Tips – 9/11 – Musical Gear

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Guitar

You have an old guitar lying around in your garage, and even though you’ve bought a new one and hardly play anything else, you can’t help but feel nostalgic for the days when you were just a beginner.

If you plan on becoming a rock star, you wouldn’t quite mind having your first guitar to auction off for charity.

But how do you know if it’s simply better to move on and forget the old guitar?

When It’s Good to Let Go

Let’s face it:  your chances of becoming a rock star aren’t very good.  If you can prove me wrong, you’ll be the exception to the rule.  If you do want to become a rock star, feel free to ignore my advice.  For many casual musicians, however, the time to “let go” of an old guitar or musical instrument is simple:  when you upgrade to something better.

Many times, you might even try selling your old instrument in advance to generate some cash for the new purchase.  If you want to upgrade your music and feel nothing sentimental for your old instrument, simply get rid of it.  It will take up zero space and give you a little less room in your wallet, if you know what I mean.

After all, if you know how to get a new instrument without breaking the bank, the money from the old instrument might be able to fund the new purchase!

 

When It’s Good to Hold On

Of course, it’s sometimes good to hold on to a musical instrument, especially if you have younger siblings or children to pass the instrument on to and want to keep it around until that happens.

You can also keep it with you for sentimental value:  for example, if your guitar was ever held by someone famous, you can hang it in your music room and have a story to tell for the rest of your life.

You might also simply want to keep your instrument if you can’t afford anything better.  Don’t necessarily stretch every dollar you have or go into debt just to buy the latest, fanciest guitar.

Bottom line?  Knowing when it’s time to move on from your musical instrument is a decision you make.  Make it a good decision.

 

Bass Guitar

 

Choosing a bass guitar is like playing the guitar itself:  for some people, it will come quite naturally, and for others, it will require a bit of work.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t become one heck of a bass guitar player – it just means you’ll have to do your research before you upgrade your sound.

So what kind of bass guitar will suit your style?  Here are some ways to find out.

Do your research.

Well, you’re already doing your research by reading this article, so you’re already on your way.  But make sure to check out articles like these that mention specific guitars – like the Yamaha RBX374 – that can be suited for beginners.  When you do your research, it’s important to start with the end in mind.  What kind of bass guitarist would you like to be?  What kind of sound do you want to achieve?  Start with those questions and work from there.

This can feel like you’re researching backwards and not acknowledging your current financial situation, but let those details sort themselves out as you go along.

Decide:  Simple or Stylish?

Of course, “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean you sacrifice style.  The choice here is not complicated:  do you want a lot of frills with your guitar, or do you simply want something that you can play to practice?  What you answer here will often determine the kind of budget you’ll need for your bass guitar, so give this one a lot of thought.

Are you in a band?

It’s one thing if you’re deciding on a bass guitar for yourself, but if you’re in a band, you’ve got other things to consider.  You’ll need a bass guitar that suits your band.  Check out this advice for choosing a bass guitar if you’re in a band to get a better handle on it.

Remember also that the bass guitarist will often be playing closely with the drummer – at the very least, they need to come up with a sound that complements each other.  Talk to your drummer if you need some help with this.

Ultimately, the kind of bass guitar that suits your style is up to you.  Just make sure to give it a good amount of thought before you commit the money.

Pearl Export EX

There’s nothing that really quite creates the delicious smack, boom, and twang of a great drum set, but finding that great drum set is another story.

In this review, we’re going to be looking at the Pearl Export EX Five-Piece drum set, a set with a reasonable price (not far over $1,300) and solid wood construction.

(Quick note:  check out one long-time user’s review at DrumSetConnect to see their experience with the set.

Pros:  What Makes this Set Stand Out?

There’s no doubt that the Pearl Export EX Five-Piece is a good-looking drum set.  Available in colors like wine red, the set is constructed with a good amount of precision and works well for accessibility.

You won’t feel self-conscious sitting behind a drum set like this; in fact, you’ll probably feel pretty dang rad, for lack of a better term.

Of course, a drum set isn’t there for looking pretty; it’s there to produce a killer sound.  The vivid, aggressive sound of the Pearl Export EX Five-Piece set is thanks to some solid wood construction and craftsmanship on the individual drums.  Pearl is also intense about the individual sounds of each drum.

This particular drum set should also sound excellent right after you purchase it.

For the price of around $1,300, this drum set is also a reasonable investment and won’t require a whole lot of saving if you really want to acquire it.

Cons:  What’s the bad news?

There’s not a lot of bad news to give you.  If this drum set were more steeply priced, it might start to get unreasonable, but if you’re looking for a “value” drum set, this is one you might want to consider.

For a more advanced drummer who might need a kit capable of producing a high variety of sound, this set might not be the right one for you.

It can work great for beginners who want a solid first drum set with quality sound, but if you’re a more advanced player and plan on doing a lot with your drums in terms of sound, you might find this set a little limited.  The good news is that just about any five-piece set of this sort would be similarly limited.

 

PEARL EXPORT LACQUER DRUM SET 5 PIECE SH…

$599.00
PEARL EXPORT SERIES 5 PIECE DRUM KIT

$150.00
PEARL DRUM SET EXX725SC702 EXPORT 5 PIEC…

$649.00





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Home Studio

 

For bands or solo artists that are just starting out, recording in a music studio isn’t always a possibility.  Home recording is an emerging business, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to produce studio-quality sound with an old microphone and a computer.  If you really want to take your home recording seriously, you’ll have to have the equipment, the skills, and the drive.  Are you ready to start home recording?  Here are five ways to tell.

1. You know you have the chops.

If you have all of the equipment together, hooked up and ready to go, but you don’t have the chops, you won’t have a whole lot of quality material to record.  If your band or solo skills aren’t very good, the best studio in the world won’t be able to produce quality music – though it may sound nice.  Sometimes, putting together your first home recording is a great way to measure the level of talent you’ve achieved.  This may mean you’re in for a rude awakening (“that’s me?”), but you may also surprise yourself.

2.  Your microphone’s recording quality.

It’s difficult to buy a four-dollar plastic microphone and make your recording sound like it’s studio-quality.  You don’t need to break the bank, but you do need a microphone that’s capable of capturing clear, wide-ranging sound without fuzziness or static getting in the way.  It may be time to ditch that old live microphone and find something more suited to your home recording needs.

3.  Your playback capabilities.

One of the first signs that you’re able to start home recording is how your audio sounds when played back in a pair of good headphones or on a good set of speakers.  Even if you though your band nailed a particular song, if it doesn’t sound good on playback, it’s not going to get much better when you try and put it on a CD or into a digital file.  Make sure you test out how your equipment plays your sound back in case you need to make adjustments.

4.  The quality of your sound editing software.

Sure, you can record yourself into a computer and simply let the audio stay like it is – especially if you sound good.  But what if you want to add effects, filter out different sounds, and add digital instruments?  Your sound editing software will help you there.

 

5.  Your publishing capabilities.

Ultimately, you’ll need to spread this music out – otherwise, what’s the point of recording?  Whether you’re publishing to a CD or a digital file like an MP3, you can’t lose any sound quality in the publishing.  Make sure you’re good to go in terms of publishing your sound.

Guitar Tab Sites

 

Given how easy it is to use the Internet these days, it won’t take you long to figure out how to play a song you’ve just heard on your guitar.

But going from YouTube to You playing the song isn’t always a smooth ride, especially if you’re looking for a really obscure guitar tab guide.

Finding a guitar tab isn’t always about simply filling in a Google search – it also pays to know some of the best sites to check first.  When you’ve got the hang of it, you should be able to find the guitar tab for virtually any song out there.  Here are some guitar tab sites to get you started.

1.  UltimateGuitar

UltimateGuitar allows for a simple search – by band name or by song name – and with plenty of songs in their archives, there’s a good chance you’ll find what you were looking for.  Since guitar tab sites can feature a lot of pop-ups and ads, it’s nice to see a clean site that simply gives you the goods.

2.  Chordie.com

Chordie is perhaps the cleanest, easiest guitar tab site to use, and the library of songs seems to be up to par.  There’s also a neat little feature with the search bar that allows you to click directly to a song you’re typing in.  After you run a guitar tab search, you’ll see the different results, as well as the difficulty rating for each guitar tab.  Not too tabby – er, shabby.

3.  911Tabs.com

911Tabs isn’t limited to guitar tabs – you’ll also find piano tabs, bass tabs, and even drum tabs.  Here you’ll also find a search bar, not to mention an alphabet index of the bands in their archives.  911Tabs also lets you know how many tabs they have for a band or a song upfront, so you don’t waste your time by doing too much searching.

4.   GuitarTabs.cc

Featuring a search-by-guitar-or-bass feature, GuitarTabs.cc isn’t a bad option.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary here, so don’t expect to have your work done for you, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble discovering whether or not the song you’re searching for is there or not.

5.   TabCrawler.com

TabCrawler isn’t quite the experience some of the above tab indexes are, but you can still find the songs you’re looking for with the search bar on top.  Watch out for pop-ups!

 

Microphones

For many people, the science behind the microphone is simple:  talk into this funny-looking gadget and some machine, somewhere, will be able to reproduce the sound.

Whether or not the microphone looks different from others isn’t always a top consideration, let alone the kind of technology that lurks beneath the plastic or metal casings.

 

But there really is a science behind these devices, and if you want to optimize the sound coming out of your lungs to capture it the best way possible onto a computer, you’re going to want to know the basics.

How do you tell which microphone is right for you?  You get a basic understanding of the different microphone types, and learn their advantages and disadvantages.  If the advantages cater to what you need out of a microphone, you might have found a match.

 

Dynamic Microphones:

Live microphones, according to Sound on Sound, are almost always dynamic microphones.  You know the type – it looks like a black ball-on-a-stick.  The science behind a dynamic microphone usually means that it is best suited for cheap, live hook-ups, but not necessarily a high level of sophistication and detail.  They’re great for a party, but not necessarily for a plug-in-the-headphones type of experience.

 

Capacitor Microphones:

Capacitor microphones are usually more expensive than a live or dynamic microphone, but this increase in price comes with an improved ability to pick up high-frequency details and noise.  One reason capacitor microphones are generally more expensive than other microphones like the dynamic microphone is that the sound requires a built-in preamplifier.

 

Electret Microphones:

An electret microphone is primarily a “subset” of the capacitor microphone, but usually with a reduction in cost.  A microphone like this will require a preamplifier in order to secure proper sound conversion, but if you have plenty of sound equipment lying around, this shouldn’t necessarily be a problem.

Understanding the types of microphone suited to your needs doesn’t only mean knowing the types of microphones available out there, but what they’re good at.  If you’re a band that only performs live, you’ll probably only need basic dynamic microphones – these can pick up instruments such as drums just fine, and they don’t cost as much as other types.

If you’re more concerned with achieving studio-quality sound for recording purposes, you’ll want something with more sensitivity and capacity, like a capacitor microphone.

 

 

Choosing An Audio Interface

If you’re serious enough about your audio equipment to require an audio interface, it goes without saying that you need to do some research consider your different options.

After all, an audio interface is more than a computer card – it’s a way of enhancing the recording ability of your equipment.

But how do you make sure you buy the right one, or at least one that will function properly and not screw up your entire system?

It pays to start by asking some important questions.

 

What’s your budget?

This is the question you’ll want to start with.  How much money do you have available?  It’s a question that address more than the cost of the audio interface you’re considering, because you’ll also have to ask yourself if you need to be Pro Tools compatible.  Pro Tools is the “industry-wide standard” according to About.com, and the cheapest version of Pro Tools will set you back $329.

Do you have enough spending power to make sure that you’re Pro Tools compatible, or will you need to explore a different option with your audio interface?

 

Is it possible to “get away” with a regular sound card?

If you’re using a program like Apple’s GarageBand, you might not even need to buy an Audio interface.  The sound card alone should provide enough quality for you.  This might not be an option if you’re not using GarageBand, but you’ll need to ask yourself if an audio interface is worth the investment.

If your budget is limited so much that you can only get a low-quality interface without many options, it may simply be a better decision to stick with a sound card.

 

What do you really need?

Taking an honest look at your audio needs means placing more importance on those needs rather than your wants.  Make sure you do plenty of research into making sure an audio interface you’re considering would be compatible with the other hardware and software you’re using; if you’re in doubt, try and ask people who know more than you:  you can find them on Internet message boards or simply around the electronics shop.

 

Ultimately, choosing an audio interface that doesn’t screw up your recording experience means looking for that compatibility.

If you do decide on buying an audio interface, focus on how your audio interface could fit in with your other equipment.

 

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