Hello, I’m Into Johnny Cash

The first time I’ve encountered the name “Johnny Cash” was in an old 1970’s Christian comic book that belonged to my born-again aunt titled, Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. Incidentally, Johnny Cash is known to start public performances with this simple introduction. Anyway, all I knew about Johnny Cash for a long time was what I have learned from that comic book: he was a popular rock/country singer in the old days, got into drugs, gave up on drugs and later found God again.

The old music I know, I know from listening to the music my parents are into. I don’t think they were ever into Johnny Cash so I never knew his music. And I hadn’t bothered looking up his music growing up.

The next time I encountered the name “Johnny Cash” was a few years ago when I was still working in Canberra. Peter, our boss at the computer lab, noticed that everybody at the lab had headphones on and was listening to music while programming. We had ripped our CDs as MP3s on our PCs and that’s what we listened to all day. He looked at our collection and asked us for “some Johnny Cash”. He kept going on about Johnny Cash but that still didn’t convince me to look up the guy’s music.

Then just recently, the movie Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon about the life of Johnny Cash came out in movie theatres in Australia. Ever since I took up playing the guitar, I’m now always on the look-out for guitar influences, so when the movie came out I was slightly interested in watching it. In the end, we did.

It was great to see how Johnny Cash started his career and how it progressed. I also got a sampling of his songs by watching the movie. I kept waiting for the part of the story that I’ve read from my aunt’s old Johnny Cash comic book but it never got to it.

Although I found some parts of it rather boring (my apologies to the hard core fans), I still found it very entertaining. Not only that, I went out the movie theatre wanting to get a CD of his songs.

At first I was considering getting the movie soundtrack. Frankly though, I wasn’t too impressed by Joaquin Phoenix’s version of the songs. So, I looked for samples of the songs in the movie but sung by Johnny Cash himself instead. And yes, as expected, the Johnny Cash sung songs were definitely a lot better. I got myself The Legend of Johnny Cash CD and liked the tunes in it. In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I’m typing this.

I’m only saddened to discover that Johnny Cash had already died on September 12, 2003. I wish I knew about him before he passed away. Thankfully though, his music will stay with us for much much longer.

The Man in Black

Published in: on March 22, 2006 at 8:19 am  Comments (4)  

Jammin’ Night

Ever since I bought a guitar and sold my old guitar to my friend, M, I’ve been kidding him that we could do a bit of guitar jamming some time. I hadn’t counted on jamming with anybody so soon as I have yet to improve my feeble guitar playing skills.

Anyway, just this Saturday, M had some CDs he wanted to return to me so he dropped by. Of course, since he was coming over anyway, he brought the guitar with him so we could jam, too.

It was great! Sure, I wasn’t in the same league as he was (even though he claimed he only knew a few songs), it was fun to learn from somebody who knew more than I did.

We spent an hour with him trying to teach me how to play The Hurt by Kalapana. I got what chords I needed to play. Actually playing the song properly was more difficult though. I just think the song is still beyond my abilities at this moment in time. Still, it was great fun.

Now, whenever I have some spare time with my guitar, I try to play the Kalapana song (hoping one day I get to play it smoothly) in between actually going through my guitar learning books. So far, everything is slow going but I’m hoping all my efforts will pay off eventually.

Published in: on March 13, 2006 at 8:12 pm  Comments (2)  

Switched Guitars

Just two weeks ago, I got myself a guitar — an Ashton CG44 Classical Guitar pack to be exact. From the day I got it, I practiced almost everyday and followed the guitar method book I owned diligently. Even as my left finger tips pulsed in pain, I soldiered on. Two weeks in, I was fairly certain that I wanted to continue playing the guitar.

Before buying the guitar, I was only able to play a few chords I learned back in my youth. And even then, I was only doing slow downward strumming. So when the idea that I wanted to try the guitar came to me, I decided to buy the cheapest quality guitar out there. With a guitar being cheap, it wasn’t such a big financial loss if in the end I discover that playing a guitar just wasn’t for me.

Now that I’m decided to go on playing, I figured I should buy myself a better (that is, more expensive) guitar. I’m not saying that the first guitar I had was bad. It was because of it that I decided I want to continue playing, after all. It’s just that I want to switch to an acoustic steel-string folk guitar (which seems to be popular in acoustic contemporary music) from a classical/spanish guitar (which is popular back in the Philippines, from my recollection).

After some research done on the Internet, I was set on buying a Yamaha F310 Acoustic Guitar. First of all, I trust the Yamaha branded musical instruments. They seem to offer the highest quality instruments at the cheapest price. My Dad’s classical guitar (which I liked a lot) was a Yamaha, as well as my soprano and alto recorders.

Second, the Yamaha F310 was recommended as the second best beginner acoustic guitar available out of top 5 recommendations made by Dan Cross of About Guitar. I didn’t go for the first choice, a Seagull S6, because it cost a lot more than the F310 and it’s way out of my budget.

Third reason was that it comes with some extras, too! It has a gig bag, extra strings, extra picks, a capo and tuning pipes. I didn’t expect the guitar to have any bonus stuff so I was pleasantly surprised when I found this out.

From research, the F310 costs as much as $349. But after asking and looking around the music shops around the city, it seems that I could get it for as low as $209 at Billy Hyde. I was planning on getting it from them until I called Allans Music last Thursday.

I already went to their Melbourne shop so I knew that their F310 sold for $249 but I called them anyway, just for kicks. Basically, I asked him questions to which I already knew the answers to. I asked the salesguy if there is an F310 available in the shop. He said there were two left. I asked if there were extras. He mentioned the extras.

Lastly, I asked him how much it was. To my surprise, he replied that it was only $199. I don’t know why it was that cheap. Maybe the salesguy made a slip or maybe it was on special. Whatever it was, it was great news. I also had to act fast before stock ran out.

The original plan was that I was going to sell the old guitar first before I buy a new one to replace it. I intended to put it on auction on eBay until I remembered that maybe some of my friends are interested in the old guitar. So, I emailed the group asking who’re interested. If nobody replied by Saturday, I’ll be listing it on eBay anyway.

But since I was afraid of missing out on a bargain with the F310, I didn’t wait for a reply from the group. I hurried off to Allans and snagged myself one. In the shop, it’s still listed as $249. I guess the $199 price tag was indeed a slip by the salesguy. He basically did the price negotiating for me. No complaints here.

After buying the F310, I received a text message from my friend Milkshake, “I’ll take your guitar for $90.” Great! Sold! I just love it when everything worked out in the end.

I actually expected him to ask for it, having heard him mention that he wanted to start playing the guitar again. I was only surprised that there were two more friends who are interested in playing a guitar. Hey, who knows? Maybe we can meet on weekends for jamming sessions or start our own band in the future.

Published in: on March 6, 2006 at 8:56 pm  Comments (2)  

Got Me a Guitar Now

The new Ashton CG44 Classical Guitar pack I won from eBay last week finally came in the office yesterday. I usually give my office address for online orders nowadays since nobody is ever at the house to receive an item when it’s delivered.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to try it out. But, since I was in the office and I don’t play the guitar very well, I had to curb my enthusiasm until I got home. While in the office, I was still able to inspect the contents of the box at the very least.

First, here is the official specification for the Ashton CG44 Classical Guitar pack as written on Ashton’s website:

Fantastic value for anyone starting to explore the world of classical guitar. Based around Ashton’s rich-toned and resonant nylon stringed CG44 guitar, this pack also includes a sturdy gig bag for carrying your instruments to practice or performances, plus extra strings and picks. You’ll also get Ashton’s easy-to-follow Starter Pack Software, with lessons you can follow on your computer screen.

– CG44 Acoustic Guitar – Ashton Starter Pack Software includes Lessons, Tuner and Metronome – Gig Bag – Strap – Extra Strings and Picks

When I opened the box, I saw the guitar there in tip-top shape inside the cool gig bag (which would’ve cost an additional $20 if I bought it separately). Inside the gig bag pocket was the extra strings and picks as well as the manual. Also in the box was the strap and the Ashton Starter Pack Software in a CD.

What I was surprised to find missing was the guitar tuner and the metronome. For a moment, I thought I was swindled by the eBay seller. However, after another round of checking of the contents, I realised that the tuner and the metronome were indeed included. Except, instead of actual physical devices, they were software programs included in the CD.

The specs were a bit misleading but I can’t complain that the metronome and tuner weren’t there. And I thought I got myself a bigger bargain because it came with what I thought were physical metronome and tuner devices.

Another downer is the included Ashton Starter Pack software which was supposed to be a guitar lessons software that I could use to learn how to play the guitar. Don’t get me wrong, it works great. What I disliked about it is that it included only three lessons. You’d have to pay the makers of the software to unlock the rest of the lessons.

However, for the price I paid for it, even if the software was a disappointment and there wasn’t really a metronome and tuner included, I reckon it’s still good value for my money. Given another chance with the same budget, I’d still go for this pack again.

When I got home, I placed the guitar on my lap and quickly started to play some chords I’ve learned from when I was younger. It sounded very awful. I was hoping it came in tuned. I had no choice but to tune it first. Fortunately, I already kind of know how to tune a guitar.

I soon tuned the guitar and was able to play it like I did back in my younger days. That is, poorly. Now that I have a guitar, I can start learning how to play it. And by learning to play, I don’t mean just learning to play a few chords. In time, I hope to be able to serenade Raquel with it.

So, in summary, I’m very pleased with the guitar pack. Even though I found the software wanting, I’m quite happy with the guitar and the gig bag. Having extra strings and picks was a good bonus, too. If you are in search of a relatively cheap beginner’s guitar, I can recommend the Ashton CG44 Classical Guitar pack, for sure. Just keep in mind that you may want to buy a real metronome and guitar tuner afterwards as well as a full guitar method book or software.

Published in: on February 21, 2006 at 11:14 am  Comments (4)  

Won a Guitar Bid

Apart from wanting to learn the recorder, I also want to go back and continue my guitar studies. The problem is, the guitar I used to play was my Dad’s Yamaha classical guitar (not sure of the exact model) and so, it’s with him in the Philippines. To pick up the guitar again, that meant getting one for myself.

The cheapest Yamaha guitar that could be bought from the music shops around Melbourne was the Yamaha C40 Classical Guitar which retailed for $169. As it looked and felt just like my Dad’s guitar when I tried it in the shop, I decided that’s what I wanted to buy.

However, it’s a bit expensive considering I’m not even sure how much I wanted to play the guitar. I considered getting one of the many cheap guitars with unknown brands on sale from $30 on eBay. I did some research about buying a new guitar and the general advice of guitar players is that I shouldn’t buy the cheapest guitar out there.

Without going into too much detail, they said that “el-cheapo” guitars are likely to be difficult to play as well as sound bad. Now, to a super dedicated student, this shouldn’t be a problem, but to your casual guitar student, one or both of these two factors might discourage him or her from further study.

I had that problem with the recorder, too. I bought the cheapest recorder I could lay my hands on and studied that. It didn’t take too long for me to give up on it the first time. When I decided to try at learning the instrument a second time, I did some research and bought the cheapest recommended recorder I could buy. I was surprised at how much easier it was to play and how much nicer it sounded. Certainly, it encouraged me to learn further.

I had only wished I bought my current recorder the first time around. If I did, I may be further along my recorder studies than I am now because I didn’t stop playing when I did.

Anyway, no cheap non-branded guitars for me. I went back to the Internet to look around for something that’s cheaper than a Yamaha but still has a reputable brand. That search led me to Ashton which turned out to be an Australian instrument manufacturer/designer. Couldn’t be that bad, I thought.

Luckily, they have the CG44 Classical Guitar Starter Pack that retails for $119. The pack included the CG44 acoustic guitar, guitar lessons software, a guitar tuner, a metronome (I’ve always wanted one of these for when I’m playing my recorder), a gig bag, a strap, extra strings and picks. Seemed like exactly what I needed.

Still, I was hoping for something less than a hundred dollars. I found a shop selling it for $109 and could probably be haggled down to something like $99. Then I came across this eBay bidding for exactly the same thing which is supposedly new (not used).

So I made the lowest possible bid on it While waiting for the auction to end, I had some extra time to have a think about the guitar pack. Maybe I should just buy it from a local shop instead of having it delivered from New South Wales in the event I win the auction, I thought. It would be easier to return the guitar to a local shop under warranty than sending it back to another state.

With ten minutes left in the auction, I was scrounging around the eBay site for a way to retract my bid. I discovered that it is only allowed on certain circumstances — which, sadly, didn’t apply to me. So, I was there, secretly hoping somebody outbid me.

It was a weird thing. Instead of hoping to win, I was hoping to lose. In the end, I won. Ah well. It was still such a good deal anyway. Now, I have to wait for it to be delivered. I just pray that it is in tip-top condition on its arrival.

Fingers crossed.

Published in: on February 18, 2006 at 12:07 am  Comments (2)