M-Audio Venom synthesizer selling out cheap at Amazon

If you’re looking for a fun synthesizer to play around with, can’t go too wrong with this thing. And oh, how the mighty have fallen! M-Audio’s first attempt at making a real synthesizer started at $600 and is now on fire sale for $199 at Sweetwater and Amazon. Crazy!


I feel really bad for the folks at M-Audio who worked so hard to make the thing. It’s really not a bad synth at all, and is now being priced just $50 above a Korg Kaossilator?! Again, crazy.



Recently curious about EADCGF tuning (perfect 4ths). I love 4 string barre cords anyway, and it seems to sort out some nagging issues with my soloing. Liked this post and the interview with Alex Hutchings.


The guys over at Jam Track Central recently interviewed Alex Hutchings, a long time collaborator with JTC and a great jazz/rock/fusion guitarist from the UK, who is local to the South West and I have seen him play in Bath many times.

During the interview Alex answers a number of questions including his usage of the E A D G C F tuning for the guitar. I received a lot of interest from guitar students when I shared this video. So here is an introductory lesson to E A D G C F tuning.

Alex Hutchings Interview January 2011

What is E A D G C F tuning?

The guitar is traditionally tuned to E A D G B E, starting with the 6th string (low E).  The intervalic distance between each of the strings is a perfect fourth (p4), except for the interval between the 3rd (G) and the 2nd…

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Katana Fret Leveler Video

Sully is one of my recent heroes. Aside from being generally awesome, he puts out a ton of videos on guitar building and repair. I honestly wish he lived down the street from me so I could wander down to his garage a few times a week.

Here’s a video of him demoing a new fret leveler (the Katana) which works with the strings still on (whoa). Anyway, I’ll let the master show you more about it while I go order one for myself.

Mod: Master Tone on a Stratocaster (and One Less Knob)

One thing that’s always bothered be about Stratocasters is the controls. The placement of the volume knob is annoying, for one. It gets in the way when I’m palm muting, and I bump it a lot. Maybe I have beefy hands, but wow do I hate that. The other control issue is the two tone knobs: one for the neck pickup and one for the middle. The pickup which needs toning down the most is the bridge; it’s like an icepick in my ears without it. Fender doesn’t see a problem with this, but they’re more about pleasing their connoisseur audience than the likes of me.

I found a good compromise: master volume, master tone. I can then remove the offending knob and place the other two further down. Wiring this up wasn’t too hard, but nowhere did I find a step-by-step. I did find a master tone wiring diagram from Duncan pickups, but that didn’t help me sort out the “how do I get there from here” problem.

While I’m planning on making a step by step video for this, for now the secret is basically (referring to the “master tone” diagram above):

  1. Remove all the wires going from the 5-way switch to your two tone controls. I simply desoldered them, and had a couple extra wires to hang on to.
  2. Carefully desolder the tone capacitor (cap) and set it aside. Most likely, there will be a lead from the cap to both tone potentiometers (pots); trim that out.
  3. Remove the wires connected to the bottom tone pot and then remove the pot itself.
  4. Attach the tone capacitor to the remaining tone pot (it will become your new master tone pot, see diagram).
  5. Attach a wire (one you removed will do) from your new master tone pot to your volume (there should already be a ground wire from this pot to your volume pot, see diagram)
  6. If you like, move your two remaining pots (master volume and master tone) down a hole to get them away from your bridge (and ham hands in my case).

As with any wiring mod, be careful! If you don’t know how to solder, YouTube is your friend. It’s not hard at all, but requires you to be very careful and have a steady hand (and ability to not burn the crap out of your fingers).

Review: Squier Vintage Modified 70’s Stratocaster

Amazing guitar, I absolutely love it. Like most of the other “vintage modified” series, the neck is flawless. The stock pickups (Duncan Designed single coils) are sweet. Some Stratocaster purists would complain that they don’t have enough “quack”, but I’m totally fine with it. I spent about 15min total adjusting the action and pickup heights to suit my taste and it’s been rocking ever since.

I’ll post some pics of mine and maybe a video, but I can honestly say that if you’re in the market for a Stratocaster and want to save some dough, check these out. I don’t know what’s going on in Indonesia, but they’re making some badass guitars these days.

Myth: My Guitar Doesn’t Stay in Tune, My Tuners Must Suck

For a steel string guitar, the tuners are almost never the problem. Most likely, the culprit is one of the following:

  1. New strings which haven’t been properly stretched. When you put in new strings, they need to be stretched tight. This has to do with the wind around the tuning peg as well as the need for the metal in the strings to “settle” into their new jobs. Often, the point which bends down past your bridge starts out a little floppy as well. You can fix all of this by making sure each string is stretched properly: 1) tune to pitch (all strings, verify); 2) tug up on the string; 3) if the string went flat, repeat.
  2. The nut (the thing the strings pass over at the top of your neck) is binding your strings. This is most noticeable when you do a lot of string bends and the open string goes flat after. What’s happening is you’re pulling the string when you bend it, and not all of the string is sliding back over the nut, leaving a slack. You can fix this a number of ways; nut lubricants (usually graphite based), replacing your nut with one made of bone (yes, bone) or a more slippery material or even special roller nuts, slightly widening your nut slots (carefully).
  3. Wood and metal do funny things during temperature and humidity changes. You can expect your guitar to be slightly out of tune every day, and even as it “warms up” while you play it, especially in colder weather.
  4. Improperly wound strings at the tuners. I’ve seen all sorts of crazy things, mostly: too many winds (2 is plenty), “crossed” winding where the string is wound on top of itself, and winding up away from the headstock (should wind down).

Before you return that budget guitar or replace your tuners, make sure you know what the real problem is. Even the cheapest of modern steel string guitar tuners are capable of doing their jobs, and there’s usually just a small difference in quality inside the mechanism between price ranges.

Myth: Heavy Gauge Strings are Better

I run into this myth all the time. Here’s how it goes: “all the best guitar players used heavy gauge strings, and they had great tone, so go heavy or go home.” Really? Here are a few tone “greats” who were known to use light (9, 8 or lower) strings:

  • BB King
  • Billy Gibbons
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Brian May
  • Jimmy Page

Every name on that list has an iconic tone that zillions of guitar players try to emulate. Many today are completely unaware that their heroes use light gauge strings and assume they have to be using heavy. After all, heavy strings give you great tone, right?

The truth is string thickness does change the sound somewhat, but mostly they impact your playing style. If you want the most versatility, you want the lightest gauge strings. If you have a heavy touch (a lot of beginner players fall into this category), you might improve your intonation with thicker strings. If you have a light touch or do a lot of vibrato, thinner strings are your friend.