Friday, July 14, 2017

The deed is done (12 string guitar)

The deed is done, the purchase has been made. After a few months of dreaming and a few weeks of planning, the stars aligned, allowing us to drive to the guitar shop near Modi'in (about half an hour away) and purchase the Fender CD-160SE 12-String V-2 which we saw at the end of May. 

As opposed to last time, I played the guitar for quite some time, and discovered that this guitar requires a different technique from what I am used to. Whilst the guitar is very comfortable, it's hard on the left hand, pressing on all the strings. My right hand technique also has to change: I would like to finger-pick, but that doesn't work too well; it's easier with a plectrum. The problem is to pick the first string of each pair, which is the octave string; this way, one achieves the characteristic sound of the 12 string. And finally: for solo note playing (lead guitar), it is better to concentrate on the lower four strings (which have the octaves) as opposed to the top two strings (which are in unison).

I have been reading and listening about the 12 string over the past few weeks, getting prepared - which is why the first thing that I played was the riff to the Byrds' version of 'Mr Tambourine Man'. Apparently McGuinn's 12-string was recorded with compression (there's also a story about Steven Still's guitar being compressed for the CS&N record) so I was interested in hearing what this actually sounds like. To be honest, there didn't seem to be much of a difference, except for a strange sounding attack, so I decided not to buy a compression pedal.

I took along my Dia violin bass as this requires repair work. The shop salesman (Adam) took the bass and played happily for several minutes: as opposed to my previous attempts, the electrics worked, although at the end we discovered that there is indeed a loose wire inside which causes the pickups to disconnect intermittently. Adam was very taken with the bass - especially the dampener - and said that he was prepared to buy it; my wife refused politely. As I may have written before, part of the binding is missing and so the back of the bass is separating from the body. Although I had been told that the shop takes repair work, it transpires that they handle only goods which have been purchased from the shop. I was given the address of a luthier in Tel Aviv; I will try and send him pictures via email or WhatsApp before going there, as it may well be that the cost of repair is more than the guitar is worth.

It turns out that the owner of the shop knew us: he spent time on our previous kibbutz in the mid-80s as part of his army service. He also knows the person who gave me the bass during that time. His knowing us (or having known us) may have suggested to him to discount the price - or throw in a freebee.

I took the opportunity to try out a few other, iconic, guitars which were in easy reach of where I was sitting. Behind me on a stand was a stratocaster (barely visible in the photograph on the right hand side); I found this quite difficult to play, although of course I am an acoustic guitarist who plays primarily rhythm. I also tried out the telecaster (just above my right elbow in the picture): I have always belittled this guitar, partially because of its look and partially because everyone seems to play it (in other words, non-professional reasons). When I picked it up, I was surprised at its light weight, and as opposed to the strat, it was very comfortable to play. I can now understand its ubiquity. 

I also picked up the Gibson SG (directly above my head in the picture) and showed it to my wife, asking if it looked familiar. She recognised that I have a copy of this guitar in the music room, and asked how it could be that guitar makers can produce a blatant copy of an expensive guitar. I don't know whether the penny has dropped about the bass guitar and Paul McCartney's iconic Hofner violin bass, but then, she isn't interested in guitars.

The bottom line of these last two paragraphs is that most electric guitars don't feel comfortable in my hands - although I wouldn't refuse the tele - and so I don't have any intentions of buying any more guitars. Just as well as there is no free wall space!

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