Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shopping is done

I have a can of stripper, gloves, sandpaper in 100, 220 and 320 varieties, and tung oil. You can have a good night in Dallas with all that stuff! But I won't be enjoying Dallas, I'll be refinishing the neck. I figure that Friday night or Saturday will be the day to strip, leaving some scraping and airing until Sunday. The initial sanding will proceed through the weekend, and hopefully I'll oil my neck at least once next week. Getting it in playable condition is too much to ask for Wednesday, but a week from? It should be sweet.

I don't have the necessary waterslide paper, either. I'll need it for this.

Won't that look cool?



4-way wiring.

Strap locks.


A Silly Idea That Hit Me Over Dinner

Inspired by the hint "Speak Friend and Enter".

Nobody told you life was gonna be this way
Uncle gave you a ring and now plans have gone away
Now you're truckin' off to Mordor
And chances of survival have just sunk below the floor but...

I'll be there for you!
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you!
(Past the gates of Mordor!)

My goodness, that's so obvious there must be filk of that already.

On playing Guitar Hero vs. being a Guitar Hero

"It's a tough instrument — it's not easy. It took me a long time, and it was frustrating at first. And you just have to stick with it, and it's cool for people who don't have time to learn the chords or ain't interested in it, but to play music is one of the greatest things."
— Prince

This Way Toward Twang

Plus A Link

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

While The Neck Is In Limbo....

This is the body. The pickguard came from my #1. It had that white pearloid (MOTS) pickguard on black. I think it looks better on vintage white, myself.

I still have to figure out how to mount the neck pickup. The holes in the bobbin are threaded, so do I mount on the pickguard, drilling new holes in it? Or do I strip them out so I can mount to the body? I'll probably mod the pickguard. Still, sharp, eh?

ETA: Bit the bullet. Drilled the hole. Pickup is mounted. Pictures when I get the neck added.

Wonderful, Wonderful

Thank you, Marty Stuart, for introducing me to the Quebe Sisters.

They sing like the Andrews Sisters. They fiddle like they're the Texas Playboys. If they aren't the cure for your blues, you're terminal, friend.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

She Hasn't Got A Bone Through Her Nose....

But, maybe, while I'm putting together an order, she'll get a bone nut.


Went to Guitar Parts Now. I put a Fendertm No-Load tone pot, a Fendertm four-way switch, a Switchcraft 1/4" jack and an audio-taper push-pull pot for volume into my cart. $50 before shipping and before capacitors.

Went to Mojo Musical Supply. The whole kit and kaboodle, or rather, just the kit. $30. But that doesn't get me the push-pull pot for the phase reversal. It also doesn't get me the no-load for the tone, which I really want. I mean, come on! Pickups direct to the amp? Who wouldn't want that? This, however, is something I can do something about.

What to do? What to do?

Are you kidding? Right now I go cheap, mod the tone as I feel comfortable, and get myself a push/pull in the fullness of time. Is the phase reversal really that important?

Friday Night Cage Match/Fondue Party/Evolving Conversation/Dancing About Architecture Substitute Volume 1

As Pribek seems to have neglected to post one, I take it onto myself to form the question.

Joe Pass or James Burton ?

As always, pluck the strings with your fingers as well as whatever pick you might have, then go to Jack Pribek's page, chide him over missing the Fondue Party, and click play on the music player located in the side bar. Personally, I'd cue up "Cannonball" but you know how I roll.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Do You See What I See?

This is a 1950 Fender Champion lap steel. Thank you to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and the Physics of Electronic instruments course for these pictures.

I look at these to try to see the essence of a lap steel. I have a dedicated lap steel, but as it works and it's a little over-engineered, and I don't feel like tearing it apart to understand it. By tearing through these pictures, I can begin to understand what is adaptable.

The headstock is raised up from the body, enough that you can set this down on a table and it will not knock the tuners around. I have some wood, roughly the width of a headstock, that can be stacked up and glued. Don't have clamps, but I have weights. I can do this.

This is the part that made me think "Hey, I can do this." What we see is a Champion lap steel pickup. What that is very much like is a Broadcaster pickup. Don't listen to me, listen to G.E. Smith,, who used this as the basis of his signature Telecaster.

So, that's a Tele pickup. A Tele pickup mounted into wood. The different mounting screw alignment is not a point of obsession to me. That's also an awful lot of metal that I'd have to replace. I have a Telecaster bridge floating around, a top-loader at that, but A) There is no real need for an intonated bridge on a lap steel and B) I would feel so much cooler if I did as much as I could myself. I am sure that bridge is rolled steel with holes drilled for the strings and other holes drilled for the mounting screws. It would be cool to have a drill press to countersink the screws, but not too important.

A more purist person might insist on having the metal cover, too. I have found that I do gobs of right-hand muting, that I do it when playing lap steel, and I REALLY. DON'T. LIKE even a really nice lap steel like my horseshoe-and-handrest-having Supro with legs.

(I'll point out that this has no legs. And it is unlikely that I'll add legs to the new one I'm planning.)

My issue here is, I spent a little while walking around Menards, and I'm not seeing the steel. I don't know where to get it. Four inches is all I need. Or maybe eight. More on that later.

Like my Supro, and unlike the PeeWee, this has some sort of fabric on the back. Bottom. Whatever. Good for keeping the instrument sliding off your lap. A bigger thing is the ferrules. Should I go with the old bridge, I won't have this issue, but if I make one, I will have to stop it on the other end. We have ferrules because, really, the string heads will cut into the wood.

The previously-mentioned Supro has six little holes, looking like Qs with elongated tails run parallel to the string direction. The ball end pops in, the string runs into the tail and holds it in place. Clever, really.

The Supro has Klusons. Not feeling the love. Been considering getting a replacement set, replacing the gummy, not happy set. But I would not willingly put those in a guitar I'm not wanting to make exactly like Leo Fender made in 1952. And that's OK. I can get a set for $25 from Guitar Fetish.

More ... interesting, I guess, is the nut. The saddle was just an edge. This has specifically rounded corners. Which makes sense. Think about string movement over the saddles. Not much. Much more over the nut. So, you round out the nut and add grooves. And somehow, cutting a bone nut seems so much easier.

I have a circular saw. I have wood. I have wood glue. I have weights. I can get started on this. Won't necessarily look like a Champion, but it will be something.

Connections on a technique

First, listen to Paul Gilbert talk about warming up his picking hand. The nutshell is this: You're doing up-up-down picking on the E B and G strings.
E -0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0------
B ---0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0----
G -----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0--
D --------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
Paul then moves it up to the fifth fret, where it moves from an E minor to an A minor
E -5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5------
B ---5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5----
G -----5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5--
D --------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
He then suggests you try it with other A minor forms, with ornamental notes, to keep your ear and left hand from being bored.
E -5-----8-----12----8-----11----8------
B ---5----10-----13----10---10-----10---
G -----5-----9-----14----9-----9-----9--
D --------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
Which is all sort of interesting in and of itself. But I first saw this pattern (up-up-down, or UUD) on an Al Dimeola instructional video from 1992. He put that pattern somewhere else.
E --------------------------------------
B --------------------------------------
G --------------------------------------
D -5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5------
A ---5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5----
E -----4-----4-----4-----4-----4-----4--
That is G,D and G#, for those keeping up at home. That's G# flat-5 major-7. Or Gminor2? Any way, there's lots of tension that gets relieved when you drop it back to G5.
E --------------------------------------
B --------------------------------------
G --------------------------------------
D -5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5------
A ---5-----5-----5-----5-----5-----5----
E -----4-----4-----4-----3-----3-----3--
Now, remember my term for that? I have been drawn toward bluegrass, and specifically flatpicking. You have heard me go on about Clarence White, and from the guitars I have pointed to and the videos I have linked to, you might have thought he was just a chicken-pickin' country rock guy. He started out being a bluegrass picker, a master of the crosspicking style, where you use one flatpick to mimic the fingerpick style of banjo players.

"Bury Me Beneath The Willows" from 33 Acoustic Guitar Instrumentals

Listen to the first verse, where by controlling his picking dynamics, the melody is clearly hearable above the stream of notes. Listen to the third verse, where the floodgates are loosed and the notes fly out as fast and hard as bullets from a machine gun. They generally work from the D G and B strings, where the open strings for a major triad, unlike Paul Gilbert's minor triad from the video.
E --------------------------------------
B -----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0--
G ---0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0----
D -0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
Do you see it? Do you see the change here? They generally are trending down instead of up. The Gilbert style would be considered a "backwards roll". And there are generally two schools of thought in the flatpicking community: pick down-down-up, basically reversing the Gilbert/DiMeola order and the straight alternate picking people. In short, there's DDU ...
E --------------------------------------
B -----u-----u-----u-----u-----u-----u--
G ---d-----d-----d-----d-----d-----d----
D -d-----d-----d-----d-----d-----d------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
And there's DUDU ...

E --------------------------------------
B -----d-----u-----d-----u-----d-----u--
G ---u-----d-----u-----d-----u-----d----
D -d-----u-----d-----u-----d-----u------
A --------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------
I have tried to pick up DUDU and DU (On Flatpick-L, you're no part of nothin' if you don't do DUDU), but I have never been able to get any power or even much accuracy with those techniques. But I am able to get decent speed, accuracy and power with the Gilbert-DiMeola UDD method. Which is interesting.

Scenes from a Musical Parenthood

Large , a 14-year-old boy: Do you have any more Frank Zappa I can listen to.

Sans , his parent: I have Make A Jazz Noise Here. I have Best Band ... no, wait. That's on cassette. Sorry. I have Yellow Shark, which he composed but didn't actually play on. And, if you want, I have Shut Up And Play Your Guitar on my hard drive. But it's difficult listening.

Large : (enthused) Difficult? How so?

Sans : (cues up "Five Five Five") This is two measures of ... I think 5/4, then a measure of 5/8. I have problems finding the beat on it, and end up just getting lost in it.

(track plays to completion)

Large : Ummm. Yeah. Can I just take Make A Jazz Noise?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A talk with Steve Cropper

The After picture for the Before part, the Before picture for the After part

Not quite perfect, but pretty good for now. Some more work with the Dremel and a wood block and it'll look good. Then I'll strip it, then finish it. Then the rest of my dreams will come true.

I have a soldering gun now (Thank you, Patrick!) and I plan to combine the 4-way switch and the push/pull phase switch , which should get me a Jerry Donahue/Baja wiring. Plus a no-load. And yes, I keep repeating that. I guess the more I repeat it, the more I will it into being.

No-Load Tone Pot
Push/Pull Volume Pot
4-way Switch
1/4" Jack

$45 of parts (above), a little solder and the pickups and you got yourself a a nice guitar.

Couldn't Find The Coping Saw

So I went with the Skil saw.

It is rough. My it is rough. But I will have sandpaper to smooth it out. And Dremel.

You know, I think that Blogspot uploaded those pictures backwards....

More Lap Steel Goodness

And this one is JUST RIGHT!

Or so it seems. I will have to go home and do work on the thing to be sure. And, beyond the headstock cutting, I have a VHS tape to extract from a TV/VCR. VCRs are dead to me. Dead to most of the rest of the world, too, but I guess not my library or my wife.

Anyway, more pics later. Speaking of pics, anyone have a pointer to a good free (and Free as in Open Source is great!) Windows-based webcam pic or video taker? The built-in tools suck.

Dark-Haired Goldilocks

In the rear, the first print, which was too large.

In the front, the second print, which I fear is too small. It comes to 6 inches, and I think the butter zone is seven.

Not like there's a time limit to this. Better to do it right.

Speaking of doing it right, My son has a First Act StratoTele (tremolo, no upper bout) with a six-per-side Les Paul style headstock. I know that the guy who made Randy Rhoads' polka-dot Flying V used old Danelectro necks, adding to them as necessary. If this modification works, I might have to give him a funky cool headstock.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nipped In The Bud

This is my headstock, the headstock of my SX STL-50.

This is my headstock before a printout of a Tele headstock.

This is my headstock before a printout of a Tele headstock that is scaled too large to be useful.

I don't have money for stripper and sandpaper and nitrocellulose and tung oil and gun stock oil or whatever I will use to finish this thing. I cannot proceed with those evil plans, but I have a Dremel and a coping saw. I can cut the headstock down. But only if I have the right guide.

So, this is how my headstock remains. I will attempt to print it out and try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Road Ahead

This is not my SX STL. It is this SX STL, which has had the headstock cut down to be more like a Telecaster headstock. I don't mind the SX headstock, but I am getting less and less enamoured with the orange tint of the finish.

I bought the thing to be a testbed, a swappable spare I could mod to my hearts content, without worrying about affecting the value.

  • stripper and sandpaper
  • new finish
  • cutting down headstock
  • Custom (not saying "Fender") headstock decal
  • bone nut, which is about the only part of the neck process I feel totally unequipped to handle. How much does a set of nut files cost? I did file this nut to handle the Not Even Slinky low E string with a file from fingernail clippers, though.
  • a dedicated strap, because switching between this and the acoustic is annoying

  • tuners (under $30 from Guitar Fetish, depending on style)
  • saddles
  • white pickguard
  • Schaller strap locks. Actually, I intend to buy a black set for the #1 and move the chrome set to this one.

  • I am currently satisfied with the pickups
  • but I am not sure about the pots. Strongly considering doing a Baja-like 4-way switch plus push-pull pot for this one, too

That, is, should I get the money together to do it. I have a Dremel, so beyond the tuners, I should be able to get the neck together for not too much. And I actually kinda like the electronics as-is, so despite my want to get my wiring act together and learn something,

In other news, Jim Campolongo has his endorsements and preferences together. He's always considered a great player and good guy by this blog.

He also provides a link to Curtis Novak, who makes pickups on a design that should've occurred to me long a go, but didn't. Consider the P-Bass split pickup. One pickup covers the high 2, one pickup covers the low 2, and because one is reverse-wound, they in effect buck hum. Look at G&L and you'll see plenty of pickups that use that. So, the question becomes, why not do the same, but in the same form factors already used. Like something that, with the protective braids hiding the secret, looks exactly like a standard Telecaster bridge pickup? That's brilliance in my mind.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

News from the Front

So, I raised the pickup. And I raised it some more. And I still plan to go with .010s the next time I buy strings. But I played tonight, in front of people, and most of the time, I played the black Tele with the .009s, and it sounded good. I still plan to do the work on that one, making it a near-Baja, but it is good to know that there's nothing really wrong with it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Born To Be Mild

You've seen the #1. It dresses in all back. It has three saddles, like a hard-rockin' Coelacanth that the Telecaster is. Straplocks, because you toss the axe around when you're rockin'. A scrunchie on the neck, color-coordinated with the body, like Greg Howe does. Low action and a straight neck. It's a rocker, a bad boy.

But lately, I've noticed. Specifically Wednesday night, playing out. It's ... nice. In a way that the bridge pickup of a Tele caster is Just. Not. Supposed. To. Be. It's think and understated.

I know at least part of the problem. I have it as my country guitar. I have Slinky .009s on it, and especially with single-coil pickups, the smaller the string, the less initial signal. I remember wondering "What happened to my guitar?!?" when I dropped from the .012s I originally had on it. Dropping the strings basically castrated the thing.

But I don't know that I ever got the bridge pickup to a one-true position once I installed the Wilkinson. I've raised it some. And I'm playing on Friday evening. Church crowd, so I won't necessarily get to be a fire-breather.

OK, I'm almost never happy with my mix, and I was going for the clean patches on my multi-effects unit instead of the high-gain ones. I have potential mitigating circumstances galore, should I think I need them. But I think there's more to it.

I just got the SX as a #2, a spare guitar so I can mod one and always have a second around. I am now convinced that the modifications will happen to the #1, and they will include the following.
  • 4-way switch, so I can get both serial and parallel
  • push-pull on volume pot so I can switch phase on the neck pickup, effectively giving me Baja switching
  • a no-load tone pot so I can go direct out
  • a black pickup cover
  • because how much more black could it be? That much more.
And also .010 strings. Give the pickups more to work with.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stomp Tuner Head-to-Head

I've been wanting a stomp tuner. Looks like the Turbo Tuner's the one.

Also, got tired of the Youtube vids going over into the sidebar, so I got into the CSS. You are welcome.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Praise God! It isn't a Telecaster!

Not that those two thoughts are connected.

I hear a sort of cocked-wah sound with Sacred Steel that I just can't get myself, on either my steel or my Tele with a cocked wah. Any ideas?

Monday, April 6, 2009

On the importance of string gauges

"Traditionally, guitars have a fat string on the top and they get skinnier and skinnier as they go down. But the thing to remember is it's your guitar and you can put whatever you want on it."
David Fair of Half Japanese