Category Archives: music

The Art of Luthiery – How professional guitars are made

Having the right instrument for a professional musician, means to step up his work of quite a bit.

Guitars are not the same. There are many different types of guitars differentiating in size, price or specifications; more or less suitable for certain genres.

So when it comes to choose one, professional musicians have many factors to include in their choice (such as playing style, role, pitch, internal mechanics etc).

But finding a guitar to suit all the needs of a musician is difficult, especially in a commerce saturated by instruments of every kind and price.

 So certain musicians decide to approach luthiers in order to be able to buy a guitar suiting any specific need, builted exclusively for them. Guitar Luthiers are considered “wood tailors”, capable of building instruments following the exact needs of a musician; making music composition for them, much more natural.

So how is a luthiery guitar built?

Modern Lutherie is the practice of building stringed instruments by hand and was born in Brescia, Italy around the 15th century, spreading all around Europe. 

Today, even if the industry of music instruments its dominated by big companies trying to maximise their profits, using machines and top notch technologies; after more than 7 centuries, it’s still possible to see people (especially young people) deciding to study and to help surivive; the noble art of Luthiery.

Mirko Costa is one of those people.

Twenty four years old; Mirko has played guitar on daily basis since he was eleven. Loving to understand how things are made since young age; he studies electronics until 2014, when he realises that he could combine his two passions in his future career, and joins Giulio Negrini’s luthier course. After a few years of practice and prototypes, finally in 2016 Mirko launches his activity as luthier of electric guitars: “MRK Guitars”. When asked what he loves about his job he says “What I love about it, is that you see your ideas taking shape, becoming reality; and the satisfaction of putting all of yourself into something someone else will enjoy.”

So,to start a project, Mirko likes first to understand the type of musician his client is. To do this  Mirko meets with his client, and starts viewing photos and videos of live performances, and (if available) studio-projects provided by his client; in order to understand in detail what kind of guitar project to create. Afterwards, consulting the mood board, Mirko then starts by drawing the silouhette of the guitar with his client, considering multiple factors: from posture to aesthetic, for example.

In the next part of the process, the luthier has to choose the right wood for his project, which is a crucial part of the work. Guitars are composed of different types of woods, so depending on the requests of the client and the project,different woods affects a project in many different ways such as for example balance, sound, or even the humity of the country the client lives in[…]. 

But the wood Luthiers use, is no common wood. To be able to maximise results, liuthiers work with wood aged at least 10 years, coming from trees planted in places where they wouldn’t develop many branches. This because trees with less branches are more likely to grow with more resistant straight fibres, and aged wood is much dryier; helping the malleability of the wood and its durability. To buy this very specific wood, Mirko has to contact specific luthier sawmills, from which he buys only the specific amount of wood he needs for the project.

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Luthiery Wood (PH. Mirko Costa)

After obtaining the fine wood, during the first week, the Luthier spends the majority of his time shaping the various parts of the guitar into the rough project. In this part he carves also the space for the elttronics inside the guitar.

For aesthetical reasons, the body of the guitar should be always symmetrical; and to achieve this, Mirko opens a  wood piece book-like, to then compose it back together horizontally, creating a perfectly symmetrical natural design.

In the refinement process, the headstock of the guitar is one of the most complex tasks. Containing the main mechanics for tuning the instrument called “tuning machines”, the headstock is composed by the same wood of the body for aesthetical reasons. Designing and building  properly  a headstock is foundamental for the overall sound and  balance of the guitar, and given the high tension of the strings, in order to avoid damages, the most resistant and utilised method to attach it to the neck is called “scarf-joint”.

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Elnath Project (Picture courtesy Of MRK Guitars)

The refinement of the guitar’s fretboard and neck is oppositely, the easiest part of the process in Mirko’s opinion; but the most important one for sound of it and comfort of the musician. A badly built fretboard could lead to tendinitis given the amount of hours certain musicians spend playing. 

So In this part, the luthier measures size and posture of the musician, and depending on the unique way the musician plays and his real-time feedback, he shapes the neck of the instrument. After that, a specific saw cuts frets from wood of the right size for the fretboard, that are then embedded and glued on it. Many people love decorations on their fretboards, that Mirko carves by hand fret by fret, and then fills with “Madre Perla” or resin depending on the clients request. 

The same refining criteria are applied to the finalisation of the guitar’s body. Shaped depending on the posture and comfort of the artist but also his personal taste; Mirko refines with various tools the lineaments and surface of the instrument, to then paint it and assemble it. In the painting process, the choice of what type of paint is not only an aesthetical process. Mirko for example, prefers to work with synthetic paint  jobs because even though less “warm”; more resistant to time and humidities.

It takes more than 11 months for Mirko to complete one if his art-pieces depending on its complexity; and the costs of such cure are relatively “high”.

So do effectively all this cure to details and wait; make an actual difference?

For Giovanni Rosellini (pro-musician, owner of an MRK Guitar) yes.

Coming from the Metal World, he thinks that today mass production guitars are deep down all the same from every point of view. So, after trying one of Mirko’s guitars, Giovanni relised that to step up his music skills he had to have the right instrument, and decided to work on his custom guitar with Mirko.

He states: “There is no such thing as a perfect guitar; but it’s sure that If you know what to ask from your instrument or what you need, a luthier guitar is perfection”.

The Truth About Rave Culture

In 1988 British youth culture underwent a massive transformation, the music turned to acid- house and the drug on the scene was ecstasy. It all started in the Balearic island of Ibiza in 1985. The islands carefree and 24-hour party vibe influenced young DJ Paul Oakenfold. After his spontaneous visit, he made it his mission to bring the Ibiza nightlife back to rainy London with him. His first attempt did not go to plan, but this only motivated him more.

 

He planned his second trip to the island that never sleeps in 1987, to try one more time. When he returned to London he started introducing acid- house records into his DJ sets. Clubs in England at this particular time were only playing one type of music, but this was all about to change.

By 1988 acid house had become a phenomenon within London’s nightlife. This high only lasted a year and a half, but during that time everyone was in a haze of peace, love, and unity.

After all this time the spirit of raves is remerging again amongst the youth of Britain, and it is more popular than ever. This dynamic culture has taken over London, it is seen in nightclubs such as Egg, Fire and Lightbox and also festivals such as Elrow and Boomtown.

It is a culture where community is key and money is insignificant, so no wonder it is becoming more popular than the regular night clubbing scene amongst 18-25 year-olds.

Rave culture for many is seen as a negative way of enjoying yourself, as people associate drugs, bad behaviour, and illegal activity to this particular form of ‘partying’. It is a sub-culture that many have prejudged and have biased opinions on, due to the stigma that the media has created around raving. This all started due to the rise in illegal raves across London.

Once rave culture became popular amongst the youth of Britain, they were forced to battle and defend for their right to have a good time. Section 63 of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act was a law created in order to control and threaten the UK rave scene.

This particular law gave police the power to shut down events that were “characterised by the emission of succession of repetitive beats”. Illegal raves are still considerably present within today’s society, they are usually held in isolated outdoor venues or abandoned buildings and are well known for illegal drug use.

The unlicensed rave scene has been spread across all forms of media. This has resulted in society associating all types of raves with illegal behaviour. Legal rave culture is exactly the same as any other form of nightlife within London. It is a community of individuals who enjoy listening to a particular genre of music, and want to have a good time. Unfortunately, the rave scene is not seen this way by everyone.

It is only until recently that raves have started to become socially acceptable. This is due to acid – house becoming a popular genre of electronic dance music amongst today’s generation of youth. Raves signify a community of people, of all different ages and from different backgrounds. It is a community where having a good time is the only thing on people’s minds, and where you can get lost in the music all night long.

 

 

 

“Everyday is an Adventure of Surrender”

Jo Nava moved to London from Denmark with her family 3 years ago. Since then, she has made her space on the corner of Tottenham court road, where she wows passers-by with her new style of busking. Using a loop machine and her laptop she is able to create new unique songs you usually only hear on the radio right in front of you. With this she plays her own music only, introducing us to a mixture of song and rap with lyrics that tug at your heartstrings and lift your soul as she inspires you to live a positive lifestyle.

 

 

 

The Music Industry for Young Adults

In the next interview, young adults share their different opinions on the music industry in relation to their musical background. The participants in this piece, represent really diverse music profiles, going from music press magazine with Clara Leira in “Mondo Sonoro”, to Music Business Management students such as María Jáñez. The mix of perspectives in this video gives a complete and coherent vision of what youngsters have to say about the music industry. In this interview, María and Clara share their tips in order to help individuals who are willing to start a music career.

Check their work here:

Mondo Sonoro

https://www.mondosonoro.com/

María Jañez’s blog

https://www.meerssounds.com/

The new ticket war: why are gigs so expensive?

Ticket prices for live music events have been largely debated for a number of years, now. We all know about the war against ticket touts and re-selling sites such as Viagogo and Twickets and, with the help of artists such as Ed Sheeran and Adele, the popularity and impact of these sites seems to be decreasing. However, it appears that there’s a new kind of ticket war on the horizon. In recent years, it seems that ticket prices are rising more generally as legitimate, first-hand vendors have been increasing their prices.

Research from Pollstar shows that the average ticket prices for the top 100 worldwide tours in 2017 rose 5% to $84.63 (£61), while a 2018 BBC investigation found that ticket prices for big arena gigs have doubled since the 1990s and – taking inflation into account – the prices of gig tickets have risen by 27%.

Take the Spice Girls as an example; in 1998, tickets to their Wembley Stadium show cost £23.50 (£39 in today’s money) whereas tickets for their 2019 Wembley Stadium show are selling at £60-£135 for seated tickets, £75 for standing and £199 for ‘Spice Circle’ standing.

In a recent poll conducted by WNOL, 74% of respondents said that gig tickets are too expensive. One Twitter user said ‘personally I think that the pricing is way too high – especially in standing arenas for people like Ariana Grande, Little Mix etc. who attract a younger audience of early teens’.

Another Twitter user said ‘I think that gig tickets are extremely overpriced for what they are. It’s just another way for corporate bands to leech money from the easily persuaded youth of today’.

Others pointed out that, although tickets can be expensive, some artists are aware of this and do try to tackle this. One Instagram user said ‘some performers are aware of how expensive tickets are getting and actively try to keep prices low (like The Vamps) while others know they can charge a lot more and that people will pay it so they go extreme. You can’t blame them because, in a way, their main income is probably from touring these days’.

But why are ticket prices so high?

‘Venue costs rising, promoters’ fees, performers’ fees and the rising costs of logistics (travel, shipping of equipment et cetera) will have all contributed to the rising costs of gig tickets’, says Brighton-based music journalist Tom Sayer.

‘Performers still need to make money from their shows, and often even with high ticket prices and large sell-out shows, they make little to nothing on the shows themselves. They rely heavily on the selling of merch at the shows, and an increased awareness through gig promotion and PR’.

Although Tom doesn’t think gig culture will die if ticket prices continue to rise, he thinks it will likely change – ‘At the moment it seems like most shows are either free (open mic nights, pub bands) or very expensive (arena tours). I think they key is offering shows in the mid-range, so people are more likely to take a punt, even if they don’t know the artists’.

And Tom seems to be right; if anything, gigs only seem to be getting more popular. Expensive, yes, but with artists themselves – Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and The Vamps, to name a few – opening their eyes to the problems of the live music world, it may not stay this way forever. After all, look at the progress that’s been made in tackling the original ticket war.

 

Marcelo Lusardi: The Blind Rider

It is 11:40 in the UK, 12:40 in Spain. Marcelo sends me a message, he is ready. A couple of minutes after that, I receive a phone call from him. He starts talking to me in Spanish in a kind way, as if talking to a close friend.

Then, we change into English and we continue with the conversation. Marcelo tells me about his childhood. He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1997. In 2003, when he was five years old, his family moved to Santiago de Compostela, in the North West of Spain. After that, he describes his childhood in a curious way: “I’ve been all my life having sight, like absolutely normal sight. Watching everything, skating, seeing everything around me…”

Marcelo begins speaking about the event that changed his life for ever. In June 2015, when he was 17, he started losing sight in his right eye. At that point, doctors did not know what was going on, even Marcelo was not aware of his own condition: “It was a pretty confusing month for me, because I didn’t know what was happening”. By November, he began to lose his vision in his left eye.

Marcelo keeps talking about his state and how doctors did not think he was going to be blind: “They told me my optical nerves were affected by a virus, but they didn’t know at all. It was just like a thought of them.”

After a brief pause, Marcelo tells me about his genetic disease: Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. This gene transfers from generation to generation, but it only affects men. The disease stars in one eye and then moves to the other “and then it gets worse”. He also explains that there are different cases: some people with this disease have a good percentage of sight and they are, somehow, able to read, but Marcelo’s situation is different:

He continues describing his life and how in April of 2016 it started getting worse: “I was in my house, pretty depressed”. After that, he cheers himself up by talking about something that is really important in his life, music. He used to play the guitar before getting blind, but he put more effort into it when he began losing his sight: “I started playing sad songs and that stuff” he laughs “I don’t know, it is really cool to play music being blind and feel the sound”

But Marcelo was not alone in his battle. He describes the unconditional support of his parents and his skating friends, and how one day his mother introduced him to a blind friend of hers who changed Marcelo’s standpoint: “Blind people can do everything, they can go to school, use computers, mobile phones, everything like, really normal. And I don’t know, I guess that pushed me to go outside and be happy again.”

Next, he talks me through how he started skating again. Marcelo, with the help of his white cane, decided to go to the plaza where he used to skate, but without his skateboard. He describes how his friends pushed him to get on his board and how it was like “starting from the beginning”.

He also explains that his friends helped him to learn new tricks, like the kickflip, and how he could have not done it without them, because he could not know if the board was flipping on the right direction: “It was really fun to learn with them around me and supporting me.”

View this post on Instagram

Rondita en congreso… filmed by @elmo.sk #blindpower

A post shared by Marcelo Lusardi (@the_blind_rider) on

Marcelo, also known as the “Blind Rider” on Instagram, with a following of over 50,000 users, tackles the social media topic from a humble perspective: “skateboarding has also supported me a lot with people from around the world that follow me and like my videos”

The “Blind Rider” continues by defining how being blind has changed his perspective in life: “Well, being blind maybe it’s like something bad at first, but it can give you a different point of view” says Marcelo laughing. He finishes by explaining the way in which he meets people now, which has changed completely, as he pays more attention to personality now: “that’s pretty cool actually, not focusing on the physical appearance”

The phone call ends like it started, talking in Spanish while laughing, as Marcelo comments how weird it was for two Spanish speakers to maintain a conversation in English.

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