Friday, January 29, 2010

Crisis Camp Haiti

Here's an upcoming event for those tech savvy individuals interested in helping aid agencies working in Haiti.

Crisis Camp Haiti:
On Saturday February 6th, 2010, we will be hosting CrisisCamp Haiti Calgary to bring together volunteers to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti's relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Copyright law and the most famous 6 seconds of contemporary music

I'm working on some research regarding copyright laws in the music industry, with a focus on genres when they are emerging (i.e., considered underground). Copyright laws are all about providing incentives for creative development and productive research. One of the big questions about copyright laws, particularly in the arts, is whether they have any retroactive power regarding things created (and not copyrighted) in the past that are being currently adopted and used (often without remuneration).

One of the people I'm working with on this sent me the video below regarding what is likely the most famous 6 second drum break in contemporary music. Its originally by a band called the Winstons and was written in 1969. This 6 seconds made its way through rap and hip-hop, helped found drum & bass and jungle music, and has made its way into advertising.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 13, 2010: a rough day for music

Yesterday, three prominent musicians died: Teddy Pendergrass (soul, R&B), Ed Thigpen (jazz) and Jay Reatard (punk, garage). Rough day across all genres of American music.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where Not To Go for Musical Instrument Repairs

As important as positive recommendations are, its also important doubt places you shouldn't go. In the past, I've written positively about Ross Hill (luthier), P.J. Tan's Violin Shop, and the String Emporium(e.g., here and here). Given the recent grief me and friends of mine have run into lately, here's a couple of warnings.

  1. Guitar Connection: This used to be the place for amplifier repairs. Boy, how things have changed. A friend recently brought in a Fender Reverb for repair. Whenever the amp was turned on, all that came out was very loud white-ish noise. He was told a week for the repair. After a week, still not ready. Second week, still not done. Finally, after three weeks he decides he's just going to go pick it up and take it elsewhere. After calling the store, he's told it will be ready that day. Goes in that day and is told by the owner how great it sounds, how he had been playing it for a couple of hours to check it out. As compensation for having taken so long, the owner tells him the repair is free. My friend gets to rehearsal, turns it on, and once again white noise.
    Exasperated, my friend takes it to Long and McQuade and gets it repaired in an hour. Turns out the guys at Guitar Connection (if they did anything) used the wrong types of wires and failed to replace a bad power tube.

    Lesson: Avoid the Guitar Connection for amplifier repairs.

  2. V.A. Hill Strings: The stories from this place about. Basically the stories revolve around the staff at Hill Strings not really knowing much about instruments. My favorite (recounted to me by a luthier in Edmonton) is someone who bought a cello for $800 in Edmonton and was told by V.A. Hill Strings that the cello was worth $3,000. She then sold the cello to V.A. Hill for $2,000 and went back to Edmonton to buy another cello for $800.

    My experience with Hill Strings is equally odd. I brought in a 1920's King double bass to get some cracks repaired and the fingerboard planed. I was going to sell the bass in order to get the funds to upgrade to a carved bass. After a couple of days, I got a call from the owner telling me that they didn't think the bass was worth fixing and that the cost of the repair ($650) was more than the instrument was worth. I told them to to ahead and repair the bass. When I picked up the bass, they had put a new bridge on the bass without having fit it appropriately. The fingerboard and cracks were repaired adequately and I paid for the repair. After cutting the bridge myself, I sold the bass the following week for $2,500.

    Lesson: Be wary of the repairs and prices at V.A. Hill Strings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Itay Talgam on Leading (like a conductor)

TED has a relatively new video of Itay Talgam discussing conducting and leadership. Its a great talk that highlights the differences in conducting style, what they are communicating, and how they are assuming a role of leadership. I particularly like his discussion of Carlos Kleiber. I have a new understaing of what he is communicating, something I didn't have when I saw the video on this post.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Tuff-Lite Bass Case from the String Emporium

Over the last 2 years, I've had to ship a bass three times. Most recently to go to Stanford and New York. In the past I had used David Gage bass trunks, older model borrowed from friends. However, last year, with two trips planned and another three slowly materializing, I opted to purchase a trunk of my own.

I did some research comparing prices and features (the primary being weight) and opted for the Tuff-Lite trunk from the String Emporium. I opted for the standard model, thinking that the hard part was getting it on the plane, not the actual weight of the thing. It cost $1,50, weighs just over 60 lbs.

As a quick aside, my experience has been that there is a flat fee (about $175) for traveling with something of this size. I've never had anybody weigh the case. My tips for traveling with a bass are here.

Relative to the gage trunk, I chose the Tuff-Lite for a couple of reasons. First was the price. I don't travel so much that I can rationalize paying almost an additional $1,000. (This is also in part why I opted for the standard Tuff-Lite.) Secondly, I was never a fan of the clasps system on the Gage trunk. In every situation where I've traveled with my bass, I've had to open up the trunk. The Tuff-Lite closes with a series of bungee cables which makes opening and closing the case relatively easy. Moreover, since it can't be locked anyway due to airline security regulations, its easy for others to open it if need be. The video below shows the String Emporium's own Steve Koscica demonstrating the case.

I like this case and it's been great on the road. Some specifics:
  1. Inside the case, there are several straps which can be used to secure the bass in place. Also included are a couple of foam pads that you can place in order to protect the instrument. The straps are well-placed and I feel provide better support for the instrument than the airbags I have seen in other cases.
  2. The case has several handles on the exterior, each of which is pretty thoughtfully placed. I had a relatively easy time maneuvering the case through the airport and found myself using the various handles to make various turns and tips down corridors and into elevators.
  3. The casters (as with the handles) are mounted on the case exterior. I hadn't seen this in other cases and it makes replacing or altering the case easy. The last Gage case I used was an older model with a broken caster. Since the caster was molded into the trunk it coulomb be replaced. Here, if I breaks a wheel, I can easily unscrew the caster and replace it.
Overall, this is a great case, well worth the price. There is one thing I didn't like about the case: there are metal strips on the front and back of the case that, presumably, make it easier to slide for baggage handling. On my case at least, they are sharp at the ends and a jaggedly cut. I tore a shirt and cut a finger on one of these strips. To remedy the problem, I covered the ends of the strips with a couple pieces of duct tape to keep the ends covered.

2010, back at it.

My apologies for having being so derelict in keeping this blog up to date. New reviews of gear and gig stories on the way. Mea culpa.