Battery Powered Acoustic Guitar Amps

With the summer season fast approaching, musicians and music lovers alike will be venturing out of the door and into the world of campfires and festivals. As a lot of acoustic music is now amplified to cater for the sonic complexities of modern performance, taking an amp with you is increasingly common. A range of acoustic amps now come with battery power options as well as the conventional mains sockets so that musicians can take them to festivals and campsites. Here is our pick of those currently available on the market.

Laney A-FRESCO Amp:

The A-FRESCO is  a brand new amp from Laney that has been designed specifically for transportability and battery use. Not only does it have an eco-mode that allows for up to 24 hour use on a single set of batteries, it has been shaped to be reminiscent of a cajon. This turns your dual-input, lightweight battery amp into a portable seat. The powerful amp has a number of added benefits, including the ability to mount it to a PA stand and integrated chorus effects.

The A-FRESCO comes with a bass boost function that increases the level of bass present for when the amp has been mounted to a stand – this prevents floor vibration and tends to reduce natural bass resonance.

The ‘bass cut’ function has been designed for when the amp is placed on the floor. It gives a more refined tone that keeps the bass clean and clear rather than allowing it to cause too much vibration and interference.

Roland Cube Street

The Roland Cube Street is often seen in city centres around the country. With its digital modelling system, the amp can be optimised for vocal, electric guitar, keyboard or acoustic guitar set-ups. Its wedge shape projects well from the floor into the street. Being a Roland amp, it is packed with Boss effects – great sounding Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo and an Octave as well a tap tempo delay and a choice of reverb settings. These amps also have two inputs for a guitar and microphone.

Yamaha THR5A

Yamaha have developed the THR5A as a digital portable amp with the added bonus of having USB connectivity so it can be used as an interface recorder. This, unlike the others, is more suited to home playing and campfire playing due to its size and built-in effects. It is, however, surprisingly powerful and could be used for small venue use.

The THR5A has amp optimisation for the following functions as part of Yamaha’s Advanced Instrument Modelling Software:

  • Modelled Condenser Mic Setting.
  • Modelled Dynamic Mic Setting.
  • Modelled Nylon optimisation.
  • Modelled Tube Amp Setting.
  • Clean Electric Settings.

The Importance of Music Education In Schools

A few weeks ago, at the Rheged Centre outside Penrith, there was the Cumbrian Music Education Conference. This was the first year that this has taken place, and we were lucky enough to have been invited along to the day. A lot of great talks and ideas were being shared from groups and musicians all aimed at schools to help them build on their music education in the classroom. Recent years and funding cuts have seen many of the art budgets being slashed and music ignored for preferential focus on the ‘Core Subjects’. At Lakeland Music, our staff members have degrees in Maths, History and Accountancy; whilst we don’t underestimate the importance of core subjects, we also know the value of music. Music, as any experienced musician will tell you, is based around maths but can be approached in a way that makes it accessible to anyone. It can also be a good approach to teaching english, including the addition of music to poetry as well as the use of educational songs on anatomy and science to help other subjects. For the musical minded child, these approaches can be much more engaging and approachable than conventional teaching methods and text books.

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P Bone make plastic instruments designed for schools and even run workshops and courses in local primary and secondary schools.

 

Music can build relationships, friendships, confidence and aptitude in so many fields as well as providing people with an escape and something fun to do that can be unbelievable rewarding. Unfortunately, music is sometimes expensive, and often elitist. That’s why music education in schools is so important; it levels the field and gives everyone a chance and opportunity to try different instruments, learn about music and benefit from the doors it opens. It gives every child, regardless of economic or social background, the chance to learn the basics, learn an instrument and opens up the ability for young people to learn a skill or find a hobby that could last a lifetime and change their lives. Some kids struggle with maths, science and english and this can seriously knock confidence from a young age. These same kids can excel at music, drama, art and design; this can give them the confidence back and give a platform for further academic success.

As such, it’s an extraordinary privilege to be here advocating for music education and sharing our knowledge and experience with representatives and delegates of Cumbria’s primary and secondary schools. It’s also great to see the amount of enthusiasm and interest from these schools as well as hearing all about their plans for enhancing and furthering their current options and courses. It’s also great to see how many of our local schools have teachers with musical experience and knowledge. The fact that those who don’t are equally keen to learn is even more reassuring and rewarding.

This was the first year of this conference and having been there and having seen the level of enthusiasm and engagement, we are confident and delighted that there will be more in the future.

Yamaha THR Series Amplifiers

Upon their release last year, the new range of THR amps quickly became the major talking point of the Yamaha amp range. They were marketed as the perfect ‘third amp’ as they combined a huge range of features, from advanced sound engines through to a range of chorus and phaser effects, into one compact cabinet.

The THR range was developed with Yamaha’s award-winning AV division to offer true hi-fi stereo sound and a new experience in guitar amplifiers. The exclusive, specially designed, speaker enclosure is optimised to handle both guitar and stereo playback sounds making THR uniquely capable of giving you amazing tone for both your guitar and your track from a compact, portable amp.

THR5 and THR5A Amplifier

 

THR incorporates Yamaha’s new Extended Stereo Technology to create an incredibly wide, spacious audio image. Stereo tracks and studio quality reverb take on a depth unimaginable from such a small enclosure.

The THR amps may have been designed for, and remain popular as a result of, their compact cabinets; they also have some of Yamaha’s most advanced sound modelling technology to ensure they have the biggest sound possible. By utilising their Virtual Circuitry Modelling software, the THR series have a range of accurately modelled amp tones to give easy access to iconic sounds, including clean, crunch, lead and brit hi settings. The THR5A, the acoustic model, focuses on giving the best possible acoustic sound for your guitar. As a result, it offers modelled sounds that are designed for nylon stringed classical guitars as well as the more common steel strung electro-acoustic models.

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THR5A Top Panel

In addition to the easy to use modelled sounds, the THR range come with a selection of effects that can be applied to varying degrees. This includes chorus, tremolo, delay, reverb and compressor effects as well as the ability to overlay certain effects to give the same combinations normally only available from using multiple effect pedals. The THR range also come with a tap tempo function that allows you to control the speed of the delay and chorus effects by tapping the desired tempo.

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THR5 Top Panel

The compact body and range of on-board features have been very popular with touring musicians wanting a small amp for practicing with off stage. They have also been popular with buskers; the option to power these amps through batteries enhancing their popularity. In addition to the battery power option and range of effects, the THR range come fitted with built-in tuners, thus helping to keep your guitar in tune throughout your practices and performances.

The THR5 is bundled with Cubase AI, Steinberg’s professional music production application that offers full-fledged recording and editing. This can be done by either connecting your amp directly to your computer with the software installed, or by connecting it to a recording device. Either way, the pairing of this amp and Cubase AI means you get a fantastic sound and features as well as recording capabilities from the compact cases.

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THR5 Models Glow Like an Old Valve Amp

At Lakeland Music, we think these amps are perfect for busking musicians as well as guitarists practicing in their bedrooms that want access to a range of effects and features as well as the expandability of the recording potential. The use of clever technology means you can have this without compromising on sound or space. We stock the THR5 and THR5A amplifiers because we were so impressed by the size of their sound when compared to the size of their cabinets. We also stock a new range of Yamaha electric and acoustic guitars. Come and visit us to see them for yourself and have a go.

History of Wilhelm Steinberg

Wilhelm Steinberg was established in the renowned German piano manufacturing town of Eisenberg in 1877. For over 135 years the company has held a long tradition of producing some of the finest, hand-made pianos.  Originally formed by Adolf Heinrich Geyer and stamped with his name, the company survived the requisition policy of the German Third Reich during the Second World War that repurposed factories across Germany for ammunition and weaponry production. It was spared this repurposing due to its long history and cultural significance in the region. At the end of the war, it was rebuilt and staffed under the name Wilhelm Steinberg AG, with the ‘AG’ being a nod to the company’s founder, Adolf Geyer.

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Front door to the Wilhelm Sternberg Visitor Centre

When Germany was split under the post-war settlement, Eisenberg fell into the Eastern territory and was part of the German Democratic Republic. Under the National Socialist policies of this state, the piano manufacturers of the region were all nationalised and incorporated into the VEB Pianofortefabric Eisenberg until the reintegration of Germany in 1949. Wilhelm Steinberg emerged again as an independent company, clinging to its roots and traditions.

To this day, Wilhelm Steinberg make their pianos with traditional construction methods and materials; their use of hardwoods sourced exclusively from trees in the Val di Fiemme region remains one of their trademarks and longest held traditions. These woods have tighter growth rings unique to this region and Wilhelm Steinberg believes its use in their soundboards gives their pianos better resonance and tonal quality.

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Fiemme Valley in the Val di Fiemme region.

The Wilhelm Steinberg IQ28, a new arrival at Lakeland Music, was their top of the range model for many years. It has the same Kluge Keyboard found in many Steinway upright pianos made at the same time. These keyboards have vertical stability pins as well as extended key arms to give a smoother action and response. This is particularly noticeable in the piano’s dynamic response; the keys make achieving a subtle pianissimo as easy as hitting a strong and powerful fortissimo. The IQ28 also uses Remmer Hammers; these are also commonly used on Steinway pianos. Remmer remain the most popular independent hammer manufacturing company for the world’s elite piano manufacturers and their hammers can be found on some of the world’s finest pianos in some of the most prestigious concert halls. They are famous for their longevity, durable construction and smooth strike that gives a clean and pure tone.

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Our pre-owned IQ-28

The Wilhelm Steinberg IQ28 currently in-store is a pre-owned instrument that was originally purchased in 2001. Despite this, it is in pristine condition. It looks, feels and sounds like a brand new instrument with a strong tone and a competitive price. Due to their prestige and quality, it is rare for these pianos to be available as a pre-owned instrument, making this a unique opportunity.

Effect Pedals

Effect pedals are widely used in the music industry by guitarists of all abilities. They are often used for ‘at home’ practice and production but equally appear regularly on professional live sets. The use of effect pedals can dramatically change the sound of a guitar. They can create loud and heavily distorted sounds often heard in heavy rock or as soft tones commonly associated with pop and folk. The BOSS pedals have been an industry favourite for a long time both for the sounds they produce and their robust casing.

One of the most popular pedal types is the loop pedal. They rose to fame after being used by Ed Sheeran during his 2014 Glastonbury set. The loop pedal records a phrase and replays it on a loop, allowing you to overlay tracks and build up pieces. Many models are available, offering different amounts of loop time as well as the function to overlay multiple tracks and an in-built drum machine. By adding multiple layers and building the tracks up, you can recreate studio overdubbing at home. The BOSS RC-1 is the most popular entry loop pedal and allows up to 12 minutes of recorded loop time and an internal memory that retains recorded phrases between looping sessions. The upgrade to this is the RC-3 which has a three-hour memory capacity, allowing for many more layers to be built up. It also has an on-board drum machine for adding rhythm accompaniments to your performances and practices. Check out this video to see Ed Sheeran’s Glastonbury set and how he uses a loop station to recreate his iconic songs during live performances.

Another very popular pedal is the Boss CH-1 Chorus pedal. Interesting fact: the chorus pedal sound was first developed by Abbey Road Studios in 1966 and was tailored for John Lennon’s vocals. It quickly became his signature sound and was incorporated into numerous later Beatles tracks. It features very heavily in their Revolver album, released in August 1966. The chorus pedal recreates the Automatic Double Tracking commonly used in recording studios at home which gives a shimmering effect to the guitar sound. Click below to check out the Revolver album and hear the prominent use of chorus sounds:

Lakeland Music is a main stockist of BOSS pedals and holds a great selection in-store. We have a pedal board set up in our guitar showroom so that you can not only try individual pedals, but also combinations to achieve the sound you are looking for. All BOSS pedals come with a 5-year warranty and are internet price matched. Drop by with your guitar or use one of ours to see how a pedal, or combination of pedals, can completely change your sound and playing.

Teaching and Learning

by Mark Horseman; piano, clarinet and singing teacher at Lakeland Music.

 

As someone who also teaches English Literature as well as piano, clarinet and singing, I see a lot of parallels between learning and understanding a piece of music and learning and understanding a piece of literature. Simply learning the notes on the page isn’t sufficient to form an emotional and interpretative response to the music, just like reciting a poem isn’t sufficient to understand its deeper meaning or features. After all, an emotional response to, and interpretation of, music is what I seek to inspire and teach.

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The opening phrase to Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor.

For a long time, and certainly when I took lessons as a child, some teachers taught solely to send their students through their grades without teaching an understanding of music. You would be shepherded through a process of learning three pieces and a handful of scales without truly understanding the theory behind anything that you were learning. We learned nothing of music’s habits, forms, nuances, modulations or insinuations. We couldn’t fully appreciate the music we were playing as a result. To move beyond the scope of simply playing a piece to performing a piece of music, one has to understand the notes as well as the structure, context and meaning of the music. This allows us to make it our own.

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When learning the piano, the main question one has to ask is: “What is the easiest way to play these notes well with the least effort from my hands?” With the clarinet and singing, the question is more breathing orientated; breathing at the right place and only taking as much breath as you actually need.

Although most of my music teaching time is taken up with the piano, clarinet and music theory, my performing commitments are largely vocal. Upcoming events that I am involved with include:

  • Tuesday 21st June, 19:30 @ Lanercost Priory: “Hymenaeus” – a musical exploration of the issues surrounding dementia as written by myself and Jerry King, Director of Music at St Cuthbert’s in Carlisle. The performance features singers Anne-Marie Kerr and Chris Hardman.
  • Saturday 2nd July, 19:30 @ Lanercost Priory: “Between Earth and Sky” – an evening of music for choir, piano, violin and percussion. This includes folk songs by Copland and Seiber, mass-settings by Mendelssohn and Bernstein and the beautiful Hebrew Love Sings by Eric Whitacre.
  • Saturday 9th July, 19:30 @ St Martin’s Church, Brampton: “Music From Renaissance Venice” – including works by Wilaert, Monteverdi and Gabrieli.

Advantages of a Digital Piano

For a long time, digital pianos have been considered as the alternate choice to an acoustic, with an acoustic being the preferred choice. But now digital pianos offer advantages over their acoustic counterparts, particularly to students who are learning. This is making them much more popular and has given rise to the belief that a digital can be the preferred choice over an acoustic.

Digital pianos allow anytime practice without fear of disturbing the neighbours or family due to their ability to play using headphones. Many modern digitals even feature advanced headphone systems, such as Roland’s 3D Ambience Effect, which produce as good a sound using headphones as through speakers.

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Built-in metronome; keeping a steady beat and building a good sense of rhythm is difficult, especially on a solo instrument like the piano. A metronome switched on in the background helps to keep in time and allows learning a piece at a slower tempo and with gradual acceleration. Having the metronome incorporated into the piano allows making adjustments to speed, volume and beat counter at the touch of a button.

Recording and playback; hearing an error is difficult while playing.  Players concentrate on getting the right finger on the right note at the right time whilst reading two lines of music simultaneously! The ability to record a piece of music or entire practice session allows the opportunity to play and listen for mistakes.

 Tuning and maintenance; acoustic pianos go out of tune for many reasons.  The slightest knock, change in temperature and even playing, will cause an acoustic piano to go out of tune. This results in expensive tuning. Regular maintenance is also needed to keep the key action and pedal function in good order. A digital piano never goes out of tune and the action doesn’t change. The only maintenance required is an occasional dust!

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Size and weight; an acoustic piano with all its components is a heavy instrument.  Digital pianos use circuits instead of dampers, and sensors instead of strings. This makes them smaller and lighter, allowing easy movement.

MIDI connections; digital pianos often come with MIDI connectivity ports, allowing  connection from  piano to  computer for the use with composition software as a MIDI controller and inputting device. This saves the need for an additional MIDI keyboard.

Digital features; digital pianos have a wealth of additional instrumental sounds, pre-loaded demo tracks and even lesson modes. These help to make practice and learning more enjoyable and can even turn the piano into a piano teacher.

Customisation and adjustment; an acoustic piano is set and fixed. Its key action, tone, depth and damper resonance will not change until the mechanisms start to wear away. A digital piano however isn’t fixed and can be changed to suit your desired style, playing technique and even the genre of music that you are playing.  Adjusting touch weight, tonal character, damper resonance, brightness and reverb to suit.

LAKELAND MUSIC have pianos in-store with the all above features incorporated, come in and see and hear for yourself. At time of writing, one or two are available at promotional prices