Ant W. – Musical Gear

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Instruments For Kids

When the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was still a toddler, he was touring Europe as a musician prodigy. This, annoyingly, makes late bloomers of us all – but it does reveal something very interesting about music and our youth: they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It doesn’t take a genius like Mozart to figure out that music education can help your child develop skills that can last a lifetime. Music is like the mathematics of art – complicated, often predictable, and definitely character-building. But if you’re already sold on the idea of “music as education,” then maybe you simply need less convincing and more information.

As a parent, you’re probably constantly wondering about appropriateness: at what age is it appropriate to X, at what age is it appropriate to Y? As Mozart shows, you’re never really too young to start learning music, even if that just means banging away at the piano.

For the Beginning Parent: What Not To Do

Mozart’s father, Leopold, was a strict musical instructor, which means that he hit a musical lottery – he got in his lumps while struggling at the piano in his pre-teen years. You don’t want to be Leopold, because chances are that your son is not Mozart.


But there’s a line to straddle. If your child is interested in music education and displays a clear inclination for understanding music, you’ll want to do them a favor and really get your hands dirty, helping them to develop the talent at an early age. This means not allowing your child to quit a commitment once it’s been made unless some special circumstances have taken place – and, in many cases, they don’t.

It’s one thing to avoid being a pushy father or mother, forcing your child to play piano when he or she clearly hates it worse than broccoli. It’s another thing entirely to become a pushover, not pushing your child to fully explore their talents and put in the pain and discipline required to achieve success.

Remember this rule of thumb: if you teach your child that they always have to practice, you may be sending a message that they’re not good enough. But if you allow your child to squander their inclinations and talents, you may also be sending a message that they’re not good enough. Tough love is sometimes necessary.

The Instruments: Which Really Work Best?

Okay, okay, enough prattling on. Let’s get to the nitty gritty: what are the best musical instruments to focus on for children?

  • The piano. The piano is like the computer keyboard of instruments because it’s precisely that – a keyboard. Nothing quite teaches ambidexterity and musical skill like the piano, an instrument that can require ten fingers at once. A child that knows how to read music and play it on the piano will have a basic musical competence for life. The extremely young can have trouble with it, of course, so work to be reasonable.
  • The guitar. Okay, so maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine a toddler holding a guitar, but young people in general can pick up guitars and learn to play them well – and the cool factor of knowing how to play the guitar can help spur on the desire to improve through those teen years. Just make sure they enjoy the music more than the attention.

  • Toys. For the very young, you might just want to focus on musical toys like the ones available here in order to gauge your child’s interest in music. See what kinds of toys they gravitate to and you might just be receiving a hint as to their potential. Oftentimes, it’s best to observe what the children have to say and take their guidance.

One Man Band

The Beatles formed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, gradually adding one cultural icon after another until it finally resolved into a lineup of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr – three of which are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as solo artists.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have that kind of luck with band mates. But that doesn’t mean you have to be limited by your less-than-active social life: you can still record and perform like a one-man show.

Doing so requires a good amount of technical knowledge and musical skill, so let’s start with the basics.

Why it’s important to learn piano: if you’re going to record songs like a one-man band, then you need to learn how to use a keyboard like a champion. That means understanding the piano and how to play chords and melodies. These days, just about any musical instrument can be synthetically reproduced through a keyboard and a nice music production software program, so knowing your way around a keyboard can allow you to essentially play all types of instruments at the same time.

If you don’t have much of a background in music, learning the piano will also give you a good fundamental understanding of key concepts like harmonies, melodies, timing, rhythm, and chord progressions. It may not be as sexy as playing the guitar, but you’ll get a lot more versatility out of mastering the piano. Failing that, a basic knowledge of a musical keyboard is a must-have.

Okay. So you’re all set with – at the very  least – some rudimentary music knowledge. So where do you start for equipment?

Having the right equipment is key: You don’t have to have the fanciest electric guitar in the world to reproduce an electric guitar sound, so let’s focus on having the right equipment so that you can spend as little money as possible when putting together your one-man production effort.

  • MIDI Keyboard – An electronic keyboard known as a MIDI keyboard capitalizes on the first tip we gave you: it allows you to feed information into a computer program and hear different instrument sounds reproduced. You can also record what you play on a MIDI keyboard if it’s linked up with the right kind of software program. A basic MIDI keyboard, without a lot of options or even a wide range of keys (like the one we link to here), will only set you back some $50 or so.

  • Music production software – There are a lot of music production programs out there, but something simple like Fruity Loops can produce sophisticated sounds while incorporating your own recorded music. A free trial version is available if you want to get the hang of it before buying the full product.
  • Sweet headphones – Okay, so it’s not totally necessary to have the best headphones on earth, but you’ll hear the quality of your own production better if you check out headphones like Beats by Dre
  • A nice microphone. Expect to shell out at least $50 or so for a quality microphone that captures your voice with as little interference as possible.

If you get creative enough, you can use all of the equipment above to create a “band”-like effect. Setting up music on your MySpace page, you might be surprised to see exactly how close you can look to a live, functioning band all by yourself.

Why be your own band? Why not? If you don’t enjoy working with others on your music, there’s no reason you should have to. Your own private “band,” or even your own private musical “brand,” can be entirely under your control if you want it to be.

Musical Instruments on eBay

If you’re an astute shopper, you probably have no problem turning to eBay when there are no other options on the table. Heck, you probably don’t mind turning to eBay first so you can find bargains on used and new items before you ever try to find an item available on retail.

But is there any merchandise that you will always want to buy new – like musical instruments?

The prospect of buying a used musical instrument isn’t always an attractive one – particularly if you play an instrument that requires contact with your lips. But if you put in some time to research buying a used musical instrument of your specific variety, you should arrive at one particular conclusion: to buy used or not to buy used.

If you do decide that you can buy a used instrument on eBay, here are some tips to guide you along the way.

1. Check seller feedback religiously. The first major indicator of whether or not you’ll have a successful interaction on eBay is simple: seller feedback. When someone is selling a product, they are forced to display their seller feedback – which is like checking a particular seller’s recommendation. You’ll see references, recommendations, and negative views in many cases: one good rule of thumb is to stick to someone who has a very high feedback rating, somewhere in the upper 90%.

The reason to check for this is because each seller can only earn good feedback with a relatively solid interaction with a buyer. Remember one more thing: it’s important to check the amount of feedback this seller has received, as well. It’s not exactly impressive to have 100% positive feedback when there’s only one review. But if a seller has 1,000 reviews with a 98% positive feedback rating, then you know you’re working with someone with a solid reputation.

2. Place items on your watch list before you buy them. Buying on eBay can mean great prices, but it’s easy to post a “bid” for your desired object up front and forget about the rest. But if you set the item to your “watch” list instead, you might not inspire anyone else to compete with you – you may actually find that there are only a few bids by the time the product is nearing its sale deadline. This is a great time to place a bid because you give your fellow bidders less time to beat your price. Many times, you can win an auction by being the only one to bid.

3. Consider the instrument you’re buying. There are a lot of questions to ask (see tip #4), but most of them center around the type of instrument you’re buying. If you’re buying an electronic keyboard, for example, you’ll probably ask very different questions than if you’re only buying a bass kick.

4. Ask the seller a lot of questions. Before you ask questions, be sure to read the description of the instrument – you don’t want to ask the seller something that they’ve already worked to answer. But if you still can’t find an answer to your question, then it’s a good idea to go ahead and ask the seller your question directly. Don’t be afraid to ask about the condition of the product, either. It’s your money that’s on the line here.

5. Bid low. Remember: you came to eBay to get a low price on your musical instrument. You might think that this one product is once-in-a-lifetime, but you never know when a similar deal might show up. So don’t be willing to go past a certain (low) price for what you’re buying.

If you want more tips on buying instruments on eBay, check out this eBay Forum Post that covers the topic in greater detail.

Cheap Musical Instruments

There are a lot of people out there who consider themselves deal-seekers and voracious customers: these are the people who love talking to customer service representatives, haggling with individual retailers, and shopping around for the best price.

If you’ve never been that kind of proactive consumer but still enjoy a good discount on a musical instrument, it’s time to brush up on some great buying strategies.  Buy musical instruments for less and you’ll wonder why you ever paid full price.

But where does one start, especially if you’ve never bought a musical instrument before?  Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.  Here are just a few tips for getting the musical instruments you want at the price you determine.

Tip #1:  eBay is your friend.

There’s truly no site on the Internet like eBay, the world’s largest marketplace for what you’re about to do.  Whether you want to buy musical instruments or find a nice used Aston Martin to drive around town, eBay’s got just about everything.  This is a great place to start even if you don’t plan on buying anything here – you’ll find out about how low prices can get for the used musical instruments you’re seeking.  (And, yes, you should consider buying used instruments; as long as you know what you’re doing, you can ensure they’ll be high-quality). Better yet, we’ve brought all the best deals on eBay, about to end, right to this very site. Have a browse around.

Tip #2:  Reputation is your reference.

One reason we encourage you to use eBay is that it really helps you to prevent fraud – all you have to do is peruse each individual seller’s profile and you’ll see what kind of customer feedback they’ve been getting.  In other words, to succeed as a seller on eBay, you’ve got to provide products that are actually close to what people think they’re buying – otherwise you’ll just get hammered in the user ratings section.  If you’re a new buyer, don’t work with anyone who doesn’t have an overwhelmingly positive user feedback rating.  And make sure you avoid new sellers without any rating at all.

Tip #3:  Haggle.

Other sites like Craigslist (caveat emptor!) will allow you to haggle with sellers in order to bring the price down – you might even consider trades and barters in order to secure the musical instrument you’re looking for.  If you’ve never been much of a haggler, just remember this simple principle:  the negotiator who is more willing to say “no” generally wins the day.  If you’re willing to walk away because you don’t get a price you like, then you’ll be in the position to haggle effectively.  Buy musical instruments with a keen eye on protecting your wallet in the process.

Musical Keyboard

Musical Keyboards Are Perhaps The Best Way To Learn Music.

Between seeing all of the notes laid out in front of you and the choices of hearing different synthesized instruments, you basically are granted total access to create just about any sound you like.  Any good recording studio will have a musical keyboard ready to go, and even live bands will tug them around from show to show.  Why?  Because they’re so versatile.

But you already know this, which is why you’re looking to buy one of your own.  There’s just one problem: with so many out there, where on earth do you start?  Here are a few tips.

Start with a Price in Mind

They say that every man has his price, so be one of those men (or women) and set your budget ahead of time.  If you want a larger, more capable keyboard, save up your money for a longer period of time.  If you simply want a keyboard that can spit out sounds on command, you can go cheaper.  A great place to start is somewhere like this simple Casio mini keyboard, a mere $50 or so, depending on shipping.  If your budget is so limited that you’re ecstatic at the thought of having a keyboard for $50, you’re on the right track.  If you take one look at that keyboard and think “Hmm – that’s not enough,” then you’ve got some more work to do.  Start with the price in mind and everything will flow from there.

Head to a Music Hub or Marketplace

Sites like Andy’s Music Online are great for browsing.  You don’t have to be limited to one keyboard product – instead, you can look at a few and try to examine exactly what features make each keyboard different.  As you do a little research, you’ll find that some features will matter to you more than others – for example, if you don’t have headphones, you’ll probably want to find a keyboard with headphones included.

Another great site is eBay, which is always an option if you’re looking for a cheap product of just about any sort.  Musical keyboards can be found on discount because they’re often used or sold at wholesale prices.


Still interested in finding a musical keyboard that actually delivers on its many promises?  Then you’ll want to use the links in this article and get started searching for musical keyboards that strike the right chord with you.

Maton Guitar

Never heard of the Maton Guitar?  Then you’re probably not from Australia.  Maton has been building guitars since the 1940’s, and now has a reach in countries as far as the U.S., Germany, and the U.K.  But what exactly makes the Maton guitar so special, and such an iconic part of Australian guitar music culture?

There’s a reason Bill May, the founder of Maton Guitars, was inducted to the Australian Music Association Awards hall of fame: the impact these Maton Guitars have had on Australia as a whole.  Let’s take a look at that impact and learn a little more about this unique brand.

Maton Influence

Maton guitar’s influence has reached as far as the Beatles, with George Harrison owning a MS500 model.  As you might imagine, they’ve also played a significant role on this side of the pond with firm footing in Melbourne.

A guitar’s influence starts with who uses it, which serves as a gauge for the kind of craftsmanship the guitar offers.  In the case of the Maton guitar, various models have appeared with the aforementioned-Beatles, the Kooks, children band The Wiggles, and even Queens of the Stone Age.  The variety of bands the Maton guitar has touched suggests not only its widespread influence, but its influence over time as well.

Guitar Models and Types

Okay, so what exactly makes a Maton guitar a Maton guitar?  You’ll find the usual suspects at the Maton web site, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, mini Matons, and even an “Australian” series bent on making the Australian influence on music both unique and pronounced.

Maton guitars also offers custom guitars that you can’t find anywhere else, and for the true music buff who loves an individual sense of style to go along with his or her musical instruments, the investment is well worth the upfront cost.  How many people can say they have a custom-made Australian Maton guitar in their collection of musical instruments? (Note:  To get a comprehensive view of the different makes and models of Maton guitar, check out their site map).

For the window shopper, it’s interesting to note that Maton offers tours of their facilities, so make sure that you contact Maton in advance to learn more about these tours. They can also make a nice experience for someone who’s visiting Australia.

Even if you’re not in Australia, you can possibly find a Maton Guitar near your hometown, as their presence extends to Europe, Asia, and North America.

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Electric Acoustic Guitars

The electric acoustic guitar is a unique entry in the field of guitars, precisely because it’s a little difficult to define. If you’ve ever used an electric guitar, you know that it’s not in the same ballpark as an acoustic, and vice versa. So how exactly do the two meet in the middle, and what kind of sound does an electric acoustic guitar create?

Defining the Electric Acoustic Guitar

An electric guitar is easier to define because of its reliance on electronics and sound equipment in order to generate its full sound. Likewise, an acoustic guitar is a guitar that relies strictly on the sound it generates – without any plugins – to play to the ear of the listener. So if the two types of guitars are so different, where does an electric acoustic guitar come in?

Quite simply, an electric acoustic guitar is an acoustic guitar that is “rigged” up in order to modify and enhance the sound an otherwise acoustic guitar would generate. (If you want to see one in action, check out this YouTube video).

A good way of looking at an electric acoustic guitar is to imagine an acoustic guitar hooked up in the same was an electric guitar. It’s still capable of producing acoustic sounds, but it can also generate sounds an electric guitar wouldn’t be equipped for.

Elements of the Electric Acoustic

If you’re separating guitars by types, then you’d want a new category devoted to the electric acoustic. Why? Isn’t the electric acoustic just a glorified acoustic? As you saw in the video, this isn’t the case: an electric acoustic is instead equipped specifically for plug-in capabilities.

These capabilities include elements like transducers, microphones, and pickups. An electric acoustic guitar is capable of plugging into speakers without the need for microphones, which is essentially what makes it an “electric” acoustic in the first place.

How much do Electric Acoustic Guitars Cost?

After a quick search on Google, you’ll find that an electric acoustic guitar will generally run you around several hundred dollars – if you’re paying much less, then you’re probably buying it used or even possibly being scammed out of some money. When you look for electric acoustic guitars you can purchase, make sure that you order them with all of the equipment you’d expect from a guitar that’s plugin-ready. Don’t settle for anything less and you’ll soon find that you have a unique sound that many guitarists haven’t even pursued!

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