Saturday, July 21, 2012

AXL Thin Amp . . .

About 4 or 5 years ago, Sean gave me what looked like a notebook computer bag and said, "give this a try."

It was an AXL Thin Amp - DSP 10.  It was a notebook computer sized digitial amp . . . pretty much all plastic.

I still have it.  I've got a battery for it that allows me to run it for about 4 hours without being plugged in.  It's not that loud . . . but it does amplify an acoustic, or my Strat when I want to play with some compression and flange (which isn't really often.)

No other guitar sounds as good on it as my Taylor GS Mini Mahogany.  Usually I do a beach or park concert of sorts each year, and have even sung on an open party boat.  The Thin Amp and the GS Mini are truly a portable pair, especially if I have to use battery power.

I don't think AXL is making Thin Amps anymore.  I need to check to make sure.  The one I have is still going strong.  I don't use it near as much as my Fishman Loudbox . . . but I am glad I have it.  Being able to run on a batter that measures 4"x4"x2" for several hours is really a neat option when it is needed.  It is certainly nice to have options.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, July 20, 2012

No, I don't know why . . .

I really don't.

I don't have a single clue or inkling why anyone would walk into a movie theater and shoot unarmed defenseless people who are doing nothing more than enjoying a night out with friends or family to watch a movie.

I just really don't get it how someone walks up to a complete stranger and starts shooting.

I really don't . . .

I am praying that God's grace touch all involved. . . ><>

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The search for the right guitar strings . . .

As my good friend Sean Simon says, "You don't know anything about woods for guitars."

Sean is the owner of Grapevine Guitar Works.  And he is right, I really don't know that much as I should about the different woods that guitars can be made with, and how they affect the sound.

However, I do know about guitar strings.

For the record . . . I do not like the feel of coated strings.

I like the idea of the so-called benefit . . . better sound and longer life . . . but I do not like the feel.

I have used Elixir's . . . I had a set on my Taylor Custom.  I've tried them on my Guild jumbo 6 string.

They are OK, but it feels like I have to go wash my hands after I play.

Now, others of you will sing praises of Elixir's . . . that's OK with me.  If Elixir's was all I could get, I would play them, and probably in time like them more than I do.  I don't hate them.  They are a good string.  I just don't like them.

I thought Cleartone strings might be the answer . . . sad to report they are just too stiff.  Yes, the coating is much thinner than Elixir's; yet, it seems to me that it takes more effort to fret the strings.  I am finding that others agree.

OK . . . I want the benefits of coated strings . . . but not the feel of a coated string.

Funny, how things bring you back home.

For years I have used Martin SP phosphor-bronze strings.  There is really only one difference in a phosphor-bronze string and a bronze string . . . the bronze string is going to sound brighter.  That's it.

I personally prefer the fuller and deeper sounds of the phosphor-bronze.  As in all things, sound is a personal preference.  On my Guild jumbo's, I think the phosphor-bronze are louder, and since I have to play acoustically (no amp) in most of the places I play . . . that works to my advantage.

I had been meaning to try the new Martin LifeSpan SP strings.  So I did some research.

The coating on most Elixir acoustic strings is between 8-10 micron's.  The coating on Cleartones is less,  and speculation runs that it is between 4-6 microns.

Now, as far as coatings go . . . I think the Cleartone process is better than Elixer, but I also think the Elixir strings themselves are better than Cleartones!

I know, I am a lost cause . . . but bear with me just another minute.

Martin LifeSpan SP's advertise that the coating on each string is only 1 micron.

Now, it's a Martin SP string, made in Mexico, with the Cleartone coating.  It's not a Cleartone string.  It's my beloved Martin SP Phosphor-Bronze string . . . with 1 micron of Cleartone coating.

Now, it seems to me that "only"1 micron of coating may suggest some benefits:

First - the feel will not be as "slicky" as other coated strings.

Second - less coating may mean more volume.  That's what I want to find out.

So, I picked up two sets, one for the Taylor GS custom and one for the Guild jumbo 6 string, which is in the shop for a new pickup and yearly set up.  I use medium gauge.

The verdict . . . well, it's still out.   I like Martin SP's.  I like the sound, I like the feel . . . and I don't mind changing strings . . . it only takes about 10 minutes.   I thought the LifeSpan strings felt like regular SP's.  And they sounded just like I expected.  I need to play them for a few months.

So, we will see.  The Martin LifeSpan strings were about $5 less than Elixir's and $6 less than Cleartone.  That's a savings of about $30 a year for me.   The sound is what I personally want and what my ear likes.  The string feels like my beloved SP's.   Now we will see over time and lots of playing if there are any other positive benefits.

By the way, I've been paying $5 for regular Martin SP's for quite a while.  

I read a quote from Tommy Emmanuel before starting this blog entry.  He calls coated strings "condom strings" and won't use them.  Monte Montgomery uses regular GHS strings.   I believe John Mayer and Eric Clapton also use uncoated strings as well.

Well, I not Tommy Emmanuel, Monte Montgomery, John Mayer or Eric Clapton.  I'm just a an folk "boom-chucker" acoustic guitar player.   But I know what I like as well.  It's all a matter of sound and feel.  Meaning, it's all about personal preference.

And as I've said . . . . , the jury is still out for me.  More to come.

God's grace, and the joy of piddling around with guitars, still amazes me . . . ><>

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Guild F50R is in the shop . . .

No, nothing is wrong. Just finally getting a pickup put into it. Chose a Seymour/Duncan "Lock-n-Load" for it, the same pickup I have in the F512 (12 string). Can't wait to hear how it sounds thru my Fishman Loudbox 100 after Brother Bill White over at Grapevine Guitar Works gets it all hooked up. Bill does great work. God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

An honor for sure ...

A surprise, as well a an honor, to be involved in a memorial service today which included Bubba Keith, former lead singer for the James Gang (post Joe Walsh) and other bands in the 70's and 80's, and his fiancé, Debbie. He sang a wonderful original song, and led us all in "I'll Fly Way." If memory serves me correct, Bubba was the lead voice on the old rock song,"Nicole." Check him out on Facebook. God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, July 9, 2012

Finally . . . stuff about music!

Perhaps stuff is shaking out to the extent that I can catch up on writing about music.

So, a quick update . . .

My Guild F50R jumbo 6 string is in the shop.  The Seymour-Duncan pick up that Sean over at Grapevine Guitar Works ordered for me is in . . . and here's hoping that Bill can get to it this week.  I've had this guitar for a year now, but have never heard it / played it with a pick up.  I know I am going to like it.  An awesomely loud acoustic guitar.  It will be fun to play it "lightly" through my Fishman Loudbox 100 amp.

I sang this morning at the Woodridge Care Center here in Grapvine.  I do a little 30 minute concert there every 2nd Monday morning at 10 AM.   What the people like to hear there changes every time I go, so I still have to take my notebook with me.  I'm working to increase the number of memorized songs I know, so that a notebook and music stand is not needed.  I like wandering around and singing.  Sort of hard to do today, because I forgot to take a guitar strap with me! 

The more I play the Taylor Custom GS (sinker-redwood), the more I am impressed.  Seriously, words escape me about this guitar.  I just want to stop and "sigh" as I write about it.

iPad's are awesome, and I am going to soon begin using one to record some songs, and perhaps play my guitar through.  Lot's of interesting music apps out there.

My annual trek to Philmont Scout Ranch to serve as chaplain for a week at the Philmont Training Center is not that far away.  Looking forward to Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and the closing camp fire on Friday.  I will get to play and sing at each.  Tuesday and Thursday nights are a community band sing-a-long of sorts.  Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of fun.

Singing for children in hospitals?  Not much lately.  I just haven't had the time with my schedule at church.  I hope to at least start going with Jim Newton and Paul G. Hill ( to Cook Chidlren's Hosptial in Fort Worth a couple to times a month.  My therapeutic music entertainer (TME) partner, Larry Dykstra, in hiking in Spain this summer.  Can't wait until he gets back so we can get some dates and events calendared.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

RIP Andy Griffith . . . the guy I wished had been my dad

Surprisingly, the news today of Andy Griffith's death is hitting me harder than I thought.

Years ago, as a child, I watched him on TV play Sheriff Andy Taylor of the fictional community of Mayberry, North Carolina.  I believe I have seen every episode at least twice . . . maybe dozens of times.

No doubt the DVD tribute of the shows will cost big bucks.  Better get a copy now!

Truth be told . . . I believe I actually consider his Sheriff Andy Taylor character to have been a mentor. Father figures on TV were a part of my childhood.  A sheriff who never wore a gun.  A loving Dad who was not mentally ill like my dad was.  A man who treated his family, friends, neighors and strangers with love and respect.  What's not to like?  And what's not to respect . . . even in a fictional character? 

As a child I wished that Sheriff Andy Taylor had been my dad.  Perhaps what I really wanted was to have lived in Mayberry itself . . . where values, good neighbors and friends could always help you through the problems of life . . .  a place where bad guys didn't stay long because Andy either arrested them or sent them packing off somewhere else.

I enjoyed his "Matloch" series as well . . . and I liked to listen to him sing and play guitar.  He was a multi-talented musician. 
There are numerous tributes to him on the internet today . . . already 10 times more than there were this morning.

This is my little tribute . . . to a guy I wished had been my dad.

RIP Andy. 

As I have written before . . . I am now the age where my mentors and heroes are passing from the world at a faster rate than I would like to acknowledge. 

Sad, but yet a part of life that eveyone must one day experience.  Harvesting value from the intersection of their lives with mine is how I help share their legacy.

Yet, God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>