Friday 13 November 2009

What's happening October 2009

October turned out to be a busy month, and an un-busy month at the same time.  I had my busking permit, valid for a month, and I played three times in the Murray Street mall before I decided my guitar/amp combo just wasn't working out.  My battery amp was showing up problems - I reckon it needs a preamp between the effects pedal and the car audio amp, the sound was progressively getting boomier and "fuzzy" in the middle probably due to impedance mismatch.  The guitar was also showing up problems, the bass response was quite poor.

It was a really useful experience though; firstly it proved to me that I do in fact like playing to an audience, and that I have the ability to "muddle my way through" the songs I know (yep, there were plenty of errors, but you just play through).  The "stress test" on using my equipment in a gig scenario showed fundamental problems which I'm on my way to rectifying.

On the home made solar powered battery amp, even after all these years of effort, I decided to scrap it and just buy one from a manufacturer.  5 or 6 years ago when I started this project, you couldn't buy a battery amp, nobody was making them.  Today you can walk into a music store and test out several all made by different manufacturers, different price ranges, different features - and most cost less than my home made one and sounded better!

On the guitar side, I pulled off the saddle and made a new bone one.  Which made the pickup balance worse!  After trying several different things I decided to give the guitar to some experts and let the professionals fix it.  3 weeks later and it came back much better, but it still wasn't "perfect".  After the last year or so of experimenting with sound I know what I expect from a guitar pickup and amp, and now I want what I expect ;)  So I'm still working on it - after seeing what the professionals did and thinking about the physics of the situation I reckon I'm on the right track...

At the moment I'm selling one house and buying another, the big move in around 2 weeks.  I think a combination of that stress, and poor diet - my fingernails have gone weak, over the month I smashed up my thumbnail and middle finger on separate occasions, which for someone who plays on nails is really, really, really annoying.  So in between the guitar being in the shop and having short nails there wasn't much guitar playing the tail end of the month. (If I crack a nail, I will cut and file it down to the crack, and then cut and file all the others to the same level.  The only thing worse than cracking a nail is having the other fingers with long nails and one with a short nail!)

I think I've mentioned it but I have been jamming with a fantastic drummer on a Sat morning while our kids are in music classes.  I play my fingerstyle and he drums along to it.  He's got a real ear for the drums, once he's heard a song on the radio he pretty much knows the "feel" of the drumming in that song, so when I pull out a song he hasn't even heard for 10 years his drumming still sounds just like the original song!  He's more of an rocker-from-way-back than me; the stuff I play is a bit quieter than what he's used to, but he puts up with me.

Unfortunately with the house move, there is only two jam sessions left!  I'm very disappointed, it is the guitaring highlight of the week.  It has shown me that solo performances might be well and good, but when you are working with someone else it can be even better.  The chic who teaches our kids has had a listen to us before; in fact she is a singer, last week she came in while we were doing some pink floyd and it turns out she loves Dark Side of the Moon.  I cast out a challenge to her - brush up on "Great Gig in the Sky" and sing it for us next week...tomorrow!  A very challenging vocal solo, I'm looking forward to seeing how she goes.  I will record the session on the iphone, if it comes out alright I'll put some mp3s somewhere.

Finally, while we are on the subject, I have been putting a bit more effort into my Dark Side of the Moon project.  Once or twice a week I play Breathe-Time-Breathe Reprise-Great Gig in the Sky back to back, ie side A of the album minus "On the Run" which I don't even know if you could come up with anything on guitar.  Breathe & Breathe Reprise I have been playing for a few years now so they are done and dusted, in fact I've tarted up the bassline a bit so it sounds great.  Time I have a good resolve for the intro (not the alarm clocks though!) with some bongo drum playing on the body.  I haven't bothered with the solo yet; at the moment I've cut my DSotM project back to "just the basics", as the years go by I'll add to it - for now I think it is better to get stuff finished to a certain level rather than aim for 100% and never actually get there.  Great Gig in the Sky on the other hand needs to have a solo, it is the essence of the song, at the moment I am half improvising but I have the groundwork laid so sometime soon I will complete a near-enough rendition of the vocal solo and call it done.

In the meantime, when I've got the guitar pickup balanced and my nails have grown back somewhat, I think I'll record a video of DSotM side A for YouTube.  It will be rough and a bit unfinished, but I haven't posted anything for 3 months and my fan base is dropping! ;)