Gear of the Year

As the end of 2003 approaches I think is appropriate to select the single
piece of gear that has served me the best. It's a tough choice. My Blues
Junior has held up without a single problem, gig after gig. My Yamaha PA has
been utterly bullet-proof and has survived some of the seediest bars is
town. But I think I will have to give the award to my Korg Toneworks PXR4
recorder. It's a pocket sized 4 track recorder and runs on a couple of AA
batteries. It is a complicated little beast, with effects, amp modeling and
a whole slew of features I've yet to figure out. But it has a built in
condenser mic, that's amazingly good, and it will record for more than 90
minutes to a 128Meg Smartcard. My primary purpose for this device, thus far,
is recording the band live and the point of recording the band is to hear
how we sound from the audience's perspective.

It can be quite enlightening listening to oneself, gig after gig, and it can
be quite humbling. You can hear gawd-awful harp work, that at the time you
thought was a burning hot solo. You can hear yourself sing flat and sound
horrible at an emotional moment of a song. You can hear your self totally
miss the change on guitar and listen to the band awkwardly recover.

But also what you hear recording yourself gig after gig is improvement. My
harp playing has improved and my phrasing and my tone are much better. My
singing has improved, too. It had been damn difficult for me listening to
myself sing and be objective about it. After listening to myself these many
months, it's no big deal. The reason I got the recorder in the first place
is that I was told that our band's vocals sucked (and EVERYBODY thought so).
It really hurt (I'm 50 percent of those vocals) and I was at the point of
quitting the band. After recording one gig, I knew my vocals were fine. I
don't have the finest voice in the world, but it's certainly adequate for
the task at hand.

Recording the band night after night, sort of steels you against unjust
criticism. I was told that my harp tone and the tone of the lead guitar
player was shrill and unpleasant (and EVERYBODY thought so). I knew it was
B.S. I'd been listening to live recordings of our band for weeks, and I knew
what the tone sounded like. If someone hands you some valid criticism, it's
easy to take because you probably already know about it.

Currently, the main problem with the band is the rhythm section. The drummer
is way too busy, and the bass player is sleepy. Steps are being taken to
correct this. Interesting enough, the bass player and the drummer are the
ones who never listen to the band recordings.

Great gizmo, the KORG Toneworks PXR4, an utterly astounding piece of

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