Gear Note: Clip-on Tuner

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I’m gettin’ in tune…

I hope your year is off to a good start. Today I’m discussing something I originally bought after my old reliable stompbox-type, chromatic tuner did the electronic version of “speaking in tongues” right before a gig. Of course, that was almost certainly due to me accidentally hitting one of its buttons, perhaps the Yoko Ono one.

Fortunately, my guitarist had a clip-on tuner which worked intuitively and accurately. Of course I immediately wanted one just because of its ooh, ahh quality. It works on vibration, so you don’t even need your instrument to be plugged in, much less connected to the tuner via a guitar cable. It’s lightweight and very small, so you can simply leave it on your instrument during a gig. Instead of tapping the pedal of a stompbox-type tuner, just turn the volume to zero and tune. The tuner not only has a center-align needle but–and this is the best part–turns color from red to green when the string is tuned properly.

These are available from several manufacturers. Mine is the Intellitouch PT10 from OnBoard Research (click the image to go to their site). They’re available at the usual places for about $30. The only problem I’ve had with mine is that it sometimes takes a while to identify my bass’ low E.

Thanks to downloadable user manuals, I’ve since reset my stompbox-type tuner. Still, it’s nice to have the clip-on tuner, as lets me leave my pedalboard (with the stompbox-type tuner) at home or in the car when I’m plugged directly into an amp.

The tuner’s pitch can be reset to something other than the standard A440, but I’m highly likely to use this feature.

Do you use one? What do you think?

What a Drag It Is Getting Old…or IS It?

It was either Mick or Keith (or Steven Tyler for our Redbook version).

The pic was going to be either Mick or Keith (or Steven Tyler for our Redbook version).

Rock songs aren’t always about sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, or…baseball. Sometimes, they’re about age. It seems like a few decades since Jay Leno joked about The Who’s farewell tour (one of the first ones) and how the lyrics to My Generation should become “I hope I die before I get really, really old.” With the New Year upon us, let’s consider some physical issues involved with gigging as a local part-time musician over age 40-ish (i.e., no roadies).

Physical limitations are the–pardon the term–granddaddy of concerns. Some become more likely in midlife. Hands and fingers can get slower, making it difficult to play as quickly as before. Bones and muscles in general can get sore earlier, so even if your hands are in good shape, your back can tighten, or knees, elbows, shoulders, can make it difficult to support your playing.

One thing about the wear and tear of middle age: they can be great motivators to change your lifestyle. In addition to making (small) changes in diet, I’m in the gym a few times a week these days. The big difference is that my workouts now are largely done to maintain function and/or protect against further degradation, whereas in the past they were more improvement oriented. I’ve found that strengthening exercises have helped a bit with the tight back that I typically get standing after 3 sets.

In addition to musculoskeletal issues, if you haven’t protected your ears from decades of standing too close to amps, drums, and PA speakers, your hearing might be impaired. I’m somewhat surprised that I’m the only one in my two bands who regularly wears ear protection. Depending on your rehearsal space’s configuration, you might not want to save them for gigs. If so, consider keeping a pair in your instrument case, rather than thinking of them as something you pack only for a gig. (One of my bands rehearses in a rather small room, with a a PA speaker in back of me.)

If you read from charts and have less than perfect vision, you might notice a change in your eyesight. This may require the use or adjustment of corrective lenses. Ditto if you need to watch your fingers or if you often adjust effects/pedals on the floor or on an equipment rack.

Sleep habits can also change with age. You may find that that pre-gig nap you once considered a luxury has become a necessity. Also, you may notice an interaction between lack of sleep and muscle soreness, especially after 1:00am load-out.

What issues have you encountered that I didn’t cover? Maybe a future post will discuss the non-physical aspects of the older musician.

Have a happy and healthy 2014!

A Post-Gig Thought

un crowd at Finnegan's Oct2013

Don’t complain. It’s much cooler looking at the crowd than the band.

I missed a few rehearsals due to my day job and illness. So when packing my gear for our most recent gig, I blew off packing the video camera that I usually plant on a tripod and focus on the crowd during Sets 2 and 3.

It turned out that we had quite a “lovely” crowd. Like I’ve said in previous blog entries, we’re not making real money as musicians that gig every other month or so. Part of the “compensation” is having an “enthusiastic” crowd on the dance floor. Of course, it turns out that one of our loveliest (do I really need the quotes anymore?) crowds was on an evening when nobody brought a video camera.

Lesson learned. Don’t be lazy. Pack the darn video camera. It’s about the size of a wallet, for cryin’ out loud.

Oh yeah, the camera also records audio. Probably good for a band to have. Most nights, anyway.

I Gigged Gratis Last Night

Throwback Benefit Gig, October 2013

One of the best things about playing a fundraiser is not worrying about whether people will attend.

For you readers who know me personally, that headline is not a misprint. You know that I’m all about getting paid a decent amount for a night’s work and, if that’s not possible, saying “Thanks, but no thanks” and do something else that night.

But every so often, it’s time to do something nice. Yes, I occasionally donate money and other items to worthy causes, but it’s a lot more fun to donate my talent (using the term loosely) and play at a benefit. I’ve done this a few times, usually to raise money for research against a disease or to help a family with someone undergoing costly medical treatment. Last night was the latter. A friend of Throwback has a family member with cancer and is facing medical and economic challenges. It was a good feeling helping out, plus we sounded tight. Visit for media.

Even better, the venue was an 8-minute drive from my house, so I was home before midnight! Unfortunately, as I’m in the midst of a horrendous head cold, my ears were completely blocked from the time I left my driveway until I left the venue on the drive home. Not cool, but how can I complain?

We’ve also had “regular” gigs for which we announced we’d be collecting Toys for Tots, and we’ve also collected donations for food pantries. If you’re a musician, you may wish to consider incorporating a charity component to your next gig or two. Everyone feels cool afterwards.

You Say It’s Your Birthday?


Yes, it’s an older picture. So sue me.

It’s my birthday, too, yeah. No, really. Spending some of it practicing with my oft-neglected Hofner. Not a bad way to pass a few hours.

We had a fun time on the Rock Boat. Check soon for some pics. Very nice meeting a few of you. Thanks for coming by. Subsequent gigs will be on land until next August.

And if it’s your birthday too (yeah), like Chryssie Hynde and Buddy Holly!, have a great one!