Posts Tagged 'guitar'

Say hello to my little friend…

At the recent men’s retreat for our church, our speaker exhorted the guys to follow some dreams.  Do something.  Get out there.  Don’t just sit around.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I took his words to heart.  It’s easy for folks like you and me to fall into a rut and rarely (if ever) get out of it.  The challenge was inherently spiritual, though the results don’t necessarily have an overtly spiritual look to them.  In my case, the “dream” was to get better at playing the guitar.

Some background.

Having been in a band for quite some time, you might’ve thought that guitar playing just “came with the territory”.  It didn’t.  In fact, during our “band days” I only contributed a guitar part to one song that I can remember.  Try as I might, guitar-playing just never “clicked” for me over all those years.

It was some time later, though, that I was leading our youth group – which invariably includes worship time.  Thankfully we had a guy who was fairly gifted in that area, ‘cause I couldn’t do it.  I knew the songs, of course, but I couldn’t play.  I wanted to, though.  I really did.  So I prayed about it.  It went something like… “Lord, help me to learn how to play the guitar.  I don’t have to be awesome, just good enough to lead worship songs.”  Shortly thereafter – like within a month or two – I began playing guitar.  I vividly remember being out at a retreat, guitar in my hand, playing a worship song that I knew fairly well.  All of a sudden, the strum pattern *clicked* for me.  I got it.  I understood.  It was like the door had been shut for years and years, and all of a sudden it was opened for me.

Amazing.

After that day, I began playing better and better – and eventually took over with the worship for our youth group.  That was a number of years ago, and I’ve since become one of the worship leaders for our church.  The Lord has certainly been faithful.

Sad to say, I haven’t done a whole lot to “grow these gifts” over the years.  Although I’m a better guitar player than I was a year ago, for instance, I lack a lot of the basic know-how. 

Enter the “dream”, as mentioned in the beginning of this post.

The challenge from our men’s retreat struck a chord with me – no pun intended.  I want to learn to play better, to play correctly, and to fill in the many gaps in my know-how.  Part of the “dream” for me also includes the bass guitar, since I really do like it a lot.  Not that I’ve played much, mind you, but I do enjoy it.  Perhaps learning the bass guitar could help me get from here to there?  It’s possible.

IbanezJetKingBass Valentine’s Day passed just a couple of weeks ago.  Although my wife and I don’t normally go too crazy with Valentine’s stuff, my wife (bless her heart!) gave me a blank check to help “meet this dream”.  After some discussion with her, I was off and running to find a bass guitar.  It didn’t take long before I found a couple of bass models that appealed to me, but eventually I settled on the Ibanez Jet King Bass in ‘vintage sunburst’.  This isn’t a top-of-the-line model, by any stretch, but it gets the job done and it looks *very* cool, if you ask me.  I ended up getting a great deal on a floor model from our local Guitar Center.  I took it home, plugged it in to my late-70s vintage Fender Twin amp, and away I go!  Now I’m working through a “bass for beginners” book as if I’ve never played before!  It’s quite humbling, actually, but good for me to learn “why you play what you play”.  It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure, but it’s a lot of fun. 🙂

Assuming that I don’t drive my family crazy, I’m hoping to be a better guitar player (and half-way decent bass player) later this year.

Thanks for reading.

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The Guitar Strap Saga (TM)

I can no longer call myself a “hobbiest guitar player”.  I help lead worship at my churchwhich I enjoy very much — and in that role I have to take some things more seriously than I did before.  My guitar has to be in tune.  I need to have a decent pickup system installed.  I have to be able to play standing up!  (By the way, that was a bigger issue than I thought it would be).  I also need a decent guitar strap.

Don’t mock me on this.

Between rehearsal and the worship “set”, if you will, you end up with a guitar strapped around your neck for a considerable amount of time.  The guitar strap is important.  My previous strap has given up the ghost, so to speak, and easily pops off of the straps nuts.  Not cool, and not fun.  I set out to find another strap that is both stylish and comfortable.

My first trip was to Guitar Center in hopes of finding a good, reasonably-priced replacement.  I figured that leather would be a good long-term solution, but I was unpleasantly met with $70+ guitar straps.  Wha? I don’t think so.  Too rich for my blood.  Shortly thereafter, I found that Levy’s Leathers makes some nice guitar straps that can be found for a reasonable price.  I found a 2.5″ black embroidered strap that cost me less than $40 shipped.  Nice!  Well…until it arrived and I found that it was too short for me.  You see, I’m 6’4″ tall, and I tend to play with my guitar hung a bit lower.  Not “punk rock”, mind you, but lower.  Most leather straps tend to max out at around 53″ long, which was about 4″ shorter than what I was set at previously.  No matter how I sliced it, it didn’t work for me.  After some emails back and forth with the fine Levy’s Leathers folks, I find out that they make “XL” versions of almost all of their straps, which lengthens the strap by 12″ or so.  Wish I’d known that earlier.  I also wish I’d had a better up-close shot of the strap that I was ordering — a bane of “online purchases”, I suppose — because the suede finish was not entirely to my liking.  I decided to return that strap and keep looking.

Upon further reflection, I decided that I didn’t have to have a leather strap — it was enough to have leather at the ends for long term use.  In fact, nylon and/or cotton straps can be quite comfortable, practical and affordable.  Somehow or another, I ended up stumbling upon a company called Franklin Strap.  I liked the looked of their stuff, and I was immediately taken with their ‘Seatbelt Series‘ strap.  Very cool!  Sadly, I couldn’t find them online anywhere.  Grasping at straws, I emailed the Franklin Strap company themselves to inquire as to where I might purchase one of these fine straps.  I had no idea about pricing, availability and so forth.  Well… a few hours later I get an email back from the company owner himself — Greg Bennett of Greg Bennett Guitars!  He let me know that a shop called Artisan Guitars carried these and could help me order one.  Good deal.

Here’s the great part: I call Artisan Guitars — friendly folks, by the way — and tell them my story.  They find the strap I’m talking about and get me going on ordering one.  I still had no idea on pricing, so when the sales person mentions that the strap is $6 + shipping, well… I’m pretty blown away!  Needless to say, I ordered two of them.

So… here’s hoping that this strap is as awesome as I hope it’ll be.  If not, well… atleast I got a cool story out of the whole process.