Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Back in the Groove

WARNING: this post is for musicians/guitar freaks.

You know, the last time I touched my home studio setup was last winter, when I finished the A Taste of the Truth album. After that it went under a blanket. It stayed there all through the home improvement project of late winter and early spring since I was too busy and too tired to do anything with it. Then the starting of the new school year and everything that went with it sort of kept my mind filled up. Even when things started to mellow out again I found myself sadly lacking in time, motivation, and...saddest of all...inspiration. My muse had apparently flown off to Risa for a much-needed holiday and had yet to return

The saddest thing about it was that the Fender Telecaster my wife had given me for my birthday last January wasn't getting used. Sure, I'd pick it up from time to time and noodle around on it, but for the most part it was just collecting dust.

Well, that finally changed this week. Last Sunday I finally yanked off the blankets, dusted everything off, tested switches and connections, and then fired up the setup. The very first thing I did was start work on a song I'd actually thought up months earlier but had never gotten around to making. My chops were extremely rusty, as I'd feared, and it took a bit of work to get things moving. It was good for me, though. It also provided me with an excellent chance to put the Telecaster through its paces.

Actually, after first getting the Telecaster last January and playing around with it a bit, my biggest worry was that it wasn't different enough from my SG. The two guitars have a very different look and feel, but they still seemed to have a very similar personality. In other words, I kept wanting to play them the same way, which was precisely what I didn't want. As it turns out, when I plugged the Telecaster into my POD and used it on that first, new song, it proved itself to be a very different animal from the SG, which I also used. The Telecaster is a lot like the "Yamacaster" it was meant to replace, which is only natural, but it has a lot more "oomph". Its bridge pickup is punchier, and its neck pickup is grittier, which was exactly what I'd wanted. I can now say that it has officially entered the "club", and I'm happy to have it.

2006 altar2
Once again, for reference, here is my "altar". The Telecaster is the ash-colored guitar in the center back. The SG is the white one on the right. Ever since the home renewal I haven't left all my guitars out like this, keeping the ones not in use stowed away.

I did have one persistent problem with the Telecaster, though. It seemed perfectly fine when I tried it out at the shop, but when I brought it home I found it had a bit of string buzz. Raising the action a bit helped a little, but it didn't solve the problem. I tried not to worry about it too much, but when I used the Telecaster to record that first, new song last Sunday the string buzz did become an issue. Actually, it was a problem; I wound up having to use the SG to cover for it in one place. That was not good. I thought about taking it back to the shop to see if they could do something about it. Before that, though, I decided to try something. The Telecaster still had the (old) strings that had been on it when my wife had bought it. They were "009"s, as any modern lead guitar would have. However, since I wanted to use the Telecaster as a "workhorse" rather than a "lead" guitar (which is the job of the SG and the Strat), I decided to swap them for "010"s. As it turned out, I couldn't find the set of "010" strings I was sure I had in my supply, but I found a set of custom lights that were basically "009"s in the three high-pitched strings and "010"s in the three low ones, so I put those on. Strangely, that apparently cured the buzzing problem. The harmonic tuning seemed to be better, too. Overall, it improved the guitar's performance a LOT.

I have a feeling that that Telecaster had originally had "010"s, as a lot of older models did. The previous owner had probably replaced them with "009"s to make it easier to play, but hadn't bothered readjusting the bridge or the neck. In short, he had screwed it up, and that's probably why he (or she) had gotten rid of it. Well, I seem to have fixed it...or at least I hope I have.

After that song was finished, I immediately set to work on a new one (which I'd only thought up the night before while washing dishes). My chops were starting to come back up to speed little by little, so I got a bit more ambitious with my playing. I used the Telecaster/SG combination again, with the SG (on a Marshall JCM-800 model) playing a heavy riff unison with the bass, and the Telecaster (on a Vox AC-30 model) playing a separate, light-and-easy riff of its own. The two guitars blended very well with each other. Just for fun, I played the guitar solo in the middle on the Telecaster instead of the SG, sticking with the Vox amp model but throwing in a Voodoo fuzz box (model) for effect and switching to the neck pickup for a nice, gritty sound. I had to do a lot of retakes and punch-ins before I was satisfied, and there was a lot of snarling and gnashing of teeth, but it was still fun. I also got a lot of very valuable practice out of it.

I have a few more song ideas percolating in my head right now, and my Strat as well as all those acoustic instruments are whimpering at me. Time to go to work. I'll post some tracks when they're ready.

6 Comments:

  • WARNING: this post is for musicians/guitar freaks.

    All non Music/Guitar freaks are gotta SHUT UP mouths and TRUSS UP their fingers. {Include ME?}

    By Anonymous Spirit, at 4:08 PM  

  • All non Music/Guitar freaks are gotta SHUT UP mouths and TRUSS UP their fingers. {Include ME?}

    Not necessarily. That warning was to indicate that non-musician/guitar freaks might be afflicted with chronic boredom if not confusion if they were to read the post. Please, feel free to open your mouths and wiggle your fingers as much as you like!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 5:35 PM  

  • I am sure you are aware that not only do most guitars have a bridge saddle adjustment, there is also a truss rod that goes down the neck. This affects the curvature of the fret board, and is adjusted when ever you change string guages. Also, when going to a different string gauge there is the matter of the tension springs under the tremelo action of the bridge. It appears that your Telecaster does not have a tremelo so that would not be a problem. Just thought I would mention it anyway. Sometimes, if the string guage is heavy enough, you actually have to add additional springs to the guitar to compensate, as I did when I had my Ibanez Studio seven string. I sure miss that guitar, not only was it unique, it was my best sounding guitar as well. Ibanez is right up there if you are wiling to spend the bucks.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 9:29 AM  

  • Well, Pa've, thanks for the lecture/advice after I've fixed the problem. Let me reiterate in case you missed this:

    I have a feeling that that Telecaster had originally had "010"s, as a lot of older models did. The previous owner had probably replaced them with "009"s to make it easier to play, but hadn't bothered readjusting the bridge or the neck. In short, he had screwed it up, and that's probably why he (or she) had gotten rid of it. Well, I seem to have fixed it...or at least I hope I have.

    I intended to put "010"s on it in the first place, and it appears to have already been adjusted for "010"s. That's why the "090"s that were on it when I bought it didn't work. Now it has new strings, they're the guage I wanted, and the guitar is playing properly now, so I'm a happy camper.

    Thanks for the info anyway.
    A 7-string Ibanez? I wouldn't mind having one of those...as long as it wasn't one of those really cheap beginner models. Those aren't so good, unlike the high-end types.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:47 PM  

  • "090"s should have been "009"s. Sorry...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:48 PM  

  • It was a rather expensive Ibanez Studio Series. It sounded SO GOOD.

    When if ever I can afford it I intend to replace it.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 3:06 AM  

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