Tag Archives: guitar

iRig and AmpliTube Rock You


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This is a guest post written by Imei Hsu.

My first band was an all-girl band that didn’t need a keyboardist (my first musical instrument of choice), just a second electric guitarist and substitute bass player. Instead of passing me over for the audition, they stuck a guitar in my hands, handed me a lyric sheet with chord progressions, and asked me to give it a go. I did, and I got the part. Good thing I knew a few standard chords on the guitar. Songwriting and practice times used to take forever, mostly because we had to haul in our own equipment (including quarter-inch cables, stomp pedals, mics and mic stands, and speakers that almost weighed as much as I did). We scratched notes on paper, made rudimentary recordings, and we didn’t even have a video camera between us. What’s a girl rocker to do? If I could, I’d climb into a time machine with iRig and AmpliTube for iPad and iPhone, and rock the living daylights out those girls.

IKMultiMedia sells an impressive family of software instruments designed for the modern musician. It takes bulky components and hacked pieces of hardware strung together with miles of chords, and streamlines your set up to not only be less cumbersome, but also less painful to the consumer’s wallet.

Ben of Ben Union spent just fifteen minutes in my art loft in Seattle playing with the iRig and Amplitube on my iPhone4 (also available on iPad), and in moments, he was playing sweet licks and grooves with very minimal set up, and no gigantor speakers and amplifiers to carry. We ran sound through my Bose speaker, and compared it to the Fender Vibrochamp amp (which I rescued from a garbage dump, and once scraped off a dried frog that had taken shelter in the back and ended up getting fried onto the metal parts). Amplitube is the mobile app of the moment for the modern guitarist and composer, allowing users to create, process, record, and amplify music seamlessly, without the burden of carting around heavy, sometimes fragile, and often expensive equipment. Users can plug in a set of headphones or external speakers into the iRig, insert the ⅛-inch plug to the iPhone, and plug a ¼-inch cable from the guitar to a port on other end.

The latest version of the killer app, AmpliTube 3, ramps user’s experience with the following elements:

  • 160 pieces of gear, more than double the amount of other packages
  • 51 individual stompboxes and effects
  • 31 amplifier preamp & power sections
  • 46 speaker cabinet models
  • 15 high end stage and studio mics
  • 17 post amp rack effects
  • Open architecture, so users can add more packages as you need them, like AmpliTube Fender™ and Ampeg® SVX
  • Drag and drop features, so you can locate your components where you want it

Additionally, AmpliTube 3 boasts the proprietary VRM™ (Volumetric Response Modeling) technology, allowing users to add ultra-accurate rotating speaker effects, free dual mic placement plus room ambiance and response. Translation: ever wanted to sound like you were in a different-sized room, with a variety of vintage sounds and effects at the touch of your finger on a screen? If you are a guitar, bassist, drummer, or vocalist, you should be waving your hands wildly by now, shouting, “I want!” I know Ben was having a blast with AmpliTube, and he had not even explored all the settings!

While most of the app world is not accustomed to the cost of applications for music creation, any musician would tell you that the price of this app and hardware are well worth it. With nothing to wear out, and upgrades and additions available, this is a system no modern musician can afford to pass up, unless s/he is willing to be passed by.

B. Imei Hsu is a nurse psychotherapist, Bellydance and Bollywood dance artist, musician and vocalist, and coach for artful businesses. She creates content for her own businesses, including Hips For Hire, as well as content for other blogs, including Psycho Nurse on Lockergnome. You can drop in on her art loft in the Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle, WA, where she lives and plays with her iPad loving cat, Charles-Monet, by tuning in at Ustream.tv.

Makana: The Real Guitar Hero


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Thanks to my connections in Hawaii, I was able to meet, interview, and watch Makana. If you’ve never heard of him before, I’m guessing this song will hook you for life.

A student of the late slack key master Sonny Chillingworth, Makana has been playing for audiences since he was 13 years old. Starting at Duke’s Canoe Club in 1993, Makana has traveled to festivals and venues around the world from Japan to England, across the United States and always at home in Hawaii. Makana’s gift of music resonates the feeling of Aloha, infusing elements of folk, rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, rage and with roots in the tradition of slack key, his sound is truly unique and powerful. He has opened and played with artists all over the World, including Santana and Sting!

When I interviewed him, Makana couldn’t help but laugh at the way his name comes up in a Google search. Please don’t confuse him with that place in Hawaii, ok? They’re nowhere near the same!

Makana has been playing slack key for 20 years now, which is amazing. Slack key guitar is a style, such as Flamenco or Blues. It is Hawaii style… they slack the strings, and loosen the keys so the guitar is tuned to a chord. The guitar is holding the chord for him. He can then have a chord, a rhythm and a melody going all at the same time… making it sound like a symphony of sorts.

Makana says that when he first started playing, it was something that was fun and people loved to listen to. He never thought to the future, or dreamed he would have the career that he does. He’s opened at concerts such as No Doubt and Jason Mraz. He takes the roots of Hawaiian music, and goes far beyond it. It’s more universal than the traditional slack key.

The new CD comes out on August 18th, titled Venus & the Sky Turn to Clay: the Instrumental World Of Makana. It’s a completely original album, full of beautiful guitar solos… electric, acoustic and even 12-string. An interesting note: the title of the album is written from right to left on the CD (instead of the traditional left to right) since that is the way that Venus rotates.

You can find Makana all over the web, including on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re not a fan after listening to this song and watching the interview, then you must be sleeping under a rock. Makana is not only a very talented musician – he’s also a great guy.

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Top Five Reasons you Should Play a Real Guitar Instead of Guitar Hero

Nik recently wrote in to remind us that while playing Guitar Hero is fun, it still is just a game. Here are his reasons for why you should learn to play a real guitar… instead of pretending to on a game.

  • First and foremost, playing a real instrument is much “cooler” than playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Which one is better to impress people with… being able to play the drum part to Tom Sawyer on Expert level in Rock Band, or being able to do it in real life? You’re not going to be impressing anyone with your digital-rubber- pad-hitting skills. While Rock Band can somewhat teach you how to develop rhythm and coordination, it can’t do much beyond that.
  • Does being able to beat a really hard song on Expert level accomplish anything other than giving you bragging rights? No, it doesn’t. While playing a real guitar seems to accomplish about the same, you have to look a bit deeper. Playing Guitar Hero involves you pressing buttons whenever a colored square comes up on your TV screen. Playing real guitar requires much more concentration and skill. Besides that, it is also very intellectual in the sense that it has you thinking a lot more. Guitar Hero is based on reaction time. Real guitar is about actually learning a song instead of relying on colored squares.
  • It’s not like playing a real instrument is all that hard. If people would put the same amount of time and effort into learning a real instrument as they did practicing Guitar Hero, they would become good and have fun in no time. Sure it seems harder, but all you have to do is put your mind to it.
  • You could actually buy a guitar package complete with books to teach yourself how to play guitar for around the same price as the Guitar Hero package. So why not pick up a real guitar and learn something useful? In the process, you’ll be able to learn a new language… the language of music! Once you can read music, you’ll be able to learn to play any other instrument that exists.
  • For my final point, I’d just like to say this: why pretend to do something when you could do the real thing? Go and buy a guitar or a drum set, practice really hard, try and meet some other people who play instruments, and form a real band! Then, instead of sitting in your basement tapping some plastic buttons, you can take the stage and play REAL music for a REAL audience! You never know how far you can go if you put your mind to it!

Check out these great deals on guitars and Guitar Hero:

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How to Start Playing a Musical Instrument

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SleepyGamer from our live community is a musician. He wants all of us to realize that learning to properly play an instrument takes work and dedication. There are “right” and “wrong” ways to learn. Here are his tips to get you started.

  • When buying an instrument for the first time, don’t buy a really expensive one. It’s a lot smarter to buy something cheap, so that if you decide it’s not for you, you haven’t wasted a ton a money on something that you will never use! If the instrument doesn’t play very well (like a guitar or bass), have the shop assistant set it up for you, they might do this as part of the buying deal, or at a minimal extra fee.
  • Get a teacher. This isn’t necessary, but some people respond to a teacher better than others. Some private teachers offer a free first lesson, so that you can see how you like it and get along with them.
  • Learn at your own pace. There’s no need to blaze ahead and try and start playing things that you just aren’t ready for yet. I remember trying to learn how to sweep pick on guitar after just playing for a few months! It gave me a really bad technique that I had to shake off before learning it properly.
  • Learn songs that you like. If you start to learn songs by artists that you like, you will develop your technique, and it will give you insight into how to compose music for yourself. But remember not to advance along to songs that you aren’t ready for yet, and start off by playing them slowly. This way, when you speed it up to the original speed, your fingers will already know what to play, and will be better prepared for playing it, than if you had started at full speed!
  • Develop your own style. You don’t want to sound exactly like another artist, otherwise people just might say, “Oh, you sound a bit like so and so…” and look past you. Whereas if you sound new and original, you will be more likely to become popular!
  • Don’t get GAS! GAS is Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. This is a terrible disorder that forces your hard earned money out of your wallet, purse or bank account, and converts it into a few pieces of wood that are cleverly stuck together in a nice way, with some metal bits and strings attached!

Here are some more tips, sent in by saxophonemaniak:

  • Choosing your Instrument When you consider buying an instrument, the most important thing is not to buy what most people consider the easiest or most popular. Choose the instrument that you have heard being played and have always wanted to try. However, such obstacles as price can become something that might stop you from buying an instrument. So, you must consider whether you really want to work on the instrument, or if it is just a hobby. For a hobbyist, there are cheaper models known as “student models”. These instruments are usually less than 600$, but are not as good as professional models. For enthusiasts or people that really want to work on their instrument, you should consider professional models later on. Professional models are usually $800-$40,000, depending on what you want. An important thing to know is that instruments will last a long time, be lots of fun to learn and won’t have to be upgraded within the next year.
  • Lessons? Learning to play an instrument without lessons is definitely possible. You will learn faster and more efficiently with a teacher. A teacher can help you learn difficult techniques that are required to play an instrument. For instance, the trumpet requires the buzzing of the lips to produce sound. A teacher can also supply you with proper learning materials based on your skill level, and slowly make things harder as you progress. Teachers can also show you how music works. If you do not have any experience with music notation, a teacher is required. All in all, if you want to get a good start into learning your instrument without the migraines, get a teacher.
  • Why don’t I sound like Coltrane? (the famous Jazz musician) Usually when you first play your instrument for your friends or family, they will almost 100% of the time will gasp or cringe. Keep in mind they are used to hearing professionals play. They will assume that’s how you will sound at first. Don’t let this get you down. Have them give your instrument a try, so they can see for themselves how hard it is.
  • Ugh Practicing! Possibly the most hated part of learning to play an instrument would be practicing. Nobody likes to do anything repetitive, and that is what practicing is essentially. However, practicing is required to get better at any instrument. To make practicing fun, you have to have a passion for the instrument and want to get better at it. Even sitting down for 15 minutes to play your instrument would be considered practicing. When you practice, you should always warm up with scales, which are basically organized notes. The main thing about practicing is that you should want to do it and not be scared that other people might hear you.
  • Fine Tuning Your Skills Just because you know the fingerings (specific finger positions to change the pitch) or have a good embouchure (mouth position to play instrument)… doesn’t mean you’re finished learning the instrument. There are several things that you must master before you have become a “pro” at the instrument. Such things as Tone ( the sound of your instrument), air control ( how long you can blow into your instrument) or Speed can be important factors that could dramatically change the way you play, if you improve on them. These skills take time though, so much practice is required. These skills are worth the effort.

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How to Take Care of your Guitar like a Hero

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Here is a great top five list sent in by a community member, who says this can also apply to most any musical instrument. It’s very important to take good care of your instruments, as repairs can be very expensive.

  • Store your instrument in a temperature controlled room. Putting your guitar in a room that has constantly changing temperatures and humidity levels can be bad for it. Remember that a guitar is basically just a piece of wood, so it’s sensitive to humidity and the like. The consequence may be as little as the strings getting out of tune, but it may be as severe as the neck of the guitar warping, which is very hard if not impossible to fix.
  • Clean the fretboard regularly. When you play your guitar, dust and dead skin can fall onto the frets which can get stuck in the grooves in the wood. Over time, it builds up and will look very bad. Sweat and other things may build up as well. I’ve seen a guitar which had some sort of black buildup on the frets and it was very disgusting. I would never have played a guitar in such a condition. Buildup like this could potentially block the strings if it gets too high.
  • Change the strings regularly. Changing the strings is just like changing the tires on your car. Would you want to drive around on a very old and worn out set of tires? No, you wouldn’t. While old strings aren’t quite as dangerous, they can rust and potentially snap off and hit you in the face, which is never a pleasant experience. By changing the strings, you will also improve the quality of the sound your guitar will produce. Rock stars don’t change the strings on their guitars before every show just for the fun of it after all! Old strings can get out of tune a lot faster than new ones. Also, make sure you buy the correct gauge of strings. Changing to a gauge that’s significantly higher than the previous one can have negative effects on the neck: such as bending, warping, or even cracks developing in the wood.
  • Invest in a good case and/or stand for your instrument. Buying a cheap case or stand is never a good idea. Why spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a guitar when you’re going to put it into a $10 case which may fall apart as you’re holding it? Your investment may just crash down to the ground. A good stand is also useful. I hadn’t even thought of this until recently when i went out and bought a new stand for my guitar. How the stand is built can have positive or negative effects on the instrument. Things like where the guitar is being supported can affect the guitar negatively. By getting a stand that hangs the guitar from the headstock rather than one that it sits on is better for the neck joint, which is a very sensitive part of the guitar.
  • This one is a bit subjective, but a good thing to do is to invest in guitar cleaners and polishes. The lacquer on an instrument can wear off over time, and it may not wear evenly so you may end up with a strangely painted guitar. Using a guitar cleaner and polish can help prevent this, as well as make your guitar look nicer. Having a clean instrument makes you look more professional.

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