Jon Shemitz
- my first year playing guitar
Jon, at 36 Jon, at 47  
1995 2006
I bought an electric bass for my 42nd birthday. I enjoyed making guitar noise on my unwife's Squier Venus and her Fender® Blues Jr amp, but as a long time devotee of the Phil Zone, I wanted subsonic rumbling. So, I took my parent's birthday check, and bought a Washburn® XB-100 at a local music store owned by a homeschooling family.

I started out playing songs and song fragments from tablature, but I really hated the "trained monkey" feel that tablature gave me, and dropped it quickly. I looked through a few of the unwife's guitar books; the ones that worked for me were by Uncle Tim. While I was writing my Kylix book, I found that practicing guitar for an hour or so after I'd clocked out for for the night was a great way to unwind. I quickly fell into a practice pattern of scales for 20 minutes or so; songs and fragments for 20 minutes or so; and another interval of self indulgent noodling about.

At first I played through the unwife's guitar amp, but low frequencies really draw power, and I was always worried about damaging her amp. So, to reward myself for finishing Chapter 5 (which seemed like a huge milestone at the time!) I went out and bought an Ibanez® Sound Wave 25 bass amp. This was about half the price of the Fender® Bassman 25, and seemed like a good buy; not very loud or very low, but a good clean sound.

Of course, 'raw guitar' doesn't sound much like the sort of music that imprinted me when I was a teen, so I pretty quickly picked up a DigiTech® RP200 effects box, and had a lot of fun playing with tones and delays and all. (My son Arthur liked to make new patches.) I developed a habit of playing through the presets; I'd select a patch, play something that seemed to fit, and move on to my next favorite patch.

As I started to know my way around the bass, I increasingly picked up the unwife's electric guitar. While I still liked the gut feel of my bass, I found I really liked the extra harmonic and dynamic range of the guitar. Just a subtler instrument than the bass. The only problem was that I played standing up, and the unwife's guitar strap didn't work for me; increasingly, I wanted my own guitar. So, when I finished the book, I looked at a couple of semi-hollow guitars, and then bought a beautful "Music Drive" solid body electric.

This is a Korean import, with a two octave fret board, three pickups and a five position single-coil / humbucker selector, plus a coil-tapping switch. It's roughly strat shaped, has an unpainted (natural wood) finish, and gold tone fittings. It's nice and light, and has a bevel on the inside top that tucks nicely into my waist when I play standing up.

Having to learn two new strings sent me back to the books and the scales, which I'd drifted away from, but I've had a lot of spare time since finishing the book, and I've gotten the pentatonic pattern down pretty cold. I can play pretty much any key at any position on the fret board, and can move over the fretboard within the same key, or can stay at one position and switch keys. (Some of the time, I even know the name of the key I'm playing.) I still haven't really ventured very far beyond pentatonic, but everything pentatonic sounds good, and I've really only recently approached the 'Got it' point.

While buying the Ibanez® probably made sense at the time, I'd always sort of regretted not splurging on the Bassman 25. I'd drop into music stores to ask questions, and their big bass amps were always so much more emotionally gratifying than my little practice amp. When I took my guitars to a friend's ranch, my amp sounded really quiet outside. The upshot here is that when I turned 43, I took my parent's birthday check and traded the Ibanez® for a Fender® Bassman 60, a beautiful big pig of an amp. I'm very happy with this amp, so far; it's got real subsonics, and setting the colume control to "3" (of 10) turns our living toom into my own personal Phil Zone. Very self indulgent!

Last updated June 26, 2006