The Power of Music: Pt. 2 – The Quarantine Renaissance!

Photo by Per Meistrup

Okay – quick raise of hands…

How many of you spent MORE time making music during the COVID-19 quarantine??

I see those hands! Me too!!

The statistics back it up – more people have been buying and spending time with musical instruments and gear than they have in YEARS.

Even though music stores, like the one to the right, were forced to close their doors because of the pandemic, most were still able to ride out the storm through phone sales or online ordering.

Why? People had a LOT of TIME on their hands,and they wanted to do something with it.

Something positive, that would help combat (or at least distract from!) all the ills of the world outside. The endless negatives. that can really wreak havoc on hope, and simple joy.

So, despite the onslaughts, the power of music has never been more obvious and life-giving.

Let’s take a look at the face of its latest rise to relevance!

Jus’ th’ Facts, Jack!

You hardly heard this in many press releases, but the past few months of dire circumstances had a silver lining – a ubiquitous interest in music. This summer has created, in innumerable ways, a “new normal”, and for music-makers, that’s no exception.

For those new to the muse who just started during quarantine, it’s a fun study full of learning favorite songs star-posturing in front of the mirror.

For those more “experienced” (as Jimi would say!) it’s using sheltering for wood-shedding!

How do we know this?? Stories and statistics.

First, the stories: online music instrument sales have blown through the roof! “Guitar World” magazine recently reported IN THIS ARTICLE that online sales through Guitar Center have more than doubled.

And our good musical friends and gearheads at Reverb?

According to Rolling Stone in THIS ARTICLE they’ve seen searches for audio gear surge upwards of 50% over last year.

But what of my old compadres at online retailer Sweetwater? They have done so well over the last few months, it’s insane! More than double the normal amount of traffic. And, of course, that led to sales… LOTS and LOTS of sales!!

My representative, Mr. Jeffrey Green, had this to say about their recent successes during the quarantine:

The inimitable Jeffrey Green at Sweetwater!

“Put it this way: in our meeting last month they told us we did 9 months of projected business in only 4 months… “

Wow!!! Now THAT’S what I call a powerful surge of interest!

He continues:

“The reasons are that much of our brick and mortar competition was closed for months. People have lots of time at home to surf our website. Everyone and their mother now needs to live stream, podcast, etc. so those kinds of products are flying off the shelves.

Many folks who have always wanted to learn to play guitar, or keys, or to record, are pursuing that dream while at home.”

And music shops are there to help!

Sweetwater’s CEO Chuck Surack also echoes the stats, telling Rolling Stone recently that for seven days in April, when the pandemic was spreading the worst and the lockdown was most widespread, sales were bigger than the week after 2019 Thanksgiving!

Here on Seriousgas.com we’ve seen the same kind of burgeoning interest. Which is why we write articles that tell you how to buy wisely and save money like THIS POST.

It’s clear, then, that more articles on music were read. More links clicked. More searches typed in for just the right musical alley to go down.

I guess what it comes right down to is that the world decided what we musicians already know:

“If the world’s coming to an end… I’m goin’ out PLAYING MUSIC!!”

Education Expansion

Ray Kurzweil, Futurist and abstract Inventor, says in THIS INTERVIEW with Neil deGrasse:

“Things like music and art and poetry exist at the TOP of the Neocortical hierarchy.”

In other words, the more abstract, but meaningful, brain functions of the Neocortex are what make us the higher-functioning hominids that we are. Without them, we’d be as forward-thinking and inventive as… oh, say… the groundhog in my backyard that I’ve been trying to chase away with my tambourine!! LoL

It’s been proven over and over again that musical training improves a host of human conditions:

  • Language processing
  • Clarity & attention
  • Enhanced memory
  • Neural speed and precision
  • Cultural connection
  • Emotional balance & control
  • Team dynamics
  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  • Personal fulfillment
  • Discipline & problem-solving
  • Task management
  • Interpersonal communications
  • PTSD mitigation
  • Food consumption & digestion
  • Exercise recovery
  • Physical healing

That last one is obviously important for us during this pandemic. Hospitals and Therapists across the globe are deploying specific types and recordings of music to help patients of this virus heal.

If nothing else, music has been proven to trigger the brain into releasing chemicals that distract a body from pain. So, yes, Mary, Enya IS as good as Ibuprofen! 😉

This list could be much longer even, but I thought I’d found enough studies online by various colleges, PhDs, think tanks and medical journals to prove the point adequately. In short, if we want to optimize what our minds and skills and what we accomplish in this life, music MUST be a significant part.

So the more we engage in the moment with our ‘sound expressions’, the more skill and understanding we take on.

Probably the most avant-garde and recent cutting-edge use of music in this way you can read about IN THIS ARTICLE. It tells of a medical expert turning the COVID-19 virus into MUSIC in order to manipulate it and study it more effectively.

No surprise that a musician dreamed up that idea!!

Freehanded Fun

Why is music so fun?

Why can we spend literal hours, even days, playing it and still feel like we’ve got endless ‘gas in the tank’??

Well, for one thing, I think it’s a matter of predisposition and personal inclination. My son, for example, doesn’t think practicing for his Orchestra class at high school is “fun”. To him it’s more of a chore we have to keep reminding him of.

Yet, every day he picks up my travel guitar (that I keep handy in the living room) and spends sometimes hours playing it, or the piano, for no other reason than it’s… fun.

Science says that it’s because music stimulates the brain regions that register reward & pleasure. I think that’s been obvious since the first caveman clicked rocks together and sang about how studly he was killing that Mastodon! Dinner is served!!

I recently saw an intriguing article online that parted the curtains on this topic called “7 Scientific Reasons Music is Fun“. Go READ IT HERE.

I won’t give it all away, but I will mention two new things I learned that made me more proud and thankful to be a musician than ever:

  1. According to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of the book “This is Your Brain On Music“, scientists can place electrodes on someone’s head and actually SEE what PITCH is being played – just by looking at the brain scan activity!
  2. Playing, and even just listening, to music tends to use more of the human brain than most other actions. According to brain scans, music demands more of both the right and left hemispheres of the brain at the same time, forcing them to act ‘in concert’ (pun INTENDED) in order to accomplish the wonders that we end up hearing from our composer or virtuoso heroes.


Wow! I mean, just… WOW!! That’s so cool. Now I wanna see the brain scan of someone with perfect pitch. It probably looks like Picasso doing Cubism. LoL

Regardless, one thing that quarantine has brought many of us musicians back to is the sheer enjoyment of just writing and playing.

Not for a concert (since we can’t do any!), not for a recording (even staying home all day, we can’t stay in front of mics forever!), and not even for anyone else. Just for ourselves. ‘Cuz COVID gave us time. Free time. To get back to that innocent place of simple self-expression.

The place that Joni Mitchell so unforgettably described in “For The Roses“:

Photo: Capannelle

“Remember the days when you used to sit and

make up your tunes for love?

And pour your simple sorrow to the

soundhole on your knee?”

Or, similarly, how she described the woodwind player playing without renown in “For Free“:



“But the one man band

By the quick lunch stand

He was playing real good for free

Nobody stopped to hear him

Though he played so sweet and high

They knew he had never

Been on their T.V.

So they passed his music by… “

I was talking tonight to a good friend in New York, with whom I also worked at Sweetwater Sound years ago. Johnny Capogreco is a fantastic musician, not to mention a composer of music that expresses skill, passion, emotion, spiritual maturity, and an advanced understanding of melody, harmony and counterpoint.

He and I are HUGE fans of Genesis, so we talked about them and Phil Collins for a bit (as we always do). But then we spoke about the bands we’ve been in, songs we’ve composed and recordings we’ve made, and how we’re putting them out for the world to hear.

Whenever a call with Johnny ends, we both walk away energized about music! About the possibilities! And about what a total (not-always-so-serious!) GAS it is to share the magic of composing, and performing, pieces that inspire us to the core.

What’s obvious is that we absolutely LOVE making music. It thrills us; inspires us; it fulfills all we are and reflects all we hope to be.

In other words…

IT’S SO MUCH FUN!!!

Know what I mean, jelly bean? 😉

Energized Education

It feels good to learn something, doesn’t it? Empowering yourself by expanding your own interior borders and growing your skills, potential and understanding… it makes us feel like we’re improving ourselves.

And we are!!

Learning music has yet another incredibly effect on humans – it makes you… HAPPY!

As I write this, the radio is playing “Happy” by Pharrell. I still remember learning that tune on sax to play for a prelude for a show.

It’s not often that you see a sax player SMILING while they play; the embouchure typically doesn’t allow it. But I WAS! Couldn’t help it… that song is so dang uplifting and infectious!!

That’s the kind of joy that comes to people first learning and instrument and finally being able to play something that, up to that point, was just a magical dream.

And for those of us that have played for years? Why do we still learn on our instruments? Why is music a universe that is ever-expanding inside of us??

I know you’ll “get it” when I say: “How COULD we ever put music down??!!!”

We continue to learn, to practice, to wood-shed, to push the boundaries of our musical understanding… not because some inner teacher is breathing down our neck – it’s because we CAN’T NOT do it! And we absolutely… LOVE IT!!!

Am I right? Or am I right? 😉

Harmonized Healing

We may not know why, but we all know that music has a force, a power, a property, that somehow just uplifts, restores and renews…

But it’s not only for the spirit, or mood. It’s been known to actually promote real physical healing, the world over.

Painting by Gerard van Honthorst

Did you know that it’s common for aged victims of Alzheimer’s Disease, who consistently can’t even recognize their own family members, to be able to nonetheless sing the lyrics and nail the melodies of favorite tunes from their younger days?!

Amazing, isn’t it?

All throughout history this power has been shown:

  • In the Renaissance, anyone sick was encouraged to study art and to play music, because the ensuing improvement to their “humours” would be swift and impressive.
  • The ancient Greeks also promoted music as therapeutic. To them, the importance of the positive state of mind music promotes was an effective cure, or at least a safe, hopeful treatment, to any physical disease.
  • And when Henry VIII went into quarantine as the Plague approached England, who did he choose to be one of the FIVE people sheltering in place with him?? Why, his organ player, of course!


Real stories like this are why, even to this day, you can get a degree in “Music Therapy” from most universities across the globe, a scholarly discipline that was first established in the late 1800s.

Now our modern world faces assaults like never before from viruses and pandemics that are severe in their lethality. Whether natural or conjured unwisely from our own labs is beside the point – they kill!

But at the same time, we have more instruments than ever, and a more widespread vehicle for music dispersion and sharing than ever before in history – the Internet!

Thus, more than ever, music, and we as musicians, can be a balm, a lifter of spirits, an agent of healing…

A reason to fight… to live.

The power still works.

The power still heals.

The power still ROCKS!

Comfort in Community

Did you see the videos of all those musicians in Milan, Italy, singing, or playing, or both, on their balconies during the pandemic quarantine??

It was epically cool. It was both social and musical DEFIANCE at the same time – a way to turn creative LIGHT against the invading darkness of a virus that had so shut down their city and hundreds of others across the globe.

If you missed it, WATCH THIS!

There will always be musicians who want to shred for the glory it brings them. We can all smell it immediately – the “look at ME” syndrome.

But the COVID quarantine happily brought out something better from our midst: musicians of skill who put community before virtuosity.

Uruguayan cellist Karina Nunez performing on her balcony during the coronavirus outbreak, in Panama City, Panama, in March of this year. REUTERS/Erick Marciscano.

These were our peers who prioritized how to GIVE to people through their music, instead of how they could GET something from it.

A great example from my local region of Detroit is renowned musician and prolific songwriter Duane Harlick, who took to Facebook time and again to share his songs as a means of lifting spirits during our shared ‘trying time’.

Duane Harlick, Michigan performing songwriter

On a more national level, NPR took their popular “Tiny Desk Concerts” series and transformed it into a more quarantine-friendly “Tiny Desk HOME Concerts” series!

THIS PERFORMANCE by artist Kirby not only made us smile with her sunny soul singing… I think she shone some serious amounts of Vitamin D from the vivid vibrance of her JUMP SUIT and WALLPAPER!!! LoL

An finally, lest we forget our Classical brothers & sisters… do yourself a favor and WATCH THIS EPIC PERFORMANCE of the “Socially Distant Orchestra” performing music from the “Avengers” movie series.

To be able to get this many people to record so many parts in such a cohesive, dynamics-sensitive and timing-precise way?? It’s simply astounding.

Way to go, S.D.O.!!!!

Who knows how long it will take for us musicians to finally be able to actually perform in front of real, live humans again?! Might be months. Might be years. After the 2020 we’ve had so far, nothing would surprise me.

But in the meantime, it’s good to know that there’s plenty of ways left to still REACH our audiences, our super fans… those who love us and would jump at the chance to see and hear our music… live or online.

After all, it’s how our songs MOVE a community of listeners that really stands the test of time… or quarantine!

Profit Pivots

For all the beautiful ways that musicians are gifting the world with some unforgettably precious moments & stellar performances, the reality also exists that making a living at this thing we love has been made exponentially harder due to the pandemic.

The uncertainty about when we can finally be free of its invisible assault is made all the more aggravating because many earning streams have basically dried up and blown away… at least for the moment. Things like:

  • Music sales
  • Music streams
  • Ads on music channels
  • Artist concerts
  • Music festivals
  • Merchendise booths
  • Music films
  • New album releases
  • Music licensing

The list is actually longer than this, but the point is clear: the old models of a thriving music career are out the window… like a bad bat out of a Wuhan cave.

© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62190650

Aaah, but we music-makers are an unflappable lot, aren’t we?! No doesn’t mean no. It just means… PIVOT. Switch to something different. Find another way.

And so we have. Though it’s still early in the plan, many of us are moving our music online in unprecedented ways.

YouTube, for example, is exploding with new music! Did you see all the “at home” concerts that were performed? And still are?!

That forum is a great way to showcase your creativity. I mean, it is the 2nd most visited search site besides Google. I think we need to all be part of that traffic. I mean… if the Rolling Stones thinks it’s important… so should we!!

The Rolling Stones giving us some satisfaction during quarantine on YouTube!
(photo: Rodrigovgm44)

The more this happens, the more sites will be monetized and songwriters and performers can have an income stream that continues whether they’re touring or not.

And the Internet, unlike us, keeps playing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until it goes away (which I don’t think is anytime soon)!

Also, government and some big business enterprises have heard our cries for help and has pivoted to address our financial plight: Relief Funds for musicians have been implemented and already have started to be distributed to full-time laborers in our field.

Granted, these funds won’t reach everyone wielding a guitar, but at least there’s a real recognition by leaders in our country that music matters, and needs a helping hand when illness shuts the door to our livelihood.

As we all change direction, and look for new potentials and ways to monetize our efforts, we shall see novel methods created that will take us onward to higher heights. Don’t stop believin’, as Steve sang, and don’t stop trying new ways to broaden your outreach and product lines.

Try Fiverr. Try BandCamp. Try KickStarter. Try social media streams.

And, hey, if we must… there’s always BUSKING! 😉

There’re many ways to pivot to profits, especially if you keep consulting music business articles to hear the latest trends that work.

But, hey, if you need a day job to hold you up for a while, that’s not the end of the world.

Just make sure it pays you enough to buy NEW GEAR!!! 😉

Musical Alchemy!

The power of music that we wield as its purveyors is stronger than ever. Few things can rival the staying power of a good song.

And many new students have joined our merry band to taste the potent potion of music’s uplifting elixir – the alchemy of sound, tone and rhythm!!

(Photo by Basal – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15702987

So let’s lead those myriad new quarantine students, by being the best musicians possible through this pandemic:

Practice while sheltering. You’ll be a better performer.

Compose your BEST works ever. Your audience will notice.

Pivot your profits. You’ll be better at business.

Educate yourself. You’ll have a broader understanding.

And give to your community. You’ll be a better person.

Mixing all these ingredients together in the cauldron of potential can’t help but produce a compelling, commanding influence upon all who get the chance to hear. Commit to keep releasing your material… regardless of the detours, curve balls or barriers.

We WILL get through this. We WILL be better for it. And the whole world will give a standing ovation… to the power!

Now, go… make… (FUN) sounds!!

Teaj

How to Record Music – Gear Glimpse #2:”If You’re Leaving”

What’s up everybody?

Teaj coming atcha!

I’ve been away from the site for a few weeks, launching some other online businesses, releasing new music and… renovating three rooms in my house!!

Nobody can say that I’m not making the most out of this corona virus quarantine. 😉

Hope you’re staying safe, well and creative too!

So, today we’re back looking at how to record music again, and this second article takes us into another single I released recently called “If You’re Leaving“.

Calling all crooning romantics and weepy Wendys – you’re gonna love this one!

The Video

Petar Jankoski, Filmmaker
All visuals care of Petar Jankoski!

For this video I went with a different director – Petar Jankoski, a very talented videographer in MACEDONIA, no less!

I just love the fact that in this day and age you can hire and work with someone halfway around the world just as well as if their next door to you, thanks to the Internet.

I do these little “song movies” because it’s inspiring to me to see the way different art forms can come together and make something even more moving than the separate pieces themselves ever could.

Nothing like a good story, and Petar really brought this one to life. He totally enhanced my vision for the song in a most complementary way.

Hope ya dig it!

The Song

The song itself was written a long time ago – in 1989!

Teaj in Germany in 89
Teaj in Germany in ’89

I was living in Europe at the time, and had a girlfriend from Norway. We’d spent months together traveling as far north as England and as far south as Italy.

But the time finally came when we were going back to our own countries. It was time to say goodbye.

This was to be (he said, in the understatement of the year) quite difficult. Anyone who’s been in love and inseparable from their beloved for a long time knows what I’m talking about.

But there was nothing to be done. Due to things out of my control, I couldn’t stay, and neither could she. So… the night before we both flew out of Geneva, heading back to our separate countries, I wrote and performed this song for her, similar to how the guy did in the video.

It was my way of saying, “Look… don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again, or if will find a way to get around the fact that we live on separate continents, but I just want you to know… I’m really gonna miss you.”

It served it’s purpose well. Not only did I get my loving point across, but it fully encapsulates all the emotion, thoughts, hopes and dreams we shared and felt during that time.

That’s one of the most amazing things about songwriting – it takes you right back. Right to the reality of that pregnant moment when you just had to get it out.

If any of you have ever been in love, but faced obstacles and separations… this song’s for you.

The Acoustics

The acoustic guitar we used to record “If You’re Leaving” was the Taylor 310.Taylor 310 acoustic guitar

It was a nice guitar, and one of the lower priced options in Taylor’s line-up. Under $1,000, as I recall.

I ended up selling it to fund a guitar I had crafted by hand by a local luthier. Read more about that HERE.

I had to dial out quite a bit of the bass in this acoustic. The 310 always had a great live sound, but in the studio it was always a bit too boomy for my taste.

Nonetheless, its feel was good and it helped me capture a wonderful performance, the perfect soundtrack under the poignant lyrics I wrote on that sad but loving day.

Brain Stout recording for D.I.D. album
Brain Stout recording at Teaj’s studio!

And speaking of wonderful performances, my eternal gratitude goes out to my long time friend an incredible musician Mr. Brian Stout.

The acoustic guitar part that you hear panned to the right side of the stereo field is the part Brian crafted for my tune.

Since he traveled to my studio to record for the song, he also used my Taylor 310 to lay the part down.

When I listen to the polyphonic wonder that he crafted against my acoustic part, which is panned left, I’m consistently impressed, enthralled and inspired.

Just LISTEN to those lines! Listen to the Bach-like choices he made melodically. The way his streaming flow of notes up, or down, sets perfectly with the lyrical content and mood.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. And you can tell he grew up playing violin.

That was before he and I both went gaga over Eddie Van Halen though. LOL

If you want more of Brian, check out his always- entertaining and uplifting band Celtic Pink Floyd. That link will take ya to their Spotify page.

Celtic Pink Floyd

There you’ll hear his excellence and relentless pursuit of the best music can be!

The Vocals

I had recorded the vocals for this song years ago, but since the equipment that I have these days is so much superior to what I had back then I went ahead and re-recorded the vocals a couple months ago.

These days my recording chain for vocals is as follows:

The AT4050 (my favorite mic!) switched to Omni mode (not cardioid!)

AT4050

Next, the Apollo Twin Mark II digital interface via XLR.

Apollo Twin

The Avalon VT-737sp plug-in, with settings dialed in for my particular voice. The picture on the right shows you how I optimize my vocal timbre going in.

Avalon 737sp plugin black

And if any of you who own an Apollo interface are wondering whether it’s worth it to buy the Avalon plug-in…

Stop everything. Go to UA online. Buy it.

There. I just did you a solid. 😉

It may come as a surprise to many of you to hear that I record in Omni mode when using the audio technical mic.

What can I say? You can’t argue with experience… and the tape don’t lie!

I have tried this mic in every mode several times on my voice, and in every single instance my voice had more width, girth and fullness in Omni mode.

Regardless of the microphone you use, it’s good practice to actually test out some other modes if you haven’t ever done that. Don’t let what’s “normal” be your deciding factor.

Try figure 8. Try hyper-cardioid. Try Omni, which is the setting I use for my vocals, like you see below. Even if you think it’s not “right” – TRY IT!

AT4050 mode settings

You just might find… you sound better than ever.

The Cello

OK quick show of hands: how many of you die-hard G.A.S.-ERS have ever shopped at Sweetwater Sound?

Well, if you didn’t know, are used to work there myself. It’s where I honed a lot of my recording shops, and especially gained a working understanding about Pro Audio more than I EVER had before.

While working there I was partnered for a time with Mr. Jeffrey Green, a sales adviser extraordinaire! He’s one of the best they’ve ever had there when it comes to understanding gear.

Jeffrey Green, Sweetwater Sound Rep

What I love most about Jeffery though is that he’s a great guy – pleasant, funny, helpful… the kind of person you actually want to have around.

I can’t say that about everybody. Especially salesmen! LOL

In any event I had Jeffrey play cello, which is his preferred ask, on my very first album that I released in ’97.

Jeffrey Green recording for Songs of Charis
Jeffrey Green recording for Teaj!

Since I didn’t think he did too shabby then, I thought I’d bring him back for an encore. Slowly letting him off his leash. Sloooowly… LOL

I emailed him the stereo file with guitars and vocal, described what I wanted, and voila – within a day he’d nailed it!

sE Reflexion Filter
sE Reflexion Filter

And he pulled out the big gun for this recording too: a French-made cello built in the 1870’s! Then he mic’ed it with a Warm 87 mic (set about 3 feet away,) and had a Se Reflexion Filter wrapped around it to minimize any room noise. I use one of these in my studio and my vocals have never suffered from extraneous noise. Ever.

I did ask him to go back and re-cut two little melodic sections that I change my mind on. He gave me a Sid vicious snare and muttered something about sending Guido to my studio, but by the next day he played the revision.

So I’m still peering out my window wondering if Guido’s coming…

The Software

Pro Tools Ultimate PerpetualSoftware-wise, I’m still running ProTools Ultimate. I bought the perpetual software option so I actually OWN Pro Tools; I don’t pay for a monthly subscription. Pro Tools has owned the landscape for decades and it gives me everything I need and then some.

I do have reaper, and have it by good authority that reaper actually spits out better audio quality than ProTools (see the pro that told me that HERE).

But, hey, When you’ve used a piece of software for so long that you’ve become really adept at it, know its ins and outs, know where everything is and don’t have to think much to use it, and it’s still the flagship software of the industry…

… why use anything else?

iZotope Ozone sofware
iZotope Ozone for Mastering

As a quick side note, I’m also excited to tell you that I used, for the very first time, the iZotope Ozone software to Master the final mix for “If You’re Leaving”.

How did it perform??

AMAZINGLY!!!

Really, I had no idea that there was a software out there that could give me such quality Mastering results so fast and so easily. It blew my preconceptions away, how well it made my track strong and balanced and ready to compete against any ballad out there.

I’ll have to do an article just on Ozone. It deserves the acclaim!

As a final aside, this is also the first single that I used the SoundSpot plug-in called Focus. It’s a trippy psychoacoustic manipulating plug-in that basically helps you to zoom in on a set of frequencies, which then intern brings out more brings down certain elements of your mix.

SoundSpot Focus Plug in

And of course, just to buck the trend and get creative, I did NOT use it for mastering. Instead, I slapped it on the vocal tracks AND acoustics.

I thought they could help me find that perfect balance between the four separate instruments, and I was right – it did a bang-up job. Very helpful tool for any sonic landscape!

The Path!

The Abacus Path is my project name for the AcousticPop/Rock stuff I write. This year I decided to pull back a little on the website here and spend more time finishing my latest album.

The Abacus Path
The Abacus Path

So far, so good on keeping them in balance, but I think the music has definitely stolen some of my SeriousG.A.S. attention over the last few months!

No worries, though. Times and seasons, right? Besides, I’ll never leave our li’l gear nook here… it’s too much fun!!

To keep up on all the music that comes out of my studio for “The Abacus Path”, check in on OUR WEBSITE HERE for all the latest news.

I’m Not Leaving

Hope you enjoyed this latest “how to record music” glimpse and have some ideas about options you can try on your own recordings.

We like bringing you the REAL DEAL here on SeriousG.A.S. with regard to instruments and recording gear, and what better way than looking into the actual recording notes of an actual session?!!Beatles Session notes

Why else did I buy THIS BOOK (seen on the right) years ago?! It’s ‘holy grail’ info, brah!! LoL

At the end of the day, it’s all about what works, and what we should trade in for something better. Hopefully the insights I shared today helps YOU decide what brings YOUR music to life the best!

Stay tuned for further, more detailed glimpses of the software I use ongoingly for these recordings. If it sounds good, it IS good, and we’ll be talkin’ about it.

For now though, stay safe, socially distanced and wise in all this COVID craziness, and above all, no matter WHAT the world throws at you, make sure you…

… go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

The Samick Acoustic Guitar – Ridin’ The Thin Line!

Big & Beefy!

That’s how a lot of acoustic guitar players like their tone to be.

Even me, sometimes!

But then, at other gigs, with other songs… the moment calls for something with less… girth.

The Samick acoustic guitar that I have, their “Thin Line” model AMCT-CE, is the perfect complement to such situations.

Worried you might not cut through the mix enough?? Surrender those fears! The SAMICK is here!!!

The Custom Pro Overview!

First, let’s get a quick, thorough breakdown of the specs of this unique, useful and beautiful guitar:…

Samick AMCT-CE PBE “Valley Arts Custom Pro Shop” ThinLine Acoustic/Electric Guitar:

Top Plate: Birds Eye Maple

Binding: Back & sides

Cutaway: Florentine

Neck: Set Mahogany

Inlays: Abalone

Fretboard: Rosewood

Bridge: Rosewood

Frets: 20

Electronics: 4-band EQ plus Volume

Inputs: EQ700 XLR and 1/4″

Tuners: Chrome die-cast

Finish: Gloss

Serial #: 99050008 (8th of its line in May 1999)

Country of Origin: Korea

The Obviously Awesome… Wood!!

As is always the case with a great guitar… it’s the WOOD, baby. The WOOD!!

Take a look at this incredibly intricate, almost 3D quality of the Bird’s Eye Maple that’s used on the top resonating plate in the picture below:

Isn’t that GORGEOUS?! It’s the first thing that caught my eye and made me consider buying it, and it’s still one of the biggest reasons I’ll never get rid of it. It’s just breathtakingly lovely.

Do you know why you don’t see many guitars with this type of wood? Because Birdseye Maple is a rare characteristic. It’s found in only about 1 percent of all maple trees!! Crazy, right?

Interestingly, nobody really knows WHY some trees get this incredible grain. There’s no scientific evidence to support any specific theory of why it happens. What makes it grow with such panache. It’s a mystery.

Which makes having a guitar made with it THAT MUCH MORE COOL!!! LOL

Anyway, as usual with unusually textured wood grain, pictures just can’t do it justice. Next time you’re in a guitar shop (may it be SOON, out of Quarantine!!), ask to see a quilted Maple or Bird’s Eye Maple or Flamed Maple top on a guitar. When you take in that miracle up close and personal, you’ll know why this li’l git-box is never leaving my Wall of Fame. ‘-)

What’s up, Slim?!

Another reason I’ll never part with this guitar (besides the simple fact that I just… well, LIKE it) is that it’s the only “Thin Line” acoustic I own.

A Thin, or Slim, line construction means (to most acoustic luthiers at least) that the BODY of the guitar is shallow. Much shallower than normal.

The depth of this Samick, for example is only 2.75 inches. The slimmest guitar I have after that, which is a standard “full-depth” acoustic, jumps up to 3.5 inches. That’s quite a difference!

A thin line construction means (mostly) three things:

  1. Much less body weight & mass, so it’s closer to your body and easier to reach & play.
  2. A pronounced reduction in the bass frequencies, due to the smaller resonant cavity.
  3. Far less projected volume when heard without amplification.

Because of these specific characteristics, this guitar is perfect for use in an amplified setting, especially in a full band, where the low frequencies of a deeper body just aren’t necessary. In fact, the lows and low-mids will get in the way and are usually EQ’d out by the sound person anyway!

Custom Fret Inlays!

I’m sure if Samick COULD have, they would have called this a “SlimLine” guitar, since the term goes waaaaay back in guitar luthier techniques. But it’s trademarked so they can’t.

Gibson started it with their semi-acoustics (the Byrdland, ES-225, ES-335/345/355, etc.) in the 1950s.

Then Fender really took the term and ran with it in the 70s on their Telecasters. Today, when someone hears “Slim Line”, a semi-hollow bodied Tele is probably what’s going to spring to mind, due to Fenders ubiquitous and decades-long Tele marketing.

There’s another impactful dimension to the AMCT body: the depth is exactly the same at every point on the guitar. This makes a difference in how consistent the sound reflections are inside the body cavity, and thus how much sound exits.

Sometimes, like on my Mike Franks acoustic (which you can SEE HERE), a guitar may start around 3.5″ near the neck and widen out to the standard 4″ at the bottom.

Changing the inner distances between the top and back plates produces more random reflection patterns, and doesn’t “trap” as many frequencies inside. This Slim Line model stays consistent throughout, so that’s one reason it’s not as loud as others.

If you’ve never tried a thin depth acoustic, give one a try. I love how CLOSE the strings are to my body, making it so easy to play. For younger or smaller guitar students, a thin line guitar also helps with arms that aren’t so long; it’s SO much easier to fret, strum and pick!

It’s from the Valley, Dude!

So, what about this “Valley Arts” moniker?? And what is “Samick”, anyway??

Is “Valley Arts” the brand name? A model? A parent company??

“Somebody, SAVE US from this lack of guitar KNOWLEDGE!!!”

Fear not. Teaj is here. LoL

Samick has been building guitars since 1958. At one time they produced more guitars than any other plant on the planet! So, do they know a thing or two about luthiership? Yea.

They have factories is Korea, China & Indonesia. Their goods are then shipped worldwide, including to our illustrious shores.

Valley Arts Guitar was a local guitar shop in North Hollywood that I frequented when I lived in L.A. It was the bomb.

I took my first guitar lessons there, from a great player, Lindsey Blair. His teaching room was right next to Jennifer Batten‘s, another uber-talented player.

When she ended up leaving town to go tour with Michael Jackson, guess who she recommended to take her place at GIT (the “Guitar Institute of Technology”) as an Instructor there? Lindsey.

He was such MASTER at so many things. No matter what I threw at him to learn, he always could NAIL it as easily as eating the chili cheese fries they sold just down the block.

(Of course, we’d never play AND eat those at the same time. We DO care for our instruments!!)

Lindsey is still out burning up the fretboard even to this day. Check out HIS WEBSITE HERE. And HERE is the love story of a great Fender Strat he sold me!

But Valley Arts also had other very esteemed axe-slingers who hung out there all the time: Larry Carlton; Tommy Tedesco; Steve Lukather; Al DiMeola… their patrons were like a who’s who of who’s AWESOME!

So, they began to put together custom guitars for their legendary pro players. From 1977 to 1993 the line of Valley Arts Guitars were renowned and respected, especially by session players in Southern Cal.

In 1993, due to an unfortunate store fire which pretty much destroyed everything, Valley Arts was sold to Korean manufacturer Samick, who at the time sold more guitars worldwide than any other company.

Samick then started to use the Valley Arts name (and thus its marketing prestige) to sell some of its higher end instruments.

When I saw this guitar for sale on Craigslist, the wood grain caught me first, but the second thing to reeeeeally draw me was the fact that it had “Valley Arts Custom Pro Shop” on the headstock.

That was my go-to store! I was there. I knew that precious musical palace! It meant a lot to me back in the day, so I had to go check it out.

Glad I did! This guitar does their heritage proud.

The JACK, Jack!

I always love it when a guitar has an XLR output.

Samick-XLR-output

We put enough time and effort into honing our craft and our tone… we don’t need line noise & hum to creep in and ruin our musical vision.

The purity of an XLR line helps “keep it clean”, especially as you get into longer cable runs. XLR is the bomb if you want the best signal possible, and I’ll ever be a fan.

Another great thing about this set up is the STEREO options. I can run two cables out of this guitar, one XLR and one 1/4″, and place different effects on either side.

Or I can give them the same FX, but still have that massive stereo sound that is so inspiring… not only to our listeners, but to US!

Not every guitar that has an XLR out allows you to have BOTH signals, so do your homework if that’s important to you to verify that that option will be available to you.

The SOUND!

I’d describe the Samick as having a thinner tone acoustically, which is why, in the context of a band, I use it frequently.

It cuts through nicely and hardly ever needs any Hi-Pass filter slapped on it. The sound mixers love it ‘cuz they don’t have to EQ it much in the band setting.

Oh, and it has never been prone to feedback either, much to our mutual appreciation!

The AMCT has great sound & note definition as well, probably because, again, there’s no muddy, booming frequencies in the low end to get in the way of clarity.

This is great when you’re playing with a full rhythm section. You don’t want a bunch of bass frequencies, or you’ll be treadin’ on the bassist’s ground.

And he won’t like that! LOL

If there’s a weakness to this model, it’s the onboard electronics. They are not strong.

In fact, in my last concert the mixer asked me to NOT use this guitar on a louder song because the distortion was too pronounced.

If you’re playing soft, or doing fingerpicking, there’re no issues. Have at it and you’ll be fine.

But when you start playing aggressively? Ooo, that’s when distortion kicks up every time, and I mean the kind that everybody, including your audience, will notice.

The battery near the neck joint.

(And, yes, in case you’re wondering, the battery is always brand new when I check for this issue. It’s obviously a fault of the electronics construction.)

So, next week, I’m actually having brand new electronics put in to fix this problem. That way I can play as loud as I want (mostly on big STRUM songs) and have no issues when I use only the D.I. outputs.

I’m planning a before and after article once that’s dones, so keep your ears peeled for that post soon enough!

That being said, I absolutely LOVE how this guitar records!! The acoustic sound of the Samick is GREAT in the studio. I’ve used it many times and will continue to, as it really brings my songs to life well, whether it’s with a full band or even solo.

So, if ya don’t mind spending a Franklin or less to upgrade the electronics, this can be an all-out monster for your gigs and sessions.

I made two recordings for you that should make clear what I mean. Let’s let our ears be our guide…

The ACOUSTIC tracks at the beginning are laid out in the stereo spectrum as follows:

  • Hard Left: Oktava 319
  • Mid left: Avantone CK-1, at bridge
  • Mid Right: Avantone CK-1, at 12th fret
  • Hard Right: Oktava 319

The D.I. tracks afterward are laid out this way:

  • 33% Left: 1/4″ output
  • 33% Right: XLR output

I played songs into the mics that most of you (if not ALL) probably know, just for a point of reference.

  • Bookends
  • Dust In The Wind
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Little Guitars

The D.I. cable I took straight into my Apollo interface, with NO further processing.

On the Master Bus I put an EQ’d Lexicon 450 reverb. That’s it. The sound you hear is the guitar, not software smoke & mirrors.

Keep in mind the strings are 7 months old now. This axe, like all the rest, would sound even better with new ones put on. I’m recording with it next week so you’ll get to hear it with new strings in the NEXT installment.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do playing her!

Wait for… the DROP!

Completely by accident one year, I stumbled upon a great way to use a Thin Line acoustic guitar. The story goes like this…

I decided, after reviewing songs for potential slots on my next album, to resurrect a song that I’d written when I was 21 years old, way back in my L.A. days.

The trouble was, my voice is MUCH different than it was then, and I found that I didn’t like how I sounded in the key I wrote it in. Dropping it a whole step sounded, with my voice NOW, more soulful and smoky.

BUT… I didn’t want to have to relearn a whole new set of chords ‘cuz I was in a hurry and the finger-picking was pretty complicated.

My solution? I dropped the strings down a whole step and played the song as written.

To my great joy, not only did my voice sound better this way, but the Samick put out substantially more bass frequencies now that the low string was down to D.

This lower tuning gave it a much more balanced overall acoustic sound, tho’ the volume was still not loud acoustically.

So there ya go – that’s what you’re hearing on the recording above.

And that’s what I call… a Win/Win!!

Rare Bird, Indeed

Googling my discontinued Samick model today, I couldn’t find a single used one on sale anywhere. Not on eBay, not through Guitar Center, not in Craigslist national… it’s like I have the only one!!

I even checked Google IMAGES, where usually I can at least find a picture of the instrument I’m looking for. Nothin’.

So, yea… looks like I’ve got a pretty rare commodity.

Does that make it more valuable?? Probably, but honestly… I don’t really care. It’s about the music it brings out of me, and so far… it’s been bringin’ out quite a LOT!

There are some other classic models by Samick I find here and there worthy of note, like their “Greg Bennett“-designed guitars (acoustic and electric).

Those have a pretty vocal following online; I saw many reviews (like THIS ONE) saying they’re unbelievable guitars at their price point

Since they’ve won multiple awards over the years, I’m not surprised! They look much like my AMCT, but the headstock is different and says “Greg Bennett” on it.

These days Greg still makes his acoustic line of guitars through Samick, so you can get those new (on THIS WEBSITE) but not the electrics or hybrids, like mine.

And Samick? Oh, they’re still making a TON of guitars every year, and keeping the prices reasonable because of their sheer size and how they’ve streamlined things over the decades. Check their MANY new guitar options on the SAMICK WEBSITE HERE.

I even found one on there that veeeeery much has me G.A.S.-ing… Check out this new TVJZ-50CE:

The Syndrome never ends… LoL

Ride That Thin Line!

Now, obviously, this Samick acoustic guitar is long gone from store shelves; you can’t buy one today.

Unless, of course, you keep your eyes open for one online. Set up an eBay “reminder Search” and see what happens.

I looked for something similar to recommned to you but I could not find a single, thin-line acoustic/electric with XLR & 1/4″ outputs anywhere. I’ll keep looking and update here if I find one, but if YOU come across something similar… please let us know!

‘Til then, rock this quarantine with your BEST music, and , go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

The Ibanez AE Acoustic Guitar

I’m an acoustic guitar aficionado. Have been since high school.

Oh, sure, electrics have their place… especially when the testosterone movin’ and I want to get my “shred” on…

But the acoustic… mmm… there’s multiple worlds in there.

So I picked up another one last year (my 10th): the Ibanez AE Acoustic Guitar!

As you’ll see from the ensuing story… it wasn’t all I expected.

But the good news is it still has some strong suits, and any beginner could go a long way honing their craft on this axe!

The Basics

Ibanez has a broad line of these models. Some start at under $500, like THIS ONEand go up to near the $900 mark if you get one with bells, whistles and the “Ooooo!!” factor.

I got this one used to try out the line. It has a great looking “Transparent Violet” color that drew my eye immediately (tho’ it also came in Black and Natural colors).

When I got the guitar the action was, in a word TERRIBLE. I don’t know if it came from the factory that way and the girl I got it from was clueless (it appeared that way), or whether it underwent some major humidity & temperature fluctuations, but, man… it was NOT good.

After some set up in my studio, it was a lot better. I determined, though, that if I kept the AE I’d swap out the NUT, at the very least, to help the action. It was just too high.

The compensated saddle helped to make the Intonation pretty good. It just wasn’t comfortable to play.

I prefer cutaways, since I play high up on the neck at times for chords and licks. If that’s not important for you then there are other full-body guitars that might be a better choice for you – any cutaway IS going to take a bit of the guitar’s resonance and bottom end away, to some degree.

Time to In-SPEC-t!

For all you tweaky gearheads who want to know all de facts, Jack (you know who you are!), here is the most exhaustive list of features and parts in the AEF18 that I could find:

Preamp:                                  Ibanez SST

Pickup:                                    Fishman Sonicore

Binding:                                  White

Body Construction:               Single cutaway

Body Construction:               Acoustic

Body Shape:                          AEF

Body Top Wood:                    Spruce

Body Type:                             Hollowbody

Body Wood:                           Mahogany

Bridge:                                   Rosewood

Bridge Pins:                           “Advantage” pins

Fingerboard Radius:             12.00″

Fingerboard Material:           Rosewood

Finish:                                  Gloss

Fret Size:                             Medium

Fingerboard Inlays:              Dot

Hardware:                            Chrome

Neck Joint:                           Dovetail

Neck Shape Series:              Standard

Neck Wood:                           Mahogany

Number of Frets:                   21

Number of Strings:                6

Nut Material:                          Ivorette II

Nut Width:                              1.69”

Rosette:                                Wooden Fire Pattern

Saddle material:                    Ivorette II

Scale Length:                                    25-1/4″

String Nut:                              Synthetic Bone

Tuners:                                   Chrome Die-cast

Width:     15.75“

Depth:                                    3.5“

Length:                                  20″

Scale/Length:                       641mm

Width at Nut:                         43mm

Width at Joint:                       55mm

Thickness 1st Fret:              20mm

Thickness 7th Fret:              21mm

Radius:                                300mm

Whew! That’s a lotta numbers!! 

A St(AE)l… of a Deal!

I didn’t pay much for my AE. I only bought it because I saw it used from a buyer on Craigslist and was intrigued. Mostly by the color, the cutaway, the electronics, and the fact that I’d pay under $200!

She was a local girl who had been using it to play in church, but no longer had that gig, so it was collecting dust.

I needed another acoustic guitar for an upcoming concert. I typically play in quite a few alternate tunings, so having four or five guitars at the ready, all tuned differently ahead of time, helps my shows to go smoother. I also don’t have to spend so much time tuning during the shows, so the fans appreciate that, I’m sure!

After meeting her and seeing that is was a little beat up, I offered her about $50 less due to the cosmetic let-down. She went for it, and I took home a decent acoustic for a lot less than you’d get it from any store.

After looking it over, I took it home, changed the strings, and adjusted a few things play better. 

I then tested it through an amp to verify all was well there. Thankfully (since usually I test it before I give away a wad of cash!), everything sounded good.

The top faceplate not only had a lot of dings; I could also tell that the wood right from the manufacturer was not the greatest. If you’re looking for a guitar that has impressive, “Oooo! Ahhhh!” type of wood grain… pass on the AE

“This is not the droid your looking for.”   LoL

I could also tell that the neck was a little thick and not as comfortable to play any of my other acoustics.

But I still bought it. Knowing it had Fishman electronics on it, I wagered that it would sound great through a system, and, to a fair extent, I was right.

I also wanted a cutaway at the neck because I often play high.

Um, that’s high on the neck, Beavis. COME on!  Lol

Sound it out

On a scale of 1 to 10, I found the sound of the AE to be about average – I’d give it a 5.

It didn’t sound bad, but neither did it in any way compare to the tone of my more expensive acoustics.

I did find that it had a much better sound plugged in, using the onboard electronics, than it did using a mic. That’s usually the opposite of what I find, but, ya know… can’t win ’em all.

I found the low end to be lacking in this AE. If you’re going to be playing this in the context of a band, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re playing out on your own, just you and a guitar though… I’d pass on this model. Not nearly enough beef.

Also, the gloss on this guitar is REEEEEALLY thick. To me, it really muffled the tone, and kept the acoustic volume much lower than the other acoustics I own. So if you are considering this model at all… I’d seriously opt for the “Natural” finish instead of the Glossy. If you know acoustic guitar tone at all, you’ll be glad you did!

Howwww Does it Feeeel… ?!

Something tells me Bob Dylan would pass on this particular guitar.

Nothing against Ibanez (I have other guitars of theirs which I love, like THIS ONE!), but I really disliked the feel of this axe. Especially the neck.

I tried it out on a solo gig of mine; a private party for the birthday of one of my best neighbors. By the end of the 2nd set I went back home and got a different guitar. I’ve never had my hand get so tired out from any other guitar.

To be fair, I didn’t give the AE a full, genuine, professional setup from my usual luthier. If I had, would it have been better? I’m gonna guess yes, so make sure that’s done if ya want this guitar to be in optimal playing condition.

Mine sure wasn’t!

The End of the Line

After less than a year with the AE, I moved on. As usual, I’d given it some months to get to know it, and gave it many opportunities to show me its best bits. In the end though, that private party I played showed its imperfections all too clearly.

Plus, I’d been noticing that every time I picked it up and played it, I put it back and got one of my other acoustics down instead.

My trade up!!

Never a good sign, that!

So, ya know… it just didn’t thrill me,. So I traded it for a newer, much better guitar.

My main man Chris over at Music-Go-Round always gives me the best top dollar he can for my used gear, so he was happy to let me add to his inventory (“ANOTHER guitar, Teaj??!!” LOL).

I used that trade-in cash to instead get a really gorgeous hollow-body electric, the only type of guitar I’ve never owned yet.

Something tells me you’ll hear about it soon.  😉

The Quest Continues…

All guitarists are constantly searching for that “Holy Grail Tone” that will make them sound the most amazing ever. For me, this AE acoustic wasn’t anywhere close.

If you’re looking for either an acoustic that looks cosmetically superior, or one that sounds impressive when you mic it, I’d say this is not going to “rev up your motor scooters”, to quote Steely Dan. Keep lookin’.

BUT… the AE series acoustic guitars ARE great for beginners. Especially since the body is on the small side. Perfect for kids learning! CHECK HERE FOR PRICE and read how it can be a real asset for your budding student!

Even some intermediate players might find this to be just the ticket if they play it through an amp or a sound system – the electronics are a great add-on that make it sound actually better than the wood does.

Once you get your hands on it, you might find it a perfect fit. Ya never know ’til ya play it.

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

The Best Guitar Stool – Baby, Got Back??!

woman-singing-seated

As musicians, we practice our instruments & our stage craft for years, sometimes decades, to make sure we can put on a great show.

But let’s face it: sometimes… we play gigs where the focus isn’t really on us.

Instead, it’s on the audience’s meal… or some public speaker… or the host or focus of the party, or…

You get the picture. We’re background, not in the spotlight.

At those times, we all need support. And I’m not talking about a gracious family member or friend. I’m talkin’ LITERAL support… for your BACK SIDE!!

The best stool for a musician is one that works with the appropriate types of gigs. It’s the chair that is portable enough for you. Light enough for you. And comfortable enough as well.

Got a gig chair like that? Still looking for one that meets those criteria?

Have I got good news for you… !

The Chair!

I first saw the “Gator Frameworks Combination Guitar Stand and Seat” at Guitar Center a couple years ago. Immediately, I was struck by its small stature, foldability, and integrated guitar stand.

Not to mention it was under $70! Definitely a deal!!

Now, I’ve had a great gig chair for over a decade now that I really like. I bought it at Art Van, a local furniture store.

It’s gone with me for dozens and dozens of gigs and always stays as solid and dependable as the day I got it.

BUT… it’s heavy. And it takes up a lot of space in my SUV because it is not foldable at all.

Which is why I bought the Gator!

The pic below shows you where I keep my old dependable seat now – in the recording booth!

It’s perfect for keeping me right where I need to be for the mics to pick up my acoustic tracks well.

If you already have a quality gig cart, like the ones LISTED HERE, then maybe a portable, light throne isn’t so much an issue.

But if it is…

… here are the Specs:

Weight: 13.2 lbs

Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

Material: 7/8″ steel tubing

Length: 14.3″

Width: 14″

Height: 44″

Seat Height: 28″

Go, Gator, Go!

For a complete run-down of how great Gator as a company is, and how long they’ve been making great products, GO HERE!

In a nutshell, Gator has been around since 2000 when Jerry Fred and his daughter Crystal Morris opened the company in Tampa, Florida.

Later in 2018, they bought a big manufacturing plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Then, in 2013, they announced their new “Frameworks” line of stands and supports, which gives them an expanded way to serve the needs of the gigging musician on a budget. Which is most of us!

Finally, I was surprised to learn today that they even made themselves even MORE unsinkable by acquired Levy’s Leathers Ltd., one of the world’s most respected names in quality guitar straps, in 2018.

I’ve personally got at least three straps by Levy, like THIS ONE that I bought for a concert last year that I did. One of the softest, but most well-made straps I’ve ever felt over my left shoulder. Good choice, Gator!

Today, they’re still at it, making trustworthy, solid accessories for all our many musical adventures. I personally have bought 4 or 5 Gator cases and stands over the years and they, to this day, are in great shape. Now that’s great gear!

The Fold!

Without question, one of the best things about this chair is that it folds up into a very compact size.

I can’t state enough how much I’m enjoying hauling this chair around as opposed to my old one. It hardly takes up any space in my vehicle when I’m going back-and-forth to a gig. That means I have room for… what else… MORE GUITARS! LoL

I have noticed that some things that fold overtime wear out and break easily, especially where the folding mechanisms are in place.

The Locking Ring

I’m not finding that to be the case with this chair. It has not become rickety or loose at all in any place, and there’s no sign of wear or tear on any of the joints.

Wish I could say that about most of my old mic stands!

To fold the chair into its cool, compact flatness, you’ll need to pull out the catch ring that is under the cushion.

It’s easy to miss; the first time I tried folding it up for a gig I couldn’t, and kept wrestling with it ’til I noticed what impeding my progress!

The Cush’!

Is it comfortable? You bet!

I will say however, if you are a person who has a, well, let’s just say… a GENEROUS posterior, you might want to opt for another chair. Why? This seat is not very wide. It’s 14″ across at most, which is less than your average chair out there.

If you flaunt a more “normal” tush, or have an aerodynamic runners body like I have (read that SKINNY), then you shouldn’t have a problem.

But if you’re more a “plus-size back side”, I’d probably look elsewhere. The seat capacity of this chair is 300 pounds anyway, so if you’re approaching that girth, it might not be wise to test its limits!

Unassembled & new outta the box!

Also, the cushion itself IS comfortable, but it is NOT overly “cushy”.

What I mean by that is… it’s not going to be like “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, to quote John Denver. Neither will it feel like your Tempur-pedic mattress, your down-filled pillow, or your college dorm bean bag chair!

When you sit on it, it feels solid. You don’t sink down much at all. So if you’ prefer the ‘Memory Foam’ kind of support, “… this is not the droid you’re looking for.”

I think it’s perfect for gigs though. I’ve noticed that my behind doesn’t get tired after 2 or 3 hours servin’ up my hot licks and croonings to the crowd. I don’t find myself squirming, in other words, and THAT… is saying a lot!

The Stand!

And now we come to one of the prime features of the seat: the guitar stand!

We all know, as gigging musicians, that the less we have to carry into our gigs, the better.

Because this chair comes with its own built-in guitar stand, we no longer have to bring a separate one! Yeay!

If you play more than one guitar at a gig (which I do because my many alternate tunings!) then it’s a moot point.

Still, it’s great to have the two together. Haven’t seen that in any other chair.

Is the stand is stable? Yes.

Is your guitar or bass guaranteed to never get knocked over? No.

Your neck and headstock will be lightly resting against the indentation at the front of the seat cushion. This keeps your guitar or bass from wanting to tip over pretty well.

IF, however, your large, loving, drunk Uncle who came to see you runs up to hug you and ask for “Freebird” (again) and manages to hit your chair like the Titanic to an iceberg… your instrument could fall.

Now, I’ve even lightly run into the chair myself a couple times, and my guitars were never even close to falling over.

If you’re like me though, you don’t want to take any chances. So here’s a quick and easy fix that I use:

Attach a simple BUNGEE CORD to both sides of the stool, underneath the seat cushion. This will hold your instrument in place perfectly should it be jostled.

Not only does it work like a charm, it keeps anyone from just kinda wandering up and taking your axe for a test drive when you’re off schmoozing the blonde who came with your college buds.

(Which is why they’re givin’ you the stink eye, btw. ) LoL

The Back!

The back on this chair is optional. You don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.

The Backrest bracket

It’s easy to take off and put back on. Two simple brackets, one under the cushion and one on the back of the backrest, are where you attach the provided backrest bar.

Voila! Your lumbar thanks you.

I have to mention, while we’re on the subject of the back rest, that I really enjoy the way this back rest does not go up very high.

When I gigged with my old chair, I could never rock or lean back when I was physically getting into the music. The backrest was so high that it kept my back too stabilized, all the way up to my neck.

With this chair, I find myself being able to rock forward and backward… to move more with the music, and let my body express the groove as well as my playing and singing. I really like that.

I never suspected that that would even make a difference until I got this chair and noticed it during a gig that I was moving more in my torso well grooving out of tune while grooving out a tune.

The back rest is the same solid foam as the cushion. It’s not soft, but neither is it too hard. It’s just right to keep you going through a night of splendiferous entertainment!

Your concerts ARE splendiferous, right?? 😉

The Lift

Chair on shoulder, instrument in hand!

At 13.2 pounds, this seat is light as a feather. Compared to others I’ve used, it’s hardly noticeable, weight wise.

Taking this chair to any gig is as easy as singing “Stairway to Heaven” in the shower. I know because… I’ve done it many times! LoL

This gig stool is also easy to transport by hand. What I typically do, as you can see in the picture to the left, is put it, folded up, over my shoulder, while I carry a guitar or other gig tool in my hand on the same side.

The bar laying on my shoulder isn’t the most pleasant feeling, but it’s not THAT heavy, and for the couple minutes it takes to get to the stage – it’s worth all the benefits this seat provides.

The Mystery!

Okay, so (this just makes me laugh)… there’s one inexplicable addition to this fine seat. Maybe you can help me…

The box says that (as you can see from the pic above) this stool comes with:

“Removable Red Safety Rings!”

Um… what??!

Can anyone tell me why having red rubber bands near the bottom of my chair legs is gonna keep me safe??

And from WHAT??! If a totally sloshed bar patron comes lunging at me ‘cuz I played a song his ex-girlfriend liked, do I shoot him in the eye with one??!!

Honestly… I haven’t a clue! LoL

Your Seat of Power!

So there you go – a way to inexpensively make sure you have the best seat in the house wherever you may play next… giving you the comfort and power to knock ’em dead with your music!!

If you’re in the market for a great gigging chair, and you play basses or guitars of any kind, this stool will keep you comfy as you keep the peeps rockin’…

Or at least enjoying their restaurant meals. LoL

Remember to check the weight restrictions, as well as the seat size to confirm that it’s going to be a great fit for you.

So whaddya waitin’ for?! CLICK HERE and get some CLASS for your A… uh… rear quadrant. Lol

Now, go… make… (comfy)… sounds!!

Teaj

Free Audio Plugins – Neutron AND Ozone both!!!

You read that right. We couldn’t wait to share this with you all!

We’re musicians too. We know the beauty of “Free”!

So jump on these before they’re gone. I already got both of them!! Lol

iZotope Neutron 3

The website called “PluginBoutique” is now giving anyone who wants it the awesome Neutron 3 Elements Software (PC/Mac Digital Download).

All you have to do is enter the discount code PBSCNE in the code blank before you purchase!

Also you must be register on the website, but that’s no biggie ‘cuz it’s free and you get to hear more about other pieces of great software.

So whatta ya waitin’ for?!!

CLICK HERE TO GET NEUTRON FREE!!!!

iZotope Ozone 9

Our good friends over at “Sweetwater” obviously have a GREAT relationship with iZotope, since they are allowing us now to get a great MASTERING plugin set called Ozone 9 Elements (PC/Mac Digital Download).

This time you’ll just put in your usual contact info and you’re emailed a download link instantly.

And when I say instantly, I mean just that. As soon as I finished pushing the purchase button I went to my email and the download link was already waiting for me.

Now that’s service!!

Anyone else doin’ their own mastering like I do?? Then get some SERIOUS help with this amazing plugin:

CLICK HERE TO GET OZONE FREE!!!

Got Mine!

Some of you skeptics may be asking, “Is this legit??”

The answer is an unequivocal YES – it totally is!

I just frenetically jumped online when I got the news on both of these. I instantly got my own copies, and now… I’m studying up on how to make my next mixes and masters even BETTER with their use!

So you also want to investigate how to improve your final tunes, these two plugins could really take your songs to the next level

IF you learn how to use them well, of course. 😉

SO PSYCHED!!!

Others Got Theirs!

Some have already written on the SlickDeals site about their own snagging of Neutron:

Eric Freeman downloaded his and said, “Great deal. The element versions of the plugins are considered “paid” iZotope products even if you got them for free. This will allow you to get the cheaper “crossgrade” price if you want to upgrade to the full versions or get more products in a bundle! The Music Production Suite 3 crossgrade goes on sale pretty frequently…”

CelticMoose grabbed the deal then told us, “These plugins are even useful for podcasting FYI… I use Nectar Elements and RX 7 Elements. iZotope makes good stuff.”

And finally, ECJWZ got it and, in his audio glee, said, “There has never been a better time to make music. Ableton and Pro Tools have 90 day free trials, and Voltage Nucleus modular synth is also free!”

A Quickee

Not much to today’s post… except what we need – the link to FREE-dom!!

Use the extra cash you saved to get yourself some OTHER gear, and make these quarantine days your most prolific in years!!

And if you use our links? It helps pay for our website. That’s a big helpf, so thanks for your consideration. 😉

Let us know here at SeriousGas if you get these iZotope plugins, what you think of ’em, and how they’ve changed YOUR mixes.

In the meantime… I’m firing’ up Pro Tools, baby!

Now, go… make… SOUNDS!!!

How to Record Music – Gear Glimpses #1: “Ellen”

Hey, everybody! It’s been a while.

D’ja miss me?! 😉

I’ve been crankin’ away in the gear shed, workin’ hard to bring my music to life, and I’m ecstatic to say…

It alive!! LoL

After years of prep, research, performance and education, I’m finally publishing my art. Feels good, lemme tell ya.

So I thought it’d be fun, and insightful, to show those of you wondering how to record music all the GEAR I used to do it.

a-studio-for-recording

As I release each song I’ll put up a “Gear Glimpse” article so that you can see get a 1st-hand glimpse of exactly what specific musical tools went into them. Knowing that could add to the aural landscape of (potentially!) YOUR music.

So let’s get at it, shall we?!

The Song

My first released tune this year, under my project name “The Abacus Path“, is “Ellen“, a song I wrote in Amsterdam about a handicapped girl and her desire for freedom.

Check out the official music video here:

The Acoustic

The most important part of the musical arrangement for “Ellen” is what I wrote the song on – an acoustic guitar.

Now, when I was in the Netherlands I only had a simple classical guitar to write on. But when the time came to record it, I was back in the States and picked up my Taylor 310 guitar that I owned at the time to track with.

Basically, it’s one of Taylor’s lower-end models – not the cheapest in its arsena. but certainly under $1,000.

It’s your basic Dreadnought acoustic, with Spruce top/Sapele sides & back, made in Mexico, from 2003 if I remember right.

I thought the Taylor sounded great in a live setting. In the studio though, I was never satisfied with its sound. I had to EQ it a lot to get it to my liking in a mix, and I ALWAYS had to slam a high-pass filter on it to decrease the bass frequencies. What you hear on the recording is that process.

I ended up selling this Taylor since I didn’t like that pronounced low-end bump that it always gave me. Instead, I had a local luthier, Mr. Mike Franks, hand craft THIS GUITAR for me that turned out wonderfully. It’s now one of my favorite instruments in the recording studio.

Interestingly, the acoustic double-stop slides that you hear at the very beginning of the tune, I recorded this year using a different guitar – my Martin X-Series “Grand Performance” 20th Anniversary GPCX1AE Acoustic.

During mixdown, I decided that the start of the song needed something besides just a drum fill, so I spruced it up quite a bit using acoustic, keys, drums and just the right amount of delays and effects.

The Bass

I always play the bass on my tunes as well, and I have to tell you… this was the most elusive bass line I have EVER composed. It took almost a week to finally find the bass line that brought “Ellen” to life in the right way. I even brought in my producer to help me, which I have NEVER done on any other song.

Why? No idea, but we ended up totally scratching everything we’d tried on a normal bass up to that point, and just for kicks, trying a SYNTH BASS on it.

Unbelievably… it was JUST what it needed.

So, believe it or not, the low tones are grooved in this tune by a simple synth bass patch on the Kurzweil 2500, a remarkable flagship synth back in the day.

k2500, k2500x keyboard

It’s the only song I’ve ever used synth bass on, and I still can’t believe that’s what we ended up with.

As the old saying goes though: “If it SOUNDS right… it IS right.”

The Drums

In the late 90s when this cut was first tracked, electronic drum kits were first making their big debuts, and we wanted to see if they could survive the scrutiny of studio ears with some of my material.

Roland-TD-7-drum-kit

To that end, we set up a Roland TD-7 Electronic Kit in the studio and brought in a local skin-wacker, Mr. Brian Geiger, to facilitate the bouncy beat.

I hire drummers like Brian if I feel a song needs some rhythms that are too “tricky” for me to pull off without a LOT of practice. Sometimes it’s just a real time-saver to bring in a player who’s only done drums their whole life. They’ve got a MUCH larger technique arsenal than I do. That was the case here.

Instead of using the standard Roland sounds that came in the TD-7 module however, we opted to let the kit trigger some more high-end drum kit samples that resided in the Kurzweil keyboard. They just sounded more realistic than what the Roland module provided.

As for cymbals, we used actual REAL cymbals. We just didn’t think the sampled ones sounded real enough back then. As I recall, I believe Brian brought in Zildjian cymbals for hi-hat, 2 crashes and a ride. Not sure of the models.

The Sax

Doug-Cassens

A brilliantly gifted sax player here in Michigan named Doug Cassens laid down the saxophone for us. WOW, is that guy melodic. Every little riff he’d sing out was gold. I had such fun placing his improvisations throughout the song.

And his solo?? Get outta town!! He knocked it outta the park!

He used a Selmer Mark 6 Alto Sax for this particular tune. I own a Selmer Mark 6 TENOR myself, so I knew when he got out his axe that this was gonna be a sweeeeeeet session.

Doug continues to play as always, but now he’s relocated to Florida with his “Doug Cassens Band”.

I guess frostbite and winter doesn’t thrill his horn techniques. LoL

Find out more about Doug here on HIS WEBSITE.

The Vocals

At the time of this recording, I really only had one good vocal mic: the Oktava MKL-2500 Tube Mic.

Oktava-MKL-2500-mic

I found it at Guitar Center when they’d decided to no longer carry the Oktava brand, so they were blowing out these mics on clearance for peanuts. I think I paid less than $400 for it, out the door.

I noticed it had a slight hum so I called the Oktava USA headquarters and asked about it. They told me they knew exactly why it was doing that: they’d unfortunately had bad parts shipped to them by a different country by one of their suppliers.

Because of that (and to try to facilitate a better reputation here in the States) they offered to fix it free of charge for me. They’d put in all new electronics and make it, according to the CEO I spoke with, “on par with a Neumann U87 in its sensitivity, inherent noise floor and color.”

Well, that’s a high bar to promise! But I had nothing to lose so I shipped it off to ’em and waited.

When I got it back it was indeed like a totally different mic. Wow, did they do a great job. Quiet, warm, sensitive. I’ve sung hundreds of vocals on it and it’s always delivered right on-the-money.

Until I got my AT4050 (my favorite way to capture my voice) I used the Oktava exclusively. These days, I pull it out if I need a warmer approach to a song, especially if the production is sparse and I don’t have to cut through a thicker mix.

The background vocals were done on the fly, at a remote location, with simple SM58 mics. Just goes to show you that you don’t HAVE TO buy expensive gear to get professional results. As Clapton so aptly put it, …

“It’s in the way that you USE it!”

The Piano

My good friend and uber-talented keyboardist, songwriter, arranger, programmer, singer and just all around incredible DUDE, Mr. Sid Howard, threw in some tasty synth bits for this song.

He used a Modeled Electric Piano Instrument called “Lounge Lizard EP-3” to call up a great emulation of an electric piano. Great choice for this tune, as the E.P. never goes out of style and has a retro, but “classic” sound.

loungelizard3

E.P. virtual instruments tend to be sample-based, but Lounge Lizard, is different in that it goes the route of physical modeling for its sound production. A much more difficult way to go, but they’ve got it down in spades.

If you’re looking for accurate Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer emulations because you don’t have the real things (they DO take up a lot of space, after all!), then buy Lounge Lizard will do it for ya. BUY IT HERE — you won’t be disappointed!

The Glock!

Way back a few years I managed to pick up a gaggle of awesome music instruments for peanuts. It was a VERY happy day in my musical life. Check out the story HERE.

One of my best purchases that day was a simple but incredibly useful Glockenspiel. I only bought it because it was so cheap and I thought, “Eh.. maybe I’ll find a way to use it.”

Glockenspiel

Did I find ways!!! This glock has been on SO MANY recordings of mine. I absolutely love it. For doubling melodies, strengthening hooks, bolstering vocals… it’s such a complementary tool in the studio I don’t know now how I ever lived without it.

I have two different sets of mallets for it: one with rubber heads, and one set with brass heads. They give me two very different transient attacks which helps me further choose which is “just right” for a given tune.

I find that a REAL glock is much better than just calling one up on your synth or software. It’s like a real piano – the way the notes & frequencies combine in the air adds harmonics that you just don’t get from a keyboard patch.

So if you’ve been wanting a quick, easy way to add some compelling, uplifting and interesting ear candy to your mixes… get yourself a glockenspiel. Its uses are myriad and its sound…? It’s like smiles in a bottle! 😉

The Percussion

Percussion arsenal

To underscore the groove, and add some levity and push to the emotion of the tracks, I dug out a tambourine, a pair of egg shakers, and a set of claves.

You’d think I was tracking Bossa Nova music! LoL

I tend to play all my own percussion tracks. I’ve played drums for years, so there’s no problem staying in the pocket.

Plus, I have a really big suitcase full of every kind of percussion toy you can think of, so not only do I have lots of options…

I also can pull out the exact percussion used later if I want to change it or fix something in the mix.

You can see the percussion I use most of the time here in THIS ARTICLE.

Bottom line: if you’re not using little percussion elements to liven up your mix and keep it interesting… you’re missing out on a very powerful tool in your music!

The Software

For you recording buffs who want to really know the intricacies, I originally recorded “Ellen” on the Roland 2480 hardware unit. Kickin’ it ol’ school, dawg!

Roland VS2480

In recent years I transferred those tracks to my Pro Tools “Ultimate” software so I could finish the mix, and master, in the box.

Pro tools

For reverb I used a plug in by UAD that emulates VERY well the good ol’ Lexicon 480L preset called “Ballady Hall” that I tweaked, mostly by cutting the lows and highs a bit.

Keeping the reverb mostly in the midrange to me makes for a less muddy and/or harsh mix.

The Music

To keep up on all the music that comes out of my studio for “The Abacus Path”, check in on OUR WEBSITE HERE for all the latest news.

The Abacus Path

During this time of quarantine and trying to keep safe from the nasty Corona virus, it’s more crucial than ever to let your songs be heard.

So go cut some tracks… lay down some grooves… and make our fragile world a much better place because of your music.

It might just be the thing to keep someone going when they’re giving up hope.

So, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj