About rockmommyct

I am a mother, writer, rock and roll musician, and guitar teacher.

Why I Gave up My Gibson G-Force Auto Tuner

I couldn’t have been more thrilled with my 5th anniversary wedding present — a 2015 Gibson SG Standard electric guitar, complete with all the trimmings (great pickups, a warm tone, a rich mahogany finish, etc.). But when I went to tune the thing, twisting the knobs in the same way I’ve twisted knobs for the past 20 years, one of them came loose.

After convincing Gibson to send me a replacement knob, I made the 30-minute pilgrimage to Orange, Conn., to “authorized retailer” Guitar Center, where I met an awesome guitar tech named Ed.

The diagnosis: my beloved anniversary guitar was equipped with a G-Force automatic tuner!

Now, before I get into the multiple trips to Guitar Center, hours spent reading the Gibson Owner’s Manual, etc., I ended up making, I want to say that my husband is a very good man. He thought he was getting me my dream guitar, not a guitar-size headache! Neither of us had any idea that automatic tuners were a “thing” for 2015 — every single Gibson I’ve played up until this point in my life has possessed standard tuning knobs.

After Ed fixed the knob and explained how the G-Force worked, I gave the guitar a chance. I turned on the automatic tuner, and strummed my guitar once or twice, and let the knobs do their magic. So far, so good.

The Gibson G-Force auto tuner, which came with my 2015 Gibson SG

But then one day, about a month later, the guitar tuned itself to some kind of obscurity. Suddenly, my A string and low E string were both registering “E” on my regular tuner. It sounded kind of cool, but I couldn’t play any of my songs!

So I did what any disgruntled guitarist would do: I called the manufacturer. Nice as the Nashville-based Gibson team was, however, they couldn’t figure out how to help me tweak my instrument. They just told me to read the manual. Days later, after leafing through a 29-page manual, I still couldn’t make it work (and yes — I tried recalibrating and resetting and all that).

Apparently, I’m not alone. Lots of videos featuring disgruntled Gibson guitar owners — just Google “Gibson g-force sucks” to see them — are filled with complaints about the auto tuner’s inability to magically tune guitar strings in a timely manner. Because of this, said Ed at Guitar Center, hundreds of Gibson users opted to have their 2015 Gibsons refurbished with basic tuning knobs.

I joined the ranks of Gibson SG owners who asked for such minor guitar surgery last week, after considering the pros and cons.

Without the G-Force, I wouldn’t be able to easily switch between 10 different types of tuning during a set — which I would never do anyway! Also, the value of my guitar would decrease if I swapped the auto tuner for regular old knobs (potentially by a few hundred dollars).

The pros, however, were that I’d finally be able to play my guitar without worrying that I’d reset it into some kind of geeky-musician setting.

The choice was easy.

At the end of the day, I’m just a soccer mom who plays guitar and writes songs. And my time is precious as heck, now that I’m balancing kids, work, marriage, and exercise — all while managing a household.

My newly refurbished Gibson SG plays like a charm and I couldn’t be happier.

5 Great Signature Guitars Designed for — and Inspired by — Female Rock Guitarists

Not too long ago, rock guitarist St. Vincent — also known as Annie Clark — unveiled an edgy new guitar specifically designed to fit a woman’s body and accommodate her smaller hands.

Although pioneers like Daisy Rock have been churning out female-friendly instruments for a while, the news was pretty groundbreaking for a few reasons. Until now, most of the signature guitars bearing a woman’s name are actually designed by men at big-name guitar purveyors like Fender and Gibson. Also, while St. Vincent did get a little help from engineers at Ernie Ball’s California headquarters, she was very much involved in the design and development process for her signature instrument.

So will this set the precedent for more professional shredders to do the same?

We can only hope.

For now, here are five great signature guitars that some of the best female rock guitarists have helped bring to market:

  1. St. Vincent’s Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar

A cool-looking, $1899 guitar was crafted to perfectly fit St. Vincent’s lithe, womanly form, playing technique and personal style in Ernie Ball Music Man’s San Luis Obispo, California factory. Features include an African mahogany body, Ernie Ball Music Man tremolo, gunstock oil and hand-rubbed rosewood neck and fingerboard, St. Vincent inlays, Schaller locking tuners, 5-way pick up selector with custom configuration and three mini humbuckers.

St. Vincent’s Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitar

2. Lzzy Hale Explorer

Halestorm front woman Lzzy Hale is one of the heavy metal’s few chick singers who also shreds — and has achieved major mainstream success. Her sharp-looking, signature $2,299 Gibson axe is super badass, with Alpine White finish and gold appointments, Gibson’s popular 57 Classic and 57 Classic Plus pickups, select tonewoods, and high-quality locking hardware.

Gibson’s Lzzy Hale Explorer

3. Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard

Legendary Heart guitarist-singer Nancy Wilson — and rockmommy of two — tears it up onstage (side note: I’ve tried playing “Crazy on You” for years and still can’t do it right!) and in the studio. So it is only fitting that Gibson unveiled the robust signature Nighthawk in her honor. The $1,499 guitar features a comfortable ribcage body contour, rosewood fingerboard, a Nighthawk mini-humbucker and Nighthawk Lead humbucker, with five-way switching. It’s visually stunning, too, with Grade-AAA maple top dressed in a high-gloss nitrocellulose Fireburst finish with Cherry back and neck, and a commemorative “Fanatic” truss-rod cover.

Gibson’s Nancy Wilson Nighthawk Standard

4. PRS Orianthi
Aussie guitarist Orianthi, who has strummed for Carrie Underwood, Alice Cooper, and so many other big names, was on the brink of taking her career to the next level as Michael Jackson’s guitarist for his 2009 world tour, when, sadly, he passed away in June of that year. Her signature guitar features:

  • Beveled maple top with flame maple veneer and Korina back;
  • PRS-designed tuners, SE HFS treble pickup, SE vintage bass pickup, and tremolo Bridge; and
  • volume and tone control with 3-way toggle pickup selector.

PRS Orianthi

5. Bangles Signature Model

Daisy Rock is one of the most innovative, pro-female companies out there, with its huge array of electric and acoustic instruments designed for girls and women of all ages. The Bangles Signature Model, inspired by the quintessential all-girl 1980s band, is a particularly beautiful piece, with its piercingly pure tone, slim and narrow neck suited for smaller hands, and vintage look.

Daisy Rock’s Bangles Signature model

In writing this blog, I’ve learned that while there are plenty of lists for “best female guitarists” and “best rocker moms,” finding a signature guitar that possesses the name of a female guitarist and is tailored to a female’s physical features is a near impossible feat.

Therefore, rock mamas — or heck, even dudes — who are looking for something that is designed with a woman in mind ought to take a closer look at these electric works of wonder.

Rocker Mom Gwen Stefani’s Mid-Life Mama Album is a Spectacular Comeback

It’s not easy being a mom over 40. Not only are you balancing demands from kids, time with your spouse, work, and a personal life, but you have to contend with aging. At 40-something, a woman no longer possesses a fresh-faced youth that turns heads. Sure, all women of every age are beautiful, but those who are approaching menopause are the ones who most relate to the struggle to stay sexy, from what I’ve seen.

Gwen Stefani is a 46-year-old mom of three. Her breakup record is powerful and inspiring.

Given all these things, pop-rock star Gwen Stefani’s latest album, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like,” is a breath of fresh air for moms who aren’t 20-somethings anymore. Listening to it makes those of us in the over-35 category feel good about ourselves. If 46-year-old Stefani can emerge from a nasty divorce with an amazing work of art and a hot, young boyfriend, dammit, so can we!

Let’s set aside the age thing and the mom thing, for a moment.

“This is What the Truth Feels Like” is brimming with some damn good music. The first track, “Misery,” kicks things off with lustful musings set to a playful, peppy beat. It’s almost — though not quite — as catchy as the fun, ska-kissed “Where Would I Be?”, which transports the listener to “Hollaback Girl” days.

Several tracks in, we arrive at the first single, “Used to Love You,” a confessional piece that most of us have probably downloaded already. Hearing it again in the context of a 12-track record infused with boy-crush-inspired pieces gives it so much more power.

When we emerge from the sadness, the hip-hop ballad “Red Flag” and “Asking 4 It” (with Fetty Wap) get us singing and snapping again, energized and ready to go.

I’m not a fan of everything Stefani sings. There are definitely moments where I’m like, “why are these lyrics so trite? Doesn’t she have a team of writers?”

Still, taken as a whole, “This Is What the Truth Feels Like” does what pop music does best: It inspires and moves me. I’d be surprised if others — especially moms of my Gen X/Gen Y era — don’t emerge with the same feelings after just one listen.

Gig Time: 3/19 in Redding, CT

Hey everyone! It’s that time again! Once in a rare while, I play a gig in my new home state of Connecticut.

I haven’t played the nutmeg state since 2013, when I was six months pregnant, so it is a huge treat that Michele and Morgan (aka, “M Power”) will be joining me this Saturday, March 19, 2016, at The Lumberyard in Redding, CT .

Also: Because the gig is in Fairfield County, I’ll be playing my acoustic-electric set — and two covers.

Show starts at 8 p.m.; we go on at 9 p.m.

Other details:

Lumberyard Pub & Sports Bar

2 Main Street

Redding, CT 06896

 

21 and over 🙂 and lots of great food and music from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., including Catalina Shortwave.

My mommy cover of “The Hills” in my Kids’ Playroom

Video

Happy Monday! In true rockmommy fashion, I’ve recorded this cover of The Weeknd’s brilliant song “The Hills” in my sons’ play room. I think it adds a fun and youthful aura to the piece.

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Living Like a Runaway: On Meeting Lita Ford, Rock Mama and Metal Goddess

As I awaited the flesh-and-bones arrival of rock legend Lita Ford at the signing for her newly released memoir “Living Like a Runaway” in downtown Manhattan, I had no idea what to expect.

Me and my friend Kendra at Lita Ford’s 2/23/16 book signing. I’m wearing my CBGB T-shirt signed by the Mother of Metal.

Sure, I knew I’d be among aging metal heads and middle-aged, black-clad dorks at a spacious and brightly lit Barnes & Noble. I also and that “Kiss Me Deadly,” her 1989 solo hit, would stream through the speakers at some point. But I didn’t know what kind of woman I’d encounter at showtime.

Would one of the baddest bad-ass women of rock and roll whose guitar shredding capabilities would put mine to shame roll her eyes at my surface-level experiences? Would the rocker mom with gnarly battle scars from the rough and sexist 1970s be approachable? Or, would the “mother of metal” possess a narcissistic demeanor instead of one of humble gratitude?

As I chatted away with one of the dudes sitting near me, Ford emerged from the back of the store in her skintight jeans and black stiletto booties, flanked by female journalist Jeanne Fury, who would engage in a Q&A with the singer. Immediately, I was taken in by her striking beauty. At 58, Ford— with her eyes lined in black and signature blonde hair that flowed behind her shoulders — is breathtaking. And as I would soon learn, she’s outspoken, intelligent, and pretty funny, too.

“It was just like I had this gift from God or something, that I was supposed to play heavy metal,” she told the small crowd after joking with the reporter that it was “first gig at Barnes & Noble.”

Like the new memoir, most of the talk focused on Ford’s rise stardom as the only female guitarist who could hang with the likes of Black Sabbath and would give Jimmy Page a run for his money (in the book she tells a funny story about meeting Robert Plant and being asked to play bass for Led Zeppelin).

She took the audience through her early years, when a-holes at bars would try to spill beer on her or guys from other bands would accuse her of swiping their guitar cables.

One of the best stories was her first memories of experiencing metal at her Black Sabbath show. “I wanted to make the audience feel what I felt at that show that night,” she said. “When I saw them, I thought, ‘that’s it.’ This is what I’m meant to do.”

Throughout Ford’s talk, it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room: The muddled circumstances of her divorce, and separation from her two young sons with whom she no longer has a relationship. It’s particularly heartbreaking to me, as I can’t imagine my tiny toddler boys shunning me in that way. It must be hell living with this aspect of reality, not being able to hold her sons as they grow into young men, or taking part in their day-to-day lives.

But if Ford is an angry woman who isn’t fit to be a mother, as her ex-husband has suggested,  I didn’t see it, nor did I sense it (and I have pretty good instinct). Instead, I witnessed a wizened lady enjoying her well-earned fame. Still, I told her I’d think “positive thoughts” and I did. Truly, I hope she gets to see her grown boys again, and experience their love.

Anyway, I’m so psyched to read the rest of this book!

When I got home from the NYC reading — and going home is a two-hour trek, mind you! — I found myself making more time to strum my chocolate-brown Gibson SG (which also happened to be the color and model of the first guitar she bought with her own money). I also felt younger, at heart. For all of the expectations imposed on older women, that we ought to dress in Chico’s once we hit 50, or develop a liking for Opera, I felt excited by the notion that older age doesn’t have to be boring or un-sexy. Cheers to Lita Ford for giving me that feeling!

Finally, a Bare and Naked Recording of “Ain’t No Man Gonna Like These Hands”

Call it the longest song title ever — for me! One of my favorite, and now signature, blues tunes is now a stripped-down acoustic performance, thanks to my computer and super-basic recording skills. I need to get up to speed with recording high-quality YouTube and Vimeo demos.

This particular song, “Ain’t No Man Gonna Like These Hands” was actually not written by me (it’s the only original I perform written for me, but by someone else). The writer is a talented amateur guitar player/lawyer/dad named Josh Wilkenfeld, whom I had the honor of teaching.

Here it is in all its naked glory (I’m performing it, in my late 30s, with no makeup! Oh, the horror!):