Monday, August 29, 2011

Hercules GSP38WB Guitar Hangers

Good day!

Now that I have a dedicated rehearsal space, I decided that it was time to install wall mounts so my guitars and basses could be more accessible. Over the years I have tried a few different brands, and I feel most secure with Hercules wall hangers.

I have heard arguments before and against keeping guitars hung up instead of storing them in cases. I am convinced that my instruments are not harmed by being stored this way, and as there is limited access to my rehearsal area, I am not too worried about incidental damage occurring.

If a guitar is out it is more likely to be played, and that is a good thing in my book.

There are many options out there if you want to buy guitar hangers, and I have even seen arguments from guys on Talkbass that you can buy 99-cent generic hooks at Home Depot that work just as well. More power to them, and when their necks get scratched or discolored, or their guitar falls off the wall I am sure that there will be plenty of solace in the fact that they saved 10 or 15 bucks.

There are a few reasons that I chose the Hercules hangers:

1. The yoke swivels so that guitars, basses or ukuleles hang straight, despite their headstock shape.

2. There are built-in jaws that automatically come down to hold the guitar in place. They instantly pop back up when you lift the guitar to remove it from the hanger.

3.The yokes are covered with specially-formulated foam that is not supposed to react with sensitive finishes.

4. They are sturdy.

5. They look nice…

Hercules recommends mounting these hangers to a stud, or using proper wall anchors. They include some pretty cheap plastic wall anchors and screws, and had I chosen that route I would have bought nicer ones to use instead. But, I went for the gusto and screwed mine directly into the studs with 2.5-inch screws. These things are not going anywhere.

These Hercules hangers have a list price of $31.95, but I found them online for a little over $20. They are the best and are worth every penny. If you choose to go with something cheaper you are fooling yourself, and don’t come crying to me when your guitar hits the floor.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Long Beach BuskerFest Tonight!

Buenos dias, amigos!

If you are looking for some good times (for free!) tonight, you should head to downtown Long Beach for BuskerFest 2011.

This is the third time around for BuskerFest, which will be held on three stake-bed truck stages near 1st Street and Linden. These unplugged shows will kick off at 5:00PM with the Pawnshop Kings, Jay Buchanan and Korey Dane playing on the different stages. After this, the competition starts and eleven (I think) groups will perform 30 minute sets to compete for the $2500 recording session prize.

Don’t forget to vote for my personal favorite, Goodfellas…

After the competition, headline acts are Everest and Matt Vasquez will play shows from around 8:45PM. The streets will be closed so there will be plenty of dancing room, and it should be a friendly crowd.

There are plenty of great places to eat downtown, there is plenty of parking (or you can take the Blue Line), so why not grab your friends and head out for some good time?

You can find the full schedule of bands, a map and other details at


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kala KC-02 Clip-on Ukulele Tuner


I got my Kala KC-02 clip-on ukulele tuner for free when I bought a ukulele, and it is not a bad product. But, after working with it awhile I would not purchase another because it is not very versatile nor is it the best value for the money.

It is a basic tuner that works like many other products on the market (they are probably all made by the same company). It clips to the headstock and uses vibrations from the instrument to display whether the instrument is in tune. Unlike some other tuners out there it does not have a built-in microphone, so it has to be clipped to the instrument to work.

Operation is very simple – there is one button on the front that is pressed to turn the unit ON or OFF, and if the button is held it can be switched between C tuning, D tuning or Chromatic (meaning you can tune other instruments besides ukes).

The notes is displayed on the LCD screen along with a needle showing how close the string is to being in tune. When the pitch is correct, the needle swings to the 12 o’clock position, and the display tunes from blue to green. Simple, huh?

It is well-enough made. The clip is rubber-coated so it will not scratch the finish on your ukulele, and the case is rubberized plastic so it does not feel too cheap. It uses some sort of large flat battery, and I shudder to think how much it will cost when it comes time to replace it.

I compared it to another cheap-ass tuner that I got for free (O’ahu brand – it looks almost identical), and they both seemed to provide the same readings. So the thing is consistent, at least.

But I am not sure that it is very accurate. There are other tuners in this price range that are adjustable, and that moves them ahead of the Kala on my list. And to take it a step further, there are $15 tuners (like the Snark) that are adjustable AND have a built-in microphone AND a metronome.

The Kala KC-02 tuner has a suggested retail price of $24.99, and a street price of about $16.00. Due to its Spartan array of features I would be hard-pressed to recommend it, especially when you consider the better options out there.

Stay tuned for my review of the Snark SN-1 tuner.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fender Custom Shop Custom Classic Stratocaster


Wow! I am afraid to play this guitar because I am afraid of sullying its pristine beauty. That does not happen very often.

Today we are looking at a stunning Fender Custom Classic Stratocaster, which is their Custom Shop’s version of the American Series Stratocaster. It is finished in Red Sparkle (a special order color) over its alder body, and it was completed in June 2011.

The neck is perfect -- really. It was carved from a tastefully-figured chunk of maple and has a polished satin urethane finish. It has a not too chunky C shape, a 9.5-inch fretboard radius and 22 medium jumbo frets that are finished very nicely. I have never had a more comfy neck on a Stratocaster.

The top shelf hardware is nickel/chrome plated, and includes Fender/Schaller sealed tuners with staggered posts and a 2-point synchronized tremolo with polished solid stainless steel saddles and a solid steel spring block. These deluxe parts seem heavier than normal, and are probably one of the reasons that this Strat comes in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces.

The electronics include 3 Modern Classic single-coil pickups, including a Hot Classic with a custom steel inductance plate at the bridge position. Whatever that means. What it means to me is that they have a warm Stratocaster tone with little noise, but can still have a lot of bite if needed (but are not brittle or nasty).

And, just look at this thing! Sparkle Red is to die for and I challenge you to find another guitar that looks this sexy and plays this well.

This guitar came with a really bitchin’ G&G case with the Fender Custom Shop logo embroidered under the lid. The Custom Shop also includes a nice wad of case candy, including a strap, strap locks, a nice cord, a polish cloth, manuals and the certificate of authenticity. I would expect no less, because these guitars are spendy with a list price of 2452 bucks, and a street price of $1999.

But, if you are interested, hit me up. I can do a bit better than the street price on this one…


Thursday, August 18, 2011

2004 MusicMan Stingray 4 Bass


Today we are looking at one of the few basses that I currently have that is equipped with active electronics: a 2004 Ernie Ball MusicMan Stingray bass.

In case your head has been stuck in the sand for the last 35 years, the Stingray bass was designed by Leo Fender and was introduced in 1976. It has a Precision Bass body shape, and the neck profile and nut width are just about the same too.

It was initially available only as a 4-string with a single humbucker pickup, a two band equalizer, and active electronics. The Stingray was one of the earliest production basses with an active pre-amp, if not the first. This gave it more output and a more aggressive sound than the competition.

The MusicMan brand was bought by the Ernie Ball company in 1984, and since then there has been a continually evolution of the Stingray, including: contoured bodies, stronger neck joints, improved truss rod access, and different EQ and pickup configurations (including a piezo). Also, the necks on most basses are finished in gunstock oil and wax, while the classic models have a poly finish on the neck.

This one was made in 2004, so it has all of these improvements including the 3-band equalizer, though it retains the single humbucker pickup configuration. It is all original, except for the pickguard (originally black, new tort, back to black again). I do love black basses with tort guards, though…

I got it from a guy on Talkbass, and the only gripes I have about it are things that he did not bother to tell me about, like a nasty ding on the edge of the fretboard at the second fret. That and that he was stupid enough to put the spare pickguard in the case so that it would rub again the paint on the back of the body for its trip across the country to me.

Aside from that, it plays very well, and sounds great with roundwound strings. I have been playing P basses with flats lately, and it took some adjusting to go back to an active bass with rounds.

Amazingly, seven years later the frets are still level with nice edges, and just show a little wear. I have been reborn and now enjoy fatter necks, so this one feels very natural to me (as long as I remember not to catch my hand on that nasty aforementioned ding).

It is a bit stout, coming in at about 10.5 pounds, but I am willing to put up with it because it is a nice bass. Apparently I am still a MusicMan fan boy.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011 Forums

Sugoi! is an internet monster and, strangely enough, I had never even heard of it until a few years ago. This is a shame, because it is a great place to find anything related to the bass, either electric or upright.

I cannot figure out why I did not know about it, as it has been around since 1998-- it is not like I have been avoiding the internet…

Talkbass has something for every bass player: there are general forums to discuss the state of the instrument, as well as dedicated forums for parts, strings, accessories, effects, and repair hints. There are also forums to discuss technique, recording, live sound and management.

If you are looking for gear, there are classified ads for basses, amplifiers and effects(with oodles of listings) and sponsored forums with special deals for Talkbass members.

My mind is always boggled by the amount of traffic on this web site. As of today, has:

178,492 members

703,194 threads

10,379,774 posts (more than 10,000 per day are added)

Talkbass is run well, and the moderators do a good job of trying to keep things civil, but I just cannot go there very often. And the reason why is not unique to this site – I have a hard time accepting the amount of meanness and hatred that people enjoy posting on the internet. Just check the reader comments on ANY news article posted on the internet if you do not know what I mean. It scares me if I think about it for too long.

Sometimes even the most innocent threads can eventually degenerate in political diatribes, name-calling and ugliness, forcing the moderators to close them. Some people just seem to relish in putting other people down and goofing on them and their equipment. These folks are generally make huge numbers of posts, and I have to think that if you have the time to make 10,000 (or more) posts…

… maybe you are not spending enough time playing your bass.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stewart MacDonald Guitar Supply

Como estas?

If you like working on guitars, or if you just enjoy woodworking, you have check out Stewart-MacDonald of Athens, Ohio. They have been selling guitar parts and luthier’s tools for over 40 years, and are the best in the business.

I first found about Stew-Mac when I needed to find some grabber strap buttons for a Kubicki bass, and The Man recommended that I check with them. They had them, and pretty much every part I have needed since then. They carry OEM parts for both electric and acoustic guitars, as well as a panoply of bodies, necks, pickups, bridges and tuners in case you want to build your own guitar.

Stewart-MacDonald also has every tool you will need to build or set-up your own guitar, rewind your pickups or replace worn out frets. For example, they carry files for every application, including ones for nut work and cleaning up sharp fret edges. If you need it, they have it.

If you are still learning guitar repair or set-up, they also have sell plenty of how-to books. My favorite is Dan Erlewine’s How to Make your Electric Guitar Play Great!. Every guitarist should have a copy of this, even if they don’t ever plan on working on an instrument. It gives a lot of insight into why guitars play the way they do, and how minor adjustments can change the way they play. It is $20 well spent.

There are also juicy repair hints on the website in the “Trade Secrets” section. I am on their mailing list so I get the Trade Secrets newsletter via e-mail, and there are lots of clever tips on improvising tools and repair solutions.

Go to and see what they have to offer!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

1980 Aria Pro II Les Paul Copy


This Les Paul copy is a mongrel and a one-trick pony, but it does a pretty good trick. That trick would be sounding like a Gibson Zakk Wylde Les Paul and nailing that Black Label Society tone.

First off, this is a 1980 Aria Les Paul that was made in Japan, but I do not consider it a “lawsuit” guitar, as it does not really have the Gibson headstock shape. But it is still a very good quality copy, and a terrific player.

This Aria is appointed like a Les Paul Custom, with triple binding and gold hardware galore. It is a set-neck guitar (most Arias I have seen had bolt-on necks), with a pancake body and a thick cap. It has an ebony fretboard with pearloid trapezoidal inlays.

There have been a few modifications to it over the years with the goal of making it a better player. Vintage Grover tuners (a direct replacement) were installed as an improvement over the no-name original equipment heads, and Joe Glaser installed a new bone nut.

This guitar plays very well, and the original frets are still in great shape and I was able to get a very low action with no buzzing. I would say the neck has more of the baseball bat 1950s feel to it, which is my preferred profile. It is not too bad on the back, weighing in at around 10 pounds, which is ok for a non-chambered Les Paul.

But the electronics package is what turned this old Aria into a metal machine. When I bought it somebody had already installed a set of Zakk Wylde EMG-ZW pickups: an 81 at the bridge and an 85 at the neck. It was wired like crap and had a lot of hum when I got it, so I went through it and put in new pots and it was ready to go.

And it sounds exactly like the Gibson Custom Shop Zakk Wylde model that I used to own, for about 1/6 the investment. It has a metric ton of output and is the crunchiest guitar I have ever owned. It does not work as well for conventional rock or country, but it does exactly what it is supposed to do.

So, if you like the Zakk Wylde sound you too can get it in a playable guitar for not too much cash, as long as you are not too hung up on brand names.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Martin D-18V Guitar


I have tried the rest and finally bought the acoustic guitar I wished I had never sold, a Martin D-18V. This model perfectly captures the look and sound of an old Martin dreadnought, and I cannot believe I sold the last one that I was lucky enough to own.

A lot of folks like the simpler appointments and throwback look of older guitar models, so the wise heads at Martin introduced the vintage series of guitars which have these classic looks and features and are ready to play right out of the box.

This D-18V has plenty of vintage styling cues, including the rosette, headstock shape, pick guard, hardware (little bean tuners!), fretboard markers and neck profile. The vintage-ness carries over to its construction, with scalloped braces (light strings, please) and top bracing that is more forward than the regular D-18.

This Martin has a solid sitka spruce top, and solid mahogany sides and back. Note that the vintage series gets a nicely aged finish that is very thin. I am not fond of the newer Martins with really light colored tops, so the vintage tint brings the whole look together for me. The fretboard and bridge are made of ebony – good look finding that on a regular D-18.

The neck is fabulous, with great workmanship on the frets and fingerboard. The neck has a comfortable V shape to it, and the width at the nut is 1 & 11/16 inches.

This specific guitar is a 2008 model that was made during Martin’s 175th anniversary. It has a few light dings, probably because the finish is so thin, but I would not have it any other way. I think thick finishes really hurt the tone of acoustic guitars.

And the tone is what draws me back to the D-18V. I love the look and feel of the D-28, but I prefer the tone of mahogany, not rosewood. Also, the scalloped (and more forward) bracing gives the D-18V a fuller sound, making this the perfect guitar for me -- especially when I consider the classic vintage look of this thing.

These guitars are not terribly cheap, of course. The list price is $3349, with a street price of $2499, but you get what you pay for, and what you are paying for here is one of the best mass-production dreadnoughts around. By the way, I recently went on the Martin factory tour and got to see first-hand the care that goes into building these guitars, and it made me proud to own one.

It is good to have this guitar back in my stable, and hopefully I have wised up a bit, and will keep onto this Martin and not be distracted the newest, greatest thing that pulls into town. Hope springs eternal.

Oh yeah, and now I need to find a J-45. You got a line on one, Corey?


Monday, August 8, 2011

Mariachi El Bronx Show at La Cita Bar in Los Angeles, California


I had the good fortune of scoring tix to the Mariachi El Bronx record release party at La Cita last Wednesday, and it was a hoot. I don’t write a concert review very often, but I will give it a shot.

La Cita Bar is not a huge place, and the event was sold out, so they closed the bar down, and started letting ticket holders in around 10:00. The bartenders did an impressive job of keeping up with the crowd, and there was a real positive vibe in the place.

There was not a big wait before the opening act, which was the duo of Zander Schloss and Sean Wheeler. This was an acoustic set with Schloss on guitar and vocals and Wheeler on lead vocals, and my god they were awesome. I will have to buy their album, Walk Thee Invisible and write a review.

As I said, it is a small venue, and once the show started everybody from the patio moved inside so it got a little crowded. The stage is also small, and it was packed too but despite the closed spaces it was a great show.

Matt Caughthran is a great frontman, and kept the show moving, and all of the performers seemed comfortable in their roles, which are a bit of a departure from their punk rock roots. BTW, I love the way Matt phrases the English lyrics so they fit in perfectly with the traditional mariachi (norteno, maybe?) sound. One noticeable difference from the usual mariachi performance was the intense drumming of Jorna Vik. He kicked ass and brought the music to a whole new level. Me gusta!

I apologize that I have not included any live pics. It was pretty crowded, and there was no way I was going to stand there like a jackass trying to snap photos with my phone when there was a good show going on. I am not a professional…

If you get the chance to see Mariachi El Bronx (or The Bronx) live, you have to do it. They are on a European tour now, and the next leg of their US tour kicks off in the middle of September. Go to for tour dates and ticket info.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mariachi El Bronx

Hi there!

I will be writing a concert review later this week for the Mariachi El Bronx show, so I thought I should lay some groundwork and introduce this band to you in case you have not heard of them.

Mariachi El Bronx is the alter ego of the Los Angeles-based punk / rock band, The Bronx. They have been prolific and successful, producing three albums as The Bronx and two more as Mariachi El Bronx, as well as participating in the Warped Tour and Coachella.

Their mariachi stylings are authentic (though the lyrics are in English), and it is obvious that the boys did their homework when writing and rehearing their mariachi musings. Here is some info from the band about how this iteration of The Bronx came about:

“ It all started as a way to flip the electric goes acoustic performance garbage, because that's never good. We were invited to play live on television but decided that a cheesy acoustic version of our song was not what we wanted to do.

The original El Bronx line up, featured guest appearances from Zander Schloss (Wierdos, circle jerks) and Keith Douglas (Mad Caddies). The project triggered something inside all of us that was unexpected. It's almost impossible to explain, but it felt like discovering a second soul within you. We instantly started writing new songs.

Mariachi El Bronx touches on many facets of mariachi music, the most well know being norteno as well as jorocho, wasteka, bolero and corridos. It may seem strange for a band that blasts the audience into outer space every night to take this direction, but mariachi music is every bit as much of a soundtrack to southern California as punk. They are seamlessly intertwined.”

They released their latest album yesterday, and it is very good. Perhaps a full review will works its way onto my blog soon. I am looking forward to their show at La Cita Bar in downtown Los Angeles tonight, and will let you know how it turns out.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Rickenbacker 4003 Basses on Sale


I just got word that Musician's Friend is having a blowout on brand-new Midnight Blue Rickenbacker 4003 basses. They have been marked down from their usual price of $1949 to $1299.

This is an insane deal and you never see these basses at these prices. For comparison, search eBay and see what folks are asking for used ones...

If temptation gets the better of you, go to the Musician's Friend website and search for 4003, input your e-mail address and they will send you the price and a link to add it to your shopping cart.

Buy one today, and keep the economy going!