The United States of Strummers
January 09, 2022

Since pandemic began 16 million Americans picked up guitar

In the US alone, 16 million people have picked up guitar since the pandemic began, many of them for the first time, Fender's CEO Andy Mooney told CNBC, based on their comprehensive research. Sales of guitars, according to CNBC, have nearly doubled since 2020, total sales are up 30% in 2021, and sub-500$ guitar sales are up 40%.

An interesting conversation on the Bandcamp with Weedie Braimah, a master of the djembe, a West African drum, the origins of which date back to the 12th Century. He talks about his position: "I am a quote-unquote percussionist. But let’s go deeper... There was a time when the drum wasn’t segregated. Let me say that again: There was a time when the drum wasn’t segregated. We, in this world in the West, segregated the instruments. We segregated the drums so bad that now cats be like, ‘Yeah, man I’m the drummer, and he’s the percussionist’". Braimah also goes on to explain the history of djembe.

Tyler Thackray is a former dreadlocked metalhead, and current Android developer who builds and then destroys violins in his spare time. There's a point in it, as the New Yorker states: "The notion that you can torture—or to be tortured by—a violin in the first place arises from our sense that the instrument is somehow alive, responsive, perhaps even agential... with a social life that intersects with other instruments, people, histories. So much of playing an instrument is having your existence dictated by its demands, to the extent that your body and your instrument come to seem inseparable... These are not instruments that anyone will miss, and @violintorture is ferrying them into a hitherto inconceivable afterlife".

The guitar industry has been struggling with scandals over illegal logging, resource scarcity and new environmental regulations related to trade in endangered species of trees. The Conversation went on a 6-year-long quest tracing guitar-making across five continents, looking at the timber used and the industry’s environmental dilemmas. A great piece of investigative (music) journalism.

Guitarist Anthony Garone wrote a book 'Failure to Fracture' chronicling his 22-year-long journey of learning how to play King Crimson’s 11-minute instrumental 'Fracture', Guitar World reports. Robert Fripp once described his 1974 masterpiece as “impossible to play”, especially because of the section roughly three minutes in where the guitarist begins a nonstop barrage of notes called a “moto perpetuo” – an Italian term for “perpetual motion”. Over the years, Garone published blog posts and videos about his efforts, and kept working at it until he had a breakthrough after enrolling in a week-long guitar instruction course led by Fripp in rural Mexico in 2015. Last year Garone released a video of him playing the song (watch it below). 'Failure to Fracture' is released May 18.

Pioneering music producer and engineer Malcolm Cecil has died at the age of 84, Consequence of Sound reports. Cecil produced plenty of big releases in his time, including numerous Stevie Wonder albums, still, he is best known as the co-creator of the TONTO — the world's largest analog synthesizer. Over the years, the TONTO has been used by the likes of the Isley Brothers, the Doobie Brothers, Joan Baez, Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, Weather Report, Gil Scott-Heron, Diana Ross and many others. TONTO was obtained by Calgary's National Music Centre in 2013, it was fully restored by 2018 and is available for contemporary artists to use.

Henry Goldrich was the man behind the music - literally, since he was the owner of Manny's Music store in New York. There, he had sold Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton their first wah-wah pedals, as well as other pieces of equipment to numerous musicians - David Gilmour, Pete Townsend, Sting, James Taylor, members of Lovin' Spoonful - helping them define their sound. The New York Times tells the nice story of the "gear guru to rock stars" who recently died.

Straight from the gut
February 10, 2021

A metal fan turned his uncle's skeleton into a guitar

A heavy-metal lover named Prince Midnight has constructed a guitar out of his uncle Filip’s bones. The uncle died more than 20 years ago as the result of a car accident, and his skeleton had been donated to a college in Greece, where it was used for educational purposes for two decades. After they returned it to the family, Prince Midnight, who got into heavy-metal thanks to his uncle Filip, decided to build the guitar from the skeleton. The torso serves as the body of the guitar, to which Prince Midnight added a neck, pickups, volume knobs, and more. The name of the guitar - Filip Skelecaster. Metal Sucks brings the pictures of the guitar-building process.

The first breath
January 07, 2021

The best classical music written for the flute

The flute is one of humanity’s oldest ways of producing a beautiful sound, and it is based on the most fundamental sign of life: breath - New York Times writes in their introduction of a selection of the best classical compositions written for the flute.

Basement dads
November 24, 2020

Fender guitar sales grow sharply in pandemic

Fender is expecting a record year this year as guitar sales have grown 17% during the pandemic and are expected to rise to $700 million, from $600 million last year, CNBC reports. Fender's CEO Andy Mooney attributes the rise in sales to housebound consumers looking for new hobbies. The company also offered Fender Play, the online video platform for learning guitar, bass and ukulele. Introduced in July 2017, it was free for 90 days to the first 100,000 subscribers. Fender hit that mark the very first day, reached a half million sign-ups the first week and settled at about 930,000 subscribers by June. In similar, yet less positive news, Guitar Center, the largest American retailer of musical instruments, has filed for bankruptcy, CNN reports.

So, plenty of music to come?!?
September 11, 2020

Fender sold more guitars in 2020 than any other year

Fender is experiencing a record sales year, with FMIC chief executive Andy Mooney stating that 2020 “will be the biggest year of sales volume in Fender history, record days of double-digit growth, e-commerce sales and beginner gear sales. more guitars in 2020 than any other year", the New York Times reports. Fender’s guitar-instruction app, Fender Play saw its user base increase to 930,000 from 150,000 between late March and late June. Gibson, Taylor, Martin and others also report pandemic sales booms, showing the powers "of six-string therapy”.

Billie Eilish has partnered with Fender to design and launch her own signature ukulele called Billie Eilish Uke, adorned with her signature “blohsh” symbol, uDiscover Music reports. The ukulele was the first instrument Eilish picked up at six years old, and she’s since used the ukulele on her own songs. Asked for her ukulele-playing advice, Eilish said: “The rules of ukulele are: If you know three chords, you can play any song. Ever”. It goes fo $279.

Documentary film 'Carmine Street Guitars' is "the digital equivalent of hanging out in the Manhattan shop of the title, a Greenwich Village institution of sorts... It is 80 minutes of pure woodwork-musicianship-upcycling erotica for a very specialist but passionate market", Guardian says in a review. "If a film had a smell, this one would be of sawdust, varnish and pure love" - the G says in its verdict. It's available on digital platforms now.

Apple's music creation software Garageband had nearly 13 million downloads from its add-on “Sound Library” since early February, and hundreds of thousands of free trial downloads of Garageband’s pricier siblings Logic Pro X and Final Cut Pro X, Rolling Stone reports. Apogee just experienced its most active month ever with its music-creation accessories including popular iOS and Mac products like HypeMic. Instruments manufacturer Roland has seen a spike as well, and Splice, which sells royalty-free samples and loops, has seen more than one million sound downloads a day. Instrument/gear seller Reverb is seeing extraordinarily high order volumes, outpacing even the amount of orders they see during the busy holiday season.

Fender launched American Acoustasonic this year, a hybrid instrument, half electric and half acoustic, with new tonal possibilities. Rob "Freaky Rob" Gueringer - lead guitarist for Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne - is the face of the new guitar, and... it sounds great when he plays it (just like when a top-class football player starts messing with a ball). Guitar World talked to him.

For musicians, an instrument is like a baby, the Guardian writes about the special bond and problems musician face tending the instrument, especially when traveling by plane. This battle came to the fore last week when the Malian musician Ballaké Sissoko accused US border officials of breaking his “impossible to replace” kora, a harp-like west African instrument, during a security check before flying from New York to Paris. He is on tour, playing in London next month, and he could not simply walk into a store to replace a hand-crafted, custom instrument.

NPR has an encouraging article about people in Appalachias use instrument building as a way of overcoming opioid addiction. Their approach is occupational therapy - it attempts to engage people in meaningful activities, which helps them think about something else other than addiction, and even recovery. The build wooden string instruments like guitars, banjos, dulcimers, […]

Musician Stephen Morris left his 310-year-old violin worth £250,000 on a train in south London, and after secret negotiations, the violinist got it back in a supermarket car park in Beckenham. The man who had the violin said he had made a mistake and apologized when the two met, and the detective involved in the […]

Outkast's Andre 3000 and Lizzo made the flute a star of the year. "They might be one of the world’s oldest-known pieces of kit for bashing out a tune on but their time is now", Guardian says in their humorous article about flute in pop music. They aren't the first - Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson […]