Singing For Seniors Lifting Hearts, Minds, and Spirits With Music For The Soul

I have been on the spiritual path for as long as I can remember. I began singing when I was about five, then progressed into the church and school choirs, trios and solos. Afterward, I pursued my professional life and returned to music in the early 1990s. I eventually began doing guest musical appearances at various churches around Western Oregon in 1999. And I have been singing off and on, mostly on, ever since. It is my joy, my calling, my best work.

Today, I delight in presenting inspirational and spiritual music to residents of retirement communities, senior centers, and senior community events, especially those on a budget who still would appreciate a good musical program for a fair cost. I create all the music in my own studio. I do the instruments, the back-up vocals, and production; then I burn it to CD and sing along with myself, including harmonies. (I often have spiritual epiphanies while creating new music. I’m pretty sure those experiences find their way into the words and lyrics.)

You, the audience, can expect an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes of music, banter, and lots of interaction, laughter and smiles. My music is a combination of original compositions and more familiar contemporary spiritual music. I bring all my own equipment — speakers, mics, mixer, CD player — so the only things I need are electrical outlets and good room acoustics… and an audience, of course.

Joy Jamboree: Heart, Soul, Sizzle

  • Heart: The organ we usually think of in terms of pump, blood, and beat has its own way of responding to music. Music stirs cells, nerves, and capillaries. Healing begins.
  • Soul: Whether you think of the soul as an entity separate from the physical body, or the essence of all you are that connects you to the earth, or any other view you may have of it, music makes the soul dance, refresh itself, laugh. And laughter, like music, is healing.
  • Sizzle: What’s life without a little pizzazz, eh? No matter the weather, no matter the mood, the right music, uplifting, move-y music can give you just the sizzle you need to make your day the best one yet.

Come visit me at ‘ Joy Jamboree: Heart, Soul, Sizzle!’

Richard Kent Matthews sings from his heart, soul, and spirit to audiences in retirement communities, senior centers, and other senior events all over the Portland, OR, metro area. (As an ordained minister, Richard is also a professional wedding officiant and creates original music for your ceremony if you want it!)

Care and Maintenance of Student Violins – Violin Parts

Part of the joy of teaching violin students to play is to teach them how to properly care for their instrument, whether leased or owned. Properly caring for an instrument is as important an exercise as learning to play. In fact, each task goes hand in hand.

Below is a summary of care and maintenance of specific parts of the violin:

The Violin Bridge

The bridge is a delicate but vital part of the violin and is, along with the sound post, the soul of the instrument and it’s sound. Because it is so delicate, it is more apt to become broken or warped in the hands of a student. Because the violin bridge is held in place by the tension of the strings, it is affected by tuning from both sides of the violin, the fine tuners and the peg tuners.

The thing to remember is that the bridge should always be straight and perpendicular to the surface of the instrument. Too much tension from the pegs and/or fine tuners will bend the bridge. When this happens, keeping the feet in place, a parent or teacher should carefully put pressure on the bridge with the fingers in order to straighten the bridge and to make it perpendicular again without moving the base of the bridge.

In the event that the bridge cannot move or breaks, it is necessary to take the violin to a violin shop where an experienced violinmaker can either fix or replace the bridge. While the bridge is small and light, the way it is set up makes all the difference in the world as far as how the violin will sound.

Violin Strings

Violin strings should be replaced at least two times per year if your student plays even a half an hour each day. The older the strings, the more tension is required to stay in tune and the more lifeless they sound. All four strings should be replaced together, even if a single string was to break and the strings are on the older side.

Parents can learn from violin shops or violin teachers how to replace the strings on a student violin. If you can purchase strings from a violin shop, it’s a good idea to have the shop replace the strings. But if there is no shop close by, it’s perfectly fine to order violin strings from an online violin shop and replace them yourself.

Since most student violins come with fine tuners on the tailpiece, you should attach the string in to the tuner first and then thread the other end of the string into the tuning peg hole clockwise and over, make sure to only insert about ¼ inch of the string into the peg.

Tuning Pegs

Anything having to do with pegs is best left to an experienced violin repair shop. The one thing that can be done, as a parent of a student player, is to make sure that you and/or your student do not push the pegs into the peg holes with excessive force otherwise the peg holes will get larger and will no longer hold the strings with the right pressure. Once this happens, an expensive repair called peg hole bushing is required.

Violin strings should be replaced at least two times per year if your student plays even a half an hour each day. But if there is no shop close by, it’s perfectly fine to order violin strings from an online violin shop and replace them yourself.

Intermediate and Student Violins From Snow

Over the years, many luthiers have traveled from China to Europe to learn the fine art of violinmaking from reputable schools in Germany, France and Italy. Some of the more highly trained and talented violinmakers set up workshops where they created quality instruments and trained new makers. One of these luthiers was Xueping Hu, founder of the Snow workshop in Beijing, China.

Though Snow is noted for its violins, the workshop also produces other handcrafted stringed instruments including violas, cellos and basses. As his six-worker shop grew into more than seventy craftsmen, Xueping Hu and his brother set up Snow Stringed Instruments, a wholesale company whose purpose was to distribute to retailers instruments hand-crafted solely in the Beijing workshop.

Snow’s produces a line of violins categorized into four types: basic, advanced, professional and performance. Most are based on Strad & Guarneri models. The basic models are high quality student violins to lower intermediate violins that retail from between $1,200 and $1,700 depending on whether a player orders a SV200, SV300 or SV400 model. Perfect for students, all SV models sound warm and resonant and are antiqued with hand-rubbed varnish and feature a top made of spruce and a back crafted from maple.

The PV models, or “advanced”, are crafted for higher intermediate and advanced violin players and range in price between $2,200 and $3,700 depending on whether one purchases the PV800, PV900 or the PV1000. These intermediate violins are made with higher-quality and longer-aged European tone woods. The varnish is higher-end, and offers the player more varied tones of color.

Snow violins are shipped from China to New York in ready-to-play condition. Once in New York, they undergo a battery of quality control tests by specialists to assure that the set up, tone and overall quality is up to standard. This is done before shipping the violins to retailers across the country.

Interestingly, even though these violins are set up and tested, most violin shops who stock snow violins will take the time to set up the violins yet again, according to the standards of the shop. This may include relocation of the sound post and new strings. By the time the violin reaches the hands of the player, it has received much attention from several craftsmen.

Many retail violin shops will pair Snow violin with different types of violin bows, cases and basic violin accessories in order to sell the Snow violin as an outfit. Prices will vary depending on the quality of the case and bow, but it is typically a good value to purchase an instrument as part of an outfit assembled by a knowledgeable maker.

The basic models are high quality student violins to lower intermediate violins, cases and basic violin accessories in order to sell the Snow violin as an outfit.

The Five Elements Needed For Music Industry Success

You are about to learn the five critical elements that have fueled the success of all great musicians’ careers. Until you possess these key elements for yourself, it will be nearly impossible for you to reach your musical dreams and build a successful career in the music business.

Read below to discover these five key elements and take action on the information you learn:

Music Career Success Key #1 – Don’t Set Realistic Goals

All of the most well-known and successful musicians did not achieve their goals by thinking realistically about what seemed possible. On the contrary, they focused their mind like a laser ONLY on what they truly wanted. When you make your goals in line with the things you want most, you will be much more motivated to actually achieve them. More on this in a moment…

Think about this – out of the following choices, which choice would inspire you to put all your time and energy into growing a music career?:

  1. Making a recording of a demo with a band and possibly playing a few shows around town.


  1. Writing chart topping songs for a killer band, then promoting your music by going on a massive world tour – playing to stadiums full of fans, earning tons of money from music sales alone and never working a regular job ever again.

Even if your goals in the music business are entirely unrelated to releasing music, the point still applies: don’t let yourself accept anything less than what you truly want in your music career, just for the sake of being realistic. Life is too precious to live it by not doing the things you really desire. When you set goals for yourself that do not inspire you, it is nearly guaranteed that you will NEVER achieve the things you truly desire in music.

All the biggest rock stars are people just like you. They began small – whether it was broke without any idea how they’d make it in music, lacking in musical talent or not having a band to play with… Just imagine where they would be now, if they would have told themselves that their music career dreams were unrealistic or didn’t seem possible. Well, of course they didn’t… they followed their dreams and went on to achieve them!

You must do what they did. Start building your music career by focusing on what you WANT, not what seems possible.

Music Career Success Key #2 – Manifest Your Musical Dreams Into Reality Before They Actually Are Reality

Musicians who never achieve anything significant in this industry, build paths to their goals by starting from where they are in the present moment.

On the other hand, musicians who achieve great success do something completely different. They plan their music career by beginning from the end point of achieving their goals, and work backwards to the present day. They imagine themselves having already accomplished their major goals, then build their lives around this vision. This is a much more effective way of accurately determining the actions required for putting together your music career.

Music Career Success Key #3 – Start Living Or Start Dying

The two keys I mentioned above are critical for building a successful music career. With this in mind, you need more than just goals and a plan of action to realize your musical dreams. You have to take action each and every day to bring yourself closer to your goals. You might think this is common knowledge, but you would be shocked at how many musicians give up on their musical dreams simply due to lack of effort (in terms of taking physical action).

Visualize this scenario (I use this as inspiration for the professional musicians whom I mentor): You’ve just found out about a disease you contracted that requires major surgery. If you don’t get this surgery, you are guaranteed to die in no more than half a year. To make matters worse, the surgery is extremely expensive and cannot be covered by your insurance company (also you can’t borrow money to pay for it). So you have a decision to make: You can allow yourself to die, OR you can take whatever action is necessary to get the money needed for the surgery.

Certainly this example is extreme, but it is a perfect illustration of the kind of mindset you need to have in order to build a successful music career. Making big moves (by taking action) in your music career is completely different than sitting around waiting for things to happen for you (allowing yourself to ‘die’).

With this in mind, hard work/consistent action does not necessarily equal music career success, when you don’t know exactly what you should be doing to reach your goals.

Music Career Success Key #4 – Have MASSIVE Reasons For Achieving Your Musical Goals

No matter what you do, something will always go wrong in your music career plans. Whenever you are faced with unexpected events in your music career, this is the time when your commitment will be put to the test. For instance, here are some challenging situations you could face:

  • Working at a day job you hate while regretting the fact that you never developed a music career backup plan to help you make a living doing what you love.
  • Playing at crappy bars all the time with your band because you don’t know how to move to bigger venues.
  • Trying to record an album, but doing so at an extremely slow and frustrating pace because you never practiced developing your recording skills.
  • Working with unmotivated band members who are bringing you (and the entire band) down.
  • Not understanding how to attract more music fans to listen to the music you worked so hard to create.

Here is what you need to do in order to maintain your commitment and dedication to achieving your music career goals:

Take out the piece of paper you have that contains the list of your written goals (that you put together in key #1 above). Then beside each one write down the big REASONS you have for pursuing them. For every musical goal you have, answer this question: “Why do I want to achieve this?” Spend a lot of time thinking about this for each goal before you write down your response, and look over your goals/reasons two times every day.

When you do this, you’ll develop the ability to maintain motivation and stay focused on the major reasons you have for reaching your goals. This will help you move forward in the difficult times when your dedication is put to the test.

Music Career Success Key #5 – Don’t Try To Build Your Music Career Blindfolded

Once you are in possession of all 4 keys mentioned above, it’s still possible that your music career will go nowhere. This occurs when you lack certainty about what to do to achieve success, are (unknowingly) sabotaging yourself or lack effective strategies to help you reach your musical goals. The last key required for building your successful career in the music industry is to train with a mentor who has experience helping musicians take their careers to the highest level.

A truly effective mentor will not simply tell you what you need to be doing in order to succeed in the music business. He will help you utilize all of the strengths you built while developing the first four keys and will keep you heading down the right path toward success, while preventing you from making the same mistakes that unsuccessful musicians make. Without this kind of training, you are essentially trying to build your music career with a blindfold on – completely oblivious to the best ways to succeed using your current skills and knowledge.

Now that you’ve learned the five keys that build the foundation of a successful music career, these are the steps you should take right now:

1. Focus on getting all the missing keys you do not currently possess.

2. Being working with an experienced music career mentor to quickly achieve your greatest musical goals.

Tom Hess is a music career mentor, touring musician and guitarist. He teaches online guitar lessons to musicians all over the world and mentors musicians on how to build a successful music career. Visit his website for music instruction to get many free musician resources to help you start a career in music and learn about the music industry

Cello Accessories for the Beginning Player

If your child is just starting out as a student cellist, you’ve most likely rented him or her a cello. Or if your child joined the school orchestra, he or she is using a student cello provided by the school. And if you were reasonably sure that your child is committed to playing, you might have purchased a student cello from a local violin shop. Whichever the scenario, unless the school has provided all that your child needs, you’ll find yourself needing to purchase a basic set of cello accessories.

You may find online stores and shops with special “cello chairs” that they claim is “essential to good cello playing”. You’ll find cello stands and cello bow cases, but those pieces of equipment are not required for beginning student cellists.

The accessories that are important are typically not very expensive. Items such as cello strings, cello rosin, humidifiers, metronomes and tuners are accessories worth investing in in order to provide your child with best learning experience possible.

The proper cello strings are vital for a beginning student. You will find strings made of steel, gut and synthetic core, but most cellists prefer steel strings. Whether you shop online or at a local violin shop, it is best to take the time to discuss which strings are appropriate for your child’s instrument with an expert at the store.

Another vital accessory is cello rosin. A “cake” of rosin is kept in your student’s case and applied to the cello bow before playing to ensure that the bow produces enough friction to produce a lovely, dark cello sound as it is pulled across the strings with varying pressure. Again, an expert at an online violin store or a local violinmaker at a shop can properly advise which kind of rosin is best for cello players.

Two more valuable cello accessories to that are not vital but good to have about is a digital metronome and a digital tuner. The metronome will help your student play in time and the tuner will help your child tune his own instrument as well as play scales in tune if it is utilized properly. Purchasing a digital tuner and metronome can put you back $40.00 or more, but you do not want to go cheap on these particular products. Like most cello accessories, you’ll want to buy high quality products that will last. There are also apps available now for smart phones that perform these tasks reasonably well.

Items such as cello strings, cello rosin, humidifiers, metronomes and tuners are accessories worth investing in in order to provide.
An expert at an online violin store or a local violinmaker at a shop can properly advise which kind of rosin is best for cello players.

Neil Young Talks ‘Effortless’ New LP With Promise of the Real

Neil Young is nearly finished with his 37th album as a solo artist, working in a Malibu studio with his newest collaborators, Promise of the Real. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Young told Rolling Stone this week. “I don’t know what its place is in the world, but I like it.”


The album is his second studio project with the band fronted by Micah and Lukas Nelson, sons of Willie. Last year’s The Monsanto Years was an electrified protest album that reached Number 21 on the Billboard Top 200. Young called the making of the new album “a very rewarding process.” It will be released in June.

“I feel really good and amped and energized. And I feel like I’m doing something that I’ve never done before,” Young said. “It’s not just music. It’s a soundscape. It’s kind of like flying around listening to things with your eyes closed.”

“Effortless” is how Young described his ongoing work with Promise of the Real, during an onstage interview with Cameron Crowe Monday in Los Angeles following a screening of his 1982 film Human Highway. At a reception with friends and colleagues immediately following the screening, Young told Rolling Stone the new recordings were both a continuation of what began with The Monsanto Years and a new creative path.

“In critical other ways, it’s like nothing that I’ve done,” Young said. “It’s more like a giant radio show. It has no stops. The songs are too long for iTunes, thank God, so they won’t be on iTunes. I’m making it available in the formats that can handle it.

“It’s like a live show, but it’s not like a live show. Imagine it’s a live show where the audience is full of every living thing on earth — all of the animals and insects and amphibians and birds and everybody — we’re all represented. And also they overtake the music once in a while and play the instruments. It’s not conventional … but it is based on live performance.”

While young didn’t describe the lyrical content, current events have again been on his mind. In the past, he’s been inspired to write biting topical music from “Ohio” to Living With War (including the Bush-era anthem “Let’s Impeach the President”) and Monsanto.

During the onstage interview, Young got a laugh by describing his new Donald Trump impression. He took off his black hat with a sour look and put his chin in the air. “We were at a party the other night and I took my hat off — I have a big bald spot now … My lovely girlfriend was making my hair look like Donald Trump’s,” Young told the audience. “It was very entertaining and nobody filmed it, thank God.”

Later, Young said, “What’s going on these days is very much like Human Highway. Everybody’s not paying attention to what’s going on and they’re just living their own lives — maybe talking about [the election] as something to talk about. I support Bernie Sanders but I’m Canadian.”

Kamasi Washington on American Music Prize Win, Kendrick at the Grammys

Listeners who have long wondered why the U.K. gets to use the annual Mercury Prize as an excuse to celebrate some innovative, recent recording of note, while America is stuck with the Grammys, are about to be vindicated. Organizers behind this year’s inaugural American Music Prize have banded together to give a gaggle of handpicked U.S. critics and judges (including Rolling Stone’s Nathan Brackett and David Fricke) the chance to honor an artist who will receive a résumé-boosting garland — as well as a $25,000 cash prize.


The hook for the stateside contest is that it’s meant to award the best debut album of the foregoing year. The 2016 prize has been given to saxophonist-composer Kamasi Washington and his 2015 triple-CD odyssey, The Epic, which was the first jazz release to cross over to mainstream music audiences in some time. (It also holds the No. 41 slot on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2015 list.) The Epic beat out 11 other strong AMP nominees, including Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, Leon Bridges’ Coming Home, Shamir’s Ratchet and Tweedy’s Sukierae.

The possibility of a breakout year for Washington was primed, in part, by the saxophonist’s work on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. But The Epic still had to make good on the enthusiasm that fans of Lamar’s jazz-inflected opus brought to it — and managed to do so with its novel synthesis of soul-jazz classicism, R&B fusion, Washington’s own tenor-sax soloing, and his soaring writing for a string section and choir.

Rolling Stone spoke with Washington on the phone not long after he found out he had been selected as the winner of the American Music Prize, but before the results were announced on Wednesday morning. He shared his thoughts on his recent breakout success, watching Lamar’s unforgettable Grammy performance and his plans for his next album.

This award follows a big year for you. When a rush of success occurs in that way, does it affect your creative process or change how you think of what you’re doing in the short term?
I was actually on the road when I found out [about the American Music Prize]. And I felt, you know, it was very cool! [Laughs] When you’re writing music, you don’t really know how it’s going to be received. All the appreciation definitely inspires you to keep pushing. It’s been amazing, the reception and the success and the milestones for my career, for sure. I mean, for me, I’m trying not to let all this … distract me too much. I’m trying to just keep pushing on the things I’ve been wanting to do in my life and in music. And think of new things to do!

Does it feel different, these days, to be playing jazz for sold-out club audiences?
I look at it as something that I’ve wanted to have happen. Just in general: people opening up to this music. I think there’s a bigger sign there. Like, going from being open to jazz to just being kind of more open in general. And I think that’s a good thing, across the board.

I think the open mind is the one that’s reachable. You look at something like this political race or something like that, and you see that there’s a lot of closed minds out there. And with closed minds also come closed eyes, closed ears and everything else. And so people becoming open to jazz … It’s a very self-expressive, very inclusive music. It’s rarely about one individual. And I think that that energy — that idea as it spreads amongst people — is a sign of other things being there as well. So for me, being a part of that is … I don’t know. When I think about it, it kinda freaks me out a little bit [laughs]. But even more, I get excited about it. The door is open. It’s great. I look at it as an opportunity. And I haven’t really had a lot of time to freak out.  “You look at something like this political race … and you see that there’s a lot of closed minds out there,” says Washington. Imago/Zuma

Speaking of opportunities for the music, I’m guessing you saw your sometime collaborators Kendrick Lamar and saxophonist Terrace Martin performing at the Grammys.
Oh, absolutely. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life!

What does it mean to see artists like Lamar and Martin creating those theatrical, political images as part of a network television broadcast?
Yeah, things like that happening — on that stage — it’s a sign from the world that counterbalances some other things, you know? It’s definitely a sign of the world heading in a cool direction, in some ways.

And when you’re thinking of, let’s say the “less cool” directions, you mean the presidential race?
Yeah. Like, Donald Trump being at the forefront of that, on the Republican side, is a bit daunting. Just considering some of the statements he’s made. But you know, life is balance like that. One side is getting totally out of whack. And music is kinda getting more in tune to what’s happening.

Does the current public conversation around hip-hop and jazz — coming out of the response to your own record as well as To Pimp a Butterfly — feel like it really “gets” the connection between the traditions?
Well, I think that it’s a relationship that people talk about being new. But it’s something that’s always been there. You know, if you listen to so many of the great hip-hop records from the past, there are always jazz samples in there. So someone in there has an awareness and an understanding of jazz.

And the energy of hip-hop and the energy of jazz are coming from a similar place. The whole repurposing of music: the way hip-hop uses samples to create new songs, and in jazz, how we take show tunes and turn them into standards. And thinking about what jazz was in the bebop era — it was our way of expressing our intellect and expressing who we were. The thing about hip-hop is, like, that the instruments were taken out of schools. But: You might have taken the instruments out of schools, but we’ll take the records and sing over them! Hip-hop and jazz have always been intertwined. Even the G-funk thing. You listen to The Chronic, there’s flute solos and everything. It’s always been there.

And going back even further, with the original P-Funk material, you’ve got keyboardist Bernie Worrell’s experience with improvisation and music theory feeding into that rich sound.
Oh, yeah. Funk in general — I mean, we give it a different name. We called it something else, which was fine. But it could have easily been called jazz, you know? It definitely fits all the criteria. “If you listen to so many of the great hip-hop records from the past, there are always jazz samples in there,” Washington says. Mike Park

The Epic was recorded a while back. How has your playing changed since then? Especially with all the touring you’ve been doing?
Ah, I’m much more comfortable with myself. I was getting there, when we were recording The Epic. But since then … when you play music, there’s almost like a third entity that kind of tells you what the music wants you to do. You either listen to it or you don’t. And a lot of times, you know like as a musician, you want to show what you can do. And sometimes that’s not always in line with what the music wants. So there’s that. And harmonically, I definitely opened myself up. I’ve changed up in the way that I approach, on a technical level, certain things. On the newer songs I’m writing right now, I’m not thinking in a diatonic sense. … They’re not in any particular kind of key. It opens up a different approach.

Do you have a timeline for recording a follow-up to The Epic?
You know, I’m trying to get to the studio in the next couple of months. I’m going to Hawaii and Australia — and [so maybe] before that and after that. In my mind, I have plans for more large-ensemble stuff: doing some brass ensembles and not just things with the choir. … It’s hard to say exactly; it’s all in my head right now. … I’ve been messing around with recording myself over and over again. Like a 32-piece saxophone thing. Just for a demo, for a song. And I’m like, “Hey, that sounds cool. Maybe it’s something I want to do for real.”

I also have this graphic novel that I’m working on — this story that inspired me to put out my album in its entirety, instead of reducing it down to a single CD. I had a dream [with] a story that encompassed all the songs [on The Epic], which really led me to have the conviction that I was really going to put it out. So I’m creating a graphic novel for that. I’m trying to help my friends — who also recorded albums when I was recording my album — put their albums out. And it’s a [huge] task — though I’ve done it twice in L.A. — to do a live show that has the full strings and the choir and the full band [behind The Epic]. But I want to try to get that out to other places, outside of L.A. as well.

Maybe the prize money can help with that.
Yeah, it definitely makes it easier — especially when I’m thinking about brass ensembles for my next record — to not have to think about budget. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing, but I’m not always so practical in my musical endeavors.

Guns N’ Roses Tap Alice in Chains for Las Vegas Shows

Alice in Chains will open for Guns N’ Roses during the first two dates of the band’s highly anticipated reunion. The pair of hard rock groups will join forces at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on April 8th and 9th, one week before GN’R headlines Coachella.

Though Guns N’ Roses have been actively touring in recent years, singer Axl Rose has been the only member of the original lineup to remain in the group. The reunion this year marks the return of guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan, who both had high-profile feuds with Rose following their respective departures.

Guitarist Izzy Stradlin, who co-founded the group in 1985 with childhood friend Rose, was the first member of the classic lineup to comment on the reunion, telling Rolling Stone that he has “no involvement” in the live shows or potential new music. He did not expand on why he would not participate.

The Las Vegas dates will take place just before the 14th anniversary of Alice in Chains’ singer Layne Staley’s death. The band reformed in 2006 with singer William DuVall, who has released two albums with the band since he joined. The band toured over the course of July and August last year. In November, members of the band performed in Seattle at an EMP Museum tribute to Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page alongside GN’R’s McKagan, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, the Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson and Page himself.

The Hunting Party Linkin Park Review 2014

If you’re like me, you can’t believe that Linkin Park just released their sixth studio album, well, technically it releases on June 17, 2014. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy early of The Hunting Party by Linkin Park in order to provide this review. As an early adult I remember rocking out to songs such as “Numb”, “Breaking the Habit”,”Papercut” and “One Step Closer”. In fact, a lot of people did as Hybrid Theory and Meteora sold over a total of 15 million copies in the US alone since 2000. More recently they released Minutes to Midnight in 2007, A Thousand Suns in 2010, and Living Things in 2012.

Mike Shinoda described this album as being “Visceral” and stated on his blog recently that he wrote this record due to the fact that people were losing faith in rock music. Supposedly, he threw out the softer demos and took on the challenge of saving the genre of rock that has unquestionably gone downhill as of late. “Why can’t Linkin Park go back to the heavy guitars, scratching, screaming and rapping,” asked everyone on the internet. Well, our persistent complaining has finally paid off, besides the scratching. (I wonder what exactly Mr. Hahn does in the band these days?) Linkin Park is back and better than they’ve ever possibly been. Perhaps the energy they brought from their sideprojects with Chester recording with Stone Temple Pilots and Mike’s Fort Minor rapping, singing and producing has contributed to this explosion of sounds on The Hunting Party. After their dubstep, techno and soft rock phase passed they went back to their roots and their earlier sound. Thankfully they’ve provided us with 45 minutes of excellent music.

1 – “Keys To The Kingdom” Loud, energetic, new formula between Mike and Chester sharing vocals. Intense rapping and just fun to listen to. This could be their best album opener; it’s in contention with “Papercut” and “Lost in the Echo”. 10/10

2 – “All For Nothing” (feat. Page Hamilton) Very catchy, this was the first song I really grabbed onto due to the aggressive rapping by Mike Shinoda. Page Hamilton’s chorus over the screaming of Bennington results in a very satisfying track. 10/10

3 – “Guilty All The Same” (feat. Rakim) This song was our first signal of where this album was going sonically. It has a really cool riff and Chester Bennington sounds extremely raw. To me, this reminds me of Chester on his latest Stone Temple Pilots album High Rise. Rakim is the guest rapper on this track and he has a nice flow. Lyrically, Rakim’s part fits nicely within the context of the song. 8.5/10

4 – “The Summoning” An interlude. It eventually leads to some screaming and a very nice drum solo by Rob Bourbon. Not sure why we’re hearing a kid hit a baseball at the end of the track, but again, I’m no musical genius. 7/10

5 – “War” This song contains a lot of punk elements and it is very raw. Chester is screaming over a hard guitar driven beat. Again, Bourbon just kills it on the drums here. Really nice guitar riff from Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda. This is a completely new, and unique sound for them. 9/10

6 – “Wastelands” This song almost sounds like it could have been on their sophomore album, Meteora. Suffice to say, it brings the rock and rap back and that’s what most of the fans wanted- their old unique formula. 9/10

7 – “Until It’s Gone” Kind of sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of the album. It is the most radio-friendly track on the album, though. Pretty catchy even though lyrically it repeats the same chorus of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. 7/10

8 – “Rebellion” (feat. Daron Malakian) This sounds like a System of a Down song from the onset. Daron’s influence can be sensed from the very beginning of the track which leads to a very energetic song. Mike’s chorus gives it a punkish/soft vibe and then the chorus comes in to kick you in the mouth. The bridge will win back fans of the Hybrid Theory and Meteora days. 9.5/10

9 – “Mark The Graves” This is your class love-it-or-hate-it track here. It has a long drawn-out intro that starts off very heavy. Then it transitions into a A Thousand Suns sounding verse with some synth and acappella-like singing. Eventually it leads to Bennington screaming about the dead. I personally love this song, but as I’ve looked around the internet, it’s a song that is a grower on a lot of people, at least initially. 9.5/10

10 – “Drawbar” (feat. Tom Morello) A short instrumental with Tom Morello laying down some softer guitar. The piano is very beautiful in this song. For me, this is the calm before the storm. It is very calming and beautiful as an instrumental. It reminds me of a Reanimation interludes because they were so piano-driven. 8/10

11 – “Final Masquerade” This song is sort of reminiscent of ‘Valentine’s Day’ from their album Minutes to Midnight. It’s softer, Chester is signing nicely over a pop yet moody beat. Lyrically, I think this is a dark track and it fits the overall vibe of a Linkin Park single circa 2007. 8.5/10

12 – “A Line In The Sand” This is probably the best Linkin Park track I’ve ever heard. This has it all, melodic singing, thrashing guitars, rapping, screaming and deep lyrics. I cannot get enough of this song. If your friend ever says Linkin Park sucks, please direct them to this song and play it as loud as you can when they’re around you. 10/10

Standout tracks: Keys to the Kingdom, All for Nothing, War, Mark the Graves, A Line in the Sand.

LOUD! Seriously, this is their hardest sounding record to date. Yes, even more guitar, drumming and screaming than Hybrid Theory or Meteora.

Their old formula has changed. No longer is it verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus structure on every track.

Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington take turns sharing the spotlight. Nobody is dominate here vocally although Chester shines when he decides to scream his lungs out. Even at age 38, he’s still got it. Shinoda shows us a little bit of his Fort Minor energy by aggressively rapping on “Keys to the Kingdom”, “All for Nothing”, and “Wastelands”.

Positives: Every song is diverse; nothing sounds too similar on this album.

Guests featured on the album included Rakim, Page Hamilton, Daron Malakion, and Tom Morello.

Interludes tie nicely into the next song.

Production value: very raw, in-your-face and natural which is a shift compared to their earlier albums.

Negatives: I’m nitpicking here but interesting random sounds at the of a few songs. Not sure what their purpose is. Maybe they’ll shed light on their decision to include those? Sometimes it’s cool to just have a record without feeling like you need to fast forward through sections at the end of the song.

Some songs seem like they don’t belong. Until It’s Gone sticks out like a sore thumb. They described this album as being “visceral” but the simplicity of the lyrics and repetitive nature of the song left me a bit disappointed there. Final Masquerade, while a major improvement in the lyrical department, also felt like it was too mellow for this thrashing album.

Bottom Line:Amazing album. If you like rock, alternative, rap or music in general, I think you’ll like it. This is not top 40 pop Linkin Park, this is a true, rich and edgy Linkin Park. 9/10

Make sure to check out Linkin Park on their tour this summer with Thirty Seconds to Mars and AFI called the Carnivores Tour.

Adjusting The Neck And Truss Rod Of Your Guitar

The Importance of a Properly Adjusted Neck

One of the more difficult things to adjust by yourself on a guitar is adjusting the neck, it is also one where you can do actual damage to the guitar if you’re not careful. Most electric and acoustic guitars are reinforced with a metal truss rod, which runs the length of the neck, One end of the truss rod will be secured by a seating bolt, and the other end will usually have an Allen wrench socket. Some older guitars may be fitted for a Philips head screwdriver.

There are two things which can go wrong when making this adjustment, but if you go carefully they can be easily avoided. The first is over tightening the rod, which either breaks the rod or wrings the seating bolt out. The second is loosening the truss rod too much so it comes completely unscrewed from the seating bolt. If this happens, it is extremely hard to get the rod re-seated into the seating bolt.

A properly adjusted neck is essential for a well playing guitar, and all the other procedures for getting your guitar in the best playing condition are dependent on a properly adjusted neck. This includes setting the action and making sure the intonation is accurate.

The neck should be either perfectly straight, or be curved very slightly towards the front of the guitar – this slight curve is called relief. If the curve towards the front of the guitar is too great, the action will not be consistent, and the strings will get further away from the fretboard as you get closer to the body of the guitar.

Making the Adjustments

If the neck is curved towards the back of the guitar it will make the instrument almost unplayable. The adjustments are actually quite easy – just be sure to go very slow, and adjust the guitar by turning the truss rod only ¼ of a full turn at once.

Depending on the guitar, the end with the Allen wrench socket will be either at the headstock (usually under a small plastic plate) or at the body end of the guitar. On most electrics, the adjustment socket will be at the headstock. On most acoustics it will be located where the neck joins the body of the guitar – just look inside the soundhole of the acoustic and you should be able to see where the Allen wrench will fit into the truss rod.

In either case, turning the Allen wrench clockwise will tighten the truss rod, counter clockwise and it will loosen it. Tightening the rod will make the neck flex backwards, away from the front of the guitar. If the neck has to great a curvature towards the front of the guitar (which is the usual case for a neck that needs adjustment) you will want to tighten the truss rod.

Before making the adjustments, loosen the strings slightly.

Take care though – it is always a good idea to first loosen the truss rod a ¼ or ½ a turn before starting the tightening procedure. If the neck has been out of adjustment for a long period of time, it may need a little extra coaxing as well.

After loosening the truss rod, tighten it back to its original starting position and then tighten it an additional ¼ turn. If there seems to be no change in the position of the neck, lay the guitar face up on your lap so the neck is laying over one of your legs about halfway up the neck, and then gently press both ends of the neck down. Do this very gently, tighten the truss rod another ¼ turn, and then retune the guitar.

After this initial adjustment, hold the guitar up vertically and look down the side of the neck to see if it has straightened sufficiently – remember, a slight amount of inward curvature (or relief) is OK, and sometimes necessary.

If the neck is bowed backwards (away from the front of the guitar) follow the same procedure, except loosen the rod instead of tightening it. Most adjustments to get the neck straight or with an acceptable amount of relief will only take ½ to ¾ of a turn, in ¼ turn increments.

When Professional Help is Needed

If the neck has a hump in it, as opposed to being curved to sharply, or if the neck is twisted to either side, it will usually require the attention of a repair shop, and may need to be replaced, but this happens very rarely.

Remember – treat truss rod adjustments gently, and do them slowly. If you follow these simple steps, this really is a simple procedure, and will be one more skill in your toolbox that will allow you to maintain and fix your own guitar!

Andy writes for The Gaston Guitarist, a blog about all things musical!