Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The PW-CT-10 Headstock Tuner Live Onstage With Keith Urban

Hey Everyone-

This is Tom with Planet Waves Artist Relations checking in while I'm on the road with Keith Urban. One of the great perks of working for Planet Waves is getting to try their products in many different scenarios. On stage in a club, in the studio, offstage in an arena, on a tour bus, wherever a guitar needs tuning.

I shot this short video at a recent Keith Urban concert, with the noisy crowd and blaring P.A. in the background to prove a point. The Planet Waves Headstock Tuner works under fire, no matter what the ambient noise around you might be. By reading the vibrations transmitted through the headstock, and not relying on a pickup reading an audible string pluck, you can tune a sensitive instrument like a banjo with no problems. I put a Headstock Tuner on every guitar, banjo and mandolin that goes on stage. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Richard Gilewitz - New Zealand Clinic Tour

Richard Gilewitz here from the other side of the planet to talk about the great Planet Wave products and D'Addario Strings as I travel through the entire country of New Zealand for my 5th tour in 8 years.

Currently as of this writing I am midway through the tour and just about to finish up on the South Island. Not exactly looking forward to the 3 hour ferry ride to the North Island this weekend (although it is a beautiful trip) since I was apparently born without proper sea legs. Nothing a bag of chicken flavored potato chips and ginger beer won't cure!

Had a fantastic time during the first half of the trip, apparently no issues with jet lag (this time) and have had many opportunities to demo a multitude of great products.

Trevor Daley at MusicWorks in Invercargill (the furthest city south in the world - Antarctica is next spot down) did a bang up job promoting the concert/seminar event drawing a crowd of well over 110 folks and the hottest giveaway 'swag' items for the evening were the Planet Waves Humidifier, 3 phase guitar polishes, SOS tuners, and EXP D'Áddario Strings.

Several musicians in the audience also approached me after the event and appeared to be utterly fascinated with the circuit breaker cable as well as my stated 'string life' mentioned during my performance.

Trevor was also kind enough to change my strings on my Breedlove Signature 6 string model and was grateful for the use of my Planet Wave Peg Winder complete with the string cutting feature.

During my MusicWorks mini-GillaCamp 'hands on' workshop the following night in Gore, Trevor's friend, Peter Cairns was kind enough to host the event drawing 18 attendees for the evening. Until I pulled out my Planet Wave Multi Function Tuner/Metronome the group sounded like a bag of cats when playing together. Once I aligned their timing with the help of the metronome the room sounded like a symphony. Well, almost.

Looking forward to sharing the great products DÁddario was so kind to send for the trip as I travel north ... and really looking forward to those Chicken Chips.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rig Remote Demo at WWDC by Planet Waves

Demo of the new MIDI Mobilizer and Planet Waves Rig Remote Application featured at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference 2009

When used with the upcoming Planet Waves Rig Remote application for iPhone and iPod touch the MIDI Mobilizer gives guitarists the freedom to control Line 6 Variax® digital modeling guitars and Vetta™ II digital modeling amplifiers.

The Rig Remote app features an attractive graphical display that takes a nod from the Line 6 software commonly used to adjust Line 6 gear via personal computers. The innovative Multi-Touch user interface makes it simple for iPhone and iPod touch users to scroll, choose and adjust models of amps, guitars, pickups, pickup placement, alternate tuning and more. Guitarists can easily save their favorite settings and apply them to any Variax guitar or Vetta II amplifier.

MIDI Mobilizer and Rig Remote 1.0 are currently in final development, with pricing, availability, and more detail on the complete feature set to be announced at a future date.

For more information on Planet Waves please visit: http://www.planetwaves.com/

For more information on Line 6 please visit: http://www.line6.com/

Monday, June 8, 2009

Deep Thoughts & Planet Waves Cables with Nick Hipa from As I Lay Dying

A few days ago while driving I noticed an assortment of words on the back window of a pickup truck. From its appearance, this wasnt merely a truck stop sticker with a witty saying, but rather a combination of individual letter stickers that were meticulously arranged to form this quote: He who desires to succeed will find a way, he who does not will make an excuse. The intent of this person, who went through such great lengths to share this message with fellow motorists in the greater San Diego area, was probably meant to inspire...
In my case it certainly did!

I began thinking about the plethora of goals I have set for myself, and how instead of realizing them I have made excuses as to why I fail to fulfill them. Most of these goals are quite trivial in the grand scheme of life (ex. Goal - Go to the gym constantly and become the most shredded dude ever) yet the only obstacle I truly have that keeps me from it is my mind (Excuses- ahh the gym is way too crowded right now/I dont want to become a bulky steroid looking dude/burritos are so delicious/I enjoy beer/etc).

History has proven that I do tend to set way too many goals for myself that are more or less cool ideas that I think I really want, but somehow never get around to. When trimming out the fat, however, and addressing things that are a real concern in my life, the notion that I am making excuses for my lack of discipline and fortitude in pursuing my dreams is a harsh bit of reality. I alone can make it happen or not.

The beauty of coming to this realization, though, is that it really is all up to me. It is all up to you to. Life and all of the things we dream of accomplishing in our span of time in it can be ours if we exercise our willpower and discipline. Upon arriving home I googled the quote (as best I could remember) to find out who actually coined it. Although I had no luck (perhaps it was an original?) I did get caught in a whirlwind of other awesome inspirational success quotes:

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
-Benjamin Franklin

I attribute my success to this - I never gave or took any excuse.
-Florence Nightingale

Nothing is impossible; there are ways that lead to everything, and if we had sufficient will we should always have sufficient means. It is often merely for an excuse that we say things are impossible.
-Francois La Rochefoucauld

Niney-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
-George W. Carver

Now to shamelessly tie this all in to Planet Waves and my relationship with them: I am on the noblest of pursuits to obtain the raddest guitar tone known to all of mankind. There are many variables involved with achieving this, with the most basic division of categories being the player and the gear.

True tone comes from the fingers, but unless you plan on playing acoustic sets in coffee shops for your entire musical career youre going to have to run through some amplification! Most players focus the majority of their gear attention to simply amp and cab. While this is the bulk of your tones awesomeness, the cutting edge and extra sparkle of quality resides in the little details.

The most important of all these little details is what transports every moment of your sound: Cables! In my opinion, to truly succeed in honing sonic excellence is to use the best, and the best cables in existence are made by Planet Waves... hands down. I use the Custom Pro Series both live & in the studio. To use anything else would be to make a sorry excuse for lackluster tone.

Peace and I'm out,

Nick Hipa
As I Lay Dying

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Strobe Tuning

Strobe tuners are extremely accurate pitch measurement devices. While most guitar tuners on the market are accurate to a range of +/- 3 cents, strobe tuners can be accurate to +/- 0.1 cents. Thats 15 times more as accurate!! Though at first these tuners may seem harder to use, once you understand how they work and get used to them, you really can hear a dramatic difference in the way chords ring out. Let’s dive in...

The first stroboscopic (strobe) tuner was produced by Conn back in the 1930’s. Mechanical strobe tuners use spinning translucent disc’s that spin at a given rate of pitch that is set by the user. These Discs’s have a printed circular pattern on them. Behind this disc is a series of lights or LED’s that flash (or strobe) at the same rate as the incoming signal. The difference between the rate of the disc spinning and the rate of the lights flashing create the optical illusion of movement. The more out of tune the incoming signal is compared to the correct pitch, the faster the disc appears to spin. When the disc and the incoming signal are the same, no movement is seen and that’s how you know you are in tune. It's really that simple but ingenious!

These days, strobe tuning is accomplished not only with spinning disc but also with LED and LCD displays. Such examples of this are the Planets Waves Tru-Strobe and SOS tuners.

The SOS Tuner projects two opposing strobe (or rapidly flashing) LED’s onto the guitar string at the exact frequency at which the perfectly tuned string will vibrate. This then gives you a visible indication on the string itself as to whether the string is in tune or not: if the two lights are moving, the string needs to be adjusted to bring it in tune. If there is no movement, the string is properly tuned. Tuning the string simply involves projecting the desired pitch onto the string, plucking the string, and adjusting the string tension until the strobe lights stop moving. What's also great about this tuner is that since you are shine the light right on the string no input signal is needed. you could tune you guitar perfect while standing next to a running 747 (I don't recomend that you try this though!)

The Tru-Strobe Tuner works by displaying the interference between a reference frequency (or pitch) and the instrument’s signal input. Electronics in the tuner detect the pitch of the instruments signal and spins the ring of LED’s at the recognized pitch, “E” for example. The instruments signal then turns the tuner's whole ring of lights on and off as the string vibrates, and the optical interference creates the strobe or spinning effect. When the string's frequency matches the lights' spin rate, the image appears to stand still, indicating the string is perfectly in tune.

No matter which style is used, strobe tuners will take you to the next level of tuning accuracy. This is critical when in the studio, on stage or setting up the intonation of your guitar. Next time you’re at a concert or your local repair shop look around and I’m sure you will find a strobe tuner in use.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Polishing tips from a pro...

Even though guitars are inanimate objects they really do become an extension of us. We choose them carefully and after a while we do form a bond with our instruments. Keeping them playing and looking their best will let us get the most from our guitars. Just because we play hard, that doesn’t mean our instruments have to look like it. Planet Waves offers everything you need to get the most from your instruments and keep them looking great including a fret polishing system, string cleaner, fingerboard conditioners and the three step polishing system. Don’t take our word for it; take it from Slipknot’s Mick Thomson #7:

I’m serious. This is not a sales pitch. This is how it is, and it really is that good:

The three step process of Restore, Protect and Shine is impressive. It’s very similar to detailing an auto finish. Restore has a fine cutting agent that cleans and helps to remove fine scratches. Protect adds Carnauba Wax for amazing gloss and reflection. The finish almost looks wet. Shine adds a little boost to those steps and should be used on its own frequently to keep the finish looking new.

The key to it working is elbow grease (the more you do - the better the results. The only better way would be to use the same products after stripping the guitar bare of hardware and using a random orbital buffer). Don’t simply wipe on and wipe off for the first two steps. The time you spend equals the results you get.

Apply the first step using very small (like 2" diameter) circular rotations. Give it a few minutes to dry to a haze. Don’t do the whole guitar at once. Do sections (I usually do 4). Do the same for step two. ALWAYS use a clean polishing cloth as to not scratch the finish. Any sh*t on the cloth can (and likely WILL) put scratches in your finish. Use a separate cloth to apply and remove and use different clean parts of the cloth during the process (i usually end up using 4 sections of any cloth).

After using Restore and Protect you can either stop there, or add a little Shine to another polishing cloth, wipe gently and buff. From there you can just use Shine as needed (perfect for day to day polishing). After a while (everyone beats sh*t up at a different rate) you can start the process over and make your guitar "new" again. It really does take the appearance of years off a guitar.

I use these on everything I own from an old $300 Kramer to a $10K Les Paul. I’ve found nothing better.

-Mick Thomson

There you have it, from a pro who is putting Planet Waves Instrument Care products to the test nightly on the world’s biggest stages. When it comes to guitars, he’s got ‘em all & doesn’t cut corners when taking care of them. You shouldn’t either!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jim D’Addario Anecdotes

Collaborate to Succeed Part 1 – John D’Angelico

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind too), those who learn to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

In reading that statement, one could assume it came from a musician or athlete playing team sports. But in actuality, it was the naturalist Charles Darwin that penned the line.

For musicians, collaborating and improvising is a way of life. Many times when people look at the success of a musical group or an enterprise, they inaccurately assume that success is the result of the efforts of one or two individuals. The fact is even the most astute entrepreneur gets nowhere if he/she does not learn to collaborate and improvise. Finding the right partners to collaborate with is the key.

I learned a lot about collaboration and running a business when I joined my first band at age 13. The first thing that was abundantly clear to me was that we sounded much better as a group than we did individually - provided we all practiced our parts. Later on in my career as business challenges presented themselves, I would always look for collaboration partners, reaching out to someone with more experience to help with the specific challenges that we faced.

In 1905, my grandfather Charles D’Addario emigrated from Italy to New York. He brought with him the family trade of making strings, which dates back hundreds of years to 1680. By coincidence, the very same year a Czechoslovakian luthier named Ladislav Kaplan also moved his family from Europe to America. At the time, there was a shortage of quality musical instruments and strings. Both gentlemen bought the American dream and lived it.

Soon after arriving in America, Ladislav discovered that he was having trouble getting good strings for his violins, violas and cellos. A trained craftsman, he discovered he was also a very, very talented mechanical engineer. Soon after, he began making his own strings and before long the Kaplan brand of gut bowed strings was well established.

Charles and Ladislav were friendly competitors and exchanged raw materials and know-how on occasion. Accounting ledger books from 1922 show Charles and Ladislav frequently exchanging material for payment. In the true European family business model, the Kaplan family ran their little string business out of a garage in their backyard in Norwalk, CT from 1905 to 1981. The D’Addarios ran theirs in the basement of their Jackson Heights, NY home, a short walk from what would become LaGuardia airport.

In the 1930’s, John D’Addario, Sr. joined his dad, Charles, and his young inquisitive mind was immediately energized by the world of the guitar. The guitar was yet to be amplified and was for the most part used as an element of the rhythm section of the big bands that were popular during that era. Guitar makers like Maccaferri and D’Angelico worked hard to make their instruments project acoustically over entire bands or orchestras.

John, Sr. (my dad), befriended John D’Angelico towards the end of the 1930’s. Their collaboration would be a key to the success of D’Addario guitar strings some 35 years later. D’Angelico was looking for someone to improve on the quality of the acoustic guitar strings that were available at the time. Dad was lucky enough to enter the picture at the right time. The art of string making at that time was exactly that - an ‘art’. Most developments were by accident or by trial and error. The major string brands at the time, National Black Diamond and Gibson for instance, did not make a string with the low end output, sustain and the projection in the upper register to satisfy D’Angelico.

I had the good fortune to meet John D’Angelico on several occasions as child when my dad was delivering strings to his shop on Kenmare Street in Little Italy. I can tell you personally - D’Angelico had golden ears. My dad’s collaboration with him yielded the acoustic guitar specifications that we, by and large, still use today. In fact most successful competitive brands have emulated the very specifications that the collaboration between D’Addario and D’Angelico yielded. All the D’Angelico packaged strings made prior to John D’Angelico’s passing (1964) were made by our family. Similarity in the names and his respect for John D’Angelico were key reasons why Dad never used the D’Addario family name on his strings until we did so in 1974.

My dad often spoke fondly of how well they worked together. Dad would make a variety of samples, with different core sizes and whatever different alloys of brass, bronze and silver plated copper that he could get his hands on at the time. John would test them and together, using their ears and their minds, through trial and error, they advanced the art of guitar string-making. Their first epiphany was determining the optimum size ratios between the core wire and the wrap wire for each wound string on the guitar. Later, they realized that the 80-20 brass (referred to as bronze most of the time) needed to be softened prior to winding. Eventually, after many trials, they landed on some great-sounding string specifications.

D’Angelico made instruments for all kinds of different guitar players. Many times the guitarist would not be satisfied with the instrument he ordered when he came to pick it up. While D’Angelico could make adjustments in the set-up of the guitar to sometimes satisfy the particular want of each player, he quickly realized, with all these string samples lying around, that many times just changing the string tension would do the trick.

Prior to their collaboration, strings were sold in one gauge. They pioneered the idea of Light, Medium and Heavy string gauges. Later, as the electric guitar took hold, players would demand even lighter and lighter string gauges. Back then, most guitars were outfitted with pretty heavy gauge strings.

As the guitar string business grew and my grandfather’s retirement age was approaching, my dad began to lose interest in bowed string manufacturing and focused more and more of his attention on fretted instrument strings. In 1959, Charles retired and for a few years, my dad and his team continued to make bowed strings for various private labels and under their own names Puccini and La Rita. Around 1964, after the British invasion and the advent of the real guitar boom, D’Addario totally abandoned bowed string manufacturing and focused all their energy on fretted instrument strings.

Dad and his partners (two other gentlemen from the same town in Italy) sold their company to C. F. Martin & Company in 1969. In 1974, after a five-year employment engagement, a newly-formed company (our present entity) introduced fretted instrument strings for the first time, bearing the D’Addario family name. Joined by his two sons John D’Addario, Jr. (my brother) and me (Jim D’Addario), the D’Addario family began on the journey of establishing the D’Addario brand name utilizing many of the string innovations discovered through the collaboration of John D’Angelico.

More on collaboration to come. . . .
My next article will discuss the acquisition of Kaplan Music Strings in 1981 and the re-entry into the bowed string business through our collaboration with Dr. Norman Pickering.

Jim D’Addario

Friday, April 17, 2009

Capacitance: What is it and how does it affect my tone?

The capacitance of something is a measurement of its ability to store a charge. Did you ever drag your feet and then touch someone in order to shock them…capacitance in action!!

A capacitor is a device that stores a charge consisting of two conductors separated by an insulator. What does such a device have to do with a guitar player? If you play electric guitar, everything!!

Let’s look at the construction of an instrument cable. A standard instrument cable in its most basic form is made up of a center conductor, some type of insulation, a shield (which is also used as a conductor) and the outer jacket. Hmm….a conductor, insulation and another conductor…Sound familiar?? Now that we realize that a guitar cable is basically a long capacitor, let’s look at how your tone gets affected.

When you start playing your guitar, a small electrical current flows between the two conductors of the cable. As the frequency increases, so does the current that flows through a capacitor. This is why high frequencies are affected more by cable capacitance then low frequencies.

Along with the source impedance, cable capacitance forms a low-pass filter between the instrument and amplifier, meaning it rolls-off or cuts high frequencies, much like your guitar’s tone control. The higher the capacitance is of the cable, the more high-end roll-off you will experience.

Capacitance in instrument cables is measured in picofarads (pF) as a full farad is too large compared to typical requirements in electronic devices. The picofarad is sometimes comically called a "puff" as well. Let’s say you have a cable that measure 45pF per foot and you use a 10ft cable to an effects pedal and then a 10 ft cable to your amplifier. Taking the pedal out of the equation you are looking at 900pF before your guitar signal hits your amplifier. Now lets take two cables that have a capacitance of only 33pF/ft. Using the same set-up you would have a total of 660pF before your guitar signal hits your Amplifier. See why it’s important to use quality, low-capacitance cables?

Some manufacturers design cables with a sound in mind…say a “rock style” or “jazz style” cable. What they are doing is pre-equalizing the cable by the capacitance level to roll-off certain frequencies. While this may work for some players, the best cables should leave your signal untouched giving you the most control over your tone when it reaches your amp. Now when some people use a cable with low capacitance, they will say that the cable is very “bright” compared to their standard cable. That “brightness” is actually the high frequencies that their previous cable was rolling off or not effectively reproducing. You may also experience greater lows and added dynamics or “liveliness”. The advantage of this is that you can now lower the treble controls on your amplifier, which in turn will cut down on the “hiss” that the amp produces. You are now getting a truer reproduction of your instrument into your amplifier.

Planet Waves cables are specifically designed and manufactured to have very low capacitance (among the lowest available), so that the output of your instrument remains intact and unchanged, giving you full tonal control over your sound.

For more information on Planet Waves cables, please visit our cable page or check out video library with behind the scenes tours from guitar techs for Warren Haynes, Peter Frampton, John Petrucci, and more.

Rob Cunningham