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Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh, The Humidity

It's Winter time again and that means it's time to make sure your precious guitars are dressed for the weather. As temperatures drop outside, most of us turn up the thermostat and heat our homes with some kind of forced-air heating system. Unless you have the AprilAire or a similar re-hydration device that puts moisture back into the heated air, the lack of humidity in your home can adversely effect your acoustic and electric guitars.

Most experts agree that an approximate 50% humidity level is ideal for acoustic instruments. Planet Waves offers a handy device for measuring the humidity in your home with the Humidity and Temperature Sensor (HTS). The HTS measures relative humidity levels from Low (under 20%) to High (up to 99%) and displays the current temperature in either Fahrenheit or Celsius. It can be programmed to give a visual warning (a water drop icon) when humidity levels dip below a pre-set minimum. It also has a High and Low memory that tracks the conditions of the surrounding area from the point of the last reset, including the date and time of the peaks and valleys of the humidity level.

Keeping track of the humidity is the first step. The next is to control it via adding or removing moisture from the air around your instruments. Planet waves has a low-cost and convenient way to add moisture to the air around your guitar.



The Acoustic Guitar Humidifier is a compact humidity solution specifically made for acoustic guitars. The high-impact plastic body sits suspended between the "D" and "G" strings of your guitar. A high absorption sponge gradually releases moisture to the inside of your guitar without ever touching the actual wood. Refills are quick and easy. By keeping your acoustic guitars in their hardshell cases, you get a "humidor" effect, effectively shrinking the size of the "room" to be humidified to the dimensions of your case.

The most comprehensive offering from Planet Waves is the Humidipak Moisture Management System. As you can tell by the name, it is not only a humidifier, but a de-humidifier as well. Using a formulation of salts, water and gum sealed in a vapor-permeable pack, the patented Humidipak system creates a specific relative humidity by either retaining or releasing water vapor into the air. Depending on you location, the packets last from 2-6 months, with replacements available separately.


Here's a video of Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars on the Humidipak and a .pdf on humidity in general.

And here's a detailed video on how to use the Humidipak.

Your acoustic instrument needs some love and care in extreme weather, make sure you have it protected with one of the Planet Waves humidity solutions.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bridge (Pins) of Size



Nobody thinks much about them...until they break...or you lose one. Then the lowly bridge pin gets the respect it deserves - no bridge pin, no music. I've been caught without spares before and had to use broken pencils, glued-together wooden matches, or whatever I could scrounge to replace a snapped-off pin at a gig.

These days, when having spares for spares is part of my job description, I carry a nice assortment of Planet Waves bridge pins and end pins. We offer boxwood, ebony and plastic.

Plastic is the most economical, and many guitars at all price points ship with plastic pins. They have the least amount of mass and a bright tone. If your guitar came with them and you like the tone as is, you can stick with them.



Boxwood is a hard wood that is denser than the plastic and lasts longer. Planet Waves offer Black Pearl or Turquoise inlays in our boxwood pins, to add beauty to your bridge.


Ebony is a very dense wood that will last for a long time. Most players find that they mellow out the tone of your guitar, so if you have a bright sounding guitar, try a set to see what effect the ebony has on the trebles. Planet Waves offer ebony pins with brass studs and abalone, turquoise and pearl inlays.

For less than $20, you can try out these different pins from Planet Waves. And in true "real world solution" fashion, we even include an extra bridge pin in every set!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pillows, Balloons and O-Ports

There are a few things in a guitar tech's workbox that might puzzle a casual observer. I have at various times carried around pillow stuffing, which was used to tame an overly responsive Dobro from feeding back.

Other odd items you might see are a few black balloons. Inserted into an ES-335 or similar semi-acoustic and then blown up, they serve to deaden the top and back enough to stop feedback and they also work in acoustic guitars. You might need to wait until Halloween to get black balloons, but they do come in handy.

If you want a more traditional approach to feedback suppression, Planet Waves offers two great products.

The Screeching Halt, which is hands-down my favorite product name, is a sound hole plug and top dampener for acoustic guitars. The slightly tapered edge make it compatible with most sound holes.

The other option is using the amazing O-Port. Designed to project the sound out of your guitar in a fashion similar to the ports on high quality speakers, the O-Port doubles as a top dampener.

I use it in just that manner on Brian Nutter's Sigma 12-string. If you've been to a live Keith Urban show lately and heard "Stupid Boy", that was Brian playing the Sigma with an O-Port, standing in the spotlight at the very edge of the stage, practically in front of the house P.A. speakers....no feedback.



O-Port demo #1

O-Port demo #2

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hangin' With Your Heroes

Planet Waves has a new batch of Classic Rock straps that feature album art work and logos from the Golden Age of Rock. The first album I ever bought with my own money was KISS's "Destroyer". I was 14 or 15 years old and it was a bit of a daring thing to bring that album cover into the classroom at the Catholic school I attended.



Southern Rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd also have a couple of logo straps out this year. I had their "Pronounced" album on 8-track!



Glam-Rock bad boys Motley Crue have three straps to offer, featuring art work from such favorites as "Girls, Girls, Girls", "Shout at the Devil" and "Dr. Feelgood".



Pioneering power trio +1 The Who always managed to have iconic visuals. Their Union Jack and Target straps are a throwback to the Mod culture of swinging London in the early '60's.




Check out all of the Planet Waves straps at your local retailer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

App-etizers

Planet Waves has a great new suite of iPhone apps called Guitar Tools. Let's take a closer look:

Chords

Guitar Tools includes a complete chord dictionary with over 7,000 voicings. Simply select the chord you want, and use the touch screen to strum it. Great for writing songs on the go.

Chord Finder

You put your fingers into some neat configuration, you love how it sounds...but what should you call it? Guitar Tools allows you to select the string and fret position and then gives you the proper name of the chord.

Scales

Thousands of scales, modes, arpeggios in multiple fingerings. You can even re-tune the virtual guitar and get scales for DADGAD, Open G or any other tuning you can dream up.

Tuner

Choose analog needle or digital strobe readout to keep your instrument in tune.

Metronome

Get into the groove by tapping the tempo on the touchscreen and choosing from multiple sounds and time signatures.

Learn

Using the "Teachers Near Me" function, Guitar Tools can find a local instructor no matter where you are. Grab a lesson while on vacation!

Shop

A database of music stores to help you find out where to make your next gear purchase. Great for Road Managers and Guitar Techs.

Check out all of the Planet Waves iPhone apps here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tech It... with a Planet Waves Tech Kit

Those little trap-door boxes inside your hardshell guitar case are great places to keep capos, spare strings, picks, and other gig essentials. Planet Waves offers a series of tech-related accessories that also fit in most cases and gig bags, and you can create a travel version of a tech bench with just a few items.

First is a ProWinder. No need to take a string cutter and a peg winder. The ProWinder is two tools in one, and I do not leave the house without one.

Next is the Headstand, a collapsible neck rest that slips into your case and is indispensable when changing strings, polishing or doing more involved fret cleaning, etc.

The Lubrikit is another essential for me. I started using it on all of my guitars that have tremolos, and now I find myself putting it in the string slots at the bridge and nut of all of my guitars, acoustics included. I like the idea of a frictionless path from the bridge to the tuning keys.

The last essential item is the Headstock Tuner. I've written about it before, and I'm sure I will again. This is the handiest tuner I've ever used. It's small, light, accurate and affordable enough to keep in several different guitar cases.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shine On

I've spent much of the past week cleaning up flood-related messes and throwing away a lot of un-fixable gear from my guitar tech workbox. All of my many nuts, bolts, screws, springs, buttons, switches, jacks and potentiometers are toast, drenched for days in river water, then exposed to the air and covered in rust. We had a few guitars survive, due to miracles, luck or simply having them stored higher than 42 inches.

Many local luthiers set up a "triage" center and began stripping down guitars that were wet and drying them out. You might want to remember these few tips on what to do should your prized axe ever get left out in the rain.

Here's triage member Jeff Senn on flood damaged guitars:

Flood damaged guitars can present some serious challenges in attempting to repair and restore them to playing condition. The duration of time an instrument has been submerged is the critical determining factor in the steps taken to save your guitar.

For an instrument that has gotten wet via a rainstorm onstage or very brief saturation, a quick drying off with a cloth such as the Planet Waves untreated polish cloth and spraying the electronics with a corrosion resister such as DeOxit D5 followed by a quick polish with Planet Waves Protect liquid carnuba wax can be enough. Also, if you are trying to save your strings Planet Waves Renew string cleaning system is ace.

Instruments that have been underwater for a few hours to a few days need much more care to survive.

The first step recommended is complete disassembly. If possible, every part should come off. If it's a bolt on neck instrument remove the neck. Necks can swell to the point where they will split the body.

Next, wipe all parts down with a mixture of 70% distilled water and 30% alcohol to remove contaminants. This won't hurt your guitar or finish since it's already wet, right? Make sure to dry off the surface completely after this bath. Metal parts should be treated with a bath of WD40 or Planet Waves String Cleaner, which will help to displace the moisture and slow or stop corrosion.

If you have a rosewood or ebony fingerboard treat the board immediately with an application of Planet Waves Hydrate fingerboard conditioner. As the water evaporates from the fingerboard, it often takes some of the vital nutrients with it and the board can crack in just hours.

After drying the guitar body and neck as much as possible with towels and cloths place the components in a garbage bag filled with rice, yes that's right, regular white rice that you purchase at your local grocery. After making sure the parts are sufficiently surrounded by the rice in the bag close off the opening of the bag leaving just a little slack for air to get in and out. The rice will remove moisture from the wood and you want there to be a little air flow through the bag opening to release this moisture. This process can be repeated over a few weeks if the instrument was under water for days.

If your guitar or bass has made it this far without developing serious cracks and has dried out completely you can begin reassembly. Start by cleaning and polishing the finish with some Planet Waves Restore deep cleaning polish. This with return the shine to your instrument and can help remove blushing and tarnishing from the moisture.

Frets can be cleaned with the Planet Waves Fret Polishing System to remove any corrosion. Planet Waves Express Packs can be handy in the reassembly process, as they give you three of the necessary "potions and lotions" as we call them here in our shop. Spray out the electronics one more time before reassembly/use with an electronic deoxidizing spray and if any of the components are corroded or rusty you may want to replace them at this time.

If you are not handy enough to reassemble your guitar or bass you can still do most or all of the cleaning yourself with some of the products mentioned and then take it to a professional tech to get your baby playing great again. After the recent Nashville flood a well-known and respected player helped to disassemble and clean instruments to help others, but when it came to reassembly he admitted it was out of his ability range. Nothing wrong with that. That's exactly what your local guitar and bass technicians are there for.

Having your pride and joy get a thrashing from mother nature can be a nerve wracking and humbling experience but with some fast action and a little patience some instruments can live to rock, swing or twang another day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feed Your Head Stock

I'm in rehearsals this week with the Keith Urban band, getting ready for a show in Phoenix and the ACM Awards in Las Vegas. I'm taking care of Brian Nutter's gear this year, and we're putting the Planet Waves Headstock tuner to good use.



Brian plays electric, acoustic, 6 and 12-string, resophonic, ganjo (6-sting banjo) and mandolin in the show. We're running all these acoustic instruments into a pair of Midas XL 42 dual mic pres, then into a line mixer blend these four inputs into a single output to send the monitor and front of house engineer a single fader to control.




This means that any on-the-spot tuning that Brian might need is done on stage without a mute switch or volume pedal. I send every acoustic instrument out with a Headstock Tuner clamped on.




I use them to first tune the instruments in my world, since the stage volume is usually too loud to use an audio-based tuner. By sensing the vibrations through the headstock, the Headstock Tuner doesn't really care how loud the band is, how close you are to a raging half-stack, how loud the crowd is cheering. They work great on electric guitars, too. I also send one out on the 12-string headstock of the white Gibson EDS-1275 doubleneck that's capoed with an NS capo at the 3rd fret...just in case!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The $.25 EQ

Picks. Everybody has lots of picks, everybody has lost a lot of picks. Once you find a gauge and texture you like, most people stick with it and don't give it another thought. But picks are the least expensive way to change your tone, explore new sounds, and create a wider palette of tones in the studio.

Planet Waves makes a variety of picks for just about every occasion.

Our Duralin picks are the most popular. Made from Acetyl or Delrin™, Duralin picks have a perfect blend of stiffness and spring. They're extremely durable and last a long time. In fact you'll probably lose it before you use it. Duralin picks accentuate the attack of a note, giving clarity and power to every pick stroke.


Duralin Picks


Classic Celluloid. No, it's not a Charlie Chaplin film festival, it's the Planet Waves version of the perennial favorite guitar pick. A softer, less aggressive tone than the Duralin, Celluloid picks were the favored substitute for actual tortoiseshell, and it fact Fender's #351 medium gauge tortoiseshell pick might be the most famous pick of all time. Planet Waves offers celluloid picks in a variety of colors and gauges. Great for strumming acoustic guitars and for when you want a little warmer sound. A thin celluloid playing a high-capo part is a great trick to use when doubling a track in the studio.


Classic Celluloid


Delflex. The blending of nylon and acetyl, these injection molded picks and long-lasting and bright. Injection molding gives the pick familiar flexibility in all directions, as opposed to stamped sheet picks, which can break and tear if bent in the "wrong" direction. Quick on the attack with a bit of give, striking a nice balance between the Duralin and the Classic Celluloid. Great for bass guitars that need some snap on the attack, but without the click.


Delflex


The SurePick is a Planet Waves innovation. An injection molded rubber grip (in the shape of the Planet Waves logo) makes this pick a great choice for slippery fingers and bass guitarists. You can really dig in to the strings without fear of losing your grip. (Hold one up to the light and check out what the logo on each side of the pick turns into...!)


SurePick

Black Ice
picks are Planet Waves' latest offering. Duralin picks formed into the popular Jazz shape and tumbled like fine jewels for a soft texture with a stiff attack. Perfect for ripping, articulate leads and heavy rhythm.

Black Ice

All of these picks will make you guitar respond and react differently. Next time you're at the music store, grab a handful of picks of several different gauges and materials. Try playing the same piece of music, song or favorite lick and vary the pick you use. Listen to what it does to the attack of the string. Bright and immediate? Soft and warm? Quick and aggressive? Listen to how the different picks accentuate the sound of your electric guitar. Turn them around and use the rounded edge instead of the point. This is a common trick used by Bluegrass pickers.

Spend some time exploring the Planet of Picks... and make your own Planet Waves.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Creative Capos

The capo has been around since the 17th century. Capos, from the Italian phrase “capo tasto” meaning “head fret”, are used to change the pitch - or transpose - various stringed instruments without re-tuning. Certain chord voicings, like the open-position G chord on a guitar, have a distinctive sound that cannot be completely captured by barring the strings. Bluegrass guitar, in particular, features the “Lester Flatt G-run” that is impossible to play correctly (with its distinctive open strings and hammer-ons) without a capo.

Capos are also used on 12-string guitars to play in concert pitch. Some guitarists like the bigger sound you get by using medium strings, which can put a lot of tension on an acoustic 12-string and make fingering difficult. By tuning down a whole step and capoing on the second fret, you get the extra thump of a medium gauge with the easier fingering of reduced string tension.

Some players with less appreciation of the importance of open chord voicings and string tension (and it’s effect on timbre) call capos “cheaters”. While it’s true that using a capo allows the “three-chord guitar player" the opportunity to play in any key without learning a new chord grip, capos can be used in more creative ways. In fact, a beginning guitarist with a capo can play many things that a professional without one cannot. You’d be cheating your music by not investigating the many uses of a capo.

The most obvious use is to simply change the pitch of the strings by capoing on any fret and playing the chords to the song as you would in the open, un-capoed position.


G chord in open position


G chord capoed at second fret is now an "A" chord

This is especially helpful when you have learned a song using open chords and have to play it in a different key. For example, female singers who are covering songs originally sung in lower keys benefit from this use of a capo. Guitar players gigging with a female singer-songwriter will often find themselves in the keys of B, Eb, Ab, Db and other keys that are simply guitar un-friendly. Capos are an essential tool in your gig bag.

Another great use for the capo is in the recording studio. When layering guitar tracks, it often sounds good to play a second acoustic track while capoed up several frets. The blend of the two chord voicings and timbres creates a warm, rich foundation for a track. You can also use a capo and play just the top three or four strings on the doubled part to get a faux-12 string sound.

Capos can also give you the sound of a “dropped-D” tuning. By placing a capo on strings 5 through 1 (the A, D, G, B and High E) at the second fret, leaving the Low E open, you get the sound of a dropped D tuning in the key of E. This allows you to use the friendlier D, G and A shapes in the key of E and gives you the solid bass note of the tonic E chord.


Capo at 2nd fret, with open E string

Planet Waves makes the NS Trio capo for this purpose. Partial capoing on an acoustic guitar is one part of the Trio concept, additionally it is a great capo for both mandolins and banjos. The Trio capo is shorter than a standard capo, and covers 5 strings of a standard guitar. Planet Waves also offers a Classical Capo, which is long enough to cover the width of a classical/nylon string guitar neck and is machined to fit it’s typically flattened fingerboard.

Once you’ve tried the “Dropped-D” trick using an open string in E, you can use two capos to get the same voicings in other keys. Try putting a standard NS capo across all six strings at the third fret and a Trio capo on strings 5 through 1 at the 5th fret. Now you can play in C using the "G chord" shape as your I chord and have your V chord (in this case, the G chord played in a D-shape voicing) still have plenty of low end.


A C chord using the "G shape" in the 2-capo "Drop D" set up


Playing a G chord in the "Drop D" 2-capo setup

The neat trick to this technique is that you can reach notes between the two capos, for example to fret the A note on the 5th fret to play a VIm (A minor) chord. Your first finger completes the barre at the 5th fret.


Playing an "Em barre shape" (sounding as an Am) in the two-capo setup

That ought to get you started thinking about creative capo uses. Check out all of the excellent capos from Planet Waves at www.planetwaves.com

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tru To Life


The latest entry in Planet Wave’s popular pedal tuner line addresses the most common requests we’ve received: A true strobe tuner pedal that can be seen at noon or midnight on any stage. I’ve been using the original TruStrobe on my tech bench for about a year now, and the Chromatic Pedal Tuner on my own pedalboard and that of the guys I tech for.

The new Tru Strobe Pedal Tuner is a mash-up of both...the “guts” of the table top and the body of the stompbox. The LED light have been replaced with an LCD screen with a switchable on/off backlight. The orange background with black numbers and letters is easy to read from every angle an in all lighting conditions. The true strobe nature of the pedal allows extremely accurate on-stage tuning. Simply watch the rotating LCD segments and tune the string until they stop moving. Clock-wise motion means you are flat, counterclockwise means you are sharp. This tuner is accurate to within +/- 0.1 cent.

I had the opportunity to use this tuner in the field recently, when Brian Nutter, guitarist for Keith Urban , added it to his pedalboard for the taping of the CMT Crossroads show with Urban and John Mayer. Brian is fun and challenging to tech for because he started out in this organization ...as Keith’s tech! He loved the tuner and I ended up leaving it on his board even thought it was my only sample at the time. Not only is it an accurate and easy to use tuner, but it looks great doing it. The black chrome housing is stylish and unobtrusive and takes up minimal space on your board.

Standard 9v battery power and AC input jacks, including a daisy-chain output to power more pedals. The Tru Srobe pedal is also true bypass.

A great addition to your onstage rig, this pedal is accurate enough to be your ONLY tuner...at the gig, on the work bench and in the studio.
 
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