Thursday, September 1, 2011

Education and Passion: How Students Can Stay in School

Guest post by Austin Follow Austin @bloggingcobb

The musician’s thirst for edification never seems to end at the performance stage. The list of successful performers with degrees, often unrelated to their art, is long and distinguished, and the mushrooming of online training opportunities affords performers more flexibility than ever to balance the complex interests and challenges facing those whose love making music. Play it right and you’re likely to look back on your beginnings from that place you’re hoping to be in your future.

If you’re already performing for money, as a solo act or as part of a band, having a good deal of elasticity with both your schooling and time means you don’t necessarily have to take on that waiter or waitress gig to make ends meet. Here are some tips on how to leverage your skills as a musician and a student to save money, achieve that degree and pursue your musical goals:

Make a Time Budget.
Different from a fiscal budget or schedule, a time budget lists your musical “expenses” with your financial obligations. Rehearsals, gigs and composing, like utility bills, rent and class fees, all have due dates and defined costs. Include these costs along with your fiscal obligations to incorporate these important factors into your thinking.

Put a $ on your time.
No one is saying that you play just for the money, but the money does dictate how much you play. What activities pay the bills, and of those, which are more profitable given the time expended? You may not yet be at a place where you can be fussy about which venues you play, but if you maximize your paid performance times, you’ll get to that point a whole lot faster than if you just catch as catch can.

Marry your schooling to your art.
If you’ve not paid any attention, you probably missed the fact that the constraints once posed by brick-and-mortar education have been largely overcome by the internet and university sensibilities that match their courses to the customer’s lifestyles. Finding a school with the option to access your classes from any point on your upcoming tour will blend a union between your love of music andlearning.

One thread that runs through each of the previous points is the concept of backwards planning. Knowing where you’d like to be, even if that vision is not fully formed, incorporates thoughts of where you’d not like to be in the future. Of those musicians who’ve achieved respect as both scholar and artist, each navigated a course that didn’t leave them looking back regretting how their short-term choices turned into dead ends for their dreams. Like them, you have the same number of seconds in each day, and how you use those increments of time will create either regret or satisfaction at some distant point in time. Keeping your dreams and your obligations tightly focused requires discipline, but combining your budget and your love ups the odds of having no regrets.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Creamery

Following one of my multiple visits across the internet, I stumbled upon The Creamery, a boutique guitar and pickup maker based in the UK

All I can say is they have some really interesting products, among them these hand-made pickups:

And some gorgeous looking guitars whose simplicity and classic looks I find very appealing:

If you've tried any of their products, please feel free to add your comments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Noiseless” Pickups: Kinman AVNs

Guest post by Austin 
Follow Austin @bloggingcobb

About 6 months ago I pulled an old Mexican Strat out of the closet.  It was the first guitar I have ever owned, but the guitar I pulled from the closet was a far cry from the one I purchased all those years ago.  I had upgraded the tuners, pickguard, electronics and pickups.  But, even after all those changes, I just couldn’t get that “Strat” sound.  I couldn’t figure it out. 

I wasn’t ready to give up on this axe just yet though.  I had read quite a bit about the advances of “noiseless” pickups in recent years and I figured I’d give them a try.  After A LOT of researching and listening to demos of different pickups online, I decided that I was going to fit this beast with the Kinman “Blues Set” consisting of 2 Authentic Vintage Noiseless pickups, or AVN pickups and one Scn in the bridge.  Little did I know that this would be one of the best guitar gear purchases I have ever made.

Here are a few quick install steps for those of you dropping a preloaded pickguard into your axe.

1.        Loosen or remove strings from the guitar so that the pickguard has plenty of room to be lifted out of the guitar cavity.
2.       Remove all the screws holding the pickguard in place.
3.       Lift pickguard and gently place it on a soft surface.  Be careful not to pull too hard or too far as you may loosen or disrupt any wiring in the cavity.
4.       Remove guitar jack by loosening nut with pliers and leave in an accessible place.
5.       With a mid-temp soldering iron, desolder the connection at the guitar jack.  Do not heat the connection and simply pull on the wire, heat the connection and use solder wick to wick away the solder.
6.       Most Strat-style wirings have the ground wire connected to the “springs” cavity of the tremolo.  To access this connection, flip the guitar over and remove the backplate.  This will be the only wire in this cavity (unless you have active pickups for some ungodly reason).  Simply desolder and remove the connection.  This should leave the pickguard free of connections to the guitar and completely removable.
7.       Now that you have the old pickguard removed, it’s time to install the new one.  BEFORE making any connections, make sure the pickguard, electronics and all will fit in the cavity by gently placing it within the cavity.  (More than likely it will fit very nicely, but in very rare cases the electronics will be too big to fit.  In this case, either reinstall your old pickguard and pickups, or find a luthier who can route the body for you so the new ones will fit.)
8.       After a secure fit is ensured, remove the pickguard again and find the “hot” wire for connecting to the guitar input.  Nearly all brands of pickups use a different color coding for their wiring, so be sure to consult the diagram that came with your pickups.  Solder this connection to the guitar jack using FRESH solder and re-install the jack.
9.       Now locate the ground wire and run it through the body into the “springs” cavity in the back of the guitar.  It is vitally important, especially for “noiseless” pickups to connect the ground wire. Otherwise your guitar will hum worse than ever.  Solder this connection to any part of the springs base, being sure that the wire will not interfere with any movement of the springs.
10.   Gently place pickguard into the cavity.  Watch your electronics and wiring as you lower it in so nothing is pinched by any part of the guitar body. 
11.   BEFORE screwing the pickguard down, test the guitars connections by plugging it in and LIGHTLY tapping on each pickup.  Some guys will tell you this could damage the pickup, but let me be honest, we’ve all done MUCH worse to our axes and this saves you the time of having to remove the pickguard again to fix your connections later.
12.   After a successful test, replace the screws, restring and your guitar is ready to rock!
Needless to say, my Mexi –Strat is now my main guitar.  The Kinman AVNs sounds amazing!  I finally found that Strat sounds I have been looking for.  The bridge pickup is bright, but not piercing while the neck pickup is pure Texas blues growl.  If you are looking for a great sounding noiseless pickup, check out the different styles offered by Chris Kinman.  Prices ranging from $98 for single pickups to $275 for a complete set plus shipping

Austin is an avid blogger who has been playing guitar for 17 years.  He loves to write about music, guitar gear and traveling.

Follow Austin @bloggingcobb 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guitar gifts season is upon us!

So, it's that time of the year. Guitar players can't stop thinking about the dreaded not-so-great gifts and friends and family of guitar players are clueless about the stuff six-string lovers like.

That's why I created The Guitar Wishlist and The Guitar Gift Finder.

The Guitar Wishlist is a great way for guitar players to find guitar items, select them and then share with their friends and family. 

The Guitar Gift Finder is a great way for friends and family of guitar players to discover items based on music preferences, styles and price.

They're both designed to be user friendly and they contain products that I either own or am familiar with. In other words, it's stuff I recommend as a guitar player.

Hope you find them useful. And don't forget to tell your friends and family about it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Turn It Up guitar documentary

Few days ago I noticed the website for this guitar documentary, Turn It Up. It caught my attention immediately.

Well, just check out the talent lineup. To mention few of them: B.B. King, Slash, Albert Lee, John 5, Les Paul, Steve Lukather, Jerry Cantrell, Carl Verheyen, Johnny A. The documentary is hosted by Kevin Bacon and apparently intends to walk us through different angles of guitar history.

The official description from their site reads:

"Turn it Up! is the STORY of the electric guitar, from the invention in the 1930s to its golden years, right through the phenomenon of the Guitar Hero video-game and the digital guitars of the future. But, it’s also a series of guitar STORIES, where we’ll meet all kinds of people from rock stars, to congressmen, CEOs, and teenage virtuosos, to try to understand their emotional connection to their guitars."

This is the official site:

And here is a video from one of the featured guitar players, Ana Popovic:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Remembering Stevie Ray Vaughan: October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990

There's people who get remembered once a year. Then there's people whose legacy is present every day in people's lives. For most guitar players, that's the case with the great Stevie Ray Vaughan. Modern guitar wouldn't be the same today without him.

Technique, soul, tone, style, he was off the charts on all of them.

Here is my favourite performance from the great SRV. Enjoy,

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Duke Robillard - Passport to the Blues

I saw Duke Robillard live one year ago at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. The show was a demonstration of how to master simplicity and create great, solid music out of it. Not without the occasional and tasteful display of his great control over the instrument.

Great tone, groove and mood all put together into a great performance. The same thing applies to his albums. And this week it was the release of his latest one, Passport to the Blues.

I'm looking forward to hearing this album, and here is a little taste of what to expect from this blues master:

As you will see, he can also do blues, jazz, bluesy jazz, jazzy blues, etc. like few people out there: