Category: Uncategorized

Making That Ol’ Guitar Scream

Howdy friends, Rosco here. I figured it was time for another update, I haven’t spoken to you lovely people in a little bit. Anyhow, if you’ve been following along I’m sure you’re aware that I’ve been working intently on my brand new home studio. It’s my prided project, and there’s an awful lot involved in it. One thing I’ve immediately taken action on though is the fact that your recordings are only as good as your performance, which means not only knowing how to play like a pro and doing it, but also making sure that your instrument is in tip-top shape and putting out the absolute best sound you can get. With that said, this is a bit of an informative post to all my fellow guitar players about how to keep your guitar humming like a beauty.

First Things First – Fine Tune Your Action

This is probably one of the first things that most “techy” guitar players pick up on. The action of your guitar is defined as the distance between your guitar strings and the fret board in the resting position (i.e. no fretted strings). A high action will make it more difficult for the guitar player to fret the strings when playing notes or forming chords – this can lead to mistakes, unfulfilled notes, and finger fatigue at the very least. On the other hand, when the action is too low the strings won’t be far enough away from the fret board when played, resulting in minor to severe buzzing. What you want to find is a sweet spot where you don’t have any buzzing up and down the neck, yet you can still play notes with relative ease. There are two main ways to adjust your guitar’s action (well, actually there are three – more on that later). This is not for the faint-of-heart, so if you are not technically inclined or have no intent on spending a few hours with your guitar, you might want to move on to the next section.

The first and most common method of adjusting the action on your guitar is to utilize your guitar’s truss rod – if it has one. The truss rod is generally adjusted with an allen wrench, and can usually be accessed through the guitar’s sound hole (again, if it has one), or from an exterior screw somewhere around the guitar’s neck or head area. If you want to know the details I’d suggest googling it, but the basic idea is that tightening the truss rod will raise the action while loosening it will lower the action. Make sure to make very small adjustments – you can damage your guitar if you push too far in either direction.

The second and less commonly recommended way of adjusting your action is to adjust your guitar’s bridge. The reason that this is less recommended is that it can set the harmonics out of whack if not done properly. Basically you must avoid any rotation in the bridge when raising or lowering it.

There is one other major way to reduce your guitar’s action that is easier than these two methods, but there’s more to it than that – so without further adieu…

 

An Easy Win – Pay More Attention to Your Strings

Choosing your guitar strings wisely can not only improve you guitar’s playability, but also have a profound impact on the resulting sound your guitar produces. Aside from the quality of the product you choose, there are two main factors to consider.

The first is the strings gauge. As a general rule of thumb I start off around 12 gauge for acoustic guitar strings and around 9 gauge for electric guitar strings. However, you are going to have to try out a few styles and see what works best for you and your guitar. The pros of lower gauge strings is that they can lower your guitar’s action and they can also be remarkably easier to fret. The con, however, is that with too low of a gauge you’ll start to lose the bottom end richness of your guitar, resulting in a thin and twangy sound. The other main characteristic to pay attention to is texture of the wind.

Most guitar strings are round-wound, meaning that the outer winding is made with normal wire. These tend to have the best and brightest harmonics, which can be desirable or less so depending on your playing style and desired sound. The alternative is flat wound (or ground) strings, which are much smoother on the fingers and can be particularly helpful with bass guitars. They tend to have less harmonic content though, so again they are good for bass or for sounds that are more flat. Give them a try some time and see what you think.

Electronics

The final thing to pay attention to is your guitar’s electronics. The main three components to consider are the pickups, the pots, and the cables and connections.

As for the pickups, many guitars come with high-quality pickups out-of-the-box, so to speak. Be forewarned though that one of the first places that guitar manufacturers will try to cut costs is in the guitars pickups. It is easy to underestimate how much of an impact your guitar’s pickups can have on the quality of your sound – if you’ve never heard the difference, you’d probably chock it up to the quality of the guitar. The fact of the matter is though, even a Fender Squire rigged up with some high-quality pickups can sound like a killer guitar in the right hands. This is definitely something to consider if you want to take your guitar’s sound even further.

Your guitar’s pots are also another commonly overlooked factor. All the sound coming off of your guitar’s pickups are routed through the pots, and the pots are even used to filter frequencies in most wiring configurations. Wouldn’t you want this work to be done by a quality component? I sure do, and that’s why I pay attention to the quality of my pots.

The last part of the signal chain for your guitar is it’s cables and connections. Make sure all of the wiring is well done so that sound is transmitted flawlessly, but don’t stop there. Making sure to buy high quality cables such as Mogami will help ensure that you have the most pristine sound around when it comes to mixdown.

I hope this helps some other guitar players out there. I’ll be back soon with more fun stuff. Stay tuned!

 

Home Studio Design

Hey everybody, how are all of you lovely people? I’ve been doing quite great, and keeping busy these days. As I’ve mentioned recently, my wonderful wife has given me to the go-ahead to use a good portion of our unfinished basement to create my very own permanent home studio! I’m sure you can imagine that I am quite excited, and I’ve been spending many hours planning out the details. Having spoken with a few other home studio owners, there are a few main things I want to keep in mind to create a home studio with the optimal experience – they are function, comfort, and aesthetics.

Function

(photo curtesy of Steve)

First and foremost, a home studio has to have the capability of of serving it’s primary purpose – to create high-quality recordings of music. This means the ability to record multiple instruments simultaneously, the ability to edit and fine-tune the recordings, and of course the ability to mix the separate tracks together to make a final song. So, I’ve been doing some poking around the internet and it seems these days a lot of the tasks can be done with a Digital Audio Workstation (most often referred to as a DAW) and an audio interface. I think I’m going to go for the Pro Tools software for my DAW, which seems to be the industry standard, and for an audio interface I will go for a Tascam US-1800, which seems to be suitable to record up to 8 instruments at once while still being relatively affordable.

Comfort

(Lounge area in Steve’s studio)

If you’ve ever spent any time in a recording studio, I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s important for the musicians to be comfortable. This means not only having plenty of space in the recording area so as to avoid claustrophobia while performing, but also having a lounge area where everyone can simply hang out and get in the appropriate mood for recording. I’m looking into getting a nice leather sectional and a coffee table so that my friends and I can relax and spread out, and of course a small refrigerator and miniature bar setup for drinks and snacks while we get our creative juices going. I’m also told that carpet choice is very important in making people feel at home, so maybe I’ll throw a shag carpet down if I can find one at the right price.

Aesthetics

The final most important thing is to make sure that the aesthetics of the room are pleasing. Like making sure the place is comfortable, this is more of an indirect effect but it allows musicians to feel calm and collected when at home. I’m going to make an effort to route as many cables in an orderly fashion as possible to keep the place nice and tidy. I’m also going to choose a nice soothing but light blue to paint the walls, and my wife is going to help me decorate the whole area with several potted plants that will do well in the low light environment (bonus: I’ve heard plants like music!). To bring the whole room together, I’ve been looking through reviews to find a nice flush mounted electric fireplace to really bring the whole room together – if you’re interested, check out http://www.bestelectricfireplace.review. Steve had one of these things installed in his living room recently, and man do I have to say they look really fantastic. The technology must have come quite a long way, as they first time I saw them they looked really tacky. Now they they simply look luxurious. You can even choose different flame colors to suit the room and mood better, and of course they bring the added benefit of more heating to the basement in the cold winter months so that we can keep playing all year round. Here’s a picture of the one Steve got from that site installed in his living room:

I’m really excited to get this project off the ground. It’s going to take some time (and I’m sure quite a bit of money!), but it’s something I’ve wanted to have for years now. I hope everything goes smoothly and quickly, but you never know with projects like this! Anyway, hopefully once it’s done I’ll be able to get to work so I can have some recordings to share with all of you beautiful people.

Take care and as always thank you for reading!

Grateful Dead Jams

I hope everybody is doing well. I played a bit of music with my buddy Steve today, both of us on acoustic guitar, and we delved into some old tunes that really brought me back. In particular, we spent a lot of time noodling around with some Grateful Dead songs that I haven’t played in years. I’ll admit I was a bit dusty, but once we ran through them a couple of times I swear it was like riding a bike. Here are a few of the tunes we played:

US Blues

Althea

Eyes of the World

Scarlet Begonias

 

Just to name a few. Anyway, it reminded me to go back and check out one of the best Grateful Dead shows that I’ve ever heard, and many fellow Dead Heads would agree wholeheartedly. That particular show is, of course, the tried and true May 8 1977 show at Barton Hall, Cornell University. For those of you who may not have ever heard of it, I found it on youtube. Take a listen! Warning… it’s 2 hours 40 minutes long:

I just love the way that this recording starts out with a crowd mic, then seamlessly blends into the soundboard recording. And the fact that Jerry is jumping right into a crazy melody before the first note even hits is mind blowing. The whole show really has such a good setlist, starting with Minglewood Blues, a followed a bit later by great rendition of Deal, Brown Eyed Women, you name it. But it really takes off in the second set when the gang comes out with huge Scarlet/Fire, then jams straight through some serious heavy hitters and cap it off with a suiting One More Saturday Night. All in all one of the most stellar musical performances I’ve ever heard in my life.

Any way, enough jibber jabber. The important thing I wanted to tell you all is that I popped the question to my wife… and she said yes!

No, not that question. She already said yes to that years ago of course.

But the real question was whether or not I would be able to turn some space in our basement into my very own home studio – and she’s all for it! I’m so thrilled I can’t contain my excitement. It’s something I’ve wanted to have for years, and I’m so fortunate to have support from such a lovely life partner. There’s obviously a lot of work and planning that’s going to need to go into this, and I’ve only just begun. I wanted to let you all know, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated on the progress!

Much love,

Rosco

Welcome!

Hi everybody, Rosco here. I just wanted to write a quick post to welcome you all to my brand new website, which I’ll be using to share important info about my life, my music, and anything else useful that I can bring to you lovely people.

For those who don’t know me I’m a biochemist by training, but the real passion in my life is for music. I’ve been playing instruments in one form or another since longer than I can remember, but I find myself most at home when I’m playing guitar.

I’m fortunate to have a number of friends around town that love to get together and jam, and aside from official shows at local bars and venues, one of my favorite ways to play is pop-up shows in public areas – places like the park, the train stations, etc. There’s just something about the organic feel and vibe that is hard to beat when you’re playing out in the open to complete and total strangers, and how you can connect with them through music to spread happiness and joy without even knowing each other’s names.

Aside from live playing, I’m a bit of a home studio nut. It started for me as simply a way to put some songs together so that I can really nail them down for live playing, but I’ve found a lot of enjoyment in learning the ins and outs of, for example, recording. There are so many nuances you can play with such as the type of the microphone you use, the on- or off-axis placement, as the placement within the room that can really bring out entirely different sounds from seemingly identical performances. Sometimes an ideal day could be getting together with some friends, setting up a recording session, jamming out, then listening back over food and some drinks.

The world of music is just so magical and comes inherently with so much depth. With this site I hope to spread the magic even further, so that everyone can have as much opportunity to appreciate the beauty within it if they’d like. Head on over to the lyrics page if you want to check out some of my favorite songs, or just keep an eye out for me around town – and if you see me, please stop by and say hi. Introduce yourself, share some conversation with me. I’m happy to meet new people and would be delighted to meet you. The more people that come together, the more the magic can proliferate.

With that said, thank you for stopping by. I’ll try to keep you all updated with some tidbits as often as possible. Please come back soon, and until next time, be well!

-Rosco