New book

smbook_bworkA few days ago I found a book that may actually help me have more effective practices.  I found “Basic Guitar Workout” by David Mead.  I still need to put together an organized group of songs (including tabs, backing tracks, cd, etc) for actually learning songs while I practice.  But this seems like a nice way to get my warm up going and to learn some ear-training since my time is limited.

Lately I haven’t been practicing the guitar.  When I do, it is usually at work during my lunch break.  Home life is always hectic and I make an effort to constantly be involved with my kids when I’m at home…which has translated into less guitar playing at home than I would like.  Work life has gotten very hectic too.  So much so that I rarely eat lunch unless I’m working while I eat.  Not a healthy lifestyle and not helpful for improving my sorry excuse for guitar playing.

So I’m trying to get focused.  Wish me luck!

Drums – the Other White Meat

With the introduction of a new family member there is always some reorganizing in the house. The spare bedroom/home office became the new kid’s room. The music nook (drums, amps, stereo, vinyl, CD’s, etc.) became the home office nook. The drums moved up to the corner of the master bedroom. The amps moved into a smaller space by my home office computer (don’t forget the wife’s more important home office computer in the same space since she actually telecommutes versus my mere catching up from home).

I easily gave up having everything ready for a band to play in our living room at any time for the new kid. A worthy cause, but at least all the instruments and amps could be brought out at a moments notice.

Soon, that too, was gone.

When we found out my wife was pregnant we got a cute little dresser for all his cute little baby clothes. Then all his cute little baby clothes and other paraphernalia began to pile up around the little dresser. The kid wasn’t even two months old and had more clothes than I do. So when our neighbors were selling a nice dresser at their garage sale, we bought it for the Boy. This resulted in more moving…which ultimately resulted in the drum set being dismantled and moved into storage above the garage. It is still possible to get everything out, but it will take some planning.

Goodbye pick up jams!

Second One that Got Away

A few year’s ago I worked in a neighboring town.  About a mile from my office was a little pawn shop that had some guitars and amps.  There was rarely something good, but it was the closest place with guitars.  So I would frequent it…on a regular basis.

One particular visit was different.  In the opposite corner from the normal guitars and amps, right next to all the shotguns, was an off-white, made in Japan, Fender Stratocaster.  It had a white pickguard, but the previous owner had replaced all the single coil pick ups with black Seymour Duncan Lil’ 59 humbuckers.

I asked to play the guitar.  It felt fantastic.  The neck was the perfect size for my hand.  It was smooth and even.  Much better than the baseball bat neck Wolverine had at the time.  It was light and they were only asking $200.

I got excited.  If nothing else, I could cannibalize it for the Wolverine!  The pickups alone would cost me more than $200.

After getting back to my office I called my wife and convinced her that this was a purchase that had to be made.  I went back to the pawn shop on my way home at the end of the day and the guitar was gone.  Someone else bought it less than 20 minutes before I got there.  Bummer.

Guitar Mag Antics

Guitar Player November 2009This may be old news, but I chuckled.  I read the Billie Joe Armstrong/Green Day cover story in the November 2009 issue of Guitar Player.  I got to page 74 where the article stops and the bottom of the page says, “Continues on page 146.”  I start flipping to page 146 to finish the article, only to find that the last page of the magazine is page 144.  Whoops!

Just so you know, it is actually continued on page 142.  Whew!

The Breakfast Club

Of course the day I’m in a late meeting at work is the day my wife throws a surprise birthday party for me. She even got the drum set from storage. Set up the amps. Tried to put together my pedal chain. Bought pizza. Provided my favorite cold beverage. Made chocolate cup cakes with candy sprinkles. Gave me presents.

Then the magic happened. The Breakfast Club had its first reunion gig. But you, dear reader, are probably asking yourself, “I thought Supplemental Jurisdiction was the first and only band he was in!?!” You are correct.  But only because this band has only figured out two songs in two years.

Starting a band can happen in many ways. This time we had our good friends over for breakfast dinner (you know, the one where you’re too lazy to actually cook a proper dinner, so you make pancakes or waffles) and were laughing about what its like to be a wanna-be…and all the wanna-be stuff we do, which led to playing in a band. The wife likes to sing, but the husband has never played a musical instrument or sung. Not even at church or in school after fourth grade. So I got out my bass and taught him the three root notes for a 12 bar blues. Which led to a halted cover of the Spiderman theme song (minus bridge). Our kids loved it!

A month or so later, we got together again for another breakfast dinner. Shortly after eating we broke out the instruments and played Spiderman with the bridge. At our next dinner, we learned Seven Nation Army. Then my wife’s pregnancy started to get in the way of her playing the drums (imagine that). The Breakfast Club disbanded. We stopped getting together for breakfast dinner. We stopped playing. We were just “regular” friends again, occasionally reminiscing about the ol’ band days.

Until tonight.

We celebrated, ate cupcakes, and drank grape soda. Then we picked up our instruments and pounded out our two great covers. After one more run through our two songs, our friends took their kids home. It’s a school night. And on a school night, homework trumps the Breakfast Club.

Rock on…when you can!

Junk Mail

Why is it that I don’t mind guitar junk mail?  I sign up for every contest I see (and never win anything), but as a result, I’m on every mailing list out there.  Plus I’ve got two guitar magazine subscriptions and I’m signed up for the mailing lists of my two local guitar shops.  Even if I don’t buy anything (see real priorities), I still love looking at the advertisements.  I still love looking at the prices.  I still love looking at the different models and figuring out all the differences and nuances.  For example, why is the 61 Gibson SG reissue now $2099, when a year ago it was $1899, and a year before that it was $1799?  What has changed in the making of that guitar?  What has caused the price increase?  What about the Epiphone SG case?  It was $59.99 forever, and now suddenly it is $69.99.  Are they just catching up to the real price?  Are they ahead of the curve?

My first (free) guitar

I played bass in a band. It was cool! I loved the experience and couldn’t get enough of it. I started matching up bar chords to the root note I was playing on bass for the songs we covered. I then learned our original. I’d play it on the headless guitar before band practice through the guitarist’s 50 watt Laney combo amp. It was so loud and so much fun…and actually sounded like music.

The little headless guitar looks so funny on my 6’1” frame. I don’t know if he was just being nice or if seeing me play that little guitar bothered him so much, but our drummer gave me his Peavey Predator Strat knock-off. He’d taken it apart, sanded off the black paint, and forgotten how to put it back together (or so he said).   He literally gave it to me in a brown paper bag.  I was so excited. I started reading online about re-building and setting up guitars. I looked at all the different colors I could paint it, but couldn’t decide. Then my wife suggested I decoupage it with my favorite comic books. So I began looking for cheap issues of Wolverine that had the best pictures.

Once I had my pictures I decided how they would look best on the guitar. After figuring out the layout, I used simple water based glue and a razor blade to cover the entire guitar body with the Wolverine pictures. After letting the glue dry I used a spray can clear coat to try to protect the decoupage and to add extra layers. Unfortunately I did all the work on the front porch of my apartment. It didn’t look bad, but it didn’t look good either.

This is the Wolverine Guitar.

This is the Wolverine Guitar.

Getting the pictures around these curves was tough!

Getting the pictures around these curves was tough!

Back Side

Back Side

However, I was able to put the rest of the guitar together with a black pick guard I ordered from Peavey. I had an instrument to play and learn on that was actually mine! Good bye loaner!

A few years later, a friend at church who works at a cabinet shop saw my Wolverine guitar and said he could easily refinish it at the shop so it looked a lot better. I took this opportunity to borrow a spoke shave from my boss at work and reshaped the back of the neck! I then gave it to my cabinet shop friend and he refinished the entire thing, even beveling the edges and adding the Wolverine name on the headstock. It is a lot more fun to play with the reshaped neck. I highly recommend www.guitarattack.com for DIY guitar projects.

Wolvering Headstock w/ beveled edges!

Wolvering Headstock w/ beveled edges!

Glycerine – Bush

This song is how I learned bar chords.  The song sounded so cool.  The girls really dug it.  I really dug it.  It was just a guy and a guitar (with strings added).  I could do that.  And I could see how he played it on MTV.  So with the help of the Guitar Handbook and somebody showing me how to play the actual song (maybe Melk?), I learned how to play bar chords.  Unfortunately I didn’t actually learn the song.  I couldn’t play and sing at the same time.  I couldn’t even get the timing down.  So rather than actually learn the song, I just learned the bar chords and played those over and over without actually playing anything that could be called a song, let alone Glycerine by Bush.

    E   e  q    s e  e  E   e  q  s e  e  E   e  q    s e  e  E   e  q    s e  e

E---------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

B---------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

G-----------------------5------5----5--5--7------7------7--7--3------3------3--3--|

D---3------3------3--3--5------5----5--5--7------7------7--7--3------3------3--3--|

A---3------3------3--3--3---3--3--3----3--5---5--5----5----5--1---1--1----1----1--|

E---1---1--1----1----1------------------------------------------------------------|

Melk

In my apartment complex (back in my single mid-90’s days with the Steinberger licensed Arbor headless guitar) there was an apartment of guys who seemed to have everything.  They were all great snowboarders and skiers (this was in Utah, snow is a big deal).  They all had cars (cool cars too).  They had cool mountain bikes (my bike was too utilitarian to be cool…since I didn’t have a car).  There were always hot women wanting to be with them (it always seemed like each guy had at least a couple of women hanging on).  And they were all in a band called Melk.  They were a year or two older than me and just seemed so much cooler than me (because they were).

My soon-to-be wife (a hot woman if I do say so myself) and I would sit in the parking lot, eat burritos, and talk while they practiced in their apartment.  I’d go to their shows and drool over the guitarist’s brand new Fender American Strat (with the three color sunburst finish I would later learn is called “sunburst”).

Around the same time I added G, C, and F to my chord repertoire, as well as the E and A based bar chords, but I never learned a whole song from start to finish.  It seems like everytime I play G, C, and F chords, I think of those guys and wonder where they are now…and wonder if I will ever learn songs all the way through.

Blues Jam

I didn’t go to the Seattle Tacoma Guitar Show, but I did end up seeing a sign for a local blues jam/open mic.  Not only did I see the sign, I went to the last two hours!  I didn’t get up to play (didn’t even take an instrument), but enjoyed watching the different players get up and jam with the house backing band.  Maybe someday (in the near future) I’ll get up the courage to actually try playing myself.  They do this every week.