Making Music

One of the things I picked up from my local library was the documentary Sound City produced by Dave Grohl. As a music fan it was great to watch. As a wanna be guitarist it was great to watch. As a fan of the human condition, it was great to watch.
And I just found out it is on rotation at VH1.

What I also really liked was seeing how music was made. Or at least what they showed. They really focused on the interaction between people as they create something together. That was inspiring!

Road Trip

This weekend I went on a quick road trip for family reasons. On the way, we stopped at Boogie Man Music in Ellensburg, WA. I almost got a used BBE Sonic Stomp, but decided to save my pennies.

More importantly, I saw (and played) something that really blew me away. It was a vintage Hagstrom sunburst Viking semi-hollow body.

These pictures aren’t the actual guitar. The one I played was much more worn and beat up. And if I remember correctly, had dot fret markers. The neck was so comfortable. And the guitar itself was so light weight. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been looking at a 1992 Epiphone Sheraton VSB, but even though it is a “semi” hollow body, they are completely different guitars. The Viking body was almost completely hollow (only a small block under the bridge) and smaller than the Epiphone Sheraton VSB body (which has a solid block running through it).

I was worried as I played it that the Viking would break. It felt much more fragile compared to the Epiphone. I worried that if I took it home, one bump would break something. It played well, but I just didn’t know if I could trust it. But I liked it. It fit really well. Maybe it is just the weight difference I was feeling and not really about it being fragile. I even plugged it into an old Fender Super Champ amp to try out the single coil pick ups, which were surprisingly responsive. However, it is nowhere near my price range ability. But it was good enough for Elvis.

Click here for more stories and pics of this guitar. Here’s a red one in current use.

VikingIISamHare

A little online searching shows that Hagstrom has re-released the Viking, but I have to admit that I am 97% positive without even trying that I will prefer the old one to a new one.

Flat Picking

I love my local library. The kids and I went there the other day and I found a few instructional DVD’s that I checked out just because I can! Reminds me of a Simpsons episode.

Bart: Lisa, we can’t afford all these books!
Lisa: Bart, we’re just gonna borrow them.
Bart: Oh… heh, heh… gotcha! [wink]
— in the library, “Dead Putting Society”

I couldn’t find a clip on the internet of the quote, but hopefully someone else can find it. Anyway, I sat down and watched Flatpicking Guitar Magazine Presents: The Guitar Player’s Guide to Improving Technique Tone, Accuracy, Speed & Fluidity.

I really enjoyed this video for the pure guitar geekery of it all. I am not a flat picker. I have a $20 garage sale special of an acoustic steel string guitar. I don’t see myself becoming a flat picker any time soon. But I enjoyed this video.

They weren’t really providing in depth instruction. They weren’t showing how to do anything more than holding a pick, where to hold your strumming arm, where to place your fretting hand, etc. It was mostly just two experienced players talking about all the stuff they think about when trying to play their best and learn to play better. I ate it up!

Obviously I still need instruction. I need to learn actual techniques and skills. I need to practice and make music. But knowing what to think about as I learn technique and skill is what gives it all purpose and direction.

Semi-hollow body

I’ve been lusting after a made in Korea 1992 Epiphone Sheraton VSB guitar at my local guitar shop. I’m not really in the market for a new guitar, but I really like the look and feel of this guitar. It is basically a Sheraton II, but with a “vintage” sunburst finish. I also really like the flat curve on the back of the neck. Plus the binding looks really nice! My local shop also has two current production Sheraton II’s, and while they are very similar, I can still feel a difference between the two. Plus, the used price is lower than the new price!

Here’s one in action.

Also, interestingly enough, it looks like the original “vintage” bridge from 1992 was replaced with a standard Tunematic bridge and stop tail piece. However, it looks like the bridge posts either weren’t seated properly in the body (they come up about 1 or 2 mm) or the string tension over the years has taken its toll on the replacement bridge, which would be bad news. I’ll have to follow up on that question if I were to somehow get the ability buy this guitar.

At the same time, a local pawnshop has a pair of Yamaha MSR400 powered PA speakers. This is something that has been on my wish list for years! It would be the perfect conclusion to my quest for my own complete PA system. But I’m not in need of a PA system, nor do I foresee that need arising in the near future. Of course I’m not really in need of a semi-hollow body guitar, but at least I would use it a lot more right away.

Oh, G.A.S. How I love and hate thee! Of course this is all a moot point because I can’t afford anything right now and I don’t see myself selling any gear anytime soon (unless I decide to go guitar only by selling my bass, bass amp, and mixing board…nah).

And just for fun, here it is being played again.]

One Week

It has been one week. One week since I decided that I would set a goal to touch a guitar every day. Even if it is just for a minute, I have set a goal to pick up a guitar an play something on it.

And it seems to be working. I have played the guitar in some way each day for the last seven days. That isn’t a huge track record, but the idea is starting to impact my decisions. I was going to type up an entry earlier today, but instead decided to pick up a guitar since I hadn’t yet done it for the day. I ended up coming up with two little song ideas that I quickly recorded and saved to work on another day.

And I’ve already found some of my weaknesses in my guitar knowledge and gotten frustrated enough that I’ve sat down to learn something.

I don’t know if this will last, but it seems to be a good potential blend of habit forming. It seems low pressure enough to avoid guilt and feelings of failure, but simple enough that I want to act and achieve my goal. I’ll let you know how it progresses.

Gratitude

Days when you keep your gratitude greater than your expectations. Those are mighty fine days.

– Ray Wylie Hubbard

http://www.cbs.com/shows/late_show/video/83D28719-6128-B30C-41D7-3F6D1FCD1725/live-on-letterman-ray-wylie-hubbard

Tonight I’ve been listening to/watching live performances on KEXP’s youtube channel while I surf the web and feel old. I am not hip. I am not part of a scene. I do not have my whole life ahead of me. I am living my life now. I have a past to look back on and a future that isn’t looking as vast as it used to. So instead of feeling sorry for myself or feeling like I’ve missed something, I am seeking those might fine days.

Helping

My friend’s son purchased an used Epiphone SG Special with his own money a year or so ago. Pretty impressive for a young kid. I did the original set up and cleaned it all up for him (it was used). And he has been happily playing it.

The other day his Dad plugged it in and noticed that the neck pick up sounded muffled. So he brought it over tonight. I did a quick check up on the neck and string height. It was a little high, so I lowered the action. Then I adjusted the pick up height.

It was simple process and I really enjoyed doing it. The pick ups don’t sound great and are a bit too hot for my tastes. But I was able to dial them in so they are about equal in volume. And I lowered the bass side a bit more for the neck pick up so it wouldn’t get so muddy. It didn’t change the tone entirely, but it made it better.

It is always nice to help out a friend.

Holy Cut Out

After dinner the kids were quietly playing before bedtime (don’t worry, when bedtime came they started whining and complaining) so I plugged in (my pedalboard and amp were waiting for me!) and started playing quietly. It was so fun and relaxing.

Then my sound cut out entirely. I checked my tuner, which was working fine and registering a signal from my guitar. Then I stomped my looper on and I got sound from my amp. I now knew the beginning and end parts of my effects chain worked. So I went pedal by pedal checking all the patch cables. Everything was fine. Then I checked all the power cables from my power supply. Everything was working.  But still no sound.

I turned up the volume on my amp and could barely hear my guitar, but I could hear something. So I changed guitars. When I plugged the new guitar in, I had full sound. I again tested the looper pedal and the tuner pedal. They worked fine. So I went back to the original guitar I had been using. Everything worked fine.

HolyGrailReverb

So I played some more and then hit my ElectroHarmonix Holy Grail Reverb pedal off and on. My sound cut out again. I found the culprit. I hit the footswitch again and again. If I didn’t hit hard, the sound would cut out. If I hit the footswitch hard, then the volume was fine. I will have to pull it out of my pedal chain and open it up, but because I’m lazy, I’ll probably just hit the footswitch harder until I really break something.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just try to fix it.