Beginning of Memory

 

Within the darkness,

Beginning of memory,

Under the red lights.

 

~

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Flatwound Strings For My Jazz Box

In relation to my last post about my jazz guitar, I’m going to write about the big thing I went for early on – a string change.

So when I bought the guitar, it had regular strings on it – I think they were 0.11s or 0.12s even. For the uninitiated who’re reading, those numbers indicate string gauge via the highest string, which is the 1st string. You can read about that bit here because I don’t want to launch into a boring entry about string gauges.

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Going back to the matter at hand, yes, I opted for a string change very early on into owning the JZ-4. The main reason I wanted a change of strings was that the stuff the guitar came with are quite rusted and no longer as slippery on the hands as I want them to be. If you’d read my last entry, my particular guitar was bought dirt cheap since it was a former store display that spent years in the display window. Naturally, the strings have oxidized and by the time I bought it, there were rust spots and the first three strings are already blackened with age.

While I liked the feel of the gauge of the strings it came with initially, I really could not stand rusty strings. I kinda struggled with it for a few days, mostly because I was happy with the guitar and the sound I was getting out of it. As the days wore on though, the elation gave way to irritation and I thought that I will get a pack of new strings.

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Look at how bad the strings look right out of the store. Eeew

My first choice was to go with a brand I haven’t tried before, Rotosound, and try to keep the gauge as close as I could to what the guitar came with. I thought that they came with .12s so I went for a pack of Rotosounds in that gauge.

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It was fairly cheap (about Php 300) or so and came with an extra e string as a freebie. However, before I got around to swapping the strings I came across an “issue” with the guitar and what I thought I wanted my guitar to sound like.

See, many of the guitars an average person will come across would have roundwound strings. This means that on the outside of the strings, where you actually touch the strings, would have a wire wound all across the length of the string. Under certain circumstances, roundwound strings will produce some unwanted string noise. By unwanted, I mean to say that some styles of music would have no need for it, or outright discourage such a thing. This is a major issue for me because I want my JZ-4 to be a straight up jazz guitar, and string noise from slides are not favorably looked on in jazz.

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This would give you an idea of how a string looks like closeup.

My newly purchased pack of strings sat for a few days while I pondered on my predicament. At that point, I suddenly remembered the one thing that would eliminate string noise from my JZ-4 – flatwound strings.

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This isn’t something that is new and revolutionary, and jazz guitarists have been using such for a very long time now. Essentially, instead of a rounded wire wrapped around the core of the guitar string, it is replaced by a flat wire. What it does is it almost totally eliminates string noise – even if you slide your hands all over the strings all day. It’s much closer to what a violin / cello / viola string than a guitar string. It sounds much more different too, being more dull sounding and does not have the kind of sustain regular strings have – although on the most part, I get a good amount of sustain through a cranked up compressor pedal.

Some of you might be wondering why I would consider this for my guitar, and those who know me personally and heard me live will know of my penchant for a long, singing kind of sustain. Personally, I questioned that part of my preference too but I figured that since I will be using the guitar exclusively for jazz, I have no need for very long sustain. Besides, the kind of mellow sound of flatwounds have been a staple of jazz although it is not unheard of that jazz can be played with regular roundwounds.

So off to the music store to get another pack of strings, for which I chose d’Addario (again) Chrome XLs.

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These are the exact same strings that I got.

As soon as I got home, I plopped my guitar on a bench and started placing the new strings on, along with some lemon oil on the otherwise dry fretboard. After a some minutes of work on the guitar, the new strings were on and presto!

I immediately noticed the different feel with the new strings. The guitar sounds so mellow and subtle, although I also noted that the strings feel a little harder to use even though they’re 0.11s and on a Gibson scale. A quick whiff through Google confirmed that would really be the case – I’m thinking this would mostly be because of the flat windings being so close together that the string feels more solid.

In any event though, I love how mellow it sounds and “posh” the guitar sounds. I took it to a gig where I appeared as a guest, playing on jazz and rock n roll standards. Some of my friends came up to me to compliment the sounds that I was getting out of the guitar.

I actually enjoy the guitar so much more these days that I’m almost always using it instead of my other guitars. I still have a lot of things planned out for my JZ-4 but for now, I’m very satisfied with it.

 

Ah c’est la vie.

 

 

~

Jazzin’ on the Cheap : Samick / Greg Bennett LaSalle JZ-4

For a good long while, I’d been avoiding the topic of jazz. A lot of it stemmed from the fact that I thought it was a very intimidating style of music that demanded a good deal of chops, both mechanically and theoretically. Some of it was curtailed by a lack of “proper” gear.

However, all that changed around the middle of last year when I began to openly embrace jazz, fusion and bossa nova. In terms of theory, I still lack on the most part. In terms of gear however, I think I found the answer.

Jazz guitar sounds worlds apart from regular guitar in general. Many people see the guitar as a loud and uncouth instrument. In rock music – louder, heavier, harder is always better. For many years, I shaped my sound around this kind of aesthetic, which led me to own quite three Superstrats, a cheap Les Paul, a Flying V and many things in between them. A jazz guitar though, sounds nowhere near how a rock guitar sounds. Jazz in general is smoother, more suave and cultured than rock is. In this sense, the sound of a jazz guitar follows the smoother, more suave and funnily, “cultured” sound. Strangely, I own a Superstrat that actually comes pretty close to that ideal. My Epiphone Pro II had been described by my guitar tech to be “jazzy” – but he told me that around six or seven years back, so at the time, I just had no idea.

 


 

Fast forward to the October of 2018, I stumbled upon a post somewhere on Facebook that Lazer, a pretty well known music store here, was holding a big ass sale, where various pieces of gear can be had for almost half the price. Me having nothing else to do for that evening, drove out to the store with my sister in tow.

There was a bunch of stuff on sale that night, and it was actually the last day of the sale and we arrived about an hour before closing time. Honestly, I was not looking at anything in particular and my eyes were first drawn to some of the Fernandes Flying V’s that I’d been eyeing for years.

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This is a Fernandes Vertex. The only real reason I want it despite already owning a Flying V is because of the smaller body and 24 frets.

I was about to whip out my wallet to get the guitar because I’d always wanted one. My sister thought otherwise because according to her, I already have a Flying V and that it would be pretty moronic for me to own another one, let alone in white as well. There was another one available in black, but I just don’t like black guitars very much.

We looked around the place some more and found more stuff. I turned my eyes towards a Greg Bennett Interceptor IC-30, something that I thought I wanted because, again, 24 frets and a Floyd Rose style tremolo.

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This is the exact same model and finish I saw.

However, my sister countered that I already own quite a bit of shredder oriented stuff.

I was prepared to walk out of the place to head down instead towards a sushi place when my eyes wandered to the right side of the store and saw a couple of Greg Bennett hollow body guitars. I looked at them and saw two models, one with two humbuckers and another one with just one tiny looking humbucker. I thought I’d give the first one a try because I’d never owned a hollow body, and I’d always thought they looked cool, and the model I held was the exact same model that a friend of mine owns.

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That’s me and my friend Johnny at a guitar clinic back in 2014.

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Greg Bennett JZ-2 except the one I had was in a butterscotch-like finish.

I actually didn’t bear in mind how differently it sounds until after I had it in my hand and started noodling with it. My god, that thing had a very unique tone to it and I found myself steadily playing with it. It felt weird because of the huge body and the otherwise unreachable (then) upper frets. I tried on drive, and it gave this raunchy, rocking sound. My sister knew about my gear shopping tendencies, so she left me alone on the most part while she checked out a nearby store. When she came back, I told her I wanted to buy it now and then she said no – it sounds a lot like my other guitars on drive. So I showed her how it was like on clean and she thought it was alright, better sounding than my other guitars.

Then she had me try the other guitar, the one with the tiny humbucker. It was in a brown burst finish and by the looks alone, it spelled out “jazz” all over it.

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This is a Greg Bennett JZ-4.

I looked at it for a minute, and thought “Wait, I cannot rock out on this!”. But then I had it in my hand, and I had nothing else to do really so I started playing with it.

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My jaws dropped with the first few notes. Sure, it wasn’t rockin’ nor twangin’. It wasn’t “fat” as I normally want my guitars to sound like. It was something else, something I have never heard coming from anything I have held previously.

Minutes went by, and I mean long minutes of me noodling around with it in clean mode. I went for whatever the hell kinds of jazz and blues chords and licks that I knew. It felt so perfect for that, and it was almost as if it was built with that purpose in mind.

However much I liked the tone, I thought that I wanted something that could rock out because most of my gigs (up until that point at least) are rooted in hard rock so this had to sound well with distortion.

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I punched the overdrive and cranked to 11 (in my mind) and out came the sound of nightmares visiting small children strapped to a bed with a giant laser gun pointed at their forehead. Well not really, but damn, the feedback was intense. Whilst I like feedback and playing with it, this was the sort that I could not quite control. I rolled back on the gain until it was almost clean, then the feedback stopped. At that point, it was no longer a crunchy kind of sound that I would have liked, but rather a muddy mess. What glory it had while on clean, was gone with the gain.

So I turned off the overdrive, and went back to clean. It sounded heavenly again.

I asked my sister what she thought, and she says that the second guitar sounded the most unique to her. Now, my sister is a big jazz nerd but she didn’t tie the sound of the guitar to the music. I plugged the other guitar in to compare but then I heard the difference – the second guitar was more warm, rounded and smooth. To my sister, it is much more pleasing to the ears and sounded differently than any guitar I owned.

I was then reminded of a man whose music I have always found to be weird, quirky and just outside of my taste but whose chops are just insane.

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Pat Metheny. I grew listening his music at my best friend’s house because his step father (my godfather-in-law) is a big fan.

At the time, I was beginning to be heavily into jazz, fusion and bossa nova and while I didn’t quite plan on getting a full on jazz guitar to get that kind of tone, I have to admit that listening to a lot of Mr. Metheny’s music, especially Letter From Home, have made me realize the beauty of an archtop’s sound.

 

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I believe this is one of the group’s most accessible yet beautiful pieces of work. Not exactly a straight up jazz album though.

I thought about it all for about half an hour because I was still really a little hesitant, although for the price that the guitar was being given to me (about 50% off), it was a huge steal and I figured I can never buy something that cheap again. In case you are wondering why the stuff was so cheap that night, it’s because almost all of the stuff on sale were store displays, meaning they have spent a long time, years probably, being on display and waiting for someone to sweep them up and give them a loving home. I know that for a fact because the Flying V’s I was looking at I’d seen since they arrived new, and it may well have spent at least three years on display.

Being a store display means that it does not look super spanking new. The headstock has what seem to me like watermarks and very light oxidation on the metal parts, but overall it is in very good condition – it still has plastic over the pickguard.

After pacing around the mall, I decided to get it because under normal circumstances, I probably could not afford one. I got an inexpensive padded bag (Lazer’s in-house, also on sale) to store it in for the time being. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find a hardcase for it due to its size (17in) and most available ones only go up to 16in.

I’d already taken it out on a couple of gigs – once during our office Thanksgiving Party, and once during a guest appearance during a friend’s band tour.

 


 

So far, I’m really digging this guitar. I own three Korean (an Epiphone branded Peerless, my no name brand custom V and another Epiphone branded Samick) made guitars, and I must say that quality wise, this one is still pretty good. Unplugged, it is loud and sounds big although it does not match the volume nor percussive nature of flat top acoustic guitars. Plugged in, its mini humbucker works really well. Its got a floating pickup meaning there is no cut nor extra hole on the body apart from the f-holes. The electronics are very basic and attached to the pickguard. Then again, there’s not much to do with this one since in essence, it is an acoustic guitar that could be plugged in.

Apparently, this is a pretty popular entry level aka cheap ass jazz guitar, or jazz box as many cats would call it. There are a lot of review videos available on Youtube, so if you’re kinda wondering about the sound, you might want to look there.

I’d been using this predominantly due my current love for jazz and bossa. I’d use it more had it a couple more frets and if it doesn’t feedback as much as it does under drive.

I’m definitely looking forward to learning and playing with it in the future.

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

 

For Science! HIDs For My Lancer… Not So Smart But I Just Had To Do It.

A week or so back, a colleague of mine at work sold off some bits and bobs off his previous Civic VTi, which included a pair of HID H4 headlight bulbs and HID H11 foglight bulbs. My training supervisor got hold of the set but after putting them into his own Civic VTi, he found that he didn’t like them all that much and passed the stuff on to me to see if I’d like it on Aska.

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This is one side of the bulb set that I got. 

The colleague who owned the parts were selling the bunch for just Php 500 or a little below $10, and I figured I’d like to give it a try. At that amount, there is very little in the way of loss in my opinion, and would give me something to do with Aska.

A couple of days back, I got the set and split it with another friend of mine who coincidentally needed the H11s for his Jazz (Fit). I got the headlight set and made a test fit the night I got the stuff. Earlier tonight though, I scraped some time to do the install job.

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My old man set up a work light for me. How nice, now I don’t have to work with a flashlight held by my mouth. 

Before I get to the juicy parts,  let’s talk about headlights for a moment.

HIDs or High Intensity Discharge (lights) are kind of car lighting system that uses gas to generate its light. Think of it as your CFL (compact flourescent light) that you use at home, but adapted for use in a car. The lights first came out with luxury and high end vehicles in the very early 2000’s and towards the middle of that decade, it became the rave among car enthusiasts due to it’s very bright and while light. Some are so bright that along the edge of the light, a band of blue often appears to the eyes hence some people calling HIDs as “blue lights”. While it’s a good add on for a car, it’s not always a very good idea to simply swap it into those that use reflector headlights.

Reflector headlights use a polished surface inside the housing to reflect light from the bulb on to the road. This is used for a majority of vehicles on the road today, but they are steadily being replaced by projector headlights.

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On the left side is a projector headlight, and on the right is a reflector headlight. This is a common arrangement, and is called a dual lamp (or light if you would) system.

Reflectors are great, they work well enough and fairly cheap compared to projectors. However, most reflector headlights were designed to work with halogen bulbs and HIDs were originally meant (still are actually) for use in projector headlights. The problem is how the light is “thrown” into the road. In reflector headlights, there is a lot of light scattered around and are not exactly the most efficient in a sense. Also. reflectors work best with regular halogens with “normal” color temperatures (measures in K or Kelvin) of around 3600 up until around 4200 something. HIDs though normally produce white light, commonly around 6000K. This white light tends to get scattered much more easily, resulting in a light that appears bright at short distances but doesn’t have the “reach” of conventional halogen bulbs in the same reflector housings.

Enter the projector headlight – as the name implies, it projects the light onto the road much better than reflectors. This is due to the glass lens at the front that focuses the light and throws it further. One of the good things about it is that it doesn’t produce as much glare as a reflector headlight would. HIDs work very well in projector headlights and many cars come with it standard, although some lower spec models may use halogens instead of HID.

All A17x Lancers use the familiar reflector headlight with flutes on the glass, ostensibly to throw the light in a more predictable pattern on the road. It works great with halogens and works well in all weather conditions. Essentially all I’d be doing is change out the bulbs from halogens with the kit that I have now and hope for the best.

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This is half of the kit that I got and the parts are labeled. This one is supposedly rated for 6000K which means I’ll be getting a more white light than stock halogens. 

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A close up of the bulb I’ll be using. This one uses HID for the low beam and halogen for the high beam. This combo is often used for retrofits since a full HID kit is often very expensive. 

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Secured the ballast to the body using an existing hole on the body. I find it amazing that whenever I need to work on the car, mod something and would be needing a hole, there would almost always be one where I need it to be. Conveniently, there is even a metal screw for me to use. Also if you’d be interested to know, “chong” or “tiyong” is derived from the Spanish word “tio” which means an older man, usually an uncle. It is a common term of endearment among men in the Philippines. 

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I had to “mod” the headlight lock ring to get it over the back portion of the bulb. Because of the wires and other things in the way, simply threading it through was not possible. I snipped one portion of the ring and made the wires go through the ring. Now my headlight is ready to be installed into the back of the headlight housing as one would normally change bulbs. 

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Done installing the passenger side. Here I’m testing the output, which suffice to say looks better than the halogen on the left. Repeat the process for the left side, which is just a wee bit trickier since the battery is in the way. 

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A comparison of the lights from the front.

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Both babies are in. Notice the greenish, bluish tint along the edge of the light.

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How it looks from the inside through my tinted windshield. 

Now, I would be the first to admit this isn’t exactly a super smart idea and it’s best to stick to whatever OEM parts were used or if in case of headlight upgrades, going with 90 / 100W Halogens would prove to be better on the most part. But I thought that I’d go with this for now, mostly for kicks. If I am to stick to HIDs though, I am looking to get lower color temps, probably around 4200K or something to mimic the beam and throw of regular halogens.

See the problem with white light in general is the lack of depth (as my friend put it) – this simply means that yellowish light throws further and has better contrast in the dark than a comparable white light. Still, I leave it entirely up to you guys to decide and remember to check local laws and regulations about headlight modifications. In most US states, I will get a ticket for what I just did, or even if I stick in 90 / 100W bulbs. Here in Manila where the roads are mostly lawless, this is fine. But in the interest of a better motoring experience, do check local laws before putting in any mods.

 

 

~

An Open Letter From My Introverted Self To The World At Large

Good day my friend,

 

If you are reading this, you most likely know me in some way. I appreciate your company and continued existence in my life and to those around you. I’m sure you’re a great person in your own right, as is everyone else, but there is something I have to tell you that had always bugged me.

You see, you keep disturbing me. And it’s not during the times that I am in front of my computer working, on my car working or doing something that I would deem as the activities of a productive member of society. Rather, you disturb me during the rare moments of peace that I want to enjoy.

I know you see me with a smile quite a lot of the time, and that we’re chummy and chatty while we’re at it. I know you see me a loud and cheerful, bursting with life and ideas.

But you see, I also need peace and space.

There are times that I feel like I should not be disturbed, that I should be left alone with my thoughts and my music. I know you see me constantly with my headphones, and I am certain you realize that most of the time, I distance myself from large groups whenever those things are on my ears. It’s not that I dislike you, but at least for those moments, I feel like I do not need to share my mind with you.

Before you paint me as a prude and a snob, I would like you to know that I am not. As I mentioned previously and I will always say this, I appreciate your company and you being a part of the world I move around in. I would love to listen to you and your stories, but only at certain times of my choosing. And it’s not because I only find it convenient during those times, but it’s because I want some moments of peace for myself. You see, I need it to recover from the constant pressures of life or the demands of whatever it is I am working on at any given moment. I am deathly afraid of not being able to pay close attention to your stories, or reciprocate your enthusiasm for oral communication and I am equally afraid that I would turn you away if I am not able to respond to you properly.

I greatly respect you, and again I appreciate whatever it is you have to share. But whenever I feel that I want to be left alone, I would appreciate it if I you would allow me to be so. It won’t make that great of a difference if we don’t talk together all the time, but it will make a big difference to me if I lose touch with the inner sense of peace I crave every once in a while.

If you see me with my headphones on, please don’t intrude into my voyage into silence. If you see me looking out in the distance, I would love it if you would not launch into your stories without making sure I am ready to listen and return your appreciation for that moment. If you see me with a book, looking through my phone, writing, playing on my guitar or any sort of activity that I am concentrated on, please do not inundate me with how your day is going. We can always talk at a later time when I am ready to interact and it just happened to be that at the moment you see me, I am not in any sort of mood to interact with the world around me.

Let me be alone with my thoughts, even for a few fleeting moments. The world already has us at its whims, at least allow me to get lost with the flow. I’ll definitely come out of it, but also at the time of my choosing.

 

Please my friend, leave me alone. I need it as badly as our innate need to breathe.

 

Your friend and mine,
Jo

Blankku # 1 : A Mindless Experiment With Form

__ sat in the light,

Waiting for the right moment,

To communicate.

___ sat in the dark,

Waiting for the right moment,

To send a response.

 

__ stared at the void,

As ___ smiled at __ person,

___ thoughts reached for ___.

 

~fin~

 


 

Ok, many of you may find this strange as to why I left blanks in the haiku. It’s a kind of experimental err more like “I just feel like I need to do this” style that I just thought about. We all know haikus are supposed to have seventeen syllables arranged in three lines. Some may comment that the blanks represent no words, meaning the things I wrote are not haikus since they technically do not have seventeen syllables each. However, I see the blanks as spaces that you, the reader, can fill out to make the haiku “work” for you. The blanks are inspired by rests in music – rests are notated and part of the beat but there are no notes played. I see this in the same manner.

I am not sure if I am making sense here, but have fun inserting whatever pronouns or words into the blanks. Hell, you may as well put “carrot” or “strawberry” or “potato” – as long as you are able to keep the syllable count, when you read it out, it still forms a haiku. But with the blanks, I want to call this as “blankku”. Get it? Shit I make bad puns. My sense of humor has left me tonight.

Whatever, I feel like I’m trying to talk smart here but my thoughts are actually a little muddy.

 

~