Saturday, October 29

Baseball Heaven

I'm not sure if this was obvious or not, but I'm a Cardinals fan. Now and forever. And last night I got to go to game 7 of the World Series and celebrate with 50,000+ fans (in the stadium and on the streets of St. Louis) as we won our 11th World Series. There really are no words for the way that this silly, frustrating, glorious game makes me feel, for the emotional roller-coaster that has been the past two months. Living and dying with every win and every loss. Cheering with everything I have and barely being able to even hear myself in a crowd of tens of thousands. Seeing people in this great city put aside their differences, if only for a short while, and cheering, united. No black, no white, only Cardinal red. And to be able to hug random strangers in the stands, to high-five everyone you meet, to feel such an incredible surge of fraternity with everyone in the city, just incredible.

This year in particular taught the lesson that nothing's over until it's over, and that fighting and striving and never, ever giving up, on your dreams, on yourself, does pay off. And that, win or lose, it's how you played the game that matters, and there's always a tomorrow to redeem yourself, if you have the courage to reach out and take it. There's always the next season, the next game, the next inning to turn everything around and go from the underdog to the champion.

And that is why baseball is the greatest game.

Friday, October 21

I wasn't sure this day would ever come...

In spite of my sporadic posts (which is, I promise, the last time I'm going to talk about that), I've actually been quite busy with moving around guitar gear lately. Too busy, in fact. Maybe one of the reasons why I haven't been posting much is because I could never figure out what gear to talk about, since I was getting so much new gear so often. And it's come to the point where I'm now doing one of the most difficult things I've ever done related to guitars:

I'm down-sizing.

I looked up the other day and I had 9 guitars. 9! I don't have 9 sets of hands! How could I have that many? The fact is, it just kind of happened over time. But it made me realize just how much money I had tied up in cheap guitars, with about four different plans to upgrade them and make them my own. But I can't justify 9 guitars. So I'm selling off two of them to make some money to, you know, actually upgrade some of the others.

Best example: I've had an Epiphone Les Paul forever. But what I really want it some kind of ES-335. So I bought and Epiphone Dot, with the thought that I'd eventually upgrade all of the hardware and the pickups and end up with a very good guitar. But what I've realized is, that was kind of my plan all along for the Les Paul. So what am I going to do? Sell the Dot and another guitar and finally make the upgrades that I've wanted to make. I still want an ES-335 someday. But if I upgrade the pickups on my cheapie Les Paul, then someday when I do get a nice Gibson ES-335, I can just swap out the pickups and have a guitar to drool over. And in the mean time, I can get pretty good tone from my Les Paul, and I can then sell it with the original pickups and not lose any money.

I'm not sure why it took me 9 guitars to figure all of that out. I've been putting money in to my pedalboard for years, only having recently slowed way down and concentrated more on upgrades than on buying new things because they're shiny. Amps are the same way; I got nicer tubes and am on the waiting list to have Bill M mod my Blues Jr., and in the mean time I've been digging my Musicmaster way, way more for how clear of a tone it puts out. And that's even with a 35 year old speaker. Something about the hand-wiring, I'm sure.

So yeah, this isn't an exciting post. More like a "responsible" one. How boring.

Saturday, October 15

New Gear: Tom Anderson Crowdster

Apparently I can't stay away from red guitars. Well, this one was only semi-intentional. I've actually had this baby since the beginning of the summer; I'd saved up lots of money and decided that it was time to take the plunge, and I must say, it's awesome. I put on strap locks and it's good to go. Months of working later, it's still just as great as it was in May.

I really, really like working with it, since it never feeds back, but it does open up a few interesting points. One, you never realize just how much of your own monitoring of your guitar playing comes from the sound of the guitar hanging around your belly. I never use monitors if I can help it, just because most of the time it's just me, and I can monitor myself by turning the house sound up loud enough to fill the room, but when I'm playing with a band, I need a lot of my acoustic in the monitor mix just to hear myself. Also, this guitar has a surprising amount of low-end. Even though it won't feedback at high levels, it's big and boomy without any eq-ing, but just a few slight tweaks and you get great acoustic tone.

And, of course, there are the handful of times that I need a legit acoustic guitar, with no amplification. Luckily for me, those time are few and far between. On account of how I'm such a huge rock star. Boom.

Thursday, October 6

Pedalboard Update - October 2011

I figured I needed to put SOMETHING up here, so here goes. A lot of my gear has made rapid shifts in the last few months, what with buying lots of guitars and getting other ones setup, but the pedalboard has been relatively constant for a while now. Actually, strike that. It's been completely consistent. I can't really even remember the last iteration of my 'board that I put up here, but this one is only one pedal off from what I've been rocking for about 2 months, so there's that.

The main thing that's changed has been the positioning of a lot of the pedals. I usually find myself using the overdrive pedals to give me a different flavor, then use the RC booster almost entirely as a solo boost, which is why it's extremely easily accessible there at the bottom of the board. Next to it is the CE-2 because I love that pedal but it's on/off switch is really, really old, so sometimes it doesn't exactly respond when it gets stomped on. So it's in the bottom row so that I'm not all off-balance in the event that it doesn't go on or off right away. The sonic stomp and the Dynacomp are both always on, so their position doesn't matter as much; I really liked the Dynacomp in the position that I've had it in forever because it's out of the way, but I've been running out of room so I had to get creative. I did take off the speed-knob attachments though, so now it's nearly impossible for me to turn those knobs accidentally with my foot while I'm going for another pedal. And I was able to work a legit fuzz in to the board. I really like this one so far, but I need to play with it a lot more to really figure out how to dial in the fuzz sounds I like. But this one (the Barber Trifecta) plays nice with buffers, so it was nice to not have to put it first in the chain or anything like that. But as for the signal chain:

Guitar -> JHS Little Black Buffer -> MXR Dynacomp -> VOX Wah (Modded for true bypass) -> Xotic RC Booster -> Gravity Drive -> TS-9 (modded to TS-808 specs) -> Barber Trifecta Fuzz -> Boss CE-2 Chorus -> Voodoo Labs Tremolo -> Ernie Ball Volume Pedal -> Boss DD-7 (with external tap tempo) -> Line 6 DL4 -> BBE Sonic Stomp -> Boss Tu-2 Tuner -> Boss RV-5 Reverb -> Amp

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this setup. I got another Keeley modded BD-2 that I love, but between that and the Gravity Drive (which is a Marshall Bluesbreaker clone), it didn't make the cut. I had it over my Fuzz, but now that I have a fuzz, I couldn't find the room for the BD-2; it will probably find a permanent home on my leader-board, which is my next project. But this setup lets me do everything I need to do. I've got a low-gain drive (Gravity Drive) and a medium-gain drive (Tubescreamer) along with a dirty fuzz (Trifecta) for when I need that. I've got a solo boost that will further drive whatever drive I have on, or that will make my clean tone sparkle for a lead or push the amp a bit more. I can stack the drives too, if I want (I like both the gravity drive and tubescreamer on at the same time). I can use a Wah and delay for some ambiance, or fuzz and delay for pad work. I can use tremolo, chorus and/or delay to do crazy stuff. My tuner also functions as a kill switch if I need to stop all of my delay or feedback or what have you. And with my buffer, compressor and Dynacomp, my clean tone is rich and full in spite of the 50+ feet of cables between my amp and guitar. The only thing I can't do is POG-type stuff, but I'm not sure what I'd cut to make room. Maybe the fuzz? We'll see how much use it gets.

Oh yeah. I also got a VOX coily cable. Because I want to be Jimi Hendrix. But mostly because it's really convenient to not be stepping all over my cable all day long. I do like what this particular cable does to my tone, though.