In Honor Of Amps That Go Up To 11…

If you’re a fan of the rock mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, you know the significance of 11 – you know, one louder than 10?  It’s a big deal, folks.  So much so that fans have dubbed today, 11/11 – among other things – Nigel Tufnel Day in honor of that special amplifier.  (Check out the iconic movie clip here.)

So today, crank your volume up to 11 and check out these other LOUD things in rock & roll history:

Loudest Song Shorter Than Two Seconds
Grindcore, a particularly grating subgenre of hardcore punk, is often characterized by loud, brief songs. “You Suffer,” a 1987 song from genre trailblazers Napalm Death, holds the Guinness World Record for shortest song ever recorded, at 1.316 seconds. Appropriately enough, it was chosen as the band’s debut single, released as a 7″ on Earache Records.

Loudest Mouths In Rock
Oasis bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher have been publicly feuding since the group’s first American tour in 1994 (and that’s not including the bros’ personal squabbles before Oasis). While younger brother Liam handled vocal duties, older brother Noel wrote the band’s music and generally controlled their creative direction. But egos and grudges got in the way quickly, leading to public fights (including a recorded argument on a 1995 bootleg single and Liam’s last minute withdrawal from Oasis’ 1996 “MTV Unplugged” performance), personal ridicule, and constant conflict that’s never let up since the band’s start. Even after Noel quit the band in 2009 to start his own solo project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the siblings have hardly backed down, and it seems we can never go a few months without another outburst.

Loudest Rapper Alive
There’s nothing quiet about DMX. When he speaks, it sounds like he’s yelling. So when he’s yelling, you definitely pay attention. When Complex magazine did their ranking of Loudest Rappers Ever, DMX took the crown from other rambunctious rhymers like Lil Jon and Mystikal. That’s a pretty deafening statement.

Loudest Band Known to Hold Audiences Hostage
A lot of loud, aggressive bands came out of New York’s early 80s new wave punk scene, though the loudest and most aggressive were probably Swans, whose early shows were sometimes shut down by police due to threatening decibel levels. Said frontman Michael Gira: “There was one European show in a barn that only held 400 people. The stage wasn’t wide enough to put the entire PA in front, so we put half of it in the front and half of it at the back, so the audience was smashed between! The walls, ceiling, everything was shaking, raining down years of collected dust. That was good.”

Loudest Band (International)
Guitar Wolf live the loud life (say that six times). These three guys from Japan playing fast and furious garage inspired punk rock may be something that could potentially cause hearing damage. In fact, their 1999 album “Jet Generation” is said to be so loud that Matador Records claimed that “The levels exceeded the theoretical maximum possible on compact disk audio. In other words, ‘Jet Generation’ is the loudest CD in history.” These guys definitely turn it up.

Check out the full list of 11 Loud Moments in Music on Billboard.com.

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A Guitar Made of Legos, and Other Crazy Designs You Need to See

Here at TakeLessons, we want to help you improve your skills, learn something new and, ultimately, be a rockstar! Whether you want to play classical or shred guitar, the great thing about music is how diverse it can be, and how you can really show off your personality with what you play and how you play it.

Take the guitar, for example.  If you’ve already scheduled your lessons, purchased a guitar and mastered the art of the guitar spin (optional), but want to make an even bigger impression, we have some ideas for you.  We came across these photos of off-the-wall guitar designs from Design Buzz and just had to share:

Lego guitar1. Lego Guitar

Remember the small plastic building blocks you used to play with in your childhood? It seems like the ghosts of your past have come back to haunt you. This time, it’s in the form of a guitar, the body of which is made up of black LEGO bricks. It has everything – from pickups to amplifiers – but lacks the strings. If the latter are fitted, the guitar is ready to rock the world.

 

Big Foot guitar2. Big Foot Guitar

Big Foot may be meeting a slow death as a legend, but its inspiration seems to pull it back to the limelight again. George Martin, a guitar builder, introduced the Bigfoot guitar at a Miami festival, stunning everyone present with the bulky, odd-looking frame. Though it looks too bulky to be playable, the design itself has gathered its own followers, no matter what it sounds like – or whether it sounds like anything at all!

 

Pikasso guitar3. Pikasso Guitar

What is formed when you attach four fret-boards to a single guitar-body? Linda Manzer’s Pikasso Guitar. With two sound-holes and forty-two strings, this guitar faces about 1000 lbs of pressure when all of the strings are taut. This custom-made guitar is designed in such a way that the guitarist feels no problem while playing it or even switching from one fret-board to the other. By using the guitar, the guitarist can play any scale and tune to his or her own liking.

 

Alright, so which one of these guitars did you just add to your wish list?  While these guitars may not be the most practical, they’re definitely awesome.  Readers: what ideas do you have for a wacky guitar design?  Stop by our Facebook page and let us know!

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We Will, We Will Rock You… With This Awesome Stage Trick

2011 marked the 40th anniversary of the formation of Queen in 1971, and it’s been a wild ride for the rock extraordinaires.  Over the course of their career, Queen has sold more than 300 million albums, including 16 No. 1 albums, 18 No. 1 singles and the U.K.’s top-selling album of all time.  And after 40 years, the band is still well-known – at the MTV Video Music Awards back in August, guitarist Brian May performed “You and I” live with Lady Gaga, and Adam Lambert channeled Freddie onstage with the rest of the band members during the MTV Europe Music Awards in November.  Academics have even deemed Queen’s “We Are The Champions” as the catchiest song of all time.

Going beyond the band’s accomplishments, this got us thinking about the late Freddie Mercury’s amazing stage presence –  how can you not have fun while watching videos of him on stage?  So, we wanted to have a little fun ourselves today.

As a singer, you usually have tons of freedom and space on stage to move around, but as a guitarist, you may be a bit more restricted.  So how do you one-up a lead singer as flashy as Freddie Mercury?   Ladies and gentlemen, we give you… the art of the guitar spin!  Here are some helpful tips from Guitar World about learning the craft and how to avoid ending up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Shame:

1. Make sure the guitar is correctly attached to the strap.
This probably is the most useful tip to execute the perfect guitar spin. Guitars can fly pretty well, but the landing is always a problem.

2. Find your center.
Guitar spinning is not a martial art, but you can apply principles from martial arts.  Find your center of gravity. Be sure you are focused on your center. Are you focused enough? Ready … steady … spin it!

3. Employ your coordination.
Guitar spinning is a serious matter. You don’t want to get fancy until you are sure you’ve mastered the gist of the guitar spin. Never try to dance when you flip your guitar – especially if you didn’t find your center yet.

4. Establish a security perimeter!
Guitars can be as dangerous as any blunt object. You don’t want your singer to end up at the emergency room. It doesn’t matter that your singer is a tough one to knock out. Please make sure you have enough space around you when you spin your guitar.

5. Never use your most expensive or favorite guitar.
You don’t want to end up crying just because you wanted to show off. That’s against that rock star attitude you are desperately trying to achieve.

Check out the full article here, complete with several videos of guitar spin fails (trust us, you’ll want to watch these).  Awe your audience with this stage trick, and who knows – maybe you’ll make it to the Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list just like Brian May.

Readers, have you tried this trick?  Any tips for avoiding a guitar spin fail?  Click on over to our Facebook page and let us know how you take charge of the stage! Like these posts?  Sign up to receive daily updates right to your inbox!  Click here to subscribe.

 

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In Honor of Amps That Go Up to 11…

Purchase the Perfect Beginner Guitar With These Easy Steps

These days, country music is much more than just grabbing a guitar and singing about losing your job, wife and dog.  Just ask the wildly popular Lady Antebellum – who picked up 5 awards at the 2011 Grammy Awards – or the growing list of stars who started out in one genre and have since tried their hand at country – Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Bon Jovi, just to name a few.

If you aim to be a country star someday, you’ll need a good guitar by your side.  Clueless about picking out a guitar?  Don’t worry – these tips from Creative Guitar Studio are a great starting point:

1. Decide what you want:
Decide what you want first. Talk to musicians in your local music scene. Chat with your private guitar instructor, if you’ve already signed up for guitar lessons, and purchase a few guitar player magazines and look through them.  Get catalogs and company brochures, which are often available from your local music store. Read everything else you can find related to guitars that you are interested in. Search for all makes and models and read what people are saying in online discussion forums and threads. Learn and read everything that you can so you can make a decision you’ll truly be happy about in the long run.

2. Acoustic or Electric?:
An acoustic guitar is probably the way to go for the beginner student on a budget. There are no amplifiers or patch cords to buy –  just take it out and play! Also, if you aren’t sure about your long term interest for the months and years of practice ahead, an acoustic can be far more cost saving and sometimes less of a hassle to sell second-hand in the event that you give up on your interest.

Electric guitars are more expensive since they require amplification; a good guitar practice amp can cost around two hundred dollars or more. If you can afford it, however, they do offer a little more room for sound experimentation since their signal can be run through relatively inexpensive sound processors. Another plus to electric guitars is the fact that they do have lower action and are somewhat easier to play than the acoustics. The nylon string acoustics make for excellent beginner models – they are easy to play and quite inexpensive.

3. Go for a “test drive”:
When you go looking at guitars, don’t just look! Grab each one, hold it and examine the shape of the neck. The width and shape should accommodate the size of your hand. It should feel comfortable.  If you have smaller hands perhaps a smaller neck would work better for you (see also: Practice Tips: Exercises and Guitars for Small Hands). Keep in mind that you will be holding this instrument for hours and hours practicing each week. It should feel comfortable.
Check for the following things:
1.) Action – How easy the strings are to depress?
2). Intonation – Is the guitar in tune with itself. (Play chords up the neck to check)?
3). Fret edges – Are they clean and smooth, or sharp and poorly machined from the factory?

4. Pay attention to how it sounds:
The simplest way to define music is the interaction of sound and silence. When checking out an instrument you want to purchase, who cares about the silence part! Just play it! Strum it, pick it, play those strings. Play it in different parts of the store. If you do not play well, take a friend who does and get them to play the guitars that interest you.

Keep in mind accessories you may want to purchase, as well: guitar strap (especially handy for beginners), spare strings, electronic tuner, guitar stand and extra picks.  Oh and don’t forget the cowboy boots, if you’re so inclined.

Once you have the perfect guitar, don’t forget to find the perfect guitar instructor to help you get off on the right foot.  Click here to search for guitar lessons near you!

 

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Time To Get Real: New Rocksmith Game Hooks Up To Actual Guitars

Ever since Rock Band and Guitar Hero were released, there have been opposing sides arguing for and against using the game as a learning tool – after all, players don’t use actual instruments or use correct finger placements for chords.

But that controversy can be put to rest with the newest music game, Rocksmith – and we can’t wait to try it out!

Rocksmith allows users to hook up their guitars directly to a PC, Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 through an output jack.  The program features mini-games (a “Guitarcade,” if you will) to help improve your guitar skills, including games focused on fret placement, scale patterns, harmonics and slide technique.  Advanced players can take advantage of the Technique Challenge, in which specific techniques must be repeated back, and sections that need work are highlighted and slowed down.

This release got us thinking… what other music games made a big impact on the industry?  CNN recently wrote up a list of Top 10 Music Games Of All Time, and here a few that caught our eye:

1978: “Simon”

Behind the music: Launched on May 15 at Studio 54, this Jurassic forerunner to today’s touch-sensitive Nintendo DS featured four colored buttons (red, green, yellow and blue) and three simple variations on its gameplay. A great memory is crucial — players have to repeat back a randomized or user-created sequence of lights and tones with a simple poke. Named after the child’s game “Simon Says” and created by Ralph Baer — who also invented home console gaming with the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 — it quickly became an American institution.
Why it rocks: Besides single-handedly popularizing handheld electronic entertainment and directly influencing every subsequent system from the Game Boy to the PlayStation Portable (PSP), its pattern-based action formed the basis for nearly all music-themed titles to come.

1997: “PaRappa the Rapper”

Behind the music: A far cry from what was going on with PCs at the time, this quirky PSOne Japanese import challenged players to bust a move by pressing buttons in time to featured beats. Do it correctly and you drop mad science on martial arts masters, moose driving instructors, Rastafarian frogs and chickens that pass for chefs.  Captivating domestic audiences with its sing-song vibe, hypnotic play and psychedelic cardboard-cutout aesthetic, it’s still one of the freshest interactive approximations of emceeing hip-hop heads will find.
Why it rocks: PaRappa brought the ‘rhythm game’ category home to North American shores, which eventually gave birth to countless hip-wiggling rivals from Unison to Bust-A-Groove.

And of course…

2007: “Rock Band”

Behind the music: The first game to combine all aspects of the virtual music-making experience (singing, pounding drums, playing guitar or plucking bass) was also the initial offering to deliver peripherals for all (including microphone, plastic drum set and faux ax) in one kit.In total, over 100 million digital songs have been downloaded for the “Rock Band” family of games, with more than 2,700 tracks from 900 artists including Metallica, The Ramones and Fleetwood Mac available across all retail and downloadable installments, including digital distribution platform the Rock Band Network. Thousands of masters, re-recordings or alternate tracks (all playable) by artists like Rush and Weezer, not to mention countless fans — who can perform as cohesive four-man bands online — should ensure it remains a house-party icebreaker of choice.
Why it rocks: Providing the now-defunct MTV Games a then-marquee entrée into the gaming universe, it also laid the foundations for groundbreaking tributes (“The Beatles: Rock Band”), cutting-edge online innovations (“Rock Band Network”) and future motion-controlled games (“Dance Central”) to come.

Here at TakeLessons, we’re all for any games that gets kids hooked and interested in music.  Of course, the best way to learn is to work one-on-one with a music teacher, who can tailor the lessons specifically to you and your goals.  (Need help finding a teacher?  Click here to search by zip code and lesson type!)

 

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Most Guitar Strings Changed in One Hour, and Other World Records Ready to be Broken

Their songs have been featured in commercials, video games, and TV show trailers, and have earned a long list of award nominations.  And now, after a whirlwind 2-year tour, rockers 30 Seconds to Mars are about to break a Guinness World Record for Most Shows Performed During a Single Album Cycle.  The tour promoted their 2009 album This Is War, and their 300th performance on December 7th of  this year will seal the deal for the world record.  The band has seen so much success thus far, it’s only fitting to see them achieve this record!

In honor of this achievement today we’re taking a look at some other music-related Guinness World Records.  Here are some of our favorites:

Most piano key hits in one minute: The most piano key hits in one minute is 498 and was achieved by Balázs Havasi (Hungary) during the Symphonic Red Concert Show at the Music Academy in Budapest, Hungary, on 29 November 2009.

Most No. 1 music videos: Madonna had her ninth No.1 on the US Music Video chart on 24 April 2010 with Sticky & Sweet Tour. No popular music artist has had more.

Most live concerts in 24 hours (multiple cities): The most live concerts performed in 24 hours in different locations is seven: “The Hangar Tour”, by rapper Jay-Z performed in seven different cities to promote the release of his new album ‘Kingdom Come’ (2006, Universal Music) from 7 am on 18 November to 1:15 am on 19 November 2006. The concerts were performed in the following order: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Most guitar strings changed In one hour: The most guitars re-strung in 1 hour is 30, achieved by Glenn Haworth (Australia) at Haworth’s Shellharbour Music Centre, Albion Park Rail, Australia, on 15 March 2009.

Longest career as a music teacher: The world record for the longest working career for a music teacher was set by Charles Wright (USA, b. 24 May 1912) who began teaching piano privately and professionally in 1931. He continued to do so for the next 76 years until he passed away on 19 July 2007, aged 95 years 56 days.

Largest Singing Lesson: The largest singing lesson involved 6,651 participants and was achieved by Sweet Adelines International during the 63rd Annual Sweet Adelines International Convention and Competition at the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, on 24 October 2009.

Largest Kazoo Ensemble: On 14 March 2011, an audience of 5,190 classical music fans at the “Big Red Nose Show” held in the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK, formed a kazoo ensemble as part of Red Nose Day. Accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra and led by comedienne Sue Perkins, the ensemble hummed-out renditions of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyres and Eric Coates’ Dambusters March. The event was hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Katie Derham and Basil Brush.

These are just a few of the crazy musical acts that have earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, and we can only imagine what other stunts will be thought up next.  For all of the aspiring artists out there – why not dream big?  Maybe you could join in and earn a world record yourself.

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The Loog Guitar Revolution: Guitar Lessons for Kids Will Never be the Same

loog_slider01As a music educator and performer, I’m always interested in learning about new products and tools that can help students succeed.  When I discovered the Loog Guitar, a 3-string interchangeable guitar designed with children in mind, I immediately took notice.

I was excited to find out more about the Loog because I took guitar lessons when I was 8 years old, and it proved to be easier said than done. The guitar was added to the list of instruments that were uncomfortable for my tiny hands (which I thought would grow eventually, but never did – to this day, I still struggle to reach the octave on the piano!).

I became discouraged and quit after about 6 months, and eventually took up the ukulele many years later – which has been much easier for me to maneuver but even now, the ¾ size guitar is problematic for me.

Many of our TakeLessons instructors prefer not to teach guitar to young children for this very reason.  Now, with the Loog Guitar in the picture, instead of teachers having to focus on finding alternate fingerings and keeping a frustrated student focused on the difficult task of mastering an adult-sized instrument, they can focus on teaching the child to make music!  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Rafael Atijas, the creator of the Loog Guitar, who provided insight into how his concept came about and what the benefits will be for children who want to learn the guitar.

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When did you realize that there was a need for a guitar made especially for kids?

I saw my 6 year old niece trying to make music with one of those $30 guitars when I thought “There has to be a better way.” It was then that I realized that kids’ guitars are usually just cheap, scaled-downed replicas of classical guitars.  They are not really designed with kids’ needs, comfort or even safety in mind.

Where does your knowledge of guitars come from?

I studied guitar and was in different bands during high school and college (as was almost every other kid I knew). I was very much into rock music and at some point I just fell in love with guitars – especially vintage electric guitars.

What age group do you feel would benefit the most from the Loog Guitar?

Time will tell, but I think kids ages 6 to 9 will be the ones that will get the most out of the Loog Guitar, since this is the guitar that allows them to build chords without the need to form complicated shapes with their little hands.

Where did you get the idea to call it the “Loog?”

It is my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. I always found him to be a fascinating character (I’m a rock nerd, as you can see) and back when I had a band, I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us.

What types of learning materials are you planning on coming out with to assist with the learning process?

We plan to include a manual on how to play with three strings, and we will also offer video tutorials on our website.

What does this product mean for kids who have an interest in learning guitar?

Kids will have a friendlier instrument that will stimulate them to make music and get creative with it. What I like about the Loog Guitar is that it works whether you already know how to play guitar or not. And that’s what I hope it means to kids who have an interest in learning guitar: a fun and easy way to play music.

Anything else you wish to add?

I am truly humbled by the response the Loog Guitar project got on Kickstarter (the website that helped raise the money to launch the product), and one of the things I like the most is that so many people from the education field have reached out to me and had very positive things to say about the Loog Guitar. I know TakeLessons.com reaches a lot of music teachers, so I want to use this opportunity to extend my thanks to all of them.

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There you have it, folks.  I’m personally thrilled that there is now a product out there that will make learning guitar simpler for young children.  For teachers, what have you experienced in teaching guitar to young children? Parents and students, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced learning guitar yourself or watching your child learn guitar?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave comments below if you feel so inclined!  Now if only I could travel back in time and learn to play guitar on the Loog, maybe I would have stuck with it! To learn more, visit www.loogguitar.com or check out the Loog Guitar in action below:

The Loog Guitar in Action from Loog Guitars on Vimeo.

monetheadshot

Monet Payne is the Community Manager for TakeLessons.com. She is dedicated to providing the latest on music education and technology to those who seek it. By night, Monet is a professional singing actress, starring in musicals, operas, and everything in between. Monet has her Bachelors in Music, with a concentration in Vocal Performance, and enjoys teaching voice, involving herself as Vocal Director in several productions. She proudly co-founded a non-profit organization for Voice Education and her next venture will be to start her own theater production company.

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