Category Archives: Review

Five of the best Taylor acoustic guitars

They’re the guitar of choice for modern artists like Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz and have a very American history which dates back to the 1970s. So it’s no wonder Taylor guitars are considered the supreme of the string world.

Their inventory is wide-ranging. To help you navigate it, here’s a list of their five most popular instruments.

GS Mini 

First among the guitars it promotes on its website, the GS Mini is a solid go-to acoustic guitar. Its at the lower end of Taylor’s cost range at $499 and is adored by artists for its playability and portability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out Shoreline Music giving it a whirl in store.

 

 

Baby Taylor 

The Baby Taylor is a 3/4 size guitar so is perfect for travel and spontaneous practice. It’s cheaper than the GS at $329 but still boasts the same deep bellied sound the brand is famous for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a sample of the Baby range from Wildwood Guitars.

Big Baby Taylor 

The clue’s in the name with the Big Baby Taylor – it’s the Baby, but bigger. Add on another $70, this acoustic guitar comes in at $399. It graduates past being the travel guitar category given its extra size.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curious about the difference? Watch this Battle of the Babies to find out.

 

214 CE

The 214ce is a 25 and a half inch beast. It’s more expensive, at $999, but guitarists love its rosewood finish. It’s considered the ‘gateway’ into the brand’s more expensive instruments. The Taylor sound thats common throughout the range is also elevated when plugged in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoreline brings it life in this video.

 

Grand deluxe auditorium

PS16CE 

At a jaw-dropping $8,000, the PS16CE sits at the top of the Taylor range and is part of its Presentation Series. Its designed for performance and comes under the category of Grand Symphony limited edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its sides are a dark, Macassar ebony and the body is Spruce. All in all, it’s a show-stopping guitar with a rumbling belly of sound. Its bells and whistles include  Gotoh Gold tuners, a bone nut and saddle, a Florentine cutaway, and Taylor Expression System 2 electronics.

To hear it roar, check out this review from Acoustic Letter.

Using Amazon Echo as a musician or music teacher

There’s been a lot of noise around Amazon’s latest tech product, the $179 Echo. Most of the excitement is focused on how it can improve the user’s home life by performing voice-activated functions.  But there are a handful of ways the Echo can boost productivity for musicians.

Here’s a list of all the ways the device can help with your music career.

 

**You can get a great deal on an Echo here.**

Listening

 

This one may sound obvious, but the benefit of having voice-controlled stop and start functions when listening back is revolutionary for musicians.

Musicians don’t just listen to music for enjoyment. They sometimes need to study music to get ready for a gig or analyze something for a student. Think about it, one of the hardest things about learning a tune is having to constantly put down the instrument or interrupt your work flow to set the tune up and run it again.

The Echo completely streamlines this clunky process. Simply instruct Alexa, the AI assistant which performs all of the Echo functions, to stop and start when yore ready or you want to move on to another tune. The Echo even has a search function, so you can even search through YouTube for tunes you need work on without getting up from your instrument.

 

Recording

 

If you are a performing or composing musician, you understand the importance of documenting ideas and using them later. Amazon Echo has the ability to record your voice, or whatever instrument you may be playing, so you can save it for later when you are ready to develop the idea further. Both the microphone and the speakers on this device are surprisingly effective considering the size of the device.

 

Tuning

 

One of the most impressive features of the Echo is its implementation of Alexa Skills. Alexa, the robot which carries out all the functions and takes her queues from the voice-over, has a range of built-in functions which lie in a drop down menu on the Alexa app.

Among the skills is a guitar tuner. From the other side of the room, the musician can demand to hear a perfect A from the speaker, just as they would from a guitarist in a band. It’ll be right every time too.

Here it is being used by someone for the first time. After instructing Alexa to enable the tuner, the user can be heard demanding what note he wants to hear. The Echo returns it four times.

 

My Metronome

 

My Metronome is another built-in Alexa skill. It keeps the tempo for musicians, holding from 10 to 300 beats a minute. To activate it, just tell her what you need by shouting: ‘Alexa, start My Metronome and 80 beats per minute,’ for example.

Of course, if you’d rather use your own, there are some great options here and here.

 

Lessons

 

One of the coolest things about Alexa is her ability to teach you how to play an instrument. There is even a built in app designed to help you learn how to play the piano. It is very simple, making it a great device for those who are beginners to playing music and children who have very little experience learning an instrument. It starts you off by teaching you simple notes and showing you where they are. Eventually, you will work your way to being able to play a duet with Alexa! The songs are pretty simple and mostly consist of nursery rhymes, but they can be a great primer for a student who is interested in taking piano lessons who’s parents are not sure if they are really going to be into it.

 

 

The Echo also has a built in function that will play back any note that you ask and can even play a series of notes, providing students with a reference point for a pitch when they are practicing. This means you can test out ideas ahead of time or even use the device as a means to improve your ear training by trying to sing the pitch before the Echo plays it. There is even a quiz on the Echo that you can use to work on your ear. It will play a note and you will try to guess what it is. This may seem like a skill you are either born with or not but the ear is something you can develop over time and, with enough work, you can almost give yourself perfect pitch.

Play-a-longs

 

If you are an improvising musician, you know one of the best ways to practice is to simply improvise. Of course, you can’t always call your friends to have them come over and play some tunes with you, so you need a solution. One way you can use the Amazon Echo to practice is to utilize play a longs. A play along is a recording of music that has your part taken out, so you can play as if you are playing with a band in a live situation. One popular version of these for jazz musicians is the Jamey Aebersold series. He has recorded thousands of tunes that students can practice over ranging from jazz to funk and RnB classics. Download them to your Echo and get started today.

Here’s an idea of the sound quality you can expect

 

Amazon Dot: A cheaper version of the Echo

 

The Echo sits a stop a cylinder speaker which is powerful enough to be used alone. But if $179 is too steep a price tag, the Dot is a great alternative. At $49, it’s considerably less expensive and performs pretty much all of the same functions as the larger Echo.

The only major difference is the lack of speaker. So if you have your own already, the dot may be the way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Echo Show: The Echo with a touchscreen

A huge hook of the Echo is its voice-controlled function. In commercials it plays out very smoothly and it appeals to a lazier, Siri-obsessed generation. But some people would still like to have the option to control the device by hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To accommodate them, Amazon recently released the Echo Show which combines the Echo with a touch screen for easy use. It’s the most expensive device in the range at $229. In essence, it looks like an iPad with a speaker attached at the bottom.

It can however be a great tool for musicians who are trying to learn lyrics. The Echo Show will display the words on screen. It’s also a great way to pull up sheet music to play along to with a tune running in the background for support

10 best bass guitars of 2017

When it comes to choosing a bass guitar, the options can seem endless. Acoustic vs electric? Fretless or fretted? There are thousands of ways to go, just like with most other string instruments. 

To try to help narrow down your search, here’s a list of the ten best bass guitars of 2017 as voted by beginners and pros. If you’re still stuck by the end, check out the bassist at the bottom of the article as he compares a $100 instrument to a $10,000 one and see if you can hear the difference. 

1. Goplus Electric Bass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This full-size electric bass guitar comes with a rosewood fingerboard, a high performance-to-cost ratio, ships fast, and is teacher-approved for beginner bassists. Owners say it plays well and is lightweight so easy to carry around. Not bad a bad option for anyone thinking of taking up the instrument, it’ll only set you back $69.99.

 

2. Full-Size Electric Bass Guitar Starter Beginner Pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This full-size electric bass comes with an amp case and cable. It’s finished in a sleek black sheen and is teacher-approved to be an outstanding starter bass. It’s available for $129.95.

3. Dean E09M Edge Mahogany Electric Bass Guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

This bad boy has a 34-inch maple wood neck and rosewood fretboard with abalone fret dot inlays. The passive dean soap bar pickup delivers both volume and treble control. Vintage styling, adjustable intonation, and die-cast tuners make this a complete package for $136.85

 

4. Fender Vintage SS Modified Squire Special Jaguar Bass

 

 

 

 

 

 

This candy apple red classic design features an Agathis body, maple wood, medium jumbo frets, and a precision bass pickup. It is equipped with a single coil Jazz Bass pickup, master tone, and double volume control. Plus it boasts the iconic Fender name. It is available for $199.99.

5. Ibanez GSR200SM 4-String Electric Bass Guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This offering from Ibanez is finished with a natural-wood grey-burst veneer. It has a spalted maple top and a mahogany body. Musicians love how light this bass is. They also vouch for its playability and the deep palette of sounds it can produce. The Ibanez and its 22 rosewood frets are available for $249.99.

6. Fender Vintage Modified Squire Jaguar Special Short Scale Bass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This silvered champion comes in an Agathis body type, with c shape maple neck in a 9.5 radius and 20 medium jumbo frets. It is equipped with a single coil Jazz Bass pickup, master tone, and double volume control. It is available for $199.99 and also comes in the famous Fender candy-apple red. Beginners love its short scale which makes it easier to learn upon and some even prefer it to more expensive guitars from other brands, namely Ibanez.

 

7. Silvertone LB11 Bass Guitar

This liquid-black finish bass guitar from Silvertone comes complete with everything you need to get started including an instructional DVD, amp, a carrying case and all the connective equipment. It is available for $199.00 and is billed as a beginner’s product so seasoned bass players shouldn’t expect any miracles from it.

 

8. Fender Squire Bronco Bass

 

 

 

A classic black and white body style, die-cast tuning pegs, Agathis body, and c-shape maple neck. It also features a 2-saddle chrome bridge, volume and tone control, and a specially designed single coil pickup. It is available for $149.99. Popular among non-serious players and pros alike!

9. Dean Acoustic-Electric Bass

 

 

 

 

 

 

This classic black bass guitar comes with a 34-inch mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard and pearl dot inlays. It also features a passive Dean preamp with treble and volume controls. It starts at  $179.00. Musicians love the smooth acoustic tones the Dean achieves and appreciate its size.

 

10. Fender Squire Deluxe Active Jazz Bass IV String

 

 

 

 

 

 

This top of the line beginner’s bass guitar is sleek in all black. It features a basswood body with a polyurethane gloss. It is available for $349.99.

As you can see, there are more than a few options. Still stuck? Check out this bassist as he compares a $100 bass to one which costs $10,000.

 

Ten of the most unusual music venues in the US

Here’s our survey of ten of the most unusual music venues in the US.

Bluegrass Underground at Cumberland Caverns, McMinville, Tennessee

Bluegrass-Underground-1

Credit: Michael Weintrob

The Caverns operate as a tourist destination by day but play host to the Bluegrass Underground concert series for a couple of nights every month. The gigs take place 333ft underground in the ominously named Volcano Room.

Red Rocks Amphitheater – Morrison, Colorado

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Credit: Nathan Mach

Fans flock to this desert setting amphitheatre for an immersive experience in music and nature. Set between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, Red Rocks Park sprawls over 738 acres and is 6,450 ft above sea level. U2, Sting and The Beatles have all taken advantage of the stunning setting and acoustics.

SteelStacks – Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

steelstacks

Image courtesy of venue

SteelStacks originally served as the Saucona Iron Company. It was founded in 1857 and the company produced the first iron rails for local railroad. The first steel was made ten years later and the operation, which employed thousands of locals, transformed intoThe Bethlehem Steel Company.

The constructions of Manhattan’s Chrysler Building and the Golden Gate Bridge depended on its produce. As the steel industry declined, the site shut down operations and in 2005 it was reborn as The SteelStacks campus, a home for culture and art. Gigs take place at the foot of the towering, rusty plant.

X Po Monkeys Juke Joint – Merigold, Mississippi

Merigold, MS: Po' Monkey's Lounge

Merigold, MS: Po’ Monkey’s Lounge

This off-the-beaten track shack is the stuff of Mississippi Delta blues legends. It launched in 1961 by hut owner Willie Seaberry as a place to entertain. Blues fans have been making pilgrimages its rickety walls, obeying the myriad signs outside warning them to bring their liquor inside but to leave at home the beer. Seaberry died in 2016 but the shack remains on Thursday nights.

The Gorge Amphitheater – Gorge, Washington

the gorge

Image courtesy of venue

The Gorge is a monster, 20,000 plus outdoor venue which overlooks the Columbia River in Washington. Its layout offers stunning views of the river and serves as the perfect summer concert spot. Coldplay, Guns N Roses, Kings of Leon and John Maher are among the scores of acts which have played there.

X Austin 360 Amphitheater at the Circuit of the Americas – Austin, Texas

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Image courtesy of venue

This 14,000 person amphitheater is set around a 3.41mile Formula 1 racetrack. It’s relatively new (built in 2012) but has already attracted big crowds and big names including Willie Nelson, Justin Timberlake, Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars. The track itself plays host to the US’s only Formula 1 event, the United States Grand Prix.

Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion – Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Bank of nH

Credit: Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion 

Set on the banks of New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, this picturesque venue is widely recognised as one of the best in the country. It sits on what was formerly known as Meadowbrook Farm which was owned privately by the Miller family who used it for summer vacations. The Millers were musically gifted and, as more cottages popped up on the land, they used it to entertain friends with their talents. The concept evolved over the years and now has 5,746 seats under its pavilion roof and space for almost 2,000 on the lawn.

Surf Ballroom – Clearlake, Iowa

surf ballroom

Image courtesy of venue

Palm tree murals, beach stripes and bamboo booths are what fill this nostalgic ballroom and museum in Iowa’s clear lake. Tragically, the original ballroom was destroyed by a fire in 1947. Its replacement was built across the street the following year, decked out in the Ocean Club theme its original owners requested. The ballroom has followed its fans and their tastes through the musical decades ever since and continues to delight with regular shows. In 2011, it was included in the National Register of Historical Places.

Brooklyn Bowl – Williamsburg, New York

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Credit: Scott Harris

A favourite among Williamsburg’s craft beer chugging hipsters, the Brooklyn Bowl combines bowling with laid-back gigs with effortless ease. Its show schedule is packed with bowling themed family events but the space is just as often rented out for private events.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, LA

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Image courtesy of venue

It’s the resting place of some of Hollywood’s most beloved stars. So it’s little surprise that the Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles also attracts living, breathing talent. Clearly, its business is not in gigs but a handful of artists have put on unique, somewhat eerie, shows there in the past. The cemetery’s onsite Masonic Lodge now serves as its venue for live shows.