Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Why doesn't my acoustic guitar sound any good when I plug it in?"

The LR Baggs VTC acoustic pickup... one of the popular & natural sounding pickups on the market. 
It isn’t unusual for a customer to come in & say “I’ve got a Brand X (or Y or Z) pickup up in my acoustic guitar but I’m not happy with my sound… what other pickups do you have I can try?”.  Often we find they already have a really good pickup so why doesn’t it sound any good?   

The first question we will ask is “What kind of amp are you plugging it in to?” & almost always the answer is “the same amp I use for my electric guitar”.  And therein lies the problem.  

Amplifiers for solid body electric guitars are designed to amplify the signals coming from the magnetic style pickups used on electric guitars. They are also designed to produce “distortion” very easily whereas for amplifying an acoustic instrument you need something that will reproduce a very natural, “clean” & even sound such as you get from transducer style pickups.  The same goes for amplifying violins, ukuleles or any other acoustic instrument for that matter.  

Consequently, if you plug an acoustic guitar into an electric guitar amp it will sound thin & "not very clean" & muffled... not really like an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar.  Vice versa, if you plug an electric guitar into a good acoustic amp, while it will work, it will sound very strange as well... & nothing like a solid body electric guitar.   

When you are amplifying an acoustic guitar what you are looking for is a very natural, almost hi-fi quality, tone that sounds natural to the human ear... something that has what we would call a very flat signal.  In this case a "flat" signal doesn't mean dull or colourless, it means that all frequencies are being amplified evenly & at around the same level so the tone is very even & ideally, just like the sound produced by the guitar when it isn't plugged in... only louder.  The best way to get this is from an amplifier designed especially for the acoustic  guitar.  Most major brands on the market including AER, Fender, Marshall, Laney & many others have excellent models specifically designed for exactly this purpose.  Most even have a microphone input as well as for the very same reasons your guitar will sound much better though an acoustic amplifier, so will your voice.   They will also work very well through keyboards or bass amps which are also designed to reproduce a very even, flat signal, & also of course through any PA system. 

 The German made AER brand of amplifier one of the finest acoustic guitar amplifier on the market & is the choice of many of the worlds top acoustic players including Tommy Emmanuel, Dave Hole, Jake Shimabukuro & many others.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Are you having problems keeping your guitar in Tune?

If you are having problems keeping your steel string guitar in tune then here's a simple tip that may save you a lot of frustration!

We do a lot of servicing & "restrings"at Concept Music (& I mean a LOT!) & almost every day someone comes in with their guitar telling us "it keeps going out of tune!” & asking us if can perhaps change the machine heads "because they are slipping & need replacing".  In fact this is never the case. In 35 years I've never seen a slipping machine head cause a tuning problem!  A tuner may break or strip or fail completely from time to time but that's different - if they're broken or worn you won't even be able to get the string up to pitch in the first place, but if you can get it up to pitch then it's not slipping. Trust me. 

While there are a number of things that can cause a guitar to go out of tune, by far the most common reason is that it has been restrung with far too many windings of the string around the post.  If your guitar looks like the picture above then your guitar will NEVER stay in tune - you need to take them off & redo them.  NOW!  Strung like that & your tuning will never be stable as the string cannot be properly bedded in & stretched.  And don't be confused or fooled by how long a new string is when you take it out of the packet...  it is not necessary to try & use it all.  Quite the contrary! 

What you are aiming for is something like the image below... where the wound strings go around the post 2 or 3 times at the most & the plain strings 3 or 4 (yes, that’s all!).  Make sure they do not bunch up or cross over each other & make sure the windings go down the post as this will also help keep some downwards pressure on the string in the nut slot.  If you do this & give your new strings a bit of a 'stretch' you'll never have a problem with the pitch continually going flat again.

Still not sure?  You're welcome to bring your guitar in & we'll have a look at it for you... for that matter, we can give it a good all-over service (costing around $50 plus strings).  A service & restring means we will not only put brand new strings on & retune your guitar for you, we will also clean & polish your body & frets, check the truss rod & "action" & go over the whole guitar so that it feels like new again.   

Happy tuning! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

When is it OK to play for nothing?

So... my angry man came out a few days ago. And here's why:

Last weekend I went to see a friends band play at The Monk Brewery in Fremantle.  Apparently they were promoting “Live Music" during January & were giving local musos an opportunity to play, which you might think is quite admirable except that it did not include them actually getting paid.  Well, that is if don't include allowing $50 Bar Tab (split between 5 people) as getting paid.

Anyway, I went down along with several others to support them & have a few drinks & a meal. The atmosphere was good; the food good & the service wasn't too bad either... it was shaping up to be a nice evening out listening to some good music... that was until we went to pay the bill.  After the gig our friends had decided to stay back for a quick bite as well & (amazingly) they hadn't used all of their $50 tab & still have $12 left on it (don’t ask how 5 musicians let that happen?!).  So, we go to pay & they let the bar manager know that they still have $12 left on their tab & ask if they can please just put it towards the $210 bill.  A reasonable request I thought. The answer left me gobsmacked.  It was in immediate & completely unapologetic: "No. The tab stops the minute the band stops playing” & she refuses point blank to take it off the bill adding emphatically "as soon as you stop playing, if haven't used your tab, you lose it".

This is what I have to say to The Monk Brewery: it’s bad enough that you kid yourself you are supporting Live Music by “letting them play” & not pay them in the first place.  You were quite happy for them to promote your venue for you & bring 12 to 15 friends down (not to mention bring in passers-by coming in to hear the live music) who collectively would have easily spent over $1,000 throughout the gig on meals & drinks... but then you insult them by not letting them use the (pathetic) $12 left on their bar tab towards the cost of their own meals & drinks!  It was a very frustrating & disappointing end to what was otherwise a really nice evening & as I drove home I found myself getting angrier & angrier on the bands behalf.... which is exactly what I told them in an email the next day, adding, "I won’t be back".

Quite a few people I have talked to about this have said "Why would ANY band agree to pay for nothing?" (& some even suggested it was their own fault) & superficially, this is a fair question so let me answer that.

In an ideal world I agree, no one would play, let alone be expected to play, for nothing.  But in the 'real world' I'm sure we've all done a "love gig" for some reason or another.  Maybe it was for an opportunity to prove yourself? For some real 'gigging' experience & to get your chops up to speed?   To help someone out or perhaps to encourage a Venue to "see what it's like to have a live band play" especially if they've never had one it before.  Or maybe, simply because "Hey, we've got no gigs booked this weekend & otherwise we'd only be sitting at home watching TV so what the hell, let's go & play for an audience instead of just rehearsing all the time?!" (after all, it's a lot more fun to do a gig than play in your lounge room right? And isn't that WHY we are rehearsing anway? To play "live"?). Rightly or wrongly, over the years, I've known loads of musos & bands that have actually approached venues OFFERING to play for nothing... just to get a foot in the door, though that definitely wasn't the case last Sunday night. So it's not a black & white issue... not for me anyway.

My real beef on this occasion is two-fold in that it appears to me The Monk was deliberately trying to capitalize on having themselves perceived as a genuine Live Music Venue (after all, I will ALWAYS go to a pub that has a band over one that doesn't!) which they have quite clearly demonstrated they are not. And I am 100% sure that every patron eating or drinking there on that night (or any other night they have live music for that matter), would automatically assume the band IS being paid appropriately. In my opinion this means The Monk is abusing people's good will on both sides - the bands & the patrons.

Second is their pettiness & arrogance in refusing to deduct the unused $12 from the (ridiculous) $50 bar tab... off a $210 bill that included $60 of drinks!  It is utterly incomprehensible to me & is what  left me feeling so angry. 

The following morning I emailed The Monk expressing my disappointment & frustration.  I would have been happy (perhaps interested is a better word?) to hear their perspective & how they might explain themselves as well as, hopefully & at the very least, apologize for the arrogance & disrespect of the Bar Manager on duty towards the Band who did not even get a "thank you playing" I might add. They did not choose to answer so my response, to their lack of response, was to put a "rant" on my own Facebook page as well as theirs & leave them a 1 Star rating (I would have left zero Star rating but they don't have one!). The result has been quite spectacular with hundreds of "likes" & dozens of "shares" within just a few hours... not exactly viral but close enough & validated for me that my own expectations of how musicians should be treated are well & truly in line with those of the public at large who feel that that venues should both respect & remunerate musicians & bands appropriately.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

First delivery of instruments to Quiz Night Beneficiaries.

You will no doubt be pleased to hear that the first lot of instruments valued at $2,640 that was funded by our 35th Anniversary Rock Quiz & Charity Auction has just been delivered to Visability WA (formerly The Blind Association).   And what a humbling experience it was. I knew they had a need for equipment but I cannot overstate how much difference the donation you made possible of some microphones, a bass guitar and a new keyboard will make to their music programme.

I was fortunate to be shown around their facility and also to meet some of the people participating in their music lessons each week. It was challenging, humbling and exciting all at the same time.
Several members were “just getting old” so their sight was failing, but there was a big mix of people who have ended up there for all sorts of reasons. I met a young girl who woke up after having a diabetic seizure to find she absolutely no sight at all. Can you imagine just waking up one day & realising you will never be able to go back your job, or drive a car or even live independently?
And then there was a very fit looking young guy with great tattoos playing a really magnificent MusicMan John Petrucci electric guitar through a Limited Edition Fender “Blues Deluxe” Valve Combo with a boutique pedal board… not what I expected at all!  It turns out he used to play in bands in Melbourne & was also a soldier in the army… that was until he stepped on a landmine while on active duty in Afghanistan & lost his sight. At 25.

The programme is run by a competent & capable guy called Manny who is also vision impaired & who plays the keyboard while directing the weekly practice sessions. You can tell the sessions are the highlight of the week for many of them & it was an absolute privilege for me that they let me sit through one of their meetings.   Like any group of people getting together for a ‘jam’ not all of them had very good rhythm…. in fact a couple were terrible! But there was no snobbery or exclusiveness displayed at all… everyone as welcome & all of them were having a ball. Proving for me once again that, “Life IS Better When You Play!” & no more so than what I saw & heard today.

On behalf of everyone at Visability, to all those people who supported the Quiz Night, thank you. You have made a difference.  I will be going out to the Carson Street School next week to deliver another lot of instruments & will keep you updated.

Graham Hoskins

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Concept Music collaborates with Maton to produce 3 very special Limited Edition Guitars

We are very proud to announce the arrival of three very special 35th Anniversary Commemorative guitars by Maton and available exclusively from Concept Music for just 12 months.

There are three Anniversary models available: one solid body and two acoustic.  The solid body is a variation of the same guitar that Joe Walsh from the Eagles bought from Concept Music on their recent tour of Australia - the Mastersound T-Byrd.  It is in a Limited Edition colour that has been named "Western Sunset" and we think it is just gorgeous... the stunning see-thru high gloss orange colour really is very reflective of the amazing sunsets we see over here in Western Australia.

The acoustic guitars are both highly up spec'd versions of  two of the most popular guitars in the new Maton all solid "Road Series" acoustics guitars: the SRS70C and the SRS808.  The unique upgrades elevate these 2 guitars to a level way beyond any other version of the of these models normally available but at a very affordable price.  The acoustic guitars are both $2,295 and the T-Byrd is just $1,899.

Like their parent models, both have beautiful all solid Tasmanian Blackwood Back and Sides, an A Grade solid Sitka Spruce Top on the SRS70C nada Western Red Cedar top on the SRS808, Scalloped Bracing, Queensland Maple Neck, Rosewood Fingerboard and Bridge and the AP5 Pro Pickup system.  The extra features you will find on these Limited Edition 35th Anniversary Models include delicate herringbone binding around the outer edge of the body and the soundhole and a really stunning keyhole headstock which has been overlaid on a flamed blackwood face-plate... a feature normally only available on the Messiah.  All three guitars have a commemorative engraved "Anniversary" mother of pearl inlay at the 12th fret making them absolutely stunning instrument. The SRS70C also has some very pretty snow flake inlays in the fingerboard. Each also comes in Maton hardcase.

Concept Music would like to thank Maton for collaborating with us to create thse special release versions of some of their most iconic models.  They are available exclusively through Concept Music for a limited period of 12 months from July 2015 to June 2016. 

Concept Music's 35th Anniversary Charity Quiz Night a Roaring Success with Peter Rowsthorn arriving as our surprise guest Compere

Concept Music celebrated 35 years in business this month with a Rock Quiz & Charity Auction. It was a sold out event with 180 people attending & the night became a real celebrity affair when it was announced comedian Peter Rowsthorn was to be the surprise guest compere. Rowsthorn, of Kath & Kim and Thank God You’re Here fame, had the had the audience in stitches all night with his quips & stories.

When the idea first came up to do something different & have a charity quiz night, all of Concept Music’ suppliers were sent a letter explain what they were trying to do & asking for support. “We could not have anticipated the amazing and immediate response we would get from our suppliers” says Graham. “It was quite overwhelming!”.

Appropriately, the evening was interspersed with excellent guest performances by up & coming young guitarist, songwriter and Concept Music employee Jacob Diamond as well one of the beneficiaries, the African Choral Ensemble “Until We Return”. X Factor Finalist and regular customer of Concept Music, Sydnee Carter also performed the single of her new excellent new EP titled Under My Skin.

It was unique event with over $14,400 was raised during the night which far exceeded Grahams initial expectations. This money will be going towards the provision of instruments and equipment for a number of West Australia Schools and organisations who run music programmes assisting people with special needs. These include Visability (formerly the Blind Association), VIP Rocks, the Sir David Brand and Carson Street Schools for children as well as The Until We Return African Choral ensemble.

Graham would like to thank all of his staff as well Concept’s suppliers, customers and local businesses for their enthusiastic and generous support that made it such a successful evening. “The night was a huge success in its own right but the difference the donation of this musical equipment will make in the groups it is going to be enormous” says Graham.
The event was a genuine reflection that Concept Music’s slogan that Life’s Better When You Play applies to everyone, not just musicians.