I don’t want to jam. Is that rude?

“We should jam sometime!”

If you play guitar, you hear this often.  I usually don’t even tell people I play guitar (it’s almost like I’m ashamed), but it still comes up eventually in conversation.  And if it happens to come up with another guitarist, all too often you’ll be presented with the invitation to jam.  If you’re one of the people who hear that and are stricken with fear or disgust, this is for you.

Please note that when I say “musicians” I’m mostly referring to western rock/pop musicians.  People that generally play in 3-4 piece bands involving drums, guitars, etc. read more

Les Paul Smartwood Project: Complete!

So back in, oh maybe ’99 or ’00, I got this Les Paul Smartwood.  I guess it’s technically a “Smartwood Studio”.  I believe the wood on this one is Peroba, but I really don’t know anymore.  I do know that it was ugly out of the box.  I got it for a very low price because nobody wanted it and it was seemingly built on a Friday afternoon.  Frets were all overhanging, setup was horrid, and again, it was ugly.

Here’s the only shot I have of the guitar kind of in its original state. read more

Update my Fender Champion 600 project

I still need to do some visual stuff.  I plan to put some snazzy tolex, but am a little afraid since I’ve never attempted it before.  Keep exploring things to change the sound beyond speakers/tubes… transformers and whatnot.  But it seems everything out there will make the amp break up substantially earlier.  That, I do not want.  At any rate, it’s looking better and sounds great.

New toy – Fender Champion 600

My rad wife got me a neat little gift – a Fender Champ 600.  It’s about as simple as an amp gets, 1 12AX7, 1 6V6, a high & low input, a 6″ speaker and a volume knob.  It sounds pretty great – especially the high gain input.  I’m pretty sure I’ve got some nice old tubes laying around that should make it sound even better.  At 5 watts, it’s loud enough to annoy the neighbors but not so loud that you’ll get evicted.

This little fella has a big purpose though – I’m going to use it for demoing all my effects.  I figure it eliminates as many variables as possible for hearing what a pedal does.  No worrying about eq settings or whether I’m using the effects loop or whatever.  It’s just guitar > pedal > amplifier.  Pretty excited to get started.  Of course, all my recording equipment is in moving boxes, but I might try and get some very simple clips up in the meantime just to get a feel for how the whole process will work. read more

Forming a Band: An Exercise in Futility

I’ve been trying to form a band on and off since moving to Austin about 1.5 years ago.  It’s largely been a painful process.  I know other musicians in my social network, but they either are committed to other projects or there is no mutual interest in working together or both.  So I generally rely on friends of friends, craigslist, hitting on strangers, etc.  I’ve made a couple friends doing this, but am still bandless.  It’s not that I’m real demanding or have a really niche project in mind, it’s just that finding a band with strangers is a miserable process by design.  There are a lot of factors at play when attempting this sort of thing… read more

Things I don’t understand

Cars that vaguely resemble what we drive today have been around since the 1920’s.  That’s closing in on 100 years.  I’d guess that door locks on cars have been around for at least 60 of those years.  And you know what?  That entire time, nobody has been able to fix the fact that if you pull up on the door handle when somebody hits the unlock button/lever, the door will remain locked.  We’ve all had that annoying encounter when a passenger tries to get in too soon and you have to repeatedly unlock.  It’s like when somebody is walking straight toward you and neither party knows which way to move to get out of each others way.  All these years, we can’t fix the door lock problem. read more

Silly picks

I think this was a very bad purchase… The gripping surface has foam. Going to get sweaty and fall apart and be annoying. But whatever, it’s a pick that comes in a little pouch so that’s exciting, right?

Acoustic

I purchased a new guitar recently.  It’s an Ibanez AEG20E.  First, the dorky stuff.  I paid $300 for it new.  That $300 got me 100% real wood (5 years ago, not a chance), Fishman pickup, preamp w/ eq & tuner, 1/4″ and XLR out, decent tuners, decent fretboard/neck, a nice setup from the factory, some weird “Ivorex” saddle (fancy name for plastic?), and a nice look.  It’s a thin body, but so be it, it still sounds pretty nice.  That doesn’t add up to an awesome guitar, but it’s amazing for the price. read more

The Postal Service? Call my band “dropbox”

Finally getting some positive movement on something I’ve wanted to do for maybe 10 years.  Found someone who wants to put their voice to my music, and do it without any real human interaction.

There’s certainly some magic to the typical formula of getting some artists in the same room and letting them create noise together.  I’ve been a part of some cool stuff with that format.  But it doesn’t work so great when you work more than 40 hours a week and are also in school and have friends that don’t play instruments and a wife you desperately want to spend quality time with and dishes to wash and cats to clean up after, etc, etc.  It also doesn’t work so great when all of the preceding stuff doesn’t leave you in a perpetual state of inspiration.  Or when you have reservations about getting in front of a friend or stranger and playing stuff for them that isn’t polished or finished or even good. read more

Can art be a hobby?

Virtually all of my friends are involved in some form of art. A few do it for a living, but most do not. Of those that have “normal” jobs, families, etc, most of them face the same problems. It’s hard to find the time to do anything meaningful with your art. Even when time is available, one often feels guilty that other tasks are being ignored (repair work around the house, helping with chores, playing with the kids, etc). That kind of takes your heart out of things.

It seems impossible to think someone can do this sort of thing part time and be at all satisfied with the results. Maybe others have it figured out. Maybe there is nothing to figure out. Either way, gotta keep working at it… I don’t even play the lottery. read more