The Ludwig Supraphonic – A Super Snare Beyond Compare!

Hal Blaine.

If you’re a drummer, chances are you know that name very well. There’s not many people on the planet that have played drums on 150 number one hits… but Hal did!

And the snare drum he used on more of them than any other??

The Ludwig Supraphonic!

Hal was specifically a
model 400 chrome-on-brass snare guy, which had the 5″ depth and was generally tuned pretty low, and with Remo heads.

For more info on just how incredible Hal was, and the absurd amount of artists he played sessions for, check out his history HERE.

And Hal wasn’t the only one! Other legendary beat-makers that took to the Supra like Elvis to rhinestones were:

  • Charlie Watts (Stones)
  • Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix)
  • Dino Danelli (Young Rascals)
  • John Densmore (Doors)

And the list goes on (we’ve left one extraordinary name out that we’ll mention soon enough!).

So what makes this beast so special and desirable all these decades later?? Let’s find out… !

A Construction Glimpse!

To see how a drum LIKE the Supraphonic is made (it’s probable that Ludwig uses an approach just like this), check out this factory tour of a Sonar snare… the end product looking suspiciously like a Supra!

Two Flavors!

As it began back in the 60s, so up to today the famed Supraphonic snare comes in two delicious varieties:

  • The 400 (5 x 14)
  • The 402 (6 1/2 x 14)

Both have the same crisp, lively metallic SMACK that has graced thousands of recordings over the decades.

The 400 is the smaller version, and was Hal Blaine’s weapon of choice. It’s the perfect snare if you’re recording Rock/Pop tunes.

The Supraphonic 400!
The Supraphonic 400!

For the past decades, most of the drum kits in the Ludwig catalogs show a 400 model snare as the accompanying standard. That also shows just how big a craving there is for this tasty tone-tapper.

The 402?? Well, that’s a Supra on steroids. It’s rumored to be what Joshua used to make the walls of Jericho fall. Seismologists also think L.A. studio use of this snare is what keeps triggering earthquakes in the region.

But I digress… 😉

The Ludwig 402 snare!!

The overall tone and attack of both models is versatile and dynamic, allowing you to coax delicate ghost notes and whomping in-your-face hits out from this same shiny cylinder of percussive joyriding.

Ludwig still produces both of these today. You’ll find additional options and hardware upgrades here and there, but for the most part its construction has remained pretty much unchanged, which is a testament to its brilliance and flexibility over the changing face of music.

But wait! There’s one name that flung the Supraphonic to the forefront of drumming history probably more than any other. It’s… it’s…

A Match Made in (Stairway to) Heaven!

John hittin’ his Supra! (Photo:
Dina Regine)

John Bonham!!

It’s pretty obvious that the huge, lasting popularity of the 402 snare can mostly be attributed to the influence of this mighty icon of Rock drumming thunder.

He used the 402 extensively with Led Zeppelin. He loved it. It was a large part of his sound.

And when you consider how many divergent styles John played using that snare, it’s proof positive that this one deep beat machine can be anything you want it to be.

Blues, funky Rock, Heavy Rock, Folk Rock… John played it all, and the 402 never sounded out of place in any of those genres. Pretty impressive.

John’s kit in the Hard Rock Cafe, London

I mean, come on… just go listen to some Zeppelin. It’ll speak for itself.

If you don’t have a Led Zeppelin album, and are without a streaming site online, no problem… just turn the radio on. If it’s a classic rock station, I guarantee you’ll hear John and his 402 within minutes!! LoL

Because of Bonham’s preference, legions of rock drummers are still wooed by the “Halls of Valhalla” pounding, demanding presence that this snare provides. If you haven’t tried it, well…

… you simply must! 😉

Supraphonic-snare-M.F.-BUYcon

Getting Down To Brass Smacks!

Some don’t know this, but the drum was initially put out with brass being the main metal. That was when they called it the “Super Ludwig”, around 1958.

If you find a vintage Supra from that era, it’ll be hard to tell exactly what kind you have, as the brass drums and the aluminum drums look
almost identical.

But the vast majority of vintage Supras you’ll find these days are made from their “LudAlloy”, which is aluminum mixed with some other metals.

Those “other metals” are a trade secret, but something tells me they’ve changed a bunch of times through the years, and might even be whatever Ludwig had lying around! Lol

If you have an old Supra and suspect that you might indeed have a BRASS model, the only thing you can do is remove a bit of chrome and look at the color underneath. If it’s a dark grey color, then you’ve got what most of us have: Chrome over Aluminum.

But if you DO find a brassy tone underneath, congratulations! You just won the Ludwig lottery. The brass Supraphonic is a rare drum of superior tone (most would say, but not all).

If you’re gonna do that scraping investigation though, do yourself a favor and rub the Chrome off UNDER one of the lugs or the strainer. That way no one will see the DESTRUCTIVE, SACRILIGIOUS VANDALISM that you’re forcing onto that sacred drum!! lol

Here’s another less invasive way of differentiating brass from aluminum: if the chrome is flaking off of your drum, it’s almost certain that it’s an aluminum shell. Aluminum and Chrome don’t have a loving relationship together. They tend to want to leave each other.

Like bass players and girlfriends. LOL

Anyway, Ludwig has offered brass shells again here or there, especially in the mid 90s. But, by and large, aluminum is what you’ll find in a Supra. And that’s okay.

Thousands of satisfied radio hits can’t be wrong, right?!

If you reeeeeeeeally want a looooooooot more info on this particular Supra tangent, I guarantee you won’t find anything more in-depth than the following video by Terry Keating.

He’s a madman. lol

What Makes it… a Supra?!

Basically, if you see a Ludwig metal snare and it has a seamless “Ludalloy” shell, with a P-83, P-85 or P-86 throw-off, then it’s a Supraphonic.

It was introduced in 1963, and from the get-go had the same model numbers that we know today:

  • The 400, which was the 5 1/2” x 14″
  • The 402, which was the 6 1/2” x 14″

The Supraphonics from that time came standard with triple-flanged hoops, but if you wanted to, you could have special ordered your Supra with die-cast hoops instead, by simply adding the letter Y to the catalog number (e.g. “402 K Y”).

The standard Supras from that time we’re made of a spun metal “ludalloy’ material, which was simply Ludwig’s name for their specific aluminum alloy.

Although its ingredients are technically a trade secret, it’s whisper behind control room doors that it’s comprised of aluminum mostly, with trace elements of magnesium and zinc thrown in to make it…

… well, you’d think to make it sound better. But one drummer (who’s also a metallurgist) told me that they use the alloy mostly because it’s more flexible and stronger than straight aluminum. And cheaper.

So, the alloy probably affects the sound to a small degree, but the choice to use “ludalloy” for the hoops on Ludwig Drums was more an economic decision than anything else.

Gee… big surprise there! lol

The other thing that truly defines a Supraphonic snare is that they use a one-piece ludalloy strip of metal and put a center bead around it to increase rigidity. In other words, a Supraphonic has not been welded together anywhere.

Look, Ma… no seam!!

As with any material, the sustain and tone is improved when there are no cuts, welds or glued portions. That famed characteristic “crack” of the Supraphonic is, in part, due to its one-piece aluminum construction.

The Metal vs. Throw-off Debate

Okay, now we come to the part of our review where… we just have to chuckle. There are some people that get so worked up about this debate, I just had to laugh reading some of the posts online.

It’s like telling those screaming girls that chased the Beatles that you think Paul’s dead – you’re taking your life in your own hands there, buddy!! Lol

Here’s the crux of the argument:

“Does ‘Supraphonic’ refer to the DRUM? Or to the strainer/throw-off??”

My Supra’s P-85 throw-off.

Based on historical evidence, I side with the DRUM being labeled as “Supraphonic”, and I’ll explain why soon enough. But I see the other side’s point of view, and I don’t think they’re out to lunch either.

Here’s what we know: the Supras originally came with the P-83 strainer with a P-32 butt.

In the late 60s the P-83 was swapped out for the P-85 though, then the latest upgrade, the P-86.

Now, some people state that if a metal Ludwig snare has any of those three strainers, then it’s a Supraphonic.

My hammered Supra P-85.

This is not historically accurate. MOST of Ludwigs early drums used the P-83, with just a few exceptions, so that doesn’t make sense.

Also, the first time a Ludwig drum was labeled a “Supra-Phonic” in their literature was when they switched from “chrome over brass” to “chrome over aluminum”. The throw-off hadn’t changed, so that indicates, according to Ludwig catalogs, that it’s the drum carrying the name, not the strainer.

At least back THEN. Ludwig’s marketing has tended towards referring to the drums as “the 400 or the 402” in recent history, instead of calling the drum itself a “Supraphonic”. That, I think, is the center of all the confusion.

I’ve got a call in to Ludwig. If they call me back with a final word… you’ll be the first to hear!!! 😉

My Supra… that IS!!

Anytime I want that Bonham ‘shake the foundations’ THWACK for a snare drum sound, I’ve got just the ticket: my 402!

This snare belonged to a dear friend of mine who’s no longer with us. In fact, the whole kit was his and I bought it to keep his memory, and music, alive in my studio.

Check out the full story of that whole kit IN THIS ARTICLE.

He was such a Led Zeppelin fan and, of course… what ELSE would he have for a snare, right?!

So, yea, whenever I get my full Rock swagger on… we break out the big guns. And you always know the real thing when ya hear it. 😉

My kit for rockin’ out… complete with the 6.5×14 Supra!

I have a real penchant for Van Halen-type electric guitar riffing, since Eddie was a hero as I started to learn guitar.

Whenever I get in that mood, I have my son get on this rock kit and, while I’m scattering two-hand tapping sound bullets off the walls, he’s just WAILIN’ on that big, beautiful baby known as the 402.

After all… I’ll give ya ONE guess what snare Alex uses! 😉

My Supra… that ISN’T!!

In prepping this article for you I did a lot of research on the Supras and their history. One of the things I discovered is…

… one of my two Supraphonics… ISN’T!! LoL

At least not technically speaking, tho’ plenty of drummers online still refer to the one I have as a Supra. Let’s investigate why…

Full Kit with Supraphonic snare
My Pop/Rock Kit with Supraphonic snare!

Above you see the Pearl kit I usually use for Pop/Rock or AOR tunes. My 5×14 Supra is always there, at least near, since it’s a great choice for many of those types of songs.

I mean, Hal Blaine… ’nuff said, right?! 😉

My 5×14 Ludwig snare looks just like a Supra, except that it’s hammered, not smooth. Everything about it looks like a Supra to me… and it’s always given me that sound too, so I just never questioned that it might NOT be a Supra.

I bought it used so I didn’t have any sales person to tell me different!

Turns out, my snare is listed in an early 80s Ludwig catalog as the “400 K” model from the “Hammered Chrome series“, not the “Supra-Phonic series”, as they called it back then.

It’s from 1982 or ’83, has a Blue/Olive badge, and bears the Serial Number 3120657.

If you notice in the catalog above, the Supraphonic 5×14 model number is just like my drum: the “400”. It just doesn’t have the “K” after it.

So are the differences pronounced? Do I really have a NON-Supraphonic??

Not really. If we look at the actual differences… I can find only ONE:

  • It’s hammered, not smooth!

So, okay, mine is technically NOT a Supraphonic, but, big whoop – for all intents & purposes, it IS a Supraphonic!

Here’s what IS THE SAME between mine and an early 80s Supra:

Hammered Supra with mic
My Pseudo-Supra, mic’d & ready!

  • The size (14” wide x 5” deep)
  • The strainer (P-85)
  • The hoops (triple-flanged)
  • The snares (20 wire)
  • The lugs (10 Imperials)
  • The metal (Chrome over LudAlloy)
  • The model # (400)

So, there ya go… I was schooled today!! LoL

None the worse for wear though, ‘cuz this snare sounds great for certain songs. Hammering the metal on a drum tends to attenuate its harmonics more, so this snare is actually better for me, since most of what I do is studio session work, not live work. Not having that snare ring a lot is, most of the time, just the ticket!

Anyways… it still gives me “that sound” when I need it, and that’s what’s important, right?

I’ll just call it… “Supra’s Sister” from now on!! LoL

It’s a Hit!!

So… the “Supra”. The most recorded snare in history?? Many say so, though there’s no way to prove it unequivocally.

But one thing’s for certain – if you need a snare that is uber-versatile, professional-sounding and has a long, rich history on countless number one hits? Your search has ended. It’s time you got the Supraphonic.

And see what all the fuss is about! 😉

Already have a Supra?? Played on one and fallen in love with its power and versatility?? Or just one of the thousands who dream G.A.S.-y dreams of owning your own one day like some of us already do?! Whatever the case, leave us a Comment and let us know.

I’m sure it would bring a smile to Bonham’s face to hear you weep and wail for his favorite! Lol

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!

How To Solo On Guitar, Part 1 – Speaking Lessons… For Your Fingers!!

Ever heard a Best Man or Maid of Honor give a speech wedding reception and think, “Wow – they’re really eloquent!”?

Or maybe you’ve visited the other side of the tracks, where somebody got up to speak and it was little more than an embarrassment or a parody of what a speech should be!

Either way, it shows you something: being able to communicate effectively is memorable, riveting and emotionally impactful in some, or all, ways.

To learn how to solo on guitar, you must first acknowledge that there are specific things that contribute to a guitar player being “good” at what they do.

And they aren’t guarded voodoo secrets either – it’s pretty easy to find out what things you need to do to be a superstar shredder.

The hard part is… DOING THEM!!

Down the guitar neck!

In this :Part One” of soloing techniques, I’m going to showcase and explain five different techniques that are always present in any memorable axe-slinger.

In subsequent articles, I’ll also write about many more, until I’ve shared with you the whole list that I’ve compiled over my 27+ years of teaching music.

For now, though… grab your axe, a pick, and let’s get playin’!

1) It’s Golden

So, ya ever notice how some people… just never shut up?!

It’s annoying, right?

We HEAR ya, already!!

In the same way, if you play and play and play… and keep playing, without a break, a pause, or a rest…

… THAT’S ALSO ANNOYING!

It’ll probably will be cool at first, but after a few minutes of your nonstop barrage of sound (some might even say ‘noise’!), people are going to tune out. We quickly get our fill of the same thing over and over again.

Just like Brian Regan’s “Me Monster”.

“What’s that?”, you ask? Well, lemme show you….

See what I mean? Who needs that kind of monotony!

Hope you enjoyed that Brian Regan clip as much as I always do. That guy always leaves me breathless – I can’t even pick my guitar up, I’m laughing so hard!

I showed you that to remind you of what NOT to do as you approach guitar soloing. It IS a lot like talking… just with your FINGERS, not your lips!

So don’t play like a machine gun. Don’t shoot with endless rounds – take breaks. Deliberately insert pauses. Let’s silence also speak.

I’ve done a lot of acting in my life too, and I can tell you… what makes a speech sound dramatic and impactful is where you put pauses.

2) Sloth or Cheetah??

The next thing to monitor your soloing for is whether or not you are varying the LENGTH of your notes, or their SPEED.

Just like when someone never shuts up, if you are always using the same kinds of notes, say, 16th notes, your music will quickly become, well… boring. You’ve GOT to mix it up a bit.

Consider these classic guitar solos:

  • “All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix
  • “More Than A Feeling” – Boston
  • “Overkill” – Men at Work
  • “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

In each of these masterpieces, you not only find killer chops and tonal choices – you’ll also notice a great variety of note lengths. Sometimes they’re playing fast notes; sometimes slow ones.

Imagine the parade of yawns you’d create if you only used whole notes in your solos. Ugh. Awful.

Or, taking the opposite tack, consider how lost and uninterested your audience might become if you constantly barraged us with 32nd notes all the time with no consideration for a little sustain.

Now, certain genres call for more or less of each. If you play in a speed metal band, then, yeah… you’re going to have to play fast. A LOT!

But for the majority of music genres, the more variety you put in your note lengths, the more interesting and attractive your playing will be.

My good friend Sean Barrett, who sometimes writes for us here at Seriousgas.com, has a favorite guitarist (who shall remain nameless) that tends to play fast notes all the time.

I told Sean how I never wanted to listen to this artist because all I ever heard was machine gun delivery of notes over and over again. For me at least, that kind of approach is melodically uninteresting and unsatisfying.

Sean referred me to a couple songs where this artist finally slowed things down a bit here and there, and I actually found I could appreciate his playing and his style a lot more.

So cast a casual critical eye to your solo playing, and ask this question:

Am I mixing it up with slow and fast notes to express myself musically? Or am I the jerk in the fast lane he wants to tailgate everybody?! LoL

Yin and yang, people! Light and dark. Fear and calm. Love and hate.

Slow, and fast.

It’s what will make your playing, and thus YOU, mesmerizing and captivating in the long run.

3) How Was That Again??

“You’re gonna be a great guitarist!”

“You’re gonna be a great guitarist!”

Did you notice how much more meaningful and cool that felt, when I repeated that statement?!

Joe Walsh - the guitar MAN!!
Joe Walsh – the guitar MAN!!(Photo: Joe Walsh)

If something’s important, or exceptional, it deserves to be heard again. A second time!

Ever heard a song once on the radio and afterwards we’re able to sing it nonetheless? I guarantee you that song had a healthy dose of repetition in it!!

Here’s a few great songs that spring to mind that have obvious repetition in the guitar rhythm and/or solo sections:

  • “Separate Ways” – Journey
  • “Boys of Summer” – Don Henley
  • “Sweet Child of Mine” – Guns ‘N’ Roses
  • “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – NIrvana

If you don’t know any of those songs well enough to hear the guitar parts in your head, go listen to ’em. You’ll find LOTS of repetition, and that’s partly why the song stick in your head so much.

EARWORM ALERT!! LoL

Now if you’re playing jazz, especially Free Jazz, then you get a pass card. We know what you like: melodic and harmonic exploration… non-stop! I get it. That’s part of what makes jazz… jazz.

(That’s also the reason, by the way, that the majority of people do NOT listen to Jazz. My wife is among them. She can’t stand it. She says it just sounds like musical chaos!)

Despite my wife’s inability to appreciate the nuances of some of the finest musicians alive today (sorry, honey!) even in jazz we find that at least the main melody of the tune, or the head phrase, will usually have a modicum of repetition. A note or two. Or three.

It all comes down to this: if you want your music to be accessible to the majority of people out there, you MUST put repetition in your phrasing.

It’s not hard to do either. Just make this little personal rule for yourself whenever you’re soloing: be looking and listening for exceptional phrases to repeat.

When you play something and think, “Wow! That sounds killer!”…

… PLAY IT A SECOND TIME!! Your audiences, and even your fellow musicians, will love it.

Now, I’m not saying run a phrase or lick into the ground, over and over and over and over and…

Just repeat it once. That’s all. Just once.

Chances are that little bit will do the trick.

And YOU’ll be fielding calls from people who want to hire you how to play guitar – for THEM! 😉

4) One of These Things… is Not Like the Other…

Teaching music students over three decades now, I’ve learned a thing or two.

One of those things is how to recognize when a student still doesn’t “get it”, and how to come up with a new and different way to say the same thing to help them understand.

This is a great technique to use in your soloing also. Whenever you play a tasty lick, or riff, or phrase… repeat it again, but with a slight variation.

Maybe it’s the last note you change. Or maybe you swap out the first one.

Instead of sliding into the note, like you just did, you can bend into it instead.

Did you trill two notes together quickly? Then choose two different notes to trill, but keep the length the same.

Brian May on guitar
Brian May of Queen
(Photo: Carl Lender at https://www.flickr.com/photos/clender)

Or perhaps you play the exact same melody, but use the whammy bar to sprinkle in some quick bends, to bend up at the beginning of some notes, like Mike Rutherford from Genesis does a lot.

There are myriad ways to play any given phrase a little different. No choice you make will be wrong, so just go for it!

Here’s a few fantastic guitar solos that do just that!:

  • “Something” – The Beatles
  • “Sultans of Swing” – Dire Straits
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
  • “Layla” – Eric Clapton

Just add a new little, subtle spice to your best phrases, and voila… people will eat it up, I’m telling ya.

If you think of soloing like talking to your audience, it’s like saying the same thing, but with a twist… So they finally get it.

See? There’s a music teacher in you too! 😉

5) Finger Singers

Okay, now we come to my favorite way of guitar soloing.

Playing melodically!!

I even think that a guitar solo would always be melodic, but I’ve heard enough of them to tell you that, no, some solos are hardly melodic at all.

I come across this very “unsingable” approach to soloing on guitar mostly in music that’s all about “showing off”. You know what I’m talking about:

“How fast can I play?!”

“How many notes can I fit in 8 measures?!!”

“How many old, road-worn guitar licks can I throw into one solo section?!!”

If those are the questions you’re asking to try to create a good guitar solo, you’ll probably end up with something that sounds closer to a parody, rather than a masterpiece.

This is why most of the time, when I’m recording guitar solos in the studio, I rarely keep the first thing I play. Or the second. Or even the third!!

Instead, I play through the solo section 5 to 10… sometimes up to 20 times. Then I go back and listen to them all, looking for whatever passages just sound perfect within the vibe of the song.

Notice I didn’t say that I look for what “impresses” me the most. The most impressive players of any instrument (to me at least) are those that serve THE SONG, and most of the time songs don’t need 32nd notes to appropriately bring them to life.

Here’s the best way I can describe making this technique work for you: after you come up with any guitar solo…

… try to SING it.

Yep, you read that right. Even if you’re not a vocalist in any way, still try to sing what you just played.

Then ask yourself: was that easy to sing? Or difficult?

And here’s an even better test: put your instrument down, walk away, and 5 minutes later see if you can hear the melody in

If, in either of those two cases, you find it difficult to resurrect that solo in your head, or on your lips, then you might need to think a bit more melodically.

Here are some of my absolute favorite guitar solos of all time that are SO melodic I can sing them from beginning to end. We’re talkin classic awesomeness here!:

  • “Panama” – Van Halen
  • “Hotel California” – Eagles
  • “Magic Man” – Heart
  • “Goodbye Stranger” – Supertramp
  • “Stairway to Heaven” – Led Zeppelin
  • Pretty much any Tom Scholz solo from any “Boston” record!!

Tom Scholz playing a guitar solo
Tom freakin’ Scholz, man!!! (Photo: Weatherman90)

If you listened to all six of those bands, as I just did writing this article, you can indeed say that you have been schooled, baby, in the art of melodic guitar soloing. No doubt about it.

So don’t just think scales. Or positions. Or remembering riffs.

Instead, try singing with your fingers. Strive for memorable, catchy MELODIES. Approach those strings like Paul McCartney approaches his vocals.

You do that? Your chances of playing a “guitar-hero-worthy” solo just skyrocketed into “very, very likely” territory.

Meetcha there!! 😉

Bring the Spice!!

So those are the first five techniques that I teach my students regularly here in my recording studio when they want to know how to solo on guitar.

There are many others, and I’ll be writing about them soon enough, so keep checking in here at seriousgas.com for the next bodacious batches of solo bad-ass-ery!

But in the meantime how about sharing some of the soloing techniques that you like to use? Are they among the ones we went over today? Or were your favorites missing?? Let us know in the Comments section and strut your technique stuff!

Show ’em your CHOPS, Gordo!

As always, the more time you spend with something, the more familiar you become with it. So take these suggestions into your wood shed, see how they influence your playing, and deliberately start singing your spontaneous string songs with their scintillating spices!

The specific combination of techniques that YOU use is what will, over time, create your own personal style and approach to playing.

I mean, come on… if Gordo the Gorilla can do it, then… LoL

Which reminds me… I gotta practice that mixolydian scale now! 😉

If you’d like even more general info on how to play guitar well, start with THIS FIRST GUITAR LESSON POST and continue on in the series we’ve written for you. Otherwise…

… see you soon for Part 2!!!

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!

The 7 Best Bass Guitars For Beginners In 2019 – Top Picks For A Big Bottom!!

Q: What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?
A: A bass player

Q: What’s the difference between a vacuum cleaner and a bassist?
A: The vacuum cleaner has to be plugged in to suck.

A young kid told his mother “Mommie, when I grow up I want to play the bass guitar.” His mother smiled, then said,”Now, honey, you know you can’t do both.”

Aaaah, bass players. So easy to make fun of. But so absolutely crucial to a professional-sounding band.

If you’re here to find out the 7 best bass guitars for beginners in 2019, there’re two potential reasons why:

1) You’ve decided that bass is the instrument for you, so you’re ready to purchase, but want to save money.

2) You’re the parent of a child that wants to try bass guitar, and you want a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get them what they want.

Whichever of these two you are, I’ve got good news for you… you’ve come to the right place!!

Bass Guitar CARTOONED

I’ve been a recording & performing songwriter, and a bass player, for decades. I also worked, for years, selling music instruments and equipment.

These two things have honed in me very informed, practical judgment and skill when’s itself to recommending to you just what you need, at the right price, for the right skill level.

A quick click of any links below will take you straight to the instrument of your choice for checkout. It couldn’t be easier.

But first, let’s educate you on HOW to choose the perfect bass!

That Amp Thing

In a few cases below, you’ll notice that the bass guitars I listed also come with a bass amp.

I did this deliberately for one main reason: it’s extremely hard to hear an electric bass guitar without an amp.

The high notes are okay, but as you play lower and lower on a bass, it gets harder and harder to hear.

Most people don’t want to invest in an instrument that will just be stuck in a corner soon. The reality is, a beginner that plays on a bass without an amp, is much more likely to lose interest in playing.

Why? Because there’s no punch. No power! No electricity that’s needed to drive those big, low frequencies.

Here’s an example of what I mean: if you could see the waveform that is produced when you play the lowest note on a bass guitar (the low “E”), you’d probably be surprised to see that it’s over 27 feet long!!

It takes a lot of juice to get something that massive amplified, just as it takes a lot of might to pick up a boulder, as opposed to a stone.

BASS FREQUENCIES on a shirt!
The 4 frequencies of the bass open strings!

Human hearing is also not very good with low frequencies. We tend to hear best where human voices speak. That’s mostly above 100 Hertz.

All the open strings of the bass, however, are below 100 Hertz.

All that just means what I said earlier: the electric bass is hard to hear without an amp.

Keep this in mind as you look through the options. I’d much rather you get something that you will keep and play for years, than something that’s given up as “boring” after a short time.

Finally, perhaps the biggest reason to make sure you have an amp as well it’s so you can play with others. An electric bass is typically played alongside a drummer and at least one other rhythm instrument, like a guitar or keyboard.

Those instruments can be quite loud. So a bass played without an amp in that setting?? It just won’t be heard. Not at all.

And since much of the fun of music is playing with friends, you definitely don’t want you, or your child, to miss out on those good times!

So if you don’t already have a bass amp, I highly suggest you include that with a bass guitar.

You’ll be smiling at the excitement it will generate!

The 5-String Question

Teaj’s 5-string bass!

Another consideration that’s less important, but still comes up occasionally with my students, is whether or not to buy a 5-string bass.

A standard bass guitar has 4 strings. This is what you’ll almost always see someone playing in concert, Plus, practically every bass line you hear on the radio was played on a standard 4-string bass.

For that reason, as a music instructor, I always suggest that a student start with a normal 4-string model.

If a student can learn all those bass lines the way they were performed to begin with, on a 4-string, they’ll be well on their way to playing like a pro.

The “normal” 4-string

There is one situation where I DO recommend a 5-string, however: if you, or your child, listens to a favorite group or artist that DOES often, or always, use a 5-string bass, then chances are they’re going to want to play what their hero plays.

In that case, go for it.

If you’re not sure, just watch a video for free on YouTube of your (or their) favorite bass player and look for how many strings are on the bass.

Nine times out of ten… you’ll see four. 😉

I own THIS 5-STRING and love to play it, but, honestly, I’ve never had a gig where 5 strings were needed. Learn to get around the fretboard with 4 strings. Then you can get adventurous with more!

Alright… now that those caveats are out of the way… let’s explore your best options!

1) The Davison Bass “Beginner Pack”

First up on our list today is this bass guitar AND amp from “Davison Guitars“.

It gets great reviews (averaging 4 out of 5 stars), and comes with a starter amp, all for just over $100!

That’s rare at that price. In fact, it’s the only one I found that didn’t have poor reviews.

This as a true beginner bass package, for those who’ve never played before and who are probably under 13 years of age.

The amp that it comes with averages only 15 watts of power, so we’re not talking a very loud amp here, but it will at least be amplified enough to hear all the notes on the bass.

The bass comes in three different colors, so if black isn’t your, or your child’s, thing, no problemo. Blue or Sunburst will come to the rescue. 😉

This pack also comes with a strap and a carrying bag. These will be on the cheaper end, but since no grand stage is expecting a beginner student, that’s just fine at this point. So, this is truly a one-shot deal where you probably won’t have to buy anything else for quite a while.

If, one day, the student wants to play with other musicians, then you’ll have to get a stronger amp. But in light of how I’ve seen students progress, that probably won’t be for a year, or two, down the road.

In the meantime though, they’ll be having a blast sounding like the real deal, which will give them the impetus to study those classic bass lines and become… a real musician!

2) The SafePlus “Starters” Bass

Next up, we have this great little SafePlusbass that is designed to look and feel like a very famous instrument made by the company Fender… the legendary “Precision Bass“.

The “P-Bass“, as players call it, has been renowned for decades. This beginner’s model obviously is paying homage to it, because the shape, parts and features all resemble the mighty Precision Bass!

But Fender Precision basses start at $600 and go WAY up from there (into the thousands!).

This one? Clocks in at UNDER $100!!

I think it’s safe to say that price tag won’t be curling your hair anytime soon! Lol

This package will be coming with a strap, a cable, a pic, and some allen wrenches for adjusting the action of the guitar.

Notice, however, it does NOT come with any amp.

So if Dad, a brother or sister, or some other relative has an extra amp lying around not being used, perfect beginner bass to pair with it!

There’s no choice of colors for this particular bass, but the one style that is available (deep blue) looks really good. Again, it’s so resembles a professional P-Bass but even I myself would not be ashamed to pick this baby up and play it live.

It comes in really strong from the perspective of reviews also: 84% of the people who bought it said that they would recommend it and gave it five stars.

Now that’s a strong endorsement!

You also get a gig bag, strap, pick, cable and adjustment wrenches included, so any beginner will have everything they need to get groovin’.

And if they actually know a little about bass guitars, even if they haven’t played… with the thousands of P-basses in the world today, they’ll probably recognize these contours as a bass to die for and be as happy as a drop D tuning in a metal band!

The whole package gives you extra piece of mind by providing a 6-month warranty and a 30-day Return Policy.

3) Squier Jaguar Beginner “Short Scale” Bass

Squier Jaguar small scale bass

Got a future bass guitar master who’s a little on the smaller side??

No problem; Fender has you covered!

Whether it’s because of young age, or a DNA-induced smaller stature, this Squier Jaguar Short-Scale Bass was designed with smaller hands, and reach, in mind.

A “short scale bass” only measures 30″ from the bridge to the nut.

Compare that to the standard scale which is out there today, which measures 34″, and you can see why this would be easier to play for those… who aren’t Michael Phelps! 😉

The body style of this bass guitar is modeled after the Fender “Jaguar“, another very famous line of guitars that Fender has made for decades. Notice how the cut is a little more “curvy” than the others we’ve seen so far.

You have three choices of color for this bass also: silver, black or red.

This bass will be a lot more versatile than the two we talked about previously. This is mostly because of the two pickups it has: one from a P-bass, and the other from a “Jazz Bass”.

What’s a jazz bass?? Well, you probably can guess… it’s yet ANOTHER famous Fender bass style (they know how to make winners, don’t they?!).

The jazz bass is one of my favorite basses… Check out my article on them RIGHT HERE to learn more about why!

Because you’re paying a bit more for this Squier bass, you’re backed a lot more by the manufacturer – Fender covers this bass to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for two (2) years from the date of original purchase! That’s the longest warranty on this list, and possibly in the whole industry!!

So if you want a good price AND a bass neck that’s easily within reach, with a company like Fender, you can’t go wrong.

Click this link to learn more!:

4) Yamaha TRBX174 Bass

Another company that has long-standing reputation for dependability and excellence in the music field is Yamaha. They are especially well-known for making great beginner instruments.

You can tell from the design of this Yamaha TRBX174 Bass that they are trying to go head-to-head with the Fender products. They are extremely similar: the shape; the pickups; the control knobs… the price! We just saw much the same on the Fender Jaguar.

The plus side on the Yamaha is that you get more color variationsseven to choose from, instead of three the Jaguar has. They are:

  • “Root Beer”
  • “Red Metallic”
  • “Translucent Black”
  • “Dark Blue Metallic”
  • “Black”
  • “Old Violin Sunburst”
  • “Tobacco Brown Sunburst”

Also, this is the first guitar which you plug the cable into on the bottom SIDE of the guitar, not in a port on the front. I much prefer this design myself, since I don’t like the look of a cable popping out from the face of my guitar. It looks messy and gets in the way, I think, so this Yamaha is my favorite in our list thus far.

You’ll be pleased to know that Yamaha stands behind their products: they give their guitars a limited lifetime warranty on the Top, Back, Sides and Neck.

They also offer a 1-year warranty on the electronics/wiring & hardware (which include the tuners, bridge, nut, and saddle pins).

So there you go – another “can’t-go-wrong-for-the-price” option for your bouncing bass beginner!

5) Ibanez TMB100 Bass

I played for years in a band the guy who had one bass, and one bass only – an Ibanez!

They have made good products for decades also, and they offer dependable quality for all levels of players… including beginners.

The Ibanez TMB100 Bass is a good example of their beginners line of guitars. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but, like the ones we’ve covered so far, it gives you all the basics you need to sound good in a live band context.

I especially like the “Mint Green” color of this model. There are four other colors too, but if I were buying it… I’d be getting this minty freshness in a heartbeat! Lol

We’re back to plugging the cable into the front of the guitar for this bass. Not my favorite look, as I said, but for how cool this overall design is, and for how well it plays (based on all the reviews), I’d probably still buy it.

As Shakespeare said ( or should have): “Beauty maketh our heads to turn!” 😉

Ibanez has also adorned this bass guitar with a similar Jazz and P-bass pickup combination that we saw earlier on the Squire. You’ll see more of this combination. Fender has a huge following… even other manufacturers tip their hat to them!

One benefit Ibanez has over the others, though, is their custom control knobs. Each knob has a top and a bottom that work independently.

The top knob gives you a volume control for each of the two pickups.

The bottom knob allows for 2-band EQ control: the top of the knob boosts or cuts the treble frequencies, and the bottom of the knob boosts or cuts the bass frequency spectrum.

So, for all practical purposes, you actually have four knobs – two for volume, and two for EQ control.

Cool, huh?! That’s better than any bass we’ve seen this far, and it’s because of this richer tonal variety that we can dial in did I would choose this bass as my favorite in the under $200 category.

Here’s a video so you can hear it in action:

Whadja think?? Pretty impressive, right?

It’s amazing how good of an instrument we can get these days for such little money. Whether it’s because of capitalism, advancing factory robotics or some other unknown… who cares?! We just like getting great stuff for less, right?! LoL

Obviously, as we go up in price you start to see little tweaks upward in quality as well. This Ibanez is not the cheapest in our list, but may be the first one yet to offer a pretty professional feel and sound for a lot less than you’d normally pay for a “famous bass”.

If you like the look and sound as much as I do, follow these links to get one into your or your child’s hands in a jiffy. You’ll be glad you did!

6) Squier Affinity Series “PJ” Beginner Pack

Now we come to our second combination deal – a Fender- made bass guitar and bass amp specifically designed and constructed with beginners in mind.

For the third time on our list, we see the P-bass and Jazz bass pickup combination, which is why this bass is called the Squier “PJ” Bass.

Since Fender was the company that designed both of these pickups originally, and since both basses have been hugely popular for decades, well… they’re no dummies. You’ve got to give the people what they want!

The amp, just like we saw before, delivers 15 watts of power. This is just right for a beginner. Unless you or your child starts playing out on live gigs,
no worries.

If and when the time comes when an audience will need to hear this bass, you can simply upgrade to get something with a little more “oomph”.

To get both an instrument AND an amp bearing the legendary Fender name for under $300 is quite a feat. But the company knows that if they put good tools within reach of progressing student musicians, they’ll probably have returning customers for life.

They take the gamble – you reap the benefits!

The reviews for this ensemble were, as is expected for this list, all above 4 stars (4.6 average). Quite a few actually said they gigged with this setup right after it was shipped to them and that it worked great.

As before with the other Fender Squier bass above, you again get that same, awesome “two (2) years from date of original purchase” warranty. Ooooo, the tinglies ya get from just sayin’ that! TWO YEARS!!! Ooooo…. !! LoL

Another hard-to-beat setup for the starting student musician – with a bass, amp, bag, cable and strap all included, once again, you’ll have no reason to buy anything else for a long time.

Do it right the first time and you’ll be helping them be the best they can be right outta the gate.

Here’s your link to for all the pertinent info!

7) Rogue LX200B Bass & Fender Rumble 25 Bass Amp

Okay, so now we come to my last recommendation… and it’s a bit different.

This is the best bass guitar and amp combination on today’s list, so I see this option as more for the experienced musician who is nonetheless starting to learn bass.

This is a fantastic “package deal” for someone who is probably going to be playing out fairly soon, either because they already play other instruments, or perhaps because they have already committed to a group and to playing out live.

That would be brave indeed, but I’ve done it myself and I know I wasn’t the first. It’s always easier to learn other musical instruments once you already can play one.

So if you’re taking up bass, but plan on playing in front of people with it sometime soon, I would get this package.

The bass and the amp are from two different companies. What I did here was put together the best quality bass and amp, at the lowest price I could find. For what’s available on the market right now, I don’t see anything better at the same price, or lower.

The Rogue LX200B Series III Bass Guitar is the first half of this equation. It has really good review ratings (4.6 average stars!), but to make it even better… it’s on sale right now at Guitar Center at just over $100!! Steal of a deal.

This bass sports two pickups, just like the previous four on the list. That versatility, combined with the many ways you’ll be able to change your tone with the EQ on the Rumble amp, gives you wide tonal dexterity, so you’ll be able to play any small venue with other musicians and not get drowned out.

The Fender Rumble 25!

The value in this combination is pretty unbeatable. Another big reason is the Fender Rumble 25 amp – instead of 10 or 15, this amp kicks out 25 watts of power, which is a considerable step up from anything else on this list! It’s the most power I could find at the lowest price from any online merchant.

If you ever want to play for an audience of more than a 100 one day, then you may have to upgrade to a higher wattage amp.

Then again, most sound people prefer that you not get too loud; they like to mic an amp just like this so they have control over its volume, but you still have a monitor to hear yourself play. So this could be the first, and last, amp you’ll ever need!

So, I obviously saved the best deal for last. This bass is currently on sale though, and I don’t know how long Guitar Center will keep it at this price. So if you like to save cash and you need a gig ready bass setup, click both of these links below, put them in your shopping cart, and get ’em delivered before they change the price.

Here’s to you bringing the Boom to the Room at a great gig soon! Don’t forget to invite us!!

Be A First-String Player!

As an addendum to our best of list, let me fill you in on a little industry secret: cheaper guitars always be shipped with very cheap strings.

Because of this, if you want to make any cheap guitar sound better within minutes, just order some good quality strings and put them on. The harmonic content, loudness and sustain will be improved immediately.

Most beginners probably won’t even care about this, but as they progress, and especially if they start playing with others, this is one quick, easy cheap way to sound better without buying more expensive equipment!

Who says girls can’t play bass?!!

Hope this helps you make someone (yourself??) VERY happy by providing them with the bass guitar they’ve been wanting for a while now. Did you find one that’s just right?!

The links above were well-researched, and we believe they really are the Best Bass Guitars For Beginners at the moment (especially that last one!).

So save money; save time; stop shopping and start the playing! These are the best values out there for the big, bad bass!

Let us know how it goes with you, or your student/child, and make sure to check out our bass lessons here at Seriousgas.com. Being a private music instructor myself, I’m all about making proficiency on an instrument as attainable and as easy as possible.

The best music is often made that way. 🙂

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!

How To Buy Music Gear – A Penny Saved Is A Preamp Earned!

a LOT of music money!!

Cha-CHING!

I love the sound of money comin’ my way. Don’t you?!

Every once in a while we really hit the jackpot and a big check comes in from some gig we’ve done in the past that blows most of the others away.

That happened to me this week, so naturally… a new piece of studio equipment is live on my mind! LoL

As I prepared for the purchase this week, I thought I’d share with those of you who don’t do this too often, exactly how to buy music gear.

It’s a fine art to some of us, and its techniques? They hold some real advantages.

Don the Right Superpower!

Ever listen to one of your favorite albums or artists and think, “Man! That sounds so good… they must have music superpowers or something!!”

Well, most of the time, that’s kind of true! It’s only after spending a good amount of time recording music again and again, and trying out gear time after time with myriad settings, that you take on demigod status behind the mixing console.

But it’s also true that the right, specific piece of professional gear WILL improve your sound if all you’ve had up to this point is semi-professional equipment.

I’ll never forget the first time I plugged my AT4050 mic into an Avalon preamp. DUDE!!! It was like I’d never really heard the mic before! At least not that good!!

Best question to ask yourself before any gear purchase is this:

“What is the weakest link in my music chain??”

The answer to that is what you should be spending your money on.

Got a great guitar, but your amp is second-rate?? You know what to do.

Using a top-notch microphone, but running it through a cheap interface?? Time to cut the fluff.

Bought a killer new DW drum kit, but have cymbals that sound like trash can lids? ALL of them??!

Uh, yea… I think you can guess what I’m going to say. Lol

Do a little studio self-introspection before you blow your wad. Then go for the superpower unit that will make you the hero of the airwaves!

Or don’t. I mean… it’s only your reputation on the line, right? 😉

That Sock Under the Mattress…

Whether you keep your money in a bank, Credit Union, old sock, or even under your undies in a drawer somewhere, what really matters when it comes to buying gear is SAVING for what you really NEED.

At any given time of your musical life, you’re going to be in the market for some piece of gear. But learning how to prioritize what to buy next is important.

Take my current situation as an example: I’ve got a lot of great, expensive gear that I record with currently.

I can’t really say I have any “weak spots”, but there ARE some areas where I can certainly improve equipment to an even higher professional level.

So, when those major funds dropped in my lap this past week, I knew exactly where I wanted to funnel some of it…

… a new mic OR a new mic preamp!!

The ones I have now all cost just under a thousand bucks. That means, turn improve my sound, I’m going to have to spend MORE than a thousand bucks.

Now, that’s not always the case; more expensive does not always mean better.

But for the units I’m looking at, it definitely DOES mean that.

To prepare for that purchase, I’ve stashed away $1,500 in one of my accounts that is used only for music gear.

Setting your upper limit of how much you’ll spend is important. At least, it is if you want to live a balanced, responsible lifestyle!

Yea, I’ve known other musicians who lost there apartment from buying a new instrument. I’d just rather not be that guy!! Lol

Remember too, but you don’t always have to have the best equipment. The gear in my studio has gradually gotten better over time. That’s because I’ve spent more only as I’ve earned more.

When I buy new gear, I also sell off old gear much of the time, since I know I won’t be needing it anymore. This is also a good way to keep costs down in the long run.

So yeah, Benjamin Franklin all those wise guys… they know what they’re talking about.

$100 for music gear!
Ben was a secret Pro Audio Gear G.A.S.-er!!

Take the time to SAVE money for the big expenditures, instead of spending it all as soon as you get it on gear that’s not as good.

You’ll thank yourself in the long run… and so will your clients, and employers!!

“Plays Nice With Others… “

There’s another crucial bit of analysis you should do whenever you’re thinking of adding to your Pro Audio arsenal, and that is…

… check for compatibility issues! In other words, will what you buy play nice, like superhero children, with what you already have.

Anyone that has ever dealt with computer DAW software probably has had some experience with other hardware pieces NOT working with it.

Sometimes this is based on how old the computer is.

Sometimes it’s based on how old the software is.

Sometimes it’s based on… God knows what! They just don’t like each other!!!

Few things are more disappointing than spending big bucks I’m gear that ends up not being compatible with what you already own.

I’ve been there. It SUCKS.

Apollo box & Dr Who
Bigger on the inside indeed!!

In fact, when I first bought my Apollo Twin interface (see pick to the left) I got it home only to find out that it would not work.

Why? Because, even though I had two USB 3 ports on my computer which UA said I needed ( I had checked), MY USB 3 ports…

… (are you ready for this?)…

… were the “old kind”. Now, there had been no mention of “types” of USB 3 ports on any website or forum, including UA. Everybody from my sales rep to the service techs thought this should work.

It was only when I sent the head service tech at UA a Belarc Advisor analysis of my computer that he was able to locate why I was having issues.

Guess what I had to do? I had to buy, and install, a brand new USB 3 port card into my computer.

After that, problem solved.

So, yeah, even if you do your due diligence and verify all compatibility issues, you STILL might get caught in the cross hairs of two gear thugs with mechanized vendettas!

But most of the time you won’t. Do yourself a favor: make sure anything you want to buy will play nice with what you have.

If not, hey… there’s lots of playgrounds in the world. 😉

Do Your Legwork

No, I’m not talking about squats and lifts (tho’ those are good for you). I mean put in the requisite research to know what the best piece of gear is for what you need.

Let’s face it: there’re enough variations of music equipment out there to make your drum head spin! So if you don’t do a little investigation up front, you may end up buying something you wish you hadn’t, either because it’s not the right fit, or because there was something better… for less!

Here are the references I consult before I buy every major piece of gear:

  • Online forums
  • Online reviews
  • Manufacturer websites
  • Pro Audio magazines
  • Online blogs
  • Personal sales reps

I use every single one of these just about every time I buy something substantial for the studio. No joke. I demand the very best bang for my buck, and so should you.

So already this week, next to each one of those references listed, concerning my new mic or preamp.

My conversation with Jeff Green, my consultant at Sweetwater sound, was the most enlightening. I keep up on the latest music gear pretty well for this website obviously, but Jeff gave me a couple ideas I had not heard of.

More options?? That’s always a good thing.

So thanks to his insightful recommendations, I now have even more machinery to research, that will all lead to me accomplishing even higher professional music goals.

Doing your homework has never brought better rewards!!

Stick to Your Price Guns… But Don’t Shoot!

This is something that’s not talked about often today in our evolving high-tech world: the role of the audio sales professional.

Waynes World guitar

I’ve worked in the market of pro audio retail (tho’ I never got filmed in “Wayne’s World”!), so I’ve been at the other end of what I’m about to say, and it’s this:

If you take up a ton of time with a sales professional, don’t go give your sale away to some other store or online site just to save a few bucks.

If you did all your research yourself, and didn’t hog anyone’s day to get the insights you needed, than fine – buy your gear anywhere.

But if you have long discussions with a sales professional at a music retailer, either over the phone or in person at their store, have a little respect for them and how hard they worked for you.

Remember, most of these people still work on a commission basis. They don’t get paid unless you buy from them. So if they’ve freely given their informed opinion to you, over a long period of time and/or several visits by you, and done most of the research FOR you…

… have a heart, will ya? Tell ’em the best price you found (that will take some diligence on your part), and give them the chance to match it or come near it.

For me personally, I usually say a difference of “less than fifty bucks” is acceptable if I’ve barraged the sales person with questions.

You’ll have to make your own determination of what’s acceptable to you. I’m just saying… play fair. If a representative has worked hard to earn your business, at least give them the chance.

I mean, they’re probably musicians too. Share the love, my brothers and sisters… SHARE the LOVE!!

Pull That Trigger… on GEAR!!

The free Apollo Plugins!
All the free Apollo Plugins!

After you’ve done all the things listed above, you’re in the perfect position to get a great deal on pro audio equipment that will really up your game, taking not only your music, but your CAREER up to another level.

I did this when I got my Apollo Twin… knowing it was going to come with a TON of truly usable, excellent FREE plugins. LOVED that!!

So, yea… prep for success when you buy for your music. It’s what I do every time. Even… right now, in fact! 😉

Any other things you can think of that could make buying music gear easier for G.A.S. sufferers and trembling players and engineers??

Let us know in the Comments, and if you’ve found any of these things helpful in a recent purchase you’ve made, tell us about that too.

We need more of these stories to tell around the campfire.

When we stop playing guitar, that is.

Then again… I don’t think we ever do, do we??!! LOL

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!

The FabFilter Pro-Q 3, Part 1 – My Favorite Frequency Fetcher!!

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been a dog guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I like cats too. But there’s just something about man’s best friend…

Like how they can fetch! Our pooch Pippin will chase and bring back any number of things. It’s adorable… and fun.

Now if I can only teach him to bring me the headphones! Lol

Whenever I’m tracking or mixing, I also get a lot of practice fetching – FREQUENCIES! More so than any other processing, I’m tweaking with EQs incessantly throughout the recording process.

Which is why it’s crucial to have a good one. A powerful one. One with lots of options, but breeze to use.

Pro-Q 3 to the rescue!!

Enter the FabFilter Pro-Q 3!!

This fabulous plug-in quickly became my favorite when I picked it up last year. It was like finding a restaurant that serves a dish you’ve never had, that’s vaguely familiar but clearly blows away any cuisine you’ve ever had!

Yeah. It’s that good.

Let’s investigate, shall we?!

Recording Wooden Shoes?

The FabFilter company hails from Amsterdam, Holland. Up ’til now there weren’t any Dutch companies that would never spring to mind when the words “pro audio” were uttered, but these bad boys have changed all that. Wooden shoes or not!

The company is fairly young – they first opened their doors in 2002. But their vision-casting, synergizing and trailblazing methods have assured them a top place in the pro audio halls of fame. Not to mention that their small team of around 20 now have an annual revenue of over $4 million!

The reason is clear: their products are amazing! They not only do the job with astounding prowess, but they also look and feel like a whole new world compared to their other old, dusty, “same ol’, same ol” competitor’s products.

I’m not alone in singing their praise either. Virtually every online post and magazine article I’ve read about the FabFilter company has lauded them for the quality, power, and the “WOW!” factor of their graphical user interfaces.

I totally concur with mastering engineer Jeff Sanders, who said this about their products:

“While (others) are busy trying to model hardware, FabFilter is leaving them in the dust by being visionaries.”

Couldn’t have said it better. But let’s not stop there… for an impressive look at just how many industry legends have embraced their innovation, check out this telling vid’ about their 10 year anniversary:

The Q3 Revolution!

FabFilter’s flagship EQ is now in its third iteration. The Q3 plug-in is every bit as revolutionary as it was when it first hit the market…only now with more cutting-edge additions than ever.

Time and again I’ve heard pro audio industry professionals say, “I thought they couldn’t make their stuff better – it was already awesome. But they did!!”

Again, I totally agree. There are so many features and benefits in their software that I don’t find anywhere else, in any of the other manufacturer’s products.

They obviously have some very cool patents up their sleeves!

Pro-Q 3 comparing two separate signals!

The first impression when you open up any of their software is extremely impressive. Their graphical user interface, or GUI, may just be the best in the field, and that goes for pretty much any other plug-ins. But the Q3? It’s especially cutting-edge. Here’s a quick pic to show you what I mean:

Sharp-looking, isn’t it? The shapes, the colors, the spread-out and well-placed menu options… It’s all put together SO well. An award-winning design for sure.

Vid’ me, Baby, One More Time!

As usual here on Seriousgas.com, we’ve produced a lengthy, detailed video for you about much of what the Q3 plug-in offers. It was a pleasure to make, since any time we can be playing with FabFilter plug-ins is a GOOD time!

It’s only “Part One” though. We’ll be doing a “Part Two” video later, to explore some less common options, and to kind of spread out the review a bit for the sake of time.

Britney Spears fan or not, let’s rock this thang!! 😉

Shape It Up!

In this first “Part One” article, we will be mostly covering the basics of the Q3, so to start with… you can’t get more basic than the various EQ curves and shapes that engineers use daily to carve out those perfect, balanced mixes.

Pro-Q 3 types of EQ curves

Here’s the options Q3 provides:

  • Bell
  • Low Shelf
  • Low Cut
  • High Shelf
  • High Cut
  • Notch
  • Band Pass
  • Tilt Shelf
  • Flat Tilt

Except for those last two, we see all that we would expect in a modern-day EQ processor. I can’t think of anything they missed there, can you?!

I find them all to work flawlessly and produce the expected results. The difference is that the Q3 does it style and panache that I’ve not seen on any other software platform.

All controls you’d expect on a completely parametric EQ are there. When you engage each cut or boost, however, they each are shaded a different color, such that when you finally interact completely EQ’d a track completely, it can end up quite resembling piece of modern art… and a piece that looks wicked sweet at that.

The main controls for each EQ point enabled.

In fact, that gives me an idea… I think I actually will print out a large color poster of my vocal track running through the Q3. I can hang it in my studio and sign it at the bottom. Cuz, ya know… It IS me! Lol

Tilting at Sound Mills

Let’s examine those bottom two EQ shapes that are NOT usually found on most EQs: the “Tilt” functions.

They’re interesting, new twists on cutting & boosting that I’m curious to use in the future and see if I can find some cases any of my mixes where this kind of processing would be appropriate.

Both the “Flat” and the “Shelf” functions share the same basic method – there’s a center frequency of your choice, and on either side of it, all the frequencies, up to the high and low boundaries of human hearing, are cut on one side and boosted on the other.

The FLAT Tilt option

So, because of how the tilt is shaped, the only time I see the appropriate for mixing would be when you’re middle frequencies are pretty dialed in, but you notice that the highs and lows need some adjustment, specifically, diametrically opposed directions. Because this function is broad, you’ll have to be careful though.

Still, I love it when a company innovates new options for us to have at our disposal. “Can’t hurt, might help”, right?!

There are two ways I plan on using it soon: first, I’ll use it whenever I record some percussion. This will necessarily need to occupy a small section of the EQ band, so the shelf tilt should be just the ticket.

The SHELF Tilt option

Second, when I have the right psychotropic song for it (LOL), I plan on automating it so it’ll sweep through frequencies like a wah pedal in real time. If my idea is correct, it should produce a pretty cool sound that I’ve never been able to try before with any EQ in this precise shape.

Creative effects – I love ’em!!

In a nutshell, if you need very BROAD tonal sculpting of the highs and lows, then the tilt function might provide just the uneven floor you’re looking for!

Collisions – Oh, How it Hertz!

The “Frequency Collisions” monitoring parameter that the Q3 provides. I find to be extremely useful and a real time saver.

Imagine you’ve recorded a clean electric guitar on one track, and a synth rhythm track on another (like I did video above). They’re both occupying the same general area of the midrange, so you know you’re going to have to tonally separate them a bit for the sake of clarity in your mix.

Areas of frequency collisions in RED.

Well, with the Q3, you won’t have to spend time finding where the two tracks overlap tonally – an obvious stripe of red in the waveforms will tell you exactly where you have coinciding fundamental frequencies.

I love this, ‘cuz within seconds I can cut and boost a bit on both tracks, in opposite frequency ranges, and voila… they’re instantly occupying their own little zone. No muss, no fuss. Quick and easy, it’s DONE.

Even while I’m tracking, I always leave this function on. Why? ‘Cause when I reach MIX time, all the instruments are pretty much already portioned off, ‘cuz I did it on the fly because it made the collisions so obvious.

This ends up saving a ton of time and helps get that next single that much quicker.

And isn’t that what we… always want?! 😉

Spotlight, Please!

Now here’s a feature that I didn’t find talked about much by anyone, but that I find a killer creativity boost – the “Solo” button that’s there every time you click a new EQ adjustment point!

The headphone icon points the way. Whenever you click on that, it will turn red, giving you a visual indication that you’re now in “solo mode”, but ONLY for that particular EQ band or frequency.

Way cool. It’s another way that the Q3 gives me something I’ve never had on another EQ plugin.

It’s quite a weird feature, but I really like it, and it’s in part why I’m using Q3 almost exclusively for EQ-ing now.

The reason comes from answering this question: on any instrument that we record that occupies the mid-range at all, don’t we, many times, want it to sound different from how it does naturally?

Of course! Sometimes, dramatically so, right?

Well, now, thanks to these “Solo buttons”, you can quickly and easily experiment with a bunch of options, and often… create a dramatic change that proudly occupies your final mix!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Bring forward your Q3 on any individual track.
  2. Click to create 3 or 4 different adjustment points, at different places.
  3. Start playing your full mix.
  4. Click the solo headphone button on each of the adjustment points to audition each one!

What you’ll end up hearing is that particular instrument reduced to 3 or 4 small slices, or “spotlights”, of the EQ Spectrum, with all the rest of its natural sound cut out.

El Gtr cuts on Q3

It’s like processing a vocal to make it sound like a telephone voice; you’re taking away a large portion of its natural sound to make it sound UNnatural, because sometimes… that’s just the thing to make your mix fresh!

As you “demo” that single instrument in those 3 or 4 (or more!) ways, you’ll know if any of those instant variations give the mix a standout surprise lift. If none of them do, no worries… just delete the adjustment points and you’re none the worse for taking less than a minute to try something off the beaten path.

‘Cause we all know… that’s sometimes where GOLD is buried!! 😉

It’s Freezin’ in Here!!

If you open the “Analyzer” menu, which is found just to the right of the middle bottom of the plugin, you’ll see a button all the way to the left that looks like a snowflake. Get on your AC/DC wool cap, baby, ‘cuz you just found…

… the “Analyzer Freeze” function!!

Engaging this button will cause the spectrum to stop falling as the signal plays. Instead, you will see it build up “frequency maximums” of measurements and freeze them into a floating “glacier of sound” over time.

“I’m Mr. FREEZE-Meister… !!”

If you happen to forget whether it’s on or not, just check the button: if it’s enabled, there’ll be a blue line on the left side of the button.

I find this is helpful if I want to find quickly where an annoying frequency is within a signal. The strongest, highest peaks will often reveal the culprit so, again, in just a few seconds of playback, another problem is solved.

Can this plugin get any better??!! I doubt it, but I’m sure they’ll prove us wrong again when Q4 comes out! Lol

Dan the Man!

I can’t describe my relationship with FabFilter products without including one of the major advantages the company has given to us, its happy consumers, and that is…

… the Dan Worrall videos!

A renowned sound engineer from Sheffield, England, Dan produces all the plug-in tutorials for FabFilter, and they are and the best I’ve ever seen. His calming, pleasant voice and informed yet easy demeanor makes every video produces a true pleasure to experience.

I’m not surprised though. When I saw on his “LinkedIn” profile HERE that he also produces content for “Sound On Sound” magazine… I was instantly hooked – that is my number one, top, favorite pro audio magazine in the industry!

Not only does he do a thorough job of explaining all the FabFilter plug-ins, he’s also quick to point out how he himself uses them in the studio, and on the latest music that he’s tracked or mixed.

Comparing a Wurlitzer with a PRS Electric!

He must also be one of the most private people I’ve ever come across in music, ‘cuz I can’t find a single picture of him online… anywhere.

These days? THAT’S a major feat!!

Even if you don’t have the FabFilter products yet, I bet you’ll still find his videos engaging, educational and subscribe-worthy. If you DO have any of their plug-ins though, you’re going to want to take his training. I mean, come on… It’s free for heaven’s sake! And better than most you’ll see!

So go lift some spaceships with the “Yoda” of pro audio (Just call him “Yodio”!),Dan the man! Find all his FabFilter tutorials HERE.

No Regrets!!

For those who still want to know more (“More… MORE, I tell you!”), feel free to take your quivering G.A.S. pangs over to THIS Q3 MANUAL to investigate further this exceptional bit of pro audio coding.

Or, to investigate their full line of amazing plug-ins (ALL of which I’ve purchased!), browse through the FabFilter Website Here.

Already own the FabFilter Pro-Q 3? Used it in your own music?? Share the processing love and drop us a line in the Comments. We especially like to hear creative ways fellow audio artisans have used different functions for outrageously sweet results!

If you don’t have Q3 yet, I’m just gonna say what hundreds already have…

… just buy it! In light of how so many of us love their products, if you wait you’ll just be kicking yourself later!

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!

Equipment For Nothin’ – When We Hit the Motherlode!

Anybody swapping, buying or trading gear long enough is familiar with “The Throw-in“.

You know: you go to pick up a piece of gear and the sales person, or the owner of the piece, says:

“Tell ya what… if you buy this today, I’ll THROW IN these pics… or this cover… or 5 sets of strings, or… “

Waynes World guitar

See… told ya you’d know what I’m talkin’ about!

Sometimes, even more expensive assets like “this case”, “these cables” or “these software programs” might surprisingly come into the transaction. That’s a real stroke of luck.

A moment of silence please for my dearly departed.

But every once in a while, you reeeeeally hit the motherload. bgthat are just unheard of… but true!

Like the lucky guy who got my Mesa Boogie Mark IV amp in pristine condition for only $350, because I was about to go on tour in Europe in TWO DAYS and needed to sell it FAST to cover my air fare.

Yea. He was that lucky.

But I can’t complain, ‘cuz I’ve hit the jackpot a couple times myself. Lemme tell ya ’bout this one time…

The Fateful Ad

One, fine, lucky summer day I happened upon an ad in CraigsList that had only been published 2 hours previous. It was a holiday weekend, when most people were off on vacation somewhere. I had chosen to stay home and work in the studio.

What can I say? Music is my life. lol

Anyway, this ad showed an unbelievable treasure trove of musical goods. A virtual cornucopia of spilling melodic tools and accouterments! A frugal musician’s DREAM!!!

I quickly emailed with my cell phone number immediately, saying I was going to be passing by their way in about an hour and we could do the deal if they were home.

Within the hour I got a phone call from the owner. She said the stuff belonged to her dad who has long lived in Florida and he had told her “You can go ahead and get rid of it”. She also said she was home and an hour would be fine.

Murmuring “Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy…!” and “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe this! I can’t…” out loud as I threw my stuff together for the trip, and getting my son to join me to help haul in the catch, we were soon making the 45-minute trip south to the end of the rainbow where our musical, magical treasure chest would be opened to us!

The Grand Unveiling!

When I got there, the kind woman led me to the garage in the back, hauled the door open and revealed a kind of wool shed/workshop that they had turned their garage into. No room for cars, that was for sure, but there was some music equipment!

Here’s what she showed me:

The Austin AU962 Tele-style guitar
The Austin AU962 Tele-style guitar

  1. A Telecaster-type ELECTRIC GUITAR, with extra coil-tapping knob, in perfect condition
  2. An acoustic-electric BASS guitar, in perfect condition
  3. A 50-watt Rocktron combo AMP for the electric, in perfect condition
  4. A50-watt Crate combo AMP for the bass, in perfect condition
  5. A hard-shell CASE for the bass, in perfect condition
  6. A soft-shell CASE for the electric guitar, in perfect condition
  7. Two Fender Vintage Voltage 10-foot guitar cables

We talked a little more about her father, what music he used to play when he was still up in Michigan, and how he enjoys it to this day.

Crate Bass amp Close up
The Crate Bass amp!

As we spoke I was checking the gear out. I plugged the guitar into the amp, Then the bass into its amp. Everything appeared to be working, though there was some noise and crackling.

The woman thought that perhaps the amps were broken because of all the crackling, but I knew it was probably due to just old cables, and that with a little “Deoxit” I could have ‘em sounding good in no time.

The Great Haggle!

Galveston bass front
The Galveston Bass!

Once I had played through everything, I stood up and got my wallet out.

The lady had asked in the ad for $200 for everything, if you can believe that. I managed to convince her, because of all the noise that had come out of the amps, to let me have the whole shebang for $180 though.

What can I say – I’m a shameless haggler! Lol

She acquiesced, and my son and I commenced loading all our newfound treasures into the back of our SUV.

Now, I probably don’t have to tell you that $180 is about what you’d have to pay to buy ONE NEW GUITAR CASE. Instead, here I was, winning the gear lottery for the same amount of money. Unbelievable!!

The Recycling of Dreams

Upon getting back home, I found that the amps were fine. The cables, as I had suspected, had some shorts in them. A quick swap for some of my good cables, and I was off to the races!

The Wolfie with the R50C
The Rocktron R50C that came with the “package deal”!

The amps I found to be actually very usable, but only for some pretty specific purposes. They had more of a metal or hard-core kind of sound that I’m not that into, though they were in great condition.

So I did what any G.A.S.-suffering musician would do: I traded them for cash at a local music shop!!

Music-Go-Round, here in Detroit, specializes in used music gear, so my buddy Chris there hooked me up with fair market value on each of the amps.

With that money, I was able to pick up a great new hollow-body jazz guitar that I’d also seen on Craigslist. I still have that fine guitar to this day and it still sounds great!

Both the AUSTIN TELECASTER GUITAR and the GALVESTON ACOUSTIC BASS I kept. They are very usable, quality additions to my axe arsenal and work well for recording too, as their intonation is spot on.

I’d say that’s a great example of a win-win situation, wouldn’t you?!

Staying Open

Here at Seriousgas.com, we’re all about making music gear dreams come true, so the moral of the story is this…

No matter how much money you have, or don’t have, if you know specifically what you’re looking for, and stay open to God, the universe or whatever you believe in to give it to you…

… it just might happen. 😉

Do you have outrageous gear finds?? Have you experienced unbelievable music gear deals??! Did you snag your latest favorite piece through some highly unexpected or hilarious scenario??!! Let us know in the Comments. We just LOVE a good gear story!!!

Now, go… make… sounds!!!

Teaj

The Takamine EC-132C Classical Guitar – The Timeless Taste Of Classic Tone!!

The first time I knew I had to have a classical guitar, I was listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

I played it incessantly (through headphones, of course!), and with all the lights off except for the dim glow of the stereo dial. It was magic!

The Wall had classical guitar
Love that Gilmour classical guitar!!

The song “Goodbye Blue Sky” was mesmerizing to me. That gentle, centuries-honored sound of a classical, played expertly by David Gilmour, just drew me in!

So the fact that I ended up with a Takamine EC132C Classical Guitar is no accident. I needed a great classical guitar so I could do those songs myself!

Nylon strings are sometimes just the ticket, when a steel string guitar is just a little too brazen for the song at hand.

Later, I also heard and learned to play other transcendent classical songs:

  • The Beatles’ “And I Love Her
  • Rush: “The Trees
  • Van Halen: “Spanish Fly“!!

That last one, of course, was like the cherry on top of the sundae, Eddie blew all of our minds with that one. And it was also the hardest song I’d ever learned up to that point. We’re talkin’ major woodsheddin’ to get that one down!!

Heck, because of my French class in college, I even studied the classical songs of “The Singing Nun”, a French musician who actually had a hit here in the States called “Dominique” (to my knowledge the only French song ever to make U.S. radio).

Whatever peaks your interest about the Takamine classical, there’re worlds of musical options to discover that this guitar can bring to life, with panache, class and captivating depth.

Let’s see what makes her so special, shall we?!

Guitar of the Rising Sun

In the town of Sakashita, at the foot of towering Mount Takamine in central Japan, a small family-run instrument workshop opened in 1959 that would later take the world by storm.

The company was named after the mountain itself, and just like that landscape behemoth, Takamine has, over the last five decades, become a titan in the world of stringed instrument design and manufacture. Read their FULL HISTORY HERE

Bruce Springsteen playing Takamine
(Photo: Becker1999 https://bit.ly/2CUfboS)

Since that inauspicious beginning, there are many well respected and renowned guitarists of the modern era who have played, and continue to play, Takamine guitars. Here’s just a few:

Bruce Springsteen

Jon Bon Jovi

Bruno Mars

Don Henley

Toby Keith

Paul Jackson Jr

Garth Brooks

Whatever they’re doing, they must be doing it right – the number of their guitars selling is rising higher than ever. Check out their whole line of acoustic & classical guitars on THEIR WEBSITE HERE to see examples of why.

I, for one, can give you a personal reason why: my Takamine classical guitar has never let me down in any way, after 20 years of being under my fingers, on many stages, many times.

That kind of quality and longevity just doesn’t happen. It’s designed, and meticulously executed, by craft-savvy artisans who, day after day, apply their skills to make sound history.

Now let’s see how they set up a particular guitar’s history… mine!

Got a Show?? Play a Pro!

The Takamine EC-132C is part of their “Pro Series“, and it shows. My own pick of this model was created in Japan in January of 1998, the same year I bought it new at Guitar Center.

Pimenny, our cat, is a big fan of the EC132C!

It was the 905th guitar made that month, according to the serial number which is always found on a badge on the neck block inside the instrument. If you look just below the truss rod adjustment port you’ll see it.

Here’s a brief rundown of its main features:

  • Body Shape: Classical Cutaway
  • Rosette: Marquetry
  • Top: Spruce
  • Back: Rosewood
  • Sides: Rosewood
  • Finish: “Natural” Gloss
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Bracing: Fan
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Frets: 19
  • Strings: Nylon, tied at bridge
  • Electronics: Takamine Graph-Ex preamp
  • Tuners: Gold Classic
  • Nut Width: 2.008″ (51 mm)
  • Scale Length: 650 mm

If you’re not familiar with a classical guitar, the two big main differences are:

  1. The strings are made of nylon, not steel. They’re much softer so the guitar sounds gentler.
  2. All strings are tied, using knots, to the bridge. No strings have a ball end, like on a steel-stringed guitar.

Classicals tend to all look about the same: simple and elegant with all the attention on the sound of the instrument.

This model does sport a beautifully-detailed rosette around the sound hole though, so there’s at least some hint of ‘fashion’.

Oh, and the tuners all have gold trim, so, yea, that looks pretty sweet too.

But at the end of the session… we all know what’s important. It’s the sound, baby, the sound. So let’s address that next…

More Nylon, Please!

Since there’s nothing like actually hearing an instrument you’ve got serious G.A.S. for, we thought we’d make your sickness even worse by showing exactly how this girl struts her classy stuff in the studio today.

As usual, I recorded the Takamine with five mics, plus a D.I. You’ll hear all five mics, panned as seen below, in the video recording. The D.I., also as usual, didn’t make the cut. It just doesn’t sound at all as wonderful as this guitar’s natural, “in-the-air” sound.

The only processing I put on this recording is a little plate reverb to glue all the mic signals together. Otherwise, you’re hearing just the Takamine in all her glory. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

Here’s what the final Pro Tools layout looked like:

Alright, well, if you’re ready… just sit back, put on your headphones and enjoy this gentle ride.

But a word of caution – you may need a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from your brow. Once a classical nips at your heart…you’re never the same again.

“I’ve got a fever… and the only prescription… is MORE NYLON!!!” LoL

WOOD-n’t You Know it!

The c132c BACK SIDE

With all the restrictions that are placed on Rosewood these days, I feel extremely lucky to have a guitar that’s made with so much of it.

I confirmed with Tom from Takamine U.S.A. that the back and sides of this Takamine classical are both made of
East Indian Rosewood, which is beautiful and toneworthy.

Brazilian Rosewood is considered the top of the line, but it’s almost impossible to get that wood because of trade restrictions.

In 1992 the CITES treaty strictly banned the its exportation. Today you can only get it under TWO conditions:

  1. It was harvested & exported prior to the CITES ban, or
  2. It was harvested from trees that fell over naturally.

In both cases you’ll need a certificate of provenance to prove you didn’t snag it illegally, and those are not easy to come by! Get the whole story IN THIS ARTICLE.

The reason Rosewood is so desirable, for back and sides specifically, is because it’s a hard & dense wood that reflects sound very well – which is of course the most important duty of those pieces on a guitar. A solid rosewood back, especially, really projects and enhances the sonic brilliance of any guitar.

Rosewood characteristically helps produce a clear, crisp, ringing tone.

The Spruce top on this classical guitar is no slouch either though. It’s often what you find as the top soundboard for high-end (read “high price tag”) boutique guitars.

THIS “MIKE FRANKS” HANDMADE STEEL-STRING ACOUSTIC that I had made according to my specifications, for example, has an Adirondack Spruce top. It sounds perfect to me, in every way. A clear, strong, well-balanced voice, with plenty of dynamic range.

Spruce. It does a (guitar) body good. 😉

The neck on this beauty is mahogany, and features a dual action truss rod. This is handy for making sure the guitar plays perfectly in any environment, tho’ I’m quick to say… I’ve never needed to adjust it once for playability reasons. Not ever.

Twenty years later, it still sounds, and plays, like only dream wood can!

Your Biggest Fan!

Parallel bracing under the soundhole.

Every great guitar starts with a great, resonant design. Since acoustic guitars have been around for a few hundred years now, there’s a pretty clear consensus of what is necessary to make one that offers excellent frequency response and impressive dynamic content.

The EC132C pays homage to traditional classical instruments and follows closely to the drawings of Antonio Torres, a Spanish luthier of the 1800s that has been hailed as “the most important Spanish guitar maker of the 19th century.”

One of the most important ways they stayed true to his design is that they incorporate “parallel fan bracing” into the guitar (where the struts run in the same direction as the strings), rather than “ladder bracing” (which uses braces perpendicular to the strings).

Where the wooden struts are placed, and how, under the soundboard of a guitar, are crucial to an instrument producing a pleasing sound and being able to reproduce the frequency spectrum evenly, or at least pleasantly.

Going with the tried and true layout of a historically-respected master luthier is one obvious reason why this classical guitar has been a best-seller for decades.

Inner bracing of the Takamine classical guitar
My Takamine uses SIX vertical struts under the soundhole.

I dove my guitar mirror down inside my Takamine to see the exact strut layout. You can see in the picture to the right what I found: struts running parallel to the strings. This is a derivation of true fan bracing, where the struts sweep in an arc, like a peacock tail.

The picture above, showing “parallel bracing”, is exactly how the struts are placed in mine, the exception being there’s only SIX struts there instead of seven.

All that to say Takamine has obviously kept to the truism “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This guitar has consistently put out excellent sound, and thus wonderful music, and that is why it’s been a successful product for them for decades.

The EC132C was made, virtually unchanged, for over two decades now. That kind of longevity without any modification is a true testament to its craftsmanship and popularity.

Electric Dreams

Graph-EX electronics

Most classical guitars are made to be played with no amplification built in. The EC-132C, however, does have electronics on board, called the “Graph-EX preamp”, and it has worked flawlessly for me right up to today. Since I perform a lot live, I knew I’d need an electric-acoustic, not just a great “body sound” for mics.

That’s not to say that I like the sound of its electronics. I actually don’t. This guitar only sounds truly warm and alive to me when it’s mic’ed up and its ambient clarity is captured via a nice large-condenser mic capsule.

Now, I’ve used this guitar live many times, and most times I’ve just plugged into the electronics. That’s because it’s almost always what the sound person prefers. By plugging in, they don’t have to deal with feedback.

Plus, back at the soundboard, they can give it a good going over with their channel EQ to make it sound better than what’s coming straight out of my preamp.

Takamine Graph-EX info

These days, however, the preamp has changed. If you buy one of these today you’ll get the “CoolTube (CTP-3)” preamp. I’ve heard that it’s better than mine, and I’m not surprised – it’s twenty years younger!!

Takamine’s latest electronics – the CoolTube!!

Here’s what today’s preamp will give you:

  • a low-voltage tube to warm the sound
  • 3-band EQ
  • Semi-parametric midrange
  • Auxiliary input & volume
  • Onboard chromatic tuner
  • Notch knob for precision cutting of feedback frequencies
  • PItch knob for overall tuning adjustment

This “Cool Tube” preamp actually uses a real low-voltage vacuum tube in the gain stage that warms up the sound quite a lot, and it’s got its own knob so you can judiciously sculpt just the right sound with just a few twists of your fingers.

A nice feature of these “Cool Tube” electronics is that it includes a second pickup port, ready to go, in case you want to add another guitar pickup, like a soundhole pickup or a top-plate transducer. You can then blend this 2nd pickup in with the on-board electronics for a much more, complex and varied tonal spectrum.

I would definitely do this, as it would be similar to what my favorite songwriter, Bruce Cockburn, uses in his internal setup. Other acoustic masters like James Taylor & Paul Simon do similar things as well.

The other really cool thing (I wish I had this on mine!) is the Pitch button, which provides an overall pitch adjustment for the tuner. It allows you to offset the pitch center of the open strings buy a few cents up or down.

This is fantastic if you have to play with an actual piano! They can often be just a little bit out of tune… usually flat. Given this, the ability to program the on-board tuner to coincide with that dip in tuning is extremely helpful when playing live.

Your All-Access Pass!

One big reason I chose this specific model is because I wanted the cutaway profile high on the neck.

I often like to play above the 12th fret, so I need the access that a cutaway provides. It makes all the difference when you’re trying to get all your fingers moving fast in those tight, small frets up there!

Whether you’re constructing chords, or swimming fast and furious just above the soundhole diving board, having this cutaway for your hand comes in so… well, HANDY. In fact, at least half the guitars that I own all have this cutaway design.

I also appreciate this style of cutaway. It’s more like a flat cliff ledge, which means I’ve got nothing hitting the back of my hand when I’m up there. Some other guitars have a lot more of a “horn” there, even though it’s scooped out, and you end up hitting the back of your hand on it. I like Takamine’s take on this much better.

If you don’t make it up above the 12th fret much, then it’s a feature not so important for you. But don’t worry – there’s plenty of other things to love about this guitar that make it the perfect fit. 😉

No GPS for This Guit’-Trip!

One trippy little thing that you have to know about most classical guitars is that they do not provide (typically) any fret markers of any kind.

No neck markers on this Takamine

No circles, bars or birds line the fretboard, and no dots are there to help you know your location or position on the neck.

Because of this, if you’re a beginner you may find playing a guitar like this more difficult. There’ll be no “cheat dots” to help you know where you are.

Sean Barret playing the Takamine EC132C

Add to that the fact that a classical neck is much wider than a steel-string guitar (51mm instead of the slimmer 42mm!), And you got what could that mean some serious challenges to your guitar chops!

Once you’ve practiced enough though, and put enough years of playing guitar behind you that neck positions are easily familiar and you don’t even have to look at the neck when you play, then a guitar like this is a beautiful thing.

My good friend and sometimes contributing author here at Seriousgas.com, Sean Barrett, knows this all too well. He’s once placed second in an international classical guitar competition and is VERY well-acquainted with any & all guitar necks. No dots needed!!

Like anything, it’s all a matter of practice. Just know going into it though that these differences are present and, depending on your experience, they will affect your technique and overall approach to finger positioning.

A Bob Dylan of Guitars!

Finally, let me talk a little bit about why I like having a classical guitar, regardless of what brand it is.

A classical guitar can bring extraordinary emotion and depth to musical storytelling. This is how I like to use it most of the time.

It’s like having a Bob Dylan in a box – it lends itself so expertly to weaving an interweaving a storyline that captivates and draws in any ear that happens to listen!

The sound of a classical guitar is very human… very organic-sounding. It intensifies and brings to life narrative lyric writing like no other instrument except piano.

If you’ve got a great story to tell, with intriguing characters, engrossing action and unpredictable plot, consider performing it on a classical guitar. It just might make the song more attractive to the average listener.

I’ve written many songs on classical, and I consider them among my best – I perform them consistently in my solo gigs, where I sing forth word-films and lyric-pictures to the audience, accompanied by my favorite axes… of which the Takamine is always one.

To give you some idea of its power, take a listen to a couple of my favorite classical songs below. I find them magnetically captivating.

This first one is “Romance Anónimo”. You probably have heard this and just don’t know it. Check out this video of Christina Sandsengen playing it for an “Oh, yea!” revelation:

This is another favorite of mine that I hope to learn one day (when I’m not making my own material!) is “Afro-Cuban Lullaby”. This is a great version of it by Hilary Field, a very gifted guitar player:

New Lullabies Await!

That Afro-Cuban piece is the bomb, isn’t it?! Can’t wait to learn it!!

My Takamine has inspired me over the years though to write many of my own lullabies and story songs. I’m sure you’ll find the same to be true when you have a good instrument like this on your lap. I find it enlivens the imagination, with enveloping harmonic richness that can only positively inspire your songwriting!

If you’re a performing musician who needs a smooth, calming sound for Latin, jazz, classical or even folk/pop, a classical guitar can be just the temperate ticket.

And if that gentle sound needs to be amplified, say, above other louder instruments like electric guitar, drums, bass and the like, the Takamine EC-132C Classical Guitar has been an up-front winner in classic tone for decades!

Takamine has finally discontinued the EC132C, but not really… they’ve just upgraded with a few modifications! Their most affordable comparable option now is the Takamine GC5CE. It fills the gap quite well, with some very nice improvements:

Now, the true successor to the EC that I have, according to Tom from Takamine, is the TC132SC. It priced in the middle of the three I’ll list here.

It looks, and probably sounds, a lot like mine, but it does have a Cedar top, not the Spruce top like mine.

If you’re like me and prefer the Spruce top, for a more high-end, professional tone, the Takamine TC135SC is their best option right now – an exceptional guitar with a Spruce top and Rosewood back and sides, just like the classic that I play!:

If you join me and Pimenny our cat in taking on a Takamine classical, tell us all about it in the Comments. It helps others who are weighing this guitar and ones like it as potential additions to their sound arsenal.

The EC132C & Pimenny closeup CARTOONED

Or maybe you already own one?! Tell us about that as well. After all, it’s pretty clear all we do all day is talk about music gear here, so… you’re in good company!!

Now, go… make… (classical!) sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!