Category Archives: sfguitartech

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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Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuners

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Non-sponsored promotion, though if they sent me a few sets of these Planet Waves Auto trim tuners, I wouldn’t put up a fight…

I have installed these on a few acoustic guitars, and it slowly came to pass that these Auto Trim Tuners are one of my favorite guitar inventions. They were the first guitar product I’d ever encountered that shocked me due to quality and convenience.

1. The string locks with the knurled wheel on the bottom.

2. The first half rotation of the post cuts the excess string with a hardened steel tuning post leaving no nub or sharp string parts.

3. It takes maybe an extra quarter turn of the post to get the guitar in tune, so no excess winds to tighten.

After dealing with a set of Grover tuners this week with strings slipping out of them, I realized how much I valued these Planet Waves when I installed them on other guitars, so I bought a set. Now I just have to pick a guitar lucky enough to get them.

I am excited about tuners. Must be labor day.

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Guitar Repairin’

It’s a peculiar thing to realize that one of my favorite activities is make musical instruments easier to play. Peculiar may not be the right word, but it’s got enough syllables for an opening sentence. I like making something easier for someone, especially if it’s the barrier between playing and not playing music.

If you have any musical instrument, tell to me about it. I want to know what, if anything, is getting in the way of you making music?

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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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Dreams of Owning a Large House (Guitarist Stream of Consciousness)

My aspirations for main purposes in owning a home revolve around two major themes, the limits of space and volume, both sonic and spacial interchangeably. As I watch that Vince Gill video, I have no idea what type of squalor and or grandeur his house may embody, but that guitar room is some sort of dream sequence.

As a young guitar player, if you asked me to imagine the future and where I’d be living, “Guitar Room” was always part of it. The first thing I usually reference is the montage at John Entwistle’s house where he goes down the stairs with a guitar case (with a record breaking [watch the video on Youtube to see what I mean…] Thompson submachine gun inside) and there are guitars everywhere.

As a Californian, it stirs up my fear of earthquakes. I hope my house is in tune.

I’d like a music store version of the show Survivor. Lock a few musicians in a store and see what happens. Lateness would decrease, but not as much as you’d expect…

I’d make a guitar string hammock for a bed. Nylon strings, of course.

Music stores contain a seemingly infinite amount of potential — energy, creativity, emotion, you name it. Like an art supply store, but a different flavor of pretentiousness. Instead of the snarky paintbrush aficionado, there’s the drumstick guy, brand sycophant or the amplifier guy. Same essence, different clothing.

Music stores are usually poorly organized, an interesting nuance to something so arrangement driven. Temperamental objects and people crammed into a small room.

A silent cacophony at night. Dog pound chaos by day.

I want to live in that. I imagine it in the middle of nowhere, in my head it’s usually a 5000 acre Nebraska field so I can play as loudly as I want and not worry about neighbors calling the cops.

Almost forgot about tornadoes.

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Fear of Musical Opinion

Until 3 weeks ago, the email I had associated with TheGuitarist (The collection of words and letters you are currently reading) was one I hadn’t had access to in 5 years leftover from an educational institution that deleted my internet existence 6 months after graduation. Now that this account is associated with me as a person in real life with a real business, and not an anonymous internet entity, I am experiencing some fear.

The people of the internet frighten me, and I am one of them.

Yesterday an article about the zeitgeist of internet negativity (Psychology and Online Bullying) was enough to remind me that I was guilty (is there such thing as excessive guilt? ++guilt?) of the “online disinhibition effect”. I abuse the internet from my throne of anonymity, spewing opinions under the assumption that my unique and valuable (eyes currently rolled, crying sarcastic tears) opinion of whatever I’m opining will change the world. Is there a megalomania clause in the Terms of Agreement for the internet?

I put a post on here titled “Why I Hate Guitar Center”. I seriously put that I hate a business? A need fulfilling mixture of people with a goal? Hate?

A verbal extremist reflects: Hyperbolic speaking is the best thing on earth. Ugh. It’s a shame moderation and being reasonable hasn’t my first inclination for the internet, but rather a divisive, active attempt to rally the battle cry and shun something I spuriously disapprove of. I question why I can’t merely pose a question and let others decide for themselves. Although I did reflect on why “I” didn’t like something, it’s still a testament to where I put my priorities.

I pause to trademark the phrase “Comment Section Phenomenon”. I’ll be waiting for a stipend for the rights, National Institute of Health.

I realize hatred is the go-to response for most internet opinions. Positivity and gratitude — rarefied air that is hard to make funny. The question I ask of myself (rhetorically, of course) is whether I want to continue this onslaught of words intended to spark strong opinions. I’m not a fan of trying to get people to care about things that have no meaning. Gossip, fashion, music reviews, movie critics, sports, and to a greater extent, political punditry are are somehow responsible for inciting fierce debate? Is that the writing style I look to? I have to make a concerted effort to not write that way any more. It’s too easy, and I’m doing it right now in a way. I feel my difference is that I don’t want people to hate anything anymore. What a useless sentiment.

Back to guitar: For a long time I’ve had a desire to write how much I dislike acoustic guitar pickups (Such controversy!) and realized I was radicalizing my feelings because I felt it would get more attention. I like having an opinion on things; it’s a real testament to creativity and free expression, but I really would like to eliminate extremist, all or nothing, black or white, smooth and crunchy from my blog about such lofty topics as strings and capos. I write this as a reminder that I’d like to write about things I like and don’t, but not turn the things I don’t like into exiled thought lepers. Internet opinion is sadly slanted towards the incitement of riot, and realizing that this is a blog about guitar, I’d rather stay out of it.

I look to the Fender Stratocaster vs. Gibson Les Paul debate as my template. There is no better. “Better” is not the word. Choice is the word. I would like to continue trying to create a culture where your mind is your bed: don’t get hateful at the way I make mine up. Dialogue v. Monologue.

As for my opinion on the matter of Strat vs. Les Paul?

Telecaster and SG.

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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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