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Start Playing Guitar's 'The Bridge', Vol 1 #4 - Best & Worst of 2006
January 06, 2007's 'The Bridge'

Volume 1, Issue 4: Best & Worst of 2006

Notes From Steve:

I'm in recovery mode from Christmas and New Year's. How about you?

The holiday season increases the number of times I play familiar music. That means I'm working on the same songs and chords, rather than new material. I take advantage of the time by refining timing, strumming patterns, and smooth chord changes. So, when playing familiar songs, I'd encourage you to refine technique rather than think about repetition.

New Content on

There was less new content in December. Yes, the holiday's are partially to blame, but so was the retirement of my old computer.

It's always exciting to get a new toy, but with computers there is so much setup time that it takes the edge off your initial enjoyment. That's behind me now, so I should be back up to speed in Janaury!

I did find time to publish new, and some alternate, material in December, including:

Two articles were featured on the home page of, First Steps With Your New Guitar and Coated Strings - Are They Right For You?. Similar articles appear on my web-site, but these were updated and modified as stand-alone articles. Take a look!

There are times when I have opinions or information that just don't seem to fit neatly into a category of the web-site. I used to make notes, and then set them aside. Recently, I wanted to pass along my positive experience ordering custom guitar picks. That launched the Guitar & Music Blog. I won't make any type of routine postings. It's for the topics that don't otherwise fit, as they come up.

As Christmastime approached I added the traditional song Away In A Manger. It's too late to learn it for this Christmas, but it's a three-chord song to add to your kit for later!

Finally, I posted a lesson on the Second Position C Scale. The lesson uses text, images, and video for clarity. You'll also be introduced to movable major scale pattern.

Work In Progress:

Coming soon to the web-site!

I'm working on an in-depth article on reading and writing guitar tab. It will also take a look at the controversy kicked up last December (2005) when the Music Publisher's Association of the United States (MPA) decided to legally pursue web-sites with tab, chords, and/or lyrics of copyright protected songs.

Stay tuned...

SIDEBAR: Keep up to date with all the changes by subscribing to our RSS feed (click to open a window of help and subscription instructions). It will keep you up to date with new pages and other special announcements. I will not overload you with every grammar-fix, new image, or other minor mod.

The Best & Worst of 2006

If you're like me, you spent a lot of money on guitars and guitar accessories in 2006. If you're brand new to guitar, you're likely to spend a good portion of your budget on guitar items in 2007.

I thought it might be good to look back on 2006 and consider the purchases I made, good and bad. Since this is the first time I've done this, I'll include some items from 2005 as well.

The Best!

If you've done any home repairs or auto work you know that having the right tool can make a tough job much easier. The same is true of guitar. Some products make the instrument more enjoyable, increase your learning, or help otherwise simplify life with a guitar.

These are the products I used repeatedly. They serve me well, and I would gladly pay the price again if I faced with the same purchase decision.

Taylor's 314ce Acoustic Guitar - This is the first acoustic guitar I purchased for myself and it's one sweet instrument. This fine guitar features a grand auditorium body with a cutaway for access to the upper strings, and action that is low and fast. Complete with the Taylor Expression System for direct connection to a PA system, this guitar has served me well as I moved from annoying the family with slow, poorly played chords, to performing alongside musicians more talented than myself.

Taylor's are not the cheapest guitars, but the quality is top notch. My 314ce was worth every last penny!

Elixir Nanoweb Guitar Strings - I was introduced to these hi-tech coated strings when I purchased my Taylor guitar. I've tried other strings and none produce the tone or provide the longevity of Elixir Nanoweb's. I don't hesitate to pay a few extra dollars for a set of Elixir's. Want to know more? Read my Ezine article on coated strings.

Musician's Friend Gear Bag - Only minutes after you purchase your first guitar you star collecting odds and ends: Picks, cables, songbooks, batteries, strings, tools, and lots more. What to do with it all? Keep it organized and ready for use in a gear bag (sometimes called a gig bag). My favorite is the Musician's Friend gear bag. It has several pockets, including one large enough for a notebook, inside dividers, exterior pockets for cables, microphone, or water bottle. It's well constructed and is easy to carry around using either the handle ample shoulder strap. Best of all, it's very inexpensive (about $20).

Dampit Guitar Humidifier - Improve tone and protect your investment with a Dampit humidifier. It's simple and effective. Simply run the Dampit briefly under water, wring it out, and dry it off. Slide it between the A and G strings and into the sound hole on an acoustic, or place it in the accessory storage area of your electric guitar case. Depending on how dry the air in your home is, you may need to repeat this process two times each week. Get one now. You won't regret it.

The Worst!

GuitarPro 5 for Mac - The Mac version of this widely used music notation and playback tool arrived in 2006. I jumped on board and started working with it. I had high hopes for its ability to import and export MIDI files, the use of TAB and music notation. Unfortunately, it remains a product that should have spent more time in Beta.

It's certainly filled with features that are handy for music notation: increase or decrease not values, input and synchronize lyrics to the melody, show TAB, show chord forms (including custom forms), and much more.

Unfortunately it's one of the few programs I've ever owned on a Mac that dies routinely. In addition, the documentation remains a hard-to-follow mix of the Windows version and the Mac implementation. It's hard to understand, and when you finally think you've got it you run into keystrokes that simply don't work.

Save your money for the next Mac version. If you have a Windows-based system, you may be perfectly happy with Guitar Pro 5.


Everly Star Picks - Maybe it's that old habits die hard, but there's something about the star pattern placement that forces me to hold the pick differently than usual. Don't get me wrong, the picks are top quality, reasonably priced, and the cut-out star does improve your grip... they simply don't feel comfortable to me unless I force myself to use them for 30 minutes or so. It's easy for me to grab a standard pick and strum away, but the Everly Star requires some effort.

Boss DR-880 by Roland - This powerhouse drum-machine is augmented with guitar amplifier modeling, a tuner, and the ability to set up bass accompaniment. The "Dr. Rythm" is packed with numerous options and features, and therein lies the problem.

There is so much here that it takes months of tinkering to figure out how to harness the power packed inside this thing. The documentation is pathetic, and user support on the Roland site is practically non-existent (unforgivable, really, for a $500 device). Owners seem to agree that the machine has flaws that Roland should have addressed by now, such as no ability to add memory, not way to tell that you're about to fill memory up with your patterns and songs, no way to run off battery power, and the inability to save and edit patterns or songs (except as an entire MIDI file) to a PC.

Still, if you invest the time, you'll probably find that this is one powerful device for your practices, your band (if you don't have a drummer) or solo performances. If you decide that the DR-880 is right for you, I recommend that you subscribe to the Yahoo group of DR-880 owners, and purchase a copy of the DVD version of the owners manual and tutorial.

Go For A Big Finish!

I hope you've enjoyed this issue of The Bridge. See you next month!


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