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  • Musical stocking stuffers
    more freedom of movement on stage Dual guitar cables can be used to plug an electric keyboard into an amp or mixing console You can spend a king s ransom on designer brands but you really don t have to spend more than about 20 on a good individual cable A drum key is an essential tool for any drummer It s a T shaped square socket wrench used for tuning drum heads adjusting height and angle settings on cymbal stands and floor toms switching out kick drum beaters and even setting the height of the drum throne Without a drum key the drummer and the rest of the band can be in a world of hurt When I m drumming for a rehearsal or gig I keep one drum key in my pocket two in my stick bag two in my hardware bag and a spare in my car Even when I m not drumming for a gig I still carry the one in my pocket just in case I ve seen drum keys sell for as little as 1 and can almost always find one for 5 or less HAND PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS Whether you re buying for a percussionist or not these simple percussion instruments can be played by just about anybody to add texture to a recording or performance They re small mostly inexpensive and can be used by anyone who happens to sit in on a jam session Maracas are traditionally made from gourds filled with beans or small stones and with an attached handle Modern maracas can also be made of wood rawhide or plastic When shaken the beans or stones inside rattle against each other and the inside of the container creating a diffuse attack and quick decay that complements an acoustic arrangement or contrasts heavier percussion Put simply just shake em in tempo and you ll sound great Maracas don t have to be expensive I ve seen them sell for as little as 3 For a quality pair expect to spent 15 30 Egg shakers are a variation on maracas They re basically plastic Easter eggs with coarse sand sealed inside The size and shape make them comfortable and convenient I can easily hold up to four in each hand to vary the volume of the maracas in an arrangement With a little practice and creativity you might come up with some ingenious ways to add them to a performance I can hold one egg shaker in my right hand as I strum my guitar with a pick I can pick one up and hold it in my left hand as I play a drum kit lightly so I get a maraca with each rim shot or snare hit A violinist might be able to hold one in his or her hand with the bow You get the idea Egg shakers run anywhere from 2 to 5 each The more the merrier Claves CLAH vays are essentially wooden sticks that are struck

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2011/12/1_Musical_stocking_stuffers.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Behrens 90015 Washtub Bass
    of those bands called themselves the Quarry Men who morphed into The Beatles who in turn went on to be somewhat successful I m told After examining the design of Mary Schaeffer Losure s washtub bass at a local fiddle banjo open jam I set to work collecting up the materials I d need to build one of my own Initially I figured an actual washtub would be unavailable so I planned to use a 5 gallon plastic bucket or a metal bucket if I could find one But lo and behold our local Home Depot had a Behrens 90015 17 gallon galvanized washtub available for 19 I collected up a few more items there broom handle eye bolts lock washers 1 4 wing nuts and polyester clothesline and a few others at a nearby Ace Hardware 2 fender washers small rope clamps cotton clothesline A couple of 4 wooden discs came from a Michael s craft store I cut a 9 32 hole in the center of the bottom of the washtub now the top of the resonator and a wooden disc then threaded the eye bolt through a fender washer the washtub the wooden disc another fender washer a lock washer and the wing nut I cut off the metal threaded end of the broom handle then cut a slot through the center of that end much like the slot in a screw to hold the stick against the rim of the washtub Holding the stick in position I marked the stick at my eye level then drilled a hole there and two more holes about 2 and 4 below that I threaded the clothesline through the three holes and tied a knot then rope clamped the other end to hold on to the eye bolt After adjusting

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2013/8/24_Behrens_90015_Washtub_Bass.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Casio wk-200 electronic keyboard
    replacement for his 1980s era Yamaha keyboard with only five available sounds and weighing in at over 70 pounds budget was a primary concern So our guitarist and friend Bryan Baker started haunting the local Craigslist ads and found someone parting with a Casio WK 200 keyboard for 100 I looked up the reviews online and was impressed with what I saw more on that later and fronted Justin 50 so he could get the board The result was a far lighter instrument to carry to rehearsals and gigs with over 500 different sounds to choose from all much cleaner sounding than the old Yamaha As I got more serious about the production of my solo CD A Function of Time I came to the conclusion that I d need a keyboard for at least some of the tracks Since it was most likely I d be asking Justin to play the parts I figured I d look for another WK 200 Almost as if they knew Musician s Friend offered one up as a Stupid Deal of the Day for 129 I snapped it up before they could sell out and it arrived on my doorstep two days later In the studio it was very easy to hook up the WK 200 to my Mac using USB and to my recording software using the headphone output to capture both the audio of the sound we chose and the MIDI data of the performance in case we wanted to fix mistakes or change the sound later As an added bonus Justin was already familiar with the available sounds and was able to dial up just what we needed without paging through all of them And if we played a gig where Justin wanted to use two boards or where he d be arriving directly from work without a chance to stop at home I could always bring my keyboard along for him to use And so we flash forward a few more months to Christmas of 2012 My daughter was in her third year of piano lessons and was wishing for a way to practice privately and quietly things she couldn t do on the big acoustic piano in the dining room This frustrated her to the point where she wanted to drop out of lessons until I offered that she could use my keyboard in the basement studio and if she d like I could get her one for her room as well She agreed So again I checked Musician s Friend and found a refurbished model for 179 not quite the deal we d gotten in the past but still about 100 less than the MSRP Again since it was the same WK 200 she d already know how to operate it what kinds of sounds were available and how it responded She could still use the keyboard in the basement if there was some reason she couldn t use the one in her room Or she could

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2013/12/14_Casio_WK-200_electronic_keyboard.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Latin Percussion LP234A Cabasa
    maracas claves or a cabasa It was when an acoustic band called Epiphany came in to do their CD that I was first introduced to the cabasa They used cabasa to add a delicate snare drum type sound without overwhelming the arrangement with a full drum kit At one point during a time when they were doing several sessions a week and leaving some of their instruments at the studio between sessions I had a chance to take some of their percussion instruments for a spin including a nice set of congas and their cabasa The cabasa traces its origins to Africa where a beaded netting would be woven to surround a dried out gourd The netting could be rubbed back and forth against the rough surface of the gourd or the neck of the gourd could be turned or shaken to make the beads rattle agains the body of the gourd This traditional form is still used in certain African and Caribbean styles today One notable ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock uses it as the primary percussion instrument in their mostly a cappella arrangements The metal cabasa was invented by Martin Cohen the founder of Latin Percussion The beaded metal chain and corrugated metal friction surface provide a large sound from a much smaller instrument and the wood and metal construction is generally much more durable than the traditional gourd construction This modern adaptation is used in all sorts of Latin and Caribbean music as well as in jazz rock and other popular styles I picked up my LP cabasa at the local Guitar Center for about 35 I had tried a few other cabasas first but I liked the size and weight of the LP234A best It felt less like a toy than some of the other

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2012/11/5_Latin_Percussion_LP234A_Standard_Wood_Afuche_Cabasa.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Imperial washboard
    instruments available it was pretty easy to look around the house and find objects to outfit a whole makeshift band a washboard a glass or stoneware jug a pair of spoons a bass fashioned from a washtub a broom handle and some string This basic setup can be found in some form in Cajun Zydeco Creole Dixieland Appalachian and even English skiffle music I ve seen players hold washboards in any number of ways with a strap or string over their neck so the washboard hangs over the chest great for two handed playing stood upright over one knee or on the shoulder as you see me playing here A player can produce sounds from the washboard by striking on the metal ridges or any of the wooden surfaces by strumming back and forth on the ridges like a guitar or by dragging an object across the ridges like a guiro a ribbed ratchet sounding Latin instrument traditionally made from a hollow gourd Some washboardists will attach other objects to their board for accent percussion a bicycle bell a cowbell tambourine jangles a woodblock a small splash cymbal or just about anything else you could attach to the frame for visual or acoustic effect Imperial Products or Productos Mejorados Imperial is based in Monterrey Nuevo Leon Mexico They make many types of galvanized products like pails washtubs washboards and cooking utensils One product they re particularly proud of is their tamale steam cooker Imperial sells its products within Mexico and also exports to retailers in the United States particularly Hispanic retailers who focus on Latino immigrant families I found and purchased my washboard at La Tapatia a Mexican grocery store here in Des Moines I paid just 7 for it far less than I d expect to pay in an

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2013/1/1_Imperial_washboard.html (2016-02-16)
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  • First Act MD-700 4-piece student drum kit
    tension and pitch I added Remo Studio Rings to keep the ringing under control By replacing the kick drum batter head with an Aquarian Super Kick 2 I got a nice round tone without having to muffle it with a pillow or towel The snare drum was another issue entirely It was very small just 12 diameter compared to a standard 14 snare Even with a new head I wasn t able to get pitch tone or power out of the snare even up to my standards I wound up replacing it with my trusty 14 Ludwig Vistalite snare with a Remo Ambassador drum head and a Remo Studio Ring and that made all the difference Compared to the First Act snare the Ludwig sounds like a cannon Then came the cymbals The MD 700 ships with a pair of 12 hi hats and a 14 crash cymbal Although they did okay until I could afford to replace them they were paper thin and easily bent out of shape even with my moderately light playing style I replaced the cymbals with a set of Sabian B8s 13 hi hats 15 and 17 crashes and a 20 ride When it comes to cymbals you really do get better response from a well made instrument and you do to a large degree get what you pay for Lastly there was the hardware I obviously had to add cymbal stands for the ride and the second crash but the First Act cymbal stand simply was not designed to hold a professional grade 15 crash cymbal There were times I was afraid I d knock the cymbal and stand over I wound up getting an extension arm to hold the ride cymbal off the stage right stand with the 17 crash and repurposed the

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2012/7/1_First_Act_MD-700_4-piece_student_drum_kit.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Ludwig Vistalite acrylic snare drum
    include smoke opaque black and opaque white green was dropped due to low sales The addition of lighted Tivoli Vistalites in 1978 proved problematic and as sales began to decline all the Vistalites were discontinued in 1980 Ludwig re introduced the Vistalite series in 2006 and continue building them to this day Led Zeppelin s drummer John Bonham was the first internationally known drummer to endorse Ludwig Vistalite drums and was largely responsible for their popularity in the 1970s The amber John Bohnham signature kit launched with the re introduction of Vistalites in 2006 is one of the nicest kits Ludwig has ever produced My white Vistalite snare dates to late 1977 or early 1978 based on its serial number I picked it up used as part of a mixed brand student kit in about 1991 I don t remember now what I paid for it but based on my 1991 income it had to have been ridiculously inexpensive probably less than 100 for the whole kit The wooden kick drum and toms the cymbals and hardware are now long gone but I just keep playing that Vistalite snare The acrylic shell of the Vistalite gives a very even fairly

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2011/7/7_Ludwig_Vistalite_acrylic_snare_drum.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LP Aspire LPA601 bongos
    of small hand percussion instruments Tambourines claves cowbells and even a pair of brushes on a cardboard box can work in a recording to fill out an acoustic arrangement and make it stand out I ve even thumped an empty two liter soda bottle before mic ed very close to emulate a large bass drum But there s nothing quite like the sound of a drum skin so over the years I ve used a brushed snare or any number of sets of bongos to really set a groove when a drum kit is too much Although the origin of bongos probably goes back many centuries the first modern bongos appeared in Afro Cuban music in the 19th century Two small drums are bound together and held between the knees as they re played with the hands The two drums have one higher and one lower fundamental pitch and more tones can be found by striking the heads closer to the edge Latin Percussion was founded by Martin Cohen in New York in 1964 in response to the difficulty of importing percussion instruments from Cuba Following the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 the United States embargoed the import and export of goods with Cuba so many percussionists now had no source for instruments or supplies Cohen began producing percussion instruments in the US and importing from friendlier countries to meet the demand LP Aspire was introduced as a student and budget friendly subsidiary of Latin Percussion Like Fender s Squier brand or Gibson s Epiphone Aspire makes instruments that are similar to or modeled after Latin Percussion s more upscale adult models In practice these instruments are often just as good as the higher priced LP versions but might be built in China or Indonesia instead of the United States

    Original URL path: http://www.cwsmith.fm/CW_Smith/Featured_instruments/Entries/2015/4/12_LP_Aspire_LPA601_bongos.html (2016-02-16)
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