Favorite blog posts, November 2017

Hercules stand clip modification

I made a small modification to my Hercules instrument stands so I could clip them onto my instrument cases for easier carrying.

The stands all have this same yellow sort of teddy-bear-head piece on the bottom:

Remove the nut from the center of the bear’s forehead:

I bought a handful of these. They are almost the right thing for the job:

…but they don’t quite fit: the holes are too small. The metal seemed fairly soft and not too thick, so I managed to open up the holes a bit with a handheld drill and a 1/4″ wood-drilling bit. It would probably be safer and more precise to use a drill press and a proper metal-drilling bit.

Or, even better, can anyone recommend a premade part with two 1/4″ (65mm) holes about 1″ (3cm) apart, no thicker than about 1/16″ (1mm), preferably without sharp corners?

Anyway, with the holes slightly enlarged, put the part in place and replace the nut.

Add a small carabiner.

Done:

This worked well on all my Hercules stands, with a minor modification for the bassoon/bass clarinet stand. The “forehead” bolt was too short to get the nut back on with the extra piece in place, so I installed it off-center. It works fine.

I’d be curious to hear about your favorite equipment modifications in the comments.

Be suspicious of instrument bling

photo, Ayaaa

If you are considering buying the newest, hottest instrument, accessory, gadget, etc., it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:

  • Is this item made out of materials that are usually used for fine jewelry or the dashboards of luxury cars?
  • How likely is it that the most visually-attractive materials also happen to have the ideal acoustical qualities? Is there really a good reason to believe that this particular material sounds better than other materials that happen to be less pretty and less expensive? Is there some reason to believe this couldn’t be made from practical and low-cost materials like steel or aluminum or oak or birch, or any of the incredible and endlessly varied synthetic materials?
  • Does the item come in a variety of materials at a variety of price points, with the most expensive materials being pushed as the best-sounding?
  • Does the marketing pitch sound like it might really be describing how the material looks, rather than sounds? “The brilliance of silver,” “the smooth dark sound of grenadilla,” “the rich sound of our proprietary gold alloy,” “the complex character of our highly-figured maple.”

You should use the instruments that work best for you. If precious metals and fragrant exotic woods make you happy and you can afford them, then you should have them. But be careful not to get caught up in a sales pitch that is more about bling than about real benefits.

When you’re too sick for a lesson

photo, Ankarino

Sometimes I have students cancel their lessons due to seemingly very minor, manageable health concerns (physical or mental). Other times students drag themselves to lessons when they are clearly miserable and contagious.

The better approach is clearly somewhere in the middle, but my newest college students are usually living away from their parents and the formal rules of high school for the first time and sometimes aren’t used to making those judgment calls on their own. Continue reading “When you’re too sick for a lesson”