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Ara Ajizian

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  1. There's no shortage of devices out there to interface with your iOS devices for creating music. And that's a good thing, because this whole mobile thing is going to be around for a while, and the devices and apps that fuel our creativity will only get better and better. New to the game is the Jamstik, which bills itself as "The Guitar for your iPad." It's a unique guitar MIDI controller that employs real strings, real frets and the ability to optimize it to the way you play for a more authentic playing experience. It has a lot more going for it too, so let's dive in and check it out. The Jamstik's five-fret neck and real strings offer authentic guitar feel What You Need To Know Getting started with the Jamstik and your iOS device is a hassle- and cable-free process. That's right, this baby's all wireless. Once fired up, the Jamstik will show as a WiFi "network" in your settings, and you simply join it like you would any other for a low-latency connection. Working in tandem with the WiFi connection is the jamstik Connect app, a free download from the App Store. With it, you can manage all settings of the Jamstik, including an advanced HTML editor to fine-tune response to your playing. Basic settings are available and give you a good starting point for understanding the way it plays. The jamstik Connect app also gives you a few models to get your feet wet with. Another contributor to the Jamstik's responsiveness over previous guitar MIDI controllers is its "finger sensing" technology. The fretboard uses infrared light to scan what your fingers are doing, allowing the Jamstik to respond quickly once you pluck the string. The real fun with Jamstik starts when you start to integrate it into your favorite apps (Jamstik claims to be compatible with hundreds). The jamstik Connect app gives you a great list if you need some inspiration, from IK Multimedia's SampleTank and GarageBand to more eclectic ones like Moog's Animoog. Just like a 25-key MIDI controller, you can use the "notes" on the Jamstik to control any instrument, all the while maintaining the familiarity of a guitar. The Jamstik can also be a useful learning tool. Another free app, JamTutor, presents you with different exercises that can really be helpful to a beginning guitarist. It also brings new meaning to the phrase "silent practice," as the Jamstik itself barely creates any sound at all, meaning you can feel free to learn in virtually any environment. It's a fun, interactive way to learn that can help you hone your chops when the real thing isn't convenient. Another free app, JamMix, introduces you to making real music with loops, beats and more. The Jamstik also has a few other tricks up its sleeve. One is a concept Zivix calls "infinite frets." Although it only has 25 notes, using the D-pad on top of the Jamstik allows you to jump to a new range, effectively giving you twice the range of a standard guitar. Additionally, the Jamstik's lithium-ion battery gives you hours of play on a single charge, and conveniently charges via USB. Limitations As fun and inspirational as the Jamstik can be, there are certain hurdles that players may encounter. It's priced at $299.99, which could be an issue for players on a budget. There is a learning curve for sure in getting the Jamstik optimized via the HTML editor, but plenty of documentation, how-to videos and demos on the Jamstik website can help guide you through. Lastly, the Jamstik is at its best when it's being used along with music-making apps, which typically cost money. So be prepared to spend some money in the App Store if you pick up a Jamstik. It's money well spent, however. Conclusion The Jamstik has taken advantage of advances in mobile recording to givethe guitar MIDI controller a new lease on life. It delivers a playing experience close to the real thing because it uses actual strings and frets, and allows guitarists to effectively "play" any virtual instrument using the technique they've mastered on guitar. It's a fun way to learn that doesn't encourage bad habits. Once you get past the initial setup and get familiar with the Jamstik, you'll find it's an inspiring and functional instrument that can really spark your creativity. Resources Learn more about the Jamstik at jamstik.com How to do loop recording in GarageBand with the Jamstik Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.
  2. We live in an interesting, in-between time when it comes to technology. Many of us who are 35 and up can easily remember a time when not even cell phones were common, much less things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media existing. Conversely, to many of those below that age threshold, having an online presence and being connected 24/7 seems perfectly normal. As new technologies arrive and their progression speeds up, it's easy to get left behind. This is true in all walks of life, and it's especially true for musicians—and not only when it comes to gear. Before the explosion of the Internet, "marketing your band" meant getting a demo together, hitting up every promoter in town for gigs, stapling flyers to telephone poles and spreading your music one fan at a time. Today, it's become much more complex to effectively market your band, and many times it comes at the expense of what this is all about—making great music. But fear not, the DIY spirit is still alive and well, and with the right guidance, you can put it to good use and get your band maximum exposure. All you need is a good guide. That's where Music Marketing for the DIY Musician comes in. Author Bobby Borg's credentials make him the perfect person to write such a book. He's an industry veteran with 25 years of playing and touring under his belt (both as an independent and major-label artist), holds a degree in Professional Music from the esteemed Berklee College of Music, teaches at the Musician's Institute in Hollywood and offers consulting services in every aspect of the music industry. Put simply, dude knows his stuff. As you dive into Music Marketing for the DIY Musician, you'll quickly arrive at the same conclusion. The best thing about Music Marketing for the DIY Musician is that it knows its target audience and addresses musicians in a conversational, easy-to-follow manner. Borg is thorough in his instruction, beginning with the all-important vision. An essential first step that many bands skip over without a second thought, without that unifying vision there's really just aimless wandering. Borg wants to help you eliminate that and ensure calculated success. Over the course of 21 chapters, this intensive guide serves up step-by-step strategies to achieve your musical goals. It's not just about social media— a trap many bands today fall into. There's a logical progression and plan you can put into place, and it all adds up to making your vision a reality. Borg details strategies including identifying ways to profit, understanding how your fan base thinks, and creating goal-oriented marketing plans. There are also lessons on pinpointing the right performance opportunities, how to maximize merch sales, garner radio play and, of course, how to properly use the Internet and social media. And once you start to see results, Borg shows you how to track, analyze and adjust accordingly. It's hard to imagine a more in-depth guide for 21st century artists trying to succeed at any level with their music. Music Marketing for the DIY Musician by Bobby Borg is a 300+ page, step-by-step manual to achieving success. Now, that doesn't excuse you from the basics of good musicianship and the ability to craft songs that click with people. For most of us, that's the fun part. It's everything else that comes with being in a band that gets to be a pain. With Bobby Borg and his essential reference guide on your team, you'll be able to create an effective strategy that works for you and your band, and not spin your wheels guessing what works and what doesn't. Resources Learn more about Music Marketing for the DIY Musician at halleonard.com Read more about the author, Bobby Borg, at bobbyborg.com Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.
  3. With the release earlier this year of the AMPLIFi guitar amps, Line 6 revolutionized the way music and consumer electronics interface. Their multi-speaker design, Bluetooth connectivity and intelligent iOS companion app, AMPLIFi Remote, seamlessly blended the ways we play, learn and listen to music into one great-sounding, versatile package. There were few products at the Winter NAMM show that had nearly as much buzz around them, and sales have been off the charts. So it should come as no surprise that Line 6 is now taking the AMPLIFi concept to a multi-effects pedal, the AMPLIFi FX100. Also boasting Bluetooth connectivity and integration with the AMPLIFi Remote app, it’s a reinvention of the multi-effects unit that makes the path to great tone easier than ever. What You Need To Know • By incorporating with your iOS device using its Bluetooth connection, the AMPLIFi FX100 puts you on the fast track to the perfect sound, whether you’re writing, jamming or practicing. • Flexible ¼” connections let you output to your amp, PA system, headphones or even your home stereo system. • Control knobs on the unit itself control tone, drive, volume and effects, as well as four footswitches for loading and saving patches. • A tap tempo switch lets you set the delay time and other modulation parameters on select effects, and there’s a responsive expression pedal for controlling volume and wah. • Even with all this onboard control, the AMPLIFi FX100 really shines when used in conjunction with the AMPLIFi Remote app on your iOS device. Want to jam along to songs in your music library? No problem. All you have to do is pull up a song from your collection in the app, and it will automatically search the cloud for appropriate patches. Just select the one you want and it’s loaded via Bluetooth onto the AMPLIFi FX100. AMPLIFi Remote App for iPad • The audio from your iOS device also streams via Bluetooth, eliminating the need for additional cables and connections. It’s fast, seamless and makes practicing and jamming to your favorite songs a breeze, complete with the guitar tone of the original. It really couldn’t be easier or more intuitive. • Searching by song or artist is another quick way to access legendary tones and instantly load them onto your AMPLIFi FX100. You can use them as a starting point for your own patches or incorporate them into your own songs. One of the primary benefits to this cloud-based tone library is the ability for you and your fellow musicians to upload your own creations and rate those of other users. The more you rate tones, the more AMPLIFi Remote learns your tonal taste and delivers personalized results. • You can also add specific tones to your favorites list for easy access, which is helpful if you need something outside of your normal style. • The AMPLIFi FX100 also has over 200 amps and effects, so if you want to create your own rig from scratch, you have some pretty amazing options at your disposal to do so. Limitations Functionally it's hard to find anything limiting with the AMPLIFi FX100. It performs as it's supposed to and delivers the ease of use it promises. But as with any crowdsourced material, it's up to the community and users to ensure the quality of the content. So you may load up a patch expecting one thing, and hear something that differs. However, even when this happens I found that the tone I was originall after was easily attainable with a few tweaks of my own, so even if it's not spot on, it's a great starting point. Conclusions Multi-effects units have traditionally been aimed at players who need access to a lot of tones in one place. However, the process of creating, editing, storing and accessing those tones has been one that involves a USB cable, mouse and computer-based editor, or in some unfortunate instances, trying to manipulate menus on a miniscule screen with controls that are as far from intuitive as they can be. Addressing this, Line 6 has continued their legacy of innovation with the AMPLIFi FX100, giving players the freedom to create without the obstacles of the past. The popularity and ease-of-use of iOS devices makes them the perfect partner for musicians, and with the FX100, guitarists finally have the ideal mix between our mobile devices and our music gear. Whether you use it as a practice tool, a studio partner or a live-performance rig, the AMPLIFi FX100 will introduce you to a new level of ease and creativity when it comes to making music. Resources Buy the Line 6 AMPLIFi FX100 Multi-Effects Unit at Musician's Friend Learn more about the Line 6 AMPLIFi FX100 at line6.com Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.
  4. Orange enters the high-powered fray with this 120W beast of a combo. It's no secret that Orange is known for building great-sounding British amps. But high-powered, solid state amps have been missing from their repertoire. According to Orange, it's because they couldn't get the sound to meet their standards. Now that mission has been accomplished, and the result is the Crush Pro Series. Consisting of the 60W CR60C 1x12" combo, its larger sibling, the CR120C and the CR120 head, Orange now offers their sought-after tone to players who need maximum power. What You Need To Know Orange spent years on research and development for the Crush Pro Series, insisting that it meet the tonal standards they've built their reputation on. The CR120C pumps 120W of power through two 12" Orange Voice of the World speakers Clean and Dirty channels, the former with bass/treble EQ, the latter with bass/midrange/treble controls for precise, responsive tone shaping Each channel has its own independent volume control as well as a Master Volume The Clean channel uses two gain stages; the Dirty channel uses four There are loads of tones this amp is capable of, from warm, full cleans to roaring, harmonic distortion and everything in between The Crush Pro Series takes its tonal cues from the renowned Rockerverb Series Offers onboard digital reverb with stunningly accurate spring, hall and plate settings Though built with solid state technology, the CR120C offers up dynamic, warm, tube-like tone without digital emulation Limitations Does not include a footswitch, which you'll want to take advantage of channel switching and engaging reverb At 64 lb., it's not the easiest amp to carry around, but molded, inset handles help in this department Conclusion I'm a tube-amp guy. Whether I'm playing bass or guitar, I prefer the warmth, dynamics and response that you get from tubes. That said, I have played through many modeling and solid state amps that claim to deliver "tube-like realism" that fall flat. This is absolutely not the case with this amp. The Clean channel sounds and behaves like you'd expect a great tube amp to, going from full, rich cleans to classic Orange overdrive, while the Dirty channel offers even more headroom for a delighfully versatile range of tones, all the way to ear-splitting distortion. The CR120C does all of this without ever sounding shrill or grating on your eardrums, and without any modeling technology. Just a pure, solid state analog signal path done right. It's refreshing to play through an amp that clearly had a lot of time and effort put into making it sound great. Thanks to those high standards, Orange continues to be a name players can rely on. Resources The Orange Amplifiers CR120C Combo at Musician's Friend Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.
  5. The Running Man with an Apple By Craig Vecchione The DL series of compact mixers is Mackie’s latest foray into digital mixing for live sound, following if not necessarily replacing the discontinued TT-24. This is a completely new and very compact design that uses an Apple iPad (not included) as the mixing interface. Mixing audio is a personal experience, and the mixer is of course the one tool you’ll be adjusting more than all other gear. The interface…the knobs, switches, meters and indicators…are how you tell the system what to do. It needs to suit you to the point that it’s an “old friend”; reliable, and predictable. A mixer that you can’t understand and work with quickly and deftly can make for a long miserable show, or one that in the worst case ends abruptly before its intended finish. With the advent of digital mixers, a whole new crop of interface designs have emerged. We’re clearly in the revolutionary stage of digital mixer development. No one method of mixing has emerged victorious. Using a tablet is becoming common for remote secondary mixing, but it comparatively rare (maybe unique?) as a primary and required interface. I was very curious to see how this combination worked, so let’s have a look. What You Need To Know 8 channels with Onyx preamps, four with XLR, four with XLR/TRS combo jacks. 4 stereo-linkable auxiliary outputs are provided for monitor or outboard effects sends, and are configurable as pre- or post-fader, and stereo-linkable. Having four auxiliaries on an 8 channel mixer is downright luxurious. Left/right main outputs are XLR jacks. The outputs have 31-band graphic EQ, 4-band parametric EQ with high- and low-pass filters, compressor/limiters and alignment delay. A 3.5mm headphone jack with volume control is provided for mix monitoring. Solo buttons for each channel and output allow you to monitor selected portions of the mix. Global phantom power is available for condenser mics. External power supply. I prefer a built-in power supply for mixers, but given the extremely small footprint of the DL806, it is completely understandable. If your application is “mission critical”, it would be easy to purchase a second power supply as a backup. Kensington lock compatible, and PadLock™ feature. A small mixer and the popular iPad connected to it are a tempting theft target. The PadLock™ mechanically traps the iPad in the mixer’s tray, and the entire assembly can then be secured with a standard Kensington cable lock. A dedicated iPad channel on the control surface gives access to the iTunes library or other music app on the attached iPad. That’s a very nice feature that makes break/background music simple to enable. Each channel has EQ, comp, and gate that can individually be configured for “vintage” or “modern” interface views. The control functions are mostly the same, but the look is different, such as a graphic VU meter in the modern, and a picture of an old school VU meter in the vintage. EQ has HPF, and four bands; semi-parametric Low and High, and two parametric mid-range bands. The response curve (modern) or knob positions (vintage) are repeated on the channel display just above the Mute button. Touching the EQ display on the channel brings up the EQ/Comp/Gate display for that channel. All channels have complete metering that lives in the fader slide area. Gain reduction for the channel compression displays as a red bar across the top of the fader area. When adjusting channel effects send levels, the channel fader slot becomes colored red for reverb, purple for delay, which is also echoed in the reverb and delays faders, so it is easier to know what you’re controlling, and where. Adjacent channels can be paired, and the channels merge with appropriate labeling to indicate the situation. Metering also then becomes paired to indicate the channel is paired. Channels and effects have an assortment of graphics available to label, and can also have specific names typed in, all displayed at the bottom scribble strip. The effects channels have pictorial indications of their setting displayed at the top of their respective fader strips…for example the gate reverb picture is a garden gate. Cute, but “Gate” would be just as effective and possibly easier to discern, as the pictures are rather small. You can even use pictures you’ve taken with your iPad, etc and have stored in it. That’s a cool feature for mixing new bands you don’t know. It doesn’t help if channel 3 is labeled “Chad’s mic” and you don’t know which guy on stage is Chad. Take pictures of the band members and label channels with their mug shots. Nice. Maybe Mackie can add the obligatory brick wall or railroad track backgrounds… Presets and snapshots can be stored for different venues, bands, etc. and recalled immediately to make setup for repeat performances very fast. Four mute groups allow control of channel and output muting for breaks, preshow, and production control. In addition to the iPad Master Fader™ app, My Fader™ is available for remote mixing via iPhone or iPod Touch. Control is limited to channel, aux, LR main, reverb, and delay sends, muting, and show recall. But there’s more power here, as this feature is supported for up to 10 total remote devices. This makes on-stage monitor mixing available to each performer, perfect for IEM’s. View groups let you choose which channels to see on the display. This is helpful when limiting access to remote users for personal monitor mixing. Musicians only see the channels they can control for their monitor mix. The entire mix can be recorded to the iPad, which is easily enabled by pressing the ‘record’ button. Limitations The iPad docking interface fits full size iPads. The iPad Mini fits with an available adapter tray, and iPad Air models use a Lightning connector adapter, available either as a service kit for older DL units, or as a separate model. Plan your purchase to coincide with your present and any future iPads intended for this application. Is anyone else screaming at Apple to start using USB? Wireless remote mixing requires a third-party wireless router. This is not included, but most commonly available routers are supported. The router plugs into a port on the back panel next to the power inlet. It would be excellent if Mackie had built a router into this mixer. I think most of us would be fine with a slight increase in the size of the box to accommodate such convenience. I had some connectivity issues preventing the iPad and DL806 from synchronizing. My iPad is a 1st generation unit. The OS is up to date. The Master Fader™ app is up to date (2.1). Mackie indicates this iPad is supported along with every other model of iPad. But I wasn’t able to get the mixer to connect and sync reliably. Almost every time the mixer and iPad were powered up, the two units would not sync. The mixer would recall the last state it was in, and the Master Fader™ app acted as if it was waiting to be docked, even though it already was. An undock and re-dock of the iPad, sometimes several times, was needed before the mixer was able to connect and sync. Because of this I couldn’t use the mixer outside the rehearsal studio. While I can’t confirm where the problem lies or whether the old iPad was to blame, my confidence was shaken. This problem also pretty much makes it impossible to use the PadLock™ feature to secure the iPad to the DL806, because unscrewing the lock and reattaching it each time this connection issue occurs would be maddening, and in a live venue would take way too long to get the show up and running. Conclusions While there aren’t masses of layered screens to page through, there’s a bit of swiping to bring some controls surface to the front, and the virtual buttons to select some functions are pretty small. The assignment buttons for LR, auxiliaries, reverb and delay are tiny and close together. The iPad isn’t a huge surface, so it’s necessarily crowded. I understand the ‘why’, but that didn’t make it easier for my girthy bassist fingertips to discern. The “Grow and Glow” feature enlarges a control that’s pressed, and gives it a simulated glowing presence. This helps a bit, but doesn’t really replace feeling a control. The vintage channel EQ option was very difficult to control. The virtual rotary knobs seemed to defy my attempts to virtually turn them. The modern EQ option was significantly easier to handle and offered more options. This added up to a less than satisfying experience. The lack of tactile feedback is what’s missing for me. Nobody’s ever accused me of being touchy-feely, but maybe I’m that guy after all. I’m also concerned by the note in the Master Fader 2.1 update. It states to the effect that future major updates will require iPad OS 7. Apple doesn’t provide OS 7 for the older iPad. So even though I’ve got a fully functioning tablet today, apparently it won’t stay up to date for long. This is a general concern with third-party (tablet) interfaces, made more troubling when the tablet interface is the only way to use the mixer. Facing the prospect of either falling behind or laying out hundreds to buy a new or newer iPad is disconcerting. On the good side, when the DL806 and iPad were coexisting happily, the controls worked flawlessly, the flexibility of routing is really good for a small-format mixer, and the sound…the reason we do all this…is excellent. The effects are well executed and very controllable. The EQs are a real treat, with a very nice graphic picture of the response curve on each channel and output. This is a heck of a lot of mixer, especially in the 8 channel range. In summation, while the iPad interface doesn’t do it for me, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. I urge anyone looking for a compact mixer with a full feature set to try the DL806. If the interface suits your mixing style, and your iPad is newer than “ancient”, I think you’ll be quite happy. There’s a lot of mixer in this tiny package, and Mackie continues to update the software to offer even more. Resources Musician’s Friend Mackie DL806 online catalogue page ($999.99 MSRP, $799.99 "street") Mackie DL Series product web page Mackie's home page
  6. When you're new to guitar, there are many mysteries that you solve the longer you play, the more gear you're exposed to and the more you practice. The subject of pickups is one you should be well versed in from the start, as your guitar's pickups are arguably the most important factor in your tone. While other factors like the tonewoods used, the weight of the guitar, the amp you use, etc. have much to do with your sound, knowing a little about pickups can help you hone in on your own signature sound. Though there are variations and specialty types as well, there are three basic types of pickups you'll encounter on most electric guitars: single coil, humbuckers and piezo. Single Coil Pickups Single-coil pickups feature a single magnetic bar that is wrapped in fine wire and mounted beneath and perpendicular to the strings. The fine wire is what picks up the signal and sends it out of the guitar. Single-coil pickups were the earliest of the three most common pickups. They produce a bright, cutting tone rich in higher harmonics. The simplest versions—still found on many guitars and preferred by many players—produce an audible 60-cycle hum when in the presence of certain types of lights, transformers, and other electrical fields. An EMG S2 Single Coil Pickup Humbucking Pickups Humbucking pickups, AKA humbuckers, feature two coils wrapped opposite from each other, eliminating that annoying 60-cycle hum. Since the humbucker samples the string in two places—once for each coil—it generates a smoother, rounder tone. And since there are two magnets involved, humbuckers usually generate a more powerful signal, giving the amplifier more to work with. A Gibson ’57 Classic humbucker Humbuckers tend to generate more sustain than single coils, but with less note definition and high end. Some humbuckers are available with a coil-tapping control, which allows you to opt to use only a single coil in the pickup, thus generating the characteristic single-coil sound. Piezo Pickups Piezo pickups are made of a non-magnetic crystalline material that generates an extremely weak signal when compressed in the string saddle. This faint signal requires preamplification before it's ready for a normal amplifier, usually accomplished by onboard active electronics. On electric guitars, piezos are typically individual elements incorporated into the string saddle. Some electric guitars with piezos have special 13-pin outputs for synth guitar, in which the guitar's signal triggers purely synthetic tones as on a keyboard. Otherwise, the piezo tone is often used to approximate the sound of an acoustic guitar. Experimenting Is Key Swapping out your pickups is a great and inexpensive way to breathe new life into a guitar that just isn't cutting it tonally. Less-expensive guitars are often built in the same factories or use the same raw materials as their high-end counterparts, with cost saving done on areas like the hardware, pickups, and visual appointments. Many players have taken these guitars and "hot-rodded" them with new pickups, making them tonally diverse and ready for the stage—you can too! Either way, if you're not satisfied with your tone but love the playability of your axe, a new set of pickups is probably in order. It's not always feasible to change pickup types in an instrument, but there are certainly enough flavors of each kind available that finding the tone you're after shouldn't be too hard.
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