Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - 2022

Monday, June 13, 2022

More Golf to Guitar Analogies

 You can putt from 3 inches away with a consistency equivalent to Tiger.

 You can't play the whole game the same.

 But you can find things on guitar that are "3 inches away" that are easily doable, and rewarding.  A problem I see a lot these days are people watching YouTube and getting the impression that what "learning guitar" is about is the equivalent of mastering golf on a PGA level.  

 And it only taking a year or so.

 Instead, there are aspects that are equivalent to putting, driving, getting out of sand traps.  There is the basic skill set, "learning to swing", which might be akin to playing open chords properly.  Changing between open chords is a fundamental skill that is completely overlooked by most - but the foundation of the skills required to do everything is set by what happens with the "simple" "cowboy chords".

 Driving, maybe the endurance to complete a song.  It's difficult for me to get someone to work on a song to completion; I can't provide what is really self-motivation, only bolster.   For kids, learning songs has a competitive aspect, wanting to know more than Timmy down the street does.  Later on it's not a lot different, there is still something of a pecking order when adults get together to jam.  But for someone not at that point starting out, it you're not surrounded by friends playing the motivation can be tough to want to practice a song to the end.

 Putting might be akin to the finesse required for soloing.   But again - a very short putt can be accomplished by just about anybody, and likewise there are very simple "solo bits" people can learn that can lead to making a longer and longer putt.  But getting the satisfaction of the ball going in the hole initially has to be present.  Again what I see a lot of people do these days is expect to make a 20 foot putt over and over, and to "practice" by driving at it frantically a few times and getting mad.  

 Getting out of sand traps: specialty movement.  There are particular, "kinesthetically fun" things to learn that are unique physical things to play.  Learning to navigate them - get out of the trouble they seemingly put your hands in - is rewarding.  You can feel like you physically accomplished something in a specific way.

 I do think these analogies make golf enthusiasts particularly prepared for learning to play guitar, but hopefully the analogies can flick a switch on for others as to how to *approach* learning to play guitar.

Monday, June 6, 2022

2022 NAMM Show Guitars

  I did not go this year.  So all of this is theoretically anecdotal, but...

 It looks like manufacturers are entering a state of frustration.  Lots of wild colors - it would seem they're almost touching on revisiting some of the visual tropes of the mid-80s: lots of turqoise, purple, magenta.  

 And from Ernie Ball, the Kaizan - a crazy angular guitar that would have been seen in the early 80s in New Wave videos?  The secondary "private company" guitars displayed also appear to be touching on the same aesthetically garish traits of the 80s, leaning on geometrical basics instead of French curve based shapes.  

  Then there is the "signature" problem.  There was a time when I went through a phase of using the infamous Dunlop Jazz III pick, a tiny red nylon design with a pointy tip.  Then one day it became the "Eric Johnson signature pick".  Eric wasn't the first to use those picks, and I'm not endorsing Eric, so I though it a good time to try something else.

 Likewise, I'm definitely not paying $$$$ for a guitar with somebody else's name on it, unless it's Leo Fender, John Suhr, PRS or Tom Anderson.  All of which are now making a lot of "Joe Blow Model" guitars.  No, I don't want somebody else's idea about what a guitar should be, and I don't want to see or even know their name is affiliated with the guitar I'm holding.  No offense to said players.  At least the Jeff Gordon model Gibson Les Paul hasn't been brought back?

 But overall it seems/feels like they're all in a mode of "we've got to do SOMETHING new/different", when in reality they don't.  It's like web pages that become popular - MySpace, Digg, Reddit, Facebook, etc., that want to "improve the experience" endlessly when in reality they have maybe reached a moment of sartori in optimization for the user.  For some of those web sites their "new, improved" versions turned off their user base and they went under.

 For Fender, Gibson - they really need to just calm down, par down what they offer.  Try to be leaner, cheaper, and more consistent so that when someone says "go buy a Strat/Les Paul" it doesn't take an hour to explain which one.  And certainly don't come out with something that looks like an attachment to an old Cadillac, or a Gundam.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Mountain Biking Ain't Like Dusting Crops (but May Be Like Playing Guitar?)

  I think there is an analogy to be made between the phenomenon of what gets YouTube clicks in mountain biking, and playing guitar.

The author "sending it"

  Having been into BMX semi-seriously for many years as a kid - at the end I had converted my half-pipe skateboard ramp into a BMX-capable quarter pipe, a good 8' tall rickety Ramp 'O Injuries. I suppose this was around the age of 14-15, and I'd soon have a car and then, become a Guitarist.  1983-84.

  I started mountain biking in, I think, 1992.  I wanted to ride bikes for recreation again, but something less serious (and dangerous) than BMX.   Twice a week I'd take my respectable $500 non-suspension MTB a few miles out of town to ride a few trails in the area.  

It was FUN.

 The only concept to "mountain biking" back then was, ride a bike on trails in the woods.  You could still spend money on making your bike lighter, which made it easier to get up hills (mountain biking USED to be about going UP hills as well as down...), maneuver around Minor Obstacles.

 It started becoming mainstream popular around about 1994.  Some musician friends got into it, and we'd go riding as a group sometimes.

 It was FUN.

 Then, people started getting more serious about it.  You had to "huck" off of drops; you had to HAMMER a trail as fast as possible.  Otherwise, you were lame and a squid.  

 Suddenly, these concepts - you were either RACING or being EXTREME and RAD - overtook the premise of simply riding a bike in the woods.  The more "casual riding" people I rode with found reasons not to go riding anymore.

 Then, the mountain bike industry realized (like used guitars...) bikes last a fairly long time.  So, they came up with propaganda to sell more bikes: 

You HAD to have a full suspension bike (not really), you HAD to have expensive and finicky (and dangerous) clipless pedals, and the 26" wheel standard - a BIG wheel I thought coming from 20" BMX bikes - was declared OLD and RETRO.  

You now HAD to have 27.5" wheels, which meant a new bike. 

 Then, they told you that you must have 29" wheels.  Another new bike.  THEN, tubeless tires: effectively no inner tube (very uncool...), glued-on tires.  A big pain to maintain, expensive.

 Meanwhile, hucking off of things turned into 10'+ drops, 10-20' gap jumps, things that previously were considered reserved for sponsored pros.

 YouTube happened.  Suddenly "mountain biking" on YouTube became endless videos of RAD dudes and dudettes, going very fast downhill on $10,000 bikes, clearing professional motocross scale jumps and drops.

 You don't really see the people crashing and going to the hospital.  Just lots of bright and shiny people being RAD.  Are you rad?  If you can't hang with this seen obviously you're not!  

 Do you even really ride mountain bikes?   How much does your bike cost?  You've never been to Whistler Colorado?  Never cleared a 25' gap?  Squid.  You suck.  Your bike costs less than $5,000?  Poser.

 I don't see many people riding mountain bikes for FUN anymore.  Not in the numbers I saw in the 90s, not by far.  I'm quite sure between the MANDATORY gear upgrades and the necessity to SEND IT, DUDE as fast and recklessly as possible, most people are turned off.  It's all you see on YouTube as "mountain biking".

 Guitar playing is almost exactly the same in a relative way.   But you're older... 

 You start out for yourself, it's fun.  Some friends might play, or decide to play.  BUT....

 You start watching YouTube and see what appears to be "everybody" playing guitar on a professional level, and often combined with Distinctively Bewildering Insights being conveyed.  

 I think right now, YouTube is "disincentivizing" the motivation to play guitar for similar reasons that I think mountain biking.  The mystery and self-discovery is removed.

 Sitting on your sofa, instead of getting on your bike and actually riding a trail yourself, is NOT MOUNTAIN BIKING.  Nor is watching a video of someone playing guitar.  You are missing the best, and most important element that is really down to the fundamental concept of BEING.  You're making a withdrawal from The Bank of Motivation, without any way of making a deposit later to up the value of your savings.  

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Educational Value of the First 3 Dave Matthews Band Records

    I find myself revisiting the Dave Matthews catalog, as I have a acoustic guitar student that needs a bit of a challenge in a specific area: 16th note rhythms.

 Without delving into the more repetitive funk catalog - with the likes of Chic, Ohio Players, James Brown et al, it escaped me for a bit to think of something the student could reference that wouldn't be too repetitive (although that wouldn't be a bad thing).

 The 2000s!  

 The first 3 Dave Matthews Band records/cds are very unique.  They feature very busy, guitar intensive themes in a pop music setting.  Something that I don't know of having happened before or since.  

 There have been other high marks "guitar lesson era wise", but I would say a couple were even dependent upon being ancestral to the DMB era.  I would tentatively suggest Jack Johnson's popularity resides in echoing some of the pseudo-funk rhythms of DMB, and maybe Jason Mraz benefitted from DMB popularity as well.  Early John Mayer I would argue relied a lot on superficially sonically having many of the same ingredients at the pinnacle of the DMB era.  Years beyond, in a more deprecatory way Ed Sheeran perhaps benefitted: it now seems like there has to always be a "present default acoustic-singer artist" where there hadn't been one since the songwriter era of the 70s.

 Because it was pop music - very popular music, as in for a few years maybe a 1/3rd of my clientele was motivated to learn Dave Matthews Band songs - the average nascent guitar player had a fairly high bar set for them, but also the reward factor was very high.

 The perceived social popularity of "playing guitar" has a magical, invisible effect.  Motivation is mostly determined by it I've found; and motivation elevates.  The "average skill" level during what I think of as "the Dave Matthews era" was a peak only matched by when I started teaching back in the late 80's during the Hair Metal Era.  

 The biggest thing was 16th note right hand subdivision, followed by strumming and single note combinations being such an integral part of DMB songs.  Effectively in "high gear" technique wise, it allowed a lot of students to transition to other things.  I'd go as far as to say from this era a particular local artist sprung to being a national success, which lead to other things - but I digress.

 16th note right hand parts;
 Articulate single note lines;
 Overall uptempo phrasing;
 Prerequisite partial/full bar chord fingerings -

Leeds the novice Dave Matthews Band fan to many other things, because the variety of the above allows for more options than a lower bar.  


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Musical Narcissists?

  I recently saw somewhere that there are people that want to take a revisionist approach to music history.  More specifically, in regards to the venerable Yamaha DX7 keyboard, that they were "never cool".

  There are certain DX7 patches/sounds that I like, but there are a lot I hate, that were overused IMO during the 80s.  The reason they were overused, though, is because THEY WERE COOL.   I would suggest we're in a transitory phase for the DX7 where it's becoming "classic", but not classic enough in the sense that people have decided to base songs around them again.

 There were keyboards originally marketed for a certain kind of music: the Hammond organ, Farfisa, Rhodes, etc. that were used in a "cool" context at the time, but then re-entered creative music use later.  The Hammond sound - a "church organ" - evoked a certain thing, maybe "what you hear in church", "what my parents like", until it faded out and then came back in a different context.

 Now it's just "a Hammond sound".  Which can be found in all genres of music, and doesn't imply a specific era anymore.  I think the DX7 is about to become a similar thing, the "uncool now" connotations fading to become another classic.

 BUT, I made a post on a message board about the concept of "Musical Narcissism".   Something I've seen many, many times: thinking one's perspective is magically "cool" enough to say another's is not, despite evidence to the contrary.  I don't care for disco, but it was definitely a cool thing in the mid-70s; likewise, there are a lot of disco references in modern pop music; it's faded away long enough to now be a "classic" sound choice.

 Below is the quick blathering post I made on the topic:

It was very cool at the time.

People that want to say something isn't cool that was once in style - bell bottom jeans, horn rimmed glasses, gated reverb, whatever - are the musical equivalent of being narcissistic. They think their subjective opinion is an empirical scale that is always ascending, when just about everything can be a parabola.

One either feels cognitive dissonance when revisiting an old place, because the context around it has changed - or they reject reality as it once was.

If one wasn't around when the DX7 happened, then saying it was "never cool" is musical narcissism: they're ignoring reality while not realizing people *see* them ignoring reality.

I *don't like* the DX7 sound in a modern context, BUT - I *can* imagine it being popular again if recontexturalized. The sound of the 80s carried a lot of tropes with it simultaneously, which makes it easy to mock (or dislike), but those things can be used in a fresh way individually (tinkly DX7 patches, rhythmically timed non-linear reverb, Yamaha or Linn drum machine sounds, etc.).

If anything, the DX7 lends itself to... overtly cheery sounds, fey pads, which is not my taste but a lot of people definitely liked. I wish I had a "DX7 remover", along with a "non-linear reverb" remover - which could happen with ML/GAN trickery."


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Golfers Make Good Guitar Students?

  The Augusta National has just passed in my hometown.

Golf equivalent of a perfectly preserved 1968 Marshall plexi

 Which makes this post a bit late, but now that I'm "here", I'd like to say:

 Golfers make for good guitar students!

 They usually have a more humble attitude towards expectations upon starting.  Perhaps because you're always humbled playing golf, but it's good to know where the target is, but not to expect to reach it next week.  Or next month.  Or next year.  Golfers seem to have a better grasp on the long view.  

 Which is good for playing and making music.  Reflexive immediacy, expecting things NOW has wrecked modern society: nothing worth doing is easy.  Music has been devalued monetarily, but it still plays a role in the daily lives of most everybody; it's a significant thing that takes time to learn as a skill, craft, and to create.

 Golfers also seem to have a good awareness of practice concepts.  There isn't one overriding method in golf, many approaches to honing skills, and in different aspects.  Which of course translates to learning to play the guitar.  Some people try to "learn" to play guitar the way some people play Putt Putt: just wack the ball hard and it will hopefully bounce off some things, maybe a clown and an orange barrier, and somehow careen into the hole.

 Which is comical, but as I'm writing that I'm realizing there is profound truth in that.  If you watch people play Putt Putt/miniature golf, some just can't help but to just randomly "wack" the ball. It's a waste of time, but they can't help themselves.  Why are they bothering to do an activity in such a ridiculous fashion?

 Because it worked one time!   

 They got a crazy dopamine kick off of it, and tied to the "success" the feedback loop created means they try to recreate the moment again... and again... and again.  They're not getting better, they're not increasing their skills, they're not scoring - they're wasting time.

  Maybe a complete novice somewhere got a hole in one first time out playing real golf.  But probably not....

 On guitar, it's similarly deceptive as the miniature golf accidental hole in one, AND more involved than the real golf hole in one.  But the same feedback loop applies: the novice accidentally knocks out something they didn't expect.  Maybe for the first time they play something that sounds "pro", or recognizable. 

 They get that reinforcing dopamine kick.  Which is good!  It should act as impetus to play more!  But unfortunately - and I think this is a byproduct of 21st century society - that experience is interpreted as "I did that easy, it took little effort; I can do it again, recreate this experience endlessly, with the same effortless ease!".

 Furthermore, what wrecks the new student is seeing a gazillion people on Youtube seemingly pulling things off with effortless ease!

 As a guitar teach I see this phenomenon in a lot of people, and it's difficult to combat.  It's an unseen aspect of teaching guitar that is tenuous, hopefully I'm able to help people with that.  Watching Youtube certainly doesn't help, it's creating a negative feedback loop as described above, whether people realize it or not. 

Golfers realize watching doesn't make them better, they know pretty clearly they have to DO, they have to practice/play as much as possible.

 "But that's not fun!" some will say.

 That's the problem: not realizing the value in what you're doing.  It should be perceived as a lot of fun.  You're learning to do something that only a tiny, tiny portion of the population of the whole planet can do.  Unlike golf, something in every day life for everybody, almost a constant.  It should be thought of as "I'm at Amen Corner, and I just made a chip shot in a situation Tiger Woods did".   Except in golf, you can't replicate that experience without being a member of the Augusta National and have extraordinary golf skills.  
 On the other hand, you *can* replicate a phrase Brian May played in Bohemian Rhapsody, or a riff Billy Gibbons played.  Without leaving your house, and you can show your buddies you can do it, and you can build on millions of such examples the rest of your life.

 But you're probably never going to make a hole in one in Augusta.  Knowing that creates a good attitude towards learning to play an instrument.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Another New York Times Piece on Guitar?


 This time an oblique swipe at guitar solos.

 It's curious that they seem to like to write articles implying "this thing I'm writing about, heh heh heh, we all know is passe.... but *I* know what cool about it, I'm be self-referentially cool by telling you".  

"It's easy to dismiss the guitar solo as an outdate, macho institution"

 Pretty much the Rolling Stone formula of non-musicians being critical of POPULAR musician's choices.  It's an inclusive trick: because you're reading their article, you're included in their Hip Circle.  

 Meanwhile I'm trundling along giving guitar lessons, in which wanting to learn to play solos is anything but dead.  


Monday, March 28, 2022

Should You Boycott Harley Benton?

 So some guys on YouTube say you should boycott Harley Benton because the guitar at the top is a rip off of the guitar below it:

Harley Benton Nylon NT
Taylor TZ

  At least, I think these are the 2 guitars in question?

 Which is the gist of my post here: they are similar, but not exact - despite hyperbole.

 Many differences: knobs, fingerboard extension, sound holes are different, body size/geometry different, bridge different.  They look similar (unless I've got the wrong guitars?), but it's variations on a theme.

 A theme that Taylor didn't invent.  The first thing I think of when I see both is a combination of the following:

Godin MultiAc


Ovation Adamas

Rickenbacker 360

 The aesthetic is a combination of established elements.   From a design intellectual property standpoint, there is nothing new.  From a functional standpoint there isn't, either.

 Nobody is buying the $400 guitar thinking it's a Taylor.  But more importantly - and this is the real point - Taylor isn't losing any customers for it's $2,200 guitar.

 Nobody is walking into a Taylor dealership, thinking they want the Taylor and then settling for the Harley Benton.  Nobody.  Just like nobody walks into a Fender dealership wanting to order a Custom Shop Stratocaster, and then settles for a Harley Benton strat.  

 Which is a whole lot closer aesthetically and functionally than the Harley Benton and the Taylor.

  Unless one wants to restart the stratocaster clone wars and go off on a jihad against everybody that makes a strat style guitar, the Taylor vs. Harley Benton issue is a non-issue in my opinion.   The guys in the Youtube video sells both Fender and PRS: do they want you to boycott PRS Silversky models.......?  


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Tube Shortage Hype Part 2

  It looks like Mike Matthews has gotten around the Russian sanctions somehow?   That story seems a bit obfuscated, in that it's not *Russia* imposing the sanctions - as the stories I've seen tell?   

However, digging through Chinese websites reveals a number of "small" companies claiming to be producing tubes.  As well as selling *Russian* tubes, which leads me to posit:

 You probably can get Russian tubes through a Chinese source on Aliexpress.  China is still doing business with Russia; and while the prices aren't cheap, I would suspect some of the older "established" shops are fencing tubes from the Tesla plant.

  It also looks like the Pjvane plant in China has acquired the Changsa Shuguang tooling?  So again, I think in a few months once the backlog shakes out there will be more stable sources.  


Monday, March 14, 2022

Is the Amplifier Tube Shortage Hype?

   Much is being made about the Coming Tube Apocalypse: that sanctions on Russia means "it's going to be impossible to get vacuum tubes soon!".


 From what I understand a number of tube specialist companies have already run out of stock.  As well as a couple of amp companies.

 The problems is.... as far as I know there are only 2 tube manufacturing facilities in Russia.  One is owned by Mike Matthews / Electro Harmonix.  I believe EH rebrands their tubes for a lot of "names", Sovtek, TungSol, Svetlana, Mullard.  In turn I would expect these to disappear.  

 But JJ makes tubes in Slovakia, which as far as I know has no export restrictions.  I see JJ tubes more often than anything else; and China has a few plants that have been making OEM tubes forever.  There is no reason these will go away.  Furthermore, there was a time not too long ago there were much fewer plants producing new tubes than what we have now, without the Russian sources.  

 So I'm not afraid that tubes are going away.  There is a run on tubes right now, and people have marked up the prices accordingly.  Thought they've marked up a lot, it looks like you can still get sub-$20 12ax7 preamp tubes on Aliexpress right now - close to $12 if you buy in bulk.  Shuguang, some claiming to be Russian NOS.  Not graded, but they're there.  

 What I expect to happen is that once China notices (probably via metrics on Aliexpress and Amazon drop shipping), as they always do, ramp up production to take over the market.  There will be $12 12ax7s again, and reasonably priced EL34s, 6L6s and 6v6s again by the end of the year.  

 BUT - there will be people making money off of the "scarcity".  Guitar amp companies, even amp repair guys, have stocks of tubes.  in fact, it used to be you'd see them sort of casual brag about it, "oh yeah, I buy boxes and boxes of them".  They won't be running out of tubes, but they'll no doubt charge accordingly.  I would think this *shouldn't* affect amp prices on the lower end, because companies like Fender and Marshall have bought pallets of tubes before this came up, and aren't picking over them like a boutique company would.  And the boutique makers in general have equivalent supplies.

 I suspect the Larger Boutique manufacturers, though, will get a bit of a margin boost.  Or not.  If China doesn't step up and we get an OPEC like tube supply chain, then I think they'll end up shooting themselves in the foot: as new generations of guitarists happen, the desire for tube amps over modelers wane.  This will just hasten making actual tube amps more marginal.



Monday, March 7, 2022

Acoustic Guitar Purchasing Dilemmas (circa 2022)

 As a general rule, I think for most people the following made sense for the past 20+ years:

 Buy your first "introductory" guitar.   One takes a chance here, because it's probably not going to be very playable or sound nice.  This is usually without advice from me, and usually takes the form of a guitar that comes in a "pack" deal, somewhere in the $100-150 ball park.

  What I'd advise then would be a "compromise" guitar.  Something better than the above, but not a "real" acoustic guitar.  The advice would be to get the nicest possible with a solid spruce top, with consideration for a pickup system.  Epiphone and Seagull/LasSiDo has been a good choice in this category, .

 Then, I would advise to try not to buy another UNTIL one could afford either a Martin D28, or a 600-700 series Taylor.  Because - in between you're either paying for cosmetics, or another compromise, and these 2 are effectively where "professional, standard issue" acoustic guitars start.  But the main reason was - and I've been saying this for decades now - 

 "there will come a time when it will basically be impossible for you to consider buying a Martin D28.  Try to get one now if you can".

 For a long time $1,000 was the Magical Professional Price Point.  The "nice" guitars started there, or from another perspective, that was how much a Les Paul or D28 would cost.  In the late 90s D28s started creeping up in price; by the 2000s it was going up about $100 a year.  

 A D28 now costs $3,000.  While my perspective may be skewed - my income from teaching guitar has lagged inflation, effectively flat for my whole life, I can no longer advise someone to stretch their second-guitar budget to a D28.  Those days are over; trying to stretch $600,700 or even $800 to that Previously Magical $1,000 landmark was a tough ask, but $3,000 is ridiculous.

 Meanwhile, from what I've seen the sub <$500 price point has gotten better.  EXCEPT:

  • Manufacturing quality is sort of all over the place;
  • Traditional woods are harder to find.

 Which is why my advice is somewhat more ambiguous now:

 Try to get a solid SPRUCE top guitar first and foremost.  The Seagull brand is a cut above quality wise IMO; a less traditional choice of cedar for a top, buy probably a better deal if you're looking to get a guitar to actually use in public.  
 Secondly, instead of trying to stretch to get a D28 or Taylor/"?" equivalent,

 Try to find a guitar made of the traditional woods: spruce top; mahogany neck; rosewood or ebony fingerboard; mahogany or rosewood back/sides.  Because this is the formula for what you're used to hearing on recordings as a "standard acoustic guitar".  Scarcity is forcing manufacturers to substitute other woods, some working better than others.  

 What that means is that getting around that $1,000 mark means there are a couple of Epiphone, Yamaha models, and Seagulls that meet that bill.  Those manufacturers still exhibit a fair standard of quality; you're effectively purchasing an "off brand Martin".  They don't have the name cachet, but effectively speaking are still fine guitars.  

 Because where my advice once was "there will be a time when you won't be able to buy a Martin D28", I'm now stating "there will be a time when you can't buy an acoustic guitar made of the traditional acoustic guitar woods".

$.10, YMMV.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Chip is Short... Yeah, but.. No, the Chip Shortage

  A student told me original Boss DS-1 pedals are going for hundreds of dollars on Reverb.  

 So I had to look, it seems ridiculous.  The DS-1 is probably the most ubiquitous, generic distortion pedal there is, at one point I received one as a bonus for buying something else that was only a couple hundred dollars itself; I never used it, but now I've got to go rummage around in the shed to see if I still have it.

 The chip shortage is having a knock-on effect on other things in the guitar gear realm.  The chip in the original DS-1 has gone out of production, and it has nothing to do with the headline news story about the actual "chip shortage".  A lot of integrated chips have gone out of production before the situation occurred with the factory fire + global shut down "chip shortage", but wasn't the cause of any run on pedals except with the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer variants.

  The subtlety of the 4558 variations that were used in Tube Screamers (and clones) are ultra-cork sniffery.  I've got .... 4 Tube Screamers/variations with one inside, and there would be no way I could tell if the chip was a "vintage" one or not, there are too many ancillary things going on with them in the circuit design.  People compare what they say is "identical" pedals, but they haven't examined the resistor values, the input impedance, what things have drifted out of spec within a "vintage" pedal.  It's not actually empirical, and yet, it's still so close that nobody will hear the difference except the cork sniffer doing the A/B test.  

  I guess I need to go see if I can find the pedal.  I think they're ok, good all-purpose distortion pedals that will get someone by in just about any stylistic situation if need be.  They tend to make everything sound similar, which could be a good or bad thing.  For me, the nature of the way they compress combined with the eq makes me play things I start hearing as "Steve Vai", so I don't use them.  That very thing makes them good for "fast technical playing" IMO for that reason, they help you out so to speak, in that they even out your single note playing really well while maintaining articulation.  But to my ears it's Steve's sound, so I look elsewhere.

 "Chip, in the 21st century a USED Boss DS-1 will sell for hundreds of dollars" - I don't know if I would have believed that 30 years ago!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Craigslist Music Gear Prices are Insane!


 A curious phenomenon has occurred slowly over the past few years.

 Prices on Craigslist are almost wholly unrealistic to the point of being comical.   

 "Back in the day" you expected 20-30% off list price for a new piece of music gear.  Likewise if you *really* wanted to sell it afterwards, it had to be close to 50% list price, or lower.  



 But now, there is this mindset I've heard echoed by a number of people:

 "I'm selling my Something or Other, for (GC price) since it's almost brand new/great condition/similar to when I bought it".

  It's ... peculiar.  Would you have wanted to buy your used gear for basically the same price you paid for it new?  Of course not.  But effectively all of the listings on Craigslist ARE nearly the same price as brand new from GC.  10% off what you paid for it isn't what it's actually worth.

 So there must be piles of used music gear accumulating on the planet!  It doesn't evaporate.  The $100 beginners guitar in the closet that, for some reason, didn't sell on Craigslist for $90 isn't turning into air.  

 I know that there are people that somehow are actually buying used gear for these prices. They're of what used to be the Casual Vintage Guitar Wheeler-Dealer persona.  But it's ridiculous seeing things on Craigslist (or for weeks, months, that are going to end up in a closet, because "it's in mint condition!".   

 Possibly in turn this could be a panacea for music stores.  People look at these prices, and think "well, I can just order that online and have it here brand new in a few days for basically that price".  The Music Retailer thinks "business is good", and doesn't want to budge from MAP, and then the Music Manufacturer thinks "look at our orders; we need to raise prices!". 

 Craigslist seller can wait a few years, and then his price becomes "acceptable"?  Auto-vintage?  Inflated prices doesn't mean everything is going to sell for what you paid for it.  


Friday, January 7, 2022

"Rhythmic tuning" is Just as bad as Auto Tune!

  A company has released a DAW plugin that is supposed to replicate Kurt Cobain strumming, so a keyboard player can "play" a sound with a similar rhythm.

 Which is ... sad as it is, but the curious thing is that in the demo the "strumming" sounds pseudo-realistic - for a 1/2 measure.  It goes wrong after that, which I could explain technically why, but that's not the point.  The demo is lauded by people as being great, but apparently they're all completely not noticing the timing is wrong.  
 The amusing thing here is, after having shown the song it's meant to replicate to "a lot of students", I've noticed similar problems.  There are about 3 different problems with how people play the rhythm I've seen.  

  The impetus of this blog post though, is that I'm dismayed that so many are really not perceiving the timing nuance.  It's really the essence of what makes it "rock", and .... yeah.  While I've noticed this with students trying to *play* things with rhythmic nuance, I've not had a codified example of people not hearing it in the first place.  

 It makes me wonder both how people are perceiving a lot of music, as well as why they enjoy it.  If they didn't then that would make sense, but this is odd.   It's like people claiming to like sushi, but not noticing a difference between Kroger sushi and good sushi.  It's both "sushi", but.... if you can't tell the difference,... how .. why....?  Uhg.

 Is the popularity of music declining?  Rock music?  Micro-rhythmic nuance is an "invisible" aspect of music that is easy to dismiss because it seems to be such a small fraction of the Big Picture, when in reality it's just as important as anything else.  The "foot tap invocation" power is completely missing today, except in the premise that a perfectly on beat kick drum playing quarter notes *does* invoke that phenomenon - but *isn't the only way to do that*.

 A great drummer has a subtle wizardry to them that can do that, but with more *nuance* than just "dit, dit, dit, dit". I'm afraid hearing that subtlety has left the building of the generation growing up on music of the last 20 years, that is devoid of it thanks to perfect computer corrected timing.  Except without hearing anything else other than metronomic perfection, there is no experience that has taught that appreciation of nuance.  

 Another reason to take guitar lessons I suppose, but it does not bode well for the future of music.