Category Archives: technical articles

A how to list of articles by Whirling Squirrel. Music theory (playing in key, scales etc), buying a guitar, maintaining musical equipment, etc.

Disk Allocation in Digital Recording

Many musicians just randomly open their DAW (Digital Audio Workstation such as Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar etc) and create files and hit SAVE when done.

No bueno. You are definitely going to have file problems.

Disk allocation in music recording sessions, when done incorrectly, can cost the recording musician thousands upon thousands of dollars, when they need to hire an engineer to come in and find their files for them.

Always check PREFERENCES in your recording software to ensure that all files are being stored in the same DIRECTORY (folder). That way, your files are allocated to the correct directory, and you can spend your money on Atari synth carts and analog synths instead.

-Amanda

How To Buy a Guitar For Your Child

Buying A Kid A Guitar

Related Articles:

• How to buy a cheap beginner’s guitar
• How to buy kid’s guitar
• How to buy strings
• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized

When it’s time to go guitar shopping for a child, parents are often confused about what to buy. This is a guide for how to save money and make sure that your child enjoys his or her time on the guitar.

I recommend printing this list and bringing it to the store with you. If you can’t buy a guitar before your lesson, it doesn’t matter, because I have a ton of awesome guitars that you are welcome to use! 

If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend buying at:

  • Trade Up Music, located at SE Division and SE 47th in SE Portland. Tell them Amanda of Whirling Squirrel sent you! 503.236.8800
  • Old Town Music on SE 11th. Talk to Hank. 503.295.6808
  • Showcase Music and Sound at SE 34th and Hawthorne 503.231.7027

Purchasing Options: Ages 3-6

  • Buy the child a small, very inexpensive acoustic guitar, ukulele, or other instrument of deadly unintonated cacophony, and let them pound away at it, making noise. If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend signing the child up for Music Together: inexpensive group kids’ music classes at Community Music Center on SE Francis and 33rd in Portland Oregon. I wouldn’t spend time on private lessons until the age of 6. Joy in music is important. Do not expect much of the kid with practice at this time.

Purchasing Options: Ages 6-10

New/Used Small “Child’s Size” Acoustic Guitar: Inexpensive $100-$200, expensive $500-$5,000+

  • PROS: Cheap, easy to buy, no hassle in the store, so things “seem” okay at first purchase.
  • CONS: Much, much harder to play. Much less cool sounds. Kids tend to give up more easily when their instrument is an inexpensive acoustic guitar. You’ll end up replacing it anyway down the road. Kids will be very impressed by my electric guitars and their weird sounds. Inexpensive acoustic guitars are just about the most physically difficult situation a beginner could be placed in.
  • MODELS: BABY TAYLOR, MARTIN BACKPACKER, TAYLOR MINI, AND CORT, EPIPHONE, AND OTHER LOW-END MODELS. 

New Small “Child’s Size” Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $100-$200

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony.
  • CONS:  He/she will outgrow it. I do not generally recommend child size electric guitars. They have loads and loads of problems, including staying in tune. However, if price is a serious issue, take this option. Just remember that these packages are often new, and the guitar and amp that you just bought for $200 decrease in resale value by about $125 or more as soon as you leave the store. If you went to Guitar Center to buy this package, the price you’ll pay for these packages also goes to corporations that don’t support local musicians. You’ll also get terrible customer service, and chances are, that Guitar Center deal you got doesn’t include the guitar being intonated, so it won’t play in tune, so you’ll need to take it to another repair shop and spend more money and time.
  • MODELS: SQUIER, FENDER, EPIPHONE AND OTHER LOW-END MODELS.

RECOMMENDED: Used Regular Size Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $150-$250 on up

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony. The child will never outgrow it. It will not have intonation “tuning” issues like the smaller guitars do. The resale value will be great, because you bought used.
  • CONS:  You’ll spend $50-$100 more at the beginning. The child may simply be too small for the guitar (but this usually changes in about 2 months). Thankfully, Trade Up Music has a great refund policy and you can get another instrument at Trade Up for the same value within 1 week.
  • MODELS: YOU ARE NOT LIMITED. SINCE YOU’RE BUYING USED, YOU CAN GET A QUALITY INSTRUMENT AND BRAND. ASK THE STORE EMPLOYEES TO HELP YOU.

MAINTENANCE

Once you buy the guitar, you’ll need to know a good “luthier.” A luthier is someone who repairs and/or builds instruments. You’ll need to bring in your guitar to a luthier about once every three months for “intonation” and “adjustments” to keep the truss rod in shape. YOUR GUITAR WON’T PLAY IN TUNE UNLESS YOU TAKE IT TO A LUTHIER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. I recommend:

  • 12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont, since 1979. 503.231.1912. I used to work at the 12th Fret for many years. They are fantastic people and luthiers, nationally renowned experts. >>website

  • Ryan Lynn’s EastSide Guitar Repair at 34th and Hawthorne. I have known Ryan for 10 years or more when he was the master luthier at Trade Up. Ryan runs a great shop and he’s a good guy. >>website
-Amanda Machina
squirrel@whirlingsquirrel.com
503 577 2311 cell

Recommended Music Stores & Repair Shops In Portland Oregon

Recommended Music Stores & Repair Shops In Portland Oregon

Related Articles: • How to buy an inexpensive guitar • How to buy strings

There are a lot of great shops, here are the shops run by my friends. Here are the shops where you’ll get the best gear for a great price, and there are nice people there, too!

Portland Musical Instrument Sales Stores

Old Town Music – Portland Oregon

Where I teach. Best prices in town (ridiculously low) and nicest people. Old Town has been owned by the same person since 1994, and before that it was Denny’s Music, and Old Town is very kind to me. I have many years of experience working in guitar shops, repair shops and the like. Old Town does instrument sales, boutique and mass manufactured effects and pedals, synthesizers, guitars; instrument repair and custom electronic repair and buildouts.

TradeUpMusic – Portland Oregon

oodles of great, cheap, mostly used gear, with some new – guitars, amps, basses, synthesizers, pedals, ukuleles, PA systems, drum parts, drum kits, melodicas, harmonicas… friendly service, right next door to Stumptown Coffee. >>website

Trade Up Music 4701 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97206  *503-236-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
Trade Up Music 1834 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211 *503-335-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map

Portland Musical Instrument Repair Shops

Little Trees Custom Guitar Shop – Portland Oregon

Dan runs a great little shop in SE Portland, I highly recommend him.

Home

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop – Portland Oregon

nationally renowned lutherie and repairs of stringed instruments of all sorts, serving the general public and prominent artists since 1979… friendly service, wonderful people who really go the extra mile. >>website

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97214 *503-231-1912* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Tue-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Saturday Google Map

East Side Guitar Repair

Guitar repair, amplifier repair, custom instruments >>website

East Side Guitar Repair 3341 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214  *503-232-0838* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm daily Google Map

Portland Custom Shop and Sour Sound

Amplifier repair, synthesizer repair and synth restoration; PA system repair, Pro Audio repair facility   >>Custom Shop Website  ::   >>Sour Sound Website

Portland Custom Shop + Sour Sound 1115 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 *503.227.9260* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Sat-Sun Google Map
-Amanda ‘Machina

squirrel at whirling squirrel dot com

 

Sampling 101

This is an excerpt from a private lesson entitled Sampling 101 Class with Whirling Squirrel Music. To schedule a lesson at the Portland Oregon music studion or over Skype for distance education, click here.  

This is not a lesson for the experienced or intermediate electronic musician. It’s a beginning level lesson.

In this lesson we are going to edit an audio file and cut it up for use as a sample. We will be using iTunes to convert audio file formats; we will be using Audacity to chop up the audio, and we will be using Reason for music production.
Keep in mind that in the beginning, this stuff can be a little challenging, because there is a bunch of stuff you probably don’t know. It’s ok to take it slow. The best instruction comes from a teacher who is teaching you, in person or over Skype. Whirling Squirrel offers lessons on Ableton Live, Reason, Logic, Pro Tools, Cakewalk, or cassette tapes.  Video lessons, so if you are not in Portland, contact me and we can set up video lessons.

Step 1: Get the song on your computer.

Overview:
You need to have the song on your computer before you can edit it, and you need to see the folder the song is in.
What to do:

  • Import your Music From CD: THE IDEAL SITUATION FOR A BEGINNER LEARNING TO SAMPLE.
  • Set up iTunes import settings, to import audio TO A WAV FILE (high quality) or MP3 file (SMALLER FILE)
  • iTunes: — Preferences… General…Import Settings…Import Using … WAV Encoder or MP3 Encoder.
  • If you can’t find this, look under iTunes Advanced Menu for Import Settings.
  •  Put CD in computer. Open up iTunes and import the song into your iTunes library. Note: If the song is already on your computer, then find the audio file on your computer.  Open up that folder.

Step 2: Find out if your song is in a useable format.

Format means: song.wav or song.mp3

  • Go to the song folder. Windows users: Right Click—– Properties. Mac users: Control Click —– Get Info.
  • If your song is:    WAV, or AIFF (from CDs/PRO AUDIO) or MP3, then GOOD!
  • If your songs is MP4 or M4A, or God forbid the copyright projected M4P, STOP!! and consider using a different song. If you are taking this lesson, converting files will not make the process fun. You are a BEGINNER. Do not try to do something awesome. Just try to do SOMETHING.
  • If you really really want to convert stuff, go here first, before you move on to Step 3. http://wiki.audacityteam.org/index.php?title=How_to_import_files_from_iTunes … basically, it involves burning a CD out of an iTunes playlist, then, importing the CD back into your iTunes library as a WAV or MP3 format. Again, this stuff can be complex, so don’t hesitate to contact me for a lesson.

Step 3: Convert files if necessary, to MP3 or WAV.

  • Open up your song in iTunes. Right click (Windows) or Control Click (Mac).
  • Convert to MP3. This also may be under Advanced – Create MP3 version.
  • Then FIND IT in your iTunes library.

Step 4: Get (import) the audio into Audacity.

  • You can either drag files into Audacity,
  • or you can IMPORT using the PROJECT menu. I recommend importing.
  • Go to PROJECT … IMPORT AUDIO. Wav’s will take longer than MP3’s.

Step 5: Chop it up into small samples.

  • Use the Selection Tool. It looks like a big capital i. It’s in the upper left corner of the screen.
  • Select audio you want to delete, and delete it. Mess around. Get the feeling of it.

This is often where an in-person or video lesson comes in handy: here is the point in the lesson where I would show you how to use tool tips to figure out what tools do on your own. I would also show you how to chop up audio in a more advanced way. It really helps watching an expert when you are learning, so that you learn good work flow.  For more information on my views check out my blog post here on kinesthetic learning processes.

Step 6: Export your samples/chops as WAV files (audio)

  • Select the audio you want. make sure you play it to hear it. Make it a SMALL, SHORT piece.
  • File …. EXPORT Selection as WAV.
  • Make sure you remember what folder you put it in! Better to make a folder called rad-samples on your desktop.

Step 7: Rock your samples.

  • Open up Reason, open up ReDrum Drum Machine, and assign the sample to one of the triggers.
  • Open up Ableton and use the File Browser to HOT SWAP a sample in Impulse drum machine or similar instrumentation.
  • There are other options as well for Logic, Pro Tools, Cakewalk, etc.
  • Trigger the sample whenever, and record it in a session.
  • Export your session as a wav file.
  • Done!

(of course you will need basic instruction using Reason/beatmaking …. because using samples doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless you know how to create music first…. contact me at squirrel@whirlingsquirrel.com… or at
503 577 2311).

Amanda

How To Buy A Cheap Beginning Guitar

Related Articles:

• How to buy a cheap beginner’s guitar
• How to buy kid’s guitar
• How to buy strings
• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized

How to Buy a Cheap Guitar For A Beginner

1 – Avoid High Action – but not so low that it buzzes. This is the most important issue for all guitars, but especially cheap ones.

This is how luthiers check the action on a guitar.
This is how luthiers check the action on a guitar.
this photo is courtesy of frets.com – a fantastic guitar and lutherie site

High Action can be assessed relatively easily, visually. Play the guitar – if you like an electric guitar but it seems a bit hard to play, ask the store to adjust the action. If it’s an acoustic guitar, you’ll have to pay to have the action lowered. Don’t be overly picky in the store about action before purchasing; skill still matters. If the luthier tells you “it can’t get any lower without buzzing,” then believe them, and take a few lessons so you learn about how to avoid buzz.

2 – Don’t Buy at Guitar Center

A deal from Guitar Center is not a deal, it is a waste of time and money. If you’re buying a NEW guitar, you just spent $300 on something that would have cost $100 otherwise.

If you don’t play in bands,  being in a music store may seem intimidating; but you won’t learn how to interact in a music store by going to Guitar Center. Go to the local shop first. Even if you don’t buy anything. You’ll save thousands in the long run.

3 – Great shops often have no sign

Unmarked recording studios and shops are a hallmark of music industry tradition. Nondescript, small shops are generally the higher quality, better reputation places for guitar purchase and repair.

4 – Great shops employ musicians, not “sales pros”

The best shops are the quieter, local shops. The quiet, local, cool shops attract quiet, cool people who know their stuff. They are there to build a good reputation. 

5 – Salespeople on commission are more aggressive. Great shops are where you get left alone.

Don’t interpret a salesperson bothering you as “customer service.” They want to spend your money.

6 – Ask Your Guitar Teacher To Go With You

I offer this service for free to my students; owners of music shops love when I bring in customers who buy things. It’s symbiotic, there would be no reason for me to charge students in helping them buy guitars. Contact me to make an appointment. Good teachers generally accompany their students to guitar shops, because a teacher would rather spend an hour helping a student, instead of helping that student deal with a low quality instrument for years.

7 – Avoid A Heavy Guitar

only hulk can haz a tele.
only hulk can haz a tele.

This is a picture of an oak Telecaster. By the way – if you’re starting out, don’t buy a Telecaster.

Again, if you like it buy it, but try to avoid the Les Pauls and heavier guitars at first.

ONLY CAN HULK HAZ.

 8 – If You’re Not Deliberately Seeking Obstruction, Don’t Buy A Telecaster

keith

Keith Richards has attacked people onstage with his Telecasters, and won the fight.  Jack White intentionally picks guitars that are hard to play – so he includes Teles in his arsenal. They’re cranky, tough guitars.  Keef is a well known Tele person, but Muddy Waters, Jimmy Page, James Burton, Jack White, and Curtis Mayfield play(ed) Telecasters. I had a Tele for 15 years.

Almost anything else that you pick, will be easier to play than a Telecaster.

Recommended Music Stores & Repair Shops In Portland

There are a lot of great shops, here are the shops run by my good friends (they also happen to be the best). 🙂

Trade Up Music

oodles of great, cheap, mostly used gear, with some new – guitars, amps, basses, synthesizers, pedals, ukuleles, PA systems, drum parts, drum kits, melodicas, harmonicas… friendly service, right next door to Stumptown Coffee. >>website

Trade Up Music 4701 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97206  *503-236-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
Trade Up Music 1834 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211 *503-335-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
 

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop

nationally renowned lutherie and repairs of stringed instruments of all sorts, serving the general public and prominent artists since 1979… friendly service, wonderful people who really go the extra mile. >>website

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97214 *503-231-1912* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Tue-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Saturday Google Map
 

East Side Guitar Repair

Guitar repair, amplifier repair, custom instruments >>website

East Side Guitar Repair 3341 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214  *503-232-0838* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm daily Google Map
 

Portland Custom Shop and Sour Sound

Amplifier repair, synthesizer repair and synth restoration; PA system repair, Pro Audio repair facility   >>Custom Shop Website  ::   >>Sour Sound Website

Portland Custom Shop + Sour Sound 1115 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 *503.227.9260* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Sat-Sun Google Map
 
Related Articles:• How to buy an inexpensive guitar
• How to buy a child a beginning guitar
• How to buy strings

-Amanda Machina

squirrel at whirling squirrel dot com

 

In the studio: recording metal with Pro Tools

I’ve been recording a political heavy metal album that’s still kinda secret, with a few friends.

This project will involve a LOT of editing on my part, as we are editing our music around clips (which clips exactly, will remain a secret for right now). It’s a bit odd for me, because I’m somewhat of an old school perfectionist: I’d rather do a bunch of takes, and use the perfect take. It’s fun and I look forward to more editing in Pro Tools.

Punching in, cross fades for smooth wave forms and edits, are part of my daily life right now. LOL!!

I’ve played the metal tracks for a few friends of mine, and of course for my bandmates. A lot of people are very excited about the record. The first song has a lot of twin guitar harmonies, very Iron Maiden-esque.

I’m stoked, yo.

-Amanda

squirrel@whirlingsquirrel.com

What kind of strings should I buy for my electric guitar?

What strings to buy for a guitar?

Related Articles:

• How to buy a cheap beginner’s guitar
• How to buy kid’s guitar
• How to buy strings
• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized

 

String gauge

This is the “thickness” or diameter of the strings. Musicians refer to guitar strings by the gauge of the high E string. A “set of 10’s” is lighter (smaller in diameter) than “a set of 12’s.” String gauge varies widely. You need to consider your guitar’s scale length before you choose strings.

If you’re a geek, click here for more about scale length. Otherwise, it just basically means, length of the string, and you can read on.

Short scale guitars : easier to play. Use heavier strings for thicker tone.

  • Gibson
  • Epiphone
  • Gretsch
  • Fender Duosonic
  • Fender Jaguar, Mustang, etc
  • Gibson basses

Long scale guitars : harder to play. Use lighter strings.

  • Fender
  • G&L
  • Parker Fly 
  • most Fender basses

Strings and tone

  • Lighter strings = lighter tone (generally). Best for more finesse players.
  • Heavy strings = bolder tone/harder to play (usually). Better for heavy hitters.

Don’t know? Ask your luthier or guitar shop. A reputable shop will know. Click here for Portland Oregon shops I recommend.

Geeky details

One of my favorite sites, frets.com, explains it as such, here:

Scale Length
© Frank Ford, 2/9/01; Photos by FF


The “scale length” or “scale” is a tricky bit to define. Generally, it’s understood to be the vibrating string length, from nut to saddle, measured like this:

As far as I can tell, most luthiers measure from the nut to the center of the 12th fret and double that measurement for the “scale length.” The only thing is that it doesn’t seem to fit a lot of manufacturers’ stated specifications if you do it that way. I like to measure to the 12th, double that distance, and call that the scale length, just to be consistent. Then, adding compensation for various strings, I’ll call each of those lengths “compensated scale length.” That way, at least I don’t go crazy right off.

Now, just to drive us all nuts, some builders shorten the distance between the nut and first fret to improve intonation in low positions. That, of course, messes with our ability to measure the scale length on a given instrument.

Precise measurements are critical in building an instrument, but for the practical purposes of comparing instruments as to their tone and performance, approximate measure is just fine. I don’t think 1/8″ one way or the other will have much effect.

article link FRETS.COM

How do I know?

I was trained in these matters by Chris Brandt, owner of the 12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop in Portland, when I worked there for about 3 years. Not only are they a great bunch of guys, but they are very knowledgeable luthiers, and kind individuals as well. They do everything from string changes, to refrets, to steaming apart necks of old Martin guitars and doing who-knows-what in there. Saul Koll of Koll Guitars, also used to work there and Saul is an amazing luthier as well (and a fabulous electric guitar player). The 12th Fret is a little shop who does repairs for the likes of Robert Cray, and Saul builds guitars for Sonic Youth. I think I was taught by the best (or close to it).

Since I didn’t know the scale length of Parker Fly guitars, I googled it. I found out that the scale of the parker fly has a 25.5″ scale. This is a long scale.  So my student should use lighter strings. I have taught this particular student for quite a few years, and he’s more of a delicate technician than a heavy hitter. Light strings work best for players who are more finesse focused. Hard and heavy hitters, use heavy strings.

And before you complain that your guitar buzzes, stop hitting it so hard.

– Amanda

 

Recommended Music Stores & Repair Shops In Portland

There are a lot of great shops, here are the shops run by my good friends (they also happen to be the best). 🙂

Trade Up Music

oodles of great, cheap, mostly used gear, with some new – guitars, amps, basses, synthesizers, pedals, ukuleles, PA systems, drum parts, drum kits, melodicas, harmonicas… friendly service, right next door to Stumptown Coffee. >>website

Trade Up Music 4701 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97206  *503-236-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
Trade Up Music 1834 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211 *503-335-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
 

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop

nationally renowned lutherie and repairs of stringed instruments of all sorts, serving the general public and prominent artists since 1979… friendly service, wonderful people who really go the extra mile. >>website

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97214 *503-231-1912* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Tue-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Saturday Google Map
 

East Side Guitar Repair

Guitar repair, amplifier repair, custom instruments >>website

East Side Guitar Repair 3341 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214  *503-232-0838* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm daily Google Map
 

Portland Custom Shop and Sour Sound

Amplifier repair, synthesizer repair and synth restoration; PA system repair, Pro Audio repair facility   >>Custom Shop Website  ::   >>Sour Sound Website

Portland Custom Shop + Sour Sound 1115 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 *503.227.9260* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Sat-Sun Google Map
 
Related Articles:• How to buy an inexpensive guitar
• How to buy a child a beginning guitar
• How to buy strings