Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune | Disc Makers

Many factors can cause your stringed instrument to have intonation problems, including old strings and fluctuations in weather and humidity. Maintain and protect your instrument to keep your guitar in tune.

I was chatting with a teaching colleague about a class recording project that his students were wrapping up, and he mentioned that a rock band had come into our campus studio for a weekend recording session and couldn’t manage to get their electric guitars to stay in tune. They had to live with the recordings of poorly intonated instruments, and we used it as a lesson to our own sound recording students to meet with the band well before the session day and emphasize the importance of getting their instruments into studio shape for every recording project.

While the next band to come in had better luck with tuning, a few of the following ones didn’t, which prompted us to add a well-intonated Taylor electric guitar to the recording studio’s gear kit. Now, when a band shows up with guitars that are not set up properly, the students can suggest trying the Taylor, which we know has rock solid intonation. Most guitarists are happy to do so and are pleased with how “in tune” the results are.

But what causes a guitar to have intonation problems? And what can you do about it if your instrument is causing you to be frustrated? How can you keep your guitar in tune?

Symptoms of intonation problems

Guitars use what is known as an equally tempered scale, as do pianos and most western musical instruments. Without going into the science, the guitar’s tempered scale is a compromise and doesn’t result in 100% precise tuning or intervals between notes. Since guitars have this inherent weakness when it comes to being in tune, it’s important to develop a basic understanding of guitar intonation and adjustments to get the best performance out of your instrument.

Most guitar players have a tuner of some sort, whether it’s a stomp box on the floor, an expensive rack mounted LED cascade, or a simple portable LED-model – all of which can speed up tuning and accuracy. Tuners can be helpful in diagnosing and making basic intonation adjustments yourself, which we’ll discuss. One of the most obvious signs that your instrument has intonation issues is if each string played open is in tune, but when you play a bar chord anywhere up the neck, it sounds out of tune. Shaun Conrad, an experienced luthier, lists some of the potential causes for guitar intonation issues on his informative website, guitarrepairbench.com.

      Guitar intonation issues can be a result of:

 

  • Faulty or worn out strings
  • High action/Extreme relief (truss rod adjustment needed)
  • Bridge/saddle pieces need adjustment
  • Nut or frets need adjustment/repair
  • Changing string gauge or tunings

The first thing on this list may be the most overlooked. If you can’t remember when you last changed the strings on your guitar or bass and are having trouble with intonation, stop now, get a new set and put them on before proceeding any further! According to Conrad, “Replacing your strings could solve your intonation problems. Also, it is impossible to properly set your intonation with worn strings.”

Advice to keep your guitar in tune
While we can’t address the full range of possible problems and solutions that spring from Shaun’s list, one of the most basic adjustments can be done by any electric guitarist with a tuner: fine tuning your saddle pieces. I spoke with Bill Stevens, a guitar repair expert who manages The Music Box retail music store in Stockton, CA and who has been adjusting and repairing guitars for more than three decades.

keep your guitar in tune
“For a quick check to see how much intonation adjustment is needed,” says Stevens, “I like to use one of the guitar tuners that has a needle to register intonation and an LED that goes to green when the string is in tune. First, tune an open string so it’s in tune using the tuner, then go on up to the 12th fret and press down and play the octave of the open string. If it’s a bit flat, you can shorten the string length by moving the saddle toward the fretboard using the adjustment screw [on an electric guitar]. If the octave registers as sharp, then you’ll lengthen the string by using the adjusting screw to move the saddle in the opposite direction, away from the fretboard.

adjusting guitar intonation
“Use the tuner to get the octave in tune with the open string. Carefully adjusting the saddle pieces in this way can help clear up some of the most typical intonation problems on your electric guitar. If you have an acoustic guitar, you won’t have individual saddle adjustments, however most manufacturers are shipping new acoustics with compensating saddles which help improve intonation.

“Weather can have a lot to do with how your guitar plays,” Stevens continues. “Try to avoid extreme temperatures when your guitar is in its case. Particularly leaving your guitar in a car in summer, as it can get incredibly hot. In winter, don’t leave your guitar out in the garage or anywhere there will be extreme temperature or humidity swings. Although it sounds pretty basic, get a decent case to protect your instrument, too. Nearly every guitar sold used to come with a case of some sort, but today, many guitars don’t include a case to protect your investment. So I encourage everyone getting a guitar to at least get a soft bag. Also, don’t lay down your guitar when storing it, it’s better to keep it upright in the case, like you would store a vinyl record album.

“Mandolins and ukuleles are less likely to have intonation problems due to their smaller scale. Bass guitars, however, may need regular attention since the amount of tension on the neck is way more than a typical electric guitar.”

Truss rod adjustments

Most modern guitars include a metal rod that helps stabilize the neck and reduce or eliminate neck bowing that plagued older guitars without truss rods. According to Stevens, “Summer is a time when you may typically need a truss rod adjustment due to the heat causing a bit of neck bowing. It’s mostly the case with newer guitars where the wood is not quite cured. Then in winter, the neck may bow a bit in the other direction and you may need a little relief, moving the truss rod in the opposite direction than you did in the summer. Many older guitars won’t require regular truss rod adjustments so long as they don’t experience any extreme conditions, since the wood is settled.”

Your instrument may also require a truss rod adjustment if change to a different gauge of string and end up with action that is too high to play comfortably. Or if you want to use a lowered tuning which results in annoying fret buzz.

“Most new guitars need a truss rod adjustment once you start playing them,” Stevens adds. “Although the guitar was probably set up to play properly at the factory, it’s usually been in storage for a few months time, so it will need a tweak. We offer a free set up and adjustment on every guitar we sell here. I suggest the customer take the guitar home and play it for a week or so, then come back in and tell me how they want it set up. No matter where you are buying a guitar, you should ask that the store go over the intonation and set up for you, ideally at purchase or within the first week after.”

Check your neck’s relief

Unlike adjusting the saddle pieces on your electric guitar, which can only affect string length, truss rod adjustment can have a major impact on your guitar’s playability. I always have an experienced guitar tech make any truss rod adjustments on my guitars. But I can check to see if I need an adjustment using two simple aids, a capo and a thickness or “feeler” gauge to measure the amount of neck relief.

checking guitar intonation
Start by placing a capo at the first fret on your guitar neck. Then with your feeler gauge within reach, hold down the string where the neck joins the body. Insert the feeler gauge between the string and the fret at the eighth fret. On a typical electric guitar, there should be between .3 mm and .5 mm clearance. This clearance is referred to as “neck relief.” Too much neck relief can cause the neck to have higher action in the middle of the neck resulting in poor intonation (fretted notes will be sharp) and just being hard to play. Not enough neck relief can cause fret buzzing.

Conrad also states there is no one measurement for how much relief should be used. “Just like anything else in adjusting guitars, neck relief is a player’s preference. It depends on the style of the instrument and the player.” Should you want to go ahead and dive into making your own truss rod adjustments, Shaun shares detailed instructions on electric guitar truss rod adjustments.

Closing thoughts

As a guitarist myself, I’ve played and owned many guitars over the years and I’m happy to say the guitars we have at home now all have very good intonation and are quite stable. Others that I’ve owned over the years were more temperamental, or fluctuated greatly with changes in weather, requiring seasonal adjustments. And while I’m comfortable checking my neck’s relief or adjusting intonation via the saddle pieces, I get a pro to do my truss rod tweaks, when needed. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn a little more about guitar tuning and intonation and you’ll have a better idea of what it takes to make your guitar more playable and in tune, especially if you’ll be using it for recording.

Story Links

Equal temperament (Wikipedia)
Explains the equal temperament system of tuning in a musical instrument.

Guitar Tuning Nightmares Explained (Jack Endino)
A fascinating three-part article on the realities of working to get guitars in tune in the recording studio by Seattle-based engineer/producer Jack Endino.

Tuning the Guitar (Paul Guy)
Delve deeper into the science of how the tempered scale evolved in a fascinating article by Swedish guitar guru Paul Guy.

Keith Hatschek is a regular contributor to Disc Makers Echoes blog and directs the Music Management Program at University of the Pacific. He’s also written two music industry books, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry and The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets from the Pros.

Read more: Guitar intonation: how to keep your guitar in tune – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/07/guitar-intonation-how-to-keep-your-guitar-in-tune/#ixzz37ac6bUDv

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9 things you should never do on stage | Disc Maker’s

by SHAUN LETANG

 

It’s good to know what you should be doing to advance your music career, but it’s also important to be aware of the things you should avoid. Don’t do these things during a music performance.

Music performance no nos

This post on music performance tips was adapted from an article on Music Industry How To. Reprinted with permission.

I’m sure you’ve read guides and posts and advice about how to move your music career forward. While it’s good to know what you should be doing to advance your music career, it’s also important to be aware of the things you should avoid. Unfortunately, doing the wrong things can kill your career a lot quicker than doing the right things can push it forward.

With that in mind, I want to share with you nine mistakes I’ve seen musicians make during a music performance. I’ve tried to leave personal opinion out of it, instead focusing on what will make for a poor show for your audience. After all, it’s them you’re there to entertain, right?

Here are nine things you should never do on stage!

1. Tune your guitar to start the show

Play guitar? Don’t go on stage and spend the first few minutes of your set tuning your guitar. It’s not fun for the crowd, and it just shows how unprepared you are. Practice tuning regularly so you can get it sounding right fast, and plan for time backstage to prepare yourself and your instrument so you’re ready to play when you’re on

2. Argue with the venue staff

Things don’t always go to plan. The show might start later than advertised, there might be a smaller audience than expected, or the sound engineer might not get your levels right. Despite all of this, don’t go on stage and vent your frustration over these issues – or worse, directly argue with staff during your show time.

Believe it or not, I’ve seen this happen multiple times. It’s easy to feel entitled and like you want to get it off your chest, but there’s a time and a place. When you are on stage, you’re there to entertain the crowd and have fun, so be professional and perform to the best of your ability – whatever the circumstances.

3. Make it obvious when you make a mistake

Mistakes happen. What should you do when they do? Simple: carry on with the show! Unless it’s something major, like a part of the stage has fallen down, chances are the audience won’t even notice. And even if they do, if you carry on as normal, it probably won’t bother them. Don’t make a big deal out of mistakes or highlight them, just keep on with your set.

4. Do more talking than performing

Ok, so it’s important that you let people know where they can catch you next or that they can buy your merch during or after your set. That said, no one wants to hear you talking about it for ages between each song. This gets boring and breaks up your show.

Be sure to incorporate short busts of promo across your gig, but keep it entertaining. Mention things in intros while the music is still playing, at the end of songs, and to backing music briefly between tracks. This lets you get out what you have to say without killing the vibe.

5. Disparage other musicians

The last thing you want to do is call out another band. Don’t criticize, mock, or laugh at another artist while you’re on stage. If you’re touring and have been invited to gig at somewhere outside your usual circles, treat the local musicians there with respect. There are so many “scenes” out there currently that are known for bands who just bash each other for no good reason. Chill out and enjoy the music.

6. Let your ego get in the way

On a related note, it’s important to never boast about your act or music while you’re on stage. Keep your ego in check. In fact, get rid of your ego. Keep that all to yourself. As a crowd member, it’s so laughable to see band hype themselves up on stage. If you think you’re great, be great. No one likes musicians who are too full of themselves.

7. Shout into a microphone at close range

As a musician myself, I’m fully aware that it’s easy to get excited by a crowd that is really into your show. If you’re going to raise your voice and interact with your audience, it’s important to be conscious of the volume. Never shout in to a microphone at close range. It’s not always a scream that gets a crowd going.

8. Split up

Never quit your band while you’re on stage! I remember waiting to see a local band for the longest time when I was younger. I finally got an opportunity to see them, and in a really great venue. We got to the show just as the guitarists we’re setting up and tuning.

After catching a late bus, I recall feeling so lucky that we hadn’t missed any of the set. Just as the guitarist on stage had finished tuning, there was a loud banging noise from the other end of the room. As I glanced back, the drummer had left the stage and the guitarists began to pull out the cables. By now the crowd, who had been waiting patiently for a little over twenty minutes, started to panic.

Noise and confusion circulated around the room very quickly. A moment later, the vocalist took to the mic. “Eh, we’ve actually just broken up. Sorry.” And that was it. To this day, I have no idea why. There was no explanation, and from an audience perspective, it has to be one of the worst things I’ve ever witnessed. Leave band differences for after the show your paying audience has come to see.

9. Forget why you’re there

Probably the most important part of your attitude on stage is to never forget why you’re there in the first place. The stage is the number one way to showcase your music and increase your fan base. If you have ambition and goals as a band, then never forget why you’re there when you’re on stage.

Bonus! Don’t leave your ears unprotected

As a musician, your ears are one of your most important assets (they’re pretty useful in day-to-day life too). While it may not affect your relationship to your audience, what many musicians don’t realize is loud music can damage your ear drums and cause tinnitus; a constant ringing in the ear. Unfortunately, I’ve got this. It’s not fun. While I’ve learned to live with it, for over a year it caused me serious sleeping problems and other issues.

Don’t make the same mistake I did, protect your ears. Don’t have music unnecessarily loud, and when you’re gigging and rehearsing, wear ear plugs. You need your ears, so take good care of them.

Conclusion

Gigging is a top form of promotion and one of the truly fun things about being a musician. If you want more advice on effectively promoting your music, have a look at my free marketing eBook for musicians. It’s one that’s already helped thousands start doing the right things in their music career. Hopefully it’ll help you too.

Read more: 9 things you should never do on stage – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/06/9-things-you-should-never-do-on-stage/#ixzz36HDtRTnp

It’s called the music business for a reason | Disc Makers

Here are 12 pieces of advice from a CPA/business manager to help you manage the business side of your music career

music business advice

It’s called the music business for a reason — yet for many indie artists, organizing and maintaining the business end of a music career can rank just above dental surgery when it comes to activities of choice.

It doesn’t have to be that way, says Errol Wander, a veteran CPA, business manager, and partner at Citrin Cooperman who works with artists like Gavin DeGraw and Dirty Projectors (and who also plays a mean guitar in his spare time). Following just a handful of straightforward suggestions will streamline your music business existence and help you avoid common financial pitfalls that can eat up precious hours and energy. The result? More time, creativity, and money to make your art the best it can be.

Here are some of Wander’s top tips, strategies, and philosophies to help you get on the right track:

Understand that better business leads to better music

“Having a career in music is an amazing thing,” says Wander, “but it’s not pre-ordained and it’s not a birthright. It’s hard work, but it can be done, and being responsible with your business will help you reach your goals.”

As much as you might not enjoy integrating things like diligent record-keeping into your daily musical existence, Wander affirms that any time invested to such ends will pay you back in dividends, and good business practices are equally important for major touring acts and indie up-and-comers alike.

“No matter what level you’re at, you’re going to be able to spend the most time on your art if you treat your art like a business,” he says. “I hope that’s not distasteful to hear, because it’s necessary. Otherwise, it’s a hobby. If music is a career you want, it needs to be treated like a career.”

File your taxes – always

Regardless of how much money you may have earned or lost in any given calendar year, you must file your taxes, says Wander. And even if you only earned enough from your music in 2013 to buy yourself a cup of coffee, failing to file at all can have unexpected consequences.

“I had one guy come in with six years of returns to file,” says Wander. “He thought it was going to be this big crisis and he was going to owe lots of money, but in fact, he had refunds owed to him.” The problem? After three years, your refunds go away, regardless of how much money may be owed to you. “Because he’d waited so long, he lost those first three years’ worth of refunds, which is money he really could have used. That was pretty awful to see.”

Wander also points out that many self-employed musicians, as opposed to people who work in salaried, forty-hour workweek jobs, need to pay estimated taxes four times a year. “Unless you’re on payroll from an artist, a school, a Broadway show, or something like that, taxes need to be paid quarterly to avoid penalties,” says Wander.

For an overview of estimated quarterly taxes, check out this article. Requirements can vary quite a bit from musician to musician, so Wander also recommends checking in with a music-friendly accountant or business manager to hone in on your own quarterly reporting needs.

Make it easy to look back

Wander recommends keeping consistent records of the money you spend and earn making music — both for your own records, and in case you ever get audited by the IRS.

“Keep a simple diary, either on your phone or laptop or in a journal, particularly of things like gratuities, expenditures where you don’t get a receipt, and even non-cash items as well,” says Wander. “It’s always helpful to be able to look back and say that on a certain day two months ago, you had lunch with these two people for this reason. In the case of an audit, if you’re asked why a certain bill is so big, you can point to your diary and say that you were taking out people from the label, or having a meeting with a new manager. With the IRS during an audit, the more details like that that you can give, the better.”

As far as paper receipts, Wander recommends holding on to any that might have a relationship to the business-side of your music. “Even if you’re saving them in a haphazard way, just tossing them in an envelope, which is pretty painless, at least you have them,” says Wander. “When looking at your business expenses during an audit, the IRS does want backup and is okay with credit card statements, but they may want more details — so yes, save your receipts, or at least scan them.”

Separate your finances

Especially early in your music career, it can be easy to pay for your groceries and guitar strings, Mother’s Day gifts and instrument cables, all from the same credit card or bank account. But when you start to get serious about the business side of your music, Wander advises, make sure to separate your professional finances from your personal ones.

“A good first step is to have separate bank accounts, so it’s easy for you to look back and see what you earned and spent on business, rather than having to go through, item by item,” says Wander.

Wander also recommends putting as many of your music business expenses on a dedicated business credit card as possible, especially when you’re on tour. “It’s much better than using a personal card,” he says. “It makes your bookkeeping so much easier, especially if you ever get audited. Also, make sure that you request a year-end statement or annual report from your card company, so you can have all of your expenses in the same place in front of you.”

Avoid IRS triggers

Whether you’re doing your own taxes or working with an accountant or business manager, be sure to avoid certain practices that will make you a target for an audit.

“One major no-no is clothes,” says Wander. “To someone who isn’t really looking into details, that seems unfair, because many musicians buy special outfits to wear onstage. But the IRS is very strict on this. To them, professional clothing is a nurse’s outfit or an industrial worker’s protective gear. If you just bought an outfit that you feel is outrageous, or even if you buy a $3,000 tuxedo to go to the Grammys, those aren’t tax deductions.”

Another area where indie musicians often end up in trouble is home office deductions. “The IRS has very specific guidelines about this,” says Wander. “You need to have a specific workspace in your home that qualifies, and then you take the square footage based on that workspace as compared to your whole home.” What if you write most of your music at your kitchen table? “Shared space doesn’t count,” says Wander. “I see people often make that mistake and claim sixty-percent of their apartments as home office on their taxes, and that’s no good.”

One final pitfall to be aware of: underpayment. “The IRS assumes a certain amount of money that you need to live and survive in a given city or area,” says Wander. “They have a list of what you roughly should be spending on rent, groceries, and other things, depending on where you live. If you’re not claiming enough income on your taxes to cover those amounts, they’re going to ask, where’d you get the money? Did you borrow it or spend it out of savings? Their suspicion in asking all of this is that you made money as cash and are not reporting it as income.”

Look into worker’s comp and other insurance

“There’s a common misunderstanding amongst a lot of artists when it comes to paying people who work for you,” says Wander. “A lot of people consider hired musicians to be independent contractors, but by definition, they’re really not. Even if they only work for you for a short period of time and don’t earn a lot of money, they’re employees.”

So what? If you have employees, Wander continues, you may be legally obligated to pay payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers comp. “Workers comp is the worst by far,” says Wander, pointing out that problems generally occur when a musician you’ve hired files for unemployment benefits and lists you as a former employer — which can lead to the apparent conclusion that you’ve been employing people without paying for proper coverage. “We’ve seen notices up to forty or fifty thousand dollars delivered to artists who definitely can’t afford it,” Wander says.

Even if you’ve hired tons of musicians and this is the first you’ve ever thought about things like payroll taxes and workers comp, don’t worry. Laws can vary state to state and band situations can be vastly different from artist to artist — so make sure to check in with a qualified music lawyer, accountant, or business manager and find out what sort of coverage is best for your situation.

On the topic of coverage, Wander further recommends insuring your gear whenever you hit the road. “Bands can go to events like SXSW and, with so much going on, suddenly find out that their van and all of their equipment was stolen. Insuring your gear is important, and also making sure that everyone listed on your car insurance as an authorized driver is a good idea. If you’re driving for hours between gigs in the middle of nowhere, you may not think about it, but if something like an accident happens and the driver is not listed on your car insurance, you could have problems.”

Maintain (or resuscitate) your credit

Whether you’re heading out on tour or getting ready to purchase that handcrafted bass you’ve been dreaming of, having robust credit can be a big help in your music career.

“Credit is important for musicians to have, especially when you’re on the road, because there will be some things that you have to pay up front,” says Wander. “If you’re doing everything on a cash basis, things like booking hotel rooms, renting equipment, and car rentals can be hard or impossible.”

A lot of musicians suffer from lack of or bad credit, Wander says, but there are ways to repair it. “Some banks offer secure credit cards, which can help you in the right direction. It’s a really good thing to do.” (For some basics on secure credit cards, check out this article.)

Get help when you need it

Though it’s perfectly reasonable to do your taxes yourself using software packages like TurboTax, there may come a point in your career when you need help.

“When it’s financially feasible, I highly recommend getting a business manager, and not just an accountant to help you prepare your taxes,” says Wander. “A preparer who isn’t experienced in the music business may not think to ask about management or agent fees or how much you’ve spent on supplies like cables, batteries for your pedals, drum heads, or equipment repairs. You really benefit from working with someone experienced in the business.”

Hourly rates for such services can run high, so when is it right to make the jump and swallow the expense? “You need a business manager when you no longer have time to do everything yourself. When you need that very valuable time to write, practice, or do whatever it is that you do, having a business manager can take that worry off of your mind and free you to better practice your art.”

Stay on the books

At the end of a club date, the manager hands you a wad of twenties or, when everyone’s packing up to go home, your hired horn player asks to be paid in cash, rather than the check you’re trying to hand him. What do you do?

“Sometimes you’ll work with cash, but remember that it’s never okay to not declare income,” says Wander. “Income is always taxable, unless it’s a very specific case, like a municipal bond, where it’s stated otherwise.” In other words, if you are paid in cash, Wander advises noting the income in your diary and not just tucking it away with a wink and a nod. “With income, it’s always better to have a trail,” he says.

And if an employee of yours requests cash payment? “We hear this all the time,” says Wander. “Crew members, side musicians, they don’t want to declare the income because they don’t want to pay taxes on it, but as the artist, you need to be able to write off any money you pay as an expense.”

If you do end up paying someone in cash, Wander recommends having him or her sign a voucher, affirming that a cash payment of a given amount was made. And if someone pushes back, saying that her or she wants an under-the-table payment? “Your answer is, ‘I’m sorry, but I need to claim this as an expense on my taxes,’” Wander says.

Be patient and use common sense

No matter how wild your creativity and huge your musical ambitions, don’t forget that applying a healthy dose of down-to-earth sanity to your business activities now will lay the groundwork for any stratospheric successes that come your way. Just keep the long game in mind.

“Pay your bills and avoid debt by living within your means,” advises Wander. “You can dream big, but keep your feet planted on solid ground. Don’t spend money you haven’t made yet. That money will come, but things take time in this business. Success, or what we call success, will likely come before the money does.”

“Let’s preserve and nurture the beautiful career you’re building,” he continues. “This is all part of that.”

Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download now through iTunes, jam along with the new JamBandit app, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.

Music instrument insurance questions answered (in English!) | Disc Makers

by GEARTRACK

Does insurance speak make you cross-eyed? Give you a migraine? Scare the pants off you? Fear not, we’ve found a music instrument insurance translator.

 

Music instrument insurance questions answeredIf you’ve ever been curious about the ins and outs of musical instrument insurance, but don’t speak insurance, our friends at GearTrack can help act as interpreters. They spoke to Thomas Riley, a music instrument insurance expert from The Anderson Group, and here’s what they learned.

What’s the difference between musical instrument insurance and a standard homeowners policy?
There are several differences. $2,000 is the maximum value covered under homeowners policies and it doesn’t cover professional use. It also doesn’t cover flood damage, accidents, breakage, cracking, falling, earthquake damage or loss, nor “Agreed Risk” or replacement. Your deductible comes into play as well. Most deductibles are in the $500 to $1,000 range.

Translation: Your homeowners insurance is for your hobbies, dummy. And even if music is your hobby, there are all kinds of reasons to look into musical instrument insurance, like maximum value limits and damage and loss coverage.

Does music instrument insurance cover damage and repair?
It does, as a normal rule, though subject to the policy itself. As long as the damage is not listed in the policy’s exclusions, a musical instrument would be sent to a repair shop and the estimate sent to the loss adjuster. If the instrument suffered a loss in value as a result of the damage and its repair, this “diminished value” would be reimbursed (a very valuable part of this insurance).

Translation: In general, yes. Read the fine print about what types of damage are covered. Bonus: if your gear is damaged and loses value after the repair, your music instrument insurance carrier will pay you the difference!

How are quotes and values formulated?
The prospect fills out the application which goes to underwriting. According to the value (either by appraisal or documented information) and the exposure (for instance, a collector versus a performer), a quote is formulated (between $.525/$100 and $1/$100). Memberships in professional organizations and high value instruments earn appreciable discounts.

Translation: Insurance cost depends on how you use your instrument and how much it’s worth. They do some magical figuring and give you a quote. It doesn’t hurt a bit.

What documentation does an instrument insurer require?
Many times, if we have a serial number and pictures per our guidelines, no appraisal is requested. High value and vintage instruments need appraisals.

Translation: Insurers care about original and replacement value. The more expensive or rare your gear, the more documentation you should have.

How do I know if I need instrument insurance?
$150 per year covers up to $24,000 of scheduled items. It doesn’t make sense to spend thousands of dollars on instruments and not spend the $.40 cents per day to protect them and have the ability to replace them.

Translation: If you use your gear to make money or if you have enough money in instruments (more than your low deductible), you should at least look into it. You’ll be surprised by how affordable it is.

What happens once I make a claim?
You file a claim stating “what, when, where, why, how, who” with dates of occurrence and a police report (if applicable). In the case of damage, an estimate from your repair shop is needed. Most claims can be handled when the repair is completed or even more promptly when a total loss or theft is involved.

Translation: After you follow the five Ws (plus H), all you gotta do is get yourself a repair estimate if necessary, and wait for the check to come in. But really, that’s why you get insurance. They won’t get it back for you, but they will replace it.

What if I get my instrument back after having made a claim?
It is the property of the insurance company; you may refund the indemnity check and keep the instrument if you wish.

Translation: Would you rather have a new instrument or your precious? Up to you. You have to give them their money back if you want your old gear.

Is music instrument insurance affordable? 
Sho ’nuff.

Translation: YES!

Image via ShutterStock.com.

GearTrack is an online registry that aims to deter music instrument theft and aid in recovery. Instrument owners can itemize their collections and victims of theft can send stolen alerts to the WatchDog network and access tools for search and recovery. Buyers and sellers can easily search serial numbers before trading and selling their gear. Learn more and register your instruments at Gear-Track.com.

Thanks to Thomas Riley of The Anderson Group for answering our questions. Anderson was started by a musician, for musicians. They know the difference between a violin and viola, and they understand what instruments mean to musicians.

Read more: Music Insurance | Musical Instrument Insurance – Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/05/music-instrument-insurance-questions-answered-in-english/#ixzz330lhnIeQ

So this guitarist walks into a recording studio… | Disc Makers

Here are 15 practical tips for recording guitar in any studio environment to help make the experience as smooth and trouble-free as possible

tips for recording guitar

 

Entering the recording studio can be a stressful task. Our friends at Cakewalk have outlined 15 basic tips to help you prepare for recording guitar before walking into a tracking session.

  1. Change your strings every 24 hours of play time

    Guitar strings can take a beating in the studio, especially if your plan is to record an entire album’s worth of material. To keep strings from becoming dull and bland, make sure to switch them out every 24 hours of play time. If you switch them right before a session, make sure to properly break them in before the red light goes on.

  2. Improve pick attack and dexterity

    One of the reasons you might struggle getting the sound you want when recording guitar is that your pick attack is not as hard as it needs to be. This will vary depending on the style of music you play, but much of the time in rock and heavy metal recordings, the guitar sound drives the song. If that sound is not the right tone and aggressiveness, then the track will suffer. In any genre, having dexterity and proper technique will shine through in your recording – and so will poor technique and control.

  3. Practice, practice, practice (with a metronome)

    Practicing your parts before recording guitar goes without saying, but it’s also a good idea to practice to a metronome and internalize the clicking. Don’t tap your foot or make noises to count the beat to yourself. You must feel the metronome in your playing or else you will have a hard time staying quiet in a recording booth while tracking.

  4. Practice playing full takes

    Recording full takes is definitely one of the hardest things to accomplish in the studio. To be comfortable nailing all the parts of a song or solo, practice the songs in their entirety – or even practice recording the songs. Sometimes recording part by part is a quicker task, but only if each part is practiced to perfection. If you must record each section part by part, the music may be out of your comfort zone.

  5. Practice with headphones

    The studio may bring many levels of discomfort, one being playing with headphones. Practicing with an amp can be useful when rehearsing for live shows, but little details about your performance could go unnoticed with that type of setup. The studio is a place where you are put under a microscope and are expected to play your best. Using headphones is part of the monitoring setup most recording studios. Do yourself a solid and pick up a pair to understand how you sound “under the gun.”

  6. Adjust pickups in case they are too far from your strings

    Electric guitars rely on the pickup systems to output a proper signal. Make sure your pickups haven’t sunk into the body of your guitar. The farther these are from string, the more the signal suffers in sound. The fix is easy for most pickups, simply take a screwdriver and adjust the screws that sit on the pickups. Count your turns so that each side of the pickup is the same distance.

  7. Get a new guitar cable plus a backup

    Brand new guitar cables are very important. Different companies make different kinds of cables out of all different types of materials. Take the time to make a few purchases to see what the differences are in cables. Check online reviews, and maybe even find out what studios recommend for guitarists. Check the cables that you are using between guitar pedals and make sure that they are all undamaged. Don’t kink your cables, and make sure you wrap them correctly.

  8. Make sure your intonation is correct

    This is one of the biggest issues in a sub-standard recording. An easy way to check your intonation is to tune your guitar’s open strings and then play octave chords above the 12th fret. If something sounds severely out of tune, then your guitar needs to be intonated. This is true for bass guitars as well.

    You should have your guitars setup with the change of every season. The weather can affect the wood severely and cause intonation issues. Getting your guitar set up will also help adjust things like your action and truss rod.

  9. Clean your fret board

    Use a flat-head screwdriver where the frets meet the wood. Make sure you do this gently, and make sure there’s no grime or residue in this area of the neck. Even a little bit of grime can make the guitar sound out of tune when it’s perfectly intonated and tuned. Fret board cleaners are also worth investing in, and a quick clean when you change your strings is a good habit to get into.

  10. Pedal maintenance

    If you are using effects pedals in the studio, make sure they are hardwired with AC or have fresh batteries. A dead battery can hinder the signal, create hums, ground loops, or process in a way that chokes the signal. Also make sure the pots and connections are dust free to limit static and unwanted noise.

  11. Make sure all the electronics in the guitar are working

    If you have noticed that you have a loose pickup selector, noisy knob, or a unstable cable jack, make sure you get that worked out well before your studio date. The last thing you need is for something to fall apart in between takes. Make sure you do not have any loose screws or bent hardware on your guitar. Sometimes this kind of damage can produce more problems.

  12. Ohm matching when using one or more speakers

    Matching impedance (measured in Ohms) needs to be done correctly. If not matched correctly, it could result in a blown speaker or blown head. Make sure to be particularly careful about this when working with more than one speaker or differing loads.

  13. Buy a backup pair of tubes for your amp head

    Make sure you purchase new tubes for your head before entering the studio. Blowing a tube during a recording can cost you precious hours in the studio. Make sure to purchase the same kind of tubes you had before. Different types of tubes can alter the sound of your tone.

  14. G-string constantly out of tune?

    If your guitar’s G-string constantly falls out of tune, here’s a quick fix. Take a #2 pencil and gently roll a bit of lead in the nut-groove where the G-string lies. This helps add a level of friction where the string and the nut meet and keeps the string from sliding around during your performance.

  15. Stay calm

    Don’t be afraid or intimidated by the recording studio if it’s your first time going in. Everyone makes mistakes their first time and the best thing you can do is practice your passages until you can play them cold. Read up on your favorite guitarists to see how they prepare for the studio, or talk to guys that you know record a lot.

Image via ShutterStock.com.

Cakewalk is the leading developer of powerful and thoughtfully designed products for the modern musician. These products include award-winning digital audio workstations and innovative virtual instruments. Millions of musicians worldwide – including Grammy® and Emmy®-winning producers, composers, sound designers, and engineers – use Cakewalk products daily to produce audio for the professional music, film, broadcast, and video game industries. The Cakewalk blog offers technical tips, tutorials, and news relating to their products and audio recording.

Singing tips for vocalists in any genre | Disc Makers

by DISC MAKERS

Singing tips from recording to maintaining vocal health to improving your vocal performance will help you on the road to being a better vocalist

Singing tips for vocalists - learn how to sing well.

Video: Vocal warm ups for your upper register (April 2014)
Learn vocal exercises for singers in our videos for vocalists series. Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific professor Daniel Ebbers explores the upper register in these vocal warm ups videos.

Video: Vocal warm ups for singing to connect breath, vibration, and resonance (April 2014)
Daniel Ebbers, voice instructor at the Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, shares insights and vocal exercises for voice resonance and connecting the breath in our video series for vocalists.

Elevate your vocal performance: focus on rhythm and intention (April 2014)
In a standout vocal performance, how you end a note is as important as how you attack it, and rhythm and intention can be as relevant as note choice and intonation.

Producing great hip hop vocals (January 2014)
If you produce hip hop music and hip hop vocals, these production tips from Grammy-nominated Ken Lewis can help make your experience recording and mixing hip hop vocals and your final product a whole lot better.

Stop Shredding Your Vocal Cords (October 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole talks about proper vocal care and five things you can do to avoid major vocal health issues.

8 Ways to Improve Your Vocal Health (September 2013)
Your voice is an instrument housed inside your body, and taking care of your mind and body is essential to optimal vocal health.

Improve Your Singing: Make Vocal Exercises A Morning Ritual (July 2013)
Daily vocal exercises will improve your singing and produce lasting results.

Singing Tips – How to Sing Better Right Now (May 2013)
Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole shares five singing tips to make your voice sound better.

Singing Tips – A Vocal Warm Up Is Key To A Great Vocal Performance (January 2013)
This excerpt from The Vocalist’s Guide to Recording, Rehearsing, and Performing focuses on the importance of warming up before a vocal performance.

Singing Tips – Don’t Tax Your Voice Before a Vocal Performance (November 2012)
Resting before a vocal performance is key, but environmental things, like being in a place where the decibel level is too high, can adversely affect your capacity to sing.

How To Record A Great Vocal Take (August 2012)
Capturing the ultimate vocal performance can require push and pull between the producer and talent, and the tact and technique of the producer plays a pivotal role in the quality of the performance.

Vocal Health Basics – How to Properly Care for Your Voice (January 2012)
Vocal health is often taken for granted, but problems can stop you dead in your tracks, so it’s important to understand how to keep your voice in good health.

Creating a Great Composite Vocal Recording (February 2010)
We take a look at the techniques used to create composite lead vocal tracks, referred to as “comping” the lead vocal by studio engineers.

Read more: Singing Tips For Vocalists | How To Become A Better Singer– Disc Makers http://blog.discmakers.com/2014/05/singing-tips-for-vocalists-in-any-genre/#ixzz32M0hhGGP

Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks | DiskMakers

shutterstock 170956478 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks

[This article was written by Alex Andrews of Ten Kettles Development.]

The equalizer (EQ) is a very powerful tool that is EVERYWHERE. Seriously. Open up iTunes and click on the “Window” menu. There it is. As a musician, you’re going to see some form of EQ on virtually every soundboard and amp you play through. This is fantastic, because if you spend a bit of time developing your EQ skills, you’ll suddenly be able to bring a lot more control to your sound—no matter what venue you’re playing in. This article is for new bands looking to take control of their sound and bring it to the next level. Looking to get your head around the basics? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome.

Primer: what’s an EQ anyway?

There are many different types of EQs—graphic, parametric, semi-parametric, and so on—and though they’re each used a little differently, they all do a very similar thing: an EQ makes a group of frequencies louder or quieter. For example, think of the “Bass” knob on a stereo: it’s just a simple EQ that controls the low frequencies. Getting comfortable with the idea of frequencies is a great first step in gaining control of your live sound. 

iTunesEqualizer 1 Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
The graphic EQ in iTunes controls 10 frequency bands

Let’s take a look at the iTunes equalizer (if you have iTunes, just click “Window” and then “Equalizer”). You’ll see a 10-band EQ like the one on the right. Those numbers at the bottom of each slider are the frequencies—e.g., the slider labelled “32″ controls the very low sound around 32 Hz. Our ears generally hear between around 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz (that’s 20 kHz), so this EQ has us covered!

Different frequency ranges have different qualities, different characters, different feels—and knowing this stuff is the foundation of your future EQ mastery! For example, too much volume around 1 kHz is going to sound nasal; too little 8 kHz will sound dull. Knowing this, we can just turn up or down the right sliders to fix the problem. We’ll hear some examples of this once we get to the video!

EQing the band: it’s a team sport!

Before we get into some specifics, there are two HUGE points often overlooked by beginners, and I can’t emphasize them enough:

1. Even if all instruments sound great on their own, they may not sound good together. EQing a group of musicians is about making sure they sound excellent as a unit. If you take a great sounding band and have one member play on her own, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sound great: a bass may sound dull, a guitar or vocal may sound thin. That’s OK! All these instruments leave a bit of space in their sound so they can jigsaw together into one impressive band sound. At a show, you play together—so that’s how you should EQ too. EQing is a team sport.

2. To make one instrument sound its best, consider everyone’s settings. For example, if the bass guitar has its highs turned up loud, the guitar may not pop through. Just turning that guitar up—instead of tweaking the bass’s settings—could cause more problems.

So what do you do? A rule-of-thumb for beginning EQers is to let each instrument own a zone. In a classic four-piece (guitar, bass, vocals, drums), give the bass the lows below ~200 Hz (turn these down on the guitar and vocals), give the guitar the mids (up to roughly 1 Hz), and let the vocals pop by owning the high-mids (around 4 kHz). A simple way to cut high-mids on an electric guitar or bass is with the tone knob usually found on many electric instruments. And this can be quite a small change too — even just a 1/8 turn can do wonders.

The vocals: making them pop

To get a good vocal sound out of a basic soundboard, you can do a few simple things. (We focus on vocals here, but many of these tips will apply to all instruments.)

Turn down the lows. Women generally don’t sing much below 200 Hz; for men it’s 100 Hz. So, any sound below those frequencies that makes it into the microphone is probably not what we want. Maybe it’s the rumble of nearby traffic, or some low-frequency electrical hum. Let’s get rid of it!

The next step depends on your equipment. You’ll likely have at least one semi-parametric EQ for the vocal track mids. (Wait, what’s a semi-parametric EQ? It’s just two knobs: one for the frequency, and one for the level.) Now listen to the vocals (with the whole band playing), and pick the problem that’s most obvious: muddiness, a nasal sound, lack of warmth, or lack of presence. Picked one? Then follow the instruction below that fits. If you have four of these semi-parametric EQs, then you can move onto the other three instructions when you’re done. If not, you’ll need to choose carefully!

SemiParametricEQ Make your shows shine with these simple EQ tricks
A semi-parametric EQ controls the volume of sound at a specific frequency.

Turn up the presence range. Sometimes you put on a record or go to a show, and you can clearly hear everything: lead vocals, harmonies, guitar, bass, drums—it all sounds terrific. And yet, you find one particular instrument is highlighted—usually the lead vocals. While you hear everything, you find yourself listening to that one instrument above the rest. You can place an instrument at the forefront, just like this, using the presence range (around 4 kHz). For example, if you want the vocals to really pop through, turn up this range on the vocals and turn down this range on everything else. Changes of even 3 dB (that’s small) can do a great deal.

Cut the mud or increase the warmth. The muddiness/warmth region is around 250 Hz. If your vocals are muddy and the words just aren’t making it through, you may want to cut this region. On the other hand, if the vocals sound weak and need some warmth, you’ll want to raise it.

Reduce the nasal sound. The nasal region is around 1 kHz. If you find the vocals are getting too nasal, cutting this range a little can make a noticeable improvement.

Finding the frequency. Now that you know which frequency range to adjust, let’s improve that vocal sound! We’re going to assume you have a semi-parametric EQ control for mids (explained above). To start, crank the level knob most of the way high or low, depending on if you’re cutting (e.g., to reduce mud) or boosting (e.g., to increase presence). Then have the singer sing normally (not just say “Check.. 1… 2…”!), with or without the band, as you slowly turn the frequency knob around the frequency range you want to change. For example, scan from 2 kHz to 8 kHz for presence. Somewhere in that range the effect will really stand out—that’s the magic frequency, and it’s a little different for everyone. Bring the level back to something a bit more subtle, and you’re good.

Remember: when you’re EQing the vocal, your goal is to make it sound good with the band, not just on its own. Make sure you always do some EQing with everyone playing!

The caveats: EQing is great if

Building your EQ skills can lead to a giant improvement in how your songs sound to the audience. But, just like any effect, they aren’t a fix-all: songs still need to be awesome, and the performance should still be both engaging and tight. Music comes from the heart, makes its way through your instrument and sound equipment, and connects to your audience. Knowing your effects, like EQ, makes sure it gets there in one piece! And for you vocalists, know your distance to the mic! If in doubt and you’re using the usual SM58-style microphone that you’ll find in most clubs—stay very close!

Train those ears: enter hearEQ!

Developing good EQ skills involves building both knowledge and experience—and that practical experience can be tough to get at first. That’s where hearEQ comes in. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, you can check out the hearEQapp—a 99¢ app that teaches you about different frequency bands, and then helps you practice EQing using custom exercises—all on your very own tracks. Understanding how the different frequency ranges sound—so you can say “hey, sounds like the bass could cut the highs a little” or “vocals could be warmer, let’s boost around 300 Hz”—is a powerful skill and hearEQ helps you get there. We are super proud of this app, and we hope you find it as useful as we have. Check out our video below to learn more—it’s also got some cool EQing examples!

hearEQ: Ear training for musicians, engineers, and audio lovers from Ten Kettles on Vimeo.

Bio: Alex Andrews is an engineer (B.Sc. Engineering Physics, M.Sc. Electrical Engineering), active musician, and Founder and CEO of an app development company called Ten Kettles. After ten years working with some terrific research labs—from physics to music psychology to cochlear implants—founder Alex began Ten Kettles as a creative, productive, and thoughtful company. He is passionate about creating software and mobile applications that have a positive, meaningful impact. Based in Toronto, Canada, Ten Kettles focuses on apps for music and education.www.tenkettles.com