Tuesday 28 February 2017

What's happening February 2017

I've been playing quite regularly at Deli Chicchi which has been great, it means I get to flex my muscle memory on my set list, which had been a little rusty, but now it's not too bad. There are a few songs I've had to let drop, I might relearn them, we'll see. I think it is alright to part ways with a song, I don't think there is a rule that says once you have gone to the effort of learning a song you have to be able to play it forever.

Doing a 2.5 hour set every Sunday evening gets your chops in good form on your "standard" setlist, but more importantly it gives you the courage(?) to play songs that you aren't so good at. And then you slowly get better at them. Bottom line - you keep playing, you keep getting your skills up, you are in your top form. Once a week for my full set list is all I need, in fact, once every two weeks would be enough. My set list is actually over 3 hours long, so I don't play everything I know. But I rotate through them. And usually play my real crowd pleasers at the start and at the end, when the people have changed.

I'm not playing this Sunday so I took the opportunity to change strings. I like 2 weeks for the trebles to bed in before I'm playing for an audience. I *think* I string the guitar for the fastest bed in times, but I'm still tuning between songs for at least a week after new strings. Those trebles just keep stretching! I'm coming off a set of D'Addario EJ49NTs which are the pretty much identical to my standard EJ45s. I've been experimenting with the different D'Addario offerings, I did the carbon variant last year which I talked about before and now I'm trying the EXP coated ones. Supposedly the EXP coating on the basses make the tone last longer. We shall see! I could feel the coating immediately, it makes the strings feel silkier.  Undecided if that is good or bad.

So far these are the strings I've tried:

EJ45 Pro Arte ~$5USD(2016)
EJ49 Pro Arte black trebles ~$7USD(2016)
EJ45TT Pro Arte Dynacore ~$10USD(2016)
EXP45 Pro Arte Coated ~$10USD(2016)
EJ45FF Pro Arte Carbon ~ $13USD(2016)

String selection is a huge problem because there are so many manufacturers and models and tensions and they all feel slightly different, and unless you take good notes you won't remember what you've liked. Initially I experimented with manufacturers and stuck with D'Addario. Then I experimented with tensions and stuck with normal tension. Hard tension makes me dig in, and nylon is about subtleties, if I wanted digging in I would have stuck with steel strings. Moderate tension would be too far the other way, normal tension already feels too loose I couldn't imagine going softer.

So now it's just trying the different models. I liked the carbon, but the trebles were just a touch too thin for me. Again, closer to steel. Black trebles are no real difference. Except they are black. EXP coating I'll report back. Dynacore I reckon I'm going to like. The carbon set has Dynacore wound basses which are great so I know what to expect there, but with my standard nylon trebles.

Bottom line, my standard EJ45s and change them every few months - remembering to wipe them after every play - is a good set of strings that lasts for a while at a really cheap price. I'm prepared to pay more for a longer lasting set though, I dislike changing strings, it takes too long to bed in!

Meanwhile, with school being back for the year, and my kids back into music, I see the head music teacher once a week again. When he saw me last week - "JAW! I've got some guitars for you!" and presented me with a Strat copy and a bass, both donated to the school. "Can you sort these out for me!" "Ha, sure!" (Last year, I offered to do some of my compulsory parent hours helping out with the music department.)

I tackled the bass guitar first. Needed a polish and a clean and new strings, but when I plugged it in, nothing. Pop off the volume and tone controls, ah. The pots had come loose and when the dials had been twisted the whole body spun and snapped all the wires. Well, any excuse to fire up the soldering iron is fine, but what wire goes where?

Internet to the rescue, 3 unmarked dials...hmm. Looking at various wiring diagrams I decided that it was going to become "jazz standard wiring". This is when the first two pots are volume knobs, in parallel, where two knobs independently varies the gain from the two pickups. You can put the pickups in series for more thump, but I liked the thoughts behind parallel. Bit of solder and a proper retightening of the pots and she's a nice instrument.

Next stop, fix the electric guitar! I'd already done an electric for my sister's boy last month, it was not in good shape. Installed a new tremolo block, and new nut, got it all going but I couldn't for the life of me intonate the 6th string properly, I think I'm going to have to operate on the nut some more. And the volume/tone pots are both stuffed - you know when you turn a pot and it hisses and clicks - because the internal connections inside are not making good connection anymore. So more work required on that one, I'll have to put in new pots. Pots (Potentiometers) are a common point of failure in electronics as they are used so much, and wear down. I had to replace 3 out of the 6 pots in the amp that came with that guitar!

So a fair bit of guitar repairs going on at the moment.

I'm still practising "Money" as part of my Dark Side of the Moon project, and "Why Can't This Be Love", 5 minutes of playthrough on each every couple of days does wonders. That's the most efficient way of learning a thing.

...heh, last Sunday at the gigi I had been playing for a while and a teenage girl wandered over in the middle of a song "Can you play 'Time After Time' by Cyndi Lauper?" I had to stop the song because she was expecting an answer and I couldn't process playing and her question at same time (you guitarist know what I'm talking about), so I said "No, sorry, I haven't arranged that one." Well she looked at me with the expression "what's wrong with you, why won't you play it for me?!?" which I took as a compliment - she thought I was so good that I should be able to play absolutely anything. Well the situation stuck in my head so last night I pulled the chords from the internet and attempted a hacky JAW style fingerstyle arrangement. You know what, I think it will work without too much effort :-)