Saturday, August 29, 2015

Interview: Jason Hausman on COOBS GUITARS

Hello! Today we are introducing an article made from our collaborator Tammy of Moonstruck Promotions: an interview with the Emmy award winning composer Jason Hausman, about the guitar producer Coobs Guitars!

EMMY award winning composer Jason Hausman is a renaissance man of sorts. His design company, Hot Sake, scores films and trailers, creates sounds for video games, music for commercials, children's toys, art installations and more. Hausman is known for his inventive take on the creation of sound; he plays pine-cones, records the sounds of falling water and coaxes creative noise from metal mixing bowls as he composes music in his Charlotte NC studio.

Hausman is also a wicked guitarist, singer and songwriter, and is always at the forefront of innovative music projects. In keeping with his penchant for all things cool, he is also a Master falconer. We mentioned the renaissance man thing, right?

Hausman is an astute collector of guitars. As a craftsman himself, he has a keen eye for workmanship and attention to detail in the work of others. Recently, Hausman enlisted the expertise of luthier Jack Coobs to create a custom six string work of art especially tailored for him.

“I had been admiring Coobs guitars for several years,” admits Hausman.

“I had strummed a couple briefly and could feel the resonance throughout the instrument, and they were, of course, stunning! After meeting Jack a few times and talking music, he handed me one of his acoustics to take it for a spin. It was a fantastic instrument. The tone, resonance, and attention to detail was some of best I had come across.”

A few months later, Hot Sake hosted an Aly Tadros concert and Hausman invited Jack.

“We really started discussing the possibilities of building me a guitar. A few days after the show, Jack asked me if I would be interested in collaborating on a signature model. He did not have to ask twice. I knew I liked him, liked his family, liked his work and felt that he could help me get what I was looking for in a new acoustic,” says Hausman.

Hausman showed Jack his first guitar. “It was my mother’s and the story goes that it was purchased at a yard sale in the early 70’s for $20. It is a Yamaha Red Label 110 (I think it’s a late 60’s model). I love this old Yamaha. Years later I bought three of the Red Label 180’s and picked my favorite and sold the other two. But the 110 remained the one. It stayed, while I went through several rounds of boutique and high end acoustics,” says Hausman.

“I asked Jack if he could make something light and open sounding like my 110. When he saw it, I think he might have thought I was crazy, or Hell, maybe it was just an insult!” laughs Hausman. “But he took it on. It is a small-bodied guitar, so being a falconer, I decided to dub it The Tiercel, which is the term for the male Peregrine Falcon. My friend, Ben Gibson, a fellow falconer and incredible artist created the artwork for the peregrine feather that adorns the headstock in abalone.”

Jack decided he wanted to make a mahogany one to adhere to the tone woods of Hausman's old favorite, and also a Koa version. Hausman says, “Jack was great about staying true to what I wanted. The only major deviation was on my request. I wanted a slotted headstock. I also asked for L.R. Baggs pickup, Waverly open tuners and the old style pyramid bridge.”

When Jack finished the guitars, he and Hausman decided to meet at Ben Premeaux’s studio smARTlab so the guitars could be photographed. “When Jack brought them in, he sat the cases down and we talked for awhile. He finally looked at me and said, 'Well, are you going to get one out or not, dude?! What the Hell?'” remembers Hausman.

“Laughing out loud, I admitted that I was terrified to play one. I was so locked into the sound of my old favorite that I was afraid that after all this collaboration and work that I would end up hating them! I knew they would be beautiful, and I knew they would sound great! But what I did not now is if they would have that special mojo from the get go.” says Hausman.

“Once I began to play them, I could not stop grinning,” recalls Hausman. “They were similar in a way, in that they both had that thing! While the mahogany one was certainly more true to the original, the koa model had a certain sharpness in the detail, a punch that would lend itself to finger picking. They were both, so open, so resonant. They just seemed to come alive instantly. Like they were waiting to be played. Everyone that has played them has said the same thing. They just evoke that subtle shake of the head and a quiet “wow…” from everyone that sits down with them.”

Hausman's mom's inspirational 110 still hangs on the wall of his studio. “I think she might be jealous,” he admits. “Since I got my Coobs Guitars, I just haven't been able to put them down and pick up anything else!”


Moonstruck Promotions

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Guitar Building Diary Pt.1

Hello everyone, today we're hosting the first part of the guitar building diary of an artisan luthier from Città di Castello (Italy), in which he will describe the process behind the creation of a guitar from scratch!

Here Luigi Valenti from Unique-CustomGuitars, I handcraft custom and numbered electric guitars under request; I've been asked from Atoragon to write a little diary, following each step of the construction process wich brings from a chunk of wood to a proper instrument, with a beatiful sound, perfectly setted and which satisfies its owner's musical needs.

By the way, this is not meant to be an online tutorial on how-to-build a guitar, I'm not a teacher and also it will take much more than a single little diary to fulfill all the topics and building methods; I'm here to show you what's behind the planning and building of a brand new instrument made by an artisan, and to give you some advices on tonewoods properties and on how the components of a guitar affects its tone, with the aim to help you choosing your next guitar with a little bit more of knowledge-on-what-you're-going-to-buy (hopefully!).

So, let's start! This is the building process of the Unique #004:

This time I've been asked to build a seven string guitar with a fenderish sound and shape (Stratocaster); the customer has also made some other request:
  1. A neck shape as close as possible to a Fender Stratocaster neck.
  2. Maple neck and fretboard.
  3. Scratchplate.
  4. Tremolo bridge.
  5. Half-scalloped fingerboard from XII to XXIV fret.
  6. Possibility to switch from humbucker to single coil.
Nice! I've already have some ideas...

I would never stop writing on this topic, so I'll be very simple, but hopefully not banal: to a certain type of wood that you choose corresponds a certain sound that your guitar will have. How big is the difference? It depends. Let's say that roughly the wood affects from the 30% to a 40% of your total guitar sound, the rest is done by the hardware, frets, nuts, string type and gauges, electronics, and obviously the pickups, which are the biggest players in this equation.
Now, speaking about bolt-on and set-in constructions, of this 30-40% the main work is done by the neck, this because the strings vibrate for a 70% of their lenght over the neck itself, so the string vibrations are transferred mostly here, instead of the body! If you take a neck-thru body construction you'll then have that basically all the strings lenght is over the neck wood (or woods!) and the two body wings and eventually the top (if thick) will affect the final tone in a much minor percentage.

You also have to know that wood acts as a passive equalizer, in other words it cuts out some frequencies of a given vibrating string. What frequencies are cut out depends on the type of wood, basically we could say that hard woods have a tendency to cut out the low frequencies, giving a bright sound and good attack (hard maple) while a soft wood such as basswood cuts highs and some middles, giving a bass sound and a not-so-clear attack; then there are woods such as mahogany (wich I love) that are pretty much neutral, but with a tendency to boost low frequencies, which gives a good attack and sustain, with a very warm sound...
I should stop here because it could become a very long topic.
Other characteristics that should to be kept in mind are the elasticity coefficient (this is very important on acoustic and classic soundboards, for istance) and the amount of resin and oils (rosewood has a darker sound compared with ebony not only due to its lower density, but also because it's an oil-rich wood).

With all this (and so much more) in mind, lets see what we can do for #004: as I said before the customer wanted a fenderish sound, and his choice to have a maple fretboard and neck are coherent with his whishes; as I do like high figured woods, I'll go for a flamed maple neck and fretboard. Plus we have to keep in mind that flamed maple could be a little bit unstable, compared with classic hard rock maple, and the added tension due to the seventh string might make things even worse. 
To avoid problems, I'll go with a 3 pieces laminated flamed maple neck; remember that a laminated neck (if properly glued) is always stiffer, stronger, and more stable than a single piece neck, this because on a ply-neck the single parts are glued togheter in a way that each piece balances the tendency to move of the others.

                         an example of not yet glued laminated neck taken from the internet

What about the body? If I'd be scholastic, I should go for an alder or ash body, but I want something very special: some month ago I have found a beautiful one piece flamed maple body blank that would be perfect for this situation, so we'll have an all flamed maple guitar! 
Talking about the sound, this brings to a brighter sound than a standard Strat', but we will compensate this with the pick ups choice and an accurate selection of the wiring components. Also remember that a single body piece (especially if highly figured) could be very unstable; to avoid this, the blank I have chosed is very old, and it has been left to dry for more than 10 years, giving it the time to stabilize properly; so in this case, there won't be any problem.

Good! The wood has been chosen, next time we'll talk about the construction method, pick ups and wiring, and shape, then we can start with the real work!

See ya, and check out my brand new page !!

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Punching in & Punching out! A guide for dummies

Hi everyone and welcome to this week's article, in which we celebrate our article n.200 AND our Facebook page fan n. 500!

Today we're focusing on an option featured in almost every Daw (although in the pic above we are showing the Cubase/Nuendo u.i. version): the Punch in (and Punch out) funcion.
This funcion basically lets you replace a section of a take on the fly, by deciding before when to start recording and when to stop.

In the Cubase/Nuendo interface you can see, in the transport panel, a section in which you can type the positioning of the left and right locators (otherwise you can set them manually by dragging them in the top part of the interface). There is also a downhill icon and an uphill one: activate both those icons to tell the Daw that you want it to start recording at the left locator and stop when the marker reaches to the right one. 
Now "arm" the track you want to record in by clicking in the red button of the channel, set your marker anywhere prior the beginning of the area that will be re-recorded and press play (not record, play). 
The song will start playing, until the moment it will reach the left locator, then it will start recording in the armed track, and it will stop when it will reach the right locator, but the song will go on playing.

Why is this function useful? 
Essentially for one reason: let's imagine we have tracked the perfect guitar take, and there is only one small flaw to re-do, but we can't re play it on its own, it would lose the swing of playing the whole take together: we can re-play the whole part and tell the Daw to record just the small bit we need to re-do, and if we're precise enough in setting our locators, we won't even need further editing.
If the new track appears to be BELOW the old one, thus we can't hear it, we can right click to the old track and select it from the drop down menu, choosing it and clicking on To Front.

Additional info:

If we select only the left locator from the transport panel, it will go on recording until we press stop.

One last thing: in the transport panel, in the locators section,  under the numbers that sets where the locators are, we can also find a smaller number: this is the PRE ROLL COUNT, it makes a pre-count before playing, but make sure you don't have it in the metronome too, otherwise the DAW will give priority to that one.
In the Preferences section, finally, we can also decide the Daw to stop playing when the marker reaches the Punch Out locator.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: TSE X50 v.2.4 (with audio sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing a new, very interesting guitar suite, from a talented producer (Onqel of the norwegian company Tse Audio) that I have followed with interest since his first freeware plugins (and still today I use some of them with great satisfaction).

Tse X50 2 is the first commercial product of Tse Audio, and it is the result of years of debug on the free versions, done also with the help of the Ultimatemetal Forum Community.
The software, in this version has been totally re-written since the freeware versions, and now everything is part of a complete suite, with 3 stompboxes (a noisegate, a tube screamer and a Rat distortion), 2 preamps (X50, which resembles closely a Peavey 5150 head, and X30, which looks and sounds like an Engl preamp), a rack with tuner, delay and an equalizer.

Going in depth we also have a power amp section in which we can swap the power tubes among EL34 and 6L6GC, set the Bias and so on, and for the cabinet section the program lets you browse through a good choice of some of the best cabinet impulses that can be found, fruit of a collaboration among Tse and the best impulse producers (Guitarhack, Kalthallen and Rosen Digital, among the others).

When playing and recording, the plugin sounds really good (the original X30 has been for a long time my to-go metal preamp simulator), and it sums up the best that Tse has ever produced (except for their amazing bass preamp Tse B.O.D. which simulates a Sansamp, and that will surely find its place on some future bass expansion).
The plugin is very light on the cpu (especially compared with some of the other today's competitors) and features also an automatic input adjustment, that learns the peaks of your signal as you play and adjusts the input level accordigly, which is brilliant.

All in all this plugin has really everything you need and nothing you don't, focusing on few high quality features rather than becoming a huge, heavy collection of models that clogs the cpu, and it is very player-oriented, granting low latency, lightweight high quality tone.
If you must choose a single guitar amp simulator to buy in 2015, Tse X50 v.2.4 is probably one of the best ones, and we can't wait to see what the future will bring from Tse Audio!

What suggestion can we give? Well in the future, the plugin could also incorporate a simulation specific for clean and overdrive tones, like a vox or a peavey classic 30, and maybe the rack could incorporate a new module with a multi effect like phaser, flanger, vibrato and so on.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Difference between Linear Phase Eq and Regular Eq

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we're going to focus on a topic that we have mentioned in many occasions, but that we never really explained yet: what does the term Linear Phase Eq and Regular Eq mean.

Let's start with this assumption: Regular EQ’s have phase shift between the different bands. When we boost or cut a certain area, that frequency range is technically delayed by a tiny amount, due to the way the equalizer itself works.

Linear-phase EQ, instead, compensates this delay keeping all the frequencies 100% in phase (it basically anticipates the wave of a certain time to correct the phase shift). In other words, all the frequencies pass through the EQ at the same speed, resulting in zero phase issues between bands.

The basic question is: "if they have created a way to prevent the phase to shift, why don't everyone uses just linear phase eq?"
the answer is because it consumes more cpu resources and, especially, because it creates a "pre-ring", which means that by correcting the phase variation it creates a part of the wave that actually starts BEFORE the peak of the transient, and this, for certain types of sounds as for example percussive drums, it can ruin them.
The conclusion is that linear phase eq is best suited for certain instruments in which this problem is less apparent (like acoustic guitars) and less for others, and we must try it and compare it with the regular one in order to understand on which instrument it brings a benefit and on which one not.

About the mastering phase, finally, there are different schools of thought, for example many producers likes the result obtained with the Waves Lin-Mb, a linear phase multiband compressor, because they think linear phase sounds more transparent, while other engineers think that the "pre-ring" downside can ruin the mastering, especially if we are speaking of a heavily percussive track.

As always, it depends and we must trust our ears.

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