Posts

Students

I have agreed to take on a student. At least for a little while. And not a second engineer. I am helping a musician on bass guitar.

I remember when I first started working at a recording studio. I was an apprentice serving as a second engineer but in reality I was a gopher. I did all of the heavy lifting when it came to documenting console and outboard settings, running tape and a myriad of other activities. But I learned a lot from the recording engineer. He helped to accelerate my knowledge of recording. How to get the sweet spot of an instrument with a microphone. How to capture the best possible sound.

I was playing with a bassist last week and it was clear to me that he had a passion for the instrument and that he could really benefit from some teaching. The problem is that there are so few good bass teachers in our community. So, I asked him to come out to my recording studio this week-end and I will spend some time helping him to improve on his instrument.

To me, a strong intermediate bassist has achieved the following objectives:

  • Tone: the ability to use their hands and their equipment to produce a musical sound
  • Technique: the ability to leverage the fretboard
  • Tempo: the ability to play in time and in the pocket
  • Taste: the ability to enhance and create excitement in the music
  • Team: the ability to be part of a unit and to pull a groove together

I’ll be starting with a passionate beginner and I will hopefully give him a roadmap to develop his talent in these five areas.

I have recorded some of the best bassists in Canada and I find that these advanced players are able to achieve a voice to their instrument. They have an amazing ability to bring an instrument to life.

Bass guitar is a wonderful instrument. And the Pedulla Thunderbass pictured below is also a wonderful instrument.

Thunderbass

Andy McKee Drifting

Andy McKee is an amazing fingerstyle player. I have been spending the last two weeks getting myself up to speed with some of these accomplished fingerstyle guitarists. I decided to work on a couple of pieces and, even for the advanced player, some of these arrangements are very challenging.

One of the tunes I am working on, Drifting, is available on YouTube here. For those of you who play, you can try the tab here. Be warned however. He makes it seem easy to play the song. But learning his tapping and fingerstyle technique is a little more involved.

Andy McKee

Pete Huttlinger

A friend passed me a note on a fingerstyle player named Pete Huttlinger. You can see him play a live version of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition here. Very nice.

He is quite accomplished with an impressive bio. You can learn more about Pete and his music here.

Pete Huttlinger

Interesting Guitar Clip

Lots of guitar players putting themselves up on You Tube. This one is worth a listen if you enjoy a groovin’ acoustic guitar instrumental.

See it here.

Guitars and Trees

I was reading through Taylor’s Wood and Steel newspaper and I came across an interesting bit of trivia: how many logs are used to build acoustic guitars?

Turns out a very small number.

An average spruce tree can provide between 2,500 to 5,000 guitar tops. Taylor, Martin and a few other guitar manufacturers, go through about 150 spruce logs a year. That accounts for 80 percent of the North American acoustic guitar industry.

A lone lumber sawmill in the Northwest will cut the same number of logs in one shift for furniture, cabinets, construction, etc.

In addition to about 150 spruce logs a year for the tops, add another 300 or so logs for sides and backs.

In terms of volume, Taylor made 62,000 guitars last year.

Changing of the Guard

Bill Schultz, who successfully led Fender for many years, died on September 21st. Fender recently named William Mendello as the new chairman.

Fender’s head office is in Scottsdale, Arizona. And I was going to drop by their office when I was down there but, as fate would have it, that was the same week when Bill Schultz passed away.

Next time.

Here is a picture of both men. Long-time leaders within Fender, they helped to turn a struggling guitar company into a great guitar company.

Bill and William

The Guitar Solo is Dead

CBC had an interesting article on the state of guitar solos in recorded music. Guitar solos are dead.

Warren Kinsella, a musical genius in his own right with this band, had this to say about the reason for the demise of guitar solos:

… because they suck. They represent the zenith of rock ”™n”™ roll onanism. Because they are boring. Because they add nothing to the melody.

The CBC article goes on to say that while soloing might be impressive, it”™s an activity that guys do alone in their bedrooms. This clip, which is actually quite good, is served up as an example of isolationist shredding.

When I posted on the top 100 guitarists of all time, I received a significant amount of email and comments. There were lots of opinions on the best guitarists. And, pretty much without exception, soloing was a significant aspect of the player’s talent.

Perhaps the demise of the guitar solo mirrors the demise of pop music generally.

Meanwhile, here is a list of the greatest rock guitar solos. And a picture of one of my favourite guitarists, Larry Carlton. He was born on the same day as me, March 2nd, although he is nine years older. Larry is still going strong at 58.

Larry Carlton

Chinese Guitars

I came across this fascinating video of a guitar factory in China.

Some interesting data points. One such factory, the Pearl River Guitar Factory, employs 600 workers and they produce over 60,000 acoustic guitars and several thousand electric guitars each month.

Aofa Factory is another of what appears to be hundreds of guitar factories located in China.

Why are there so many guitar factories in China?

George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitars offered this perspective:

The really important player on the scene today in the low end and intermediate price bracket is Mainland China. Whereas Yamaha and other makers have produced guitars in Taiwan for quite some time, Mainland Chinese guitars were always noted as being of extremely low quality.

In the past few years, however, that situation has changed dramatically. In the past ten years, China has moved rapidly toward entrepreneurial private ownership of business. The new leadership has pushed this process quickly. China now permits foreign ownership of factories and businesses as well as encouraging Chinese citizens both from Mainland China and Taiwan to set up their own ventures. Just as the Koreans were able to progress from very low-end student models with crude workmanship to remarkably sophisticated guitars more quickly than the Japanese had, the Chinese now have all the advantages of the prior experience of Americans, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian ventures.

In addition it should be noted that while Chinese labor is remarkably inexpensive, with an average annual income in China today of under $1,000, Chinese labor is by no means unskilled. China has a very high literacy rate and its workers are skilled and motivated.

In the past the world has had areas with cheap labor and other areas with skilled labor. China is a major force to reckon with because it offers cheap skilled labor. The Chinese today are producing instruments in many different settings, ranging from small workshops specializing in handcrafted instruments on up to huge industrial complexes with the latest automated technology.

Cheap skilled labor.

The pictures below are from the Taylor Guitar Factory. I guess I will have to travel a bit further if they move their factory to China.

Taylor Guitar Factory

Taylor Guitar Factory