I recently had my annual visit to the doctor. Now I don't relish that visit at all. For one, the closest thing I have to a phobia involves being stuck with needles. Second, every year the news from the doc seems to be just a little bit worse than the year before. This year, as usual, I found out that I'm apparently not nearly the perfect specimen of health that I think I am in my head. In fact, the doctor told me that I need to change the way I eat and become more active, and the way that she was talking, it didn't really sound like a suggestion. In fact, I think her exact words were, "you can change the way you're eating and work at becoming more active now or next year we're going to be having a far different conversation."
Being active takes a lot of work, and there's not a lot of active things that I really enjoy doing (as an old, fat guy) enough to do them all the time. So I decided that, as much as I enjoy hiking, it was time to start finding some trails and seeing some of nature on a regular basis. Truth is, it would also kill two birds with one stone. Apparently, one of the least concerning things to come out of this year's physical was that I am vitamin D deficient. So, hiking outside to be active and hiking outside to be in the sun.
Today Mrs Snarf and I headed out to Fort Richardson State Park to spend part of the day. She is really into digging for fossils, and she knows a location there where she can dig. (Her location is on private property. Here in Texas, you're not supposed to dig for fossils on state property, and you're definitely not supposed to take any kind of artifact away from the state park either (rocks included). Worked out well. She got to dig, and I got to hike.
It was a pretty good hike. Got in just under 6 miles. The trail actually goes from the state park up around the lake to a different part of the park. I've heard it's about 10 miles one way. Mrs Snarf's digging location is on the backside about a third of the way down the trail, so we went in a back way and entered the trail in the middle. Then I hiked 3 miles out and 3 miles back.
I had never hiked there before. It was a crushed gravel trail for the most part. Crossed the dam. It's a mixed use trail, so it's shared by everything but things with motors. Consequently there was LOTS of horse manure on it. It rained earlier this week, and you could tell that, since that day, several horses had been down the trail. Lots of shoed hoof prints. Lots of them. There were also some tracks that I think were from a dog walking with someone, some other prints that I think may've belonged to a coyote instead of a dog, and some tracks that, against my handy track guide, came from a skunk. At one point, there was an abandoned homestead. I call it a homestead because it was a house with a couple of little outbuildings like a shop and something else. They didn't look that old in the overall scheme of things. Had I been guessing, the house looked like a generic brick house built in the 80s. Got close to the airport, and there was a stretch with several houses, including one that looked like a castle...turrets and everything.
Nice, big, wide trail the whole way, and didn't see anyone else on the trail the entire time. That really surprised me on a Saturday morning. The trails that are here around town always have other folks on them. Depending on the time that you go, it may not be real frequent, but you still see other people. I really enjoyed feeling like it was my own, personal trail.
Next weekend, I'll be out of town, so won't be able to hit any place else, but today's walk made me look forward to hitting some of the other state parks within about an hour of the casa and see what they have to offer.
Those that know me know that I laugh at those that are often called cork sniffers. Whether online or face to face, I'm civil when I'm talking to them, usually. But there are times that they get on my last nerve.
Now for the uninitiated, let me define what a cork sniffer is. A cork sniffer is one of those that is so fixated on that specific piece of gear that nothing else is deemed worthy. Granted, we've all got that piece of guitar, like one of our guitars, that is absolutely the best thing ever and we wouldn't trade for anything. We've modded the heck out of it, and, despite what others tell us, there is no other guitar in the world that plays as well and sounds as good. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ones that look down their noses at a Squier or MIM Strat because it's not an MIA Strat. They're the ones that will crap all over Epiphone because "it'll never be a Gibson." You get the idea. They look down their nose at a piece of gear and call it inferior based on its location of manufacture, the brand on the label, or some other seemingly important factor. That's a cork sniffer, and, in my humble opinion, there are 2 types.
There are those that are just uneducated. Those are the new players that are basically parroting what they hear others say and have no real basis for their opinion. They're the ones that say Gibson is the only brand to play because that's what they see their hero talk about and play (although their hero may've played a Tokai until they got their endorsement deal). I, generally, will give these folks a pass. Give them some education and experience, and they'll grow out of this stage. They'll eventually realize that, yes, Gibson is the premium guitar, but bang-for-the-buck there are some Epiphones that may be better than a Gibby.
Then there's the other kind, and they're the ones that really bug me. I call them "ignernt." Now, ignernt is a good Texas term. Around here, if somebody gets called ignernt, the speaker is saying that the speakee is smart enough, they just have chosen to act the fool and be stupid. They're ignernt. These are the cork sniffers that I have been known to make fun of sometimes. They're the ones that are so fixated on a brand (or whatever) that they can't see past the end of their nose.
I was reminded tonight that I used to be one of the second kind of cork sniffers. Maybe that's why they bug me so much. And I was reminded of this fact tonight.
Way back when I first started playing, all I knew was acoustic guitars. The first really nice acoustic that I was exposed to was a Martin. In fact, through a series of events, after only playing a couple of years, I was blessed to be given my own Martin (a D-35). Still have that Martin. It currently needs to have the bridge replaced, but is probably still my fave acoustic. It's a workhorse of a guitar. But I digress.
I had a Martin. All the pro players I knew either played Martin, Taylor, or something really high end like an Olson. Consequently, outside of Martin and Taylor, I really didn't know anything about guitars. I had played enough of each of those to know that I knew I liked the traditional Martin sound more than the modern Taylor sound, but they both sounded really nice.
Where I lived, I'd get together and play with a buddy once a week or so (we played in the same band), and we both played Martins. Another acquaintance at work was given a guitar for Christmas one year by his dad, and asked if my buddy and I would take a look at it and tell him what we thought. Bless his heart, that was during my days of sniffing corks.
The day that he brought it over to my house, I remember thinking one thing about the guitar and saying something completely different. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been honest enough with myself to give him an honest review. All I remember at this point was that it was a jumbo bodied Guild of some sort. From what I remember about the inlays on it, if it was chosen from their current lineup (although this was 30 years ago now), it would've probably been the equivalent of the F-55. And that would make sense as, from what I remember he used to say about his parents, they only bought the best.
Anyways, this guitar had a really great sound. However, it didn't sound anything like a Martin or Taylor. It was a very full, rich sound. Very balanced sound. All around, it was just a really great guitar. However, because it wasn't a Martin, I don't think I had anything good to say about the guitar that wasn't a backhanded compliment. "It has a really nice sound for something that's not a Martin." The other guy that was playing it with me was pretty much like me when it came to guitars. So he didn't really have anything positive to say about it either. The guy that had gotten it for Christmas left that evening disappointed that "it'll never sound like a Martin."
I've come a long way since then in both my musical journey and my overall view on life. I still very much like the sound of a Martin, but I also have a Boulder Creek and a Tacoma, and an Epiphone acoustic. For electrics, I've got Squiers, MIM and MIA Fenders, as well as Epiphones and Gibsons. For pedals, I have real live, green Tube Screamers and all kinds of TS clones (including the cheapest, Chinese made ones on Amazon). I've got a closet full of gear spanning the spectrum of price.
Growing up, my parents tried to teach me to always give people the benefit of the doubt; just because they're different than me doesn't mean they're bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise. As the Disney song says, "if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." When it comes to gear, be open minded. Just because the headstock doesn't say what you think it should doesn't mean it doesn't have a song in it. Pick it up and play it and see what it says.
And, Joel, if you ever happen upon this to be reading, I really hope you still have that Guild. Had I not been in the middle of my "Martin or nothing" days, I would have told you that it was a dang skippy nice guitar that had a great, warm sound and anybody should be ecstatic to be able to play. I'm sure that guitar was full of music if I'd only taken a moment and listened to it.
I'm not a huge fan of Christmas. For more than 20 years, I've always managed to have a job that caused me to have to work on Christmas. And, if I wasn't working on Christmas, Mrs Snarf had to work the day before and the day after. So we hardly ever knew that the day had come and gone. That said, as a Christian, I believe that it is a great time of year for us to be reminded to be grateful, loving, and caring towards our fellow man.
Several years ago, Premier Guitar mag started this thing called their Mystery Stocking. I got in on that first one, and have tried to get in it every year. That first year, I managed to score a pedal out of it. That pedal got sold a while back on Reverb, but it was cool to be able to say that I had gotten it. I think that first year it was only $15. In the years since, due to demand, some years I haven't gotten one, and other years I have. I've gotten the basic box every year since then. The price has gone up on that basic box since then, and this year it was $40.
Before the big day when so many guitar players crash the PG servers, they'll post a vid that shows a room full of gear that they're giving away. As can be expected, on the video, they major on the 5 or so guitars that are being given away and the maybe 75 or 100 pedals that are in the mix as well. Those are the big ticket items that everyone wants. You, also, see a smattering of other more pricey gear like pickups speakers, leather straps, stools, but most of the room is full of strings and cables and t-shirts and things that, in the overall scheme of things, aren't expensive. PG also advertises that each of the basic boxes will contain the price of admission so to speak. This year, they advertised that they were doing 1,500 of the mystery stockings.
So the big day comes, and everyone that is interested gets to try to get in and put their money down to get one. This year, they were sold out in just a couple of minutes. And everybody that ordered one wants to get one of the big ticket items. However, if you do the math, probably 10% or less of those who get to order one get anything beyond the basic box. The basic box always includes strings and picks and a small assortment of miscellaneous items along with some "premium" item.
It always amazes me that, once the mystery stockings start shipping, the unboxing videos start, and the vast majority of those doing them are complaining about how worthless the box is, how it doesn't contain the entry fee ($40 this year) worth of gear, and how it's just a big scam and they'll never order one again. But let's look at it from a bit of a realistic perspective.
PG calls it a mystery stocking, but they're a business, so they're going to make certain that they're not losing money on them. I'm betting some of the stuff gets donated for the stockings, but I'm also pretty certain they have to pay for some of it - even if it's a really cut rate. Then factor in the price of the boxes, the price of labor to get them all assembled, and the postage. Remember, business...they're not sending these things out for their health, and they're dang skippy going to be sure that they're making money on the deal.
So we've established that they're not doing this out of the generosity of their hearts. Then they say that they you'll get your $40 worth even if you get a basic box. So, in factoring in the price, be assured that they're going to work off the MSRP and not necessarily what you might find it for on the street. Even still, not only did I get the basic box this year, I got the one that so many are complaining about online. So what was in the box?
We'll start with the stuff that I don't consider to have a monetary value. There was a ballpoint pen from a case manufacturer I had never heard of. There were several stickers and a couple of coupons. These are all the kinds of things that you can pick up as giveaways when the annual guitar show comes to town, and you can't find them online anywhere to buy, so no cash value for these. They're gimmes that are just thrown in. Then I got 2 sets of strings. One set of 9s and one set of 10s. Going rate at my seller of choice for both of those is $11.50 ($8 for one and $3.50 for the other). Then I got a strap from D'Addario that appears to list for $20. A clip-on tuner from Fender that lists for $20. A pick called a ChickenPick that appears to list for $7.50. (They sent me a single, but appear to sell them in 2-packs that cost $15.) Then I got a pack of Pick Boy picks that appear to list for $10 a pack. All that together lists out at $69. So it looks to me like PG lived up to their claim of a minimum of $40. Going to my seller of choice and getting the street price for all of this stuff still puts it at $59. So still above the $40.
So let's discuss all these folks complaining about "being scammed" and "getting junk" and "never ordering this again." In my humble opinion, the folks complaining need to put on their big boy/girl pants and realize a few things. First, PG did exactly what they said they were going to do and sent you $40 worth of stuff. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you used. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you even liked. What they promised is that it would be guitar related and worth $40. So quit whining because you weren't one of the very few that won a guitar or pedal or some higher dollar piece of gear.
Now for my opinion on this year's stocking...and you should know that I'm not complaining about it. Did I get $40 worth of stuff that I'm going to use? Not hardly. Did I get my $40 worth from it? Absolutely!
I got a strap that I'm not ever going to use. It went straight into the box of gear that I'll give away to someone when I hear them say "I could use a strap" or to some beginner player that hasn't thought to buy one yet. I got a clip-on tuner. I'm a guitar player, so I've got a tuner in every gig bag, and they're laying all around the house. I haven't opened it yet, so I can't speak to its durability or reliability, bit I can always use another tuner. Neither set of strings is what I use. In my opinion, strings are a pretty personal thing. Everyone has their fave, and that's the one they want to use. I won't use the 9s. At all. I don't play 9s because, for someone that plays heavy-handed like me, they're like playing with fishing line. I might throw the 10s into a gig bag to use if I get in a pinch someday, but neither set is one that I'd spend money on. The ChickenPick is a 2.1mm. That's waaaay too thick for my playing. Sometimes I play .72mm and sometimes I play 1.0mm. 2.1mm, to me, is like playing with a quarter. I've always heard good things about the Pick Boy picks, but I had never seen them. Also, I recently started playing with a jazz sized pick. The Pick Boy picks they sent are jazz sized and 1.0, so they'll get used.
Overall, I spent $40 on the box, and will use $25 worth of it. But I'm still happy with what I got. Why? First, I was honest with myself when I bought the box. I realized that I might get something good, and I might not. I, also, realize that, even if I get one of the basic boxes, I'm not going to be excited about everything in it, and there's going to be stuff in it that I may never use. Second, I look at it as a raffle that I get something out of whether I win or lose. I pay the $40 on a gamble in hopes that I win something really cool. If it were really a raffle, if I didn't win, I'd get nothing. On this one, I at least get a box of stuff that I may not use. Third, it's a fun opportunity to possibly be exposed to some things that I wouldn't have otherwise have bought. This year, that something to try is the Pick Boy picks.
I'm glad I got in on it again this year, and hope I am able to do it again next year. It's something I look forward to the first part of December. For those that complain about them, all I have to say is to be realistic. Only 10% of the folks get a premium box, and you (and I) happened to be the 90% this time. As Doc said in Tombstone, "only suckers buck the tiger. The odds are always on the house." If you're going to be a sucker, then don't buck the tiger.
I discovered John Bohlinger a couple of years ago. It may've been more like several years ago. I remember he was doing a gear review for Premier Guitar on youtube, and I thought the guy was awkward and not really that good at it and really needed to quit having his hair colored because it looked...fake. Fast forward a couple of years, and he had become much more polished, let his hair do its thing so it didn't look bad anymore, and I now find his rundowns and reviews engaging so that I watch most all of them. I, also, enjoy his backpage of the magazine article every month that's called Last Call.
In his monthly column, he seems to try to give out that fatherly/brotherly advice to other players. Sometimes it's pretty practical and is something that can be used in very substantive way. I like these columns because I tend to be a very hands-on, practical person. Other times he comes across as being contemplative and trying to pass along something profound. I don't pay quite as much to these columns because I've never really been a theoretical kind of person. When I realize it's one of those columns, I just kind of scan through it.
I've always been this way. I realized it in 9th grade Biology class when I got the first C I had ever gotten on a report card. For the first time in my elementary/middle/junior high career, my name was not listed on the All A's or A/B Honor Roll. Everyone but me was surprised. My folks asked me what happened, and my response is that I didn't care about the class. They asked why, and my response was that it wasn't a fun class, the teacher was a sadistic idiot, and I couldn't see the practical application of what we were learning, so there was no point in learning it. So no ethereal, theoretical profundities for me. Start spouting them, and you quickly lose my attention.
Enter the December column. Mr Bohlinger was riding the line between practical application and trying to be profound. Then right there in the middle of the column, he said this.
"Many people (particularly Americans), live their lives doing what they don’t want to do so they can earn enough money to continue doing what they don’t want to do. People struggle like this for a lifetime and then teach their children to do it. If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job."
Now I don't have an issue with his first 2 sentences. He's spot on. Too often, we Americans get trapped in that cycle of a job we don't like that we don't leave because we want the stability of paycheck. After all, it takes money to live, and, when we don't have that money, even the daily grind gets difficult because you still have to put gas in the ride, food in the belly, and a roof over your head. However, that last sentence. I just have so many problems with that one.
"If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job." That's painting with as much of a broad brush as I would be if my response was "no you don't." More accurately, he should have said that, if all your job is providing is a paycheck you might have the wrong job.
I have a job. I've been in the workforce for the better part of 30 years. I've had all kinds of jobs. Changed careers a couple of times as well. The one thing I've learned is that, if you're miserable at your job, it's time to move on. However, just because a job is just a paycheck, doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot.
While I appreciate what I think he's trying to say, I think he's falling too far into that mentality that "if you're not following your passion, you're unfulfilled," and that's an extremely idealistic place to be. I'll use myself as the example, and say up front that, if I were to follow my passion, I'd probably be alone, homeless, and living in my car (if I had one) right now.
In my teens, I told everyone that I was going to fly airplanes. I got out of high school, got my first real job, and let the president of the company where I worked talk me out of going to flight school. It wasn't difficult to do. At the time, I was about as idealistic as I have ever been, working at a non-profit, and felt like I was living the change and making a difference. Fast forward a few years, I had seen the politics, problems, and blatant hypocrisy in the place I worked, become pretty jaded, and realized it was time to go. At the first good opportunity, I moved from the big city back to the town where I grew up and took a job, among other things, driving a tractor out in the field all day. Oddly enough, that job was the job that I look back on these days saying, if I could've made money doing that, I'd still be on that tractor. Believe it or not, that job was therapeutic, and just what I needed after leaving the situation I had been in.
While I was working on the farm, I had a friend ask me what I would do if I could do anything. My response was "be a studio guitarist." He asked me why I wasn't doing that. Simple. I wasn't (and am not) good enough. As recently as a year ago, as I was planning to leave the job I had at the time, I had one of my senior execs ask me that same question. That's still my answer when asked. If I could do anything I wanted, I'd be a studio guitarist.
Over the years, music and, especially, guitars has become my passion. One whole room of my house is dedicated to music. When I'm not in there playing or sitting at the computer looking up the latest gear or how to play something, you can bet it's probably what I'm thinking about. And, yes, I have viewed my job as just a paycheck for years.
You see, I have loved the guitar since I first started playing in high school, but was out and in the workforce before I was good enough at it to make any money with it. Add to that, I am NOT a good teacher (tried that with a few kids, and not a single one of them kept playing after their parents stopped paying me), and, although I will play in front of folks just to have the opportunity to play with skilled musicians, I'm one of those folks that would really rather not be up on a stage. And, generally, to have followed my passion of guitar playing, I would either have to teach or play out consistently.
Add to all that I started a career that required me working 80 to 100 hours a week, which left no time whatsoever to really practice and get better. For quality of life, after 5 years, I changed careers. Would have loved to have done something music related, but needed to put gas in the car, and my preference was to not live in said car. So I've always said that, at that point, I accidentally ended up in another industry. It paid well enough, and, although I would never have said that I really enjoyed it, it was also something that I didn't hate. It was a paycheck. Now I'm 20 years down the road, on the 3rd company in that field, and would still never be heard even hinting that it was my calling. It wasn't. And it isn't. And it won't be.
In fact, at the first company I worked in that field, my supervisor pulled me aside one day and said, "you really need to find your calling, and this isn't it. I know this because, when I bring a problem to the team, you are the only one in the room whose eyes don't light up thinking about fixing it. You're as good or better than most of the rest of the team, but I can tell that this is just a paycheck to you and not your passion. You need to find that calling and pursue it. As good as you are here, if you were really passionate about what you were doing, you'd be the best in your field." I told him that I couldn't argue with him. It was indeed just a paycheck for me, but a good enough paycheck that I wasn't planning on leaving. It took care of the bills, and gave me enough extra to fuel my real passion, guitars and gear. When I told him that, he just looked at me like a cow looking at a new gate.
Even though I am now a much better player than I was even 10 years ago, and am discovering that I can usually hold my own when called upon to play, I still don't see how I could be earning even half of what I earn in a music related field. And I'm still not good enough to be a studio musician. Truth is, I'm still one of those that's good enough to make the non-musicians think I'm a pretty good player while the real musicians know the awful truth. Or at least that's how I view my playing.
In fact, how is it any different than someone that likes off-roading and spends all their extra money on their jeep? There are jobs out there where you can make a living off-roading, but they're few and far between enough that not everybody with a 4-wheel drive can feed their fam or even repair their jeep doing it. It'd take at least both hands and a foot to count the number of folks that I know in that community that have a day job that has nothing remotely to do with the outdoors, and spend their weekends out on the trail.
Just because you have to have a paycheck and your passion appears to play 2nd fiddle doesn't mean that it's any less of a passion. Truth is, most of the folks I work with know that, given the right opportunity, I'd ditch them without a thought to go play guitar somewhere. Mostly because I've done it in the past and will do it again I'm sure. I just haven't come across that right long term opportunity (and probably won't), and I like my salary enough that I don't mind the grind 5 days a week so long as I have a guitar in hand when I'm not in the office.
With all respect, good Mr Bohlinger, you're wrong on this one. Just because it's only a paycheck doesn't mean it's wrong. Sometimes without the paycheck, the passion has no fuel and would die. If it's just a paycheck, it might be wrong. Or it might just be a paycheck. Like you, I also sell out. It's just that, with my skill set, the highest bidder means I'm an analyst somewhere during the week.
That said, on a different yet related note, having been there and learned the hard lesson, if you ever find yourself miserable at a job that's just a paycheck, you need to get out as quickly as you can. Life's too short for that nonsense.
I've been eyeing those Tech21 FlyRigs for a couple of years now. They really intrigue me. Multiple effects that are actually usable in a really small footprint that you can almost fit in your gig bag. And, for your basic gig, the included effects cover just about everything you'd need. Then I heard about a month ago that Sonicake has a couple of similar boards. One of the, called the Twiggy Blues, caught my eye.
Enter my recent birthday. My wife told me to give her a list of things I wanted, so I figured it'd be easiest to just give her a link to a couple of my Amazon wishlists. I had forgotten that the Twiggy Blues was on one of them. I had forgotten because, mostly, my wishlists there are just to remind me (when I have a few bucks to spare) what has caught my eye that I want to try out. I've got all kinds of stuff on my Gear List...everything from books to guitars to pedals to gig bags to various tools, some of which has been on there for 2 or 3 years. No way I remember what's on it without looking back over it.
I was actually pretty surprised when I opened he box and saw it, because she usually doesn't get anything from my list and just kind of makes it up as she goes. So it was totally unexpected when I opened the box and saw this. Spent some quality time with it today, and here are my thoughts on it.
It has 4 effects built into it, compression, OD, delay, and reverb.
Compression. I've never been a huge fan of compression. Maybe I've just never learned how to use one. Maybe every time I've tried to use one I can't really tell what it's doing. Maybe the times that I've tried to use it I kind of feel like I get that Nashville sound (which I know uses a lot of compression). Regardless, I've got a compressor that I never use. This one seemed to be a pretty standard compressor. It can definitely work as a kind of a clean boost. Or it can do that sound that I can never quite describe, but I think I've come to learn is compression. It's not really something I'll use on its own. I figure it's an ok compressor. It has volume and compression knobs.
The OD. I've read where some of the online reviewers are saying that it sounds like TS808 and where others have said that it sounds like a Dumble in a Box. I don't have a Dumble sitting around to compare, and it sounds like an ok OD, but I wouldn't say that it really sounds like an 808. However, in those reviewers' defense, I don't have a real-live TS808. I have a TS9, a TS-mini, and about 7 pedals that are supposed to be TS808 clones. It doesn't really sound like any of those. It sounds pretty good, but not good enough for me to use it on its own. It has volume, tone, and gain knobs.
Slapback (Delay). The delay on it is a digital delay. I think it's funny that they call it Slapback because it took me a while to get what I thought was a good slapback sound. It does the delay thing all day. Once I got the slapback sound dialed-in, I played around with the delay. It can go from that slappy sound to pretty ethereal to downright out of hand if you're not careful. It's an ok digital delay, but in my opinion, it's probably the weakest of the 4 effects. If I were buying a separate delay pedal, it wouldn't be this one. It has blend, repeat, and time.
Air (Reverb). Finally (almost), there's the reverb. To my ear and from what I've seen on other pedals, there are 3 types of reverb: spring, plate, and hall. Generally, if I'm using a reverb on its own, I prefer the hall sound. If I'm using a reverb with other effects, I prefer the spring sound. I don't think I've ever used the plate reverb option. To my ear, the Twiggy Blues uses a plate reverb sound. Kind of like the delay, if I were buying a separate pedal, this would not be the one that I'd get, but I liked it better, and it seemed to be easier to dial in than the delay. It has a mix knob.
It also has a switch right there between the reverb and the delay that is supposed to give you cabinet emulation if you're not running the board to an amp. I didn't actually try it out as I was only playing it through my amp today.
Overall, I don't think any of the effects really stood out. As I've mentioned about at least a couple of them, if I was looking for single effects pedals to to go on my board, these are not the pedals I'd be considering. However, engage any 2 of these at once, and they work really well together, and they suddenly sound good. Engage three of them at once, and it sounds really good. The more I played around with it, I got to where I was really digging the compression, OD, and reverb together. Did I mention that the more I played it the better it seemed to sound? Seriously, I was totally digging this thing after a while.
I'm still not sure I ever got the delay dialed in quite like I wanted. I'll go back and try to do that again next time. I thought it was kind of cool the way the knobs light up for the effects that you have engaged. Yellow, red, green, and blue. You would have no problem seeing them on, but they're no where near the retina burning intensity of the new Fender pedals. It's definitely small enough to drop in your backpack. In fact, it's small enough it will probably fit in your gig bag if that's what you use.
By the time I was shutting it down for the afternoon, I had decided that it was my new grab and go board for simple gigs. The power cord on it is probably 10 feet long, so it will reach pretty well. It sounds pretty good so long as you're not using single effects (although, truthfully, in a talk-y bar or even a church worship service you could probably use any of the effects on their own, and the only folks judging your tone are going to be you and, well, you). And, speaking of worship services, if that's your gig of choice, although I haven't tested it out, that would be an opportune time for you to use the cab emulator since a lot of churches seem to be going with the silent stage concept instead of loud amps pointed at the congregation.
Really makes me wonder what those FlyRigs sound like since I'm sure this is the cheap Chinese copy of those. Actually, these are like $90 on Amazon so they're not the cheap Chinese copy (those would be the $40 version on Ali Express). These would actually be the inexpensive, stripped down version of them. I think the FlyRigs also have an xlr out where the Sonicake alternative doesn't.
The Sonicake Twiggy Blues. Two thumbs up from me.
Now before you think that I'm saying that the interface in the picture above is complicated, it's not. It's actually really straight forward and simple. However, I have a knack for taking something that should be relatively simple and making it as complex as possible. A boss I had for a while used to say (and still does) that "complexity kills productivity." He's not entirely wrong. And, in fact, I know that in the case of recording music in my little home studio, I have lots of simple ways to record, but I like to use the more complicated methods because they "sound better" or whatever. Truth is, I'm not recording anything more if I didn't have the complicatedness that I do and only had the simple. It's just a convenient excuse not to have to record anything.
I've got a pretty good little Tascam 8 track recorder. I always kind of laugh at it though. It's called an 8 track recorder, but you only have 2 line-ins to use. So it's more like a 2 track recorder that you can use 4 times. Then you can bounce all the tracks into 1 track, so I guess that, as long as you can keep doing that, you could almost call it an unlimited track recorder...record all 8, bounce them, rinse, repeat. In the past, due to the ease of using it (plug in a guitar, a mic, or whatever and hit record), that's probably what I have used most often to record.
Then I've got a couple of Zoom products. I've got the H4n audio recorder and a Q4n video recorder. For what they are, they're pretty good. They're both really good for that instance when you want the simplest solution, and that solution is to just set something up real quick and record. Thinking of making it complicated, I've even used the H4n for the audio and run it into the Q4n. That has allowed me to mic an amp and run the mic to the H4n, the H4n to the Q4n, thereby letting me use the audio from the H4n for the video without having to put them together later.
Then I started using a DAW a little bit. I've got Audacity on my laptop, and it's what I use more often than any of the others. However, I have the starter versions of some of the major ones on it as well. The learning curve on them just seems to be more than I want to invest. Ableton, Cakewalk, and ProTools. They're probably better and I know more robust than Audacity, but, for how I use it, I haven't come across anything that it couldn't do that I want done. And it's usually pretty easy to figure out.
So, using Audacity, to keep from having to record something in one place, and then transfer it to my laptop to be able to do anything with it was getting really old. But I still did that every now and then because it was just so much easier to work on a file in the DAW than on either of the recorders. But I didn't have any way to record direct to my laptop.
So I bought a mixer that had a usb interface. It works really well. Granted, to say it's a bit of an overkill is a huge understatement. I actually use it when it's out and hooked up. Problem is, it takes up so much real estate, and, in my music room, I don't even have a real desk. So having a place reserved for a big mixer (even one that's not really that big) is just taking up space that could be used for something else. I got tired of pulling it out, setting it up, using it, and then disassembling everything so I could put it up. So it lives in it's case way more of the time now.
I still wanted some sort of interface to use with my laptop. I really hate recording to one of the recorders only to have to find an SD card or the right usb cable to be able to transfer what I've laid down from the recorder to the laptop. So I started the search. The big requirements for it were that it have 2 inputs (and not 1-1/4" and 1-xlr) and be relatively inexpensive. Oh, and I run Win on my laptop and my phone is Android. So Apple/Lightening
I came across the Zoom U-24, and it seemed to fit the bill nicely. 2 inputs that can be 1/4" or xlr (or one of each) and was about the least expensive of the options. Since I've liked my Zoom recorders, I figured I'd give it a shot. So far it has done the trick nicely.
The drivers for it were installed easily enough, and they've worked fine. Turned it on (you have to choose which you're using - battery power or usb power), set the controls, plug in a guitar, and I'm off and recording. One thing I noticed, however, is that if I keep the gain turned down so the clipping light isn't just constantly on, the audio records pretty quietly. I'll set the gain at like 8, just let that clip light shine, and the audio is right about where I want it, and it's not clipping at all. Recording to the DAW on the laptop is easy peasy lemon lawnchairs.
It uses a usb-b type to usb-a type connector to the laptop. So, seeing that some online had said they were able to record to their iphones, I bought myself a usb-b to usb-c cable, and figured I'd try it on my android phone. Into the settings on the phone, and I changed the mic setting from phone to usb, and now I can record to my phone. Granted, this defeats the idea of being able to record direct to my DAW and laptop, but, to my phone, at least all I have to do is upload the file instead of having to find some piece of hardware to be able to do the same.
The interface also has a headphone out as well as 3 different line out options (1/4" and rca/phono). It also has a midi in and out. Some day I'd like to have an external monitor or two in my little music studio, but, so far, the headphone out is the only option of those 3 that I would use. And I don't have anything midi at this point.
For what it is, an inexpensive usb interface alternative to some of the Focusrite options, I think it does a good job. Granted, I've only had it like 3 weeks at this point, but, after a few minutes (and I really mean just a few) of figuring it out, I think it may take the "complicatedness" out of the equation, and hopefully get me recording a little bit more. I think Zoom did a good job pairing simplicity with function on this one.
So the other day I decided to pull out my Klon-type pedals, do some side by side comparisons, and see if my thoughts on them had changed at all. I figured this would be a good time to do this because I just got the NuX Horseman that I had ordered back in April, and was playing with it to see how I liked it. So, here they are in my order of preference.
Before I go into the pedals, I should also mention that I always use the Klones in the same way. With the amp just at the edge of breaking up, I'll have the gain on the pedal set minimally, the treble set in the middle, and the volume set a couple of clicks above unity so that it's pushing the amp a bit. So it's more like a clean boost I guess. This is where I believe these pedals really shine.
What are your thoughts? Tried any good Klon-type pedals that just really stood out to you? I've heard really good things about the J Rockett Archer, but haven't gotten my hands on one of those yet. I've also heard there are some really good ones from back before the recent onslaught...the Aluminum Falcon, the JHS copy that they no longer make, the MXR Sugar Drive (although I think this one may be one of the recent ones), and others. Some day I'll have to make it a point to pick some of these up and give them a shot as well.
I was talking recently to someone who is pretty new in their guitar journey. They can play cowboy chords and a few barre chords up and down the neck so long as you stay below about the 8th or 10th fret. While we were talking, they made what I thought was an interesting comment. They said, "I just wish I could get my signature sound figured out."
I had to carefully chide them on saying that. I didn't want to beat down their enthusiasm for playing and learning, but I also wanted to be sure that, at this stage of their journey, they were concentrating on chords and notes and learning a few licks instead of trying to chasing that unobtainium known as their "signature" sound. So I gently broached the subject. Their immediate response was this. "Well you're one to talk. You've got how many guitars and are always buying pedals and gear." They also told me that they think I have a signature sound most of the time, and I always sound like me.
So I had to try and explain that. Yes, I am always buying pedals and gear, but that's mostly out of curiosity and and not so much chasing a tone. I also reminded them that I've been playing guitar in some way, shape, or form since I was a teenager. I also tried to explain that I usually have "my" tone because, when they hear me play, I'm usually using the same (or a very similar) amp with my chain running the same (or, again, very similar) pedals. They usually hear me with a Blackheart amp on the edge of some breakup, with my chain being an always on klone followed by a tube screamer (or TS clone) just in case I need to cut through a bit.
I also reminded them that the "signature" tone is much more of a journey than it is a once and done thing. Yes, buy gear and play with it and see which of it you like, but, as a relatively new player, the sound in their head will more than likely change. I told them that, if they hadn't already, they would begin to hear the different in a Strat and Tele and Les Paul and 335. They would hear the difference in a Fender and Vox and Marshall. They would walk into a gig and immediately know whether the player was using a tube screamer (or clone) or some other OD pedal.
I also told them that, with a lot of players, you can stick them on whatever guitar, pedal, amp combination you want, and they're going to sound pretty much like themselves. This is because, and I've been just as guilty of this as others, we get a new amp that is the new hotness and totally amazing, but when we dial it in, we dial it to sound just like the old amp we've been using for years. Some of the most fun gigs I've played have been where I carry my guitar in, plug into whatever amp they have available, stab it to be sure that I'm not ice-picking my ears (or those in the front row), and then just play. Don't worry about how the amp is set. Just play. After all, isn't that what music is about...playing?
For most of us, especially us hobbyists, our "signature" sound is ever-evolving. For those that play out, sometimes it changes and sometimes it doesn't. These days I'm sure that a lot of pro players have a carefully curated sound. They have a sound in mind and work towards that. They pick the amp, the guitar, the signal chain, all to get the sound that they're known for. Back as recently as 20 years ago, I bet that a lot of players didn't necessarily do that. Before the explosion of pedal manufacturers, when folks had only heard of 3 amp makers (Fender, Marshall, and Vox), I bet a lot of sounds were as much a matter of convenience as anything. You could get ahold of this amp and that guitar so that's what you used.
Truth is, I heard an interview with one of my fave guitarists the other day (who is relatively young in the overall scheme of things) where he was talking to someone about his stage gear. He knew the answers to the general questions (what kind of guitar do you use, what's your chain from the guitar to the amp, etc), but every time it got specific (what's the neck radius on that one, how do you have your pedal set, etc), his response was, "I don't know we'll have to ask that one to my tech." Towards the end of the interview, he made the comment that "when I was young we were poor so I played whatever I could get my hands on. That has kind of stuck. My tech has helped me find gear that I really like, but I don't always know that much about the specifics of it." Turns out, in talking to the tech, all of his Fenders were partscasters. Personally, I think that's pretty cool.
Back to the "signature" sound thing. I know I'm way too guilty of not just playing whatever I can get. It has to be the right guitar though the right amp sometimes. The funny thing is, even those times where I'm running the guitar straight to the amp, and neither of them are mine, I still sound like me. Which makes me think. Maybe that signature sound has more to do with who's playing than what they're playing on, so I really should be practicing more and not obsessing over gear. But that's a whole other subject.
Here's a subject for you that seems to come up every now and again. And even John Bolinger is talking about it again in his most recent vid on the Tube of You. Reliced guitars. I know these aren't the only opinions out there, but if you read the interwebs, there seem to be two prevailing schools of thought. The first group says that reliced instruments are stupid, idiotic, and should all be burned, and those that buy them, play them, or otherwise look upon them any other way are nothing more than wannabes that can't tell a guitar string from a climbing rope and don't deserve to ever pick up a guitar. The other prevailing thought is the group that seems pretty apathetic towards them and basically say "if you don't like them, then don't buy them."
As I recall, reliced instruments were started off primarily in the domain of custom shops. They were making guitars that were replicas of famous instruments and NOS type for the collectors. Then the manufacturers realized that they could make good money on heavily reliced instruments. So they started making those too. They eventually figured out how to do the relicing a lot more cheaply, so the reliced guitars left the domain of the custom shops and entered that of the affordable. Disclaimer: I don't know that this is exactly how it went down, but, from this consumer's perspective that appears to have been what it was. So take this last paragraph with a grain of salt. Or the whole shaker. It may or may not be totally accurate, but that's what seemed to happen to me.
Back around 2008-ish when Fender released their Road Worn line, all of the guitar forums I was on erupted with the most hate-filled, vitriolic commentary on them that you can imagine. "Wear should be honest." "Only posers will buy these guitars." "These guitars are made for folks with more money than sense. And kids that haven't put in the time to have worn in a guitar." "Stupidest idea ever." And a lot of really troll-ish things a lot worse than this by those that I know not to be trolls.
Everyone had an opinion, and most of those sharing their opinions had less then complementary things to say about them. Including me. At that point and time, my thought was that wear should be honest wear, but I sometimes balanced that thought with the fact that other folks can spend their money on whatever makes them happy. But that doesn't mean I wasn't parroting a lot of the things that some of the others were saying.
About 2010, I decided I needed to get myself a Tele. I test drove Tele after Tele, and didn't like any of them. They either didn't sound right or didn't feel right or something. None of them were any good. Didn't like them. Every time I'd hit the local stores (the mom and pops and the big boys) I'd start pulling Teles off the wall, and not a single one of them spoke to me. I tried to like them. I really, really wanted to like them. Squiers, MIM Fenders, MIA Fenders, even a G&L or two. But not a single one of them was it. Did this for a couple of years.
I avoided the Road Worns just because they were...Road Worns. FInally pulled a 50s Road Worn off the wall mostly to exercise my confirmation bias against them. At that moment I think I heard that proverbial angelic choir, because there was absolutely no question that was the guitar for me. It felt good. It had the right weight to it, and the neck was the most incredible neck ever. I once described it to a buddy as being like that pair of jeans that you've had for years that you just don't get rid of because they fit perfectly and were worn in all the right places. I bought it.
Yes, it's a Road Worn. Yes, it looks like every other Road Worn Tele that was being made at that time. Yes, the neck has the same wear spots as every other maple necked Road Worn Tele (and Strat) since they started making them. Call me a poser and wannabe if you like, but it's the best feeling poser guitar I've ever picked up.
That very much started changing my opinion on reliced guitars. Then, in 2012, I got the chance to tour the Fender factory and they took us through the Custom Shop. We passed the area where the Master Builders do their work. I felt in the presence of royalty when John Cruz stepped out of his work area and watched as we awkwardly stared at him as we walked by. Then they took us over to where the Journeyman builders were working on the more mass-produced custom shop stuff. There was a line of 5 red Strats that he was working on that were all identically reliced.
I figured that they would be sold to the masses just like most of the others that come off the line. But then the one working on them told us that all 5 were going to the same individual (a famous player who we all know that is known for playing Strats). The player had recently decided that he didn't want to carry his famous guitar out of his studio anymore, so he was having the guitars in front of us built so he could grab one and carry it where ever he was going and not have to worry about his old, beat-up one being lost, stolen, broken, etc, but everyone seeing him play would think it was still the old trusted #1 axe he'd always used.
That changed my mind for good. If some of the famous players played guitars built as relics, then they're definitely not just for posers, and honest wear may not always be the best. I've got my Road Worn, and I've recorded with it, but, honestly, I've never played it out. It's a fun guitar. It feels wonderful, and plays nicely. And shouldn't that be what it's all about? Does it fit you like you want it to and give you the sound that you hear in your head? Then it shouldn't matter if it got its scratches on the road or in the factory,
Honestly, what's the difference in a "poser" buying a Road Worn or other reliced guitar brand new and that same person going to Reverb (or the local Guitar Center) and buying a guitar that is just well used? Either way, both of them look used. One just happens to look like 1000 identical guitars because their wear patterns are the same. Either way, they both look like a used guitar. And who cares if it's a 15 year old in a high school garage band playing it. Maybe that beat up '65 Strat they're playing was something they inherited from a relative that gave it all that wear "honestly." Are they still a poser because they didn't give it that wear?
I'm firmly in the "I don't care" camp. You know what? I also don't care if you salt and pepper your eggs more than I like because it's not me eating them. If you like the look of reliced guitar, and that's what gets you to play it, then buy it. If you like the look of a brand new, pristine axe then buy that one if it's what's going to get you to play it. Be sure it feels good. Be sure it sounds good. Be sure that you can live it. Just get whatever guitar makes you happy.
Whether it's brand new with not a scratch on it or reliced so much it's bare wood, more power to you. If it's the guitar that will get you to play more, then that's the one that you need. Because when it all comes down to it, who cares whether you're playing rock or blues or country or dubstep or whatever, and who cares what you're playing it on. Just be sure that you're playing it. Too often we confuse ourselves and make it about who we're a disciple of or the tools of the trade, but it should be about the music. If it wasn't for the music, then we wouldn't have a guitar to begin with.
I was talking to a buddy recently who's out there doing that thing. He does it on the side, and he's not getting rich from it, but it gives him enough scratch to pick up the gear he wants. He's a little different from me in that, I feel compelled to play and make music. He feels compelled to play, make music, and do it for someone else. The difference is that I do it to make me happy. He does it to make others happy. He's been doing it for years. At this point, he's retired. So he's been doing the weekend warrior thing longer than I've been alive.
He and I had an interesting conversation about making money playing. His opinion is that, unless and until you get to the point of being a big band like <insert the name of any really big band here>, your bread and butter is probably going to be doing covers.
I think he has a bit of a point. I can think of several friends and acquaintances that play in local bands. Music is their business. A couple of them supplement their weekend business (playing music) by having real jobs. Yes, they have those jobs, but they don't consider them their real jobs. The ones that don't have a "real" job, either teach lessons (which is sort of a real job) or they play in multiple bands so that they can be sure that they're playing practically every night.
The ones that seem to be making the most money and playing in the fewest bands are the ones that play more covers than originals. They play the wedding circuit. The VFW Hall circuit. Whatever circuit has people dancing, they're playing it. They play songs that the people know and gets them up out of their seats and on the dance floor.
Quite a few of them still play in an "our original work" kind of band (or two), but those bands play maybe once a week, have small followings, and, by their own admission, are never going to get them rich. I have seen a couple that have broken out a little bit, but they have managed to get on not just the local circuit, but the regional circuit as well, playing not only here in the Metroplex, but also in Houston, Austin, San Antone, OKC, and all around the ArkLaTex region. A couple of them have even managed to get those gigs that take them all over the midwest. They're doing their original stuff, but they've managed to get enough of it out there that people recognize it and want to hear it.
So what do you think? To make money in the business, especially as a weekend warrior, can you do it as an original band or do you have to do the covers thing so that people will get up and dance?
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.