Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Five More Gone

Yesterday I took five more guitars to Guitar Center to sell. They were this beautiful Peavey T-60, a less photogenic and slightly older T-60 with an oil-finished ash body and rosewood fretboard, a Peavey Limited VT with a tiger's eye flame maple top, my Firenza with Duncan P-90 pickups, and my Ovation 1778T Elite with the purple, orange, yellow and green "Tribal Flame" finish.

I also sold my Boss DD-20 digital delay and my old Digitech Talker. I tried to unload a couple of Grunge distortion pedals but they didn't want to give me more than $5 or so each for them, so I kept them. I might have use for them eventually. Guitar Center didn't want my Radial JS-3 microphone splitter, although it's a nice piece of gear, because they just don't move items like that. I also sold my matched pair of Rode NT-5 microphones.

It's hard to get excited about selling off gear. The things gone are a load off my mind -- I don't have to store them, don't have to worry about keeping them in the proper temperature and humidity, or getting stolen, or getting broken. But some I will miss. The Limited VT is a very scarce guitar with incredible tone -- made in the Peavey custom shop in Leakesville, Mississippi, with 3 hand-wound single-coil pickups. And yet these guitars get very little respect. But the flame finish isn't my style -- it's too flashy for my taste. The T-60s are starting to become vintage and arousing interest from collectors, but although I wanted one very badly when I was about sixteen, and they are beautifully crafted guitars, built like tanks, with classic looks, I have to acknowledge that I no longer really like the way the skinny necks actually feel in my hands. The Firenza (C profile) and Ovation (soft V) and Limited (C-ish, asymmetrical, flat fingerboard) feel a lot better. The Ovation is actually kind of garish -- the finish doesn't really fit my personality all that well, especially as I get older. And while the Talker is cool, I just wasn't using it, because I haven't been performing live. All this stuff was made to be used, and it should be used more than it has been.

Oh, I've used it all some. The Synapse fretless bass provided the bass line for several of my songs: "Polly," "I.O.U.," and "Falling." The Firenza and one of the Venus guitars were on my parody of Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains," called "Re: Your Grains." The Firenza also provided the main guitar riff for "I.O.U." The Parker Fly was the lead guitar tone for a couple of songs, most notably "War Criminal" and my cover of "Today's the Day." The Limiteds have been on various tracks going back to my early collaborations with Joe "Covenant" Lamb. The Ovation acoustic is in several of my covers and instrumentals and it always gets comments because of its flashy finish.

Of course, it wasn't strictly necessary to have all those different instruments to chose from, to make those songs. Honestly, I had too many, and the guitar-collection-as-investment idea wasn't actually going to fly, at least not the way I put it into practice. It also fed into some of my less wholesome personality traits; it felt uncomfortably close to hoarding, and maybe a little compulsive. But it was a lot of fun, and I really liked being able to pick up a few guitars and try them out while recording a song, and let the particular feel and tone of a specific instrument tell me what to play.

While I was waiting for the staff at Guitar Center to process all this stuff, I toyed with a few modern instruments. It mostly served to remind me of what I liked about my older instruments. While modern USA-made Stratocasters have decent fit and finish, the wood hasn't aged to that point where they resonate beautifully -- they just don't have as much tone or as much mojo as the old T-60s from 1979, or even the Limited VT, which isn't yet truly "vintage."

What's sad about all this is that this load of gear, re-sold, won't even pay for one month's expenses. It'll cover a mortgage payment and part of a heating bill. I got out of this gear well under half of what I put into it. I might have been able to get a little more on eBay, but I just don't have that kind of time to put in. And it's just hard to get excited about being able to pay Consumer's Energy for another month.

There are a few pieces left. I'm not guitar-less yet. There are a few more in salable condition, and then some "fixer-uppers" that might be harder to unload, which I might have to list on eBay as "project" or "parts" guitars. There's even one ukulele.

If I have to sell almost everything -- if I only can keep one -- I'll (sadly) sell the Babicz acoustic (made in Indonesia), the USA-made Steinberger XP and the American/Canadian Godin nylon-string SA, the sparkle blue Super-Sonic, and the flame-top Peavey Limited, and keep the American flag Limited.

I don't want to let that one go, because all the American flag guitars you see these days are made overseas, and I could never bring myself to buy one. I'll keep it in memory of a time when people like me were paid to make things here in America.

And if I can't keep even one -- if I still don't have an income again, and we're selling off everything we possibly can just to get through the winter -- well, then God help us.

I leave you with this.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More Guitars Gone

The Parker Fly Refined Classic is gone, and the Godin LGX-SA. I also sold the Godin LG. I have now sold ten instruments. I sold my Apogee Ensemble.

My T-60 with a maple fretboard is still up for sale at Elderly Instruments in Lansing -- see this link. If it sells, I will eventually get a check. If it doesn't sell in another month or so, I think they will want me to go down and get it.

The most valuable guitars are gone now. There are some more I could sell. There are some others I probably can't sell at any price, because they need too much work, or aren't worth anything. I'm thinking that over, considering what I might keep. It's a hard choice. I'm considering Operation Rip Off the Scab, which would involve selling all but three instruments -- my favorite bass, my favorite electric guitar, and my favorite acoustic guitar. Also, some of my loose gear and pedals -- pretty much everything I might be able to get a little money for, some locally, and some on eBay. There's also Operation Guitarpocalypse, which is like Operation Rip Off the Scab, except I don't keep anything at all.

Operation Guitarpocalypse assumes that within six months to a year I'll be able to get back into music. But what if a job still doesn't come around? My last few guitars will only net me enough to pay our energy bills and other expenses for maybe another two months at the outside. They won't pay the mortgage. They just keep us from sliding into debt before the end of September or October. That's no way to solve a problem, just kicking it down the road for another two months. I've played guitar on and off for almost 35 years. It's been a very important hobby to me and I've hoped to do more with music, not less-- more performing, and more recording.

Honestly, I don't actually need a collection quite like the one I had. I had sort of a mix of goals with that -- some of them I was planning to hold and attempt to re-sell after they had appreciated in value, some were for different tones for recording, and some were honestly just because I wanted to try different kinds of instruments. The re-selling thing has not worked out. Even though I bought them used, and made lowball bids, and bought them for as cheaply as I could, mostly on eBay, I will be getting less than half of what I paid for them, on average. So I guess I mostly have to chalk it up to experience and maybe learn something from this.

If I'm really going to play guitar, performing live or recording, I need a handful of well-chosen instruments and gear that sounds good. Is the best way to eventually get to that point to get rid of everything now, in the faith that I'll be able to set up a new studio and get some different instruments in the future -- maybe better-chosen stuff, making choices informed by my experience with the current gear and instruments? Maybe. Really, it comes down to my faith in the future -- my ability to get a good-paying job, to have a little free time and a little extra money, and to make better decisions. Dear reader, what do you think? How do you come to grips with giving up things you love? And are you feeling sanguine about your future, these days?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shrinking the Guitar Collection

So, during this period of unemployment I have taken the opportunity to turn some instruments into money.

Initially, I took three guitars down to Elderly Instruments in Lansing for appraisal and/or sale: a USA-made Peavey Limited, a T-60 with a maple fretboard, and a black Squier Venus. The T-60 is now on consignment, up for sale on their web site now. If you buy it, I should eventually get a check.

They did not want the Limited -- in the sense that they would only offer me a very small amount of store credit for it, and no cash at all. I realized when I read their evaluation that the tech had not noticed that it was a USA-made guitar -- made in the Peavey custom shop in Leakesville. He thought it was one of the Korean EXP models. When I pointed that out, they did offer me slightly more store credit -- but I think it was still under $100. And I just had to sigh. That instrument listed at perhaps $1,200, and sold for perhaps $900, and I bought it for something around $400. It was another example of an American manufacturer who employed American craftsmen undermining the perceived value of their instruments by, basically, selling authorized knock-offs. The Limited models are respectable guitars, but no one respects them. I have a few more but I will be trying to hold on to them if I can, in the hopes that maybe they will gain some vintage value like the T-60 did -- but mainly because I like the way they sound and the way they feel to play.

It was a similar situation with the Venus. They offered me a tiny store credit. I think it was under $75. Now that really is a guitar made overseas -- in Japan. It's not a great guitar, but it is an interesting design, of historic interest, and fun to play, with some nice tones. They just really just don't seem to want to deal with lower-end, less-vintage guitars. I guess that's understandable. But I didn't really like the way they dealt with me over the T-60. It left a bad taste in my mouth. To even put it up for consignment, they required me to pay for some work on it -- fret leveling and dressing, and setup. Since I had come all that way, I did this by trading them the Venus for enough store credit to pay them to do the setup. So it seems, essentially, as if I had to bribe them for the privilege of having them put it on consignment and (if it sells) collecting a percentage of the sale price.

I wish I hadn't given up the Venus like that, since I could have gotten a lot more for it elsewhere. It was just another case of how my expectations have been beaten down. I set up my own instruments, and the T-60 didn't really need fret work. Yes, it had some very slight wear, but the wide jumbo Peavey frets last a lot longer than vintage-profile frets, and they weren't badly notched anywhere, and it wasn't buzzing. They make the case that they want instruments in their showroom to reflect professional setup. I'd be a lot more convinced of that if their showroom wasn't loaded with crappy new Asian guitars with sharp fret ends poking out and bad setup. So I do hope you will buy my guitar from them, but I don't think I'll be taking Elderly any more used instruments to sell. If it doesn't sell, I'll have to go back down there to pick it up.

So that's one instrument gone, and one on consignment. I took the Limited to our local Guitar Center and got $200 in cash for it, which was not stellar -- I could have probably gotten more on eBay, but it takes a lot of time and effort to sell guitars on eBay, and I'm trying to spend my time on things more relevant to my job search.

Since then I've taken a few more guitars to Guitar Center. I sold my Vista-series Jagmaster. It wasn't my favorite of that series -- if I ever get another of the Japanese-made Jagmaster, I want one with the truss rod access at the headstock, so I don't have to remove the neck (even partially) to adjust it. I took one of my three Super-Sonics -- a silver one. I took them one of my other Venus guitars, one of two sunburst models. I took them my Steinberger Synapse five-string fretless bass. They bought all those. I also took them a "Music Yo" era Steinberger XQ-4 fretted bass, and they passed on that, saying it seemed like it had a truss rod issue. I will have to look into that. My son was playing that one, and if he tried to adjust the truss rod without asking me, I fear the worst -- it takes some practice to learn how much force you can use. If you've never done it, you should practice on a junker!

So my collection has shrunk by, let's see... Venus, Limited, Venus, Synapse, Jagmaster, Super-Sonic, and (if it sells) a T-60. That's six, maybe seven. The instruments I've got left tend to fall into two categories. There are a number of fixer-uppers. There's another Venus that needs some wiring work. There's another silver Super-Sonic that needs some wiring work as well. There's another T-60 that has a loose output jack. There is a broken Newburgh Steinberger bass that needs some bridge rebuild work -- probably several hundreds of dollars including shipping it off to New York. Should I bite the bullet and pay for repair work on instruments just so I can sell them? Then there are some that I really want to keep because of their quality or tone or rarity. I'm not sure how hard I should fight to hold on to them. What it comes down to is whether the money I could get for them is worth more than the value to me in having them around to play or re-sell later. Maybe it's time to only keep instruments that are really "pulling their weight" -- the ones I use to record with or play regularly.

We'll see how long this period of unemployment lasts. My priorities could change. I feel a little lighter for having gotten rid of six of them. The broken instruments feel like a bit of a mental burden as well -- projects I keep meaning to get to. Maybe it really would be best to get them back out there, fixed up, so that someone can play them. After all, that's what they are for.