Guest Blog by GuitarJunky 

You’ve heard it before I’m sure.  YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR! (or not).  No middle ground.  It’s either or.  It’s true no matter what.  Cars, restaurants, clothing, yada, yada, yada!  Why is it though we put so little value on music and music education that we continue to buy very poor quality guitars?  For that matter, trumpets, flutes, saxophones too!

I was asked recently by a friend if buying a “guitar gift pack” from one of the big box retailers would be “good enough” for his child to learn on.  You’ve seen them.  Cheaply made copies of famous guitars, that usually won’t stay in tune, cheap electronics, and packed with a cord, strap, 3 picks, crappy little amp and a song book.  When I replied that I thought it would be perfectly good enough to use for building a campfire, he was somewhat pissed and defensive. “We all can’t be guitar snobs like you!”  Hm…apparently, he thought I was going to support his implied opinion of his child’s music ability.  You know what I mean…”I don’t want to spend a lot, in case he won’t stick with it,”  or  “It’s just a passing phase,” or whatever excuse they can come up with to justify their unwillingness to actually go to a real music store and get a bit of education first and not go so cheap. (Which I suggested he should do)

 Is The Cheap Guitar A Recipe for Failure?

Young Sidewalk Musicians; a thing of the past?In an earlier post, I asked the question, “Where are the new guitar players coming from?”  In that post I was feeling the world may be moving away from the guitar in lieu of things like “virtual guitar.”  I guess I’m not surprised after all at the decline.  This “cheap guitar is good enough” idea is a recipe for failure.  I’m not suggesting that every beginner needs a brand new Taylor or PRS but I’m totally convinced that you should buy the absolute best quality you can afford.  What better way to insure interest?  If it sounds good, plays good…you get the idea. There is an abundance of good quality student level guitars out there to choose from.  Maybe local retailers need to figure a way to get that message out and not concentrate so much on price leader ads.

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Now what was that Dad said about protection?If you are a guy, than perhaps your father or your older brother gave you this sage advice, “Always carry protection.” Of course the meaning may have been focused on limiting your chances of untimely procreation instead of discovering the best method of protecting your laptop computer and recording gear stored inside. However, the idea that you need to seriously consider how you protect your “valuables” is the consistent message, isn’t it?

  

What Is The Cost Of Protection Worth?

Indeed, for the musician, producer or DJ that may be carrying a laptop computer, microphone, headphones, audio interface, cables, external hard drive, and even a MIDI controller or keyboard, it is not just about the replacement cost of all the gear if a strap should break and your stuff crashes to the sidewalk (and that cost could be considerable), but about your time, energy and passion in putting together the music and performances residing inside. What is that really worth? Yes, you should have backed up, but often there just isn’t enough time and we go on our way with the best of intentions… and that we will back up later… tomorrow…

Keeping that reality in mind, we need to really examine the bags or backpacks that we use to transport our “musical life” and irreplaceable performances. How thick is the padding? Is the bottom of the bag even padded at all? Are there appropriate spaces to store all of your gear? How does the bag fit on your body and is the bag ergonomically designed for comfort?

The beauty of the advance in technology is that now the professional recording studio has become extremely portable. We really can take our portable recording studio anywhere and turn out quality recordings, but the danger in this flexibility is in the transport of your equipment.

Meet My Kitchen Table Drummer

KD Redefines The Art of PercussionI am a musician and songwriter, as are most of the people involved with Namba Gear, and I have been recently recording on my own music project. In order to keep costly studio time to a minimum, my percussionist and great friend, Koorosh Daryaie, has been coming over to my house with his laptop for us to do drum programming.

KD has both Pro Tools and Ableton Live on his laptop and we will use either Digidesign’s Strike Drums or Native Instruments’ Battery to do my drum parts. It takes us about 3-5 hours per song to program drums, which KD drops into a Pro Tools session that can be transferred directly into the recording studio’s larger Pro Tools HD system. KD shows up at my house with his backpack (currently from another manufacturer), which holds the laptop audio interface, MIDI controller, and cables and I hook him up to a pair of my studio monitors on the kitchen table and we go to work. Unfortunately, I think KD has gone through three of these backpacks in as many years.

If You Are A Wal-Mart Shopper, Namba Gear Bags Are Probably Not For You

Let’s face it, bags and backpacks that will hold your laptop computer are “a dime a dozen” and it is easy enough to do down to Wal-Mart or Target or even Guitar Center and buy a $39 backpack or messenger bag. So if you are that “Wal-Mart shopper” Namba Gear bags are probably not for you. That is not what we are about.

Namba Gear bags are designed by working musicians, tested by working musicians, with the musician’s life and lifestyle as well as the transport of his most precious work in mind. Namba studio laptop bags are superior quality, heavy-duty products and are about giving you the protection and piece of mind that you, your laptop computer, and your music or recording gear deserve. Isn’t your music worth protecting by getting the best studio laptop computer bag or backpack on the planet? (OK, that last line was a bit of shameless, self-promotion as a result of passionate typing, but damn-it, it really is true.)

By the way, Koorosh is one of our (now very happy) Namba Gear testers.

READ RELATED ARTICLES: Namba Gear

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I was told the other day that I am “just like Martha Stewart“. Damn, where the hell did that come from? I can assure you that I am not running around clothed in women’s dresses. As it turned out, the comment was aimed at my involvement in all facets of the company; from writing the Namba Gear blog to picking out the Namba Gear colors. (I understand that picking out product colors is one of Martha’s big things). So, I thought it might be interesting for you to know where I got the “inspiration” for our fashionable color combinations.

How Is A Black Laptop Bag Similar To A “Piano Shaped Object”? 

A Room Full Of PSO (Piano Shaped Objects)To begin with, every laptop bag company seemingly offers a black bag (not that there is anything wrong with that), and just like looking at acoustic pianos, after awhile, all black laptop bags start to look alike; even if there are major differences in design, construction and quality. Piano stores even have a name for this black piano phenomenon: PSO = Piano Shaped Object.

Although, I wanted Namba Gear to have an identity that would at least set us apart from “the black bags” enough that our customers would give us an opportunity to prove that we were the “best of class”, I had a more important reason to look at colors. This primary reason was based on my personal experience of setting my bag down with a bunch of other black bags in dim lighting and not being able to find my stuff.

I also noticed that if the inside of the black bag looked like the outside of the black bag, (i.e.; black), I couldn’t quickly identify what I needed to pull out of my bag. So the inside of the bag needed to be a contrasting color. My past shame is revealed, I can’t find my own bag in a crowd, and when I finally do, I can’t find my stuff inside the bag.

Apocalypto Provides The Color Palette For Namba Gear

Here’s the “true colors” story; I finally watched Mel Gibson’s movie, Apocalypto. Although I enjoyed the movie, I’ll spare you the movie review. At any rate, the vibrant colors of the tropical jungle of Mexico against the copper earth tones of the Mayan civilization as depicted in this movie were really wonderful.

“One more piece of jewelry and I’m going to fall over.”What got my “color antennae” activated was when the Mayan painted the soon-to-be-sacrificed tribesmen this bold, bright blue and how the blue men were such a great contrast against the brown background color of the buildings. There was also a great combination of bronzed masks and ornaments against the background of green jungle vegetation.

Namba Gear Laptop Bags & Backpacks – Visibility For The Non-Conformist

So the Mayan civilization of Apocalypto inspired the Namba Gear studio laptop bag colors of brown/blue interior and olive green/bronze interior. What about the charcoal bag with red interior you ask? That is from a scene of a fire with the glowing charcoals.

I want to announce that it is offically OK to walk away from black. No monkeys will get hurt in the process. Plus, with Namba Gear laptop studio bags & backpacks, you’ll be able to find your bag and find what’s inside in speedy time.

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A couple of years ago I visited Rio de Janeiro along with my friends and great musicians Chris “Fingers” Adams and Scott Wilkie. On Saturday night we grabbed a taxi and went to an old samba club in the Lapa area of Rio called Bar Carioca da Gema

The Best Samba Club On The Planet

Dancing The Night AwayThe club occupied an old house that had been turned into a club and held about 250 people. “Cariocas” are what the native Rio de Janeirans call themselves. The expression da gema means “very best” or “genuine article”.

The club was packed; there were more than 350 people in the place and everyone was moving to the rhythm of the beat. It was infectious. You couldn’t help yourself as the room throbbed and your body started to move of its own volition.

What Does A Traditional Samba Band Look Like?

It was a traditional 7-piece samba band with the players ranging in age from about 20 – 65 years old. From left to right:

1) Flute/percussion/background vocals
2) Tambourine (never heard anyone play a tambourine like this – he was like the snare, toms, hi-hat and cymbals of a drum kit)
3) Bass drum called the surdo (the 65 year old, played like a floor tom with mallet and hand to muffle)
4) Brazilian cavaquinho, a 4-string petite guitar (the 20 year old)
5) Mandola (the “rock star” of the band with great facial expressions worthy of any lead guitar player)
6) Brazilian 7-string classical guitar (alternated bass lines and rhythmic chords)
7) Center stage vocals (female vocalist that could give you a sexy purr or nail you with her voice.)

It was also a tribute night to one of Brazil’s well-known samba composers.

From The Backside, You Get The Washing Machine EffectThe band kicked into high gear and the musicianship was incredible. This form of traditional samba is multivoiced and heavily, hugely rhythmic. The surdo thudding out its bass rhythm was palpable. Everyone in the crowd knew the songs of the famous composer, so the entire club of 350 people sang along on the chorus of every song. As the set progressed, the singer showed the crowd an intricate syncopated beat to clap to, and they all did it! (You can’t even get most Americans to clap on 2 & 4).

My First Samba And A New Music Tribe

The entire room was dancing; everyone was singing; everyone was clapping; and best of all, everyone had a great big shitty grin on their faces! I have never felt so full of music, so full of joy and so much a part of the tribe, as in this place.

READ RELATED ARTICLES: Tribal Drums

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Don’t Let This Happen To YouThe first question we have to ask ourselves is; Why did you think that you could have a meaningful relationship with another human being and continue to pursue your music dreams? Of course there is no good answer to that; anyone involved in the arts is going to have a high degree of passion for their art as well as for the people that they care about.

So the real question becomes; How do I keep my private life and my art of creating and recording music in balance? Yes, balance is the key. But how do we attain that balance? Jeez, this is starting to sound like a bad Kung-Fu movie… OK, then it must be story-time.

How The Problem Developed

Several years ago, my friend J. Chris Griffin, NYC mixing engineer (Madonna, The Corrs, Janet Jackson) shared with me some of the difficulties he was having balancing the demands of a very successful career mixing top caliber recordings against having time with his lovely wife, Janet. He would find himself in the middle of a music project that was due within the next day or two and wind up staying in the recording studio, mixing the tracks until midnight or later in order to get it finished.

Since Janet works normal hours, typically she had already gone to bed by the time he came home each night, and she was up and gone before he awoke. I’m sure that by now we have all correctly identified Chris and Janet’s problem.

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