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Archive for the ‘Guitar’ Category

I continue to run because I like running.  I like to run even though I’m not, by their standards, any good at it.  What matters to me is that I like to run, not what they think about my running.
    —     John “The Penguin” Bingham
From his book:  “No Need For Speed
[LoL!!  Pretty much how I feel about learning to play guitar.    —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2020 Make Voting A Habit
You Ought To Hear Him Tell His Stories
2019 2019 49ers Season Starts 5-0!!
Will Any Republican Senator Vote For Impeachment?
2018 VOTE – We Need A Wave
2017 Soothe, Inspire And Recharge
2016 Aren’t We?
2015 Cold Embrace
2014 Delightful
2013 Apprenticeship
2012 Curtain Rods
2011 A Living Force
2010 BART Rides – A Tipping Point

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I have been learning to play guitar since January of this year.  Although I’ve always liked music and songs, I’ve never given much thought to what music is.  I mean, I’ve always considered it as “sound” (in a physics sense), but learning to “play” music (make sounds) as turned into a deep and enriching exercise in itself.  Last night, I read someone’s definition of “music” as a combination of three things: rhythm, melody and harmony.  I thought this was interesting, so, today I went on Google and Wikipedia to see what they had to say about it…
There seems to be a (little / minor) disagreement about what “makes” music.  Most of what I read agrees with the three parts above, but I also found other sources which added a fourth:  dynamics.
This is my simplistic understanding of each:
1)  Rhythm:  the beat and speed of the sound(s);
2)  Melody:  the grouping of the sounds (typically making it – the “music” – distinctively memorable) into start, order and ending;
3)  Harmony:  the mixing of sounds for effect (happy / sad, blending / discordant); and,
4)  Dynamics:  how loud or quietly / soft or hard something sounds.
I’m sure any readers who are “real” musicians will find my explanation / understanding of these elements of music simplistic, and I’m okay with that.  LoL!  I think it’s amusing (amazing) I’ve enjoyed music my whole life, but never thought about ANY of this.  And, to be honest, I have large blind spots about most things under “arts and culture”.  I know I don’t know about them, but I have no idea how much I don’t know about them.  It’s fun starting to learn!
C’est la vie…
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On This Day In:
2020 I Am Shocked! Shocked I Say!
But You Gotta Have Faith
But Only Half
2019 …And Bullet-Proof Suits
The Bottom Line (Is No Surprise To Me)
2018 What Do You Hear?
2017 I’ve Got A Pocket Protector
Word Up!
2016 Better Value
2015 Any Port In A Storm
2014 Babies (II)
2013 Why The Young Stay In College Longer These Days
2012 Perceptions Of Worth
2011 Flavor
2010 Giants Win 1-0 !!

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Frustration is the first step toward improvement.  I have no incentive to improve if I’m content with what I can do and if I’m completely satisfied with my pace, distance and form as a runner.
    —     John “The Penguin” Bingham
From his book:  “No Need For Speed
[Running is a lot like learning to play guitar.  Or gaining any new skill, I suppose.    —    KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2020 You Too?
Six Degrees
2019 A Branching Stream
Day 9: One Day At A Time
2018 Pity The Nation (Part 2)
Day 1: Redux
2017 Good Blogs, Too
2016 My Prediction For #AmnestyDon
2015 Worth A Try
2014 I’m Feeling It
2013 May I Have A Little More, Please?
2012 Increasing Doubt
2011 You Can’t Touch This

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Bridge Over Troubled Water

Favorite Line(s):
Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
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On This Day In:
2020 Remember Your Obligation
Smile And Shuffle
2019 If One Is Lucky Enough
Basic Training (In Films)
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

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Don’t postpone joy until you have learned all of your lessons.  Joy is your lesson.
     —     Alan Cohen
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On This Day In:
2020 Remember Your Obligation
Smile And Shuffle
2019 If One Is Lucky Enough
Basic Training (In Films)
2018 Being President Doesn’t Make You Presidential
Day 27: 4 Weeks / 55lbs
2017 I’m Seeing It, Too
2016 Personal Decisions
2015 Verbal Fluency
2014 Familiar
2013 Unbending
2012 Simple Sayings
2011 Wupped Again?
2010 3 and 1…
Musical Notes…
Doubt Tries…
Northwest Passages – Evening Two
The Beierly’s Web Site

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(Disclaimer:  this post is about the restringing of an Ibanez steel string acoustic guitar with D’Addario nylon strings.  The initial purchase of the string set was from my own funds.  A replacement 6th string was provided by D’Addario at no cost to me.  Otherwise, the company has provided no compensation for this post and has no influence on my opinions.    —    KMAB)
A couple of months ago I borrowed a steel string acoustic guitar from my brother.  It has been unused for several years.
On first strum, I noted the strings felt rough and (I thought) “chippy”.  It struck me they were somehow rusted and the rust was flaking off when I went up and down the length of the strings.
I thought the guitar might still be manageable / playable, but I kept getting what I felt were splinters.
I decided to replace the strings.
I have two acoustic guitars which I own.  My very first guitar, which is also a steel string, and, a 3/4 size guitar which has nylon strings.  I love my steel string, but the 3/4 is the one I reach for for extended practice or lengthy noodling sessions because the strings are easier on the fingertips.  I, therefore, decided to try nylon strings as the replacements.
I went to my local music store and purchased a set of D’Addario “Folk Nylon” strings and swapped them with the steel strings.  As it would happen, the 6th string (the “low” E) snapped at the tuner while I was tightening / tuning the strings.  The other five tuned up fine.
I sent an email to D’Addario:  explained the situation and requested a replacement for what I felt was a defective string.  The following day, I received a response they would be sending me a new 6th string and a replacement set (for my trouble).
My initial thought was: “Yeah, we’ll see.
A week later (last Thursday), I received the string and set!!
The following day, I added the 6th / “E” string and tuned up the other strings.  Because I have experience with nylon strings I fully expected to be tuning and re-tuning – and this has been the case…  Nylon strings stretch a lot more than steel strings and the guitar reacts to the tension with its own movement, so the process is not a “one and done” deal.
Anyway, I’ve been noodling with the guitar each day.  Tune, practice, re-tune, etc.  Each day the changes are smaller and the time spent tuning is shorter.  I expect the strings will be fully set sometime this week.
Although I’ve changed nylon strings before, I don’t have any experience of fully tuning them.  The one time I did a restring, I only kept the guitar for a week before returning it to its owner (my daughter’s fiance).  I will say, when we last visited them, the guitar was (again) slightly out of tune, but that seems to be true for my steel strings (acoustic and electric), too, so I think it’s just a function of continuous tension for string instruments.
Now…  The main thing is what does it sound like.  Fantastic!!  The guitar has a deep, resonance it simply did not have with steel strings.  The notes last longer (the sometimes need to be muted) and there is a very sensual vibration from the guitar body / box, which I don’t really get from my first guitar.  It’s there.  It’s just not as resonant.  (Which basically means I’m now tempted to replace the steel strings on my first guitar with nylons once they come due.)  AND they feel excellent, too!  Nice and smooth to the touch.
I had never purchased D’Addario strings before as they are more expensive than my usual brand.  This excellent customer service means I will definitely consider them in the future.
You may ask why I chose them (a new string brand) to start off with as they are not my “usual” brand and I’m really into brand loyalty.  Well, I try to support my local brick and mortar businesses when I can.  The store did not have my usual brand in stock for this string type.  Pure accident / coincidence.
One closing note about restringing guitars:  it is NOT recommended you re-string steel string guitars with nylon strings.  The two string types have vastly different tensions and string diameter which means you may also have to adjust your action (the height of your strings above your frets).  It may also cause the neck of your guitar to bow somewhat in reaction to the decreased string tension.  This will mean adjusting the guitar neck via the truss rod.  These are relatively easy (sometimes) things to do, but you can seriously damage your guitar if you are not careful.
And you should NEVER replace nylon strings with steel strings (on a nylon string guitar) as this will almost certainly badly damage your nylon string guitar.  Steel string tension is MUCH higher than nylon and the internal reinforcement is simply not present in a guitar intended for nylon string use. You will probably snap your guitar in half or pull the bridge off of the body.
In my case, I went from steel to nylon – NOT nylon to steel.  A word to the wise should suffice…
Oh, yeah.  Please remember ALL of my guitars are relatively inexpensive.  I am, therefore, in a position to play with them / modify them, just to see what happens.  I also have multiple guitars, so I can continue to practice each day even if I really mess up one of them.  Try to avoid doing anything today which will interfere with your practice tomorrow…
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On This Day In:
2020 The Responsibility Side Is On The Right
Where Clear Winds Blow
2019 Define Your Life…
2018 It Is No Secret
Day 25: When 4 or 5 equals 2
2017 Cowardly Defamation
2016 With No Allowance For Chance?
2015 Details
2014 Here’s One…
2013 Non-Fungible Commodities
2012 Hope And Tears
2011 Just Long Enough
Meaningful Thoughts

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Over the weekend, I had another music / guitar lesson from my brother-in-law.  He has a degree in music, plays saxophone professionally, and has been teaching music in public schools for over twenty years.  Part of the lesson was to think about “learning performance skills“.  Here is a modified version of his lesson (with supplemental info from Wikipedia)…
The four stages of learning skills are:
Unconscious incompetence  (You don’t know that you don’t know and you don’t know what you don’t know.)
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit.  They may deny the usefulness of the skill.  The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.  The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
Conscious incompetence  (You know that you don’t know something and recognize you don’t know it.)
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, they recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit.  The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
Conscious competence  (You know what you know, but you have to concentrate on it to do it well.)
The individual understands or knows how to do something.  However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration.  It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
Unconscious competence  (You don’t have to think about what you know how to do in order to do it.)
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily.  As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task.  The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
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On This Day In:
2020 Come Laugh With Me
Make Life Be Life To Me
2019 For Your Consideration…
2018 Brown’s Rules
Day 23: Fasting Visualized
2017 Still Trying To Make It
2016 One Lucky Man
2015 Food Change ==> Health Change
2014 10 Commandments Of Logical Arguments (Fallacies)
2013 Sociology Of The Future
2012 1010
There In The Sunshine
2011 Not Enough Time

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Donner DLP-124S Electric Guitar   —   guitar review
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    KMAB]
Background:  I am a rank beginner guitar player, so please take all of my advice / opinions with a healthy grain of salt…  This is one in a series of reviews of guitars and kit I am doing as I learn how to play guitar.  All of my purchases have been at the bottom end / inexpensive side of the market.
Start of review:
Two weeks ago I purchased my fourth guitar (my second electric).  This one is the Donner (brand) DLP-124S (pictured below).  On sale and with a discount, it came delivered for just under $150USD.  The “normal” retail price on their site is just under $170USD.  I gather the naming convention is “Donner Les Paul” style with the ending “S” standing for the color: “Sunburst”.  I don’t know if the “124” means anything or not.
Delivery:
The guitar arrived in less than the promised 10-day delivery (good).  This was the longest it took to receive any of my four guitars.  It was the first of my guitars to arrive in an undamaged box (great).  It was not double-boxed, which is what I was expecting.  It came in a water-proof plastic and taped wrapped cardboard box.  All in all, a positive experience.  Not great, but positive.
What you get: 
The Donner site is long on marketing and short on actual information about the guitar.
Visual checklist:
• neck  –  straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut  –  bone (in the marketing buff and it looks slightly discolored the way bone is supposed to look.  Would I know the difference?  Not without taking it off and breaking it.  I’ll assume it’s bone.
• strings  –  strum…  not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs
• body  –  again, beautiful color and shiny finish.  I am very pleasantly surprised.  It looks “classy” to me.
• controls  –  the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume and tone both turn smoothly. I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on), but the difference is not as big as on my “Strat”.  It’s only a three-way switch:  neck, both, and bridge.  They are labeled “treble” and “rhythm”.  I’m not sure what that’s about…  I assume it means high and low strings, not neck and bridge, but I really can’t tell.  (Again, I’m a rank beginner.)
• tuning pegs  –  no gaps and they seem sturdy
• tremolo bar  –  n/a
• strap  –  feels like nice cotton woven material with leather ends.  It’s comfortable and I won’t need to replace it anytime soon.
• pick (“plectrum”)  –  none.  A missed marketing opportunity by Donner.  The gig bag and strap have “Donner” on them.
• action and intonation  –  the strings height “look” fine, and they don’t feel bad on my fingertips. The guitar comes with a little action card.  I check it and then use the metal one I purchased separately some time ago.  They match.
• “gig-bag”  –  this is a decent bag.  See additional comments below…
The guitar is a steel six-string electric guitar with dual (neck and bridge) humbucker pickups. “Humbucker” pickups simply means they are (as near as I can tell) double posted and wound to breakup the 60 cycle hum which is common to unshielded single pickups.  In English, this means you get less feedback from the environment you’re playing in.  I have not opened up the electronics to see if they are in a shielded cavity or not.  As I only play in my bedroom or living room, my environment isn’t a big concern.
The guitar comes with a padded “gig” bag, a strap, a cable and a couple of Allen wrenches to make adjustments to the truss rod and the intonation.  It also comes with two cards: one with basic chords and one with action millimeter guides.  The guitar does NOT come tuned and ready to play, but it it pretty close.  I attached one of my electronic tuners and was playing in tune within five minutes.  The intonation was (is) practically perfect (according to my tuner).  The “action” (the height of the strings from the frets) seems pretty close to what the YouTubers are saying is standard height and although heavy (weight), the guitar is very easy to play.  I’m not sure if this (ease of play) is because of better strings or better action or a combination of both.  Either way, I was comfortable playing around with this guitar for well over an hour after it was tuned up.  (It didn’t hurt my fingertips.)
My “other” electric guitar is a Stratocaster style and this DLP is about twice the weight even though it is no larger (physically).  In fact, this guitar feels smaller in my hands.  I stood them side by side for comparison.  The DLP is thicker and does not have cutaways for your arm (in front) or stomach (on the back).
The sunburst paint / finish on my guitar is beautiful.  I didn’t think I’d like it only being “sunburst” on one side (the top), but the truth is I think it makes the guitar look classier and it makes me almost want to get a full-on black guitar.  Most of the other sunburst guitars (I’ve looked at) have a similar effect on both top and bottom, which is why I originally wasn’t too taken with this before its arrival.
The neck is very comfortable in my hand.  It’s somewhere between the width and fretboard flatness of my dreadnought acoustic and my other electric.  In other words, its almost as comfortable on the board side and slightly more comfortable on the underside.  The underside is stained / colored in a dark honey orange / brown.  It is smooth without being slick.  In other words, your hand doesn’t stick, but it also doesn’t feel like you’re on a slimy polyurethane shellac.  The frets end cleanly at the edge of the board and are moderately tapered so they neither stick nor slice your hands / fingers.  They are not rounded though.  The fretboard itself is fresh looking (dark and smooth) and did not come with that “ashy / dusty, oil me now” look which two of my other guitars had on delivery.
The tuners seem stable.  Easy to turn without dead spots or wiggles.
Extras:  I haven’t had to use the Allen wrenches so I don’t know if there are any issues with the truss rod.  The shoulder strap is a nice cotton feeling material.  Much better quality than my other three “included” straps, but obviously not as good as the full leather strap I bought (separately) for my primary acoustic.  Similarly, the included cable is much nicer than the one which came with my other electric (starter kit).  In fact, it compares favorably with the replacement I purchased.  It generates no more buzz than my good cable, so now I have two decent cables in case one goes on the fritz.
I would like to discuss the gig bag separately (here).  I was very dissatisfied with the “bag” which came with my first electric guitar.  It was little more than a plastic dust-cover with a cheap zipper.  It was bad enough I bought an upgrade (from Donner) for just over $20USD.  As it happens, the current bag is not as good as my upgrade (from Donner), but it is FAR superior to the dust-cover (from the other guitar manufacturer).
Factoring in the bag, the cable and the strap with the total price, this is probably $35-40USD (at retail) additional value.
After all this, you’re probably thinking:  “Who cares? What does it sound like?”  Well, disappointingly, I can’t give you very much input there.  Unplugged, it sounds much deeper / heavier / fuller than the unplugged Strat-style I own.  Not acoustic level loud / full, but significantly fuller than the Strat-style.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s a heavier / more solid guitar, or just because it has much better strings.  I can say, it tuned up faster and has stayed in tune better, too.  Again, is that the strings, the tuners, the weather or something else?  I don’t know…
Okay, how about plugged in?  Again, due to my extremely limited experience, I can only give a very limited evaluation.  I can play the standard beginner open chords and the standard A-minor and Blues pentatonic scales and (again) this guitar sounds “fuller”.  I don’t know (I don’t yet have the vocabulary) how to describe the differences. This guitar has three positions and the Strat has five.  This guitar seems to have more sustainability.  I have to palm mute it or it goes on forever.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  I can imagine circumstances where it could be either / both.
Final Recommendation:  This guitar is a very nice beginner’s guitar.  On the guitar I received, once tuned, the intonation was spot on and the tuning was almost exactly the same at the end of the hour (plus) as when I initially started playing with it.  The price is very good and the only things missing are an inexpensive “starter” amp and a little electronic tuner to make this a pretty perfect starter set.  I feel the extras add a great deal of value to the purchase.  Not because you won’t get similar items from other vendors.  Because you won’t get them with similar quality.  Again, this is my limited experience with only three other vendors.
Given the weight, I’m not sure I would recommend this guitar for small (under 10-years old) children, but it seems to be both an excellent instrument and an excellent value for any beginner over 10 or 12 years old.  And it’s pretty good for a retired codger like me…  It’s now in my regular rotation and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with other Donner equipment (particularly a starter / practice amp or some effects pedals).
So, for now, keep on picking and strumming!
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On This Day In:
2020 Poor Proof
Right From The Start
You Voted For An Incompetent And Corrupt Business Person To Drain A Political Swamp
2019 I Wish This Were More True
2018 Used To Rejection
Day 16: Looking Ahead (Just A Little)
2017 Tonight
I Rejoice
2016 Conscientious Courage
Speaking Of Which…
2015 The Beautiful Snow
2014 Nurtured By The Voices
2013 Précis
2012 Fear And Understanding
2011 Just Being Human

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This post marks the first day of my 13th year of blogging here on WordPress.  The number of countries who’ve visited this site continues to grow and the number which haven’t continues to decrease.  North Korea and Cuba are still among them (the latter…)  I’m also still missing a belt across the middle of Africa and a few spots in Asia.  (Slowly, slowly…  Resistance is futile.)
On reviewing my content over the past year, I have done mostly two posts a day.  One is a thought, review or quote; one has been a music video.  My intent was to offer up to any who stumbled onto my blog a chance to sample some of the music which affected my life.  In the process, I’ve rediscovered a tremendous number of songs which came and went (in my life) and a core of songs and performers who have helped make me – me.  Not, physically, like food or drink or air, but spiritually…  Now that the year is completed, I doubt I’ll be continuing with the videos every day, but I will include them periodically (sporadically?).
My blog has continued to be an increasing part of my “normal” retired life.  I routinely receive about 20 to 60 emails (per day) from the roughly 300 blogs I follow.  I say “roughly” because I don’t check how many I follow.  I just looked, and I have fewer than 2,000 followers myself.  Every year there is a trade-off:  you pick up a few steady followers and a few drop off.  Those who actually post about leaving (their own sites) say they are simply moving on to other things.  Most, don’t bother and just stop posting.  A few come back after some period of time.  Many do not.  It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve stopped blogging.  Some just move to a hosted service to try to monetize their thoughts and don’t provide me a way to follow them.  Or maybe they did and I simply missed the link…
At any rate, I am still posting thoughts, quotes, movie reviews, book reviews, and favorite music videos.  I easily spend an hour per day reviewing the posts I get (via email subscription) and sometimes that is simply overwhelming.  It’s not always the average blogger’s fault.  If you post something interesting, I (still) will go off and investigate it further: authors, artists, locations, books, movies, science / math / history topics – they will all lead me off down the rabbit hole.  And that hole can be DEEP!  I don’t know why, but this year, less frequently, I’m choosing to delete fewer (unopened mail / posts).  I apologize to you if you are one of those authors.  I will admit to only viewing actual posts sent to me (most of the time).  I seem to get a lot of “read more” posts / emails.  I’m not sure why this is.  I guess it’s a WordPress feature I don’t use or don’t know about.  There are a few (a handful) of sites which I know are visual and I more frequently click through to the actual site, because I’m interested in the bits which are not offered in the smaller / limited / text based emails I tend to receive.  I apologize if that affects your view stats negatively…
So, besides this blog, what am I up to?  My health has been mixed.  Last year, I was back in the hospital for “jump start”.  I have AFib and every now and then I get my heart zapped (“reverted”) to a normal rhythm.  We’ve also had this whole COVID lock down, which has put a damper on things.
In January, I purchased my first guitar and I’ve been practicing most every day since.  I “know” some basic chords and scales.  I’m still having a dickens of a time with strumming and chord changes, but I’m told that will come with time.  I now own two acoustic guitars and one electric (a Stratocaster style), and I have another acoustic on loan from my brother.  I have the four on a rotation calendar, but the first is still my favorite.  I’m looking into picking up a few more inexpensive guitars and two basses.  There is no time pressure.  It’s all about my ability to save (here and there) until I can justify a purchase.  [Wife:  How many guitars do you NEED?  Me:  …One more.]
The few things I’ve learned have truly been amazing (to me).  I do seem to have a smidgen of musical ability (although it’s still buried under layers of doubt).  I’m finding the ability to concentrate on practice to be as relaxing as zoning out in computer programming used to be (in my youth).  Sixty to ninety minutes can easily seem like five or ten minutes.  There is also the complete exhaustion which results from prolonged concentration – however “relaxing” it may feel at the time.  In a strange way, it feels good to be mentally tired at the end of a practice session.
But, am I getting any better at playing?  An objective opinion would be:  Yes!  Am I any “good”?  An objective opinion would be:  No!  Does it matter a whit?  No.  Why not?  Because, like blogging, I’m doing it for the enjoyment of doing it and not for the expectation (mine or anyone else’s) of being any good at playing guitar.  Again, like blogging, as long as it’s fun and interesting and fulfilling, I’ll just keep doing it…  My not so secret goal remains to write a song (lyrics and music) for my wife.  (LoL)
My personal goals for last year (to learn some assembly language programming and to have a play with chat-bots) never really got off the ground.   I spent a few weeks looking into them and playing with some free software, but the former has been passed by history so resources are limited and the latter is beyond my means as a retired person on a limited income.  In any case, I have usually been at my best when given a customer with a problem, not when I have to make up my own problems (and then create their solutions).
So, it’s guitar and blogging to keep me occupied (and mostly out of trouble).  LoL!!
Once again…  “Excelsior!!
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On This Day In:
2020 Happy 11th Anniversary Of Blogging
2019 Happy 10th Anniversary — Thoughts On My First Decade Of Blogging
2018 Happy 9th Anniversary — Three Thoughts
Day 2 – Notes On Progress
2017 Happy 8th Anniversary
2016 Happy 7th Anniversary
2015 Happy 6th Anniversary
2014 Happy 5th Anniversary
2013 I Resemble That Remark!
2012 Happy 3rd Anniversary
2011 Is America Safe Tonight?
2009 Hello world! (See how it all began…)

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Idyllwild by Monoprice 3/4 Classical Guitar with Gig Bag, Natural   —   guitar review
[DISCLAIMER:  This product is being reviewed without compensation of any sort by the manufacturer.  I purchased the guitar with my own personal funds.  Also, nothing I say should be taken as anything but my personal opinion / observation, as I have VERY little knowledge of music or musical instruments.    —    KMAB]
Background:  Back at the end of May, I posted I would be reviewing my guitars and I’ve done the first two.  Here’s the latest…  Most of this was covered in my earlier post (More Changes…) about this guitar.  To summarize, I restrung and played with my daughter’s fiance’s guitar (a boyhood gift from his grandfather), and I fell in love with the feel of it.  So, I looked around to see how much they cost and if I could get one to play around with.  It turns out there is a company (Monoprice) which owns / distributes for another company (Idyllwild) which the Monoprice website says “makes” the guitar.  The product page is titled:  “Idyllwild by Monoprice 3/4 Classical Guitar with Gig Bag, Natural“. I have no idea what the “Natural” refers to.  Anyway, what I loved about the guitar I restrung was how it felt.  The box of the guitar literally vibrated against my chest with a deep resonance which had (for me) and emotional appeal.  Basically, it sounded deep and full and this carried through the feel even more so than the sound in my ear.  I saw the guitar was relatively inexpensive – even vis-a-vis other 3/4 guitars online, so I decided I would get one (eventually).  As I was prepping my wife for my buying another guitar, the guitar went on sale.  The original price was $64 with free standard shipping.  The sale price was just under $45, but when I went to buy it, the site said I was eligible for an additional discount which brought my full price (including taxes and free shipping) to $42 and change!  I ordered the guitar and received it the following day.  (Note:  the base price on the site is now $65.)
Start of review:
So, this (3/4 size “classical”) is the third guitar I’ve bought this year.  It arrived within 24 hours of ordering, so that was an initial very good impression!  The box had a 6 – 8 inch slice in it, so that was a negative, but did not necessarily have anything to do with the manufacturer / seller, so it’s merely a comment on delivery status.  (Note:  the previous line was copied directly from a prior guitar review.  This is the third guitar I’ve bought this year and ALL three have come in damaged boxes – two sliced with the cardboard partially crumpled back.  Fortunately, none of the instruments have been damaged at all.  I think the various delivery services really need to look at their processes and / or the instrument sellers need to double-box their products.  Then again, maybe it’s just another strong argument for buying from a local store.)
Per their site, this is what I received for $42 and change – all-in (including tax and shipping).
Features –
• Body Shape:  Classical (no cut-away), but 3/4 size
• Top Wood:  some kind of laminate
• Back / Sides:  some kind of laminate. I am not a wood expert, so take this opinion with a grain of salt…  Looking through the sound hole, the “wood” seems to be some kind of rough balsa.  It may even be some kind of thin, compressed particle board “wood” with an exterior veneer glued on and laquered over.
• Neck:  no idea
• Fretboard:  no idea
• Bridge:  no idea, but the saddle appears to be plastic (like the nut)
• Pickguard:  none
• Gig Bag:  Included. This bag is actually ok considering the total price. It is more than a dust cover in thickness (no padding at all), and it seems tough, (but not waterproof).  The zippers look medium weight and works smoothly.  There is also a zippered pouch on the front of the bag.  The bag is sufficient for most carrying about, but it is baggy and offers only the slightest of protection.  It does not have a sturdy handle or padded shoulder straps, but the straps are adjustable.  At least it doesn’t stink (smell bad) like my Glarry gig-bag did.
Not mentioned on the site:
• they give you an Allen wrench to adjust the truss rod which runs through the guitar’s neck.  I have have only begun to try to adjust the neck.  The neck is visibly straight; not bowed one way or the other, but it appears to be mounted at an angle which causes the action to be very high at the top frets.  The top frets are 10 – 12, where the neck joins the body.  I believe this is why the nut can be tuned and open chords sound good, but the top frets are all uniformly sharp.  Pressing down so far is stretching the string and making it (the note) sharp.  (Note:  it is my understanding that most “classical” style guitars do not come with a truss rod.  Also, you cannot put steel strings on a guitar meant for nylon strings.  They lack the physical support to hold steel strings and you will most probably either severely bend or outright snap the neck off the guitar body when you try to tune it.)  I will update this review after I’ve played with the truss rod to see if that helps in lowering the action on the high frets.
Specifications –
• Strings:  6 – nylon
• Electronics:  N/A
• Tuners:  typical “brassy” looking (three to a side, linked) classical tuners, but they look and “feel” flimsy.  Interestingly, the knobs on the ends of tuners do not “feel” flimsy.  They also do not have dead spots (when you turn and nothing happens, then suddenly the gears seem to grab).
• Neck Shape:  I’m not sure how to describe it.  This is the underside. The top is flat; almost to the point of being concave.
• Scale:  3/4 length
• Nut / Saddle:  Plastic (Most minor tuning adjustments make the strings “ping” at the nut.  This means I need to “lube / graphite” the nut a little when I get around to changing the strings.)
• Nut Width:  not stated
• Bracing:  not stated
• Finish:  very well polished.  The “wood” looks cheap, almost plastic toy-ish on the surface, but it feels good under arm and to the hand.
Dimensions –
• Not provided and I haven’t bothered to check them with a ruler / tape measure.
Main Review –
First:  this guitar was received within 23 hrs of my placing the order!!  I’m not sure how this was even possible…
Second:  it arrived in a damaged box which appeared both sliced and crumbled.  Fortunately, the guitar was undamaged.  In addition to the case, the neck had a thin paper cover over the strings and a 1-inch silica packet to help with humidity.  Unfortunately, the packet had fallen into the sound hole and gave the guitar a rattle-ly / sound when you moved / strummed it.  I shook it and heard “something” rattle around inside and initially thought I had received a broken instrument.  It took a little playing with (shaking, holding upside-down, turning side to side,) before the packet came out of the hole.
Third:  my first visual and hold – the finish is beautiful and the guitar does not “feel” cheap (or inexpensive).  Obviously, it has a shorter neck, which after playing for a while, seems more comfortable than a longer (normal length) neck.  The fret ends do not extend past the neck edges (good), but they are not rounded, so they feel a little bit sharp.  The fret board surface seems almost ash grey-ish.  I believe it is supposed to be black.  I think this means it is just overly dry.  I will add some lemon oil to it when I get around the rounding the fret ends.  The neck is good for relief (not bowed up or down) and is not warped.  As mentioned above, the string action is high at the high frets which (I think) affects the intonation.  The good news is all six strings seem to be equally affected, so when I figure out the solution, one fix should help all six strings.
Fourth:  the strings are new and untrimmed, i.e. FAR too long.  They were wrapped around the tuning pegs 5 or 6 turns and still had 4 to 6 inches just sticking out from the head piece.  The recommendation on YouTube is to never wind a string more than three times or they will tend to interfere with each other or have a greater tendency to stretch.  I unwound them a bit to clip a bit off the excessive ends (and then stretched them as I tuned them).  It took several days for the nylon strings to stabilize and they required frequent tuning.  Once stable, they no longer require daily tuning (but I do it by habit).  The third string (G) still requires almost daily re-tuning.  This seems to be a guitar thing, though, as my electric guitar has the same problem string (G).  An additional note on tuning this guitar.  My ear is still not able to accurately determine if a guitar is tuned.  I can now tell if it doesn’t sound right, but not what is wrong.  Tuning forks do NOT help with this.  The nylon string does not give a sympathetic vibration the way my steel string electric and steel string acoustic do.  I can tap the tuning fork and hold it against the guitar, but that doesn’t help me.  Placing the tuning fork on the specific fret (matching the fork) doesn’t work either.  There are only two options:  have someone else tune it or use an electronic tuner.  Fortunately, I have an electronic tuner.
Fifth:  There at two areas on the back of the guitar that came with scratches of several inches length.  The most visible one appears to have happened after finishing (perhaps during shipping).  It looks like it was scraped by chalk or some kind of plaster of Paris.  The lower on the body “marks” are under the finishing and look like heavy pencil or marker lines under the coating.  This one (a marked / damaged guitar) appears to have slipped through the company’s quality control.  Neither affect the sound in the least.  The upper scratch is clearly visible.  The lower is MUCH longer / bigger, but practically invisible in normal light.  I was playing the guitar outside in direct sunlight when I first saw it.  Again, neither affect the sound quality of the instrument.
Sixth:  the “gig-bag” is a functional dustcover / carry-all.  It will NOT protect the guitar from any but the most trivial bumps.  Having said that, it is FAR better than one of the “gig-bags” I got for “free” with a more expensive guitar.  It has a handle and un-padded shoulder straps.  The straps are not long enough for someone my size to use, but I suppose they would be fine for a child or slender teenager.
Seventh:  Because of the high action across all the strings on the high end frets, I would not recommend this as an ONLY guitar for a beginner.  The notes begin to go sharp after the third fret and it is noticeable (to my untrained ear) by the 7th fret.  My brother-in-law is a music teacher with a much better “ear” and he says it’s bad after the 5th fret.  He agrees with me that it is fine for practicing open chords and scales at the bottom of the neck (nearest the nut).
Finally:  What I discovered was the nylon strings were extremely forgiving for longer (over one hour) practice sessions.  The flat neck seems to have more room for my chubby fingers to practice scales and chords, but more difficult to practice / play barred chords.  I have shown (and played) this to / for friends and family and have received several (three) unsolicited comments about how beautiful this guitar is.  It is!  It sounds as good as it looks!  And it looks better in your hands than it does on the screen images (which look rather flat to my eye).  The guitar has a beautiful color and a high luster / polished finish.
Recommendation:  I would highly recommend this guitar to any one thinking of beginning guitar lessons or with a child who would like to learn guitar.  Because of the high action / tuning issue mentioned above, you / they will certainly outgrow this within a year (or as soon as you try to learn barre chords or scales in higher fret positions), but you’ll keep it handy and pick it up frequently because if it gets a little banged up, it can be easily (and inexpensively) replaced.  I bought this specifically to keep laying around, for quick pickup to practice chords and scales. It will certainly exceed those simple requirements.  Caution:  unlike my inexpensive electric guitar, you should NOT purchase this thinking you will be able to use it for a “mod” (modification) platform.  Other than changing the strings and (maybe) polishing fret ends, there is almost nothing you can do to make this a “better” instrument.  Just bite the bullet and shell out for a more expensive second guitar when you get past what this has to offer.  Then, keep this one for when you go to the beach or camping.  Please remember if you pay full retail price, it is STILL only a $65 guitar.
Because my impressions / opinions of the guitar may change over time, updates to my reviews will appear on the specific guitar review page and not in a daily blog post…
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On This Day In:
2020 Still Learning
2019 Almost Hallmark
Beyond All Reason
2018 Daydreams And Wanna-Be’s
Or Work For #45
2017 Summer Pale
2016 Ain’t It Funny
2015 At Both Ends
2014 Whiner(s)
2013 Just Passing Through
2012 Dog-gone Heaven
2011 Occasional, Sad Results

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Orangewood:  Austen  —  guitar review
[DISCLAIMER:  This product is being reviewed without compensation of any sort by the manufacturer.  I purchased the guitar with my own personal funds.  Also, nothing I say should be taken as anything but my personal opinion / observation, as I have VERY little knowledge of music or musical instruments.  —  KMAB]
Background:  I have owned numerous musical instruments in my lifetime including two acoustic guitars.  I never learned to play any of the instruments (including the two guitars) and have remained fairly certain / convinced I lack musical ability / rhythm / ear.  My latest effort was about five years ago and involved the purchase of a recorder.  I only ever learned one song: “Taps“; never learned to read sheet music; and, despite practicing the song practically every day for almost two years, only played it “well” (to my ear anyway) once.  I have no recollection of what happened to any of my earlier instruments.  I don’t remember selling any instrument, so I probably gave them to the first person who expressed any interest in them.  (Or they got lost in the sands of time…)
In December of 2020, I decided I wanted to write three songs for my wife: a love song, a sad song and a funny song.  In order to have a chance to be able to sing the songs I need to play something other than the recorder.  Somehow, I settled on a guitar or a piano (keyboard).  I’m still not sure why, but after a week of watching video reviews and reading articles about various guitars, I decided an acoustic guitar.  This was mainly because, I didn’t want too expensive an initial investment outlay and because I thought learning about electric guitars (tone, volume, amplifiers, etc.) would just add an extra layer of complexity which would confuse my simple brain.  There was also the very real possibility I would lose interest in a few days / weeks, and I’d have another in a long line of “forgotten” hobbies.
Start of review:
So, this (Orangewood Austen) was the first guitar I purchased this year.  WAAAYYY back in January.  It was ordered online and the expected delivery was one to two weeks.  It arrived after a week and a day, so that was an initial good impression.  The box had a 6 – 8 inch slice in it, so that was a negative, but did not necessarily have anything to do with the manufacturer / seller, so it’s merely a comment on delivery status.
I should mention that because I knew I would be utterly unable to tune the guitar myself, I purchased an “A” tuning fork and a “Snark” electrical tuner in advance of the guitar purchase / receipt.  The tuning fork because I wanted to be able to train my ear and the Snark because I wanted its ease of use.  (I will be doing reviews of these items separately.)
Per their site (https://orangewoodguitars.com), this is what I got for $218 all-in (including tax and shipping).  (Note: the base price on the site is now $225.)
Features
• Body Shape:  Dreadnought  (I have BIG stubby fingers, so I thought having a large guitar would be better initially.)
• Top Wood:  Solid Spruce  (The YouTube reviewers all say “solid” spruce produces the best sound.)
• Back / Sides: Layered Mahogany (“Layered” means it’s a laminate.)
• Neck: Mahogany
• Fretboard: Rosewood (sonokeling) (“sonokeling” is a type of rosewood from Indonesia.)
• Bridge: Rosewood (sonokeling)
• Pickguard: Included (Optional) (“Optional” means you put it on yourself if you want it.  If you do, you void the 30 return policy.  I have not installed mine and am not sure I will.)
• Gig Bag: Included (This bag is actually quite nice.  It’s at least 10mm thick and the exterior seems tough, but not waterproof.  The zippers look and feel sturdy.  There is also a large zippered pouch on the front of the bag with “Orangewood” embroidered on it.  (It’s kind of a classy touch.)  The bag is sufficient for most carrying about.  It has a sturdy handle and padded / adjustable shoulder straps, but I would not use this for checked-in airline travel.)
Not mentioned on the site:
• they give you a single orange – green plaid medium grade (weight?) pic.
• they give you an Allen wrench to adjust the truss rod which runs through the guitar’s neck.  I have not felt the need to try to adjust the neck.  It’s straight; not bowed one way or the other.
• the guitar comes with two strap bolts, but no strap.  I ended up buying one fairly soon, which I then upgraded.
Specifications
• Strings:  Ernie Ball Earthwood Medium Light  (When I bought my strap, I picked up a set of replacement strings.  Almost all the YouTube reviewers say when you buy and “inexpensive” / “cheap” guitar, replace your strings immediately.  I have not felt the need to do this, but I have the set for when I need it.)
• Electronics:  N/A
• Tuners:  Chrome Die-Cast
• Neck Shape: C
• Scale:  25.5″
• Nut / Saddle:  Bone (Occasionally, when making minor tuning adjustments, the strings will “ping”.  This means I need to “lube / graphite” the nut a little when I get around to changing the strings.)
• Nut Width: 44mm
• Bracing: Scalloped X
• Finish: Natural Satin  (I think the guitar “feels” natural without the “plastic” / lacquered feel of my later guitars.  I have two more, now.)
Dimensions
• Overall Length: 40 9/16″
• Body Length: 19 13/16″
• Body Depth: 4 11/16″
• Upper Bout: 11 3/8″
• Middle Bout: 10 1/2″
• Lower Bout: 15 1/4″
First reaction:  The guitar is beautiful!
Strum…  Sounds okay to me.  (Remember, at this time I have no idea what “in key” or “in tune” means.)  The guitar is BIG, but surprising light.  To my mind it feels like balsa wood.  Recall I owned two guitars back in my late teens / early twenties, which is probably the last time I held one, and this guitar feels lighter than my memories.  It feels awkward against my stomach and under my right arm.  I put both of these down to my personal obesity and not to the fault of the guitar.  I recall this (size of a dreadnought) is something multiple reviewers commented / cautioned on for newbies and their first guitar.  Being honest, I fear the guitar may be too delicate for me, so I handle it with care the first couple of weeks.
Strum…  Run my left hand up and down the neck.  Absolutely no, sharp fret ends sticking out and they all feel well rounded / smooth.  The fretboard doesn’t look dry and in need of oiling.  The neck appears straight and neither twisted or bowed and feels smooth.  There are no scratches anywhere on the body or neck.  The finish / polish appears smooth to the eye and to the touch.  I look in the sound hole to verify the top is solid and not veneer or laminate.  It looks to be solid.  I am going through a mental checklist developed from watching YouTube videos.  I “really” don’t know what I’m doing…
Strum…  Okay, attach the Snark and let’s see if the guitar is shipped in tune.  No.  At least not all of the strings, but the Snark helps me resolve that.  In a couple of minutes, it’s in tune and I’m strumming away.  I don’t know any chords to play, or notes, or where they are, so I am literally starting my adventure from scratch.
Strum…  After about five minutes, my finger tips are starting to hurt so I decide to pack it in for the first day…
Two final points:  Action and Intonation.  Action is the height of the strings above the frets.  I’m still not 100% sure what intonation is but it appears to be how well a guitar carries its notes up an down the neck on the same string.  If the “action” is too high, it is hard to press the string down at some locations.  This leads to you pressing harder and being painful – particularly for beginners – on your fingertips.  If the “action” is to low, you will get “buzzing” on multiple frets.  Problems with intonation turn up as incorrect notes as you move up and down the fretboard (neck).
I don’t really know enough about either topic to go into much depth as a reviewer.  I started off playing multiple (usually three) five(5) minute sessions a day for the first two weeks, and I stopped when my fingertips began to hurt.  The first week, I was very strict on the five minute time limit.  The second and third weeks was five (maybe ten) minutes.  After that another few weeks of thirty (30) minutes, but only once a day.  Now, I do mainly one session of an hour, but sometimes longer and sometimes (a couple of times) an hour multiple times in a day.  I stop when I tire, when I start to lose concentration, or when my fingers hurt.  Eventually, I will need (want) to buy a ruler (string gauge) to judge string height, but I seem to be okay for now.
I really can’t comment about intonation except to say the Snark likes the notes up and down the neck and the harmonics work at the 12th, 9th and 7th frets, so I think it (the intonation) must be pretty spot on.  If I learn more, I’ll revisit this…
So, there you have it.  My first impression and hardware review.  From here on, I watch A LOT more videos on looking at new kit, chords, scales, etc., but all of that will come later.  For the first day, I’m dead chuffed with my new toy!
It’s interesting how not knowing if ANY thing is terrible, bad, good or great really effects your attitude about an object.  Because I had no idea what to expect, the fact the guitar arrived early, and looks and sounds great, means I’m very happy with my “relatively” inexpensive first guitar.
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On This Day In:
2020 A Better Synthesis
2019 It’s Only Funny If You’re Old Enough To Know What “Film” Was
2018 Bourne Wicked Blonde
First Things First
2017 This Explains A Lot
2016 Me Too
2015 A Proper Price
2014 Well Hard
2013 Because I Can
Eloquence, n.
2012 Why Bother?
2011 Peculiar Notions

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[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturers of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about these items because I personally purchased them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.   —    KMAB]
As I’ve posted a couple of times, I’ve decided to try to learn how to play a musical instrument and the one I’ve chosen is the guitar.  I’ve now completed just over four full months of learning / practice and I’ve missed a grand total of five days of practice.  (Full disclosure:  most of the first month was only 15 – 20 minutes a day to break in my fingertips.)
In January I bought my acoustic guitar (Orangewood: Austen).  It took about five days for delivery.  They actually promised two weeks delivery, so I was very happy with the speedy receipt.
I liked the guitar, but I was surprised by it.  It felt almost too light and too bulky.  I put it down to being inexpensive and me being overweight.  I bought what I thought would be a “starter” guitar for just under $200, in case (as my wife predicted) I was just going through another of my fads.
I soon noticed most of the YouTube videos I was watching to learn from were being taught on electric guitars.  So, I thought maybe I should see if I could pick up an inexpensive one of those as well.  It turns out, at just that time, I earned a $100 Amazon credit for taking some online surveys.  I watched a bunch of video recommendations and settled on a Glarry electric guitar (with gig bag, cable and amplifier) for $120 – including taxes and free shipping.  I ordered it on St. Patrick’s Day and received it two days later.  (There were / are some outstanding issues which I’ll cover in a later review / post.)
After the waiting period of our second vaccine shots, my wife and I visited our oldest daughter and her fiancé and he had JUST bought a banjo to learn how to play.  I noticed he had a small guitar standing in a corner and I asked: “What’s up with that?”  He replied it was a childhood present from his grand-father and he never learned how to play it.  I picked it up and noticed it was missing two strings.  He said it was okay because it was just a family gift which he carried around his whole life to remind him of his grand-dad.  I offered to re-string it for him if he loaned it to me.  And so I began learning about nylon string acoustic guitars…
I watched a bunch of videos and learned about nylon strings vs steel strings and how to restring a nylon.  I picked up some new strings and I also picked up some files to trim the frets – which were badly jutting out the sides and were quite sharp.  I tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched, tuned and stretched…  and eventually the strings got to the point where they were stable enough to stay in tune for more than a few minutes.  I then had to do this again for a few days.  Finally, I was able to pick up the guitar and it was near tune.  A quick tune, and it could be played.
What I discovered was the nylon strings were extremely forgiving for longer (over one hour) playing sessions and this guitar generated a vibration which was similar to the electric, but FAR more so.  It was almost sensory overload on my hands, arms, legs and chest.  You could FEEL this guitar!  It wasn’t just sound.  I decided right then, I had to have one just like it.
So, earlier this month I bought my third guitar.  I ordered it on 14 May around 4pm and received it the NEXT day before 2pm!!  It was not in tune, but I took care of that and within a few days it too had settled down into a playable instrument.  (I will also do a fuller review of this guitar in a later post.)
And, below is a picture of the guitar (and “gig” bag).  This guitar is “normally” $64, but it was on sale and I got an additional discount which brought my cost plus tax down to $42!!
Monoprice_Idyllwild_3-4_Classical_Nylon_Guitar_With_Gig_Bag
The guitar is “made” by Idyllwild, but “sold” by Monoprice – which is some kind of manufacturing / sales conglomerate.  It is a 3/4 size “classical” style guitar.  It is not quite the same as the one I re-strung, but it does have the marvelous “feel”.  Once it settled in (only a few days), I was able to play it for well over two hours with very little loss of tuning.
What does all this have to do with “changes”?  Well, I’ve decided “in for a penny, in for a pound” and I’m going to add some posts and pages to my blog chronicling my reviews and what I’m learning.  I don’t image much of this will be of use to anyone, but I am interested in how far along a rank beginner with NO musical training can get by learning off of YouTube as inexpensively as is practicable – and as an exercise, I’d like to share this experience via my blogging.  So, in a bit, I’ll be adding a “guitar” / music page to my menu to cover all things related to my learning guitar:  guitars, prices, classes / videos / books, accessories, (minor) luthiering / repairs, etc.
I hope some of you will be able to share some of my excitement in this discovery and learning process.  I feel as if a whole world is opening up before my eyes and at my fingertips!  Stay tuned…
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On This Day In:
2020 Remembering…
You KNEW That Man Was Trippin’
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
Ooops! I Spoke Too Soon
2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
It’s About…
Man / Man
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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Even if I lack the talent, I will not abandon the effort on that account….  We do not abandon any discipline for despair of ever being the best in it.
    —     Epictetus
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On This Day In:
2020 Remembering…
You KNEW That Man Was Trippin’
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
Ooops! I Spoke Too Soon
2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
It’s About…
Man / Man
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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