Does the old technology of vinyl really sound better?

After reading a New York Times article about how nowadays record labels really don’t make music like they used to, I thought about something specific the author said in regards to vinyl.

Interestingly one of the marketing bullet points for the superiority of CD was greater dynamic range available compared to vinyl. In fact this is true as the technology of CD and digital does allow for more dynamic range in the music.

But what have the record labels and engineers been doing over the last couple of decades? Squashing the dynamic range. (Dynamic range is the range of volume between the loudest and softest parts) And they keep squashing the dynamic range more and more so there is literally no volume difference between the different parts of the song. Its all LOUD.

So although digital is a better technology with better sound quality and better dynamic potential, the creators are destroying the dynamics. Vinyl has decent dynamics because people produced music with dynamics in mind back then. You just wouldn’t destroy the dynamics in order to make songs super loud.

And this leads to my final comment for today: Never has there been a time to create so much high quality bad music.

More on the Art Form of Guitar

Getting into a position where you are really good at any instrument is hard. Like really hard. As in imagine how hard it would be and times that by a hundred. And perhaps in today’s world of internet “Tips & Hacks” and people in the mindset of short term gains, this may be the reason there are even fewer guitar players out there who really want to go after this Art Form of Guitar.

For sure there were people who used to do so, and it showed in the music they made. But why go through that emotional and time consuming labor when you can just be a kooky personality and do Youtube videos showing off the kookiness of guitar and or doing pedal reviews.

Now that’s all Kool & the Gang, but for sure there are fewer and fewer people dedicated to this Art Form of Guitar.

So no, people don’t play guitar like they used to because there are easier ways of getting attention and more lucrative ways of making a living with your guitar.

But a tiny few of us do dedicate our lives to this beautiful art form. And we are going at it to breakthrough with new & exciting ways of making music and expressing ourselves through this amazing instrument.

I hope you’ll be there listening. :)

More on buying your way to sounding good.

Lots of guys, yes I’m being specific here, posting pics of their pedalboards with really fancy pedals with lots of knobs, switches, and midi capability.

For example they have four big box pedals which can do a Hell of a lot. I look and wonder, “Do you even know how that pedal actually works? Do you even use midi for something other than calling up presets?”

Really…..for the music you are probably making you can get away with a lot less. But hey……you have some expensive gear there….drool worthy for geeks.

Oddly it used to be that people would be interested in how their audience feels about the music rather than how to impress other guitar gear geeks.

Nope, you can't buy your way to being different.

Unless you have a hell of a lot of money or backing by a wealthy investor/record label.

As I watch the musicians here in LA and people online trying to bring something different to the table, I notice one thing. Lots and lots of gear. But upon listening……ummm…..expensive gear simply doesn’t improve your playing or dedication to the instrument.

Don’t get me wrong, I love gear and technology as some of you know from my music. But I still practice & work hard at trying to express myself at guitar.

Unlike the previous generations of guitar players, today’s players are more interested in grabbing boutique pedals creating weird sounds rather than dedicating time to actually playing. Rather than bothering to learn how to get the instrument to sing.

So if you believe modern guitar players don’t play like they used to……..well they don’t. Today’s young players prefer buying their way into being different rather than earning it through hard work and dedication to the instrument. They are under the mistaken assumption that by practice and dedication, they will sound just like all the other players of the past.

Man…..if you think that by doing so will turn you into someone else, and you will no longer be yourself, you’ve got other things to worry about.

Play the instrument the way you want, but if you’re just playing fancy pedals to where you can barely tell its guitar anymore, and you can hide behind the “coolness” of ambience and special FX……seriously you’re not doing anything special that can’t be done by a keyboard or a sampler.

Time to be human. Time to be the real you!

Making inspiring music like they used to

I think most of us are attracted to good sounding recordings, specifically those we really love from the past. There’s a reason for it as the recording engineers really loved their job and took risks in the recording process to create new and exciting sounds.

 

Nowadays with technology, everyone and their mother can record songs and put it out there for the world. For example someone just props their phone up and records themselves playing guitar and singing. Fine, and yet it’s not touching our soul they way music used to.

 

There must be a deep sense of care, knowledge and passion in creating music. When I practice with headphones, I do take time with stereo effects to create an atmosphere which is inspiring for me, and one which I think will be inspiring for you.

 

Just one problem, since I’m recording to an iPhone with a simple interface, my inspirational musical atmosphere in stereo is folded down to Mono and the sound is just ok. It’s Not bad, but the recording is just not the same as what I’m hearing while I’m playing. That sucks.

 

So I ordered a new interface to record to my iPhone in stereo and distribute my videos in stereo. Most phones nowadays play back in stereo so you will be able to really hear the atmosphere I’m creating with the music. Ohhh but put in some earbuds or headphones and you’re in for a treat.

 

This is because, like they used to, I’m taking care to craft inspiring sounds for both you and I, and not letting technology stop that from happening.

 

P.S. remember if you listen with earbuds or headphones 🎧, you’re in for a treat. 😀

How David Gilmour views the Stratocaster guitar

In a recent interview, David says, “The Stratocaster tends to enhance the personality of the person playing it,” People playing Fenders are more recognisably themselves than people playing some of the other well-known guitars.”

This is just so interesting to me. Of course this is debatable and people could go on all day long about it. But I can speak on my own personal experience. Most of my favorite guitar players play Strats. And out of all the guitars I’ve played, I’ve never felt more like myself than when playing a Strat.

Note: Hell yes there are many other guitars I would love to get my hands on. :)

I'm not a guitar builder nor do I own lots of guitars

I like sharing, and specifically I like sharing pictures of interesting guitars both awesome looking and ugly. As long as its interesting. :)

This means that I am not a Luthier. I don’t make guitars. I don’t know how to make proper adjustments or anything like that. I take my guitar to a guy here locally who maintains it and does the adjustments. I love playing the guitar & writing music with it.

I may be a musician who plays guitar, but I don’t own lots of guitars. And I certainly don’t have a large collection of guitars to show off to people. In fact I have one main guitar I play, my Green Strat, and a Jackson Rhoads which I rarely play. There is also an acoustic which I regularly play for small performances. That’s it, I don’t have any other guitars. But I do play every single day because I can’t get enough of playing guitar. Its why I get up in the morning…..seriously.

Please enjoy and have fun with the pics I post of guitars. But they’re not mine nor do I make them. They’re random pics I find on the interwebs that I want to share with you.

Thanks for reading, now let’s enjoy some fascinating guitars. :)

I saw John Scofield & Lettuce last night....oh I learned something

The biggest thing I learned is that people in that music business consultants still don’t know what the Hell they are talking abut. Even though they keep pimping about how forward thinking they about this new music business.

I’ve never heard of a band called Lettuce. How about you? Let me tell you…..they’re good. Like really good. Their genre is jazz/funk/jam band. There was absolutely no singing, hardly any talk between songs. No big boisterous personalities on stage. They all came together and just simply made good music.

They played for about 40 minutes and then the big star of the night came on stage, John Scofield. John is a guitar player by the way. Lettuce essentially then became John’s backing band as they played his songs. Again……hardly any talking in between songs. No stories. Just very simple Thank You’s and the name of the next song coming up.

John doesn’t move all over the stage nor does he really play to the crowd necessarily. He looked mostly at the band member when they improvised and also led the band along while they were playing as he was also directing some of it.

John is an excellent guitar player and Lettuce were also really good. In fact everybody was so good that the only reason why someone would not like this is because of a matter of taste. This genre just isn’t your thing. Cool.

So as I watched & listened, I took a step back and noticed how everybody was doing it wrong. In terms of what today’s music business consultants, songwriting coaches, etc would say. There was no front person for about 40 minutes until Scofield came on. And again Scofield didn’t really engage much with the crowd. There was hardly any talking between the songs and definitely no story telling to really draw the crowd in to make that emotional contact. The songs didn’t have these major hooks nor did they have elements of perfect songwriting craft as many of today’s songwriting coaches preach & teach. In fact every song was instrumental. Not only that but there was tons of improvisation. These are all things which music consultants don’t talk about or bother to acknowledge.

Where were we? At good sized theater in Downtown Los Angeles. 500 or more people in the audience. By the last song, over 75% were standing and dancing. In fact the aisles were filled with people dancing the whole night. People got out of their seats and went to the aisles to dance. I mean it was crazy and cool to see.

Here is what I learned…….99% of the music business websites and consultants are quite clueless. How many of their clients would love to play in front of 500 or more people and then have 100s leave their seats to go dance, move, & drink in the aisles. Hmmmmmmmm, I would say ALL of their clients would love that.

Yeah…..yesterday’s music business was bad. Today’s music business…….even though today’s “consultants” support independent musicians, their advice just sucks. You don’t know any more than your clients.

Lettuce & Scofield may not be your thing, and its not necessarily my thing. But man…..watching really good music making, and watching people dance move and love the evening gives me more hope that there are plenty of people who just love good music and don’t care about all of the trite things every other performer does.

More on Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets

Fun anecdote, Nick commented on how he was never allowed to play the gong on Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun because Roger Waters wasn’t someone who liked to share. :) So Nick was incredibly excited to be able to play the gong for the intro and outro of the song.

This is an example of just how awesome the show was. The small bits from Nick, and the small bits from the band members. Plus Nick’s humbleness and shyness when talking into the mic were really something. You can tell he is one of the few decent characters in Rock. Gotta love him for it.

And just listening to this pyschedelic music I could hear the numerous influence it has had on bands over the last 50 years or so. These were old songs yet they sounded quite modern to me.

I just can’t express enough at just how good this show is. Even if you are not the hugest Pink Floyd fan and the only song you like from Pink Floyd is “Wish you were here”, you should go see the show. You won’t get the radio classics, but you will get a sonic and visual experience unlike any other out there. Guarantee it!

Thank you for reading

I saw Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets! Here's how it went!

Let’s start with this…..GO SEE IT! Its really good!

I’ll put it to you this way….my fiancee, who is not some huge Pink Floyd fan & wasn’t familiar with any of those songs, thought it was one of the best Live Shows she’s ever seen! She was impressed.

The band was really good, and the little bits of commentary from Nick was absolutely priceless. You can tell he has his head on his shoulders. He gave thanks to Syd for creating the early Pink Floyd material, and had some fun anecdotes about Roger Waters and Gilmour.

The lighting and visuals were exactly what you would expect since this was a performance of pre-Dark Side of the Moon material. Very psychedelic and such fun imagery!!!!

It was apparent the guys in the band were truly enjoying each other and making music with Nick. This just added to the magic.

I wanted to keep this brief, but I’ll tell you that this homage to late 60’s early 70’s music was incredibly refreshing in today’s music. Really something actually!!!!

I don't know where I'm going.....

but I’m on my way.

As it turns out, you don’t need to have the exact answer before you even start. Unlike what we were taught in school, its perfectly ok not to know the answer. In fact by taking your journey you will find the answer. This is especially true when doing something you haven’t done before or when doing something most people haven’t done before.

Truth is that you don’t have writer’s block…..just put your thoughts down on paper and then later on worry about how it should go together.

Only in the last few years have I learned to stop overthinking and just put it out there. It doesn’t matter that its not perfect or perfectly thought out beforehand. You can mold it, massage it later. Just get it out there….. you’re on your way.

Guitar Truths: This may be why you practice so little.

There I am watching a Guitar Player on Youtube play something for their audience (that includes me), and I asked myself if that is how they sit when they practice? Their body was twisted in a way which made me think there is no way they can really sit there for long periods of time in that position. In fact during a Q&A, this particular player stated that they practice about an hour a day.

It made total sense why only about an hour. Its probably because this player has such bad posture and sits and practices in such a bad position that naturally the body will start to hurt and become fatigued.

It may not seem like much, but I bet you will be more productive by analyzing your posture when playing and learning a more proper way to sit which will be less fatiguing and in fact will allow you to play longer because you will be more comfortable.

By the way, the way play Live shows how you practice. When I watch a guitar player play there music live, I can tell how they practice. Their posture shows it, and I don’t think its good for their bodies to be in that twisted “typical” position.

Is there a better way? Yup. Take a gander at Classical players. Or find a guitar teacher who actually understand and advocates proper sitting position when practicing.

And you thought guitar playing is really all about the fingers. Nope.

The caveat to having a good amount of volume for music

We determined that having music louder really exposes dynamics in music and allows the loud parts to really punch through and effect you emotionally.

And as it turns out as humans we perceive louder as sounding better. Well doesn’t that mean you should just turn it up louder and louder and it will just sound better and better?

Of course you know that at some point the answer is NO. Besides the fact that you will annoy those around you, there is a scientific reason as to why turning it up and up will no longer sound better.

Your ears try to protect themselves as sound gets louder. They start to naturally compress the loud sounds. And some of you might know that compression reduces the amount of dynamics in music. So now that the music is really really loud, you probably won’t notice the difference between soft and loud nearly as much…..because its all so friggin loud!!!

And as you get louder and louder there is a point where there will be hearing damage.

So at least we know we surely can’t blast music too too loud because that will also ruin our experience.

For a pleasurable music experience we must have some reasonable amount of volume. Whisper quiet volume may be nice for our workplace or for when you don’t want to wake up family members or neighbors at night. But there has to be a decent enough volume to really experience the music the way it was meant to be experienced…..yet it can’t be so loud that it damages our ears or gets us in trouble with law enforcement.

So what I’m saying is if you can….crank it up! Just crank it up with reason.

Eureka!!!! This is why Volume is important in music!

There I was playing a piece of music from Beethoven to my little music students. Classical music tends to have lots of dynamics. And in this case the melody is played softly a couple of times with the third time rising in volume and really popping forth for the climax.

Yet the climax just didn’t pop this time. It was like nothing. The only thing you could tell was that more instruments were playing and the overall timbre had changed. Damn….what a letdown. Well my students left and were happy with a great music class. Yet I pondered why the music just didn’t pop this time.

The one difference is that I had the volume on my amp (playing the Beethoven piece) set lower than usual. And in a couple of minutes I figured out why at a lower volume the dynamics just won’t work.

There’s a little math here, but its simple. Loudness is typically measured in dB or decibels. Normal conversation is about 60dB. A loud lawnmower is about 90 dB. A very loud rock concert is about 120dB.

So if you have a recording of music and the loud parts are let’s say 10% louder than a softer part, we can do the math.

If you play a song at a low volume of 50dB and the loud part jumps up by 10% you get a decibel increase of 5dB. So now the music is 55dB. Not a huge increase but noticeable.

If you play the same song at a louder volume of 80dB and the loud part jumps up by 10%, you get a decibel increase of 8dB. Now the music is at 88dB. Notice that decibel increase is bigger in this example as compared to the other one.

In my first example I had the volume knob of my amp low, so when the music part got louder I only heard a 5dB increase in loudness. But if I had my volume knob set higher, then when the music got louder I would hear an 8dB increase in loudness. Indeed my perception would be that the louder part of the song really popped out!

So if you listen to music at a very low volume, it is probable that you are missing some very important dynamics which the songwriter/producer really thought would help make the music more interesting.

And last but not least…..as humans we think everything sounds better when its louder. Soooooo there’s that.

We live in abundance now....

No really…..the internet truly changed everything. I was thinking about way back in the day when e-mail was king, but the World Wide Web had barely emerged. I asked my college professor a question and he didn’t have detailed enough answer so he suggested I look it up.

Oh goodness, back then it meant I had to go to a library about 20 miles away because the library at my University didn’t carry books with that particular topic.

And now to think that most of that information is available for free on the internet. Or at the very least its a quick Amazon order with the book being shipped to me in no time.

But truly we live in an abundance of information. This is both good and bad. Bad because you can waste a lot of time consuming massive amounts of information going from one link to another and another until you realize…..How the Hell did I get here?

Good because the amount of amazing connections and the amount of sharing of good information is intense and exciting.

And in this age of tremendous abundance, you could be looking at millions of different pieces of information out there. So thank you for choosing to read this, I appreciate it.

Today is indeed my Birthday.......

I’m so busy with so much on my mind in terms of music and this music business, I tend to forget its my Birthday. In fact I’m sure I will forget today is my Birthday shortly after typing this. :)

So today I want to reflect a little deeper than unusual about how lucky I am to be able to wake up and deliver music every single day. I’m grateful to even physically do it as I remember times when I couldn’t even play guitar.

And thank YOU for being here with me on this ride. :)

Music made by committee

oy vey! Do you work for a company and the company regularly holds meetings which you have to suffer through? Where they make decisions with the whole group? Or perhaps a small committee was formed to produce a new strategy or research a new strategy or product.

You will notice government does the same thing. The put committees together to research possible new ways of doing things or to research current problems and present possible solutions.

This is how today’s music is being made by record labels. Its a whole committee of different people researching and deciding what kind of music people will buy into and stream in droves.

Yet is that what people really want? Music made by committee? It is my opinion but actual art is not made by a committee of non-artists. In fact that doesn’t make any sense to my mind.

Its insane to see artists not actually creating until they get approval and direction from committees and authority figures. Just sad in my opinion.

At least as consumers we do have a choice. A choice to say NO to committee made music. We want something fresh and exciting. Something created and directed by music people, not executives and committee members.

Are guitar players relying too much on technology?

It appears Joe Bonamassa seems to think so. In other words lots of guitar players today rely on pedals to give them a sound rather really learn how to play the instrument.

You know, most people who pick up guitar aren’t doing it to become players for a living. Most just want to play for fun. And since there are so many pedals which can take you into places of sonic goodness without spending enormous amounts of time learning how to play the guitar well….I think it makes sense.

But I shall go out on a limb and say that I do wish more players actually cared about the artform of playing the guitar and playing it well. To perform vocal parts with the guitar. To write and perform amazing melodies with the guitar. To really get that baby to sing like the many greats before us. But it takes a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and not looking for short term gains. The pedals help accentuate what you already have. They are like the frosting on the cake below which took you a long time to make.

Yeah……Electric Guitar is an artform to my ears, mind, and eyes. An artform many new players aren’t that willing to pursue. But for the few that do, I hope you will share the work and their journey with your friends. Especially if its something which really reaches in and effects you.