Wednesday, 16 April 2014

10 Top Tips for Playing an Acoustic Guitar Live

Whether you're making your tentative first steps onto the acoustic open mic circuit or if your a seasoned veteran who gigs all over the place, there is always room for improving your sound and standing out from the pack. 

The following are 10 tips which should help you improve your sound and performance. 

1) The Sound Engineer is all Powerful

Sound engineers are often notoriously difficult and it seems every musician has a story about an awful sound engineer. The truth is that like most things in life respect is a two way street and they're often on the receiving end of untold rudeness. 

Simply put the person sitting behind the mixing desk has the power to make you sound good or bad, being polite and calling them by their name will enamour them to you, especially when compared to what they usually have to deal with. So if you want to sound great, you know who to speak to.

2) Get on your Feet!

Unless you're playing in a big venue or a guitar superstar, stand up while playing. People will be more engaged by your performance, your body is more loose and open and if you sing it will help you sound a lot better.

3) Acoustic Amps are Great

They might be expensive, but they're essential for a serious live acoustic guitar player. You can control your sound to a much greater degree and everyone will be able to hear you properly. 

4) Strap Up

Acoustics can be really bulky and cumbersome, wearing the strap shorter shorter than on an electric will make them more comfortable and easier to play. 

5) Have a Tuner on Hand

A floor tuner as a separate unit or built into your preamp/effects unit, is not only great for making you sound good, but you can mute your guitar when needed. 

6) Get Fresh Batteries 

New batteries may be very expensive, but they need to be fresh to provide a strong signal. They also need changing regularly, and having a spare ready in the bag for a gigs is essential.

7)  Fight the Feedback

No don't fight critics of your performance, eliminate the horrible noises. Your guitar should a manuel notch filter on the preamp. Once feedback begins, turn the notch filter until it goes away.

8) Know what Hertz

Make sure you're guitar compliments any other instruments and cut back on frequencies which will muddy the sound. Take away some of the 70-80Hz bass sounds and if you're in a band cutting off some of the 600-800Hz can do wonders for your clarity.

Increasing the 1-1.5Hz can help you cut through in any situation. 

9) Band of Bother

Cutting back on the frequencies inhabited by other instruments, such as the bass guitar, can help improve the mix. It's important to get the mix correct rather than every instrument sounding perfect.

10) Make it Right

Don't damage your guitar cable or base, use a right-angled jack. This should stop any potential damage to your prized possession.

If anyone has any other tips, please let us know in the comments or on social media.

Captain Beefhearts 10 Guitar Playing Commandments

Captain Beefheart's Magic Band was a shifting collective of musicians who created some of the most unique and crazy music of the last few decades. Although there were many recognisable Blues-based elements, at times the band was unlike anything else you're likely to hear, operating on a plane of existence where Captain Beefheart stood alone. 

Some fantastic musicians joined Beefheart's band over the years, what seemed to attract them to the uncompromising task master and musical eccentric was his ability to push concepts and take them to borders of the ridiculous, but still make sense.

The following is a list of instructions issued to new guitarist Moris Tepper who joined Beefheart's band in 1976. The list contains some funny nonsensical truths alongside some practical advice. It is up to the guitar player to take the correct or righteous meaning from them (a bit like a Guitar Jedi Knight perhaps).

1. Listen to the birds

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn't shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re brining over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.


“Though they bear numbers, they are not arranged heirarchically — each Commandment has equal import.”

Now even Guitars can be made on a 3D Printer?!

If you're unaware of what 3D printing is, it is worth investigating as it seems to be where technology is headed. It is predicted that in the future we'll all have 3D printers in our houses and be able to "print" anything from screws to cars.

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digitial model. This is achieved using an additive process, where layer upon layer is laid down in different shapes. A 3D printer is an industrial robot capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control. There has been a exponential growth in the popularity of these machines since they became commercially available in the last few years.
It seems every week there are brand new objects that can be manufactured by 3D printer, the latest and most impressive for us are 3D guitars.
ODD Guitars a company in New Zealand makes guitars using Selective Laser Sintering and in my opinion they're pretty damn impressive...

A thin layer of nylon powder is repeatedly spread on top of the last, it is then fused in the correct locations for that particular slice of the component.

The layer is then dropped down a fraction of a millimetre, and another layer of powder is spread on top of the first.

This is then repeated until the guitar is built.

And they don't sound half bad either!

The 5 Weirdest Guitar Designs Ever

Music technology has produced some amazing innovations over the years. From the wah pedal to the synthesiser, inventors have constantly tried to create new instruments for us to play, or new interesting ways for us to play our old instruments. 

However, there has also been some rather dubious developments over the years. Products that are not the result of outstanding innovation and creativity, but more likely the result of intense drug binges.

The following selection of guitars definitely come from a very dark place:

1) The Wangcaster is a guitar which as you may imagine is made to resemble a giant wooden penis. If you're tired of things like subtlety or not being laughed at, it might be considered the ultimate statement guitar for the sleezy rocker. Amazingly it apparently carries the personal endorsement of Jon Bon Jovi, who said, "Wow, that guitar has balls!" - it sure does and pubic hair pick guards too! This would probably the most embarrassing guitar to own from this bizarre collection and we're only on number one!

2) The Pikasso Guitar was built specially for jazz fusion virtuoso Pat Metheny by Luthier Linda Mazer in 1984. Metheny is quite simply amazing and can play it fantastically - the way he plays this complicated instrument is enough to make us all start practising more!

The guitar has four necks and 42 strings, the tension of which puts the instrument under incredible pressure. We dread to think what would happen if you broke a string mid performance - probably a massive guitar explosion!

3) The Gun Guitar is probably for those who find the music industry a particularly cut throat place, or maybe wish to fulfil a dream of being a guitar playing soldier of fortune! 

Found at a store in Japan and costing around $700. Lukcily for the other members of your band when you're drunk, it doesn't actually fire bullets and is completely safe. The safety is definitely on!

4) The Jesus Guitar is a Fender Strat carved by Doug Rowell for Mike Deasy in 1969. It represents the figure of Jesus with a hand on a bridge. I guess this one could have been a lot more tasteless, considering the others we've seen so far. There is certainly has an amazing level of carving detail on display here and shows excellent craftsmanship. 

5) The Mermaid is a wooden sculpture with a guitar sticking out of its abdomen. If that's not weird enough it is pretty much impossible to play, well, not without look like you are trying to have sex with the front figurehead of an old ship. The guitar is completely impractical and probably an after thought. The mermaid herself looks to be a bit scared and is reminiscent of someone frozen in time. An utterly bizarre instrument.

Do you have a favourite weird guitar or instrument? If show let us know, we really want to see them!

"Holding a Guitar Makes you More Attractive" - Scientists Finally Confirm!

No it is not a very late April fools joke! 

It is often joked that a guy holding a guitar gets more attention from the opposite sex, but some (rather dubious) science has now appeared to confirm a thousand pop culture clichés.

Two recent university studies have looked into the truth behind the cliché and it appears there may be something in it after all. Although the methodology might not be the most rigorous, the results are fairly positive for guys who're obsessed with their guitars. 

A French study that was published last year suggests women are more attracted to a guy who caries a guitar around with him, and that supports a study published in Israel two years ago.

The French study looked at:
"The assumption that music plays a role in sexual selection. Three hundred young women were solicited in the street for their phone number by a young male confederate who held either a guitar case or a sports bag in his hands or had no bag at all. Results showed that holding a guitar case was associated with greater compliance to the request, thus suggesting that musical practice is associated with sexual selection."
Researchers enlisted a particularly brave 20-year-old actor and asked him to introduce himself to 300 young women under 25. He would then say "I think you're really pretty," and ask for their phone numbers. During the testing he was carrying a sports bag for one third of the time, nothing for another third and a guitar case for the other third. The results are pretty positive for us guitar geeks as 31 percent of the women gave him their number when he was carrying the guitar, 14 percent did when he carried nothing, and unfortunately for the jocks out there, only 9 percent did when he was carrying the gym bag.

The Israeli study took a different tact, the researchers set up a Facebook profile with a photo of a man on it and sent friend requests to 100 single women at Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Universities. Half of the time the guy in the photo was strumming a guitar like a pro and the rest of the time it was just a standard photo with no guitar. Only 1 percent responded positively to the guitar-less profile, however 28 percent responded positively to the photo with a guitar.

And if these studies are to believed, you don't actually need to play the guitar. Just carry it around and hope for the best!

Although neither methodology appears particularly scientific or rigorous, hopefully it offers some unlucky in love guitar guys out there encouragement. Unfortunately there was no study carried out on the effect single women with guitars on single guys, which would have been an interesting study. 

What do you think?

Have you ever thought of Using your Computer as a Guitar Amp?

Although every electric guitar player loves the guttural vibrations of their favourite amp and the bombastic sound it gives you when playing live. Have you ever considered using your computer as your guitar amp?
For audiophiles and amp lovers it doesn't sound like the greatest idea, but there are several benefits to using your computer as your amp.

For a start amps are not exactly practical, most good tube amps are usually very heavy and cumbersome. Making them a nightmare to carry around town, especially in a rush hour. When you consider the practicalities of getting around with your amp, the idea of using a computer for practice sessions and small performances becomes much more appealing. You only need a computer, a charger, cables and a quarter-inch to eight-inch adapter.

I am not trying to suggest plugging into a program like Garageband and hitting the stage is a particularly appealing prospect. However, programs such as Axe-Fx II, Guitar Rig 5 and many more similar pieces of software can produce some great results (after experimentation and tweaking).

The usual complaint from guitarists about software amp simulators is the lack of body and tinny sound. No matter what software you use, it remains hard to replicate the analogue nature of the amp. Software and sound synthesis may have come far, but replicating a speaker booming from a wooden box is something that has yet to be mastered.

If you are using your laptop for a gig, a great PA system is essential. It won't make you sound like you're using an amp, but it will make it sound like a pre-recorded version of you playing. If you realise that you won't sound like you're using an amp and are more likely to sound like you're in a recording studio, it is a lot easier to come to terms with for the amp aficionado. This clean and "studio-like" sound could also begin to define you as a musician, it could be built into you or your bands sound, making you stand out from others.

When using your computer as an amp, keeping it simple tone wise is important. A clean tone, with a dirty rhythm tone and a solo tone keeps it straight forward and reliable. Changing presents during a performance can be dangerous, especially if you're not aware of the volume or tone differentiations between them. Matching the tones before leaving the house can save you a lot of time and hassle at the gig. Another thing to remember, which can be easily forgotten, is the input recording volume. Unlike an overdriven amp, a clipping signal does NOT sound good.

Another common question for amp lovers is whether amp dynamics still exist, which they do, depending on your guitars pickups. When using a dirty rhythm channel for examples, the saturation level remained the same regardless of the guitars volume. Surprisingly, it is possible to execute a variety of different techniques and sounds on computer software, that you would think are reliant on having an amp.

Just as the wah pedal must have been odd-sounding to guitar purists of the past, it has been in common use for 50 years now. There is no reason to think this technique will not become a feature or sound used extensively in the future.

In my opinion it is well worth looking at the variety of amp emulation software that is available and working to develop a sound that you like from it.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Mind The Mids - Live Tone Perfection

Achieving a full bodied, powerful live guitar tone isn't easy. There are a lot of factors that come into play to get things sounding just right in the mix. One area that I think is responsible for a lot of hurt, more so than any other aspect is bad EQing. This is a problem that spans all genres and styles, and is something I have seen bands at all levels fall victim to. It doesn't matter how good you are, if your live show sounds awful then it detracts from the enjoyment of the gig tremendously, worse still you could actually be doing serious damage to your ears in the process.

All In The Mids

Getting your guitar sounding right as a standalone instrument is one thing, making it cut through the mix and harmonise with other elements is quite another. The secret? It's all in the mids. Why compete with bass and drums for low end? They have that covered. Vocals and cymbals have the highs. The guitars place should be firmly in the mid range. That is a very simplified explanation but I think it generally holds true.

It's important to realise that a guitar that sounds great on its own, will probably not sound good in the band. Rather than spending hours creating a killer tone in the bedroom, you should be more worried about how it will sound live and in the mix, where it really matters.

Playing by yourself you will be tempted to cut the mids. It will generally sound more pleasing to your ears, but keep these settings in the mix and your sound will get lost. What do you do to compensate? Crank up the volume of course! No, no no no. That is where so many go so wrong. You might be able to hear yourself now but you may have just raised your bass and treble to dangerous volumes and thrown off the sound of the mix as a whole.

The solution? Give those middle frequencies some love. Your sound will be much more balanced without needing excessive volume, it will drastically reduce feedback and gives the sound engineer a lot more room to work with. More and more guitarists are starting to realise the importance of the mid range, but some don't truly understand it. Anything from around 500Hz to 4kHz can be considered 'the mid range' generally speaking. Anything below is low end and anything above, high.

Play with your band and get someone to adjust your bass, treble, mid, gain and volume until you hit the sweet spot. You'll know when you do as everything will sound balanced and luscious, with no feedback when you stop playing. I'd love to just give you some magic amp and equalizer settings and be done with it, but in reality all gear is different! You'll have to do some of your own experimenting and fiddling to get it just right.