Category: The Skills

Rosewood: Southeast Asian, Amazonian & Honduran
The Skills

Rosewood: Southeast Asian, Amazonian, & Honduran

Rosewood: Southeast Asian, Amazonian & HonduranSoutheast Asian Rosewood

Southeast Asian rosewood is an endangered species. This wood is no longer harvested for guitar manufacture, and is therefore extremely hard to find from legitimate sources.

Southeast Asian rosewood has the exotic colors that make Brazilian rosewood so highly sought. It tends toward a reddish cast. Black grain lines offer contrast, but without the unique branching typically seen in rio, as the Brazilian species is also known.

Furthermore, Southeast Asian rosewood is often regarded as being remarkably similar to rio in sound. When played, it rings out loud and strong. But this wood is no mere copycat—it has a unique sparkle of its own, sounding particularly lively toward the high end while still displaying character in the bass notes.

In Short
  • Extremely rare.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Resonant.
  • Lively lows.
  • Sparkling highs.

 

Amazonian Rosewood

Amazonian rosewood, while not found on the majority of guitars today, is probably one of the least rare species of rosewood. No trade restrictions on this wood are in effect at the time of this writing. It is still uncommon, however, as most of it comes from one supplier.

Brazilian rosewood and Amazonian rosewood are commonly confused. They are actually two separate species that grow in different parts of Brazil. Contrary to popular perception, Brazilian rosewood does not grow in the Amazon rainforest like Amazonian rosewood does.

In appearance, Amazonian rosewood is fairly similar to Brazilian rosewood, but with somewhat finer and straighter grain. But note the word somewhat. There are many excellent pieces of Amazonian rosewood in existence that can boast an exceptionally unique, striking appearance.

Amazonian rosewood is a little denser than rio, giving it a deeper, bassier sound. It is slightly less resonant, but makes up for that with power and crystal clarity.

In Short
  • Somewhat rare.
  • Striking in appearance.
  • Heavy.
  • Bassy.
  • Somewhat less resonant than other rosewoods.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Clear.
  • Good sustain.

 

Honduran Rosewood

Not only is Honduran rosewood a less common selection, in January 2017 it fell under the treaty restrictions that impact buying and selling Indian rosewood guitars. Little wonder—this species is quite rare, growing only in Belize. Needless to say, Honduran rosewood is difficult to obtain these days.

In appearance, Honduran rosewood is far more subtle than the bold and striking Brazilian rosewood. It is tends to look pinkish or purplish with fine grain and minimal contrast. To some luthiers and guitarists, this makes a Honduran rosewood guitar bland; to others, it adds a more subtle element of beauty.

Honduran rosewood is denser than rio wood, putting it in a class of its own. It has a strong tone with excellent sound projection. Its harmonic properties are very complex, giving it a rich sound unlike any other. There is a trade-off to this complexity, however—the notes of a Honduran rosewood guitar, while still articulate, are not as impeccably clear as with some of the other rosewood species.

The tonal range is well balanced across the spectrum. As with most other dense woods, however, Honduran rosewood really shines in the bass range.

In Short
  • Rare.
  • Heavy.
  • Subtly beautiful.
  • Balanced.
  • Excellent bass response.
  • Tonally complex.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Excellent sustain.
  • Warm tone.
Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & Cocobolo
The Skills

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & Cocobolo

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloRosewood is a common choice of wood for guitars and mandolins. It has been used for backs, sides, tops, and fretboards.

But did you know that instruments are built with several different types of rosewood? Seven of the most common are:

  • Brazilian.
  • Indian.
  • Madagascar.
  • Cocobolo.
  • Amazonian.
  • Honduran.
  • Southeast Asian.

Does country of origin make any difference in the sound of the rosewood? Let’s examine each type in turn and find out.

 

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloBrazilian Rosewood

Brazilian rosewood, or rio as it is called by Brazilians, has earned a reputation for top-notch tone. This was largely due to influential vintage guitars built prior to 1970, many of which made extensive use of Brazilian rosewood.

However, the desirability of Brazilian rosewood subjected it to extensive overharvesting. This type of rosewood grew steadily rarer and rarer, until action was deemed necessary to prevent its extinction. The Brazilian government banned further exports in 1967, and in 1991 it followed that law up with one to prohibit the harvest of Brazilian rosewood in the wild. Rio was further protected by international treaty in 1992, making it very difficult to ship a Brazilian rosewood guitar. In 2008, the United States took further action to prevent illegal importations of wood with the Lacey Act, requiring a chain of paperwork to accompany rare woods arriving from other countries. This combination of laws not only makes importation of wood difficult, but it can require a musician traveling with a Brazilian rosewood guitar to carry extensive paperwork to protect his instrument from confiscation.

Guitars constructed with Brazilian rosewood still exist, however. This rare wood can be used legally if it was harvested prior to 1992, cut from the stump of a tree harvested before the treaty, or salvaged from a naturally fallen tree. But Brazilian rosewood is remains scarce, and it commands a hefty price tag. Price, scarcity, and rich appearance (particularly one-of-a-kind in guitars made from old stumps) combine to make this wood something of a golden ideal in the guitar world, despite the variable quality that comes from salvaged wood.

Perhaps a little more ideal than its sound merits. Brazilian rosewood’s association with vintage guitars has connected it in the minds of guitarists with a warm, sweet, resonant tone. Part of this sound was owing to the availability of high-quality wood, now generally lacking. Brazilian rosewood is naturally rather hard, ever so much more so when it has been harvested from a dead stump. This translates into a guitar with excellent sound projection, but one that is a little bright and that will be prone to cracking with age. Many top luthiers claim that a warmer tonewood can be obtained by looking for a different country of origin. Much of the image of Brazilian rosewood comes from hype, which unfortunately creates a wide opening for black-market trade.

However, outstanding characteristics of Brazilian rosewood include clarity, impressive sustain, and an almost metallic resonance, often compared to the ringing of a bell. Rio can boast bright highs, but rich lows are its hallmark.

In Short
  • Rare.
  • Expensive.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Strikingly beautiful.
  • Variable quality.
  • Fragile.
  • Rich lows.
  • Bright highs.
  • Clear.
  • Excellent sound projection.
  • Excellent sustain.
  • Resonant.

 

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloIndian Rosewood

When the Brazilian rosewood supply dwindled in the 1960s, rosewood from East India stepped up to the plate as a common wood in instrument manufacture. Although less prestigious than its rare counterpart, Indian rosewood still has a loyal following and a strong tradition in American music.

Indian rosewood has also fallen under treaty restrictions as of January 2017 in response to illegal trafficking of the wood for the Asian furniture market. While these regulations are less strict than those affecting the endangered Brazilian rosewood, the new rules will require paperwork for anyone buying or selling an Indian rosewood guitar internationally. However, the treaty does not affect buying or selling Indian rosewood guitars within the borders of the United States, and under most circumstances it will not affect people traveling with the guitar.

The appearance of Indian rosewood is also less impressive. It is brown with touches of purple and gray. Its grain tends to run in straight lines, creating a “plain” look.

While very close in weight and density to rio, Indian rosewood is just slightly the less dense of the two, diminishing its sound projection a trifle. In the hands of a novice, the difference is probably negligible; in the hands of an expert guitarist, the difference may be audible. There is an upside to the extra give of the Indian rosewood, however—it makes the guitar much sturdier and less prone to cracking with age.

Indian rosewood possesses an impressive tonal range, bringing fullness and clarity to both the low and high ends of the spectrum. It is particularly known for its bassy quality, making it a favorite with rhythm guitarists. Its sound characteristics vary somewhere between moderately warm and neutral.

In Short
  • Consistent quality.
  • Sturdy.
  • Versatile.
  • Full tonal range.
  • Bassy.
  • Bright highs.
  • Clear.
  • Resonant.

 

Madagascar Rosewood

Like most types of rosewood, Madagascar rosewood has a rather rather complicated history. In the 1990s, American luthiers began to experiment with this tonewood, hoping to find the perfect substitute for Brazilian rosewood. Unfortunately, civil and political turmoil in Madagascar made the supply very unreliable.

Madagascar rosewood is also rare. While it does not fall under the stringent restrictions of some of the endangered species treaties, much of it is obtained illegally and smuggled out of Africa, making it subject to confiscation if found in the United States.

This species looks very much like Brazilian rosewood, but with more of a red cast. It is a little lighter in weight, but the sound is generally regarded as similar to that of rio, albeit “livelier.” It tends to the bright side, but it does an excellent job adding richness to the entire tonal spectrum. Madagascar rosewood can also boast of superb sustain.

In Short
  • Short supply.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Attractive.
  • Full tonal range.
  • Bright.
  • Excellent sustain.

 

Rosewood: Brazilian, Indian, Madagascar & CocoboloCocobolo

Cocobolo is rosewood from the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Central America. Like most other types of rosewood, its scarcity is increasing with time, and its price tag is rising to the occasion. The Mexican government is attempting to regulate the harvest of cocobolo, but an increasing amount of the wood imported to the United States has been brought in illegally.

This exotic wood has an exotic appearance to match, boasting an eye-catching rainbow of contrast somewhat reminiscent of the rich shades of Brazilian rosewood. Over time, however, cocobolo will oxidize, aging to a more uniform chocolate color.

Cocobolo is the hardest and densest of the rosewood family, which makes sound projection one of its strong suits. In fact, some luthiers feel that cocobolo is what Brazillian rosewood used to be, a throwback to the glory days of vintage guitars. Its tone is remarkably similar. The strength of cocobolo lies in the high range; it tends to lose some fullness toward the low end.

In Short
  • Increasingly rare.
  • Increasingly expensive.
  • Often sold illegally.
  • Colorful early in life.
  • Projects sound well.
  • Tonal range leaning toward the high end.
  • Clear.
  • Good sustain.
  • Resonant.

 

Up next: Southeast Asian, Amazonian & Honduran

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro
The Skills

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro

You Can Teach Yourself DobroTeaching yourself Dobro is easy—especially with this book!

You Can Teach Yourself Dobro by Janet Davis offers a logical sequence to learning this unique instrument, starting with the basics and using previous skills as a foundation for new skills. The book is divided into lessons, early lessons covering essential technique and subsequent lessons introducing a mix of music theory principles, improvisation exercises, and advanced slide techniques.

Examples of lessons include:

  • Tuning.
  • Chord locations.
  • Roll patterns.
  • Playing up the neck.
  • Slant chords.
  • Embellishing the melody.
  • Interchanging licks.
  • Seventh chords.
  • Using a capo.
  • Melodic style.
  • Minor chords.
  • Transposing.

The focus of You Can Teach Yourself Dobro is on bluegrass, as evidenced by the collection of standards used to illustrate the techniques and provide improvisation practice:

  • “Cripple Creek.”
  • “Blackberry Blossom.”
  • “Footprints in the Snow.”
  • “John Henry.”
  • “Train 45.”
  • “John Hardy.”
  • “Reuben.”
  • “Sally Goodin’.”
  • “Devil’s Dream.”
  • “Old Joe Clark.”

However, blues, Hawaiian, and old-time country styles receive some attention, as well.

The absolute beginner to Dobro couldn’t pick a better place to start than this book. Take your time to master each lesson before moving on to the next—it will pay off.

5 Tips for Improving Your Writing
The Skills

5 Tips for Improving Your Writing

5 Tips for Improving Your WritingWriting is a valuable communication skill, no matter what we do in life. Just to name a few of the uses a small farmer might have for writing:

  • Writing posts and pages for an agripreneurial website.
  • Blogging about country living.
  • Writing a how-to book for future generations of farmers.
  • Writing a business letter.
  • Keeping a detailed farm journal.

Looking to improve your writing skills? Allow us to offer a few suggestions:

  1. Read. To have an output, one must first have an input. Reading the words of others can help us put our own thoughts down on paper cogently. However, it is essential to read quality works, because we will tend to imitate the writing of those we read. Inferior fiction and unedited eBooks need not apply.
  2. Look it up. We can actively expand both our vocabulary and our understanding of the words we already know by making frequent use of the dictionary. We can look up unfamiliar words to find their meaning. We can look up familiar words to find their origin. We can look up confusing words to find their proper usage.
  3. Learn how to diagram. Sometimes, sorting out confusing words hinges on a proper understanding of the parts of speech. Diagramming a sentence can help, because it allows us to visualize the the interactions between words.
  4. Find a helpful organization tool. There’s no reason to waste time searching for missing notes or battling research chaos. We can make our writing times much more productive by choosing a tool to keep notes and manuscripts organized. (We recommend Scrivener for both research and writing.)
  5. Schedule a writing time. Writing requires frequent practice, just like everything else in life. Setting aside a block of time in the day to write guards us from letting this skill slide in a futile attempt to meet the demands of the urgent.

Notice that there is no special secret here—these five suggestions are within easy reach of anyone determined to improve their skills.

Happy writing!

Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for Guitarists
The Skills

Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for Guitarists

Pros and Cons of Laminated Woods for GuitaristsPerhaps you already have a particular type of wood in mind for your new guitar. Whether that wood is solid or laminated will make a tremendous difference in the sound that you will hear.

Solid wood is exactly what the words imply. Pieces of solid wood are carved into the necessary shape for a guitar.

A laminate is created by shaving thin strips of wood and gluing them on top of each other. The pieces are arranged so that the grain of one layer runs in the opposite direction of the grain of the next.

So is solid wood or a laminate the right choice for you? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of laminates.

 

Pros

  • Low price. Solid wood is not cheap. Laminate is. In fact, when buying a budget guitar, be leery of a solid top. Chances are, the wood was poorly chosen, poorly aged, and poorly handled. For low-end guitars, laminate is usually a more reliable and better-sounding choice for the money.
  • Durability. Laminates are built to last. They resist both hard knocks and climatic changes better than solid woods. This makes laminates particularly valuable for children and those who travel.
  • Low maintenance. This is closely related to durability. Solid tops must be maintained at an even humidity to prevent warping and cracking. This may require special humidifying and/or dehumidifying equipment. While it is always a good idea to protect any guitar from sudden changes in humidity, laminated wood can usually survive in any climate-controlled building, especially if kept in a hard-shell case.
  • Short break-in period. Solid woods develop their hallmark sound with age and use. A laminate guitar is what it is, right from the start.
  • Feedback control. An important consideration when playing an acoustic guitar equipped with a pickup. Solid woods tend to have out-of-control feedback problems. Laminates vibrate less, creating a simpler sound with fewer overtones that are likely to cause annoying feedback.

 

Cons

  • Variable quality control. Laminate is frequently used in low-end instruments, which in turn are typically built with less attention to quality. In particular, the manufacturer may have used too much or too little glue, creating a dull-sounding guitar in the one case or a laminate that will separate into its constituent sheets in the other. This is not a problem with laminate per se, just a factor to look into when you see “laminate” on a spec sheet. Laminates can be used to build quality instruments. The question is whether or not the manufacturer took the trouble to do so.
  • Weight. Because of the quantity of glue involved, a laminate guitar can be heavier than a solid-wood guitar. The extra weight can be fatiguing when playing standing up for any length of time. Fortunately, this situation has improved with the development of new lightweight adhesives. The only way to know for sure if a laminate guitar will be too heavy is to try it out.
  • Laminate sound. A solid top on a well-built and well-used guitar has a sweet, resonant, complex sound that cannot be matched. As good as a laminated top can sound, it cannot compete with the upper levels of guitar construction, particularly in the hands of a practiced guitarist who plays with a wide dynamic range. A laminated top will generally have less resonance and sustain. The difference between laminate and solid wood is far less significant when it comes to backs and sides, however.
  • Tonal deterioration. Unlike solid woods, which improve in sound quality over time, laminates can actually lose their sound quality with age. This typically takes decades, but the process speeds up in particularly dry or particularly damp climates. If the glue holding the wood together becomes too dry or too moist, the guitar will vibrate differently, producing a muffled sound.
  • Low resell value. If you ever upgrade your guitar and sell the original, solid-wood construction will definitely add to the guitar’s value as long as it is otherwise a quality instrument. Laminated guitars consistently resell for lower prices.

 

Conclusion

There are three scenarios that beg for a laminated guitar:

  • An absolute beginner looking for his first instrument.
  • A guitarist who frequently travels and likes to play guitar casually on the road, particularly outdoors.
  • A guitarist who wants an acoustic guitar with a pickup.

Beginners should not hesitate to purchase a laminated guitar for their first guitar despite the drawbacks. Provided that they purchase a quality instrument from a reputable source, technique is far more likely to be the major limiting factor at first than wood when it comes to tone. Once the guitarist gains some experience and wants to take his playing to the next level, then it will be time enough to think about a pricier solid-wood instrument. At this point, he will have acquired the skill to bring out the full tone of the wood and the ear to appreciate the results.

A word of warning—some guitarists try split the difference and purchase a guitar with a solid top but laminated sides and back. There is some logic here, as the bulk of the guitar will be sturdier, but the top (which accounts for about 85% of the sound) will be more flexible and resonant. However, the top will still be prone to warping as the humidity changes, only now it will have to fight against a comparatively rigid body. While this combination of solid and laminated woods is certainly cheaper than pure solid wood and richer-sounding than pure laminate, it can also increase the risk of a cracked top. Extra care will be needed to protect the instrument from fluctuating humidity levels.

Pick Punch
The Skills

Pick Punch

Pick PunchHere’s a fun gadget every flatpicking guitarist will love!

The Pick Punch lets you make your very own guitar picks out of any suitable plastic. Put those old credit cards and gift cards to use to make one-of-a-kind picks!

Using the sturdy Pick Punch is super easy:

  1. Feed your plastic into the punch.
  2. Punch out a pick.
  3. Smooth the edges of the pick with the included sandpaper.

Great for a gift, or just to add to your collection of musical gear.

5 Handy Resources for Writers
The Skills

5 Handy Resources for Writers

5 Handy Resources for WritersEvery writer has a preferred modus operandi, including diverse details such as when we write, where we write, and what we use to write.

For those of you who write in a research-intensive style or genre, here are a few tools that can make your life easier:

  1. Microsoft OneNote. And its equivalent, Evernote. You will doubtless have your own preferences about the connectivity of the software you use that will determine which version of which program works best for you. In any case, there is nothing like this note-taking tool to organize everything from new book ideas to outlines to project to-dos.
  2. Scrivener. For really big projects, we cannot recommend this organization assistant heartily enough. Import research documents, take notes, write your manuscript—all in one place!
  3. Zotero. And if you need a bibliography, let this free database program do the hard work for you. Just enter the necessary information about your source. Zotero comes preloaded with several useful citation styles, and more can be added. Works seamlessly with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or LibreOffice.
  4. Newspapers.com. For those of you with a historical interest, there is a searchable goldmine of information just waiting for you here. You may be able to access the database through your local library. If not, try the free site Chronicling America from the Library of Congress.
  5. ALT Codes for Windows. Depending on what you write about, you may have occasion to use a lot of strange foreign characters. Penn State offers tables to help you find keyboard shortcuts for some of the most common. Accent codes for Mac are also provided.
Why Cowboys Sang
The Skills

Why Cowboys Sang

Why Cowboys SangThe singing cowboy is by no means a Hollywood invention. History records the fact that cowboys always sang, starting back when cattle trails began.

At first, there were no true “cowboy songs.” Most cowboys just sang the good old folk songs that they had grown up with, ranging from mountain fiddle tunes like “Old Dan Tucker” to hymns and spirituals that are still familiar today. Over time, creative cowpokes composed their own folk music.

So why did cowboys sing? There were two main reasons:

  • To keep the cattle quiet. Cowboys who kept journals frequently commented on the wildness and spookiness of the feral longhorns that they were dealing with. They also noted that talking, humming, or singing to the herd was the best way to keep it calm and under control.
  • To stay in touch with a partner. If two cowboys were watching the herd at night, each would take a turn singing a verse of a song. As the song went back and forth, both cowboys would be reassured that everything was in good order.

Doubtless there were other advantages of singing while at work. It would help to pass the long hours of the night, and it would have been soothing to man as well as beast. It was also an entertaining way to preserve cowboy legends and tall tales, or just to express thoughts and feelings on the trail and life in general.

How to Play Minor Chords on a Dobro
The Skills

How to Play Minor Chords on a Dobro

How to Play Minor Chords on a DobroThe Dobro or resonator guitar has a unique feature that can be a great help or hindrance, depending on how you look at it: It is tuned to an open G chord. This means that if you strum all of the strings you will produce a G major chord instead of some kind of discordant noise.

The good thing about open G tuning is that it makes it quite easy to locate any major chord on the Dobro. Lay the steel straight across the neck at any fret, and you will produce a chord.

The bad thing about open G tuning is that it makes finding minor chords a little confusing at first. But not to fear! Dobro players have several options available to them.

 

Skip the Third

Chords are built on intervals. The intervals used in a major chord are the prime (root note), the third, and the fifth. If the root note is G, the third is B and the fifth is D. (We’re assuming you know some basic music theory here; if not, scroll down to the Helpful Resource section.)

The difference between a major and minor chord is the third. In a minor chord, a flat third is used. So a G minor chord consists of the notes G, B flat, and D. The root and the fifth do not change.

This brings us to an easy shortcut we can use when dealing with minor chords. We can place the steel as though we were going to play a major chord, and just avoid the third altogether. Thus for an E minor chord:

  1. Bar the ninth fret as if to play an E major chord.
  2. Pick the sixth, fourth, third, and first strings.
  3. Do not play either the fifth or the second strings—that would be a major chord.

While there is nothing about this chord that sounds distinctively minor, at least it won’t clash with the rest of the music.

 

Play a Two-Note Chord

Another possibility is to play only the root note and the flat third of a chord. While this does not sound as full as a three-note chord, it does have a distinctly minor sound.

The second string of a Dobro is tuned to B. The flat third in a B minor chord is D, which happens to be the sound of the open first string. Thus, you can play a two-note B minor chord just by picking the open second and first strings. In fact, you can place your steel on these two strings and find two-note minor chords all up and down the neck. Just remember that the second string provides the root and the first string provides the flat third.

 

Include Open Strings

Another easy method is to learn two chord shapes involving open strings.

The first shape will produce an E minor chord (E G B):

  1. Tilt the steel to play the fourth string, second fret (E).
  2. Play the open third string (G).
  3. Play the open second string (B).
  4. Do not play any of the other strings.

The second shape will produce a B minor (B D F#):

  1. Lay the steel across the fourth and third strings at the fourth fret (F# and B).
  2. Play the open second string (B).
  3. Play the open first string (D).
  4. Do not play the other two strings.

These two chords can be a big help. E minor is used in the key of G major, the preferred key of Dobro and banjo players. Likewise, B minor is used in the key of D major, a favorite with fiddle and mandolin players. If you need to play in the key of A, also commonly used by fiddlers, just put your capo at the second fret and use your E minor chord shape. This will give you an F# minor chord. (Playing in the key of A is often easier with a capo, anyway.)

As you become familiar with your fretboard, you will doubtless find other combinations of open and fretted strings that you will enjoy.

 

Play an Arpeggio

Instead of trying to find the chord, just play the notes that are used in the minor chord you are seeking as a roll or arpeggio. For example, let’s say you are playing a D minor chord:

  • Tilt the steel to play the sixth string at the seventh fret.
  • Move to the fifth string, sixth fret.
  • Move back to play the fourth and third strings at the seventh fret.
  • Move again to the second string, sixth fret.
  • Go back to the first string, seventh fret.

This can be an unwieldy method for a fast song, but can sound pleasant on a slower piece.

 

Helpful Resource

Interval
Great explanation, complete with exercises for mastery.

Zotero
The Skills

Zotero

ZoteroIf you have ever tried to compile a bibliography by hand, you know that it is not an easy task, even with a small bibliography. Zotero (zoh-TAIR-oh) offers a free, simple, and effective solution to all of you writers out there.

Zotero allows users to compile collections of research material:

  • Blog posts.
  • Books.
  • Conference papers.
  • Dictionary entries.
  • Interviews.
  • Journal articles.
  • Letters.
  • Maps.
  • Patents.
  • Statutes.
  • Theses.
  • Much more!

By filling out the fields (title, author, publisher, date, etc.) in advance, you can save a considerable amount of time. One resource can be cited in multiple works without any need to reenter the same information all over again.

Zotero comes installed with a few common citation styles already, most notably the Chicago Manual of Style. However, an exhaustive style repository is maintained at the Zotero website, making it easy to cite works using any style.

This software works pretty seamlessly with Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, and LibreOffice (plugins are available to add extra integration). A handy toolbar allows you to add a footnote, insert a bibliography, or change the document citation style with just the click of a button.

Invaluable resource—for free!