Cycfi Research Neo Pickups Now Available!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Yes, folks. Cycfi Research has decided to release the latest incarnation of the Neo Pickups. The Neo Pickups are full-range, low impedance (active) pickups that can be powered via lithium ion batteries (the kind of stuff that powers your smartphone). If you’re a luthier or a DIY musical instrument builder, this might be the thing that you are looking for. If you have luthiery knowledge plus the capability to understand wiring diagrams, then these pickups might just be the thing you will need to amplify any steel-stringed instrument such as guitars, mandolins, pianos, etc.

The Neo Pickups are for serious hackers and DIYers only. If you’re an end-user (such as myself), these are not for you. You will need the assistance of somebody who knows electronics well in order to get them working for you. As far as I know, end-user versions of the Neos are currently under development. However, I do think that this initial release will pave the way for the end-user version to make its appearance.

I have used the prototype pickups before, and one thing I could say is that the sound of these pickups is comparable to a canvass i.e. the transparent sound of the pickups plus EQ for filtering will allow you to get all sorts of guitar tones that you can think of. At the bare minimum, you can emulate single coils from Strats,  humbuckers from Les Pauls, a shamisen, a classical guitar, a dreadnought acoustic, and other kind of stringed instruments by merely getting a spectral analysis of the instrument you wish to mimic and then apply the information to create EQ settings that will let you get the sound that you want. Goodbye piezos as far as I’m concerned.

To purchase your set of Neos, please go to http://www.cycfi-research.com to purchase. It costs $25 per coil so a set of six coils for your guitar costs $150.

For more information, read Cycfi Research’s own announcement at http://www.cycfi.com/2014/04/its-official-neo-series-now-available/.

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James Taylor and His Big Bad Drum Machine

I grew up listening to James Taylor. I remember the times when me and my sister would be on a weekend drive going to Cavite with our Dad to spend time with our Mom (who at that time was fully immersed into running a garments factory). The music that would accompany us during those Friday night or Saturday morning drives would come from a tape of James Taylor’s greatest hits. Stuff like “Fire and Rain”, “Steamroller”, “You’ve Got a Friend”, “Sweet Baby James”, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and all of that acoustic singer-songwriter stuff that he has always been known for.

In a sort of attempt to catch up with postmodern times, James Taylor sort of gave in, after touring with so many drummers, and got on the drum machine trend. However, this is not the kind of stuff you would hear from a Roland TR-808 or FLStudio. Still being true to his roots, James Taylor’s drum machine is acoustic:

 

More in line with the sort of stuff that Pat Metheny used (the Orchestrion), James Taylor’s drum machine is a little bit more rudimentary. Instead of a real kick drum, this rig uses a wooden platform with heavy posts slamming into it, kinda like the feel of stomping on stage or on a wooden panel while singing. Anyway, that big, bulky thing affectionately called “Big Foot”, is awesome. You can’t really replicate the kind of impact it has with a TR-808.

Going Back to Facebook?

Okay. If you are one of those 10 in a billion readers of this blog, you might be aware of my views towards Facebook (not so pretty). However, given the sort of livelihood I’m trying to keep, it is necessary for me to engage in social media. I realized that (regardless of how much I dislike it) this should be done. This is something I learned from a seminar conducted by Filipino advertising guru Roberto Caballero (they guy behind the WOW! Philippines advertising campaign). Therefore, I have created another Facebook account. The big difference now is that this new account is strictly from a professional visibility standpoint. The likelihood of seeing yours truly on Facebook as “Mark the Person” is highly unlikely.

Anyway, should you find it within reasonable bounds, please visit my Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/markgalangmusic. “Likes” are much appreciated. Thank you very much. Now, it’s time to go back to chores and writing music under my work-for-hire contracts.

The Joys of Using Contemporary Technology and Electronic Musical Instruments

In an ideal situation, I would have a perfectly soundproofred and treated recording studio with a live room, a vocal booth, and a dead room. I would have the drum kit of my dreams in its own booth mic’ed up properly, and I would would have another room for guitars, a grand piano inside the live room, a rack of synthesizers, an orchestral room (with instruments), etc. I could go on and on about what I would like to have. Unfortunately, budgetary constraints would not permit this. I don’t have a million dollars to fund such things. Thanks to latest advances in technology, I don’t need too much equipment in my home studio.

I actually make a living with an electronic piano from the ’80s hooked up via MIDI, a couple of guitars, a condenser mic, a multi-effects pedal with modeling, a tube amp, a number of VST instruments, scorewriters and a DAW, an audio interface (that I should replace soon!), and other bits and pieces here and there that make noise. That’s about it. Thanks to VST instruments, I have access to great quality sounds that about 10 to 15 years ago I would not have such as orchestral sounds, horn sections, and drums. Many thanks to the people who have made home recording a lot more convenient!

At this point, I don’t have the funds for acoustic treatment or soundproofing, and so I have to make do with recording acoustically using a number of workarounds such as putting a thick comforter or blanket over my amp and mic for recording electric guitar old-school style, recording vocals during the “dead” hours of the day (or inside the car using my Zoom H4n). So far, I have been successfully recording acoustic stuff this way, not the most ideal thing in the world. However, these workarounds will certainly fail if I were to record acoustic drums. Not only will I have a lot of difficulty finding mics (which I don’t have) or the quietest pieces of hardware around, I will also be in trouble with my wife (who will most certainly wake up to the noise of drums) as well as the neighbors. I had experienced getting a phone call from an irate neighbor once when I was rehearsing with Jacob’s Ladder (about 15 years ago!), and I’m not going to have that kind of trouble again. And so, the solution for that would be MIDI capable electronic drums. I found this video that will explain better how electronic drums are advantageous over acoustic drums, fully convincing me that this is the way to go if I’m going to do drums faster rather than programming those parts (a tedious process, BTW):

Speaking of workarounds, even highly acclaimed bands like Haken (my son’s current favorite) use such techniques to record their albums. The next video shows how Haken vocalist Ross Jennings records some of his stuff:

As you can see, you can record vocals in an attic with some blankets, duct tape, and a good mic hooked up to a DAW. Of course, nothing beats a professional recording studio for the job, but workarounds like these augmented with today’s technology can deliver results that are pretty much close at the fraction of the cost.

These things, dear readers,  are only a few examples of the joys of using contemporary technology and electronic musical instruments.

 

That is all for now…

I don’t know if I should be happy that my piece entitled Filipino Mediocrity Starts with the Individual is getting some form of attention lately. At one point, it is flattering that some people think it makes sense.  It cannot be helped that there are people who will revile it and/or use it as a jumping point to promote their religious or philosophical affiliations. At the very least it has an audience.

First off, this site is mostly intended to feature yours truly as a composer and musician involved in everyday life. Other than that, things such as my opinions regarding society, politics, etc. are secondary. Don’t get me wrong; I am delighted in the fact that some people are taking my alternative views seriously, happy even that it is creating some form of awareness among readers regarding what are the ills of Filipino society and what can we think and work on as solutions (something that is not my expertise whatsoever).

From time to time, I may write about Filipino society, but I’m guessing it will be from the perspective of yours truly as a composer, musician, and family man and how it affects me rather than launching off into a political agenda of some sort which is very much beyond my capabilities. I’d rather talk about music instead.

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In other matters, Joel de Guzman’s (head honcho of Cycfi Research, Inc.) Cycfi Research Neo hexaphonic pickups have begun to emerge out of his shop. Watch out for those. I hope to have them installed on some of my guitars soon for more musical experiments.

That is all…for now…