Even When the Chips are Down, You’ve Got to Scratch That Itch!

Fender Amp and Guitar

Christmas Present

The amp was an early Christmas present to myself. I’ve had that guitar for several years, which is called an “iAxe393,” made by Behringer. The instrument plugs into a USB port in the computer and runs on Native Instrument software, but can be powered also by a physical amplifier.

Although a handy arrangement, I wanted to break free from relying on the laptop for electrifying the guitar and decided to buy an amp that was loud enough not to drive the neighbors batty. This unit is perfect for my needs, and has all kinds of built-in presets with a multitude of effects for me to sound somewhat proficient.

After fooling with it for a day or two, I opted to spring for a USB-driven pre-amp, some microphones and stands, and digital-recording software that has all kinds of bells and whistles of which I’ve yet to learn all of them, sort of a micro home studio. So much for breaking free from the ‘puter.

Who said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? I learn something new during each recording session, not being an accomplished musician by any means; although I can claim to be professional, having been paid to perform gigs as a kid in a garage band back in my hometown of Hackensack, NJ; and playing solo acoustically in a Passaic, NJ, bar decades ago.

Mike Slickster playing drums

Slickster at 15 yrs. old

Slickster performing in Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.

Slickster performing in Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.

Slickster at McGill University, Montréal, Québec.

Slickster at McGill University, Montréal, Québec.

Guitar-playing took a backseat during my college years, as the twelve-string at the time ended up in a pawn shop to pay for my tuition one semester. Never retrieved it. Bought an acoustic years later at a flea market. My son knocked it over when he was a tyke and busted one of the tuning pegs. Never got it fixed. Still have it. It’s tuned to an open “G” with the bottom “E” left off. Keith Richards would be proud.

Redeeming points accumulated from purchases by my credit card, I picked up another acoustic found in the redemption center’s merchandise catalog, and finally sprung for the Behringer about five years ago, but never played them regularly. Now, because of the new amp, I’ve been playing a lot and learning all over again.

two acoustic guitars

The one on the right is the flea-market model.

So with this re-found hobby, I’ve started to learn digital production. My attempts so far are quite amateurish, although I’d like to think each new one turns out better than those made previously. Learning songs and making arrangements is the fun part. Then comes recording it.

Why is it that while in the process of laying down a rhythm track, an annoying itch pops up somewhere inaccessible all of a sudden, distracting me to the point of having to stop, scratch, and start all over again?

Then there’s the headphones as they start slipping off my head. All sorts of neck-wrenching pandemonium develops to keep them from coming off, so I can remain in-sync with the other tracks; but again this distracts me to no end and causes a halt in production for putting the cans back on and returning to square one. Keith Moon used duct tape wrapped around his noggin to keep his on. Maybe I should try that.

I have to really focus when playing a riff and attempting to execute it flawlessly. It’s been so long since I had it pretty well together and could recover quickly after a mistake and go on. But that was live, done and over with. There was no stopping and starting over again.

When recording, there’s no reason to let mistakes pass through, unless one is paying for the time and has already spent a fortune in the studio. If I were to have to pay for all the time I’ve been spending in putting together one of my gems, I’d be in the poor house.

What about that sudden runny nose that is on the verge of drip, while I’m almost at the end of a difficult track which had been repeated thus far ad infinitum, distracting me totally and causing an unrecoverable screwup? There’s nothing worse than having mucous, running down one’s face. I mean like grody to the max, for sure, for sure!

Leaving on one’s e-mail client is a mistake waiting to happen. The alert notification rings through on top of the recording, causing me to wonder what it’s about, taking my mind off what I’m doing and creating a discordant error.

I’m too easily distracted. That’s all there is to it. However, this latest self-improvement project is an enjoyable and fulfilling endeavor, and another way to occupy my time. Music is a joy and makes me feel good inside. It’s a release for my soul, a catharsis, an exercise in discipline, a motivation to excel, and an instant gratification.

The recordings sound pretty good, in my most humble opinion; albeit, I’m undeniably partial. Some of my social-media pals have been very gracious and offer encouragement. That makes it all worth it!

Here’s my latest hit:

Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support.

About Mike Slickster

As an early retiree with an honorary doctorate degree from the proverbial "School of Hard Knocks," this upcoming author with a lot of free time on his hands utilizes his expansive repertoire for humorous yet tragic, wildly creative writing that contains years of imaginative fantasy, pure nonsense, classic slapstick, extreme happiness and searing heartbreak; gathered by a wealth of personal experiences throughout his thrilling—sometimes mundane or unusually horrid—free-spirited, rock-'n'-roller-coaster ride around our beloved Planet Earth. Mike Slickster's illustrious quest continues, living now in Act Three of his present incarnation, quite a bit on the cutting edge of profundity and philosophical merriment as seen through his colorful characters, most notably evident in the amusing Thirty Days Across the Big Pond series, all of which can be found at Lulu.com.
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