Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Scientist's Top 8 Reasons to Play Guitar

Have you ever wondered why guitarists seem so laid back and loose on stage?

Some top guitarists even appear to stay sprightly and youthful (acting) forever, Lemmy and Keith Richards spring to mind. Obviously being very rich and very famous means they have access to the best health care going, but there has to be more to it than that. Maybe it's the thrill and exhilaration of doing what they love for a living? Or could it be the excitement of playing their guitars to thousands?

Scientists have looked into this phenomenon and come up with several reasons as to why playing a guitar can be good for you. 

Maybe, it seems that playing your Strat could boost your brainpower, sex-life, six pack and more. 

Find out how...

1) Feel The Pleasure
You don't need legions of fans to feel great playing your guitar. Neuroscientists at McGill university have found that hearing music releases dopamine in the brain, the same chemical that's release during sex. So playing your guitar on your own or in front of others can be equally as much fun. You can create your own jokes for this one!

2) Stress Free
Playing guitars has been found to help you release stress. A dual study from the Mind-Body Wellness Center and Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems concluded that you can reduce stress on a genomic level by playing an instrument. So rocking out can reverse the pressure you feel in daily life, whether it's money or relationship stress, pulling out your guitar can ease the worries.

3) Feel The Pain
Many people suffer chronic pain that requires constant medication to be kept under control. Well, according to a study from the University of Utah’s Pain Research Center, listening to music can take your mind off, and thereby reduce, pain.
4) Brain Power Turned Up To 11
A recent Scottish study says if you play the guitar—or any musical instrument—you’re likely to have a high brain activity and function, this has the added benefit of helping to prevent mental decline in later life. 
5) Is Your Heart In it?
Scientists in the Netherlands found that patients who practised music for more than 100 minutes a day showed a significant drop in blood pressure and a lower heart rate than those who didn't. Three of the people studied were guitarists, enough said.
6) Give Me The Money
Not everyone can headline Glasto/Download/Your festival of choice, however, playing guitar could help you become richer. Research from Michigan State University found that musicians who picked up an instrument at an early age and proceeded to learn and play through adulthood had a higher chance of becoming successful in business. Much of their research points to higher instances of launching successful invention—registering patents, starting businesses, and publishing pieces.
7) Give Your Brain a Workout
Even if you're stuck in the office all day, musicians are still giving their brain a workout. According to a Cambridge University study, musicians remain creative even when they’re not playing their instruments. The research found musicians generally visualise music as shapes, this processing acts as a form of practice. This is a highly creative way of learning and can help in many different endeavours.

8) Build That Six Pack
If your band has a demo recently recorded, take it to the gym and see the benefits straight away! Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences found that music isn't just fun to listen to while working out it—it actually made exercising less exhausting for study participants. Not to mention if you're a gym goer you'll know about the energy boost one of your favourite songs can give you to go a little harder.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

27 Unusual And Creative Guitars

The guitar is more than just an instrument. It is a way of life, it is freedom, creativity. It is joy, frustration, love and every emotion in between. The humble guitar can also be a work of art in its own right. Take a look at these beauties below if you don't believe us! Do they play well? Who really cares?

1. Backbone Guitar

2. Mario Guitar

3.  Gibson 'Bonrich' Les Paul

4. 2006 Hamer Little Uncle Dick

5. Dragon Guitar

6. Bigfoot Guitar

7. Axe Guitar

8. Lego Guitar

9. Jerry Can Guitar

10. Angel Guitar

11. B Wing Guitar

12. Pacman Guitar

Leaf Guitar

14. Steampunk Guitar

15. Chinese Dragon guitar

16. Ikon Arachnoid

17. ESP Shinigami

18. Hand Guitar

19. Skateboard Guitar

20. Lava Guitar

21. AK47 Guitar

22. Flaming Skull Guitar

23. Scissor Guitar

24. Castrol Guitar

25. Alien Guitar

26. Cadillac Guitar

27. NES Guitar

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Top 5 Summer Rock Songs...

It seems that British summer has finally arrived, so there is no time like the present to line up your favourite summer jams on the stereo. We've picked just a few of the amazing summer rock songs out there and some personal favourites, but don't forget to let us know what yours are. Also don't forget to make sure to enjoy the good weather whilst you can!

1) 'Summer in the City'
The Lovin' Spoonful

In the summer of 1966 this was the anthem that reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Originally written as a poem by front man John Sebastian's brother mark, this is an amazing summer song. An ode to the electric vibe of a sunny day in a big city, it doesn't get much better. The type of songs that rocks hard but still allows you have a good dance, a classic.

2) 'Here Comes the Sun'
The Beatles

Compared to Lennon and McCartney George Harrison may not have written many of the Beatles songs. However, when he did they were some of their best tunes and certainly some of the catchiest pop numbers. This is a perfect summer pop song and is the perfect ode to the early days of the summer. The feeling that better days are ahead, runs throughout this classic. Harrison wrote the tune using Eric Clapton's acoustic guitar while visiting "Slowhand" at his house.

3) 'Summertime Blues'
The Who
A cover of Eddie Cochran's 1958 hit. The Who changed this into edgy hard-rocking number as part of their live shows. The 1970 'Live at Leeds' concert album was a classic and this this cover is one of the reasons. Daltrey attacks the bluesy tone of the original alongside Pete Townsend's hard rocking guitar riffs. There was a studio version discovered in 1998, but the live version is still great.

4) 'Long Hot Summer Night'
Jimi Hendrix Experience
The long hot summer nights are some of life's greatest pleasures. On this track Hendrix musically cuts through the humidity of a sweltering evening and lets us know "my baby's comin' to rescue me". The bluesy track boasts a piano contribution from Al Kooper and has Hendrix on all the vocal tracks. 

5) 'Summer Nights'
Van Halen
Having fun in the summertime is one of our favourite things to do and the Van Halen guys certainly agree. On the bands first album without David Lee Roth, 1986's '5150', Hagar sings about what he knows best: having fun in the summertime. Chuck in some great guitar licks from Eddie Van Halen and this is the complete package, party time!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Scientists find Guitarists' Brains are Wired Differently

The debate about whether we are born with talent or develop it is a contentious issue that has rumbled on for years, both sides of the argument have looked to science for answers and a new report tells us the answer may lie in our brain chemistry. 
As reported in Policy Mic, the recent studies on the issue have produced some interesting results. People often talk about "onstage chemistry" between musicians and science now suggests this could be a real thing. The study has found that the brains of guitar players actually function differently to everyone else.
 A 2012 study in Berlin shows us that  musicians playing together can actually synchronise their brains. Scientists scanned the brains of 12 pairs of guitar players performing the same piece of music, astonishingly it was revealed that the guitarists' neural networks would synchronise for the performance and incredibly slightly before they started playing. They were in a way reading each others' minds.
Neural research also indicates that this ability to synchronise may stem from a guitarists overarching intuition. In another study looking at the neuroscience of improvisation, scientists found that guitarists can momentarily deactivate regions of their brain when improvising or playing complicated pieces. This means they shift to a state of unconscious thought, which means they really are "in the zone".
The right temporoparietal junction is the region of the brain that typically deactivates in situations of “goal-directed behaviour”. This acts to inhibit distraction by irrelevant stimuli (hecklers or bottle throwers etc) that might impair the performance. When a non-musician attempts to perform this is not the case, they are acutely aware of these detractions, this indicates a brain scan could in fact tell the guitar Gods from the hobbyists.
Although, it doesn't conclusively prove this neural behaviour is inherent. The brain revises and remodels itself throughout our lives, so we can develop skills we weren't born with.
The renowned neuroscientist Gary Marcus tackled this issue in his 2012 book Guitar Zero, throughout the book he tried to discover whether musical skill and talent can be acquired later in life. He himself tried to learn guitar for the first time age 40 and looked at a number of musicians who arrived at their talent later in life.
As we all know, and feel, guitar playing isn't just about the chemicals in our brains. Its about the way it makes us feel.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Spotting A Counterfeit Guitar

Counterfeits are a global problem, just last week over a million dollars worth of fake guitars were seized in Jersey City. Clearly, the world is awash with fake guitars, so what can be done to combat the problem?

The manufacture is out of our sphere of influence, generally taking place in China. What we can do is spread the word and make sure people know how to spot a fake, and more importantly - avoid buying them in the first place.

Here are some common features of counterfeit guitars and the places that sell them:

  • Foreign websites selling branded guitars for less than the standard retail price should be treated with suspicion.
  • Many counterfeits are sold on sites like eBay. If you find a bargain it is recommended that you ask for detailed photos of the guitar to ascertain its legitimacy.
  • Look for stamps such as 'Made In The USA' on the guitar headstock which may be printed off centre, look off colour or of inferior quality.
  • Look closely at the logo and compare it with photos of photos from the manufacturers website. The real thing is manufactured to very specific standards. If the logo or any other markings are even slightly out of place or misaligned it could indicate a fake. Likewise, if the logo appears stretched, distorted or has a fatter (or thinner font) that is also a good sign that it could be fake.

  • If you are able to see the guitar in person, play it. Take note of the weight and the sound. If it sounds tinny chances are it's fake. If it feels too light, it is probably fake. This is due to the lower quality wood that is used to cut costs.
  • Many guitars come with a hard case or bag as standard. Check to see if the one you are looking comes with one. If not, yet it does from other retailers then it may be a fake
  • Look for 'Authorized Dealer' logos on the website of the retailer. Most authorised dealers will proudly feature the logos of the manufacturers they stock.
  • Fender guitars generally feature a serial number on the headstock. You can check the number on the Fender website which will give you the date of manufacture.
  • Gibson serial numbers are embossed and can be found on the wood at the back of headstock. As with Fender, serial numbers can be checked on Gibson's website.

As the age old saying goes: If it looks too good to be true then it probably is. Do your research before buying from a website that you aren't familiar with. If they are selling fakes then someone else will have probably mentioned it somewhere already. If you can't find any feedback good or bad about a retailer then it may be wise to err on the side of caution.

If you buy from a well known retailer with a proven track record such as Strings Direct then you really can't go wrong. Plus, in the unlikely event that the guitar is faulty or you are not happy with it you will be fully covered by guarantees, returns and refund policy and all that other good stuff you expect as a consumer.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Fans (And Bands) Behaving Badly

There is a kind of sick, cringe-worthy joy to be found in watching others fail and make fools of themselves. Whether it's bands or fans, there's plenty of that to be found in live music. In this post we will take you on a journey through live music mishaps, drunken anger and barefaced assault.

We of course don't condone violence, and must warn you some of these videos contain strong language!

Nickelback Booed Off Stage In Portugal

Nickelback decide to go home after having rocks thrown at them at a metal festival in Portugal.

Guns 'n' Roses Booed Off Stage In Ireland

The band receives a hostile reception in Ireland after appearing late with no apology from front man, Axl.

Ashley Simpson Booed At Orange Bowl

Fans are less than impressed by Ashley Simpsons energetic performance at Orange Bowl halftime performance.

Nine Inch Nails Halt Performance Of 'Hurt'

Nine Inch Nails abort their song 'Hurt' after receiving some critical feedback from a member of the audience. Lead singer Trent appears to be quite hurt by the comment, and the band switches to a more upbeat track. Watch out for the keyboard falling over with perfect comedic timing.

Brendon Urie Of Panic! At The Disco Knocked Out At Reading 2006

Lead Singer Of Panic! At The Disco is knocked out by a bottle thrown at Reading Festival in 2006. Their performance resumed after Brendon was checked over by paramedics.

My Chemical Romance Dodging bottles at Download 2007

I was there for this one, and never have I seen so many airborne bottles. To the bands credit, I think they managed to avoid every single one! Their determination was quite impressive.

Axl Rose Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

Axl interrupts the show to tell a member of tha audience with a camera to stop shooting. He urges security to take action before leaping into the crowd himself to take matters into his own hands. After delivering justice he climbs back onto the stage and storms off with the rest of the band.

Noel Gallagher Floored On Stage

Noel Gallagher is pushed over by an over enthusiastic fan at an Oasis gig.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

10 Top Tips for Playing an Acoustic Guitar Live

Whether you're making your tentative first steps onto the acoustic open mic circuit or if your a seasoned veteran who gigs all over the place, there is always room for improving your sound and standing out from the pack. 

The following are 10 tips which should help you improve your sound and performance. 

1) The Sound Engineer is all Powerful

Sound engineers are often notoriously difficult and it seems every musician has a story about an awful sound engineer. The truth is that like most things in life respect is a two way street and they're often on the receiving end of untold rudeness. 

Simply put the person sitting behind the mixing desk has the power to make you sound good or bad, being polite and calling them by their name will enamour them to you, especially when compared to what they usually have to deal with. So if you want to sound great, you know who to speak to.

2) Get on your Feet!

Unless you're playing in a big venue or a guitar superstar, stand up while playing. People will be more engaged by your performance, your body is more loose and open and if you sing it will help you sound a lot better.

3) Acoustic Amps are Great

They might be expensive, but they're essential for a serious live acoustic guitar player. You can control your sound to a much greater degree and everyone will be able to hear you properly. 

4) Strap Up

Acoustics can be really bulky and cumbersome, wearing the strap shorter shorter than on an electric will make them more comfortable and easier to play. 

5) Have a Tuner on Hand

A floor tuner as a separate unit or built into your preamp/effects unit, is not only great for making you sound good, but you can mute your guitar when needed. 

6) Get Fresh Batteries 

New batteries may be very expensive, but they need to be fresh to provide a strong signal. They also need changing regularly, and having a spare ready in the bag for a gigs is essential.

7)  Fight the Feedback

No don't fight critics of your performance, eliminate the horrible noises. Your guitar should a manuel notch filter on the preamp. Once feedback begins, turn the notch filter until it goes away.

8) Know what Hertz

Make sure you're guitar compliments any other instruments and cut back on frequencies which will muddy the sound. Take away some of the 70-80Hz bass sounds and if you're in a band cutting off some of the 600-800Hz can do wonders for your clarity.

Increasing the 1-1.5Hz can help you cut through in any situation. 

9) Band of Bother

Cutting back on the frequencies inhabited by other instruments, such as the bass guitar, can help improve the mix. It's important to get the mix correct rather than every instrument sounding perfect.

10) Make it Right

Don't damage your guitar cable or base, use a right-angled jack. This should stop any potential damage to your prized possession.

If anyone has any other tips, please let us know in the comments or on social media.