Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

14 February 2012

Guitar Hero? More Like Guitar Zero

I’ve always wanted to play the guitar. There was a pawn shop on the way home from elementary school, and in the window they had some sort of electric guitar – for all I know it might have been a real Fender Stratocaster back in those days before their prices became stratospheric. Whatever it was, it was there and I’d always stop and lust over it. The problem was back then (as it is now) that I didn't think I had any talent. My parents had forced piano lessons on me when I was ten, but I didn’t learn anything other than I can find Middle-C now. I’d look at that guitar in the window and think, “Some day…some day…”

Well, that someday is now, only 46 years later.

I did not want an acoustic guitar; nor did I want one that was completely electric. There is a hybrid is called a “semi-hollow body.” It’s a cross between an acoustic and a traditional electric: A big, thin guitar with two acoustic chambers on either side of the strings and electric pickups. Think Chet Atkins or early George Harrison. Both Gretsch and Gibson had been making similar versions of this type since the 1950’s. They are more of a country music guitar than hard rock. (They can sound kind of “twangy.”) But I wanted something versatile – you can play semi-hollow bodies at home without an amp. Compromises are usually never good, but even today semi-hollow body guitars still have a big following.

ABOVE: Ahh, the original! The Gibson ES-335.

My friend Larry Curtis was a fellow pilot when we were both at PHI back in the day. I left the company in 2001, but he stayed there until a recent health problem sidelined him, perhaps for good. As well as being a great helicopter pilot, he is also an accomplished musician. On YouTube he had posted many videos of himself recreating many famous songs – with Larry doing all of the parts! (Although I see he has removed nearly all of the videos for some reason.) His YouTube name is/was The Silver Hamer which I thought was a misspelling at first. It is not; Larry likes Hamer guitars. I turned to him for advice.

I told Larry I was considering the Ibanez AS73 and the Epiphone Dot Studio. These are modern replicas – you might say “knockoffs” of the incredible Gretsch Country Gentleman and Gibson ES-335 (which are still being produced and are hideously expensive now). The Ibanez and Epiphone had the look that I wanted, and the reviews said they were pretty good guitars for the price. They’re available new at most guitar shops for around $400.

ABOVE: Here's the Ibanez AS73. It's nice- but it just didn't push the right buttons for me.

ABOVE: And here's the Epiphone Dot Studio. Kind of plain and cheap-looking if you ask me.

Larry suggested I instead look at a guitar called the Hamer Echotone. And so I did. It had everything I wanted, and it had gotten great reviews as well. While brand-new Echotones are not being made anymore, there were a couple on eBay in my price range. One even had all of the modifications suggested in most of the reviews, and came with a hard-shell case too! I bid on it and won. It is bright red - oh boy, is it red! I would have preferred something a little less flashy, but oh well.

Here's the Hamer Echotone. *My* Hamer Echotone!

So now I have my guitar. All I have to do is learn how to play it. And there’s the rub. If you look at most accomplished guitarists, they have long, slender fingers. My fingers are short and stubby. Makes it tough to play some of the chords. And then there's that talent thing...

It’s odd learning a new skill at this age. I try to practice a little every day, but even so progress is slow. Frustratingly slow. Not to worry, some things don’t come easy. I did not learn to fly a helicopter overnight. I know that learning to play the guitar will take some time as well. And learn, I will.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I can't resist.... I'll bet there's an APP for that! Let's see, first the I-phone,now a guitar, who knows what is next! I can also relate to the "fingers" thing all too well. I can play all kinds of woodwind instruments with keys all over it and still do it pretty well (thought not as well as I once did for sure) but give me a guitar and my fingers become totally spastic and helplessly entangled. I am sure however, as the saying goes, "practice makes perfect".
Good luck my friend,

Mike Morris said...

Haha Anonymous, there is an app for that! Bob good luck with learning to play. I tell myself one of these days I'm going to pick up an instrument too.

Bob Barbanes: said...

Guys, I'd be happy if practice even made "passably okay." But there is a looooong way to go.

Mike Morris said...

Bob, I wish I could play an instrument too. I used to be passable on the trumpet, when I was in middle school. I keep telling myself one of these days I'll learn to play the bass or guitar.

Bob Barbanes: said...

...And so you should, Mike, and so you should. I need not point out that we're not getting any younger.