Thursday, June 16, 2016

Buying In-Store vs Online: The Experience

How do you buy your gear? Where do you buy your gear? In-store or online? 

I'm sure not too many of us would buy a car straight off the 'net without going to check it out and take it for a test drive. I know I can read reviews and download the specs and features of that new Toyota I want. I can even do a virtual tour of the interior of that car. But until I actually sit in it and feel the seats, drive it, play with the knobs and switches, I don't really know if it's the 'right' car for me. I suggest the same approach can be applied when considering your next gear purchase. 

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing some thoughts on shopping in-store vs. online and the benefits of choosing your local music store. The topics we'll cover include: the Experience, the Sound, and the Price. Today we're talking about benefit of the experience.

Walking into a music shop is a cool experience. Great music, cool gear, the vibe, and some friendly banter and a laugh with knowledgeable staff who have real world gigging and performance experience with the products they supply all enhance the benefit of going into your local music store. Whenever I travel I'm always on the lookout for the local music shop. I'm interested in seeing what they have in stock and the opportunity to see something I've only read about or seen on-line. This is also true for when I have a day off or have a Saturday free to do a music shop crawl.

One of our regulars, Michael,
with his new Taylor 214,
posing with Dave.
Music stores provide that opportunity to actually see, touch and play and the new gear you've been reading about online or have seen on Youtube. You know that the gear is available because its right in front of you, that you can take it home today without the waiting period of postage or needing to rearrange your normal working hours waiting for a courier to arrive. Shopping in-store provides instant gratification. That gear itch can be scratched straight away.

We also get the gigging muso who has just broken a string on their guitar and needs strings ASAP for that night's gig, rocking in five minutes before closing. We've even stayed open beyond our closing time to avert an impending disaster for gigging musos facing similar problems. An open shop is there and provides immediate stress relief. You can't get that urgent, immediate service online.

Answers to questions you may have can be settled right on the spot without needing to deal with the 'keyboard warriors' that frequent the review pages or the Youtube comment fields. You can choose to browse away your day following link after link, or page after page, but that doesn't replace an interaction in a shop with a real person with real working knowledge of the product in question. My experience of working in a store is that of being a problem solver in assisting a customer find solutions. It's much easier doing this in person than over the phone, let alone online. I've also learnt a lot about gear and playing from being a customer as well. These are rewarding experiences for both sides of the counter.

Furthermore, good music store staff are there to resource and equip YOU based on your needs or desires. They can offer suggestions and new ideas that can stimulate and unlock something fresh in your creative journey. That type of personal interaction can't be replicated on-line.

The experience of shopping in-store offers real benefits to you as a customer. The personal interaction, the opportunity to actually play the gear, and the instant gratification that new gear provide are just some of the advantages of choosing in-store vs. online. These factors influence my choice to purchase from a local music shop.

I'd love to hear about your great in-store experiences that have inspired your musical journey. Leave a comment below.

Until next time!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Product Spotlight: Fender Bassbreaker 18/30

Fender's latest release in their distinguished amp line up is the Bassbreaker series. Covered in grey tweed and housing two 12 inch 70 watt vintage Celestion "V" speakers, the Bassbreaker 18/30 tube combo borrows the tone stacks from two of Fenders most coveted circuits - the Blackface Deluxe Reverb and the Brownface Deluxe. Power is provided by a pair of 12AX7 pre-amp tubes and four EL84 power tubes that add a mid-rangey chime and harmonic complexity to the classic Fender amp tones of the late 1950's and mid 1960's.

The 18/30 model refers to this amp being a combination of two classic Fender circuits housed in a common chassis. In the 30 watt mode, the Bassbreaker is afforded with lots of clean head room that delivers the classic Fender clean, bell-like tone we all know and love. This side of the amp is reminiscent of a mid 60's Blackface Deluxe Reverb that is enhanced with a chimey mid-range complexity courtesy of the British flavoured EL84 power tubes and vintage sounding V-70 speakers.

Activating the 18 watt drive channel with the supplied footswitch, the Bassbreaker's crunchy musical breakup ushers in the glorious grind of an early 60's Brownface Deluxe producing that rhythm sound associated with Keith Richards. Increasing the gain results in more tube saturation and sustain for lead. Tone for days!

I had the chance to hear this amp live at the recent Fender Roadshow in Brisbane and in my opinion, the Bassbreaker 18/30 was the best sounding amp in the current lineup. Beautiful chimey cleans, meaty rhythms, and singing fat lead tones were produced by this new addition to the Fender amplifier family that is extremely pedal friendly.

I'm sure that you too will be suitably impressed with the new Fender Bassbreaker 18/30 combo. It's a versatile, beautifully voiced tube amp drawing from Fender's rich heritage of classic tone and served with a British-flavoured twist.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Product Spotlight: Fender Bass Amps

The live music scene of the 1940's in Southern California was burgeoning. Musicians were turning their instruments up to higher volumes as bands developed their signature sounds. As these levels rose, traditional acoustic bass instruments were being drowned out by their electric counterparts. Seizing on this opportunity to supply the working musician with the best tools possible, Leo Fender started working on a whole new range of musical equipment and in 1951, a brand new instrument entered the world; the Fender Precision Electric Bass Guitar.

Along with his new 'P' bass, Fender developed amps specifically for these new instruments, which in turn formed the sonic platform of modern music in all its styles and genres.  Here at The Music Spot we are proud to showcase our range of Fender Bass Guitar Amps in this week's Product Spotlight.

The Super Bassman 300 is a two channel all tube bass head with matching cabinet. 2 x 12AX7 pre amp tubes along with a 12AX7, a 12AT7 and six 6550 tubes in the power amp section pump out 300 watts of thick, natural, balanced tone perfect for live performance, or any studio application. 

The Vintage channel delivers the full, warm, classic bass sound Fender amps are renown for while the Overdrive channel delivers an aggressive and modern voiced tone stack. An optional foot switch allows effortless switching between the two channels.

The Super Bassman 300 is not only capable of pumping out stadium level volume. Turning the on board Speaker Output switch to Mute bypasses the speakers to provide a tube driven XLR output for recording at home straight from the preamp section. Brilliant!

Combined with the Bassman 610 1600 watt speaker cabinet, you have a fully professional bass rig and an all tube driven recording amp in one.

The Rumble series of bass amps have been re-engineered from the ground making them louder and lighter than ever. 

The Rumble 500 V3 Combo produces 500 watts of power channeled through a 10" Eminence speaker and a high end tweeter that can be turned on or off. It is also possible to connect an external cabinet if required. Channel switching is also included providing the ability to switch from Vintage to Overdrive mode. A four band eq means you can tune the amp to any room or stage. An XLR line out connects you to a stagebox too meaning you don't need a separate DI. As with all the Rumble models there is a headphone output and an AUX line in for playing along with your media player. Perfect for practice!

The Rumble 40 V3 and Rumble 25 V3 are the little brothers to the 500 delivering 40 watts and 25 watts respectively. Both feature an overdrive channel, headphone socket and AUX input. The 40 shares the same control panel of the 500 as well as its XLR line out. The Rumble 40 is a great choice for places of worship, school concert bands, and music rooms.

The Rumble 25 has a simple three band eq with contour control and is best suited for a practice room. Connecting headphones to any of the Rumble amps bypasses the speaker for silent practice.

Their light weight, great sound, well thought out control panel and attractive look make any Rumble Series Amp a perfect choice for your performance requirements.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Product Spotlight: Marshall Amplification

Jimi Hendrix. Ritchie Blackmore. Eric Clapton, Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani. Joe Bonamassa. Slash.

One name unites all these players and that name is Marshall Amplifiers, an iconic brand that sums up the sound of rock and roll. Founded in July 1962, drummer Jim Marshall opened his first music shop in Hanwell, London. After some development and a series of prototypes, Marshall and his team released 'Number One,' their first amp, in September of the same year. Twenty three orders were taken on the first day it was displayed in his shop window!

'Number One' spawned the development of a series of amps such as the JTM45, the Bluesbreaker made famous by Eric Clapton, the Super 100 - first 100 watt stack, the 1959 Super Lead heads - aka the 'Plexi's' of the late 1960's, through to the JCM 800 and 900 series, the highly collectible Silver Jubilees, the DSL's, their latest CODE modelling amps and the Vintage Reissue hand-wired JMP series.

Given this rich legacy and history, we are proud to showcase the latest development in Marshall's rich history of amplification: the JVM410H.

Marshall's JVM410H amplifier is the culmination of 54 years of research and development by the team at Marshall amps. British built, the JVM410H has the familiar look and feel of the landmark heads that define the sound of classic rock and roll, hard rock, and every genre of metal you can think of.

A 100 watt all tube head, the JVM410H comprises four independent channels: Clean, Crunch, OD1, OD2 each with their own set of eq controls and studio quality reverb. If that wasn't enough to tailor the tone to your liking, each channel has a selector switch offering three more variations to each channel's circuit, giving you a total twelve modes to shape and sculpt the sounds you hear in your head.

The JVM410 also has an effects loop that can be controlled by the six button foot switch. The foot switch makes channel switching a breeze. It can be programmed to store and recall your presets for each channel and control the reverb too. The engineers at Marshall have designed the foot switch to work with a regular guitar lead so no special cable is required.

No head is complete without a cabinet and the 1960BV straight speaker cabinet is the perfect companion. Comprising 4 x 12' Celestions, the G12 Vintage 30's provide a warm, focused mid range response and smooth top end. There is still plenty of chunk without excessive bass boom.  Furthermore, this 280 watt cabinet can be run in mono or split into stereo mode. Its rated at 16/4 ohms running in mono or 8 ohms in stereo mode.

As well as having the ability to connect to virtually any cabinet, the JVM410 has a balanced direct out with speaker emulation. This makes it perfect for connecting directly into your audio interface for silent recording sessions at home that capture the glorious full roar of a 100 watt Marshall without complaints from the neighbours or more importantly, your significant other.

The JVM410 lives up to its name as a Vintage Modern classic. A feature rich, tone laden amp, this is the Marshall you need. Covering every base from the vintage JTM/Plexi era through to the classic JCM800's and into the high octane modern metal and high gain era and beyond, the JVM410 defines Marshall to a tee.


Iconic. Innovative. Tone. Versatile. And loud.

Very loud.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

It's Our 23rd Birthday Sale!

It's our birthday!! Twenty three years and still going strong as Logan City's best music shop we invite to party on with us. THANK YOU so much to all our loyal customers who continue to choose and support our business. To celebrate we have some amazing birthday specials going throughout the month of June. Here is a small selection to choose from our extensive list of birthday specials. There's plenty more in store too.

In Acoustic guitar land we have a Maton ER90C (see right) Dreadnought cutaway with the AP5 Pro pickup, Indian Rosewood back and sides, AA grade spruce top and Maton hardcase. We are also offering a Taylor 214 Sunburst Deluxe model too. It's great guitar with an upgraded Expression preamp system and a Taylor hardcase.

In Electric guitar land you can pickup an Ibanez Joe Satriani Signature Premium model for a steal. If you prefer something a bit more unique the Cort Sunset with a chambered body and TV Jones pickups is a bargain. We have some great deals going on Schecter guitars too!

Looking for a new electric guitar amp? Make sure you check out the DV Mark Galileo 15 watt tube head or the Little 40 L6 all tube head. Paired with the C112 cabinet you will have a killer boutique all tube rig.

Maybe you're looking something with more power. Well, how does the Blackstar Gus G Blackfire 200 watt 4 channel tube head with a free Blackfire 4x12 cabinet sound?

If combos are more your thing a Fender Ramparte Pawn Shop 1x12 9 watt all tube amp might be what you've been looking for.

We have a killer deal going on the awesome Tama Superstar Hyper-drive kit. This gig ready six piece kit is just waiting for you to add your cymbals and rock out with. It's very hard to beat if you're looking for a new ride.

Bass players, we haven't forgotten you. Fender's Modern Player Dimension Bass with its Triplebucker pickup covers every bass tone possible while the Vintage style Mustang short scale is great for guitarists transitioning into bass guitar world.

We have an amazing deal going on a pair of passive Mackie MAC300Z PA speakers, perfect for foldback wedges, or even FOH. These are seriously good bins going out at a crazy price.
If you're looking for a powered desk we have a Peavey XR1212 600 watt 12 channel board with digital effects. It's perfect for a house of worship, rehearsal space or small band.

Big band and school orchestra players have not been left out with some great prices on Yamaha Woodwind and Brass instruments too.

Come on down and join in the celebrations. Twenty three years and still rocking.

Thanks for making it happen!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Product Spotlight: Ibanez Electric Guitars

Ibanez started out in 1908 as sheet music and musical products distributor Hoshino-Gakki before taking on the name Ibanez in the 1930's when they started making guitars. The Ibanez name is associated with Spanish guitar maker Salvador Ibanez whose guitars Hoshino-Gakki started importing into Japan during the late 1920's.

Ibanez rose to prominence in the 1960's and 1970's borrowing from the design cues and styles of the two big American companies. Eventually Ibanez faced some legal issues given the headstock shapes they were using before a law suit concerning trademark infringements was settled out of court in 1978. These so-called 'lawsuit' era guitars are highly sought after owing to their build quality, tone, and materials used.

Ibanez were at the forefront of the guitar boom in the 1980's. Introducing the now famous RG models, these 'superstrats' were based on a Fender style guitar sporting some serious modifications. With sharp edges and pointed body horns, locking tremolo systems, 'shark-tooth' fret inlays, high output pickups, and flat, thin 24 fret necks, the RG's are designed for speed.

All throughout that decade and into the 90's, guitar wizards like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai continued to push the limits on what was possible on electric guitar and working closely with Ibanez developed their signature guitars such as the JS140 and Jem series. An innovative company, Ibanez has been a pioneer in the evolution of multi-string guitars. Such development demands the genesis of new products like new pickups and hardware that cater for guitars such as the Iron Labels, the RG7 and the RG8 range.

Many prominent players have selected Ibanez electric guitars as their guitar of choice for rock, shred, punk and metal in all its various forms and genres. These include Munky and Head from Korn, Paul Stanley from Kiss, Mick Thompson from Slipknot, Noodles from The Offspring, and Kiko Loureiro from Megadeth.

Not only have Ibanez excelled in making excellent solid body electrics, jazz masters George Benson, John Schofield and Pat Methany all choose Ibanez as their main guitar of choice showcasing the diversity, build quality, and tone of their Hollow Body, Artstar and Artcore range.

Here at The Music Spot we are proud to be the premium Ibanez dealer on the Brisbane's Southside covering all the bases from the entry level, budget friendly GIO, the excellent Premium series, the Artcore Hollow bodies, and even up to the top line Japanese made Prestige Series guitar range.

Come in and try one out today.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What Strings Do I Need? Part 2 - Electric Guitars

One of the products we are most asked for here at The Music Spot is strings. Our response is. “What sort?” which is often met with confusion or bewilderment. It's my hope this article will help you to choose the right strings for your electric guitar.

1. String Gauge and Construction
All guitar strings come in different thicknesses and sizes and are measured by the string's diameter in thousandths of an inch. The range of the set, from the thinnest to the thickest string, is referred to as the string gauge

Sets will range from extra light (8-38) to heavy (12-53). Jazz players may even go up to a 13-56 set for that thick, dark tone they are known for. There are sets specifically voiced for baritone guitars while altered and dropped tunings such as dropped C used in modern metal may require hybrid sets to compensate for the tuning used.

Generally speaking, the majority of guitar strings are constructed by wrapping a nickel plated wire around a steel core. However there are variations such as the use of a pure nickel wrap as opposed to a nickel plate, pure gold strings as used by Queen guitarist Brian May, stainless steel, and polymer coated nickel and steel to prolong string life. Each material offers different tonal properties, feel and overall sound for the individual player's preferences.

Another option some players go for is a flat wound string. The advantage of using a flat wound string is reduced finger noise when sliding up or down the strings. Jazz players and some bass players tend to go for this type of string.

Extra light strings such as a 7-38 set are what ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons uses and require a light touch. 8-38 is a common gauge in this category.

Light gauge string sets for electric guitar would range from 9-42 or 9-46 for a slight heavier bottom end. These gauges assist in bending strings, legato, and vibrato. They can feel fast to play too. Guys like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai use 9-42 gauge strings on their guitars.

Medium gauge string sets (10-46) is fitted to most new guitars in the shop and is a good all-round choice for most players. It is a perfect gauge for any style and for just strumming chords. If you need a bit more bottom end out of your guitar you could try a 10-52 gauge.

Heavy strings start at 11-48 and go up from there. If you're tuning down, the tension of heavier gauge strings will compensate for the looser feel. Using thicker strings on a guitar with a shorter scale length, e.g. a Les Paul or 335 style guitar, can feel the same in tension as a set of 10-46's on a Strat or Tele style guitar. It's a good idea to use heavy strings if you're drop tuning.

As a rule of thumb, thinner strings are generally easier to play, but won't sound as loud and may be prone to string breakages. Heavy gauges sound better but are harder to bend and play fast owing to their increased tension and thicker diameter across the string set.

Most string manufacturers produce a string set that covers all of these gauges. Check out Ernie Ball or D'addario for a starting point. Sometimes something as simple as changing a string gauge or brand will inspire fresh creativity and new tones.

2. Coated or Uncoated
Being made from metal, guitar strings will react with your skin and the atmosphere causing the string to corrode. Coated strings have a polymer coating that slows down the corrosion process. The result is strings that retain their tone, condition, and sound over a longer period than uncoated strings. A brand known for their coated electric guitar strings is Elixir.

3. Check the Bridge and Tremolo
There are three basic types of bridge system fitted to electric guitars: Fixed, 'Fender' style and Locking.

A fixed bridge is what a Telecaster (see left) , Les Paul or 335 (see right) style guitar will have. There is no tremolo arm or whammy bar fitted to the guitar. Generally it is possible to change between different string gauges without the guitar needing any setup work.

The second type of bridge is the Fender-style tremolo system (see left.) With this system, strings usually pass through the body of the guitar, travel over the saddles then up the neck to where they fix on the relevant machine head. Bear in mind that if you move to a different string gauge from the set the guitar was set up with in the factory it can change its feel. The increased tension of heavier strings, or the decreased tension of lighter gauge strings can cause the bridge to pull up or flatten out respectively. As a consequence the guitar will need some setup work for the new string gauge being fitted to optimise its playability.

The third variation is the locking bridge or Floyd Rose bridge (see right.) These units are specifically setup for the string gauge fitted in the factory. It is a counterbalance system whereby the string tension and the tremolo strings balance each other out to ensure tuning stability. Changing string gauges for these bridge types will require some setup work to ensure the system stays in tune and the spring/string balance is correctly balanced for best playability.

4. Choosing Your Strings
Here are some rules of thumb when asking for strings for your electric guitar.
  1. What sort of guitar do you play? 
  2. What type of bridge does it have - Fixed, 'Fender' style, Locking?
  3. What style do you play? 
  4. What is the sound I'm going for?
  5. Do you drop tune?
  6. What string gauge are you currently using? How does it feel?
  7. Coated or uncoated?
5. When Should I Change My Strings?
To keep your guitar sounding and feeling at its best, you should change your strings every 4-6 weeks of regular use. Old strings will develop tuning issues, sound dull, and lose sustain and volume. As they corrode, some strings will begin to feel rough when you run your finger along the strings. Older strings also increase the potential for breakage during play. Keeping your strings clean by wiping them down with a clean soft cloth after every playing session with help prolong the life of your strings.

If you're still unsure of what strings to buy, bring your guitar into The Music Spot and one of our friendly staff will assist in getting the right strings fitted for your instrument.