Sunday, January 18, 2015

As of 2014 the website: www, has been closed and removed from the Bizland hosting site, and the domain name was not renewed, and this blog has no connection or relationship with any subsequent owners. Nor does this blog offer any information regarding, or have any comment on the content or practices by any subsequent owners or users of that website. The original was launched in 1999 under the ownership of Clarence Foss.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Made In The Shade" by Clarence Foss is a classic mix, metal slide on an overdriven electric, wailing saxes, grinding Hammond organ, original rocking blues style that stretchs from Chicago to The Delta. These tracks, originally recorded on tape, have been digitally mastered and are available on You Tube. Clicking the following links will open these You Tube videos in a new window.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Johnny Winter 1980

Johnny Winter is one of my favorite guitarists. Here he is in 1980 at the Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, Kansas. These photos was taken from the edge of the stage using a Minolta SRT101 with an f1.4 50mm. lens, no flash, and Kodak Tri-X pan film.

Before & After - King Trumpet

Here is a King 601 Trumpet that was a little on the ugly side when I first saw it. But after a little work and some buffing, and a coat of Candy Apple Red transparent lacquer, it took on a whole new personality.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buying Saxophones On Ebay – Part 1

On any given day there are hundreds of saxophones listed on Ebay, from cheap poorly made pieces that won’t play in tune, to fine vintage horns, and a lot in between. One advantage is that most people wouldn’t find such a vast selection in their local music store. The disadvantages are obvious and are counterintuitive to all that a prospective buyer looks for when shopping for a saxophone. You can’t actually try it before you buy it. You can’t feel the weight, the balance, the spring tension of the keys, the ergonomics of the way it fits your hands. You can’t smell it or feel the finish of the silver plate or the lacquer. You can’t play it and see if it leaks or how responsive it is, how it works with your mouthpiece, or hear what it sounds like. Buyers of saxophones on Ebay forego all of the normal things crucial to determining what the horn is like. All they have to go on is the description and some images.

The description of the sax, based upon the words and level of knowledge of the seller, and in essence their reputation, which is supposedly supported by their feedback rating, is the first point to consider. You can tell a lot by what the seller has to say about the sax offered. And how they describe it should tell you if they are knowledgeable or are clueless about their sax and saxes in general.

One sax up for auction was described as “missing a few of the baffles”, (pads, we can assume, is what they meant), “with mouthpiece but no end piece”, (neck, but no mouthpiece, luckily shown in the images), “a few dents, but in good condition for it’s age”, (again, the images displayed a battered horn, deep pitting, with the low Eb key guard and the entire low C# key missing). It was clear that the seller knew nothing about saxophones, and furthermore, had made no attempt to learn anything about the instrument or how it worked before listing it.

On the other side of the spectrum, are the savvy sellers who have a sax that they describe as being a desirable instrument, excellent in condition and playability, and at the same time, provide images that are either non-descript, too small to verify what we are told or dark, blurry, images that only serve to raise questions, which are often answered with as little detail or not at all. A Conn 10M Tenor had a raving description of the history and reputation of the horn, with references to the tone and famous players who use one, but had no details about the actual condition of the horn. When pressed with several questions, the seller admitted that “the sax may have been re-lacquered, might have a bell from a different horn, and would probably need some adjustment or work after shipping”. In fact the Conn 10m tenor with a early 50’s serial number, had a bell from a 60’s sax with engraving barely visible, due to some very aggressive refinishing technique, obvious even in the poor quality images. The seller further commented, in a private message, “the only difference rolled tone holes make, is to drive up the price”.

Although Ebay’s feedback is supposed to provide the potential buyer with an idea of the seller’s character, how many bidders actually look at the feedback and see what the seller has offered previously? One seller, offering an alto sax had a very good feedback rating that was almost entirely gained by auctioning baby clothes and Chick-Filet discount coupons. (Who knew coupons were even worth the listing fees? And, who the hell goes on Ebay looking for food coupons? And who eats that crap anyway?)

The point here is that if you must use Ebay to find your next saxophone, at least try and get it from someone who: 1. Knows enough about saxes to provide an accurate description. 2. Provides many large and detailed images. 3. Will allow you to return it, if you are not pleased with either the way it plays or sounds. Among the hundreds of sax offerings on Ebay, very few with meet these three conditions. Even if the seller provides an audio or video recording of the sax in action, that doesn’t mean the horn will work for you. Remember, we all play and sound unique. If we were lucky enough to be able to try John Coltrane’s Selmer or Dexter Gordon’s Conn, we would not sound like them. Even if we had their exact mouthpiece, we still would not have their sound. Each player’s sound comes from how that person approaches the sax, and what works for one, will either produce different results or not work at all for the next player. So, why are people buying all those saxes on Ebay? And how do we, as potential buyers, know if a sax is worth the Buy It Now price, the winning bid price or even what previous instruments have sold for? Sounds like were going to need a part 2 on this topic.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spot On Sax Pads

If you’ve even been on a gig and had a pad fall out, you know that, even if you’ve prepared for this and have a means to heat the pad glue and get it stuck back in the cup, it’s a bit of a trick to get the pad back so the seat groove aligns with the tone hole.

Well, after you’ve read about this helpful hint, and applied it, you’ll be glad if the need ever arises. Or, you’ll wish you had. It’s a simple thing, really. Just take a fine point waterproof black marker and place a small dot on an accessible edge of each pad and make a corresponding mark on the lip of the pad cup. That’s it! It doesn’t hurt the pad or your sax. And now, if your pad ever does fall out, whether on a gig or not, you can easily align the marks, heat it up and you’ll be all set. This will work too, if you use pad cement. You’ll just have to wait until the cement dries. But, that might be longer than your break.

So, mark your pads and toss a lighter (maybe one with a flame extender) in your emergency kit and smile, knowing you’re ready. You already carry a spare neck strap. Don’t you?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

What The Heck Is Swedge?

Woodwinds that are old, or those that have had a lot of use, tend to show their age in the hinge rod tubes. Over time, the metal of the tube wears down and the key develops side motion. With enough wear, the tube may also develop an out-of-roundness, causing the key to become unstable, resulting in a leak. Replacing a pad on an instrument that has this kind of wear will not stop the leak. What to do? Swedging is the remedy.

Using a special tool, the hinge tube is compressed around the rod with a twisting motion. This causes the key to fit more snuggly around the rod and also causes the metal of the tube to be stretched, thereby taking up the space between the keys, or the key and the post.

This kind of repair requires the expertise of a skilled repair technician, since damage can occur to both the key and the rod if done improperly. Rarely is it possible to swedge a key while it is still on the instrument. So, the procedure requires the key to be individually removed and replaced after each bit of compression, to check for binding, or to see if the key requires more compression. Just swedging the lower stack on a saxophone may require disassembly and re-assembly of those keys a dozen times or more. Yes, it can be time consuming, and no, a computer will never be able to do it.

So, before you plunk down your money for a yard sale horn, grab onto the key hinge rod tube, and see if it moves up and down the rod. If, it does, know that the price to make that horn play will include whatever your local musical instrument repair person charges to swedge the entire horn. Because, usually, if some of the keys have play, they all do. But, at least now you know what swedging is.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Case For Recording With Tape

With the onset of digital recording, the use of tape has fallen by the wayside. But there’s no reason to leave it in the hands of eccentrics or diehard vintage enthusiasts. After all tape has been around a long time and works much the same as it ever did. And there’s a certain desirable audio quality that you only get from tape. Some say it’s that tiny bit of hiss in the background, acting kind of like a ride cymbal, that gives it what is most commonly referred to as “warmth”

Look at all those great recordings Les Paul made. And his gear, though pretty good, wasn’t nearly as good as what came later on. Elvis’ first records on the Sun label (some say his best) were done on modest tape machines. By the time the Beatles came along, 4-track tape was state of the art. The Doors albums, some of the most spontaneous and live studio cuts ever laid down, were recorded on 4-track tape. Jimi Hendrix on Electric Ladyland, with the help of Eddie Cramer, seems to have squeezed the most out of tape. Although, The Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers album is probably the most impressive album ever created on tape.

Portable multitrack recorders hit a highpoint in the ‘80s, with the arrival of the Tascam 246 Portastudio, which weighed about 20 pounds and sold for a little over $1000. Even though the cassette format could be argued to have less fidelity than quarter inch reel, or the half inch stuff found at EMI or Abbey Road, the 246, with built-in 6 channel mixer and DBX noise reduction, got the home recording musician right up there with The Fab Four in terms of what could be done with four tracks of tape. Pat Metheny recorded his New Chautauqua album on a Tascam 246 Portastudio, playing all four tracks himself.

Today, a Tascam 246 Portastudio can be found for under $200. Yes, the belts and pinch roller will need to be replaced, and the heads will need to be cleaned regularly. You can still get parts from TEAC/Tascam USA, along with a service manual, which you’ll need to safely get around inside. Some might say it’s not worth messing with, when it’s so easy to just plug into your computer.

But, then there’s that sound thing again. The joy of making music without a whirring power supply fan and trading the glare of an LCD for the dim glow of a VU meter should count for a lot and maybe come as a relief. There’s a certain excitement when the tape begins to roll, a little tension perhaps, in the quest for a perfect take, knowing you can’t cut and paste with a mouse click. What you get with tape is a sense of putting together a song the way John and Paul did. Would they have embraced all the computer recording capabilities we have today? Of course. In that respect, you can always use your computer to master your tape and burn a CD. But if you’ve never used tape, give it a try. You might be pleasantly transported to a place with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

$160 Multi-Track Computer

You want to get into multi-track recording, but you can’t justify the cost of a new DAW or new software to add to your PC. Here’s a solution.

This PC was found at a yard sale for $60. It’s ugly, and it’s old, but it has a P4 3ghz CPU on an ASUS p800 board, onboard video and sound, a 40-gig Western Digital drive, 1 meg of ram and XP. It’s not great, but more than adequate for getting some music tracks down. Next, came a Samsung DVD/RW from New Egg for $25 and an older version of Cakewalk’s Sonar was found on Ebay for $45, along with a midi to USB cable for $30.

And there you have it. No, you’re not going to be able to run all of those new VST plugins, and you’re not going to have a myriad of effects on each audio track. But, after tweaking XP for best performance, and ASIO 4 All (a free audio driver that works with almost any soundcard and gives very low latency), was set up, this machine is capable of 6 tracks of simultaneous audio with reverb, along with 16 tracks of midi. And that’s pretty good for a hundred and sixty bucks.

Now that XP is 2 generations removed from the latest Windows, old P4’s with XP are turning up at prices that will appeal to the budget conscious musician. Just because the technology is dated, doesn’t mean you can’t produce quality music. Remember, this stuff was once cutting edge. It worked when it was new, and still works. So, go scrounge up one of these old PCs and make some music.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Water Song

Water Song music video on YouTube. A short commentary on water as a precious resource set to classical guitar from the album While We Are Here by Clarence Foss.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reed Revival - Make Them Last Longer

Let's face it, the cost of reeds is getting pretty dear, and will probably continue to go higher in the future. If your gigs aren't paying you more, then you'll need to make those reeds last longer. You're already using a reed-saver to store the used one's in (aren't you?), but that's not enough. Enter the reed-trimmer.

Reed-trimmers have been around since Charlie Parker jammed in his first Kansas City club, and the design and operation is basically the same as when they were first made. You simply take your reed with the chip on the end, that you would have normally thrown away, place it under the clamp, adjust the position so that the flawed tip is beyond the blade edge, then press down or lift up, depending on the design of the trimmer, and clip the end smooth.

Obviously, with the reed trimmed, it's going to be a little shorter and therefore a tiny bit stiffer. Some players have chops to blow right past this difference. For those of you who want it the way it was, take your reed rush (which you'll buy when you pick up the trimmer) and a piece of 1000 grit sandpaper, lay the reed on a piece of wood, flat side down, and gently (very gently) make a few strokes with the sandpaper, rubbing from the thick part toward the tip. Once you feel you have the thickness you want, rub the reed rush over it, again from the heart toward the tip, to make the surface smooth and ready to play. That's all there is to it.

The cost of the reed-trimmer, reed rush and a sheet of sandpaper, is about the same as a box of reeds. So, after you trim your first box, the reed-trimmer has paid for itself. There's simply no reason for a clarinet or sax player to not have this kit in the case or gig bag.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Welcome to the Coolcat Music Blog

Here is where you will find articles and postings on:
- Musical instrument repair
- Little tips on keeping you instrument in shape
- Multi-track recording (both analog and digital)
- Musicians and artists
and other topics of musical interest.