Category Archives: guitar center

Fear of Musical Opinion

Until 3 weeks ago, the email I had associated with TheGuitarist (The collection of words and letters you are currently reading) was one I hadn’t had access to in 5 years leftover from an educational institution that deleted my internet existence 6 months after graduation. Now that this account is associated with me as a person in real life with a real business, and not an anonymous internet entity, I am experiencing some fear.

The people of the internet frighten me, and I am one of them.

Yesterday an article about the zeitgeist of internet negativity (Psychology and Online Bullying) was enough to remind me that I was guilty (is there such thing as excessive guilt? ++guilt?) of the “online disinhibition effect”. I abuse the internet from my throne of anonymity, spewing opinions under the assumption that my unique and valuable (eyes currently rolled, crying sarcastic tears) opinion of whatever I’m opining will change the world. Is there a megalomania clause in the Terms of Agreement for the internet?

I put a post on here titled “Why I Hate Guitar Center”. I seriously put that I hate a business? A need fulfilling mixture of people with a goal? Hate?

A verbal extremist reflects: Hyperbolic speaking is the best thing on earth. Ugh. It’s a shame moderation and being reasonable hasn’t my first inclination for the internet, but rather a divisive, active attempt to rally the battle cry and shun something I spuriously disapprove of. I question why I can’t merely pose a question and let others decide for themselves. Although I did reflect on why “I” didn’t like something, it’s still a testament to where I put my priorities.

I pause to trademark the phrase “Comment Section Phenomenon”. I’ll be waiting for a stipend for the rights, National Institute of Health.

I realize hatred is the go-to response for most internet opinions. Positivity and gratitude — rarefied air that is hard to make funny. The question I ask of myself (rhetorically, of course) is whether I want to continue this onslaught of words intended to spark strong opinions. I’m not a fan of trying to get people to care about things that have no meaning. Gossip, fashion, music reviews, movie critics, sports, and to a greater extent, political punditry are are somehow responsible for inciting fierce debate? Is that the writing style I look to? I have to make a concerted effort to not write that way any more. It’s too easy, and I’m doing it right now in a way. I feel my difference is that I don’t want people to hate anything anymore. What a useless sentiment.

Back to guitar: For a long time I’ve had a desire to write how much I dislike acoustic guitar pickups (Such controversy!) and realized I was radicalizing my feelings because I felt it would get more attention. I like having an opinion on things; it’s a real testament to creativity and free expression, but I really would like to eliminate extremist, all or nothing, black or white, smooth and crunchy from my blog about such lofty topics as strings and capos. I write this as a reminder that I’d like to write about things I like and don’t, but not turn the things I don’t like into exiled thought lepers. Internet opinion is sadly slanted towards the incitement of riot, and realizing that this is a blog about guitar, I’d rather stay out of it.

I look to the Fender Stratocaster vs. Gibson Les Paul debate as my template. There is no better. “Better” is not the word. Choice is the word. I would like to continue trying to create a culture where your mind is your bed: don’t get hateful at the way I make mine up. Dialogue v. Monologue.

As for my opinion on the matter of Strat vs. Les Paul?

Telecaster and SG.

2 Comments

Filed under complaining, guitar, guitar blogs, guitar center, guitar rant, guitars, money, SFGT, sfguitartech, story, Uncategorized

No more Haggling at Guitar Center: Employee Comment Follow-up

As a follow-up to my Guitar Center bought by Mitt Romney’s Company: No More Haggling Allowed I recently received a good comment from a Guitar Center employee. It provoked me to delve further into the whole Guitar Center issue. I was going to email this person, but I felt the comments were valuable, and merited posting in the main blog, including my wordy responses.

—–

…yes….the prospect of the commission thing going away is quite probable. However, employees are and still will be REQUIRED to pass certifications on their knowledge. Also, despite not being a commission based job, you are still required to hit your goal (sales figures based on your skill/lenth of job/job title….all business’s have a daily goal people…not a huge industry secret). So, if you think that average ‘Joe Blow’ can just waltz in and get a job, think again.

—–

How long will that last? I wanted to get a job at Guitar Center because I was pretty sure that I knew more about guitar stuff than most of the people on the floor, and therefore I felt I would do a good job informing people and selling guitars, earning a good commission by developing a dialogue with them. Incentive being that I could take the price down and get them coming back. Without commission, it wouldn’t matter at all if the person knew anything about guitars, a wage job is a wage job.

It’s like most big name stores without commission; salespeople don’t go around asking people if they want anything, they just sit at the register waiting to check someone out. There’s no incentive or reason for them to ask, so they just sit around waiting. Deals and commission were all about incentive. Incentive to work at Guitar Center, incentive to sell, incentive to buy, incentive to get a deal.

Now Guitar Center can’t have the whole friendly vibe, or at least there’s no point to it. I went in to the store that day looking for the guy I knew, and he knew me.  He would give me good deals on things and I wouldn’t waste his time with other people, i’d ask for what I wanted and pay. Instead, if I go I can just buy whatever from whoever and know i’m paying full price, and the salespeople no longer matter. People with knowledge won’t matter, they’ll just show it on the computer if someone asks for information.

—–

People can whine all they want about having to finally pay what the instrument is worth. If you want to go to a mom and pop shop, that is your business and your right. GC is simply trying to get away from that archaic way of doing business. Car dealerships have been doing away with it as well. There are many flaws in the “haggle” way of selling. Look at it from a different perspective…..Let’s say you own a business, and you have to pay rent, utilities, insurance (public, employment, property), overhead (cost of goods and the cost to maintain those goods) and so forth…..and then you get Johnny McDouchebag coming into your store…. occupies 3 hours of your time, and then when it gets down to the sale, he grinds the hell out of you until you are 5-10% above cost. That 5-10% will not cover your overall costs of selling that piece. You actually lose money. Do you honestly think that is fair? Is it fair to the business? Without income, the business cannot grow. Is it fair to the
employee who is trying to earn a living? If someone feels the need to grind me on a price, I feel like that person doesn’t care about my time, my livelihood or my knowledge and it’s disrespectful.

—–

That was the thing, it was the only reason I went to Guitar Center. By creating a haggling atmosphere, it was an entirely different entity and it was the reason I didn’t go to mom and pops. If I have the option now of paying full price at Guitar Center or at a small store, i’m going to the small store. I feel my money is going to better use, i’ve had a better experience, and i’m making sure they’ll be there by supporting their livelihood. Before this new price set thing was in action, I would care if Guitar Center left. Now not so much. Unlike technology stores and emporium stores, there’s still a grassroots guitar store movement out there, and if Guitar Center is just another one of the options, i’ll let them go.

I was willing to buy more things overall because I knew I would get good prices on things I wanted, and by talking to people for hours who gave me a deal, i’d always come back and give them my business. Unlike a Car Dealership, you don’t just go to Guitar Center once. Most people have more than one guitar, amp, pedal, and accessories. If I know your name, and I know you treat me well and give me good prices, i’ll just keep talking to you and probably buy things I don’t need, but get them just because it’s a good price. Same reason I went in there in the first place. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. Tourists, beginners, rich people with money to burn.

—–

Obviously, I work at GC. I spend an enormous amount of my time learning all I can to insure that the information I give to someone is correct. I’m not very high up in the ranks (just an AM), but I do believe in the direction the company is taking. It will take some time to get all the bugs worked out, but believe me…I know what’s up the road and it looks good. Try not to be so negative people. GC is trying to make a change for the better. Yeah, sure, you may have to pay the tagged price now….so what? Do you haggle your groceries? Best Buy? Anywhere else? This is a business, and it has to be run as such. Why else do you think the company was in trouble before Bain bought it? We were giving away too much stuff below the price to cover our overall costs. I’ve seen the IBITA (your overall costs vs. profits…..that is if I spelled it right) reports, and it was UGLY. Cost was not outweighing our income.
Hopefully, a few open minds out there will see where I was coming from with this and perhaps see reasoning.
-Z-

—–

Guitars are a store driven market, and Guitar Center was the only big chain out there. I feel no loyalty to a Best Buy or a grocery store because those are things I need. More people need and buy cell phones, cameras, TVs, computers, and food than they ever buy guitars. It’s why Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, SHARP, and so forth are household names and brands, while i’d give a guess and say that if you asked someone to name a guitar company, you’d be lucky with a “Fender”, “Martin” or “Gibson.”

They don’t offer haggling because they don’t have to. Guitar Center is purely luxury items for a specific market, and in order to captivate an outside, seemingly uninterested market, there needs to be some (back to square one) incentive that will cross the mental barrier of them wanting to spend money. Guitar Center is all over America, but the consistency was that we could get good deals at all of the stores if there were good people there. And the salespeople were unique instead of just a clan of blue-wearing khaki pants robots. As I said, people wanted to work there, and Guitar Center knew it. It has/had an extremely high employee turnover rate because GC knew if someone wasn’t performing, they could get another worker in quick.

So here’s an open question to employees and readers alike:

What sets Guitar Center above anyone else now?

Give your comments and thoughts.

53 Comments

Filed under center, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, Guitar Hero, guitar player, guitar rant, Guitar store, mitt romney, music, Nay-saying, negativity, story

Guitar Center bought by Mitt Romney’s Company: No More Haggling Allowed

It came to my attention today as I bought a set of pickups from a guy at guitar center who usually gives me good deals, that he wasn’t giving me a discount like he always did. I felt it odd, but for what I was buying I figured maybe they couldn’t do it with accessories, despite getting pretty big discounts on a single pack of strings.  In my venture, I needed something from Radio Shack, and oddly enough, a former Guitar Center employee was there at Radio Shack. I asked him why he does work at Guitar Center any more, and he says:

“Mitt Romney’s Equity firm bought Guitar Center, and we’re not allowed to discount or haggle any more. All the prices that are on the tags are what you have to pay.”

I was taken aback, considering that’s my main reason for going to Guitar Center, is the thought of getting a better deal. I talked to the guy awhile, and I basically interpreted it as the commission guys can’t really make good money any more from giving people deals on gear, so what’s the incentive of staying at one of the most competitive companies with the highest turnover rate? Also, I hear that they might be doing away with commission altogether. At which point the guitarists, bassists, techies and everyone else with a specialty in music will have no reason to work at guitar center any more. If you don’t have to try to sell things to make more money,what’s to say Joe Everyman who’s doesn’t know jack about guitars doesn’t just come in for a part time job?

Commission was incentive to for musicians to work at Guitar Center. The more you know, the more convincing you sound, the more you sell.

As a background, Bain Capital, an equity fund that was founded by 3 people, including Mitt Romney (take that in whatever way you want), recently bought Guitar Center for 2.1 Billion dollars. Why people who own Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Toys R Us, and Sealy mattresses (among a few other HUGE names in their specific markets) have anything to do with guitars is beyond me. I’m sure all of the companies felt the same way. Why are we all being managed by the same people? Bunch of marketing/financial geniuses who wouldn’t know a Squier from a Martin if you magnified the logos.

All of these companies started as small places, only to now be owned by some 50 Billion dollar equity firm. I’m sure they all originally had little secrets which customers knew. I knew that the prices at guitar center were flexible, while most others don’t.

What i’m thinking (dreaming?) is that this might bring back competition. I did find out that they are allowed to do price matching ,where they match/slightly beat a competitive price. It’s how I got my now retail 2089.99 SG Reissue for 1400 flat.

Will this be the return of the mom and pop stores? Will guitar competition return and prices drop naturally?

My guess is no. Guitar Center’s super management people will probably realize that this is a major screwup,  and return to normalcy.

But if they keep it this way, it’ll turn Guitar Center into Circuit City or Compusa. Stores with even more lackluster sales people with no enthusiasm for what they’re selling, and they’ll start to close down.

As for me, I really have no reason to go there any more. If there’s no chance that I can get a really good discount, I might as well just go to a mom and pop store and pay normal price and give it to people who actually need the money.

Excuse me if my Guitar Center post-apocalyptic thought process was a little difficult, but I found this revelation to be a big mind changer. Understood it’s a slippery slope, but damn if it aint greasey on that guitar hill.

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Filed under center, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, escapism, guitar, guitar center, guitar rant, Guitar store, mitt romney, money, music, Nay-saying, negativity, player, Rabble Rousing, story

“Music is a Business”: A Longwinded NAMM Recovery Story

I’ll probably get some flack here, but in this case, not from the people who I usually get it from. I am making plenty of assumptions, and most of these ideas are based off of opinions and views I have seen. Having said that, I don’t feel like i’m going out on a limb here. I think i’m verbalizing things we hoped weren’t true, but I don’t feel I originated these feelings.

These are my thoughts after going to NAMM. It’s been 3 months, and it’s taken about that much time for my euphoria to wear off, and ideas to settle in, or at least have some effect on me. So lets get going.

Going to NAMM was a life changing experience for me. It really was. Being someone who wants to spend their life involved in musical instruments and music, experiencing something like NAMM was valuable and necessary. And while the experience NAMM gave me was inevitable, i’m glad it happened early in my life. Rather than dancing around it with pseudoartistic jabber, I might as well just come out and say it:

Music is a business.

You hear those words spoken – “Music Business” is household fodder for future (un)employees – but it took a very large event for it to set in.

My pre-namm experience was involved in blogs and magazines, seeing all the new gear surrounded by musical A-listers and scantily clad women who wouldn’t know a Fender from a Gibson if the booths were right next to each other. And if you’ll excuse the self-righteous NAMM booth humor (something I’ll try to avoid it from now on) you’ll get a slight glimpse at what I mean by “business.” All I knew about NAMM were in journalist pictures and magazines, but they don’t show you who is really there, and why it’s really there.

I’m going to guess that 99% of the people there are just lookers, gawkers, rubberneckers and the like, enjoying the new eye candy of musical instruments that are being created. And out of a tens of thousands of people that go to NAMM, those (we, actually) aren’t the people that matter much. We are dressed in musical oriented clothes, walking shoes, and our wallets don’t have much in mind except for the food.

And then you see the people and sights they never show you in the magazines. The suits, ties, briefcases, back rooms, two-story booths, soundproof rooms, velvet ropes, business schedules, meetings, power lunches, special areas, the entire hotel 1st floor bought by Yamaha, the Roundtables with the candy dish in the middle, the paperwork, and the nicely combed hair. Guitar World/Player/One would never show you that. Well, why would they? It’s not like it would sell issues (Re: Business).

You start to realize that the stores that sell a lot of guitars are not guitar meritocracies. The best guitars aren’t sold at Guitar Center, Samash, Musicians Friend or Music123. They are merely (I should say “probably, because this is all hearsay now) there for their name, and the amount of money they bring in. For instance, a Fender Relic, now the basis for all things overpriced in the guitar industry, costs a few thousand dollars to sell. Chances are, that guitar cost the exact same to make as the Made In Mexico 70’s reissues, and even they are overpriced.

So the manufacturers sell them wholesale to one of these big musical instrument selling companies for a low price, and then the company sells them to us for a higher price. I’m going to make an educated guess and assume the reason all of those guitars are at the big-name stores, is solely because they bring in the most money. Thus reducing your guitar buying options at the big stores to profit margins, rather than quality. Gibson, Fender, PRS, ESP, are only known brands because the people buy them, and the retailers get a good deal. You’d probably never see a Suhr or a Vigier at a big namer because they probably couldn’t turn a good profit.

I think what solidified my ideas that it’s a business was being in the ESP booth. It was all rock-and-rolled, videos playing, cool guitars on the wall. Then I standing in a certain place, and a door opened. Out of the door came around 8 men in business suits, shaking hands and smiling. Not a single one looked like a guitar player, or even a guitar player in disguise. I am in the room which is a large upstairs conference room, dressed to the nines in the finest in metal regalia, and there went what looked to be wall street’s finest. They probably just sold a couple thousand guitars in futures, or made a deal with an overseas manufacturing company to lower the manufacturing costs of parts fifteen percent.

That’s when it dawned on me to look at everything there in a different light. All of the manufacturers of cheap guitars probably couldn’t play one if handed to them. They were there for a profit, and turning plywood, lumber scraps, and cheap mass produced parts into money was why they were there.

You go to a hardware store, and there are rows and rows and rows of screws, big and small, costing a couple cents. Metal door brackets and hinges, a few dollars. Plastic knobs and plates for switches, a dollar or two. Lumberyard’s full of wood, a couple bucks for large pieces. All of these mass produced parts parallel to guitars. Tuners, bridges, knobs, switches, plates, and all of the simple things don’t add up to the cost of a Squier strat, especially when they are being mass produced. Necks, bodies, pickups, and everything but painting and assembly are automated, but we are still paying big bucks. It’s what we expect, as guitar players.

Want something with a clear finish? Extra 70 bucks. Gold plated hardware? 50 bucks. Floating bridge? 200 bucks. Hollowbody? Upper range. Thin nitro finish? Upper range. Locking tuners? Extra 100 bucks. New pickups? 70 bucks. You all know this, and you’ve come to expect this.

But knowing the details is not very rock and roll. This hobby of mine was born and raised in the ear canals of rock and roll Venice, and I didn’t want it to be sold to the lowest bidder. I didn’t want to know that the reason Guitar Center had my Gibson SG was because they probably made a huge deal of money off of it. I didn’t want to know that my gear heaven known as NAMM, is really just for big businesses to make deals. I didn’t want to see the Chinese manufacturers sitting at a table, waiting for one of the big companies to come to them so they could make the most profit.

You try and justify the price you pay that there’s some guy working in a factory on your guitar. That the measly 400 dollars you spend on a Mexican Strat is worth it. Then you realize that there are a good amount of people who specialize in that part, and they spend the better part of 5 minutes on it. Bolting on a neck, clamping the sides, installing tuners, drilling holes, removing things from giant machines. They get paid wage a few bucks above minimum, if not minimum. Aside from the paint and finish drying, it probably spends very little time in someone’s hands. Probably a good 15 dollars out of the company’s pocket worth of labor, and that’s pushing it. 20 bucks total for the parts, pushing it again. Manufacturing has been paid off, so probably a dollar or two for maintenance of the machines. We’re talking anywhere from 8 to 30 times the profit for something people yearn for.

The problem is there’s no competition. I’m beating the dead horse of my ill-fated “Why I Hate Guitar Center” post, but unlike the computer industry all prices just keep going up for us while quality drops.

I saw NAMM. I saw the celebrities paid to be there. I saw the small companies trying to break into the market. I saw the new gear, the booth babes, the lights, the smells. I got the blisters from walking, I saw Johnny Demarco (!!!), I saw the elaborate booths. And I realized that none of it was for me. Any guitar player would be happy with a booth full of guitars, and had the bar not been set so high, i’m sure that’s what NAMM would’ve been like. Instead it was the largest building i’d ever been to, enormous booths, louder than hell, and it was an overload.

But what does it all mean? Will it change a thing that I know this? Nope. I’m still going to go to Guitar Center, i’m going to pay 1700 dollars for the Eric Johnson Strat (someday…) which cost probably under a hundred to make. I’m going to keep on truckin through the business part of it. Pay a dollar for a song, 2 for a ringtone,
50 for a doorknob or whatever I buy, and continue to realize that music is a business. But so is everything else, so I should shut my mouth because some day i’m going to be in this business, and you’re going to pay for my Eric Johnson strat.

The end.

I await loads of criticism, both foreign and domestic. Including the job offers from Fender and Gibson for a billion dollar a year contract for me to sit around in the Charvel office or the Gibson Supreme office being the guy who criticizes everything, but still enjoys it all.

Me and music, we have a love/hate relationship. I love all of this stuff, but I hate seeing people in suits.

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Filed under Carvin, center, Charvel, cheap, complaining, electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Fender Mexico, Fender Telecaster, floyd rose, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, Ibanez, Jackson guitars, Made in China, Made in Mexico, money, music, NAMM, NAMM 2008, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, Roland, San Dimas, story, Uncategorized

Squier Affinity Strat??? Should I…

Readers, (echooooo) I am calling upon you to answer my call.

Over the last few months, I have been desiring a 3 pickup strat-style guitar. If I had my druthers, i’d be caressing an Eric Johnson Signature strat right now, but since my credit limit is not a giant infinity symbol, i’ll have to make do.

Oddly enough, in my entire time playing guitar, i’ve never owned an SSS guitar. My first electric guitar was basically a yamaha fat strat (bought from a Compusa after begging. Hey, it came with an amp and a strap! Woo!) and all electrics since then with the exception of my MIM telecaster, have been humbuckered. Ibanez, Dean, Gibson, Jackson, Yamaha; all having humbuckers in the bridge. I don’t really get to take advantage of the single coils, and coil splitting just doesn’t cut the mustard. Nothing sounds like that standard strat sound.

So, i’ve come to a crossroads, and i’m down on my knees (Had to do it…) begging the guitar deities to answer my questions intelligently, without the usual territory that comes with the guitar i’m debating on buying. It’s a Squier affinity strat. The one with the 60’s fat headstock, sunburst finish and a **GASP!** Alder body. Hell, Alder is better than cheap crappy basswood, or worse…MDF.

Here’s my rationale so far:

It’s a Fender. I’m willing to bet that the machine that cuts the bodies out of what is most likely the cheapest, B-stock Alder, uses the exact same programming as custom shops. The CNC machines Fender uses in USA to cut their monstrously overpriced models, is probably programmed identically to the ones in China, blasting out 2 bazillion squiers a day. A small exception may be the bridge pocket on the front, but i’ll check that out if I go through with this insanity. And same goes for the necks. It’s probably the same maple neck from the 70’s reissue, minus the tinted nitro finish.

Granted, it’s not the Squier Japan that used to be a good name, but it’s made under Fender which means Fender parts will fit in just fine. Something goes wrong? I’ll get parts meant for a Fender, and things will be fine.

The problems it has are probably easily fixable. I’ve watched videos of Dan Erlewine do a full setup on a cheapo guitar, and make it legit. I believe it was a cheap Epiphone dot, but I could be mistaken. Fret leveling, nut shaping, saddle cleaning. All of a decent days guitar work to turn a 150 dollar guitar, into something perfectly reasonable.

A 150 dollar strat facsimile with Medium Jumbo frets, no less. Even better!

Not only that, but it’s the attachment to it. A few dings and scratches on a Squier affinity with some Dimarzio Velvets or Duncan Customs in it won’t hurt me like it would to hear the zipper on my jacket within 5 inches of an Eric Johnson signature, or my oft considered ESP strat,  Suhr classic or Vigier excalibur. **Faint**

I am considering this guitar as something I don’t feel bad customizing. New pickups and wiring, some hardware, using it to practice painting, coloring and refinishing. All of the things i’d like to do, and I haven’t felt like doing on my Ibanez Prestige.

And here’s why i’m asking:

Every place with reviews about the affinity are all new players who are unfamiliar with the guitar as an object. It’s an icon for them, and when some little buzz pops up, they throw it back like a carp, and spend the rest of their days ragging on it. But no actual reputable player or magazine has sat their ass down and reviewed the bane of the guitar industry’s existence. We all look at it as heresy. The cheap, mass produced soulless guitar from chinese sweatshops made of the wood from ransacked Tibetan villages, (please don’t sue me, Fender. I’m kidding…hopefully) pickups outsourced by Seymour Duncan to some third world country where kids wind them by hand (please don’t sue me, Seymour. I’m kidding…hopefully)  and parts and hardware made from scrapped Russian military bases. (please don’t bomb me, China. I’m kidding…hopefully). I haven’t seen Guitar World, Guitar Player, or any of the other publications sit the hell down and review it like a guitar. I can’t trust a bunch of guitar newbies to tell me if a guitar is legitimately good or bad. Hell, they’re the same people who swoon for LTD guitars **yawn**.
So, should I get one? Turn it into a semi-legitimate strat after some leveling, sanding, polishing, removing the Squier label then putting on a Gibson decal and more? Would it be worth it to have a decent framework for a project guitar cost only 150, rather than spent 1800 on one I wouldn’t dare touch?

Yes, at some point i’ll go to a Guitar Center and give my best try at actually reviewing a Squier, but for now I don’t want to leave my house, I simply want to let sparks fly on the internet.

I await comments. Like all of my other posts, I expect to get some grief for the things i’ve said. It seems I can’t say anything right here, but since i’m not running for office, it doesn’t matter. Though it seems like I am with all of the crap I seem to get thrown at me by the internet.

Please don’t sue me internet, i’m only kidding. Actually, i’m not. Some people have no sense of humor.

172 Comments

Filed under affinity, complaining, electric guitar, Fender, Fender Guitars, Fender Mexico, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, Guitar store, music, Nay-saying, negativity, Rabble Rousing, squier, story, strat, stratocaster

Winter NAMM 2008

I will be there, so there will be pictures.

Look for a big post on NAMM 2008 on what I find interesting or uninteresting.

Yes, there will be pictures.

1 Comment

Filed under Electric Bass, electric guitar, Fender Guitars, Gibson, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, Ibanez, Jackson guitars, NAMM, NAMM 2008, player

Why did I start guitar?

It’s been awhile, and lucky me the end (sort of) of the hiatus/sabbatical/laziness comes to fruition in a self-serving post about what provoked me to play guitar and not quit. It’s just me writing about why I am not one of those kids with a poorly maintained no-name acoustic guitar in the corner with the same set of strings it had in the moving crate on the Hyundai Super Tanker on the way over from Korea.

As much of a veiled crack at guitar mass production as that may have been, it doesn’t change the fact that slave labor, awful wages and quality control indicative of Yugoslavian cars probably had a large effect on most of the guitarists in the last three decades. The reason many of us took to the instrument was because one of these easily available tree-destroyers was sitting around somewhere that we saw it, and instead of leaving it there, we just kept going back to it. In my case (technically, my Dad’s case – guitar case, that is) it was an Aria nylon string acoustic guitar my dad had under his bed. When I was really young somewhere in the range of monosyllabic numbers (Seven inched its way in) , after I figured out that one of the latches on the case had to move sideways to open the damned case, I would just sit there with it on my lap and hit the strings. The first instrument I’d ever owned was a drumset with paper heads on some of the drums, and stainless steel heads on others. It was basically something for me to move my arms against that didn’t consist of electrical wires or sharp corners. At the age of 2, I was just beating something to get out the aggression that developed from my parents not getting the correct brand of steamed carrots (I demanded carrots from non conflict countries. Sorry, Gerber-Libya) but in a fit of unadulterated preschool tricycle induced road rage, I broke the drumset. I was a mini Keith Moon (Half moon?) I dare say, but that still didn’t change the fact that I was, as a child, someone who was fond of percussive response.

So, back to the Aria Nylon string. I would remove it from the Pandora’s Box of a case and just lay it on my lap, hitting all of the strings with my hands. I was just happy getting some musical response from anything, despite having no connection to music with the exception of yelling at my sister playing her annoying radio on the oldies stations*. I was another radio kid listening to the pop stations; some of the first albums i’d ever owned were Hootie and the Blowfish, the Beastie Boys and Alanis Morisette. And even those were stretches.

Then came middle school. 7th grade requirement was to take a guitar class. The rules were simple, you only play the strings where you learned songs from. For instance, if we had only been taught Aura Lee or Yankee doodle on the high E string, we would lose our guitar privileges for playing any other strings. This is the quality of music instruction you get from a high strung (Had to do it…), anal retentive choir teacher who had no business teaching guitar. I didn’t particularly like the class, but most of it consisted of us sitting around learning some simple song for an hour while talking to our friends. I did well in the class because I had my dad’s Nylon string at home, and I could practice whatever I wanted, when I wanted (Back when I was a little overachiever, oh how times changed.) I was the kid people looked up to because I could play the first few notes of Walk this Way by Aerosmith, and to this day I still don’t even know the whole song. By the end of the class, we were still only allowed to play the G, B, and high E strings. I guess the teacher didn’t think wound strings were appropriate for innocent little middle schoolers, because that’s where power chords lie.

After that class was over summer came and I went to a summer camp. The summer camp had a guitar class in it, and I decided to take it. It was something easy to do, despite them having steel strings, something beginner guitarists usually avoid like the plague. The idea of pressing your fingers against things which are used to cut cheese and clay usually deterred most from touching the guitar. The thing was, I did pretty well in the “class.” Considering the teacher only knew Free Falling by Tom Petty, a three chord song consisting of the most basic of finger positions.

After I got home, I decided to take lessons at a music store. I’d been taking them for awhile when I had to take the same music class again. The first day, I still remember, we all got guitars and I started to play a Green Day song. The class was listening to me and the teacher yelled at me for playing other strings. I stopped and she pulled me outside and asked what I was doing. By then I was up to chords and some scales, so the teacher turned me into the TA for the class. Every day while most while sitting inside the class playing the second year songs consisting of most of the strings (They never played the low E string) I would sit outside in the sunshine of the lunch area with whatever guitar book my Guitar Teacher got for me, attempting to squelch out anything related to pop culture.

And thus brings me to the major factors in why I didn’t put the guitar down – it’s the reason I’m writing this. There are a few guitar related moments in my life which changed my outlook on music.

I remember in 7th grade english class, Nick Ferrantello and Nick Konapasik (I believe I messed up their names, but who cares) the “Nicks” as we all called them were the cool kids in school. They were good skateboarders, and one of them played Blister in the Sun on guitar in front of the class. A lot of the class was jealous, and I remember wanting to play that song too. I spent a long time trying to learn that, and I wanted to be the kid in front of class wanting to play like that, albeit remedial, it still got their attention.

Those guys made me want to play better in middle school, but few had as big of an effect on my guitar playing as Kenny Relethford, the oldest brother of my best friend at the time. He had an electric guitar. The electric guitar. It was always sitting out with the strap in a certain orientation so he’d know if someone played it. It was an Ibanez Destroyer II from the 80’s which his dad bought. I had been playing my Yamaha acoustic with Medium strings for the longest time (only a year) and when I played the electric guitar, it felt like heaven. Light strings, great action, comfortable, and it sounded amazing.  It was eye-catching, so it was impossible to not notice any time I was at their house. Every once in awhile i’d go in there and play it, hoping he wouldn’t find out. A few times he did, and he was angry, but he was the reason I ever wanted to play electric guitar. Guitar Center was too far away, and I was too afraid to play plugged in anyway. This Ibanez Destroyer was always the beacon of light which I wanted to get to. After Kenny gained some trust, he’d occasionally let me play it if I played songs he wanted. I’d always talk a good game and attempt to coerce him into letting me play that guitar. Still to this day, I would buy that guitar off of him. It’s the first electric guitar I ever played, and started my love for electricity and guitar.

The shred phase of my life, and the aims for musical skill are all due to one man my dad worked with, Dorian. A church mandolin player with long hair who worked for the Government. From the sounds of him now, I would’ve brushed him off, but seeing is believing. He invited my dad and me over to see his guitar stuff. Long hair should’ve given it away, but I didn’t know any better at the time. I got to his apartment with my dad and his wife was sitting on the couch watching TV. It was a small apartment, but upstairs was the gateway into the world of guitar. I wasn’t a fan of shred metal or anything with guitar skill in it yet. I was a fan of some guitarists, but they were in pop bands or ska bands, nothing to aim for. My dad and I went upstairs and he pulled out his Charvel Model 6. It was a pink/red guitar with the black crackle finish on it (If I remember correctly) and a floyd rose. I remember him saying it was a bit temperamental, and at the time I thought he was just discouraging me from playing it, but now I know what he was talking about. Now owning 3 guitars with Floyd Roses, I know exactly what he was talking about. Anyway. He plugged into a rackmount effects processor and started playing. He introduced me to a guy named Randy Rhoads. He pulled out the tribute book, and I looked at the guitar tab. I’d never seen so many notes. A few days later, my dad bought me the same guitar tab book, and I bought the CD. I spent months looking at it, but still didn’t learn much. This opened up the door to Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, System of A Down, and all of the metal bands i’d never been exposed to, and that was the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

And now we come full circle.

Just an hour or two ago, I was playing my Ibanez RG1570, and since it’s blocked up, I can tune it to whatever I want. I tuned it down a half step and Flying High Again by Ozzy Osbourne came on. All of a sudden, I started jamming with it, considering I usually can’t because i’m in standard tuning. Playing to the song opened up a door to a room full of guitar oriented memories I hadn’t seen in a long time. I played the descending tapping riffs, the chords, and the inflections i’d become such a fan of when I started playing electric guitar.

All of it reminded me of why I do this stuff. Why I continue to pick up this stringed instrument every day, why I spend so much money on it, and why I always attempt something new, despite the fact that there really is no overall gain for anyone but me. Everyone has a reason they do something that means the most to them, and they spend too much money/time/effort on something which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

I say necessarily because if Nick didn’t play Blister in the Sun, Kenny didn’t have that Destroyer, and Dorian didn’t play a perfect rendition of Crazy Train on his Charvel, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this remembering why I’m sitting in a room full of creatively trimmed trees, oil-based plastic parts, and shop manipulated metals which cost way too much money. It’s why I sit here trying to learn a Derek Trucks song when i’m the only one who really enjoys the outcome. It’s why I spend time I could be doing classwork or trying to get a job harnessing the power of vibrations for musical joy.

Go ahead, complain about the democrats, republicans, Israel, Palestine, global warming, global cooling, oil, hippies, pacifists, war, hate, peace, jews, christians, muslims, athiests, hindus, buddhists, taoists, mormons, gays, lesbians, abortion, 9/11, homeland security,  taxes, homelessness, government and whatever else you worry about.

But me?

I’m just going to play this here guitar for awhile.

Then i’ll worry about the rest of it.

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