tips Archives

Used GuitarsYou Don't Need To Pay The Earth...

When it comes to buying pre-owned musical instruments, it’s often nice to get something that has a bit of history, especially with guitars because you don’t need to worry so much about scratching it or knocking it around a bit but it’s just as good for playing as a new one and the best part is, you’ve paid a LOT less for it.

If you are a parent whose child wants a guitar, then buying one that has been owned by someone else is often a very wise move, not only because your child might grow out of the ‘I want to play guitar’ phase, so you’ll save yourself a lot of money but also because if your child does wish to continue learning to play, it helps them realise what kind of guitar does and doesn’t suit them; size, shape, electric, acoustic and so on.

Bargains Are Out There...

You can find some amazing guitars that are worth a lot of money when brand new for amazingly reasonable prices second hand, even though they’re not that old. Often owners want to sell quickly and so will give you a real bargain if you’re prepared to do a bit of haggling. However, other owners will try to push their luck, on the chance that you don’t know what you’re really looking for, so will push prices up on their second hand guitars.

So, try to make sure you go loaded with knowledge or at least take someone along with you who knows about guitars, so will make sure that you get a fair price. To help you out, below are some guidelines of what you should be on the lookout for when buying a pre-owned guitar:

  • Try and find out the guitar’s make and model before you go and buy it, so then you can do some research and see if any others are being offered cheaper. You can also read any reviews on the guitar to make sure you are buying a quality instrument.
  • Contact the seller by phone or email beforehand and enquire about the guitar’s condition. Then when you go to check out the guitar, inspect the instrument thoroughly to make sure that the seller was telling the truth. If you think they have lied, it’s probably best to forfeit the purchase.
  • You need to ask the seller how long they have owned the guitar, as if they have owned it for many years they should know its history of maintenance and use. If they try to avoid answering your questions, it should set off some warning bells, as they might be attempting to con you. If they have a used guitar for sale, you need to know how used!
  • Checking the guitar for damage is important. There will usually be some elements of wear and tear with any item that is second hand but you need to check there are no signs of rust on any parts of the guitar that holds the strings and pickups.  Be sure to also check that the neck of the guitar is not warped at all, or that there are any cracks which may indicate that the guitar has been damaged in the past.
  • You have to try before you buy. After all, people buy used guitars so that they can play them. If it’s electric, then ask the seller if you can plug it in to an amp. If it’s an acoustic guitar, just play and see if you like the sound.

Paul Holmes is a passionate collector and player of guitars. When he isn't tuning his dream Gibson, he's blogging or working on YouNextGuitar.com

Rockdex Graph

A boom in digital distribution and marketing in the past ten years has multiplied options for promoting music. However, while there are many different sites and tools that can help you to get your music to audiences, the sheer saturation of these tools can make it hard to pick the right ones.

Given the competition for attention that the Internet creates, as well as the often short attention spans of social network users, it is more important than ever to be able to effectively promote yourself and understand an audience. In this way, it is worth considering some of the following tools as a way into better marketing yourself and your music to the right listeners. From making the most of Facebook to exploiting metrics, some of the best tools include:

1 - Facebook

An obvious choice in some ways, but one that if used correctly, can build lasting value with audiences. Having a Facebook band or soloist page means that you can build a significant community of fans, while allowing for continued linking to Twitter and other accounts. Some of the best ways to use Facebook, however, involve optimising pages to make sure that users keep on coming back. Keeping keywords on a page simple will make it easier for Google searches to find the page. Tabs on a Facebook page can similarly be used to link into landing pages that include downloadable tracks and other promotions.

2 - Last.fm

Along with Spotify, Last.fm is one of the best ways to stream your music and to create a strong profile. One of the key benefits of Last.fm is the ability to create an easily used interface for fans and new listeners, with the site arguably offering better functionality than MySpace. Some other advantages include being able to create interactive gig listings, while Last.fm as a whole can be downloaded as an app.

3 - Metrics

Being able to accurately understand which and how many users are accessing your personal page and downloading your music is essential. This information can be used to build marketing plans, and to better target certain segments of your audience. Some of the best metrics sites for breaking down data and compiling patterns of use include Band Metrics and RockDex.

4 - Unbounce

Landing page builders like Unbounce are becoming increasingly valuable to online music promotion. The site allows you to quickly create a landing page from templates, which means that links can be made for specific promotions. A single page can handle traffic and focus a promotion beyond a single social networking page, and is ideal for short term marketing. These pages also provide real time usage stats, and make the most of What You See Is What You Get site editors, which benefit non tech minded users.

5 - Woobox

Another example of page landing, Woobox is notable for creating links from Facebook into single pages that include promotions. Effectively enabling you to spin off a Facebook or other major social media network hub into a smaller site, Woobox is an ideal way for drawing fans and new users into competitions, sweepstakes, and short term deals.

This is a Guest Post by Martin Roche - Martin is passionate about music and advising people about Audio Courses. Check out his site for more information!

Marshall Amp Stack

When we think of the world of rock music, we think of the bands that have entertained us, their look and their sound.

We instantly think of the guitars that are part of their style, from the classic design of the Fender Stratocaster to the timeless cool of the Gibson Les Paul. Just as important to a band sound, if not more so, are the amplifiers.

When it comes rock music, there's no name in field of amplification that conjures up the same imagery as Marshall.

Marshall amps are the backbone of rock music, producing audio gear since the 1960s. While founder Jim Marshall found massive success providing amplification for guitars and basses, the guitar was not his speciality instrument.

Marshall had a successful career as a drummer and drum teacher, and opened a shop in the early 60s in London's Hanwell. His shop specialised in drum kits, cymbals and drumming accessories, however he was often asked about stocking guitars and amps.

The popular amplifier brands at the time were based in the US, and the cost of buying in and importing was to inhibitive. Having had some experience as an electrical engineer, Jim Marshall began to work with a technician from EMI called Dudley Craven and his own shop Mr Fixit, Ken bran. On their sixth prototype, the team finally found the Marshall sound.

The evolution of Marshall amps

The key difference between Marshall's amplifiers and many other amps of the time was the separation of the pre-amplifier from the speakers. Separating these elements meant that you would have a valve driven head section and separate cabinets with four 10” speakers. The famous Marshall stack was born, becoming an integral part of the stage set of rock bands on both sides of the Atlantic.

Thanks to the gain of these amps, they were a key part in the development of hard rock and heavy metal. As rock'n'roll gained a harder edge toward the late 60s and early 70s, Marshall was leading the way with their powerful amplification. Marshalls were the go to amp for many key performers of the time; Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton were among Marshall's famous advocates. This continued into the 70's and 80s with players such as AC-DC's Angus Young and Guns'n'Roses' Slash as keen exponents of the brand.

Today, Marshall is still one of the biggest amplifier and audio equipment brands in the world, and one of the UK's best exporters. The legacy of Marshall amps continues today, giving bands that unmistakable sound.

The guitar is a firm favourite when it comes to learning how to play a new instrument. Most people choose this instrument due to its versatility and the choices available. Unlike many of the other instruments available, the guitar enables you to start learning the music you want to play from classic to rock and blues to pop.

Choosing the Type of Guitar to Buy:

image source

The first step in the process of learning how to play a guitar is finding the right guitar for you. Your first major choice will be deciding between an electric or acoustic guitar; many say you should choose an acoustic as your first guitar, but this is not necessarily the case and if you dream of ‘turning it up to eleven’ then go for it! Rather choose the guitar that interests you, this way you will not get bored and lose interest.

Buying a Guitar for Children:

When buying a guitar for children it’s important to choose the right size. Full size guitars are easy to find but are not always practical for little arms and fingers which will need to stretch to reach the strings. A guitar should fit comfortably with your arm being able to reach over the guitar with ease. Your arm should not be lifted above your shoulder in order to strum as this can leave you feeling uncomfortable and will make it difficult to play or practice for extended periods.

How Much to Pay For a Guitar:

Black Acoustic Guitar

Many people fall into the trap of purchasing the cheapest option; the cheaper options can have difficulties with tuning and comfort which may impact your ability to play. It’s understandable that parents want to choose the cheapest instrument when buying for their child, just in case they lose interest, but in the long run these cheaper guitars will make it harder for the child to learn.

Take a look on auction and free sites to see if anyone is selling a good quality second hand guitar. This is a great way to save money when compared to buying new, especially if you are unsure that this is something you will continue with.

Nylon or Steel:

image source

If you’ve decided to buy an acoustic guitar then you will have to choose between nylon or steel strings. Steel is ideal if you want to play rock or country, while nylon is more suited to the classical or folk genre of music. Nylon will also require more tuning than the steel, so this is an important factor to consider. However some people do find that Nylon strings are more comfortable for beginners.

Finding a Tutor

There are two ways of learning to play the guitar, the first is to find a tutor and pay for lessons and the second if to use free lessons available on the internet. If you choose to use the free lessons, remember this will require more dedication from yourself as you won’t have anyone encouraging you to learn and improve.

Have a look for a couple of tutors in your area and ask them about the learning process and how they teach. This will give you an opportunity to get a feel for them. You are going to be spending time with this person, so it’s important that you are comfortable with their teaching methods. It’s also important to ensure you choose a teacher and not a guitarist with no teaching abilities.

Free Online Lessons

There are a number of free lessons available on the internet which will teach you how to play the guitar. You will need to be dedicated as this is something you learn in your own home and at your own pace.

• Find chords and scales with ease online at all-guitar-chords.com • If you are unsure during the learning process, you can look up chords and hear how they sound at chordbook.com • There are a choice of free lessons and examples at guitarlessonsworld.com • Enjoy twenty five free video tutorials at guitartricks.com • Tuning your guitar is very important in order to get the right sound. Learn how to tune and pick your guitar at howtotuneaguitar.com

Dude Giving Guitar LessonsA new guitarist should think about both a commitment to a long learning process, but also to repeating a number of daily tips and tricks that can help them to become a better player at a faster speed. The main focus of a player should be on refining the basics, from getting used to rhythm to tuning and scales, while also working on more elaborate tricks and songs that can gradually be incorporated into a personal repertoire and tried out for live audiences. Some of the best tricks and tips though are ones that rely on simple persistence:

1 - Rhythm, Timing and Metronomes

It may not seem like the most exciting trick, but getting the foundations right through basic practice is crucial to your playing. Use a metronome to set up a beat, and spend at least 20 minutes a day working on playing along through simple chord progressions and scales. Metronomes make it easier to build up a familiarity with timing, and provide a good way to maintain a consistent schedule.

2 - Be Careful with your Practicing

One of the worst things you can do as an early guitarist is to throw yourself into practicing too much. You might learn a lot, but you also run the risk of becoming burnt out from your playing, and more likely to drop the instrument altogether. Intensive practices every day are better than hours and hours of work. Focus on what works best for you, and build up around certain areas.

3 - Use Music Theory to Understand How the Guitar Works

Music theory is daunting for the new player, especially if they haven’t had any formal musical training in the past. However, by appreciating notes, scales, and how different effects are achieved, and by being able to read music, it will be easier to start to layer certain tricks on top of normal playing.

4 - Simple Tricks

When you get a bit bored with rehearsing chords and scales, think about developing a few flashier tricks. Easier tricks to learn include hammer ons and pull offs, which involves hammering a fret hand finger onto the fingerboard and pulling off to create two notes from one action. Hammers ons and pull offs can be combined to create a flowing piece of music.

5 - Adjusting Tones and Pedals

You can also experiment with the tone of the guitar by practicing with a few pedals and effects switches, and the settings on an amplifier. While the noise created might not be exactly pleasing the first time you try, fiddling with bass, treble and equalisation means that you create substantial differences in the tone of your playing. Investing in a distortion or drive pedal will also create heavier sounds, as well as pushing reverb to create the effect of playing within a specific space.

The most important thing to remember is not to rely too much on effects pedals to disguise a lack of technique, but to see if there are any particular effects that you like and what to incorporate into your general playing. It is also necessary to think about how expensive the pedals will be, and whether you can borrow one before investing in your own.

 

Rickenbacker 360 GuitarThink 'unplugged' and the image that comes to mind is a band or artist playing tracks that had previously been recorded on amplified instruments like electric guitars or synthesizers being played on acoustic instruments or piano. The word became part of the popular MTV series launched in 1989 but the unplugged seeds had been sown 20 years previously.

JAMMING SESSIONS

Elvis Presley and The Beatles started a trend of recognised performers being captured in informal settings or in studio jamming sessions. But, although the sessions were forerunners of the unplugged format, they came about more by accident than design.

By the late 1970s high-profile unplugged performances began to creep in and the first one of note came in 1979 from The Who's Pete Townshend at The Secret Policeman's Ball, one of the Amnesty International benefit productions in London. Townshend ditched his trademark electric guitar (a Rickenbacker 360 Fireglo ) to give Pinball Wizard and Won't Get Fooled Again the acoustic treatment.

HAVING A BALL

That set the unplugged ball rolling and the show's sequel show in 1981, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, featured acoustic sets by the likes of Bob Geldof, Sting and Phil Collins. The trend blossomed throughout the 1980s but the concept had still not been tagged unplugged.

Jethro Tull became the first band to play on MTV in 'unplugged' mode on MTV in 1987 when the acoustic trio of frontman Ian Anderson and guitarists Martin Barre and Dave Pegg performed a couple of tracks. XTC gave an acoustic set in spring 1989 and in the same year Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora gave Livin' on a Prayer the acoustic treatment at an MTV awards night.

The Unplugged tag was applied officially for the first time in November 1989 with Squeeze the first band to play.

NOTABLE NIRVANA

Over the years there have been dozens of critically-acclaimed Unplugged programmes. Nirvana's set on the MTV show was one of Kurt Kobain's last TV appearances. It was recorded in November 1993, about five months before Cobain died.

Most bands played versions of their hits and other original tracks but Nirvana bucked the trend by playing covers by the likes of David Bowie and Lead Belly and some of their less well-known material.

The only recognised hits were All Apologies and Come as You Are. This heralded a different approach to other Unplugged performances, where artists usually perform their hit singles and other self-penned material.

IN FINE VOICE

In the same month Duran Duran filmed their acoustic performance after a pause in the band's world tour caused by wear and tear on Simon Le Bon's vocal cords. Unlike Nirvana Duran Duran churned out their classic hits and Unplugged, which was well received by critics, marked Le Bon's return to top vocal form.

Audio Mixing

The home studio can be a wonderful way to capture your self-expression without breaking the wallet, but many beginner and intermediate studio engineers (and even some experts!) encounter a significant obstacle in their quest to record the perfect song.

This obstacle is audio mixing.  Upon hearing that term, many think it is just a matter of adjusting the volume levels accordingly so that no instrument drowns another out.  If it were that simple, there wouldn't be audio engineers who make big bucks each year.

There are many things that you must calculate all at once while engineering a song, but this is a basic introduction to audio mixing that will help you get started on the right foot.

Depending on what type of music you are recording, you will have various different instruments that you need to become comfortable with.  Of course, some musicians blur the line between styles and include other, abnormal instruments to their songs but you have to try to stay familiar with many of the attributes of certain instruments.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • You absolutely need a great pair of studio headphones.  See our article on setting up your home studio on a budget for more info and recommendations on which headphones are great.  If you can't hear what is going on, how will you know what to change?  A good pair of headphones is vital to the mixing process, and will help you out in tough times when you have trouble finding little details.
  • Don't overexert yourself.  Your ears are the most important part of the puzzle when it comes to mixing, so if you keep listening to the same part over and over again or hear the music played back at loud volumes, your ears may become fatigued and no longer as sharp as they could be.  Take constant breaks in between edits, and if you feel like you are not making any progress, shelve it until later in the day or maybe even another day altogether.
  • Invest in decent recording software.  Sonar Cakewalk or Steinberg Cubase, or if you have an especially  big budget, Steinberg Nuendo.

The big picture can easily be thought of as a metaphor for a cake: you need to take many different ingredients, in this case the instruments and their respective audio recordings, combine them together, and get just the right amount of each ingredient so that the cake, or the song in this case, comes out perfect.  When mixing audio, it helps to think of it in three dimensions.  What you will essentially be doing is creating small surround sound mixes, and you will do this by panning tracks left and right, adjusting volume levels, equalizing the music so the high parts sound bright and the low parts really touch the bass, and adding aftereffects like reverb and delay.

If you had all of the music panned dead center, and there were no effects like reverb added, and all of the volumes were even, you would end up with a recording that sounded very much like a garage band, as if you placed a microphone in the middle of the room and recorded your band playing.  Taking into account the acoustic elements of each instrument and adjusting the mix for it will make the whole recording sound more organic and easier on the ears.

Hopefully this gets you in the right mindset to begin building strong mixing skills.  There are still many things we haven't touched upon, but those topics will surely be covered in later articles.

There are many instances where a song will only have one guitar, or perhaps three guitars, and a few vocals, as well as other effects like orchestral instruments and sound effects.  It can get very complicated, very fast, and there are countless books on every aspect of recording, but don't be discouraged.

With enough spare time and practice, you will be able to mix your own recordings successfully without dropping big bucks on professional studios.

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