Friday, April 18, 2014

Fishman Prefix acoustic guitar pickup and over heated 9 volt batteries

I make mistakes often but usually I don't admit it. But I thought others could learn from my mistake and maybe avoid a guitar disaster. Here is my story...

I was preparing for a small gig, this usually requires replacing my strings, batteries, and tighten things down. Months if not years had passed since I changed my 9 volt battery in my Taylor 514e acoustic and since I had the battery in stock, I thought, let's be safe and change the battery. The lighting in the work room was dim as the sun was going down and I was using ambient sunlight to illuminate my small project. I didn't pay close attention to replacing the battery and since it fit in fine I (wrongly) thought I had completed that aspect of my preparation. Then I replaced my strings like I've done a thousand times before. Everything was fine and I was excited with anticipation of my fresh new guitar set up and new battery.

Now it was time for me to test out my guitar and hear the new set up. I plugged the guitar into my amp and strummed it and found that there wasn't any sound coming out of the amplifier speakers. I checked my guitar lead, the amp, made sure my pedals were plugged in and the volume was up on the Fishman controller as well as my amp. After doing some brilliant deductive reasoning, I managed to check my 9 Volt battery that was in the Fishman control panel. Here, I learned that I had a surprise in-store for me because when I touched the battery located inside the Fishman Prefix control unit, I found that the battery was heating up - That heat or condition is called Thermal Runaway. My mistake was that I installed the 9 volt battery in backwards where the battery negative side was in contact with the Fishman controller positive side.

It is difficult to clearly see the polarity signs - Even with a flash!

I broke some of my own rules during this set-up. The following are a few common sense rules to follow.

  • Always have a Battery powered flashlight handy and use it to illuminate things you cannot see well.
  • Never put in a battery without being overly cautious about the proper polarity.
  • Make sure the battery is new. Buy batteries from a store that had high traffic.
  • Make plans and prepare in advance so that you will have enough time to do a proper set-up.
Which side is positive or negative? Use a flashlight to help you see your work piece.

Lastly, I generally prefer acoustic guitars without pickups because  when recording there is no substitute for a high end external condenser microphone by Neumann or AKG. However, if I must use an on-board pick up, I prefer a unit that leaves the guitar body unmolested or without holes. The pictures on this page are of a Taylor 514 circa 2000-2001 and it's a fine instrument and the Fishman does work well, so well that I prefer it to the newer electronics on the latest Taylor Expression system.

In conclusion, if your battery is heating up then it is extremely probable that you have installed it backwards!  Learn from my mistakes and be cautious when installing batteries in anything!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Listening post - What is inspiring me this week? April 2014

Don't have much time as life, work and practice eat away at my time bandwidth.

This week I get a little nostalgic and a few old favorites. I blow the dust off some records you might recognize and unwrap a few new albums you might like to try. The selections this week aren't too too eclectic but might be some that you've haven't heard in a while. I hope you enjoy this weeks choices!

UFO  - Strangers in the night. Really one of the best live albums of the 80's. Michael Schenker plays well and is even playing better now!

The Beatles - Revolver - Taxman, Good Day Sunshine, Eleanor Rigby, and She said She said - Nothing on this album sucks.

Howlin Wolf - Self taught, went back to school to learn to read, natural business man and surrounded himself with people like the wonderful and talented Hubert Sumlin. Buy the Chess recording! Listen and learn as this is paradoxical music in that it's old but sounds brand new.

Yes - Classics album - Starship trooper, Long distance runaround, And you and I, Wonderous Stories, and I've seen all good people send very positive messages in their virtuous music.

Tommy Castro and the Pain Killers - The Devil you know, Greedy, Second Mind songs make for a rockin blues album that is probably one of Tommy's best. Tommy is a real time hard working blues guitarist. I've witnessed his playing first hand and one of the best things about his shows is that you feel like you are a part of the band and not just a member of the audience. The Bay Area is proud of Tommy Castro!

Los Straight Jackets - Yeah, so they wear wrestling masks and have moves like ZZ Top. This is a great band. To me they are sort of TruckerSurferBluesbilly music. They play music you've heard before but not as an eclectic amalgamation. Listen to: The Casbah, Pacifica, Wrong Planet, Tsunami, Cavalcade and you will not be disappointed. They have cool guitars as well!