It’s good to recognize your own biases—and to challenge them sometimes.
I travel a lot and meet all types of people. Casual conversations on airplanes or in hotel bars invariably lead to “what do you do?” questions. Sometimes when I’m tired, I feel like telling people I’m a plumber or insurance salesman. If I say I design acoustic amplification gear, the response is often, “Gee, I thought ‘acoustic’ meant the guitars weren’t amplified.’” It can take substantial energy to explain the difference between acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and amplified acoustic guitars to a non-musician.
When you think about it though, their responses are natural. After all, acoustic amplification often means applying modern tools and technology to musical instruments that were designed and optimized centuries ago. The art of the instrument designer, the technology that we bring to bear, and the creativity of the musician who will ultimately play the instrument all reside at a busy and often confusing intersection.
Properly understood and applied, technology can open the floodgates of creativity. But when technology isn’t understood or properly applied, its mesmerizing nature can impede or even destroy the creative process. The most successful navigators of that intersection of creativity and technology are those who recognize that their personal biases and tendencies can easily corrupt the decision process.
We all have a story. Here’s mine.
The Fishman Flyer
I grew up in a very small town in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I have fond memories of summer trips to the mountain lakes, bike rides with my friends to our favorite fishing streams, climbing trees full of apples in the fall, and endless hours of sledding and ice skating on frozen ponds in the winter—plenty of fun, but nothing particularly inspiring.
This all changed when my parents brought home a brand new Silvertone console record player, along with a half dozen classical albums for my dad and some Leroy Anderson pop stuff that my mom liked. Boy, did it sound great! I listened to each album hundreds of times. The first record I bought was Fats Domino’s rock ’n’ roll classic “Blueberry Hill.” I was hooked for life!
Another lifelong passion was awakened about the same time during a visit to my grandparents. My grandfather was a tinkerer who was always fixing things. He gave me a canvas bag of old hand tools and some beat-up lawn-mower engines to mess around with. Much to the chagrin of my parents, I was soon bombing around the neighborhood in my own wooden go-kart running on baby carriage wheels and powered by a lawn-mower engine with no muffler, belching smoke and spewing oil. I was convinced I would be the next Stirling Moss.
Okay, you’re asking yourself, what does this have to do with acoustic amplification? Plenty! My early experiences led me to literally thousands of blues and jazz gigs as a bass player, years of great car building and racing experiences, and later, a career as a mechanical engineer and amplification gear designer. These life experiences have shaped the way I approach problems. There’s creative passion from the musician side, but also an engineer’s analytical approach to gear. And it’s precisely this mix that almost prevented me from experiencing something very special.
About three years ago I was working on a project that required serious recording with very high-end guitars and very special microphones. As usual when I get involved in this type of project, I travelled to Nashville to work with my friend and recording mentor Bil VornDick. Several times during the three-day session, Bil would urge me to check out a new mic and instrument cable design he was enamored with.
From my perspective, wire was wire. Having tried many expensive “miracle cables” in the past without being impressed, I didn’t give his suggestion much further thought. But six months later, during the last hours of a four-day NAMM show, I found myself walking by the small booth showing these cables. I bought a couple of 1/4" instrument cables and one microphone cable. I shipped them back to my shop, where they sat on my workbench for four months.
I often work late. Once I found myself finishing a new transducer design at 1 o’clock in the morning. I needed to hang around for another hour while the adhesive hardened on a pickup I was testing. While waiting, the cables on my bench caught my eye, so I decided to check them out. Since I was in an engineering mood, I did some tests, measuring their electrical properties and running some sweeps and impulse-response tests. As I’d expected, I found nothing outstanding compared to the lower-cost “standard” cables in our studio.
But as I was about to leave, I decided to actually have a listen. I plugged in a really nice Martin guitar, and what I heard made my jaw drop! By the time the sun rose hours later, I’d played literally dozens of guitars and basses through our recording gear and every amp in the shop. I was totally blown away! The sound clarity and touch responsiveness was far better beyond anything I’d ever experienced.I’d indeed chosen the right road at that critical intersection. If I’d strictly followed my analytical nature, I would’ve totally missed something remarkable yet unexplainable. When you find yourself at a crossroads, be aware of your story and your nature, and try to set aside your biases and preconceptions. You never know what amazing experiences might be just around the corner.
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.