Having a clutch of nice guitars and shiny gear with enticing LEDs flashing on it is all very well an

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  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    ...... that was good enough for me! He clearly knew his stuff.

    But, you know what? When I played it, none of that mattered. With the '65 plugged into an old Fender valve (and I mean REALLY old) it felt and sounded like coming home. It literally felt like this had always been my guitar; just like Kathy, she'd been calling to me since I started playing guitar ....

    ... alright, that's bollocks, but I fell in love with that guitar there and then.

    So, the deal was done. I got him to give me a proper hard case (actually, Bethnal Green Road is almost exclusively populated by proper hard cases :lol: ) in with the deal and we left, £2,995 lighter, and feeling like I was walking on air. I had it! I'd done it! I carried the guitar in it's new case, and my lady followed up, toting the dreadful, but crucially original, cardboard case, and with a faintly amused look on her face.

    So, people, if you want a guitar badly enough, just start banging on about it now, and who knows, in ten years time ....... ?
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,955Member
    That's a great tale Dave, and although I don't think I've ever had quite such a strong urge to own a specific guitar as that, I can very much relate to your feelings about it. I will say that I have myself come to the conclusion that unless a guitar kind of calls to me, then it's not worth getting. Case in point:

    A bit over a year ago, I got a 7 string Schecter something or other, because I had an idea I should try 7 string. But the guitar itself was really bought because it seemed like the best deal for the money I had available regarding the features, and not because I particularly liked the look of it, or had any particular feeling towards the model. I didn't dislike it but... End result - it sat un-played, and un-bonded with for a year until I realised the whole thing was going nowhere and sold it (to a nice chap who looked like he had bonded with the guitar as soon as he saw it).

    More recently, I got my blonde Ibanez semi-acoustic, where I did very much love the look of the model, and I felt a sudden mad urge to own this type of guitar. I'm glad I acted on that urge because the result is I bloody love the thing, and can't stop playing it. I bonded pretty much the moment the guitar arrived. And this is how it should be - it's a case of listening to that inner voice, and following instinct and gut feeling.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    I couldn't agree more. Owning a guitar is about so much more than just the purely technical aspects of how it sounds and feels to play. It's all about the vibe, how it feels on a more sub-conscious level. I remember years ago watching "The Pope Must Die", which is a fairly unremarkable 80s film about a lowly guitar-playing, relatively un-Godly Parish priest in Italy (played by Robbie Coltrane) who accidentally gets made Pope. Silly film, but in it he plays a battered old 60s Strat, and I just fell in love with that vibe. So I bought one of the old Jap '62 re-issue Strats with aged plastic parts, and it was a lovely guitar. That was my mainstay for a number of years and sent me down the Strat path for about 10 years or so until I moved over to SGs.

    I think the biggest mistakes I've made along my pathway to guitar Nirvana have been when I've let my head rule my heart, either selling guitars I loved because I needed the money, or buying a guitar because it was a bargain rather then because I loved it. My brief sojourn playing a Starfield springs to mind. Why the Hell did I trade a Jap '52 reissue Tele for one of those things?

    And I don't blame you for loving the Ibanez AS. I had and AS83 and it was a truly nice guitar. I only let it go because I just had too many guitars (weird concept, I know!).
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    So, anyway, to move on with Screaming Dave's Working Band Wisdon, we need to kick-start the band. After Teoni (my step-daughter) decided to start a family and bowed out, we needed a new lady singer. The drummer is an estate agent and had sold a house to a lady who was a singer and a bit of a rock-chick a few years back, so he dug out her contact details, invited her along and the rest is history.

    She's closer to our age and fits right in with the band. for T it was never a social thing. It's not much fun for a girl in her 20s to hang out with a bunch of ol' farts like us, but Zarra is one of the gang. She'd been in the room about 10 minutes, I think, when the awkwardness melted and the first fart joke came out.

    But, it's been a bit of a climb back up to being competent with her in place and we've let things slide .... but we have a gig to work to now. A fundraiser on March 11th, so we're all working on new songs and rejuvenating the old ones.

    And that brings me on to my subject to this missive, which is how to take a well established song and make it our own. We've never been about being a straight covers band in the sense of trying to reproduce the sound of the original. We take a song we love and do it our way, very often not listening to the original once we've got the basic structure in our heads. After that it's all ours. I always take the line that if they didn't want us to jigger about with it then they shouldn't have left it lying around!

    And this was brought home to me on Thursday night when we were rehearsing "I'm a Believer" and Zarra said to me, "So, do you do the Monkees version or Shrek?" So we worked on it and decided it was neither really, and both. The play-out is the thing that differs and we take elements of both versions for ours, but never consciously. We just all had ideas of how it went, garnered from listening to both versions, and moulded them together. And then added a few tweaks of our own.

    Our flag-ship closing number is a barnstorming version of Jailhouse Rock, which takes a detour through Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dog on the way. That was put together entirely without reference to any known version of the song. We all knew the Elvis version, and also the version from the end of the Blues Brothers, and the ZZ Top live version, but we never listened to any of them when we put it together, and I think that's why it works so well.

    Another thing we do is mash-up two or more songs, just to spice things up. We never do it for long, just a little detour through a chorus, or even just an instrumental. We do a version of Everyone's a Winner, and take a detour through the intro of the Peter Gabriel song Sledgehammer in the middle! That was just because Ed (keyboards) noticed a similarity in the chords and started playing it for a joke. Our latest one is in the Paloma Faith song Stone Cold Sober. We realised that the chords in the chorus are basically Smells Like Teen Spirit, so we now take the scenic route through that. I start singing the "Hello, hello, hello ...." bit from SLTS over one of Zarra's choruses and then burst through with the chorus of SLTS. But just one, then we do the instrumental with the iconic guitar "honk" before scuttling back to the safety of Paloma Faith. We give it a final nod in the last chorus where I sing a bit of SLTS over a normal chorus.

    So I would urge anyone doing a cover to only listen to the original as little as possible and then make it your own. In my opinion the best covers ever have been when the covering artist takes the song and does something uniquely different with it. Take American Pie. Madonna did it and may as well not have bothered. It was like taking the Don McClean version and just putting her vocals on. But, All Along The Watchtower, anyone? Hendrix took the Dylan version and turned it on it's head, but what a brilliant and iconic cover it became. Similarly, Tragedy by the Bee Gees. Steps did it and it sounded identical to the original - what was the point?

    All I would say is do your own version of a song, rather than making it sound like the original, and at least then a part of it will be truly yours ....
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    So .... the humble mic stand. I remember resenting the first time I had to spend money that could have gone on something with an LED on it on a bloody mic stand!

    But in my old age I find something comforting in a well-build mic stand. I just bought a new one because I wanted something a bit more sturdy than my chrome-plated cheapy. My mic stand also bears a couple of attachments at gigs. One is a cup holder - oh, yes! We must have our creature comforts! - and the other is a tray that I put my capo, spare strings, pegwinder, etc. on. I've never had to change a string at a gig, but if I ever do ..... I guess my mic stand is like my home at a gig. It's always there, always the same, with it's cupholder, tray and a little rubber strip with spare picks on it (I've also never ever dropped a pick and had to get a spare off the mic stand, but if I ever do ....)

    But this new one, made by Hercules, has a brilliant feature, that I will never, ever use, because I have a guitar hanging round me at all times, but the boom arm is attached using a cam lock instead of a threaded attachment, so it can be instantly removed, mic still in place, for those Freddy Mercury moments. I just had to have it, even though, like I said, I will never use it.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 856Member
    Mic stands come in two versions, good pro quality and everything else. the everything else ones work - for a while, but are prone to breaking or sagging or toppling over. A good quality stand is heavier and more stable, plus the decent brands supply parts for the clutch mechanisms or brackets so you can get decades of use out of them. Ask me how I know ;-) K&M is the industry leader and even make branded stands for the likes of Beyer Dynamic etc. Thomann make cheaper copies for less critical rolls like micing cabs up but I believe in buy once and cry once.
    As for the band Dave i'm glad it's all come together and gelled, always a nice feeling working with capable musicians you like.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    Very true, Mr Blonde, very true. In then end, skimping on event the seemingly most basic and un-glamorous gear will bite you on the butt, more than likely mid-gig! I had an old mike stand and it just got to the stage when the boom just wouldn't stay up. At first it was almost un-noticeable, but eventually you could see it drooping, like the Viagra had run-out!
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    So, of this missive, we come to the subject of repairing valve amps .....

    Now, we all know that valve amps are full of arcane and dark knowledge, crafted, as they are, by some sort of troglodytic dwarf, not far from the mines of Moria, and they have nasty things in that will leap out and fire lightning at you, even if you are just minding your own business .... OK, well, not quite that bad, but they are a strange beast, and no mistake. The fundamental thing that makes them so full of the dark arts is that a transistor, or the many sub-sets and different types of similar solid state amplifier-y sort of thing, are all very sensible and control voltage, which is very handy, because loudspeakers respond to voltage. All very neat and tidy. But valves control current flow, not voltage, so somehow you have to understand this current flow, and eventually translate it into a voltage situation using a bloody great output transformer.

    So first of all, before it even goes wrong, there's the relatively infrequent, but still sometimes necessary subject of replacing valves and biasing them. The reason this is, frankly, a pain in the jacksie is that valves are an imprecise thing, and they are all exhibit slightly different characteristics. We've all heard of matched pairs of valves, and the reason you need these is that the manufacturing process turns out items with quite wide tolerances, and since a great many valve power amps work with two valves working together, they need to have pretty much the same characteristics. But the chances are that your shiny new matched pair, although being the same as each other, will be quite diffrent from the dusty old matched pair you take out of the amp. And so you have to adjust the current flow through the valve in it's quiescent state i.e. when you're not using it to make the noises that your neighbours complain about! But adjusting and measuring current is not all that easy. If you are to measure current, you have to disconnect something in the circuit and stick your ammeter in line with it, or stick a resistor in line and measure the voltage across it, to give you the current, but that means the circuit is now changed ....

    Fortunately for me, Jim Marshall and his mates are a canny lot. They set up shop in Bletchley, for a start, which is nowhere near the Mines of Moria, and as such their transport costs are lower. They also, and this is the clever bit, designed a nice resistor into the circuit and took flying leads off either side of it to a diagnostic plug on the back of the amp (well they did on the JCM2000 series, at any rate) along with a little adjustable pot, so you can measure voltage (and they tell you what voltage you should have) and adjust it using the little pot without having to open up the amp. So biasing my lovely new valves recently was a doddle.

    So imagine my surprise and chagrin a short while later when my amp just failed to make any noise at all at a rehearsal. A cursory check round the back revealed no valves glowing at all. All the accessible fuses on the back panel were checked and found to be intact, so now we have a problem that is going to require potentially releasing the nasty and dangerous lightning ....

    So I called the nice people at Bletchley, and got through to a guy who turned out not to be a troglodytic dwarf at all, and wasn't even wearing a mail shirt of mithril silver (or, at least, he didn't sound like he was). He was just a nice bloke from Bletchley (and was probably called Bob or Geoff, I should think). I described the problem and he just said, "yeah, that'll be some jumper leads between two circuit boards, They should be red but when you open it up, they'll be brown and crispy." Great! this will be easy. Bob (or Geoff) would even sell me a set of the jumpers for a couple of quid! Until a little way into the conversation, he said "Oh, hang on, did you say it's the 60 Watt version? Oh, no. It's the hundred watt version does that. The 60 watt version never does that ..."

    But he did say he would send a carriage to collect the amp and then deliver it back to me for £22 (see, I told you their transport costs were lower!) and do a bit of diagnostic work if I couldn't sort it. And their turn-around time is about a week. Now, compare that with last time I had it mended when I took it to a shop in Southampton, and they got their apparent valve guru to do it, and it took about six weeks. They told me he was brilliant, a genius even (I think he even claimed to be a troglodytic dwarf), but temperamental so they didn't like to hassle him. Well this genius put it back together a bit wrong and the reverb still didn't work so it had to got back again and took another two weeks to make the journey by donkey cart to and from the Mines of Moria ....

    But, Geoff (or Bob) it turns out, is the real deal when it comes to being a valve amp guru. He's been working on valve amps for 30 years and has all the bits on his shelves to repair every Marshall amp ever built since 1962. And his transport costs are lower. So all I can say is, before entrusting your faithful Marshall to anybody who claims to be a troglodytic dwarf decended amp guru valve genius, call Bob (or Geoff) in Bletchley and he'll sort it out for you.

    But I still had a malfunctioning TSL602 ....

    So I slid the amp out of the cabinet and poked and prodded about with a multimeter (with a head torch on and my reading glasses firmly in place, which made my wife laugh. I'm sure Gandalf's wife never laughed at him when he was doing arcane magic stuff, but still ....) The fuse on the board seemed a likely candidate, but it registered continuity across it.

    So then I had to resort to the really arcane stuff and power it up, after re-connecting the speakers, of course. (Another thing about valve amps is you must never start them up without the speakers plugged in or it can really mess things up.). I didn't have a mail shirt of Mithril Silver (or even a string vest, for that matter) so I had to do it unprotected. All seemed OK, but being stubborn I decided to investigate that attractive-looking fuse again (attractive because just about the simplest solution would be to have to replace the fuse) and hey-presto I find that it's dropping the entire of the 7-or-so volts across the fuse. Now they only do that for one reason, which is that hey have blown, so I tested it again and sure enough, it's the fuse! Just to prove my theory, I did what you should never, ever, ever,ever do, at least not as a long term solution. I covered the fuse in silver foil (not Mithril Silver foil, I hasten to add) and shoved it back in - Yippee! Nicely glowing valves! So now I just need to track down a time-delayed 6.3 amp 20mm glass fuse and we're done. Just hope I don't have to take the number 23 to Moria to get it!

    Seriously though, folks, don't try this arcane stuff if you aren't entirely sure you know your stuff. I'm a trained engineer, so I at least know how dangerous it can be, but I still would have shoved it back together and shipped if back to Geoff (or Bob) if it hadn't been that pesky fuse. There are very high voltages and currents going on in the back of even a small valve amp, and they tend to hang about for a while after switching them off, as it takes a while for some of those big capacitors to discharge.

    Having said that, it's very satisfying to repair a thousand pound amp for a couple of quid and not even have to pay £22 to ship it to Moria (Sorry, Bletchley).
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 856Member
    Well done Dave, one of the benefits of my old Marshall is that it proves its reliability decade after decade, and also the 'simple' circuit can be fixed should it ever need attention. In fact my brother in law is soon to replace the capacitors because one of them is showing signs of bulging on the end. If I could find the receipt I'd take it back, it's only 49 years old for heavens sake!
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    They'd probably replace it for you for free as well! I've always found them to be superbly helpful. I used to live close to Bletchley, so it was easy to drop stuff in. Not that I had to do that much, but they replaced the valves in my DSL401 free, even though it was out of warranty. If I'd known how cheap the couriering was to them I would never have taken it to the other place last time. It probably cost me £22 in fuel.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    There are no mates like band mates - that's what they say. And it's true. The shared experiences, the highs and the lows, makes you more like family than friends, really, and just like family you have to do something pretty drastic to escape them.

    And just like family, there are times when they annoy the Hell out of you. In truth, one of the reasons my step-daughter, Teoni, left the band when she started a family was that the drummer wound her up so much she couldn't stand to be in the same room as him!

    It's the little things that bug you, as well.

    I have a drummer who, as soon as we all start to discuss the structure, key, chords etc. starts just hitting his drums. This drowns out the conversation, so eventually we have to tell him in no uncertain terms to stop. Either that or we'll all discuss the structure of the song, maybe decide to increase the sax solo from 16 to 32 bars because it's so good, and meanwhile he's texting on his mobile. So when we're ready to start again we all have to wait for him to finish his text, then when we get to the 32 bar sax solo, he plays it as if it's 16 and then says we didn't tell him ....

    I have a keyboard player who will suddenly just start playing a song we don't even do. The drummer joins in, because for him he doesn't need to know the key or chords structure, he just thumps the tubs in time with the music, and then our lady singer joins in. Before you know it, they're jamming a song we have no intention of doing and wasting everyone's time. I know they're enjoying it, and we're supposed to be doing it for fun, and maybe it's the keyboard player's way of suggesting a song he'd like to do ....

    To be fair, I'm sure I do thing which wind them all up too.

    In the end, though, you have to learn to get along with or around all these idiosyncrasies. Sometimes you just have to tell people that what they're doing is winding you up, but try not to be confrontational. Diplomacy is the name of the game. "Would you mind not doing that, because we can't hear each other," works much better than "shut the f@ck up or that drumstick's going where the sun don't shine," in my experience. It also helps to be in tune with other people's conflicts so you can smooth things over with a bit of humour and diplomacy when you can see things are getting close to kicking off.

    But the funny thing is, we're actually really good at that. Maybe it's because, after playing with each other for 8 years, we're become attuned to each other and can read each other really well. Maybe musicians would make the best counsellors!
  • MegiMegi Posts: 6,955Member
    I know a drummer who's eyes glaze over when we discuss chords and harmony as well - I mean, he ought to understand that it's necessary some times, and he did choose to play drums so have some understanding man! And bloody bass players who don't play the right bass note - just play the bloody root note will you? It's not rocket science - I have to play the whole chord, at least you could manage one of the notes in it, instead of being "creative". And...

    In fact, a whole lot of what you say above rings true! But for all that, the buzz of playing in a band and making live music keeps me coming back.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    As I said to our drummer, "Nobody will know or care if you hit the wrong drum, but it will stand out like a sore thumb if one of us plays or sings the wrong note, So, yes, we do need to run through it again, whole thing, from the top!"
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    Having said that, I do firmly believe that all great bands are built around a great drummer - discuss!
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,567Member, Moderator
    Tony Banks from Genesis said that they didn't realise until Phil Collins joined them how much a good drummer drives the music and inspires the other band members.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member

    Having said that, I do firmly believe that all great bands are built around a great drummer - discuss!

    Couldn't agree more! I've often felt that it's really the drummers band. If he changes the beat and plays a polka, then Brown Eyed Girl is now a polka and there ain't nuthin you can do about it!
    Lester said:

    Tony Banks from Genesis said that they didn't realise until Phil Collins joined them how much a good drummer drives the music and inspires the other band members.

    Definitely. I always feel like I play my best when with a good drummer. Great drummers make me want to play less because I want to hear them! There's something about the space left in between sounds that is really magical. After all, music is more about the space than the notes.
    At our local jazz club there is a drummer called George Double who is simply amazing. His solos are always the highlight of the evening. He's so tasteful and musical.
  • ESBlondeESBlonde Posts: 856Member
    Like guitarists and bass players a good drummist is worth his weight in gold. they really are the key to making an average band sound good and a good band brilliant.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    A really good drummer will listen to everyone else and put fills and accents in to, well, accentuate what everyone else is playing or singing, and average drummer will just bang our a rhythm in time with standard fills in the standard places, and may as well be a drum machine.

    A poor drummer won't even be in time, and then you're better off with a drum machine.

    The best drummer I ever played with had been taught by a jazz drummer, and by his dad who was a jazz drummer, and he was brilliant. Like Charlie Watts, his kit was minimalist, but he got a fantastic sound out of it. Sadly, he wanted to be the lead singer, but wasn't a very good singer, but he was a genius drummer
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member
    And of course we all know the difference between a drummer and a drum machine.......
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,567Member, Moderator
    A drum machine cannot deliver pizza when it's not working!
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member
    Lester said:

    A drum machine cannot deliver pizza when it's not working!

    Hahah! Plus with a drum machine you only have to punch the information in once.
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member

    A really good drummer will listen to everyone else and put fills and accents in to, well, accentuate what everyone else is playing or singing, and average drummer will just bang our a rhythm in time with standard fills in the standard places, and may as well be a drum machine.

    A poor drummer won't even be in time, and then you're better off with a drum machine.

    The best drummer I ever played with had been taught by a jazz drummer, and by his dad who was a jazz drummer, and he was brilliant. Like Charlie Watts, his kit was minimalist, but he got a fantastic sound out of it. Sadly, he wanted to be the lead singer, but wasn't a very good singer, but he was a genius drummer

    So true. Nobody wants to play with someone who's in their own little bubble. The kit thing is interesting too. Some of the best drummers have a sparse kit, particularly jazz drummers.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    I did rather cruelly tell our drummer once that his only talent was the ability to count to 4 repeatedly and not get it wrong
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member

    I did rather cruelly tell our drummer once that his only talent was the ability to count to 4 repeatedly and not get it wrong

    Nice! LOL I imagine you never played any Yes or King Crimson covers then...
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    No, nor any jazz. Actually, we do one or two in 3/4 but I figure that's gotta be easier than 4/4 as he only had to count up to 3 repeatedly. It's a bit like Ye Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (if you're a Python fan)
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member

    No, nor any jazz. Actually, we do one or two in 3/4 but I figure that's gotta be easier than 4/4 as he only had to count up to 3 repeatedly. It's a bit like Ye Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (if you're a Python fan)

    Hahahhahh! "... unless going past two to get to three..." kind of thing? Love that sketch! Yes, very much a Python fan. I used to work in a video store and would quote Python at random just to see who would get it. It worked like a secret handshake.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    I think we need a Python Thread.

    I'll ask Richard, "but I don't think he'll be very keen"
  • LesterLester Posts: 1,567Member, Moderator

    I think we need a Python Thread.

    I imagine you could have such a topic in the subforum Totally Not Guitars.
  • Screaming DaveScreaming Dave Posts: 774Member
    Let us ride ..... to THE SUBFORUM TOTALLY NOT GUITARS!
  • nicholaspaulnicholaspaul Posts: 807Member

    Let us ride ..... to THE SUBFORUM TOTALLY NOT GUITARS!

    Run away!
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