We are now two and a half months away from my debut as a solo musician.
So far, not much in the way of nerves. But it is time for a progress report.
I have six songs. Maybe seven. I know what the first song will be but after that, I have no idea. I don’t even know how many of them I’m going to play. One of the few skills I have is an ability to read an audience.
If the audience is about to fall asleep and fall off their collective chairs, it may well be a two-song set. If the applause (assuming there is some) seems genuine, I may just go on for a while.
I think I’ve got six good songs. A couple that are going to be very familiar and a couple by songwriters I know which may be less well known.
My lessons are going okay. Lots of practice. As you may recall, the baby finger on my left hand is numb and the ring finger is partly numb from some open heart surgery I had in August. So I’m practicing my best Django Reinhardt impression.
Jim Linneman has not called to cancel my gig at his place, so I assume it’s still on. He’s the best, and I can’t express my gratitude. He has a great space to play, and I hope I can do it a little justice.
Lessons with John Sieger are proceeding, and I’m on the edge of starting with my friend Bill Dwyer who lives in Dillon, Mont. We are going to use Skype so he can teach me one, maybe two songs. I know he’s committed, and I expect we’ll get to it one of these days.
I still have to figure out what to do about a sound system. I have a guitar and an amp, but I think I should have a real sound system. I think there’s a chance I can piece one together from the incredible array of stuff in Sieger’s recording studio.
The latest move is that I’ve taken my Seagull guitar to be set up by Wade Starck at his guitar shop on Oakland Avenue.
Wade has what is arguably the best guitar shop in town. It’s not one of those corporate behemoths, but a small place where you get individual attention. He’s got a wonderful selection of guitars, ranging from something good for beginners to things like a ’61 Gibson Reissue SG for over $3,000.
Ward opened his shop on Oakland Avenue in 1989, and almost from the very beginning he’s been the place that serious musicians go for guitars, repairs and knowledge.
When he opened his shop, he had 11 guitars for sale and made most of his living doing repairs.
Now he has over 200 guitars in stock, all of them being sold through the front door. He doesn’t have an online store, and one thing you can be sure of at Wade’s is that you will get individual and expert attention.
In June of next year, he will celebrate his 25th anniversary. I asked him to provide me with an explanation of what it means to set up a guitar, which is what’s happening to mine right now.
"The most common repair is the 'set-up,'" he said. "This is the top-to-bottom cleaning, restringing and all necessary adjustments to make the guitar play easily and in-tune. There is a list of 'must-do's' which includes adjusting the truss rod, action, intonation and the like. But there is also a meta-physics of setting up a guitar. This requires going beyond just doing the adjustments and calling it a day."
The years of experience seem to have paid off for Wade, and for the guitars he knows so well.
"Imperfections in the fretboard or even the strings can cause buzzing or rattling that defy explanation. A strong magnet in a pickup, too close to a string, can give a reading on your strobe tuner that makes it impossible to properly intonate. Especially with older guitars, you just have to know what to look for to get things dialed in. I'm not saying it's rocket science, but 32 years of doing this makes the set-up a lot easier."
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