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August 08, 2008

Some More Guitar Work « Music/Guitar »

The other half of the previous?
To be honest, I'm putting these here because I want to watch them, I don't have time now, and I can't guarantee I can find them again easily.
So here is the second:

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posted by Nathan on 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Some Guitar Work « Music/Guitar »

Political stuff coming up soon.

First, some Tommy Shaw:

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posted by Nathan on 07:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 17, 2008

New Favorite Guitar for Collecting/Playing « Music/Guitar »

I think I'm in love with Fernandes Guitars.

I picked up a brand new Fernandes Revolver X for just $100. But I let a Revolver Pro get away because I wasn't willing to spend $300 when I could get the X for only a third the price.

...since then, I've learned of my error.

The Pro model has the Sustainer, which is an electronic, controllable feedback device. Meaning you can get the overdriven feedback harmonics without a Marshall Stack turned on "Bleeding Eardrums" volume level.

Ah, well, I still only bought the X to sell it, since other new ones were selling for $350 (and still are).

But then the more I played it, the more I loved it. I hated the sound at first, it sounded too much like the 70s Les Paul (a sound I don't like much). But I found ways to alter the tone slightly. The fretboard is awesome. Quality/workmanship is great. The tremolo system is the most rock-solid I've ever used. Remember, tremolo wizard Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) played on a Fernandes. (Update: um, he endorsed Fernandes, but he might never have ever used them on an album...I'm trying to look into it...)

I'm just amazed that it is this good of a guitar for just $100. I would be impressed with it at $350.

Then I ended up picking up another Fernandes, a Monterey X, on eBay, because I figured some people would screw up the selling and list one under "Fernandez". I was right. I got the Monterey for $180, and it has an awesome finish, even better action than the Revolver, and better sound. I like it quite a bit. I think these guitars will be highly sought after in a few decades. I plan on playing these two (and others I collect) for the whole time.

After all, the point is not to sell them, but to brag about how you got such a great guitar for such a cheap price, and no, you won't sell it.

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May 19, 2008

Kansas: Carry On, My Wayward Son « Music/Guitar »

Not, as I had originally thought, a re-telling of the Prodigal Son parable.

They do a really good job of reproducing the recorded version.

I think the way Steve Walsh switches microphones and gets down on the bongoes is pretty entertaining and/or amusing.

They all look like they're having a good time.
Except for the drummer, of course, who looks 100% bored.

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posted by Nathan on 07:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2008

Journey: Lay it Down « Music/Guitar »

Another good song off the same album. Steve does a better job keeping closer to the recorded version while still adding vocal ornamentation than he does on Dead or Alive or Stone in Love.

Neal is, of course, dead on the recorded version. Like clockwork, that guy.

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posted by Nathan on 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2008

Journey: Dead or Alive « Music/Guitar »

One of my all-time favorite songs:


Bad MP3 Transfer:

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posted by Nathan on 01:04 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2008

Semi-Obscure 70s Bands for $300, Please « Music/Guitar »

Had a hit with one of the all-time great jazz/fusion songs.

Yes, that would be Sugarloaf. Stupid video below the fold.

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May 06, 2008

Obscure 70s Groups for $200, Please « Music/Guitar »

What is...Head East?

That's correct (below the jump)

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March 31, 2008

I'm Betting People Will Appreciate « Music/Guitar »


You Tube. The crutch for lazy bloggers.

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March 28, 2008

Top Eight Most Influential Rock Drummers « Music/Guitar »

As always, this is my assessment of who is influential, not necessarily who I like, or who I think is the most skilled (although you have to be particularly skilled to make this list). These are the drummers who I know by name, whose style I can identify without hearing the song with it, the ones whose style is a point of comparison in music reviews, and/or the people I have heard cited by drummers as people they want to drum like.

1) Buddy Rich
Even though he's a jazz drummer, his ability and style influenced all drummers. He is, quite simply, the best ever.
From his wiki entry:

Rich's technique has been one of the most standardized and coveted in drumming. His dexterity, speed and smooth execution have been considered Holy Grails. While Rich typically held his sticks using traditional grip, he was also a skilled "match grip" player, and was one of few drummers to master the one-handed roll on both hands. Some of his more spectacular moves are crossover riffs, where he would criss-cross his arms from one drum to another, sometimes over the arm, and even under the arm at great speed.

He often used contrasting techniques to keep long drum solos from getting mundane. Aside from his energetic explosive displays, he would go into quieter passages. One passage he would use in most solos starts with a simple single-stroke roll on the snare picking up speed and power, then slowly moving his sticks closer to the rim as he gets quieter and then eventually playing on just the rim itself while still maintaining speed. Then he would reverse the effect and slowly move towards the center of the snare while increasing power.

Another technique that few drummers have been able to perfect is the stick-trick where he does a fast roll just by slapping his two sticks together in a circular motion.

2) John Bonham
Great drummer. Perhaps a little messy, but great passion, groove, and ultimate feel. I once heard him described as "the loudest drummer ever."
From his wiki entry:

He was renowned for his power, speed and "feel" for the groove. Bonham is described by the Encyclopdia Britannica as "the perfect model for all hard rock drummers that have followed him".[

3) Neil Peart
In contrast to Bonham, Peart is one of the most precise and cleanest rock drummers I've ever heard. From his wiki entry:

Peart is often regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the in-concert drum solo. He is known for extensive, intricate drum solos containing odd time signatures, complex arrangements (sometimes total separation between upper and lower limb patterns.

4) Lars Ulrich
Thrash Metal is to drumming what Neo-Classical Yngwie J. Malmsteen-style speed soloing is to guitar: even if you don't play that style, the technique has to be part of your repertoire. And Lars Ulrich spearheaded the effort. From his wiki page:

Ulrich's early work with Metallica led him to be dubbed as one of the thrash metal scene's drumming greats. He became known as a pioneer of fast thrash drum beats and techniques, featured on many of Metallica's early songs... He has since been considerably influential due to both the popularity of his band and his interesting drum techniques, such as the machine-gun double bass in the song "One" and the pounding opening of "Enter Sandman".

5) Keith Moon
I don't know that much about him, but he is clearly one of the most influential rock drummers of all time:

Moon is known for innovative, dramatic drumming, often eschewing basic back beats for a fluid, extremely busy technique focused on fast, cascading rolls across the toms and cymbal crashes. Moon was one of the first to play the drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed to only keep the back beat. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most distinctive rock drummers of all time.

6) Ginger Baker
I'd heard that the members of Cream were all egotists trying to upstage each other. If so, I think that despite Eric Clapton getting all the fame*, Ginger Baker was actually the most influential member of the band. According to his wiki entry, Ginger was in the same flamboyant mold as some of the other influential drummers in this list, but spearheaded the use of a double bass drum. That's worthy of inclusion right there.

7) Stewart Copeland
Just slightly less crisp and precise than Peart, Copeland still hewed his own path to a distinct enough sound and style that he gets his own mention. From his wiki entry:

Copeland is known for his precise, energetic, and creative rock drumming along with a reggae and jazz influenced style. His distinctive sound centers on a hard, high-pitched crack on a snare drum or rimshot, subtle hi-hat work with understated flourishes, while often playing only hi-hat with bass drum. Copeland is a master of the syncopated beat, and his distinct approach consolidates his position as an important drummer on the world stage, subsequently influencing generations of drummers.

Copeland is also noted for his heavy emphasis on the groove as a complement to the song, rather than displays of technical prowess. He once drove this point home at a drum clinic: Copeland announced that he would show the audience something "that very few modern drummers can do," and proceeded to play a simple rock beat for two minutes. Nonetheless, his playing often incorporates spectacular fills and subtle inflections which greatly augment the groove. Compared to most of his 1980s contemporaries, Copeland's snare sound was very bright and cutting. Another novelty was his use of splash cymbals. He also is one of the few rock drummers using the traditional grip rather than the matched grip.

8) Rick Allen
His wiki entry sells him short, in my opinion.
Yes, Rick Allen is influential because he's probably the only one-armed drummer in the world, ever. But he earns a spot on this list because he is one of the best drummers I've heard at surprising sequences of beats. He doesn't do anything that complicated, but it never fails to sound special to me. I might consider him the equivalent to Carlos Santana: his musical sense is impeccable, even if his technique is nothing to write home about.

Honorable mentions:
Cozy Powell
Carl Palmer
Carmen Appice
Ian Paice
Aynsley Dunbar
Bill Bruford

Not making the list:
Phil Collins
Alex Van Halen
Tommy Lee

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posted by Nathan on 08:16 AM | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2008

Golden Earring « Music/Guitar »

A comment from Diamond Dave reminded me I wanted to look them up in Wikipedia.

I'm glad I did.

Dutch. Dutch?!? Dutch.
Oldest rock band still in existing and touring (beating the Stones by a year)
Unchanged lineup since 1970.
Still performs approximately 200 shows per year???

Wow. Just: Wow.

Mr. Lady: Two hit wonder:
You are not allowed to forget "Twilight Zone."

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posted by Nathan on 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Top Seven Most Influential Rock Bassists « Music/Guitar »

1) John Paul Jones
I think much of the credit given to Jimmy Page actually belongs to John Paul Jones, who had to keep up with all of Jimmy's licks on bass. At this point, any time you hear a guitar and bass playing blues licks in unison, it is called Zeppelin-esque. No other bassist has created such an enduring and distinctive style, in my opinion.
2) Paul McCartney
The guy rocked. He kept the beat, nailed down the low end, and still added in lots of melodic licks and fills. Dang, Paul!
3) Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone
Could also be Louis Johnson of Brothers Johnson...or a group effort.
In any case, slap bass technique was a totally new approach to the guitar. It appears more in funk and jazz, but the technique appears enough in rock to earn the #3 spot in influence; and so the players that popularized it are nameed...
4) Ross Valory
Journey was one of the top rock bands of the 80s. And Ross' bass work was often at the forefront, playing the role of melodic as well as harmonic motion. Add in that he was also the bassist for most of the big Steve Miller Band hits of the 70s, and you have one of the most influential bassists of all time.
5) Geddy Lee
You know, I think Geddy is a little over-rated. Many of his bass fills are rather repititious 5th intervals. I also really dislike his bass tone, which mostly sounds like a muddy guitar. But YYZ and a few other songs show he has bass chops like most people don't.
6) Carol Kaye
Look her up. If half her claims are true, she's one of the most influential bassists of all tie.
7) Derek Smalls
How can you not include Derek Smalls? The driving force between a triple bass guitar composition? Been around with Spinal Tap since the 60s, including all the stylistic changes that encompassed? He's so on the list. I had to make a special spot on the list for Derek.

Honorable mention, but not making the list:
Jack Bruce
John Entwhistle
Noel Redding

Not even close to being on my list of "Best" bassists:
Jermaine Jackson
Andy Taylor
The guy from Mr. Mister
Randy Jackson

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posted by Nathan on 09:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 15, 2008

...Speaking of my Favorite Guitarists, III « Music/Guitar »

Rik Emmett again.

How can you not like this guy?

Yet another version of the same song:

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posted by Nathan on 11:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
...Speaking of my Favorite Guitarists, II « Music/Guitar »

Rik Emmett, playing one of my favorite acoustic fingerpicking solos, ever:

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posted by Nathan on 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
..Speaking of my Favorite Guitarists « Music/Guitar »

Here's one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite guitarists:

Dan Huff is incredible. He does these incredibly complex blues riffs, has some of the most fluid guitar solos in the business, has a good voice, writes great songs, and has an awesome guitar tone.

Full disclosure: I only know him from Giant. I've never heard a Whiteheart song.

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posted by Nathan on 11:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2008

Top 10 Most Influential Rock Guitarists (UPDATED) « Music/Guitar »

Please note: these are not the most skilled guitarists (different list; would include Rik Emmitt of Triumph), nor is it a list of my favorite guitarists (would include Tommy Shaw of Styx). These are the guys who I think you need to absorb if you want to really understand why you hear what you do on the radio, and if you want to be a well-rounded guitarist. These are the guys who when you hear a solo or rhythm part on a song, you can say, "Oh, that was clearly influenced by this guitarist." Without further ado:

1) Chuck Berry
Although Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock and Elvis That's All Right (Mama) predated Chuck's Maybellene by a year, his signature licks and moves established what it meant to be a guitar hero with chops and flash.

2) Eddie Van Halen
Although "hammering on" predated Eddie, he made it popular. He also changed the guitar solo away from repeated patterns into more of a composed, prepared line of music. He also innovated songwriting structure in using more of the guitar fingerboard for rhythm work than most guitarists.

3) Yngwie J. Malmsteen
He inspired more stylistic imitation than perhaps any other guitarist ever. His sweep-picking and harmonic-minor scale and emphasis on pure speed set the standard for guitar work in genres far outside Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, to include Jazz and even Country (in a few examples). He set the course of guitar virtuosity that endured for a decade before giving away to Grunge (which itself was a reaction to Malmsteenian guitar hero excesses).

4) Jimi Hendrix
Distortion and blues were invented by others, but popularized by Hendrix. To be honest, I don't really get Hendrix that much. I listen to his songs and hear nothing that makes me say, "How'd he do that?" or makes me want to pick up my guitar to figure out a lick. But he does do that for thousands of others, so I'll put him at #4.

5) Joe Satriani
Joe took Malmsteen's virtuosity and applied mathematical and guitar theory permutations to it. Then he nearly single-handedly created the "solo for 3 hours over a few simple chord changes" style of guitar instrumental compositions. He's good, and if people aren't trying to be the next Jimi, they're trying to be the next Joe.

6) Jimmy Page
Another guitarist I just don't get. I do often hear things by Jimmy that makes me wonder "How'd he do that?", but the problem is that I also can't figure out, "Why'd he even want to do that?" But since so many other people worship him, he's gotta be here somewhere. I'd put him at #10 except for the Black Dog lick moves him up.

7) Stevie Ray Vaughan
For the most part, I didn't want to put derivatives on this list. So: no Steve Vai, because he didn't do anything Satriani didn't do at least as good. But while SRV built on Jimi, he also added flash and Yngwie-like virtuosity to his Blues playing. And he changed the direction of Blues compositions, my opinion.

8) Carlos Santana
Smooth. Lyrical. Carlos is the guitarist that launched a guitar company. At least in my mind: when I think of Paul Reed Smith, I think of Carlos Santana and the tune Black Magic Woman floats through my head for the next hour. Carlos makes the guitar sing with soul, and anyone who wants to express themselves through the guitar tries to play like Santana.

9) Brad Gillis
Although he gets little credit for it, Brad was the original master of the tremolo system. Few use the trem better than Brad, and no one earlier came close to the stuff he could do. With Brad, the trem wasn't a trick or gadget, it was a vital tool of guitar solo expression.

10) George Lynch
He shared a style with Jake E. Lee (Ozzie) and Warren De Martini (Ratt), creating a certain sound and style of rhythm and solo work. But George was the oldest, and he was the one who influenced Jake and Warren to use a metal pick. I give him the credit for being the mentor...and let's face it: no one made a guitar sound more menacing than Lynch.

Not making the cut:
-Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
Awesome blues work, especially the slide. Almost bumped Lynch
-Steve Vai
He achieved fame as David Lee Roth's EVH imitation guitarist. He followed in his teacher's (Satriani's) footsteps of guitar instrumentals. He re-invented Gillis' tremolo skills, with less style. But he was good in Cross Roads.
Bill Haley
-May have mostly invented rock guitar...or may have just been the first one to get a hit using a style he learned from others. I think the latter.
Randy Rhoads
-He didn't do anything that Ritchie Blackmore and the Scorpions didn't do earlier, or Yngwie Malmsteen didn't do better.
Ritchie Blackmore
-See Yngwie Malmsteen. Ritchie was totally eclipsed.
Kurt Cobain
-He didn't do anything special on guitar. His influence was as a singer and lyricist.
Neal Schon
-See Carlos Santana.

Diamond Dave asks: "What? No Eric Clapton?"
Well, I know many people think 'Clapton is God', but honestly: what influence has he had on modern guitar? He might have had something to do with overdrive distortion, but it seems like Hendrix gets the credit for that. Maybe I'm missing something, though; I have never heard anyone say, "Clapton made me want to play guitar." I have never seen Clapton's solos listed as the best ever. I have never heard a solo that made me think, "How did he come up with that? (musical expression, rather than technical skill)." He isn't technically proficient. He doesn't do that many styles. Again, I may be missing something, but I defy you to pick out any guitar solo on a CD in the last decade and say, "That was influence by Eric Clapton's playing." Which is what this post is all about...hmm, may need to add that to the intro, eh?

Other notables not making the list: Joe Perry, Ronnie Montrose, Tony Iommi, Vivian Campbell, Chet Atkins (though it was close), Les Paul, Screech Slash, Mick Mars, Trevor Rabin, Dan Huff, Robin Trower, Rick Derringer...sheesh, there's a lot of really, really good guitarists out there. But only a few have set standards, and they are pretty much those in the list.

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posted by Nathan on 09:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2008

I Think I Know Why Westone Went Bankrupt « Music/Guitar »

They went bankrupt despite being good quality, innovative guitars.

There is a solid body of Westone enthusiasts out there. But they went out of business anyway.

Okay, it couldn't have helped when Matsumoku stopped making guitars. That resulted in moving production to Korea (I think to Samick, but I'm not sure). Samick is a good guitar maker, but Matsumoku was something special.

Some people say that Westone got caught in a numbers game: they were producing high-quality guitars that competed with the best names in the business at a lower price, but B.C. Rich, Ibanez, Charvel-Jackson, et al, got bigger quicker, and Westone was left with a too-small piece of the growing Super Strat market.

That makes sense.

But in my opinion, I think Westone's biggest problem was that they never really developed a coherent business model.

Take a look at a catalog, and compare it to the price list (If the links don't work, then navigate from the main page by clicking "catalogs", then look at the 1988 catalog and pricelist). Notice from the catalog spec sheet that the top 4 guitar specs are almost identical. The same neck scale and radius, same tuning pegs, same pickups, same tremolo system... Yet the prices vary from $350 to $475. Why? What reason would you want to get the $350 Pantera rather than the $350 Spectrum II? What makes the Spectrum 1 $25 better than the Spectrum Basic? How do you choose between the $449 Corsair and the $449 Genesis? Why aren't some of these guitars in the catalog?

Now compare that with the same-year (1988) British catalog. Why doesn't Great Britain get the Pantera, the Corsair, the Genesis? All they get is about 100 variations, all called the Westone Spectrum Series II. Well, they get the Corsair, but it's still called the Spectrum. Honestly, why give wildly differing guitars the same name to three levels? (Westone. Spectrum. Series II.) It can only reduce brand name recognition by muddling characteristics.

Then look at the 1984 catalog, the 1987 catalog, the 1989 catalog, and the 1990 catalog (the last before they closed up shop).
About the only common thread in those 4 catalogs spanning just 6 years is the name "Spectrum." Configurations are clearly all over the map. And where does the Challenger fit in? Or the Villain?

I've played on an '87 Westone (made in Japan), an '89 Westone (made in Korea), and an unknown Westone Frankenstein (original neck and tremolo, likely made between '86 and '88). They all have identical necks. The necks are all awesome, maybe the best in the business.

What they really should have done is hyped the neck. It is unique in its rock-solid consistency, low action, easy string-bending, and ability to aid and abet fast playing (shredding) at such a low price.

Then they should have made a clear three-tier system of quality. The lowest level should have had a fixed bridge and only a bridge pickup and a basic body. Higher levels within the basic tier would add more pickups. The next level up could add a tremolo system and have more pickups on the base models, and sculpted bodies (alternatively, sculpted bodies could be a separate line), better wood, and some special features on the deluxe mid-tier guitars. The top level would then have bound bodies, the best woods in the body (maybe even some flame or quilted tops), options for deluxe paint jobs, and the top, professional-quality pickups.

Such a plan would have allowed anyone to pickup a basic guitar for fairly cheap, and fall in love with the Westone Neck. Then they would want to move up, and depending on their bank account and/or performance needs, could get a decent guitar at a mid-range price, or a deluxe guitar at a deluxe price with enough of a profit margin to not go out of business.

Instead, it's hard to tell if the top-of-the-line Westone was the Pantera, the Genesis, or the Corsair. At one time or another, each of those was the highest-priced Westone, but there was a great deal of overlap in these guitars being offered for sale. For instance, all are offered on the 1988 pricelist. The Corsair is the most expensive of the three in baseline models ($449 for the Corsair compared to the Genesis' $425 and the Pantera Basic's $399), but the Pantera Deluxe starts at $995! (except for the outlier in "dull black" that is just $699) Why such a big gap? Why make the Pantera Deluxe the most expensive rather than put that quality/accessory level on the Corsair?

As I've said, I have a 1989 Westone Spectrum 1-A and a 1987 Westone Spectrum II (XA-1230), and I wouldn't be able to tell you which one is the better guitar. And, incidentally, they are virtually the same price ($375 vs $369). I'm hoping to purchase a 1988 Corsair Standard, so maybe at that time I'll have a little more insight into their quality levels.

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March 04, 2008

"Ultimate" Canon Rock? « Music/Guitar »

Well, yeah:

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March 03, 2008

Pachabel's Canon, Rock Style « Music/Guitar »

This guy really has fun with it:

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posted by Nathan on 01:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
"Impossible" Guitar? Gadget Guitar, Actually « Music/Guitar »

But you know what? It isn't that impressive to me. The guy has 12 strings to start with, and that means he can "cheat" with what he sets as his open tuning. And then there are little objects all over his fretboard, which I think work as mini-capos, further setting open string notes.

It's an engineering effort. It's a mechanical success. It isn't really a musical talent.

But it's interesting to see, so there ya go.

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posted by Nathan on 07:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 02, 2008

Two Guys, One Guitar, II « Music/Guitar »

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posted by Nathan on 12:12 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Two Guys, One Guitar « Music/Guitar »

Can't hear the bass part on my computer, though. I hope y'all can:

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posted by Nathan on 09:50 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2008

Brainfertilizer Free Download II « Music/Guitar »

The midi file of an extremely short latin jazz number I composed.

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posted by Nathan on 08:07 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2008

Electric Guitar Update, Overall « Music/Guitar »

I have too many guitars.

I have two guitars I want to sell:
1) a 2000 Ibanez Artstar AS-80 semi-hollow body guitar in mint condition (except for tarnished frets). It's okay, sounds pretty good...but I could never get the beautiful jazz sounds out of it that I imagined...I can get as good of a jazz sound out of my solid-bodied rock guitars, sometimes better.
2) a Schecter Diamond Series Omen-6. Two humbuckers, 24 frets, hardtail bridge. Walnut top with semi-transparent dark tone finish. It's pretty, and sounds okay, but just isn't that fun to play.

I also have the Frankenstein guitar that I want to part out. I may keep the neck to put on the Strat kit, but probably not. I think I can get close to $150 for all the parts, which would be a little more than I paid for it...

So that leaves the ones I want to keep:
1) My Carvin. It's a Bolt, so it's a Strat copy, but with a hardtail bridge. That gives it better sustain than a real strat, and when you bend strings, the non-bent strings don't lose pitch. It has a swamp ash body, with semi-transparent green automotive paint. It has a humbucker in the bridge position (supposedly, it has a coil splitter, but I can't tell much difference...maybe it switches phases?), and two single coils. It has 22 frets, and a bird's eye maple neck that is smooth and comfortable. I don't want to sell it because it is nearly a perfect guitar, and I love its sound.

2) My genuine 1987 Westone XA1230 Anniversary Spectrum II. It has a good sound in all positions, nice crunch with the bridge humbucker, as well as good jazz with its single coil in the neck position. It has a good tremolo system, except that when I use it more than a semi-tone, the G-string goes out of tune. I'm hoping I can fix that with some oil or new strings, because I don't want to sell it for two reasons: 1) it's a fully-original Westone (except for the knobs...who cares about that?), and 2) It's serial number is 70123456. It seems almost impossible to have it in sequence like that, but there it is.

westone 003.jpg

3) My J. B. Player Professional. It has a Wilkinson tremolo system that works great now that I have the tremsetter on it. It also sounds pretty nice with the Carvin pickups I added. Moreover, it is a beautiful guitar, perhaps my most beautiful guitar: rounded body sides, transparent cherry sunburst on what I assume is maple because it actually has some quilting near the corner, and some interesting other texture elsewhere on the back and the horns. It also has 24 frets, but there is one fret that doesn't sound (the 19th fret on the high E string only), which is irritating, but avoidable...I'll have to fix it at some point. It's also the guitar I used when I played lead in our advanced training class. And I've honestly never seen another guitar that looks like this one. To me, it really seems, if not unique (because everything about it is well within guitar norms), at least not something you see every day.

4) My resurrected 1989 Westone Spectrum 1A. It sounds great with the new pickups, plays great with the Yamaha tremolo bridge, and it works great now that I lowered the bridge after removing the washers from under the neck joint. This was the first guitar that I designed the wiring. I feel like I resurrected it from the dead, and it has a very unique sound among my guitars, probably the one with the most edge in the bridge humbucker position. It also is the only one that can have a coil-splittable humbucker in the neck position, which makes it nice for both jazz or blues. The neck is the actually the best neck of all my Westones, actually.

5) My 2007 Fernandes Revolver X. Jet black. 24 frets. Fernandes-system licensed Floyd Rose tremolo system. Two (non-splittable) humbuckers, with a 3-way switch. I didn't like it at first, and was just going to sell it. It sounds like a Les Paul, which I don't like much. The action isn't as sweet as my Westones. The pickup configuration isn't very flexible. But the more I played it, the more I found sounds I like in different positions. The tremolo is flawless. The guitar itself is flawless, whereas all my other guitars have dings from previous users that came with the guitar. I have other guitars that can be flexible, but this is my only guitar that I know has zero problems, and will continue to have zero problems because I'll be careful with it. It's just plain black, so not very pretty, but I think I'll have fun with it over the years. It's good for soloing, and I think I can work on lowering the action. Straight out of the box, it ain't bad. It's at least as good as my Carvin.

6) My Cort Effector Explorer. Even aside from the fact that I have never had any Explorer-style guitars before, I think the Effector function is kinda cool. They aren't constantly on eBay, so I think they're not exactly common anymore. They should be getting more and more rare as people misuse them. I hear the guitar's hardware has lots of problems, but I think I can upgrade the trem, nut, and tuning pegs and end up with a sweet guitar. I haven't received it yet, so maybe I'm wrong. If so: screw it, get rid of it for $80 from a pawn shop.

7) My strat kit guitar. I'm going to have to figure out how to paint it, and how to cut the headstock. Other than that, I'm excited about putting a guitar together myself. I will probably upgrade the bridge, because I hate the old vintage fender strat-style. I think I've got a roller bridge in the bag on eBay, and I also purchased a roller nut; with Spertzel locking tuners, it could be a nice guitar. I also have 2 Carvin AP-11 single-coil pickups, 2 EMG Select single-coil pickups and 2 Westone single-coil pickups I can drop in, if I don't like the stock pickups they supply. I don't think I want to sell it if I put all the work into it...but I also don't really like strats that much in the first place, so maybe I'll just sell it...I should be able to make a profit, especially with upgraded parts, and if I do a decent job on the paintjob and headstock. But I want the experience of putting it together.

8) A J. B. Player Sledgehammer. I haven't received this one yet, either, because I'm waiting until I move to the mainland US, so as to save on shipping costs, since I'll be there soon. It's a pretty guitar, with a really strong wood grain under a transparent sunburst paint job. It has 22 frets, two humbuckers and a 3-way switch, fixed bridge. I have no idea how it will sound. I like every other J. B. Player I've played on (which is one other...), and they get great reviews from anyone who has one. It has a bound body, which will also be a first for me. I think I'll enjoy it quite a bit. I've never seen another guitar that looked like this J. B. Player, either.
j.b. player sledgehammer.JPG

I have one acoustic guitar that will not be sold.

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posted by Nathan on 11:54 AM | Comments (213) | TrackBack (0)

February 16, 2008

You Probably Should Check This Out « Music/Guitar »

The live version (which I saw first):

The original version:

Check out all the other videos they do, too. It's worth it.


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posted by Nathan on 01:47 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

February 13, 2008

Guitar Acquisition Update « Music/Guitar »

I haven't received the Explorer-style Cort Effector yet. I may take right to a guitar shop and sell it on consignment, accepting the lost capital as a lesson for bidding before I do more research and eBay searching.

I'll make the final decision after taking it out of the box and playing it for 5 minutes, though. One can't be too hasty with guitars, of course.

I also won a Strat-copy guitar kit for a total of $95 (including shipping). It doesn't appear to be Saga (which has lots of quality control problems). The equipment in the picture looked to be slightly higher quality, and the big clue is that the neck has 22 frets instead of the Saga's 21. Which is good, because I hate 21-fret guitars. 22-fret guitars are barely tolerable, and I prefer 24-fret as being the most versatile, but there are too many songs you need to bend up to the high E from the 22nd fret of the top string.

Anyway, I have a good set of extra tuners if the tuners turn out as bad as the Sagas, and I have a few good single coil pickups if the pickups end up being crap. But I'm looking forward to actually assembling one from scratch, especially having to/getting to align the fretboard and adjust the bridge. I'm also considering trying to learn to do some finishing, so I'm trying to figure out what color I want to paint it. Part of that will depend on what the wood grain looks like.

It will be a few weeks before I start, but I'll update you regularly when I do.

Wish me luck!
P.S. Don't forget to check out me playing some jazz here Feedback welcome.

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posted by Nathan on 07:04 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Westone Spectrum 1A Update « Music/Guitar »

One of the reasons I've considered replacing the Yamaha finger-clamp locking tremolo bridge that the previous axe murderer (so to speak) put in with an extra original Westone Bendmaster I have on hand is that the bridge was sitting about half an inch above the body. I don't know if you can see it in the previous pictures or not.

Now, the alert reader will notice the past tense in the sentence preceding the preceding sentence.

I noticed that the neck attaches to the body at a really steep angle, which causes the bridge to have to be pretty high to clear the pickup rings. There was room to drop it maybe an 8th, probably just a 16th of an inch closer to the fingerboard, but that's about it. But I also noticed a very slight gap between the neck and body in the neck pocket.

So what the heck? I removed the neck, found 2 washers the Axe Murderer used to create that slight gap, and replaced the neck.

After tightening it down good, I think the strings are now about a 1/4 of an inch about the frets at the 22nd fret. I may be exaggerating slightly. Still, I think I can screw in the bridge posts somewhat and end up with a more normally set up guitar.

...I wonder if the Axe Murderer put it up that high for the guitar synth pickup? Dunno.

But with the neck tightened down, it should have better sustain. It already sounded pretty good, this should make it even better. I'm really loving this guitar.

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posted by Nathan on 05:30 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

February 12, 2008

Test of the Brainfertilizer Music System (Updated) « Music/Guitar »

Walking Jazz Guitar

Yep, it's me playing that. It will be one of the tracks if I ever get around to doing some more compositions and recording my stuff.

I didn't write the song, though. I got it from a magazine. :( I can't really write jazz music, particularly walking bass + chords. :( :(

Update: It works!

Update II: Thanks to David J. (Resurrection Song) and Mr. Lady (Whiskey in My Sippy Cup), both blogs found on the right sidebar, for linking this post.

Please feel free to download, and I'd enjoy any comments, positive or negative or constructive. Thanks.

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posted by Nathan on 06:18 PM | Comments (68) | TrackBack (0)

February 11, 2008

As Promised « Music/Guitar » completed guitar project.

Here's what I started with:

Here's how it turned out:

The sound is actually quite good. The good points:
I wired it up so that the neck position double coil splits. My reasoning is that I never use a single coil in the bridge position...I'm a rocker, and a single in the bridge is just too thin. But I do like the difference between a single coil and a double coil in the neck position. To be honest, that a change for me (an advancement in musical taste? ...skill? ...understanding?), since I never used to use the neck position pickup at all. But with better guitars and better pickups, I am finding that I really like the neck position humbucker for jazz, and the neck position single coil for blues/classic sounds. So setting it up that way works well for me. Furthermore, the Carvin AP11 in the middle position puts out enough warm, woodish sounds that it works great for surf songs. Again, this is the first time that I've ever really seen the point of a middle position pickup.

The bad points:
The tone knob doesn't make an appreciable difference. It does make a noticeable difference, but it is very, very little. I may remove the capacitor and see what difference that makes. But I may not, since I rarely use tone knobs due to not really liking the results.
Position 2, i.e., the bridge + middle pickups, is really thin and weak. I think something is wired wrong, so it might just be the bridge single coil. I couldn't find a wiring diagram out there that fit my configuration and needs exactly, so I combined a few different ones. I based my wiring on a Seymour Duncan diagram (I installed Mighty Mite pickups), so its possible that I have it set up for auto-tap without the middle pickup at all, or it might be an out-of-phase result that cancels out overtones/harmonics and leaves the result so thin. After the fun wears off (and I'm fully familiar with all the sounds), I may change a few wire connections and see if I can improve the position 2 sound without affecting the other positions.

The Yamaha trem system is very stable, by which I mean that when you bend one string, the other strings don't drop in pitch. A trem arm for it is on the way from eBay. I'll be upset if the locking system doesn't stay in tune on divebombs, since that's what the advantage of the locking system is supposed to be over the standard strat trem system. But if it doesn't hold tune, I guess I'll just swap it out with the extra Westone Bendmaster trem bridge I have on hand...with any missing parts scavenged from the Frankenstein Westone that I plan to dismantle and sell in/as parts.

All in all, I'm pleased with the results, and this may end up becoming one of my favorite guitars.

Next up: I got a strat guitar kit on eBay for about $75, so now I'll get to assemble a guitar from scratch with all the parts present and accounted for, which is a little different than starting with an assembled neck/body but having to acquire, design, and assemble the electronics.

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posted by Nathan on 09:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

February 07, 2008

FYI: Guitar Purchases « Music/Guitar »

I didn't win the bid for the blueburst strat-style Cort Effector.


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posted by Nathan on 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 05, 2008

1989 Westone Spectrum 1-A « Music/Guitar »

What makes a guitar that guitar? What makes an object that object? If you repair a boat by replacing timbers, when does it stop being the original boat and start being a new boat?
In the same line, what makes a Westone guitar a Westone? What makes a quality guitar body? The shape? The paint job?

I have no idea how to answer the first paragraph, but for the second, it seems like what makes a Westone a Westone is the neck and the proprietary tremolo system. Some people have, like me, been less than impressed with the original Matsumoku pickups, and this guitar was originally made in Korea by Samick for the Westone name (after Matsumoku shut down guitar production), so different pickups shouldn't make it a lesser guitar, and may make it better.

I also think a good guitar body is pretty much the quality of wood. A great paint job and attention to detail may make a guitar prettier (and thus worth more money), but I don't think there is much difference in bodies, other than wood used...meaning that an alder body by Samick will sound as good as a Carvin alder body, which will sound as good as a Matsumoku alder body, which will sound as good as a genuine Stratocaster alder body, etc.

With all that, I am now pleased to announce that I finally got all my parts from eBay and have assembled them in the 1989 Westone Spectrum 1A body that I paid too much for a few months ago.

Of my 3 Westone purchases (only one of which is fully Westone), this one has the best neck. I will wire it up tonight, and should be checking out the tone tonight. Hopefully, the Mighty Mite MotherBuckers will give it a killer tone.

I originally purchased push/pull pots to try and increase the sonic possibilities, but then I did something stupid, I guess (although I couldn't have known how stupid it was at the time). It had the original knobs with it, black. I assembled the pots while I was waiting for the pickup rings and screws to arrive. I put the knobs on the pot stems. I decided I wanted chrome knobs. I tried to remove the black knobs and ended up pullling the stems out of the pots. I cannot remove the knobs, even with pliers and wrenches.

Oh, well...with a toggle switch and two push/pull knobs, wiring was going to be way too complicated... Moreover, if the push/pull knobs handle the coil splitting, and the toggle switch handles the middle pickup on/off, then what is the middle position of the 5-way switch for? I couldn't figure it out.

So screw it. I purchased a bunch of normal pots, and they arrived a few days ago, along with the chrome knobs. I'll wire it up simply, with the toggle switch merely splitting the coil, rather than the normal Westone method of the toggle switch turning on the middle pickup and the push/pull knob splitting the double coils. That means I can only split one of the double coils, but that's okay. I'm thinking: I rarely, if ever, split the bridge pickup, but with my interest in jazz and blues, I like the difference in sound of a single coil neck pickup vs the double coil, so I may just split that pickup instead of the traditional one.

Also, the tremolo system is apparently a Yamaha licensed copy of a Floyd Rose system. I'm not sure how well it fits the guitar, and I might end up replacing it with one of the spare Westone Bendmaster systems I have on hand (one of the two being on the Frankenstein guitar I plan on dismantling and selling for parts). The only thing is that the Yamaha tremolo has a pretty cool clamping feature that locks down the strings at the bridge; a true double-locking system that should theoretically be more stable than the Westone Bendmaster. It also does a great job of allowing string bends without changing the pitch of the non-bent strings. But I'm having difficulty finding the right tremolo arm for

I hope I'm happy with the guitar. I'll let you know when I know.

I'll post pictures when it's done, tomorrow or the day after.

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posted by Nathan on 08:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 01, 2008

New Guitar Acquisition « Music/Guitar »

Looks like I won a Cort Explorer-style Effector guitar:



I remember seeing one a long time ago (in the late 80s) in a pawn shop, and not buying it because it seemed way too cheesy.

Now the cheesiness is cool. To me, at least.

I bid on this one, got the lead at $100 5 days ago...and not a single other person bid. Which would normally be great (my max was $140), except that I bid without first doing a search for other Cort Effectors. And when I did, I found this:



Clearly a much better Cort Effector. It's prettier, with the dark blue-burst. It's got an old Kahler trem (not the Floyd Rose licensed copy), and what looks like better quality tone/volume/speed knobs. It seems like an all-around higher quality guitar, and I've got the bid right now at $70.

I was hoping someone would outbid me on the Explorer copy (which would leave me free to bid higher on the Strat copy), because the Explorer's got the much worse tremolo system with that "vintage" Stratocaster-style. Blech.

So what I might end up doing is going for both, and then keeping the Explorer as a parts guitar if the Strat's electronics ever give out.

Interestingly, neither guitar has a pickup selection switch, so both humbuckers on the guitars are on all the time. Apparently it results in nice tone, but I may have to add a selector switch to the Explorer style...

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posted by Nathan on 01:34 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

January 29, 2008

The Band You'd Go to War With « Music/Guitar »

Hoplite ...the band you've never heard of, but the band you'd go to war with.

Here is the cover of their soon-to-be released debut album:

The music is insipid, mediocre, and boring, but unique nonetheless. The name is apparently derived from the various military experiences claimed by bandmembers (both Army and USAF, both enlisted and commissioned officer). Overall, this is as amateur an offering as I've ever seen or heard, which is rather disturbing when you consider the overall musical experience and training various bandmembers have had.

The band takes advantage of the extended space afforded by CDs to provide 14 tracks. Unfortunately, the triumph of quantity over quality is an unfortunate direction for this band to take. On the positive side, however, this CD may represent one of the best examples of piracy protection without DRM, ever. I think I can say without reservation that this music will never be illegally transferred to anyone's computer.

The songs themselves seem to be a mix of inside jokes and plays on semi-famous SF&F book titles. The lyrics (as yet unpublished) provide a glimpse into the life and soul of the main songwriter, a glimpse any viewer will surely regret for most of their lives, or at least until they successfully obtain professional psychiatric intervention.

Song List:
1. ...Of Looking At Things.
2. Obama Girl, Wanna Be a Hoplite Girl?
3. Westones, Cars, Football, and Jagged Alliance
4. "Jagged Alliance" is a Difficult Rhyme
5. There are No Russian FAOs in China Division
6. George Lucas, Don't Direct Again
7. Chiefs, Chiefs, Chiefs
8. Hope
9. Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (Cover tune)
10. Alpha Male, Beta Max, Gamma Rays
11. Time Enough for Jello
12. The Moon is a Harsh Vision
13. 40,000 in Cisco, Texas
14. 500 Years After Woodstock

I urge you to go out and purchase this CD now, and as much as you can afford. Our only hope is that they are looking to get rich, and will stop inflicting us with this nonsense after they make enough money to retire.

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posted by Nathan on 08:56 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

January 16, 2008

Yngwie J. Malmsteen « Music/Guitar »

He's got the "J." to distinguish him from all the other Yngwie Malmsteen's out there.

Anyway, here's an entertaining video. It's different enough from the album to prove he's got all the chops he needs to just make music.

Bastard. But an entertaining one:

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posted by Nathan on 03:59 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Thinking About Westone Guitars... « Music/Guitar »

Just as I was getting distressed about Westone maybe not being as good as I was led to believe, I get this comment on an earlier post:

Ran across your blog doing a Westone Google...welcome to the fray! They are awesome guitars! I first became aware of them by reading an article about them in the Nov 2005 issue of Vintage Guitar. In the monthly Different Strummer column, they featured Japanese Muscle Guitars (like in muscle cars?) by Matsumoku. Along with the Arias, Vantages, etc, were the Westones. About a week later I am in my local Music GoRound and see a Pearl Burst White Westone hanging on the Wall for $69! I went home because the name stuck in my head. I found the Vintage Guitar article, read it, and went back up there and played that Westone. I was shocked! The thing rocked. The neck reminded me exactly like my '73 Fender Mustang and newer Fender Jag reissue! I bought it on the spot. It is in nice shape. It has been played and has a few scuffs but nothing major. New set of strings, lowered the action a bit, and replaced a couple of knobs so they matched. You can see it in various pics on our band myspace. Our lead guitarist Brian constantly steals it from me to play, so there are lots of pics of him playing the white beast! It has the hottest pickups of any guitar! Mine is an LX model, just under the TOTL FX which had a set neck. Brian bought a black ST this spring and now plays that. I also picked up a Silverston (Green-Gray Sparkle) Spectrum GT from another MGR for $79. I love how the coil taps can make it sound like a Strat, and then return it to the darker growling Gibsonish tones. And they are built like a tank!! Even though I have some other nice guitars, the Westones are what I talk to people about. Did you know they were actually mostly handmade at Matsumoku? Along with my Spectrum I gig with, I found a mint, never purchased 1986 Pantera Pro (X-300) for $225 at a guys store liquidation. It still has the St. Louis Music Setup sticker on it with the tech's initials, original hangtags still on the neck and case. It is my "never leave the house guitar." I may use it to record some with on our next promo CD, but that will be about it. It is gorgeous with a carved maple top like a PRS, 2 single coils and a humbucker. Pearl White. Mint Mint, and, did I say Mint? It is weird to own a 22 year old guitar that I am the first owner of!!

Anyway I have rambled far too long, but it is because the Westones are
such awesome guitars. If I had enough extra dough, I would buy up
everyone that popped up on ebay!!! Good luck and let me know if you need any
help with yoru projects!!

Manoman, that sounds awesome! I wish I could find a mint Westone at a good price. I nearly got one on eBay, but someone else was willing to pay more for it.

But the one I have, a 1987 Anniversary Edition Spectrum II XA1230, doesn't sound anything like what John describes in his comment.

So my question is, as far as sound/tone is concerned, I'm not impressed with the Westone. Am I setting my standards too high, or did I just get a sub-par Westone? Or is my opinion affected by the fact that I purchased 3 guitars, but only 1 can be considered to be a Westone original with an actual Matsumoku Westone sound?

I love Carvin's guitar sound. They have special pickups, with 11 pole pieces that probably boost the sound. They sound great on any setting on my amp, at any volume. So maybe I'm setting my standard too high...

There are a few positives about Westone guitars that I've noted, however.

First, the Westone fretboards are wider at the 12th-22nd fret than other "superstrat" guitars, including my Carvins, my J.B. Player, and my Schecter Omen-6. You can tell from pictures that they are wider. That gives a slightly wider string spacing, and it seems to make playing fast, chording, and bending just that much easier.

Second, the action is awesome. I like the action on my Carvin, it doesn't slow me down any...but the Westone is so smooth, I feel like I'm gliding.

Third, the pickups do seem to help you hear every string/note better than the average guitar. Not as good as Carvins on this issue, but to date, I haven't played any guitar that is...then again, I've never played a top-of-the-line Seymour-Duncan or DiMarzio. But I have played on EMG Selects (used to be on my J.B. Player)...

Fourth, the tremolo system seems to be really good. To be fair, I've only had standard (crappy) Fender tremolo systems that cannot stay in tune no matter what you do, and a Wilkinson tremolo (on the J.B. Player) that didn't stay in tune very well even with roller nuts, until I put a Hipshot Tremsetter on it. But the Bendmaster Deluxe is easy to tune, easy to change strings, and keeps the strings in tune quite well. It also does a pretty good job of keeping the other strings in tune when you bend a string up, which is important to my style of playing.

So with all that, it is worth keeping the original Westone XA1230 I already have. But is it worth buying more? I'm not sure.

Right now, it seems like my best bet would be to put Carvin pickups into the Westone...but then it is no longer anything close to the original guitar. I might be happier with it...but what's the point of collecting Westone if I'm just going to modify them when I get my hands on them?

Maybe the XA1230 is just not as "top-notch" quality as the Genesis II or its successor, the Corsair. I'm scared of the Genesis because it only lasted about a year in its catalogs...if it was that good, why did they replace it with the Corsair, why did they drop its stepped body (its main distinguishing feature)? But the Corsair was only around for about 3 years before the company folded, too. And its last two years, it was made in Korea, which diminishes its collectability (not being made by Matsumoku).

I do have all the parts I need to redo the blue Westone (most likely a 1989 made-in-Korea, Spectrum 1A). The neck is still just as good as the Matsumokus. It has what I think is a Yamaha clamping tremolo system, rather than any of the Bendmasters. Someone routed out the neck pickup pocket, and the bridge pickup is also clearly not Matsumoku, so I'll probably go ahead and drop in the Mighty Mite Motherbuckers in both neck and bridge positions, add a single/double coil tap for each, and then replace the middle position single-coil pickup with the extra Carvin AP-11 I've got sitting around.

If it sounds really good, i.e., better than the XA1230, then I might just give up on collecting Westones, and just keep the modified Korean Spectrum 1A, put Carvins into the Spectrum II XA1230, and just enjoy playing guitars that sound and feel great, even if no longer original/collectible.

If I ever find a higher-model-line Westone in a pawnshop for a good price, it might re-ignite my fervor, but right now, it seems like J.B. Player might be a better way to get an inexpensive, little-known, well-made guitar. I won't feel as bad about changing the pickups in one of those, either.

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posted by Nathan on 08:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 15, 2008

Guitar Update, Mid-Jan 08 Edition « Music/Guitar »

So I'm now reconsidering my obsession with Westones.

I was attracted to their low price (relative both to original selling price and other, similarly-equipped 80s guitars), and favorable reviews of Matsumoku-made guitars on Harmony Central, fan sites, and even in the eBay listings.

I admit I made some mistakes, that only 1 of the 3 Westones I bought was original enough to give me a good example of Westone's quality (one was no more than a Westone neck on an unknown body, and the other lacked any of the electronics...maybe I'll be impressed once I install the non-Westone pickups and pots I purchased).

But even the one all-original Westone leaves mixed impressions. It is solid, but so are many guitars. Its sound is no better than average...and from the reviews, I expected a guitar that sounded nearly as good as a Carvin (to date, still the best-sounding guitars I've ever played), and it isn't even close. The pickups seem to be supremely average. Now, the tremolo system seems to be rock solid and always returns to baseline in-tune. And the neck's action is fast, low, and even has slightly wider string spacing, which actually improves playability and string-bending.

Maybe the answer will be to put Carvin pickups into Westone guitars?

But what I wanted was to collect inexpensive guitars that will grow in reputation as a vintage gem passed over by most buyers when they were new. For that, the guitars should be top quality, and the sound they have just doesn't strike me that way.

However, there is a guitar company out there that has some really good, solid, beautiful guitars with decent sound, that no one seems to respect. That would be perfect for my collecting goal. As a result, they are very cheap on eBay, and they don't have a constant presence there like Westone does (Westone usually has 3-8 for sale at any one time, whereas this company has 0-3).

The guitar? J.B. Player.
I already have one. It's a beautiful, transparent cherry sunburst finish, rounded body sides, H/S/S pickup configuration with 24-fret neck, Wilkinson Tremolo and a roller nut.

The pickups were EMG select, which I felt weren't as good as Carvins, so I replaced them last month. It went back into the closet (which is a pain in the arse to get into), so I haven't compared it in sound to the Westones. It does have a fret-buzz problem on the 21st fret on the high E string only...I've been toying with either replacing the frets myself, raising the action slightly, or taking it to a professional for fret re-dressing...for now I'll just deal with it. The Carvin M22SD I put in the bridge position may be *too* hot, as I remember it...but it doesn't seem so bad now, in comparison to the Westones, because it just has a little extra noise on the Classic setting of my amp, as opposed to sounding completely crappy on that setting (at any level of distortion or volume) like the Westones do.

So what this is leading to is, I found a J.B. Player on eBay with about 6 hours to go, selling for a ridiculously low price of $50 combined (price + shipping). I put in my $.02 (actually $40 worth, but you know what I mean) and held the bid for an hour before being out-bid. After thinking about it, I eventually decided I'd be upset if anyone else got it for less than $100 combined, so that was my bid. And I won it for exactly that.

Here's the guitar:

If the action is bad, or the sound crappy, I'll regret it immensely.

But from looking alone, it looks like good quality wood, a decent paint job, non-twisted neck. I don't know what quality the pickups are, but the configuration should produce good sonic choices, and the stop tailpiece should help provide good sustain. If necessary, I'll drop in Carvin pickups, and change the tone/volume pots to push/pull coil taps at the same time, and should have a great sounding, great playing guitar...again, assuming the neck doesn't have any problems.

Maybe I'll start collecting J.B. Players instead of Westones.

Wish me luck.

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posted by Nathan on 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 10, 2008

Which Guitar Should I Buy Now/Next? « Music/Guitar »

The Frankenstein guitar is a decently-attempted (but failed) amateur job. I'm going to dis-assemble it and sell it for parts in hopes of recouping my investment.

But there are two other guitars:

This is a beautiful Westone Anniversary Edition 6-string guitar, model SLM XA-1630. It is in commemoration of the 65th anniversary, 1922 - 1987. It needs to be restrung but otherwise is in beautiful condition. It is marked on the back A Matsumoku Product, Made in Japan. The number is 7011051. The color could be described as a metallic purple or black cherry.
It costs $200. I already have the XA1230 (Spectrum II) Westone Anniversary guitar (same year), and while the action/playability/neck is awesome, the sound is so-so. This guitar has better pickups and a mid/shape tone knob, which is supposed to give you excellent tone adjustment.


This is a used 90's Alverez Dana II. Body is a very heavy solid hard wood w/ flamed top and beautiful sunburst finish w/ gold hardware, hardware is in good condition for age. Has a dent in the finish about 3/4 in. on the outside edge between the jack and the strap buttom but finish is still in tact and is not noticeable from front or rear. Has a TriForce Triple Humbucker at the bridge and an Alverez signature single coil pickup at the neck. The 3-way selector switch has been broken off but is still very useable. I believe the guitar has been set up w/ all vol. pots because there is no tones, just vol. on all three knobs. Guitar has awesome tone on all three settings. The neck is maple w/ skunk strip and black dot inlay and is very straight. The action is very low and fast, no fret buzz. The finish on the back of the neck shows some mileage but makes it very smooth. Has Alverez Signature tuners and has roller type string retainers, all the good stuff. This guitar would cost you in the $500-$800 range if bought today. I bought this guitar about a yr. ago and have done nothing to it but restring it. The quality of these guitars are unbelieveable and they play just like they look. I hate to get rid of it but it's time to start thinning the herd. User reviews on Harmony Central rate these guitars a solid 10.
It costs $150. I have no idea if the "tri-force" pickup is any good.

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posted by Nathan on 02:10 PM | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
Announcing (with some mix of trepidation and loathing)... « Music/Guitar »

Hoplite ...the band you've never heard of, but the band you'd go to war with.

The music is insipid, mediocre, and boring, but unique nonetheless. The name is apparently derived from the various military experiences claimed by bandmembers (both Army and USAF, both enlisted and commissioned officer). Overall, this is as amateur an offering as I've ever seen or heard.

Here is the cover of their soon-to-be released debut album:

Read More "Announcing (with some mix of trepidation and loathing)..." »

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posted by Nathan on 11:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 04, 2008

"Frankenstein" Guitar Pics « Music/Guitar »

Can anyone help me figure out who made the body of this guitar?

Westone Frankenstein 1 (click to see).

Westone Frankenstein 2

Westone Frankenstein 3

The body is really, really light (poplar)?
It also has some sort of foam pad/cushion in the tremolo rout pocket...

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posted by Nathan on 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 02, 2008

Frankenstein Guitar Update « Music/Guitar »

The Frankenstein Westone is really confusing me. It, too, sounds wounderful in the neck position single coil...but the bridge position is kinda tinny in either single or double coil settings. The body is extremely light, and doesn't match any of the Westone bodies, and the neck pocket has several cracks, as if someone put a Westone neck on a different body and the neck pocket was just a touch too small. Heck, that's why I call it a Frankenstein.

But the configuration is just too smooth. The tremolo system matches exactly what is on the 1989 (Korean-made) Westone Challenger, and is proprietary to Westone. So the previous owner (previous to the guy who sold it to me) had to have added the tremolo to this new body along with the neck...but the tremolo routing space is lined (perfectly!) with foam, just like the Challenger. That is a touch I wouldn't expect from an amateur luthier, or even a professional luthier-for-hire...what indifferent customer would pay for that expense? What enthusiastic customer wouldn't just buy a newer/better guitar, rather than paying for the expense of a deluxe modification to a no-name body? Aside from all that, the action is perfect. And the paintjob on the Frankenstein is a very nice, deluxe-level pearl cream (meaning, some shimmer that doesn't quite approach "metallic" glint).

I have toyed with the idea of selling it out for parts to recoup my investment, because I won the bid before I realized it wasn't pure Westone (stupid on my part). But now I'm thinking of dropping a different double coil in it and keeping it if the experiment turns out halfway decently. The neck position pickup really does put out a buttery sound that I think sounds every bit as good as some quality hollow-body jazz guitars. This could be my best fingerstyle jazz electric guitar, at this rate. Or nice for blues solos (though not for the rhythm, as currently configured).
But I've got to figure out how to repair the cracks for that...and it would be better if I could somehow find the original paint and touch it up back to a respectable cosmetic appearance. Maybe a refinish would be in order...

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posted by Nathan on 10:35 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
Guitar Update « Music/Guitar »

Well, I repaired the Westone XA1230 (Spectrum II Anniversary Edition) guitar yesterday.
It has a good sound, particularly good in the single coil neck position, and a decent crunch sound in the bridge double coil (more on that soon).

But I'm disappointed in the bridge single coil. There's just about no reason I can fathom to ever use the coil-split knob, because I don't like the sound much.

And, interestingly, even the double coil sounds bad on just the "Classic" setting of my Roland Micro-Cube amp. It's just a little too noisy there; but it sounds crystal-clear crunch on the similarly-distorted "Brit Combo" setting, and really nice clean sounds on the "JC Clean" and "Black Panel" settings.

The action is great, but the locking tremolo isn't staying in tune...although the strings are still new, so that may shake out as I keep playing it.

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posted by Nathan on 10:34 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

December 14, 2007

Westone Guitar Projects « Music/Guitar »

I mentioned that my next hobby would be fixing up guitars...that goal has morphed somewhat, but only slightly; it may be more accurate to say that goal has focused.

I think I may now love Westone guitars more than Carvin guitars.

The Carvin is a great axe, of course. If you want a beautiful new guitar that sounds wonderful, you cannot get one cheaper than a Carvin...and the Carvin lets you customize any guitar to your desires.

But it isn't every day that you can spend $1200 on a guitar. You can buy them for anywhere between $400-800 used on eBay, but that's still steep.

But reading about Westone (and its predecessor, Electra, as well as its successor, Alvarez), I really started to fall in love with what I read. Check out as much as you can in the link above, but the real convincing testimonies are here. Particularly check out the Spectrum, Pantera, and Corsair guitars. Most people talk emphasize:
1) reliability - the guitars are solid and apparently last forever (which increases your chance of getting a decent one on eBay)
2) playability - good action
3) sonic flexibility - the Westones all seem to always have coil taps, and often add in phase switching and unbalanced humbuckers, plus great output. Apparently they can sonically conquer some vintage Gibsons and Fenders, and modern Paul Reed Smiths.

Well, we'll see. I've picked up 3 in eBay auctions lately, all for right about $100 + $30 shipping.

The first is a true project. Someone disassembled the pickups and added a Roland guitar synth. It obviously needs to be wired up again, but I know I can do it after my experience with my JB Player. I couldn't see the paint condition very well, and I'm risking the neck/frets being in good condition...but at $130, I think it is worth the risk. I could probably part it out for more than that, as it has the full Floyd Rose Bendmaster trem system, the guitar synth, etc.

The second is a Frankenstein guitar. It has a really beautiful body shape, but the more I researched, the more I realized it may just be a Westone neck and trem stuck on a generic body. Oh, well, if it was done well, that's enough. I didn't realize it until after my bid was in, so this may be the guitar I eventually decide is a mistake. Then again, as long as it has the Westone electronics (and it does have the Westone push-pull coil tap, so there's hope), it gives me a guitar I can tinker with to learn about fitting the neck well into the body, lowering action, working on frets...if it needs any of those things. I'm hoping it doesn't.

The third is the one true, pure Westone. No disassembled pickups, no unidentified body, no guitar synth module...just a straight Anniversary Edition Spectrum II XA 1230. It's a semi-project because the paint job has some serious scars, and the input jack needs to be repaired. Still, the first is something I want to learn (refinishing a guitar), and the 2nd is either electronics, woodworking, or both, and I know I can do those. As long as the neck isn't messed up, it should be a great guitar.
I probably shouldn't have bought it, after the other two I already had. But the bid with less than an hour to go was just $71, plus $30 shipping. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if someone else got an XA-1230 for only $101, and it wasn't me! Clinching the deal on its irresistability (to me) was that its serial number was 7012345. I had to look closely to see if that was a photoshop, the numbers seem so unlikely. But I guess someone has to have that number, right?

It's also the only one of the 3 that I can be sure was actually a Matsumoku-made guitar (which is the builder that made the best of the Westones). They switched to making them in Korea in 1989, and while the quality is still good, the Matsumoku name is well known for quality guitars. The one with the guitar synth might have been made anytime between 1987 and 1990, and so could be either. As long as it is Matsumoku, I know it will sound great and last as long as the original pickups still work, or I put a good replacement pickup in it (like, say, Carvins). And the frankenstein guitar? Even if the neck plate says it is a Matsumoku, if it just the neck set on another guitar's body, can you really expect it to have the same feel as Matsumoku quality? Dunno.

But I've become a true Westone collector over just the last 2 weeks.

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posted by Nathan on 08:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

November 27, 2007

New Hobby (sort of) « Music/Guitar »

I've been trying to be smarter about life, i.e. not wasting as much time in pointless/useless activities. I stil play Jagged Alliance 2, but nowhere near as much. I still surf the web, but nowhere near as much. I still write on this blog, but I've focused down onto music and KC Chiefs. (although I haven't demonstrated the music much, yet).

I have a "master class"-built Carvin strat that I love. I also have a JB Player Professional that I like a lot. It has a beautiful Cherry Burst finish, 24 frets, Wilkinson Tremelo system. But it has a few problems. The neck has a fret that won't articulate needs to be refretted. The Wilkinson doesn't stay in tune well enough to use. And despite EMG Select pickups, the sound doesn't (can't!) compare to my Carvin.

So I purchased some used Carvin pickups on eBay 2 weeks ago, and installed them two days ago. At the same time, I finally got around to installing the tremsetter.

I put a C22T in the bridge position, an AP-11 in the middle position, and an SH-1 in the neck position. It is now a hot guitar...maybe almost too hot, to tell the truth. I have to be careful about the amount of gain I use, and there's quite a bit of attack hiss. But I'm learning how to use it, and it has a nice crunch even when the amp is set fairly clean (which I like), it has a decent quack in the 2/4 positions (though more noise...I may have to try to rewire it...or maybe just find a way to lock down the middle position pickup more), and a beautiful double-coil sound in the neck position for soloing. It has such a sweet sound around fret 12, it almost makes me cry.

The tremsetter makes the tremelo useful, too. I can now play "Barracuda" without going out of tune. Big "divebombs" can knock it slightly out of tune, but only for chordal could still solo without much problem. I have purchased Sperzel locking tuners (still on the way), and that should improve the situation even more.

At this point, I think I'm going to make the leap to start working on guitars, rather than buying them. I found lots of wiring schematics online before I rewired the JB Player, and even tried out an alternative (DiMarzio) method before going with the standard wiring (I didn't really like the sound of the 2/4 positions, and the 1 and 5 positions were nowhere near as good as when I rewired it for the standard just didn't work with the pickups I had, I guess). I found ReRanch, a great site for refinishing guitars. That gives me the confidence to buy a chipped/scratched guitar body that has good wood and try to refinish with a different color. I'm looking at a pretty quilted maple Fernandez on eBay right now. It's yellow burst right now, but with ReRanch products and advice, I think I could do a really nice Ruby Burst or Sapphire Burst (like those seen on Carvin's site), and with a couple of Carvin humbuckers, I should be able to have a guitar that looks new and sounds/plays like a low-end PRS or high-end Carvin for less than $200.

So that's what I'm doing now.

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posted by Nathan on 09:40 AM | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)

August 16, 2007

Guitar Hero Helping Create Future Guitar Heroes « Music/Guitar »

I gotta get me a copy of this game...

In another sign of the games influence, when new versions of Guitar Hero are released, the songs on it can see a spike in iTunes, notes Ted Lange, an associate producer at Red Octane, the company that makes Guitar Hero.

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posted by Nathan on 07:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

August 13, 2007

Continuing the Guitar Theme « Music/Guitar »

Let me set your mind at ease about one thing:
The guy absolutely is playing those solos. He is not doing air guitar. His finger movements are exactly what they need to be.

However, there is something about the video quality that makes me wonder if he didn't speed up the audio and video by some factor...10 or 20%? Digital technology would make it possible to do so without altering the tone of the music. But that move would puzzle me somewhat...what he does would be amazing even if it were 20% slower, so if he sped it up...why?

In any case, it's some nice technical playing. It doesn't demonstrate "feel", nor can the compositions be considered songs by any but the most relaxed of standards. They are merely Satriani-ish chord progressions designed to facilitate maximum shred.

The shred is good, though.

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posted by Nathan on 05:12 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

August 12, 2007

This Aint' Shabby, Either « Link O' Admiration » « Music/Guitar »

Yeah, I like guitar stuff. So what?

This guy needs to put out albums. He's the best technical wizard I've ever seen.

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posted by Nathan on 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 10, 2005

Interesting. Weird, but Interesting « Music/Guitar » « Social Issues »

Caption Contest? No prizes...

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posted by Nathan on 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2005

Taylor or Takamine? (From the Open Thread) « Music/Guitar »

This is an excellent time to buy a guitar...

Why? I’m not sure, but I think the reason is computer design, drafting, and manufacturing processes have allowed entry-level guitars to be mass-produced to tighter tolerances (and thus higher standards of quality) than in decades past.

Just a few months ago I purchased an excellent strat copy electric with low action, smooth fingerboard, heavy body (for good sustain), and decent pick-ups from a pawnshop for just $100. I felt like I was getting a $400-500 guitar in new condition: what a bargain! Then I went on the web and found out I could have gotten the same guitar with a practice amp shipped to me for a total of $110. I wasn’t such a great bargain-hunter as I thought.

…then again, a guitar is intensely personal, and every guitar is slightly different. You should never purchase a guitar you haven’t played for at least a few minutes.

Acoustic guitars are another interesting case. Seagull Guitars started the movement for inexpensive quality guitars a few years back…but now they’ve gained a good enough reputation that their “$800-quality for just $230 price” guitars are now costing $400-500. Rats. That’s too expensive to bring on a deployment to a desert climate that might ruin it.

So I went looking for a decent guitar at a price that wouldn’t leave me upset if it ended up warping after a few months in the Middle East.

I checked out some of the cheaper ones…I usually hate the acoustics painted with colors, preferring a more natural varnish look. But there was a green Takamine with an electronic amplification system. The action was low, but no fret buzz, booming bass like I’d expect on a Martin…and just $200!

So now I have a $200 acoustic guitar I like too much to let die in a desert. Sigh.

Anyway, based on that, I’d recommend a Takamine. Taylor, Martin, and Guild are generally considered the best mainstream acoustic guitars. And they price them accordingly. There are other, smaller companies…more exclusive, and even pricier, like Larribee, et al. And then there is the Seagull Guitar level: nearly as good quality as Taylor and Martin for about half the price. Other companies are following where Seagull blazed the trail. The other nice thing about Seagull is they are extremely beautiful guitars…

But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line: $2000 is a lot of money to spend on a guitar that might get scratched when the cat runs through the room and knocks it over, or when your child wants to strum for a while, or if you stand up too quickly. The difference in sound, quality, and appearance from the best guitar to the worst is, these days, far smaller than the difference in price. That’s to your advantage.If you want the top of the line, well, it is the best for a reason, but you pay as much for the name brand as for the guitar.

But there is one other choice rather than buying a guitar, if you have the time, patience, and dexterity. For about $400, you can build your own with a Stew-Mac kit. It doesn’t sound too hard to do, and you end up with a guitar of the same quality as a $2000-3000 guitar, from all accounts I’ve heard.

Aside: They used to have archtop jazz guitar kits; I’m disappointed they seem to have dropped that choice. But I may have to try that violin kit.

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posted by Nathan on 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2004

A Request « Music/Guitar »

Looking at my Ecosystem chart, it nearly looks like a visual representation of sound. Is there anyone who could actually chart that as a sine wave and see what it sounds like?

Let me know.

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posted by Nathan on 06:11 AM | Comments (8)
» Sharp as a Marble links with: Why I'm Thinking About Boycotting
» CatHouse Chat links with: Just Silliness....

November 30, 2004

My Kids Will Be Better Musicians Than I Was/Am « Music/Guitar »

At least, this should help.


Scientists have discovered an unusual tip for parents who want their little darlings to grow up to be musical geniuses - teach them Mandarin Chinese.

Psychologists at the University of California in San Diego found that children who learnt Mandarin as babies were far more likely to have perfect pitch - the ability to name or sing a musical note at will - than those raised to speak English.

Perfect pitch, though common among the great composers, is extremely rare in Europe and the US, where just one in 10,000 is thought to have the skill.

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posted by Nathan on 04:04 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2004

Deployment Issue « Music/Guitar »

So my laptop is not working, and that immediately wipes out about 4/5ths of my entertainment and "me-time" mood recovery activities: Jagged Alliance 2, Writing, Music (listening), and Music (composing/transcribing). That's contributed mightily to the general bad mood and crankiness that I hope I've prevented from affecting my posting too much...

I'm working on trying to get it fixed, but I've received no word yet.

That leaves me with my guitar.

Read More "Deployment Issue" »

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posted by Nathan on 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

Learning Music « Music/Guitar »

I'm a little depressed today, and it's affecting my blogging. I can't seem to get any decent political entries going...

So I'm casting about for anything else I feel like I can talk about with some authority...hence: a discussion of music, tangentially related to the brain itself.

Read More "Learning Music" »

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posted by Nathan on 02:21 PM | Comments (0)
Best Little Guitar Amp « Music/Guitar »

I purchased a guitar amp last week:

The Roland Micro Cube.

I was thinking about buying a tiny amp for about $30 that I could take on my next deployment to the Middle East (coming up soon...), but the salesman said I should check out the Roland. For 4-5 times the price, I wasn't sure...

...but I was sure as soon as I tried it out. This is an awesome guitar amp! It puts out just about as much sound as my other practice amp, but is a fraction of the size and weight. The sound is every bit as good as they claim; I sound like a better guitarist on this amp, and that encourages me to play more often for longer periods.

Sure, it's too small for a jam session; but my old method was to use the practice amp as a head plugged into a 4-speaker 200-watt bass amp anyway, and this will do the same thing. I can now sell my digital effects processor and larger practice amp for about what it cost to buy this one.

Yeah, yeah, the digital effects pedal can create a wider range of sounds, and has an auto-wah, so I'll be restricting myself somewhat if I seel it. And one thing I would say is a drawback on the Micro-Cube is that you have to reach out and twist knobs to change a can't just step on a pedal to get an instant sound change.

But those two drawbacks really don't bother me that much. Because, to be honest, the digital effects processor had a whole host of sounds I never really wanted or needed. Messing around with it never really made me itch to play, and certainly never made me sound any better. Even with fewer sounds on the Micro-Amp, I'll use the ones I have to greater effect...every sound I want to make can be produced with just this little amp. And with only 6 "AA" batteries, I can play even without an outlet. The versatility that allows is amazing. It's a great buy, and I'd recommend to any guitarist who can spare $125 that s/he go try one out ASAP.

It's that good.

More Pics (but less effective writing)

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posted by Nathan on 11:28 AM | Comments (0)