Thursday, September 3, 2015

She's a Keeper

I my last post (of over two months ago...ugh), I said I thought my new Larrivee was a keeper. I can now confirm that emphatically.

I've played it a lot, both at home and traveling. We've spent a lot of time at the river this summer, and it's made every trip with me. I've played it a *lot* there, including a number of fantastic campfire jams by the water. I wouldn't take it to salt water, but there's nothing better than playing by the bonfire, with the river a few feet away, and a million stars overhead.

I like everything about it. I like the feel and I like the sound. I like the subtle differences from the Martin. Not better, just a little different. Variety.

At home, I don't think it's stealing time from the Martin. I think I'm playing more guitar. The Larrivee is a gorgeous instrument, and I feel very fortunate to have such a pair of beauties.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

NGD: Larrivee OM-03

...or "More Wheeling and Dealing"

...or "Happy Canada Day to Me!"

Yes, I've just completed another round of buying and selling. I realized that the 12-string, while a nice instrument, was a novelty that I wasn't playing much after the novelty had worn off.

I was also becoming more and more unsatisfied with acoustic #2 (the Recording King.) I love the specs on it - a smaller body guitar ("000" or "OM", as opposed to the bigger dreadnaught body shape), mahogany sides and back (contrasted to the Rosewood on my Martin), slightly wider nut. But the sound just wasn't great. I realized that the sound wasn't that different from my Washburn all-weather guitar - and if it's not markedly better, then it doesn't have a purpose.

So I thought that if I could sell the two of them, I might have enough money for a better #2 acoustic. CL served me wonderfully again - I not only sold both guitars, but also the little sailboat that's been gathering dust at the river for a few years now. That gave me a nice little war chest. Now what to spend it on?

I had an idea. I've seen a lot of very positive reviews of Larrivee guitars on the forums, especially their base OM guitars. Then I had a chance to hear a Larrivee at fiddle camp, and was very impressed. But I wanted to see and play one before ordering one blindly. A web search of dealers turned up nothing close by. Flash of inspiration - the twice-a-year guitar expo was here last weekend. Maybe I could see one there.

As it turned out, I could. Among all the crazily-priced vintage guitars, I found one guy with two new Larrivees: a standard-sized L-03R ("R" for rosewood), and an OM-40R. I played the OM-40R for a while, and seriously thought about buying it on the spot. But I wasn't certain, and in the end just couldn't pull the trigger.

Some more web searching showed a new Larrivee OM-03 from Elderly Instruments for a fair price, free shipping, and a 30-day money back return policy. Elderly has a sterling reputation, so I phoned and ordered it on Monday. Yesterday, the FedEx guy left a big box in my garage.

Larrivee is a Canadian company, though despite the French name (there's an accent on the first "e" that I don't know how to make on this keyboard) they're from British Columbia. So Darling Wife and I had some fun with the fact that my new Canadian beauty arrived on Canada Day.

My first impression is entirely positive. It has a clear, bright sound - a world's difference better than the Recording King (though that's not a fair comparison - the Larrivee is just a better class of guitar.) To Darling Wife's question of why I need a #2 acoustic when there's a Martin in the house - it has nothing to do with need. The Martin is #1, and this doesn't imply the slightest dissatisfaction with it. It's just something different. And I'll take it places I might not take the Martin - like the River. But I wouldn't take it camping or to the Folk Fest.

I'm going to give it some intensive playing this weekend, just to make sure it's a keeper. But I think it is.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

One Year with a Martin

With the recent passing of my birthday, I could help but think that it's been one year since my Darling Wife gave me a very sweet day and a very sweet gift.

This will probably sound like bragging, but I swear I don't intend it to - it's just looking back over a year. I've made some fairly significant progress as a guitar player. I wasn't touched by god, I simply practiced and played a lot.

Part of it was having a good guitar - having a Martin on the guitar stand made me more driven to play. Part of it was having good examples - playing in a band with two good guitar players helped me pick up some things by osmosis. And part of it was just getting into a good positive feedback loop - seeing progress made me want to play more, which generated more improvement.

The last year also saw the addition of a PA setup in the basement. It's hard to overestimate what a big thing this is. It's a simple setup, and it didn't (relatively) cost much - but it's *huge*. We use it for a few things, but the most fun is DW and I using it for acoustic duo practice. And now, my Martin is fully pluggable.

I mentioned two weeks ago that baby was in the shop getting a K&K Pure Mini pickup installed. Well, I picked her up, and it works as well as advertised. The unplugged sound is unaffected, and plugging it into the PA sends the sweet sound of the Martin to the speakers. I brought her home Saturday (on the way home from fiddle camp - about which there will be much more), and I played with her plugged in all evening. DW joined me, and we played every song we know, and then some.

More open mics are sure to come. And here's hoping that year two with my Martin will continue the journey.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Maine Fiddle Camp

Yes, I'm going. To fiddle camp. In Maine.

I know, it's crazy. But it's happening next week, Sunday through Friday.

When the possibility of a family vacation to London became impossible, that gave me back a block of personal time that I'd considered spent. I looked at music events and festivals that Darling Wife and I could do together - and we have a number of these penciled in, including the Folk Fest.

I was intrigued by the idea of a fiddle camp - a full immersion into playing, learning, jamming. There was nothing local, but I found Maine Fiddle Camp, and brought up the idea to Darling Wife, who was fully supportive. I asked about it on a fiddle board, and had it recommended by some people who seem to know. So I'm signed up for June week.

I'm nervous and excited at the same time. I've been playing just about every day, and feel like I'm making good progress. It seems like a week-long musical immersion can only be helpful, and sounds like great fun. I'll rent a car (my two are already *way* oversubscribed), tent camp, and I'll take my travel guitar for fun. But the idea will be to do as much fiddling as I can.

I'll do my best to post trip reports after I return.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

...or "Baby's in the Shop"

With Darling Wife and I now having a couple of public performances behind us, I've been thinking about better options for plugging in an acoustic guitar. I've been using a soundhole pickup, which easily pops in and out of my Martin, and works well enough. But I know there are better options.

One would be to get an acoustic/electric guitar for our "playing out" opportunities. There are decent-quality Epiphones and Seagulls (and doubtless other brands) with built-in electronics, and you can plug them in right out of the box. But it seems a terrible shame to have such a nice Martin, just to leave it at home when it's time to go out and play. And no, I won't take the Martin camping or to the beach, but it's also not a museum piece - I have it to play it.

From my scanning of the acoustic guitar message boards, one product that I hear recommended time and time again is the K&K Pure Mini. They drill out the endpin, glue three small transducers to the underside of the bridge, and attach them to a jack that goes in the endpin. So you then have an acoustic guitar that can also be plugged in.

It was an intriguing thought, but my fear was that doing this modification would affect the unplugged sound of the guitar. That would be a deal breaker - I'm playing open mics once in a while, not gigging three times a week. It would *have* to be the same sweet-sounding baby unplugged that it is now. So I posted this question on my favorite board, and got all the reassurance I need that it won't affect the unplugged sound.

So I dropped my baby off at the shop this afternoon, and she's now awaiting surgery. I know she's in good hands, but I'm nervous anyway. They said it would probably be ready toward the end of next week, but I told them to take their time, as I'll be away all the following week. (Where, you ask? Details in my next post.)

Mike at Meadowood assures me that he's done this countless times. Fingers crossed. Of course I'll post again when I get her back.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Open Mic

Three months ago, I wrote about Darling Wife's and my debut as an acoustic duo at an invitation-only open mic in a friend's basement. We were invited back to his next open mic, which was last Saturday afternoon.

Last week was busy enough that last Thursday night came and went, and we still hadn't rehearsed at all. I was certain we wouldn't be able to rehearse Friday night either (Greta's senior prom) - which meant we'd have to cancel, as we're not going to go unrehearsed and play in front of people (no matter how informal.)

Surprisingly, we did manage to practice on Friday night after getting our prom girl off to the ball, and it went much better than I expected. We agreed on a few songs that we basically knew and didn't play at the last open mic. Then, almost as an afterthought, I suggested Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery." It fell right into place, and after two times through, I think it's our best song. So, much to my surprise, we actually were going on Saturday with the intention of playing.

The open mic was 2:00-6:00, and just as last time, we hoped to be one of the first to go. Bud, the host, and his house band were first up, and did a killer electric set. The highlight was the Allman Brothers Band classic "Whipping Post." Then another guy went, and then we were up.

Accompanying my favorite Canadian vocalist....
(Photoshop credit, SL, with apologies to SM)
We had prepared four songs, assuming we'd play three - but it was a full house, and everyone got two songs. We led off with "Building a Mystery", then played Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain." I think they both went well, and were well-received by the crowd. It was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again.

Gear-wise, I was playing my Martin, and had the soundhole pickup in. I forgot to ask the sound guy if I was running through a pre-amp. I don't think I was, and I probably should have been. But I think I sounded okay.

Then we settled back with a cold beverage and watched a number of our friends play their two songs. Fun afternoon.

We're getting a nice little repertoire together, and we even have our own little binder of songs we can play as a duo. Very exciting.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Random YouTube Links

A few links I've enjoyed.

1. I've never seen Jimmy Fallon's show, but here are two musical clips from it:
 2. I'm *loving* a band called Mandolin Orange. A guy and a girl who both sing and both play various acoustic instruments. This is exactly my taste in music right now. Here's a clip of them doing a gorgeous version of Bob Dylan's Boots of Spanish Leather (proving yet again that Dylan songs are best sung by someone/anyone other than Dylan himself.) It looks like they're on the road promoting a new disc, and my fingers are crossed that they'll be at the folk fest this year.