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?
I've never been a real big fan of multi effects. At least not in the past. It seems that, as time goes by, they're just getting better and better. And, when I talk about multi effects, I'm not talking about the pedals that have a couple of actual pedals in one housing like the ElectroHarmonix Turnip Greens or TrueTone Route 66. Those are a different breed of multi effect and don't really count. I'm talking about the boxes made by Zoom and Digitech and even Boss and Fender that have LOTS of effects in them.
My opinion is probably a little jaded because the old ones are small, in plastic cases that, face it, weren't really made to withstand much abuse, and generally sounded (to my ear) pretty crappy. Back in the day, I'd look at the Zoom offerings from time to time at the local guitar shops. I really wanted to like them. But in my not so humble opinion, they seemed like they would break too easily and weren't very intuitive.
Don't get me wrong, I've always like tech. I work in and around tech, and have done so for nearly 20 years. I just think there's a lot to be said about making tech easily understandable and easy to use for everyone...even the lay person. When I install something on my computer (especially these days), I want it to be plug and play and not have to install a bunch of obscure drivers for it to work correctly, and I want to be able to look at its interface and get a good idea of what I need to do to get it to do what I want it to do. At least on some of those earlier multi effects that I always looked at, this totally didn't describe them. You had to dig for most of the settings, and it was an all or nothing thing. On your preset you either got everything you originally programmed to it or you had to re-program it. If you had some OD and reverb on it, and you wanted to drop the reverb for a bit, well, you couldn't. The preset had OD and reverb so you either got both or neither.
I eventually broke down and bought a Digitech RP50. I really, really tried to like it. Kept it for a couple of years playing with it and trying to get it to a point that I thought it was usable. To do that, I created a bunch of presets and then grouped them. The first would be a completely clean sound against an amp sound. Then I'd add some drive to it on the next slot. Then the next slot would add chorus to that. Then the next would add reverb. Then the next would be the reverb added but without the chorus. And so on.
The sounds coming from it weren't really good. They weren't really bad. They were just sort of ok. I eventually tossed it in the closet where it sat for several years. I found it, pulled it out, and a buddy offered me $20 for it. I just gave it to him. Not like I was using it.
Then along came the GNX3 and GNX4 and some of the other units that did what I had wanted them to do before. You could setup a preset, but turn parts of it on or off. I knew a guy that had one of those (a GNX3 I think). He never actually let me play around with ("you're gonna ruin my presets, dude!"), but it seemed like they tech was finally getting to where I wanted to try it again.
Fast forward a few years after that even, and I eventually picked up a Fender Mustang Floor. I had a couple of buddies that were using the Fender Mustangs, and their amp models seemed really good. That tech had finally come far enough that, even though it still wasn't tube amp good, it's believable enough that most folks aren't going to know the difference. Especially when run though a PA in an environment where there are LOTS of other instruments playing at the same time.
I also like that it's pretty intuitive. You can change the settings pretty easily through the on-board interface or you can use the Fender Fuse software. The on-board interface is easy to understand and use. You do have to go several levels deep on some of the settings to change them, but the basic settings are right there. I prefer the Fuse option though because the settings are all right there.
I actually picked it up for when I'm doing the worship band gig. Nobody but the other guitarist cares if I'm using a tube amp or what my pedals are. The Mustang Floor not only does a good enough job with the amp models and effects that it doesn't sound bad, and it has enough outputs that I can give the sound person whatever kind of line out they want. In a situation like that, it's always been my experience that you either don't get an amp or you don't get an amp on stage with you, so you can't hear it anyways. So the Mustang Floor gives me a sound that I can live with, and makes the sound tech happy too.
The Mustang Floor was discontinued like 3 years ago, and Fender hasn't done anything to replace it. Because of that, I'm waiting on the day that the Fuse software doesn't work anymore. At the moment, it doesn't seem like it's supported at all, so, when it breaks, I guess it'll be done.
However, as multi effects and modeling tech get older, they're still getting better. Nowadays you have the Kemper amps and rack units like the Eleven Rack. I don't know if you can truly consider those multi effects or if they're more profilers, but their amp models and effects are good enough they have been known to fool even some of the diehard cork sniffers.
Looking back on multi effects, if they continue to move at the same pace they have the last 15 years, there'll be no reason to ever lug an amp and board anymore within just a few years.
And, yes, I stole the pics below from Sweetwater because I am too lazy to try to take pics of mine, and couldn't find any stock pics from Fender.
I haven't actually used a pedal board in a while...several months probably. I've gotten to where I just go straight to my amp. If I feel like I need a pedal in the mix, I'll stick a pedal in the mix, but it's just one pedal. No board. But I decided to put a bit of a board back together the last few weeks.
Being a gear-a-holic, even if I haven't been using a board or even many pedals, that hasn't stopped me from continuing to pick up pedals and other gear just because whatever it is catches my eye and looks interesting. On the board the I put together recently, I have two pedals that are two of my most recent acquisitions and two that I have had longer than probably any others. Here's what I have at the moment. The signal chain goes like this. Guitar goes into...
Boss TU-2 Tuner. This was the 5th pedal I bought (I think) and the first pedal tuner. Back when I bought it, I was playing in the worship band at the church that I attended. Playing there, I had a wall immediately to my back with the sopranos in the choir behind me. To my left was the horn section of the orchestra. To my right was the bass player who was using an 8x10. In front of me was an 8' Steinway grand. My music stand pretty much rattled against the piano all the time. I realized pretty quickly that, in all that noise, clip-on tuners were pretty useless. So I got the pedal tuner. Built like a tank, and has never given me a problem. The tuner goes into...
The Tone Bakery Creme Brulee. I forget where I first heard about this one, but it's another one of those pedals that goes into the Klone camp. I've got several of this type of pedal, but this I picked this one up back the end of summer, and have enjoyed playing around with it since then. I have the gain just barely cracked open, and the volume set to about 2 o'clock. I have it on most of the time and use it as that clean boost to just push the amp a little more. Same way I use any other Klone I've got. The Creme Brulee goes into...
The Visual Sound (now TruTone) Route 66. This pedal is the 4th one I ever got. It's probably the pedal that comes the closest to staying on my board all. the. time. On the occasion that I pull it off, it doesn't stay off long. To my ear, it can get a little dirtier than a regular TS pedal. It can pull off that throaty growl better than anything than any pedal I have. I run this one just the opposite of whatever Klone I have on the board at the time...volume not too high and the gain turned somewhere between noon and 3. When I first got this pedal, I used it much like I use a Klone nowadays. Funny thing was, when I used it like that, had never heard of a Klon or of folks using it like that. These days, it gets used more as that gainy OD pedal. When I don't have a Klone on my board, I typically use this one in conjunction with a TS. The Rt 66 pedal runs into...
The TC Electronics Flashback X4. I picked up this delay pedal on the cheap from a buddy like 2 or 3 years ago, and never used it. It's too complicated. However, when putting a board together, I always feel like I need to have a delay of some sort on it for some slapback. So, rather than my usual delay, I pulled this one out and stuck it on. I figured I'd play around with it for a while and see if I could figure it out a little better. It's probably not going to last long, but we'll see. I always fall back to that whole, keep-it-simple-stupid thing when it comes to pedals. As I was playing last night, I was already thinking that I needed to go ahead and switch it out. SO we'll see how long it lasts. The delay runs into...
The TC Electronics Hall of Fame 2. I picked it up the first of October. I had sold a bunch of stuff on Reverb, and was trying to spend the Reverb Bucks I had. Didn't have a reverb pedal (never been a big fan of them), but decided I'd spend some of the earnings on either this pedal or an ElectroHarmonix Oceans 11. I ended up with this one only because it was cheaper. Other than that, like I said, I've never been a big fan of reverb pedals, so I'm giving this one a shot just to see how it does. The reverb pedal goes into...
The Morley ABY. I used to have an ART ABY, and it always seemed to be giving me problems. As often as anything, it buzzed. Made me think something wasn't soldered quite right. So I opened it up, but couldn't find anything that would be causing it. It would buzz today, and be quiet tomorrow. Never could figure it out. So I finally ditched it and bought the Morley. Haven't had a problem since. It's been rock-solid. The B side of it goes to one of my Blackhearts. The A side of it goes to...
The Boss RC-20xl looper pedal. This is the third pedal I ever bought. I picked it up less than a week after the pedal hit the market. It's old school looper tech, but it was state of the art when I bought it. 16 minutes of recording, which was like triple what anything else had at the time. These days, depending on the looper, you can get hours of looping fun, save to an SD card, send it to your computer via usb or any number of things like that. This one has none of that. Heck! Memory cards weren't that advanced and nothing had usb back when this one hit the market. But it's been another mainstay in my arsenal (for practice anyways), and I don't see it going anywhere. I've never upgraded it because I like the simplicity of it. This pedal runs out to my Fender SuperChamp set on the clean channel.
Now keep in mind that I'm not currently playing out. This setup is mostly to keep all my pedals in one place, and to keep the music room floor from having pedals strung all across it. If I were playing out, I'd tailor the board to whatever the gig needed. This just works pretty well for what I've been practicing the last few weeks. It'll change I'm sure.
Since I've mentioned the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pedals that I ever bought, I feel like I should mention the first two. The 1st pedal I ever got was the obligatory Boss DS-1. I got it from eBay for like $15. Had no idea about pedals back then. Didn't realize there was a difference in distortion and OD. Bought it, used it for like a week (because I honestly had no idea what I was doing with it), and then quit using it. I have no idea what ever happened to this pedal. Did I sell it or trade it off? Is it stuck in a box out in the garage somewhere? I honestly couldn't tell you. The 2nd pedal I got was the Danelectro Cool Cat chorus. Kind of like the DS-1, I got it off eBay because it was cheap and I thought it looked cool. The surf green colored one that is built like a tank. It's still my go-to chorus pedal.
I had the Cool Cat and looper for like 5 years before I bought the next pedal (the Rt 66). After the Rt 66 and tuner, I have no idea what pedals I got in what order. At this point, I've got a closet full, and have given away, traded, or sold off quite a few others to either finance others or just to get rid of them because I never bonded with them.
What's on your board right now? Any of these pedals that you like or think should never have been made?
Like a lot of guitar players, I have enough wood and steel to fill a closet. So it can get pretty expensive to carry them in to a real live luthier every time one needs a setup or repair. So I try to do a lot of the work myself. Over the years I've accumulated a bag full of tools to use when working on a guitar. However, I've never had anything gig bag sized that I could drop into a pocket and have that cover any setting up I want to do on the fly.
So lately I've been seeing some of the guitar multi tools, and figured I'd give them a test drive. I noticed that there seem to be 4 main ones: Gibson, Ibanez, CruzTools, and D'Addario. They were all priced between $15 and $20. The Gibson, the D'Addario, and the old CruzTools options all looked like they were made by the same company and were mostly the same. I read somewhere that the Ibanez version was included with their premium guitars, so I figured that one may be specific to Ibanez gutiars (which I don't have any). Looking at pics, whether it is or not, it also looks bigger and bulkier than the others. The old CruzTools and the D'Addario tool neither had a 5/16" socket on it. So I discounted those and didn't get them. The new CruzTools version and the Gibson did. So those were the two that I picked up to try out. Here are my thoughts on them.
I recently heard one of the YouTube personalities I follow mention that they have the Gibson version and think that it's the best guitar tool out there. It's got the 5/16" socket, a slotted screwdriver, a #1 and #2 Phillips screwdriver, 7 allen/hex wrenches (which I suspect are a mix of standard and metric), and something described as a lever that is laser engraved with marks at 3/64" and 5/64" for measuring string height.
The first "guitar tools" that I ever bought was a set by CruzTools, that I use all the time. I noticed that the new version of the CruzTools option had the 5/16" socket, so I got it as well. It has the same 2 Phillips screwdrivers, a slotted screwdriver (just a touch smaller than on the Gibson tool), 9 allen/hex wrenches (that are engraved with their size), and a standard/metric ruler for setting string height. It also has the tools, particularly the sizes of the allen/hex wrenches on the side of the tool.
As far as using them, they work about the same. They're both multitools that seem to do the trick. Both have, pretty much, the same tools on them. However, I think I prefer the one made by CruzTools for 2 reasons in particular. First, it has the sizes of the allen/hex wrenches on the wrenches so you know which one you're grabbing (no guess work). In case you forget, it's also written on the side of the tool, and the 4 standard sizes are grouped together on one side and the 5 metric on the other. Second, it has the standard/metric ruler that actually shows more than 2 lines like on the GIbson. The CruzTools tool is slightly larger than the one from Gibson.
The CruzTools multitool seems to me to be a little more user friendly (it's labeled). It also has a real ruler on it instead of the just the two tick marks, so it's a little more versatile. It will be the one that gets to ride in my gig bag.
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.