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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Air Guitar

What is it that they say? You get what you pay for? Sometimes, you don’t get even that much. Such was the result of my brief flirtation with wireless musicianship.

There are those who believe that putting “wireless” in front of everything makes it cooler and more useful. You know, like, “wireless” telephones and “wireless” internet and “wireless” coffee. These are the same people who told us that if you put “i” in front of a word it will be hipper and old people won’t be able to use it, like the “i”phone, or that putting “e” in front of word makes it modern, like “e”mail and “e”vacuum cleaner.

“I” would definitely be one of those people. And so it is with this attitude that I drove my “e”car down to the “wireless” music store and bought my first wireless instrument system. To be fair to the salesman, he first attempted to sell me a much more expensive system that probably actually worked. I gave him my “i”expression (hip and savvy and not in any way over 40) and demanded something cheaper.

He countered with the Nady DKW 8 GT DKW 8 HT Guitar and Microphone Wireless Package, which I had seen on the “wireless” internet. This came with a wireless instrument transmitter that you hook onto your belt and a receiver, and included a free wireless hand-held microphone and receiver. It even included a battery! All for about 80 bucks. To quote Eddie Murphy, “Waat a bahgin!”

My first clue came when I tried it out in my “bass”ment, and noticed a pretty profound drop in volume even a foot away from the receiver. But, I figured, I could compensate by raising the volume. Not ideal (I had hoped to be able to match the corded (non-“wireless”…wired?) volume for the purpose of sound mixing, but whatever.

I decided to try them out at my next gig, a Sheva Brachos. I thought the wireless mic would be perfect for it, as it could be passed around between the people saying the blessings.

Once the band was set up, we did some warm-up songs, mostly slow dinner music. The transmitter worked fine. My band mates watched in amazement, maybe a little envy, as I suddenly walked away from the group, moved out to the middle of the room, turned to face them and appraise the sound mix. They were even more bewildered when, instead of returning to the bandstand, I moved to the back of the room, approached the dessert table, and sliced a big piece of chocolate cake, put it on a plate, moseyed over to a table in front of the band and began to eat it with my right hand, all the time continuing to play the song with my left hand on the fret board. Fretting and fressing*, as it were.

(As an aside, there are really two problems with eating chocolate cake and playing bass simultaneously: First, you get crumbs on the bass. And second, it’s very easy to end up with frosting in your beard. Embarrassing, to say the least.)

Anyway, I found the newfound freedom to be very refreshing. For example, typically when someone comes up to make a speech, I am trapped up there with him because of the cable. This time, I slowly edged myself off to the side and then slipped out of the room with my bass still on me.

The speakers were happy to have the wireless mic—at first. By about the third or fourth speaker (hey, this was a Jewish event) it started cutting out frequently, and by the time The Rabbi got the mic it was practically useless. This despite a change of battery (both new). They went back to using a wired mic. I never even got to try it for singing with a full band.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy being able to pluck a few notes on the bass out in the hallway, to the amusement of all the other low-lifes who skipped out on The Rabbi’s speech and to the dismay of The Rabbi, who was still trying to speak as my bass amp spewed forth random blurts of D-flat behind him.

Finally, it was time for the big dance set. I moved into position next to the guitar player, the better to see the charts, but prepared to make a quick dash out to the center circle, to be adored by the dancing celebrants, who would no doubt be delighted to see the guy with the big guitar in their midst.

The sax player called the first tune, gave a quick count, and then—


My bass made a few crackling sounds, then quit. The band took off like a bunch of horses at the starting gate, and I was left behind playing air guitar. The thing was totally dead. I got maybe 20 minutes out of it on a fresh battery.

I made a quick switcheroo and was back to wirefull bass for the remainder of the gig.

Back to the store with this one.

*© 2008 Ralphie


fudge said...

ah, this brings back fond memories of my current laptop, who, after a violent encounter with a full cannister of neslie quick mix, suffered a schizophrenic break disavowing it of its wired power supply and thereby forcing it to run on its battery alone, which has all the life expectancy of cafeteria skim milk. and also leads to interchanges like this:

GRANDMA (through blinds): PERLIE!
ME: yes, grandma.
ME: thank you, grandma.
ME: well, grandma, i managed to get the browser open before the battery hit critical mass, and i just typed in midwest, and--
LAPTOP: *Preparing to Hibernate ;D
ME: --and i'm gonna need to charge it in the dining room for another two hours first.

but look on the bright side, abba. think of all the weight you won't gain eating cake mid-gig!

MoChassid said...


There's something about reaching a certain age and coveting gizmos. I can't pass a bike store or a bike magazine wihout coveting the latest nonsense that I certainly don't need but is very cool.

Ralphie said...

I agree with MoChassid. In my soul lies an electronics-shaped hole. Currently stuffed with TiVo HD!

Thanks for the credit, by the way.

RaggedyMom said...

That was REALLY funny to picture. Not too many people jumped on this post, but it's amusing, self-deprecating, and a good general update on the state of Judaism today.
Keep trying to fret and fress, and the Rabbi just may have to dole out a frask.

Ezzie said...

I'm just picturing the Rabbi coming out into the hall to ask you to stop playing. :)

Anonymous said...

I have an AKG wireless mouse. It's a little thing that plugs right into the input on your guitar. Nice guy dentist/bass player in my neighborhood loaned me his for a few months to try it out before I bought one. It is the best. No belt pack. The receiver can sit anywhere near the amp and is patched right in . There's a gain control on the receiver as well so your sound guy can have lots of knobs to play with. You are free to move around the country, battery lasts several gigs and no drop off on the sound, no police calls coming through the PA when you least expect it. Costs about $200.00 new but you can find them on ebay as I did for around $125 to $150.00. I am very happy with it for all the freedom from cords it represents.