Roll call

They say “a picture paints a thousand words”…well that will certainly have to be the case today as I’ve not much to say but do have a little something to show.



I’ve been spending my evenings preparing the spare room for a visit from my sister; the spare room doubles up as my home office and music room (formerly Flabby Toad Studios).

“Preparing” has so far involved pretty much emptying the room of everything so I can have a belated spring clean.  A mighty fine excuse to give my guitars a little TLC.

From left to right we have my Little Martin, Benford Custom, SixStringBliss Podcaster (a collaboration by friends: Searcy Pickups, Alfie tone kicker with assembly by Steve Benford and Dave McLeod I believe), Fender MIM Stratocaster and Line 6 Variax.  A pretty handsome lot if I do say so myself.

…odd number though…maybe I should round up.


Movie: It’s so easy and other lies

I haditssoeasy the opportunity to grab myself a mid week movie earlier in the week and decided on ‘hiring’ It’s So Easy And Other Lies.  I knew very little about Duff McKagan other than he was a member of Guns ‘n’ Roses; I didn’t realise he was a founding member of the band!

The movie is an autobiographical moving covering Duff’s early years growing up in the North West Pacific Coast of the U.S., and then his migration south to Los Angeles where Guns ‘n’ Roses was born.  Like many, Duff has diced with death from drug and alcohol addiction and had to make some challenging life choices to turn things around.  Thankfully he managed it!

One thing I did like about this movie, was the lack of coverage relating to the stressful relationships with other band members; the movie is nearly all about Duff and his life.

I didn’t realise Duff has been involved with so many bands!  I didn’t realise he was in Velvet Revolver for a start (and I call myself a music fan).

The movie is quite short at around 1hr 20 min in length but well worth a watch.  A good 7.5/10 from me.  I will definitely visit the book in the not too distant future.

Guitar Nostalgia – Epiphone

I’ve been hunting through my photo archive (some 28,000 photos!) to pick out images of my past guitars.  I’m a little gutted that I don’t have pictures of them all but there we go!  This beauty was my second Epiphone Les Paul, the first was a Standard model in black with the white pick guard, chrome hardware and gold knobbage (never really understood the gold and black!).

Here we have the Studio model in Worn Cherry.  If I remember correctly I ordered in Red Wine but I think they had their pictures mixed up and were advertising a Gibson Les Paul Studio as an Epiphone.  I didn’t know enough back then to know the difference but wasn’t too disappointed when this arrived with a sorry note.

Epiphone Les Paul StudioI seem to recall everything about this guitar being perfect straight out of the box so there was no need for me to tinker with it and therefore bugger it up.  Unlike the other models this had an all mahogany body so no maple cap to brighten the tone a little; oh it was awesome.  Unfortunately at some point during the past my bank account wasn’t so awesome so had to sell off some stuff and this went to a colleagues kids.  Oh how I wish I hadn’t!  This is one of those guitars that I GAS after another but wonder whether I’d be disappointed.  Was it the beer that made it so good?  Maybe the weather?  One day I may take the plunge as they’re reasonably inexpensive, might even be one of those things to keep an eye out on eBay for.

So it would appear…

…that my blogging skills, or should that be my skills to blog have not improved over the years; yet another long break.

So, I thought I’d break the silence with a blast from my personal past!  A guitar from the many that I’ve owned throughout the years of not learning how to play guitar.  I aim to create a separate gallery at some point, this will do for now.

Here’s my first ever ‘proper’ Fender – by that I mean my first Fender full stop!  This was a MIM Standard HSS and to be honest it was bloody awful.  I bought the guitar over the Internet in the days I thought all guitars were equal.  This was probably my first proper guitar lesson.


It looked great (as you can see) but its action was high and I thought it always sounded too thin.  Guitarists talk about tone and I don’t think this guitar really had any!  Oddly the person I sold it to over eBay loved it and thought he had got it far too cheap so wired across more money.

Getting on with it.

I received some good advice following my last post about procrastination which highlighted the need for structuring my learning.  Bloomin’ obvious really.  The comment included a link to JustinGuitar which contains not only free lessons but also a community.  Now, I’ve dipped I not the site before in relation to specific songs or techniques but have never delved into the course material.  This visit was no different!  However, I did join the community and did purchase the beginners song books; I don’t think I’ve ever played as much as I have in this past week.

So why not complete the beginners course?  No other reason than I think I will become bored covering old ground and just want to get on and learn some songs.  My word do I have some songs to learn now!  Both of the books by Justin have around a 100 songs from various periods and genres.  Great value in my opinion.

I have no excuse now as I could never say I`m short of material or inspiration.  I’m going to use the song books as the basis for my resolution to learn and record a bunch of new material.

The songs are split into stages depending on complexity and are accompanied by additional information and chord diagrams.  The information includes some notes about the song or artist along with where to place a capo if you want to play along with the original.  Very useful indeed.

Hopefully will keep me both interested and focused for a good period of time.

Thinking about it too much…

…not a verbatim comment (I think), but basically something a guitar buddy commented recently in relation to my playing.  Do you know what?  They hit the nail right on the head.

I’m a very self conscious procrastinator you see.  I’ll often not do something because I’m worried about what somebody, actually what everybody will think.  Odd as I’m a bedroom player.  The outcome of this “feature” is that I essentially spend the majority of my time worrying about what I should be playing or hunting the Internets for guitar ‘stuff’ that I think may help instead of playing.  I’ve owned a guitar for some 24 years now I should be a bloody expert but instead I can barely string a song together!  Looking back I think I made some progress a few years ago when I submitted a few songs as a member of an online guitar community.  However, progress was short as I started studying for my degree and the community collapsed.  Me leaving and the collapse aren’t related!

So what am I going to do about it?  Well I’ve got my little resolution which is to learn and record a bunch of stuff; that isn’t going to well though, I’ve some catching up to do!  One thing I’ve started to do it listen to more music to get m into the swing of things.  I’ve started listening to music radio in the car and when I get the chance at home (instead of Radio 4), along with getting the headphones on at work as and when appropriate.  I have to say the listening seems to be lighting a little fire in my belly again which drives me to pick up the guitar.  An example being I heard Radiohead’s Creep on the radio this afternoon and got list in that little melodic trail that goes on through the song.  Instead of wishing I could play it I disappeared into my play room and had a little go.  Now I was crap but it’s a step in the right direction right!

All I need to do now is keep up momentum :/



Gear Part 2 – Backstar ID:Core 10

Welcome to the second post about my gear!  I thought would move from guitar to amplifier and give you a brief little run through of my Blackstar ID:Core 10.

My first grIMG_2749own up amp was a Backstar HT5 Combo which I bought the same time as my Variax which was the subject of my previous gear post.  God I loved that amp!  I sold it some years ago as it was just too loud for the house (I had a newb
orn at that time); I’ve regretted it ever since.  So, another child later and I made a bit of an impulse purchased base on loving my HT5 – enter the ID Core 10.
IMG_2750Firstly it has the good looks of the HT5 and felt very familiar indeed. This is the baby sibling of the ID Core 20, 40 and 40H (Head).  The ID Core 10 consists of two 5 watt speakers and is described by Backstar as being the “ultimate entry level guitar amplifier”.  I wouldn’t disagree with them for a second.  Your ninety Earth pounds gets you a compact stereo amplifier with 12 stereo effects, a line in, headphone jack, USB ticket and is compatible with Blackstar’s Insider software.

All the sockets and jacks are easily accessible via the control panel on the top of the amp.  Control wise we have a Voice knob which provides us with:

  • Overdrive 1
  • Overdrive 2
  • Super Crunch
  • Crunch
  • Clean Bright
  • Clean Warm

IMG_2748We then have Gain, Volume and EQ – the latter provides us with a sliding scale between US and British sounds.  We have buttons for Modulation, Delay and Reverb (along with Tap).  There are two further controls for which control the Type and Level of effect.

I’ve been delighted with the quality of what is effectively an entry level practice amp.  Maybe it’s just me but mine seems to be getting better with age – I’ve heard something before about the need for speakers to break in but I’m not sure how true this is.  The highlight of this amp for me is the input.  As a slow learner and a bedroom player this allows me to play along with records with only the need for something to play songs (Tablet, Phone or MP3 player); a revelation for somebody with time constraints.

Fantastic Guitar Day – Not the big brands

Last Saturday (27th February) waffled on about The Guitar Show at Birmingham and then realised I’d only mentioned the big brand stuff.  This post is a follow up with my thoughts relating to the products not produced by the big boys (e.g. Fender, Gibson …. ), or at least those manufacturers that are associated with guitars a little less often.

After allIMG_2713 of that I’m going to start off with Vox who are hardly a no-name independent.  However, they are more often associated with their amplification products rather than guitars themselves; this one is definitely a product for switch lovers!  From what I can fathom the guitar contained six organ tone generators along with a whole bunch of circuitry both in the cavity of guitar and the fretboard.





Next is this lovely handmade guitar from a Druzkowski IMG_2727Guitars, this particular model is called the Fenix 7 Multiscale.  I absolutely love it and particularly love the lack of headstock.  The neck had a really awesome cut to it. The body is Alder and Mahogany and the fretboard is rosewood.  It was difficult to hear above all the other guitars but from what I could hear it was a real rock machine.  Thanks to my buddy Steve for giving it a play (I didn’t have ht guts).

Here my lovely assistant Steve is playing a hand crafted all carbon fibre guitar fromIMG_2729 Hathaway Guitars.  Now these things don’t come cheap at around £4000 but my word they look great, sound great and from what I can gather feel really nice.  Steve mentioned how light* the guitar was but this didn’t from what I could hear (above all the other guitars), take anything away from the tone.  Hathaway offer lots of options when it comes to the pickups you fancy.


IMG_2730This absolutely stunning guitar is from Germany and is made by Nik Huber Guitars.  Isn’t it stunning!  This is what £6400 gets you in the world of guitars – I don’t think I’ve stopped drooling yet.  Maybe if that lottery win comes in one day.





Finally there’s a shot of some guitars from Patrick Eggle.  I’ve shared them as they offered something a little different  in the choice of woods used (in terms of looks), and also the colour contrasts.  For example checkout the guitar on the right with a natural top but white back.  Not my personal cup of tea but it’s great to see somebody doing something a little out of the norm.

The show was great and I definitely intend to visit again in the future.  Hopefully by then my repertoire will be a little more extensive along with my confidence so I may actually play something.

*EDIT: Correction – Steve mentioned it was heavier than expected.


Gear Part 1 – Line 6 Variax 600

I thought it about time to add some posts about some of my gear although just posting something would be a good start!  I’ve decided to start with my Line 6 Varian 600 which if I recall correctly I grabbed back in 2008 or maybe 2009.  Either way it has been with me for some time now and is a good trusty instrument.

So first off what is the Variax?  In short it’s a very clever piece of kit!  It usesIMG_2744 a piezo pickup under the bridge that generates a signal which is then processed to emulate the sounds of various types of guitar.  Unlike the newer models the Variax 300 and 600 (I think there was also a 500 and 700), models were free of any visible standard pickups and operates solely through the piezo.  One downside of all this trickery is that the guitar requires an external power supply, compatible Line 6 POD type device or Batteries. I use the power supply which feeds an A/B foot switch.  The input side can be fed by either a 1/4″ or XLR cable.  The output side of the pedal/switch is plugged into your amp of choice.

The body of the Variax 600 is basswood and it has a one piece 9 1/2″ maple fretboard and a scale length of 25 1/2″.  I love the neck on this guitar.  I’m not an experienced player and am generally very clumsy but find this very easy to play indeed.  The bridge is a L.R. Blaggs tremolo affair.  One thing I find remarkable about this guitar is its ability to stay in tune.  I picked up this guitar this evening for the first time in over 12 months and 4 of the strings were still in tune.  The G and B strings were just a little way out.  The guitar has a 5 way switch, tone and volume knobs alongside the model selector which is also a twisty switch type thing.

The models on offer are quite impressive and are all different in sound.  It’s difficult for me to say whether they sIMG_2746ound like the models they’re meant to replicate but all are usable and I think are in the ballpark.  I’ll not go through all the models but the model selector offers Fender models such as the Stratocaster and Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul and a Firebird, Gretsch, Martin acoustics (6 and 12 string) – this list goes on.  The 5 way selector switch is then used to change the year and pickup.  It’s all very clever and far from a gimmick.