Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to Make a Backing Track for Whole Lotta Love

I have written several posts on the value of backing tracks and how to make your own. I just finished making one for Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and thought I would list the settings.

Making your own backing tracks is simply a matter of using guitar cancelling software to deemphasize the lead guitar on your favorite songs and recording the result. I use the guitar cancellation features in the TASCAM Guitar Trainer, a must have unit for anyone wanting to make maximum progress in minimal time. I have depicted the connection path above; line out from the CD-GT1MKII to the line in of the M-Audio soundcard to the recording software (Ableton Live in this case). The links included in this post will provide background for more details.

I’m using Led Zeppelin II Atlantic 82633-2 produced in 1994 for this example and Jimmy Page’s lead guitar work is panned left for the intro and verse sections of the piece and panned right for the solo. The cancellation settings on the CD-GT1MKII are as follows:

-Intro and Verse – CNCL:ON, PART:L 9, RNGE:ALL, MONO:OFF, SPLT:OFF.
-Solo – CNCL:ON, PART:R 9, RNGE:ALL, MONO:OFF, SPLT:OFF
-I turn cancellation off altogether for the Theremin section.

Keep in mind that while good, the cancellation software is not great and this is also a digital to analog conversion. This will not be a professional sounding backing track but it will be a great practice aid. It would be great and likely profitable if the recording industry issued backing tracks from their back catalogs.

The reason this is such a great practice aid is that if you do not cancel out the guitar parts you are trying to emulate, you can delude yourself into thinking your prowess is greater than it really is. For example, on "Whole Lotta Love", Jimmy will never miss a lick, no matter how many times you play along with him. But, your mileage may vary. It is a whole lot better if the guitar part is cancelled so you can hear all of your clams in their glory so you can continue to improve. Also, don't forget to record yourself when playing against the backing track you've made.

In my example I record backing tracks in Ableton Live. If I want to record myself along with the backing track it is simply a matter of arming another track for recording and playing along. Later on, I can apply some critical listening to the mix of my recorded track and the backing track. While not always pleasant it will always be illuminating for you.

>>Related Articles
Backing Tracks: How to Make Your Own
How to Make Your Own Backing Tracks and Transfer LPs to MP3 Format
Learn to Play Guitar: Secret Shortcuts for Baby Boomers

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to Tweak the Tone on Your Analog Delay

I added an analog delay (Ibanez AD9) as part of my ongoing project for building a pedal board. I haven’t used it much until recently because I didn’t feel it sounded good. Here’s where I went wrong in hopes it helps someone else out.

My main problem with this pedal was I misunderstood the use of the Delay Level control (right hand knob). This knob is simply a wet/dry control. If it is turned all the way up, the entire signal goes through the delay and is affected by the settings of the other knobs; Delay Time and Repeat. A totally dry signal bypasses the delay effects. Duh! Once I realized that, the AD9 has become my favorite effects pedal second only to the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer.

You set how long of a delay you are looking for using the Delay Time knob, set how many repeats using the Repeat knob, and then the Delay Level allows you to control how prevalent (wet) you want those settings to be in your signal chain.

I’m working on two songs right now that use slap back echo; Brian Setzer’s version of “Sleepwalk” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House”. I included an example of slap back echo for the AD9 in the diagram above. Given the slow tempo of these songs it is a fairly long delay with one repeat. Once I have that I just play with the Delay Level until the effect is prevalent enough but doesn’t overwhelm the signal chain and I’m off to the races.

One other point in closing is that the AD9 pedal has two outputs; Out and Dry Out. The “Out” output carries the delayed signal. The “Dry Out” is a totally dry signal that you can route to another amp. The labels are difficult to read because of glare on the surface, just be sure you use the correct one based on what you are trying to do!

>>Related Articles
Guitar Tone: Tips and Tricks on What Works for You
How to Build a Pedal Board for Electric Guitar
Guitar Tone: How to Tweak Your Signal Chain and Nail those Elusive Tones

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meet The WannaBeatles

While bustling down the freeway flanked by eighteen wheelers I turned on our Pubic Radio station and ran across the Beatles. They actually turned out to be The WannaBeatles, a Beatles tribute band.

The Wannabeatles are Jim Hayden, Dennis Scott, Bryan Cumming and David Toledo, out of Nashville, Tennessee (Music City). Given my site is devoted to aging wannabe rockers needing to make up for lost time I feel it only appropriate I mention the WannaBeatles!

What I heard was a live program on the local public radio station WPLN, you can check it out here.

Influences: The Beatles
Sound Like: The Beatles

Check them out at thewannabeatles.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Guitar Magazines From the Rocking Eighties

A friend of mine from work loaned me one of his back issues of "Guitar for the Practicing Musician" from 1987. Before returning it I thought this would make for a good post. Welcome to the Rocking Eighties!

Jimi Hendrix is on the cover but he's on the cover of most guitar magazines today so that doesn't really date the issue. The hairdos of Night Ranger on the other hand is a dead giveaway that we're in the 80s!

I included some pages below that outline the hottest new gear, an example of an ad for amps (a lot like the amp ads today), and some readers choice awards.

If this piques your interest, you can find back issues for sale on the Internet. Also, Guitar World now has a viewer for back issues on their website including issue number 1 from 1980!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

How Expensive is Guitar Gear Addiction?

One of my favorite sayings about guitar gear is “How many guitars does one guitarist need; just one more.” Unfortunately, my family members do not appreciate the expense associated with this adage. My counter to this has been that this hobby it is not that expensive because the value of the gear does not drop. Now that I’ve owned guitars for more than two years I thought I should see if this is true.

I researched three guitars on Gbase.com, Guitar Center, eBay, and Craigslist:
· 2004 Les Paul Special Ebony Faded
· 2004 Fender American Stratocaster Sunburst
· 2006 Les Paul Standard 1958 Vintage Original Spec

It turns out I am $150 to the good on my 2004 Les Paul Special. On the other hand, I’ve lost $250 on my 2004 Sunburst Fender American Stratocaster and at a break even on my 2006 Les Paul 1958 Custom Shop VOS model.


So, over two years of fun for a net cost of $100. Well, I should consider the sales tax too. And, there's the matter of the money expended not earning interest somewhere else.... Well, it still sounds good.

At least as far as hobbies go this is much better performance than gear for my past hobbies such as motorcycling, skiing, model railroading, etc, etc. That stuff plummets in value as soon as you plop down the cash.

I’ll take this kind of value any day!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Benefits of Music Making

I recently published a post regarding the side benefits of rocking in middle age. Then I ran across an article about NAMM ’08 on Music Ramble that introduced me to their Wanna Play Campaign. Little did I know I was only scratching the surface!

According to NAMM, music is healthy as well as fun! I guess when I wrote about the side benefits I focused more on the fun part. They claim music making is scientifically proven to:

· Exercise the brain
· Fight memory loss
· Reduce stress
· Lower blood pressure
· Stave off depression

This is all good stuff at any age. They cite other side benefits such as building confidence, enabling creation of social connections, and increases in creativity and productivity. Wow! I never knew I had it so good! I know their focus is sales of musical instruments but even taking the source into account, there is no bad news here.

I need to come up with some qualitative and quantitative measures to see if I’ve gained any of these benefits. I think I'm good on most of these measures but who knows, I could be lots worse off right now if I hadn’t started playing music….

>>Related Articles
Aging Rocker: Side Benefits of Rocking in Middle Age
Guitar Practice: Qualitative Methods to Measure Progress
Guitar Practice: Quantitative Methods to Measure Progress

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guitar Technique: Remember the Fine Art of Down-Picking

I did a post awhile back extolling the virtues of alternate picking (striking the string with your pick both on the down stroke and upstroke) as a technique you can't do without. Then, I ran across an article by Dave Mustaine in the February Guitar World pointing out that many of today’s players overlook the art of down-picking. Hmmm.

I have focused almost solely on alternate picking in my practice routine. But, if anyone would know about picking technique, Dave Mustaine, one of the pioneers of thrash and speed metal would, so I decided to give it a try.

I used the intro for Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” as an experiment. I had been using alternate picking for it and though I had tweaked all the elements of my signal chain I was still not satisfied with how it sounded. It just did not have the authority I hear in the recorded version. With down-picking I found an immediate improvement both in punch as well as consistency, I’m into this! So, why did this work so well?

When it came to the improvement in punch I think it goes back to the adage that the most important part of your signal chain is the guitar itself. So, what would have more influence on the tone than the pick attack? Seems reasonable.

As to consistency, I think that improvement came simply because down-picking is the best pick technique for that particular intro. By attempting to emulate the tone using the wrong technique I ended up struggling at speed and running off the rails.

What this experience shows me is that while alternate picking is still an essential tool, I just need more tools for the toolbox! Continuing to add to the toolbox really helps us latecomers to the hobby make up for lost time.

>>Related Articles

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Aging Rockers: Listen to More Than The Old Masters

What got me to the point of taking up the guitar at age 50 was a love for vintage rock of the 60s and 70s and a burning curiosity around just how they did it. But, as good as that music continues to be, do not lose sight of the the great new music being made every day.

I did a survey of my own music purchases over the past year to see how well I follow my own advice. Here are my purchases by album, format, retail channel, and rationale (what prompted me to buy it).


Old Masters
The Beatles – The Capitol Albums VOL 1 & 2 – CD – Borders Books --> Includes Stereo as well as Mono Mixes
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – CD – Borders Books --> In honor of the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”
The Eagles – Hotel California – DRM Free MP3 Downloads – Amazon --> Test driving DRM free downloads at Amazon
Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading – iTunes – Apple --> This was a big album for me during college and had not got around to transferring it from vinyl yet
The Allman Brothers Band – Live at Fillmore East – iTunes – Apple --> The South may have lost the war but they got the Allman Brothers; a good deal if you ask me. This is a must have for anyone regardless of musical taste.

Modern Times
Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full – CD – Starbucks --> I felt his deal with Starbucks was noteworthy enough to support, luckily it is a good CD too
Nevertheless – Live Like We’re Alive – iTunes – Apple --> Ran across them on late night TV and used the immediacy of digital downloads to explore them further
White Stripes – Icky Thump – CD – Starbucks --> Got into the White Stripes starting with “Elephant” based on reviews in Rolling Stone and Guitar World magazines
Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – CD – Target --> Vaguely aware of the name but Rolling Stone reviews piqued my interest; I was hooked 15 seconds into the first track
Robert Plant and Alison KraussRaising Sand – iTunes – Apple --> Was already an Alison Krauss fan and the seemingly bizarre match up was too interesting to avoid; they mesh amazingly well, definitely worth a listen
Bruce Springsteen – Magic – CD – Target --> Had to give it a listen given the raves in the music press
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America – iTunes – Apple --> This was a download prompted by a mention in Rolling Stone magazine; digital downloads facilitate impulse purchase
Brand New Sin – Tequila – iTunes – Apple --> My neighbor recommended them based on their rendition (one of millions) of “House of the Rising Sun”
John Fogerty – Revival – iTunes – Apple --> Influenced by reviews in Rolling Stone and of course being a long time “Creedence” fan.

My brief survey shows I am following my own advice although I may be cheating a bit given much of the new material comes from the old masters. However, these albums are actually good rather than being afterthoughts seeking to generate cash based on past glory. "Raising Sand" and "Magic" especially.

Another interesting aspect is the variety of retail channels where you can purchase music these days. Amazon’s service is interesting given how many labels are now providing DRM free music for download, which will put pressure on Apple's iTunes service.

So, as good as vintage rock was and is (the attention around the Led Zeppelin reunion is a case in point), there are great new artists and new material out there to explore. Exploring is easier than ever before given all the retail outlets to choose from.

>>Related Articles
Recording Industry and the Economics of Scarcity
Aging Rockers: Led Zeppelin Affirms Aging Wannabe Rockers
Guitar Resources: Gear, Theory, Technique, and Lore

Friday, January 18, 2008

Guitar Tone: Change Your Strings and Sound Better Right Now

I finally got around to changing the strings on my guitar last night. I did some playing and was blown away by how much better it sounded. If you want to sound better right now, change your strings!

While I’m sure professional players observe this, us hobbyists with busy schedules may not. Fact is, strings wear out both from the strain of your incredible shredding technique as well as corrosive effects of sweat and other aspects of your body chemistry. While I have not yet acquired incredible shredding techniques, the big improvement in sound shows I've been leaving strings on too long.

Take a look at your strings right now. If you see divots or signs of corrosion on them (you know, they look like they were retrieved from the Titanic), it’s time to change them. Changing more often doesn't have to mean expensive though.

You can usually find deals on strings and when you do, just stock up is all. And hey, with the money you are willing to spend on other get tone quick schemes, a set of strings is a bargain! Review your stringing method too while you are at it as that impacts tone and playability. The Internet has loads of references to stringing a guitar. You can also find tutorials at the D'Addario website.

Keep in mind that after changing them, you can extend their lifespan (how long they continue to sound bright with good sustain) by wiping them off after each playing session.

By investing 15 minutes or so and changing your strings, you end up with much better tone and playability, a great return on time investmed (the aging wannabe rocker mantra). Also, don’t forget to condition your fretboard at the same time.

>>Related Articles
Guitar Tricks for Building Calluses
Guitar Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your Fretboard
Guitar Tone: Tips and Tricks on What Works for You

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Guitar Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your Fretboard

I was routinely treating my guitars with fretboard conditioner the other night and realized I was doing another one of those fundamentals you take for granted once you know about it. I always make a point to mention these when I think about them.

My first instructor actually told me about fretboard conditioner after commenting how thirsty the rosewood looked on my guitar. One try was all I needed to make it a permanent part of my guitar maintenance routine.


The rosewood, ebony or other exotic wood used on your fretboard gets coated with oil and grime and will dry out, especially for those of us in more northerly climates. If you do not use a conditioner, just take a look at your fretboard and you’ll see what I mean.

Fretboard conditioners will cleanse and nourish the wood, which improves the feel. An added benefit is it looks a whole lot better! I’ve included pictures of products I have used (Guitar Honey and Lem-Oil) but all you need do is search “fretboard conditioner” to find a bevy of products at your disposal.

>>Related Articles

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

All Les Paul Guitars Are Not Created Equal; or Are They?

My second ever guitar purchase was a Gibson Les Paul Special Faded Ebony. Sometime later I picked up a custom shop Vintage Original Spec based on the 1958 Les Paul Standard. After reading an article in the Blog Psychedelic Zen Guitar regarding choosing different capacitors I decided to look under the hood of these two guitars and discern what sets them apart.

Some obvious differences between the Special and the Custom shop version are price, faded ebony mahogany body vs. translucent sunburst cherry maple, alnico humbuckers in chrome vs. burstbuckers in nickel, and a 1960 slim neck vs. a 50s rounded neck profile. In addition, I’ve included photos of the pots.



Notice the CTS pots with bumble bee capacitors in the custom shop version at right as compared to the standard pots and ceramic disk capacitors in the Special at left. This all begs the question; is the custom shop version better?

In my view the best way to answer is to ask another question; “how many guitars does one guitarist need?” The answer of course is “just one more.”

While there is clearly a price differential between these two guitars, what sets them apart is their personality rather than one being better than the other. They both play and sound great; just different.

>> Related Articles
Aging Rocker Demographic and its Impact on Guitar Sales
Guitar Lore: The Marshall Mystique
Guitar Tone: How to Tweak Your Signal Chain and Nail those Elusive Tones

Monday, January 14, 2008

Getting Brian Setzer's Sleepwalk Out of My Head

As I was wrapping up a lesson one day and talking shop with my instructor he indicated I needed to check out Brian Setzer's Grammy winning version of "Sleepwalk". I did and it became one of my favorites; and we added The Brian Setzer Orchestra to our cocktail hour repertoire.

Problem is, after listening to it a week or so ago I can't get the tune out of my head. I ran across several versions of him performing this on YouTube and this one is notable because you get good views of his technique. Hopefully, by posting it here I can clear it out of my head; at least until the next cocktail hour.

Also see: How to Replicate the Tone for Brian Setzer’s Sleepwalk





Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guitar Tricks for Building Calluses

I see questions around building calluses come up a lot and remember my initial experiences trying out guitars. Some felt better to my finger tips and others not so much. In hindsight I know the differences were due to string gauge and action. To quickly build your calluses with less pain, make sure you start with lower gauge strings and action on your guitar.

String gauge represents the diameter of a string. You may hear an old salt say, “I use 10s”. What they’re saying is that they use strings where the high E string is .010 inches in diameter. In a set of 10s the low E string will have a diameter of .046 inches. There is more to this than just the gauge though.

Strings with higher gauge will have a higher tension when tuned. While there are many advantages to higher gauge such as tone and sustain (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s unique tone came in part from very high gauge strings), a beginner will not appreciate this due to the difficulty and pain associated with fretting these strings much less learning bending techniques. Frustration increases further if the action is high.

Action is just the term for the height of the strings above the frets. In one of my first posts I outlined how I had taken a run at the guitar back in high school without success. My first guitar was an acoustic of dubious quality with an action around an inch off the frets. If only we had affordable high quality import lines back then!

So, for your callus formation period, I would recommend D’Addario EXL120s or other brands with similar characteristics. These are a super light gauge string where the high E string starts at .009 inches in diameter. As far as action goes, lower the strings (your guitar user manual or a wealth of guides on the Internet will outline how) to the point it is comfortable but not so far you get excessive string buzzing. Action is more of a personal preference anyway so you are not violating any guitar laws by doing this :-).

Once you’ve built your calluses (two or three weeks) you can elect to make changes to your guitar setup from there based on your evolving technique. Most importantly, rock out!

>>Related Articles
· The Essential Callus Building Tips
· Midlife Crisis: Learn to Play the Guitar
· Guitar Gear: Import Lines Make Playability More Affordable Than Ever
· Learning the Guitar: Waterfall or Iterative Method

Friday, January 11, 2008

Guitar Gear: Invest In Strap Locks

On my first visit to a Guitar Center I asked the salesman why the ratty looking guitars displayed in a protected area had such high prices. He went on to explain the art of aging new guitars to the extent they look like touring veterans. If you want to avoid unintentional aging of your nice new axe though, I would recommend strap locks.

I’ve been playing awhile now and do not think twice about an accessory like this. I never heard of them starting out though. That is until I had a brand new guitar pop off the strap and come crashing to the floor when I reached over to answer the phone. Bummer!

At a subsequent lesson, my instructor filled me in on the whole strap lock thing after I told him the reason for the new divots on my guitar. Turns out he had strap locks on his guitar; I just hadn’t noticed the finer detail whilst sweating the details of music theory and guitar technique. He recommended and I ended up with guitar strap locks from Schaller.

If you look at the picture you see they are pretty foolproof. You remove your original strap buttons and install the Schaller buttons. You will likely find that the screws supplied are too small so I reused the original screws from my guitar. You may have to grind down the screw head so it fits into the new strap button.

Attach the strap locks to each end of your strap; the supplied washer and nut enable you to attach them securely. The strap locks connect securely from there because they have a spring loaded pin; you pull out the pin, slide the lock onto the button, and release the pin, which snaps into the strap button. This thing won’t come loose.

From there you can fling your axe every which way but loose or even answer the phone without fear of it coming off!

>>Related Articles
· Guitar Resources: Gear Fundamentals
· Middle-Aged Rocker: How to Avoid Guitar Store Angst
· Guitar Strap Revelation

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Guitar Tabs: Guitar World Releasing Their Tabs Online and More

Transcriptions are one reason I eagerly anticipate each issue of Guitar World. But, I always wished I could easily access transcriptions done before I started subscribing to the magazine. Well, they’ve done it and more!

Guitar World Tabs is organized around a social networking model and provides interaction both with features of the site itself as well as other users. For example, while the magazine provides its own premium tabs, users of the site can also submit their own tabs, videos, and comments (both text as well as ratings).

Navigation is managed through a slick interface like the Cover Flow view in iTunes. You can search for content alphabetically, by top rated, most viewed, and newest.

Studying transcriptions of your favorite artists gives you exposure to a wealth of technique and theory you can use to develop your own style. Guitar World is providing a great service to help you on your way; check it out!

>>Related Articles
Learn to Play the Guitar: How to Keep it Fresh
Guitar Resources: Technique
Guitar Tone: How to Duplicate Your Favorites

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How to Make Your Own Backing Tracks and Transfer LPs to mp3 Format

I tend to fixate on using readily available technology to drive maximum results in minimum time for my guitar playing. This post is to close some of the gaps I’ve left in previous posts along with a new approach to vinyl archiving I recently stumbled on.

I have included a simple (not to scale) diagram of the gear and signal path. As in my previous post on creating a simple home studio I’m showing the HP Laptop I use (dv6000 Pavilion) along with Ableton Live version 6 for recording and mixing. The important piece of this diagram that I glossed over previously is the M-Audio Transit USB audio interface.

I use this unit in the mix because it supports 24-bit/96kHz audio. That combined with using the ASIO protocol (Audio Stream Input/Output) I get a high quality low latency interface between Live and the Transit USB.

The TASCAM Guitar Trainer as discussed in previous posts is connected to the external soundcard (Transit USB) so the backing tracks I create sound as good as possible. I glossed over the importance of this in the previous post. The new entrant to my setup is the ION USB Turntable.

If you are anywhere near my age (baby boomer), you have a stack of LPs and 45s in your closet, garage, and or storage facility; or ideally, properly stored and displayed. Transferring LP to mp3 was so laborious that I would just download the ones I wanted to hear again from iTunes or go out and buy the CD version. The ION turntable made it easier because it offers a line level output as well.

My replacement laptop (previous PC crashed) uses Vista and I had just finished getting the drivers working for my home studio setup as well as recovering from self inflicted problems getting the beta Vista drivers for the Transit USB working (the rollback feature in Vista is wonderful!). I was dreading working through yet another set of potentially conflicting audio interface drivers that came with the turntable.

Then, I discovered that the ION turntable features a line level output in addition to the phono and USB outputs. I already had a connector for RCA jacks to mini jack. Voila!, I just plugged the turntable into the external sound card and off to the races with high quality transfer of LPs to mp3 using Ableton Live.

I will go through the steps I use with this setup for vinyl archiving in a future post; they sound great!

>>Related Articles:
Backing Tracks: How to Make Your Own
How to Measure Your Progress
Touch and Go Practice Rig
Guitar Training Shortcuts for Baby Boomers

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Guitar Gear: Import Lines Make Playability More Affordable Than Ever

I have heard many times that when you are starting out on the guitar any guitar will do because your skills won’t take advantage of a more premium guitar. In reality, this statement is more about cost than it is about the playability beginners really need. Thanks to import lines of guitar though, you no longer need to make tradeoffs between playability and cost.

The major guitar companies such as Gibson and Fender offer import models that are manufactured in places like Mexico, China, and Korea. Even Paul Reed Smith, well known as a high-end guitar maker, now offers an import line. By going off shore, these companies can make these guitars for a much lower price than the premium branded instruments they manufacture here in the United States. These lower priced guitars are not toys though. The premium guitar makers work hand in hand with their overseas partners to provide knowledge transfer and support and ensure the quality of the end product.


Visit this page on the Epiphone website, which outlines a recent Guitar World review of their Worn Firebird Studio and Faded Dot Studio. These guitars are around $200 on the street and this will give you an idea of just how much you can get for your money with import lines.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Recording Industry and the Economics of Scarcity

I have read many articles debating why the record companies continue to defend a model that technology has rendered obsolete. My two cents in the debate is that the reason is the economics of scarcity.

Since “Boomer” is half of my blog’s name I clearly remember scarcity when it came to music. LPs and 45s were very expensive. They were expensive because there were no alternatives except top 40 radio. No alternatives meant a scarcity premium, which digital technology and the Internet eliminated.

If you look at it then from the perspective of the recording industry, their price has effectively gone up; they lost their scarcity premium but kept the price the same. A higher price compared to alternatives (illegal downloads mostly at first) meant and still means lower sales. It makes sense for them to defend the model though because comparatively they get a large premium with each unit sold. In fact, you could look at the anti piracy activities conducted by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as a cost effective way to keep the scarcity premium as high as possible while they figure out how to transform their model.

The transformation of the music distribution model (legal downloads and music subscriptions over the Internet) is already well underway. Ubiquitous music purchases through your handheld device such as the Apple/Starbucks deal will rapidly expand. How artists contract with labels is also changing as evidenced by Madonna's deal with Live Nation. This shows how industry and artists will better capitalize on the value of their intellectual property. The deal features revenue sharing better matched with the value the music creates and accounts for touring and merchandise as well as record sales. This deal demonstrates why there is still untapped value in music if an appropriate business model is adopted.

The Wall Street Journal Online, one of the few online news sources that have successfully maintained a subscription model, is a good example of the evolution of business models. Rupert Murdoch will likely eliminate the subscription model expecting his readership will expand from its current 1 million subscribers to 10 million as a result. He will make more from advertising revenue than the $50 million lost in subscriber fees. While the content itself is free, no readers would consume the advertising without the content. The content has inherent value even though they cannot grow subscriptions ten fold with a paid subscription model.


Because digital and Internet technology eliminated scarcity as it relates to the distribution of music, the industry has to and is adapting. The surprise at the end of the tunnel is that the very innovations that created this challenge in the first place also provides the impetus to create new models that will enable the industry and artists to actually increase the value of their intellectual property.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Connections: How to Create a Simple Home Studio

I was talking to my next door neighbor yesterday about how he's doing on his guitar playing and he outlined how he used his Apple Laptop and Garageband to create rhythm backing tracks that he uses to practice improvisation. Bravo, I said! I have several posts on how valuable this can be for your progress on the guitar. What occurred to me though and what I have not really emphasized in previous related posts is how simple and inexpensive creating your own home studio really is.

At its most basic you need a computer, recording software, audio interface (hardware/software combination that you plug your guitar into), and of course your guitar. I have included a simple layout of what I currently use (post recovery from a recent hardware failure of my previous PC) for each of these components to record my guitar playing.

· Computer - HP Laptop; Pavilion dv6000.
· Recording Software - Ableton Live Version 6.
· Audio Interface - PODxt from Line6. The drivers that come with the unit enable you to connect it to your computer through USB, which gives you a high quality audio connection.
· I use a pair of Toneport headphones from Bose to monitor the audio. This way you can hear your own playing as well as any tracks you might be playing back from your recording software (or simply a metronome if your software supports that feature) at the same time.

More than likely, you already have everything except for the audio interface and possibly the recording software unless you use a Mac, which comes with GarageBand already loaded. For the audio interface just do an Internet search on "audio interface USB" and you will see a vast array of options starting around $30. As for recording software, I would highly recommend Ableton Live given my experience with it to date if you do not have GarageBand on the Mac. Or, if you want to further minimize cost, you could download Audacity, which is open source software.

That is pretty much it other than rocking out and recording it for prosperity!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Girls of Guitar World

I started playing the guitar on my 50th birthday. Guitar World became an early reference for me and I eagerly look forward to each issue to this day. I do have to admit though that I am conflicted about “The Girls of Guitar World.”

What I’m referring to are the fetching Guitar World readers and models along with their axes that grace the pages of the magazine and their great website. Is this just a cheap marketing gimmick that someone with my years of maturity should know better than to succumb to?

Then, the other day I am reading my software industry trade publications and realize ads in these magazines feature the same sort of fetching models draped over gear like hardware based load balancers and optical storage devices.

What? Then I remember that everything from drill bits to insurance is marketed like this. Internet technology, no matter how much we love it, does not have a rock and roll legacy. Part of that legacy has always included fetching rockers. If anyone can lay claim to being a part of the rock and roll legacy, Guitar World published since July of 1980 sure can. So, I need to save my conflicted emotions for those cheap marketing gimmicks rather than Guitar World.

Can't wait for the next issue!

Let's Rock!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Guitar Lessons: A Great Investment Anytime

Some of my earliest posts on this blog outlined how valuable finding a good instructor was to meeting my goal of maximum results in minimum time. This is more universal than just for someone wanting to make up for a late start it turns out.

I had asked a friend of mine who has played guitar for 25 years and is still active in well paying gigs to review my blog for authenticity. The last thing I want is for anything in a post to steer someone wrong in their efforts; so I like to gather feedback. Seems he read these thoroughly as he has gone back to take some lessons!

He felt trapped in a Pentatonic box and wanted to improve his improvisational skills both for rock as well as jazz. Two lessons into it he is already reporting an overall improvement in his playing; definitely a good return on the time and money invested.

Although I am gratified that someone read my post the main excitement I feel is that this confirms my belief that there is always something new to learn in this hobby and lessons are a great way to achieve maximum results in minimum time.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Aging Rocker Demographic and its Impact on Guitar Sales

I was discussing my perception that aging rockers must be having an impact on guitar sales worldwide with another blogger at World of Baby Boomer’s fudge. So, I did a quick search on Google and quickly came upon articles showing that a large number of aging rockers are either picking the guitar back up or learning it for the first time as a cure for the midlife crisis.


While the aging rocker demographic has helped fuel the increased demand they also benefit from the explosion of innovative new gear now available as a result. There are guitars, associated other gear, and resources available at all price points to make it easier than ever before to start back up if you are a lapsed rocker or get into the guitar for the first time.

Let's Rock!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Aging Rocker: Side Benefits of Rocking in Middle Age

With some time off over the holidays and over two years into my guitar hobby I thought I would make a list of the side benefits I get besides fun.

“Coolness” Factor: My kids are still not sure why I keep pursuing the guitar. It does enter into the teenage calculus though along the lines of; dad may not have much hair left but he can play “Highway to Hell!”

Concert Awareness: I actually know something about what is going on at a concert now. Previous to picking up a guitar a concert might as well have been a CD player running through the PA system. Now, I know what the equipment is, why it is being used, and have some appreciation for the techniques used by the artists. Concert going is much more enjoyable as a result.

Art of Conversation: I am still a poor conversationalist but now I have more to talk about at a cocktail party than “what do you do for a living” or “how is your 401K plan doing?”

Instant Gratification: With the guitar as in other hobbies you can put in effort and directly see the results. Often times the correlation between effort and results are more nebulous in the work world.

Home D├ęcor: Hanging your guitars on the wall is a great decorating approach.

Blogging: My infatuation with the guitar is what got me into Blogging, which is almost as much fun as playing the guitar!

Happy New Year and keep rocking!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Peace on Earth and a Little “Stolichnaya”

Yep, you guessed it; I made it to my first Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) concert. There were some pleasant surprises along with the standard stage performance.

One thing that immediately struck me as I approached the venue was the demographic represented by my fellow concert goers. Not sure what I expected but a heavy concentration of 20 somethings along with a good dose of those of the midlife persuasion and older was not one of them.

The younger concert goers were not simply girlfriends dragging their boyfriends to the concert either. Paul O’Neill and his collaborators Robert Kinkel and Jon Oliva have reached a demographic to die for, pretty much all of them if the concert I attended was any indicator.

They kicked off the concert by donating over $12,000 to local charity; a dollar for every ticket sold. Their informal survey showed that about 75% of the concert goers were returnees from previous years (since we got our tickets at the last minute and were seated in the stratosphere we got a good view of the raised hands). The TSO has established a loyal following.

They performed the story and songs of “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” followed by a mix from their other albums and some covers. All this was accompanied by a dazzling set of lighting and laser effects synchronized with the music.

It seems that anyone who wants to maintain a long term career in the music business needs to continually adapt. The founders of TSO have pulled together a diverse set of influences and created a great product with a loyal fan base.


We’ll be back next year!


Google