Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bob Dylan Revisits Highway 61 VIDEOS!

We're celebrating Bob's 70th Birthday this May as Highway 61 Revisited performs Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" with breakout solos by Joel Gilbert, (lead vocals, rhythm guitar 1945 Gibson J-50), Scarlet Rivera, (violin) and John "JJ" Jackson, (lead guitar, arch-top Gretsch). Rivera was part of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue Tour and is heard on many of his recordings.  Jackson likewise was an original band member of Dylan's and was part of his Never Ending Tour. Gilbert is a cinematographer (Bob Dylan: World Tours 1966-1974, NR 2004) and expert on Bob Dylan's music and instruments.   This incredible tribute band will be performing at BB King's Blues Club in New York City on May 30, 2011. Click the link here or see listings under "SHOWS" below for tickets.  Visit Highway 61 Revisited website for concert dates and band info'.
Notice: Copyright music and lyrics reproduced by kind permission of Special Rider -- for original, exclusive performances by Bob Dylan, check-out the official channel at Bob Dylan's TV Channel on YouTube

Rico Tabazio - Fender bass!

Gilbert, Dr. M & Peter after the show

Blowin' in the Wind and Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat. Check out Scarlet Rivera's violin solo while cracking up over Dylan's lyrics on Pillbox Hat.  Jackson's cool blues guitar solo at the end is NOT to be missed!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gig Your Rig: Fender Passport Pro 500 Review

Fender's original Passport Deluxe PD-500 PA System

FENDER Passport® Deluxe PD-500
A lot of singer - songwriters have depended on the Fender Passport for small to medium sized gigs.  They really were a step up, allowing you to travel with a compact PA System that easily fits in the backseat of your car.  At about 53 lbs, the Fender Passport Deluxe PD-500  is considered light to have your 8 channel mixer, speakers, mics and cables all included in the weight. They work fairly well for vocals and drum / bass machines.  I still prefer a dedicated tube amp for the guitar but in a pinch you can plug an acoustic right in. Phantom power allows you to use more sensitive condenser mics but the Deluxe PD-500 came with two well made Fender dynamic mics.  Sounds pretty cool, right?

Fender Passport® 500 PRO Replaces the Deluxe PD-500
So when Fender came out with their series "upgrade", the Passport Pro, I was very interested in the next generation's innovations.  One thing is the weight.  The Passport Pro 500 is nearly 9 lbs lighter than the Deluxe PD-500 but there's a partial reason for that.  Fender touts the Passport Pro 500 as the "top of the line" in this series.  We beg to differ.  One issue is that you get LESS by way of accessories and quite a bit so.  The original PD-500 Deluxe came with two very solid Fender dynamic mics, cables, clips and cases.  These essentials are NOT included with the new Passport Pro 500.  So you are going to have to go out and buy mics and cables before you can gig this rig.  That would also bring up the weight!

The New Fender Passport Pro 500 is 9 lbs lighter
Another issue we found with the new Passport is that it only offers reverb in the FX department.  The previous Passport gave you a full array of rather professional plates including Hall, Room, Delay, Reverb and more.  The older Passport also came with high quality Celestion Speakers and heavy duty Speakon Cables.  Fender says the speakers are still made by Celestion.  No go on the Speakon Cables however.  The ones you get now are very thin in comparison and do not lock as the Speakons.

The "redone" Passport Pro 500 has a port that lets you record your performance with CD quality (.wav) straight to a USB flash drive, CD-quality .wav and mp3 file playback.  Passport's are adequate enough for live performances but I don't know too many artists wanting to record with it.  Most musicians just want to get in, set up and play with something that is reliable and rugged.  I've found Passports in general to be just that.  The new Passport has 10" Woofer, 1.2" Horn Loaded Tweeter.  The older Passport Deluxe PD-500 has Two 8" woofers and one titanium compression driver and horn per cabinet PLUS Neo-Precision neodymium speakers designed by Celestion.  Feedback Killer was also installed on the older higher end Passport series.

The Wrap:
As a musician, you have to determine what is really important to you and your audience.  While the new Fender Pro 500 is about $400 cheaper than the previous model, you will still need to purchase mics, cables, etc. before you can take it on the road.  While most musicians use a Passport for vocals, the loss of all but reverb for effects is not a good trade off.  Without multi effects you could end up sounding like you are singing through a PA system.  I'm sorry to see the older Passport Deluxe PD-500 go but was glad to have it repaired rather than replaced with the newer model.  All in all, not a good call on this one, Fender.
Once again "Old School Must Rule" but the old Fender Passport goes the way of the dinosaur.

Monday, March 7, 2011

C.F. Martin's New Cleartone Strings

Dr. M and Martin Craftsman, Dave Doll after restringing her D-16!

One of the things I have appreciated about being a Martin Guitar Owner is the excellent factory set-up all my guitars have received.  In general, most acoustics tend to have a higher action (distance between the strings and fretboard) than electrics.  This has not been a serious problem with my Martin D-16GT or SWDGT even after having them restrung at their Free String Clinics.

These new treated strings are now part of all factory set ups
Not only did I learn a lot about guitar mechanics, but these clinics gave me a chance to try out different Martin Acoustic Strings.  I recently switched from Medium Phosphor Bronze to Lights on my D-16 and was thrilled with the change.  The guitar plays like butter now!

It is worth it to experiment a bit because new strings are like giving your guitar a "voice lift".  Dead strings are just that, DOA.  New to Martin's line of acoustic strings are the Lifespans, treated with Ceartone for longer play.  I am looking forward to trying these out on my HD-28.  These are being installed on all new production Martins this year.  Oftentimes, guitar strings will sit on a wall at the music store and go dead before they can even be played.  Martin hopes to avoid this problem with the use of Cleartone strings which should be a boon to both dealers and their customers.

If you'd like to learn how to properly restring your acoustic, here is Martin Guitar's Restringing Video.
Dave Doll is the Martin Craftsman in the Video who did my D-16GT in the lead photo.  I can say that this is perhaps the best technique out there.  Simple, to the point, Dave shows you some insider tips such as how to keep your strings from slipping out of the posts and effectively seating the end pins with the ball end of the strings. Check it out and you too can get pro results on restringing your acoustic guitar!

C.F. Martin D-16GT

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Big Book of Irish Songs

Big Book O Irish Songs from Hal Leonard

This time of year, everyone wants to be a little Irish and if you are playing local pubs and coffee houses, you might want to have a few Gaelic ballads on your set list.  Your audience will appreciate your inclusion of them even if they aren't Irish just based on their beauty alone.

Now while "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" is a lovely sing-along, there is so much more to Celtic music than that.  You would do well to look into the history of many of these songs which oftentimes were written in homage to the wealthy landowners from whom Irish peasants rented.
Playing the Harp & Guitar - Saint Patrick's Day Parade

Therefore many of the songs in this genre are not necessarily love songs as one might think.  More than that they were written out of respect and awe of people occupying a certain station in society. 
Think of how an artist renders his patron in a painting.  Very flattering!  In other words the one who pays the piper calls the tune.  Traditional Irish Folk Songs like Garryowen are used as a Bagpipe March and have patriotic lyrics.
Wake Songs are also another type of Irish music that might be misunderstood.  A parting glass and an Irish Wake was part of the experience of many who would leave Ireland never to return to friends or family.  Needless to say, these are very moving compositions.  Hal Leonard's Big Book of Irish Songs for Piano Vocal & Guitar offers lyrics and guitar chord diagrams in standard notation.  Not all are Folksongs but quite a few are from Tin Pan Alley such as those written by George M. Cohan (Mary's A Grand Old Name & Harrigan) The songs are alphabetically ordered for easy access and the book itself folds quite flat for your music stand or piano.  This is NOT a Fake Book so be prepared for multiple chord changes on the guitar.  Well worth the effort if you want to get the full flavor of each song.

Drum Major leading a band of Pipers playing Garryowen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

2011's BEST Guitar Gear FINALISTS

Eclectic Sound is very pleased to announce this latest video featuring our TOP picks for 2011's BEST Guitar Gear which includes some new releases from the 2011 NAMM Show.  All of the equipment was chosen for quality construction, ease of use and are what we consider to be essential to the gigging / recording musician.  Here are some noteworthy standouts in the following categories:

Best Guitar Straps:
Levy's Leathers Suede Tooled Leather Strap, shown here NEW for 2011
Planet Waves Planet Lock Strap
Sully's Handmade Leather Guitar Straps

Most Useful Guitar Accessories:
Audio-Technica's Guitar Wireless
Planet Waves Tru Strobe Pedal Tuner & Capo Tuner
Hercules Guitar Stands & Canvas Carry Bags
Guitar Hoodie

ProTec Music Pods for Pics, Capos, etc.
Most Useful Singer-Songwriter Accessories:

VoiceTone Create - XT
Audio-Technica's AT-4081 Ribbon Condenser

Best Tech Tools:
Sanyo Pedal Juice
Rock Prodigy iPod / iPhone App

BEST in Show:
BOSS GT-10 Guitar Multi-effector offers the most pedal, effects and amp options for the working guitarist.  Its like having a pedal board full of stompboxes plus a Wah all in one solid tour-worthy unit!

The BOSS Flagship Unit for Guitar, the GT-10