Categories
Musical Instruments

Non-Vintage Guitars at Vintage Prices?

What is with the skyrocketing prices of used non-vintage musical instruments lately?

Here’s some background: My first “real” bass guitar was a Peavey T-20 that I bought new for about $350 at Wonderland Music in Dearborn, Michigan back in 1983 (the store has long since closed, but it was so cool back in the pre-Guitar Center days). Anyway, I sold it a few years later, but I did some collecting over the years, and one of my goals was to own a set of all three T-series Peavey basses (T-20, T-40, and T-45). I was able to get a T-40, but it was stolen shortly after. I did get another T-20 about 10 years back in bad shape and am currently working to restore it to playable condition.

I was looking online for a T-40 and T-45, and was floored by the sticker shock. A fair- to good-condition T-40 is going for well over $800, and if you can even locate a T-45, it’s going for twice as much.

These T-series basses (along with the T-series guitars) were the first attempts at Peavey to put out durable instruments made in the USA at reasonable prices. The guitars were completely manufactured by machines, which was unheard of back in the early 1980s, but is now pretty common with mass-produced guitars. While Peavey amplifiers had numerous celebrity endorsements, the guitars and basses did not get much promotion. There were some innovative features on the guitars and basses, but they were generally poo-pooed for their bulky weight and necks that were much wider and harder to fret than instruments from Fender or Gibson.

So why would second-hand non-vintage guitars and basses from a company like Peavey cost so much? There are a number of probable reasons, but most likely, it is the greed in the sellers’ market. I’ve written about this before, but I will state it again. Shows like American Pickers, where Tom and Frank will pay $200 for some beat-up banjo or guitar with no brand name, makes people think that what they have in their closets is a buried treasure. That program, along with PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, often have appraisers talking about some gem of a find being worth thousands of dollars. Yeah, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop or a pre-war Martin D-28 is going to be worth a lot of money. However, these were unique when they were built, they were built with a lot of care at the time, and have structure and tone qualities that cannot be truly duplicated. Many have disappeared through time, so the ones that have survived are near priceless.

Another factor is visibility on some lower-end guitars. An old Airline guitar from the 1960s being played by Jack White, which before could be had for $10 at a garage sale, now command many hundreds of dollars. Thus, anyone with a old guitar sitting around (it doesn’t even matter what the name brand is or if there even is one) thinks that he/she owns a fortune with strings on it.

I recommended watching the Casino Guitars channel on YouTube before (https://luegra.design.blog/2020/11/14/youtube-find-casino-guitars/). Baxter and Jonathan have touched on this phenomenon briefly. I remember a similar situation happening back in the 1990s, where cheapo guitars were going for big prices. I admit, I got caught up in the hysteria and started buying a lot of guitars. I lost a lot of money in reselling them when I needed cash. I don’t ever plan on going that route again, but I still am interested in securing the three original Peavey T-series basses.

But not at what is being asked these days! I can wait it out to see how the market is moving. I would be doing it more as a personal love, and not to do some profitable trading. I can understand rare Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, or Martin guitars being valued due to the quality of workmanship as well as celebrity exposure, but for something like a first-generation Peavey guitar, something that was built specifically to be a cost-effective (and less-quality) alternative to the major brands, I don’t think that they are worth to rising cost. Buyers, both private and dealers, will eventually be honest with the sellers to say that these lower-end guitars are not worth that much money. Also, I am sure that those thousands of T-series guitars and basses sitting around in closets and attics will eventually come out to the market from owners that have not used them in years and have no use for them. Again, I can wait.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Bluegrass Guitar Coronavirus Musical Instruments

Tidbits #3: Shure – Part 2, Mandolin Straps, Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar, etc.

A few more ramblin’ thoughts for this week.

For some reason, maybe due to my ordering of the fake Shure SM58 microphone a few weeks ago from Wish.com, I received another microphone in the mail that didn’t cost me anything. This one is labeled a Beta 87a, but it definitely is not a Shure Beta 87a! It came in the same packaging as the SM58, with a faux leather zipper carrying bag, mic clip, cable tie and owner’s manual. Just by looking at the body of the mic, with the poor attempt at engraving the Shure label, one could tell that this was a fake. However, the big giveaway that it was not a true Shure Beta 87a was plugging it in. The 87a is supposed to be a condenser mic, which requires a phantom power of at least 24 volts to operate properly. This fake Shure mic had a dynamic element in it, so it worked without power, and sounded like a dynamic mic. Granted, I got this for free somehow, but true Shure Beta 87a mics list for about $250.00. Wish.com has these advertised for under $30.00. Use common sense when ordering something like this. If you see a Beta 87a under $200.00 new, it is most likely a fake. Unfortunately, some jerks are getting away with selling the fake ones as real. Do yourself a favor if you want a true Shure mic – buy it from a reputable dealer.

Besides doing some lutherie work, I have also been making braided mandolin straps during the pandemic. I learned to braid from a friend a few years ago, and usually while I am resting up in the evening and watching TV, I like to be a bit industrious by making straps. I started making leather guitar straps a few years back when I was gifted a bunch of nice-sized leather hide pieces. Once that ran out, I started using the leftover scraps and some laces to make mandolin straps. I make them for both A and F models, most are black with a different color ends, but I am making a few pink and green ones. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at my Craigslist ad:

https://detroit.craigslist.org/wyn/msg/d/hamtramck-handmade-braided-leather/7255085484.html

This past week I started working on my bluegrass rhythm guitar playing. Man, am I out of shape, musically! Seriously, I forgot how much of a job it is to keep good timing, proper strumming, and make a G run that doesn’t sound lousy, all at the same time! Since I haven’t worked with any band for a number of years, I have used the guitar almost exclusively for songwriting and recording with myself playing all instruments. Now that I’m practicing along with some jam tracks, I recognize what I’ve forgotten and let drift away from my rhythm technique. Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin knew how important a rhythm guitar was to a bluegrass band, and as phenomenal of a lead player that he was, Tony Rice always stressed the importance of rhythm, and his was like a metronome. Speaking of a metronome, that is what I will be working with for a while.

Well, it looks like the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) has cancelled this year’s Nashville Convention, which is usually scheduled for the last weekend of January. Yes, it is due to COVID-19, but they are setting the date for 2022 to be January 27-30. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

One positive note is that the 47th annual Kentucky State Fiddle Championship is scheduled to happen March 20 at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro. With what little has been available, I am SO tempted to make the trek! Go to https://www.kyfiddler.com/ for more information.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Music Industry Musical Instruments

Are You Sure That It’s a Shure?

I guess this has been a problem for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently. While checking out the website Wish.com, I came across something that made me to a double-take. The site was selling Shure microphones for about 20% of their cost at a music store. The famous SM58 vocal mic retails for about $100 at Sweetwater or Guitar Center. The same can be said for the SM57, and the Beta 87a goes for around $250. If you shop Amazon, you may find it for a buck or two cheaper.

However, one search on the Wish site shows that you can snag a 57 or 58 for about $20, and a Beta 87a for around $30. Depending on when you go to the site, the prices can sometimes be cheaper!

I knew there had to be a catch, but I decided to purchase a 58 anyway to see what would happen. Of course, shipping and taxes added about $10 to the cost, and it took about three weeks for the package to arrive (it was shipped from China).

I have always felt that the Shure SM58 is the best all-around microphone available. Comparing price, durability, and response, it would be the obvious choice if I were to have only one microphone. When I opened up the package of my new 58, I could tell right away that it was a fake. Just by holding it, it was a lot lighter than the true Shure 58. Putting them both on a scale, the real 58 came in at about 0.6 lb., while the fake 58 weighed in at 0.4 lb. Taking off the windscreens, the real 58 capsule has a slight cushion to it in order to sustain some shock. The fake 58 had no cushion to the capsule.

Testing it out on a small PA system, I noticed that the fake 58 did not have the same warmth from the low end frequencies as the real 58. It just seems to have a bit of distortion from that end. Its response was more like the lower-cost SM48. It did have the same sound level as the true 58, just not as warm.

In short, it seemed to be about worth the money of the purchase. It was a lot cheaper than the true 58, but it definitely is not of the same high quality. I am sure that the SM57 and Beta 87a that are available on Wish are of the same quality. Here is a video that I found that provides more information on comparing the two:

My main concern with this marketing is that I am questioning why Shure has not proceeded with large-scale legal action against the manufacturers of fake microphones. We have seen such action taken by guitar manufacturers, with results leading to mislabeled guitars not being available in the US as well as legal action being take against anyone bringing one into the country. However, a Google search on the Shure situation shows that there has only been one serious attempt at legal action, and that was in the UK about 10 years ago.

I would think that Shure would take a stronger action against the sale and distribution of these fake microphones for two big reasons:

  1. The lower cost of the fake microphones will lead to more sales, which will kill Shure’s sales.
  2. The lack of quality with the fake microphones will reflect poorly on Shure, as consumers would blame Shure for the problems, even though it had nothing to do with the manufacturing of that fake mic.

Perhaps I am out of the loop and am missing something. However, my advice to anyone interested in one of these fake Shure microphones, if you purchase one, do not expect the quality and customer service you can expect from the Shure company. You will be getting a second-class product with a first-class label on the body. If you want the best, you need to go directly into purchasing as true Shure microphone.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Coronavirus Musical Instruments Musicians

Creativity, and Ignorance

A few days ago, I was interviewing fiddler Tom Morley for an upcoming article. We got onto the topic of what he and other musicians that he knows are doing to keep the sanity during all of these pandemic lockdowns. He told me about a creative idea that his friend’s daughter thought of that consisted of purchasing a few small plastic greenhouses, pushing them together, and with one musician in each house, the band was able to perform together and hear each other while still keeping social distance.

https://99percentinvisible.org/article/hothouse-musicians-miniature-heated-greenhouses-enable-distanced-gatherings/

The more that I watch the video, the more that I am amazed at the creativity some people have shown during these strange times. Yes, music can be performed alone, but the idea of two or more musicians creating music together is part of human nature’s bonding. The Coronavirus tries so hard to dishearten people by separating us, but we as humans are smarter than that.

As I still look for a job, I have been trying to keep my sanity by doing some lutherie work. Actually, more repairs are being done on guitar amplifiers than on actual instruments, but it is all good, right? One thing that I have noticed in my search for repairable beginner stringed instruments is that people think that the damaged guitars, basses, mandolins and such are really buried treasures. Sure, a 1959 Fender Stratocaster that has structural and wiring concerns can still fetch over $1,000 because of its pedigree, but there is no reason that an acoustic guitar with a brand name of Magnum, Lotus, Rogue, or no name whatsoever should demand a high price.

I scan Craigslist ads as well as check eBay and other sources, and I am puzzled when I see a 30-year-old Magnum acoustic guitar that has seen better days with a price tag of $100.00! Seriously, a guitar like this did not sell for much more than that when it was new, probably has loads of nicks and scratches, even a crack or two, and the neck is most likely bowing like a hill. One thing that shows like “American Pickers” and “Antiques Roadshow” have done is get people to think that all of the junk they have in their garage is worth something. If I am going to spend 60 or 70 dollars on an acoustic guitar, I would rather go through a company like Glarry, where the guitar is new and has some type of warranty or guarantee with the manufacturer/distributor.

Advice: If you have one of these old acoustic guitars that you bought for your kid decades ago and he never took an interest, and it sat in the closet for 20 or more years, and it does NOT have the name of Martin, Gibson, or Guild on the headstock, it is most likely not worth more than 10 bucks. Go ahead and get it appraised, but there is a slim chance that it is worth something. Instead, sell it at a garage sale for a few bucks, so that either some other kid may try to play it, someone like me might be able to salvage it as playable and give to someone, or let someone else hang it on the wall.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Music Stores Musical Instruments

YouTube Find: Casino Guitars

Although I’m not the guitar nut that I was, say, 20 years ago, I still like to pick up different guitars, be they acoustic or electric, and strum away! Some things only a guitar enthusiast would understand goes on during this ritual, like the feel of the neck, the tone coming off of the body, and a few dozen other actions. Whether it is cars, motorcycles, beer cans, baseball memorabilia, or guitars, enthusiasts have a passion about something that the people around him do not quite understand.

That’s why I like these guys. Casino Guitars is a music store in North Carolina that is not just another Guitar Center. They treat the buying and selling of guitars like an adoption agency, which means that they REALLY love and care about guitars. The store has a YouTube page that is absolute entertainment. Two of the employees/owners(?) of the store (Baxter Clement and Jonathan Robinson) post a video about once a week to discuss guitars or rock/pop music in general.

When I first watched one of their videos, I thought that it looked like someone from Duck Dynasty talking guitar smack with Robert Smith from The Cure. They both look like guitar geeks somewhat, but also look like they would NEVER be in the same room together. However, as I got to listening to them, they were a lot like me. Not in looks or in presentation, but in passion for the guitar.

What is more likeable about Baxter and Jonathan is that they totally respect their fan base viewers. I’ve commented a number of times on their vlogs, whether it be praise, disagreement, or just to swipe a humorous insult. Sure enough, within a day or two, one of them will reply with a comeback or even a simple thanks for the suggestion. In short, they actually READ the comments, which 99% of YouTube vloggers do not. They make you feel like you are part of the conversation, and know that the people watching them are just like them – guitar enthusiasts.

Watching Baxter and Jonathan is like sitting in with them and talking guitars as well. Think of sitting around a music store that is welcoming, not a big-box place, and being able to BS about stuff we all love. The only thing missing is the bottle of bourbon to pass around (although I do have a rocks glass of Makers Mark close by).

Enough of the talk! I recommend that if you are into talking about guitars and guitar-oriented music, then check the Casino Guitars YT page and enjoy.

Chew on it and comment.

PS: Rest in Peace Alex Trebek and Sean Connery.

Categories
Musical Instruments

Quick Thoughts: 1. Rosa String Works; 2. Complaint About Gov. Whitmer

It’s Saturday morning, and I just remembered that I had a blog to post. My week has been busy caregiving my mom, maintaining her house, writing a few articles and looking for a job, so I forgot about this. So here’s a quick recommendation.

I mentioned the Rosa String Works YouTube channel in a previous post, but I highly recommend subscribing to the channel, or at the very least, checking in every few days. As a person that likes to do musical instrument repairs, Jerry gives some great home-style tips and advice. He videos some of his repairs, and talks to the audience in a very relaxing manner. It’s like sitting in the shop with your uncle or next-door neighbor and talking about mandolin repairs along with the weather and mowing the lawn.

Every one of his videos is magic. Whether he’s repairing a fiddle or the occasional non-musical instrument like his lawn tractor, Jerry has the answer for everything. I learn something new with every video. I also love that he has an assistant now, Caleb, who has the same Missouri drawl in his speech and is making some of the same helpful videos. There are also times when someone comes into the shop to test out a repared instrument and plays a tune for Jerry while he sits and listens. This is the down-home atmosphere that we all need these days while we are surrounded by fears of Coronavirus and riotous protests.

Check out some of his videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC29Dkc6-RMU8TCrloPN0Cbw

A few days ago, I was notified of the cancellation of the one remaining bluegrass festival here in southeast Michigan. It irritates me that the Coronavirus has made just about everyone nervous and on-edge to the point that every activity outside of watching TV is being cancelled. Yes, there are a number of virtual concerts online, and one bright side is that people stuck at home have been using downtime to learn a musical instrument.

However, I feel that we are being way too cautious in a lot of areas. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (as well as a few other state governors) have banned singing in church. Really? It was bad enough (and some could argue rightfully that it was unconstitutional) to close the churches in the first place. After opening and limiting attendance, something that has such meaning as singing hymnals can be banned? What is worse, the Archdiocese of Detroit (as well as other state dioceses) are cowering to the governor. When will the people of faith stand up for themselves and not allow an overzealous governor like Whitmer bully them out of their constitutional rights by using the Coronavirus as an excuse?

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
Musical Instruments

Lutherie: My Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Therapy

Last week a buddy asked me to check out a mandolin online that he was considering buying. I gave him the pros and cons, and he eventually passed on the deal due to the asking price for its condition. That got me motivated back into one of my old hobbies – basic lutherie, or stringed musical instrument repair, building and maintenance. Ever since my first bass guitar (a Magnum short-scale Jazz copy that I re-wired with a 3-band EQ), I’ve always loved working on guitars and other stringed instruments.

I could kick myself that I did not pursue that interest when I was younger. I always saw myself with a small guitar shop that people would come to try out my work and perhaps have jam sessions on a Friday night. But alas, I went the college route, got a degree that proved useless, and have bounced around at various white-collar jobs ever since.

However, I continued my love on a small scale throughout my life, repairing electric guitar electronics, minor amplifier jobs, building effects pedals, and stringed instrument setups/maintenance. After the above talk with my buddy, I got to thinking that, because of this stay-at-home virus situation, I should do some basic lutherie work again. All of my current instruments are in good shape, and as I have mostly acoustic instruments, there’s not a lot of electronic work to do.

I went on eBay and found a Rogue A-model mandolin that needed some work done on the back of the body. I bid on it, my highest price being something that I thought no one would come near as the mandolin’s shipping cost was pretty high. I won the auction, and the total cost came out to about what would be average – $41.95 – not a bargain, but not killing the wallet either.

The mandolin arrived a few days later via FedEx, and when opened, I got to see the actual damage. About 1/3 of the back had snapped out of its joining with the side, which made it look like either the back or the side was shaped wrong. Inspection showed that the glue joint was bad, very little glue was used, and the wood joints were dry. At first I thought that I would have to re-cut that part of the back and glue in a 2nd piece, making it look like something the Three Stooges would have built.

Fortunately, before I pulled out the tools, I wedged my fingers into the soundhole, flexed the back a bit, and it snapped back into place. I carefully removed that part of the back again, put in some hide glue, re-snapped it in, clamped it, and let it dry overnight. Voila! It held, and all that I have left is to clean off some glue residue, check for any rough spots on the finish around the repair site (it may need some sanding and re-laquering in spots), and re-install the bridge for set-up.

This has motivated me to go back to eBay, and the internet in general, to start looking for repairable guitars, mandolins, and violins. It’s not that I want to have an arsenal of low-end stringed instruments, no way! What I would like to do is repair them and make them available to kids that want to learn bluegrass and folk music on the cheap. Making a non-playable guitar playable again is an emotional reward. I don’t see me making even a part-time wage from this. And even this simple repair and maintenance stuff takes time and some money.

It has got me to thinking that perhaps I could help start some form of non-profit group that repairs string instruments and donates them to a charitable music organization such as Junior Appalachian Musicians, which helps teach music to kids (if you haven’t heard of this group, you need to check them out at www.jamkids.org). Or perhaps starting a JAM type group in my area (I have discussed this idea with the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association, as well as local multi-instrumentalist Aaron Jonah Lewis). Or at least do it on my own one instrument at a time. Hopefully some of the free time I have now can be used to research such an idea.

I would love to see young people in my area spend a lot less time by themselves in the basement playing XBox and more time with others (hopefully with a lot less social distancing) creating art and music. With technology taking over our everyday lives, now more than ever, I would hate to see creativity and socializing become a thing of the past.

Chew on it and comment.