Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A Guide to Buying an Acoustic Guitar

Knowing how to choose the right guitar and how to identify a bad one, will save you from countless headaches, not to mention finger aches.

Acoustic guitar bodies come in basically the same hourglass shape, with some variations, but they do vary in size, color, wood-type, style, and extra features. You can even buy an acoustic guitar so small that fits into a hiking backpack.

Guitars come in a very wide range of prices, but when it comes to instruments, in general, you get what you pay for, especially when you buy new. There’s a real difference between getting a bargain and buying cheap.

But whether you buy new or used may be determined by many personal factors including your budget, and each has their own pros and cons.

Buying new, gives you a warranty and, hopefully, a return period, if for some reason you’re not totally satisfied with your purchase, or something goes wrong.

Under ‘usual' circumstances, a used guitar can usually be purchased cheaper and has already gone through its “break-in” period.

Commercially built guitars are usually mass manufactured. “Custom-made” guitars are exactly that. They are custom built and tailored to your specifications by a highly skilled guitar maker.

Prices for a custom-built guitar vary considerably, depending on the skill level of the craftsperson you contract the job to, but, as a rule, they are generally quite higher than a commercially built guitar of “similar” quality. Each custom built guitar is unique and therefore hard to compare in price to a commercially built guitar.


Understanding some of the parts of a guitar will definitely help you when it comes to the Pre-Purchase Checklist.

BODY: This is the part with the sound hole in the front. It is where the strumming is done, and it can vary in size. The actual size, shape, type of wood, coating, and general build of the body also affects how the guitar will “sound”, whether it’s a rich and warm sound, or a thin and ‘twangy’ sound. The body tends to be the part that also gets scratched, damaged, and generally banged-up the most.

NECK: This is the long piece extending from the body and ends at the ‘head’ of the guitar where the ‘Tuning Heads’ are, also known as ‘machine heads’. The strings travel from the ‘Bridge’ on the body, across the sound hole, along the ‘Fret Board’, which is attached to the front-side of the neck, and finally arriving at the tuning heads where they are wrapped around tuning posts. The tuning heads are then turned by hand, which then turns the posts, making the strings tighter or looser, thus affecting their ‘tuning’. Necks tend to warp and twist if not looked after, or if the guitar is left propped against a heat source.

BRIDGE: The Bridge is normally located on the front of the body, by the sound hole, and on the side of the hole opposite to the neck. The strings are usually fed through the bridge first before they cross the hole and travel up the neck to the tuning heads. The bridge is like an anchor-point for the strings. Metal bridges are best, but on most acoustics they are either hard plastic or wood. Bridges have a tendency to crack and split over a long period of time.

FRET BOARD: The fret board is glued to the front of the neck. This is the part you press the strings onto to make chords or play individual notes. Because it’s glued on separately, a fret board can be made of a wood that’s different from the neck.

The strings travel over the fret board and the distance they are above the fret board makes a difference to the playability of the guitar. If the strings are too far above the fret board, then they will be hard to press down, making the guitar hard to play.

When a beginner plays a guitar, initially his or her fingertips are very soft and need to be hardened. A guitar with the strings too far above the fret board, also known as having a ‘high action’, will cause the player’s fingers to hurt so much that they are likely to put the guitar away in discouragement and possibly stop playing altogether.

STRINGS: Acoustic guitar strings, come in a wide variety of ‘flavors’. They can be made out of nylon, brass, steel, or a combination. Nylon strings are usually only found on Classical guitars and Student guitars, because they’re easier on the fingertips. They have a rich, warm sound to them.

Strings sets come in different ‘weights’, or sizes. Strings that come from a package marked ‘Heavy’ are usually quite thick in size and sound “beefy”. Strings that are light, or extra light, are very thin and usually have a brighter sound to them, but are also quieter sounding than heavy strings.

String choices are purely personal taste. Light strings are easier to press than heavy strings but also sound quite different. The more often strings are played, the dirtier they get. If a cloth isn’t run over and under them, from time to time, the sound becomes very dull


- Before you buy a used guitar, cost-compare against the price of a new one, unless the guitar is quite old. You could also compare its used price to other used prices by going to an online auction and either searching for the same or a similar guitar.
- Check the overall condition of the wood for cracks, scratches, splits, dents, chips, etc.
- Also check the lacquer finish for cracks and splits.
- Check the neck/fret board for warping and twisting. You can do this by holding the guitar flat on its back, with the sound hole facing upward. Bring the guitar up to eye-level, with the neck running away from you and the edge of the body almost touching your face. Let your eyesight skim across the front of the body and down the fret board. You should be able to see if the neck is twisted or bowing.
- Tune the guitar, or have the seller tune it for you.
- If you know how to play about five or six chords then play them. If you don’t know how to play, ask the seller to play them for you. This check ensures that the neck of the guitar is not warped, even though you couldn’t physically see it. If the neck is warped, and the guitar is properly tuned, then some of the chords will sound good, but others will sound as though the guitar is not tuned. If this happens, check the tuning again. If it persists, then don’t buy the guitar.
- Check the bridge of the guitar. If it’s made out of wood or plastic, make sure it’s not cracked or splitting. The bridge needs to be rock-solid, as a lot of pressure is exerted on the bridge by the strings.
- Check the tuning heads. Do they turn easily, or are they very stiff and hard to turn. Even with the high tension of the strings, a quality guitar will have tuning heads that are fairly easy to turn.
- Check the ‘action’ of the guitar. Are the strings a fair distance from the fret board? Are they easy or hard to press down at various points on the fret board?
- If you are buying the guitar for yourself, and you know how to play, even if you’re a beginner, then play the guitar.
- How does it feel?
- Is it easy or hard to play?
- Can you fit your hand around the neck/fret board comfortably to play chords?
- Is the guitar a comfortable size and shape for your body? Is it easy to hold?
- If you plan to play standing up, ask for a guitar strap.
- Do you like the sound, the color, etc?
- If you don’t play, have someone else play it for you so that you can judge what it sounds like.


Buying a guitar from a physical retail music store allows you to ‘test drive’ the guitar and ask more questions up front. Buying online or from a catalog may bring you more cash savings.

No matter where you buy your guitar, if you know what to look for, and spend a little extra effort in your search for that ‘perfect’ guitar, not only will your fingers thank you, but also your ears, and all those who will come to join you around the campfire, or even go to see you in concert. Who knows?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

10 Ways Music Can Help You During The Holidays

This might be a time of year where you’re looking for, oh, some different ways to soothe, level, motivate, energize yourself and otherwise get on top of your cascading emotions. The EQ Foundation Course© emphasizes the great arts as an adjunct to Emotional Intelligence, though the not-so-great are helpful too. May we suggest?

1. Need to get solidly centered

Like, as the metaphysicians say, when you vision yourself growing a tail and having it grow like an anchor down to the center of the earth kind of centered?

Try anything with a big solid bass, up loud, but make sure the lyrics don’t interfere. The right-brain will dominate and you’ll hear the music first, but your left-brain will still be getting the lyrics. Therefore avoid, for instance, "Oh Elizabeth" with it's solid beat but sad lyrics.

OUR SUGGESTION: “I Loved ‘Em Everyone,” by T. G. Sheppard

2. Need to deal with something heavy, such as last year your father died on Christmas Eve and here comes the first anniversary

OUR SUGGESTION: Only classical music will work for this and that’s why we call it classical. For such a deep need, to maintain your grip when something’s rocked the foundation of your world, we recommend, Beethoven’s “Eroica”.

"Eroica" means "heroic" and that you will need to be. Beethoven lived through the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s there, in his music. For you.

3. To get lightly level

OUR SUGGESTION: Nothing will probably ever compare to Pachelbel’s "Canon". After that we give 5 stars to George Winston, particularly “December.” Good masseuses play these tapes. There are no ups and downs and that may be just what you're aiming at. :)

4. To rip the heart out of Christmas, like when you want to just sit down in front of the tree and cry at the beauty and the splendor of it all and get it over with and then eat a pint of Haagen Daz and go to sleep.

OUR SUGGESTION: Pavorotti's Christmas video (, Panis Angelicus duet with the little boy, especially if you had a little boy who now has whiskers on his cheeks. Or Placido Domingo with the Vienna Boys Choir. Then you can pull out your heart and put it on the table beside you, right there beside the dish of peppermints, and the cinnamon-scented candle, and you'll know you had Christmas.

5. Want something Christmassy but light

OUR SUGGESTION: Harp music is good for this, like for baking cookies to. It doesn’t pull the emotions. It’s close to the lyre, the instrument the Greek god Orpheus played to soothe the savage beasts, and to win a favor from Hades, the god to whom there is no altar (death), the god with whom there is no bargaining.

Completely upbeat, light and fun is "A Reggae Christmas," by Various Artists, and yes, my friend, "sensei" does rhyme with "pear tree." Listen to it on the way in to work. That's girl's laughter will carry you through your day. Go here ( ) to hear samples. Listen to it on the way in to work. That's girl's laughter will carry you through your day. (The Ras Family, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas") And June Lodge's "Joy to the World" will bring joy to YOUR world.

6. Need to get some work done, sick of Christmas, got the kids around, underfoot and bored?

GP RECOMMENDATION: (1) "Great Balls of Fire," Jerry Lee Lewis. How could you possibly be “mindful” with that going on? It’s great fun. It will clear the air. (2) "Don't Worry Be Happy," by Marley.

NC-17 RATED VERSION: The Pogues with Kristy MacColl, "Fairytale of New York". "It was Christmas Eve in the drunk tank ... The boys of the NYPD Choir were singing 'Gallway Bay' and the bells were ringing out on Christmas Day," and C.D.'s favorite line, a wry and melancholic Irish lad himself, God rest his soul in peace, "You scum bag, you maggot you cheap lousy ..., Happy Christmas your ass, I thank God it's our last." Ah, the Irish, they would've conquered the world were it not for .... No cards and letters, please. Sometimes ya gotta vent. That's what art is for, catharsis. (P. S. Use your EQ; don't take "it" out on your partner.)

7. The out-laws are coming, I mean the IN-laws, and you, exhausted, crabby and high on sugar as you are, must clean the house and you aren’t exactly in the MOOD for a Christmas Carol, if you know what I mean

OUR G SUGGESTION: If you haven’t cleaned house with your two preschoolers marching along behind you to a John Philip Sousa march, you haven’t lived. Give the little one a paper hat and get out his toy drum. Ok, now quit laughing and taking pictures and get back to work, you!

OUR PG SUGGESTION: Got older kids you need to get working with you? Call it "the main event," and put on the Jock Jams, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble."

OUR X RATED SUGGESTION: You and your partner put "Cotton Eyed Joe" on -- I mean the Texas version – and invent your own lyrics appropos to the, um, challenges of the moment. (This is popular at office holiday parties with adjusted lyrics as well!) And DO the Cotton Eye Joe as you push that vacuum around. Here's how ( ).

8. Need to be inspired and also to get in touch with the spiritual side of Christmas

OUR SUGGESTION: Handel's “Messiah, Hallelujah Chorus,” of course. Just the chorus, unless you're an aficionado and can afford to tire yourself out.

Remember, if you will, that when you hear "The Hallelujah Chorus," you are to stand up. Do this. Right there at home in your living room. It will do something for you.

9. Now, or any time you’re beginning to feel just slightly resentful of all your “blessings”

OUR SUGGESTION: “Lord, What Did I Ever Do,” by the Oak Ridge Boys is great for attitude adjustment.

10. For the peace that passeth understanding

OUR SUGGESTION: Stille Naq, Noite de Paz, Noche de Paz, Sainte Nuit, Cicha Noc, Glade Jul, Stille Nacht, Po La`i E, or, as many of us know it, Silent Night, the lullaby that's been translated into every language on earth, composed by the greatest unsung duo in musical history, Mohr (lyrics) and Gruber (melody).

We also recommend "Ave Maria." Especially the Caccini, arranged by Brinums, sung by Inessa Galante, available here: . For more, see .

Let them still your heart and bring you peace.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

10 Tips To Find A Legal Web Site To Download Music

1. Pay for use

This is one of the most effective ways to identify whether a site is legal or not. Look for download sites that charge you per song, or per month or per year.

If you see a site offering free music downloads for a certain trial period, then this doesnt necessarily mean that the site is legal. Many legal sites use this as an enticement, so do not be put off by that.

2. Size Limits

A legal music download site generally distributes music from reputable labels and artists. This means that you will not find a wide range of mixes and custom files that will almost certainly slow down your connection, and therefore take forever to download.
Moreover, if these files are small it assures the music retail industry that the music site is actually selling real legal music, and not the massive files associated with computer games and movies etc

3. Volume limits

Legal music download sites usually distribute their material on a per song basis. One of the major advantages of buying your music online is that you dont have to spend $17 for an entire album if you only want 3 or 4 songs.
Legal music sites will actually setup download limits as well as transfer rate limits. As a result, this prevents dishonest customers from setting up their computers to copy hundreds of files in a few hours.

4. Larger databases, Larger costs

The larger the databases that the legal download sites have, the more it will actually cost you. This can actually lead to paying a bit more than a normal CD in the shop IF the store has literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of songs because they could cost between $1 - $3.
Therefore, dont go for the exceptionally large databases. The reason why these sites are more expensive than the illegal music sites is because they are obliged to give a portion of their fees back to the recording industry.

5. Limited Choice

Most of the legal music download sites dont have the capacity or copyright authority to distribute hundreds of millions of songs. The songs are stored on servers with a finite amount of space unlike the tangled web of computer to computer file transfers from the illegal sites.

The other reason for the limited choice is that it is highly unlikely that they will get an agreement from every single record label to distribute their music online.

The quality of every online music catalog depends on the Music Studios that are providing the material. Established, and therefore popular artists usually switch labels at least once during their singing career. So you might have access to their newer materials, but not the older songs, or vice versa.

6. No Adware or Spyware

Legal music download sites like their offline retail counterparts are getting an actual fee for their service. They dont want to scam or upset their customers by placing dangerous and annoying spyware and adware programs on their computers.

7. Music Only

The fact is that a legal music download site will only have music on it to download. This means that you wont be able to download computer games, movies or anything else like this.

8. Copyright Notice

A clearly written copyright notice should be provided on the site stating:

a) The nature of the site owners authorization to distribute legal music files online

b) What you can do with the files once you have paid for them

c) Any limitations on either party as far as use and distribution of the files.

9. No file sharing allowed

You are only allowed to use the files for personal use. Unlike a CD (physical product) you cannot purchase songs, use them and then sell them to another party or distribute them free of charge to friends, family, web surfers etc.

10. Backed by a big label?

Most of the legal music download sites are backed by at least one major music label. People are looking for songs that are popular, on the radio, playing in the clubs or on MTV.
All of that commercial material comes out of the studio system. If the label does not provide the material, subject to fees, taxes and copyright notices, then the site cannot legally distribute them.

Friday, 1 May 2015

7 Tips for Effective Musical Practice

The quality of your practice is much more important than the quantity. The old saying "practice makes perfect" is only true if the practice itself is perfect. Here are 7 tips to help make your practice more effective and efficient.

Practice motions slowly

The muscular memory of our bodies allows us to physically carry out patterns of motion with little or no conscious involvement. Examples of muscular memory include walking, riding a bicycle, typing, and of course playing a musical instrument.

In order to develop this memory, the muscles require training in the form of repeated conscious guidance from the mind. First the mind must learn the pattern. Then the mind must "teach" the pattern to the muscles.

The mind initially must control all the motions of the muscles. The more controlled and precise the motions, the more quickly the muscles will develop muscle memory.

Slow practice also allows the mind to teach "antagonistic muscles" to relax. Antagonistic muscles are those that move in opposite directions. By relaxing antagonistic muscles you can reduce tension and facilitate faster and easier performance and avoid potential injury.

Practice in small cells

A "practice cell" is simply a finite series of motions. Musical cells can correspond to anything from a few notes to an entire work. When practicing, it is important to practice small cells of just a few notes. Practicing small cells limits the amount of information the muscles have to learn at one time. It also facilitates the mind's focus and concentration.

Link the end of one cell to the beginning of the next

To help the muscles develop a sense of continuum throughout the piece of music, the last motion in a cell should be the first motion of the following cell.

Practice each cell in bursts

Once the muscles have learned a pattern, they will be capable of executing it without conscious control. Initiate the pattern through a conscious command and allow the muscles to execute it in a burst.

Don't practice mistakes

For every repetition required to learn a pattern of motion, it takes 7 times the number of repetitions to change the pattern. If in the course of your practice you make an error, stop. Review in your mind the pattern. And further reduce the speed of your motions.

Pause between repetitions

When dealing with repetitive activities, the mind is better able to focus when the repetitions are broken up by short pauses. After two or three repetitions, pause for about 30 seconds to regain focus.

Take frequent breaks and don't "over-practice"

B.F. Skinner and other experts have found that the mind's ability to learn drops significantly after prolonged intense concentration. Research shows that studying too long (i.e. more than four hours) can deplete chemicals in the brain necessary for learning. Therefore, it is best to take frequent breaks (a 5 minute break about every 20-25 minutes) and practice no more than 4 hours consecutively.

By applying these techniques, you can dramatically improve the quality of your practice. You'll be able to use your time more efficiently and increase the effectiveness of your practice.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Duos In Pop Music

Pop music in the 1960's produced several top recording duos dotting the music charts and influencing future song writers and groups to this day.  Let’s explore a  few successful duos from the 60's that also recorded as lesser known names before they hit it big as the names they are known as today.

An early release by duo that called themselves Tom & Jerry in 1957 did not fair well, although the duo did manage to crack the top 100 on the music charts.   But subsequent releases proved to be very substantial, not only for pop rock, but for folk rock as well.  After minimal success as Tom & Jerry and reuniting together in the mid 60's as Simon and Garfunkel, the duo forged a path through pop and folk music that is iconic.

With a barrage of finely crafted pop and folk arrangements, Simon and Garfunkel amassed many pop hits such as “Homeward Bound, ““Sound’s Of Silence,” “I Am A Rock,” “Mrs. Robinson” (from the movie “The Graduate”), “The Boxer” and the Garfunkel-led ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” among others.  After they split up, Garfunkel went on to record several well-received albums, but Paul Simon became known as one of the most prolific and vital song writers of the pop music era.

After the split from Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon scored top ten pop hits with “Mother And Child Reunion,” “Kodachrome,” “Loves Me Like A Rock” as well as “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.”  But Simon broke new ground musically and personally in 1986 with the album “Graceland,” which he adeptly mixed a collage of musical genres and political statements into one of the most remarkable solo albums of all time.  Somewhat controversial, it remains the benchmark for all solo artists who want to experiment with their musical background and add a mix of different cultures to the album to capture not only their already existing fan base, but create a new one as well.

Although popular for their 1959 hit “Baby Talk,” Jan Berry and Dean Torrence rode the waves of the Beach Boys-led surf music sound in the early 1960's.  Previously known as Jan and Arnie, their infectious hit “Surf City,” (the duo’s only number one hit) was co-written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who also provided back-up vocals.  Jan Berry returned the favor in1966 by singing lead on the Beach Boy’s hit “Barbara Ann.”  Jan and Dean had other chart hits such as “Drag City,” the prophetic “Dead Man’s Curve” and the whimsical “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.”  The duo’s success was cut short in April of 1966 when Jan was critically injured in an automobile accident.

The husband and wife team of Caesar and Cleo did not secure fame until they changed their name to Sonny and Cher and went on to pop mega-stardom, not only in music, but in television as well.  Their breakthrough hit “I Got You Babe” reached number one status and held that position for three weeks in 1965.  While still together as Sonny and Cher, each scored hits recording separately, Sonny with “Laugh At Me” and Cher with “All I Really Want To Do” and “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”  Their magical musical combination and wisecracking repartee spawned a highly successful CBS-TV variety series that ran from1971 through 1974.  As a duo, Sonny and Cher secured top ten hits such as “Baby Don’t Go,” “ The Beat Goes On,” “All I Ever Need Is You” and “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done.”  Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce in 1973, but the story of Sonny and Cher does not.

They were briefly reunited in 1975 and Cher continued on to a brilliant solo career and Sonny entered politics.  Sonny Bono was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California and then elected to Congress in 1994 until his tragic death from a skiing accident in 1998.  Cher continued in music and also added a first rate acting career to her repertoire. 

As a solo artist in the 1970's, Cher scored hits with songs like “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” “The Way Of Love,” “Half-Breed” and “Dark Lady” among others.  Cher was also an accomplished actress, with starring roles in the acclaimed motion pictures “Silkwood” and “The Witches Of Eastwick.”  In 1987, Cher won an Oscar for her role in the movie “Moonstruck.”  She revived her musical career in 1989 scoring a top ten hit called “After All,” a duet with Peter Cetera from the motion picture “Chances Are” and the intense reflective “If I Could Turn Back Time.”  Remarkably, ten years later Cher was again in the Top 40 with her number one hit “Believe,” which spent four weeks as the top pop song and remained on the charts for twenty-five weeks.  To this day Cher remains peerless and is one of the most celebrated female singers and her trademark voice will be heard for decades to come.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Brief History About Downloading Music

Downloading music is a process whereby music files are opened on the Internet and saved for future use. This has become one of the world’s greatest online pastimes during recent years, and the popularity of downloading music continues to grow.

Ironically, however, downloading music didn’t start off in the most positive light. As a matter of fact, it was considered quite illegal, and many file-sharing technologies, such as peer-to-peer networks, provided countless music to the public free of charge and without the permission of either the artists or the music copyright owners. One famous site known for this, Napster, was incited for breaking copyright laws and told to shut down. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), this practice was not only unlawful; it was hurting sales for the music industry—downloading music from the Internet exceeded sales of CDs and videos in some countries. Many lawsuits ensued, and yet other sites were ordered to shut down.

Several artists cried out at the practice of downloading music. They felt betrayed, since their hard-earned music was being passed along without profit and without their permission. They felt disrespected and ripped off!

Eventually, there was a solution that would keep downloading music an active pastime. Legal digital downloads became popular through iTunes in 2003, and downloading music from the Internet increased exponentially, setting new records in sales. One example of this is Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, which landed a position at the top of the U.K. Singles Chart solely on the distribution of downloading music. Napster is back online, too.

Interestingly enough, many of the artists themselves got in on the online game of downloading music, and now lots of their music is available on their personal and commercial sites. These downloads, however, are either brief previews or low-quality sampling—enough for the artists to market their music to those who prefer downloading music, and also to make money online as well as through music outlets!

Downloading music, then, has been a rather shaky ordeal for many, but due to compromise and innovative technological advances, this practice is fortunate enough to continue for some time to come!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

A Good Music Tutor Will Never Go Hungy!

If you are a musician, and interested in teaching, then you will never go hungry! There is always a want for tutors - people will always want to learn music and need the guidance of someone else... you!

Ask one hundred random people, and chances are that the large majority will have an interest in singing, or playing some sort of musical instrument. Whether they enjoy singing, or playing, once you ask a little deeper you'll find that a large percentage of this number have at some stage sought the guidance of a tutor.

While the music industry booms, so will the need for tutors. Some people will always aspire to recreate the sounds that they love to hear, others enjoy the relaxation that playing can bring, and some even aim to write their own number one hit. Tutors will always be needed to help get wannabe musicians rocking.

There's another reason why savvy tutors will always find employment and a comfortable income. They know that the process of learning a musical instrument helps a growing child realise a few of life's lessons - practice really does make perfect, and like the date of a recital, a deadline always needs to be planed towards and constant action taken to completing the assignment well, and on time.

Mindful parents are also aware of this, and if they're not, they probably soon will be as the wise tutor advises about the positive benefits of learning the discipline to work at something. The instrument may be slightly irrelevant in the long run, but the lessons learned are completely transferable.

It is possible to earn a good living from doing something as enjoyable as teaching. And you'll find various articles and tips on achieving the best of this career at my website Visit now, and you can receive a free eBook giving advise to those thinking about starting out in this rewarding profession.