The end of 2009 I got laid off from my job. I had managed to make it through almost that whole recession that we had back then and remain gainfully employed, but that one big client decided not to renew their contract. I don't think their decision had anything to do with the recession. Truth is, from what I followed, they decided that they could do what my company had been doing for them on their own. They spent a year trying to do so, but couldn't get the right people in the right places, made a complete mess of things, and re-hired my by-that-time-previous company about 18 months later. In fact, I figured they weren't going to get the right people in the right places because they called myself and a couple of other folks on my team and tried to hire us...for half of what we had been making. We all took our chances to find something better paying.
Neeways, I was fortunate to work my last day in the middle of December 2009 and start a new job the middle of January 2010. So I decided to spend the month working on my guitar playing. I hadn't really been playing a whole lot at the time just because of life, but knew that I wanted to try to pick up some skill and, since I had the time, actually work at it. I wanted to learn some blues, so I started looking around online for some lessons. Not in person lessons, but a book or dvd (remember those?) or something along those lines that I could do the self-paced thing with.
Luckily, I stumbled across Griff Hamlin's 4 Note Solo. Now, I have no idea what the search criteria was that I entered, but it popped up, and I watched it. The concept looked super simple to follow. I had already taught myself a couple of the minor pentatonic boxes, but had never figured out what to do with them. Their practical application eluded me. Watching his video, I also thought that Griff's style of teaching was right up my alley.
So I signed up for his email list, began reading the emails that he was sending, and saw him advertise his Blues Guitar Unleashed course. During my off month, I worked on the 4 note solo he had, and as soon as my new job started, I ordered his course. That's easily been one of the better musical decisions I've made.
Griff's style of teaching ended up meshing with my learning style pretty well. Even with a new job, I managed to discipline myself to sit down and practice every day for a few minutes. Focusing on what was on the dvd and in the book meant that my playing actually started to move forward in ways that it hadn't since I was a kid sitting in my room for hours a day.
Griff has continued to put out new course material. He has listened to those who have bought his courses, and works to fill those areas where we're saying we'd like to learn more. He is still primarily teaching around the blues and the blues form, but has branched out with other courses (theory, CAGED, modes, etc). His most recent course from just a few months ago is a course on How to Play like BB King.
I've grown to appreciate Griff over the last 10 years, and, even though I've never had an in-person lesson from him (yet), I consider him my guitar teacher. I've appreciated that I have never seen him be one of those hyped up teachers that says "so this thing and you'll be Eddie Van Halen!" He has always been honest about the need for practice and lots of hard work if you're planning on getting better. I've gotten to talk with him over the years via email and a couple of workshops, and he is always encouraging even when you know that what you just played sucked monkey butt. My unbiased opinion is that Griff is a top notch teacher. My biased opinion is that he makes all other guitar teachers look like amateurs.
If you've been looking for someone to jump start your guitar playing, especially if that playing revolves around the blues, my belief is that you do yourself a dis-service if you don't give Griff's courses a chance. Not only is he a great teacher, but his courses are well made (nothing amateur-hour about them), and he offers a money back guarantee. If you get into it and realize it's not for you, he gives you 90 days to let him know and he'll refund your money. As well, he has a forum where a lot of his students hang out. On that forum, you can ask questions about the courses and post audio or video of you working a lesson. The folks on there are just as encouraging as they can be. They may give an idea or two to make a lesson work better for you or to let you know that you need to keep working a technique because you don't quite have it down, but they'll still make you feel good about yourself and your playing. I believe they truly understand that music isn't a competition and that everyone's musical journey is going to be different. They're just a great bunch of gals and guys.
Later on, I hope to do another post about the BGU course specifically and what it teaches and how it goes about it. Until then, trust and believe that it's a quality course that can move your playing forward if you work it.
A couple of months back I picked up one of those Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50s. A gold top. Because everyone needs a gold top, right? Never expected to play it much because I've never bonded with an LP. Granted the only ones I'd played had been the entry level Epiphones and the entry level Gibsons. I'd never played a "nice" one from either brand, so some would say I had probably never given them a fair shake.
I think I got a pretty good deal on this guitar because it was being sold as a blem from American Musical. No big though because I fully expected to just hang this one on the wall because I think a gold top is a beautiful guitar.
It came in, and I pulled it out of the box. I'm not sure why American Musical was selling it as a blem. I'm guessing someone bought it and returned it, so they couldn't sell it as new. It was setup pretty nicely, and I couldn't find anything wrong with it. Once I got it on the workbench, I noticed that the nut is a couple of millimeters off center. I think it was cut weird because it's flush on the bass side and just barely not flush on the treble. Otherwise I have been all over this thing, and can't find anything wrong with it.
The neck is perfect. I wish all my guitars had the neck on this one. It's bigger than all the other electrics I've got. I've got an Epi acoustic that has a big neck on it that is bigger and borders on being uncomfortable to play after a few minutes. This one is big without being as big as that one. It's a good handful without making my hand tired. It's just a great feeling neck.
The pups on it are advertised to be an Epiphone Probucker 1 in the neck and Probucker 2 in the bridge. I've read that those are Epi's version of the the Burstbucker pups. I really like them. To my ear, they're clear and articulate. I especially like the neck pup. I've really liked the Epi Alnico Pro (Epi's equivalent to the 57 Classics) that are in my 339, but I think these Probuckers make the Alnico Pros sound kind of average.
It has the 50s-era wiring in it. From what I've read, that means that the highs don't get muddy if you turn the tone down. Honestly, until recently I've always dimed the tone and never messed with it again, so I'm not really sure if wiring like this makes a difference. Since I've started playing with the knobs on all my guitars more, maybe I'll eventually be able to hear a difference.
I think it looks as good as a gold top should. I think that the gold color is more yellow than the Gibsons I've seen. The Gibsons seem to be a greener gold that this one. You can look at the sides and see that it is a 3-piece body. Looking at the back, they have a veneer on it (albeit a nice looking veneer) that make it appear to be one piece, but it's not.
It's got the to-be-expected cream colored binding and hardware and gold knobs with pointers. There is binding on the neck, too, but the binding doesn't cover the fret ends like it does on a Gibson. It's got the vintage looking tuners with the off-white plastic tulip keys. The headstock is the new Gisbon-inspired headstock that I, personally, like better than the usual Epi headstock.
The one thing I don't like about the guitar is that this mug is heavy. Like orca heavy! I stuck it on the scale because I was curious, and this thing is 9.5 pounds. It is noticeably heavier than any other guitar I've got. I wouldn't want to stand and play it for long periods of time.
Other than the weight, this guitar is really a great guitar. My assumptions of the guitar when I initially bought it turned out to be completely wrong. It feels good and plays good and, to my ear, sounds really good. Since I picked it up, it has become the guitar that I play the most. For the last couple of years, I was typically reaching for my 339 when I played. This Epiphone Standard 50s Les Paul seems to be making the move to become my main player. I've played Gibson LPs that I didn't like half as well as this one. Over the course of the last 10 years I've bought several Epiphones (a 1962 anniversary Sheraton, a 339, a couple of different acoustics, this Les Paul, and others), and with every purchase, I am more impressed with Epiphone's offerings.
I haven't been faithful to write stuff over here like I always tell myself I'm going to be. Looking back, I've posted 3 things this year. I should try to do better. If nothing else, so that I can justify paying for this website since I'm not hosting it on my own. So, what has happened this year? Let me list some highlights. Or at least highlights as I see them.
Everybody's big thing this year is probably the virus going around. Whether you believe it's real or not, whether you believe we should be wearing masks or not, no matter what you believe, it has put a crimp in everyone's style. I've known folks that have run the gamut with it from people that tested positive and just thought they had a few bad allergy days to people that didn't make it out the other side of it. Personally, I believe the virus is real and that we should all be masking up in public in effort to help out those around us. That's all I'm saying about the virus other than I am grateful to have a job that was quickly able to adapt to the "new normal" and remained gainfully employed and working from the casa all the time.
I did a bit of a gear purge back the end of summer. I thought about doing the usual and selling a lot of it online like I usually do, but opted instead to pack it all up and take it to the local GC and see what they would offer for it. I figured that they would offer me as low as they could on it. I exchanged some emails with the local store manager, and he told me their offering percentages, so I did some dirty math to come up with what I thought they would be offering me. I was ok with it since it would save me the hassle of having to sell it online and ship it around the country.
So I masked up and loaded the ride with a couple of amps, several guitars, and a box full of pedals to see what they would offer me. When I rolled the cart up to the counter, the eyes of the sales person I was working with got really big, and he commented several times about how he was glad to see such good gear in such good shape, so he was sure they would be able to give me a good offer. They ended up offering me nearly twice what I was expecting. So I had them subtract the amount of a really nice guitar that I had spotted pre-lockdown and that I had been playing while they had been working up my offer. Then I grabbed the check and ran before they could change their minds. I still believe I made out like a bandit on that one. Turns out, with the money that I got in the purge, I got 2 new guitars, several new pedals, a pedal board, some hiking/camping gear, and still was able to donate a good amount to a Guitars for Vets.
On my birthday in the fall, I set out on an epic hike. I usually get out and try to go 5 or 6 miles when I'm out. For this one, I hiked around 12 miles. There's a 20-something mile state trailway associated with one of the state parks in the area, and I did the eastern half of it, from one town to the next one. By the time I got to the end, I had never been so glad to see the my ride in the distance. It was a LOT of fun. Exhausting? Absolutely. My feet, especially, were so sore that I couldn't walk normally for a couple of days after, but I am so glad I did it. I don't know many people that can say that they've walked from one town to another. It really makes me want to try some real backpacking on one of the national trails someday.
For Thanksgiving, my wife and I decided to do some social distancing and headed out to a state park in the Panhandle and do a couple days of hiking. We camped out a mile and a half from the car, and, over the course of a three days, we hiked 22 miles. Beautiful scenery. It really reminded us of the area around Moab, UT. Neither of us realized that Texas had that kind of scenery. We now have a new favorite state park.
That's it for big highlights for this year. Since everything has either been locked down (back in the spring) or we have kind of been doing a self-imposed lock down, we haven't been getting out much. We'll probably hold that course for the next few months at least. Hopefully, the vaccine will do the trick, they can get a handle on this thing, and we can all go back to normal before too long.
So I've got my ES-335, my Sheraton, and my ES-339.
My Gibson ES-335 is a 2016 Studio version. As I recall, it has a few differences from the regular ES-335 model, but, overall, it's still the same guitar. It has the 4-knob arrangement (unlike the Studio version from a couple of years earlier), and it has 57 Classic pups in it. I think the bridge used was a different bridge from the regular version. I also think that the neck is a torrefied neck. I think there were a couple of other minor differences, but those two are the most significant changes in the Studio and regular versions.
The Sheraton is a 1962 50th Anniversary model. It's biggest differences between it and an actual 335 are that it uses Gibson mini-buckers instead of full size ones and it has a Frequensator tailpiece (closer to a trapeze) instead of using a stop piece tailpiece. It has CTS pots and switches, and it has GIbson cloth wiring inside. Those are also differences between it and the regular Sheratons of the time that it was built. For the purpose of comparison, when I bought the Sheraton nearly 10 years ago, it cost approximately 50% more than a regular line Sheraton and half the price of an ES-335 (which is the model I would've gotten).
My Epiphone ES-339 is from the second run that they produced. The first run was during the summer or fall of 2011. I had been looking at and toying with the idea of buying a Gibson ES-339 for a while when they announced that Epi would be producing that model as well. I got my order in late enough that I missed that first run and had to wait on the second. The only difference in the two that I recall is that the first run had Epi's ProBucker pups in it (their equivalent to Gibby's BusrtBuckers) and the second run had the Alnico Pro pups in it (their equivalent to the 57 Classics).
Although, mine have some pretty significant differences in them, the 335 and Sheraton are very similar guitars in theory. However, I believe that the Sheraton was an Epiphone creation and not a Gibson copy originally, but it's a little more ornate than the basic 335; it's closer to an ES-355. I actually like my Sheraton better than my ES-335, and, moving forward, I'm going to talk about them as if they were the same unless specified otherwise. Also, I'm not covering the differences in Gibson vs Epiphone. This is 335 vs 339.
The 335 guitars are bigger bodied. I'm too lazy to look up the actual dimensions, but they're huge guitars. They're big enough that I know at least a couple of folks that won't play them because they're "just too big." They're also pretty heavy. I attribute the weight to the fact that they're so big. Although I've always said that the 339 is the same size as a Les Paul, I've read (and seen when they're side by side) that they're not quite the same size. But they're close. See the pics at the bottom for a comparison. It's not a huge difference, but that little bit makes a pretty big difference in weight and comfort when playing.
If it makes a difference to anyone, the 335 has the jack on the face of the guitar where the 339 has it on the hip like a Les Paul. I don't usually think about where the jack is, but every time I pull out the 335 and plug it in, I'm afraid I'm going to hit the plug and crack the face of the guitar or break the jack. I've never done that and probably never will, but it's always in the back of my mind.
From a parts standpoint, they're not really that different of guitars (and I'm not talking about the the Gibson vs Epi difference, this is the 335 vs 339 difference). They both have the same control setup. Both have 2 vol/2 tone setups with the pup selector down by the knobs. They both have a stop tail bridge. They both have humbuckers for pups. There's the jack location, but, other than that, they're similar.
Tones from both are very nice. They both have that nice semi-hollow sound. The longer I play, the more I really like that airy sound that you get from a semi-hollow like a 335 or 339. The difference is that the 339 can get into those Les Paul-ish kind of darker sounds that a 335 can't do. I imagine that's because the wings of the 339 are smaller so it's as close to a solid body as it is to a semi-hollow. The 335 is the standard for a semi-hollow, in my opinion, the semi by which all others are measured. The 339 does an adequate job in that semi-hollow arena, but it also can get into the LP territory. The 339 is a good balance between the two.
Once I understood that what I was hearing was a semi-hollow sound, I've liked the 335 and played one at least as often as I played my Strats. I've always wanted to like a good Les Paul, but have just never bonded with one. Since I started to migrate from primarily playing an acoustic to playing an electric, I have always been drawn to my Strats. However, about a year ago, I pulled my 339 out of the closet, set it up really well, and have been playing it almost exclusively since then. It's just a great guitar that covers a lot of area.
The 335 vs the 339. Both are great guitars that are very similar. If you like the humbucker sound, give them a shot.
And, yes, I've ripped those from the interwebs at some point. Don't remember where so I can't give credit like I should.
...for several months now.
Here's something I posted on my favorite guitar forum back in January. Realized I had never posted it here, so figured I'd do that today, along with some of my updated thoughts on it.
Used the last of my Reverb credit over the holidays, and ordered a pedal I had been eyeing since the summer...the Danelectro The Breakdown. It's supposed to be their take on the Univox UD50 only without the treadle part of the pedal. I've had it since the weekend and been playing around with it. Here're my initial thoughts on it.
I really like the 2-knob simplicity of it. Volume and Break-up. Volume is just that, volume. The Break-up is the gain knob except that, rather than being a rheostat kind of knob that smoothly transitions around the dial, it has 6 clickable spots. The first one doesn't do a whole lot to my ear. Settings 2 and 3 I've read would work as the always-on settings. Settings 4-6 can get pretty gnarly.
Jumping back to the Volume knob real quick, one of the things that I like about it is that it doesn't seem to have much affect on the gain. On some pedals I've used, if you want to retain the drive/fuzz when you turn the volume down, you have to turn the gain up. On this pedal, volume is just volume. It doesn't seem to do anything to the gain. So, if you have the right amount of fuzz clicked in at 3 and then turn the pedal down, the volume will drop accordingly, but the gain doesn't change; the fuzz remains.
I really like the 3 and 6 settings. I don't ever see this as being an always-on pedal even on the lower settings. Maybe I would if I was big into garage rock, but it doesn't really fit that bill for blues. I like 3 because it gives that loose, starting to fuzz sound on the low end, but doesn't really do a whole lot on the higher strings. 3 is almost perfect if you're wanting to play some fuzzy power chords. Starts getting pretty fuzzy on the low end, but the highs only get a little crackle. At 5, and especially 6, it gets that full on Hendrix Purple Haze fuzz.
They've been advertising this as an overdrive pedal (they released a fuzz pedal in conjunction with it called the Eisenhower), but to my ear it's more of a fuzz pedal without the octave. I make the distinction because, to my ear, OD is usually pretty tight, and fuzz can get kind of loose and floppy. This one leans much more to the floppy side.
Overall impression so far: I like the simplicity of it. I like that the volume doesn't seem to affect the gain at all; it just makes it louder or quieter. I like that the gain settings are clickable. For instance, I know I like the 3 setting. If the pedal gets changed, I don't have to try to find that perfect spot on the dial anymore. I just click back to 3 and voila. Easy peasy lemon lawn chairs.
Definitely not going to be a pedal for everybody I don't think. I ordered it thinking it would be another OD pedal (since that's how it was advertised), and was pleasantly surprised when I started playing it and thought it sounded more like a fuzz since I've recently been looking to buy another fuzz pedal. To my ear, it can do the Hendrix thing pretty well on 5 and 6. On the higher settings, I could also hear it being used for that garage rock, Detroit Cobras, Black Keys kind of thing.
As always, my ears aren't yours so you may hear something completely different than I do with this pedal. YMM-definitely-V.
After having had it and using it for the last few months, here are my more recent thoughts on it.
I'm still convinced it's closer to a fuzz sound than an overdrive. The lower settings (1-3) are a bit OD-ish, but the higher settings (4-6) get really fuzzy.
I still, very much, like the fact that the volume will affect the volume and not the level of fuzz. I'm not sure that I've got another pedal that does this quite as noticeably. You get the amount of drive/fuzz that you want, and you just tweak the volume button to turn it up or down. No need to adjust the volume knob and then find that perfect level on the gain side again. It's also a very responsive pedal. You dig in, and it digs in. You lay back a bit, and it lays back with you.
I still like the 6-click knob. You can't get anything between the clicks if you want it, but the simplicity of finding the the right amount of fuzziness really appeals to me. There's no wide range from which to choose. 6 options. You either find one that you want or you don't. And you you do so quickly.
Since I'm mostly a bedroom player, I generally run a couple of ODs on my board. I keep a klone of some sort on it as a clean boost kind of pedal that's almost always on, and then a TS of some sort for that extra push to make it stand out during a solo. I had initially envisioned this Danelectro pedal as one that would be a different type of boost pedal to run as an always on kind of thing. The more I play it, this is not that pedal. This is a pedal that has a great sound and would work as a good boost or drive, but isn't one that I'm going to leave on all the time.
As much as I like a couple of the settings on it, it's not a pedal that is going to be on my board and stay there all the time. It definitely has it's place, and is one that, honestly, is still giving me some inspiration and being used regularly, but it's also one that I pull out for a week or so to get a particular fuzziness to my tone, but then goes back on the shelf for a week or two. I think, when I've used it, it's almost exclusively been on either click 3 or click 6.
All in all, I think it's a great pedal. I've enjoyed playing with it enough that I really want to try out Danelectro's new 3699 Fuzz. If that one's as good as The Breakdown, it'll be a great pedal for the cash.
I recently had my annual visit to the doctor. Now I don't relish that visit at all. For one, the closest thing I have to a phobia involves being stuck with needles. Second, every year the news from the doc seems to be just a little bit worse than the year before. This year, as usual, I found out that I'm apparently not nearly the perfect specimen of health that I think I am in my head. In fact, the doctor told me that I need to change the way I eat and become more active, and the way that she was talking, it didn't really sound like a suggestion. In fact, I think her exact words were, "you can change the way you're eating and work at becoming more active now or next year we're going to be having a far different conversation."
Being active takes a lot of work, and there's not a lot of active things that I really enjoy doing (as an old, fat guy) enough to do them all the time. So I decided that, as much as I enjoy hiking, it was time to start finding some trails and seeing some of nature on a regular basis. Truth is, it would also kill two birds with one stone. Apparently, one of the least concerning things to come out of this year's physical was that I am vitamin D deficient. So, hiking outside to be active and hiking outside to be in the sun.
Today Mrs Snarf and I headed out to Fort Richardson State Park to spend part of the day. She is really into digging for fossils, and she knows a location there where she can dig. (Her location is on private property. Here in Texas, you're not supposed to dig for fossils on state property, and you're definitely not supposed to take any kind of artifact away from the state park either (rocks included). Worked out well. She got to dig, and I got to hike.
It was a pretty good hike. Got in just under 6 miles. The trail actually goes from the state park up around the lake to a different part of the park. I've heard it's about 10 miles one way. Mrs Snarf's digging location is on the backside about a third of the way down the trail, so we went in a back way and entered the trail in the middle. Then I hiked 3 miles out and 3 miles back.
I had never hiked there before. It was a crushed gravel trail for the most part. Crossed the dam. It's a mixed use trail, so it's shared by everything but things with motors. Consequently there was LOTS of horse manure on it. It rained earlier this week, and you could tell that, since that day, several horses had been down the trail. Lots of shoed hoof prints. Lots of them. There were also some tracks that I think were from a dog walking with someone, some other prints that I think may've belonged to a coyote instead of a dog, and some tracks that, against my handy track guide, came from a skunk. At one point, there was an abandoned homestead. I call it a homestead because it was a house with a couple of little outbuildings like a shop and something else. They didn't look that old in the overall scheme of things. Had I been guessing, the house looked like a generic brick house built in the 80s. Got close to the airport, and there was a stretch with several houses, including one that looked like a castle...turrets and everything.
Nice, big, wide trail the whole way, and didn't see anyone else on the trail the entire time. That really surprised me on a Saturday morning. The trails that are here around town always have other folks on them. Depending on the time that you go, it may not be real frequent, but you still see other people. I really enjoyed feeling like it was my own, personal trail.
Next weekend, I'll be out of town, so won't be able to hit any place else, but today's walk made me look forward to hitting some of the other state parks within about an hour of the casa and see what they have to offer.
Those that know me know that I laugh at those that are often called cork sniffers. Whether online or face to face, I'm civil when I'm talking to them, usually. But there are times that they get on my last nerve.
Now for the uninitiated, let me define what a cork sniffer is. A cork sniffer is one of those that is so fixated on that specific piece of gear that nothing else is deemed worthy. Granted, we've all got that piece of guitar, like one of our guitars, that is absolutely the best thing ever and we wouldn't trade for anything. We've modded the heck out of it, and, despite what others tell us, there is no other guitar in the world that plays as well and sounds as good. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ones that look down their noses at a Squier or MIM Strat because it's not an MIA Strat. They're the ones that will crap all over Epiphone because "it'll never be a Gibson." You get the idea. They look down their nose at a piece of gear and call it inferior based on its location of manufacture, the brand on the label, or some other seemingly important factor. That's a cork sniffer, and, in my humble opinion, there are 2 types.
There are those that are just uneducated. Those are the new players that are basically parroting what they hear others say and have no real basis for their opinion. They're the ones that say Gibson is the only brand to play because that's what they see their hero talk about and play (although their hero may've played a Tokai until they got their endorsement deal). I, generally, will give these folks a pass. Give them some education and experience, and they'll grow out of this stage. They'll eventually realize that, yes, Gibson is the premium guitar, but bang-for-the-buck there are some Epiphones that may be better than a Gibby.
Then there's the other kind, and they're the ones that really bug me. I call them "ignernt." Now, ignernt is a good Texas term. Around here, if somebody gets called ignernt, the speaker is saying that the speakee is smart enough, they just have chosen to act the fool and be stupid. They're ignernt. These are the cork sniffers that I have been known to make fun of sometimes. They're the ones that are so fixated on a brand (or whatever) that they can't see past the end of their nose.
I was reminded tonight that I used to be one of the second kind of cork sniffers. Maybe that's why they bug me so much. And I was reminded of this fact tonight.
Way back when I first started playing, all I knew was acoustic guitars. The first really nice acoustic that I was exposed to was a Martin. In fact, through a series of events, after only playing a couple of years, I was blessed to be given my own Martin (a D-35). Still have that Martin. It currently needs to have the bridge replaced, but is probably still my fave acoustic. It's a workhorse of a guitar. But I digress.
I had a Martin. All the pro players I knew either played Martin, Taylor, or something really high end like an Olson. Consequently, outside of Martin and Taylor, I really didn't know anything about guitars. I had played enough of each of those to know that I knew I liked the traditional Martin sound more than the modern Taylor sound, but they both sounded really nice.
Where I lived, I'd get together and play with a buddy once a week or so (we played in the same band), and we both played Martins. Another acquaintance at work was given a guitar for Christmas one year by his dad, and asked if my buddy and I would take a look at it and tell him what we thought. Bless his heart, that was during my days of sniffing corks.
The day that he brought it over to my house, I remember thinking one thing about the guitar and saying something completely different. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been honest enough with myself to give him an honest review. All I remember at this point was that it was a jumbo bodied Guild of some sort. From what I remember about the inlays on it, if it was chosen from their current lineup (although this was 30 years ago now), it would've probably been the equivalent of the F-55. And that would make sense as, from what I remember he used to say about his parents, they only bought the best.
Anyways, this guitar had a really great sound. However, it didn't sound anything like a Martin or Taylor. It was a very full, rich sound. Very balanced sound. All around, it was just a really great guitar. However, because it wasn't a Martin, I don't think I had anything good to say about the guitar that wasn't a backhanded compliment. "It has a really nice sound for something that's not a Martin." The other guy that was playing it with me was pretty much like me when it came to guitars. So he didn't really have anything positive to say about it either. The guy that had gotten it for Christmas left that evening disappointed that "it'll never sound like a Martin."
I've come a long way since then in both my musical journey and my overall view on life. I still very much like the sound of a Martin, but I also have a Boulder Creek and a Tacoma, and an Epiphone acoustic. For electrics, I've got Squiers, MIM and MIA Fenders, as well as Epiphones and Gibsons. For pedals, I have real live, green Tube Screamers and all kinds of TS clones (including the cheapest, Chinese made ones on Amazon). I've got a closet full of gear spanning the spectrum of price.
Growing up, my parents tried to teach me to always give people the benefit of the doubt; just because they're different than me doesn't mean they're bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise. As the Disney song says, "if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." When it comes to gear, be open minded. Just because the headstock doesn't say what you think it should doesn't mean it doesn't have a song in it. Pick it up and play it and see what it says.
And, Joel, if you ever happen upon this to be reading, I really hope you still have that Guild. Had I not been in the middle of my "Martin or nothing" days, I would have told you that it was a dang skippy nice guitar that had a great, warm sound and anybody should be ecstatic to be able to play. I'm sure that guitar was full of music if I'd only taken a moment and listened to it.
I'm not a huge fan of Christmas. For more than 20 years, I've always managed to have a job that caused me to have to work on Christmas. And, if I wasn't working on Christmas, Mrs Snarf had to work the day before and the day after. So we hardly ever knew that the day had come and gone. That said, as a Christian, I believe that it is a great time of year for us to be reminded to be grateful, loving, and caring towards our fellow man.
Several years ago, Premier Guitar mag started this thing called their Mystery Stocking. I got in on that first one, and have tried to get in it every year. That first year, I managed to score a pedal out of it. That pedal got sold a while back on Reverb, but it was cool to be able to say that I had gotten it. I think that first year it was only $15. In the years since, due to demand, some years I haven't gotten one, and other years I have. I've gotten the basic box every year since then. The price has gone up on that basic box since then, and this year it was $40.
Before the big day when so many guitar players crash the PG servers, they'll post a vid that shows a room full of gear that they're giving away. As can be expected, on the video, they major on the 5 or so guitars that are being given away and the maybe 75 or 100 pedals that are in the mix as well. Those are the big ticket items that everyone wants. You, also, see a smattering of other more pricey gear like pickups speakers, leather straps, stools, but most of the room is full of strings and cables and t-shirts and things that, in the overall scheme of things, aren't expensive. PG also advertises that each of the basic boxes will contain the price of admission so to speak. This year, they advertised that they were doing 1,500 of the mystery stockings.
So the big day comes, and everyone that is interested gets to try to get in and put their money down to get one. This year, they were sold out in just a couple of minutes. And everybody that ordered one wants to get one of the big ticket items. However, if you do the math, probably 10% or less of those who get to order one get anything beyond the basic box. The basic box always includes strings and picks and a small assortment of miscellaneous items along with some "premium" item.
It always amazes me that, once the mystery stockings start shipping, the unboxing videos start, and the vast majority of those doing them are complaining about how worthless the box is, how it doesn't contain the entry fee ($40 this year) worth of gear, and how it's just a big scam and they'll never order one again. But let's look at it from a bit of a realistic perspective.
PG calls it a mystery stocking, but they're a business, so they're going to make certain that they're not losing money on them. I'm betting some of the stuff gets donated for the stockings, but I'm also pretty certain they have to pay for some of it - even if it's a really cut rate. Then factor in the price of the boxes, the price of labor to get them all assembled, and the postage. Remember, business...they're not sending these things out for their health, and they're dang skippy going to be sure that they're making money on the deal.
So we've established that they're not doing this out of the generosity of their hearts. Then they say that they you'll get your $40 worth even if you get a basic box. So, in factoring in the price, be assured that they're going to work off the MSRP and not necessarily what you might find it for on the street. Even still, not only did I get the basic box this year, I got the one that so many are complaining about online. So what was in the box?
We'll start with the stuff that I don't consider to have a monetary value. There was a ballpoint pen from a case manufacturer I had never heard of. There were several stickers and a couple of coupons. These are all the kinds of things that you can pick up as giveaways when the annual guitar show comes to town, and you can't find them online anywhere to buy, so no cash value for these. They're gimmes that are just thrown in. Then I got 2 sets of strings. One set of 9s and one set of 10s. Going rate at my seller of choice for both of those is $11.50 ($8 for one and $3.50 for the other). Then I got a strap from D'Addario that appears to list for $20. A clip-on tuner from Fender that lists for $20. A pick called a ChickenPick that appears to list for $7.50. (They sent me a single, but appear to sell them in 2-packs that cost $15.) Then I got a pack of Pick Boy picks that appear to list for $10 a pack. All that together lists out at $69. So it looks to me like PG lived up to their claim of a minimum of $40. Going to my seller of choice and getting the street price for all of this stuff still puts it at $59. So still above the $40.
So let's discuss all these folks complaining about "being scammed" and "getting junk" and "never ordering this again." In my humble opinion, the folks complaining need to put on their big boy/girl pants and realize a few things. First, PG did exactly what they said they were going to do and sent you $40 worth of stuff. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you used. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you even liked. What they promised is that it would be guitar related and worth $40. So quit whining because you weren't one of the very few that won a guitar or pedal or some higher dollar piece of gear.
Now for my opinion on this year's stocking...and you should know that I'm not complaining about it. Did I get $40 worth of stuff that I'm going to use? Not hardly. Did I get my $40 worth from it? Absolutely!
I got a strap that I'm not ever going to use. It went straight into the box of gear that I'll give away to someone when I hear them say "I could use a strap" or to some beginner player that hasn't thought to buy one yet. I got a clip-on tuner. I'm a guitar player, so I've got a tuner in every gig bag, and they're laying all around the house. I haven't opened it yet, so I can't speak to its durability or reliability, bit I can always use another tuner. Neither set of strings is what I use. In my opinion, strings are a pretty personal thing. Everyone has their fave, and that's the one they want to use. I won't use the 9s. At all. I don't play 9s because, for someone that plays heavy-handed like me, they're like playing with fishing line. I might throw the 10s into a gig bag to use if I get in a pinch someday, but neither set is one that I'd spend money on. The ChickenPick is a 2.1mm. That's waaaay too thick for my playing. Sometimes I play .72mm and sometimes I play 1.0mm. 2.1mm, to me, is like playing with a quarter. I've always heard good things about the Pick Boy picks, but I had never seen them. Also, I recently started playing with a jazz sized pick. The Pick Boy picks they sent are jazz sized and 1.0, so they'll get used.
Overall, I spent $40 on the box, and will use $25 worth of it. But I'm still happy with what I got. Why? First, I was honest with myself when I bought the box. I realized that I might get something good, and I might not. I, also, realize that, even if I get one of the basic boxes, I'm not going to be excited about everything in it, and there's going to be stuff in it that I may never use. Second, I look at it as a raffle that I get something out of whether I win or lose. I pay the $40 on a gamble in hopes that I win something really cool. If it were really a raffle, if I didn't win, I'd get nothing. On this one, I at least get a box of stuff that I may not use. Third, it's a fun opportunity to possibly be exposed to some things that I wouldn't have otherwise have bought. This year, that something to try is the Pick Boy picks.
I'm glad I got in on it again this year, and hope I am able to do it again next year. It's something I look forward to the first part of December. For those that complain about them, all I have to say is to be realistic. Only 10% of the folks get a premium box, and you (and I) happened to be the 90% this time. As Doc said in Tombstone, "only suckers buck the tiger. The odds are always on the house." If you're going to be a sucker, then don't buck the tiger.
I discovered John Bohlinger a couple of years ago. It may've been more like several years ago. I remember he was doing a gear review for Premier Guitar on youtube, and I thought the guy was awkward and not really that good at it and really needed to quit having his hair colored because it looked...fake. Fast forward a couple of years, and he had become much more polished, let his hair do its thing so it didn't look bad anymore, and I now find his rundowns and reviews engaging so that I watch most all of them. I, also, enjoy his backpage of the magazine article every month that's called Last Call.
In his monthly column, he seems to try to give out that fatherly/brotherly advice to other players. Sometimes it's pretty practical and is something that can be used in very substantive way. I like these columns because I tend to be a very hands-on, practical person. Other times he comes across as being contemplative and trying to pass along something profound. I don't pay quite as much to these columns because I've never really been a theoretical kind of person. When I realize it's one of those columns, I just kind of scan through it.
I've always been this way. I realized it in 9th grade Biology class when I got the first C I had ever gotten on a report card. For the first time in my elementary/middle/junior high career, my name was not listed on the All A's or A/B Honor Roll. Everyone but me was surprised. My folks asked me what happened, and my response is that I didn't care about the class. They asked why, and my response was that it wasn't a fun class, the teacher was a sadistic idiot, and I couldn't see the practical application of what we were learning, so there was no point in learning it. So no ethereal, theoretical profundities for me. Start spouting them, and you quickly lose my attention.
Enter the December column. Mr Bohlinger was riding the line between practical application and trying to be profound. Then right there in the middle of the column, he said this.
"Many people (particularly Americans), live their lives doing what they don’t want to do so they can earn enough money to continue doing what they don’t want to do. People struggle like this for a lifetime and then teach their children to do it. If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job."
Now I don't have an issue with his first 2 sentences. He's spot on. Too often, we Americans get trapped in that cycle of a job we don't like that we don't leave because we want the stability of paycheck. After all, it takes money to live, and, when we don't have that money, even the daily grind gets difficult because you still have to put gas in the ride, food in the belly, and a roof over your head. However, that last sentence. I just have so many problems with that one.
"If all your job is providing is a paycheck, you have the wrong job." That's painting with as much of a broad brush as I would be if my response was "no you don't." More accurately, he should have said that, if all your job is providing is a paycheck you might have the wrong job.
I have a job. I've been in the workforce for the better part of 30 years. I've had all kinds of jobs. Changed careers a couple of times as well. The one thing I've learned is that, if you're miserable at your job, it's time to move on. However, just because a job is just a paycheck, doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot.
While I appreciate what I think he's trying to say, I think he's falling too far into that mentality that "if you're not following your passion, you're unfulfilled," and that's an extremely idealistic place to be. I'll use myself as the example, and say up front that, if I were to follow my passion, I'd probably be alone, homeless, and living in my car (if I had one) right now.
In my teens, I told everyone that I was going to fly airplanes. I got out of high school, got my first real job, and let the president of the company where I worked talk me out of going to flight school. It wasn't difficult to do. At the time, I was about as idealistic as I have ever been, working at a non-profit, and felt like I was living the change and making a difference. Fast forward a few years, I had seen the politics, problems, and blatant hypocrisy in the place I worked, become pretty jaded, and realized it was time to go. At the first good opportunity, I moved from the big city back to the town where I grew up and took a job, among other things, driving a tractor out in the field all day. Oddly enough, that job was the job that I look back on these days saying, if I could've made money doing that, I'd still be on that tractor. Believe it or not, that job was therapeutic, and just what I needed after leaving the situation I had been in.
While I was working on the farm, I had a friend ask me what I would do if I could do anything. My response was "be a studio guitarist." He asked me why I wasn't doing that. Simple. I wasn't (and am not) good enough. As recently as a year ago, as I was planning to leave the job I had at the time, I had one of my senior execs ask me that same question. That's still my answer when asked. If I could do anything I wanted, I'd be a studio guitarist.
Over the years, music and, especially, guitars has become my passion. One whole room of my house is dedicated to music. When I'm not in there playing or sitting at the computer looking up the latest gear or how to play something, you can bet it's probably what I'm thinking about. And, yes, I have viewed my job as just a paycheck for years.
You see, I have loved the guitar since I first started playing in high school, but was out and in the workforce before I was good enough at it to make any money with it. Add to that, I am NOT a good teacher (tried that with a few kids, and not a single one of them kept playing after their parents stopped paying me), and, although I will play in front of folks just to have the opportunity to play with skilled musicians, I'm one of those folks that would really rather not be up on a stage. And, generally, to have followed my passion of guitar playing, I would either have to teach or play out consistently.
Add to all that I started a career that required me working 80 to 100 hours a week, which left no time whatsoever to really practice and get better. For quality of life, after 5 years, I changed careers. Would have loved to have done something music related, but needed to put gas in the car, and my preference was to not live in said car. So I've always said that, at that point, I accidentally ended up in another industry. It paid well enough, and, although I would never have said that I really enjoyed it, it was also something that I didn't hate. It was a paycheck. Now I'm 20 years down the road, on the 3rd company in that field, and would still never be heard even hinting that it was my calling. It wasn't. And it isn't. And it won't be.
In fact, at the first company I worked in that field, my supervisor pulled me aside one day and said, "you really need to find your calling, and this isn't it. I know this because, when I bring a problem to the team, you are the only one in the room whose eyes don't light up thinking about fixing it. You're as good or better than most of the rest of the team, but I can tell that this is just a paycheck to you and not your passion. You need to find that calling and pursue it. As good as you are here, if you were really passionate about what you were doing, you'd be the best in your field." I told him that I couldn't argue with him. It was indeed just a paycheck for me, but a good enough paycheck that I wasn't planning on leaving. It took care of the bills, and gave me enough extra to fuel my real passion, guitars and gear. When I told him that, he just looked at me like a cow looking at a new gate.
Even though I am now a much better player than I was even 10 years ago, and am discovering that I can usually hold my own when called upon to play, I still don't see how I could be earning even half of what I earn in a music related field. And I'm still not good enough to be a studio musician. Truth is, I'm still one of those that's good enough to make the non-musicians think I'm a pretty good player while the real musicians know the awful truth. Or at least that's how I view my playing.
In fact, how is it any different than someone that likes off-roading and spends all their extra money on their jeep? There are jobs out there where you can make a living off-roading, but they're few and far between enough that not everybody with a 4-wheel drive can feed their fam or even repair their jeep doing it. It'd take at least both hands and a foot to count the number of folks that I know in that community that have a day job that has nothing remotely to do with the outdoors, and spend their weekends out on the trail.
Just because you have to have a paycheck and your passion appears to play 2nd fiddle doesn't mean that it's any less of a passion. Truth is, most of the folks I work with know that, given the right opportunity, I'd ditch them without a thought to go play guitar somewhere. Mostly because I've done it in the past and will do it again I'm sure. I just haven't come across that right long term opportunity (and probably won't), and I like my salary enough that I don't mind the grind 5 days a week so long as I have a guitar in hand when I'm not in the office.
With all respect, good Mr Bohlinger, you're wrong on this one. Just because it's only a paycheck doesn't mean it's wrong. Sometimes without the paycheck, the passion has no fuel and would die. If it's just a paycheck, it might be wrong. Or it might just be a paycheck. Like you, I also sell out. It's just that, with my skill set, the highest bidder means I'm an analyst somewhere during the week.
That said, on a different yet related note, having been there and learned the hard lesson, if you ever find yourself miserable at a job that's just a paycheck, you need to get out as quickly as you can. Life's too short for that nonsense.
I've been eyeing those Tech21 FlyRigs for a couple of years now. They really intrigue me. Multiple effects that are actually usable in a really small footprint that you can almost fit in your gig bag. And, for your basic gig, the included effects cover just about everything you'd need. Then I heard about a month ago that Sonicake has a couple of similar boards. One of the, called the Twiggy Blues, caught my eye.
Enter my recent birthday. My wife told me to give her a list of things I wanted, so I figured it'd be easiest to just give her a link to a couple of my Amazon wishlists. I had forgotten that the Twiggy Blues was on one of them. I had forgotten because, mostly, my wishlists there are just to remind me (when I have a few bucks to spare) what has caught my eye that I want to try out. I've got all kinds of stuff on my Gear List...everything from books to guitars to pedals to gig bags to various tools, some of which has been on there for 2 or 3 years. No way I remember what's on it without looking back over it.
I was actually pretty surprised when I opened he box and saw it, because she usually doesn't get anything from my list and just kind of makes it up as she goes. So it was totally unexpected when I opened the box and saw this. Spent some quality time with it today, and here are my thoughts on it.
It has 4 effects built into it, compression, OD, delay, and reverb.
Compression. I've never been a huge fan of compression. Maybe I've just never learned how to use one. Maybe every time I've tried to use one I can't really tell what it's doing. Maybe the times that I've tried to use it I kind of feel like I get that Nashville sound (which I know uses a lot of compression). Regardless, I've got a compressor that I never use. This one seemed to be a pretty standard compressor. It can definitely work as a kind of a clean boost. Or it can do that sound that I can never quite describe, but I think I've come to learn is compression. It's not really something I'll use on its own. I figure it's an ok compressor. It has volume and compression knobs.
The OD. I've read where some of the online reviewers are saying that it sounds like TS808 and where others have said that it sounds like a Dumble in a Box. I don't have a Dumble sitting around to compare, and it sounds like an ok OD, but I wouldn't say that it really sounds like an 808. However, in those reviewers' defense, I don't have a real-live TS808. I have a TS9, a TS-mini, and about 7 pedals that are supposed to be TS808 clones. It doesn't really sound like any of those. It sounds pretty good, but not good enough for me to use it on its own. It has volume, tone, and gain knobs.
Slapback (Delay). The delay on it is a digital delay. I think it's funny that they call it Slapback because it took me a while to get what I thought was a good slapback sound. It does the delay thing all day. Once I got the slapback sound dialed-in, I played around with the delay. It can go from that slappy sound to pretty ethereal to downright out of hand if you're not careful. It's an ok digital delay, but in my opinion, it's probably the weakest of the 4 effects. If I were buying a separate delay pedal, it wouldn't be this one. It has blend, repeat, and time.
Air (Reverb). Finally (almost), there's the reverb. To my ear and from what I've seen on other pedals, there are 3 types of reverb: spring, plate, and hall. Generally, if I'm using a reverb on its own, I prefer the hall sound. If I'm using a reverb with other effects, I prefer the spring sound. I don't think I've ever used the plate reverb option. To my ear, the Twiggy Blues uses a plate reverb sound. Kind of like the delay, if I were buying a separate pedal, this would not be the one that I'd get, but I liked it better, and it seemed to be easier to dial in than the delay. It has a mix knob.
It also has a switch right there between the reverb and the delay that is supposed to give you cabinet emulation if you're not running the board to an amp. I didn't actually try it out as I was only playing it through my amp today.
Overall, I don't think any of the effects really stood out. As I've mentioned about at least a couple of them, if I was looking for single effects pedals to to go on my board, these are not the pedals I'd be considering. However, engage any 2 of these at once, and they work really well together, and they suddenly sound good. Engage three of them at once, and it sounds really good. The more I played around with it, I got to where I was really digging the compression, OD, and reverb together. Did I mention that the more I played it the better it seemed to sound? Seriously, I was totally digging this thing after a while.
I'm still not sure I ever got the delay dialed in quite like I wanted. I'll go back and try to do that again next time. I thought it was kind of cool the way the knobs light up for the effects that you have engaged. Yellow, red, green, and blue. You would have no problem seeing them on, but they're no where near the retina burning intensity of the new Fender pedals. It's definitely small enough to drop in your backpack. In fact, it's small enough it will probably fit in your gig bag if that's what you use.
By the time I was shutting it down for the afternoon, I had decided that it was my new grab and go board for simple gigs. The power cord on it is probably 10 feet long, so it will reach pretty well. It sounds pretty good so long as you're not using single effects (although, truthfully, in a talk-y bar or even a church worship service you could probably use any of the effects on their own, and the only folks judging your tone are going to be you and, well, you). And, speaking of worship services, if that's your gig of choice, although I haven't tested it out, that would be an opportune time for you to use the cab emulator since a lot of churches seem to be going with the silent stage concept instead of loud amps pointed at the congregation.
Really makes me wonder what those FlyRigs sound like since I'm sure this is the cheap Chinese copy of those. Actually, these are like $90 on Amazon so they're not the cheap Chinese copy (those would be the $40 version on Ali Express). These would actually be the inexpensive, stripped down version of them. I think the FlyRigs also have an xlr out where the Sonicake alternative doesn't.
The Sonicake Twiggy Blues. Two thumbs up from me.
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.