Email Specials from January 2003

Sat 1/4/2003


Ok, 2003 is here. What are we gonna do with it?

Here are my plans:

1) Figure out how to make our store computer Y2K compliant.
Our store computer program is so old that I think it was written in Fortran! We have to beat it with a stick every morning to get it to run in Windows 98. And it still says 1992 on the receipts. (Last year it said 1991...) In fact, now that I think about it, when we started using this program we didn't even have a hard drive in our computer! Every morning I'd put a floppy disc in the computer (and this was back when they WERE floppy!) to load the program, and then I'd take it out and replace the disc with another one that held the inventory files!! Talk about primitive!

b) Play more guitar.
As you know, my main instrument is drums. (Old joke: What do you call a guy who hangs around with musicians? A drummer.) But I love playing guitar. On New Years Eve I was jamming with my friends, and my good buddy Billy O'Connor (the original drummer in Blondie) took over on drums and I played Beatle songs on guitar for an hour, and it was great! I could almost be a non-singing rhythm guitar player.... OK, there's not a lot of call for that... But I am going to play more this year. It's fun.

iii) Learn to Cook.
I know that doesn't sound musical... but I've been watching the Food Network...and I want to learn how to do it. Have you seen the "Iron Chef"? Those guys are wacky...


So you can play more guitar too, this week's special is our music books. Any music book: 50% off. (They actually cost me more than I'll be losing money with every purchase.... but maybe it will encourage you to jam with your friends...)


See You soon,


PS: Last week I asked why there were 365 days in the year. Frank Moone wrote back:


In a nutshell, it takes 365 1/4 days for the earth to move around the sun. To make up for the difference the calendar year is set at 365 days long, unless the year is exactly divisible by 4, in which case an extra day is added to February to make the year 366 days long. If the year is the last year of a century, e.g. 1800, 1900, 2000, then it is only a leap year if it is exactly divisible by 400. Therefore, 1900 wasn't a leap year but 2000 was. The reason for these rules is to bring the average length of the calendar year into line with the length of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, so that the seasons always occur during the same months each year.

The year is defined as being the interval between two successive passages of the Sun through the vernal equinox. Of course, what is really occurring is that the Earth is going around the Sun but it is easier to understand what is happening by considering the apparent motion of the Sun in the sky.

The vernal equinox is the instant when the Sun is above the Earth's equator while going from the south to the north. It is the time which astronomers take as the definition of the beginning of Spring. The year as defined above is called the tropical year and it is the year length that defines the repetition of the seasons. The length of the tropical year is 365.24219 days.

In 46 BC Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar which was used in the west until 1582. In the Julian calendar each year contained 12 months and there were an average of 365.25 days in a year. This was achieved by having three years containing 365 days and one year containing 366 days. (In fact the leap years were not correctly inserted until 8 AD).

The discrepancy between the actual length of the year, 365.24219 days, and the adopted length, 365.25 days, may not seem important but over hundreds of years the difference becomes obvious. The reason for this is that the seasons, which depend on the date in the tropical year, were getting progressively out of kilter with the calendar date. Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, instituted the Gregorian calendar, which has been used since then.

The change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian involved the change of the simple rule for leap-years to the more complex one in which century years should only be leap-years if they were divisible by 400. For example, 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap-years whereas 2000 will be.

The net effect is to make the adopted average length of the year 365.2425 days. The difference between this and the true length will not have a serious effect for many thousands of years. (The error amounts to about 3 days in 10,000 years.)

The adoption of the Gregorian calendar was made in Catholic countries in 1582 with the elimination of 10 days, October the 4th being followed by October 15th. The Gregorian calendar also stipulated that the year should start on January 1. In non-Catholic countries the change was made later; Britain and her colonies made the change in 1752 when September 2nd was followed by September 14 and New Year's Day was changed from March 25 to January 1.

-Frank Moone"

Sat 1/11/2003


In 1964 every kid in America wanted to play guitar. The combination of the Baby Boom and those guys from England caused an unprecedented demand for musical instruments.

Right around this time, perhaps to speed up the manufacturing process, Gretsch started using a different type of glue on the binding of their hollow-body guitars. Everything was fine for the first 30 years or so... but in the 1990s a strange thing started happening. On some Gretsch guitars the glue from the 1960s started to chemically react with the binding. At first you would notice slight brown spots... then some cracking as the brown spots got bigger... and eventually the binding would start to turn to dust and flake off. We in the vintage biz refer to this as "Gretsch binding disease."

The strange part is that it doesn't happen to every old Gretsch guitar. Some are bad, some are perfect. (It might be related to how much time the guitar spends stored in it's case, which leads one to think that it's caused by fumes from the aging glue. ) We see it on a lot of Gretsches from 1967... I've seen it on some guitars made as early as 1965 ... and up until roughly 1969... (I almost wonder if they weren't mixing the glue themselves and perhaps some batches had a slightly different chemical mix.)

Why do I mention all of this? Well, as you may have heard, Fender has purchased Gretsch, and as of February 1st we have the option of carrying new Gretsches. And I can't decide... Here are the pros and cons:

Cons: They are made in Japan (not that there's anything wrong with that...) and very expensive. For the price of a new Gretsch Anniversary you could buy a vintage one.

Pros: Although the market value of a vintage Anniversary is similar to a new one, it's not easy to FIND a vintage Anniversary. And if you do find one, there's a 30% chance of it having the binding problems I mentioned above. (Plus a 40% chance of it needing a neck re-set... but that's a glue of another story...) Other pros: the new guitars still have the distinctive Gretsch sound and they're beautiful!

So, what should I do? Should I spend $10,000 and order in a batch of new Gretsches?


One thing we are sure of is Fender stuff. We'll be ordering lots of that this week. We still have some 2002 strings left over, though, so this week's special is whatever we have left in Fender Strings....


See You soon,


PS: This week's Customer web site:
The Deliberate Strangers

Sat 1/18/2003


Many many many years ago, when I was a kid, there was only one kind of effects pedal: distortion. Actually, we called them "fuzz boxes" because that described the sound they made. (I remember the first time I heard one-- it was on a song called "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" .... I wonder what ever happened to that band?)

Then along came a wacky inventor named Mike Matthews. From his little NYC shop he introduced not only a Distortion Pedal (Big Muff), but also a Phase Shifter (Smallstone), a Delay (Memory Man), and more. He called his company Electro-Harmonix, and his pedals were the greatest.

Mike was quite successful until the early 1980s, when after both union troubles and supply difficulties he decided to close up shop.

In the early '90s Mike's fascination with Russia, combined with economic feasibility of overseas production, lead him to reintroduce Russian-made versions of his pedals under the brand name Sovtek.

With their classic '60s sound, Mike's pedals were once again a big hit. And the success of the Sovtek line enabled him to introduce USA-made Electro-Harmonix pedals, which are exact replicas of the ones he was making here in the '60s and '70s.


The classic Electro-Harmonix sound is back!
This week's emails special, Electro Harmonix Effects Pedals!
Made in the USA!


See You soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
Brad Yoder

Sat 1/25/2003


As you know, new strings sound bright, old strings sound dull and lifeless.

One of the primary causes is built-up corrosion. After all, the strings are metal... and your fingers are naturally dirty (from setting up the PA) and oily (from the chicken at the buffet line...) So, dirt and grime build up on the string and stop it from vibrating as smoothly as it did right out of the pack... (Ahhhh... smooth vibration.... the key to clear sound.)

A couple of years ago W.L. Gore & Associates, a company that makes fabric coatings for waterproofing, etc, came up with the clever idea to coat guitar strings. They buy strings from a major manufacturer (we know who, but we can't say...) and they apply their corrosion-inhibiting coating. The strings are sold under the "Elixir" name. We sell a fair number of them, and as they advertise, they sound the same on day 30 as they did on day 1. Our opinion, however, is that on day 1 they don't sound as bright as an uncoated string... (And why should they? They have a coating on them!)

Now, GHS (a major string manufacturer) has come up with a new version of the coated concept. They're using a thinner, sprayed-on coating... and they coat the winding of the wound strings before they are wrapped onto the core. (For the drummers reading this: the "skinny" strings are plain steel; the "fat" ones have a nickel/steel alloy wrapped around a steel core.) To further compensate for any lost brightness, GHS is using Stainless Steel as the basic string material. (Stainless Steel strings are brighter than Nickel strings.) The result of all of this is a corrosion-resistant string that is still bright sounding. (Another plus: they cost half as much as the Elixirs.)

And just for the fun of it, GHS used a Black coating! (On the wound strings...)

Will they really be better? I don't know... Will you like `em? Who knows... Will they be the strings of your dreams? Well, you probably shouldn't be dreaming about strings... But it SEEMS like a good idea, so we bought a few boxes. We're making them the email special in case you'd like to check them out.


See You soon,

PS: This week's Customer web site:
Salena Catalina

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