I won’t be going to the big NAMM show in Anaheim in January as I did last year. Basically, I need to rethink and re-evaluate the merits of ramping up my online sales. There is more competition than ever as we all know but for me there is also the issue of a robust website that is focused primarily on sales. That means hiring a designer who is savvy with incorporating the best (i.e., easiest) point-of-sale structure. These days, it’s all about ease of purchase; I certainly feel that way when I’m buying something online. Also, sexy graphics, easily updated content, effective optimization to get Google’s attention, and many other details. And all that costs money. This is why I don’t think the expense of going to the NAMM show makes sense right now.
However, that doesn’t mean I’ve been lax about paying attention to what’s going on in the music world as it relates to acoustic guitar. Right now I have three very fine Martins (D-35 Seth Avett, M-36, Custom Shop Sinker D-18, all with pick-ups) and the terrible affliction of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome has been dormant for quite a while. It has been replaced with a fanatical search for “tone.” The task is pretty easy to define: getting as close to a natural sound as possible from those fine guitars when they’re plugged in. I know darn well that the only real way to do this is with a good microphone but with the varied gigs I play that is just not practical. So I’ve been focusing on the other components: Pick-up, pre-amp and amplifier. Yikes.
After reading glowing reports about a relatively new company making a contact-type passive pick-up called Dazzo I decided to try one (or more accurately, two contacts) in my M-36. Unfortunately, when the pick-ups arrived they were NOT soldered to an end jack. ???? I really don’t know why they choose not to do this and I think it is a major deficiency because someone (you, or a guitar tech) has to make the connection – once you also buy the jack! A guy I use pretty regularly had fits trying to get the tiny, tiny wires soldered without shorting, making the pick-up nonfunctional. I ended up sending it back to the maker for him to solder but in the process of removing the glued on contacts one of them was damaged and I had to buy another one. Aarrggh. Long story short: the Dazzo sounds good in my M-36 through my ACUS OneForStrings8 amp (with a RedEye pre-amp between) but not all that much better than my old favorite contact pick-up, K&K Pure Mini. So I doubt I’ll buy another considering the price – twice as much as the K&K – and the issue of connecting the jack.
I also bought a Schatten Design HFN that mounts on the inside below the saddle. I haven’t tried that one yet so I can’t confirm or deny the good reports. Also, I don’t want to remove one of the pick-ups in my guitars (or buy another guitar to put it in!).
I wrestled with the idea of buying a new amp, the Schertler Roy model. I do like my ACUS but something in my brain kept telling me there was a better sound out there. Fortunately for my credit card balance I ended up resisting that idea, based on the cost - $2000+ - and its weight, which is 48 pounds. It does have all the bells and whistles though and is supposed to sound amazing. Very tempting.
I also bought an interesting pre-amp called the Tone Dexter, which is quite revolutionary in that you “train” it for a few minutes as it listens to you play with a good mic plugged in and also your onboard pick-up. It then blends the sound of the mic and the pick-up for supposedly the most natural sound available short of using just a mic. But….I just didn’t care for the sound. To my ear anyway it doesn’t sound any better than my old tried and true K&K. A bit more complex perhaps, but no more “natural.” So it will be going back to Sweetwater on Monday. $399 is a lot to spend of a device that may not get much use.
So as you can see, “chasing tone” is my latest obsession. I hope I’ll find what I’m looking for without too much more expense. I can hear the tone I want in my brain, I just haven’t found it yet. Enough of this equipment geeky stuff.
About a month ago my son Matt married his sweetheart Alli in Dallas where they live. It was truly a magical and wonderful event in every way. Matt and Alli were adamant about having live music and oh my goodness, what a band they hired. Three horns, keys, GREAT guitar player, GREAT bass player, drums and two amazing singers, a man and a woman. The band is very popular in Dallas, and being present or former students in the nationally known jazz program at North Texas University you could say they absolutely had the place on fire. They played everything from classic Motown and soul to recent tunes by people like Adele and John Legend. They played from 7:30 until midnight with only two short breaks and almost no time between songs. The dance floor was jammed the entire time. It was yet another example of the incredible two-way energy that a great band can bring to an event, something no DJ can ever achieve. I’ll never forget them. Or one of the happiest nights of my life.
Still playing at the Daily Brew pretty much every Sunday morning and I still love every minute and do NOT take it for granted. I know how very, very fortunate I am to have this long-running gig at a truly special place. There was also a very nice article about me in the local paper, which was much appreciated. So things are good, playing-wise.
And on a much more personal note, a couple days ago we were having Christmas dinner at my son-in-law’s mother’s house in Connecticut. One of the toddlers that was there was acting up so I grabbed my guitar and began playing “Rudolph”, “Frosty” and any other kid-type Christmas snog I could think of. The little one immediately calmed down and stood by me in awe. It was just another example of the effect music has on children, even very young and cranky ones! I see it often at the Daily Brew and it always brings a smile to my face. And I know the parents appreciate it.
So, instead of looking back at the year – and a great year it was for me, in spite of the depressing national news – I think it’s best if I just wish one and all a peaceful, joyful and music-filled 2020. Just pick up your guitar and start playing. You’ll feel good, for sure.
Peace & good music,
(who promises to get back to posting more often!)