Category Archives: Music

Santa is Coming!

So, you might ask, “How do you know Santa is coming?”

I know because I’ll be photographing his visit at Mozingo Music in O’Fallon on December 4th!

Eric (of Mozingo) had asked this week if I’d be interested in doing something with their annual visit from Santa. I went by, and we talked about what they’d done in previous years, and what his ideas were for this year. When he asked what I’d charge for something like that, I answered, “Will photograph for guitars.” 🙂 (I’m not actually expecting a guitar, btw!)

He pitched to idea to the higher ups, and it looks like it’s a done deal. I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t usually photograph people, so this’ll be a lower pressure way to do some of that in a pretty controlled setting. Mozingo’s been very good to me, and they will, I’m sure get some benefit from the gig. And me, well, I’ll get to extend my experiences in photographing people, and probably walk away with some music related swag for my playing enjoyment!

Takamine ETN10BC

I couldn’t stand it. I brought the new Tak home Monday night.

This thing is gorgeous, and it plays exceptionally well. There is a little buzzing in the strings that I’m working on getting corrected — a little wrench action against the truss rod last night — but that’s small spuds in the big scheme of things. I’m still blown away that I’m beginning to feel differences in various guitars. Totally cool.

I love the bearclaw spruce on the top. Some of the folks on the Takamine forums have said that the “bearclaws” look like stretch marks. Well, maybe, but I think it gives the wood a ton of character.

So, the real test is… how does it sound? Beauteous. It’s got a deeper voice than my EF740SGN, likely due to the somewhat larger body. Great for Cash’s stuff!

I’ve Got GAS!

Now, normally, I wouldn’t brag about having gas, but in this particular instance, I’m ok with trumpeting it. (Pardon the pun.) You see, I have Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).

I think I’ve known this for quite some time. Look at my Canon and Apple exploits. They’ve got GAS written all over them. The gearlust begins when Canon announces new hardware, or when Uncle Steve steps on a stage. Usually those events are the precursor to my wallet and some of my cash soon parting ways.

Lately, it’s been guitars.

I’m loving the heck out of playing my guitars, and have one in my hands at least an hour every day. Becky says that I’m enjoying it because it’s so different than what I do the rest of my day — it’s not computer-techy, and exercises the other side of my brain. She’s probably right; she usually is. All I know is that I find such relaxation when one of my guitars is hung around my neck, whether I’m tethered to the amp and practicing hard, or just strumming quietly while I’m watching TV.

As I’ve been taking my musical journey, I’ve really hung my hat on the Takamine line. For my budget, they make a mean guitar, and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like. They’re not as flashy (well, in their pro line anyway; the G’s and Jasmines have some flashy looks) as the Carvins with which Kevin is so enamored, but for my style — both lifestyle and playing style — they are exactly the right answer for me. I still think there’s a Carvin in my future one day, though. Something about a custom-built guitar that is entirely unique to my tastes appeals to me. Pricing it out, that’s about a $2500 instrument, and I’m just not quite ready for that… yet!

After playing so many guitars last Wednesday at the Mozingo launch party, I really cemented my opinion of the Takamine line, and couldn’t get that crazy bearclaw instrument out of my noggin… so much so that I actually dreamt about the guitar! Now that’s some weirdness, eh?

After all that, how could I resist? Today, I completed a deal to put the ETN10BC that I mentioned here on Wednesday in my rotation. This means the Yamaha would be traded away, but I don’t have a problem with that. The Yamaha’s a beautiful instrument, and plays well, but the Taks play circles around it (to my fingers, anyway). By the time I left the shop today after my guitar lesson, I had the ETN10BC on layaway, reserved for me.

The cool thing was that Mozingo had two to choose from. That meant that I had a choice between one that had just a bit of “clawing” on the top, and another that was very well marked, and quite symmetrical along the long axis of the instrument. I love symmetry, so it was an easy visual choice for me. I played ’em both, just to make sure there wasn’t anything weird about one of them. Looking at the serial numbers, they were manufactured about a month apart (mine was made in September of 2009), and as expected, there really wasn’t a difference I could sense between the two of them.

I’ve had a real tough time finding much info about this particular model, so I posted a question about it on the Takamine Forums. Mike Markure (product manager for Takamine) indicated in response to my question that this was a “SPIKE” run — a short run of instruments run as a limited edition due to availability of a particular kind of wood, in this case, bearclaw spruce. From what I’ve been able to gather around the ‘net, there were only about 120 of these made. Mozingo Matt told me that at one time, they had three of them in the store, which is pretty surprising. Out of a run of 120, Mozingo had (at one time) 1/40th of the total made? That’s pretty cool, and tells me that Mozingo’s relationship with Takamine is pretty solid. That probably means bad things for me in the future. 🙂

Watch for a “birth announcement” sometime after we get back from vacation!

Launch Party

I went to Mozingo Music’s Insider Connection launch party tonight. Mozingo has had a customer loyalty program for a while, but with a revamp of the program, they decided to throw a little send off for the IC.

Since my office is near the store in O’Fallon, I just hung around, got some dinner, and went over to the shop as they were reopening for the event. Frankly, it was kinda sparsely attended. I don’t know exactly why that was, but there was nothing nearing the “crowd” status I was expecting. However, with the smaller crowds, Chris, Matt and Eric were able to spend some real quiality time with me.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking two hours of their collective time just kicking the tires on guitars I’m not likely to buy, but with nothing much going on at the store, they were more than happy to put guitar after guitar in my hands. I played A/E’s, hollowtop electrics, solidbody electrics… probably a dozen six stringed beauties. This also gave me the chance to play several brands — some new guitars, some old (the oldest I played was a 1967 Gibson) — but I kept coming back to the Takamines.

Among others, Mozingo had a ETN10BC bearclaw spruce limited edition (Natural line) and a TAN15C with a Cool Tube preamp in it (Supernatural line). Man, the TAN15C really sounded good, but the feel of the ETN10BC in my hands was glorious! It’s definitely a step up from my EF740SGN, and really played well. I was making music easily with it, and could feel differences between it and my ‘740. Unfortunately, it’s just not the right time to be putting another guitar in the rotation — vacation is impending!

As I talked with Matt about vacation coming in a couple of weeks, I told him that I was looking to find some kind of “campfire” guitar that could go to Branson with me for the fiddle convention, or go roadtripping with me. Ideally, it’d be something inexpensive, that would play “well enough” for me to continue practicing daily without carrying my more expensive guitars with me. Matt showed me a couple of Yamahas as food for thought, but again, the timing just wasn’t right to put another pony in the corral.

The night wound on with Eric showing me more about the Cool Tube preamp in the TAN15C — man, that’s a cool toy! — and then he realized it was time to draw a ticket for the grand prize for the night. There couldn’t have been more than a dozen-and-a-half tickets in the fishbowl. Even with those odds, I didn’t figure to have my ticket pulled, but sure ’nuff, it was! And what was the grand prize?

A new guitar!

Now, it isn’t anything extraordinary — an Ibanez “Jam Pack” with an IJV50 acoustic guitar, gig bag, and tuner. This is really designed for someone just starting out — but it is exactly what I need for taking on roadtrips and to Branson. I’m absolultely floored, and can’t hardly believe the fortuitous timing.

Watch out desert — I’m coming, packing a six-string!!!

(BTW, you can see a photo of me with my major award here!)

Project 365 : Takamine EF740SGN

Well, I couldn’t hold out, and stopped by Mozingo Music on the way home from work, picking up my new guitar.

This beauty is a Takamine EF740SGN acoustic/electric. Cedar top, mahogany back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard… It looks like a well-worn friend, straight out of the case. (BTW, a hardshell case was included with it. There’s some value!)

It’s definitely got a different feel from my Yamaha. The Takamine is an “OM” (Orchestral Model) body style, versus the straight dreadnought style of the Yamaha. So what does this mean? Well, the Yamaha is very boomy with thick tones, while the Takamine is brassy and clear. Both are great sounding, but are definitely different.

I also like the neck a tick better on the Takamine. I believe the neck may be just a little thinner front-to-back, and it just seems to feel better in my hand as a result. And with the thinner body, it’s really comfortable sitting on my lap as I play.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled. It’s a beautiful instrument, and Mozingo took good care of me, as they have through my this whole experience of taking on the six-string. This is gonna be fun!

New (Future) Gear : Takamine EF740SGN

A few weeks ago, the folks at Mozingo Music were talking with me about a line of Takamine acoustic/electric guitars, and had suggested the EF340. Unfortunately, they just weren’t able to get them in long enough for me to take a look at ’em. I’d discovered that Guitar Center had one in town, and was just a few minutes away from heading there to look at it when I saw a tweet from the folks at the local Mozingo Music. They had just received the EF740SGN.

The ‘740 is an OM-style body, slightly smaller than a regular dreadnaught, and without the cutout that the ‘340 sported. I figured I should go take a look at it, and lay hands on a Takamine for the first time. Even with my extremely limited experience, I could feel the difference in that guitar. The neck was more to my liking than my Yamaha, and it was soooo easy to play. The smaller size makes it not nearly as boomy as my Yamaha, yet still producing a really nice tone. And the color makes it look like an old friend.

I couldn’t resist, and put it on layaway. I guess I’ve got the disease. 🙂

So, in a few weeks, I’ll extricate the new toy from Mozingo, hopefully in time for the next jam session. Of course, now I have to think about an amp, but that’s a search for a different day. For today, I’ll be content with the knowledge that a new guitar-child is entering the house soon!

Jam Session

There’s a pretty active set of musicians at work, and last night, ten of them rented a studio space downtown at Utopia Studios for a jam session. As a newb to the whole thing, I was invited along. “Bring your guitar,” I was told. And I did.

The room was big enough — 34 x 18, part of an old converted warehouse — and was really rustic. Frankly, had I not been so interested in playing (and learning to play!), I would’ve loved photographing this building and the warehouses and alleys near it. It was a really cool spot.

We started just past 6.30, and when I left at 9.30, folks were still in full steam mode. The studio stays open until 2am, and I wouldn’t be surprised if our little group was pushing that time. We had a bassist, dobro, drums, bongos, and nine six-string guitars (including me). Needless to say, that many guitars made for some interesting music on some tracks!

So did I play on every song? Nope. In fact, I probably only played fully through three or four tunes, while I plinked along with the chords I knew on many others. But, man, did I ever enjoy being part of the music for once. As someone for whom music has been such a big part of my life for so very long, wrapping myself in the tapestry of live music, and weaving my own little corner of the sound was such an amazing experience.

It wasn’t without a few lessons learned though:

  • My cheesy little music stand I bought Thursday wasn’t really up to the weight of the music I had on it last night. I’ve gotta get something more substantial.
  • I need to have ready access to picks on the stand.
  • I need a water bottle holder on the stand. Reaching to the floor for my drink proved to be a precarious situation for my guitar.
  • My stand needs to also have a light. The side of the room I was on was pretty dang dark, and made it tough to see my music.
  • When printing my tabs for the night, I need to use a bolder, larger font. That’ll help with the dark, and frankly, makes it easier for me to focus on what I’m playing instead of trying to figure out what’s on the page.
  • I’ve gotta remember to take my guitar stand next time! I didn’t have anyplace to put my guitar during the night.
  • I’ve gotta find some way of keeping my picks out of the body of my guitar. I’ve dropped three in there over the last few days, and I accomplished that feat again last night.
  • I need to work on my chord transitions desperately! I couldn’t keep up on many songs because I kept having to think about what chord shape I needed next. That’s just practice, but definitely something of note!

In the end, I had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed a few hours of playing last night, and absolutely wanna do it again!

(BTW, click for a Flickr set of last night’s fun!)

New Gear : Levy MS26E Guitar Strap

As I’ve started to practice more with my new guitar, it’s become really evident that I needed a strap to help support it in place — one less thing to pay attention to while trying to figure this stringed beast out. I looked on the ‘Net, but the number of choices is simply overwhelming. Add to that that there’s no way to figure out how any of ’em actually look and feel, and suddenly this simple shopping excursion becomes a daunting one.

So I bit the bullet today, steeled myself against the potential exposure of being a newb, and took a trip to one of the local guitar shops. In my internet travels, I’d seen Levy straps, and found ’em at the shop. I took a look, found one I liked, and escaped with my babe in the woods secret still intact.

I wound up with a Levy MS26E strap, and really like it. Of course, I had to figure out how to put it on the silly guitar — as I’m learning, acoustics frequently don’t have but one button on which to mount the strap. The other end is tied onto the head. And, after putting it on wrong-side-up, I finally wound up with the thing installed right, feeling nice, and ready for the somewhat lackluster action I can supply!