Monday, June 02, 2008

Hot rod guitars and old friends.

I could write and talk about guitars all day, to be honest. So, if you came here hoping for a new travelogue post about what to do in Rome, you’ll want to come back tomorrow. Today our topic is again the details and minutiae of my hot new guitar rig and the joys of reconnecting with old friends.

This past weekend I played the new amp rig and my recently-modified Stratocaster in our worship services. Overall, it went really well and I am very pleased with the new sound. Most of the songs this week were guitar-driven, blues-rock infused styles and I was especially happy with the big, crunchy sound that the little amp delivered. I still need to tweak and refine some of the clean, sparkly, textural sounds that I often use as those seemed harder to get to and control. This involves some rather extensive reprogramming of my aforementioned Boss GT-6. But I must say that when I needed the bark and growl (and who doesn’t need that in worship?), it was right there at my fingertips and loads of fun. When we we hit the chorus of The Newsboys’ version of “Amazing Love”, I had this humongous, warm, rich, textured heavy-rock rhythm sound that was just...inspiring. Amen.

I am just as excited about the new Tex-Tone pickup that I installed in the bridge last week as I am about the new amp. It has a completely different, and far more nuanced, sound than the stock pickup. The output level is not noticeably different than the still stock middle and neck pickups, but it definitely has a nicer tone. One of the best things about it is the way it seems to respond to the tone control knob. Like most Strat players, for years the bridge tone control has been largely superfluous, left wide open (on 10!) nearly all the time. But with the Tex-Tone, I actually found that it was useful for rolling of some of the highs when I wanted to have the characteristic bite, but perhaps not quite as much razor-pointy edge as this pickup is capable of. That kind of flexibility is a surprising and unique benefit.

I had one annoying problem that cropped up at the end of the Saturday night service, an audible 60-cycle hum. It wasn’t terrible and in fact, was unnoticeable on the overdriven sounds, but it did prevent me from using it on clean rhythm sounds. Interestingly, tube amps often have some hum and my Valve Jr. is astonishingly quiet as tube amps go. It was immediately obvious to me that it was my guitar that had the problem. But I have modified a fair number of guitars through the years and, from experience, that sound is virtually always due to a cold solder joint or flaky ground wire. So I will do a little remedial troubleshooting this week and it will be fine.

Ultimately, I may want a somewhat hotter pickup on the bridge, moving this one into the middle or neck position since a little extra output on the back never hurts, but for now I’m satisfied to leave it as it is for a few weeks to see what happens.

I am also waiting for a set of new Fender locking tuners to put on this guitar which will help stabilize the tuning and increase the functionality of the whammy bar.   The high-E string tuner has been busted since New Years Eve, actually, and I have just been procrastinating.  I also did a minor cut-down modification on the plastic backplate to facilitate access and speed up restringing.  That one I've been meaning to do for a couple of years. 

To the uninitiated, I realize this all sounds pretty esoteric.  Like listening to the guys at the hot-rod swap meets talk about customizing their collector cars.  It is like that, only much cheaper.

Tex-Tone Pickups are handmade by a good friend in Texas, David Allmon. He and I reconnected a couple of weeks ago after having lost touch for at least fifteen years. Without the Internet, that might have never happened.  The coolest thing was that, once we started talking, it was like no time had passed.  I love that...and it almost never happens.  David is a blessing and always has been. He is married to a wonderful girl, Kimala, and they have a teenage son. 

But back in the late 80's, he wasn't hand winding precision-engineered, custom-designed electric guitar components.  Nope, he was rocking like a hurricane as you can clearly see in this picture:

Heh. David is the one on the right.  With the mane.  

And, from the sound of things, my friend is still rocking it.  While I've never been genetically capable of growing hair like that, to be fair, I don't look the same as I did in the late 80's, either.  And Lord knows I'm not going to post a picture of me from that era on my website, so here is a recent one of me about to enjoy a nice antipasto in Rome:

6 comments:

GPIKE said...

I guess I'll have to dig up a pix for you. Then you can link to it. I bet mom has a bunch to choose from. :)

Heidi said...

Oh, come on... no pictures of you from back then?!?! Bummer!

IzzyBeth said...

Bring on the vintage Barry pictures!! For your faithful readers? Please????

Barry Pike said...

All you get is this:

http://barrypike.blogspot.com/2007/01/chicago.html

And only because you can see the "about to be married" bliss emanating from my youthful visage.

NP said...

Oh, I have some delightful pictures for that time period . . . hmmmmmm Perhaps my flickr site . . . :)

Barry Pike said...

Babe, you don't wanna go there....I'm just sayin'...