“Fair Use” Policy is Unfair

Globe Fair Use Policy Bullshit 01-30-2014

Let’s say you’re at your favorite pizza joint and you order a pepperoni pizza. The restaurant owner says that there is no more pepperoni pizza available. The proper thing that the restaurant owner would say is that, “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have any pepperoni pizza available today. Would you be interested in any of  our other menu items?” The decent restaurant owner will not ask you to pay full price for that unavailable pizza and then take a slice or two from somebody else who has also paid full price. The basic concept of fairness (and justice) shows that you exactly get what you pay for.

Apparently, Philippine telecoms like Globe and Smart/PLDT don’t understand the concept of fairness. If you happen to be a subscriber of these companies like me or one of my friends (who provided the screen shot above), you probably have heard about this so-called “fair use” policy. To keep it simple, the “fair use” policy dictates that you are only limited to a certain amount of bandwidth per day (in this example 1 GB). Once you have exhausted that limit, they set your account to a snail-pace-slow connection as to give way for others to experience a faster internet speed. They call this fair. I call this crap! Why do I call this crap? Simple. I signed a contract that guarantees me that for a fixed monthly fee, I get unlimited use at a certain speed (like 1 to 2 Mbps, still sluggish compared to international standards). And all of the sudden, companies like Globe come up with this “fair use” crap that indicates you can only enjoy a sort-of-fast connection up until you consume 1 GB or something like that. Hey! I paid for unlimited use and not for this kind of crap.

Now, this reminds me of my restaurant scene analogy. “Fairness” according to these sneaky Telecom companies is like this: I order a pepperoni pizza for full price and they give me one. Sure, that’s what I expect. Halfway through eating my pizza, they decide to forcibly take my remaining slices and then give it to the next customer, who apparently has also paid for a whole pizza. Is this fairness? This is similar to how communism works: everybody gets the same amount of money whether or not I work harder than the next guy or do nothing at all and receive compensation while the next guy does double duty. It’s the same way how the Philippine government operates: The employed middle-class sweats it out for a certain wage, get taxed at least 30% by the BIR, BIR then decides to pocket some of that money for whims of the politicians (starting from the President downwards) and then hands out a little bit of that money as dole-outs to the lazy majority (armed with a bloated sense of entitlement and limited intelligence).

I work long and hard hours. One reason why I do so is for the benefit of getting a good and reliable internet connection, something that is necessary in the kind of work that I perform. I expect that the money I shell out would guarantee that I get the kind of service I paid for. The “fair use” policy is an injustice to honest, hardworking people who pay money for proper internet services. If Globe, Smart/PLDT, etc. were serious about being fair, they would expand their capacity in a faster rate than they acquire subscribers. It’s not like they are losing any of their profits if they would do such a thing. It’s only proper. With the way that the “fair use” policy goes, it seems to me like Globe and Smart/PLDT do not know any sense of propriety at all.

To reiterate my point, here’s what I think the “fair use” policy is all about:

human feces

I urge you all of you to go to this link at Change.Org and sign the petition. Thanks!

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The Never-Ending Quest for Tone

Every musician wants to sound excellent, hence we find the never-ending quest for tone. You see it everywhere: at the NAMM and Musik Messe shows, musician’s forums, and music stores. At the dawn of the internet age, everybody can call himself or herself an expert, even without qualification, and thus we see conflicting information about how to achieve great tone as a musician. What is it that can really lead us to achieve that perfect tone? As far as musical instruments are concerned, I have come to the conclusion that there are two general things that lead to great tone: musicianship and craftsmanship.

I once learned from a short video tutorial by guitar giant Steve Vai that great tone starts at your fingertips. I do believe that to be true. My piano teacher, Prof. Richelle Rivera, had always stressed that proper hand positioning, correct wrist motion, and exploiting gravity produce the desired full tone over the piano. This is the reason why seemingly thin-framed pianists like Franz Liszt as well as my teacher (a rather petite woman) could achieve a sound like thunder over the piano even though they are not muscular like John Petrucci. This is one reason why my piano teacher wanted me to practice those wrist motions as I play through pieces over and over again against a constant metronome beat, something that would result in impressive tone and robot-like precision. Guitars and violins also follow the same principle that training results in the best possible tone. Although I can find whatever note I want over a fretless violin fingerboard, I could never bow a violin properly unlike my son who years of training developing his bowing hand. It was only after a number of years of practice on the guitar that I could achieve the kind of tone I wanted on that instrument. This is why they say that every great musician will be able to play great music even on the crappiest of instruments.

Craftsmanship is the second ingredient towards a great tone. You cannot really justify that tone comes out of tonewoods. Even if you give a mediocre luthier excellent materials like hard and flamed maple, ebony, Brazilian rosewood, and cedar, all of those expensive materials will still yield an instrument that sounds like crap. Hand over plywood to an excellent luthier and he will produce a cheap $75 guitar that sounds like $3,000 one. I have a Greg Bennett CD3 that can rival the tone of an expensive Gibson Les Paul. I also have a Korean-made Axtech Stratocaster copy that sounds like a Fender Strat and have tested a Chinese-made Jay Turser guitar modeled after the Fender Thinline Telecaster that can give the original a run for its money. The point is that excellent craftsmanship will always yield an excellent tone.

We can all sum up my ramblings as follows: To acquire excellent tone, practice on your instrument regularly and listen to yourself. Afterwards, when you are about to buy your next guitar, inspect for craftmanship and test it to see whether or not it can provide the best tone you can possibly have.

Early Evening at Cycfi Research, Inc.

Last Saturday, I got invited by the man behind the Cycfi Alpha, Mr. Joel de Guzman, to visit his facility somewhere in Quezon City to discuss ideas and possibilities regarding music as well as the innovative projects he undertakes. Realizing that this was one of those opportunities that I should not miss, I gave Joel my schedule and when I would be able to go visit. Fast forward to around 5:45 p.m. yesterday, I was with my son at the gates of what appeared to be a 21st-century-state-of-the-art residence, complete with tight security, a laboratory, and a properly built and well equipped studio. The first impression I got was he pushed the concept of SoHo to the extreme. The gate was opened and Joel welcomed us into his home office and conference room.

Joel de Guzman Cycfi Research Inc

(Mr. Joel de Guzman)

Joel de Guzman is one of those rare, forward-thinking individuals. He is an IT consultant, software developer, musician, instrument maker, and open-source advocate. It’s not off target to say that he’s the local Bob Moog. He strongly believes in give-and-you-shall-receive philosophy so much that he posts his designs and concepts freely on the web which include his hexaphonic pickup design and the carbon-fiber/glass truss rod. He is a living testimony of a person who has been blessed so much because of his belief in giving. One could easily see that the gates and storehouses of heaven have opened up for him because of his unselfish attitude in life.

We talked about a lot of things, mostly exciting and forward-looking ideas for making music. Right there and then, I realized that I was in a presence of a genius. The things we were talking about were mindblowing to say the least. Joel was particular about how he could use waveshaping to explore new timbres and techniques when using the full-range hexaphonic pickup that he has been developing. The math of it all was mind-boggling to me (being a person who has struggled with math) but I guess I had enough knowhow to understand how I could use it. The idea of synthesis using the guitar’s strings and pickups as an oscillator has been expored by a number of other institutions. Companies like EHX have played with the idea by developing the POG and HOG pedals and Moog Music even has its own guitar for that purpose, but Joel made me realize that you could do more than that with his full-range pickup, a parametric EQ, and a waveshaper. He also had the idea of hiring me as his child’s music theory tutor. Sadly, I could not accommodate his request, given the distance I would have to travel to go there and give lessons.

After discussing ideas about how we could work together, Joel gave us a tour of his facility. The Alpha prototype was in the process of a paint job so he was not able to demonstrate how it sounded like. We went into his recording studio and he showed me a Fender Stratocaster with the prototype hex pickup installed. The pickup sounded rich on a Marshall combo that the guitar was plugged into. More than that, the hexaphonic output of his pickup was also connected to his Logic Pro based DAW. How it sounded like was something I have never heard on any other guitar. It was phenomenal! Imagine having individual control over each string having its own excusive output routed to a dedicated channel. Andres Segovia once said that the guitar is an orchestra unto itself. Joel’s hexaphonic pickup pushes that to a whole new level. I was very fortunate enough to have tried it for myself.

Mark@Cycfi Research Inc 01-28-2014

(The author smiling like an idiot with Joel’s Fender Strat and the Cycfi Hexaphonic Pickup)

It sounded crazy good with each string having a different position in the sound field starting with the low E string panned hard right and the high E string panned hard left. Since the pickup had a flat frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hz, you could do all kinds of things with it and a parametric EQ. One of Joel’s intentions in developing this pickup is to disprove the idea that a full-range pickup is brittle sounding. Upon strumming my first chord on his guitar, I realized that he was right. Noodling with Joel’s Strat for a bit made me see all sorts of things that you can do with it. Some of the more basic things I thought I can do with it is faking an acoustic guitar with a solid-body electric (without the need for piezo saddles) and simulate any kind of pickup. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Applying distortion to it while it is rigged in a hexaphonic manner was very interesting: full triads sounded very nice and very different. Rather than the aggressive high gain sound you usually expect from your typical humbuckers running into Marshall stack, it sounded more like a guitar orchestra. You could actually play your thirds with the gain all the way up to 10 without sounding harsh or dissonant. I could already imagine setting up six amps in a room or hall, surrounding both guitarist and audience, with each string’s signal going through each amp, exuding music like you’ve never heard before. An added bonus is that the pickup is so quiet even with distortion that the only thing a noise gate would do in this instance is to turn down the ambiance from the amp itself. Another thing currently in development is for this pickup to function as a sustainer. Once Cycfi Research finalizes the design of this pickup, I’m very sure that the serious musician will have to rethink about how to make a sound with a guitar. The question of single-coil versus humbucker would not matter with this kind of pickup. Rather than getting a pickup installed to give your guitar a certain kind of character, you can get the exact kind of voicing you want with this hexaphonic pickup by just using EQ.

Cycfi Hexaphonic Pickup Prototype

(Cycfi Research Hexaphonic Pickup Prototype)

To cut the story short, I was very happy and honored to have met Joel. I hope that this will be the start of a mutually beneficial working relationship. More important than that is the fact that I have met a new friend who has the same sort of passion that I have for something new in music, finding ways to make music that’s really progressive.

To find out more about Joel and his projects, visit http://www.cycfi.com.

Orange Amps OPC

For some time now, I have been contemplating about getting my desktop PC replaced since I have been having problems with it. Stuff like BSODs and music applications not responding have been detrimental to my efficiency, hence the want for a replacement. When I saw this thing called OPC by Orange Amps, I was very interested:

20140126-154525.jpg

The question now is that are they available in the Philippines? I know that JB Music is the local distributor of Orange Amps so I suppose I should inquire there.

Billy Joel Was in a Metal Band

I’m pretty sure that hardcore Billy Joel fans already know this, but I only found out about this tidbit early this morning. And so, out of curiosity, I found out about this silly looking band called Attila. It’s an organ and drum duo. Here’s a YouTube clip showing the duo’s fondness for barbarian outfits and tons of meat going hand to hand with some of the silliest lyrics on the planet:

Okay, as far as my limited knowledge goes, three men spring to mind as individuals who properly used a Hammond organ in a heavier rock kind of context: Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, and Rick Wakeman. Billy Joel’s attempt was laudable although it seemed like there was too much processing going on that it sounds like a lot of noise most of the time. Perhaps he should have listened to stuff like “Tarkus” or “Highway Star” to figure out how organ in a heavy rock context should be done. Coupled with those atrocious lyrics, I’m not surprised why Mr. Piano Man called it “psychedelic bullshit”. Attila’s album though is remarkable as a sort of template for keyboard and drum duos. Perhaps Billy Joel in a proto-metal band sounds and looks so kitschy and so bad that it can actually be like a pug or a bulldog and end up being cute.

Steve Dahlberg’s “Play Delta Blues Now”

People have to know that there’s more to Blues than the kind you hear from Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Winter, and others who have excelled in the popular variant called Texas Blues. If you want to be able to play the Blues during the prewar period or sound like you’re from somewhere around the Mississippi Delta, Steve Dahlberg’s the man who can show you how to do that with his new course “Play Delta Blues Now”.

“Play Delta Blues Now” is an acoustic blues course that will teach you the essentials of how to sound like the Johnsons (Blind Willie, Tommy, Robert, etc.) or Charley Patton. Again, this is NOT your electric blues guitar course. You will NOT make your guitar cry like Gary Moore or go to a getaway like Robben Ford. It’s closer to playing classical guitar (except with blues notes, bottlenecks, open tunings, and an emphasis on the I-IV-V chord progression).

The course will be launched on January 29, 2014, 9 p.m. U.S. Eastern time. So, if you want to acquire what it takes to play the Blues on acoustic, go grab a copy of this course by going to the link below:

Play Delta Blues Now

As usual, sheet music transcription in standard notation and guitar tab is by yours truly.

In other matters unrelated to “Play Delta Blues Now”, here’s Gary Moore, here’s “Still Got the Blues”, a song that my uncle Joe taught me how to play back in 1994 when I was in my 2nd year of high school:

The Cycfi Alpha

I recently discovered this one-of-a-kind guitar that’s made out of carbon fiber and bamboo, equipped with DiMarzio pickups, soon-to-be equipped with a unique hexaphonic pickup, and impressive switching options that would provide a wide palette of guitar sounds. Oh, before I forget, did I mention that this is 100% Filipino-made? It is the brainchild of IT consultant, guitarist, and luthier Joel de Guzman:

Cycfi Guitar

It looks pretty, and (based on the recording I checked out) it sounds awesome too. Just go to http://www.cycfi.com/2011/03/finally/ so you can see what this instrument is all about.

If I could have one of these for myself (it’s pretty obvious now that I want one), it will open up more possibilities for future compositions. I could perhaps ask Mr. de Guzman to build me a custom Cycfi guitar (if I have the money for it), maybe a 7-string model with locking tuners and floating bridge or a guitar with MIDI output (something that would help me transcribe GuitarZoom lessons better). Wait a minute. I think I did ask him via email. Unfortunately, the Cycfi guitar is still in the prototype stage (Alpha) so there are no production models out yet. The instrument looks very promising, a form of innovation you rarely witness in this tropical country called the Philippines.

In a matter of months or years, will the Cycfi Guitar be featured in events like the NAMM Show or Musik Messe. I do hope so. In any case, should the time come that the Cycfi Guitar becomes available in the market, I will get my hands on one. After all, it is that sort of instrument that would implant a nagging thought in your head like, “Play me,” or “Check me out!” Therefore, I can say with confidence that this guitar induces GAS!

On a final note, Mr. de Guzman is looking for a luthier he can work with so that he could kick start the production process. If you know of one, please contact him through or drop a note here.