Sunday, November 22

Is it plugged in?

As an IT specialist, I find myself asking that question. You really would be surprised how easy of a solution that is, and how often it is the correct solution. And how stupid it makes the people who have come to us with the question feel. Cue foreshadowing....

I had a minor freak-out moment last night. On the advice of a friend, I gave my Blues Jr. a once-over with the screwdriver to assure that all of the screws were nice and tight, and also to learn a bit about how it's put together. When I put it back together, nothing. Glowing tubes, no sound whatsoever. No noise, no guitar, nothing.

I thought I'd jostled a tube to death or inadvertently exposed the circuit board to air and thus killed it, and took 15 minutes seating and re-seating the tubes, checking the connections, before I noticed this:

Note: there are two 1/4-inch jacks on the back of a Blues Jr. One for the speaker, one for the boost switch that I don't have. They are not marked, and both are difficult to see or access. The boost switch input will not drive a speaker. That is all.

For anyone with a Blues Jr., the jack closest to the tubes is the speaker jack, and the other one is for the Fat Boost switch.

Monday, November 16

Who says?

This is about a week late, but it's taken a little bit of reflection time.

Last weekend was our Fall retreat, called "Unstoppable" and based upon the life of St. Paul. I was, of course, music minister, and it was really awesome to be able to get back to that. It's been since the last MACCS retreat (I think) sometime last November that I've been a full-blown music minister on a retreat, though there's not much that would compare with THAT weekend. I played a lot less frequently this weekend, because we were trying to hit a bit more on silence and reflection, though I did learn "Party in the USA" and break that one out for the teens. Yeah, I know. My only saving grace is that I didn't completely memorize it. At least not the words. I couldn't help the chords.

We talked a lot about loneliness in terms of a God-shaped hole (which I'm sure you've heard of before, but it seemed to be news to all of the teens. Note to self...) and it was really very therapeutic. I think loneliness is something that everyone's felt and that everyone can relate to. We also talked about the dark night of the soul, which may be something a bit less well-known, but basically it's feeling separated from God and not being able to get back to Him. Mother Teresa is (now) well known for having had a stretch that lasted for the majority of her ministry which is absolutely incredible to think about, but virtually every Saint has struggled with it for varying amounts of time. It really hit home for me last night when I went to Mass at the church I grew up in and saw a teen there who was on the retreat, and he described himself as currently going through it, which really broke my heart. Then I started to think about it, and it's been a while since I've been able to really feel close to God, but I've been using it as an excuse to not give everything I have to try and get back there. I don't want to go around comparing myself to the Saints, but it seems to be pretty much universal that everyone feels lonely for God sometimes.

I think that for the people who serve the church, it gets really, really hard to take a break and take some time for ourselves. I've brushed this off for so long, sacrificing a real personal connection in order to "better" minister to everyone else, but it's really been taking a toll lately. I'm not sure I could ever know how it's affecting the teens or the core team that I work with, but I'm sure it's not a positive change.

Maybe some music will come out of it?

Side note, I'm trying to keep this thing from getting really whiny or bitchy, because come on, you didn't come here to read me whine and bitch. I need to track down a few different mics, and then I'll figure out a way to get some demos up here, and maybe some original stuff. It just seems like it's been a long week and a half, and also, Call of Duty 6 came out last week, so on Saturday I had a rocking LAN party that lasted until 2am. So yes, I have been "busy".

Also, John Mayer's new stuff is out. I haven't heard much, and I absolutely hated "Who Says" when I first heard it like a month ago, but something about the chorus has grown on me, to the point where the progression and melody is expressing something to me that I can't put into words. The best musicians write music that speaks to everyone in a way that's just so personal that you can't even stand it, and I think that the more I hear, the more his stuff does that for me. I've certainly taken a lot of crap from my friends for liking John Mayer, but I think he's a completely different person now than the guy who wrote "Your Body is a Wonderland". At the very least, he's a very different artist. I still don't think I'd be able to stand him as a person, but he's got a gift.

Tuesday, November 3

New Gear: Fender Blues Jr.

Sorry for the blatant lack of posts. I've just been having way too much fun with my most recent bank-account drain to do much writing!

I will continue to both praise and lament Craigslist. My most recent purchase? A $300 Fender Blues Jr. I've been looking to get a Blues Jr. for a long time, mostly because it is:

a) a small, very portable combo amp,
b) has just one channel, and a simple Fender reverb tank, and
c) I small, wattage wise, and takes pedals well, and has tubes, and is generally awesome.

If you've read my gear page, you'll note that my previous main amp was an Epiphone Valve Jr. which, honestly, sounds fantastic. It's got really good, musical cleans and is only 5 watts, which means that it breaks up very well in low-volume settings, a must for a church amp. The biggest beefs I've had with it is that it is a head/cab, making it slightly less portable, and that it doesn't have a reverb on-board, making me have to waste space on a Verbzilla to make that happen. Not that I dislike the Verbzilla. I mean, it's a little too digital-sounding to me, but it does a decent enough reverb. But with this Blues Jr., I can both save some space on my board, and also save a little time in only having to carry one box instead of two.

It's based upon the same tubes as the Valve Jr., but I've been playing around with it enough to have found some differences in the character. The Blues Jr. feels a bit more open-sounding, and more clean, whereas it's not difficult at all to push the Valve Jr. into distortion. I can also tell the difference between the two speakers. I've been playing on the Valve Jr. for like 2 years now, and it's pleasantly broken-in, whereas the owner of my Blues Jr. told me that he hadn't put any real hours on his amp, and you can definitely tell. The amp feels a bit stiffer, but something tells me that once the speaker breaks in a bit (or once I replace the speaker), it will be a lot smoother. I still need to see if I can use the cab of my Valve Jr. as a break-out speaker for my Blues Jr. to try it out on a broken-in speaker, or just to try it out with a better speaker.

Some would call it harsh, but I prefer "crisp". I think once it breaks in a bit, this little amp is really going to be something.