Sunday, February 27, 2011

Context: Guitars and Gear

Besides being a father and Information Technology professional, I'm also an amateur/hobbyist guitarist.. This means I'm not in a band but still practice in my living-room and occasionally write and record music.  I'm trying to learn Ableton Live enough to get a tune recorded and mixed properly.  I haven't decided if I'm going to do the drums using my Alesis DM6 kit or use one of the electronic drum kits in Live.  Oh yeah, and I can keep a decent beat on drums.  More about those efforts in a future post...

A little history...  So I have been playing guitar since I was 13 years old.  My first guitar was a 1940's acoustic "student model" f-hole guitar given to me by my grandma.  It's amazing how well those things were made back then even though much of it was made of plywood instead of a good tone wood.  Unfortunately, four years ago the top completely cracked in about five places ruining the guitar.  Someday I hope to get another f-hole that hopefully in some part captures that sound.  It looked a lot like this without the pickgaurd:



I forgot to mention, I'm a left-handed player.  Finding lefties (or righties that I can flip upside-down and re-string) can be a challenge.  Did you know less than 10% of all the people in the US (and, consequently of all guitars sold) are left-handed?  Yet, there are many great left-handed guitarist.  I picked up the guitar because of Jimi Hendrix (even though I didn't know he was left-handed at the time).  Anyway, I digress...

A friend of mine in high school gave me his beat-up old Harmony electric guitar.  It was a 70's era H802.  This thing was terrible, but at least I could play chord or two on it by then.  I plugged it into a cheap Magnavox stereo player.  No distortion or other effects but I could hear the guitar via the microphone input and the stereo at the same time.  This is when I began to play along with songs on the radio and started figuring things out.  And oh the tone! (Sarcasm in case you didn't get it.)



My first "real" guitar was a "Lynx by Yakima" my parents purchased as a gift for me on my 17th birthday.  I played that guitar only for many years after-wards.  It's a Korean made strat copy with some decent components such as Grover tuners and a full steel block.  I was told that they came out of the same factory as Kramer guitars - they wanted a low-cost line but didn't want to associate the Kramer brand with it.  I remember playing guitar with friends in the late 80's and one friend of mine bought a cheap Fender Squire Bullet.  He asked me why my guitar never went out of tune after using the tremolo.  I don't think that Bullet ever stayed in tune regardless of tremolo usage.  I didn't know it at the time but now think it has to be the tuners!  The weakest thing about this guitar are the pickups.  I may switch these out in a future project, stay tuned!

Fast-forward to present - I now have 7 or 8 guitars with my "spring project" guitar already lined-up.  Most bring unique properties to the table.  I do have three strat copies that I need to get down to one.  I'm always on the look-out for good lefty deals so the list will definitely change before long.  I'd like to pick up a cheap righty Explorer and flip it upside-down.  What a cool  body style!  And I've read good things about Korina as a tone wood so picking up a 1958 Epiphone would be sweet.  (Note: I'm thinking ZZ Top here, not metal.)

I'll be profiling my guitars in one way or another in a future post so keep checking back.  Time to go practice!