Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thinking about basses

My Squire 5-string Jazz bass just isn't speaking to me the way I wish it would. I'm thinking it may be time to replace it. I'm interested in a short-scale bass.

The Epiphone EB-0 is cool. The Interwebs says it has a terrible stock pickup though. People seem to like the DiMarzio Model One as a replacement pickup for it. And, honestly, one might want to replace both the tuners and the bridge. So a $230 guitar becomes a $425 guitar. But still, short scale, and very nice looking (I have a bit of a "thing" for Gibson style rather than Fender).

What's likely even cooler is the Epiphone Allen Woody Wildcat bass.
People seem to like the pickups. And quite honestly they're in a more reasonable position than the pickups in many Gibson/Epiphone basses. People still like to replace the bridge, maybe the tuners. But they seem to dig the pickups. This is a $450 bass.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

When do you use large-diaphragm vs small-diaphragm mics?

When do you use large-diaphragm mics? When do you use small ones?

I have no "rule" to answer this with. It always seems arbitrary which one is chosen for which instrument. But those choices seem to be fairly consistent once they're made:
Close-miked voices? Large diaphragm.
Choirs and distant-miked voices? Small diaphragm.
Violins? Small.
Cellos and basses? Large.
A very weird and specific (albeit reasonably-priced) collection of microphones.

Snare drums are inevitably small-diaphragm if you're gonna mic them (which everybody does but for me it doesn't work that great), but overheads become a matter of taste between whatever large or small diaphragm mics you have.

Acoustic guitars -- man, I don't know. I can go either way.

Electric guitar amps -- typically the close mic is small, but a mic 3' to 25' away? That one will typically be a large (if you use a distant mic on your guitar amp which I typically do not). 

Large diaphragm mics are more sonically colored.
Small diaphragm are more accurate.

Voices get too strident on small diaphragm mics.

Are these rules? No, they're just my general prejudices and opinions. There what I intuit when I go to mic things. And it troubles me that I don't have any more a firm grasp on the why and wherefores of using a particular microphone type on a particular instrument. But that's all I got.

Etymotic Pro High Fidelity first impressions

These are my first impressions of the Etymotic Music Pro High-Fidelity Electronic Musicians Earplugs. The short answers are:
  1. They sound great. 
  2. And they're worth the $300 and the pain in the tuchus of having to replace batteries like hearing aids. They do what they're supposed to do.
  3. Just having them in your ears is not like not having them in your ears. You can hear pretty much the same volume level but the frequency response is not like having nothing in your ears. 
And then these were my impressions as I thought of them.

  • The active part of them is a tad disorienting at first. And yeah, when they're in and stuff is happening at normal (quiet) volumes around you it doesn't sound quite as good as real life.
  • There's a switch on each ear to go from "enhanced hearing" (which is basically it acting like a hearing aid) with 9dB of protection, to "normal hearing" with the regular 15dB mode. I wish that switch would actually be an "off" and then "on" (15dB mode) so that you don't have to pop the batteries to keep them from draining.
  • Because the two earplugs aren't connected electrically the loss of "stereo" happens whenever a loud sound happens on one side of you but not the other. This is because one earplug turns stuff down while the other doesn't. This is why stereo processors for broadcast and the like are always "linked". In any case, it takes a bit of getting used to when one ear shuts down because of a train's brakes squealing or whatever.
  • I wore them for 3 hours straight and my ears were feeling a bit itchy. That's when I realized that I was wearing them for vastly longer than I usually wear earplugs -- because they weren't really dulling anything when I was out on the street. 
  • When they kick in they are smooth. You do not hear them "compress". Loud drums don't make them pump the way I would expect a regular compressor to do. It's sort of surprising to go from electric band in full-on rock-out mode (I won't say I dimed the Bassman I was playing through but I definitely had it on 8) to just chatting in the rehearsal room without noticing the changes in volume. They work great.
    I'm gonna imagine that in an acoustic situation where you want just one ear to shut down because there's a freaking trombone just a few feet away but you also want to hear your own violin, the Music Pro are the way to go.
  • On the way home from practice I was tired of having things in my ears so I put on my Howard Leight for the ride back. 
  • I may want to experiment with the fit and the placement because the Pros come with a million options. Nominally I try to avoid the foam kind because I find they're more fiddly, but those are an option as are different sizes of rubbery inserts.  I do appreciate the cleaning brush.
  • My impression is that they might be a bit more irritating because it's not one's instinct to immediately take them out when in a "non-dangerous" environment.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Musical Hearing Protection

I saw Turangalîla the other night. The New York Philharmonic can really play. After the performance I was talking to some of the musicians and they were complaining about how loud it was on the stage and that they had to wear hearing protection. I asked what kind and they said "Oh, the yellow kind." I was like "What?"
And they pulled out a pair and showed me.
I was aghast.

The cheapest, most awful, industrial earplugs are what they're using.
I mean yeah, I'm fairly vigilant about steering clear of hearing damage and I do, in fact, carry three entirely different kinds of hearing protection with me. So I showed him my inexpensive "musician's earplugs" which are vastly more musical than the yellow foam things.

One player pointed out that a thing about hearing protection is that they have to be able to put them in and take them out quickly. But even the cheap musician's ones have a thing you can grab to pull them out -- and the fact is you don't need to as much because your hearing is "flatter" than the high-end pillow the industrial plugs put in your ears (as well as the fact that you have to wait a moment to be sure they expand and start working).

I used to have custom Etymotics but my ears changed shape over the years and I went to soft ear plugs rather than the hard custom kind. I could go back and get a custom mold made again but I do sort of like the softness of the regular kind. But then...

Etymotics makes the Music Pro, which are like the musical, active version of Peltier shooters earplugs. $300 -- so they're even pricier than the custom-molded passive ones. But for musicians they look pretty amazing. I'll tell you more when I know more.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Various Night Gods issues

Music Makers is a rehearsal studio in Manhattan. We'll be doing a thing with Night Gods of the Sleeping Earth. I have to learn the words to Glory Box. I have trouble locating the first notes of that song. I think it's A to B when playing in Em.

We're going to try a cover of Superstition too -- as an instrumental -- and again in Em.

Moving the Blags

I'm re-consolodating my blogs.  I know, you wanted them separate. But my little mind just doesn't work that way. All my blogging -- ...