• Connecting the Past to the Future

    Living is like carving

    You make it what you see

    As wood is shaped by steel

    So life is shaped by dreams

    From “East on Eden’s Road” by Rick Hill

    When I was in fifth grade a student from the nearby college would come a couple of times during the year and sing at an assembly. He sang a lot of Kingston Trio songs and a few Peter, Paul and Mary songs. For some reason the music connected with me. That year my mother bought me a $10 guitar the kid up the street was selling. She gave it to me for Christmas and gave me guitar lessons with Dave Braddock, the student from Eastern Baptist College (now Eastern University). I took lessons for about six months, then Dave graduated and headed off to the Peace Corps. I never saw him again. But in that brief time, the music he taught me took root in me and has shaped my life ever since.

    The first song I performed was either “Puff, the Magic Dragon” or “Blowin’ In the Wind”. That was also in fifth grade. Songs Dave taught me. The first song I ever wrote was in seventh grade – a love song to a girl named Karen. The first guitsr I bought was a Kay six string. I saw a12-string when I was in 8th grade. By ninth grade I had bought a Harmony 12 string. My first bar gig was after college, playing Thursday nights. My first attempt at a band was with my best friend, Tim Hopkins, and a banjo player whose name I do not remember. We were called KFC, because we were “finger-pickin’ good.” (We weren’t really, but we thought we were.) I played a song I wrote on Gene Shay’s radio show in Philadelphia (WMMR).

    I tell you these things in the hopes that they might trigger some of your own memories. I would be willing to bet that a lot of musicians have similar memories. There are a lot of musicians whose lives have been significantly changed by the music we play. The music has shaped us into the people we are today.

    The music of Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkle, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and so many others, has given me a moral foundation that has guided, sometimes prodded, me along the road. It has taken me places I would not normally have gone (sometimes that is good, sometimes not so much…), I have met people I would never have met otherwise and have experienced some truly wonderful moments.

    All of this is background to why I am involved with F.A.M.E. Music is my passion, it is how I communicate, it is how I make sense of the world. I want to share that with others. I want to invite others into that amazing sphere. In F.A.M.E. I have found others who also have been transformed by music. Their stories are equally amazing. I want to make sure that there is always a place where we can share that passion, always a place where we can nurture that passion in younger folks the way Dave Braddock nurtured it in me.

    “Everyone encountered has a gift to share

    The gracious heart receives it as a jewel rare

    We may not know the pathway, what lies to right or left

    But heroes gone before us encourage every step.”

    From “East on Eden’s Road” by Rick Hill

  • Gear of the Month by Todd Walker

    March 2018

    The G7th Ultralight Capo that I reported on in last month’s newsletter, as I mentioned, is inexpensive and very lightweight. What I did not realize is that it can affect your instrument’s sound quality quite differently than other capos. Many of the capos on the market will either enhance the low end, enhance the higher frequencies or dampen the sound slightly. The G7th Ultralight tends to be more transparent, allowing the guitar to sound more like itself. I hadn’t given it much thought, but after trying it again, I agree.

    Remember that the G7th Ultralight is inexpensive. Now let’s look at the G7th Heritage capo that my lovely wife Carol gave me for Christmas. As I mentioned last month, it is expensive ($139 + shipping). Ouch! It is definitely higher priced than the average Shubb, Keyser, or Planet Waves, but compare it with another popular yoke-style capo – the Elliott Elite at $160. Double ouch!

    Yoke-style capos seem to be popular with the bluegrass crowd. Many players, instead of removing the capo at the end of a song, will slide the yoke capo over the nut, or just behind it, giving it just enough tension to stay in position. Where your guitar goes, so does your capo. No more searching the guitar case storage compartment, the gig bag, pant pockets, or the floor. I have a black Paige capo stored on my ornate no-name custom dread. I like it on that guitar because the black capo jumps out in sharp contrast to the blonde wood of the guitar. What I don’t like about the Paige is that I must retune the guitar each time I move the capo.

    The reason I wanted to try a G7th Heritage is because I have discovered that my old trusty Shubb capo (I think I own five or six of them) doesn’t work on some guitars, because the radius of the fretboard and the radius of the capo pad don’t match up. Maybe that is why I see so many Shubb users snap their capos onto their guitar with a loud snap/clunk – very tight to overcome the radius problem. An overly tight capo pulls the strings sharp which necessitates tweaking the tuning and can potentially dent the guitar’s neck. I stopped using Keyser capos for the same reason – I found the Keyser capo spring put too much pressure on the strings, creating the same problem.

       So, what does $139 buy? Well, the Heritage is made from hand-polished stainless steel, it has silicone neck and side pads to protect the guitar from metal to wood contact, and it has a machined knurled tension adjuster that works smoothly (unlike the loosey-goosey wobble of my Paige capo). Since it is made from stainless steel, it has some weight to it. Not enough to cause problems with the body to neck balance of your guitar, but enough weight to let you know it’s a quality product.

    The beauty of the capo is that it has been designed using A.R.T. (Adaptive Radius Technology). What this means is the pad that contacts the strings shapes itself to the radius of the fretboard, so one capo can be used on any guitar. As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, I use a Shubb capo for several of my guitars, my original G7th for other guitars, my Planet Waves for others, etc. The reason? Because each guitar has a different fretboard radius. Now I have a capo that will work on any of the guitars.

    G7th has a wonderful video that describes the theory, development, and advanced function of the Heritage (https://www.g7th.com/heritage).

    Does it work? Absolutely. It is easy to put on and take off the neck or slide to the nut. I find that the Heritage requires less tension to change the pitch of the strings, and most importantly causes less distortion of notes when in use. On several of my guitars I don’t have to tweak the tuning, on others, just a minor tweak by pulling on the strings and voila, on to the next song.

    I give it a hearty two-thumbs up! Do I recommend it to my guitar friends? Yes, with caution. At $139, hold on to it for dear life. It will last a lifetime, so keep it close to you and don’t lose it.


    Now go make some music!