Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Artisan StudioWorks Stone Guitar Pick Jewelry

Beautiful Brazilian Agate natural polished stone from Artisan Studio Works, Santa Ana, CA
Guitarists can also be classified as artists.  I guess that's why Greg Atkin of Strum in Comfort, (the original SharkTooth Pick) introduced me to his Artisan StudioWorks lovely natural stone pendants. These are beautifully polished and the lead photo is a translucent Brazilian Agate wrapped with sterling silver wire and a delicate rose design at the top. The necklace is made of black leather with a lobster claw clasp and built in extender. I know what I'm wearing for New Year's Eve. Fabulous!

Interchangeable semi-open sterling silver wired pendant.
I still have one of the first stone pick pendants which I love because I can change the look by adding a different polished stone heart to the holder. These new sterling silver wired necklaces are even more dramatic and elegant. The above stone pick holder has a stylized G-Clef and can be changed to match your outfit or mood by switching out the stone of your choice. Stop by Artisan to see more designs and products from artist, Greg M. Atkin.

Artisan StudioWorks
Artisan StudioWorks now has a secure & convenient Etsy site where you can purchase one of a kind guitar accessories and stone guitar pick jewelry designed by artist Greg M Atkin. In addition, several other artisans have helped develop hand tooled and painted leather wrist cuffs, ornate guitar pins and a banjo clip.

I'd like to thank my friend, artist Greg M. Atkin for sending me this collection and have added them to my Lucky Gift Guide as well as my Guitar & Vocal Gear.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

D'Addario Planet Waves NS Micro Tuner

You know what they say, "Small things come in good packages!" D' Addario Planet waves NS Micro Tuner for guitar, bass, mandolin, uke and banjo.
D'Addario & Co. Farmingdale, NY Just when you thought it couldn't be done, Planet Waves takes center stage with the world's smallest guitar tuner. I have their NS Mini Headstock Tuner which is also very tiny in fact that I simply leave it on the guitar's headstock when placing it in the case! I reviewed it here along with other Planet Waves Guitar Tuners.

Small But Mighty
I really liked the Mini Headstock Tuner when it first was released. First of all, you couldn't beat it for portability but even more than that, it is extremely accurate. I used to use my Tru-Strobe Pedal Tuner before each studio session but now I just tune up with the Headstock Tuners.
PW's NS Mini Headstock Tuner is the forerunner to the new micro version.
Like Having a Built in Tuner
I had my Fender Stratocaster modified with a built in tuner that went under my volume knob. The thing is GREAT but when I have to change the 9v battery, I'll have to take the guitar apart. It wasn't easy installing it either. I took it to a professional music shop and had it done as I did not want to blow up my guitar . Why go through all of that when these tuners are small enough to be left of the headstock during transport?

Performing with the Micro Tuner
Another thing that you'll like is that unlike some other tuners, the audience can't see it on your headstock! I've performed with it and no one could tell it was there. So stealthy. Since it's hanging out there on the headstock for the whole set, you can tune up as much as you like. Amazing.

My Mini Tuner is there. Can you see it?
Mini to Micro Comparison 
So what is the difference between the two tuners, besides size of course? Based on how I've tried it, turning on the Micro Tuner is much easier. It has a dedicated, universal power button unlike the previous model which required repeated pressings to scroll through to the desired options. Same thing for turning it off. One button, one press. Genius.

Micro on the left, Mini on the right!
NS Micro Tuner-The Wrap 
Like the Mini model, (Ned Steinberger design), the Micro has an easy to use ratchet clamps and can be mounted on either the front or back of your headstock. The NS Micro Tuner has the added features of a reversible multi-color display and a visual metronome. The Power Button allows you to press to toggle the tuner off and on but the tuner automatically powers off in 10 minutes to save battery life.

Color Codes: The unit shows the actual note and Red indicates:out of tune, Yellow: almost in tune and Green: in tune.
The cursor buttons: allow you to press either arrow to adjust tuner calibration from 410-480Hz. While in Metronome Mode, press wither arrow to adjust tempo setting from 20 to 270bpm. Most tuners can't do that!
Flip Button: Press to change screen orientation. This is really helpful for tricky headstocks that make placement of the tuner hard to see. Orient the screen they way you want for easy viewing.

You get TWO tuners in a pack so you'll have twice the tuning fun for multiple instruments. A great value all the way around and definitely something to consider for the Guitarist on your gift list this year.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Joe Satriani's 2013 Europe Tour & Artist Designs

Guitarists, Joe "Satch" Satriani of the US and David Middleton of London, England on the 2013 European Tour. (Walthamstow, UK)
LONDON, ENGLAND: Perhaps one of the most talented guitarists on the planet, Joe Satriani continues his 2013 European Tour with a stop over in London, England. My friend and fellow musician David Middleton, (lead guitarist for Chaysa), caught up with him backstage after his seriously riveting performance. All UK shows have guest Matt Schofield opening for Satch.  Here is a highlight clip from Joe's London England concert:


Joe is considered a guitar prodigy by most accounts and his virtuosity is near legendary. I so enjoy the way he uses guitar effects to the full but his skills continue to shine through. That is what sets him apart.  Artistry like this doesn't rely on weird effects and gimmicks. One of the things I learned in guitar class was to get the basics first and then any effects you want to add would layer over good technique instead of replacing it.

Joe Satriani's artistry isn't just limited to music. A few years ago Joe designed a series of signature guitar Straps for Planet Waves. These are all his own, original designs reproduced for guitarists like me to enjoy. I have his Skull N Bones Design Planet Lock Strap which is on my Aria Pro II Fullerton model below:

Joe Satriani designed Guitar Strap by Planet Waves & signed VIP pass from my friend David Middleton

These designs are first drawn free hand by Joe and make up a complete series of artist-generated locking guitar straps with matching picks available at Planet Waves.

Details on my Skull and Bones strap designed by Joe Satriani for Planet Waves
Below, Joe demonstrates and discusses his artistic method and creations for Planet Waves.

So if you can't make Joe's European Tour this year, pick up one of his artistic guitar straps. Here's Joe's 2013 Europe Tour Dates.

Joe Satriani's signature on the back of my VIP Pass from David Middleton!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Irish Eyes Are Still Smiling

St. Patrick's Day Jam Materials
With Saint Patrick's Day coming up you might want to add a few Irish songs to your gig or jam.  In fact, Bluegrass music is a direct descendant of Celtic music.  Many songs we like to do in Bluegrass are simply adaptations of old Irish Fiddle Tunes.  A few examples of Bluegrass tunes taken from Irish Seisuns are Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek, The Girl I Left Behind, Soldiers Joy and Shady Grove. Other fiddle tunes like Leather Britches and Pretty Polly actually have Scottish roots.
Hal Leonard's Big Book of 75 Irish Songs!

If you listen to and play a few of these, you'll appreciate the Celtic heritage that is at the core. In fact, there are about 120 fiddle tunes that make up the average Irish Session repertoire whereas you can get away with about 50 for Bluegrass. Another difference is like Jazz, Bluegrass allows for each jam participant to "take the lead" in what's known as a breakdown.  Each player has the opportunity to embellish on the melody and add some fast licks and improvisation on the spot.

Musicians such as Merle Travis raised the breakdown to a highly sophisticated art form so much so that while traditional Celtic music does not allow for this, Bluegrass has flourished on its account.  There's something about having poetic license to create on the moment that appeals to the soul of most musicians.  There's something incredible about taking that break and doing something amazing with it!

Musicians Who Have Defined the Genre
When you think of Bluegrass, you have to list Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and Merle Travis among the first generation of artists who shaped the sound. Many Bluegrass artists hail from Appalachia among the Blue Ridge mountains where our Scottish, Irish and English ancestors first landed when coming to America.  The backbone of the music was Celtic but the flesh was shaped by a fusion of African (banjo) and uniquely American influences
Thom Bresh, son of  Bluegrass pioneer, Merle Travis
Today, punk rock fusion bands like Dropkick Murphys
have aggressive elements of traditional Celtic music blended in.  Ever checked out an Electric Autoharp? Have you ever heard a rock-bagpipe?  It's being done and it's fresh and exciting to hear what newer artists are coming up with.  They are pushing the limits of what we would recognize as core Irish & Scottish music. However, the challenge is to be true to who you are without simply regurgitating the same songs from the past.  Check out NewGrass too.

I think once you become familiar with the origins of a particular musical genre, there is no stopping what innovations you will come up with.  This St. Patrick's Day, take the time to play a few Irish tunes and see where they take you!

Playing our guitar and Autoharp at the Belmar, NJ St. Patrick's Day Parade

Monday, February 18, 2013

Planet Waves Dual Action Capo + Tuner

Planet Waves NS Dual Action Capo & Tuner

Spring is the time that we think about playing out more at jams, gigs and music festivals. Folk festivals are some of my favorites for informal performing.  I like the New Jersey Folk Festival for that reason.  I can remember people in the audience bringing their instruments to play along with us up on stage.  Now THAT is audience participation!  So anything that helps make bringing an instrument along easier is going to get my attention.

The PW Capos fit my Martin Guitar necks perfectly.

Planet Waves NS Dual Action Capo...
PW NS Dual Action Capo
When the original Planet Waves Dual Action Capo first came out, I loved it. It is sturdy, easy to adjust, (I could actually take it off and move it on the fly) and stays put. The adjustable spring allows for the perfect fit and the curved back seems to fit my Martin necks perfectly.

PLUS Tuner
My womanly hands are small but I have no problem clamping and unclasping the Dual Action Capo.  So when the upgrade arrived, I had no problem switching over.  The mechanism is the same only now you have a little tuner on the end!  The tuner is very accurate and easy to activate. The only downside is that it doesn't display the actual note. I've used it mostly to tweak a properly tuned guitar using a pedal tuner like their Tru-Strobe.  Once your guitar is tuned to the proper notes, you just need a little fine tuning so seeing the note you are playing is not as important at that point.

Planet Waves Tru-Strobe Pedal Tuner should be your starting point for accurate baseline tuning
NS Capo Tuner

Planet Waves NS Dual Action Capo - Tuner  
One of the things that I like about this combo capo & tuner is somewhat obvious.  You don't have to bring two guitar accessories as you have both the capo and tuner in one.
What is cool is that you can offer it to someone whose tuner is failing and they always say. "Wow, your capo has a tuner on it too?"  You look like the genius in the room and your playing buddy gets their instrument tuned.
Here are the specs on this tuner straight from the Planet Waves website:

NS Capo Tuner

The NS Capo Tuner combines the widely acclaimed NS Dual Action Capo with a Planet Waves precision chromatic tuner. the first of its kind, the NS Capo tuner provides accurate tuning at any fret or when clipped on the headstock of your acoustic or electric guitar. the patented compound action of the dual action capo reduces the force necessary to open and close the capo. it also eliminates side pulling the strings out of tune, a common issue with standard trigger-type capos. lightweight, accurate and easy to use, simply adjust the micrometer tension knob just enough to eliminate string buzzing and enjoy repeatable in-tune performance at every fret. Designed to fit standard 6- and 12-string guitars. The upper lights indicate sharp conditions in the same manner as the lower lights indicate flat conditions. Tuner will automatically power off after 4 minutes.
  • Designed for acoustic and electric guitars with radiused fretboards
  • Intergraded Single hand operation tuner and Micrometer tension adjustment assures buzz-free in-tune performance at any fret
  • Single hand Aircraft grade aluminum construction
  • Aircraft grade aluminum construction
  • Designed for 6- and most 12-string guitars
Planet Waves NS Series capos are the result of an ongoing collaboration between famed product designer Ned Steinberger, Jim D'Addario and Planet Waves.

PW Headstock Tuner
I mostly use the tiny PW Headstock Tuner these days because it shows the the musical note and it is small enough that I can leave it on the headstock and put the guitar in the case.  It sort of lives on the headstock now and I haven't noticed any scratches or discoloration as a result.

However I still bring along the NS Capo Tuner to gigs to use and to have in case one of my band-mates tuner fails or gets left at home.  This goes for myself as well!!!  It's good to have a backup plan and having a dual action capo / tuner like this on board is just good policy.
My Karaoke Machine allows me to change keys for my vocal track keys which I then capo up the neck of the guitar.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eagle Mania!

Steve French (l) and Ken Darcy tearing it up during Eagle Mania's set at Monmouth Co. Library HDQ's in New Jersey
I have to say I truly enjoyed a pre-Valentine's Day treat catching Eagle Mania (an Eagles Tribute Band) in concert this afternoon. If you know the Eagles, you know their tight, complex harmonies are truly something to hear...and to replicate.  If you can remember me covering Hwy 61's concert, (they are a Bob Dylan tribute band) it really takes musicians with a heart and soul of respect for the original artists.  While I really appreciated their music, most of Bob's stuff is before my time even though I play some of his music on acoustic guitar.  Bob Dylan was not what I danced to when I was in high school.  It was the Eagles! The concert was only 90 minutes but flew by as they did: Take It To the Limit, New Kid in Town, Boys of Summer, Tequila Sunrise, The Best of Your Love, Lying Eyes, One of These Nights, Already Gone, Desperado, Hotel CA, Life in the Fast Lane and quite a few encores (by that time I was up dancing)!

Frank Marino, Steve French and Ken Darcy of Eagle Mania doing "The Long Run"
So I think I was a bit more critical of their performance because 1.) this was MY music and 2.) I actually remembered how the songs went.  When music is attached to some of your most joyful memories, you want to hear them done perfectly.  Eagle Mania did not disappoint!  The lead vocals were clear and tender and the music itself conjured up the essence of the Eagles' 70's style of rock.  Implementing a double necked guitar for the Eagles iconic Hotel California, guitarist John Gaechter hit every note and riff just like the original recording.  John Weiswasser's drum solo was fantastic as was his entire performance. The flavor of the Eagles is less rugged than let's say Credence Clearwater Revival but bears similar southwestern, Tex-Mex guitar strains that makes them identifiable as a LA formed group. 

Monmouth Co. Library Headquarters is an acoustically sound venue and while the capacity tops off at 500, it was estimated that there were over 700 people in attendance throughout the building listening in.  How people were able to sit there without getting up to dance was beyond me but I did see a few (myself included) who could not resist.  As a musician and vocalist, my greatest reward to see the audience fully getting into the concert and enjoying themselves.  I hope this first concert of the year is a harbinger of things to come in 2013.  That bands like Eagle Mania will be invited again to perform and bring back memories for yet another generation of music lovers. Check out Eagle Mania's schedule of upcoming concerts at their fan page on Facebook: EagleMania Band

Lead vocalist-guitarist Ken Darcy and Dr. M