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Saturday, December 02, 2006


Re-reading that last post brought to mind another thought about music. Namely that for about 25 years I've had an on-and-off thing with playing guitars. Mostly off. I struggle to play well; it's something that doesn't come naturally at all to me. It shows: No Bands, albums, or groupies ;)

In the early nineties I was probably at my best, and tried out for a small garage band. Nervous as all hell (with an uncritical audience of four, hahaha), I didn't perform very well. And not having played much since then, you might call me "Rusty".

But what this post is really about is the guitars I've owned in the past, the guitar I have now, and the ones I'd like to have in the future.

The first one:

A white fender Stratocaster or just "strat". As built, these have three single-coil pickups and a five position selector switch so that you can use any pickup by itself or get a dual input from any two adjacent coils, for a sort of phasing effect. To my ear, selecting two pickups seemed to "muddy" the sound.

I nearly always prefer the bottom pickup, the one closest to the bridge. This is the one that gives that classic biting high and clear Fender sound. Pink Floyd and Clapton solos are a vivid example of the awesome sound these guitars are capable of in the right hands. Man, I think I'm gonna play Floyd's "Wish you Were Here" album whilst I continue to write... ah man. That's almost giving me a buzz! :)

Back to the white strat though. I never did like it much. The intonation wouldn't hold. I don't think that particular one was very good quality. To make it right would have taken quite a bit of expensive professional work and money that I didn't have. In any event I was just a beginner and didn't feel such a big invesment had much merit. So I sold it.

I've since played Strats in stores, and friend's instruments. I liked them better, but never quite as much as the sunburst colored Les Paul, which was the next guitar I bought.

I liked the way this guitar played a lot! It had a nice wide neck that let my fat fingers hit the strings without touching the other strings. That's a good thing if you want to play chords without strings buzzing on you.

What I didn't care for too much about it was the muffled sound. As built, these guitars come with "hum-bucking" pickups, which have dual coils wound counter to one another to cancel out the hum you get feeding back from some amps. A very clean sound, but to my ears it sounds quite muddy. Jeff Beck favors these guitars (kicks butt with them!!!), and I think they're great rhythm instruments. I probably should get another one, because I'm never going to be a great solo player.

The third guitar, a 1985 or 86 sunburst-colored Telecaster "tele" - has a fascinating story.

This guitar has an interesting background. One afternoon while I was still in the Navy and the submarine was in port, my roomate Buff (Big Ugly Fat F**ker - yes he liked to be called that) and I were getting drunk. This was not so unusual. What was unsual was that I decided that I needed a guitar and that he needed to learn how to play the Bass :) Unfortunately for him, he needed no persuasion whatsoever, so we went to a used music store on Broadway street in San Diego. The place had a feel very similar to the famous Ray Charles scene in the Blues Brothers. Back in the 80's, Broadway was quite seedy.

I loved this guitar! Man that thing could ring clear and true and hold a note forever.

Me and Buff spent a lot of time practicing together and actually had guys interested in playing/singing with us! Then I got out of the Navy and we drifted apart. Shortly after this, I got out of the Navy and moved to La Jolla and into an apartment with a guy who'd gotten out a few months earlier... (I'll do a long post on him later - he's an important person in my life).

I ended up meeting a neighbor who worked in construction who also played the guitar. He showed me some interesting licks, and I showed him a few that I'd picked up over the years. I wento over to his apartment and we played together a few times. He was very, very good - which caused me to become discouraged. I was ready to quit, and told him so. (He played a Les Paul) He offered to buy the Tele from me, and I agreed.

15 years later my roommate ran into the guy I'd sold the guitar to. He asked how he was doing. Turns out he was no longer working in construction and was making money as a professional musician. His name is Dean DeLeo. He's the guitarist for the Stone Temple Pilots. I want my damn guitar back... signed :)

The guitar currently own was purchased new down on Sunset strip in Los Angeles. It's a 1990 black tele. I love it except for the color. Teles are frequently used in the new country music scene, much to my dismay. This is a genre of music that's a little too formula for my liking. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are probably spinning in his graves over what 'country' music has become.

Moving on now to Floyd's "The Division Bell" Friggin' awesome.

My current amp: A Fender Twin Reverb. Cool classic sound. And I have a Morley Fuzz-Wah pedal for when I attempt to play Tocatta and Fugue.

Guitars that I'd like to have someday:

#1 A Rickenbacker 330 or 360 in fireglow color. These are semi-hollow bodied guitars, and give a totally cool sound. Think surf music, or the Byrds. George Harrison played this one. For me, the Romantics "What I like about you" is another example of the classic sound this guitar puts out.

Semi-hollow body guitars look huge to modern eyes, but they have a sound that can't be duplicated by digital signal processors. I think they are fabulous instruments.

#2 on my wish list, The Gibson ES-335 in sunburst color. Another semi-hollow body. BB King made this one famous. I like the sound this one makes. It's clean, if not very biting. I've been to a few jazz concerts and they seem to be favored by the guitarists. I think Spyro Gyra would be a good example of this sound.

All this crap might lead you to think I'm a musician. I'm not. Unfortunately, I don't have natural talent for playing, and have to struggle to learn even the simplest things. But I love music, love guitars, and love playing them.

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