Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gibson 2013 SG Deluxe Guitar

Here I am again touting a new guitar in my collection. I know, I know, you might not really care about my obsession with guitars, but at least it is legal (at the moment anyway).

This one was acquired by pure chance. My wife Anita Gayle and I were shopping for some gardening supplies and made the mistake of "just dropping by" our local Guitar Center store on our way back to the car. We made our way back through the store making jokes with the sales staff about offering them a little snack from a small veggie fertilizer bag I was carrying. As we approached their wall of used guitars, one stood out from the rest, a new-looking Gibson SG Deluxe. "Oh, that's a lot of guitar there, and the price seems a bit low considering the excellent, spiffy condition," I thought innocently.

Anita Gayle sensed my mental drooling and asked, "Would you like to have that guitar?"

"Well, sure, but I have a few really nice ones now," I said, not taking my eyes off this orange beauty.

"Why don't you try it out. Maybe you should get it," she countered. Then, she said something about me not living forever, which is actually very logical, but a little morbid and sweet at the same time.

Anyway, I called over one of the sales staff who took it off the wall and handed it to me. I looked it over very closely and remarked it looked new. He agreed and told me it had likely set in a guitar case (included in their price, BTW) and hardly ever played since it was bought three years ago by some rich guitar collector. He had brought in three of these 2013 SG Deluxe models and traded up to something (or things?) of more value two weeks ago. The others SG Deluxe models were blue, and lime. This stunning orange one was the only one left.

Anita Gayle was listening intently and asked what this guitar sold for new three years ago, got an answer from the sales guy, looked at the price tag and said to me, "If you want it, I think you should get it". And, I am a firm believer in not arguing with your partner when she is handing you what you want.

So, I did get it, along with a nice strap. I played with it for about two hours yesterday, and another two hours so far today. It is another very sweet guitar "ride" in my stable and I will be surprising my guitar teacher with it for my lesson in two days. It has more features than I had discovered at the store so I did get a pretty good deal.

As you can gather from the previous fortuitous tale, I am one lucky camper on a number of levels, right?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Les Paul, An Inspiration

Les Paul, one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, was born in 1915 in Wisconson. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Gibson Guitars, a company who owes a lot of its success to Mr. Paul's vision and inventiveness, honored him by adding a "100" to their Les Paul Signature Logo on many of the Les Paul models made in 2015.

Today, I am the proud owner of one of them, a beautiful Les Paul Classic in Sea Foam Green. In honor of Les Paul, and in order to make the most of his beautifully-designed instrument now residing at my home, I will be starting to take guitar lessons from a private teacher here in Asheville next week.  I need to develop some real "chops", and at my age, I need to progress in music theory which I've heard will help keep my brain functioning a little better through regular practice under the tutelage of a teacher/coach. And, as anyone who knows me can tell you, that is an ambitious but worthy goal.

This particular Les Paul model has many modern features (too numerous to name here) incorporated into its classic design.  You can check out Gibson's page to find out more details about this handsome musical icon, the 2015 Classic Les Paul guitar.

I've wanted a nice Gibson Les Paul since I saw Joe Walsh play his 1960 Les Paul Standard in a basement bar in Kent, Ohio, in around 1968. It's taken me a while, but I've finally got one. Now, if I could only play like Joe . . .

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Age of the Drone

Moog Sub Phatty - bottomless range

It has taken me a year of un-concentrated effort to sound the depth and breath of my Moog Sub Phatty analog synthesizer. This thing is challenging my creative limits and I am not disappointed by this in the least.

Living in Asheville for five years now, and becoming somewhat familiar with the local electro-music community here, has given me some insight into electronic music expression that I never intended, but welcome. I have bought and sold a few synths in my life and felt almost obligated to have one in my home studio after moving here 5 years ago since the Moog plant is in Asheville.

As the Moog site states,  "The Sub Phatty features a wide range of parameters just below the surface, and all the features are easily accessible from the instruments front panel, or via the free standalone plug-in editor. Select filter poles, assign wave mod destinations, or specify pitch blend amounts - it's all there."

Besides being able to also use the keyboard as a midi controller, the free plug-in editor provides a nice screen interface to explore the depths of all the features and goodies the Sub Phatty has to offer, and seamless integration control for various pro DAWs like Logic Pro, which I personally use.

All in all, I'd say the Sub Phatty's price point of under $1K is one hell of a deal for an analog synth with digital features considering its built-in Bob Moog legacy, versatility, depth, and quality build.

But, if you get one for yourself, bring a shovel to the party - it can get pretty deep in there!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Tone Cloud

Well, I have to admit, in the great scheme of my life, I really don't deserve anything as beautiful as this Gretsch guitar. I mean really! Even in this photo I just took it appears to be magically floating above the guitar case it rests on.

Anyway, here's my story. 

I got back into playing stringed instruments about 5 years ago when it abruptly appeared that my wife, Anita Gayle, and I were actually going to be able to retire and pursue different interests (like music, art, and our Standard American Diets) that we felt were not viable enough to invest much time into during our careers and family life together. Our kids were on their own, we'd had enough of working for other people, and our health was slowly declining, which we figured was a natural process when you live long enough.

We moved to Asheville in 2011, a beautiful eclectic town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina with a thriving art and music community. State politics aside, we have enjoyed our time here very much.

As we had decided, Anita Gayle and I jumped into our retirement with all the vigor we had engaged while performing our job descriptions when employed, but with an emphasis on the idea of starting second careers. To address our health issues, we decided to drastically change our diets and adopted a plant-based way of eating which dramatically reduced our blood pressure and diabetic issues virtually over night (see Anita's Healthy Life and Vegan Minus Oil blogs for details on our healthy transformation).

Anita Gayle at first, because of her former working experience in Family Consumer Science, began creating plant-based recipes and videos through a blog promoting the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. After a few years she has added painting to her interests having painted, so far, over 40 acrylic paintings in various sizes of fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and legumes. (see

Meanwhile, I began exploring music where I had left off after college and began collecting, playing, and recording various instruments, AND writing this blog (and a few others). Slowly, I progressed in my knowledge of music (with the help of my bass teacher, Kevin Lampson, and uke friend, busker Neil Laurence, and others), and began to recognize elements in music like the nuances of tone and harmonics that made my appreciation of musical instruments even more intense and varied.

As an effect of my new-found insight into hearing and making music, I began designing and building instruments on my own - simple stringed affairs that I made from old film cans I had collected during my 40+ year career as a film maker. I called them canjos, and I learned a lot about the nature of sound from making them as well, the least of which is that each one possesses individual, distinctive tonal qualities unlike any other.

Armed with this newfound aural sensitivity, I began listening more critically to each of my guitars and bass guitars and began noticing the differences in tonal quality between acoustic and solid-body electric guitars. Thus I noticed, as so many guitarists throughout the history of electric amplified instruments attest to, my Fender Telecaster sounded very different than a semi-hollow body Gibson Les Paul or Gretsch White Falcon. This realization on my part manifested itself as what I might call "need", although I believe that a more precise term for what I was feeling was "want", or maybe "great need", or simply, just greed.

So, my quest to fulfill my need/want/greed began. After a few months of research (and coming to the realization that I could never justify paying $3,000 and up for an exemplary Les Paul or White Falcon (damn you, Neal Young and Steve Stills), I had my greedy eyes on a double cutaway Gretsch Electromatic (one third the price, but possessing much the same tonal quality and cosmetic features of a full-blown Falcon).

What sealed the deal, and actually made it possible for me to buy this particular electric guitar at this time, was that Sweetwater Music Instruments and Pro Audio, an up-and-coming online store, had a limited-time finance deal I could not pass up - 36 equal monthly payments with nothing down and no interest! I have not heard of any such deal for a long time, especially not with online musical instrument merchants.

So, I made a deal with Anita Gayle who, after all, actually owns half interest in anything I buy, to drop an ice tea that I usually order every day at our fav hangout, and go for the free water instead, saving $1.50 per diem (the guitar and case will only cost $1 a day for 36 months). Voila! Me get guitar!

Such a deal! Sometimes modern capitalism does indeed work.