Hey. I'm probably just venting now. But yeah, progressing to the 3rd year of BIMM is a real arse.
thanks to david "suspicious minds" cameron, and because they can, BIMM decided to increase their course fees, and they've wrangled it so if i want to complete a full degree i have to join onto what is technically a different course so the increased tuition fees apply to me and i have to pay more, despite the fact that student finance still recognises me as a student returning to the same course and therefore will only cover the course fees set in 2010. So they expect me to pull a further £1200 out of my arse on top of the £1000 deposit i paid for with money inherited from a relative who just happened to die at around the same time the deposit was due.
The worst part is, student finance dangled the carrot of offering to cover the full tuition fees in front of my nose as a result of a mistake they made when they filed my obviously 2 year old account as a new account and didn't think to inform me of it until earlier this week. Which is why i had no time to figure out how the fuck i was going to get the £1200 i thought i wasn't going to have to pay. and now BIMM, after saying the course fees need to be paid for by the time the course is over, changed their mind, saying it has to be paid before i can enrol on the course. This is after rejecting my scholarship application which i applied for in order to be able to pay the damned course fees.
So yeah, someone in the BIMM head office down in Brighton deserves to be slapped across the face with a wet fish for all eternity, and it looks like i should be the one to do it.
In other news, I'm having trouble with french people sleeping in my bed while i'm away and not paying the bills on time. Sacré bleu!
Anyways. It's probably better if nobody reads this. The purpose of this blog is just to vent some frustration somewhere without being disruptive.
..I just put GHS eric johnson signature nickel rockers on my fender classic series '50s strat. I bought them because they were the only pure-nickel 11-52 gauge strings i could find, as i really need the thicker E and A strings for my playing style than what a usual set of 11s has.
I'm a little disappointed with them tbh - the plain strings started to corrode and rust within about 20 minutes of playing - no, seriously. i'm not exaggerating. The wound strings also have a rough surface with a lot of friction which feels absolutely horrible to slide up and down. No wonder GHS make fast-fret. in my experience, their strings really need it.
I suppose it was just wishful thinking when i bought these thinking they'd be just what i was looking for - i had the same experience with the GHS boomers i had a few years ago. the wound strings were rough and made my fingers sore despite my over-developed callouses, and the plain strings developed the same roughness pretty quickly through rust. I get the feeling this is gonna happen to the nickel rockers too.
i'll finish with the better points - they do sound good, have just the right balance of tension for my playing style, and are pretty cheap.
Albert Lee, awesomeness and the power of advertisi
Well yesterday I just felt the uncontrollable urge to go and place a £200 deposit on a very special guitar. So i did.
Since it's the summer holidays i've been staying in Herefordshire for a while to get away from the constant drone of the M32 and the incessant howling of police sirens and enjoy some peace and quiet.
a few weeks ago that peace and quiet was 'rudely' interrupted by a note on the website of the nearest musicman dealer, based in knighton - "Albert Lee guitar clinic at the knighton hotel, 8pm, free entry, all welcome". I dragged myself off to knighton on the spur of the moment.
It was a good decision - albert lee is so down to earth and modest for such a great guitar player. Had some really interesting stories to tell too. I'm gonna see if i can get him to do a masterclass at BIMM next year. Anyway, he was a selection of 3 variants of his musicman signature model.
There was one in particular, a powder-blue guitar with a rosewood neck, red tortoiseshell pickguard, a two point tremolo with vintage strat style saddles and two dimarzio humbuckers, that really caught my attention. He used it for drop D tuning. There was just something amazing about how it sounded that made me think "i need that guitar".
Anyway, i checked the website a week or so later, and discovered he'd actually borrowed all of these guitars from the shop across the road, and they were all still on sale - including the one that caught my eye.
So i had to go there and try it, and apart from having an absolutely magical tone, it was also a dream to play. Yesterday i just decided "i give up, i have to have it". It delivers a very thick, powerful humbucker tone but with a nice amount of twang to it too, as well as some quacky strat-like tones from the 2nd and 4th positions on the 5-way selector. All these tones are very usable. every feature of the guitar serves a purpose - there's nothing there that isn't completely necessary.
So, as soon i've managed to scrape another £1800 together somehow, i'll have the same musicman albert lee signature guitar that i saw albert lee playing which sparked my interest in the albert lee sig in the first place.
Last night i was in a little bit of a mood and brought along my solid state HH VS-musician head to the gig instead of my usual laney VC30 tube amp.
I normally use this amp for practices occasionally, to preserve tube life etc. or have it as a backup amp, but i just thought "fuck it i'm gonna use this amp for the whole gig, i don't care if it sounds shit".
Holy hell - it sounds brilliant in context. The quality of the preamp overdrive, as I have mentioned before, is very tube-like in that it has a kind of gradual shift from clean to dirty, it's pretty smooth instead of buzzy or grainy, and is the only solid state amp i'm aware of that can do that "slight breakup" kind of sound very well. Obviously, the actual articulation of the amp is very very stiff and transistorized, lacking the touch-responsiveness of a tube amp - but it's still a very good, and kinda warm and organic, overdrive sound. I actually preferred the bass response (or should i say "lack of") of this amp to most tube amps, in context - it seems like the low notes, like an F5 power chord in the E position hit very hard, or an open A power chord, sound a lot more defined, because there's no natural compression or tube-sag to mush up the low frequencies. This is extremely beneficial to my style of rhythm playing and definitely works better for me than tube amps do in that respect.
For leads, again the notes were more defined but they sounded a bit dry and clinical and had a hint of the "sweetness" missing - but i don't really do a lot of lead - since i'm mostly a rhythm player and i find this works better than a tube amp for my rhythm playing, this may be my amp of choice for gigs now for quite some time.
It's a HH IC100S head - as opposed to the IC100 i still have.
but what are the differences?
Well, the IC100 has two separate channels each with normal and bright inputs, spring reverb (same unit for both channels), and active treble and bass controls. Channel 1 has a tremolo effect controlled by speed and depth knobs on the front which i believe is also footswitchable, and a distortion circuit which is also footswitchable but has absolutely no controls for it other than on and off, although the EQ does change the character of the distortion significantly. It also has a half-power switch.
The IC100S is much more simple - still two channels with normal and bright inputs. But it has passive treble and bass controls on each channel, no reverb, and no tremolo. it does have the distortion - instead of the tremolo controls however, it has a gain control! woohoo! that was the only shortcoming of the IC100 imo. it still has the half-power switch and the footswitchable distortion.
Many people argue that the IC100S is the better of the two because the passive EQ makes the sound a bit less synthetic.
HH made great solid state amps back in their day - i wonder what the new HH amps are like? they market them as being "a reliable, usable transistor amp that is not trying to sound like a vintage valve amp". I've been saying we need more of those for so long, it'll be kinda weird if the company whose old amps i've been 'collecting' for a little while have come back and actually done just that.
So i just strung up my trusty old dano 12-string with a set of pyramid golds, i thought i might as well try them because they are the cheapest flatwound strings i can find.
really really like them. then i was setting the intonation, because i needed to, it was way off.
i was just about to get the octave A string intonated when BOOM. snapped right off.
i yelled "balls!". and then i realised, i can only get these strings from germany ffs, and it's not like i can just replace the string with any old string - the octave A is wound.. not just wound - flat wound pure nickel... so any other wound string will sound out of place. a plain string won't be intonated but it's better than nothing i suppose.
So, first set of pyramids and one of the strings breaks instantly. am i just unlucky or is this a common thing? who knows...
aside from the lack of an octave A, these are really nice strings - they sound softer but somewhat crisper than d'addario chromes. they feel smoother and easier to play too. I think these have become my new flatwounds of choice.
Spent a good four hours in there with my gibson les paul, cranking up vintage amps - almost like an hour on each. They weren't as deafeningly loud as i'd thought - my ears weren't ringing. Here's what i tried and what i thought of them:
1963 Vox AC30/6 Copper Panel
Well, this is the amp i originally went in to try. Looked nice, in excellent condition for a nearly 50 year old amp. One problem, though - It sounded appauling. Muddy, boxy, muffled... I think there must've been something very wrong with it. It had almost no clean headroom, breaking up like crazy with the volume only about a quarter of the way up - if it had also sounded good it may have been a nice AC for recording if you want dirty tones because it wasn't very loud. The problem was once it got distorted it had a weird dissonant harmonic undertone that just made the overdriven tones sound like a complete mess. The shop owner said afterwards he'd get his tech to check it over, but he suspects it's just because the amp doesn't like humbuckers. In any case, he diverted my attention to...
circa 1966-67 Vox AC30/6 grey panel/Block logo
...This little gem. Wow - now that's more like it. This scruffy old thing, re-tolexed, with a selmer grillecloth, the back plate with the serial number missing long gone, broken top vents and a completely de-activated trem channel, looks like it's been through the wars. and it probably has - deservingly so. It looked terrible, but it's not how it looks that counts. This one has gotta be the best AC i've ever played! the normal channel was thick and chunky, very clean but when you really dig in and wail on the guitar it responds even at lower volumes with a very satisfying bit of creamy saturation. Crank it up to about half-way and it rocks with incredible authenticity - the more you turn it up, the harder it rocks. The brilliant channel on the other hand was much cleaner, brighter and more cutting. Superb presence. It had a lot more headroom, and needed to be cranked up to about halfway to get an amazingly clear crunch tone - i think i've found "my" tone in this amp. Crank this channel up all the way and it has an amazing "sceamin' blues" lead tone.
circa '63 Selmer Zodiac Twin 50 MkI
An early selmer amp - the guy thought i ought to try this as a cheaper alternative to the AC30. Two channels - One with a simple volume and tone setup, another with a volume, tone, and a bunch of push-button tone settings they called "truvoice". The first, simpler channel was a very full, thick clean sound, it had a lot of headroom and needed to be cranked awfully loud to get any dirt. The 2nd channel with the buttons was odd - on the "rotary control" setting it used the tone control. The other settings were just filters - i think the idea was to push down multiple buttons to get the tone, but they didn't really work too well when put into practice and there was nothing particularly usable that you could get out of these settings - on the standard setting with the tone control it was pretty good though - a little less headroom and a bit brighter. It sounded more like a tweed fender than a vox, though.
Sound City Concord (196? - maybe '67?)
This was the last amp i tried - again, another cheaper alternative to the AC30. This amp had slider controls like a mixing console channel strip, where up is down, and down is up. It was obnoxiously, ear-splittingly bright unless you turned the treble down to about 3 or 4 (out of 12!). then it was still very very bright and crisp - pretty good actually. Very clean, very loud, and when cranked up all the way, had a little bit of a grind to the tone but still very much a clean tone. It reminded me of the early pete townshend tones, except i was using a les paul - this thing must be horrendously bright with single coils. I loved the sound that i got out of it, but it's more the kind of sound i'd play with than it is the kind of sound i'd actually use. Unless i was in a '60s style band and particularly looking for full on jangle-pop tones. Apparently, this amp used to belong to the guy who played guitar for Take That
The shop owner recommended that i go back and try some marshalls - He's very helpful, recommending things that i should try not to try to get me to buy them all, but because he wants to make sure i've tried enough stuff before i make a decision. There are very few guitar shops like that left in this country - I recommend that everyone makes the most of them while they still can. He has some lovely guitars in there too - I have my eye on a somewhat modded gibson nonreverse firebird hanging high up on the wall, too.
I seem to recall a while back i said "do not recommend a vox AC30, i already know that's not what i want!" in a thread.
Well, that's because i'd never played a "real" one, only a korg reissue.
Ever since i tried a real JMI AC30, i want one! those things have hardly any controls, and don't need any either. The normal channel is thick and punchy, the bright channel is clear and chimey, the vibrato channel, though sounding a bit like a thinner version of the bright channel, has an amazing pulsing tremolo and a beautifully rich vibrato tone. The amount of touch-sensitivity is astonishing - everything you do with the guitar is amplified as clear as day. Crank them up and they get this amazingly crisp crunch tone.
You only have volume controls for each channel, two 3-position rotary switches for the vibrato channel, and a tone filter that works for all channels. that's how simple it is. you can't really go wrong.
Now i DO want an AC30, but only if it's a simple and effective, original JMI model.
another useless blog - nobody reads these anyway, do they?
For the last god knows how long i've been using ernie ball power slinky strings. I decided it was time for a change when i started to notice that they sound kind of sharp and metallic with some of my guitars.
Yesterday i put some DR pure blues 11-50 gauge strings on my fret-king Esprit III and wow - what an improvement! the guitar just sounds a whole lot warmer, without that metallic ringing overtone that sounded exceptionally piercing with the P90s. The guitar now sounds nearly as rich as my '73 gibson SG! i think i'm going to be using these DRs for pretty much everything now.