Friday, March 10, 2006

The Third Job I Should be Doing: Musician

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Takapuna, being a hole, is not a locale I make much of an effort to visit. If you're wondering why I don't like it, it's because there is nothing there save an average mall where Shore kids go to hang out and preen. But anyways, I was taken back to Takapuna in late January to get some jandals and hated every second of it, but there was a time when I went there every week - willingly even.

Like most children, I spent my time joining various activities and giving them up some time later after I had expended a good amount of my parent's resources on them. Speech and Drama lessons, gymnastics, and during my late single-digit years the piano accordion. You can all shut the fuck up, because I wanted to start on the guitar but was too small to reach around the fretboard and the piano accordion is fairly good substitute since it trains one to use both hands like a guitar does. I gave up the piano accordian after my parents spent several hundred dollars purchasing one for me, and my extra-curricular activities lay bare until the end of high school, when I wondered again about taking up the guitar.

I went to Takapuna from Devonport, and coming from the south the first guitar store I encountered was "Mainly Guitars". It was on the first floor of (I think) the first non-residential establishment on one's right - just opposite a car yard. The owner was a nice bloke called Dave, and seing as he offered lessons as well as guitars I signed up for lessons and bought the most inappropriate guitar for a beginner just because I thought it looked cool. It was a Yamaha with sharp edges and a floating bridge. Witha 20 watt amp to go with it.

The problem was the floating bridge. When you string and tune a guitar, you thread the strings through the bridge, up the fretboard, and through the machine heads which you turn to tune each string. As Wikipedia explains..."On both electric and acoustic guitars, the bridge holds the strings in place. From there, the variations are astounding. There may be some mechanism for raising or lowering the bridge to adjust the distance between the strings and the fretboard (action), and/or fine-tuning the intonation of the instrument. Some are springloaded and feature a "whammy bar", a removable arm which allows the player to modulate the pitch moving the bridge up and down." To help, here's a picture of a guitar with a floating bridge and "whammy bar".

The important part, is that a floating bridge is impossible to tune. Any tightening or loosening you make to one string affects all the other strings. You tune one string, and the bridge is lifted up a bit as the string is tightened and tuned. Then you tune a second string, and the bridge as raised a little bit more as the second string is tightened - putting the first string slightly out of tune, and so on for each string. With six strings, reaching a point where everything is as it should be is a pain in the arse.

What strikes me now, looking back at the three or so years I learnt there, was how that little shop concentrated a disproportionate amount of musical talent. My first guitar teacher was Nigel. He was very proficient, a metal fan which suited me down to the ground. We went over the usual beginners chords and put them together in the form of "Polly" by Nirvana - good slow simple song for your first day. The first proper song was "The God That Failed" by Metallica. He didn't think much of the Smashing Pumpkins, so we just worked our way through Tool's catalogue. Nigel eventually left to go across the road to the Rock Shop. He was also in a band - Subtract - who were must-see's in the late 90's.

With Nigel gone, my next teacher was young Andy. His musical tastes were kindred to my own, more grunge than metal - Faith No More, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots etc. He came from a very musical family, and his ability to listen to something on the CD and work out how to play it was uncanny. Interestingly enough he quite liked the chord changes and such of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, said that it was the sort of thing he might write. He did get to do a bit of composing of his own in the band he joined "Zed".

There was one other guy there, who I never had lessons with - maybe one or two if Nigel or Andy were away - but is worth a mention. Evan. I remember Evan talking about the band he was starting up, to be called "Day One", and how their first album was to be a collection of songs about suicide. Day One weren't too shabby, but his next project - Concord Dawn - has really taken off.

I don't say all this in a name-dropping sense, more as an example that one comes across from time to time of a small area or establishment having within it more talent than you would expect. The place is gone now. And that's the third job I could be doing, musician.

1 comment:

The Hand of Morthos said...

Does anyone actually like Takapuna? I loathed it then and I loathe it now, even if the best Chinese takeaway is located there.