Light Headed

I’ve been doing some soldering to finish up my bass mini pedalboard project. I finished the power supply daisy chain, which took a couple of tries and a lot of double checking with my ohm meter to make sure I did it right.

 So I now have a Boss wall wart power supply that plugs into a female 2.1 jack that connects to two 2.1 mm male plugs and a reverse wired battery clip. All the center posts of the plugs are wired negative and the barrels are positive.

I also started to put together a cable with two 90 degree bent 1/4 inch jacks, but the fumes started to get to me and I got light headed.

Make sure you have good ventilation and don’t breath in all the fumes when soldering. I didn’t and had to quit before finishing. Bummer!

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The Fender Stratocaster

I checked out “The Fender Stratocaster Handbook” by Paul Balmer (with forward by Hank Marvin) from my local library. It is a quick read and a good reminder of how even the cheapest strat can be set up for decent play and good sound.

And if you’re not familiar with Hank Marvin, check out the Shadows or at least this commercial:

I’ll admit, this book gave me a little more hope for the Squier strat projects I have laying around. Especially the one I want to turn into a hard tail. I may just block it off instead of actually filling the entire bridge and spring areas.

However, the book struggles with its potentially large audience. It has to balance the most basic concepts of the electric guitar for new buyers and the nuances of the different variations in neck profile, pick up routing, wood, etc. for experts and long time fans. I think he focused on the beginner. Maybe not the beginner guitarist, but definitely the beginner tinkerer/wanna be luthier…such as myself!

Overall, the pictures are great. The descriptions of all the different things you can do to a strat are inspiring. It was a quick read and made me appreciate even more what I already love about strats!

If you are going to purchase this book, go with the second edition that just came out last month. I presume it is only getting better!

Looped Compliments

This past weekend a friend came to visit from out of town. We’ve been friends since 5th grade but he now lives in Florida, so we only see each other ever couple of years. It was great hanging out with him and my family enjoys his visits too!

One of the mornings during his visit we were hanging out at the house and I got out my pedal board to mess around on the guitar. I started playing with this little riff and then added chords and arpeggios, etc. All this was getting recorded and looped on the 40 second loop function of my Boss DD7 digital delay pedal.

I do this kind of layering all the time (when I actually plug in). It isn’t anything special, but I really enjoy it. I don’t get perfect syncs and the phrases aren’t spot on, but it is fun. And if I mess up, I just have to hear it over and over or delete everything. The Boss DD7 doesn’t allow for editing or undoing just one phrase. You either keep going or delete the entire thing.

I finally finished all the layers, hit the mute on my tuner, set my guitar down, and went out to the living room with the loop still playing. Apparently my buddy hadn’t heard me do that before because he was sitting in the living room just listening. He told me that was awesome as only a good friend can. We both love music and know it wasn’t “amazing” when compared to professional or better musicians, but he acknowledged that I was getting better. That I was making music. It was supportive and optimistic. It felt very good and I really appreciated it.

So, I ask, where does your encouragement come from? How do you accept that encouragement while realizing that you aren’t amazing? That there are always people out there who are better. How do you not get an ego but not dismiss your friends’ sincere compliments?

Also, anyone want to sell me a dedicated loop pedal for cheap so I can keep doing this while using my Boss DD7 for delay effects? 😉 I mean, who doesn’t want to continue getting compliments!

Everyone Needs A Chorus

I don’t think it is just me, but I think just about every band out there, at some point, is going to have a chorus in one of its songs. Not just the part of a song that is the chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, but an actual chorus of singers.

The original video for the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” at the 2:08 point is a perfect example of chorus!

And who could forget this clip from U2’s “Rattle and Hum” movie?

So what about guitar pedals? A lot of people use chorus. Think of the 80’s. So in my recent quest for cheap effects pedals to experiment with I found a used Danelectro Cool Cat Chorus for cheap at my local guitar shop. I plugged it in and got nothing.
My first thought was that I was doing it wrong. I tried all the knobs. I tried playing different styles. And nothing. A little boost in volume, but that was about it.
“I guess it is too subtle an effect for me.”
I told the tech/sales guy and he suggested I try a Mod Tone Chorus if I was interested in cheap pedals that sound pretty good. It wasn’t used so still outside my price range, but I thought I’d plug it in just to see what I could expect.
Wow, talk about an effect. There are only two knobs, but it was certainly an effect I could hear.
I called the sales guy over and went between the two pedals. We agreed that the Danelectro was not working at all. I didn’t get anything, but I certainly have more respect for Chorus (the guitar effect, I already had a lot of respect for a gospel choir).

For those of you who do, how do you use chorus?

Sweet Dreams overheard

In a store earlier today I heard the following on some commercial for a movie:

I don’t know what it is about this version of this song, but I really like how haunting the opening guitar part is.  The rest of the song is fine, but the intro is what really grabs my attention.

Speaking of good intros, is it just me or does Collective Soul have great intros into all their mediocre to poor songs?

Solid State

I went to a show tonight, a concert if you will.  Well, actually it was a record release party for the Intelligence. It was a fun show but the gear was even more interesting. I’ve gotten used to bands playing cool tube amps with custom or vintage guitars. Obviously a lot more money into their equipment than I can in good conscience spend, but this show was slightly different.

The Intelligence had some cool instruments, but they also used solid state amps…which are supposed to be uncool. The lead singer had what looked like a Peavey Reno 400, which if memory serves me correctly, is a solid state amp designed for playing lap steel. He had what I believe was a Hallmark (former employee of Mosrite) swept wing in metallic blue sparkle. Very “surfy” without making traditional surf music.

The other guitarist had a great Guild S-100 into a Kustom amp. I don’t know which model, but I will presume it was solid state too.

So did they have bad “tone”? No, they were very good.

The band right before the Intelligence was Unnatural Helpers and they had two guitarists. The one playing a Danelectro had so much hum from his tube amp (a Peavey Classic 50 Combo) that it was distracting…and painful to my ear. I had to get ear plugs just to stop the pain in the ear closest to his side of the stage. He was fun to watch play, but his sound was distressingly loud with piercing treble. Ouch!

So the “solid state” band used their equipment for a much better sound than the “tube” band. Both were good and had great energy, but the winner of the night for me was “the wimps”! The lead guitarist had what looked like a Hondo II into some Fender Deville model.

So what did I take from all this? Learn to use the gear you’ve got! It goes with N.O.S. and my recent post about playing instead of searching. Whatever equipment you have can sound good. But you have to learn how to use it. I’m sure the “tube” guitarist with the painful hum loved his tone when he was playing and thrashing around on stage, but he didn’t seem to care about the sound he made in between notes or songs.The sound guy even asked him if he meant to have that much hum and he said yes.

So maybe I’m the one being snobby. Maybe he wants his “tone,” both good and bad. Maybe.

And maybe not.

Bass mini-Pedalboard

I’ve been thinking about this whole mini-pedalboard for my “bass rig.” Anyway, I inherited a tuner, bought a cheap compressor, and got my trusty black Russian Big Muff Pi out of storage. I put them all together only to realize I have no way to power all the pedals and no more little instrument cables to go between the pedals themselves.

First I tried to daisy chain them together. Then I tried to add a power input jack to the big muff…and it worked! Here’s where I got instructions on how to do it!

Maybe someday I’ll get around to making it true bypass according to these instructions.

Bass Headstock pt 2

I finally took the hardware off the pink bass headstock so I can reshape it. Reshaping is probably too fancy a word. The goal is to round out the sharp points, paint the headstock face black, and put a military insignia pin on it.

I used a capo to keep the strings together and on the bass. Then I unwound the strings, unscrewed the back screws on the tuning machines, and then removed the tuning machines.

The rings on the front of the headstock did not come off so easily. I first tried a flat head screw driver, but I was afraid that would bend or warp the rings. Then I tried hammering them out from the back with the flat head, but that just started to mar up the back of the ring. So I finally got a socket from my socket wrench set that just barely fit in the holes from the back. Just small enough to not get stuck, but big enough to apply pressure to the entire ring. I ended up using a 7/16th inch socket. With only a few taps of a rubber mallet they came right out.

As you can see from the tracing, I’m going for “fender-esque” curves. Our original thoughts (me and the guy who actually owns the bass) were to do something like a 51 P-bass headstock, but we want to have enough room for the WWII bomber squadron insignia from his grandfather as the “logo.” So I drew in something that rounded the top and rounded out the horn a bit. I also drew in a deeper curve, but that may not give enough room for the insignia. So I’ll cut out the rounded pieces first and then decide what do do about the curve.