Monday, October 20, 2014

Update 20OCT2014

I can't believe it's already the 20th.  Last week I had more work travel, thus the lack of updates to this blog.  Quick status update:  Over the past two weekends I have been doing a lot of recording.  I have what is probably the final cut for the instrumental parts of the demo version of the cover song, plus most of the music tracks for one other song, and then a basic guitar track recorded for a third song.  

I have not recorded any vocals for any of the songs yet.  The vocal work for the cover song will be comparably easy because at least the words and melody are pre-set.  I have no words or tune for the other two pieces yet.  So far it's just a bunch of background music.  This worries me.  I know that I am leaving the most crucial and difficult part of the songs for the last week and a half of the month.  Should composing go the opposite way?  Should I write words and/or a melody first, and then build the instrument tracks, rhythm and chords behind it to support the vocals?  I think that's how Gilbert and Sullivan did it.  Elton John and Bernie Taupin, too. posted their newest title a week or so ago:  "The Phyllis Wheatley Club", due date October 22, 2014, two days from now.  I understand that continuing to put off composing for SongFight in hopes of getting a truly inspiring title at some future week is a bad idea, but that is exactly what I'm going to do this week too.  I doubt that I could give the subject matter the gravity it deserves, and anything less would be disrespectful.  Maybe I'm overthinking it, but since there's only two days left, I am committed to not submitting to SongFight this week.

One bit of great news - the issue with my bass guitar's bridge pickup was limited to that broken switch.  I fixed the switch and now I have a fully-functioning bass guitar:

Here's a closeup of that broken pickup switch.

The first thing I did was to remove and boil the bass strings.  It's an old trick for making the strings sound brighter - I believe the process removes dirt and oils from the coils.

While that was going on, I got my tools together: soldering iron, trivet, screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, and replacement switch.  This is not meant to be a Radio Shack ad.  In fact I found the replacement switch to be of poor design (it requires a nut and a bolt, and any typical nut size prevents the switch from fully functioning).

Here are the old switches.  The broken one is on the right.  At this point in the process I have already unscrewed everything, marked the wires with highlighters so I don't mix up what goes where, detached the red wire with the help of the soldering iron, and used a razor blade to cut the crosswire off the old switch (the solder on that part wouldn't melt).  It's hard to see it in the photos, but this switch has threads in the placement holes so a nut isn't required, all you need is the bolt.  Unfortunately the new one has wider holes and requires a nut and a bolt.

All I really did was pay careful attention to where everything was wired on the old switch, and then repeated that on the new switch, and everything worked out okay.  Since I couldn't use any of the nuts I had without making the switch unusable, I ended up just glopping solder on that area in hopes it would keep the switch in place.  It is clear to me that the solder mound was not the right solution for this problem.  The switch is loose and wobbly, and I am afraid to use it.  But at this point the switch is working fine in the ON position instead of broken and/or stuck in the OFF position, and now the bridge pickup is working for the first time in who knows how many years.  I prefer my bass guitar tone to be a bit brighter, so I probably wouldn't ever turn that pickup off anyway.  If I ever need a softer tone than what is available from the bridge pickup, I'll just use the tone knob.

The bass sounds great now, much much better than I would ever have expected.  It's a little strange for me getting used to it as a "short scale" bass, but it sounds so good that I can't complain.  I'm so happy with the sound of this bass that I'm thinking of investing in a professional set-up and permanent re-repair of that switch instead of the sloppy half-measures I used.

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