[the list]

After meditating on the matter, I’ve decided to use the riff as is for now, but, like I said, anything can change during the writing/recording process. I’m planning simple instrumentation, a couple of guitars, bass and programmed drum tracks.

I’ve decided to start out nicking the bass line from the Beatles’ “Taxman’; modified a little bit, it could fit in. At least it seems that way in my mind’s ear. We’ll see when I hear the two together. (What? Paul McCartney on his bass riff in “I Saw Her Standing There”: “Here’s one example of a riff I pinched from someone: I used the bass riff from ‘Talkin’ Bout You’ by Chuck Berry in ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. I played exactly the same notes as he did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people, I find few of them believe me. Therefore, I maintain that a bass riff hasn’t got to be original.”

But I digress. One of the things I like to do when I start a project like this is pretend I’m organized. So I make a preliminary list of the order in which I plan to build the various tracks. This one looks like this:

Drum & Percussion Track
Rhythm Guitar
Lead Guitar
Write lyrics
Process and mix

Of course, best laid plans, etc. But it’s a starting point.

On to the GarageBand drum machine!

[untitled song]

For several years – stretching back to my college days, actually – I’ve been writing these little songs. Some are pretty good, some are just OK, some will never see the ears of day. Ever since technology allowed anyone to turn their computer into a recording studio, I’ve been recording some of these gems with varying results (you can check out my SoundCloud page for examples).

My interest lay dormant for a few years until a took I few online courses through Coursera; specifically, Berklee College of Music courses in Songwriting and Music Production.

Since then, my passion for music-making has been renewed, and I’ve been working more in my “studio”, which lately has been my iPhone, set up with Garageband iOS, Audiobus, AmpliTube, AmpKit, and various other apps. Readers of this blog (the three of you) will already be familiar with my arsenal of axes.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve completed a song, and I’m ready to begin work on another project. I’ve decided to take the reader along with me on this journey, which may take a couple of months, or the rest of the year. It might yield something I’m happy with, or I may scratch the whole thing. We’ll see.

At the moment, the only thing I’m starting with is a guitar riff, which is demonstrated in this video:

(The instructor, by the way, is Griff Hamlin, my guitar “teacher”. I’ve been working with a couple of of his DVD courses, and they’re really excellent. Check out Blues Guitar Unleashed.)

The riff is my starting point; it’s likely that exact riff will be different by the time the song is finished. Or maybe not. I may play around with the riff a bit, then set it aside and write some lyrics. I never know where I’m going to end up once I’ve started, or how I’m going to get there; that’s part of the fun, the excitement, and the self-discovery.

I’ll be back when I have something for you.

Gee-Tar Six

So I found myself with a nice little collection: a Strat, an acoustic, a Les Paul, something I thought looked pretty cool, and a fake Tele.

There remained one style I needed to satisfy my GAS: a hollow-body electric. And if you know me, there was only one on my list. That, of course, would be an Epiphone Casino.


I visited my local Guitar Center and spent some time with a Casino, and fell in lust with the way it felt, and the way it played. I must have this piece! Unfortunately, the retail price of $599 was a little budget unfriendly. 

But I was desperate. I turned to a source I’d never used when guitar shopping before: eBay. Not that there’s anything wrong with eBay; I’ve purchased many items through auctions. The thing about guitars, though, is that I prefer to hold my prospective purchase, play around with it a little to check out the action, the weight, and all those little things that connect a guitar to its player. Having auditioned a Casino at GC, though, I knew I wanted one.

After  a few days, a listing for exactly what I wanted appeared: a nearly new Casino with case for a Buy It Now price of $445, plus shipping. The seller had 99.5% feedback, everything looked good, so I took the plunge. 

A week or so later, my package arrived, and I was ecstatic. The Casino was perfect, and to this day remains my favorite acquisition (don’t tell the others, though). 

2013-01-30 18.51.12

At this point in my life, although there are a couple of guitars I wouldn’t mind having (like a Steinberger, a Hofner bass, and especially a Vox Phantom), I’m out of GAS. And looking at my wallet, it’s going to be a while before I can refuel.


Gee-tar Five

I had lost out on a half-price American-made Fender Telecaster, but a Tele was still on my Wish List.

Problem was, life circumstances had changed a little, and even if I had found another deal like that, I couldn’t really justify shelling out that kind of money for another guitar. Even a cheaper made-in-Mexico model would be stretching the ol’ budget.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m a working musician. I’m a bedroom musician. The only person who hears me play is my son when we occasionally jam together. And I already had four guitars.

But I also had the dreaded GAS. I wanted my Tele!



One day I was thumbing through Guitar World magazine, and an ad caught my eye. It was the Tele I was looking for, but it was a clone manufactured by Xaviere guitars. Intrigued, I checked out their website, and liked what I saw. I prowled various guitar forums looking for independent opinions; those who had tried Xaviere were almost unanimous in their praise.

So I took a leap of faith and ordered their XV-820 and a hardshell case for it. Including shipping, the total cost was…$266.00! And I must say, I’m very happy with it. It’s not real great at staying in tune, but I’ll replace the tuners and it should be fine.



Gee-Tar Four

I told the story in my last post how I lost out on a great deal on a Fender Telecaster, and how I satisfied my GAS with an Epiphone Les Paul Custom.


GAS has a nasty habit of resurfacing, though, and it wasn’t an eon before I was ready to adopt again.  It made things a little easier that Cameron was still taking lessons at the anonymous music store in the west end of town; for an hour a week I could sit and chat with the clerks, and play around with some of the pieces they were selling.


One guitar I liked playing around with was a well-worn Vantage VS600 “Witch”, a Japanese model manufactured in the early 1980s.



It played pretty well, and I liked the looks of it, and they were only asking $250 for it. So it became the fourth member of my collection.



Gee-Tar Three

OK. where was I?

There is a well-known and much-discussed phenomenon among guitar players called “Guitar Acquisition Syndrome” (which can affect other musicians, but guitarists most often; hence the name). It has been (accurately)  described as “The uncontrollable need to purchase ‘just one more’ guitar to satisfy the inner desire that knows no boundaries.”

I became afflicted not too long after the purchase of my Epiphone acoustic. I had read rumors of GAS while visiting various forums, but didn’t pay too much attention. I had an electric and an acoustic; what else could I need?

For starters, I needed a Les Paul. Sure, I had a Strat, but the LP’s have a different sound, different tonal qualities. And since I had a Stratocaster, I had to complement it with a Telecaster. Again, completely different playing experience. For the same reason, a semi-hollow body went on my list. And a bass; might as well have a bass.

Cameron was taking guitar lessons at a local music shop (which shall remain nameless, but that’s another story). I used to go down with him, and spend the time chatting with the sales staff and playing around with the instruments they were selling.

One particular day we arrived for his lesson, and on the sales floor was a new piece: a 2008 Fender American Standard Telecaster, Natural with a maple fretboard. I’ve coveted this particular configuration since I first saw it. Guitar Center stocks a Mexican made version for $449; the Made-in-America flavor retails for $1275. This one was on consignment sale for…$600. Jim, the Guy Behind the Counter, told me that the owner had only played it for a few hours, and decided he didn’t care for it all that much, and was anxious to be rid of it.

I spent the half-hour during Cam’s lesson playing and examining the Tele closely. Also examining my finances closely. Could I go another $600 in debt? For a $1200 guitar, I could probably find a way.

During the next few days I debated the merits of buying the Tele. I wanted it. Badly. My American Express account was empty…but they don’t take Amex. They also don’t accept Guitar Center credit, dammit! I almost went to the shop a couple of times, but some vague feeling kept me away.  I told Cameron, “If it’s still there Friday, then I’m meant to have it. If it’s gone, then it wasn’t meant to be.”

Friday comes, and I’m sitting at work, doing my job, when a salesman comes in the office. The guy’s name is Frank (he’s been in a few times, and we’ve had conversation. He’s a Giants fan, I favor the Browns), and I’m afraid I don’t recall the company he works for. The person he’s come to see is not in the office at that particular time, but he’ll be back soon, so Frank waits.

We start making small talk, he notices the Beatles calendar hanging on my wall. “You like ‘em, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, been a fan since ‘64.”

“Me, too. That’s what got me starting to play.”

“You play? What do you play?”

“Guitar. Why? You play?”

“Yeah, and same thing. They started it.”

“Yeah, what do you play?”

“A little blues, some 60’s rock.”

“That’s what I play, too. I just picked up a new one a couple of days ago.”

“Did you? I’m hoping to pick one up tonight.”

“Really? I got a Telecaster…”

“Really? That’s what I’m getting. An ash-body. I’ve wanted one since…”

“That’s what I got! And you won’t believe the price!”

A sick realization hit me.

“Oh. Where’d you get it?”

“Up at ******** Music. My son takes lessons Tuesday night. I picked it up on Wednesday.”

Of course. Well, like I told my son, I wasn’t meant to have that particular guitar.

So I decided to go out to Guitar Center Saturday morning and plunk down the $449 for the MIM.  I walked in the front door, and what was the very first thing I saw? Something else that was on my Wish List, a beautiful Epiphone Les Paul Custom, Alpine White with gold hardware. Generally retails for $800, but this one was used and marked down to…yes, $600.



I figured I wasn’t meant to get the Tele, because I was meant to get the LP. I can always get a MIM Tele for $449 (and it’ll be decent quality), but who knows when I’ll find another LP Custom in the color scheme I want for 25% off? So I snatched it up.



Epilogue: The following Friday I took Cameron in for his lesson, and fell into conversation, as usual, with Jim (who had been gone the previous week).

“Oh,”, he said, “ I have to tell you a funny story. Remember that Tele you were looking at a couple of weeks ago?”

“Yeah, I really wanted that.”

“Yeah? Well, my brother ended up buying it…”

“Wait…what? Frank is your brother?”

“Yeah. Oh, are you the guy from the construction office?”


We didn’t start singing “it’s a small world”, but maybe we should have.


The Eyes Have It

In the course of writing this series of incoherent notes, I’ve listed the shopping list of ailments I’ve complained about over the years. Readers (both of you) have been subjected to tales of acid reflux, degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, cortisone injections, lymphedema, pinched nerves, back surgery, gall bladder removal, lithotripsies, macular degeneration, blah blah.

Time to add another distress to the list.

I’ve been undergoing treatment for macular degeneration in my left eye for several years now. For the first few years, treatment consisted of having Avastin injected into my eye twice a month. Yes, you read that right. Injected directly into my eyeball with a hypodermic needle. Although it sounds the stuff of cheap horror movies, it is not as painful as it sounds. It’s the anticipation, knowing what’s happening, seeing the tip of the needle enter your eye and spew out the medicine that would make you wince, if your eyelids weren’t clamped back. Sounds horrific, maybe, but considering the alternative is going completely blind in the affected eye, it was a small inconvenience.

The injections finally stopped the advance of the disease, and since then I’ve seen my opthamologist (whom I affectionately refer to as “iDoc”) three or four times a year to get checked. The disease has left me alone, and although I’ll never recover the amount of vision I lost in the eye, at least it’s not getting worse.

A few weeks ago I went in for my checkup appointment. Had my eyes dilated, did the chart thing, was led to an exam room where my eye pressure was measured and I was prepared for the exam.

My doctor came in, shined some bright lights in my eyes while looking through various magnification devices and dictating various opthamology terms to the assistant in the room with us.

I was given a clean bill of eye, the doc wished me to have a nice summer, and said he’d see me back in September.

The next day, I received a call from his office. I was told that the pressure in my eye was high enough to concern him, and he wanted me to come in for a double check.

I went in again the following week. My eye pressure was back to normal, but iDoc wanted me to see one of his colleagues who specialized in glaucoma to see if something could be done “prophylactically”. I giggled under my breath. Yeah, I’m 12 at heart.

Went the following week – last week- to see iDoc 2, who shined and measured and magnified and further tested, all the while dictating technical information to the assistant. I have no way of knowing how much of it she was able to catch, because iDoc 2 is that worst of combinations: fast talker/low talker. Nice enough guy and all, but he was speaking Latin to me for all I knew (and understood). After he told me whatever it was he told me, he made a few vocal notes in a hand-held recorder. I feel bad for whoever had to transcribe it, but they were probably familiar enough with his style that they could translate.

Anyway, the gist is, I have developed narrow angle glaucoma. You can read the details of the disease here. I’m happy to say that other than an occasional headache, I’m not exhibiting any of the other symptoms that would cause me to be concerned I’ll be blind this time tomorrow. I’m scheduled for a Laser Peripheral Iridotomy – laser surgery – on my right eye on July 19, on my left eye a week later.

Getting old sucks. But the alternative….well, you know.


The Graduate, 2012


It hardly seems like it’s been almost 13 years since we watched the little boy board the bus and set off to his first day of school, and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Congratulations to my son Cameron on the occasion of his graduation from Parkland High School. You’ve made a lot of people proud, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Cat’s Got My Tongue

My new roomie

I have a new roommate. His name is Ellis. Here’s how this came to be:

Over Memorial Day weekend, my co-parent Jill and a friend of hers went to a party. On their way back to her house, they were talking and missed their turn. They pulled into a construction site to turn around, and found a number of abandoned kittens; she figured about 25.

She contacted a friend or two to help wrangle them and got the majority of them to shelter, but she kept the smallest one with the intent of giving it away to a cat-friendly family.

To avoid getting close and familiar, she didn’t give him a name, instead referring to it as “Little Fucker”. This was eventually shortened to “L.F.”. My son suggested just calling him “Ellis”, because of Memorial Day, Ellis Island, freedom, etc etc.

Once Ellis had a name, though, it became personal, and Jill decided the best home for Ellis would be hers. A few problems with this: she already has two cats, and they didn’t take very kindly to the new kid in town. In addition, she’s mildly allergic to cats. Two are manageable, but the third one and it’s additional dander and flying fur caused sneezing fits and itchy eyes and all the rest.

Even though my abode is a teeny condo unit, I agreed to adopt Ellis so he’s at least still be in the family.

So that’s the story behind my new roommate. I’m sure there will be future stories to be told.