The 2013 Holiday Gear Guide

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter


Knowledge Of Music Inc. presents: Chromatics Music Playing Cards

(Street $7)


The aim of Knowledge of Music Inc.’s Chromatics Music Playing Cards is to teach players the fundamentals of the chromatic scale via methods of repetition of the patterns of music tones. The premise is for players to come to an understanding of the central system of music through the worry-free and entertaining method of playing card games.

The cards are based on four octaves of the chromatic scale, defined by the traditional suits – spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. Players use the cards in games that relate to constructing musical patterns like chords and scales.

The “How to Play” booklet provides detailed instructions for both solitaire and multi-player games. It includes traditional versions of classic card games and modified versions with musical spins – including Solitaire In Key, Go-Fish for Seventh Chords, and Chromatics 500 Rummy. Classic games can be played by simply replacing the traditional deck of cards with Chromatics Music Playing Cards. The booklet also includes a glossary of music-related terms. In becoming familiar with the cards, players will train themselves to be able to play chords, scales, and arpeggios next time they pick up an instrument. – A.Y.

The Chord Buddy
(Street $37)


For those eager to get started on their dreams of rock and roll shredding, blues jamming, or country plucking, learning how to play guitar has never been easier. The ChordBuddy clips onto the neck of both electric and acoustic guitars and uses four easy-to-press colored buttons to teach users how to play four chords in the key of G: C, D, G, and E minor. Each button is removable, allowing users to play the chords on their own as they learn. The ChordBuddy comes with an instructional DVD and a two-month lesson plan that teaches basic music theory and chord progressions, as well as a songbook of more than 100 tunes from various genres that can be played with the four chords, including popular ditties like “Ring Of Fire,” “Twist And Shout,” and “Hound Dog.” Though it can be used by novice players of all ages, the ChordBuddy only works on traditional right-handed, full-sized guitars, not classical or children’s guitars. It may have a limited scope, but it’s enough to get you started, and hey, it’s cheaper than guitar lessons. – EMILY MAXWELL

Olympus LS-12 Recorder
(Street $149)


The Olympus LS-14 Linear PCM handheld digital recorder packs a large feature set into a compact, well-built design that’s useful for portable recording applications. We tested the LS-14 for quick song demos, lecture recordings, interviews, and live concert recordings, and the Olympus got the job done on every count. Two cardioid microphones, set 90 degrees apart, provide excellent x/y stereo recording, with a third, omni-directional microphone in between that can be switched on or off for additional low frequency response, or 360 degree recording. The included 4 GB of internal memory is enough for most applications, but can be expanded with an SD card memory slot if needed. Three recording modes make the LS-14 like a swiss-army knife for recording.

The two main record modes are manual, and smart recording mode, accessible by the mode dial on the front of the recorder. Smart recording mode allows you to set your input recording level easily by setting a pre-record timer that will adjust to your loudness levels. Simply set the timer, then play the loudest that you’ll play. The LS-14 will automatically set the input level and start recording immediately once the timer is finished. Manual recording mode is actually pretty “smart” too. Once engaged, the LS-14 records continuously on a 2 second loop while you set your recording level. Then, once you press record, your previous 2 seconds are kept, and recording continues. This could be a great tool for making sure you don’t miss a great song introduction or count-off. – STEVE MARTIN

Korg Pitchclip Tuner
(Street $19)


This small chromatic tuner clips on to the guitar’s headstock and can be positioned either in front or in back. A red LED shows the note being tuned and a green bullet signals in-pitch tuning. The Pitchclip is small, simple to use and, most importantly (after accuracy of course), turns off after a period of inactivity, saving battery life. It’s available in a variety of colors, though we’re partial to the classic black version.   – WALTER LINDLEY


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