NAMMbulating 2011
NAMM Convention January 2010, Anaheim, CA
I walk all day in pukey air to find fun NAMM stuff so you don't need to
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First, the disclaimer.  This is one person walking around NAMM for a day.  This is not meant to be comprehensive.

Often, the first thing I do is head on downstairs to Hall E.  It's my favorite hall, and it's the one hall that I go through each row methodically.  Analogue Haven had its Synthesis Technology modular synths, and there to demonstrate them was music artist Robert Rich.

I had recently recorded David Scott Stone at Blueberry Buddha, who had lugged over his enormous Synthesizer Technology modular synth.  I also mentioned that a Robert Rich show I had seen in a record store in Pasadena about fourteen years ago or so.  "Oh, I remember that!  You were one of eight people who showed up!"

A few months later, I was working on the same project as Robert, mixing an album that he then mastered.

Emilio of Crystal Frets told me about the incredible vibrating properties of quartz frets.  The resonant properties of the quartz crystals in the frets keep the strings vibrating for much longer.  Emilio said, "When we were setting up, the sound guys came over, measuring the decibel levels.  They said they could hear the guitar on the other side of the room and were surprised that we were within the decibel requirements!"

Emilio is shown here holding up a quartz crystal.  "The markings on the crystal look like a looks almost like a language."

Video guitars at Visionary Instruments were one of the most memorable instruments I saw at NAMM 2011, which seemed to have more interesting items available than last year's Winter NAMM.

The video guitar adds high resolution video and graphics to the face of the guitar, whether it's liquid motion graphics, video game clips, music videos, song lyrics, all of which can be loaded into the guitar's memory.  The guitar is powered through an external 12V supply which is routed through a remote control pedal.  The power connects to the instruments with a standard XLR cable, and the audio outputs through a normal guitar cable. 

The luthier said that the monitor ultimately does not add that much weight, and sure enough, it was lighter than my Tele-style guitar by a half pound (the video guitar is about eight pounds).

And speaking of Teles - of course this guitar is called a Tele-Vision.  "It had to be done," the luthier joked.

Sculpturra.  It's a piano.  It's a dining room table.  The piano keys slide underneath the table when Mom busts out the bowls of spaghetti.

A new Fairlight CMI 30A (not pictured; this is an autographed Fairlight from back in the day when Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush roamed the record charts and recording artists could afford $100,000 sampling keyboards).

Now, one only needs to cough up $20,000 to score a Fairlight.  This Fairlight has the interactive pen and even the monochrome screen...but it also sports USB ports and 500GB SATA drives.

I love beautiful hand-crafted guitars, and I felt that the Schoen Guitars brought something unique to the table.  So much so that they were sometimes made from a table!

And boxes.  And old buildings, cigar boxes, packing crates, and shipping containers of years gone by. And other reclaimed wood.  All of the guitars are made from 100% reclaimed wood. 

Beautiful guitars with a vintage bent.  They also make a smaller square Turbo Diddley Resophonic Guitar, a cigar box guitar. 

Turbo Diddley website.

Just what is a digital cymbal?  Zildjian unveiled its AE (Acoustic Electric) Cymbal.

Zildjian was quick to say that this did not trigger samples, but was more akin to an acoustic electric guitar.

The AE Cymbal is an actual cymbal, and plays like one, but at reduced volume levels, utilizing a unique dual microphone and DSP engine to amplify and model the cymbal’s output.

Korg actually developed the idea for a low-volume acoustic cymbal, including the interesting perforation, and then brought it to Zildjian to further develop.

Bassist takes flight with a Land Of The Giants Jerzy Drozd bass and its fifty-four bass strings or however many there are.  You count 'em. 

And no, I did not Photoshop the bass in any way.

And to think that my red lights already go off if I see a bassist with more than four strings show up for an audition.

Mifafa Digital Guitar Technology displayed their Digital Folk Guitar, saying that "anyone who likes singing can get started playing in minutes!"  It was sorta like the Guitar Hero video game.  You do exactly what you think you'd do -- press the chord button and strum.  It strummed well, but forget picking or leads.  This is meant for beginners to accompany themselves.


Another clever invention...this is a Spider Capo, which allows you to choose what string you wish to capo.  Very clever, inexpensive device which enables you to quickly play in alternate tunings without needing to retune the guitar.

Dr Strings had its neon strings for bass and guitar.

Mother Nature Bass.

Buchla Modular Synthesizer. 

Ezra Buchla plays the new 200e.  What's new with this revisit to yesteryear?  MIDI.  Saving patches.  Press Store.  Done!  Making bizarre sounds from a Buchla has just gotten easier!


Next door, I played the Moog Guitar.  Again.  Third year in a row. 

I really want to like this guitar, I really do.  I find the sounds coming from it to be inspiring when I hear someone playing it.  But when I play it, I don't feel it.  The guitar feels cheap and sounds crappy (not mediocre, but crappy) when the extra "effects" are not added.  I need a guitar to feel and sound great on its own merits.  I wish I could somehow modify one of my guitars to sustain and do everything else that the Moog Guitars do. 

Until then, it's a heavy guitar that plays and sounds lousy - at the tune of $3000+.  No.

Now, this keyboard, the newly unveiled M-Audio Venom, is not $3000.  No, not even close, it'll probably street for $400.  Although the 49-key keyboard interacts with a computer via USB, it has many tweakable functions with its knobs and buttons to make it a decent cheap keyboard.  The sounds seemed geared to techno, with its high-BPM beats and aggresively fuzzy bass lines.

As a bonus, you can use it as an audio interface AND also run external audio through the synth for processing as well.

Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

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NAMMbulating 2010 - NAMM Show, Anaheim, CA
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