Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: Hercules KS400B Keyboard Stand

Following up on my review of the Quik-Lok Monolith keyboard stand....

The next keyboard stand on my "demo list", the Hercules KS400B, arrived today.

Amazon has it here:

What attracted me to this stand was the neatly compact way it folds, as well as the simple, easy to adjust features, enabling it to be raised/lowered and widened/narrowed quickly. This is probably the most compact keyboard stand I've seen, when folded. The adjustable latches, grips, etc. are super-easy to use. As with the Monolith, no one local seems to stock this one, so I had to order it on spec.

Despite it's specs on paper, this one is a disappointment, as when its raised to standing height, the keyboard rocks and sways while being played. This seems to be inherent in the design, and so I can't recommend this stand for musicians who play standing up. The "give" is simply unacceptable. Since I do often play standing, this one is being sent back ASAP. I had anticipated taking it on a few gigs this coming week, but it is simply unusable for playing while standing, so there's no point.

The stand does work for playing while seated, but all things considered, I'd say the the Monolith is a better choice for my purposes.

Amazon has the Monolith here.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Quik-Lok Monolith Keyboard Stand

This season, I've been exploring keyboard stand options. For many years, I used an Ultimate Support Apex stand. Ultimate Support used to have great customer service, but in recent years, my experience has been less positive. One of the support arms on my Apex broke at a gig a while back, and when Ultimate quoted me $60 to replace it, I decided to try some other stands, to see if they might better serve then the Apex, which I had some other issues with (see below).

My most recent experiment has been with the Quik-lok Monolith single-tier stand, which I've used for most of my gigs this season. Amazon has the stand here.


Before I share my thoughts on this stand, here, in no particular order, are the features I'd like to see in a keyboard stand.

1) Reliability
2) Portability - needs to fold into an easily transportable shape.
3) Design - looks good/presents well on stage.
4) Able to easily adjust height for playing while sitting or standing. (up to 36" high)
5) Does not obstruct my view of the audience
6) Cable management - allows for cables to be made unobtrusive to the audience
7) Wide enough to support 76 and 88 key keyboards.
8) Stable - no rocking, swaying, or bouncing.
9) Accessories (if any are available) that make sense/work as advertised.
10) Small footprint
11) Room for proper positioning of foot pedals
12) Not too heavy
13) Leave room for the player's legs while seated, so they won't be pressed up against a crossbar.
14) A carrying case.

It is surprising to me that no one seems to make a stand that fits all of these criteria. (It's also surprising that most local stores do not carry any of the more interesting stand options, like the Monolith, necessitating ordering on spec. Since these stands are heavy, it's not generally worth returning them, as it can cost $40 or so in shipping.) Most stores carry the Apex, and some variations of X-stands, all of which are less then ideal, due to all of the weight being focused onto the retaining pin, which can easily collapse.

To illustrate, my old Apex stand failed in the following ways.

1) It was less stable than I would have liked. Especially when playing outdoors on grass etc.
2)The mic boom attachment picked up keyboard noise and amplified it.
3) The keyboard would bounce/shake when played hard, or when an 88 key board was used.
4) The feet made it impossible to place pedals in ideal position.
5) With time, I started to feel like it was a barrier between me and the audience. My current preference is for a more "open" feeling setup.

After using the Quik-lok Monolith on quite a few gigs (it's been a busy season), here are my thoughts.

1) This stand is simply the most stable keyboard stand I've played, and I've tried quite a few. Unless I actively try to get some swaying going while playing, the keyboard stays solidly in place on the stand. And even if I try to make it sway, the give is minimal and totally playable.

2) It is relatively easy to adjust the height, making it possible to say, play a cocktail hour and wedding ceremony while seated and then raise the stand to play for dancing.

3) It looks good visually. However, to me it looks better (more visually balanced design-wise)  in seated position that when raised for standing. In either position, it feels open.

4) It folds easily/simply for moving on offstage, but does not fold into a convenient form for carting around. If I needed a house stand at a venue, and be able to store it nearby and move it on and offstage as needed, I'd highly recommend the Monolith. However, for moving in/out of cars, loading on carts, etc. the Monolith is less than ideal. It folds into an awkward shape that does not balance well on a cart, it is wider than most doors, and the legs don't lock closed, so they tend to swing open while you are lift in/carrying the stand.

5) There is no cable management system with the stand, and its open design means that all of the cables coming out of the back of your board are visible and disorganized. It's possible to snake them along your keyboard and the legs, but that takes some doing and a lot of jury-rigging. On the Apex, this was a non-issue, because the column hid cables easily.

6) There is plenty of leg room, for playing while seated and for positioning pedals properly. No worries about banging your knee or shin here.

7) There are no accessories available, apart from an optional second tier for another keyboard.

8) The stand is solid, and heavy, but not too heavy to lift/carry.

Boottom line, I wouldn't recommend the Monolith for a gigging musician who needs to move the stand between venues, frequently in/out of cars, etc. as I did this season. It makes for occasionally awkward load-ins. However, if you're looking for a solid keyboard stand that is very stable and looks good for home or studio use, or for a permanent installation, the Quik-lok Monolith is well worth a look.

I kind of wish they'd shaped it a bit differently, so that it'd sit on a cart for easy transport and fit through doorways. (And so that it could be put in a case.) Also, that they'd put a lock on the legs so that they could be locked closed for travel. Perhaps Quik-lok will make an updated tweaked version. If so, I'd likely give it another shot. For now, my Monolith will be used for the nome studio and the very occasional gig, where the load-in and visual needs of the gig make it sensible to use.

In the meantime, I'm going to order another stand none of the local dealers carry.... probably the Hercules KS400B which I have no experience with and which I haven't been able to find locally.

Amazon has that one here:

To sum up:

The Monolith is a great looking choice for either a home studio setup, or a stage setting where the stand needs to be moved on/off stage often. It's easy to adjust and VERY stable, with plenty of room for proper placement of pedals. I would highly recommend it for those uses.

However, it is not portable for constant gigging  because it folds to an odd shape that does not easily stack on my Rack N Roller cart in a way that will fit through that average doorway. Also, it doesn't lock closed when folded, which is not a big issue when moving it a short distance, but is again a pain when loading in/out of the typical club-date venues.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Peeps

It's been a very busy season.. Here are some peeps for y'all!

"The Queer Mashgiach"
We've met this guy a bunch at gigs and mentioned him before.
This convo was too good to pass up...
QM: "I see you know all the pretty Jewish songs. Do you know standards too? Starts singing "Summertime".
DM: [starts comping]
QM: "Hi! That's a lovely color on you. That dress is fabulous! Is it cranberry? It looks cranberry to me."
QM: "Summertime, and the living is easy..."
We can't make this stuff up!

"Balbelili Guy"
This peep won't just do the slow song he's been asked to sing, because "I'm not just the slow song guy". So, after plowing through a slow song, he sings a medley of the choruses of Balbeli Oto and Yalili, switching back and forth between the two as though they were the A and B of one song.

"The Sheet Music Helper"
This peep comes over during the dance set, and decides to helpfully pick up the discarded piece of sheet music on the bandstand floor and hand it to us. (It was the fanfare, which we've already played.) Never mind the fact that we're reading another chart, and have not indicated in any way that we want to be handed this music. When we say that we do not need it and that it's ok for him to just leave it on the floor, he simply can't accept this, continuing to attempt to get our attention, and show us where he's putting it down on a chair near the bandstand.

"The Attendance Monitor"
This peep monitors the bandstand, noting and commenting if any musician is not on the bandstand while the band is playing. This self-appointed peep wants to know "where the 2nd guitar player went", for instance. (Actual question). We're tempted to tell him exactly which stall in the bathroom he's in.

"The Mind-Changer"
This peep is special. They meet with you before the event, discuss repertoire, requests, etc. and all is cool. Then, at the event, they change everything on you. When the "mind-changer" is the mother (in-law) and these last minute changes conflict with the bride's plans, look for some sparks to fly.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Lipa @ The Forward

Ezra Glinter writes "My Lipa Schmeltzer Problem, and Ours". That's more like it.

Analyzing Lipa's Video

Over at the Forward, Josh Nathan-Kazis posts "Lipa Schmeltzer's Uncanny Valley." I don't agree with much of what he writes, but any article that includes the following sentence deserves a mention here. "If Avraham Fried is Elmer Fudd, vaguely nodding towards mainstream pop, Schmeltzer’s “Hang Up The Phone” is the Japanese robot, down at the valley’s spookiest depths."

From the mailbag...

R' David ben Yosef Goldin writes about Marc Shapiro on Kol Isha:
Mr. Shapiro: "So now I ask my fair-minded readers: Is Artscroll’s statement that Metzudat Tziyon translates שרים ושרות as “singers” accurate? I think the answer is clearly “no”. Metzudat Tziyon translates the words in question as “male singers and female singers,” and yet—don’t tell me you are surprised—in Artscroll this morphs into “singers”. Why would Artscroll fudge the translation? The answer is obvious. They don’t want people to think that Solomon would have listened to women singing."

Your lack of erudition and bias is outstanding. The English word "singers" certainly implies "male and female singers". It is not exclusively male. It is however plural, which is significant to refute your groundless conclusion. There is no objection in halacha to listening to a group of women singing, especially if their voices are combined with those of men singing. This is based on the Talmudic principle of tre kali mi mishtame'ah. Thus, there is absolutely no reason for Artscroll (or anyone else) to not want "people to think that Solomon would have listened to women singing". Perhaps Artscroll's citation of the M"T is incomplete, but it is not inaccurate or misleading --- except perhaps to he/she who wishes to be mislead.

Methinks the rabbi needs to work on his reading comprehension. He simply has no point.

As well, his misrepresentation of the acceptance of the principal of "trei kali" (which he misquotes; that third word should be "lo") is pure apologetics and not reflective of actual practice in "Chareidi Artscroll-ville", where women are not heard singing in mixed company, with the possible exception of Shabbos zemiros among some (perceived) lenient families.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Miami Boys Choir Siyum Hashas Video

This is just painful. It starts with a poor translation of the Gemara and goes downhill from there.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Visualize Whirled Peas

Thrown Peas posts "Good News from the Yiddish World", a nice roundup of Yiddish happenings, including music, with video examples.

Long Time Passing

A seventeen year-old composer shares his thoughts on the state of Jewish music. Cute 'graf:
At this point, it is almost over. The greats are nearing their ends, new artists with mediocre voices and a lot of money come and go every other week, the actual talent can’t afford to produce because no one buys albums anymore: people just rip, burn, download and steal; the artists lose piles of money. Wedding introductions and interludes are all non-Jewish anyway, and not to clean songs. What will be with wedding music, you ask? We have enough songs with Freilach and Hora beats to last us for a week-long wedding. Anyway, with what weddings have become, (concerts with food), no one dances anyway! Everyone just stands around the bandstand watching and videoing, until the kalla’s father realizes that his hiring that famous singer for the extra couple of thousand didn’t enhance his simcha, it ruined it!...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Pop Goes The Chassid!

When Judaism Becomes A Drug.

From the mailbag...

Joshua writes:
Love your blog. Since you sometimes discuss non-Jewish origins of Jewish songs, could I ask you a question? I recall that one of Avraham Fried's ballads from a semi-recent album was a direct copy of a contemporary (French?) pop song. Do you know what I'm referring to?
I'm not aware of Avraham Fried lifting a French song. Perhaps you're thinking of MBD. He rewrote the English version of "Daddy Dear", which was originally a French song called L'Homme Et L'Enfant

L'Homme Et L'Enfant

Little Child (Daddy Dear)

MBD version

Falling Off The (Band)Wagon

Over at the 5 Towns Jewish Times, Rabbi Yair Hoffman writes An Open Letter to Matisyahu. Meh.

Nice Move, Madonna!

Madonna invites her Israeli warm-up act to open concert in Istanbul.

Playing Gay Weddings

Over at Fink or Swim... A Suggestion for Orthodox Jewish Political Activists Regarding Same Sex Marriage.

Check this:
But in the end, wouldn’t it be better if religious vendors were able to set aside their personal beliefs for the sake of civility and friendship? I mean, there is no prohibition that I am aware of in orthodox Judaism that would prevent a photographer from working a gay wedding. There is no problem for a tailor to hem a gown or cuff some pants for a gay wedding either. So I guess what I am saying is that while I respect religious beliefs very much, I don’t believe that one’s religious beliefs are sufficient cause to discriminate. To be clear, I am not talking about a member of the clergy performing a ceremony that does not even exist in his or her religion. I am referring to vendors who are uncomfortable working a gay ceremony. There is a difference. I don’t think anyone would expect a member of the clergy be required to perform a nonexistent ceremony. But there is no direct parallel to religious vendors.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012