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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Video day!




Hello everyone!

I have updated all the download links in the website and created two videos related to two previous articles, and I have updated them:

Review: Boss Katana Head (With 2 video samples!)

and

How to create guitar cab impulses from a song (free plugins and IR included!) PART 1/2

so now you can hear a direct usb recording sample for the Boss Katana and a sample made with the impulse created for the tutorial, free to download, which I find it's pretty realistic.

Let us know what you think!

Cheers!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 3/3


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3


Probably if you are looking in this price range you are searching for used guitars. Used guitars are extremly tricky by some point of view. We must consider two types of used guitar: the vintage and the more recent ones, because either way we are going to lose something.
Vintage guitars:
Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean good. Old Gibsons are famous for their warm sound and incredible manufacture but they cost three times what you want to spend.
If you are searching for a vintage guitar for 500$ or less you must look at some strange and rare brand that really few know. Especially in Japan from mid 70s to mid 80s a lot of brand were born. The economic boom of the Japanese industry hit also the instrument market, so you can easly find labels as Cimar, Tokay, Greco, Aria and Vantage on the online shops, selled by other people. What makes this guitars so special? Some of these brands were produced in the same factories used by Gibson and Fender to produce their models in that era in Japan so the same hands that have built a Les Paul Custom probably have built also an Aria Guitar or a Greco one. If you are lucky enough to find and know exactly that the guitar was produced in one of these factories you can be pretty sure that the manufacturing and production are great, and most of the times it equals to the most prestigous ones.
Wood can easly be extremely better than any wood you can find now on guitars of the same price, for the reasons I wrote above in the article. What you have to sacrifice? Sometimes details and PU, but there are models with good stuff even at this price range. There are just two big counterindications: the first one is the resale value and the second one the overall condition of the guitar.
For the first one you can’t do much, it’s really hard to sell a guitar with an anonymous brand for most of the guitarists, you can explain with the best words how good it is but that damn logo will be your curse. If you are going to sell one of these you’ll probably spend years to find a buyer interested and probably you will have to lower the price a couple of times.
For the second point you must pay attation to details as fret condition, scratches, repairs etc, because it’s easy to buy a fourth hand instrument with a lot of damages caused by the years, and sometimes it can be just an aesthetic problem, in others it can make your new instrument almost unplayable.
Last but not least! You must know where it was built, in what year, the overall condition and all the features. Sometimes catalogs are available, sometimes not, it’s a big risk to buy an instrument without knowing if it’s the exact model the seller is saying is it. You must know by what wood were made and how, what PU it holds etc. This makes finding a good vintage guitar for this amount of money a real journey through websites from all over the world to compare prices, search for catalogs and opinions of owners, but if you are not in a rush eventually you will find the right guitar.
More recent used guitar:
Here we have to distinguish 90s, first 00s and post 2006 guitars. For the first kind we can apply the same rules of the vintage ones, but you must be more careful about the unknown brands because after the 80s most of them started declining and producing cheaper guitars with all the counterindications we know.
On the other hand you can find really awesome pieces by the most known brands as Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone etc which still have a good manufacture and production. Maybe it’s better to buy a 90’s Epiphone than a newer one, also until 2006 they didn’t use tone chambers to make the guitar lighter.
Post 2006 used guitars” is the category I generally don’t advice to you, just only in few cases. If you have read all the article you know what you have to sacrifice here, since we’re talking about almost the same kind of problematics of the new ones. A 450$ used guitar maybe as new was sold for around 600 or 700$, and that assures you a decent quality of wood and features, probably with a pick up upgrade the guitar could become really solid. Even for 700$ you can’t be sure the manifacture is good and the production can be located in Indonesia, Vietnam or Korea and crafted in chain with all the problems you know. The drama is that the only two things you can’t change on a guitar is the way it was assembled and what types of wood they used. For the first thing you are literally jumping in the dark, for the wood you can be lucky to find a nice piece, anyway a recent used guitar can become a nightmare if you pay a nice amount of money and you receive a guitar with a knot in the wood, so it will sound “dead”.
Used guitars made in recent years probably are in a better condition than the old ones and it’s one of few “upsides” of this category.
In my opinion there are just two case where to buy a recent used guitar for 500$ or less it’s a real deal: when you find a fool or when you find a desperate one.
The Fool” is someone who doesn’t know what is selling and maybe it’s dropping the price drastically as someone who is selling a Gibson SG for 400$ just because he wants to buy a different model fast.
The other case is easy to recognize because sometimes you can read that the announcement is online for more than a year, which means that they are dropping the price to sell more easily.
In any case pay attetion to the fakes! Nowdays it’s easy to find a fake copy made in Indonesia of Gibson SG or LP and the only way to check the production is the serial number on the back of the head. If you find a Gibson LP custom for 500$ probably it’s made in Indonesia.

The guide is yours, now you have the tools to choose correctly your new axe!


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 2/3






Now we know that we can’t have a guitar with the best features for 500$ or less, let’s focus on the fact that there are just two type of guitar you can searching for: New or Used.
What you have to sacrifice in this section can be: production, hardware (almost 100% of the times) and manufactures. The more you go below the 500$ mark, the higher is the risk to find bad wood and made in China guitars. Expecially for the new pieces is very common to find a guitar made in Asia but as said before it’s not always something bad if you are searching low-budget guitar.
Epiphone or Squier? You must be very lucky to find a well manifactured guitar for these two brand. You must sacrifice details, production and almost every time manufacture. These brand are linked to the bigger ones just because of an economic choice of the mother house to give to normal people a cheaper version of their most exspensive guitar. The really minefield of all this post is the range of price where you can find both “Epi” and Gibson, Squier and Fender. For what I’ve experienced the differences are in the details and PU. So, if you want to spend 100$ to have a “better” bridge, color of body or bridge PU you are free to choice the “big brand” guitar but you have to know that in both cases you don’t have a very good guitar. Online you can read opinions about the “melody maker”, “junior” and “faded” series of Gibson to know what they sacrificed to give us, for a modest price, a guitar labeled Gibson which has almost nothing of what makes Gibson a top brand in guitar production. So what's the main "pro" to buy a cheap guitar with these brands? You can sell it for half the price and so to have virtually paid it the half, when you will sell it.
My advice for Epi and Squier is to find a good series. Almost every two years Gibson and Fender produces a new series with new features that change mostly details, but the big differences are the production and manifacturing because in a rare case you can find an Epi produced in a decent factory in Korea and this means that its overall quality of manufacture is higher than the others. Online you can read a lot of debates about almost every series of Epiphone/Gibson, Squier/Fender to decide what’s the best year of production of that specific model. 


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Guide to buy a guitar for around 500€ / 500$ PART 1/3



Hello and welcome to this weeks' article!
This time we're publishing an article written by a dear friend and singer/songwriter for The Observants, Edoardo Del Principe, about his criteria / checklist to buy a good guitar for around 500$ / 500€.
Keep in mind that this is his personal opinion, and that if possible is ALWAYS better to try the instrument in your own hands before buying, because since the wood is living material, a guitar is never exactly identical to another one, even if they are built from the same person with the same materials.


What’s the dream of every guitarist? To find an awesome cheap guitar. This article wants to answer to the question: is it possibile? The answer is “yes” but with several caveat.
I want to show you the general rules to “how to buy a decent guitar for less than 500$”, which is in my opinion the average budget of an high school student who is studying guitar and wants to buy a new one for his/her birthday.
First all of must be clear what makes a guitar expensive and then what makes a guitar cheap.
Wood: this a very controversial point because there’s not an objective argumentation of which wood is the best, but it’s also true that there are bad and good woods. Where can we find these?
Easly over 700$ guitars can have a mahogany body and an ebony fretboards, as many Gibson have. Mahogany seems the best for guitar but its “expensiveness” can come also from its rarety now. Before 80’s it was more common than now, so you can find this wood especially in guitars from before the 80’s.
Ebony and Rosewood are the two most desired wood for fretboards. Nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find ebony on a fretboards of guitars under 700-800$ because of its rarety and its features. Even this time its all about tastes because there is no rules saying that Ebony it’s better than Rosewood, today it’s even harder than before to find a good piece of this because the high quality wood are now much harder to find than 30 years ago. Deforestation caused a “manipulated market” of guitar wood, and the wood used by the most prestigious brands are now on the “apex” of the “wood chain”, which this means that the wood used by a Gibson Les Paul Standard sets the “standard”, but this doesn’t means it is necessarily the best.
Manufacture: This point it’s damn critical because if you talk with a guitar maker probably he will tell you that nowdays it’s practically impossibile to find a good guitar for 500$. There’s no way out. This is because for that price none of them is handmade, not even partially. Industrialization and globalization have transformed the way to produce guitars, so now for that price they are all assembled in a chain production. Less care about the manifacturing, less care about how the neck is built, less care about how it is attached to the body, less care about almost everything, and you must know how much this influences the final sound of the instrument.
Expensive guitars have very few parts or none done in the chain production, so every piece is controlled and maybe crafted by the hands of a guitar maker to make it sure that is the best instrument you can have on your hands. Investing big amounts of money into a new 500$ guitar to make it sounds like a 1500$ it’s stupid because if you have spent 1000$ in PU, mechanics, a new bridge etc the guitar will never sound as a guitar handmade and crafted in US or Japan by the best guitar makers. Anyway it will sounds a lot better, of course.
In order to have “that” quality of sound it requires a specific process in order to build the parts of a guitar in the best way possible with effort put into every detail; this makes the difference between a 1200$ guitar and one of 500$ or less that will never be good as that, even if you put hundreds of dollars in that.
Production: Here we can talk with more certainties. Under 500$ guitars are made in Indonesia, South Korea or China where factories produce tons of guitars so they cannot control well every piece, where the people are paid less so they care less about the final product.
During the last decades, however, the avarage quality of a low-budget guitar has become higher because of the know-how and experience of certain factories that produces for several brands at the same time. This assure you a sufficient quality and playability for almost every entry level guitar in the market now.
Highly expensive guitars are built generally (not everyone) in the homeland of the brands and the name of the top factories are well known by their fans. During the decades it has become harder to find a guitar produced in the homeland brand because of globalization, so now only the finest pieces are handmade in America or Mexico by Fender, for example.
Hardware and Pick Ups: Because of chain productions these are the parts where the brand spend less. Guitar for less than 500$ can easly sacrifice details as mechanics, colouring and PU. On the other hand when we see a guitar with really high prices (1200$+), what makes the price higher are details as the handmade production of frets, a particular colour used and limited series production (Practically you pay maybe 100 or 200$ just for a number on the back of the head of the instrument). Hopefully these parts are the most easy to change so you can buy a cheap guitar and change PU (and maybe tuners and/or bridge) to have a decent guitar for less than 500$, anyway, as said before investing zillions in cheap guitars doesn’t make them sound “great”.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: Toneforge Jason Richardson (with video sample)




Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to review the latest Toneforge amp modeler: Toneforge Jason Richardson.
For those of you who don't know him, Jason Richardson is a young guitar hero which has played with several important bands such as Born of Osiris, All shall Perish, Chelsea grin, and which now has a solo project that features many guests, such as members of Periphery, Veil of Maya and even Jeff Loomis.

The style of Jason is an extremely technical and fast paced modern metal, with a strong djent influence and the use of downtuned guitars, therefore this plugin is created to satisfy that particular type of sound need.
The main difference between this plugin and the others created by the same producer is that here you have not one but three different preamp modules: Rhythm, Clean and Lead, each one with a particular voicing and unique controls: the rhythm module has (besides the usual eq section) a Clarity and a Range knob, used to find harsh masking frequences and removing them; the Lead module has an Edge control, which combines a preamp and a power amp boost plus a dynamic adjustment, while the Clean module has a Shimmer control which increases the presence while reducing dynamics (a slight compression for the strummed parts).
The effects section features three stompboxes: a Delay, a Reverb and a Lo-Fi filter, while the "rack" section has a parametric Eq and a Peak Limiter (here called dynamic processor, specifically tuned to work on the downtuned guitar frequences).
Finally, the cabinet section features two cabinets and four microphones, together with a flexible IR loader.

What separates this plugin from the others of the Toneforge range? This is by far the most complete and feature rich, thus retaining the usual good, plug and play tone that is a prerogative of the brand.
This specific plugin works great with downtuned guitars and for djent tones, but in general it has also some of the best lead tones I have ever heard in an amp modeler, good for any genre.
The three modules and the additional features gives the product enough depth to achieve a pretty wide range of sounds (of course it is not a plugin suited for blues, but you would remain surprised also by the quality of the clean tones, especially playing with the Shimmer control, which is very intelligently designed and that produces a very usable tone also for jazz and funky, for example).

In conclusion another very good product from Toneforge, a company that release after release is creating a very solid array of software, easy to use, at a good price and extremely useful for the modern producer.


Features:

- 3 channels: Rhythm, Clean and Lead

- Two custom cabs, each with 4 microphones and an IR loader


- Tuner, Reverb, Delay, Noise gate and Lo-Fi filter




Saturday, April 15, 2017

Review: Peavey Triple xxx



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing an amplifier, currently discontinued but still quite easy to find on the market usually at a decent price, which features a 120w tube power amp and 3 independent eq channels, and that has been widely used for shred, hard rock and metal.

The Peavey Triple XXX amp has several particularities: a huge amount of power (120w all tube, with 3 12ax7 preamp tubes and 4 6L6CG in the power amp), 3 channels with independent eq: the clean one has a passive eq, the crunch and the ultra one has an ACTIVE one, which is very uncommon on guitar amps and lets us do not only subtractive eq but also additive one, actually boosting certain frequences, and giving us more tonal control.

All in all this amp is clearly designed for hard rock and metal guitarists (actually it has been used by the guitarists of NevermoreAsking Alexandria, Trivium, Suffocation, Behemoth, Decapitated, Exodus, Protest the Hero and Havoc, among the others), although the clean channel is, unlike many others gain oriented amps, quite warm and shiny, but it's the high gain channels those in which this amp performs better.
In general this unit boasts a HUGE amount of gain, with a very particular gain structure, especially in the Ultra channel, that makes it almost a bit too extreme to handle, especially in studio, therefore we will need to dial very carefully the tone, finding the right amount of gain and utilizing the active eq (which is almost an exclusive to this amp) to shape the tone with much more freedom than any other amp.

In conclusion this is a very good, powerful and versatile amp, but it's not for everyone. I would say it is not a very plug and play amplifier, but it requires us to have a certain awareness of how to use it in order to obtain the best of it: if you have the patience and the skill, you can achieve some incredible tone out of it.


There has been also a Triple XXX II version, with one additional tube in the preamp section and an integrated noise gate, which came out some year after the first edition.


Specs:

- 120W tube power

- 3 footswitchable channels

- Clean channel: volume, passive 3-band EQ

- Crunch channel: gain, volume, active 3-band EQ

- Ultra channel: gain, volume, active 3-band EQ

- Master volume

- Footswitchable effects loop

- Damping switch: tight, medium, loose

Saturday, April 8, 2017

5 Tips on how to choose a live setlist for your band



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today, following our article about how to create an album setlist, we are checking out some tips on how to build the most effective live setlist possible for our gig.


1) Lenght: as a first aspect we need to take in consideration the lenght. A 30 minutes setlist requires a different strategy than a 60 or a 90minutes one. For a short one we can push a little bit more on the impact side, if we have only 30 minutes it could be an idea to try to leave a strong impression playing only the most effective song we have. From a 60 minutes up setlist instead we need to start taking into consideration other aspects that we will analyze in the next points: fatigue, attention, dynamics, extra musical performances.

2) Fatigue: we are not robots, so playing a long setlist with high energy songs, especially in genres which are highly demanding in terms of physical performance as extreme metal or hardcore can result (especially for touring bands) in a not sustainable result, in the long run. This means we need to keep in mind that every couple of very fast songs for example the drummer might need a slower one to recover some energy, or the singer might need to start the concert with songs that are not extremely demanding in order to let his voice warm up properly before hitting that high pitch note in that song, or he or she might need a quieter song after a very tiring one to give his (or her) vocal cords some rest.

3) Attention: the attention of the audience is fundamental, and to keep the crowd interested in what is happening on stage should be the main task of the band. Usually the band, when it has some experience, knows more or less which songs are more effective (for example they have a particularly catchy hook or beautiful lyrics), which ones are less direct and maybe are enjoyed more when the listener already knows them from the record, and so on.
The band should choose a setlist that can blend together the songs keeping the crowd interested, considering that if you play a song that is very interesting opr known and that keeps the crowd wanting for more, they will probably be more receptive also in the next one, so you can maybe put after that a new song noone knows so they will focus on it. After the song they didn't know and that has forced the audience to focus in order to assimilate it, we could propose another popular one, or maybe a cover (even better if rearranged in our style) to give them back something familiar and raise again their involvement and attention, so that the crowd will be never bored, as it would for example be if our setlist would start with 5 very famous songs and end with 5 songs noone knows.

4) Dynamics: for a record, also live dynamics are fundamental. Starting with 5 very fast songs and ending with 5 very slow ones would make them completely ineffective as the audience would very easily lose interest this way. To know how to connect and cue together fast songs, mid tempos and slow ones is an art, which roots into being empathically able to connect with the audience mood and proposing a setlist that should predict and adapt as much as possible to what the crowd expects. After two fast songs maybe a third one would be uneffective, so a mid tempo could introduce some variation and increase the attention (consider that also the audience is subject to fatigue), after a slow song we could set the fastest one in order to wake up the crowd after the romantic moment.
The main idea should be to create movement, alternancy of moods and rhythms within the setlist, also to leave the audience an idea of a rich, non monotonous performance.

5) Extra musical performances: if you go to a concert of any headlining, high level band that performs a full setlist (for example 90/120 minutes), you will notice that there is not only music.
Most of the times there will be small breaks here and there in which the singer or other band members can talk to the audience, sending some message, or just some funny interaction while the others take a minute of break. This is a good moment to plug your new album or merchandise, to say a message to encourage, to use some props (Alice Cooper, Kiss and Rammstein are masters in this) or to pretend to leave the stage waiting for the encore, before performing the last part of the setlist.
This will add a different dimension to the performance (obviously it depends on the performer's charisma, so use wisely!).

Hope this was helpful, if you have any other suggestion let us know in the comments!


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