Tag Archives: gifts for guitarists

How to use a digital tuner

 

We always encourage you to buy a tuner with any stringed instrument – most often a guitar or a ukulele. Many phones and tablets have a download app you can use and obviously something is better than nothing but there are a few reasons why a clip-on tuner is a better option.

The first is that, because they work by vibration, a clip-on tuner is significantly more accurate than either an app or a desk tuner for stringed instruments. The second positive about a clip-on tuner is that they aren’t disturbed by external noise eg: other people tuning around you or the TV.

So, what’s the best and easiest way to use a clip-on tuner to get the maximum results? Just follow the easy steps below, ideally every time you play, to keep your instrument sounding great:

– Make sure your tuner is set up correctly for the instrument you are tuning. You may have options for mode – eg which instrument and notes you need so make sure you’ve selected an appropriate option first. Also there may be a choice of pitch. In normal circumstances, this should be set to 440, which is standard concert pitch.

– Attach your tuner in a way that gets the best reception. This is the headstock of a guitar, ukulele, banjo or mandolin and the middle of the back of the neck on a violin. Try slightly different angles and positions until you find your perfect positioning where you get a good signal, you can see the display clearly and you can comfortably reach the tuning pegs.

– It sounds obvious, but make sure the peg you are turning relates to the string you are trying to tune! If in doubt, follow the string along to find the peg it’s attached to. Even experienced musicians sometimes snap a string by turning the wrong peg and not stopping to wonder why the pitch of the string isn’t changing :-).

– New strings go further out of tune and a lot more often so don’t worry if you seem to spend a lot of time tuning at first. As long as you store your instrument away from changing heat (not near a radiator or in the loft/conservatory/shed!) then it should settle down so you can tune once or twice a week.

We have a great selection of tuners for all instruments in store at Royal Quays, or you can see them here:

http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/musical-instrument-tuners.html

TGI 81 Digital Tuner

What’s the Best Harmonica for a Beginner?

There are only 2 main questions when buying a harmonica for a beginner…

Diatonic or Chromatic?

First off, what the heck do these two words mean? A diatonic harmonica is rooted in a particular key and if you want to play in different keys, you ultimately need a pocketful of them. A chromatic harmonica has all the notes of the different scales on it and a button on the side with which to access the ‘extra’ notes.

Diatonic harmonicas are much easier to play and are the main choice for pros and enthusiasts who play Blues, Folk, Country and Rock music. Most beginner harmonica players use a 10 hole Blues Harp and the majority of harmonica tutor books, videos and other learning aids are geared towards it.

What Key?

The key of C is the most popular choice for beginners and again, it is safe to assume that this will match most learning material you are likely to access. It’s also worth mentioning that the next two most popular keys are G and D since they go well with guitar chords and many of the most famous songs containing harmonica licks are in one of these 3 keys.

Harmonicas make a brilliant Christmas gift and they don’t have to cost a lot! Pop in to enjoymuzic – Your North East Music Shop if you have any questions or find them online here
http://www.enjoymuzic.com/acatalog/buy-harmonicas.html

Harmonica Player & Singing Dog
Harmonica Player & Singing Dog – In Perfect Harmony Greetings Card

How to fit a guitar strap

If you play an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar with two strap buttons, fitting your guitar strap is as simple as pushing the leather ends onto the buttons and adjusting the length.

If you have an acoustic or nylon string guitar, it isn’t always obvious what to do – in fact, it’s one of the questions we get asked most often.

Start by pushing one end onto the strap button* on the bottom of your guitar. If there is writing or a picture on your strap, at this point it should be upside down.

You will need a shoe lace or something similar to tackle the other end. (Often, guitar straps will come with one.) Fold it in half and thread the folded end through the hole in the strap then pop the two ends through and pull to form a loop.

guitar strap with lace attached

Now take one of the ends and thread it through the guitar strings at the machine head end. It should be just behind the top nut, not on the main fretboard.

guitar neck showing position for lace to attach

Tie a good knot underneath the headstock – a reef knot is perfect. Check your knot for the first week or so to make sure it’s staying nice and tight and supporting your guitar safely.

If you prefer, you can use a leather strap button like this Martin one which threads through in the same place and offers extra support…Martin Guitar Strap Button CloseupMartin Guitar Strap Button Attached

There’s more info about the Martin Guitar Strap Button here.

* Some guitars, particularly classical ones, don’t have a strap button on the bottom. You can fit one yourself and most good music shops sell them separately or in pairs.

Picking the right pick – plectrums for beginner guitarists

At enjoymuzic we stock a varied range of plectrums and for new players it can be confusing as to what plectrums to use.

Let’s start with guitar plectrums (there are plenty of them!). Also called picks, plectrums come in different shapes, sizes and thickness. There is no official right or wrong plectrum but you have to decide what suits your playing style and what feels comfortable.

Tortex guitar picks are my favourite (after 10 years of using a wide variety of plectrums), they are plastic picks and come in different gauges (thickness). The textured surface provides a good grip even if your fingers are slippy.

Dunlop also make plenty of different plectrums, make sure to check them out. Ernie Ball have a plain plastic plectrum range and also have a nylon style that offers more grip for those (like myself) who like something to hang on to. My colleague loves Planet Waves Picks because they’re cheap, good quality and come in loads of different designs from tortoiseshell to rainbow!

Sharkfin plectrums are shaped like a shark fin. The green sharkfin is so flexible you can bend it completely over on itself. The black ones are the heaviest and provide no give at all. Acoustic players often like to use the thin plectrums as they can control dynamics, whilst still maintaining their tone whereas thicker picks give a louder, brighter sound.

If you have a favourite band, film or television programme the chances are you will be able to get them on a guitar pick. See our selection of character and rock band plectrums here – we even have Spongebob Squarepants picks! Many of them come in pick tins – a very handy way to keep them safe!

If you don’t know what plectrums to use I would advise to buy 6 – 10 different ones that vary in both shape and gauge. Have a try of them all and hopefully you will find out which plectrum suits you. Starting at 3 for £1 for good quality, branded picks, you can’t really go wrong!

Other picks and accessories you might need…

Bass players tend to use a very heavy gauge of plecs as the strings are much thicker. Big Stubbys are popular with bass players ranging from 1mm to 5 mm in thickness.

Folk instrument plectrums

Some players like to use guitar plectrums for their folk instrument whilst others believe that the strings on folk instruments will be damaged from the use of plastic plectrums and the tone will be poorer.

Felt plectrums are commonly used on ukuleles as they are soft on the strings and reduce the clicking sound on the strings that you get with plastic picks. We sell both thick and thin felt plectrums. We also stock leather plectrums that are designed to give you a bright sound yet it doesn’t compromise playability. These can be used on ukes and mandolins.

Banjo players use finger and thumb picks. These are normally made of nickel or plastic and help to produce a clear picking sound. They come in different sizes to help find the ones that snuggly fit onto fingers and thumb. You can try a plastic thumb pick on your guitar if you find it difficult to grip a normal plectrum.

Plectrum holders

Where to keep them without losing them?! The problem with guitar picks is that even if you put them in your wallet/pocket/a special place at home, they do mysteriously disappear.

Dadi pick holders are great as they are small and store a good amount of plectrums for the size and price. They even have a sticky patch on the back so you can stick it to your instrument case or music stand.

Keep rockin’

Joe

Which ukulele should I buy? (Part Two)

So you’ve read ‘Which Ukulele Should I Buy Part One’ and hopefully you have a clear idea of what size you need to buy but there are soooo many brands, finishes and price ranges out there, so here are a few of our preferred ukes for you to consider….

Things to look out for:

Friction pegs v. machine heads – Ukuleles, like most folk instruments, all had friction pegs until relatively recently and many well respected brands such as Ozark have stuck with this tradition. If you’re new to playing a stringed instrument however, we would always recommend that you look for one with machine heads (like a guitar) as friction pegs tend to slip and require some maintenance. Ask the shop to explain the difference if you’re not sure.

Laminate v. wood – There’s nothing wrong with starting out with a cheap laminate ukulele and seeing how you get along but be wary of paying too much for one. Real wood ukes are surprisingly inexpensive and sound so much better.

Accessories deals – You will need a tuner and maybe a bag or a stand for your ukulele. Ask the store if they offer any discounts or accessories bundles.

First time players and children: If you’ve never played an instrument before and you’re going to take up the ukulele, then good on you! Keep it cheap and cheerful with a Mahalo soprano ukulele package. There are loads of cheap ones around but we really rate the Mahalo brand for good value playability. If you’re confident you’ve selected the right size for you and would like a better sounding one, Mahalo also do an entry level wooden ukulele with a smart padded bag which is available in all the standard ukulele sizes. Brunswick is a slightly more expensive but better quality brand which is worth a look. They do ukuleles in a popular shade of mahogany or the more unusual blond maple version.

For guitarists: If you or the person you’re buying for already play guitar then it’s safe to say that a soprano ukulele is likely to seem too cramped and fiddly. Go straight in for a concert or tenor size. Brunswick do some beautiful real wood ukuleles at a great low price and there is also an electro-acoustic option at less than £100. This is ideal if the person already plays electric guitar and enjoys playing through an amp.

Of course, if you want to hit the ground running, the easy thing to do is choose a baritone ukulele which is tuned like a guitar. Again, the Brunswick Baritone Ukulele is a good value buy but Ashbury do a great Baritone too.

Intermediate players: As you approach the £100 – £200+ price bracket, a whole new world of ukuleles comes into consideration. When you’re ready to pay this kind of money, you’ve probably been playing for a while so the best advice is to get out there and try as many as you can. It’s also a good idea to decide whether you think an electro-acoustic ukulele would be of any use to you, rather than finding your perfect uke and having to pay someone later to fit a pick-up for gigging or just experimenting with changing the sound through an amplifier.

Regardless of the brand, the ukuleles we really love are all made from Pacific woods like Curly Mango and Koa. The trees grown in that Hawaiian region are much sought after for ukulele building and tend to carry the specific twangy tone associated with original ukuleles.

One of the best brands at an intermediate price is Kala but you may want to look at some of the big guitar names (Martin, Gibson, Gretsch) who have all been outputting some great ukuleles recently. If you fancy something that looks a bit different, try Riptide.

There are plenty of other options including the pineapple shape and also the classic ‘George Formby’ Banjo Ukulele like this one from Barnes and Mullins which is often the first thing people picture when you mention ukes. Great sound but try before you buy! They’re heavier than they look and can be a bit awkward to keep in tune.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Musicians

The Music Shop at Royal Quays for Low Cost Music
(and some great Christmas Gift Ideas!)

GiftMontageStrip

Running out of Christmas present ideas for your musical family and friends? 
Come and see our great selection of Music Stocking Fillers & Gifts from only 60p in stock now.

 Scarves, Socks, Ties, Bow Ties, Mugs, Coasters, Mouse Mats, Necklaces, Cufflinks, Earrings, Games, Money Boxes, Photo Frames, Wall Clocks, Miniature Clocks, Hand Held Percussion, Tissues, Napkins, Paper Plates, Pens, Pencils, Notepads, Erasers, Magnets, Keyrings, Pin Badges, Wall Hooks, Glass Tumblers, Plectrum Packs, Electronic Tuners, Address Books, Penny Whistles, Whistles, Musical Animals, Trinket Boxes, Tea Towels, Aprons, Stash Tins, Music Bags, Handbags, Tote Bags, Gift Bags, Wrapping Paper, Greetings Cards, Christmas Cards, Classical CDs, Playing Cards, Cookie Cutters, Handkerchiefs, Capos, Ukuleles, Music Stands, Stickers, Pencil Cases, Pencil Sharpeners, Harmonicas… and much, much more!
…all with a music theme.

GuitarMontageStrip Starter Musical Instrument Packages
Quality Instruments at Affordable Prices

Junior guitar packages from £39.95, 3/4 size guitar packages from £49.99, Electric guitar packages from £149.90, Electric Bass Packages from £175.00, Casio CTK-3200 Keyboard & Power Adapter £134.99, Flute Packages from £121.00, Clarinet Packages from £139.92 

All guitar packages include a guitar carry bag, strap, spare strings, plectrum and a 1 year manufacturer’s warranty.

Electric guitar packages also include a 10W practice amp, electronic tuner, guitar stand, guitar lead and tutorial DVD.

 Everyone at enjoymuzic wishes you a fabulous festive season and we’re looking forward to seeing you again soon.

Top ten guitar accessories (part two)…

More top tools and gadgets to help you always sound your best and perfect gift ideas for your favourite guitarist.  If you haven’t seen part one yet, here it is… Top ten guitar accessories (part one)

6)  Capo – barre chords made easy!

Play in any key whatever your ability. Cover all 6 strings to change the pitch and make it more suitable for singing or playing. There are loads of different styles and price brackets of capo. We love the ‘quick change’ designs.

7)  Fast fret – for ease of movement!

Don’t get stuck to your fretboard! Keeping your fingerboard well maintained with Fast Fret will improve your speed and make your playing smoother and more comfortable. All the best guitarists use it – give it a try today and feel the difference!

8)  Music Stand – seeing your music makes it easier to play!

It’s easy to ‘get along’ without a stand for your music. However, being able to put your tutor book in a comfortable position AND maintain a good playing posture can catapult your playing forward.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a music stand. Our range start at £8.99.

9)  Foot stool – great posture starts at the bottom!

Guitar footstools are aimed at Classical or Spanish guitar players and if you have a nylon string guitar with no strap, a foot stool will make you much more comfortable when you play. However, if you need a bit of extra support, try a footstool with your steel string or electric guitar to take the pressure off your neck and shoulders and help you to position your wrist better.

10) Slide – sustain & glide!

If you’re a country or blues music enthusiast, a good slide is essential. If you haven’t used one before, a glass one is lighter and easier to control but for full-on resonance, a metal guitar slide is ideal for intermediate and advanced players.

If the guitarist in your life has all these accessories (and more!), have a look at our great range of gifts for guitarists for some brilliant birthday and Christmas ideas.

Top ten guitar accessories (part one)…

The top tools and gadgets to help you always sound your best and perfect gift ideas for your favourite guitarist.

1)  Tuner – because your guitar won’t sound right without it!

Unless you’re one of the 1 in 10,000 people who have perfect pitch, a tuning device is essential. Strings stretch and contract while you’re playing and also with changes in temperature so even if your guitar is tuned once a week by a teacher, you should ideally tune every time you play. If you’re using learning aids with a backing CD, your guitar needs to be bang in tune to sound right, even if you’re hitting the correct notes! This also applies if you play with other people, either in a class or a band.

Tuning with a tuner is easy, particularly with one like the Snark clip-on tuner which has a nice, easy-to-follow display.

NB: Many people use the ‘fifth fret rule’ so your guitar will sound ok. However, if your guitar is never checked on a tuner, you still risk snapping a string through over-tightening.

2)  Gig bag – because your guitar deserves protection!

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a carry bag. How much you choose to spend will depend on the value of your guitar. We prefer bags with a side opening zip (less chance of damage to the tuning pegs!) and back-pack straps make it easy to carry. We offer a budget price TGI student guitar gig bag and also a more padded version.

3)  Stand – got 5 minutes? Spend it playing your guitar!

One of the main reasons people don’t play their guitar is that they feel they must set aside a long period of time for practice. However, if your guitar is standing safely and easily accessible, you can achieve a lot in short bursts of 5 – 10 minutes. Also, guitars tend to get left out anyway and being knocked over whilst leaning against a wall or sofa is the biggest cause of damaged instruments.

There are many styles of guitar stand including lightweight (ideal for taking to gigs and also in smaller spaces), stands with a backrest and we even offer the Hercules guitar hanger to store your guitar on the wall!

4)  Pick selection – different pick, different sound!

The pick you choose will depend what music you want to play. A harder pick will make a louder, brasher sound whereas the thinner ones create a gentler tone. The different gauges also feel different in your hand, so your grip is a factor too. Musician and Band or character picks make a great gift for a guitarist.

Guitar picks are pretty cheap, so grab a few different ones and see what works best for you!

5)  Strap – for posture, support and character!

Your guitar strap is a great accessory as the price range and variety of designs is enormous. From bands and artists, to cartoon characters, slogans, leather, suede – they all do the job, although a little extra padding is a great idea if you play a lot.

See our selection of guitar straps, from less than £6.

Click here to see part two…