bluegrass bass Musical Instruments

The $47.01 Bass Guitar

As many people know, I am always looking for a good bargain with musical instrument equipment. Bass guitars are probably top on my list, mainly because I have always loved playing the bass, and I love teaching bass to young students. I have posted a few blogs about using the electric bass in a bluegrass setting, so I really am conscious of finding inexpensive bass guitars for those interested in bluegrass bass.

About a month ago, I found a listing on eBay for a Glarry Burning Fire electric bass that a third party was selling overstock for about $40.00. Tax and all made it closer to $49.00, but I took a shot. About a week later, a small package arrived with the same USPS tracking number that was provided upon payment. The package turned out to be a pair of ladies underwear! I contacted eBay and PayPal, and fortunately, I got a full refund (and am stuck with some underwear !).

I knew that it was too good to be true. At least I got my money back, and all that it cost me was a little frustration. About two weeks ago, I was surfing the website for bass guitars. You can usually pick up a Chinese no-name P-bass for about $65.00, coming out to about $80.00 with shipping and tax. However, I did come across one ad that had a P-bass for $32.35! I wondered if I should take a chance. I have had decent luck with, the only problem being a long delivery time. With tax and shipping, the total cost was $47.01. I rolled the dice and took a chance.

A week later (a lot faster than usual shipments), the package was at the post office for me to pick up. And yes, it was a full-sized P-bass! I shook the box a little to hear if there were any broken parts (my previous experience with Glarry was that it was shipped with no packing material to cushion). OK, no noise, so let’s get it home!

To my surprise, it was packed really well, inside molded styrofoam and wrapped in semi-bubble wrap. Pulling it out of the package, I found it to be typical of the Chinese no-name basses – lightweight body (so the headstock tends to drop down if you are not holding the neck), mediocre tuning gears, fret ends needing some smoothing, and the neck feeling a bit rough on the back. I haven’t yet plugged it in to see if the pickup and controls work fine, and I’m figuring that the pickup will need to be adjusted for height. A good set up will make this a decent playable bass. For $47.01, it is well worth it!

A bit of learned information about this purchase was a lucky shot. Occasionally, the site will have sale prices, but you have to be in the right place at the right time. When checking on this same P-bass a few days ago, the price was back up to $68.00. They will also have items like cords, tuners, foot pedals, and practice amps sold at decent prices as well as the occasional deep-discount sale. But you have to be scanning every day. Again, the only real concern is shipping time, so if you were buying a Christmas present for someone, you would have to order it in early November to get a guarantee pre-holiday arrival.

Now getting a gig bag for this bass is another thing. Trying to find one less than $20.00 is near impossible, even on Which leads me to what I want to do with the bass. I already have four other basses, including a Chinese no-name P-bass. I will probably just get this new one set up, then sell it on Craigslist in the same packaging that it was shipped in.

I’m not sure how next weekend looks, as it is Christmas. Hopefully I will find the time to post some short note.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music Classical Music Musical Instruments

Hina Maeda/More YouTube Channels

First off, congratulations to Hina Maeda, the winner of the 16th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, which I covered more in last week’s blog ( Again, I could have never judged any of these amazing performers. However, I can fully understand why she was chosen — her dynamics in playing and her energy, as well as her true appreciation for Wieniawski’s work, the orchestra that backed her, and her love of the audience. I implore you to go to the Wieniawski Society’s channel and watch Hina as well as the many others that competed (

I don’t think that I ever mentioned Jeremy Sheppard “The Guitar Hunter” and his YouTube channel in one of my blogs before. So here it is! The guy has a passion for Martin guitars, but also covers other acoustic guitars, as well as visits luthiers in the Nashville area. He did some great videos of his visit to this past month’s IBMA World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh. I loved how he described bluegrass music as an “ox bow,: like an ox-bow body of water that has life in it, but is not the main part of a moving river. Check out his channel.

Another great YT channel is The Acoustic Shoppe. ( This channel is based on a music store in Missouri by the same name, run by members of the bluegrass band The Chapmans. They don’t record and tour like they used to years ago (I was a big fan), but the brothers still post videos of their performances at the store, as well as have well-known bluegrass artists, like Rhonda Vincent and The Isaacs, visit the store, talk, and perform on the channel. The best part of the channel is that these brothers have a great sense of humor. Besides slamming each other about playing skills, they post videos on how they test the strength of travel cases, and even a pseudo game show.

I kept this short, as it has been a busy week. Chew on it and comment.

Folk Music Musical Instruments

Hillsdale Fiddlers’ Convention/World’s Longest Garage Sale

Saturday I made my yearly trek to Hillsdale, about a two-hour drive from Detroit due west, to attend the annual Michigan Fiddlers Convention & Traditional Music Festival. Hillsdale has no interstate near by, so to get there, most of the travel is done on US-12/Michigan Avenue. That actually works out for the better, as this same day is the World’s Longest Garage Sale, in which there are hundreds of garage/yard/rummage sales along the two-lane highway from Saline to New Buffalo.

The weather was terrible to say the least at the festival. Previous day’s forecasts stated rain would come in the late afternoon. Well, the rain started as soon as I got to the fairgrounds. And it did not let up. The morning workshops were held in some of the outbuildings, but other events for the day were cancelled. Thus, I was only at the festival for a few hours.

Roger Plaxton teaches fingerstyle guitar at Hillsdale
Mike Gleason instructing fiddle improvisation at Hillsdale
Dave Langdon performing Michigan old-time fiddle tunes at Hillsdale

The rain let up a bit as I hit the road back home, which was to my benefit. I was able to stop at a few of the garage sales to see what junk was available. If I had the time and money, I would probably hunt at these sales every weekend and end up like Mike Wolfe on American Pickers. However, I pretty much narrow my scope to music-related items. This includes records/CDs, musical instruments, vintage stereo equipment, and music books/videos. Even so, I have to remember that space is limited at my mom’s house (I’m still moving stuff out of my house for eventual selling of the place).

It seemed that all of the guitars, violins, amplifiers, and stereo equipment was priced way out of touch. There were a lot of no-name electric guitars that were way overpriced. A Fender Squier Affinity Strat in an obvious used condition that the owner was asking $125.00 was passed on by me and a few others, since I know that a new version can be had at Guitar Center for a few bucks more. As I expected, there were no albums or CD that I was interested in.

I came across one tent that the man was selling a lot of music equipment. The amplifiers were about right for the price, but I am shying away from electric guitar equipment unless it is a really good bargain. I first grabbed some bluegrass-related music books for a dollar each, then saw that he had a Tascam DP-02CF 8-track digital recorder/mixer. As he didn’t have a power supply for it, I was able to negotiate to a selling price of $25.00. A power supply can be had for about $15.00 from eBay, and I already downloaded the owner’s manual from Tascam. So if this thing works, I got a great 8-track recorder for $40.00. If it doesn’t work, I am not out that much, considering that this thing sold for a few hundred bucks new.

Of course, the heavy rain in Hillsdale never made it to the Detroit area, so my garden didn’t get the watering it needed, and I am off to doing it myself. Saturday was also the Blissfield Bluegrass Festival, which is sponsored by the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Music Association. I would have attended, but they always seem to schedule it the same weekend as the Hillsdale fiddle festival, and I am committed to attending that, taking archival photos for the Michigan Old-Time Fiddle Association. I haven’t talked to anyone about Blissfield, but from looking at Saturday’s weather radar, it looks as if that event was hit heavily with rain as well. It is the chance any organizer takes when scheduling an outdoor event.

Last week’s Milan festival and this weekend’s Hillsdale festival were the only festivals I have been able to attend this summer due to a number of factors. Right now, the only other event scheduled for the rest of the year is the old-time fiddle contest in New Boston on October 3rd. It will be difficult to get back to the larger crowds for a lot of these minor events since the pandemic lockdowns have killed attendance. I try to find out what is out there and attend what I can. I hope that 2023 will be better for me and others. I am planning to attend the SPBGMA convention in Nashville in January, I am just waiting on exact dates.

In the meantime, I am going to see what demo I can record on the Tascam 8-track.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music Musical Instruments

Milan Bluegrass Festival 2022: Dave Adkins Tries Out the 2208

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Milan Bluegrass Festival. This year, the festival was extended to five days. I was planning on attending a few of the days, but because I screwed up my vacation time when I went to work for the law firm for two days, I was only able to go on Saturday. Also, due to family issues, I was only able to stay for the afternoon first sets fo the bands.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to attend was to meet up with Dave Adkins. He is a great guy, extremely friendly to his fans, and was happy to see me. He and I have worked with some of the same songwriters in the bluegrass field, so we exchanged a few thoughts on the people that we know. I also wanted him to try out the Sevillana 2208 acoustic guitar that was shipped to me a few weeks ago. As far as I know, the one that I have is the first one in the US, so I take pretty good care of it and definitely want to get it test-driven by as many musicians as possible.

Not only Dave, but his mandolin player Ari Silver and banjo player Zackary Vickers (both excellent guitar players in their own rite) took the 2208 for a spin. I was glad to see that all of them truly enjoyed playing the guitar. They loved the loudness (we were picking behind the stage while another band was performing, and you could still hear the 2208 clearly), the weight (which seems a little heavier and more solid than most dreadnoughts), and the craftsmanship that went into the guitar, especially the inlay work. Zackary must have played around with the guitar for at least 15 minutes, he was having a great time with it. Even Dustin Terpenning, banjo player for the band Crandall Creek, asked if he could take it for a spin and loved it as well!

Dave Adkins
Ari Silver
Zackary Vickers

I didn’t get a chance to have the 2208 tried out by any other musicians due to time constraints and band members busy with talking to their fan base. However, I was glad to get Dave and his band members’ feedback, which I will be sending back to Cherry at Deviser Guitars.

Other bands on the stage that afternoon was aforementioned Crandall Creek (sort of a family band persona, although they are not family). Breaking Grass (a very high-energy modern bluegrass band, with a hint of Dave Matthews Band thrown in), Rhonda Vincent and The Rage (always entertaining and good, wholesome traditional bluegrass), and Alex Miller (an American Idol contestant that is starting to make waves in the country music circuit), although I didn’t catch his act and had to leave early.

Milan is your typical bluegrass festival for bluegrass lovers. There’s not a lot of frills, just two sets of music from each band, and the fans appreciate the friendliness of the performers after the shows. I have said it before, one does not get that type of artist/fan interaction from any other music format like one can get from talking with members of a bluegrass band. And so many of them appreciate that you have a respect for them as well. Like bringing in a new guitar to try out, band members love to have their opinions asked for, especially on guitars, banjos and mandolins.

Next week’s blog may be late as well, since I will be heading to Hillsdale on Saturday for the Michigan Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. There is nothing like live music.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Stores Musical Instruments

My First Real Guitar!

At my place of employment, there are a few other musicians and music lovers. One guy plays death/speed metal guitar in a band that has a decent local following, but when we talk, we are usually discussing guitars and equipment and not the music.

Our conversation one day came around to our first guitar that was decent in name brand and playability. I brought up my first axe, which was a Fender Squier Bullet. This was a step above the other Bullet models that Fender was putting out at the time (about 1987). The body was more solid, a Strat-style neck, but also looked very 1980s, with that hair-metal pickup configuration of two single coils and a humbucker.

Strange enough, I actually still own that guitar. Wile at least a dozen other electric guitars have passed through my ownership, that one has remained. Starting out as my main (only) guitar, it moved to back-up when I secured a Fender MIK Telecaster. Soon the frets began to pop out of their grooves, and rather than repair or sell it, I put it back into its case and let it sleep for now 20+ years.

My co-worker asked me to take a photo of it so he could see it, and I obliged. Pulling that old brown case out from the closet was a struggle in itself, as it was buried under a few suitcases and other junk. However, once I opened it, the memories came back. It still has the 1980s charm to it, and there was still some Scotch tape remnants where I put a photo of one of my girlfriends from back them. I cannot even remember who that girl was. I also remember that this guitar was a victim of an early guitar modification. I tapped the humbucker with a grounding switch so that I could have a pseudo single coil pickup in the treble position. I can’t remember if there were originally three control knobs on it or if I installed a third control for tone or volume – the configuration looks too weird for Fender’s design. Of course, it did have a vibrato bridge. If I remember correctly (I still haven’t plugged it in to check it out), the single coil pickups that were installed were not too much Fender sounding, so playing surf music on it didn’t have the same tone.

This was my first decent electric guitar. Before this, I had been playing bass in bands, and I was finding out that, to get my songs out there, I needed to form a band with which I was the next Joe Strummer. I couldn’t afford much, and was still keen on playing bass if need be. I purchased this Bullet from Wonderland Music in Dearborn, MI, which has long since closed down due to competition from Guitar Center. Back in the 1980s, Wonderland was THEEE music store in the Detroit area. Crazy Clarence would have sales three or four times each year so that you could get cheap guitar strings, and the craziest television commercials!

If you don’t know who Tony Bacon is, he is a world-renowned guitar historian. He has put out books on Fender, Gibson, Martin, Rickenbacker, and other top-name guitar companies. He also put out a comprehensive book on the history of the Squier brand (Squier Electrics: 30 Years of Fender’s Budget Guitar Brand, ISBN 978-61713-022-9). Unfortunately, there is no information on this particular Bullet in the book. In my years of floating around at shows, music stores, and guitar shows, I have only seen one other Bullet like this, and it was in black (mine is white). I find it strange that there are not a lot of relics out there of this model, as it proved (at least to me) that it was a quality guitar for the price. I have noticed that over the past few years, Fender has upped its game on the Squier brand, producing some high-quality models coming out of Asia that can compete with its Fender models at a more affordable price.

Upon looking at this old girl, perhaps for sentimental reasons, I may take it to a professional guitar repair person and have it re-fretted. I know that I will never sell it, but it may be nice to have and play occasionally in the basement to bring back memories.

Chew on it and comment.

Musical Instruments

It’s a “Mini Me” Guitar!

Another short but sweet blog.

A few days ago, I received an email advertisement from a novelty company called Axe Heaven Store ( This is a company that makes miniature copies of famous guitars, including ones used by Slash, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. The advertisement sent to me was showing the store’s recent addition: a copy of a B.C. Rich Warlock model used by a character on the Netflix television show Stranger Things.

Not my cup of tea, but the thing does look professionally made, not some mass-produced piece of crap. I decided to check out the website, and along with dozens of rock-oriented miniature guitars (and even drum kits), they have a few acoustic related miniatures. There are a few D-28-style guitars, a banjo, and a mandolin! Unfortunately, these seem a bit more amateurish in manufacturing, although the Gibson Hummingbird does look like they put the time in to making it look realistic. By the looks of things, Gibson may have a licensing deal with Axe Heaven.

I would love to see a miniature replica of Bill Monroe’s road-beaten F-5 mandolin, or perhaps a true, more to realistic miniature of Earl Scruggs’ Gibson Grenada, or maybe even Jerry Douglas’ Signature Beard dobro. I would consider buying one of thise and putting it on my desk at work instead of a family photo (since I really don’t have a family).

I leave you with a great guitar face off recorded a few years ago with Josh Williams, Andy Falco, and Chris Eldridge.

Chew on it and comment.

Musical Instruments

Guitar Straps: That’s Why I Make My Own

This past week at the Songwriters Anonymous meeting, I was listening to a conversation between two other members. One was talking up a storm about his new leather guitar strap that someone in Ohio made for him that was emblazoned with his nickname. When asked how much it cost, the reply was $200.00. The other person walked away, saying, “I’ll just stick with my Fender one.”

You have to figure, for $200.00, one could actually buy a decent back-up guitar, or a decent beginner mandolin, or a good electric guitar effects pedal (or two), let alone cover the high cost of gasoline and food these days. One can get a cheap woven/vinyl adjustable guitar strap for about $10.00 these days. However, I have never had good long-term luck with those, being that they wear out quickly, and if the vinyl should come in long-term contact with a guitar finish, it can actually damage it.

My first true leather strap that I purchase probably 30+ years ago cost about $25.00. It was pretty basic, no frills or stitching, but it was better than the woven/vinyl types. I put some strap locks on it, and after a while, I noticed that the weight of the locks along with the guitar was tearing the leather to uselessness. The leather was pretty thin, and I saw that real quality leather straps were twice as thick, but they were at least $50.00, a lot at that time for me.

At the same time, I was also doing Civil War reenacting. At an event that I attended which had a number of different time periods participating (Civil War, Native American, French & Indian War, War of 1812, etc.), one of the sutlers there (sutlers are people that sell period clothing and accessories for the reenactors) that catered to Colonial America reenactors was selling large pieces of leather hides, which many use to make leather accessories such as pouches or moccasins. It gave me an idea, and I purchased a few long pieces for a decent price.

When I got back home, I traced one of my thin leather guitar straps on a sheet of cardboard, then cut that template out and used it to trace and cut out straps from this thicker leather. From the original pieces that I bought then, I probably made about 10 leather straps with a cost of less than $10.00 each. Since then, I have kept an eye out for bargain leather remnants at other events or on eBay to continue to make more straps. I have even kept the sizeable scraps for end pieces on my mandolin straps (I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but I have learned to weave leather laces to make mandolin straps, which I sell on Craigslist). I have my own leather straps on all of my guitars, banjo, and mandolins, and have given other out as gifts and even sold a few.

My first strap is still with me after about 30 years. It holds up my Martin D-28, and shows its age with a number of scuffs and sweat marks. However, it still does the job, and has probably outlasted 10 or more cheaper straps. I’m not willing to pay a high price for something that I can make myself for a lot less cost with the satisfaction that I did make it myself.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Music Musical Instruments

Yes, It Is Time To Sell Some Music Stuff

Yes, I have to face the facts. In my 20s, 30s, and even into my 40s, I was obsessed with making music. Thus, my house was full of musical instruments and recording equipment. At one time, I had about 30 guitars and basses, along with a few mandolins, a banjo, and a dobro. The fiddle came later, after the guitar count went down by way of selling, trading, and theft.

Look, I’m 57 now, a diabetic, overweight, a bit arthritic, and my knees aren’t in the best of shape. I don’t see myself hitting the stage of some dive bar banging my Stratocaster through my Twin Reverb amp playing with others who are in the same questionable shape, to an audience that would rather drink than listen to us. While my listening tastes have not changed much over the past 40 years, my playing tastes have dwindled considerably.

It hit me a few days ago. My blog last week talked about the baritone guitar that I built from an old Fender Squier Telecaster. I pulled the guitar out of the closet and plucked around on it for a few minutes. I realized that I am never going to play it again other than what I was doing then and there. Why should I have this thing gather even more dust when I’m now trying to clean out my house for sale as well as take a load off of my mind?

I looked around the house at other equipment that I have. Lots of vintage recording equipment. I’ll never use it again, as I have no desire to be in a rock band nor record one. Everyone is going digital anyway, and I use a small digital 4-track for my demos. At the time I bought it, the Tascam 238 8-track Syncaset was the go-to recorder for making decent band demos. I also have a Fostex 12-channel mixer and patch cords galore. Maybe someone out the is interested in that vintage stuff.

A couple of amplifiers that I have are worth something. The already-mentioned Fender Twin Reverb from the mid-70s is still sought after by guitar tone freaks, as well as a super-vintage Ampeg V4 head. I got them both at reasonable prices, so I should be able to make some money getting rid of them.

I also have a few old Kustom roll-n-tuck amps and speaker cabinets from the late 60s. I was totally into the Kustom stuff years ago. I sold a few things off, but it’s time to rid myself of the rest.

I’ve been only playing bluegrass these past few years, and even then, mostly songwriting. I ‘ve jammed a few times with others, but I have lost interest in being in an actual bluegrass band. As a songwriter, I am interested in hearing my work performed. However, most bluegrass musicians tend to want to just play the same 20 standard songs.

I have a lot of acoustic instruments, especially guitars. I have bought a few of them to do lutherie work on, and will probably sell them off much later in time. I do want to keep some PA equipment, at least a small set-up and some microphones, just in case I get called to do a sound job or plan to do a show. And I have always been and still am a vintage microphone collector, so the ones that I have will be sticking around for a while.

It will take some time to sort through the stuff, and it will be hard parting with some of it, but it is time for this to happen. I may do a spring garage sale, who knows? I do know that it is a crap shoot running ads on Craigslist. I am currently selling a student violin that I repaired for $70, and one person offered me $20. Heck, I invested more than that in repair parts! I have had some good luck with CL, but also some idiots wasting my time (the same violin, one woman wanted to buy it for her kid, and as I was driving in the snow to meet up with her, she texted me to say she changed her mind).

I’ll have to self-appraise the stuff before I sell it, and that will take time as well. If you do check out the Detroit Craigslist site and see someone selling in the “Dearborn/Hamtramck” area, most likely it is me. Hey, if you are interested, contact me and perhaps we can work something out. I’m actually selling a lot of non-musical stuff as well.

Chew on it and comment.

Musical Instruments

Do You REALLY Need a Baritone Guitar?

Maybe it is the algorithms, but this past week when I logged onto YouTube, I was blasted with dozens of videos from the guitar bloggers (including Casino Guitars) about baritone guitars. The good, the bad, the prices, the uses, the history, and more. Why all of a sudden this interest in the baritone guitar, especially the electric ones?

While I don’t follow today’s harder rock music, from what I learned, a lot of these punk, death metal, and other hardcore sounding bands are using the baritone guitar to get that deep grungy sound to go with the bowels-of-hell vocals. Where 7-string electrics were the thing a decade or two ago (with a low B string), these bands want even lower sounds to quake the stage and eardrums.

A little history. The baritone guitar began to gain interest with popular music back in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Danelectro was the main manufacturer. Guitarslinger Duane Eddy used one on a number of his songs, and they were also used in Nashville to copy the bass lines of songs by artists such as Pasty Cline and Jim Reeves (where it was commonly referred to as a “tic-tac” bass).

As for rock music, its use was sporadic to say the least. Two classic rock songs that have a prominent baritone guitar sound are The Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” and Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle.” These two songs featured the Fender Bass VI, which was also occasionally used by Cream’s Jack Bruce.

Baritone guitars made a slight comeback in the 1980s with a few of the neo-traditional country artists. A great example is Pete Anderson taking a lead on one with Dwight Yoakam’s “Little Ways.” During this time, Jerry Jones Guitars was producing replicas of the Danelectro baritone guitars, as well as a few original styles. Alt-country bands in the 1990s and 2000s were also implementing the baritone into some of their music, such as Dave Alvin with the reunion of The Knitters.

However, it never achieved a common guitar status. This is probably because of the specifications of the guitar. The neck scale is anywhere form 26 to 30 inches, and the string configuration is usually tuned down a fourth from B-to-B or a fifth from A-to-A. Picking a note on one of these with normal guitar pickups gives a springy, clunky sound that is somewhere between the regular guitar and a bass guitar. It has its unique sound, but playing a chord on one of these sounds horrible (at least to many).

Then we have today, where those metal-style bands WANT that earth-shaking low-end sound of distorted chords from a baritone guitar. To each his/her own, but I value my hearing, as well as my sanity.

This leads to the modern production of baritone guitars. Fender stopped producing the Bass VI years ago, but has now come out with the Squier Paranormal Carbonita Telecaster Baritone Guitar. Other manufacturers include ESP, Jackson, Reverend, and still Danelectro. Other than the Dan-o models, these are definitely geared to that metal crowd. They also range in price from $450 to $2,100 (on the Sweetwater website).
So would you consider paying at least $450 for a guitar that is not much more than a novelty? I guess if you have money to burn, then burn away. However, even when I was playing in roots-rock and alt-country bands 20+ years ago, I can only think of a few times when I wished that I had a baritone guitar. Fortunately for me, I was able to find an alternative.

About 20 or so years ago, Guitar Player put out an issue highlighting baritone guitars. This was about the time Jerry Jones started putting out its Dan-o copies, and they were getting great reviews for a short time. One article in that issue, however, caught my attention. It discussed creating your own baritone guitar from a regular electric guitar.

I went out and bought a cheap used Squier Telecaster, which has a 25.5-inch scale (just an inch or so less than a regular baritone) for about $100, and got to work. Work entailed filing the nut slots a bit as well as filing a little larger string hole at the tailpiece where the low E string resides. I used medium-gauge electric guitar strings but only used the thicker five strings. For the sixth string, I used a D string for a short-scale electric bass (this was why I filed a larger hole in the tailpiece). After re-setting the intonation, I had a decent baritone guitar! The Tele pickups gave it a bit of the old-school Dan-o sound.

I used it on a few recordings for other bands, and a few more people had borrowed it for use on their recordings. Basically, I saved hundreds of dollars. I still have that thing buried in my closet, and I doubt that it will ever be used again except to plunk around with at home.

The thing is, these guitars are not going to be used all of the time. I am not sure that even the metal bands will continue to use them as a rhythm guitar alternative for a long time. As for the original use in country music, they are a once-in-a-while flavor. Even use live with a country or Americana band would mean a one- or two-song change or perhaps a third guitarist (along with the rhythm and lead guitars).

My advice: don’t go out and buy one unless you have the money to spare, or are really serious about using it regularly in the studio or on stage. If you want to try a novel guitar project, convert one like I did for a lot less money.

Chew on it and comment.

Musical Instruments Musicians

Musicians Gifts from Non-Musicians

Last year, Baxter and Jonathan of Casino Guitars put up a video debating what are good and bad gifts for someone to give a guitar player for Christmas. They were talking accessories, not buying the guitars themselves (who wouldn’t love having a relative or friend buying him/her a Fender Strat or Martin acoustic for a gift?).

Overall, they were comically correct. However, I did disagree with them on one item – the guitar pick maker. They called it the worst gift to give. While it isn’t the greatest musical item to give, it does serve a great purpose. First off, rather than throwing out those expired credit cards and fake ones that companies like Xfinity send through the mail, you can cut the waste in half by making four picks out of a normal-sized credit card. Then you can quickly sand the edges and you have some picks that cost you nothing. The maker will pay for itself after a month or two. Also, if you have some moocher asking you for a guitar pick, you can give him one of the credit-card ones and keep the good ones for yourself.

This leads to a thought that I have had for years. If there is a musician in the family, be it son, daughter, husband, wife or other, and you really care about them as well as know his/her love of music, be a bit more learned about his/her passion. My father (God rest his soul) used to buy me loads of cassettes and CDs from the dollar store because he knew that I loved music. However, there was a reason these albums were at the dollar store – it is crappy music.

Now I admit that if I’m at the dollar store and see a bin full of CDs, I will definitely check it out. I remember snagging a half dozen CDs by NRBQ (one of my favorite all-time bands) and giving them out to people. However, 99.9% of the time, it is music that I have absolutely no interest in.

Now I will only get into stringed instruments here. However, I am sure that keyboard players, woodwind and brass players, and percussionists have similar paths that are followed.

There are some things that stringed musicians always appreciate: strings. Just make sure that you are purchasing strings that the musician can and will use. Don’t buy electric guitar strings for an acoustic guitarist, tenor banjo strings for a five-string banjo player, or electric bass strings for an upright bassist. Even if it is not the exact brand that the musician prefers, he/she will appreciate that you considered the correct instrument.

Picks: These are a lot more personal than even strings. Everyone has seen the bargain ads on Wish and eBay of a box of 1,000 guitar picks for a reasonable price. However, the picks vary in thickness, and unless the musician is one who uses thick picks on guitar, thin picks on mandolin, etc., most of them will never be used. Instead, get to know the particular pick used, and buy a dozen of those instead. Banjo and dobro players are very particular about the finger and thumb picks that they use, so if considering a purchase, really get to know what brand is preferred.

Clip-on tuners: These are a Godsend, especially if you can have one in each instrument case. They are becoming affordable, as low as $10.00, and they are now being made to tune other instruments besides guitar (bass, ukulele, violin) as well as tune chromatically. Also, musicians never fail to lose or misplace them, so having an extra one around is great.

Instructional books/videos: This is a really shaky area for gift giving. If you have a musician who has been playing for a dozen years in a number of bands, you wouldn’t want to give them a copy of Let’s Learn to Play Guitar, Volume 1. However, if the young one has just gotten a guitar as a gift and doesn’t know where to start, that would be the perfect present. This line of accessories has lost a lot of marketability with the rise of YouTube and online lessons, but it is still viable. Here is another area where I am open to if it is a bargain. While I may not pay the full $29.95 for a video on playing heavy metal guitar, I would most likely pick it up if I saw it at a rummage sale or used book store for a dollar or two. My theory on that is, even though I am not into heavy metal guitar playing, I may learn a thing or two about technique that I could translate into my bluegrass guitar playing. Moreover, I can always pass it along to someone that is starting to learn electric guitar.

Guitar polishes and cloths: This is something that a lot of musicians do not consider but truly appreciate if gifted to them. Guitars, basses, mandolins, fiddles, and other stringed instruments get dirty from sweat and hand grime over months of use, and musicians tend to forget that part of maintenance. Besides the body needing cleaning, fretboard and fingerboard cleaners are appreciated. This is an area that one would want to talk to a guitar repairperson or at least do some online research.

Other accessories: Case humidifiers, rosin and shoulder rests (for fiddlers), string winders, musicians tools (like the Roadie Rench), velcro cable ties (found at dollar and discount stores), and even maybe a metronome are bound to be used eventually. If it means sitting down for a few minutes to ask the musician what he/she needs as far as “the little things” and putting it down on a list, the next time there is a gift-giving situation, there will be smiles and not embarrassment.

Chew on it and comment. And pray for the people of Canada.