Sennheiser HD 380 Pro Headphones Review

The Sennheiser HD380 Pro Headphones are excellent in the studio or for casual listening as well.

Sennheiser HD380 Pro Headphones
Sennheiser HD380 Pro Headphones

   I’m not only a live performing musician but a studio musician and producer as well. I have tried dozens of different headphones over the years and almost invariably breathed a sigh of relief when an old pair died just so I would have an excuse to buy another pair. It seemed like finding the perfect pair of headphones was like searching for the holy grail. To be honest,  I still haven’t found that perfect pair of headphones but I have found a couple headphone solutions that have kept me satisfied for a while now.

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M-Audio Keystation 88es MIDI Keyboard Controller Review

The M-Audio Keystation 88es is an excellent USB powered MIDI Keyboard controller solution for your computer audio needs.

M-Audio Keystation 88es
M-Audio Keystation 88es

   This week on Live Musician Central I’ve been talking about creating a keyboard setup built around the incredible Reason Music Production Software by Propellerhead. Obviously the most essential component to have in addition to the software is a MIDI Keyboard Controller. Today I’m going to tell you about an extremely affordable MIDI Keyboard Controller that is built specifically for interfacing with a computer and Reason music software. The keyboard I’m going to discuss today is the M-Audio Keystation 88es.      Continue reading “M-Audio Keystation 88es MIDI Keyboard Controller Review”

Propellerhead Reason 4 Music Production Software Review

Reason 4 music production software is a must have software for all modern keyboard players. It’s invaluable in your home studio as well.

Reason 4.0 Rack Front
Reason 4.0 Rack Front

   When I started playing in live bands the hottest synthesizer on the market was the Yamaha DX7. Back then it was great to have a keyboard that could play lots of notes simultaneously and do a decent job of sounding like the instrument it was emulating. Most keyboard players brought multiple keyboards to the gigs and there was a lot of setup time involved. I remember spending hours working on the perfect soundpatches for my Roland keyboards. The thing about playing keyboards is you can never have too many sound options. It was an expensive proposition to be a keyboard player as it would cost the player thousands of dollars to get the necessary equipment to play in a live band. The dream was to have racks of synthesizer modules at your disposal to create the incredible soundscapes that you could hear in your head. But only the top paid musicians could afford to live that dream. The rest of us had to make do with whatever synthesizer equipment we could afford. It’s amazing how times have changed with the development of incredibly powerful, software based synthesizers like those found in Reason 4.0.

   If you’ve never heard of Reason which is developed by Propellerhead it’s basically a virtual studio rack into which you can load mixers, effects and synthesizer modules. If the equipment that you have access to in Reason 4.0 was sitting in a rack in your studio it would cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. You can place multiple copies of the same equipment into the rack to work with for sound creation. So if you want 15 analog synthesizers to work with, you got it. The virtual rack is infinitely expandable as long as your computer is powerful enough to run all the devices you can load into it. What types of devices can you load? Reason 4.0 comes with synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, REX file loop player, mixers, vocoder, studio effects, mastering tools, pattern sequencers and more! It’s amazing how many devices come in this software package. If you have the urge to load 11 compressors and 10 samplers with 5 synthesizers, you can do it. You can chain as many mixers together as you wish to mix all of your devices. You can keep adding gear until your computer chokes but it will take a lot to do that as Reason 4.0 is quite conservative on your system.

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How Graph Tech String Saver Guitar Saddles Saved My Les Paul Custom

My Gibson Les Paul Custom developed a severe string breakage problem. Find out how Graph Tech String Saver saddles saved it.

Gibson Les Paul Custom - Wine Red
Gibson Les Paul Custom - Wine Red

   I have a decent collection of guitars that I use with my live band. I use some of them regularly whenever my band plays and some I just keep to use in the studio. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about my Gibson Les Paul Custom. My Les Paul Custom has a beautiful Wine Red finish with gold hardware and it plays like butter. It’s a really great guitar and I have to say it’s almost as good as my Fender Stratocasters. I use the Les Paul Custom a lot when I play live and it has quite a bit of playing hours on it. I had been using it for about a year when it developed a severe problem with string breakage.

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Levy’s Boot Leather Guitar Strap Review

Levy’s Boot Leather Guitar Strap is the most comfortable strap I’ve ever used. It’s also the only strap I take to every gig I play.

Levy's Boot Leather Guitar Strap
Levy's Boot Leather Guitar Strap

   I have quite a few guitar straps kicking around my practice room. My friends and family know I’m a guitar playing live musician so I get a lot of guitar accessories as gifts including guitar straps. I also get a free guitar strap every time I buy a guitar. It’s nice to have extra guitar straps because I keep several guitars out within easy reach so I can practice. That being said, I only use one guitar strap live and it’s the most comfortable strap I’ve ever used. That guitar strap is the Levy’s Boot Leather Guitar Strap.

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Fender Road Worn Guitar Review

Review of the Fender Road Worn Guitar series. Maybe not the best choice for a new guitar.

Fender Road Worn Stratocaster
Fender Road Worn Stratocaster

   Today on Live Musician Central I’m going to talk about an interesting new phenomenon in the electric guitar industry. It’s the new fad of paying big bucks for beat-to-crap looking instruments. This isn’t really a new thing as other companies have built replicas of famous guitars that include all the dings, scratches and missing pieces of the guitar they’re replicating. A really famous one is the Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein Replica Guitar that is just beat to hell right out of the box. I hear it’s exactly like Eddie’s and it can be yours for a mere $25,000. That’s right, twenty-five thousand dollars! Is that really worth it? I guess if you want to be “exactly like Eddie” then you’d shell out that kind of money. But today we’re talking about full factory production runs of “aged” brand new guitars.

    Fender has just released their much publicized line of Fender Road Worn electric guitars. These guitars are supposed to look and play like a vintage 40 to 50 year old instrument. I’m sure that this phenomenon has come about because of the insane prices that people are paying for actual forty to fifty year old guitars. I’m sure Fender is thinking “Why not cash in?”. Well I’m here to disagree with this fad of fake vintage instruments. Let me tell you why.

   First of all, let me say that I believe the best instrument is a brand new instrument that has never been handled by anyone but the final player. I personally feel like the new guitar technology is the best technology. Let’s take a look at my favorite guitar, the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster as an example. The locking tuners are the easiest to string of all the tuners and hold their tuning the best. The Samarium Cobalt pickups are noiseless and produce single coil pickup tones without the 60Hz hum. The two-point synchronized tremolo  is very low friction and holds it’s tuning extremely well. The bridge pieces are solid blocks of metal that transfer string vibration better than the bent steel pieces used on the Road Worn series. All of this technology is the latest and greatest and it performs the best for gigging.

   Now let’s take a look at the Road Worn series. As I said before they’re supposed to look like 40-50 year old instruments. I’d like to add that they look like 40-50 year old, poorly cared for instruments. I look at my guitars that are a mere 25 years old and they have some nicks and scratches but nowhere near the amount of road rash, scratches and dings the Road Worn series is adorned with. The true vintage instruments that are in this poor of shape lose a lot of their market value compared to “like new” vintage instruments. I’ve heard people make the argument “But a well played instrument plays better than a new one”. I’d like to know how rash and dings all over the beautiful nitrocellulose finish make these guitars play better? I can tell you from experience that what makes a guitar play better is freshly crowned frets and a perfectly intonated bridge. I’m not buying into this whole “if it’s beat up it plays better” rubbish.

   There are a few nice features on the Road Worn guitars. They have a nitrocellulose finish which is excellent for letting the wood breathe and nitrocellulose looks fabulous when brand new. On the Road Worn guitars, at least you’ll get the breatheability advantage for the wood but the finish is basically ruined with all the aging. Another nice feature is the soft “V” shape neck which does feel very comfy in your hands and having some of the finish rubbed off will make the neck feel a bit smoother. The single coils are the Tex-Mex Stratocaster pickups so you’ll have very good output along with the hum. Sadly, the guitars only come with a gig bag and not a case. Then again, why do you need to waste time putting a beater guitar into a case?

   My recommendation if you can’t afford the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster is to buy a Fender American Standard Stratocaster instead of a Road Worn Stratocaster. You’ll pay the same price for an American Standard Stratocaster as you will a Road Worn Stratocaster and you’ll get a case, better bridge and staggered tuners in the bargain. Plus, you’ll know where every single ding, scratch and dent came from 15 years after you buy it.

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Beginner Electric Guitar Package – Fender Affinity Strat HSS With G-Dec Amp

Recommended beginner electric guitar package. The Fender Affinity Strat HSS G-DEC Junior amp package.

Fender Affinity Strat HSS With G-DEC Junior Amplifier
Fender Affinity Strat HSS With G-DEC Junior Amplifier

Once people find out that I’m a guitar player in a live band  they will often start asking questions about how to get started playing guitar themselves. I usually tell them “You just gotta want it!” and then of course the practical questions start such as “What kind of guitar should I buy?”. I get a lot of people asking me what kind of guitar they should buy for their kids to learn on as well. I often have people tell me they already play acoustic guitar but want to get into playing electric guitar. My opinion is you just need to fork out the money and buy a really good instrument. I always recommend the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster since it’s the guitar I use and you will have an excellent instrument that you can grow into. The problem is, most people don’t want to shell out that kind of money when they’re just starting out. So today I’m going to recommend a beginner package that will give you an excellent start into the wonderful world of electric guitar playing. I highly recommend the Fender Affinity Strat HSS with G-DEC Junior Amp package. Let me tell you why.    Continue reading “Beginner Electric Guitar Package – Fender Affinity Strat HSS With G-Dec Amp”

Introducing The EVH Wolfgang Electric Guitar

The EVH Wolfgang Guitar designed and tested by Eddie Van Halen, built by Fender.

EVH Wolfgang Guitar
EVH Wolfgang Guitar

    If you’ve been reading Live Musician Central for long then you know I’m a certified Fender products junkie. Don’t get me wrong, I own a Gibson Les Paul Custom and I love it but not as much as I love my Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster. So I was really stoked when I read about Fender building a custom guitar for Eddie Van Halen. That guitar is branded and named the EVH Wolfgang. It’s got some really amazing specs and according to Eddie himself the EVH Wolfgang Guitar is exactly the same as the instrument he plays live. In an interview for Guitar World magazine, Eddie is quoted as saying “The Wolfgang is a culmination of my 35 years of experimenting with guitars. Everything that I’ve destroyed, stumbled onto, learned and experienced in my journey to get to where we are now is in this guitar.”

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Build Finger Strength With Hanon “The Viruoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises”

Playing Hanon-The Virtuoso Pianist will keep your fingers strong and dexterous.


Hanon - The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises
Hanon - The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises

If you’re a live musician that plays guitar, bass or keyboards then you know that having good finger strength and coordination is essential to mastering your instrument. If you ever took piano lessons then you’ve probably run across the piano exercise book by Charles-Louis Hanon titled “The Virtuoso Pianist In Sixty Exercises“. I remember my piano teacher asking me at the beginning of every lesson to play my “Hanon Exercise”. Because the name “Hanon” was the largest word on the cover of the book we all just called it Hanon. I’ll tell you, those exercises were easy to learn, quickly became boring and built my finger strength and coordination in a way that few things have over the years. I owe a lot of my hand strength to good old Hanon.

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Perfect Club Speakers – JBL JRX125 Dual 15″ 2-Way Speaker

JBL JRX125 Speaker

Probably the most critical item that you will need to purchase as you become a performing live musician is a great pair of speakers. The success of your live band really depends on how well your sound is translating live and the speakers are the voicebox of your band. Today I’m going to tell you about my JBL JRX125 speakers and how well they have served my music.

I have owned my JBL JRX125’s for about 2 years now and have had no problems whatsoever with them. Visually the speakers are very nice looking with a rugged 18-guage steel mesh grille and a cloth covering. They have recessed handles on the sides and will accept both 1/4″ and Speakon connectors. The JBL nameplate on the grille and handles is nice and understated and keeps the speakers very professional looking.   Continue reading “Perfect Club Speakers – JBL JRX125 Dual 15″ 2-Way Speaker”