Archive for August, 2009

Price checking Dave Murray Stratocaster

Posted in Guitar Gear on August 22, 2009 by Staff Writer

Tried out one of these at SL Bras Basah yesterday. Nice guitar with nice hot pickups in the neck and bridge. Not sure about the pickup bezels not having any screws in the corners though. Also, Dave uses Floyd Roses – why the hell hasn’t this got a Floyd Rose? The neck/fingerboard maple on the one in SL was noticeably whiter than the others, or you can think of it as the ones at Rankin and GC were much yellower in colour.  Don’t think I will get one.

Musicians Friend $2099 (equivalent ~$3100 Singapore Dollars)

Swee Lee List Price $4815 SGD – $3850 ‘after less’

Rankin Sport and Music – $3195 (nett)

Guitar Connection – $3195 (nett)

What do you do when you get $100 of vouchers for a store that has nothing that you want?

Posted in General whining on August 18, 2009 by Staff Writer

…or virtually nothing.

This happened to me. I won (as did each of my 3 team mates) $100 worth of vouchers for That CD Shop at a company offsite. A relatively young and small music chain with a handful of outlets. Great! I thought, I can go splash out on some great guitar music.

Sadly, whatever my tastes are (regular readers will know I tend towards metal, rock and decent guitar music more than anything else) the That CD Shop ethos is the exact opposite of what I want to buy. That CD Shop caters to people who don’t have any particular taste in music. I won’t say ‘no taste’ as this to me means they like gangsta rap, hip hop or drum ‘n’ bass. It means that they haven’t any idea what it is that they like, but know that they will need some CDs to put inside their CD players.  Alternatively they could be audiophiles – male nerds with a bit of disposable income (but the lack of imagination to spend it) who end up with massive compensatory tube-driven hi-fi kits that have nautilus-shaped speakers, silver core connecting cable (which emphasize a whole bunch of frequencies that humans can’t hear) and anechoic chambers devoted to listening to the half dozen discs they own, one of which is almost certainly Eagles Live*.

So, picture this store, whose stock is composed entirely of the sort of Middle Of the Road equipment testing music and you can soon see why it took me more than an hour to find *anything* that I wanted – even for effectively free with my $100 of vouchers…

To make matters worse, they insist on playing the most atrocious music very loud in the store and out into the street (if I had nothing better to do I would complain to the Environment Agency on the toxicity of the noise pollution), with some tracks being played over and over again. There was this one acoustic reggaed-up version of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ (originally a beautiful song in Wizard Of Oz) sung by some talentless falsetto bimbo with no vibrato to speak of which was just the most grating aural torture one could imagine. I actually asked the brainless store girl (acting as DJ too) who it was so I could see who was perpetrating these crimes.

I did see a Megadeth boxed set called Warchest. Kind of bizarre really, since they had three or four shelves devoted to box sets, but the others were stuff like Neil Diamond, Beach Boys, Beatles Eagles (yes), Crosby Stills and Nash and similar. And then there nestling in between is this Megadeth bullet-decorated box. For about 10 seconds I thought – “OK- I’m buying this!” except that I already had 99% of the tracks on there, plus it was only $80. The nurtured Singaporean instinct in me forced me to need to spend precisely $100 of my free vouchers, so with $20 short and no other disc that could make it up I began to sweat.

What else did the store have – let’s see… One Van Halen best of (got it). One Steve Vai Elusive Light and Sound (got it). One SRV In Step album (got it)…

So what did I end up with? Seasons 6 and 7 of the Simpsons. They also sold DVDs and these were the only ones they had worth buying (the rest were old classic movies that I can catch anytime on TCM channel). The Simpsons and Metal are natural bedfellows.

Price: $99.80.

*I do not own and never will own Eagles Live.

Swee Lee Katong sale a bit of a letdown

Posted in Guitar Gear, Guitar General on August 18, 2009 by Staff Writer

So Swee Lee is trying to publicize its newly opened showroom at Katong Shopping Centre and went with a National Day 44% discount offer as in the prior post. Spend over $2009 and get 44% off that. Knowing that SL tend to have quite high list prices, me and my buddy scoured Musicians Friend for their prices, wrote these down and converted them to Sing dollars so we’d have a guide as to what the discounted prices would be. I always think this is a good way to go when you go for such a sale because it’s hard to know otherwise if what you’re getting is actually a bargain or not (which is the purpose of going to a sale isn’t it?). Some of the comparative prices seemed reasonable considering no need to buy and ship from MF in the US, but what this does say is that during non-sale times, aside from point promotions such as their recent ‘US Std. Strat for $1500’ their prices are quite high. Most Singapore musicians know this.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the stock over there is kinda thin on the ground. About a third of the space is devoted to the ‘Peavey Concept Store’ which is just a big pile of Peavey gear. Peavey doesn’t do a lot for me (except the JSX amp, which is frickin’ awesome), so not much use there. They had quite a few Ibanez guitars there and I briefly mulled over getting Universe UV777P, but on closer inspection saw that it had nasty blackened frets from some kind of corrosion – yech.

Then I tried out one of the new Eric Johnson RW models – blue (dunno the official Fender name) with a rosewood bound fingerboard.  Got it plugged in to a Twin Reverb Custom 15 and started to play.  Within seconds I knew I didn’t want it. Despite its looks, the neck is way too fat for my little hands – much fatter than my Strat Deluxe, and I couldn’t bear the ‘real’ single coil hum coming every time I took my hands off. Having said this, this is a nicely made, fitted out and setup guitar – just a shame about the neck thickness and the buzzing.

Anyway – I think Swee Lee at least achieved their objective – getting people in to the store to look at the new premises (not sure why they require 3 outlets in tiny Singapore though…). They have some teaching rooms there and run class, plus a performance area where apparently Andy Timmons had been the previous week. Still early days for it and I’m sure the amount of stock will pickup over the next year or so.

Hmm… very, very tempting…

Posted in Guitar Gear, Guitar General on August 14, 2009 by Staff Writer

That Twin Reverb I was thinking of… or maybe that SG… or maybe both…

R.I.P. Les Paul

Posted in Guitar General on August 14, 2009 by Staff Writer

Nuff said – no point me repeating all the details on his passing – plenty of those around.

In tribute, here’s a pic of my Les Paul (wonder if it’s value just increased since it was made during his lifetime…?)

From the set Restringing and oiling my Les Paul

New CD, old music – Helloween

Posted in Heavy Metal on August 13, 2009 by Staff Writer

Awesome German metal music – I have this on a cassette tape someplace at my Ma’s house and recently got a 2CD remastered version of this at HMV in Oxford Street London; interestingly they had two prices of the (identical) CDs in the rack – one lot for 14 pounds and one lot for 10 pounds. I bought the 10 quid one. Great guitar, but the shining highpoint of this album for me is actually the singing by Michael Kiske… 

Click the pic to hear a Youtube-hosted instance of Eagle Fly Free.

Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2

This blog almost became ‘Saxbuddy’s Saxophone Blog – chronicles of a beginning Saxophonist and his shiny Saxo-mo-phone’

Posted in General whining on August 11, 2009 by Staff Writer

…fortunately it didn’t because that’s a shit title.

Anyway, as I was saying, I almost bought a saxophone. I was wandering along Denmark Street, minding my own business, reeling from the shock of the prices that UK guitarists have to put up with (mentally cross-checking these with prices I know in Singapore, many of which are equally as obscene) when I came to Rhodes Music – once one of the bastions of my guitar shopping experience in London, and now no more. It has recently become www.Sax.co.uk – a dedicated saxophone store.

The troublesome thing about saxophones is that they are very, very shiny. I love shiny new things; I am irresistibly drawn to them – as is my wallet. Upon seeing so many shiny new things in the window a slow thought crossed my mind: “I want to own one of those shiny new things.” Before I knew it, I was in the store in a zombie-like state muttering ‘shyyy-neeeee’ to the sales assistant.

Worse, inside the shiny things store was a rack of Curved Soprano saxophones. Think of a fully working, normal sized (alto) saxophone (instead of a straight Soprano). Then think of one about half the size of it. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have somewhat of a fetish for smaller instruments such as my Lapstick and my KH-JR, so upon seeing this very shiny, very new, very compact (shall we say bijou) sax, the money was virtually scalding my leg through the lining of my pocket.

The fact that I have never touched a sax and had no idea how to play one had nothing to do with things.

…they do say though, that of the wind instruments, the sax is quite easy to begin to learn (though obv a lifetime to master) and the Nice Man soon had me playing a C major scale. He mentioned that a soprano sax is not necessarily the best one to start on since the blowing and embouchure (mouth shape) can get tiresome quicker than a regular alto, but I ignored him, arrogantly thinking I knew best (I just wanted the small-sized one). I found that my thumbs were getting tired more quickly though from holding the thing and applying opposing pressure to the keys. Still, it wasn’t long till I was able to play ‘Frere Jacques’ and I must say I was enjoying it until the Nice Man decided to kick me out of the store since they were closing at 6 (damn England…). Not being able to make the decision to drop 600 Pounds Sterling in the 5 minutes I had before they locked the door, I went off to fantasize about owning the small new shiny thing for the next week or so while I was in France. It was this timing that probably saved me from my impulses ultimately.

My excuse to myself was that owning and learning a saxophone would give me a new view of music (God, I would never buy something simply because it was shiny would I?). The User Interface is obviously completely different. I would not be able to rely on my guitar muscle memory and indeed in my one hour tryout pseudo lesson I was forced to think more about the notes I was playing (C D E F etc.) rather than finger patterns which I think would be useful in itself.  This would, I rationalized, help inform my approach to guitar playing more.

One drawback with the sax though, is that there is no way to play the thing quietly; it only has one volume setting, and that’s quite loud. Too loud for my condo and the neighbors; they should be thankful that they won’t be hearing me struggling to transition octaves on the thing.

Upon returning from France, I went back to the store to try it again. I was still fairly passionate about the idea (mainly the shininess) and was convinced that I was going to buy one if I could get a basic grip of all twelve chromatic notes – enough to be self-sufficient till I got a teacher. What transpired though, was that the Nice Man who’d showed me the ropes was having his day off that day and the store was quite busy. I’m sure the assistant who helped me instead was probably quite nice too, but he was run off his feet helping people and dumped me in a practice room and said ‘let me know how it goes’ rather than getting to sit through with me and provide any beginner guidance. I stuffed up the reed insertion, was making some horrid squeaky noises and eventually put myself off the idea within 10 minutes. Goes to show how a good salesperson could have helped me end this account with a transaction having occurred, 500 quid in their favor.

On hindsight though, it’s a good thing I didn’t buy it. Horrible squeaky neighbor irritation aside, I don’t think I would have had the time to get any good on the thing, being a proud devotee of the guitar (and the guitar only) I realized (and knew all along), and it would have spent most of its time shining away proudly in the dark, inside its case.  I don’t have another lifetime to spend giving the instrument the attention it would have required to have made the purchase worthwhile, which is a shame, but there you go.

Actually two transactions based on all of this did take place though – firstly, it’s store policy that you have to pay for the sax reed that you use; fair enough – it’s been in my gob. I dropped 2 quid on that. I also ended up buying a $20 recorder at Macaris. Advantages: cheap to acquire, similar fingering/approach to a saxophone, much quieter, portable, spending desire satisfied.

Disadvantages: not shiny.

The sax I almost bought:

TJCurvedSop