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Everything posted by Anderton

  1. Craig’s List - Five Artist Contract Lines Explained Whooo-hooo! You got a record contract! And to celebrate, here are five translations of key contract lines—thanks to having, uh, “borrowed” a lawyer’s secret decoder ring. by Craig Anderton 1. “Subsequent to completion of the Recording, Company may assign its existing rights and obligations hereunder without the consent of Artist.” This is actually for your benefit - after all, didn’t you always want your music featured in a laxative commercial? Or a KKK recruitment video? Or the music bed behind the cable access TV spot for Honest Frankie’s Quality Used Yugo dealership in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ? Exciting exposure opportunities await you when a record company president is highly motivated to pay off his gambling debts! Especially in New Jersey. 2. “In perpetuity and throughout the entire universe.” A bunch of lawyers were stinking drunk one night. “How about ‘throughout the world?’” “Nah, let’s do ‘throughout the solar system.’” [much laughter] “The galaxy!” [hearty guffaws] “The ENTIRE EFFING UNIVERSE!!” The lawyers all dissolved in gales of laughter and wrote “universe” into a contract as a lark—and the term stuck. (Although to be fair, some believe lawyers are spawned from the evil ice planet Blarf, so “universe” might actually be relevant.) 3. “Right of inspection of books with prior written notice of no less than seven (7) days.” Even accountants who move slower than Jabba the Hut can sub the funny money books for the real ones in less than seven days. And if you do inspect the books, expect to be locked in a small cubicle with a man who keeps referring to himself as “Thee Avenger,” has a really big teardop tattoo, and plays absent-mindedly with a knife he calls “my Precious.” Yessiree—you’re “livin’ the dream!” 4. “The recitals contained at the beginning of this agreement are incorporated herein by this reference.” No one has any idea what this means. No one ever has. No one ever will. In a brilliant move—given that lawyers bill by the hour—this line is inserted specifically so lawyers can argue about it for hours and hours. And hours. Even days and weeks, if needed. Ka-ching! 5. “Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing: Company and Artist agree to perform their obligations under this Agreement, in every respect and at all times, in good faith.” Although contracts are allegedly nonfiction documents, a hallowed legal tradition is that every contract include at least one line that’s totally bogus. This replaces the clause used in older contracts, which was “Company and artist shall slay dragons, turn lead into gold, and cast magikal spells in the company of elves and fairies.” Spoiler alert: That didn’t happen either. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  2. Recording FM Synthesizers It's not the technology's fault that FM was overused in the 80s - and it deserves a second chance by Craig Anderton When FM synths came on the scene in the mid ’80s, their bright, digital sound stood in stark contrast to their analog ancestors. Analog recording still reigned, and the DX7’s clarity was a fine complement to the warmth of analog tape (maybe it’s not a coincidence that analog synths made a comeback as the crossfade into digital recording occurred). If you’re getting back into FM, or re-discovering its joys for the first time, here are some tips on how to get the best recorded sound. Don’t have an FM synth? Maybe you do . . . we’ll also cover some popular soft synths that have enough FM capabilities to get you started. SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER FM synthesis was very popular in “new age” type recordings, often providing bell and Rhodes-type sounds in a track with acoustic guitar, percussion, etc. However, when recorded direct with instruments that had room ambience—even trace amounts—it sounded somehow “wrong” because its ambience didn’t match up. I like to insert four delay lines in the synth's audio track set to short, prime numbers (e.g., 17, 19, 23, and 29 ms) with no pre-delay to create a sense of room ambience, even if it’s going to feed “room” reverb through an aux bus. The emulated “room sound” helps the synth blend in better with acoustic tracks (or samples that were recorded with room ambience). DISTORTION? SAY WHAT? Want a really cutting “lead guitar” sound that will not just jump out of a track, but make guitar players green with envy? FM’s basic sound generator is the sine wave, which just happens to distort beautifully. This is because it has very few harmonics, so adding distortion doesn’t create the screeching highs that normally make listeners dive for their earplugs. However, sine waves by themselves are b-o-r-i-n-g, so most FM synth patches (with the possible exception of lame flute programs) add more operators to produce a more complex, interesting sound. We don’t want that. Fig. 1 shows a basic fun-with-distortion patch, using Native Instruments’ FM8. Fig. 1: This extremely simple FM7 patch works very well in conjunction with subsequent distortion. I stripped the FM8's Glassy E-Piano patch down to two operators, D and F (you could of course use any two operators). F is set to a frequency ratio of 1.0000, and D to 2.000. D’s output modulates operator F and also feeds the audio output (the latter is optional), but note that it uses an amplitude envelope to fade in . Both operators also receive a little LFO to simulate a guitar’s finger vibrato, controlled via mod wheel. When you press a key, operator F supplies the fundamental. Then the “feedback” octave higher component from operator D fades in over time—tasty! The output then goes through the distortion plug-in of your choice; I favor multi-band distortion, as described in the article The Guitarist's Guide to Multiband Distortion. FUN WITH PANNING Many FM synths offer interesting panning options. For example, the FM8 can pan each operator output anywhere in the stereo field. Yamaha’s ancient TX81Z (still wonderful if you can find one used) can pan notes in the stereo field based on note value (e.g., lower notes show up on the left, and higher notes on the right), velocity, or LFO frequency. These options help create more interesting stereo imaging. YOUR SECRET FM SYNTH Want to experiment with FM? You may already have some soft synths with FM capabilities. Usually this involves dual-oscillator architectures, where the output of one oscillator (the modulator) modulates the other oscillator (the carrier). You generally listen to the carrier output, and control the modulator’s level via envelope, mod wheel, etc. to adjust the amount of the FM effect. Synths I’ve used that allow for at least some form of FM include Arturia Moog Modular V, and Cakewalk's z3ta+ (as well as Cakewalk PSYNE). So what are you waiting for? Get ready for the FM synthesis revival! -HC- ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  3. Guitar Pickups – What You Need to Know Looking for a good pickup line? by Craig Anderton They’re just wire and magnets, right? Well…yes, but there’s a lot more to the story than that. A pickup change can give an entirely different sound and vibe, but you need to understand what goes into making pickups so you can choose the right solution for the sound you want. So, let’s examine what makes a pickup a pickup, and what these various elements mean to you. MAGNETS AND TONE Different magnets have different strengths, which interact differently with strings and therefore produce different tones. Alnico and ceramic are the two magnet types used in traditional pickups. Pickups with Alnico II magnets strike a balance between warmth and brightness. Their “vintage” sound has a sweet midrange, without high frequency brittleness. Alnico II was used in the original PAF pickups, which are best known for a smooth, “singing” tone when overdriven. Gibson's Burstbucker pickups use Alnico V magnets, which give a more "aggressive" sound than the "sweeter" Alnico II magnets used in PAF-type pickups. Alnico V magnets are stronger and have both more bass and treble than Alnico II types. This gives a somewhat edgier, more aggressive tone associated with metal and hard rock, as well as more clarity with high-gain amps. Ceramic magnets are generally the strongest magnet type, which leads to brighter pickups with a tight, instead of warm, low end. They retain clarity and articulation even with heavy distortion, and typically have high output levels. They are also less expensive to manufacture than metallic magnets. Most guitarists consider ceramic magnets less suitable for clean tones than Alnico magnets. OUTPUT LEVELS Some pickups are “hotter” than others. A hotter output will drive tube amps and some pedal inputs harder, thus giving more potential overdrive. Output levels are less relevant with amps, effects, and audio interfaces that have their own input gain controls. HUMBUCKER VS. SINGLE-COIL Humbucker pickups are known not just for their resistance to hum, but their warm, beefy sound. Single-coil pickups (so called because humbuckers have two pickup coils) have a bright, somewhat “glassier” sound and are more susceptible to hum. All Gibson pickups except the P90 are humbucker types. (Although the P90 is technically a single-coil pickup, it is more resistant to hum and has a fatter, more aggressive sound than conventional single-coil types.) The Mini-Humbucker has an interesting background - it was made specifically for guitarists who wanted to replace P90 single-coil pickups, which are smaller than standard humbuckers, with a pickup that had humbucking properties. However, by switching out one of the coils, a humbucker can give a single-coil sound. Guitars often include knobs with a switch that can change the humbucker sound to a single-coil sound. If a pickup is specified as using a “four-conductor cable,” that means that each coil can be wired separately, thus allowing for coil splitting. A humbucker with two-conductor cable means that you can’t convert it into a humbucker without breaking the connection between the two coils—doable for solderheads, but not necessarily fun. HUMBUCKER COILS While researching this article (translation: talking to people who know more about this stuff than I do), I found out several interesting aspects of Gibson pickups that relate to the coils used in humbuckers. The Gibson 490 pickup is available in the "zebra" color scheme that first appeared in the 60s. Note the four-conductor cable that allows the coils to be split for more of a single-coil sound. First, consider the “zebra” look where a pickup has one black and one cream-colored bobbin. There is no sonic significance to this; one day back in the 60s the Gibson factory ran low on black bobbins, and because the pickups had covers and the company figured no one would see the bobbins or care, they just alternated cream-colored ones with the black ones. Another is that back in the day, the pickup winding machines weren’t exactly precision devices, so sometimes coils would have more or less turns than others. This is why some people found particular pickups, even if they were the same model (in theory), to have “magical” properties. Gibson analyzed these and found that pickups people liked for being “hotter” were overwound (i.e., had more turns) compared to other pickups. The top coil is the “screws” coil, and the bottom oil is the “slugs” coil. The tape wrapped around the coils helps protect them, especially if you’re not using pickup covers. Also, if the coil surrounding the pole piece screws has fewer windings than the coil surrounding the slug, the pickup will more of a single-coil sound. So to get a balanced sound, it’s actually necessary to overwind the screws coil so that neither coil dominates. GOING TO POT One problem with early pickups was microphonic response, where sound from an amp would interact with the pickup’s windings to cause “squeals.” Potting the pickup with wax to fill in all the air gaps helps to minimize any kind of microphonic interaction. DC RESISTANCE DC resistance is a common pickup specification that correlates to the number of windings in a pickup coil. This affects output and frequency response somewhat, with higher resistances in theory meaning a little higher output and a slightly duller sound. However, in practice most DC resistance comparisons are meaningless because pickups use different manufacturing techniques that make much more of a difference than DC resistance. Where DC resistance does matter is with two pickups that are identical in all other aspect except the coil windings. PICKUP AND STRING INTERACTION Let’s close with the age-old question: How far should pickups be from the strings? Although the conventional wisdom is “closer to pickups = more level, further from pickups = less level,” there’s much more to the story than that…and there’s an entire article on the subject right here on Harmony Central, so check it out for the complete rundown. Pickups remain controversial, because they’re actually pretty complicated critters from a physics standpoint so they’re quite nuanced. Hopefully we’ve covered the important info that can help you better understand what pickups are all about. Note: All photos are courtesy Gibson Brands and used with permission. Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  4. Craig’s List - Music Deities of the Ancients Ancient astronauts? That’s soooo passé! Let’s set the wayback machine to ancient Greece and Rome, and discover the real roots of electronic music by Craig Anderton 1. Casio, the father of Casiopeia, displeased Zeus by cross-breeding a calculator with a musical instrument—and was forced to cross the river Styx (“Come Sail Away”) for banishment in the underworld. But there he befriended the demigod Synthesus, who taught Casio the true meaning of keyboards. Disguising himself as a calculator/watch, Casio eluded the guards, escaped, and in tribute to his master, vowed never again to create a synthesizer that could be useful while shopping for groceries. 2. Maximus was the Roman god of tastelessness, B-movies, and excessive noise levels. But the gods, tired of his yelling, wagered that Maximus could not create a sound louder than Heavius Metallus. If Maximus lost the wager, he would have to wed Minimus the Radio Shack loudspeaker—but the clever Maximus stole the secret of excessive multiband maximizing from Dynamicus. To this day, bad mastering on pop tunes reminds us that unfortunately, Maximus won the wager. 3. Chorus was the sister of Hydra but instead of having multiple heads, had a single head with multiple voices. She would have been but a footnote in mythology had the Sirens not tried to use the sweet sound of Chorus to ensnare Ulysses. Legend says Ulysses had himself tied to his ship’s mast to avoid the sirens’ lure, but according to contemporaneous accounts from Eudemus of Rhodes (not to be confused with Eudemus of Fender Rhodes), Chorus’s battery died at an inopportune moment. 4. Modulus, the nephew of Synthesus, was the most powerful of the ancient gods because of his ability to incorporate all the powers of the other gods. But he became boastful and incurred the wrath of Zeus—who punished Modulus by letting him keep his powers, but allowed them to be manifested only by untangling an infinitely huge collection of tangled patch cords. However, Modulus extracted his vengeance by marrying Medusa—whose hair, contrary to myth, consisted not of snakes but 1/4" cables. 5. Little is known about Tremulus, the first of the effects gods, who controlled the cycles of loudness and softness. To make matters worse he was often confused with his brother Vibratus, the god of the cycles of sharpness and flatness. Their constant bickering (along with getting Athena seriously plastered one night) caused the gods to curse them to forever being confused with each other. Even today, you still hear guitarists invoke the name of Tremulus when describing pitch-bending guitar tailpieces. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  5. IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O Universal Audio Interface Multi-platform mobile just got easier by Craig Anderton What? Another interface from IK Multimedia? Yes, but this costs more and does more, starting with Mac/Windows/iOS/Android compatibility, hardware MIDI I/O, and overcoming Apple’s Lightning interface limitations. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW A Neutrik combo connector handles 1/4” mono or XLR plugs. Separate MIDI in and out 1/8” stereo connectors patch to included adapter cables for use with 5-pin DIN MIDI devices. The 1/8” stereo output with associated volume control drives headphones or line inputs. You can use your fave analog headphones with an iOS Lightning device (!). There’s switchable +48V phantom power for the mic, and unlike some other interfaces I’ve tested, this really does deliver +48V so it can make any condenser mic happy. A DC in power jack for the optional iRig PSU 3A power supply ($39.99) lets you charge your Lightning-compatible iOS device and monitor audio through standard 1/8” headphones—so your recording time is not limited by the phone’s charge. Nor do you need Apple’s Lightning Dock (also $39.99), which does not exactly represent Apple’s finest hour (see the user reviews on Apple’s site). The audio quality is excellent. iRig Pro I/O uses a discrete-component preamp with “front-panel” gain control, 24-bit kHz conversion, and credible converters. A firmware update adds 96 kHz recording to the native 44.1/48 kHz native sample rates. Two LEDs change colors based on what’s happening; one indicates phantom power and MIDI activity, the other power and audio level. For example, the Power/Audio Level LED is dark blue when connected and on standby, bright blue when active, green when it senses signal level, orange for optimum signal level, and red for “turn the input gain down.” According to IK, the red phantom power LED blinks when the battery runs low. However, the batteries never got low enough during testing to verify this. The package consists of the unit itself, two batteries, the aforementioned MIDI cables, and cables that mate the unit’s multipin connector with USB or Lightning connectors (in other words, don’t lose the cables—you won’t find replacements at Best Buy). iRig Pro I/O is bus-powered with computers; the two AA batteries (included) are needed to pass audio with iOS and Android devices. For Android, your phone or tablet needs to be running Android OS 5 or later with USB digital audio capabilities, and you’ll also need an optional-at-extra-cost Micro-USB-OTG to Mini-DIN cable ($29.99). Like most IK products, registering gets you free software. For iPad/iPhone/iPod devices, there’s AmpliTube CS (with four additional amp models), VocaLive FREE, SampleTank CS (with 68 sounds total), and iGrand Piano FREE. All of these are expandable at extra cost. For the Mac and Windows, you get expandable versions of AmpliTube Metal with Custom Shop, SampleTank 3 SE, and T-RackS Classic mixing and mastering suite with four effects processors. Although iRig Pro I/O doesn’t support older 30-pin iOS devices, it’s compatible with iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPod touch 6th generation, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad Pro (12.9-inch), iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPad mini, and iPad 4th generation. iOS 6 or later is required. LIMITATIONS The input jack is mono XLR/TS only. The maximum preamp gain is 47 dB—not enough for ribbon mics that want 65 dB to 70 dB. If it’s crucial to use particular ribbon mics with iRig Pro I/O, try before you buy. IK recommends the ASIO4ALL driver with Windows, which sometimes works well, and sometimes not. Thankfully, I tried iRig Pro I/O with Cakewalk SONAR using Windows 10’s WASAPI Shared mode, and it worked fine—with latency very close (10 - 15 ms) to what you can obtain with ASIO4ALL when it’s working properly, so problem solved. However I couldn't get iRig Pro I/O working with WASAPI Exclusive mode, which gives around 7 ms latency. There's no free software for Android. CONCLUSIONS There’s no question iRig Pro I/O is a well-designed piece of gear from both an audio and compatibility standpoint. I love that it overcomes the limitation Apple imposed on the iPhone where everything has to be done through the Lightning connector—even though it will cost you another $39.99 for the power supply. With Windows, the lack of dedicated drivers means you’re stuck with installing ASIO4ALL—but the ability to work with WASAPI Shared mode is a more universal, Windows-friendly, and forwards-thinking solution. iRig Pro I/O has a lot going for it. The unit itself is light but rugged, with a slightly “rubberized” feel. It’s compact, reasonably priced, and solves several issues when you want high-quality, mobile interfacing. I’ve yet to see something this compact, at this price, that delivers true phantom power and hardware MIDI I/O. When you need to throw an audio interface into your backpack, iRig Pro I/O works as advertised, gets the job done, and is painless to set up—it’s a winner for mobile recording and playback. Resources iRig Pro I/O landing page iRig Pro I/O is available from: IK Multimedia B&H Guitar Center Musician's Friend IK Multimedia Introduction Video Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  6. Arranger Keyboards as Studio Tools? Are You Nuts? You might be surprised at what you can do with modern arranger keyboards by Craig Anderton I understand why you almost hit the back button on your browser: When I say “arranger keyboard,” you think “guy at the Holiday Inn doing a cover version of ‘You Light Up My Life’ by pressing a few buttons on the keyboard and singing over it.” And you’d be right…but you’d also be wrong. (You would also be lucky if you didn’t know the song to which I’m referring.) Arranger keyboards, like the Korg Pa series (Fig. 1), Yamaha’s PSR-series keyboards, Casio’s WK series (Fig. 2), and the like have evolved over the years by offering high quality sounds, more humanized sequencing, and a host of other features. Let’s see why this matters to you. Fig. 1: Korg’s Pa4X76 is a high-end arranger with over 500 styles, including some updated favorites from previous Korg arrangers. It also includes vocal processing from TC-Helicon, processing from Waves, a 7" touch display, and can save custom styles and setings. Fig. 2: Casio’s WK-7600 has 260 styles; however you can edit these or create your own 8-track rhythms with drums, percussion, bass, and five chord patterns, which you can save to the 100 available memory slots. There’s also a 17-track sequencer for recording. The street price is under $450. YOUR MUSIC PRODUCTION LIBRARY A virtually untapped arranger keyboard application is as a replacement for music libraries. When doing audio-for-video work, you’ll often need a few minutes of appropriate background music behind a scene; with the ability to turn out just about anything from bossa nova to heavy metal, an arranger keyboard can produce an instrumental “bed” within minutes. Given the cost of typical “construction kit” sample libraries, it doesn’t take too many of them to equal the cost of a decent arranger keyboard—which can be more flexible, too. However, even though the musicality of these keyboards has improved dramatically, you don’t want to sound like that Holiday Inn guy. This is where, as a musician, you have a huge advantage: Record a few overdubs with “real” musicians (e.g., some tasty hand percussion, piano, or guitar), and the overall sound belies the arranger-based origins. Although this takes a bit more effort compared to just pushing a preset button for a particular style and recording the results, you’ll save much time compared to recording from scratch. Of course, you needn’t use arranger keyboards solely to make full productions. If you’re writing a song, you can set up the chord progression on your arranger and play along with a complete rhythm section instead of just a metronome click. You don’t have to keep the scratch track—but if you want to, keep reading. TURNING DEMOS INTO PRODUCTIONS For songwriting, arranger keyboards are like having a robo-partner who can churn out phrase after phrase until you hear something you like. In fact, you might actually end up wanting to use the demo track. As an example, suppose you’re noodling around on your arranger, and come up with a great basis for a rock tune . . . but you want to replace some of the arranger’s sounds. Many arrangers let you save an arrangement as a Standard MIDI File, which you can then import into your DAW. If there are arranger sounds you like, that’s fine too—direct some tracks via your MIDI out to the arranger, and record the audio back into your DAW. Meanwhile, you can send the other MIDI tracks to a multi-timbral virtual instrument in your DAW for bigger ’n’ better sounds. Or you may not want to replace sounds, but do more sophisticated mixing or processing than the arranger allows. Fortunately, some arrangers can save songs to a storage medium (e.g., USB thumb drive). If you can solo a sound, or mute (or turn the volume down on) all sounds except one, you can save each sound as a separate file. Your next step would be to import each file into your host, line up the beginnings (they should all start at the same time if you saved from the beginning to the end of the song), then process, mix, automate, and overdub as desired. If there’s no option to save audio to some type of transportable media, you can instead solo an individual track, send it to the arranger’s audio output, and record the output into your host. Repeat for each track until the data you need lives in your host program. Lining up the recorded tracks may be a problem. But as your arranger will probably have some kind of count-in or intro, if you record that at the head of the track, then you can simply line up the metronome clicks for each track until they’re in sync. Another possibility is that if the host’s MIDI out patches to the arranger’s MIDI in, a start command from the host will cause the arranger to start playing. Simply go back to the beginning of the host’s sequence each time, solo a track, record it, go back, record the next track, and so on—and the sounds will be in sync with the host, too. TIME IS MONEY, THEY SAY . . . And a good arranger keyboard can save you time, whether it’s by generating tracks that kick off a song idea, provide complete music beds for audio-for-video, or generate patterns you can use in your own productions. And of course, when the session’s over, you can always pack up your arranging keyboard, plug in at the Holiday Inn, and do a fabulous cover version of “You Light Up My Life.” Or on second thought, maybe you should just keep it in the studio. -HC- ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  7. Multi-Tool for Guitar by Gibson It's a setup... by Craig Anderton Probably like many of you, I have a tool collection that includes hex keys, screwdrivers, socket wrenches, etc. - so when I need to set up a guitar to my liking, I’m covered. However, taking all these on the road is inconvenient, and having proper tools at my fingertips became more of an issue when Gibson introduced the zero-fret adjustable nut. I found that raising the nut up all the way could convert my guitar into a slide guitar in under a minute (and once the nut was raised, the G FORCE automatic tuning provided an appropriate open tuning for slide). But then one night, I lost the 0.05” hex key… I also do more more frequent pickup adjustments, because of amp sims. There’s a tradeoff between pickup height, output, sustain, and attack transients; with physical amps I prefer the pickups closer for more output and attack, but with amp sims, lowering the pickups reduces the initial transient and gives a more consistent average signal. So it was time for Gibson's Multi-Tool. It's very compact and fits in my guitar case (check out the quarter for comparison), so I can leave all the other tools back home at my workbench. The Multi-Tool has two groups of tools, which swivel out from each end. One group is: 5/16” truss rod socket wrench 4 mm slotted screwdriver 1/8”, 1/16”, and 0.05” hex keys Lever with engraved marks at 3/64” and 5/64” for checking action at the 12th fret. I didn’t realize how useful this was, but it speeds up setting action compared to “play and see if it’s better or not.” The second group is: 1.5 mm, 2 mm, 2.5 mm, and 3 mm hex keys #1 and #2 Phillips-head screwdrivers This takes care of my guitar needs, but I also found the Multi-Tool useful for prying reluctant battery covers loose from effects, and even opening up computer peripherals for cleaning. BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE! Suitably inspired, I also looked around for a diagonal cutters that could fit in my case for quick string changes. Jewelrysupply.com has a mini diagonal cutter (item PL433) that’s only 3” long, but still has 1.2” jaws with a flush cutting edge, and costs under $5. Okay…I’m set! And my guitar is set up, too. RESOURCES The Gibson Multi-Tool retails in the Gibson Store for $19.99 + shipping. The Mini Side Cutters is available from JewelrySupply.com for $4.71 + shipping. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  8. Restoring Pete Townshend's Double-Neck Guitar The inside story on returning this historic guitar to playability by Craig Anderton When I had my vintage Rickenbacker 360 12-string restored recently (expertly, I might add) by Gibson Repair & Restoration, I was fascinated to see rare guitars in various stages of restoration when I dropped off the Ric. I asked if there had been any particularly interesting instruments they’d restored lately, and the consensus among the luthiers was that restoring Pete Townshend’s double-neck was one of the most challenging and gratifying jobs they’d done. I asked what was involved…and thought it was pretty interesting, so here’s the story (props to Phil Crabtree at GR&R for sharing his photos). This guitar was gifted by the Who’s Peter Townshend to an individual who kept it on display in his living room because of its history and cool looks. A friend had admired the guitar for years, and lamented its condition. He convinced the owner to send it to GR&R to be restored, and here’s what it looked like when it arrived. However as you'll see in subsequent photos, a lot of the damage was more than just skin-deep. With an iconic guitar like this, judgement calls have to be made about how far to take a restoration. For example, GR&R will restore finishes if the customer wants it, but they advise against it because it reduces a vintage guitar’s value (and cachet) dramatically. Some repairs are more or less invisible—e.g., replacing wiring—while others are more obvious. Also, some repairs are essential, such as replacing frets that have been more or less destroyed from years of playing, while others are really up to the owner. FIRST STEPS The first step GR&R does with any guitar is document the instrument’s current condition upon arrival, accompanied by lots of photos. In this case, the guitar has historical significance to popular music, so as the guitar progressed it was important to keep a running record of the "before" and "after." Here’s the initial list of what needed to be done…including scary things like fixing “collapsing bridges.” I didn’t realize the extent to which restored guitars are taken down to the basics—all original parts (screws, pickups, bridges, tuners, electronics, etc.) were removed for cleaning, replacement, etc. Parts that have to be replaced are bagged up and returned to the owner. Here, the pickups and electronics (which didn’t work at all) have been removed; you can get an idea of the deterioration the guitar had endured. The tuners were a total loss, and the corrosion had not been kind to the wood where they were sitting. Although it's desirable to retain the original hardware, this isn't always possible and some of the original hardware had to be replaced because of wear and corrosion (most likely from heavy use, touring in so many different environments, and time). In addition to all tuners being replaced with historic replicas, both original ABR-1 bridges had to be replaced because they were corroded and fatigued in shape from years of heavy use. The original ABR-1 bridge posts were also replaced, because a few of them were bent. Also, the original bridge post mounting hole had to be dowelled, re-drilled, and mounted because of fatiguing wood. And here are all the parts after removal. The corrosion on the metal parts was off the hook. Also, lots of the inlays were loose. They had to be re-seated and glued in place. The nut was another total loss, but it was measured carefully so that the replacement nut could be cut correctly. Both the 6- and 12-string necks needed a lot of work just to be playable again. Over time, the frets on both necks had deteriorated from years of playing and being on tour. All the frets had to be replaced. Removing frets has to be done really carefully to avoid tearing up the fingerboard (as a side note that doesn't relate to this repair, Richlite necks are much more refretting-friendly). Next came planing and smoothing the fingerboards. After the frets are replaced, they’re tapped into place and dressed. Here’s what the headstocks looked like after being restored with period-correct Kluson tuners. The client agreed with GR&R not to restore the finish, but to have it retain the history/wear of being on the road with Townshend. As a result, the finish was cleaned only by hand to preserve the natural patina and wear, using 3M Finesse-it Protective Wax. The entire electronic assembly had to be removed and restored because it no longer functioned—time, humidity, and corrosion caused the electronics to fail. The original PAFs were the heart and soul of this Gibson's electrified sound, and there was some concern how well they had survived. Fortunately, all the PAF pickups were okay, so they were re-used after cleaning. Other parts were not so lucky. Original parts that could be salvaged were used, but tracking down historically accurate parts for original parts that had failed can be challenging. Again fortunately, it was possible to find equivalent replacements for the output jack and one of the Switchcraft toggle switches. The wiring harness is done outside the body, then threaded back in through the pickup cutouts. Note the Caig DeoxIT—my favorite contact cleaner, and apparently GR&R’s as well. I thought this method of pulling controls through their associated holes was really clever - threading one of the cut strings through the hole for the pot, then taping it to the pot shaft so the shaft can be pulled easily up through the hole. As some of the final steps, ColorTone Fretboard Finishing oil puts some life back into the fretboard; then comes string replacement and setup (adjusting both truss rods, setting the action, adjusting intonation, tuning, and ultimately, playing the guitar as a final reality check). Of course, the entire restoration involved more than what’s shown here; it took about 40 hours to restore Townshend’s double-neck. Here’s GR&R luthier Phil Crabtree, playing the guitar before it goes back…I guess that playing one of Pete Townshend's guitars is a perk of doing restoration I'd like to thank GR&R for being willing to share this story and these pictures with us. Let's close out with how this guitar looks now that it's been through the restoration process. -HC- ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  9. Hi-Fi - Same As It Ever Was? Our memory might be telling our ears what they want to hear... by Craig Anderton Dear Musician - They’re called fanatics—people who listen to their vinyl albums on vintage gear like Macintosh amplifiers, old KLH speakers, and turntables with Stanton cartridges. They swear it sounds better, which of course, can’t be true—right? After all, today’s gear is so much more accurate, whether you’re talking DSP to flatten speaker response, or distortion so low it almost can’t be measured. Granted, there’s appeal to having rare gear, restoring it, and doing the loving maintenance that keeps it humming decades after the companies making the gear went out of business. But maybe those fanatics aren’t so crazy after all, because the naysayers may be overlooking the most important point of all. Music has a proven relationship to memory (for more information, check out this thread). One of the more interesting experiments involved putting together a playlist of songs that were popular in someone's youth, and seeing patients with Alzheimer's or dementia light up. So it's understandable that people enjoy reliving what was wonderful in their past, and of course, pretty much anything that was ever recorded is accessible via the internet. However, maybe it's not only about the music itself, but the sound that plays with our memory. The music of the past was listened to on the equipment of the past, and was mixed and mastered on speakers and amps designed using the technology of that time. This was brought home to me recently in a very dramatic way, because I was one of the first people to hear the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s. I was gigging in a town near the Capitol Records pressing plant in Pennsylvania, and a fan of our band had smuggled out a copy. With no idea what to expect, suffice it to say I was blown away. I eventually bought the CD, but could never replicate what I heard half a century ago…until I was visiting a friend who had a lovingly restored stereo system from that era. Over that system, it sounded like I remembered it. So if you want to know what the world heard when a classic album like Are You Experienced? was released on an unsuspecting world, it's possible that the only way to truly hear what it was intended to sound like would be to listen on the playback equipment of that time. The speakers of that era didn’t benefit from computer-aided design, or the improvements in cone and magnet materials that have occurred over the years. Ribbon tweeters, although invented back in the 20s, have only become popular recently. Audio transformers and tubes added their own coloration, records were mixed and mastered to take the RIAA curve for vinyl into account, and back in the day, people listened to speakers moving air in an acoustical space rather than over headphones. Yes, it may be crazy to devote your life to listening over painstakingly maintained vintage gear…but it’s crazier to think that the way we listen to music in 2017 is the same way people listened to music half a century ago. And if you want the experience of listening to music in 1967 (and all that implies with respect to music's relationship to memory), then you probably need to listen on equipment made in 1967...that is, until technology perfects the digital emulation of vintage playback systems! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  10. Craig’s List - 5 Symptoms that Your Gear Owns You Are you the proud owner of your music gear? Wake up—your gear may own you by Craig Anderton 1. You spend a lot of time on the phone with your Sweetwater sales engineer. As in, a lot. As in, Verizon is offering you attractive incentives to please switch to AT&T. Just a friendly heads-up: your sales engineer is looking into what’s involved in filing a restraining order. 2. When your buddy gets all effusive about his cool new GF, you think he means “Gear Fanatic.” Even more sadly, you think the terms “male” and “female” were invented to describe plugs and jacks, not the biological functionality of humanoid bipeds. (And FYI, "strip clubs" are not places were people get together to discuss channel strips.) 3. That Apple Mac IIci in the corner. . .seriously. 80MB hard drive, 25MHz processor, and it accepts only NuBus cards. Honest, you’ll never use it again. But if you really can’t bear to part with of it, then take out the motherboard, and it makes a divine planter! Convicted felon Martha Stewart recommends petunias. 4. You have a software update sitting on your computer, but you‘re terrified to install it because what you have works. Show some spine! Don’t let your software boss you around—it’s an update! What could possibly go wrong? 5. You really believe that you have to plug in cables in the “right” direction, so that the teeny-tiny little sentient electrons all march together in the same direction, goose-stepping their March of the Milliamps from one plug to another. And you’re really afraid that if you plug it in backwards, you may alter the ytilaer fo cirbaf. I mean, the fabric of reality. Hmmm . . . maybe you’re right. - HC - ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  11. Breaking Boundaries And the love of music gets all the credit by Craig Anderton People often talk in an abstract way about music crossing boundaries. But it’s a real phenomenon…as re-confirmed late on a Friday night in Houston. Three ladies were checking into a hotel where I was staying after a flight to Nashville had been canceled. I had come to the lobby to buy a late-night snack, and waited behind them as they went through some complicated maneuvers involving transferring from another hotel and using points. They were also asking about whether there were any dance clubs in the area, and I noticed that one of the ladies had “Soca Animal” on her cell phone. It was taking a long time, but I wasn’t in a hurry. Then one of them noticed I was standing there and said to the night clerk “I’m sorry, you can take care of this guy, he just wants to buy a bag of chips.” I replied, “Hey, take your time. Anyone into soca and dance clubs is okay with me.” That elicited a few chuckles, but then the lady with the cell phone said, “You know about soca?” with a look that could only be described as amazement. I said that yes, I love soca, and I’m also a big fan of zouk (another strain of dance-oriented Caribbean music). We talked for a while, and I mentioned my intro to the genre was the band Kassav. Well, the amazement turned to shock—she played her favorite Kassav tune on her cell phone ( ), and asked if I was familiar with it. Well, it’s one of their biggest hits, so I said sure and named the album. Upon hearing that, she blurted out, “I can’t believe I’m talking with a white person about soca!” which frankly, cracked me up. One of the other women was horrified I would interpret that as a racist comment, but I knew it wasn’t said in a racist way at all. We talked about Caribbean music some more, had some good laughs, and I gave them a list of some of my favorite Caribbean internet radio stations. What had started out as three black women and one white guy in a hotel lobby morphed effortlessly into four music fans. As I turned to go back to my room, the oldest of the three said, “I respect the Diety within you.” Now, I’m not really into organized religion, but I appreciated what she meant. For quite a while, we had bonded over music and enjoyed common ground that was far more relevant than skin color. Racism isn’t only about conflict: it’s about an artificial boundary that keeps people apart who shouldn’t be apart. That night, music poked some holes in that boundary. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  12. Ikutaro Kakehashi: The MIDI Backstory Over three decades later, the path to MIDI seemed easy...but it wasn't by Craig Anderton Many people have commemorated Mr. Ikutaro Kakehashi’s contributions to the music industry. As the founder of Roland, the products he influenced literally changed the course of popular music—not just music technology. But arguably his biggest contribution has flown “under the radar,” and in honor of his life and his passing, I’d like to shine a light on it. First, though, let’s set the stage. I had the honor of knowing him and we often had discussions about music and technology. He never lost a little kid’s sense of wonder, and whenever he discovered a new interest—such as video—he always saw it from a perspective that was broad yet focused. And once he found merit in something, like MIDI guitar or greater expressiveness with keyboards, he would keep pushing until what he thought was possible became reality. The origins of MIDI are generally—and properly—credited to Dave Smith and Ikutaro Kakehashi. But that just scratches the surface. There had already been movement on the part of Roland, Oberheim (the “System”), and Sequential Circuits to find some way for the new generation of electronic synthesis devices to “talk” to each other. Dave Smith concentrated on keyboards with the Universal Synthesizer Interface, which was first presented in a white paper to the Audio Engineering Society. What Mr. Kakehashi brought to the party were (primarily) the timing and synchronization aspects that made MIDI relevant far beyond the stage, and established its importance in the studio. As no less a luminary that Alan Parsons opined, MIDI has become part of the DNA of modern music production. It’s everywhere, whether people know it’s there or not. "[DON'T] GIVE UP SO EASILY" But MIDI wasn’t just about technology. Initially, some companies resisted MIDI. Dave Rossum, the genius behind E-Mu Systems, saw Ethernet as a far more capable protocol. He was right, of course; but in reality, it would have been too expensive for consumer-oriented gear. Other companies simply didn’t see any value, or were reluctant to add a feature to their products that had no guarantee of success. In fact, Dave Smith said that at the first meeting about MIDI there was a lot of disagreement because some people wanted more expensive and faster hardware. Dave left the meeting thinking it wasn’t going to happen, but later that night an engineer from Roland showed up at Dave’s hotel room and said “I have been told by Kakehashi-san not to give up so easily.” Ultimately, one of the reasons MIDI caught on was because it was inexpensive enough that it could be part of something like a consumer-oriented Casio keyboard. Companies had little to lose by including MIDI…and if it took off, then they’d be poised to enjoy the benefits. IT TOOK TWO TO TANGO And then there was the 800 lb. gorilla in the room: The intense rivalry between Yamaha and Roland. For MIDI to be successful, it would have to be adopted universally. There was no room for the two industry giants to go in different directions, yet at the time Japanese corporate culture had a tendency toward insularity. Fortunately, Mr. Kakehashi did not take the position that since Roland made such a significant contribution, it could obtain a competitive advantage over its rival. As a believer in the power of music, he realized there was something bigger at stake than corporate politics. Equally fortunately, Yamaha jettisoned the “not invented here” syndrome, embraced MIDI, and made its own contributions to help make MIDI a practical reality. The adoption of the spec by Roland and Yamaha became an incredibly powerful statement that ensured the success of MIDI. The smaller companies were taken aback by such a show of unity from two powerful rivals, and adopted the attitude of “Well if Roland and Yamaha can join together for this, who are we not to participate?” Whether it was the force of Mr. Kakehashi’s personality or Yamaha’s keen foresight—or more likely, both—doesn’t really matter at this point because after Dave Smith and Kakehashi-san birthed MIDI (and earned a technical Grammy in the process), the rest of the industry raised the kid enthusiastically. BELIEVE IT... I’ll close with a story that showed just how revolutionary MIDI was. Having written the book “MIDI for Musicians,” which was the first mainstream book explaining MIDI, I was often asked for comment. One day a journalist called me and wanted details on the protocol. I gave him the lowdown on what MIDI did, how it worked, and why it was so great. After my rant, he said “Okay, but let’s give equal time to the other standards.” I told him there wasn’t another standard, the entire industry had adopted MIDI. He seemed puzzled and said “I understand it’s been adopted by the industry, but I want to know about the other standards, and how they fit in.” I explained that prior to MIDI there had been attempts to create something similar, but none of them gained traction, and had fallen by the wayside as MIDI took over. He remained unconvinced. After all, this was a world of Mac vs. PC and VHS vs. Beta. Exasperated, he tried one last time to get me to spill the beans on MIDI’s rivals, and again, I explained there simply weren’t any. He became upset, and essentially gave no credibility to anything I said because he was convinced I was an unprincipled shill for this MIDI thing. He didn’t quite hang up on me, but it was clear he felt he had wasted his time talking to someone so obviously biased. Looking back, I can understand his confusion. He didn’t realize people like Dave Smith and Ikutaro Kakehashi could exist, and that rivals like Yamaha and Roland could place the needs of musicians above their own potential agendas. I don’t know what that journalist is doing now, but the specification he dismissed endures. Dave Smith continues to make exceptional synthesizers. Yamaha, Korg, Casio, Kawai, and so many others keep innovating ever-cooler products. Roland carries forth Mr. Kakehashi’s vision of always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Yes, we lost a giant in this industry—but not before he left a mark on it that will endure after everyone reading this will have passed away. I can’t really be sad about Mr. Kakehashi’s passing…because it’s far outweighed by the happiness he helped bring to the world. To learn more about the life of Mr. Kakehashi, The MIDI Association (www.midi.org), which is exceptionally cool in its own right, has published an informative article https://www.midi.org/articles/ikutaro-kakehashi-passes-away-at-87 on his life. The following articles also describe the beginnings of MIDI…interesting stuff. And of course, the TMA has a ton of articles about MIDI techniques, basics, advanced topics, and the future of MIDI. https://www.midi.org/articles/midi-from-the-inside https://www.midi.org/articles/midi-history-chapter-6-midi-is-born-1980-1983 ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  13. 5 Ultra-Nifty Uses for CDs With the decline of physical media, what will we do with CDs? Here’s what! by Craig Anderton 1. Microwave awesomeness. Ever put a CD in a microwave oven on high for 5 seconds? Well, don’t! It could damage the oven and cause serious safety issues. So just take my word for it: It’s awesome. 2. Roofing tiles. I know someone who successfully re-tiled a roof using the CDs that AOL sent out every 2.756 minutes back in the 90s, and it’s still around today. The roof, I mean. 3. Personal defense. The bad guy is coming toward you! Quick—whip out your CD, and reflect light off it into your attacker’s eyes. While he’s temporarily blinded, make your escape! Well, unless it’s night. Or the sun isn’t behind him. But in that case, he still might die from laughter from someone trying to stop him with a CD. 4. Superlative cat toy. A CD makes a simply marvelous cat toy. Then again, I can’t think of anything that doesn’t make a marvelous cat toy. Except maybe for raccoons and swimming pools, but that’s about it. 5. Listen to music. I’ve been told you can download CDs from the internet! But when I do, all that happens is files get written to my hard drive. Maybe I need a 3D printer for this to work properly. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  14. Anderton

    Rockin' the Boat

    Rockin' the Boat 2000+ people. Over a dozen musical acts. It’s the kind of thing that floats your boat by Craig Anderton I’m not really a cruise guy or even a fan of 70s rock, so it seems like I wouldn’t be the target demographic for the '70s Rock and Romance Cruise—to say the least. But when I saw the ads for this cruise pop up on Harmony Central, I was intrigued. That led to asking for and receiving an interview with the TimeLife people, sister company to StarVista LIVE who put these themed cruises together, and it was sufficiently interesting that I wrote an article about the backstory. What struck me was how the people behind these cruises are totally into music. These aren’t just attempts to cash in on peoples’ memories, but celebrations of the music associated with particular eras or genres—and as long as they produce revenue, they can keep doing more. There had already been Flower Power and Soul Train cruises this year, with a Southern Rock one slated for 2018. But while I may not be into cruises per se, I am an experience junkie. And I am a music guy to the core, and overdue for a vacation by about 18 years…so I boarded a plane to Fort Lauderdale to see what was in store. Spoiler alert: I had a really good time, both for the reasons you might think…but also for some reasons I was not expecting at all. Interestingly, before going on the cruise, an associate at Gibson had gone on a themed music cruise from a different company on a different cruise line. She got back a few days before I left, so I was hoping to hear “Yeah Craig, it was so cool, you’re gonna love it!” But she said the food was bad (although it sometimes reached below average), and she got seasick, so she had to take anti-motion sickness pills…which meant she couldn’t drink, and she’d paid in advance for a drink package (cheaper than buying a drink at a time). Her summary: “It was kind of like going to the dentist for oral surgery. I had a painful experience, and paid a lot of money for it. Although at least with a dentist, you end up better than when you went in.” Uh-oh. Fortunately, I have a friend who does maritime ship insurance so I asked him what he thought. He said “it’s all about the ship” and when he found it was the Celebrity Summit, said I had nothing to worry about. He was right. THE THEME The theme was 70s music, and really, it was more like a rock concert festival that just happened to be onboard a ship. The roster of artists was Peter Frampton, America, Little River Band, The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO, Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, Orleans, Stephen Bishop, Firefall, Player, Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night and various tribute bands playing everywhere from side stages to lounges. One of the more popular tribute acts was a humorous but affectionate tribute to Elton John [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] I had no idea the two guys in America had been together continuously for 47 years, or that the current lineup for the Little River Band—which had none of the founding members—had ironically been together much longer than the original lineup. It wasn’t just about the bands, though. When you got on the ship, all the music played onboard was from the 70s. There were 70s-related activities, like trivia games and such. But what impressed me the most was that the entire ship was populated by fans who love music. It’s interesting to be in an environment where there are over 2,000 people and if you happen to strike up a random conversation, it’s going to be about music. Even during the day, there were outside concerts. [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] Even more telling: Each day there was a panel discussion with particular band members. I thought a bunch of fun-loving cruise folks would prefer to be sunning themselves or drinking a Mexican Firing Squad by the pool, but the panel discussions were packed—as in, good luck finding a seat in a venue that was second in size only to the theater. Nor were these about fluff or nostalgia. There were some really interesting insights, and frank talk about what it takes for a 70s artist to make it through to the year 2017. The moderator started out keeping it light, but fortunately, sensed both the direction the musicians were taking things and the crowd’s interest, and reacted accordingly. Members of America, the Little River Band, and Orleans on a panel about “Surviving Pop Music in the ‘70s” [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] For example, Wayne Nelson of the Little River Band talked about how members leaving was traumatic. He said “it was driven by egos and money. You got money for having songs on an album, and everyone was competing to get their songs on it. It wasn’t about the art, but the money.” But the silver lining was that as people were replaced, they were replaced by more compatible members so in his estimation, with the personnel changes the band became better and more vital instead of having the same people trying to resurrect past glories. More on this shortly. THE FIRST NIGHT’S HEADLINE CONCERT Those on the cruise were divided into two groups. You could do early show/late dinner, or early dinner/late show. The headliners would do the early show one night and the late show the next night (or vice-versa), so everyone got to see them. First night for my group was the Little River Band. I was dimly aware of them (the 70s were when I was doing studio work in New York and establishing my career as a writer so it was kind of a lost decade). However I did know who their keyboard player was; Chris Marion had done some writing for Harmony Central. Chris Marion steps out with an actual Roland Keytar—that still works [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] They hadn’t played in a while and initially, were somewhat stiff/hesitant. I started thinking I’d probably have more fun going back to my stateroom and making my own music in my little studio setup. Always have a studio at the ready! I didn’t have space for my 4” V-Series KRKs, but IK’s Micro-Monitors did a great job. But they kept gathering momentum. They have five vocalists, and the vocals were amazing—right on target, and no Auto-Tune. The dual guitar lines were equally impressive, and their drummer was tight and downright melodic in his approach. Chris added the necessary textures and stepped out front with a Keytar a few times. The crowd was digging it. Their front man, Wayne Nelson, is no kid but he’s a superbly tasteful and accomplished bass player and can sing his heart out. But what really flipped the switch was when they dared to do a new song. The popular wisdom is that people are there to see the hits and only the hits. The band was almost apologetic, saying “all the songs you’re going to hear over the next four days were new songs at one point.” The crowd loved it. From that song on, there was that unique kind of audience/band energy exchange that you know about if you’ve ever played live and had one of those nights. The band got looser socially and tighter musically, and you could tell they were having more and more fun as the evening went on. Each song had more energy, precision, and style than the previous one. I was very impressed by a band that I would never have guessed would impress me. Furthermore, the sound was great. As in, so good I sought out their front of house engineer because even though it was a theater with good acoustics (and packed with the ultimate sound absorbers/diffusers—people!), he managed to make the low end really tight, keep the mud out, and balanced five vocalists perfectly. Given that one of them played drums, I asked how he managed to keep the drums out of the mic. Simple: He ducked the mic with a notch at the snare drum frequency whenever it hit, and rolled off everything below about 125 Hz. He said that it was actually an advantage, because he needed to bring up the overheads on only three songs; the vocal mic picked up enough. I asked a bit about where the band was going next, and mentioned that I thought the fans accepting the new material was when the band really started cooking. He said some fans have seen 200 shows, and this loyal following is what keeps them playing—the audience is there. Well that’s enough about day 1… AMBROSIA, AMERICA, FIREFALL, AND SOME INSIDER BASEBALL Day 2 seemed like a good time to check out the ship and find out what was there. But it was also a chance to catch up with Chris Marion and Charlie Morgan (currently with Orleans and Richard Marx; he was also Elton John’s long-time drummer). Charlie Morgan, pounding away on the drums [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] I mostly wanted to pick Chris’s brain on how, as one of the performers, he viewed the cruise. He’s a big fan of the themed cruises, because he confirmed what I suspected—the boat is packed 100% with people to whom music is an important, maybe even crucial, part of their lives. These weren’t mindless fans but people who could talk intelligently about music, careers of certain bands, and the like. They followed the band personnel twists and turns, and many even knew what I used to think was musician-only trivia, like who did the engineering and production. There was also a surprisingly large number of players. Chris also talked about how virtual instruments and such had changed the game. We ended up talking quite a bit about tech, and some of the complications in a themed cruise—for example, it wasn’t always possible to bring all your own gear. While we were talking, several fans of the band came up and complimented him on how great the set had been. They were respectful of his time, welcomed the opportunity to thank him personally, maybe mentioned a particular show they had caught, and moved on. Then I found Charlie Morgan, who I’d never met but we have mutual friends. It was a non-stop bunch of fun stories about studios, the old days of A&R, doing the Elton John tours, the current state of the music business, and swapping our respective George Martin stories. Interestingly, both Chris and Charlie live in Nashville, and the irony was not lost on me that after many “yeah, we should get together sometime” moments, we had to be on a boat somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico to finally hang out. Although in some ways I’m not super-gregarious, I was after all going to write up the experience, and engaged a lot of random people in conversations to take the pulse. Every conversation was about music. These are all people who spent a decent amount of money and took the time to go on a themed cruise, and they chose music over other ways to spend their time and money. Although I expected the cruise to be mostly couples reliving their past (the “romance”) part, quite a few people went with friends and there were also those who went not because they were part of the music at the time, but acquired a taste for it after the fact and wanted to see the performers. The headliner that night was America. I never really was a fan of the band, and although the crowd was happy, I couldn’t help but think there were some in-ear monitor issues. If you like America, you’d be pleased to see them after 47 years of playing together—still playing their music and still digging it. One of the best lines was when America said “If you’re looking for our web site, don’t Google ‘America’” (it’s venturahighway.com) [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] There were several groups I didn’t get to see; there’s a lot going on during these cruises and while there aren’t too many overlapping events, sometimes I needed to prioritize eating or getting a decent night’s sleep over catching more concerts. But I did see part of Ambrosia’s and Orleans’ set, and both were crowd pleasers. Ambrosia took the liberty to stretch out a bit—which I always appreciate—and Orleans served up some tight, funky Louisiana gumbo that showed the band had more depth than just their “Still the One” hit. Good stuff. PETER FRAMPTON…AND MORE On Day 3, the boat was docked at Cozumel, Mexico and there were numerous offshore excursions. I chose to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza; here’s a photo of the main pyramid. El Castillo is the main pyramid at Chitzen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I find this kind of thing fascinating but this article isn’t about the excursions, so let’s move on to the evening’s headliner—Peter Frampton. I hadn’t seen Frampton in concert before, but if he wasn’t at the top of his form, I’d sure like to know what it would take to do better. This was everything a concert should be. His playing was as spot-on and lyrical as ever, the vocals were strong, and the band was clearly not just a bunch of “I-can-get-them-for-cheap” sidemen—they added a lot, and were clearly enjoying themselves. Peter Frampton was one of the cruise’s highlights, and delivered an outstanding, vibrant set [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] But what I really noticed was that Frampton seemed to be having an absolutely fabulous time, and loving every minute of being up there. Granted, the audience was feeding back a lot of energy. But if he was faking it, he really should give up music ASAP and switch over to an acting career. The sound - like the sound for all the concerts - was excellent, as was the pacing of the songs (the second song was a version of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”), the way he wrung real dynamics out of his multiple Gibson guitars…everything. There’s really not much else to say except that I was extremely impressed, and enjoyed myself both from a show standpoint and a “musician’s critical eye” standpoint. Later on, I caught Stephen Bishop at the behest of a friend. I’m not all that much into watching a singer-songwriter banging away on an acoustic guitar, but he was hilarious. With a loose and varied set, he had the audience in the palm of his hand (and you have to hear his impression of Bob Dylan hailing a taxi in New York). It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. The playing was excellent, and the engaging personality in an intimate setting made me glad I went. Getting off music for a second, food on cruise ships is always controversial so I want to weigh in on that. There were specialty restaurants where the cost is not included in the cruise charge, and restaurants that are included: a buffet that seemed be offering something most of the time, some poolside eateries, and a main dining room for dinner. My sometimes-cynical brain assumed the “standard” eateries would be set up to encourage spending money on the premium dining, but that wasn’t the case. The food in the main dining room was sufficiently good and varied that I never did do the optional-at-extra-cost thing, and the buffet had enough variety (including some ethnic foods) so that I could always find something I wanted. Unless you’re a real food snob, the experience was definitely above average. Several people said the specialty restaurants were fabulous, but the fluidity of my schedule often meant I just didn’t have the time to sit down and indulge myself in a long dinner. YES IT’S A PACKAGE, BUT… Different cruise lines have different “freebies” as part of the package. Some do all-you-can-drink liquor or free spas, while others charge for those same things. On the cruise, there were plenty of optional-at-extra-cost options, and if you’re a drinker, the price could add up quickly so it was sometimes best to spend the bucks for the $45 or $65 (plus 18% gratuity) drink packages. I’m not into drinking that much, so it was more cost-effective to just buy a drink when desired. Internet access cost money as well—$149 for unlimited during the cruise, or around $25 an hour (and this was one of the less expensive lines; with some cruise ships you pay by the minute for the privilege of frequent disconnects). Actually, this was great because I had an excuse to disconnect from real life for five days. The bottom line is in this case, the cruise package price buys you access to every musical activity, food, excellent service (there are about half as many crew members as there are passengers), and various other goodies. So really, you can just go with the basics and travel economically, or spend as much as you want to upgrade the overall experience. For example, it was worth it to me to spend the $134 to go to Chichen Itza, and I don’t regret going there for a second. THE ORCHESTRA AND CHRISTOPHER CROSS The next headliners were The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO. Again, a real crowd-pleasing set, excellent musicianship, quality sound, and I really enjoyed myself. You could see all the performers got a jolt of energy from the crowd. No wonder Chris Marion mentioned how much he enjoyed these cruises—you can’t go wrong with a captive audience that’s totally into what you do. The Orchestra, with (l-r front row) violinist Mik Kaminski, bassist Glen Burtnik (formerly with Styx) playing the SG bass with a psychedelic paint job, and Parthenon Huxley on guitar [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] Although they had to adapt a lush studio sound to a live performance context with seven musicians, they were skillful in that adaptation and were able to re-invent the music for the context while retaining the core. Tough to pull off, but they did. On the final night, Christopher Cross headlined. I wasn’t that aware of what he’s done recently; of course I heard “Sailin’” like everyone else, but he’d pretty much dropped off my radar. Yet I have to say he delivered a gorgeous set, emotionally deep, musically tight, and with a humility that made you forget you were in a theater…it felt like an intimate venue. With zero pretense and a hefty catalog of songs, Cross delivered big-time. I hope his career gets a second wind; he deserves it. Christopher Cross, ably aided by two backup singers from Nashville [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] The next morning, the cruise was over. Embarkation and disembarkation can always be a scene of confusing chaos; maybe we just got lucky, but it was handled extremely well. Again, I asked several people what they thought. The answers were uniformly enthusiastic, with several people saying they had already signed up for next year’s cruise (somewhere around 60% of this year’s participants had signed up the year before). That’s a pretty phenomenal retention rate. CODA Life is full of surprises, and this cruise sure managed to surprise me. It was an experience to be surrounded by nothing but hardcore music lovers for five days, but also, it gave an opportunity for bands that were still vital and gigging, but no longer “in fashion,” to connect with their fans and continue their careers. I'm not sure who chose the bands, but none of them was just "going through the motions." They all immersed themselves in the music and the performance. Peter Beckett from Player [photo courtesy StarVista LIVE] StarVista LIVE’s plan is to continue to tweak and extend the concept…could an EDM cruise be far behind? A jazz cruise? Given the success of the panels, will there be more events that dig deeper into the music business? It will be interesting to see what the future brings, but for now, it was great to spend some time in an environment where live music reigned supreme. {Breaking news: Here are the details on next year's cruise. Confirmed artists are Styx, Michael McDonald, War, The Guess Who, B.J. Thomas, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Badfinger featuring Joey Molland, and Poco. The dates are March 3-8, 2018, and ports of call are Ft. Lauderdale, USA; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. The ship is the same as this year, the Celebrity Summit.] ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  15. 5 Reasons Why Cassettes Were the Best Gosh Darn Playback Medium Ever! Let’s celebrate the technology whose sound quality was exceeded only by its mechanical perfection by Craig Anderton 1. Cassettes used tape. Everyone (yes, everyone) knows that suspending a bunch of teeny-tiny little magnets in plastic, blasting them with supersonic energy, then making them line up using a method that resembles herding drunken and disorderly cats is the surest way possible to create a peachy-keen sound. 2. Cassettes were designed for lo-fi dictation applications, not music. Being perversely contrary is in a musician’s DNA. So of course, upon first seeing the cassette, musicians realized immediately that this was clearly destined to be the playback medium of the future. Even better, cassettes distorted like crazy! 3. It was ahead of its time. The widespread adoption of low bit rate MP3 formats, played through 34¢ earbuds from China, proved that what people really wanted was not incremental, but excremental, changes in sound quality. The cassette delivered on that promise long before digital technology figured out how to take truly bad sound to a hitherto uncharted level of wretchedness. 4. Cassettes had little reels that rotated. Back in the 60s, if people had communed sufficiently with a mind-altering substance, they could be amused for hours watching the little reels go around—even if the music wasn’t any good. Decades later, music videos would exploit this very same principle by making elaborate videos for forgettable music. 5. They made spectacular road kill. When people got frustrated with cassettes jamming in their car stereo and threw them out the window, the tape would unravel like some strange kind of post-industrial intestine, literally spilling its guts all over the interstate. Can a CD do that? A download? Vinyl? No! Need I say more? ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  16. How to Fix Electronic Music Gear Repair or replace? Try repairing first… by Craig Anderton Your keyboard or multieffects is ailing. In many cases, you can be the doctor and fix what’s wrong—and save repair costs in the process. We won’t get deep into the weeds, but cover the essentials. FIRST, DO NO HARM The last thing you want to do is create new problems. In the medical world, this is called an iatrogenic illness—an illness caused by medical treatment. A slipped screwdriver while power is on, a broken connection, or destroying a circuit board trace could put an end to your gear. Repairs require care, patience, and being very deliberate in your actions. And did I mention patience? The cardinal rule is do the easy stuff first. Although that may not solve the problem, if it does you’ve saved yourself a lot of work. START WITH THE EXTERNALS Gather as much information as you can on symptoms. For example if there are no signs of life at all—no lights, no nothing—then it’s likely a power supply problem. If a keyboard has notes that don’t sound, it could be the keyboard itself, or the cables that connect to it. In either case, those are easier to check than trying to find out if an oscillator IC had died. Start by checking cables. I fixed a keyboard for a friend who had complained of intermittent operation. By checking cables first, I noticed that the IEC AC cord felt a little loose in its socket. I tried a tighter-fitting cable, and that solved the problem. Also look for signs of abuse, like chips or dents. That could mean something has become unseated. If there are external fuses, check them. Also check the power supply voltage switch, if present. One guitarist couldn’t understand why the Hughes & Kettner preamp he bought sounded so bad—until he realized the voltage switch was set for 240V in a 120V world. OPENING UP Always unplug the gear before opening it up. No exceptions. Place blankets, pillows, or something else that prevents the possibility of scratching your gear as you lay it on the operating table. Furthermore, thick pillows and the like can also “cradle” sections of the gear, like holding a panel at a 90 degree angle. Go online and try to find your gear's service manual. It will often include instructions for disassembly, and these can be worth their weight in gold—you definitely don’t want to loosen screws that shouldn’t be loosened. The service manual should also tell you if some case sections snap into place, which will imply how to unsnap them. Don’t discount YouTube videos from owners, either. Grab a cup, plastic food container, or whatever to hold any screws or other components you need to remove. Keep the top on when not in use! If you tip it over and screws go flying into a carpet, it’s not fun. Be aware that crucial screws for disassembly may be “hidden” under a “no user serviceable parts inside” sticker, a removable nameplate, or other sneaky location. Again, a service manual will identify these but if you don’t have a service manual and perform “unscrew while crossing fingers,” the last screw you need to undo might not be visible. If all screws you need to undo are the same type, great. But if not, draw a diagram of which screws came from where. Don’t think you’ll remember which screws go where. Often, panels can be separated from the main section of the gear. However the cables connecting them might not be very long, and pulling the panel away from the body may pull a cable out of its connector. When you first open a piece of gear, grab your smartphone or camera and take close-up pictures of the insides. They should be detailed enough so that if every cable was unplugged, you’d know where to plug them back in. Make sure any separated pieces are supported well. You don’t want a front panel falling over and ripping a few wires in the process. CHECK THE OBVIOUS Before touching anything, observe. If you see any leakage from a backup battery or crystals forming on the terminals, replace it immediately and hope any damage is minimal. In fact if the gear is more than a decade old and the battery has never been replaced, it’s cheap insurance to order and install a replacement. Look for any physical deformities in components, like swollen electrolytic capacitors, or discoloration in resistors (which may indicate heat damage). One of my more interesting cases was an OB-8 whose ICs and sockets used dissimilar metals, and conductive hairline crystals formed between the metals. I used a fine metal brush on the IC pins, and the OB-8 was fixed. However if you think a part may need replacing, don’t do anything yet; there may be no problem. But since you’re observing anyway, take notes. If you see any evidence of smoke or there’s a leftover “burning electronic part” smell, you probably won’t be able to do the repairs yourself. Check for internal fuses. If a fuse is blown, pay attention to how it was blown. If it simply opened up and there’s a gap between the fuse elements, it may just be old. But if there are little fuse particles inside the fuse, it might have blown violently from a sudden rush of excessive current. This warns you that there may be a serious relatively serious problem; when you power up to test later, be prepared to turn off the power switch as soon as you turn it on. THE FIX IS IN The first thing I do is disconnect connectors and then re-seat, one at a time, going through every connector at least once. Metals can corrode or oxidize, especially if you live in an environment with air pollution or salt water. I can’t tell you how many times simply re-seating connectors has solved problems, with no further attention required. For example, I had an Alesis Ion where three keys didn’t work. I thought maybe there were key contacts that needed cleaning (there weren’t), but it was simply that the connectors connecting the keyboard to the main circuit board needed re-seating. See all those ribbon connectors? Simply re-seating them can often solve problems. Not all connectors pull out cleanly. Some might have a little lip or latch to hold the connector in place, and you need to push on the latch gently to unseat the connector. Also, you want to be very careful not to bend any pins, as bending them back will weaken them. Pull connectors straight up; if possible, wedge a small screwdriver tip under each end so you can lift both ends of the connector evenly. Similarly, when re-seating make certain that all pins are in their respective holes before giving a final push into place. Many people who perform repairs worship at the alter of Caig Laboratories' contact cleaner and de-oxidation products. While the connectors are off, check the pins for corrosion or oxidation. If present, squirt a little metal-on-metal contact cleaner on a Q-tip, then use it to wipe down the pins. ICs in sockets can also cause problems. In this case, don’t take them out and re-seat them; it’s too easy to bend or break the fragile pins. It’s sufficient to use two screwdrivers as described above to raise the IC about 1/16th up from its socket (i.e., the pins don’t come out all the way), then push down again. This wiping action should be sufficient to clean the contacts. With pots that pass audio, a scratchy pot will be obvious when you listen. With pots used as encoders with digital circuitry, the results are less predictable—it may seem difficult to select presets, or a mod wheel might behave unpredictably. If the pot is a sealed type, replacement is your only option. If the pot has an opening and the resistive element is exposed to the air, contact cleaner is usually all you need. Be aware there are different types of contact cleaner; for most pots, you want the metal-on-plastic type. I have the full set of Caig contact cleaners for metal, plastics, gold-plated contacts, etc. Look over all soldered connections. While “cold” solder joints are unlikely in modern gear, especially on circuit boards, if wired connections are done by hand the possibility always exists. Another possibility is that the solder's flux did not burn off completely. If you’re handy with a soldering iron, touch up connections that look sketchy but be careful the heat doesn’t affect any plastic parts. ARE WE THERE YET? In my experience, most problems are mechanical. One of the weirdest fixes ever was when there was signal going to a synthesizer’s 1/4” output (as seen on an oscilloscope), but it never made it out of the synthesizer. A little investigation and a few choice swear words later, I found that the output jack had an internal short. Replacing it solved the problem. These days, many “repairs” don’t get to the component level, but do a board swap. It’s just too time-consuming to check individual components, unsolder them, and replace them. However if you can do the fixes yourself, you won't have to wait for some board to show up (if in fact you can even find one) and your gear will be happy again. The synth in the photos is my beloved Alesis Ion, which had three keys that didn't work and a sketchy mod wheel. 30 minutes later, it was back in active service - and better than ever. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  17. MIDI - The Force Awakens Everyone’s favorite music technology protocol is moving rapidly into the 21st century By Craig Anderton A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well actually it was over 30 years ago in Anaheim, California), two synthesizers—one from Roland, one from Sequential Circuits—talked to each other over a MIDI cable. Through a miracle of inter-industry co-operation refreshingly free of politics, the music industry banded together to create a specification that has endured to this day. But…as the old saying goes, what have you done for us lately? The answer is quite a bit. When hard disk recording and ADAT hit, digital audio recording entered the spotlight—while MIDI’s spotlight dimmed. But then Steinberg introduced Virtual Studio Technology, computers got faster, virtual instruments became a sophisticated alternative to physical instruments, USB made it easy for MIDI to talk to computers, and now, MIDI is more important than ever and actually gaining in importance. With MIDI ramping up to be a part of 2.6 billion devices as it invades the smart phone market, the sky’s the limit. THE GUARDIAN OF THE MIDI GALAXY SPEC It takes effort to maintain a spec—dealing with multiple music business companies (with an overlay of American/Japanese/European cultural divide) is like herding cats. Friendly cats to be sure…but cats nonetheless. That task, which borders on the thankless, falls to the MIDI Manufacturers Association. Lately, there’s been increased interest and participation from consumer-oriented companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as long-time supporters like Yamaha, Roland, Gibson, Korg, and others who recognize the value of being involved with the MIDI specification. By paying their share of the organization’s dues, MMA members have the right to help shape the future of MIDI, and vote—with one vote per member, regardless of size—on the various initiatives. This year's MMA meeting at the Anaheim Marriott started off with a review of what happened in 2016. Regarding the mechanics of how changes happen to the MIDI spec, the MMA is an all-volunteer organization with the exception of one employee—Tom White, who heads up the MMA. When a company has a proposal for an extension to the spec, working groups of interested parties coalesce to explore how it would work, and eventually, proposals go to a Technical Standards Board for review. After that review happens, it’s up to the Executive Board of the MMA to “make it so” (full disclosure: I represent Gibson Brands on the Executive Board.) Also, the MMA works closely with AMEI, its Japanese counterpart. This effectively doubles the available brainpower. The MMA holds an annual meeting at NAMM, with both public sessions (through invitation to, for example, journalists and educators who work with MIDI) and other sessions that are closed to the public. Approval of changes is a difficult, lengthy, and time-consuming process. Different manufacturers have different priorities, the MMA’s all-volunteer nature means software engineers who are normally very busy in their “day jobs” don’t have a lot of spare time, and it’s crucial that anything new doesn’t “break” anything old. MIDI SPEC ENHANCEMENTS IN 2016 Although there are several very exciting initiatives on the horizon (more on that later), 2016 brought several extensions to fruition. Some of the higher-visibility ones include: BLE-MIDI. This allows MIDI to talk to computers over Bluetooth Low Energy, with no special hardware required. Although virtually all aspects of the MIDI spec originated in the music industry, this was originally an Apple standard (spearheaded by Torrey Walker), and was proposed to the MMA. It was then adopted with minor revisions. At NAMM 2017, Cakewalk demoed the Zivix Jamstik working with SONAR (BLE-MIDI support was introduced with Windows 10 Anniversary Edition), despite Zivix itself thinking it wouldn’t be possible. Granted, any software needs the right “hooks” for Windows, but there’s no doubt other companies will be incorporating BLE-MIDI into their software. Other other new features, MoForte's GeoShred 2 software instrument now includes MIDI Polyphonic Expression MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Championed by ROLI, Roger Linn, and others, this allows expression for individual notes within a polyphonic data stream. It does this by maximizing the use of MIDI channels to allow per-note control of pitch, volume, timbre and more. The bottom line is this brings acoustic instrument-like expressiveness to new electronic controllers, like ROLI’s keyboards and the Linnstrument. Windows 10 Multi-Client Support. This is a fancy way of saying “you can have several MIDI programs running at once.” Ever wonder why you couldn’t run your sequencer and the editor for your virtual instrument that communicates via MIDI at the same time? Now you can, because Windows has the intelligence to separate individual MIDI data streams. There are also many other Windows 10 enhancements, like MIDI support in PowerShell and the Windows Store. This doodle generated sound on Chrome using the Web-MIDI API. Web-MIDI API (Application Program Interface). This is currently supported in Chrome and Opera, and is what allowed you to play a synth on Google’s home page as a tribute to Bob Moog on what would have been his 78th birthday. Firefox is also moving toward adoption, albeit slowly. Microsoft and Apple aren’t committed to supporting it yet, but it probably won’t take long before they figure out this is a really cool feature to have—especially for education. The MIDI Association gave info on all things MIDI that were happening at the Winter 2017 NAMM show The MIDI Association. The MMA also established a free, public-facing, user-oriented offshoot at www.midi.org that explains MIDI, presents news about the spec, makes the spec available for download, and has numerous articles as well as a forum on all things MIDI. It’s a cool site and well worth checking out. THE FUTURE The MMA is understandably reluctant to reveal what’s under consideration. Much of this is to avoid early mentions of something that “seems like a good idea” at the time, but for some reason, doesn’t pan out. As a result, although I’d love to give you a peek in to the future, I can’t. But the fact that I wish I could probably gives you a hint that there’s a lot more bubbling under the surface. What I can say is that both the MMA and AMEI agree on the need to improve MIDI in terms of speed, resolution, and channels, and have a goal of finalizing new extensions to the specification as rapidly as practical. The challenge is how to bring MIDI into the 21st century without invalidating the huge universe of existing MIDI gear, but the music industry’s best minds are on the case…and MIDI looks poised to mean even more in the 21st century than it did in the 20th. Resources Individuals can join The MIDI Association, a global community of people who work, play, and create with MIDI, for free. Companies that make MIDI products and want to help decide MIDI’s future can join the MMA. In either case, visit www.midi.org for more details. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  18. 32nd Annual TEC Awards The venerable industry awards ceremony re-boots - and shines By Craig Anderton Left to right: Alice Cooper, Robert DeLeo, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry perform at the TEC Awards finale. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NAMM. All other photos by Lee Anderton) The TEC Awards were created in 1985 under the aegis of Mix Magazine, back in the heyday of print. Its goal was to give recognition to the “individuals, companies, and technical innovations behind the sound of recordings, live performances, films, television, video games and other media.” It’s basically the “Oscars” for the music industry, as well as a chance to contribute to a good cause (the NAMM Foundation), attend a banquet with friends and associates, and be entertained by some pretty high-power acts—Pete Townshend, Steve Vai, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Slash, Chaka Khan, and many, many more over the years—as well as see people like George Lucas, the late Les Paul, Rupert Neve, and other luminaries accept their awards. Geoff Emerick, best known for his engineering work with Beatles as well as Ultravox, Elvis Costello, Jeff Beck, the Zombies, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and others, was the first award presenter of the evening. Full disclosure time: last year, I was asked to advise the TEC Awards Executive Board, which solicited my opinion of the 31st annual awards show. I felt it was too long, too self-congratulatory, too loud, and didn’t recognize that the world has changed since Big Studios ruled the world. They didn’t take offense…they took notes, and paid attention to the feedback from participants, board members, manufacturers, and of course, those who attended the awards. What a difference a year makes. For 2016, the TEC Awards hit the sweet spot of entertainment and honoring the best this industry has to offer—while retaining a light touch, streamlining the proceedings, upping the ante for the visuals, and also, stepping cautiously into the future. ABOUT THE AWARDS There are various components to the TEC awards: the Hall of Fame to honor pioneers of audio technology (this year, it was legendary producer Jack Douglas), the TECnology Hall of Fame that recognizes particular audio products and innovations, the Les Paul award to honor those who exemplify the creative application of recording technology, and a series of awards for both Technical Achievements and Creative Achievements. Jack Douglas, who worked his way up from being a janitor at the Record Plant to working with John Lennon on Imagine and Double Fantasy as well as projects with Aerosmith, Miles Davis, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick, and the New York Dolls, was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. The TEC Awards have been part of NAMM since 2010, with the profits going to the NAMM Foundation. The event is held on Saturday, the third day of the NAMM show, in the Pacific Ballroom of the Hilton hotel next to the Anaheim Convention Center. Perhaps not surprisingly, the technical quality of the show is top-notch in terms of sound and visuals. Although the TEC Awards is about technical innovation, some might think the true innovation is an awards show with food that's actually good (that's Aerosmith's Joe Perry in the background). The event starts immediately after the show, with an open bar/”meet and greet” hour, after which attendees sit down to a catered dinner (with—amazingly enough—really good food, not the usual rubber chicken with vintage wine from “Tuesday”). That’s followed by presentations of various awards, punctuated with music from the house band directed by production/industry veteran Larry Batiste. He brings the musical direction skills that have served the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast since 2006. This year, the awards included video clips from previous TEC Awards ceremonies during the on-stage personnel changes. It was a welcome addition that added a touch of nostalgia, sped up the proceedings, and provided an alternative to the musical bumpers typically used for these kinds of shows. And returning for another year, host Sinbad often went into truly hilarious directions, with a light touch that kept any potential self-importance to a minimum. AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…JOE PERRY! Aerosmith’s Joe Perry won this year’s Les Paul award, and he brought the Hollywood Vampires with him for entertainment: Johnny Depp on guitar, Alice Cooper on vocals, the Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo on bass, and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford on guitar. How about some photos? Johnny Depp introduced Joe Perry prior to Joe winning this year's Les Paul Award. Alice Cooper was outstanding...the dude has charisma. Johnny Depp (left) and Joe Perry (right), Johnny Depp taking a turn on vocals. Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford The band was top-notch, but I have to say I was particularly impressed by Alice Cooper. He may be 68, but man, that guy can rock and he remains the consummate entertainer. You could tell he loved doing what he does, is in great shape, sang his heart out, and had the same kind of enthusiasm you’d expect from someone a third his age. Meanwhile Joe Perry poured out lick after lick, while Depp and Whitford provided the chordal anchors, and DeLeo held down the bottom end. Yeah, it got a little too loud at the end, but hey—it’s rock and roll, right? That’s entertainment. Left to right: Johnny Depp, Robert DeLeo, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford rock out for the TEC Awards finale. THE AWARDS Oh right…the winners! Well, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel, because you can get the entire list at the TEC Awards home page. This year added two new, and well-deserved, categories: Audio Education Technology (iZotope won for “Pro Audio Essentials”) and DJ Production Technology (congratulations, Native Instruments, for Traktor Kontrol S5). The TEC Awards will continue to evolve, tweaking the show and the process. This year they promised it would be 2.5 hours long and end at 9:30 PM, which no one believed…the show always runs way too long. Yet it ended exactly on time, and if that isn't an indication of a sea change at the TEC Awards, I don't know what is. And when it was over, you could either attend the after-party if you had VIP tickets, or go back to your hotel room and steel yourself for the final day of NAMM. I’m already looking forward to next year. ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  19. Craig’s List - 5 Terrific Tips for Newbie NAMMsters Like speed traps, Starbucks coffee shops, and muggers, the Winter NAMM supersized convention is just around the corner! Going for the first time? We’re here to help. by Craig Anderton 1. Beware of appointment safaris. NAMM is soooooo big that if you make an appointment for something in Hall E and your next one is in Hall A, you cross a time zone and you’ll end up being an hour late. Or an hour early, I always forget which. Some people even get jet lag going from one end of the convention center to the other. 2. Two’s company, three's a crowd, but 100,000 is an effing big-ass crowd. In the 4th century A.D., the amphitheater passageways at the Roman Colosseum were so efficiently designed that the entire venue could fill with 50,000 people in 15 minutes. As to the 21st-century Anaheim Convention Center...well, let’s just say we finally have the long-awaited, conclusive proof of de-evolution. Oh, and plan to go to the bathroom 20 minutes in advance. Just sayin.’ 3. Let’s do lunch! Hungry? There’s an eatery on the convention center roof (really*). It’s so secret I can’t tell you where it is, but ask a security guard “Where’s the undisclosed location to which the White House always refers?” Next, give the Special Password (“twentydollarsifyoutellme”), then he’ll give you directions—but only after running a background check, and swearing you to secrecy. Personally I order the pheasant under glass, but I've heard the Duck à la Donald is fabulous--or try the tapas-inspired dish, Ratón Miguel. Oh, just don't ask where the venison came from. Enough kids were traumatized by watching "Bambi." 4. The E-Z way to insanely great demos. Find someone with a Sweetwater, Sam Ash, B&H, or Guitar Center badge, then follow behind them at a discrete distance. Extra points if you have the same literature bag they do, so it seems you’re all “buyer bros” traveling together. Exhibitor hearts get all a-flutter when Big Buyers come around, so you might as well benefit from the beatific aura of potential prosperity and subtle aroma of $100 bills they emit. 5. Important fanboi protocol message. If you see someone famous, don’t go up to them and say something like “Hey, you’re Alan Parsons!” Trust me on this—they know who they are. Well, maybe not after happy hour starts. Or if they’re in the Marriott lobby after 2 AM...but you get my point. * There really is a restaurant on the convention center roof ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  20. The Lowdown on the EB Bass Four or five strings, eight different sounds by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This sixth article in the series covers the 2017 EB Bass.) Gibson’s EB bass for 2017, part of the Traditional line, is available in a 4 or 5-string version. It’s a different kind of bass for Gibson, with perhaps the most obvious improvement being the balance—it’s easy to hold and play. Aside from the design, part of this is due to the swamp ash body, which is relatively light (also, the fingerboard is rosewood). However, another advantage is that swamp ash gives a high-end “snap” as well as a solid low end, so the balance extends from the physical bass itself to the tone. Tuning. Accurate tuning that can last throughout long gigs is always a design priority. The neck is maple, and being a very resilient wood, it can handle the tension of bass strings while holding tuning well for extended periods of time. The Grover tuning keys also contribute to tuning accuracy, as does the Babciz bridge—which also helps with accurate intonation. The look. The EB has a nitrocellulose satin finish that exposes the swamp ash and maple with the Natural Satin model. It’s not a fancy look; even the extended horn, while eye-catching, has the practical purpose of providing proper balance when wearing a strap. The black pickups provide a stark contrast to the blond wood, as do the knobs and bridge. If it weren’t for the look of the swamp ash body, this is one of those basses that would probably fade into the background on stage. On the other hand if you’re more into sunbursts, there’s a Satin Vintage Sunburst look as well. The electronics. I’ve always loved the sound of the “sustain forever” Thunderbird bass. The neck-through-body construction is a big part of the full, round sound, but it’s a physically as well as sonically heavy bass. In 2013, I made friends with the five-string EB. It was easier for long sessions than the Thunderbird, but the killer feature for me was being able to get eight distinct, different bass sounds without active electronics. Whether I wanted a bright, more pop sound, a percussive “plonk,” something with highs to cut through a mix, or a big bottom (apologies to Spinal Tap), I need to carry only one bass to the gig. The 2017 EB carries on that tradition. Even though it has only three knobs (volume for each pickup and a control for tone), the two volume knobs are push-pull types that activate Gibson’s Tuned Coil Tap circuitry. The “native” pickup sound is a big, growling tone with a fair amount of midrange “bark”; the Tuned Coil Tap voicing scoops the midrange somewhat, which can emphasize the low or high end more by de-emphasizing the mids. This is clever, because if you start with sound that doesn’t have much midrange, there’s nothing you can do to add something that’s not there. The EB pickup’s solid midrange means you can use it as it, or reduce it. Here’s an admittedly subjective rundown of the type of sounds available. Neck pickup: Balanced tone, most bass, mids give some “bark” Tapped neck pickup: Scoops some mids, rounder sound, retains low end Bridge pickup: Less low end, more midrange bite Tapped bridge pickup: Scoops mids, lighter low end, defined highs, good “pop” bass sound Neck and bridge pickups: Retains strong low end, adds midrange but there’s an apparent slight scoop in the lower mids because the higher and lower frequencies are louder Tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup: Major scooping around 500Hz-1kHz, good lows, a hint of brightness, lays back in a track Tapped bridge pickup and neck pickup: Adds some upper mids back in compared to the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup Tapped bridge pickup and tapped neck pickup: Like the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup sound, but adds slightly lower midrange frequencies back in. Of course, these are the “bass-ic” (sorry!) sounds. Once you start using the tone control and varying the pickup volume controls, there are even more possibilities. I also like that you don’t have to deal with a forest of switches or controls to get these sounds, nor do you need batteries. The bottom line on the bottom end. A bass always has to fight the laws of physics. Given the frequencies strings have to hit, they should be longer—there’s a reason why a 9 foot grand piano has bass strings that are so long. Granted, a piano goes down to 27.5 Hz, but a bass goes down to about 40 Hz and trust me, the strings on the EB are not 7 feet long. Because of the string length, a bass’s headstock ends up being quite a distance from the body, and that’s where your balance issues begin. However the EB’s compact body, with the extended horn for your strap, takes care of obtaining a good balance while the swamp ash wood also helps reduce the overall weight. I was surprised by how much more comfortable the 2017 EB is compared to the 2013 version, but not surprised that Gibson elected to keep the same tonal versatility. I’m very happy with the 2013 EB…however there’s no doubt that the 2017 is a major step up. . - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: What Makes A Les Paul Traditional Guitar "Traditional"? Inside The Les Paul Classic Met The Les Paul Faded How the Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  21. Craig's List: 5 Toxic Hazards of Holiday Music Kenny G. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid... by Craig Anderton 1. You’ll hear “Carol of the Bells.” I mean, doesn’t this really sound like it should accompany some scary nightmarish scene from a Tim Burton film? On the plus side, it has the distinction of being one of the few Christmas carols with the power to depress—helpful if you’re feeling too cheery! 2. Stupefyingly bad “contemporary” holiday songs. If I never hear Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” or Neil Diamond’s fake Jamaican accent at the beginning of his reggae version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (I’m not making this up), it will be too soon. PARENTAL WARNING: Diamond’s version is on YouTube, and accessible to children under 13. 3. “The Little Drummer Boy” lyrics “pa rum pum pum pum.” Okay, it’s a nice little song pa rum pum pum pum, but does it really need to end pa rum pum pum pum every single pa rum pum pum pum effing line with pa rum pum pum pum? But, credit where credit is due: That song was written before computerized cut-and- paste. 4. “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town—The Police State Mix.” “You better watch out . . . he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake . . . making a list, checking it twice . . . he knows if you’ve been good or bad . . .” Threats, spying, database of offenders, summary judgments without trial—Santa sounds like a cross between a pedophile, the DHS, and your creepy uncle Sammy. 5. Kenny G’s holiday music tours. So there you are at the local casino, doing a little gambling, maybe helping some Native Americans extract their revenge on the original illegal immigrants, and you find that...Kenny G is playing his holiday tour and that particular casino is one of his victims! Run! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  22. Inside the Les Paul Classic How "Traditional" is the "Classic"? Let's find out. by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what was going on “under the hood” with these guitars. This second article in the series is about the Les Paul Classic.) “Classic” has a vintage ring to it, and this Les Paul does indeed have a traditional flavor. However, there are several elements that differentiate it from the Traditional model covered in the first of this series of articles. We’ll start by covering what’s the same as the Traditional. The electronics are hand-wired, the leaf-style “springy” pickup toggle switch and Switchcraft output jack remain the same, and again, the tone control circuitry uses Orange Drop capacitors. The nut is nylon, and the nickel-plated ABR bridge hardware, coupled with an aluminum stop piece, once more get the nod for the balanced sound that’s characteristic of vintage guitars. Nickel plating also has a more vintage “look,” which contributes to why the Classic may appear superficially like the Traditional. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find several differences that help make it more of a streamlined “workhorse” guitar for today’s guitarists. Classic 9-hole weight relief. Gibson’s guitars offer a variety of weight relief. The Traditional is the most “solid” of the solid bodies because it has no weight relief at all, but the Classic comes very close with nine-hole weight relief. This helps shave off some weight, adds a little resonance, and has virtually no impact on sustain. The neck. The Classic has a SlimTaper profile, which some players (especially those with smaller hands) find more comfortable. It has a more “modern” feel compared to the Traditional, and is more like the kind of neck taper associated with post-50s guitars. It also has rolled fretboard edges that complement the slimmer neck’s comfort factor. Pickguard. The Classic comes with a pick guard already in place; it’s not removable like on the HP line of guitars. Grover locking tuners. Whereas the tuners on the Traditional have a very traditional look, the Grovers depart from that with a somewhat more modern vibe. They hold tuning well, and while they may not have a “vintage” look, they are designed to fit well with the Classic’s overall design aesthetic. Pickups. This is where I heard the biggest sonic difference compared to the Traditional. The Classic uses open coil Zebra 57 pickups (the “Zebra” name comes from one pickup coil being wrapped around a cream-colored bobbin, while the other uses a black bobbin). Removing the pickup cover results a bit less attenuation, but the pickups are higher in overall output than the Traditional models—the sound is something you’d associate more with the 60s than the 50s. Although the Zebras don’t join the quest for ever-higher outputs, they strike a balance between the lower-output pickups of the 50s and the high-output pickups of modern guitars. Knobs. The original “Top Hat” knobs have a lot of sentimental value, but the Classic’s speed knobs are more functional for making quick changes on stage—particularly if you’re into “rolling” knobs with your pinky. Some guitarists also find the lack of a pointer appealing because of the cleaner look. The top. And speaking of looks, while the body remains mahogany with a maple top, the Classic has a plain top as opposed to the Traditional’s rare, highly-figured top. Some players prefer a more understated look, and because a figured top doesn’t make a noticeable difference in the sound, prefer the Classic’s top. Overall, my take is that the Classic is about being inspired by the Traditional’s heritage, but without feeling a need to re-create the past—hence weight relief, a slimmer neck, and hotter pickups. Guitarists with one foot in the 50s and one in the 70s will probably find the Classic the best fit for their playing style. - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: What Makes A Les Paul Traditional Guitar "Traditional"? How The Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Met The Les Paul Faded Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Classic please visit Gibson.com ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  23. Craig’s List: 5 Reasons Why Cats Make Excellent Studio Peripherals Maybe the song "Nashville Cats" was about...cats by Craig Anderton 1) They help with computer maintenance, because they understand it better than you. Cats know that dust kills computers, and it breaks their little feline hearts when you don’t do sufficient dust control. Besides, if your computer-based gig goes down in flames, bye-bye tuna Meow Mix. So they shed, which means you’ll get out the vacuum and clean up their fur—thus tricking you into reducing dust levels in the studio. Clever kitty! 2) They’re masters of 12-tone composition. Buy one of those laser pointers, like executives use for PowerPoints when they want to look like they actually know something. Then, place your keyboard controller on the floor. Aim the laser pointer at the keyboard, move the pointer around erratically, and bingo! Arnold Shoenberg on methedrine. 3) Cats help you discover new and exciting keyboard shortcuts. Fluffy jumps up on your computer keyboard, and makes a vocal disappear...or quantizes everything to the didgeridoo part, which she then erases. How did she do that?!? Keyboard shortcuts, of course. Observe and learn. 4) They extend the life of devices that produce heat. Cats lie down on things that are warm. Are they cold? No! They’re doing you a big favor by providing a secondary heat sink as they absorb component life-shortening heat into their bodies. But don’t push it—I don’t recommend applying thermal compound paste between your cat and, say, a power amp. It’s hard to remove from the power amp. 5) Black plague? No worries! I don’t mean the death metal band that keeps wanting to book time, but the Real Deal that decimated Europe in the Middle Ages. The people who killed cats for being presumed agents of satan got overrun with rats, whichfunctioned as a mobile Motel 6 for Oriental rat fleas carrying the plague. Oopsies! Unintended consequences. Meanwhile, the farmers who blew off satan and kept their cats didn’t die, thus avoiding…uh…cataclysmic results. Meow! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  24. What Makes a Les Paul Traditional Guitar “Traditional”? To quote Talking Heads, "same as it ever was"...but why? by Craig Anderton (Editor’s note: Harmony Central’s offices are located about 300 feet away from the Gibson USA factory, so when the 2017 guitars were introduced, we just had to check them out. But luckily, we were able to hold on to them and in the process, found out there are considerable differences among them. So, rather than “review” them in the traditional sense, we thought it would be helpful to analyze what the differences are so the HC community would have an idea of what goes on “under the hood” with not just these guitars, but guitars in general. This first article is about the Les Paul Traditional model, and what elements make it “traditional.”) Although Gibson is known for both classic guitars and high-tech guitars, the most traditional of the 2017 models is the Les Paul Traditional from the T series of guitars—it’s designed specifically to retain those elements of the classic Gibson USA guitars of yesteryear. But what does “traditional” mean, exactly? Here are the specifics. Orange Drop tone capacitors. These capacitors, introduced in the 60s, heralded the capacitors of the modern era—stability, resistance to temperature variation, minimum microphonics, and other desirable characteristics. Since then many other brands of precision capacitors have become available, but there’s something about those Orange Drop capacitors that evoke memories of a different era—and which some players swear have better tone. Hand-wired, point-to-point electronics. Modern Gibsons use circuit boards for the electronics, which provide greater consistency, easier repair, and help to reduce production costs. Hand-wired electronics recall the days of sitting at a bench, soldering iron in hand, and making the connections among all the guitar’s components. However, there is a practical advantage to point-to-point wiring: it's easier to mod if you want to experiment with different tone control capacitors or potentiometer values. In addition, some people feel that the more “open” control cavity creates a subtle sonic improvement. Nickel-plated bridge. Bridges influence tone, and while some players prefer the brighter sound some bridges provide, nickel-plated hardware has a balanced sound that’s characteristic of vintage guitars. It also has a more vintage “look.” Nylon nut. Today’s nuts are made from various materials—ceramic, titanium, etc.—each with its own subtle sonic qualities. A nylon nut is a more traditional choice, and like the nickel-plated bridge, has its own sonic signature. Knobs. Knobs have changed a lot over the years. Gibson has used different knobs for different purposes; for example, a push-pull knob that changes pickup switching is designed for pulling as well as rotating. For the Traditional model, Gibson went back to the knobs you first saw when Eric Clapton or Mike Bloomfield were playing their Les Pauls: a “top hat” shape and golden color that were radically different from other guitar knobs of that era, and featured small metal pointers. No weight relief. The original Les Paul was solid wood—great for sustain, but the weight meant it wasn’t so great for jumping around like a maniac on stage over a three-hour set. Gibson now offers a variety of models with different degrees of weight relief, which can have the side benefit of giving a bit more of a resonant quality. But for those who want the thick, sustaining sound of solid wood…well, that’s another traditional element. “Chunky” neck. Not everyone has the same hands, so there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” neck. The original Les Paul was born before the era of slim necks, and there’s still something satisfying about wrapping your hand around a full-size, solid neck. Of course for those with larger hands, it definitely has the right “feel,” and some find the tone “warmer” than slimmer necks. Burstbucker 1 (neck) and Burstbucker 2 (bridge) pickups. These are the antithesis of modern, ultra-hot pickups. With their lower output level, they have a lot in common with the pickups of the 50s and early 60s, which helps explain the more traditional tone quality. Original “leaf”-style pickup toggle switch. The HP line of guitars has a toggle switch that’s quieter than leaf-style switches, more reliable, and has a smooth switch travel; the old leaf switches had a certain “springy” feel when you switched pickups. If your guitar-playing muscle memory is used to that feel, the switch on the Traditional model is what you’d expect. No pickguard necessary. Back in the day, pickguards were sometimes seen as something that worked against the guitar’s aesthetics. Admittedly there are advantages to pickguards, but there’s also something to be said for seeing the guitar’s fully figured top in all its glory—so the Traditional can be pickguard-free (although one is included in the guitar's case if you do want a pickguard). Manual tuners. There are a lot of tuners, but these Gibson Deluxe models were chosen for their vintage look and feel, not only their ability to hold tuning well. Of course, the Traditional incorporates more modern elements. The guitars undergo the PLEK setup process, which dresses the fret and neck as part of the factory setup procedure. And while the humbucker pickups follow the original design ethic (and more importantly, the PAF-type tone), production is more consistent so you don’t end up with variations in tone among different guitars. Playing the Les Paul Traditional model is like taking a step back into history. I have to say that I’m more of an HP guitar kinda guy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate being able to pick up a Traditional and find myself transported back to the days when I could never have afforded a Les Paul, and I’d sneak into guitar shops as often as I could to play one. That feel and vibe still exists…even if the guitar shops are long gone. - HC - Visit the rest of the series on the 2017 Gibson Guitars: How The Les Paul Tribute Pays Tribute Met The Les Paul Faded Inside The Les Paul Classic Brothers in Arms - The Les Paul Studio and Standard For more information on the Gibson Les Paul Traditional please visit Gibson.com ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
  25. Craig's List - 5 Reasons to Vote for Craig in 2016 To be fair, though, no one said they were good reasons by Craig Anderton ... er um, Bob Smith ... Craig Anderton has now learned to talk about himself in the third person, so Craig Anderton is qualified to be president! He’s the only write-in option that’s all about musicians. With the predicted low voter turnout, give Craig Anderton 27 votes and the following platform might become reality! 1: The “Squash Control” law. All consumer gear will have, in addition to volume and tone controls, a “squash” maximizing control for killing the dynamic range. Mastering engineers won’t have to make unlistenable masters any more—consumers can make music unlistenable all by themselves! Power to the people! 2: Craig Anderton will declare a “War on Loudness.” We’ve all heard about the loudness wars. But if it's classified as a real war, then we can distribute trillions of dollars to musicians, who are of course on the front lines. If the Pentagon can pay $434 for a hammer, then by golly, don’t you think your CD is worth at least $90? Oops, excuse me…I meant $900. Or maybe $9,000. Yeah…that’s the ticket. 3: Mandatory drug testing. Ever since the early days of jazz, musicians have had a reputation—deserved or not—for smoking marijuana. Mandatory drug testing will ensure that whatever they ingest is of the highest possible quality, and grown solely in the United States to improve our trade deficit dramatically. Overnight, Kentucky will have a totally rockin’ economy! 4: Now that he's learned to refer to himself in the third person, Craig Anderton will get all major voting blocs to vote for Craig Anderton. To win over the religious right, part of my platform will be “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord—and find out how to ‘make better noise’ from the Harmony Central web site!” To “woo the black vote,” Bootsy Collins will be nominated as Secretary of Funk—a newly-created cabinet position intended to loosen up all those uptight politicians and lobbyists. And for seniors, Medicare will offer free hearing aids that filter out rap and EDM, but let other sounds pass unimpeded. 5: “The “NASCAR Jacket” law. Musicians do endorsements—and Congress could learn something from us! So, all Congresspeople will be required to wear NASCAR-type jackets with the corporate logos of their sponsors, and we’ll know which brands they endorse. Oh, they don’t want people to know? Hmmm…this might take some work. Breaking News! Speaker of the House Paul Ryan Endorses Craig Anderton for President! As Ryan states, "I'm proud to announce my endorsement of Craig Anderton for President. We all know upfront that he's crazy, so the media won't waste valuable time debating whether he is or not. Furthermore, he has now learned to speak of himself in the third person - an essential trait for being President - and his choice of Skeeter the Wonder Dog for VP is a brilliant strategic decision because who doesn't like dogs? Finally, in return for my endorsement he said he'll change my title to 'Loudspeaker of the House,' which you have to admit is much cooler." Discuss Craig Anderton for President here! Especially if you are concerned with "Electile" Dysfunction! ______________________________________________ Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.
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