The DIY Musician – Why You & Captain Marvel Have A Lot In Common!!

Captain-marvel

I love space.

Anything to do with it, really.

Which is why, when any film comes out that deals with space, my gravity-bound butt will be in a seat watching it! Lol

Yesterday, my family and I saw “Captain Marvel“. Great film! Powerful superhero! Lots of Marvel backstory explanations!

Perhaps most impressive though, is that the hero discovers what needs to be done, then decides to do it… all by herself.

The DIY musician takes on the same mission every day. We might not be saving worlds or lives like Carol Danvers, but our adversaries are also strong and relentless:

  • Apathy
  • Confusion
  • Uncertainty
  • Indulgence
  • Scarcity
  • Distraction
  • Inadequacy
  • Lack

It takes superhero courage and skill to conquer those things that stand in opposition to our craft. To our success. To our legacy.

But there are many advantages to be gained. If we, like Captain Marvel, pick up the gauntlet and rise to the challenge, we will ‘save the world’ in a myriad of musical ways.

Let’s see how… !

You Try More

First off, when you’re in a certain industry, it’s very beneficial for you to become acquainted with all the instruments and tools that are made for your career field.

Especially in music, no one can possibly play or know them all. There’re thousands!!

But we can keep our ear to the ground, and our eyes open… perusing the catalogs, scanning the stage gear, reading the music blogs (not-so-subtle plug!) and always being ready to apply the latest technologies to our private disciplines.

In the new Captain Marvel film, our hero discovers a VERY powerful piece of tech, that shall have profound ramifications for ALL superheroes soon enough.

Does she run from it? Does she destroy it? No. She places it where she thinks it shall be put to best use.

When was the last time you tried some new gear? And I don’t just mean a new model something you already have; I’m talking a piece of hardware, or software, that you’ve never tried before?!

Putting yourself out on a limb with something new can be daunting, but it’s also extremely exciting!! Plus, it could usher in a whole new chapter of skill development that you never knew you’d even be interested in.

So no matter how long you’ve been doing music, always stay open to the latest developments. It’s never too late to take out a new skill, and if you’re going the DIY route, you have to wear a lot of hats.

So try ’em on. Know your options. Know what’s out there.

Chances are, you’ll look super stylish!! 😉

You Buy More

The right tool for the job.

There’s a reason why that phrase is so ubiquitous. Ever try to complete a project with materials and tools that were second-rate? Or even not have them at all??

Not only can it take four times the effort and time, it often means the project never gets finished at all.

There’s a scene in “Captain Marvel” where she “buys” some materials necessary for her to construct a communications device.

Well, at least she gets them from a store, I’ll leave it at that. Lol

Over the decades of being a professional musician, I’ve seen first-hand how the right tool can launch you to higher heights.

A dependable, well-intonated guitar.

A keyboard synth with a broad range of patches, both old and new.

Recording software, that not only makes everything sound better, but makes everything more efficient to boot.

A microphone that makes your voice sound the most amazing!

All of these things, and many more, are products that upped my game, helped me reach many musical goals, and continue to help me reach professional sounding mixes again and again.

So never hesitate to buy what you need to reach a goal.

Waynes World guitar

If money is short, buy things used on Craigslist or eBay.

Or do what I did in the 90s: go work for a music store where you can buy everything at cost. That one decision alone saved me thousands of dollars on audio gear, and is the biggest reason why I was able to put out my first album.

In the end, the DIY musician does whatever it takes to get the right tools for the job. Our reputation is carved in sound, and that sound is only as good as its weakest transducer.

So buy more! But buy well. Better to have one excellent piece of gear, than three mediocre ones. It’ll cost more, but will always be worth it.

Oh, and if you currently have no idea WHAT to buy to get your music out to the world, check out THIS HOME STUDIO POST that explains it all. It’s so easy these days, every musician should do it!

You Know More

guitar behind the curtain

No one understands your music better than you.

But it’s also true that you haven’t yet discovered all that you are capable of.

The more time and effort we invest in music, the farther back an interesting curtain is pulled…

  • Self-realization
  • Personal style
  • Preferred techniques
  • The deeper meaning you ultimately want your art to express.

In following what she feels made to be, Captain Marvel uncovers surprising things about herself. Her inner amalgam of hunches, memories and historical facts give her insight that no other human has. Just like us… she’s unique in vision, and skill.

While avoiding spoilers, I’ll simply say she knows more about her true self when the movie ends, because she was relentless about pursuing “the right thing to do” in light of what she discerned by “trusting her gut”.

Let Your True Self Out!

It’s only when we pursue our craft and our passions relentlessly that we truly know the full scope of who we are.

You Practice More

Any musician who has ever played live knows that, when you have an upcoming gig, you practice more and practice better.

Drummer Brad Giaimo

… or you’re going to suck.

I mean, come on – you’re going to be up in front of a lot of people playing your instrument, and you’re either going to do it justice…

I think we all know which is preferable. 😉

Captain Marvel doesn’t have a full understanding of her powers in this film; she doesn’t know for sure if she can defeat an enemy alone.

But she practices. A LOT. And not in a mamby-pamby way either… she goes FULL BORE in her space ‘dojo’ against other soldiers.

It’s ’cause she knows what’s at stake.

But she also has an inkling, a subtle feeling, that there is more in her than even she has ever seen.

Then, later in the film, having discovered that something important needs to be done, she sets out to do it, trusting that her training is enough for the task at hand.

The do-it-yourself musician has goals, not excuses: she takes on gigs. He puts out singles. She creates soundtracks. He scores music for hire contracts. She writes another hit!

Avis try harder ad

The Avis Rent-A-Car company became famous in the 60s for their “We Try Harder” commercials. The ad campaign was so successful, it continued all the way up to 2012!!

People respect, and are inspired by, those whose work ethic is clearly above the norm. That’s why we all gather round to watch the Olympics. We know what it took to get there.

With superhero stamina, a successful DIY musician sets out on the plan of action they’ve devised, and doesn’t stop until that mission is complete.

So keep practicing. Keep training. And play out. Record in. Send up your social media fireworks showing how hard you’re working.

And don’t stop simply… trying harder!

You Produce More

With rare exception, here’s another thing I’ve discovered about producing music by yourself: you can actually get a finished product out faster when others are not in the equation!

When I think back on all the times that I let others mix my products, one thing becomes clear: too often, in the time it took for me to explain what I wanted, I could already have done it myself.

Mixing music

Now that I am trained in tracking, mixing, and even mastering recently, I no longer have to wait for anybody. My product launch is totally in my hands. I now have everything it takes to put out song, after song, after song.

And wouldn’t you know it – that’s exactly what I’m doing!

These are exciting days for me, ‘cuz I’m finally seeing a lot of musical dreams come to fruition. The biggest reason?? I’m producing it myself, exactly the way I want it, and not being stuck in “standby” due to others holding me back.

This may be the biggest endorsement for being a DIY musician. I’m so glad I didn’t limit myself by listening to that voice that said “But there’s so many others better than you at that!”

Even Captain Marvel in her film ends up accomplishing more, in a short time, that hundreds of others have tried to accomplish over many years.

Why? Because she said, “I can do this.”

Why shouldn’t you say the same? 😉

You Master More

Everyone has a breakthrough point.

You never know when it will be, or why, but when it happens… you know it!

Captain Marvel has an obvious, thrilling breakthrough moment in her first film, where, because of the things she has mastered previously, she discovers a whole new level of precision and power.

As a DIY musician, you can definitely experience the same. As you tenaciously work towards your personal best, you WILL have moments were you realize you have achieved new levels of proficiency, and become a “master” at certain skills.

Yes!! I mastered the Locrian Scale!!!

It’s a great feeling, and one that I personally hope to repeat many times over!

It can happen for many reasons, but interestingly… they don’t always have to be happy ones.

Great example: when I had finished tracking my second album, I handed it over to a few people to mix. At that time, I had not really studied mixing, and thus had no confidence I could do it myself.

Years passed. My album still was not done. Grrrr….

Trying to get everyone’s schedules to match was one issue.

Availability was another, since I couldn’t pay full studio price.

A three-hour + driving time was another issue.

Frustrated musician breaks her guitar!

Finally I’d had enough. I was so frustrated, I could’ve smashed a guitar.

Well, okay… not really. But still… Lol

It was DIY time. I started to study books, videos and websites to get my head around how to successfully mix an album.

It took a good year and a half before I felt ready, but I dove in head-first at that point. I tested my skills on an album that eventually was released onto all the streaming music platforms. After repeated listening, I’m still very pleased and proud of the end product.

The lesson? If it’s related to your art, you should look into it. Try it. You may end up mastering, or at least being proficient in, a further skill that can really widen your horizons.

Beatles_and_George_Martin_in_studio_1966

Beatles producer George Martin once couldn’t play music?? Yup.

Remember: every legendary producer, engineer or artist at one time… had no CLUE how to do what they would end up being famous for!

But they gave it a shot, and became a master.

So don’t sell yourself short; stop reminding yourself of what you CAN’T do. Keep expanding your art and your skill set.

One of those could very well make you a household name!

You Learn More

With each new elevation in your skill, status, understanding and discernment, an interesting and surprising twist arises…

… you learn how much you still have to learn!

In this day and age of ever-expanding scientific research, we are more and more coming to grips with the infinite possibilities latent in every object, every moment, every thought.

From pre-birth gene editing, to quantum super positioning and Quantum computing, to 3D printing of human organs and tissues, accomplishments once thought outlandish are now becoming commonplace.

Quantum discoveries

Yet even in the light of these incredible advancements, we see further and greater shadows – things we have never understood because we hadn’t even considered them as possibilities!!

I’ve played guitar for over 30 years now, and no matter how much I practice, I STILL see so many areas in which I could improve, expand, or develop whole new techniques with the right amount of dedication and woodshedding.

practice that guitar!

Even after years of discipline and training, Captain Marvel found the same. The movie unpacks all the many things she hadn’t had a clue about, and what she decides to do in light of that knowledge.

It’s not always easy knowing what path to commit to, with so many opportunities around us these days.

But if we take a cue from our superhero friend, we’ll apply ourselves to the most pressing matters… that matter most, and learn whatever is necessary to complete what’s unfinished.

And every lesson learned? It’s just one more way the world is made a better place.

You Teach More

I’ve been teaching music privately for decades now.

It started innocently enough: people saw me play live and soon they were starting to ask if I taught any of the instruments. Not seeing a reason to say no, I said “Sure!”

And you know how it is with us musicians: we always need more music gear! So it was a good way to bring in some extra cash to invest back into my craft.

Over the years teaching has become more than that first impulse. Now it’s a way for me to empower youth, and to paint a realistic depiction of the music industry to those attracted to its glittering promises.

Doing it yourself in the music industry means you have a lot of knowledge to impart. You’ve “Been there, done that,” so you can help guide the uninitiated.

Hopefully, that means they can avoid some of the pitfalls you’ve falling into, as well as take your advice as to the wisest and most efficient roads to musical success.

Although you won’t see it this time, there’s a young girl named Monica Rambeau in the latest Captain Marvel film who, according to the comic books, follows in her friend’s footsteps and becomes a superhero herself.

Superhero girl

Supposedly her name will be “Photon” a.k.a “Pulsar“. We’ll see if the movie franchise ever picks up on that, but since Monica’s in a movie… there’s a good chance it’ll expand into her story too.

How much you wanna bet that her good friend Captain Marvel had a part to play in “Photon”-s transformation?!

If you’ve never thought of it before, consider teaching what you know to others. Not only is it a secondary source of income, it’s also very inspirational.

Until you’ve experienced it for yourself, trust me that it’s a great feeling to see a student of yours go from being inept at an instrument to playing out publicly in a group with great success.

Now that’s creating the future!!

Go Save Your World!

It takes a lot of determination and stick-to-it-iveness to be a DIY musician.

But just like achieving superhero status, the pluses more than make up for the difficulties.

Have you been a DIY musician? What lessons have you learned? Would you recommend it as a viable route for others? Would you teach what you’ve learned to others considering that path??

Let us know in the Comments. More than ever these days, you can accomplish SO much all by yourself that can go on to be acclaimed the world over.

Not bad for some that just have a computer, some software and a mic!

Yup. It’s a great time to be alive and singin’! 😉

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!
Let's Syndrome Socialize!!

How To Play Guitar For Beginners, Pt. 5 – The KEYS Of Your Success!

Have you ever gone to a foreign country??

If so, did you try to speak their language??

If so, then you know how exhilarating it can be to have a firm grasp on the basics and know how to communicate without fumbling over your words.

Before I moved to Germany years back, I study German on my own for three months. I was amazed when I got there, that I could say these new words in this brand new world, and people would actually understand me! Mind blown!!

Learning how to play guitar for beginners is a lot like learning a foreign language – the quicker you can get the basics down, the sooner you’ll be smiling from the rewards of effective conversation… and your audience will be smiling too!

Play it when you know how to say it!

Just picture it… people leaning in as you play… eyes wide… mouths slightly open… transfixed on what you’re communicating through your guitar and your voice…

So let’s get you to that same place musically-speaking. By knowing the basics of the Western music system, you’ll be empowered to communicate with a far more “informed” creativity. And that will translate into mesmerizingly interesting music.

… instead of being confused as to ‘what you mean’. ‘-)

Let’s set those fundamentals flying, shall we!

The Video Lesson!

Understanding music’s basic language empowers you to be a very accomplished player, and writer, if you so choose.

Just think of trying to write something in a language you barely know. That would be frustrating not only for you, but for anyone who suffers through trying to read your ideas!

So let’s make you “fluent” in music.

First off, if you have NOT already read and studied THIS POST ON DIATONIC CHORDS, go do that now.

Why?? ‘Cuz everything I’m going to talk about today is based on it. You don’t wanna miss out on any of the good stuff!!

Now that you have that proper preparation, watch the new video below that I filmed for you. I explain some cool music theory basics in a very easy-to-understand way.

Afterwards, I’ll meet ya back here to break it all down further with the written word. 😉

Open Up & Say… STRINGS!

Okay… Didja get all that? Did it make sense?

If not, let’s go through those same principles here in writing. Sometimes analyzing the same facts in a different way can really bring it all home.

Open guitar strings from middle
Low to high strings, from left to right!

The first thing we talked about is fairly simple: the open strings of the guitar.

Those six strings are designated by the notes they sound when you pluck them.

Those notes, from low to high, are:

E – A – D – G – B – E

Notice that your lowest note, and your highest note, are both “E”.

To help differentiate between them, we call them the “low E” and the “high E“.

Related term you should be familiar with is “open chords“. These are chords you play that have one or more open strings in them.

Now, it always helps to use mnemonic devices whenever you’re trying to memorize something. With that in mind, let’s read through those six different acronymic phrases that will help us remember the open strings…

This first one is not one I came up with; my guitar teacher in L.A. shared it with me and I’ve continued to pass it on ever since:

“Elvis Ate Drugs, Good Bye Elvis”

Sad but true. Let’s let Elvis’s lapse in judgment be a lesson to us all. Stay away from drugs, folks!

Next are some phrases I invented, for students of varying ages, over my years of teaching:

“Enough Artistic Discipline Guarantees Brilliant Expression!”

“Every Aardvark Digs Grubs Before Eating!”

“Extending Aragorn’s Defense, Gandalf Battles Evil!”

“Eating Avocados Delivers Great Body Energy!”

Or finally…

“End All Dumb Garage Band Excuses!”

My favorite is that last one. It cuts right to the quick of any excuse a student might have for why he or she did not practice.

Just like the old famous adage says:

“Excuse me –  how do you get to Carnegie Hall??”

“Practice.”   Lol

Diatonically Speaking…

Understanding song KEYS empowers you to be a very accomplished musician in many ways: writing; improvising; comping; modulating; arranging.

Oops!

Not understanding them, though, will leave you guessing most of the time at what’s really going on in any song.

And do you know what that does?? It increases the odds dramatically that you’ll succeed at one thing really well… making MISTAKES!

I’m going to assume that you’ve already read and studied the post I mentioned above. If not, you could get real confused quickly in the next few moments… 😉

Let’s review, in a nutshell, some of the more salient points from that post:

  • Western music consists of 12 different notes.
  • A key comprises 7 notes.
  • Playing those notes in sequence is what we call the “major scale“.
  • If we build a chord on each of the notes of the major scale, we get  seven “right” chords for each key.
  • We call them the 7 “Diatonic” chords for any given key.
  • Those seven chords are either major (happy-sounding) or minor (sad-sounding).
  • Which ones are which? Here is the breakdown:
  1. The ONE chord is MAJOR
  2. The TWO chord is minor
  3. The TWO chord is minor
  4. The ONE chord is MAJOR
  5. The ONE chord is MAJOR
  6. The TWO chord is minor
  7. The TWO chord is minor (& diminished)

Once you’ve successfully committed all those facts to memory, you can easily do what I did for you today: write a simple song using the seven diatonic chords of a certain key.

If all of this seems as comprehensible as watching the movie “Brazil” while under anesthesia, fret not (pun intended!). Just read the posts again, watch the video above again, read the posts again, watch the video above again…

You get the picture. We’re human. Humans learn by repetition. And don’t worry, … this won’t take long.

Also, most things become a lot less ambiguous when we try to do them ourselves and put knowledge to use in our own day-to-day actions.

So, as you practice guitar, just think on these things and try practicing them.

Don’t get uptight about it; just relax, have fun, and play to enjoy yourself. As you keep coming back to these theory concepts the fog will clear, and pretty soon… all that anesthesia will be just a dream.

Kind of like “Brazil” was.  Lol

By the way, if you want an excellent resource that clearly reinforces what I’ve taught here today, plus a LOT MORE, pick up my favorite guitar instructional book, called The Guitar Handbook” by Ralph Denyer.

I first got this sometime around 2002 and I have referred to it countless times.

It’s chock full of awesome pictures, diagrams, and clarifying diagrams that I’ve shared with my students literally hundreds of times.

You can see from this pic below that I have dozens and dozens of instructional books in my music library…


Ralph’s is my favorite. That’s saying a lot!

The Logical Song

Yes, I’m a Supertramp fan, but, no, this is not that!  😉

The song I wrote & sang for you in the video, called “This Is How It Sounds”, uses all seven diatonic chords in the key of C.

The key of C is the easiest key to learn, because it has NO sharps and NO flats in it.

Those chords are:

C,  Dm,  Em,  F,  G,  Am,  Bdim

If there are any of these chords that you haven’t learned yet, do so this week. Here are the grids for each chord so you can learn the fingerings:

Then, play along with me in the video until you can play that song with no issues, no hiccups, no stops or drops, from beginning to end.

At that point, guess what?! You will be a BOSS and very proficient in the key of C!! Which is a GREAT start at guitar as a simple pastime/hobby, or even further… into a very satisfying music career!

Follow the Bouncing Ball…

Here are the lyrics to the song, by the way, so you can understand what theory I’m teaching you, as WELL as sing along at the top of your lungs, telling the WORLD you are “key-of-C-literate”!!

 “This is how it sounds,     this is how it sounds

To use 1-5-4 in songwriting!

Yes, this is how it sounds,     this is how it sounds

To use 1-5-4 in songwriting!

And with the minor 2,                   and the minor 6

The minor 3 will sound even better in your mix.

Yes, with the minor 2,                       and the minor 6

We can move on        to the 7 chord

WE call di – min – ished!

So THAT is how it sounds, THAT is how it sounds,

To use all KEY chords in songwriting!

So THAT is how it sounds, THAT is how it sounds,

To use all KEY chords in songwriting!

They’re called ‘Diatonic’

Yea, those chords are ‘Diatonic’!”

No, Not Google Chrome… CHROMATIC!

Now, if you want to move past the key of C, into the other wonderful keys available to you, you’re going to have to memorize a SIMPLE map – it’s a list of all notes available to us in music. It’s called the Chromatic Scale, and you can start it on any note, anywhere on the guitar neck.

It goes like this:

A    A#/Bb    B    C    C#/Db    D    D#/Eb    E    F    F#/G    G    G#/Ab

Here’s a graphic of it if your more of a visual learner:

Memorize this, and you can name the note that’s on ANY fret of the guitar! Plus, you’ll be WELL on your way to understanding music in a more creative, productive fashion.

To make this easy to practice, just like in the video, start on your “A” string, like where the alphabet starts.

Play the open “A” string, then play up towards the guitar body, one fret at a time, while saying what note it is out loud.

The notes will follow the Chromatic Scale map, just as they would on ANY and ALL Western instruments.

Once you reach the twelfth fret (where there are ‘double dots’ on most guitars) you know you’ve gone through the whole scale, and it’s starting over.

You made it! It’s the 12th fret!!

To test yourself further, and really burn it into your memory, practice saying the Chromatic Scale out loud as you start with all the OTHER open strings, and ascend chromatically up the neck to the 12th fret.

Soon enough you’ll not have to consult notes again on this topic – trust me!! ‘-)

YOU GOT THIS!!

Okay, enough mind expansion for one day!

I know it might seem like a lot, and that your head’s gonna explode, but that’s only ‘cuz it’s probably the first time you’ve heard any of this. The bewilderment won’t last, I promise!!

Continue to take all this in, bit by bit, and you will grasp it!! It’ll be like remembering your name, or your favorite song, or that dumb thing your best friend did a while back that still makes you laugh!

Yes, in less time than it takes to say “Enough Artistic Discipline Guarantees Brilliant Expression!”, you’ll be more “key-literate” than most bands on the radio.

Frets & Keys HowPlayGtr5 CARTOONED

Come to think of it, I believe I could re-string my whole guitar in the amount of time it takes to say that. LOL

Thanks for dropping by. We’ll continue to share our take on how to play guitar for beginners in upcoming articles & videos, so stay tuned.

Until then, keep your guitar out, in your hands, and with all the frequency you can carve out of your schedule…

… go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!
Let's Syndrome Socialize!!

How To Set Up An Electric Guitar, Pt. 1 – The Archtop!

My New Johnson Archtop!!

Salutations, all you weekend warriors!!

I’m sure you’re probably all getting ready for your latest gig tonight, or that pressing recording session comin’ up.

Regardless, I thought I’d share the wealth and let you look over my shoulder as I show you how to set up an electric guitar – specifically, for this first article, how to do an archtop electric.

These are a little different from the other types for one reason: they often have a separate, totally detached “floating bridge”.

That calls for a li’l bit of extra work. But it’s always worth it!

I heartily recommend that you learn the ins and outs of your own axes, and how to do your own maintenance on them. You’ll be that much closer to understanding how to coax the very best and the most diverse tones out of them!

Well, at least you will, once you watch my video… 😉

Oh, I See… !

So I filmed this little documentary for you about how I just set up my new “Johnson hollowbody archtop electric guitar”!

I was actually very excited to put the work of perfecting intonation into this guitar. It’s gorgeous! And, being a hollowbody, it has tons of potential for adding a slightly different “spice” to my music.

It’s the first complete hollowbody I’ve ever owned, so naturally… I’m PUMPED!!

Watch my walkthrough below and gather your thoughts and questions. We’ll discuss the details below…

Gettin’ String-y

Guitar STRINGS

Before we actually get to setting up any guitar, you’ll first want to change the strings.

New strings will put a lot more pressure on the neck and bridge, so you don’t want to go through all the time and effort of setting up your guitar, only to find that, when you put new strings on, it’s all changed!

Also, new strings will be more consistent in tone AND intonation. These things will work in your favor as you set up a guitar.

For the tutorial video above, I had just acquired the Johnson hollow-body archtop guitar from a local guy who had bought it originally.

I was immediately struck by the impressive looks of the girl, but the sound was pretty bad. I could tell it had really old strings on it that desperately needed changed, so I knew much of the “BLECH” I was hearing was that.

In fact, the intonation was so bad that, I kid you not, the guitar had at least 10, maybe 15, dead notes spread out across the neck. Mostly between the 8th and 12th fret.

I knew that with skill and effort I could fix this, ‘cuz I could see that the frets were even and didn’t need replacing.

So, after I purchased it and got it home, I immediately put fresh strings on – D’angelico Electrozinc strings. They’re what I consider the perfect string for a darker jazz tone.

Guess what? No more dead notes. I could tell that the guitar still really needed a setup, but at least now I was certain that the frets were not an issue.

By the way, if you want to know more about the ElectroZinc strings, and why I used them for this particular guitar, read through THIS POST ON THE BEST ELECTRIC GUITAR STRINGS.

1) There Once was a Caveman…

Alright, now that we have some fresh vibration-makers strung across our axe, let’s move on to the first part of setting up an archtop: adjusting the truss rod.

For those that don’t know, there’s a metal rod inside the neck of most guitars, it’s there to help stabilize the neck, and thus, the intonation of the guitar, as well as for adjustment when necessary.

It’s designed so that it can be turned, clockwise or counterclockwise, which will either tighten or loosen the neck, respectively.

If you tighten the rod, neck will be bent back, bringing the strings closer to the fingerboard.

If you loosen the rod, the neck will be brought forward, creating more space between the strings and the fingerboard.

When the rod is tightened, the neck becomes takes on a convex curve. When it is loosened, it becomes more concave.

I explain all this in such detail so that you can understand how to adjust the truss rod in your guitar, without having to consult Google, like me.

But how can we remember it for when we need it??

Try this little mental picture trick: if your strings are too close to the fingerboard because of the neck, you’ll want it more conCAVE, by loosening the truss rod COUNTER- clockwise.

So, just think of a CAVEMAN, in his CAVE, COUNTING rocks to buy a new spear for woolly mammoth hunting! Need conCAVE? Go COUNTER-clockwise. Get it?!

As long as you can remember the counting caveman, you’ll know how to adjustthe truss… and you’ll know that the opposite is true: if your neck needs to be convex, you’ll turn clockwise.

But how do we know if it’s the neck that needs to be adjusted, and not the nut or the bridge?

By first starting with a simple measurement:

Place a capo on the first fret, right over the metal.

Next, push down with a finger the fret that is right at the place where the body of the guitar meets the neck.

Simultaneously, use a .010 feeler, or thickness, gauge (found easily and inexpensively HERE) to slip between the string and the metal at the 7th fret.

If the gauge fits perfectly, no neck adjustment is needed – you’re good!

If there’s extra space, you’ll need to tighten the neck (i.e. make it more convex).

If the gauge raises the string when you slip it in, then you’ll need to loosen the neck (i.e. make it more concave).

When you adjust the neck, do it in very small increments. Think 8th of a turn.

A final caveat: if you hear any creaking, cracking, or even squeaking as you turn the rod, let a professional look at it. You DON’T want to break the truss rod!! It’ll basically mean that you’ll have to replace the whole neck, and that’s no fun at all.

2) Height, Ho!

The next step in our setup is adjusting the bridge height.

For this you’ll want to pick up a tool called a “string action gauge”. It’s cheap, it’s crucial, and it also sets you up well for a lot of other guitar-related maintenance tasks.

So do yourself a favor, just GO GET ONE HERE now.

With gauge in hand, you”re ready to rock: place the corner that’s labeled “1/64 inch” down onto the fretboard, next to the low E string, right where the body of the guitar joins the neck.

The typical measurement here for an archtop is 5/64s of an inch.

These measurements are very minute, so don’t be surprised if you need a flashlight or glasses to see where you’re at!

Next, jump over to the high E string. The typical measurement for that is 3/64s.

If either of these measurements are off ( i.e. too high or too low), you need to raise or lower your bridge to compensate.

Tune-o-matic bridges are very common on archtop guitars. As seen below, they have thumb screws on either side, which you would turn to adjust the height of either side, or both.

Typically, turning the thumb screw counterclockwise will raise that particular side. Clockwise will lower it.

You may have a different kind of bridge, however, that may be the opposite, so if you’re not sure, turn a screw a couple times and watch – it’ll be obvious which way it’s moving.

Once the action feels good to you, move on to the third step… where we all go a bit nutty… !

3) What a Nut Job

If you’re a beginner to intermediate player, you spend a lot of time around the nut. Gotta love those open chords!

This is why it’s crucial we get this area fixed up well. To do so, we’ll need our thickness gauges once again.

This time, choose the .018 thickness gauge.

Slip it between the metal fret and the low E string. If the nut it is perfect, then it will slip in without pushing the string UP, but also with no EXTRA space either.

If you press down on the string and you can feel it moving down and hitting the gauge, then you’ll need to file that string’s nut slot down a little.

If you want to always be tooled up and ready for any guitar nut maintenance, buy what I use: THIS COMPLETE SET OF NUT SLOTTING FILES.

Now, if you’re pushing the string up when you insert the gauge, that’s a bigger issue: it could mean that the slot is too deep.

Consider this though, before you get all replacement-crazy: if the measurement is off but you DON’T have any buzzing notes, AND it feels totally comfortable to you… then just leave it alone! No need to create a problem where there isn’t one.

But if that measurement is off and you ARE getting buzzing notes, or dead notes still, you have three options then:

1) Put a shim under the nut to raise it.

2) Fill the nut slot and refile.

3) Buy a whole new nut.

I much prefer the second option, because it’s cheap, easy, and works great in most cases.

Here’s a video that will walk you through exactly what to do:

There. Now when someone asks, ” What does a guitar and baking soda have in common??”… you’ll be able to answer with a knowing grin. 😉

When you do any filing of the nut, remember to file in the direction of appropriate string post that the string goes to.

Also, if the strings slant down from the nut to the posts, make sure you are filing with that downward slant also.

Your work here is about creating the easiest path possible for the string to follow, without catching, and without sharp turns.

Like when you’re trying to explain chords to your bass player. LOL

3) When an Island is a Bridge…

This section of the post shows you why this article is specific to archtop guitars: many times we will have to deal with the floating, removable bridge.

This isn’t always the case: old Gibsons, for example, often have bridge post holes hat are drilled into the top resonating wood and are unchangeable because of that.

But all too often, we’ll be dealing with a little tonal island that will need to be placed strategically if we want to be at ALL in tune.

Your first clue in deciphering where your bridge should be placed from knowing the scale length of your guitar. You can find this out easily by Googling the name of your guitar and “scale length”.

The Johnson guitar you saw in my video is listed by the manufacturer as being a 25.5 scale length guitar.

Knowing that, I measured that length perfectly and placed both sides of the bridge right there.

After that, it’s time to check the intonation. Here’s how:

* Tune your Low E string perfectly. Use a precise tuner, not a cheap-y model!

* Now play the 12th fret of your low E string. Is it in tune? Then your intonation will be good.

* If the twelfth fret note is flat, you’ll need to slide the bridge closer to the neck. Do this in small increments, And re-check the tuning until open and the 12th fret are both in tune.

* If the twelfth fret note is sharp, then the bridge needs to slide further away from the neck. Again, do this a little at a time, always re-checking, until both notes match are well-intoned.

* Repeat this process for the high E string as well. Since you’ve already perfected the low E string, make sure you’re only moving the high E side of the bridge. Otherwise, all the work you just did will be for naught!

Don’t be afraid to, as I did on this Johnson guitar, place your bridge at an angle too, instead of completely level with the pickups. For me, that was the only position that fixed all notes on both strings.

Feel free to also turn your bridge around if that helps you attain stable intonation.

For example, the saddle screws on my bridge, according to factory specs, face away from the neck. That worked for me, but if it hadn’t, I could have turned it around so that the screws faced the neck, and tried again.

It comes down to whatever works, my friends. If you are guitar reaches professional intonation, then it doesn’t matter how you got there.

As the old adage goes, “If it sounds good, it IS good!”

4) Saddle up, Boys!!

Okay, we made it to the last step: setting good intonation on the other four strings!

We’ve already perfected the low and high E strings, but we haven’t touched the A, D, G or B strings yet.

These we will set by adjusting the individual saddle screws for each string.

Use the same method as before: tune the open string perfectly, then push down the 12th fret and see if it’s in tune.

If it’s flat, the saddle needs to move closer to the neck.

If it’s sharp, the opposite.

Use a small screwdriver to turn the screws, and make sure you know which way to turn in order to go a certain direction.

If you can’t get the other four to reach perfect intonation, this would again be the perfect time to try turning the bridge around, or putting it at a slant to fix the issues.

There’s a reason why guitar luthiers and instrument repair people charge upwards of hundreds of dollars for a complete setup – this is sometimes NOT a quick process!

If you really want your guitar to sound like a million bucks, you must invest the time necessary to ensure that it is as true to perfect intonation as possible.

For the Johnson archtop you saw in the video, I spent over three hours perfecting it.

The good news is, however, once you figure out where it’s perfect, it’ll probably always be perfect with those measurements.

Unless, of course, it gets thrown around, left in your car, has to endure extreme humidity changes, or sits too close to a hot sunny window.

So, uh… don’t let those things happen, ya know? 😉

OWN it!

Owning a fine musical instrument is a privilege and a joy. Investing time, money and effort into its well-being will pay off in rich musical dividends… for years, if not decades to come.

I mean, let’s face it… if you sound your best, your fans will love you the more for it, and you’ll be one step closer to the respect, recognition and fame that someone who works their gift hard truly deserves.

And now, knowing how to set up an electric guitar yourself? Priceless! Tho’, truth be told, the price you save on yearly maintenance charges will be astronomical, I’m tellin’ ya!!

Now put the rulers and tools down like I’ve now done…

… plug in that cable and that amp…

… turn on those sweet, stereo effects…

… and let’s go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!
Let's Syndrome Socialize!!

The 7 Best Electric Guitars Under $200 for 2019!

Ever teach music??

I have for over three decades now, and every once in a while the inevitable gear questions come up from a pupil.

Like this week’s… :

“Hey, Teaj, I’m going to buy my first electric guitar. Which one should I get??”

And he thought he was going to get a simple answer. HA!! Lol

To help facilitate an informed, confident purchasing decision for my student, and for you, I’m showcasing here the 7 best electric guitars under $200 that I could find.

I spent lots of time researching on the Net, and some hours at Guitar Center playing most of them, and all through amps.

Not every guitar from every manufacturer is perfect, but rest assured that our research has proven these options to be your best bet in 2019.

Let’s plug ’em in and turn ’em on!!

Epiphone Les Paul Special-II

Epiphone has a long, rich history, dating all the way back to 1873!

Today, they continue to make instruments for all echelons of players, from all economic backgrounds.

I’m listing this particular guitar first because I saw more positive reviews for it, at many stores, than any other listed here.

It was even sold out at Guitar Center, so I couldn’t play one! That alone showed me how desirable it is.

You can get it in three colors:

  • Black
  • Heritage Cherry Sunburst
  • Vintage Sunburst

The engineering of this guitar is quite basic; there’s not a lot of parts to it. To see the complete list of specs click to THIS EPIPHONE WEBSITE.

Having few gizmos tends to be good for a beginner – it means there’s less to break. Lol

You’ll get three different sounds from this guitar by utilizing the three-way switch that is between the volume and tone knobs.

An amp or a processor that you can plug through a sound system is necessary for electric guitars, and this one is no exception. If you simply pick it up and strum the strings, there won’t be much sound.

Plug it into something though, and WATCH OUT! It’s a barn burner!!

Pretty much can’t go wrong with this one, with their ONE YEAR warranty, but check this out… as of TODAY, Musician’s Friend has it on sale!! Get it while it’s reduced, before it goes back up to the usual price Amazon shows!!

Yamaha Pacifica PAC012DLX

Besides being the world’s largest piano manufacturing company, Yamaha also makes a lot of guitars.

Yamaha PAC012DLX guitar

They have a reputation in the Pro Audio industry for making stable, decent long-lasting products.

In the guitar niche, you don’t see many professionals play them. But I’ve seen beginner to intermediate students play Yamaha instruments all my life… and I’m sure that’s not going to stop anytime soon!

Even the three Representatives I spoke with at Guitar Center all spoke highly of this Pacifica series for those starting out.

THIS YAMAHA PAGE will fill you in on all the features of this series, tho’ this particular guitar has a few extra special bits, since it’s the “deluxe” model.

You can tell that the company stands behind their products well through their warranties: a Limited 1-Year Warranty for Parts & Labor, and a Limited Lifetime Warranty for the Guitar Neck & Body!

On top of their reputation though, I thought it played and sounded the best, of the ones that were in stock that I could plug in and test out.

But then, I’ve always been a sucker for a Stratocaster. 😉

Another great benefit to buying this guitar (as well as the Sterling, which I’ll talk about next!) is that you get FIVE usable sounds out of it. The 5-way toggle switch engages different combinations of pickups which creates five unique voices.

And finally, as the cherry on top, you ALSO get a whammy bar. Crucial for anyone wanting to play those Hard Rock or Metal solos that get our blood moving and heads bangin’.

So whadda ya waiting for… ?? Get jammin’!

Sterling “Silhouette” Guitar!

Okay, right off the bat I have to give Sterling credit for building a guitar that has a fresh, innovative look that’s not the same ol’, same ol’.

In fact, of all the guitars listed here, this is the only one that I actually want to purchase. From the distinct, offbeat headstock, down to its wavy silhouette body, it just looks so cool!!

Of course, guitars are mostly about how they sound, and based on the reviews all over the Web, it’s clear that this has great tone also. Go WATCH THIS VIDEO to hear just how good this bad boy sounds!

It’s highly versatile, which is a plus for beginners OR stage veterans. Just like the Yamaha guitar, you can cycle through the three pickups with the 5-way toggle switch to find just the right voice for your music.

Also like the Yamaha, it comes with a whammy bar so you can dive bomb high notes with the best of ’em!

Here’s a unique Plus: this S.U.B. can handle any depth, as it’s the only one to feature a 5-bolt neck joint. Up ’til now, I’ve only seen three and four bolt necks.

What does that mean?? Easy – more rock solid stability, and better intonation and tuning.

Way cool, right?! ‘Cuz after all, if you’re going to play an instrument…

… it might as well be in tune. Lol

For a full look at the scope of coolness this guitar fills up, take a look at THIS SPECS PAGE on Sterling’s website.

Their warranty on the “Silhouette” is above average too: if you register your instrument within the initial 12 month warranty period, you get an additional 3 months of warranty coverage. That’s 15 months of factory warranty protection from the initial purchase date!

As of this writing, Guitar Center AND Musician’s Friend both have this priced lower than $200, unlike Amazon which has it $23 higher. They both have it listed “on sale” though, so better act fast if you want this great mark-down.

Even at Amazon’s price of $220 though, I STILL think that’s a killer deal for all this guitar offers.

So get this “break the mold” guitar for yourself, or your son or daughter, and start being the trend rather than following one!!

Fender Squier “Affinity” Stratocaster

You probably won’t find a more trusted name in beginner electric guitars than Fender.

Not only have they been at this a long time (since 1950), they also have long had many guitar models to choose from. Their variety, and their quality, are second to none.

But as you’d expect, a guitar this cheap won’t have their very best options in it. You will, however, get a solidly-built instrument, with basic features, that will stand up over time and use. Check out all its specs on THIS FENDER PAGE.

Not to mention that the Stratocaster guitar is one of the most iconic guitars in history!

Again,… hard to go wrong here. Especially since they back it up with the most impressive support on this list – a TWO YEAR Limited Warranty!

Any beginner should be ecstatic to get their first Strat. I still remember mine with loads of fondness, and would still have it… if it hadn’t been stolen after a gig (read that story HERE)!!

Fender has really produced a winner here: solid construction, expected features, sonic look and low price.

Could the pickup sound better? Sure. It’s not their best sounding pick up by a long shot. It tends to sound more treble-y than the warmer pickups on more expensive models.

But if you wanna record with this guitar, that can actually work in your favor. I’m always cutting the lows from electrics in a mix. The Squier does that for us!

To hear how this Affinity series axe compares to a Strat that costs over a thousand dollars, watch THIS GREAT MARTY MUSIC VIDEO.

How about playability? Well, you might get a little buzz on the low string from the factory. That happens with cheaper guitars. But that is almost always fixable by just paying a music shop 30 bucks or so to give the guitar a good set up.

A “set up” is just a process by which a guitar is optimized for playing.

You can even do it yourself, if you have a couple hours to spare and the right measuring tools.

I always paid others to do my guitar setups, until two years ago when I learned to do it myself by studying on YouTube. If I can do it, so can you!!

Your Squier may come perfectly set up and ready to go though. You just never know.

Regardless, if you choose to strap on this Strat, you’ll be getting a ton of crunch for your buck. Rest assured, it’ll be money well spent.

As of this post, Amazon is the only one with a price break – they are offering it $2 cheaper! Not much, but if you’re a Prime member and pay no tax and no shipping… that can add up to substantial savings!

Put one in your cart today and we’ll both be card-carrying Strat shredders!!

Ibanez GRX70QA

For those about to rock… we salute you! LOL

Ibanez guitars have a good reputation in the rock music world. If you, or your prospective student or child, is into the heavier side of rockin’, they’ll be happy you bought ’em an Ibanez.

I mean, just look at that quilted top. Beautiful, isn’t it?!

Many well-known rock artists play this brand, all while struttin’ their fast, gunfire licks to adoring audiences.

Get a full rundown of its capabilities and features by reading THIS IBANEZ PAGE.

As is “par for the course” in this price range, the pickups are not the quietest, and your guitar may arrive needing a setup to get rid of buzzes or strings being too high.

Small price to pay though, for having a guitar that has five tones, a whammy bar, and true Rock swagger.

Want an example of how it sounds??? Say no more… give THIS VIDEO a listen… but put on your shred belts!! Lol

One last thing: this particular guitar will sound best when plugged into and amp that has some beef to it. And amp with “cojones”, as my guitarist friend Chuck likes to say. All electrics need this, but this guitar is really meant to ROCK, so make sure you’ve got some power behind it so it can shine.

Add that to the equation, and your little Rocker will be a star in no time…

… Even if it’s only in your living room. Lol

The warranty on all Ibanez guitars, no matter the price, is a
 Limited 1-Year Warranty.

The price is identical everywhere online, but, as always, if you order through Amazon today there’s typically no tax, and no shipping
if you’re a Prime member. Gotta grab deals where you can find ’em!!

Squier Affinity Telecaster

Next up is another Fender classic instrument. This time, though, we’re catering to a different crowd.

The Telecaster has been the go-to guitar in Country music for decades. If you counted the number of Telecasters in Nashville, well…

… let’s just say you’d be there a while!

That’s not to say that the Telecaster doesn’t show up in Rock or pop from time to time (Bruce Springsteen, anyone?!). Just not often.

So if you, or your child, wants to pick and grin while playing Bluegrass, or Country, or simply want to add a little crispy “twang” to whatever music you’re creating, give the Tele a try.

For an in-depth look into the world of Telecasters, let your fingers do the walkin’ over to THIS POST I did a few months ago on this acclaimed axe.

Another advantage of this particular guitar is that it comes in different colors. When you follow the link below, see the other options that are open to you.

A Telecaster always has three different sounds, called up by the 3-way toggle switch that chooses or blends the two pickups.

And that’s pretty much it. The Telecaster has always been a “no-frills” guitar. It has few distinct sounds, but they’re perfect for certain musical approaches.

As stated before, since Fender makes it, you can trust it’s going to be a good instrument. They’ve got too good reputation to mess it up.

This guitar tends to be paired with an amp that’s very clean. You usually hear it with very little distortion, unlike the guitar as mentioned above.

Here’s a little video of some Telecaster classics, just to give you an idea of its approach and how it’s been used in the past:

As mentioned in the Strat section, you also get the standard excellent Fender support with the Fender/Squier 2-Year Limited warranty. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

If this Telecaster bite has bitten you, check it out further at these links, and go get your twang on!!

Epiphone SG-Special

Our seventh and last option comes once again from Epiphone.

Not surprising, since, for decades they’ve shown great marketing skill, and a real business acumen for knowing how to get good instruments into the hands of new players… cheaply.

The SG body style was made famous by Gibson decades ago. It first arrived on the scene back in 1961.

But like a fine wine, the SG-style guitar has only gotten better with age. Want proof? To this day, it’s still the best-selling guitar Gibson’s ever made!!

If you want to know all the facts, Jack on this baby, go to THIS EPIPHONE PAGE and read all about it.

If this guitar looks familiar, it’s because bands and artists like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa and even the Beatles have burned its look into your memory. Not a bad legacy for a curvy piece of wood and electronics!

One feature of the SG special that was immediately noticeable was how light it is. I don’t think I’ve ever played a guitar that weighed so little. If your budding musician is on the smaller side of stature, this lightweight guitar could be just the ticket for him or her.

On a personal note, I personally have never liked guitars that have the cable jack on the face of the guitar. SG guitars always have, and that’s one reason I’ve never bought them.

When I’m onstage running around, I think it looks kind of silly to see your cable flopping around in front of everybody. All the other guitars on this list put the cable jack on the SIDE of the guitar.

That’s where I prefer it. It looks more discreet that way, and makes it easier to feed the cable through your guitar strap, which is what the pros do to keep the cable from accidentally coming out.

But aside from my own pet peeve, the sound of an SG is well-known & beloved for Rock ‘n’ Roll, so if that’s what you’re after, you’ll be in good company holding one of these beastly beauties.

Plus, you get something EXTRA on this instrument that’s not in any of the others: a kill switch!

For you non-players, a “kill switch” is a button, switch or pot that, when engaged, immediately mutes the sound of the pickups. Flicking this on and off quickly creates a “stutter”-like effect, similiar to what you hear at the end of Eddie’s solo on the “You Really Got Me Now” tune.

You’ll be covered by Epiphone’s famous Lifetime Limited Warranty on this instrument too, so if there’s any issues… you’ll get ’em remedied easily.

So hop on over to Guitar Center below, where this continues to be one of their top sellers, year after year, or Amazon with it’s VE version, in different colors.

Either way, start making iconic, memorable licks and melodies in your own music, to go along with its legendary profile!!

Setting Yourself Up for Success!

Trust hands that make guitars!
Trust hands that make guitars! (Photo: ElenaGuiadeAlmeria)

So I hope you now feel empowered and informed, knowing what the best electric guitars under 200 bucks are.

Let me just say that when you get one of these economical treasures , I highly suggest that you:

  • Get them set up by someone who knows what they’re doing, and
  • Put new strings on them.

Even more expensive guitars are often shipped with cheap strings. It’s amazing how much better a guitar can sound when you put good, quality strings on.

As for the setup, you can study and learn how to do it like I did, but just make sure you do it right.

  • Take your time
  • Order the right tools from Amazon, or from StewMac (where I get mine)
  • Only proceed to the next step if you really understand what you’re doing.

The last thing you want is to damage your brand new guitar!

I trust this has helped you as much as it has myself and my student. It’s always great to be able to know and understand what the best options are… And we love bringing you that information here at Seriousgas.com.

So which one are you ordering??? Let us know in the Comments… and let us know how it turns out when you finally receive it.

We always love a good gear story!!

Now go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!
Let's Syndrome Socialize!!

The Fender Jazz Bass

Living in L.A. as a musician, you learn a lot of things:

– Watch where you park your car, or your rent will be gone to tickets.

– Know what your “one thing” is as an artist, or you’ll never stand out among the hundred others… who also don’t know.

– And finally, no matter how good you think you are, there’s always at least one person who’s better.

Probably more!

But I also learned in L.A. about the Fender Jazz Bass, so… you know, it wasn’t all bad!

Jaco Pastorius with his Jazz bass
The one, the only… (Photo: Pino Alpino )

I was turned on to the “Heavy Weather” album by Weather Report by a friend out there, and heard Jaco Pastorius play for the first time on one.

Mm, mm, mmm… the things that that man did on that jazz bass!

I always thought that the first melody coming in on that song was a synth or something.

Nope. It was Jaco, playing and bending those thick bass strings while plucking artificial harmonics way up high on the neck.

Genius!

I have a feeling that Jaco has been, for at least a few THOUSAND of us, that “person who’s better” I spoke about ! ‘-)

But every great player needs a great instrument, and for Jaco, as well as thousands of other players over the decades, there’s only one that growls, loud and proud, above the others:

The Fender Jazz!!

Our Little Boy’s All Grown Up!

The story of the Fender Jazz Bass begins in 1960. That was the year that Fender decided to offer a bass that was complimentary in style and in tone to their “Jazzmaster” electric guitar.

Up to that point, Fender had only released one bass model: the Precision Bass, or “P bass”, as it’s come to be called.

They engineered the Jazz Bass to be quite different from the Precision. The Jazz, by comparison, had:

* A more offset, sculpted body

* Two pickups instead of one

* Single coils instead of humbuckers

* a narrower & more rounded neck

* a tone that emphasized the mid to high frequencies more

The original intent of these changes was to lure Jazz musicians to the fold, though over the decades since then every genre of player has chosen the jazz bass for their voice.

The tonal versatility made accessible by having two pickups instead of one caused this bass to be an instant sensation, and its popularity continues to this day.

Many slightly modified iterations of the Jazz Bass have popped up over the years, but the essential Fender plan remains the same: keep the Jazz Bass brighter, and the P Bass boomier.

And that’s the way their woods warm us to this day!

Juke Box Jazzers!

One of the reasons the Jazz Bass never disappears is that so many notable, prolific players continue to sing it praise.

Considered these glowing endorsements from players that have played on hit after hit:

Geddy with his Jazz Bass!
Get ’em, By-Tor! (Photo: Enrico Frangi)

Geddy Lee, of “Rush” fame, on his signature Jazz Bass model.

“There’s never been a bass that sounds like that bass (his black ’72 Jazz bass he calls “#1”)…. there’s a particular mojo to that instrument.

I think we’ve come up with a bass that’s affordable and very close to what a Custom Shop Bass would deliver for you.”

(By the way, although Geddy had his jazz bass for years, he didn’t actually play it on any of Rush’s recordings until their biggest-selling album “Moving Pictures“.

Now we know why it sold so well!! Lol)

Marcus Miller (Miles Davis; Luther Vandross; Donald Fagen; Herbie Hancock) on why he plays a jazz bass:

“My heroes such as Larry Graham and James Jamerson both played Fenders. I’ve been playing them my whole life…

A Jazz Bass works in most situations. I made it work for me in every situation.

Fender Jazz when I was 14.”

Adam Clayton (U2):

My first Sherwood Green 1965 Jazz Bass…

I played that a lot on the “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” tour, and I really loved it.

It had a great sound, the pickups were really, really punchy.

This is a great bass. I’ve been using it on the new album, and I’m going to be playing it live.”

Flea and his Jazz Bass

Flea (The Red Hot Chili Peppers):

“The greatest bass I’ve ever played is the ’61 Fender Jazz Bass.

It’s just a magic bass! It’s been a bass for so long, I guess it stopped being a tree a long time ago.

“The weight of it… the way it feels in my hands, the way it plays. When I hold it I just feel like, ‘Aahhh… !’

“I’m in love with this instrument!”


There are plenty of other respected players who devoted an extended period of their careers to the Jazz bass:

Noel Redding; Larry Graham; Greg Lake; John Paul Jones; Sting; Marcus Miller… the list is long, folks. And it speaks for itself!

If One is Good… ?

Then two is better! Right?!!

A big reason why many choose the Jazz bass is that, unlike the P-bass which sports only one pickup, the Jazz is engineered with two pickups, each with its own volume control.

This by definition means you will have a larger variety of tonalities to choose from for any genre you want to play in.

The neck pickup will yield a rounder sound, so this is what you can roll into if you want a more P-bass type tone.

If you turn the volume up on only the bridge pickup, you’ll get a treble-y tone. It will emphasize the upper frequencies a lot. It won’t, however, be the most snarling choice available to you.

That will come if you BLEND both pickups together at full volume. This is where the signature Fender Jazz “growl” starts snarling, darling!

What you hear when you do this is specific frequencies being out of phase between the two pickups. Those frequencies cancel each other out, and that leaves a pronounced “scoop” in the midrange.

R&B, disco & funk players love this captivating cut… and with good reason! It pounces through the mix with a howl and a hunger, and is so eloquently percussive, it gives sharp teeth to any predatory groove you set loose on your booty-shakin’ crowd!

Some “Deluxe” Jazz Basses feature an active pre-amp instead of the usual
single passive tone control. Not only does it afford you more tonal options, but it also usually comes with three bands of EQ to further facilitate tone-sculpting madness!

Changes Through the Years

When the Jazz bass was first put into production in the 60s, it came standard with dual, stacked-knob volume & tone controls, one for each pickup. This configuration only lasted a couple years; in 1962 it was ousted as an option.

Instead, they replaced them with a 3-knob arrangement, in which each pickup had its own volume knob, but only one Tone knob influenced the overall darkness or sheen of your sound.

Still, either version allows a Jazz player a rich variety of blended nuances in their tone. The two are just different ways of achieving the same thing – a pleasing palette of boomin’ bass!

You can still find some early Jazz basses out there if you try. Prepare to pay through the nose for them, but they’re out there!

Some think that those early Jazz basses sound more similar to a P bass. I can’t say, ‘cuz I’ve only played modern ones. It IS clear tho’ that today’s Jazz basses do sound different from the originals. The best way of putting it is probably just to say that the high end is more pronounced, as is the mid-range “growl”.

Jazz Bass G.C. BUYcon

The first Jazz basses also featured felt, or foam, mutes under the strings to help tame overtones and keep the fundamental tones pure. These fell out of fashion after the 60s, but were all the rage then.

As an example, I remember years ago seeing a Carol Kaye interview in which she talked about the importance of this mechanical trick being one secret to her sound. And what a sound it was – she played on THOUSANDS of songs!!

The Lollipop type
Clover, Elephant ear tuners

If you find an old Jazz bass with oval tuning pegs, known as the “lollipop tuners“, it’s probably a vintage ’65 through ’68, as they tried those out during that period. Otherwise, you’ll see the more prevalent “Elephant Ear” or
Clover” type tuners.

There’s a ton of other little things that have come and gone on this fine axe. If you want an exhaustive list GO HERE.

Suffice it to say that the basics have survived, but, like any instrument, over the decades Fender through little twists at us to keep us intrigued.

But in the most important ways, “the song remains the same”, to quote a group which featured yet another Jazz player – John Paul Jones in Led Zeppelin!!

Slap the Funk Outta You!

I absolutely love the sound of the Jazz bass for funk. If pop & slap mean something more to you than a mixed martial arts term, then you know what I’m sayin’ – the Jazz tonal spectrum is perfect for servin’ up hot slices of stanky funk!

I know Parliament said, “Make my funk the P-funk”, but, trust me, they were talking about the name of their band, NOT the name of Bootsy’s bass!

How do we know this?? Because Bootsy started, with his tenure in James Brown‘s backing band, the JBs, with none other than… a Fender Jazz!!

Obviously, the REAL funk comes from what’s on top of your shoulders and what’s at the end of your arms. You can only make those bodies boogie if you’ve wood-shedded enough to have your technique slippery smooth and contagiously strut-worthy.

But if you’ve done your dance-band due diligence, the Jazz bass is your ace in the funkin’ hole, baby!!

Take, for example, the following video uploaded by bass maestro Davey Pollitt. Yes, he’s obviously a Jazz bass AND a “Level 42” fan, but if you play bass… aren’t YOU??!!

So get slap-happy. Grab a Jazz, bounce that laughin” vibe into a wide-mouthed Hartke or Mark Bass amp head, into some complementary cabs, and within seconds… the glass ball will be spinning, the colored lights will the ricocheting, and oh, yes and verily do I say… the people SHALL FEEL THE FUNK!!! Lol

Top of the Heap??

Now, whether the Jazz bass is TRULY the best-selling bass of all time… still remains a mystery. If you doubt me on this, just read through THIS ANIMATED DEBATE about it vs. the Fender P bass.

Man, you’d think they were talkin’ about their KIDS or something! Lol

One interesting insight concerning this comes from the behemoth of sales and provision we call Amazon. If you search under “best-selling bass” right now, as I just did, you’ll see that the first Fender bass that is near the top according to Amazon sales, is… the JAZZ bass! Pretty convincing testimonial that.

Of course, their stats are updated every hour, so who knows if it’s always beating out the P-bass. As of today though… it is.

Okay, But Which Series??!

Now let’s inch our way out onto a dangerous limb – Squier, Mexican or American??!!

This question can really raise some hackles, but it need not. There’s a place for all instruments in our world, just as there are people with varying economic options that still really want to make music.

The Squier series is the cheapest. In the middle is the MIM, or Made In Mexico, series. Finally, the most expensive standard model (without getting into Custom builds) is the American Standard.

I watched a ton of vids to see if anyone out there had really done their homework and could really show AND PLAY the differences.

I was ready to go buy an American & a Squier to compare it with the Mexican model in my studio…

… when I found this:

The vid was a bit long, to be sure, but I thought the Andertons fellows did a thorough comparison which told me all I needed to know, and hear, to make a wise buying choice.

I still come away wishing for the American Standard one day. Big surprise, right??! Lol

But, you know, I think my 2nd choice might be the Squier now! It was brighter than the Mexican, which I like, and really held its own against the other two.

The MIM was significantly darker, which might be good for some mixes, but I tend towards a tone with a smile of high frequencies in there somewhere, like my awesome axe from BASS MODS, which you can read the REVIEW OF HERE.

How ’bout you?? Got G.A.S. for a certain series of Jazz now??! ‘-)

Come on, Feel the Noise

We’ve probably all been there: you go to play a gig and, for some unforeseen and unfortunate reason, there’s a ton of NOISE in your signal.

Fender thought of this eventuality in their design, and implemented an effective fix, though with certain parameters.

Jazz Bass pickups

They designed the pickups as “reverse wound, reverse polarity”, or RWRP. This simply means that when both pickups are at full volume, all hum is eliminated from your signal.

In other words, they’re humbucking when they’re up and hot!

If, however, you turn either volume knob down, it could (depending on your rig, the quality of electricity you’re getting, and if there are any dimming lights screaming through the circuitry nearby) introduce some noise into your signal.

There are some fixes for this if you truly want to use the bass with the volume knobs at substantially different levels:

* Swap out the pickups for noise-cancelling ones

* Wire the two standard single-coil pickups in parallel instead of series

* Swap out the pickups for humbuckers

* Install “shielding” in your control cavity

* Always play with a kill switch or a trustworthy gate in your effects loop

Each of these will either change your tone slightly, or limit the amount of tonal variety you’ll be able to eke out of the beast.

My ultimate choice?? Use copper foil shielding inside the control cavities. From my research this will all but eliminate the nastiness that tries to claw through your single-coil heavenly tone.

It’s something you can do yourself with minimal time and effort, even if you’re not a true “luthier”. THIS STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE will take you all the way there!

58 is… the New 20!!

Hard to believe that the Jazz bass celebrates its 58th birthday this year. Wow! Time flies when we’re thumpin’ a groove!!

There are so many varieties of Jazz bass these days: signature models, classic throwbacks, Custom Shop options, different country of origin Series…

I just did THIS SEARCH at Musician’s Friend, under “Fender Jazz Bass”. As you can see through that link, it brings up no less than FORTY-SIX different iterations of this cherished axe.

Choices. Choices. So many choices!!!

So happy 58th, J.B.! As Rod said so eloquently, “You wear it well! A little outta time, but I don’t mind… !”

Modern, curvaceous, snarl-snarky and as revered and relevant as ever… you’ve GOT to try… the Fender Jazz Bass!!

Special thanks to our boomin’ good friend Chris Oesterling for letting us examine his personal Jazz Bass for our article today. You rock, Chris!!

See ya on the funk floor!!! 😉

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

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Shure SM7B Review – A Shot At Michael’s Mic!

Is there such a thing as “Concert Envy”?

I think there is.

See, my wife just loves to tease me with the fact that SHE got to see Michael Jackson on his tour after the release of the “Thriller” album, and I… did not.

Not fair!

But I’ve got something over her too –  I record with the same mic that Jackson used for most of his “Thriller” vocals… the Shure SM7B!!

Of course, it’s not the EXACT same mic that he used. Engineer Bruce Swedien or Producer Quincy Jones probably has that, and, man… could they sell THAT for a lot of money!!

Improve it or Lose it!

The SM7B has a long, rich history in pro audio.

It was first introduced in 1976 as a step up from the SM57, and as a smaller design than the SM5, a widely used broadcast mic.

Basically the owners said to the engineers “Redesign the sm57 cartridge element from the ground up, and make it better. Spare no expense.

The result? The SM7B!

There are some who dismiss this mic because it’s a dynamic and not a condenser, but the word is quite widespread on the street that the SM7B is without question a quality option for any serious audiophile’s mic cabinet.

In fact, some ardent supporters really sing its praise, inventing outlandish superlatives that are hilarious! How about this gem I found online:

“It’s whispered that with careful positioning… you can use an SM7B to record the future!”

Humor aside, the popularity of this mic has not waned since the 80s, probably bolstered by the “Thriller” association that makes anything linked to it seem more important. That album continues to be a juggernaut in popular music’s influence.

In any case, I thought I’d put this mic through its paces in the studio and give us some sound bites so we can all decide whether the hype is well-founded or not.

Let’s dig in!

The Specs

For those of you who want the engineering specifications, as I always do, these are the SM7B parameters that give it its unique sound and tonal flexibility:

Type: Dynamic
Frequency Response: 50 to 20,000 Hz
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Included Accessories: Foam windscreen; close-talk windscreen; locking yoke mount
Emphasis Controls: Bass roll-off & mid-range emphasis; Slotted response
     selector switches.

Microphone Connection: 3-pin (XLR)
Cartridge Shock Mount: Internal air-suspension shock & vibration isolator.
Case: Dark gray enamel aluminum and steel case with dark gray foam windscreen.
Electromagnetic Hum Sensitivity:
     60 Hz: 11 dB
     500 Hz: 24 dB
     1 kHz: 33 dB

Net Weight: 765.4 grams (1 lb, 11 oz)
Polarity: Positive pressure on diaphragm produces positive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3.
Output Level (at 1,000 Hz) Open Circuit Voltage: – 59.0 dB (1.12 mV)
     0 dB = 1 volt per Pascal

Swivel Assembly: Integrated, captive nut for ease of attachment to stand, fits
     5/8 in.–27 thread.

Impedance: 150 ohms for connection to microphone inputs rated at 19 to 300 ohms.

The two most important diagrams I always want to see with regard to microphones are these two – the polar patterns… :

… and the frequency response:

Knowing these facts helps us choose mics appropriately. If we consider what instrument we need to pick up, and how the response and polar patterns will either flatter, or worsen, the instrument’s most appealing characteristics, we’ll always have “the right tool for the job”. And THAT will mean… an excellent recording.

See? Even the dullest of specs can be pretty exciting when they’re working for YOUR music!

That Michael Thing

So are we hearing the SM7B on the entirety of Michael’s “Thriller” album??

Not exactly. First off, Bruce Swedien, the engineer for the project, was using the SM7 at the time, which was the original iteration of the mic. The SM7A, then the SM7B, followed from Shure some years later.

Famed Engineer Bruce Swedien

Now, according to Shure, all three versions of the mic sound acoustically identical.

Swedien, however, begs to differ. He says he can hear the difference. Given the high caliber of the products he’s put out, I tend to believe him.

But that doesn’t mean that the SM7B isn’t useful, or dependable, in the studio. In my experience, it is.

Second, Swedien has said himself that he used the mic on most of the songs, but not all.

In his book, “In the Studio with Michael Jackson“, Swedien recalls that he definitely used it on ” Billie Jean”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, and all of Vincent Price‘s voice-over work the song “Thriller”.

Even if it were just those, that’s pretty impressive for a dynamic mic!!

The remainder of the songs were tracked using a Nuemann U-87 mic.

Think of that! Arguably the greatest pop artist in the world sang, on his most popular album, through two mics: one that cost over three grand (the u-87) and one that retails, today, (the SM7B) for under $400!!

Wow. This must be why artists like “The Weeknd” are today still using it, all the time. And since their albums are also at the top of the charts, well… I think they’re onto something, don’t you?

The Low Gain problem

There is one shortcoming to the SM7B – it’s low output.

This is “par for the course” in dynamic microphones; they just don’t put out a lot of signal.

And what is the natural by-product of that?? It means that you have to have some type of mixer, preamp, or gain staging device to boost its signal.

If you don’t, you’re going to deal with that dreaded pro-audio headache… NOISE!

The first thing I heard when I listened back to my voice, recorded through the SM7B, was substantial noise. And I had even run it through my Apollo Twin interface which puts a LOT of gain at my disposal.

I knew immediately that, if there wasn’t a fix for this, I was taking it right back to the store. The music we create these days is too digitally clean for that to be acceptable.

Luckily, I then hooked up the Cloudlifter (which I reviewed in THIS POST!) and it took care of the problem in a BIG way.

I mean, this thing really made all the difference. It was not subtle at all, what the Cloudlifter accomplished and, in the final analysis, I had a great, clean, clear signal to work with.

Gotta love technology!!!

My Test Gear

SM7B and Oktava mic

In this mic shootout test, I used the following hardware and software:

  • the Ibanez Exotic Wood Dreadnought Acoustic
  • the AT4050 as a 2nd mic on guitar
  • the Oktava 2500 tube mic as a 2nd mic on vocal
  • the Apollo Twin MkII interface
  • Pro Tools

I used NO processing, either in the Apollo or in Pro Tools, on any of the individual recordings. What you hear is exactly what the mics provide and nothing else.

For the very last video clip, where the song was mixed and all mics put together, I simply slapped on a little compression for the vocal, using my favorite set of plug-ins, the SSL bundle:

As well as a very slight and fast plate reverb to “put ’em in the same room”.

Of course, they actually were recorded in the same room, but… you know, I couldn’t help myself!   Lol

Finally, I put on the mix bus the same thing I almost always do: this fantastic tape machine emulator by Slate. LOVE THIS PLUG-IN!!!!

Curtain… OPEN!!

Enjoy the results. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the differences!

What I Noticed…

First off, in this test I think the Cloudlifter makes this mic SO much better.

Here’s the gain staging for my first recording. The SM7B is on the left channel, and my Oktava tube mic is on the right:

Now take a look at the same set-up, but with the Cloudlifter added to the SM7B:

Do you see that amazing reduction in gain??!! I got a 17 dB reduction. Did that affect my noise floor?? You bet it did! I couldn’t hear the awful hiss anymore. Problem solved!!

Switch Me!!

On the bottom of the SM7B you are given two switches to manipulate if you have one of two problems:

SM7B switches
  1. You’re getting too much low-frequency noise coming through your signal, e.g. mic stand bump noises.
  2. You’re NOT getting as much “body”, or “sheen”, that is, mid to high-frequency content in your signal as you’d like.

If the first is your issue, you can simply engage the high-pass filter switch. It rolls off the bass quite well, starting at 400 Hz and sloping downward.

Unless you’re a real bass-y singer, or prefer a lot of low end in your voice, this filter will clean things up for ya without getting into any territory that normal vocals might occupy. 

I would NOT, however, engage this while recording acoustic guitar. The Low E on a guitar clocks in at 82.4 Hz, so whenever I’m tracking or mixing a song with just acoustic and vocal only, I cut off everything below 82 with a high-pass filter, but without exception leave the low E territory unmarred by EQ or filters. I wanna hear the BEEF, people!    😉

If that sparkly second problem is what your ears want fixed, you’ve got a really useful “Presence” switch on the bottom too. It gives quite a significant bump in the 1k – 9k region.

Here’s a little recording I did to let you hear exactly what each switch will do to your sound. Headphones, of course, will do it the most justice, so… don those cans and push play!

It’s a Lifted Keeper!!

So what’s my final verdict on the SM7B?? It’s this: without the Cloudlifter, I probably wouldn’t use it. 

With the Cloudlifter, however, it’s absolutely a great transducer that I expect to use in a great number of signal chains for years to come.

I’ll probably also use the high-frequency boost switch quite often, depending on the instrument. You can really hear the difference when it’s engaged, and since the mic has a darker, rounder sound to begin with, that switch adds a lot of versatility.

Is that what you would do? Do you prefer different settings? Or completely different mics?? Have you used the SM7B on any recordings we can hear???

Let us know by dropping us a Comment. Besides getting to know you, we can get to know your music too!

Now, go… make… sounds!!

Teaj

Teaj in the storm fields!
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The Cloudlifter – Activate That Mic, Will Ya?!

The Saturn V, breaking the sound barrier!

Quick – what’s the most powerful rocket ever made by man?!

It’s not Elon Musk’s “Falcon Heavy”, if that’s what you guessed.

It’s the “Saturn V”, our tallest and most powerful rocket that took us to the moon and back seven times.

We needed that conquering power to boost us up and beyond our gravity, and give us all the strong, consistent juice we needed to complete a successful space voyage.

In the world of pro audio mics, the Cloudlifter Mic Activator is doing just that for our signals – boosting low output consistently, so we hand over a strong product to our clients.

Let’s bust through its atmosphere some more!

What is This Thing?

This little box by the “Cloud” company, designated the “CL-1“, is a compact, single-channel, in-line device that smacks down the self-noise of any passive mic in your collection, by taking phantom power from your interface or mixer, and using it to increase your gain structure up to 25 dB! That’s a big increase!!

The full contents of the Cloudlifter box!

The company’s tag line on this product is “All gain is not created equal!” By providing us with a lot more gain, we get a lot more tone, dynamic range, headroom, clarity… the list is long.

They also make a TWO-channel version, the model # of which is “CL-2“.

Both of these you can read up on by visiting the CLOUD WEBSITE HERE.

What can these do for you? Simple: they really enhance the familiar characteristics of your favorite mics while lowering the signal-to-noise ratio.

Cloudlifter Warranty

Because of that, whatever you like about a certain mic (its warmth, sparkle, sheen, etc.) will be bolstered and delivered mightier, and clearer, via the activation circuits in these units.

Not bad for a box only 4.5 inches long! 😉

The 60-Day Warranty means you’re covered if you change your mind. But honestly… I don’t think you will. You’ll see why soon enough…

Who Needs it, and Why?

First, anyone with low-output dynamic mics. These tend to be a lot more noisy than condenser mics, and these days, with digital highlighting every little nuance in our signal path, the presence of hiss (think the ‘cloud’ that needs lifted!) is just not acceptable. We’ll put a mic away that has that and never use it again if we don’t have a way to get rid of such undesirable sibilance.

Mics like:

  • the Sennheiser MD 441-U
  • the Shure SM7B
  • the Electro-Voice RE20
  • the Shure SM58 or SM57
  • the Telefunken M82
  • the Sennheiser MD 421-II

There are lots of others too, but these are all mics that are considered “standards” in the industry. You’d probably find each of these in any large studio’s mic collection.

Cloud Lifter on stand
Plugged into my SM7B

Second, anyone who wants a lot more signal from soft, quiet instrument sources will benefit greatly from this unit. Recording a shaker, or a KALIMBA, in the studio? Need more oomph from the percussion being played behind that loud band?? The Cloudlifter’s gotcha covered.

Third, anyone who has to deal with long cable runs, like live sound engineers.

Fourth, anyone who wants to interject a ton more headroom before feedback during live concerts will love this little guy. The brings out smiles for miles!

Fifth, anyone who has a really cheap audio interface, or really old audio gear, can massively benefit from running a much more beefy, sharper signal through that gear.

Sixth, anyone who wants more dynamic diversity in their tone. Because this lifter gives you a ton more headroom, that means, by definition, that you’re louds will be louder, your softs can be softer, and overall your dynamic range will be increased to the point of outstanding expressiveness within any style of playing or singing.

Acoustic guitar players, for example, often find they play with more feel and dynamic content with one of these babies, due to its bountiful dynamic spectrum. The signal also sounds more “snappy”, with the acoustic feeling like it’s responding to your technique more, all because you’re hearing the nuances much more.

And if you’re a vocalist who often sings really soft, then really loud?? Oh man… you’re gonna really dig this beast!

Open Cloudlifter box

Finally, anyone who just wants their mic’s tone improved will benefit from the Cloudlifter. What I’ve discovered is that the sound of any mic you add this to just, in the words of drummer Simon Phillips who uses it, “sounds better“.

It gives it more presence; more “bite”; some have said more “high-end crispness”. In other words, more of the mics own innate good qualities, while diminishing the bad noise output.

Now who doesn’t want some o’ THAT action?!!

Get Up on the Set Up

The Cloudlifter is a cinch to use. Simply run an XLR cable from its Output (to the right of the cloud logo) into an interface, preamp, mixer, or any other device that can supply phantom power.

Then, run another XLR cable from your passive mic into the cloudlifter Input, which is to the left of the logo.

That’s it! Pretty simple, right? No buttons. No switches. Just true plug ‘n’ play.

Velcro for attaching to mic stand
Velcro-ready!

What this means practically is you will need two XLR cables for your mic instead of one. Besides that, it’s business as usual.

Except, of course, for how much more astounding your sound will be!

One other thing: the CL-1 comes with a black Velcro strip. You use this to attach the lifter to a mic stand, so it doesn’t have to rest on the floor where you’ll inevitably kick it when you go roarin’ into that overdrive guitar solo that always drives your fans mad!! 😉

Who Loves Ya, Baby?!

Simon Phillips has used the Cloudlifter for years on the SM57 mic on his snare, for example. We all know how important the snare sound is, and we all know (hopefully!) how amazing a player Simon is, so… I think we can safely say if he’s doing it… we probably should too!

Simon says… buy one! 😉
(photo: Luca Fiaccavento)

Warren Huart of “Produce Like A Pro” (one of our favorite channels) is also a big fan. Check out the glowing superlatives he gives this unit as he tries it on acoustic with a Royer ribbon mic, and on his electric guitar amp with the humble SM57.

But wait – there’s more! My favorite pro audio Web zine, “Sound on Sound“, also gave it thumbs-up,

Here’s what they had to say about it exactly:

“(It will)… produce much cleaner-sounding results without paying out for a high-end dedicated ribbon preamp.”

Sounds like a win across the board, don’tcha think? And if we can save money by not having to buy preamps that are a LOT more pricey for our mics, that leaves more cash for other things.

Like guitars…

Or keys…

Or drums…

Or basses…

Or… whatever’s giving you serious G.A.S. at this particular moment!! Lol

Testing… Testing… !

To put the CL-1 through its paces, I picked up a Shure SM7B microphone. This dynamic mic is notorious for its low output, but also well-respected for its sound.

I mean, come on… Michael Jackson didn’t use it for his vocals on “Thriller” because it sounded BAD. 😉

(The review on that to be published soon, if you want MORE insight into this cool mic!)

I routed the mic through my Apollo Twin interface and straight into Pro Tools with no processing whatsoever.

To my ears, the results were obvious. 

Besides, of course, that for a real tune I’d put a @#$%-ton of dynamic and EQ effects on it to make it shine (De-esser, anyone?!)!   Lol

Let’s see what your ears say:

So? Whadja think??

Could you hear a difference?

Did you think the CL-1 improved sound?

Thumbs Up

I certainly did! The amount of noise and hiss I heard present in the SM7B signal was waaaay beyond what I would normally allow in my recordings. I just wouldn’t use this mic, honestly… unless I was recording really loud signals, which would cover up the hiss.

With the Cloudlifter added, however, I can now use it on practically anything, without worrying that the noise floor is going to be too offensive for digital mixing.

So, yea, it’s a clear win for me. The CL-1 will be staying with me in my studio, and I have a feeling I’ll be using it in more ways than I even mentioned in this article.

That’s always the case when you pick up a great piece of gear. 😉

Only Passives???

So, this Activator can ONLY be used on passive mics, right??

Well, not exclusively. But you have to be careful. Sending 48v into a Ribbon mic, for example, can fry the ribbon transducer!

But if you really want to use this activator on Condenser mics for example, and see how much more of their sweetness or gravitas you can fire up, you can… but you’ll need a separate 48v generator.

They’re usually not too expensive, say, thirty to 60 bucks. THIS GENERATOR by Behringer will work fine. Or THIS SUPPLY BOX from Mackie.

The reason you need this is that the CL-1 is going to be sucking up the phantom power sent from your interface, so it can’t go on to the mic. If you place a 48v supply between your condenser mic and the Activator though, they both will have all the fuel they need to send your sound skyrocketing!


Propel Your Sound Heavenward!!

Clean, strong, uncolored sound.

Isn’t that what we all want most of the time?

The Cloudlifter helps us get there with mics that, er, might not always be so up-to-snuff with regard to noise floor. Consider it your “rocket to through the clouds” in pro audio!

Oh, and for what is does to improve sound across a variety of low-output mics, its price is nominal. I’m even considering getting three more! To get more gain from your wimpy mics today, get a Cloudlifter for yourself by CLICKING HERE!

Cloudlifter magnet!
Magnet time, baby!!

Have you used the Cloudlifter? Getting one for yourself? Let us know your experience with this product in the Comments. It helps us all make sense of the endless march of pro audio devices at our Internet fingertips.

And after all… it comes with a fridge magnet. I mean… who doesn’t want THAT?!! 😉

Now, go… make… (boosted) sounds!!

Teaj

Let's Syndrome Socialize!!