Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bell Piano Upright

I received my new-to-me Bell upright piano. It is was manufactured around 1904 by the Bell Piano Company in Guelph Ontario. So far my research indicates that the company made very nice pianos with rich sounds and shipped many worldwide. How great the piano truly is remains to be seen of course, as it is very old, and is likely to have issues. The case, or outside is rough in spots, but quite tolerable, so I think I can live with how it looks in the living room.

I have already begun to disassemble it to look for problems  I am entirely new at this, so it is a learning experience as well as a challenge. I am still determining what part names are and the basics of function. Here's a picture of it opened (click on it for a larger image):

It is out of tune of course, so that will have to get remedied soon. From what I have gathered so far, the bridle straps are in bad shape, and some are broken. One was replaced with string, which I find ridiculous. The key tops are in need of care. Some are cracked, and others are worn from years of use (enjoyment). The hammer and damper pads are old, and as a result some need work, or replacement. I am hoping I can fix them myself. The hammer pads are in far better shape than the damper pads. More problems will likely rear their ugly heads as I delve further into it, but on the good side, the sound board, strings, plate and bridges seem good.

So now the adventure begins. As I am completely broke, I plan on doing much of the repairs myself (balls of steel). Not sure what to tackle first, keytops or bridle straps. I might even be able to work up enough confidence to pull out the complete action. I will post images and updates as I progress.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Missing Samples in Kontakt - A Solution

So you added a Kontakt library and now get a missing samples error.

At times you may run into an issue where Kontakt presents you with a warning about missing samples while you are attempting to use a library. Perhaps it is a new library, or you have upgraded something such as Kontakt and the issue occurred.
This happened to me after I added a new library. I received a "Missing Samples" error when I double-clicked on "Piano in Blue v2.nki" to add that particular instrument.

A window popped up and informed me I was missing samples.Yours may look similar to this:

 I used the option to manually resolve the issue by directing it to the folder for that particular library using "Browse for folder" under "Resolve Manually", which worked fine. I simply selected the directory where I had stored that particular library, and the warning window went away. I played with the instrument, and it was all there. Yay!


The next time I used Kontakt, and tried double-clicking to use that instrument as before, I was presented with the same damn error message about missing samples. It was very annoying since I know the samples are there, and they work fine. So I had to resolve the issue again by using the above mentioned method and showing Kontakt the library's folder. It worked again, but screw that, I am not doing this every time I want to use that instrument!

The Solution?     Re-save the .nki file. 

WARNING: Back up you library just in case. I would feel like shit if you lost your library.

Once I had resolved the missing samples issue again, by showing Kontakt which folder to search and everything sounded great, I did the following:

  • I clicked the "Files" box at the top of the Kontakt window.

  • From there, I looked for "Save as..." in the drop down box. It displayed the name of the NKI file I needed to fix. Mine looked like this);

  • Selecting that nki file presents a dialog box.  Here you need to click on "Patch Only" under "Save Mode", and check the box for "absolute sample paths". My "Save in" directory was nicely pre-chosen for me as the correct library folder. Check the image below.

  • I selected "Save" and confirmed I was indeed replacing the existing file. 

So there you have it. Close, and re-open Kontakt.  It should work fine now. No more annoying missing samples popup.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Meet Some of the Kids

They are mine all mine. Budget instruments? Absolutely.Suitable for me? You bet.

Yamaha F310 Acoustic

Inexpensive and perfect for an amateur like myself. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it is a budget acoustic after all.

My little description is just a bit less exciting than Yamaha's, "The F310 offers the same focus on quality, design and sound as all Yamaha acoustics and puts it in an incredibly affordable package. "

Some specs:

Spruce top
Meranti back and sides. What the hell is Meranti wood? South Asian wood. A.K.A. Luan or Philippine mahogany. Good, bad? No clue.
Nato neck. What the hell is Nato wood? It is wood from the Mora tree. Trees primary located in northern South America, and southern Central America. A bit of a drive from the manufacturing plant in Indonesia. It looks nice.
Rosewood fingerboard and bridge.

What I like about this acoustic:

It sounds beautiful. Really! It is rich and deep. It resonates nicely. I am surprised by the sound. Since I bought it 5 years ago, I could swear it sounds even better.
Fit and action are nice. It is easy to play, and was setup nicely from the factory. Very playable, if that makes any sense.
Tuning. I threw new strings on it on day one, and since then seldom re-tune. It just keeps staying in tune. It is baffling. I play it for months without needing to do nothing more than a tiny adjustment.

What I don't like about this acoustic:

Sides of the fretboard are a tad rough. I catch a bit on the fret edges nearest the higher frets. Not major, but not great.
Inlays. Obviously off center on the sides of the fretboard. Not perfect on the top, but not anywhere near as noticeable as the sides.

Are you thinking, "Didn't you check it for rough frets and all that when you bought it?"
Yes I did. It just sounded so damn good for a budget acoustic. I had to have it.

Yamaha RBX 270J Bass

  • Body: Alder
  • Neck: Bolt-on Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale: 864mm (34)
  • Frets: 24
  • Bridge: Vintage Style
  • Pickups: Split Coil x 1, Single Coil x 1
  • Controls: Front Volume, Rear Volume, Master Tone

I probably wouldn't know a good bass from a bad bass. I think it's great, for me anyways.

What I like:

It is light and easy to carry on a strap
I think it looks quite good for an inexpensive guitar
It sounds good. By that I mean that coupled with my Fender Rumble 75, it sounds good enough for a beginner like myself.
It is inexpensive. A trait shared by many of the things I own.

What I don't like:

The finish. While the natural wood look is appealing, the finishing job itself is not well done. Little bumps in numerous places show that it was likely sprayed while dust and other particles were present. You can easily feel it when yo run your fingers over the body. A shame, even for a budget guitar.
Frets could use a little work. Maybe I am getting too picky considering I am not spending more on equipment, but some of the fret work has left it a tad sharp in places.

Would I recommend it?

For a newer player, the answer is yes. Just look one over before buying (likely used by now). I would also recommend a thorough examination of current budget models.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

The guitar I love to hate

It is a guitar for new players. That doesn't necessarily make it bad. Epiphone thinks it is quite remarkable. I love their description, "Seasoned pros also love the Special II because it's a great-sounding workhorse of a guitar that allows them to leave their more expensive axes at home." I find that a little funny for some reason.

Mahogany. It's a solid guitar with an Epiphone 650R Humbucker neck pickup, and a Epiphone 700T Humbucker bridge pickup. It sports the very nice LockTone™ Tune-o-matic bridge and the LockTone™ Stopbar tailpiece What's not to like?

What I like about the Special II:

It sounds okay. No matter how I adjusted it, it was either sounding a bit to treble or a bit to bass, but still a rocking sound. No annoying hum. I think many people would have no complaints.
It is solid. You could kill someone with this thing.
It looks nice. Mine is black, and more appealing to me than the other finishes, but that is just me. Chrome hardware stands out nicely.

What I don't like about the Special II:

Tuning pegs. Ya, I know it is a cheap guitar and most like it have poor pegs, but it is a bit of a pain to tune so much.
Rough frets.

Now to be fair.

This guitar would be fine for a new player. Just take your time and get one with a smoother feel around the fret edges.

I just really don't like mine. I can't really put my finger on it, I just don't like it. Is it the rosewood fretboard (a tiny bit rough, but not bad), or is it just me? Neck radius? 

Did you ever buy a guitar and within weeks realize it just feels all wrong? I did.

It is a perfectly good guitar. It really is just me. (This is starting to sound like a bad breakup.) The Special II just doesn't feel right to me. Of the small number of guitars I own, this one just isn't fun to play. We just weren't made for each other. Like a failed movie romance, we need time apart.

I need another Tele.

I appreciate any comments.

My First Camera Purchase

The first, and only film camera I ever purchased is my trusty old Minolta X-370.

It was inexpensive (not to me) but described as very capable at the time. For some it may feel square, and lack a bunch of features, but I love it. The small LED indicators in the viewfinder made the Pentax K1000 I used in high school seem primitive. I have much love for the Pentax K1000,

The Minolta X-370 required a couple batteries, but I could live with that. The X-370 has aperture priority and metered manual modes. I sometimes  used the AF lock, but mainly used manual as much as possible. While I had plans to save up and upgrade from the X-370, I didn't. It worked, it felt nice to me, and I grew used to it.

Here it is. It's dusty and has the old cheap lens I used way too much.

Minolta X-370

Garage Sale Camera Finds

I love finding old cameras at garage sales. Nothing expensive, rare, or museum quality, just old and interesting cameras.

The feeling I get when I see a dusty camera box on a sale table is great. I can't wait to see what it is. They aren't just metal, glass, and plastic to me. They represent someones desire to record their life and the lives around them. These cameras saved memories. They may have been held in children's hands (like the Brownies were intended), or fiddled with by Grandpa on a Christmas morning.

I need more. Maybe one day I will get lucky and find a real gem, but until them my current garage sale oldies are just fine.

I have included a couple of the 8mm cameras I have found as well. Obviously not still image cameras, but I couldn't resist. They just look so great to me.

Here we go. You can click on any image to zoom in for a better look.

Kodak Starmite

Manufactured from 1960 to 1963. Notice the nifty built-in flash? It has the typical Dakon lens which is very likely plastic.
Uses 127 roll film and allowed the user to switch the camera between color or black and white.

Kodak Starflash

The Starflash was made in black in the US from March 1957-June 1965. I am unsure of the dats of manufacture in Canada.
It produced 4x4cm images on 127 film. It also sported the inexpensive Dakon lens. Like the Starmite, and Starlet,
it also let the user switch between color or black and white via a toggle of sorts at the front of the camera.

Kodak Brownie Starlet with the Supermite flash holder

Apparently these came about as early as 1956 and were produced until 1961. It has the typical plastic Dakon lens.
It used the popular 127 film. Again like its familiar cousins, provided a method on the camera front to switch between color or black and white.

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye with the detachable flash holder

I like this one a lot. I think it looks great for an oldie. These were around from September 1950 to sometime in 1961.
It produced a 2x2 image on 620 film. This once cost around $7 brand new.

Kodak Duaflex

(This is likely a model I)

There were three other models, the II, III, and IV. It has a Kodet Lens and used 620 roll film. These were introduced as early as 1947 in the US, and likely a couple years later in Canada.
Some Dualflex models used either a simple fixed focus 75mm f/15 Kodet lens, or with a 72mm f/8 Kodar triplet lens.

Kodak Brownie SIX-16

This camera was introduced in July 1946 and was discontinued in November 1951.
It produced a 2 ½ x 4 ¼ inche image on 616 film.

Lens: Meniscus
Shutter: Rotary
This went for the whopping price of about $4


Made by Great Wall Plastic Factory in Kowloon Hong Kong. What a great name for a company.
This cheap camera abused 120 film by leaking light and having a very low quality lens.
These were very, very cheap. On numerous occasions these were literally given away at some events.
Did I mention cheap? This thing feels like a toy, and not really like something that might produce pictures.

Ansco Panda

Just a simple plastic camera that was popular with kids. It came about in 1946. It shoots 620 film (or "Ansco No. 20" film). It weighs less than a doughnut.

Ansco Memar Pronto

This is a vintage, German made, 1954 Ansco Memar Pronto Camera
It shoots 35mm film, and is supposedly capable of decent images. I had horrible luck finding details on this camera.
My Internet search results were page after page of sales links. I love the look camera, and I like the nice weight.

Polaroid Automatic Land Camera 430

I love it.

It has auto exposure and nifty looking bellows. It was a popular camera even though it was of cheaper quality than its 250 and 450 cousins. It has a rigid viewfinder and a plastic lens. All that said, it's very cool. Why? It produced a 7.2×9.5cm print on Polaroid 100-series packfilm in about a minute. I am definitely dating myself here, but I can remember exactly when an adult took my first Polaroid picture and handed it to me. Watching it develop into a photo of my smiling face was magical. I t blew my preschool mind.

The amazing folks at Impossible even have new film available for those diehard Polaroid people out there.

Argus Cinemax 8EE 8mm Camera

Very cool. I know, it's not a still image camera, but it still interests me.
Like the rest of my oldies, this one is not very valuable, but I love it. It is 8mm, and it works by first winding it up.
It included a detachable handle (not shown). While hard to see in my  photo, on the front, under the lens are two buttons, T and W, for tele or wide adjustments.
Very solid. From what I can gather, these are from the early Sixties. A year or two older than me.

Sankyo Super CM-400

I know, not a still image camera, but still kind of cool. It's one of the 4 old 8mm cameras I own.

This camera was made in Japan by Sankyo Seiki and marketing began in 1969.
The lens is a Sankyo Zoom f: 1.8 \ F: 8.5-35 mm with a zooming ratio: 4.1x
focusing: manual, aerial, 1.3 to infinity
zooming: auto and manual.

That's it! I really need to hit some more garage sales. Maybe an old SLR is in my future

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Thinline

Long name for a guitar, right?

I just call mine Veronica.

So far my favorite. The sound of semi-hollow goodness gets me every time. After playing it for a while I quickly understood why so many reviewers recommend it, and why so many consider it as good as more expensive guitars. The tone is great. Clean, twangy, and gutsy when I need it.

What I like about the Thinline:

The sound. Even unplugged, it just sounds so damn nice.
The look. It is gorgeous. The mahogany is covered in a very nice clear finish. Everything just looks great.
The feel. Maybe I got lucky, but this guitar feels fantastic. The neck, with it's modern 9.5” radius, and smooth fretwork is a joy. It simply glides.
It is light. Being semi-hollow has more advantages than just good sound.

What I don't like about the Thinline:

Nothing. I won't be changing pickups or pegs. I won't change the bridge. I love her just as she is.
I think Tammy (my better half) is a bit jealous.

Adios Old Web Server

I finally got my domain name pointing to my blog. I was enjoying the website I rented, but frankly it is a pain in the ass.

Some fuckers decided to hack the comment plugin on the Concrete5 content management system I was usin. It was a complete mess. The fault is mine, as I should have monitored the whole thing better and not trusted plugins from the general public. Lesson learned.

I can't blame the Concrete5 people, as their default setup is quite awesome and safe (someone else made the comment plugin), and I can't blame the web host either.

So it is back to good old Blogger. I have to admit, it is much easier and Blogger hasn't been a pain in the ass, or insecure.

Now it is time to move some stuff over here. I have some really nice pictures and the beginnings of Maxwell's Tele build.

Before I forget; I know that my name as a domain name seems pretty vain. I can live with that. I waited years for some rich guy to drop (or lose?) the domain, so I could snatch it. It's mine, all mine, and the other Kevin Schicks out there can live in envy. ;-)