G is for Guitar and “Get a life”
Many of you will know that I am a keen musician. I blame this partly on my parents, who insisted on taking me to a brass band concert before I was even born. I didn’t stand a chance. Church helps too, there’s always music there. And so it was that I started taking up musical instruments left right and centre, starting with the piano, moving on to cello, and not stopping thereafter. The list isn’t exactly endless, but it’s fairly sizeable. The main problem with this, though, is being able to afford the instruments themselves, which don’t come cheap, especially if you want something decent. So for many years I have had to get by without certain things, in some cases just the accessories, but in some cases the instruments themselves. I’ve never owned a saxophone, for instance, much as I’d love to.
My first bass guitar was a pink (probably used to be red, but faded in the sun) Squier with a warped neck, which made playing anything but open strings uncomfortable and bone-jarringly out of tune. Still, for £100 it wasn’t bad, considering it came with a whopping 80 watt amp. The bass was replaced several years ago, thankfully, with a wood body Aria (I’d give the actual model, but since it’s a “Research and Development” model I think it’s more of a one-off, so comparing it to the mass-produced model that resulted from it might not actually be particularly useful). The Aria is a dream to play, and has a lovely warm tone to it. The amp, however, was always pretty ropey, so it wasn’t a huge tragedy when it stopped working. It was something electric, I know that much, and it just played a very loud humming noise while it was turned on. So I left it turned off, gathering dust in the garage. Until just before we moved, when I took it to the dump. Sad, but somehow very therapeutic at the same time.
Imagine my joy, then, now that I have a working bass amp again. After much research and reading of reviews, I finally bit the bullet and bought myself a Laney RB2. It’s only 30 watts, so it’s by far the smallest and least powerful bass amp I’ve ever used, but it should serve my purposes. To be honest, I’ve always thought it odd that whenever I’ve played bass it’s been using a 60 or 80 watt amp, and never needed to turn it up beyond 2 or 3 on the volume dial. Always seemed a waste to me. So, a 30 watt amp it is, and it’ll be used properly too. Sure, it’s not the most powerful box in the world, but it’s got a DI out so it can be plugged into a PA system, so it only really needs to be loud enough for me to hear myself on stage over the drums and the rest of the band.
The real test will come at the end of this month, when I take the amp to camp. It’ll only be used in a relatively small theatre, seating around 80 people, so hopefully 30 watts should be enough. We’ll see. It sounds promising in the lounge at least, which is encouraging. It’s got a fairly good tone to it, assuming you whack the gain knob up a bit, and while the built-in compressor isn’t quite as powerful as it could be it does work and gives a nice bit of punch to the sound. The EQ controls are good too, and allow me to play around with sounds and tones a bit more, which is very nice indeed.
So, that’s the amp. There is more though. I may be in demand again as a musician, now that we’ve settled on a church. Yes, that’s right, after several weeks of ‘church hunting’ my wife and I have finally decided that St Paul’s Shepton Mallet will be our church. On Sunday we ended up going to three services, confirming our choice. First up was the 9:25 Parish Communion service, which was fairly traditional (includes sung liturgy and a procession and everything). Not quite my usual worship style, but that’s no bad thing – variety in worship is always a good thing in my opinion. After a quick tea break we were off to the 11am service, which was very relaxed and informal, and featured a few worship songs, a ‘sharing’ time where people talked about what had been going on that week, and then a group discussion time. Very different indeed. But quite similar in feel to some of the Anglican Chaplaincy services we did, so not entirely unfamiliar. Then in the evening we went to the 6pm youth service, which was led by the young people. Apparently they do that every month, and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s amazing, it’s an evening service that actually works, and people want to come! How refreshing. The music was good, and the sermon (preached by an 11-year-old) was surprisingly inspiring.
Discussions after each of those services inevitably revealed my collection of music instruments, and Ellie’s drama background, and we were both pleased to hear that they were in need of what we could offer. Eyes widened in excitement when I said I could play drums and guitar, and Ellie’s dramatic heritage was greeted by one person physically jumping up and down. I think they like us. We certainly like them. We’ve already been invited to a birthday party, so that’s got to be a good thing.
Finally, I would like to announce that I’ve finally got myself onto Second Life. Yes, yes, I know, that’s so last year, but it always takes me a year or two to accept new technology, which is why everyone else was on Facebook before me. I’m still trying to get to grips with how it works, and while I’ve found some interesting places I’ve yet to actually get into a conversation with anyone. Not least because I’ve struggled to find anyone there at all. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. Or maybe it’s because everyone who plays is in America and is therefore asleep when I’m online. Anyway, if you happen to be on Second Life, let me know and maybe we can meet up and laugh at each other’s avatars.