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Alex Creese

Guitarist | Guitar Tutor | Occasional Blogger

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Guitar talk

New Guitar!

For a while I’ve been looking for a new acoustic to replace my old Takamine ESF-40C.  It’s a nice guitar that I got when I was about 18, but it’s worn out now and ready to retire.  Had a look at a few Taylors, including the 214, but ended up going with a brand called Faith.  The guitar I got is a Neptune High Gloss, it’s a baby jumbo shape without a pickup (I’ll put my own in).  It’s a bit cheaper in price than the Taylor 214 but has solid rosewood back and sides, I was quite surprised that the Taylor is mostly laminate and not entirely rosewood.

Anyway, I’m very happy with it and here are some pictures.  I’ll probably do a video soon, too.

The Christmas Miracle of Practice

Recently (lets say the last six months) I’ve been more or less completely consumed with my work at ACM.  It’s such a great place, but as an inevitable consequence of it’s sheer size and number of students, it is a mad house and everyone is busy all the time!  The kids I’ve been working with have all been doing practice journals as part of thier project for the term, it’s an opportunity for them to set themselves some targets and work towards achieving them while, importantly, tracking and evaluating their progress as they go.  Just for the fun of it I thought I’d do the same over a short period of time, so I picked a piece I’ve wanted to learn for a while and made little videos illustrating my progress learning one of the tricky passages in it.  The piece is Tango en Skai by Roland Dyens, and here are a few videos going from not knowing it, to being able to play it as a stand alone phrase, and then being able to play it in context.

Day 1: Learning the notes.

Day 2: making corrections and further practice.

Day 3: consistent playing at slow tempo.

Day 4: the run in context.

It’s not a perfect rendition at all, and my approach wasn’t particularly scientific but I really enjoyed this process: it was a tangible and motivating reminder of the magic of practice.  I mean, it’s not rocket science, but it’s easy to forget it sometimes…

Screenshot 2018-12-24 12.17.11

Enough of that though, it’s now Christmas eve and everything has wound down nicely.

SG Update

I decided to spend a few £s upgrading the old SG.  Not that there was too much wrong with it, but it needed some tweaks and let’s be honest – messing about with guitars is fun.

First, it needed a proper set up.  The guy who had it before me strung it with 9s and had a ridiculously low action (it was more or less unplayable) so I went up to 10s and then 11s but it was still buzzing and there were dead spots all over.  The other big issue was the intonation.  With a wraparound bridge it’s always a compromise but the one that was in there made very little effort to compensate, and it was quite noticably crap.  I took it to Richmond Guitar Worshop (Andy and Andrew – the guys that used to be in the workshop at Chandlers in Kew).  Ive had all  my repaires and set ups done by these guys since about 2003. They are total wizards.  They dressed the frets, sorted out the neck and, importantly, replaced the crappy stock bridge with a compensated Gibson Lightning Bar.  It’s still not perfect, obviously, but I could do a gig on it now and not get shouted at for being out of tune!

The second step was to replace the Gibson 490 pickups. The bridge one was ok but the neck one was a bit dull.  Having always used Seymour Duncans for humbuckers, I thought I’d maybe see what else was around.  Had a look at Bare Knuckle, which are pricey (though worth it, generally) and a few other “boutique” makers.  Amongst them, one that I thought was pretty interesting: The Creamery.  After a bit of research I was unable to find anything even resemblining a slightly negative review, and what’s more they’re really well priced.  Less than Bare Knuckles which seem to run at £200 + per set but not so cheap as to arouse suspicion like, say, Iron Gear.  They are hand made by one guy (Jaime)and they are fully customisable, from the covers to the magnets.  I had to wait about a month, but they’re great!  I went for the Creamery ’59 set, I wanted better versions of the 490s with a tighter sounding neck.  He suggested these with alnico II and IV magnets in the bridge and neck respectively.  I’m really pleased with them – and for £150 (with nickle covers) you basically can’t go wrong, they compare very favourably to the Seymour Duncans that I’ve owned (Pearly Gates, Duncan Custom, Jazz, and JB).  Well worth a look, as there is a huge range of stuff available!

So… you know, I’ve spent about as much again on upgrades as I did on the guitar itself.  But it’s personalised now, whilst still cheaper (and as far as I’m concerned, better) than an off the shelf SG standard.  So there.

Gumtree Video

Gumtree got in touch with me and asked me to be part of a social media campaign – a bit unexpected, but the idea was that we shoot a short video of me talking about the SG I recently got from Gumtree… Next week we’re filming a live stream with FRiSK, so look out for that one!

SG Update

 

I’ve had this guitar for about three weeks now (see here) and I absolutely LOVE it.  It’s the best guitar Gibson have ever made, and  (despite being an entirely subjective and untestable statement) that is the honest truth.  The only thing I’m not masively in love with is the neck pickup – it’s a bit muddy.  I’m going to swap both out for a new set…

Here’s a little video of it.  I’m messing about with some John Scofield-esque outside ideas over a great bcking track by Quistjam.  I’m going to try and put a lesson together feturing some of these ideas, it’s not a style of playing that I venture into all that often but it’s great fun!

My Next Amp (One Day)

A good friend of mine (a photographer and guitarist) was asked to take some promotional photos to go with a video shoot at Hamstead Soundworks.  I have been aware of this UK based amplifier company for about a year, but until today hadn’t even seen any of their amps in person.  Luckily, I was able to tag along for the shoot and the Hamstead guys were kind enough to let me have a generous play on their Artist 20+RT.

I have to say that is without question the best amp I’ve ever heard.  I had high expectations because their main endorsee is none other than Carl Verheyen (first-call session player and all round guitar legend) but even so, I was totally floored.  The fact is, they’ve got a really unique thing going on – for example the reverb has a tone control effectively allowing you to emulate a subtle plate reverb even though it’s a stanard spring tank in use.  There are other things, but that is something I’ve never seen on an amp before. Here’s a very short vid that in no way does any justice to this monster of an amp… I really need one of these in my life.

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