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.
Been clearing out some gear the last couple of weeks over on Reverb. All of the good stuff I posted last week was bought within about 5 hours. Maybe my prices were too good.
Putting a couple more things up there later today...pedals and stuff. Check it out while there's still some good stuff left.
CLICK HERE FOR THE SHOP or go to the Shops section of Reverb and search for "snarf" and you'll find me - Snarf Sells Stuff is the name of the shop.
No pictures in this one. Just a bunch of words.
I've had to kind of chuckle recently. I've seen and heard this several times, and it doesn't make sense to me.
At some point in our musical journey, we've all had that mega-pedalboard with enough pedals on it that we could recreate the sound of any popular song ever written and recorded if we were asked to do so. I had that once. It was like 3 foot by 2 1/2 foot double stacked in places, and so unwieldy that it never actually got out of my practice space. I did like most, and whittled it down and settled for the 6 or 7 or 8 pedals that I find myself using most and put them on a modest board. Not too big. Not too small.
Then we hit the minimalist stage where we started getting much smaller boards and sticking 3 pedals, maybe 4 tops, and using that. Tuner, an OD, maybe a delay or reverb, and that's about it. That, to me is the minimalist board. Not all 400 pedals tucked away in the closet. Not even the 8 or 10 usual suspects. Just the bare minimum we feel we need to get the job done.
Now I'm seeing guys talking about their "minimalist" board. Except they're mis-defining "minimalist" as "small." They picked up one of the small boards somewhere, decide they're going to use a clip-on tuner (which isn't always great in a live environment), and load that small board up with the mini pedals that everyone seems to be making now. Heck, I saw one earlier this week that had 9 pedals crammed on it. All his buddies were solemnly shaking their heads and making comments about "that's bare bones" and "less is more." I wanted to tell them, that board was no less than anyone else's in the room. It was just smaller!
Please understand that a minimalist approach to pedals is fewer pedals, not the same amount that you always use only with a smaller footprint. Words mean things. If you have more than 4 pedals on your board, I wouldn't consider it a minimalist board.
Yes, I have a bare bones board. I call it my Triple B. I'm a bit of a hypocrite with my statement above because my Triple B actually has 5 pedals on it. Tuner > always on Klone > OD > delay > something else that rarely gets used (reverb, tremolo, etc). The only reason I have 5 on it is because they're all full size pedals, and the board was built for 5 of them. So by adding the fifth, it doesn't leave a gap at the end or the others weirdly, widely spaced. The days that I'm truly doing the minimalist thing, I just throw a tuner and OD in my bag and call it a day.
The Dallas Guitar Show. I usually try to go to it most years, and actually make it every 2 or 3 years. I hadn't been in 3 years (maybe 4 now that I think about it), so I took the day off from work and headed over this year.
I always try to go on Friday, and be there when the doors open, just to miss a lot of what can be the insane Saturday and Sunday crowds. I got there about 15 minutes after they got the doors opened, but still early enough that I had to stand in line to get in the door.
They really need to do something different about the way they handle tickets. All tickets bought online have to be picked up at will call. That's actually been the bottle neck the last couple of times I went. The ticket is cheaper (they say) if you buy your ticket online, but then you have to stand in line to get your wrist band to actually get in the show. I, also, would've waited and paid cash at the door had I known that they were giving a cash-at-the-door discount that made the tickets even cheaper than getting them online. And gotten in about 15 minutes quicker because there was no one in that line.
I didn't get any pictures this year, but there was a lot of amazing and fun stuff there. There were guitars that were brand spanking new and barely on the market yet. There were super expensive vintage guitars (and some that were being called vintage that were just plain old). There were guitars for every budget. There were parts of all kinds and all prices. There were pedals and straps and slides and pickups and every imaginable accessory you can imagine at some location in that big room. Here are some of the more interesting things (I thought) that I saw while wandering through.
A Les Paul truss rod cover that had a price tag of $500 on it. The price tag also gave the year it was supposed to be from (early 60s as I recall), but it was a truss rod cover for crying out loud. I can head up to my local GC and get one for $10 I'm sure. If the guitar I buy isn't period correct when I buy it, I'm not looking to make it original (because it never will be). 5 bills for a truss rod cover. I totally don't get that one.
Lots of acoustics this year. They were predominately Martins, Gibsons, and Taylors. A handful of Santa Cruz. I think there were even fewer Epiphones. Outside of the a couple of Taylor 8 and 9 series, a couple of Martin D-42s, a couple of Gibsons (not quite as familiar with their price point), and the Santa Cruz, there were no high end acoustics that I saw. In the past, I've seen some McPhersons and even an Olson one year. They may've been bringing those in on Saturday, but they weren't there on Friday.
A couple of vintage acoustics that I saw. Both Martins. Both pre-war, but both D-18s. One was a player (although still out of my price range), and the other had a mid-5-figure price tag on it and was in really nice condition.
I don't remember seeing any really expensive electrics while I was wandering around. I saw a mid-5-figure Les Paul at one booth, and it had several signs on and around it that basically said look but don't touch. There were several early 60s Strats and Teles around the room. There were some really cool looking guitars too.
I noticed a lot more of those old, at one time cheaper guitars. It would have taken both hands and probably at least one foot to count the number of Kay guitars that probably wouldn't have even made the show a few years ago, and, if they did, they would've been priced at $100 or below. They were sitting around with prices closer to $500 - $750. Maybe the seller was wanting to be sure they had negotiation room. Maybe they figured some sucker was going to walk by and grab it. Either way, these old, generally entry-level guitars, in my head, are the beanie babies of this generation. Folks slap a "vintage" tag on it and charge a ridiculous price for them. Give them a few more years and the buyers will realize that they waaaaaaay overpaid for them. They weren't real good instruments when they were new. Thirty or forty years of sitting under a bed didn't make them any better. It just made them older.
That was probably my biggest eye-opening moment of the show. Realizing that this all-things-vintage craze has just gotten out of hand. There was a lot of just plain old gear there with a "vintage" tag on it that had been marked up by 500%. Another example (like the truss rod cover). I passed a parts table. They had a box of screws sitting there (I forget what to) with a price of $2 a piece. I can see almost see that. Guitar show, guitar show prices. You need a specific screw to fit a specific application, pay a couple of bucks and get the exact one you need rather than going to Home Depot and getting $5 on a handful of screws only to get home and none of them quite fit what you need. Anyways, sitting right next to that box was another box with about 20 screws in it that were all rusted, but they had a price of $12 a piece on them. Looked like the same screws to me...just rusted. At a 600% markup.
Wandering around, I saw Greg Koch sitting at one of the booths playing quietly on an electric that wasn't even plugged in. I saw Seymour Duncan at his booth (at least I'm pretty certain it was him). I think I saw the Truetone (formerly Visual Sound) guy at his booth. I was actually hoping to see TV Jones at his booth, but, if he was at the show, he wasn't at his booth either time I wandered past.
I didn't stay for any of the festival part. It had been raining up until the doors opened, and, since a couple of the stages were outside, they were just ramping up a couple of hours after the doors opened. Eric Johnson was playing Saturday night, and I didn't get back for that. Just spent a few hours wandering the aisles on Friday afternoon before heading back to the right side of the Metroplex (the west side for those of you wondering).
I ended up picking up another strap from Lakota Leathers. They always have a table full of 2nds for cheap, so I always have to pick one up. They make the best straps in the business. I found an NOS VIsual Sound (now Truetone) Open Road overdrive that I picked up. That's the only non-Tubescreamer OD that I tend to like and use. Then I saw some cool leather gig bags that weren't insanely expensive back in the back. I spoke with the guy that I think owns the business, and ended up getting myself a Probag leather gig bag. Got it home and it'll fit my Strats, Tele, LP, or 339. So it looks like it's going to be a pretty versatile bag.
I'm including a pic of the gig bag. I totally dig its look. I haven't had it long enough to see if it'll stand the test of time, but, so far. it looks like it probably will. I think I had the 339 in it at the time of the pic.
Over the 30 odd years or so that I've been playing, I've taken a few lessons. I'm betting, though, that I could count all the official lessons I've had on one hand. Maybe one hand and one foot. I'm sure there were actually more lessons than that, but not by much.
I've always said that music seems to come to me pretty easily. Growing up in the family I did, I was always exposed to music. It was all around me. My parents both sang. They also both played a little piano. My sister played the piano. She was quite good.
I dabbled at the piano. A couple of times. Got through John Thompson's first couple of big red books. The first time was in grade school. As I recall, I ended up quitting because my family packed up and moved back to Texas. The second time I was in high school. My dad was the one that noticed that I was playing mostly by ear and not really watching what was on the page. He saw this when he began to realize that I never practiced. I'd just get to the lesson, have the teacher play the piece for me ("can you play it for me once more time?"), and then I'd mimic what she had played. In those first couple of books, it wasn't really complicated, so it wasn't really hard to do.
So my dad gave me an ultimatum. Start practicing, and start practicing what was written in the book and not what I was hearing (even if what I was hearing was what was in the book). So I ended up quitting. Then I saw a band come through our church, and noticed that the guitar player seemed like they were having a blast playing, so I decided I wanted to play the guitar. So I convinced my folks to get me a guitar.
There was a lady in our church that played, so my parents talked to her about giving me some lessons. I took handful of lessons from her. She taught me the basics of finger-picking along with a couple of picking patterns. After just a few lessons, she announced to me that she had taught me everything that she knew. I'm still not convinced that was right, but that was all from her.
A few months later, my parents had me start some lessons from a bi-vocational pastor in the area. He pulled out the old Mel Bay book one. I don't remember why the lessons with him ended, but they did. Again, just a handful of them. Before they ended, he taught me to read music on a guitar. Well, at least he taught me to the key of C from middle C to high C. So 8 notes. Actually, it may've been from the A below middle C to high C because I liked the sound of an A minor chord. So 10 notes.
I used what he taught me from that and some of what I remembered from those piano lessons, and taught myself to read music on a guitar. This was before the days of tab. Or at least before I knew about tab, and definitely before you could jump online and download 15 different versions of incorrect tab for whatever song happens to suit your fancy.
Several years after that, I took a fancy to some classical guitar, and hired a teacher to teach me that style. He was actually really good, and he was one of the premier flamenco players in the city where I was living at the time. I had a job where I traveled a LOT back then, so it was take a lesson here, and then the next one would be a month or 6 weeks later. I think I got 5 lessons from him. He chose to use the Frederick Noad Book 1. I don't remember how far he and I got, but, from the little he and I got through, I worked my way through most of that book.
I moved back to Texas shortly after that, and tried to continue to pursue the classical style. Found a teacher, and hired her. We lasted I think 3 lessons. She had me working on Bach's Bourree I think (if it wasn't that one, it was another Bach piece) from that Noad book. That last lesson, I was playing through it for her, stopped, told her I was about to play part of it wrong, but I knew I was playing it wrong, but I liked the way it sounded better than what was in the book.
That launched us into a 30 minute argument of what Bach's intent was. Her arguing repeatedly that what Bach intended was written in the book, and me arguing back that neither one of us were alive back when Bach was, so we couldn't know his intent because who's to say that someone didn't accidentally copy his manuscript incorrectly and the error just be perpetuated.
In all honesty, all she had to do was to tell me that I needed to play as it was written in the book because she was the teacher and I was the student. Instead, she spent the entire lesson time arguing with me over Bach's intent. We were not a good match. I did not go back.
Fast forward 20 years or so, and I found Griff Hamlin's Blues Guitar Unleashed. After all those years, that drove me forward more and more quickly. I've considered Griff my teacher for the last several years even though I've only met him a couple of times, and the lessons are either DVD or online.
However, recently, I decided to start having face to face lessons with a local guy I found online. So far, I'm not unhappy with the lessons. I've been surprised to see that, so far, he hasn't really taught me anything that I don't already have at least a vague familiarity with because of Griff (even if I can't play it).
And that brings me to why I decided to start taking actual lessons. I had become more than a little stagnant in my playing with no direction. I'm not going to say that I didn't have any motivation to play, I just didn't have any motivation to put in the time to work to get better and learn new things.
So far, hiring the teacher has accomplished exactly what I wanted it to. Knowing that I'm going to be dropping the cash every other week at the lesson has kept me in the music room actually doing some woodshedding. One of my other goals was to use the time to actually learn some songs. (I can't remember the last time that I actually sat and learned a song.) He hasn't started into any songs at this point (other than to say "listen to this song to hear this technique used"), but he said in the next lesson or so we would. I've already got a couple in mind for that.
Accountability. Motivation. Direction. Those are the reasons I chose to hire a teacher. With my current job, it's only a matter of time before I have to drop out for a while because I'll be working. But I think I'll stick with him for a while.
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.