Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Acoustic Guitar-to-Bass Conversion Test Drive: "Into the Mystic" redux

After years of heavy gauge strings and high action on my 1985 Sovereign acoustic guitar, the guitar finally became unplayable. A luthier I took it to practically gave it last rights, so I spent the past year searching for a replacement. After flirting with low-end Martins and "high-end" used Sigmas, I found an 8 year-old Blueridge. It's pretty solid and sounds pirty, but after years of playing the old Sovereign, it will take some playing to get the newer wood of the Blueridge to have the same depth I'm used. But being able to play at the 2nd fret is awfully nice.

Sovereign Acoustic Bass | Blueridge Dread
Once the Blueridge arrived I wondered what to do with the Sovereign. For a while I kept it tuned to G, but the bridge is pretty wrecked - I didn't feel like wasting another set of guitar strings on it and further stressing it. While I was searching for a new guitar I did a brief stint in a great local acoustic band, and the bass player and friend, Bob, had converted an old acoustic guitar into a short-scale acoustic bass. I have always kind of wanted an acoustic bass - they are easier to mic than a bass amp, and the woody sound is a better fit alongside resonators and acoustics instruments. I was never going to spend any serious money on one anytime soon, yet here I was with a resonant acoustic body. After some quick research online I bought a 4-string trapeze tailpiece, some new tuners, a fresh saddle, and something I never thought I'd own - a drill. In about an hour I had a brand new acoustic bass. The tailpiece kept the stressed bridge safe from further damage, but the short-scale strings caused uneven tension and thus laid at an angle from nut to tailpiece. I thought I had installed the tailpiece incorrectly. But after a quick adjustment, the strings came into alignment (and better intonation at the frets). It's not perfect, but it should have a nice second life.

I decided to test it out on one of my favorite bass lines, "Into the Mystic". I was never happy with the first recording I did, which was a massive wall of sound captured by an inferior mic. This new take is pretty much the same arrangement as before, but slowed down and minus about 7 instruments.

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Plastic Jesus"

After a busy end to 2017, I finally got around to recording a new tune. Well, not only was 2017 busy, the high action on my acoustic guitar finally became unplayable after years of heavy gauge strings pulling on the neck. It's a shame, it had a nice woody, deep tone, which is why I am going to try to convert it to a short scale bass. After nearly a year of researching acoustics, I settled on a Blueridge, which has a great full sound. To test her out I decided to take a stab at "Plastic Jesus", a popular novelty song written in 1957. It is best known as the song Lucas Jackson sings after hearing of his mother's passing in Cool Hand Luke, but it has been covered by everyone from The Flaming Lips to Billy Idol to Widespread Panic. I was probably most inspired by The Wandering Endorphins' expanded acoustic version which is a lot of fun. I thought about adding bass and harmony vocals, but didn't want to overload a 90 second tune.