Category Archives: Retail

Half a dozen hacks for stale bread: surprisingly tasty tips for making the most of the food you buy

Bought too much on your grocery trip? Going away and need to use things up? Lost track of what’s at the back of the fridge? I have solutions for you!

A recent survey of 2000 Brits revealed that eggs, bread, and other previously rationed items are regularly discarded. Instead of getting down in the dumps about this or resigning full responsibility to the big, bad supermarkets, there are simple, tasty things you can do with those ingredients you already bought. I’ve touched on ways to reduce waste before, and now I’m collating tips and tricks on things to do when items become past their best. Follow these tips to

  1. reduce your grocery bill,
  2. reduce waste, and
  3. eat more (maybe?).

Number 1 is the main reason for me, and it’s probably the case for many other musicians too. In this blogpost I’ll focus on bread, but I am gathering suggestions for other food stuffs so get in touch and I’ll feature them in future!

Stale Bread Recipes

Things to cook with bread that has gone hard, but is not mouldy:

Mouldy Bread

When it’s got a bit of green/blue mould on it:

  • remove the mouldy bits (generously, maybe chop all the edges of a block of bread) and mix them in your compost,
  • leave on the bird table, or
  • make into fat balls.

Try to use the remainder within a day, maybe following one of the recipes above. For expert guidance check out this Aussie food mould research blog.

How to Prevent Stale Bread

Ideas for avoiding stale bread in the first place:

  • use a bread bin or bread bag,
  • make sourdough bread (moisture and natural acids help preserve your homemade loaves),
  • freeze half the loaf until you need it.

Find your ideal guitar amp

Amplification is important for all electric guitar players to get right. Finding the right sound can be like searching for the holy grail. Whether you already use built-in effects or prefer external pedals, amps are becoming so good these days that they might seem to make pedals obsolete. However many friends of mine (myself included) would be hard pressed to give up their trusty pedals and rely solely on what an amp offers.

That said, I love the distortion from a Marshall amp when coupled with a Gibson guitar: it creates a good, solid, universal tone. But Marshalls aren’t cheap. The Marshall MG series seem like good value, though finding one in stock to play in a guitar shop in Raleigh is like trying to find rocking horse poo! Most guitar shops sell various brands, and some specialise in used amps. From experience I can also recommend the Roland cube- they are cheaper than Marshalls.

Whatever amp you are considering, or even if you’re wanting a head and speaker setup, my only advice is that you MUST check out the sound with your guitar in person before buying. It’s also a perfect opportunity to feel the weight and size of your amp (generally the larger the speaker the heavier the amp)- is it portable, will you be able to take it to gigs or open mic nights with ease? Do not just order online, you are chancing disappointment and a lot of wasted money.

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Guitar advertising places

How do you hear about upcoming music events and guitar performances? Where do you market your local music business? Here’s my advice on advertising in and around Raleigh, based on my experience setting up my guitar teaching business. If you know about other opportunities please share with the rest of us by posting in the comments below.

To reach students and academics there are cylindrical poster boards on NC State’s main campus by the Free Expression Tunnel and near Harrelson Hall, but these are heavily used and abused, i.e. posters are quickly ripped off or pasted over. There is a non-commercial solicitation rule on campus. You can pay to advertise in The Technician, and events of interest to the university community could be posted on the noticeboard in the Music Department. It is courteous to ask before sticking up your notice.

Listservs
There are many popular local email lists, some of which may include thousands of potential customers, such as those interested in live music or music lessons. (I’m on one with over 4000 subscribers but it is private so unfortunately I can’t post an accessible link here). A good place to search for your interests might be on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. Another thing people like to do is to accrue a database of the email addresses of potential customers, either by storing their details from past purchases (with their permission of course), or by including an email subscription box on your website.

Community noticeboards:

  • Sam Ash on Capital Boulevard. Material removed after 30 days, sooner if it is out of date.
  • Guitar Center on Capital Boulevard.
  • I have also found business cards of interesting bands on the corkboard in the men’s toilets in Raleigh Brewing Company (might be similar in the women’s but obviously I haven’t been in!).
  • Craigslist offers free classified advertising for specific cities and is split into topical boards, see for example one of my ads.
  • Local libraries, such as this one at Cameron Village. Usually you hand in your notice and it must be approved before the librarians post it.

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Buying a guitar? Seven things you must consider

At this time of year lots of people are buying Christmas presents. If you’re thinking of buying a guitar as a surprise present for someone special then DON’T. Instead take them on a surprise shopping trip or buy them a gift voucher for a local guitar store. Guitar players will know and feel what’s right, and even if the recipient is a complete beginner they should have a say before any purchase is made.

  1. Style over substance? It is worth spending lots of money on a guitar that looks a certain way when you can probably buy something that looks less assuming but sounds better?
  2. Wood. You may find a maple neck easier to move up and down on a fretwood than rosewood. This preference depends on your playing style.
  3. Pickup configuration. A strat style guitar with regular pickups is more suited to blues, jazz and rock, whereas something like a Les Paul or SG with humbucker pickups is more suited to heavier styles of music.
  4. SCREECH! If you want to sound like Steve Vai, Van Halen, or White Snake then you’ll need a guitar like an Ibanez with a floating tremolo to make the guitar screech.
  5. Weight. If you’re going to be standing playing your guitar for hours on end with it hanging around your neck.
  6. Secondhand guitars. You can make them feel new by getting the guitar setup, buying a fretboard cleaner, and putting on a fresh set of strings.
  7. Haggling You’re already spending a lot of money on a new guitar, see if you can get good accessories like cables, a case, or a guitar strap thrown in or heavily discounted.

The most important thing

Does the guitar feel right to you? Before you go to a guitar shop do your research about different makes and designs. Avoid the temptation to just order online – you need to play one first, in the same way that you wouldn’t buy a car before test driving the same model. When you get to the store pick up a guitar that looks right and play a variety of things on it. Test it out on a rig that’s similar to the one you have at home. Even if it feels perfect make sure you then try at least four other guitars in the shop to compare it with, including a type you might not have considered. You need to try a range of guitars before making your decision.

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Quality guitar accessories

I’ve tried out a lot of different equipment for guitar over the years, some of it good, some of it mediocre. Most people (myself included) want to get the most for their money. Better to invest in something top quality and reliable than buy multiple items that do a half job. Here I share some products that I have found to be reliable:

Effects pedal – There are oodles of effects pedals out there. Most people own a variety. I particularly like my Electroharmonix Metal Muff distortion pedal. Custom pedals can create a unique sound, with some makers like Cog Effects from my native Sheffield can even include band logos on the pedal!

Recording cables – To record guitar using my iPad I use an iRig connector. Works a treat! Compatible with iPhone and iPod touch.

Guitar strings – For electric guitar strings I like Ernie Ball. For acoustic strings you might also like Martin’s. (Read about types of guitar strings and how to tune them.)

Flight case – I use an Adrenaline Flight Case to keep my instruments snug and safe on a plane. Robust! Faired better on a recent flight than my wife’s Tifosi bicycle case, which lost a wheel.

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What to do with unwanted guitar equipment

Eco-friendly guitaring

Browsing the web for crazy things people make guitars out of is quite fun. It’s also interesting to read how some companies make their guitars – some, like Martin, are conscientious about their manufacturing waste. The flip side of considering eco-friendly materials when building or buying a guitar is figuring out how to responsibly dispose of existing guitars and accessories.

Reselling

Yes, you could take your wooden acoustic guitar, remove the strings and pegs and just burn it, but that would be really sad. People are always taking up guitar, and tired old instruments can be given a fresh lease of life in the hands of a new owner. If you’ve got a functioning but unwanted guitar then sell it through local classifieds like Craigslist, ebay, or Reddit. Often it’s not worth your time marketing and shipping something that’s of small value. A better use of your time might be to just give it away, maybe by donating it to a charity shop or thrift store.

Recycling

What to do about broken or surplus items? Lots of guitar equipment uses bits of metal and plastic that can be fiddly or even impossible to recycle. Many guitarists I speak to just throw stuff in the trash. Maybe that trash gets sorted by the waste company, but maybe not. There are options to take responsibility for your own guitar waste. I hope by demystifying the process to help make it easier for you to choose these options.

Worn or snapped guitar strings are on their own too small to warrant selling to a scrap merchant, but I recommend storing old strings, wires, cables, metal connectors etc. in a box with your other household metal waste like those old screws you find under the sofa. Small bits of metal including bass or guitar strings can be turned into jewellery like bracelets! Or once the box gets full and heavy take it down to a scrap metal dealership. They will happily take it off your hands and give you some cash in return (remember to take your ID with you). There is one scrap metal dealership just off Garner Rd in Raleigh, but it’s worth searching around to see who’s offering the best prices.

For faulty electronics and old cables keep an eye out for special electrical recycling facilities. Raleigh council offer residents the chance to drop it off for free directly at landfill sites. If you do this not only are you consigning some potentially useful material to be squished in the ground, but it is a waste of your time. Look for recycling options closer to home. At our apartment complex we have a special yellow bin just for recycling electrics, from batteries to switches and leads to small appliances. Some organisations specialise in preventing electronics ending up in landfill, and there’s one in the triangle – contact them to find out how you can best dispose of or pass on your unwanted or broken electrical items.

A final option is to take the item to a guitar shop you know offers repairs of electrical equipment. Maybe you’ve already bought new and don’t want it fixed, but someone else might like to buy a refurbished model.

If you have other ideas for how to responsibly dispose of guitar-related waste I’d be interested in hearing from you!

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Resources to learn guitar

What’s the most effective way to learn guitar? Here are my top three tips.

  1. Little by little

    Often we start out with big dreams, we say things like “I want to be like Jimmy Hendrix”. This is great, but don’t make the mistake of expecting to achieve this overnight. Keep the goal in mind, but know that it will take work to get there. Plan how you’re going to get there in bitesize chunks.

  2. Little and often

    Make sure you’re always making progress by practicing daily, or as close to every day as you can. Half an hour each day is much better than a whole afternoon on a Saturday. If you’re finding something difficult try a little bit, then put down the instrument as pick it up tomorrow. If you achieve what you want to, revisit it and improve on it in your next practice.

  3. A little a lot

    Okay, my use of the word “little” fell down a bit here, but I had to repeat it because this point is about small, repetitive chunks. Once you can do something, say you’ve learnt a new scale, then by all means go away feeling happy, give yourself a small reward. Make sure you play it again soon, and repeatedly into the future. This will train your body and mind, getting the musical patterns into your muscle memory.

To avoid boredom when you’re revisiting things, try and mix it up a little. You could add in a solo improvisation, strum instead of pick (or vice versa), include a crescendo up to your favourite line, change the words in lines of a song, play an arpeggio instead of a scale, mix the verses of different songs, etc. What should you include in your guitar practices? Ideally a full body workout (kind of): This blog contains great ideas for range of things you should include in your practices.

Putting this into practice

If you’re new to guitar, forging a new habit with your playing, or just starting to plan your lessons this might all seem overwhelming. Firstly, break to job down into little chunks, and get experienced guidance. Ask your guitar teacher to help you plan your practices between lessons. Get your hands on good written material. Your local guitar shop might stock some recommended books, and you might also like to try these:

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