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.
I like trying to get things to grow. Never really been that great at it, but enjoy it's kind of cool putting something in the ground, giving it a while, and then watching it grow into something either pretty to look at or good to eat.
So, looking at the spring weather patterns here in FWTX I planted my little patio garden about a month, maybe 6 weeks ago. Some of them seem to be coming along pretty well. Some of them not so much.
In one planter, the front planter in the first pic below, I have carrots. I forget what variety, but they're supposed to be made so that they will grow in containers. They're supposed to be 4" - 5" long. At the moment, I'm thinking about pulling them up and putting something else there before it gets to far along in the spring. I think I planted 4 rows of 8 of them using the square-foot method. I honestly can't remember because so few of them have come up at this point. If I don't go ahead and turn this one over and plant something else, I'm sure I will by summer.
The planter in the middle of both pics is leaf lettuce (the light green) and arugula (the dark green). It's actually over planted. It kind of was barely getting along, it came a good couple of rains and in the space of a week was going like gang busters. This week my project for that planter is to pick enough of it out that I can pull a couple of the plants up to thin it out. Looking at how that planter is going right now, I'm not sure I can eat enough salad to keep up with this one.
The planter in the front of the second pic is just flowers. I don't remember what kind of flowers I planted beyond thinking that I liked the way they looked. I planted 2 of each kind in hopes of 1 of each actually coming up. 2 of one of them came up pretty well and seem to be doing ok over on one end. On the other end, only 1 came up. At least the 2nd hasn't sprouted yet. The ones in the middle only recently pushed through, so I'm not sure what to think of them yet. At some point, at least against what I was reading when I planted them, I'll need to pull up 1 of each so they don't overcrowd each other.
So far, except for the carrots, I can't say it's going too much different than I had hoped. Just need to get the one planter thinned out this week.
In other news, since it's finally warming up again, I got the telescope all dusted off and ready to go yesterday. Probably pull it out and do some gazing this coming weekend. I know that the moon will be almost full. I need to see what else is going to be out that I can look at.
I like guitars. For the first 15 or so years of my guitar playing life, I only had 2 guitars. Well, 3, but really only played 2 of them. They were both acoustics. A steel string and a classical. I also had a travel guitar for part of that time, but that was kind of a novelty, and it didn't get played very often at all.
Then I bought my first electric. I had it for a couple of years. Bought it off eBay from a guy across town. Never really bonded with it, but usually kept it sitting out on the stand instead of the others just because I thought it looked cool. Shortly after I bought it, I took myself to the local GC, and I bought myself an amp. Knew even less about amps than I did electric guitars, and I ended up with an amp that has since been relegated to the workbench in the garage so that I have something that I can test a guitar on when I'm working on it just to be sure that all the electronics are working.
I thought the electric guitar and amp sitting next to each other in the living room looked really cool. You know how it is. Bachelor chic. Single guy decor. When I joined the ranks of the matrimonially inclined, I was pretty quickly told that they were no longer welcome sitting out in the living room.
I was content with the guitars I had. They covered everything I needed them to do. And, in fact, when I played out, I only ever used one specific guitar...the Martin...because it had a pickup in it, and I could plug it in or mic it, and it just was (and still is) a workhorse of a guitar. That was also back when finances were beyond tight. There was seldom anything extra, and when there was, it generally went to stuff that I actually needed and not guitars or gear. I had also not really discovered the world of gear at that point.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I had spotted the electric guitar at a little guitar shop in East Texas that I wanted instead of the one that I had. I wasn't yet seeing the girl that I ended up marrying, but I had driven over to East Texas a couple of times to visit her with some friends. So I decided one weekend when I was visiting her to take my electric to that little shop and see what kind of deal I could swing for the one that I had seen hanging on their wall. Because the shop didn't do their due diligence, they thought the guitar I was trading was a much nicer guitar than it was (it was the very bottom end, import Parker that they thought was the bottom end MIA version...a difference on the used market of about $600 at the time). So when the guy came out and made a production of telling me that they were going to give me a super deal and trade me straight up for the guitar on the wall (which, at what they should've been paying me was going to be about 50% off the price of the one I wanted), I figured I was going to take the money and run.
I figured that, when I walked in with the guitar, I had told him the model number, and it was right there on the headstock too, so it was his own fault if he didn't know what it was. Then again, date of manufacture on the one I wanted was about 18 months before, so maybe it had been hanging on their wall for too long, and they just figured they'd get rid of it and try their luck with something else. Maybe they thought they were the ones getting the steal of a deal.
I still think the store guy thought he had the nicer Parker, though, because they had a used one sitting over as soon as you walked in the door like a trophy. It had the usual Parker price tag on it, and he kept talking about how it was going to be nice to have 2 Parkers in the store at once. Problem was, the one I was trading would only sell for about 30% of the price they had on the other one. Like I said, take the money, or rather the guitar that I wanted, and run. Depending on your perspective, I didn't pay anything for the guitar I left with. It was a straight up trade.
It was what has come to be known on the market as a Fender Splattercaster. A MIM Standard Strat with a splatter paint job.
Fast forward a few years. I had a better paying job. I was married. She also had a job. Finances were a little more free. I had not only realized that different electrics sounded different (there was a time that I thought they all sounded the same - I was an extreme acoustic snob), but I had discovered all the periphery gear that gets sold around guitars. So I slowly started acquiring pedals and amps and even more (and nicer) guitars.
Every guitar that I bought, I bought for a purpose. I had always really liked the look of a 335, so for our first Christmas together, my new wife found a 335-clone on a bargain closeout price, and bought it for me. Then I got a really good bonus at work so I picked up a Les Paul because, since my primary electric was a Strat, it seemed to be the opposite electric. That's when things started to free up a bit and GAS started to kick into high gear.
Since then I've managed to get representation of all the major body types of electrics (at least the ones that I like - except an SG, and someday I still need to find the perfect one of those). I've also got more amps than some studios I've seen, a closet full of pedals, and lots of other associated gear. In truth, when we moved into our current house, one of the major considerations was the music room and the fact that it really, really needed a walk-in closet so all the guitars would fit.
Out of all the gear I've got, I've gotten it all to play. Basically anyways. I've got one guitar that I bought recently for the sole reason that I like the look of it. One of these days, I'm going to hang it on the wall as an art piece. But that doesn't meant that it will never be played.
I've got some nice gear that someday may actually be worth more than I paid for it. It may not be. I'm thinking specifically of a couple of anniversary edition guitars that I've got. They'll never finance my retirement (they're not babied - I play them), but someday I might at least be able to get my money back on them. There are a couple of pedals I have because they're unique that I bought with the thought in the back of my mind that maybe someday I'd get a return on them because of the fact that they're unique and they (at least as of now) haven't really been mass marketed. One of them, I could already do that to. Watching Reverb, mine's in good condition, and it looks like I could get about 50% more from it than I paid. But I like the pedal, don't really want to part with it at the moment, and it gets played. So, when I do decide to get rid of it, it's going to look used. So it may end up being worthless. But, when the rubber meets the road, I buy gear to play it. Gear is never an investment.
I feel like I should repeat that. Gear is NEVER an investment.
That said, I occasionally pull out the guitar and amp blue books and hit reverb (or where ever) so that I can see how much it would cost to replace my gear if anything happened to it. It's an insurance thing. Oddly enough, tonight in doing that audit, it appears that most of my gear has either held steady at used prices I paid or depreciated as expected when bought new. Except for one guitar. The one that I didn't pay anything for. The one that I could never get rid of because I bought it to try and impress a girl that I wasn't yet dating. The one that, since all of my guitars are named, happens to be named after that girl...who a few weeks later bought a stuffed animal and named it after me because I had told her the new guitar's name. BTW, she eventually married me.
Looking at what they seem to sell for when they hit the market, since I wasn't out of pocket for the guitar, if I factor in what the guitar I traded would have fairly sold for, that Splattercaster has doubled in value since I bought it. Of course I'd have to go dig the original pickguard and back plate out of the box in the closet and put them back on, but it just kind of made me laugh. As far as collectibility, it's just a MIM Standard Strat with an odd paint job. If you listen to the cork-sniffers, it's a run of the mill MIM so it can only be worthless, good for nothing, and will never amount to anything. I wonder if they could tell me what guitar they have that has doubled in value. I bet they can't.
Funny how that works out sometimes.
So last week I talked about how I have been upgrading the Gretsch 5120 the last couple of weeks. This week, I'll tell you what all I did and throw in some pics.
The big thing was that I have heard the Ray Butts pups, and decided that I wanted those in the guitar instead of the stock Gretschbuckers that have been in it since I bought it. I found out that to put those pups in it, I was going to have to make major modifications to the guitar. So I set out to try and figure out what that was going to take.
The first thing that I'll mention is, if you think you might want to work on your 5120, there are a couple of things that you are totally going to want to do.
First, if your bridge isn't pinned (which, unless you pinned it, it's not), get yourself some painter's tape, and tape the edges of the bridge. That way you know where to put it back when you get done. Or at least it will give you a much better place from which to start to get it put back in the right spot.
Second, see all the life support tubeing coming out of the holes in that first pic? 1/4" aquarium tubing is your friend. I've cussed and spent countless hours being frustrated on a couple of semihollow guitars I've got that I worked on in the past using the "let them just fall out and try to get them back in" method as well as the method where you tie some string around the pots. Neither one has been really successful for me. A while back, I saw someone on a forum I frequent mention the aquarium tubing, and it was an absolute lifesaver this go around. It wouldn't fit the pup switch, but it did the pots. The tubing plus a 1/4" plug attached to the end of a coat hanger for the output jack, and you're pretty much set. You're on your own for that pickup switch though.
Oh - and let me add the following disclaimer right here, right now.
I am by no means a luthier, trained or otherwise. Everything that you read here is what I did to my guitar. My woodworking skills are limited, and everything I do is pretty much trial and error and making it up as I go. So use what I did with not just a grain of salt but instead the whole dang shaker of it. Also, by the time all is said and done, although I have added several hundred dollars worth of parts to the guitar, I fully understand that the work that I have done has probably severely devalued the guitar, and I could never get my money back out of it, and that was never the goal. The goal was/is to make the guitar a better sounding, better playing instrument that will encourage me to play it. So, if you decide you need to mod your instrument, proceed at your own risk.
I started trying to find pics of the guts of a "real" Gretsch online, and they were amazingly difficult to find. The few that I did come across basically looked like the pickup holes had more wood and bracing inside the hole for the pickup.
Now I should stop here and mention that the Filtertron pickups don't mount like regular pickups. All of the pickups I have ever swapped out of guitars (at least humbuckers) have had little tabs on either side where the pickup is attached to the pickup ring and you have to try to get the screw through the spring. Once you get the pickup setup in the pickup ring, then you attach the pickup ring (and, thus, the pickup) to the guitar.
This isn't how a Filtertron works. It attaches directly to the guitar using that extra bracing that is inside the pickup routs. Notice the difference in the two pups below. The regular bucker has those little tabs. The Filtertron has the screw holes on the edge casing. Where the regular bucker has the screw/spring thing for height adjustment, the Filtertron doesn't. For height, you have to shim it inside cavity using foam rubber or something.
So the first thing to do was to get the bracing added to the inside. I wasn't sure the size of the bracing on the inside, so I probably went the most difficult direction possible for this part. I had some paint stirrers that I started gluing together until I got what I felt was probably the right thickness. Then I started measuring the inside of the guitar (as best I could) and looking at the pickup routs to try and see where the bracing should go and how far out it needed to come. Then I broke out the wood glue and clamps and started making the changes that I think needed to be done.
In the first pic, you'll see the the clamps holding the bracing in while the glue initially started drying. Note that, to keep from damaging the guitar, you need to be sure that you're using some kind of non-marring clamp. You'll also see that I clamped opposite sides of the guitar each time. There was a specific reason I was doing it this way, although I don't remember at the moment why. I think it had to do with getting the brace and the clamp in and positioned to get it glued...it was easier to get everything in on opposite sides. But I honestly don't remember right off.
Once I got the bracing in, you'll see in the next pic how the wood extends a good inch or more into the pickup cavity. That was the ultimate goal here, to get the pickup bracing so that the pickup had somewhere to attach. Also, you can barely see in the second pick the holes that have been filled where the original pickup rings were attached. To fill those, I used some highly specialized dowels that seem to fit just about perfectly. These dowels are available at your local supermarket. They're just toothpicks.
Once I got the bracing in, I could go to work on getting the pups added.
Now, since I wasn't sure how this was going to work to begin with, I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on pups if I wasn't really sure I was going to be able to put them in. So, I initially hit Reverb looking for some cheap Filtertron pups. For something like this, I would usually have hit GFS because I think they are the best source for inexpensive pickups (I've actually got them in several guitars - try the Mean 90s...best P90 pup around imho), but all of their Filtertron-style pups have the regular humbucker mount. And that was what I didn't want.
So I found some pups made by a company called FrankenTone. They had an actual Filtertron looking pup for about the price of the GFS pups. So I initially bought a couple of Franken'Trons from them just so that I could see how I was going to get them into the guitar. That way, for the price of one Gretsch Filtertron (and less than a TV Jones of any variety), I could see if what I was planning was going to work. It would bug me less to lose $40 on a pup I couldn't use than it would to spend $100+ only to find out that what I was doing wasn't going to work.
So, after some careful planning and proceeding with much caution, the pups were installed. One thing that I always do when putting new pups into my guitars is to add my own type of quick connects to them. Not because I swap them out on a regular basis, but because my soldering skills totally suck monkey butt, and that way, if I burn out a pup, I don't do it every time I work on the guitar. It's more so that I only have to attach a wire to a pot once. I got the quick connects attached to the pots and to the pups and started getting everything ready to go back in the guitar.
When I started the work, I also had decided that I didn't like that the output jack was nothing more than the washer attaching the jack to the side of the guitar. It suddenly occurred to me that left a lot of room for the side of the guitar to get munched. Plugging and unplugging constantly can't be good for the guitar, and, at least in my head, it just will weaken that wood over time. So I added an output jack cover. That part was quick and easy. The biggest thing was drilling the pilot holes, but that's mostly because I'm always more than a little nervous putting new holes in my guitars.
Now I mentioned earlier that the height for the Filtertrons is adjusted by shimming the bracing. In the first pic below, you'll see what I did with that. I pulled out the ruler, and played around with the Franken'Trons and tried to figure out how high they needed to be. Then I went back to those paint stirrers, and, once again, started gluing them together until I thought they were about the right height. Then added little pieces of foam rubber until they looked right, and taped the whole concoction together.
I didn't want to glue the shim in, so they just got attached to the bracing with double-sided tape. I don't believe that they needed to be attached to never come out. I figure they just needed to be secured enough that they didn't move around. Then the pups kind of set on top of that with the ring risers and pickup rings.
Sidebar and spoiler. I've mentioned the Franken'Trons several times now. My thought was when I bought them, and is still that they are the temporary pups that I used to be sure I could make this work. I always said that I would put TV Jones Classic pups in it. Then I heard the Ray Butts pups, and decided that I wanted them instead. The Ray Butts pups are $350 a pair. I really didn't want to spend that much on pickups at the moment. The TV Jones Classics are $260 a pair. That's more than I wanted to spend on a pair of pups that I am already planning to ditch at some point before too long.
Thinking that I would still end up with the TV Jones Classics because they were less expensive than the Ray Butts, in doing some research I realized that the newer Gretsch HS Filtertrons were getting really good reviews, and I could get a pair for $144 shipped. So I put that order in a bit ago, and am waiting for them to come in. Everyone seems to have them back-ordered at the moment...seems to be a shortage of the bridge pup for them. So, as soon as the place where I ordered them gets on in, they'll be headed my way to replace the Franken'Trons that I have in there now.
Now back to where I was...bracing and shim in and pups inside the pickup rings. Next task was to put some strings back on the guitar so that I could get the pups lined up properly. Just before doing that, since I haven't done it in a while, I did a lemon oil treatment to the fretboard. Once I got done with that, I started restringing her.
Looking at the next pic, you'll see that that is not your typical Adjusto-Matic bridge as is found on a stock 5120. A couple of years ago, I swapped that out for a Tru-Arc rocking bar bridge in brass.
Now that I have pointed out the bridge, it's back to the re-string. Everyone has their favorite brand of strings. I am no exception. I'm sure that in a blind aural test I probably couldn't hear the difference, but I use Rev Willy's Mexican Lottery Brand Fine Electric Guitar Strings in 10s. To me, I believe that they pop and twang a little more than others. When I first tried them on one of my guitars, they're the first string (on an electric) that I thought actually sounded different than every other brand I had ever played.
Once the strings were on, I could line up the pups and get the polepieces centered under the strings. Then it was time to drill the ring holes and get the pups attached.
There were 3 holes that the original B60 left. I chose to only fill one of them. I had to. 2 of them would be hidden under the B6, but the third one had to be filled in order to not have a wallowed out, too big hole for the strap button. So I filled that hole, and then placed the B6 on the guitar to try to get it placed.
Here's where I made the mistake. I got everything lined up making sure that everything was centered and on the center-line, and then had trouble getting the screw holes marked through the Bigsby. I tried my usual scribe-y marker thing, and it wouldn't go all the way through the hole. Hole punch, regular sharpie, pen, screwdriver, and nail set all had the same problem. They either wouldn't fit in the hole at all or they would go in most of the way, but not enough to actually get to the guitar. I finally managed to make the marks with a pencil. Finally got them marked, and pulled out the drill.
Problem was that, when I started drilling I didn't check the marks against the center-line first, and as I was brushing the saw dust off the guitar from drilling the first 2 holes, I realized that the marks, and, thus, my screw holes, were ever so slightly off center. Maybe a millimeter. Not much at all, but enough that it wasn't centered.
Like I said, not that anyone else will ever notice, but I do. I try to do some woodworking stuff occasionally, and I don't think I have ever gotten anything perfect. So I picked up a phrase my dad uses sometimes. "It's not perfect, but it's good enough for who it's for." It still works fine, and most folks won't notice it I don't believe. And I think it looks awesome on the guitar. So I went with the it slightly off kilter, and that's the way it's going to stay.
Once I got that on, I got her re-strung again. Then came the final piece for now. I picked up a Texas pickguard form Greasy Groove and added it too. The cutouts for the pups are just a little oversized, but I'm sure that it would've fit the Gretschbuckers just fine. Got that added on, and the guitar is once more a rockin' machine!
The only thing left at this point is to replace the Franken'Trons with the Gretsch HS Filtertrons once they come in. I've talked about putting locking tuners on the guitar some day, but didn't do it this go around because they were going to take more work than I originally wanted to put in. However, after the added effort in having to get that Bigsby installed, I should've gone ahead and done it too. I guess I'll go ahead and start researching which ones I want so I can get them ordered in.
I've got a couple of project guitars. They're the ones that I have learned the most on as far as working on guitars. I never planned on this guitar being a project guitar. I guess it's still not, but I have learned more on this one than I think I have any of the others.
Check out my shop on Reverb if you might be interested in a couple of Gretschbuckers or a Bigsby B60. As of the moment, they're still looking for a new home.
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.