My Halloween was better than this

LameGuitarHalloweenCostumeThis costume is lame.

My Halloween was not.

Follow up: This costume is so lame, I had to shrink the picture.  I just found it too disturbing to have much bigger.


Third Performance Ever

Today was the day.  I performed for the third time ever in front of people.  My coworker sang and I played.  It was a “No talent” show, so there was no pressure.  My coworker did a great job singing.  She changed the lyrics…again.  Which was good because the lyrics were even funnier this time around.  And she added a bridge, which worked out great because we were able to work through it twice before the show started.

She also told me where she was going to announce my guitar solo so I could play some cool stuff.  I stammered, “But I haven’t practiced anything.”  She responded, “What do you mean, just play something fun and then we’ll go into the last verse and the big finish.”  That’s when I informed her that this was only my third time to play in front of people.  She was shocked and felt so bad.  “You must think I’m the biggest diva for always putting off our practices.” she said.  I didn’t.  We were at work and we’re both very busy.  She kept apologizing  and asking how I felt.  I kept telling her it was ok.

The performance itself was fun.  There were probably 100 co-workers in the audience.  We were the third group to perform.  I went out first and plugged my guitar into the amp (which was set at the right volume before the audience arrived).  My coworker got the mic and invited everyone to sing the chorus if they wanted to (it was pretty simple).  Then I started playing and she started singing.  We got to the bridge and it went smoothly.  Then she announced my solo and I just started messing around with the minor pentatonic scale… in the right key!  The crowd actually cheered!  I ended with the riff for the verses and she came in just in time to sing the last verse and the big finish.

So chalk this one up as a successful third performance.  It wasn’t perfect.  I know when I watch the video (yes, someone recorded it) I’ll see lots of mistakes and places to improve, but I did it. I had fun.  I’ll learn from it.  And maybe I’ll get up the courage to participate in a blues open mic.

This guitar stuff is great!  I love it.

Preparations continue – only to start over

Yesterday we had a quick “sound check” to make sure the vocals and guitar mixed well in the room where the No talent show will be.  My coworker and I thought the run through would be the sound check, but that was just going over the order and establishing who was doing what.  No actual practice.  Just talk.

So when we went there yesterday with the person assigned to run the sound I felt rather pretentious doing a “sound check” for a silly talent show.  Apparently we are the only ones performing our own music and not lip syncing.   It was weird, but needed.  The first time I played and my coworker sang it was too much guitar.  Then too much vocal.  Then, like baby bear’s porridge,  it was just right.

So I got everything set on the amp and guitar and then packed it all up until Friday.  When I got home I set my amp on the floor next to the couch.  After dinner, Boy walked over to the amp and twisted all the nobs.  Great.

AmpGoTo11Hope I can recreate the appropriate volume and sound at show time.  We shall see…

My first guitar purchase (otherwise known as Stella)

EpiphoneKorinaSGOn one of our many trips to visit my in-laws, we went to the local guitar shop.  It’s mainly a sheet music store, but has a nice selection of Fenders, Taylors, Ibanez, Bad Cat, Mesa Boogie, etc.  But at one point it was also a Gibson and Epiphone dealer.  On this visit they were certainly phasing out their Epiphone and Gibson inventory.  That’s were I saw this beautiful Epiphone SG.  It was a yellow woodstain with white pick guard and gold hardware, otherwise known as an Epiphone G-400 Korina.  I thought it looked great.  I played it a bit and then we went back to the in-laws house.

I couldn’t get this guitar off my mind.  Finally, after much lamenting, I decided this was worth getting.  So on our way back home we stopped by the guitar shop.  It was gone!  Sold over the weekend I had been agonizing over my first guitar purchase.

But this post is not about one that got away.  I continued to troll around for this guitar.  I learned all I could about it (thank you  Now I know what Korina wood is.  I learned it had a mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard.  I also found it at a higher price at MusiciansFriend.  So I watched it until the price dropped below what I had originally been willing to pay.

Then my wife announced that this was my grad school graduation gift…a whole semester and a half early!  It came in the mail to her work.  She called me and I came right over from the library.  It was as gorgeous as I remembered.  The set up was pretty good, but I had to make a few minor adjustments.  I started playing it before Supplemental Jurisdiction band practice.  Switching between Wolverine and this new guitar.

The guitarist/singer of Suupplemental Jurisdiction explained that you’ve got to name your guitar.  I listened to lots of music and tried to think of a good name.  At first I thought something like Mellow Yellow, but that seemed cheesy.  Of course naming a guitar is kind of cheesy.  Then I heard a blues song that just seemed to fit: Soft and Mellow Stella by Sunnyland Slim.

Plus, Stella is nothing like my wife’s name, so no chance for confusion.

I have had the guitar for quite a few years now.  It is not my number one guitar.  At the time of the original purchase, it was much better than Wolverine with an unmodified neck and upgraded hardware.  However, the Epiphone G-400 Korina is very neck heavy.  It will drop to the floor if your shoulder strap is at all slick.  Also, the pick ups seemed weaker than the ones on another Epiphone SG I got later.  But I think this was a pick up height issue because I’ve played with the pick up height on both Epiphone SG’s and they are much better.

The neck is a little bit thicker than I like now, but it isn’t bad.  The SG is always fun to play because the neck is set so far out from the body.  Whenever I switch from a non-SG guitar back to an SG, my hands area almost always off by two frets since the neck is further out. It takes some practice/warm up to get back the feel of this guitar.  (I don’t know if that description makes sense to you, but I know what I mean!)

It is still a gorgeous guitar and gets comments from people who see it.  It is also fun to play!  I will say that my SG style guitars are starting to fall out of favor.  They just aren’t as comfortable as the strat body when I sit down (and I seem to be sitting down when I play more and more).  Maybe I’m too hunched over when I sit to play, but the upper horn on the SG always digs into my chest.  It is uncomfortable.

Anyway, a good guitar for the price.  A great guitar to look at.  A fun guitar to play!

Preparations Begin

As I mentioned before, a coworker and I got roped into participating in a “no talent” talent show.  We’ve had all last week to prepare, but our schedules haven’t lined up.  So yesterday was the first time we actually got together.  We spent an entire lunch hour coming up with lyrics for a blues song about where we work.  It was actually a pretty entertaining process.

Today is supposed to be the test run to make sure everything runs smoothly.  We shall see…

The nice thing about this event and the “forced” opportunity to play the guitar is it has become my plan B.  I have been working on a guitar practice plan that would really work with my schedule, interests, and ability.  I just haven’t figured out what goes in it, so I can’t start it.  I’ve been stuck in the planning and scheming faze, to the detriment of actually playing and learning.

But while I still work on my master guitar practice plan, these types of experiences end up filling my life with opportunities to play the guitar and even improve in some small way.  So thank you Not Playing Guitar for the reminder that the goal is to keep moving…and sometimes that movement is forward and sometimes that movement is at an angle to where you thought you would go.

Austin City Limits

StVincentACLOnce again I am blown away by an artist on Austin City Limits.  Actually, this time, it is “artistS.” This morning I watched the Andrew Bird/St. Vincent episode.  I started watching it early this morning before anyone else in the house woke up.  So I had the volume pretty low.  The opening song is just Andrew Bird on violin with a loop station.  If I ever relay that much emotion in a performance I know I will have achieved something special.

Then Andrew Bird is joined by his band and he pulls out a beautiful Gibson ES-135 (maybe?  it was thin, hollow, a Gibson, and had P-90’s).  The other guitarist, Jeremy Ylvisaker, had a great Burns guitar and some cool looking green guitar from a long gone era in guitar manufacture.

The biggest surprise to me was St. Vincent’s guitar playing.  She had an old Harmony guitar with gold foil/mesh pick ups that just sounded gnarly through her Fender Deluxe Reverb!  And she really took advantage of the guitar as a way to punctuate her first song.  I loved it!

Birthday purchase

I just had a birthday.  I got some cool stuff, but I also got some cash money!  So I’ve been on the hunt for what to get myself.  If you can believe it, I’ve made some non-guitar oriented purchases first, but I got better.

In a future post I’m going to describe my homemade pedalboard, but for purposes of this post, I’ll just say that my homemade pedalboard  is so cramped that I have to use cables with bent plugs going into and out of the board.  I am currently using a cheap, molded plastic cable I got for $1.50 at the local guitar shop to go from the pedal board to my Vox AD50VT (note I’ve got the original AD series, not the XT or VT series).   Most recently I’ve been using a Boss CS-3 Compression/Sustainer pedal to go from my guitar to the pedalboard.  Let me try to explain.  Instead of having the cheap plastic cable go from the guitar to the pedalboard, I have a 6 inch patch cable with bent plugs go from the pedalboard to the Boss CS-3 pedal on the floor next to the pedalboard.  Then I use my existing guitar cables with straight plugs to go from the guitar to the CS-3.

The only problem with this set up is that I don’t actually own the Boss CS-3 pedal.  A friend from work got the Joe Meek FloorQ compression pedal and wants to sell me his Boss CS-3 pedal.  So he let me take it home and play with it.  He also let me take his Digitech CF-7 Chorus Factory pedal home to see if I wanted to buy it.

Just to make this story short, I’ve decided not to get either pedal.  But let me tell you about what happened as I tested the pedals.  As you know from past posts, I don’t play plugged in very often. So it was a real struggle to play with the pedals.  But I did some late night playing with headphones and a little playing on the weekends when the kids were dancing to my attempts to make music.

Anyway, I could not get a good sound using the Boss CS-3 Compression/Sustainer.  I got a decent volume boost for my single coils, but the effect was too subtle for me.  I just didn’t get anything out of it.

The Digitech CF-7 Chorus Factor was a different story.  Now let me first give my disclaimer:  I do not like chorus effects.  I think they sound cheesy and thin and processed and generally cause the same reaction as running fingers down a chalkboard.  Sometimes a song uses chorus well.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But I was able to play with the different chorus models on the Chorus Factory (7 in total) and actually get some nice chorus effects.

So after a few weeks of playing with these two pedals, I was pretty sure I wanted to get the Chorus Factory and not the Compression/Sustainer.  So I took the pedals back to my coworker to see if we could haggle price.  He wasn’t there that day.  I took the pedals home and happened to be plugging in to play that night, so I hooked up the pedals to my pedalboard.  My world was turned upside down.  Well, not my entire world, but at least my portion of the world that I thought I lived in while comparing the CS-3 and the CF-7.

I turned on the Boss CS-3 Compression/Sustainer and everything sounded better!  I turned it off and everything sounded flat and a little hollow.  I can’t describe what or how it was better, especially when it was on.  But when it was off, I could hear a difference.  I didn’t like it off.  I liked it on.  My overdrive and distortion sounded smoother.  The volume sounded good between my humbucker guitars and my single coil guitars.  It just hit me right.

On the flip side, I could not get a good chorus sound out of the Digitech CF-7 Chorus Factory to save my life.  They all sounded harsh and over the top and hollow.  It just hit me wrong.

In the end I’ve decided to not get either pedal now.  The prices my co-worker wanted were good used prices, but not great steals (Understandable, he wants fair market value for his pedals.  I would too in his position.).  I’m really only buying great steals (no, I’m not stealing, just buying at really low prices, which means I’m not buying much).

This now short story made long is just to explain that I need better cables with bent plugs to go from my guitar to my pedalboard and from my pedalboard to my amp. First, I dug around my old Guitar Player magazine issues to find the one with the guitar cable shoot out.  I couldn’t find it, so I turned to the internet.  Premier Guitar and Guitar Player online both have guitar cable shoot outs.  I made my list of top performing cables I could afford and headed to my local guitar shop to buy said cables with my birthday money.

When I got there I did the obligatory walk through, checking everything they’ve got and saw a used Boss AB-2 2-way selector pedal…and it was cheap…and I had a coupon for any one purchase in the store.  So instead of getting guitar cables I bought this AB switch and put it exactly where I had the Boss CS-3.  I can now use my existing guitar cables to go from two guitars into the Boss AB-2 and then into the pedalboard. I can also use the Boss AB-2 to go from one guitar to two amps in I want to…or if I had two amps.

I still need a better cable to go from the pedalboard to my amp, but that is another purchase for another day.  And just maybe, the second amp is another purchase for another day…

Bob Metzger

metzgerOur local PBS channel had its pledge drive, which of course means great live performances.  I’m slowly working through them on the DVR, but had to post about the great performance Bob Metzger put in at the Leonard Cohen Live in London show.

Absolutely fantastic! He’s got that very cool looking thin line tele.  He played a lot with his pick and middle finger.  He sounded so smooth, but also had some bite to his playing.  It was obviously tailered to Cohen’s music, but it really added to an already great set of songs.