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A Guide to Stick to: 5 Tips for Buying Drum Sticks

Posted on October 04, 2015

 

From the very beginning of your drumming experience, the right stick choice can make all the difference. Choosing the right stick can be a daunting task, but taking these important factors and characteristics will help you on the quest for your perfect pair:

 

Thickness
Perhaps one of the most important factors to take into the account is the thickness of the drum stick as this dictates its weight and potential durability. The weight of your stick is very important both regarding the style of music for which the sticks will be used for and also your own technique/playing style as using a stick that is too heavy, for example, can lead to discomfort when playing.
A general rule of thumb is that the thicker (heavier) the stick, the harder it will impact the given surface, thus generating a louder, heavier sound. A thicker stick also tends to be more durable therefore it may be more suitable for harder hitters. Lighter sticks can be used for lighter playing styles. Sticks are often categorized using a code of a number followed by a letter which will help you quickly decide which stick is correct, and although some manufacturers may alter this code a basic thing to remember is that the number correspond to the general weight (i.e 5, 7 etc) and the letter corresponds to its desired application. Most common sticks types are 5A (A = Orchestra), 5B (B = Band) and 5S (S = Street). 
Length
Much like the thickness, the length of the stick can have an affect on how its feels whilst playing. Choosing the right length of stick lies more within your personal preference as opposed to the music that you play. Longer sticks will feel slightly heavier, however when coupled with a preferred taper (discussed later) it can give the feeling of a lighter stick with a heavier impact. Common lengths are 15" and 16".
Taper/Shoulder
Again, the taper will have an effect on the overall feel of the stick, both regarding weight and how it moves through the air. The taper will generally be more severe on the heavier sticks and more gradual on the lighter ones. 
Tip
Unlike the other aspects of the stick, the tip does not affect the way that it plays however it does affect the sound that is generate on impact which is crucial if you are looking for a specific sound. Sticks are generally categorized into two types of tip, wood and nylon. Nylon tips will sound brighter, especially on the cymbals. Tips can also come in different shapes, which can effect to tone. The most common types are Olive (Warm, low tones, higher durability), Round (Bright, focused) and also Barrel (Mid tones).
Material
As can be imagined the most common type of material used for sticks is wood, however the choice of wood can have an effect on the weight and durability of your stick. The most common woods used are Rosewood, Hickory, Maple and Japanese Oak. Rosewood is more dense than the softer Maple, and Hickory is harder still. And finally Japanese Oak is extremely hard, and generally heavier. Other materials used are Carbon fiber, graphite and aluminium to name a few. Some sticks also come with rubber 'butt' for better grip.
Although it may seem like a lot to take in, just remember its all about how they feel in your hands! We have a vast range of sticks to try and choose, including sticks from the two world leading brands, Vic Firth and Pro Mark. We also have a range of VF and PM 'Signature' or 'Artist' sticks which often stray from the conventional styles to suit the given artist, and they may just suit you!
So feel free to come down to the store and see what suits you today!

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Ukuleles - Not what you think!

Posted on January 13, 2015
'Ukuleles aren't real instruments are they?' is a phrase that I here far too often.

It's at this point that I feel the urge to sit the skeptical customer down and ask 'Pugs aren't real dogs, are they?' 'Fender squires aren't real guitars, are they' and a myriad of other questions that they would hopefully easily object to. 

So why do so many people assume ukuleles lack the integrity and potential of other instruments? Mind you, many of us have been scarred by a fleet of young primary school children bashing out dissonant renditions of Christmas songs, but this is just one side (fortunately) that opens up a gateway to a whole new world of music, whether that be via education, or interesting arrangements of your favourite classic-rock songs.

So yes.

Ukulele's are real instruments!

In fact, ukuleles have been in production since the late 1800's, making them one of the first instruments to be widely distributed, because of their size and affordability. So ukuleles aren't just for pre-schoolers playing in unison - pretty neat, huh? In saying that, once some non-believers get over the fact that, yes indeed, they can be just as versatile as any other instrument, it's difficult to tell where to start when purchasing a ukulele. Whether you are a seasoned pro, or a beginner looking for a bit of fun, the possibilities are endless, really.

SIZE MATTERS

Before selecting your ukulele, it's helpful to recall that there are four different sizes of ukulele; Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. Gradually increasing in size respectively, each ukulele type listed above instigate different sounds, and body sizes that can affect projection, comfort, and overall play-ability.

The most common size, and also the smallest of the ukulele family, the Soprano, is often the most popular because of it's size and mid-range volume levels. This provides players with the confidence that they will be easy to transport, and they will be able to sing-along with the instrument without being drowned out by the volume, unlike some acoustic guitars. This size also works great for younger children, and song-writers who want an easy-access tool that won't break their backs on long tube journeys.

Concert ukuleles, which are the second smallest of the ukulele family, are slightly more versatile than their smaller counterparts, as they usually have longer bodies, and more frets. This may enhance the experience of the instrument, such as using a capo to change the key of the instrument, along with slightly larger frets which may be an easier transition for guitar players. This size is most popular with guitarists who are seeking a bit more versatility with the instrument, and those with larger hands who find that soprano ukuleles might just be a bit too small.

p>The two remaining sizes of ukulele- Tenor and Baritone, offer more versatility in size and warmer, richer tones because of their larger sizes. These ukuleles are recommended for those who are looking for a larger body type that will feel more like a small guitar, rather than just a ukulele. However, since these ukuleles have larger bodies, they will not usually sound as bright as their smaller cousins, which has it's pros and cons.

As far as body types go, there is no right or wrong answer to which size of ukulele trumps over the others. The type of ukulele depends on what one is looking for as far as sound, size, timbre, and volume.

If you're still not convinced, we offer a range of Guitar-ukuleles - and don't fret, they have 6 strings if you are unwilling to convert to the GCEA standard ukulele tuning.

MATERIALS

The next factor in choosing a ukulele is considering what kind of sound you are looking for. Although the size of the body is a large factor, the types of wood and their combinations are another key factor to consider if you're looking for a specific sound.

Spruce ukuleles, which are lighter in colour, tend to provide a brightener sound, whereas ukuleles made out of darker woods such as mahogany will provide a warmer and richer tone.

If you're after something in between, we stock Cordoba ukuleles made out of Ovankgol. This wood is similar to rosewood, but it has a slightly fuller mid-range sound.

We stock ukuleles made out of all of all the woods listed above and more, so you can find the exact sound and timbre you are looking for. Remember: different combinations of woods on the backs, sides, and fronts of the ukuleles will give you different sounds.

STRINGS

Ukuleles use a nylon string slightly softer than the strings you would find on a standard classical guitar. They are easy on the fingers, making ukulele a great instrument for beginners, young children, and all musicians alike!

The most popular brand of strings are Nygut strings made by Aquila. These strings come stock on most of our models, including Cordoba, Laka, and Kala.

If you are just starting out, or playing for fun, the type of string doesn't matter too much- but if you're looking for a string that will last longer, and add a bit of extra 'oomph' to your sound, then it might be worth considering the switch, for only a few pounds more.

In conclusion, even though it may seem like a daunting task to chose a ukulele now that you know there are so many options, fear not- it's easier and more exciting than you may think, and the staff here at Rose Morris are happy to help you find the perfect fit.

And if you're still not convinced, check out Jake Shimabukuro's version of a beloved Queen classic.

 

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Individual Pedals or a Multi-Effects Unit?

Posted on December 29, 2014

We're often asked which is better, a pedal board of individual pedals or a multi-effects unit. As is often the case with questions of this ilk, the answer isn't straightforward, and often depends on your own needs.

Below is a list of the pros and cons of both systems.

Individual Pedals

+ If a pedal is dedicated to one thing, chances are it'll be bloody good at it.

+ If you ever fall out of love with a certain pedal, it's easy to replace.

+ Easy to quickly adjust settings on the fly.

+ No complicated programming or firmware updating to do.

+ You never have to have more effects than you actually use.

- Tricky if you need to switch on more than one effect at a time.

- Takes up a lot of space.

- Generally a more expensive route if you need a lot of effects.

- Batteries go flat on stage, or you need countless power cables.

- More elements to go wrong (pedals, cables, batteries etc.)

 

Multi-effects Units

+ All the effects you could possibly need, all in one convenient box.

+ One cable connection on stage, minimising cable spaghetti.

+ Generally cheaper if you intend to use the majority of effects.

+ No more tap-dancing to turn on multiple effects at once.

+ Have got VERY good in recent years.

- If you don't like a certain effect, you're stuck with it.

- Often needs pre-programming which can be intimidating.

- Quality of the effects tends not to be as good as individual pedals unless you spend a lot of money on it.

- Not easy to adjust sounds on the fly.


This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you some things to consider. There are options that circumvent many of these problems.  For example, you can program control floor units to switch on multiple pedals at once, and even switch amp channels at the same time, meaning you can leave the pedals off-stage. Many of these are very expensive though, and aimed at pro touring players who couldn't live without one.

Our advice is this - make a list of all the effects you know you need.  If this list goes on a bit, and many of them will be used at once, maybe a multi-effects pedal is for you. If realistically you only use an overdrive and a bit of delay, you might be better served with individual pedals.

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Getting to the Crunch of the Matter - Overdrives and Distortions

Posted on December 10, 2014

Sometimes, the amount of gain your amp's pre-amp stage produces just isn't enough for the music you're playing, or it might not have the tonal characteristics you're after for a particular song.  This is the time when you might want to consider an overdrive or distortion pedal to add to your rig.

So, what's the difference?  Well, an overdrive pedal increases the signal strength going to the power amp stage of the amp to the point where you will get a nice 'break-up', by which we mean a subtle distortion of the blues/classic rock style.  Setting the gain knob low on an overdrive will add warmth to the tone without necessarily creating a 'breaking-up' sound.  A distortion pedal takes things to the next level, boosting the signal further to get a more distorted, heavy rock or metal tone.  These can have different characteristics, from a straight-forward good-ol' British Marshall crunch to the mid-scooped modern US metal tones, so it's definitely worth trying as many as you can to find the sound you're after.

Generally speaking, overdrives and distortion pedals come before the pre-amp, that is to say, not in an effects loop.  However, we certainly don't want to discourage such experimentation; that's half the fun, and many people like the sound of 'power amp distortion'.

Overdrive pedals are also often used as a boost for an already distorted sound, especially for solo sections, so don't discount the value of one in your rig even if you love the sound of your amp cranked to 11!

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Getting Your Effects in Order

Posted on November 20, 2014

Even if you buy the best possible effects boxes, you might find they don't quite sound like they did in the store.  The first thing to check is that they are in the right order in the chain.

There is also a lot to be said for experimenting with this to find your sound, but there are some broad 'rules' you can follow to get started.

A typical chain before the amp would be in the following order:

Guitar -> filters/compressors -> overdrives/distortions -> amp

In the amp's FX loop (if it has one), the order would continue:

Modulations (chorus, phaser etc.) -> time based effects (delays and reverbs)

If your amp doesn't have a dedicated FX loop, then these would come between the overdrive/distortion stage and the amp.

So why this order?  Well, it's all to do with where you want the effect to be in the chain, relative to other stages.  For example, it would be very unusual to place a delay at the front of the chain, because the tone that would result would be a delayed signal being distorted, rather than a distorted signal being delayed.  Try it for yourself and you'll hear the difference; the latter is far clearer and 'cleaner' than the former.  The same can be said of the distortion pedals.  These are most commonly used to drive the signal going into the amp, pushing it harder to create a boosted, more distorted signal.  Placed in the FX chain, you'd be colouring the tone of the pedal, taking it away from it's natural voice.  This ISN'T necessarily a bad thing if that's the sound you're after, but it is far more unusual.

Pedals such as volume pedals can appear anywhere in a chain depending upon what you would like it to do.  For a simple volume control, the volume pedal would come at the end of the chain.  However, placed BEFORE the distortion pedal, it acts like the gain knob on the pedal itself, allowing you to control how much the signal is distorted.

Have fun experimenting - that's half the fun!

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Stagg SA30A Acoustic Guitar Range

Posted on October 29, 2014

Take a look at this video from Stagg about their brand new SA30 acoustic guitars.  A great guitar for beginner and aspiring guitarists.  Available in store now for only £109! 

 

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Guitar Effects - The Basics

Posted on October 07, 2014

So you've got the guitar playing like a dream and you amp is set JUST so, but you want to go further; add that certain 'Je ne sais quoi' to your tone.

What you might be after is a guitar effect of some sort.  Here, we look at the common categories of effect.  In later blogs, we'll cover each in more depth, and show to integrate them into your rig.

Effects broadly fit into four categories; filters and EQs, overdrives and distortions, modulation effects and time-based effects such as delays and reverbs.

Filters and EQs include effects such as envelope filters, sweep filters such as the wah pedal and EQ units, usually ranging from 5 to 10 bands. Filter effects can have very subtle or very extreme effects on the tone by changing the frequency limits on the sound.  EQs are more used to shape a general sound, boosting bass response while cutting down on treble frequencies, for example.

Overdrives and distortions add 'crunch' or 'gain' to an amp's sound by driving the pre-amp harder.  Overdrives tend to be less severe, and used for classic rock and blues music, and are often used to 'warm up' the tone of the amp.  Distortion pedals tend to be more extreme, and can be used for rock and metal genres, adding massive amounts of gain for that 'heavy' sound.

Modulation effects are where the real fun comes in.  This encompases many different effects, but the most common are chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, octave effects and so on. They take the guitar sound and 'modulate' and shape it, adding the sensation of guitar layering and movement.  Much fun is to be had in this category, so we suggest as much experimentation as possible!

Finally, we have time-based effects such as delays and reverbs.  These are often confused, but they are in fact different things. Delays will take a played note and repeat it over and over until it decays (depending on the settings used). You may have heard of 'analogue' and 'digital' delays - these simply refer to the type of 'repeat' you get. Analogue delays tend to be warmer and the repeated note will sound slightly different to the original. Digital delays make the repeated note sound much like the first, with a less 'natural' sounding decay.  One is not better than the other, it's all about personal preference.

Reverb, on the other hand, replicates the natural reverberation of a room or hall. If you imagine playing in your bedroom, chances are the sound will be quite dry with little to no echo as the soft furnishings absorb the sound. Now imagine playing in a large hall - LOTS of echo! That is reverb.

Hopefully this has at least organised the bewildering amount of effects that are on offer and focused your mind on what you might need (or want - it's perfectly natural!) In future blogs, we'll go into more depth in different types and how and when to use them.

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Size Matters!

Posted on October 02, 2014

Buying a new acoustic guitar can be a joyful experience and we all know that sometimes there can be so many choices we don't know where to start.

Maybe the choice could be right in front of you the whole time or it can be hiding in the many sizes available. A lot of it has to do with your individual playing style. A question to ask yourself; are are you a picker, strummer or somewhere in between? The smaller sized guitars are generally for the finger pickers as they have a smaller top surface area, This gives you less 'overall' sound and as a result you hear more. You can hear the definition between a bass line and a melody much clearer because it is not muddied up with all the sound produced with a large top wood.

Great examples or these would be the Grand Concert or parlour sized guitars.The big guitars can help if you are a powerful player and need some extra space in the guitar to contain your strong hand, so to speak. Some examples of these would be the Grand Orchestra, Dreadnought or Grand Symphony sizes. These bigger guitars would be used for a Johnny Cash-style heavy strumming style.

A nice middle ground can be seen as the Grand Auditorium or mini jumbo shape which are great for those of us that enjoy finger picking as well and strumming along to our favorite songs.

The most important thing to remember is not to get to caught up in the specifications. Trust your gut and when something feels right and inspires you to play it is always a good thing. Too often we get caught up in the latest thing and lose sight of what matters...Play-ability!

So plug in or not and let the guitar do what it was built to do...Entertain yourself or others keeping in mind the number one thing on this green earth....Have fun!

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Acoustic Guitar Tonewoods

Posted on September 09, 2014
One thing we’re often asked about in the store is tone-woods. There is a bewildering amount of information out there offering a buyer information on the ‘best acoustic guitar’ or the merits and one brand against the other. Whilst this information should be considered I would stress that one guitar’s sound will suit a certain player the same guitar will be completely unsuited for someone else. In my experience, all things are not equal!

The most important thing to consider is tonewoods. Tonewoods are the combination of woods that a guitar is made from. Often guitars will have a top wood and a different back/side wood, however it is not uncommon to have guitars made completely of the same type of wood.

So why does this matter? An acoustic's sound and timbre comes from the wood. In the interest of your sanity I will not bore you with too much detail but rather give you a brief overview to get you started.

The most common top wood is spruce. Spruce has a yellowish colour and a bright sound. There are many varieties such as European, Adirondack and Sitka. Generally the price of the instrument will offer a clue as to the quality of the spruce. Spruce is a good all rounder and can handle almost anything.

If a bright sound is not YOUR sound, mahogany might be the wood for you. Mahogany is a rich, warm, dark brown wood that is more commonly used in combination with mahogany back and sides. If you like a prominent bass or warm tone then try mahogany. Consider your sound when listening to guitars. If you have a high voice then a mahogany guitar will compliment it. If your voice is low and gravelly it might and I stress MIGHT not work for you.

Cedar is a popular alternative. It has a quicker sound and more prominent attack. It can give a fuzzy yet warm sound and works really well with mahogany back/sides. It produces a large amount of overtones which gives it it’s distinctive character. Aesthetically it looks similar to spruce but more orange in colour with a tighter grain.

As far as the back & side woods are concerned the popular options are mahogany, maple and rosewood. Mahogany gives you low end and punch when used with spruce whereas rosewood gives you clarity, a clean pronounced bass with crystal clear highs.

Generally speaking, if you’re making guitar focused music then rosewood will sound incredible.It is pronounced, defined and sonically pleasing. If you require a warm, wide sound or something that will blend with other instruments then mahogany will work well. Maple has a very light colour and a tone to match. It’s a ‘toppy’ almost thin sound that sits very well in a mix. Perfect for a pop player or a guitarist with a very busy accompaniment.

I have been deliberately brief in this blog as there is already an overwhelming amount of over complex information about tonewoods and I personally believe you have to try out as many guitars as possible to truly know the right sound for you. I also have only touched on the most common woods to avoid complicating an already daunting subject. You can go into infinite detail about the merits of adirondack versus Engelmann spruce or Indian or Brazilian rosewood however I would rather be on Denmark Street trying guitars than reading about them online. If you would like any more information about tone-woods or would like to discuss your desired sound then please get in contact with me at the store.

Hope that helps!

Henry

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