Around Thanksgiving 2009 I got it in my head that I wanted to record a song. I didn't want to sell records or anything, just record a song as a project. I'm not sure why I thought of doing this but I guess this is how all of my crazy ideas start. I'm foreshadowing a bit (starting this web page build in May 2010), but you can watch the video of my song at the bottom of this page.
The first thing I needed to do was to get some instruments and learn how to play them. I had played guitar (barely) a few times in my life. When I was a little kid my mother would let me play on her guitar a bit. I even took some lessons (well, one lesson) but it never went anywhere. This is me at 6 years old playing my mother's 1969 Federico Garcia. It looks like I really needed a Mini Strat to start out on instead of that huge classical guitar:
Fast forward 15 years and I started playing some electric guitar with a friend. We would just get together and jam a bit. He was good, but I didn't have any idea what I was doing. Just power chords and easy stuff like that. Fast forward another 20 years and I found myself with my mother's classical guitar and one of those cheap Esteban acoustic/electric guitars from HSN. I traded an old TV to a friend for the Esteban guitar and tried to learn how to play. It was a lousy guitar with horrible action and I soon lost interest again. Just a side note: That Esteban guy should be embarrassed for putting out such a horrible DVD on how to play guitar. Anyway, this is my nice classical guitar:
A year later I got the bug (this was the Thanksgiving epiphany) and traded the Estaban and $191 for a Chinese Fender Squier Stratocaster, a Line 6 Spider III amp, a guitar stand, and a microphone stand. No, it is not a American Standard Strat but it plays really well and has great action. I had a friend who has played lead guitar in bands for 40 years find it for me and I bought it on his recommendation:
Once I had the rythm guitar I needed a base. Threee months later I found this Fender Squier Precision bass at the same 2nd hand music store. $169 for the bass and another guitar stand:
After getting my guitar and bass it was time to start working on the recording studio. We have a decent size house but I spend most of my time in the FROG (that is "finished room over the garage" for those of you who live up north). There is an 11' x 7' nook in the FROG that has served many purposes over the years. The first was to hold my MAME cabinets (two custom built arcade machines from a previous project):
The next was my four XBOX (and later XBOX 360) networked gaming station (yes, another previous project):
To get a little more room I need to rearranged the cabinets a bit and remove to side section:
A few days after moving the cabinets around we had a party at the house. A little impromptu jam session ensued. Frank on rythm:
Mel on lead:
Frank on I-Pone (he's always on that damn thing):
Jared on drums:
Drums??? Oh didn't I tell you about that? I purchased a set of XBOX 360 Rock Band drums for $35 off Ebay. Since they are USB you can easily interface them to a computer. I use a program to convert the joystick output to keyboard characters. Then I take the keypresses and convert that to actual drum sounds. I will create another web page with how I did all of that in the near future. Or, maybe I will just put it here - I haven't decided yet. Anyway, after buying the first set I decided that I needed a second set (only paid $23 for these). The two sets will give me two foot pedals (one is for bass drum and one is for "alternate keys") and eight drum pads. The bottom four are for snare and three tom toms. The top four are for high hat and cymbals and stuff. The alternate pedal allows me to change from an open high hat to a closed high hat and stuff like that. This means I can actually make 13 different sounds with my drum set. My $58 solution (well, a little more when you consider that it is tied to its own computer) beats the hell out of $1500 for a nice set of electronic drums:
Later on I made a drum stand out of PVC to hook both sets together. This is much better than having the second set sitting on a box:
The studio was getting a little messy so I decided to do something about all the guitars/stands sitting on the floor:
I took a section of 1"x4" and mounted hooks on it to hold the guitars. Not a bad solution for $11. Yes, that is a Wii Guitar Hero guitar hanging on the wall. I'll need to do something about that:
To get rid of the Guitar Hero guitar and fill the 4th hook I started searching for another guitar. After a few months I found an Epiphone Les Paul Ultra. Again, I realize it is not a $3,000 Gibson Les Paul but it will do. It is one of the nicer $600-$700 Les Paul copies that actually has a few "upgrades" (like the ergodynamic contoured back and hollowed out body cavities for weight reduction) that you don't find on a "real" Les Paul. Anyway, I picked it up along with another Line 6 Spider III amp for $375 off Craigslist. There is a small crack in the finish by the rear strap peg (cosmetic only) but I figure that crack saved me $150 or so:
Wow, that is one beautiful guitar but that ugly pick guard has to go:
Much better! Removing the guard leaves two small screw holes in the body but I will probably drill them for counter sink and put the gold mounting screws back in:
The studio is starting to take shape. From left to right on top of the counter - HD TV (on sale on Craigslist, I just don't have anywhere else to put it now), speakers/sub for the drum computer, monitor/keyboard switch, monitor/keyboard for both computers, speakers/sub for the Guitar Rig 4 computer. From left to right in the cabinets - Line 6 amp #1, drum computer, Guitar Rig computer, Alpha Lexicon interface, Guitar Rig 1 Kontroller (foot pedal stolen off Ebay for $25), Line 6 amp #2. I just purchased (stolen again) a Line 6 FVB Shortboard off Ebay for $72 but it didn't get here in time for the picture:
I took this picture in August after getting yet another black Strat. From Left to Right:
$175 2009 Fender Stratacoustic
$45 Craigslist Squier Stratocaster SE (unknown year - gray spray paint on guard, covers, and knobs)
$115 2005 Indonesian Squier Fat Strat Standard
$130 2005 Indonesian Squier Fat Strat Standard Special Edition (GFS VEH Humbucker Pickup in the Bridge and GFS Single Coil Boston Texas Blues Pickups in the Neck and Middle)
9/30/10 was a good day (I got two new guitars). They are a Black 2007 Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster and a Daphne Blue 2004 Fender Mexican stratocaster.
It is getting a little crowded now with guitars. I actually have more than this but these are all that made it into the photo. I'm going to have to start selling off a few of them due to running out of room and money.
For those of you who looked down here to see my video - I haven't made it yet. I am still working on the web page and the studio. I'll type a bit more later and will continue to update it as I make progress. I am shooting for Thanksgiving 2010 (that will be the one year anniversary of this crazy project) as the release date of the video. I need to do a lot of practice with the instruments (and recording software - more on that later) before I start shooting video.