Archive for the ‘guitar’ Category

New toy for my electric guitar

I got my first guitar effects box – the Zoom G2 – not too long ago. I was actually eyeing the Behringer X-VAMP, but the shop told me they were not bringing in for the time being due to apparent QC issues with the model. Then I found out about this little baby which was on sale, and after doing some research online I was convinced this is a better deal since I was getting a more superior product with the same budget. Just wanted to get an effects unit to experiment with different sounds.

The amp modeling on the Zoom G2 sounds pretty nice (Fender Clean and Jazz Chorus), although I have absolutely no idea what the original amps are supposed to sound like so can’t compare. 😛 I play mostly clean, so didn’t care much for the distortion effects, but I like some of the more subtle overdriven sounds. There’s also a stereo chorus effect – the first time I plugged in headphones to the unit (guitar amplifier is mono, duh), I was blown away. Now I have stereo chorus on most of my patches than plain ole boring chorus… ^_^ I was also having fun with the step effects. It can emulate a bass too. I’m still trying to get a nice patch for that. I’m not sure if my using flatwounds (I swapped out the 10’s for 12’s…heavy…fingers…pain) is having a positive or negative effect in trying to get the right sound. Guess I’ll be playing with this unit for quite some time. ^_^


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New addition to the ‘family’

Hoohoo, I bought my first electric guitar (and amp) today, a Washburn HB-30 and a Laney MXD 30, which were on sale this weekend. This guitar has an ES-335 style body, and tobacco sunburst finish. Made in China. Basically a beginner, no frills, semi-acoustic electric. I’ve been wanting to learn to play jazz for quite a while, but jazz boxes are not cheap, and I do want to play other stuff (like Chet Atkins) too besides jazz. I decided to get an ES-335 style guitar as they are known to be versatile and fit in many musical styles (except for metal, which I don’t care for anyway). Since the reviews of the Washburn are pretty good I decided to get it. Plus my birthday is coming too, so why not pamper myself once in a while? 😛

The amp is a bit of an overkill as I only mean to play at home, but the shop didn’t have the smaller 15w model. It came with a UK-style round-pin plug which of course doesn’t fit in the sockets in this part of the world. Then I noticed that the power cord is detachable and has the same connector as a PC power cord. So I dug out an old PC power cord and voila, it works! ^_^ I’m still figuring out and learning the differences between the various effects.

So now my ‘family’ includes a classical guitar, a flamenco guitar, a concert-sized ukulele, an A-style oval-hole mandolin, and a semi-hollow body f-hole electric (and an Irish whistle, duh). Okay, that’s it. No more purchases. No storage left for any more new instruments anyway. 😛

And oh yes, I passed my Yamaha Grade 6 exams. The marks are nothing to shout about though. Still, another milestone reached. ^_^

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Long way to go

It’s funny how you think you sound pretty decent when playing in your bedroom, study, whatever, and when you actually play (the guitar, that is) in front of people, everything just goes wrong. I need to go back to basics and lay down a solid foundation to build upon. I’m not a consistent player. And I need to work on my feel for the music. And one more thing I should do is to start recording my practice sessions so I know how I really sound like. I also wonder if one problem was that I was trying to play louder than usual on my guitar.

Yep, I was playing far from my best in my session with Mr Zanon. He’s a nice guy though, and a great teacher. Perhaps one might say I was foolish to attempt a masterclass with my current level of playing, but I think it was worth the experience. I won’t be so foolish next time though, heh heh. Anyway, I got an autograph! ^_^

I still have a long way to go… Exams only mean so much. Well, I might not be able to get to performer quality, but I guess the most important thing is to have fun along the way, and hopefully I can inspire others to have fun too. For if you can’t have fun, what is music for then?

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6 months of silence

*Dust dust* *cough cough* It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. 6 months, in fact. I guess I just got tired of writing, and anyway, who’s reading? Perhaps it’s high time I pick up the pen… correction… keyboard, again and let’s see how long I can keep this up this time.

Since the last post, I’ve gotten my Yamaha Grade 7 in classical guitar. In fact, I’m now waiting for the Grade 6 results to be out. *fingers crossed* I want to make it at least to Grade 5. Oh, and I’ve actually went to buy that mandolin I mentioned. Hmm, I hope I have not fallen to the ‘Instrument Acquisition Syndrome’. 😛 I’m running out of space for any more instruments, and scores too… I had the opportunity to check out some really good classical guitars recently (read: really expensive too), but I feel I should be a better guitarist before upgrading. I’ve been thinking about learning jazz guitar too, and jazz boxes are not cheap either… Man, I’m really spreading myself thin. ^_^

Many things have happened in the areas of work and love. Some good, some not so good. That’s all I’ll say. It’s been rather draining. Let’s just say I’m still very much where I was previously, except that I’m getting this feeling my life is going to get somewhat more complicated going forward…

On the bright side, this week I’ll be attending the International Guitar Festival seminar here for the first time. Can’t wait to experience it. I’m attending a couple of the concerts too. And I’ve signed up for a masterclass with Brazilian guitarist Fabio Zanon too. I hope that it will be a really exciting week, and I hope to make some new friends in the classical guitar playing community here. ^_^

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Forays into Flamenco

Bought my second guitar a couple of weeks ago, a used Antonio Lorca Model 16 flamenco guitar. The music school where I’m taking lessons acquired it a while back from some folks who didn’t know its worth. I remembered my eyes zooming in on the guitar hanging on the wall when I walked in for my weekly lessons. The better guitar stands out from the other cheap guitars (and also partly because it is stained a distinctive orange all around). My teacher let me try it out when he assigned me a short flamenco piece. But since I’m focused on the classical repertoire, I left it hanging on the wall until I finally thought, “Oh what the heck! I might never own a flamenco guitar anyway, and not at this price too”, so I got it – at less than half the retail price if new. The Lorca flamenco is worth about the same as my Cuenca classical. Okay, okay, not really ex, but I’m still not mentally prepared to put down more than a thousand grand for these things yet (until I’m richer, heh).

I have no idea how old the guitar is, but it is in pretty good condition. It’s a bit different from usual flamenco guitars, in that it has a cedar top and sycamore sides. The only trouble I had was in removing the golpeador (or tap plate, kinda like a pick guard for all you acoustic players out there) as it was old and peeling off in parts. After some research online, I found the answer – lighter fluid. It’s fairly safe on the lacquer (btw, don’t try this on shellac finishes on the more expensive instruments). Once I got the plastic plate off, the next step is to source for a replacement. I called all the usual suspects, and amazingly no one carries such an item. One shop said they could get it for me, but at a price of $30 to $40, because “we have to order it from Spain”, duh. I eventually found a luthier supplier online where I could get 4 of these plastic sheets (from the US, not Spain) at the same price, shipping included (hah!). I should probably receive them in the next couple of weeks.

Seems like material (CDs, instructional books, etc) on flamenco guitar is relatively rare here. I got one book from China (comes with VCD too, but I think the teacher in the video is CMI – “cannot make it”), so I eventually ordered two books from Amazon (their shipping charges can kill, man). Well, they say the best way to learn flamenco guitar is to accompany dancers, but I think I’ll stay away from that route until I feel more confident and more serious about this genre of music. So far I do know of one flamenco teacher and one dance group here.

As for online resources, Sal’s website is a pretty good starting point. He’s apparently going to remove the free stuff (mp3’s and videos of his playing) and create a members section, so grab them while they are still there.

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Asian guitarists: Part 2

I discovered another female guitarist from China named Wang Yameng yesterday in a shop while looking for a concert DVD of Kaori Muraji which my teacher mentioned to me. It’s interesting to learn about these Asian guitarists. Turns out John Williams had given her his Smallman guitar too! (He had given one to Yang Xuefei. Does he have a stockpile of these instruments I wonder? *drool*).

After reading more about this young girl, I was astonished to learn that she, Li Jie, and Yang Xuefei are all fellow students under one Professor Chen Zhi. He had even collaborated with Japanese luthier Masaru Kohno to come out with a line of Chen Zhi brand guitars. I have no idea if these guitars are good, but it seems certain models (070, 080) are popular among Chinese and Japanese players.

Since we are on the subject of Asian guitarists, I think Malaysian acoustic/jazz guitarist Roger Wang is also pretty cool. It’s amazing him to hear him play, and his arrangements of local tunes are very refreshing.

I also managed to pick up a DVD of Guitarra!, an old documentary on guitar history hosted by Julian Bream.

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Musical diversions

I got myself a ukulele just two days ago and have been experimenting with it. It’s a pleasant diversion from my usual weekend classical guitar practices (my teacher did not, or forgot, to assign me new pieces this week). Why a ukulele? Well, I know that Ayano Tsuji used a ukulele in the theme song “Kaze Ni Naru” for the anime “Neko no Ongaeshi” (The Cat Returns) and I wanted to get that particular sound. I bought a $40 Samick UK-60 from Davis Guitars (best place to buy guitar strings in Singapore). Not bad sounding for the price, and it’s a beauty, with natural wood grains showing on the unvarnished surface (the picture on Samick’s website does not do the real instrument justice). I hope the strings settle down soon; two strings keep going out of tune.

The ukulele is tuned a fourth higher than the 4 highest-pitched strings of a guitar, except that the 4th string is tuned one more octave higher, giving the ukulele an interesting quality of having the two lowest open strings in the middle. The strings are therefore G, C, E and A. This is the “C” tuning. The shop owner gave me the “D” tuning, which is a second higher, but I think I’ll stick with the “C” tuning as most literature on the Web seems to be using this as the basis. And yes, the uke in “Kaze Ni Naru” uses this tuning. Now I can strum along with the song. ^_^

I spent quite some time today looking for songs with suitable ukulele chords online, and also for Hawaiian songs.

There were also other musical diversions. I bought Natsukawa Rimi’s “Tida” recently which was being advertised on TV lately. It’s an album of Okinawan folk songs. Local singers Cai Chunjia and Fish Leong (Liang Jingru) recorded “Nada Sousou” and “Shimauta” in Mandarin respectively. I think I prefer the original Japanese versions.

I already knew that Final Fantasy X actually had quite a bit of Okinawan influence in the character costume designs as well as the music, and FFX’s singer Rikki also sang a couple of other FF-inspired songs in the Okinawan dialect, so the curiosity is there. (Yeah, there’s that anime/video game connection again, heh.)

While browsing on the Web for Okinawan songs, I was surprised to discover that Emil Chou’s ever-popular “Hua Xin” is actually an Okinawan folk song! Cool. ^_^

Ok, I’m going back to strumming my uke, and oh yes, Merry X’mas and Happy New Year!

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