23 February 2008

Edwyn Collins - Home again

Last Night BBC4 broadcast the film Home Again about Edwyn Collins recovery from his stroke in 2005, which left him with little memory, and severely physically disabled.

The film did not pull its punches:

he describes and views his guitar collection and then demonstrates the almost complete loss of use of his right arm and hand -

his speech therapist focuses on teaching him to read and spell again with words like Fender and Gibson -

and most poignant of all where his wife describes the moment when she realised that he could not read ( something the doctors had forgotten to tell her and which had not dawn on her!)

It was a most extra-ordinary account of his determination and his wife and friends support which could be appreciated by anyone - but made all the more powerful if like me you had grown up musically with Edwyn and Orange Juice as a major influence.

For this creative genius to be back at work - and answering painful questions like "are you the same person?" with the same honesty and perception which had been a hallmark of his music and lyrics - is just wonderful.

Have a listen to his album Home Again

27 October 2007

Three musical MEMEs

I had resolved not to respond to MEMEs again, which set various nameless parties thinking how could they create a MEME request which I would find irresistible - and they have half succeeded cos I am replying but not relaying - which takes a certain kind of arrogance.

Favourite letter of the alphabet for recorded music in your collection


If I have understood the question correctly, it has to be M which leads to:
Massive Attack
(Tom) MacCrae
Mercury Rev
and Modest Mouse
among others, in the longest section in my CD collection

Favourite magazine:

Knowing me to be a "magazine addict" this is subliming tempting but easy to answer:


is my monthly dose of music and recording know-how -and supreme journalism into the bargain with a near unique ability to straddle the vast range of equipment and techniques, and the diverse pockets, interests, and contexts of its readers.

Compared with most other magazines of the genre it is also technically well-informed and artistically creative - a rare blend. You can get a feel for the magazine at their ever growing web-site

Favourite musical instrument web-site:

I have never visited either of their shops which I am told are among the best guitar shops in the country - but I love Coda Music's web-site which enables me to drool at the extraordinary guitars available, while at the same time delight in the prices of their extensive second-hand collection.

I have purchased indirectly through recomendees, and personally over 40 guitars from Coda and always found them to efficient and informed - something of a rarity in a world which is currently being taken over by the mega-companies and box-shifters.

Too often you get a real guitar shop which has bolted on a web-site - or a web-site operation which rarely opens the boxes or plays the instruments.

They sum up their successful blend as follows:

Coda Music was opened on January 19th 1987 in Stevenage Old Town, Hertfordshire. Although starting as a local music shop, a love of Led Zeppelin and all things traditional lead the company well beyond the spandex pants of 1980's hairspray metal to be the biggest dealer of Gibson guitars in Britain, and international suppliers of a vast range of guitars and amplifiers.

Now also operating from a second store in Luton and with a separate service department and warehouse, the company offers a truly exceptional shopping experience. Having selected your guitar, it will be prepared to your setup specifications, ready for collection in either branch, delivered within 24 hours by private courier or dispatched to any destination worldwide by FedEx. The service department offers a full modification and customisation service, from setups to refrets and pickup installation to custom wiring.

Gibson Les Paul Double Cutaway Pro Trans BlackIn store you will find a huge array of electric, acoustic and bass guitars from manufacturers such as Gibson, Epiphone, Paul Reed Smith, Fender, Gretsch, Squier, Ibanez, Rickenbacker, Yamaha, Martin, Taylor, Lowden and Washburn, and amplifiers from the likes of Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Cornford, Ashdown, Ampeg, Hartke, AER and Line 6. Along side the standard ranges, you will also find unusual custom orders in stock from manufacturers such as Fender, Gibson and Martin. These are models you would normally associate with hand made personal orders with price tickets to match, but they can be found at Coda Music at affordable, players prices.

Whether you are looking for your first guitar, a workhorse for live use, the instrument you have always dreamed of owning or an investment piece for the future, you will find it, and a whole lot more at Coda Music.

We hope you find shopping with Coda Music an interesting, enjoyable and rewarding experience that will broaden your musical horizons, and no, we won't frown at you if you want to play Stairway to Heaven!

See the site here - and the guitar above is a Gibson Les Paul Double Cutaway Pro Trans Black which would be my next purchase if I had the money - in the meantime I just dream about such a beautiful instrument!

13 July 2007

Guilfest Weekend and Cherry Ghost

Off down south to Guilfest (the only Festival I know sponsored by a Trade Union) with Sprog 2 who is really looking forward to seeing some of his musical heroes live: Toots and the Maytals, Madness, The Beat, The Dub  Pistols and best of all Jimmy Cliff.

What's good about Sprog 2 is that he is now independent enough to do his own thing, (though his refusal to use mobile phones complicates meeting up)which means that I can make my own choice:  Morcheeba, Supergrass, and The Magic Numbers.

But most of all I am really looking forward to seeing Bolton's best Simon Aldred and his band Cherry Ghost perform, - expect some really good guitars sounds and tasteful band production!

One of the trickier bits of festival production (which reveals how events can overtake forward planning) is that Cherry Ghost are on Stage 2 despite rapidly running up the charts at the moment with their brilliant album Thirst for Romance ( its CD of the week at Sainsbury's if you want a bargain copy).

Cherry Ghost (pic: Stefan Klenke)Media reviews of the CD have been quite remarkable as people try to pigeon-hole an album which is not easily compared with anything else I have heard recently. 

So comparison vary from Jonny Cash to Coldplay which takes some doing - but reveals that there is no real substitute for long previous experience when it comes to depth in music.

Guess I would describe the CD as timeless ballads which then emerge as crafted indie pop - but even that doesn't really work.

03 July 2007

Gibson guitar - got to have one!

Just once in while something simply adorable takes my fancy - usually something pretty inconsequential in the real scheme of things.

And so today I saw this and thought " Got to have one"

Guitar Flash Drive

Cute or what!

Fender Classic Player '50s Stratocaster

The long awaited UK supplies of Fender Classic Player '50s Stratocaster seem to be arriving at last. So if you have been waiting and wanting - and even been tempted by the "beat-the-shortage" import guitars on Ebay - then act soon to buy a legit dealer model.

Fender has a considerable track record of withdrawing production of their cheaper guitars which seem set to be classics - not least because they undermine sales of the more expensive ranges. So it you want one and can find one in stock then buy it - and don't expect a big discount so for the two tone I guess £400+ is going to be a good price.

Music Street UK say on their website that they have them in stock - but other Fender suppliers are still awaiting stock and are now predicting mid-July for supplies.

If you want an independent view on what all the fuss is about then the Guitarist magazine review is here.

In the meantime my own sunburst model is settling in nicely - it really does have an noticeable tone range for a Fender Strat, and the quality of construction is excellent - its hard to see that any production-line "American" Fender can exceed this quality or versatility without spending a fortune on a Custom Shop model.

Thanks to Coda for supplying this rare secondhand model - if you do not have a good local guitar shop (and sadly they are becoming few and far between) then it really does make sense to buy from a guitar specialist rather than from the bigger chains such as the Control Sound/Turnkey group.

Last but not least do make sure that what you buy is the Player model with the Fender serial number starting 014, since the non Player (013) guitars do not have the Custom builder features or pickups - I know several people who have nearly ordered the wrong guitar from the Turnkey advert which is "less than transparent".

28 June 2007

Blair leaves - but what about the guitars?

Yesterday was one of those wonderful political days - and for a change I was able to watch some of the events unfold on BBC24 news.

But there is one question which has gone unanswered in all the exhaustive coverage which I think requires clarification and action.

What has happened to the guitars which TB recieved as official gifts.

According to the official gifts list he has recieved no less than 24 guitars during his time on office (including 12 Stratocasters) from among other donors Fender Musical Instruments, Bryan Adams, Bono, and the Governments of Romania, Mexico, Portugal, China and France.

TB also recieved a tasteful "Faith acoustic guitar" from his Parliamentary Party as a personal farewell gift.

Tony BlairOfficial gifts however have to be left in The Office of the Prime Minister - so has Gordon Brown inherited a wonderful collection OR have they or could they be passed to some community music project who would make better us of them.

It well known what happened to the most famous and valuable guitar TB was given in 2000 a '57 Eric Clapton Strat:  which had originally been purchased by Eric Clapton, who gave it to Pete Townshend who used it on Quadrophenia and then several years later appeared at a charity auction by where it was bought by David Bowie  and Mick Jagger who gave it to TB. When TB was advised as to its potential value he returned the gift, and it eventually sold at another charity auction for £75k and is now owned by Bono's guitar tech who collects guitars for his pension fund.

I have written to the new Prime Minister to offer him prayers and blessings on his appointment, and to enquire about his intentions for the guitars.

25 June 2007

Pete Townshend's current guitars

Alan Rogan, his guitar tech, spills the beans to the relatively simple set-up which is the secret behind The Who guitar sound here - its all Strats these days.

And this is Townshend at work !

The Who close Glastonbury

LIVE AND LOUD: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in action last night (JM070530-211)

Glastonbury closed with a stunning set from THE WHO.

Festival goers -  who may have enjoyed Kasabian, The Killers, Maximo Park, and a range of other indie pop pretenders - at last got a first hand experience of what a real ROCK BAND is like in full flight.

Daltry and Townsend thundered through the rain to offer a wonderful Pyramid finale with "the fifth member" John 'Rabbit' Bundrick on keyboards and offering those iconic intros to Tommy material, Pino Palladino on Bass, John Mckenzie playing support guitar, and an absolutely stunning set from Zac Starkey (a much greater drummer than his illustrious dad Ringo ever was).

Plagued with complaints about poor sound throughout the weekend - too quiet to be heard at the fringe of the big crowds, and with problems with vocal clarity clouding sets from The Kaiser Chiefs etc, The Who brooked no nonsense and insisted on their own sound team - and the volume and clarity of the sound was just amazing.

For the first time during the Festival it was possible to hear the individual instruments - something which had defeated a furious bands and punters - The Killers for example were just mush of sound beyond the sound tower. Which I guess goes to show that experience and know-how really does count.

Pete Townsend offered a master class in rock guitar - predominately cord-rhythm based as usual but with a huge range of sounds. The tones and textures that he coaxes from his red Strat (even allowing for the top-line equipment and extra boost control) within a single song is amazing.

See separate post on Alan Rogan Townsend's guitar tech for the simple secrets behind the sound.

Indie band guitarists have a huge amount to learn from him in terms of simple power and variety within each song.

 . . . and then of course there was the iconic songs.

'I Can't Explain'
'The Seeker'
'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere'
'Who Are You
'Behind Blue Eyes'
'Baba O'Riley'
'You Better You Bet'
'My Generation'
'Won't Get Fooled Again
'The Kids Are Alright'
'Pinball Wizard'
'Amazing Journey/Sparks'
'See Me Feel Me'
'Listening To You'
'Tea And Theatre'

. . . and the bust-ups with rumours flying in the afternoon that due to disagreements between Daltry and Townsend that they had pulled out.

Now the big clear-up at Glastonbury starts!

14 June 2007

Gibson Classic


This little beauty is a very rare beast indeed.

It is the 9th Gibson Les Paul Standard ever to be made (1959) and remarkably is in 100% original condition including its case and fretwork, and is now up for auction by Music Ground the vintage guitar specialists and supreme court of Rock and Roll

So the question is can you guess the starting price on which people are being asked to bid?

What would you be prepared to pay? £10,000 £15,000 £25,000 £50,000. Click see below the asking price!


Continue reading "Gibson Classic" »

08 June 2007

Greenbelt Music 2007

Had look a look at the updated Greenbelt music line-up which is perhaps one of the strongest and most interesting for some years.

Beyond the predictable and Christian (Delirious) and the fading crowd pleasers (Chas and Dave)and the righteously earnest ( Billy Bragg yet again - please God he does not become a fixture!) there will be some who may be unfamiliar but certainly worth exploring.

image Soweto Kinch with his superb mix of jazz and African influenced music played out on his alto-sax and quasi-rap mix

NU:tone features the remarkable music of Dan Gresham whose musical background includes the chapel choir at Jesus College. If you have never quite got into drum and bass then this is one to explore this very creative DJ medium

My personal favourite which has filled me with delight is Monk - fuller post to follow on this remarkable guitarist.

07 June 2007

Guitar category

In a fit of housekeeping I am introducing a new blog category of "Guitars" and adding some previous posts to the category - apologies for those who get all these past posts as 'new posts' via a blog feed.

07 May 2007

Nylon Strung Strat!

High on my list of interesting guitars is this nylon-strung Stratocaster - on offer at MIJ Fenders wonder home of Japanese built Fender guitars.

04 March 2007

Ikea guitars!!

I am always intrigued by the idea of synergy when two or more apparently different perspectives or sources come together to create something new.

So using a Ikea pine table top as the body for a guitar is a wonderful bit of synergy - and cheap and eco-efficient into the bargain. Zachary guitars have created this dream machine.

17 December 2006

Crate update


Following the post about the Crate amp bargain, I have been asked to comment on suitable speakers (people finding it hard to get 4 ohm speakers) to avoid the errors made in the post and how I plan to use my Crate - and to comment on the technical side. I will do the first now, and the second in a later post when I have got an independent techie (thanks Phil!) to check that my advice is technically accurate.

Firstly then to the personal use and suitable speakers:

I will be using the Crate in three different modes:

1. As a studio and rehearsal amp when I need a monitor capability and direct feed. I will using stereo speakers (4ohm) for small range close monitoring and I will be using Behringer Monitor 1Cs which are 4 ohm 100 watt monitor speakers and wonderfully compact for travel purposes and at £35 or so for a pair are in the same price range for a budget system. Then taking a direct feed from the XLR connection to the mixer or PA amp details here in the crate user guide.

2. As a high quality mini PA system  for audio-visual and worship settings - using the Crate and Behringers as in 1, but plugging in a CD Player or MP3 player. Using this system I can get the whole thing in a largish aluminum case and use public transport but be assured that I am not dependent on a 3rd parties semi working systems.

3. As a 150watt mono guitar amp system linked to a suitable guitar cabinet (probably switcheably alongside my Fender DSP90 combo). For a good cheap cabinet I would recommend the Marshall AVT112 (100watt and 4 Ohm) - which is sold as an extension speaker to a Marshall combo - but is the best sounding Marshall AVT112X (AVT-112X, AVT112) - 100W Extension Speakersingle 12" speaker cabinet which I have heard and at less than £100 and Marshall quality is a bargain. The one thing to note is that even big Marshall dealers tend not to have them in stock so you may have to order one. It is also reasonably portable.

Finally Turnkey are now offering the Crate at the same sale price of £49-00 so that may be an alternative to Sound Control if they run out of stock.

I hope this illustrates the appeal of this bargain bit of kit.

01 December 2006

Crate Power Block Bargain

Craig Randall first put me onto these little wonder amps - he bought one in March for what he believed was a bargain £140 (list £199) and although originally purchased as a back up amp for his acoustic concert rig, such is the quality it has become his front line amp for his stereo acoustic rig.

CRATE POWER BLOCK AMPNow today I have managed to order one for £49 from those musical mega-chain Sound Control - who are shipping out the end of range stuff.

Regular readers will know that Sound "call- me mate- every half-sentence" Control are perhaps my least favourite music stores - poor staff and generally very expensive and basically box shifters. here

But the one advantage is that they do tend to stock things that they don't know how to sell - or that staff will quite openly tell you they don't like or don't think are cool but they have been told to sell it by management.

There are a couple of crucial BUTS which you need to know before you buy:

1. If the thing hums when you connect it up and switch it on then simply reject it - this is a  known problem - don't accept an offer of a repair - just reject it under the sale of goods Act etc.

2. You absolutely must get the speaker load and switching right otherwise you will blow the thing. So in mono it will pump 150 watts into a 8 ohm speaker, and while in stereo it will pack 75 watts into two 4 ohm speakers. you can read the details in the user manual here. Trade rumours are that Crate have been receiving loads back which have been connected incorrectly.

So why is it going cheap? Well its a cool and compact bit of gear aimed at market where image is everything and small and cool does not compete in the UK with say your classic Marshall head amp and with image shops like Sound Control I would suspect that they did not have the wit to aim it at the proper market. But its quality makes it suitable for an acoustic system and it can feed a balanced PA connection as well which makes it ideal for duos and solos.

If you want one act cos at this price they will shift - I offer a further review when I have had time to play with it.

06 November 2006

Parker Guitars

I still think that the verdict is out on the sound of Parker guitars - particularly the cheaper ones - but aesthetically they look fantastic - how about this for a cracker - the technical blurb says

Parker PM20 Hornett Limited Edition, Quilted Bubinga, Honey Burst and all for £339 from  Guitar Village here - another highly recommended guitar supplier - and the delightful shop in Farnham is worth a visit from any guitar buff.

The practical side of the stockhead arrangement is another issue - I would always be nervous of catching the top strings which are upprotected by the headstock

13 October 2006

Squier 51s

I took the plunge today and bought two  Squier 51s (a blonde one and a sunburst) one of my favourite guitars - see previous post. for more detailed information about the guitars and how to buy them.

Before you suggest that clergy must have more cash than in the old days, then I must explain that I only paid £114 for both guitars which were £55 and £59 respectively.

Sound Control who have music stores around the country have them on special offer at £79. Apparently they have not sold well - which doesn't surprise me cos SoundControl have been trying to flog them at £139 when they have been easily available at £110-120 in most other stores.

If you haggle you can get lower prices - they are only interested in shifting them at cost price. But do check them cos they may have faults - the blonde one has a faulty three way switch hence the lower price - but I fixed it within 10 minutes of being home. Actually the sunburst one was supposed to be £79 but it came up on the computer as £59 so I didn't object.

An initial reaction to the sound is interesting - click the S1 coil tap switch and you get a kind of hollow fender sound which I have not heard even on Jaguar - press the S1 switch in to re-engage the humbucker and it fair growls.

So if you want one give your local Sound Control a ring and haggle for an absurd price!

12 October 2006

Yamaha Pacific 412V

Yamaha Pacifica PAC412V OVS Electric GuitarSeveral emails about the lack of recent music equipment posts - so here's a real bargain

Yamaha Guitars must be about to launch a new Pacific range cos their current models are suddenly around at bargain prices.

One of the best live sounding in the range is the 412V model which is a hugely varied sounding guitar normally available @ £299 - if you pay much more for a higher model you start to compete with the low end of the professional range.

You can see the spec here

However lots of retailers are now offering them at bargain prices £220 -£240 - but Imuso  are offering them at a give-away price of £189 - if you decide to buy ring to check that there are still in stock cos they should fly out the door (- or into the courier's van at least).

At the time of posting they have all three finishes available - black, natural and the particularly tasty old violin sunburst illustrated above. All are beautifully put-together instruments and it is only if you are using them live professionally   that I would budget for a professional set-up which should detect any problems with the wammy bar.

Imuso are the British wing of a major German retailer with a good reputation for service.

17 September 2006

Fender Squier 51 update

I am rather taken by simple guitars - instruments that have few pretensions but do what they are designed to do well - none of your Variax style ' we can sound like anything you want' - JJ describes them as "Yorkshire guitars" - ' this is what I am - you can take it or leave it'.

Among the best bargains currently available is the Squier 51 which sits right at the bottom of Fender's Squier range and which I have posted in the past here, and it is widely available in the price range £110 -125 and it is even earning its own Wikipedia page here

Now as a basic guitar it has a fairly distinctive sound of its own which is becoming prized - and given quality amplification its versatility is becoming better recognized: listen to this for an example of what can be achieved here  (scroll down the page for the video clips)

There are some problems with the guitars that it worth knowing about:

1. Indonesian quality control is not up to the standards of other Fender manufacturing countries - so if you get the chance in a shop then give the guitar a good check look particularly at the ends of frets, and the smoothness of the three way rotary switch ( the travel on the switch should be equi-distant),

2. Some of the pickguards are thicker than they really should be and this can vary even in the same batches of guitar and look how well the pickguard has been screwed to the guitar (this is particularly important if you want to customise the pick-guard). Lots of people are in any case replacing the pickguards which tend to be an odd colour - to see the difference/improvement look at these cool USA replacements- and it is all a matter of taste. These replacements however are only available in the States so an alternative and more accurate replacements are these custom made pickguards here

3. The paint quality of the sunburst models can be inconsistent - if there is more than one available then ask to compare them - but it might also be worth considering the other colours.

4.When it comes to replacement pickups then care is need cos both the single coil at the neck and the bridge pickup

5. It is an inaccurate rumour that the black coloured models are not available here in the UK anymore. What is true is that the current UK black model has a white pickguard see this example at what used to be my local music shop Reidy's Music in Blackburn - who will happily take internet orders - so you need to change the pickguard to get a complete black model

6. The screening on the neck pickup is not the best - so care is needed if the guitar is to be used live with a big PA or lighting rig - they really do start to hum/buzz in sympathy.

Since I wrote my first post the 51 has become a bit of classic guitar - not least cos at this price many people are using 51s as a basis for their first attempts at customising, and even in their original form they are a distinctive guitar which is more than a beginners or first guitar. Two professional friends are using them as studio guitars.

So will they become 'classics'  enough to be an investment - that is less likely just cos of the quantity being imported - but at this price who cares - and if you are the lucky owner of an original all black model with the original neck pick-up do not customise it for they are already going up in value.

Even more standard models are retailing secondhand for £99 such as Andertons in Guildford (a great music shop).

So the question is do I own one yet - the answer is no - but I have commission bought five for other people - and a 51 is on my Christmas list.

22 July 2006

Brilliant guitar bargain

Dot_studioOne of major guitar delights of recent times - and a great bargain too - has been the purchase of a Epiphone Dot Studio semi-acoustic.

Of the four instruments that sit in my guitar racks this is guitar that I choose to play most days. Basically it is a stripped down version of a Gibson ES335 - no frills but quality fittings and in particular excellent humbucker pick-ups - and just enough acoustic volume for private practice - I find my self playing it into my valve amp without any effects just for its sheer roar and felexibity of tone

What makes it s special bargain at the moment is that you can buy one for £170 - rather than the list price of £250. Imuso (an internet supplier of good repute) have them available in the dull brown version which may not look special but this is a crazy amount of guitar for the money see details

16 June 2006

Electro-acoustic basses 2

_tw55abass See previous post here for the background for this - but Charlotte is now asking for an update in the comments - I didn't buy one in the end since while there are clearly some good instruments around I could not find one which "sounded" as I wanted ( ie one which sounded like an upright bass).

My thoughts for Charlotte are:

  • Ibanez are a respectable make - bit more known for the excellent electric guitars rather than their electro-acoustics
  • Electro-acoustic basses are a highly subjective purchase I would have some qualms about buying a present for some-one who has not had the chance to play the instrument before purchase
  • From my research and experience Tanglewood and Crafter seem to be excellent brands - I own and play daily a Tanglewood electro-acoustic and I have seen lots of really good Crafters in studio use.
  • Only buy from a dealer who is used to selling electro-acoustics - which probably means a specialist in acoustic intruments or bass guitars - DON'T buy from a general music shop which happens to have one in stock - if you need support afterwards they need to know what they are doing cos things like intonation ( how a guitar is adjusted to stay in tune) are particular cricitical on acoustic this is an example local to me

    Any helpful updates from actual users?

30 March 2006

Music Gear End of year update 1

There are some excellent deals on guitar equipment around - but most of these are end of lines so you need to check that the suppliers have stock before you place the order - remember that these deals may not be available in store at the same price.:

_black_box_1 Maudio Black-box my fave rave guitar effect of the moment see review here is now in short supply but Turnkey have it at available at even better price of £99 plus p+p see here . Be clear that Maudio are due to introduce a more upmarket replacement - but its appeal is the quality of what it does in such a simply package. If you want the floor pedal system which goes with it then buy it now as they seem to be in even shorter supply list price is £35-00 so don't pay more.

Line 6's Variax 300 the baby of the range of guitars which simulate a whole bunch of guitar sounds - its not something which I would fancy using live despite the sales pitch but as a studio guitar there is no equal for general guitar use - and this model is the same as the top of the range model physically - so if you want one then Millennium Music are shifting them at £239 instead of £349 of a few weeks ago see hear - BUT check that they have them in stock before you place your email order. Although a     good supplier they can be a bit slow in delivering.

_eaglebass_2 Lastly for the bass players BC Rich the American/Canadian guitar builder seem to have some excellent deals around at the moment - strong pound against the dollar etc.. Do not let the fact that they specialise in heavy metal guitars of extreme poser designs deter you from buying from the excellent bass range of which Coda Music have some excellent deals at the moment see here and navigate down the page. The Eagle is a superb guitar and at £239 you will not buy a better professional quality instrument. If you search on Google UK there are some similar deals around at other suppliers at the moment.

Lastly be aware that there are quite a few Fender Standard range ( Mexican build Strats and Teles) around at the moment ( £275 is the a typical price for a Strat) - but the range has been replaced by the 2006 model which offers significant improvements to the dodgy bridge mechanism, and a new fret arrangement.

Dealers will be keen to shift the old 2005 models so haggle the price down lower and check the quality of the particular model - one to buy in person rather than over the net. I have just paid £245 for a decent new Strat from a  local Fender dealer who has been overwhelmed by 2006 stock - so John is now a happy Fender player at the moment - and will customise his trem and pickups in due course.

The 2006 models are great by the way and if you can afford it well worth paying the £340ish prices being asked.

14 March 2006

Lent + Temptation + Guitars

Been preparing for a Lent Quiet Day and exploring the idea of temptation with my co-presenter Rob.

We are both musician priests but have never worked together musically - so I was amused to discover that one of his "examples of temptation" is the same second-hand guitar web-site, which I love to peruse see here .

_esquiretele1 I have had my eyes on a Fender for some days - wondering whether I could possibly afford it or indeed justify adding to my collection ( even if I think it will go up in value!) - and wasn't quite sure whether I was relieved or disappointed today when the site was updated and the guitar sold and removed.

Coda by the way must be two of the best guitar shops in the country and offer great prices on new guitars as well particularly Epiphones.

Of course we recognise that theologically this isn't really what is meant by temptation because such a beautiful guitar is bound to move us closer to God!

07 March 2006

Black Box

_black_box I have  finally  been able to purchase a long envied bit of kit at a price which I can afford.  A couple of years back  David Mcreary  introduced me to  the M-Audio  Black Box which they had created in partnership with Roger Linn ( the guru of drum machines see  below).

I have borrowed it ever since and grown to love it - for its sounds and for how it  works so wonderfully simply. It offers a  USB computer interface, drum machine and  guitar effects processor including some superb amp modelling in a really tough case just a bit bigger than a video cassette - and we are talking quality.

I have compared the Fender modelling with the real thing and think that there are the most convincing that I have come across - which saves me lugging my Twin Reverb or my favourite Princess 65 around the place.

The best bit is how the guitar effects snyc automatically to the drum beats - like Live 5 in a box. So I now have my own and can begin fill the 100 memory slots with some of sounds I have created over the past 12 months - and David can reclaim his machine. Details and price etc here. Thanks to David for the loans and your patience.

I can remember going into Livingstone Studios in the 80s and seeing and then using a Linn LM2 which was the first real drum machine with acoustic/sampled sounds - it cost a fortune - see details and write-up below.

Continue reading "Black Box" »

26 October 2005

Fretless arrives

Rbx270_medium_jpgA new addition has been made to Allen guitar collection - aYamaha RBX270F fretless bass. Amazing quality for the modest price - with setup and intonation absolutely on the button which is great quality control for a mass market Chinese instrument.

For those not familiar with the design this a particular model has the frets marked out so you can tell where you are on the fretboard, but is completely smooth to the touch so you can get the glides and vibrato which are the characteristic sounds of the fretless bass - see below.

F_guit_rbx270f_fboardMore importantly, and more subtley the lack of frets allows some variation in pitch which you would get on a upright bass.

Now I just need some time to begin to master this new art - good job three days holiday is coming up.

23 September 2005

Cheap Fenders

Had some fun in the past few days helping Jay ( son of a friend) pick his first guitar.

It made me realise two things:
1. How much basic music equipment has improved in quality over the past 5 years or so
2. How yet again some of the best Fender guitars are the cheapest.

Squire_51Jay eventually decided on a Squier 51 guitar which is right at the bottom of the Fender range - actually it is a real treat - simple design but well made by any standard - and given a good setup by an experienced luthier then eminently playable. He bought it for a very reasonable £110 as part of a package from his local music shop - they will provide the support etc that he will need - they if they play their cards right will get a customer for many years.

In fact it is so good that I am thinking of getting one for myself and have found them on the net at one of my local shops Reidy's in Blackburn Lancs for an even better price see here . It is interesting to see how the internet has enabled Reidy's to grow from a local general purpose music shop to a major dealer on the net.

What it makes me wonder is whether some of these very simple designs will actually be the retroclassic of the future. Fender Bullets  (Not Squier models) were the equivalent in the early 80s selling for about £75 - and now fetch over a £1000.

02 August 2005

Guitar sounds and thoughts

Pedal_1 If you are getting fed-up of soft effect processed guitars or play live this might be of interest.

Sometime in early July I listened to a demo of a Leeds trio and was struck by the range of acoustic guitar  sounds. Talking with Guy the guitarist I discovered that most of the sounds were from a electric but treated by a Zoom 504II floor pedal.

This is part of a range of cheap intro pedals aimed at electro-acoustic guitars - but also includes a setting  for electrics and then simulates an acoustic sound. Some of the pre-sets are fairly cheesy but there are numerous edits points and some really interesting possibilities emerge - a great setting for a distanced miked jumbo etc and none of the feedback possibilities. Noise levels are great for the price and nothing that a good noise gate won't cure for recording.

Now the best bit is that several suppliers are offering them at dirt cheap prices such as the south coast supplier GAK Music  offering them for £39 including a passable power supply ( P+P extra).

Now I would not want to put them to any heavy stage use - the quality of plastic casing is frankly dubious. However the acoustic treatments are great and the electric simulation is full of possibilities.

The bass unit in the range is similar price and judging from the instant results that have been emerging from No2s bedroom then worth a whirl for bass players . . . !

Have you started to hanker after the physical attractions of real pedals again after years of soft effects? I have treated myself to a You Dirty Rat sustain pedal by ProCo - a great sounding sustain/distortion job which I think you could drive a lorry over with no ill effects - and it sounds brill.

30 July 2005

Listen to this

I always take great pleasure in recommending a CD by a "real musician" - so please have a listen to Leo Abrahams excellent new album Honeytrap released on the Just Music label.

When I say real musician I mean someone who has studied at the Royal Academy and then had a distinguished career as a sideman guitarist with illustrious artists as Eno. If you have ever seen Ed Harcourt play live and marvelled at his guitarists skill - then you have heard Leo Abraham play.

Now he releases his own material on Just Music who have substantial track record of interesting releases. What is rare about Honeypot is that although initially sounding like ambient landscapes - it is in fact real instruments with all the depth and quality that follows:

Have a listen to see if you agree here .

21 January 2005

Electro-acoustic bass guitars

Zzz_bassDoes anyone have any experience of electro-acoustic BASS guitars which seems fashionable at the moment and quite cheap.  Do they sound anything like an upright bass?

I am planning to buy a bass something for studio use and as a second which will leave my lad free to play the Jazz Bass.

+ and - and experiences, plus details of makes and models gratefully recieved by comments ( please not email which is getting massively overloaded at the moment)