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Levelling up with Tim Vaughn - NZ Music Month Feature

Instrument Talk Levelling up with Tim Vaughn - NZ Music Month Feature

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28th May 2021 Print this page Email a friend

Levelling up with Tim Vaughn - NZ Music Month Feature

New Zealand Music Month is an amazing annual event that celebrates local music and musicians. For KBB Music we see this as the perfect time to celebrate making music and encouraging Kiwis to take their musical talents to the next level! 

In the spirit of levelling up your music, throughout this month we are also profiling the amazing staff of KBB Music. These are the incredible helpers you will meet at our stores who have also have vibrant musical backgrounds. Through the process of a quick-fire interview, we were interested in finding out how they levelled up their music journey and the instruments they recommend to budding Kiwi musicians.

Tim Vaughn

Meet Tim. The Branch Manager of our Albany KBB Music team and a highly talented musician – especially when it comes to the guitar, bass, drums and piano!

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Tim immigrated from Canada for love and found a home working with the KBB Music and Rockshop team, after spending several years touring North America as an original artist, songwriter and producer. 

Tim also spent several years working as a performer and bandmaster on cruise ships. Now he’s settled down in Auckland with his wife and son, but still works with a few bands. He’s currently preparing new and original material to be released in New Zealand and internationally. Tim has always been a big fan of New Zealand music and proud to have been welcomed into our vibrant Kiwi culture that develops sounds like nowhere else on earth!

Thinking back on your musical journey, what were the breakthrough moments that made you the musician you are today?

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I think it was the first time I saw a band from my hometown come back to play at a local theatre show, after doing tours with The Rolling Stones, ACDC and ZZTOP. It made me realise that even coming from a small town in the Canadian Prairies, you can make a big noise if you work at it. 


I have always loved music growing up, but that was a turning point for me when deciding to pursue music professionally. Three years later I was on the road thanks to some established artists who saw something in me, a couple of them from that very same band! I’m forever thankful for their friendship and inspiration. 

Now thinking about your gear: what is the one instrument that you will never part with?   

I was gifted a beautiful Gibson Les Paul Goldtop from a mentor of mine back home in Saskatoon. I cherish it like no other guitar and I’ve owned many. This one is definitely special.  I also love my Godin Multiac Jazz (pictured).

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What instruments would you recommend to other keen musicians?

It’s important to choose an instrument that is going to inspire the player to grow and create using that instrument. Choosing an instrument that will get them closer to their long-term goals or at least comes close, gives the player a head start on their journey. That’s not to say the most expensive guitar or piano will make you a better player, only practice can do that. Being open to the idea that better quality is better than the bottom line can ensure they get a fair shake at the beginning. 

I can speak to a couple of areas here. Since I’m largely working with piano/keyboard products at the moment, I’ll start there.


For entry-level keyboard players, I highly recommend starting around the Casio CTX700, if the player is over 10 years old. They’ll be much happier with the sound and this also helps develop a better understanding of what a good tone is.  If you have the means and the player is quite keen on upgrading to the CTX3000 or CTX5000 which allow for more expression, creativity and better tone still! I’ve been very impressed with this range since their launch and would use several of the sounds myself.

For workstations, I’m blown away by the flexibility of the Roland Fantom series. I highly recommend any MD’s or music producers check them out!

Digital Pianos: 

If specifically looking for pianos; digital or acoustic, it’s important to establish what level of realism you want to achieve. Digital pianos have never sounded better than they do today, but for some, the real thing is the only way to go. Neither approach is incorrect, it’s more a matter of ‘need’ and ‘want’, alongside knowing what budget you have to work with and what features you can get within these expectations. If digital is the way you want to go, you need to consider questions such as; “do you need it to be portable?” “or will it live in the same space in the home?”

Acoustic Pianos:

Personally, I prefer playing a high-quality acoustic piano any day, but in my home right now it’s not practical with a young toddler in the house and practice with headphones is essential. 

I chose the Roland Hp702 the non-wooden key option in the HP series. It has a great warranty, excellent sounds, and some of the features of the Roland flagship LX series. It also has Piano Designer which I love, as I’m not one to settle on the same sound for too long and as a songwriter, the different tones and dynamics are often a jumping point or foundation to the mood I’m trying to achieve within a song. The HP704 was out of my price range at the time, but I do prefer the wooden key action it is well worth the extra you spend for it.

For Acoustic pianos, my favourite upright is the 134cm Kawai K800.  It’s as close as you can get to a grand piano in a Japanese made upright.  I think it even beats out some smaller grands in comparison.  The most popular choice is the Kawai K500 130cm tall it is a very dynamic instrument with a reasonable price tag - and can see most students through their studies. It is a great long term investment as a family instrument or until you upgrade to a grand.    

We’re lucky to feature the Shigeru Kawai Grand pianos in our showroom. These really are something special for those with discerning tastes who appreciate artisan craftsmanship.   

My personal favourite we currently have on display is the 180cm Shigeru Kawai SK2 Salon Grand. If I had my pick, it would be that one. However, most prefer the larger 188cm SK3 and understandably the stunning Semi Concert SK7 if you have the space and the means that one is hard to beat.  


Ok, now for my first love…Guitars.

This is a very personal journey and your first likely won’t be your last. Electric and Acoustic are very different beasts, but it’s good to have a handle on both types. 

Acoustic Guitars: 

Acoustic… for beginners, do you need a Nylon-string guitar or a Steel-string? 

This depends on what kind of music you want to play. If classical or flamenco most definitely Nylon - and a good quality one at that. Cordoba has some great models across various price points. 

Some teachers recommend young students start with a nylon string either way. 

I taught guitar at all skill levels for a good 15 years and don’t really subscribe to that notion.   

I think it’s more important to consider what kind of music the student wants to learn before making a recommendation - and a steel-string covers a lot more ground overall.  Smaller size guitars often are designed for smaller people or smaller hands and the scale of the guitar can affect how easy they are to play. Set up can also remedy some of this. Well set up steel-string guitars I would argue, are often easier than Nylon which often have a wider neck.    

My favourite guitar to write on is my Taylor GS mini, it’s really comfortable and sounds bigger than it is. I’ll eventually pass this guitar down to my son once he starts taking it seriously, as a smaller body size will make it a good choice for him - and the good tone should put him ahead of the game (he’s basically already taken ownership!). 

Washburn also makes some great smaller guitars in the comfort series that are fun and easy to play for any age, just because it says ¾ size doesn’t mean grown folks can’t enjoy them too! ☺ 

Electric Guitars:

I’ve always loved Gibson Guitars, especially since my first ‘real’ guitar was a 70’s Gibson L6s. They continue to make lots of great models and bring out new innovations. One of my favourites is the Gibson Nighthawk. I have one of these from the first year they were manufactured in 93’ and I think and they are really versatile. Kind of like a firebird meets a tele meets a strat, but I digress. There are lots of great models from them and I’ll always be a fan while for an all-rounder electric a Fender Stratocaster or a ‘Strat style’ guitar from another brand can be a great option if you want to cover a lot of ground but again, there are different tools for different jobs. Who or what do you want to sound like?  The end goal ultimately being yourself! But surely, there’s meant to be plenty of influence along the way.  

Godin has some great options if you’re searching for something a bit different, I really also love Reverend Guitars and have been playing a couple of charger 290’s for the last 15 years and I really dig them! 

For Jazz, you’ll probably want to look at a 335 style guitar or an Archtop. The Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II is a great mid-priced option for Jazz and Godin again has some excellent options here too. in the 5th Avenue series.  If you are more into shredding than look at Charvel or Krammer lots of fun Floyd rose guitars in their ranges. If country music is your thing then a tele is usually the first port of call.  Try lots of different guitars and pay attention to different wood combinations and where try to hear the tone, from the fretboard to establish if you like the warmth of rosewood or ebony or other darker tonewoods, or prefer snappiness of maple. This way, you’ll discover what speaks to you… it’s ok if this changes… that’s part of the fun.  

There’s a ton I could discuss on recording too but that has a wormhole that opens up a whole universe that I wouldn’t know where to end. Quickly though, if your just getting started - put a little extra into the microphone and interface your using. Take the time to learn a bit about signal flow, gain structuring and figure out how to treat your recording environment. 

I learned initially by recording to tape through analogue gear when Pro Tools were just being introduced. Now there are many DAW’s out there depending on the workflow your trying to achieve there is no wrong answer. It’s an ever-changing more accessible and affordable world to create in.


For the intermediate to pro and songwriters alike, DSP processing in UA and other interface makers has changed the game and helped artist spend more time creating and less time fixing CPU issues while still recording DSP based effects in real-time.  I’m also excited about the longevity of DANTE networking, how that can be used for endless creative possibilities and expandable recording solutions in any physical space. Focusrite is doing some great work in this area and I’m excited to see what they do next for future-proofing my home/mobile studio rig.  

Anyone who wants to talk modular preamps 500 series… too much fun out there for the hybrid workflow inclined. I love analogue gear and it will always be at least a small part of my workflow. 

Interested in chatting with Tim further? Visit him at our Albany store in Auckland where he’ll help you find the gear you need to level up your music!