Guitar from a Rock

My wonderful, amazing, loving wife just commented on how this blog has really helped me squeeze anything and everything guitar related out of my regular life.  I believe the exact term she said was “like squeezing blood from a rock…in hopes that a guitar will pop out.”

Now that I think about it, that would be cool!  Not the rock or blood part, but the new guitar part!

The reality is I am not playing the guitar as much as I should/want.  I’m falling into that trap of thinking and planning about guitar and guitar gear rather than actually playing guitar.  Part of it can be blamed on work.  Part of it can be blamed on rebuilding a mountain bike.  Part of it can be blamed on reading a good book.  And part of it can be blamed on me.

Ok, most of it can be blamed on me.

Weekend

I got my motorcycle endorsement over the weekend.  Took a class (with my wife, so it was almost a date…no kids, just us, motorcycles, 8 other students, and two instructors).  My wife has a motorcycle and I have never driven it, so this was a way to get started and have fun together.  Plus, she got a refresher.

Anyway, the point of this post was how the instructors impressed me.  They were friendly. They were helpful.  They listened.  They observed.  They taught.

A while back I was given guitar lessons as a present, but I never settled on an instructor.  I liked the ones I met with, but it just didn’t work out. Then I started some guitar projects and felt guilty about spending money on those projects and the cash outlay if I took lessons.  So I recommitted to practice (in a structured and organized fashion) instead of taking lessons.

I’m now questioning the intelligence of that decision.  Especially since I have not made a huge improvement on my practice (some, but not much).  I probably won’t sign up for guitar lessons any time soon (I really want to build/buy a speaker cabinet), but I’m curious what your experience has been.  Am I focused on the wrong things?  Am I missing opportunities to learn and improve my playing?  Should I just focus on actually playing instead of amassing equipment?  What, dear reader, is your opinion?

Disappointment?

Stopped by my local guitar shop for their semi-annual no sales tax sale.  I walked through the entire store and did not see anything that really tempted me.  I was specifically looking for a 6L6 power tube, but the only sold matched pairs (which I don’t need).

I saw lots of stuff I would like to have, but nothing that I thought, “oh man! This is something I have to have now!”  or “Wow!  What a great price!?!  If I don’t get this now, I’ll regret it.”

Instead I walked around, enjoyed what they have, wished for more time to play with what I’ve got, and headed out.

Am I getting more mature?

Solid State

Another thing I could do with my new amp is install a yellow jacket YJR which converts the tube rectifier to a solid state rectifier.  It is supposed to give you less sag and provide a tighter sound through your amp.  Interesting.  Could be fifteen bucks well spent for more exploration… or a waste since I appear to have neither time or money.

Plugged In

I plugged in tonight.  I didn’t play loud (kids were already in bed and I was playing in the same room as my wife while she watched Top Chef reruns), but it was great.  That EL34 sounds great.  I still can’t explain the difference between the EL34 and the KT88, but there is something there.

Then I really got brave and pulled out my pedal board.

Even with all that going on, the best part of playing tonight was trying to play Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Can’t Stop.”  For some reason this song is one of my favorites, if not my all time favorite, from a band with a lot of great songs.  It isn’t their best song in my opinion, but it grabs me every time I hear it.

I tried to learn it a year or so before this, but I let it go until I heard it on the car radio today.  Then, without reviewing it, I tried playing it from memory on my Wolverine guitar.  It took a few false starts, but I quickly had it…even better than when I had last tried to learn it.  The string skipping was a breeze.  The rhythm was spot on.  And through my Frenzel amp it sounded even better!  Woo hoo!

I love it when a plan comes together!

Community

This isn’t really guitar oriented, but it always ends on guitars.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been assembling parts to rebuild the mountain bike that was on the roof rack when we drove into the garage.  I’ve already gotten a new bike, so this is really just a chance for me to learn more about how bikes work and how they are put together (and taken apart). Plus I can junk it if I fail.

The really nice thing has been the people at work who are bike nuts.  They have helped me immensely with advice, help, tools, parts, etc.  They have created a real community which encourages involvement.

So as I’m assembling everything tonight in hopes of having a complete bike before I go to bed, I must admit, I started thinking about the different guitar projects I’ve got on my list (which I recently blogged about here).  This diy stuff is really exciting!  Especially when it finally starts to come together.

Then I started having problems setting the bottom race on the base of the stem of my front fork.  It just won’t set properly.  I went online and watched/read lots of tutorials.  I tried a couple of times and it still wouldn’t go together properly.  So I stopped.

I will go back to the bike community and get some advice and help.  Someone might even do it for me or show me how to do it properly.

Am I part of a community like this when it comes to guitars?  I’m sure there is one out there.  I’m sure there are people who are just as gung ho about guitars as my coworkers are about bikes.  But other than online, I don’t get a lot of exposure to the guitar community.  Don’t get me wrong, online is great.  But when I start my next guitar or speaker cabinet project, who will I go to for help when I reach a problem that brings me to a grinding halt?  Who can I go back to for guitar advice and help?  My local guitar shop?  I feel bad if I take too much advantage of their generosity (they need to make a living).  Anyone else?  Not that I’m aware of.

This would sadden me, but I am too close to finishing my bike, so for now I’ll focus on that joy and community I’ll be participating in tomorrow!

Good Morning

This morning, before anyone else was awake in my house, I swapped out the JJ KT88 tube in my Frenzel Super Champ Sportster for a Svetlana EL34 tube.  Quality wise, I’m sure there are some differences.  And the EL34 is used…but so was the KT88 since I bought the amp used.  However, I trust the source of the KT88 and only appreciate the source of the EL34 (since they were giving me a deal on a tube I could experiment with on the cheap).

The EL34 warmed right up and glowed like it is supposed to, but because of the sleeping status of everyone else in the house I had to plug in my headphones.  I got sound.  It sounded like it should.  I flipped between the F and M pre-amps.  They both had different characteristics, but I couldn’t quite hear them.  I turned everything up louder.  I could tell there were differences and there were nuances in there, but I couldn’t quite make them out or describe them.

I’m sure someone else may have had no problem.  I’ll just wait till I can plug in and play loud. That will be the true test of whether my ears can actually hear good or bad tone versus just sound.

After that, I want to go back and forth between the EL34 and KT88 to see if I can hear the differences.  Any tips out there, dear readers, on how to A/B two different tubes on a single output power tube champ clone?

Of course, after all that I want to do the same thing with a 6L6 tube.  Then I’ll need tips on a three way shoot out!

Good Night

The reverb from a particularly juicy fart takes me by surprise.  The smell that follows also takes me by surprise.  Not because I didn’t expect it, but because it was more powerful than I thought it would be.

So how does reverb work and how does it make things sound grander than they may actually be all by themselves?

I don’t know.  I know there is a technical explanation, but you won’t find it here.

I have posted in the past that I got an Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb pedal for $5 at a local thrift store.  Yes, I know.  An amazing find!  But it is currently not on my pedal board.  Do I miss it?  Yes.  Enough to figure out how to get it to fit?  Not yet.

When I use reverb I am generally not trying to recreate some sort of surf guitar sound, a la Dick Dale (btw, saw him live this February and he was fantastic).  I am using it to add depth and texture to my guitar playing.  Just enough to make my sound bigger and fuller (is that a word?).

Right now I am trying to explore my new guitar amp when I don’t waste my evening on the internet.  I want to understand the natural tone and sound of the amp before I start throwing in effects.  So I haven’t plugged in my pedal board yet.  But I need to.  I should explore all the tools at my disposal.

But tonight I have waited too long and must head to bed.  Good night.