I walk into a local music store , Music Depot, hoping to find some new guitar stands. The one's I have, while great for live, tend to get cables and stuff tangled up in the legs when I'm working in the studio. I've had a couple of near miss guitar toppling disasters. . . At first glance, looking through the show room, I see pretty much the same design guitar stands I already own. I'm about ready to turn to the exit when a flash of yellow catches my eye. I look down to the floor, way down. . . The thing I'm looking at barely stands a foot tall. Is that a guitar stand?, I think to myself. Sure enough, upon further inspection, it is. "Hercules model GS401B mini guitar stand", the label says. I like to think by now I've become pretty familiar with most brands and products in the musical instrument market but I'd never heard of Hercules guitar stands before. I certainly had never seen a guitar stand with such an interesting design either. I ask the salesman if this is a new company. "Oh, they've been around for years", he replies. I'm blown away. How have I not been aware of this company?, I ponder. . .
I test them out, I purchase three, I take them back to the studio. Wanting to find more information I find the Hercules website. I click on the "Hercules Artists" link. . . Don't know why, I hardly ever check to see who endorses a company's products. Nevertheless, I scroll slightly down and BAM! Bootsy Collins. . . BOOTSY COLLINS! The master of funk endorses these!!?? Totally sold, end of story. I used to love watching Bootsy when I was a high schooler in a certain series of videos where he described his sound and technique. . . "Check out my fuzz!", he'd say as he stepped on his Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pedal throwing his bass into total distortion. Those where the days. . .
I realize that blogging about a guitar stand is probably not the most exiting thing for most of you but, hey, finding such an innovative, well build, space saving device is a godsend when trying to line up guitar recording options in the studio. For those with simular needs, I recommend these. . . Hercules model GS401B (fits acoustic guitars) or model GS402B (electrics only).
As you can see, these stands don't get in the way. The legs are nearly flat to the ground where no guitar / mic cords can get caught up in them. When I'm ready to try a different guitar out for a part I can quickly grab one off it's stand. No more wrestling a guitar away from a stand with a traditional, but cumbersome, headstock support / guard. The stands are made out of steel tubing, bolts and quick locking pins; definitely built to last. Hercules makes all sorts of other musical instrument stands as well. Check them out. . . And just remember, If the Hercules brand is good enough for Bootsy, it's good enough for you (and me).
***This post has been annotated with updated information as of 6.5.18.***
"Back in the early post Northstar days, sometime shortly after the founding of the original Wavelength Studios, I purchased an electric guitar from a then new start-up company from Virginia. One of the musical instrument distributers I had a dealership with carried the new brand so I thought I'd give it a try. "Shane" was the manufacture's name and the model of the guitar was the "Targa". It was roughly based off the '80s Charvel / Jackson designs.
(***Update*** Wavelength Studio is now solely owned and operated by my longtime friend and ex-business partner Jason Carter. He also operates Atomic Mastering and, with his wife, Silver, operates Atomic Disc. These are all very high quality businesses and I strongly recommend them.)
I think the list price was around $550.00. I paid around $250.00 dealer cost. Either way it was a relatively inexpensive guitar but was touted as a good value for money. It featured an "HSS" (hum-bucker,single,single) coil pickup configuration, licensed Floyd Rose vibrato, Schaller style tuners, maple neck and a two octave (24 fret) rosewood fingerboard. Surprisingly, it, indeed, seemed a good value and played well. I especially liked the neck with it's traditional full c-shape cut. The neck felt very similar to that of a Gibson Les Paul, which I found to be an interesting design choice for a "shredder's" guitar. In fact, the feel of the neck is what kept me coming back to the guitar for studio use and, over time, I began to modify / replace the pick-ups and hardware. I eventually changed the all black bridge with a chrome Floyd Rose along with chrome tuners, knobs, etc. I replaced the stock EMG style hum-bucker with a Seymour Duncan. I played around with various other single coil pickups over time as well. . . The headstock shape of the guitar kind of mimicked an '80s Jackson with the addition of an extra flare or "hook" in the middle. While this type of design was popular for its day, I always thought it looked too much like a witches hat or something. I have never been one for sharp angular cuts. One day I took the neck off and re-cut the headstock with a band saw. I got rid of the "witches cap" and rounded off the angles to what was more aesthetically pleasing to my eye. I continued to use the guitar for recordings. . .
(***Update*** Engedi One now has a DiMarzio Evolution bridge pickup and an Original Floyd Rose in "Satin Chrome").
As I look (or rather listen) back now, I realize just how many recordings this guitar has found its way into! Classic songs from SONCOMBER like: "Where Is Your Charity?", "Believe In Love" and "A Beautiful Way" to name a few. Songs which I won awards for. . . Songs which I have plans to re-master and re-release as part of a "best-of" type collection sometime in the future. This guitar has been completely taken apart and re-assembled in different configurations several times. I've modified this instrument so aggressively over the years it really doesn't represent the original design anymore. I guess I did this because it was "inexpensive" (again, relatively). I suppose I felt I could afford to "play around" with it, that I wasn't afraid to "touch it", etc. It's manufacture has long been out of the guitar making business.
(***Update*** A re-mastered version of Soncomber has since been released which you can download for free HERE. The album is now connected with my on-going charity drive.)
My highly modded Shane Targa (re-named, "Engedi One"), often referred to as, "Zac's guitar" (my son) because he claims I gave it to him!! Cost (including mods): $500.00?? Next to my Fender American Strat with Super-Vee vibrato (referred to as "Smoothie"). Cost: $2000.00. Which one will show up more in this summers recordings? Who knows, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be "Zac's guitar"! So much for the cost vs. performance ratio in instruments. I guess the term, "you get what you pay for" IS NOT necessarily true, although Smoothie is a nice guitar, just more expensive.
Last month, in pieces, after a long hiatus, I put this faithful old guitar back together again. This time stripping off the black lacquer at the headstock and re-finishing the natural wood. You see, this instrument has some type of magic in it. At least it seems that way to me. . . Something in the way it plays, something in the way it sounds, something in the way it looks. . . I'm expecting to employ it's special charm again in the new songs I'm recording. Is it an expensive, fancy guitar? No. Was it ever so? No. It's features are quite standard and ordinary but there's something in it that I have never been able to find with anything else. . . So, hello old friend. Despite acquiring and selling countless other guitars I keep coming back to you, like a love one can't get over. It's nice to have you in use once again. LET'S MAKE MORE MAGIC!! (no pun intended toward the song REAL MAGIK, that guitar was "Kate", the Telecaster).
(***Update*** The picture below shows Engedi One in its most recent configuration. This is one of the most long time serving instruments I have, going on 25 years!).
Sidenote: Why the name "Engedi One?" Because, a long time ago, I seriously considered entering the lutherie trade and "Engedi" was going to be the brand name of my hand built guitars. As with most budding luthiers I started out by modifying other maker’s instruments. The headstock of this guitar originally had the same black finish as the body. It sported the manufacture label, "Shane" and the model "Targa" printed on the stock. When I re-shaped the headstock I cut right through the labeling and the only visible lettering left was the "ane" from the word "Shane". The style of the font used, in any case, tricked the eye into thinking it read "One." Hence, the inevitable retitling to "Engedi" (my guitar brand name idea) and "One" . . . "Engedi One".
I’d like to introduce you to a new guest in my house. Although uninvited, he apparently has squeezed through a crack in the window and, unfortunately, there is no pushing him back out. He’s a bit of a rare bird. His full name is Hairy Cell Leukemia. I will spare you the long details of his existence but, when time allows, you can learn all about him by clicking HERE. In honor of being concise I will just refer to him as “Hairy”.
So, Hairy has given me the preverbal “deal I can't refuse”. Reluctantly, I must accept his offer. Fortunately, however, I understand Hairy is rather slow in nature and I have an opportunity to facilitate this “deal” on my terms. It appears that certain treatments can have profound effects on Hairy’s attitude and chances are high he will be forced to play nice in my house for the foreseeable future.
Now, dear friends, I am pretty confident there’s not one amoung you reading this that doesn’t have some uninvited guest(s) of whatever kind, form and severity in your house too. Why should my house be any different? While this circumstance is awkward for me, I do not consider myself unlucky. On a whole, I am a blessed man, a lucky man. Relatively, I lead a blessed life. As you all know, there are so many who suffer in this world, truly suffer. Some of whom we know personally and others we learn about. I do not expect my uninvited guest to cause the level of misfortune, tragedy and suffering I have personally witnessed in other’s houses. To quote a certain Roman general, “Iacta alea est” (the die is cast). Are we not all born into this mortal and imperfect world in which, by being here, things inevitability and irrevocably happen?
Lastly, I’d like to give my heartfelt acknowledgement and deep thank you to the tremendous outpouring of encouragement, prayers and well wishes I have and am receiving from all of you. Thank you. . . thank you. . . You are sending admiration and praise my way that I am unsure I deserve. Never the less, I humbly accept your sentiments and feel honored and humbled to have so many dear friends. . . God bless you all.
As memories of summer still linger and mixing at Wavelength Studio is on going for my next single (Divin’ Down) I’ve been gearing up once again for this fall / winters recording sessions. Like a blow back to my past I’ve built, by hand, my own version of some (now vintage) electronic drums I performed and toured with back in the Northstar days. . . The Simmons SDS-V™. This was the first mass produced electronic drum set to really break through and become widely adapted during the 80’s New Romantic music movement. (otherwise known in the States as the “second British invasion”). Simmons drums were generously employed by such bands as Ultravox, Duran Duran, and Depeche Mode to name a few. Looking to keep pace with the growing movement of the time, even rock groups such as Rush and Def Leppard incorporated the “Simmons sound” into their music.
I originally jumped on Ebay thinking I’d just buy a set of vintage Simmons. Fat chance. Like so many instruments of that time period the demand and asking price for such pieces seemed astronomical to me. I suddenly felt a sting of regret about ever letting go of my Simmons set in the first place, even if it was from another time. So, as an alternative, I decided to build my own “Simmons” drums. The original SDS-V’s where made of wood by none other than Dave Simmons himself. Given my limited knowledge in manufacturing materials other than wood (and also wanting to source parts locally) it was a “no-brainer” to model my drums off the original wood bodied SDS-V’s. The drums I’ve built, in principle, look and operate the same way as Dave's early design. I did, however, make some significant modifications to his specs to fit my particular needs.
For instance, the drums I’ve built are roughly half the size of the originals. I shrunk the size down because I can achieve a physically tighter placement when integrating these drums with my acoustic set. SDS-V’s were designed originally to be played as a “stand-alone” set, not with an acoustic drum kit. Although drummers such as Neil Peart managed to successfully perform with an acoustic / Simmons hybrid kit, I remember always thinking they were (because of the design to approximate the size of a standard kick and tom-tom) a bit difficult to “squeeze” in around my regular drums. One criticism Dave Simmons received with his original design was the playing surface being, "too hard" and "unforgiving". Many a drummer complained of wrist pain and injury due to Dave’s use of “riot shield” (i.e. Lexan) for the surface. While the hardness of the surface never bothered me much, my bigger concern (when recording) was always the loud “clicky” noise they made when the stick hit. It was a never-ending challenge to keep that unwanted sound away from mics meant to pick up the acoustic drums. For my modern adaptation I came up with a way to use high-density foam for the playing surface. This modification not only gives a realistic stick response but also a greatly attenuated acoustic impact transient well within an acceptable limit as to not “bleed” into the acoustic drum mics at such a level as to make it difficult for mixing later. The impact sound is really quite low and comparable to the type of sound emitted by the more modern mesh head designs found on Roland V-Drums™ for example. Lastly, I designed my Simmons style drums to be mounted via a modern cymbal boom stand. This, again, was done to enhance the ability to place the "e-drums" in a compact configuration around acoustic drums. Also, the cost of buying and maintaining a standard cymbal boom stand is much less than the suspended (Pearl™) tom mount and stand that was required for the original.
I was able to build these drums (with the exception of the modified Pintech™ transducers) from parts purchased locally at Lowes™, Home Depot™, Michaels™ and Radio Shack™. I’m really quite pleased and excited with the way my Simmons inspired electronic drums turned out. I’ve been able to get the tracking of the internal transducer to trigger very accurately. I wired in some in-line resistors to pad the trigger output by 20dB so as to give plenty of room to adjust triggering sensitivities when connected to a variety of different drum brains or trigger to MIDI interfaces. I’m having very good luck directly running the drum trigger feeds into the analog audio inputs of my RME Fireface800™ using Logic Pro™ and apulSoft’s apTrigga2 AU plug-in to trigger any number of drum sounds (including samples of the SDS-V). XLN Audio has come out with REAL MACHINES, an actual virtual instrument modeler of the SDS-V and other vintage electronic drums. I haven’t personally tried the software but it looks cool.
Finally, I’d like to thank Wolfgang Stölzle for his excellent Simmonsmuseum’s blog. Discovering his blog inspired me and gave enough information to help build my own drums based upon the beautiful vintage Simmons SDS-V™. A big shout out goes to Dave Simmons, who’s early 80’s inventions helped drive an entire musical trend.
Professional musician / composer / audio engineer who also ventures into fine art photography, geometric design, lutherie, artisan bread baking, electrical engineering, blogging, charity drives, and other things that keep life crazy and amazing. . .