Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Have you ever been a musical snob?

A post from our very own Lee Jefford:

A few years ago I was playing guitar in a pop/rock covers band. Not everything was what I would have wanted to play but nevertheless I was happy to be playing music with other people. We had approx 15-20 gigs a year which suited me down to the ground. Everything was going great until a particular song suggestion changed my whole outlook on the band. At the time I raised my suspicions about the song, however, the rest of the band were happy to play it which I could not argue with. Immediately I had lost my enthusiasm for playing in the band, not for being outnumbered but because I simply did not want to play that particular track. The song in itself wasn't overly offensive to my lug-holes, however, my internal embarras-o-meter kicked into overdrive. I was even embarrassed to learn the song at home.  

Was this my internal music snob taking over? Am I going to let one song force me to choose a different direction or is this just paving the way for more function-friendly songs which I could not face. I wasn't in the band to make money, nor was I in it for the women (I was!). I really just wanted to play guitar and the songs that I enjoy playing. The problem is, not everybody wants to hear the songs I love to play. But why? They're great songs! Instead it just seems the public want to be able to kick off their shoes and dance around their handbags to Brown Eyed Girl. But I am the first to admit, my hypocritical side comes out here. When I'm out, 99% of the time I love nothing more than to hear a song I know and love played by a live band, rather than hearing a drawn-out original composition about the mourning of the singer's dead goldfish.

You often find there's a direct correlation between audience enjoyment and the popularity of the songs played. Often guitar players like music that can be deemed 'self-indulgent' by many other non guitar-playing musicians. So do you play for the crowd, or do you play for yourself? What will lead you to gaining more satisfaction from the guitar? A rip roaring 12-minute blues solo (rip-roaring in my head anyway!?) to a sea of unamused, ungrateful punters who have paid to hear a selection of toe-tappers, or the Grease Mega-Mix to a large room of smiling faces?

I know what I chose. Do I regret it? Perhaps. I think I might have to dust off my 'Pink Ladys' bomber jacket.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Insight into Newtone Strings!

Who uses Newtone Strings? This week, we bring you a blog post written by Neil Silverman - String Maker & Production Manager at Newtone Strings, who provides great insight into how their Strings are made and why they help your guitar sound so good!

This summer, I will have been working here at Newtone strings for 13 years, unlucky for some, but for us things seem to go from strength to strength.

We approach things our own way and I very rarely tell people I’m a ‘Production Manager’, but rather I’m a ‘String Maker’. Being a small firm, a simple job description does not fully quantify the work I cary out on a day to day basis. From making strings, to answering the phone and replying to emails, I am able to communicate directly with our customers and do my best to help them achieve the best they can from their instruments, be it players or luthiers.

One question that is commonly asked is ‘why does it say not to cut your strings before putting them on the guitar?’ This is quite a simple question and answering it gets to the very heart of what we do here at Newtone.

Most strings, even some of our own, are made using Hexagonal cores, and as you know they have an angular circumference. When the soft wrapping wire is wrapped around the core it molds itself around the shape of the core and grips to each vertex of the Hexagonal core. So with every wrap the outer wire makes, it grips and stays in place. When using a Round core, the wrapping wire molds itself around the core as it is wound, but without an angular surface it has nothing to hold it in place, and once the tension is removed from the wrapping wire it will spring back on itself and you can quite easily slide the wrapping wire up and down the length of the core. 

When making our strings we create a small rectangular cross section in the core where the winding of the strings will end, and when the wrapping wire passes over this it grips to it in the same way as a hex core, but only for that small section, and is enough to keep everything in place down the length of the string. If you cut the string to fit your guitar, there is no longer anything to hold the wrapping wire in place and the wrapping will come loose and result in a very dull, thud of a dead string. Next time you are string up with our strings, try running your fingers over the last few inches of the string and you may be able to feel this flattened section, it is often more noticeable with the thinner wound strings. Once the string is installed on the instrument and is up to pitch, the tension on the string being wrapped around the machine head is enough to hold things in place, making it safe to cut off any excess string.

I hope this helps you understand a little better how we do things here at Newtone, and gives you something to think about next time you look down at your guitar and see all those wraps of wire, vibrating together making your music come to life

- Neil Silverman

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Rotosound: The Art & Engineering of Rock

When Rotosound Swing Bass strings were introduced fifty years ago they changed the sound of rock forever. In the intervening years the company, manufacturing processes and music have gone through many changes, yet the impact of Rotosound strings still resonates - loud and clear.

It all started back in the 1950’s. Founder and engineer James How became fascinated by an instrument called a zither after hearing a musical score. He soon discovered that sourcing strings for zithers was very difficult so being an engineer started building a string-making machine in his shed at home. Not long after the Rotosound Company was born.

During the rise of the British bands in the 1960’s, Rotosound strings, in particular their bass strings, really took off. John Entwistle, The Who, came to James How with a request for a custom set of strings, and after working with James and his team they invented the now famous Swing Bass 66 bass strings.  The following year Jimi Hendrix contacted Rotosound for an unusually light gauge set of guitar strings which he favoured for ‘bending’. This result of this was the Cosmic Light and Micro Light sets of guitar strings featuring gauges as fine as .006”

During the seventies whilst Rotosound continued to build on its artist portfolio with names like Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), Sting (The Police) and Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth) they also moved to the Sevenoaks Factory they still occupy today.

When Jason How become CEO following the death of his father James, it quickly became apparent that the manufacturing processes had to be updated. Jason too is an engineer and over a period of eight years set about rebuilding every machine in the Rotosound factory combining his father’s original designs with current technology without sacrificing any of the quality or sound.

Today, represented in over sixty countries, Rotosound continues to be a world influence in music today and their string continue to make musical history. They are featured on a catalogue of the best albums including the Jimi Hendrix’s (Noel Redding) Are You Experienced, Yes’ (Chris Squire) Fragile, The Who’s (John Entwistle) Live At Leeds, Oasis’ (Paul McGuigan) Defintely Maybe, Nirvana’s (Krist Novoselic) Nevermind, Guns ‘n’ Roses’ (Duff McKagan) Appetite For Destruction and Rush’s (Geddy Lee) 2112. Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones once said ‘they are so good – I use twelve at a time!’.

Rotosound’s history is littered with a litany of firsts in the history of instrument strings and rock music and continues to be at the forefront of string manufacture today. Rotosound proudly continue to make their strings at their Sevenoaks factory in Kent with a highly secretive process using a unique form of steel. 

To find out more go to http://www.rotosound.com/

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Is Playing Guitar the Secret to Happiness?

I read somewhere there is a theory that the delay of gratification (D.O.G.) or, to put it simply, the exciting bit before you actually get something you want, is one of the key factors to having a happy life.
For example; remember how we looked forward to getting a present when we were kids? It was a stupendously exciting time, the anticipation was almost unbearable. Nights of falling asleep grinning gleefully at the thought of what was to come. Then when the fabled toy we had desired for months finally came into our possession it was very often a massive let down. We ended up playing more with the box. It was the bit before getting it that was most enjoyable. As adulthood encroached we found a similar thing with sex. Foreplay is so much more exciting than the finale and can last as long as you want.

So in theory, the more time we spend not getting what we want but knowing we might get it, the happier we should be. That would explain why not all, but some of the richest people I’ve met have been the most dissatisfied and miserable. Wealth does not equal happiness; we all know that deep down.
Enjoyment can get even greater when we are actively working towards a far-off goal; knowing that the thing, the light, the summit of your quest is a result of your own hard work and patience makes it all the more gratifying.

Playing a musical instrument encompasses all the above.

You have a passion for music and wish to express yourself through it. But the road is long and hard and your goal seems to get further and further away the more you learn. The possibilities seem infinite and so tantalising. Your goals constantly shift as you move forward. Early on, just mastering a few chords, you tell yourself, will give you joy. But as soon as one goal is achieved, another pops up in its place. A bittersweet relationship develops between you and your instrument. A passionate, joyous, frustrating and bewitching journey which will last for the rest of your life. A wonderful journey.

You develop your own style which, regardless of your ability is truly unique. Like a fingerprint. No one in the world although they may be technically more proficient, will be able to play exactly like you. And no one can take that away from you. That is a wonderful thing.

Is playing guitar the secret to happiness? It is certainly essential for mine.
And I’m pretty sure I now also believe in DOG.

David Wallings, Strings Direct

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Bass String Scale Length Explained

Ever bought a set of bass strings for your long scale bass and found them to be too short? Or bought a set for your short scale bass and found they are so long you could strangle a giraffe with them? ....Annoying isn't it!

This is due to the fact that most basses have two different scale lengths - the Bass scale length (length in inches from bridge to top nut) and the String scale length (length in inches from the ball end of the string being used to where the string crosses the top nut). The string scale length is the measurement that refers to the length of string you will need to fit your bass correctly. This can differ from the bass scale length as some basses are strung through the back of the body which can add up to 2 inches of extra string needed in order for the strings to fit the bass.

For Example - if you have a 34" long scale bass that is strung through the body, if the body of the bass is 2" thick, you would need a 36" string scale length (ball end to start of silk wrap/taper).

To be exact you need to measure the strings NOT the bass.  Here's a few easy steps to find out your Bass' String Scale Length;

1) Simply fit the strings to the bridge or thread them through the back of the bass as required.

2) Pull the string tight up to the top nut,

3) Mark the string where is crosses the nut,

4) Remove the string from the bass and measure in inches. This will give you the physical string scale length you will need.

Alternatively, before taking off your old set, simply mark the string with a pen where it crosses the nut and measure them when you remove them.

Manufacturers scale lengths do differ from brand to brand so please be careful to check before you buy. If in any doubt you can always email us for help.