The Ancient Art of Weaving

Hi all – Happy March….

Last month I blogged about my 2 auditions and reasonably good showing at “R Place” in Livermore.  With the three of us in place – Singer, Drummer, and myself – we needed to add a bassist.

A bit surprisingly, though, the singer next had in line to try out a rhythm guitarist.  I approached this with some caution.  In the past, I’ve had rhythm guitarist try out for the band, then try to undermine me to get the lead spot.  However, at the same time, I was fine with sharing some lead guitar duties – especially if he had a different style as me.  I didn’t think we needed 2 “me’s” in the band.

I should explain the title of the blog – I recently read Keith Richard’s autobiography Life and he mentions the ancient art of weaving as two guitars that listening to each other and playing around each other and complimenting each other.  Keith has always worked with another guitar player, so I decided to pay special attention to this approach.

They guy we tried out had a very good attitude.  No real ego here, just wanting to play in a working band like the rest of us.  He corrected me on a song (Honey Bee) in a respectful way.  He had a tube amp and a Fender Strat.  We sounded good together but I also realized this increased my work load a bit.  In most songs I didn’t want to play exactly what he was playing.  For example, if he’s playing an open E chord, I will probably play the bar E on the 7th fret.  Why?  Because with two guitarist we can stretch the range.  He plays low, I go high.  And we have to pay close attention to our rhythms to make sure they don’t clash.  The new guy has more of a country background and I don’t and I think that’s a plus.

We still needed a bassist.  Luckily for us, the idea of playing out at “R Place” to put the word out that we needed a bassist bought us an audition.  We auditioned him last week and his playing was just right on.  Nice tone, not too loud, rock solid bass lines and he had the signature bass parts down cold in the 10 songs he brought.

As I’ve done with everybody on the band, I brought up commitment and goals.  Two gigs a month on average, one rehearsal a week unless there is a gig that week.  Everybody agreed.

The Turbo Fuegos was complete.

We then talked about next steps.  Three out of the five members of the band, including me, needed to learn the song list.  I had come in with 10 songs, so did the rhythm guitarist and the bassist.  We now needed to learn the Fuegos’ set list, starting with set one.  There was a lot of talk about throwing out older songs, replacing them with new ones, but for now we will keep the first set as is, and everybody come next week prepared to play through 13 songs.

We are booked at Ollies on May 24th, and we might be playing a rodeo event on April 27th.  Nothing motivates as much as having a live gig to go on.

More next blog…


The Audition – Part 2


Well last post we had me overextended on my audition, playing a guitar I didn’t practice on, and not enough time to prepare.  But they liked me enough to want to check me out one more time.

So I reduced the number of songs from 21 to 10.  I pracitced on my #1 guitar – my Ibanez Prestiege, and worked on my presets/tones on my amp.

The difference was huge.  They liked me so much I got the job on the spot.

Then they had the idea of us playing at a local jam night at a club called “R Place” in Livermore.  We worked up two sets of 4 songs each, with 2 extra, just in case.

When we arrived, the “House” band was setting up and played a blues set that lasted about an hour and half.  I was….not nervous, but antsy.  I wanted to play, but instead I have to listen to these guys play!  I have some serious gear – I kept thinking about where it would go, what is the most effecient way to get it set up to save time, etc.

Finally we got the green light.  With the “house” bassist to fill in, we got setup to play.  I got my gear up and ready to play in under 10 minutes.  We started off with

1)  Born to be Wild

2)  Can’t Get Enough

3) China Grove

4) Gimme Three Steps

We originally were going to play only 4 but they let us do one more so…we played Jumpin Jack Flash.

We then stepped down, dragged our gear off (well I did, the drum set didn’t move), and took a breather.  Our friends and family were supportive, and we sounded quite different than the standard blues fare that had been played thus far.  We were also pretty loud.  50 watts with a tube amp is pretty darn loud.

Eventually we were asked back up.  Up goes the amp, the effects, the guitar, and me.  We ran through:

1) Honky Tonk Women

2) Feel Like Makin’ Love

3) Highway to Hell

4) Sweet Home Alabama

Again, they wanted another song wo we threw in Johnny B Goode, the old Chuck Berry Classic.

After that, we were “done” in the sense that we had prepared 10 songs, and we had played them.  People loved us, and our lead singer was a natrural as he worked the crowd – talking to them and getting them fired up.  Then we were asked to play one more.

“Uh, what do we want to do?”

I said “Ok, let’d do Long Train Runnin'”.  I’d played that song every time last year when I played out, I knew it backwards and forwards so we knocked that out.

We were done.  Once again, dragged my stuff off the stage, wrapped the cords, put it in the car and was done for the night.  No money, but it was a nice “testing ground” for how we’re going to be on stage.  They guys liked what I did.

There were mistakes.  Oh yeah there were mistakes – but we played through them.  This was our third time playing together and the crowed loved us.

We were building a new band…..

More next blog


The Audition – Part I

[Note: as of 2-11-13 I have one opening Wednesday nights at 8:30pm in the Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore area.  I know that’s late but some people are night owls.  If you’re looking for a different day/time contact me anyway and I’ll see what I can work in for you ]

My last post talked about a new audition I had coming up.  Well I did it – here’s my report.

I nearly blew it.

I showed up at the warehouse where they rehearse (while not warm and cozy, it has no noise restraints at night).  The singer and drummer welcomed me and helped carry my gear in.  I brought what I would normally bring to a gig:

  • Amp head and cabinet
  • Effects foot pedal
  • guitar
  • Crate including power strip, extension cord, extra strings/picks, iPad for charts, and various connecting cords.

As I got set up, I explained that I havn’t really used my new amp head/cabinet other than to jam with since I quit my last band before I had a chance to gig with it.

All talk aside, we began to work through the tunes.  Now in our communications via email I said I could play 21 of their songs.  I did have background with all 21 songs, but not all songs were fresh in my memory.  I had brought my Stratocaster as that is the closest “country” sounding guitar I have, yet most of the 21 were classic rock songs (Bad Company, Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, etc).  As we started playing through them, I struggled off the bat.  My hands felt cold, they wouldn’t move like I wanted them to.

As we got to about the 4th or 5th song, I started to loosen up and relax, hands warmed up, and I began to play better.  I found on the rock songs I missed my Ibanez (the S5470 – catchy name eh?).  The Ibanez is my go-to guitar which I had left at home because this was a “country” band.  Wrong move.

Plus, I didn’t even practice these songs on the Strat at home.  I had practiced on my Dean 7 string since that is what I had set up in my practice area.  So I practiced on a guitar I wasn’t going to bring, and I wasn’t going to bring my main guitar.  Not too smart!

After we got done playing, we sat down and talked.  The lead singer opened with “We think you’re a better player than you showed us here tonight.  It took like 5 songs for you to hit your stride, and you’re playing on new gear.”

That sounded hopeful to me, but not quite a definite “Yes”.  They made it clear to me they are not a “Classic country” band and they enjoy all music from Garth Brooks to Juda Priest.

We had similar goals – be gigging actively, be different than the competition, sound good and work hard.

They wanted me to come back the next week with a smaller set of songs ready.  I agreed to that, trying to remember if I’d ever been asked to audition twice.  If I had, I didn’t remember.

To recap my mistakes:

  • I practiced on the guitar I would not do the audition with
  • I chose too many songs to work on
  • I auditioned with a guitar that I was not as comfortable on

In my next blog entry, I’ll tell you how the second audition went.

Peace out


Auditioning for a New Band

Hi all –

[ as of 1/24/13, I have an opening in my schedule on Thursdays at 8:00pm.  Email me if interested in in-home guitar lessons in Pleasnton, Livermore, or San Ramon]

Well, once again I’ve been contacted by a band for an audition.  The first time you do this, you’ll probably be fairly nervous.  I’ve done quite a few and even though I’m fairly confident, you just don’t know what’s going to happen as you are meeting people for the first time.

I’l be stepping out of my usual role as a rock/funk player and trying my hand at a band that does a fair amount of County.  They have a bit of a country image too.  It will be an interesting change.

Here is a list of my “DO’s” for auditioning:

DO make a chart of all the songs you’ll be playing at the audition.  You shouldn’t have to read the chart too much but it’s a good way to jog your memory if you’re feeling a little bit stressed out.

DO come up to speed on as many agreed upon songs as possible.  Play them daily.

DO experiment with the right tone for the right song.  Most auditions are 5-10 songs.  (I, of course, had to agree to 21 that I have played before).  Even write down the settings if you have to.  Bring the gear you’d gig with, not your practice stuff unless they tell you not to due to noise restraints.

DO practice any vocal parts if singing is part of your possible new role.

DO dress appropriately.  Jeans and T-shirt are fine, but if, like me, this is a bit of a country audition, leave the Metallica T-shirt at home.

DO ask questions!  This is a job interview like any other.  The more forthcoming you are about what you want to do the quicker you’ll see either agreement or areas of concern.

Questions I will ask, either before in email or at the audition:

1) What are the main goals of the band – like: gig as much as you can?  Gig every other month? Write original music?  Play festivals?

2) If there was a previous guitarist, why did he/she leave?

3) How often do they practice?

4) Band history – where have they played before?

5) Marketing – do they have a website?  Is that site any good?  Photos?  Portfolio?  CD? DVD?  If the answer is no to any of these, or it’s out of date, ask when they plan to update them.

6) Do they travel?

7) Are there any restrictions?  Like can the band ever play a Thursday?  Would they play 100 miles away?  And if so for how much money?

While it’s not critical you become best buddies with the band, it’s important to at least get along with most, if not all of the band.  There always seems to be one cranky person in the band who stews about it being too hot, or too cold, or whatever, but on the whole people should feel like they can work with you and get along with you.

With this upcoming audition, the subject of tone came up a few times and they made it clear they don’t want to sound the same the whole night.  I will get my modeling presets arranged for the audition, but will also make it clear that I have a lot of different possibilities in my sound and I’m open to suggestions if someone really doesn’t like my tone.

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it goes!


Tunings and the 6 and 7 String Guitar

Happy New Year!!

[Note, as of 1/3/13 I have openings on Wednesday and Thursday night at 7:00pm.  Contact me if you want to start the new years off right!]

I’m currently reading the Keith Richards autobiography.  If you’ve ever struggled with playing Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women or Brown Sugar, don’t feel alone.  Keith discovered open G tuning in 1968 and even tossed his 6 string away for this new method of playing he adopted.

What the heck is open G tuning?  Well, to start let’s look at the way a guitar is tuned normally:

The notes E, A, D, G, B, E don’t really fit nicely into any one chord.  The top three (E, G, B) make an e minor and the top four (E, B, G, D) make an E minor 7th but that’s about it.

At some point, slide guitar players got into the act.  A slide is made up of either glass, plastic, or metal and lays vertically across the neck, but of course in a straight line.  Not happy with the standard tuning above, they changed the tuning so that all the notes, when lined up vertically along one fret, will make a major chord.  In other words, the notes in the G Major chord are G, B, and D, so if an open string note isn’t one of those notes already, we tune up or down to the nearest in the chord.  See line two of the chart below:

It requires the 6h, the 5th, and the 1st string to be changed.

Keith took it one more step – he tossed the 6th string, making his tuning:

G D  G  B  D

And then those licks became easy for Start Me Up, etc.

If you’ve read my posts, you know I bought a new 7 String guitar.  For those in the heavy metal world, “drop” tuning is common, even when you have a 7 string guitar.

I used my 7 String in “Standard Tuning” which is:

7   6  5  4   3   2  1

B  E  A  D  G  B  E

The most common thing played on the 7th string are the “power chords” which are typically Root and Fifth of the chord, played most commonly with first finger and third finger.  For example, with Standard tuning, I could play a C power chord with my first finger on 7th string 1st fret (C) and 3rd finger on 6th string, third fred (G).

Many metal heads prefer more “gonk” or bottom end and they do what is called “Drop A” tuning.  If you only have a 6 string, you can do virtually the same thing with “Drop D” tuning.

On the 6th string,  your bottom E on the 6th string becomes a D.  Your fifth for the power chord will now line up on the same fret.  In other words, open 6th and open 5th are now D and A and that make a D power chord.  as you go up the neck,  you only need to bar 6th and 5th strings with one finger.

On the 7th String, the 7th string itself is dropped to A instead of B.  This has the same effect as with the 6th stringer but in a lower range.  open 7th and 6th string is now a power A chord (A and E).

One of the issues facing the working musician is how to keep these tunings straight?  It wouldn’t be practical to be tuning back and forth throughout the night on the same guitar.  What most guitarists do is have a guitar dedicated to each tuning they want to use.  One guitar might be standard tuning, another might be Drop D tuning or something else.

Another alternative, although more costly up front, are the “virtual” guitars made by Line 6 and Roland.  I don’t own one myself, but Line 6 makes a “Variax” guitar line where without turning a tuning peg, you can change your tunings on the fly.  Of course nothing comes perfect and what you gain in flexibility you lose in other areas.

So this has been an introduction to various tunings on 6 and 7 string guitars.  Use a tuner if you don’t trust your ear yet and experiment about. Remember to not tune your strings the wrong way – in other words too tight – or they break!

Happy Strumming!




Oh No! Say it isn’t so!

“Maybe you guys need a new guitarist”

Well, I did it – I quit my band, almost to the day when they first contacted me to audition.

This wasn’t an easy decision, but it has been coming a while. I nearly quit at the last practice before Thanksgiving but I didn’t – I decided to sleep on it.

I always find it to be ridiculous when fans are upset when someone quits a band or the band breaks up. You never know how happy or unhappy people are in their situation.

In my case, when I auditioned for the band, I had to weigh the pros and cons.

The Pros were that this band sounded great. This is probably the best sounding band I’ve played with or one of the top ones. Having two dedicated lead vocalists both male and female gave us a lot of flexibility, plus everybody else had a lot of years on their instruments and knew what they were doing.

The Cons were the following:

1) I was told they don’t gig any other night but Saturday (this is not exactly true – we did some Friday gigs but the sentiment remained)

2) They told me they gigged 11 times in 2011 which is fine – about one a month, which was ok. I’d prefer two. But later on others expressed the desire not to work that often – more like 1 gig for every two months which is not frequent enough in my opinion

3) Very little attention was given to marketing the band. This includes an amateurish web site with grainy photos, bad video (focused on the dancers not the band) and clunky interface to play their sound clips, plus a dumb attempt at humor with a page entitled “Nothing” and when you click on it, you got a blank page that said “We told you”. No portfolio, no professionally done photos, no CD, no DVD, just a clunky website and a business card that still had the phone number of the guy that quit. No facebook page (they created a “personal” page for the band, I later made a real band page on facebook), no mailing list, no booking agent

Unfortunately, #1 and #2 remained in place a year later, and while effort was put into #3, the webiste improved, pictures were taken (at JC Penny, which is fine), a CD was recorded and a DVD made, all these efforts together took 9 months. Many in the band didn’t care to do it, some had no money to do it with, so a lot of the work fell to two people who wanted to take it on in their spare time. More drag.

The end result is we hadn’t worked since July 21st, as the only place we played shut down.

Still, even all this wasn’t enough to make me want to quit. We were each given five places to call and promote the band – I made my calls and dropped off the portfolio at a club that wasn’t on my list. I attempted to contact agents. I don’t know if it’s the economy or time of year or what but we got little or no response.

By this time, we had 95 songs on our song list. Now granted, many of them I haven’t even played with the band. You need about 45 songs to get through a 3-4 hour gig. So with all this time off, they wanted to go over the other 40 songs that I hadn’t played with the band.

I found my enthusiasm waning. I found I didn’t want to work on all these new tunes. My thought was to get 45 songs down pat, have a gig’s worth of material down tight so when the phone rings, we’re ready, and maybe work in other songs once in a while. Realistically, with one 3 hour practice a week, you’re not going to get tight on all 95 songs. But they thought we should know them all.

Additionally, in the time of one year, I had suggested ONE song which was rejected by the male singer. It was Tattoo by Van Halen. He said if it doesn’t have 100,000 hits on youtube it wasn’t worth his time.

So I started showing up unprepared. That wasn’t professional of me, but I was trying to find the right motivation to do what the band wanted me to do. It didn’t work. And finally, last week, the keyboard player (who is ALWAYS heard and always wants me to turn down) started in on me about my lack of preparation.

And so I said it: “Maybe it’s time for you to get a new guitarist”. I think the keyboardist was fine with me quitting. I think over the months I had disappointed him in one way or another on a continuing basis. I don’t think the news made the others happy but they took it in stride. No one asked me to reconsider. You want out? You’re out.

I did state, for the record, if they get a gig before they’ve worked somebody else in, I’ll stand in for them. Shook hands, and left.

I will admit, I was bummed for several days afterwards. It’s like breaking up in any other kind of relationship. Even though I wasn’t close friends with any of them, you spend a year with these people it’s somewhat sad they I won’t see them anymore. But as the days roll on, I find myself comfortable with my decision and realize it was the right thing to do for me.

What now? I’m not sure. I have one friend that wants to write originals and another friend who wants to start a classic rock band and wants me in it.

Time will tell.

Spencer Out.

News for November, 2012

Hey all –

Well, I moved!!  I finally found a nice home and stocked it full of guitars, amps, basses, drums and a PA.  Had a nice party weekend before Halloween where we jammed late into the evening and no cops were called (thankfully).

We’re also working on marketing our band Sound Advice – we have a demo, photos, and a promo kit. Our video is up on Youtube – I need to find the URL.

I’ve upgraded my gear again – I have a Dean RC7X 7 stringer so I’ve been working on my metal chops.  If any of you guys are looking to learn 7 string, I’m your teacher.

I finally got my dream amp – it’s a Line 6 DT50 half stack.  The head was designed by Reinhold Bogner. I love the sound of his amps and he designed this one with 4 different “topographies” – just think of it as an amp with 4 different personalities.  It will choose the circuitry on the head based on the selection with the Line 6 Pod HD.  I have a lot more exploring to do.

Well I hope everyone had a great Halloween.  My posts this year have been a lot about my band and gear – my next post will be on learning 7 string guitar.

Peace out


What’s going on?

Hey –

My last blog series chronicled my joining my band, Sound Advice, and playing my first gig.  So much has happened that this is sort of a “catch-up” blog.

As of 9/8/2012:

1) The band – well, we’re looking for work.  Bases Loaded, the club we played up in Antioch when through an ownership change, and the new owner is on the fence about having any live music at all and just make it a restaurant.  So for now, we’re looking for booking agents.  More on that in another blog.

2) Gear – I hinted that I got the Line 6 Flextone III.  Then I got Line 6 wireless for guitar.  Then I got Line 6 POD HD500 effects board.  I am not backed by Line 6 but I should be.  I also recently picked up (used) a Line 6 DT50 25/50w head and 4×12 cabinet.  I have to blog more on this later. So my amp setup is small (Spider II), medium (Flextone III) and large (DT50).

3) Lessons – I’m expanding my lessons to include 7 string guitars as well.  I need to blog about this too.  7 strings can be tuned many ways, but mine is the standard:


So just an extra B string on bottom.  I love the guitar.  It is a Dean RC7X import. All my students are still 6 strings, so I’d love to sign a 7 stringer.  Wednesday evenings still has openings.

4) I’m moving!!  Yes, I’m getting out of my apartment and into a house (thus the half stack DT50).

More to come.  Leave a comment or an email with any request about things you want me to talk more about…



Sound Advice, Part VI (The Gig)

This entry will terminate “series” on joining this band, but rest assured, I’ll have more blog entries on what new things we’re up to.

The day had arrived.  The only thing was my amp, the Flextone III was ready at the shop, and the shop was in San Mateo (about 1 hour from me, on the other side of the bay).  I didn’t have to go get it that day, but I wanted it so I did.

I took the day off from work, ran across the bay and picked it up.  Gone was the crackling and volume drops – it played like it was brand new.  Bill: $288.  These guys even have a couple of gold records on the wall.  Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

Back home, I printed out my checklist of what I would need.  The gig was up in Antioch, at least 45 minutes from me, and on a Friday evening, more like an hour.  If I forgot anything, I’d be hosed.

I believe in redundancy when playing out.  And yes, it means many more trips in loading and unloading.  Two guitars and a dual guitar stand to hold them.  Extra strings, picks, and batteries as well as  the tools (wrenches, screw drives, wire cutters, and flashlight) to make use of them.  Music stand plus light.  Extra guitar cord.  Extension cord and power strip.  Duct tape, plus colored electrical tape for marking my stuff (all these music stands look alike!).

I had about 10 friends going to see me that night, but no one was riding with me.  I loaded up the car and headed out.  I’d been to this bar once before, but my handy Droid Bionic gave me turn by turn directions so I wouldn’t miss an exit (I don’t know how I got by before without a navigation system).

I was the first one at the gig.  There is a small alley behind the bar that can hold 2 cars length-wise (meaning if you’re first, you’re blocked in).  I walked into the place and asked the busy waitress if I can use that service door to bring in my gear.  She gave me a quick and disinterested “Yeah” and so I began my trips to the car, holding the service door open with a chair.

About this time, the sound man Adam showed up.  He introduced himself and we continued are unloading of gear.

This is my first time in a band that used a sound man and his gear.  All my other bands owned a PA and we all carried it in, and we all carried it out, so I felt a bit of pressure to go help him once my stuff was on stage, even though it wasn’t necessary.

I found an outlet, pulled out the cords, got my guitars out and tuned (like most footboards, mine contains a tuner), during which other members of the band showed up.

I’ll tell ya, singers have it easy.  They show up with their microphone.  It’s always been this way but in just about every band, the girl singer sits in a booth chatting with friends while the men go back and forth.  (For the record, the girlfriends I’ve had have always helped me with my gear 🙂  This applies to male singers too.  All the glory and none of the grunting :).

By now, people are arriving.  My girlfriend and her daughter arrived, my friend and his wife from work, one of my previous band mates and friend along with her boyfriend, and an old friend of mine, Dave.  I’ll post more about him in a later blog.

Like a lot of jobs, this is like hurry up and wait.  I got there first, and seriously, even rusty at this, I was set up in 20 minutes.  The drummer has to make a lot of trips, and the PA guy is all over the place, mic’ing this, placing monitors around the stage, and setting up the mains.  And here I am, plugged in and tuned up and waiting.

Finally, around 8:45pm we called a sound check song.  I think it was Long Train Running, but I can’t be sure.  We played the song, while the sound man fixed the feedback and dealt with various complaints like “I can’t hear myself in the monitor” or “I can’t hear the bass”.

Off to the restroom where I changed clothes.  Unless it’s a barbeque or something casual, I prefer to dress up while playing – dockers, nice shoes, nice shirt.  After all, we’re putting on a show and people might consider your band for their wedding.  Then again, we’re a top 40 dance band, NOT a grunge/metal/blues/etc band with those respective images.

Finally, we kicked off the first set.  I had the set list on my music stand, plus what presets I should be using (remember, this is my smaller amp and I only had 4), trying desperately to remember how some of these songs started.  This band likes to go from one song to the next for about the first 6 songs.  This is a very good technique for getting people out on the dance floor and keeping them there.

This was the first day on the job, in every sense of the word.  Trying to remember the beginnings of songs, the breaks (I stepped on many), and which preset to use.  I’m sure I looked about as much fun as a neurosurgeon on his first operation.  I barely cracked a smile, so intent was I to make a good impression on the band.  Then the bar owner comes over and takes a picture of me while playing – huh?  I found out later she does that with every band that plays there, and posts them on facebook.  Still, it was a distraction.

The first set is long – about an hour.  Then it was break time.  By now everybody had shown up that was here to support me, including people I hadn’t seen in a while.  Complaints started popping up like “We can’t hear you!” and “You need to tell the sound guy to turn you up!”.  I have no idea how loud I am while up on stage.  I can hear me.  If I can’t, I turn up.  So I went to the sound guy and said people can’t hear me and he told me he was trying not to turn anybody up so the vocals could be heard. Not wanting to rock the boat, first gig and all, I just decided I would turn up loader on my amp.  It would increase the volume being picked up by the mic.  Of course, he could always adjust my pa volume down, but beyond that I was pretty much out of options.

The material in the first set was what I was most familiar with.  The second set was a bit shaky.  While I played well for my solos, I played on some breaks, and didn’t play where I should have.  Of course the audience doesn’t notice much of that.  I felt like I was being evaluated the whole night by the band, which I was, and so that was extra pressure I was putting on myself.

Second set done, it was time for more socializing with my friends.  Everybody loved the music we played and thought the band was great in general.  We had a very full dance floor most of the night.

The third set lasted about 4 or 5 songs.  To this date, we’ve never played through the 3rd set.  We called it, about 10 minutes before 1:00am.  My first gig in 25 years was now in the books.  I was tired.  I wasn’t used to this and the stress and excitement of the evening wore me out.

But of course now comes tear down.  Tear down is faster than set up because there’s no tuning, no sound check, just roll the cords, put them in the crate, break down what needs to be broken down and start trekking out to the car again.

Our Keyboardist approached me with $80 in cash.  It was official – I was a working musician again.

I got nothing but positive feedback from the band.  I was expecting something of a report card after all the constant correction on my playing in practice but no, nothing but praise.

I got home about 3:00am (this is why I don’t like to gig so far from home) and unloaded my stuff (6 trips out to the car up 3 flights of stairs).  The next morning I would be teaching so I had to sleep fast.

But I couldn’t wait to use my new amp.  I’ll blog more on my current rig next time.

Until then….


Sound Advice Pt V (The Initial Gear)

By the beginning of January, I started to wonder if I had all the gear I needed.  My gig was some weeks away, and I was getting concerned that my Line 6 Spider II, even though it was 75 watts, was more of a glorified practice amp than a rugged gigging amp.  There were some practices where it struggled to keep up with volume and it was very directional having only one speaker.

I liked the Line 6 concept – using digital circuitry to mimic it’s analogue counter part – the Tube amp.  I liked the idea that I can get several amp sounds out of a single amp.  It’s a nice solution for someone like me that’s going to play all types of music from Pink to Bon Jovi.

If I was going to do a metal or hard rock band only – then yes, one tube head, one cabinet would be the way to go.  However, I have logistic issues.  I live upstairs so I’d have to trudge whatever I have 19 steps up.  I also drive a sedan – a big one, but it’s still a sedan.  So the combo amp is still the best solution for me.  (Note: combo amps are amps that have the amplifier power and cab in the same box – as opposed to “stacks” where you can buy a 100watt, 200 watt or 400 watt head and mix and match with various 4 speaker cabinets).  Combo amps are almost always mic’d into the PA system.  That’s not always ideal since you have to relinquish control over your volume to someone else and trust me, it doesn’t always turn out well and balanced.  But that’s what I was going to use.

I started googling and checking the forums for who used what, plus I started looking at ebay.

My current rig had only 4 presets on it’s footswitch and offered delay, chorus, phase shifter, and reverb, as well as a wah pedal on the footswitch.  I needed more presets than that so I bought a used FVB Shorboard for $100 that can handle up to 64 presets.  This board doesn’t have any effects on it – it’s just controlling the effects already on the amplifier.  There are about 12 models on this amp – I would be using about 4 of them, but with or without various effects.  I would have about 6 or 7 presets ready for the first gig.

So I had  a board.  Great.  I needed tools, strings, and picks and somewhere to keep them.  Tadaaa! – I went to Walmart and found the Craftsman’s organizer.  With the help of a razor, I modified the compartments to accommodate what I needed to carry.  I have a double locking tremolo system on my Ibanez Presteige – you need a hex wrench to replace strings, as well as a wire cutter to cut the ball bearing off the end of the string.  Batteries, and a flashlight.  This works great.

My search for an amp continued.  I’d heard good things about the Flextone series and the Vetta II series from Line 6 – both these amps are discontinued.  They introduced a new line of amps that seemed to be aimed more at the metal market (Spider Valve with tubes in the preamps), and then the DT series which was well over $1000 that was made to work with their Pod series of effects boards.

Finally, I found a Flextone III amp – 150 watts and 2 12″ speakers.  This had more like 16 amp models and these models were built to emulate existing amps – Fenders, Marshalls, Bogners, etc. It was old – built in 2004 – and the owner, who was local to me in Berkeley – was asking $155.  It would also work with the shortboard I had just bought. I met that bid and waited. No one bid again.  There was no bidding war – time ticked by right up to the deadline and no one swooped in to grab it.  It was mine.  I almost felt bad for the guy. Almost 🙂

I got it home and within the first 30 minutes, I found a problem.  The volume would drop out on me.  The tone would distort when it shouldn’t.  Arg!  Did I just waste $155?  Long story short, I found a great repair shop (and expensive) that would do a complete overhaul on the amp.  The only problem was I would get the amp back on Feb 3rd – the same day as my gig with no time to work with the presets.  Oh well, I was going to use my Spider II for the gig with the new shortboard.  (Although when I did get the amp back, they had cleaned and re-soldered all the connections and knobs and it has been working 100% since.  Only cost me $280, so total money spent was about $435 – still not a bad deal for the power and versatility).

Some stuff I couldn’t get used.  I used a combination of and I picked up an amp stand by On Stage – they make pretty good stuff.  When you have a combo amp, it helps to get it off the ground and tilt it up a bit so you can hear yourself better.

And since this band uses music stands, I bought a (again On Stage) sturdy music stand.  And miscellaneous stuff including pick holders, clip on reading light for the music stand, string winders, multi-tooled guitar tools, and a few other things I’ll talk about when I post about my final, complete rig.  This took some time and thought to pull together, plus I will take pictures.  I wasn’t done making purchases by the time I played my first gig, so I’ve got more to say on that, but for that time, I had what I had to get through the night.

On to the show…

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