In Search of the Perfect Acoutic Guitar…

Originally posted 2010-04-16 00:55:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

A little over two weeks ago, I got the urge.  On a chance visit to Guitar Center in Manchester, CT (while my wife shopped at the Christmas Tree Shop), I began getting that familiar, “I really wanna buy a guitar” feeling.  I started to think about my fellow “Traveling Acai Berries” member, Steve, who has a beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) Martin D16-RGT acoustic guitar.  I remember playing it and noticing how well it sounded.  Every fret was in tune.  I didn’t have to try so hard to make it sound great.  Plus, it had some nice volume without having to strum very hard.

So, I thought about the idea of actually purchasing a Martin guitar.  I mean, I was always a nay-sayer.  I remember countless conversations with my brother, saying, “Oh, Martins are overpriced- there’s no way they can sound THAT good to justify being over a thousand dollars!”

Then, I played Steve’s guitar.  It was magical.  I knew I had to have one someday.  Little did I know that day would be now!

So, the bug was in my mind.  I began doing some research and honed-in on a few models.  I decided right off the bat that I wanted an all solid wood guitar.  To me, there’s no other way.  I actually didn’t even want Steve’s same model because of its Micarta (synthetic) fretboard.  Not to say that it’s a bad thing- I mean, it’ll NEVER wear down- but, to me, I really wanted an instrument I could hand down for generations.

You see, Martin guitars have been around since 1833 and have been produced (the all-wood ones, at least) in Nazareth, PA for over 175 years.  That’s pretty incredible, especially considering that, after all this time, it’s STILL a family-run business!  When you buy a high-quality Martin, you keep it for life (it has a lifetime warranty, too) and it only gets better (and even more valuable) with age.

So, my search brought up a few potential models, including the DSR, the D-15 Mahogany, and the DSM.  These guitars are all “custom” because they were made for major guitar retailer Guitar Center.  So, they’re not the standard Martin models, but they do offer a significant savings.

Which brings me to my next point: Yes, I gave myself a budget on this, but I really didn’t want to limit myself budget-wise.  I mean, I set out to buy the best acoustic guitar I could possibly purchase- one that sounded great.  I wanted the best acoustic money could buy.  But, I ended up saving a lot of money only because “the best” to me didn’t include a ton of pearl inlays and fancy appointments.  I think it’s true that, with Martins, they stop sounding better at a certain point…and then just start looking better.  Sure, I could’ve gotten one with the perfect cut of wood on the top (no “bear claws”, as they say), but that doesn’t make the sound any better now, does it?

So, I went to a couple stores to try things out.  I played the highest of the high end Martins, including the famed HD-28 and the Eric Clapton signature edition, which actually contained his signature inside the guitar!  But, I didn’t love the sound.  They sounded too muted to me.  They certainly didn’t have the booming, yet sparklingly clear, tones that Steve’s model had.

So, I had to do more research.  I learned that I was looking for a guitar with a spruce top and rosewood back and sides for the tone I liked.  But, I wanted to get a mahogany neck, because I simply can’t resist that intoxicating mahogany smell.  I also decided that I wanted a guitar with an ebony fretboard, because it was the kind of fretboard they used on the highest-end Martins.

I ended up finding the Martin DSR, which had everything I wanted except for the fretboard.  I could’ve lived with that.  But, the guitar had a satin finish to it.  It looked okay (other than the tacky white binding) and was LOUD- a big plus.  I came to the conclusion that the glossy coat was what was holding the other guitars back from being as loud as they could be.  Then, I started thinking about the fact that I want this instrument to be the be-all end-all acoustic guitar.  Am I really going to hand-down a guitar that didn’t have full-body gloss and that had a lower-end fretboard?  I mean, the guitar was about $1000, but I still felt that I would be taking the low road.

So, I got pretty disheartened and kept searching.  I spoke to my brother Mike, who then told me to expand my horizons.  Martin isn’t the only high-end acoustic guitar company, you know.  So, I seriously considered Taylor (so many famous people play them) and Larivee (a Canadian company that Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies uses).  But, stores around here don’t sell Larivee and I’ve never heard or played one in person.  And, I tried a couple of Taylors that were around $1,000 and they didn’t trill me.  To me, they played like every other guitar I’ve tried.

And then, in my search through literally hundreds of pages of online forums and articles, I came across one post that mentioned the Martin MMV.  It’s a model, originally made in 2005 (thus “MMV”) for Guitar Center.  It featured EVERYTHING I wanted in the guitar: glossy, Sitka spruce top, East Indian Rosewood back and sides, and the elusive ebony wood fretboard!  It had that same white binding, but I felt a lot better when I realize that the famed HD-28 had the same binding and looked very nice when glossy.  I was so excited, but realized that I would have to buy this sight-unseen.

So, I did as much research on the guitar as I could.  I literally read every webpage I could find about it.  I wanted to buy it on eBay, but really wanted that Martin Lifetime (yes, LIFETIME) warranty, so I decided to buy it new.  I finally found a 15% off coupon from a reputable site, which was good because this model (at Guitar Center, at least) was a full $500 more than the other models I was looking at.

Let me just say how much I love and appreciate my supportive wife, Becky, for understanding that I need such comfort items as these after working all day and night for the past year and a half!

Back to the story: I even got the guy to throw in six sets of Martin strings!

The guitar came in on Tuesday and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It’s LOUD and sounds amazing.  It also smells wonderful.  It came with a hard shell case, too.  I realize that even higher-end Martins use “choice woods” and other classy appointments, but I truly believe that this model sounded better in my ears.  It’s not the flashiest guitar, but I think it’s the highest quality and best sounding Martin before you just start paying for visual upgrades.  I will be proud of this guitar for the rest of my life and will be proud to hand it down someday.  But, they may have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands. :-)

I hope this guitar will further excite me to play music and inspire me to continue writing new songs.  I look forward to playing it all the time now and feel like I finally have an acoustic guitar that brings me to the next level.  I’m glad to be a Martin owner, too.  I join some pretty good company there.

So, again, this may not be the perfect overall guitar, but to me, it certainly is.  The sound, the look, the prestige- they all fit me like a glove.  I hope it will be the last acoustic guitar I’ll ever need to buy.  Of course, that just leaves me more room for my growing electric guitar collection!

Stay tuned- next week I bust-out the Martin MMV for my first Laptop Session acoustic cover song music video!  See you then.

Free Internet Radio: WCJM.com is Your Free Christmas Music Source!

Originally posted 2009-12-23 02:17:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

By this time of the season, most people are actually getting a bit sick of Christmas music.  And, really, how can you blame them?  At work, we have the local radio station, Light 100.5 WRCH, playing all day.  And I heard that Mariah Carey song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, literally five times in an 8-hour span.  And I tell you- that’s way too much.  I know most people don’t listen to the radio for eight hours at a time, so they want to hit the morning and rush-hour crowds with the same popular songs.  But, as we here at the Laptop Sessions have tried to prove, there are TONS of Christmas songs that never get played on the radio.  And these are great songs that would provide some variety throughout the day.

Which brings me to my topic for this evening: WCJM Free Internet Radio!

You see, WCJM is an amateur internet radio station that I started (well, let’s just say “continued”) with my brother and some friends back in late middle-school.  The best part, for me, is that it still lives on today!  Even though many members of the cast (which ballooned-up to seven) have either moved-on with their lives or have changed in many ways, I still listen back to all of the shows online and remember the “good old days”.  Ah, to have all my friends back the way they were in 2001…

Of course, Christmas for me is always about nostalgia.  I just love reminiscing about past Christmases and always going through our traditions on a yearly basis.  I think my parents can see very well that my wife and I have really made a duplicate of their Christmastime house out of our new home.  And that’s the way I always want it to be.  I’m a fan of consistency, folks, as if you haven’t guessed that already.

Anyway, so each year, I bust out the Christmas radio shows (which are now on my iPod) and listen to them at least two or three times apiece.  Here’s a rundown of the shows and what they feature:

The Everything Is Christmas Show: This radio show is a very important one for WCJM Free Internet Radio, because it has the debut of Alberto Distefano, probably my closest all-time friend.  We were all so young during this show- it was 1999 and I was 15 (with my brother being only 13 at the time).  But, it’s a really cute show and there’s a lot of great music.  There’s also some pretty good “early” comedy from my brother Mike, including his all-time famous line: “Updates on Parcels- they just pulled the plug on him…yes, he’s breathing by himself.”  Gets me every time.  And now ten years old, this show is the ultimate trip down memory lane.

The Comedy Christmas Jam: How do I know that the “Everything Is Christmas Show” was a success?  Well, that’s because we had such a great time that we did another show a week later!  I remember it so well- we all went home on my bus route (I was a Sophomore in high school) and we just had the best time.  This show is a little more disorganized, yet more professional because we had a practice round the week before.  This show features both some really classic Christmas songs (like Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) and comedy songs, too.  I remember laughing so hard at Weird Al’s “Christmas At Ground Zero” that I hit the table and the CD skipped.

The Rock’n’Roll Christmas Show: For some reason, this show always seemed “hesitant” to me.  It’s not as laugh-out-loud as the others, but still a classic.  It’s actually the live on-air debut of another one of my oldest friends, Jeff Copperthite (who called me today- it was great to finally catch up and I’m glad all is going well with his new family!).  This show has some unique rock Christmas music, and some skits, but this was only 2000, so we were still getting the hang of doing these shows.

The Best Original Christmas Song Show: This show is truly a classic (done in 2003)- a Christmas countdown with many people voting on their favorite Christmas songs.  I was the only one who knew the results, so it was exciting for the rest of the cast.  And this one has almost all seven cast members (plus my girlfriend turned-wife, Becky, too!).  This show is hilarious, with some ridiculous Dr. K material (Don’t know who Dr. K is?  Click HERE to find out!) and plenty of skits and promos.

The Christmas Vacation Show: This was our reunion show in 2006, as we hadn’t done a show for three years prior to it!  It was great to get the entire cast together after all that time.  We had a great time and played an even different array of Christmas songs, new and old.  The music is really fantastic on this show, but if comedy is your thing (my personal favorite parts of these shows) then we have you covered here- all of our classic characters made appearances (including Stuffy D. Bear) and there were many promos, as well.

In closing, you should really check-out these radio shows if you’re at work or just hanging out online.  They’re really great ways to make you laugh, get you in the Christmas spirit, and save you from the same loop of overplayed Christmas songs on the radio!  So, how do you listen to it?

Listen to ALL the WCJM Free Internet Radio Christmas Shows Online (for FREE, by the way) by visiting:

WCJM.com (the Moore Hits in the Morning Show section)
and clicking on the arrows to scroll through the shows!

The Laptop Sessions: “We have a lot of songs on this site” – an impromptu article by Jeff

Originally posted 2009-04-30 22:41:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to Thumpin’ Thursday!  I have a really cool song to bring you this evening, it is a favorite of mine and one i’ve wanted to cover for a long, long time.

The song is…

Well, that’s how I was planning on starting the post this evening.

But, for the first time in the history of this site, I finally fell for the fatal mistake of being part of a site w/ multiple cover artists posting on it.

I recorded a previously covered song.  A song that has been posted for some time now.

Funny thing is when I am going about my business figuring out the list of songs I want to do, I usually check the category of the artist to make sure that song hasn’t been done already.  Hell, i’ve even caught myself writing a song on the list that i’ve already covered, let alone one that Chris or Jim have already tackled.

But the more songs that get added, the more likely this mistake is going to be made.

By my guesstimate, we have just about 500 cover/original videos posted on this site.  When you get right down to it, assuming 12 songs a CD, that’s 42 CDs and change worth of songs on this single website!  Most of them are familiar songs – we don’t delve into the rare album cuts often for the sheer reason that most people don’t know them.

But yet, despite my best efforts, I did it.

I even did the song in one take – and it’s not a terribly easy song either.

I even edited it and slapped on the titles, filters, and effects.

I even started writing the article for it!

So because of this, you have been reading my thoughts.

To be honest, I blame the extremely busy week i’ve had.  The prom i’ve helped plan is happening in 3 weeks, and we start selling tickets for it tomorrow.  I have to revise and edit the planned format, and print them on cardstock in the morning.  I also have to correct a few more Physics quizzes (how fast do you have to throw a 2.4 g dime at a 3.0 kg piece of plywood, such that they have a perfectly inelastic collision and start moving at 2.0 m/s anyway?), finish correcting Earth Science projects, get ready to introduce the next (and probably last) Chapter in the course, since the Seniors only have 13 days left of class (excluding tomorrow).

Oh, and to boot I was at the Doctor’s for two hours today – but I’m not at liberty to say why.

Well, next week I guarantee I will cover, play, record, and post a song that has not already been covered.  Until then, I hope you have found some humour and light hearted-ness in this post.

Until then…

A/V corner: A review of the LG 32LH30 LCD TV

Originally posted 2009-10-08 22:13:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff:

Welcome to a title I just made up.  The world is always a good place when you show your versatility!  It’s quite obvious that Jim, Chris, and myself have a world of interests.

I would like to point out that I didn’t have a very good day today.  However, it isn’t because something bad happened to me.  But rather, someone’s senselessness caused my friend to have a bad day.  Seriously, if you need money, get a frickin job – leave people’s property alone.  Also, can the email at my school work consistently?  I’m tired of telling my students “email me if you have questions” only to find that the night before they have a test I can’t access my email.

But I digress.

Tonight I am reviewing the TV I just bought.  This follows the death of my previous TV.  I had a Samsung tube HDTV that I bought in 2004.  I mean, it looked fine and had two component inputs and allowed me to play my gamecube/wii, ps2, and TV all in the best possible resolution.

Then one morning I was watching Sportscenter and right in the middle of Stuart Scott’s next highlight, I looked up and saw nothing.  I still heard his voice coming through the stereo speakers.  I then smelled an electrical appliance burning, which means “unplug that tv”.  The fried TV made it to the recycling center a few days later, and my living room was without a TV.

The funniest thing is about two weeks before the old TV blew up (as I say it), I had said to my wife “I think it’s time we bought a new TV”.

Granted, the other TV’s in this house are at least 10 years old, and they work just fine.  So it’s a bit sad that this one lasted a mere 5 years.

So of course, I ordered a new TV on amazon.com.  I love ordering things from that site due to the credit card rewards that give me gift cards for money spent.  So this TV was almost an entire $25 gift card.  Plus, I also received free shipping.

Well anyway, I got the TV on a Saturday morning via Fedex and had it set up in an hour.  I went shopping for a few cables (namely an HDMI cable) and fired it up.

The LG 32LH30 LCD TV is a 32 inch wide screen HDMI ready viewing machine.  Soon as I fired it up I loved it.  The screen is so so much brighter than a CRT TV.  The fact that I can now actually see the HD channels I get in their native widescreen is tremendous.

The setup on the TV is tailored to HDMI.  The back of the set includes 3 HDMI inputs (one on the side, two on the back), 1 component input, 2 composite inputs, optical in/out, and a standard cable input.  I would rather it have came with a 2nd component input simply because there’s a lot of devices that do not have HDMI out that people still use.  Yes many people still have only component outputs (and still others only composite/s-video), so the sole input makes hooking up all your devices simultaneously a bit trickier.  Most people will have to buy a video switcher.

Just to give you an idea of what I have in my setup – I have a Wii, HDMI cable box, PS2, DVD player, Sony receiver, and a 200 CD changer (that’s on its last legs).  Of course, the Wii and PS2 are component able, so I lucked out that I can hook them into my receiver, and use it as a video switcher, and hook a third set of cables into the TV.

The bad news is that, when I change video sources, I have to change them both on my TV and on my receiver.  So again, if you can deal like me, then that isn’t a big deal.

The picture set up mode is something i’m still tweaking with.  A beginner to picture setup can easily set up their TV to an acceptable picture by using the Tv’s “Picture Wizard”.  What it does is basically take the user through a series of images that look different depending on the TV’s settings, which includes an “optimal” image that you should try to obtain.  With each setting change, the TV’s settings change without the user needing to bother with “What the hell does the contrast do?”  I tried it the first try, but again since i’m aware of what these are, I didn’t find it necessary to use.  However, I did note that the interface is sort of idiot proof.

For those that don’t need a safety net, the LG 32LH30 offers a tremendous array of picture tweaks.  There are presets for “Cinema”, “Sports”, and “Game”.  For my video games, I find the “Sports” setting to be quite nice – especially for the Wii games.  But if presets still aren’t enough tweaking, there are 6 zoom functions, and a up to 20 level scalable “cinema zoom”, which takes letterboxed DVD’s and stretches them vertically as much or as little as you want.  There’s also a setup option that allows you to use the TV as an audio pass through instead of a monitor – that is, you can turn off the video, but keep the audio.  This is perfect if you want to put on the music channels most cable companies provide, but don’t need to see the facts on the screen about the music.  You can also disable the onboard TV speakers (recommended if you have a receiver like most techies).

The coolest thing i’ve found so far is the extra HDMI inputs allow me to hook my laptop up to the TV.  It’s perfect for me because my DVD player can play DVDs in a very high resolution on my laptop, and I can now send that to the TV!  The computer screen on the TV is a bit too “fine” for my needs, but it is perfect if you’re watching a bunch of Youtube videos or, as mentioned, a DVD.  I can also play SOME of my computer games on it, and they look really really good.

There aren’t too many drawbacks other than the ones already mentioned.  The thing I don’t like is that the provided TV stand is very basic.  It allows you to tilt the TV horizontally +/- 20 degrees, but there is no vertical tilt.  There also is no vertical height adjustment (sorry Dr. K) allowed, so I had to get a few very thick phone books that were of the same height (harder than it looks!) and drape a black towel over them just to raise the TV to a height I want.  In my setup, I was able to put the center speaker on top of the old CRT, but that’s not possible with an LCD.  The only options are to put it right below the TV or on a shelf above the TV for optimal sound quality.  The speaker I own would block the bottom portion if I didn’t raise the height of it.

Also, the buttons for the TV are located on the side of the TV which is fine, but the one I use the most is the power button.  At the very least, a power button should’ve been included on the front of the screen.  If you’re like most people, your TV is already in a tight fitting area, and it is a minor inconvenience to reach back behind the TV to turn it off if I don’t want to use the remote.

But for the money I spent for it, this TV is all that I could want and more.  If I get another video source, I have space to hook it up to the HDMI connection.  The digital out to my amplifier ensures that if there is a Dolby Digital soundtrack or better that my receiver will make it sound the best it can.  And while it is certainly geared to today’s HDMI devices, again make sure you buy a video switcher if you have multiple component video sources like I do (or be lucky with your receiver being a good switcher on its own).

And if you are in the market to buy a flat screen, LCD TV’s prices are much much better and more affordable now.  I can safely recommend this one to you.  If you can splurge a little bit (i.e. more than $300), then this TV is worth it.