Archive and Resources for GuitaroJam Members

Newsletter Home:  2006 | 2005
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3rd April, 2006

CONTENTS:

  • Health:  Cubital Tunnel Syndrome In Guitarists
  • Artist:  Aerosmith Just Keeps On Rockin'
  • Guitar Care:  Guitar Tuning Tips -- Keep Your Guitar Locked In Tune
  • Learning:  Reaching For The Soul Zone
  • Gear:  Guitars - The Parker Fly Guitar
  • Recording:  Music Production and Mixing Tips and Tricks
  • Recommendation: Guitar Made Simple - Special Discount!
  • New Product: Learn 2 Play Guitar Six Pack PLUS Master Resell Rights.
  •  

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    Cubital Tunnel Syndrome In Guitarists


    By Dr. Timothy Jameson

    Copyright © 1998-2004 Timothy Jameson. All Rights Reserved.

    A common problem among both acoustic and electric guitar players, as well as other stringed instrument players, is the development of forearm pain, tingling, and numbness, typically on the same side that you fret the instrument.

    This column will explain a specific type of repetitive injury called cubital tunnel syndrome, which affects the inner side of the forearm and the pinky side of the hand. Most musicians are probably not familiar with this syndrome even though the symptoms are experienced by many. The typical presentation of the syndrome, the anatomical structures involved, along with prevention and treatment options will be discussed in this article.


    Cubital Tunnel Syndrome typically involves pain and/or abnormal sensations in the elbow area, along the inner side of the forearm. The pain can travel downwards towards the pinky, and can be accompanied by tingling or numbness sensations to the pinky side of the hand. The forearm muscles can be achy, sore and painful, and can lead to a misdiagnosis of tendonitis by an inexperienced doctor.

     
    This syndrome usually only involves the ring and pinky fingers, since these fingers receive their nerve supply from the ulnar nerve. Some variations in the nerve supply to the fingers may allow for the middle finger to be involved as well. The ulnar nerve begins from nerve fibers exiting from the spine in the neck, called the cervical spine. The nerve traverses down the arm, passing through the "funny bone" area of the elbow, then travels down the outer side of the forearm to hand muscles along with the 4th, and 5th fingers. The purpose of the nerve is to allow for communication between the brain and hand, allowing for both motor control of the hand, and sending sensation from the hand to the brain.


    If the syndrome progresses, it can lead to decreased function of the hand, especially grip strength. It is common also to experience tingling and numbness in the fourth and fifth fingers. Wasting or atrophy of the pad of muscles on the palm side below the pinky finger can develop as well. Typically, the person notices that flexing the forearm tends to irritate the symptoms. Another symptom is the musician beginning to notice that he/she cannot control the fourth and fifth fingers very well. It's as if they're trying to control finger motion, but the hand just is not receiving the signals and has a "mind of its own." Loss of dexterity, speed, and control of the ring and pinky fingers is a hallmark sign of this syndrome.


    The culprit in this syndrome is compression of the ulnar nerve. Just south of the elbow, the nerve passes through the flexor carpi ulnaris muscle to travel down to the hand. A small tunnel forms in this location, and the nerve becomes surrounded on all sides. In this tunnel, the ulnar nerve sits on top of the flexor digitorum profundus muscle. A ligament forms the top layer of the tunnel. It is important to understand the function of the muscles in this tunnel, because they play a major role in the development of the syndrome. The flexor carpi ulnaris muscle attaches to the inner part of the elbow, and its function is to flex the wrist and move the wrist inward towards the pinky. The flexor digitorum profundus attaches to the medial elbow and inserts into the tips of the fingers. This muscle's function is to flex the fingers (especially the tips).

     


    Now that you've survived the anatomy lesson, let's discuss in real life how these anatomical structures are affected with guitar playing. As I stated earlier, this syndrome typically affects guitarists in the fretting hand, so in a right handed guitarist, the left hand is typically involved. If we dissect the playing of a simple barre chord, we would notice 1) contraction of the thumb against the underside of the neck of the guitar, 2) a counterbalancing contraction of the opposing fingers on the top fretted side of the neck, 3) bending of the fingertips to push against the strings, 4) flattening of one finger against the neck to form the bar (usually the first finger), 4) maybe some stretching of the pinky to reach a higher fret and 5) flexion of the wrist.


    Since the ulnar nerve passes between the muscles that perform flexion of the wrist, bending of the fingertips and stretching the pinky to reach the higher frets can irritate the muscles surrounding this nerve. With constant overuse of these muscles, they can become inflammed, or actually form "microtears" at the attachments to the elbow. This is especially evident in guitarists who have not developed strength in their forearm musculature in preparation of hours of practice time. The swelling involved can start squeezing down on the ulnar nerve, causing the symptoms mentioned above. This is also why bending the forearm will worsen the complaints. The ulnar nerve becomes stretched upon flexion of the elbow. If the nerve already is being pinched, the stretching is going to amplify the symptoms.


    Cubital tunnel syndrome can also occur from other maladies, such as traumatic injuries to the elbow from car accidents, falls, elbow fractures, and elbow dislocations. Many musicians also do computer work on the side, and repeated keyboarding at the computer with poor posture and little rest time, and constantly leaning on their elbows while at the computer can predispose the musician to ulnar nerve problems. Overall poor health of the musician is a complicating factor as well. Not exercising, poor nutritional intake, alcohol and drug consumption, and preexisting health conditions can weaken the body to make is more susceptible to neurological insult.


    A very important cause of CTS that must not be overlooked is neck problems. Since the nerve fibers that travel to the hand must first exit the spine, any problems with the cervical spine in that vicinity will irritate the nerves. For example, if you have suffered a whiplash injury from a car accident - even years previously - it can predispose you to cubital tunnel syndrome.

    Chronically bad posture and forward head tilt can also lead to nerve compression. Consider your posture while playing your musical instrument. How many guitarists do you see in a forward head posture, leaning over the axe, while playing difficult passages? How about shredders who are flailing their heads back and forth while playing their high-speed arpeggios? Chronic poor posture exerts tremendous strain not just on the neck, but upon the entire spine and nervous system. Unfortunately in a majority of cases, you will never experience actual discomfort in the neck with cubital tunnel syndrome. It's important to note that only a Doctor of Chiropractic can determine if the neck is the source of your problem. Physical therapists and medical doctors do not receive training in locating and correcting spinal subluxations - the misalignments that irritate and distort nerve function.


    For those of you who do not have the symptoms mentioned and would like to prevent them from ever occurring, there are a few simple steps to take:

    1) Give yourself more frequent breaks (about a 10 minute break after every 45 minutes of playing) during rehearsing or practice times. The constant playing for hours upon hours without resting can lead to microtearing of the muscles and the resulting repetitive strain.

    2) Before you play and during your breaks, increase blood flow to the forearm and hands by stretching and performing self-massage to the area. (You may want to visit your library or bookstore and look into some massage techniques - these help to increase the blood flow to your arms and flush out toxins.)

    3) Begin receiving regular massages by a professional massage therapist to keep your muscles supple and relaxed.

    4) Have an evaluation by a doctor of chiropractic to make sure the alignment of your neck, shoulders, and elbows is correct, allowing proper nerve flow to the muscles of your hands.

    5) Enhance your nutrition and use nutritional supplements so your body has all the building blocks need to cellular repair and nerve transmission.

    6) Begin and/or maintain a weight training regimen that concentrates not only on the major muscle groups, but the forearm and hand muscles as well. The stronger those muscles are, the less chance of fatigue and injury.

    If you do have the symptoms mentioned in this article:

    1) If you simply have some forearm muscle soreness, use heat on the forearm before practicing, and ice the elbow and forearm area after playing. The heat will encourage more blood to the tissues while playing, and the ice will discourage swelling afterwards. Perform stretching to the forearm three to four times daily.

    2) If you are experiencing nerve related symptoms like tingling and numbness, burning sensations, muscle fatigue, and lack of coordination of the fingers, see a Doctor of Chiropractic immediately who is experienced in treating musician's injuries. Many musicians make the mistake of seeing their general medical practitioner who is not trained in caring for repetitive strain injuries. Most musicians who go the medical route receive dangerous medications that may actually worsen your condition. Even something as simple as ibuprofen can damage the kidneys and liver. With this in mind, do not become an anti-inflammatory junkie. Repeated use of antiinflammatories will simply mask a more serious underlying problem, and can lead to organ problems.

    3) Always try conservative measures first, such as chiropractic, massage therapy, or acupuncture. Give yourself at least six to eight weeks to heal.

    4) If you notice symptoms worsening, or weakness occurring in the hands, even with the conservative care programs provided to you with chiropractic and massage, your health care provider should refer you to a neurologist for a consultation and neurological testing. In my experience in working with musicians via chiropractic care, this rarely happens. I would estimate 90% of patients who present to my office with these symptoms overcome them with natural, conservative chiropractic wellness care, and become healthier, more creative musicians in the long run.


    Finally, don't "hope the problem with go away." If you are a guitarist or musician of any instrument, and begin noticing changes in the function of your hands, do not wait to have them evaluated. The faster you receive care for them, the faster they will heal. Musicians who put off receiving treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome risk the more serious consequences of hand muscle wasting, numbness, loss of ability to play their instrument, and chronic disability. Treat your body as a temple, and care for it daily.


    About The Author: Dr. Timothy Jameson has been in private chiropractic practice for 15 years and has spent the last six years focusing on the care of the musician population. He is the author of “The Musicians Guide to Health and Wellness, which is available for download at www.musicianshealth.com

     

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    Aerosmith Just Keeps On Rockin'


    By: F.R. Penn


    For over three decades, Aerosmith have been one of rock's most revered and popular bands, crafting classic songs full of raw guitar runs and intensely energetic vocals. The band first reached fame in the 1970's with a string of hits including "Dream On," "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way." During this period, Aerosmith's music defied easy categorization, falling somewhere between hard rock/blues and early punk, with occasional power ballads here and there.

     The band enjoyed major popularity throughout the 1970's, but a split from 1979-84, and the serious substance abuse and drug addictions that contributed to their decline, would nearly relegate them to the annals of history. However, in 1984, Aerosmith was born again. They went on to enjoy resurgence in popularity that has made them one of the top-selling and most popular rock bands in the world today.  

     Throughout their rough and rocky history, Aerosmith defied failure and even defied mediocrity in a fast-paced rock-and-roll world abundant in tragedy and also-rans. Aerosmith signed with Columbia in 1972 and debuted their first album simply titled Aerosmith, which included a hit single, "Dream On". After constant touring, the band released Get Your Wings in 1974, which did quite well on the charts, but it was Toys in the Attic in 1975 that established Aerosmith as international superstars. Originally pegged as Rolling Stones clones, Toys in the Attic showed that Aerosmith was a unique and original talent in their own right. Part heavy metal, part glam rock, and part punk, Toys in the Attic was an immense success, starting with the single "Sweet Emotion", then a successful re-release of "Dream On", and a new song from the album, "Walk This Way". Both of the band's previous albums re-charted as a result. Aerosmith's next album, Rocks, went platinum swiftly and featured two hits, "Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child".  

    Their next album, Draw the Line, was not nearly as successful, though the title track proved to be a minor hit. While continuing to tour and record into the late 1970's, Aerosmith acted in the movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, covering the Beatles hit "Come Together." As their popularity waned and drug abuse began affecting their output, Joe Perry left the band in 1979 during the recording of their sixth studio album Night in the Ruts and formed The Joe Perry Project. Perry's role in Aerosmith was initially taken by longtime friend and songwriter Richie Supa and then later by guitarist Jimmy Crespo who recorded the remainder of the album.  

     

    Aerosmith released its mammoth-selling Greatest Hits album in 1980, and in 1981 the band suffered another loss with the departure of Brad Whitford. Rick Dufay replaced Whitford and the band recorded their seventh album, Rock in a Hard Place. The album was considered a relative failure. The tour that followed this release is notable for Steven Tyler's collapse onstage during a 1983 performance.  

    On Valentine's Day 1984, Perry and Whitford went to see Aerosmith play. They officially rejoined the ranks of Aerosmith once more in April of that year. Steven Tyler recalls, "You should have felt the buzz the moment all five of us got together in the same room for the first time again. We all started laughing - it was like the five years had never passed. We knew we'd made the right move."  Aerosmith embarked on a lucrative reunion tour entitled "Back in the Saddle", which produced the live album Classics Live II. Their problems were still not behind them when the group signed with Geffen Records and began working on a comeback.  

    1985 saw the release of Done with Mirrors, their first studio album since the highly publicized reunion. It fared relatively well commercially, but it did not produce a hit single or generate much hope for their comeback. By the time the record was released, Tyler and Perry had exited drug rehabilitation. The group appeared on Run D.M.C.'s incredibly successful cover of "Walk This Way", blending rock and roll and hip-hop and successfully beginning Aerosmith's comeback.

    The group's next release was Permanent Vacation (1987), which included the hits "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", "Rag Doll", and "Angel". Their next album, Pump, was received even better; Pump featured four Top Ten singles: "Janie's Got a Gun", "What It Takes", "Love in an Elevator", and "The Other Side". Aerosmith was definitely in the midst of a major resurgence.  

     Despite significant shifts in mainstream music at the beginning of the 1990's, the band's 1993 follow-up to Pump, Get a Grip, was just as successful commercially. Though many critics were unimpressed by the focus on power-ballads in promoting the album, three songs ("Cryin' ", "Crazy" and "Amazing") proved to be huge successes on radio and MTV. The music videos featured then fresh up-and-coming actress Alicia Silverstone; her provocative performances earned her the title of "the Aerosmith chick" for half a decade. Steven Tyler's daughter, Liv Tyler, was also featured in the "Crazy" video. Aerosmith signed with Columbia Records again in the early 1990's, but they had to complete two contractual albums for Geffen before recording for the new label.  

     The next album, Nine Lives, was plagued with personnel problems, including the firing of manager Tim Collins. Reviews were generally mixed, and Nine Lives initially fell on charts, although it had a long chart life and sold double platinum in the US alone. It was followed by a series of late '90's releases, mostly earlier material that was live or retrospective. The albums sold relatively well, but also marked a second decline in popularity and critical respect for the band. 

     Aerosmith's biggest hit of the '90's, and its only #1 single to date, was the love theme from the film Armageddon, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". This song was conceived by Joe Perry and Diane Warren, although Warren alone received songwriting credit. Steven Tyler's daughter Liv was featured in the movie. In 1999, they were in the Disney-MGM Studios ride (and later in the Walt Disney Studios Park ride), Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Aerosmith provided the soundtrack and theme for the ride, which is based on their recording session and following concert.  

    The band started its next decade with the release in 2001 of Just Push Play, which charted well. They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later that year, the band appeared as part of the United We Stand concert in Washington D.C. for 9/11 victims and their families. Stubbornly, the band flew back to Indianapolis for a show the same night, refusing to interrupt their Just Push Play tour schedule. 

    In 2002, Aerosmith released the 2-disc compilation O Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits and embarked on the Girls of Summer tour with opening acts Kid Rock and Run-DMC. In 2003, Aerosmith co-headlined with Kiss on the Rocksimus Maximus tour. Their long-promised blues album, Honkin' on Bobo, was released in 2004. The Album continues to be a success, helping to inspire the resurgence of blues and roots music across the US and Europe. A live DVD, You Gotta Move, followed it in December 2004. The band also lent its well-known "Dream On" to an advertising campaign for Buick in 2004, targeting their audience, which is now composed largely of people who were teenagers when the song first charted.  

    In 2005, guitarist Joe Perry released his eponymous solo album. Many claim that it is in many ways truer to the Aerosmith of the '70's than any of their recent output. This is mostly due to its raw energy and lack of song doctoring. In October 2005, Aerosmith released a CD/DVD named Rockin' the Joint. The band hit the road for the Rockin' The Joint tour on October 30th with Lenny Kravitz and is still touring.  

    They expect to be on the road until some time around Spring 2006. Rumor has it that they will begin work on a new album at that time. It was announced in January that the band will embark on a 5-week tour with Cheap Trick in the spring. Rumors of a tour started a week before the announcement when Cheap Trick front man Robin Zander joined the band onstage for "Come Together" during a concert in Tampa, Florida. Early reports also indicate that the band plans to resume touring in the fall of 2006, most likely in support of the new album. According to insiders, an upcoming tour may see them alongside Motley Crue.
     
    About the author:   This article was written by F.R. Penn sponsored by  http://www.stubhub.com. If you're looking for tickets for the  next Aerosmith show, look no further than Stubhub.com where fans  buy and sell the hottest tickets. Reproductions of this article  are encouraged but must include a link back to
     http://www.stubhub.com.

     

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    Guitar Tuning Tips -- Keep Your Guitar Locked In Tune  

    Guitar Tuning Strategies

    Keeping your guitar tuned is THE first step in sounding hot and professional. Tune-up perfectly and THEN play is the order of the day. Tuning tip number one starts right here. Get yourself a decent and well made guitar that naturally stays in tune without constant tweaking. No matter how much you perfect the art of guitar tuning, a cheap instrument will seriously hamper your efforts.

    No matter how well you play your latest lick or arpeggio, it won't sound hot unless your in perfect Guitar Tune Nirvana either! Conclusion: Invest in a good or even great guitar and your halfway there regarding guitar-tuning dilemmas. To start off, here's 2 simple but BIG tuning tips for any type of six-stringer:

    BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #1 - Clean Your Strings Regularly

    After every sweaty, no-holds barred, gig or rehearsal, CLEAN YOUR STRINGS! It may sound painfully obvious, but this is the biggest guitar tuning problem and string-killer of them all. Some people, including yours truly, can rust and destroy a set of strings overnight, by gigging with them and not cleaning the chemicals and sweat off, immediately afterwards. When this happens, tuning can be almost impossible.

    So cleaning your strings is step one to guitar tuning nirvana. This simple precaution lengthens their lifespan, maintains tone AND tuning. Use a lint-free cloth, wrap it under and around each string, one at a time, and wipe up and down, with a slight pressure, cleaning the complete surface.

     

    String Cleaning Tips

    Use pure alcohol on the cloth if necessary, you can buy a small bottle of Isopropyl Alcohol in the chemists. Squeaky clean!

    WARNING: Be careful with this stuff it's poisonous if taken internally!

    Be careful not to run your fingers along the string too, it cuts deep and hurts like hell! I tie the cloth around the neck afterwards (they tend to mysteriously disappear for some strange reason just when needed), and make it a regular habit.

    Unless you're an experienced player, DO NOT PUT NEW STRINGS ON YOUR GUITAR BEFORE A GIG! ... hi John ;-). If you must, try and allow about 30-45 Minutes to fit, stretch and warm them and yourself up.

    If you've ever played a guitar which sounds fine in the lower regions but goes out of tune as you move up the neck, the answer could well be dirty or kaput strings. If you change them and the problem goes away, then you know. If it doesn't go away, it could be the guitar intonation. Get a good and trusted guitar-tech to check it for you.

    BIG Guitar Tuning Tip #2 - S-t-r-e-t-c-h your Strings

    When you put new strings on (if you have a Floating Bridge, do them one at a time, DO NOT take all the old ones off at once), tune them up to concert pitch, then spend about 20 minutes stretching them by hand. Left hand holds everything down at the nut, place 4 fingers of your right hand underneath one string, and slowly pull it out until you feel the tension and gently sort of bounce it forward and backwards, and S-T-R-E-T-C-H...and loosen...and S-T-R-E-T-C-H...and loos...

    Slide your hand position up the neck along the string, pull it out at various points and so on, covering the entire length from nut to bridge. Then retune it and do it all again. The first few times the string tuning will drop by as much as an octave. After a few stretch/tune ups you'll notice it doesn't drop anymore. If you let this stretching happen naturally, it can take a week or so until the guitar strings stop jumping out of tune every 2 seconds. Your guitar will be as fit as a fiddle.

    So adhering to these two simple but effective steps will improve any guitars tuning and even playability. Once you get into the habit of cleaning and stretching your guitar strings and it becomes second nature, you can turn your attention to other important playing points without having to tune up every few minutes. It's well worth the effort.

    Next we look at some Strat whammy bar tips, Lee Chang specials to avoid, and how a humble home pencil can save your guitar life :).

    About The Author:  David O'Toole is a guitar player, music fan, and musician from Ireland. He is the webmaster/editor at the following musician sites:

    * http://www.universal-total-guitar-plus-center.com
    * http://www.bellaonline.com/site/musician

    A keen player and experienced guitar teacher, he is also the author of the popular standard, lefthand, reverse guitar, and piano / keyboard Basic Chord Family series

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    Reaching For The Soul Zone

    By Chris Standring

    "When the band is 'on' you simply don't notice any of them. The music just feels great and everyone is in sync - just like they should be!"

    Every searching artist wants to get there. It's that magical place where something takes over, you know, when something bigger than you whispers in your ear and says "Relax - I'll take it from here!"

    I like to call it the 'soul zone', others simply call it the 'zone', I'm sure there are many other names for it.

    For those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about, it is the ultimate state to be in as an improviser. You might have played a gig and gone through the motions and nothing particularly interesting sprung from you. You might have played a solo at a different time and place and thought you said some pretty interesting things. But then you'll probably remember those times when you played a solo and something absolutely magical happened.

    Maybe you closed your eyes and you went off into this magical mysterious place where nothing else mattered. While you were playing you felt like you were in the middle of a 'happening'. Your tone was just right, your phrasing was great and it seemed like you were truly improvising for the first time in a long while. And strangely enough, at the end of your solo, you look up and you can't remember a thing you just played. Then the band members look at you with a big smile of approval. You were in a completely altered state, or so it seemed.

    Does this situation sound familiar to you? If so, you have experienced the soul zone. One of those trance like states that every searching musician is trying to get back to. It's the spiritual realm. And we would like it to happen more often than it does.

    There's no question about it, this experience may well be one of the factors determining why so many musicians have turned to drugs and alcohol in the past. That Zen like state seems to be one of the reasons musicians play music at all. Of course the good news is that you can get there without the substance abuse!

    The question I have always asked is this: "Why does this zone only come about from time to time?" I think there are a number of reasons.

    First and most important I think is the fact that there are so many distractions when we play. I have found that as my career got busier as an artist, I was sometimes taking on the role of artist, manager and agent. By the time I got on stage I was finally having to think about entertaining, whilst asking myself all sorts of things like "Am I losing the audience? Do they like this song and if not should I cut it from the set? - have I brought enough people to this show? Is the promoter seething with anger - will she book me ever again? How many CDs am I selling over there? Should I be promoting my CD more during the show? Am I funny witty and charming on stage - dammit do they like me at all??" Yiiiikkes heeeeeellllllppp!!



    As you can imagine, this scenario doesn't exactly make for a Zen like transcendental state now does it? Of course I am exaggerating somewhat but my point is that all too often, there are too many distractions in order to get there.

    The other big big reason is that sonically things might not be right. How many times have you done a show where the monitors sound terrible or you're playing through a rented amp that isn't sounding any good to you? What if the drummer sucks?

    I have always thought that if the band is 'on' you simply don't notice any of them. The music just feels great and everyone is in sync - just like they should be. When this is the case everyone is in that zone and the music is magical. So it's definitely a matter of external factors being right as much as it is internal relaxation and the ability to let it flow.

    One thing that I have always found particularly difficult and is a continual learning curve for me, is the art of recording. And here I don't simply mean recording guitar parts, that is a craft that can be learned. I'm talking about recording an improvised solo that is truly inspired. The question is "How do you get to that zone in a cold sterile environment?"

    What amazes me is that there have been many many truly inspired solos recorded on albums, so those artists figured out a way to get to the zone. I have always found it easier to reach my optimum playing peak in a live setting. When I'm recording I want it to be just great, it's going to be immortal after all, you know, on a CD forever. And this is where the problem lies. Too much thought. To get to the zone one needs to totally let go.

    So what can we do to help us get to that magical place? First, understand that it might not happen and that it's perfectly fine if it doesn't. It might be out of our control. Before you step out to play, take a deep breath and center yourself. Nervous energy can take over and it's important to get as much external crap out of our heads as we can and give the music our full and undivided attention.

    Take your time as you play, think about playing behind the beat instead of playing on top to drive energy. Relaxation is the key and the right energy will come as a result. Have your internal antenna up for musical ideas. They might come from the band and you should be ready to grab some inspiration from them. Close your eyes. This can help, even just to get you on the right foot. Let it flow. Try to ignore any reasons for you to not be present.

    And that last part I think is the most important of all. Be Present. Not always an easy place to get to but if we can strive for it, I believe will make us better musicians, and we'll enjoy the music that much more.
     

     

     
    Chris Standring is a jazz recording artist and educator. For more information about his highly acclaimed home study guitar courses please visit www.playjazzguitar.com and www.guitarmadesimple.com

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    Guitars - The Parker Fly Guitar
     


    By Bill McRea

    I have been a huge fan of Parker Guitars since 2002, when I first purchased a Parker Nitefly and later purchased a Parker Fly ($2,500 - $3,700). There is no way to adequately describe what it’s like to play a Parker Guitar. It’s like, well, the only thing that can describe how nice is feels to play a Parker is to compare to having sex. But my Parker never gets a head ache, does not want any jewelry and never says NO. All kidding aside, in my opinion The Parker Fly is the best guitar available for the money.

    Parker has a lower cost “P” series guitar that is both high quality and inexpensive. Made in Korea, they are fine instruments and play considerably better than most Asian build guitars. To me, if you are going to own a Parker you should buy their Parker Mojo, which are quite expensive, but worth the price. There is a tremendous difference between the US and Asian made guitars

    What sets the Parker Fly and Fly Mojo apart from the competition is the incredible playability of the guitar. It is extremely light weight, made of the best tone woods and has the fastest and most consistent neck every designed. Best of all there are no “dead” zones on the necks, and the frets NEVER wear out. Well, if you wear out the Stainless Steel frets you’re certainly a better man than me.

    The Fly Mojo and the new Fly Mojo Flame are made from a solid one-piece mahogany body joined to a solid mahogany neck. The Fly Mojo Flame features an AAA Flame Maple face that provides a stunning appearance without sacrificing the warm mahogany tones. All Mojo guitars include Parker's patented neck design with stainless steel frets and Parker's ultra-durable and fast carbon glass fingerboard.

    A word about Sperzel locking tuners: once you’ve experienced the ease of changing strings and the stead fast tune ability of the locking tuner you will never want another guitar without them. Just thread the string through the bridge and the whole on the end of the tuning peg, tighten and you’re done. No winding needed, accept to tune the instrument.

    But the most important thing about a guitar is how it sounds. According to Ken Parker; every part of the instrument, the body, the neck, the bridge has to “to sing”. Every component has an inherited tonal quality, which properly matched and molded, make up the tonal quality of the guitar.

    Parker Guitars is now part of the Washburn Guitar Company, another favorite of mine. If you are in the market for a premium quality US Made guitar you should consider the Parker Guitar.


    About the Author: Bill McRea is the publisher of The Guitar Warehouse and Guitar Playing Techniques. Both sites offer free lesson and product sales.


    Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Bill_McRea

     

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    Music Production and Mixing Tips & Tricks
      

    By Ian Waugh

    What makes a pro recording pro? What is the "sound" that the pros get and how can you make your recordings sound more professional?

    The simple answer is - there's no simple answer. But with careful listening and a little experience you can create excellent results with modest equipment.

    Good mixing starts ear

    The first and most important item of equipment is - who knows? Anyone? It's your ears! Sorry to tell you this, but listening to ten hours of Rave at 110dB will do nothing for them and you might as well give your mix to a turtle as try to mix with misused ears.Listen to commercial recordings of mixes you like, analyse them, listen for the effects and get to know what constitutes the sort of sound you're after.

    Mixing secrets

    There's no hidden secret to getting a good sound, but if we had to sum up the secret of mixing in two words it would be this -EQ and compression. Okay that's three words.

    These are probably the two most important tools used by professional producers. However, like any tools, if you don'tknow how to use them you'll be carving Habitat tables instead ofChippendale chairs.

    That's where your ears and experience come in. Here we have assembled some production ideas, suggestions, tips and tricks but they can only be guidelines and need to be adapted to suit your material. There are no presets you can switch in to make a bad recording sound good. And if your original material has been poorly recorded not even Abbey Road could salvage your mix. But follow these suggestions and see how much your mixes improve.

    Get the level right

    You can't push the levels when recording digitally as you can when recording to tape but you still want to get as much signal into the system as possible. This means watching the levels very carefully for clipping, and recording at an even and constant level.

    Some recording software lets you monitor and set the input levelfrom within. Some expect you to use the soundcard's mixer while others have no facility for internally adjusting the input level and expect you to set this at source.  

    Monitors

    Your ears are only as good as the monitors they listen to. DONOT expect to produce a good, pro mix on tiny computer speakers. It may sound fine on a computer system, but try it on a hi fi,in a disco and through a car stereo.

    Oddly enough, you don't necessarily need the most expensive Mic. Many top artists use what some might call "average" Mics because they work well and get the job done. You can spend a wad on a large diaphragm capacitor Mic (yes, they're good for vocals) if you have the lolly but check out dynamic Mics which are much more affordable and can be turned to several tasks.

    Mixing MIDI and audio

    One of the great things about computer-based recording is that the parts can so easily be changed, edited and processed. It's also so easy to combine MIDI and audio tracks and many musicians use a combination of sample loops, MIDI parts and audio recording.

    Audio recordings are generally guitar and acoustic instruments such as the sax and vocals. Incidentally, the best way to recordguitars is by sticking a Mic in front of its speakers. You can DI them and process them later and this may be cleaner but for a natural guitar sound a Miced amp is hard to beat.

    It's not necessary to record drums live and, in fact, it's difficult to do and retain a modern sound. You can buyoff-the-shelf MIDI drum riffs and audio drum loops, or program your own. The quality of the gear which makes drum noises these days is such that anyone with a good riff can sound like a pro.

    Mixing MIDI

    As MIDI and audio parts appear on the same screen in modern sequencers, it's very easy to arrange them into a song. However, when you come to mix everything down there's another consideration. If you are recording to DAT you can simply route the audio and MIDI outputs through a mixer and into the DAT machine.

    However, if you want to create a CD you must first convert the MIDI parts to audio data. The entire song can then be mixed to hard disk and burned to CD.  Converting MIDI to audio can have another benefit and that's the ability to process the MIDI tracks using digital effects.

    Effects

    There are three positions for effects known as Master, Send and Insert. Use the Master for effects you want to apply to the entire mix. These will often be EQ, compression and reverb.

    Although giving each channel its own Insert effects is kinda neat, each one uses a corresponding amount of CPU power. So if your computer is struggling and if you're using the same effect on more than one channel, make the effect a Send effect and route those channels to it.

    Many pieces of software let you apply an effect Pre or Post fader. With Post fader, the amount of sound sent to the effect is controlled by the fader. With Pre fader, the total volume level of the signal is sent.  Post fader is the usual default and the one you'll use the most.

    EQ

    EQ is the most popular and the most over-used effect. Yes, I can be used to try to "fix a mix" but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear as me Gran used to say and what she didn't know about mixing could be written in the margin of the book of honest politicians.

    But before you start messing with EQ - or any other effect for that matter - make sure you have a decent set of speakers. Have we said that already? Oh, must be important, then.

    There are plug-in effects such as Maxx Bass which can psychoacoustically enhance the bass frequencies to make it sound better on smaller speakers. However, this is by no means the same as getting a good bass sound in the first place by observing good recording principles.

    EQ can enhance a mix to add gloss, fairy dust, shimmer, sheen, a sweetener or whatever you want to call it to the final production. It can be done with enhancers and spectralisers, too, although these tend to mess with the harmonics which some producers don't like. However, don't dismiss them out of hand.

    General EQ lore says that you should cut rather than boost. If a sound is top-heavy, the temptation is to boost the mid and bass ranges. But then what usually happens is you start boosting the upper range to compensate and you simply end up boosting everything and you're back where you started - only louder!

    The reason why cutting is preferred is that boosting also boosts the noise in the signal which is not what you want. Try it.  Boost every frequency and listen to the result. If you think it sounds okay, fine. What do we know?

    But when you're fiddling, do keep an eye on the output meter. Boosting EQ inevitably means increasing the gain and it's so-o-o-o easy to clip the output causing distortion which does not sound good.

    Finally, check EQ changes to single tracks while playing back the entire piece. In other words, listen to the tracks in context with all the other tracks. It may sound fine in isolation but some frequencies may overlap onto other tracks making the piece frequency rich in some places and frequency poor in others.

    Reverb

    Reverb creates space. It gives the impression that a sound was recorded in a hall or canyon instead of the broom cupboard. Recording lore suggests that you record everything dry, with no reverb, so you can experiment with a choice later on. You can't un-reverb a track once it's been recorded.

    The more reverb you apply, the further away sound will seem. To make a vocal up-front, use only enough reverb to take away the dryness. Vocals don't want to be mushy (lyrics can be mushy) so use a bright reverb.

    A common novice error is to swamp everything with different types of reverb. Don't - it sounds horrible!

    Mixing down

    You've done all the recordings, done the edits, applied the effects and now it's time to mix everything into a Big Number One Hit!  Before you do, go home and have a good night's sleep. Have two. In fact, sleep for a week.

    Yes, we know you're hot and raring to go but your ears are tired. They're falling asleep. Listen carefully and you might hear then snore! There is a phenomenon known as ear fatigue and consistent exposure to sound, especially the same frequencies, makes our ears less responsive to them.

    Goes back to the bit about spending your life in a Rave club - you'll never be a master producer. If you try to mix after spending a day arranging, your ears will not be as responsive, so do them and your mix a favour by waiting at least a day.

    Now, go forth and mix!  And don't forget - you get better with practice. For more information about mixing, pick up a FREE copy of Creating The Perfect Mix at www.making-music.com

     

    About the author: Ian Waugh is one of the UK's leading hi tech music writers and creator of www.making-music.com. He has written several books and albums. He is author of the "Quick Guide to..." series which includes the Quick Guide to Dance Music, Digital Audio Recording, MP3 and Digital Music, and Analogue Synthesis
     

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