Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Smart speaker with Alexa Review

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Smart speaker with Alexa Review

This is an Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Smart speaker (with Alexa) Review for those who have some form of Alexa device or are thinking of getting one. I have an Echo Dot 3rd Gen and an Amazon Echo 2nd gen and love them both.

Sound quality is the best I’ve heard on a speaker of this size!!! Definitely worth paying a little extra for this Echo Dot over the 2nd generation model. I’m not going to discuss the functionality of what Alexa has to offer as there’s tons of info already out there. For starters though, you can turn your lights on, tv on, control the volume of tv, play music, reorder products from Amazon, just by talking to Alexa. Simply say, “Alexa, order more dog food,” and Alexa places the Amazon order for you.

I’ve been a happy owner of an Amazon Echo 2nd generation and three 3rd generation Echo Dots for a year now, and love them. I’ll add some thoughts about how to choose which Echo device may be best for you. My main use is streaming music on both, either from Amazon’s music streaming (The Echo products have built in bluetooth and wifi card for talking to the internet) or via bluetooth to my iPhone. I used to use headphones to my iPhone while working out in the basement but that was a hassle. I also got sick of the smaller sound from the iPhone when working on projects while in the basement. This is what prompted the purchase of the Echo Dot…now I stream from my iPhone to the Echo Dot via bluetooth.

The most obvious update to the Echo Dot 3rd generation is the new look: it’s as if someone took a 2nd generation Dot, inflated it with an air pump, and wrapped the edge in fabric. And it’s not bad!

What’s different/updated in the 3rd Generation Dot:
1) It is slightly larger than the 2nd generation device, measuring 3.9″ wide x 1.7″ tall (2nd gen was 3.3″ wide x 1.3″ tall), and the top and bottom edges are more rounded. It is also substantially heavier at nearly twice the weight of the 2nd generation model.
2) The 2nd generation Dot came in two color options (black and white), each of which had a shiny plastic exterior that I personally thought looked a little cheap. The 3rd generation Dot has a fabric exterior which gives it a classier appearance, and it’s available in three colors: heather grey, sandstone, and charcoal. The fabric and rounded edges give the 3rd generation Dot a much softer look than its predecessor.
4) The 3rd generation Dot has a larger speaker (1.6″, versus 1.1″ on the 2nd gen), which is paired with a larger driver as well. I’ll talk below about the effect this has on audio quality.
5) The placement of the microphones is slightly different: while the 2nd generation had seven small far-field microphones on its top surface; the 3rd generation has four large microphones.

The sound quality on the Echo Dot 3rd generation is very good and very full. The sound quality on the Amazon Echo 2nd generation is larger and fuller, due to its size of course.

The Echo Dot has the BEST speaker I’ve ever heard for under $50. The functions of the echo along with the music playing functionality and the sound quality makes it a steal at this price point. It can get pretty loud, while keeping the nice punchy bass. If you like deeper bass you can feel, I recommend the Amazon Echo.

If your primary motivation for a speaker is to listen to music, go with the echo. If your budget is under $50 then go with the dot. The dot will only flourish is an enclosed space. It needs walls nearby to bounce off to add to the bass response.

I’d recommend this Echo Dot for someone who needs an echo for their kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. I use mine in the workout area of the basement, while the Amazon Echo stays in the kitchen.

amazon echo dot reviewIf you’re looking for a great-sounding Alexa unit that streams music, takes commands from Alexa, looks great and is needed for an average room, I recommend the Echo Dot.

 

Amazon echo generation 2 review

If you’re looking for a larger, full-sound you want to crank up, I recommend the Amazon Echo. I have both the Echo and Dot and love them each for what they do.

 

 

I write about anything techy, music, photography, artsy and whatever I think you may find interesting.

Steve

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I’m a GUITAR PLAYER. Check out my music and purchase here:

MIME RIOT 
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WRAITH
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 WRAITH
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 https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fear-ep/793322130

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I’m a video editor of 25 years, computer technician of 25 years, audio engineer 20 years, photographer 25 years and guitarist 20 years. I post photography and stop motion animation videos, but mainly guitar playing. This post may contain affiliate links to products I use and review.

 

 

 

 

skullcandy hesh 3 wireless headphones review

skullcandy hesh 3 wireless headphones review
best music headphones skullcandy hesh 3
Skullcandy Hesh 3 headphones

Skullcandy hesh 3 wireless headphones are perfect in every way without breaking the bank. I’ve tried many headphones and these are the best wireless headphones. I’m a bit of an audiophile, being an audio engineer for 25 years. I’m always listening to music, especially during my 4 hour daily commute to work via train. The best headphones I found can be had for under $100. I spent a lot of time researching reviews, watching videos and trying headphones out. I decided on the skullcandy hesh 3 over the ear headphones.

You’ll see a lot of people wearing the BEATS over the ear headphones. I’m not THAT picky but I know what I want. Having been a musician, audio engineer and lover of music for over 25 years, I need my audio as perfect as I can get. The Beats headphones were too bassy, too fake, too muddy. Mixes should be close to flatline with punchy deep bass and shimmering highs, without piercing your ears. Great headphones don’t add mud or frequencies that shouldn’t be there. Beats headphones are pricier and feel like someone put “pillows” over the speakers.

I listen to all styles of music from hardcore metal to classical and pop rock to movie scores. When editing audio, it’s best to have a pair of headphones with a flat response, meaning, they will sound as close to the original music as possible. My favorite headphones in the studio are Sennheiser, hands down. Nothing beats them in my opinion and I have used many.

For enjoying music, there’s nothing wrong with getting a pair of earbuds or over the ear headphones that add a little color to the audio mix. Too much color will muddy the sound and fatigues the ear while listening.

My skullycandy hesh 3 headphones review from my Rotter studios YouTube channel:

My biggest gripe in headphones and ear buds is the muffle factor. I can’t stand muffled audio, as if there’s a pillow over the speakers. Beats headphones are really good and popular, but, again, for me, not the type of bass I need in my music.

apple ear buds review
Apple ear buds sound great but I’m tired of being tied to cords.

Ear buds are great if you find the right ones. The most comfortable and best-sounding ear buds I have used are the ones that come with your apple iPhone, believe it or not. I was very surprised at how powerful and clear the included earbuds with my iphone7 made the music sound. Although I love earbuds, I looked at changing to “over the ear headphones” for comfort reasons and I wanted cordless. The ear bud cord pulling on my jacket was annoying. I don’t like being tied to things and a falling out ear bud just ticks me off.

A friend has a pair of the skullcandy hesh 2. He’s a big skullcandy fan. I was impressed with the full spectrum of EQ that wasn’t muddy or ear-piercing. The sound was balanced well and the bass was punchy and tight. These headphones inspired me to research skullycandy, their various over the ear models, and a couple other name brands. There are a lot of great brands out there for under $100 or way more than $100. For the purposes and length of this article, I will focus on the skullycandy hesh 2 and skullcandy hesh3 and why I chose the hesh 3.

skullcandy hesh 2 review compared to hesh 3
Skullcandy Hesh 2 headphones

His skullcandy hesh2 headphones sounded great and are made really well.

  1. They sit on top of the ear as opposed to around the ear.
  2. After awhile of listening, people said they got slightly uncomfortable, although the soft fake leather padding is nice.
  3. I’m sure the hesh 2 headphones would have been fine but I was used to my studio headphones cupping over the ear and not balancing on top of the ear.
  4. skullcandy hesh 2 are great headphones. They are on Amazon for $69 at the time of this writing, which is a really great price!

Two other skullcandy headphones I looked at are The hesh 3 and the crusher. The hesh 3 difference is longer battery life compared with the hesh 2’s (although I’d be fine with the 15 hours battery life of the hesh 2’s.) The hesh 3 is a bit more at $98 and the crusher headphones are $179. I knew $179 was out and even the $98 was more than I wanted to spend…but for $30 more, it’s not that much.

After reading about the differences between the hesh 2 and hesh 3, I decided to go with the skullcandy hesh 3. The reasons?

The hesh 3 headphones cover your entire ear and have memory foam type material for an even more comfortable fit. Comfort is very important and, these skullcandy hesh 3 headphones are that and more. Wearing these headphones just feels perfect. After 4 hours, they’re just as comfortable as they were when I put them on. Like soft firm pillows perfectly fit to over your ears. They don’t look large on your head and they sound great.

Some reviews said the skullcandy hesh 3 headphones had a more flat-lined EQ and fuller sound than the hesh 2’s. They are right. I already knew what the skullcandy hesh 2’s sounded like and I loved them, so I figured, it’ll be icing on the cake to have better sound than what I already heard.

The hesh 3 headphones sound GREAT! I listen to all forms of music and they do well with each. The stereo spacing is just right with the sound quality being full and punchy. I really love these skullcandy hesh 3 headphones and can’t recommend them enough. I bought a 2nd pair for my wife for when she takes walks.

I use the hesh 3’s while editing video on my macbook, listening to music to and from work and at work when I need to concentrate. These are a must – have if you want a comfortable great-sounding pair of headphones. They also come with a charging cord and audio cable in case you forget to charge them.

 

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I’m a GUITAR PLAYER. Check out my music and purchase here:

MIME RIOT
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WRAITH
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/steverotter
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WRAITH
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wraith/139284491
MIME RIOT
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fear-ep/793322130

http://www.steverotter.com

I’m a video editor of 25 years, audio engineer 20 years, photographer 25 years and guitarist 20 years. I post photography and stop motion animation videos, but mainly guitar playing.

 

 

 

How to choose a guitar for beginners

How to choose a guitar for beginners

How do you choose a guitar for beginners? Most beginner guitar players will choose a guitar based on looks and how cool it is, especially if they are younger kids. Most parents don’t know what guitar to buy and want to make their kids happy. I’ve unfortunately overheard conversations while visiting the local guitar center from manager to employee regarding new purchases from people who don’t know. Most music stores will take advantage of new customers if they are aware you know nothing. One conversation went like this, from manager to employee…”up the price on the guitar by 20% then tell the mom if she wants the guitar for her son, you will take 10% off.” Guitar Center, to me, in all the years I have visited them, are used car salesman. Most people who work there are young kids who don’t know much about anything. The ones who do know try and upsell. It’s rare to find someone knowledgeable who is willing to help. Why? They are on commission! I would steer clear of the retail stores if you have one in your area. You know what I use the retail music stores for? Trying out musical gear. When I find what I like, I will then buy it online. Unless Guitar Center has a huge sale and you know it is truly a sale, your best bet is to shop online for a guitar, whether for beginner or more advanced musical instruments.

How to choose a beginner electric guitar

There is a reason you or your child are looking to start playing guitar. Maybe you saw a YouTube video that inspired you or maybe you always wanted to learn how to play guitar. Congrats for taking that step towards learning a musical instrument. Most people say they want to learn but never try. For whatever reason, you no doubt have a favorite band or two that inspired your decision. Be it Metallica, Jazz artists, classical or blues, there is a guitar for each style. You can, of course, play all styles on one type of guitar, but there are guitars suited for certain styles.

How much should you spend on a beginner guitar?

As with most things, you should only spend what you can afford. You can always spend a little more money on a slightly better guitar if you think you will be into it for the longer haul. If you stick with guitar playing, you will be upgrading to a better guitar and that’s where you can spend more of your money. For starters, get a guitar you can afford and that even looks cool to you. I do mention the cool factor because if it’s ugly, you won’t want to be playing it.

How do I know what guitar is right for me?

If you never played guitar before, you can still pick a guitar that is right for you. Try learning a couple chords by watching YouTube. Learning a couple guitar chords or how to hold a pick will be enough to help you pick the right guitar. Simply strumming or holding different guitars will let you know what feels better in your hands. You don’t need to be a professional baseball player to pick right right bat…you hold a few of them for weight and feel. This is how you also pick a guitar. I have held a $3,000 guitar and then a $400. The $400 guitar felt so much better and was easier to play, so I bought that. It’s still one of my favorite guitars to play. Just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. Here is the Ibanez RG470 that cost me $400 used. Mine is black but this one is much cooler looking. Ibanez makes great guitars for beginner to pro.How to choose a beginner guitar

Ibanez RG470. Ibanez makes great guitars for beginner to pro.

What’s the difference between acoustic and electric?

An acoustic guitar is the traditional – looking “cowboy guitar” that is a hollow body and does not need an amp to be used. These are great guitar for learning chords and practicing on. Acoustic guitars are more difficult to play, as the strings are tougher to finger since the string tension is tougher.

acoustic guitar for beginners

An electric guitar is much easier to play and practice on since the strings are much thinner and not as taught. For beginner guitar players, I would recommend a nice electric guitar since they are easier to play and easier to learn on.

electric guitar for beginners

How much is a good beginner guitar?

A good guitar, whether beginner or slightly advanced, can be had for around $150 give or take $50. You can find used guitars on craigslist or online. I do most of my shopping on Amazon. Here are some guitars that would be great for a beginner or ever someone who wants a guitar to practice with when not at home. I bought a cheap electric guitar to take to work. I sometimes practice during my lunch break outside.

beginner guitar ampElectric guitars need to be connected to an amplifier in order to be heard, while an acoustic guitar does not. You can find guitar amps for cheap on Amazon or craigslist. As you advance in guitar playing, you will find your new-found hobby to be expensive. I spent a lot of money on guitars and amps as a teenager and into my twenties. My first guitar was a cort guitar which cost about $100. The amp I got with it was a gorilla amp that had a great sound and that cost about $150. $250 was a lot for me to spend as a 15 year old when I started. As years went by though, I was spending an average of $500 – $2,500 per guitar. I had about 17 guitars and a few guitar amps. I loved guitar so much. I still play, but it gets rough when you have to work all the time.

I have a recording studio out of my home where I record my music and bands. Here’s a blog post I wrote about me starting guitar back in the 1980s. I think you’ll find it interesting.

Check out my first CD, Steve Rotter – Wraith, available on iTunes. You can also listen to it and purchase on Amazon. I was very proud of this accomplishment, back in 1996. Hard rock with classical music overtones.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you have any questions please let me know. If you like the way I write, subscribe to my blog and get alerted each time a new post is up.

Have fun!

Steve

www.steverotter.com

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Blue Yeti USB Microphone: https://amzn.to/2JWT2vt

Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones: https://amzn.to/2K3hiLT

Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone
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I’m a GUITAR PLAYER. Check out my music and purchase here:

MIME RIOT
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WRAITH
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/steverotter
ON iTunes:
WRAITH
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wraith/139284491
MIME RIOT
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fear-ep/793322130

http://www.steverotter.com

I’m a video editor of 25 years, audio engineer 20 years, photographer 25 years and guitarist 20 years. I post photography and stop motion animation videos, but mainly guitar playing.

Cranberries lead singer passes away

Cranberries lead singer passes away

Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan passes away at 46, today, 1/15/2018.

dolores-o-riordan
Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the cranberries

This makes me sad. The Cranberries were a groundbreaking band in the early 90’s and a breath of fresh air when there was mostly garbage in the music world.

Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Irish rock band the Cranberries, died on Monday in London. She was 46.

Her death was announced by her publicist, who did not specify the cause.

“Irish and international singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London today,” Lindsey Holmes, the publicist, said in an emailed statement, adding that Ms. O’Riordan had been in London for a recording session.

The statement said that family members are “devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said on Monday that the police were called to a Park Lane hotel in Westminster at about 9:05 a.m., and that Ms. O’Riordan was pronounced dead at the scene. Her death is being treated as “unexplained,” the spokeswoman said.

Ms. O’Riordan wrote lyrics and often music for the Cranberries’ 1990s hits, including “Linger” (which remained on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 24 weeks) and “Dreams,” which proclaimed both vulnerability and steadfastness. She was the sole writer of the noisier, angrier “Zombie,” a response to an Irish Republican Army terrorist bombing in 1993.

She was so young with so much more to give. Dolores’ passing today makes me think of my very good friend Suzi. Suzi was one of the most amazing vocalists I have had the pleasure of working with and having as a friend. I had so much fun recording her band’s demo’s. Suzi never had to do more than one take on vocals, she was that good. I may still have her master recording tracks from those recordings in the mid 2000’s. I think I’ll have to record guitars to them and have a little jam session with her.

RIP girls.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Steve

Cranberries music and memorabilia on Amazon

How to learn guitar by ear at home

How to learn guitar by ear at home

How to learn guitar at home by ear

how to play the blues
How to play the blues on guitar

I wanted to learn to play guitar at home and as a beginner, didn’t know where to turn. I was 15 and wanted to learn guitar the correct way, whatever that means. Local guys in the neighborhood could only teach me so much, as they only played by ear. I needed more and sought out a teacher. Lessons were once a week from a small music store 10 minutes from home, Wednesday nights at 7pm. My mom drove me. I was 15. I wanted to play metal but Chuck insisted I learn the blues first, as rock and metal are derived from the blues.

Chuck was a middle – aged studio musician with short light brown hair. His weathered face reflected years under gig stage lights and Marlboro cigarettes, which he kept in plain sight in his guitar case.

Chuck’s road – worn starburst fender strat was beautifully – broken in. The warm melodic tones fell out of his amp easily and with grace. Between talks he would jot down scale patterns and chords on photocopied guitar fretboard paper for me to take home and practice. It was fun but very overwhelming.

guitar chord chart
music key chord chart

Music theory is a science. For those not familiar, music is a lot of work figuring chord structures and scales out. It’s another language you must learn and learn well. There are those who simply play by ear, never knowing what they are doing and there is nothing wrong with this. I wrote most of my music that way. Some of the greats are the same, including the Beatles. Most, bands, at least 90%, you have seen at the local club (rock especially) play by ear. Ask them to play a B minor scale in 2nd position and they’ll freeze.

Lessons with Chuck didn’t last more than a few months, as I ran out of money, and wanted to pursue heavier music. I spent hours, daily, in my room, completely obsessed with guitar. My bedroom was wallpapered with inspirational photos of rock legends I listened to and read about, along with photos of guitars I could not afford.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE GUITARS

THE MOVIE CROSSROADS REALLY GOT ME INTO PLAYING, along with most kids. Check it out here.

Ralph Macchio is a classically-trained guitarist in the CROSSROADS film who battles against Jack Butler (sold his sold his soul to the devil.) If Ralph’s character wins, he keeps his soul, but if Jack wins, well, it’s not good for Ralph. Ralph Macchio never played guitar in this film but did a great job at pretending. Jack Butler is played by Steve Vai, one of the best guitar virtuosos there is. Steve has played with Frank Zappa, Whitesnake and a host of others, but mainly enjoys a successful career as a solo artist. Here are some of Steve’s many albums. He’s one of my favorite artists. It was a fun time, it was a great time, it was the  1980s.

Should you take lessons? Great question. For me, some guitar lessons with a teacher and through books on my own were good. A starting point was needed. Music theory was very overwhelming to me. I’m a perfectionist and I need to understand why things happen. There were many times where I came up with really cool chords or progressions and asked how they translated to theory. All the time, I got no answers. “It sounds great! But it doesn’t follow theory.” That’s what I heard. Or I would get something like, “it looks like an A minor but you add a 6th to it and then you go here….that doesn’t make sense but it’s really cool.” Those statements drove me crazy. If there was no theory behind it and if a name couldn’t be put to what I was doing, I didn’t want to play it. Maybe that’s stupid but it’s how I am. It drove me nuts that certain things couldn’t be explained.

do you need music lessons?
Should you take music lessons?

I spent hours researching and trying to figure out patterns and reasons for the way music worked and hit a lot of dead ends. Music is not perfect, it’s more a feeling. I kept hearing that if it sounds good, then it is good. Although I agree, it still drove me nuts to not have answers in music theory. I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and knew it would one day truly drive me crazy. I stopped theory and played by ear only. The advantage to that is it’s more fun. I like being surprised by FINDING the cool chords instead of letting theory dictate that to me.

The good news is that today, in the cool technology era we live in, there is YouTube. Tons of videos online to teach anyone how to play any style of any instrument are available. We didn’t have that when we were kids. We had to drop $50 on ONE guitar instructional video on VHS made by REH video. Never could afford those.

If you want to learn but don’t want to travel anywhere and have limited funds or don’t want to commit to music lessons or their expense, there is AMAZON….or, as I said, YouTube.

Electric guitars and gear for beginners on Amazon

TONS of lesson material available on AMAZON.

Of course there are many people out there saying you need to know theory, while others will say no you don’t. The beatles knew no theory. Paul McCartney was quoted as saying “it’s all just flies on a sheet of paper to me.” That made me feel better. In the end, do what you feel is best. I think some form of lessons are good. I would say if you strive to be a studio musician or session player, you need to know theory. You’ll be playing other artists’ music and you need to know how and fast. In the studio, time is money. You need to learn how to site read and play with feel on the fly. I wasn’t going that route.

Here’s a link to my first album on iTunes, circa 1995.

I love Ibanez and Fender guitars
Ibanez RG Series RG470MB – Autumn Fade Metallic

 

I still play guitar as time permits and record in my home studio but life gets in the way and I lost interest in trying to “make it” years ago.

I wish I knew where Chuck was. I can only imagine how good he is now.

If you like the way I write, subscribe to my blog and check out more info and YouTube channels at www.steverotter.com

Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies today 7/20/2017

Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies today 7/20/2017

Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies today 7/20/2017

This is sad news. I really enjoy Linkin Park’s music. Chester must have been in a very dark place to leave his band, outstanding career, wife and beautiful kids. If you are in that frame of mind, it can be difficult to ask for help, as most times, they see help as another fail. It is up to family and friends to notice warning signs (sometimes there are none.) If you are able to ask for help, please do so. Regardless of the issues, be it bullying, depression, find someone to talk to. I know it can be incredibly hard. Sometimes though, it is too late. Prayers to family and friends. RIP Chester.

chester bennington commits suicide 2017 linkin park
Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington dies at 41.

Law enforcement sources have confirmed the singer of Linkin Park hanged himself at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates in L.A. county. His body was discovered thursday just before 9am.

The singer struggled with drugs and alcohol for years. He had said in the past he had considered committing suicide because he had been abused as a child by an older male.

Chester was very close with Chris Cornell, who himself committed suicide by hanging in May. Today would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Chester wrote an open letter to Chris on the day of Chris’ suicide.

Cornell’s wife, Vicky, tweeted out a message following the news of Chester’s death, saying, “Just when I thought my heart couldn’t break any more … I love you T.”

The band has had a string of hits over the years, including “Faint,” “In the End” and “Crawling.” Linkin Park crossed music genres, collaborating with Jay-Z.

The band’s album, “Meteora,” was one of the biggest alternative albums in music history.

His body was discovered this morning just before 9am and it is believed that he hanged himself.

The singer is survived by his wife of twelve years, Talinda Ann Bennington (nee Bentley), and six children – Jamie, 21, Isaiah, 19, Draven, 15, Tyler Lee, 11, and Lily and Lila, 7.

He was previously married to Samantha Marie Olit from 1996 – 2005.

Chester, whose band Linkin Park spawned hit rock songs including Numb and Breaking the Habit, often focused his lyrics on personal struggle, depression and addiction.

Mike Shinoda, who also provided vocals for the band, confirmed the news on Twitter and wrote: “Shocked and heartbroken, but it’s true. An official statement will come out as soon as we have one.”

 

Drunk driver killed my best friend

Drunk driver killed my best friend

“I’m Don, what’s your name?” A friendly, blonde – haired, 16 year old kid with glasses asked, as I prepared to audition for our highschool talent show, alone. “I’m Steve.” Don climbed over the auditorium seats and sat next to me, asking about my guitar, how long I played, and who I listened to. We hit it off right away. Instantly I sensed he would always be there for me and I knew I would be there for him. He was 16 and I was 17. His band went on first and I performed alone, nervous as hell. I was mostly introverted back then. We talked about how we enjoyed each other’s performance after the auditions. We both made it to the show by the way.

We jammed together at each other’s homes after school, talking about life and laughing as good friends will. Don’s parents were very nice and always made me feel welcome. The strong bond they shared as a family was very easy to see. One day, after school, I went to Don’s house for the first time. He had more cassette tapes from various hard rock metal bands and classical artists to show me. “Hey that’s cool….I love classical music too”, I said, as he rummaged through his bag. Don pulled a cassette from his bag, “Check this out.” I recognized the cover. It was Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz album, with Randy Rhoads on guitar. Don introduced me to Randy’s playing. I was again, inspired and had to purchase every cassette Randy played on. Unfortunately, Randy passed away far too soon, in a plane crash while on tour with Ozzy in 1982. Don qued the cassette to Randy’s solo spot and started to wave his hands like a conductor. “Listen to his phrasing!” I’ll never forget him saying that. I never saw anyone so young, read into the playing of another like this. It was at that point I knew we met for a reason. There were a few more moments in our musical journey like this, of course.

ozzy randy rhoads blizzard of oz
Cover of the popular Randy Rhoads Ozzy Osbourne tribute album. I highly recommend this!

After graduation, we worked at our jobs and hung out when we could. Don liked my idea of some day opening a recording studio and asked his father to get involved without me knowing. During one of our talks he said his dad wanted to help and would front the money to get our studio going. His dad wanted a list of all the equipment he thought we would need. I was torn and told Don I could not accept such a great gift. Don’t response was that his dad sees our passion and believes in us. We were around 23 at the time. I made the list to humor myself, as I was more into the tech side of things than Don was. At this time I was getting more into metal and hard rock, while Don was moving a little more towards the blues (he loved Stevie Ray Vaughan…and I do too.) We visited various music stores in the area, looking at guitars, amps and recording gear. It was so much fun, and yet, I felt really bad about the money fronting thing. Of course I told Don we were going to pay his dad back. We made our lists and planned for the studio.

This was circa 1991. There was no internet for another 4 years and only the rich had cell phones, which were called car phones (they were mounted in cars.) We had planned on placing ads in local papers and music stores for the recording studio, catering to local bands. We would record on reel to reel recording tape. This is known as analog recording (nothing was recorded on computers yet.) The digital era wasn’t alive yet.

Reel to Reel Tape Recorder
reel to reel tape recording. Used to record audio in a 4 track studio in the 1970’s – 1990s. Recording on tape is analog recording. Digital recording started in the early 1990s.

Neither Don, nor I, drank. He chose to smoke a pipe, like what your grandfather would smoke. His apartment always smelled like a tobacco shop. It was cool and different and I’m pretty sure I teased him about it. We got together when we could, working on our songs and experimenting with recording sound with our gear. “Musical brothers” was a good way to describe us. His cats would make an appearance to jump in a guitar case of his, to use the washroom. Don didn’t like that and responded by spraying them with water from spray bottles he kept handy. I made sure to keep my guitar cases closed.

The last time I spoke to Don was on the phone while visiting my parents. We talked about the usual music and recording studio techniques we wanted to work on and made plans to talk tomorrow after work. “Cool man, I’ll call you tomorrow.” Little did I know, those were the last words I would say to him.

The call came later the next morning while I was at work. Don’s wife, Kelly, called me crying, saying Don passed away. After we got off the phone the night before, they took a walk in their neighborhood with their two little boys, Don and Dewey. Don was a couple of years old and Dewey was a couple months old. This was 1996. While walking, a drunk driver jumped the curb and killed Don. Kelly and the boys were not badly injured. I was told Don held the baby to shield him. This is terrible to type. I knew Kelly was joking since Don and I would prank each other at times…but he never played this card before. I began to realize she was serious, while still feeling silly for “falling for it.” At any moment, I expected Don to laugh in the background. He never did. Nothing made sense. I wanted to find the guy who did this. Kelly said he was in custody with 3 other counts of DUI on his record, and was driving on a suspended license. Drunk again, driving around. The guy got out of jail 2 months later, free to roam. This made me hate cops and hate the “system.” I hated most people and wanted nothing to do with anyone. I distanced myself for a long time and stopped playing guitar. The recording studio never happened and I didn’t care. Music felt different and the world was a much different place.

I didn’t go to court, never saw the guy, and never saw Don again. It took a few years to let go of the guilt. If I had only kept him on the phone a minute longer, he would be with us today. Losing him was a black death and I didn’t care about anything. It definitely added a lot of armor to my being and I miss him.

It may sound silly to some reading this, but I’m sentimental. I still carry with me, all the time, a couple of cards Don always had on him. One is a sign language chart and the other, a music store he frequented.

His wake was beautiful. There were flowers, photos of him and all his guitars on stands. Although it was very nice, it felt very wrong. I can’t explain how the days felt blacker. Trust me when I say things were very different.

People get into cars and assume they will be safe. We all take our lives for granted, even me. Others, who drink, get into vehicles and always think they will be fine…it won’t happen to me. Guess what…

drunk driver killed my best friend
Cards I keep with me all the time. Don always had these on him.

Sorry this was a sad read but it was something that needed to be said. If you enjoy my writing, consider subscribing to my blog. I love to write about my experiences in photography, music, video editing, my dogs, and anything else on my mind.

If you are trying to cope with the loss of a loved one here is some additional reading that can help.

thanks for reading!

Steve

www.steverotter.com

How I learned to play guitar in the 80s

How I learned to play guitar in the 80s

Let me wind down the day with thoughts of my past, the rocker days. At 15 years of age I thought it would be fun to play an instrument. Not sure where that thought came from; it just happened. Looking around my room I saw the flute / recorder from school. I knew that wasn’t too cool if I got good at it. I really wasn’t too sure what cool was since I had short hair and got mostly straight A’s in school. Never hung with the fast crowd and have yet to hear any Van Halen or heavy metal band…the year was 1988.

014_Steve-Vai
Steve Vai circa late 1990s. He designed this guitar, the Ibanez Jem 7VWH. I own one of the original ones and still have it. It’s signed by him and Billy Sheehan, his bassist.

An old acoustic guitar my grandfather had given me years before, collected dust in the corner of my room. “What if I learned to play guitar?” Images of cowboys went through my head. I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn cowboy campfire songs. Little did I know, there was much more to it than that. Grabbing the guitar, I tried strumming, not knowing what I was doing. No clue. Later that night I caught the end of the movie “crossroads” with Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai. Steve Vai was the main driving inspirational force behind me wanting to learn guitar. He was the guitarist for Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth, before starting his solo career in the early 1990’s. I watched the end of the Crossroads movie EVERY DAY after school.

I never took lessons but wanted to. The money wasn’t there and I was more interested in learning from a couple neighborhood guys anyway. They played by ear and taught me the basics. I was amazed to learn about all the cool things you could do. I was obsessed with guitar. Classical music and metal are my favorite styles to play.

Yngwie-Malmsteen
Yngwie Malmsteen playing his signature designed YJM Fender strat in front of a wall of Marshall amps. I have this guitar and love it.

A friend of mine had Yngwie Malmsteen’s first album, Rising Force, on cassette. Knowing I was into guitar, he gave it to me. This cassette blew my mind! Yngwie (pronounced INGVAY) combined classical guitar with heavy metal perfectly. Perfectly executed intricate guitar runs set to classical music phrasing. My jaw hit the floor and I was now hooked for the long haul. I played and noodled around every chance I got. There was no you tube and no internet for that matter so I had to find people who played and learn from them. The year was 1988 and I was progressing rapidly. Most guitar players were in bands or starting bands. I was too overwhelmed with the calibre of guitar players out there, even though most people said I was really good. I never believed them. I was the opposite of a vein guitar player.

 

Check out this video of Yngwie Malmsteen. You can hear how he blends classical phrasing with electric guitar. I LOVE THIS! This was filmed by me when I saw him live in 2017.

My love of photography and video production naturally sparked passion for audio and sound editing. I started to record music at home. Studio equipment was expensive so musicians sought out studios to record at. There were no computers for recording yet. Recording studios recorded on analog tape, reel to reel.

steve rotter ibanez
Steve Rotter (me) 2002.

I formed my first real band I was proud of in 1993. The band’s name was PUSH. That ended around 1996. We were going nowhere as discrepancies mounted, just as in any relationship. This was a relationship between 5 people and their girlfriends. I left and took all my music with me. I’ve played with bands on and off here and there for the next 10 years. I do miss those days but am happy playing in my home studio now. I also record bands here and there from time to time on the side. It’s nice playing the producer and recording engineer for others. Witnessing the art of others is awesome!

I got an email around 1999 from someone who heard my cd and wanted me to tour with their band as lead guitar player in Europe. We were to open for the band whitesnake all over europe. I LOVE whitesnake. You can imagine how ecstatic I was. I couldn’t believe it. Well, I didn’t go. I didn’t feel I was ready or good enough. I also didn’t want to tour europe with people I didn’t know, in a band I didn’t start. I know that sounds stupid, but that’s where I was. So that’s my story on how I learned to play guitar in the 80s.

For the record, I never tried any drugs. Not every heavy metal guy is an idiot or a pot – head – driven weirdo. I have come across many of those people during the band days. It made me feel uncomfortable. I just did my own thing and pushed through. I have a couple CDs for sale if you are interested. Check this site for links.

Order my cd (signed copy) MIME RIOT – FEAR
https://squareup.com/store/rotter-studios/item/mime-riot-fear-cd

Also available on iTunes and Amazon music as digital download.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fear-ep/id793322130
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wraith/id139284491

Thanks for reading! Follow my blog here.

GEAR I USE:

Marshall Code 50-50 watt 1×12″ guitar amp: https://amzn.to/2GmCVVI

Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas guitar blue frost: https://amzn.to/2Dp9fU0

PANASONIC LUMIX GX85 Camera: https://amzn.to/2wJHNjK

Panasonic 25mm F1.7 prime lens: https://amzn.to/2wwN5ix

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Canon XA11 Pro Camcorder: https://amzn.to/2rNMUK1

iPad Pro 10.5: https://amzn.to/2O1q5gz

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod: https://amzn.to/2IxYQq4

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Blue Yeti USB Microphone: https://amzn.to/2JWT2vt

Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones: https://amzn.to/2K3hiLT

Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone
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Y-Connector Audio Splitter for Lavalier Microphone
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Headphone Jack Adapter Lightning Connector
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MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL: STEVE ROTTER: youtube.com/c/RotterStudios

I’m a GUITAR PLAYER. Check out my music and purchase here:

MIME RIOT
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/mimeriot
WRAITH
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/steverotter
ON iTunes:
WRAITH
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wraith/139284491
MIME RIOT
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fear-ep/793322130

http://www.steverotter.com

I’m a video editor of 25 years, audio engineer 20 years, photographer 25 years and guitarist 20 years. I post photography and stop motion animation videos, but mainly guitar playing.

 

 

 

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