Thursday, August 28, 2008

Small Post

Went to the dentist today.

Got my teeth cleaned.

They now throb a bit.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

There's Floodin' In Texas....

It has been eighteen years.

I first heard of the man when the first video from his second album came out. A great song, but not the best on the album. Mostly just him walkin' around, with his guitar over his shoulder like a hobo with his stick and bag. It was his second video that made me get his album.

And man, that's all it took. I think that's all it took for everybody.

A friend of mine met the man once. He was a fellow guitarist and editor of the college paper and used that to get a backstage pass and interview time. Complete abuse of power, but hey, I'd do it too. Anyway, he struggled to get past his idol-worship and do the interview, and after a while the tour manager knocked on the door and said "Hey, wrap it up! We gotta go!" The man said "Hey, I'm talking to this guy!" It would've been the easiest thing to blow off the rest of the interview, but he finished it, which made the man so much cooler in my friend's eyes. And in mine.

The state of the art has not, as of yet, moved past him.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

OK, You've SEEN My Tele....

I claim Richard Thompson as my favorite guitarist. I don't really claim him as an influence. Why? Because I never have really sat down and tried to learn his stuff.

Until now.

I put on "Gimme Shelter" (Admittedly not RT) and the Watching The Dark 17-minute version of "Calvary Cross", and tried to pick 'em up.

"Calvary Cross", as a Google search for tabs will tell you, is F Am G through the verses. What the tab doesn't tell you is that, on the long version, he goes to D F#m E. As far as I can tell, he's playing in E major, or something related to E major.

Thompson is also the reason I love tremolo. Just to make this point clear, tremolo is a variation on volume, like with the Fender vibrato circuit, and vibrato is variation on pitch, like with the Fender tremolo bar. Yeah, the great Leo Fender got them reversed. That's OK, though. He invented the stuff, he didn't have to name it right.

Anyways, I've recorded something with that flavor and tremolo. Through my AX1500G, into my work laptop with Audacity.

RT Thing

Monday, August 25, 2008

Backing Out Of A Rut

Right now, Premier Guitar is my favorite music magazine. Not only does it meet or exceed the high level of gear reviews and instructional content of Guitar Player, but it also has a great web presence, both in it's website and it's connections to other guitar websites. It's almost like another site in my blogroll.

Part of this is their Web Exclusives. The guy I normally read most is John Bohlinger, who gives you a tour through his life as a gigging musician. But I want to point out another WE column, this time with Steve Ouimette.

Playing Backwards Forward is his suggestion for breaking out of ruts:
So, we’ve all heard examples of backward guitars. When I say “backward,” I mean back in the day when people recorded on analog tape (some still do, god bless them!), they would flip the tape backward and record against the tracks going the opposite direction, then flip the tape back to its correct path of travel. This created a reverse guitar effect that was incredibly cool and totally unpredictable. Songs like “Magic Man” from Heart and many, many songs from Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles made incredible use of this trick/technique. Aside from the cool psychedelic vibe and enveloping sound it created, we can learn a lot from this if we put it to good use.
Remember a few posts back, when I started Explain The Effect? I used the reverse tool to make forward a backward-tracked guitar solo. And while doing so, I had this exact thought.

But I never wrote it down.

Excuse me while I kick this guy....



So, record your playing on the computer, reverse it, and learn how to play the reversed lick forward. You may still need to invest in a Slow Gear clone in order to make it sound really trippy and backwards, but without that, you might come up with new cool stuff, which you can now play backwards and forwards.

Shake Your Medicine Rattle

I have a strap for the all-black Tele. I like the strap on my all-black Tele. It's a good strap. But it isn't pretty.

This is a cool-looking strap. I want one!

Of course it is. The Boss is rich. And cool. He can afford cool-looking gear. You get to that level, either your less-cool gear becomes cool because of you or you purchase cool gear to supplement your coolness.

My first strap, now dedicated for use with my acoustic, is a big wide strap I got because I thought it looked like Stevie Ray Vaughn's strap, except it didn't have the big musical notes.

It seems like, past comfort and a certain amount of stick to keep a neck-heavy instrument in place, the strap is a mostly-fashion decision, and like all mostly-fashion decisions in a generally male-centered field, the default choice is black.

Why black? Because you're not gonna be out of place with black. If it was pink paisley and you showed up at a metal show with it, you'd be laughed at. Search for baritone guitars on Musician's Friend and you'll find mostly black instruments, I'm sure for that exact reason.

So, what all-fashion choices have you made with your gear?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Responding to Fondue

Joe Bonamassa vs Rory Gallagher.

I really didn't know either.

I found some of both on the Internet. You can find almost everything on the Internet. Googling artist is a wonder.

Then I put it all on my Creative Zen Stone. No LCD. So I had to guess.

Rory's self-titled album. One Joe song. I could tell the Joe because it shared a stone and style with Sonny Landreth. "So, It's Like That". Like Sonny without a slide.

Rory was good, really good. But I'm not seeing great.

So, for Joe vs. Rory, I say Richard Thompson.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How Could I Leave This Behind?

At right is a black Jay Turser copy of the early Fender Precision bass. Isn't it pretty? has them, in white, black, blonde and sunburst. A sunburst '51 is what Sting plays. I try not to get all obsessive about the exact styling of my favorite players and their instruments. My B-Bender will not be sunburst, my fretless Jazz bass will not be sunburst with no pickguard, my first Strat will not be black with a white pickguard. But really, that white up-the-top-horn pickguard screams 50s futurism to me, in white even more so, with the sunburst looking 30s old-school, it even more than the Strat hits that cool retro nostalgia for futures past.

It's about $170 pre-shipping. If you think you need to buy me a Christmas present, that's an early hint.

"But, Sans", you ask. "Why are you thinking about basses recently? Aren't you a Tele guy?"

I am. I am a Tele guy. I will continue to post Telecaster pics until you guys want to call me Teleblogster. But there's one truth that seems universal.

There's too many freakin' guitarists. Bass is cool, and there's always someone who wants one.

I've been jamming, with a friend's bass. Keys' bass (a black Epiphone he got cheap) and Guitar's ex-bassist's rig. Also, on occasion Guitar's other ex-bassists's bass, a MIM Fender Jazz that needs some work to make it sing. I'm picking it up. I'm also (see above) on the hunt for my own bass gear. Plus I'm wanting to learn how to make it work.

The bassist on Wednesdays, he's not the most technical guy, and he plugs direct into the DI box. And, nobody hears him. I volunteered to set up his bass some, and so I have it at home. It's a Squier P-Bass, and once I raised the pickup and lowered the action, it got a bit louder. I'm thinking that it needs a bit of truss rod work, but my tool can't get in there when the strings are in tune. I need a longer hex wrench! I'm looking at the Fender Bass Setup FAQ. That's a good source, and it should be much better and much louder.

I have a question. I've seen a setup a few times where the bass has a P-Bass pickup in the "neck" position (actually smack-dab in the center of the body) and a J-Bass pickup in the bass. Keys' black Batman bass has that. Is there a term for that kind of setup? I'm tempted to call it a PJ setup.

More Paisley

From TDPRI. I believe he started this as a jokey response to the deification of paisley Teles there, but he decided to go forward with it, but it looked so good he went through with it. Now isn't that a crazy-looking (in a really great way) Tele?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Epilogue: Throw Money At It

This is the easy way to avoid sucking.


At Right is the Fretlight FG-431. Fretlight makes guitars with LEDs in the fretboard that you can switch between scales, and know by the light shining on the neck that you are absolutely, positively in a safe place when it comes to playing.

I think it's a neat idea. Guitar (previously mentioned) kinda wants one. It'd be good for beginners. "That's your scale layed out across all six strings," you can tell them. "Play on the dots and you'll be OK, and eventually you won't need the dots." I don't really want this guitar, but I don't absolutely hate the idea.

Click here you'll see exactly where my problem is. FG-431 Vintage Guitar, it says.

Vintage Telecasters all have that melted-Ibanez headstock and glowing red LEDs in the neck. Vintage Telecasters have USB ports on them. And, to take it the other way, you can't do modern music on a Telecaster.

Lies, I tell you! Lies!!

Anyway, the website price for the Tele is about $600. That's about what a Mexican Tele costs at Guitar Center-type places, if memory serves. This is middle-to-high for a first-time guitar, but reasonable. If any of you wonderful readers bite on this, or have bitten before, tell me about how they work!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

LiveNation Sucks

Robert Randolph and the Family Band is playing this Friday at the Venue Formerly Known As Deer Creek Music Center, along with Third Day and Jars of Clay.

I want to know how much tickets are. The LiveNation website says click here for tickets. I click. LiveNation wants me to log in.

Just to see the stupid prices.


Made In Heaven

Aluminum Neck.

Aluminum Body.

Too Much Metal For One Hand

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ain't that Pretty?

An abalone-bound black pickguard from Q-Parts. It's not for my current Tele — It's just too beat-up — but isn't that just sweet-looking?

Explain The Effect, Vol 2

Al Anderson was guitarist for NRBQ. Nowadays, he's a songwriter and guitar twanger for hire in Nashville. He recorded Pay Before You Pump in 1996. It contains "Bang Bang Bang". The first fifteen seconds are below.

I love playing those first fifteen seconds to guitarists. I say "This is the worst tone you'll ever hear, and it's great!" They don't believe me, until they hear. Then they laugh.

"Bang Bang Bang", Intro (:15)

Isn't that truly great?

I've been told that rhythm tone is mostly chorus with the knobs turned too far, and there is something to that, but that isn't the whole story.

So, what am I missing?

Speaking of Going Camo

That was most of the idea on this guitar. To do it right, he'd have to go with flat black hardware, but evidently, he didn't want to go that far.

But ain't that pretty?

My Headful of Ideas and their Ultimate Effect

You know I want a paisley guitar, right? Well, wouldn't this be a good one?

That is Trussart, which is the first maker of metal electric guitars that I can think of. I always enjoy going back to them to dream.

This is part of my dream. This is their Graphtech piezo three-saddle bridge. Graphtech's piezo system is called the Ghost system, and you can use it to make your guitar a MIDI guitar. This is a good thing. But you can't get them without getting a Trussart! Or if you can, I don't know it.

So, for those keeping score at home, I'm thinking of a piezo acoustic/MIDI B-Bender Sustainer Tele. A bit crazy, I suppose.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Explain The Effect, Vol 1

Following is the first solo from French Frith Kaiser Thompson's "Killing Jar". I have it both forward and backward.

"Killing Jar", Kaiser solo, forward (1:09)
"Killing Jar", Kaiser solo, forward (1:09)

My take is that this is a reversed solo, that they ran tape backwards to record it. The steel guitar on "This Moment", Matthew Sweet's contribution to the Sweet Relief compilation, has about the same sound. It sounds so otherworldly. First question is this: How can I get something like this effect while playing live? What box should I shop for?

Second question is more detailed. About :50 on the solo, there's a flutter. That's about :20 reversed. It's more than just a BB King butterfly vibrato, although that's kind of what it sounds like. It's there in the reversed, so it's not just the backward-recording. So, what is it, and how can I get my hands to do it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beau Bridges

That is the before. My 1988 MIJ Tele, expertly relic'd over the last 15 years by yours truly. Picks jammed under the pickguard and control plate. The old Ultra-style 3-screw bridge. Plus the new bridge that was to be installed. Ordered from Guitar Fetish last week and arriving yesterday.

Speaking of expert relic jobs, I have pulled out the rear strap button screw many times. Most times, I just redrilled it. I think I filled the last time, which makes this five times. In one of Dan Erlewine's books, he shows the tail of Jeff Beck's Strat, which evidently he lets fall on stage, button first, at regular intervals, so it looks much like that.

Anyway, the first step is to remove the strings, because when you have tension on the bridge, you can't really take it off. Then you take out the bridge screws — the old one had three — and then take off the mounting bolts for the bridge pickup.

The good thing about doing a Telecaster bridge is the fact that the bridge plate is how you mount the pickup. If the pickup is in the route, you have to be close to right with the bridge placement. If I was putting on another kind of bridge, I would have been rightfully very worried, but I wasn't.

Perhaps I should've been.

This picture shows both bridges head-to-head. (OK, I took the strings off the tuners, not out of the bridge. You can see the ball ends in the shot. It's a good way to keep 'em together while you wait to reinstall.) It shows, specifically, the fact that the outer screws are the same width. I figured that I could use the same screw holes. A careful eye would notice that the pickup holes do not overlap in the center, but rather over at the bass end. Just as a guess, I would say that the screw holes go about 1/4" away from where the old ones were. When placed, you could see the old screw holes through the string-through holes on the bridge. This was OK for me, as this is not a string-through loader.

This is a bridge-setting trick I found on TDPRI. Put some thread through the outside tuners, over the nut, over the bridge, through their repective holes, then weighted off the edge to hold it tight. I thought I was being cool. And I guess I was, but I didn't get it fully. I thought it was to ensure strings going correctly over the pickups. It's also for getting the right placement on the fretboard. This I do not have. I'm within 1/'16" from the edge of the fretboard at the 21st fret. At some point, I will have to fill-and-drill (take some toothpicks, goop 'em with wood glue, stick 'em in, cut 'em off: that's the Guitar Repair Book way) then re-set the bridge to get some more space for the 1st string. But not today.

I find that you just need a little bit of help to get the screw through the finish and into the wood. Not much. So I took a tiny drill bit, put it into my Dremel (with a little bit of paper as a shim), started the holes with that. My power drill is just a bit too powerful and ungainly to really do this job.

And here it is. Set up and with picks jammed back under the pickguard. I did a good-enough-for-comfort job for string height, but one day would like to build a radius card that can go under the strings and allow me to get the 1st and 6th strings as I want them and move the others as needed. But they work for me now.

This is a three-saddle compensated bridge, so intonation is not quite as true as you can get with a six-saddle, but I'm OK with it. Surprisingly, the E and A are almost right on, and the D and G are real close. Right now, it's the B and E that are the most off, and I've split the difference.

The new bridge is noticeably lighter. I think that makes the tone more icepick, which is fun. My eldest came to see my progress at the end, and I was showing him the icepick. "Going to ten on the volume knob makes you bass-heavy, so if you roll back a little, you get more of that icepick." Then I fretted on the neck pickup. You can't do that on every guitar, can you?

The wife said, "So, none more black?" I pointed at the neck pickup cover and said "Some more black. Just not right now." I'll have to get a soldering gun and the belief I can do electronics first, because the cover is grounded. And a friend has a set of black tuners he's not using and offered a straight-up trade. I'll blog all that, too.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I suppose I should add a title....

You know the players. We will call them Guitar and Keys. They are the guys I normally play with. And when we jam together, Guitar plays guitar, Keys plays keys and I'm on bass.

Guitar is a lefty guitar player who has played for a long time in the flipped-over string style, like Dick Dale. He's recently trying to learn how to play the other way, and that's cool, but making it harder to look at his hands to try to figure out what's going on.

Keys doubles on drums on occasion, but he mostly plays keys for himself. He has one problem from two reasons. When I was in college, I mostly played with myself and for myself. I'd play some blues, and so I could hear the 12 bars go by, I pretty much hit root for whatever chord I was on at the time. I couldn't play without referencing the root for a good long time, which hobbled me as a player. Keys mostly plays for himself, so he self-accompanies.

He also plays Praise and Worship.

P&W, as a genre, is keyboard-centered. You can't have P&W without keys. You can have it without a drummer, without a guitar, without a bass, but not without keys. So the P&W style for keys is to play like you're playing alone and the rest of the instruments falling in, more or less.

All in all, this is fine. Where it becomes a problem is when he's playing in the bass range with his left hand. If he's covering the bass part, what do I do with the bass?

This is a problem for two reasons. The first is me being new to the bass, which is tuned like the top four strings of the guitar but is not a guitar. I'm trying to pick up the style, but it's hard. The second is the fact that it's a complicated song. It's lopsided, and it's in something that can resolve, I guess, into 4/4 if you squint at it hard enough. There's no drummer, so I'm having a devil of a time trying to figure out where and how to lock in, especially with having to find some odd place to be because Keys' left hand is covering exactly the best ground for my instrument.

So, I'm sucking.

I'm trying to take inspiration from Peter Hook's playing on New Order's "True Faith", but I'm not really hitting the rhythm for that, either.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Potential Upgrade List, with links and commentary

Tele neck pickup cover, Black $10 at Guitar Parts Resource.
Probably the next mod, after the bridge. Should be an easy mod: unsoldering the ground, bending back tabs, pulling off the cover, putting on a new cover, and soldering a new ground directly to the back of the tone pot, because I'll eventually redo the electronics and I'm thinking about a 4-position switch to give me parallel and series, and much of what I read suggests you separately ground the neck PU if you do that.

Schaller Mini Tuners, Black $67 at Stew-Mac.
Not so essential, because it came with about the same, except chrome. But it would follow trend toward the all-black hardware.

Gotoh Schaller-style Tuners, Black $45 at Stew-Mac.
Replacing the real Schallers. My Tele has Gotohs anyway, so this should be a straight conversion. And that's great, too.

Hipshot Extender G2 Tuner, Black $91 at Hipshot.
Also not crucial, but somewhat cool. So much stuff happens with Drop-D these days.

GraphTech nut $7 at Stew-Mac.
I'm OK with my nut, but I am within delta of believing it's too high. I'm told that stock is too high for most purposes. But mostly to make the nut black.

GraphTech string trees $5 at Stew-Mac.
But it isn't only for the blackness of it. I like above-the-nut bending, which is the technique which is ultimately the source for string-pull methods like the B-Bender.

Hipshot Parsons-Green B-Bender $380 at Stew-Mac.
Hipshot B-Bender $190 at Stew-Mac.
This is ultimately where I want to get. I want to bend. I played a Bender at Dave's Guitar in La Crosse, and I know I can make music with one. And I am assured that I could move the Hipshot to bend on the G instead, should I desire. Brad Paisley bends the G, you know. My wonder here is whether the act of cutting so much wood out of my basswood Tele would wreck the body. This is required, I insist.

More a way of saving links than anything else, but comments are always welcome.

This time, really Dave's Guitar

There is a black Wilkinson Compensated Telecaster bridge in town. It waits for Brown to decide to bring it to me. This looks to be Monday. Same source as the pickguard, the control plate and the knobs.

This, if you recall, is my Fender family. It is my best picture of my Telecaster. As you can see, there's a black/white/black pickguard, black control plate and knobs. The chrome bridge sticks out like a big silver thing in the middle of a big black thing. And soon, it will be gone.

The big worry is the screw issue. The current bridge is an Ultra-style bridge from Japan, held on by 3 screws. The bridge to be installed is held on with four screws. So I will have to redrill the bridge screw holes. And likely fill up the old screw holes.

If it was an ash or alder body, I would care much much less. As is, it's a basswood body. I have had to fill screw holes for the control plates, the pickguard and the strap buttons. The rear strap button at least five times. So I'll do that process, showing you how Dan Erlewine showed me. Through his books, of course.

So, when it comes, I'll set my bridge. And I'll take pictures and blog the process. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dave's Guitar

Double-neck Rick
Nope, that is not my guitar.

I'm talking about Dave's Guitar of Lacrosse, Wisconsin. It is a great and wonderful place.

Their electric room has all the basics and some really nice upper-end pieces. I was able to pull down and plug in a B-Bender Tele, plug in, and play enough to believe that, if I owned one, I would actually be able to make music with it, not just sounds.

Larivee Parlor Slothead I am sure my house could fit in their acoustic room. It contains some wonders, like several Nationals, a Kona weissenborn-style and an old Oahu with the high nut for lap playing, several nice and beautiful Martins and Gibsons, and the pictured Larivee parlor-sized slot-head. For most of my acoustic playing, my Fender electro-acoustic dread works well, but this would be just the one for sitting around and fingerpicking. Isn't it just beautiful?

the Fender triplets But the real reason to visit is upstairs. That's where Dave's stash is. A good ... 200? ... of some of the coolest instruments ever. This picture is 2 pink paisley Teles and a blue flower Tele. There's also sunburst Customs, blackguards and other great Telecasters.

Plus the Strats.

Plus the Gretsches.

Plus the Rickenbackers. (Pictured above.)

Plus the Explorers, the Moderne, and the Flying Vs.

Lonnie Mack-style

A Flying V with a Bigsby. Just how iconic is that?

While I was there, I got my lap steel appraised. It's a National or Supro, they say, without a serial number. Worth about $350, they say. That's a good $200 more than I paid for it.

If you're ever in western Wisconsin, it is well worth your while to visit.