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Thanks, I Needed That

Mike Lawson • October 2020The Last Word • September 28, 2020

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels

Here we are, with Q3 wrapping up, and as of this issue it has now been over nine months since I was able to play a gig in Nashville, after five years playing the same venue every other week. This has changed a lot of things for me as a music products consumer. As I’ve said before, I haven’t stopped buying gear, because the shift from playing out to finally making robust use of my home studio has found me somewhat on par with some kinds of purchases. One thing about having to make a bi-weekly trek into downtown Nashville is it upped the chance that I might stop into a music store just to browse or buy something I needed for the show that night. If traffic was going to be awful because of a major event downtown, I would always head into town hours early, needing to kill time, which often sent me to Fanny’s House of Music, Gruhn Guitars, Carter Vintage Guitars, or other shops in the general area of the club. That isn’t happening now. I still “need” stuff to make music, because I am never going to stop making music. Never mind that I have a house full of toys, it isn’t hoarding if it’s cool.

I have purchased a lot of software licenses for plugins, a couple of guitars, and three effects boxes. I have ordered from small stores selling through Reverb or eBay, and I have ordered from Sweetwater and other big retailers – sometimes on price, sometimes strictly on availability versus price. One thing’s for certain, I will pay a bit more to get it sooner rather than wait to get it cheaper.

This is in large part due to the immediacy of the “need” when writing and recording. Typically, something I am buying is done because I hit a point in capturing the song idea where I think I “need” something to finish it, flesh it out, or at least see if this thing I am buying is going to complete the musical thought.

I’ve been buying a couple of things I will not use a lot, but when I do, uniquely fit the bill. I purchased the Squire Bass IV, an affordable and somewhat surprisingly nice instrument for that price range because it has a unique sonic range as “bass” guitars go. I enjoy the ability to take things “out there” with a combination approach as both as bass player and a guitar player on the same instrument.

However, the Bass IV will never be my main bass or prevent me from using another bass player on my recordings. It is a niche, that scratches an itch. While I am a keyboard owner, I am not a pianist by any stretch. I am a Hammond M3/Leslie owner, but not an organist. I have three nice custom-made guitars with MIDI technology in them, and they can fit the bill nicely on some things when recording. That said, after playing MIDI guitar over 30 years now, it isn’t always a good solution or the simplest path to take to the point I am trying to get to on a song.

I bought a couple of pedals made by Electro-Harmonix that, frankly, I probably won’t use a lot, but spent the money to fit the “need.” One was the Ravish Sitar Emulator, a sound I can sort of use from both my GR-55 or the Line-6 Variax system I inherited from the late Bob Welch, but neither gave me the options this pedal does for that handful of times I may want to include some kind of homage to sitar on a song. The same can be said for their Iron Lung vocoder for guitar, because while I wanted it on a specific song, I am not going to make albums full of simulated sitar or vocoder sounds. The most useful “need” pedal was bought from a small dealer in Georgia, via eBay, who is apparently one of the few importers of it. The remarkable Dr. Robert pedal (Alcam Guitars, Barcelona, Spain) faithfully emulates the storied Vox UL730 amps the Beatles used on Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I will use it on a lot of songs, because it sounds amazing.

One thing we all know about musicians, at nearly all levels of activity, is they will often make impulse purchases to get them past a hump they perceive themselves as facing. None of these pedals or guitars I bought since being shut down from gigging this year were marketed to me as being a way to get out of a rut or expand my sonic palate while forced to stay in and create for creation’s sake versus being able to play shows again. I had to get to a place where I thought “Hey, a sitar sound would be nice here, but I don’t have a good solution.”

In continuing my thoughts from last month, and as retailers are finding themselves making more and more pitches in their online versions of their stores, I don’t think it can hurt to write sales copy that illustrates the places a particular kind of instrument, effect, or other product can take a customer. Sparking ideas for your customer is something that shows an interest in what they are doing, why they are doing it, and your desire to not just copy and paste a manufacturer’s product info, but prompt ways the product can fill a “need” they may have.

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