequently, this might be just what you're looking for. Made in the USA. Visit Ernie Ball http://www.ernieball.com or click on thier banner ad in the left hand column on this page to check out their online store.

Planet Waves Pro Winder Tool
You can literally wrap up your string changing job with one of Planet Wave's most useful multi-tools, the Pro Winder.
The Pro Winder is touted as the ultimate all in one restringing tool. It both winds and cuts. It's extendable handle increases torque and control. It has a hardened steel cutting edge, (comes with a protective cover), that clips evenly. The overmolded plastic head accomodates a variety of pegs with a sure grip. My guitar teacher demonstrated how to change strings in class but one thing he forgot to bring was his winder. He recommended that we definitely invest in one! Saves time and gives your strings a nice shop finish. I would definitely go with the Planet Waves Pro Winder because it has just about everything you'll need to change your strings except the strings themselves! Visit Planet Waves online at: http://www.planetwaves.com

Pro Guitar Tech - Randy Cauvanaugh
We'd like to thank our professional guitar technicians of Freehold Music Center, namely Randy Cauvanaugh, for his expertise and participation in this article. Mr. Cavanuagh is himself a professional musician and does all of the set ups, upgrades and modifications to our electric guitars.
Want to learn how to replace your guitar strings yourself? Read the article, "How to Change Your Guitar Strings" at abclearnguitar.com by Kathy Unruh right here: http://www.abclearnguitar.com/guitar_strings.html

Hey! We're still rockin' down to the wire with the Best Guitar Gear for 2009! Who knows? You might get some cash for Christmas so you can buy your own gift. We'll keep it goin'.

Also see 2009's Top Gifts for Audiophiles over at the Best Picks BLOG!!!:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Best Guitar Gear for 2009 - Educational Tools

It's about time! The Chromatic Watch shown above, gives you the 12 semi-tones of the chromatic scale and intervals in Circles of 4ths and 5ths.

We all need to stay on top of our game and for any musician, this means keeping up with music theory. Reading notation is not necessary to be a good player but I have found that having the ability to read both standard sheet music and tabs gives you a definite edge. If you are even thinking about composing or writing your own songs then you will need to start with music theory.

We have found some really innovative and yes, portable ways of taking your lessons with you for easy transposing and on the spot chord to key changes. The best music education tools are going to be ones that come along for the ride and are there at hand, (or on your wrist), ready to roll. Here are two must haves for your favorite guitarist and musician:

The Chromatic Watch Company Invented by William T. Hankinson, The Chromatic Watch Company produces beautiful quartz watches and clocks with the 12 semitones of the Chromatic scales as shown in the photo here or Circles of 4ths or 5ths. This wall clock is absolutely perfect for a recording studio, practice room or guitar classroom. Musicians and students can just glance at the wall for the time or the all the halfsteps found in an octave. There is an association you will begin to make with seeing or visualizing the semitones of the chromatic scale this way. Soon you will see them in you mind's eye and they will become part of your "chops" as a literate musician. Now who wouldn't want that? These clocks and watches are very well made but have an added bonus. Having a wristwatch with the chromatic scale or even intervals of 4ths or 5ths is a fantastic way to take this information along with you. The numbers have been replaced with major root keys a 4th or 5th apart in clockwise order. Having it handy and visible right on your wrist will make the notes more accessible to you especially if you are at band practice or a jam session and need to have the next interval. This has happened to me at jam sessions when someone has changed the key the song is being played in. You're told the first note and the key it is being played in but where do you go from there?
These watches are truly "golden" for this application. I have the demure, Ladies Quartz Circle of 5ths as shown in the middle photo on the right. It not only looks great but gives me my intervals of 5ths right there on my wrist. Genuine black leather strap. Needless to say it is what I choose to wear for any musician get-togethers or jams. These make a fantastic gift for any guitar player or musician on your list. MSRP is $39.99. Check out all of the fine timepieces by The Chromatic Watch Company online their banner ad on this page or at: http://www.chromaticwatch.com

The Guitar Wheel
Wouldn't you like to ditch all those manuals and music books but still take along a library worth of guitar and music transposition information? Well, it can be done. All that you need is the Guitar Wheel. Invented with some heavenly inspiration by Dennis Cheatham, the Guitar Wheel is a serious educational tool for musicians. You won't believe how much information is found on the Guitar Wheel but even more amazing is the fact that when you flip it over, it gives you a whole world of Music Theory too!
The Guitar Wheel is very thin and easily goes where you go. To a concert, jam or guitar class, it is the on tool you will find indispensable for:

Chord Inversions for alternate chord fingerings
Enharmonic Equivalents
Comparing Scales such as Major, Minor, Pentatonic & Blues Scales
Determining Concert Pitch
Finding Minor 7th Chords
Finding Dominant 7th Chords

The Music Theory on the flip side of the Guitar Wheel offers even more with a piano keyboard & staff, concert pitch, intervals and transposing abilities built right in. If you are serious about advancing your composing and song writing skills to the next level, I highly recommend the Guitar Wheel. It is used in many guitar classes across the country with children as young as eight. The Guitar Wheel is configured like a curved guitar neck complete with numbered strings and frets, therefore making it easy to visualize how the chording or fingering works. Understanding that most musicians don't play in a vacuum, the Music Theory side of the wheel brings in keyboard access with major & minor scales, pentatonic scales, blues scales, degrees and eharmonic equivalents. The Music Wheel can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. All the same, it is an educational tool that will grow with you as you go deeper into music theory. This is important especially when you are spending about $15.00 for Book One then after out-growing the material, having to purchase Book Two. The Guitar Wheel is made of tough plastic, not cardboard and I figure if eight year olds can't destroy it, well, it should hold up for you! The MSRP is only $24.95 and the wheel comes with an instructional DVD highlighting its uses. Visit Music Master Publishing and the Guitar Wheel online via their Guitar Wheel, banner ad in the left hand column of this page or order it online at Amazon.com by clicking the link here: Guitar Wheel on Amazon.com

"Jingle all the way...." We're keepin' it real by giving you the best gifts for guitarists and musicians. Keep checking back as we countdown till Christmas with the Best Guitar Gear for 2009!