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Archive for June, 2009

Just announced today, Stage Ninja (http://www.stageninja.net) has just released a line of guitar straps made from 100% recycled material. No, it’s not paper, folks. 🙂 Actually the specific materials are recycled bicycle tubes, racing tires, and hemp. Because the straps are made of rubber, they stretch a little – up to 1/8″ – which is kind of like having built-in shock absorption. That’s kind of cool, and starting at $49.99, that’s not a price that’ll break the bank.

Now the company claims that the natural tackiness of the rubber makes it like having strap locks. But I’ve learned my lesson: Never leave home without strap locks! I don’t care how “sticky” something might be. Unless it’s locked on, it will eventually come off. But that’s just an aside… 🙂

Considering that Stage Ninja is located in Indianapolis, it’s no small surprise that they would take advantage of the used racing tires that must be piled up outside of the Indy speedway. What a way to capitalize on throw-aways! But it’s also responsible manufacturing. On principle I have to get one of these.

Why get so excited about a guitar strap? Simply because I dig product that are the result of thinking out of the box. Yes, it’s just a guitar strap, but made out of material that was never even envisioned to be used this way!

There’s not much information on these as of yet, and retailers do not have them in stock just yet. But they should be arriving soon!

For more information, check out their web site: http://www.stageninja.net.

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Nova Repeater

The Nova Repeater news is a tad old, as it started shipping a couple of weeks ago, but retailers are still only taking pre-orders on it. I’ve been waiting for the Nova Repeater to come out for awhile, ever since I heard about it from Winter NAMM news. As TC Electronic puts it, this pedal is “No frills, with a sound that kills.” It truly is no-frills. There’s no programming of the pedal. It has a few features and that’s it. But what it has that I’ve not seen with other pedals is a feature TC calls, “Audio Tapping.” Essentially, you hold the tap tempo button down, then strum your guitar, and the delay is set based upon the strum. I can’t wait to try out this delay pedal! Here’s a demo video:

Nova Drive

Next up is the Nova Drive, which is an analog overdrive and distortion pedal that is controlled with a digital interface. Not sure how that works, but it does sound very cool. This is the same drive/distortion circuit that is in the Nova System, so if you know about that tone, you know it’s very nice. There are a couple of things that stand out about this pedal for me. First, you can change the order of the drive and distortion, making drive first, distortion second; and vice-versa. Second, you can also run the effects in parallel, which is totally – it provides a completely different dimension in the tone this pedal produces. It also has a MIDI input that you can hook up to a G Major system to program it. Not bad. Anyway, here’s another demo video:

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My friend Jeff Aragaki, of Aracom Amps is an incredible inventor. Today he brought over a new unit that among other things, allows me to re-amp my amplified signal into another amp. I’ve heard of this being done before – it’s not new. I just never had the means to do it until today. The clip I recorded – and excuse me for the sometimes sloppy areas – is my Prestige Heritage Elite plugged into my Aracom VRX22 into Jeff’s new invention, then out to my little 1 X 12 cabinet and re-amped through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Re-amping through the Hot Rod allowed me to take advantage of its reverb, but with two amps going at the same time, it totally fattened up my sound without making it murky. Freakin’ incredible. Anyway, give it a listen!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
stroborack
Peterson VS-R StroboRack

Summary: Super-accurate, super-sophisticated, yet super-easy-to-use. With point-one cent accuracy and built-in temperament and sweeteners, plus a huge display, accurate tuning is a breeze with this unit!

Pros: The big display makes tuning extremely easy, and the built-in sweeteners (I’ll get into that in a bit) ensure that once you’re tuned you sound great.

Cons: None, at least from the standpoint of features and capabilities. But as I’m not really a rackmount guy, lugging this around would mean having to get an enclosure. But in the studio, IT IS THE BOMB!!!

Features:

  • 0.1 Cent Accuracy
  • Large, Backlit Virtual Strobe™ Display
  • Exclusive Sweetened™ Tunings For Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Dobro®, Baritone, Steel Guitar, Electric Violin- total of 34
  • Buzz Feiten Tuning System® Presets
  • 8 User-Programmable Sweeteners
  • 25 Presets
  • Built-In Mic
  • Mute Button & Remote Jack
  • Tone Out Jack
  • All Metal Construction
  • Neutrik® Jacks
  • 12V BNC Output For Gooseneck Light (not included)
  • Built-In Power Supply (No Wall Wart.)

Price: $359 (street)

Tone Bone Score: 5.0. I’ve used a lot of tuners, and this by far is the most accurate I’ve ever used. Despite it being a rackmount, my use of it in the studio has proven

I used to never be into rackmount gear, let alone sophisticated tuning equipment. But the Peterson StroboRack has me reconsidering both those things, especially in my workshop/studio where tuning accuracy is incredibly important.

I received the StroboRack a few days ago, and since I set it up (which required all of two minutes to plug in the cords), I can see why so many people love these tuners. It’s a completely different way to tune an instrument. Instead of lining up a needle or LED, or even using the “strobe” effect on a TU-2, you tune by making the “checkerboard” pattern on the LCD stop moving. If it moves the left, you’re flat. If it moves to the right, you’re sharp.

Tuning with one of these things does take a little getting used to. First off, I had to really lighten my touch with the tuning keys, and also had to make sure I didn’t put any pressure on the neck. At .1 cent accuracy, even a slight pressure throws off the tuning. But once I got used to it, tuning was a breeze!

Do you take sugar with that?

The StroboRack includes what are called “sweeteners” for specific types of instruments. I’m not sure I understand this idea completely, but it has to do with setting the right intervals between notes – compensating for the type of instrument – so that the tuned instrument doesn’t just sound great tuned up, but when you actually chords, the chords are much more tonally accurate. Apparently a lot of math goes into calculating these sweeteners.

All I can say is that my guitars tuned up with the StroboRack, actually sound better than when tuned up with my little TU-2. It probably has a lot to do with the high degree of accuracy, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with the “GTR” sweetener. For instance, I did an A/B comparison of tuning with the StroboRack vs. my TU-2. I took my time to get the most accurate tuning I could with both tuners. When I struck an E chord after tuning up with my TU-2, I had to make a couple of minor adjustments to my G and B strings – it wasn’t that the chord sounded bad, it just seemed to sound a bit “off.”

On the other hand, the E chord struck after tuning with the StroboRack with the GTR sweetener engaged sounded absolutely right on!

Fit and Finish

The StroboRack is encased in a nice, heavy-duty aluminum casing. It is really built like a tank, so I have no doubts that it could survive the rigors of the road. But I do advise getting an enclosure for it. It’s still a precision instrument, and should be handled with some care.

Overall Impressions

To say The Dawg digs this unit is an absolute understatement! Last night, I used it to set the intonation on a new guitar I got, and I have to tell you, the big display and scrolling checkerboard really made it easy. I know, a lot of folks would say, “But it’s just a tuner.” Well yeah… but the accuracy it affords you – especially you tone freaks out there – just can’t be beat. This is a unit that I will definitely be adding to my rig!

At $359 street, it’s not a cheap proposition by any means, but hell! We gear sluts spend tons of money each year on gadgets to make us sound better. One would think that sounding better also means being in tune. Of course, Peterson has several other tuners, like the StroboStomp that doesn’t have all the features of the rack unit, but it uses the same “Virtual Strobe Technology” as the StroboRack, so you know you’ll get the accuracy you need.

Mind you, I didn’t try out all the other features like outputting to two outputs, which is pretty cool, or using the XLR jack to go into a board. Those are great features, but frankly, they’re secondary to what’s important with this unit: Accurate tuning.

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There are some things in life that you just can’t pass up. About a week ago, my friend Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps mentioned people finding great vintage gear in pawn shops. I kind of stored that tidbit away for future reference, mainly because there aren’t any pawn shops really close to where I live. But today, I happened to park in front of a pawn shop (I work about 20 miles from where I live), and after lunch, on a whim, decided to go in. This was a little pawn shop that mostly specialized in jewelry, but they had a number of amps and guitars as well.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by the selection of gear; mostly no-name brands that I had never heard of, and as far amps were concerned, cheapo solid-state practice amps. But tucked in behind some guitars was a Fernandes Strat-copy that caught my eye. It had a nice, white finish with a maple neck (I LOVE maple necks), and it was obviously well-used from where I could see it. The shop owner walked up, and I asked to inspect the guitar. I was really impressed by the workmanship. I had heard of Fernandes guitars being very high-quality for a great price, but upon seeing the workmanship up close for the first time, I was very impressed. And even though this guitar was well-used, I could tell it was taken care of because of only minor scratches and dings on the body.

The tag on the guitar said it was for sale for $115 (sorry… if you came from the gear page, I mistakenly listed it at $125), and I asked if she’d take $100 including tax, and she agreed. Unfortunately, they didn’t take plastic in any form, so I had to decline on the guitar. But that was a good thing because it gave me some time to do some research. From what I could glean, this Strat-copy is a late-80’s (’86 and later) model of this guitar. What’s ultra-cool about this one is that it’s pure white. Almost all the pictures I saw today of late-80’s Fernandes Strat-copies were either tobacco burst or a solid that was other than white. This made the guitar a bit more unique. This was confirmed by a former Fernandes endorser that I hooked up with on The Gear Page.

In any case, I got this guitar for a steal!!! I’m going to fix it up, swap out pickups, give it a good cleaning and setup. Don’t know if I’m going to keep it, but no matter. It was a great deal!

So if you have a chance, take a peak into a pawn shop sometime. Oh wait! Another place you could look is at estate sales. A few years ago, I met an older gentleman and acoustic guitarist who SCORED a 1940’s Martin for a couple of hundred bucks at an estate sale, and had it appraised at around forty-grand! Amazing! Talk about a steal!

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Jam Center

Wow! Amazing what taking a few days off can do! I spent last weekend in Las Vegas deflating from the rigors of everyday life, and when I came back, made a conscious effort to play as little guitar or writing as possible. Sometimes you just need to take a break. But I’m back now, refreshed, restored, and fully recovered.

So yesterday, not feeling like writing any music – actually not feeling very creative at all – I just picked up my guitar and started noodling. Within a few minutes, I wanted to play to something, so I did a search on “jam tracks” and the first search result was a link to a place called Jam Center. Intrigued, I clicked the link and was taken to the site.

There really wasn’t much there; just a navigation bar on the left that listed “Jam Machine Keys.” I clicked the Key of A, the page reloaded and the following “machine” appeared on the page:

jamcenter_player

Cool, I thought, this looks really promising. I clicked on “COOL” and was rewarded with a nicely produced jam track. I slung my guitar and started playing… Two hours later, I still hadn’t gone through all the keys and all the jam tracks, I was enjoying myself so much!

Yeah, there are lots of different sites offering jam tracks out there, but what I like about this particular site is that instead of just playing MP3s in another tab or window that eventually end, the jam tracks are arranged in a loop, and not only that, many of the jam tracks have two different “feels” to them. Usually, the first part of a track will have a mellower feel, then jumping into the second half of the track, the feel gets more intense. Having this type of variation makes you play differently. So not only can you practice your technique, you can practice changing your tones and attack. What I found very useful with having two different feels to a track was it allowed me to practice switching pedals and pickup selections. How cool is that!

One thing I forgot to mention was that when you click on a style on the machine, text appears on the machine suggesting the type of scale to play like “A Harmonic Minor” or “E Blues.” It’s a small thing yes, but it’s cool to have a starting place. For instance, in one of the tracks, the suggestion came up with “A Mixolydian.” I’ve never been that much into modes and such, even though I’ve studied them, but as an interesting and added value, the site has some great graphic examples of the different modes.

I looked up “A Mixolydian” and was greeted with the pattern, and started playing the pattern over the jam track. That was really cool; a way to immediately use a mode over a piece of music, as opposed to having to intellectualize. What that sparked was using different modes starting with different tonics or root notes over the different keys. Some didn’t work at all, but it sure helped me understand how modes can open up a whole different world when jamming.

Anyway, check this site out. It’s a great tool!

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ignore

IGNORE EVERYBODY

I just finished reading Hugh MacLeod’s fantastic book, “Ignore Everybody,” recommended by my blog-buddy, Ig, of the now-defunct, but well-loved igblog. He said I would love it, and of course, I did. Thank you, Ig!

What’s it about? Mostly it’s about taking personal ownership of your creativity, wherever it comes from, and in whatever shape it takes. Everyone has some sort of creativity inside of them, being it writing, playing music, drawing, painting, what have you. The challenge in life as Hugh MacLeod asserts is owning that creativity, recognizing that it’s yours, giving yourself permission to express it, and not fall into the trap that your creativity should be directed towards what other people say it should be.

I know, it sounds a bit brash and slightly anarchistic, but that’s creativity. You own it. It’s yours. Hell, MacLeod made it big by writing cartoons on the back of business cards! People thought he was crazy, but that’s how he wanted to express himself.

The things MacLeod says in the book are practical; not pie-in-the-sky New Age, metaphorical, metaphysical bullshit. The advice is in your face, and with many of his cartoons interspersed throughout the book, incredibly entertaining.

I was just thinking, what does this have to do within the context of this site? Well, we gear sluts buy acquire as much gear as we do to feed our passion for tone. Guitar is our creative outlet. Reading Ignore Everybody has put an exclamation point on why I play guitar, why I write this blog, and why I spent the countless hours each week sifting through the Internet and trade rags in search of new, compelling gear. I can’t really explain why I love doing what I do. I just love it. And I want to share it.

I encourage you to get this book. It’s a quick read. I started reading it last night, and finished it about half an hour ago. I guarantee it’ll inspire you! And no matter what your particular form of creativity is, you’ll gain a lot of insight into expressing it.

5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

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In my quest for gear to review, I literally spend hours each week poring over the Internet and trade rags, looking for cool, new stuff, and I get especially excited when I come across familiar gear that’s expressed in completely new ways, such as the Quantum Drive from Acoustic Imaginearing that uses quantum tunneling to provide distortion. But a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a brand-new guitar company up in Washington called “Woody B Internal Combustion Guitars,” that is doing something so totally unique it has the potential of completely changing how we as guitarists approach tone. I don’t say this lightly. What Woody has invented is nothing short of amazing, and I am extremely excited to have run across this new guitar.

What makes these guitars so revolutionary is Woody’s invention: The Internal Combustion Drive System. This consists of a speaker transducer and special baffles and tone ports that direct added resonance to the strings and body. Essentially, the Drive System is a resonance chamber that builds up the guitar signal (with the help of a pre-conditioner that I’ll get into later) before it goes out to your main amp. According to Woody, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with for quite awhile yesterday, this is a guitar where you can feel your tone resonating throughout the guitar’s body.

So how does it work? Here’s a diagram. I’ll discuss it below:

internalcombustion

That signal is returned via a special plug that Woody provides that I assume returns the “conditioned” signal as a line-level output (though with a Cube, you should be able to use the Recording Out). The signal then passes into the Drive System, where it’s run through the speaker transducer and allowed to resonated withing the chamber. The signal is buffered, then sent out to your main stage amp.The way it works in principle is actually quite simple. You first send your output to a pre-conditioning unit. This could be a low-wattage solid state amp, or even a valve amp. This is also where you add effects, so you could run this into your pedal board, then into the low wattage amp. The net result is that the guitar outputs more energy than was put in, providing for what Woody calls a much fatter, fuller tone than you would get from other guitars.

In addition, adding to the natural resonance are copper bars that run through the body to the neck, creating a direct coupling between the neck and the guitar. Very cool. Woody B also uses very high-grade woods with four to choose from: Swamp Ash, Alder, Mahogany, and African Black Limba (I dig the Black Limba, myself).

For those of you “in the know,” you might ask, “Moog already did something like this.” Yes and no. Yes, from the perspective that the Moog guitar uses a pre-conditioner. But no from the perspective that Woody has taken a completely different approach to the electronics in the Drive System. First of all, where the Moog has around 3000 parts to produce its sound, and I believe requires external power, the ICG Drive System has only twelve parts. Furthermore, the Drive System is completely passive, not requiring any external power source. Finally, the Moog guitar costs in the neighborhood of $6000, whereas you can get into an Internal Combustion Guitar for as low as $1700. Woody is really trying to keep the price below or as close to $2000 so his guitars are attainable by a wider audience.

Here are some videos that Woody has put together:

Folks, this stuff is so awesome! I can’t wait to try one out! For more information, go to Woody B Internal Combustion Guitars.

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Talk about being blown away! I talked to Adam Hernandez of Saint Guitars the other day just to shoot the breeze and let him know I posted an announcement about his new web site. He in turn thanked me, then absolutely blew me away saying that Goldie was ready for finishing and would be done before the weekend! OMG!!! He sent me some progress pictures from just before finishing. BTW, the finish is vintage Les Paul gold…. Again, OMG!!!

In any case, here are pictures of my guitar right before it went into finishing. I just can’t wait to play her!

I know I probably sound like a broken record and maybe a walking billboard for Saint Gutiars, but these are special guitars. Anyone who has played one of these will attest to that. And to have one of my own is just incredible. Adam and Jon just rock the house with their guitars!

They are also coming up with a new “Vintage” model. I don’t know all the details, but it looks like a semi-hollowbody with a trapeze-style bridge. Very retro!

I just have to say this…

I know there are a lot of people out there who have lots of gear, and who trade their axes after a certain amount of time. That’s totally cool. I’ve spoken to some folks who are concerned about the resale value of these guitars. Because this is such a small company, there aren’t a lot of Saints out there, so there’s no price precedence. But in reply to that all I have to say is that from my perspective, Goldie isn’t a guitar that I’d ever consider trading away or selling. Why would I when she was made to my exact specifications?

For sure, Goldie won’t be the last guitar I ever buy. I’m way too much of a gear freak, slut, maniac, what-have-you, to settle with my collection; it’s a living breathing thing. But Goldie will always be special because she’s the very first custom guitar I’ve ever had, but also she’s the very first Saint Guitar I’ve owned.

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Saint Guitar Company

The guys at Saint Guitar have been busy, and just this week did a “soft” release of their brand new web site, and the introduction of their new domain name (saintguitarco.com). “stguitars.com” still works, but they will be going with the new domain name going forward.

I’m so happy for these guys! Adam Hernandez has got to be one of the most talented young luthiers in the market today. Jon Peterson, who runs company operations is a great front-man. But as a company, and what really endears me to Saint Guitars is that this is something that started out as a dream between best friends, and they’re making it a reality. They’re doing it organically without investors or bank loans, spending all their available time and extra resources (read: money) building the company up, and producing what I think are the finest guitars on the planet. And guess what? Not too many people know about them!

I’m hoping that will change, and I, as a passionate supporter and customer will do my best to get the word out.

What’s so special about these guitars?

Like many other old-school style boutique guitars, these are completely handmade, built from a series of custom jigs and templates that Adam has designed and perfected over the last ten or so years. But that’s not differentiating at all. What is differentiating is the tone of these guitars. They’re on the bright side, but sustain for days. A lot of that sustain has to do with the neck joint that Adam has invented. These are the first guitars I’ve ever played where I can physically feel the sound waves resonate through the body. It’s subtle for sure, but it’s the first time I could really feel it.

As Vinni Smith of V-Picks put it, “[These guitars] have just about the best bridge pickup in the business.” Before I played a Saint Guitar, I was never big on the bridge pickup. But with Saint Guitars, I just love the bridge pickup. Adam really found a sweet spot with its positioning.

Other than that, there is a certain magic about the guitars from Saint Guitar Company. I’ve played some very high-end guitars that cost three to four times as much, and they’ve not really impressed me quite as much as what these guys are producing. Just think about this: The highest price you’ll pay for a Saint Guitar is around $4800. That’s full-gloss, nitro finish with top-of-the-line EVERYTHING. But they start at around $1800 for an open-pore, stain finish (which sounds just as good). That’s simply amazing to me. I’ve shared with Adam that his guitars are almost too affordable considering the quality compared to other custom guitars. I’d pit a Saint head-to-head with a high-end PRS any day. To me, it’ll play and sound just as well or even better and it’ll cost half as much. That’s a no-brainer for me.

In any case, I encourage you to check out their new site at: http://www.saintguitarco.com

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