Category Archives: Product Review

Product Review : Tascam GB10

Hi All –

Well, my birthday is coming up.  And if you’re like me, you need to help people know what you want or you’ll end up with another shirt to fill your closet 🙂

One of my long time friends and former students used Tascam equipment to practice with.  When I came over to jam, he’d usually play background tracks on it.  I thought it was cool, but didn’t really pay too much attention to it.

Then one of my current students got the Tascam GB10 and not being very technical, he had me help him set it up.  It’s not too confusing once you do it for the first time.

As a guitar player and teacher, I figure out most things by ear.  Once in a while I’ll look up tab on the internet, but most of the time it’s wrong (sorry guys) or incomplete.  Hey at least they’re sharing what they know, but for me, I want it to be right.

Since music is all digital now, I wanted some software that would slow the mp3 player down, but not affect the pitch.  There are several ones out there but I couldn’t make any of them work for me.  Either I couldn’t figure it out, or it was buggy.

Once I got my student’s Tascam loaded up with the right file type, he plugged it in and didn’t quite know what to do with it.  It was Lynyrd Skynyrd but Ronnie Van Zant sounded like a girl.  I finally got it adjusted down to the right key for him.

So I asked for one of these things for my birthday.  oddly, it isn’t available on musiciansfriend.com or sweetwater.com.  But it is available on Amazon so there’s where it came from.

It uses 2 AA batteries (or it can run of a wall plug, NOT INCLUDED – same thing with my Kindle Fire – why do they do that??).  It comes with one cord to plug into the USB port on the guitar.

So get the batteries in, plug into your computer, turn on the Tascam unit and it says “Power / Storage” – I took the Storage option.  This loads the unit’s directory in the Windows Explorer or Mac Finder.

Next, you need your music files in one of two formats: MP3 or WAV.  If you try an MP4 Tascam won’t display it.

Luckily, we use mostly MP3’s in the band so I had plenty to pick from.  (Note: if you’re plucking tunes from iTunes, you can export them as WAV files – that’s what I did for my student).  I had about 6 band tunes in mp4 format, but downloaded a free converter via cnet and voila!  I had MP3’s.

Then it’s a matter of dragging your mp3 files unto the music directory on the Tascam.  Unplug the unit and it will turn itself off.

Next, I plugged in my headphone in the headphone jack of the unit, my guitar into the guitar jack, and then you have to adjust the volume on the side so you can hear your guitar.  Then you have to make sure on the playback screen that “input” is “on” – by default it’s off.

Next, I found a song that I wanted to double check my chart with – “8 Second Ride”.  The introduction has given me problems on that one before and I’ve changed my chart twice.  Listening to it with headphones and slowing it down to about half speed, and immediately I found my mistake.  I was one note off.

Then in the same song, there is a lead part that is played throughout the song – I fixed a wrong note in that one too, plus it was easier to figure out the higher harmony part of the two guitar lead.  So on my first song, I fixed two mistakes I was making and figured out an additional part.  Not a bad beginning by any means.

I worked on another song that has a tricky intro – “A Woman Like You”.  Again, I could hear everything much easier when it’s slowed down and I can “loop” a section indefinitely if I need to keep hearing it.

The Tascam slows things down in 10% increments, which some people in other reviews didn’t like – they wanted finer control over this.  However, that works fine for me.

The Tascam can also change the Key of the music (as noted above in my student’s Lynyrd Skynyrd song).  I’m not sure if I need to use that at this point, but could come in handy later if we change  a key for vocal reasons.  It might also help with artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Van Halen who tune down a half step.  Why re tune the guitar when you can press a button?

You can also record with this thing but I haven’t gotten that far with it yet.

So for $112, it’s a bit pricey but if you can call in some birthday or Christmas favors it might be worth it.  I’m glad I got it.  I’m also working on Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version of VooDoo Chile and there are 2 or 3 bursts of notes in his solo that I can definitely use this tool on.

Happy Jamming!

Spencer

 

The Ups and Downs of Band Life

Hey all –

Wouldn’t you know it – band drama continues.  In the last four weeks we:

1) Added a rhythm guitarist

2) Added a bassist

3) Rhythm guitarist quit

4) Bassist quit

On the surface you might think something is wrong with the band, or we smell funny.  I don’t think that’s it (I hope).  The rhythm guitarist quit citing personal changes in his life, but didn’t go into any kind of detail.  That’s fine, we wish him well.

The bassist quit citing personal issues as well, which we understood, and wish him well too.

And then there were three…..(again!)…this is where we started, for crying out loud!  Me, a drummer and the singer.

Welcome to band life.  Better take some Dramamine, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Seriously, this happens a lot.  There are several factors, in no particular order:

  • Musical conflicts are high on the list
  • Personal issues (marriage, job, kids – these are a bigger factor when you get older)
  • Substance abuse (also a personal issue)
  • Their level of commitment doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Their goals (gig a little, gig a lot, do originals, do covers) don’t match the rest of the band
  • Their talent level doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Personality clashes – too many alpha dogs in the pack can bring on fights and no alphas mean the band can just drift and get nothing done
  • …and probably more…

In my previous band, everybody’s goals were definitely different than mine, plus we didn’t have the right kind of alpha in the band.  Just having an alpha – someone who takes charge either a little or a lot, and starts to pull the band one way or another – doesn’t guarantee success.  Sometimes alphas are wrong.  Sometimes alphas focus too much on one thing (say musical perfection) and not another (promotion).

If all this sounds like herding cats, it sure can be.  Again, in my last band, I would send out a long email on how our band website stacks up against others and what we need to do.  I got zero response.  Not a single “Oh wow, thanks for doing that”.  No dialog, no interest, not even a disagreement.  It’s no wonder that only a few things changed on the website in the year I was with the band.

If you’re guessing I’m an alpha, I’d say so.  Certainly not because I want to control everybody, I just don’t see everything getting done if I don’t pitch in and help.  I also use my MBA background for strategic thinking, marketing, evaluating competition and determining opportunities.  That’s actually fun for me (don’t laugh – it comes in handy).  I want to accomplish something for myself and the band I’m in.  Someone else, who may look at the band as a way to get away from the kids one night a week for practice, could care less how the website looks.

Bands are usually a democracy, or at least they start out that way.  Everybody has a say.  Like a marriage.  And if somebody is really unhappy, something will eventually change.

Luckily the three of us that are left all seem to be like minded in what we want to do.  We state our opinions without getting in each others face about it.  Since I’m more technical than the other two, I’m more than happy to help with the web site, the drop box musical repository, sending reminder emails or confirmation emails about time, place, agenda.  Our singer, on the other hand, is a real people person and is very good working out deals with people.  That’s a skill I’m not very good at.  But I’m glad he is.  It’s a skill someone in the band needs to have or you stay in the garage.

We are recording three songs in May over in Emeryville, and playing a gig May 24th.  I have the gig covered (the bass part anyway) with a long time friend and associate from Guitar Showcase.  I’m glad he was free that night. The auditions have started to try to find someone quick so they can help us with the recording.  We have two auditions lined up so far.

Meanwhile I’m still learning new songs and getting the four sets down.  I got the Tascam GB 10 recently so I’ll be reviewing that in my next blog.

Wish us luck!

Spencer