Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Bass! Part 5, The Real Punk Rock Bass

So I have had a long series of posts about this bass.  Here are the previous posts.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

So what could possibly happen that this time around with this bass?  To make a long story short, I have already replaced the pickups, the bridge, the pickguard, and moved the output jack.  I also refretted the neck, because honestly, those frets where more or less falling out of the neck.

But after a bit of time, I had to realize that the neck was hopeless.  It was so warped that it had dead spots on it no matter what I did.  So when Guitarfetish had a sale on factory blowout parts, I searched for a bass neck.  Guess what?  I found one.

So I got it for a nice price of $30 plus shipping.  I think the S/H was around $10-$15, but I can't remember.  I got a good deal on it because it had not been cut for a nut yet.  So I cut the slot, and then had to order a bone blank from Hong Kong.  I could have bought it locally, but they want $10-$12 anywhere I looked.  So I bought it for $1.51 (shipping included) from China. 

I then cut it ever so nicely, and got it to fit.  I wish I could say the same thing about the neck.  The neck pocket was a little tight, so I had to shave off a bit of the underside of the neck to get it to fit.  But this bass is so beat up, what's a little damaged to one side?

But I had forgotten one thing.  The original tuners were crap.  So I went back to Guitarfetish, and ordered some cheap bass tuners $17.95 plus $12 shipping.  So my "cheap" project is not starting to get so cheap anymore.

The one thing that made me completely hostile was not the tuners themselves, but the screws that came with it.  I ended up breaking two screw heads completely off.  I've never had that happen in the entire time I have been repairing guitars.  Now, I had it happen twice on one project.  Just complete POS screws.

So let me get everything added up.

Bass - Free!
Bridge - $20
Pickups, pots, and parts - $65
Pickguard - $17
Neck - $40
Tuners - $30
New Strings - $20
Time working on bass - ... a lot.

Total - $192

Mmmm.  Maybe I should have just bought a Squier?  I mean, it still doesn't exactly play that great.  The neck pocket is too deep.  I mean, I'm already shimming the crap out of it.  I might have to shim it some more.  It's just been a money pit.  But I only have myself to blame.  I can never let a project go. 

And to be honest, if I did want to part it out, I can still do that with some of the parts.  Namely, the pickups, bridge and neck.

But still, we don't do this for the money.  We do it for the love of music.  But man, does music have to be so expensive?  If I ever fail as a musician I can always use this as a boat anchor.  I wonder what a fishing Captain makes?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nature's Classroom and the Little Chomping Machines

When I was in sixth grade my elementary school class took a trip to "Nature's Classroom."  For those who don't know, "Nature's Classroom" was where students learned about the outdoors and nature for five days.  Now a days, it's only three days.  Here's the link for those who wish to know more.

I think it's a great program, but honestly, I found it kind of boring.  Anything and everything that we did there I had already done with the Boy Scouts of America.  There was one day that we shot B.B. guns and archery that again, I found boring.  Why find shooting a B.B. gun exciting when I was already shooting a shotgun out hunting?  Why find shooting a simple bow exciting when I had already shot a somewhat expensive compound bow?

Now don't get me wrong.  There were a few exciting moments.  But there was one moment that I look back on, and wonder if it was age appropriate. 

As I said, I was in sixth grade which meant I was eleven years old.  I can't remember if we went in the Fall or the Spring.  So that would have made it 1987 or 1988 when I went. 

Near the end of the week we were all given nets and told to pick up a few critters in the Hillsborough River.  We mostly picked up fish along with a few crawfish/crawdads.  We then took them back to a wondrous room.  It was filled with all sorts of tanks of fish, more fish, different types of fish, rabbits, Guinea pigs, baby chicks, mice, turtles, and one tank that held two juvenile American Alligators.

These alligators had to have been born recently.  They were only about 14-16 inches and most of that was tail.  I mean, I had a pet bearded dragon (later in life) that was as big as these alligators. 

Now what made this interesting was that our instructor told us we could pet and hold the rabbits, Guinea pigs, mice, various other animals, and ....... the alligators.  I thought, "wait, we can not only pet, but hold the alligators?"

You have to remember this was either 1987 or 1988, and the American Alligator came of the endangered species list on June 4th, 1987.  So being able to legally hold one was kind of surprising for a kid.

Our instructor took some of the crawfish we had caught, and then feed it to the alligators.  I have to say, it kind of surprised me how an alligator ate.  They would literally crunch the crawfish in three bites, and then shallow it.  You could heart the crunching and everything.  Even as tiny as those gators were, they had some powerful jaws.

Our ever so gracious instructor told us we could handle the alligators, but not to put our fingers near their mouths.  She had a kid who did that a few months back, and it wasn't pretty.  And after I saw what the gators just did to the crawfish, I had this horrible image in my head of those gators stripping the flesh off of a kid's finger.

But yeah, I had to handle those gators...... but very carefully.  I ever so carefully picked up the gators (one at a time) around the middle making sure to keep their mouths away from everything.  The funny part is that they didn't squirm around or anything.  Anyone who has ever had an iguana or a bearded dragon knows they don't like to set still if you hold them for too long.  These gators didn't mind being held.  They didn't move their feet around trying to climb on or up me. 

In the end it was the one big thing that I remember from Nature's Classroom.  But I am still kind of split.  Was I too young to be handling a chomping machine like a baby alligator?  Or, was it important that I was able to hold them since I remember that moment to this day?  Maybe I should have just played with the bunnies?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It Seems Dead Teenager Songs Were All The Rage In The 1960's

The other day as I was riding in the car I heard a song I had never heard before.  What was interesting is that, it was a song from the 1960's.  We were listening to Sirius 60's on Channel 6, and a song by the Shangri-Las came on.  They were best known for their song, "Leader of the Pack."  However, this song I had never heard before was called, "Give Us Your Blessing."

As I had never heard it I was somewhat paying attention to it.  It seemed it was a typical 1960's love song about wanting to get married to your best gal/guy and kissy, kissy stuff.  You know, the usual.

So this is how the song went.

Run, run, run
Mary, run, run, run
Jimmy, run, run, run
Mary, run, run, run
Mary and Jimmy were both very young
But as much in love
As two people could be
And all they wanted
Was to share that love eternally
They went to their folks they told them
That someday soon they'd be wed
Their folks just laughed
And called them kids
So Mary said
Give us your blessing
Please don't make us run away
Give us your blessing
Say you'll be there on our wedding day
They wouldn't have laughed at Mary
If they could have seen through the door
But Jimmy was waiting in the car
While Mary begged once more
Give us your blessing
Please don't make us run away
Give us your blessing
Say you'll be there on our wedding day
So, so far it seems pretty normal right?  Just a below average 1960's song that I described above.  That is until the next lyrics.
Well as they drove off they were crying
And nobody knows for sure
That, that's why they didn't see the sign
That road detour
The next day they found them
Mary and Jimmy were dead
And as their folks
Knelt beside them in the rain

 They couldn't help but hear
The last words that Mary and Jimmy had said
Give us your blessing
Please don't make us run away
Give us your blessing
Say you'll be there on our wedding day
Run, run, run
Mary, run, run, run
Jimmy, run, run, run
Mary, run, run, run
Wait, what?  Dead?  I mean, we went from wanting to get married, and now everyone is dead?  You know what this means.
So it seems I had to do a little research on this song.  It turns out that the Shangri-Las were not the first to perform this song.  That goes to Ray Peterson.  Also, he did not write it.  It seems it was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich who I found out liked to write a lot of dead teenager songs.  The song hit #70 for Ray Peterson and #29 for the Shangri-Las. 
I guess every musical decade has their "thing."  In the 80's it was awesome (and some not so awesome) guitar solos.  In the 90's it was everyone trying to sound like Nirvana.  Now-a-days everything is autotuned beyond belief.  But in the 1960's it was songs about dead teenagers. 
So remember when they talk about the good ole' days, remember this kids.  They tend to forget the worst parts.  Yes, 1960's music was great, but not all of it was "that" great.  Remember, they tend to only play the best hits of the 60's on the radio.  You don't get the so-so ones being played that often.
And now, if you really want to hear the song...  (But don't say I didn't warn you.)

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Combo Amp Project, Part 2

To understand this post a bit better, check out part 1.

So the last time we left off, I had done some pretty cool things with the amp project.  I got the Bitmo mod working and the cabinet built.  All's that I had left was for me to start finishing the cabinet.

However, I got to thinking.  Before I decided to put a finish on the cabinet, I thought I would put down shielding paint.  The Epiphone Valve Jr. has a tendency to pick up signals, so I thought I would shield the top.  It also doubles as a heat resistor.  I worried about the amp heating up and being so close to the wood. 

So I mixed up some shielding paint the old fashioned way.  I took Liquid Tape, Acetone, and graphite, and stirred it up in a nice bowl.

I did this two times, but the second time I put on a super thick amount.  I didn't aim to make it that thick.  But since I did, I decided to go with two big coats instead of three medium sized ones.

Next, I put four coats of polyurethane on the cabinet.  I won't show a bunch of photos of it since it all looks the same.  One good picture of it at the end will do.

Now I was ready to put it all together.  I thought it would take much longer, but since I did all my homework beforehand, it all went together much easier.  In other words.  I made sure all my holes were lined up straight and the right size.

First up, I put on the feet.  I didn't want anything too big.  I just wanted something simple.

Next I added the handle.  Again, this is a simple handle since the whole project is lightweight.

I was worried that the wood piece that holds the speaker wouldn't want to line up, but once I got the first screw in, it all fell in place nicely. 

This is when I realized that a lot of companies paint this piece of wood black so that you don't see the wood.  You see the grill cloth.  So that didn't work out so well for me, but oh well.

Next, I added the speaker.  Again, all the holes lined up nicely, and the screws didn't poke through to the grill cloth. 

I then added the amp unit.  Once I got the first hole lined up everything fell into place.

I was all excited to play it when I realized, I still needed to add the cord that goes from the amp to the speaker.  I also needed to grab my power cord, otherwise, how would it work?

So after all this the main questions is, "How does it sound?"  Well I could tell you.... or I could show you with the power of magic!!!  Or I could show you an MPEG of it. 


Now, a few tips/ thoughts.  First, it helps if you turn your speakers up somewhat loud.  Otherwise, it will seem that it doesn't have a lot of bass.  The bass isn't huge, but it works for me. 

Also, the sound can really change depending upon the three way voice selector, and the tone knob.  I will agree with a user comment on the Bitmo mod that the best tone choices are between 4 and 6 o'clock.  However, when you turn the volume way up, the tone knob can be usable on either side of that. 

The sound I recorded is just the sound that I will most likely use in the future.  Like Keith Richard's said, "Give me 10 minutes and I'll make every amp sound the same."  But the way it's set is the kind of sound I go for.

I do want to say that I'm digging the WGS C12 C/S speaker.  It's very creamy, and the kind of American sound that I am looking for.  It's very responsive to the tone knob. 

If I have time, I may post a video that shows all the different settings.  But I have been really busy with work lately, so it may get put on the back burner for a while.  I hope you've enjoyed my pics, video and blog.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Enemy Within

This story spans over a decade.  It is a tale of how long anger can last.  Anger is and always will be my enemy within.  It is something I have struggled to control.  Most of the important things in my life have been lost to anger.  This story will demonstrate that.

Back in 2004, I had a bit of a situation during a CUUPS service at the Unitarian Church.  And by "situation" I mean something I don't want to put in print on my blog.  Anyway, I was trespassed from the property by the main guy in charge, Ollis.

Now, I know what you are thinking, "What in the cold Hell do you have to do to get banned by a U.U. Church?"  I know, it's like Friday and getting fired on your day off.  I'll admit, I screwed up royally.  Which leads most people to ask, "No, seriously.  What the ever-loving fuck do you have to do to get thrown out by the most liberal religion in the U.S.?"

And again, I'm not going to talk about it.  Just know I was trespassed from the property, and have never been back in over 11 years.

I'll admit, I did have a problem with Ollis, the main guy in charge of CUUPS.  So, back then, I wrote Ollis an e-mail, and said that I was okay with the punishment, but other people should be thrown out too.  He never answered back.  All the crap fell squarely on me.

Back in 2011, after one of the services, I met up with some friends at the I-HOP across the street from the church.  Ollis and some of his group showed up.  We never spoke to each other.  It was cold.  I mean, there was some serious tension in the air. 

Back then, some of them wanted to ask Ollis on my behalf if I could come back.  I don't them not to bother because of the tension between us.  There would be no reason he would ever let me back.

So fast forward to October of 2015.  My friend Candie invited me to her wedding that would take place, (dah, dah!) at the U.U. Church.  So I have to tell her that I can't come since I am still trespassed from the property.  She said that she would talk to Ollis.  Low and behold, I was okayed to attend her wedding.

After the wedding I interrogated her on how it all went down.  Let's just say it didn't go the way I thought it did.  This is what Candie said happened.

Candie:  (Speaking to Ollis)  "Do you remember Adrian?"

Ollis:  "No."

Sidebar.  Wait a minute.  So all that coldness at the I-HOP?  It wasn't because of what he thought of me.  It was because he had no idea who I was.  He didn't know who I was.  I can't believe this.

Back to the conversation.

Candie:  I want him at my wedding.  It is alright if he attends?

Ollis:  Sure.

Sidebar.  So no wheeling and dealing?  I was really expecting some sort of wheeling and dealing, but no.  She got me there in what had to be the shortest conversation of her life.

Then, at the wedding today Ollis asks Candie, "Do you know that guy wearing the suit in the corner?"

She had to tell him, "Yes, that's Adrian."

He had no idea what I looked like.  So all this anger I've been carrying?  I figured that Ollis was carrying the same for me.  He wasn't.  He didn't even remember me, or remember what I looked like.  Wow.  I don't know what to think.  It's kind of changed my view on how one deals with anger.  I guess I will have to reevaluate mine.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Adrian's Year In Review: The Best Blogs of 2015

Yep, it's that time of year again.  Where I count down the most viewed blogs and my personal favorite blogs of the year.  This past year, 2015, didn't see as many views as past years.  However, I am not in this for the views.  I do this because I like it. 

Long ago, all the way back in 2008, I started this blog over on Myspace.  I made a promise that I would average one blog per week.  This year I have 55 blogs with this review blog being number 56.  It's the most blogs I've written in a year since 2012 (65 blogs.)  2013 saw me write 55 blogs, and 2014 saw 53 blogs. 

So to start off, I will count down the top five most viewed blogs.  As I remind everyone every year, this is a bit unfair to myself.  A blog that I posted in January has 11 more months to be viewed than a blog that's posted in December.  But writers can't be choosers so here's the countdown. 

Now, I usually do a top 5 countdown.  But this year, I've had something that hasn't happened in a long time.  A tie.  There was a three way tie at number 6, so I thought I would include them.

6.  (Tie)  27 Views.

100,000 Miles

After 14 years my car finally flipped 100,000 miles. 

6.  (Tie)  27 Views.

Getcha Pull!!!! New Guitar Day: Dean Razorback

I got a killer deal on a guitar that I always wanted. 

6.  (Tie)  27 Views.

Hood Problems: Part 1, Strangers With Candy

I was assigned to the worst place I had ever been to.  When your own boss tells you to get out of that place, you don't argue.

5.  28 Views.

Draught of Living Death? Wait what?

A Harry Potter blog?  You bet.  I have a number of questions for J.K.  This is one of them.

4.  29 Views.

The Angel's Trumpet Plant In My Yard Is Mocking Me

The yard and I have a hate/hate relationship.  This is just one part of it.

3.  31 Views

Rich People Are Weird, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Act Like A House-Elf

The best stories are the true ones.  This one has so much truth that it goes into beyond weird territory.

2.  32 Views

New Pedal Day: Blue

I bought a guitar pedal that hadn't really been reviewed.  So a lot of folks looked up my review online to see what I thought of it.

1.  57 Views.

New Pedal Day: Biyang Overdrive

Again, I posted a review of a neat guitar pedal, and players wanted to know my thoughts on it.

Now onto my personal favorites of the year.

5.  Beyonce, I Hate To Break It To You, But....

I have bad news to break to Beyoncé, and she isn't going to like it.

4.  Rich People Are Weird, Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Act Like A House-Elf

When you go from working one extreme to the other it can make life kind of hairy.

3.  How Do I Woo That Special Gal Without Being Seen As A Stalker?

I suck at girls.  This blog proves it.

2.  Songs In The Key Of C...anadian

My Dad is a smartass from a long line of smartasses.  This blog only proves it.

1.  I Am The Table

Even though it's been a view years since that disastrous, "Lulu" album from Metallica and Lou Reed, I hadn't had a chance to give it the ribbing it deserved... until now. 

So that's it everyone.  Another year and I have achieved my blog goal.  I will remain committed to my writing.  In a way, I hope weird things continue to happen to me.  I get the best blogs that way.  Happy holidays and happy new year.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Combo Amp Project

I like playing out musically.  The problem is I don't really have an amp that's small enough (power wise) to not blow out the windows.  Marshall stacks are awesome, but you can't really play coffeehouses with them.  I could buy a small cheap amp, but cheap amps sound... well cheap. 

So I decided to make a project out of my needs.  I want a small tube combo amp that I can easily carry to places.  I liked the Epiphone Valve Jr. since it was simple.  It is a 5 watt, 1 pre-amp tube, 1 power tube amp.  It has a single volume control and that's it.  Again a very simple amp.

I received the head version for my birthday, and received the Bitmo mod kit for Christmas.  The Bitmo trio mod will add a tone knob and a three way voicing switch to the head.  I then built a cabinet to hold the amp chassis and a speaker. 

I was planning on using a 10 inch American sounding speaker but I was able to trade a WGS Veteran 30 speaker for the American sounding WGS C12 C/S speaker.  So now that I have everything, let's go to the pictures.  That way you can see what I am talking about.

First up, I built the cabinet out of some mahogany that I have had lying around for a couple years.

I used the 90 degree angle tool to make sure I had all the pieces of wood lined up correctly.  I also made sure all the holes for the head were lined up properly. 

Next I put in the support pieces of wood on the side so that the chassis can slide in on top of it. 

I then fitted a piece of plywood to hold the speaker.

As I said earlier, I was planning on using a 10 inch speaker, but the 12 inch one was too good to pass up.  As you can see, the wood on the sides of the cabinet are on the outside, and the screws go east/west.  Originally, the sides were going to be underneath the top piece, and screwed in north/south.  But to make room for the speaker I had to change it.  Luckily it worked. 

So I was able to use my scroll saw and sander to cut the hole perfectly for the speaker.  I was also very careful choosing the screws and drilling the holes for cabinet.

I had some leftover tweed grill cloth from a previous project, and it is exactly what I need for this project.  With use of some clips and a staple gun, I was able to get the grill cloth even and tight.

Next up is the electronics part.

I made sure the holes were drilled and the two switches were properly fitted before I started the electronics soldering. 

Here are pictures of my table set-up.  I wanted to use the kitchen table so I could set my computer next to me for help.  I also had my trusty lamp next to me. 

Here is my speaker hooked up to the amp.  It was fun to have my speaker pointed straight up into the air.  It was definitely loud enough. 

Here is my work.  Lots of wires everywhere, but everything is where it is supposed to be, and most importantly of all, it works. 

So I will do a "Part 2."  I will show the progress of the cabinet as I finish it, and I will include sound samples when I have it all put together.