New Toys

Since the last time we got together:

The New Coursera Cafe Karaoke Project, which will be “You’ve Got A Friend, has been postponed until September.

The Coursera Blues Jam follow-up to “Be True” seems to have been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest/participants.

“Baby Bought A Pistol” is still a back-burner issue, no doubt to be abandoned.

I have started working on a new original song that’s inspired by a dream my ex had, but that’s a story for another time. The lyrics are close to being finished, and I’ve mapped out the production.

But first…

Being a gadgethead and a sucker for deals, I’ve recently acquired two pieces of hardware that I’m anxious to try out.

The first is the Line 6 Mobile In

.

I have been using an iRig for a long time, but since the input goes through the headphone jack, quite a bit of electrical noise can be picked up. I tried different cords and settings, but the crackling noise is still maddeningly noticeable.

They can be had online ranging from $24.99 to $49.95, but in mid-July Musician’s Friend offered it as their “Stupid Deal Of The Day” for $9.99. Couldn’t pass that up! I’ve played around with it a bit, and it seems fantastic, but haven’t tried recording yet.

The second is a Blue Mikey Digital, which I read about in an article by Dan Cross.

I’m too cheap to spend $99.99 on something like this, but a little research helped me find a refurbished one at Rakuten.com for $40.97 (with free shipping, even). It just arrived yesterday, so I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.

My next project will be something simple to put my new toys through their paces.

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[riff]

Back to work, at least temporarily. The Coursera Blues Jam is starting work on another track, and that may distract me a bit.

But not for too long, I think. I find it takes me forever to get a new project rolling, but usually, once it does, I become consumed with it.

I recorded the riff with my Strat through iRig into GarageBand, pretty much the same way it was played in the video. Not “pretty much” the same way; the same way. Not straight through the entire song, though. Modern technology allows me to do a lot of cut-and-paste. I recorded the riff for 12 measures, then copied it throughout. I did a little edit of the main riff to serve as the bridge, and that was that. A little time spent fooling with the guitar tone, and I was done.

I started working on the bass track, and decided to build it with GarageBand’s Smart Bass feature. I can’t get the tone I want playing through a regular guitar, like I did with “Closing The Door”.

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?”

“Yeah!”

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

 

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’!

Meant To Be, Or Meant Not To Be. What Was The Question?

I’ve played guitar for the majority of my years, nothing fancy, just enough to keep me amused.

Christmastime of ‘07, my son, who had become enamored of Guitar Hero, received a Behringer starter guitar and amp set. He loved it and (thankfully) started spending more time with that than the game.

This reinspired me to pick up my own battered Yamaha FG-160 acoustic and begin playing again. Soon I was hankering for an electric, since I hadn’t had one in over 40 years (my first was an old Silvertone).

I made myself a Wish List of several models I wished to have, and armed with a Guitar Center credit card, began collecting.

The first piece I picked up was a Fender Standard HSS Strat, Arctic White with a maple fretboard. I eventually made it my own by replacing several of the white and chrome pieces with black. Looks pretty sharp. I’m sure I’ll post a picture some day.

Soon after I picked up a Yamaha RGX A2. It wasn’t high on my list, but at the time a new one was selling for $499, and Guitar Center had a used one for $199. The volume knob and battery door were missing, but a $37 investment made it as good as new again.

I decided I wanted to replace the FG-160 with an acoustic-electric, and being a lifelong Beatle fan, opted for the Epiphone EJ-160E, the John Lennon signature model (after all, it was the Beatles that got me interested in playing in the first place).

At this point, my GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome; if you play, you understand) was pretty well sated. Although there were still items on my Wish List, I was happy to play around with what I had.

Until February 27.

On that day, at about 5:27 pm Eastern Time, my son Cameron and I arrived at West End Music for his weekly guitar lesson. 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 West End 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.

And as an Epilogue: This past 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?”

“Yeah!”

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