Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You tube?.... I don't. Guitar snobs be wary.

This was supposed to be a 'Yay' commentary about me purchasing some amplification equipment and a microphone/stand to start writing music once again. In researching amps, I did decide to go with a Fender amp, I read review after review about it's 'reliable, louder than it should be' reputation, and many messages from experienced to inexperienced musicians praising the clean channel as well as the distortion. I mean, in this day and age, what musician wouldn't consider distorting the sound of their acoustic guitar if their artistic integrity was on the line? 

Imagine my surprise that even now at 45 in 2012  it's a popularity contest. For some people it's appearance; No one wants to be seen in a Toyota when they could drive a Mustang. For others they've gone all psuedo technical with their own jargon and specifications and whatever the hell tubes are. Who'd know in the high school that is music and my life, my equipment is still the 'Irkel', the 'Skippy', the 'Horshack', the 'Screech'.... in other words? I purchased and now own outright 'dorky' equipment.

I was a bassist for years <gay, 80's style, you dig?>... years ago now, and picked up an acoustic guitar in 2006 for the simple reason that no one ever says to a bassist; "hey, crack that bad boy out and play us a song....". If that ever occurred, I'd be certain I had crossed over to bizzarro world, the notes are too low to stand alone, and they're empty to sing to without percussion, and while you're at it... 'Where's the freaking guitar?!?' Bass guitars fame alone belongs to five second snippets during Seinfeld, which were fresh twenty years ago and still sometimes if you happen to be caught during a rerun. But alas, the bass player in most bands is the unsung geek who is only doing his job properly when he perfectly blends into most of the song, sings backing vocals only, and in my case was originally hired not because of ability but because my hair was longer than anyone else's in the factory we were working at. Did I mention it was also dyed blue? No, I tend not to mention that, but in my defense, it was 1986. I played the part well; I had some talent, but not enough that I couldn't completely screw up the second set depending on how much I was drinking that night, but really who cares? It was a time when people really weren't listening too much to our playing, other than a steady drum beat, and the guitar solo in the middle, and it sounds just like.... well, it sounded like something we've heard before. Heavy metal, simply so simple that the louder you play it, the more talented you sound. Amen.

Flash forward to when I gave up my dreams, enlisted in the service, got <thrown> out and moved to Boston and took a job in an.... gulp!, accounting office, where I languished until 2002 and found other priorities, which we hopefully all do by about thirty, right? Wrong, I guess. In searching for equipment, I've found that people who've not won a Grammy, released an album they haven't had to give away, or have hardly dusted equipment to open the basement vault and expose it to the fresh air and sun are 'professional musician status'. They alone know what is boss and what to avoid at all costs. I think the status is attained when you can finally afford those high priced ticket item toys you read in the guitar mag's when you were fourteen and indeed purchase them, then play with them and adjust your sound to perfectly imitate Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and only you <and whomever's basement you're inhabiting> ever hear the 'soft fuzzy feeling of the tubes., and the 'secret dragon oil subtleties' of... or whatever the hell you believe. 

Standing in  the music shop, I actually heard someone say they wanted a particular amp because it was orange, and that made it sound better. It was an adult which makes it that much sadder. What made it tragic is that the employee agreed that the orange one was way better for it's orange-ness. The amps were virtually identical in a different color cabinet, but of course employee's pander to someone who's spending over a thousand dollars on mindless crap. I didn't want anyone in the store to ask if I needed anything, I was quick, had a list, and bought every generic cord, strings, stands and made a hasty get away, to be greeted by a friendly redhead at the register who was laughing at pretty much the same things I was, including the worst version of Eruption by Van Halen I've heard played by a rather ambitious teenager. I'm not sure it was a teenager, but I was afraid to look over and find out it wasn't. If it was someone my age playing that sloppily in public <at home is different> I'd have cast my equipment down and run out in front of a moving car. 

The musician's prayer?
 "God, I know I may not be the most talented person in the world, but please tell me I'm better than THAT schmuck. Amen."

I went to another store directly after that I'd researched on the web. I'd seen the amp I was looking for for two hundred dollars less than the store in Sydney, and the price was only thirty dollars more than a used amp <same model> had sold on e-bay only days before. Although it was a piano shop, they said they specialized in guitars and violins. It wasn't easy to find the location but the service was impeccable even when they had no idea if we were there for picks only, and when we weren't it was an easy purchase anyway. I told them what I wanted, they agreed it was a great amp for it's price, and didn't try to upsell, downplay the solid state circuitry, or casually lure my view to the 'orange' one. They saw my purchases from the other shop, and apologized for the horrible customer service they assumed I'd received there. When asked who helped me I said 'noone, I had a list and moved with stealth, the only person who talked to me was a sarcastic redhead and we laughed at stuff. Wouldn't you know it? The redhead was his girlfriend, and you could immediately agree with the connection. Quiet guitarist meets quirky redhead, happiness ensues, at least til the end of University. I feel the same way about my equipment, although I did see a canary yellow Ibanez guitar that I hope makes it around my neck. What can I say? I want to play my three power chords and have someone look at me and say 'see that guitar? that guy must be awesome.'

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