Lets Build A Guitar

My boss has been playing guitar for something like 30 years. So, unsurprisingly, we talk about guitar a lot since I started down this path. One of the things he likes to do is modify and rebuild guitars and that is a subject we keep coming back too. All that talk got me itching to build a guitar of my own. Besides, it’s one of the cheaper ways to add another guitar to my collection. Like I need another guitar. Needless to say, I bought a kit and put together a guitar. There were some ups and downs, lessons were learned, and patience was tested. In the end, I’m pretty satisfied with the result. Let’s talk about that process.

I looked at a bunch of kits for different guitar styles; expensive kits and cheap kits. I decided to stay on the cheaper end of things for my first try at this. That way, if things went badly I wouldn’t feel too bad about throwing the whole thing in the trash. TheSaga TC-10 would be my guinea pig. Not the cheapest at $160, but not anywhere near the expensive kits.  It’s a simple, single cut (cutouts only on one side) telecaster style kit. All the electronics are pre-soldered and have plug-in connectors. All that there is to do is cut the headstock shape, finish the thing, put it together, and tune it up. There you go. Ready to play. Sounds simple enough, but I had some ideas. Things I wanted to change. Adjustments I wanted to make. Of course I did. I wouldn’t want this to be too easy.

I didn’t want to go with the typical Fender headstock design, so I had to come up with my own design. I felt like the body was a little bit too much of a slab, so I wanted to change it up a bit with a few cutouts. A few other ideas came to me as I worked through the project, some of which I implemented, others I decided against. There were some successes and some failures. Let’s start where I did… the body shape.

I did not change the classic telecaster outline, but I did add some sculpting to the back side, a belly cut and a neck cut. The first for more comfortable playing and the second for better access to the frets at the bottom of the neck. I also did a half-inch roundover along the entire body just to soften the look and feel of the thing. I liked it so much that I ended up doing it on the front as well. Also on the front I beveled the body to add a little more comfort for my strumming arm. I used my router for the round over, but a combination of my belt sander and a few wood files took care of removing all the wood for the other modifications. Once I had that worked out to my liking, I sanded it down to 220 grit, primed it, and set it aside to work on the headstock.

I sketched out a few different designs for the headstock before settling on the one I liked. I wanted something original. Something of my own. I did not want the same Fender design that I see all over the place. I was going for something sorta knife-like. This was actually based on one of our kitchen knives, at least that’s how it started out. Once I had my design, I taped the template to the neck and went to town with my jigsaw. So far, so good. I cut it a bit large and then used my belt sander, strapped to the workbench, to smooth out the cut and get the curves right to the line on the template.

The part where things start to get dicey is that I wanted the headstock to be two tiered. The intention was to use the factory thickness for the tuners, but then to step down an 1/8-inch and taper it down to about 3/8-inch at the outside edge, sorta like a knife blade. I started with the dremel, chisels, and an assortment of sandpaper. This mostly worked, but my lines were not crisp and the initial cut wasn’t very clean. I had the ‘brilliant’ idea to use the palm router to clean things up, which it did, quite nicely. But I was doing it by hand and without any sort of jig to keep the blade from wandering. Which is why the final design is notably different than the template I was working from, the blade strayed from my marks in a couple places and the design was changed to accommodate those incidents. I don’t hate the final product, but it isn’t exactly the design I was going for.

 

With the body cut and the headstock formed it was time to move on to the finishing of the guitar. 

I knew it was going to be yellow. That was never in question. I knew the headstock was going to be painted. I even knew which Rustoleum paint I was going to use, Sunburst Yellow. What I didn’t know was how much work was going to be involved in getting a nice finish. I primed everything with a white primer to keep the yellow nice and bright. Then I sanded the primer smooth, sanded through the primer in a few spots, reprimed those areas, sanded them back to match the rest of the work, and it was ready for paint. Or the beginning of the real headaches, whichever way you want to think about it.

The first coat of yellow went down either heavy or two many coats too far apart. Whichever was the cause, I ended up with some weird wrinkles in the finish around some of the curves where the paint looked like it sagged. And then I picked it up before it was dry enough and left fingerprints embedded in the finish. So, a bunch of sanding later and I had the flaws removed and I added another couple coats of paint to clean things up, but I went to heavy at the top and ended up with ripples in two spots. To add to my issues, a bit of paint the size of my thumbnail chipped off the head stock between two of the tuning holes, that needed to be fixed as well. More sanding. More paint. Finally satisfied I set to smoothing out the paint. If you’ve ever painted with spray paint from a shaker-can you’ll notice that it dries with a bit of an orange peel texture to it, it’s not quite smooth and that’ll really show once you add your gloss coat. So, level-sanding is the process where you wet-sand it just enough to level out the paint, but not so much that you sand through the paint. I did this by going from 220 to 300 to 400 to 600 grit sandpaper. I was very happy, and quite surprised, to not ruin my paint job while doing this.

Not satisfied to put a regular clear coat on this project that had absorbed so much time and effort, I went with a 2-part clear coat. The reasons for this are; faster dry time, harder finish, smoother application. All good things. The other side of that coin is this stuff is $25 a can as compared to $5 a can for regular high gloss clear spray. I ordered a 2-pack and got a slight discount on the price. Good thing I did, too, because I used both cans before this was done. Much like the paint, the clear went down but took a couple coats due to wrinkles that needed to be sanded out, sanding through the gloss coat, and like the paint…. let this dry completely before you ever touch it with sandpaper. If you don’t, you’re going to have a mess. Once I had a nice, consistent, shiny coat of gloss on the body and headstock, it was time to scuff it all up by level sanding to flatten the finish.

On the clear coat I level sanded with 1000, 1500, 2000, and finally with 3000 grit sand paper. This was just as nerve wracking as level sanding the paint, but actually went pretty well. After that I used a polishing liquid and a sponge applicator to buff the whole thing to a shine. This was disappointing. I don’t know exactly why, but I did not get a high gloss finish. I ended up with a nice smooth finish, but it’s more matte than gloss. Eventually, I may take the body appart and try another polishing technique on it, but for now I’m just glad it’s done and doesn’t look bad.

A couple lessons learned and the big mistake.

I used water slide decal paper to put the Rampant logo on the headstock and it took six tries before I read the directions to learn that you have to spray the printed design with two layers of clear coat before you apply the decal. If you don’t do this the paper has no strength and wrinkles uncontrollably which has the added benefit of having the inkjet design float right of the paper in a million tiny specks. So, spray it and let it dry before you try to cut it out and apply it. Second lesson about water slide decals, you’re going to see the edge of the paper. This is a peeve of mine. Had I thought about it I would have cut the design large enough to cover the whole headstock and then trimmed the paper around the edges once it dried. I think that would have eliminated the lines where the paper edge shows through. It’s not terrible, but it’s noticeable.

A different, but related issue, is that the white paint I used on the headstock is noticeably different from the white on the pick guard. This is partially due to the paints I had on hand, but I also think that the clear coat has a slight yellow tint to it. I wish it was a better match. If I ever work up the gumption to make any changes to the headstock design, repainting it and fixing the decal will be on the list of things to fix.

Through the body strings.

Use a drill press to make sure you’re holes are in a straight line. I didn’t and it shows. I used a drill guide and tiny 1/32 bit to drill through the holes in the plate to back on the outside holes. Then I moved the plate to the back, lined it up with those two holes and drilled the 1/8-inch holes, again using the drill guide. Still, not quite a straight line of holes. Looks sloppy. Not the way I’d do it in the future. I’d use a drill press.

After I set the ferrells and tapped them into place I noticed that they were not quite level with each other. I had the idea to take a steel block, set it across all the ferrells and tap them level. That is where those cracks come from. Doing this caused me to shatter the finish around the head of the ferrells. It looks terrible, but lesson learned and nobody can see the back when I’m playing or when it’s hanging on the wall.

One of the other changes that I made was to fill the predrilled holes for the cord jack, expand the passthrough, and install a recessed jack plug. This may have been the only modification I did that had no complications or miscalculations. I feel like the holes could have been better filled and smoothed, but it turned out nice.

Another lesson that has more to do with painting and not necessarily guitars, when spray painting in the garage build a tent. I through down some tarps on the ground and covered some of the stuff on my work bench… this was insufficient. There is yellow paint overspray on everything in my garage. That stuff drifts around quite a bit. Yellow tint to the stainless refrigerator in the corner, yellow on the outlet covers, yellow on my lawn tractor, pretty much yellow on everything. I would have benefited from hanging a plastic sheet from the rafters and created a box. I’ll remember that in the future, because if the garage was finished I would be pretty upset with myself.

I did not have any problems putting the poly acrylic on the neck, but I was a little surprised at how many coats it took. I think I ended up applying 10 or 12 coats of satin finish, wipe-on poly to the neck. Sanding with some 300 grit sandpaper every couple of coats just to smooth things out. It turned out pretty good, not great, but I’m impatient. 

I sanded the fret board the wrong direction initially and it looked like ass. The easy way to sand is between the frets, going parallel to them. But this is across the grain and really shows up when you oil the wood. I learned that the hard way. So, don’t do it like that. Take the time to sand with the grain but don’t scratch up the frets or you’ll be polishing them afterwards. Once the fretboard was nice and smooth I applied some lemon oil to finish it off. Really brought out the rosewood and that dark color looks very nice with the yellow and white colors.

With all the all that done it was time to add the hardware and assemble the parts into a whole. This was an easy task. All the predrilled holes were in the right spots on this Saga kit and the solderless electronics made this a snap. I did have to get online for one little bit that wasn’t clear in the assembly directions, that being where the ground wire goes. Simply strip it back a bit and it gets fed up behind the bridge. Once you tighten the bridge down it’s secure and not going anywhere.

I’ve never strung a guitar or intoneated one, hell, the whole set-up thing was new to me. Setting the string height, the distance between the strings and pick-ups, tweaking the neck, and adjusting the bridge. It was all a bit of a challenge that involved lots of assistance from Google. I don’t think it’s perfect, but it tunes up nice, surprisingly stays in tune, doesn’t buzz much, and plays pretty nice. You’d never mistake it for a guitar from the Fender factory, but not bad for my first go at it.

There are a few things I didn’t do.

I didn’t level sand the clear coat on the headstock and as a result there is a noticeable difference in the sheen between it and the body. The headstock is really shiny, the body is more matte. I like both, but the look I was going for was shiny. Again, I may be able to polish the body up with a bit more work… someday.

I purchased some extra pickguard material with the intention of making a truss rod cover, but decided not to go that route. The bright white of that material would just emphasize the color difference in the whites. And I couldn’t come up with a design that looked good with the headstock.

One thing I didn’t do, but might still get around to, is have the neck plate engraved with the particulars of this build: the kit number, serial/build number, Rampant name and yelocaster model. I just think it’d be a nice touch. But at some point I just wanted to put the thing together and see if it played, so that didn’t happen.

I had some fun building this kit, spent way more money than just the cost of the kit, learned some things, and now I’ve got a pretty nice little addition to my collection. I’m quite satisfied with the results.

 

 

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I Hope This is a Long Summer

A friend asked me, today, if I was playing guitar. I had to laugh, because, I don’t really play the guitar, so much as I practice the guitar. To play infers some degree of musicality to the thing. There is really very little music being made here. But, yes, I continue to wrestle with this project I’ve embarked on to learn to play the guitar. I’m working on simple bar chords and the G and C chords and transitioning between the two. I’m not finding it particularly easy. I think I’ve hit the first wall. Really, what I need to work on is timing and counting out my measures. I’ve been a little frustrated and I must admit that I haven’t dedicated near as much time as I promised myself. I was told by Guitar Center that it may be August or October before they start in person lessons again, so I really need to rededicate myself and get on top of this whole discipline thing.

I think my fingers are getting better, but I am not a “natural” guitarist. This is all work and not much fun. Enjoyable, but not fun.

I’ve started a series of summer projects that I’m contracting out. I put a deposit down on getting my roof replaced. Should get done in the next 3-weeks or so. I’m having the same company, Avalon, replace my chain link fence with a pine, shadowbox privacy fence. That starts this coming Thursday. And I’m getting the electrical box, meter, and drop upgraded to a 200 amp circuit. Oh, and I’m getting a breaker panel added to the garage as well. That was supposed to have happened last Thursday, but storms in the area caused the utility to cancel the appointment due to address outages. Very excited about getting all that done.

I’ve got plans drawn up for a 12 x 20 shed with an attached 8 x 8 greenhouse and a 4-foot wide porch. The plan also includes screening in the covered patio and building a deck over the open patio. The deck will extend 6-feet past the existing patio and wrap along the side of the covered patio. I’m going to have to get a permit for all that work. You know what… here’s a picture. That’ll save a thousand words.

the red items are the changes/additions

Oh, and because I haven’t put enough on my plate, I’m just waiting for the inspection on the electrical stuff before adding a door and drywalling the garage. Maybe then I can get the garage put back together and get the car back inside. And of course, I really am getting motivated to get the laundry room and common area of the basement finished, primed, and painted.

We picked up paint for the front room and plants for the planters at Home Depot on Saturday. Those are things that probably need to be done as well.

I’ve got a lot of plans. Maybe too many plans. It’ll be fine. Later.

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Guitar Progress Report

With the social distancing and shelter in place orders, you’ll not be surprised to learn that my guitar lessons have been canceled, indefinitely. So, while I continue to work out of the book, I no longer have the motivation of a weekly trip to Guitar Center pushing me onward and upward. Add to this the unrecognized, but ever present subdermal stress of this whole Covid-19 mess and you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I haven’t been pushing myself particularly hard over the last two weeks. I’ve been diddling, but not really practicing. Playing the stuff I’m already comfortable with and working on picking up speed on a couple other things.

the complete learning platform for guitar, bass, and ukulele

So, in order to get myself back on track, I’m taking advantage of the “3-months free” that showed up in my email from Fender Play. This is the online, learn-to-play website from Fender Guitars. I’m not very far into it, but it’s not terrible.

making progress and wth does the tone knob do

I think I am most pleased by the fact that it starts at a different place on the guitar than my Hal Leonard book does. Hal starts with the 6th string and works backward. At this point in that book I’m only using the 4th-6th strings and have just started with bar chords and moving bar cords. The Fender Play starts on the 1st string and works in the opposite direction. I’m actually using the first 4 strings in those lessons. Also, they jump into simple chords (G, C) and some strumming technique early in. I don’t dislike either and actually think they work nicely together. At least that’s my early opinion. Things may change. And I’m not sold on the Fender Play site enough yet to say I’ll be willing to pay when my 3-months are up.

I’m still working on getting “wipe out” down pat. The changes in the middle are coming to me slowly and I’d say I can play it at a little better than half speed with confidence. Keeping time, counting things out, and muting are all still giving me trouble, but I’m working on it.

I’m still having fun. Still haven’t gotten the red guitar in to be checked and tweaked. Kinda thinking I want an acoustic guitar. So much to learn. So much to master. Anyway, I should go. Gotta get some practice in tonight before slipping back into “The Expanse.” Later

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One Month of Guitar

I was going to do a summary of how the year is going, in relation to my goals, but instead, I’m doing an overview of how my guitar lessons are progressing. I’ll deal with the rest in another post.

figuring things out

So, I’ve had a month’s worth of lessons from Adam at Guitar Center. Let’s talk about how that’s going. Firstly, I told Adam I wasn’t interested in reading music at this time, so he’s teaching me tablature (tabs).

The lessons I’m doing are coming out of this book, Electric Guitar Book 1 – Guitar Center Lessons by Hal Leonard Corporation. Pretty sure, given the Guitar Center logo on the cover, that this is the official store book.

A month in, five 30-minute lessons, and we’re still working in Chapter 1. We skipped the first couple sections of the book and just sorta summarized that information. I bought a digital tuner and so I may never actually learn to tune by ear. Sad, but entirely possible. I learned that the mnemonic for remembering the strings:

Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie

E-A-D-G-B-E

Which works out to E A D G B E, and starts with the fatest string and works up to the thinest. Which is absolutely the reverse of how they’re laid out in the notation, where the thinnest string is on top and the fatest on the bottom. The book starts out with some simple stuff on the 6th string (Low E), adds the A string (5th), and then goes on to Rhythm Tab. This is where we started. Though, I have since gone back and worked on the simplest lessons, which are simple one and two measure bits using the 5th and 6th strings. Those would be bits for the Theme from Jaws, Green Onions, Peter Gunn, something called “Brit Rock” which is obviously the beginning of the Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, and lastly, Lean On Me.

tabs on low e

Like I said, we jumped right into the Rhythm Tab section of the book. Which starts with how bar lines divide music into measures, introduces time signatures, 4/4 time, and quarter notes. The four exercises are each just two measures one is from Working Man, but the others are just exercises–Feel the Beat, Zeppelin Tribute, and Blues Riff. So, I walked out of my first lesson with four exercises.

The next two lessons added More Riffs to what I had from week one. The More Riffs section gets into 3/4 time, adds half and eighth notes into my count, and adds some rests (quarter and eighth) into the mix. Weeks two and three were both on this section and week four finished this section and went into the next. All of these were just using the 5th and 6th strings (A and low E) and none are longer than four measures. In the book they’re titled as follows and in order: My Name Is Jonas, Malaguena, Canon in D, Electric Funeral, Cool Groove, Lady Madonna, Crazy Train, Aqualung, Green-Eyed Lady, 25 Or 6 To 4, and Brain Stew. You probably recognize some of those. Maybe not when I play them, but I’ve at least heard most of those songs.

highlights are the available mp3 examples on the website

Two weeks ago, I started working on The D String section of the book, and that’s where I still am. So, a month in and I’m only three strings in… half-way there. This section also adds staccato marks, palm muting, and tie notes. Still just short two to four measure exercises, but I’m still having problems reading the music, counting, and playing all at the same time. I find if I can memorize the patterns things go better. My practice list now includes–D-Mented, Machine Gun, Oh, Pretty Woman, You Give Love A Bad Name, Space Trucking, Money (That’s What I Want), Hava Nagila, and the last one on my exercise list is Super Freak.

I’m working on memorizing the progression for Pretty Woman and Money for this Tuesdays lesson. I toyed with the idea of recording a runthrough of all this to add to the post, but I decided that I’m not going to do that. Maybe when I get to the end of Chapter 1. The last lesson in the chapter is the full song, Wipe Out by the Surfaris. When I get there, I’ll record it and post it as a progress report.

I wish I could say I practice everyday, but I’ve missed a few. Usually, I try for 30-minutes of practice, but I usually go longer than that and have a couple of 2-hour practices under my belt. My fingers are not sore and I’m not really developing callouses, so maybe I’m doing something wrong. Or it could simply be a result of working with my hands my whole life. Whatever the case, I’m starting to recognize some of the things I’m playing and I’m still enjoying it quite a lot.

On Friday, I pulled the trigger on a guitar I found on ebay. I found a 1986 Charvel Model 1 that is in better condition than the one I used to have, or in better condition than the last time I saw that other guitar. I don’t think it has the original tremolo bar, but that is a small thing. It needs to go to Guitar Center and get setup, but it’s pretty sweet and I’m geeked to have found one as nice as this. Plus, I have two guitars now. One for each hand ;-). I’m thinking that an acoustic would be a nice addition, but I’ve spent enough money on this hobby for a while.

charvel from ebay

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The Man

“The thing you don’t realize about “adulting” is just how constant it is. There is always something that needs to be done and so very many things that only you can address. Basically, “relaxing” is just short-hand for, I’m ignoring the half-a-million things I should be doing.”

–Ronn McCarrick

Did I mention that I watched The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot? If you haven’t seen it, the title kinda tells you what it’s about. Sam Elliot is the man in question and he’s good, but then he’s always good. You can get it on Hoopla. It worked for me in the same way that Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino did, only with Hitler and bigfoot. As a schlocky B-movie, probably, it’s not working quite so well.

I’m not sure that it’s really a four star movie, but it’s closer to four than three. So, four it is. It’s not a comedy, so don’t go in expecting to get the giggles. Really, it’s more of a character study. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was disappointed with their bigfoot. Budget?

Rotten Tomatoes sums it up pretty well, the movie follows the epic adventures of an American legend that no one has ever heard of. Since WWII, Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott) has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler. Now, decades later, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and is carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again.

I liked it. This is probably because I had no expectations of it.

Last nights guitar lesson added 8th notes to my repertoire of quarter and half notes. I’m struggling a bit with timing, finger placement, and strumming the right string, but it hasn’t even been a month yet. Still haven’t officially moved into chords, but I was playing around with a few this weekend… not with any success. I really need to get up onto the tips of my fingers more and stay off the meaty bits.

I’ve been agonizing and worrying over the Home page of this site. Which is dumb, given how little traffic it sees. But it’s what I do. The gist is that I’m not happy with it, it doesn’t compell interest, it doesn’t tell visitors what they’re getting, and all those things are issues because even after 13-years I still don’t know what I’m doing with this website. I need to stop worrying and just let it be, but what fun would that be. Any suggestions? I’m open to your thoughts on the matter. Hell, I’m open to hearing what you think this site is about.

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The MLKjr Holiday

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m sitting at home today because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Although, I don’t remember my boss actually mentioning that it was a holiday for us this year. But the banks are closed, and while I have other clients, if the banks are closed I assume I have the day off. If I’m wrong, well, it’ll come out of my PTO.

just barely awake

“Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I didn’t watch much football this weekend, or much this whole season if I’m being honest. I didn’t even follow the Lions, mostly because they were not good. Not good at all. I did see the Texans@Chiefs in the divisional round and last night I watched parts of the Packers@49ers. I think I would have preferred to see the Chiefs vs. Packers in the Super Bowl, but it was very obvious last night that the 49ers are the better team. So we get the 49ers vs Chiefs playing in the big game… that’s going to be a lot of red. Should be a good game. Looking forward to the commercials 😉

My plan for today is to do some writing, play some guitar, do some laundry, put together a new selection of music for the garage stereo, straighten the garage, and maybe write a blog post. Okay, so I’m working on that last one right now. The writing hasn’t been quite as prolific as I’d hoped thus far this year. Really, one day out of 20 is bad, but even 1 in 20 is better than my average. Still. I want to do better. I missed one day of guitar practice last week and am feeling disproportionately guilty about that. While Lady Ronn is not in school tonight, I still don’t expect to see her anytime before it gets dark. I guess what I’m saying is, the day is mine to do what I want with.

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speaking of guitar, one of the biggest problems I’m having is keeping time. I can’t seem to keep time consistent. I can’t tap my foot and play guitar at the same time. I tried using a metronome and it was a disaster. I don’t understand why it’s 3/4 time instead of just 3/3 time, because I’m just counting three instead of four. I can’t seem to make my half notes twice as long as my quarter notes, or at least not consistently. And tomorrow we’re supposed to add eighth notes to the mix. I think my lack of any musical background at all is showing. But on my own and with the encouragement of my boss, who has played guitar for 30-years, I’ve tried to add some chords to my practice. I can’t do those either. My fingers are all over the strings, making a mess of things. But practice continues and I’m hopeful that improvement will come eventually. Any tips? I welcome any and all.

Jeramy says to learn A, G, & D

“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You’re probably sick of me talking about guitar. In my defense, it’s the thing I’m doing and I’m enthusiastic about it. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about audiobooks. Is that better or worse? I’d like to do my taxes today, but while I’ve received my W2 I’m still waiting for two others and some other documents. I did start the paperwork and, expecting a refund, I’ve started figuring out where that money will go. Most likely, it’ll go into the “pay off that new camera” fund. Which doesn’t sound like much fun, but is definitely the responsible thing to do. Being an adult is all about the responsible thing. It’s one of the main things I dislike about being an adult. It is what it is. What can you do.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I need to do a couple work-related things now. Despite the holiday. Just a few things that need to be addressed in order to make the coming week a more bearable experience. We’ll talk again. Later.

Martin Luther King Jr.
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Guitar.Week02

So, I had my second guitar lesson tonight and I was told that I already sound better than I did in the first lesson. Which is good, being as I had 7-days of practice between the two lessons. I targeted for 20-30 minutes of practice a day, and I did way better than that. I practiced everyday and the practice times ran from 40 to 90 minutes. In fact, there was only one day that I wasn’t feeling it, and that had more to do with my back than with the guitar.

I’m practicing in my office chair and it’s not good. First, it has arms, so I have to sit weirdly sideways. Second, its too low and it wants to roll around the office if I move to suddenly. Thirdly, this guitar is a bitch to hold in my lap. My old guitar was a ‘strat’ style guitar and I don’t remember having this issue. This new Les Paul style guitar feels bottom heavy and I can’t find a comfortable position for it while sitting. The cord plugs in right where I’m inclined to balance it on my leg and it feels like I’m going to drop it on the floor if I tilt it into any sort of upright position. I find that I’m sitting with the neck pointing down and I’m hunched over the thing. Which is not an ideal position to try and read what I’m supposed to be playing. Maybe if I put the book on the ground?! I’m not doing that.

My boss reminded me that Guitar Center has a great return policy and that I might want to take it back and try something different. That’s a possibility, but I’m not there yet. Today, I sat on my little couch. It doesn’t have arms, but it’s a bit low. I may have to either steal a chair from the dining room or bring up a folding chair from the basement. I’m going to try those things before I go the route of changing the guitar.

My lesson today moved into 3/4 time and added 1/2 notes to my exercises and 1/8 notes are coming next week and I still don’t have a good grasp of keeping track of my timing. It’s a lot of new. I have NO musical background. There was a discussion again about tablature vs reading music. Lady Ronn thinks it’s dumb to not learn to read music and thinks I need a metronome. My instructor doesn’t disagree with her, but doesn’t think we’re in a place where either thing is necessary quite yet. But he did get noticeably interested at the idea of teaching me to read music. Probably that’ll end up being a thing.

A half-hour goes by in a flash, but it was good. All my practice went out the window as soon as I was playing in front of an audience, but like I said, he heard noticeable improvement. Or at least that’s what he said. Sounded like a train wreck to me and I thought I had these four exercises down. But I’m learning something new. I’m not discouraged. I’m still having fun. And I’m already ahead of where I was back in 1988.

Guitar.Week02 Read More

Bits and Bites

My half-hour guitar practice went for an hour-and-a-half last night and I really enjoyed it. Then we ate pizza and watched a couple hours of The Witcher, which was more than intended, but what-the-hell. I didn’t get any writing done, but I did get a blog post up before I started my guitar practice. The night before I did less practice, less TV, and added a touch more than 1,000 words to “And Don’t Come Back…”. I’m feeling more productive and less lay-about. Which is a good thing and I’m hoping to keep things going in this direction.

One thing I forgot to mention in my Roomba Review post yesterday, is that neither the dog nor the cat are bothered by the little robot vacuum. Initially, the cat followed it around and watched it from on high, but the dog never cared. Which is odd, because he barks every time we get the upright vacuum out. I had read that some of the earlier models had a whine that the animals didn’t like, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue with the i7+ model. I sometimes suspect that the cat is pushing toys in front of the robot, but I’ve never caught her doing so.

I’m feeling crowded here in the office of late. There’s too much stuff in here that doesn’t have a place or belong in here. I may have to clean thing up a bit this weekend. I’ve got the guitar and amp in a corner, the guitar case is on my desk, the box with the replacement dining room chairs are here, cat bed, dog bed, tonight I brought a music stand in here, and that doesn’t even touch on the clutter on my desk. I just need to clear some room, or maybe just spend less time in here.

I splurged on a three pack bundle for The Sims 4: Seasons expansion pack, Vampires game pack, and the Backyard stuff pack. And if I’m being honest, it almost immediately made things less fun. Of course some of that may have to do with the changes I made to my current “family” in the game. Whatever the case, I’ve set it aside in favor of all the other things I’m doing. That’s probably a good thing. Besides, it’s not going anywhere. It’ll still be on the computer if I suddenly feel the urge to jump back in.

I’ve got nothing else on my mind. Let’s call that a post and go see what Geralt is up to. Later.

Bits and Bites Read More

Grab Bag of Thoughts

Let’s do one of those posts where I touch on a whole bunch of stuff without really telling you anything much at all. Okay. Yeah. Let’s do it.

I watched the Marriage Story last weekend. It’s one of those movies that has no reason at all to be a movie. Being on the big screen or the TV, it would make no difference to this movie. I’m not sure what the big deal is over this movie… it was okay, well acted, made me never want to get divorced in Los Angeles, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Being as I’ve been through divorce twice… yeah, divorce sucks for everybody and the only people that make out are the lawyers. I guess I’d say, yeah, this is a thing I’ve seen.

I’ve started watching The Witcher. I’m up through episode 3? I think 3. Still not feeling the love. The scenery is good, the world is good, the costumes are a little hit and a little miss, but the characters don’t feel genuine to me. Still feels like actors trying to find the ebb and flow of their characters. The wife has issues with the dialogue, but that doesn’t bother me so much. I’m enjoying it, but I’m not necessarily buying into it yet. Episode 3 was the best of the three I’ve watched, hopefully the next 5 will keep that trend moving forward.

My first guitar lesson is tonight. I’ve been doing my 1-2-3-4 exercises, but haven’t tried to do much more than that. Also, this amp is a complicated little mess of a thing that I’ve been struggling with a bit. Probably, I’m just an idiot. Lots of presets and not a lot of documentation about what those presets are. Also…. my fingers and wrist are not used to these positions. Looking forward to meeting my instructor.

The dog does not like the guitar. He barks and barks until I tell him to shut it. The cat just sits and stares. The wife took all of one day to figure out what I was up to… She hasn’t been in that bedroom in 6-months… Ah well, surprise ruined.

Went to Mission BBQ for dinner last night. Definitely a barbeque place. All the same foods you would expect. Lady Ronn loves her BBQ. I had a pulled pork sandwich. Food was good. Service was good. Lots of police, fire, and military memorabilia on the walls. I’d eat there again, but I probably wouldn’t make it a weekly stop. I’m not that much into the BBQ.

I move the website over to the Twenty Twenty WordPress theme and it went pretty smoothly. No disasters to report. Yet. I’m still trying to figure out some of the features and options in the new theme, so I’m probably not using it to its utmost. I’ll get there, eventually.

I tested the email notification list, and it seems to be working properly now. Or, at least, it’s sending notifications to me. Feel free to put your email in there and see if it works for you.

I’ve been working on a schedule that will let me do all the things I want to do with my time, but GRCC doesn’t start until next week, so my time isn’t really mine quite yet. Sacrifices are being made for the good of all involved. Probably, I’ll end up with a plan that won’t work anyway. I just want to get away from the hours of meaningless web browsing and time wasting. I’ve got plenty of other things to occupy my attention that are better uses of my time.

I’m listening to the audio book versions of Dave Duncan’s The Seventh Sword series. Just finished book one today and started book two. Book one was one of my favorites back in the day, this time around I found it to be different than I remembered. Good, but not the perennial favorite that I recall. This may just be because I’m not a teenager any longer. 1988 was a long while back. Probably, I’ve changed some. Anyway, I’ll leave you with the blurbs for the first two books in this 4-book series.

The Reluctant Swordsman: Wallie goes to the hospital and wakes up in the body of a barbarian swordsman, accompanied by a voluptuous slave girl and an eccentric priest babbling about the Goddess. When he learns the Goddess needs a swordsman, he reluctantly agrees to set off on her quest.

The Coming of Wisdom: Wallie is staring death in the face when the Goddess gives him a new body and the fabled Sapphire Sword in return for being her champion. But Wallie and his weapon quickly find themselves outmatched in a world of high-stakes magic.

Grab Bag of Thoughts Read More

Second Attempt at Guitar

Long ago in another time and a different place a pretty young girl bought a boy a guitar, because he thought he wanted to put music to his song lyrics and possibly become a rock n’ roll star. That guitar was a prized possession, but not a thing that was ever put to its proper use. The boy did not try very hard to master the instrument, and in fact, did very little with it. In the end, it was handed down to the next generation of rockstars and disappeared from any knowing that the boy might have.

I was that boy. That guitar was a 1987 Charvel Model 1… I think… my online shopping seems to indicate that it was. It was 30+ years ago and I don’t remember. I’ve looked around for one, but they’re hard to find and not inexpensive… maybe, if things work out, I’ll look into it more thoroughly. Right now, it would be a premature purchase.

Charvel Model 1

It’s 2020. I’m 51-years-old. It’s time to become a rockerboy (Cyberpunk reference). That’s right, I’ve decided to try my hand at the guitar once again. This time with a bit more of an organized and goal driven methodology. Weekly lessons. A one year, one song goal. And of course, to accomplish this I’m going to need some new equipment. Let’s see what I walked out of Guitar Center with…

I searched the internet for lists of the best guitars for beginners. I solicited some good advice from my boss who has been playing guitar for as long as I’ve been thinking about playing. Which was good, as what I was thinking about was not what would have been best. But having said that, this is not the guitar I had intended to get. It’s not even the style of guitar I was looking for. This is what happens when I go off the rails and shoot from the hip. This guitar bumped right up against the ceiling of my budget, but I like it. I went to Guitar Center wanting to look at a white Schecter C-6, which has a similar style to the Charvel above, and came out with something a bit different.

The Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Studio Deluxe Electric Guitar Is a dressed up studio edition that gives you all the great tone and sustain you expect from a meaty set-neck mahogany body with 12″ radius for strings bends that won’t fret out. The addition of Alnico Classic Plus humbuckers gives you even more low-end punch and midrange crunch. The LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece add more sustain and make string changing easier. This instrument is a super value offering the great tone, looks, and playability you expect from a Les Paul at an affordable price.

Features
Mahogany body with carved top
Set mahogany neck
Slim-tapered profile
24-3/4″ scale
Rosewood fingerboard with trapezoid inlays
22-frets
12″ radius
1-11/16″ nut width
Alnico Classic Plus humbucking pickups
2 volume, 2 tune controls with 3-position toggle
LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece
Vintage Kluson tuners with tombstone buttons
Gold hardware w/ Alpine White
Limited Lifetime Warranty

I know that the white and gold is not for everybody, but it just looks very retro to my eye. Very Chuck Berry esc. It’s not a hollow body, but it still has that look. And given what I want to start playing, it seems appropriate. It’s not my dream guitar, I had wanted something with a body colored headstock and I wish the weird plastidip tuners were gold, and they had those things, but I set myself a budget. And I stayed within that budget. Barely. The reviews on YouTube are good and I’m happy with my choice. It should be a fantastic starting guitar.

Of course, you can’t just buy a guitar. You need stuff to go with the guitar. Most importantly you need an amp to play the guitar through. I didn’t want to break the bank on that either, so I picked out this little Fender Mustang which seems to have a lot of features. I know less about amps than I do about guitars, so I can only trust that the sales clerk steered me in the right direction with this choice. Which to be honest, he pointed this one out as being a popular choice and the price was within reason, so that’s what I went with.

The Fender Mustang I V2 guitar combo amp adds new features to one of the best-selling amp series in the world. Get the flexibility you’ve come to expect from a Mustang. The V.2 series raises the standard for versatility and muscle. Featuring five new amp models, five new effects and intelligent pitch shifting. The series features USB connectivity, letting your musical creativity and imagination run wild.

Features
Power: 20W
One 1/4″ instrument input
One channel with 24 presets
Gain, Volume, Treble, Bass, Master, Preset Select, Modulation Select, Delay/Reverb Select, Save, Exit and Tap Tempo controls
Eighteen amp models
Chromatic tuner
USB connectivity
AmpliTube Fender LE edition
Black textured vinyl covering with silver grille cloth
One 8″ Fender Special Design speaker

Those were the two main purchases, but I also walked away with a cable to connect the two, some picks, a digital tuner, and a wall mounted guitar hanger. But I did not get a case or bag to put the guitar in, I was thinking that I could find something on Amazon for less than what I saw in the store. Not so much, really. But I did order a hard case online and should have it soon.

The big thing. The thing that will make all this come together. The feather in the cap of this whole big deal is the lessons. I signed up, paid for, and scheduled the first 3-months of guitar lessons. I intend to take a weekly lesson throughout 2020. I’m starting with 30-minutes, but hope to move up to doing 60-minutes when I sign up for the next quarter. We’ll see how things progress. Lessons start the first Tuesday of the year. I’m pretty excited to be doing this.

When I received that red Charvel, the pretty girl who would go on to become my wife, made an off-hand comment that she would consider me to be a guitar player if I could play Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode. So I’m approaching this with the following goal and mindset. Teach me to play this song. There will be skills I will develop and things I need to learn in order to be able to do that, things that will be applicable to playing other songs. If I can learn this song I will have the ability to expand out from there to playing other things that are more in-line with my current musical tastes. If I can do that, then I can start to make the music I have always imagined in my head. I want to be able to play that song next year at the lovely Lady Ronn’s birthday party. My boss, says that it is a realistic goal if I put in the work. It all starts with one song, 52 lessons, and some dedication to the process.

Second Attempt at Guitar Read More