Doing Some Online Guitar & Bass Bargain Hunting & Shopping For You

Doing Some Online Guitar & Bass Bargain Hunting & Shopping For You

I spent a little time going through the web to locate some exceptional bargains on guitars, basses and gear that I think are great to own. If you’ve kept up with my blogs, you know my feeling that there’s a lot of great instruments out  there, and some junk too. I like a lot of brands, and like all of you, have my favorites. Here’s a quick look at what’s sitting out there that’ll get you what you want at a great price. If you see a bargain, let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

For some of these deals, they’ll show you a sales price with a slash through it and instruct you to “add to cart” in order to find out the final price. This isn’t done to trick you; it’s done to trick competitors. These web pages are being scanned, crawled and examined constantly, and you have want to offer a unique, competitive deal, if you have it appear in the cart, that’s secure and not available for scan or discovery. If you don’t want the item you can either delete it form the cart or simply don’t place the order. I’d delete it personally.

My first stop was at Sweetwater (www.sweetwater.com) a good, dependable vendor with a great inventory and selection. These are the items I found there that I think represent a outstanding deal.

They have Gibson SG Standard (Lefty) in Vintage Cherry (no surprise on the color) for only $1199.99. The SG has been around a long time and withstood the test of time. An American made Gibson certainly costs a lot more than a similar SG in Gibson’s import brand Epiphone. But for true quality and enduring value, it’s no contest. This is a great guitar.

There’s Fender American Special Strat in the clearance area too with HSS pickups for only $799.99. This is another legendary guitar at a great price.

I have a high regard for Takamine instruments, and like Ibanez, they sell instruments in a wide spectrum of sizes, construction and options. And like Ibaniez, they mostly use Alpha-Numeric Coding to identity the instrument. This particular offering is a beautiful acoustic-electric, the Takamine EF381SC Acoustic-Electric and at $1249.99, it’s a wonderful deal.

Looking for a great starter bass at a modest price? Consider the Peavey Millennium Bass 4 BXP. While Epiphones, Squiers, and fancy Deans and B.C. Rich basses are out there in abundance, the Peavey delivers on sound, playability and quality. For a low priced bass it’s terrific and at $215.99, it’s a steal.

Kala Ubass (Ukulele size REAL Bass) 4 string. Solid Acacia is going for $585.99. The acacia is beautiful wood and normally sells for $625 – $650. A lower priced option, and still beautiful is the Kala all mahogany Ubass which I see for around $500 – $550 range. If you just want the sound, which is a surprisingly good bass sound from such a small acoustic-electric, you can get one with a solid spruce top for $400 – $440, although I’ve seen them new, with a gig bag for $349 on ebay.

At the high end of the guitar buying spectrum, they’re offering a PRS DC3 Electric Guitar for only  $1779.00, which is a great price for this guitar. PRS guitars are beautifully made, awesome sounding and exceptionally high quality.

Musicians Buy (www.musiciansbuy.com)

This online source of guitars, basses and gears has become one of my favorites. Good service, knowledgeable staff and very low prices, even before the stuff gets to a closeout. They don’t have a huge variety of brands that we’re accustomed to seeing online, but they do have great stuff, and again at great prices. Here are some great deals that I found on their site.

They have a Laravee L05E with a hardshell case for an incredible $1750.00. Many folks, especially in the eastern U.S., aren’t familiar with Laravee; if you’re a guitarist, you should be. They make exceptional guitars, this is one of my favorite models and I haven’t seen it offered at anywhere near to this price.

I really like what Godin produces and the Godin 5th Avenue CW Kingpin Natural is a classic semi-hollow electric guitar. At $788.00, it’s an amazing value too. This is such a smooth playing guitar, it’s easy to love it.

Godin A4 Semi-Acoustic Bass, is an item I’ve reviewed, now own and love. There is a fretted 4 string version available here for only $688. That’s literally hundreds less than anywhere else I’ve seen.

A final item that got my attention is a VERY nice Traynor YCV80 amp for only $688.00. I say “only” because this is a powerhouse, top line amp and that’s a great price for this item.

Alto Music (www.altomusic.com)

Alto Music is a very fine music store in Armonk, New York. They have an excellent selection, do a fine job at setting up items they sell and enjoy a well-deserved good reputation for competitive pricing and great service. They have a couple of used items in the “Blowout Deals” section that got my attention.

Yes, I do like Peavey produces and the used Peavey Woldgang Flametop Electric in trans red with case for $999.99 is a terrific price on a high end Peavey. I’m usually a little reluctant to buy a used guitar or bass online, but not from these guys. They’re great to work with.

There’s also a used Ibanez JS1200 Joe Santirani Electric Guitar candy apple red with a case for $1199.99.  At the pricier end of the guitar buying universe, Ibanez has some entries and they compare very well with similarly priced competitors. This is a very good deal.

Guitar Center (www.guitarcenter.com)

Guitar Center is a huge online resource with an enormous retail store presence to support the sales effort. They have an arsenal of used and closeout guitars, basses and equipment and their pricing is right in line with everyone else’s or perhaps, better said, it might be one of the authors of that line. If you’re willing to sift through quite a bit of inventory, there are some unusual bargains. Here are the gems that I found.

The Music Man StingRay is HOT. Great design, feel and electronics make this one of the most prized basses out there. There’s a Music Man StingRay Humbucker / Piezo pickup in Sapphire Black (it’s a “blem” but big deal, so am I) and it’s being sold as used for $1476.83. Very tempting.

I love Martin Guitars and the Aura series is awesome. GC has a Martin JC-16RE Aura Acoustic-Electric Blem for $2299.99. My advice is accept the blem and save a few hundred dollars.

If you’re looking for a low priced, good quality acoustic-electric consider Hohner. I think the Hohner Essential Plus Mini Jumbo Acoustic– Electric Guitar is a great example of what I’m talking about and for only $349.00, it’s an excellent buy.

American Musical Supply (www.americanmusical.com)

This is a high quality online dealer and you can get to them by clicking on the banner ad on this page, or other pages on this site. Yes, they are my only musical instrument supplier mentioned in this blog who is a direct affiliate. They aren’t the biggest with every brand under the sun available, but their pricing is consistently as good as, or better than anyone else’s. The service eis amazing. Orders are filled and shpped extremely quickly, returns are handled promptly and they do what they promise. They have an “Outlet Zone” on their site, and it’s one of the best resources out there for a musical instrument and equipment bargain hunter.

They have a Schecter C1 Hellraiser Electric for an amazing $549.95. This is a high end performer with a very low price tag. Good deal.

Here’s another superb deal, a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster Special with gig bag for an rock bottom $639.95. That’s far better than anything I’ve seen for this guitar.

Gibson’s line of acoustic guitars are pricey, and exceptionally well designed and built. The Outlet Zone has a Gibson SJ200 Studio Acoustic-Electric at an outstanding $2199.95

The Ibanez Exotic Woods series are good playing and sounding guitars that are beautiful. The Ibanez EW200Me Exotic Wood Cutaway Acoustic-Electric for $339.95 is a great deal.

The Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass is sleek and hot. If you can accept it with some scratches and dings, you can save yourself $200 off of one without a scratch of ding. If it doesn’t come scratch I’ll put a few in pretty soon. You can buy this one for  $799.95

The Perfect Bass (www.theperfectbass.com) & The Perfect Gutiar (www.the perfectguitar.com)

These two online merchants that appear to the the same store with different online identities, are another quality choice and they don’t offer every brand. But they do have some good offering. I picked out these two amps from their “Scratch & Dent” offerings. When it comes to electronics, scratches and dents mean very little to me if the electronics are intact. I’ll gladly take the discount.

There’s an Orange Micro Crush CR65 with a schmushed box for $89. You’ll probably throw the box away anyway, take the fun little amp and save the money.

Another amp is the very high quality Tech 21 Bronzewood 60 Acoustic Combo Amp (this was a demo) $449.00. That’s a great price for this amp.

If you’ve come across any great deals for guitars, basses or related equipment. Please let me know by posting on this blog or send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com and I’ll happily post your comments.

If someone plays, or has played the Samick Remngton Greg Bennett design, solid body acoustic bass guitar. I’d love to har your impressions. It seems to be similar in design to my Godin A4 and I’d like to know a bi tmore about it. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

Two Months With My Godin A4 Ultra Natural Semi-Acoustic Bass – How Much Do I Love It?

Two Months With My Godin A4 Ultra Natural Semi-Acoustic Bass – How Much Do I Love It?

I absolutely LOVE this bass. It’s not perfect, and I’ll get into that, but it’s one of those instruments that I will never part with. How’s that for a statement of love?

OK, the first the most obvious negative: the guitar has terrific electronics with L.R. Baggs Piezo and a very sleek, low profile Lace pickup – that doesn’t sound like a negative yet – it also has some neat EQ controls on the upper bout of the soundboard, but there a bit difficult to figure out exactly how to use them. So you have to refer to the owner’s manual. This wouldn’t be a real problem if there was an owner’s manual, but there doesn’t seem to be one.

If you go to Godin’s web site (www.godinguitars.com) you’ll see a very impressive web site featuring the different instrument and amp brands in the Godin family, and you can download owner’s manuals. The manuals that exist that is. As I reviewed the list of downloadable manuals, the A4 / A5 weren’t there. Being a fan of Godin and Seagull Guitars, I noticed a number of models didn’t have owner’s manuals. They make great guitars, you’d think they could produce a mediocre manual.

Is that all for the negatives? Well, no. I’m not sure if this is a negative or just a fact to be aware of with this bass. It’s quite heavy. As heavy as a a maple solid body and that’s not what you’d expect with an acoustic or semi-acoustic bass.  The back and sides are chambered, silver leaf maple and so if you expect a light ride for your shoulder, this isn’t the guitar for you. If the normal weight of a bass isn’t an issue, this won’t be a problem for you.

One more cautionary note: strap locks are a much for this bass. I’m not sure if it’s the strap buttons, or the distribution of the weight, but this bass just shed straps and strap locks will cure that. I use a simple cam strap lock available at Stewart MacDonald (www.stewmac.com) whichis a great resource for all sorts of part, tools and supplies. These cam locks are inexpensive, pop on neatly and off neatly and require absolutely no installation or modification of the guitar. Dunlop has a great strap lock system too available everywhere.

Now for the many positive things about this beautiful  instrument.  Well, it’s beautiful. The top wood is either solid cedar or solid spruce (depending on the model, mine is solid spruce), the neck is maple, the fingerboard is ebony on the fretless (which is what I have) and rosewood on the fretted model. The look is understated, classic and very distinctive.

The playability is nothing shy of magnificent. On the fretless model, the flatwound stings give this bass guitar a sound that is so similar to the upright bass. The instrument is very well balanced.  The neck is a slim 1.5” at the neck and the fingerboard radius of 16” is a bit flatter than I’m used to, but very easy to work with. Your hands will love this bass.

The sound is amazing. Mine has an L.R. Baggs transducer and as I’m a fan of Godin, I’m also a big fan of L.R.  Baggs – who by the way has great customer service if you need help with any L.R. Baggs product, you get to actually speak to a knowledgeable human. It picks up the acoustics flawlessly.  My A4 also has the Lace low profile pickup which adds great depth and punch when needed.

With the flatwound strings, no frets and a great, slim neck, I move up and down with ease, get a great “thumpy” string bass sound and slide to get a sound like a trombone – fun and cool. I usually play this bass through my Yamaha  EMX512SC mixer with nothing but excellent results. Whe I use an amp, I think I get the best results with a Genz Benz Shenendoah  Jr. even though it’s an acoustic amp, it’s very versatile and the A4 plays great through that. There are separate ¼” inputs for a mixer and an amp on the A4 and that specialization seems to make a big difference. There also a 13 pin port so you can play through a synthesizer. I haven’t tried that yet and based on my history with high tech, I’ll hand it over to one of my technologically inclined friends for that. But it’s there and it can give you an incredible range of tonal possibilities.

Among the issues of sound, is a sound that this bass never makes: feedback. This is amazing to me. Having played acoustic basses, the big hollow bodies are a breeding ground for feedback. I’ve never had any feedback, not when playing right next to my amp, pointing the guitar toward a speaker or on a loud stage. Feedback is simply not a problem with the Godin A4.

The base model Godn A4 starts at around $1,170 anwhere with the 5 string version being about $50 more. It does up the Ultra, which sells everywhere for $1,245. If you’re in the market to buy one, I suggest you contact Musicians Buy (www.musiciansbuy.com) , call Bob and get a quote from him. I’ve dealt with Bob, he’s knows what he’s talking about, he’s honest in his dealings and he’ll get you a great price. They aren’t affiliates on this site, I get no fee from them, but it’s the truth. Musicians Buy doesn’t have every brand, in fact they’re a bit limited for an online retailer, but they have great brands at great prices and they’ll get it if they don’t have it in stock.

The last time I checked Musicians Buy did have a fretted A4 (basic model) on a closeout for an incredible $688. I haven’t seen any price close to that on a new A4.

If you’re looking for an acoustic bass, don’t overlook this unique instrument. And after you try it, let me know what you think about it.

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. Dave

The Difference Between A Nasty Political Smear Ad & A Negative Fact About The Opponent

The Difference Between A Nasty Political Smear Ad & A Negative Fact About The Opponent

The national election is still about 6 months away, but we’ve already been treated to the primaries and if you look at the statements, speeches and especially ads that came this primary season, which now lasts almost 2 years, it’s a good barometer for what we’re likely to experience in the upcoming months. I think I’d rather watch sausage being made.

You’ll hear lots of complaints about “smear” campaigns by both sides and by an army of “unaffiliated” groups, who in the name of free speech unleash a tsunami of bile in ads that neither candidate approves of and neither candidate does anything to stop either.

So in the fervor of running for the Presidency of the entire country, isn’t it fair to say negative, true things about your opponent? To point out your opponents failures, short-sightedness, lack of experience, poor judgment while touting your own accomplishments, credentials and wisdom? Now that I think of it, an ad that’s positive by any measure is a rarity. But, yes, it is fair to do that, but it’s not fair to be nasty and “smear” your opponent.

So what’s the difference between a “smear’ and stating a “negative fact?” Here’s the difference: a “smear” is something negative you say about me, and a statement of “negative fact” is something I say about you.

So why do they keep selling this junk to us? Because we keep buying it, that’s why. In the voting booth it seem all too often to be about who scares us less. Another way of putting that is, the one who scares us less is the one who had the less effective “smear” campaign directed at him or her, or the “negative facts” he or she stated were more threatening than the other sides..

This is the shortest piece I think I’ve written since 8th Grade when Mrs. Karabinchek wanted a 200  word essay and in a move I can only describe as sneaky and daring, I it in at 199, on purpose, to see if she’d notice. Maybe I shouldn’t put that out in public in case I ever do run for President. Would you elect the man who “cheated in school and hates educators?” I wouldn’t.

What’s your opinion. I’d like to hear from you. You can reply on this blog or write to dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks for reading. 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

The Difference Between Difference And Divisive And The Divisiveness Of Difference

 

The Difference Between Difference And Divisive And The Divisiveness Of Difference

I believe it was Winston Churchill who noted that Americans will always do the right thing, but only after trying everything else first. Score one for the later, great Sir Winston. We get so embroiled in debate and stances, so embedded in positions: we argue and cling to our arguments even at the expense of all other values and even our lives. We’ve become a bunch of bickering fools.

Freedom of speech isn’t seen as an opportunity to discourse, but an opportunity vent spleen, capitalize on fear, grab the podium, the microphone, the attention and the money. We love to think that we’re the greatest nation on earth and standing ovations are always gratifying but somewhat tainted when you give it to yourself. We’re a depleted society; unproductive, ineffective and unwilling to take responsibility for our situation, preferring to cast aspersions and blame.

In our lives, when we hit a down time, financial woes, sadness or depression, one of the first,time honored rules on the road to recovery is “take responsibility for your state.” The word is “responsibility” and in our country, we quite literally abuse that word and idea. We use the word “responsibility” when we mean “blame.” What’s the difference? “Blame” is concerned with who caused the problem, “responsibility” is concerned with whose job it is to fix the problem.

Let’s examine the health care / health insurance debacle: it’s not a debate, it’s a debacle. The fear seems to be that we just can’t afford health insurance for every American and pursuing that would be financially catastrophic. The fact is, we’ve been paying for it for decades, but haven’t been doing it in an organized, systematic way. I’ll explain why I say this, but I can’t explain it within a thirty second commercial that’s designed to scare the hell out of you.

A few years ago I went to the emergency room and fortunately I do have health insurance. A short time after the visit and treatment (or mistreatment in this case) I received a statement from my health insurance company and for those of you who have health insurance and have received such statements, I’m sure what I’m going to say won’t surprise you. I’m rounding off the numbers to the nearest 100, and the hospital charges were slightly over $5,500 and the amount the insurance company paid was slightly over $700. The hospital, being a member of the health insurance network, accepted the $700 as payment in full and I paid a $25 co-pay.

What would I have to pay if I didn’t have insurance? You know the answer to that: I’d have to pay the full $5,500 hospital fee. If I had it, maybe I’d just pay if off and the hospital would make a windfall profit, doing a whopping $4,800 better then they’d do being paid by the insurance company. Maybe I’d have to pay it off over time in which case the hospital would still receive the same whopping fee with interest and the interest rate could make you whistle.

What if I couldn’t pay the bill? Would the hospital have to take the loss? No, they’d get paid anyway. Bad debt is tax deductible, so lets’ suppose the hospital pays 15% income tax after all adjustments, if the bad debt is $5,500 then 15% or $825,  is taken right off of the hospital’s taxes. The hospital doesn’t get the money “in” but rather gets to knot needed to send it out.  The Federal Government receives less tax revenue, the patient who used hospital serves, if he was broke before it’s worse now and he may have some nasty marks on the credit report.

Yes, we’re already paying for it; in terms of tax write-offs, in terms of people dying because they don’t have insurance, in terms of wasted time debating over details when we haven’t even created a well- defined goal, a direction we want to go.

I hear it all the time, “we can’t afford to have health insurance for everyone.” Well, can we apply the same concern to national defense? We can’t afford to protect ourselves from terror attacks? That doesn’t seem  too smart, you have to be able to afford that, there’s no option, is there? So the question seems to be similar for me, do we have a viable option to health insurance for everyone or not? Can we afford to continue as we have been doing it, which is, in fact, costing us in lives and tax revenues.

We’re too deeply rooted in divisive rhetoric to examine what we want to happen; too busy engaging in arguments over concerns about how to get there when we don’t seem to know where we’re going.  We’re not only avoiding meaningful dialogue, we’re sabotaging it. Meaningful discussions take time. It takes time to articulate thoughts and present them, it takes to clarify points of agreement and disagreement, it takes time to come up with alternative, refine them and move forward. Why is it being sabotaged? I believe because the time that I noted is longer than a 30 second commercial aimed at creating confusion and fear.

This isn’t a quest for solutions, it’s a mission for power. Try to scare more people over to our side of the line than they do, get elected, and do it all over again. We need to be reminded that good, intelligent, thoughtful people can see things differently and disagree. That’s normal and healthy. The game is divide, divide, divide. It’s manipulative, unproductive, callous and bitterly destructive. It’s depleting us, making us weaker, and if we don’t redirect ourselves, a catastrophe of epic proportions awaits. We’re so concerned about decisions, we’re overlooking the vast ignorance upon which decisions are made.

We can change this, and I imagine eventually we will: after we’ve tried everything else first.

What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a reply on this blog or send an email to dave@openmindedmic.com. Thanks, Prof. Dave

Are Everly Acoustic Guitar Strings Worth The Extra Couple Of Bucks?

Are Everly Acoustic Guitar Strings Worth The Extra Couple Of Bucks?

I’m usually skeptical when it comes to claims of massively improved tone with one string brand over another. There are differences between brands but the composition of the strings and manufacturing techniques are similar and I don’t think the difference is as dramatic as the makers want us to believe. The biggest difference in string quality is how fresh and clean the strings are, not as much the brand. But brand does make a difference.

On my acoustic guitars I typically use Martin SP and D’Addarrio EJ10 which both sell for around $5.00 to $6.00 online and a bit more in stores. They’re vine strings and I’ve been using them for years. I also use extra light guage strings on all of my guitars and basses. If you use heavier gauge strings, you will get more volume and if you work the guitar hard, heavier gauge strings may be the right choice for you. That’s personal preference. But I think strings are so well engineered and designed that you don’t compromise on tone with lighter gauges. I also resist using high priced coated strings and boutique strings. I don’t think the added longevity of coated strings is worth the extra price and I don’t think boutique strings produce a better sound.

I put a set of D’Addario EJ10’s on my Babicz Spider Identity acoustic-electric, a set of Martin SP’s on my beautiful old Guild F-50, and a set of Everly Sessions (sell for around $6.50 – $7.50 online) on my Tribeca acoustic-electric. Then I got to work evaluating the results, taking into account the different guitars have different tone and volume qualities.

The Babicz Spider Identity is all solid mahogany, including the soundboard. (Babicz now uses Englemann Spruce soundboard which is a brighter sound but I wouldn’t trade mine for a new one). The Spider has a very rich, piano-like sound and the D’Addario strings support that very well. I live and work near the ocean and notice that the D’Addario strings tend to lose tone after a few weeks. But they do sound and play well.

The Guild F-50 has a beautiful, vibrant voice with a solid spruce top and gorgeious maple back and sides. The Martin Sp strings sing well on this guitar and when you strike a chord, you hear a chord, not a series of individual notes. The Martin strings are balanced and maintain their tone longer than the D’Addario’s did. I think these are excellent acoustic guitar strongs and if you haven’t tried a set, I recommend that you do.

My Tribeca is also a Jeff Babicz design. It was a prototype of a more traditional X-Braced design that Jeff decided not to produce, so it’s a rarity. I love this simple guitar with a solid spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides. I switched Martin SP strings for the Everly Sessions on this guitar and the difference was striking. When I first put them on, the sound was beyond “bright.” It was downright glaring. I was tempted to take them off and put on a set of Martin’s but decided to let it go for a bit and see if they calmed down. In about three days, the tone did calm down and became very vibrant and lively.

I use this guitar when I perform and also it’s the guitar we make available for performers at our Open Minded Mic shows who don’t have an acoustic-electric guitar. A remarkable credit to the Everly strings is that while I had those strings on this guitar, I got so many compliments on how beautiful the guitar sounded. The comments came from people who had no idea that I changed string brands on the guitar. That’s a very revealing review.

Another favorable point for the Everly Strings is that they had great durability. In constant play, near the ocean, these strings sounded vibrant for months and that’s not only great sound, it’s great value. Too.

I recommend the Everly Sessions: great strings at a slightly higher price.

A couple of recommendations: after I play I clean my strings by using a string cleaner / lubricant like Dunlop’s Formula 65 string cleaner. Run the applicator over the strings and it cleans them and removes damaging moisture. Follow that with a quick wipe with a clean cloth and your’e strings will last longer and sound better.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you change strings clean the fretboard (on ebony, rosewood or ironwood us a fretboard cleaner, on maple just use regular guitar cleaner / polish) and tighten the tuners. A very important consideration, especially if you change the string gauge, is to check the setup. Different string gauges can have an enormous difference on the neck.

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. Dave

A REALLY Bad Song / A Brilliant Song of Protest: The Same Song?

A REALLY Bad Song & A Brilliant Song Of Protest – The Same Song?

I’ve long held great fascination with both songs of protest and conscience and really bad songs that got serious sales and massive amounts of radio air time. Among the songs of protest and conscience, some of the obvious great offerings include Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome”, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’”, Phil Ochs “Outside OF A Small Circle of Friends”, Barry McGuire’s “Eve Of Destruction”, and The Guess Who’s “American Woman.” Ok, the last one is a weak entry but I loved the way it sounded so I threw it in.

On the really bad song side, there are thousands of candidates for the worst. Captain and Teneille’s “Muskrat Love” (I get sick just writing that), Richard Harris’ highly controversial “MacGarther Park” (some love it, some hate it: I’m sick of it), The Shangrala’s “Leader Of The Pack”, and the song I consider to be among the elite worst,Sylvia’s “I’ve Never Been To Me.” All notable – but one song, one brilliant, incredible song, managed to make both of these lists, but not at the same time.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Turtles were a major force in popular music. A bunch of good looking, very talented guys with a unique sound and almost everybody liked what they had to offer. In the early 70’s they went to their business manager and as the story is told, wanted to do some experimental music, branch out into acoustic stuff. They were obviously inspired by the music revolution of that day where you had amazing and diverse musicians like Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, Crosby, Stills & Nash,  Carlos Santana, Janice Joplin, James Taylor and Led Zepp who were all exploring new frontiers in musical expression.

Their manager, believe it or not said “NO!” to their request. He reasoned that the Turtles were a hit machine and there was still a huge market for the type of music they wrote and played and they were to continue to write that type of “stuff.” Needless to say the guys were upset with their manager’s suppressing their artistry so they took the anger and got some revenge.

What they did, was write the worst song they could come up with. Threw every cliché in the book into the lyric, a dull predictable melody with bland harmonies and a snooze of a lead break. They recorded this song which will go down in music history, without a doubt, as their biggest hit: “Eleanor.”

When I learned the story behind “Eleanor” the song went from my worst song list to the top of the songs of protest as the most brilliant of the bunch. I love the Turtles, and in their honor, here are the lyrics to that awful / brilliant song.

You got a thing about you,

I just can’t live without you.

I really love you Eleanor near me.

Your looks intoxicate me,

Even though your folks hate me.

There’s no one like you Eleanor really.

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell.

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride and joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

 

I really think you’re groovy.

Let’s go out to a movie.

What do you say now Eleanor can we?

They’ll turn the lights way down low.

Maybe we won’t watch the show.

I think I love you Eleanor, love me.

 

Eleanor gee I think you’re swell

And you really do me well,

You’re my pride & Joy etc.

Eleanor can I take the time,

To ask you to speak your mind.

Tell me that you love me better.

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore. Brilliant.

What’s your opinion? What’s the best protest song or the worst song ever given serious air time? I’d like to hear from you. Reply on this blog or write to dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks, Prof. Dave

Is Buying A Factory 2nd / B Stock Guitar Or Bass A Good Idea?

Is Buying A Factory 2nd / B Stock Guitar Or Bass A Good Idea?

Usually, they’re absolutely worth looking into. There are a few considerations you need to make in order to make this a worthwhile purchase..

A brief review of what I’m talking about when I say “Factory 2nd” or “Be Stock.” When musical instrument manufacturers produce products, the product should go through a final inspection before leaving the factory. In the case of guitars and basses, the instruments are examined for performance, electronics, fit and finish and color. If a problem is found in the electronics, it’s sent to a technician, corrected and shipped out and the same is true for an adjustment or hardware problem.

If there’s a blemish, blotch, flaw or nick in the finish many manufacturers won’t send it out as a new instrument. What they do is stamp the back of the headstock “USED” so it can’t be sold as new, sell it to a licensed refurbishing center who will either correct or reduce the blemish and in turn sell it to a dealer. The dealer then offers this guitar as “USED” although its never been owned by anyone before: essentially a new guitar with a minor flaw.

This can be a great deal for the buyer. A brand new Fender Geddy Lee Pass sells everywhere for $999.00 and I saw a refurbished, factory 2nd Geddy Lee for $749. A few years ago I purchased a Crate 100 watt 212 guitar amp that normally sold for around $300 for $150 because it had some damage to the body and molding. The damage was relatively minor. You can save a lot of money buying a guitar or bass this way, but it is used, sold as used, no manufacturer warrenty applies to the instrument and sometimes it’s sold “as is” with no returns allowed.

Some manufacturers sell these 2nd ‘s to dealers who resell them at a discount. The reduction in price isn’t great but if you can live with a minor flaw, it’s still good to take it. An ESP LTD KH-202 Kirk Hamnett Electric as a factory 2nd was selling for $299 normally sells for $349. A Seagull Coastline S6 as a factory 2nd was selling for $399 and normally sells for around $450.  A very cool Italia Torino electric bass was selling for $629 as a factory 2nd, if you bought it as a new, perfect unit you’d pay around $679. You get about $50 off the price of these instruments, they’re sold as new with warranty and the retailers examination period and return policy should be in effect too.

If you’re going to buy a factory 2nd that is stamped used, here’s some advice:

  1. Look for, or ask for, a 10 day return policy so you can play and inspect the guitar or bass.
  2. Check the asking price of the guitar or bass by looking on ebay or amazon – for a factory 2nd that nobody else has owned, you can expect to pay toward the high end of the used instrument market. For example, you may find a Fender Aerodyne Bass used for $500 – $550 and so you could expect to pay $550 for a factory 2nd of that model.
  3. Get specific information on the exact nature of the flaw, don’t settle for “a little blemish.” You’ll want to know where the blemish is, how large and if possible see a photo or even better, examine the instrument before buying it.

Any other thoughts, ideas or experiences? I’d like to hear about it. Reply on 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. Dave

Real Love

Real Love

I’m  59, and as those who know me are abundantly aware, much of my life has been a search for “real” love. I’ve never found it, or perhaps I have but have been so distracted that I didn’t recognize that real love was right in front of my nose and I just didn’t see that. Along the road I’ve learned some lessons and these lessons are coming back to both reward and in some ways haunt me.

In my thoughts today, I’m referring to the real love of a mate, a partner and a lover because in terms of friends and family, I’ve been blessed with abundance of real love, that’s how I know it exists. But never in that partner. This story isn’t uniquely mine, in fact, it seems to be remarkably common. So today I’m reflecting and departing from the irresistible exercise of commenting on the dreary state of political campaigns and getting personal.

My search for real love has led me down some familiar and some odd paths.  I’ve done online dating, met many interesting women and through all the paths followed, have managed to remain single. I could blame this on my blindness, but I really don’t think that’s the reason. Many women are completely willing to overlook that problem, not most, but many. It could just be fortuitous and to a large degree I imagine it is. My firm commitment at this point is back to the basics; relationship 101. It seemed to work for my parents.

There is a huge difference between attraction and relationship. There can be stunning attraction based on nothing that truly relates two people. The “electricity” that’s sometimes noted on a first encounter can make us go to extremes to follow a scent of bonding, but it’s not bonding, it’s attraction. Lesson One: Real love whispers and you have to be attentive or you’ll miss it.

Attraction can disguise character, cause us to see what we want to see and ignore or dismiss what’s negative.   We can throw and sacrifice our hearts, minds, souls and bodies in pursuit of an illusion. In turn we often try to create an illusion that we are other than we are, somehow believing that our imagination and image weaving is superior to the person who stands behind the mask. Lesson Two: Real Love presents and accepts “as is” as the best we can offer and expect.

We move far too quickly. Set up house, invade each other’s bodies, homes, bank accounts and personal stories long before trust is established. I’ve seen it and I’ve done it. Trust is assumed and there’s nothing wrong with that, but trust is a quality that develops, deepens and becomes meaningful over time. You can’t rush the process any more than you can make a flower grow more quickly simply because you want it to. In our haste, we make “Poof Trust” and then get deflated when it’s violated. But nothing was actually violated because it never existed in the first place. Trust is first assumed and bonded when earned. Lesson Three: Be patient. Give trust the time it needs to blossom

Building anything takes effort and care, destruction is fast, easy and powerful. It can take years to grow a tree and minutes to cut it down. Construct the house of your dreams and blow it up in seconds. The same seems to be true for real love. Trust can be sabotaged by an act of deceit. Bonds shattered by selfishness. There are Ten Commandments and notably they’re not called the “Ten Suggestions.” There is no fine print or further explanations. We really don’t need to be specifically told what’s the right thing and the wrong thing to do: we know but sometimes if we’re not violating a written code we dismiss garden variety sensibility. Do the right thing, we know what that is. Lesson Four: Play by the rules.

Real love doesn’t turn when times become difficult. Real love listens, deeply listens. Real love does more than tolerate, it celebrates even in the darkest of moments. Real love isn’t the stuff of fairy tales, it’s the gritty stories of survival, sacrifice, passion, appreciation, laughter, acceptance and courage. This doesn’t sound all that glamorous: exactly my point.

This was partly inspired by a friend’s daily posting of Life Lessons: a line or two of daily inspiration. This blog was written on a Toshiba Notebook computer that’s just begging to be recycled.

What’s your opinion? Any thoughts to add to “real love?” You can leave a reply or write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com and let me know what you think. Thanks, Prof. Dave

 

Who Do You Want To Be?

Who Do You Want To Be?

Last week my dear friend Nydia invited me to go to a seminar with her in Philadelphia, and because it was Nyd, and because we were going to get a Center City burger before the seminar, I eagerly agreed to go. The subject matter of the seminar was “relationships” and although I used to be a psychologist, and thought I had some expertise in the subject, I never forgot what I used to tell my students at Warren County Community College: “We talk like we know. We act like we know. We think we know. We don’t know.” There’s always something to learn.

It was a good seminar even though a chunk of it was dedicated to selling people spots in upcoming seminars. Among the ideas raised was “who do you want to be” Interesting way of phrasing it. Not “what do you want to do?”

I gotta’ be me! I gotta’ be me! What else can I be but what I am? Words of wisdom from Frank Sinatra – or was it Steve Lawrence? It wasn’t Nat King Cole, I know that. Perry Como? Alright, I’m sticking with Sinatra and if I’m wrong write me a caustic, nasty reply on this blog and I promise to ignore it.

What an incredible question: who do you want to be? We always ask kids “what do you want to do when you grow up?” We never ask what do you want to be? So what do you want to be? What do I want to be? We’d get answers like “I want to be happy.” “I want to be loved and I want to love.” “I want to be appreciated and show appreciation.” “I want to be generous.” “I want to be calm.” “I want to be trusted.” I’m sure you can add generously to this list and I think that would be a good idea.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have a handful of folks who have answered that question with abundant persuasiveness, likely without consciously addressing it, but stating it in the way they live their lives. My family, Dad, Mom, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and the boys in my life (Josh, Ryan & Isaac) all showed me who the “be.” Some great friends, co-workers and colleagues also gave me cause for gratitude.

This week I was in touch with my beloved buddies Marcia and Linda who I worked with in the Child Study Team at Warren County Tech a few lifetimes ago. These two are certainly included in the group I described above and they reminded me of the one year anniversary of the death of another beloved member of that team, Helen Liebow. Today I’m reflecting on how Helen answered the question “who do you want to be?”

Helen was an exceedingly beautiful woman in every sense of the word except the conventional sense of the word. The woman was incredibly loving, gentle, deeply caring, her compassion was abundant, tolerance overflowing, humorous, smart and amazingly generous. With Helen, you never needed to worry about the conversation running dry. All you had to do was say “Good Morning” and she’d take it from there.

Helen asked a lot of questions and often one right after another not giving time for an answer. She wasn’t being rude, that’s how her mind worked. She laughed a lot and didn’t spare herself as the target of her humor. I’m going to use the word “be” again: it was so easy to be around her. Did you catch how that sounded in that last sentence? Who I was being when I was around her, was somebody that I liked being.

Helen, being such a warm, caring, humorous person, it would stand to reason that her life was easy with an absence of struggles. Considering her generosity it would stand to reason that she was a person with substantial financial depth. It may stand to reason, but it wasn’t the case. Helen struggled for years with a myriad of very serious health problems. There was no hidden cache of cash either. Without going into detail, Helen never had a comfortable day, never had it “easy” but somehow managed to take circumstances that would sour the strongest among us, and still be sweet through and through.

I miss my friends that I rarely see since my work was outsourced, at the same time Helen, Linda and Harvey were outsourced. It was done to save money and there was no political agenda or avarice in the decision. Oh, look at that: a pig just flew past my window.  I miss Helen.

When I think of who I want to “be”, I can’t completely answer that question, but I hope that being with Helen gave me direction and a model of who I want to be. People just don’t “be” better than her.

What do you want to be? Do you have a Helen in your life? Write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or put a reply on this blog. Also, if you know who sang “I Gotta’ Be Me” I’d like to know that too. Prof. Dave