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I learnt the piano and trumpet/cornet whilst at school. The piano never amounted to much but the trumpet was used in the school brass band. I actually started on an e flat tenor horn but the cornet appeared more inviting! We played a few numbers including a gavotte by Handel, and hymns in school assembly on occasion. I learned more about harmonies (I sang in the Church choir, so was quite used to hearing harmonic voices) and how the various instruments played together even though they were in different keys.

After school, I bought a guitar - a pretty poor instrument with a fairly high action, but it was semi acoustic, meaning that I could indulge my other fascination, amplification! A mate from work showed me a few chords and it's gone on from there. I did have a couple of lessons from a work colleague - Rod Cameron - who plays mean guitar, and also my mate Gren - both of them an inspiration - but the rest has been picked up as I've gone along. The No. 1 instrument has to be my Yamaha Acoustic Guitar. It's an FG345 and I paid £70 for it back in about 1987 - including a hard case. She's a beauty and sounds great. I've also got an Eko Jumbo 12 string. Itís a bit battle weary now, but this instrument sounds fine. Unfortunately, when I bought it, it had medium gauge strings fitted which were far too heavy for the sound box top and the bridge has rotated a few degrees toward the sound hole, causing the angle between the bridge and the string anchors to diminish.

I bought a Fender Stratocaster back in 1996. It was advertised in the local paper for £200 including an amplifier. It turned out to be an early Squier with a J.V. number. It has scalloped frets above #5 and, according to Rod, plays well.

I've also recently bought a Telecaster. This one's a 'bitser'. A Squier neck and a home made body. Someone has spent a considerable amount of effort on this guitar. There are some pix below.

Back in 1996, whilst playing in "The Revivers", a 10 piece Brighton based soul band, I was using my Vox AC50 which sounded fine but as we were playing some rockier numbers, decided I needed something with an overdrive capability. I decided to build an amp. Gren's Mesa Boogie MK IV looked interesting and was certainly versatile. No circuits were available but poking around a bit, a work colleague lent me Aspen Pitman's book on vintage guitar amps. Within the pages were circuits for the MK I, MK II, and MK III Mesa Boogies. I studied the drawings carefully and read as much as I could before embarking on a project to emulate the MK III. It was never intended to be a direct copy (as I'd never seen or heard one) but to be a basis for experimentation.

The Revivers on Brighton Seafront c.1996  

The underside of the "Bogie" The MDF case outer with the chassis slid into position

Not knowing what components had been used in the original presented me with considerable problems. Of particular concern were the opto couplers used to switch voices on the preamp. Undeterred, I pressed on with the chassis and case. A 15" Electrovoice speaker thrown on the local tip was found to be in perfect condition. I'm sure a 12" would have been better but it would have cost a packet! I built the whole unit from scratch in the workshop at home (some of the machining was done at work!). The casing was built from 1.25" thick MDF, braced, glued, and screwed together then covered with buffalo hide Tolex. I bought various fittings such as handles and corner protectors. The whole project took about six months and turned out looking great even if the sound performance left a little to be desired. I've got a good chassis for experimentation!

This is the underside of the chassis.
.....and the basic assembly.

 

 

The Vox AC50 amplifier. Although not as popular as its smaller brother the AC30, this amp gives a good account of itself. It was favoured more as a bass amplifier. It dates from about 1963 and the 'red face' models are rare. It has a standard line up of 3 ECC83's in the preanp and phase splitter and EL34s in the Power amplifier. This type of speaker could also be used for the PA.
The Vox AC50 Head and Speaker
The AC50 Head - dating from about 1963
 

 

I also fix guitar amps for various musicians - mainly the valve variety but there are many hybrids and all semiconductor amps out there. If you're in need of am amp fixing in the south east, drop me an e-mail. I'll repair using the correct components and get your beast running again. If it's damaged then I'll rebuild it from scratch if necessary! At present I've got a Selmer Treble and Bass 'Fifty' and a Sound City 6-channel 50W PA amp up for sale. Make me an offer...

The piano has always been a workhorse for sussing out harmonies and awkward chord progressions I couldn't get with my limited guitar ability and I now play the instrument on its own (after a fashion) and accompany Sarah and Holly on their clarinets. What the neighbours think of the result, I dread to think!

The Yamaha FG345, Eko Ranger 12 and Squier JV Stratocaster.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah plays piano - she reached grade 4 and now sight reads. Some of her favourite pieces are Fruhlingslied (Spring Song) by Kjerulf (Op.28, No. 5) and Erik Satie's Gymnopedies. She is currently teaching herself clarinet and is about grade 2.

Holly has been learning clarinet since October 2001 and has recently passed Grade 2 with Distinction. She plays confidently and at the moment seems to enjoy practicing. She has a Yamaha instrument. David has taken up drums and was given a kit at Christmas 2001. He's taking to it easily and has a clear ability. He passed his grade 1 exam with honours and Grade 2 with High honours..

The Telecaster and the 'Bogie'
 

 

© G.A. 2002-2004. Last updated 30th January 2004.

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