Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gibson Guitars – The Wood Behind The Music

Gibson guitars are known for their clear, powerful sound and exotic wood grain designs. The guitars have graced the stage with the legends of country and rock music and produced a one of a kind sound that will excite and ignite an audience.
While Gibson guitars thrill audiences and musicians around the world, I wanted to find out where the wood comes from that Gibson uses to make the guitars.
The short answer is Joe.
Joe Frantz, 40, and the Frantz family run Whale Bay Woods, an exotic tonewood mill and repository on a quiet farm outside the town of Quilcene on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.
The wood that gives Gibson guitars their unique sound and look comes from rare Bigleaf Maple that only grows on the west coast from Canada to Oregon. Unfortunately, finding the wood for one of the world’s greatest guitar manufacturers is not as simple as just walking through the woods and finding a Bigleaf Maple.
What makes the wood so valuable are the rare patterns in the wood that, when dried and polished, give the striations a wavy 3-D effect that is unique only to a small number of maples. These markings can come in a style called Quilting that looks like a quilted blanket, billowy and soft, or in a linear style called fiddle-back. Each piece is unique and, according to Joe, only one in a thousand maples has these markings.
Another challenge for Whale Bay Woods is that, once a tree with these rare markings is found, it is impossible to know how many boards can be harvested that will fit the unique dimensions of a guitar. If the board has a defect, even a small black spot the size of a pin head, the board is useless. An eighty foot tree can produce dozens of boards… or just a single one. Natural rot, woodpeckers, insects, and Mother Nature combine to make the perfect wood hard to find.
While finding the perfect wood is difficult and time consuming, what makes this search for maple gold worthwhile is that a single two and a half foot by seven inch board can go for over $150.00. Whale Bay has a contract to provide 1500 high quality exotic maple boards to the craftsman at Gibson each month, making the venture lucrative for the family. As a result, Joe and his assistant/girlfriend Tanya M. Orton keep busy from sun-up to sun-down searching the woods of the Olympic Peninsula.
Whale Bay Wood has been in business for 18 years and was started almost by accident. One day, Joe and his brothers cut and delivered a load of fire wood to their uncle, a local fiddle maker. When the uncle started pulling pieces out of the pile, the brothers knew they were onto something. Eighteen years later, Whale Bay Woods provides high quality exotic wood to Gibson, Fender, and custom guitar and violin makers all over the world. The mill has provided wood to artists as far away as Kuwait and Indonesia.
Now the company employs Joe, his mother, two brothers, sister, brother-in-law, and several cousins in a process called selective logging. This type of conservation logging selectively harvests trees to allow for renewable forest growth.
Once the wood comes into the mill it is cut into boards and a guitar stencil is placed over the wood to determine the best cut and quality rating of the piece. The boards are rated on a scale of 1 – 5 with the boards rated a five fetching the most money. Next the board is dipped in a solution to reduce staining, and then is dried for 6-8 weeks in heat ranging from 90 to 120 degrees.
According to Joe, the secret is having the right amount of humidity during the drying process so the board is not ruined. After the drying is done the board is expertly planed to bring out the unique qualities and patterns of the wood. Months after leaving the forest floor the wood is ready for shipment to the guitar craftsman to form into a singular work of art that might next be seen on a stage in front of thousands of screaming fans.
For more about Whale Bay Woods, visit their website at

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are You Boxed In?

by Dave Isaacs
One of the biggest obstacles to real improvement on the guitar is actually tied to the way most of us first learned to play. Since the guitar is, after all, a rhythm instrument, we learn chords and strum patterns as soon as our hands are able to coordinate the movements. We memorize the chords by looking at pictures: a box or grid formed by the intersection of the strings and the frets. This is likely to be familiar to any of you that play guitar; odds are it’s how you learned your first chords. We learn strums by memorizing sequences of movements: strum down, strum up, etc. These combinations of moves create a different sort of “box” but it’s still a fixed pattern we memorize and learn to use.
This method works perfectly well and is still probably the quickest way to get started making music. The built-in pitfall is that it teaches us from the beginning to think in boxes. D chord has this shape: box. This strum uses this sequence of moves: another box. Fast-forward a few years down the line, and you may find yourself saying, “I’m stuck in a box!”
To become an accomplished player – or just more accomplished than you are today, which is what your goal should always be – you need to learn to leave the boxes behind. The diagrams will always be useful tools for memorization, but the problem is that we learn to see them as fixed and static. In other words, we see each chord as a block rather than a collection of notes that can be manipulated to create other sounds.
For many people, learning new chords just means more boxes: for a new way to play the G chord, use this box. But to really expand your vocabulary, look past the finger patterns. There are many chords we can play by just changing one or two notes of a chord we already know, but “box thinking” stops us from seeing the possibility. We can also get so locked into a fingering that we might not see how close one chord is to another. There might be a difference of only one note, but if you need to change the position of multiple fingers it can seem like the change is bigger than it actually is. For example, take the familiar open position D and D7 forms.
All three fingers need to move in order to switch from D to D7, but if you pay attention to which notes are actually being held down you’ll notice that the difference between the two chords is only one note. The second string D note (3rd fret) is replaced by a C note (1st fret). Noticing this can help you learn every other 7th chord: just identify the note that needs to move (the octave, or higher-pitched double of the note that names the chord) and lower it by a step (two frets). If this requires re-fingering, find which combination of fingers feels most natural. This way we arrive at a new box, but we get there by thinking about notes and relationships instead of just about finger positions.
“Box thinking” can be a trap for your rhythm skills as well. Most of us learn rhythms as strum patterns: down, down-up, up-down. I’ve had many people come to me for lessons and ask to learn “new strums”. Just like with learning chords, this kind of simple approach is great in the beginning because it’s easy to understand. But it’s inherently limited, because it reduces our concept of rhythm and groove to a sequence of hand and arm movements.
Real command of rhythm guitar comes from a deeper understanding of rhythm, but it isn’t complicated…as with chords, it’s just a different way of thinking. Rhythm starts with the pulse – the heartbeat, the thing you tap your foot to. Every rhythm you could think of is simply a combination of groupings and subdivisions of that pulse. When we swing the arm back and forth to strum, we’re already subdividing the pulse into groups of two: one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and. Learning a new rhythm is as simple as deciding when to strike the strings and when to miss them.
The big picture in all of this is that improvement on any instrument requires a shift from mechanics to – you guessed it – music! In other words, we start to think of sounds and the relationship between them. Chords are groups of notes, rhythms are groups of stressed and unstressed beats. The patterns we memorized in the beginning got us started, but patterns alone are just tools. They give us one small part of a much bigger picture. We don’t have to leave patterns behind – after all, music is build on patterns – but our creative possibilities explode when see the larger view.
Most of all, and most encouraging: understand that this new approach is not hard! It’s simply a different way of looking at what you already do. I don’t mean to minimize the time and effort it takes to become accomplished; there’s no way around that part. But the process begins – and continues – with the recognition that there’s more to what you already do than you might realize. When you start to see these possibilities, the exploration of new pathways moves us forward….and out of the box for good.
For more about Dave, visit
Article courtesy of

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

7 Simple Tips to Help You Promote Your Music on Twitter

twitter_logoIf you want to promote your music on Twitter, there’s enough good data out there to inform your social media promotion efforts and help you maximize the effectiveness of each and every tweet.
First, schedule your tweets at peak hours to get them in front of the most eyes. Second, you want to write tweets that encourage action (retweeting, purchasing, replying, etc.)!
We recently attended a webinar by the internet marketing experts at HubSpot called “The Science of Twitter.” It’s full of interesting Twitter stats and best-practices. Many of the most memorable tips fell into the category of I can’t believe I haven’t already made a habit of it!” 
Below are a handful of those common sense tips from HubSpot (but check out the full webinar for more great info).

Promote your music on Twitter: 7 ways to smarten-up your tweets

1. Longer tweets get more clicks. Internet marketers like to tell you to keep things short. But a tweet is only 140 characters, so it’s one of the few cases online where you actually benefit from using all the space you’re allotted.
2. Use more verbs. Less nouns. We’re emotionally stirred by action! So make your tweets sing, screech, punch, and dance.
3. Tweet in the afternoon and evening. After 2pm, Twitter traffic increases fairly dramatically. Maybe folks feel like they’ve got enough work done for the day that they can afford to sneak in 5 minutes on Twitter. So schedule your tweets with those people in mind.
4. Tweet closer to the weekend. As the workweek draws to a close, Twitter traffic soars — with Friday being the busiest day. So your heaviest Twitter activity should be on Thursday and Friday.
5. Ask for the retweet (“pls RT”). A lot of times in life the simplest way to get something is to ask. The same goes for Twitter. People are far more likely to retweet your content if you ask them.
6. Spread tweets out by at least 1 hour. You want to get the most people possible to see your tweets. By spreading out your Twitter activity by at least an hour, you’re increasing the likelihood of different folks seeing your activity. Plus you’re not annoying your followers by cluttering up their news feeds all at once.
7. Try putting the link towards the beginning of the tweet. Sure, 60-80% of your tweets should link to interesting content. But there’s also evidence to suggest that you should place that URL towards the beginning of your tweet. In many A/B tests between similar tweets, the one with the URL up front performed better.
Article courtesy of

Monday, April 1, 2013

Five Career-Endangering Mistakes for Songwriters (And How To Avoid Them)/Music News Nashville

By Cliff Goldmacher
songwriterOne of the great mysteries in the music business is how to meet the decision makers who can help bring success to you and your songs.  However, the second greatest mystery is why, – once in contact with one of these elusive industry people – so many songwriters throw common sense out the window and behave in ways that can only hurt their cause and, ultimately, their reputation in the eyes of the industry.  In my years as a professional songwriter and producer, I’ve been on both sides of the equation and so I’d like to, hopefully, help you refrain from some of these easily avoidable mistakes.
1. Losing Your Patience/Cool
If your plan is to be in the music business for more than just this week, then take a deep breath and know that, more than anything, patience is essential for a long and healthy career as a songwriter.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that you may have to wait many years before the networking seeds you’ve planted bear any fruit whatsoever.  Becoming impatient with someone – whether it’s a publisher for not returning your call or a record label exec for misplacing your submission – can only end badly for you.  I have a music industry friend who still talks about some of the threats, angry voicemails and poisoned pen letters he’s received over the years. The problem is that by losing your cool, no matter how justified it may seem at the time, you’ve branded yourself as unprofessional in the eyes of that particular industry person. And, by the way, did I mention that music industry people meet for drinks after work and compare notes?  The last thing you want is for your name to be the topic of conversation at some music industry happy hour.  My recommendation would be to remember that no one in the industry is purposely avoiding you and your songs.  More likely,  they’re overwhelmed by submissions for a variety of projects and will get to yours in time.  The best way I know not to become impatient is to have as many irons in the fire as you can at any given moment so you’re not waiting for “that one thing” to come through.
2. Submitting Too Many Songs
Let’s say you’ve had a really nice interaction with a publisher who has expressed interest in hearing some of your songs.  While I understand the temptation to send this individual every song you’ve ever written including a few that aren’t finished yet, restraint should be your default setting.  I’ll give you a scenario to explain why this is not a good idea even if you’re confident that all nineteen of the songs you’re sending are great songs.  Imagine the desk in a publisher’s office with every inch covered in CDs.  If a publisher is looking for the next CD to listen to and one CD has two songs on it and one CD has nineteen, which one do you think they’ll pick up? Believe me when I tell you that if a publisher likes what they hear, they’ll ask you for more but if you overwhelm them from the start, you might never get listened to at all.  Your best bet is two or maximum three songs on a CD or in separate emails (once you’re certain you’ve gotten permission to submit an mp3). My experience is that there’s no need to include lyric sheets, bio information or any photos.  It’s always better to start small and build up rather than the other way around.
3. Telling Someone You Have A Hit/You’re A Great Songwriter
I’m a big believer in the “talk softly and carry a big stick” approach when meeting with anyone in the industry.  The hallmark of a novice is informing the industry person you’re talking to that you’re a great songwriter and you’ve written a hit song if only it got a chance.  Even – especially – if it’s true, you’ll do more harm than good by coming on so strong.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in your work or be quietly confident about what you’re doing.  It does mean, however, that the best way to approach anyone whom you’d like to have listen to your music with humility and an understanding that your music isn’t the only music in their world.  Saying something more along the lines of “I think I’ve got a song that’s appropriate for your artist” or “if you’re looking for songs, I’d like permission to send you a song or two” will go a long way towards establishing your professional bona fides.
4. Forgetting To Use Common Courtesy
This seemingly simple suggestion ends up roundly ignored at most music conferences.  If you find yourself with a private moment to chat with a publisher, A&R rep or music supervisor, why not start by asking them a few questions about themselves first.  The temptation to launch into a ten-minute, spoken-word bio seems to be too great to resist in a lot of cases but, often, this is the wrong time for unsolicited personal information.  Given that networking relationships – the healthy ones, that is – take time to develop, it would seem that your best bet would be to get to know a little bit about the person you’re talking to and, in time, they will want to know a little about you as well.
5. Not Following Up/Following Up Too Much
OK, so you’ve got the beginnings of a nice relationship with a publisher and they’ve asked you to send them some music.  If you send them a couple of songs – either by mail or email – and don’t put a note on your calendar a few weeks later to follow up, then you might as well have not sent anything at all.  What I mean is that without a brief, to-the-point follow up email or even briefer voicemail, your music is likely to get lost at the bottom of a pile of submissions in that publisher’s office.  I can say with absolute certainty that several follow ups are the norm to confirm that your music has been received and listened to.  Now, the flip side of this coin is that you need to be judicious in the spacing of your follow up messages.  Following up every day for a week after you’ve sent your music will be more damaging to your reputation than not following up at all.  You’re walking the fine line between professionally following through on your delivery and being a nuisance.  The key is a quick, polite follow up every couple of weeks and not getting discouraged if it takes three or four attempts. And, by the way, sometimes you don’t get a response at all.  It’s ok to write off a submission after you’ve given it sufficient time.  There are plenty of opportunities out there and there’s no point in getting discouraged by one that doesn’t come through.
I hope that this article will serve as a gentle warning to avoid some of the common networking mistakes that we, as songwriters, are prone to make.  Having personally made almost every one of these mistakes early in my career, I can safely say that there is hope and a chance at recovery if you’ve slipped up a time or two (or three).  All this to say, it’s good to be passionate about your art and by understanding some of the elements of the commerce side, you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting your music out there.
Good luck!
cliffgoldmacherCliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA.
Cliff’s site,, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including a brand new HD video series available HERE.
Cliff’s company, Nashville Studio Live, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to