Tips – 3/11 – Musical Gear

tips Archives

So you’ve started a rock band, you’ve mastered a few songs, you’ve got your image down and now the time has come to demonstrate what your group is capable of on tour.

Unless you have a recognisable logo attached to your band’s merchandise and flyers however, you might as well stay at home and go for that perfect score on Guitar Hero because no one is going to remember you the morning after your set!

Sure, you can blame the copious alcoholic beverages at the bar for your audiences’ slippery minds but it makes sense to get the branding side to your musical endeavours correct from the offset.

For some inspiration, check out six of the very best band logos of all time below:

HIM: Heartagram

HIM-HeartagramVocalist Ville Valo for the band HIM – or His Infernal Majesty – has often joked that his group has become better known for its logo (that he designed on his 20th birthday) than the music that they create. For fans of the Finnish ballad-meets-metal rock outfit though, the symbol perfectly connotes the “love metal” sound of the band. For critics, the heart-meets-pentagram symbol is representational of the accessibility of the band for non-heavy metal aficionados.

The logo is etched on many regular and celebrity fans of the band, including LA tattooist Kat Von D, keyboardist for the metal band Bleeding Through (Marta Peterson) and Jackass/professional skateboarder Bam Margera. Valo shares the distribution licence for the heartagram image with his good friend Margera who has released both skate decks and shoes emblazoned with the logo. This often sees the heartagram mistakenly understood as belonging to Margera alone.

Whether you like the band or not, you have to admit that HIM’s logo – whilst simplistic – is genius.

Rolling Stones: Tongue and Lip

Rolling Stone LipsMick Jagger was left wholly unimpressed by the logo suggestions made by the bands’ label Decca Records in 1971 and so headed to the Brighton College of Art to seek a new designer. Art graduate and designer John Pasche is the man responsible for Rolling Stones’ tongue and lip logo which first appeared on the blues-rock bands’ 1971 Sticky Fingers album.

The design has appeared on endless fashion garments over the years and these have been sported by many celebrities who likely wouldn’t know anything about the band beyond their hit song ‘Paint it Black.’ Whilst this fact is a shame, it is indicative of just how classic the pop art design is. So symbolic of rock n’ roll is the logo that Pache’s original artwork is now displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum of Art in London. The museum bid a whopping $92,500 via a phone auction for this privilege.

Misfits: Skull

Misfits Skull LogoThe Misfits skull logo was inspired by a Stan Lee comic book drawing which accompanied the 1946 film serial The Crimson Ghost. Singer Glenn Danzig used a Xerox machine to create his higher contrast version of the ghost’s face. The skeletal character first appeared on the horror-punks’ single ‘Horror Business’ in 1979 and subsequently became a mascot for the band. Eventually the face alone became the bands’ logo and today it adorns everything from belt buckles, to shoes, to lunchboxes and more.

The Crimson Ghost is not the only comic to have inspired Misfits’ artwork; the cover for their album Die Die My Darling was borrowed from a 1950s horror comic called Chamber of Chills and the skull logo for the singers own, separate band – Danzig – strongly borrows from 1980s toy comic Crystar the Crystal Warrior. 

Nine Inch Nails: NIN

Nine Inch Nails LogoThe logo for the industrial rock/metal outfit Nine Inch Nails was a design collaboration between (largely solo) band member Trent Reznor and art director/photographer Gary Talpas who also designed the CD inlays for several NIN records before the year of 2007, as well as Marilyn Manson’s Smells like Children EP.  The font for the NIN logo was inspired by the Talking Heads album Remain in Light.

This ambigram (also known as an inversion or flipscript) logo makes the list due to its simplicity and the fact that the logo is highly recognisable, despite the fact that Reznor has previously admitted that there is little meaning behind the name chosen for his musical project, other than the fact that Nine Inch Nails “abbreviated easily.”

Metallica: Lightning

Metallica LogoIf you want to connote just how powerful your thrash-metal band is, you could do worse than to design your logo to resemble lightning! Metallica’s logo was first sketched by the bands’ guitarist and lead vocalist James Hetfield years before the band managed to secure worldwide fame. Hetfield is also the man behind the variants of the spiky ended logo which have appeared on numerous Metallica releases and merchandise over the past three decades.

The original logo design first appeared on a set of business cards designed and printed by Hetfield in the early 80s which the singer was using to try and secure gigs for the band. Underneath the logo on these cards were the words “Power Metal”; a description that drummer Lars Ulrich took an instant disliking to. However, it would seem that the logo packed enough of a punch to make this description forgivable in the eyes of club owners and promoters since it wasn’t long before the band had bookings rolling in.

The author of this guest post – Kat Cole – has been working on a logo design for her own rock band but thinks that she should seek professional help from a logo maker.

Hot Girl Playing Drums

If you are interested in playing the drums, it is fairly easy to start, but while many end playing drums, few actually play it them well.

One of the reasons for this is that they are self taught, and while there are the select few that become great at their instrument, the sad truth is that most self taught drummers end up wandering off and developing faltering techniques.

Below is a general guide on what you need to get the most out of your drums, and buy a drum kit that fits you and your playing style.

Setting Up a Budget

Whether or not you are going to pay for lessons, drumming can get expensive fast. You can’t just buy a drum set and start whacking away at them.   It’s important to set aside enough money to purchase a drum kit, the hardware and cymbals (most drum kits don’t include these), a seat, plenty of drum sticks and a metronome.

A question commonly asked by new drummers is if they should purchase a cheap kit and see if they even like it at all, or get a higher end model.  Depending on your budget, if you can afford it I say definitely get a higher end model.  This way you won’t outgrow it soon after you start learning how to play, and later down the road you can even use it to play live shows with a band you might form.

To start your drumming comfortably, I would recommend having at least $1,000 on hand.  This will be enough to get a high quality entry level kit, plenty of drum sticks and a metronome, as well as all of the hardware and cymbals you might need.

Should You Get a Drum Teacher?

While this guide was mostly written to help self taught drummers, I think it’s important to at least talk about the possibility of getting a drum teacher.  If you have ever tried to teach anything yourself and failed because you either lost focus, didn’t know where to start or you weren’t disciplined enough to keep going or practice, I would definitely recommend searching for a teacher.

The right instructor will stress the importance of strong foundational skills, teach you what you want to learn and change his methods to help you learn easier.  Scout local ads, music shops and online ads to find a teacher.  Ideally you’d want a teacher that doesn’t have too many students so they aren’t in danger of burning out, and make sure he doesn’t charge too much.  Compare prices from various different resources so you get an idea of what you’ll be paying for drum lessons.

The Different Between Playing and Practicing

Throughout the eight years that I’ve been a music teacher, only one thing really bothered me that many of my students did; I would give them a homework assignment, and the following week when we met again they would cheerfully claim that they were practicing all week.  Upon playing the assignment back to me, I would notice the same mistakes as last week still present, only this time the student could play it faster.

First of all, faster does not mean better.  The slower you learn a piece, the faster you will be able to perfect it.  Secondly, there is a big different between playing all week and practicing all week.  To play the piece means to just regurgitate it as you remember it.  Mistakes are going to stay, and there will be very little improvements.  Practicing, however, means that you sat down, played the piece, analyzed it, observed what you did incorrectly and then work to correct it.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a basic idea of what you’ll need to start drumming, you are ready to purchase your  drum kit.  When you first get it and everything is set up to your liking, I personally recommend not thinking about any lessons or technique for the first week and just bash away at them.  After you get the initial novelty out of your system, then you will be ready to learn technique.  Drums are great fun and a brilliant way to let out some energy.  The fruit of your labor will come in the form of a band that plays the music you love, and who knows, you might even play live shows down the road.

DJ Controller

As part of my lucky job (editor of a digital DJ website), I get to visit DJ shows all over the place – and I’ve noticed something definitely changing in the last few years.

In the past, DJs saved up to buy two Technics turntables and a mixer, then ferociously practised for a year or two before tentatively venturing out to play gigs – on two Technics and a mixer.

They ruminated over musical choices, lived or died by what was in their record boxes, and all the time fought to maintain good beatmixing with fluffy needles and ever-more-inebriated heads (and hands!) as their DJ sets wore into the night. Then, they rinsed and repeated – hopefully slowly learning the art as they went along.

Nowadays, with digital DJing equipment lowering the barriers to entry still more every season, it’s all changed. People buy DJ controllers like they buy mobile phones – depending upon what new features are contained therein, and with half an eye on their exit strategy so that this time next year, they can upgrade

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although rampant consumerism entering DJing is a little bit sad for long-in-the-tooth purists such as me), except that sometimes DJs – and especially new DJs – confuse technology with skill. That is to say, they look for the next flash of inspiration not to come from the tunes, or a great night out, or watching another DJ, or, heaven forbid, just pure old-fashioned inspiration, but from the tech they just bought.

And this is the bit I find a little sad. Because in losing that year or two of practising, DJs are losing the patience needed to perfect the art.

I love the possibilities of technology, and I definitely don’t want the cat to go back in the bag, but I do thing there’s a real need for today’s DJs to buy some gear, then stop and learn to use that gear rather than worry about the “next big thing” 24/7.

Of course, this is something that’s been rampant in the music production world for a long time… but its arrival in DJing is something relatively new.

Hopefully the pendulum will swing back and we’ll get a better balance between the technology and the art side of things – because all the technology in the world can’t spot a clever mix, or know which tune to put on next.

• Phil Morse is editor of Digital DJ Tips, a site for people who want to learn to DJ with digital DJ gear.

Ibanez Xiphos XPT707Inspired by the classic, edgy look of the Jackson Warrior, the Ibanez Xiphos was first released in 2007.  Two models were produced; the six string XPT700, and the XPT707, which is a seven string guitar.  While the two exhibit the same wild design, the XPT707 is definitely the one to choose for any guitarist into metal or hard rock.


The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the guitar is its sharp design, literally.  Resembling a violent interpretation of the Jackson Warrior, the pointed corners and wide angles give the XPT707 a bold look.  The finish looks beautiful, and can come in either a Red Chameleon color or glossy black.

While traditionally most seven string guitars have wide, thick necks, the Xiphos maintains the thin, flat, fast-playing neck that has become a trademark for Ibanez.  The input jack is located inside one of the spikes on the body, keeping the cable out of your way.

My only complaint about the design of the guitar, though this tends to be common among seven strings, is that it is too neck-heavy.  Anytime I would wear the guitar standing up, the neck would slowly start tilting towards the floor.  Even though it might not be a big deal to some players, for those who play extremely technical passages won’t appreciate holding the guitar neck upright while trying to play.


The guitar itself is packed with some very nice features.  The bridge system is an Edge III, and while it’s not everyone’s favorite tremolo system, it works nicely. The locking bridge allows for some really steep dive bombs.

The Xiphos’ body is constructed out of Mahogany and has a neck-thru design, which means the body and neck are basically one piece.  This allows for much longer sustain, deeper low ends, a more stable neck and a better tone overall.

Included with the guitar are two Dimarzio D Activator 7 pickups.  Ibanez has stated that these pickups, which are passive, are meant to produce sounds that mimic active pickups.  Depending on the amplifier you are playing out of, this might be true, but unfortunately to most players it won’t feel like psuedo-active pickups at all.

The tone, however, still sounds incredible, especially its low end.  The low end of this guitar will be absolutely booming no matter what amp you are playing out of, and even though the low notes are usually muddy on seven strings, on the Ibanez Xiphos they remain crystal clear, distortion or not.

Soloing on this guitar is a dream come true. With twenty five frets and a jumbo fretboard, you will easily be able to reach those glorious high notes.  Squeals and pinch harmonics will come out easily due to the high gain pickups, and notes can be bent and trilled as much as you need thanks to the long sustain.

Final Thoughts

One thing that I have seen many players complain about online, and I noticed it on my guitar as well, is that the guitar’s action is much too high out of the box.  It will take a long time to tweak it just right, and I suggest seeking the help of a professional who has done many guitar set ups before if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.

Besides the high action and the annoying neck weight, the Ibanez Xiphos XPT707 is a fantastic guitar that will meet the demands of most metal musicians, and deserves at least a try the next time you see it at your local guitar store.







« Previous12


Instruments For Kids

Who hasn’t giggled over the idea of giving a young niece or nephew a drum set to “get back” at a sibling?

Many parents have a love-hate relationship with musical toys.

In theory, they love the idea of helping their child develop a love of music.

In practice, the last thing you want to hear after a long day at work is junior banging on his toy xylophone.

If you’re tempted to ban musical toys from your home, consider these three ways that playing with them can help your child’s development.

 1. Playing with musical instruments helps children develop their innate sense of rhythm.

A keen sense of rhythm isn’t just good for dancing and not embarrassing yourself while clapping in a crowd, it also helps children’s budding language and pattern recognition skills. These form the building blocks of reading, mathematics and science.

Young children are delighted by their own discoveries of rhythm. All of that banging and crashing might just sound like noise to us, but for a child, it’s their way of exercising their brains while having a lot of fun.

Toy drums, maracas and tambourines are all good choices for helping your child explore rhythm.

2. Musical toys can help children refine their motor skills.

Some toys, like recorders and keyboards help children exercise their finger muscles and learn to use them in isolation. Instruments like maracas and rhythm sticks are good practice for rotating the wrist. Blowing into a harmonica or kazoo helps children learn to control their lips and breath.

Children learn how to vary the intensity of their movements by experimenting with banging on a drum and seeing what happens with a big bang versus a soft tap. Using any instrument will help increase a child’s hand-eye coordination and motor planning abilities. These skills will help children as they learn to write, type, use tools and in future formal music/voice instruction.

 3. Playing with musical toys will help your child develop healthy self esteem and nurture their creativity.

Children enjoy performing for their parents and hearing their applause. Toy musical instruments, costumes and other props help encourage children to let out their inner ham and practice appearing in front of a crowd. This will help them develop confidence so that they are more comfortable with public speaking at school and in their adult life.

Children can let their imaginations run free as they play their instruments. They can pretend to be a famous pop musician or in a marching band. They can and will discover ways to use their instruments to produce new sounds. Their curiosity will be ignited as they find that by varying pressure and pace their song will take a new turn.

Parents can help their child reap these benefits by providing them with a variety of toy instruments and encouraging them to use them. If noise is a concern, set reasonable limits on when, where and for how long children can use these toys. As long as you are reasonably flexible, limits won’t discourage your child, in fact, it can make it that much more enticing!

Jacob Maslow has five school age kids. He blogs for Today’s Concept and Allergy Be Gone. Jacob believes that real toys don’t need batteries. Todays Concept carries Melissa and Doug classic toys, which delight children as much as Mommy’s iPad.


Setting Up A Home Recording Studio

Any kind of musician knows this basic truth : Idea’s come without warning, at any time.

With this basic idea in mind, it’s useful to think about how you can prepare a ‘space’ where your ideas have the room to grow.

As  a musician, you’ll no doubt know that most recordings these days are done on computers, in studio’s, usually owned either by professional recording studios, or people on their own home studio setups.

This site and it’s author prefer the latter to the former, so we’ll be focussing on how to setup a home studio that’s ready when your muse comes forth.

Dedicate Some Space Man

The first thing we’ve noticed, is that you really need a dedicated space to setup all your gear. Sure, you can record a album in your bedroom, but things are pretty cramped and you’ll probably need to pack up your kit at some stage to make room for living. So, if you can, find yourself a seperate room in the house, or even better, a bungalow out the back, or fit out your garage. The quality of space isn’t as important as the principle that it’s isolated, and used for once function only : to create music.

Room To Move

The second thing we’ve found when setting up a dedicated space, is that you want enough room to move around. Music isn’t a stationary, anchored concept, and neither should you be when you’re making it. Try and spread your setup around the walls of your space, so you  and any musical collaborators you’re working with can move around. Get some chairs on wheels, so seating is moveable, and position microphones, guitar amps, and MAC or PC based recording setups to the side walls, so you have space to perform.

Lights…  Camera… Action?

Lastly, and ideally before you jump in to record some great musical ideas, you want to make sure everything is setup and ready to go. If you’ve got a computer recording setup, make sure all the cables to guitars, keyboards, microphones etc… are all plugged in and ready to go. Make sure your DAW is configured to connect to your audio interface. Make sure your mics are hooked up, and placed on stands, ready. Test out your Midi Keyboard and make sure it’s transmitting midi to the right channel.

Open up a test recording on your multi track recorder or DAW, and test everything out. Play some guitar, make sure it’s recording properly. Test out your mic’s (one..two… one two.. testing!) and check for noise and quality. Do this with every instrument you use to ensure that when you’re ready, so is your studio.

The last thing you want to face when you have fresh, killer tune in your head is technical challenges. Tech problems in music can evaporate musical ideas faster then beers on a hot summers day, so the best thing you can do is iron out all the crinks before inspiration hits. Get all your gear working and ready, and when the time comes, all you need to do is plugin, and hit record. Too Easy!

Musical Instrument Brands

Musical instrument brands should not be ignored. At least, not if you want to be a serious musician who really knows the differences between sounds that different brands may create.

To the ordinary ear, the difference between a Yamaha drum and a Ludwig drum might not be so pronounced, but to a trained ear, the different brands will have different trademarks and features that only they recognize.

f you really want to create the sound that’s right for you, it doesn’t hurt to be able to identify a few of the top brands.

And what brands are those? Well, you can start checking out musical instrument brands by alphabetical order. We recommend, however, sticking with this article to find out wy it’s important to understand the different brands and what it might mean for you as you try to choose a musical instrument that best suits your style. After all, if you plan on making a serious investment in your musical knowledge, you’re really going to want to tackle this issue head-on. You don’t want to spend all that money “in the dark” as to what brands can offer you what. With that in mind, here’s how to find a musical instrument brand that suits your needs.

First, you don’t have to necessarily be attached to one brand, or feel any brand loyalty to one over the other. Companies like Yamaha and Ludwig are out there competing for your business – it’s their responsibility to put together a product that you want to enjoy. You don’t have to be a “Ludwig” man for every piece of your drum set; although you will be if you buy a full drum kit from them!

With that in mind, you’ll want to instead focus on the individual offerings each brand has to offer. A really “bird’s-eye” place to start is at the brand sites themselves. Checking a site like Yamaha’s is a way to get introduced to their different offerings, but not necessarily to be seduced by one in particular. There can be better deals out there, such as buying used equipment, and that’s if you do find the instrument that you think is right for you.

It helps to know what you want. You’ll need to know what you’re looking for if you want to pick out the right brand for you: you don’t necessarily want to pick a brand name simply because you’ve heard of it before. At the same time, you do want to acknowledge that with a brand name comes a certain guarantee of quality, so you don’t want to swing too far to any one particular point of view here. You simply want to find the musical instrument that suits you best.

The brand you choose will also depend on the type of instrument you want to buy. You might consider buying a Les Paul guitar, while you may find that a Yamaha piano would best suit your needs. Again, choosing to look at individual products is a great way to find out what you want first: you might want to pay attention to the brand later in your research so you understand the context in which you’re making your purchase.

There’s no sure-fire way to guarantee that you’ll buy the right musical instrument every time, but you can certainly buy the right brand without too much trouble. Just make sure that you’re willing to put in the right kind of effort into your research and you should be able to choose a product that really suits what you’re looking for musically.

 Page 3 of 11 « 1  2  3  4  5 » …  Last » 
#footer {display:none;}