Prof Dave’s String Changing Tips

Prof Dave’s String Changing Tips

To make your guitar or bass sound better, perform better

& last longer, consider the Professor’s advice.

 

  1. 1.     Before you even change the strings – when was the last time you had a professional setup? If the neck is out of line or intonation is incorrect, new strings won’t help. If you don’t know when the last setup was, it’s probably time  to get a setup.
  2. 2.     If you change string gauges (for example go from light to extra light), be aware this may necessitate a setup all by itself. It’s common, string tension, pressure and size can make a huge difference on the neck and intonation.
  3. 3.     After removing your old strings, clean the areas that you can’t get to like on the body under the strings, the bridge, fretboard, headstock and tuning machines.
  4. 4.     Use fretboard cleaner and conditioner on an ebony, rosewood or ironwood fretboard to clean and treat the wood. These products may be lemon oil, teak oil, walnut oil or turpentine (pine oil). NEVER USE FRETBOARD CLEANING PRODUCTS ON A MAPLE FRETBOARD. Rosewood, ebony and ironwood are treated during manufacture, not finished. Maple fretboards are finished and fretboard cleaners will make a big mess on finished surfaces.   On a maple fretboard, and the rest of the guitar, use a regular guitar cleaner – polish.
  5. 5.     While the strings are off, use a wrench and gently tighten the tuning machines. This is often overlooked and they can become loose over time. Remember: GENTLY!
  6. 6.     Use a stringwinder when putting strings on. It not only makes the job quicker, but helps the strings wind evenly.

 

Get more tips online at www.openmindedmic.com and click on “blogs” and then Prof. Dave’s Guitar & Bass Buying Advice

Fred Reviews His “Stellar” NEW/USED Adamas Guitar

Fred is a good, trusted friend, a regular reader and contributor to this blog, and I think it’s safe to say that his knowledge of guitars is significantly above average. His ability to find a bargain is uncanny and world class.

Fred recently purchased a used Adamas on ebay, and since he wrote to me about it, I’ll simply quote him and then add my two cents – or more. we’ll see

“Hello Prof. Dave,
I recently bought one of the most under rated electric acoustics made in the USA. As far as acoustic dreadnaughts go, I have played every thing that would be considered the best. That includes Martin, Larivee, Taylor, Gibson, etc.. Recently I managed to get my hands on an Adamas. This is not a dressed up Ovation. if you get the chance to play one you’ll find that is an exceptional instrument. Ovation has always been a great guitar to play, they are extremely stable, and playability can be maintained and relied upon for what ever your style. My last Ovation was however lacking in tone and projection. The Adamas, with its carbon fiber top is far better suited to the synthetic Lirichord back.  Projection is very good, but the tone is off the charts. It is the brightest guitar I have ever heard, without a hint of tininess. The response is razor sharp, it remains crisp and crystal clear even during hard driving hard strumming. Another aspect of this guitar that I find I’m liking more and more as time goes by, is the round back. Those times I go from some weeks of working with an electric and I go back to a normal acoustic, I find the thick body to be uncomfortable to hold. The bowl back however allows the guitar to roll giving a better position for your right arm.  It dose take a bit of getting used to but once you’ve got it, it’s like riding a bike, it just feels natural. These guitars are expensive and are priced with the high end Taylors and Martins. I consider myself very lucky, I found mine (a stellar example) used on e-bay for under a thousand dollars. This guitar is one of two in my collection I plan to keep for ever.”
Those were Fred’s comments – these are mine: don’t count on finding an Adamas in stellar condition for under $1,000 – Fred’s a pro and his tricks should not be attempted by amateurs. That really is an amazing price to pay for an Adamas. I say that for a few reasons.
First, they’re so well constructed, so strong that I believe you can put one of these in a case and in 4,000 years archeologists can unearth it, pull it out of the case and play it. It’s simply not subject to some of the damage that even superbly made wood guitars may experience.
As far as tone is concerned, I completely agree with Fred. Although I’ve played some Ovations in the same lofty price range of $2,500 – $3,500 with AAA Sitka Spruce tops that sounded magnificently, which is what you’d expect from a guitar in a lofty price range.
Adamas and Ovations have exceptional playability. The construction of the Adamas redefines “durable.” When introduced, Ovation was a true innovation in guitar design and use of alternative materials. Adamas is no less annointed. They are underrated and do stand up to competition very well.
I think Ovation and Adamas have superb electronics too that really take advantage of the science of the instruments design. One of my regular performers at our Open Minded Mics, singer-songwriter Joey McGowan, has a high end Ovation that stads up to anything else being played onour stage for tone, sustain and playability.
The bowl, the bowl, the bowl; what to do about the shape of that body? Or the shape of my body? I think Fred is right again in that it takes some getting used to and then it becomes second nature. That may be the biggest resistance to these guitars. When you first strap one on, ti does feel awkward. Not bad, but different. So you’ve come to a point where you’re willing to shell out $3,000 for a guitar, do you choose one that you played in the music store that felt awkward and different or one that feels familiar? Most of us will go withfamiliar.
If you favor the carbon fiber construction but the back is too distressing, you might consider trying a Rainsong guitar. It’s a fine instrument with similar durability. Since sound and tone, like beauty, arein the eye (and ear) of the beholder, you decide. I’ve played both and prefer the Adamas. But the Rainsong is quite good too.
It’s a bit of faith that you need to show, that you will adjust. If you’re really interested in an Adamas, and willing to shell out the bucks, here’s a thought, but an inexpensive Ovation, used for a couple of hundred dollars, get used to the bowl, sell it and get your money back and buy the Adamas with confidence. OR, you can have Fred find you a super deal on an Adamas, and if you find you don’t like it you can resell it at a profit.
So the gauntlet is down Fred: bring your “stellar” Adamas down here, get on the stage and let’s hear it in action.
Thanks Fred.
If you have an opinion on a guitar or bass, I’d love to hear from you. If you recently shopped for an instrument, what did you try? What did you like? What didn’t you like? What did you end up buying? Please reply on this blog or write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blogy. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

Why I’m Not Running For President In 2012

Why I’m Not Running For President In 2012

I made a firm decision and I’m absolutely not running for the office of President of the United States in 2012. I’ll sit this one out, make some popcorn and be a witness to presidential campaigns that are both dirty and boring. But, since I’m officially not a candidate, I feel it’s time that I revealed my true feelings, beliefs and platforms. The things I simply couldn’t reveal if I was actually running for office.

Gay and Lesbian Marriage: Marriage is a legal (as in “a matter of law”) contract between two consenting people who have the legal (as in “a matter of law”) capacity (as in over 18, competent) to enter into a contract. It may also be a religious state, but doesn’t have to be. You can be married by a member of the clergy or just file the proper paperwork at town hall. It’s you choice. The word “choice” is meaningful.

Free people have choice, oppressed people don’t. On this point, I agree with former Vice-President Dick Cheney who believes same sex marriage should be permitted because, in his words “Free is free.” Well spoken Mr. Former V.P. Of course he has someone in his immediate family who is directly affected by this standard and that may explain his departure from his otherwise staunch support of every other extremely conservative platform and his words may have the scent of hypocrisy. As for me, I don’t have anyone in my immediate family who is gay or lesbian and I completely agree with him: free is free.

I know many gay and lesbian adults who are fine, moral, conscientious, good hearted, generous, law abiding folks, and if they wish to enter a legal union, it’s their business. I also know some mean-spirited, cheating, lying, son-of-a-bitch heterosexuals who are completely entitled to marry simply because of sexual orientation. Here’s my point: if I don’t like gay or lesbian marriage, then I don’t have to do it. Whether Gay, Lesbian or Heterosexual, I think we all need to abide by a wise old truism: do what you want just don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.

I support Gay and Lesbian marriage. This isn’t about majority rules: a basic measure of fair is reverse the deal, and is it still fair?  If Gay and Lesbian citizens were in the majority, would it be fair for them to not allow heterosexual couples to marry? This debate is mired in an old bias and it’s time to get past it. As the comedian Robert Klein commented, “if they want to be miserable like the rest of us, we should let them.”

Do I endorse Romney’s “Give The Wealthiest Corporations Tax Breaks So They’ll Create Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” or Obama’s “Tax The Bastards And Get Money Flowing Through The Economy.”

They both suck. I seriously doubt lowering the tax rate on the wealthiest corporations and people will cause them to hire any more people. Corporations don’t hire people because they have extra money sitting around Mitt: they hire people because they need people to do jobs. Right now, there is the much heralded GE having a profit of $16 billion and paying no taxes. According to The Bloomberg Report Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant makes most of its profits in the U.S.A. but diverts the money overseas to avoid taxation, quite legally.

Don’t give them a tax break so they CAN hire people, perhaps give them a tax break when the DO hire people. Maybe, for all new employees added in 2013, no corporate payroll tax on those folks for the next five years. Or ten, I don’t care, we’ll get taxes from the working employees. It’s a good deal.

So what about raising taxes on the wealthy to get the money in the hands of the government for a wonderful redistribution of the wealth. This is the Robin Hood approach to economic salvation. Steal from the rich, give to the poor. While I’m on the subject, I like Kevin Costner a lot but he was awful as Robin Hood.  If the taxes go up so will the deductions, special interest grants and manipulations.

Both approaches are rancid. Since I’m not running and not concerned that the two parties won’t support my ideas I believe in simplification of the tax codes, lower tax rates and get rid of nifty deductions, especially things like the oil depletion allowance – they have a huge incentive to drill it’s called usurious profits, and permit very limited, totally verifiable deductions. For these corporations diverting money overseas, as well as jobs, if you sell it here, you pay taxes here. If you export American jobs to boost your bonus, you will pay for that practice. President Obama once commented that even though our corporate tax rate is the highest in the world, after deductions it’s not even close. He’s correct: so why are we playing games by having that high tax rate, lower it and collect the revenues so the burden doesn’t fall squarely on what remains of the middle class.

Politicians love to pretend that manipulating the tax codes is a path to prosperity. They are wrong. I can impede prosperity if it’s too high, and cause unfair distribution of the burden of running a complex government it it’s too low. What creates prosperity is invention, creation of new industries and activities and as a consequence, jobs are also created. When jobs are created, pay checks get bigger because employees become more valuable. Wealthy people aren’t going to give up being wealthy if the taxes are a bit higher for them and it likely own’t impact their lifestyle. Balance and fairness is a good standard and one that we’re light years away from achieving.

Enough straight talk for today or as Rush Lumbaugh loves to say “the way it outta’  be.” While I’m on the subject, I think we should conduct an experiment where Rush Lumbaugh and Rev. Jeremiah Wright will be placed together on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for forty years, with no means to communicate with the outside world. Then, after 40 years, we’ll visit the island and see if both are still talking. Or If either is, we’ll consider the experiment a failure.

That’s it for today. I can only take so much candor at a time. Tomorrow I’ll offer my stand on gun control, energy, social security, the Veteran’s Administration and whether Kevin Costner should have learned how to speak with a British accent before attempting the role of Robin Hood.

Let me hear from you. As long as you’re not disgusting or foul in a reply to this blog, I’ll post it. Thanks for reading, let me hear from you. Prof. Dave

Review of: Fender Pawn Shop ’72, Martin Aluminum Grand Autditorium, DiPinto Belevedere and Schecter Riot 4 string bas

Review of: Fender Pawn Shop ’72, Martin Aluminum Grand Autditorium, DiPinto Belevedere and Schecter Riot 4 string bass.

 

Well, I am a big fan olf diversity and so this review is of two electric guitars, one acoustic-electric and a bass and the testing was done at three different shops. I love my job.

The first test was at Music Central, in Egg Harbor Township, NJ where John and I played a DiPinto Belvedere DeLuxe. If you’re looking for a guitar that doesn’t look like everybody else’s, this is a good candidate for you to check out. This single cutaway guitar has a striking appearance, with a semi-hollow body, plastic top and mahogany back and sides and two screaming humbuckers, the guitar clearly stands out in a crowd: both visually and sound.

DiPinto is a family owned, small manufacturer in Philadelphia. They started as a highly regarded repair shop and began building their own guitars in the mid 90’s. Now they have a full scale operation creating a limited line of well made, distinctly different, guitars.

The look is out there, a bit too much for my taste but it is a matter of taste. It is bold and I prefer the less ornate look of the Belvedere Standard, but that’s only having seen a picture, not the actual instrument.  The controls are very simple, in contrast to the look, one volume control, one tone and a three way switch produce a very nice, vintage rock sound. It comes with a tune-o-matic and a classic Bigsby Tailpiece that really help the strings sing and add a distinctiveappearance. Nice playing, very well shaped neck and tuners were precise – the guitar is clearly a quality piece. For about $875 retail, it stands up very well against similarly priced Fenders, Gibsons and other quality brands. The Belvedere Standard, which wasn’t available for testing sells for about $625 and I think it’d be worth checking out.

As for the look, you’ll love it or you won’t. It will attract its audience and if you like it, try it; it may just be the odd ball guitar you’ve been looking for. For the price, it has my recommendation as a “GO.”

Moving up to northern New Jersey to the venerable Ritchie’s Music Center in Rockaway, I went drifting through a very large selection of new and used guitars with my buddy Fred and we had some fun with a Martin with an aluminum soundboard and a Fender Pawn Shop ’72 Electric.

If you’re familiar with Fender guitars, but not this series, you’ll likely be a bit confused when you see it. The guitar has a Strat like semi-hollow body with a Tele neck. It’s undeniably Fender and unfamiliar at the same time. It comes with two Humbucker pickups, a Fender Enforcer at the bridge and a Wide Range at the neck. One volume control and one tone with a three way switch and you’re off to a good start. The guitar has a straightforward, classic look and a glaring polyester finish on the body and the bolt on neck. I’d rather have a satin finish on the neck but they didn’t ask me when they made it.

The playability of this guitar is excellent. I’m sure that has something to do with the setup and the shops where I do most of my tests are fanatics about making sure their display items play correctly. Clean, neat style that’s both distinctive and classic,  fun to play and sounds more like a Gbson Les Paul than a Fender, but it’s a great sound anyway.

This Fender sells for around $875 retail and my recommendation is to try it before you buy it. Or, if you buy it online, remember that all legitimate vendors of new online instruments have an unconditional return policy so if you buy that way, don’t think you’re stuck with it if you don’t love it. I think you just might love it though. “Go” on this one too.

The next guitar I played at Ritchie’s was a Martin Acoustic Eelctric Grand Auditorium with a solid aluminum top and solid cherry back, sides and neck. It has similar specs to Martin’s 000CE Al Cherry Acoustic –Electric that sells new for around $1,850. This used item was in great shape and selling for $875, but is it worth the price? The playability was excellent, the cherry neck was well shaped and the small body was very comfortable. I was surprised with the sound – pretty good and in spite of the metal top, the sound was full and warm.

This guitar is part of Martin’s line of environmentally responsible instruments made from wood and other resources that are renewable and available. It’s a nice guitar, well built as you would expect from Martin and the look would stand out in a crowd. Top isn’t painted, it’s aluminum. If  I were buying this new, I’d probably spend an extra $150 and go with the Martin Performing Artists CP3 series, and I’d also check out Martin’s new line of solid wood guitars that use cherry. Cherry is a fine tone wood and worth looking into. In this case, the used item was  a good value but from a player’s point of view, I’d look at other used Martin’s or Taylor’s in the same price range. It was fun to play and very, very novel.

Heading west, Fred and I stopped at Robbie’s in Hackettstown, NJ and in a brief visit I tested a Schetcter Riot 4 bass that I had been hoping to find on my journey.  Where I commented how unconventional the other guitars I tested were, this one, made with beautiful burled maple has a classic, understated appearance with the wood catching your eye stealing the show.

This bass sells for around $675 (clearance price ) – $750  online (when you can find it) at Musician’s Friend and Musiciansbuy.com (who will special order a product for you if they don’t have it in stock).  The look is sleek, and the sound is wonderful, full bass, a lot of punch in the two pickups and the playability is as good as any bass out there. The neck is slim and wll countoured and for the money, it’ll stand up to any competitor in its price range. There are so many quality choices out there today, it’s really hard to say that one is the best, but this one is among the best. For the money – this is a  “Go.”

Want a great bass at a low price? Try looking for a Fender Jazz (J) or Precision (P) bass made in Mexico (MIM) and you can get a used item for around $300, in very good shape. The MIM Fender is made very well in Mexico. Add a Full Contact Hardware Bridge (about $80 for a 4 string bass) and a bone, tusq, brass or ceramic nut ($12 – $20) and you’ll have a great guitar for about $400.

This blog is Prof Dave’s Guitar and Bass Buying Advice. If you have a guitar or bass and you’d like to post an opinion, please write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com – if you disagree with my opinion or have an opinion or review on an instrument I haven’t reviewed, as long as it isn’t too foul (language that is) I’ll post it. I’d love to hear from all you guitar & bass heads. Prof. Dav

Information & Transformation

Information and Transformation

This week I was inspired by a connection I made with a blind young man from California who wrote to me and we subsequently spoke on the phone. SJ wanted to learn the bass guitar and was looking for some resources to get the job done. I made the usual suggestions, which are valid and helpful, to check with the State’s Division of Human Services or a branch committed to help the blind and a few local advocacy groups. I also advised SJ to check out the technology assistance of www.dancingdots.com a great resource for software and hardware for visually impaired and blind musicians. Good information? Yes, of course. But something’s missing.

It seems the something that’s missing is also the cause for me slowing down my blogging – how much information can I find and forward to the readers? Quite a bit, but SJ got me to begin to think that it’s not so much about information as it is transformation. That last thought came out of my discussion with SJ and was expressed in a correspondence with the beautiful Gena from Virginia. So the next question appears to be, “what the hell am I talking about?”

You know what you need to do in order to become a musician: practice, practice, practice and if you’re a blind musician what you need to do is repeat “practice, practice, practice” twenty times. If you aspire to be a classical musician, or a play jazz, you know you need to understand music theory and use various types of assistive technology to facilitate you learning of theory and musical scores. That’s all about information an dit’s important stuff.

Transformation is about making changes, refusing to rediscover your history and create a future. It’s about strengthening emotional muscle, discovering paths that you didn’t know existed and at times beyond discovering paths, creating them. Hannibal once stated “We will either find a way or make one.” He made one.

So back to SJ, as we spoke he assured me if there was a way to get the job done, he’d do it. Was there a tutorial available to take a blind person through the steps to learn how to play bass guitar. I told him, I didn’t know of any. He said an online resource that was mostly descriptive and auditory would be great. It would be a big asset to those blind and visually impaired folks who aspire to play music.

So John and I got to talking about this as being a good idea and we decided to launch a project to put bass and guitar lessons geared toward blind and visually impaired adults, online. No path existed so we’re making one. We plan to have the first batch online by the end of March and continually add to that. We’ll be looking for funding and that won’t be easy, but not impossible either.

Thanks for the input SJ – information fueled transformation. Good slogan actually.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. You can email dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

Test Of A Range Of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

Test Of A Range Of Acoustic-Electric Guitars

John and I took a side trip to our local Guitar Center to test a few different models of acoustic electric guitars and a few basses. I usually don’t buy my guitars there, but there’s a large inventory to test different guitars and space to do it. It’s not as if I wouldn’t but there, but when I buy a guitar it’s usually a lifetime commitment so I shop slowly and deliberately and especially for an acoustic guitar, test the specific guitar I’m buying, not just order a model and return it if I don’t like it.

In this case, I’m shopping for my next guitar which I’ll buy in about 7 months, so the shopping has begun. I’ve played guitars in various Guitar Centers and have usually been ignored and that’s fine, it gives me plenty of time to play what I want to play and make my own notes. In this case, we had the assistance of a very lively, well-informed salesman named Kevin who helped guide us through the inventory. Considering that I’m blind, the guidance was welcomed.

I was hoping to test a wider range of instruments than was available including a Yamaha APX1200, any Rainson and Takamine Supernatural. These are all available online but none were available in the store. We did manage to play a few nice offerings from some highly regarded guitar makers and here are our impressions:

Martin DCPA4 $1199: This guitar has a solid spruce top, solid sepele backs and sides, a nice slim neck and very responsive electronics. The playability was very good although the sound was a bit imbalanced with the lows overshadowing the highs. For the price, it was probably better than average although for similar money I think I’d be more inclined to try the Yamaha APX1200 ($1349) or the Babicz Spider Identity ($1188). As I’ve written before, the Babicz Spider is very innovative and one of my favorite guitars.

Taylor 414 CE Grand Auditorium $1899: This guitar had Taylor’s trademark excellent playability and visually, it’s simple and stunning. It amplified very nicely and with a solid spruce top and solid mahogany backs and sides the sound was rich although not as vibrant as I expected. It’s hard to be negative about Taylors mostly because their truly high quality instruments. It plays and sound like you’d expect ahiher end acoustic guitar to play and sound.

Breedlove C250CM $499: In a previous blog I wrote that there were problems with a Breedlove Atlas with an additional soundhole on the top of the guitar and that was the case. This one, was a good sounding, easy playing acoustic electric that sounded fine amplified. I’m not sure of the material of this model but I suspect it’s all laminates. I’ll check that and write a bit more. It’s sound was “sparkly” but not objectionable. In the general price range, I preferred the Martin and Takamine which are my next reviews.

Martin DRS1 $699: This is an offering from Martin’s lower priced line of guitars that have laminated backs and sides. The laminates are produced using extremely high pressure, so it feels and sounds more like a guitar with solid wood back and sides, or that’s what the advertising suggests. It did sound goo and in our opinion, the sound was more balanced that the $1199 Martin PA4. The playability was good, electronics performed well and if you don’t have the bucks for the high end stuff, this could be a good option for you. Martin craftsmanship is apparent in this guitar.

Takamine EG530SC $599: A nice guitar for the money. The sound was very lively, almost like overly carbonated soda, but Takamine electronics are excellent and the guitar amplifies very well. Good playability and in league with the Martin DRS1 above for $100 less.

Martin OMCPA3 $1999: This guitar won my heart. I know I have a bias toward Martin, but I think the bias has been earned by their consistent quality. The first thing I noticed was the great balance of sound from the thinner bodies OMC. When you hit a chord, you heard a chord, not six distinct notes. The solid Sitka spruce top and solid rosewood back and sides were beautifully crafted. The aura electronics use a system that’s complex to understand but incredibly simple to use. With a simple knob you can integrate the sound of digitally recordced classic Martin guitars in with the sound of this guitar. In advertising, you often see a phrase like “this guitar provides features and sound you’d expect to see on guitars costing thousands more.” This guitar delivered that. Absolutely, my pick of this litter.

I’m looking for feedback from someone who plays, or has played a Bedell TBCE-28 (about $1399), a Rainsong Hybrid Series (range $1550 – $1800), a Guild GAD Series F150RCE (about $1249), or a Takamine TAN15 Supernatural (about $1599), Or if you have or have played a similar model, please let me hear from you. I’ve been trying to find a shop that stocks them but what I was told at GC me is that I can order one and if I don’t like it, they’ll refund my money. Please write to me if you have, or have played any of these guitars. Thanks! Write to dave@openmindedmic.com or just place a reply on this blog.

Tomorrow’s blog will be about some interesting basses that I tested including Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass, Marcus Miller Jazz Bass, Godin A4 semi-acoustic fretless bass, and a review of a used Traben Phoenix Sun.

Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work

Updates On Guitars & Gear At Work: The Babicz Spider Identity (retail $1488), The Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 Rosewood (Retail $899); A 30 year-old Guild F50 (retail today $2099)  Let’s handle the bad news first. When I played the Breedlove Atlas Solo C350 while on a test playing mission with my friend Fred and I loved it. That’s not the bad news. We played it though a Roland Micro Cube, a great little amp and enjoyed the hell out of both. The Breedlove was very playable, sounded great in the store and had a unique soundhole on the up side directing sound upward to the player. A concern I had, after recommending the guitar as a buy, was would the sound being directed up credate a problem with a microphone picking up the guitar sound? Before I could register my theoretical concern, Fred called me with a real concern: he couldn’t contain the feedback once the guitar was being amplified through a larger amp in a large room. Large amplification and large rooms are two things musicians hope for when they perform.Fred’s not only smart, he’s experienced too. He didn’t need my advice because my advice was exactly what he did without advice. He returned the guitar immediately because a good store, and Rithchie’s Music Center in Rockaway is a good store, will accept returns within reasonable amounts of time. This was less than24 hours. Fred wound up buying a Takamine Dreadnought and is as happy as a clam although I have no idea why we use that expression because it doesn’t occur to me that clams are overly upbeat. OK, I do know – the full expression is “happy as a clam at high tidc.” Why are clams happy at high tide? Because clammers can’t get to them. But star fish can. OK, clams probably aren’t happy but Fred is happy.

Feedback on acoustic – electric guitars is a problem and most guitars made today do a good job at managing that and most quality PA systems likewise do a good job at suppressing  feedback. To me, a good lesson is that what works in the music store or looks great online, maynot work for you once you start to use it. Know the store’s return policy. Most online stores give you 45 days to return an unwanted item. It’s your money, don’t be shy.

I’ve owned my Babicz Spider Identity for 5 yeasr and it’s one of a few guitars in my collection that is simply never to be traded or sold. Mine was a prototype and a road warrior that went around with Jeff Babicz and his partner, the lovely and talented Jeff Carano and after meeting these two incredible men, they sold this one to me.

Mine is solid mahogany back, sides and soundboard, mahogany neck and some very unique, and useful design features. The new Spider has an Englemann Spruce top instead of mahogany. Mine has a warm, paino-like sound and I imagine the spruce top brightens the sound.  L.R.Baggs provides the sound and the sound is warm and wonderful.

The neck is smooth, sleek and probably the best acoustic guitar neck I’ve ever played. The neck also has a patented adjustment feature that allows the player to quickly change the string height without disturbing the tuning. Martin Guitars put out a guitar with this feature but discontinued it and Michael Kelly “Visionary” Acoustic uses this system. Many people I’ve spoken to think it’s a gimmick on first inspection, but I’ve used it for years, and it’s no gimmick.

If you play slide guitar, you can insert the allen wrench  and quickly raise the action. The same if you use open chords. If you do more leads you can lower the action. This is a great way to precisely adjust your guitar to your playing and music style.

Another great feature is the most obvious feature when you look at the guitar. It has 6 metal button-like “things” on the soundboard down by the edge of the guitar below the bridge. At first it looks like a strange ornamentation, but it’s not. It’s the “ica” and strings aren’t fed down into the bridge and then pinned, they’re fed through the metal near the edge of the guitar and fed through a stress reducing bridgte. So there’s no upward pulling on the bridge, in fact, the the strings place downward pressure on the bridge. This means less bracing, I believe better sound and durability.

After 5 years, it’s clearly a keeper. You can only buy Babicz Guitars directly from them. If you’d like to learn more about this guitar, go to the “Links for You” tab and scroll down to Jeff Babicz Guitars.  For clarity, Jeff isn’t an affiliate or a sponsor and I won’t make a penny on this, but I think y ou should check it out anyway.

So an update on a 30 year-old guitar? Why not? My Guild F50 with a beautiful spruce top and magnificent flamed maple back and sides. It has always had a magnificent voice and age has onloy sweetened it. The construction is rock solid and it needed its first setup 2 months ago – and the adjustment was very slight. It holds it tuning better than any instrument I’ve ever seen and from top to bottom, it’s a fine instrument that will last a lot longer than I will.

So guitar and bass buying lessons for today:  shop, compare and make your best choice but know if there’s a return policy so  you don’t get stuck with a guitar you don’t want. Even the most careful shopper can make a mistake.

Another lesson is that there are various purchasing stratgies and initiatives and they all have some virtue and I think it’s important to know what your looking to buy. If you’re looking for something with enduring quality for the long haul, save your money and invest some time and energy, play, compare, but and love it for a lifetime. That’s sounds wonderful, and I guess it is, but it’s not for everyone.

Some people are looking for a step up to a more functional guitar that they can use, will decently retain value and will be sold or traded in the future. There are lots of good choices if that’s your mission, be flexible on brand and learn about features.

Some buyers want to buy low price and then put a few improvements and that’s a skill and a passion. You can get a lot of guitar for a little money if you have the skill, patience and buying savvy.

Some acoustic-electric guitars very worthy of a look:

  1. Guild GAD-F40E Grand Auditorium (retail $1149) comes with solid flamed maple back & sides, solid spruce top and solid performance on all levels. I have a great fondness for Guild Guitars and a particular fondness for this one. It’s a great value.
  2. Yamaha CPX1200 Medium Jumbo (retail $1349) has solid rosewood back and sides, solid spruce top, great design and playbility and beautiful electronics.  A problem some people have with Yamaha is perception, not reality. For many of us, our first starter guitar was a Yamaha so many equate Yamaha with “cheap” stuff. My opinion is that Yamaha is the “good stuff” with a low priced line. They compete well in any market in which they sell.
  3. Takamine Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric (retail $1549) has a solid spruce top, solid rosewood back & laminated rosewood sides – a bit of a compromise but it’s a very good laminated side. The electronics are great on this guitar and the playability if very good too.
  4. Martin DCPA4 Dreadnought (retail $1199) is a great performer with solid sitka spruce top and solid sapele back & sides.  Great solid wood guitar.

The next few blogs will deal with update on actually working with amps, PA systems, electric guitars and bass guitars. What’s you opinion? I’d like to hear from you so send me an email at dave@openmindedmic.com or simply reply on this blog. Prof. Dave

 

Some Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Guitar or Bass

Some Things You Should NEVER Do To Your Guitar or Bass Without Training

Once we have our new guitar in our hands, the urge to adjust it, perfect it, and care for it like a newborn is irresistible to most of us. There are many things that you can do without training. Here’s a few things that I recommend that you DON’T do unless you’ve gotten some training.

  1. Don’t mess around with the truss rod. There are plenty of things you can mess around with and the worst you’ll do is create a minor problem for a tech to unmess the mess. Adjust the bridge, string height and screw ups aren’t that serious. Play with the truss rod without knowing what you’re doing and you risk damaging or destroying the neck of the guitar or worse. There are many books and DVD programs out there to instruct you. One is from Gibson’s Learn & Master series (you’ll see the banner on our page) and they have a DVD program to learn how to professionally setup your guitar or bass. I think learning how to adjust and fine tune you own instrument is important, but so is avoiding destroying it. One thing you may consider in order to learn guitar or bass setup, purchase a beat up, cheap guitar and learn and experiment on that.
  2. . Don’t use super-glue on a guitar or bass. Luthiers and experienced do-it-yourselfers will use super-glue to do things like mend cracks, fill in dings. They use it sparingly and specifically for certain projects. Guitars are designed to be able to come apart and most guitar parts are affixed by using hide glue and cement / model glue. These hold firm but can be melted or cracked if needed.
  3. Don’t use car wax on your axe. There’s an old expression: if it works on a car, it works on a guitar. That’s true, especially for solid body electric guitars. In fact, there are some high end guitar makers who do the labor intensive project of using a French Polish and then as a final step use Meguires car wax. The results are spectacular, incredible gloss, long lasting and exceptional protection. The key point is they really know what they are doing. Finishes can look great, but expecially on an acoustic guitar can suppress and dull the sound. Unless I’m going to run my guitar through a car wash in order to clean it, I don’t need that strong of a finish. And I tend to like to keep all finishes on my guitars, especially acoustic guitars to bare minimum. I do it that for the sound. Use a regular guitar cleaner and polish, they’re safe and work fine.
  4. Don’t file the slots in the nut with a file. Use a “nut file” that’s specifically designed for the job. Also, keep in mind that if you do file the nut that which has been filed can’t be “unfiled.” Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Suppose you decide to use heavier gauge strings to give you more volume and bottom. You may find that you need to file the slots in the nut to accommodate the larger strings, but if you go back to lighter gauge strings, they’ll sit to deep in the slot and you’ll either go back to heavy strings or replace the nut.
  5. Don’t paint your guitar. I know, you had a totally unique color scheme in mind so you take the new guitar and won’t hurt anything by scraping, grinding, sanding and spray painting the guitar. Beyond color, guitar finishes are a science unto themselves. Secondly, with very rare exception, you’ll drain the value right out of the new guitar. You need to know how to protect other parts of the guitar from damage from the pain, you need to know how to prepare the surface and you need to know how to spray and finish. That’s a lot that you need to know.
  6. Don’t buy a “build-it-yourself” guitar kit. There are a number of kits out there where you can get all you need to build your own guitar. All the parts, cut pieces of wood, accessories, all of the parts including the bridge, tuning machines, nut and even strings. Martin makes an excellent acoustic guitar kit as does the guitar parts headquarters at Stewart MacDonald. Warmouth has excellent guitar bodies, necks and parts to make your own masterpiece and a number of other sources on the internet offer electric guitar kits with a wide range of price and quality. The kits are fine, but don’t underestimate the job of assembly, fitting, finishing and setup. It’s not easy and if you don’t have good woodworking skills or experience in doing major guitar projects, you’re likely in for a lot of frustration and wasted money. If you want to try your hand at this, I recommend you start with a simple ukulele kit from Stewart Macdonald (www.stewmac.com) for about $50. It’s relatively simple, inexpensive and if you find it easy, you might consider moving up to a guitar.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have an acoustic-electric favorite? Let me hear about it. Write to me ator reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Buying Advice: Your First Serious Bass Guitar

Buying Advice: Your First Serious Bass Guitar

As my favorite tee shirt reads: “We Don’t Want No Treble.” Today’s blog is for the low end, the emerging bassist who wants to move up from his or her first bass into a serious bass to perform and grow with. Some of the advice in today’s blog is identical to my advice on buying your first serious guitar and all the advice is built on the notion that you’re going to be playing and expanding your skill with the next bass you buy for quite a long time, be patient in deciding which one you want to spend your money on.

Like my advice for your first serious electric guitar, as you play  bass and improve your skill, your interests and musical direction will evolve too. Tha’ts my primary reason for recommending that even if you do have some cash to spend, don’t go for the boutique, high priced bass of your dreams right away. Unless of course, the bass of your dreams is moderately priced in which case disregard what I just wrote. Also, looks are great and attractive but when your playing it, the critical elements are sound and feel. And as you own it, the critical feature is quality of construction, durability and reliability.

Before you head out for a “serious” bass, you should already have a good idea what you’re looking for. Do you want a Jazz type bass, a Precision type, an alternative style such as the Steinberger that comes without a headstock, a semi-hollow or something bat shaped?

If this is your first serious bass, you’re probably going to take a look at Fender basses. Some people believe that from top to bottom, Fender has great basses. I’m one of those people and I truly believe that Fender basses are a must try while you’re shopping even if you buy something else. My biggest gripe with Fender basses, and it’s a petty gripe, is that so many of them have pickguards with not option to buy one without. I love the Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass, but it only comes with a pickguard. A bass needs a pickguard like a fish needs a bicycle.

Bass players usually use their fingers, some a thumb and some do use a pick. So what? Bass players are the coolest members of the band. We’re not hyperactive guitarists and even if we do use a pick, we don’t strum and swing it all over the place. I would support a constitutional amendment banning the use of pickguards on bass guitars. Join me in this quest if you have nothing else ot do with your life.

So here are my choices for your first “serious” bass guitar:

  1.  Fender Standard Precision Bass (there’s one at American Musical Supply’s outlet zone for $539 with a gig bag in the scratch & dent category – if interested, click on the banner on the right for AMS – it won’t be there long!)
  2. Ibanez SR700 Bass – for about $700 this is a fantastic bass, thin neck, lightweight mahogany body, wonderfully balanced and superb sound. Nice job Ibanez.
  3. MTD Kingston Artist Electric Bass for about $730 this is a wonderfully designed and excellent playing bass.
  4. Schecter Raden Elite for aroung $540 is a solid performer.
  5. Fender Blacktop Jazz Bass for about $500 it’s a beautiful instrument.
  6. Yamaha Billy Sheehan Bass – for about $700 it’s awesome and absolutely worth a good look.
  7. Washburn Force – Washburn? Yes, for about $550 it’s a very solid performer
  8. Spector Legend – tips the scales at around $700 & this maker of excellent basses has this offering that’s not in the pricing stratosphere
  9. Sterling by Music Man Ray34 – for $660 or so you get legendary Music Man performance in their imported models.
  10. Warwick Rocktron Streamer LX4 – Warwick really delivers for about $600

The pricing on these basses is for 4 string models. Almost all have 5 string versions for about $50 more.

Other basses that I think are very worthy contenders that you should consider are The G & L Tribute L-2000 ($660) and JB-2 ($600), Fender Standard Jazz Bass ($600), Fender Standard P Bass ($580), and ESP/LTD 414FM Flamed Maple a beautiful instrument ($700).

If you can stretch a little higher priced items, you’re getting into some serious investment and some great choices too. My favorite is Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass ($1000) and it would be at the top of the list above except for my tendency to keep the price of the first serious bass modest. Other great basses for a bit more are Lakland Skyline ($824), Jackson Chris Beattie Signature Bass ($760), Fernandes Revelle Bass ($900), and Ibanez Premium 1200E Bass ($1000).

Because of the nature of bassists, being the coolest people in the band and probably on the planet, many stick with their first serious bass for a long time if not forever. Most that I know, at the very least, don’t get rid of their first serious bass. One think I highly recommend is that some of these basses, as well made as they are, especially the import versions of higher priced American basses, come with a plastic nut. To me, that’s a very poor way to save a couple of production dollars but they do it anyway. If you play a few basses and fall in love with one, if it has a plastic nut switch it for a bone, mircata or tusq nut right away. It won’t cost much and will absolutely enhance the performance of your new bass.

Best advice: go shopping, try a bunch of basses and enjoy every second of the journey. Don’t rush, get it right and that means get it right for you.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

o what’s your opinion? Do you have a suggestion for the first serious bass? Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave

Advice On Buying Your First Serious Electric Guitar

Advice On Buying Your First Serious Electric Guitar

It was an exciting moment for me. I started off plaing guitar when I was 13 on a hand-me-down Harmony that my brother had. When my parents saw I was practicing and enjoying playing, they bought me my own acoustic guitar, I believe they bought it at Sears and I don’t recall the brand. For all I know it was a Kenmore.

When I was 16 I started working at a dry cleaner and saved my money for a Gibson Dot, semi-hollow double cutaway electric, similar to one I’d seen John Lennon playing. After a few months of saving, I found a red one in a local music store and bought my first serious guitar for $150. I didn’t keep it long and it’s rare that a day has passed since then that I haven’t hissed about it. Semi-hollow guitars were on their way out and Strats, SGs & Les Pauls were roaring to dominance in the electric guitar market.

In the 1960’s there were far fewer choices than today, but the choices that there were seemed to fall into two categories: excellent or trash. Today, there are a lot more choices, a lot more great guitars and a lot more junk than ever before. That’s an opportunity and it’s also a trap. Today I’m going to focus on your first serious electric guitar and in future blogs I’ll cover acoustic guitars and bass.

When you go out shopping for a serious instrument, most of us head out the door with a fairly good idea of how much we’re willing to spend or are able to spend. When we actually shop the tendency is to take that amount that we thought was our maximum and it becomes the least we’ll spend. We always seem to be able to justify another $100 for a little better guitar. So yo head online to shop or take a road trip to a music store or two to see what they have.

As you look through the racks filled with gloss and power for your first serious guitar, you may have a make, model and even color in mind. That’s a good place to start, but I don’t think it’s a good place to end your search. Do some comparisons and afterwards, you may still buy your initial choice going in, but you’ll buy it with more confidence that it is, in fact, the guitar you really want.

The first thing that catches our eye, in purchasing guitars and so much of life, is how it looks or attraction. That’s fine, but there’s a world of difference between attraction and relationship and this serious guitar is going to be a relationship. This is also good advice for dating as I think of it.

For the first serious guitar, I don’t recommend that you spend a huge amount of money, even if you have a huge amount of money to spend. Over the years, as your skill develops so will your musical style, tastes and preferences in guitars change. Also, if it turns out you’re not as committed as you thought you’d be, you don’t have a fortune invested. So as appealing as a high end Paul Reed Smith or Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul might be, I suggest you leave that purchase for somewhere down the road.

My suggestion is that first you discover the range of sound and feel. Test it, play it. Carefully note how different guitar necks feel, how the body shape feels resting against your body. Play guitars with single coil pickups, humbuckers and combinations to get real insight into how they perform and how they differ. If you want more information on single coil and humbucker pickup, refer to my article on guitar and bass buying on this web site by going to http://www.openmindedmic.com/?page_id=597 where you’ll also find a lot of other detailed information on wood choices, neck construction and buying ideas.

Play the guitar standing up and sitting down. See if it’s comfortable both ways. Most people who are attracted to “V” shaped guitars, or the guitars shaped liked bats have another opinion when they try to play them sitting down. They’re awkward and the only way I know to play them sitting is to place the “V” or base of the guitar over your thigh.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that \eEven a good guitar with a lousy setup will play and feel awful. What you may have is a guitar in your hands that would be perfect for you, except it needs adjustment. If you’re in a store, you can ask that question. One of my most closely held guitar buying tips is don’t buy it from a store that has “mart” in the name. Even if it’s not junk, which it often is, nobody there would have any idea how to setup a guitar.

Consider making some inexpensive, but very worthwhile, upgrades that will really improve the quality of the guitar. Ditch the plastic nut in favor of a Tusq or bone nut. It’s inexpensive and can add a lot to the sound and tone. I’ve also taken low priced guitars and put a better bridge on and the guitar went from OK to incredible.

If you buy your new electric guitar online from ebay, American Musical or one of Amazon’s vendors, make sure there’s a return policy. Also be aware that sometimes shipping can knock a guitar setup right out of line and you may need to get it setup again or return it. You still may want to shop online for the savings and usually this isn’t a problem as long as you know what you can do if the guitar isn’t right.

So here’s my list of guitars that I recommend as your first serious electric:

  1. Epiphone SG G400 – it’s not a Gibson, but it plays great for about $350
  2. Fender Blacktop Jaguar – with two humbucker this plays & sounds great for about $500
  3. Sterling by Music Man AX30 – is a well made import with a great brand affiliation for about $450
  4. Schecter Solo 6 Special – don’t walk past the Schecvter lineup: this one is about $500
  5. Ibanez AG95 – for about $580; I banez makes some great high end electrics
  6. Gibson SG Special – for about $700 it’s genuine Gibson and genuine quality
  7. PRS SE Santana – a beautiful double cutaway. Release the beast for about $696
  8. Godin Exit 22 – simple, powerful, great playability for about $500
  9. Fender Standard Stratocaster – made in Mexico and made WELL in Mexico for about $500
  10. Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom – for about $600 it’s a lot of guitar

This isn’t an all inclusive list and I’ve left a lot of fine guitars off the list because it’s limited to ten. If you have a nominee for the best first serious electric, I’d love to hear what it is.

A SPECIAL NOTE: YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT THE NATIONAL BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION AND THE FOUNDATION FIGHTING BLINDNESS NOT BY DONATING MONEY BUT BY SAVING IT. DURING DECEMBER 2011 OPEN MINDED MIC HAS PLEDGED TO  GIVE 20% OF ALL MONEY WE EARN ON OUR ADS EQUALLY TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS. THIS WON’T COST YOU A PENNY MORE AND YOU’LL BE HELPING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD. JUST CLICK & YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING

So what’s your opinion? Do you have a nominee for someone’s first serious electric guitar? Let me hear about it. Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or reply on this blog. Be Heard. Prof. Dave