March 14th, 2004

accordion santa

The Guitar

It's been a while since I updated the journal so I'll make a few updates this evening which will hopefully be enough to prevent me from doing anything too productive, such as paying bills.

Anyway. The guitar!

Since Chris and I have been playing out over the past months there's been a constant question of how to amplify my guitar. The problem is that I play acoustic guitar and generally play pretty quietly (I don't use a pick for instance). For a while I tried using a Dean Markely pickup, which is one of those pickups that you wedge into the soundhole of your guitar, but it tended to have a loud buzz and didn't sound that great. So then we abandoned that and just used an external mike. The problem with this approach was that since I switch from guitar to piano and back to guitar it was difficult for me to maintain the same distance from the microphone ... and there was a limit to how loud I could be amplified before feedback started becoming a big problem.

I considered various solutions to this, but finally I decided that the thing to do was get a pickup installed in my current acoustic guitar. With some trepidation I took it in to the shop to get this done a week ago last Saturday, and it went under the knife this week sometime. But I got it back on Saturday and it sounds good. So hurrah! It's one of those Fishman piezo pickups.

This will be very handy the next time we play in a loud bar, which will probably be on April 10!

The other solution I considered was buying another guitar with a pick-up built in ... which I still may do, but I think I'd like it to be an electric guitar, maybe a hollowbody or semi hollowbody. Well, we'll see.

manfire has a twelve-string guitar with pickup that he might want to sell to me, and which I'm planning to have a look at while I'm down visiting next weekend, so that may be the way I end up going! Mmmm, twelve-string. (And thanks to the manfire for holding off on selling it until I get a chance to have a look at it.)
  • Current Music
    Quincy Jones - Straight, No Chaser
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Weekend Activities

My sister Char, her husband Joe, and their five month old son Ezra came to visit this weekend. I was slightly disorganized about it, as originally the plan was for them to stay at a hotel but at some point this changed to them staying with me, which I missed somehow. It wasn't a problem but I would have spent a bit more time cleaning up the place had I known that that was what was happening.

Unfortunately Ezra was a little sick with a cold and a fever, so they ended up not staying as long as they had hoped to, and Ezra was fussier than usual, especially around bedtime. It was still great to see them, and particularly Ezra, who I hadn't seen in more than a month. I got to see him eat solid food! And he seems like he's very close to being able to crawl -- the one thing he hasn't quite figured out is that you have to keep your belly off the floor to reduce friction. Instead, he sticks his belly out so it becomes a sort of a pivot -- he can spin around from side to side quite easily but for forward and backward motion it just doesn't work that well. Very cute! He can also pick things up, which I don't think he had quite perfected the last time I saw him. (He can also put things in his mouth but it isn't yet the case that that's automatically what he does with everything, I don't think.)

Friday night I got us all pizza for dinner and we got in a game of Scrabble (I came in second, with Joe ending up with a quite decisive 30-point lead). Saturday we went to a couple of bookstores and a yarn place, where I got some funky new yarn to incorporate into the gigantic scarf I'm working on. Mmmm, scarf.

I got us some Thai takeout for dinner last night and they drove back to New Hampshire this morning.

Hopefully I'll go visit them soon!
  • Current Music
    Van Morrison, Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber - Goodnight Irene
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I knew I forgot something

I forgot to include the part of the guitar saga that was actually vaguely interesting.

So yeah, I took my guitar to Noll Guitars in Warwick, which is on the third floor of a repurposed factory building. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was three old pinball machines against the wall to the right (kerri9494 has been on the lookout for places with pinball so I've become pinball-sensitive; they didn't appear to be plugged in so I'm not sure if they were working or what.

After a little while the guy who, I believe, runs the place came over and asked me what was up. I explained that I wanted my guitar to be amplified, said the style I played, etc...

He then proceeded to give me an unabridged history of the guitar pickup, at the end of which it became clear that I would at least want a piezo pickup (decent sound, minimal feedback, minimal guitar destruction). He took out one of his guitars, which had both a pickup and an internal microphone, and hooked me up to a soundboard, where I could here the pickup alone, the microphone alone, and a mixture of the two. The ultimate, apparently, is to have both, with most of the sound coming from the pickup but a little mike sound in there too to provide a little more realistic sound (with the mike you get the sound of your fingers on the strings, etc.). But the microphone setup cost $400 (the pickup was less than half that) and you wouldn't want just a mike (too much feedback at high volumes, and it didn't seem to sound as good as the pickup by itself anyway) so that part of the purchase was postponed indefinitely, as was the equalizer box.

While the guy was writing up the work order, a younger guy came by and asked me if I had heard of Blind Blake, and talked about how my playing had reminded him a little of Blind Blake and how he had recently heard him for the first time and had gone out and bought the CDs of his complete works (he was a fingerpicking blues guitar player from, I think, Atlanta in the 20s and 30s) and so on. This was quite a compliment, as Blind Blake was a really amazing guitar player, although I had been playing a Robert Johnson song so I dunno.

Then I left! The end.