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.

 

 

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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 Two

After settling in with my Strat for a bit, I decided I needed a nice acoustic to keep it company.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Yamaha I owned was hard to play, so I started shopping around. I tested a number of Ovation, Takamine and Ibenez models. Each had their pros, but I had a tough time choosing one with the right combination of playabilty, looks, and price point. I wanted a certain sound; I wasn’t sure what, but I’d know when I heard it.

After several trips to a few local music shops, I had just about decided on an Ovation Celebrity CC44.

But after receiving a Guitar Center mailing, that changed. Gibson was re-issuing John Lennon’s go-to acoustic under the Epiphone brand, the EJ-160E John Lennon Acoustic-Electric.

Of course, being a huge Beatles (particularly Lennon) fan. I had to check this out. I rushed down to GC, but they hadn’t received any yet, and they only had a few ordered. The sales person I spoke to took my number, and promised to call me when they arrived. I went back weekly and checked, in case the guy forgot about me. Surprisingly, I did receive a call when their stock arrived. I went in and spent a half-hour or so playing around with it, and loved it. Felt good, sounded good, looked good, and it was in my budget. I played around with a few other guitars I had looked at to be sure the Epiphone was what I wanted, but there was no question about it. I took it home.

You’d think that, armed with a nice electric and a nice acoustic-electric, I’d be satisfied. Particularly since I’m just a hobbyist, not a working musician.

You’d be wrong.

There is a phenomenon known as GAS that we’ll discuss next time.

In the meantime, Keep On Rockin’!

Gee-tar One

I love playing guitar. I’m not great at it, but I’m OK. I started playing when I was about 14. You’d think after 45 years I should have some proficiency, but, truth be told, there was a very, very long period of time when my instrument sat, unused and forgotten, in a remote corner of the various places I’ve lived over the years.

I seem to remember that the first setup I had involved a black-and-white Sears Silvertone and a cheap amp, the brand long forgotten. I started taking lessons, but we moved around a lot, so they didn’t last long. Plus, I was discouraged, because after an hour of paying, I didn’t sound anything like George Harrison.

I’m not sure what happened to the Silvertone, but my friends Dennis and Kim gave me my first electric guitar sometime early in our (community) college careers. Again, I can’t remember the make and model; the only clear recollection that I have is that it was a white Strat knockoff, and I played the hell out of it. As life happened, I moved away, and I have no clue where that old axe ended up.

My next guitar was a Yamaha FG-160 acoustic, which I purchased from a friend who had upgraded to something better. That guitar was tough to play; you almost need two people to make a barre chord. I banged around on it for a few years, but eventually more life happened and it became a corner decoration.

Flash forward several years, and I’m a father to a son who has a penchant for video games. He got caught up in the whole Guitar Hero craze. His mom thought maybe he’d enjoy the real thing, so one fateful Christmas she bought him a Berenger starter set on eBay.

A star is born!

Long story short (too late! the reader cries), watching him play reminded me how much fun I used to have knocking around, so I picked it up again. Figuring I deserved a step up from the Yamaha, I went shopping. But what to choose?

As every member of Woodstock Nation knows, there’s only one guitar: a white Stratocaster.

OK, there are plenty of others to choose from, but I set my sights on a white Strat just the same.

So, on April 20, 2008, I became the proud owner of a Made in Mexico Fender HSS Stratocaster, Arctic White, Serial #MZ6206890.

I have so far resisted the temptation of giving it a name (no offense to Frankenstrat, Blackie and Number One), aways referring to it as simply “The Strat”.

Wanting to make it my own, I did a small mod job. I replaced all chrome and plastic accessories (except the pickguard) with their black counterparts – even the string trees. This necessitated replacing the stock humbucker with a Seymour Duncan, but all’s well.

The Strat was the first addition to my collection. Other pieces will be discussed in future posts.

In the meantime, Keep On Rockin’!

New iTunes Helps Jam More Music Onto Your iPod

I own a 32 GB iTouch, and my iTunes library is my main source of music entertainment around my house, in my car, and even (through headphones, of course) at the grocery store (hey, it beats listening to some marketing researcher’s mixtape and a scraggle of screaming kids; I just have to start remembering that when I sing along with what I’m hearing, people stare).

As an aside, my main source of music entertainment at work is a stack of CDs on which I’ve burned mp3s of every song I’ve liked from 1956-2000 (“All killer, no filler”) and a few GBs of music from Disney parks and movies.

But that’s not why I’ve called you all here today.

One problem I have with my music machine is that it tends to repeat songs. Even with more than 4000 songs onboard, you’d think I’d go for days on “Shuffle” without hearing the same song twice. If I wanted that, I’d go back to listening to regular radio. Well, maybe not, unless I could find a station without Morning Zoos and “Such and Such in the Morning” and Afternoon Drivetimes filled with dj’s who find themselves hilarious as they make humiliating prank calls and host vapid contests between playing songlists manufactured by some research company in the midwest. /rant

Another is that there’s so much music I want to listen to. I have varied tastes; my library includes the Beatles, Jack Johnson, Frank Zappa, Brahms, several different soundtracks from Les Miserables, French chansons, Richard Thompson, zydeco, various collections of world music…you get the idea. And I have several gigs of tunes on an external hard drive that I want to check out: albums that have gotten good reviews, other CDs from my collection that I’ve ripped, others I’ve downloaded.

Basically what I do is sit down every evening and delete the songs I’ve listened to during the day, then every so often load up my Touch with new music. Silly, maybe, but it’s what I do.

So I was interested to read in Chris Pilillo’s Lockergnome newsletter yesterday about a new feature in Tuesday’s iTunes update to version 9.1.0.79.

After the update, when you sync your Apple iPod of choice, you’ll notice a new option on the product tab: “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC”. Check the box to convert the songs on your device during the sync (the original files in your iTunes library will not be changed).

It takes a while for the conversion; mine took over 10 hours for 2958 files.

When I started the sync, I had about 5.3 GB free on my Touch. When the conversion was done, I had 13.60 GB free for more songs. Quite a difference!

If you have an abundance of songs but a paucity of free space on your Apple device, this is your answer.

The Saddest Song

So share with me, Loyal Reader. What’s the Saddest Song you know? What song has the tear ducts gushing every time you hear it? Even before you hear it; if you know you’re going to hear it, your eyes start leaking like a cheaply waterproofed basement. If you as much as think about it, you get all choked up. Everybody has one. What’s  yours?

(I should mention that I’m talking about songs that affect you emotionally, not songs that make you cry because they should have never been made, like Ringo Starr’s album of old standards, or anything by Michael Bolton.)

There’s a few that get me going. Just about anything from Les Miserables. I’ve seen this musical four times, and heard several versions of the soundtrack. I usually start tearing up at “I Dreamed A Dream” (I’ve never seen Susan Boyle’s performance, but Ruthie Henshall’s isn’t too shabby):

Is there any more tragic figure in literature than Fantine?

And “On My Own” is the ultimate Unrequited Love Song, particularly as sung by Lea Salonga:

But, even with all that angst, the song that always reduces me to a blubbering fool is from…The Little Mermaid??

Back at the end of the last century, we visited Walt Disney World (my favorite place in the world, by the way. Just sayin’.). This particular trip was my third, and it was the first with my son Cameron, who was 5 at the time. He had a huge crush (as huge as a 5-year-old can have, I guess) on Ariel, so one day I found myself standing in line at Ariel’s Grotto, waiting for an audience with the Mermaid Princess while Cam was jumping around in the play area, getting wet and having a good time running around with the other kids.  In the background, cleverly hidden speakers subliminally played songs from the movie.

At one point, they were playing “Part Of That World”, which is, as you know, a song about Ariel wishing she were a human, so she could have legs and jump and dance and walk around like all humans:

“I wanna be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’
Walking around on those – what do you call ’em?
Oh – feet!”

I was having a good time, standing in line, watching Cameron cavort.

“Legs are required for jumping, dancing”

I happened to look ahead at the line of waiting people to get an idea of how long the wait would be. I happened to spy an Asian kid, 10, maybe 12 years old, waiting in line, sitting in a wheelchair. The look on his face as he watched the other kids play broke my heart.

“Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world”

Every time I hear that song, even now as I write about it, I think about that kid and kids like him, and, well, you know. They flow freely. Every time.

So what about you? What song never fails to turn on your waterworks?