Letter from the
If you are reading this, then music is probably very important to you. It
is for us as well. When Jack Long decided to “get a day gig” 57 years
ago, he didn’t know a lot about running a business, but he did know a
lot about music; in fact, it was his passion. Sharing that passion for
music has always been the cornerstone of our business. Our
“customers and their music first” approach has shaped our policies
and kept us on course throughout all of the changes in retail over the
years. Many of the services we offer, like rentals, in-store financing,
trade-ins and repairs, grew from trying to service the needs of
musicians and to help enable them to make music.
2013 marks the 14th anniversary of the Long & McQuade magazine,
and we are very excited to unveil this season’s edition. Our largest
issue to date, we have expanded the scope of the publication to make
it better than ever. In addition to all of the great product info, we have
included a number of Canadian artist features and several informative
articles. Most of the articles have been written by our staff, many of
whom are experts in their field. They cover many different aspects of
the process of making music – from suggestions to getting the most out
of practice time, to tips on
overcoming writer’s block, to
assistance with setting up your
own home studio. We hope you
find these articles interesting
and educational and we look
forward to the opportunity to
help you make music!
Jeff, Steve and Jack Long
Editor and Publisher: Sheri Katz
Design and Layout: Cristine Giampaolo, SGR
Writers: Pierre Bazin, William Bula, Sarah Farthing, Mark Garrison, Ken Kucharic,
Kahler Legacy, Justin Ley, Nigel Maynard, Mike Murza, Ian Paron
The Long & McQuade Magazine is published by Long & McQuade Musical Instruments Limited. CIRCULATION 270,000 copies per issue.
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By Bill Bula
Canada is known for all kinds of difficulties we must overcome as guitarists. More of a challenge than finding venues, touring Saskatchewan
in the middle of winter and explaining to American bar owners that you don't live in an igloo is properly humidifying your guitar. Most
Canadian households use forced-air furnaces. These suck the cold, moist air out your home, replacing it with warm dry air. This also has
the effect of pulling moisture out of your skin, your hair and anything else - including your wooden instruments.
The opposite of this problem is over-humidification. Many people live or jam in a basement space. From basement apartments to rehearsal
spaces, guitarists sometimes keep, or know someone who keeps, their instruments in a basement. The cold, damp air and walls lend
themselves to a humidity level far beyond that which is desirable for your instrument.
When your guitar is not humidified properly it can dry out. As moisture is lost from your guitar, changes occur to its shape. You may notice
that the action (distance of strings from neck) becomes too high. This impacts playability by making it too hard to fret notes. This is
caused by the neck shrinking due to lost water.
You may also notice some notes buzzing on your dry guitar. Perhaps your shrinking neck has begun pushing the frets out of your fingerboard.
If you own an acoustic guitar it is more likely you have a hump at your guitar’s body joint, caused by the shrinking neck being forced out
of shape by the hardwood body joint block.
You might see the glued joints coming loose. The bridge, neck and sides of your guitar are all glued together, usually using wood glue.
This is a material that dries very hard and is inert, meaning it does not get affected by temperature and humidity changes. What this means,
is that as your guitar changes shape due to environment, the glued joints aren’t and that means separation!
When storing and playing your guitar in an overly humid environment you may notice some changes in the way your guitar sounds
You may notice that your guitar lacks sustain and has a dull and “tubby” sound. This is caused by the moisture literally weighing down
the tops of your instrument and preventing it from resonating properly. You may notice some buzzing as well, just like with dryness. With
an over-humidified guitar, however, this buzzing is due to the neck expanding and causing contact with the neck in unintended places.
You may also notice the glued joints of your guitar coming loose, just like with a dry guitar for the same reasons.
What Do I Do?
The first thing you need to do to protect your instrument is to be sure you own a hard-shell (preferably wooden) case for storage. You should
be aware of what the humidity in your case is at all times, so be sure to get a hygrometer for it as well.
There are a myriad of products you can use to humidify your guitar case. Products from Planet Waves, Kyser, Oasis and more can raise
moisture quickly, safely and easily. If, however, you want to be prepared for either wet or dry conditions, check out the Humidipak Kit from
Planet Waves. This kit sells for $2450 and can remove or add moisture to your guitar case based on what it needs nearly on its own. The
value is huge, especially considering the damage that can be done by our cold Canadian winters!
A guitar repair technician, singer/songwriter and guitarist, Bill Bula has been working at Long & McQuade Brampton since 2008.
Long & McQuade carries a wide
variety of products to protect
your stringed instruments.
Oasis makes a great humidifier (OH-1) that features dual hydration protection using water vapour
with Humigel super absorbent polymer crystals. It’s stabilized to never touch your instrument and has
two levels of leak protection. Oasis also makes a version specifically suited for ukuleles (OH-18)! Both
sell for $1850.
Planet Waves is another prime choice for humidification products. The GH protects without scratching
or damaging the guitar finish because the moisture reservoir is suspended inside the body without
actually touching the instrument. A high absorption sponge maintains proper humidity levels and is
quick and easy to refill. This one sells for $1495.
The Planet Waves Humidipak Kit is the first two-way humidity control system that maintains a
constant 45-50% relative humidity level in your case. No more guesswork when it comes to
maintaining your instrument’s proper humidity level! The Humidipak comes in at $2450.
Another Planet Waves product, the Humidity and Temperature Control System (PW-HTS), is a
precision-designed hygrometer that digitally indicates accurate relative humidity levels ranging from
under 20% to 99%. Temperature is displayed in either Fahrenheit or Centigrade, ranging from -32°F
to 122°F (-35C to 50C). It includes a programmable set point, as well as a memory feature that
indicates date/time of the highest & lowest temperature/humidity levels the instrument has been
exposed to. Well worth the investment at $3499!
TIPS AND TRICKS
TO GET YOU STARTED
By Sarah Farthing
How do you get started if you are interested in
songwriting but you have never tried it, or if you
are dealing with writer's block?
Here are some tips and tricks I have picked up
over the years.
One of the biggest things you can do for your songwriting is spend more time messing around on an instrument. My best songs all begin
when I am learning a new cover, playing an instrument I don't normally play, or killing time on the guitar. Creativity and play are closely
related, and our inner creative geniuses are like little children. If you watch a child play at the piano, you can learn a lot about how
songwriting begins. Most children will just fiddle around until they hear something they like.
Most recently, I had a flurry of creativity after renting a loop station for a couple weeks. I had seen someone use one at a live show and
I was curious about it. I followed my sense of curiosity and it paid off. So mess around. Your inner creative genius is far more likely to
cooperate if songwriting feels less like homework and more like jamming or goofing off. Who wouldn't?
The first stages of songwriting are about getting ideas flowing,
not about deciding which are good and which are bad.
Turn your "quality control" switch off. Go for quantity over quality.
We might not end up the next Bob Dylan or Carole King, although we can certainly try. In the beginning stages of songwriting, we should
not hold ourselves up to some unrealistic standard. In order to begin any pursuit, we must allow ourselves to be beginners. Give yourself
permission to write some mediocre, overly emotional and silly songs. If you write a lot of songs, then some of them are bound to be good.
I know one talented artist who writes silly songs when he is stumped, because he knows that he will at least have something to show his
nieces and nephews. He usually finds, though, that the “silly” song he set out to write is better than he thought.
The first stages of songwriting are about getting ideas flowing, not about deciding which are good and which are bad. Nothing prevents
good writing flow more than judging your ideas too quickly.
Record or document all of your ideas.
Every good songwriter I know carries a notebook and/or some kind of recording device. My cell phone is full of little recordings and lyrical
notes. Some of these are melodies that came to me while I was cooking or cleaning. Others are sentences I overheard in the grocery store,
or chord progressions I stumbled upon while soundchecking at a gig. I record everything because I never know which ideas I'll forget later.
If you keep a record of your ideas, then you will have a little treasury at your disposal when you are stuck. If you write a deadly line of
lyrics that needs a good melody, then you can flip through your catalogue and find something that fits. Once your treasury gets big enough,
it's like supermarket shopping for songwriters.
Make decisions and edits later.
Songwriting is an emotional process. We can spend hours slaving away over something only to feel like it's completely horrible in the end.
In the process of rummaging through my emotions, I can get really worked up. Many times, I have been tempted to burn all my notes and
delete all my recordings of a particular song. Often I am very, very wrong. However, it does take a good night's sleep or a couple of days
away from it before I realize this. When I return to the song, I often find that my work is good (sometimes it’s really good) and I am
shocked that I was ready to fuel a campfire with it. Sometimes I find it isn't very good but there are one or two excellent lines I would
have lost if I had thrown it all away.
Paul Simon once said that he writes to see what he can find out
about himself, not to tell other people things he already knows.
I've learned that I should never throw everything away completely or feel like I have to make all of the songwriting decisions in one sitting.
Revisiting your work and editing it over a couple of sittings can produce a much better result. Leave room for that, and be patient with yourself.
The best and scariest thing you can do with your songwriting is to dig deep and be really honest. Sometimes we write the song we think
we should write rather than the one that we need to write. Paul Simon once said that he writes to see what he can find out about himself,
not to tell other people things he already knows. Songwriting is a process of gathering information about how we are thinking and feeling
about things in our lives. We need to do this well if we are going to write good songs.
This can be really scary, especially if you think about the prospect of performing a song in
front of others someday. Try not to let your brain go there while you are writing. You can always
decide after the song is finished whether or not you want to show it to anyone. Besides, think
of all of the amazing songs we would be missing out on if your favourite songwriters had
been too afraid to be vulnerable or to say things out loud. That would be quite the list!
Your songs will always be better if you are willing to dig deep. The real songs are the ones that
everyone relates to and loves. This willingness to be vulnerable is what sets the best
I hope this little bit of advice is enough to get some creative juices flowing. Happy writing!
Having been called a “smoke and honey-voiced songstress” (Kelly Jo Burke, CBC),
singer-songwriter Sarah Farthing is currently working on her first full-length album entitled
These Blues, which will be released in early 2014. Sarah works in the Saskatoon Long &
McQuade Lesson Centre. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@sarahfarthing), or at
“It excites me that there is no ceiling on it. That you can’t just say,
‘Well now I know everything there is to know about songwriting.’”
By Ken Kucharic
THE DEMANDS OF A CRAFT
Her songwriting shows a wonderful progression, the true working of
a craft. Her lyrics have matured into beautifully crafted poetic
expression. Her guitar playing has tightened and defined itself into
an articulate style that supports and punctuates her lyrics.
Production values have kept pace and learned to wrap themselves
around the warmth and strength of her work. She is very much an
artist that has come into her own in a vibrant and compelling way.
In the song “All Hands on a Grain of Sand” she portends, “I can only
serenade. And wait my turn to burn or fade.” With a Juno win for
her third release, Hunter, Hunter, and a Juno nomination for her
fourth, Spectators, it seems overwhelmingly clear that it is Amelia
Curran’s “turn to burn”...and brightly at that.
On her second release, War Brides, songs like “Scattered and
Small” and “Times a Ticker” provide clear indications of the
emerging strength and depth of her songwriting.
“The little album that could, I always called it. I think that War
Brides is without a doubt the ‘finding your footing’ album,” she
says, “finding your voice. It just came together.”
If War Brides shows us an artist “finding her voice”, then Amelia’s
third release, Hunter, Hunter, shows that same artist comfortably
centred and in full command of that voice. Perhaps some of the
peace and self awareness we hear on the record comes from the
environment in which it was made.
I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Amelia at The Pearl
Company Arts Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. She and the other two
members of her current trio, Catherine Allan (piano, accordion,
vocals) and Darren Browne (mandolin) arrived at the venue for a
late afternoon sound check. Laughing at the chance to play “diva”
while the others set up, we settled at a small table to talk
“There is no excuse for a bad lyric;
it’s just lazy.”
“It takes me longer and longer and longer to finish a song. It’s no
fun. It’s not exciting. But it has to be done,” she says with a laugh.
“It’s the first album I ever made in Newfoundland,” Amelia says. “I
went home to make it with Don Ellis.”
After a moment she explains, “I feel I’m just demanding more of it.
I talk about songwriting as a craft a lot. So I’m still sort of exploring
it myself. It excites me that there is no ceiling on it. That you can’t
just say, ‘Well now I know everything there is to know about
songwriting.’ You have to work really hard at it.”
It is a rare group of songs from start to finish for which Amelia
received a Juno award for Best Roots and Traditional Album: Solo.
She described the experience as “...totally amazing. It does not
wear off. It was at the (pre-televised show) dinner. It took a long
time. It was one of the last awards, I think. Oh god it was just crazy.
We went crazy. All the Newfoundlanders...the NL Music people were
sitting right behind me, and the Six Shooter people. It was Six
Shooter’s first Juno win and we went crazy. I think we scared people
in the room because we went so crazy. Things tipped over. It was
one for the team, you know? “
Perhaps realising the seeming severity of her description, she adds
with some reassurance, “But those songs where you wake up and
the song is there...those can still happen...that’s still the gem of it.
But you can’t count on it and”, she added wearily, “they are not
necessarily always the great ones.”
“There is no excuse for a bad lyric; it’s just lazy.” I remind Amelia
of this quote attributed to her. She laughs and says, “Definitely, but
can you imagine how sometimes I regret having said that? ‘Cause
I want this song to be finished! I want this song to be finished so
badly but you just can’t leave that line the way it is. That could be
six months of waiting for it to just change.
“Sometimes you have to really scramble for them and it can take
months,” she continues. “I haven’t completed a song I don’t
think all year. I’ve got fractions and half-songs and all kinds of
things happening. I’m working really hard at it but it’s not
quite...I don’t know. Sometime soon I’m going to have a really
great week where a whole bunch of them will get finished all at
once. And then I’ll say, ‘You know, I wrote 10 songs this week,’ but
it’s really been a year.”
Looking back over her four releases to date, we see a clear and
consistent evolution in songwriting and performance. Of her first
disc, Lullabies for Barflies, Amelia openly admits, “I wasn’t as
discerning a writer or editor. The themes aren’t necessarily linked
together...and the songs are not as well thought out.” To soften her
criticism somewhat she adds with a smile, “We were all rookies.”
“It takes me longer and longer
and longer to finish a song.
It’s no fun. It’s not exciting.
But it has to be done.”
As for most artists, winning a Juno was a transitional and
“I think I started to demand a lot more of my songs at that point,”
That increased demand is clearly evident on her latest record,
Spectators. Once again Amelia was nominated for a Juno, though
this time the award went to fellow east coast musician, Rose Cousins.
With Spectators, the songwriting demands to which Amelia was
referring reach past the machinery of the song itself to introduce
something else, something that has been brewing in the
periphery but not come to the forefront on previous efforts - a
growing social conscience.
“Spectators definitely has a theme,” says Amelia. “I didn’t mean it
from the start, but I discovered it while it was happening. It’s the
idea of standing on the sidelines and watching the world fall apart
and not jumping in and not doing anything...or perhaps paying too
much attention to the world falling apart and then missing all of the
good. I’m suffering greatly from wondering what the hell I can do.
And I don’t have any answers but there is a lot of exploration of
that on this album.”
Unlike a lot of songwriters, Amelia is very candid about who it is
doing the “exploration” in her music.
“’The Mistress’ is a character for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not
me,” she says with candour. “Narration is a very tricky tool and you
can hide a lot with narration, but it’s pretty much....I mean me.” It’s
not literal. It’s expressions of one’s self to communicate ‘everybody’.
‘There is nothing that separates me from what I’m making...which
is a bit dangerous, maybe, but there is nothing. That’s it.”
By Justin Ley
Ever play something you thought sounded cool on an instrument but didn't know how to turn it into a song? This is a crash course on
how to do just that!
The best part about being a musician and playing an instrument is, well… You get to make music! Sounds easy enough, but sometimes
it's easier said than done. One of the most important tools to a musician to help with the songwriting process is music theory and
understanding basic diatonic harmony.
Don't get intimidated - diatonic harmony is just an elaborate way of saying "Sounds good together." Having a basic understanding of
diatonic harmony will get you very far in songwriting, improvising, and helping you get the most out of your instrument.
So how does music theory work?
The Musical Alphabet
Music is a language and the way we translate it is to give music its own alphabet. It goes from A to G with sharps and flats – also known
as accidentals. Accidentals can be sharp (higher in pitch by a semitone) or flat (lower in pitch by a semitone.) An accidental can be referred
to as either a sharp or a flat (eg. A sharp and B flat are the same note). Here's what it looks like on paper:
As we navigate through our musical alphabet, the distance we travel is measured primarily in tones (one step) or semitones (two steps).
The distance from A to A# is one semitone, but the distance from A to B is a whole tone. There is no accidental between "B" and "C" and
"E" and "F", so the distance between those keys is only considered a semitone.
Major Scale and Minor Scale
Now we can start figuring out what notes sound good together!
There is a definitive logic (although some jazz musicians would argue) to what will sound good together and what won't in music.
Notes that sound good together, played in an ascending or descending sequence, are referred to as scales. Scales are based on a root
note, which is your first note or starting point in the scale. In short, you take your root note and apply a simple formula to derive the
As you experiment with these scales, or groupings of notes, you'll learn that each scale has its own unique sound or feel. Major scales
sound happy and resolved while minor scales can evoke feelings of sadness or melancholy. Music is about self-expression, and knowing
how each scale feels is very important when you need to express that emotion through sound. The major scale is the holy grail of music
theory. From it we will derive all aspects of a piece of music. From the melody to even the rhythm chords, the scale is the center of it all.
You’ve got to learn the rules before you start breaking them.
In this article we are only going to go over major scales, but it's important to note that minor scales function in the exact same way but
have a different formula and sound.
Here's the formula for the G Major scale:
We know we've made a complete scale because we've ended up back at our root note. The cycle continues but only exclusively with this
sequence of notes.
Major Chords and Minor Chords
The most common misconception is that scales come from chords when in fact it's the total opposite. Chords are notes taken from a
scale, but instead of playing them in a sequence (like a scale) notes in a chord are sounded together at once. That being said, if we already
know a scale, all we have to do is take certain notes from that scale and they'll harmonize with each other.
Let’s look at our scale for G major:
Our most common chords are called triads, meaning formed from 3 tones. Triads and chords in general are actually pretty simple and
have formulas as well. Here are the most common triad types:
R = Root
To form our chord, we're taking notes from our scale. So if we want to form a G major chord, look at the scale above. We want the root,
the 3rd and the 5th. So the G major chord is G, B, D. It's that easy!
Major Keys and Minor Keys
To summarize, we have our musical alphabet to which we apply a formula to derive our scale. We can then selectively take notes from
our scale and form chords. Too easy! Since we know which notes will sound good together (our scale), now we must figure out what chords
will sound good together; this is our key. The key is basically our scale, but with one major difference: instead of notes, now we are talking
Let’s look at our G major scale again.
In a major key, we take our scale of notes and turn them into chords by giving them major or minor properties. In a major key, our 1st or root
chord is always a major. The 2nd and 3rd are minor, the 4th and 5th major again with the 6th being minor and the 7th being the only one
that is diminished. Let’s look at it now applied to our scale. Minor is symbolised by a lower case “m.” Major is implied unless otherwise
This is our key of G major! Here's an example of a chord progression in the key of G Major: C / Am / D / G
Let’s do C Major as well.
Now we know that any melody (like a guitar solo or vocal line) in a song is derived from
our scale and we know that any chords or chord progressions are derived from our key.
We can also add to a piece by adding additional chord progressions to form things like
a chorus or a bridge. We know we can create melodies and harmonies over top of these
chord progressions by, agan, using our scale. Our possibilities with these tools are endless
when you consider the different instruments we can use to give different sounds to these
scales! This is a big step for anyone who intends to create music or even improvise over
Outside of this tutorial there exists a giant world of exceptions and substitutions - but
hey, you've got to learn the rules before you start breaking them!
Justin is a musician and songwriter who has been teaching music professionally for over
5 years. He has toured Canada and played in a wide variety of groups from rock to rap to
country and beyond. Justin’s music education spans many aspects, including jazz and
contemporary theory, music business and production. Justin works at Long & McQuade’s
By Ken Kucharic
“At this point in my career I understand that my strength lies
in songs that don’t exceed the speed limit.”
While re-mastering his debut record, No Never Alone, last year for a deluxe re-release and short corresponding tour, Justin
Rutledge was drawn to the simple beauty of his earliest work.
“I had a very naive approach to recording back then but it had a certain charm to it. It was me trying to do something that
I had never done before.”
Some people would be unnerved or perhaps even a bit embarrassed by such a review of their younger selves, but Justin
was inspired by it.
“I spent so long apart from it, which was great because I got to distance myself from the songs and I got to listen to them
with an objective mind,” says Justin. “It was almost like going through an album of old photographs that you hadn’t unearthed
in over a decade. It was definitely an interesting experience.”
So much so, that the older and more experienced songwriter crafted his latest work, Valleyheart, as “a response to that young
kid who just wrote what he felt.”
“I’ve always thought that feeling was the most important thing,” he says. That being said, Justin admits a more worldly view
has settled upon him.
Though far from cynical, he concedes, “Sadly, it’s become much more of a job - even though I love what I do.” He quickly
adds, “Not that I am tainted in any way or jaded in any way, but it’s become a job and it’s been great.”
Perhaps it was the rigours of the practical demands of being a successful musician that made the more
unencumbered methods of No Never Alone so appealing.
“I really wanted to go back and, not try to emulate what I did, but try to approach the songwriting and
the production of the songs in a similar manner as in No Never Alone,” he explains.
Age brings new perspectives, skills and refinement to a craft, but that doesn’t necessarily make the
“Sometimes I might over-think things a little too much,” Justin admits. “On Valleyheart, I tried to make
things sort of excessively simple...there is a lot of space. There is a lot of room for listeners to really digest
what is being sung and what’s happening around them. You can really hear each instrument being
played, which is what happened on the first record, I think.”
Another key aspect of No Never Alone that informs Valleyheart and, in fact, the vast majority of Justin’s
work to date, is pace.
“At this point in my career,” Justin says, “I understand that my strength lies in songs that don’t exceed
the speed limit.”
Both albums move at a pace that gently compels the listener to slow down and listen. These are not
songs to take to spin class; they are deep, beautiful pools that catch your senses, slow your breath, and
pull you in like still water.
“The way I write a song is more like a series of photographs,” he says. “I look at Valleyheart as a series.
I’m a very image-based writer so I tend to write in a way that is more visual as opposed to more
narrative...I’ve never been a good storyteller,” he explains somewhat ironically. “My stories just start in
the middle somewhere and sort of end in the middle. You get a glimpse into a feeling or an emotion or
a situation but you’re not invited in; you just look in the window.
“The way I see it is that a song is like looking in the window of someone’s home briefly or flipping
through an old photograph album. You only get a sense of the moment.”
These moments we glimpse, scripted with intricate beauty, are predominantly dramatic constructs.
“I’ve always gravitated toward writing fictional songs,” says Justin. “There are a handful of songs of mine
that are ‘confessional’ but I don’t subscribe to that way of songwriting. I think that the songs that I write
have not happened to me. There are two or three songs on Valleyheart that are sort of obviously specific
but, for the most part, I take a sentiment and create a little story around it and work that way.
“There is a lot of room to maneuver when it is character based,” he continues. “I think that it allows a
lot more freedom. It’s a pretty sneaky way to go about doing things (but) I utilise it because it makes
me feel a little safer. I don’t really like projecting me into the middle of something. I don’t like specifics.
I’m pretty vague when I write my songs. I don’t like being too on the nose.”
Though he may avoid specifics in regards to the people or emotional situations being depicted in his
songs, Justin often uses “place” as a songwriting tool to provide some notion of balance,
“I like to ground a song somewhere physical, somewhere tangible, whether it be Kapuskasing or Barcelona
or Stanley Park,” he says. “I like the notion of the listener being able to latch on to something right away,
something that‘s familiar. I think geography allows me to do that. It’s a way to invite yourself in.
“Everything else that I might write about is foreign to the listener but I like grounding the songs
somewhere, whether it be a location...or a street name...or a certain type of tree or a certain type of
flower. Something that’s familiar with the listener. I think it creates a relationship.”
The songs on Valleyheart evince the sophisticated depth of an artist maturing into his craft.
“I find that it takes me longer to write songs now, because over the years that I have been writing songs,
I have kind of stepped up my bureau of standards on them so I’m a little more picky when it comes to
what I release,” admits Justin. “Back then, I didn’t really have a bureau of standards.”
He certainly does now.
LONG & McQUADE IN THE
MARCH OF DIMES’
For close to a decade, amateur musicians have been trading in their suits and
ties for ripped jeans and guitars in March of Dimes Canada’s battle of the bands
fundraiser - Rock for Dimes. Long & McQuade has been the Rock for Dimes
national backline sponsor; they also assist with the recruitment of bands, and provide
“swag” and auction items.
Rock for Dimes is a series of fundraising events held across Canada to support March of
Dimes Canada’s programs and services for children and adults with disabilities.
Local musicians with varying levels of experience perform in front of industry professionals
to claim the title of their city’s best corporate or amateur band, or simply to be part of a
What began in 2005 as a single fundraising event in Toronto has grown into a national, multicity event, sponsored across the country by Long & McQuade, AMG Medical Supplies and now
by Pennzoil, that has raised over $1 million for Canadians living with disabilities. Rock for Dimes
events are currently held in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, London, Niagara, Kitchener-Waterloo,
Guelph, Sherkston Shores, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Rock for Dimes allows amateur and semi-professional musicians to blend their love of
performing with philanthropy, living out their rock star dreams while supporting a great cause.
Some of the judges who have volunteered their time include Dave Genn from 54/40, Mike
Reno from Loverboy, Jeremy Taggart from Our Lady Peace, Josh Trager from Sam Roberts Band
and Tyler Stewart from the Barenaked Ladies.
“It is an honour and a blast to be involved in Rock for Dimes year after year,” says Dave Genn
of 54/40, who has been judging Rock for Dimes in Vancouver since its inception.. “The cause
is wonderful, of course, but what keeps me coming back is the fact that the corporate bands
are so obviously having the times of their lives. And on the rare occasion that a note is flat or
a wrong note is struck I simply remind myself how much better the guys and girls on stage are
at my job than I am at theirs!”
Marc Belliveau has been the local volunteer organizer of Rock for Dimes Halifax for eight years.
A partner at the law firm of Stewart McKelvey, he has been with the event since its inception,
and has helped grow the event to become one of the most successful battle of the bands in
“When we first started doing the battle of the bands, it was primarily an opportunity to get
excellent musicians out of their safe white-collar working environments to perform live on stage
for a great cause,” says Marc. “However, over the years, we developed a better understanding
of how living out our rock star fantasies directly impacted young people, from toddlers to
teenagers, in terms of their quality of life and self-confidence. It’s part of a long and successful
tradition, namely the fusion of popular music with charitable giving.
“Ultimately, the goal (of March of Dimes) is to create a society more inclusive of people with
physical disabilities by maximizing independence, personal empowerment and community
“And with each power chord and cymbal crash we do on stage, we know in our hearts that it’s
not just live entertainment, it’s another tangible step towards equal opportunity, self-sufficiency,
dignity and quality of life for kids in need.”
"Participating in Rock for Dimes is such a fun way for us to support the great programs and
work that March of Dimes does for children and adults living with disabilities,” says Ron Fox,
a band member from Toronto. “As recreational amateur musicians, we had a fantastic time
playing music for a full house of friends and family while raising money for a great
cause! The sound was excellent both on-stage and off and we would like to thank all of the
organizers and corporate sponsors for their generous support and for their efforts in making
the event such a success.”
By Dennis Ullman, Special Projects Consultant, March of Dimes
March of Dimes Canada is seeking new communities to host Rock for Dimes fundraisers. For
more information, or to find a Rock for Dimes event in your city, please visit
www.rockfordimes.ca. For more information on the programs and services offered by March of
Dimes Canada, please visit www.marchofdimes.ca.
The world of DJing is an alluring one, filled with bright lights,
big sounds and beautiful people - DJs are the new rock stars.
By Ian Paron
So You Want
to Be a DJ?
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE
The world of DJing is an alluring one, filled with bright lights, big sounds and beautiful people - DJs are the new rock stars. The
exciting lifestyles of DJs such as Tiesto and David Guetta are well popularised in the media, moving DJing into the forefront of
To add to the excitement, DJing is more accessible to the masses than ever before, requiring less gear and less money to get
started. Gone are the days of back breaking record crates and trailers full of speakers; a powerful DJ setup will now fit comfortably
inside a compact car.
There are things to consider, however, before plunging into the world of beat bangers and turntablists.
When just starting out, you will most likely find yourself leaning towards the digital domain; this means your DJ experience will
involve a laptop and audio files (mp3, wav, aiff etc.). Most record labels now release music for download far in advance of a
physical copy (cd, vinyl). Also, there are tons of great online DJ record pools to join, where you can find songs in various forms
(dirty, clean, instrumental, a capella) that make life that much easier.
After deciding to go the digital route, it is important to determine what kind of DJ you are going to be. This is very important
because it will determine something that is dear to everyone’s hearts and pockets - MONEY!
If you are going to be a bedroom DJ, then your budget can be significantly lower than someone who is planning to rock nightclubs
and festivals. While you don’t have to seal your fate with your first purchase, keep in mind that you can save money in the future
by making the right choices now.
All previous things considered, the easiest and most cost effective way to jump into the DJ world is with the purchase of a DJ
controller. A DJ controller is a hardware device designed to mimic a classic DJ setup (think two turntables and a mixer) in an
Controllers come in different shapes, sizes and prices, but the general layout remains the same. These units hook up to your
laptop by USB and allow you to control DJ software and play music. Most DJ controllers have a built-in soundcard; this allows
you to connect your controller directly to an amp or powered speaker. This plug and play ability, along with ease of portability,
makes DJ controllers a must within the mobile DJ community (think wedding and corporate DJs). When taking the low entry level
price point into consideration, controllers are normally the first stop for many first time DJs.
When starting out and not trying to break the bank, a controller such as the Numark Mixtrack Pro II (390416, $29995) or the
Hercules DJ Console MK4 (324769, $199) is a good choice and has everything you need, sans laptop and speakers, to get started.
If you want something a little more advanced, you can check out the Native Instruments Kontrol S2/Kontrol S4 (352076, $49999
/ 330509, $59999) or the Denon DN-MC3000 (370743, $429.) Adding a few more features and coming with more powerful
software, these controllers will allow you to be more creative and add more dynamics to your DJ set.
For the professional wedding DJ, or the DJ who wants a feature-packed piece of gear, Pioneer’s flagship controller is the DDJSX
(379779, $1039) or there’s the Vestax VCI-400 (359178, $799) – both well-engineered pieces of DJ gear designed with the
necessary bells and whistles to make the most demanding DJ comfortable, no matter what the environment.
These are but a few examples of the many offerings out there.
Another thing to consider is that many of these controllers can only be used with preferred software - so if you are partial to a
particular one (Serato DJ, Traktor, Virtual DJ, etc.), make sure that your controller of choice is compatible.
If your mind is set on becoming the next festival rocking DJ, then your ambitions may lead you to some more high end gear. You
may be interested in a more classic DJ setup such as two turntables/CD players and a mixer with or without a laptop. If using
a laptop, you will likely be using a DVS (Digital Vinyl System) like Serato or Traktor. These systems are slightly more complex to
set up than a DJ controller, but usually have more capabilities and a higher sound and build quality.
For this scenario, let’s consider a DJ system consisting of a DJ mixer, two CD players and one interface (soundcard). The setup
would be as follows:
Your laptop connects to the interface via USB; the interface has inputs and outputs for a right and left deck. The output of the CD
player to the left of the mixer connects to the left input on the interface, and the right CD player output connects to the right input
on the interface. The left output on the interface connects to Input One on the mixer and the right output connects to Input Two.
If you are already familiar with a traditional turntable and mixer setup, then all you need to remember is that the soundcard
goes in between the turntables and the mixer in the signal chain.
If you’re still yearning to go pro but want to ditch the laptop for a more in-touch-with-your-audience approach (or you just want to
mimic your favourite EDM DJ), then consider the Pioneer CDJ 2000 Nexus media player (380353, $2079.) Along with a DJM900,
two CDJ 2000s make a potent combination. The setup would be the same as the above; just go directly from the CDJs to the DJM.
For this set up, the music files are contained on either an SD card or USB
thumb/hard drive that you plug into the CDJ.
While these are just some of the different options available on the market,
regardless of model, the set up more or less remains the same.
There are a few staples in the DJ industry such as Pioneer CDJs, or Technics
1200s (and, since the 1200 is no longer manufactured, the popular alternative,
Stanton STR8-150 (204201, $599.) There are also many new options popping
up that are worth your attention. Most manufacturers have competitive offerings
in every price category; this includes both hardware and software.
So make sure you do your own research and try out as many options as possible
before making your choice. Your local DJ or PA specialist at Long & McQuade
can offer great advice too.
Ian Paron is a professional gear head and has been playing for seven years both
as a club and corporate/wedding DJ. He also does studio production, recording
and live sound. He works at Long & McQuade in North York.
By Kahler Legacy
The Road to
YOUR FIRST SESSION
Why Do You Want to Record?
Who is the Product For?
by your favourite artists. At this point you should only focus on
song construction, not sound quality, for your comparison.
These are the first questions you should ask yourself.
Are you aiming to sell your music; present it as a jingle to a
commercial company; simply to have for your own enjoyment? The
possibilities are endless, and narrowing it down can give you a
better idea of how to begin.
Vocalists – Consider finding a shorter way to say what you're trying
to say. If you've got a single verse with 18 sentences, for example,
try to cut it down. Sometimes too many words can turn a melody
into a jangle of spoken words.
For the sake of this article, let’s focus on being a band that is
looking to create a press kit, EP or album for the intention of
reaching audiences and record labels.
Guitarists – Try playing some parts in different places to see if they
fit better. A great way to get a big sound is by doubling tracks. The
more you double the tracks the bigger they can get - although too
many might muddy everything up. You can also thicken a part
slightly by doubling it and keeping the volume of the second take
lower than the original take.
If you're seeking the attention
of labels and radio stations,
keep in mind that your song
should be captivating in a short
period of time.
Tips on Being Prepared.
Even for the most accomplished artist or established band,
entering the studio can be a stressful time if you are not prepared.
On the flip side, being in the studio and completing your project
can also be an exciting, rewarding experience! There are a few
things to consider before beginning the studio journey.
1. Do you know your material? Nothing makes your recording
experience less stressful than knowing your parts in and out. There
shouldn't be a passage in your song(s) that makes you nervous as
the record button is pressed; you should be confident in your
ability and your knowledge of the piece of music you crafted from
your own two hands (or feet, mouth, etc). So practice, practice,
practice – there can never be enough. When you’re paying a studio
by the hour to record your material and don’t know your parts, you
could waste valuable time and money.
Bassists/Drummers – Are you the meat and potatoes of the song?
The more locked-in your grooves are to each other, the tighter the
band will sound as a whole. Your time to shine may be when there
are no vocals. Try placing drum and bass riffs in open spaces in
3. Will you be recording to a metronome? There is no right or wrong
answer to this question; it all depends on the music. During
rehearsals, practice with and without a metronome. This will help
you determine if it is right for the band and the song. It will also help
your band decide if a song is being played too fast or too slow.
4. Will you be tracking individually or together? It's become
increasingly more common over the past 25 years for bands to
track individually, rather than all at once. However, depending on
the group, it may be more fitting to capture the sound of a live,
one-take performance. Be prepared to do either, as a song could
call for a live performance sound, while another could call for
individual tracking. Discuss this with the studio engineer in
advance of your first session so you are prepared.
Side Note: If you're seeking the attention of labels and radio
stations, keep in mind that your song should be captivating in a
short period of time. Also keep in mind that in order for a song to
be air-able both on radio and television, it must be kept within 3–4
minutes in length. Any longer and they may want to edit it down.
Second, Third and Fifth Opinions?
In a band setting, it is always great to practice in various
configurations: as a group without vocals, or with only the bass
player and drummer, or as an acoustic rehearsal with focus only
on vocals and harmonies. These are great ways to better learn your
material and see how everyone is playing together, for the song.
This will also help you if you decide to record your parts separately
when in the studio.
When you’ve reached the point where you believe you are ready to
begin the recording process, it would be valuable for your music to
be heard by other ears. An unbiased audience can give you a
perspective of your music that you weren’t able to attain yourself.
Just as it is not always easy to know what shirt looks best on you,
it is also not always easy to know if your music is at its best (or
near best) point.
Side Note: There can always be the opportunity for some “studio
magic” – a guitar solo that just felt right (and came out of
nowhere!), or a drum fill that was played just a bit differently than
You could also bring one of your rehearsal recordings to the studio
engineer so he or she can offer some advice and have an
understanding of the upcoming recording session. You may want
to bring some albums from your favourite artists in order to
discuss the type of sound that you are looking for.
2. Is your group functioning as a band? - A group of musicians
generally falls under two categories when working towards being a
band: the “individual” band or the “together” band.
The “individual” band is made up of musicians who only play for
themselves rather than for the song; they might be focused on
personal accomplishment only.
The “together” band is tight; each player is a cog, and his or her
parts complement the other parts and other band members in
order to perform the song.
A great way to find out in which category your band currently lies,
is to record your rehearsals. Listening to these recordings as a
band can help you determine if each player knows his or her parts,
and is complementing each part of the song.
You may want to compare your rehearsal recordings to recordings
Location, Location, Location
So, you're almost ready to record. Your material is tight, you know
your parts. The next thing to do is decide where you want to record.
If you don’t have a budget to take your project to a professional
studio, don’t fear. With today’s technology and resources, setting
up a home-based studio might be better suited to your needs –
but that’s a topic for another article!
An active producer & musician in the local community, Kahler has
been working for Long & McQuade Fredericton for 3 years, and
was a teacher at Ostanek's Music (the new Long & McQuade
location in St. Catharines, Ontario.)
Handheld recorders, for quick and easy
capture of your rehearsals, are available for
purchase in-store and online starting at $7999,
and can be rented for as little as $11/day!
a Home Studio
Home recording has never been more accessible. There’s a wide range of gear and software
available for even a modest budget that can get you up and running quickly. There’s a lot to
learn about recording, though, and many people are intimidated by the learning curve to get
started. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the basic concepts and equipment necessary to
set up your own home studio.
By Mark Garrison
The Traditional Setup
The best way to understand how a modern studio works is to look at how studios used to
be set up - because digital workstations are all based on the same fundamental
architecture. I call this the “traditional setup” because it’s how studios looked during the
heyday of analog recording.
The traditional setup consisted of a mixing board, a multitrack reel-to-reel tape deck, an
amplifier and monitors (speakers). The mixing board was split into two sections: an input
section (for controlling the signal that is going into the recorder) and an output section (for
monitoring the recording and creating the final mix).
Figure 1 shows the input section of this setup. Audio sources (microphones, etc.) are run
into individual channels on the mixer, giving access to mic preamps, equalizer, and volume
control. Adjustments made in this section of the mixer will be recorded to tape and,
therefore, are permanent. Direct outputs from each of these channels are then connected
to the individual inputs of the reel-to-reel deck where the signal is recorded.
So that the recording can be monitored and mixed, the outputs from each track of the tape
deck are routed to their own individual channels on the mixing board, as seen in Figure 2.
These channels are used to create a mix of the recorded sounds. Adjustments and effects
applied here can be changed until final mixdown.
The main outputs of the mixer are fed into an amplifier that powers a pair of studio
monitors. Self-powered monitors (also called active monitors), which have the amplifier built
into the speaker box, are now very common, eliminating the need for a separate amplifier.
In this setup, the final mix is recorded on to a separate stereo device. The resulting tape is
called a “mixed master” and can be sent to a mastering suite to be prepared for reproduction.
While modern studios look quite different, the same process and routing is still happening,
though usually more subtly in the digital realm. Now, let’s look at modern studio setups.
Standalone Audio Workstations
Standalone workstations take every element of the traditional setup and place it in a single
piece of equipment. They can be small enough to fit in your pocket, or large enough to cover
a small desk, and their features and price points cover an equally wide range.
Standalone workstations are portable and convenient. Most contain everything you need to
take your recording from start to finish – just plug in a microphone, instruments, and a pair
of speakers or headphones, and you have a studio. Another advantage of standalone DAWs
(Digital Audio Workstations) is that, because their processors are dedicated to a specific set
of functions, they tend to be very stable and require less maintenance.
The main limitation of a standalone workstation is that, because all the hardware is
contained in the same unit, there are usually few-to-no options for upgrading (eg. number
of inputs, quality of effects, etc.). If a unit no longer serves your purposes, you can always
trade it in for a model with more features.
Computer-Based Audio Workstations
Computer-based DAWs are also extremely popular. With a piece of software, and possibly
a little hardware, you can turn almost any computer or tablet into a recording studio. This
can be very appealing because, assuming you already have a suitable computer, the cost
to get started can be lower. Like the standalone workstation, almost all of the elements of
the traditional setup are handled by software.
The quickest and easiest way to start recording on your computer is to use the microphone
input on your existing soundcard. This will work, but is extremely limiting in terms of quality
and control, and usually won’t record more than one track at once. An easy and affordable
upgrade can be made by purchasing a microphone that connects directly to your computer
via USB. These mics can offer very good sound quality at a reasonable price, though you
will still be limited to one mic at a time. To record multiple audio sources at a time, you will
need to use an audio interface, which is a device that connects to your computer (often via
USB or Firewire), providing multiple inputs and outputs.
Unlike standalone workstations, it can be very easy to upgrade your computer-based
workstation by adding RAM, getting a new (or an additional) interface to add more inputs,
or purchasing software plugins to add new effects and functionality to your DAW.
Computer-based systems can be more prone to issues than standalone units. Due to the
wide range of activities and other software we use our computers for, as well as the large
number of possible combinations of hardware, operating systems and software versions,
care must be taken when upgrading any part of the system to ensure optimal performance.
What to Consider Before Buying
a Recording Workstation
I’ve given you a brief overview of the main options for starting a home studio. In
this last section, I’d like to give you a list of factors to consider when choosing a
home studio setup.
Number of tracks: This is the total number of individual signals over which you
can record and maintain individual control. The more complex the recordings you
plan to make, the more tracks you’ll need.
Number of inputs: This will control how many tracks can be recorded at once. If
you only plan to record yourself and your guitar, two inputs will likely be enough,
but you’ll want more if you plan to record a drum kit or a whole group at once.
Number of mic preamps: This will affect how many microphones can be plugged
directly into the unit. It is not uncommon to see devices with four or eight inputs,
but with mic preamps on only half of them. Line-level devices, such as
synthesizers or mixers, do not require preamps, and separate preamps can be
used with inputs that don’t have them built in.
Media/storage: On standalone DAWs you’ll want to be aware of what type of
media the recording is being stored on, how much storage there is, and what your
options are to archive old projects.
Quality: If you’re just planning to record for fun, make a demo, or capture
rehearsals, then entry-level equipment will serve you just fine, but if you plan to
make recordings for sale or other distribution, higher-quality gear will likely be
worth the investment.
Growth: All workstations have a learning curve to them, so once you get to know
a system, it’s nice to be able to stick with it. Think about your future needs and
try to choose a system that can grow with you – that is to say, if you think you
might be taking on more ambitious projects in the future, pick software that has
a professional version you can eventually upgrade to, or a standalone workstation
that has fuller-featured versions in the same family to which you can graduate.
Mark Garrison is the author of The Encyclopedia of Home Recording. In his
classes, workshops and writing he focuses on teaching how to create better
recordings through a greater understanding of the tools and techniques of the
studio. Visit his website at www.homerecordingbook.com.
A Suggested L&M Shopping List for
Setting Up Your First Home Studio:
The BOSS BR-80 (345383) $299 is a micro digital recorder that is small enough to fit in your pocket,
and the BOSS BR-800 (321957) $449 is an 8-track portable recording studio that runs on batteries!
COMPUTER BASED DAWS:
Cubase 7 (382684) $49999, the most recent version of the popular software, lets you
record, edit and mix your songs, while providing you with professional, studio-grade
audio quality at all stages of the creative process.
Ableton Live 9 (390941) $499 introduces new dimensions of creative possibilities with
Session View automation, inspiring Audio to MIDI tools, curved automation envelopes,
new and improved studio effects, an enhanced browser, and more.
Try Yorkville Sound’s YSM-5 (333738) $180 each, the most compact studio monitor in the YSM
series – perfect for small listening spaces and desktop studios.
If you’re looking for something bigger, the KRK RP8 G2 (290005) $27999 each, is a great choice, with
its 8-inch woofers that combine efficiency and flat response for a difference you can hear and feel.
Apex HP96 closed ear monitor headphones (332027) $7499 are a
Sennheiser’s HD280 closed ear headphones (175524) $11099 are
another popular choice.
Both of these models boast extremely robust construction combined
with extensive features that meet the requirements of today's most
demanding applications. Their collapsible design and swiveling ear
cups offer maximum flexibility in any application.
Store your tunes on an external hard drive like
the 500GB Glyph GPT50-500-1102 (379255)
195, whose triple interface consists of USB
2.0, eSATA and FireWire 800.
Primacoustic’s VoxGuard (317505) $9999 controls ambient space around the mic,
creates an intimate sound field and delivers a cleaner, more articulated, voice track.
Auralex’s ProPAD professional
monitor isolation pads (377123)
115/pair are extremely useful
for decoupling monitors and
reducing structural vibrations.
The equipment options and personal needs are plentiful, so be sure to consult with your local Long & McQuade store’s recording
specialists. They’re happy to help!
101 Reasons to Rent
A long time ago, in a storefront far far away, Long & McQuade’s rental program was born.
Actually, the year was 1958, and the storefront was at 803 Yonge Street in Toronto. And it wasn’t Luke Skywalker but Jack Long,
the company’s founder, who gave birth to the concept, in response to his musician friends constantly coming in to the fledgling
store to borrow an instrument for a night or a weekend.
The notion of borrowing for a nominal fee quickly took off, and so began the ability to rent from Long & McQuade.
Over the past fifty years, the program has been enhanced and expanded, but the mission behind it has remained the same: to
make musical instruments and equipment available to people in an easy and affordable way.
There are many reasons why people choose to rent, even when the option of Long & McQuade’s easy in-store financing is available.
I’ve always wanted to try playing the drums / piano / flute / trumpet, etc….
You’re a guitarist by trade but a drummer at heart, and would like to see if you’ve got the skill and patience to ace a new instrument.
With our rental program, there are no long-term commitments. You choose the length of your rental, be it for a day, a week or a month.
We even offer special school year rental rates for students. If you’re lovin’ the drums / piano / flute / trumpet, etc., we’ll apply a portion
of the rent you’ve paid toward its purchase. Or, if you’re not feeling the love and the rental period is not yet over, we’ll give you a refund
for the time remaining.
I read about this new keyboard and would love to try it out.
Want to try before you buy? By all means! We’re constantly replenishing and adding to our rental fleet, so we often have the latest and
greatest gear available to take for a spin.
I hate lugging my drumkit from home to my rehearsal space every week.
Save the back-breaking schlep. Consider renting a second helping of your heavy gear so that you’ve got the best in both places. You can
rent a full drumkit for as little as $35/month. Chances are your chiropractor charges more than that each week.
I’m playing a show this weekend and need a mandolin.
Or a djembe. Or a piccolo. Or a full PA system. Whether you’re playing a show, recording a song or DJing your cousin’s wedding, sometimes
you need that something extra for the occasion. Chances are we’ve got just what you need.
Ugh. My synth just died and my band’s playing tomorrow.
Never fear. Not only can you rent a replacement in a pinch…but we also have expert guitar and electronic technicians on staff who can
take a look at your sick (and not “sick” in the cool way) gear, and diagnose and hopefully cure whatever it is that ails it.
I’m from Halifax and am flying out to Vancouver Island for a gig.
One of the true benefits of dealing with Long & McQuade – we have 61 locations across Canada and 1 database! So if you’re a customer
at our Dartmouth store and want to rent something from our Nanaimo location, the process is seamless.
The reasons for renting from Long & McQuade are endless, but they all benefit from our same creed, and that’s to help you make music
when you want, with the gear you want, easily and affordably.
A Word About Protection
If you’re looking for peace of mind for your piece of gear, you might want to consider purchasing
Long & McQuade’s rental protection.
For a $4 fee, your rented equipment is covered against theft to a maximum of $1,500. Talk to
your friendly neighbourhood L&M salesperson for all of the details.
Rent the strings, own the campfire.
Rent an acoustic guitar from $7/week.
Rent a banjo from $12/week.
Rent the keys, own the inspiration.
Rent an 88-note electric piano from $49/month.
Rent the system, own the party.
Rent a small PA system from $26/weekend.
Rent the drums, own the beat.
Rent an acoustic kit with cymbals from $35/month.
Rent an electronic kit from $50/month.
Rent cajons & other percussion from $10/month.
Rent the lights, own the night.
Rent lighting from $5/day.
Rent the mic, own the song.
Rent a microphone from $8/month.
Check out more gear and rates
Sit Up Straight and
(to Your Technique!)
T H E R E L AT I O N S H I P O F
TECHNIQUE AND TONE
ON THE DRUMSET
By Mike Murza
The first thing to understand when playing this
demanding musical instrument is that you must learn
to use the laws of physics to your advantage –
that means making friends with gravity!
A guitar player once told me that good tone was in the fingers, not the equipment. He claimed that a player
like Jimi Hendrix could pick up absolutely any guitar and make it sing. Legend also has it that saxophone
great Charlie Parker was playing on a borrowed plastic alto sax when he was recorded at the famous Massey
Hall concert in 1953 alongside Miles Davis, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. The result was one of the most
famous and beloved jazz recordings of all time. These inspiring anecdotes make some drummers think – does
the same apply to ME? How much of my own technique goes into the sound quality of what I'm playing? It's
all the drum's fault if it sounds bad, right?
The truth is that your playing technique can have a huge impact on the sound quality of your instrument as
well as your ability to control dynamics (volume), and tempo (speed). It can also greatly aid or hinder your ease
of movement around the drumset.
Since everyone has different lengths of arms and legs in addition to varying shapes and sizes of hands, it would
be impossible to expect every drummer in the world to play with the exact same technique. There are, however,
some universal truths about how your playing is affected by the way you hold your stick and the way you strike
your drums and cymbals.
The first thing to understand when playing this demanding musical instrument is that you must learn to use
the laws of physics to your advantage – that means making friends with gravity! It takes far less effort to
dribble a basketball against the floor than against a wall. A drumstick behaves the same way – if you are not
picking your stick up and bringing it more or less straight down, then you are fighting against nature! When
struck dead centre straight down, the drum head will vibrate evenly from centre to edge (think of dropping a
pebble in a pool of water) and “activate” the sound of the wood shell. Like a basketball, the stick will also more
readily bounce straight back up, ready for the next downward stroke.
Having your drums set up at too much of an angle will really work against this concept. A drum angled too
sharply will often cause a drummer to alter his or her playing technique so that the stick is no longer being
brought down, but somewhat forward. The stick will not bounce back up so easily and additional energy will
be spent (especially in your forearms) to keep bringing the stick back off the drum, aiming for the centre, and
“throwing” it forward again.
This unnecessary use of energy will fatigue your arms, wrists and fingers faster and make controlling speed
and volume much more difficult.
The other side effect of this battle against gravity is usually a damaged, pitted drumhead!
Sit with your hands in front of you as if you are
eating dinner at a table, elbows loosely by your side
(but not up in the air!)
In order to become comfortable with this essential technique, one must first be comfortable when playing. Sit
straight up, do not slouch forward or hunch your back – that will only encourage you to keep your hands and
forearms down low and in between your knees. Sit with your hands in front of you as if you are eating dinner
at a table, elbows loosely by your side (but not up in the air!). Some people
find that keeping the backs of your hands facing upward (or at least the
knuckles of your index fingers) also helps ensure better sticking technique and
Striking a drum (evenly tensioned to your liking) squarely and properly should
produce a solid and well defined sound. Poor posture, bad stick gripping
habits and sharply angled drums are all factors to watch out for when
practising to correct or perfect your technique and sound. If you are not sure
about how you are doing, ask an experienced teacher for advice!
Mike Murza studied at Berklee and the University Of Saskatchewan where
he finished his Bachelor of Music Performance degree in 1999. He has
been a private instructor for over 15 years and has conducted workshops
for beginner band students in Saskatoon and Southern Saskatchewan
communities. In addition to being a busy teacher, tech and performer, Mike
maintains a keen interest in notational history, percussion organology
(history of instruments) and medieval music. Mike is a drum specialist at
Long & McQuade Saskatoon.
Learning from your mistakes is part of life.
Learning from other people's mistakes is even better.
Don’t Leave Home
S AV E Y O U R G I G W I T H A N
EMERGENCY REPAIR KIT
By Pierre Bazin
Any drummer who's had a decent amount of experience gigging has, at some point, come across an emergency situation with his or her
gear. Sometimes it's a quick and easy fix, like a key screw coming loose on your double pedal. One quick turn with your drum key and
you're back on track. If you forgot your drum key, however, it's not so simple anymore. Now you're stuck scouring the area for a spare key,
wasting valuable time and energy that you'll need to prepare for and play the gig.
Other situations can be more disastrous, like breaking the batter side of your bass drum head in the middle of a set. Without a spare head,
you'll go the rest of the set without a kick drum.
Learning from your mistakes is part of life. Learning from other people's mistakes is even better. Being prepared to quickly and efficiently
deal with the problem before it even comes up is the best way to handle what life throws at you. That is why every gigging drummer should
have an emergency repair kit. An emergency repair kit is a collection of repair and replacement parts that often go missing or break before
or during a gig. This kit should be portable, easy to access, and consist of anything that will help you get back on your feet should anything
on your gear go wrong.
Keep in mind that this notion, of always being prepared with “spare parts,” applies to any musician – be it a
guitarist, bassist, sax player and more.
I keep my repair kit in the trunk of my car if I'm transporting my own gear, or the vehicle my drums are loaded
into. It's a good idea to keep it near you while you play. Never leave it at home, or anywhere you might forget
it. Having an emergency kit prepared won't do you any good if you don't have it with you!
Some things to consider putting in your emergency repair kit:
Spare Bass and Snare Heads
These two drums are the heart and soul of your kit. You can usually survive the rest of the gig without a tom
if it breaks (depending on the music you're playing) but if a kick or snare head goes out, you're out of luck.
You might even want to consider having a spare snare drum ready to go beside your kit as you play.
I can't stress this one enough. Odds are, you have a sizable stack of drum keys somewhere at home or at your
rehearsal space. Odds are, they are the last thing that you'll think to bring with you when you're scrambling to
get all your gear loaded in a hurry, and the first thing you'll find yourself needing. Keep at least one in your kit
at all times. Even better, always have one on your person while handling drums. Many drum keys have holes
on them for placing them onto keychains!
If you gig often, you probably have a stick bag with at least a tree's worth of sticks in it. Should you forget your
stick bag, having a few spare sets can make a huge difference, especially when you're on the road.
Small Replacement Parts
This can include anything from cymbal felts, wing nuts, tension rods, key screws, beaters, beater patches,
pedal springs, dampeners and tone control rings, cleaners/polish, duct tape, Allen keys (I keep a whole set
for any size), and anything else on your kit that could get worn down, broken or lost. Get to know what small
parts are on your equipment and where you can get replacements. Pick up a small tool box or tackle box to
keep all these small parts in.
A Pencil and a Sharpie
Sooner or later, you're going to have to write something down. If you're handed a chart that belongs to someone
else, you'll want a pencil so you can erase any notes when you're done with it. A black Sharpie is good for writing
out last-minute set lists. Black will show up more clearly than any other colour under stage lighting.
Having this equipment ready to go at any time will save you from stressful and
embarrassing situations. Proper maintenance of your gear will also help you keep
your gear functioning and reliable. The better you keep your gear, the less you'll
need to use your emergency kit. Keep your drums, hardware and cymbals in bags
or cases. Clean and inspect your equipment regularly. Trust your instincts. If you
get a feeling that something could go wrong during a gig, take appropriate
measures to prevent it from happening.
Being able to anticipate things going wrong and dealing with them beforehand will
give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on the real reason you're at the gig:
to have fun and play music.
Pierre Bazin is a multi-instrumentalist and clinician from Saskatoon, SK. He is the
sales associate in the drum department at Long & McQuade Saskatoon North.
He is currently the drummer for the melodic death metal band Singularity, and the
piper, whistler, bassist and vocalist for the Celtic rock band Wenches & Rogues.
Check out his material on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SingularityCanada or
Some Key Things For Your Kit:
And of course drum heads, sticks, beaters and more – all available at
your local Long & McQuade store or online at www.long-mcquade.com.
By Nigel “Maynstreet” Maynard
Practice makes perfect.
Perhaps this is something that you have heard from the days of
“Do you want to become good at something? Well, practice makes
True – there is something to be said about practicing or preparing
to become competent in something. I recall playing video games at
an early age – I would loop a video game over and over again in
order to learn how to do the right move or combination to pass a
Likewise it can be said when learning to play piano, or drums, or any
I remember times when just doing the simplest “double stroke roll”
seemed to take me eons to get. Finally, at long last – I seemed to
have mastered it…
Maybe this part of your practicing is the time where you get to play
along with some of your favourite tracks (and hear how some of the
things you practiced before now sound a lot more solid and smooth.)
And don’t forget to budget your time. Don’t gorge yourself on
potatoes, or even on brussel sprouts. You won’t end up with a wellrounded meal.
You have at least 3 areas to cover – and you have to break it down
into the time slot that you have.
Start off with things more slowly
so that you can hear them
correctly and clearly.
...so I thought.
If you have 3 hours – you have 1 hour for each section.
Going back and listening to how I “practiced” my double stroke
rolls, I remember that sense of achievement - only to hear how it
sounded against someone who actually did it and practiced it
“correctly.” My snare drum double stroke roll sounded like a “snare
drum speech impediment.”
If you have 30 minutes – you have 10 minutes for each section.
What did I do wrong? I practiced so hard in order to make this
thing right – and all that time was wasted as I failed to get the
So how do we practice?
You get the idea.
Start off with things more slowly so that you can hear them correctly
My double stroke rolls started off much too fast because I wanted
to sound accomplished and cool quickly.
This method doesn't work.
Let’s look at it in 3 ways.
On top of that – I had to go back – undo my bad habits that I
developed in doing it wrong, and start again.
Think of practicing as a meal (a lot of my metaphorical references
revolve around food – go figure!)
...very time consuming.
Break that meal into 3 parts.
The stuff you love to eat.
The stuff you are ok with eating.
The stuff that is good for you, but you’d rather not eat at all.
Let’s start with the things that you would rather not eat – but again
are indeed good for you.
These are the things that may come off as boring, difficult to digest,
or perceived as not important. For those of you who love meat –
and meat alone – these are your brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli
I had to slow down my double stroke roll to a very slow pace, and
make sure that I accented the 2nd note of the double stroke roll
cleanly and evenly. Only then, when I had gotten the hang of that –
(and could do it for 2 minutes straight without stopping) – I would
speed it up…slightly.
When you get to that point, you will start to hear how your practice,
no matter what instrument you play or task that is before you, will
The truth is...
Practice doesn't make perfect.
“Perfect” practice makes perfect.
Just a little food for thought...
We will see all of our time pass
doing the things that we love,
rather than getting to the things
that we need to work on...
..and now I am hungry.
Tackle these things first.
Well – let’s face it. If you do the other stuff first – for many of us we
will not want to go back and do the tedious or difficult things. We
will see all of our time pass doing the things that we love, rather
than getting to the things that we need to work on...
Once we have done that, we can move to the next section of things
that we are ok with doing. Consider this to be the potatoes and
gravy. It is at this stage that you see things that could indeed benefit
your playing expression. Might even be a little bit cool.
Now you go to the last section. Depending on what you like to eat,
this is either your steak and seafood, or your dessert! Regardless
– this is the part of the meal that you have been waiting to get to,
and you are so stoked to get to it. It is almost like a “reward” for
getting through all the other stuff…
…and it is.
Nigel has been playing drums since he was seven years old. He
studied at Humber College, has performed both nationally and
internationally, and is endorsed by Mapex, Evans, Puresound, and
Los Cabos. He writes and records his own material, and plays
everything from Gospel to Latin to Rock.
I Need a
Acquiring a band instrument can seem a bit overwhelming in the midst of all the other items needed for back
to school. Should I buy or rent? How about rent to own? Do I need a music stand? Method book? Cleaning
supplies? What happens if it gets stolen at school? Am I going to need a second mortgage to pay for this?
Ok, that’s a lot of questions, but rest assured it is not as confusing as it may seem.
The first decision to be made is how you are going to get your hands on an instrument. There are a few ways to
go about this:
Renting an Instrument
This is the most common method and usually most economical overall. An affordable yearly fee is paid up front
to cover the school year from September to June (as low as $129 for the school year). Compared with purchase,
the rental fee is considerably more affordable, and repairs needed during the rental period are covered as part
of the plan. Here’s the best part – for only $1 per month you can purchase rental protection that provides full
coverage for loss, theft or irreparable damage – that is a big worry removed from the list of concerns.
Rent to Own
This option is similar to renting, but with 100% of your monthly payments going directly toward the purchase of
the instrument, new or used. The same peace-of-mind $1 per month protection plan is offered with this as well.
The low monthly payments make this an ideal way of purchasing a new or used instrument while retaining all
the benefits of the rental program - including any repairs that may be needed during the payment period.
Purchasing a New/Used Instrument from Long & McQuade
New instruments from reputable manufacturers can be purchased starting just under $400 while used prices
will vary with age and make. New instruments have both store warranty and manufacturer’s warranties. Used
instruments have store warranties and have been pre-serviced in our repair shop. While you don’t have the same
protection plan offered for rental instruments, you can buy a performance warranty package that will cover
virtually all of the same points, including loss/theft protection.
Once you make your decision about how to get your instrument, you should consider a few key accessories to
go along with it for optimal performance and practice – all of which can be purchased for under $20 each:
• Music Stand for practicing with proper posture
• Reeds for clarinets and saxophones
• Care kit for cleaning
• Method book (teacher will advise which one he/she uses)
• Metronome/tuner for practicing rhythm and for tuning
You did it! Well done. You now have your son or daughter prepared to enjoy his or her school music program to
the fullest. Did I mention we also sell earplugs? Just kidding; the early squeaks and squawks will not take long
to turn into beautiful music with the careful selection of a good quality, well maintained instrument.
899 to $1299
By Ken Kucharic
You would be hard pressed to find a harder working musician than Luke Doucet. His schedule would make
even the most road-hardened musician consider another career option.
“I think the traditional approach to touring was that you had to tour to promote a record. And I’ve always
thought that you made a record so you had an excuse to tour,” he says, sounding like he’s taking a page
from the Grateful Dead. “That was always my attitude. I want to play a lot.”
Luckily his musical partner, collaborator and fellow intrepid traveler in the genre-defying band Whitehorse
just happens to be his wife, Melissa McClelland.
“Melissa and I were in each other’s band. I’d go out on tour and I’d be touring a record which is a pretty intense
process of playing a lot,” says Luke. “Then as soon as it would wind down, she would put out a record and
we would go out and tour her record. So already those were two full time careers that we were touring.
“And then any time that we had any spare time,” he continues, “we’d be out on the road touring with Sarah
(McLachlan)’s band. Sometimes we’d be out with Sarah full time and we’d fill in the cracks with our solo
stuff. It seemed that for a few years it was myself or Melissa or Sarah, and then there would be a Blue Rodeo
tour that would be on (Luke was asked to fill in for Greg Keelor, a position which he alternates with Colin
Cripps, on many of the last tour dates for the louder, electric Blue Rodeo songs as Keelor has been suffering
from an extremely painful hearing issue.)
“If there is anything unusual about the way we approach our careers - and I’m not saying that this is
deliberate, it’s just the way it ended up,” Luke explains, “is that we have both been very happy working for
other people. I like being a side guy. Melissa likes being a side person. I have a lot of respect for the craft,
so when somebody calls, my instinct is to say, ‘Of course!’
“We aren’t really doing as much of that now,” he admits. “Our emphasis and the priority is definitely
Whitehorse now. It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I’m able to actually say, ‘You know, I can’t
go out as a hired gun right now because I need to focus on Whitehorse.’”
“If you can exercise the discipline to do less,
ultimately I think at the end of the day you have
something that will maybe have more of an
immediate emotional impact on people’s ears.”
The current subject of their combined focus is their first full length record entitled The Fate of the World
Depends on this Kiss. From the opening slow burn and taut intensity of ”Achilles’ Desire” and “Devil’s Got
a Gun”, with their Tchad Blake (The Black Keys) inspired production values, to the stunningly beautiful
“Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song),” the McLachlan-esque “Cold July”, and the proletariat homage to
“Steeltown” and “No Glamour in the Hammer”, it is a remarkably varied disc. As a point of evidence, The
Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss has been shortlisted for the 2013 Polaris Prize.
The potential exposure and huge boost in street credibility, not to mention the $30,000 paycheque that goes
with the Polaris, is enough to preoccupy anyone.
Though thankful and quite flattered by the nomination for such a prestigious prize, Luke pragmatically
explains, “You get up in the morning and you get in your car with your gear and you go to your gig or you get
on a plane and you go somewhere and you play, and the mechanics of being a working musician are always
so much bigger...you think about those big picture issues like, ‘What if I win an award or what if this happens,
or what if I have a hit record...’ You think about those things once every 6 or 8 months.
“I used to wake up in a cold sweat once a year and think, ‘Oh my god, I’m not Neil Young! I thought for sure
I was going to be Neil Young.’ And that usually happens once every 6 months or so. Usually right around the
time you’re about to put out your record, but the other 364 days a year you’re just trying to get to sound
check on time.”
Luke’s days as a journeyman musician like Mike Campbell, Marc Ribot or Pete Anderson have given him a
tremendously grounded and practical insight regarding life and what constitutes “success” as a professional
“One thing that makes being a working, touring, aspiring musician strange from a lot of other aspirations
in the world is that your heroes or the people that inspire you to play music are usually really famous, sort
of freakishly cartoon-like people, whether it’s Keith Richards or Jimmy Hendrix or whoever inspires you,”
Luke says. “They’re legends. They’re heroes. They’re almost deities.
“If you decide, ‘You know what? I think I’m going to be a lawyer,’ you’re probably inspired by an uncle or a
neighbour who is a successful lawyer. You think, ‘Well, I’m going to work hard and I’m going to go to school
and I’m going to study and I’m going to have a law practice,’ and there’s a very good chance that you will
achieve those goals. A very good chance that you might surpass the accomplishments of your uncle or your
neighbour or whoever it is that inspired you. There’s very little chance when you are a young musician
inspired by Jimmy Hendrix that you’re going to surpass Jimmy Hendrix. So you kind of live in this really weird
world of mutated expectations.
He continues, “You send a record out there, but sometimes your expectations are so unrealistically inflated
that you can’t help but be disappointed anyway. Because you think you’re a genius. You think you’re Pete
Townsend and you put out this record and then you realise very quickly, ‘No, I’m just another guy or another
girl living in my town that’s making rock n’ roll records that aren’t going to change the world.’
“So, anytime that something comes back like this...the Polaris...it sort of makes you think, ‘Oh. Well, maybe
I’m having a small influence,’ or, ‘maybe I’m having a small impact on the community,’ or, ‘maybe people are
hearing this.’ Ultimately that’s really all you can ask for,
that somebody hears this and goes, ‘I like that. That
makes me want to write a song,’ or, ‘that makes me want
to play my guitar.’
If their live show is any indication, people may leave
wanting to play a lot more than just the guitar.
“People expect us to be just a folk duo because a lot of
times when we play just the two of us that’s kind of how
it comes across,” he says. “We got bored of that pretty
fast. One thing led to another and I was like, ‘Hey, what
if I had a kick drum and I stomp on that? What if you
have this little plywood box and you stomp on that? Then
we can play percussion while we play.’ And then my brain
just got confused and the thought of adding loops, and
the percussion, then we have pots and pans...it was
really just like an ironically organic evolution of us
thinking we were going to be a folk duo and realising
after 6 months, ‘We’ve created a monster.’ It’s fun! It’s a
fun monster...95% of the time we get it right,” he says
with a laugh. “Initially it was just practical, like, ‘Let’s try
and make more sound for two people,’ and then we sort
of realised that maybe what we had built had some
intrinsic value of its own.”
Indeed it does. So much so that the live show, originally
a practical attempt to recreate or add to the
arrangements from The Fate of the World Depends on
This Kiss, has been integrated into the writing of the next
“There’s something about (it) that we want to try and
encourage so we are in the midst of recording some new
songs now, and for the first time ever we are actually
using loops in the studio,” Luke says. “We are trying to let
the bed tracks be inspired by the loops as opposed to
trying to build loops to try and duplicate the more
traditional recording situation. I’m not sure where it’s
going to go, but that’s what’s happening right now.”
One thing we can be sure of as listeners is that whatever
comes of this next stage of development for Whitehorse,
the resulting efforts will undoubtedly be deeply artistic,
somewhat unconventional, and well worth waiting for.
“I’m sure that there are some people out there who think
we have desecrated the expectations of roots music,” he
says. “I’m ok with that. I’m totally fine with throwing out
“Sometime the amazing studio session drummer is not the perfect
person. Sometimes the bass player is a better drummer for a
particular song; it just depends. (There’s) a quote that I ascribe to
Neil Young, I think he was asked, ‘Why are you so loyal to Crazy Horse?’
His response was, ‘They are not good enough to ruin my music.’
Sometimes I understand exactly what he means and that’s why
sometimes your bass player is a better drummer.”
St. John’s, NL (709) 753-1885
Sydney, NS (902) 539-5030
New Minas, NS (902) 681-1461
Dartmouth, NS (902) 496-6996
Halifax, NS (902) 496-6900
Bedford, NS (902) 496-6960
Charlottetown, PEI (902) 368-3237
Summerside, PEI (902) 436-3237
Moncton, NB (506) 853-0888
Saint John, NB (506) 672-2937
Fredericton, NB (506) 458-5858
Grand Falls, NB (506) 473-1428
Trois-Rivieres, QC ((819) 691-0071
Montreal, QC (514) 388-9259
Ottawa, ON (613) 521-5909
Oshawa, ON (905) 434-1612
Pickering, ON (905) 686-4900
Scarborough, ON (416) 439-8001
Markham, ON (905) 209-1177
Toronto, ON (416) 588-7886
North York, ON (416) 663-8612
Mississauga, ON (905) 273-3939
Brampton, ON (905) 450-4334
Burlington, ON (905) 319-3330
St. Catharines, ON (905) 684-2961
Guelph, ON (519) 763-5300
Cambridge, ON (519) 622-1970
Waterloo, ON (519) 885-4215
Stratford, ON (519) 271-9102
London, ON (519) 439-0101
London South, ON (519) 433-2434
Windsor, ON (519) 252-3442
Winnipeg, MB (204) 284-8992
Winnipeg North, MB (204) 783-6045
Regina, SK (306) 569-8501
Saskatoon, SK (306) 664-1966
Saskatoon South, SK (306) 665-9900
Lethbridge, AB (403) 380-2130
Calgary, AB (403) 244-5555
Calgary East, AB (403) 245-3725
Calgary North, AB (587) 794-3195
Edmonton, AB (780) 423-4448
Edmonton South, AB (780) 432-0102
Edmonton Downtown, AB (780) 425-1400
Edmonton Whyte, AB (780) 439-0007
Grande Prairie, AB (780) 532-8160
Kamloops, BC (250) 828-2234
Prince George, BC (250) 563-0691
Chilliwack, BC (604) 858-2996
Abbotsford, BC (604) 556-3838
Langley, BC (604) 530-8704
Port Coquitlam, BC (604) 464-1011
Surrey, BC (604) 588-9421
Delta, BC (604) 591-8525
Vancouver, BC (604) 734-4886
Vancouver NW, BC (Band/Print Music)
■ North Vancouver, BC (604) 986-0911
■ Richmond, BC (604) 270-3622
■ Victoria, BC (250) 384-3622
■ Nanaimo, BC (250) 716-7261
■ Courtenay, BC (250) 334-4885
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instrument of your choice in hand.
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