Category Archives: San Francisco

A Little Movement

Honda CB360T

Goodbye, first motorcycle.

SfGuitarTech finally made the leap of cleaning up the garage, selling my 1976 Honda CB360T motorcycle, and making some workbench space. Gone are the days of climbing two staircases, meeting my cats, and therefore meeting my lint rollers.

Now you can bring your guitar by, stop in the driveway and I’ll either fix your guitar right there in front of you or tell you when you can pick it up.

You may not even need to leave your car! Drive-thru guitar repair!

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The Merits of Loudness: A Treatise on Volume

Imagine some clip art of someone saying “turn it down” so I don’t have to hunt for it on the internet. Clip art is for 1994. Moving on, possibly mooing on, depending on whether my opinions are genuine or just bovine.

I look into my room and see a variety of electric instruments. Muscle movements make musical notes, those vibrations turn to electrical energy, and the electrical energy turns into sound waves. I look at this collection and see that very few of them have been played above an apartment’s appropriate sound level. I realize I have an emotional aversion to playing loud.

Having tinnitus in my left ear at the ripe old age of 27 doesn’t help.

Loudness was always something to avoid, something I feared, yet these instruments become completely different entities when turned loud. The sound coming out of the amplifier sonically beating the tar out of the object creating that noise. The essence of feedback. The guitar is talking, yelling, screaming at itself.

Of course others who hear it aren’t enjoying it as much as the player. Being told to “turn it down” has left a bitter taste in my mouth. It is a sense of power to pluck 6 strings pulled across a piece of wood and some metal to have the walls start to shake.

In summation, apartments are great. Stop writing tonight, Jeremy. If anything, the internet needs less honest people.

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Filed under guitar, guitar blogs, Nay-saying, negativity, San Francisco, SFGT, sfguitartech, story, Uncategorized

Bucket List: Busking, Check.

DjangoThe wonder of San Francisco is an integral part of my life; I’ve lived here for 9 years now. Mostly ups and downs, plateaus few and far between. I left the familiarity of the San Diego nest (not “Socal”. No one called it that, ever) for this phenomenon-behemoth of a city. I went to college here, graduated with a degree in Industrial Arts after 4 years of gymnastics on the uneven bars of sanity. Music was a constant. I was never away from a guitar that was stashed in my car, bedroom, or strategically located at friends houses so I had something to do at parties that didn’t involve small talk.

Ever since I picked up a guitar, I always had this image of sitting downtown in a metropolitan area, just playing. Even just practicing scales in public. I was always so afraid to do it for a multitude of reasons: My guitar will get stolen, someone will mug me, someone will cut my strings, the millions of dollars in my guitar case will blow away and other reasonable thoughts.

Two days ago I purchased — for the first time in my life — a book from the “New Age” section. It’s called “The Four Agreements” (It’s quite popular, but I’m knew to this game) and was a quick read. It contains much of the usual “live each day like it’s your last” parrotry, usually met with my contrarian “I hope I’m dead after all of those prostitutes, drugs, crimes, and burned bridges.” Oddly, I decided to try not saying the smarmy comeback (to myself in my head…)This book, chock full of good-natured nonsense, actually flipped a switch. Mid read, I took a post-it note, and wrote “If you could play music downtown on Thursday, would you?” and stuck it on my door frame. It was a neon pink post-it. I knew it wouldn’t clash with the see of day-glo colors in my room.

Thursday hits, just like the post-it predicts.

The post-it note is torturing my peripheral vision with its disco color sensibilities. It’s haunting. I roll out of bed, grab a guitar bag, throw in my cheap gypsy jazz copy, and start walking to a BART station. I get about 500 yards from my house and say “It’s going to be windy, maybe another day” and I turn around. I think “Dumbest excuse ever” complete the 360, and keep walking to the station.

As I sat in the BART car, whizzing deeper into the center of Liberal mecca (their words, not mine) with a guitar case between my legs, I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous that this image I had played in my head for almost 15 years now, was actually occurring, and on my own accord. Build up.

I get out of the Embarcadero station and start walking towards the Piers, scouting for places to sit and play guitar in public. It’s something I have always avoided, so it wasn’t a developed skill. I walked by a street musician playing bass over some pop-tune backing tracks, and we both knowingly nod to each other. “I’m one of you,” the nod implies. I walk by the ferry building, looking for a comfortable place to sit. By comfortable, I mean anonymous enough to manage my self-consciousness in the daylight, but still a stretch of confidence to be in a place open enough to be heard. There was pacing involved. I finally found a place with a bit of wind blockage, and sat down. It was also when two pretty girls were walking by selling jewelry, and I figured I could be playing before they were out of hearing range:

The thought “I’ll play 5 miraculous notes and they’ll fight to the death over me” seemed reasonable.

I put the case down, fumbled to get a pick out of my pocket and nervously started to play. A few looks, some smiles, some Ipod volume controls turned up or down, amused infants, bemused tourists, jumpy joggers, texting teenagers, pedicab peddlers, melancholy homeless, camera fumblers, drug stumblers, workers walking home on the sunny side of the street, hippies, yuppies, gays, straights, whites, everything-but-whites, tots, kids, pre-teens, tweens, teens, youth, young adult, adolescent, adult, middle-aged, over the hill, older, old, aged, elderly, hipsters, cops, monks, whores, rich, poor, obvious, hidden.

San Francisco. You get it.

Fast forward 45 minutes no change, no money, nothing dropped in. I didn’t really care. Before I left my house, I was debating putting a “No Tips” sign in front of me as a way to brandish my sense of defiance in a city full of panhandlers.

Remembering they were all tourists, I realized I would like to take as much money from them as possible so I could continue to afford living here after they had long (in)digested their clam chowder.

Along walks a young guy carrying a music case I recognize as a clarinet. He stops for a few moments, eyeballing my gypsy guitar. Wearing jeans, a black hoodie and sunglasses doesn’t exactly scream “Django”, so I understood his possible confusion. I stop playing and say “That a clarinet?” and he says “Yea.” “You want to play something?” He obliges. We exchange about two sentences, he informs me he just got off a train from Chicago 10 minutes ago, and it’s his first time in San Francisco. He asks “You live here?” Interesting question…I’ve occupied housing in San Francisco for 9 years, so I answer with shrug “I guess I do. You know Tiger Rag?” Musicians have a certain eyeball look, like a hard drive loading information. Lights are blinking, not much is going on, but the query registers. A cock of the head to jostle the neurons into proper order, and he says “Yep”.

Before the hyperbolic part of me kicks in, I will say this: I was outmatched. He was tremendous, and I was a shaky human earthquake of anxiety trying to impress this new human. Luckily, I was struck with a wave of “Who cares! Enjoy this dammit” and happily got out of my head. The territory is familiar, comfortable, and I don’t care that this guy is the first clarinet player I have ever played music with. We just met 30 seconds ago.

Now we’re having a real conversation. This isn’t idle chit chat, this is syncopated chatter of increasing depth. This is an active discussion of the history of music, personal backgrounds, muscle memory, improvisation, assumption, expectations, rhetoric, and familiarity all conveyed without words.

In terms of actual words, there were few. Moments of verbal communication to see what we could do, and then back to it.

The set list: Tiger Rag, Stardust, Be Meir Bist Du Schoen, and a gypsy jazz cover of Let it Be by the Beatles. Total take? 7 dollars and some change.

I say thanks, hand him the money and start to pack up my guitar. He says “You staying out here? I’ve got to go.” I said “Nope, I can go home now.” He says “You do this often?” With a sly smirk I said “I’ve been planning to do this for 15 years. This is my first time, and I can cross it off my bucket list. Thanks for helping.” I gave him my business card, partially hoping I’d hear from him, partially hoping not. A truly poetic flourish to close a brief moment of friendship. I suspect he’ll be famous one day. His name was Dan, I think.

My favorite part was probably him saying “I’m a saxophone player” because I don’t like saxophone, and this would’ve been a story of musical prejudice rather than triumph.

The world is all right.

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Filed under escapism, music, San Francisco, SFGT, sfguitartech, Uncategorized

San Francisco Guitar Tech: My New Venture

Greetings from the land of entrepreneurial whimsy. The last post I put in here was a remarkable bit of foresight for me. The recovery part at the end wasn’t as symbolic as I’d hoped. By making an active effort to recover from the tornado of crisis I had parked my metaphorical motorhome in, I sought to improve my predicament. After a little help from some friends, I started to go in a new direction — my own. In May of 2013, I filed with San Francisco to start doing business as San Francisco Guitar Tech, or SFGT. I am now the proud owner of a baby company — a sole proprietorship — in San Francisco that is dedicated to all things guitar. As I said in the last entry, I still stick to the idea that the guitar no longer defines me, rather I define it. I can teach lessons how I want, repair instruments on my own hours, take tax deductions for my work, and I even have a clever phone number with SFGT in it. You can find proof that this isn’t some elaborate hoax (ranking just below Roswell and just above the Kennedy assassination) on my website http://www.sfguitartech.com. It’s all my website, and I keep in my tone, something I was glad to reclaim.

I now own a few more musical instruments (25+), and I figure I should write about them here. Every one of them has an odd story to it, and I still have that camera from the last post. This blog is a bit more open now than I used to make it, but it won’t be a diary.

Also, to be honest, I want to make money off of this site. Without any work it gets a few hits a day, so I might as well monetize it. Hopefully it will turn into some real life bay area repairs and lessons, but I keep hearing about sleeping money. Not to mention a desire to start writing, and what better outlet than a blog with a committed (pun intended) Google following.

So, a hearty “to be continued…” to myself and you all. Looking forward to it.

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Filed under guitar, guitar rant, music, San Francisco, SFGT, sfguitartech